"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
OR: LESSONS FROM A LIFE HARD LIVED
2/16/2014 – Michigan 62, Wisconsin 75 – 18-7, 10-3 Big Ten
Michigan was one bounce away from a Big Ten title last year and went to the Final Four. This year they're tied at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State. And still there are multiple games per year that I am immediately sick about because Michigan gets down by one billion immediately.
Maybe they cut the deficit to a million and then eventually lose. Point stands. I don't think they've actually won a one billion point deficit game; the closest they've come is the most recent outing against Ohio State that reached a maximum deficit of ten. The four in the last two years:
- Michigan goes down 29-8 in the first half at Ohio State, eventually ties game, loses 56-53.
- Michigan goes down 31-15 in first half at MSU, rest of game proceeds like that.
- Iowa leads 27-11 at Iowa, rest of game proceeds like that.
- I dunno, pick a first-half point against Wisconsin: 14-4, 26-11, 34-16. Michigan narrows it to five before Wisconsin ends the game on a sealing run.
Does this happen to other very good basketball teams? I assume it must. There are two types of people: those who are suspicious of their own brains and those who assume they have no biases. I'm in the former group and therefore assume that other teams headed for Sweet 16 seeds regularly get their ass handed them in appalling fashion.
Let's just head over to Kenpom and…
I've got Kansas's game against Texas, wherein the Jayhawks ended up down 17 near the end of the first half and never really closed that deficit. Villanova will run screaming from the room if you so much as use a word that begins with C after their two outings against Creighton. And… and that's about it. I didn't check every single loss in the KP top 25, but I did do a lot of them and it does appear that getting smacked upside the head with a giant ham in the first 15 minutes is a notable rarity amongst teams that purport to be as good as Michigan does.
This is no fun. I can deal with losing to Arizona or even grumbling through that Indiana game much better than I can the series of increasingly agitated expletives followed by dismal silence that has resulted from these… things. Games they are not. Games are competitive contests of sporting intent. These are flayings, followed by an excruciating period of bleeding out.
The Ohio State one was okay, I guess. That was the first hamblast game and Michigan recovered from it to acquire a moral victory. (Tedious person about to let me know that he doesn't believe in moral victories: you're a fan, you certainly do, please stop parroting press conferences, both teams played hard.) The three since have been solid platforms of misery.
You can't turn them off because you remember that Ohio State game—it was a trap!—and you can't watch them without removing all emotion from your life, gazing dumbly ahead like a cow on a conveyor belt, bleating in directionless anguish every once in a while. The comeback trail is only satisfying in retrospect if the comeback is completed. Teasing contact and then letting go is just the cherry on top of the cow-conveyor-belt sundae.
I may have tortured that metaphor until it died. I have no regrets. It knew the risks, coming into this column after that game. It'll get an MGoState funeral; its wife, a jaunty comparison between Zak Irvin and a modern piece of kitchen technology, gets full benefits.
For my part, I'm spending the next week assembling a couch fort in the living room and testing out colanders for protective potential. I plan to peer out my viewport, Super Soaker in hand, until it feels safe to come out. If it feels safe to come out. I'm bringing a lot of soup.
Thanks, Increasingly Dangerous Nebraska™! Really did us a solid there, winning at the Breslin. Michigan retains its virtual one-game lead over the Spartans based largely on the fact that Michigan's next game is at home.
Is Nebraska headed for the bubble? Yeah, but probably the wrong side. They've got zero good nonconference wins and a bad loss versus UAB. I don't wins over OSU, Miinnesota, and @ MSU get you in with, say, an 18-12 record and 10-8 in conference. They'd have to either go 5-1 down the stretch (doable, but not probable: PSU, Purdue, @ Illinois, NW, @ Indiana, Wisconsin) or notch another big scalp in the BTT to get in.
But hey, that's quite a turnaround from last year, when Nebraska was dismal and senior-heavy. The Cornhuskers get everyone except Ray Gallegos back next year and will be projected to grab a bid.
