You Say It Is A Toenail; I Say It Is In Your Heart Nonetheless Comment Count

Brian March 24th, 2017 at 12:18 PM

3/23/2017 – Michigan 68, Oregon 69 – 26-12, season over

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[Joseph Dressler]

There are few things more haunting in sports than coming up on the short end of a bonafide one-point basketball game. There are so many points and so many opportunities to get two more or prevent two more that it is impossible not to inventory all the slight tweaks in the universe that could have gotten you one step closer to the promised land, or at least destruction at the hands of Kansas.

The wide open DJ Wilson layup and two Duncan Robinson threes that were halfway down stand out in this regard. So too does the late Oregon free throw miss that Wilson couldn't box out on. And then there is the blizzard of threes that did not go halfway down, for reasons.

Oregon's approach seemed to be "leave Michigan blitheringly wide open from three and see what happens." Michigan took more threes than twos, and if any of them seemed unreasonable it was only in aggregate. There will be some complaints about Michigan launching early in the shot clock, but the vast majority of Michigan's 31 attempts from behind the arc were preceded by my inner monologue—and sometimes the external one, too—yelling "shoot that." A couple of ugly ones should have been rhythm catch and shoot opportunities that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Mo Wagner, collectively 0-8 in this game, passed up on to dribble themselves into worse shots.

This is certainly a way to play against a John Beilein team. Usually it's a way to get your face melted off. The shattered corpse of Oklahoma State basketball would like a word at this point. That word is "aaaargh."

-------------------

And yet.

Michigan hit a respectable 11 of 31—36 percent. This was not enough. It was not enough even though they won the style contest on defense. Oregon only got up 10 transition shots, which they did poorly on. A third of their shots were the two point jumpers Michigan strives to force and Oregon is very bad at. They hit 25%.

If you'd told me all the peripheral numbers from this game beforehand I'd have taken it in a hot second. I would not have believed you if you'd told me that despite those numbers Michigan's offense would look like a hamster searching for a wheel for big chunks of the game.

Dana Altman's combination of the half-ass press a bunch of teams run now that the shot clock is down to 30 and 40% matchup zone got Michigan off balance. A plan to punish the incessant switching by replicating the second half against Louisville ended up with some poor Wagner shots and turnovers; Wagner spent the last ten minutes on the bench in favor of Duncan Robinson, who seemingly couldn't guard anyone on the floor.

The game was just... off. With virtually every ticket in the sweaty palms of Kansas fans the arena was near-empty at tipoff and dead throughout. That gave a tense, taught game an unfortunate NBA D-League or NCAA hockey regional vibe, and while I don't think that caused the ugly game it certainly reinforced it. It was weirdly muted for one of the most important games of the college basketball season.

It was ugly to the point where a final score close to 70 for both teams is unexpected. Michigan perpetually felt eight points behind and suddenly they were in the lead with two minutes left, sort of like the Oklahoma State and Louisville games. And then.

In the aftermath you're left grasping at opportunities spurned, at whatever air eddies pushed this ball a micron away from a good-enough trajectory, at this breakdown or that breakdown that would go almost entirely unremarked upon if not for the fact that Oregon had N and Michigan had N –1.

An inch; a point; it's been a year of almosts for Michigan athletics.

Bullets

Rather satisfying all the same. Losing a one-point Sweet Sixteen game is no shame. It's a hard thing to do, winning basketball games against good teams. Michigan picked up a banner, got a measure of Louisville revenge, and was amongst the best teams in the country for a full half season. Over the full span they finished 20th on Kenpom.

This wasn't a return to the Burke/Stauskas years but it was a solid top 25 season.

The Walton; the Irvin. I pulled the "Zak Irvin is happening" tag out of mothballs for this game because he was happening, man. His late surge as he re-found his excellent-third-banana level was such that everybody had to stop complaining about him. This is a monumental internet accomplishment. He held Michigan in this game, hit tough late-clock shots, and was clearly on another level from Duncan Robinson as he checked Oregon's perimeter guys.

Building on that? Obviously much hinges on the return of Wilson and Wagner. I'd guess with their tough final games and the super deep draft—DX has Caleb Swanigan 30th!—both will return for another year of that sweet Beilein development. Both guys are potential lottery picks if they continue to improve at a decent clip. Right now there are sufficient questions that they'd be borderline first rounders.

