A Gentle Suggestion For The Benefit Of The Revolution

Submitted by Brian on February 22nd, 2012 at 12:33 PM

2/21/2012 – Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT) – 21-7, 11-4 Big Ten


LEFT: A fateful moment in which our brave comrade fouled the opponent's forearm in the eyes of corrupt capitalist lackeys. RIGHT: The imperialists were forced into illegal measures in their failed attempts to deal with Comrade Morgan.

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops; AnnArbor.com

Let the reign of Beilein be long and glorious. He is our sun and star and moons. He has brought basketball back to Ann Arbor long after we had ceded our land to the imperialists of East Lansing and set about hoping we would not be Northwestern forever. The bubble is banished and all loyal Wolverines are required to have Mao-style paintings of not one but two Dear Leaders. This is right and just.

But we have to talk about something, Oh Great Back Cut of Heaven. That thing is what to do when Michigan's glorious but thin frontcourt, sabotaged by foreigners who broke Comrade Horford's foot—we have executed the traitors or at least given people who probably know the traitors harsh looks—is brought low by the machinations of imperialist pig-dogs with whistles.

Oh Thousand Shining Arcs From Behind The Line, your response in the Northwestern game was to bench Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz in favor of Comrades McLimans and Christian. They are a good loyalists who contribute all they can to the cause. Unfortunately for the Glorious Revolution, that is zero shot attempts and zero rebounds in fourteen minutes. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" suggests that Comrades McLimans and Christian are most needed in the towel-waving collectives of Ukraine, where they can fan our team to greatness.

When they are placed on the court, starvation ensues. Michigan led 11-3 when McLimans entered the game; Northwestern led 31-24 by halftime, when Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned to the floor. In that span of time, Northwestern had six offensive rebounds in eight opportunities*. In the other 31 minutes they had five in 24. Northwestern scored more points in the fourteen minutes without Morgan and Smotrycz (28) than they did in the other thirty-one(27).

Upon their return Morgan and Smotrycz promptly led a glorious charge into a lead foreordained by your divinity, Great Leveler. Unfortunately, rebel conspiracy sabotaged the bridge between Tim Hardaway Jr. and free throw makes, forcing the revolution into overtime. The people rose up and slew their purple oppressors with a thousand swords, as you decreed would always be the case.

Some of our less faithful comrades may have momentarily lost confidence, however. While the will of the people can never be defeated, it should be pointed out that basketball teams can and putting in comrades who are not very good at basketball could lead to a (temporary, meaningless) setback in Michigan's five-year plan.

When comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned it took 12 minutes for one of them to pick up a third foul. If they were allowed to continue playing in the first half it is true they would be in danger of fouling out early. But what would the consequences be in that situation? In the worst vaguely plausible scenario, both Morgan and Smotrycz foul out five or six minutes into the second half, forcing the Striped Orange Sun to… play McLimans and Christian for 14 minutes. The wisdom of the Shining Beacon of Halftime Adjustments is unquestioned, but in this one situation it seems like it is not infinite.

Earlier in the year, a similar substitution pattern saw Comrade Burke confined to the bench for a long stretch against Iowa. Burke left with Michigan down four and returned with them down twelve. Nefarious play by oppressors made Michigan play poorly throughout, so this did not make an impact on the outcome, but it didn't help matters much.

I submit that with Burke averaging 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes at the time of his transgression and six additional calls available to a two-headed center playing a team without any size, it would benefit Michigan greatly to roll the dice on players in foul trouble instead of willingly accepting the worst-case scenario of doing so. Oh sun and moon and stars.

*[It was actually 7 of 9 but one was a OREB credited to Northwestern's team after McLimans blocked a shot out of bounds. I don't think that shows up on the box score I'm using.]


Photos from AnnArbor.com and UMHoops. This one demonstrates Burke's powers of telekinesis:


Dustin Johnston

Highlights from BTN and mgovideo:

Bullets that get dust on them

Defense! Zounds. UMHoops says Michigan had Morgan and/or Smotrycz for 40 possessions. On those possessions Northwestern scored 27 points, or 0.68 points per possession. That's outstanding. Northwestern has the country's 15th-best offense and the league's fourth-best; when Michigan wasn't going to the deep bench because of the aforementioned rigidity they annihilated the Wildcats.

The primary way they did this was by switching everything. IIRC there was a single breakdown for an open layup in the first half, then nothing the rest of the game. Everything else was contested. John Shurna was 2 of 5 from three and 4 of 11 from two with a couple of those twos ridiculous circus things; after the game Bill Carmody kind of called out his leading scorer for passivity:

"It just seemed the whole game that he was reluctant to do anything," Carmody said. "He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing. It was a game he had to take over."

