Scouting Michigan Basketball (long)

Submitted by Mr. Yost on January 31st, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Last night I got a chance to take in my third Michigan Basketball game this season. As I did the first two times, I wanted to share my thoughts from the game...but more importantly, I wanted to get everyone else's take on this team.

From the first game I saw Michigan (vs. WVU in the Barclays Center) until now...the improvement is pretty drastic.

I took some caveats into this game.
1. This is the 2nd time we've played this team
2. The first time we played this team we beat them like they were Pioneer High School
3. We've got the #3 team in the country coming up next
4. They're going to be playing their asses off so they don't get embarrassed again
5. Jordan Morgan is out

With those in mind, I thought we played one of our best games of the year. As many have seen me write 1,000 times...I don't care if the ball goes in, I just want to see us execute. Same held true for tonight...we were going to win, so lets execute and play our game.

Boy did we. If anyone doesn't know how to play basketball...cut on the first 9 minutes of that game and watch the guys in white. We even made mistakes (Burke and Stauskas both got backdoored), but they were mistakes because we were trying to make a play (neither was because the guy fell asleep). The whole game was beauty, but the first 9 minutes was art.

I haven't seen a team click like we can click since UNC in '05 (33-4) and UNC in '09 (34-4)...sidenote those teams were led by Raymon Felton and Ty Lawson. Trey Burke is right there. Scott Van Pelt has a saying "how good is your good?" I've seen Michigan, Louisville and Duke all play live. Our good might be 10 points better than both.

Before I get into the individual stuff, I'll say this. If you're scouting us. There's only one way to stay close...PRESSURE. You better pressure the hell out of us. And with that, we're getting better, because Illinois tried that and we responded better than we have all year. Still, it's the only way. Pressure and hope the refs aren't calling a tight game.

The reason we've gotten better since that WVU game...defense. Everyone has seen that and know that so I won't even get into it. We were an average defensive team. We're not a good defensive team that is great at times. I can't fathom us being a great defense that is elite at times.

Individual Stuff:

Morgan - Obviously injured, in a boot...seen coaching Horford during timeouts. Insert "shoe is on the other foot" joke since Horford has a history of injury. Morgan was called the "glue" by Coach B, especially on defense. You can see that at times, but it's harder because GRIII and Stauskas have improved greatly on the defensive end and Burke has flipped the switch.

Horford - This kid can play. Smart. Has post moves and just understand the game of basketball. We don't have a player on our team that doesn't understand the game...time and possession...understand the moment. Horford is no exception. Happy for him too! Horford played well vs. bigger bodies at NW.

GRIII - WAAAAY more athletic than I thought. He can really take you off the dribble if he can get you on his hip. He's certainly a SF at the next level and he may be the most gifted player on the team. Scary thought. He played very well vs. NW, but he didn't have any comp. I want to see him go up against a CJ Leslie type again, I think it would be a little different the next time around.

Stauskas - Maturity. It's noticeable how he's settled back into his role. I felt like his celebrity was going to be an issue. He's back to getting his from the flow of the offense. Welcome to the B1G. He's played back-to-back GREAT games. However, what I noticed the most was him on the defensive end. He's MUCH better. I took heat for it, but he was almost awful for much of the year. He'd give you 15 and give up 12. He's gotten so much better. Even in his stance, his help side, his communication, his EFFORT. Everything. He's now an average defender. Do I trust him guarding a big time wing? No. But he's not a liability. He's grown tremendously over the past couple of months. From YELLING at his own teammates for turnovers he made to boxing out a post who'd gotten around Horford. Big Time.

THJ - Best all around player in the country. Yep. I said it. Inside, outside, offense, defense, he's the best all around player in the country. Brandon Roy and Evan Turner come to mind.

Burke - Best player in the country. Yep. I said it. I've seen him 3 times now. The first 2 times, it was a debate. During the 2nd half of the Purdue game something clicked and he started playing defense as hard as he plays O. When that happened the debate was “undebatable.”

