a contest of contests [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Basketbullets: Penn State Comment Count

Brian January 4th, 2019 at 11:53 AM

1/3/2019 – Michigan 68, Penn State 55 – 14-0, 3-0 Big Ten

The most concerning portion of the long December lull was the sudden permeability of the defense. Some weird guys hit some weird shots, sure, but the overall aura was ominous. It didn't feel like the same unit that caused a Yosemite Sam version of Roy Williams to resort to a hockey line change in the second half. It wasn't exactly bad, but the comedown from HELLO WE ARE MONGOLS AND THIS IS OUR HORDE was real.

Genghis and friends roared back with a 0.76 points per possession performance featuring 18 TOs and zero three pointers that didn't bank in. The tense, ugly first half gave way to the opening five minutes of the second when Michigan swarmed PSU for a number of turnovers and the ensuing transition buckets, opening up the 13 point cushion they'd finish with.

Michigan isn't a high pressure team that gets a ton of steals but they're pretty decent (100th) despite having a rock bottom foul rate; in this game everyone who played 10 minutes had at least one. They were locked in a slog of their own until their defense opened it up for them.

Michigan basketball: good. Also weird.


hello i must destroy you [Campredon]

Shorts: in them. Rasir Bolton's been a bit of a revelation for Penn State this year; with a quick release and some ability to drive he's been their most efficient player. Here: 0/3 from three and seven turnovers for an ORTG of 44. Zavier Simpson ate his lunch.

Michigan also drove Lamar Stevens to another high-usage, poor efficiency game: 17 points on 19 shot equivalents and three turnovers. Michigan doubled Stevens a lot early, which was weird to me and led to an easy look at the rim for their backup C. They must of thought he was the kind of black hole you can double with impunity. They weren't quite right about that but they weren't too far off: Stevens had just one other assist.

[After THE JUMP: some yelling, Jordan Poole doing Things]

Exit Pat Chambers. One dollar says that this is the beginning of the end for Pat Chambers at Penn State:

Chambers apologized afterward but he's in year eight at Penn State without a tourney bid in sight. That unhinged behavior hardly seemed justified after a single defensive miscue from Dread during a first half when PSU was just as locked in as Michigan was.



Davis gets off the cart a little. Without Isaiah Livers, Michigan had to play Austin Davis whenever they pulled Teske off the court. (Brandon Johns got a couple minutes, but at the four.) Davis did fine. He was the recipient of that Jordan Poole assist and was able to make an extra pass to Charles Matthews for a dunk; he did not turn it over. His defense was annoying if not impactful; he forced Watkins to make a shot or two over him.

That level of play is encouraging to see; Michigan is going to need him to log some minutes against the burlier Cs in the league.



Mercy. Jordan Poole had these back to back possessions:

He added a tough contested two, yet another foul as he shoots a three, and an improbable block as he kept Michigan a nose ahead in the first half.

Iggy issues. Brazdeikis had a number of straight line drives that Penn State ate up; Watkins blocked a couple and others were tough takes early enough in the shot clock. The second Watkins block was clear frustration on Iggy's part: Stevens had knocked him over for an easy bucket late in the first half; Iggy came down and threw up a wild shot that Stevens may have blocked; Iggy stole the ball from Watkins and then went one on three, with Watkins winning a post-up battle.

Bit of a welcome to college moment, but Iggy recovered in the second half, when he was efficient. Stevens was clearly pissed off at him the whole game; after a late and-one on a cut where he muscled it up over Teske he did Iggy's flex thing. Not sure if his wide array of questionable shots was because of that or just because that's how Penn State has to play this year.

46593552251_da70f38d94_k (1)

Heavily contested [Campredon]

Watkins makes. Watkins went 8/11 from the floor with Jon Teske (mostly) on him. Aside from a putback or two all of those makes were contested, a couple very heavily. Only one was a certainly good shot; that came when Teske got dragged out on a pick and roll and Watkins was able to set up very deep.

Dererk "Not A Typo" Pardon did some work on Teske earlier in the year; this felt more like an anomalous number of iffy shots going down. Probably because I said Watkins doesn't have a lot of post-up game in the preview.

Strap in. There are going to be a lot of games like this. The Big Ten has a wide array of defensively-oriented teams with no point guard. Michigan's already played two of them (Northwestern and Penn State). Down the road they've got Rutgers, Wisconsin, Minnesota, another PSU game, and special guest Indiana—who will be without PG Robert Phinisee due to a concussion on Sunday. Gonna be some rock fights.

Livers status. He's a maybe for Sunday:

"He practiced fine yesterday," Beilein said, "but he woke up really sore today. He did three (therapy) sessions. It's back spasms. We'll get an MRI tomorrow and see where he is. But it was a game-time (decision). It really tightened up as the day went on. He was in therapy for three hours.

"Yesterday, and I probably wouldn't have mentioned it anyhow, but it wasn't even a concern to me at our press conference." …

"Being a guy who’s had back spasms,” Beilein said, “(Livers) probably won’t be at 100 percent (on Sunday). But hopefully he can go because we just need the minutes there from that position.”

