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|WHAT|| #7 Michigan (32-7) vs
#30 Loyola-Chicago (32-5)
San Antonio, TX
|WHEN||6:09 PM Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –5 (KenPom)|
yes, you can purchase a Sister Jean bobblehead
Well, here we are. Again. Michigan rolls into the Final Four as the most fearsome defense left in the tourney by some distance. They can't shoot straight anymore, but it hasn't really mattered. Moe Wagner has had three off games, and it hasn't really mattered. The front end of a one and one is a turnover, and it hasn't really mattered.
It'll matter this weekend. Michigan has a shot at the national title. It'll either be a poor one if it's the first weekend; it'll be an outstanding one of it's Texas A&M. Here we go.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||13||Clayton Custer||Jr.||6'1, 185||86*||21||117||No|
|58/47 from floor, excellent at 2PJs. Main assist guy but 5:4 A:TO is bleah.|
|G||14||Ben Richardson||Sr.||6'3, 195||81||14||111||No|
|Low usage combo is 39% from deep and has 1:1 A:TO. Barely shoots inside line.|
|G||5||Marques Townes||Jr.||6'4, 210||71||22||106||No|
|Slasher a rarity on the roster w 60% of shots at rim. 40% on limited threes.|
|F||0||Donte Ingram||Sr.||6'6 215||71||19||106||No|
|40% from 3 on 184 attempts, does fair amount of work inside line.|
|C||25||Cameron Krutwig||Fr.||6'9, 260||52||23||120||Very|
|Beefy dude with mad YMCA game. Post-up only. Not a rim protector.|
|F||21||Aundre Jackson||Sr.||6'5, 230||48||28||108||No|
|Undersized backup 5 does a lot of posting up vs MVC.|
|G||12||Lucas Williamson||Fr.||6'4", 190||47||13||110||No|
|Does some inside work vs MVC, in this game projects as 43% Just A Shooter|
|G||2||Bruno Skokna||So.||6'1, 195||16||15||111||No|
|Also a guy likely to be relegated to standing around perimeter; 36% from 3.|
|G||2||Cameron Satterwhite||Fr.||6'4, 175||11||15||102||Yes|
|Fringe guy who might get a few minutes if there's foul trouble.|
*[last five games minutes from Kenpom.]
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Krutwig needs a Stain Train worth nickname
Prepare to be the most hated team in college basketball for a night. Michigan's opponent is tourney Cinderella Loyola-Chicago, home to a 98-year-old nun with multiple burner accounts on your local message board of choice. C'est la vie.
Loyola is an 11-seed, but after their tourney run they rank more like an 8 in your preferred fancystat. This means they are an extraordinarily fortunate matchup in the Final Four but in no way a pushover. Kenpom gives Michigan a 66% shot at a victory, ranking them barely behind Penn State and Florida State. It's going to be a game.
The Ramblers are the platonic opposite of Florida State, a traditional big surrounded by a crew of virtually interchangeable snipers who all drive to the rack and kick it around the perimeter. Think MVC Purdue.
The center is 6'9" freshman Cameron Krutwig, who looks and plays exactly like a mid-major center named Cameron Krutwig should. He's beefy but not athletic, a little slow when pulled to the perimeter, and a filthy rec-specs-worthy post-up threat converting 61% from the field. Loyola surrounds him with shooters—the only Rambler who's under 36% from three is a little-used freshman—and frequently lets him go to work one-on-one. Synergy has him a 92nd percentile(!) post scorer, although that's not competition-adjusted. FWIW, he has not slowed down much against four high-major opponents in the tournament, hitting 15/27 from the field and posting solid ORTGs in 3 of 4 games.
Krutwig's main flaw is endurance. He only plays 20 minutes a game despite being the only post on the roster. Endurance, and probably his defense when asked to guard Michigan's pick and roll. But if that's a problem it's not one that's shown itself in the tourney to date—often because of the opposition. Would you believe me if I said Tennessee ran zero PNRs against Loyola? Well, it's true.
The rest of the team is a House of Cosbys: similar players with some clone-to-clone variation. Everyone can knock down threes, everyone shoots well from two, nobody gets to the line much, nobody fouls much, everyone chips in some assists, and everyone has a slightly too high TO rate. Nobody is much of a pull-up three shooter—good news for a Michigan team that is excellent at preventing threes.
Slasher Cosby is Marques Townes, a 6'4" driver who transferred in from Farleigh Dickinson after a couple years. Townes hits 39% from three but only has 71 attempts on the year; 60% of his shots are at the rim, with about half his makes assisted. He hits 56% inside the line, but has a 20 TO rate. He's the most Florida State player on the roster. He will attack downhill.
Hopped Up On Goofballs Cosby is 6'5" Aundre Jackson. Jackson is one of those extremely fun players who doesn't start but sucks up a ton of oxygen when he's on the court. Jackson gets about 20 MPG and puts up almost a third of Loyola's shots when he's in the game. Like Townes, he's shot well from three on just a few attempts and does most of his work inside. There he's a 63% shooter from two, but he's a lot more assist-dependent than Townes. Jackson's the burliest guy on the roster other than Krutwig and gets most of his minutes as the backup 5, though he and Krutwig will occasionally play together.
