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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:49 pm 
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Location: Normal, Illinois
Saturday, March 31, 2018 5:09 p.m.
The Alamodome, San Antonio, Tex.

After reaching their first Final Four in more than five decades, the Ramblers had a chance to celebrate for about 2 hours before discovering their national semifinal opponent. The game between Florida State and Michigan showed that both teams bidding for a berth against Loyola in San Antonio had significant strengths and a few weaknesses. After watching the game, most Loyola fans are probably happy that they won’t have to face the length and athleticism of Florida State. Still, they have to face a Big 10 powerhouse in the 32-7 Michigan Wolverines.

Want to get scared and intimidated? In the NCAA Tournament national semifinal, Loyola faces a Big 10 team—the Power 5 conference in Loyola’s own backyard. They face a team that won their tough conference tournament and won 13 games in a row dating back to Feb. 3—the second longest winning streak in college basketball. They’re a powerful defensive team, allowing opponents an average of only 63.1 points per game (8th best in the nation). They have three players averaging in double-digit points per game and are among the best shooters in D1 basketball with a 47.0% field goal percentage (56th in the nation)-- and their 351 threes rank 18th in D1 hoops.

Pretty scary, huh? Unfortunately for the Michigan Wolverines, they’re facing a Loyola team that won its conference regular season (by four games) AND its conference tournament. They’re facing a team that has won 14 games in a row dating back to Jan. 31, the longest current winning streak in men’s college basketball. They’re facing a powerful defensive team that allows opponents an average of only 62.4 points per game (5th best in the nation). Five Loyola players average in double-digit points, and Loyola has the third best field goal percentage in the nation (50.9%) while shooting 40.0% from behind the arc (16th best in the nation).

The Wolverines played a relatively weak non-con schedule, and nearly made the worst of it. Because they lost the opening game of their MTE against LSU, they ended up playing Division II Chaminade and VCU on their trip to Hawaii instead of Notre Dame and Marquette. They lost a road game at North Carolina, and split their first two Big 10 conference games, leaving them on December 5th at 6-3 overall and 1-1 in conference with their best RPI win at home against Indiana (125). Michigan’s RPI was 220 going into week 4, while Loyola’s was 183.

During the last three weeks of December, the Maize and Blue won four non-con games, including a home win over UCLA and a roadie at Texas. And when conference play resumed, Coach John Beilein’s squad won their first two games to get back above .500 in conference for good. Michigan took care of business in the Big 10, impressing everyone with a 10-point road win over Michigan State on Jan. 13, and knocking off first place Ohio State in their home game against the Buckeyes. But there were some chinks in the armor: U of M was swept by Purdue in the regular season, split with Northwestern, and lost by 20 at Nebraska.

The loss at Northwestern on Feb. 6 was their last. The Wolverines won their last five regular season games to surge to a tie for 4th in the regular season standings. Then 5th-seeded UM knocked off Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Purdue in four consecutive days to win the B1G Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Winning the B1G Tournament tends to go a long way with the committee, so Michigan got a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, two spots higher in the Big Dance than their seeding in their conference tournament. They beat 14-seed Montana, got a last-second 35-foot three-point prayer to beat 6-seed Houston, demolished 7-seed Texas A&M by 25 points, and ground out an ugly slog of a win against 9-seeded Florida State. They had whatever it took in several very different styles of play to get to the Final Four. And now one of these teams that was on no one’s radar as a serious, deep-run tournament threat after week four of the season is going to play for a spot in the National Championship game.

This is Michigan’s third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, and their 8th in the last 10 seasons. Their 3-seed in this year’s tournament is their second highest seeding after getting a 2 seed in 2013-14, the year after they lost in the title game. Loyola and Michigan met in the 1964 Sweet 16, with Michigan winning 84-80. Loyola won the last meeting between the two teams on Feb. 1, 1969 at Chicago Stadium, leaving U of M with a 2-1 advantage in the series.

