Just In Time For The Showcase Showdown

Submitted by Brian on March 2nd, 2012 at 11:48 AM

3/1/2012 – Michigan 72, Illinois 61 – 22-8, 12-5 Big Ten


UMHoops/Dustin Johnston

If you were in a really, really good mood in June and thought of Tim Hardaway Jr's sophomore season, you probably envisioned him tossing in three-pointers like he's casually skipping stones across Lake Michigan, rebounding like he's a bouncy Zack Novak, and maybe developing enough of a handle to attack the rim when people close him out hard.

Instead you got… not that. Instead you got every preview of every Michigan game having a section on Hardaway that is the verbal equivalent of:

You got not that until yesterday, when Hardaway flung in 25 points on 7 shots and secured an array of bouncy, mansome rebounds en route to holding Illinois to six offensive rebounds in 31 opportunities. Oh, and Michigan won a road game by double digits. This is what you envisioned last summer when you closed your eyes long enough for Denard Robison-related daydreaming to pass.

That didn't happen so much but Trey Burke showed up on a mission to discredit scouting services and picked up most of the slack there, so that was okay. Michigan muddled through to its best record in a long, long time. Hardaway lingered, though, a hovering sad inexplicable what-if and source of indigestion whenever he rose up for a three-pointer that had a 26% chance of going in.

We spent the season waiting, mostly winning but mostly frustrated. Every flash of effectiveness was dissected for repeatability; every clanged shot was a re-descent into depression. The last time this team played Illinois, Hardaway had an efficient game that fluttered hopes:

When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.

It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.

Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.

He then proceeded to… well, defy easy classification. Tim Hardaway Jr, this is a five game stretch in your sophomore year:

Illinois 30 3/6 2/3 3/5 1 3 3 2 15
OSU 38 2/3 2/2 3/5 0 3 0 4 13
@ Northwestern 38 2/3 2/9 4/10 2 5 1 1 14
Purdue 34 5/7 0/6 0/0 1 6 1 4 10
@ Illinois 38 2/3 4/4 9/10 0 11 1 3 25
AVERAGES 35.6 55% 42% 66%         15.4

There's some frustrating wobble in there what with the 0-fer from three against Purdue and the Ben Wallace free throw shooting against Northwestern. There is also the 25-points-on-7 shots outing last night, two other extremely efficient games, an obvious uptick in turnovers, Hardaway's second double-double of the year, and the same 42% shooting from deep that carried Michigan to a shock tourney bid last year.

This chart reminds me of the NCAA hockey tournament. IE: it terrifies. If Hardaway is off, Michigan is capable of losing to anyone in the tourney, literally. The Ben Wallace FT game saw them go to overtime with Northwestern, currently the last team in on many brackets. If he is on, daggers rain from the sky and Michigan can take down just about anyone.

Michigan has no choice but to deal with this. They have one and a half backups and the fourth-shortest bench in the country. If Hardaway isn't producing, there's nowhere to turn. We've got little to go on either way. As Hardaway bounces up from a pretty horrendous year he settles back into a funk for back to back games, then surges.

Riding him is being at sea in a storm. When he rises up for his first-three pointer in Columbus or Pittsburgh or Nashville against an autobid from a small conference, every Michigan fan from the eight-year-old who thinks Trey Burke is the greatest point guard in history to John Beilein himself will watch the flight of the ball, thinking please, please, please.


Burke + Hardaway == um. This will not be an original thought, but finally finally finally Michigan got good, efficient performances from Burke and Hardaway at the same time. No one else did much offensively but it did not matter because the top guys had an 80% eFG% and were 10 of 10 from the line even before Illinois started fouling tactically late.

That is going to be tough to beat; that is far from guaranteed. Who would have thought Anthony Wright would be the guy holding Michigan in against Blake Griffin a few years back?

Just Burke. Very, very smooth last night, pushing the ball when it needed to be pushed and ruthlessly punishing high-screen switches with easy step-up three-pointers. Long term that's his future—he won't get better than last night but will have more nights like that. Exception: as he learns the intricacies of the Beilein offense he'll increase his assist rate and maybe edge up his two-point shooting because fewer of his attempts will be heaves late in the shot clock.

Smotrycz. He managed to foul out in 14 minutes and has a lot of people down on his potential contributions next year. Two things:

  • Big men develop slowly and unpredictably.
  • Smotrycz is badly miscast as a center and will benefit more than anyone else on the roster from the additions of McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt to the lineup… unless Bielfeldt turns into a Draymond Green-style four, in which case he's screwed. Chances of that next year are low.

