Hoops Preview: Penn State

Submitted by Ace on January 4th, 2017 at 2:07 PM


WHAT #33 Michigan (10-4, 0-1 B1G) vs
#96 Penn State (9-6, 1-1)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 8:36 pm ET, Wednesday
LINE Michigan -9 (KenPom)
PBP: Cory Provus
Analyst: Shon Morris

Right: Michigan swept the series with PSU last year, including a 23-point blowout at Crisler. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]


While there hasn't been any change to the starting lineup, Duncan Robinson's role continues to expand. Since getting only seven minutes against Marquette and 16 in each of the subsequent two games, Robinson has played 20+ minutes in seven of M's last nine games, including a season-high 36 in the Iowa game. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, meanwhile, played only eight minutes against the Hawkeyes after seeing the floor for at least 20 minutes in every game since the opener. John Beilein may very well continue to use Robinson as a super sub but he's playing the role of a starter again.

Beilein, by the way, has the chance to tally his 200th win at Michigan tonight. He'd be the second M coach to do so, following the legendary Johnny Orr (209).


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.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 10 Tony Carr Fr. 6'3, 198 79 22 96 No
Fits FR PG profile: TO rate nearly as high as assists, good 3P%, bad 2P%.
G 33 Shep Garner Jr. 6'2, 187 80 21 100 No
Secondary ballhandler and 3-point gunner. 35% on 106(!) 3PA.
G 23 Josh Reaves So. 6'4, 210 44 19 98 Yes
Slasher/defender is 11th nationally in steal rate. Struggling with outside shot.
F 11 Lamar Stevens Fr. 6'7, 218 65 23 108 Very
Only 48% on all two-pointers, but gets to line a lot, makes 88% of FTs.
C 24 Mike Watkins R-Fr. 6'9, 246 58 21 106 Very
Excellent shot-blocker and rebounder. 55% from field, gets to line often.
F 0 Payton Banks Jr. 6'6, 223 64 20 109 Not At All
Even more extreme gunner than Garner: 41% on 102 3PA in fewer minutes.
G 5 Terrence Samuel Jr. 6'3, 208 45 15 102 Kinda
High FT rate is salvaging efficiency; only 43.1 eFG%.
C 44 Julian Moore Jr. 6'10, 235 35 15 75 Very
Shooting 40% from field with a 30% TO rate. Woof.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


Penn State has undergone a stylistic transformation in Pat Chambers's sixth season. After never averaging more than 67 possessions per game in his first five years, PSU is 28th nationally at 74.1 possessions. The increased tempo hasn't done much to change their results, however. PSU is 9-6 and ranks 96th on KenPom; a solid defense is carrying another subpar Nittany Lions offense.

Junior two-guard Shep Garner is PSU's primary offensive threat. He's a volume shooter and one of their main ballhanders, especially in the pick-and-roll. Garner is often tasked with taking the tougher variety of shots and his efficiency reflects that: he's shooting 44% on twos and 35% on threes. While he's a willing passer out of the high screen he's not a great one; his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.4:1.

Freshman point guard Tony Carr is a freshman point guard: he leads the team in assists (59) and turnovers (37) and is shooting better from three-point range (37%) than two-point (36%) while taking twice as many of the latter. Carr isn't as ineffective a slasher as that shooting mark indicates because of his frequent trips to the line, where he shoots 86%.

The third starting guard, sophomore Josh Reaves, eased his way back into the lineup after missing the first five games with an injury and now appears fully back; he's surpassed 30 minutes in three of their last four games. He's a defensive specialist who's 11th nationally in steal rate; he has 25 in only ten games with three outings of four or more. That aggressiveness can get him into foul trouble; he's had three or four fouls in each of the last five. He's not a big threat on offense, posting career marks of 47% on twos and 14%(!) on 59 three-point attempts.

Power forward Lamar Stevens is another player who's reliant on drawing fouls to create much of his offense. While he's shooting 48% from the field on almost entirely two-point attempts, his free throw rate is a shade under 50, and he makes 88% of his free throws. He blocks the occasional shot but doesn't rebound like a big man, leaving that to...

Redshirt freshman center Mike Watkins, who's nationally ranked in both rebounding categories and tenth nationally in block rate. He's also a 55% finisher. There's a huge dropoff from Watkins to his backup, Julian Moore, who doesn't do the big man stuff nearly as well and is in the midst of a disastrous offensive season; Moore's turnover rate (30%) is approaching his field goal percentage (40%). While Watkins hasn't been in significant foul trouble save for two of PSU's losses (Duke and Northwestern), Moe Wagner is one of the better and more versatile offensive big men he's faced.

