This Is Our Concern, Basketball Edition

Submitted by Brian on February 29th, 2016 at 12:18 PM

2/28/2016 – Michigan 57, Wisconsin 68 – 20-10, 10-7 Big Ten


[Patrick Barron]

I try to avoid putting certain thoughts on twitter during basketball games because the replies they draw tend to send me into a "someone is wrong on the internet" pit. This didn't go so well yesterday, in both directions.

I expressed frustration at Michigan's horrendous defense in the first half, when Wisconsin bricked a huge array of wide open threes. I got a couple responses about how it was better to give up wide open threes than to let Nigel Hayes eat in the paint, with one guy offering up Hayes's shot chart as evidence. Evidence of what, though?

CcVsiw4UEAAcr31 (1)

Hayes isn't actually an efficient offensive player this year in any way except one: he gets to the line a lot. He's suffered with the extra usage heaped on him in the absence of Dekker and Kaminsky; Wisconsin has a lot of bad possessions and Hayes ends up taking a lot of 15-footers as a result. He's good at those, which is like being good at writing about Rutgers sports.

As a whole, Wisconsin is decent at threes (4th in the league) and mediocre at twos (7th). They are not a team that you should be constantly doubling until they get a launch off. This is what Michigan did in the first half; they got lucky. So I got into a fight about that despite the fact that Hayes wasn't even taking the open threes.

Later, I expressed further frustration at Michigan's defense and got an array of FIRE HIS ASS and PATHETIC replies. I have only myself to blame.


But it's true, and playing Wisconsin is designed to highlight everyone's frustration with this year's basketball team. At halftime I predicted a ten point Wisconsin win in our slack channel, and there was grunting agreement. UMHoops felt the same way:

It was, with Wisconsin staking itself to a seven point lead by hitting six straight shots. The threes versus twos discussion became moot as Michigan failed to defend either well. Then you look over at Wisconsin's collection of athletes. Wisconsin features a guy Mark Donnal wrecked in high school and a variety of gentlemen who seem like ringers grabbed from the Plattville YMCA. Their main post is a freshman. They are 18th in defensive efficiency.

It's pretty tough not to be sour at Beilein after watching a bunch of try-hard types with excellent organization stifle Michigan. It's pretty tough not to be sour when Vitto Brown, the guy that Donnal worked in high school, goes 4/6 from three on six uncontested looks.

I don't expect Michigan to be actually good at defense for a lot of different reasons, but there's a difference between Michigan's usual meh and this. The trend is worrying. Defensive efficiency in the Beilein era:

  • 2008: 100th
  • 2009: 69th
  • 2010: 58th
  • 2011: 37th
  • 2012: 61st
  • 2013: 48th
  • 2014: 109th
  • 2015: 107th
  • 2016: 145th

This is the third straight year of a triple-digit ranking. While you may remember things as "not good" even when the larger picture was much prettier, this is a whole new era of ineptness only matched by Beilein's first team of castoffs and runaways. This year's team is in fact considerably worse despite than those guys despite having a reasonable amount of experience. For the first time in a while Michigan doesn't have a freshman playing major minutes; for the first time in a while they've crawled out of the 300s in Kenpom's experience stat. This was the first year in a while you could reasonably expect year to year improvement, and yet.

The reason that the world expected Wisconsin to pull away in the second half is because they had a guy where Michigan was when their shots went up and Michigan did not do this. There is no reason for this based on the guys on the court. That is what's scary about this team and those down the road: something appears to have left the program over the last three years. The 2014 team managed to paper over it with Nik Stauskas and his merry band; Michigan outfits that do not have the ability to finish #1 in offensive efficiency have not found a plan B.

This is in no way a plea to fire anybody. Michigan has lost an NBA first round pick to injury each of the last three years, along with their starting PG last year and backup PG this year. If a Tom Izzo player gets a hangnail it gets a special edition of SportsCenter on which Izzo weeps and quavers; Michigan has suffered the insult of injury stoically.

But there's no reason that losing Caris Levert would send the defense into a tailspin. There's no reason that Ricky Doyle should go from promising freshman to afterthought in a year. There's no reason that Michigan should find itself 11th in defense in a league featuring luminaries like Penn State, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Illinois. This is our concern, dude.


I mean like whatever. I am super not into this basketball team for the reasons detailed above, which I why I haven't written about it much. Whatever motive force was behind the back to back elite eight teams left the building with Stauskas and has not given a hint of a return.

I would not be surprised to see a coaching shakeup after the year. Beilein did it once before, and since he's clearly not going to be the guy who fixes the defense he's got to get someone in who can give it a shot.

Bright spots? Michigan had a bunch of tight curl screen action that we hadn't seen much of before that was effective; they also made a number of interior passes to their bigs in situations they had not attempted much previously. Those resulted in a few turnovers but also a number of shots at the rim that were generally effective.

I wonder how much of the problem with the offense is that there aren't many good passers on the team. MAAR and Irvin are getting better but had to come up from absolutely zero assists; Walton is so bad inside the arc that there's not much reason to overplay him. This is no longer a bright spot. Sorry.

I'm shocked. Jon Crispin does not like dabbing.



February 29th, 2016 at 12:28 PM ^

How much better is another question, but they lose no one given that Caris and Spike are already gone and gain a decent recruting class.  That ought to be good for at least a couple of more wins.

Space Coyote

February 29th, 2016 at 1:34 PM ^

Almost every team has "joke" wins. They still count. They count for Michigan. They count for MSU. They count for everyone. Except wins against DII teams, which is just awful scheduling (schedule another "joke" team, and we're at 20 wins). But that's how wins work. You can't discount them for Michigan because it fits your narrative and then include them for every other program.


February 29th, 2016 at 5:40 PM ^

OSU sure - that's a loss that UM shouldn't have had, but it's also a road game.  IU has a pretty good team, and UM is still down Lavert and (to a lesser extent) Spike.  Take Yogi off that team and see how that game looks.  Wiscy is playing about as well as anyone in the country, and UM was in a fight with them until late, on the road.  Even when UM was dominating the conference they still struggled against Wiscy.  

Nobody likes this team losing, but only rabud fandom looks at this team as "better" than about half the conference.  


February 29th, 2016 at 9:24 PM ^

is WHY IU has a pretty good team and WHY Wiscy is playing about as well as anyone in the country. If you compare their rosters to Michigan's, even without Spike and LeVert, they shouldn't be. 

Beilein has 3 juniors and 3 sophomores with significant playing experience in his rotation. He has 4 top 100 recruits, 3 of which are top 50. That is a better talent/experience combo than any of those 3 teams. Hell, Indiana is giving major minutes to a player who Beilien literally preferred an empty scholarship over! And yet, they are better. What is it, if not the coaching?




February 29th, 2016 at 1:18 PM ^

They've lost offensive efficiency.  In 2014 they were 10th overall in KenPom.  Get the offense back up a bit (they are 22nd now) and they should rebound a bit too.  

I honestly do expect a coaching shakeup on the defensive side, but this is also a team with defensively-limited wings which doesn't help them one bit against the offenses they see.  I actually think Donnal will help in that department with another year of maturity, but they desperate needly Dawkins to figure out his duties on that side of the court because Robinson just isn't going to ever have that lateral quickness to keep up with guys.



February 29th, 2016 at 3:01 PM ^

Defensively limited, wings, gaurds, and bigs. 

There, I fixed it for you. 

I finally grumbled something at the TV yesterday when Walton was somewhat gaurding his guy starting at half court and as soon as he got to the three point line Walton stood up out of his stance and his guy blew right past him for a layup.

What is the point of guarding someone at halfcourt only to get out of your stance at the three point line and give up an easy layup? This is elementry shit and it happens to different players  play after play, game after game.


February 29th, 2016 at 5:53 PM ^

It's a team with limited defensive capability this year; it happens.  But historically Beilein's teams have been adequate defensively. His WVU years are (2002-2007) were 234->112->92->102 [but a great offense]->70->90 for KenPom defense.  So not great, but not terrible, and that's playing in a tough Big East.  And his offenses got better each year.

