swoop! [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Unstructured Gentleman Comment Count

Brian January 7th, 2019 at 1:18 PM

1/6/2019 – Michigan 74, Indiana 63 – 15-0, 4-0 Big Ten

Midway through the Penn State game Jordan Poole poked a pass into the PSU backcourt, corralled the ball before it got out of bounds, and attacked PSU's center with a nasty step-through that drew an appreciative "aouww" from play-by-play guy Jason Benetti. Poole got fouled, giving Dan Dakich the opportunity to neatly define Poole's ineffable Poole-ness:

"I guarantee you that he played so much basketball without a coach, or without a ref, or without a scoreboard. Just playing. Where out of bounds is the grass, or out of bounds is the street … there's such a difference between guys who just play and guys who are manufactured by a trainer."

Nobody will ever accuse Jordan Poole of being manufactured. His newly-activated driving game doesn't go in straight lines. It wanders all over the neighborhood like a Family Circus comic, leaving the befuddled in his wake. Watch question marks sprout from the heads of Indiana defenders:

Watch four different Indiana defenders form an honor guard for him as he swoops to the rim:

Watch this guy's best Nick Ward impression:

In one buttoned-down Bob Knight sense that last clip is not the right play. The right play is the kickout to an open 40% three point shooter in the corner. The off the dribble semi-contested jumper is a worse shot. The laws of math say pass. The laws of coaches with slicked-back hair and anger issues say pass.

The laws of basketball demand otherwise, and Jordan Poole is ruled by those and those alone. To not complete the highlight would be the gravest sin. To not take the heat check is unthinkable, because the heat check might go down. And then! And then, well, I mean. You know. The entire arena collapses, overdosed on swag.

This, I think, is what John Beilein meant last year when he said that Poole was a strange player for him to coach. His career has been built by taking limited athletes and drilling them on the basics until they're the kind of regimented outfit that never finishes outside the top 10 in turnover rate. There's a certain mechanical aspect to what Michigan does. This is completely, obviously fine. But with limited exceptions its the system that makes the players go. These days NBA evaluations of Michigan players come with Beilein-is-too-good-at-systems disclaimers.

Poole does stuff that makes your palms itch. Then the shot goes in and you have to pretend that you were on board with the departmental reorganization all along. Yes sir, promoting a technical superstar who's worn the same silvery sweatpants for four years to management is a good idea. Yes sir, that contested NBA three with 20 seconds on the shot clock was within the bounds of the gameplan. Carry on.

You can't yell at a guy for shot selection when he's hitting 60%/47%. Half of those threes are from NBA range. In four Big Ten games Poole is 17/21(!) from two. As the season moves along here his usage is ticking upwards and his efficiency is holding steady.

The swag is approaching uncontained levels. So Poole's a weird guy to coach when you've spent your career being the best fundamentals coach in basketball. But you can't tamp down the swag and expect Poole to remain Poole. A tame unicorn is just a horse.

[After THE JUMP: Brandon Johns reporting for duty]




Morgan contained. Juwan Morgan finished with 25 points but required 25 shot equivalents to get there; with no assists and three turnovers Michigan held his ORTG under 100. (On 58% usage! Earlier this year Carsen Edwards had 50% against Michigan and I marveled. I didn't think I'd see that broken a few games later.) In one game they tanked Morgan's 2PT% from 74% to 70%.

And even so I clapped my hands in frustration a couple times at his makes, particularly one where Teske had put Morgan under the basket and he still managed to get a reverse layup in from there. Dude is a dude. Michigan did about as well as you can on him, and in adverse circumstances. Speaking of…


and introducing… [Campredon]

Center so fast you'll freak. Brandon Johns: hello. 13 minutes due to Livers's absence and foul trouble for Teske and Davis. 4/5 from the floor, three offensive rebounds, five defensive rebounds, and one eye-opening block on Morgan. His makes were all at the basket, often off pick and roll slips; a couple were contested shots where Johns was able to finish through contact. He also took off for a eyebrow-cocking dunk from a couple steps inside the free throw line.

