Tale Of Two Points

Submitted by Brian on February 12th, 2014 at 12:41 PM

2/11/2014 – Michigan 70, OSU 60 – 18-6, 10-2 Big Ten


I'ma fall in this basket if that's what it takes

Early, it was a layup line for Ohio State. A combination of transition off turnovers and long misses and plain old WHAT ARE YOU DOING defense led to a stretch where OSU made seven consecutive shots, because all of those shots came within a foot of the rim. For its part, Michigan was stuck outside, with the now-standard point-guard-on Stauskas gambit making it difficult for Michigan to initiate offense through their best player.

Aside from the inexplicable avalanche of offensive rebounds, a sense of déjà vu prevailed. This was the same game Trey Burke's Michigan team had at OSU, the same feeling of being overwhelmed by a road game they had just experienced at Indiana and Iowa. Craft or a Craft-like substance was stuck to Michigan's engine, gumming up the works.

Dan Dakich rhapsodized; ESPN kept showing one particular defensive sequence where Stauskas got Walton a wide open corner three that GRIII rebounded and missed a putback on. What would ESPN have shown had either of those really good shots gone in? The same thing. The Aaron Craft narrative does not bow to things like reality. He is a winner, and if Ohio State does not win, they still win, because anything else is impossible.

And then Michigan was down four at halftime. Four is a lot less than 20. Four is doable.


In the second half, Craft stayed stuck to Stauskas. Michigan came unstuck from Craft. Stauskas managed to find snatches of space in which to rise up or attack the basket on his way to 15 efficient points but was largely removed from generating shots for his teammates. Walton became a free-range annoyance to anyone who happened to have the ball.

Except Craft. Walton played free safety against Craft. If provided a mildly psychoactive taco, Craft would have seen Walton as a giant middle finger extended in the general direction of his offensive competence. A very small, very distant middle finger. And he still would have passed the ball to someone on the perimeter.

On the other end, Walton did a thing that was pretty good, and then a thing that reminded you of you-know-who, and then another couple things and then you had to say it even if you were afraid to do so.

The word "Burke" was uttered, in comparison instead of deficit, when Walton took a mishandled dribble and exploded to the basket for an and-one against a seven foot shotblocker. He extended his body past applicable limits and crashed to the floor after. It had to be mentioned. It was like seeing a ghost.

This is not even that shot.


This is an entirely different shot that is the same shot that is Burke's shot.

Walton's stats were incomprehensible in relation to his play. When he scored near the end of the first half and up flashed his line—two points, four rebounds—it felt wrong. The narrative of his play was at odds with the blunt numbers, and even afterwards he still has an impossible-seeming 2/8 in the two-point column. The other stats, however, back him up: 13 on 13 shot equivalents, ten(!) rebounds, six(!) assists, one turnover. OSU has the fourth-best defense in the country; Derrick Walton drove the bus against them in the second half as Michigan put up 70 in a 59 possession game.

For his part, Craft finally launched his uncontested three, which was an airball. A gritty winner of an airball, but an airball. Dakich started looking for another mancrush—literally, on air, this is a thing that literally happened on air.

As Michigan surged, you remembered the other bit of that Ohio State game last year: a 20-minute trudge to tie the game before a final slump finally condemned them. This trudge was from ten back, but it was no less of a grind against pretty much the same team that ground Michigan's offense into paste a year ago.

This Michigan team doesn't have a Burke, but when there's one Aaron Craft maybe it's better to have three mini-Burkes thrusting their rapiers wherever the armor is weakest.


Hello. Michigan has now won at OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. In the same year and everything. They also have a road win over (probably) tourney-bound Minnesota, and are very likely to end the conference season at least 6-3 away from Crisler. 7-2 is a distinct possibility. Yowza.


This probably missed. Michigan now knows the feeling. [Fuller]

Parade of missed bunnies. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: that game reminded me of the Michigan-Arizona game, with Michigan in the role of offensive rebound machine that can't convert any of the resulting layups. Michigan had 14(!), most of them in the first half, and after that frustrating 20 minutes they only led OSU 7-4 in second chance points.

This feels like a team-wide problem but it was mostly a Robinson thing. (Morgan did miss a first-half putback but that was his only miss of the night.) On the one hand, Robinson flashed to the bucket without a box-out on several possessions and created extra shots. On the other, those extra shots did not go in the basket. They kept flashing huge disparities in FG% in the first half and wondering how Michigan was in the game; those disparities would have been significantly less huge if Michigan was just getting one look at the basket.

Haunted. Now add in the three point play caused when Caris momentarily lost his mind and 'saved' a ball going out off of OSU. This is why large sections of the first half were agonizing about a score that should have been near even.

But welcome back, super-efficient two-headed center. As mentioned, Morgan missed one shot. Horford also missed one, a 15-foot jumper on which he was left open. Both guys used clever moves to get short-range buckets on route to a 7/9 night on which Michigan dominated the boards.