Sound all available alarms. The Stauskas crisis is reaching peak levels. 11 points on 13 shot attempts, 2 assists, and 3 TOs lead to a single-game ORTG of 78 and, worse, is reflective of his past five or six games. Asking Stauskas to be more aggressive has just caused him to take a lot of bad shots. Sometimes they go in because Stauskas, but bad shots are bad shots no matter who takes them. Michigan really has to figure out something to combat the point guard gambit here. This is trouble.
At least this one was a tough runner from an angle. GRIII possessions not so much. [Bryan Fuller]
Why was the 6'6" guy on the 7-foot guy again? Michigan inexplicably singled GRIII up against Kaminsky so often that it became clear this was on purpose when Hayes was in the game. This was nuts. Kaminsky abused the much shorter Robinson for a series of easy buckets and four OREBs; Hayes just stood in front of Morgan/Horford and launched 15-footers. If switching those matchups ends up with Hayes posting GRIII, okay. That's going to work out better than Kaminsky. Even if you thought Kaminsky couldn't post up—no idea why that would be the case—after his first extremely easy bucket over GRIII it was time to put the biggest dude available on him.
Not like GRIII was much better against Dekker. Pro: he somehow acquired 5/8 from two in this game—seriously, look at the box score and you'll be like "wha?"
So, so passive. Michigan's disruption stats in this game were pathetic: 0 blocks, 0 steals, 2 Wisconsin turnovers. TWO. Yeah, yeah, HORSE, but that's so far out of bounds that you can't keep up. Wisconsin had 8 more FGAs and 3 more FTAs. The shooting wasn't that different; it was largely on shot advantage.
Michigan's defense has now farted down to 89th on Kenpom, which is 50 spots below last year. McGary only played 20 minutes a game; is that really the entire difference? I mean, I don't remember either Burke or Hardaway as the kind of players who made you think that they would be missed on the defensive end, Burkesteal excepted.
Irvin: nope. The Irvin giveth and the Irvin taketh away: 1/7 in this game. None were exceptional looks, but most looked plausible as he shot them. I guess in this game he was The Dutch Oven, because it took him a long time to get warmed up. Are you quitting this blog yet? Because of the Irvin stuff? I don't really blame you.
Also nope: Walton, 0/6 from the floor.
Caris! Caris jacked up some horrible-idea threes, which went in. Then he got some good looks, that went in. He was only 2/7 from two but with 6/6 FTAs on drives he was really 5/10 from there. He still dribbles around too much for my tastes but when Stauskas is in a funk he's picked Michigan up multiple times.
Credit to the bug man. Wisconsin nailed it down after getting blown up by Michigan the last time out. M did scrape over the 1 PPP mark at 1.03 mostly thanks to blazing FT shooting, 89%. But the whole tenor of the game was different. The wide open twos Wisconsin gave up in the first game were way less open. Michigan did get some, but more often those twos were at least semi-contested.
Meanwhile, Michigan didn't even attempt a three until they were down by a bunch. Getting up to 16 was kind of desperation.
As you may know, Heiko is leaving MGoBlog to go be a research doctor. This means we are in need of a person to fill his role. That is this:
- Attend football press conferences, both midweek and after games.
- Transcribe them.
- Ask questions as directed from on high.
- Dress nicely and be professional.
It is a part-time gig with an expected commitment of 10-15 hours a week during football season and spring practice. Given the nature of the job, you have to be located in Ann Arbor or environs and able to show up for press conferences that are usually mid-day on weekdays.
UPDATE: I have been dissuaded from using the lack of instructions as an intelligence test. Email resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make 'em heavy on stuff you're doing for no reason other than you want to.
Can I write for other places?
Can I write articles for MGoBlog that actually contain, like, my own writing?
Possibly. Heiko wanted to and was good at it, so we expanded his position to encompass that. But he is an excellent, funny writer. You would have to be at least one of the two. It is a head start towards approaching the front page, but this role is distinct from the engaging writing that we like to have on the front page.
Should I acquire a weird, almost father-son relationship with one of the coordinators?
Do not come into this job trying to be Heiko. His relationship with Al Borges was amazing, miraculous, and idiosyncratic. We want you to be inquisitive about football in a way that will probably draw cocked eyebrows the first time you ask about something seemingly better suited for a coaching clinic than a press conference. HOWEVA, my biggest fear about replacing Heiko is getting a guy who thinks that he can take being Heiko to the next level. Do not next level Heiko, please.
