...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
|WHAT||#1 Michigan (23-7, 15-3 B1G) vs. #9 Illinois (19-13, 8-11)|
|WHERE||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Friday|
|LINE||Michigan -5 (KenPom)|
|TV||ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Mike Tirico; Analyst: Dan Dakich)|
Right: BAIL. [Fuller]
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
Michigan and Illinois played once in the regular season: last Tuesday, when the Wolverines eviscerated the Illini for an 84-53 victory in Champaign. This clinched the outright Big Ten regular-season title for Michigan.
A repeat of this would be more than welcome.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||13||Tracy Abrams||Jr.||6'2, 190||74.3||25.0||96.1|
|~3:2 assist-to-TO ratio, takes second-most shots on ILL, 39.0 eFG% (woof)|
|G||25||Kendrick Nunn||Fr.||6'3, 180||46.9||18.1||107.5|
|40% 3-pt shooter, improving as season goes on and workload increases|
|G||24||Rayvonte Rice||Jr.||6'4, 235||81.6||26.3||107.0|
|Volume shooter, best at rim, middling jumper, good rebounder, top-200 steal rate|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Fr.||6'6, 210||33.4||20.4||96.1|
|Decent rebounder, gets to FT line well, 78% FT shooter, jumper work-in-progress|
|C||32||Nnanna Egwu||Jr.||6'11, 250||73.2||16.3||97.1|
|Top-60 block rate, excellent off. rebounder, low def. rebound #s, not a scorer|
|F||33||Jon Ekey||Sr.||6'7, 225||65.9||14.1||118.3|
|3-pt specialist hitting 36% beyond arc, good off. rebounder, tiny usage & TO rate|
|G||2||Joseph Bertrand||Sr.||6'6, 200||63.4||20.5||99.4|
|Illini's run has coincided directly with decrease in Bertrand's minutes, production|
|F||22||Maverick Morgan||Fr.||6'10, 250||18.8||13.5||104.4|
|Gets spot minutes, solid finisher, good off. rebounder, gets to line, commits a ton of fouls|
Illinois knocked off Indiana 64-54 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament today, giving the Illini their fifth win in six games. In those five wins, they've held their opponents—Minnesota, Nebraska, MSU, Iowa, and IU —to 0.89 points per possession. That lone loss came to Michigan, of course, when the Wolverines scored 1.33 points per trip.
The rest of this is updated from the preview of the first game because very little has changed:
While the Illini defense has been solid throughout the season, they have the worst-shooting offense in the conference on the other end, and a look through their lineup brings forth some awful numbers, like these: point guard Tracy Abrams, a decent passer and solid on-ball defender, takes nearly 24% of the team's shots when he's on the floor—he's shooting 38% from two and 28% from three.
The team's best offensive player is Rayvonte Rice, a bulldog of a guard—6'4", 235 pounds—who takes over a third of his shots at the rim, hitting them at a 63% clip, per hoop-math. He also gets to the line at a high rate, hits 72% of his free throws, and boasts an impressively low 11.5% TORate for a player that relies so much on creating off the dribble. He's not much of a shooter, however, making 30% of his two-point jumpers and 31% of his three-pointers. Rice is statistically the team's best defensive rebounder, which is impressive for him and much less so for the team.
Coach John Groce replaced two seniors, Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey, with freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill in the starting lineup nine games ago; in that span, Illinois is 6-3, and the lineup is slated to remain the same tomorrow. Nunn takes nearly as many threes as twos and connects at a 40% rate from beyond the arc. Hill is holding his own as an undersized four, doing a decent job on the glass while making up for poor shooting from the field by getting to the charity stripe at a 52% rate and hitting 78% of his free throws. Ekey falls into the "just a shooter" category, which isn't too good when hitting just 36% from three, though he's hit some huge shots of late. Bertrand is a worse-rebounding, better-shooting version of Hill, and he gets to the line less often.
The starting center is 6'11" enigma Nnnanna Egwu, who still hasn't put it all together in his junior season. He's a great shot-blocker and solid offensive rebounder, but his 14.3 defensive rebounding percentage is alarmingly low for a center of his size. He boasts a solid mid-range jumper, but his post offense is so poor he's shooting just 43% on two-pointers. For some reason, he's attempted 23 three-pointers, of which he's hit five.
For better or worse, Illinois is stuck with Egwu at the five. Freshman backups Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert play spot minutes, and while their finishing at the basket is well ahead of Egwu's, both players commit a lot of fouls while failing to provide Egwu's shot-blocking. Also, both are somehow worse on the defensive boards.
Colbert's 7.2 DR% is the worst among any qualifying Illinois player—that's 1.1% lower than Spike Albrecht's rate. (EDIT: Colbert no longer plays enough minutes to qualify for KenPom's page, but according to Statsheet his 8.1 DR% is now equal to Spike's.)
Since the last matchup, Illinois knocked off Iowa by three on the road to cap the regular season, then won today against Indiana.
This section from the first preview proved prescient:
Relying on forcing turnovers, especially in the low-error Big Ten, tends to produce results of high variance; Illinois has been very good defensively in the last four games, but they've also been lit up by the likes of Wisconsin (1.34 ppp in Kohl), MSU (1.18 at Ill.), Iowa (1.14 at Ill.), and Wisconsin again (1.21 at Ill.)—aside from last weekend's game in East Lansing, Illinois has had a difficult time shutting down the conference's best offenses.
Illinois forces the second-most turnovers in the Big Ten; they have the third-worst eFG% against. One of these things held up against Michigan.
Offensively, they're not good: Illinois is dead last in the Big Ten in two-point shooting (42.1%) and tenth in three-point shooting (30.4%) while getting to the line at the league's worst rate. Scoring points is the goal of basketball, and it's rather difficult to do without putting the ball in the hoop. Not helping matters is their below-average rebounding. Add it all up and the only Big Ten team with a worse offense is Northwestern.
Play in control. Turnovers sparked the Illinois turnaround of late. Michigan boasts the league's second-lowest turnover rate. Taking care of the ball as the Wolverines usually do will go a long way towards winning this game; even though Illinois isn't great in transition, they still score more effectively on the break than they do in the halfcourt.
Exploit perimeter matchups. Illinois is going to have to defend either Nik Stauskas or Caris LeVert (probably the latter) with a player three inches shorter. Expect a healthy dose of high screens for whomever gets this matchup, especially given how willing John Beilein has been to let his stars rise and fire over shorter defenders whenever they get an opening.
Get out on shooters. Should Michigan come remotely close to a repeat of their first offensive performance against Illinois, the only way the Illini can keep up is by getting unusually hot from beyond the arc. While they're not great from the outside as a team, they've got a few players capable of stringing a few shots together: Ekey, Bertrand, and Nunn, especially.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 5
The NCAA tournament is right around the corner and there isn’t much of a secret sauce for winning six games in a single elimination tournament. Have a future NBAer or three, make your three pointers and hope you don’t face a team who goes on a shooting tear.
But this post isn’t about basketball. College football doesn’t have to face anything like a six game elimination tournament and tends to have a lower game to game variance than basketball does. Be in the top 2 after 12 or 13 games and then win a game after a month off. This year it becomes finish in the top 4 and win two games. What the system has done is create some common threads among its last ten champions.
I am approaching this look at what it takes to be a national champion in two phases. This article will focus on the talent portion and what the recruiting profile of past champions has looked like. Next week I’ll look into some of the advanced stats for on the field performance.
I’ll use a similar methodology as I have before for this work. All players are given a rating from 0 (anonymous 2 star) up to 99 (consensus #1). The ratings are based on all available services at the time of a players signing. The star breakdowns are approximately
5 Star: 70-99 points
4 Star: 40-69 points
3 Star: 20-39 points
2 Star: 0-19 points
The roster is then adjusted for age. First year players only get 25% of their total, second year players get 75% of their points and any players in at least their third year on campus get 160% of their recruiting points applied to the team roster total.* A three star who breaks out still counts for less than a five star who is busted. If you’re on the roster, you keep the points all the way through. It’s not perfect, but it is consistent and quantifiable.