Box score change request. Spike Albrecht only got four minutes, picking up another turnover and missing one shot. HOWEVA, that missed shot should be credited as an assist, as he drove into the lane and put it so high off the window that there was little chance of a bucket. He did this because Amir Williams tries to block everything. Amir Williams tried to block it; the ball went directly to Morgan on the weakside; Morgan actually made the layup.

Amir Williams. There's no nice way to say this. He is not all there. OSU has yanked him from long stretches of games for defensive incompetence; in this one Michigan's two centers picked up seven OREBs despite being much smaller and less athletic. He also committed one of history's worst fouls when he ran over Walton with the shot clock expiring on a critical possession down the stretch.

I remember Williams getting yanked from the M-OSU game at Crisler two years ago after some comically bad defensive possessions, and while he has improved somewhat from that point he remains a massively frustrating guy prone to fits of ain't-care. I know this because I was rooting for OSU in their game against MSU and built up large reserves of loathing for his game.

Irvin up and down. Irvin extended OSU the same favor Williams did at the end of the first half by fouling LaQuinton Ross on a three. It wasn't nearly as bad. He's a freshman, not a junior, and that was a quality look from the corner instead of a desperation jack from about five feet behind the line. It was still bad. Irvin also added in a trio of errors on possessions down the stretch:

  • fouling Ross as he initiated a desperation drive to the basket with three seconds on the shot clock
  • turning the ball over on a sloppy perimeter pass
  • getting burned by Ross on the next offensive possession for a layup and an OREB that turned into a three point paly

The refs credited the first foul to Horford, somehow, but it was Irvin who made the contact, and Stauskas is listed as the guy with the TO in the box score. I don't think I'm remembering it wrong, because at the time everyone in the room was moaning at Irvin.

[UPDATE: I remembered this wrong. The bail out foul was in the first half, as was the ensuing TO, and then the third error was the foul on the three. Irvin did get a TO from Ross in between these issues.]

So there's that. But Irvin also had ten points on five shot equivalents. This is a much shorter section than all the things that went wrong but it's equally as important. That is two points per Irvin-initiated shot. That is good, Adam Jacobi. His threes were needed shots in the arm when Michigan was getting wobbly; he's nearing Stauskas for team three point champion. Achievement unlocked: Modern-Day Microwave.


Wait. Should we call him "The Induction Burner"? Or is that stupid?

Yeah, okay, it's stupid.


This three was slightly lower pressure. [Fuller]

Glenn is so broken don't take that oh OKAY. Another miserable game for Robinson, but this one was capped off by a critical corner three in crunch time that pushed Michigan out to 7 and was the beginning of the end. He was 2/9 on his other shots, many of them point-blank. At points it was like his God-given athleticism was just an elaborate way to troll Michigan fans.

But at least it seems like the message has been received. Michigan posted him up for one of his buckets. Robinson eschewed dribbles for the most part (0 A, 0 TO) and went hard on the offensive glass. Even if it didn't pay off in this particular game, more 4 OREB performances from Robinson will get him into that "quiet 14 points" range he was so effective in last year.

His defense was also notably better on Ross than alternatives. Irvin was inserted for a run in the second half right after a couple of plays around the rim on which Robinson did not convert, and there were a couple of possessions on which it was clear that Ross could just back Irvin down inside the paint whenever he wanted. GRIII is much more sturdy.

Hurdle cleared. Kenpom had Michigan with a 33% chance to pull that game off. The algorithm has been giving OSU a bit of the Wisconsin treatment this year after the Buckeyes stormed through an undefeated nonconference schedule with no good teams on it. Despite being .500 in the league they're still in the top 20. Even if they're overrated by computers, that was a road game against a 19-5 team, Michigan's last against anything resembling a tourney outfit.

Their only trips remaining are to Purdue and Illinois, collectively 7-15 in the league. Michigan is now better than 70% to win every game left on the schedule save MSU, a 65% proposition, and is projected to finish a boggling 15-3 in the league.

Craftbow. I don't hate Aaron Craft and would take him on this Michigan outfit no question even if he is allergic to shots. But man, I hate Aaron Craft. This has nothing to do with anything other than the Tebow effect wherein announcers praise a player so much that you're just so damned sick of hearing about it.

Dakich is normally my favorite color guy other than Jay Bilas, but hearing him call an OSU game is pure torture. His normally reasonable comments about effort go from getting your hands up on shooters and boxing out to ludicrous flights of fancy wherein he literally says things like "the ball knows" that you have reversed the floor and then goes in. In this game he started the first ten minutes bitching about how Michigan was barely trying, and then had to stare at Michigan ending the game on a dominant run.

Effort is so fetishized by commentators that they'll ignore randomness, confusion, youth, and uncertainty to rail on it. Craft exacerbates that 1000%. It  got so bad that Dakich started going on and on about Horford's huge effort level… on an uncontested dunk. I'm delighted I never have to hear about Craft again. No offense to the man himself.

Creepy balance. To the point about many mini-Burkes instead of one Burke: Michigan played seven guys an appreciable amount of time in this game. Usage: 22, 22, 21, 19, 18, 18, 16. Walton and GRIII are at the top; LeVert is at the bottom.



