Michigan 79, Illinois 69 Comment Count

Seth January 6th, 2018 at 3:04 PM


[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Kenpom said Michigan would win by 10, and lo and behold Michigan won by 10. Matthews hit all of his shots (except the free throws) and Wagner scored in double digits for the first time since his ankle injury, driving the lane against an overmatched opponent.

I’m telling you that up front in case you watched the first 12 minutes and decided to go build that dresser for your mother in law or something.

I can’t blame you if you did, since the first quarter of this game was some of the ugliest basketball all year. Michigan came out looking not at all ready for the constant pressure a Brad Underwood team puts on opponents, turning the ball over 12 times—one third of their first half possessions. Even more lost than Michigan’s backcourt were the referees, who were calling everything and nothing, including eight rather tacky offensive fouls (six on Michigan). Charles Matthews picked up two such early whistles and spent most of the half on the bench. Illinois quickly went on a 9-2 run to take a 17-9 lead, helped by two big corner threes by freshman Mark Smith.

Beilein countered with a Poole-Livers lineup, wherein Isaiah Livers starting dunking everything in sight. Michigan finally retook the lead on a quick upcourt pass from Zavier Simpson to Jordan Poole set up outside the arc. The poor lone Illinois defender can be forgiven for thinking this would be an immediate shot—I mean, it’s Poole—but nah:

via Ace

Jaaron Simmons took over point after an Illinois timeout and the Illini climbed back to a 34-31 halftime lead that felt as flimsy as a mail order dresser held together by three cam screws in a quarter inch of particle board.

As play resumed, that lead disappeared in seconds as Michigan settled into the team they’d been since mid-December. The Illini couldn’t prevent Matthews from burning their perimeter defenders, and once Charles sat with a third foul, Poole offered a pair of threes to put the Wolverines up by double digits, with MAAR and Wagner closing it out as they do.


as he do. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Zavier Simpson started and played 32 minutes, including all 20 minutes of the second half. Despite the early turnovers—he’d finish with five—he continued to demonstrate the #1 job is his, setting up Michigan’s best offensive possessions with some superb outlet passes—the resulting 10 points off fast breaks made up the Kenpom-predicted difference between these two teams. Brooks and Simmons finished with three turnovers and two assists in 8 minutes. Even Z’s missed open corner three was a rim-out that felt good off the release. Given how bad the start of this game was, it’s good to walk away with that confidence still intact.

This Illinois team could be dangerous in a year or two. Like his Oklahoma State team remembered from last year’s tournament, Underwood’s offense is good at making your centers look the wrong way before a lethal backdoor cut. When the fakes and motion didn’t work, Michigan was able to win a battle of athleticism with just about every lineup.

Whatever you went into this game believing you can probably find something from it to support that claim. I mostly believe what Ace tells me, so my eyes tell me Charles Matthews is still Michigan’s best player, Teske is a major improvement from last year as a backup to Mo, Wagner is slowly coming back to form, Livers and Poole are starting to become bigger contributors, MAAR is who he is, Simpson is fine, and this Michigan team is rounding into the kind that no #1 or #2 seed wants to face but has to thanks to bad RPI gaming.

Oh, and cam screws are awful and furniture that relies on them should be shot into the sun.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score and an amazing photo series by MG of the dunk.]




Some more shots of the game from Marc-Grégor Campredon:



Oh and the dunk. One.












January 6th, 2018 at 3:11 PM ^

That was some rough officiating.  Illinois was irritating, overselling the slightest contact like crazy - and the refs fell for it.  


January 6th, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

Matthews was effectively limited to 16 minutes by his own coach.Finished with only 3 fouls.Rather see him foul out and get more minutes.....Point guards get fouled late by teams behind therefore either Simpson needs to make late FT's or MAAR/Duncan should be handling the ball.


January 6th, 2018 at 3:26 PM ^

With this year's team it's not as big an issue as it was in the years when autobench meant 10 straight minutes of Dakich on the floor.  If you can play the other team more or less evenly with him out, you may as well save him for the second half (where he played 15 of the 20 minutes).



January 7th, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

The way this game was being called, I think you take that over the alternative of him potentially fouling out early.  

The other issue is that a guy playing in foul trouble can't be as aggressive as normal.

In general, I think a guy with two personals in the first half should be pulled.  If the other team goes on a big run and game seems to be on the verge of slipping away, then you put him back in.  But if you're holding steady, just ride it out to the half.





