Pre-Tourney Mailbag, Part Two: The Z Factor, Defensive Credit, Tightening The Rotation

Submitted by Ace on March 14th, 2018 at 10:19 AM

SPONSOR NOTE. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. Matt will be hosting an informal watch party tomorrow night at HOMES Brewery, and buying the first round for any MGoBlog readers who come. If you're looking at buying a house this spring/summer you should talk to him soon.

ICYMI. Part one of the pre-tourney mailbag addressing what consitutes success, the sixth man factor, the possibility of a two-big lineup, and late game free-throw lineups can be found right here.

Brian also posted the Montana preview yesterday evening if you missed it, and those of you still filling out brackets are strongly encouraged to utilize Seth's bracket assist tool.

MAARch Madness, Moe Buckets, or The Z Factor?


Z's huge leap needs to hold. [Campredon]

This is a tough one. The cop-out (but still true!) answer is Michigan will need all three to play at a consistently high level to make a deep run. As Matt Painter will readily tell you, Moe Wagner is the player who makes the team so dangerous by allowing Beilein to run a true five-out offense. The team's late season surge coincided with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman taking on a bigger role and thriving.

I have to go with Simpson, though. He's the catalyst for this team on both ends of the floor. On offense, he's the guy running the pick-and-roll, and he's being leaned on more than ever as a finisher in addition to a distributor. On defense, he's tasked with shutting down the opponent's best perimeter threat.

Simpson is also the only one of the three who doesn't have a reliable backup. Wagner has Teske, who's a downgrade on offense but an upgrade on defense. MAAR has Poole, who's liable to score double-digit points in a handful of shots at any given moment. Simpson has Jaaron Simmons or Eli Brooks; while Simmons has looked steadier down the stretch, neither has exactly grabbed hold of a role—Simmons didn't score in the BTT and has multiple assists in a game just once since January. Both are huge defensive downgrades from Simpson, too.

The team's defensive renaissance has allowed them to absorb some bad outings from one of their usual go-to guys without taking losses. That could conceivably happen in the tourney with a down game from Wagner or MAAR; I don't see it happening if Simpson doesn't maintain his current run of form. It's not just about what the player brings; it's about what the player behind them brings.

[Hit THE JUMP for more on Z's impact, who gets the defensive credit, the rotation going forward, and more.]

Z-Fense


lockdown. [Campredon]

This is Z's deal. For all the progress he's made and will make running the offense, he's always going to be a defense-first guy. Beilein said so himself after the conference title game:

We've had some really good point guards, really good point guards over time. All those point guards right there were tremendous offensive players, and they were really good defenders also.

They probably hung their hats on both ends. This guy hangs his hat on defense. And that's a really great thing to have. He's stubborn. He wants to play every minute.

It's hard to imagine this recent run is a fluke given Simpson's mindset and the defensive ability we've seen throughout his two years here:

Michigan can give up some shooting from the one when Simpson inflicts this kind of pain on the point guards of four of the Big Ten's best offenses:

  • Jordan Bohannon, Iowa: 11 points on 16 shot equivalents, 3 TOs, 82 ORTG
  • Glynn Watson, Nebraska: 10 points on 12 shot equivalents, 2 TOs, 85 ORTG
  • Cassius Winston, MSU: 11 points on 12 shot equivalents, 1 TO, 102 ORTG
  • Carsen Edwards, Purdue: 12 points on 18 shot equivalents, 2 TO, 77 ORTG

Outside of Watson, those are three of the better offensive guards around, especially Edwards. Simpson not only locked all four players down, he outscored each of them except Edwards, who needed seven additional shot equivalents to score two more points.

The film also indicates Simpson is going to sustain, and even improve upon, his already excellent defense. He has the ideal combination of strength, lateral quickness, and dogged effort. Winston tries to turn the corner here and there's no hope with Z walling up and keeping his feet moving (Winston should, uh, take notes):

Simpson is already playing defense at a level above previous Michigan point guards under Beilein and he's clearly soaking up what the staff is teaching him. My biggest worry about Simpson as a defender after his freshman year was his propensity for picking up cheap fouls. It's hard to rely on a point guard who's committing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes (as Z did last year) and given his physical style one could question his ability to cut down on them without losing some ground as an on-ball defender.