If Michigan does not have any unexpected departures you're looking at something like:

  1. Xavier Simpson/Eli Brooks
  2. MAAR/Jordan Poole
  3. Charles Matthews/Duncan Robinson
  4. DJ Wilson/Isaiah Livers
  5. Mo Wagner/Jon Teske/Austin Davis

Michigan does have an open scholarship they could use on either Mo Bamba—uh not likely—or one of the late risers they've done so well with; there are also a number of intriguing transfer options. Since Brooks and Poole may not be impact freshmen, an immediately eligible backcourt scorer would be real nice. You've probably heard about faintly ludicrous Chippewa Marcus Keene and his 37% usage. Keene shot 82/51/37 on incredible volume and had an excellent assist rate on a bad MAC team that was nonetheless 56th in offensive efficiency.

There's also New Mexico guard Elijah Brown, another 30%+ usage player with decent efficiency. His three point shooting fell off this year but he was near 40% a year ago (on 226 attempts); he gets to the line and his excellent FT shooting implies that his rough two point percentages are more about his situation than his talent.

Or Michigan could go the Matthews route again and attempt to acquire the services of blue-blood transfer Chase Jeter, who's leaving Duke after two injury-plagued years. Jeter is a 6'10" post and would have to sit out, so he's not an ideal fit for the roster. I'd still poke around there because the rate of big washout is so high. You can't count on both Teske and Davis being around in two years. See: all of college basketball.

Tourney coverage complaint. There are way too many fouls that don't get replays to check on them. DJ Wilson's second was a potentially dubious call on which a second look would have been very helpful; instead nothing.

Also in complaints: I have no idea how anyone can listen to Reggie Miller and think "I should pay this person to do this thing."

Comments

corundum

March 24th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

The associated press already quoted an unnamed source claiming that Keene was entering the NBA draft. Not sure on how legit the source is obviously. At 5'9", I'm not sure how that will go for him.

Robbie Moore

March 24th, 2017 at 3:37 PM ^

...Chase Jeter is a Bishop Gorman guy. Michigan has a profile at the school though it is for football not basketball. Seems Jeter is looking to move closer to home but still...getting a 5 star big man is always good.

MH20

March 24th, 2017 at 12:40 PM ^

I've never been a big fan of C-Webb's commentary so, to me, comparing Miller favorably to Webber is like saying a tiny shart is better than literally shitting yourself uncontrollably.

That said, going into last night a few people lamented Dan Bonner more than Miller and they were on to something.  Dude is useless.

skurnie

March 24th, 2017 at 12:57 PM ^

Did you see Webber absolutely dismantle the officials at the end of the Gonzaga/WVU game last night because it took them 5 minutes to figure the call out? That was outstanding, even if I often don't care for him.

Reggie Miller is basketball's Mack Brown.

InterM

March 24th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

but agree he looks great by comparison with the rest of the CBS "talent."  Raftery at least brings some analysis to the table.  If only he wouldn't do his growly voice trick 100 times a game to convey how exciting it is -- a friend pointed this out to me several years ago and it's really distracting once you realize how often he does it.  For those of you not already annoyed by this -- you're welcome!

enlightenedbum

March 24th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

He's lost a step in the last five years or so.  And getting him away from Uncle Verne did him a disservice, they had a really good just loving the experience chemistry for a solid decade it seemed like.  But yeah, he still provides some smart thoughts on what's going on, which is half of why I like him.  The other half is just the enthusiasm, I like commentators who think the experience is fun.  This is the one way in which I'll defend Webber.  There was a block on a dunk attempt last night that got him really fired up and briefly elevated the broadcast.

InterM

March 24th, 2017 at 1:20 PM ^

If you make an open three early in the shot clock, it is a good shot; if you miss, it is a bad shot.  #Analysis.

Also, it seemed to be news to Reggie and friends that Michigan did not crash the offensive boards against Oregon.  Those who have watched any Michigan basketball this year -- or, frankly, at any time during Beilein's tenure -- would know that this is the usual strategy.  Excellent preparation, guys.

Fab and Fresh

March 24th, 2017 at 5:56 PM ^

Yes, I was incredulous when they said Michigan was in a "must score" possession down I want to say 4 with 12 minutes to go or something like that. Yet when Michigan took their last late lead, I heard talk about there still being plenty of time to go. Don't make it so obvious boys! I almost never notice announcer or refs and generally get annoyed when people discuss them, but good god that was awful.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

corundum

March 24th, 2017 at 12:29 PM ^

Elijah Brown is the son of current Warriors assistant coach / former Cavs coach Mike Brown. I thought Xavier Simpson looked ready for the college game this year, but adding another grad transfer guard that can pour it in might push next year's team towards elite.

trueblueintexas

March 24th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

He changed his shot trajectory as soon as he realized how quickly Oregon was closing out on the open three's. MAAR, Robinson, and Wilson all rushed three's because of this as well. Yes, the shots were open and good, but not when you rush it. Difference in the game was Oregon extending D way past the three point line and very quick rotation inside the arc to cut off driving lanes.
Credit Oregon for playing very hard for 40 minutes with only 6 primary players. Their quickness was also evident in their ability to get open looks in the paint.