Johns got some time against Clifton Moore, who's so deep of a bench guy that he didn't make the nine-deep player chart in the preview and was one miss and one foul away from a seven-minute trillion. But he also chipped in against Morgan.

Austin Davis had a catch and finish and was able to force Morgan to attempt some tough shots. He also had four fouls in four minutes. The post-game consensus that Johns should be the backup five is probably correct.

The "probably": there were a number of possession with Johns on the court that bogged down seemingly because Johns didn't know exactly what to do as the screener in Michigan's offense. People still have to wave at him to do stuff sometimes, and then the timing's off and your action is relatively easy to defend. There was a four or five minute stretch in the second half with Teske on the bench where Michigan was able to scrape out a couple buckets but they came after some ugly offense.

FWIW, Johns is a shooter. He was a 70% FT shooter in high school and hit 31% of his threes. A couple of years of Beilein refinement and he should be an able stretch five.

The skyhook king. Zavier Simpson hit three more in this game; he missed a couple but has to be shooting those at a 60% clip. Several offensive sets saw Simpson drift to the left corner so he could get those swooping drives in that end with the hook. That was the source of some undefined consternation as I watched Michigan's offensive sets and couldn't put my finger on what was weird about them. It was that: Simpson in the corner, off the ball.

I eagerly await the upcoming story about Simpson developing that hook by playing HORSE with his dad all summer.


Matthews vs Langford: W [Campredon]

Matthews makes his case.  Romeo Langford was a bit more efficient than Morgan but a couple of his buckets were on confused switches. Those buckets count but aren't really about Matthews's ability to guard. When not exploiting a couple of uncharacteristic mental errors from Michigan, Langford was 2/7 inside the line. He was 6/6 from the line but Matthews only had one foul, against four steals.

Meanwhile on the other end: 5/12 from two, 2/3 from three, 2/3 from the line, three OREBs, two assists, no turnovers. Matthews also drew the two quick fouls on Langford that made him sit for much of the decisive first ten minutes. He poked the ball loose on IU's first possession; Langford grabbed him. Then he drove baseline with his left hand for an and-one a couple minutes later.

Matthews matched up against a lottery pick and won. Langford's still going to go higher in the draft because he's three years younger. I think I'd rather have Matthews for this season of college basketball. He's not as efficient as Langford on offense but I don't think there's a comparison on the other end of the floor. Indiana stuck Langford on Eli Brooks whenever he was out there. QED.

Meanwhile, please don't look at the following sentences directly, perhaps approach them with some side eye: halfway through the regular season Matthews has gone from a 55% FT shooter and 31% 3P shooter to 62% and 35%, which is the incremental improvement we were hoping for before the season.

Matthews makes his face. Matthews continues adding to his legacy as one of the best facial expression guys of the Beilein era.



Livers update. Sounds like this might be a little bit longer term than hoped:

"I thought we made progress because I think the training staff took some steps to relieve the pain and loosen things up," Beilein said. "I thought we were making progress but it wasn't enough for him today. … If he says, 'No,' (he can't play), he says no. That's up to him and we trust him 100 percent."

Livers participated in warmups but did not seem fully healthy. He didn't dunk, for example, and often shot 3s as his teammates accelerated towards the basket.

"I'm not worried that it's going to be lingering but if in four days he hasn't gotten better, we may look at other (treatment) methods and let the doctors take care of it," Beilein said.

Michigan next two games are at Illinois and home vs Northwestern so they can probably get away with sitting him for those two; then there's no midweek game before January 19th vs Wisconsin.

Yaklich, the conference. Threes are not going up in the Big Ten:


This may be a new conventional wisdom forming before our eyes.



January 7th, 2019 at 1:49 PM ^

to be honest i flinched when johns went up for that dunk. i thought he was gonna be short and just clang the ball of the front of the rim.

his arm just seemed to elongate like luffy from one piece for you young lads or dhalsim from street fighter for you old lads or... jesus or something like that i guess for you craig rosses.