Instead, Simpson has committed only 2.1 fouls/40 this year while going from a little-used reserve to the team's top defensive option on opposing perimeter scorers. While his steal rate also dropped from his freshman mark, he's still in the national rankings (2.7%, 227th), and suspect that number will rise now that he's learned how to control his aggression—he's suddenly committing so few that he can afford to gamble a little more. I don't just think Z's defense is sustainable through this tourney; I'm expecting it to get even better as he moves into his upperclass years.

(I'm going to ignore potential matchup talk for jinx-related purposes except to say that I like how Simpson matches up against most any lead guard who's not an oversized one-and-done candidate. Houston and UNC both have high-usage PGs in the 6'0"-6'1" range.)

Two More Related Questions From One Emailer


Yak's earned his way into the succession plan conversation. [Campredon]

1. How much of the defensive renaissance would you attribute to Yaklich and how much to the current roster? Seems like a lot of Yaklich, but Simpson/Matthews/Rahkman must be one of the best defensive threesomes Beilein has had.

2. The team defense is already top 10 on the season, but if you just count the last 15 or so games it seems like it's been markedly better than the first half of the season. Do the stats show the defense is currently playing like a top 5 outfit? 

It's a little difficult to get a hold on exactly how much credit Luke Yaklich should receive given the defensive turnaround really started last year with Billy Donlon. That said, I'm inclined to give him the lion's share of it. Even maintaining Michigan's defensive gains would've been impressive after they lost DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin, the two best defenders from last year's starting lineup.

Yaklich has done much more; Michigan has sacrificed some foul avoidance to become better in almost literally every other facet of defense. Unlike Donlon, Yaklich managed to introduce a zone defense—multiple looks, even—that works effectively as a change-up. The transition defense went from solid to absurd outlier. He's changed Michigan's pick-and-roll approach to one that both effectively stops the play and keeps the big men from committing cheap fouls. Perhaps most importantly, he has Beilein's complete trust to run that entire side of the ball, and I'm not sure Donlon had fully wrested control from Beilein through much of last season.

There's also evidence from Yaklich's last stop. Illinois State went from 89th in adjusted defense the year prior to his arrival as an assistant to 19th last season. With the same head coach, this year's edition of the Redbirds ranks 135th. There's a lot that points to coaching.

Simpson also gets some of the credit. It makes a difference when a player sets the tone on that end, as Duncan Robinson said after the BTT victory over Nebraska when asked how the defense had become elite:

I think pride, first and foremost. At least in my time here, I feel we've been always criticized for not getting after it at that end. But this team has just completely transformed that mentality.

To be honest with you, I think it starts with Zavier. He brings it every single game and every single day in practice and raises everybody's level.

Having a point guard who can take the opponent's best perimeter player out of the game, disrupt the pick-and-roll, and communicate well with his teammates is difficult to quantify.

Yaklich still has serious personnel limitations, though. His starting frontcourt doesn't have a rim protector, and the bench has one who's still developing in Teske. While Robinson has greatly improved on defense, that coincided with Yaklich scheming up ways to keep him in the post. MAAR and Matthews are solid defenders but I don't think either is exceptional. Given the size and athleticism arriving in the 2018 class and returning from this team, Yaklich can—and I expect he will—take the defense up another notch, which is an insane notion given he currently coaches KenPom's #4 D.

That's a solid segue to question two. There has indeed been a leap in play on that end, one that appears to have come after the loss at Purdue. Through that game, according to Bart Torvik, Michigan ranked 17th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at 91.0. Since then, they've boasted the country's #4 defense with an adjusted efficiency of 87.9, giving them a healthy gap over #5 Tennessee (89.7). The Wolverines are 11-1 in that span.

