Michigan 77, Nebraska 58 Comment Count

Ace March 2nd, 2018 at 5:51 PM

Hits first three, M goes off. The hypothesis holds. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

That was pleasantly different.

Michigan played a game entirely unlike both their first matchup with Nebraska and yesterday's overtime win over Iowa, using scorching shooting and suffocating defense to post a 77-58 blowout of the Huskers in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

When these teams last met, Moe Wagner scored only two points in 32 minutes, effectively taken out of the game by Nebraska's all-switch approach on defense. This time around, Wagner and the Wolverines were ready. He surpassed his first-game scoring total within the first two minutes on his way to a monster stat line: 20 points on 18 shot equivalents, a game-high 13 rebounds (three offensive), an assist, two blocks, and a steal in 33 minutes. In case the Huskers weren't fully aware that Wagner had solved their defense, he let them know about it after seemingly every bucket, often removing his mouthguard to let loose the trash talk.

"For him to get 13 rebounds today is exceptional," said John Beilein. "And that's been -- that's one of the things that I think if he's going to play in the pros one day, that was one of the things -- he's a stretch four at that level. Stretch fours have to, they certainly have to rebound. And he's really shown some great growth there."

When Michigan played yesterday, it took them 30 minutes to hit a shot outside the paint. Wagner's triple with 18:18 left in the first half eliminated the possibility of a repeat early and the Wolverines went on to torch the nets. Michigan went 11-for-23 from beyond the arc with Wagner (2-for-4), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (a perfect 5-or-5), and Duncan Robinson (4-for-7) accounting for all the makes.

Z repeatedly worked his way to the bucket and converted. [Campredon]

Those three combined for 57 points. Zavier Simpson, showing an impressive array of finishes off the bounce, chipped in 12 points, making 4-of-8 field goals and all four(!) of his free throws while adding a game-high six assists. No other Wolverine hit a shot from the field until a meaningless Jordan Poole putback in the final minute.

Outside of a rough game from Poole (1-for-9 from the field), that was more indicative of the main guys carrying the load than a poor performance from anyone else. Nebraska tried ditching their previously effective all-switch man defense in favor of an extended 1-3-1 zone before the first half even ended. That didn't hold up for long; any attempts to go zone in the second stanza were bombarded.

"I think we've just seen it a lot more," Adbur-Rahkman. "As of late, teams have been trying to switch out their defenses against us. And I think we were just more comfortable with it today and we just picked our poison within our offense and found open shots in slots."

Meanwhile, one holdover from yesterday was Michigan's salty defense, which held the Huskers to .866 points per possession. After Nebraska made four of their first five out of the game, the defense went on full lockdown, forcing misses on 19 of their ensuing 20 shots. The Huskers barely scraped above 30% shooting for the game and had to resort to flinging themselves at the hoop in the hopes of drawing fouls; while that worked to an extent—they went 22-for-27 from the line—it couldn't keep their offense afloat.

Nope. [Campredon]

Wagner, Jon Teske, and Charles Matthews blocked two shots apiece. Simpson harrassed point guard Glynn Watson in a 4-for-12 shooting day with two turnovers canceling out two assists. James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby each managed to score 16 points but combined to go 7-for-18 from the field. There were few easy looks, whether at the basket or beyond the arc.

Heck, the game went so well that Michigan even got an excellent six-minute stint out of Ibi Watson in the first half. Coming off seven straight wins and nine of their last ten, the Wolverines will face Michigan State in tomorrow's 2 pm ET semifinal. There's little need to pump up that game, especially with the Spartans looking to avenge a loss on their home floor in this season's only meeting so far.

"It's going to be a challenge again tomorrow," said Beilein. "But we're better defensively than we were back then. But they're probably better offensively. So who knows what's going to happen."

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

Late closeouts are death. [Campredon]

Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers taking a selfy in the locker room after the victory over Nebraska! - Spherical Image - Marc-Gregor Campredon



March 2nd, 2018 at 6:06 PM ^

I will be shocked if they beat State...very pleased but very surprised. State has everything pointing in its favor tomorrow. I love Michigan's roster-lots of nice depth but three games in three days...just not enough left in the tank here. 

I do believe they have played themselves into at least a 6 seed-no matter what happens tomorrow. 


March 2nd, 2018 at 10:15 PM ^

Y'all are just thin-skinned, mindless partisans who don't know a damn thing about the game. My statement/point had nothing to do with liking or disliking anyone. Michigan is going to be playing for the third consecutive day against a very talented team who just played poorly and won. Almost invariably in this scenario said team comes back and plays very well in their next game-it' just what happens-it's what Michigan just did. Michigan's advantage here is that they will get to play without any pressure. That's all.


March 2nd, 2018 at 11:03 PM ^

about MSU after they lost to OSU, then they had a another terrible game against Rutgers and required OT to win at home, then everyone was sure they'd smoke us at home.

Whoops.  They most certainly did not.  Your theory does not hold. Sure, they're a talented team and should reasonably be favored but it's far closer to a coin flip than you think. It would not at all be a shock if we win.

Kenpom says we have a 38% chance and that's about exactly right.

San Diego Mick

March 2nd, 2018 at 11:18 PM ^

Wisconsin gave Sparty a hell of a game and controlled the tempo, this will be something MSU will have a very tough time with as we are really good at controlling tempo and add the fact that we're a way better team than the Badgers.

If we're hitting our shots we will win, MSU has won a lot of ugly games lately, it's not like they've been dominant, they've skated by quite often.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:30 PM ^

They “Should” be a 4 seed unless they get blown out tomorrow. I don’t care how many Nostradamus quatrain wins they have or not. Texas Tech has lost four in a row and Auburn has lost two in a row. That puts Michigan at number 13 in the country as of this moment. If they factored in how teams are playing right now they could be in contention for a 3 seed.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:38 PM ^

Sadly for Michigan, you're not on the committee.  You may not care how many quadrant 1 wins Michigan has, but the committee does.

They're currently the last 5 seed on the Bracket Matrix.  Now, the Matrix can certainly be wrong -- but thanks to Jim Delany, Michigan's already played most of its cards.  If they lose tomorrow, they will be watching the teams around them move up the board through the conference tournaments next week while they can't do a thing about it.

Michigan's rounding into a very good team this year, but the committee does not seed based on the teams playing the best basketball.  They seed based on the teams with the best résumé, and Michigan's just isn't as good as some others will be by Selection Sunday, especially if they lose tomorrow.

Besides, until I see the committee ignore the RPI, I'm going to believe they still use it, and Michigan is a 6-seed in the RPI right now.


March 2nd, 2018 at 11:05 PM ^

will move up?  Some will move up and some will not finish well and drop such that there's no reason to expect M to move up or down on net after they're finished playing this weekend.

As for RPI and the bracket matrix:

1) the committee doesn't seed straight by RPI.  There are lots of exceptions every season.  And since we're 15th on kenpom right now and a glistening 10th in SOR, which was a metric that appears to have weighed heavily into last years seeding. there are lots of reasons to seed us ahead of our RPI.

2) If you look at the bracket matrix and actually compare resumes, Michigan stacks up very well to some teams ahead of them, especially since these last two wins haven't factored into most brackets (none in the case of today's Nebraska game).  We're ahead of Texas Tech, WVU and Gonzaga in RPI even though they're ahead of us in the bracket, so by your theory, we'd have to be ahead of them.  Even if you look at the resume from all angles, we stack up very well to Clemson, Texas Tech, OSU, Gonzaga, Kentucky, WVU and Arizona at this point.  Reasonable to argue we could be ahead of all of them.  We'd only have to be ahead of the majority of them to be a 4 seed.

I think a win tomorrow means an almost certain 4 seed.  Even with a loss we have a decent chance.  Maybe 50/50.

EDIT: Already, OSU losing tonight puts them behind us on the S-curve and they'll stay there with no more games left.


March 3rd, 2018 at 1:31 AM ^

Some teams around them will move up.  The rationale is simple -- Michigan's advantage in games played is being factored into the projections already.  On the bracket projections, teams won't generally be moved down for a "good loss," but they will be moved up for a good win.

Now, if any of the teams around Michigan suffer a bad loss, they'll cetainly fall behind, but the conference tournaments are generally set up to avoid bad losses wherever possible (that's the rationale behind the ridiculous double-bye brackets like the Big Ten uses).  i'm not saying that Michigan can't hold onto its seedline, just that it's more likely they will be passed by a hot team than that cold teams around them will drop.

Do we really know (genuine question) whether the SOR factored into the ratings or if it happened to match them fairly well ex post facto?  I remember being extremely disappointed when reading about the meetings that the selection committee had with some of the analytics guys, because it seemed to be more for show than anything else -- as in, "OK, we listened, now go away and let us do what we've been doing for years."  (BTW: Michigan appears to have been #23 in SOR last year, although I'm not sure if that's pre- or post-tournament.  Oklahoma State was #29, though -- and Minnesota was #32).

One thing I'm sure of is that Michigan had a more impressive résumé in nearly every category last year than they do this year.  (The biggest exception is the number -- but not quality -- of losses).  What I'm most worried about is that Michigan currently has exaclty two wins over tournament locks.  Texas is currently the last team in the field on the Bracket Matrix, and UCLA is the second team out.  Last year, Michigan finished with 8 (SMU, Marquette, MSU, Wisconsin x2, Purdue x2, Minnesota).  I'm really worried that the committee is going to look at the overall résumé and say "meh."

