My Floor Is The Ceiling Comment Count

Brian March 10th, 2014 at 12:43 PM

3/6/2014 – Michigan 84, Indiana 80 – 23-7, 15-3 Big Ten


Hello. I shoot 69%. They gave me a hat. [Fuller]

Arizona's lost, Virginia's lost, Wisconsin's lost, Duke's lost, Michigan State's lost, everyone's lost. They've all done so against teams ranging from mediocre to horrible. Losing is not hard; not losing is super hard. Michigan hasn't lost but three times in an 18 game Big Ten schedule and won the league by a staggering three-game margin. That's hard.

Michigan's done this despite being "soft" by any reasonable definition. Poke an opposing fan in a bad mood and they will hurl this charge. It's hard to dispute. Michigan's defense hovers around 100th in Kenpom. Their rebounding is middling at best. They do not steal the ball or block shots; they're dead last in the league at preventing two pointers from going in. Tom Izzo looks ready to die and is throwing most of his team under the bus for being softbatch, and his outfit is second in the league.

Meanwhile, here are the conference records of teams that finished last in two-point defense in the past ten years: 4-14, 4-14, 7-11, 4-14, 9-9, 1-17, 2-14, 6-10, 1-15, 3-13, 2-14.

This is a parade of Carmody-era Northwestern teams and anybody-era Penn State with the occasional outlier thrown in. You may be familiar with one of those outliers. That 9-9 record was John Beilein's first tourney team at Michigan, Stu and Zack and Manny and a Crisler eruption. Michigan broke through with a statistical indicator that usually means you're Penn State. A bad version of Penn State. Michigan got to the second round of the tourney.

This year's league-worst two point defense annihilated what's statistically the best conference in the country. Last year Michigan took a defense that entered the NCAA tourney in the 70s and charged into the national title game.

This is not a normal thing. Every year, people pull profiles of past NCAA champions out and dismiss Michigan because they don't have enough defense. Michigan does not seem to notice. They are too busy playing NBA Jam.



Michigan must be approaching the practical limit of offensive efficiency. Sometimes, like first halves against Nebraska and Illinois, they approach the theoretical limit.

Over the past decade only a half-dozen teams exceeded Michigan's current output, and they are generally 30 win teams: Chris Paul at Wake Forest, the uber-loaded 2009 Carolina squad that dismantled MSU in the title game, that one year Jon Diebler hit 50% from three off of Jared Sullinger kickouts. These teams are juggernauts, charging through major-conference regular seasons with two or three losses.

This year, the teams scraping the ceiling are not juggernauts. Creighton, Duke, and Michigan are probing these heights with the aid of the sometimes-goofy new rules, but they've all lost at least six games already. None will be top seeds. All have defenses ranging from 80th to 100th on Kenpom. All have offenses that are otherworldly.

Together they comprise a new version of contender, a major-conference version of three-point sniping underdogs. Each takes 40% of their shots from behind the line and connects on 40% of their attempts. The other teams at the top of the the three-point-make charts are more often Utah State and Drake than they are major conference teams.

This year, the feisty 12 shooting down a five-seed has migrated into the protected seeds, with all the rights and privileges therein. Chaos beckons. I've got no idea what's going to happen, but I know that it is going to be crazy. Stock up on subs.


Hall of fame. If you get three encomiums in one career you're a MGoHall of Fame lock. Jordan Morgan has cleared the bar. He has been here for the entire building process and now stands at the top of the Big Ten, net in teeth. Those who stay will be champions. (And most of those who don't.) Hiring John Beilein was a good idea.

Anyway: Indiana came out with a gameplan that was essentially a Jordan Morgan diss track, starting 6'7" freshman Devin Davis and switching every screen. Morgan was not about to take that slap in the face on senior day. He posted, he rebounded, he kept Michigan in the game during the period where Indiana literally could not miss. He ended 7/8 from the floor with five offensive rebounds and a couple steals.

His makes showed an advanced knowledge of how to finish without the ability to play above the rim, especially the bucket on which one dribble led to a tight-angle layup around Vonleh. He just finished a season shooting 69% as a 6'8" non-leaper. Sure sure sure a lot of those were put on a platter for him, but there are a lot of guys who get things put on a platter for them who don't shoot anywhere near 69%. I mean, his ORtg is higher than anyone on the team other than Albrecht.