McGary - Seemed lost vs. Illinois, played a lot better vs. Northwestern. Love his hustle, love that he runs down the court even if it's halftime. Hope he doesn't hit a freshman wall *knocking on wood* because we need his role.

Albrecht - Another coach on the floor, calm, a leader. Needs to continue to get better so we can play both he and Trey at the same time vs. pressure teams like OSU, MSU and down the road...Duke, Louisville, etc.

All in all, we're the #1 team in the country. I think we play the 2nd best team on Saturday. Just remember, no matter the outcome, tournament games aren't played in Bloomington, IN.



Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 7:42 PM ^

We have the best player (in my opinion) and the best all-around player (in my opinion).

Hardaway Jr. is very good at a lot of things and can be great at a lot of things on any given night. He reminds me SO much of Roy and Turner.

He can bring the ball up, but he's not a GREAT ball handler. He can shoot, but he's not Stauskas (despite his B1G #'s). He can defend, but he's not Craft. He's really a perfect compliment to Burke because you're going to get productivity from THJ in some way, shape, or form.

He seems comfortable getting his 15, 5 and 3 every night. Plus a few big stops and a highlight reel play and he's golden. I cannot stress how much better he is this year vs. last year just because of his basketball mentality. In a weird way, he's our most improved player.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

Watching the game last night I had one thought on how to describe this team. Hustle. I have never seen a team play so hard against an opponent they were sure to defeat. That speaks to the coaches and the players. The talent is there and if the team can play with heart like that more so than not then they will be Atlanta bound. 


While osu has Craft, who is regarded as the best on ball defender in the country, I have been pleasantly surprised by the way Tim mirrors his play on the defensive end. Defense is about effort and technique and Tim has been well versed in both. I believe this is his greatest assest to the team.


Talking about Burke will result in nothing but praise and platitudes on my behalf so I will simply state that he is the best player I have ever watched don the Michigan uniform. The one player I would like to talk about is McGary. Although he is foul prone he is the best outlet passer on the team and the conference. This results in a lot of easy baskets throughout the game and with his time increasing I see it as invaluable. 


Saturday will be where this team makes a name for themselves. The ESPN crew will be there and the pressure will be like that of a game in late March. I am very intrigued by this game because Burke is all but gone next year and these are the games that can either elevate your stock or show that you are not worthy of the lottery. Will he hog the ball and depend more on himself or will he play balanced? There are many little story lines that are of great interest for this one and I cannot wait to see it play out.

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 7:53 PM ^

I'll first start by saying the Fab 5 was the greatest collection of talent in Michigan history. Burke included.

With that said, this may truly be the best TEAM. For one, no offense to Fisher, Coach B is a MUCH better coach. The man flat out knows the game and we have assistants that are VERY good.

We also have a team that is VERY talented, but the thing that makes this team so special...they truly know the game of basketball. You've got plenty of guys who can be coaches when they're done playing on this team.

How many times have you seen GRIII in the right spot at the right time to catch a pass and lay the ball in off the glass? How many times have you seen Burke make that pass to GRIII?

That's not by accident.

THJ has grown more this year than any other player in college basketball. He is flat out BALLING right now. And I hate that word (in that context). THJ is doing everything that needs to be done.

McGary - pure hustle. The perfect compliment to everyone else. I don't care if he slams into the Gov. of Michigan or not...the kids is 100mph all the time. Every team needs that.

Stauskas, the sharpshooter. Albrecht, the coach off the bench. LeVert, the random freshman who is liable to give you huge baskets off the bench along with some tough defense.

Don't forget Morgan and Horford. This TEAM is just perfectly constructed. I thought the same about those UNC teams I mentioned earlier, they just had everything.

At this point, I really don't care about the Indiana game. I just want us playing our best come March. I've seen all the top teams and I truly think Indiana is the only team that may be able to keep up with "our best." Kansas included.

