Hoops Mailbag: Loyola Matchups, Small Ball Possibility, Z Robbed Again Comment Count

Ace March 28th, 2018 at 3:35 PM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year, and once again that is going rather well. I'm not saying Michigan's second run to the FINAL FOUR is due to this great partnership of sports blog and home-financing expert; I'm not saying it isn't, either. I certainly don't want to test this theory. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

ICYMI. It's time for yet another two three-part mailbag. Yesterday's covered Moe Wagner's impact on opponent strategy, the John Beilein inbounding myth, and an interesting hypothetical about Beilein as an NBA coach. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I may have room for one or two more: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.

To Small Ball Or Not To Small Ball

Could Isaiah Livers hold up at center? [Patrick Barron]

Let's start with some background here. Loyola starts a traditional center—6'9", 260-pound Cameron Krutwig—who plays about half of their minutes; when Krutwig leaves the court, they don't field a player taller than 6'6". Meanwhile, FSU went small for much of the second half against Michigan, and an attempted response by John Beilein with Isaiah Livers at center didn't go well. Livers looked lost and M got outscored 8-3 by FSU in that stretch despite getting an extra possession, failing to make a shot from the field.

There's a chance Duncan Robinson could function much better at center. He's well-versed in the system on both ends to the point that he probably knows the center's assignments better than Livers, he's defended well in the post, and he's been utilized in the offense as a screener with some frequency of late. The worry is a small-ball team would expose his sub-par perimeter defense. I think Robinson could match up well with 6'5", 230-pound forward Aundre Jackson, and in that case Michigan may very well want to go small along with Loyola—a Michigan Lineup of Death with Robinson at center is certainly intriguing in the right circumstances.

That said, Beilein may also choose to flip that mismatch the other way. Loyola's offense hasn't been effective without Krutwig, plummeting from 1.21 points per possession when he's on the court to 0.96 PPP when he's off during the NCAA Tournament, according to Hoop Lens. Their defense has also suffered, allowing 1.08 PPP when he's off versus 0.93 PPP when he's on because they can no longer stop anyone inside the arc—their 2-point percentage allowed balloons from 45.6% to 56.5%.

I have serious questions about Krutwig's ability to handle Michigan's five-out offense; he's not nearly the caliber of athlete as FSU's big men nor is he close to their level as a shot-blocker. Either way, Loyola is going to go small at times. I believe it may be in Michigan's best interest to keep playing their normal rotation unless they discover a true Lineup of Death during practice this week.

[Hit THE JUMP for Teske's potential role and Z getting robbed again.]

What About Doing The Opposite?

Could Teske hold his own against the mites? [Barron]

I think Teske will get his normal allotment of minutes unless Moe Wagner goes off, which is a distinct possibility against Krutwig and people who can't really challenge his shot. Teske wouldn't provide the same level of mismatch, but we could see him work the pick-and-roll like he did against Purdue in the BTT when Krutwig is on the floor, and there's a chance he can flip the Loyola small-ball mismatch by overwhelming them with his size on both ends.

Like Robinson, Teske could possibly match up with Jackson, who's capable of stretching the floor but doesn't attempt many threes (20/54 this year). That might not be an ideal matchup for Michigan's defense; at the same time, I don't know how small-ball Loyola would handle a true seven-footer with good rebounding instincts and finishing ability on the other end.

Beilein has a lot of options here. He'll ride Wagner as long as he's putting opponents in the usual bind; after that, he has a couple viable choices for countering Loyola's undersized group. No matter who sees the floor for Michigan, they may be at a big advantage when the Ramblers go small—that's when they like to get out in transition, and in case we haven't pounded this into your head enough, the Wolverines have the best defense in the country at preventing opportunities and limiting efficiency on the fast break.

You Rob Z, He Robs You Harder

WHERE'S THE LOVE? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Hi Ace,

Love your stuff.  Seems to me the critical importance of Simpson, most especially his lock down defense on the opponent’s primary ballhandler, but also his taking direction of the offense, is vastly overlooked – he didn’t even make the all-tournament team from the last weekend, much less the Big1G all-defensive team.  What’s your take?



Yes, if you missed it, Zavier Simpson got robbed again: the all-tournament team from the West region featured MVP Charles Matthews, Moe Wagner, MAAR, and two Seminoles, one of whom (Terrance Mann) recorded all of four points with two assists, four turnovers, and four fouls in 35 minutes on Saturday.

Mann scored 18 points the game before, however, and the people who vote for these things tend to look at box scores when making their choices. The box score doesn't just undervalue what Simpson did last weekend on defense, it also fails to show his true offensive contributions—he gets to ten assists against FSU instead of the five he recorded if Wagner and Co. can hit anything from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Simpson turned every point guard he faced into a pile of inefficient goo.

It's not just voters overlooking Z. CBS ranked him 16th of the 20 starters in the Final Four despite acknowledging the stat line doesn't "tell the full story." ESPN's John Gasaway put him 22nd among the top 25 players in the Final Four. Someone forward all of these to Simpson, please.