Is this is a step towards a full-time job at MGoBlog?
Possibly but not necessarily. Given current growth rates we are a few years away from even considering another full time guy on the editorial side. The position is a good fit for a young guy who's looking for a start.
Even though the basketball game didn’t go the way Michigan fans would’ve liked, there were plenty of recruits on hand and the football coaches still used the opportunity to show the underclassmen around campus. That interaction led to two new offers going out on Sunday to 2016 offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg and 2017 offensive lineman Josh Myers.
Name: Liam Eichenberg
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6’5" / 275 lbs.
Location: St. Ignatius High School (2016) – Cleveland, OH
Offers: Michigan, Ohio State
St. Ignatius is a big time program in Ohio boasting multiple state championships and even a few national titles. Michigan’s most recent coup from St. Ignatius is Jake Ryan and while he’s easily the most notable alumnus, Michigan has recruited Wildcats since the late 1960s. The Wolverines offered Liam Eichenberg in hopes that he could become the next Wolverine from the storied high school.
Eichenberg spoke of his special moment, spanning three generations of his family.
I was taken into a separate room right before the basketball game with my dad, my grandpa, and Coach Hoke. Coach Hoke told me that he and his staff took a long time evaluation my film and really liked what I do. He told me that he really liked the program that I come from and how I’m dedicated to football and academics.
Liam now holds two offers, Ohio State and Michigan. As an Ohio recruit you always expect the Buckeyes to be a factor but Liam told me that he did not grow up a Buckeye fan and that he still doesn’t even have a team that he pulls for.
Liam spent most of his time with Coach Mattison as he toured campus and the facilities and he came away more than impressed.
The indoor practice facility was insane! I loved all of the coaches too. Michigan is just overall amazing. It felt a lot like St. Ignatius.
Name: Josh Myers
Position: Offensive Lineman (unspecified)
Ht/Wt: 6'5" / 275 lbs.
Location: Miamisburg High School (2017) – Miamisburg, OH
Offers: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan
Josh Myers became the first 2017 recruit to receive a Michigan offer today while he was visiting Ann Arbor. As a freshman in high school Myers already holds five offers spanning the Big Ten, SEC, and MAC. Myers could barely contain his excitement when he spoke of his latest offer.
Well I got there and as soon as I walked in the door I talked to Coach Funk and then Coach Hoke came by and we talked for probably 45 minutes. The coaches and me and my parents were all just talking and Coach Hoke casually told me that they were offering me a scholarship! I was shocked honestly, I wasn’t expecting it all. It made tears come to my eyes.
As usual the coaches have made a phenomenal first impression on a recruit. Josh couldn’t stop iterating the family feel and genuineness that the coaches possess.
The best way for me to describe it was just a real home type of feeling. The coaches preached about how academics come first and about how they are not just there to make us a better football player, but better people too. Also the facilities were incredible.
With Myers being an Ohio kid as well you almost have to assume that he grew up loving the Buckeyes, but I found out that that wasn’t necessarily the case.
I didn’t grow up a Buckeye fan, but the recruiting process has changed my view of colleges. It’s hard to really dislike certain schools especially once you get to meet the coaches and see what great people they are.
The lone commitment of the 2016 class, Erik Swenson, spent some time with both new offerees and he feels pretty good about both.
I didn’t talk to Liam as much but he is quiet and seems like a good kid. He definitely enjoyed today, but I think he wants to visit a lot of other schools so.
Swenson was able to get a much better feel from Josh as they sat next to each other for the entire basketball game.
Josh is very intelligent and very friendly. I think with Josh it’s going to come down to Michigan and Kentucky. His dad and his brother both played at Kentucky so they’ll be in it. I really think he’s going more with Michigan though. His dad REALLY liked his visit today.
Once again the coaches have killed the first impression portion of recruiting these two young men. Michigan as a school, the facilities, and the history of the program all sell themselves, but these coaches take it to another level when it comes to creating a welcoming environment. It genuinely sounds like Michigan will be in it with both of these early offered linemen.
Caris LeVert's 25 points ultimately weren't enough [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Oh, it should've been, could've been worse than you would ever know.
Well, you told me about nowhere well it sounds like someplace I'd like to go.
