Send Lawyers, Shooters, And Rebounds

Submitted by Brian on February 6th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

2/5/2012 – Michigan 54, Michigan State 64 – 17-7, 7-4 Big Ten

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Dustin Johnston

Playing in Breslin without any tall people was exactly as frustrating as you would expect; Kenpom nailed that particular game down to the point. The way things played out was equally as easy to predict. Michigan struggled immensely to generate shots after Izzo locked down most of Michigan's tricks and niblets. Easy buckets reduced, State annihilated Michigan on the boards, and that was that.

It's hard to get worked up about that after the fact. It was painful during; after it was obvious. The four factors graph might as well read "chalk":

NCAA Basketball


SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2012-02-05

Michigan lost this game on the boards.

This is the kind of thing I was talking about after the Ohio State game. There's only so much you can do when you're running out one guy taller than 6'5" against very large men in a hostile environment. Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism.

That's no shame. It does make games like Sunday's uphill battles dependent on lighting it up from three. If this was part of, say, a decade-long slump with no light at the end of the tunnel it might be an occasion to rend the garments a little further. In the context of the last two years of Michigan basketball it's just another indication that Michigan isn't quite there yet.

Since the direction is clear, patience is easy. Two or three hours after the game, anyway.

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Michigan has pulled through their brutal Kenpom stretch 3-3 with only the first ten minutes against Arkansas a real disappointment. At this point a tournament bid is basically in the bag. They need two more wins to hit .500 and have seven opportunities to do so, two of which are against Nebraska and Penn State. After fighting through six games against Kenpom top ten opponents in the first 11 games, they have just one in their final seven. Realistic goals include a 12-6 conference record—Beilein's best ever in a power conference—and a Sweet 16 seed.

I'll take it.

Bullets

Oh, Hardaway. That game was the tipping point when the internet stopped whispering about what's going on with Tim Hardaway Jr. and started yelling uncomplimentary things. And… after going 1 for 10 and meekly saying "thank you sir" on a first-half MSU layup in the midst of months and months of clanged long shots it's hard to disagree with even the foamiest internet commenters.

Hardaway has been a huge disappointment. Burke is a freshman and not Darius Morris. He can only do so much. He needs help and he's getting more of it from Stu Douglass than Hardaway over the past six or seven games. It would be one thing if Hardaway was just in a shooting slump; add in the bad defense and bad shot selection and it's… well, it's not good.

I'm at a loss as to where to go from here: Hardaway is hugely inefficient and his defense is indifferent at best but the main option off the bench in his stead is a three-point specialist shooting 21%. There's nothing you can do except ride the lightning and hope some of those twos from right inside the three point line go down. Michigan just has to live with it and hope he starts finding a scoring touch.

At least the NBA isn't a threat, amirite?

BONUS disappointment: Michigan really needs Hardaway to rebound in this small lineup since he's the second-biggest and most-athletic guy; he had one offensive and one defensive as MSU grabbed almost half of their misses. On the season he's rebounding almost exactly as well as Trey Burke. I just don't know, man.

Novak and Douglass. Nails in this game just like they've been in virtually every other game. Novak was 5 of 8 for 14 points; Douglass only had five points but put up five assists and no turnovers. That's especially impressive when Michigan only had 19 made field goals.

Novak had a hand in Green's face as he knocked down a ton of tough fallaway jumpers; not much you can do about that.

There is small and there is too small. The Smotrycz at the five thing is maybe something you can get away with for a few minutes per game. It is not suited for all of Evan's minutes. Blake McLimans may not be great but at least putting him out there is less of a hilarious mismatch against whoever the post dude is.

Assuming the OSU game is a longshot this will not be hugely relevant down the stretch except against Illinois, whose best offense is tossing it to seven-footer Myers Leonard in the post and seeing what happens. The rest of their offense is Brandon Paul running around being inefficient. Michigan needs to find a way to neutralize the Leonard matchup, and that's not putting Smotrycz on the block.

Well fine then. Draymond Green backed it up.

Elsewhere

Holdin' the Rope:

It is difficult enough to win on the road, but with the current makeup of this team, we will lose to teams like Michigan State and Ohio and even some lesser teams--like Arkansas--that are able to surgically pinpoint our major weaknesses via their own specific approach to the game of basketball. I realize that is a little bit of an unfair (and crude) point to make, as teams like MSU and Ohio are very good teams; most teams lose to them. That is why they are ranked so highly. With that said, after these sorts of games have ended, I've been fairly at ease. As fun as this season has been, we are not even close to being on the same level as these sorts of opponents. Perhaps that will change next year when talented reinforcements will bring skills sets that Ann Arbor hasn't seen in some time. I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that the way the Spartans beat us was not at all surprising, and that I guess this isn't so negative after all since I'm not all that upset. If you can't tell, sometimes I devote many more words to a simple concept than are probably necessary; it's a personal flaw of mine.

