Doing Things The Hardaway

Submitted by Brian on February 7th, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Feel free to shoot me for the headline.

2/6/2011 – Michigan 65, Penn State 62 – 14-10, 4-7 Big Ten

via UMHoops 

Michigan played well for about ten minutes yesterday but in those ten minutes they poured in three pointers from all over, drove to the basket with abandon, and twice turned double-digit Penn State leads into deficits. Since Darius Morris kept Michigan in contact during the other thirty and six of the ten minutes came at the end of the game that meant Michigan won.

That isn't a small feat. Penn State spent the past month cannibalizing seeds across the Big Ten by defending their home court. They beat Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan State at the Bryce-Jordan Center. On the road they were this close to enormous upsets of Ohio State (L 69-66) and Purdue (L 63-62). In a not-very-alternate universe they were cruising towards a tourney bid even if they did get crushed by Maine.

So that was a good, weird win. If you want it in a chart (chart):


The point on the graph where it drops like a stone until the end should be labeled "Hardaway kill switch engaged." Down ten and aimless with nine minutes left is when the fan packs it in and starts grumbling. In this game it's also when Tim Hardaway goes from Freshman Liability, Jr., to Just Tim Hardaway, Thanks.

In the two minutes of video above a possible future of Michigan basketball reveals itself. When UMHoops describes the Hardaway sequence above as a "coming of age" Dylan's talking about Hardaway himself, but it could be one for the team as a whole. Those things don't seem that different right now.

Everyone comes back next year, so the various bits of basketball that depend on cohesion (rotation on D, cuts and passing on O, etc.) should improve. Everyone should get incrementally better, which gets you an increment. Michigan's hopes to go from an NIT hopeful to a solid NCAA team rely on at least one guy getting so much better that twitter threatens to kill Tim Doyle again, and the erratic freshman leading Michigan in shots is the obvious candidate.

In the clips above it's not the three-pointers that set hopes to tingle. We've seen Hardaway shoot a ton of threes this year and while he's adding a couple points of shooting percentage to them is encouraging, Michigan has plenty of guys who can take shots from outside the arc. It's the two different drives to the hoop where he glides into the lane and elevates to finish. Yes, you are 6'5". Yes, you are Tim Hardaway's son. Yes, you can turn into the kind of player who's an all-around nightmare. Yes, please, by next year.

This year we expected and got that graph above, struggles punctuated by tantalizing flashes. So far we've gotten slightly more of the latter than we were banking on. Maintain that, reach the NIT, and get one guy—one guy—to make a Morris-like leap and next year Beilein's program can establish itself for real.

Let's get ahead of ourselves bullets

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. File this under general fan overreaction as well:

After PSU Win, Can U-M Make a Tourney Run?

That's The Wolverine Blog laying out Michigan's stretch run and saying "well?" Said run, home games in bold:

Feb. 9 — vs. Northwestern — 14-8 overall (4-7 Big Ten, 3-4 road), No. 53 Sagarin, No. 76 RPI
Feb. 12 — vs. Indiana — 12-12 overall (3-8 Big Ten, 0-7 road), No. 89 Sagarin, No. 148 RPI
Feb. 16 — at Illinois — 15-8 overall (5-5 Big Ten, 11-1 home), No. 27 Sagarin, No. 37 RPI
Feb. 19 — at Iowa — 10-13 overall (3-8 Big Ten, 7-5 home), No. 103 Sagarin, No. 130 RPI
Feb. 23 — vs. Wisconsin — 17-5 overall (7-3 Big Ten, 2-4 road), No. 14 Sagarin, No. 20 RPI
Feb. 26 — at Minnesota — 16-7 overall (5-6 Big Ten, 11-2 home), No. 32 Sagarin, No. 24 RPI
Mar. 5 — vs. Michigan State — 13-10 overall (5-6 Big Ten, 3-6 road), No. 43 Sagarin, No. 49 RPI

Opposite the hockey devil sitting on my shoulder there's a basketball angel screaming "THIS IS TOTALLY DOABLE." There are four games on the schedule (the home games that aren't Wisconsin and @ Iowa) that look like should-wins, which gets Michigan to eight wins, and then if you squint real hard you can see Michigan picking off one of the others to get to 9-9 in the nation's toughest conference. That plus 19-12 overall could get into the new, pointlessly larger field.

There's a problem with the mind's definition of "should," though. Accrording to Kenpom Michigan's easiest game left is against Indiana. Michigan has a 69% shot to win that. Even if Kenpom is wildly pessimistic and Michigan has a 70% shot at all four of its "should-wins" that means they have just a 24% shot to win all four, and even then they'd have to pick off one of the other three, and in reality Kenpom has Michigan a slight underdog @ Iowa. Add it all up and a pretty accurate mathematical model says Michigan has a 10% chance to get to 9-9. Not so good.

Michigan really needed to pull out that Kansas game or the Ohio State game that immediately followed. Even without making the small positive adjustment in expectations that would give them a 35% chance to finish 9-9 or better and a marquee win to thrill the committee with. And at that point 8-10 might be feasible since they'd still be 19-12 overall in that scenario. If that was in play they'd have a 60-70% shot at the tourney.