Next year he should be able to take Novak's role in the offense and on defense, something he's better suited for. He may be a bad matchup in certain situations and get lifted, but—holy pants—next year Michigan will be able to do that by inserting GRIII, McGary, or Bielfeldt at the four. He will not have to take on Adreian Payne, Jared Sullinger or Meyers Leonard next year, and thank God for that.

Jalen Rose is one divisive guy. I was not a fan of his color commentary last night and tweeted something out about it. In the next ten minutes that tweet received an avalanche of support, criticism, and hur hur jokes about racism. Say what you want about Rose, but he moves the needle.

Of course, the thing I say about Rose is that he moves my needle in the wrong direction. The contrast between Rose and Bardo was obvious: Bardo was a pro; Rose sounded like he'd won a fan contest to call a game.

It wasn't all bad. Rose consistently made an excellent point about players trying too hard to take charges or block shots when they should just be annoying presences to contest shots, and he backed it up every time he should have. I bet he's a lot better when he's not covering a Michigan game.

Injuries. Smotrycz and Morgan were both dinged but it doesn't sound like anything serious:

"I hope they're all right," Beilein said. "Both of them had little stingers, (Morgan) in the shoulder and (Smotrycz) to his hip.

Losing either one would obviously be a disaster sans Horford.


Photos from UMHoops and AA.com. UMHoops recap. Baumgardner recap. Burke just set the Michigan freshman record for assists. Daily on Hardaway doing work:

“Having a winter break right now, Tim has used every bit of it,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He's been in the gym like crazy. Just looking at his shot, we've been watching the video tape, seeing any different type of quirks that maybe he could work out. He's such a student of the game, so he's really worked at it.”

Holdin' the Rope:

I'm not sure what it is about playing Illinois, but it has for whatever reason brought out the very best in THJ this season. He was just about as efficient as you can possibly be, and his shot was crisp, clean, and confident. Bacari Alexander will now be given the task of using whatever psychological tropes he can muster to convince THJ that they are playing Illinois before every game from here on out. John Gasaway says:

It's hard to disagree. This Michigan team has, by varying combinations of Trey Burke, Beilein sorcery, TRUE GRIT, and Bacari Alexander motivational ploys, manufactured a 22-8 record with THJ struggling for long, bleak stretches of conference play. Imagine, oh imagine, what this team can accomplish with a THJ circa the end of last season added to the fold.

A Lion Eye is depressed; A Lion Eye is always depressed. A Lion Eye reminds me of me two years ago.

Hardaway is interviewed at Grantland:

Your dad was an NBA All-Star. Did you grow up playing against him? At what age could you beat him?

Yeah, when I was a kid we played a seven-game series every Saturday. I used to go to open gym to play with my friends and teammates, and I'd get there 30 to 45 minutes early so I could play one-on-one against my dad. When I reached ninth grade, I was finally able to beat him. He'd win the seven-game series, mostly, but I knew if I got two or three wins I could tell everybody that I'd beat my dad one-on-one. That's when I knew he was done.

But even when I started beating him regularly, he wasn't mad at all. He'd still teach me things I could get better at. To this day, I go up to him and ask him for advice about what I need to work on, and he always does a great job helping me out. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of trash talking when we played one-on-one.

What kind of trash talk, specifically?

I can't say. I can't say!

Asked whether this is his last year at Michigan, he says "I'm not sure" and "I can tell you I don't plan on leaving." I'm guessing he's around for at least another year since he's probably not a first-rounder after this business.

The NYT has an interesting article up on the variations between basketballs making life difficult on road teams. Bo Ryan is specified as a guy who uses a weird ball that causes problems for visitors; this made me think of a recent Daily article on Michigan's odd choice of ball:

“I just have a long association with The Rock,” he said. “I used it way back to LeMoyne and also at the Division-I level. I’ve used The Rock, I think, all the time. They have a good product.”

Though many teams choose to stick with their school’s sponsor for their choice of ball, Michigan passed over Adidas in favor of The Rock — a brand from Anaconda Sports.

“It feels very much like the Wilson, which we use in the NCAA Tournament,” Beilein said. “That’s why I like it.”

In fact, the NYT article seems like an rehash of the Daily article what with its frequent referencing of Wisconsin's unusual deployment of Sterling basketballs and focus on the home/road effects. Zinger not contained by NYT for obvious reasons incoming:

But if Michigan fans are worried about the Wolverines’ play without The Rock in the postseason, there is good news. On Dec. 10, Michigan put up a season-high 90 points in a victory over Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills.

The ball? Wilson. The same brand used for March Madness.

Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway.

Or is that "Hawafty"?


