Mailbag: Late Game Threes, Basketball And Football Recruiting Reassurances, The Poisoned Chalice Of Access
Go for three against MSU?
Frustrated after the end of the MSU basketball game. Simple question...if you have the ball down 2 points, with the chance to take the last shot, wouldn't you give yourself a better chance to win the game by running the clock down and taking the best three point shot you can get within the last five seconds?
Simplistically, Let's say it has a 35% chance to go in, and that your win % if it goes in is 100%. The other option is go to go for a two point shot with time left on the clock. What are your odds of winning with that strategy? Much worse, right? I'm no math major, but to me the odds go like this:
- generously, a 50% chance of making the shot, which then...
- gives your opponent a possession to win. Call it 50/50 that they take advantage.
- even if they don't, all you get is overtime, which lets call another 50/50 shot.
Maybe you can run the numbers, but it seems like your win % is something like 12.5%. You need three toss ups to go your way.
I'll hang up and listen...
It's a bit more complicated than that.
- Michigan isn't just worried about what will happen if they score. They're also worried about what will happen if they don't. Michigan had 20 seconds left when Bielfeldt tipped the ball in. If that had gone the the other way they had an opportunity to force a turnover or get another bite at the apple in the event MSU did not knock down both free throws. Even an 80% shooter like Denzel Valentine gives you a shot at the game about a third of the time.
- Michigan's tying basket was a off an offensive rebound. Off a two, yes, but even if it was a three the ensuing putback is still worth two.
- Your chance at a putback is greater if you aren't shooting a jumper. In the NBA, shots within 6 feet get rebounded at a 37% rate; threes at just a 26% rate. (Threes are still better than long twos at 21%.) Albrecht's shot was a weird floater, one that saw Branden Dawson checking Bielfeldt at the FT line in an attempt to prevent a three—the nature of that shot greatly aided the subsequent putback.
- Your chances of an OREB are zero if you wait for a three at the buzzer.
- Last second threes are generally bad shots because the opponent is maniacally focused on the three-point line. Albrecht's three to bring Michigan within striking distance was a good example of the phenomenon. To get any sort of look he had to take the shot a few feet behind the arc. See also:
Given all that the decision is far less clear. I'd be totally on-board with an open look that came out of the context of the offense. I would prefer it to any non-gimme two. But waiting for a do-or-die three is not good eats.
I don't have a problem with the way regulation ended. In that situation the imperative is to have a good offensive possession, hopefully quickly, and Albrecht's quick take got a decent shot that put Michigan in position for an OREB without bleeding much time.
[After the JUMP: talking people off various recruiting related ledges]
Predictably, these metrics still have Wisconsin as the best team in the Big Ten, by far (source).
Fair warning: there’s going to be a lot of math in this post, so if you aren’t statistically-inclined, you might just want to skip this one. If you are, well, I hope you find this interesting.
After taking a look at consistency in last week’s Big Ten Hoops column, I wondered if there was a better way to quantify performance: that is, a better way to adjust a team’s performance based on their level of opponent. The idea is that a team’s performance – say, a game efficiency margin of +0.05 – should be more impressive against Wisconsin than against Rutgers; traditionally, that same performance would be +0.05 PPP against either team. I came up with an intuitive way to reflect a team’s performance based on their level of opponent.
Simply put, an individual team’s game score is the sum of these offensive and defensive equations:
Offense: ((Team’s offensive efficiency vs. Opponent X) – (Opponent X’s average defensive efficiency)) / (the standard deviation of offensive performance in Big Ten play)
Defense: ((Opponent X’s average offensive efficiency) – (Team’s defensive efficiency vs. Opponent X)) / (the standard deviation of defensive performance in Big Ten play)
It’s an intuitive metric: an adjusted offensive margin of 1 would be one standard deviation above the expected offensive performance given the quality of the opponent’s defense. By keeping offensive and defensive efficiencies separate, it’s a better way to determine the relative performances of teams on each side of the floor.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
Grant Perry (foreground) warming up with Alex Malzone (#12)
After Deontay Burnett's coach jumped the gun Sunday in announcing a commitment to Michigan, one that fell through for reasons unclear, the Wolverines wasted little time in landing another wide receiver. Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice's Grant Perry announced his commitment this afternoon, becoming the tenth member of the 2015 class.
— Grant Perry (@TheGrantPerry) February 3, 2015
Perry, who'd previously been committed to Northwestern, is the second receiver commit (joining Brian Cole) and the second Brother Rice commit (joining Alex Malzone) in the class.
|3*, #59 WR||3*, #80 WR||3*, 76, #128 WR||3*, 85, #133 WR||
3*, #110 WR,
Perry is a three-star across the board, with Scout easily the most bullish on his abilities. All four sites agree that he's in the 6'0", 180-pound range.
By virtue of playing on a very successful Brother Rice squad and catching passes from Alex Malzone, there's plenty of scouting out there on Perry, including on this site. I watched Perry record seven receptions for 103 yards in an early-season victory over Warren De La Salle last fall:
Brother Rice WR Grant Perry (2015 target): Perry had an outstanding game, hauling in seven of his nine targets; one of those incompletions was uncatchable, while the second would've required a difficult one-handed catch. He and Malzone are clearly very comfortable playing with each other—they connected on several timing routes and when Malzone was in trouble, Perry was often the receiver working his way back to the ball to bail him out.
Perry runs precise routes and plucks the ball out of the air; he showed off soft hands. While he's not a gamebreaking athlete, he gets separation on defensive backs with sharp cuts and does a nice job getting upfield after the catch; he doesn't look like a major threat to juke a safety, but he finds a way to get solid yardage after the catch.
