1/12/2016 – Michigan 70, Maryland 67 – 13-4, 3-1 Big Ten
those people didn't even know us [Bryan Fuller]
This was always going to happen at some point. A marquee win was going to stroll onto the court and get bombed back into the Stone Age by Duncan Robinson and the Enola Gays. Even as the team was getting hammered by various opponents featuring large angry people, I had this faith. (Probably. Shut up.)
They just had to, you know, do it. They had to take the three point shooting and shape it into a win with the other bent and misshapen tools at their disposal. The math had to add up. It had not done that so much this year. But basketball's math is changing.
John Beilein hasn't changed much in the 86 years he's been a college head coach. He will play four, preferably five, people who can shoot three-pointers and try to get away with everything that implies. The 1-3-1 has come and gone but the core has always been the Beilein Long Range Strategic Bombing Initiative.
It's worked. Beilein scrapped his way up the ranks by overachieving everywhere he's ever been. But there was always thought to be a ceiling past which this kind of basketball could not go. Early skeptics noted that Beilein's attention-grabbing tourney runs at West Virginia were paired with mediocre regular seasons. He'd never sniffed a conference title in a major league. Players who could shoot from deep were limited role players. They were Just A Shooters.
The game of basketball has changed, gradually and now radically. With Steph Curry currently redefining what NBA efficiency means as statheads in the background furrow their brows over any shot between the arc and the rim, the zeitgeist has finally come around to the idea that three is more than two.
Meanwhile Beilein has been a whisker away from a national title, a whisker away from another Final Four, and won three Big Ten championships. It's been a little rough so far this year since the post play has been… uh… well…
is there any way to say this diplomatically
if I am not diplomatic will I be arrested
I seem to have been given a choice between being massively dishonest and being banned from speech forever
Also Michigan's recent propensity for injury has bit hard as Spike exited for good and Zak Irvin scuffled through a big chunk of the season during which the fact he was about to miss a three was more obvious than the plot of The Force Awakens. Oh, and Caris Levert has missed three games and counting.
But as ways to play basketball go it seems like people are just now catching up to Beilein. The team is catching up to expectations. Now if we can just get some additional Mitch types in here.
Yesterday they did it. Set aside the bigs going 0/5; they are not members of the backing band here. Robinson and company went 12/24. That's 50%. That is good. That is enough to overcome a lot of things. It's enough to overcome Diamond Stone using 40%(!) of Maryland possessions efficiently, for one.
And it's not a fluke. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit his lone three against Maryland and has joined the club: Michigan has five players hitting 40%+ from three. That does not count Irvin, who seems to be recovered from the back-injury-induced early season funk and is hitting 44% over his last five. They have two players, Walton and Robinson, above 50%.
This deep into the season thoughts that Michigan might reclaim their Burke/Stauskas form have been shelved. But if they can poke their nose inside the line enough to avoid the kind of drought they suffered midway through the second half, they can be a fatally flawed team that goes down in a technicolor blaze of glory.
BULLETS FROM ABOVE
Goddamn, Duncan Robinson. Here are the top ten three point shooters in the country.
Robinson has 42 more attempts than the next-closest guy. The only player I found with significantly more, Oakland's Max Hooper, has 133 and is shooting at a 45% clip.
And is it just me or has he improved defensively? I have not been frustrated by a bunch of blow-bys of late. He seems to be able to stay in front of PF types and is even bothering the occasional person with his length. He's by no means good, but the opposition has stopped targeting him over and over again as the clear weak spot.
Robinson is developing—or probably just displaying—the ability to Not Just Shoot as well. The drive and pretty reverse layup late in the second half was an eye-opener; he's putting up shot fakes and then repositioning as well. He was the alpha dog on Williams two years ago with a diverse all-around game; he should be able to grow into that as he gets more comfortable on a D-I court.
weird face sometimes too [Bryan Fuller]
Derrick Walton is a weird player. Walton is rebounding like a 6'11" guy. His 21.7 DREB rate is almost top 100 nationally. Many of those are of the mansome variety where he launches off both feet and secures a ball a 6'1" guy definitely should not secure. Meanwhile He's hitting 33% of his two-pointers and 53% of his threes.
I am desperately disappointed that Kenpom stopped showing you similar players based on stats*, because what does that spit out for a guy with that DREB rate, assist rate, and shooting profile? Jan Jagla, but good?
*[I assume Pomeroy dumped it because it didn't work, but in this situation that only makes it better. Other possibility: Pomeroy saw Walton's sophomore year and pulled the plug in case his junior year caused his computer to emit smoke and shut down, moaning "why Ken whyyyyyy" as it did.]
Walton is a weird defender. I was very frustrated with him in the Purdue game. He started well and then kept getting beat off the dribble by drives that didn't look like anything other than a meh Purdue guard putting his head down. So of course he comes out against Melo Trimble and crushes him.
didn't go well, could have gone worse [Fuller]
Donnal as the "Evolution of Man" poster. I dunno, man. I assume every Michigan fan had written off Mark Donnal for good. There was certainly a lot of grousing about wasting minutes on him during the cupcake games in December, grousing that I agreed with. And then he got a ton of layups and is… well, he's not good but he is middling with frightening outburst of Mutumbo.
I never thought I would say this but the defensive downgrade when DJ Wilson came in was obvious. Wilson got wreckt on a couple of pick and rolls where he let the PG around him; Donnal got over and cut off penetration. He of course had that sequence towards the end of the first half where he had two spectacular blocks* and looked as surprised as anyone that he had just had two spectacular blocks.
While Diamond Stone more or less had his way with Donnal for much of the day the progress there is undeniable.
*[The first of which caused Tiricio and—ugh—Vitale to rant about how Donnal had committed a foul. Not that I expect Vitale to pay attention to the rules of the game or even the things happening in front of his face, but Donnal "getting [opponent] with the body" was Donnal leaping vertically as opponent rammed into him. That is a major emphasis with the refs this year.]
DJ Wilson is still baking. Clearly very bad in this game, as his brief chunk of playing time in the second half resulted in a 10-2 run for Maryland that he was almost singlehandedly responsible for. Also he floats to the perimeter to shoot threes way too much. But you can see flashes of an effective player in there; he has super-long arms and length, so he gets his hands on a lot of balls and has a future as a shot blocker.
The redshirt was clearly the best idea. He's got a long way to go; he has a very high ceiling.
Speaking of Max Hooper. Hooper has 133 three point attempts that he's hitting at a 45% rate. Pretty good, Max Hooper! How are you doing inside the line?
Wow. Hooper is a junior; in his career he has attempted 11 two-point shots and 344 three.
This has been "Brian and Ace find a freakish basketball player on Kenpom of no interest to you and tell you about it anyway."