Low Earth Orbit

Submitted by Brian on April 1st, 2013 at 1:10 PM

3/31/2013 – Michigan 79, Florida 59 – 30-7, Final Four


There was a point—probably the 360 GRIII dunk against Minnesota that capped a fist-pumping, game-sealing run on the home floor of what then seemed like a top-ten opponent—when this Michigan team's ceiling seemed limitless. If Michigan needed points, Trey Burke snapped his fingers and it was so. Nik Stauskas was flirting with all-time three-point shooting records; Tim Hardaway Jr seemed to have played himself into the first round, no questions. Defense was a minor issue, surely.

I spent chunks of words around this point talking about how everyone should grab this team and hold on tight, because joys like this don't come around very often. I think I wrote like three columns exhorting anyone who happened across this here blog to set aside cynicism or reserve and prise open their chest, the better to let your heart pound loose and free in the exhilaration of the moment.

Coming down from that was terribly sad. The shellshock of the first OSU game was okay, because they were young and still fought back like champions. That happened before the GR360 anyway. Losing at Indiana was expected, and relatively competitive and the Kohl Center debacle was a fluke. It was really the next two events that punched me right in the heart. When Michigan flat-out did not show up at Michigan State, I watched the second half on mute with a glass of whiskey in my hand. I don't even know what I did during the Penn State game, but I knew how it felt. It felt like Michigan basketball. Shit.

I was in orbit, man, and had not considered the possibility of forced reentry or what I'd turned the ol' heart into: a blast shield.


There are few things better in basketball than a three point shooter going nuts. For all the things Kevin Durant his done, he may be best loved for blowing up Rucker Park with four consecutive threes. I mean:


Dr. J got his nickname on that court, and he can't make Google autosuggest. Localized abatements in the law of probability have pull. Stauskas's early-season emergence was Rucker Park every night.

The fade was inevitable, but every time an announcer mentions Nik Stauskas's still-blazing three-point shooting people who have been watching Michigan play basketball all year only hear that shooting percentage is a couple points lower than it was a couple games ago. Part of the magic that made Michigan seem like an unstoppable train was Stauskas's three point shooting lines. Here are twelve consecutive games: 3/4, 3/4, 1/4, 2/3, 4/7, 4/5, 3/4, 2/5, 4/8, 2/7, 5/8, 5/8.

If he let it go, you expected it to go down. Not in the sense that you were momentarily allowing hope to overwhelm your reason. In the sense that the ball in the air was literally better than 50/50 to go in the hoop despite being launched from a great distance. Stauskas's shooting was a microcosm of the team; it was impossible to do anything other than stare at it, slack-jawed. Stupid grins optional, but recommended.

The wake-up call came at Ohio State. Stauskas didn't score in 23 minutes; he only got off three terrible looks from three. Guy probably hadn't gone a game without scoring since he was six. Towards the end his brain foundered. As the Big Ten season progressed, his fate followed the team's: 1/5 from three in the Indiana loss as Jordan Hull showed him what efficiency was; the same line at the Trohl center; 5 turnovers in the Penn State debacle; 1/8 from the field in the second Wisconsin loss. His decline was a microcosm of the team's.

The slump reached epic proportions in the most important games of the season. Entering the Florida game he was 2/16 from deep in his last four games. Michigan papered over that with liberal helpings of Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, but against Kansas they'd escaped, more plucky underdog surviving one more day than team gunning for a title. I'd burst from my seat to shout something about sending it in when Stauskas rose up in overtime against Kansas, and then sheepishly sat down when it clanged off the rim.

Sunday, Florida left him. I don't know if this was a decision to pick the 2/16 poison instead of Burke and McGary or simply a screwup. Whatever the reason, they left him. Stauskas knocked it down. High fives all around. Stauskas knocked another one down. Eyebrows cocked. What if…

The NBA Jam "on fire" three was next, and then another, and suddenly Stauskas was delivering on everything he'd promised in videos of his dad feeding him over and over again in his backyard, those stories about him breaking Beilein three-point drill records, that highlight package of Stauskas torching Baylor as a high school senior, every splashed three pointer against Eastern and Central. They poured it in from all over, but mostly from Stauskas, who we'd all literally seen dream about this in his backyard. A basketball metronome. Automatic. Open corner three, forget about it.