I don't think Michigan should be afraid of losing Yaklich after one season like they did Donlon, who had a number of personal reasons to depart for Northwestern last offseason. Yaklich is still only five years removed from coaching high school ball. Unlike Donlon, he doesn't have previous D-I head coaching experience, and he hasn't had the opportunity to show how well he recruits at the high-major level. It'd be a big risk for a program good enough to lure him away from Michigan to give him the head job.

Please don't take that risk, other programs. The thought of Yaklich using a few years' apprenticeship to learn Beilein's offense and make recruiting connections before taking over the program is a very enticing one, even with LaVall Jordan and Patrick Beilein out there as other way-too-early candidates.

Managing The Bench


will Beilein trust his young reserves? [Campredon]

We have seen a lot of great play from the bench (Teske, Robinson/ Livers, Simmons).  With that, do you expect Beilein to keep a large rotation of players, or would you expect the lineup to shorten? Or maybe just a game by game evaluation? Thanks.

While there will certainly be adjustments from game to game, I expect Beilein will tighten up the rotation and look to roll with the Simpson-MAAR-Matthews-Robinson-Wagner lineup if he can. Teske still has a major role to play as the backup center; you're always going to get a healthy dose of minutes at that spot, and Teske could prove worth playing extended time against certain opponents. Livers, whose ankle injury was apparently quite minor, should also get a decent amount of run. Jordan Poole, despite his Big Ten Tournament struggles, is still going to get his chance to be instant offense, especially if Matthews struggles; he may be on a tighter leash, though.

I'm not no sure we'll see much of Jaaron Simmons. Beilein was still giving Eli Brooks a chance in the BTT, as well as giving the Poole/MAAR backcourt some longer looks, which isn't a great sign of his trust in Simmons. It may not matter too much anyway. Last year, Beilein rode Derrick Walton hard in the tournament, giving Simpson only 11 minutes across three games. Simpson should get a similar workload; he's consistently handled workloads of well over 30 minutes without showing signs of significant fatigue.

Two-For-Ones: Good

Ace,

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I know in college bball most teams want to try to limit the number of possessions per game, but I think teams should be trying to get 2-for-1s and the end of the half/game.  If you start possession with 55 seconds left and a two point lead, you can get a good look with 40 seconds left.  If not, drag it out to about 27 seconds and fire one up, but those almost always suck and are missed.  If you come up empty and the other team scores to tie or take the lead, you’re guaranteed a chance to have one more possession to score.  Why don’t we see this more?

All the best,

BlueinGeorgiaCalifornia

Simple: young players not being aware of the clock and coaches making mistakes. As long as a team isn't forcing up an awful shot, they should be taking advantage of any chance to gain an extra possession. NBA guys will sometimes screw this up; college players miss the opportunitiy more often.

Thankfully, I haven't seen this issue much with Michigan. They've done a solid job of recognizing 2-for-1 opportunities.

Shameless Gloating

Something like...

...that.

Comments

Indy Pete - Go Blue

March 14th, 2018 at 10:34 AM ^

I am going to use that one, thanks Ace. I love the deference Z receives from his senior teammate: "To be honest with you, I think it starts with Zavier. He brings it every single game and every single day in practice and raises everybody's level."

Z truly is the X factor for this team with his defense, leadership, and his newfound ability to get into the paint whenever he wants to. He has blossomed offensively over the last 6 weeks, and watching him has been sheer pleasure. Getting pumped for tomorrow, go blue!

Wolverine In Iowa 68

March 14th, 2018 at 10:43 AM ^

After last season, I was really worried about Z ever becoming the guy to lead the team.  I fully admit, he's proven me wrong this season, his Z fense is outstanding, and his offense has improved greatly.  If he keeps working on the free throw stroke, he's going to be a complete player, and I have faith in the coaching staff to get him there.

Mr Miggle

March 14th, 2018 at 11:15 AM ^

The time frame matters, but I'd peg Saadi Washington as the front runner now. Yaklich is definitely one to watch. I have the feeling that Beilein will give each of them more administrative duties when he's getting close to retirement.

