LSU 77, Michigan 75

Submitted by Ace on November 21st, 2017 at 2:35 AM

via Alejandro Zuniga

I'm starting this a little before 2 am, so this won't be a standard recap. Some scattered thoughts following a loss that may have a big impact on this season in several directions.

The schedule impact is rough. Michigan's tourney fortunes may end up tied closely to the fate of this LSU team if the Wolverines end up on the bubble. While LSU has looked good early on, they were terrible last year—this could wind up being a bad loss on the resume, though I suspect Tremont Waters is going to get the Tigers respectable soon. The bigger deal is having an opportunity to play Notre Dame replaced by a date with D-II Chaminade, a no-win game for Michigan. Instead of getting three quality opponents out of this week, they only get two.

The point guard situation is the team's biggest problem. Let's get the bad out of the way. While there were some flashes of talent from Eli Brooks, who canned a pull-up three and had a nifty drop-off assist to Moe Wagner, the point guard position is still in major flux. John Beilein put his trust in Brooks down the stretch; Brooks missed a couple crucial shots, got pickpocketed by Waters, and had a difficult time staying in front of Waters down the stretch.

Those are growing pains you expect from a freshman point guard. The problem is that Brooks is being relied upon in the first place. Zavier Simpson almost wasn't playable because of his passivity on offense—he didn't attempt a shot in ten minutes—and he had his troubles with Waters as well, picking up four fouls. Jaaron Simmons went 0/1 with an assist and a turnover in 15 minutes. Even if this team is going to run through the wings, which it sure looks like will be the case, they need way more production from this spot.

Duncan Robinson's defense is one, too. LSU mimicked Oregon's game plan from last year's tournament, isolating Robinson when they got the opportunity and attacking him off the dribble. To little surprise, this worked.

Far more concerning was Robinson's offense, which was all but nonexistent. He was unable to shake lanky 6'5" wing Brandon Sampson, scoring his only points on a transition three and getting nothing in the halfcourt. Michigan will be in trouble against bigger, more athletic teams if they're unable to find ways to free up Robinson for shots.

Charles Matthews looks like a star. There was still plenty of good in this game, none better than the performance of Matthews: a game-high 28 points (9/15 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt, 7/10 FT) with six offensive rebounds and two assists while playing his usual strong defense.

Michigan's offense was at its best when it ran through Matthews, especially when he paired with Moe Wagner (24 points, 6/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) as a screener. The most effective play was the side pick-and-pop, which opened driving lanes for Matthews to sky for short jumpers and easy midrange opportunities for Wagner. It took the team most of the first half to find this offense, however, and they strayed from it at times in the second; I'm excited about the future of a team that makes this their identity.

Other quick notes:

  • While Jon Teske didn't make a huge splash tonight, he still looked good out there. He batted another offensive rebound back out for a reset, engulfed a shot off a drive, and dished out a pretty assist. His post passing looks like it could be special—it's already quite good.
  • This was a rough game for Ibi Watson, who chucked four shots, making only one, in eight minutes and giving up some easy blow-bys on defense. He's going to lose his minutes to Brooks and perhaps Jordan Poole, who got in for a minute tonight, if things don't get better fast. He may be a good player in practice but it's not translating to games.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had an uneven performance. He couldn't find the mark from the outside, missing all five of his threes. He was great at getting to the basket, however, and made 4-of-8 twos, including some tough baskets to keep it close down the stretch. MAAR was often the only Wolverine willing to assert himself, especially when Wagner and/or Matthews weren't on the floor.
  • Isaiah Livers had a putback and a steal in 12 minutes. I noticed some trouble on defense and on the boards, though, and that type of stuff is going to hold him back from getting more minutes unless Robinson goes into an extended slump.
  • Tomorrow's game against Chaminade tips off at 8 pm EST on ESPN 2.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]



November 21st, 2017 at 2:41 AM ^

Trading ND for Chaminade is not good at all. Michigan might as well go surfing tomorrow. And playing WSU is off the table too.

I thought we see some turbulence at point guard, but that was rough. I hope Simmons can at least bring some stability in future games.