That was one thing. That was all Michigan needed to separate itself, to finish the course reversal that started in the second half against South Dakota State. The other thing: the last one, the one pictured above, was not wide open. Stauskas evaded a hard closeout, dribbled a step to his left, and launched from behind the backboard. Didn't matter. Stauskas was no longer bound by gravity.

*["Nik Stauskas's dad" is a candidate for the most boring job of the last 18 years]


Seth Greenberg breaks it down:

And official NCAA highlights:

Official site video includes Bacari cheese speech, locker room stuff:

Return to Ann Arbor:

Bullets ahhhhhh!

It started with a whisper defense? Um… yeah. Michigan started this game lighting it up from the field, finishing the first half at a scorching 1.3 points per possession. But the difference between this game and, say, VCU, was the opponent's ability to score. VCU got a lot of points out of the gate; Florida got none.

As Doug Gottlieb mentioned at halftime, this was a gameplan thing. Michigan did indeed put GRIII on Erik Murphy. With visions of various Kansas 4s going 11/14 from the floor, Florida set to attacking him on the block. To say this did not work is an understatement on par with "Sunday was fun." Murphy couldn't get deep in the post and ended up throwing up tough shots while taking contact. His line for the game: 0/11, with nine of those inside the line.

By the time he did launch one of the threes he hits at a 46% clip, there were ten minutes left in the second half. He shot on consecutive possessions; the first was heavily contested and off balance. The second wasn't quite as terrible of a look but GRIII did get a hand in his face. Obviously both missed.

For the game, Florida took all of ten(!) threes. That's 18% of their shots from a team that usually puts up 40%. As someone who tracked the scary-low number of three pointers Wisconsin gave up all year let me tell you: that is downright Wisconsonian. As Bo Ryan watched this game through a film of tears, cutting box at the ready, he had a nagging feeling of familiarity as a team that bombs away went 2/10 from three. "That could have been us," he sniffled, forgetting entirely about Ryan Evans trying to shoot a free throw.

Is this post going to descend into Bo Ryan masochism fiction?

Well, is it?

Hmm. It appears the answer is no. Shame.

More on defense. Michigan's D held Florida to 0.9 points a possession in the first half… and improved(!) in the second half. All but eliminating threes did not come with an excessive cost on the interior, where Florida shot 46%. A lot of those were Boynton or Rosario runners a lot like the shots VCU was clanging; those are clearly things Michigan has just decided to give up. McGary went from challenging them fruitlessly and opening up opportunities for second chance shots to sticking to his man.

Extra possession watch. Rebounding numbers were essentially identical—both teams had 9 OREBs, Florida had one extra DREB. Michigan won turnovers by 4. So I'm a bit baffled as to where Michigan's seven extra shots came from. Both teams had 46 2PA; Michigan had 9 extra 3PA to Florida's 4 extra FTA. More of Florida's free throws could have come in and-one situations, but that doesn't make up for what looks like a seven-shot difference, does it?

trey-burke-stealThe Burke. Burke's trademark steal came off at the end of the first half, giving Michigan two points that seemed worth a lot more as Florida made their push towards a single-digit deficit. I'm not sure about you, but I almost expected that. Burke has a pirate's instinct for the moment, and with Michigan nowhere near the bonus it was a free shot at two. With Florida holding for the last shot, a missed steal that Florida presses gives Michigan an extra possession.

I don't really get to talk much game theory about basketball, but that's a situation in which Burke's skill combines with his intelligence to make that a majorly +EV move.

Mitch: cooled off, sort of. McGary's been on the kind of streak where you can announce some statline of his to a room and get gales of laughter back. I read a tweet that ended up in my timeline stating that McGary had eight points and six rebounds at the under 12 timeout in the first half, and the room went LOL.

McGary didn't continue that torrid pace and fell short of his third consecutive double-double. Still: 11 points on 9 shot equivalents, 9 rebounds, just one turnover, two blocks, and five(!) steals. I don't think I've ever seen a big who's better at coming from behind a post feed for a steal. He doesn't just knock it away and home, he knocks it away, goes and gets it, and then sometimes chucks an audacious over-the-head outlet pass that demands a Wes Unseld reference.

Everyone's searching for their McGary comparable, so here's mine: Brian Cardinal. Cardinal was a quality three point shooter (god, imagine that skill added to McGary's repertoire), but in terms of being a super-active big who generates possessions and has a floor-burn collection, I like it.

