Isaiah Taylor almost exclusively shoots floaters. Related: he's a 40% shooter.
A real opponent in the NCAA Tournament means it's time for a special hoops edition of FFFF. In addition to catching most of last night's Arizona State game, I watched film of Texas against a common opponent—Iowa State—to get a better read on their strengths and weaknesses. After seeing how little resistance they provided defensively against the Sun Devils and how poor their offense looked against the Cyclones, I'm pretty optimistic about Michigan's chances.
Texas's first offensive possession sums up Texas's offense.
The Longhorns's statistical profile—terrible shooting, great offensive rebounding—showed up right away against ISU. Texas went 0/5 with four offensive rebounds on their first possession, despite playing five-on-four for most of it after DeAndre Kane got a stinger and stopped playing defense. Their general offensive philosophy also shows up in that video: play from the inside out. When they're not on the run, Texas looks to post up a big on just about every trip.
That big is usually Cameron Ridley, a behemoth who dominated ASU (17 points on 15 shot equivalents, five offensive rebounds) and struggled against ISU (4 points, 0/4 FG, 3 OR). He's a monster on the boards; he doesn't have great touch, however, and relies a lot on drawing contact. Ridley also gets gassed—he's 285 pounds, after all—which keeps him from sustaining a high effort on both ends for long stretches. While his overall turnover numbers are good, I think that's largely due to the number of quick putback chances he gets; Iowa State brought a hard double team on him when he posted up, producing three turnovers:
Backup center Prince Ibeh is another strong offensive rebounder, but he's otherwise not much of a factor on that end. Also crashing the boards with aplomb is starting four Jonathon Holmes, a good post scorer who can also stretch the floor. His matchup against Glenn Robinson III is the most worrisome to me because of his size—6'8" with long arms—and rebounding ability.
Isaiah Taylor gets the highest usage on the team, and he's liable to go off or be an offensive anchor due to his unusual style. Taylor is very quick, able to blow by most guards with ease, but instead of taking pull-up jumpers or layups he almost exclusively shoots right-handed floaters, especially from the right baseline. It took him 26 shot equivalents to score 26 points against Iowa State; he had 11 on 14 against the Sun Devils.
Brian suggested in the preview that the 1-3-1 could be a nice curveball to throw in this game, and I agree. Not only does that defense take advantage of Texas's lack of outside shooting, it puts Derrick Walton on the baseline, where he can cut off Taylor's favorite shot—he'll take it regardless, but that's why he's shooting just 40% from two.
About the shooting thing: they're awful. Texas generates a lot of three-pointers for Javan Felix (33% 3-pt) that are as likely to miss the rim completely as they are to go in—he really tests the integrity of the backboard—and they also take a ton of two-point jumpers. Against Iowa State, they airballed five(!) two-pointers, four in the first half alone. Of course, jump shot chaos is part of what allows them to rebound well; they rebounded three of those, with two leading to immediate putbacks.
While Felix jacks up by far the most threes on the team, the sweetest shooting stroke belongs to stretch four Connor Lammert, a backup who plays over half the team's minutes. He drilled 2/3 triples against ISU; when he's open, he's dangerous, and his misses are far less wild than Felix's.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Iowa State took advantage of Texas's bigs on defense, and how Michigan can do the same.]
Iowa State took advantage of Ridley's relative immobility and Texas's insistence on playing man-to-man by playing their two bigs up top and posting their perimeter players—especially 6'6" wing Dustin Hogue—on Texas's smaller backcourt. The Longhorns had no answer for this, even after making halftime adjustments; they went to the 2-3 zone for one possession and gave up an easy baseline dunk because Ridley wasn't quick enough to rotate over.
While Michigan doesn't have a big man as skilled at passing as ISU's Georges Niang (five assists vs. Texas), they can effectively do the same thing by running their normal offense. High screens will draw Ridley away from the rim. GRIII playing in his normal spot in the right corner will force Holmes to wander away from the hoop, as well. The pick-and-roll should prove effective; Iowa State exploited Ridley's (very) soft hedges and Texas going under screens with a couple pull-up bombs from Kane off the high screen, and Kane is nowhere near the shooting threat that Stauskas or LeVert provides.
Ridley does affect a lot of shots near the rim, though that doesn't always help the team effort; as Brian noted, he tries to block everything, opening up opportunities for easy offensive rebounds or dump-offs. Still, good looks at the hoop will be tough to convert if Ridley isn't drawn away from the hoop first. The good news is his backup, Ibeh, looked lost quite often on defense, and he wasn't nearly the same factor on the glass, either.
The guards, meanwhile, look ripe for attacking. It's easy to see why Texas allows opponents to shoot so many three-pointers. ISU's taller guards could simply rise and fire whenever they wanted over Taylor and Felix, while the bigs were slow to get to the perimeter when an ISU big popped out; the Cyclones finished 8/24 from three despite missing some great looks. Meanwhile, Kane blew by their third starting guard, Demarcus Holland, multiple times in the game without really having to make a move.
As long as Felix doesn't get unusually hot from three, I think this is a great matchup for Michigan. As the numbers show, Texas's rebounding doesn't make up for their poor shooting. The defense is susceptible to teams that can stretch the floor as well as taller perimeter players attacking inside—two things the Wolverines do quite well. This looks like a game for Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, or both to go off; when the Longhorns overplay them, Jordan Morgan should get his fair share of uncontested dunks.
I know this sounds very optimistic. I started watching the film fully prepared to worry about Texas's size advantage and rebounding; instead, I saw a lot of weaknesses that Michigan can exploit, and that's before accounting for the considerable coaching advantage the Wolverines should enjoy.
So, in NCAAs, Beilein wins .775 more games than expected, on avg., while Texas under Barnes wins .150 less games than expected on avg.
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 21, 2014
I mean, this is what Texas decided to run on their final play of the first half with ample time to set up their offense:
Dribble dribble dribble dribble pass chuck by 33% shooter who's been standing in the same spot for 15 seconds. Yup, definitely like this matchup.