Michigan is likely to start 6’6” junior guard Charles Matthews, 6’4” senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, 6’0” sophomore guard Zavier Simpson, 6’11” junior forward Moritz Wagner, and 6’7” freshman forward Isaiah Livers. Abdur-Rahkman is the dynamic leader of the Wolverines, and leads the team in minutes (35.7) and assists while averaging 12.8 points per game. More than half of Abdur-Rahkman’s shots come from behind the arc, where he’s connected on 71 threes while shooting 38.8%. Wagner (cue Flight of the Valkyries) is UM’s top scorer and rebounder with 14.3 and 6.9; his really great three-point shooting for a big man (59 made threes and 39.6% shooting) has probably surprised many opponents. Wagner leads the team in fouls (115) and disqualification from fouls (3), but if you’re thinking that fouling him out is the answer to your troubles, don’t bother. Michigan is 14-3 in games where Wagner has four or more fouls, and 3-0 in his three disqualifications.

Chicagoan Charles Matthews (St. Rita) is a transfer from Kentucky, and averages 13.0 ppg and 5.6 rpg; he’s an acceptable three-point shooter (32%), but really excels at finishing around the basket. Matthews can be prone to turnovers, but he has taken better care of the ball lately, outside of a five turnover game against Montana. Zavier Simpson is the quick playmaker for UM, who leads the team in assists (3.7 per game) and scores 7.5 points on average. He’s not a great shooter from distance, but finishes well at the basket.

The top bench players are 6’8” senior forward Duncan Robinson, 7’1” center Jon Teske, 6’1” grad transfer guard Jaaron Simmons, and 6’5” freshman guard Jordan Poole. Robinson is a senior who plays starter’s minutes and takes most of his shots from the perimeter. Despite being 6’8”, he can play the 2 or the 3, which provides a lot of flexibility. Robinson averages 9.5 ppg and is the best foul shooter by far on one of the worst free throw percentage teams in the country. Teske is a sophomore big man who averages 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds; he’s gone for two double-doubles and scored 14 in the conference tournament final against Purdue. Simmons averages only 1.5 points per game. Poole averages 6.2 points per game and hit the game-winning three-pointer against Houston. Few other U of M players see meaningful minutes.

(For a helpful scouting breakdown on all the U of M players, you can read these two reports from Michigan fans posted on Ramblermania.)

Loyola looks fantastic if you go by raw numbers, but most college hoops observers will downplay Loyola’s stats as primarily coming against inferior mid-major competition. However, Loyola averages almost the same or even BETTER against tournament quality teams than they have for the season, and all of Loyola’s tournament quality games (Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, Kansas State) have come on the road or at neutral sites:

--- --- --- --- --- --- P5/Ranked --- Overall
Points for/against --- 67.8/62.6 --- 72.0/62.4
Field goal pct. --- --- 52.4 --- ---- 50.6
Opp FG % --- --- --- 41.3 --- ---- 41.4
Three point % --- ---- 42.9 --- ---- 40.0
Opp FG % --- --- --- 26.4 --- --- --- 32.6

(Note: Loyola also defeated Wright State in non-conference regular season play; they were a 15 seed in this year’s tournament).

Loyola and Michigan play very similar styles. Michigan is a slightly better rebounding team, enjoys playing at a slightly faster pace, and has a small edge in steals, blocks, and taking care of the ball. Loyola is a slightly better shooting team, both from the field and from the line. Michigan tends to play their best in a game with the pace factor (possessions per 40 minutes) from 66-71, while the Ramblers play a more deliberate pace (59-67). KenPom.com ranks Michigan 4th in Defensive Efficiency, and Loyola at 18th. Michigan ranks 30th in Offensive Efficiency while the Ramblers rank 60th.

The Ramblers are a decided underdog yet again, as they have been for every game of the tournament. Loyola hasn’t seemed intimidated by the big stage up ‘til now, but the Final Four will kick all of the hype and hysteria up another notch or two.