Morgan and Horford. Those guys got 14 minutes as McGary got in a bit of foul trouble, and produced. Horford was 3/3 from the floor; combined they acquired nine rebounds, three on offense, and had a 1:1 A:TO ratio. Once Murphy proved he couldn't exploit Robinson on the interior, Michigan didn't need to go two-post (though they did run it out for a minute or two in the first half); those guys got production in when they were called on.

Good to see Morgan getting enough time to contribute. It would be beyond brutal for him if he'd been limited to the minute he got in the first two games of the tournament.

Spike. Albrecht is on a minutes streak: 15 against VCU, 11 against Kansas, 14 here. This was his best outing, obviously. It struck me as Florida tried to pressure him just how impossible it is to get the ball off of the guy. Even Burke will occasionally get his pocket picked by Craft and the like; Albrecht is so low to the ground and capable of that instant spin, so pressing him is futile. With Florida desperate and pressing Spike came in to take the ball up, easily beat the press, and then handed off to Burke. That conserved Burke's energy for the final stretch.

Three steals, two of which led to layups, and a three he knocked down are bonuses. He's doesn't seem enough of a threat inside the line to hold off Walton next year but who cares about that? Right now he's Michigan's main guy off the bench. He's now 44% from three on the year, BTW (albeit on just 25 attempts).

I still don't get deploying him against Kansas, which wasn't pressing and was destroying Michigan at the four.

Hardaway. An awful shooting night, but the difference between Hardaway this year and last: he put up five assists.

Beilein talent eye x2. So Albrecht, obviously. His other offer, singular, was Appalachian State. Then there's Casey Prather, who is often cited as an exception to the rule that if Beilein tries to get you, you are good at basketball. After seeing him play are you telling me you wouldn't want to have the guy off the bench in the LeVert role? 6'6" sticky defenders aren't too common. He's got great rebounding numbers for a wing. He can't shoot, but there'd be a role for him on a Final Four team.

The number one thing to fix about college refereeing. The Wisconsin Chest is a foul, but is never called. The Chest occurs when a guy goes up for a shot and his defender scoots his chest up into the lower body of the defender. Guy takes a bump, shot difficulty goes up a lot, principle of verticality is violated. Never gets a call. I've noticed that Michigan is getting better at the Chest in the the last couple games, because I'm now thinking "that's a foul ARGH" when Michigan's on defense. Which, yay for right now and all that, but also I feel dirty.

Gottliebtake. I'm of two minds about Gottlieb. He's obviously annoying. Earlier this year I tweeted something to the effect of "that guy should wear a lucha libre mask and call himself Strongtake." He has one strength of opinion: extra.

But this does allow him to say interesting things and ask interesting questions. There should be someone badgering the committee rep about why Oregon was 12 seed and that guy should be rolling his eyes when the committee rep tells him "well, they were really an 11" as if anyone gets incensed about teams that are one line off of expectations. There should be someone doing college basketball games who won't shut up about how terrible the monitor review process is—there should be dozens, actually. There should be someone willing to bomb Billy Donovan's first half gameplan when it results in Florida going 1/5 from three. He seems to have a mild form of Tourette's—the white guy analyst comment. I'm in favor of weird guys, I guess.


[12:39 PM] Ace: http://www.wdfn.com/pages/shep.html?article=11133369

Every net-cutting video you could want. UMHoops recap. Slideshow from Melanie Maxwell. WE HAD SUBS


will it surprise you that Beilein says he's "trying to have more fun"?


UMHoops photos.

OU's Greg Kampe on the Syracuse matchup and some other things. What do Michigan fans think? They are generally in favor! Wojo. Daily's Daniel Wasserman. Everett Cook. Meinke on Stauskas. Beard on Albrecht.

Congratulations! Go back to class. Michigan is a two point favorite. MVictors. They facetimed Novak from courtside after.



April 1st, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

...in shock that Michigan (Burke in the 2nd half) stepped up and beat Kansas...then blasting Florida was icing on the cake!!!...Lets keep the good shooting going and make a title run!!!!


April 1st, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

man.  I don't think Brian Cardinal put up 25 and 14 in his nine year college career let alone as a freshman in the Sweet 16.  I think Mitch has a Kevin Love type ceiling and i think comparing him to Cardinal is selling him and his potential short by a great deal.