You know it's not going well when the arena staff decides Modest Mouse's "Dashboard" is an appropriate song to play during halftime. With Michigan down 34-19 to Wisconsin at the break, however, the choice proved prescient.
If not for Caris LeVert's 17 second-half points, this game never would've been close, and even the final 13-point margin doesn't capture Wisconsin's dominance. The Badgers raced out to a 14-4 lead as Michigan's familiar defensive woes reared their ugly head, dominated the boards, and pushed the gap as wide as 18 points when U-M went 5:05 without hitting a field goal.
The deficit proved too much to overcome despite LeVert's best efforts. After the sophomore connected on a pair of three throws to cut Wisconsin's lead to three points with 6:16 remaining, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky answered with a post-up finish. Kaminsky proceeded to take over, hitting his next three shots—including an and-one and a stepback three—to give the Badgers an insurmountable 65-52 edge with just over two minutes left.
Michigan couldn't find an answer all afternoon for Kaminsky, who finished with 25 points (10/14 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt) and 11 rebounds (four offensive). He attacked Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford in the post, caught them flat-footed when he got the ball on the perimeter, and capped it off with that late triple.
While the Wolverines—namely LeVert—found their shot in the second half after going just 7/22 from the field in the first, Wisconsin's major edge in rebounding and turnovers proved to be the difference.
The Badgers coughed the ball up just twice; Michigan had seven turnovers in the first half alone. In a 59-possession slog, those mistakes proved quite costly, especially with Wisconsin generating lots of second-chance opportunities. The rebounding numbers would look much worse if Bo Ryan didn't play it conservative and start sending all five players back with a comfortable lead in the second half.
Wisconsin also prevented Michigan from getting the shots they wanted, especially in the first half. U-M only attempted 16 three-pointers, couldn't get to the rim, and had to settle for a series of long two-pointers. This showed up in the numbers. Nik Stauskas scored 11 points on 13 shot equivalents, going 0/2 from beyond the arc. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin were a combined 1/13 from the field, the only make a meaningless late three from Irvin.
While Glenn Robinson finished with ten points on ten shots and the Morgan/Horford pairing hit 3/4 FGs, the open inside looks that Michigan generated in the first matchup just weren't there. Just five of Michigan's 20 made field goals were assisted; none of those came in the first half.
Dropping a winnable game at home is a big blow to Michigan's chances of winning the Big Ten title outright, but it's far too early to count them out, especially if Michigan State trips up in one of their games (Nebraska, @Purdue) between now and Sunday's in-state battle at Crisler.
Make no mistake, though: this was a blown opportunity, and the state of the defense isn't pretty. After ceding 1.28 points per trip to Wisconsin, Michigan ranks 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, 11th in eFG% against, and 9th in both turnovers forced and defensive rebounding. If there isn't improvement between now and the postseason, there won't be much madness in March for Michigan.
|WHAT||Michigan (18-6, 10-2 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5)|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||1 pm Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -6 (KenPom)|
|TV||CBS (PBP: Spero Dedes; Analyst: Bill Raftery)|
Right: The Stauskas Stepback [Chris Smith/UMHoops]
After Michigan State's victory over Northwestern last night, the Wolverines and Spartans are once again deadlocked at the top of the Big Ten standings with 10-2 conference records. The in-state rivals are two games clear of Iowa, victors over Penn State on Saturday. MSU hosts Nebraska and travels to Purdue before heading to Crisler next Sunday; Michigan, meanwhile, will have an entire week to prepare for the Spartans after this game.
Given that Michigan State (@Michigan, Iowa, @OSU) and Iowa (Wisconsin, @Minnesota, @MSU) both have three very tough matchups left on their respective schedules, a victory on Sunday would give Michigan the inside track to the Big Ten title, and quite possibly an outright one. According to KenPom, Michigan is at least a 66% favorite in every one of their remaining games—they have a 19% chance of running the table. Win this and a 15-3 conference record isn't just distinctly possible, it's the expectation.
Finishing atop the conference wouldn't just put another banner in the Crisler rafters; according to the mock NCAA bracket put together by media members in Indianapolis this week, the B1G champion is set to get the most desirable two-seed spot in terms of both matchup (Wichita State is easily the weakest one-seed) and location (Indianapolis).