PSU's top bench player is three-point specialist Payton Banks, who started ten games before Reaves worked his way back. Banks fits the Just A Shooter™ profile; he's made 42-of-102 three-point attempts so far this season.


Penn State is only 1-4 against KenPom top-100 competition this season with that lone win coming at #90 St. John's. They weren't partiularly close againts #6 Duke, #18 Cincinnati, #56 Pitt, or #43 Northwestern. Other than St. John's, which hardly qualifies, PSU lacks a quality win; their next-best win came at #128 George Washington.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a 13-point win at Rutgers, so they've got that going for them.


Small sample size caveats apply.

Four Factors explanation

PSU's offense is slightly above average in the turnover department and well below average in the other three factors. If not for the nation's 12th-best shooting mark from the free-throw line (77.6%), they'd be even farther down the board in adjusted offensive efficiency, in which they only rank 174th.

The defense, at 59th in adjusted efficiency, is a mirror image of the offense, ranking between 61st and 75th in three of the four factors with a significant weakness in the fourth: rebounding. They're especially stingy in the paint, boasting the nation's #36 block rate and #33 two-point defense.


Unleash DJ. PSU's main defensive weakness is allowing second chances. Wilson is coming off the best game of his career; in addition to scoring 28 points, he grabbed six offensive boards against Iowa. Michigan won't want to send too many players to the boards given PSU's preference to get out in transition; that was also the case with the Hawkeyes and Wilson thrived all the same.

Pin early fouls on Watkins. Big man Mike Watkins has been a bright spot for PSU, especially on defense; his backup, Julian Moore, has very much not been that. Michigan should be running much of the offense through Moe Wagner regardless. Taking some opportunities to go at Watkins in the post could pay huge dividends; PSU hasn't found much success on the rare occasions he's been saddled with foul trouble.

Stick with Banks. Peyton Banks is a dead-eye gunner off the bench who's almost entirely reliant on getting spot-up looks; according to hoop-math, 40 of his 42 three-point makes this season have been assisted. If Shep Garner beats a guard off a high screen, someone besides Banks's guy needs to be the one to rotate and help if possible. If M can limit Banks, PSU doesn't have much else in the way of outside shooting. 


Michigan by 9.

As long at the Wolverines take care of the ball, their shooting advantage should give them a comfortable edge in this one.


UMHoops preview. The Daily talks to Pat Chambers. Brendan F. Quinn on the emergence of DJ Wilson.


Wolverine In Iowa 68

January 4th, 2017 at 2:25 PM ^

From the MLive Article above...

'Coming off a 28-point, 14-rebound, 6-assist opus at Iowa, Wilson is more and more proving himself as a go-to guy, despite playing in a system not hinging on him.

"He got those 28 points and we didn't draw up one play for him," John Beilein said...'



Gosh John...maybe you should think about drawing up a play or two for him then, eh?


January 4th, 2017 at 2:41 PM ^

If Michigan is running their offense through Wilson, he's not there to get those six offensive rebounds, which is how he got a good chunk of those points. The rest came within the flow of the offense, which is ideal. He's a player who functions best that way; you don't want to run a bunch of Wilson post-ups or isos—he's not a guy who's going to take a defender off the bounce and he doesn't have a refined post-up game yet (not to mention post-ups are just about the least-efficient play you can call).

It's a good thing that a player is able to produce so much without being the focal point of the offense. Criticizing Beilein for how he handles Wilson after that performance is quite the feat of Beilein-bashing.

Wolverine In Iowa 68

January 4th, 2017 at 2:52 PM ^

I'm not saying run the entire offense around him, not by any means.  More, when he's got the hot hand, have some plays for him specifically, and use them.  For JB to say they didn't have one single play drawn up for him at all...man, that's a head scratcher.  Wilson has really been turning it on lately, I'd think they want to at least have SOMETHING designed for him.


January 4th, 2017 at 2:57 PM ^

Post-ups? Wildly inefficient and not his strongsuit.

Isos? Ditto.

Roll man on the high screen? Wagner is the better option there.

