A Thousand Papercuts Comment Count

Brian March 11th, 2013 at 4:02 PM

3/10/2013 – Michigan 71, Indiana 72 – 25-6, 12-6 Big Ten


Bryan Fuller

One of my earliest memories of basketball was brooding over a narrow loss. I have no memory of who may have been playing but since at this point in my life I lived in Denver and regarded the Alex English-era Nuggets as a curiosity, it must have been some Michigan game that my dad put on.

What struck me is the infinite variety of moments I had to brood on. This free throw here, this missed layup there, that egregious foul call: 40 to 48 minutes of opportunities to not lose by a point. Basketball is weird in that way. Most sports come with thunderclaps from God. If you're caught on the wrong end of a scoreline you brood over, oh, I don't know, a friggin' Honduran defender with one goal to his name at any level being momentarily possessed by the spirit of Pele. Something titanic. A keystone kops attempt to tackle in the secondary, eight blown tackles on one play, somehow giving up a 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway, etc. That goal. That massive refactoring of the world from something in which pleasure beckoned into one containing only sand and dust. THAT.

On Sunday, mere hours after Michigan had choked away a second consecutive Big Ten title, we were treated to the NBA equivalent of the bicycle kick linked above when DeAndre Jordan caused twitter to explode into a panoply of jokes about the murder and death of one Brandon Knight.


Like you 1) haven't seen it and 2) won't watch it again:

The Clippers were awarded two points! That is a lot of points to get on one basketball possession! The Clippers acquired a third thanks to a free throw! That made the Clippers lead by 22 points instead of 19, so it was super helpful in their efforts to victory.

Basketball is weird in this way. It's the highlight thing. Baseball highlights are hugely important near-replicas of every other baseball highlight you've ever seen (man swings bat, ball goes far). Basketball highlights are unique snowflakes with almost no impact on the outcome. Except, of course, in those odd situations when the things are balanced on a knife edge right at the end, and everything that goes wrong is one of the thousand papercuts that did you in.


My most recent basketball memory is brooding over a narrow loss. Also there are a couple additional narrow-loss broodings in there ranging from 10th to 4th most recent. I don't know, man. Michigan probably wouldn't have grabbed that share of the Big Ten title if the conference season was 1800 games long. If Morgan's tip goes down their collective margin of victory over the teams they hypothetically would have shared with would have been 4; their collective margin of loss was 34. They were 3-3 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They lost to Penn State. In the end, they got a fair result.

That does not stop a man from running his fingers through his hair and thinking of a half-court shot at Wisconsin and Jordan Morgan's putback hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim. Change a brush of the finger on those, and Michigan is the team raising a banner all by themselves. There are many things to brood on, things that make no sense and can be blamed on no one except bloody fate.

This is why I basically shrugged when Michigan went out in the first round last year—they'd come from a much more fortunate place than they did this year and still got that banner up. They don't give banners for falling valiantly in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not sure we should be talking about salvage after Michigan's best season that counted in a long, long time, but after Sunday a lot more rides on the single elimination portion of the schedule. If the season was a game, it's one against a very good opponent coming down to the wire.

Make a macro free throw maybe?


REBOUND. Ugh, ugh, ugh. A cripplingly bad defensive rebounding performance is finally what doomed Michigan. Indiana recovered 57%(!!!) percent of their misses, with Oladipo snagging seven OREBs by himself. It's kind of hard to figure how Indiana didn't score more with that sort of second-chance rate. The end result of that bombing was to drop Michigan's defensive rebounding to 80th—they entered Big Ten play second in the country—and 8th in conference. They're actually worse this year in Big Ten play.

Much of this has happened just lately. This space was talking about how Michigan was in the upper echelon halfway through the conference season and holding their own as recently as a couple weeks ago. As mentioned after the Purdue game, the fives are a big issue: Morgan had six offensive rebounds but only two on defense; Michigan rolled out five different guys at that spot and got three defensive rebounds. Also, when Oladipo is going off like that someone isn't boxing him out: Tim Hardaway, who had two rebounds.