As it stands they'll have to play perfectly to make it, and with all these freshmen the chances of that are slim. If I had to guess it'd say 17 or 18 wins and an NIT bid, which would be fine by me.

More evidence about the getting ahead of yourself. Michigan's still tenth in the league in efficiency margin, though said margins aren't huge and Michigan's finishing stretch is probably easier than average:

                     W-L     Pace    PPP    Opp. PPP   EM
1.  Wisconsin        7-3     56.1    1.19     1.03   +0.16
2.  Ohio St.        11-0     63.0    1.14     1.00   +0.14
3.  Purdue           7-3     64.0    1.14     1.04   +0.10
4.  Illinois         5-5     62.7    1.10     1.03   +0.07
5.  Penn St.         5-6     58.6    1.07     1.09   -0.02
6.  Minnesota        5-6     61.7    1.07     1.10   -0.03
7.  Northwestern     4-7     63.2    1.08     1.14   -0.06
8.  Indiana          3-8     63.0    1.06     1.13   -0.07
9.  Michigan St.     5-6     61.6    1.03     1.10   -0.07
10. Michigan         4-7     59.7    1.07     1.15   -0.08
11. Iowa             3-8     65.9    1.00     1.11   -0.11
AVG.                         61.8    1.09

Big Ten Wonk (aka John Gasaway) dubs this "The Year Nobody Sucked" because the league's worst team is way better than LSU or DePaul or Wake Forest, all of whom are just getting hammered. So… on paper we're filing three teams with better conference efficiency margins as should-wins when we're constructing our tourney fantasies.

Also of note in the above numbers: Michigan's defense is the worst in the league. It's close; the number is still the number. This isn't hugely surprising given the fleet of underclassmen and Zach Novak's persistent inability to escape the 4, but it's a comedown from earlier in the season when the Michigan D was shockingly proficient. I think we've got an obvious route for Michigan's offense to improve, but the defense is murkier. Michigan needs Smotrycz and Hardaway to get a lot better, I think, but without numbers that's just one guy's opinion.

Very aggressive. Earlier in the year I mentioned that Morris should have more of a nose for the basket when Michigan ran the shot clock under ten and in this game he went nuts with an array of floaters in the lane, layups he'd fought for tooth and nail, and various other shots where the viewer was like "bad idea bad idea bad idea actually that looks like he got a decent shot off it went in yay."

Part of this was Penn State adopting OSU's defensive approach—stick to the shooters and force shots from the lane. It worked for OSU because they have athletic shotblockers in the post and Michigan missed a lot of short-range shots. Penn State just gave up a lot of points in the lane.


Torrent. The rest of UMHoops' five key plays. Game recap. scouts Trey Burke against Brookhaven; UMHoops catches him going for 35 in a narrow loss to St. Edward. Mets Maize also chips in recap bits. Since I neglected to mention him:

Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, Stu Douglass,  you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself! Consitent with Michigan's inconsistent season, Stu, who probably had his worst game of the year against Ohio State a few days ago, had his best game yet: 14 points, including 4/5 from behind the arc, 4 boards and 3 assists off the bench. I still think Stu needs to have more shot clock awareness at the 1, but he made timely 3's all game. One 3 came mid-way through the 2nd half to cut Penn States's lead from 10 to 7 when Michigan JUST started to look as if they were ready to give up. STUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

MGoUser 2012 also assesses Michigan's chances at a tourney bid and comes to the same conclusion—wait 'til next year.


Braylon 5 Hour…

February 7th, 2011 at 3:39 PM ^

I'd much rather see headlines like the one Brian has now vs. headlines like this article:|topnews|text|Sports

"Could Michigan's win over Penn State have damaged their chances of making the NCAA Tournament?"

No, Free Press writer, wins are still good, and losses are still bad. 


February 7th, 2011 at 3:50 PM ^

Another guy's opinion on how the Defense can improve:

Yes, you're right that on a team basis, freshman becoming sophomores, sophomores - juniors and juniors to seniors will help a lot with experience, strength, confidence, knowledge, quickness of recognition, quickness of rotation, awareness of other teams offensive goals, defensive rebounding etc.

Individually: some or our biggest lapses on defense are because of fatigue.  In particular, Darius has some major break downs on the defensive end where he will get caught in the wash, or his guy sneaks away, and his guy will score, or it sets in motion a bunch of scrambling from the other guys to cover it and the other team ends up with an open shot or layup.  

This can become much better with one of the freshman guards giving Darius some much-needed bench minutes (even 6 or 7 a game) to rest his mind more than anything.  Really good defense takes serious intensity, and when you're running the show on offense a lot, and then trying to concentrate big-time on D, it is a lot to expect a Sophomore to be able to not break-down at least a few times per half.

I think Beilein has been trying to give Darius breaks with him on the floor actually.  Having Stu run some of the pick and roll and when Hardaway started taking over against PSU.  Jr.  has been working more and more with the ball in his hands and is improving quite a bit right before our eyes.  Benefit for him, the team on offense AND on D as it gives Darius a mental break.