Northwestern never tried to punish Michigan for switching players as small as Trey Burke onto Shurna. That's either blind luck or great scouting.

Threes? Michigan hit 37% on 38 threes for 1.1 points per attempt. Are we happy with that? I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of those were wide open when opponents sagged off Burke or left a corner three open in the 1-3-1. On the other hand, 38 threes. I'm guessing we would have had a much different opinion than confusion if Burke and Hardaway didn't put down back-to-back triples after Michigan found itself down four late. Those makes opened the door for the rat-tat-tat at the beginning of overtime. Before that the numbers were ugly.

1.1 points is not great. It sounds good as a shooting percentage but you have to take into account that way more twos than threes end up getting erased in favor of free throws. On the other hand, being willing to launch from deep really cut down on Michigan's turnovers (six to an uncharacteristic 14 for Northwestern) and would have led to some additional possessions via Morgan offensive rebounds if the refs hadn't gone from suck to blow in the second half. In the end, it worked. Worked authoritatively when Morgan/Smotrycz were in.

1-3-1 response. When Michigan's 1-3-1 was getting shredded early in the disappointing Harris/Sims post-tourney year it seemed like opponents were attacking it diagonally and getting to the basket. Michigan was hesitant to put the ball on the floor at all and ended up shooting over it on a large majority of possessions. When they did dump it in low, Morgan had a couple opportunities but didn't go up strong, as they say, and we got the obligatory missed bunny or two*. I wonder if Northwestern just runs the 1-3-1 a lot better than Michigan ever has in the Beilein era.

*[This should be less of a problem with McGary. When people are asking Morgan to go up strong they believe he can dunk a ball from a standing start under the basket, which I don't think he can. This should be no problem for McGary as long as he can catch cleanly—always an issue with big men.]

Hardaway. Yerg. Back to the salt mines: 2 of 9 from three, 4 of 10 from the line. Two of three from two… against a team that has no shot blocking. I don't think those distributions are going to get fixed this year; we can only hope the shots go down when Michigan really needs them to.


Rodger Sherman is not dead:

How. in the HELL. do we lose two games to the same ranked team in overtime? HOW? Why does this happen? THIS IS JUST THE WORST.

Northwestern has now played about 8000 close games this season and lost all of them. Here are my questions, and I am furious about each and every one.

You get the ball witha bout 50 seconds and a full shot clock. Instead of opting to go two-for-one and take the last shot, which ANYBODY WITH ANY SORT OF BASKETBALL SENSE IN THE WORLD would have done, Northwestern held for 35 seconds and had a possession end with a JerShon Cobb three, a shot which is about as efficient as repeatedly stabbing yourself in the face. YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES AGAINST A RANKED TEAM WITH ALL THE MOMENTUM. YOU WANT TO END THE GAME IN REGULATION. YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEATING A BETTER TEAM IN THREE POSSESSIONS (TWO OF WHICH ARE YOURS) THAN FIVE MORE MINUTES. This is inexplicable.

We will root for Northwestern from here on out. We have hurt them more than they deserve. AnnArbor.com on Vogrich:

"He's been a big part of this little surge we're having right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Vogrich. "You've seen all year long that we've struggled with our bench play.

"And we need that. He's done a good job."

During Michigan's current four-game winning streak, Vogrich has gone 9-for-13 from 3-point range, providing a spark off the bench that hasn't been there for most of the season.

Known as a 3-point specialist, Vogrich entered the Nebraska game on Feb. 8 shooting just 21.2 percent from behind the arc. But thanks to his recent hot streak, he's jumped up to a more respectable 33.3 percent on the year.

UMHoops recap.


oriental andrew

February 22nd, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

Actually, I concluded that since Stu and Zack are the 2 scholarship seniors this season and that Vogrich will be the only scholarship senior next season (who has gotten any meaningful playing time), he could be the SENIOR LEADER who does a lot of the little things that don't always show up in the box score. 

Dang, you guys are so racist...  /sarcasm

But seriously - senior leadership is what i was going for. 

El Jeffe

February 22nd, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

If Zeller wins FOY then the terrorists have already won.

Zeller is a very good player. But he largely (not exclusively, I realize) stands near the basket and exists, making use of his height and so forth. That is not nearly the same thing or set of things that Burke has to do. It shouldn't be a close vote, but I bet it will be.


February 22nd, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

These are stats per game by Zeller and Burke against the top Big Ten teams (UM, MSU, Ohio, IU, Wis).

