Five Key Plays: Minnesota at Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Trey Burke’s eight made field goals

Burke was a dominant offensive force in this game and carried the team as other Michigan players struggled. Burke scored 27 points on just 11 shot attempts and while he scored nine points from the free throw line he was also efficient from the field. Burke thrived off the pick and roll but also knocked down a pair of three point jumpers. This clip does a great job of demonstrating the many ways that Burke can be an effective scoring option off the screen and roll. He can take the ball all the way to the rack, finishing through contact, but he’s also routinely efficient knocking down the 15-foot pull up jump shot over bigger defenders. It’s a different screen and roll look than Michigan ran with Morris, who was more effective using his size to find the rolling man, but it’s equally difficult to defend. The performance was good enough for Burke to not only be named Big Ten freshman of the week but also earn co-Big Ten player of the week honors.

Michigan’s five point possession with 12 minutes to play

Michigan seemed to play tougher than Minnesota in this game and nothing was more emblematic of that observation than this possession. Minnesota had cut the Wolverine lead to just one point and, as they did all day, the Wolverines responded. Michigan had a rare five point possession thanks to two offensive rebounds and a loose ball foul on Rodney Williams. There’s plenty of praise to go around in this sequence. Smotrycz helps tip the first miss out, draws the foul on Williams during Douglass’s three and secures the second missed shot for before making a smart pass to a cutting Novak. Douglass realizes that his defender lost track of him and knocks down the three with confidence from deep. Zack Novak might make the most heads up play by realizing that Williams started drifting down the floor and cutting straight to the bucket.

Late Minnesota threes

Minnesota averages four made threes per game but knocked down eight in this slow paced 58 possession game. The Gophers ran a lot of sets where they would screen away from the ball to free up a shooter drifting to the wing who would usually receive a kick out pass from the post. All three of these triples involve Zack Novak getting picked off and freeing up enough space for a jump shot. In the first half, Smotrycz got caught on several of these screens as well. John Beilein mentioned that Michigan hadn’t seen or even practiced against these looks and noted that they are difficult to defend. Michigan likes to help down around the post with their guards, which perhaps makes it even more vulnerable in this sort of set.

Hardaway knocks down a pull up jumper with 36 seconds to play

It’s no secret that Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled in this one, playing what might have been his worst game of the season, but this is just a big time shot. Michigan is up by a point after securing a huge defensive stop on the other end and Minnesota tries to put Michigan off balance by going with the 3-2 zone. The Wolverines react, John Beilein praised Burke for quickly changing the play, and Hardaway makes the shot. The first option was Hardaway shooting a three, using Morgan’s screen to free himself in the corner, but Hardaway comes back to his right to re-use Morgan’s screen and seal and buries the jumper over Rodney Williams. Hardaway was 1 of 13 before this shot but you have to love that he had confidence to take the shot and knocked it down.

Michigan’s final two defensive stops

Michigan’s defense struggled at times in the second half. The Gophers were getting open looks and knocking them down, forcing the Wolverines to match their production on the opposite end and keep the game within a couple possessions. These are the sort of defensive possessions that win games in the Big Ten and Michigan battled throughout the entire shot clock on both plays. Morgan plays great defense on both possessions. On the first he bodies up Sampson, preventing him from getting strong position, and on the second he helps on the screen and roll while forcing Welch to the perfect position on the baseline before grabbing Williams missed three off the rim.

  • DB

    Are any of those Minnesota 3s off of moving screens?  I’m especially talking about the 2nd one.  I know they would be illegal if a ball handler was going around, but is the rule different when it is just a shooter?

    • ChathaM

      I believe the screen on the 2nd play was clearly illegal, as the screener kept sliding/stepping into the defender as the play developed. Beilein was questioning the official about it when the play came back to the other end, and was also questioning Gary Williams about it post-game. 

    • Yeah… The second one definitely looks like a moving screen to me. Stu was funny after the game, emphasizing that he didn’t think any of the screens were illegal. Of course, if they weren’t why would he have to mention it? As @4832e9a07febc8d3dad08ddb9663da73:disqus mentions below, Beilein was all over the official after the second one. I think I even saw him do a little shuffle imitating the Minny pick.

      • SamGoBlue

        Yeah, I definitely saw Beilein imitate the Minny screens with a little shuffle when the refs came down to the other end of the court on two occasions. Beilein clearly didn’t like them and the second one looks blatantly illegal, but unfortunately the illegal pick is one of the rarer foul calls in basketball.

        • ChathaM

          I agree that it’s an extremely rare call. If anyone else was watching the Piston/Magic game tonight, that’s why the 6th foul call on Dwight Howard was so shocking; an illegal screen called in the final few minutes of a game. It was clearly illegal, but you just don’t see that called; especially in the NBA. 

          • SamGoBlue

            Absolutely no comparison between the NBA and college basketball though. Completely different games.

    • sane1

      Smotrycz pushed off on the offensive rebound in the 5 point trip sequence.

