MBB: Minnesota Notes and Perspectives

Submitted by TrueBlue2003 on February 4th, 2018 at 12:08 PM

[Ed-Ace: I'm taking time off this weekend but this diary stands in quite well for a game recap and gives me an excuse to post MG's photos.]

[This and all other photos: Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I don't like to wade into the open threads during or after a game, and since there isn't a recap posted, I wanted to make a couple notes about the game today.  It seemed like some folks were disappointed with today's game so I'm going to channel Ace and try to dish out some perspective.

A John Beilein basketball team just shot a horrific 8-32 from three, an unfathomable 12-28 FTs, watched an opposing freshman who came into the game shooting an abysmal 39/19 toss in circus shot after circus shot despite being defended pretty well....and still won.  Huh? How did that happen?

1) Rebounding.  M continues to be an elite, you heard that correctly, elite defensive rebounding team (11th in the country). Minnesota only rebounded 13% of their misses (5 OREBs) to our 26% (11 OREBs) which gave us five more shot equivalents, every one of them was needed the way we shot.

2) Defense. I thought we played pretty good defense the whole game, but Mason started the game hitting his (typically) ill-advised pull-ups from 17 feet and then Washington took over and hit everything (almsot literally as he started 9-10) he threw towards the basket despite Z being right there making it difficult most of the time.  I was like, great, thanks Brian.  You had to go write the entire preview about their awful 2 point shooting, and of course, they make them against us (and for the record it was just Mason and Washington that shot well, everyone else was mediocre to bad).

Beilein made a very smart move to go zone (which I almost always hate and which usually goes poorly) right around the time we were down 10 with about 10 min to go.

Zone was a perfect way to slow down a team that was going one-on-one exclusively and weren't threating to pass or hit threes. They did get a couple dunks/shots at the rim off drive and dishes which will happen against a zone, but we took away what had been working for them: Washington driving the lane.

3) Points in the paint. Thanks to Z, Matthews and MAAR driving the lane, we scored 40 points in the paint.  I don't even what's going on anymore.

Yes, this is not your older brother's M team that wins or loses by the three.  We win with defense and rebounding sometimes too!  Extremely nice to be able to do that on an off day (and this day was realllllly off despite those threes being mostly great looks).

Individual shoutouts:

  • Z got the appreciation thread and he was outstanding down the stretch with a couple layups and a pretty steal and pass ahead to Duncan on the break during the comeback. Then he took over in OT with two layups and a three.  Despite shooting an awful 1-8 from three (and they were ugly like his freshman year) he was 6-6 (!!) from two (we won't talk about the 0-2 FTs).
  • Charles Matthews deserves a lot of credit for having a good second half after a brutal first half in which he went 0-6 FGs.  He went 4-5 in the second half and had all 13 of his points after the break.
  • Mo Wagner had one of his steadier games as a Wolverine.  He wasn't spectacular like he can be occasionally and he wasn't victimized down low like he also can be.  He continues to be the anchor of our elite defensive rebounding, his only TO was a three second violation and his double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) was big.
  • MAAR: Oh yeah, the guy that had 17 pts including the game winner which was reminiscent of the Maryland game except this time instead of getting tripped he spun to the bucket for the and1.
  • The 4 combo.  Livers was once again very solid while in the game with his usual uber-efficient shooting (5 pts on 3 shots), rebounding (2 OREBs, 3 DREBs in just 17 min) and defense (2 blocks). But Duncan played 28 min in this one because in a zone, we can hide him on the wing and don't have to worry nearly as much about him getting beat because there's a guy waiting in the middle of the zone. He was also efficient with 10 pts on 6 shots and 2 assists to 1 TO.

This is probably the time to point out that 1 TO of Robinson's was a travel to give Minn the ball back with M up 3 with 8 seconds to go after being intentionally fouled multiple times.  This was the worst call/no-call of the season in a season filled with them.  The ref was standing five feet away from this happening and despite knowing Minnesota was trying to foul, and despite them doing a good job of it, he did not call it. If we had lost, this call would have been the story of the game. Refs had to be relieved that we won.

Minnesota, of course, hit a three to tie it on a play on which we probably missed a switch, very similar to the Maryland three to take the lead. Luckily we were up three this time so it just meant OT, but that makes it all the more inexcusable to give up an open three when you should be a lot less concerned about giving up a two.

Perspective: we won a game in which we shot terribly, and in this one, it wasn't opponent induced, we were getting shots we wanted.  It happens.  That we got the W because of our defense and rebounding is very encouraging for the future when we'll almost always shoot better than this. There's been some grumbling about the team since the MSU game, but remember:

1) M covered the spread in each of our last three games: Rutgers, Purdue and Northwestern. Not sure if we fans just aren't used to winning with great defense and meh offense and that's what makes it seem like we aren't playing well, but despite expectations being high for us right now (on the form of point spreads), we still exceeded those expectations in our three previous games.

