Monday, January 12, 2015

Michigan 62, Minnesota 57

Well that sucked.  Another game that looked eminently winnable, and another loss.  0-4 is not a good place to be, but luckily for me I had pretty much prepared myself for this.  Yes, I got sucked in a bit and yes, I felt a bit of rage rising post game, but I beat that shit back like Link fighting Ganon.  Sorry my kids are really into watching me play Zelda games these days.  Anyway, I didn't expect a win, I kind of started to believe, but when the collapse happened I wasn't the least bit surprised and well, I pretty much was just waiting for it.  Here are ten things I liked and didn't like about that Michigan game.

1.  Back door cuts are killing this team.  It happened against Ohio State, it happened against Purdue, and it probably happened against Maryland but I slept through most of that game.  It happened again big time against Michigan.  It doesn't seem to matter if it's man or zone defense, that back door cut is just killing this team. Against Michigan there was a play I actually rewound twice to see if there was a pick, but no, it was just Dre Hollins falling asleep and letting his man go back door.  I don't want to single him out because this is a team wide issue (Carlos hi) but it's a constant problem.

2.  Mo Walker has become so good he's getting hard doubled.  Pretty much every time Walker got the ball on Saturday Michigan sent a second defender, and not in a semi double way in a hard double way.  Walkter had no choice but to pass, basically (which killed my Walker over 13.5 points bet) and it made sense because Michigan doesn't have the personnel to guard him one one hone (which is why I made the bet).  He did a good job handling it and found open teammates enough times where it should have helped, but a staggering majority of those times whoever received the pass wasn't ready to shoot.  Could have made a lot of difference.

3.  I have never seen a team throw the ball directly out of bounds as much as this team.  The Gophers turned it over 17 times in the game, and I swear at least 8 of them were balls just thrown directly out of bounds. Michigan is a decent team at causing turnovers, but this was just out of control.  I gamble kind of a lot (but always within my means!) and a rule I try to follow is never bet on a dumb team.  Baylor, LSU, and any team coached by Bruce Weber usually fall into this.  The Gophers are trending in this direction.

4.  Carlos Morris could end up being really good.  Morris is on a really good run.  Outside of the Maryland game (which I slept through) he's managed to take his chucker tendencies and turn them into scorer tendencies (this difference is not missing as much).  He can hit the outside shot, he loves to drive to the rim, and against Michigan he showed off a very nice post game on a possession which had me like whoa (he did a very nice fake into an up and under which I didn't know he had in him).  Morris can score, and there was little doubt of this from day 1, but he's started doing it in a a way that fits the offense. Next year, when he's the clear #1 option (and he will be) he could seriously end up with a spot on an all Big 10 team.  For real.

5.  That being said, Morris's jump pass is killing me.  One thing you can say about Morris is the boy is confident. When he gets the ball and decides it's scoring time he's going to go to the rim and I am fully in favor of it.  The problems is, besides the sometimes really bad shots, is that if he doesn't have a shot he'll jump and look to pass.  If someone is open he great, good play dude.  But when there's no one around he's suddenly finding himself in the air with nowhere to go.  It's not good.  Or, at best, rarely good.

6.  Derrick Walton's jumper is beautiful.  Is it Ray Allen beautiful?  Of course not, don't be ridiculous, but it's a good looking shot.  I know the stats say the long two is the worst shot in basketball and I don't dispute that, but there are some guys who can just hit it enough to make it worthwhile.  Walton looks like he's going to be one of those guys.  I wish there was a way to get stock on a guy in a way that actually made money, because I'm telling you right now Walton is going to be an absolute superstar by the time he's out of Ann Arbor.  You heard it hear first.

7.  The Gophers got killed on the boards.  I know the final numbers show Minnesota winning the rebound battle, but man they got smoked on so many by a team that's basically running a four guard lineup.  Michigan doesn't crash the o-boards, but the got 31% of their own misses against a season average of 26% (including the Minnesota game).  There were just too many times a Michigan missed shot resulted in the Wolverines keeping the ball, which is a killer against a team that thrives in transition.  On a list of ways to lose the game, giving up offensive boards should have been near the top.  The Wolverines only shot 22% from three, which should have been a big part of a Gopher win, but giving up second chances negated that.