The Rake

April 1st, 2013 at 11:01 PM ^

Is so much higher than cardinal or hannsborough. Fwiw why do his comps have to be the same skin color? Really Mitch was the #1 recruit in the us at one point and I think his movement on pick and rolls and passing really shines. Grantland did a piece on him today. Check it out. Mitch deserves btr comps but admittedly I can't one up with one just now. I just know he's got game and his play has really keyed this tourney run.

The FannMan

April 1st, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

The pilots of the plane reported severe and unexpected turbulence.  Said the pilot, "I have no idea what happened.  I heard some music and then the whole damn plane stated shaking.  It was like a lot of really large guys where jumping around in the plane.  It was so crazy that I asked the flight crew for a sub."


April 1st, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

The best part about Stauskas's performance is it's the only kind of dominating basketball performance that I can relate to, as well as perhaps thousands of other basketball fans whose own career ended as high school began.  I'm short, can't jump, can barely ballhandle (and not at all with my left), can play acceptable defense, and every so often, maybe one in eight pickup games I play, I can't miss from three.  I'm a beggarman's version of That White Guy Off The Bench that college teams often have.

True Cool Story Bro: One time a friend and I went to the court to shoot a little, and soon eight dudes, every single one of them bigger and faster than me, came up to the court too.  It had the makings of a nice five on five, so my friend and I split up and we played a little full court.  It happened to be one of those days where I couldn't miss if I tried.  The best compliment I've ever received on a basketball court was during that game when I took a pass and my defender didn't close out for the umpteenth time and I heard this panicked voice from the other side of the court: "Don't let 'im shoot!!"  Shot went in and I found out who'd said it by noting which of my opponents was glaring daggers through the guy who was supposed to be guarding me.

Moral: I'll never have any idea what it's like to be Mitch McGary, banging around inside and putting back rebounds, or Trey Burke creating everyone's shot including his own, or Glenn Robinson on what must've been the twentieth alley oop of the season.  But a game like Stauskas's game against Florida, I get that.  Even if it's a pickup game and not exactly the Elite Eight.


April 1st, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

Great players get into it a lot, and the rest of us can hope for it to happen maybe once or twice.

I can remember in my pickup days behind Couzens one time getting into it, and you always here that the hoop looks huge, but it just seemed to me like an out of body experience, where no matter what you throw up or how, the body wills it in. And the other guy really can't do anything about it. It's just amazing to think of guys who can basically "will" themselves into it.  

Blue In NC

April 1st, 2013 at 1:36 PM ^

To me the best recent comparable for McGary is Ty Hansbrough.  Certainly Ty had a more polished offensive game in his later years but both guys play physical, are limited jumping-wise but just play the game the right way and hustle all of the time.  And McGary may have more upside to his game (although he isn't there yet).


April 1st, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

McGary's offensive game has improved in leaps and bounds.  Just as a finisher around the basket he's light years from where he was in December, when he was missing half his layups.  Now he seems to be really developing good footwork and is under control when he pivots and shoots.  LaVall Jordan's done some really nice work with him.

I think next year (assuming he does return) he can be a 15 ppg guy.




April 1st, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

You beat me to it.  I was also going to make the Hansborough connection.  Hansborough is not that limited a jumper, actually.  He and McGary move very well laterally on defense and have incredibly high motors.  Hansborough's FT shooting was much better than Mitch's, which made him all that much more dangerous offensively, because he was a foul magnet.

Blue In NC

April 1st, 2013 at 3:40 PM ^

Fair enough but for a player of the year candidate, it wasn't like Ty H was leaping out of the gym either.  Just like McGary who moves well but doesn't leap out of the gym.  And Ty H was a bullish-type of scorer in the same way that McGary shows once in a while.  I think McGary's FT % is bound to go up next year - he has a nice stroke, he just needs more confidence and repetitions.  The one thing I see was that Ty H tried to draw fouls desparately while McGary seems to go out of his way to avoid getting fouled.  Probably a good decision given his FT %.