November 21st, 2017 at 1:34 PM ^

Did LSU really look that bad last night? I didn't think so. Yea it really fucks our SOS and we should've won the game but LSU looks like at least a 15 win team...they also play in the damned SEC so that shouldn't be that unreasonable for them to not be a stinker on our schedule.


November 21st, 2017 at 10:10 AM ^

Texas is a perfect example.  Last year Texas finished ranked 156th in the rpi rankings.  You want your non-conference schedule to have a fair amount of teams that finish in the Top 100 of the rankings and preferably some of those teams are in the Top 50, if not Top 25.  

The kicker with UM's non-conference schedule every year is they schedule some really, really bad teams.  They usually have some teams that are ranked around 250 if not in the 300s.  It really depends on how well LSU, Cal/VCU, UCLA end up being.  



November 21st, 2017 at 11:40 AM ^

I'm not sold on Texas, and Cal/VCU are maybe bubble teams at best. It would have been nice to get a win against an SEC team and also at least get a crack at a top-20 team.

Also, I have no idea about UCLA this year. They have talent, but if you told me they imploded because of the off-the-court stuff, I wouldn't be shocked.


November 21st, 2017 at 2:45 AM ^

Lsu is gonna be good.

That pg will Walton them some wins. We're just victim #1.

Mathews is a more skilled GRIII.

Ja'aron Simmons will get better. He's not confident in the offense yet, and that hesitation is taking points away. As his understanding improves, so will the offense.


November 21st, 2017 at 11:22 AM ^

The weakest hot take last night in the comments was "we lost to a 10 win team." The fortunes of basketball teams can swing wildly from year to year. I am not going to say LSU is good yet, but let's let the season play out a little before embracing doom and gloom.

One Armed Bandit

November 21st, 2017 at 2:57 AM ^

Which I have no doubt will improve over the season. But LSU relied more on its athleticism than running an executable, efficient offense and it cost us. And early in the season, playing more athletic teams that rely on that advantage while waiting for our execution to get better might cost us again, but we'll see. LSU didn't look disciplined and who know how many times they just threw the ball and the basket and it went in. Can't do anything about that. At the end of the day, basketball is about making shots.

It's disappointing to lose, but there are positives. Not sure about keeping a freshman PG against a VCU-like trapping and pressing defense, but I'm sure Beilein had his reasons. 


November 21st, 2017 at 11:27 AM ^

He was in during our run to a 9 point lead. The mistake was bringing in Z. He was cold after sitting for ~14 minutes of game time. LSU attacked him immediately and got a dubious 3 point play out of it. Our offense stalled with him at point, they went back down and shot a 3 over our smaller defense. Boom, it's a 3 point game.


November 21st, 2017 at 3:54 AM ^

I wrote up some thoughts for the open thread so posting here:

The Good

1. Matthews obviously looked awesome.  Finished incredibly well, he posted up, he drove, he had the mid-range game working. Hit the glass hard (6 OREBs!!).  All that and he's easily our best defender.  He was far and away the MVP.

2. Wagner had a great Wagner offensive game, especially in the second half when we (thankfully) scrapped a lot of the motion/set offense that we were running the first half and ran more isos for Mo and Matthews and ball screens with Mo picking and popping. However, on the other side of the floor, yikes.  I'll get to that in the bad, though.

The Bad

1. Every single player on LSU shot 50% or better.  Every single one that took a shot! Duncan and Wagner are major culprits, and our perimeter defense was....porous to say the least. So individually:

2. Duncan. You touched on this, but we started out the game switching ball screens and LSU twice early got Duncan on the PG.  The first one the PG hit a step back 3, the second he drove past Duncan, forced the help and kicked for a corner 3.  8-2. They would continue exploiting him.  Duncan remains a pretty largely negative impact player.  His offense does not nearly make up for his defense (just 1-4 for 3 points), but we have to start him right now because...