January 6th, 2018 at 4:18 PM ^

yes, also as I said in the game thread in a game like today where refs are calling everything (and sometimes fouls that never happened), I'd prefer the cautious auto bench. if Matthews cane back and got his 3rd in the first half it would have been a killer. Beilein played today brilliantly


January 6th, 2018 at 5:31 PM ^

Simpson is not really a point guard. Brooks is a PG and needs to be out there to get this team started on the right foot. My contention is that Brooks needs to be playing 25 minutes a game to really let him get his feet under him. Simpson is great in relief of Brooks. There is no better way to screw up a team than to mess with the PG. Beilein had better not become one or listen to all the stat-watchers who think that putting all the best scorers of the floor gives you the best line-up...it does not.

I wonder what position Beilein played. My guess is that he was not a point guard. 


January 6th, 2018 at 8:28 PM ^

This. Wow. What kind of analysis are you doing to state so matter of factly that Simpson is not really a PG? Do things like defense and assist to turnover ratio or even scoring play into this most amazing hot take? Your statement actually makes me wonder if you’ve actually watched any of our last 7 or so games. Simpson has been far and away the best PG on the team and I would say outside of Matthews, our most valuable player


January 6th, 2018 at 11:25 PM ^

What a strange take. Simpson is a pure PG. If he’s not a PG than he’s not a basketball player. Brooks is the one that is not a pure PG. He needs to work on his ball handling, passing, and decision making. I’m sure he’ll improve like Simpson did, but I’m not gonna play him 25 minutes a game with how he’s been struggling. He was awful today and hasn’t hit a jump shot in ages.


January 7th, 2018 at 1:00 AM ^

Username checks out.

The "point guard" is the one who scores the most "points," right?  Simpson hardly ever does that.

And, yes, it's ridiculous to do things like measure to see what approach works.  Teams should just do what they've always done and ignore all advancement in knowledge since 1950.  Also, the people who measure to see what's effective are really, really stupid and believe that the best way to win basketball games is to get the best scorers on the floor.  That's why so many teams roll out a five 2-guard lineup.


January 6th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

Livers, Poole and Robinson with some nice, efficient scoring(11-18) to make up for Mathews lack of scoring, cuz on the bench with foul trouble. 

Bring on some competition.  I'm ready. 

Edit...19-24 from the line. 

Big Boutros

January 6th, 2018 at 3:18 PM ^

This was an ominous game for Illinois. We only played our A-game for about 14 minutes out of 40 -- the first 14 of the second half. With six minutes to go, Michigan had a 12-point lead yet both teams seemed satisfied to drain the clock. Given Underwood's high-octane style on both ends, that was a surprise. A 10-12 point margin should be erasable in six minutes. But Illinois looked defeated and content to play out the string.


January 6th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

Think this is underselling Rahk a bit here. I feel like he is doing a bit of everything and is the stabilizing influence on the floor. I thought Poole's 2 threes in the 2nd half really helped move this game into comfortable territory.

Pepto Bismol

January 6th, 2018 at 3:22 PM ^

26 minutes on the floor - 0 assists, 1 rebound, 0 blocks or steals and 2 turnovers both due to a blatant inability to dribble the basketball. And just 1 of 5 from behind the arc.

I will never understand.


January 6th, 2018 at 3:31 PM ^

totally with you. that pass into the backcourt to wagner wasnt even necessary.  can'thelp but think beilein and co making livers "earn it" while giving respect to a senior contributor

outside of being a potential floor stretcher, DR has most been liability elsewhere


January 6th, 2018 at 4:00 PM ^

As much as Robinson gets panned for his defense -- he knows where he's supposed to be.  He's not always physical or fast enough to make the play, but he's not confused.

Livers, on the other hand, was repeatedly confused on defense.  Immediately after his first dunk, the camera showed him arguing with someone -- I think it was Rahk -- about whom to defend; the guy nearest Livers is wide open, catches a pass, and makes an immediate drive to the basket.  Thankfully, he missed, but it's plays like that that are keeping Livers on the bench.  (Also, he slapped the floor.  Never slap the floor.  You're neither a Dookie nor a Sparty).

If Livers can improve his knowledge of the defensive system, he'll earn more time.  He's clearly more gifted athletically than Robinson.  He just needs to catch up mentally.

