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Hoops Preview: Creighton

Hoops Preview: Creighton Ace November 12th, 2019 at 1:00 PM
Ty-Shon Alexander is a dangerous scorer. [Creighton Athletics]

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #30 Michigan (1-0) vs
#31 Creighton (1-0)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 6:31 pm ET, Tuesday
LINE Michigan -4 (64% WP) (KenPom)
Michigan -4 (66% WP) (Torvik)
TV FS1
PBP: Tim Brando
Analyst: Bill Raftery

THE US

Seth did a graphic [click for big]:

I'm guessing Juwan Howard sticks with Adrien Nunez in the starting lineup over Brandon Johns for at least one more game, but I'd be okay with being proven wrong.

Howard's squad gets the first major test of his tenure in this Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup against Creighton, which sits one spot behind Michigan in KenPom's rankings. The Wolverines are coming off 27 minutes of excellent basketball and 13 minutes of everyone forgetting how to basketball in an eight-point win over Appalachian State that wasn't really that close.

I'll dig into lineup analysis more later this week, when we'll have the added benefit of more data. The simple explanation for what happened against ASU, however, is that the three-point-guard lineup really did not work. Via Hoop Lens:

That lineup played for nearly half the game. Michigan was outscored by 14 points per 100 possessions when they were out there. In the game's other 44 possessions, M crushed ASU by 31 points per 100 possessions; that number jumped to an unsustainably good 54(!) in the 16.5 possessions (16 offensive, 17 defensive) that Howard put Brooks and Simpson on the floor with DDJ on the bench.  Yes, there's some three-point noise in the offensive numbers, but the nearly 20-point gap in two-point defense is an obvious problem, as is the huge dropoff in offensive rebounding.

Creighton is a small, fast team this year. Howard may be tempted to play small ball with them. I hope he resists this temptation.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]

THE THEM

Seth did another graphic [click for big]:

Like Michigan, Creighton has only played the one tuneup game so far, beating #327 Kennesaw State 81-55.

As mentioned above, the Bluejays are small. While they're usually a high-tempo, undersized squad, this time it isn't totally by design; 6'11" center Jacob Epperson suffered a serious leg injury in the preseason, leaving 6'11", 230-pound Idaho State transfer Kelvin Jones as the only big man with any college experience. Jones is productive as a scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker when he can stay on the floor, but he's committed 8.0 fouls per 40 minutes in each of his two college seasons—he had three fouls in 16 minutes off the bench in the opener. Also, Idaho State was the #329 team on KenPom last year, so I'm guessing all-around defense wasn't a strength.

The starting "center" is 6'7", 205-pound sophomore Christian Bishop, who at least has experience doing this after being the primary backup at the five last year. That went better than you'd expect, though there were struggles against the better teams on the schedule. Bishop is a very effective junk scorer and surprisingly good shot blocker, but like Jones he's foul-prone (6.2/40 min.), and the third center is a 6'8", 210-pound freshman. Expect the beginning of this game to look a lot like the last one, with the Wolverines looking to run the offense through Jon Teske early.

The player to watch is 6'4" junior wing Ty-Shon Alexander, a three-level volume scorer who'd benefit greatly from more help—he's at his best as a spot-up shooter and transition finisher, but is asked to do a whole lot more in the halfcourt at which he's less effective. Keep Alexander out of the fast break and he's much easier to slow down; he shot only 35% on twos and 34% on threes in Tier A (top-50 opponents adjusted for home/road) games last year.

Returning as the starting four is 6'5", 205-pound junior Mitch Ballock, whose shot distribution tilts towards the perimeter in the extreme; he made 42% of his 224 triples last year and 59% of his 59 twos. Decent passing keeps him from being a pure Just A Shooter™. He's a guy you can't lose touch with, especially in the corners.

Injury isn't just affecting the interior. Creighton will be without Davion Mintz, their starting shooting guard. 6'5" wing Damien Jefferson, an effective reserve who graded out as their best defender by a healthy margin last season, is a game-time decision after a foot injury held him out of the opener.


Zagarowski is a deadly above-the-break three-point shooter.

Sophomore Marcus Zegarowski starts at the point for the second straight year; he's an excellent spot-up shooter and the team's best pick-and-roll ballhandler, but he can run into turnover problems and will get an evening of Zavier Simpson in his grill. He shares the backcourt with some tiny freshmen. 6'0", 155-pound combo guard Shereef Mitchell is the primary option at the two and also the backup point—he mostly looked to attack the basket in the opener. 5'10", 155-pound Jett Canfield got 17 minutes at the two against Kennesaw State and was nearly invisible on offense.