3. Livers is very much playing like a freshman.  He was beaten off an inbounds play because he played his man completely wrong, and then he lost his guy to give up an easy OREB putback to cost us a quick 4 in the first half.  He looks the part athletically, though, and had a nice backdoor cut and finish (Robinson couldn't finish a nearly identical play) and shot with confidence. He needs to learn where to be, though.  Those things are pretty simple concepts (ones I would expect a college player to get already but most HS coaches don't demand much), and he should pick those things up pretty quickly but it's not a gaurantee as evidenced by...

4. Wagner didn't look good on defense, and somehow I think it got worse. He's doing all the same stuff that made him unplayable at the end of last year.  He simply does not help on defense.  He was responsible for nearly every basket at the rim in the second half. It is not a coincidence that he played most of the second half and we gave up 46.  The baseline dunk by (I think) Sampson midway through the second half was baffling.  Wagner was actually where he needed to be and as the guy drove towards him, he simply stepped out of the way to give the guy the dunk rather than take the charge/challenge the shot.  I just don't get it.  It's almost as if he thinks playing good defense only means not letting your own man score.  I don't understand how coaching hasn't sunk in with him. It seemed like last year maybe it could still have been a language barrier, but in year three, I dunno, man. He needs to channel himself some Jordan Morgan though.

5. Last but certainly not least, the PG situation is disappointing that Brooks looks the best right now, but he was definitely the best. He was in during the big run in the second half, he hit a three, he drove for a Kobe assist that Matthews finished.  Beilein kept him in and it was justified completely.  Zavier Simpson can't shoot and couldn't even stay in front of his man, which makes him unplayable. Simmons doesn't look comfortable in the offense yet, and isn't very good at defense.  That bad thing happened at the end of the game to Brooks, but he's a young guy. He'll learn.  That wasn't what cost us the game, anyway. It was:

6. Putting in Simpson for Matthews (of all players!) when we were up 9 with 5 min to go.  Immediately gave up 6 (!!) points in less than a minute to let them right back in the game.  Why we went with our worst defensive lineup (Brooks, Z, MAAR, Duncan, Wagner) when we had a 9 point lead with 5 min to go is baffling, but we quickly yanked Z to put Matthews back in.  I don't know if Matthews needed a break, but we don't really have a backup for him so that could be a problem. It's not like Watson was playing better defense.

What it means for the future:

1. Gotta figure out the PG spot, either with Simmons taking control of the Pick n Roll offense or Brooks.  I think one of them will emerge as solid.

2. Even more importantly, need to get Livers up to speed to get him playing 30 min a game so Duncan can back up the 3 and 4 spots.

3. I don't have a lot of hope for Wagner's defense at this point, but it is so frustrating because it is 95% mental.  Just be in the spots Jordan Morgan was in, put your hands up, and you'd be a good defender!

We could be pretty good if 2 out of these 3 get fixed because Matthews is special and Wagner is incredible on offense.

N. Campus Tech

November 21st, 2017 at 9:39 AM ^

I haven't watched this game yet, but based in what you are saying and what I've seen in previous games, our starting 5 needs to be Brooks, MAAR, Mathews, Livers and Wagner.

Duncan is too much of a liability on defense, and he hasn't looked great on offense yet this season. Teams know how to play him now. I he's not hitting his shots, there is no point in not playing the freshman and getting him ready for the end of the season.


November 21st, 2017 at 10:11 AM ^

just because of the frequency of freshmen mistakes he's still making.  I was very encouraged that Livers will be ready to start and play bigger minutes at some point this season though, because he looked comfortable on offense.  That's always a big thing question mark for young guys, can they be comfortable playing in front of crowds and on TV?  That's Ibi Watson's issue (it was Kam Chatman's issue) and it seems to be Simpson's issue and even Simmons playing on a bigger stage looks off.

Brooks and Livers look ready save for the correctable mental mistakes they're still making and I expect them to get better and better.  I also still have hope that Simmons will settle down and play the way he did at Ohio.  He could be a real asset in the pick and roll.


November 21st, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

"That's always a big thing question mark for young guys, can they be comfortable playing in front of crowds and on TV?"


How would they even know they're "on TV?"

I think the increased speed of the game and size of the opponents has way more to do with adjustments than the size of crowds or knowing the game will be televised.


