Notebook: Big Ten hopes alive, point guard play, Illinois, more

Dylan Burkhardt

vic[1]Indiana handled Michigan State at home last night and preserved Michigan’s slim chances of earning a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. For now, the ball is in Michigan’s court once again. The Wolverines have to win their next two games (Thursday at Illinois and Sunday at Penn State) and then sit back and hope that Ohio State can upset Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Sunday evening. Impossible? Certainly not. Likely? Probably not so much.

Ken Pomeroy’s rankings give Michigan a 54% chance of beating Illinois and a 70% chance of knocking off Penn State. The statisticians among you will note that’s a 37.8% chance of Michigan winning out. Combine that with the 39% chance that Pomeroy’s computers give for an Ohio State upset in East Lansing and you’re left with a 14.7% chance of Michigan earning a share of the Big Ten title.

Perhaps the most important development is that Michigan will now enter its final two games knowing there’s still a share of the Big Ten title to play for. The final game against Penn State will tip off three hours before Michigan State and Ohio State get underway so the Wolverines should have plenty of motivation in the final week of play.

Photo: Dustin Johnston

The Rise of the Point Guard

Mike Rothstein wrote a great piece at ESPN regarding the rise of the ball screen in Michigan’s offense. The influx of ball screen offense began last season with Darius Morris and continues to be a focal point with Trey Burke.

“We started running more ball screens with Darius and spacing the floor,” senior guard Stuart Douglass said. “They wouldn’t help off our shooters, and they took a lot of our sets away, so the simple answer was run a ball screen out of Darius and play basically two-on-two with him and Jordan (Morgan) in there, point guard and big.

“It’s helped me out a lot, because it gives me confidence,” Burke said. “It allows me to make plays that I know I can make within myself or for others. That’s what I feel like and it definitely helps the team. “When it comes down to it, (Beilein) just tells me to make plays.”

The pick-and-roll is here to stay and Burke has done a good job thus far. He doesn’t have the size to pass over defenders like Morris but he has the more consistent outside jumpshot which helps him punish defense for going under screens and sagging into the lane. Conversely, Michigan has seemed to run fewer ball screens for Tim Hardaway Jr. of late. The 6-foot-6 sophomore had great success late last season running the ball screen from the left wing but has struggled in similar situations. The reasons why aren’t hard to figure out. Last year down the stretch Hardaway was making over 40% of his threes, this year he’s well under 30%. Defenders are sagging off of him and taking away the drop off pass to Jordan Morgan. Many of Hardaway’s turnover struggles have been from ball screen looks when he tries to force a pass that just isn’t there.

Rothstein also caught up with Darius Morris who reiterated that he has no regrets from his decision to enter the NBA draft and continues to put in work every day ($).

Fab Five Throwbacks

Last year we were treated to Jalen Rose’s Fab Five documentary around this time. This year you’ll have to settle for some throwback footage from the Wolverine Historian. Here are some offensive highlights from Michigan’s 80-73 win over Minnesota in 1993.

And some more from a ‘93 win over Penn State:

Illini Preview Michigan

Here’s footage of Brandon Paul, Meyers Leonard and Sam Maniscalco looking ahead to tomorrow night’s game at Assembly Hall.
Brandon Paul:

Meyers Leonard

Sam Maniscalco

Bruce Weber also had his weekly pre-game presser which you can watch here.

The Making of a Hype Video

Corey Person and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s hype video during the Ohio State game was a surprising success but it took plenty of contemplation and deliberation to prepare:

Vote for Merritt

David Merritt wears plenty of hats that you should be familiar with. He’s a former Michigan captain, part time contributor to UM Hoops, founder of Merit Goodness, and the voice of Michigan basketball on the radio. Merritt is nominated for the Buick Human Highlight award and needs your vote. The award is given to a former Division I athlete that’s making a positive impact in the community.

  • rlcBlue

    The conference title should be the big motivator for the team this week; for an extra push, Michigan’s seed for the conference tournament now boils down to this:
    Win one game => clinch the #3 seed (or better)
    Win two games => clinch the #2 seed

    Indiana has locked up the #5 seed. Purdue will be #6. Northwestern and Iowa will settle the #7 and #8 Saturday in Iowa City, if not sooner.

    From a strategic point of view, Michigan as the #2 seed with Wisconsin #3 and Northwestern #7 would give us a path to the championship game consisting mostly of teams we swept in the regular season. Unfortunately, that scenario is not consistent with Michigan winning a share of the B1G regular season title…

    • rlcBlue

      Oops, I misspoke – it’s still possible for Purdue to overtake Indiana for #5, but it would require the Boilermakers to win in Bloomington on Sunday. I don’t think that’s happening, but then I didn’t expect them to win in Ann Arbor, either…

  • umhoopsreader

    Hoping this becomes a non-issue after tomorrow night’s game, but was is the lowest seed Michigan could enter the B10 tourney with? Is it a 4? Lower?

    • rlcBlue

      The 4 seed only happens if we lose both remaining games, Wisconsin beats Illinois, and OSU wins one or both games. Otherwise, we get the 2 or 3.

      • Haven’t ran the tiebreakers as much as you it seems… Curious about two things.

        1. Is it possible for Michigan to get the No. 1 seed? They were talking about that on BTN last night and I didn’t think it was.

        2. What needs to happen for Wisco to jump OSU and get the No. 3?

        • rlcBlue

          1. Nope, can’t happen. There’s no way for us to win a tiebreak with MSU.

          2. Wisconsin beats Illinois and OSU loses both its remaining games. Because we and Sparty both swept Bucky Badger, they would lose any tiebreak with the Bucknuts; they must finish ahead of OSU outright to get the higher seed.

          Note that Wisconsin can still get the #2 seed if, in addition to the above conditions, Michigan loses both remaining games. Don’t want that to happen…

          • That’s what I thought about No. 1

            Any scenario where we are on the bottom half of the bracket and MSU/OSU are on the top would be alright with me. Decent consolation for not winning a share. If OSU wins tonight that option is off the table though?

          • rlcBlue

            Yep, so root for the Wildcats.

          • Evan

            No!  We need OSU playing for something against MSU.  Who cares about the Big Ten Tournament seeds?  I want to watch MSU vs OSU and actually have a chance to win the real title.

          • Mattski

            Don’t think it follows that they play poorly in East Lansing if they lose tonight. And wouldn’t an OSU loss help assure that we share the championship with just MSU, or sole possession by us of second place?

            I always have a hard time rooting for the overdog, unless it’s M.

  • serious

    Here is a question for you all:
    a) Would you rather win a share of the Big Ten Championship? or
    b) Would you rather win the Big Ten Tournament?

    Personally, I would go with option a.

    • rlcBlue

      c) All of the above.

      • serious

         d) All of the above + the NCAA Tournament.

        You should have picked that one.

    • umhoopsreader

      a) It’s been 26 years man…26 years

      • Sven187

         Yep. I’ve seen us win the BTT. I’ve never seen a conference title.

        • bird




    • Fvsdevin

      Both xD

  • JDiesel

    There was an interesting article on Grantland about the relative predictive importance of regular season title vs tournament title.  Much more likely to make the final four if you win the regular season title… So that gets my vote!

  • makes you wish we beat Purdue last Saturday.  We could have been tied for first place with the indiana win last night.  have fun boys and go blue tomorrow!!!  Let’s win baby!!