Nothing But ‘Net – Week #19 – 03/29/2021 – Sweet And Elite

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they won both of them.  Both games were in Indianapolis, IN.  On Monday (03/22/2021), they beat the #8 seed (LSU) 86-78, then on Sunday (03/28/2021), they beat the #4 seed ([#14] Florida State) 76-58.  The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 23-4.  Michigan is now in the Elite Eight.

What Happened?

These two wins are HUGE!  The first (LSU) put Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen for the 4th tournament in a row, and the second (FSU) put Michigan in the Elite Eight for the 4th tournament in the last 8 years.  Michigan played good, solid ball in both games, and didn’t let the pressure faze them.

The LSU game was close and tense for most of the game, with LSU leading most of the time, controlling the tempo, and having the momentum.  UM actually led early, 2-0, but LSU quickly went ahead and stayed ahead by 5-7 points for most of the 1st half.  Michigan tied the game (40-40) with 1:02 to go in the half, and led by 1 point (43-42) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same: Michigan led early (45-44 at the 18:17 mark), then LSU went ahead.  The lead went back and forth, but the momentum was still lousy for Michigan.  LSU went up by 5 points (63-58) with 10:48 to go, and things looked grim.  Michigan called a timeout, regrouped, and started their final push.  They pulled back ahead for good (64-63) with 9:13 left, pushed the lead up into the 6-8 point range, and kept it there the rest of the game.  It was a big, important win.

The FSU game was not as close.  Michigan led for most of the game, except for the first 5 minutes.  The early going was close, with FSU leading 4-2 with 18:44 to go in the 1st half.  Michigan tied it up (4-4), and went ahead for good (5-4) at the 15:13 mark.  They pushed the lead as high as 13 points in the 1st half, keeping it in the 10-12 point range for most of the half.  Michigan led by 11 (32-21) at halftime.  Michigan kept the lead in the 9-11 point range in the early part of the 2nd half, until FSU finally starting hitting their 3-pointers.  FSU missed their first 10 3-point attempts, then hit 3 in a row, to cut the Michigan lead to 5 points (41-36) with 14:51 to go.  Michigan kept their composure, and pushed the lead back into the 9-11 point range, then up to the 16-18 point range for the rest of the game.  With 1:35 left, both coaches emptied their benches and let the scrubs battle it out.  It was a dominant victory.

Stats

The stats for the LSU game are pretty good.  Michigan shot well overall (28-for-52 = 53.8%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (10-for-25 = 40.0%), and they shot free throws well (20-for-25 = 80.0%).  Michigan won the rebounding battle (37-30), but lost the turnover battle badly (12-3).  Michigan won this game with overall shooting, rebounding, and defense.

The stats for the FSU game are not very good.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (29-for-59 = 49.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (3-for-11 = 27.3%), and they shot free throws pretty poorly (15-for-23 = 65.2%).  They won the rebounding battle (37-31) and the turnover battle (9-14).  They won this game with defense.  If you had told me before the game that Michigan would only make three 3-pointers, I would have predicted a double-digit loss.

Who Started?

The starters for both games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Mike Smith, and Franz WagnerIsaiah Livers is out “indefinitely” with a broken bone in his foot, so Johns started in his place.

Who Looked Good?

The hero for this week isn’t a starter, it’s Chaundee Brown, Jr.  He tied for high scorer in the LSU game, with 21 points (his season high), and scored another very important 12 points in the FSU game, including 2 of Michigan’s 3 made 3-pointers.  He really helped make up for the absence of Livers.

The other hero of the LSU game was Brooks, with 21 points, a career high.  However, he had a sub-par game vs. FSU, with only 6 points, on 3-for-9 shooting.

Wagner had two solid games, with 15 points vs. LSU and 13 points vs. FSU.  He also had 10 rebounds in the FSU game, for a double-double.

Dickinson also had two solid games, with 12 points vs LSU and a team-high (tied) 14 points vs. FSU.  He had 11 rebounds in the LSU game, for a double-double.