Lavall Jordan is at his alma mater. He'll be hard to pry away from Butler. I predict Patrick Beilein will rise through the coaching ranks faster than his dad did. But it took John 20 years and two more stops to go from Le Moyne to a major D1 job. Patrick could make a good assistant coach hire here in a few years. (Unlike his dad, he has worked as an assistant.)

Needs

March 14th, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

Playing 2 for 1 at the end of the half is tricky because the clock doesn't stop on a made basket in college.

Say you get up a shot at the 40 second mark. If you make it, by the time the other team in-bounds the ball, there will only be like 35 seconds left. Then they can hold the ball and get a shot up with 6 or 7 seconds, meaning you get the ball back with 4-5 seconds, with the clock running, which isn't really enough time to do much more than throw the ball up court and hope there's something immediately there. If you want to play 2 for 1, you really have to shoot with about 50 seconds left on the game clock.

It would be a good rule change to stop the clock in the last minute of the first half after made baskets, which would make the rules consistent across both halves and allow teams to actually reliably play 2 for 1.

ijohnb

March 14th, 2018 at 11:32 AM ^

management of the 2 for 1 really irritates me. 

Also frustrating, tie game with the ball and no shot clock, and your team initiates the offense at like 11 or 12 seconds - that is way to early and is essentially handing the last possession to the opponent.  Unless you are running something complex, the play should be engaged at around the 7 second mark which allows for a shot and a possible tip in but not for the other team to get the ball back with any chance to do something.

Needs

March 14th, 2018 at 11:54 AM ^

In the first half, though, the running clock makes 2 for 1 time management really unpredictable, unless you get the ball with more than a minute remaining. If the other team can take 3 seconds inbounding the ball without taking time off the shot clock (or even more if they do the "roll the ball up the floor" thing), then the 2 for 1 timing becomes very difficult.

There's no excuse for screwing it up at the end of the game, though, since the clock stops after made baskets. And you're totally right about end of clock time management. Teams either seem to go too early and create a danger of losing when they should go to OT at the worst or wait too long and end up jacking up a contested 22 footer.

snarling wolverine

March 14th, 2018 at 5:15 PM ^

The flipside is teams waiting way too long to move when they're down a point or two.  If you're tied, sure, dribble down the clock.  But if you're behind, you should want as many chances to score as possible.  Go quickly and give yourself a chance at an offensive rebound or at least a foul to stop the clock.

 

ijohnb

March 14th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

trying to thread jack but this is certainly not worthy of its own thread.

Is there any way of knowing what time Michigan will play on Saturday if we get through Montana?  I can't find any info and I am just wondering if anybody has bought strips for the sessions and/or may have additional info from another source.

Trying to plan my weekend.  Naturally, Michigan basketball start time is the most important thing.

Pepto Bismol

March 14th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

But my guess is a night game, probably 7:30-ish.

I'd have to do way more research to back up my memory, but you usually stay in your time slot. Last year, Michigan opened against Oklahoma State at around Noon. Louisville played right after them at 2:30. The winners (UM-UL) played 2 days later at Noon.

Houston-SDSU plays at 7:20, we're right after at 9:50-ish. I'll bet you the 2nd round game is about 7:30 Saturday.

Pepto Bismol

March 14th, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

Oregon-Iona was 2:00pm last year.  Creighton-Rhode Island right behind them at 4:37.

Winners played two days later at......  7:10pm.

 

Nevermind.  I don't know what I'm talking about.

TrueBlue2003

March 14th, 2018 at 2:38 PM ^

because it's easier to move back a time slot a little bit because there are fewer games on the weekend than on Thurs-Fri so they bunch the Satruday games more into the primetime slots. But I can't recall ever seeing them give teams significantly less rest than 48 hours.

Can't imagine they'd play in the afternoon on Saturday.  I do think that a potential M v Houston/SDSU would be earlier/the undercard to a Kansas v 8/9 game.  So probably like 6pm-6:30pm for M (potentially!) and 9ish for Kansas.

J.

