Lester Abram is emo. He displays all the enthusiasm for life that Hunter S. Thompson has in this year's edition of Michigan NIT Newspaper Article:
"It's not like we're going to go out there and lose on purpose -- whatever happens, happens," captain Lester Abram said. "You're happy you're still playing, but nobody wants to play in the NIT.
"It's something you have to do, though."
Emphasis mine. I would find it helpful if they did, as then we would get some sort of final word on whether or not Amaker is gone. I regret to note that Abram seemed to have the same sort of can't-do spirit his last two years and that a lethargic, ennui-plagued Abram would be no surprise. You might as well break out the black eyeliner and horrible taste in music.
(Rosenberg: fire Amaker.)
Yeah... like... uh... Amaker on the NIT:
We're not apologizing for it," he said Monday. "We're honored to be a part of it, and we're going to do the best we can do.
"A lot of people would trade places with us, and I'm confident our players will approach it in that manner."
Complete list of noun phrases willing to trade places with the Michigan basketball program:
- Penn State
- anyone rushing puck against JMFJ
Math? Varsity Blue points out an interesting quote from Bill Martin:
"My goal in football, in the Big Ten, is to ideally play a complete round robin - 10 conference games and two non-conference (games). I've been fighting for that for four to five years. I'm not going to get it. But I think I'll get nine games, soon.
Loyal readers already know that having 11 teams play 9 games is mathematically impossible -- 99/2 is not an integer -- so that quote means
- They've decided "eff it, we'll go unbalanced,"
- We're getting a 12th team, or
- Martin's back on the applesauce.
More in a candid interview with the News.
TMFJ. Yost Built on last weekend. As everyone else has noted, when the seniors took a long moment before stepping off the ice for a final time Jack was amongst their number. Even Mr. MFJ's second-intermission dance had an air of finality to it.
Also, TJ is now ten points clear of any competitor who isn't either playing in Atlantic Hockey or on his line. If the Hobey goes to a skater, it has to be him. There are a few goalies out there with a shot -- Jakatis, Brown, John Curry at BU, Goepfert at SCSU -- but without a single strong contender like a Miller, it seems likely that the goalie votes will get split.
Irritating. This AP article is dramatically titled "Ohio State graduates 10 percent of its basketball players, study reveals"; it's the standard article you get immediately after the NCAA tourney field is announced with alarmingly low numbers for various highly-seeded teams. But NSFMF:
Taking into account players who transfer, enter from junior colleges and are graduated late, 38 percent of Buckeyes basketball players earned degrees during that period, Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, said Monday.
38 percent is still not good but it is a more realistic picture of how many OSU basketball players are getting degrees. Does the story lead with this? No. It goes right for the sensationalism, probably because the "Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sports" framed their press release like that. The perpetual disconnect between journalism and critical thinking amazes me.
PA has been good to us. If history is any indicator, Michigan will reel in at least one highly-rated prospect from Pennsylvania. Black Shoe Diaries has a look at Penn State recruiting through the dual lenses of geography and rivalry that includes Michigan. Net conclusion: PSU has to watch out for Weis and Schiano, who are raiding New Jersey, traditionally a Penn State stronghold.
Etc.: Enter Brendan Loy's NIT pool! Woo!
For context on the below, see Part I for an extensive discussion of what exactly is going on here (warning: math) and Part II for some examples of why I think this is a useful exercise. Note those posts are from last year. Which is 2005.
(Performance note: generating these graphs is a dynamic process, so they can take several seconds if no one else has looked at the requested data recently. Cached ones should come up immediately.)
First: Third down efficiency. The thick line in the center is the NCAA average (e.g., approximately 68% of third and ones were converted last year). There is a second line that represents an individual team's third down efficiency. Where there is a gap between the lines that gap is filled in with either red or green depending on whether it is "good" or "bad". Being above the line is good for offenses--you convert more often. Being above the line is bad for defenses--you are converted upon more often. You want to see a lot of green in these graphs.
Second: Third down distance distribution. Again, the line in the center is the NCAA average and the thinner line is the individual team's. Green is just "above"; red just "below," since there's no clear distinction on good or bad based solely on what side of the line you're on.
Third: the raw numbers. The following graph shows the underlying data used to construct the first two. Each bar represents one yard line. Blue segments are failed conversions. Red segments resulted in first downs.
(A note on reproducing these graphs: feel free. Right click and "Save As" to get a static copy that won't break if I decide to change the URL... which I might. Please drop a link. Also: if the idea of maize and blue on your site is revolting, you can give me two other colors (specified in hex--ie, #A30924--, please) and get pretty team-color-appropriate ones.)
Last weekend we crushed NMU. MSU is next at the Joe and then either Notre Dame or Lake Superior, depending on the outcome of the early game.
- Michigan State. We have to go 0-2 at the Joe and State has to go 2-0 for the Spartans to pass us. Otherwise we'll win a tied comparison by virtue of our higher RPI.
- Dartmouth & St. Lawrence. Both are in the same boat as MSU: must win their conference tourney and hope we go 0-2 to flip the comparison. We cannot lose comparisons to both these schools because one has to lose.
- UMass. [was: lock we won.] I underestimated the ability of UMass to fly up the RPI with games against high-quality opposition. We can lose this comparison if -- say it with me -- UMass wins their conference tourney and we go 0-2 at the Joe.
Locks: LSSU, UNO, MSU-Mankato, Cornell, Vermont, Wisconsin, Michigan Tech, Maine [was: tossup... Maine got swept *again* by UMass], Miami [was: tossup... swept by Lake State], Denver [was: tossup... also swept.], Colorado College [was: solid win. They lost in three to MTU.]
- BC & BU. The two archrivals play in the Hockey East semis. If we win the CCHA, we will pass the loser of that game. If the winner of that game loses in the HE final, we will also pass them. A split at the Joe does nothing for us; we'll lose both comparisons.
- North Dakota. [was: tossup we lost.] NoDak did indeed sweep Minnesota State right out of TUC status, opening the door for us. Here's a weird math thing for you: since we have fewer games against TUCs, if we win the CCHA we will flip NoDak no matter what they do. We're currently winning COP but are behind on RPI and TUC, but our 8-7-1 becomes a 10-7-1 with a CCHA tourney win and NoDak's 12-10-2 can't win that race even if it becomes 14-10-2.
- Clarkson. We have to win the CCHA and have Clarkson go 0-2 this weekend to pass them.
Locks: SCSU, Minnesota, Notre Dame, UNH.
We are in. I have fiddled with every nightmare scenario available at TBRW -- 0-2 at the Joe, UMass and St Lawrence doing well, UNO's TUC status evaporating in a puff of smoke -- and the worst case appears to be #12. On the other side of the coin: believe it or not, with the right set of results Michigan can vault all the way to #5. Only four comparisons are completely gone, mostly thanks to UNO hanging on to TUC status by .0008 over RIT, Minnesota State, and a bunch of other teams. You might expect UNO is safely in the barn since all the teams near the TUC cliff are done for the season, but you would be wrong. Since RPI is 75% opponents' and opponents-opponents' schedule there will be some jitter down there and it's possible we could lose those two TUC wins. The above projections assume that this does not happen. If it does we cannot win the BU, BC, or Clarkson comparisons; North Dakota requires us to pass them in RPI; the rest of the comparisons still in play are unaffected.
Assuming UNO remains a TUC, Michigan controls its own destiny and can play themselves into 5-6-7 by winning the CCHA tourney. Michigan will hold all of the comparisons it currently does and will take at least two comparisons from NoDak, BC, and BU, escaping the dread Minnesota zone.
If Michigan splits they are locked into the 8-9 game and a bracket with the #1 overall seed unless they get swapped out because of an intra-conference conflict.
If Michigan gets swept at the Joe things will depend on how the other games go. Figure State is slightly less than 50-50 to win the CCHA tourney in that situation and that Dartmouth and SLU are collectively about 50-50 to win the ECAC tourney. UMass may be 10-20% to win HE, so we figure to lose slightly more than one comparison on average. That would put us either #10 or #11.
So the good news is that you can show up at the Joe and root for the Wolverines without any nagging concerns about Michigan getting boned by winning. A CCHA title probably means a two-seed in Grand Rapids, possibly with a Notre Dame team we (hypothetically) just beat.
Others of Note
Michigan State is on shakier ground than we are but is in with a split and is probably in even if swept. Miami is currently hanging onto its bid by the skin of its teeth at #14. They must root against LSSU, Wisconsin, MTU, Dartmouth, and Quinnipiac in their respective conference tourneys. Any autobid handed out to a team currently behind them dumps them from the tourney. The Redhawks dodged an enormous bullet last night when Minnesota and St. Cloud got late goals -- in St. Cloud's case, really really late: the third OT -- to boot UAA and UMD from the WCHA tournament.
Bruce Weber: major-league dick? Illinois' head basketball coach flew off the handle in an attempt to defend himself from accusations that he's running a loose ship at UI in the wake of Jamar Smith's under-the-influence crash:
Weber also pointed out that "a kid in a program got arrested a couple weeks ago and he played in the next game." Without naming him, Weber was referring to Michigan's Lester Abram, who was stopped for speeding, then arrested for an outstanding warrant. That happened two days before Abram played for the Wolverines at Illinois.
"I don't know if anything was talked about with him," Weber said, his voice rising. "I don't think so because I get a lot of feedback. You're going to hold us to high standards, but that kid got arrested and he played."
When asked who he was talking about, Weber blurted, "I'm not going to get into it. But there was a kid you know who got arrested and he played a game. If you can't figure it out, maybe you're not doing your job," which seemed to be a veiled reference to columnists who have suggested he's not doing his job as effectively as he could.
The "outstanding warrant" was for a suspended license; essentially, Lester was arrested for not paying a traffic ticket. Jamar Smith got drunk, hopped in a car, and put someone in critical condition. He's charged with two felonies. There is no comparison between the two.
(Via Nate Fenno.)
Etc.: Wonk interview @ FanIQ.
All I've got at the moment. Coming monday: third down stuff for every team in the country. w00t.
12:02: I know I condemn Michigan to a painful loss by doing this, but this was going to be a painful loss anyway. Lavin's just gotten off a zinger, publicly wondering if UCLA's loss to Cal means they have to look for a new coach.
The much-cracked on Nike hammerpants-muscle shirt combo is a letdown and only looks kind of ridiculous.
Michigan starts with a TO, defends well enough to get a miss, and then Jerrett Smith gets downcourt for a transition layup. A couple of possessions later, Ohio State gets the same thing. And hey, Abram did something, penetrating from the high post against the zone and getting a FG.
Lavin: "both teams sharper than yesterday." Astute to point out that while Michigan shot 29%, Ohio State shot 0% yesterday. He then praises Michigan's ball movement with Dion Harris 29 feet from the basket with 6 seconds on the shot clock. And then he hammers this "no one can shoot at the United Center" theory in... color me a skeptic.
Um, Smith just penetrated and challenged Oden for a tying layup, then he throws the ball away in the backcourt. OSU timeout; they lead 6-8.
12:10 PM. Zone out of the timeout leads to a wide open OSU three; down. Another Smith turnover; Harris charge. I would normally go "arrrrgh" here, but... uh... whatever. 6-11 at the first official break. These BW3's commercias are awful.
Lavin claims that Michigan -- on pace for 40 turnovers -- has come out well offensively. Sims picks up his second foul already, which is bad because no one else has the raw size to contend with Oden. Watching Udoh trying to check him is comical.
Petway gets a slam to cut the lead to five... Ron Coleman attempts to check in still in his warmups, and the PBP guy says "you expect that from a freshman, not a junior." Tom Izzo's guys all know how to dress by the time they're sophomores. (Unless... perhaps Coleman's trying to one-up the hammerpants?)
Anyway... the Michigan offense consists mostly of the usual: passing it around the perimeter until someone has to try futile penetration and put up a tough shot.
I feel robbed that that Terwilliger guy from OSU doesn't have Anderson Varejao's hair. I mean, seriously.
12:22 PM. Michigan is frickin' airballing and bricking all manner of good looks from three. The solution? Reed Baker, Rain Maker! Or maybe he'll just check in and not do anything... except nail a three! You can't stop him. Now 11-13... Lavin calls Ivan Harris a "hired gun," ummm Boban... Lavin is going nonstop about Michgian's "pluck" or whatever... Lavin talks about the UC's great hotdogs... would someone please frickin' hire this guy?
It's 12-16 with 9:05 left in the half; they're showing Matta's kids eating pizza and talking about his gum thing; Michigan throws the ball from the frontcourt all the way to the backcourt. I hate this team sometimes. Oden gets a putback on the weak side. Michigan's playing pretty well on D, actually. Another turnover leads to a fast break OSU basket and they're up 8. Sims gets another offensive rebound (Deshawn, that is) and gets an and-one after an Oden foul. 14-20 at the under-8 break.
12:32 PM. Our RPI went nowhere with the Minnesota win. Lavin again with the UCLA stuff: "it doesn't take much to get on the hotseat at UCLA." Michigan has eight offensive rebounds on just 10 missed shots. I can't believe we have only ten missed shots. I can't believe we've rebounded eight of those. I can believe we have enough turnovers to require scientific notation. (Ron Lewis with another professional jumper from just inside the three-point line against our zone; Abram responds with an Abram three.) Lavin: "there are some advantages to the zone." Butler jacks up a three a million miles for the line; Petway tough alley-oop catch and conversion! PBP guy compares Petway to Michael Jordan. Um, okay.
Oden is playing against a guy who's tiny compared to his leviathan torso and continually goes to those hooks. Not exactly bulling Michgian over. Teams exchange threes; C. Sims throws up an ugly shot that leads to an OSU fastbreak; Lavin breaks out "sharing the sugar" again. Athletic directors of the country: Steve Lavin is the greatest coach in the universe and you would be a fool not to hire him. Under four T0, OSU up 6.
12:41 PM. D. Sims knocks down a jumper from just inside the line with the shot clock dying. Ees nice. Harris missed 3; OREB; Harris gets an Oden foul and shoots two. Ohio State fans must be livid about their defensive rebounding in this game. Lavin compares Amaker to Bill Walsh and Tom Landry... is Wooden not enough? Loose ball foul on OSU leads to more free throws. Lavin STILL comparing stuff to football. D. Sims misses the first end of a one-and-one. :( Conley puts in a circus shot to finish the half. Bleah. Down 29-34 when it could have been one.
1:05 PM. Oden finally spins to the basket instead of relying on that hook. Woo... Smith dives for a loose ball and finds Sims underneath all alone. Oden hook is missed. Oden has committed like three fouls in the first two minutes of the half... he's not in the NBA yet, jackasses.
Dammit, I hate replay. Those were clean. Grumble how about an upfake, Courtney? 11th turnover of the game. Oden hits one of those hooks; lazy Harris pass is almost a TO... Harris airballs a wide open three... HOW IS THAT NOT A CHARGE? Petway misses a putback dunk. We're down ten now at the under-four break.
1:11 PM. After the TO we throw another sloppy pass that's nearly a turnover. Conley gets Moosed by Petway; Conley's dad has a good laugh about it. Cook 3; OSU shooting 55% to our 33% and has only turned the ball over twice. Abram gets an open three and knocks it down. Smith does the same on the next possession and it's back to six. We fail to box out -- Abram! you're like 100 years old -- and Cook goes to the line for two. Sims apparently got hit on the throat trying to get a rebound on an Udoh make. Lavin wonders if he has "a sensitive Adam's apple." Tim Hardaway hates Steve Lavin!
1:23 PM. We're down five again, by the way. This game has a "Playstation 2" game track, which is really weird. Playstation 3? Udoh picks up a cheap foul; OSU OREB; putback, missed Michigan FG; fastbreak layup; we're down nine; TO.
1:27 PM. Horrible shooting, horrible Smith turnover... charge on Cook. Only OSU's fourth turnover. Smith hits a 3. OSU has given up way, way too many open looks at three when they've got Oden inside and no real Michigan post threat. Looked like Oden got totally hacked; no call; Matta T. In the Big Ten, everyone gets sodomized sooner or later. Harris knocks down both FTs and Michigan is within 4 with the ball. Cheap perimeter foul on Butler sends Abram to the line for a one-and-one... which he misses. Fourth time in two games against OSU that we've missed the front end of a one-and-one. Sims picks up a bullcrap foul trying to check Oden. Big Ten refs are garbage. Hey, how about another nothing foul on a Michigan post? Okay!
Abram wide open three in transtion -- OSU is just not getting out on Michigan shooters -- and Michigan is now within three. This is why I question Matta somewhat: his teams often display evidence they're not very well coached. Witness the lackluster performances against PSU, the offensive rebounding today, the defensive shortcomings, the weird addiction to that press in the first game. It doesn't matter if you can recruit Oden and Conley, though -- and given OSU's classes down the road, Matta's recruting is no freak occurrence.
Oden and one again. Hurray. TO under 8, Michigan down five with an Oden FT coming.
1:40 PM. Is a 16-9 run really a run? Smith gets himself buried under the basket; TO. Oden inside for another bucket. Taking over. Lewis fouled, going to the line, after an ugly Michigan possession. OSU about
to put this one away. Lewis hits both and the lead is 10.
The NIKE uniforms do look pretty stupid. Wide open Conley three; lead 11 after some Harris FTs. It looks like OSU has duct tape on their shoulders. There's a weird little silver patch.
If you met Greg Oden on the street, how old would you think he is? Like... 800, right? You can't be that enormous and craggy without having hit your eighth century. OSU alley-oop.
Yeah, this game's over. We're down 11 with under five and have just turned it over again. So let's talk coaching.
Amaker should be fired. I wouldn't be opposed to him becoming the women's coach if keeping his wife around is really important, though.
What are the chances he is fired? I don't know. Detroit newspaper columnists keep writing things about how he definitely won't be but there are rumblings from within the program that he's in trouble. There are probably two warring camps, which we'll call "Camp Fire Amaker" and "Camp Crispy Pops."
The Crispy Pops people speak the language of dumb and are thus natural allies of Terry Foster and Drew Sharp. Of course they'll report Amaker's not going anywhere. It may even be true, but I don't think it's a given. Martin has backed off his previous statements and is engaging in careful AD-speak. Usually it's "we'll evaluate him after the season" -- Michigan turnover -- which is a far cry from the "we're joined at the hip" of a year ago -- helpful ESPN graphic shows he's made one NCAA tourney in 10 years as a coach.
So I'm saying there's a chance. Unless Bill Martin wants the worst attendance in a long, long time -- this year was already the worst since 1982 -- he has to make a change. And it's not like Michigan, which loses Harris, Abram, Sims, and Petway, is poised to improve next year. The backcourt is going to be freshmen and Smith. Our posts will be sophomores and freshmen. We have no one to play the wing, really. Unless Amaker proves he's a different coach than ten friggin' years indicates, that team's headed for the NIT, too.
The most realistic candidates are going to be mid-major guys. I suppose we can take a run at Mike Montgomery or a fired Tubby Smith, but this program is no longer at the level where it can get a Gillespie from A&M. So you're looking at a guy from Winthrop or Southern Illinois or somewhere in the MVC, most likely. Or Mike Debord.
72-62 final. NIT games coming up at Crisler; I suggest you show up as an empty seat.
Zone Gives, Zone Takes
This fall Michigan's run game took a radical departure from the pull-, iso-, and draw-heavy early 2000s. In the place of plays like "argh not another second and long draw," Michigan implemented an Iowa-like zone scheme. At first glance the results were encouraging: Michigan vaulted from 44th to 21st in total rushing. Yards per carry (discounting QB runs and kneeldowns) shot up from 4.3 to 4.9. This despite Michigan featuring an unbalanced offense that ran 56% of the time. So bully for all that.
But there was one major issue that our stretch-play-mad offense developed during 2006. UFR aficionados already know this deep in the marrow of their bones, but now I can put it in attractive graph format.
Here is the Michigan offense's third-down conversion rate by distance in 2005:
(How to read the above: the thick line is the NCAA average. The thinner line is Michigan's performance. You want this to be above the line for an offense; green is good.)
Poor performance on third and long was counterbalanced by a surprising competence on third and short.
Here is the same graph for 2006:
(Disclaimer: this data is sparse and may not breach the threshold of official statistical significance. I don't know. I'm not a statistician. I do know that this is all the data we have and that it can be useful when coupled with previous observation.)
It does not take a jeweler's eye to see that the graphs are near inverses of each other, even down to the weird aberration at third and 11-13. The improved performance on passing downs is easily explained by an improved receiving corps and quarterback. But the startling regression on short yardage is inexplicable given the improvement the zone brought to Michigan's running game.
Unless, that is, you watched Michigan roll out three wideouts and run a stretch play into nine penetrating guys far too many times. Which, uh, I did:
Why do we suck on third and short?
I dunno. We were actually really good last year, but it seems you put us in third and short this year and we run out three wideouts and run a stretch play into nine guys. This doesn't work so good, evidently. What's wrong with lining up in a big set and cramming it down their throats? We have the personnel for that sort of thing.
Hopefully, Michigan will identify this ugly tendency and stop actively trying to turn third and short into punts. In Michigan's transition year perhaps it made sense to focus on the stretch to the exclusion of all else, but now that we've established hadouken, we should try to work on some shoryuken for situations when the objective is closer at hand.
Remember 2005? (It's okay to say no.) Pat "Moonwalk" Massey and an occasionally interested Gabe Watson were the defensive tackles. David Harris and yuck were the linebackers. Alan Branch toiled out of position at defensive end. The short yardage numbers were ugly:
Yeah... not so much this year. Anyone doubting Alan Branch in even the slightest tiny way should look at this, tremble, and shut up:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
We are all going to miss last year's defense very much. Except for the secondary, which I fear I won't miss at all.