Five OSU GIFs That Portend Future Success
What if Michigan puts it all together, huh?
SITE STUFF: While the timing is admittedly suboptimal, I’m (slowly, under doctor supervision) tapering my dosage of klonopin down in a second attempt to minimize the amount of benzodiazepines I’m taking long-term. My first attempt a few years ago went well until it really, really didn’t. So far, this time has gone better, though I’m still feeling withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal and the early Thursday tipoff are to blame for the lack of podcast content this week. I’m hopefully sneaking this newsletter in under the wire before Michigan takes on Indiana. Regardless, the flashes shown by M’s young players below are good signs for the longer-term future, too.
1. Moussa Diabate Shuts Down Everything
Let’s talk through this one:
Moussa Diabate begins this portion of the play at the top of the screen. OSU runs an off-ball screen with his man setting the pick.
Diabate communicates with Eli Brooks, switches, and cuts off the drive of Malaki Branham, a 6’5 guard who was a top-40 overall recruit heading into this season.
Branham kicks the ball to the corner and Eugene Brown drives baseline. Diabate lingers near the hoop to successfully deter Brown from attacking Kobe Bufkin.
Brown passes it back out to Branham. Diabate recovers to prevent a shot attempt, shuts off Branham’s attempt to drive left, and strips the ball.
Diabate is 6’11. He shouldn’t physically be able to do all of this. While he has a ways to go in learning the game on both ends of the floor, he’s doing so in a hurry, and his talent is undeniable.
2. Terrance Williams II Catches Defender Flat-Footed
Terrance Williams II has come on strong as a three-point gunner, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc against both Michigan State and Ohio State. While his overall usage has been low, he’s flashed the ability to create his own shots, too.
As an ancillary player, Williams doesn’t need to get too fancy to capitalize on his chances. On the play below, Michigan has all five players outside the perimeter — Brandon Johns is at center — and the Ohio State defense bends towards the initial pick-and-pop action between DeVante’ Jones and Johns.
The defender on Williams is ever so slightly preoccupied by Johns, who swings the ball to Williams. Williams recognizes that his man is a half-step late and drives hard to the right, then uses his strength and positioning to work closer to the hoop and finish without the threat of a recovery block.
3. Caleb Houstan Anticipates, Steals, Saves
First off, yes, this was one of Caleb Houstan’s worst games. Beyond going scoreless, he made some frustrating errors on defense. On the whole, this game wasn’t a good sign for Houstan developing into the consistent threat Michigan needs him to be.
When he’s locked in, though, he’s a significantly better defender than he was early in the season. He’s getting beat off the dribble less often because he’s moving his feet with better technique. He’s making fewer mental errors, though they’re still present.
He’s learning to anticipate certain actions, too. While there’s an unfortunate mid-play camera angle change, you can see Houston start the play at the top of the screen, where he sticks close with Justin Ahrens, a three-point sniper who often runs through a number of off-ball screens on a given play.
Jamari Wheeler doesn’t anticipate that Houstan will fight through the pick as well as he does and makes a lazy pass. Houstan not only uses his length and anticipation to jump the pass, he somehow saves the ball over his head to Brooks, who turns the steal into a transition layup.
Effort is a huge portion of the battle on defense. So is size. Houston has plenty of the latter and he’s ramping up the former. He came up with a block and two steals against the Buckeyes; there’s a reason Phil Martelli entrusted him to play 33 minutes despite his 0-fer as a shooter.
4. Frankie Collins Varies Takeoff
If you’re a small point guard with an unreliable outside shot, you do have to get fancy to create your points. One past Michigan point guard accomplished this by developing a shot literally nobody else his size attempts, then honing it with his off-hand, too:
Frankie Collins is 2-for-15 on three-pointers this season and defenses are doing all they can to encourage him to take that shot — sagging off him when he doesn’t have the ball and ducking under screens when he does. Yet, according to hoop-math, Collins is 23-for-39 (59.0%) at the rim this season, and only one of those makes was assisted.
How does Collins get to the hoop when everyone in the building knows that’s where he’s headed? He maintains variety. In the pick-and-roll at the top of this section, Collins doesn’t wait for the screener to arrive before taking off, which catches his man off-guard.
On this next one, he waits for the screen to get there, moves his defender towards the pick with a setup dribble, then crosses over to turn down the pick.
Once again, he exploits a small opening to get to the basket. While he doesn’t have a hook shot, he’s more athletic than Simpson, and he’s got a few different finishes in the bag. As I wrote earlier in the week, just because Jones has earned the lion’s share of the minutes doesn’t mean Collins hasn’t improved.
5. Kobe Bufkin Stays Ready
This is, admittedly, a tougher play for Brooks to make than Kobe Bufkin. Brooks does most of the work by getting to the baseline off a screen, drawing multiple defenders, and making the best available pass instead of the easiest one.
Still, there’s a true freshman shooting guard who’s missed both his shots calling for the ball in a four-point game with under 90 seconds on the clock. He reads where the defense is moving and shifts accordingly to give Brooks a passing lane.
Most importantly, he confidently drills the shot.