*These numbers are based on historical usage/production of players.
Rosters are then added up based on the profile and age of all players still on the roster for a given season. Each team and unit is then ranked and those rankings versus other teams in that season is what I’ll be using to measure the quality of talent for a given group. A player that has a position change from recruiting keeps his points but they are applied to their roster position, not their recruited position.
I’ll be looking at the champions from the past 10 seasons, a nice round number that happens to correspond to the time period that the best information is available on.
Find out how high the beef (offensive line) ranks on the secret sauce
Average Rank: 11th
Top 5: USC 2004 (2), Alabama 2011 (3), Florida 2008 (4), Alabama 2012 (4)
Outliers: Auburn 2010 (22), Florida St 2013 (24)
2013 Michigan Rank: 25th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2007 (1)
Offensive line is one of the toughest positions to project at the collegiate level, but the shear quantity of players on the roster still leads to a strong correlation between overall recruiting prowess at the position to team success. Four out of ten champions were top 5 level rosters for their seasons but this year’s Seminoles were the lowest rated offensive line unit to hold up the Crystal Football.
Wide Receiver & Tight Ends
Average Rank: 9th
Top 5: Alabama 2011 (2), Florida 2008 (5)
Outliers: Alabama 2009 (29)
2013 Michigan Rank: 34th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2009/10/11 (5)
Wide receivers are a tough position to differentiate the source and the cause but the more studies I do, the more I find wide receiver talent and experience to be highly underrated. Of the four position grouping on offense, none had a higher average rating than receivers and tight ends at 9th. In fact, the 2009 Alabama team was the only team ranked above 11th, even though only one team was higher than fifth.
Average Rank: 15th
Top 5: Alabama 2011 (3), Auburn 2010 (4)
Outliers: Florida 2006 (24), Texas 2005 (25), LSU 2007 (27), Alabama 2012 (34)
2013 Michigan Rank: 14th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2006 (1)
Like the common theme of underrated receivers is the overrated nature of running backs. My working theory on this is that running back success is tied so much to athletic differentiation. As the level of play increases, the margins to exploit that athleticism decrease, as does the value of the position. An elite high school running back can win a lot of games without much help, in the NFL I think you could swap anyone between the 2nd and 20th best back in the league and not see much difference. In college, six teams have won the championship with top 10 running back talent while the other four weren’t even in the top 20.
Average Rank: 18th
Top 5: Auburn 2010 (1), Florida 2008 (2), LSU 2007 (4)
Outliers: USC 2004 (52)
2013 Michigan Rank: 20th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2011 (7)
Quarterback is the one position that doesn’t really fit this study. Only one guy plays and depth is important in the long term but largely irrelevant in contributing to a championship season. More quality rated depth does increase the odds that not only do you have the best guy playing, but he is more likely to be a good option, not just the best guy on the roster. Outside of the top 3, no one else was higher than 10th.
Average Rank: 7th
Top 5: USC 2004 (1), Alabama 2011 (1), Florida 2008 (3), Alabama 2012 (5)
Outliers: Alabama 2009 (15)
2013 Michigan Rank: 22nd
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2007 (1)
While none of the unit ranks averaged higher than 9th overall, the total for all offensive positions was higher at 7th overall. Having the best overall talent wasn’t necessary, but it was essential to be in the top tier. The first Saban championship at Alabama was the only one that featured an offensive unit ranked below 11th in talent.
Probably important to have some guys who can do this
Average Rank: 5th
Top 5: Texas 2005 (1), Alabama 2009 (1), Alabama 2011 (1), Alabama 2012 (1), LSU 2007 (2), Florida St 2013 (3)
Outliers: Florida 2008 (14)
2013 Michigan Rank: 22nd
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2008 (5th)
Throughout the SEC’s championship run, defensive line frequently came up as the key source of strength. The numbers certainly back that up as defensive line has the highest average roster talent ranking of any position group on the field. Half of the last ten BCS champions have had top two defensive line rosters and only Florida 2008 wasn’t among the top 9.