BONKERS. Speaking of ORTG, the worst on the team still belongs to Derrick Walton, and his number is 110, up 11 points from midseason. Indiana has one guy above that—Ferrell, obvs. Vonleh is just about tied with Walton.

Michigan's offense is just bonkers this year.

Obligatory photo of everyone else smiling because they did something spectacular and difficult as Jon Horford mediates or something. We would not let you down in a matter this important.


you may be on the court at Crisler after winning the Big Ten by three games
I am on the court as well
but I am also under the Banyan tree
inventing the world anew every moment [Fuller]


Will Sheehey can't check this no mo [Fuller]

Point guard on Stauskas: dead. Hail the Beilein adjustment matrix. Michigan started out against Michigan State by obliterating MSU's previous defensive strategy. A collection of back cuts and down screens got Michigan a bunch of looks at the basket and forced MSU to stop denying the perimeter. At that point Michigan could just run their offense, which was their offense and therefore ridiculous.

Michigan's Borg-like ability to adapt to phaser frequencies was also on display in this one. We spent the better part of a month fretting about opponents shutting down Nik Stauskas by sticking their point guards on him. This strategy was initiated in Michigan's loss at Assembly Hall (Yes That Assembly Hall). Stauskas again drew Ferrell. Results: 21 points on 17 shot equivalents, two assists, one turnover. Stauskas got quick post ups for buckets, drove past Ferrell, shot over Ferrell. Etc.

Stauskas has put up 25, 15, 21, 24, and 21 in his last five games. He's adapted to little guys in his grill, mostly by raining it in from three, but here the drives were also effective.

Zone. The 1-3-1 was the difference in the game. It shot Indiana's uncharacteristically low turnover rate into the stratosphere and didn't give up any worse shots than the man to man was. The 1-3-1 is inherently a high risk, high reward defense that does give up a lot of GRAHHHHH dunks, offensive rebounds, and open threes. It compensates by turning the opponent over. So when you're giving up a lot of GRAHHHHH dunks and open threes anyway, you might as well get some turnovers.

It is frustrating that Michigan did not try out a packed-in 2-3 and dare anyone not named Ferrell to raise up over it. They only have so much time to work on things, I guess, but given Indiana's struggles against a 2-3 it seems like it would have been something to try once it became apparent that dribble penetration was there for anyone who wanted it. 

Instead, the 1-3-1 worked just fine. Indiana had 12 second half turnovers, many of them forced by the zone and specifically Caris LeVert's ever-extending hands. He's only credited with two steals in the box score but his impact was much larger than that as the flypaper dude at the top.

Entering the tourney, having the 1-3-1 in Michigan's back pocket is a major asset, especially given that they're down to 93rd in defense on Kenpom. They may have to change what they're doing at some point when the man to man just isn't working.


coachin' in a van down by the river [Bryan Fuller]

Clap on, Clappy. Michigan got the ball back up three with 39 seconds left. Indiana did not trap or press; they eventually fouled Spike Albrecht with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. Crean was apparently screaming at his team to foul for a good 10 seconds of that delay, even so that's just… wow. Let's just say I can't see a Beilein team not knowing that you should try to steal the ball and foul quickly in that situation.

GET OFF THE COURT, SCHRUTE. Crean actually shoved one of his players then forced the referee to box him out on one Indiana possession. Beilein had already been hit with a technical for saying something along the lines of "dagnabit," and Crean's on the court affecting the play. Nothing.

They've got to do something about this in the offseason. Dump your horrible charge changes* and actually enforce technicals against coaches who show up on the court. For the love of pants.

*[Semi-weekly charge bitching goes here. Adriean Payne had been set for a good two seconds on this "block":

Meanwhile, Spike Albrecht can't get a call because he's tiny and flies halfway across the arena when a 6'8" guy puts his shoulder into him. It looks like a flop because Spike Albrecht is tiny. And then Morgan gets a call on the 1-3-1 as he slides under Troy Williams after Williams is already in the air. They need to simplify the call, because the refs simply cannot make it.]

"DAGNABIT" works. Indiana got called for a bunch of travels in the second half after Beilein's tech. I hate coach ref histrionics, but they apparently work.

