Beilein vs Switching

Submitted by stephenrjking on March 30th, 2018 at 2:32 PM

I'm ready for some basketball.

So, the scouting stuff continues to pour out of major media outlets, some of which is well-covered in the main page's UV.

I have a question: It has been the case most of the season that Michigan's vulnerability has been switches. We don't seem to have the ball-handling to punish those kinds of mismatches well. 

Loyola and Villanova both switch big-time. 

What adjustments are we going to see Michigan make? How did they combat this in the B1G tournament (facing switch-factories Nebraska and Purdue) and will it work this weekend?

Bring on the basketball.



March 30th, 2018 at 6:52 PM ^

it was Nebraska Episode 1 and both Northwestern games (a matchup zone is very similar to switching aggressively).

I do think we've improved how we've played switching teams because even against Houston and FSU we had a lot of open threes and just didn't make them.  That's not a structural problem.  We didn't have the same quality looks against Nebraska or Northwestern, IIRC.

The games to key on in terms of our improvment are Nebraska and Purdue.

I don't really remember the Nebraska game but with Purdue, it seemed like we attacked the pick and roll.  Z went hard to the hoop which brought the big with him and then big guys went hard to the hoop and it was just a dump off to them for dunks (at least, we did that with Teske a couple times.

That was in contrast to the first game in which we ran the pick and roll, got the switch with Wagner usually popping so as the keep the paint clear and then made our moves with Matthews and Z try to take their bigs one-on-one (which resulted in us shooting a lot of threes over their bigs with our worst 3 pt shooters, and that's why I think we changed it up).

The key will be our guards being able to take guys off the dribble since our screen action won't open things up.  They've all been really good driving the lane lately (except for MAAR in Wichita).  Matthews particularly has been great.

Also, it seems like this Krutwig guy is going to have serious problems defending any PnRs.  We should feast while he's in there (see what we did to Kaleb Wesson in the second half of the OSU home game).


March 30th, 2018 at 2:41 PM ^

He has spent the last two weeks punishing the switch. Your hypothesis might have been true in early February, but not now. If anything it is just that we don’t ALWAYS see the mismatch and kick it there

Shoot, you don’t remember Simpson against the Purdue trees? Our only issue is streaky shooting right now

Stringer Bell

March 30th, 2018 at 2:38 PM ^

Not sure why defenses switching has caused such an issue for this team.  We abused Louisville last year when they switched by letting Wagner post up the smaller defenders.  Not sure why we can't do that again.  Also Simpson should be a mismatch for any big man trying to guard him with his quickness and ability to get to the rim.  I guess we'll see.


March 30th, 2018 at 6:58 PM ^

Louisville last year.  This was suggested early this season and I went back and watched.  Most of his damage came by driving the ball. 

Louisville thought their smaller guys would be able to defend his drives and they didn't help off our shooters and Wagner abused them.  Earlier this year (smart) teams had adjusted to that somewhat by helping off our shooters since Wagner is mostly a head down driver.  He's gotten a little better at that such that if a guy can't stay in front of Wagner, it's bad news for the defense. I do expect their 1-4 guys to be able to stay in front of him.  When they go small, I think aggressive PnRs to the basket are the way to go (a la Purdue III).


March 30th, 2018 at 2:43 PM ^

It isn't anything strategic that needs to happen against switch-everything defense. It's very simple: Wagner must punish the switch. Wagner vs a PG either needs to get position on the block and demand the ball, or shoot over the little guy. If Wagner is on, no defense works against Michigan.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:00 PM ^

I've noticed a few situations where Wagner has had postion against a smaller defender on the block and hasn't gotten the ball. Michigan still seems a bit shy about going to him there, though maybe the key post plays against FSU suggest that they're not as skittish anymore.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

I noticed this, too. My theory is this is a team where passing fundamentals are so heavily drilled that they are often hesitant about feeding the post.

The angle is never perfect, and you often need to throw the pass to one hand of the big guy. Coach B drills crisp passing with two hands, catching with two hands, and always putting the ball in a shooter's sweet spot. This has obviously paid dividends, considering Michigan never turns it over.

Feeding the post is a whole different animal. There are funny angles and you often need to make a move to create any space at all. The post player often needs to corral the ball with one hand. If the pass is to crisp, a big guy might fumble it. If it is too soft, the defense can react and maybe deflect. Michigan just isn't used to it.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:47 PM ^

And it's a decision you need to make quickly.  Wagner has been "post" open a number of times on switches, but the window is very fleeting. 

It's not something you can think too long about before passing, it has to be a muscle memory sort of thing. 

We're not quite used to it yet, but it is there.