Generic mutterings about getting that fixed before the tourney go here.

Make your free throws, etc. I think it would have been good if Michigan had made the front ends of one and ones late. #strongtake

Good thing you didn't change the outcome of the game you guys. If a guy is gone for a dunk and someone prevents that from behind, is there a rule against that or not? A: yes, lol jk no. Even Clark Kellogg, last seen accusing his grandmother of fouling Cody Zeller, thought the obvious intentional foul was obvious. Michigan got neither the dunk or intentional call and ended up losing by a point. But at least they looked at it on the monitor!

The other ref bitches are the usual except for the blatant goaltend on a Burke shot that hit the backboard before being rejected. Missing that call should be grounds for termination. It is black and white, and of course cannot be reviewed.

Death to timeouts, Part MCMVII. The last ten seconds were a terrifying whirlwind because Michigan had no timeouts. Michigan couldn't go to the sideline, decide their play would be "Trey, do something" and then see if Trey could do something. Instead Trey just got on with the doing of things. A neutral observer probably enjoyed that quite a bit. It amplified my terror, to be sure.

This is what all basketball games could be like if timeouts were drastically slashed. In these situations there would not be ten-minute stretches of financial service commercials occasionally interspersed by basketball midway through the second half.

Zeller. Despite putting four fouls on Mitch McGary in eight minutes of play plus five more on other Michigan centers, Zeller's ORtg was just an ok 108 because of six turnovers. And some of those came against McLimans and Biefeldt, both inexplicably inserted late in the first half despite Horford not having any fouls. It's a small thing, but all small things are important in a one point game.

Tom Crean: pretty much. I can't believe this guy is this guy:

At least he lets you know by looking like Dwight Schrute, and by saying "whoops, Ron Patterson, you are vaguely ineligible because we don't have a scholarship.*" Apparently Meyer's work in the state of Indiana is a source of conflict:

There have been unfriendly recruitments between Indiana and Michigan in last year. Major source of issues between staffs. Will leave it at that.

Beilein is getting his punches in between the lines:

“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”


*[He was so ineligible he ended up at Syracuse.]



March 11th, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

Crean is indeed a douche, a schmuck, a grade-A assclown. Thing about him is that in his head he walks around thinking "I don't make apologies for wanting to win, and I guess others can't handle that."

No, we just have a problem with you running and making an ass of yourself by yelling at an opposing coach.


March 11th, 2013 at 4:22 PM ^

I thought I remembered hearing a couple years ago that they changed the rule and blocking a shot after it hits the backboard is no longer an automatic goaltend - it can still be a clean block if the ball isn't on its way down. Can anybody else vouch for this or am I crazy?


March 11th, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

The rule was changed but in the opposite direction. Perhaps 5 years ago? Previously you could block a ball after it hit the backboard if it was still on the way up. Now, touching it after it has hit the backboard is goaltending provided the entire ball is above the height of the rim.


March 11th, 2013 at 4:27 PM ^

I didn't hate Tom Crean before this game but holy hell do I do now. He's neurotic/twitchy, puts himself and his actions in front of his players again and again, classless, and whiney.

The best thing I can say for Tom Izzo is that I only hate him in those 40 minutes that Michigan/Michigan St are playing each other. The same is mostly true for Bo Ryan and Thad Matta. But Crean is just a loathsome child. I think the Big Ten is going to get rather sick of him very quickly.

Kermits Blue Key

March 11th, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

This basketball season reminds me of the 1988 football season: don't collapse against Miami here (Penn State), Mike Gillette make a FG against ND there (Indiana), don't tie Iowa (Wisconsin), boom - undefeated (B1G Champions).


March 11th, 2013 at 4:44 PM ^

Don't forget about Crean basically cutting Matt Roth.  Roth, who was to be a 5th year senior this year, never was actually told he didn't have a roster spot by Crean.  Instead, he put everything together after Crean told Roth to use him as a reference for any job applications.  I have no respect for Crean and look forward to next year, when IU is expected to take a pretty big step back.





