MAAR probably gets a pass for not contesting this one.
I regret responding to this with "that's easy enough":
I went back through the UCLA game and charted each three-point attempt by both teams save for the last couple minutes of garbage time. The no-late-heavy shot contest system is relatively self-explanatory and looks at how well the defender guarded the shot attempt. Heavy contest shots, especially from beyond the arc, are bad ideas; late contest is enough of an opening to get a good look but isn't completely wide open; no contest is wide the hell open.
When breaking it down by halves, the story of the game emerges:
|No Contest||Late Contest||Heavy Contest|
|Michigan (1st Half)||3/4||7/10||2/2|
|Michigan (2nd Half)||0/1||2/6||0/1|
|UCLA (1st Half)||5/6||5/6||0/2|
|UCLA (2nd Half)||3/3||3/4||0/2|
I expected a bit more NBA Jam (i.e. drilling heavily contested shots) in UCLA's first-half results; instead, I saw a series of errors that led to good looks, and those errors got way worse in the second half. Meanwhile, Michigan's offense stopped generating easy looks beyond the arc in the second half at the same time they cooled off on tougher shots.
[Hit THE JUMP for blood, oh god, so much blood.]
First Half Issues: Hand Down, Man Down
Two of Lonzo Ball's first-half threes are tough to blame on the defense; both were well-timed shots from way beyond the arc. The second ended the half; you remember that bomb. The first came so early in the shot clock that Derrick Walton's late contest is about as good as you can reasonably expect—while Ball has a healthy amount of room, Walton at least gets his hand into Ball's line of vision:
Michigan had opportunities to better contest other first-half attempts only to be done in by poor technique. When guarding shooters the caliber of UCLA's, you can't play on-ball defense with your hands down on the perimeter. Time and again, UCLA players got their shots off because M defenders were late getting their hands up:
Robinson backed off, then got his hand up well after Alford had risen for the shot. Note how Alford still has a completely clean line of sight to the rim.
This one wasn't as bad. MAAR was a step behind getting around an off-ball screen and Ball got this shot off in an instant. Again, a clean line of sight.
Here it is in motion: Zak Irvin does a good job navigating a series of switches then lets it go to waste because his hands are at his knees:
There were plenty of occasions when Michigan wasn't in position to even contest, and there wasn't a lone culprit. Ball's first triple came off an offensive rebound when Walton wandered into the paint without actually going up for the board and left UCLA's best player wide open. Xavier Simpson blew a switch for a TJ Leaf no-contest three. Mark Donnal gave unnecessary help on a drive that left Leaf wide open for another. Irvin nearly fell to the court trying to get around an off-ball screen and couldn't recover on Aaron Holiday.
The most galling first-half NC came off a Michigan made basket; Ball pushed the tempo off the inbounds and even though DJ Wilson did a good job of preventing a good look at the rim, the rest of the defense collapsed, allowing a wide open kickout:
UCLA's offense will create these looks on occasion even against the very good defenses; Michigan didn't play very good defense. At least, in the first half, most of their issues could be chalked up to lapses in technique and the occasional blown switch. It got worse in the second half.
Second Half Issues: WTF
Michigan started off well, harrassing UCLA into heavily contested misses on their first two three-point attempts—Irvin and MAAR both had excellent closeouts. Then it all came apart. Holiday hit a good look on a simple handoff because Duncan Robinson sunk back two steps towards the paint on a switch for no discernible reason. The next Bruin triple was also on Robinson, who took a swipe at the ball as Holiday drove to the basket and then just stopped playing defense on his man, Isaac Hamilton:
That's a major mental lapse. There's no need for Robinson to help on the drive but trying for the steal is fine as long as he recovers onto his man; instead, he seems to forget that his man exists.
The next two attempts—and makes—came off bad switches and defensive communication. First, Simpson made a freshman mistake, "helping" from no-man's land on a drive Wilson had already cut off and completely losing his man as a result:
Holiday would cut to the corner and Robinson, put in a really tough spot, couldn't rotate over in time to get a great contest.
On the second, MAAR decided to switch without communicating that point to Irvin. This is not ideal:
MAAR's man, Alford, is all alone at the top of the key. That's probably his easiest non-transition look of the year.
The final UCLA three before garbage time came when Michigan desperately pulled out the 1-3-1, a defense that gives up a lot of good outside looks if you can get it moving around; UCLA got it moving around.
This wasn't NBA Jam. UCLA made a couple unlikely shots but for the most part their shots came off Michigan defensive breakdowns. It takes a great shooting team to go 15-for-24 even against a defense that gives them this many openings, but UCLA is a great shooting team, and nothing Michigan did took them out of their comfort zone.
Get your hands up. Michigan would've been in great position to force a couple more misses if their defenders simply put their hands up. That's a Defense 101 issue that gave the Wolverines serious trouble, especially in the first half.
Simpson is looking like an overwhelmed freshman. More on X in a full Basketbullets post tomorrow but this was a rough outing for him outside of his steal. He plays defense like it's high school and he can recover onto his man no matter what; against college programs that'll identify the open man in an instant, he can't play that way.
Communication on rotations and switches is lacking. Some of this may stem from the center position—one reason it took so long for Beilein to get even semi-comfortable with Wagner at center was his lapses in communication on defense, and we saw UCLA get a wide open dunk early in the second half on one such lapse. Communication between the perimeter players is also an issue. On too many occasions, two Wolverines ended up on the same guy while a shooter was left all alone.
This game exposed serious flaws. I'll have even more tomorrow. While Michigan may not face another offense the caliber of UCLA's all year, they showed flaws that lesser offenses can exploit. This will either be a (rough) learning experience for an improving defense or the point when Michigan got exposed as still a below-average defensive team.