Scotch Tape And Soda Comment Count

Brian January 28th, 2015 at 12:20 PM

1/27/2015 – Michigan 58, Nebraska 44 – 13-8, 6-3 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

I'm not sure whether MAAR is the gum wrapper or the battery, whether Dawkins is the shoe or the lamp, whether Bielfeldt is the broom or the package of pantyhose. I do know that Zak Irvin is pulling the contraption taut. Spike Albrecht is lighting the package on fire. John Beilein is glancing up from his maniac's blueprint, waiting for the moment when Tim Miles's friendly head is dead in the crosshairs.

"Subs away," he says.

A hit, a palpable hit. Michigan goes to 6-3 in the Big Ten playing a lot of weird guys.

All the weird guys, really. I guess DJ Wilson would be slightly weird at this point, but not nearly so weird as Dan Dakich criticizing his son for not stopping the ball in transition. The weirdness is out there, man. It is starting and not coming off the floor.

Michigan got 37 minutes from a guy in Pennsylvania who Penn State didn't bother to offer and this was fine. Good, even. MAAR/Rahk put up nine points on eight shots, had a few rebounds and a steal, and played good defense. Fellow weird guy Aubrey Dawkins was headed to Dayton before Michigan stepped in; he put up 13 on seven shots, had a killer block, and generally looked like the top 50 recruit Michigan was supposed to have in this class.

And Bielfeldt. I must confess that whenever he ends up on the floor I wonder what on Earth Michigan could have seen in a player who can only be a 6'7" center. I guess they think he can beat up Walter Pitchford. Which he can, somehow.

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[Fuller]

My theory is that Beilein was working with the medical center on a top-secret growth project that fell through. A 6'10" Max Bielfeldt is really something.

In any case, we're here now, having a season. It's not a good season. But it is a season that's worth watching.

It's quite a trick to have a massively disappointing year—one that was headed that way even before the injury avalanche—and still give off the aura of gritty grit and development that Michigan is. They're not good. They're not bad, though, when they obviously should be.

This collection of guys gets a little less weird every time Dawkins has a line-drive three nestle into the net and hang there for a beat longer than you'd expect, every time MAAR gets to the rim and finishes tough. With LeVert on the shelf, this is next year's team assembling itself one game at a time. Add Duncan Robinson and DJ Wilson and, like, a toe for Walton and you could have something there.

Either way, this assemblage of dudes is flipping through configurations every time the opponent gets a handle on them. They morph into the most effective possible shape given their personal shortcomings and prevent a meh year from becoming a nightmare one. Let's see where it goes.

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I'm thinking it goes to the NIT, but I'm okay with that. I'll take a few more games of Beilein pulling out every last banana peel he has for the opposition.

BULLETS

How about those late pickups? Michigan fans were confused when Beilein pulled in both Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman very late in the last recruiting cycle. One seemed necessary given the roster; two was a flier on a random guy. Those pickups are now paying off.

The stats are still lagging, with both guys at the bottom of the list in terms of usage and with MAAR's early struggles holding his shooting numbers down; their play has improved greatly. Dawkins is the most efficient shooter Michigan has right now, at 57/42, albeit with a very small sample size. Both turn it over too much and aren't getting the assists Michigan will need them to acquire down the road, but at the very least both guys look like solid four-year college players.

That "four year" bit seems important these days. Michigan could use a dose of roster continuity in here.

This was a fortunate matchup. Nebraska's okay; Michigan matches up against them well this year. Michigan has a huge weakness on the defensive boards that the Cornhuskers generally do not even attempt to exploit. Pitchford's OREB rate is 3.7. The one guy who does get an appreciable number of OREBs, David Rivers, was out.

Meanwhile Michigan's zones give up a lot of corner threes against a team with no three point shooting. Petteway is at 34%; tiny pest Benny Parker is at 38% but is loathe to pull the trigger with just 29 attempts on the year. (Parker proved this by passing up multiple open looks in the second half.) The other guys pulling the trigger range from bad to abject.

Once Petteway turned out to be in bad Kobe mode it was just about whether Michigan could pull together enough offense to make it comfortable. They eventually could.

Bid? It's still highly unlikely. We could have been talking about it if they pulled out that Wisconsin game, which would not only have been a non-loss but also a big win. Without it there's not a whole lot of traction to be had in the remainder of the schedule. The Big Ten is having an off year and Rutgers is occupying two slots in the schedule that could have been any other Big Ten team.

Even if Michigan goes 12-6 in conference you're looking at a resume that is like so:

  • 19-11 record pending Big Ten tourney
  • Best nonconference win over Syracuse, which is likely to be a bubble team
  • Maybe three wins over tourney teams in conference (6-3 finish likely assumes wins against NW and Rutgers and @ Illinois)
  • Horrendous losses to NJIT and EMU

That's a bubble team, and one that could very easily get passed over. Michigan's RPI is currently 64th, they're 0-5 against top 50 teams, etc. It's a resume that could go either way depending on how Michigan's RPI shapes up.