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
If not for Wisconsin scoring the first basket, Michigan would've led wire-to-wire in their first win in Madison since 1999. The Badgers managed to cut a 15-point second half deficit all the way down to one before Nik Stauskas drilled a stepback three-pointer over Nigel Hayes.
Stauskas was brilliant, leading all scorers with 23 points while adding in four assists; Caris LeVert (20 points), Glenn Robinson III (14 on 6/8 FG), and Jondan Morford (combined 12 points, 14 rebounds, 6/6 FG) also excelled. Michigan scored 1.16 points per trip, their best mark against Wisconsin since 2006.
The Michigan loss represented the second of what would be five losses in six games for the Badgers, though they've since rebounded with three straight wins (@Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota).
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||12||Traevon Jackson||Jr.||6'2, 208||76.2||23.3||No|
|Not particularly efficient, but gets to the line and shoots well from beyond arc|
|G||1||Ben Brust||Sr.||6'1 196||86.9||17.8||Always*|
|Very good outside shooter, mostly a catch-and-shoot guy, still hated|
|G||21||Josh Gasser||Jr.||6'3, 190||83.4||12.8||Always*|
|Tiny usage, great shooter, high FT rate despite more 3PA than 2PA, still hated|
|F||15||Sam Dekker||So.||6'7, 220||75.3||23.7||Kinda|
|Potential first-rounder, very efficient inside arc, few TOs, iffy outside shot|
|C||44||Frank Kaminsky||Jr.||7'0, 234||64.8||23.2||Not at all|
|Very effective near basket or outside, decent rebounder and shot-blocker|
|F||15||Nigel Hayes||Fr.||6'7, 250||44.7||25.5||Very|
|Solid scorer inside arc, foul magnet, poor FT shooter, active defender|
|G||24||Bronson Koenig||Fr.||6'3, 190||35.9||13.2||Yes|
|Barely played in first matchup, midrange shots falling, three-pointers not|
|F||13||Duje Dukan||Jr.||6'9, 220||20.8||17.6||Kinda|
|Stretch-four type seeing very few minutes in B1G play|
As is their norm, Wisconsin keeps a short bench (339th nationally in bench minutes); with Dukan barely getting any run in conference play, this is a seven-man rotation.
Point guard Traevon Jackson doesn't excel in any one area and has struggled to finish inside the arc (42.4% 2-pt), but he's a well-rounded player who can distribute the ball, knock down three-pointers (37.9%), and get to the line frequently. To combat his ability to get to the rim, Michigan used Caris LeVert to defend him in the first matchup; this worked out well—Jackson finished with 7 points on 12 shot equivalents while making just one trip to the charity stripe.
Noted/hated gunners Ben Brust and Josh Gasser round out the starting backcourt. Aside from Brust's higher usage and Gasser's higher FT rate, they're extremely similar players. Brust shoots 39.6% from three while leading the Big Ten in attempts; Gasser shoots 42.3% from beyond the arc, where he takes more than half his shots. Both are exceptional free-throw shooters and middling finishers inside the arc. Meanwhile, their lack of size is something Michigan can take advantage of on the other end of the floor—Stauskas worked Gasser off the pick-and-roll in the first game and LeVert was able to shoot right over Brust.
Athletic wing Sam Dekker takes the highest percentage of the team's shots, though his jumper has often failed him in Big Ten play—he's shooting 28.6% from beyond the arc in conference. He's at his best when he's able to attack the rim off the dribble; he was 5/10 on two-pointers in the first game, mostly generating those shots near the rim, and 0/3 on three-pointers. For a player who relies on driving as much as Dekker does, he takes care of the basketball very well.
Frank Kaminsky is a stretch four in a center's body, which has its positives and negatives. He's a very adept outside shooter (40.7% 3-pt) who can also go to work on the block (71.2% on shots at the rim, per hoop-math) and knock down midrange jumpers (42.9%); all these shots are pretty impossible to block. His rebounding numbers are good but not great, which hurts this small Wisconsin team, and considering his size he's not the most imposing interior defender, something Brian mentioned as a big factor in Michigan's previous triumph:
There is something wonky about Wisconsin's defense this year that was not the case last year. That is Wisconsin trading Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Neverending Ginger Assassin…
…for Frank Kaminski, Sam Dekker, and a 6'3" guard. Their ability to contest the jumpers their defense is designed to provide has been seriously compromised by their lack of size. Compounding issues: while Kaminski is taller than Berggren he's nowhere near Berggren's class as an intimidator.
Wisconsin packs the three-point line and plays a soft hedge against the pick-and-roll, theoretically forcing opponents to attempt difficult pull-up twos. This year, however, those shots have been a little easier, and the dropoff in interior defense has also led to opponents shooting unusually well against the Badgers from the outside due to drive-and-kick opportunities when the defense collapses.
The backup of real significance is freshman Nigel Hayes, whose FT rate of 103.4 (yes, he's attempted more FTs than FGs) would be third nationally and miles ahead of any B1G player if he got enough minutes; he's averaging just under 11 points per game in conference even though he hits just 59.5% of his free throws. Hayes has a wide, solid frame for a 6'7 guy, which allows him to split his minutes evenly between center and power forward, though his rebounding numbers aren't up to snuff for a big man. He utilizes a long wingspan to block his fair share of shots and generate a surprising number of steals, though he's also foul-prone (5.6 FC/40).
Fellow freshman Bronson Koenig gets sporadic minutes at guard and gets very little usage; he mostly functions as a spot-up shooter, though he's not doing well in that role (4/21 3-pt in B1G play).
From the first preview:
Wisconsin jumped out to a school-record 16-0 start before Tuesday's loss at Assembly Hall, and they didn't do it against the proverbial tray of cupcakes: those 16 wins include nine KenPom top-100 teams, four of which rank in the top 25 (Florida, St. Louis, Virginia, and Iowa). Their most impressive win is probably the 48-38 suffocation of #17 Virginia in the B1G/ACC Challenge that set the game of basketball back a good half-century.
Since then victories at the Kohl Center have lost some of their luster, as Northwestern(!) and Ohio State both triumphed there; the Badgers also lost by 13 at Minnesota during their early Big Ten skid. They've righted the ship with a road win at Illinois and home victories over MSU and Minnesota in their last three games. That Minnesota win came on Thursday night, so this is a pretty quick turnaround for the Badgers.
Both of these teams are heavily reliant on outside shooting to generate points, even though they go about generating those shots in wildly different ways; the gap in offensive efficiencies between the two can be almost entirely explained by Michigan's edge in three-point shooting (40.2% in Big Ten play to Wisconsin's 34.2%). Other similarities include subpar rebounding, few turnovers on either end, and remarkable foul avoidance on defense.
One area that could play to Michigan's advantage is Wisconsin's dependence on producing points at the free-throw line. The Badgers are second in the conference in FTA/FGA and score 25.4% of their points at the line, also second in the Big Ten. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have the second-lowest FTA/FGA allowed and give up the fewest percentage of points in the conference at the line—just 17.2%. Michigan matched Wisconsin in FTA in the first game; if they're able to do that again—and that feat should be easier at home—odds of a victory are pretty good.
Stick to shooters. Wisconsin's best chance at a victory is to generate a gap in three-point attempts and take advantage; Michigan was a little fortunate in the first game to match the Badgers's seven triples despite five fewer attempts. The bigs have to be very disciplined against Kaminsky, especially when deciding when to help on attacking guards; Jon Horford nearly gave up a huge three in the first game when he unnecessarily sunk into the paint. Meanwhile, the guards have to stick to Brust and Gasser like glue and run them off the line if necessary—two-point attempts from them, even open ones, are more optimal for Michigan than half-decent looks from beyond the arc.
Attack the soft middle. Michigan shot 55% on twos in the first game despite LeVert and Stauskas both missing a number of open pull-up attempts from the free-throw area. The gameplan probably won't deviate much from the first time around—lots of pick-and-rolls to generate those interior looks while keeping an eye out for the occasional open shooter when the defense collapses.
