Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 03/18/2013 – Short Run In The Big Ten Tournament

The (#6) University of Michigan men’s basketball team had a disappointingly short run in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago this week. They won their first game, then lost their second. They were the #5 seed, so that’s what they were expected to do, but it was still disappointing. On Thursday (03/14/2013), they beat the #12 seed, Penn State, 83-66, then on Friday (03/15/2013), they lost to the #4 seed, Wisconsin, 68-59. The win and the loss leave UM with a record of 26-7.

The win over Penn State may not look impressive or important, but it was both. Remember that Penn State embarrassed Michigan just a couple weeks ago (02/27/2013) in State College, and they were the scariest #12 seed in recent memory. Michigan started off where they left off in their last game against PSU, and promptly fell behind 14-3 in the first 5:30. They finally woke up, took the lead, and never gave it up. They pushed the lead as high as 9 (35-26) with 3:23 left in the 1st half, but let it shrink down to 2 (35-33) at halftime. It took another 7 minutes after halftime, but Michigan finally pulled away. They got the lead up to 15 points (62-47) with 10:22 left, which was exactly the situation they had in the Debacle at State College 2 weeks ago. This time, instead of folding, Michigan increased their lead up to 19 (71-52) with 7:10 left, and won by 17. It was encouraging to see them play well at the end of a game.

Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t play well at the end of the Wisconsin game. In fact, they didn’t play particularly well at the beginning of the game either. Wisconsin played terribly to start the game, but UM didn’t take advantage of the chance to blow the game wide open. Time after time, Wisconsin misfired on a shot or turned the ball over, and UM didn’t value the possession and took a wild shot or missed an easy layup. Michigan managed to build a 10-point lead (16-6) early, and they should have had a 20-point lead at halftime, but instead they were clinging to a shaky 3-point lead (20-17). Wisconsin tied the game up (24-24) with 17:21 left, then took the lead (26-24) with 16:24 left. They never gave it up. They pushed the lead as high as 11 points (56-45) with 6:01 left, but Michigan came storming back. They got the deficit down to 2 points (56-54) with 3:35 left, but only scored 3 more points the rest of the way. It was pretty sad.

So, what happened? How did Michigan fall apart? Turnovers and poor defense. They built their early lead based on poor play by Wisconsin, not good defense. Once Wisconsin stopped playing stupid, Michigan couldn’t stop them. Against any other team, Michigan might have hung in and answered them point-for-point, but not against Wisconsin. Their defense is just too good. Michigan couldn’t score on them, and they couldn’t stop them. It was ugly.

Time to look at the stats to see how ugly. First, the Penn State game, which wasn’t ugly at all. Overall, Michigan shot pretty well (29-for-63 = 46.0%), and they shot fairly well from 3-point range (6-for-18 = 33.3%). They got to the free-throw line often, and shot a nice percentage (19-for-23 = 82.6%). They won the rebounding battle (36-32) and the turnover battle (4-8). No problems here. The stats for the Wisconsin game are ugly: overall shooting was pretty bad (23-for-57 = 40.4%), and 3-point shooting was even worse (3-for-13 = 23.1%). They shot a reasonable number of free throws, but didn’t make many (10-for-17 = 58.8%). They actually managed to win the rebounding battle (38-37), but they lost the turnover battle (11-9). Many of those turnovers were early in the game, when Wisconsin was missing everything, and many of them were unforced. Basketball is a game of momentum, and Michigan missed their big chance to seize the momentum early and put the game out of reach. When Wisconsin snapped out of their funk, they were still in the game, and they came back and won.

Individually, only 2 players hit double figures in both games last week:

  • Trey Burke – 21 points vs. Penn State and 19 points vs. Wisconsin. Trey ended the season scoring at least 15 points in every Big Ten game.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. – 15 and 14 points.

3 players hit double figures in only one game last week:

  • Jon Horford – 11 and 5 points.
  • Mitch McGary – 10 and 9 points. Mitch also had 11 rebounds vs. Penn State, 10 of them in the 1st half. He had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) at halftime.
  • Nik Stauskas – 15 and 4 points. The Wisconsin game was one of the rate times Nik failed to hit double figures.

The remaining 2 starters didn’t hit double figures in either game:

Besides Horford and McGary, the other bench players had a mixed week at scoring:

Besides Horford (16) and McGary (19), that’s 2 points of bench scoring, which isn’t very good.

This Week

The NCAA Tournament (bracket) starts this week, and Michigan is in it. They are a #4 seed in the South (Arlington, TX) Region, and they play their first game against the #13 seed, South Dakota State on Thursday (03/21/2013) in the Palace of Auburn Hills (MI), time and TV info TBD. If they win that game, they play again on Saturday (03/23/2013) against the winner of the (#5 seed) VCU (Virginia Commonwealth) vs. (#12) Akron game. Both of these games are winnable, and it would be gratifying to see UM make it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in a long time. It was pretty depressing to see Michigan drop from a #1 seed at the end of January to a #4 seed in mid-March, but they can still prove that they can be as good as they looked at the end of January.

As I said before the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan has the talent to win the whole tournament, and the youth and inexperience to lose in the Thursday game to South Dakota State. We’ll just have to watch the games to see how they do.

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

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #20 – 03/11/2013 – So Close

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team came THIS CLOSE to earning a share of the Big Ten title on Sunday, but the last second game-winning shot hung on the rim then fell off, and with it went UM’s title hopes. After a long, brutal campaign, it all came down to one final chance, and Michigan came up an inch short. It was so sad and frustrating.

Michigan played two games last week, and they won one and lost one. On Wednesday (03/06/2013), they beat Purdue 80-75 in West Lafayette, then on Sunday (03/10/2013), they lost to (#2) Indiana 72-71 in Crisler Arena. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 25-6 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten play. They ended up tied for 4th place in the Big Ten.

The win at Purdue wasn’t particularly pretty, but it was important. It kept alive Michigan’s chance to share the title with a win over Indiana on Sunday. Michigan started strong in the Purdue game, and had a nice 12-point lead (21-9) with 9:30 left in the 1st half. Then, the roof fell in. Michigan couldn’t buy a basket, and Purdue couldn’t miss, and the whole 12-point lead disappeared in 7 minutes: Purdue led 29-28 with 2:30 left in the half. They led 34-30 at halftime, and pushed the lead up to 12 points (52-40) with 12 minutes to go in the game. Things looked grim for Michigan, then they started clicking. They cut the deficit down to 3 points (55-52) with 7:43 to go, and finally got the lead back (59-58) with 5:22 to go. The lead swung back and forth for the next couple minutes, until UM went ahead for good (65-64) with 3:04 left. Michigan shot their free throws well (spoiler alert: big problem in the Indiana game) down the stretch, and hung on for the big road win.

The Indiana game was very intense. Crisler was packed and loud, and the two teams played hard and pretty well. The officials were weak, but that’s not surprising in the Big Ten. Did the officials affect the final outcome? Maybe, but it was too close to say for sure. In any case, it was an exciting game, with an exciting finish. IU opened up a quick 10-3 lead with 16:05 to play in the 1st half. Michigan roared back, and went up 15-10 with 11:39 to play in the half. UM pushed the lead up to 11 points (27-16) with 5:03 left, but IU managed to claw their way back to within 3 points (33-30) by halftime. Michigan maintained a slim lead for the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half, then IU got the lead back (48-46) with 12:07 left in the game. The lead see-sawed back and forth the rest of the way, but Michigan managed to grab a sudden 5-point lead (71-66) with 52 seconds left in the game. IU fouled, Michigan missed their free throws, IU made their shots, and it all came down to one final possession for Michigan, down one point (72-71) with the ball and 13 seconds left. Michigan missed a shot with 2 seconds left, got the rebound, put up another shot, and watched it roll off the rim for the loss. It was a tough loss, and it was no fun watching IU celebrate their outright championship on the Crisler floor.

How did UM manage to lose a 5-point lead in the last 52 seconds? Poor free throw shooting. Michigan missed the front end of two 1-and-1 situations. If they had made either of them, they probably would have won the game.

Time to look at the stats for some answers. In the Purdue game, Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (25-for-59 = 42.4%), and they didn’t shoot 3-pointers very well (7-for-18 = 38.9%). They got to the free throw line a lot, and they shot free throws well (23-for-29 = 79.3%), which won them the game. They got hammered on the boards again (42-30), but they won the turnover battle handily (5-13). In the Indiana game, Michigan shot pretty poorly overall (27-for-65 = 41.5%), but they shot well from 3-point range (10-for-22 = 45.5%). They shot terribly from the free-throw line (7-for-13 = 53.8%), which cost them the game. They really got hammered on the boards (53-30), but they won the turnover battle big-time (6-14).

Individually, 3 players hit double figures in both games last week:

One player hit double figures in only one game last week: Glenn Robinson III had 6 and 13 points.

The remaining starter, Jordan Morgan, had 2 and 8 points last week.

The bench players had a mixed week at scoring:

That’s 20 points of bench scoring, which isn’t very good.

This Week

Well, the regular season is over, and it was something of a disappointment. On to the Big Ten Tournament, which is being held in Chicago this week. Michigan is the #5 seed, which means that they just missed getting a bye on Thursday. Instead, they play the #12 seed, Penn State, on Thursday (03/14/2013) at about 2:30 p.m. EDT (25 minutes after the end of the first game, which starts at noon EDT). The game will be on BTN. If they beat Penn State, they will play the #4 seed, Wisconsin, at about 2:30 p.m. EDT on Friday (03/15/2013). That game will be on ESPN. Next would be the winner of the Indiana/(Illinois/Minnesota) game, presumably Indiana, at 1:40 p.m. EDT on Saturday, and then the championship game on Sunday. The full bracket is here.

Michigan has the talent to win the whole tournament, and the youth and inexperience to lose in the Thursday game to Penn State. We’ll just have to watch the games to see how they do.

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

Go Blue!

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 #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 #14 – 01/28/2013 – Number One?

The (#2) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won them both. At the same time, (#1) Duke got hammered on the road by (#25) Miami (FL), so it sure looks like Michigan is going to be ranked #1 in the AP Poll this week!

The two games that Michigan played last week were good, solid wins against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams. On Thursday (01/24/2013), they beat Purdue 68-53 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (01/27/2013), they beat Illinois 74-60 in Champaign. The two wins raise UM’s record to 19-1, 6-1 in Big Ten play. They are tied for 1st place in the Big Ten.

In both games, Michigan fell behind early, but didn’t panic. In fact, Purdue actually had a 1-point lead (33-32) at halftime, the only time UM has trailed at halftime at home this season. However, in both games, Michigan slowly but surely erased the deficit and built a lead, then protected it. In the Purdue game, Michigan was still behind (40-39) with 15 minutes left, then they went on a quick 10-0 run to get a lead that they never lost. In the Illinois game, Michigan led for most of the game, but it was close (2-4 points) for most of the 1st half. In the 2nd half, UM pushed the lead out to double digits, and mostly kept it there. They did let Illinois get within 4 points (41-37) with 16:41 left in the game, but that’s when Michigan pulled away.

The stats for the Purdue game are much nicer than the ones for the Illinois game. In the Purdue game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (27-for-55 = 49.1%), and pretty well from 3-point range (7-for-16 = 43.8%). They shot free throws pretty well (7-for-10 = 70.0%), and they won the rebounding battle (35-29) and the turnover battle (10-12). Michigan shot pretty well overall in the Illinois game (31-for-59 = 52.5%), but not so well from 3-point range (5-for-15 = 33.3%). They were mediocre from the free-throw line (7-for-13 = 53.8%), they lost the rebounding battle (35-36), but they won the turnover battle (12-15). Overall, they played well enough to win, but not up to the level they set in some of their more impressive victories. Still, a win is a win. Just ask Duke.

Individually, 3 players hit double figures in both games:

The 5th starter, Jordan Morgan had 6 points vs. Purdue, but 0 points vs. Illinois. He only played 91 seconds in the Illinois game before he injured his ankle. He didn’t return to the game. His status isn’t known at this time.

The bench players had mixed success scoring:

  • Spike Albrecht – 0 and 0 points.
  • Max Bielfeldt – DNP and 4 points. Max had to play a lot more minutes in the Illinois game, with Morgan out, and he did fine.
  • Jon Horford – 2 and 7 points. Jon also had to play a lot more minutes in the Illinois game, with Morgan out, and he also did fine.
  • Caris LeVert – 2 and 0 points.
  • Mitch McGary – 6 and 6 points.

Michigan only got 10 points from the bench in the Purdue game, but they got 17 points vs. Illinois, which is more like it.

This Week

After a couple games against lower-division teams, Michigan has one more relatively easy game, then they start a brutal 4-game stretch. This week, they play Northwestern on Wednesday (01/30/2013, 6:30 p.m., BTN) in Crisler Arena, then on Saturday (02/02/2013, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN) they play at (#7) Indiana. They should beat Northwestern fairly easily, but the game at IU will be Michigan’s toughest test yet. If they can win that one, they’ll be in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten title.

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

Go Blue!