Post bumped back to the top for obvious reasons.
SPONSOR NOTE FEATURING FREE BEER. HomeSure Lending is once again sponsoring our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. Matt will be hosting an informal watch party tonight 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 constitutes success, the sixth man factor, the possibility of a two-big lineup, and late game free-throw lineups can be found right here. Part two, on M's most important player, Z's lockdown sustainability, splitting defensive credit, and managing the tourney rotation is here. Today's Basketbullets on Teske's offensive breakthrough, Matthews taking a new role, Poole's passing, and the women's team's tourney run is here.
#10 Michigan (28-7) vs
#71 Montana (26-7)
|WHEN||9:50 PM Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan –8 (KenPom)|
rad motorcycle, not at all grizzly-shaped bear
Here it is: the tourney. Now is a good time to remember that in addition to improving a lot at the end of the season, Beilein teams also have a tendency to baffle opponents that aren't familiar with his system. This goes double when they're forced to do so on a short turnaround. Now is the time of exceeding expectations, except for that one time they didn't.
Now Michigan tries to not repeat that. They should manage to.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country..
|G||14||Ahmaad Rorie||Jr.||6'1, 175||88||24||112||Eh|
|Average all around, high-ish usage. 48/34 split, unassisted 3 shooter, superior FT%|
|G||0||Michael Oguine||Jr.||6'2, 171||79||23||122||Eh|
|Rim-or-3 guy w MAAR-level TO rate despite a ton of unassisted attempts at rim.|
|F||24||Bobby Moorehead||Jr.||6'7, 182||78||12||103||Eh|
|Just a shooter hitting 35%. TO rate way too high for a JAS.|
|F||20||Fabijan Krslovic||Sr.||6'8, 239||62||16||112||Very|
|Old school PF hits two, gets to line, OREBs against Big Sky comp.|
|C||15||Jamar Akoh||Jr.||6'8, 253||65||25||112||Very|
|Huge FT rate, mostly a dunk-on-dish guy. Black hole if he posts.|
|G||1||Timmy Falls||Fr.||6'2, 171||41||16||103||No|
|FR is 44% from three, 42% from two, and has huge TO rate.|
|F||4||Sayeed Pridgett||So.||6'5", 195||56||22||95||Very|
|48% 2PT shooter with a 20+ TO rate.|
|C||5||Karl Nicholas||Fr.||6'8, 212||21||22||96||Very|
|Only plays in big blowouts or when foul trouble is dire.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
ahmaad rorie is going to get X'd
To echo the take from Monday's post: with all due respect to a 16-2 Big Sky team that is the best #14 by a great distance, this does not look like a scary matchup. In terms of team quality this is approximately the equivalent of a neutral court game against Wisconsin, and when Montana has faced even a B-level Kenpom matchup they've flailed.
The shape of Montana's team also doesn't lend itself to an upset. They go seven deep. They've got one legitimately good three point shooter. He's Timmy Falls, a bench player with a 26% TO rate who shoots 42/44. Their other three shooters are all pretty eh; their two posts are not at all stretch types. Death by a blizzard of threes—always the prime method of stunning first-round demise—seems pretty unlikely.
One of the other major avenues is "mid-major dude is the best guy on the court," and if Montana is going to go that route they're going to need PG Ahmaad Rorie to go nuts. Rorie, who transferred from Oregon after one year and is in his second year on the court in Missoula, launches 27% of Montana's shots and barely leaves the floor. He's the only member of the Griz to chuck unassisted threes; he takes a ton of unassisted 2PJs that he cans at a solid rate.
He's not very quick and struggles to get to the basket (just 25% of his shots are at the rim vs a Big Sky schedule and half his makes are assisted); he didn't particularly stand out in your author's viewing of the Big Sky title game. Zavier Simpson should be able to force him into a bunch of heavily contested looks. Rorie's been good at hitting those this year; it'll take a superlative performance to hit a 110 ORTG. This is of course possible—you remember the Minnesota game. That's what effective guard offense from the Griz looks like.
