yea and the arena bayed for blood [Bryan Fuller]

Laws Of Physics Lose Their Sway Comment Count

Brian January 14th, 2019 at 1:36 PM

1/13/2019 – Michigan 80, Northwestern 60 – 17-0, 6-0 Big Ten

The inevitable question came in the post-game press conference: what was the difference between Zavier Simpson's shots tonight and the ones that got him lifted for crunch time in Welsh-Ryan? Beilein went for the laugh line first: "the ball went in." The assembled press duly laughed. Same question to Chris Collins, same answer.

But because John Beilein is John Beilein, he realized that was flip and dismissive. So he quickly followed that up with "that's a great question" and noted two things. The first: Northwestern was the first and to-date-only team to leave him open like that. The implication was that despite the shots being open Simpson was maybe not mentally prepared to take them.

The second: Simpson took the Northwestern sag as "a personal affront." Northwestern made Zavier Simpson mad. This is inadvisable.


So anyway there was a heat check at the end of that. It followed on from the first step-back 18-footer of Simpson's career and five makes from three in nine attempts. Heat checks are generally annoying since they are by definition bad shots.

This one had to be taken. Zavier Simpson had to continue shooting ever more improbably until he missed. If he hit the heavily contested off the dribble three that clanged, the next time down was going to be a flip throw.

This is not 'Nam. There are rules. Flip throw.

Perhaps lost in the second-half delirium was the first-half delirium when Jon Teske did more or less the same thing, flinging in three first-half three pointers and subsequently breaking the brains of his opposition. Dererk Pardon went from nine career three point attempts to thirteen without banking another one in. Pardon's backup, Barrett Benson, flung one so wide of the backboard it might have been a poorly-disguised assassination attempt against a photographer.

Northwestern's centers were convinced that this was magical opposite day. They thought they might live out their Steph Curry fantasies, and who could blame them? I counted my limbs last night and was unsure whether to be relieved or disappointed when there were still four of them. Surely in such circumstances a tall man will be permitted to hit career three pointer #3, in Crisler Arena where the walls between dimensions are thin.

It was not to be so for Pardon and Benson, who don't have the reserves of sheer cussedness that Simpson does. They cannot refine their anger to a fine white-hot line and use it for revenge and mincing garlic.

Simpson can. His career has been one long exercise in proving the skeptics wrong. And there were many skeptics, including yours truly. I may have wondered in the MGoSlack chat what Beilein saw in a 5'10" point guard who couldn't shoot. I still wonder what Beilein thought he was getting when he got tired of waiting for Cassius Winston. Beilein's as close as anyone can be to a genius when it comes to doing the basketball, but I struggle to believe even he saw a world in which a player who is the very opposite of everything he's done in 40 years of coaching became the beating heart of a 17-0 team.

But then nobody envisioned a Zavier Simpson heat check in a pulsating arena, either. Expectations are just another way to piss off the last man in the world you want to motivate.

[After THE JUMP: Fun With Torvik, Teske edition.]


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This was fun though [Fuller]

Huh. Down Vic Law, Northwestern started Erstwhile Michigan Recruit Pete Nance. Nance didn't do much on offense but he was given a bizarre defensive matchup: Simpson. Nance is 6'10". Simpson went off in the second half but that was more Northwestern's strategy to hedge off Simpson and let what happens happens.

Nance did get turned around once and put Simpson on the line; Simpson got one of his trademark sky-hooks in, but for large portions of the first half it looked like Simpson didn't really know what to do with a guy a foot taller than him who did a decent job of keeping up.

True shooting talent. Teske is up to 30% from three on the season; Simpson is up to 33%. I don't think either has a ton of upside left to get up much farther but if they can even maintain those levels that stresses defenses in a way that should be profitable for Michigan's three drivers.

It would be nice if Simpson could spread his makes out a bit more. He's gone 5/10, 2/4, 3/4, and 4/7 this year… and has two makes in the other 13 games.

Teske, the possession generator. My weirdly specific prediction in the season preview TWO was that Jon Teske's possession disruption stats (OREBs, steals, blocks) would sum to a total higher than Mitch McGary's 2013 season. So far Mitch's 16 OREB + 3.9 block + 3.4 steal rate is carrying the day at 23.3, because Teske hasn't maintained his 13.8 OREB rate from last year. He's at 8.1 OREB + 8.2 block + 1.9 steal, which is "just" 18.2.


Teske's 6.6 TO rate is 10th nationally, which is tops in the nation for anyone taller than 6'6". Mitch's TO rate was 18, admittedly on 21% usage instead of 16%.

Teske's rock-bottom TO rate is making me rethink some of my strident opposition to midrange twos. A Teske 10-footer isn't a great shot but neither is it a turnover. There's definitely a correlation between tons of threes and low TO rate; I'd bet there's also one between other twos and shots at the rim, which closes some of the gap.

Ace ran some Fun With Torvik and found that the only two high-major players in his database with more than 60% of minutes played with a block rate >8 and a TO rate <10 were Teske, Iowa's Jared Uthoff, and Anthony Freakin' Davis.



Teske, the hedger. A couple mentions on the broadcast and post-game that Big Ten coaches assert that Jon Teske is the best pick and roll defender in the conference. Jon Crispin also made a good point: Michigan is comfortable switching PNR late in the clock because Teske can move well enough to make that work. A couple minutes later M switched Teske in a late PNR and Teske forced a difficult contested three.



Message received. Charles Matthews was notably more aggressive about getting shots up at the rim in this game: just one two-point jumper and 6/7 at the rim, none of them assisted. A couple of those were offensive rebounds and a couple were drives left when Northwestern vastly overplayed screens, but Matthews did scratch out a couple of attempts at the rim that easily could have been those fadeaway twos that aren't going down.

Matthews did commit a charge and a couple of "I forgot to dribble" traveling calls early held his efficiency down but this was a way forward for his usage.

NBA continuation please. The NBA's traveling regulations are a bit… nonexistent for my tastes by by God they've got it right with their extremely permissive approach to continuation. If you get fouled and there's any hint of a shooting motion or the thought of a shooting motion you should get the benefit of the doubt. And-ones are cool and fouls should be punished maximally to promote scoring and open basketball.

Yes, this is about the Iggy coulda-shoulda and-one. Why anyone planning how to basketball would not want that bucket to count is a mystery.

The good news is that given the way NCAA officiating is going that might actually happen. The verticality rules explicitly privilege guys who are trying to block shots instead of take charges, thus encouraging actual basketball to be played.


Verticality [Fuller]

Every change over the past ten years that doesn't involve going to the monitor has been somewhere between good and excellent.


1989 UM GRAD

January 14th, 2019 at 1:55 PM ^

Crisler was rocking last it has been since the NC/Purdue games.  Been loving the lack of empty seats! 

My 15-year old daughter made it up on the big screen on the scoreboard...and also got to "high five" the players as they left the court and made their way back in to the tunnel at the end of the game.  

All in all, a great evening!


January 14th, 2019 at 8:22 PM ^

This is a thing. I don't recall it being this consistent in 2013, the only other team we have this kind of reference for (though I could be wrong and wasn't there). The hot start absolutely changed the fanbase's perspective, and the combination of the OSU loss and the UNC win in the same week swung the pendulum in a way I don't recall ever seeing. 

Occasionally a bad thing will happen in sports, and when a friend approaches with that "I'm about to dog you for how bad your team played" look on his face, I'll rattle off a sarcastic, "You know what's a great sport? Curling" or something like that. But in late November, a bunch of Michigan fans said, "You know what's a great sport? Basketball." And they bought tickets and the games are appointment viewing. 

The team is good. The fanbase is... noticeably different, in my opinion. 


January 14th, 2019 at 2:07 PM ^

Pardon's backup, Barrett Benson, flung one so wide of the backboard it might have been a poorly-disguised assassination attempt against a photographer


I loled so hard at this...


January 14th, 2019 at 8:27 PM ^

I wonder about that.

He's 7'1, he shows the ability to defend smaller players, great on defense, great conditioning, huge block rate...

I'm not saying his shooting will ever make him a stretch 4, but isn't there still a place in the NBA for a "rim protector" type? What does he lack for that skillset? We're not talking about the focal point of a team, but it seems to me that he can be a rotation piece. Am I missing something?


January 16th, 2019 at 1:36 AM ^

Yeah, he'll get a shot.  Modern NBA bigs need to defend the pick and roll well, which he does at this level, and they have to have an offensive game that isn't solely reliant on posting up with his back to the basket.  Teske has shown he can roll to the basket AND pick and pop.

He actually does everything you want a modern big to do...against college players.  Only question is whether he'll be able to do it at the pro level without elite athleticism. He'll get the chance to see if he can.


January 14th, 2019 at 3:53 PM ^

I agree with Brian on this. In college basketball, fouls too often punish the team being fouled. This happened more than once to Michigan last night and is always annoying(at least to me). I wish basketball refs would go with a more "play on" type style, not unlike soccer, when the offense is at an advantage.


January 14th, 2019 at 2:26 PM ^

in HS there was a player on the opposite soccer team that used to do the flip throws.

first time i saw it i thought 'wow that's pretty cool'

after seeing him do it time after time without much impact and our team winning 5-0, it was more like 'oh is that all you practice?'


January 14th, 2019 at 3:47 PM ^

Completely agree.  I've rarely seen them used well, and the flip throw guys always use them rather than using discretion.  A lot of the times, it's way better to have a situation where the best thing to do is make a quick throw in to an open player.  Rarely is a ball thrown inaccurately into the middle of the goal box where the goalie is going to pick it up, the best use of a throw in.

They look cool, but they are mostly a gimmick.


January 14th, 2019 at 8:30 PM ^

In the clip included, the act of flipping removed any real accuracy from the throw. Where the ball wound up was kinda random, and since it's still a near-post ball, the ability to make something out of that is limited. I would think that retaining and using possession would always be more valuable. And in a late-late-clock situation where you're worried that stoppage time will expire, it's just as likely to expire while the thrower is backing way up.


January 14th, 2019 at 2:28 PM ^

"Pardon's backup, Barrett Benson, flung one so wide of the backboard it might have been a poorly-disguised assassination attempt against a photographer."

i can tell Brian is much happier writing about bball than other sports.


January 14th, 2019 at 2:31 PM ^

“Simpson took the Northwestern sag as ‘a personal affront.’ Northwestern made Zavier Simpson mad. This is inadvisable.” Absolute gold. I can’t wait to see how Z is pissed that people think Cassius Winston is the best PG in the B1G. RIP to that ugly dude.


January 14th, 2019 at 3:27 PM ^

Dakich proposed that he may be the best PG in the country during one of their recent games (OSU I think).

And he might not be wrong based on what he's done so far. Winston is playing really, really well for a team that is killing it right now.  But he was good last year until facing Simpson, at which time he curled into the fetal position.

To see if that still happens this year is easily the most anticipated individual matchup/storyline for me in the Big Ten.

Winston is right up there with Happ and Edwards as front-runners for B1G POY, right now.  If Simpson owns him again, you have to put Simpson on the first team All-Conference over Winston, right?


January 14th, 2019 at 4:49 PM ^

While 7 TOs is bad, those 11 pts came on only seven shot equivalents such that his O rtg was still a not-disastrous 85, and he had 4 steals which is really good. 

Besides, what is the mean for him if you expect regression?  Oddly, he's shooting significantly worse from FTs this year than last year (under 80% compared to 90%), so you could argue regression to the mean is for that to go up.

He's been a super high assist and FG% guy for almost two full seasons now. And he just came off a five game stretch in which he was absolutely dominant. Evidence is pretty strong that the way he's playing is his mean....except against Simpson!


January 16th, 2019 at 2:06 AM ^

I didn't say it wasn't a bad game.  No question it was bad, but to me bad does not equal disastrous.  To me, average >> bad >> disastrous.

Having a disastrous game, to me, would quite literally need to create a disaster, i.e. crater the teams chances of winning.  His game barely affected MSU and they cruised to a margin of victory even greater than expected. Single game Ortg's for individuals are pretty variable.