Perhaps we should take a 28-point, six-offensive-rebound, six-assist effort as a sign Beilein is utiliing him how he should be utilized. Not calling plays specifically with him in mind doesn't mean Michigan isn't running sets in which he's involved; there aren't many (any?) plays in Beilein's playbook designed to end only one way. Unless you want the ball in Wilson's hands at the end of the shot clock, I'm not sure what more you could want here.


January 4th, 2017 at 3:31 PM ^

Post ups are wildly inefficient?

This mindset is ridiculous.  Post ups are critical to a well versed offense.  You want to stop another team's run, have a set that gets the ball on the block and trust your big guy to beat his man 1 on 1 and or draw a foul.  There are far more good things than bad that can happen when the ball enters the low block.  Would be nice to consistently put the other team's big man in foul trouble once in awhile instead of ours always getting abused down there.

That statement is a gem coming from someone who covers a program free falling in a black hole because his coach ignores two vital areas of a successful basketball program; Defense and Low Post Play.

Knock it off with these analytical responses as if they tell the whole story.  In fact, you probably shouldn't be writing about basketball if you truly believe post ups are "wildly" inefficient.  

Now go ahead and Insert stats below to show I'm wrong, I know that's the first thing someone who has never coached or played basketball past junior high will do...


January 4th, 2017 at 3:35 PM ^

Like Marshall's head coach D'Antoni? (Not Mike, Mike's brother)



“Do you watch the NBA ever? You see those top teams. Golden State — do they work it in? My brother in Houston, the biggest turnaround in the league — do they work it in? You can go get any computer and run what the best shots are and it will tell you the post-up is the worst shot in basketball.”


Then, hilariously, the same media member made the decision to cut D’Antoni off mid-answer, saying “Danny, were you sort of able to lull them in…”, before being smacked down with haste.

From there, D’Antoni continued his tale of examples:


“I haven’t finished my damn analytics story yet! Do you have to go to bed or something because you’re worn out? If you can get a layup and it’s clean — it’s not one that’s highly contested — it’s 1.8 [points per attempt]. It’s 1.3 from the corner, 1.27. Do you know what a post-up is with a guy standing over the top of you? It’s 0.78. So you run your team down there and see how long you can stay with teams that play the other way.”


January 4th, 2017 at 3:58 PM ^

That's a gem right there coming from a coach who's career head coaching record is .463. 

Golden State has 5 future Hall of Famers playing for them.  Newsflash, they can run whatever they want.

Make sure Danny Dantonio tells Greg Popovich and his 5 NBA championships, that the post-up is ineffecient because it says so in an excel spreadsheet.


January 4th, 2017 at 4:38 PM ^

Again, I can't help but laugh. 

Popovich: "I think most things we find from analytics are logical.  Things you already have a pretty good feel for.  Sometimes it proves what you were thinking ahead of time.  Now and then there might be something you need to take a look at because there's something that might be happening that you didn't notice.  So there's a use for it.  But we don't walk in everyday and say 'give me the analytics'. It's just one of the tools.

That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement by any means. 

And I agree with him, it is a tool.  The problem I have is you and a lot of the Michigan fanbase (Dylan at UMhoops is far worse) talk about analytics like it's the holy grail of what's right and wrong.  You guys literally do the exact opposite of Popovich.  You ask for the analytics first.  It's hard for someone that has never played the sport or coached the sport to put value on something you can't measure.  The value of good on the ball defense is a great example.  It's been an after thought around here since JB arrived because there isn't a spread sheet that can tell the casual fan how good on the ball defense wears an opponent out.  Same goes for proper rotations on help defense.  There's no stat for that so it's not important, I digres though.

Back to the basket touches are important, not just for post players but for for guards too.  Exploiting mismatches on the block are important.  Drawing fouls on the other teams post players is important. The fact that JB ignores that part of the game completely is a travesty. 

If a Michigan player gets the ball with their back to the basket, isolated 1 on 1 on the block, it's by accident.  That's coaching incompetency 101.


January 4th, 2017 at 10:49 PM ^

Analytics is a lot smarter than you think it is. Things like "wearing out opposing defenders" is quantifiable and you better believe NBA teams as well as college teams do quantify it. And if post up possessions had a comparable positive impact to other plays, coaches would run it. But they don't, except maybe as a change of pace or if a favorable matchup presents itself.