March 14th, 2018 at 12:51 PM ^

So, I've got two different sources that list the TBS games on Saturday as being 7:10 PM and 9:40 PM (EDT), and the Wichita pod is a TBS pod.  So, I'd bet on one or the other, and while it would make sense for Michigan to be the later of the two -- since the two games will be the winners of the afternoon games and the winners of the night games -- I think they do have the option to reverse them.

So, I'd say 9:40 PM is most likely, followed by 7:10, followed by the 5:30 / 2:00 / noon slots, all of which would mean that these two sources were wrong about what network would be airing thigns when.  (Sources: NCAA.com and SportsMediaWatch.com).

champswest

March 14th, 2018 at 11:59 AM ^

Wagner. Zavier’s big contribution is defense. You can always play great defense as long as you want to and Z always wants to. We can depend on that.

Mo presents a unique problem for all teams. When he is on his game (and in the game), he gives us our identity and our advantage. If the opposing team can find a way to take away Mo or if he is having an off day, we could have problems. Z’s game is always going to be there.

Ace

March 14th, 2018 at 12:03 PM ^

...that Wagner is the key to the offense being great, but this team is winning with defense at the moment. Also, Simpson's contributions in the pick-and-roll shouldn't be overlooked—gonna dig more into that (with a strong focus on Teske) in a post tomorrow. Michigan can win a tough game with Teske playing as much as Wagner. They cannot with Simmons playing as much as Simpson.

TrueBlue2003

March 14th, 2018 at 3:05 PM ^

Zavier is the most important player on this team because of his contributions on both ends of the floor and the dropoff to his backups.  He is the player that we could least afford to get in foul trouble or have injured.

BUT, you're correct that he's a relatively low usage offensive player who thrives on defense.  And his defense is less prone to having a bad night because he's going to bring it regardless.

UNLESS you count having his opponent go off on him despite his good defense as an "off" night.  There were two such games this year: Minnesota and Northwesten #2.  Those were probably our worst games of the year in fact.  And it's not like he played poorly on defense, those guys (Washington and McIntosh) were just hitting ridiculous circus shots with him in their faces and all he could do was shrug (and then Yaklich went zone against Minnesota).

But the thing about Moe is that he's not a super high usage guy, either and doesn't play the minutes that MAAR does.  Our performances haven't strongly been correlated with him being good or bad or even on the floor.

He was great against LSU and UNC and we lost both games (lost them mostly because of defense).  He was also outstanding in our loss to Northwestern.

He was great against MSU in the first game and mostly terrible in the second meeting but we won them both by double digits (again, mostly because of defense). He wasn't very good against Texas, he only played 17 minutes in the win against Purdue. He wasn't good in the win over Northwestern. He had 4 TOs and a meh 105 Ortg in our best offensive game of the season (scoring 88 at Purdue).

And that's what's great about this team.  We don't have a high usage offensive player that we're highly dependent on.  Any one of them or even two of them against weaker opponents can have an off night with the way our ddefense plays and with the way no player is highly leveraged on offense.

We just can't have multiple guys having bad offensive nights against good teams. So the answer is probably...take your pick between Moe and MAAR as long as they both don't have a bad night together.

mistersuits

March 14th, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

I'm greedy.

I want a Final Four run this year AND I am really stoked about a starting 5 of Simpson/Poole/Matthews/Livers/Teske for next season with all the talent coming in.

stephenrjking

March 14th, 2018 at 12:20 PM ^

Yaklich seems to be a real help to the team. But perhaps we should tap the brakes on a couple of things:

  • A big part of the defensive growth has been Beilein's choice to step away from coaching that side of the ball. He himself admitted he wasn't doing a good job balancing that with the offense, and has given that side of the ball over completely to his defensive assistant. Some of this is just structural.
  • Because Beilein completely delegates the offense to Yaklich, it's hard for Yaklich (or anyone else in that spot) to absorb Beilein's offensive acumen. Sure, they get an idea of how Beilein coaches and what he looks for, but as illustrated a week or two ago, everybody knows what Beilein is doing. Getting a feel for his throught process, for how he conceptualizes and plans, are things I believe someone would need to spend time learning from him, and Yaklich is spending that time on defense

Still, there's a lot of time. The good news is that these reasons also mean that Yaklich has a good chance of staying on for a year or two, which means Michigan is looking at a really good stretch of basketball.

