2/9/2019 – Michigan 61, Wisconsin 52 – 22-2, 11-2 Big Ten
I'm a person who looks a at lot of box scores. I look at a lot of tempo-free box scores, and a lot of bonus stats derived from play-by-play data, and then I watch the basketball. The thing that continually surprises me is just how neatly most basketball players can be defined by a deep enough dive into box score stats.
Just Shooters are just shooters. D'Mitrik Trice is a great example: he has about 10% of his shots at the rim, shoots a fair number of unassisted threes, and that is enough to paint a picture of Trice's offense exact enough to define him. In the last game the sheer loneliness of Geo Baker was neatly captured by his teammate's assist rate on his twos: under 5%. Ethan Happ, surely one of the most bizarre players in the last 20 years of college basketball, is a butterfly pinned to a board once tempo-free stats are applied.
Most of it is in there. Stats don't capture Simpson's sky hook or Charles Matthews's colossal leaping fadeaways, but they'll tell you the what and a lot of the how.
Charles Matthews's "what" has been wut:
I probably don't need to remind anyone reading this column of the above, specifically the bit that says 27%. It was 24% before this game.
The dissolution of Matthews's despair came gradually—he had two points in the first half—and then all at once. A second-half Matthews post-up got him to the rim, and hooray. The next possession, Matthews post up, Matthews elects to take a contested fadeaway baseline jumper. I did not think that was going in. It did. I didn't think the next one was going in, either. It did. So did the next one, and by the end of the game there was only one person who was going to take the bad-idea shot after Michigan ran the shot clock down. That, too, was a long fadeaway jumper. Swish.
Sure, what the hell. There's no reason Matthews's jumper fell apart this year so there's no reason it can't come back.
If combined with offensive contributions from anyone else, a consistent offensive output from Matthews gets Michigan back to what they were earlier in the season, when they were able to run away and hide from good teams. At Villanova: 19 points on 16 shot equivalents, run away and hide. Vs UNC: 21 points on 16 shot equivalents, run away and hide. There have been blips and bloops since but nothing resembling his finishing stretch last year.
It's hard to square the version of Matthews Michigan has had much of the season with the guy who was banging out a string of efficient tourney performances. Last year's post-season ORTGs: 120, 108, 130, 97, 90, 97, 138, 103, 120, and then a dud in the final: 47. Matthews seemed to be rounding into the final collegiate version of himself, a guy who wasn't ever going to rack up MVP numbers but would be a consistent source of moderately efficient points that Michigan could count on and build off of.
Instead a mid-season drought Atcaman in its intensity.
Matthews has cut his turnovers down and become a functional free throw shooter at the same time so his overall efficiency has been more or less what it was a year ago. But you do want more, because when he hits one of those fadeaways where he jumps so high his head's level with the rim he's a marvel. Matthews alternates between being "Bambi on ice," as Beilein famously described him, and looking like a robot hawk designed to kill God and play basketball. Sometimes when you're on, as the man said.
If Michigan could just bottle that Matthews and mass produce it for 12 or 13 or 16 games down the stretch… but no. Probably not. Matthews is riding back-to-back reasonably efficient games against major competition for the first time all year. There will be oscillations, like there are with Poole and Brazdeikis, and Michigan will hope to ride the waves such that they're able to navigate to post-season destinations.
[After THE JUMP: Happ comes back to the pack]
Straight downhill. Ethan Happ things started unwell. Michigan wasn't doubling, Happ was fresh, and Teske was playing a bit like he already had a foul:
Beilein wanted Jon Teske to play defense without committing bad fouls, and he made that clear to his center before the game. In hindsight, Beilein felt he may have overemphasized the importance of not fouling.
"I think he guarded him without being as physical as he could have guarded him," Beilein said. "In the second half, in the limited minutes Ethan played, Jon was much more physical with him and made him counter two or three times."