Bertello NC

January 4th, 2017 at 4:16 PM ^

Totally get it. But this isn't the NBA and we currently do not have the reincarnations of Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. I think what's upsetting to some here is that when we play an above average defense we wind up being relegated to swinging the ball around after the high pic n roll is thwarted and hoist a semi desperation three. There is a lack of skill on this team when it comes to creating shots, creating space and shooting accurately off the dribble. And that's recruiting( A whole other convo) Golden State has unbelievable skill in that department so it makes sense for them to do so. So I feel that with the development of Wagner and Wilson givin the matchups it needs to be an option here and there down low. Doesn't need to be the teams MO or have everything ran through them and the post but it should Be an option when the matchup presents itself. But I also feel like John doesn't work on it. It's not much of a focal point at all. Therefore it seems foreign to us. I hope that I'm wrong and that some of the guys that we brought in here as "shooters" or where that was their strong suit can start heading in the right "shooting direction". Because you have to have the players to do it. Otherwise it's the square peg round hole syndrome. And unless you're of the blueblood basketball program pool, we can't fall back on sheer athleticism to cover up deficiencies. So at UM the way John recruits, every team, every year is going to be different, with players having different skill sets. Each game is going to be different obviously with changing matchups. It's up to John and the staff to make sure we are exploiting them in our favor to the best of their ability. And to me that even means that when DJ is guarded by a 6'7" 4 he should look to go over the top. If it's the other way.. and it's 6'10" he's dealing with, then you may not and draw em out to the perimeter. But I think it should be and option and should be worked on and a part of the offense. Because when the D is in your grill and the shots aren't falling, and we have foreseeably no one who can consistently beat their man off the dribble what are we left with? Slow the game down and try to enter it into the post a few times and see what happens. I feel like it also has an effect on the teams mindset and physical and mental toughness. When everyone is running around the perimeter hoping and praying they'll be open it fosters a finesse mindset. I think it's why when this team gets hit in the mouth they cave in somewhat. So if you have the players to run an offense like GS then by all means have the green light all the time. If you don't, you have to tweak and tailor your offense to what you have. Just my two cents. ;)

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January 4th, 2017 at 3:58 PM ^

So let's address this:

There are far more good things than bad that can happen when the ball enters the low block.

That is the hoops equivalent of "there are three things that can happen when you pass and two of them are bad." How's that one holding up in 2017?


January 4th, 2017 at 5:13 PM ^

Again, if it's not in a spread sheet, it doesn't register with you. 

Set plays to get a man isolated on the block can do a number of things that may not show up in Ace's excel spreadsheet.

First, establishing low post position over the course of a game wears out a defender far more than playing patty cake around the perimeter.   So even if you do not score when getting the ball on the block, you have chipped away at the opponent's endurance which will pay dividends late in games.   This goes for guards and post players.  When michigan fans are searching for reasons why we can't close out game, why it looks like the other team is playing harder than us, no one ever mentions this.  Why would they, there's no stat for it.  (Think Harbaugh's Stanford team pounding the rock.  Low post touches are the equivalent).

Stopping an opponents run.  It's a great tool (not the only tool) to have in your back pocket.  A set play to get a guy isolated one on one in the block who has the ability to draw a foul and/or score.  Wagner, with his footwork should be a run stopper on the block.  He's an afterthought down there though.  It's Criminal.

It's another aspect of the offense an oppoenent has to prepare for.  Right now, no one prepares for guarding the post against us.  Not only on the ball defense but where people need to be away from the ball.  We are easier to defend because we ignore the block.

THE BIGGEST REASON why the ball needs to enter the low post...RECRUITING!!!!  JB is so easy to negative recruit against it's sad.  I don't think I need to expand on this, it's well dcoumented why we settle for the Austin Davis's of the world.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

God, you're so off base.  It's ridiculous.  

Why in the world do you think putting a guy in the post will somehow magically "stop an opponent's run?"  

The whole point of the analytics stuff is to point out that - overall - a post up is half as effecient as a 3-point shot.  Slightly better than half. 

OK.  Knowing that, (and I'm a basketball coach myself), it doesn't mean that you sometimes look to exploit a matchup in the post.  However, your assumption that just doing it will magically solve all kinds of problems is very problematic.  

First, establishing low post position over the course of a game wears out a defender far more than playing patty cake around the perimeter. So even if you do not score when getting the ball on the block, you have chipped away at the opponent's endurance which will pay dividends late in games.