Limit transition chances. Wisconsin doesn't run much (surprise!), generating just 15% of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. When they run out, however, they're quite effective: the Badgers boast a 61.5 eFG% in transition compared to 51.6% in non-transition opportunities. Taking care of the basketball shouldn't be a huge issue—one exception: watch for post passes off of screens, as Wisconsin's bigs often sink into those and come up with steals—so this is all about hustling back after missed shots, something that Michigan has struggled with all year.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 6
Mark Donnal, redshirting stretch four type, is capable of doing this:
Favorite Instagram comment: "There's no way your white."
Grantland feature on Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger. Luke Winn puts Michigan at #8 in his power rankings, looks at past teams with similar gaps between offensive and defensive efficiency (make sure to read the Duke section right above Michigan for context). If you're anything like me, you'll enjoy this SBNation multi-article feature on the history of the dunk contest.
*Yes, this goes against the general principle behind SIBMIHHAT, but some wounds take a long time to heal.
I haven't been doing hockey previews this year because hockey kind of evaporated there for a long time and when it came back I didn't want to pick up the baton again just to tell you the things you could learn by going to the team page of opponent X on College Hockey Stats. So I'm going to morph this into a status update/preview thing with a new format. A work in progress.
[At right: an understandably perplexed Red Berenson. Bill Rapai photo]
|WHAT||Michigan at Minnesota|
Friday: 9 PM Eastern
Saturday: 8 PM Eastern
|LINE||college hockey lines, junkie?|
State Of The Bid
State Of The Pairwise
The Pairwise rankings got revamped in the offseason, yet again. Like the BCS rankings, each iteration drops more and more stuff until you're left with something simple but unsatisfying. This iteration dumped the "teams under consideration" factor entirely. Now everyone is under consideration, even Michigan State.
The only factors left:
- head to head
- common opponents
Since RPI breaks all ties, Pairwise comparisons against teams you haven't played devolve to a straight RPI comparison. The only way for the PWR to deviate from straight RPI is for you to be –2 in head to head or lose head to head and common opponents. This happens once in Michigan's 58 comparisons, as Michigan's grim loss to Western in the GLI lets their superior COP play. But since the tiebreaker for tied teams is the individual comparison, and the tiebreaker for multiple tied teams is RPI the only way that hurts Michigan is if Western is one of the teams right next to them in the standings.
Nowadays, PWR == RPI to a 95% confidence. At this instant the PWR follows RPI to the letter save for Colgate ranking in front of Maine.
So it's kind of dumb now, because RPI is dumb. But it was kind of dumb before, what with teams popping above or below an arbitrary cutoff point radically altering the standings up until the last day of the season*. Meanwhile, the RPI is different but perhaps equally as dumb this year, as an attempt to reform it brought about these changes:
- Road wins and home losses are weighted by a factor of 1.2; Road losses and home wins are weighted by a factor of 0.8.
- Points get added for "quality" wins against the top 20 according to RPI.
It seems like the first change is an effort to prevent Big Ten teams from larding their 14 nonconference games with a ton of home outings. In the NHL, teams get about 55% of their points at home. There is some advantage to balance, but the change seems to make the system as biased in favor of the road team as it was in favor of the home team.
Meanwhile, the quality win bonus is the kind of thing you find stapled on to systems people know don't work but are trying to ad-hoc themselves into something that looks like it works right. The upshot of that change is that you'd rather beat Wisconsin and lose to Penn State than vice versa, and hey look maybe the team already knows this. Do they know that you'd rather beat both Penn State and Wisconsin? Someone tell them this.
Right. So now…
*[WORTHLESS ASIDE: Back in the days when I could stand the USCHO message boards there was one guy who responded to all the valid complaints about the volatility of the PWR system by claiming that the system was not volatile because it only existed on the day the field was selected. Eventually it became clear that this was not the guy being willfully obtuse. He actually believed this.
He had something like 100k posts by the time I left, and is probably heading towards a million now. In other news, a virus that wiped the hard drives of everyone who had posted on USCHO in the past year would increase the average IQ of the internet by 20%.]
State Of The Bid
RPI is everything now; Michigan is tenth in RPI and tenth in the PWR, which would have them comfortably in as a three-seed. Michigan has a comfortable gap over the #11 team in RPI; they're closer to 6th than 11th.
