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|WHAT|| #10 Michigan (30-7) vs
#25 Texas A&M (22-12)
|WHERE||Lantana Hummus Center
Los Angeles, CA
|WHEN||7:37 PM Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan –3 (KenPom)|
via prevail and ride
IT'S GOOD TO BE ALIVE ISN'T IT, THE SUN SHINING, THE BUZZER BEATERS GOING THROUGH THE BASKET, THE CORPSES OF OUR ENEMIES BEING GROUND INTO SCHADENFRUEDE COFFEE AS WE SURVEY THE DECIMATED LANDSCAPE THAT IS THIS HALF OF THE BRACKET WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
gotta shoot better, though
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||2||TJ Starks||Fr.||6'2, 202||79*||29||88||Sort of|
|TO machine shoots 43/33. Ton of wild drives to rim. Worse in transition!|
|G||3||Admon Gilder||Jr.||6'4, 199||91||18||115||No|
|Solid at all three levels, shooting 50/40. Low usage on this team implies some limitations.|
|F||1||DJ Hogg||Jr.||6'9, 220||70||18||111||No|
|Stretch 4 playing the 3. 46/38, about 50/50 between 3s and 2s.|
|C||44||Robert Williams||So.||6'10, 240||57||20||111||Very|
|Board beast is top 200 in OREBs, top 25 in DREBs. 10% block rate. 67% from 2.|
|C||34||Tyler Davis||Jr.||6'10, 264||78||24||115||Very|
|Top 50 OREBs, does work at rim, creates about 40% of his shots there.|
|G||0||Jay Jay Chandler||Fr.||6'4, 171||26||19||95||Yes|
|FR shooting guard hitting 45/24 with TO rate near 20.|
|F||5||Savion Flagg||Fr.||6'7", 217||29||15||104||Eh|
|Low usage wing an OREB threat hitting 50/35.|
|F||10||Tonny Trocha-Morelos||Sr.||6'10, 223||48||17||104||Sort of|
|Finesse big has poor DREB numbers and is only 50% at rim. 31% on 3s.|
*[A&M lost their starting PG and another rotation player so these are last five games minutes from Kenpom.]
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
As mentioned in the post earlier this week, the midseason loss of starting PG Duane Wilson has had a major negative impact on the Aggies, largely because it's forced freshman TJ Starks into a boatload of minutes he's not quite ready for yet. Starks's burden is compounded by a lack of shot creation on a team that starts three guys who are 6'9"+; after watching a few of A&M's games earlier this season it's clear that Starks's unusual combination of high usage and turrible ORTG is because he gets a ton of Dion Harris "someone do something" opportunity-type substances.
Starks when he's good:
When he's bad he's flinging up wild shots and turning the ball over. Even that highlight reel is mostly floaters and other tough shots. He failed to get to even a 100 ORTG against UNC despite 21 points because it took him 18 shot equivalents to get there and he turned it over 5 times.
A 20% usage version of Starks on a team that has other shot creators looks pretty dang good; as it is expect a lot of desperation and a lot of bad outcomes as Starks is asked to do too much. Rob Gray was 4/14 from two against Michigan, and that's where the bidding starts on Starks.
The rest of the team is large and specialized in their roles. 6'4" shooting guard Admon Gilder is A&M's most efficient player at a 115 ORTG because he's a quality shooter from the line (82%) and 3 (40%) and decent enough from two. Like Starks, his TO rate is higher than his assist rate; unlike Starks his usage is stuck in the Role Player category on Kenpom. This is because Gilder is a spectacular spot up shooter who turns into a pumpkin when crowded. Synergy has him in the 94th percentile when allowed to catch and shoot; he drops into the 20s and 30s when doing anything else, and sample sizes get very low.
If Michigan is going to help it shouldn't be off Gilder. They've been very good at limiting guys like him this year.
Stretch-four-playing-small-forward DJ Hogg is Just A Shooter; 60% of his attempts are from three, where he hits 38%. He'll attack the occasional closeout but struggles to get to the rim and only finishes about half the time when he does get there. Think Duncan Robinson. Hogg turns it over more and is not a deadeye from the free throw line; he does do more work on D and on the boards.
likelihood that Williams flexes after a block: high
And then the big boys. If A&M wins this game it's going to be because the Aggies' 6'10" guys overwhelm Michigan's frontcourt. Tyler Davis and Robert Williams are near-identical offensive players who will post up for the large majority of shots they create personally and convert those at an excellent rate. (For post-ups.) Both guys then add a bunch of putbacks—Davis and Tyler are double-digit OREB gents, with Davis in the top 50 at 13%.
