Emphasis on defense = tired legs?

Submitted by Lordfoul on April 3rd, 2018 at 12:07 PM

I am so very proud of this team, but watching our Wolverines struggle to hit open shots was frustrating.  I have been shocked at how much our shooting regressed during the tournament. The first weekend seemed like it could have been nerves, but after seeing how beat our guys looked at times it made me wonder if much of the poor shooting could have been due to dead legs.

Sanderson has been highly praised for the conditioning the team achieves - and it seems like the ability to outlast their foes has been an advantage for Michigan in recent years (case in point - back to back B10 tournament championships) - but during the last two games our guys looked exhausted by 10 minutes in after fast starts.  

My theory is that putting so much more effort into sufficating defense is wearing Michigan out and affecting the offense - shooting in particular.  If this is the case then I wonder if a deeper rotation with more limited minutes across the board might not be an effective counter.  I seem to remember Shaka Smart relying on heavy bench minutes to keep his Havoc defense fresh.

Anyways, I am proud of and amazed by this team and what it accomplished.  Beilein uber alles and Go Blue!



April 3rd, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

Villanova was simply the better team. It wasn’t tired legs. They had more talent and played to their talent level. More talent + play to your talent level= Winner.


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

It's clearly not though. OP has nothing to do with Nova, it's a question of whether our defensive approach had a negative impact on our shooting. It has nothing to do with any one game or any team.


April 3rd, 2018 at 3:21 PM ^

Well, in the last 10 minutes of their game against Loyola Michigan scored 27 points while holding the Ramblers to 12, shooting 43% from 3 and 64% overall.  So somehow, Michigan's tired legs got rested up in the last 10 minutes of a game and were both super-active on defense and efficient on offense.

So no, I don't think it's particularly relevant the ideo these guys had tired legs.  Especially since this NCAA tournament, like all games, is more a series of long commercials broken up with moments of basketball.  It's hard to imagine they didn't get sufficient rest.


April 3rd, 2018 at 6:07 PM ^

It seems like the theory was baked up because we finished the season with three poor shooting efforts (despite those efforts immediately following one of our most impressive shooting performances of the year.

One could also argue that an emphasis on defense all year would have you better conditioned and able to keep up when the intensity ratchets up in the tourney.

These are young kids that are in excellent condition. Physical fatigue was almost certainly not a factor (mental fatigue from the pressure and the stage may have had an impact though).

One could test it on a larger dataset I suppose.  I believe the question would be "do good defensive teams experience declines in 3 pt shooting over the course of a season?"


April 3rd, 2018 at 8:49 PM ^

In the BTT we were all over the place.

Iowa - 3-19 (15.8%)

Nebraska - 11-23 (47.8%)  (5-5 for MAAR, 6-18 for the rest of the team)

MSU - 9-25 (36.0%)

Purdue - 8-23 (34.8%)

Overall it was a bit better than in the tournament (34.4%) but not exceptional.  Then you look at the tournament:

Montana - 5-16 (31.3%)

Houston - 8-30 (26.7%)

Texas A&M - 14-24 (58.3%)

FSU - 4-22 (18.2%)

Loyola - 7-28 (25.0%)

Villanova - 3-23 (13.0%)

We hit 40% twice in our last 10 games.  This wasn't a good shooting team in March/April.  Whether there was a general downward trend from month to month all season, I haven't checked.



April 3rd, 2018 at 12:37 PM ^


My Maize n Blue goggles work better than most -

but 2 (so far) have negged Lake for saying Nova was the better team, and played up to their level!

While 3 (so far) have upvoted OP saying our tough play on D gave us dead legs?!!!

People - this is sparty level denial! Cumong - we're better than this!

Mr. Owl

April 3rd, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

But not better than Nova.  Which is cool because they proved themselves worthy of being National Champions.  Michigan has nothing to hang their heads over.  This team was close & hopefully learned a lot in the last month that will carry over to next season.

Go Blue!


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:03 PM ^

think it can be both, right. I think Villanova had more talented players, but I think we looked gassed to. With one exception, all of our tourney games have been grinders, while Nova largely coasted. Midway through the first half, both teams went looking for their energy reserves. Nova found a bunch and Michigan found empty tanks. This team relied on grinding and outlasting opponents deep in games. They were spent last night. Actually, they were spent on Saturday but Wagner was the best player on the floor by some measure.


April 3rd, 2018 at 2:27 PM ^

we lost the national championship game, people are upset. None of us will ever know what the 'causation' of the loss was.


