Saturday, March 30, 2013

A second look at Michigan's improbable comeback over Kansas

Friday’s Sweet 16 game between Michigan and Kansas featured one of the more improbable finishes in tournament history and surely was one of the most memorable wins in the history of Michigan’s men’s basketball program.
Things got really crazy with three minutes to go in the game, Kansas leading 70-62. I went back and re-watched the game from this point. Here is what I saw, ultimately knowing the unlikely outcome.

2:52: Kansas’ Jeff Withey puts home a one-handed slam on a nice pass under the basket from Kevin Young. Kansas leads 72-62. That dunk seemed to be the final nail in Michigan’s coffin at the time.

2:25: After Tim Hardaway Jr. misses a pair of shots, including a 3-pointer, Kansas’ Elijah Johnson makes a poor decision on the other end and attacks the paint instead of slowing things down to let time run off the clock. Facing a trap from Hardaway and Trey Burke, he lobs a pass toward the top of the key to Withey, but Glenn Robinson III makes a great play to tip it away. He then tracks the ball down on the other end and slams it home in stride to make it 72-64 and give Michigan new life. It was one of a few key plays down the stretch from Robinson, and one of a few big mistakes from Johnson.

2:03: Johnson makes another poor decision, lazily bringing the ball up the floor after the Robinson dunk. Burke defends him hard and draws a 10-second violation. There was no reason for Johnson to allow this to happen. Two huge turnovers in less than 30 seconds for Johnson and Kansas.

1:52: Burke patiently works his way into the lane, drawing Withey to step up and get vertical. Burke passes under Withey to Mitch McGary, who finishes the easy lay-in. 72-66 Kansas. Four crucial points off the two Johnson turnovers, and those two baskets really seemed to give Michigan the momentum.

1:22: McGary called for a foul when he attempts to block a dunk attempt by Kansas’ Travis Releford. The replay shows a clean block, but it looked bad in live action. Releford hits both free throws. 74-66 Kansas.

1:14: Wasting little time, Burke hits an NBA 3-pointer over Withey to make it 74-69. Michigan with a time out after the score.

0:28.8: Michigan elects not to foul. Kansas gets a good look at the basket with Ben McLemore getting inside the paint, but he misses the off-balanced shot. Jordan Morgan rebounds it and gets it to Burke, who make a great down-court pass to Hardaway, who is wide open on the wing for 3. Hardaway misses again, but in a scramble for the rebound, Robinson gets it and hits a tough reverse lay-in to make it 74-71. Beilein uses his final time out. Robinson again comes up with a big hustle play.

0:21.0: Caris LeVert fouls Johnson. He hits both free throws in a 1&1 situation. 76-71 Kansas.

0:14.0: With Withey not on the floor, Burke quickly attacks the lane and gets a lay-in, 76-73. Michigan then quickly fouls Johnson again.

0:12.6: Johnson misses the first of a 1&1. Hardaway boards and gets it to Burke, which leads to…..

0:04.2: Burke hits drains an amazing 3-pointer, nearly halfway between half court and the 3-point line. We all knew Burke had range, but this shot is incredible. Game tied 76-76. Kansas takes a time out. Young nearly gets a piece of the shot on replay. Kansas really couldn’t have done anything short of fouling Burke before the shot, but I don’t think anyone expected him to launch it from there with 5 seconds left on the clock. That shot will go down in Michigan history. If the Wolverines go on to win a national title, that shot will be the equivalent of the Tayshaun Prince block of Reggie Miller in the Pistons’ 2004 run to the championship.

0:00: Naadir Tharpe misses a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Tharpe had a great look as LeVert oddly playing very far off him. It could have cost Michigan the game. You’d like to see a player challenge defensively and at least make Tharpe take an off-balanced shot. I understand the concern about fouling, but he gave Tharpe far too much room.


4:30: Young gets an easy lay-in under the basket. Robinson tried to double up Withey, who was already being well defended by McGary. Robinson got too aggressive and left his man open for the easy 2. 78-76 Kansas.

4:01: Burke hits another NBA 3-pointer at the top of the key. Withey doesn’t step out at all to challenge and Burke is on another planet right now. 79-78 Michigan. First lead for the Wolverines since it was 9-8.

3:47: Releford hits two free throws after a blocking foul. Kansas regains the lead, 80-79.

3:20: Burke does it again, dribbling down McLemore before hitting a long 2 in his face. Nothing but net. Michigan leads, 81-80. Kansas just can’t do anything to stop him at this point.

2:34: After Nik Stauskas misses a wide-open 3-pointer on the baseline, Kansas runs the floor and Young gets a lay-in in transition. Kansas 82-81. It was the final lead for the Jayhawks.

2:15: McGary hits a tough turnaround jumper on the baseline with Withey in his face. One of the better shots I have seen McGary hit. Michigan leads 83-82.

1:04: Burke attempts a one-handed runner that goes long. Withey has the rebounding position, but Robinson again comes up big, tipping the ball out of Withey’s hands. McGary collects it for a quick lay-in. Michigan leads 85-82. Kansas calls a time out.

0:52.1: Robinson comes up big once again. Johnson tries to pass behind himself again and Robinson gets his long arm on the ball and gets fouled before he can breakaway for an easy 2. In a big moment, Robinson hits both free throws to close out the scoring for Michigan. Wolverines lead 87-82.

0:45.0: Johnson hits a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Michigan leads 87-85. Good shot coming off a screen.

0:09.4: Burke unable to put the game away, as Withey gets a piece of his runner. The shot clock expires during a scramble. After a lengthy video review, Kansas gets the ball with 9.4 left.

0:00.0: Johnson goes coast-to-coast and drives to the baseline. It looks like he could have taken a runner from an odd angle to tie the game, but had Morgan following behind him for a possible block. Johnson instead wildly kicks the ball out to Tharpe, who has to throw up a contested one-legged 3-point shot that hits hard off the glass and misses. Michigan wins, 87-85.

There were so many big moments in this final 8 minutes of play. Obviously McGary had a great game and Burke had a legendary second half and overtime, but Robinson III deserves a lot of credit in the comeback. He had a rough game defensively and was out-muscled a number of times by Kansas players, but he came through in a big way. Without his hustle plays, Burke never gets a chance to become a legend.

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