I think what happened is he whiffed on a couple of kids who could have helped defensively and the guys he has haven't developed as quickly as you'd like.  There will probably be a shakeup this offseason on the staff, and I assume that a renewed focus on defense will come into play. But looking at the roster (especially without Lavert), I don't know how people expected them to be that good defensively.  What bothers me more is the lack of consistent offense, though I still do think Irvin is hampered by his back surgery recovery and that has limited what impact he has had on an offense that desperately needs a playmaker as Walton has seemingly forgotten how to shoot.

Stringer Bell

February 29th, 2016 at 1:53 PM ^

Is this team that much better than last year though? Sure we have a few nice wins this year but then we've been blown out against practically every other good team. Last years team at least seemed competitive in all their big games (after Caris and Walton got injured). Last year they really seemed to embrace the underdog role, this year they seem to just accept that they're not good enough and throw in the towel. I don't see much room for improvement next year either, and it seems unlikely anyone from the incoming recruiting class will make much of an impact their freshman seasons.


February 29th, 2016 at 12:30 PM ^

Agree with most of what's written. People who demand firing Beilein are slightly crazy, imo, but a change is necessary. I don't get excited much watching this isn't a fun team to watch. They seem uninspired and sluggish, almost like they don't want to be playing the game. Frustrating given how excited I was for this year, seemed like too much depth to miss the tournament. Now I'm almost worried that we'll get embarrassed in the tourney.

L'Carpetron Do…

February 29th, 2016 at 1:34 PM ^

Yeah I'm pretty bummed about this season too.  I can't remember a Beilein team with so many glaring weaknesses.  The fact that they're even on the bubble is a testament to his ability.

And I agree about the sluggishness.  I think that's where the loss of Spike and Cairs really hurt.  Sometimes they're just straight-up soft.  In the few games I've been able to watch, they looked pretty flat.  

I'm more concerned that this seems to be the only Beilein team that has not gotten better as the season wore on, which was almost always a given.  Even last year's team was playing great at the end of the year and was fun to watch.  I wonder what's up with this year's squad. Something is definitely off.

L'Carpetron Do…

February 29th, 2016 at 2:47 PM ^

Yeah I thought Dawkins was going to be awesome this year.  And I thought Chatman was coming on strong at the end of last year and he would get some more run this year.  Doyle too.  Surprised Wagner and DJ Wilson havent really shown enough to get on the court in significant minutes...


February 29th, 2016 at 1:39 PM ^

By the time old farts (like a certain Presidential candidate to show its ubiquity) have joined the dabbing crowd, you know the shark has been jumped.

It was fun when it was fresh, and only the cool kids knew about it.  It was fun when old fart Frank Beamer did it as an exception in the earlier days.  Not anymore.  It's old.  A lifetime in passing fads.


February 29th, 2016 at 11:47 PM ^

Dabbing is such a harmless thing. It's not like some guy talking trash, playing dirty, flexing for 5 minutes, etc. Even if he doesn't like dabbing, fine, but he went on for like 5 minutes about it. I remember him doing the same thing in a Michigan game earlier in the year just ranting on and on. He complained about a baby dabbing because the baby wasn't really dabbing guys! It's a baby! They don't know what they're doing! No shit, dude. I'm sure the baby just happened to fall asleep or whatever in that position. It's still funny.


February 29th, 2016 at 12:40 PM ^

I know assistant coaches tend to specialize in and be responisble for certain areas, but shouldn't the bulk of the blame be laid at Beilein's feet? Michigan has been a relatively poor defensive and rebounding team since Beilein arrived. He's the constant, not Bacari.

That being said, I think an assistant shake up is far preferable to a head-coaching shake up.


February 29th, 2016 at 12:47 PM ^

Brian won't say it but I will, this program needs a new coach. Michigan doesn't have a historically efficient offense like they did in 2013 and 2014, and this program has shown it cannot win games any other way in the past 9 years.

Beilein recruits like he's at a mid major. He only recruits upper middle class suburbia and refuses to go into the city and get real players with toughness and dog in them and it shows on the court. I really don't want to hear anyone compare Michigan basketball to the Amaker/Ellerbe years. It's like comparing Michigan football to the Hoke/RR years. Beilein has a $100 million facility and is surrounded by talent in every major midwestern city. There are no more exucses.