Villanova was a hot shooting monster

Michigan went toe to toe until fouls started changing what we did. It was a light switch change in how we played. NOT blaming officiating, but I will say, when ticky tacky fouls start happening, guys backed off.

yes giving full on effort playing hard defense wears down the legs, that's obvious. However against all other opponents, said defensive effort gave us enough room to get the win. What was the difference was literally one guy, shooting the lights out of the gym and we couldn't stop it. And when we turned to our desperation shooting, we lost what kept us in it.

in all other games, when one guy was cold, or one guy got tired, another just stepped up and changed the tempo. We did not do that, nobody rose up, and more importantly Villanova just didn't allow it.

If you compare this to a title fight, we hurt Villanova early...but in the end, they found an opening, and kept punching the body until we simply couldn't get off the mat...Michigan played their asses off, and last night, Villanova, or more importantly, ONE player ended the dream. is what it is, great kids, great coach, Michigan will continue to improve and will have their day.

calling members sparty...is so sparty. fucking stop.



April 3rd, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

Good theory but I think we just got beat by a better teams. If we limited minutes then we would have lower % shooters out there. Poole played limited minutes but couldn’t hit anything except that game winner.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

I'd agree with that assessment. Hopefully we won't have to be so reliant on individual players like we were at times this year w/ Rahkman, Moe, and something Matthews.. Spreading out the minutes would be a good solution and I think next year we'll have even better talent coming off the bench to give our starters a breather.


Edit: just want to clarify, i mean "relying on individual players" at times to generate most of our offense (e.g. Wagner vs. Loyola). This team was one of the best "teams" that truly played together, an effect cleary seen in our defense.

Bando Calrissian

April 3rd, 2018 at 12:11 PM ^

I wonder how much of this was a function of the long layoff between the B1G and the NCAA tournaments. They came out of MSG looking red hot, then aside from A&M, never quite looked the same across this tournament, even as they kept winning.

In other words, thanks, Jim Delany.


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:39 PM ^

said we kept winning, but outside of shooting wide open looks against a woefully unprepared [email protected] team, we never shot well from deep. Go back and watch the first half of the Maryland game at the end of the season. That is how this team was capable of shooting, and it continued into the BTT to some degree. We never really got that back.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

There isn't always a reason.  Michigan shots lights out against Texas A&M.  Is it really reasonable to think that they were much fresher for that one particular game?

Villanova's defense is nearly as good as Michigan's, and they didn't run any deeper than Michigan did.  They didn't seem fatigued.

I saw one or two shots that could have been explained by tired legs -- shots that were exactly on line but hit the front rim and fell short.  The rest were a combination of good Villanova defense and dumb luck.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:13 PM ^

Robinson only played 3 minutes in the first half. Poole came off the bench. Matthews missed a couple early in the game.

Disappointing because we know what this team can do when they get on a roll, but I don’t think fatigue had anything to do with our shooting woes last night or throughout the tourney.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:15 PM ^

Villanova only goes like 7 deep and still has a top 15 efficiency defense. Playing hard on defense takes a lot out of you but I also think the reality was that this was a somewhat limited team that in the end got beat by a better team.

Yeah we missed a lot of threes in this game but how many of them were truly good looks? All of Robinsons three point attempts were extremely difficult and contested, Matthews and Simpson just aren't great shooters that you can count on consistently to hit shots. Livers and Rahk missed a couple of open threes they hit during our peak run but neither has proven to be a truly consistent three point threat.  Our offense peaked when Rahkman peaked because he was the only guy on this team who could shoot off the dribble. When teams could switch we didn't have players that could make them pay with iso one on one play, Nova did even after we took away their top two options.


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:04 PM ^

Matthews was great in iso plays throughout the tournament and Poole made nice plays off the dribble a few times. Isolation was not the issue yesterday as I saw plenty of times we drove past a good defender in Mikal Bridges to get a bucket. If Devencinzo plays a normal game yesterday, we are in it to the end no doubt about it. Instead he put up Kareem & Bill Walton type numbers yesterday and they ran away from us.

Ghost of Fritz…

April 3rd, 2018 at 12:16 PM ^

M just shot very poorly from 3 (and even from 2 pt. attempts).

Not becasue of too much effort on D.  Just a team that had certain limitation on offense this year.  Not a terrible offense.  Not great either.  But they had a bad night.  It happens.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:16 PM ^

But by that point in the tourney all teams have hit some sort of level of exhaustion. I'm more impressed with how well Wagner played after his Sweatin' to the Drip Boys game against Loyola. Neither does this team nor does this fanbase have anything to make excuses for or anything to hang their heads about.