Perimeter Oriented Cosby is 6'6 senior Donte Ingram, the only high usage guy on the roster with more attempts from three than two. Even then it's not a huge discrepancy—Ingram has 137 twos and 184 threes on the year, shooting 50/40. His shots at the rim are mostly layups created by the rest of the offense giving him a straight-line drive to the basket.
Sniper Cosby is PG Clayton Custer, a 58/47 shooter who has a remarkable 56% hit rate on non-rim twos. He's the first among equals as a shot creator in Loyola's diverse offense, but turnover issues dog him. He torched Loyola's first three tourney opponents—9/14 from 2, 7/10 from three—before a rough game against KSU; turnovers held down his ORTG in the second and third rounds.
Custer's shooting is mostly spot up stuff with some action as a pick and roll ballhandler mixed in, but he will test Michigan's D in all aspects. He's an exceptional shooter at any range and is comfortable off the dribble. He creates almost all of his twos. Michigan will hope that Zavier Simpson can get in his shorts and shut him down, and he probably should at least hamper Custer. Michigan blew up Carsen Edwards in two of three games, including the two most recent ones; Simpson also blew up Rob Gray in the round of 32. It's hard to see a PG not named Jalen Brunson who survives Michigan's defense right now.
Ben Richardson, Lucas Williamson, and Bruno Skokna fill out the "limited roles" section of the roster and are collectively Background Cosby. All of them are three-or-rim sorts with a heavy emphasis on threes. Richardson gets about 20 minutes a game and chips in some assists but collectively they might put up three shots from inside the arc. They're mostly there to spread the floor and knock down kickout threes. Richardson and Williamson can't be left since they shoot 39 and 43 percent from two, but if they're covered they're not going to do much.
In many ways this is a mirror matchup. Loyola places zero emphasis on offensive rebounding (#332) and keeps the opposition out of transition almost as well as Michigan. They shoot excellently from the floor, get a ton of assists, and don't get to the line much. The main distinctions between Loyola's offense and a typical Beilein one are turnovers—the Ramblers are outright poor at keeping the ball—and three point rate. Despite their excellent shooting, Loyola is a bit below average in 3PA/FGA. Michigan is 60th.
On defense… well. Loyola's top 20 defense seems impossible given the pieces they've got, but the Ramblers held Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State to around 1 PPP; the best performance by those five power conference foes was Tennessee scraping out 62 points in 58 possessions.
So: Loyola is somehow very good at eFG defense despite having a block rate around 300th, cleans up their own boards reasonably well, and forces a fair number of turnovers. They do give up an approximately average number of threes.
So there's good news and bad news. The bad news: Loyola is won't lose much efficiency when they're held out of transition. Their eFG drops from 62 to 57 when they hit the halfcourt, which is not much at all. Good news: Loyola's best aspect on D is their foul aversion, and Michigan doesn't shoot free throws much or well anyway. Also Michigan figures to have a fairly large shot gap in their favor.
Punish small ball. The most mid-major thing about Loyola is what happens when Krutwig heads to the bench, as he does for about 20 minutes a game. In his absence the Ramblers go all-out smallball, playing a 6'5" wing type at the 5. Michigan could react by going small themselves, but since they're so good in pick and roll defense and this is what happens when Krutwig leaves the floor against tourney-quality opposition…
6 game sample including all tourney games, UF, and Boise
…Michigan should just roll with their bigs. The items to note in that chart above are a steep decline in 3P% paired with a decline in 3PA on offense and the big increase in FT rate and all varieties of shooting. These are necessarily small sample sizes; on the season Loyola's offense sees no dropoff when Krutwig leaves but there is a 0.1 PPP drop on defense. Michigan should seek to exploit the small-ball, not match it.
The other half of that…
Teske up. If Wagner isn't hitting from three early or gets in foul trouble, Michigan might explore having Teske swallow up Loyola's 5s.
It's worth noting that Loyola hasn't faced size like Michigan much during their run. Tennessee was missing a 6'11" post and spent most of the game playing a 6'7" guy at center. Nevada goes six deep with five 6'7" guys and a PG. Kansas State was missing its starting center and played a couple marginal 6'8"-6'9" guys for 28 minutes, going postless the other 12. Only Miami presented Loyola with a true post; he went 5/7 and had three blocks despite being Wagner-level in that department on the season.
Krutwig is a guy who Teske can D up on one-on-one. Despite the fact Jackson's 6'5" he, too, is almost strictly a post-up threat and roll man on offense. Meanwhile Teske brings almost double the OREB presence that Wagner does and could be a major source of extra possessions against the wee Ramblers.
Hello, rack. Loyola has virtually no shotblocking and has given up 61% at the rim on the season, where a third of opponent shots come from. Maybe they can stay in front of MAAR and Simpson… but probably not. Ban the words "two point jumper" from the vocabulary for this one.
Stay in front. Loyola's offense either runs through Krutwig or becomes a series of drives to the bucket that end in kickouts until they don't. Michigan will let Krutwig or Jackson go one on one whenever they want. When the drives happen Michigan will stay attached to shooters—a dangerous game against the country's #9 team at hitting twos. Matthews staying in front of Townes will go a long way towards getting Loyola to put up some bad shots.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 5.