Matthews was the team's MVP last weekend, but Simpson was just behind him, and I don't think any other Wolverine came close. I think the team would agree with that assessment, too.

If Only He Could Recruit...

Thanks for writing in, Scott. I know you're a longtime reader/listener.

In my opinion, if Beilein can avoid the upset on Saturday, he's probably earned himself another year.



March 28th, 2018 at 3:45 PM ^

There were hot-and-heavy "Fire Beilein" threads on this board 15 months ago. Think about that.

Regarding going small: Part of the problem Michigan had against FSU's "small" lineup was that it wasn't all that small, right? They're still a long team that clogs up passing lanes. Michigan isn't big on going to the post to begin with, and given the lack of passing lanes (for example, the difficulty of feeding the roll man when going PnR) it seemed to expose some of our weaknesses.

But is Loyola good enough to obstruct passing in the same way? I feel like Wagner or Teske will be more of a factor in the block with the greater ease of delivering them the ball. 

Also, Michigan hasn't had much of a penetration game lately, but I'm hopeful that Saturday will be a different story. If Z and MAAR can drive to the basket consistently the offense is going to go off.


March 28th, 2018 at 5:49 PM ^

Hindsight is 20/20 but at the time it seemed like Walton and Irvin never were going to reach their potential and we hadn't had a real recruiting hit since Caris who we really only got one good year out of. At the time we also were still not very good defensively, despite bringing in Donlon. The 2016 class didn't look that impressive and the future 2017 class nothing real exciting either.

Now of course all of this was very very wrong, but skepticism at that point was well warranted. To go as far as to say he should be fired is and was ludicrous given what he's done for the program, but it was certainly hard to envision that team getting led by Walton to the finish they had or to see Simpson develop into the player he is or to see a #3 defense in the country in 17-18.

People always want to say their faith never waivered, but that's not the case for almost all. And for those whose faith never waivered, I assume they felt the same about RR and Hoke.


March 28th, 2018 at 6:14 PM ^

lots of folks never waivered because Beilein actually accomplished stuff on the court... B1G Tournament champions AND Sweet 16 just last year... not to mention a National runners up only 5 years ago and yet there was still a contingent calling for Beilein to be fired just a few months ago.... 

Like shooting % many firmly believed that Beilein would get things back on track and that the wins would come...

not sure how the RR and Hoke comments apply here? did they ever win any championships at Michigan?



March 28th, 2018 at 9:43 PM ^

Tubby Smith and a shit ton of other coaches (Izzo?) have had success only to see it fade away. Prior success is not a guarantee for future success and in January of 2017 there was not much objective reasoning to suggest we would win back to back big ten tourney titles with a run in the NCAA tourney. You can tell me otherwise, but I'm not going to believe you, or if do, it's only in the sense that you always wear your maize glasses.


March 29th, 2018 at 1:17 PM ^

Never said he would win a second B1G tourney nor even thought he would this year...

Neither was i calling for Beliein to get fired either, especially  considering it had been, what, 8 months after a sweet 16 appearance and B1G tourney Championship?

tough crowd... many, including myself, were more than happy to give Beilein a pass in light of  last year's performance as well as the fact he lost 3 starters...



March 28th, 2018 at 8:44 PM ^

Screw that. Never doubted Beilein. Go check my posts. I just couldn't believe how dumb folks were around here who believed that we could get a coach better than Beilein. Guy is respected around the league for a reason.


March 28th, 2018 at 10:24 PM ^

Fans (and Michigan fans more than most) lose patience far sooner than players. The "UNACCEPTABLE!!!" crowd will probably always be around, but they usually have little idea of what is involved in the sport at that level, and frankly, they are what diminishes the Michigan Fan Experience, probably more than losing.

Beilein above all, requires patience and trust. I know this: I was disgusted with the talk about driving him out in early 2018, would  have been disgusted with Michigan to see Beilein forced out, and moreover if I retained interest in MBB had they done that, I most would have HATED to see him hired anywhere else in the B1G and FEARED to go up against a Beilein program.

How many times do you hear these guys mention "brothers" and "love" in their interviews? And it sounds convincing? They really mean it. Yeah, every sports program talks about striving to be "like a family". This year's team personifies that, perhaps more than any other team I remember. Beilein, the guys he recruits, the atmostphere he creates- deserve the credit for that. The patience and love he has for his players to develop is unsurpassed. That on top of his technical mastery, passion to teach, and humility to know his own weak points and do something about it (defense being the most obvious example), make the man a truly great coach and human being and molder of men.

Beilein is certainly better than we M fans deserve, maybe the best coach we've ever had or will have, and deserves to stay as long as he wants, which hopefully means a long, long time.


March 29th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

Add into that the misfit toys references and Duncan Robinson's interview in the locker room.  Beilein and his staff saw the pieces, the players put the puzzle together on the court, they've grown together and are one resilient bunch.  +1

Yost Ghost

March 29th, 2018 at 10:50 AM ^

How much better is Beilein gonna look when the one and done era is over and teams have to go back to developing players with less talent because some of the most talented players aren't going to waste their time with the NCAA?