Bertello NC

January 6th, 2018 at 4:49 PM ^

Exactly. THe more games he logs starterish type minutes will be huge due to the fact they can go back and analyze where he’s having lapses on where to be ect and correct it. Because you’re right, he has far more upside athletically and skillfully than Robinson will ever have.


January 7th, 2018 at 1:14 AM ^

you're probably correct that Livers is in the wrong spots more often than Robinson is. That's to be expected from a freshman compared to a 27-year-old 5th year senior.

But even with a few more mistakes he's far better at defense (and nearly everything else).  Did you see the chart Brian posted this week?  When Duncan is on the floor, the team is not good, with a massive net negative efficiency.

Duncan can be in the right spots all he wants, but when you get burned time and time again, it doesn't matter.

When Livers is on the floor, we're much better.  When that's the case, you can't wait for a young guy to fully get it, especially if he's coachable and learning from him mistakes (I'm not sure that's the case with him, but we keep playing better and better with him in the game).

All that said, I don't think this is the game to complain about Robinson's minutes.  Livers got 18 at PF, Robinson 22.  Robinson actually played fine, I would say good even (caveat that I didn't see the first 10 min or so).

Robinson is potentially going to get crushed the next two games though, if he has to guard Edwards (Vince) or....Jaren Jackson? Nick Ward? Miles Bridges? Yikes.


January 7th, 2018 at 10:30 AM ^

I agree with this.  However, Beilein has access to the same numbers that we do, which means either (a) he has access to information that we don't have, or (b) he's intentionally sabotaging his team's chance to win because of (reasons).  An incredible number of people have decided that (b) is the most logical answer.

I was reading a couple of quotes from Livers -- I think they were on umhoops -- where he said that he was increasingly feeling comfortable, and also that he was working with Coach Beilein after practice on a conditioning drill every day.  That got me thinking -- Livers' lack of playing time might be due to the physical toll those minutes take, and you may see more of him as the season progresses just due to better in-game stamina.

The numbers right now show that the team is better with Livers on the floor -- but, because Robinson is started, Livers's minutes are more likely to come against the other team's backups than Robinson's.  That doesn't account for 100% of the difference, of course, but it's part of it.  And, if Livers has conditioning issues, it's likely that he'd be less effective for each additional minute he's on the court.

And, yes, Robinson was fine, more or less, against Illinois.  It would have been nice to see him go better than 1-5 from 3, but it didn't seem to me that he was forcing shots, so there's not always anything you can do.  On 5 attempts, a 40% shooter will go 1-5 or worse 33% of the time.  Even a 50% shooter will do it 19% of the time.  Here's hoping we see 4-5 instead in the next couple of games. :)

AA Forever

January 7th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

and thinks it brings intangibles to Robinson's game that numbers don't measure.  Or he thinks that his team will win more games in the long run if Livers has to work hard for the starting job and doesn't just have it handed to him on a plate.

Everyone has biases and blind spots, even Beilein.  To assume that the only other possibility is that he would rather have us lose is extreme and a bit silly.


January 7th, 2018 at 5:18 PM ^

a) the information we don't have could very plausibly be conditioning.  Maybe he's not ready to go longer minutes, or along the same lines, maybe as a freshmen that we know we'll need down the stretch who is not used to playing 30+ games we're keeping his minutes down against low leverage opponents.

b) I don't think "sabotage" is the right word.  I qualified my assertion that he should be playing more "if he's coachable and learning from his mistakes...etc". Even if a guy is more talented, if he's not working the way you want or focusing on correcting mistakes like you need, than you should take a short term hit on your teams chances to win 1) to incentivize that player and 2) to demonstrate to your team that everyone has to work the way you expect which has wider ranging implications.  Sounded like MSU football sort of let Malik McDowell do whatever he wanted and they lost the locker room in 2016.

I seriously doubt Livers has an attitude problem, but holding out the starting spot against bad opponents against whom you don't need many minutes from Livers can still be that motivation to watch some more film, get in better shape, whatever.  Harbaugh almost certainly was doing a similar thing with Peters this year.

The numbers and the eye test (even against opponent starters) are so wildly in Livers favor at this point that the efficiency differences are far from a result of easier competition.  He's a much better player. 

But again, I have no problem with him being held back against these opponents for which it doesn't matter and trust that Beilein is doing the right thing.  We'll see what happens against the next two opponents that Robinson doesn't match up well with, at all (I actually would like to see us go small some against Purdue and play Matthews at the four on Edwards + three guards).