This Saturday will be the perfect gauge, but again, remember...the NCAA Tournament isn't played at home sites.


February 1st, 2013 at 12:21 AM ^

... re: your point about the Fab 5 being a better collection of talent while the current group might be a better team - especially when you factor in the respective coaches.

Take a look at each group's top three players - Webber/Rose/Howard vs. Burke/Hardaway/Robinson. Really hard to argue that the latter group is more talented. But after that, I'd take Stauskas/Morgan/McGary and the rest over King/Jackson/Voskuhl and company.

And Coach B vs. Coach F? Um... not even close.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:21 PM ^

I would have to disagree with your opinion that THJ is the best all round player in the country. He may have the potential but I don't think he's there yet.

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 8:01 PM ^

Who's better?

Otto Porter can't shoot...Doug McDermott can't defend like THJ.

Who's better all around?

Shabazz Muhammed would be too if he'd guard someone.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Draymon Green were last year.

Note: I think every player I just mentioned is better than THJ...but I said all-around player and MKG and Green are in the league.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

THJ is not the best in the country. Not even close. He's good, but his handle is still sloppy and he tends to force the action too often. And Robinson can't take people off the dribble consistently. He too has an iffy handle.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

I agree he's not the best all around in the country (whatever that means) but "not even close" is too dismissive. Ball handling is the weakest part of his game and he does turn the ball over too much. However, his rebounding is a hidden reason this team has been so tough on the boards (getting 5 RPG from the 2 is huge, particularly for a team around 200 in tempo) and it is one of the things that allows this team to play essentially without a 4. He's dramatically improved his shooting from last year and it's rare when he takes the bad 3s he was taking last year.

Of the other wings I've seen this year (that's the correct comparison), I'd definitely take Shabazz Muhammad (who's singlehandedly rescued UCLA from Ben Howland's incompetence), Oladipo and McLemore before him, and Thomas if he counts, but that's about it. And he's shown he's willing to do whatever is called of him to win.


January 31st, 2013 at 5:50 PM ^

His rebound numbers are inflated beyond his actual usefulness on the boards. He turns and jumps the vast majority of the time. He has good length, a quick jump and soft hands so he frequently comes down with it. But this doesn't make him a "better" rebounder than, for example, JMo, who puts his butt into someone every time. It's harder to come down with the ball when you're blocking someone out, but it's necessary for team success on the boards.


January 31st, 2013 at 6:54 PM ^

I agree that rebounding is a team effort and that whichever big is playing is generally doing work to block out (and you're totallly right about Morgan, positionally our best player), but THJ provides unusually strong rebounding from the 2 (as does GRIII from, essentially, the 3), which allows us to play three wings, including Stauskas who doesn't contribute much on the defensive boards, without sacrificing defensive rebounding.

And I disagree about his physicality on the boards. I was sitting down low behind the basket for the NIT games and THJ's dedication to getting a body into someone on the defensive boards was notable and surprising.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

Been to every home game now and I like your analysis. However, THJ is not the best all around player in the country. He's definitely up there though. I do think Burke is the best player in the country though. No one else controls the game like he does. Its a wonderful thing to watch.

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 7:57 PM ^

All around.

Personally I don't think he's the best at anything...but as an all around player. Who's better?

Otto Porter can't shoot and I don't think Doug McDermott can defend like THJ. And I'm not saying he's better than either. I said ALL-AROUND player.

FWIW, I probably would've said the same about Draymon Green last year.


January 31st, 2013 at 4:41 PM ^

The jury is still out.  We have seven of our nine most difficult regular season BIG games to play.  We split the two tough BIG games we have played. We may be all that, but our rebounding and defense are not elite. 

Tulip Time

January 31st, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

I've never understood the phrase "He can really take him off the dribble." What do you mean by that? Excuse my ignorance.