I think people are going to rediscover their Beilein love.


March 28th, 2018 at 5:30 PM ^

Michigan hasn't had much of a penetration game lately? Whaaaat? Did you watch the games last weekend?

We made four three pointers agaisnt FSU. Everything else - other than a few Wagner pick and pops - were Z, Matthews and Wagner penetrating (even most of the open missed threes were drive and kicks).  We shot 24 (!!) FTs against FSU thanks to our aggression going to the basket. Wagner shot 8 FTs and scored 12 points despite not making a 3.

In fact, the first half against FSU saw us draw more fouls and get more shots blocked than I can ever remember in a first half of Beilein basketball.  And that was because we relentlessly attacked the rim.

The first half of the A&M game was us driving and kicking for open threes. Most of second half against A&M was MAAR and Matthews penetrating and finishing.

Charles Matthews was the weekends leading scorer and MOP by shooting 12/17 from 2, 5/8 from the FT line which came via penetration.

Loyola's small ball outfit will not be as long as FSU's and probably won't be as athletic either.  So yes, passing lanes in general should be more open.  And Teske should feed on OREBs if he's playing against a small ball outfit (I worry more about his ability to defend small ball though).

I imagine we'll continue a drive heavy offense against Loyola with Z, MAAR and Matthews setting up most of the offense with dribble drives (either isos or off pick and roll) and Wagner taking the big guy off the dribble every chance he gets.


March 28th, 2018 at 8:54 PM ^

with his ball handling near the hoop against A&M. At times it appeared as if he were merely playing with them until one of the defenders erred and allowed him to finish his trip to the basket. He put on a really good show. Then, as you say, Z always looks good and is quick as a hiccup driving to the iron. 


March 28th, 2018 at 5:01 PM ^

Poole's a fun guy and all but honestly, he's pretty much just a shooter at this point in his career.  Not only is he shaky on the defensive end, he's iffy handling the ball, too.  He has more turnovers than assists on the year.  Against an active defensive team that forces a lot of turnovers, he probably won't play that much.



March 29th, 2018 at 12:43 AM ^

He will get better but might be 2 years before the crazy breakout happens.

Also, Beilein can coach at Michigan as long as he wants, I really dont care about our record anymore. He's such a class act that I never want to see him go - he really represents everything I want a Michigan athletic program to be.

Harbaugh can also stay forevet. I know everything he does is for the players and the school, which is far more important than winning games. We'll get some nice wins though.


March 28th, 2018 at 5:36 PM ^

Playing Poole in this game is going to be a big risk big reward scenario. If he's end of game Houston/Indiana/OSU-Maryland Poole he's probably good enough on O that you can deal with defensive shortcomings.

If he's not though, he's probably more likely on the bench. He's an incredibly undisciplined defensive player. He gambles a lot, especially for steals, and while it pays off sometimes, a lot of times it gets him burned. Loyola has a high turnover rate and passes around the perimeter a lot so maybe it works for him, but more likely he just gets out of position and gives up open shots when he plays. Unless he gets very disciplined defensively this week (highly unlikely) or is instant offense (possible), I don't think he plays a lot against Loyola.


March 28th, 2018 at 3:50 PM ^

they've had a week to work at it; he's a clever person. I think that the bright lights could have Loyola a little overwhelmed. . . more likely this than the reverse. 


March 28th, 2018 at 3:59 PM ^

I'm more worried about the second game, honestly. Not that we can't lose to Loyola--we sure can--but Beilein has proven his ability to use a week to dissect an opponent. The second games have a much shorter turnaround and it's harder to prepare for a unique matchup, as in the situation with Livers against FSU.

I'm sort of resisting looking at the Nova-KU matchup, but I sort of want to know what Michigan would do if they played one of them, too. 



March 28th, 2018 at 3:55 PM ^

While I am not overlooking Saturday's game (honest), I am giddy at the thought of watching Simpson guard Brunson or Graham on Monday night.


March 28th, 2018 at 4:17 PM ^

Not only did that CBS article ranking the 20 starters in the Final Four have Z ranked too low, it also had Duncan Robinson ranked as the worst starter of the 20, so it’s clearly not a legitimate list


March 28th, 2018 at 4:21 PM ^

I read the first section and was like come on, Duncan at center? No. We should do the opposite and go with Teske. Lo and behold... that was next section.


March 28th, 2018 at 4:31 PM ^

There is no need to go small against Loyola. They have been exteremely fortunate thus far in the tournament that all the good big players they were supposed to face were out with injury (Kyle Alexander, 6'11" for Tennessee and Dean Wade, 6'10" for K-State).

Tennessee played a lineup with no one taller than 6'7", Nevada also didn't play anyone taller than 6'7" (their 43% 3-point sniper had an 0 for 8 outing), and K-State laughably went with five players shorter than 6'5".

Michigan can impose its will on Loyola because Loyola is 2011 Michigan with a higher turnover rate. Driving lanes will be open and MAAR/Simpson have no need to fear shots getting blocked. Wagner will be able to shoot over everyone and get to the bucket whenever he wants.