    • MGoTweeter

      that is one of the plays that drive me crazy yet I don’t know what the correct call is.  A lot of teams use the “roll” off a screen to basically push the defender out of the play.  MSU is well known for this in their sets, as they like to run fade screens for their shooters and then the screener rolls to the basket and takes the defender who he screens with him.  It is a near impossible play to defend unless you switch but then you are left with a guard on a big in the post.  Not to mention the switch is hard on your big guarding the screener, since he should be inside the screener at the time and therefore will have a tough time getting out to contest the shot.  

      Although I think on both of them against Minny the screener was only trying to get in the way and not move on with a roll (so both were moving screens), an argument could be made on the second one that the guy was trying to roll towards the basket.  The first I thought was more illegal as the screener continued to move in his screening stance as Novak tried to get around.  

      Whatever the case, most screens are often illegal by the rules and defenders just need to be smarter and tougher when it comes to fighting through them.  I said this earlier in the year, but Michigan is really bad at getting through screens.  Mostly because the defense is built around collapsing inside and over-helping, so a lot of times defenders are just caught in bad spots where it is difficult to recover through screens.

  • Wayman Britt

    I like that Morgan has some nice rebounds, but he needs to cut down on his TO’s.  With Horford out we really need him to step up.  Would like him to take the ball up strong on put backs.

    • Mith

      Yeah, Morgan makes me crazy.  I find myself yelling at him after TO, but then seconds later he gets a nice offensive board and I’m happy again.  He usually follows that up with a TO or bad shot…

  • Joel_C

     6th key play: Gus Johnson’s commentary

    • Sven187

      Overrated as usual.

  • Mattski

    I know that Morgan had his ups and downs, but his D was terrific on the last two plays in #5.

  • Sven187

    An update on Peyton Allen’s X-mas tourney games.

    He had 28 against Belleville Althoff in the consolation semifinals.

    He followed that with a game high 17 against conference foe Lincoln in the consolation finals.

  • rlcBlue

    Polls are out; M at #13 in ESPN/USA Today, #16 in AP.

    ESPN’s Eamon Brennan says:

    “the Wolverines are blatantly overranked, more than any other team in the poll”

    He goes on to say that if we win Thursday we can start talking about deserving to be in the top 15. Seems to me that if beating IU in Bloomington is a prerequisite for being in the top 15, you’d have to consider Kentucky and tOSU blatantly overranked, too…

    Brennan likes KenPom (don’t we all?) but when the #1 team in his rankings can lose, at home, to #130 and stay at #1 it should be a loud warning to take the rankings with several grains of salt.

    • Guest

      Upset does happen, but over the long run, KenPom rankings tends to equalize and is a pretty good predictor on predicting national champion.

      • rlcBlue

        The key phrase being over the long run. At this point, almost all the data is from the non-conference schedule.

        But I have to admit that Wisconsin’s repeated faceplants in the NCAA tournament (eliminated in 4 of the last 5 tournaments by teams ranked an average of 31.5 spots below them; have never defeated a higher ranked team in the tournament) make me wonder if the rankings are just a mite bit unreliable when it comes to teams that play extremely slowly – or perhaps just when it comes to Bucky Badger. Hence my amusement when #1 Wisconsin loses at home to a mediocre Iowa team but stays at #1. It’s not that I think the formula is biased, but that it may be more descriptive than predictive.

    • Mith

      I don’t have a problem with his statements, I certainly don’t feel like we’re a Top-15 team yet.  We still don’t have any wins of note, we just keep winning the games we probably should win. 

      • rlcBlue

        Yeah, I’m being an oversensitive fanboy. The two polls are way more complimentary than the more statistical ratings but I’ve been rehearsing the excuses for so long that I’ve started to believe them :).

    • umnyc

      As much as it bothers me, Brennan is right. Memphis losing to everyone doesn’t help our cause. It’s a total longshot for us to win in Bloomington, but not out of the question. I’m confident coach will have us ready to play. Need to come away from this week with at least a split tho.

    • Mattski

      I don’t think this is an easy team to draw a bead on, especially since a different player has emerged to lead so many nights thus far. That’s obviously a strength–it’s a smart team that can find lots of ways to win. And I bet we don’t get blown out too often. But we don’t look very rugged, either, especially for games when we’ll want muscle underneath. (I see tenacity but maybe not physical toughness, if that makes any sense.)

      I just want us to squeak into the tourney and really be gelling like other Beilein teams at tourney time. 

  • Inigo

    This was probably posted elsewhere but what is the situation regarding Horford’s redshirt? I know there is a rule regarding the % of games played but wasn’t sure on how that applies to the amount he played.

    • Inigo

      Assuming he doesn’t come back this year. Can you tell I know very little about the situation?

      • jturn14

        I can’t confirm this, but someone in another thread last week said that Horford  is one game under the maximum for a medical redshirt. So if he can’t come back this season, he won’t lose any eligibility.

    • MGoTweeter

      the rule is less than 30% for bball.  Since Horford has only played in 9 games and Michigan plays 31 regular season games (not sure if they count postseason or not but i assume not), he would be eligible to apply for a medical hardship waiver/redshirt.