April 1st, 2013 at 3:12 PM ^

Burke had a flu during the Kansas game. I believe this explains Albrecht's minutes (re: why is he playing when Kansas isn't pressing well and they're killing us on the boards)


April 1st, 2013 at 5:49 PM ^

The last line of defense when GRIII is being torched in the post is to have Hardaway defend the opposition 4 man - his technique is better, even though he's a stone lighter. When this happens, either Robinson has to defend a shooting guard (and his technique isn't much better on the perimeter than it is in the post), or he's subbed out for a perimeter defender - LeVert or Albrecht. LeVert's defense is better, but the experience difference between him and Spike really shows up on offense.


April 1st, 2013 at 2:00 PM ^

How about a Greg Kampe one?

I don't doubt that Syracuse is good, and they certainly are nothing close to an automatic win....but I wouldn't worry that Greg Kampe doesn't think we're going to beat them since he thought we'd have a hard time getting by SDS and VCU-


And then thought Kansas would beat us....




April 1st, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

Kampe has never given Michigan basketball credit.  It's his schtick, and it's becoming tired.  What makes this really surprising is that his and Bielein's offensive systems are pretty darn similar and he could probably become a better coach if he respected UM a tad more. 

I think there was a time in the mid 00's where he saw an opportunity for Oakland to become the state's second best team on an annual basis.....and then Bielein happened. 


April 1st, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

Michigan's D held Florida to 0.9 points a possession in the first half… and improved(!) in the second half.

Yet all the pundits think Michigan's game is to out-score you.


April 1st, 2013 at 2:13 PM ^


Marquette was 3-24 from three against Syracuse in the Great 8.  Marquette lost because they beat themselves, it wasn't necessarily all because of the zone.  

For anyone studying that game, those were 24 open good looks from three point land and they were throwing enough bricks to build a house.

Michigan can spread the court, open up space and make a lot more than 3-24. 

Make it happen!  Hail!


April 1st, 2013 at 2:16 PM ^

Burke's steal at the end of the first half, and at the end of the MSU game is perfect recognition of something that had never occured to me before: the other team is not trying to score. As a result, it's low risk. If you miss the steal, you probably have time to get back into position because the opposing team is just killing the clock anyways so they get the last shot. And if you get the steal, you become my hero. Well, if you're Burke, you already were, but you know what I mean . . .

I absolutely love watching the backcourt violation over and over as well. Not only is Burke the only one of the two aware of the fact ten seconds is approaching, he masks his delaying as two steal attempts so that Johnson isn't tipped off about the clock and doesn't hurry up to get the ball across.


April 1st, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

At this point, I think most of us can agree that the team has exceeded most all of our expectations.  Maybe it was the tough stretch in the B1G conference play, but I doubt most of us really expected a Final Four appearance.  That said, I think its going to be so much fun watching them on Saturday (and Monday????).  Its all just gravy now, extra toppings on the footlong, so to speak.  And that, my friends, is TREMENDOUS!


April 1st, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

to neuter the syracuse zone...i'd like to see the wing shooters pulled closer up toward the top of the key some...should shorten the swing passes and give the syracuse D less time to move out toward the shooters...sound idea?!?


April 1st, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

especially the behind the scenes ones that most of us never get to see.  What I would give to be in the locker room after a big win like this one.

El Jeffe

April 1st, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

The truly subs thing about this team is that, although the tourney matchups would have been different, M is one bullshit half-court three, two bullshit missed front ends of 1 and 1s (and one bullshit tip that didn't fall), and one bullshit last 10 minute collapse away from being 33-4. That puts them in really rarified territory.

Of course, they did lose those three bullshit games, but still...

Also, the one thing I haven't heard talking heads talk about when they wax orgasmic about Syracuse's length (hey-o!!!) is that we haz it too. I mean, between Nik, Timmy, and GRIII, we can shoot over any zone in America. Trey may have some trouble, but that's why he steps back to 37 feet for his shots (don't do this on Saturday, Trey, plzkthx).

EQ RC Blue

April 1st, 2013 at 2:35 PM ^

In the 5 games before "the epic slump," Stauskas had shot 50% from 3 -- 40% if you don't want to count the MSU game from which he was KO'd.  In the 9 games before that he shot 50% from 3 twice, 60% twice, and 40% once.  He shot 37% for the conference season.  He's still currently on pace for the 5th best 3pt% ever at Michigan. 

Agaisnt KU he shot 4/7 total - the best shooting % of any starter besides McGary, had 3 assists to 1 TO, and had 2 rebounds.

This entry makes it sound like Stauskas played well until OSU, then was essentially lousy until yesterday.  Not at all the case.