3/20/2014 – Michigan 57 – Wofford 40 – 26-8, reach round of 32
It's nice to be a two seed. Michigan played an ugly game by its standards. They turned the ball over on almost 20% of their possessions, got to the line just nine times, and allowed a SoCon team to hit half their twos. But since that SoCon team put up an epic brickfest from three, they ran away with a near 20 point victory in a short 56-possession game.
The privilege of being way high up in the seeding is you can have a crappy first game and still not sweat it much. (Usually.) Contrast that with tourney darling Louisville, which found itself down two to Manhattan with two minutes left. There's a big difference between a 15 and a 13 even for a team that is arguably underseeded. Hooray playing well enough in the regular season to draw Kenpom's #184 team.
Yes, that is going up. There was a point in the first half when Zak Irvin had the ball and a relatively open three and did not take it. I fainted at the shock and when I came to apes had taken over the planet. If Irvin gets a look, any kind of look, the ball is being shot. In this one he missed his opportunities; he's still 41% on the year.
Must get it together. That turnover rate is like Amaker's turnover rates before he got to Harvard and became our secret agent. It is against the principles of HORSE basketball and must be fixed up before tomorrow, when a much tougher opponent comes calling. It was probably just one of those things. There seems to be no particular reason that Michigan turned it over a bunch. They were just sloppy, which can be attributed to a lack of focus or randomness depending on your druthers.
The Walton alley-oop that should have had Bob Uecker on the call at right (via Dustin Johnston) was emblematic. Michigan was just kinda off. It happened at an opportune time. Here's hoping it doesn't happen at an opportune one.
Wither the back door? More alarming is that Michigan struggled to get to the rim. Their offense just got over a point per possession—awful by their standards—and it wasn't particularly surprising when I checked the box score. Michigan's offense seemed less purposeful than it usually does.
It shows up in the hoop-math box score. Michigan struggled to create shots, period. Thirteen of their attempts came in the last five seconds of the clock; they got just six shots at the rim in their half court offense, two of those putbacks by GRIII. Because they are Michigan they can waddle through by hitting 57%(!) of their two point jumpers in the halfcourt and put up an eFG% of 81%(!!!) on must-jack shots late. This is always their safety valve.
That they always have a safety valve is lovely, but the offense didn't seem particularly flowing. Wofford pressured the perimeter and Michigan did not have much of a way to punish them for doing so. The general lack of backdoor action (PHRASING) has been a frustration. It was nice that one time against Michigan State when it got them a series of easy buckets early, and then it went away. With Duke and their perimeter overplay potentially looming in the Sweet 16, the ability to get some offense off the backdoor is critical. It really seems like you shouldn't be able to chase a team as skilled as Michigan well past the three point line without suffering something in return.
Wither the dumpoff? I know that Morgan and Horford combined for their usual 6/9 from the floor, but it does seem like these days Michigan's pick and roll game is struggling to get those gentlemen the parade of flushes they've been accustomed to. Opponents are rolling wing defenders underneath, making things more difficult and threatening block/charge decisions that can go in any direction against Michigan's already foul-prone bigs. Hopefully we'll see Michigan look for that kind of defensive action and kick to the corner for threes.
Part of that lack of rim attack. Stauskas picked up two highly debatable charge calls that looked like they could easily have gone the other way or not drawn a whistle. In general it felt like the refereeing swung back to last year's block/charge standards, which is probably good for Michigan if that is at all consistent. It obviously will not be because obviously.
Hey, how about that. Karl Cochran picked up his second personal foul with 11:41 left in the first half. Terriers coach Mike Young sat him for a few minutes, as required to by the coaching Illuminati manual, and then brought him back in. Cochran immediately made some aggressive defensive plays that could have brought a third whistle but didn't and ended up playing 34 minutes. He got just one foul the rest of the way, landing almost precisely on his season average of 2.9 fouls per 40.
A salute to Mike Young. Yeah, he may have been forced into his decision because Cochran is his offense. Hopefully the object lesson there keeps one of Michigan's stars in the game at a point in the future.
Peak bench McGary. Via Dustin Johnston, McGary pew pew pew:
At a later juncture, McGary and Dakich had an albatross-off.
For those of you who don't have twitter. Or for those of you who do and still giggle a little even when it comes up for the 30th time in your timeline. (I have the same relationship to this newspaper cover as I do the tiny kangaroo saying "I love work" in that commercial.)
Oh now you've gone and done it, OSU. Just try any Ohio Bobcat cracks and you will get snapped back at with THE University of Dayton. Trolling has to be limited to… oh, right. That. WELL OTHER THAN THAT YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. NOOOOOOOOOTHING.
Exit Aaron Craft. I'm actually going to miss the bastard. There was nothing quite like the "oh shit Aaron Craft" thing he could do to the unprepared, and nothing quite like Michigan's stars getting pwned by Craft in their first matchup and then coming back to pwn in return. I thought he was a fun player for all the reasons announcers fell all over themselves about him, but turned down about 90%. He was also a terrific nemesis. That he was vanquished at the last is the narrative of the John Beilein era in a one on one matchup.
I won't miss people talking about Aaron Craft, of course. I love Raftery and Lundquist but their eulogy for Craft was the perfect ending to a four-year love affair: kind of gross and way over the top. Will Leitch has a great article about Craft and the backlash and oh by the way Lenzelle Smith might be a nice guy too but who really cares if Lenzelle Smith stopped existing.