November 21st, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

guys are very aware that when they get to the college level they're on national television and a lot more people are watching and scrutinizing than ever before.

The basket is ten feet high.  That Ibi Watson went 1-18 from three as a freshman has absolutely nothing to do with the speed of the game or size of the players.  It's just him and the ball and a basket the same dimensions he's played on his whole life....and his brain.

When some guys are standing wide open in the corner and the ball is coming to them, their brain is going omgomgomgomg I'm wide open, I gotta hit this, my girlfriend is watching, how does my hair look, holy cow everyone is watching me, I gotta hit this, omgomgomgomg.  If you can't turn off that voice, it's hard to shoot open shots in basketball.

Obviously, the rest of the game (getting open, creating shots, playing defense, rebounding, etc) is all about whether you can compete with the bigger, faster guys and doing those things doesn't require guys to fight their neurotic brains that cause the tiniest of hitches in a shot (it's like putting in golf).  That mental aspect of the game mostly comes into play while shooting open shots.  But in this offense you have to be able to hit open shots.


November 21st, 2017 at 3:13 PM ^

and he's been a plus rebounder.  I just went back and watched his first half minutes and he was actually excellent on defense.  In 4 post ups, his man went 1-3 plus a travel (the make was the one Dakich had an orgasm about because they guy hit a fadeaway over a 7'1er). Not sure if that'll hold up against guys with better moves but he's big and he had good position. 

On two PnR swtiches he had a steal and a block.  On another post up, he fronted his guy, they had to throw it over him and since that has to get so deep, we stole it.  That's two points allowed on basically seven possessions.

He did allow Epps to shoot two open threes and the one from the corner went down.  I don't fault him for that. I'm not expecting him to defend threes on a guy that probably wasn't on the scouting report for this probably lightly scouted game. FWIW,  Epps was actually a 44% 3pt shooter last year for anyone thinking that was lucky. It wasn't, really.  He can shoot (and hit one on Wagner in the second half).

The other two scoring events involving him: a play on which MAARs guy screened him that was more MAARs fault because he didn't even see it to tell Teske or to help out.  A play on which his guy screened Livers. Livers was out of position and should have never allowed himself to get picked but Teske could possibly have helped out.

In brief second half minutes, he did foul on a pick and roll switch where he reached on a play almost identical to his steal in the first half but the guy blew by him. I don't like the reaching, because it opens you up for fouls and blow bys but our bigs do it and get some steals, so maybe they have the green light for it.

On offense, we bog down a little bit with him out there because it necessarily means Wagner isn't on the floor but we also were running a motion offense with him at the FT line setting away screens for curls and then posting. It worked ok and he got MAAR and Matthews some pretty good looks off curls. But since he didn't even attempt a post move (maybe thankfully?), he's just looking to kick and no one is helping down on him so him posting up isn't really helping.

He's going to be most useful as a screener and he set a couple balls screens that got guys open mid-range jumpers.  He's a good passer as Ace mentioned.  The ball screens would work better for him if guys he was running it with were bigger threats to hit threes, but his man can sag off and clog things up in the lane if they're not (Simpson, Matthews).  Hopefully Simmons and Matthews can get that part of their games going. Brooks might be a threat too.

I am very impressed with Teske's improvement.


November 21st, 2017 at 7:28 AM ^

Granted it was late and my perception likely foggy because of it, but I think some of the hot takes here are a little harsh.  I agree that PG is a disaster right now becuase it is what makes a Beilein offense go and we're getting less out of three scholarship players than we did in the Lee/Merritt/Grady year.  

Otherwise, here are my counter takes (noting I missed the first 5 min):

  • Duncan had a rough night on offense, but in the game I saw I didn't see him be brutal on D.  He's the oldest player on the court and playing the 4, so expecting him to shut down athletic guards on a switch is foolish.  I actually thought his transition defense was great when he was stuck on his own a couple of times.  He needs to generate offense, yes, but there was maybe one time when I noticed bad defense out of him in the second half.
  • Likewise, I didn't agree with the commenter ripping Wagner's D. Again, is he going to become Scottie Pippin at this point?  No - but I didn't think he did anything egregious.  He allowed a late 3 in a scramble play that was frustrating, but otherwise held up fine.
  • I don't think Livers is adding much at this point, but I also don't think he's hurting us too much out there.  I think he stays in the rotation all year. 