                     Points         Reb+Assists            Stl+Blk

Player A:  11.7                     5.5                            1.0

Player B   14.7                    7.5                             1.7


Which player is Zeller and which is Burke?



February 22nd, 2012 at 1:13 PM ^

One possible measure of the impact of the 38 3pt attempts is UM's eFG.  UM has averaged 53.8 eFG (a KenPom metric that credits 3pt as 1.5 and 2pt as 1).  They shot 50% eFG last night, which resulted from 14-38 from 3 and 7-18 from 2.  In other words, they shot better than season average from 3 (avg. is 35) but much worse from 2 (avg. is close to 55).  So I guess the point is that the 38 3pt attempts would not look as bad had they been closer to avg. in the 2pt department.


February 22nd, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^

I think sitting with two fouls autmatically is silly.  However, I think with starting front court player.  It makes sense.  Morgan is the best frontcourt player we have and due to the scarcity of 2nd half posessions, you want him on the floor offensively and especially defensively.

Smotyrcz on the other hand why? He's a sub.  Worst case he gets 4 fouls in the first half, then  can't come into the game until 13 mark of the 2nd half.  Which leaves more minutes for the guy you are truly protecting, Morgan.  

If Smotryzcz fouls out then so be it, then you have to buy time with Mclimans which is the worst case scenario anyway.  

I think part of what your overllooking is that NW would have changed  tactics and went after Morgan if he would have continued playing looking for the 3rd foul.  And college referees are suckers for that strategy.  

That being said Smotrycz could have picked up half those 14 minutes.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

I think this is right. Morgan is important enough that UM needs him on the floor in the second half, but Smotrycz (third time's a charm on the spelling, by the way) isn't an absolutely vital piece. He's a good player--much better than McLimans--but he's a guy UM can win without having on the floor.


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:16 PM ^

beilein chose to sit there and let a solid lead slip away into a large deficit, primarily due to one back-up player.  and yes, a 7 point defecit can be significant against a team like NW that milks the clock.

beilein banked 6 fouls between morgan and smot for the 2nd half and still had 5 in the bank at the end of the game.

it's one thing to let mclimans go in there and see what happens for a bit.  but he was getting absolutely owned by a mediocre center on both ends of the court.  beilein clearly should have put smot back in there after about 5 min.  i would have probably played morgan for a bit too.  it's not like NW is going to force the ball down low to try and draw morgan fouls and forget about the #3 scoring player in the nation.

the foul risk was low in this game.  flukish.  and beilein nearly cost the game with this philosophy/stubborness.

if he does this during the ncaa tourny, i will blow my stack.


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:52 PM ^

obviously the risk turned out to be low.  beilein chose to bank 6 fouls between smot and morgan for the 2H and i believe 4-5 were still in the bank in the end.  a couple of those smot/morgan fouls were flukish early on.  if the refs were to call another cheap one, i'm sure beilein would have been all over the refs' asses.  and maybe he was, and that may have led to few calls on them as the game progressed.

you have to understand that refs don't want to foul out players.  they may call a cheapy, but two or three on a guy, not likely w/o being torn a new one by the coach.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

As others have argued, missing 14 minutes in the first half is not the same as missing 14 minutes at the end of the game.  Say you have Denard Robinson, and his only backup is a basted ham (or Nick Sheridan).  Do you want Denard missing the last 10 minutes of the first half of a close game, or the last 10 minutes of the second half?

Or a better example.  Do you want say, Jake Ryan and Ryan Van Bergen missing the 2nd quarter or the 4th quarter of a tight game?  I'd personally rather have the chance to come back from what was a fairly small deficit than hope to hold on and have no time to come back if I don't.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

A point scored early is equal to the same amount as a point scored late.  The difference here is that instead of running the RISK of 14 minutes of McLimans time, you voluntarily CHOOSE 14 minutes of McLimans time.

Is having Morgan and Smot in the lineup late of a very close game worth more than not having them at the end of a game Michigan leads by a decent margin?


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

First, McLimans Time was my favorite children's show when I was a kid. 

Second, as jmblue said above, I don't think that you get a great effort out of Jordan Morgan if he's worrying about his fouls.  It's hard to play Jordan Morgan basketball, so to speak, if he's worrying about contact...I think this is true for Smotrycz too, though to a slightly lesser extent, b/c he brings outside shooting to the table (shooting not being an act that usually causes the shooter to be called for a foul)...Of course, you could tell Morgan/Smot to play as if they only have one foul and get back to the pure late game/early game argument.  As to that argument, I can't remember what they tought us on McLimans Time


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:56 PM ^

i was at the game and during the 2H warm ups, i was saying that mclimans should just stand under the basket and rebound the shots for the other players.  and he started doing that for a while.  i then joked that the little curly-top ball boy was still outrebounding him.  too funny.