Paywall ho!



March 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 AM ^

The idea of losing Hardaway or Burke to the NBA seems unlikely, but to be fair, so did losing Morris last year. We won't have a clue how that plays out until after the year but having Burke/Hardaway vs losing them plus Novak/Douglass makes a huge difference on next years expectations.

Which is why.....

It's time to get excited about our post season prospects this year. Hold serve and we're a 3-seed looking to play our way into the sweet-16 and if the bounces are kind who knows. Knowing we absolutely can lose or win against anyone in the NCAA or B1G tournament is going to make for a tumultuous run. Beat Penn St!


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:02 PM ^

What a game by Hardaway! Let's hope his new found shooting stroke continues well into the tournament. If he can continue to be a viable main offensive threat like he was this game, we have the potential to go several rounds deep into the tourney.


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:12 PM ^

Both KenPom and Sagarin rank Michigan's strength of schedule #1 in the country.  To go 22-8 against that schedule and with a scuffling Hardaway only increases my confidence in what this team is capable of.


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:36 PM ^

The last team in doesn't mean you're the worst team in.  There's a whole bunch of mid-majors who are going to get in by winning their conference that Northwestern could probably run out of the barn.  And there are a few who could probably whup up on the Wildcats, as well as some other teams because they've been underrated.  It's all the luck of the draw with the low seeds, so I don't see struggle with Northwestern as some ominous sign. Yeah, we could lose to any team we play....historically, so could anyone who's not a 1 seed. That's how the Tourney works. But I'd say there's a LOT of teams in the first round we could play who wouldn't give us as many problems as Northwestern did.

Agree with what you have to say on Smot. I think some got too high on his suddenly increasing rankings after he committed, and forgot he was a 4 year project that would get better every year, and is really a swing forward rather than a low post guy. One of those guys who has no NBA hopes but is a senior who drives other teams nuts (as a best case scenario).

I think things like Jalen always sound better if you can say why you didn't like his style...what he specifically said. I think he was unpolished, and a bit too much of a homer (but he was with an Illni guy...), but I found it kinda nice to have a homer in Michigan advantage for a change that wasn't just doing a local broadcast. If I was an Illinois fan I am sure I wouldn't have liked him.  But been awhile since we've had an "unbias" announcer on our side. B. Griese seems to tow the line better than the stuff with have to put up in a world of Spielmans. (And for those who really hated the singing....if you're in Jalen's age group and you were announcing, you probably have wanted to pull that one out since you were a kid.)

I guess we should be sympathetic to the Illinois fan's plight...but really, they're often so hateful and carry an arrogance they've never earned when things are going well (along with traditionally being maybe the most dirty athletic program in the Big Ten), I can't say I'm shedding any tears.

Just goes to show what age does to you. Hard to believe even as old as he is that THS would be getting beat by his son, as good as he is....but the hops go out fast after a certain age.

And why if Wilson is used in the Tourney would everyone want to use Wilson? ($$, I know)


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

take it any longer.

I don't see how the arrival of McGary is going to help Smotrycz. Based on Evan's play this year, I expect to see him on the bench a lot next year while McGary plays the 4. If Evan is scoring, Mitch should give us a better option for defense, rebounding and inside scoring.

Burke should be the B1G Freshman of the year.


March 2nd, 2012 at 2:18 PM ^

Coach Beilein runs an offense predicated on spreading the floor, motion, and flooding the perimeter with quality shooters.  The idea that McGary and Morgan (two bigs who aren't outside shooters) would see the floor at the same time seems highly unlikely.  Right now (and for quite some time) our starting four has been Novak.  Evan has been playing the 5 a large portion of the time lately (which is why any criticism about fouls or defense is kind of ridiculous). 

McGary's arrival (and the return of Horford, etc.) means that Evan will no longer have to play the 5.  Morgan/McGary will split time there, Evan will take over Novak's starting spot at the four, and Burke/Hardaway/GRIII will probably round out the starting lineup.  Basically we get bigger/stronger at every spot on the floor while still playing 4 guys at a time who can shoot the three.

Next year Evan will have a much easier road defensively and will be able to pose serious matchup problems playing against either a smallish or lumbering 4 on the opposing team.  He's had to bite a big bullet defensively this year (in the same way Novak has for years) and next year he shouldn't have to and I think we'll see a much more consistent/productive player on the offensive end as a result.


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

Seemed like THJ let the game come to him more so than in past games.  He played a heck of a game and it was a great team win.   Thank you to the team for all your heart and hard work.

Ty Butterfield

March 2nd, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

Great game by Hardaway. But like Brian and others have said he can be frustrating to watch because he can't seem to play consistently at a high level. When he is on he is really f***ing on. When he isn't, well......


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

I'm probably off-base about this but I don't get this famous kids leaving early to go pro. If i'm in THJ and GR3s position and my dad was a multimillionaire in the NBA and I don't NEED the money, I'm going to stay all four. This is the only time of your life you get to choose where you play. I get injuries and all that but you're playing the game you love for a school you love. Once that's over, you've got little to no input on what happens to your career...you're playing for a contract nothing else.(thanks Bo!)

El Jeffe

March 2nd, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

It's not just about the money; it's also that the positions are so scarce that you can't afford to miss a good opportunity to get one of them, especially when you are running out of chances to impress scouts. So imagine that THJ has a great year next year and Michigan does really well. He definitely should go pro if that's his ultimate goal, since (1) he might have a poor season his senior year, and (2) there's no fifth year for him.


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^

I like picturing how intense those family 1-on-1's must have been,

Having a dad be in the NBA must be a real plus for understanding what is needed to get to that level.

Think of the quality coaching he got everyday from his dad that most kids can't get close to.


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:13 PM ^

...was not the long-range jumpers with a hand in his face, or the way he stayed composed through the 2nd half when double-teams were constant.

It was that thing-of-beauty, you-know-which-one-I'm-talking-about bounce pass to Jordan Morgan. I think Jalen said something along the lines of "passing up a good shot for a better shot". He just continues to impress.


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

How offensive is this?


“I’m a Nike guy, so if there was a uniform ball, I’d want it to be Nike,” Marquette Coach Buzz Williams said. “That’s how my kids get Christmas presents, so, yeah, I want to use Nike.”



According to reports today, Buzz Williams will remain as head coach at Marquette and have his salary bumped above $2 million per year. That salary would put Williams in the top 20 salaries in college basketball and increased expectations that accompany it.


Glad to see he's found a way to make ends meet....


March 2nd, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

There's also this fascinating article at si where Seth Davis got two coaches in each league to speak off the record about the other teams in the league. 


Of interest, M:

Michigan: The Wolverines are dangerous because they shoot the ball so well and stay within their sets, but they can also lay an egg because they rely so much on threes. You almost have to play small with them because they force you to. If you have a big man, it's hard to guard them because everybody will step out and score. I don't think Tim Hardaway Jr. is a tough kid. He just wants to shoot jumpers. If you have a dominant person inside, you can go right at them because they're not real big. Hardaway has not had the kind of year we were all expecting, but he has an uncanny ability to make threes late even when he's not shooting well. Trey Burke is the best guard in our league, and Jordan Morgan is much better offensively than he was last year. They don't scare you defensively. They'll get after you and compete, but you can run your stuff and score on them.


Ohio State: I think this team became a fat cat. The Buckeyes got a little arrogant early. They beat the crap out of Duke and I think that put them on cruise control. They have the most weapons in the league; it isn't close. Anybody in that first five is capable of scoring. I like William Buford, but it seems like he just goes with the flow. He's not going to bring it to you. Jared Sullinger is a great college player, but I don't think he's a tough kid. He flops a lot. He's always looking for a call and he can get really frustrated. You have to stay between him and the basket and make him shoot over you, because he doesn't have much lift. That's what Josh Harrellson did to him last year in the Kentucky game. Aaron Craft is not a good shooter so guys are going under ball screens. They're probably kicking themselves a little for not taking Trey Burke. He's from Columbus and played AAU ball with Sullinger, but they passed on him because they had Craft. I love Craft, but he does some dumb stuff at the end of games. He puts his head down and drives into packs of people.

And the coaches really hate ...

Wisconsin: I don't really respect the way they play. Jordan Taylor likes to run and grab you, and then throw his head back and try to get a call. If you set a pick, they take a dive. They cheat the game. Everybody raves about this defensive juggernaut, but that's bull. They dribble the clock out and mug you out of the building. Part of the reason they lost to Cornell and Davidson is because when you get into the tournament, refs outside the Big Ten don't fall for that. Taylor is kind of struggling, but they're always going to be in the game because they're not going to shoot until there are six seconds left on the shot clock. Then they give it to Taylor. That's their offense. They don't even run the swing as much as they used to. Taylor plays no defense because he's trying to save his energy. Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz have all had fabulous seasons, and Ryan Evans has really taken his game to the next level. They're going to be in every game because of the way they play and the fact that they have a lot of weapons.




March 2nd, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

Seems like these guys have a lot of negatives about the teams that are going to finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the conference (not to mention some pretty productive players in the league).  Awful lot of anonymous shit-talking for someone who is likely behind all of these teams in the standings.  That or Izzo is just an epic douche.  Wouldn't expect it, but it wouldn't shock me either.


March 2nd, 2012 at 2:33 PM ^

Davis did say that he emphasized the negative. Knowing that all these teams were good, he wanted to prod at where they would be vulnerable in the tournament. He writes that, "I peppered my coaches with questions like, "What is their team's Achilles' heel?", "What is their player's biggest weakness?", "What type of team would give them trouble in the NCAA tournament?"



March 2nd, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

Stuff like "I don't respect the way they play" and questioning the toughness of Sullinger/Hardaway doesn't seem like a level-headed analysis of the teams' strengths/weaknesses.  Those are things I wouldn't expect a coach to say under any level of questioning.  Not to mention, Why would any coach agree to do this in the first place?


March 2nd, 2012 at 3:16 PM ^

I'm guessing without anyone knowing your name, you can name names.  And say what you really say behind closed doors.  Take a look at any season preview for the NFL, college football, whatever, and they usually have some opposing coach sizing up the team from their view (SI loves this).  I looked at some of the others for other leagues, and they're pretty comparable, though the Big Ten coach may be drinking a bit more sour grapes than the rest, but not by much. (And quite often, even though he says he talked to both, these are assistant coaches, and haven't had the time or need to learn political speaking).  

Why do they agree to it? Probably a not too different reason than people post anonymously on a board thinking that what they say is important and others care about what they think.  Who knows, in the case of assistants, they might get paid for their analysis (for say, the whole NFL season preview by SI..not a small piece like this).  But usually it's probably just ego.

I Bleed Maize N Blue

March 2nd, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

It was good to see Hardaway play so well - and on the road, too.  Hopefully he's broken through whatever was holding him back and will continue to play like that the rest of the way.

Imagine this team firing on all cylinders.  That'll be a sight to see.

I didn't mind Jalen - I'd say it was refreshing to have him instead of Mr. That was a Foul/ No That wasn't a Foul (STFU about fouls!!!).  He talked about Michigan, but he also brought up some Illini of the past, and he was saying they should feed it to their big guy (shhhh! they'll hear you! AAAHHHH now they're doing it and going on a run!).  I thought he and Bardo did a decent job of interacting, even if it wasn't smooth all the time.  He could skip the singing, though.

Man, that was nervewracking when Illinois got within a couple points.  I kept waiting for them to tie it up, but it never happened, even though we didn't score for a while, either.  Good job on D - and we rebounded, too!

Get well soon, Morgan and Smotz.

Looking foward to Sunday SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!

El Jeffe

March 2nd, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

I didn't mind Jalen - I'd say it was refreshing to have him instead of Mr. That was a Foul/ No That wasn't a Foul (STFU about fouls!!!).

Totally agree about Bilas (I assume). I don't get why everyone thinks he's such a great color guy. Being a good analyst requires more than talking about whether a foul occurred or not on EVERY FING PLAY.


March 2nd, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

(which of course you don't, unless you went to Duke -- betcha didn't know Bilas played in the ACC), then you'd know that foul calls are the most crucial part of every b-ball game, and that talking about them is the best use of his considerable analytical skills.

Sons of Louis Elbel

March 2nd, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

Given his overall numbers for this year, if THJ really has thoughts of going pro, he'd have to play like he did last night pretty much every game we have left. Not the worst thing that could happen to us (though I hope he stays, regardless).


March 2nd, 2012 at 5:39 PM ^

Bardo was so much more professional when he screamed "daddy's crossover" but it was the Illinois player going in for the layup. Dude coud not wait to use his canned line and seemed giddy to be on tv with jalen. He may "sound" professional but I actually thought jalen was more insightful and, well uniquely entertaining. In true fab five style he was admittedly a tad annoying on occasion (constant and strange references to getting crowd hyped in order to trigger a comeback...of which bardo notably succumbed to nd started to talk about also), but I liked him. Way more than Bilas' bias drivel.

I get the same sinking feeling when I learn Bilas is doing a UofM ball Amex as I do when learn of spielman and urban Meyer tag team are covering our football games. Nt sure why we always get stuck with them but UGH.

The Truth Hurts

March 2nd, 2012 at 7:03 PM ^

I thought Jalen didn't do that bad considering he never did commentary for basketball games before.  He is usually in the studio for NBA contests so all the negative talk is not needed.  Also, I think that ESPN wanted the homerism since they had a color man from each school.  If he have done college games before please feel free to correct me but he was better than some of the regulars.  Maybe that was an audition for upcoming years.