This is ludicrous.  It is much tougher defending on the perimeter and defending ball screens than it is spinning and fronting a post. Even if you think I'm wrong (which you do), you offer no actual evidence to your claim.  NCAA basketball has TV-timeouts every 4 minutes. On top of coaches' timeouts.  Most D1 athletes are well-used to playing 30 minutes of basketball in high school and then they come to college and get in much better shape.  Not many of them are going to have endurance issues late in a game.

As for recruiting... Again, whatever man.  Look at what Michigan is doing with Wagner and Wilson.  Look at what we did with McGary.  There are reasons we struggle to get elite big men (which are rare and difficult to project, BTW), but it's not because we don't stop the offense and throw the ball into the post. You know how I know that?  Because nobody stops the ball and throws it into the post. 

Get with the times.


January 4th, 2017 at 8:26 PM ^

My assumption is ignoring posting up all together puts your team and program at a disadvantage.  But go on coach.

Also, go ask Zak Irvin how he's liked guarding the post these past two years.  That kid is a shell of himself physically.  Part of the reason he is such an inconsistent shooter is because he gets abused night in and night out defending the block. 

And I don't know what level you played at, but other than guarding the other team's point guard full court, defending a guy trying to gain position on the post is the most tiresome action for a player. 

When a team passes the ball with no intent to score on the perimeter like Michigan does for most of shot clock, that does not wear a team out.  That let's the opposing team rest. 


"As for recruiting, whatever man..." There you go!  That's the typical uninformed Michigan basketball fan comment.




Bertello NC

January 4th, 2017 at 3:09 PM ^

Kind of agree with you both. I don't think it would hurt to dump it into DJ once or twice if he's feeling it. Especially if the matchup is in his favor. He has an ungodly wing span for cripe sake. I also feel that if he continues to pose a legitimate threat from three that that will add a dimension to his game and this offense figuring he could take a defender off the dribble with a defender closing out. Maybe not taking it all the way to the rack if it's packed in but even pulling up from 10 feet out. I don't think his ball handling is that bad. I think he just needs to do it more often and gain confidence with it. I wouldn't be mad about him taking more shots like that especially if Irvin is off. It's not like we really have a plethora of other offensive options.(Irvin when he's on, and Wagner.) DJ just needs to be strong with the ball, continue the physicality ascension and welcome the opportunity and contact and gain even more confidence on the offensive end.

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January 4th, 2017 at 2:38 PM ^

Gotta take care of business at home.  Outside of Rutgers, I don't think there are too many bad teams in the Big Ten this year.  At the same time, I don't think the top teams are as good as in years past.  It's a very balanced Big Ten.  Gotta got the Ws at home that you should and this definitely game definitely falls into the need to win catagory.

Duval Wolverine

January 4th, 2017 at 3:01 PM ^

The thing I think this team is missing most is tougheness, It doesn't seem like they are willing to do whatever it takes to win.  Watching the Iowa game, they just seemed to try harder than us to win...and that has been a theme for a while now.  We have swing the ball around the perimeter for 20+ seconds hoping for an open back cut and if its not there chuck up a three!


January 4th, 2017 at 3:05 PM ^

Problem is its not fun basketball to watch.  Too many soft players and no leaders.  Average team at best and looks to be this way for years to come.  They reflect the coach.  The fact that Lonergan even plays, over a recruited player is ridiculous.  This is an NIT team all the way.  Zak Irvin never gets benched for sloppy play and he needs to be sat down as senior if he continues this play.  And to have the ball twice at Iowa and get no shot and a 3 by Wilson is terrible coaching.


January 4th, 2017 at 6:34 PM ^

Fascinating dialogue about post play, analytics, etc.

On the one hand, it's a red herring: As Ace points out, Michigan doesn't really run plays for anyone anyway, so it's not like Wilson is being shorted opportunities.

But on the other, analytics folks do get overly dismissive of dissenting ideas and anything that isn't maximally efficient.

No one is saying Michigan should iso or feed the post every time down the court. Just saying that it would be beneficial to have the capacity to do something other than chuck threes. Constraints enable you to do more of the things you really want to do.

That argument about isos and post-ups leaves the impression that nothing besides 3s and layups should ever be taken. While that makes sense in theory, a team made up solely of Duncan Robinsons likely wouldn't get very far.

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January 4th, 2017 at 10:12 PM ^

No one in the history of NCAA hoops has gotten so little respect from the refs. He's the cam newton of NCAA hoops. And beilein still hasn't protected him. Get a T, coach b.