Smith was a warrior out there, especially in the FSU game.  FSU played an aggressive full-court press the whole game, and Smith was the guy who had to bring the ball up court, often against a double-team.  He wasn’t perfect (2 turnovers), but he did a very good job.  He also chipped in 5 points vs. LSU and 8 points vs. FSU.

Johns had a decent game vs. LSU (7 points), and a great game (tied for team-high 14 points) vs. FSU.  He did a very good job filling in for Livers.

Austin Davis did a good job spelling Dickinson, with 1 point vs. LSU and 6 points vs. FSU.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Terrance Williams II played in both games, scoring 4 and 0 points.  He still plays too fast, and makes too many unforced mistakes.  Of course, he is still a freshman…

Who Else Played?

Jaron Faulds played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and didn’t attempt a shot.

Jace Howard played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and scored 3 points on an “and-1”.

Zeb Jackson played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and missed his only shot attempt.

Adrien Nuñez played in the closing minutes of the FSU game, and missed his only shot attempt.

Who Didn’t Play?

Most of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) didn’t play in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is still alive in the Big Dance, which is all you can ask.  Survive and advance.  All of the other Big Ten teams in the field were eliminated in the first two rounds:

  • Michigan State (11-seed) lost to UCLA (11-seed) in a “First Four” game on Thursday
  • Ohio State (2-seed) lost to Oral Roberts (15-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Purdue (4-seed) lost to North Texas (13-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Illinois (1-seed) lost to Loyola-Chicago (8-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Wisconsin (9-seed) lost to Baylor (1-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Rutgers (10-seed) lost to Houston (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Iowa (2-seed) lost to Oregon (7-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday
  • Maryland (10-seed) lost to Alabama (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Monday

Of those eight losses by the Big Ten teams, one of them was a “toss up” (MSU), three of them were expected (Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland), and four of them were upsets (OSU, Purdue, Illinois, and Iowa).  The Big Ten hasn’t looked very good in this year’s tournament.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to continue play in the NCAA Tournament, in Indianapolis.  They play on Tuesday (03/30/2021, 10:00 p.m. EDT, TBS) vs. the #11 seed (UCLA).  If they win that game, they’ll move on to the Final Four, and play the winner of the West Region, either the #1 seed (Gonzaga) or the #6 seed (USC), on Saturday (04/03/2021).  The full bracket is here.

UCLA is currently 21-9.  So far in the NCAA Tournament, they beat 11-seed Michigan State in a “First Four” play-in game, beat 6-seed BYU in the 1st round, beat 14-seed Abilene Christian in the 2nd round, and beat 2-seed Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen.  During the regular season, they had impressive wins over Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon State, and less-than-impressive losses to San Diego State, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State.  They don’t have any superstars on the roster, and they don’t have much height: one 6’10” guy.  On paper, it looks like Michigan should be able to handle them, but they have played very well in the tournament so far.  This could be a tough, challenging game.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #18 – 03/22/2021 – Win And Advance

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game this past week in the NCAA Tournament, and they won it.  The game was in West Lafayette, IN.  On Saturday (03/20/2021), they beat the #16 seed, Texas Southern, 82-66.  The win raises Michigan’s record to 21-4.

What Happened?

Michigan is the #1 seed in the East Region, and they were heavily favored to beat the #16 seed in the first-round game, which they did.  These 1-16 games are almost always an easy win for the #1 seed, except for that one year when it wasn’t (sorry, Virginia).  Even the 2-15 games are usually pretty winnable for the #2 seed, except for this year (sorry, Ohio State).  This year’s tournament has lots of upsets, so the battle cry for the top seeds is “win and advance”.  That’s what Michigan did.  Sorry, Illinois.  And Texas.  And West Virginia.  And Purdue.  And Virginia (again).  And Oklahoma State.  Those are all top 4 seeds that didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

The Texas Southern game wasn’t a dominating win, but it was a comfortable win.  Michigan led the entire game, and kept the lead in the “comfortable” range the whole time.  They led 7-0 early, and kept the lead in the 8-10 point range for the first 10 minutes, then pushed it into the 13-15 point range for the rest of the 1st half.  They led by 18 points (42-24) at halftime, and pushed the lead up into the 20-22 point range for the first 13 minutes of the 2nd half.  They seemed to lose interest at that point, and they let TSU creep as close as 12 points (73-61) with 3:40 to go, before closing out a 16-point win.