People will point to LeVert being out, and that's fine, but I'll remind them he wasn't even supposed to be here this year had he not gotten injured last year. I'll also remind them that this team lost games to EMU, NJIT, and got taken to pound town by Xavier, SMU, and UConn with LeVert in the lineup. There are no guarantess things would be markedly better.

The Beilein era has peaked and he failed to capitalize on it by whiffing on every major recruiting target he had the past 3 years. Missing the NCAA's for the 4th time in 9 years is not acceptable here. Period.

Time to get someone in here whol will recruit and coach like he's at Michigan, one of the richest and most powerful brand names in all of sports. Ridiculous we should settle for anything less than a top 25 program every year.


February 29th, 2016 at 12:48 PM ^

Michigan can't recruit in basketball like the other schools do. We got burned cheating once and can't risk a death sentence. I feel like those of us that lived through the Fab Five understand this better than those that didn't.

Be happy that our coach is clean, a good human being, and can coach up mediocre talent in most, but not all, basketball seasons.


February 29th, 2016 at 1:27 PM ^

is the issue.  Aside from 88-94 (which everybody pretty much agrees was really dirty), Michigan has never been a consistent basketball powerhouse.  The 89 title kind of came out of nowhere to a certain degree, and the Fab Five was a 3 year blip of relevancy that resulted from 2 really disappointing seasons before them and was completely bought and paid for.  So there is not a whole lot of "pedigree" to fall back on as to what Michigan should be in basketball.  Should they be a consistent power? Based on, just facilities?  So, should Oregon be a consistent basketball power too?  I understand where you are coming from and I am frustrated too, but Beilein isn't presiding over the death of a powerhouse here.   His initial task was monumental.  I think it is fair to ask if he is the right man for the job from here on out, but I think he should have the opportunity to shake up his staff and get Simpson, Teske, and Watson to campus before he is declared finished.  Seriously, 23 months ago we were a possession away from 2 straight Final Fours.  It has not been that long.


February 29th, 2016 at 1:36 PM ^

Beilein already shook up his staff once. Doing it again isn't going to change anything. The problem is with him. If you're expecting a bunch of 3 star recruits to come in here and change anything I think you have another thing coming. Meanwhile up the road in East Lansing they've been to 18 straight NCAA tournaments and 7 final 4's and just signed their best recruiting class in years. 

Saying Michigan basketball was only a powerhouse for a 6 year period is completely false. For the 70's, 80', and 90's Michigan was an elite program. Here is the highest AP Top 25 regular season ranking Michigan achieved each season from 1984-1998. There has been much debate whether Michigan is performing at or below expecatations compared to their historical performance before sanctions cratered the program.

84-85: #2

85-86: #2

86-87: NR

87-88: #7

88-89: #2

89-90: #3

90-91: NR

91-92: #11

92-93: #1

93-94: #3

94-95: #13

95-96: #16

96-97: #4

97-98: #12

During this time period Michigan lost in the first or second round 7 times, lost once in the sweet 16, once in the elite 8, made 3 final fours, and won 1 national championship.

Bottom line is Beilein had two good years with one group of players. This year is pretty much his historical norm. The excuses people make for this guy are bordering on Brandon/Hoke/Rich Rod level.

Space Coyote

February 29th, 2016 at 2:07 PM ^

There could be other issues though. Perhaps the kids they are recruiting now aren't accepting of their coaching techniques like previous players. Perhaps they haven't adjusted their defensive techniques to the current basketball landscape that has shifted over the past few years. But you look at the defense before and after the shake up, and the year after the shakeup the defense immediately jumps to the best defense Beilein has had at Michigan, and it remains consistent in that range for three years.

Sometimes new blood, a new way of looking at things, new insights, new coaching methods, etc, can fix a lot of problems. It is very possible that on the defensive side of the ball, Michigan has gone stale, and they simply need new blood.

Space Coyote

February 29th, 2016 at 2:21 PM ^

But I feel like that was something that was very unique to the B1G and then people have generally figured out how to scout and prepare for it the past few years. But why they don't run more 2-3 is confusing to me. They did at the end of last season and the defense seemed to improve when they did, but again, they didn't really run it enough to make any significant improvement to the baseline.

