Nothing But ‘Net – Week #19 – 03/04/2013 – The Worst And Best Games Of The Season

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they were the worst and best games of the season. On Wednesday (02/27/2013), they lost at Penn State 84-78, then on Sunday (03/03/2013), they beat (#9) Michigan State 58-57 in Crisler Arena. The loss and the win leave Michigan with a record of 24-5 overall, 11-5 in Big Ten play. They are tied for 2nd place in the Big Ten.

The loss at Penn State was not only the worst game of the season, it is one of the most embarrassing losses in Michigan basketball history. Michigan was playing to keep control of their own destiny in the Big Ten title race, and PSU came into the game 0-14 in Big Ten contests this season. Michigan had a 15-point lead (66-51) with 10:39 left in the game, and that should have been the end of things, but PSU caught fire, and UM “played not to lose”, and it was a disaster. It was like a nightmare, watching Michigan waste one possession after another on offense, and watching Penn State make one circus shot after another. Everything that could go wrong did, and it just wouldn’t stop. If you put those same two teams out there again with the same game situation (Michigan up 66-51 with 10:39 to play), Michigan would win the game 999 times out of 1000. This was the 1000th time. It was horrible.

After the debacle at Penn State on Wednesday, and the way Michigan State thumped Michigan up in East Lansing last month, I was almost afraid to watch the rematch on Sunday. However, Michigan came to play, and it was a close, exciting game the whole way. Michigan State’s biggest lead was 7 points (31-24) with 1:03 left in the 1st half. Michigan’s biggest lead was 10 points (52-42) with 4:36 left in the game. Most of the game, the lead was 3-5 points. It was tied (56-56) with 54 seconds left. MSU had the ball, down one point (58-57) with 8 seconds left, but Michigan stole the ball in the last second, and MSU never got off a shot to try for the win. It was very exciting, and their best game of the season.

So, which team is the “real Michigan”? The one that lost to the worst team in the Big Ten, or the one that overcame adversity and beat a Top-10 team just 4 days later? Well, both, actually. This team is talented enough to beat any team in the country, and young and fragile enough to lose to any team in the country. Despite the horrible loss to PSU, they still stand a small chance of tying for the Big Ten title, but they’ll need some help. If (#1) Indiana loses at home to (#16) Ohio State on Tuesday (03/05/2013), Michigan can share the title with Indiana (and maybe a couple other teams) if they win both of their final two games. Michigan already got one “gift” outside win, when Indiana lost to Minnesota last week; getting a 2nd outside win would almost be too much to hope for.

Let’s look at the game stats for both games. First, the ugly Penn State loss: Michigan actually shot pretty well overall (30-for-58 = 51.7%), but they shot poorly from 3-point range (5-for-20 = 25.0%). They shot a reasonable number of free throws, and made a decent number of them: 13-for-20 = 65.0%. The problem was that PSU shot 3-pointers way over their season average: 10-for-20 = 50.0%. That was the difference in the game. Michigan won the rebounding battle (37-30), but lost the turnover battle (15-9). The stats for the MSU win are even worse: UM shot poorly overall (25-for-59 = 42.4%), and they were absolutely horrendous from 3-point range (0-for-12 = 0.0%). I can’t remember the last time Michigan failed to make at least one 3-pointer in a game. It was disgusting. The only thing that saved them was that MSU shot even worse overall: 21-for-59 = 35.6%. Michigan didn’t shoot many free throws, but they made most of them: 8-for-11 = 72.7%. Just like the game in East Lansing, MSU crushed Michigan on the boards (44-29), but they were sloppy with the ball, and Michigan won the turnover battle (7-18). Those extra 11 possessions Michigan got due to turnovers just about balanced out the 15 extra possessions MSU got due to rebounds.

Individually, only one player hit double figures in both games last week: Trey Burke, with 18 points vs. PSU and 21 points vs. MSU. Trey also had a season-high 6 turnovers vs. PSU, which made it very hard to win the game.