To me this felt a lot like the football team - snakebit.  We can't get those 50-50 plays or calls. This is best summarized by the loose ball dives.  Matthews dives on the floor for a loose ball and is called for a non-sensical foul. LSU does it, knocking Rahk to the ground, and it turns into the critical deciding play.  We didn't get a couple of block/charge coin flips and they gave an LSU player a NBA-Jam style and-1 that NEVER gets called in the NCAA.  Most crazy of all was that the LSU PG hit 3-4 insane shots.  How in the hell did those two falling layups or half-court 3 go in?  

I think LSU is going to be fine as they have a couple of studs and play a manageable schedule.  


November 21st, 2017 at 11:38 AM ^

I agree with the hot takes. He was brutal on defense. They constantly attacked him. His man was the screener so they could get him on a guard after the switch. He is too weak to stand in and take a charge. He is not quick enough to challenge the step-back three. If he is not going to score double digits, he becomes a liability. He is much better suited as the instant offense guy coming off the bench when Mo, MAAR, or Matthews needs a breather.


November 21st, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

I'll admit to being slightly harsh on Wagner due to recency bias.  His defense was good in the first half.  He was great switching on the PnR, he got a steal fronting the post once, he post defense once his guy got the ball was fine.

The wheels came off badly in the second half.  He missed numerous rotations, he gave up two OREB putbacks (on lazily missed box outs), instead of moving his feet, he reverted to reaching and picked up some dumb fouls, and he gave up two daggers to Epps at the end. 

I gave Teske a pass on the three given up to him in the first half, and I'll even give Wagner a pass on the long two (when it was 70-65), but by then you have start denying the guy. Instead he sat lazily in the paint while Epps was only a pass away, wide open for three, and he drained it to make it 73-72.  That's inexusable (especially since after he hit the three on Teske, the coaches had to say, oh, btw don't let him shoot, he was 44% last year).

The good thing is, I think it was as much fatigue as anything else.  He looked tired, and that's usually the reason you start reaching and not moving your feet. He only got about a one minute break in the second half.  Beilein probably should have given him longer given that Teske was playing just fine. He played a lot for being a big guy that isn't used to playing more than 20-25 min a game.  His conditioning will be something to watch for as we ask for more minutes from him this season.  The positive thing, I guess, is that he doesn't let that affect his offense.  He was still shooting it well and being aggressive.  He's the kind of player that rests on defense to save energy for offense and we need him to not need to do that.

Duncan, FWIW, struggled as badly as it appeared live (picked up a couple other drives allowed that were on him including getting beat badly on the baseline drive that Wagner also didn't help out on). His problem is entirely physical though.  He just can't stay in front of perimeter players (and because of that, can't play up on them enough to deter a three in his face).


November 21st, 2017 at 7:45 AM ^

Lol the Michigan basketball and football fan base aren’t the same. The vast majority of football fans don’t give two shits about the basketball team which is why they can barely sell out Crisler for big games. Michigan’s basketball culture is mediocre as hell which is disappointing given the recent run of success and history.

Anyways I’m nervous about the Chaminade game, this team hasn’t shown an ability to put away bad teams yet and is a jump shooting team playing on extremely short rest after an emotional game. This looks a like a team that’s going to need to win some games in the big ten tournament to get in. Not sure how i see us to getting to good this year but hopefully Eli Brooks the freshman progress fast.


November 21st, 2017 at 8:41 AM ^

this is a rather comprehensive over-reaction.  They lost a game, man.  I think everybody realizes that Michigan does not have the same kind of dedicated following that Michigan football does, but what the hell does that have to do with anything right now?  Simpson and Simmons played poorly last night, obviously we have some things to sort out at point guard.  The bigger story is Matthews, who looked like every bit the player we need him to be.  There is still on opportunity to play and beat a solid team in this tournament.  Yes, this was not an ideal loss.  No, we should not run around and panic.


