Nothing But ‘Net – Week #14 – 01/28/2019 – Back In The Saddle

The (#5) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won both of them. On Tuesday (01/22/2019), they beat Minnesota 59-57 in Crisler, then on Friday (01/25/2019), they beat Indiana 69-46 in Bloomington. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 19-1 (8-1 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Wait, #5? What happened to #2?

A: The loss to Wisconsin on 01/19/2019 moved Michigan down three spots in the AP Poll, which is reasonable.

Q: Back in the saddle?

A: After the demoralizing loss to Wisconsin, Michigan had to get their swagger back. They had to get back on that horse and keep moving forward. They still looked stunned and scared for much of the Minnesota game, but they appeared to have shaken it off vs. IU. They really need to put that one loss behind them, and not let it turn into multiple losses.

Q: So, what happened?

A: Michigan had a horrible start in the Minnesota game. They were cold, Minnesota was hot, and the game started slipping away almost immediately. Minnesota jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, and pushed it up to 16-8, then 19-10. Michigan finally woke up, and clawed their way to a 23-23 tie. Minnesota pulled back ahead, and led 31-28 at halftime. They continued to lead for the first four minutes of the 2nd half, before Michigan tied it up again, 37-37, and finally got the lead, 39-37 with 15:23 to go. Michigan never trailed again, and built the lead up to 13 points (52-39) with 9:10 left in the game. It looked like Michigan had the game firmly in hand, then they went cold. Still, with good defense they still led by 10 points (57-47) with 4:51 to go. Those were the last points Michigan would score until the final second of the game. Minnesota slowly crawled back into the game, and tied it up 57-57 with 30.7 seconds left. Michigan held the ball for the last shot, and Charles Matthews was the hero with a buzzer-beater that just left his hand before the shot clock went off, and swished through as time expired. It was thrilling, but scary. Michigan is much better than Minnesota, and they should have won this game convincingly, especially at home. The hangover from the Wisconsin loss almost cost them this game.

After a terrible start vs. Minnesota, Michigan needed a good start against a desperate IU team in a loud, hostile arena, and they got it. They shot well, played good defense, and watched IU miss every shot in the first five minutes, which resulted in a gorgeous 17-0 lead. They kept the lead in the 14-16 point range for the rest of the half, and led by 15 (33-18) at halftime. That was the worst scoring half for IU this season. IU started the 2nd half hot, and cut the lead down to 9 points (38-29) with 16:47 to go. That was as close as they got. Michigan pushed the lead back up to the 16-18 point range, then extended it to the 20-22 point range down the stretch, winning by 23 points. That is Michigan’s largest margin of victory ever in Bloomington.

Q: Any problems with the officiating?

A: Nope. They were fine, in their “equally incompetent against both teams” way.

Q: How were the game stats?

A: About what you would expect: lousy for the close game, and good for the blow-out:

In the Minnesota game, Michigan shot terribly overall (21-for-62 = 33.9%), they shot 3-pointers horribly (3-for-22 = 13.6%), and they shot free throws poorly (14-for-22 = 63.6%). They lost the rebounding battle badly (43-33), but they won the turnover battle (6-16). Frankly, looking at these stats, I don’t know how Michigan managed to win.

The stats for the Indiana game are better. Michigan shot fairly well overall (25-for-58 = 43.1%), they shot 3-pointers reasonably well (10-for-29 = 34.5%), and they shot free throws well enough (9-for-12 = 75.0%). They won the rebounding battle (44-39), and tied in the turnover battle (9-9). The 3-point shooting won the game.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: A few players had a good week:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis bounced back from the worst game of his (short) career with two solid games. He was the high scorer in both games, with 18 points vs. Minnesota and 20 points vs. IU. He was very inefficient in the Minnesota game (4-for-18, 1-for-7 from 3-point range), but he cleaned that up in the IU game (8-for-12, 3-for-5 from deep). He had 11 rebounds vs. Minnesota, for a double-double.
  • Jon Teske was the only other player to hit double figures in both games (15 and 11). He was the only player who shot well against Minnesota (7-for-8, 1-for-1 from 3-point range).
  • Charles Matthews: Even though he only hit double figures in one game (10 points vs. IU), he was the hero of the Minnesota game with his buzzer-beater. He only had 7 points in that game, but two of them were very important. He also had 11 rebounds in the IU game, for a double-double. He also played great lock-down defense on IU’s leading scorer, Romeo Langford.
  • Zavier Simpson also only hit double figures in one game (12 points vs. IU, 6 points vs. Minnesota), but he did a great job running the offense in both games, and played great defense as well.