4 players hit double figures in one game last week:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. – 19 and 6 points.
  • Mitch McGary – 4 and 11 points. Mitch is back on the bench, now that Jordan Morgan is well enough to start.
  • Jordan Morgan – 11 and 4 points. Jordan finally looked comfortable on the floor.
  • Nik Stauskas – 12 and 0 points. Nik only played 4 minutes of the MSU game, since he caught an elbow to his face that required 12 stitches.

The other starter (Glenn Robinson III) scored 8 points in each game.

Besides Mitch McGary, the bench players had a mixed week at scoring:

Including McGary’s 15 points, that’s 29 points of bench scoring, which isn’t too bad.

This Week

This is the final week of the regular season, and all 12 Big Ten teams have 2 games this week. Michigan plays at Purdue on Wednesday (03/06/2013, 7:00 p.m. EST, BTN), then at home vs. (#1) Indiana on Sunday (03/10/2013, 4:00 p.m., CBS). After the disastrous loss at Penn State, I’m not taking any road wins for granted, but Michigan should beat Purdue. The game against Indiana should be another battle, just like the Michigan State and Ohio State games in Crisler. Michigan has the talent to win; we’ll see if they have the guts to pull it out.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #18 – 02/25/2013 – Taking Care Of Business

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team only played one game last week, and they “took care of business” by beating a team that they should have beaten. On Sunday (02/24/2013), they beat Illinois 71-58 in Crisler Arena. The win raises UM’s overall record to 23-4 (10-4 in Big Ten play). They are tied for 3rd place in the Big Ten.

While this was a game that Michigan should have won, it was by no means a “gimme”. Illinois is a pretty good team, with a pretty impressive resume on the season. They live and die by the 3-pointer, and that makes them very unpredictable. The Illini started out hot, and had a decent lead (13-5) after 5 minutes. They kept the lead for almost all of the 1st half, and still had an 8-point lead (21-13) with 8 minutes left in the half. Michigan finally woke up, and got their first lead (26-24) with 3:30 left in the half. It was tied (28-28) with 1 second left, when Illinois banked in a 3-pointer to go into halftime with a 3-point lead (31-28). Michigan came out of the locker room more focused, and pulled ahead for good (37-34) with 16:49 left in the game. The Michigan lead grew as high as 9 points (46-37) with 13 minutes left, before Illinois started inching closer. With about 8 minutes left in the game, Illinois got within 4 points (51-47), and got the ball back. Things were looking grim, but Michigan finally started playing like they had during the first 16 games of the season, and pulled away for a comfortable finish. They got the lead as high as 17 points (66-49) with 3:30 left, and coasted home for the win.

This was an important win because it keeps UM as the only team in the Big Ten that is still undefeated at home, and keeps them within striking distance of 1st place. Indiana is still 2 game ahead of them in the standings, but Michigan and Indiana play in Crisler Arena in the final game of the regular season (on March 10th), so Michigan can take care of one of those two games. UM does need help to finish tied for 1st place, but Indiana still has to play at Minnesota and at home vs. Ohio State, so there’s still a chance. Of course, Michigan has to win the rest of their games, which isn’t going to be easy, but it is doable.

Let’s take a quick look at the stats from this game. Overall, Michigan shot pretty well (25-for-49 = 51.0%), but they didn’t shoot very well from 3-point range (6-for-18 = 33.3%). They got to the free throw line pretty often, and made a reasonable percentage of their attempts (15-for-21 = 71.4%). They (barely) won the rebounding battle (29-28), and they won the turnover battle (10-13). Those are decent stats for a solid win over a pretty good opponent.

 

Individually, 3 players hit double figures:

The other 2 starters didn’t do so well scoring:

  • Mitch McGary – 6 points. Mitch started in place of Jordan Morgan, who is still recovering from his injured ankle.
  • Nik Stauskas – 0 points. This is only the 2nd time Nik has been shut out.

The bench players did a little better this game at scoring:

Getting 16 points of bench scoring is a step in the right direction.

