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This Week’s Obsession: Unlocking a Beilein Offense?

Tags: poole alex brian


Be the dream live the dream be the dream be the drea ive dre be the am towel. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

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Is there a way to unlock a Beilein-level offense this year?

BiSB: Play Iowa?

Seth: Make threes...wait for BOTH halves.

Ace: It’d be good to start this discussion by mentioning the main issues holding this offense back. Shooting—both three-point and free-throw—is certainly a problem, but I think the bigger one is the lack of a player other than Wagner who can regularly create off the dribble.

Charles Matthews tries but his ballhandling is not good. He’s got a 90 OTG and 23% TO rate against top-50 teams.

BiSB: And Wagner creating off the dribble, while fun and Nick-Ward-ankle-melting, isn't terribly efficient.

Ace: With that said, I’d like to present this.


(body-bag opponents removed)

Poole is the only other wing who’s shown a willingness and ability to attack the basket, and his shooting ability gives him more openings because teams have to close out on him hard. His handle is significantly better than Matthews’s — Poole’s TO rate against top-50 teams is 10%, and while that’d probably rise with a bigger role, it’s a great place to start.

BiSB: Ace, do you have an opinion on Jordan Poole you'd like to share with the class?

Ace: I’m a fan.

BiSB: But seriously, Poole is shooting 37% from three in conference play, and that is with a shot selection that is... robust. Is "robust" the right word?

Ace: Brian mentioned the direction basketball is rapidly headed in basketbullets and Poole is the guy who best fits that — a guy who can create his own shot from anywhere.

Brian: It's not really a word. It's more like a feeling.


Seth: And that's why 10,000 angry paleontologists just descended on the comments.

Brian: I'd go with "exuberant," if forced to boil Poole down into the ham-fisted thing we call language. But srs his internal monologue is yellin' aussie cowboy if anyone's is.

Seth: Ebullient.

Brian: Reserved for Winovich.



Submitted: Jordan Poole is a liquid.

BiSB: Non-Newtonian.

[After THE JUMP: We have solutions like…um…no we don’t actually.]



Alex: While I'd like to see Poole as well, we're not seeing the same action with him compared to Matthews. Beilein sends Matthews around curl screens frequently at the start of games (inclusing Wisconsin, which led to a foul), and he's given the opportunity to create in a spread ball-screen situation far more than Poole is. While Poole has a better handle and more off-the-dribble ability in terms of finding his shot, he's not a focal-point-of-the-offense type player yet. Without a guard who can be that guy, Beilein's been in more of the old Manny Harris playbook for Matthews, which exposes his flaws.

BiSB: He does have a certain "puppy who is just so excited to see everyone" quality to his game, complete with the bounding.

Ace: Alex, I’d like to see Beilein drag the offense out of that and more in the direction of Wagner high screens with Simpson or MAAR or Poole. Especially with Matthews being so bad at the line, I just don’t think there’s much of a ceiling with an offense based around him being The Guy. Poole’s got handles and some impressive passing and court vision that he’s only been able to flash so far.

Brian: Like Ace I think it goes back to shot creation, and that Michigan doesn't have much of it, and I don't think there's a quick fix for that. I was looking at Hoop-Math again and by God that late clock thing continues to loom. The gap is even bigger now, 53 to 44 eFG

Ace: Replacing Walton with Simpson will do that.

Brian: That is kind of good news because a month ago it was 50/42.

Ace: This is why I’m stanning so hard for Poole. It may not work, but he’s the guy who can change the shot creation dynamic. Also god he’s fun to watch.

Brian: Yes, but he is a bit of a... work in progress on defense.

BiSB: How much of it is just shots not falling? The Nebraska/Rutgers/Northwestern/Minnesota/Northwestern stretch (excluding the bonkers second Purdue game), Michigan went 32/122 (26%) from deep.

Ace: Poole makes some glaring mistakes but on a play-by-play basis he’s not bad. He gets a lot of steals, a surprising number of blocks, and grades out slightly better than Matthews as an on-ball defender per Synergy.

Alex: The problem is that at this point of the season, things are pretty much set in terms of role. It's not practical or really even plausible to double Poole's minutes and ask him to do way more than what he'd been doing - which is shooting, transition, residual action, and the occasional ball-screen. The 1-5 two-man game is a decent option, but Simpson isn't a high usage guy and that could lead to some problems.

BiSB: That is collectively worse than any single game from VCU through the start of that stretch

Ace: Given how the backup point guards are playing, I’d say there are minutes to be had. Also, in case it hasn’t been made clear, I’d be okay with Poole eating into a few of Matthews’s minutes.



Brian: I don't think Michigan's 3-point shot quality is as good as it usually is. Too many of those shots are an extra foot behind the line or jacks from players who aren't specialists in off the dribble threes. Poole might help a little there but he's still the kind of guy who takes over 60% of his shots from behind the arc.

Alex: I'm not sure More Poole, Less Matthews really fixes anything though. I don't have the data, but how many ball-screens per game has Poole had so far? Maybe one or two? Upping that to ten or twelve isn't likely to work.

Brian: To get shots you have to collapse and kick, and that's not really happening. Poole's assist rate is in the Duncan Robinson range.

Michigan’s corner turn this year was Z turning into a dog. [JD Scott]

Ace: I’m not saying run the offense through Poole. Simpson is good at collapse-and-kick.

Alex: I get that Matthews has been frustrating and has apparently hit a wall, but he's a creator. Not sure Poole is that - more of a gunner.

Ace: And Poole has been an absolute killer as a spot-up shooter. With the added benefit of not being Duncan Robinson on defense.

Brian: Do we have data on spot up threes from Synergy vs last year? I feel the problem is that Michigan is forced into a bunch of unassisted 3s and they don't have any unassisted 3 shooters except maybe Poole, a bench guy.

Ace: Yeah, one sec.

BiSB: Matthews is a creator, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is basically 1:1

(Don't look at Poole's numbers plz)

Alex: It kinda fell to him by default.

Ace: Not a big gap on spot-up shots. 95th percentile last year, 92nd this year.

Brian: It's worse against top 100 teams.

Ace: Main difference has been the huge drop-off in scoring by the P&R ballhandler.

And they fell off a cliff on isos.

Seth: That's Charles Matthews. He's now at 93.4 ORtg in Big Ten play via Torvik.

Ace: This is what I’m saying.

BiSB: Meanwhile, Rahk is at 119.5, with a turnover rate under 5% in conference play

And he can make those shots where everyone stands still and you get a free chance to make it but it's only worth one point

Ace: Yeah, the other option here is he really turns up the usage. He’s a weird option this year, though. Not shooting very well but his turnover rate is so tiny that he’s super efficient anyway.

Brian: But for whatever reason his usage stays stuck: 16, 16, 16, 17 over the course of his career.

Ace: He’s a little too chill.

BiSB: /Rahk meme dot jpg

Seth: Why yes I'll take credit for screencapping that.

Brian: It's really bizarre. I don't know if I've ever seen a guy show up with a 93 ORTG and then get to 112, 115, and 119 without deciding "hey, I should take more shots."

Ace: Some guys are natural role players and some guys are natural go-to guys. Guess who I think is which.

Alex: Anyways, since I couldn't get in on this at the beginning, my Eat Arby's take is that this isn't a team that can turn it up on offense unless they're in NBA Jam Fire Mode from three. Simpson and Matthews - the one and the three, basically the two players who are tasked to create the most - are better at defense than offense. Another starter, Livers, is a "play defense, rebound, and only take extremely high value shots" guy. MAAR is MAAR - and his ability to hit those tough layups against good defense is key when Michigan's struggling to get anything going. He's not a high-usage guy though and never has been. Teske is all defense and screens. Wagner and Poole are really the only sparkplugs. Michigan needs to get Moe the ball in better spots, especially when he has a mismatch. Poole is a microwave - providing the scoring that Duncan hasn't been able to for most of this season - but scaling up his responsibilities is surely going to put a large dent in his efficiency.

tl;dr The roster is what it is, and the players are better at defense than offense, which is why it's Beilein's best defensive team and a mediocre-by-his-standards offensive team.

BiSB: His two point percentage has ticked up recently. If that continues, he and Poole can combine to do a lot of the stuff they need Matthews to do

Brian: Co-sign. It is what it is.

Seth: What if Livers returns?

A Livers breakout is more of a next-year thing. [Campredon]

Ace: This has all been assuming he’s back. He’s on track for tomorrow it seems. If Livers is out we’re f’d.

Alex: Livers is all open corner and wing threes and dunks.

Brian: Livers has 14 percent usage in Big Ten play. That's not going to fix what ails the offense.

Ace: Yeah, I more meant as a team.

Brian: I expect a couple of guys to take big offseason leaps but those are... offseason leaps.

Alex: Yeah Iowa is a team you need Livers against. His breakout game came against them, but the Hawkeyes are just a motley collection of Large Basketball Men - and there are a lot of them.

Brian: Team turned this year's corner when Simpson went from a nonentity to an okay offensive player, and now they are what they are.

BiSB: Have we ruled out forcing some sort of travel difficulties right before the Big Ten Tournament?

Ace: Have we mentioned the Matthews free throw disparity on the site yet?

BiSB: Like, get the bus stuck in Manhattan traffic on the way to the Garden for like 7 hours?

Seth: Humiliated Ohio State makes off with Michigan's uniforms, team is forced to play the postseason in practice jerseys.

Ace: I guess we haven’t. Matthews is 21/50 on free throws at home, 16/22 in away games, and 17/28 at neutral sites. This may actually really help come tourney time?

BiSB: Are we sure that's not a "sample sizes do weird things, man" thing?

Alex: No.

Ace: That’s a big gap and free throws are mostly a mental thing.

Seth: We have mentioned this but I'll bring up my proposed solution again: When Charles Matthews is shooting a free throw, turn around and introduce yourself to someone in your section please. It is the most Beilein solution to a thing ever.

Ace: Just do what an away crowd does. It clearly works.

Alex: Z is the much bigger free throw issue, factoring in late game situations.

Ace: Indeed. They need the Poole/MAAR backcourt to be viable late in games.

BiSB: Or Michigan needs to get to the double bonus earlier in the game, so opponents can't initiate a Z one-and-one with like 3 minutes left

Ace: Beilein’s offense isn’t particularly conducive to that.

Alex: Teams should hack Z more. Much more. First half, late game, doesn't matter. Free throws are mental and it's pretty disrespectful to intentionally foul guys - it's telling them "we know you're a shitty free throw shooter."

Not having to fear Matthews at the free throw line has allowed defenders to get super aggressive against his ISO attempts. [JD Scott]

Seth: Hacking Z is disrespectful to the game of basketball.

Alex: Michigan's inability to get to the free throw line keeping them out of the bonus may be inadvertently helpful in that regard.

Ace: Except then the one-and-ones become empty possessions.

BiSB: Nah, a team can get you to the one-and-one whenever they want.

And... yeah, the thing Ace said

Seth: I find it terrifying going into the last few minutes at like five fouls. It's like giving the other team four possession arrows.

Ace: So they need to draw more fouls but the guy who does that best is a bad free throw shooter and dribbler.

Alex: In any case, I feel like the bad free throw shooting is relatively minor. The team's true shooting % wouldn't be helped THAT much if Z and Matthews were average - Michigan's a characteristically free throw averse team and setting different sliders on the percentage won't fundamentally change anything. Sure, it would be nice, and they would be better. But compared to a "put your head down and barrel into traffic hoping for a whistle" team...

Our best hope is that Matthews stops turning it over and Moe gets the ball more.

Ace: #FreePoole

Alex: Maybe Matthews's offensive fouls are paradoxically good. Also if Duncan could start hitting close to 50% of his threes again, that would be great. Duncan in 2016: 45%. Duncan in 2017: 42%. Duncan now: 36%. And it's not like he's taking more of them or worse shots.

Ace: His eFG% against top 50 teams this year is 39.5.

Alex: The Athletic article by Quinn about him not believing in slumps was extremely good. But, uh, he's in a slump. A long one.

Seth: Dunc may have shot his way out of it last game.

Ace: I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Matthews at the four and, uh, guess who in the lineup.

Brian: AHA

Alex: Brent Hibbits.

Ace: Close.

Alex: You just can't stop a dude from Hudsonville. They're known for getting buckets. Just looked it up: Poole's assist rate is lower than Duncan's against Top 100 teams.

Ace: Look man maybe I’d just rather see Michigan go down in the second round in a blaze of glory than a parade of bricked free throws.

Alex: The masonry at the charity stripe is all but a guarantee. I do want more Poole after the last TV timeout!

Brian: But I think we're all expecting a second round exit.

Ace: Yeah.

Alex: Or a first round exit.

This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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This Week’s Obsession: Unlocking a Beilein Offense?


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