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A few players had an “off” week:

  • Jordan Poole kind of disappeared last week, with 3 and 6 points, on terrible shooting: 1-for-5 (0-for-3 from deep) vs. Minnesota, and 2-for-7 (2-for-5 from deep) vs. IU.
  • Isaiah Livers also had a bad week scoring, with 7 and 5 points, on terrible shooting: 2-for-8 (1-for-5 from deep) vs. Minnesota, and 1-for-7 (1-for-4 from deep) vs. IU.
  • Eli Brooks had 2 points in each game, on terrible shooting: 1-for-4 (0-for-1 from deep) vs. Minnesota, and 1-for-3 (0-for-1 from deep) vs. IU.

Q: Who else played this week?

A: Coach Beilein used his very short bench (8 players) in the close game vs. Minnesota, but put in lots of subs and scrubs in the last minute of the IU game:

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can (barely) bounce back from a devastating loss, and that they can win big on the road in the Big Ten. We also learned that they can (barely) survive a bad shooting night against a good Big Ten team, but that it’s not a good idea.

Q: What’s up with the Big Ten standings?

A: Oh yeah, I haven’t talked about the race for the Big Ten title yet. Let’s have a look:

Team (AP Rank) Big Ten Record Overall Record
Michigan State (#6) 9-1 (0.900) 18-3 (0.857)
Michigan (#5) 8-1 (0.889) 19-1 (0.950)
Purdue 7-2 (0.778) 14-6 (0.700)
Maryland (#13) 7-3 (0.700) 16-5 (0.762)
Wisconsin 6-3 (0.667) 14-6 (0.700)
Minnesota 5-4 (0.556) 15-5 (0.750)
Iowa (#19) 5-5 (0.500) 16-5 (0.762)
Ohio State 3-5 (0.375) 13-6 (0.684)
Nebraska 3-6 (0.333) 13-7 (0.650)
Indiana 3-6 (0.333) 12-8 (0.600)
Northwestern 3-6 (0.333) 12-8 (0.600)
Rutgers 3-6 (0.333) 10-9 (0.526)
Illinois 2-7 (0.222) 6-14 (0.300)
Penn State 0-9 (0.000) 7-13 (0.350)

There are a few surprises here:

  • Indiana was predicted to have an outside chance at the Big Ten title; instead, they are 3-6, with a 6-game losing streak.
  • Nebraska was predicted to be one of the top 2-3 teams in the Big Ten; instead, they are 3-6, tied for 9th place.
  • Iowa was predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten; instead, they have been ranked for most of the season, although they have stumbled lately.
  • Penn State was predicted to be a middle-of-the-pack team; instead, they are winless and in the basement, 2 games behind lowly Illinois.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan plays two games again this week, again on Tuesday and Friday, and again home then away. On Tuesday (01/29/2019, 9:00 p.m., ESPN2), they play Ohio State in Crisler, then on Friday (02/01/2019, 7:00 p.m. EST, FS1), they play at (#19) Iowa.

Ohio State is currently 13-6 (3-5 in Big Ten), with wins over Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota, and UCLA, and losses to Syracuse, Rutgers (!), and Purdue. They don’t have much height (a couple 6’9″ guys), and no real superstars. They were ranked for part of the season, but their 5-game losing streak in the Big Ten took care of that. Michigan is certainly better than OSU, but they will need to play well to beat them.

Iowa is currently 16-5 (5-5 in Big Ten), with wins over Oregon, UConn, Pitt, Iowa State, Nebraska, and Ohio State, and losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State (twice), Purdue, and Illinois (!). They have a couple 6’11” guys, and a couple 6’9″ guys. They have been ranked since week #3, and they will be a very challenging opponent, especially on their home court. This game will tell us whether Michigan can beat a good Big Ten team on the road.

That’s it for this week. Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #13 – 01/21/2019 – Gargling Peanut Butter

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they lost it. On Saturday (01/19/2019), they lost at Wisconsin 64-54. The loss lowers Michigan’s record to 17-1 (6-1 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: Gargling peanut butter?

A: They choked. They let the pressure get to them. They played scared. They played “to not lose”, instead of playing to win. The long winning streak. The great start to the season. The chance to move up to #1 in the AP poll. The loud, hostile crowd. It all got to them. They choked.

Maybe in the long run, this loss will turn out to be a good thing. Maybe, now that the pressure has been eased a little, they’ll just play some hoops instead of worrying about the future. Maybe they’ll start hitting the wide open shots that they’ve been missing. Maybe they’ll stop throwing the ball away in crucial situations. Maybe.

Q: What happened?

A: Michigan played poorly, and they lost. Wisconsin played well, and they deserved to win.

Q: Was Michigan overrated?

A: Maybe. They certainly didn’t play like the #2 team vs. UW.

Q: What was the problem?

A: Shooting, poor shooting. At its very heart, basketball is a game about putting the ball in the basket. Michigan played decent defense for most of the game, but they just couldn’t put the ball in the basket, especially when they most needed to. They shot terribly overall (22-for-54 = 40.7%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (5-for-18 = 27.8%), and they shot free throws terribly (5-for-11 = 45.5%). That’s how to lose a game. The complete stats are here.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when Michigan is hitting their 3-pointers, everything else seems to fall into place, and the game looks fun and easy. When Michigan can’t hit their 3-pointers, everything is a struggle, and the game looks terrible.

Q: Any other problems?

A: Yup, turnovers. Michigan threw the ball away 16 times, tied for their worst performance of the season, and way over their average. Once again, many of those turnovers were at the exact worst time for momentum purposes.

Q: Any problems with the officiating?

A: It was fine, for the most part, but the refs did get a crucial call wrong in the last minute when they called an intentional foul against Michigan that wasn’t. It tipped the game toward Wisconsin. However, if Michigan had played a decent game up to that point, it won’t have mattered. They only had themselves to blame for being in a situation where one bad call could cost them the game.

Q: Did anyone look good for Michigan?

A: It’s tempting to say “no”, but it wasn’t that bad. A few players had decent games:

  • Jon Teske was high scorer, with 15 points. He was the only Michigan player to hit more than one 3-pointer (2-for-4). He did his part, he just didn’t get enough support.
  • Jordan Poole scored 14 points, but he took 15 shots to get them. He shot pretty poorly (6-for-15 overall, 1-for-5 from deep), he committed 4 fouls, and he had 3 turnovers.
  • Zavier Simpson actually had a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He played very hard, but it wasn’t enough.
  • Isaiah Livers did his best to pick the team up when they were floundering around out there, but he only scored 5 points, against 3 turnovers.

Q: Who looked not-so-good?

A: A couple players had a bad game:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis was the main reason Michigan lost. He had a horrible game: 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting (0-for-3 from deep), 3 fouls, and 2 turnovers. He was one of Michigan’s main scoring threats coming in, and he let the team down badly.
  • Charles Matthews also let the team down, with only 5 points, 2 fouls, and 3 turnovers.

Q: Who else played?

A: It was a very short bench again:

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan isn’t as good as they appeared to be. We learned that they won’t be able to just “turn it on” whenever the going gets tough. They got away with that in their two close games so far (Western Michigan and the away Northwestern game), but they dug themselves too deep a hole this time.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan plays two games this week, one at home and one on the road. On Tuesday (01/22/2019, 7:00 p.m., BTN), they play Minnesota in Crisler, then on Friday (01/25/2019, 6:30 p.m., FS1), they play at (#25) Indiana.

Minnesota is currently 13-4 (3-3 in Big Ten), with wins over Texas A&M, Washington, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and losses to Boston College, Ohio State, Maryland, and Illinois. They’ve got a 7-footer and a 6’10” guy, and a couple good players. This is a game that Michigan should win, but they can’t play like they did against Wisconsin.

Indiana is currently 12-6 (3-4 in Big Ten), with wins over Marquette, Louisville, and Butler, and losses to Arkansas, Maryland, Nebraska, and Purdue. Michigan has already played them once, two weeks ago (01/06/2019), and beaten them solidly (74-63). It will be harder to beat them on the road, but Michigan can do it, if they play their “A” game.

That’s it for this week. Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #12 – 01/14/2019 – Best. Start. Ever.

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won them both. On Thursday (01/10/2019), they beat Illinois 79-69 in Champaign, then on Sunday (01/13/2019), they beat Northwestern 80-60 in sold-out Crisler Arena. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 17-0 (6-0 in the Big Ten).

Time for more Questions & Answers:

Q: What’s this about “best start ever”?

A: This season’s Michigan team just set a new school record for the best start ever. The previous record was 16-0, shared by the 1985-86 and 2012-13 teams. Michigan is now one of only two undefeated teams left in the country, along with (#4) Virginia. Going back to last season, which ended with a 14-game winning streak before the loss in the National Championship game vs. Villanova, Michigan has now won 31 of their last 32 games, which is quite a record.

Q: So, were these good, solid wins?

A: Yes, they were. Illinois and Northwestern aren’t contenders for the Big Ten title, in fact Illinois is likely to end up 14th this season, but a 10-point road win and a 20-point home win are both good, solid wins.

In the Illinois game, Michigan led from start to finish, but never quite put the game on ice. They had their chances, but they always missed the crucial shot that would have put the game out of reach. On the other hand, every time Illinois started creeping up, Michigan answered with enough offense to keep them at arm’s length. Michigan kept the lead in the 6-8 point range for most of the game, occasionally stretching it to 10-12 points, and occasionally letting it dwindle to the 3-5 point range.

Michigan also led wire-to-wire in the Northwestern game, but they got the lead up in the 18-20 point range just before halftime, and kept it in the 16-18 point range for most of the 2nd half. Northwestern put on a furious comeback attempt in the 2nd half, but that only got them within 12 points, and Michigan pushed it back up to 20 points pretty quickly. The key stretch in the game came in the last 1:55 of the 1st half. Northwestern had just hit a 3-pointer to pull within 12 points (40-28), when Michigan just exploded. Jon Teske hit a pair of 3-pointers, just 19 seconds apart, Charles Matthews had a steal that led to a breakaway dunk, then Zavier Simpson had another steal that led to a short jumper with 7 seconds left. Those 10 points just crushed any hope Northwestern had of getting back in the game. It was very exciting, and very impressive. It really got the sold-out crowd going.

Q: Any complaints about the officiating this week?

A: Nope. They were mediocre, but in a balanced way.

Q: What do the team stats tell us?

A: The stats weren’t bad this week:

In the Illinois game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (28-for-62 = 45.2%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (5-for-19 = 26.3%), and they shot free throws very well (18-for-22 = 81.8%). They won the rebounding battle (38-30), and they tied in the turnover battle (14-14). The extra 8 possessions due to rebounding made the difference in this game.

In the Northwestern game, Michigan shot very well overall (31-for-59 = 52.5%), they shot 3-pointers well (11-for-27 = 40.7%), and they shot free throws very well (7-for-9 = 77.8%). They won the rebounding battle (33-28) and the turnover battle (9-13). All those extra possessions + good shooting = a 20-point win.

Q: Who looked good for Michigan?

A: Several players had a good week:

  • Zavier Simpson was the high scorer for Michigan in both games, with 16 points vs. Illinois and a career-high 24 points vs. Northwestern. He was brilliant in the Northwestern game, shooting 9-for-17 overall, and 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Those five 3-pointers are a career high for him.
  • Jon Teske was the other big star this week, with double figures in both games (13 and 17 points), and 11 rebounds in each game, for two consecutive double-doubles. He shot very well: 5-for-8 (1-for-3 from 3-point range) vs. Illinois, and 7-for-11 (3-for-5 from deep) vs. Northwestern. He hit all three of his 3-pointers vs. Northwestern in two and a half minutes just before halftime, igniting the offense and the crowd.
  • Charles Matthews also hit double figures in both games (14 and 13 points), and fired up the crowd in the Northwestern game with a couple thunderous dunks. The only downside: poor 3-point shooting (0-for-1 and 0-for-2).
  • Ignas Brazdeikis was the fourth starter who hit double figures in both games (15 and 11 points). He also had trouble with his 3-point shooting (1-for-2 and 0-for-2).
  • Jordan Poole was the only starter who didn’t hit double figures in both games (10 and 7 points). He didn’t shoot 3-pointers well either (1-for-6 and 1-for-3).
  • Isaiah Livers was back, after missing two games with back spasms, and he looked fine out there. He didn’t hit double figures in either game (9 and 8 points), but he provided the spark that he usually brings. He had a mixed week shooting 3-pointers (0-for-3 and 2-for-2).

Q: Who looked not-so-good for Michigan?

A: A couple players had an “off” week:

  • Eli Brooks had another ineffective week, with 2 and 0 points.
  • Austin Davis played a minute or two in each game, but didn’t take a shot.

Q: Who else played?

A: Coach Beilein went with his very short bench (8 players) in the Illinois game, which was close, but put several of the scout team players into the Northwestern game in the last two minutes: David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Jr., Adrien Nuñez, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson. None of them scored.

This was the first time that Ozuna-Harrison has played this season, and I didn’t even realize that he was on the roster. He was a player on the team last season, and at the beginning of this season I reported that he had switched to being a manager, but I guess he’s back on the playing roster. Sorry I didn’t have a short bio of him in the Season Preview, and he certainly would have gotten a solid “Incomplete” in the Midterm Grades. I’ll keep track of him from now on.

Q: Who didn’t play?

A: A couple of the scout team players didn’t play this week: C.J. Baird and Colin Castleton.

Q: What did we learn this week?

A: We learned that Michigan can maintain their solid level of play against the non-contenders in the Big Ten. That’s important. Michigan is tied for 1st place in the Big Ten with the Little Brothers, and they can’t afford to lose a game to any of the non-contenders. They need to win all the games that they’re supposed to win, and play their best games against the other contenders. Those games are coming up soon.

Q: What’s next for Michigan?

A: Michigan only plays one game this week, one on the road. On Saturday (01/19/2019, 12:00 noon EST, ESPN2), they play at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is currently 11-5 (3-2 in Big Ten), with impressive wins over Xavier, Stanford, Oklahoma, N.C. State, and Iowa, and less-than-impressive losses to Marquette, Western Kentucky, and Minnesota. They have some height (two 7’0″ guys, a 6’11” guy, and a 6’10” guy), and one of the best players in the Big Ten: Ethan Happ. They were ranked for most of the non-conference schedule, until they lost to Western Kentucky and Minnesota in consecutive games. It used to be nearly impossible to beat Wisconsin in the Kohl Center, but the last few seasons have been different. Michigan will have to play very well to beat them, but they are beatable.

That’s it for this week. Check back next week to see how Michigan did.

Go Blue!