This Week

After a “bye” week with no mid-week game, Michigan is back to the normal 2-games-per-week schedule for the last 2 weeks of the regular season. This week they play at Penn State (Wednesday 02/27/2013, 6:30 p.m., BTN) and home vs. (#4) Michigan State (Sunday 03/03/2013, 4:00 p.m., CBS). They should be able to beat Penn State (everyone else has), but the game vs. MSU will be a real battle. Michigan State dominated UM in East Lansing a few weeks ago, but the hostile crowd in Breslin had a lot to do with that. Things could be very different in Crisler Arena.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #17 – 02/18/2013 – A Tough Week Playing “State” Teams

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, both against “State” teams, and they played miserably in both games. Fortunately, they managed to win one of them, but they got blown out in the other. On Tuesday (02/12/2013), they lost to (#8) Michigan State 75-52 in East Lansing, then on Sunday (02/17/2013), they beat Penn State 79-71 in Crisler Arena. The loss and the win leave UM with a record of 22-4, 9-4 in Big Ten play. They are tied for 3rd place in the Big Ten.

Michigan looked terrible in the MSU game. Just terrible. They looked like deer in the headlights. MSU came out hot and hit them early and often, and Michigan just went into a shell and never came out. The large, frantic crowd in the Breslin Center completely flustered them, and the game was over before the 2nd media timeout in the first half. It’s hard to believe that this team was ranked #1 in the nation just a few short weeks ago. They are in tatters at this point. Sure, they managed to eke out a narrow victory over PSU on Sunday, but they almost lost that one as well. They might not win another game this season, if they keep playing the way they’ve been playing recently.

So, what’s wrong with UM? Why are they having such a tough time lately? Some of it is fatigue, but most of it is confidence. The MSU game was the 4th in a row vs. ranked teams, 3 of them on the road, in 3 of the most hostile environments in the country: Indiana’s Assembly Hall, Wisconsin’s Kohl Center, and MSU’s Breslin Center. They lost all 3 of those games, and they got flustered by the loud crowds in all 3 games. The game that really broke their backs was the overtime loss at Wisconsin. UM had that game won, and let it slip away in the last 2.4 seconds. Since that point, Michigan has been “playing scared”: “playing not to lose” instead of “playing to win”.

The Penn State game was supposed to be a breather, a laugher, an easy win at home where everyone got to play, and the stars got their confidence back. Instead, it turned into a nasty dogfight, with Michigan trailing for most of the 1st half, and never really pulling away in the 2nd half. UM never pushed the lead into double digits, and the game was still in doubt in the final minutes. Penn State came in 0-12 in the Big Ten, but they played like they expected to beat Michigan on their home court, and Michigan let them push them around. PSU played their best game of the year, and UM played one of their worst games, and the combination was almost enough for the big upset.

The stats for the 2 games are either ugly or unimpressive. In the MSU game, Michigan shot terribly overall (21-for-53 = 39.6%) and from 3-point range (6-for-19 = 31.6%). They barely got to the free throw line, but they shot OK when they got there: 4-for-6 = 66.7%. They got crushed on the boards (30-41) and in the turnover battle (16-8). It was easily the worst game Michigan has played since the loss to Ohio University in the NCAA Tournament last season. The stats for the PSU game are a little better, but still not good. UM shot a little better overall (23-for-49 = 46.9%) and from 3-point range (6-for-18 = 33.3%). They got to the free throw line often, and shot well when they did: 27-for-35 = 77.1%. Once again, they lost the rebounding battle (29-35), but they did manage to win the turnover battle (6-13).

Individually, 2 players hit double figures in both games:

  • Trey Burke – 18 points vs. MSU, and 29 vs. PSU. Trey’s 29 points in the PSU game are a season-high, just one point short of his career-high 30 points vs. Minnesota last season.
  • Nik Stauskas – 10 and 18 points. Nik still isn’t hitting his 3-pointers the way he did earlier in the season, but he’s scoring in other ways.