UMHoops recap. I don't think "chemistry" is the problem with Hardaway's play. It doesn't take chemistry to rebound and play D, or choose good shots. Photos from UMHoops. Baumgardner on how MSU slowed Burke. UMHoops rounds up Big Ten action.

Comments

FrankMurphy

February 6th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

It seems like Hardaway is distracted or dealing with some personal issues or something. It's one thing to be in a shooting slump, it's another to be passive on defense. Hope he's able to overcome whatever it is that's bothering him.

Blueroller

February 6th, 2012 at 3:37 PM ^

GREAT title Brian, from a huge Zevon fan. And speaking of fans, let's hope we don't get to the point where you're including Warren's next line:

Send lawyers guns and money

The shit has hit the fan

I don't think it will either. Hardaway's problems, whatever they are, are certainly concerning. But the most frustrating thing about watching this team is knowing the cavalry is on the way for next year but Stu and Zack will be gone.

iawolve

February 6th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

and that guy watches a lot more basketball. He noted the obvious size issue, but also mentioned desperation of not going on a four game losing streak UM, being at State, emotional home win by UM and a clunker by MSU just before this game to provide specific motivation. He did not like all those things combined for UM.

Essentially, we had nothing working for us and then decided to shoot poorly. I guess maybe we were lucky only losing by 10.

MGlobules

February 6th, 2012 at 4:17 PM ^

this one gets it, right down to the plea for McLimans in Smot's stead.(I hate to cast aspersions on the coach, who I love, but I sometimes wonder whether he's been a little blinded by Smot's high ranking coming in. Feel bad for Smot but yeesh. Any guy whose body language says 'I would prefer that you put me out of my misery now rather than later, when I have performed even more poorly,' kinda gives me the jeebies after awhile.)

That said, MSU is not a great team. Makings of one, yeah. Great rebounding against us, yeah. But not cohesive on offense, I'm sorry. We make even a few shots and that game is a nail-biter. And we weren't missing them because of their great D. As the blues song goes, you ain't so big, you just tall, that's all. I understand that most people don't care--just like no one cares that three easy catches would have left Tom Brady the undisputed king of everything last night--but three of six of those evil bunnies go down against MSU and it's a nail-biter, "DrayDray" (ugh) is not waxing philosophical about order in the universe andcetera. . .

 

El Jeffe

February 6th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

Well, we're getting GR3 and Stauskas for the shooting and McGary for the rebounds. I'm not sure why I didn't notice it last year, but this year there have been a few games where it was so blindingly obvious that we needed an animal like McGary to get boards. I realize that's a bit of a simple-minded thing to say; I mean, any team would want an animal like McGary at all times. But this team in particular just can't play basketmanball ever, and sometimes you need to bring a hammer to a hammer fight.

jmblue

February 6th, 2012 at 5:06 PM ^

Don't forget Horford.  He's just the kind of high-energy guy we don't have right now.  He's the one shotblocking threat on the roster (he had nine in nine games before his injury) and had a very good per-minute rebound average.  He was coming along before he got hurt.  I think we've really missed him.

M-Wolverine

February 6th, 2012 at 5:16 PM ^

We shot .448 lst year, .352 from 3 pt, and got 32 rebounds a game.  This year we're shooting .457, .345 from 3, and got....32 rebounds a game. (MSU this year, for comparison is .477, .358, and 40/game).  So while I do kinda get the same perception that the lack of an inside force seems to stand out more, I think what the numbers are saying is we've needed talented big men for awhile.

 

Blue boy johnson

February 6th, 2012 at 6:59 PM ^

Size is sooooooo overrated in basketball. Watch Missouri play, they have one guy over about 6'4'' but all those guys are athletic AND skilled and they can beat anybody on a good day.

MSU  has neither elite size or athleticism but they have more than Michigan, but Izzo had those boys ready to compete full tilt. This is far from the most talented team Izzo has had. Nix, Thornton Trice, Byrd are not great athletes. The only guys you can put into an elite category, are Dawson, Payne and maybe Green. That's it. And other than Payne (an enigma at this point), they don't have elite size.

MSU kicked M's butt because they out fought M, not because of an overwhelming disparity in size and athleticism. Watch the MSU vs Illini game or the game against NW and you will see a team that is far from elite. I hope we get another shot at MSU in the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism