Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. Saturday. Bloomington. Be There. If you needed a reminder for why Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan game might be the biggest conference game we see all season, the two participants did nothing to deflate the hype Wednesday night. Michigan stomped Northwestern at the Crisler Center. Indiana torched state rival Purdue at Mackey. Both wins were streamlined dismantlings of supreme quality. No surprises. Expecting anything less than convincing wins, even in this year’s tough Big Ten, would have been underselling these two teams’ current value. IU and Michigan are on a crash course for Big Ten title rights, and Saturday’s game is the first installment of a two-part rivalry (they meet in Ann Arbor on the last day of the regular season) that should produce some of best and most hotly-contested hoops any intraconference match-up has produced in years. Wednesday night provided a glimpse of what’s on tap for Saturday. Superbowl? Pshaw – There’s nothing bigger this weekend than Michigan’s visit to B-Town.
Your Watercooler Moment. Michael Snaer Does It Again.
Tempo-free hardliners will cringe at any mention of late-game savvy, or a certain player being “clutch” or any other intangible assessment of basketball merit. I love using statistics. They make watching, evaluating and writing about the game I love much, much easier. Used alone, statistics are nice quick touch-points on the general contours of a team’s stylistic, defensive and scoring tendencies, but the real reason they’re so useful goes beyond crude number-crunching. Metrics allow me to take what my eyes tell me, and confirm/deny any conclusions I reach based on those observations. You see something on the court, glean a visual trend, pop open the handy kenpom.com efficiency ratings, and determine whether your game-watching wisdom matches up with what the numbers say.
The point of that mini-preamble was not to bore you nor give you a window into how I watch and think about college basketball games (though I’m pretty sure I achieved both). My purpose relates to one player, Florida State’s Michael Snaer. You probably heard a bunch about Snaer last season, and for good reason: He lit up the ACC while playing some of the nation’s best perimeter defense and carrying Florida State to an ACC Tournament championship. Snaer eschewed the NBA to return for one last season, but his individual performance – he has experienced minor dips in effective field goal percentage and offensive rating – has slipped (if only slightly), while his team’s performance has fallen well short of preseason expectations. Snaer isn’t having a great year – or at least not the breakout All-America campaign many predicted. What he is doing, is making game-winning shots. Wednesday night’s game-sealing three against Maryland was Snaer’s fourth game-winner over the past two seasons (h/t CBT), and his second in the past week.
Sure, there is no quantifiable trait that defines “ability to make game-winning shots.” But if we’re going to sit here and act like Snaer’s remarkable late-game prowess is a product of chance, that “the numbers” don’t register his ability to make big shots, that because his four daggers are isolated and situationally different that they have no real place in educated basketball analysis – I’m going to respectfully disagree.
Also Worth Chatting About. Two Big Pac-12 Defeats.