Average Rank: 9th
Top 5: USC 2004 (1), Alabama 2011 (1), Alabama 2012 (1)
Outliers: Auburn 2010 (26)
2013 Michigan Rank: 16th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2005 (6th)
Outside out the four units noted above, the remaining teams have all been between 7th and 12th in linebacker rating. Based on the rankings for linebackers, it’s imperative you’re at the very top, but being in the top 10-15 is critical.
Average Rank: 10th
Top 5: Florida St 2013 (2), USC 2004 (4), Alabama 2012 (5)
Outliers: Alabama 2009 (19), Auburn 2010 (29)
2013 Michigan Rank: 16th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2006 (1)
Like linebackers, the defensive back lineups of national champs is concentrated in a high second tier level. 7 out of 10 champs have been ranked between 4th and 9th.
Average Rank: 5th
Top 5: USC 2004 (1), Alabama 2011 (1), Alabama 2012 (1), LSU 2007 (3), Alabama 2009 (3), Florida St 2013 (3), Texas 2005 (4)
Outliers: Auburn 2010 (15)
2013 Michigan Rank: 18th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2006 (5)
Seven of the last ten national champions have had rosters rated in the top 5 with two more at 7th. The only team that wasn’t in the top 7 still had the 6th rated defensive line and had Gus Malzahn and Cam Newton on the other side of the ball. Recruiting is important, defensive recruiting is really, really important.
Average Rank: 5th
Top 5: USC 2004 (1), Alabama 2011 (1), Alabama 2012 (1), Florida 2008 (5), Florida St 2013 (5)
Outliers: Auburn 2010 (10)
2013 Michigan Rank: 16th
Highest ranked Michigan roster: 2007 (3)
You know recruiting is a good metric of national champions when your outlier is still ranked 10th. When you extend the group to BCS Championship participants, there is still only one team ranked higher than 11th (2010 Oregon) to even make it to the title game.
Recruiting isn’t everything but this is a pretty conclusive look that if you are picking title contenders, you can shorten the list very quickly. All champions were in the top 10 in roster talent and all but Florida 2006 and Auburn 2010 had least one side of the ball in the top 4.
With the field expanded to four that at least theoretically opens the door to a more diverse group of candidates. Of teams ranked 3rd and 4th in the final BCS standings, 8 of 20 met the same criteria as the eventual champs. The average roster of the remaining 12 was over 30 about in line with last year’s Michigan State squad that ranked 26th. With four teams in the final playoff, there are certainly more opportunities for an non-elite talent team to win the title, but it will likely take two wins as an underdog to make it happen. I would expect over the next ten years to have a team or two outside of the mold to win a title, but the trend to remain largely intact.
Also clear from this study is the reinforcement that recruiting rankings mean more for defensive players and that the having highly touted and experienced players on the defensive line is the most critical position group on the field.
How Far Away is Michigan?
From a talent perspective, getting closer but still probably another year away. The 2014 team is projected to be #12 overall in roster rankings, with the offense coming in at #14 and the defense ranked #10. The critical defensive line spot is projected at #13. Oregon 2010 is the only team to make the National Championship without better rankings, but 11 additional teams have cracked the top 4.
Michigan’s projection is still climbing. 2015 will be the year that upperclass is dominated by the stronger Hoke classes and overall talent ranking should have a good shot at cracking the top 10. There are still plenty of other issues to be addressed, but from a purely roster stand point, 2015 should be the first year that Michigan’s roster fits the National Champion profile for the first time since Lloyd Carr left in 2007.
Next Week: the on-field metrics strongest correlated to BCS Champions
You know what it is. Just hit play already.
