Posts Tagged Michigan

There is more to a championship team than “guard play”

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by jayhawktalk 1 Comment

“Guard play wins NCAA championships.”

If you’ve been around college basketball long enough, you’ve heard this old adage. It’s a very easy (read: lazy) way to attempt to understand what a team will need in order to weave its way through the madness of March and emerge victorious in April. Pundits gravitate toward it even more once the smoke of the first weekend subsides — when all that’s left is a pool of legitimate contenders.

Pundits are pundits for a reason. They are usually very capable at breaking down and analyzing a team’s makeup and then will use this analysis to help handicap and predict the team’s chances versus another team. When comparing a team against the field, however, assumptions must be made. This is when we get into the lazy adages.

This particular adage is drawn from a number of assumptions. It is first based on the premise that the tournament normally ends up coming down to guys that can create — not only for themselves but for their teammates. It assumes that the guy with the ball has the power to both make or break you. It assumes that you can game plan and strategize against a post threat, but it’s much harder to take a guard out of the game. It assumes that if you’re faced with a must-make situation, everything starts with the guard. To an extent it also assumes defense doesn’t matter.

That’s all well and good, but I ask that you allow me to introduce you to a couple of gentlemen you might have heard of. Their names are Danny and Anthony.

Danny was not a guard. He was 6’10. His height and skill set propelled him to one of the most impressive performances of all time in an NCAA tournament game — 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocked shots against OU in the 1988 Championship Game. This was no fluke. His teammates might have earned the moniker, “the Miracles,” but he was just Danny. And he was good. Darn good.

And Danny wasn’t a guard.

Anthony flew slightly lower under the radar in his MVP Championship Game performance (at least as low as he could for a 6’11 guy with a mustache above his eyes). He didn’t score 31 points. In fact, he went 1-10 from the field with six points. How does a guy with 6 points win MVP of college basketball’s most important game? Size. Effort. Rebounding. Defense. He had 16 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Not to mention the plays that didn’t show up in a box score.

I chose two examples that I thought would hit closest to home for KU fans. These are not the only instances of big guys leading their teams to NCAA championships.

Let’s fast forward to the present. KU will be facing off against a Michigan team on Friday that probably has the best guard tandem in the country. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Trey Burke are probably better than some recent tourney tandems that come to mind too — Juan Dixon and Steve Blake of Maryland, Jay Williams and Chris Duhon of Duke, Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State.

If guard play is, in fact, the best measure of success, then Kansas is in trouble.

But there’s one little thing the pundits don’t seem to want to talk about. Something that isn’t near as flashy or sexy as scoring guards.

There are 5 guys on the other bench wearing crimson and blue that take more pride in guarding than they do in scoring.

And this is dangerous.

Michigan destroyed the media’s darling in VCU — a team that some pundits said had the “best defense in the country.” This is a farce. They were the best trapping team in the country. Trapping and defense are not the same thing.

Michigan guards were salivating at the idea of facing a trapping VCU team. Much like Kansas guards were salivating at the idea of facing Mike Anderson’s UAB team in the 2004 regional semifinals. “40 minutes of hell” can be a double edged sword if you face guards that can break it. Michigan broke VCU’s 1-2-1-1 zone press with ease.

But they will not break Kansas.

The difference is that Kansas plays smothering man-to-man defense — a defense designed to take advantage of individual athleticism but has just as much of a team element as any zone defense. It is also a defense that, when run correctly, will rarely give up an uncontested basket. Last, it is a defense that is based 100% on effort, energy, and most importantly, pride.

With four senior starters and a freshman fifth unlikely to return, KU’s effort, energy and pride ought to be at an all-time high. I imagine it will result in a defense Michigan has never seen before.

Unlike VCU, Kansas doesn’t have to turn teams over to be successful. It only needs to pressure them into bad shots and then crash the hell out of the boards. This is KU’s bread and butter. And while it isn’t nearly as exciting to talk about, I believe it will prove far more important on Friday than any old adage about guard play.

When faced against top 10 defenses this year, Michigan was 2-4. And not one of those six teams included a shot blocker of any merit.

Withey may not be the next in line to be mentioned in the same sentence as Anthony and Danny. But I do believe his play is just as likely as any guard to be the reason that Kansas advances on Friday.

Stick with an adage that works.

Keep calm and Rock Chalk.



