The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

Submitted by Brian on February 9th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten


First half, second half

I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.

While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.

Posthaste bullets

Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.

Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.

That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.

As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.

Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.

Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.

I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.

Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:

  • Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
  • Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.

[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]

Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.

Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.

Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.

Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.

As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.


Patrick Radigan

Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.

Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:

  • A defensive rebound.
  • Two fouls.
  • A turnover.

Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."

Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.

Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.

This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.

Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.


UMHoops photo gallery. version. Baumgardner article.


Yale Van Dyne Fan

February 9th, 2012 at 12:31 PM ^

...of Bartelstein's miss? Highlight of the year for me. I think he missed wide right and it glanced the bottom of the backboard. Bench was cracking up. Best part was that he backpedaled down the floor after he shot it, like he had it all the way.


February 9th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

Is Horford really not going to play this year?  This team has a chance to do something special.  The Sweet 16 (or even Elite Eight) is not out of the question.  I'm not sure that I understand the rationale for passing that up.

Obviously, he's missed a lot of games....but those are just games.  The whole reason that you play the season is to:

1.  Win The Big Ten (not out of reach)

2.  Make a splash at the Tourney

I'm wish him well in whatever he decides to do but it certainly would be nice to see some additional depth out there.




February 9th, 2012 at 12:40 PM ^

I wonder if, even after he "recovered," his explosiveness was so hampered by the injury that he really couldn't contribute. He's one guy that, if he can't get off the floor, is not going to be effective because he's so slight.


February 9th, 2012 at 12:36 PM ^

Kenpom rankins are not considered by the Tournament Selection Committee, are they?

As for next year, it is indeed going to be strange when Michigan has four guys who are 6'10" or better. 

EDIT:  Morgan isn't 6'10", but he's Morgan.


February 9th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

Michigan will be foward heavy and guard light next year. 

So much so, that I am wondering if many starting lineups will see Hardaway at the 2 gaurd and Smote or Horford as the wing forward (and McGary and Morgan at the 4 & 5)

U supposed GRIII could be ready for a starting role later in the year, but prior to that I don't see Vogrich or Brundidge ready for a starting role.



February 9th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Burke is obviously your one guard, and Morgan/McGary/Horford/McLimans are obviously fours and fives.  Hardaway can play the two or the three, but who plays the other position?  Does Vogrich start at the two?  Brundidge?  Does Robinson, a true freshman, start at the three?  I don't think there are any easy answers there...As much as we're looking forward to McGary, I think Robinson may be more important than him next year. 

Trader Jack

February 9th, 2012 at 1:04 PM ^

John Beilein's offense is predicated on having a 4 man who can spread the floor with his shooting ability. That's one of the reasons we've seen Zach Novak grit his way through so many nights at PF, and why Horford and Morgan have never been on the floor at the same time. McGary isn't a perimeter shooter (and neither is Morgan, obviously) and I think that, for that reason, we'll see Smotz starting at the 4 spot next year. Everyone assumes that Morgan and McGary will be starters next season, but that wouldn't work within the framework of John Beilein's offense. I agree that the 2/3 postitions will be the most interesting to watch in terms of who Beilein decidres to go with, but I think we'll see Burke at PG, Smotz at PF, Hardaway Jr. at SG, either Morgan or McGary at C, and either Robinson III or Stauskas (who I think is still underrated) at SF.


February 9th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

very apprehensive of next year for this very reason.  Most don't seem to appreciate how much of a utility Stu Douglas is and how much his versatility in the backcourt will be missed.  The absence of Brundrige from meaningful minutes this years has been a sore spot with me.  With him not traveling with the team the last couple of games, I am even starting to become concerned about what exactly is going on with him.  The 2 spot is going to be an adventure next year, but JB's offense seems very adaptable to personnel, assuming you are not Manny Harris.


February 9th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

Brundidge didn't travel with the team the last two games because he's been under the weather, dealing with complications from asthma. From an article:

Beilein said Brundidge did not practice with the team Monday, and will continue to be monitored.

"He tried some light shooting but did not feel very good, so getting well is the No. 1 objective," Beilein said. "I don't know enough about asthma and I'm not qualified to (get into detail about it), all I know is it's a very scary situation when you can't catch your breath."

Also, he's just a freshman. Not all freshmen—no matter how highly they're ranked—are ready to contibute right away, especially when they need to learn a system as complicated as Beilein's.


February 9th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

"we'll see Smotz starting at the 4 spot next year."