Unfortunately, the RPI changes have blown up the exceedingly useful Sioux Sports feature that would let you know approximately what your RPI would be if you won X of your remaining Y games, because that's impossible to predict with the quality win bonuses.
Michigan has just one team with any of those win bonuses on tap, but they're big ones: Minnesota. Four games against the currently #2 RPI team in the country offer the potential of reward if Michigan can even split; meanwhile a home series at Penn State is a minefield waiting to happen, as is a home and home with dismal MSU. OSU is in the middle. Eyeballing it, 6-4 down the stretch would probably be good enough to keep them in the tourney as long as they got something off of the Gophers.
On the positive end, short of doing something like take three from the Gophers and run the table the rest of the way, a one-seed is out of the question. Moving up to a two is very doable; as mentioned, a couple of bumps the right way in the PWR and they'll be the top #2.
State Of The Hockey
You tell me, man. Michigan followed a grim four-game skid with a sweep of MSU that was filled with fortunate bounces and even gameplay, and playing MSU even is really bad news. Then they swarm Wisconsin, unfortunate to not sweep the Badgers one weekend before they sweep the Gophers. Everything's going just peachy after a 7-3 win against Penn State on Friday, and then… splat.
Saturday's 4-0 loss to Penn State was alarming on multiple levels. Nagelvoort gave up two awful bad angle goals that squeezed through his five hole, and all of a sudden it was last year all over again.
The only thing we've learned about this year's team is nothing. On an individual level you've got certain guys performing and certain guys not; on a week-to-week basis you could get anything from a throat-crushing of a top-ten team to one million unchecked guys running through your own slot.
Nieves is the modern day Milan Gajic.
There are two primary issues: lack of production from Michigan's cadre of highly touted, veteran scoring-line wings and the defense. These have been the issues all year, and they are compounding as the year progresses. Boo Nieves is stuck on one goal; Phil Di Giuseppe has five. Guptill is doing a bit better, but the team has exactly one player cracking a PPG, JT Compher.
The team struggles immensely to generate scoring chances at even strength. I'm not sure if it's a lack of confidence or effort, but watching every rush end with a shot from the top of the circle is beginning to wear, as is Michigan's total inability to complete a pass on a two on one. The skill guys on this roster don't have much in the way of skill. Meanwhile, the offensive ability of the defensive corps can be summed up like so: Kevin Clare (career goals: 3) is one of two D who play on the power play.
The defense kind of is what it is. We knew that it was going to be shaky going in, and then Kevin Lohan got knocked out for most of the season. Not getting even one player in the all-conference discussion from Guptill/Di Giuseppe/Nieves/Moffatt is what's really hurting Michigan. The days when a random nondescript forward became an impact player as a junior/senior seem pretty far away.
But all I wanted them to do at the beginning of the year is make the tourney and they're on track to do that.
You just got Skjei'd. No, I don't know how to pronounce it either.
Minnesota is perennially packed with talent and occasionally plays like it; this is one of those years. Despite the sweep last weekend they're still locked into a one seed at 19-4-5. Both of those losses were 2-1 affairs in which Minnesota outshot Wisconsin, in one case badly. Their sole other losses were at Notre Dame and against UMD; they have had inexplicable difficulty with MSU, going 2-0-2 with two one-goal wins.
There is no one scoring star. Minnesota has nobody averaging a PPG. They do have piles and piles of depth, with five guys over 20 points already and four more over 16. They roll three true scoring lines.
If there is a star, it's a guy who is nowhere to be found on point lists: defenseman Brady Skjei. (Skjei is somehow pronounced "Shea," in case you're wondering where this Skedge guy is on the broadcast.) Shea, a sophomore, was a first round pick last offseason and was the cornerstone of the World Junior defense corps. He's got size, strength, and defensive skill. He is legit.
Goaltending has been excellent, with sophomore Adam Wilcox a true #1—his backup has 84 minutes on the season. He's got a .930, which places in him a tie for 11th with Nagelvoort*.
Michigan's six points back of the Gophers and can tie for the conference lead with a sweep. Good luck with that. For RPI/tourney purposes, a split would be super.
*[Expand the nets. There are 12 out of 82 qualifying goalies with a .930, 28 with a .920, 47 with a .910, and a whopping 62 with a .900. Goalies are too good.]