But what if? Michigan's hit the meat of their schedule with six of their next seven games against Kenpom top 50 teams (and the lone exception is no cakewalk: @ Illinois). Go 4-3 in that stretch and then we might start tracking Bracket Matrix and the like.

Chatman. Oof. Not to pile on but man that guy is just completely out of it. He's not even close on his shots, he's repeatedly losing people on defense, he's turning the ball over a ton… you have to keep rolling him out there some since he's a guy who could turn it around and become a nice player down the road, but the regression from a place that wasn't that far off the ground to begin with is dismaying.

Irvin. With Derrick Walton out someone… needed to pick up the rebounding? Yes, yes, apparently. That was Irvin, who notched a double double. Hopefully this can get him more into games where he's not getting a ton of  shots, or not hitting many of them.

Comments

Soulfire21

January 28th, 2015 at 12:25 PM ^

I can't help but keep thinking how amazing it would've been to beat Wisconson Saturday, and/or to hold on to our 8 point lead at Purdue.

It's beginning to be fun again, having no expectations night after night and just enjoying the moment.

snarling wolverine

January 28th, 2015 at 3:06 PM ^

I think you are taking jmblue's post the wrong way. I don't think he was bashing the team, just saying that our record is pretty appropriate for us given how we've played, so there shouldn't be any regrets.  

Personally, I'm pretty happy with 6-3 in league play so far, especially given that we've lost our best player.  

 

 

The2nd_JEH

January 28th, 2015 at 12:26 PM ^

It's unbelievable that Chatman, out of all the freshman is the one that looks completely lost out there. I still have a lot of faith in this kids future, but man he's got some work to do this summer.

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woodfeld

January 28th, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

Does anyone else see any similarities to how Chatman looks out there to how Smotrycz looked in his final year here?  Absolutely zero confidence in themselves, look incredibly disinterested/lost.  Hope Chatman can stick through it and get to a place where he's utilizing all the athletic skills he has.  Maybe it's just an offseason of weights and practicing with his teammates is all that he needs.

UMaD

January 28th, 2015 at 1:15 PM ^

But I don't think he looks disinterested at all.

I think he is struggling with his role (obviously) and has lost confidence.  Part of that is Beilein has not had a player with Chatman's skillset at the 4.  Traditionally he will gravitate to people who can be spot-up shooters. 

I thought Chatman played well against Wisconsin -- you saw him getting physical and more aggressive. I think the competition and Wisconsin's physical style pushed him to just play and not think.

I think there is a great chance he becomes a really good player, maybe even our best player in a couple years.

Steve in PA

January 28th, 2015 at 1:53 PM ^

All I saw was a player frequently out of position...in basic zone...who looked lost to the point he was going to gravitate to the first player that caught his attention. There was a point I in the late stages of that game where he was completely on the wrong side not the court which resulted in the Wisconsin player having a 3 with no defender in the same zip code. 3pts

Then in OT he makes a reach foul because,again, he's so badly out of position he can't possibly recover. 2pts

That's 5 points at critical times against a team Michigan had almost zero margin of error available if they were going to pull it out.

Maybe he just looks lost because he is lost? I saw mention that he came from a small school league. Being athletic works against lower competition but big-time basketball has a lot of moving parts and I don't see him adapting at all. A redshirt may have helped but that's gone now.

UMaD

January 28th, 2015 at 2:13 PM ^

He is clearly confused - that doesn't mean he isn't trying.  His body language says he is frustrated, not that he has given up.

I'm not arguing he is a good player right now. He is really awful most of the time. I am arguing that we see flashes of ability and skill that make Chatman a guy we as fans should be patient with and excited about long-term.

We haven't come close yet with Chatman to giving up, IMO.  Donnal is the guy that I think is approaching that terrain. He looks like a MAC-level player right now with limited upside beyond that.

 

woodfeld

January 28th, 2015 at 2:05 PM ^

Disinterested is meant more for Smotrycz and lost meant for Chatman.  Afterall, it was Smot's soph year, I hope he's not still lost at that point.  And I think a lot of Smot's issues were in regards to his role in Beilein's system.  If I remember correctly, I don't think he was too happy with the number of minutes he was getting at the 5 spot (i.e. he didn't want to be banging down low).  I'm worried that maybe Chatman doesn't fit in to what Beilein wants from him in his system, ala Smot.  Time will tell, hopefully an offseason does wonders.

UMaD

January 28th, 2015 at 2:17 PM ^

I do see a concern with both for fit.  I think for Smot it was about him -- he was still a good player, but for whatever reason he saw a bigger role elsewhere for himself.  He's not the first big man or the last to wonder about his role in Beilein's system.

I think with Chatman there is great potential there and it's way too early to write-off.  The staff obviously sold him on the type of player he could be and what his eventual role will become. 

I kind of wish he would focus on one thing he can do well right now (rebounding? defense?) and build out from there but he is still trying to score often, presumably with the full support of the coaches.