Here are some things Loyola will need to do to beat Michigan:

Dictate the pace. Michigan has the ability to win playing slow or fast and loose, but they prefer to manage their scoring into the mid-70s. When the games are in the low 60s or below, they tend to have a little trouble.

Shoot better than 50%. Teams have beaten Michigan averaging less than 50% on field goals, like Northwestern (40%), Purdue (47.4%) and Ohio State (48.9%). But all four opponents who shot over 50% against Michigan won their game. And Loyola has shot 50% or better from the field 24 times this season, winning all 24 games.

Get to the free throw line. Michigan is 14-6 when putting their opponents on the free throw line 16 or more times, which sounds like a pretty good record. But that accounts for all but one of their losses. And three of those wins came in overtime, and one came on Jordan Poole’s last-second bomb for the win over Houston. When opponents shoot fewer than 16 free throws, they’re 18-1. The Ramblers average 17.4 trips to the line in their wins, but only 15 in their losses.

Hold Michigan to less than 30% three-point shooting. The Wolverines are 7-5 when shooting less than 30% on threes, and the Ramblers are 15-0 when holding opponents under 30% from behind the arc.

Move the ball! The Ramblers have gotten away with being sloppy with the ball the past few games, averaging 12.8 turnovers in the tournament and 15.5 in the past two games. Meanwhile, Michigan has averaged only 9.8 turnovers in the tournament and only 8.3 over the last three games. Assists are especially important, as the Ramblers are 31-0 when making more or equal assists than their opponents, and the Wolverines are 1-4 when opponents win in assists.

Real-time NCAA Tournament bracket: https://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracke ... ll-men/d1/

Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents ... df?id=6940

Michigan game notes: http://mgoblue.com/documents/2018/3/26/ ... _notes.pdf

TV/Streaming video: TBS / https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-me ... dule-every

Streaming audio: http://westwoodonesports.com/madness/

Vegas odds: Michigan by 6


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:20 pm 
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Greetings. This is a comment on the preview thread from a UM fan.

Duncan Robinson is a power forward. He cannot effectively guard on the perimeter at the Div I level. The winning streak for UM began when the staff switched defensive assignments between Mathews and DR. The original defense had DR guarding the 3. Even there he was getting murdered. Mathews is strong enough and has the hops to hold his own against a 4. This improved the defense in two ways. First, Mathews is an outstanding defensive player on the perimeter. He has the speed of a guard, the size of a forward, and the hops of a kangaroo. Shooting forwards used to toying with DR ran into a buzz saw. Duncan Robinson is a rather slim 6 foot 8 and 215 pounds. But his biggest liability was removed which is foot speed. He is a sub and can afford to get physical and foul down low. He also plays good team defense. It turns out he is adequate and can even use his length to defend by just using footwork and keeping his hands up. A bull will still run him over. The end result is a defense at the 3 sky rocketing up and defense at the 4 dropping only a bit. The combination of Mathews, Simpson, and Rahkman turned UM's perimeter defense into great. Duncan Robinson at the 2 or 3 is a disaster.

My other big comment is that the Preview game thread spent very little time about defense. I will reiterate unlike past Beilein teams this team lives and dies on defense. They still get the same great looks, but the great shooters they normally have are not there. Any of these guys have the capability to go 5 for 5 from deep, or collectively 5-25 even with great looks. They have won tough games even when they can't hit anything. What UM does on defense will determine winning or losing and not their offense. Understanding how to break that defense is the path to victory. In my preview I was wondering if Loyola will toy with a very small lineup with the hopes of keeping Duncan Robinson out.