8.  Michigan does a great job of taking away passing lanes.  They did this in both man-to-man and that 1-3-1, but the whoever is on top for Michigan does a great job of making the offense reset.  They don't necessarily try to steal the ball, but whenever a Gopher guard on the wing was trying to pass back to the point the Michigan defender was always in the way, making the pass go much further towards half court than the Gophers would like and effectively making them start the offense over.  When Michigan switched to the 1-3-1 it was even more pronounced, and unfortunately no Gopher other than Nate Mason understood you need to attack the gaps rather than just work it around the perimeter.  Really, Mason impressed me with his understanding of what needed to be done, but he was the only one.

9.  Elliott Eliason is broken.  There as a play as the game wound down where somebody (and I wish I had the game recorded right now to rewatch this) left the ball off for him and it should have been a one dribble and dunk situation.  Instead it resulted in something else bad which I don't remember because he was just so hesitant.  I know he's not a good offensive player, and that's just who he is, but at point Elliott seemed to realize that he could score in the right situation and was seeming to develop into a competent player.  I have no idea what happened to the man, but he's become nothing more than a back-up center who can grab some rebounds sometime.  The difference between who he was early last season and who he is now is staggering, and it's impossible to not wonder what happened with the coaching here.  And yes, this is my first questioning of Pitino and staff I think.  It happens.

10.  I remember talking with someone and saying the Gopher might have the best back court in the conference.  They sure aren't playing like it.  Dre Hollins is basically playing the same as last year statswise, and he's shooting well but he has seemed to resign himself to being a jump shooter and isn't driving anymore (though you'll notice when the team is playing well it's when he's driving more) and Dre Matheiu is turning into a guy who won't shoot, even though he's a good shooter and who can't take care of the ball.  Both are scoring less than last season, and both have disappeared at times.  Despite a hot first half Hollins is still shooting like hell at just 10-46 (7-29 from three) in conference play and he's at 7 assists and 7 turnovers in those games.  Mathieu might even have been worse - he's totaled 17 turnovers in B10 games against just 8 assists.  I think everyone knew that these two were the key to the Gophers' season, and it's turning out that way.  If things are going to get turned around, it has to happen here.

11.  Extending this to eleven just because I have to mention Joey King  Oof.  Didn't shoot well, didn't rebound, and turned the ball over like it was his job.  One key play towards the end of the game he dove for a ball on the ground and gained possession (good!), had enough wits about him to not call timeout since the Gophers were out (smart!), and, despite multiple teammates around him, was unable to get the ball to one of them, leading to Michigan possession (bad!).  It was a huge play at that stage of the game.  I know King is just crazy inconsistent and he's never going to be anything resembling a competent ball handler, but he's been brutal.  Do you realize he has had more than one rebound in just one of the last five games?  He's 6-9 for christ's sake.  Ridiculous.

0-4 is a pretty major hole to dig your way out of, but it can be done.  Kenpom still projected the Gophers to finish the conference season at 8-10, and if they could basically do that but steal just one game they aren't supposed to win (without the corresponding bad loss) that's 9-9 and in the ballpark for an NCAA bid.  They'll probably need to go 10-8 to feel good, which means a whole lot of winning and it starts Tuesday night against Iowa.  The Hawkeyes have been solid this year (11-5) without a single bad loss (Texas, Syracuse, Michigan State, Iowa State, Northern Iowa) and two outstanding road wins (North Carolina, Ohio State).  Yes, they won both at Columbus and Chapel Hill, so I don't think they're going to automatically wilt because it's Williams Arena.  The Gophers will have to play well.  The Hawkeyes like to play fast, so this should be a fun game at least.

Minnesota 80, Iowa 77.

Iowa 75, Minnesota 66


Craig said...

Glad I found this site. Been reading it for about a year now. BUT! You have to stop picking the Gophers to win. They seem to play better when you pick them to get blown out. So take one for the team and make it; Iowa 75 Minnesota 66.

WWWWWW said...

Good idea.

rghrbek said...

I agree with Craig. All MN sports have a tainted stink (yes I mean smells like taint). I am glad you changed your pick. Pitino was kind of a dinkus yesterday to media. Good, he should feel a little pressure and get these guys to play better on D. There is talent here, not so much defensively, but we need to get Mathieu going. I am done waiting for Austin's little bro to come around. He is what he is. Liability on defense, and a well below average jump shooter, who makes free throws. Great....

God do I hate Iowa and I hope the gophers never break out those Iowa knock off unis again....discraceful.

Craig said...

My apologies. This team is collapsing. Maybe predicting a tie will work. I'm going to get drunk and watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.