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.
It's time for yet another two-part mailbag. If you haven't submitted a question yet, I'm still taking them: you can tag them with #mgomailbag on twitter or email me.
even on a bad day, Moe Wagner helps you win. [Patrick Barron]
Is my memory right that Hamilton played small ball for most of the 2nd half? maybe the last 10 minutes, except for the short period when we saw the Livers-Giant matchup, FSU played w/o a center, didn’t they? What a huge change and what a huge credit to Beilein’s scheme and fearlessness that Wagner - even cold as ice - scared the s[not] out of Hamilton in the 2nd half.
John Beilein allows Moe Wagner to shoot his way out of cold stretches for very good reason: he completely changes the way opponents have to approach defense. This is FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after a game in which Wagner went 0-for-7 on threes:
Sure, we did a pretty good job defending him, but I also think the effort that we spent on him, we opened up some opportunities for some other guys, and I think that's one reason why they were probably a little bit more effective. In order to get to him, being the type of three-point shooter that he is -- I think he shoots over 40% from the floor -- when you're trying to get to him and he's a seven-footer, he's their center, well, obviously, he opens up the lane.
And I think that's one of the reasons why they were able to get into the interior of our defense and get some easy ups, some high-percentage baskets because we had to put forth so much effort to close out on him because he's such an outstanding shooter.
Wagner may have been ice cold but I don't exactly blame Hamilton for getting deeply uncomfortable with the quality of looks, especially early in the second half. Michigan was successfully going five-out, getting penetration in the paint (mostly by Zavier Simpson), and kicking out to Wagner for achingly open shots. Hamilton would be hard-pressed to bet on Wagner continuing to miss literally all of those shots.
So, to answer the question, your eyes did not deceive you: after combining to play every minute of the first half, FSU's center trio of Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Ike Obiagu played nine combined minutes in the second. Obiagu, who'd emphatically swatted three shots in the opening stanza, didn't see the floor at all.
Going small, while a viable strategy against Michigan, isn't really FSU's game. Using HoopLens data and removing body-bag games, the Noles played over 1400 possessions with at least one center on the floor and under 270 with no center. While their offense improved a bit without a big man hurting their spacing, they went from allowing 46% on two-pointers with a center on the floor to 53% without—the gap between very good and very bad.
Michigan went 10-for-16 on two-pointers in the second half. After recording seven blocks in the first half, FSU had only two in the second. Even when he's broke from the perimeter, Wagner changes games.
[Hit THE JUMP to dispel the inbounding myth and explore a Beilein/NBA hypothetical.]
The Inbounding Thing Isn't Really A Thing
this tends to feel more difficult than it is. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
For all his X and O wizardry, why do Beilein teams seem to struggle so regularly with inbounding the ball? Go Blue!
I've probably fielded this question a dozen times over the last couple years. Inbounds plays make up a relatively small percentage of a team's offense (around 10%) but they get a lot of focus because they become extreme high-stress situations late in games or against pressing teams. Michigan has had the occasional issue getting the ball in (or, like with Isaiah Livers against FSU, not getting trapped once it does) and those instances tend to stick in our minds.
Michigan has struggled to score off inbounds plays this year. Per Synergy, they're in the 40th percentile in baseline out of bounds plays (BLOBs) and in the 45th percentile in (much less freqently run) sideline out of bounds plays (SLOBs). They're scoring only 0.83 PPP off BLOB plays with a 44.5 eFG%, which isn't pretty. That said, however, the thing we often focus on isn't the problem we believe it is: M turns it over on just 10.6% of such plays, which ranks them 26th nationally.
And what if I told you that Michigan had the #1 BLOB offense in the entire country last year? It's true! The Wolverines poured in 1.12 PPP on BLOBs in 2016-17 with a healthy gap over the #2 team (UMBC, of all squads). Beilein is very, very capable of drawing up some evil inbounds sets—ignore the ball and keep your eye on Wagner and MAAR here:
Michigan's efficiency on inbounds plays ties in to their offensive efficiency as a whole, and those plays do tend to exacerbate a certain issue with this particular team: they're not a great shooting team, especially by Beilein standards, and a lot of inbounds plays come late in the shot clock where you're going to have to get up a quick jumper. Michigan ranks in the 47th percentile this year in late clock offense (under four seconds on the shot clock) for the same reason.
It's not the inbounding. It's definitely not the coach. This year, it's the shooting.
A Hypothetical I'm Glad Will Stay A Hypothetical
a Hall of Fame-level college coach. [Barron]
thought experiment: Beilein is hired by the Warriors or Rockets, how does he fare? More realistically, given the way the nba game has changed recently why wouldn’t the USA men’s intl team want to take a look at Coach B?
— raj (@internetraj) March 27, 2018
For a number of reasons, I believe Beilein is much better suited to the college game than the pro game. For one, his offense is so intricate that the adjustment from 30 to 24 seconds on the shot clock would significantly alter how he'd have to approach what he's best at doing: getting his offense quality shots via the system. He'd also face defenses the likes of which he's never seen; NBA defensive schemes are so much more advanced—and so much more effective given the huge size/athleticism gap—than what you face in college.
His personality is also much better suited to the college game. While the San Antonio Spurs have managed to build a culture like that at Beilein's Michigan—tight-knit to the point of operating like a family—it took a remarkable convergence of ownership, general manager, head coach, and star players to make it work. Beilein is a control freak; in the NBA, the head coach is often the guy with the least amount of control. (See: most anyone who's coached LeBron James, and this isn't a shot at Bron.)
While a role with USA Basketball could be more realistic, Beilein is 65 and I don't see him wanting to add a big job like that. The USA program might want him as an offensive mind but this is a coaching staff with Coach K and Jim Boeheim. A big draw of coaching in that program is the recruiting opportunities it provides. I don't think I have to say much more to convince you it probably isn't the right fit for Beilein.