Just a few comments I have seen on mgoblog. The belief on mgoblog is that the high turnover rate is a function of the offense. Loyola generates a lot of passes per possession for the duration of the entire shot clock. The more times you pass, the greater the likelihood of a TO. I am sure that disrupting this flow is going to be a point of emphasis by the UM defense. But even if it is working TO's are going to be inevitable. Its part of the system, and may be difficult to flush out. UM does not turn it over at all. They do not have the same rate of precision passing and cutting. They are more like a one cut RB in football. They get their effectiveness because when they run the switch each guy has two options and you choose one quickly.

The other comment I will pass along is that Loyola has been fortunate in that three of the four teams did not have any talented height. UT and KSU were down their starting centers. Nevada had no center. Miami is the only team with any front court depth. Not that UM goes big. However, Wagner and Teske will be the best big man Loyola will have seen in the tournament. There is a reason why UM still wins when Wagner gets in foul trouble. Teske is already a dominant player at the defensive end. Unlike Wagner his hands never drop and for a guy who can't jump he is amazingly light of foot when it comes to defensive footwork.

In my opinion this is where the game boils down to. UM is going to get their trey looks and most likely miss them. If they hit em, than game over. But I'm not betting on it. However, the Big men are part of UM's defensive strategy. So I go back to my previous comment does Loyola try to go small? Does UM counter or do they think they can exploit. This worked very well for FSU. FSU had a trio of ents including two that were not just ents but ents on speed. UM had them figured out in the 2nd half and than the small ball team came out. UM did adjust to that until they chose to miss all of their FT's. Can Loyola get away with a five guard look? UK lost with more. Of course their starting center missed 12 FT's. But so has Charles Mathews.

I will say one more thing on how to beat UM. If you rewatch the loss to Northwestern, Bryant McIntosh just went off. UM defense is money ball based. They try to put a player in a low yield situation and encourage him to take that shot. What happens if he is hot and makes those low yield shots. Other than Simpson none of the UM defenders are so good they can take the ball out of some ones hands. If you play the percentages and someone is hot you lose. This also almost happened against Minnesota. A couple guys hit a ton of contested mid ranged shots. You can get that shot against the UM defense because they will let you. This fails miserably in the NBA where players are good enough they throw the ball in the bucket blind folded. But at the college game works great since people rarely work on their midrange game. Its all 3-pt jumpers and layups. If someone puts the team on their shoulders they can beat this defense. UM does not have a go to guy which is a major liability. If everything falls apart there is no one, which is why the defense is so important. That is what happened against NW. But instead of winning 55-52 they lost because McIntosh hit every tough shot. The box score you see is what you at least want to see for UM's offense if they lose. That was a truly wretched game.

But that is the fun of fans discussing. We can spend hours to days wondering about a game that will not last as long as a long movie.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:58 pm 
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Wow...excellent work gentlemen! Thanks for all the knowledge!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:01 am 
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Absolutely wonderful previews guys... absolutely wonderful.

Michigan fan I wanted to thank you as well... how unselfish of you to share all of that knowledge about your team. Thank you!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:44 pm 
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As has been mentioned in numerous threads and articles, I think the key matchup here is Wagner vs. Krutwig. While we are on offense, I believe Krutwig can back down Wagner and use a combination of pump fakes and good pivot work to get Wagner in foul trouble early. While we are on defense, Wagner's ability to play on the perimeter is a scary proposition. I am not sure that Krut has the wheels and agility to get out and guard in space, as seen in the Nevada game.

It will be very interesting to see how the coaches handle Wagner/Teske/Krutwig/Jackson.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:41 am 
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Here's a scouting report on Loyola from UNI's Ben Jacobson...

https://www.landof10.com/michigan/ncaa- ... ss-slipper


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:16 pm 
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Looking OK so far. Need to close out better on their threes.... we're lucky they missed two open long shots.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:49 pm 
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We are hanging around !!--13-15


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:49 pm 
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Controlling the pace. They're keeping us from getting open looks on threes. Need to finish on all these layups!


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:58 pm 
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UP SIX !! Less than two minutes !!


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