And, yes, it's possible that Michigan just passed OSU on the S-Curve, but it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't.  OSU has a weird profile -- three very good wins (@Purdue, vs. MSU, vs. Michigan) and little else.  Michigan only has two wins as good as those 3, but has more meat in the middle... but Michigan also has the albatross of the loss at Northwestern, a blemish that OSU doesn't have.  I'd sure like to pick up one or two more quality wins to solidify the profile. :)

BTW -- the mistake that I think you're making is that you're only looking up the S-Curve. You need to look backwards too.  Barring further Michigan wins, if Florida wins the SEC, they're likely to pass Michigan; ditto Arkansas.  If they each win a couple of games, they might both do it.  Same story in the ACC -- Miami or Virginia Tech could pass Michigan.  (Don't laugh: Virginia Tech has the most impressive win of the season -- @UVa -- and also beat Duke and UNC in Blacksburg.  Suppose they get two more wins over that group; they'd look a lot better on paper than Michigan in every metric except the RPI, since their addiction to Charmin-soft non-conference games persists).

Anwyay, here's hoping tomorrow is the midpoint of a season-ending 15 game winning streak, and we can all look back at seeding discussions and chuckle. :)

Go Blue!

Mr Miggle

March 2nd, 2018 at 11:47 PM ^

when Penn State won. The committee hasn't stuck cose to RPI in the past and have insisted they will use it less this year. And have in fact laid out a detailed formula.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:52 PM ^

KenPom's preview just came out -- he's got MSU -4, with a 38% chance for Michigan to pull off the upset.  And, the only person so far that really looks gassed is Jordan Poole.  Between the fouls yesterday and the fact that they were up big most of the game today, Michigan was able to get some rest for several key guys.

MSU's Super Bowl is tomorrow -- they won't say it, but they'd rather win tomorrow and lose in the NCAAs than lose tomorrow and go to the Final Four.  I think MSU probably should be favored.  But it's not going to be a "shock" if Michigan wins.


March 3rd, 2018 at 1:41 AM ^

I think the absolute ceiling is the third 3 seed, but it would take absolutely everything going right -- Texas and UCLA playing their way up to 9 seeds instead of bubble teams and hugely stratified results.  Basically, root for every projected 1 & 2 seed to win their conferences, because Michigan can't pass them anyway, and root for every projected 3, 4, 5, and 6 seed to lose as early as possible.

Teams I don't think Michigan can pass, no matter what: UVa, Nova, Kansas, MSU, tomorrow's Duke/UNC winner, Xavier, Purdue, one of Cincy/WichSt (whichever the committee prefers).  Additionally, I think they'll finish behind one SEC team (Auburn, Tennessee, or Kentucky) and one additional Big 12 team (Texas Tech or West Virginia).

They'll probably also finish behind the loser of tomorrow's Duke / UNC game, but if that team then lost their first round game in the ACC tournament, their profile would be similar to Michigan's but I think Michigan could pass them.

I think the realistic ceiling is a 4 seed.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:07 PM ^

What happens tomorrow really doesn't matter to me. Right now Michigan is playing as well as anyone in the country, and woe regional that gets the Wolverines. If anything, this team is better equipped to go deep in the tourney this year than any since maybe even the should-been winner in 2013. It's not as strong offensively, but this is one of the best defensive teams in the country. It really is a site to behold.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:13 PM ^

I care about tomorrow, but almost entirely for rivalry pride reasons. The team is solidly in the tournament and should merit an ok seed, good enough to make the Sweet Sixteen at least a good chance. And then, who knows?

I think you might be overstating how well equipped the team is--2013 and 2014 were both loaded, and this team has some key flaws that could sabotage an otherwise good run--but the defense they're playing does indeed give them a good chance in every game. It's going to be fun.


March 2nd, 2018 at 6:43 PM ^

FT shooting is a pretty big flaw (please, please, let Z's 4-4 day not be a mirage) but I feel like this team is also a hair weak offensively, lacking a guy that can just demolish as the ball-mover in the P n R either driving or making threes. MAAR is the closest we have, but he's not on the same level as Burke, Stauskas, or late 2017 Walton. 

That's ok, this is a really good team. Given a stable lineup, Beilein has been able to manufacture teams that win using their strengths and dealing with their weaknesses. This is a great example of that.

And I am fully ready to be persuaded that I am underrating them by, say, a run to the Elite Eight or the Final Four.


March 3rd, 2018 at 9:35 AM ^

MAAR is not better at attacking the rim than Bruke or Stauskas. His numbers around the rim aren't at their level. MAAR recently is very good. Burke, Stauskas, last 2 month Walton = All-American level players.


The 2014 and 2013 teams' offenses were crazy good. Like #1 in the country good. This team is 40th on offense.


March 3rd, 2018 at 12:56 AM ^

of what matters for a team when compared to shooting, ball security, defense, rebounding, etc.

Especially since we don't shoot many FTs. We've yet to lose a game because of poor FT shooting in 33 tries. It would be nice if we were a little better, but it's not the worst weakness to have if you only have one, and it is fairly accurate to say that's our only weakness.