Name: Prentice McKinney
Ht/Wt/40: 6'3" / 180 lbs. / 4.49
Location: South Oak Cliff High School – Dallas, TX (2015)
Offers: Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Boise State, California, Colorado State, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, SMU, Tulsa
Rating: ★★★ .8563 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #631 NAT / #40 S (247 Composite)
For the Michigan coaches recruiting Texas is a difficult task. High school football in Texas is like a religion so suitors come from far and wide to pluck the rich talent. Also, most Texas prep stars don’t have to leave the state to play big time college football. Even with those hurdles Michigan has made a great early impression on Prentice McKinney.
McKinney was offered by the Wolverine staff on February 16th and he immediately expressed his affinity for what the University of Michigan is all about.
My coach told me to call Coach Funk and then he told me to Call Coach Mattison. I called him and we talked for a while and then he just told me that they were offering me a full scholarship to Michigan. It was great. I really like it because Michigan is big on academics and that’s what I’m all about. They also have a great football team so all around it’s just a big offer.
Prentice and I talked about how it can be tough for Michigan to get kids out of Texas and he had some thoughts about it.
I’m not exactly sure why that is. I know there are a lot of kids that don’t have the money to take unofficial visits to schools in states that far away. They never get to see what those schools are all about. The only way they can is to wait until your senior year but then you only have five visits.
While Michigan does face some big challenges in landing kids from Texas, Prentice is certain that Michigan will be in play for his final decision.
Yes sir, Michigan will definitely be in consideration. They have a high graduation rate, great history, good coaches, and of course they have a great football program. I don’t know a lot of other details yet because I haven’t been up there yet. I plan on visiting though if I can, but it will probably have to be this summer.
Recently 247Sports reported that Michigan had landed in the top group for Prentice and he expanded on that with me a little bit.
Yeah, Michigan is in my top five with Notre Dame, Boise State, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Notre Dame could be the school for me, I like Notre Dame but my recruiting process is not over. I don’t know if Notre Dame is really my leader. It’s a fight with Michigan. I can’t accurately compare them right now because I haven’t visited any of those schools. I’m just going by their history right now. The visits will be big for me, but if I had to pick today it would be between Michigan and Notre Dame.
Well there you have it. Prentice didn’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to where he stands right now. He spoke more naturally about Notre Dame and seemed to mention them more in conversation so I definitely think the Irish have a lead, but Michigan is right there as he said in his own words. His visits to South Bend and Ann Arbor will be huge in determining who might end up receiving his commitment. As of right now he doesn’t have a trip planned to either campus but both will probably happen during the summer.
0 - Passing interest or none
1 - Let's see if he visits before we talk
2 - Among large (8-15) group under consideration
3 - Contender in a top 3-7
4 - Tentative lead or solidly in a top 2-3
5 – Trending Blue
The Vibe this time isn’t an educated guess as much as it is a report on what Prentice said himself. I selected Notre Dame today for my Crystal Ball selection and don’t plan on changing it unless he is blown away during a visit to Ann Arbor, which isn’t impossible.
On the surface, Michigan's defense shouldn't have experienced the falloff it has this season. While Michigan's young, they're actually a bit older than they were last year. Mitch McGary has not been available, but there has been a groundswell of semi-indignation at Jordan Morgan's omission from the Big Ten's All Defense team.
But backslid they have. Last year's Michigan team finished the year 48th. This year's #48 defense is giving up 97.2 points per hundred possessions, adjusted for schedule. Michigan is well short of this number, at 100.6.
You'll note that this isn't actually that much. Michigan's about 6.6% worse on their possessions this year. The average NCAA defense is in fact 4% worse than last year, what with the rule tightening and virtual elimination of charges. A big chunk of the backslide is everyone's backslide. The rest, well…
The McGary Factor
watching the tourney run prompted this section, yes [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan entered last year's NCAA tournament 11th in the Kenpom rankings. Unfortunately, Kenpom doesn't keep individual running O/D rankings, but Michigan's surge to 48th on D and fourth overall coincided with Mitch McGary beasting up in the tourney. Michigan held a selection of very good teams to under a point per possession. They faced the #32, 21, 34, 12, 29, and 4 offenses in the tourney and held them to 0.97 points a trip.