2) In our six games since MSU, we have been the 42nd best team in the country per Bart Torvik's rankings.  So we've still played like a top 50 team despite clunkers at Nebraska and today's...whatever that was.  To put that in perspective, teams that have played worse during that time: Kentucky, Rhode Island, Creighton, Clemson, Wich St. Gonzaga....those are all teams projected to be higher seeded than M.  That's pretty good for this being a so-called "bad" stretch.

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

Full photo gallery.



February 4th, 2018 at 2:30 AM ^

Two things:

1. I am not sure what exactly qualifies, but this seems like a diary post rather than a board post. It's longggggg.

2. What are you doing up 2:30 AM posting this? I am traveling and have an excuse... :-)


February 4th, 2018 at 2:35 AM ^

1. Yeah, not sure what the rules are on Diary v board post.  Didn't think it needed to stay up on the Diary board for weeks on end since it's topical to todays game only...and ended up being longer than I intended. Sorry.

2. West Coast, my friend!  Only 11:30 for me.  Bedtime now though.

scanner blue

February 4th, 2018 at 5:55 AM ^

I thought some stat based perspective/opinion was needed . Being at the game you don't get stats thrown at you incessantly. I miss the scoreboard stats often since I'm looking at the north tunnel and trying to figure out who's hosting Mazi Smith, or watching the young jumpropers wowing the crowd, or doing my Dennis Norfleet impression trying to get on the Dance Cam. Impressions of the season ticket holders leaving was how did we win while shooting like that...defense and coaching. I think we overlooked the rebounding effort.


February 4th, 2018 at 10:49 AM ^

I thought we were getting killed on the boards, but the halftime stats showed it was basically even.
Matthews was playing too tentatively on his drives. He seemed to be to concerned with his shot getting blocked. On the drive where he dunked the ball, he drove more aggressively.
Murphy getting his fourth foul helped immensely. That opened up the lane, but we still shot (and missed) a bunch of threes while he was on the bench.
I know it's not part of the regular offense, but this team really doesn't know how to throw an entry pass into the post. And Wagner and Teske aren't comfortable with the ball when they do get the ball with their backs to the basket.


February 4th, 2018 at 11:14 AM ^

We are not good at passing into the post. Although yesterday they at least made a concerted effort to do that. It’s frustrating to see 6’11” Wagner being guarded by a 6’2” guard and not getting the ball.


February 4th, 2018 at 2:48 AM ^

No need to bring logic and reason into this pitchfork and torches mob. Beilein can't coach these kids to even hit free throws. Dude is trash, the team is trash, and they'll be the easiest pick in the ncaa bracket because they'll lose to anyone in the country right now. What a joke! (/s in case that's necessary here)


February 4th, 2018 at 2:00 PM ^

Everything and Nothing is /s, depending on whether the reader wishes it to be.

A debate over whether the Minny gm was a glaring exposure of this team's fatal flaws, or just a(nother) mediocre to shitty performance by a very good team, will be similar to a debate on how to fund infrastructure projects:
Nothing I say will change your mind if we disagree, and vice versa.


February 4th, 2018 at 3:24 AM ^

This team is better than I thought they'd be, and the coaching has been terrific. That said, I don't think we'll be able to avoid a dud over a stretch of 4 games or more of tournament play. There just isn't a consistent go-to offensive option, unless MAAR makes a Walton-like end-of-season run. I'll enjoy watching this team one way or another though.


February 4th, 2018 at 3:52 AM ^

Was terrible, too. He was in the lane less than 2 seconds. So 2 of the 6 TOs were a joke.

..but not as bad as one on Haas today where he went back in the lane and was there less than a second when he was called.

Both calls were terrible where I think the ref got distracted and missed them fully leaving the lane and coming back in. First two 3-second calls I can remember in a while and both were really bad.


February 4th, 2018 at 9:53 AM ^

Man I disagree on this one.... I don't have it DVRed or anything but I'd be curious to re-watch and count how long he was there.  Watching it live it was obvious he was camped in the lane and not moving at all.  He had a smaller guy fronting him so he just parked and seemed to lose his awareness of the rules for a moment.  Thought he might get away with it because the ref wasn't swinging his hand to signal he was counting, but it was DEFINITELY a legit call.  Had he been at least moving/re-positioning it may not have been called.

G. Gulo of the Dale

February 4th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

I agree with the OP.  Wagner was not in the paint the whole time he was posting up the smaller defender.  He was in the paint for about two second, moved out of the paint and continued to post up the defender, moved back into the paint for two seconds (maybe two-and-a-half) and the whistle blew.  It's like the refs never saw him leave the paint.

BTW, the play happened around the 16:50 mark in the first half. 

G. Gulo of the Dale

February 4th, 2018 at 5:55 PM ^

I don't understand why people are saying this. 

Again, if you rewatch the game, the play occurs between the 16:50 and 16:45 mark in the first half.  Wagner clearly leaves the paint in the middle of his post-up, gets both feet out of the paint, reestablishes himself at 16:47, and gets a three-second call two seconds later at 16:45. 

It was a bad call.  

San Diego Mick

February 4th, 2018 at 4:02 AM ^

With that being said we need to shoot FT's way better, it would make some of these tight games more comfortable, that's how important shooting well at the FT line is.

Also, we need to start games more efficiently, I'm impressed with the team though and 19-6 is pretty damned good, if DJ Wilson had come back this year we'd probably be 22-3 or something like that and a top 10 team, so losing him and still being so competitive and so much more gritty than past Beilein teams is quite refreshing.

Goggles Paisano

February 4th, 2018 at 7:17 AM ^

The common denominator in many of the wins this season has been winning the turnover battle.  Both teams in this game did a great job of taking care of the basketball with only 6 TO's each.  Michigan won the rebounding battle to give them the edge they needed to overcome the 16 missed free throws.  

The free throw issue happened in a game earlier this season too, although I can't recall which game that was off the top of my head.  As my old coach used to tell me "It's in with ease when you bend at the knees".  

Year of Revenge II

February 4th, 2018 at 7:34 AM ^

My eighth grade basketball team could shoot better free throws then these guys, and just about all of us had better strokes then Simpson or Matthews. If I was a major college basketball player, I would be ridiculously embarrassed. There is no excuse for this, none.


February 4th, 2018 at 9:22 AM ^

but guys on here aren't getting paid to. if you're receiving compensation to do a job, it's not unreasonable to expect better than 60%. I'm saying this in general speaking, not singling out Michigan. I cringe when teams don't make their free throws. I can't go to my boss and say "hey, we were 60% safe this month" and it be okay. I'm paid, as part of my responsibilities to make sure my employees are safe. basketball players at that level and higher are expected to do better than that.


February 4th, 2018 at 10:10 AM ^

I thought we weren't paying the players. They are amateur student t athletes playing for a scholarship education.

Also, because this analogy drives me crazy, they aren't judged merely on foul shots. They are judged based on totality, and in this case they played solid enough defense and offense to win. Which is a metric any boss cares about. My guess is that you do 60% quality at some part of your job, but if you are successful at the rest of it you ultimately succeed. Which I assume is the actual point of whatever argument is being made here.


February 4th, 2018 at 7:46 PM ^

If you think a full ride to one of the best institutions in America, free room and board, food, clothes, etc is not compensation, you are mistaken. 60 percent costs me my job. Likely costs you yours. I'm not crucifying the kids, I couldn't perform at the rate they are. However, it's not unreasonable to say 60 percent is not good enough to win. I don't understand why at their level, they (pro and college players) have poor free throw percentages.


February 4th, 2018 at 7:51 PM ^

I'm not going to rehash the same argument I made above because you still don't quite get the one-to-many relationship you are arguing here, but I will simply counter that Michigan won and both of Simpson and Matthews were incredibly important in that outcome.  They "kept" their jobs by what they did on the court.  

As for scholarships and compensation, that's an argument I am 100% certain we will not agree on based on your comments and it's not worth discussing.


February 4th, 2018 at 8:04 PM ^

don’t agree with his post on the whole, but seriously, how has Simpson, an immensely talented 4 star recruit not had one coach thus far in his life say “bro, we need to talk about that form.” He is a very skilled basketball player. He can certainly be a better shooter than he is.

Blue in Paradise

February 4th, 2018 at 9:42 AM ^

With my 10 year old son 3-4 times per week. We both hit something very close to 50% of our FTs. That is really good for him and pretty $hitty for me. I would call 50% the “off the couch” % that an average guy is who decently athletic can hit.

YOR part 2 is a bit over the top with the anger. They were bad from the stripe but they won on a day where a lot of ranked teams lost. This time of year, Uli just need to grind through these games and win enough for a decent seed. The shots will start to fall.


February 4th, 2018 at 10:12 AM ^

Did you also shoot FTs while running the equivalent of a couple of miles and smashing into large human beings? Because otherwise, you shooting FTs after lunch doesn't really matter. My guess is these guys can sit at the line during practice and drain them at a high clip. But in a physical game, your efficiency suffers.


February 4th, 2018 at 10:57 AM ^

that was really piss poor free throw shooting.  I haven't shot a basketball in a year and I'm not nearly at their level of conditioning, lol, but I could run 5 miles and sitll shoot free throws far better.

Maybe they need a mental coach or something but they need to improve this part of their game or it will cost them a tourney run.