While this looks like a big flashing DANGER sign, A&M doesn't run their offense through those guys very often. Neither carries a huge offensive burden and both are dependent on assists for their efficiency: about two thirds of their buckets at the rim are assisted. It will be somewhat unnatural for A&M to run nothing but post-ups. DX's "weaknesses" draft video is a year old but probably not that far off given Williams's relative lack of usage—it details a developing offensive player who's entirely right-handed and fairly clunky. A&M is efficient when they get a shot up out of a post-up, but can't manage that very frequently despite the clear imperative to.
Despite the fact that it's Williams who has the NBA's attention, Davis gets a bunch more minutes. While Williams had some injury issues early in the season, he's been healthy for a while now and he's still sitting more than you'd expect. He's had 20 or fewer minutes in four of his last six games, and only one of those short-minutes games saw him hit four fouls. Davis is a near-guarantee to hit 30 minutes unless foul trouble intervenes. This is a wee bit like Jaren Jackson's predicament.
The reason Williams is on NBA radars—he would have been a lottery pick had he left after his freshman year—is his potential to be an impact NBA defender and rim-runner.
His 10% block rate is top 25 nationally. Davis chips in with a respectable 5%.
A&M's bench is weak after losing those two rotation guys. 6'10" Tonny Trocha-Morelos plays about 20 minutes a game, spotting one of the two bigs who start. He's much more of a finesse player than Davis or Williams; 40% of his shots are from three, where he hits 31%, and he's another Aggie who's just 50% a the rim. He's also not much of a defensive rebounder, though it's tough to tell if that's just someone else picking up the slack. He'll be a much more comfortable matchup for Robinson; he is not a frequent, or efficient, post threat.
Both other rotation guys are freshmen getting around 10 minutes a game. 6'4" Jay Jay Chandler hits 45/24 with about a third of his usage from beyond the arc and a near-20 TO rate. 6'7" Savion Flagg is hitting 50/33 and has an ok ORTG; he is another aggressive offensive rebounder. You'll note that there's nothing resembling a backup PG. Starks is the only real creator on the roster.
It's a bit of a struggle on offense; A&M has a TO rate near 20 as a team, doesn't get to the line much, shoots about as well as Michigan when they do get a free throw, and even after bombing UNC they're around 250th in 3P% and barely above 300th in launches. As you might expect, the large men pound the boards and are good at dunking.
A&M's defense is elite, ranking ninth. They excel in the things that you'd expect them to: they block a ton of shots, they are top 20 in 2PT%, etc. They allow a dead average number of threes; they're 20th at 3P%. Often being really good at defending the three is a bit of a fluke, but A&M runs some zone and dissuades twos and probably forces an above-average number of bad looks.
A&M's major weakness is forcing turnovers. They're in the 300s there. Michigan should have a shot advantage as long as A&M does not have an anomalous number of offensive rebounds.
Survive a bunch of post-ups. Duncan Robinson on either Williams or Davis is a mismatch in the post even if Robinson has come a long way… and if A&M isn't trying to move usage away from the Starks vs Simpson matchup they're nuts. The good news is that Trocha-Morelos is probably going to be on the court half the time and Michigan can throw Livers and his five fouls at a couple of iffy free throw shooters for another ten minutes. Robinson shouldn't get crushed too badly.
Potentially more concerning is the matchup at the 5, where Moe Wagner needs to stay on the floor. A&M is going to work to get an early foul on him.
Win transition. From Monday's post:
A&M runs. Per Synergy, 19% of A&M possessions are in transition and while they're not great (58th percentile) they are a ton better than they are in the half court, where they score just 0.84 points per possession against man to man D—22nd percentile.
By contrast, just 11% of opponent shots against Michigan are in transition and Michigan is the best team in the country at defending even the small number of runouts that they endure.
Meanwhile A&M's D is still pretty good in transition but not 92nd percentile good, and their large guys and OREB emphasis means they give up a fairly large number of opportunities. The (projected) turnover gap should accentuate Michigan's edge here. The most recent game against Houston is a good contrast: the Cougars are almost as good at getting back as Michigan is, and M's offense struggled in part because they had to go against Houston's very good half-court defense for virtually the whole game. Getting 8-10 easy points more than A&M goes a long way towards a W.
Purdue time. As in "drag the elite post defender away from the basket and ask him to close out on threes," not "watch your face fall off because everyone's hitting 80% from three." Anyway: Michigan has a potentially large advantage on A&M in that two very large men will have to chase Duncan Robinson around screens and defend Wagner pick-and-pops.
That's 1) as long as Wagner can stay on the floor, and 2) until A&M tries their backup plan.
Don't fall apart against a long 2-3 zone. A&M has run a 2-3 on about 20% of their possessions this year and will almost certainly trot it out at some point, whether that's immediately or after a couple Wagner threes. They're not as good at zone as they are in man to man but Michigan's really struggled this year against zone, falling from 91st percentile to 48th on Synergy. I don't exactly know how Michigan's going to improve against it; they'll have to have one of those games where MAAR and Robinson's rise-up threes are falling to shoot A&M out of it.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 3.