One player hit double figures in one game: Glenn Robinson III. He only had 2 points in the MSU game, but 21 vs. PSU. Glenn’s 21 points tie his career-high, and he added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

The other starters didn’t do so well scoring:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. – 2 and 8 points. Tim was absolutely terrible vs. MSU, shooting 1-for-11 (0-for-5 from 3-point range). He had a slow start vs. PSU, but came alive down the stretch.
  • Mitch McGary – 4 and 0 points. Mitch got his first career start vs. MSU, and did OK. He came off the bench in the PSU game, and had a miserable time. Dunk, Mitch, dunk!
  • Jordan Morgan – 1 and 0 points. After missing one game with an injured ankle, and coming off the bench for a minute or two in the last few games, Jordan finally started again vs. PSU. He played 7 minutes, but still looked slow and tentative out there.

The bench players didn’t have much success scoring:

Once again, the bench didn’t provide much support. Most of the bench points in the MSU game were scored in “garbage time”. This is not good.

This Week

After a brutal stretch of tough games, mostly on the road, with 2 games every week, Michigan finally gets to their “bye” week. They only have one game this week, and it’s at home vs. one of the “lower division” teams. On Sunday (02/24/2013, 1:00 p.m., ESPN), they play Illinois. Illinois is very unpredictable this season, with wins at home against Indiana and Ohio State, and a road win at Minnesota, but they also lost at home to Northwestern. Michigan beat them earlier this season in Champaign, but that was back before UM had their confidence shattered. It should be a close, exciting game, but I expect Michigan to keep their unbeaten home record intact.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #16 – 02/11/2013 – A Tale Of Two Overtimes

The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.

The (#3) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week; both games went to overtime, and both had thrilling endings. Unfortunately, they won the first but lost the second. On Tuesday (02/05/2013), they beat (#10) Ohio State 76-74 in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (02/09/2013), they lost to Wisconsin 65-62 in Madison. The win and the loss leave UM with a record of 21-3, 8-3 in Big Ten play. They are tied for 2nd place in the Big Ten.

As exciting and thrilling as the Ohio State win was, the Wisconsin loss was twice as emotional. Michigan had the game wrapped up at the end of regulation, with a 3-point lead and only 2.4 seconds left. Wisconsin had to go the length of the floor, and they managed to swish a half-court 3-pointer at the buzzer, to force overtime. It was so deflating, and Wisconsin had the momentum for the overtime. On the final shot of regulation, Michigan tried to foul the Wisconsin shooter, but couldn’t catch him. The odds of a half-court shot going in are vanishingly small, but they worked against Michigan this time. It was a tough loss. Michigan hasn’t won at the Kohl Center in Madison since 1999.

On the other hand, the Ohio State win was exhilarating. The game was close most of the way, but OSU starting pulling away early in the 2nd half. That’s when Tim Hardaway Jr.
caught fire, hitting three 3-pointers in a row to put Michigan back on top. The lead see-sawed from there, and the game was (obviously) tied at the end of regulation, but Michigan went ahead for good in the overtime and won with a pair of blocked shots in the last few seconds.

Even though UM lost another game, so did most of the rest of the contenders, and it’s still a tight race for the title. At this point, all of the contenders still control their own destiny, including Michigan. See this week’s Big Ten Report for more details.

As expected, the stats for the OSU game look a lot better than the stats for the Wisconsin game. First, OSU: Michigan shot pretty well overall (28-for-60 = 46.7%), and even better from 3-point range (14-for-24 = 58.3%). They didn’t shoot many free throws, and they didn’t shoot them particularly well (6-for-11 = 54.5%). They (barely) won the rebounding battle (32-30), and they tied in the turnover battle (11-11). The 3-point shooting was the difference. In the Wisconsin game, Michigan shot poorly overall (28-for-71 = 39.4%), but they shot really poorly from 3-point range (5-for-18 = 27.8%). They only shot 2 free throws (!), and made one of them (50.0%). They tied in the rebounding battle (39-39), and they won the turnover battle handily (7-14). The big difference was 3-point shooting again, but this time in the negative sense.

Individually, 3 players hit double figures in both games:

  • Trey Burke – 16 points vs. OSU, and 19 vs. Wisconsin.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. – 23 and 18 points. As I mentioned above, Tim was on fire vs. OSU, and he played well against Wisconsin as well.
  • Mitch McGary – 14 and 12 points. Those 14 points vs. OSU were a new career-high for Mitch. Mitch is playing very well recently.

2 players hit double figures in one game:

  • Glenn Robinson III – 10 and 4 points. GR3 had another sub-par game vs. Wisconsin.
  • Nik Stauskas – 11 and 5 points. Nik also had a miserable game vs. Wisconsin. Michigan will have trouble beating the other contenders when both GR3 and Nik are having bad games at the same time.

The only starter who failed to hit double figures in either game was Jon Horford, who started both games in place of the injured Jordan Morgan. Jon had 2 points in each game. He only played 13 and 7 minutes, compared to 29 and 32 minutes played by Mitch McGary. Even though Jon is listed as the starter, Mitch is the main player at center, at least until Jordan returns to the starting lineup.

Besides McGary, the bench players didn’t have much success scoring:

  • Spike Albrecht – 0 and 0 points.
  • Max Bielfeldt – DNP and 2 points. Max played 18 minutes in the Wisconsin game, to give UM more “beef” underneath.
  • Caris LeVert – 0 and 0 points.
  • Jordan Morgan – 0 and DNP points. Jordan only played 4 minutes against OSU, and it was obvious that he wasn’t ready to go full speed yet.

Other than McGary, who is essentially the starter at center, Michigan only got 2 points from all the other bench players in both games combined. This is a recipe for disaster. The starters can’t carry the team for the rest of the season.

This Week

Michigan is finally at the end of a brutal 4-game stretch. So far, they are 1-2, with one game left. On Tuesday (02/12/2013, 9:00 p.m., ESPN), they play (#12) Michigan State in East Lansing, then on Sunday (02/17/2013, 12:00 noon EST, BTN), they play Penn State in Crisler Arena. Michigan State is currently tied for 1st place in the Big Ten, one game ahead of Michigan, so this is a crucial game. Michigan has had a tough time winning in East Lansing, but they stand a good chance this year. Oh yeah: the Penn State game will be a slaughter. PSU is 0-11 in the Big Ten so far, and they are very weak.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #15 – 02/04/2013 – Fun While It Lasted

The (#1) University of Michigan men’s basketball team won’t be ranked #1 any more, when the AP Top 25 poll comes out today. It was fun while it lasted: 2 games. They played two games last week, and they won the first but lost the second. On Wednesday (01/30/2013), they beat Northwestern 68-46 in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (02/02/2013), they lost to (#3) Indiana 81-73 in Bloomington. The win and the loss leave UM with a record of 20-2, 7-2 in Big Ten play. They are tied for 2nd place in the Big Ten.

The Northwestern game was barely worth talking about. The important part was that Michigan went out and played well against a team that they had beaten earlier this season on the road, and didn’t look ahead to the much bigger game on Saturday. Every win is important in the Big Ten, so the win over Northwestern is certainly important, but it was also not a surprise. The big game last week was the one against Indiana, and it didn’t go well. Michigan played pretty well, but they were bombarded early, and they never quite recovered. IU was red hot in the first 10 minutes, and they raced out to a quick 15 point lead (28-13). Michigan finally got going with a 10-0 run to pull within 5 (28-23), and they stayed close the rest of the first half. They only trailed by 4 (36-32) at halftime, and they managed to pull into a 40-40 tie in the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half. Indiana pulled away with another run (11-0), but UM fought back again to get within 2 points (53-51) with 11 minutes left, and 3 points (61-58) with 4 minutes left. That was as close as they got down the stretch, and IU hit their free throws to win the game.