Stats

The stats for the game are solid.  Michigan shot pretty well overall (26-for-54 = 48.1%), they shot 3-pointers pretty well (9-for-26 = 34.6%), and they shot free throws well enough (21-for-26 = 80.8%).  They won the rebounding battle handily (38-28), but lost the turnover battle (14-10).  They won this game with solid shooting and rebounding.

Who Started?

The starters for the game were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns, Jr., Mike Smith, and Franz WagnerIsaiah Livers is out “indefinitely” with a broken bone in his foot, so Johns started in his place.  Michigan didn’t miss Livers in this game, but they are likely to as the competition gets stronger.

Who Looked Good?

Smith was the high scorer for Michigan, with 18 points.  He also did a nice job running the offense, with 5 assists.

Dickinson had a good game, with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.  On the down side, he only played 24 minutes, due to foul trouble, and he fouled out.

Brooks had 11 points, including 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range, along with 5 assists.

Johns also had 11 points.  He filled in nicely for Livers.

Wagner almost hit double figures, with 9 points.  He also had 9 rebounds and 6 assists.

Austin Davis did a good job spelling Dickinson, with 7 points.  However, he had foul trouble of his own, with 4 fouls in 10 minutes.  Yikes.

Zeb Jackson had his best game to date as a Wolverine, with 6 points in 8 quality minutes of action.  He hit his first two shot attempts, both 3-pointers.  He looked cool and confident out there.

Terrance Williams II looked pretty good out there, with 4 points and 3 rebounds.

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Chaundee Brown, Jr. played 16 minutes, took one shot, and missed it.  Zero points.  He is one of the key players who needs to step up to help replace Livers, and he didn’t do it in this game.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

Two of the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard and Adrien Nuñez) didn’t play.

None of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) played.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan is still alive in the Big Dance, which is all you can ask.  Six of the nine Big Ten teams in the field have already been eliminated:

  • Michigan State (11-seed) lost to UCLA (11-seed) in a “First Four” game on Thursday
  • Ohio State (2-seed) lost to Oral Roberts (15-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Purdue (4-seed) lost to North Texas (13-seed) in a 1st round game on Friday
  • Illinois (1-seed) lost to Loyola-Chicago (8-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Wisconsin (9-seed) lost to Baylor (1-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday
  • Rutgers (10-seed) lost to Houston (2-seed) in a 2nd round game on Sunday

That leaves only three teams from the Big Ten left alive: Michigan (1-seed), Iowa (2-seed), and Maryland (10-seed).  They all have 2nd round games on Monday.

Of those six losses by the Big Ten teams, one of them was a “toss up” (MSU), two of them were expected (Wisconsin and Rutgers), and three of them were big upsets (OSU, Purdue, and Illinois).  The Big Ten hasn’t looked very good in this year’s tournament, but there’s still hope.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to continue play in the NCAA Tournament, in Indianapolis.  As mentioned above, they play on Monday (03/22/2021, 7:10 p.m. EDT, CBS) vs. the #8 seed (LSU).  If they win that game, they’ll move on to the Sweet Sixteen, and play the winner of the #4 seed (Florida State) vs. #5 seed (Colorado) game on either Saturday (03/27/2021) or Sunday.  The full bracket is here.

LSU won their 1st round game vs. the #9 seed (St. Bonaventure) 76-61.  Their record is 19-9, with quality wins over Arkansas, (#16) Tennessee, Missouri, and (#8) Arkansas, and less-than-impressive losses to St. Louis, Kentucky, and Georgia.  They don’t have any superstars on their roster, but they do have decent height: a 6’10” guy and a 6’11” guy.  They play fast and they score a lot, but they don’t play much defense.  This will be a serious challenge for Michigan, especially in a Big Dance full of upsets.  All Michigan needs to do is win and advance.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #17 – 03/15/2021 – Nice Win, Tough Loss

The (#4) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this past week in the Big Ten Tournament, and they won the first and lost the second.  Both games were in Indianapolis, IN.  On Friday (03/12/2021), they beat the #8 seed, Maryland, 79-66, then on Saturday (03/13/2021), they lost to the #5 seed, (#9) Ohio State, 68-67.  The win and the loss leave Michigan with a record of 20-4.

What Happened?

The Maryland game was a nice win, but the OSU game was a heartbreaking loss.

The Maryland game didn’t start out very well.  Michigan led briefly, 2-0, then Maryland took control.  They were ahead 15-6 with 13:13 to go in the 1st half, when Michigan got back within 2 points (17-15) at the 11:05 mark.  Maryland pushed the lead back up to 12 points (36-24) with 4:45 left in the half, but that’s when Michigan woke up.  They ended the half on a 16-2 run, to lead by 2 at halftime, 40-38.  Maryland tied the score up (40-40) to start the 2nd half, then Michigan went ahead for good.  They pushed the lead up to 9 points (51-42) with 15:50 to go, and kept it in the 8-10 point range for the rest of the game.

The only dicey part came at the 10:44 mark: Maryland was down 10 points (57-47), and shot a 3-pointer that missed.  The ball went out of bounds, and it sure looked like it should have been Michigan’s ball, but the refs gave it to Maryland.  There was a media timeout, so Coach Howard headed out onto the floor on the Maryland side of midcourt to talk to the refs about the call, and somehow he got into a yelling match with Maryland’s head coach (Mark Turgeon).  Turgeon got a technical, and Howard got two technicals and was ejected from the game.  After the timeout, Maryland shot two free throws and got the ball.  They cut the Michigan lead to 5 points (57-52) with 9:49 to go, but Michigan shook it off, and pushed the lead back up to 13 points (65-52) at the 7:23 mark, and that was the game.  Maryland got as close as 6 points once (67-61 with 5:15 to go), but Michigan quickly pushed the lead back into the teens, and won by 13.  It was a good, solid win.

The OSU game was close for the entire 1st half, and well into the 2nd half.  OSU led for much of the 1st half, but Michigan went ahead (22-21) with 4:06 left in the half, and still led by one point (27-26) at halftime.  The 2nd half was more of the same, with OSU leading for most of the half, but Michigan finally getting a 1-point lead (43-42) with 11:40 to go.  That was Michigan’s last lead.  OSU went on an 11-0 run, to push the lead up into the 8-10 point range, and kept it there until the 1:55 mark, when it was 68-60.  That’s when Michigan made a final push, outscoring OSU 7-0 in the last 1:55, but they couldn’t get the last basket that they needed to win.  They had the ball, with no shot clock, and ran the clock down to 2 seconds before taking a low-percentage shot for the win.  It missed, and the clock ran out.  It was heartbreaking.

Stats

The stats for the Maryland game are very nice.  Michigan shot well overall (31-for-60 = 51.7%), they shot 3-pointers well (10-for-22 = 45.5%), and they were perfect shooting free throws (7-for-7 = 100.0%).  They won the rebounding battle (32-26) and the turnover battle (8-11).  They won this game with all-around play: overall shooting, 3-point shooting, rebounding, and defense.

The stats for the OSU game are terrible.  Michigan shot poorly overall (20-for-57 = 35.1%), they shot 3-pointers poorly (6-for-19 = 31.6%), but they did shoot free throws well (21-for-23 = 91.3%).  They barely lost the rebounding battle (37-36), and they won the turnover battle handily (2-9).  They lost the game with poor shooting, compounded by very hot 3-point shooting by OSU: 12-for-22 (54.5%).