Happ ripped out to a 5/6 start in the first eight minutes. Then a few things happened:
- Michigan picked a few spots to dig on Happ's post-ups. These weren't doubles but momentary swipes at the ball to help throw him off or force him to kick it out to guys that Michigan could recover to.
- Happ got tired. Banging with a 7'1" guy and dribbling into the post yourself takes a lot out of you when you're doing it literally every possession down the floor.
- Teske was gradually able to get more aggressive, particularly in the second half.
Michigan was able to slow Happ down for the rest of the first half, limiting him to 2/4 from the floor and forcing four turnovers. The last was also Happ's second personal foul, when he shoved Teske to get a pass over the top.
Happ never got started in the second half thanks to a third foul and an autobench for the ages. By the time he came back with nine minutes left(!!!) Teske still just had the one foul and was able to play without restraint; Happ went 2/9.
The result was Happ's worst ORTG (80) of the year after 18 points on 19 shot equivalents, one assist, and five turnovers.
cumong man [Campredon]
AND IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE. Always something when you play Wisconsin, and this time it was two blindingly obvious Happ fouls in the first ten minutes that were not called, first an arm grab on a Teske OREB putback and then a full-on cross-arm hack as Isaiah Livers went up for a transition bucket. Happ's first was far less obvious and didn't actually impact the game—it was one of those loose ball fouls that doesn't actually impact who gets the ball.
— Noah Neidlinger (@candor_for_sale) February 9, 2019
I am pretty salty about this after Teske fouled out in 13 minutes against Iowa. At least Gard provided Happ with the virtual foul-out he deserved.
/goes into settings, turns "charge" off. It is amazing to see what Brad Davison has managed to do to Big Ten officiating in just over a year in the league. To the league's credit it has clearly decided enough is enough when it comes to [REDACTED]-ass floppery and explicitly told refs not to reward it. Sometimes they still do, as when a Matthews dunk was wiped off the board thanks to Trice hopping in front of Poole. But Davison went over, and got a block. Poole went over, and got ignored. This is a league-wide trend.
The needle may have in fact gone too far the other way—a few days ago Bruno Fernando went Kool-Aid Man on Nebraska's center, knocking him over, and there was no call. Fernando went on to explosively dunk and maybe step on his victim, causing some consternation, but the fact that he'd blasted into the guy while extending his elbow didn't come up for discussion:
— Rudy Gersten (@DCBarno) February 7, 2019
Borchardt isn't leaning back when he takes that hit. Legit? I kind of think so.
But that's post stuff. The on-ball perimeter garbage Wisconsin partakes in should be excised from the game. Simpson and Matthews are A+ perimeter defenders, and how many flop charges have they taken this season? Zero? I think it's zero. They've drawn offensive fouls when guys extend their arms from time to time but always from an upright position.
I mean, this quote from Gard when Dakich had him on his show specifically to complain about a Davision flop that didn't get called against Matthews says it all:
“You’ve got to pick and choose when you do it. You’ve got to make sure you take the contact first before you fall. There’s an art to it."
You've got to make sure you're touched before you crumple to the ground like you've been hit by a truck. GTFO.
Getting bent, end of game edition. There are some who would suggest that this sequence…
…was unnecessary. They are incorrect.
No, you can't have a turn. I wonder if this is some sort of record: for the third time this year a Michigan opponent has had a player with 50%+ usage in a game. Happ put up 58% to best Juwan Morgan(56%) and Carsen Edwards(50%).
Iggy, mercurial. Twitter find of the week is @5th_factor, which posts various college basketball data visualizations. Here's Iggy's offensive contributions, which range from spectacular to deflating:
That's before this most recent Wisconsin game, which added another marker to the bottom end of the range. By contrast, Jon Teske's offense is much less variable and much lower usage:
Brazdeikis stayed under control for the most part—just one turnover and that one head-down drive that led to the Clapping Incident after Happ blocked the shot. I wanted him to take the shots he took, mostly. He just didn't make any after that swooping layup on Happ that I thought was going to open the floodgates.