March 11th, 2013 at 4:58 PM ^

It's the rebounding thing that makes me feel slightly...very slightly....not as bad about this game. It could have been ugly with how well they rebounded/how badly we rebounded and we should have been happy with it being that close based on how many misses they had after the rebounds. Still, I'd rather feel lucky and have won rather than feel lucky for being close to winning.

EQ RC Blue

March 11th, 2013 at 5:19 PM ^

I agree that we got a fair result in that IU was the best team in the conference this year, but I think Brian sells our season a bit short in his metrics. 

I'll be interested to see the final enfefficiency numbers, but as of last week we were ahead of both MSU and OSU in conference efficiency -> +.11 ppp vs. .8 and .7.   It's easy to forget now, but we were out demolishing teams while others were racking up 2 and 3 point wins.

Also, as to the matchups vs. OSU, MSU, and IU, it would have been:

OSU - lose by 3, win by 2

MSU - lose by 23, win by 1

IU - lose by 8, win by 1

In my view, the loss to MSU was an outlier performance.  I don't think the 34 and 4 numbers accurately portray the overall closeness with which we played the top 3 teams.

All that said, I think IU had the best conference season, and, while slightly unlucky, our end result is pretty indicative of how we played.


March 11th, 2013 at 5:29 PM ^

The only thing that could lower my opinion more would be for him to create a blog that criticizes college kids playing sports he has next to no experience with AND denounce the hiring of an incoming coach before he has a chance to prove himself. Now that would be really low.


March 11th, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

You can take it a step further. Eliminate the under 16 minute, 8 minute, 4 minute, etc. commercial timeout if there was a timeout taken within 30 seconds of that scheduled break. I have seen games where they come out of a timeout and run one play and then take the scheduled 4 minute commercial timeout. It ruins the natural flow of the game. Also, when teams take a timeout just to stop the clock, why not skip the actual break in action and just make it a 5 second time out (no sideline huddle).


March 11th, 2013 at 5:42 PM ^

The non-intentional foul call was not an intentional foul.  Watford was going for the ball and it was a foul.  When I played the game that was never called an intentional foul.  I thought the refs did a good job yesterday.  They really let them play, and that is what I wish for.   The only issue I would have is the obvious flops on both ends by IU and Michigan.  If there were yellow and red cards in hoops, both teams would have had a few ejections.  The charge fould needs to be reevaluated, and they should rarely call it. 


March 11th, 2013 at 5:58 PM ^

I partially agree with you about the foul. Watford took a huge swipe at Robinson with his right arm and pushed him from behind with his left arm. The fact that he was a step and a half behind him should make that an intentional foul. I don't think Watford made contact with the ball because Robinson got the ball up to the rim, it just didnt go in.


March 11th, 2013 at 6:43 PM ^

I agree that it was not terribly malicious, but realistically when the guy with the ball is racing to the basket and he is that far ahead of you and the ball is on the other side of you -- you aren't playing for the ball.  You are playing to foul him before he gets off a shot.

I'm not an expert on the rule, but if realistic intent to get the ball is material to the decision, Indiana should lose that call.


March 11th, 2013 at 6:47 PM ^

There were probably four other guys in Indiana jerseys who also wanted to "go for the ball" -- why not consider their intent as well?  And, by all means, refs, make sure you waste time on a video review that is nothing more than confirmation bias in action.  Please, PLEASE, it's time to take the video monitor toy away from B1G refs.

Michigan Arrogance

March 11th, 2013 at 8:07 PM ^

The point that I focus on here, that apparently no one else does is this: the refs should be PROTECTING THE SCORER.

Reasonably, the only way to stop that bucket is to foul hard enough to throw that scorer completely off balance by raking an arm, if not tackle him completely. It's not flagrant, but it's intentional.

Refs also don't think about this enough on block/charges. if you think about which player is making the more dangerous move (either plowing directly into a positioned player, or setting up in front/under a player already in the air) then most of those block/charges are a bit more clear to call.


Why on earth basketball refs have NO regard for protecting the players in these circumstances is criminal, IME.