So, what went wrong in the Indiana game? Lots of little things that added up to just enough to tip the game in IU’s favor:

  • Jordan Morgan didn’t start, and he only played 2 minutes, due to his ankle injury. He is certainly Michigan’s best post defender, and he was missed.
  • The Indiana crowd was frantic, and it seemed to affect the freshmen, especially Glenn Robinson III
    and Nik Stauskas, who both played very poorly.
  • Indiana couldn’t miss in the first 5 minutes, hitting their first 6 shots, including four 3-pointers. Some of this is talent, and some of it is luck. Bad luck for Michigan. If Indiana had hit shots at their normal percentage, the game might have gone much differently. They ended up shooting a good-but-not-great overall percentage (26-for-50 = 52.0%), but if they had started out shooting 52% instead of 100%, Michigan might have managed a meager lead, which certainly would have changed the complexion of the game. As it was, UM played from behind the whole game.
  • Stauskas was recovering from the flu, which kept him from practicing on Friday. He seemed a step slower, and his shot was a touch off. Michigan’s offense depends on him, and he wasn’t able to perform at his usual level.

I know, it sounds like sour grapes, but my point is that IU is not a better team than Michigan, they just had things go their way on Saturday. It doesn’t mean that Michigan doesn’t stand a chance against them, they just need their fair share of the breaks, and they didn’t get them this time. Maybe next time.

The loss to Indiana was discouraging, but the race for the Big Ten title is far from over. All of the contenders still control their own destiny, including Michigan. Even if Indiana wins the rest of their games going into the last game of the regular season vs. Michigan in Ann Arbor, UM can still claim a share of the title by winning all their games and beating IU. The same can be said of the other contenders (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin). Even Minnesota still stands a chance, although they’ll need a little help.

Let’s look at the stats, even though the IU game wasn’t pretty. First, Northwestern: Michigan shot pretty well overall (25-for-49 = 51.0%), and they shot 3-pointers pretty well (6-for-15 = 40.0%). They shot fairly well from the free-throw line (12-for-18 = 66.7%), they (barely) won the rebounding battle (31-29), and they handily won the turnover battle (2-8). That’s right: 2 turnovers for the whole game, none in the first half. Very impressive. The Indiana stats aren’t nearly as impressive: UM shot fairly well overall (30-for-70 = 42.9%), but not very well from 3-point range (7-for-23 = 30.4%). They shot free throws fairly well (6-for-7 = 85.7%), but they didn’t get to the line very often, especially compared to IU (22-for-25 = 88.0%). Michigan got mauled on the boards (38-29), but they won the turnover battle (8-16). The biggest differences were rebounding and free throws.

Individually, 2 players hit double figures in both games:

  • Trey Burke – 18 points vs. Northwestern, and 25 vs. Indiana.
  • Nik Stauskas – 11 and 10 points. Nik was miserable against Indiana, missing his first four 3-pointers before finally hitting his 5th (and last) attempt.

4 players hit double figures in one game:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. – 7 and 18 points. After a quite game vs. Northwestern, Tim did his best to keep UM in the Indiana game, along with Burke.
  • Jon Horford – 10 and 4 points. Jon started both games in place of Jordan Morgan.
  • Mitch McGary – 6 and 10 points. Mitch also had 11 rebounds in the Northwestern game.
  • Glenn Robinson III – 13 and 2 points. GR3 had a horrible offensive game vs. IU, and only scored in the closing minutes.

Besides McGary, the bench players didn’t have much success scoring:

Michigan only got 9 points from the bench in the Northwestern game, but they got 14 points vs. Indiana, which is a little better.

This Week

Michigan is in the middle of a brutal 4-game stretch. The first game of the bunch was on Saturday vs. Indiana, and they have two more tough games this week. On Tuesday (02/05/2013, 9:00 p.m., ESPN), they play (#11) Ohio State in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (02/09/2013, 12:00 noon EST, ESPN), they at Wisconsin. Ohio State beat Michigan in Columbus a couple weeks ago, so Michigan is looking to return the favor. The previous game was a defensive slugfest, and I expect the rematch to be more of the same. However, the best slow-down defensive team in the nation is Wisconsin, and they are virtually unbeatable at home. I’m hoping that Michigan can win both of these games, but the game at Wisconsin is definitely the tougher of the two.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!