February 12th, 2014 at 1:27 PM ^

GR3 missed three layups (two were blocked). After each miss, OSU went down and made a three. I was so ready to bury him, but then he made that three near the end, and Brian is right about his defense, but man, I wish he'd get angry and start dunking that ball when he gets it that close.


February 12th, 2014 at 1:48 PM ^

Why is there so much love for corner three's in the college game? I understand that they are some of the most efficient shots in the NBA, as the corners are only 22 feet compared to 23 feet 9 inches. Meanwhile, in college the 3 point line is 20 feet 9 inches all the way around, so a corner 3 is no more efficient than any other 3. 


February 12th, 2014 at 2:05 PM ^

It's generally harder to defend the corner three as doing so puts you in a position that cannot play help defense.

So being able to knock down corner threes (which most shooters will say is a little tougher than some other angle), forces defenses to play you tight which opens up the lane and frees it some of help defenders.


February 12th, 2014 at 1:51 PM ^

I was blown away that we could leave Craft as a self-check.  I guess I just assumed that a point guard can hit a three (or at least try when wide open).  Holy shit.  For a guy so confident on D, his offense is turrible!  I also really enjoyed his two turnovers in a row, especially when Dakich pointed them out.  Wait, no he didn't. 

p.s. Thad Matta has the teeth of a homeless Frenchman.


February 12th, 2014 at 1:54 PM ^

Reasons why I have decided to forego a career as a professional gambler:

1. Predicted blow-out win for MSU at MSU

2. Predicted loss at Wisconsin with plenty of home cooking by refs

3. Predicted loss at Indiana fueled by home cooking by refs (got half of that one right - we did lose)

4. Predicted big loss last night at OSU AND predicted Craft would go for twenty on insanely hot three point shooting (there's wrong and there's insanely wrong)

I think I've reached George Costanza level wrongness in predicting what's going to happen.


February 12th, 2014 at 2:09 PM ^

"Amir Williams.There's no nice way to say this. He is not all there."

Been saying this for three years. He has gotten better since he was a freshman, but he still looks like he doesn't know what he's doing at least half the time (instead of 100% of the time, as he did as a frosh). It absolutely blows my mind that he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. His first year at OSU he looked like he had never played basketball before, and was just some tall guy Matta found on campus and decided to throw out there, sight unseen. He has shown marginal improvement in three years. He is incredibly frustrating to watch.

Well, for me, anyway.


February 12th, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

And I would not be mad at all if Irvin started taking some of Levert's minutes as well. the incessant dribbling makes me want to pull my eyebrows out with pliers.


February 12th, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

It got to the point about 5 minutes into the second half that I was literally screaming just pull him and put Irvin in!  I know that will change once those shots start going down for Robinson, but man it's hard to watch the guy with the ball on offense.  Your bigger and more athletic than most anyone who will be covering you just take it to the damn hole!  it belongs in the hole!  PUT IT IN THE HOLE!!!!

Irvin on the other hand is fun to watch play.  He seems more confident every time he steps out on the floor and is flashing some drive to the basket that while kind of comical and awkward now will be impressive and unstoppable later.

Yinka Double Dare

February 12th, 2014 at 3:00 PM ^

Robinson drives me nuts when instead of using that ridiculous athleticism to dunk the ball, he instead doesn't go up strong and ends up getting the layup blocked.  SEND IT IN, YOUNG MAN.


February 12th, 2014 at 3:29 PM ^

Tale of Two Points: It was the best of shots, it was the worst of shots?

I think Amir Williams's takeout of DWJ was absolutely epic.  As much as Walton carried the team in the second half, for that shot to go in would've taken backboard love (aka dumb luck) of Brustian proportions.  Watching the frosh seal the deal with three free throws?  Priceless.  (Although I have been hoping that "The Ball Knows" would have turned into a tag / t-shirt / meme by now.  I am disappoint).  I especially loved that, as you pointed out, it made up for the Zak Irvin touch foul / Ross dive at the end of the first half, the only difference being that I don't think Walton had to embellish.

If this team continues to play at this level, an outright Big Ten title is theirs to lose.  Go Blue!


February 12th, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

Walton is starting to show that "I refuse to lose" mentality " like we saw in Novak, Burke and Hardaway.  Nik also hass that, but only on the offensive end of the court.  This team needs it because we have a lot of guys that tend toward the passive side of playing.  They give good effort, but it isn't the same thing.

The Rake

February 12th, 2014 at 4:02 PM ^

My call for the game was Michigan 72-64, then I saw a first half which was among the worst 20 minutes a team could play. Then I looked up and saw we were within 4. Amazing. OSU offense is mind bogglingly pathetic. We played a great final 14 minutes or so. Kudos to us. This team has been a revelation all year.


February 12th, 2014 at 4:27 PM ^

yes he shot 2/9 but had several shots rimmed out and a couple shots blocked.  All of it were good looks.  People mistake passiveness for lack of effort level but he does put forth good efffort.  His athleticism does not translate to him driving to the hoop like Stauskas where he has better moves and handles than GRIII despite Stauskas is not a great athlete.