Good God. Someone on twitter pointed out that Teske didn't get hit with a turnover in the box score for the extremely weak moving screen call he suffered, but even so. TAke a look y'all:
your new leader in TO rate nationwide pic.twitter.com/6oLjT9Wny1
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) February 10, 2019
Kenpom has heights back to 2007; nobody taller than 6'8" has ever led the nation in TO rate. Both 6'8" guys played in the Big Ten: Indiana's Lance Stemler, a 10% usage gentleman, and the senior version Robbie Hummel. Hummel had 25% usage!
Speaking of: Teske's 17 points on 12 shot equivalents and zero turnovers (naturally) plus three blocks and a steal landed him the Kenpom MVP in this game. His conference numbers are bonkers: 129 ORTG on 18% usage, a 3.6 TO rate, and 61/39 shooting. All while being the best defensive center in the league.
A blip. Isaiah Livers again got to the basket on a drive from the perimeter, and this time he converted.
He missed a few similar opportunities earlier this year. Encouraging to see his game continue to diversify, and more successfully this time around.
There aren't enough good teams out West. Jason Lisk returns to a topic that continues to bother: early-round NCAA games could be better placed.
Over the last decade, twice as many teams from Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio have been a top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament as those in the Pacific and Mountain time zones combined, yet twice as many first round venues are in the West. I applaud the NCAA for the change in the system, where you no longer have to go play games in the Midwest in the first week just because you were seeded in the Midwest Regional. I do think the general location of the four Regionals is fine. But if the NCAA wants to increase attendance and the friendliness for fans of the top teams in getting to tournament games, they would move toward providing only one far West venue in the opening round, and add another in the Midwest.
The entire Mountain and Pacific time zones have one power conference, Gonzaga, and the odd AAC or Mountain West team that pops up. It would be nice if the opening round sites were generally reflective of where teams are.
To wit: if this year's top 16 teams were slotted into the regionals, Michigan and Michigan state end up in Des Moines, Purdue ends up in Tulsa, Houston ends up in Jacksonville because Tulsa is full, Marquette and Louisville go to Hartford, ISU goes to Salt Lake, and Wisconsin ends up in San Jose.
Even a resurgent Pac-12 doesn't change the equation much since Houston and Nevada are unusually good; this is par for the course.
Related: what are your criteria? I get why Gonzaga is ahead of Michigan in the various tempo-free ranking systems. I don't get why they are in the committee's mock bracket exercise:
as an aside I don't get how Gonzaga is a 1 ahead of Michigan when the teams have the same record and M has 6 A wins and 5 B wins on Kenpom. Zags have 4 and 4.
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) February 9, 2019
(This was before the Wisconsin game, FWIW.) It's not outrageous, but it does feel off. I think sports are best when You Play To Win The Game is the prime factor and injustices that arise from that are tolerated, so I like metrics like Wins Above Bubble and Strength Of Record as prime determinants. Michigan is #3 in SOR; Gonzaga is #7.
If the committee is explicitly using efficiency margin as the main determinant then the Zags do deserve to be a #1. If they're using NET more as a gauge of who you beat then they don't. I prefer the YPTWTG system. I also prefer a world in which this is clear.
The silver lining for… well, not Nebraska. In the aftermath of Isaac Copeland's season- and career-ending injury, Nebraska has turned to a Viking.
Or possibly a dwarf. I have just googled this and in a massive upset there is not a Tolkien dwarf named "Thorir". Just Thror, Thorin, and Thrain.
Weird MEAC team of the week! We dip into D-II because I think literally half of John Beilein's tweets are about the Le Moyne College Dolphins.
— John Beilein (@JohnBeilein) February 10, 2019
"You've got some good tweets, John" -Patrick Beilein.
For the record, LeMoyne is 11-5 in league play and is leading the Northeast 10's Southwest division.