Brackets. Palm hasn't budged on Michigan as the #2 in the West with Arizona despite the carnage around them. Brad Evans of Yahoo has Michigan fifth overall, presumably matched with Villanova in the East. Lunardi has Michigan the #2 in the South opposite Florida. Crashing the Dance's algorithm has Michigan, Kansas, Syracuse, and Wichita State in a veritable dead heat for spots 4-7.

While it's unlikely Wichita is in any danger of dropping off the one line—algorithms are having slight issues with a 33-0 MVC team—it's anyone's guess how the twos get ordered. At this point it looks like Michigan is a lock to get one; hopefully they can play themselves out of the West. Indianapolis is obviously ideal for the regionals, and it does seem like Michigan can play themselves there by winning the BTT. Kansas and Virginia losses in their tournaments would help.

One thing that seems assured: Michigan will be in Milwaukee for the first weekend. Save Wisconsin, their competitors for that spot (Creighton, Iowa State, Cincinnati, MSU) are probably incapable of passing M on the S-curve.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten tournament sets up nicely for Michigan with Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin on the other side of the bracket:


Indiana is clearly a bad matchup for M; everyone else they could meet before the final is manageable.

The most interesting bracketology debate, by the way, is Duke. Palm had them a 5 seed before their win over UNC, citing a near-total lack of accomplishments on the road. They're now a weak 4 on his bracket. Lunardi still has them a 2. Lunardi's got a rep for not being particularly good until late, when he talks to people close to the committee. If Duke does end up a fringe Sweet 16 seed, that is point Palm.

Congratsketball. Well done, Nebrasketball. By beating Wisconsin you've moved yourselves definitively off the bubble and finished a near-undefeated home season. And the only thing you lose this offseason is Ray Gallegos.



March 10th, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

Its quite amazing that every game leads to creepier and creepier pictures of that man.

I also don't understand why a man making millions of dollars a year and with a huge support staff can look like he just ran out to Men's Warehouse and when they didn't have a 40 short, decided to get a 42 long and wear it off the rack.


March 10th, 2014 at 1:05 PM ^

Paymon rankings of 67 bracketologists with three or more years under their belts:

  1. Lobofan2003
  2. Bracket Madness
  3. Patrick Stevens/USA Today
  4. Jeff Borzello/Busting the Bracket
  5. Brackonomics


35. Joe Lunardi

38. Jerry Palm

58. Bleacher Report

With all their advantages of committee access, Lunardi and Palm are still below average. Lunardi has never beaten Lobofan, in five years.



March 10th, 2014 at 2:49 PM ^

Yep, Palm and Lunardi just have the loudest megaphones.  But very average megaphones.  The top 5-6 guys (those who are updating right now) have UM as a 2 as of yesterday mostly in the South or West.

With the East #2 pretty much sewn up the question is, if you want to play Witchita (if we are fortunate enough to get there and them as well) how do you flip flop with Wisconsin as a 2 seed in the Midwest.  Probably they'd need to exit in game 1 and we'd need at least 2 wins in the BTT.  Or they go 1-1 and we win the whole thing.  (or beat them head to head in the final!)

So aside from pride it appears all we are playing for right now is a flip flop with Wisconsin to see who gets the Midwest region #2.

Honestly if you look at our 6-4 early record we basically had 2 returning starters, a halfway there McGary, a freshman PG and Horford starting.  Stinks a bit it is hurting us some now for seeding purposes but Wisconsin was bringing back most of their lineup from last year early in the year so didnt require the same learning curve we did.


March 10th, 2014 at 5:23 PM ^

It will be interesting to see how the committee compares us to Wisconsin. Do we get credit for winning the B1G over them by 3 games? I thought I heard that the committee likes to reward conference champs. What about the fact that we are 15-3 in our last 18 games while Wisconsin is 12-6? Sure, we have 7 losses but 4 of those happened in 2013. We'll see next week how it all shakes out.


March 10th, 2014 at 3:08 PM ^

Probably the first time anyone has beaten 11 B1G teams in one season, no?

No, it's happened several times. Once you get to 15+ wins, you're probably going to do it.  I would imagine that 2005 Illinois and 2007 OSU (which each went 15-1) pulled it off, and 2009 MSU went 15-3, so they may have as well.  