This team was one of the greats, maybe not in pure talent, but in the aspect of what makes a TEAM; and if there's one thing I know about Michigan it's the TEAM, the TEAM, the TEAM! 

Great season!


April 3rd, 2018 at 3:22 PM ^

it was a hell of a team performance over the past several weeks, and a joy to follow.
I love this defensive approach and want it to continue. It had Villanova flustered on offense for the first time in this tournament, unfortunately, we weren't able to match it with offense consistently. And we ran into a team that could score in the face of the D, and that was that.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

Depth definitely plays into fatigue, I agree. Hopefully the talent next year translates well so the team can play like Villanova did this year. Last night was an example of what a deep team looks like. Experienced players playing in a system for years. Beilein has them going that way, so I’m looking forward to the future!


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

You have no idea what you're talking about.

Villanova gave 7 guys non-garbage-time minutes -- their five starters, DiVincenzo (who played the most of anybody, with 37 minutes), and Gillespie.  Neither Booth -- the fifth starter, who battled foul trouble -- nor Gillespie were involved in the offense at all.

Villanova is many things -- the best team in the country, and also the champions -- but deep is not one of them.


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

Yeah, I disagree. I’m factoring their experience/age into depth. Go back to Brian’s preview write-up yesterday, they have a bunch of upperclassmen that have very respectable ORtgs and obviously very good freshman able to share the load. If any one guy can carry their offense, and obviously they’ve had multiple guys do it during games, they still have the ability to D-up not having to rely on any one guy.

Michigan was able to do this at times, but less frequently than Villanova with a generally younger lineup. My point was imagine when this group grows older into Beilein’s / Yacklich’s system and I think they’ll be on the same path as what Nova has done this year.


April 3rd, 2018 at 1:47 PM ^

OK, well, I'm factoring the Big House seating capacity into Michigan's average height.

Your original statement makes no sense whatsoever, and neither does your explanation.  "Depth" does not mean "multiple good players on the floor at the same time," nor does it mean "experience."

If you want to say that Villanova's performance was due to their experience, fine; per KenPom, Michigan actually has more.  Villanova does have more minutes continuity, which is probably more to your point, but they're not exceptional in that stat by any means.

Naked Bootlegger

April 3rd, 2018 at 12:19 PM ^

Wagner was visibly gassed, maybe more of a function that he played 35+ minutes on Saturday and was not typically accustomed to such a workload.    But, yeah, the team probably expended more energy playing defense this year.  It won them a lot of games down the stretch, so I'm not complaining about those energy expenditures.   

Depending on who comes back, I could easily see a regular 10 man rotation next year.    Our roster should be loaded.



April 3rd, 2018 at 2:52 PM ^

The one player visibly exhausted last night was Mo. He completely carried the team on Saturday, and I think that supreme effort took a lot out of him. He came out last night on fire, but just didn't have the stamina. It really showed up on the boards, where he didn't seem to have the quickness and power to block out, or the explosion to win the jump balls.

It seemed Matthews was a bit slow-footed out there too - if I'm not mistaken, Di Vincenzo blew past him a couple of times. He might have been a bit gassed from Saturday as well.

Conversely, both MAAR and Simpson had plenty of energy. I thought they did a fine defensive job - it's pretty hard to stop someone bombing from 4 feet outside the arc. MAAR was super active on offense, and had plenty in the tank.

Another factor is adrenaline. I think all those missed 3's kind of sapped our energy. Basketball is a game of momentum, and Michigan's players this year in particular seemed to feed off each other's success.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:19 PM ^

We've struggled against teams that switched aggressively all season. I think we just didn't quite have the offensive firepower. Yeah, they could have been more consistent, but the players that are shooting these threes aren't usually guys who are lights-out.

Also, Nova played good, aggressive defense. Michigan had a hard time. And Nova shot fine.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

Some of it may have been fatique but at that point both teams have played a lot of games. I'd say more of facing a good defense and not looking entirely confident in their shot was the difference.


April 3rd, 2018 at 12:26 PM ^

We got beat by a better team but more intense defense does equal less effective shooting if a player's minutes stay constant. At least this was the case for me playing in high school. The cure is less minutes for starters if you have a bench that can keep up and Michigan just didn't have the horses last night. Re-inforcements are on the way with the incoming recruiting class which on paper is the second best John B has put together. I actually think it's the best when you consider fit of player to John B's preferred style of play.