TrueBlue2003

March 14th, 2018 at 3:16 PM ^

and to your first point, I mentioned yesterday that the structural change made should keep our defenses at a pretty high level as long as he/we make good hires if that d-coordinator becomes a revolving door.

That said, those hires matter and there's growing evidence that Yaklich is an absolute home run for what he did at Illinois State and is now doing at Michigan.  If Billy Donlon was DJ Durkin (solid d coordinator), Yaklich looks like a budding Don Brown.  You'd probably downgrade if you had to hire a new one, the question is how close could you get?

The second point is somewhat valid, but remember how much more time these coaches have together than they have with the players.  When they're with the players, it's an offense-defense split, but when they're sitting in the offices watching film for another 10 hours a day, Yaklich is surely picking Beilein's brain and absorbing plenty of the knowlegde he gets directly and from being together in the office and in practice.

All that said, Beilein is an offensive Don Brown.  You're not going to equal him, you just have to try to get as close as possible and Yaklich could get close with a couple more years of absorbing that knowledge and picking that brain.

jbrandimore

March 14th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

Here is a question that has long baffled me.

When a team has six fouls - and it’s not an end of fame or half situation, why wouldn’t you intentionally foul 3 times and force your opponent to shoot 3 1 and 1s per half?

I’m amazed when teams play it straight in this situation and often give up a 2 shot foul when they didn’t have to.

Bonus 1. A chance at 6 1 and 1 shots in a game.
Bonus 2. You can pick who you foul and who fouls them.
Bonus 3. If you choose this time frame to bench a couple starters, because of all the game stoppage, you might be able to shorten the game time rest period for your guys.

If you can foul someone who hits at 67% over those possessions, you would give up just over a point per possession. Seems a no brianer to me.

To me, this is a low risk strategy and no one does it.

InterM

March 14th, 2018 at 1:13 PM ^

You hasten the point at which the opponent gets 2 free throws.  Maybe okay if your opponent sucks at free throw shooting (uh, I can think of an example), but otherwise problematic.

Also, is there a greater possibility that an intentional foul will actually be called as intentional?  Sure, they never call that near the end of a game, but things might be different if a team is obviously fouling as a strategy earlier in the half.

TrueBlue2003

March 14th, 2018 at 3:33 PM ^

you have personal foul trouble to keep in mind.

Also, it depends on how "often" is "often" in terms of using up those 7th, 8th and 9th fouls on 2 shot shooting fouls.  I'm not sure what that is but it's certainly not all of those three fouls.  Good to keep them to allow your team to play aggressively on the ball.

Also, the math only works if you're fouling bad FT shooter which may not be available anyway. I don't think it's a terrible idea if you already have a backup in the game for whom you're not worried about foul trouble who is guarding a bad FT shooter.

But I wouldn't intentionally foul, per se.  I'd just say, play really aggressively in trying to keep this guy in front of you/steal it from him, and I think this is something teams do.  You see it with Matthews and Z (if Matthews drives, he gets swarmed and hacked and teams put pressure on officials to call it).

J.

March 14th, 2018 at 1:53 PM ^

I don't think the math works.  Assuming by 67% you actually meant 2/3, you actually give up 1.11 points per possession -- 2/3*1/3*1 + 2/3*2/3*2 = 10/9.  And that's without taking into account offensive rebounds.  I saw a stat that OREB% is about 10% on free throws.  Let's assume that the opponent scores 1.2 ppp overall -- high, but you wouldn't take this strategy unless they're going to score more in their base offense than they will with intentional fouls; now, you have:

miss - dreb = 0 points (30%)
miss - oreb = 1.2 points (3.3% -- expectation = 0.04 points)
make - miss - dreb = 1 point (20% -- expectation = 0.20 points)
make - miss - oreb = 2.2 points (2.2% -- exepctation = 0.05 points)
make - make = 2 points (44.4% -- expectation = 0.89 points)

