Sonic Boom: UM and A&M Wrap-Up
Coach Beilein asked Mo Wagner during the Big Ten tournament if he knew the German words for stupid fouls. He uttered something on air that did not include dummkopf, so not sure what he said. Everyone knows that blitzkrieg means lightning war, and that is what hit the Aggies from College Station Thursday night. The Michigan offense was never solved by the Aggies. The best the Texans could do was disrupt by the full court press in the second half. At the end, Michigan beat the press, was cautious and pulled the ball out to eat clock, but with one quicker, strategic pass, UM could have many times scored if the situation demanded.
Situations are subject to change in an environment like college basketball, where every day and every match-up can be 180 degrees in difference. A team that could not hit the ocean last week, put up 52 first half points against a monster size team, one that absolutely annihilated a strong North Carolina team last week. North Carolina could not hit threes last week and the A&M guards won the battle of the guards. Michigan hit the threes, mainly because Michigan’s offense created side open looks by either setting up before the defense could set, or running offensive options that ended with the Aggies chasing to the shooter way too late.
Indeed, the Aggies are big, and indeed Michigan gave up layups and dunks, and more lay ups and dunks, and some steals in the late game press all of which should not have occurred. But the dunks, and lobs, and lay ups could not match the lightning of UM’s quick set ups and individual isolation’s.
Coach Beilein gets a game plan rating of three standard deviations to the good away from the norm. Now that is about 99% above anything else out there. The symphony came together in coordinated and effective movements. A++ seems to be a fitting score. Give Coach three of four days to plan and teach and usually really good things happen.
The symphonic movements were written in theory with some hope, but the theory ended up being recognized as outstanding practice. Few teams have played better on the offensive end than Michigan did tonight. The symphony at times was as beautiful as Mozart, at times as blunt as Beethoven. But to the A&M crew the comparison to music was a false metaphor.
It was hoped Charley Matthews and Duncan Robinson could get involved and make enough of a difference that Texas A&M could not cover the entire offensive universe Michigan can throw at a team. That happened. As much as A&M had no real answer for Simpson’s penetration, there was no clue how to deal with Matthews. He simply was creative in a manner an opponent could not really prepare for. One would think the defense would collapse putting Charles in the squeeze. That only happened once or twice. MAAR had similar success.
In was hoped and planned to have Z Simpson get the speed advantage and regain Michigan’s inside guard option. He did, and when the weak side help arrived Z dribbled or passed out very smartly. The manner in which Michigan was hitting threes made it difficult for weak side help to cheat in and swoop down on the little guy. The way Michigan set up quicker on the perimeter made weak side help totally moot.
Ever since the first Ohio State game, Michigan has attacked big physical teams going to the rim and has refused to get pushed outward and be stagnant. Coach kept repeating aggression and clearly the guys bought in, and gladly so. It helped that the shots fell. But the plan created the opportunities. The script was as good as Casablanca.
It was a little shocking to see how A&M locked up/broke down in guarding Simpson, MAAR, and Matthews. Besides the speed factor, confusion seemed to settle in and never receded. Perhaps that was caused by all three creating inside and hitting outside. That is tough to deal with. A&M went at Michigan’s inside hard in the second half and Michigan’s players held the ramparts enough to hold steady a twenty point lead most of the half.
Defensively, the staff gets more credit for planning and executing inside defense about as well as possible. Michigan guys hit the floor, with no calls, to be expected after last week’s goings on. But Simpson absolutely disrupted early and often. it was almost Keystone Cop like how Matthews, MAAR and Simpson got inside and made Maravich like layups.
Well, as brought up earlier, this week, the line in this game looked too good to be true. And when that happens the result is called a sucker bet. So, 80 percent or so of the money went the Aggie way, delighting the Vegas entrepreneurs.
On to the elite eight. Florida State plays somewhat like Michigan, pretty gritty on defense and plenty of athletes; pretty strong across the board. Florida State loves to apply pressure, something Michigan better be ready for if playing the Seminoles. A team much faster than Texas A&M. Gonzaga is an elite program that is very well coached with a couple of game changers. Gonzaga did not look very good a month ago, but like Michigan must progress has been made. Gonzaga does not fold or blink. Playing them is a 40 minute venture where a team needs to be at its best.