Trophy Conjures Lid Comment Count

Brian January 12th, 2012 at 2:19 PM

1/11/2011 – Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT) – 14-3, 4-1 Big Ten


Melanie Maxwell/

I blame the Sugar Bowl trophy. Clearly, this edition has fey powers. Those powers are 1) making everything around it uglier so that it seems pretty in comparison and 2) driving Michigan towards improbable victories it does not seem to deserve.

Because of the trophy's presence we got an extensive dose of the exasperated wail basketball has a near-monopoly on*. Scoring is so frequent that extended droughts are rare, rarer still when the team in question is getting of a wide variety of high-quality shots. When that happens and the home team is still missing, still missing, still—argh that one was halfway down—missing, each subsequent missed opportunity comes with a rising crescendo of despair. Normally calm old men start throwing their hands hither and thither. People lose their minds the fifth time "all right, two points" turns into "how did you miss that?"

By my calculations, all minds in Crisler last night were lost 2.4 times in the first half. Michigan limped to the locker room trailing by seven after shooting 25% on their twos. One three that bounced in and around the rim before popping out caused a guy in front of me to undergo this sort of arms-raised twitchy anger dance. I felt ill.

It didn't seem like the team was playing poorly—at least not on offense—but rather that it had been cosmically ordained from above that Michigan was to lose this game. If it had been a video game, 15 minutes in would have been controller-throwing, reset-hitting, pout-and-watch-TNG time.

But they won, didn't they? They won by brutalizing Northwestern on the boards and in turnover margin, by somewhat limiting Wildcat threes (27% opposed to their usual 33%) and refusing to foul unless someone was launching a wild three with less than a second on the clock. It was ugly and terrible; it was the game that you point to at the end of the season as One Of Those Games. It was the inexplicable loss you suck up and overcome… and they won.

So okay. Damage escaped, Iowa next, let's keep on inching.

Bullets that could use a GPS or something

The hedge. Northwestern fiercely hedged all ball screens with Burke and got away with every single one. Burke tried to split one late and was fortunate to get a tenuous kicked ball call; all other saw him take the long way and not end up punishing the hedge.

This is a spot in which Morris had a major advantage because he was a half-foot taller and lanky. Hedge like that and the ball is going to the big slipping the screen for a 70% chance at a Jordan Morgan basket, or Morris will peel around the big guy with a good chance at catching him out of position and using his height to get a solid look. Burke… well, we need some work there.

Hypothesis 1: he should try to use his quickness by accelerating into the hedger before he can get set and get those Chauncey Billups calls. Hypothesis 2: we should run more pick and roll with Hardaway, who can pass over the shorter guy or drive to the basket against a guy who will probably not be blocking his shot. Hardaway has such height and elevation that little pull up jumpers are a high percentage business.

Do you think Beilein would be amenable to answering questions like that?

Small ball. I'm not sure if Northwestern's small lineup killed Michigan or not, what with the massive offensive rebounding numbers Michigan put up and Carmody's decision to go with Mirkovic for most of the stretch. If Michigan's shooting anywhere near a reasonable percentage given their shot quality the offensive benefits of the small lineup are outweighed by their terrible D numbers.

Michigan ended up going small in response, spending much of the second half switching Smotrycz and Morgan O for D; Stu Douglass ended up playing 38 of 45 minutes.

Insane devotion to foul orthodoxy. I can see yanking Smotrycz after his second since Michigan had a reason to go small and Smotrycz is the kind of guy who will foul out if you don't keep an eye on him. But Novak? UMHoops mentioned this gently; I'll restate: guy averages 2.8 fouls per 40 minutes. The risk of bringing him back in for the last five minutes of the first half is not high.

Stu! Douglass has quietly been an effective, important player in the last three games. His shooting helped a lot against Indiana and Wisconsin and his perimeter defense is the best on the team by a wide margin. He had five steals against Wisconsin and two in this game.