March 30th, 2018 at 7:31 PM ^

The post up offense is almost always low efficiency.  I think Michigan will have Wagner slip on the P & R against the small ball lineups, but Loyola is dead with their big guy if Michigan simply hits the open shots.  Also, this will be a game that may seem closer than it is if Loyola stays tight to shooters, giving up layups instead of over helping.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:34 PM ^

team have countered by having the weakside defender in the paint ready to help instantly if Wagner gets the ball. That's why they're passing him the ball in the post. Can't do skip pass because that's ripe for steals.

Watch how FSU defend Michigan when they have PG on Wagner and Wagner trying to post up. You'll see what I'm talking about.


March 30th, 2018 at 5:29 PM ^

That was mostly last game when Z and Charles were still thinking they drive against the FSU bigs, which had worked before, but they got blocked this time. Remember, the switch creates 2 possible mismatches (fast against big, big against little), we just tried to force it against the wrong mismatch against FSU

Mr. Elbel

March 30th, 2018 at 2:54 PM ^

Also Z handled the ball magnificently against FSU. Switches that leave him with a big man should result in some drives and if Mo is on, some easy passes in the lane or open up the kick out game. It confused me when switching jacked everything up earlier in the season because it should create mismatches to take advantage of. We've done much better from what I can tell though. They'll be ready.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:01 PM ^

and Simpson’s increasing growth on the offensive end have really decreased this weakness. Matthews was an incredibly effective shot creator in the last 4 games, and Simpson has made some incredible drives, finishes, and kick outs. And that ignores MAAR, who is one of the best finishers at the rim I’ve seen at Michigan, and Wagner, who can take any big off the dribble. I think our recent games against Nebraska and Purdue demonstrate how far we’ve come on offense.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:50 PM ^

I think your argument is compelling. He still isn't a great three-point shooter, and he makes me nervous when he drives, but in the last two weekends almost all of his plays have been good ones. And a guy with some size and athleticism who can make space for himself in the lane is a powerful counter to switches.

Might be the main reason the switches failed, now that I think on it.


March 30th, 2018 at 3:08 PM ^

Yeah, I think we kind of figured out the switching thing. You may have wanted to watch the last three weeks of basketball. I doubt we see nova anyway.

Steve in PA

March 30th, 2018 at 3:43 PM ^

That is what I have seen the biggest struggle against. Houston did it very well early in the game and the biggest adjustment I saw before halftime was to setup the offense higher draw in the defense out and leaving more space for the defender to recover.

Switching hasn't been a problem except for not seeing the mismatch. I expect switches, hedges, and traps for the rest of the tournament.


March 30th, 2018 at 4:33 PM ^

and beat them, actually won those games by running Michigan off the three point line on bad shooting nights for the team. And they also did a great job of limiting any second chance points with strong defensive rebounding.

I mean we're only talking a couple of games where this happened after this team began its surge and figured out how good it could be just by playing stubborn team defense.

Montana and Houston both sought to do what Nebraska and Northwestern did to Michigan. There is no real template for beating the Wolverines unless you keep them from making threes because they play such good defense, don't allow transition baskets and for the most part, don't foul al lot, depending on the refereeing in a given game. This means they usually get a lot more possessions than their opponents because while offensive rebounding isn't their game, they do such a great job of grabbing defensive caroms. So, they can afford not to always shoot a great percentage from behind the arc and still win, because they can get to the basket with their matchups.

The thing is, Michigan can play other teams at their pace and still succeed because their game revolves around their defense, and the offense is so diverse, that it makes even teams that switch all the ball screens tentative at times. I mean in order to run Michigan out of its game, you really have to have an instinctive defensive posture and come determined to closeout with authority as they move the ball around the arc and then look to pick and pop, or pick and roll.



March 30th, 2018 at 5:23 PM ^

That is exactly what FSU did - close out hard, and effectively.  They really rattled Michigan's offense because they could get out there quickly, and also recovered very well.  Those first 10 minutes were hell, and the guys really didn't handle it all that well.  They played tight, and that set the tone for the rest of the game.  Some adjustments were made (I have no idea how, or what), and they started getting good looks.  But the damage was done - they were missing.  This team is so streaky!  If they get off to a good start, the game is over (see: A&M).  But a bad start will result in a rock fight because they won't shoot well (see: Houston & FSU).

I'm not too worried about Loyola - they're a really good team, but they haven't played anyone close to Michigan.  UTenn shold have been, but they had no big in the middle.  Wagner and Teske will both destroy this team.  The test comes Monday night (God forbid we don't get there!).  A bad start against either Kansas or Villanova will be bad.  Very bad.  Those teams will find offense through our defense, and we'll need to score from 3 reliably.


March 30th, 2018 at 5:26 PM ^

Matthews and to a lesser extent MAAR/Simpson going to the rim. You can’t switch on a team that consistently breaks down the defense off the dribble.