Part of the issue is likely coaching time; do they have enough coaching time to go over the offense, the man defense, the 1-3-1 defense, and a 2-3? I really don't know. I've always preferred Louisville's defense, but that is unrealistic for this team, because they dedicate massive amounts of time to that defense, at times to the detriment of the offense.


February 29th, 2016 at 9:13 PM ^

Playing zone still requires defenders to have some sense of man to man principles. Zone may be thought of as something a team does if it can't play man, but unless a team has man concepts down, the zone will suck, too.


February 29th, 2016 at 1:43 PM ^

UM has a pretty strong history in basketball.  They are tied for 13th all time in FF appearances and that's with the '92 and '93 appearances vacated.  If you want to count the two the fab five vacated UM climbs to 10th all time in FF appearnces.  

When it comes to appearances in the championship game, UM ranks 8th.  8th is with the vacated FF's.  You count the vacated FF's and UM is 6th all time in championship game appearances.

Yeah, UM isn't UNC or UCLA or UK, but they are historically a solid bball program.  

You say the '89 title came out of nowhere - hogwash.  They'd made the NCAA tourney in '85, '86, '87 and '88 with '88 being a Sweet 16 appearance.  And the '85 and '86 teams were damn good - they just choked in the NCAA's.  All four of those teams ('85, '86, '87 and '88) finished in the Top 10 of the final AP poll.  

carlos spicywiener

February 29th, 2016 at 1:47 PM ^

"Past performance = future success" argument is tired, old, old and tired. The ghost of the 1990's isn't hanging a metaphorical ceiling over this program, snickering as basketball coaches vainly attempt to break through.

If tradition was such a factor, UF Gators football would be just as awful these days as it was before Steve Spurrier came back to coach. No titles, no tradition, no nothing.

Gimme a break.


February 29th, 2016 at 2:06 PM ^

inhereted an absolute dumpster fire man. OK, yeah, the ghost of the 90s isn't floating around now, but people who are saying that Beilein apologists are akin to Hoke and Rich Rod apologists?  Seriously?  "In Beilein We Trust" was actually a thing until like yesterday.  Can Beilein make a layup for Zak Irvin?  Can Beilein make a dunk for Aubrey Dawkins?    

carlos spicywiener

February 29th, 2016 at 2:35 PM ^

That dumpster fire situation was 9 years ago. Today's michigan basketball program is worlds apart, with a new AD ready to actually care/ invest in it.

And if the coaches can't prevent mistakes happening over and over, they aren't doing their jobs. Either they need their coaching in practice to start sinking in, or bring in better talent.


February 29th, 2016 at 3:36 PM ^

(or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I think a lot of what you are seeing is not coachable.  Nobody on this team, save MAAR, appears to have any real basketball instincts.  It is not an effort thing, it is instinctual and you either have it or you don't.  We never come up with loose balls because the balls (lol) always bounce the opposite direction from where our players expect them to go.  Remember in our tournament runs how GR III would always be in that place to get that rebound, or how Morgan would be on the exact right spot underneath the basket for the tip in.  Nobody on this team appears to have these intangibles.

Dawkins misses dunks because he doesn't time his jump correctly.  Irvin misses layups because he doesn't seem to have "Stauskus-like" spacial awareness in terms of where the defender is going to be so he is going up with doubt. Nobody on defense funnels people to where the help is naturally going to be based on the flow of the play. 

I agree with you that we need more talent in general, but I don't know as though the issue is really talent as much as it is general basketball IQ. 

For me personally, I have said it a few times, I would be getting Rawkman 15+ shots per game because I think he is the best player on the team.


March 1st, 2016 at 12:01 AM ^

I'm disappointed too, but some posters here are looking at Beilein's first few years and talking about how mediocre it is and now the team is returning to Beilein's norm. No one save Calipari coming in and paying a bunch of recruits was going to turn Michigan around overnight. You can't blame Beilein for mediocre years as he pulled Michigan out of that hole. Not necessarily saying you are, but Beilein's trajectory here has gone up and up until just last year.

We won the conference championship just 2 years ago! He's had 2 poor years with injury problems and people want him fired. It's fucking insane. Yes, the future is uncertain, but firing him now is still ludicrous.