Even more importantly, switching Douglass onto Crawford slowed him considerably. In the second half and OT, Crawford had one dunk he was given after Michigan played great defense to deny three-point opportunities as NU wound the clock from 22 seconds to 8 and went 5/6 on free throws from Morgan and Burke fouls. The Douglass matchup:

  • 1 steal
  • 2 TO
  • 1/5 from 2
  • 0/1 from 3

IIRC Hardaway had Crawford for most of the first half when he went 6 of 9 with a made three.

Douglass couldn't throw it into Gordon Gee's mouth in this game but since no one other than Hardaway could that's a criticism to save for another time. Even so he was Michigan's second most efficient scorer in this game with 10 points on 10 shots; Hardaway and Burke bested him but Burke only did so thanks to his end-of-game free throw spree.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ice cold, young man, especially after playing the entire game.

Hardaway launch pad. He took a couple of wince-inducing threes but they went down in this outing. One was a heat check that is not statistically more likely to go in but is impossible to prevent even the meekest low usage guy from taking, so okay.

Two for one. Beilein went for one at the end of the game; it did not work out because the pass to Hardaway was a little off and the resulting Novak three left only a six-second difference between shot and game clock, and then the insane Hardaway foul erased that. Good idea, though.

Speaking of. Ohmygawd what was that at the end of the game? If Northwestern had been in the bonus I think my head would have come off. They are letting almost everything slide and then they call a nothing foul with ten seconds left. Face, meet palm.

And then Douglass hacks the hell out of Crawford because Michigan has fouls to give and the refs ignore that. Quite a sequence there. Don't get me started on Novak trying to take charges.

Timeouts. Argh. All basketball games would be improved by cutting two timeouts. This one would have been immensely so.

*[Hockey has a version of it when one team is throwing chance after chance at a hot goalie and his even hotter goalposts in a close game—call it the Ryan Miller Experience. Baseball has nothing like it and the tenor of a frustrated football crowd is different; the anger is usually more directed. This frustration is a cosmic one.]



January 12th, 2012 at 2:42 PM ^

thing I was dissappointed with was Hardaway's passiveness in the second half.  Like it or not, the offense has to run through him during certain stretches of the game.  He cannot be content simply be one of the guys and go long streches of the game without being an offensive threat.  Hardaway needs to always be a threat, he needs to find a way to expand his game to account for 1.5 defenders.  He appears to be one dimensional in every game, although it is often a different dimension that he is focussing on in any given game.  He is still young, but his game is fractured.  He has all the peices but they don't come together to form one cohesive player.  I hope he realizes his potential because I think he can be a lot more than he is.


January 12th, 2012 at 2:46 PM ^

Football gives each team 3 timeouts per half for a total of 6 timeouts for a 60-minute game. IME basketball could have 4 timeouts for each team for 40-minute games. However, anything beyond that would be hard to justify, especially since basketball has a naturally faster tempo than football.

Now what if they further limited timeouts to 2 timeouts/half like football? This might make the last minute of basketball games not take 30 minutes, which isn't unreasonable.


January 12th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

TNG?  The Next Generation? I'm lost...

And more questions you're not sure will go over well or not? Is it your mission to get every coach in Ann Arbor to hate Heiko? What do you have in store for him to spring on Bev Plocki?  You're a sadist, Brian.


January 12th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

I agree about the 2 for 1. Seems like they never go for it in college, but it's good strategy. Unfortunately, like you said, the refs made it ugly. Not only did the miss the Stu foul after the ticky tack Hardaway call... then he calls a travel instead of the jump ball? Craziness. Add that with the many many replay reviews made the game really slow. At least the refs were bad both ways, but ugh.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:06 PM ^

I don't know why I would expect anything different from Big Ten refs, but Holy Jebus they were terrible last night.  I couldn't believe it when they started calling those fouls on jump shots.  I would have an assault charge as of last night if it was possible to reach through a TV screen and strangle someone. 

On a happier note, that was a very good win last night.  Good teams find a way to win when things aren't going their way. 