McGary rebounded everything and stole everything. Michigan kept in contact before their late surge against Kansas thanks to his 14 rebounds. He picked up three steals, as well. McGary had five(!) steals against Florida and 12 rebounds against Syracuse. Jon Gasaway was tossing out stats I can't quite remember but were pretty much "Mitch McGary's DREB rate in the tourney is ALL THE REBOUNDS."
But that was five games. Before that McGary had been limited for much of the year. His impact on the stats is far smaller than his impact in our minds. If you're looking for a reason Michigan's not going to run to the national championship game again, he applies. In a discussion of why Michigan's statistical profile on D is grim he's not a primary driver.
Transition defense is a primary driver, probably the primary driver.
You've probably eyeballed this whilst exclaiming AAAAARRGGGHHH during the year, and your intuition is borne out by the stats. Michigan's actually been fine at preventing transition possessions—defined as shots in the first ten seconds of the shot clock—but they've been a lot worse at preventing dunk-and-open-three city.
This is partially because shots have migrated from two-point jumpers to shots at the rim and threes. They've also been considerably worse at preventing teams from both high-profit areas. While some of this is the new rules emphasis, transition is the part of the game where that has the least impact. Hoop-math doesn't have overall trends, unfortunately. Nor does it fold in free throws. Oh well.
With what we have to work with we can figure that a just over a fifth of Michigan's defense has gone from 1.08 PPP to 1.24 PPP. That is most of the statistical decline right there.
|Morgan committing a block under 2014 rule-type substances. [Eric Upchurch]|
The Insane Near-Abolition Of The Charge
There was a ton of speculation as to whether the new rules would help or hurt Michigan. Survey says: probably both. The good: offense takes off, foul trouble becomes more prevalent without touching Michigan, and Michigan's excellent free throw shooting is more prominent. The bad: Michigan's primary way to defend the rim has become more fraught with peril than ever.
FTAs have gone up nationwide, of course, and Michigan remains one of the country's least foul-prone outfits. They've dropped from first to third in that department. While that doesn't seem like a significant move, remember that thing I said in This Week's Obsession about how things tend to get stretched out at the ends of these Gaussian-ish distributions. Michigan's FTA/FGA allowed last year was preposterous 22.7, 13 points lower than the national average. This year FTAs are about 13% more common nationwide. Michigan is seeing opponents shoot 23% more FTAs.
If Michigan was in the middle of the pack that effect would feature a 40 spot dip in FTA/FGA; since Michigan was the nation's best by some distance a year ago it looks like they're basically the same. They are not.
Most of this is Jordan Morgan clutching his head and shooting imaginary eye lasers at the refs. His fouls per 40 minutes have leapt from 3.5 to 5.3, and one dollar says almost all of that is the charge random number generator being recalibrated away from defenders. The other difference that doesn't seem to be this year's whistle emphasis is increased playing time for the relatively foul-prone Spike Albrecht, who also gets whistled for a lot of ARE YOU SERIOUSLY HIGH RIGHT NOW SERIOUSLY blocking calls.
Free Throw Defense
Michigan was pretty good at it last year (68.5, 118th) and is miserable at it this year (72.9, 321st). Just one of those things. Every time I mention this someone asks about whether the distribution of shots between posts and guards is impacting this, and every time I say "maybe, but if so that is probably just luck as well."
This post was going to be longer. But:
- Michigan is a better defensive rebounding team this year, both in conference and overall.
- Michigan's TO force rate has dropped, but again so has the rest of D-I's. They were 240th last year. This year they are 243rd.
- Michigan's eFG allowed on half-court possessions has gone from 46.3% to… 45.9%. IE, it has improved in a tougher environment to play D.
They're not fouling more, they're not allowing more shots per possession, they're not allowing teams to shoot better in their half court sets. 100% of the defensive regression from last year to this year is on crappier transition D and charges being broken.