I don't know how you can confidently connect those two statements in a logical sequence. He has completely disappeared since the start of the conference schedule. Right now, he's contributing as much as Horford is.

Trader Jack

February 10th, 2012 at 10:00 AM ^

Right now, even with the shooting slump he's been struggling through, Smotz is shooting 41% from 3. He's a good shooter that can stretch the floor, even taking into account the slump he's currently in. You also have to remember that he's only a Sophomore, and if he improves as much in the upcoming offseason as he did in the previous one then we could be looking at one heck of a player.


February 9th, 2012 at 6:56 PM ^

shot, maybe not a 3 point threat, but he can shoot it.  If Smotrycz doesn't find his stroke by next year, McGary will be a better option at the 4.  Personally, I would love to see him and Morgan together banging the boards and playing post defense.

I think we see Stauskas at the 2 (better outside shooter than THJr and a better passer and ball handler).  Robinson backs up Tim at the 3.  Brundidge backs up Trey and also plays some 2 (like Stu does).  This gives us a line-up that can shoot from outside, take it to the hole as well as score inside and rebound.  But, even with all of that talent, we are really going to miss Zack and Stu (more than we missed Morris or Harris).


February 9th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

I am just amazed how this team keeps on winning when arguably its best player (THJ) and main contributor (Smots)  are playing so badly.

How is that even possible?


February 9th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

I am intruged by 20-foot tall, robot Burke. I assume, being twenty feet tall and all that his wingspan will almost be such that he can reach out and drop the ball in the hoop and have it still be counted as a three. Our efficiency numbers next year may be unheard of...

El Jeffe

February 9th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

Well, let's see. If he's 20 feet tall, his wingspan should be about 20 feet, unless it's one o' those orangutan robots I see in my dreams after drinking too much absinthe...

So if you remove, say, 3 feet of body width, his one-armed reach would be about 8.5 feet. So while I don't think he'll be able to drop the ball in from three, he should be able to do some other damage on the court.

Blue boy johnson

February 9th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

Douglas and Novak have taken more responsibility on offense and are playing better with Burke as PG and Morris in the NBA. I don't think it is a coincidence. Morris put up mad stats last year but often dribbled the life out of movement in the offense. I am not sure how much of THJ's struggles are attributable to playing with Burke instead of Morris but I think it is slight.

Overall, I think this years team is better than last years. Certainly more diversified on offense and certainly a better defensive team.


February 9th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

Fellow fans,

This dull road blowout represents progress.  We didn't do this the first four years of Beilein ball because we just weren't good enough yet.  But the beauty of what's happening is easy to miss.  

Michigan is 3rd in the Big Ten (top conference RPI in the country) and it's reasonable to predict that's where they'll finish the year.  That would be one slot higher than last year, but probably a whole standard deviation better than last year.  Remember that last year's Big Ten was 3 teams at the top (OSU, MSU, PU) and 4 teams in the middle (MICH, ILL, MSU, PSU), all of which went 9-9.  We are presently 8-3 in conference.  [EDIT: ... having played KenPom's #3 toughest schedule in the nation thus far].

They are accomplishing this with seemingly unglamorous wins. They are accopmlishing this while going only 6-8 guys deep most games, 3 of whom are in the midst of major shooting slumps: Hardaway, Smotrycz, and (until last night, perhaps) Vogrich.  

We have just three 4-star players on our current roster (Smotrycz, Burke, and Brundidge), only one of whom is getting substantial and productive playing time.

And it looks like this team will make a Sweet 16 run.  Let that sink in again.  THIS team will make a SWEET 16 run.  We last witnessed that in 1994, friends.

This is a great year of Michigan basketball.  It's the last year of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, who both unexpectedly took big steps forward in their individual games (I guess staying for 4 years DOES make a difference).  It's a year in which we don't/shouldn't have wildly high expectations for what the team will accomplish, which makes it fun to root for them because we aren't constantly disappointed that they didn't win by 40.

So enjoy this year, fellow Wolverines.  This is a great year of Michigan basketball.  And we can look forward to even greater things when next year rolls around ... but that's next year.  Let's savor this moment.

Hardware Sushi

February 9th, 2012 at 3:40 PM ^

No offense to basketball fans, but I just don't know enough about it nor am I interested in analyzing what I don't know enough to follow most basketball reviews.

This, though, is a perfect example of what keeps me reading Brian's post-game writeups:

"If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three."

I spit tunafish on the keyboard.