January 12th, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is the rule with the shot clock and fouls. Ten seconds left, 3 on the shot clock. We foul, NU ball on the baseline and the shot clock gets turned off? I didnt understand that. I thought it was only reset if the team is in the bonus - NU wasn't.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:12 PM ^

Since there is a picture of the Sugar Bowl trophy in a basketball post, I got to wondering; is mgoblog done with the Sugar Bowl? Have you all moved on to basketball and hockey?

Even if there isn't a full blown UFR, there seems to be sufficient content for a post two regarding the gameplans or how much injuries affected things or whether Michigan was insanely lucky to win or just a little lucky, was Denard bad or is the VT secondary just really good, why the run game sucked.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

2012 projections the week after the game. Can we at least get to signing day before we start worrying about Alabama?  There has to be some season in review stuff that can be done before we "have" to move on.  I mean, it's not like we're trying to forget the year as quickly as possible, like some former years.  Or that there's major happenings (coaching search, etc) to distract us.  Let's bask in the glow awhile.  People around here don't celebrate success very long or often.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:20 PM ^

"Do you think Beilein would be amenable to answering questions like that?"

I suspect he would, and I implore you (via Heiko or Ace) to ask.  This site has been doing great work for a damn long time, but one of the amazing recent contributions is the asking of real football questions to real Michigan football coaches and getting real football responses.  It would be amazing if this could extend to basketball.

With Ace now UFRing big games and gleaning insights, the ability to get real answers from Beilein would significantly increase our understanding of Michigan basketball.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

1.  Molk is looking very Hoke-like in his blazer.  I got a feeling that kid will end up as a grad assitant at UM after he hangs up his spikes.

2.  Is one of the players actually wearing a helmet?!?


January 12th, 2012 at 3:35 PM ^

While I don't necessarily disagree with you on your opposition to Beilein's foul trouble benching philosophy, one thing that average fouls per 40 minutes doesn't account for is a change in a player's mentality due to foul accumulation.  If a player has 2 fouls in the first 10 minutes, might they play more tentatively then they would otherwise?  It would likely be worth that risk if you're choosing between a tentative Hardaway Jr. and Matt Vogrich, but maybe not when you're replacing Novak with Stu.  

Blue boy johnson

January 12th, 2012 at 3:37 PM ^

Pick and roll can't work during stages of game when Jordan Morgan has butterfingers. Later in game Morgan will start grabbing everything in sight with authority. Bizarre to watch transformation, but always a good sign when Morgan gets locked in and tenacious.


January 12th, 2012 at 3:42 PM ^

On your hedge hypothesis, you're missing something Brian.  I'll use an example to clarify what short guys ought to do to hedgers (or, at least the way I was taught)

Say you're coming off a screen to the right.  If the guy hedges too hard, you plant your left foot (the one closest to the rim) across your body and spin 180 degrees to the right.  Barring a screw up on the big's part, he's far enough away to give you room to do this.  Now that hedger is on your (or Burke's) right hip, and it's basically a two-on-one.

I'm sure he never got coached to do that in HS because he was so insanely quick that no one hedged him.  Thus, it wasn't important for him to learn.  He'll have that move down by the end of the off-season though, so nothing to worry about.

Kilgore Trout

January 12th, 2012 at 4:11 PM ^

I am a consitent Douglass apologist, but I'll just say again how impressed I am with him.  He is a sharpshooter who for some reason can't shoot, so he turned himself into one of the better perimeter defenders I've ever seen an a very underrated passer.  We should all be so aware of our limitations and find other ways to excel. 


January 12th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

I'm not a fan of the two-for-one.  It seems like most of the time, it results in two empty possessions.  The first is wasted because the team is too concerned with throwing up a shot as early as possible, and the second because there just isn't enough time left when they get the ball back.


January 12th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

I think the closest baseball equivalent would be watching your team load the bases repeatedly and still manage to lose one of those 3-2 games.

Or maybe I just watched too much of the Phillies with my grandfather for years before they were good.

(Granted, the crowd atmosphere at a baseball game is wildly different than the other major sports so the comparison doesn't really work anyway, but in terms of individual reactions, yeah.)