November 21st, 2017 at 9:23 AM ^

I meant to reply to the coment about how they lost just when the fanbase needed a win due to football.


I'm not panicking about the season but the chaminade worry is more from the north florida and central michigan games than the lsu game.  We haven't put away bad teams this year, are playing them on their home court and are coming off an emotional game on short rest.  We beat them 9 times out of 10, I'm worried this is setting up to be that 10th time.  Overall I thought Michigan would be a little over .500 in big ten play before the year and nothing I've seen so far has changed that opinion which puts Michigan squarely on the bubble. I think that is the general sentiment around this team from most honest people and it would take a surprise performance from a couple of unknowns to push us over that hump.  Last year we got DJ and Walton to step up beyond expectations.  Beilein has done it plenty of times so I'm not  counting it out, but there are also years it hasn't happened so until I see it I'm not counting on it either.


November 21st, 2017 at 10:23 AM ^

Chaminade is in Honolulu.  I have no idea why they have always hosted their tournament on Maui.

And, not only are they a DII program, they have to recruit people to Hawaii, which isn't as easy as you'd think.  (First and foremost, they have to weed out the kids who are just looking for a free trip to Hawaii :-).

Michigan will beat them 99 times out of 100.  Chaminade will be the least talented team that Michigan will face this year.

As for the bubble talk -- I'm not willing to call their trajectory until mid-December at the earliest.  @UNC, vs. Indiana, @OSU, vs. UCLA, @Texas.  KenPom calls for 2.4 wins.  If they don't get at least 2, I'll start to be concerned.

Flying Dutchman

November 21st, 2017 at 7:49 AM ^

The senior MAAR should be the primary PG this season, especially with a flashy wing like Charles Matthews and a mobile big like Moe.

Get the best defense and any offensive spark you can get out of the ‘small guard’ minutes this year, but keep the ball mostly in the hands of MAAR, Matthews and Moe. The 3 Ms.


November 21st, 2017 at 8:12 AM ^

I cannot see dividing the minutes between the point guards as EVER having any merit. This is a coaching error...plain and simple.  There is a special level of coaching incompetence when you start one PG then play your freshmen PG down the stretch...after he (Brooks) barely got to play in the previous game. Indeed, I believe Brooks should be the player here. But make this HIS team now and get on with the show because at the end of the season, if given the opportunity, he will be the biggest difference-maker. 



November 21st, 2017 at 11:44 AM ^

Or it could be Beilein is tinkering with lineups to find the one that works best with the large number of new players on the team.

But sure, it's an incompetent coach who has no track record of getting the most out of his PGs.

Honestly, I'm fine with the rotation except that he seemed to pick the wrong guy the end the game. That's a learning moment for the team, not some sign of incompetence.


November 21st, 2017 at 8:41 AM ^

Just saw the score. Damn man, I really wanted a chance at Notre Dame, however, I don't think we would have won. Michigan sports is starting to hurt my feels a bit here.. As the good coach always says "onward." 


November 21st, 2017 at 8:51 AM ^

I know Beilein was trying to rest him until the under 4 TV timeout, but LSU got back in the game with him on the bench.  They should have kept him in the game until the TV timeout or around the 4:30 mark.

Year of Revenge II

November 21st, 2017 at 8:51 AM ^

Like a lot of Beilein teams, this team is SOFT.  

He better find a way to harden them up to play some defense, box out, and rebound.  Scoring will come, but Simpson is only a relief point guard. Go with the freshman or Simmons.


November 21st, 2017 at 9:20 AM ^

Always worse when you're emotionally attached to a loss! Two guys scored > 2/3 of our points, that seems, not good. But the scoreline makes me think we either missed a buzzer beater, or LSU made one to win? Those type of tight games happen throughout a season, regardless of competition level, and we were just on the wrong side of this one.


November 21st, 2017 at 11:18 AM ^

Emphasis, mine.


But the scoreline makes me think we either missed a buzzer beater, or LSU made one to win?


So we missed a game winning shot at the end. That's a 50/50 game if I ever seen one. I think it's too early to say that's a good, bad, or neutral performance that we came out on the wrong side of the coin flip.