Who Started?

The starters for the Maryland games were Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Franz Wagner.  Unfortunately, it turned out that Livers had been playing with a broken bone in his foot since the Illinois game (03/02/2021), and he didn’t play in the OSU game.  Instead, Brandon Johns, Jr. started in his place.

Who Looked Good?

Smith was the star of the Maryland game, with a team-high 18 points and a tournament-record 15 assists.  He also hit double figures in the OSU game (10 points), but he was ice-cold in that game: 1-for-11, including the terrible final shot that missed badly.  He scored 7 of his 10 points in the OSU game from the free throw line, to go with a 3-pointer.

Brooks hit double figures in both games (16 vs. Maryland, 12 vs. OSU), which was even more impressive because it wasn’t clear whether or not he’d even be able to play, due to an ankle injury in the away MSU game last week (03/07/2021).  He not only played, he played well.

Dickinson was the leading scorer in the OSU game (21 points), but he had a sub-par game vs. Maryland (6 points).

Wagner had a solid game vs. Maryland (16 points), but he had a miserable game vs. OSU (8 points, on 2-for-10 shooting).  He was held scoreless in the 2nd half of the OSU game.

Chaundee Brown, Jr. had a good game vs. Maryland (10 points), but didn’t do much vs. OSU (3 points, on 1-for-6 shooting).

Austin Davis had a solid week, with 6 points in each game.

Johns also had a solid week, with 7 points in each game, one off the bench (Maryland) and one as a starter (OSU).

Who Looked Not-So-Good?

Livers only played in the Maryland game, and he was lousy: 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting.  Of course, we now know that he was playing with a broken foot.

Terrance Williams II only played in the OSU game, and he looked like a freshman, with 0 points.

Who Else Played?

No one else played.

Who Didn’t Play?

None of the scholarship players who aren’t part of the main rotation (Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, and Adrien Nuñez) played in either game.

None of the scout team players (C.J. Baird, Jaron Faulds, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, Brandon Wade, and Luke Wilson) played in either game.

What Does It Mean?

Michigan didn’t win the Big Ten Tournament, which is disappointing.  They played very poorly for much of the OSU game, and OSU played better than they have all season.  That’s a bad combination.  On the other hand, it’s kind of impressive that Michigan managed to stay in that game, and have a chance to win it at the buzzer, without Livers.

On to the NCAA Tournament.  The good news is: Michigan is a #1 seed, in the East Region.  The bad news is: Michigan is staggering into the playoffs.  They have lost 3 of their last 5 games, and they haven’t won 2 games in a row in a couple weeks.  They are the weakest #1 seed I can remember.  I think anything beyond the Sweet 16 would be a pleasant surprise.

What’s Next?

This week, Michigan is scheduled to play in the NCAA Tournament, in the Indianapolis area.  As mentioned above, they’re a #1 seed, and they start play on Saturday (03/20/2021, 3:00 p.m. EDT, CBS) in Purdue’s Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN, vs. the winner of the (#16 seed) play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s and Texas Southern, which is scheduled for Thursday (03/18/2021).  They should be able to win that game, regardless of the opponent, even without the services of Livers, who is questionable.

If they win that game, they’ll play on Monday (03/22/2021, TBA, TBA), vs. the winner of the game between the #8 seed (LSU) and the #9 seed (St. Bonaventure), which is also on Saturday.  This game will be trickier, but Michigan can still win it and move on to the Sweet 16.  Maybe by the next weekend Livers will be back at full strength, and Michigan will be able to play with the big boys sure to be around in the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

The other top teams in the East Region are: (#2) Alabama, (#3) Texas, and (#4) Florida State.  The other Big Ten teams in the East Region are: (#10) Maryland and (#11) Michigan State, but MSU has to win a play-in game vs. UCLA to get in the main bracket.  The full bracket is here.

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

Go Blue!