Have I mentioned this team is small?

THE KEYS

Make Teske pinker than Pepto-Bismol. Teske is going to look like a man among boys from a height perspective for much of this game; that should also be the case basketball-wise. Post-ups and pick-and-rolls should be the primary mode of attack until Creighton proves they can slow Teske without fouling. With so little size and depth, the Bluejays will be in big trouble if their two main options at center pick up early fouls and are forced to play tentatively down the stretch. This would also be a very interesting spot to break out the Teske-Castleton lineup, which was effective in limited action against ASU.

Keep Creighton out of transition. The live-ball turnovers down the stretch against ASU were probably more this-is-a-blowout sloppiness than anything else, but there were enough times M coughed up the ball on drives that they should be worried about letting Creighton out into transition, where they're far better than the halfcourt even after adjusting for the greater effectiveness of transition offense. This is especially key against Alexander, who's great on the run but has trouble finishing over size at the rim, and the three-point shooters, who love spotting up on the break. Both of these teams like to get out in transition; the team that best limits the opponent in that regard is probably going to win.

Scrap the three-PG lineup. I know it's a one-game sample (really a half-game sample) but man was it not a good one. Brandon Johns and Colin Castleton should both be able to feast on the boards against this frontcourt. Isaiah Livers is fully capable of playing 35 minutes. There's absolutely no need to have one of Simpson/Brooks/DDJ defending even undersized small forwards, especially when DeJulius is also having a hard time settling into an off-ball role on offense. 

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by 4.

Teske should overwhelm the lilliputians, while Livers should pose a major headache for Alexander. As long as Simpson isn't playing like he did down the stretch against ASU—which would be remarkably out of character—then this might even be relatively comfortable.

Account for Michigan likely going into an offensive funk at some point due to getting comfortable in the new system or playing around with some ineffective lineups and the four-point line seems pretty accurate, even with Creighton's injuries. Any sloppiness by the Wolverines is going to lead to some quick points the other way. That said, they have the size and personnel to shut down the Bluejays for long stretches.

Profile picture for user Big Boutros

Big Boutros

November 12th, 2019 at 1:04 PM ^

I know it's only been one game (this year) but unfortunately you gotta put the cyan on DDJ.

In reply to I know it's only been one… by Big Boutros

Teeba

November 12th, 2019 at 1:29 PM ^

Actually you don’t. It’s one game. There’s no need to over-react.

In reply to Actually you don’t. It’s one… by Teeba

Kevin14

November 12th, 2019 at 5:19 PM ^

Seriously!  This is nuts: "Scrap the three-PG lineup. I know it's a one-game sample (really a half-game sample) but man was it not a good one."

I'm pretty sure Ace has already (condescendingly) pointed out he doesn't read the comments, but it would be nice to get a little bit of context for Creighton's team that isn't based on their one game season to date.  I also do enjoy his inclusion of advanced stats, but it would be nice to have some fundamental counting stats, like points.  

Profile picture for user Ace

In reply to Seriously!  This is nuts: … by Kevin14

Ace

November 12th, 2019 at 5:55 PM ^

Most of the stats and the shooting chart in the post are from last season. Meanwhile, I also went over film of the ASU game in addition to looking at the of/off stats, and acknowledged that the sample is small. I'm not giving up on DDJ; I'm saying he's not a small forward.

In reply to Actually you don’t. It’s one… by Teeba

TrueBlue2003

November 12th, 2019 at 5:55 PM ^

He was a poor defender last year though.  He's played a lot more possessions than Nunez in his career and the cyan is on Nunez so it's not crazy to put it on DDJ and hope he plays well enough to prove otherwise.

BoHarb

November 12th, 2019 at 1:24 PM ^

This is going to be a signature win for coach Howard in the nonconference schedule. 

Profile picture for user Bambi

Bambi

November 12th, 2019 at 1:33 PM ^

Apparently I'm in the minority here, may be a flashing sign that I'm wrong, but I thoroughly disagree with the idea that this is the matchup for Castleton-Teske lineups. You do that and, IMO, you're asking for old school Beilein matchups where Beilein's teams would give up 2's but make 3's. Except we're on the wrong end here.