Is This Good Or Bad?
Well, it indicates what kind of team you'd like to see Michigan deal with in the tournament: slow ones. Failing that, it seems good that there's such an obvious problem that Michigan can try to mitigate by dumping a ton of practice time into.
On the other hand, we just saw Indiana chew Michigan up in transition, and they're not an efficient team in that department. They are a frequent team, with 28% of their shots coming quickly. But a big chunk of that is Indiana taking debatable shots quickly because they know their half court offense is going to suck. That's an obvious reaction, one Michigan should have seen coming. And yet there were multiple Indiana transition baskets of of Michigan makes. Almost 40% of Indiana's attempts were in transition*. This is not a waning issue.
Michigan has been able to slow down transition-oriented teams this season. Iowa and Michigan State are 6th and 13th at putting up early shots, respectively, and Michigan is 3-1 against those teams with three respectable defensive showings. (The two MSU games look bad because Izzo spent two solid minutes at the end of each game in a foul/matador cycle, but prior to that both games featured MSU at right around one PPP.) In the fourth, Iowa ran out to a big lead with a bunch of threes from Roy Devyn Marble, some of them in painfully wide open transition. 30% of Iowa's shots were fast, they went in at a 75% eFG clip, and Michigan got blown off the court.
I'd rather have one issue that Michigan can mitigate by sending waves of guys back than a big dip in half-court D, so I tentatively suggest this is a hopeful sign.
*[And of course Indiana was crazy efficient in half-court situations in that game. The overall trend is decent—or at least the same—half-court defense, though. Consider it stipulated that if Michigan plays half court D as badly as they did against Indiana, they're dead meat.]
RPI Effect Only Teams
UMass-Lowell lost to… aw, screw it. GRIII things.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (23-7, 11-7 Big 12)
This week: Beat Oklahoma State (85-81 OT)
Based on a the interweb mock brackets, there’s a fair-to-moderate chance that Michigan might get another shot at Iowa State, this time outside the friendly magical confines of the Hilton Arena Convention Center thingy. The Committee generally dislikes rematches, but right now Michigan is a high 2-seed and Iowa State is a low 3 seed, so it could happen.
If they DO end up as a 3-seed, they can thank Oklahoma State’s failure to come over to #TeamFoul. OSU was up 3 when they missed a free throw with five seconds left. So, instead of fouling, they gave a 39% three-point shooter (Naz Long) an open look. He promptly tied the game. If you were curious, Long is a 62.5% free throw shooter. FOUL, MAN. FOUL
Florida State (18-12, 9-9 ACC)
This week: Lost to Syracuse (74-58)
#7 Dook (24-7, 13-5 ACC)
This week: Beat North Carolina (93-81)
Like Iowa State, Duke is another possible Sweet 16 matchup for Michigan (they’re currently projected at around a 3 seed). Like Iowa State, a hypothetical rematch would be on neutral turf instead of a very hostile road venue. Unlike Iowa State, please don’t make us play these bastards again.
#4 Arizona (28-3, 15-3 PAC 12)
This week: Lost at Oregon (64-57)
Yeah, they lost to Oregon, but unless they lose their quarterfinal matchup to Utah, they’re a lock for a 1-seed. KenPom has them as 7 point favorites to get there, though Utah did play them close twice (including an OT game in February). And even if they lose that game they’re probably STILL a 1-seed.
Stanford (19-11, 10-8 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Utah (61-60)
They’re probably in. But I’m more concerned about KenPom’s description of their defense:
“Coach, can you explain your defensive philosophy in the second half?”
“Well, we didn’t think we were very effective in man-to-man, so we went with what we call our ‘shiny object’ set, which is sort of a hybrid man/zone concept where everyone just kinda guards the person near them until they see someone else open and then they guard that person for a while. Or if they get bored or want to be on the other side of the court for a while, they can do that too. The closest traditional comparison would be a triangle and one with a single-high safety.”