Jonesy

January 29th, 2015 at 2:53 PM ^

Smot left because he didnt want to play a low post 5 which is where he ended up for almost all of his last year here.  Similar to how GRIII didnt like playing the 4 and possibly would have stayed if he were at the 3.  Chatman is just lost and frustrated, feel bad for the guy, but still haven't given up hope that he will be a quality player at some point.

bronxblue

January 28th, 2015 at 1:54 PM ^

He looks lost; he doesn't look disinterested.  He's probably pretty discouraged, and it may take an off-season to figure it out.  But this is a kid who seems to have all the tools you need to be a monster in Beilein's system, but perhaps it will take a year for the mental parts (defensive rotation, spacing, etc.) to click, especially given the step-up for him from Hs to college.  Some kids just take longer.

schreibee

January 28th, 2015 at 1:25 PM ^

Has any college basketball player ever arrived on a campus looking more like his starz were just wrong than Chatman?!

In fact has any player ever suited up for Michigan - I mean EVER - who looked less like they knew how to play basketball at all? Hell, I'd put $20 on Dakich to take him in a game of 1-on-1... father OR son!

Franz Schubert

January 28th, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

If Michigan wins 12 games in conference they are a LOCK!! You are severly overestimating the bubble. Michigan has 7 RPI 100 wins right now(MSU has only 3) and if they end up with say 11 conference wins they will have a minimum of 10 RPI 100 wins, including 2 in the non-conference. Teams with 10 RPI 100 wins do not get left out of the tournament.

westwardwolverine

January 28th, 2015 at 12:46 PM ^

Right, but teams with 10 RPI 100 wins don't usually have losses to NJIT and a 2-5 MAC team on their resume. 

Those games killed us. Its sad, because otherwise we'd be looking at a tourney bid with a 9-9 conference finish. As it is, I think it will take 12-6 to get us in, maybe 11-7 if one of the wins is against Maryland and they are still highly ranked. 

Franz Schubert

January 28th, 2015 at 12:53 PM ^

NJIT is playing very well and beat Yale. They have a realistic chance to break the RPI top 150. Bad losses are hurtful for sure, but not to the extent being mentioned. The commitee looks at the whole body of work and they will see the team evolved. It's also a fact that they care more about who you beat than who you lost to. Michigan needs 11 conference wins to make the tournament.

schreibee

January 28th, 2015 at 1:33 PM ^

OK, I'm probably gonna get shredded for this, but I have an honest question:

Is it better to go to the NCAA and lose in the 1st rd - OR win the NIT?

People are spending a lot of time and keystrokes debating how many RPI 100 wins etc it takes to get into the NCAA, and whether NJIT might appear to be a less humiliating loss by the time the committee convenes because they beat Yale!!! YALE?!?!

Couldn't this team ultimately benefit far more (in the future) from an extended run in the NIT than a 1-and-done visit to Anaheim or some such?

 

bronxblue

January 28th, 2015 at 1:59 PM ^

I think you almost always want to go to the NCAA tourney over the NIT.  Yes, Michigan could go 1-and-done in the tourney, but they could also make the Sweet 16 with a nice matchup and some luck.  Hell, they nearly beat Wiscy; they can hang with anyone they'd see in the first two rounds.  If you go to the NIT, your best bet is a long run to a secondary title and I guess that helps player development somewhat, but for recruiting and the kids who worked this year you want that "reward" of a national game.

TrueBlue2003

January 28th, 2015 at 7:21 PM ^

All the responses so far are nailing this, but it cannot be stressed enough that it's NCAA over NIT every singe time. Every coach and player to a man will tell you this.  Why do you think bubble teams go crazy when they get in the tourney?  A bubble team will benefit far more from the experience of playing in that environment, on a neutral court, than by hosting another mediocre team at home the day after getting their hearts ripped out.

And to count on a first round NCAA loss or extended run in the NIT is crazy. With the new 68-team format, 4 teams essentially start the tournament with a NIT-like coin flip game.  Then if you win that, you play a 5 or 6 seed which is very winnable.  Each of the last two years a play-in team has gone to the sweet 16, which means they played four games! The expected number of games for a NCAA play-in team (about 2) is less than one game fewer than the expected number of games for a top-seeded NIT team (about 3). That extra home game is not even close to being more beneficial.

Is the NIT a silver lining for a young team that doesn't make it? Sure, it's better than nothing. But you always want the biggest dance.

Jon06

January 28th, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

Max needs more love. He nearly notched a double-double of his own, and he was consistently good enough not to merit a quick benching the likes of which Doyle repeatedly earned.

UMaD

January 28th, 2015 at 1:21 PM ^

He's supposed to do stuff like that.  In the preseason I argued he would get a lot more minutes than people expected just by virtue of knowing what he was doing and not screwing it up.

He can't play against some teams because of his height/athleticism limitations but he's a solid role-player.

Excellent game form Max and good to see.

Trader Jack

January 28th, 2015 at 12:45 PM ^

Are the NJIT and Eastern Michigan losses really that horrible? Obviously they're not great, Bob, but NJIT is 12-10 and EMU is 13-7. Maybe those aren't the soul-crushing, resume destroying losses we initially thought they'd be.

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