February 7th, 2011 at 4:18 PM ^

Quickness of rotation is a big one.  We're OK at denying the initial ballhandler a good look (or at least getting in his way and drawing a charge).  We're not so good at rotating over to cover his teammates when he drives.  Minnesota really exploited our lack of weakside help inside.  That should get better over time.  If Horford and Smotrycz come back next year with an extra 10-15 pounds on them, that'd help a lot, too.  


February 7th, 2011 at 4:35 PM ^

Sorry, but I don't understand why everything has to be so negative. I actually agree with the statistical lack of likeliness (yes, just like Hoke, I make up words too) of Michigan making the NCAA Tournament, but damn if you don't have a way of making the raw numbers sound even worse than they actually are. We did just win a game no one thought we would. Can we get a little bit positive around here?


February 7th, 2011 at 4:48 PM ^

To have a realistic shot at the tourney UM would have to close on a 5-2 stretch, which while possible is still extremely unlikely. Stating a reasonable prediction using the available facts isn't being negative, it's the anaylsis most people come to mgoblog to receive and seeing some of the post in the 2 wins till NIT berth thread, some people need a dose of realism or they are going to be back to calling for Beilein's head in 2 weeks.


February 8th, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

We won the game against PSU. We went into State College as six point underdogs and came back with a W. But you would barely know that from the game recap above. That is my primary point. PSU is a good team. They have ambushed several other B10 teams in State College this year, but we went into their house and won. We beat PSU for the second time this season. That is something to celebrate not find fault with.

If we had lost to PSU, I guarantee that people would not have been able to jump on here quick enough to say "I told you so," yet since we won it is called a "weird win" as if it doesn't really count or is less than a real win. We have had so many disappointing losses the past few years, it is as if we have forgotten how to handle winning.

Sunday's victory was a very good (and desperately needed) win on the road against a high quality team. It was a win all the experts said we wouldn't get. It was a win that, technically, gets us one small step closer to an invite to the NCAA Tournament. It was a win. Enjoy it! We will have plenty of opportunities to wallow coming up, you know when we actually do lose.


February 7th, 2011 at 4:49 PM ^

Parts of this site have been negative, ill grant you that, However, it seems just as much as the content has been negative people have been going out of their way to criticize everything or see it as negative.

The lack of rose colored glasses does not mean that informatioin is negative, some of it is just information that  isn't positive.

Braylon 5 Hour…

February 7th, 2011 at 4:56 PM ^

The really nice thing about what's happening now is that as Hardaway gets more opportunities in the middle of the court to be the catalyst for the offense, it's really opening things up.  Teams are not going to be able to just stick to the shooters like they have been.  With another guy creating offense, it makes Morris' life easier, and will hopefully result in Novak getting some more open looks.  


February 7th, 2011 at 5:45 PM ^

Mike (Louisiana)

You guys need to put Michigan on the bubble watch right now because they just got a huge victory at Penn St. and they just swept they have a chance of getting in or is it just NIT bound let me know please

Joe Lunardi

The same Michigan team that sits at 4-7 in the Big Ten and lost to UTEP? That's an N.I.T. resume if I ever saw one.


February 7th, 2011 at 7:05 PM ^

But I miss optimistic Brian.  Like many of us, these past 3-4 years have crushed part of our souls.  I don't really think any mathematical models can be applied to this team, unless you are saying that I should value John Hollinger's opinion (which....if that's the case, I will just kill myself now).

Desmonlon Edwoodson

February 7th, 2011 at 8:44 PM ^

I would wager a small sum of money on Michigan to win each of the remaining games individually save for Wisconsin.  I'd probably lose money on a game or two or three, because really this is a jump shooting team full of freshmen and who the hell knows what will happen from night to night.  It helps that we're done with Purdue and OSU.  Michigan could make the tournament.  Odds are against them.  Either way they'll be fun to watch.


February 8th, 2011 at 6:25 AM ^

I've been looking at the stats all afternoon (I live in China) and I realize that this is comletely possible. I put together some images of The big tens scheduale for the rest of the year. I highlited(put a dot to the right of or under) the teams that Michigan would want to win in order for Michigan to get a good seed i the Big Ten Tourney. ANd because all of my predictions/hopes will not be correct, I've figured out that even if some are wrong and even if Michigan loses one (or maybe 2) of their games we can still finish in sixth or seventh place. Both positions where we get to play and extra game in the Big ten tourney. You might be saying an extra game? thats one more loss! WRONG! if we are sixth or seventh seed that extra game will be up against either the worst team in our conference or the second worst team. Then, If we win we will not hav to play the best team (as much a s it pains me to say: Ohio State) we'd be against probably Wisconson or Purdue who are both beatable teams. Each of these games would give us a win so even if we did finish 20-11 or 19-12 the big ten touney will most likely put us over 20 wins and give us a more formidable shot at the NCAA touney. The Wolverines can do it, but do they have the drive?


February 9th, 2011 at 10:50 AM ^

that MSU is really down and we may just present a matchup problem to PSU? I like the way this team is improving, however I think they are an NIT team that can get some good experience moving forward.