3/31/2018 – Michigan 69, Loyola-Chicago 57 – 33-7, national championship game
4/2/2018 – Michigan 62, Villanova 79 – 33-8, season over
The thing is in a football stadium so they raise the floor and permit the head coach a little Stool he can sit on. From this perch he can yell stuff to his players more efficiently, I guess? It seems unnecessary. Maybe it's for television.
It's probably for television. For all the agency a coach has in selecting and preparing his team, by the time you reach the Final Four and they hand you a stool a great deal rides on a bunch of 30-40% coin flips. When seemingly all of those coin flips come up on the middle finger side, a coach's agony veritably radiates. He is a man alone on Stool Island, barely less helpless than someone who bought a ticket.
Michigan clanged back-to-back-to-back threes against Loyola with about ten minutes left, still in a five point hole. The first induced a Picard-worthy double facepalm from John Beilein.
The second actually caused Beilein to leap from the stool and stomp the floor before shuffling away in a huff.
The third was resignation and despair.
The man on the stool is moving deeper into the Kubler-Ross model every time down the court. If Jordan Poole hadn't swept through the lane for a layup on Michigan's next possession Beilein might have eaten his tie.
Eating your tie is acceptance. I accept that Michigan is never going to hit another three pointer, and I will live out my life in the Alaskan bush, wrangling caribou. No ties in Alaska. I am the man on the stool plotting his escape to Alaska, where I can suffer out of the public eye. At long last my innovation has betrayed me, and… huh. It appears we've ended the game on a 27-10 run. Plans canceled.
John Beilein probably isn't in a prop plane headed for Nome as we speak but you could hardly blame him if he was. It was there for Michigan to give an incredible Villanova team all it could handle, but for the fifth time in six games they clanged far too many open looks from outside. Their brutal shooting in the final surpassed all prior outings this season and for all but one game in the past five:
Only once in the last 5 years did Michigan shoot worse behind the arc than the 13% they put up today.
— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) April 3, 2018
I have not rewatched the Villanova game and probably won't. If I do I expect to see Beilein age 75 years in two hours as a series of wide open looks fail to go down on one end while a blindfolded Donte DiVincenzo is canning off-the-dribble 30-footers. By the end he has grown a beard that he has fashioned into a hat and moccasins. By the end he is the West Virginia mascot, having whittled a musket from the stool.
This was a 17-point game that never felt close after Michigan's disastrous close to the first half. It was simultaneously the game Michigan needed to play to beat the best team in the country. Michigan shot 66% from two, had four different and-one opportunities rim out, and lost a couple points on a missed goaltend. Michigan's defense closed out magnificently; Villanova didn't care. Half of their ten makes from behind the line were deep pull-ups off the dribble that are—should be, anyway—bad shots. Michigan didn't start launching bad ones until they were already 3/18 and deep in a hole.
Shoot your season average on the reasonable looks and hit one of the dumb ones and you've carved that blowout margin down to 2-5 points. And you're probably not taking the dumb ones because the game is within reach and you have reason to believe an open corner three is a better shot than a wild ninja kick from halfcourt.
The grim section of our Alonzo Mourning gif is Michigan's collapse from behind the line in the tournament. In six away-or-neutral games leading up to the NCAA tournament Michigan hit 48%, 48%, 16%, 48%, 36%, and 35% from three. In the tourney itself: 31%, 27%, 58%, 18%, 25%, 13%.
It defies explanation. Michigan wasn't any more tired during the tournament than they were when they hit their season average against Purdue and MSU despite both of those teams getting the double bye Michigan did not. They seemed to get the same quality of look. They just missed twelve straight in the national title game. And struggled against everyone else not named Texas A&M.
It probably wouldn't have been enough anyway. And nothing from this fun-as-hell basketball season can really disappoint. But that'll linger a bit, that U-turn.
Basketball is a helpless thing sometimes.