In his absence Michigan went with 17 minutes from Brooks, 8 from Davis, and 2 from Johns. Livers is an especially good matchup for Indiana, which plays a lot of smallball. Hopefully he can get back.

Most people just buy a car. Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax's midlife crisis is broadcast to all on Kenpom.


Three years ago his team went from a regular MEAC team to the most extra of all MEAC teams. They've also been the #1 team in 3PA%. And they won a share of the league title last year!

This has been your weekly "look at this weird MEAC team" segment.



January 4th, 2019 at 6:26 PM ^

You think you are a loser?  I copied all the text into Notepad and did a find, just to see what the hell you were talking about.

Found it:

Michigan doubled Stevens a lot early, which was weird to me and led to an easy look at the rim for their backup C. They must of thought he was the kind of black hole you can double with impunity.



January 4th, 2019 at 12:10 PM ^

So what’s up with the 2pt defense?  I feel like the last month of games have a lot of  “that’s good defense...oh come on how does that keep going in” type of contested 2 pointers.  Watkins was the recipient this game.  He was taken turn-around shots at tough angles outside the circle with Teske in his face...and they still went in.  Is that going to regress a bit down the stretch?


January 4th, 2019 at 3:05 PM ^

This.  It was either Watkins making those incredibly difficult shots, or those horrible bricks they were launching.  The kind that barely got backboard.  Same defense, different out ones on the spectrum.


There were a couple of defensive breakdowns where guys didnt rotate, but it happens.  This fanbase frustrates the hell out of me, always nitpicking.  We arent going to win every game 95 to zip.  Teams will score.  We will hVe slumps.  A win is a win.


January 4th, 2019 at 2:07 PM ^

M was lucky on 2pt defense in November and I think it's just a case of being unlucky in December and last night (but were far more lucky on 3pt D last night - even shooting deep, tough threes you expect better than...7%).

Long term 2pt defense can be pretty reliably predicted based on two factors 1) block rate (which directly leads to missed shots but is a fairly good predictor of how contested non-blocked shots are) and 2) mix of shots at the rim vs. midrange.

If you ran a regression on those two factors, you'd get a pretty well fitting model.

Michigan doesn't have the block rate to be elite at 2pt defense, but they do force the right mix of midrange vs. at-the-rim shots to be very good.

They were tracking at an unsustainably good level through November (remember the chart here with plotted block rate vs. 2 pt % defense for previous elite 2pt defense teams?) and that swung a little to the unlucky side in December.

They're still at 42.4% on the season which is good for 11th in the country and is still probably a little on the lucky side given their underlying profile (i.e. not an elite shot blocking team).


January 4th, 2019 at 1:08 PM ^

--Team might improve without gallbladders (might have improved nutrition b/c limiting fat in their diet, may eliminate taco bell runs). 

--Without colons, hydration would be key, but in BBall might work (football would be tougher). 

--An all dialysis team would be challenged; but what a human interest story! 

Toe Meets Leather

January 4th, 2019 at 1:08 PM ^

I generally agree with you but I think he can put in a few short minutes without too much downside.  He is solid defensively but the offense seems to almost come to a complete halt whenever he is in. Hopefully increased with increased minutes this season the offensive issues will get ironed out and he will be serviceable enough if Teske and/or Livers get into foul trouble/injured.


January 4th, 2019 at 2:45 PM ^

I actually think fans have been raising the bar which now requires the lowering you suggest.  How about “still a lot better than Mark Donnal” as a bar or “close but not quite Teske early 2017-2018 season”.

I think Davis can have an important role vs. the MSUs and Wisconsin’s of the world.  It also appears that he will struggle - more so than Teske - against smaller/faster teams which is why Livers and hopefully Johns (eventually) are important as well.

Brian Griese

January 4th, 2019 at 3:41 PM ^

What did he do yesterday that was bad?  I think 'fine' was a fair assessment.  I thought he was pretty darn solid in the first half; in the second he did get two quick fouls but one was him trying to help Iggy when a PSU player (I forget which one) spun around him and Davis couldn't quite get there in time to establish position.  Of course, we'd love to see a Ben Wallace move where he not only gets there in time but also blocks the shot onto the moon.  But given that Ben Wallace is not disguised as Austin Davis, I thought he was far from 'not disastrous' personally.  


January 4th, 2019 at 2:21 PM ^

I'm a big defender of Davis, but he's not generally sure-handed.  Glad he was last night.

He is an above average defender against traditional bigs and he's a solid screener. That's why he's a perfectly suitable backup to Teske when they're playing against a traditional big.  He maximizes his talent which is all you can ask for. He works hard and is in the right spots and that's fine for a career backup.

It would be a problem if he were ever needed for more than 5-10 min a game, but on this team, he fits his role well.  The existence of Teske and the ability of Livers to play small ball 5 means he won't be needed for significant minutes this year, barring injury (knock on wood) and he allows Castleton to develop before being thrust into meaningful minutes.