The off guard, Michael Oguine, is Montana's most efficient player. At 23% usage he's at a 122 ORTG largely because of his impressive, MAAR-level turnover rate. He's under 10% despite getting half his shots at the rim and creating 80% of those. He gets to the line and converts at a decent 52/35 clip from the floor. He will presumably draw MAAR in a battle of the zero-turnover penetrators; he's the gent most likely to have a worrying stat line at halftime.
Wing Bobby Moorhead is Just A Shooter hitting 35%. He wears a headband and you will instantly hate him if and when he hits a three. When Moorhead ventures inside the line he has a 1:3 A:TO ratio and hits 41%. Running him off the line is most excellent.
Montana's other two starters are interchangeable post types who both go 6'8" and are 240-250 pounds. Jamar Akoh and Fabijan Krslovic are near-indistinguishable statistically down to their identical .588 hit rates from two. Akoh is a foul magnet and a little bit better on the boards. Krslovic is also top 100 in FT rate but not top 20, like Akoh. Everything else is virtually identical. Both guys play the same way, too. They are in and around the bucket, throwing up short hooks and the occasional jumper if they can't work their way to the rim.
The last Montana player you can expect to see is F Sayeed Pridgett. He's a wing sort who doesn't shoot threes and is at 48% inside the arc with a 20+ turnover rate. Montana has played freshman post Karl Nicholas a bit but he hasn't seen more than token minutes in a close game since December. It'll take foul trouble for Nicholas to emerge in this one.
The Grizzlies are fairly balanced, 82nd in Kenpom's adjusted offense and 65th on defense. Their peripherals are pretty great because of their competition level… and that makes it somewhat hard to project how they'll apply to Michigan.
Anyway: on offense, Montana shoots very few threes (#342) because they're bad at them (#218) and runs an iso-heavy offense that's 313th in assist rate. (Assist rate varies less than you might think: average is 52%; Montana is the 300s at 46%.) They get to the line, pound the boards, and avoid steals very well. Everything else is fairly eh.
On defense Montana is a trap-heavy outfit that forces a bunch of turnovers and steals (30th and 21st, respectively), gives up a butt ton of free throws (315th), and does a great job of preventing threes. That latter is a bother if Michigan isn't dunking as compensation.
Unfortunately, they only played three top 100 teams this season so any attempt to filter for reasonably good teams fails due to sample size, but FWIW it looks like their defense holds up much better than their offense when the biggish boys roll into town: PSU, Stanford, Georgia State, and Washington all had 1 PPP or worse when they played the Griz. Those were all losses because Montana's offense crawled in a hole and died, averaging about 0.8 PPP. Penn State is the best of those teams on D, finishing 21st. Michigan is about 4 points per 100 possessions better than PSU, and far better than the other teams.
This might be a bit of a meatgrinder.
Don't get trapped. Montana is a pure man to man team that will frequently hedge so hard they trap on the pick and roll. This helps make up for a lack of athleticism and remained effective against major conference teams that saw it. Michigan doesn't have to turn the ball over for super-hard hedging to be effective. Montana is capable of disrupting Michigan possessions and sending them into late-clock mode, where they suck.
Hopefully Beilein's week to prepare pays off here. Michigan has spent a large chunk of the year combatting progressively more desperate attempts to thwart the pick and roll.
Just, like, defense against them? It is deeply improbable that a Big Sky team that struggles to crack 0.8 PPP against good teams and is amongst the country's least three-heavy outfits is suddenly going to blow up against a ***TOP FIVE*** defensive unit. I just don't see how it's possible given the talent the Grizzles will field unless they have one of those games where they hit literally every dumb shot they throw up.
Hit some free throws. Preferably a lot, but I'll settle for "some." Montana will be going all out for transition opportunities and is probably going to put Matthews and Simpson on the line frequently as they exploit the low downside of getting up close and personal with those guys.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 8.