March 10th, 2014 at 1:10 PM ^

The offensive efficiency of this team is crazy, but I also think the "soft" charge is a little misleading.  The 3-point defense is a tick better, and at some point when teams are just not missing I'm not sure what you can say.  When UM needs to they definitely can turn it up with the 1-3-1 as well as just a 3-denying 2-3, and maybe that opens up some dunks but you'll take that if you can hit 40% of your 3's.  I do think that UM has been relatively "lucky" in some respects, but there isn't nearly enough luck in the world to get you to 15-3.  


March 10th, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

Wrapped up a great conference season.  Now looking ahead to the tournament...yeah, that D...just one semi-off shooting night, against most any team they'll likely face outside of the potential 2/15 match up, and UM's season is over.  Not that it should erase what this team was able to accomplish over the entire season, but yeah.  Still don't think this is a tournament champion caliber team.  Such is the nature of single elimination games with a sport with such variablity as basketball.

steve sharik

March 10th, 2014 at 1:41 PM ^

That team was stacked in the post.  Loy Vaught, T Mills, and Mark Hughes all played in the league.  Then you had Rice (who could sky) and 6'9" Sean Higgins able to go in and get boards.  They also had one of (if not the best) PG in the country in Rumeal.  That was not a 3-pt specialist team, they could kill you from anywhere on the court (and did, when they wanted to).


March 10th, 2014 at 2:04 PM ^

As the recent documentary showed, the probable reason that team didn't completely domainte all season is that Bill Freider didn't really have a focused offensive strategy.  He pretty much just rolled the ball out and let them play.  Which they were really good at, but they tended to struggle when they came up against teams like Indiana, where Knight would massively outcoach Freider or Illinois, where the talent level wasn't massively in their favor.   


It is not an insult to this year's team to say that '89 team had more talent .  Things were different then and players didn't leave early.   If things were still like that now, this year's team would still have Burke and Hardaway Jr, and then you'd have a real discussion, especially if you brought back McGary from his injury.  Now you're talking about probably 5 NBA picks which rivals the 89 team.


March 10th, 2014 at 5:36 PM ^

"this year's team would still have Burke and Hardaway Jr, and ...if you brought back McGary from his injury.  Now you're talking about probably 5 NBA picks which rivals the 89 team."


  • Caris Levert is #48 in 2015.
  • Glenn Robinson is #36 in 2014
  • Mitch McGary is #30 in 2014
  • Nik Stauskas is #16 in 2014
  • Derrick Walton is the #57 freshman
  • Zak Irvin is the #29 freshman

That's five or six picks on the current roster without Burke and Hardaway. Bring them back and you possibly have eight.


March 10th, 2014 at 7:17 PM ^

the '89 team had some limitations as well--and was unlikely the besy team in the Country.  They were only decent defensively, and had very little quickness outside of Rumeal--Griffin and Higgins played the off-guard spot.  Its always nice to get on a roll at the right time----NCAA time.


March 10th, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

Does the charge circle serve any functional purpose at this point?  It seems like officials ignore it now.  

Also, re: Nebraska, I wonder if Petteway will stick around - not sure where his stock is, but he seems like at least second-round material.


March 10th, 2014 at 1:30 PM ^

It seems to me that they won't call a charge if a defender is inside it - so it does serve some purpose - but they won't necessarily call a charge if the defend is outside it.  That's correct in the abstract, but the problem is that there apparently are no charges now in the eyes of some officials. 

El Jeffe

March 10th, 2014 at 2:40 PM ^

Except when the defender (Morgan) slides under a leaping offensive player (the guy from IU). I thought they were going no-call on that since the IU dude had lost the ball, but that was an atrocious call. Block/charge is soooooooooooo busted.


March 10th, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

Tickets are $252.00 a pop for the cheap seats at the BMO Bradley center.

Living in the area, I am going, but not sure if I can stomach to take the whole family (5 total) at that price.  I probably will do it, well, because, as the kids say....YOLO.

Now get off my lawn and where is my oat bran.






March 10th, 2014 at 1:27 PM ^

know what session we would play in Milwaukee? I'm going to try and go to session 1 (it's the cheapest), but my guess is we would one of the be the prime time (session 2) games. Anybody know for sure?


March 10th, 2014 at 1:34 PM ^

Considering he can't keep Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan straight, I'd take anything he says with a huge grain of salt. 

(He has M playing Eastern Michigan, despite EMU being a #6 seed in the MAC Tournament. I'd bet my salary he means Western Michigan, the #1 seed.)