Great post. I always enjoy your analysis.


January 31st, 2013 at 5:15 PM ^

Very good analysis, glad to see the basketball team getting all this love, both here and nationally.

I have seen every televised game this year, and I have a couple questions that I am hoping someone can answer for me.

I have been looking at fantasy drafts for next year (can't help myself). At this point the one's I have seen all have GR III going ahead of THJ. How is this possible? I understand players (epsecially in the NBA) are drafted on upside, but why is it that GR III is considered to have more upside? To me THJ is athletic, the guy we use when we need someone to be a defensive stopper on a scorer, has a great attitude, and plays within the system. I realize he is not as dominating as other years, but maybe that is because he doesn't have to be. Nothing against GR III, I am sure he will be great, but I don't understand why he is considered the better prospect.

Also, why isn't McGary getting more playing time or even starting? This especially makes me wonder with Morgan out.  I understand he is very raw, but we just seem to be a better team with him on the court. He is a very good rebounder and brings an energy that no one else can match. I would think that combo along with his size would be critical come March.


January 31st, 2013 at 6:13 PM ^

I think the basic idea is that GRIII is only a freshman so if Thjr is more polished in the sense you describe that is to be expected. Nba scouts have concluded (fair or not) that Thjr is pretty near his peak, but that GRIII is barely scratching the surface of his abilities as a freshman and in two years his overall skillset would definitively exceed that of Thjr.

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 8:07 PM ^

The NBA and NBA Draft is all about potential.

GRIII is probably the most gifted player on the team. Burke has improved so much that I'd have a hard time arguing it, but it could very well be true.

In no way is that saying he's the best player on the team.

But think about this. Guys like Marvin Williams went #2 and never started during his freshman year at UNC. McAdoo was a lottery pick last year and he really wasn't that great for UNC.

It's all about potential.

You can tell just by watching GRIII, that kid can flat out play. He's about 2-3 years from maturity into an NBA body that could POTENTIALLY be an NBA All-Star type player. He knows the game, he's got athleticism, he can take you off the dribble, he can shoot the 3, he's got the pedigree...he's a REALLY good basketball player.

He's just young and you have the best player in the country and another NBA first rounder on your team...of course you're going to "fall back" and let them take charge.

But he's always in position, he's gotten better on the block and defensively throughout the year. The kid can play. He's a big time player.

The Pistons could probably take GRIII, THJ and Burke and put them with Drummond and Monroe and win more games than they do now.


January 31st, 2013 at 7:39 PM ^

Given how infrequently Robinson gets to shoot, I would say he is a better three point shooter than Hardaway despite the %.  It is a lot easier to shoot when you get as many shots as Hardaway versus the infrequest attempts Robinson gets. Robinson's production given the fact he is the fourth option and rarely has a play run for him is truly outstanding. 

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 8:09 PM ^

Stop it.

So if Jordan Morgan goes 1 for 1...does that make him the best shooter on the team?

Stauskas is the best shooter on the team...Burke and Hardaway are next...Robinson, Vogrich and LeVert are on the next line.

Unless you ask Eso...then of course everyone is fighting for #2 baby! Shoot it Eso! Shoot the J!


January 31st, 2013 at 6:21 PM ^

is more solidly built as well.  Certainly more athletic, and fluid.  Mentally THJ is ahead, because of age and experience. 

And in baskeball, it's not always putting the best 5 on the floor at once.  Speaking of upside, Mcgary has more than Morgan, but MM brings energy off the bench that is very key to maintaining a lead or invigorating a sluggish start.

Mr. Yost

January 31st, 2013 at 7:36 PM ^

I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm rewatching the game that I DVR'd from last night (I'm totally being "that guy" yelling "THERE I AM!" at the tv by the way)...

Stop traffic. Northwestern had a guy wearing an UNDER ARMOUR yarmulke?! How did I miss this?

Talk about branding.

I even googled and found this: