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 #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!