March 11th, 2013 at 5:52 PM ^

Webber blocked by Alan Henderson in the closing seconds at Crisler, and James Voskuil (I think) missed a wide open three as the game ended at Assembly Hall. Ugh.

True Blue Grit

March 11th, 2013 at 6:56 PM ^

It's not just a matter of our inexperience, although that's certainly a part of it.  But, Beilein is just putting too small and non-physical of a lineup on the floor most of the time.  And we're getting killed for it by the bigger teams in the B10.  We have to make up for it in some other way on the floor (excellent defense, great outside shooting, incredible FT shooting) or lose.  Yesterday the rebounding cost us dearly. 


March 11th, 2013 at 9:32 PM ^

a very average coach. Big game and he cannot manage his time outs leaving him with none with two minutes to play?

The choking of free throws is a reflection of the coach. In the clutch, the team will finds ways to lose big games. They should have lost to MS but for the Burke doing his thing.  

I am telling it like it is and I am sure this will be considered flame bait which is not my intention. Reduce your expectations for this team in the NCAA tournament. It will be an early out.


March 11th, 2013 at 7:00 PM ^

I don't know if it is an indictment of some inner contempt that propels Brian to stardom or if he should be commended for his ability to bring the emotions of pain, loss, and failure to the masses through diction, context, and unadulturated emotion. 

But either way this is what Brian does best; Brian excels at defining the failures our teams have experienced the last six years to the point where it has become the home we live in here at mgoblog... 

And that to me is more sad than the loss yesterday.


March 11th, 2013 at 7:43 PM ^

“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”

The other coach was raised by Roseanne Barr.


March 11th, 2013 at 8:20 PM ^

As much as that sucked, the silver lining for me is that if I had to choose one could-go-either-way 50/50 tap for a share of the Big Ten title to fall Michigan's way between yesterday and Draymond Green last year at Crisler, I choose last year without even thinking twice. YMMV.

Then again, I probably trade both straight up for DMo's runner against Duke to fall, and buy that team another five minutes.


March 11th, 2013 at 9:05 PM ^

Meyer was on Kelvin Sampson's staff at IU. If he didn't know what was going on, he's incompetent. He knew what was going on. He managed to convince the NCAA that his participation was inadvertant and minor. He didn't manage to convince them he didn't participate. (What did you think at the time, before Michigan hired him? Tell the truth.)

One thing Crean did when he got to IU was clean the lighters out of the lockers. Meyer didn't do that. Crean also made the kids go to class. Meyer didn't do that. And that's why the kids Sampson and his staff recruited left when Sampson left and Crean took over.

Now Crean sees Meyer recruiting Indiana successfully, and--I imagine--wonders. Especially when he notices an IU commit behind the Michigan bench.

Meyer was part of a staff that took a collective dump on the floor of Assembly Hall. He got away with a slap on the wrist. He apologized to Indiana University for how he behaved at IU. Crean apologized to him for calling him out in public.

Belein and Michigan say Meyer is on the up and up now, and I believe them.

It's over, or it should be.

Go Blue.


March 11th, 2013 at 10:13 PM ^

Indiana hires a coach who was under investigation and it's the coach who tore down the program? The program got trashed by firing Knight and having the coach after fail to the point he had to resign. And the administrators at Indiana's answer was to hire a shady coach. Any problems they had were self-inflicted.


March 11th, 2013 at 10:05 PM ^

This is the part where I say that I don't care about moral victories and whatnot. I only care about the fact that with a 4 point lead with under a minute and in clear foul to salvage any hope territory of the game, we couldn't make a god damn free throw. Not McGary, not Hardaway, not POY Burke. We didn't need all of them. We only needed two god damn free throws, at home, with the B1G for the second year on the line. Whether we deserved to be up by 4 with seconds to go is irrelevant. All I'll remember is that we needed two god damn free throws and we didn't get them.

Two free throws and a backbone against Penn State and we'd be sitting atop the B1G alone. I don't care how long we were in the wilderness, this team had the talent to be champions, and champions make free throws and don't loose to league basement dwellers! There is no sugar coating this loss, or drawing moral victories from this season short of a final 4 run, IMO.