A disastrous game to me is what Nick Ward did against Kansas when he had a 50 Ortg (2/8 FGs and 5 TOs) on 29% (!!) usage.

Although maybe there should be a level worse than disastrous for the game Zak Irvin had against South Carolina in 2016.  30 Ortg (2/13 from the field and 8 TOs) on 35% usage in 30 minutes of game action!!  That was a crazy game because MAAR had a 72 Ortg, Wagner 54 and Duncan 38.  That's how you score only 46 points in a game.

An 85 Ortg is bad but not that bad.

You even make my point quite well.  His game is what entire teams average (so half the team would be worse than what Winston was last night) against Michigan.  That's not that bad if Michigan (and other good defenses) are regularly holding half the players they play to worse outings.



January 14th, 2019 at 2:33 PM ^

This was the most fun I've had reading Brian's "column" in ages. You can tell when there's joy in the author's writing...and it pays off.

"If he hit the heavily contested off the dribble three that clanged, the next time down was going to be a flip throw."


"Northwestern's centers were convinced that this was magical opposite day."



January 14th, 2019 at 3:00 PM ^

I would suggest one more rule change while we're at it - ban foul calls where a shooter shot fakes and then lunges into a leaping defender in a way that is completely outside the bounds of a normal shooting motion.


January 14th, 2019 at 3:05 PM ^

Big sleep? Nah its Just Tesk3.

It would be hard not to root for any 5’10” guy that dominated the floor that wasnt in a Duke Kansas or Kentucky jersey (who am I kidding that would never happen). But the fact that he is our underdog and maybe the most physically intimading player (pound for pound) to ever wear the maize and blue, ooh boy these next 14 months are gonna be good. 


January 14th, 2019 at 3:46 PM ^

It's probably a bit weird to say about a guy who may be the conference POY, but Michigan would be a demonstrably worse team if Winston replaced Simpson.  They'd score a bit more but their defense would be noticeably worse.  Conversely, MSU would be a sludge fart frozen on a park bench without Winston, so it makes sense why he's doing well there.  It's crazy how it all worked out.


January 14th, 2019 at 3:46 PM ^

I meant to make an additional point about long/other twos after the podcast during which it was debated whether those are good shots.

When someone (forgot who) asked what is the percent you'd need to make for those to be a good shot and Brian threw out 50%, that's a bit high because he assumed that means 1 point per possession (which is already really good for a non-transition possession) but that doesn't even account for potential OREBs.  If you assume you rebound 20% of the misses and score approx. 1 point on those second chances it puts the total ppp at 1.1 which is really high for a non-transition possession.  That would be a very good shot if they could hit at 50%.

Because of OREBs, you'd need to hit about 40-45% for those to be considered "good shots" i.e. better than the alternative of trying to work it around, risking a TO, to get a better shot.

But context matters a lot too: who is shooting the shot, what's the shot clock (i.e. how much time do you have to get a better shot), and who is the opponent (what is the likelihood you can get a better shot).

Against Binghamton, you can get a better shot in almost all scenarios.  Take it at the 6'4 guy trying to protect the rim.  Against a good defense, especially one with a good shot blocker and rebounder standing in your way, those become better shots.

But 30-35% is not good enough so if Matthews is expected to hit them at that rate, they're not good shots against anyone unless the shot clock is under like 8 seconds.

My guess is that Matthews hits them at a higher rate in practice and thus has the green light but perhaps doesn't shoot as well under game pressure or is suffering from small sample size issues.


January 14th, 2019 at 5:56 PM ^

You nailed it and Brian also mentioned it.  No one takes into account the chances or turning the ball over when you pass on an open shot...any open shot.  That's why JB harps on players.  I think the avg team TO% is around 20%.  The avg possession is probably 3-4 passes; maybe more if coached by gene hackman.  So maybe a 5% chance of a TO with each pass.  Ya, pulling some of these % out of the air but they are probably close.

So yes, you don't have to shoot 50% on twos, since there is a chance at a rebound and you also risk a TO if you pass.  I think 40+ % is a pretty good approximation.