Total: 1.18 ppp

So -- you might come out a little ahead against an excellent offense if you're a terrible defense. Otherwise, I don't think it works. :)

AC1997

March 14th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

I actually think Charles Matthews is getting short-changed for his defense.  I think we look the other way with him because of his offensive struggles and because of how well Z is playing.  Look at these results:

  • Dakota Mathias - 11 pts on 12 shots, 1-5 from 3
  • Miles Bridges - 17 pts on 18 shots, most long 2s or 3s
  • James Palmer - 16 points on 3-9 shooting thanks to 9 FTs
  • Kevin Huerter - 12 points on 15 shots, 1-5 from 3
  • Keita Bates-Diop - 17 points on 21 shots

I realize he's not the only one guarding those guys, but Z wasn't the only one guarding Edwards either. 

I think the best example of how well Matthews plays is Mathias.  I think after he killed us in the first half in the first game they changed assignments and had Matthews guard him more than Robinson and it showed then and for sure in the second game.  

Next year with Z, Matthews, and Teske all starting we could be an amazing defensive team.....if any of those guys could hit 60% of their FTs we'd appreciate it though.

ijohnb

March 14th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

struggles defending the post.  He is out of position on the catch, gives up ground, and is really "handsy" instead of using his feet.  It was clear that Bridges could have exploited that matchup more down low.  But up top and chasing wings and guards, Matthews has been a really, really good defender for most of the year.

TrueBlue2003

March 14th, 2018 at 4:02 PM ^

who was trying to defend an elite (much larger) player and yeah, he did get beat a couple times in the post in that matchup.  Very few SFs in college basketball could defend that. He'll rarely be defending the post, and it'll be even more rare (if ever) that a guy will be able to exploit him in the post like Bridges could.

And you're correct that it is baffling they didn't have Bridges back his man down earlier in the game.  Z and Matthews did an excellent job of preventing his face-up drives, such that he settled for long pull up 2s.  Terrible shots.  Izzo isn't a great tactical coach.

The point above is absolutely valid about Matthews defense.  Matthews is a very good defender and doesn't get his due.  He's the second best perimeter/wing defender (which are mostly interchangeable in modern bball) on the team after Z, Livers is third best.  Those three are all outstanding and the gap to MAAR, Duncan and Poole is sizable. 

MAAR used to be terrible but he's possibly above average now.  Duncan is nearing average. Hail Yaklich for getting those guys to where they are.

OkemosBlue

March 14th, 2018 at 5:30 PM ^

Thanks for a great right up, and I think Z is the most critical player.  Not because he's receiving most of the hype now for everything good about this team (rightly so), but becasue there isn't an easy replacement.  I would disagree that all Z-MAAR-Mo must all play great games to beat the best.  All of them had slower games in the B10 tourney, and they survived.  Matthews, Robinson, Poole, and Teske can play.  Finally, scheming so that Robinson's defensive limitations are limited is proof of both Y's scheming and teaching ability, not something to downgrade Y.

OkemosBlue

March 14th, 2018 at 5:30 PM ^

Thanks for a great right up, and I think Z is the most critical player.  Not because he's receiving most of the hype now for everything good about this team (rightly so), but becasue there isn't an easy replacement.  I would disagree that all Z-MAAR-Mo must all play great games to beat the best.  All of them had slower games in the B10 tourney, and they survived.  Matthews, Robinson, Poole, and Teske can play.  Finally, scheming so that Robinson's defensive limitations are limited is proof of both Y's scheming and teaching ability, not something to downgrade Y.

OkemosBlue

March 14th, 2018 at 5:30 PM ^

Thanks for a great right up, and I think Z is the most critical player.  Not because he's receiving most of the hype now for everything good about this team (rightly so), but becasue there isn't an easy replacement.  I would disagree that all Z-MAAR-Mo must all play great games to beat the best.  All of them had slower games in the B10 tourney, and they survived.  Matthews, Robinson, Poole, and Teske can play.  Finally, scheming so that Robinson's defensive limitations are limited is proof of both Y's scheming and teaching ability, not something to downgrade Y.