Jayhawk Talk Podcast – Michigan Preview with Brady McCollough

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments

Brady McCollough joins Kevin and Andrew for some Michigan preview talk. The guys also talk Dunk City, Cinderellas, tournament surprises, and chalk brackets. Come on in, grab a beer, and enjoy some Jayhawk Talk Podcast.

Find the show on Podbean (non-iTunes/iPad/apple/desktop) HERE.

Find the show on iTunes HERE.

If you’d like to support the show, just subscribe on iTunes, rate us some stars, and leave a comment. Thanks!

Why Michigan is a good matchup for Kansas

Posted on: March 27th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments

(Editor’s Note: The following is brought to you by JHT Contributor, @CrimsonBlueKU. Give him a follow on twitter for more KU insight. Rock Chalk!)

The Jayhawks will be arriving in Dallas Wednesday night as it prepares for Friday’s game against the Wolverines of Michigan.

Back in January when these two teams were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country (Michigan: 1, Kansas: 2), I thought this could be a potential Final Four matchup. Well, we’re seeing it in the Sweet 16 and I’m not complaining. We’re going to see Michigan’s potent offense against Kansas’ suffocating defense. It’s going to be fun.

I’m going to try and explain why this matchup is great for Kansas. Had this been Kansas/VCU Part Deux, I think it would have been a nightmare. VCU’s havoc defense would put a lot of pressure on KU’s guards and they’d force a lot of turnovers. Luckily, we don’t have to talk about that.

Michigan does a very good job of taking care of the basketball. It averages 9.3 turnovers a game — best in the nation. The Jayhawks don’t do a very good job turning teams over, forcing 12.7 per game (220th in the nation). Kansas on the other hand, as we all know, has a huge problem hanging on to the ball. Poor dribbling, bad passes, dumb mistakes. But Michigan forces less turnovers than Kansas. They don’t put heavy pressure on the guards, which is good for Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe.

Both Michigan and Kansas shoot relatively well from deep, 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively, but the Wolverines take 34 percent of their shots from outside. Kansas will have to key on Tim Hardaway (43 percent of his shots come from outside) and Nik Stauskas (60 percent). I have a feeling Ben McLemore and Travis Releford can give them all sorts of fits.

Michigan’s All-American point guard Trey Burke is fantastic. He does a good job at creating his own shot off the dribble and he shoots better than 40 percent. He does a good job at taking care of the ball and distributing to his teammates.

Where Michigan struggles is inside. If you look at the roster, the Wolverines have size, but I think Withey, Young and Ellis will give Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford fits inside. McGary is just a freshman and he’s never seen a big like Withey. Morgan gives up four inches to Withey and  Horford doesn’t get many touches. Kansas blocks 23 percent of shots at the rim, whereas Michigan only blocks eight percent. Also, Michigan allows opponents to shoot 62 percent from close while Kansas holds teams to 51 percent.

If Michigan is going to beat Kansas, it’s going to be from outside, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Shooting in a dome, especially Jerry World is much different than shooting in a regular arena. Shooters use the ceiling as markers and domes have higher ceilings, which throws off depth perception.

Kansas is the 12th best rebounding team in the nation, while Michigan is 141st. If the Jayhawks can clean up the glass on the offensive end and score-second chance points, it’s going to be difficult for Michigan.

Kansas, as we all know, is defensively sound. They’re the best team in the nation in opponent’s field goal (35.7 percent) and effective field goal percentage (41.1 percent). If anything is going to give, I believe it will be Michigan’s offense, ranked No. 2 by KenPom (120.9 points per 100 possessions). We saw Michigan State’s defense, ranked No. 6  by KenPom (86.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) shut them down.

We’ve seen Kansas struggle on offense at times, but it’s 25th in the country scoring 74.9 points per game.

Kansas’ offensive and defensive KenPom numbers are similar to Michigan State: No. 5 on defense (85.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) and No. 31 on offense (111.2 points per 100 possessions). Michigan State’s offense is 21st (113 points/100).

Michigan’s defense gives up 92.5 points per 100 possessions. John Beilein does slow it down, but they can get out and run and they’re fantastic on the fast break.

If Kansas can take care of the ball, force Michigan to miss from deep and play this game in the paint, it has a very good chance of advancing to play Florida or Dunk City on Sunday.

Rock Chalk!

Kansas: 74
Michigan: 67