L'Carpetron Do…

March 24th, 2017 at 3:59 PM ^

He also has that mindset of a shooter that says he's going to shoot his way out of a slump. But he was a little brazen and I found myself saying "No!" when he was getting ready to launch another when he was ice cold. Definitiely would've seen a lot more of him in the 2nd half though. There were times when the O was stagnant and I wanted Beilein to tweek with the lineup a bit to get something going.  

Sucks that MAAR and Robinson also had bad outings. I hope this stings and next year they're reminded at how much it ABSOLUTELY SUCKS to lose. X has big shoes to fill but there's no reason this team shouldn't be ranked all next year.  They'll have a higher floor than this year - and if the Theory of the John Beilein Arc of Improvement holds true, they'll be going deep into the tournament again. Already looking forward to it.

901 P

March 24th, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

One additional comment: when Wilson launched that three near the end of the game, the camera was right behind him so tha angle was perfect to see that the shot was perfectly on line. I thought it was in, not realizing that it went deep. But in the air, from that angle, I was sure he knocked it down. 

TrueBlue2003

March 24th, 2017 at 1:08 PM ^

It seemed to help us these previous 6 games to play early in front of small crowds. When we are the team that plays slow and methodical and other teams want to play faster and run, I feel like these environments favor us.  Probably pretty much negligible either way though.

As Brian put it correctly, in a one point loss you second guess everything that could have moved the needle.

ijohnb

March 24th, 2017 at 1:10 PM ^

is far worse than empty.  I didn't think the stands looked particularly empty for an early non-homer Sweet 16 game.  I think there were far more people at tip than were there at the beginning of the Tennessee game in 2013 in Indy.  Now that place was empty.  Here the problem was that neither team got the crowd engaged one way or the other.  Often in nuetral site games where neither team is local, the crowd will become invested as the game goes along based on the play of the teams and who takes on the roll of the favorite/underdog/villian, etc., and then the teams feed off the energy that creates.

Last night, the teams both collectively just started off so flat that the crowd lost interest before it even had time to become invested in any way.  So the overall feeling for the teams felt like they were playing in front of 20,000 people who simply did not care and wanted the game to end, and that is ......... really awkward. 

Blue and Joe

March 24th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

You nailed it. The whole game just felt "off." That was my only concern heading in to the game. What would a few days back on campus do to their mojo? Moe was not himself and the team just felt out of sync.

Oh well. Awesome season nonetheless. Banners are cool.

oldhackman

March 24th, 2017 at 1:36 PM ^

Nice that we can play "off" like that and lose to a team that was 31-5 by a single point after our decent look doesn't go down in the final seconds.  Five minutes into the game I noted that it looked like a coin flip kind of a game.  Tails.  Damn.

Great end to a season that I thought was doomed after the OSU game.  We get a trophy, banner, and overall good mojo for recruiting, etc.  Not to mention that we aren't remaking the "We Are Marshall" movie.

stephenrjking

March 24th, 2017 at 12:36 PM ^

Agree about the foul replays. We're already touchy about fouls, of course, with how poorly some of our games have been called, but when key players wind up missing 10 key minutes in the first half, if one of the fouls is questionable that's a pretty big deal. 

I'm not even positive the fouls were being counted right. There was some confusion in the first half over whether MAAR or Irving had two fouls. My recollection is that I remember MAAR being identified as the culprit in two different first-half fouls, and only remembering one for Irving over that same stretch. But perhaps a fouls was mis-identified or perhaps someone was just plain wrong. Irvin stayed in the game while MAAR sat, though.

It's natural to gripe about the disparate foul totals in the second half but Michigan was getting crushed in the paint and as a result wasn't really doing anything to earn fouls. It felt like their drive-and-kick game was also hurt by some poor passing that may have been affected by well-placed Oregon defenders. They certainly seemed to make passes harder to come by, and I think that was a big factor in Michigan's offensive malaise. At other times a guy in good position received a weak pass that forced him to move to a position that allowed Oregon to contest a shot.

Tough game. It's basketball. Sometimes you lose.

A2toGVSU

March 24th, 2017 at 12:57 PM ^

Stephenrjking, I expect better from you. Zak Irvin came in as a near 5* recruit and has suited up for more games in the maize and blue than any player not named Jordan Morgan. How come there are those here who still think there is a 'G' in his last name? This isnt funny a la "Ruddock" who was here for one year.