Creighton has a 6'5 4 man who shoots over 40% from three. If you try to have Castelton/Teske guarding him, he's just gonna run our big 4 around the perimeter and through screens for days, or make our big 4 play as the on ball defender in the P&R. You're just asking for a barrage of open 3's there IMO. Maybe Johns can do better and be a bigger 4, but he struggled as the primary defender against App St.

The 3 guard lineup was terrible vs App St., but one quarter worth of game action isn't gospel. Creighton is starting a 6'0 true freshman who was outside of the top 200 in the composite who didn't hit a 3. IMO this is the game to stick DDJ/Nunez out there hiding on him. Nunez's shot looked good when he was on the floor against App St. and DDJ apparently looked good in the secret scrimmage and open practice. Both of them look like a major problem defensively right now but in this game you'll be putting them on Creighton's 5th scoring option and Nunez especially has a 5/6 inch height advantage. If neither can hold up in this defensive matchup, well then they won't all year and then you probably have to try going bigger, but that would be my primary plan of attack. Because if neither guy can hold their own on a 6'0 true freshman out of the top 200 in the composite then they're not rotation players this year, so you need to let them get out there and see if they can pass step one here.

Profile picture for user Streetchemist

In reply to Apparently I'm in the… by Bambi

Streetchemist

November 12th, 2019 at 2:11 PM ^

I mean, they're probably gonna try both lineups and see which one is more effective and then go from there.

Profile picture for user Blue Vet

Blue Vet

November 12th, 2019 at 1:39 PM ^

Blue, blow by the Bluejays

Profile picture for user victors2000

victors2000

November 12th, 2019 at 2:25 PM ^

It's hard to see how this won't be a big 'W'. Our bigs are going to have success. Z is going to shut down his assignment. Someone is going to get hot from outside. If Z takes better care of the ball and we limit our turnovers, I think we'll do fine.

Profile picture for user not TOM BRADY

not TOM BRADY

November 12th, 2019 at 2:33 PM ^

Simpson needs to play like Simpson and we will be fine 

Profile picture for user snarling wolverine

snarling wolverine

November 12th, 2019 at 2:41 PM ^

Has Kenpom factored in that Creighton has Jumpman playing for them (top photo)?

Also enjoy the Bo Ryan index for coaches.

Profile picture for user yossarians tree

In reply to Has Kenpom factored in that… by snarling wolverine

yossarians tree

November 12th, 2019 at 3:01 PM ^

"Also enjoy the Bo Ryan index for coaches."

Then perhaps you can explain it to the rest of us.

Profile picture for user snarling wolverine

In reply to "Also enjoy the Bo Ryan… by yossarians tree

snarling wolverine

November 12th, 2019 at 3:16 PM ^

The Bo Ryan index (scroll down a bit to find it).

Profile picture for user Seth

In reply to The Bo Ryan index (scroll… by snarling wolverine

Seth

November 12th, 2019 at 9:24 PM ^

It is the percent of photos that come up on the first page of a coach's Google image search in which his expression is of a (normally) negative or unpleasant emotion. It should be pointed out that if not for a terrible Wikipedia photo that nobody has been able to get rid of, Juwan Howard's Bo Ryan Index would be zero.

I include it both because it's funny and because it does correlate with how yelly (and thus hateful) the other coach is going to be.

Toe Meets Leather

November 12th, 2019 at 2:54 PM ^

This should be a game where the big men dominate.  I think M will attack inside early and get Kelvin Jones in foul trouble, and then M can really take advantage of the size differential.  I doubt we'll see much (if any) of the Teske/Castleton lineup simply because it'll be a huge defensive liability against the speed and shooting of Creighton.

Profile picture for user Mgoscottie

Mgoscottie

November 12th, 2019 at 4:01 PM ^

I just got a pair of tickets for tonight, what's parking like these days? Should I expect to pay 20 for somewhat close?

Benthom11

November 12th, 2019 at 4:26 PM ^

Creighton's roster is wild.  2 rotation players who weigh 155 lbs.  Heaviest starter is 205 lbs.  Bishop will be giving up 6" and 60 lbs to Teske.  For reference, Levert is 6'6" 205 lbs....

Basketballschoolnow

November 12th, 2019 at 4:35 PM ^

We have the one thing they cannot match:  size.  So rather than reacting to their quickness by going small, lets take it to them and see if they can stop post-ups down low...we will have a significant height advantage at three positions.

On defense, just tell the 4 and the 3 to not leave their man...if they blow by, then there are still the other bigs to deal with at the rim...plus they are not especially good finishers.



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