February 22nd, 2012 at 3:12 PM ^

If the value of a point is the same regardless of when the point occurs, what's the argument? Either way the game is tied, except you're going into overtime without Morgan or Smot.  

Before overtime, Michigan outscored NW 31-21 with Morgan and Smot in.  Are you confident that Michigan could hold onto a 10 point lead with McLimans in at the end of the game and no chance to turn it around?  Hell, are you confident in a 20 point lead, on the road against the #4 offense in the conference, with McLimans in?


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:34 PM ^

morgan and smot left quality minutes on the bench.  i'm pretty confident that both guys would not foul out in this game.  NW doesn't have the inside presence to create 10 fouls between them.  the mclimans experiment probably cost the team 10 pts. 

we probably would have had the lead the whole game if morgan or smot played more minutes.  and even if morgan fouls out at some point, UM can control the clock a bit and protect the lead instead of having to come from behind.

and ask yourself how much of a factor morgan was in OT.  we hit some 3s and it was game over regardless if morgan or mclimans were in the game.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

The point that people miss when arguing for sitting a player with early fouls, is that they assume that if you leave the player in the game that he is going to foul out (and probably foul out early).  How many fouls did Morgan & Smotrycz end up with last night?  And they played an extra 5 minutes of OT.

I have seen times when players sat in the first half with 2 fouls and then played the entire second half without getting another foul.


February 22nd, 2012 at 7:31 PM ^

the problem with your examples is that you seem to think by playing "the ham" or mclimans, you are guaranteed NOT having denard or morgan at the end of the game.  that's not true.  you're just increasing your chances, but you are guaranteed bad minutes of PT by the backups.

i went to the 2000 illini game.  henson had a bad ankle and wasn't going to play.  navarre played and stunk up the joint for most of the first half.  UM was down and carr did the right thing by putting in an injured henson.  and he played a hell of a game and we won.

if carr was stubborn (like beilein last nite) navarre would have played the whole game and we probably lose.  it's alright to start navarre and hope for the best (like playing mclimans after the smot/morgan fouls), but when the guy is not playing well, you have to pull the guy and play your aces and hope your better players come through.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

I really want Northwestern to break their tournament drought.  But even more so, I really want them to break the drought by actually making it to the real first round.  The one with 64 teams in it.  I would hate it if they got picked for that stupid play-in, lost, and everyone was all "look, they broke the tourney drought, how wonderful!  now we can stop caring."  No they didn't.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

I'd be cooler with it if it was set up correctly like a real tournament, where the lower seeds had the hardest road.  I actually think the marketing potential of "16-seed Tuesday" would've been great.  Better exposure for the little twerps.  Would've loved a day like that where it was reserved for the small fries - I bet they'd almost always be excellent games, just like, say, the Atlantic Sun conference championship.  Those are great and I'm not even being sarcastic.

But if you're playing for the right to have a middle seed, it is, in fact, a "play-in" game, not a tournament game.  It's the result of the oversized bloat at the bottom of the D-I ranks that gives Chicago State the same vote as Michigan, and the PCifying of our world so that we can give everyone their precious participation medal and let them claim "we made the tournament!"


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:45 PM ^

... later times have more leverage than earlier times, because you have more information.  (For example, if you get the ball back down 8 with 5 minutes to go in a football game, you know you need to go for two if you score a TD; you don't have that information earlier in the game.)  Later times are thus instrinsically more valuable.

Sometimes this extra information doesn't matter (we got the ball back and we're up 40), and there is a case to be made that stemming the tide early makes it more likely the end will be relevant, but by and large, you want your best players playing at the end given this kind of choice.



February 22nd, 2012 at 2:50 PM ^

Give me Morgan and Smotz sitting 14 minutes in the first half over 14 in the second have every time.  If they sit the last 14 minutes, momentum swings in a crucial time, the crowd gets more involved, and our players start "gripping" - forcing shots, making bad passes, etc.

Sorry Brian, but I disagree whole heartedly.  I want the best guys on the floor at the end of the game.


February 22nd, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Morgan's finishing is underappreciated. Stats do not exist for this, but I suspect he makes a higher percentage of his layups in traffic than other centers. If McGary can finish as well as Morgan, we will be very happy, especially since McGary brings other things to the table (rebounding, outside shooting, some sembalence of a post game).


February 22nd, 2012 at 3:02 PM ^

Ok...a few points...

