Notebook: Irvin’s passing, Wagner’s shot

Andrew Kahn

After dealing with the flu, Zak Irvin has struggled the past two games. In addition to his shooting woes, he’s totaled five assists against six turnovers. For the season, his assist and turnover rates are the highest of his career (slightly higher than last season), but he’s forced too much lately.

John Beilein said the issue may sound like a contradiction: “His assist numbers are down because he’s looking to assist too much. As a result, everyone plays him to pass. Especially in the ball screen, he has to be more aggressive. That’s the way he was last year.”

Beilein likes how Irvin, at 6’6”, can see over the defense coming off ball screens. He wants Irvin to have a scorer’s mentality and set up a teammate if a second defender shows, not drive with the intent to pass.

That typically hasn’t been a problem for Irvin. Earlier in the season, he said, “My mindset coming off ball screens is to score.”

His three-point shot has been inconsistent this year, but he’s proven effective in the mid-range and at the rim as well.

Beilein said Irvin’s recent performances on the shooting gun during practice have been “tremendous.”

“He’s got to get through this (rough spell) and get some confidence back,” Beilein said. “If you go and make 500 shots on the gun, you can get your confidence back.”

As Beilein touched on last week, Irvin has earned the right to play through his mini slump.

“That young man has done so much over his four years. We’ve ridden that horse a long time. We’re not getting off that horse. He’s still going to have great opportunities.”

Moe’s arc

Moritz Wagner is shooting 41 percent (26 of 63) from three this season. But he’s just 1 of 7 over his last three games. There is at least one airball during that stretch and several more that weren’t all that close.

If you’ve thought his shot trajectory has been particularly high lately, it’s not your imagination. John Beilein noticed it too, and had Wagner practice using technology that measures arc.

The optimal shooting arc is between 43 and 47 degrees. Wagner’s was at 53 degrees at the start of yesterday’s practice. By the time he was done, he got the arc down and found much greater consistency. It’s a technique Beilein often uses with a player who is struggling with his shot (if a player is shooting well, Beilein leaves him alone).

“He’s got to get the seams (of the basketball),” Beilein said. “He didn’t have good rotation. (He was) trying to shoot too quick. If he’s got to shoot that quick, he probably shouldn’t shoot it.”

Wagner was appreciative of the guidance. “He’s a fantastic coach in terms of shooting. That’s his baby I would say.”

As Wagner proved he could hit the open shot, opponents haven’t left him as much as they did earlier in the season. Tomorrow’s opponent, Michigan State, didn’t give Wagner many looks in Michigan’s pick-and-pop action (he was 1 of 2 from deep). But there have been several good opportunities where Wagner has simply shot the ball too high. If he can carry his recent work into the game, expect a lower launch angle and a higher rate of success.

Michigan hoping to contain Bridges

In the first meeting against the Wolverines, Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges posted 15 points, 13 rebounds, and a combined five steals and blocks in a 70-62 win. According to Beilein, containing Bridges is the key to slowing down the Spartans.

“Miles Bridges can go both ways, he can finish with both hands, and now he’s an elite three-point shooter,” Beilein explained. “It’s a really tough guard. We’re going to have to give a lot of help with him.”

While Beilein admitted that helping against Bridges can be trouble with Matt McQuaid, Alvin Ellis, and Eron Harris as capable shooters on the wings, the Wolverines might have to live with that decision after watching the athletic freshman slash to the basket with ease down the stretch during the game in East Lansing.

  • Wayman Britt

    Would much rather see Mo post up Ward and drive to the hoop than shoot threes against MSU. I think Mo could get MSU’s bigs in foul trouble. He, like the rest of the team, has settled to shoot too many threes.

    • A fair point. I think everyone would rather see the three-point shot complement the rest of his game. He was denied the outside shot against MSU last time out and did well offensively. He just needs to stay out of foul trouble.

    • Teams are realizing that if you take away the three, Wagner will get himself into trouble as often as he makes a highlight play. Against MSU he was 3-of-4 inside the arc, but he also turned the ball over 4 times. He’s shown a really limited ability to pass out of the post or on the drive.

  • bobohle

    Has Bamba said how his visits to Kentucky and Duke went. I hope not as well as the U of M visit. Maybe we can get an unofficial with him also.

    • No Walmart Fan Here.

      I would prefer Greg Elliot. Bamba is 3rd option on his highschool team. If we get him cool. If not I would live Elliot and slide Poole the 3 behind Matthews. BTW, Elk Brooks is a beast .I DONT want to hear about the back comp crap because Jamal Cain plays bad comp and we will take him in a heartbeat. If Simpson don’t step Brooks might take the thrown with Dejulius on the way ( who I really really like after seeing live a couple times). Getting Bamba would be great but in my opinion he is not a star . Don’t sleep on Isaiah livers either.

      • bobohle

        Mitch McGary was the third option on his HS team also and would have been a star if not for injuries.

        • bobohle

          I should say a bigger star.

          • No Walmart Fan Here.

            Fair assent but Mcgary was a Heleva rebounder and pretty skills. Bambas not there but if we land he will definitely do big things for IMO.

  • Chezaroo

    Going into the MSU game, Irvin has the lowest three point % of all of our rotational players. ( not counting Simpson and Watson ).

    It’s going to be a struggle for him to finish over 30% from deep if he keeps this futility up.

  • Chris De Sana

    I don’t think is a single person on this site that does not love Moe’s motor and enthusiasm for the game but the theatrics after every foul have to stop as it does not help him and it could be leading to ref’s thinking he is trying to show them up.

    As for Zak I think it is simply a case where JB’s got to call him up in the right situation, which is usually going to his right on a curl cut leading to a mid range jumper or a possible dump down to a rolling big man.

  • Justin

    How can you say Irvin has proven effective in the mid-range game. He very frequently takes really poor shots and based on that chart he’s lucky if he’s shooting 40% from mid-range. How is that effective? His eFG is 48% (9th best on the team) which is not good, and only made worse by his mid-range shooting. Irvin settling for mid-range shots on the move with his feet kicked out is not what I consider a recipe for success for this team, but then again, if we can’t defend or rebound, none of what we do on offense matters.

    • Chris De Sana

      Lets look at the chart again…..he shoots 41% from the right elbow compared to 24% from the left. I would say that is more effective. Those are the two areas of the court in which he shoots off the dribble. In addition he goes stronger to the rim going to his right so again use him where he is best is all I am asking.

      That does not mean he is an all american, just use him where he has the best chance to be successful.

      • Justin

        I was referencing the article saying he’s “proven effective” with his mid-range game. Shooting 40% is not effective at all, in fact, it’s really really ineffective. To put it into perspective. Our team eFG is 55%, which is very good, top 25 in the country. Shooting a shot, somewhat regularly for him, that has a success rate of say even 40% hurts more than it helps. Putting this further in perspective, the worst eFG% in the country as a team is 41.1%. Saying he needs to look to shoot more off the PNR from mid-range seems like a recipe for disaster offensively. If he can get to the basket, great, if he can find the open man great, but more 18 footers, no thank you.

        • Chris De Sana

          We are in agreement for the most part but Zak is going to get his minutes one way or another. My point was ifffff he is going to get his minutes and ifffff they are going to run plays for him at least run those where he has the best chance to be successful.