[This and the other photos by MG Campredon]
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The Question: Choose a photo from the Big Ten Tourney and tell us why it’s representative of the trip.
Alex: I would pick the pic of me drunk at the bar with friends post-state win buuuuut no.
David: This is mine:
Shout-out to the side dribble.
This is Jaren Jackson plowing into Moe Wagner after driving on Simpson. Jackson will cartwheel to the ground and fumble the ball out of bounds for a turnover. A few things about this jump out.
One: this was not a foul. It also was not called a foul despite the heavy contact. This is because Wagner was stationary and within the cylinder he's allowed to be in. Everyone got furious about the Iowa game and rightly so; since we do so much ref complaining around here it's only right to stop and note that the refereeing for the rest of the tournament was pretty good. (Except for MSU screening.)
Two: with some limited exceptions this is representative of Michigan's defense in the tournament. If you approached the basket, usually bad stuff happened. Michigan turned Miles Bridges into a guy who mostly takes contested 18-footers. It's not as impressive to do that to Josh Langford, but they also did it to Josh Langford. They did it to Carsen Edwards; by the second half Glynn Watson was convinced that off the dribble shots by a 39/28 shooter were Nebraska's best option. He might not have been wrong.
Three: X had gotten switched onto a 6'11" guy and it didn't matter. Michigan actually put X on Bridges on purpose for the first ten minutes, which appeared to bait him into "I can shoot over this guy" mode and helped initiate that pretend Rip Hamilton stuff.
[Hit THE JUMP to get to a very Rocky 3 take on MSU basketball]
Ace: Damn I was gonna do that one. I’ve got another tho.
I imagine this one is self-explanatory, what with Z's best Liam Neeson expression.
Ace: While we’re on the subject of Z, here’s my pick:
(Pictured: Tum Tum Nairn (Left), Tum Tum Nairn but good (Right) –alex)
Ace: We got to see Simpson really turn the corner in this tournament, both figuratively and literally. While he was a great scorer in high school, he hadn’t shown much at the college level to expect anything similar this year, especially since defenses can safely give him some space.
Well, could. In addition to playing lockdown defense, Z was the engine that kept Michigan’s offense humming against a variety of defensive looks. He got the offense into the right sets. He made the right reads. Most importantly, opponents couldn’t stay in front of him, and it wasn’t just the Cassius Winston-level defenders. Tom Izzo put in Tum Tum because Winston was getting toasted by Simpson; Simpson proceeded to toast Tum Tum, who’s only out there because he can stay in front of point guards.
As he’s grown more comfortable, Z is also breaking out more elaborate finishes. That reachback layup wasn’t nearly as difficult as, say, the floater over Tyler Cook against Iowa, but it isn’t as easy as he made it look. Also, it looks quite pretty.
Seth: Mine is a Z shot too, sorta.
Let’s go right to left because this is a Rubens scene out of the Old Testament. There's your all-Big Ten center, a force of nature. Isaac Haas was magnificent in this game, magnificent all year, all career, and here he is trotting back to his post, where he’s a one-man 1.33 PPP, wondering what the hell he can do about all of this. Ace put together a great post on how Beilein and Painter strategized the post, and we were referencing it on twitter during the game. The short version of that is after a first half when Purdue tried to double the ballhandler and Michigan broke out of it to pop an open three attempt consistently, Purdue went to a switching defense. One of the downsides of that strategy was it pulled Haas away from the basket, giving Michigan a major size advantage down low for OREBs, and creating space for the bigs to go to the basket.
Next we have Teske, the big who just went to the basket, who broke out in the tournament. He’s getting the offense’s timing now, especially the screen game, and that could be a huge deal for the tournament, let alone next year.
Congratulating Teske there's Z, the dog of this team, and also the reason we thought last November that 2017-’18 was a transition outfit that miiight sneak into a bid. He's already back, waiting for tonight's victim to bring the ball up the court so he can run him off the line and out of the scoresheet.
Finally off in the distance, small and unwanted: the ball. The ref has to point where it's supposed to go while an Edwards waits for someone else to deliver it. Raftery is telling us how Michigan's the one that played four games in four days and Purdue's the one who looks exhausted. An ent-elf and his army of 40% three-shooters want no part of this team. Remember November?
Alex: This is mine.
Unless I'm mistaken (I don't think I am), this is a picture from the aftermath of the Teske-on-Haas dunk, which was probably the highlight of the tournament for a given play. Shortly after the dunk, timeout was called, and I assume that the game went to commercial - so I'm not sure anybody outside of the arena saw what came next.
Teske was pretty hype, of course, but he's more of a naturally reserved and taciturn guy - the "Big Sleep" nickname came about for a reason. After the dunk, his teammates wanted to celebrate him, and the celebrations ended with Simpson and Poole (who I don't think was even in the game at this point) shoving him in the chest around midcourt. As they walked back to the bench - and you can see this a little bit from the picture - Poole took his towel and started hitting him in the face and shoulder repeatedly.
Jordan Poole is *too* hype, almost always. Teske is sometimes too quiet. The juxtaposition - between the stoic big man and unabashedly swaggy freshman microwave - was beautiful. I'm not sure if those towel smacks got Teske going or not, but they were funny to watch from Section 112 behind the basket and MSG. Also: Poole's celebrations on the jumbotron post-victory were wonderful. Some made it to TV, but surely not all. Y'all missed out.
Ace: I’m going for two, because why not. Another wildly unexpected development in a season full of them: Z becoming Walton on the defensive glass even though Wagner actually rebounds like a center now. He had 18(!) defensive boards in the four BTT games and turned a lot of those into quick points at the other end.
still not old
We always hear about Michigan State being "tough." And by that I mean that Michigan State never shuts up about being tough. The floor slapping. The rebounding drills in football pads. The physical post play. Did I mention the floor slapping?
Michigan sent two messages on Saturday. The first was that Michigan wasn't going to be intimidated by Michigan State's increasingly comical attempts at intimidation. Charles Matthews reacted to Nick Ward's broke-ass basketball Haka with mild amusement, to the point where it cost ~Ward~ a technical foul.
The second message was one that Michigan State still hasn't taken to heart: that physicality is not a proxy for toughness. This isn't gladiatorial combat or two wild animals fighting over a carcass. This is basketball, and basketball games aren't decided by who does the best Trogdor the Burninator impression. Toughness in basketball is the ability to take a metaphorical punch, not a physical one. Michigan took a punch and trailed at halftime, and responded by continuing to stick within their system. They didn't lash out. They ran their offense and made defensive adjustments. They were cool, and they took a lead. Michigan State took that punch and panicked. They started yelling at each other. They started playing heroball. And in crunch time, when Michigan State was down eight points with 2:30 left in the game, did the Spartans' floor-slapping, shot-blocking, top-10 efficiency defense dig in and get a stop? No. They didn't even try. Instead they started fouling.
You got out-toughed again, Miles Bridges. Just not the way you're thinking.
David: You could almost like...just post Bryan's thing. I might print it out...
But some weird guys hit shots, Bryan. That’s definitely the face of a man who’s seen some weird guys hit shots, and certainly nothing else, can’t recall seeing anything else at all.
BiSB: "The McPoyles, man. They came out of nowhere. Held me hostage for three days. Put my big man on the bench. Put my other big man on the bench."