Toe Meets Leather

January 7th, 2019 at 1:51 PM ^

If this team improves in February as Beilein teams tend to do, the sky is the limit and you almost have to expect Final Four.  I am excited to see some real tests with Wisconsin and MSU in the not so distant future.


January 7th, 2019 at 1:55 PM ^

I noticed the same thing about Johns looking a bit lost on offense when he was out there in the second half (I missed the first half).  Things bogged down but they managed a few buckets and never let Indiana spark a run. 

Also, I'm pretty sure Jordan Poole is too short to play in the NBA next year.


January 7th, 2019 at 7:19 PM ^

Yeah, he did look a bit lost at times (to be expected) but he brought some bounce and athleticism that makes me really excited about his future.

One thing I will say is that there are kind of two backup center roles: the small ball center and the backup against traditional bigs.

The small ball center is still probably going to be Livers when healthy.  It's a question of whether Johns is the right guy to defend big bodied bigs while knowing all the rotations.  Davis does this reasonably well.

Seems like the coaches might know what they're doing so they'll use the right rotations.

Robbie Moore

January 7th, 2019 at 2:00 PM ^

If Iggy sticks around for a second season imagine a front court of Teske, Johns and Iggy. With Livers who could back up all three positions. In the words of the late great Dick Enberg "Oh my!"


January 8th, 2019 at 12:57 AM ^

Livers would start in that scenario, barring an incredible leap from Johns.  Let's not get carried away.  The guy just got his first meaningful minutes all year. He's a long way from passing Livers in the pecking order.  He would play 20 minutes backing up Livers and Teske and that'll likely be the case whether Iggy comes back or not.

The 3 position will be interesting next year. Assuming Iggy leaves (likely but not a given) I think we'll play a combo of Z/Brooks/DeJulius at the guard spots and put Poole at the three with Nunez backing up, unless one of the incoming freshmen is ready (which would be a very pleasant surprise).



January 9th, 2019 at 2:01 AM ^

Excellent point about the 3 next year. Matthews is very much the straw that stirs the drink on this team. It's been lost a little bit because of all the other pieces U-M has, but having a 3 who can get buckets and stifle the opponent's alpha is the single biggest difference between this team and the Zak Irvin-era ones.

Go Blue in MN

January 7th, 2019 at 2:15 PM ^

I've been in the wait-and-see camp on Davis, but yesterday convinced me that Johns should be ahead of him.  I'm sure he'll have his bad moments, but with more playing time he should continue to improve between now and March.  Against teams with very large bigs, we still might need some minutes from Davis.


January 7th, 2019 at 2:34 PM ^

BIG quote of the year goes to:

“If I can see the rim I’m open.” --Jordan Poole

source, if you dare

matty blue

January 7th, 2019 at 2:37 PM ^

way way WAY early on this, but...matthews - B1G player of the year?

it'll almost certainly be ethan happ, right?  i mean, fine - he's a really good player, plus the voting types are going to LOVE the "he stayed all four years" narrative - but i'd still take our guy.


January 8th, 2019 at 1:30 AM ^

He was awesome yesterday but he's probably not even Michigan's player of the year (I'm not sure who is but Iggy has been the best scorer, Poole the most efficient, and Simpson maybe the most important overall).

One of Carson Edwards or Ethan Happ probably has to be B1G player of the year.  If Winston can actually do something against Simpson (but please eat him alive again Z), he has a chance as well.


January 7th, 2019 at 2:39 PM ^

Oh, Poole played a lot of pickup ball? And the other guys on the team didn't? Come on. This is awfully close to the black guys being "athletic" and the white guys being "cerebral" non-analysis. I cringed when I heard it on TV. I'll bet you anything that Iggy has played just as much pickup basketball as Mr. Poole.


January 7th, 2019 at 2:54 PM ^

Poole, Matthews, and Iggy have all shown themselves capable of offensive dominance at different periods. I remain a bit concerned about overall offensive consistency and cohesion, especially with backup bigs in the game. And the defense has cooled off a bit. But having three guys who are capable of blowing up at any time is a great luxury, and it's hard not to have sky-high hopes for March and April with this team. 

I would like more three-point shooting, though it says a lot that I'm pleased when Matthews is taking threes now. And I would like a little more passing from guys like Iggy. But this is a team that looks good and looks like it can improve on its already great form in key areas before the can't-lose games show up in a couple of months. 


January 7th, 2019 at 4:44 PM ^

Offensively: Inconsistencies are going to happen-even with the best players...it's part of the deal. 

Defensively: There is plenty of tape out there to help avoid particular trouble spots for an offense-and how best to attack. And conference play, in general, is simply more grinding and difficult.

Don't worry about Iggy. The kid knows how to win...he competes like hell...you can't coach all the (good) stuff he does intuitively for this team. He is undefeated in his college career!!!


January 7th, 2019 at 2:55 PM ^

Thanks for the article; really good take on Poole. 

One of the frustrations with college hoops in general and Michigan in particular (from a fan perspective) is how quickly guys go pro. Usually it takes awhile for players to fully understand and thrive in JB's system; as soon as they make the leap, poof! They're gone.

What I'm getting at is we'd better just accept that Iggy and Poole are probably NBA-bound, and enjoy them while they're here.

I don't blame the players at all. Just selfishly wish they'd stay longer. Imagining Jordan Poole as a senior brings fond memories of Glen Rice in '89. 

OTOH, with Coach Beilein's wizardry, there will be a new crop of guys who emerge next year. It's simply amazing how well he manages to replace/reload, despite so many early entries and a complex system.

Watching From Afar

January 7th, 2019 at 3:00 PM ^

One thing I noticed, that we're all aware of:

Simpson was in the corner at one point and Poole broke some guy's ankles, drove left and got Simpson's guy to fully commit. Poole looked like he was going to pass to Simpson and then realized who it was so he took a weird jumper that missed. It was almost like in mid-pass he decided he was better off shooting awkwardly than Simpson taking an open catch-and-shoot three.

We know the offense (most offenses anywhere) bogs down against zone defenses because there aren't as many dead eye shooters this year or guys that can just rise up and hit from the outside. Simpson not even being a threat (and his teammates knowing it) could cause some problems down the stretch IF teams decide to fully help off of him from the perimeter or IF they run into zone defenses more.


January 7th, 2019 at 3:13 PM ^

I think you're right, WFA, but I'd guess it's more "when" we face more zone, rather than "if". 

Especially for decided underdogs, hoping we have an off shooting night against a zone is their best chance for an upset.

When hot, we're unbeatable; when cold, fortunately Michigan crank up the D.

Our ferocious D should win us some ugly games, but inconsistent shooting from 3 and FT line are possibly this team's achilles heel.

Until yesterday I feared our short bench might make an injury devastating; Johns' emergence was huge.

So far, so good - and we're sure to continue to improve as the season moves on.


January 7th, 2019 at 3:52 PM ^

"Zavier Simpson hit three more in this game; he missed a couple but has to be shooting those at a 60% clip"

Brian, I honestly think you might be underestimating the percentage of hook shots he's made. If i had to guess he's hitting them at about 70%. I legit can only remember him missing a few of those off the top of my head


January 10th, 2019 at 11:18 AM ^

I'm a bit wary of this romantic narrative of Jordan Poole. There are videos of him working out early mornings summers with NBA players, taking shot after practice shot, battling through the giant hands and soft bats--guy has put in his 10,000-plus hours.

Working incredibly hard, absorbing the system AND being hugely creative, as well as gifted enough athletically to pull these things off, are hardly mutually exclusive. He IS approaching some dazzling heights now, though, no doubt about it. Got to enjoy it while we can.