1.  I'm not a fan of the "you have fouls; you must sit" philosophy, but if I were the coach, we wouldn't have 21 wins and be looking at a 3 seed (or better if we win out).  We'd probably be fairly crappy and I'd be ejected from a few games for asking a ref, "What the fuck is wrong with you?" or the less socially palatable, "What type of special fucking retard are you?"

2.  McLimans is terrible, was terrible and always will be terrible (whence compared to B1G players).  That said, we weren't playing Blake Griffin's Oklahoma squad.  McLimans, dust the cobwebs off and play like you deserve to be on the court...especially when you aren't outsized.

3.  As the program continues to improve, this won't be an issue.  We'll have the depth that we've lacked.  We'll have big men who play...like big men.  It isn't McLimans fault that he isn't a star.  He's just the best that was available at the time (after injuries (Cronin), tranfers (Udoh) and "pros" (Benzig).


February 22nd, 2012 at 3:33 PM ^

But one thing that I haven't seen brought up is that the refs--at least to be--seemed to be calling the game very different in the first half than the second.  Based on that, I think the likelihood of Morgan and Smots getting another foul was greater in the first half.  Now, I don't think Beilein can look into the future and know that the game would be called looser in the second half, unless this is a observable, generally correct occurence.


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:30 PM ^

It is hard to measure that and prove it, but I agree.  I've noticed that in other Big 10 games lately as well.  The referees start off calling some tic-tac fouls, then realize their doing a Big 10 game that evening, and finally start to let things go and let the players play more physical.  I feel, like you seem to feel, that this happened last night.  Again, it's impossible to prove.  It seemed the refs "had it out", not literally but had their eyes MORE on Morgan and Smotz, for some reason in the beginning.  They cool off a bit, decide to let the players play, and in the 2nd half don't call the fouls they did in the beginning of the game.  All theory, but if there is a shread of truth to that, how is Beilein to know how the refs officiating will evolve throughout a game?  He doesn't and he goes by what he's seeing on the court and benches them to preserve them for a late game push.

winged wolverine

February 22nd, 2012 at 4:33 PM ^

I was at the game last night, and as I watched I was hoping Michigan would have some high-low action against the 1-3-1 rather than have four guards around the outside and then shoot the three. I mentioned that if we had more depth at the 4-5, I'd love to see Smotrycz in the high post and Morgan down low. I know that it won't come up much because a lot of teams don't run a 1-3-1, but that may be somethign we see next year.

On a side note, Shurna is the least impressive scorer I've seen. He rarely went inside (until late in the game), even though he was being guarded by Burke, Douglas and Novak for most of the game. 

I also believe that Timmy should be banned from the 3 point line for the rest of the regular season. I want him to drive to the basket, even if he did miss 5 free throws last night. If he commits an offensive foul, so be it. We need him to be more aggressive. 


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:11 PM ^

I see the pictures of Morgan's fouls, exactly as I remember them last night, and I am disgusted at those calls.  What utter BullSh*t.  In what world are those fouls?  Especially the first picture, which I think was Morgan's 2nd and sent him to the pine.  I had to get that off my chest before I read the rest of Brian's Post.  More commentary on last night's game to come post-read.


February 22nd, 2012 at 6:22 PM ^

Brian I am in agreement with you.  I love Coach B, but this is one thing I disagree with him on.  He has to realize that he has 10 fouls to give between Smot/Morgan , and if he plays Smot for the rest of the first half and even say he gets a foul or two, he still has 3 for morgan and 1-2 for smotrycz.  Only in complete desperation shall we play McLimans.   You're right he does look like way more of a fit when hes jumping up and down and waving a towel on the bench haha...


February 22nd, 2012 at 9:24 PM ^

Preface:  When Phil Jackson was playing with the Knicks, his team was up 20 points on a team.  Whether starters were pulled at some point in the "blow-out" or not, the opponent miraculously ended up coming back to win the game.  Fast-forward to the 90's coaching the Bulls.  Kraus or Reinsdorf questioned him numerous times over the years why he'd leave Jordan and Scottie et. al. in the game for so long during "blow-outs".  He would always point back to the one time it happened to him in his playing days, a team mounting a comeback against all odds.

Maybe this is the case with Beilein.  Maybe he left a starter in the game, eons ago, with 3 fouls early in the second half to see him foul out too early for the teams need.  Something like that sticks with a coach over the years and it becomes a philosophy.  We can b**ch and moan all we want but it's what he does.  I happen to agree with how he has been doing it, but I definitely understand the many of you who'd rather see these guys stick it out in the game and take the chance.