January 4th, 2019 at 3:21 PM ^

I actually disagree with you on him being good at setting screens. One of the major reasons the offense struggles mightily with him on the floor is because of that. Michigan relies on a lot of on ball screens from the big man and you will see a huge difference between when Teske is on the floor and when it is Davis there is a good amount of room for the defender to go over the top and still stay in front of the ball handler. Some of that is on the ball handler, but when I see Simpson running his man off Teske without a problem but cant with Davis, I think it is a Davis issue. It could also be that Teske and Simpson have a good synergy with it due to time working together on it, who knows. 

That being said, I think that Davis had a serviceable game last night and really handled himself well considering what we can usually expect from him. I hope that he continues to improve the way Teske has since last year, only time will tell. 


January 4th, 2019 at 2:54 PM ^

He was decent last night and converted on a few opportunities (the Poole assist most notably), but over his career I wouldn't call Davis "sure handed".  Dude has fumbled a lot of great entry passes.  I still think he's a perfectly adequate backup but I don't see a ton of upside.  But hey, bigs develop slowly so we'll see what happens.  


January 4th, 2019 at 12:54 PM ^

Funny I was just thinking before the game that Chambers has to be on thin ice. Penn State has had three coaches since 1995. His two predecessors each got eight years, and had at least one NCAA appearance. Chambers has none, and this is his eighth year. He may not last the season.

The line between failing and succeeding in college basketball is thin. They played like a top 30 team, at least, in March of 2018 winning seven of eight (including two in the Big Ten tournament, then running the table in the NIT). They could/should have won their first two Big Ten games this year. 


January 4th, 2019 at 12:58 PM ^

This is typical of college basketball at the Big Ten level, not weird at all.  Even a lower tier team like PSU has some decent players and decent coaching.  It is difficult to blow them out.  They will put up a fight and make some shots.  A comfortable double digit win is perfectly fine.

As an early huge fan of Poole who saw great things in his future, I am not surprised by his progress.  He has an extra gear or level to his game which shows up on both sides of the ball.  I am still disappointed he didn't see more minutes last year but it was probably understandable given his freshman flaws and talent in front of him. 

Reggie Dunlop

January 4th, 2019 at 12:59 PM ^

I've stared at that last section for 10 minutes and still have no idea what the hell it's doing in this post. Some random coach of some generic mid-major is having a somewhat subpar year incrementally below his middling career averages?  


Brian Griese

January 4th, 2019 at 1:34 PM ^

It's to point out that basically overnight Savannah State went from the bottom tier in terms of tempo to the absolute fastest or second fastest team in the country, yet it has done really nothing in the grand scheme of things to make them in any better as their overall team ranking really hasn't changed much, and in fact went down this year.  

Think Dantonio waking up tomorrow and hiring a Chip Kelly clone, having the offense go from suck to stink but watch your defense go from borderline elite to Rutgers quality.  In the end, the team is no better and you look silly.  


January 4th, 2019 at 3:14 PM ^

The guy flipped the switch on his entire coaching style midway through a tenure at the same school which is inexplicable.  It was literally like he threw up his hands up on everything he had done in three years and figured, welp, let's try something totally different. 

He increased the number of possessions his teams play per game by 25% (mid-60s to low 80s), which is bonkers, and he did it by literally choosing to not play defense anymore and then jack up threes as quickly as possible.

Hence the mid-life crisis joke.  Jokes tend to work better without explaining it in too much detail.


January 4th, 2019 at 4:48 PM ^

In complete isolation - what Chambers can be rationalized.

In the bigger picture - as Brian pointed out, PSU was playing fairly well in the 1st half.  Dread made a defensive mistake.  It happens.  A good coach, especially with a team that is underdogs on the road against a very good team, should be building his players up during the game itself.  Point out the mistake, sure, but quickly pivot and focus on the positive.  Make them believe they can hang with the very good opponent they are up against. 

Chambers reaction - it had to have sent the opposite message.

Look at Pittsburgh basketball this year - the difference between Kevin Stallings (a complete nutcase, and someone who Chambers was seemingly emulating last night) and Jeff Capel.  I doubt Pitt's going to the NCAA this year, but they're substantially better versus the train wreck of the last 2 years.  And I think much of that is simply due to the demeanor --- the demeanor, not the Xs and Os --- of their coach.


January 4th, 2019 at 1:37 PM ^

There was not just one but many SportsCenter highlights in that game.  On the M side, Poole had two within seconds of each other:  first the pull-back instant 3-pointer, second the sudden, no-look behind the back pass for 2 (under the basket!) to whomever it was.  It was an incredible and exhilarating exhibition!

Unfortunately, perhaps the most noteworthy highlight was a lowlight:  Chambers hitting one of his players during a second half timeout.  We expected him to be fired or at least suspended for some games.  That was totally uncalled for, no matter what the player did wrong. At this level, it is only a game.