Hoops Preview: Texas A&M, Sweet 16

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2018 at 4:30 PM

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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



gotta shoot better, though


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 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.



via Bart Torvik

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.


Michigan by 3.



March 21st, 2018 at 4:43 PM ^

It'd be really nice to have DJ Wilson on the roster right now.

Oh well. Seeing those shotblocking stats makes me think that Michigan will struggle to get anything in the paint.

Which in the past has meant that Z will be steamrolling for layup after layup while Teske hits 15-footers and Robinson goes NBA Jam from deep. I'm not always the best prognosticator, though I do take credit for completely calling the way the Louisville game went last year.

Wagner having a big game here would be huge, obviously. Given the time Beilein has to scheme against the zone, I'm hopeful that Michigan is equipped to deal with that and/or other defensive changeups that A&M throws their way, and I'm hopeful that the shooting is good enough to force them to do it in a hurry.



March 22nd, 2018 at 4:43 AM ^

think Beilein just may do this. I also think this may be the game where we actually see the “two big” lineup that people have been pining for, at least for a couple of stretches. If I were Beilein (and look at the user name, who is to say I’m not), if the game is tied or close after the first four minutes and Wagner does not have a foul, I would sub him out for a period of time. If we can play one really strong half against this team with all our pieces together we will beat this team. Wagner has to be playing free and uninhibited in the second half of this one and down the stretch. I would lean heavily on Teske in the first.


March 21st, 2018 at 6:09 PM ^

Actually think Robinson/Livers are the key to a Michigan win more than Wagner. Just by being a pick and pop guy Wagner will be doing his job by getting a shot blocker out of the post. But we need Robinson and Livers to hit their threes to avoid getting killed by a zone and not constantly be giving up easy 2s or offensive rebounds on the other end.

I believe in them but definetely need a good Robinson shooting performance and likely some support off the bench from Poole if they go zone. Also need Maar to get be second half of the season maar in this game


March 21st, 2018 at 10:59 PM ^

I agree. 5 days to prepare after surviving last weekend’s ugly games (on a variety of levels). Would be very surprised if we got off to a slow start and/or look unprepared for this game in any way. I like a good shooting night and a comfortable win, not huge, but comfortable (7 or 8 points).

Shop Smart Sho…

March 21st, 2018 at 5:04 PM ^

If Duncan struggles defending the bouncy Ents, does it make sense to run a lineup wit him at the 3 and Livers at the 4? Especially if that has Poole at the 2 to make up for some of the offensive shortcomings that Livers has? It looks like whomever A&M puts out at the 2 isn't going to be a terrible matchup for Poole. This might especially make sense for the 8 or so minutes a game that Simpson spends on the bench if they want to just have MAAR handle the ball instead of using Simmons.


March 21st, 2018 at 5:28 PM ^

especially if/when they go zone.  And to your point about Livers offensive shortcomings, he's in some ways a more useful piece against a zone than Matthews since he can hit threes.  So there's no need for Poole to be in for MAAR with that lineup.  In fact, it's probably more important to have MAAR in there as a more reliable guy to drive the seams of the zone without turning it over (something Matthews struggles mightily with as well).

Wagner in the middle, Livers and Duncan on the wings, Z and MAAR up top could be a useful zone busting lineup.  And then on defense you can put Duncan on the Just A Shooter Hogg and let Livers use his size to keep the bigs off the offensive glass.

Shop Smart Sho…

March 21st, 2018 at 5:48 PM ^

I guess I should have been more precise. I was thinking the lineup with Robinson at the 3 would have have Poole at the 2 and MAAR at the 1. It seems that might be the best lineup they can put out there to break the zone.  

Otherwise, if Simpson is at the 1, they have to use the Spike/Dakich offense that has him working the baseline. Not sure that is a great idea against this kind of height.


March 21st, 2018 at 8:32 PM ^

especially in another game against a PG with 30% usage.  If Z plays less than 35 minutes it'll be because of foul trouble or a blowout.  Possible they go with Poole/MAAR for a couple minutes but I doubt it.  While I do think that's a better offensive guard combo against a zone, it doesn't outweigh the downgrade on defense.


March 21st, 2018 at 5:12 PM ^

Between this thread and the Let's Chart Some Threes thread, I've been talked off the ledge.

Now if Moe can just stay out of foul trouble in the first two minutes . . . 


March 21st, 2018 at 5:49 PM ^

"Charlie" Matthews is gona have to be a dog in this one. He's going to have to mix it up with some big bodies. I think he has a chance to get some buckets along the baseline when their bigs are keyed in on blocking shots.


March 21st, 2018 at 7:19 PM ^

but we really stand a chance to take advantage of them on the other end. Two lumbering 6'10 guys trying to keep up with Duncan and Mo seems like a losing battle and is a good way to tire those two out


March 21st, 2018 at 9:38 PM ^

I don't know what part of their games say, "lumbering"--they SKY, block shots, and are really quick to the defensive point. 

The Aggies might not be great, but "lumbering" should not be used to describe them in any way. I'm also not so sure Duncan Robinson is the guy to take advantage of them.

To win, Michigan needs to be the team they were on the way to the B1G champsionship. Shake off the rust, hit the shots, and play that great defense.