In a normal-sized class, I'd say Perry merits a Michigan offer, and even with the small class I wouldn't be surprised if he picks one up late in the cycle. The Wolverines could hold out hope that Perry, who holds a handful of MAC offers at this juncture, decides that he'd rather be a preferred walk-on at U-M, though with the way he's playing it wouldn't surprise at all if bigger offers took that off the table.
Scout's free evaluation lists size as his only weakness while praising his route-running, hands, and work after the catch:
Technician with quick feet who runs excellent routes, always seems to get open and has excellent hands. Rarely drops a pass and catches balls away from his body. Not a tall kid, but has added good weight and strength. Really improved after the catch as a senior. Fundamentally sound all-around, a competitive playmaker and a kid who will catch a lot of balls and move the chains in college. - Allen Trieu
Trieu listed Perry as one of the seniors on the rise in the Midwest after a strong start to the season. Just days ago, Scout's national analysts listed Perry as one of ten prospects expected to make an immediate impact in 2015. While that was when he was expected to end up on a Northwestern team in need of help at receiver, it still speaks to his polish as a high school receiver.
ESPN is skeptical of Perry as a big-play threat but really like his precision on routes ($):
Possesses a strong, smooth stride and plays with good lower body drive in traffic. Quick off the line and able to put immediate pressure on DBs with very good lateral quickness and change-of-direction. Is smart -- he finds soft spots and knows when to throttle down. Gets inside leverage and is efficient in scramble situations. A very nuanced route runner that is quick in and out of break.
They also praised his catching ability and projected him as a potential go-to guy—albeit a tweener Power 5 conference prospect—operating out of the slot.
After saying Perry finished just behind Good Counsel's Devin Judd for best receiver at Michigan's summer technique camp, The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan scouted him multiple times over the course of his senior season, including a game against Detroit Country Day in which Perry caught eight passes for 133 yards and returned a punt 61 yards for a score ($):
What Perry continues to show this season is an explosive burst after the catch, allowing him to get downfield in a hurry and pick up yardage. For a 6-0, 185-pounder, that quickness and ability to gain yards with the ball in his hands will be important. ...
His punt return touchdown showed off his awareness of the blocking developing around him, as well as the speed up the sideline, to make big plays happen. It's been apparent that he can get open and catch the ball when it comes to him, and he's expanding his repertoire.
Perry seems destined for the slot, depending on how Harbaugh utilizes receivers in his offense, though his route-running and reliable hands could earn him a spot on the outside. I was thoroughly impressed by him back in September; he operated very intelligently within the Brother Rice offense, getting open frequently either on his initial route or improvising after a play broke down. He's also got a chance to contribute on punt returns, as he makes up for a lack of game-breaking athleticism by reliably catching the ball and working his way upfield.
Perry held offers from Northwestern, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Nevada, and Northern Illinois.
You're probably familiar with Brother Rice, which won three straight MHSAA Class 2 state titles from 2011-2013 under legendary coach Al Fracassa and produced 2015 early enrollee Alex Malzone and preferred walk-on Jack Dunaway. Their most successful recruit of the Rivals era isn't the highest-ranked—two-star Eastern Michigan DE T.J. Lang moved to offensive line and now is a starter on an excellent group for the Green Bay Packers.
Per 247, Perry caught 105 passes for 1727 yards (16.4 YPC) and 20 touchdowns in his senior season. Not bad.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the sites list a 40 time. He's got good initial burst off the line, and while he doesn't have blazing speed, he's pretty solid in the open field.
Single-game highlights from his game against De La Salle:
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Perry possesses the skills required to see the field early, Michigan is deep enough at receiver that he should be afforded a redshirt year. After that, he should work into the rotation in the slot, and I like his chances of being a significant contributor down the road, especially if Malzone eventually takes over at quarterback. While his size and lack of outstanding athleticism may keep him from being a superstar, he's got the ability to be a very reliable possession receiver who can break the occasional big play and also potentially make a mark as a punt returner.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Perry is the tenth commit in the class, and he may not be the last at receiver: Ole Miss commit Van Jefferson, who visited last weekend, is a candidate to flip on Signing Day. The most pressing needs heading into NSD are at running back, tight end, defensive end, linebacker, and cornerback. Michigan has five open spots to work with, and could potentially have one or two more with projected attrition.
For a much more detailed picture on the class outlook, check out the Signing Day Primer.
Taco-ranked starters are far more likely than Glasgows [Fuller]
Every year, as college football recruiting becomes the only football thing left to pay attention to until spring, we are suddenly struck by an army of pundits so arrogantly attached to their "recruiting stars don't matter" narratives that they don't bother to care that math is against them.
Michigan typically gets taken to the woodshed in these articles for recurrently not matching recruiting expectations with on-field results. This discrepancy does exist beyond the normal J.T. Turners that everybody gets, and for various interrelated reasons: attrition spikes, spottily shoddy coaching, program instability, recruiting shortfalls. Anecdotally, there are examples I can point to, especially in the early aughts, when an otherwise two-star athlete was bumped to a three-star because Michigan offered. That explains less about how Wisconsin and Michigan State thrive on 2- and 3-stars, and more about how Michigan has recruited very few guys under a consensus 3-star.
However every time we find a new way to compare recruiting data to performance data, we consistently discover that recruiting stars handed out by the services correlate to better players. No, a 5-star isn't an instant superstar, but the 25-30 five-stars each season are consistently found to be about twice as likely to meet some performance metric (NFL draft, All-conference, team success, etc.) as the pool of 200-odd four-stars, who are consistently more likely to meet performance thresholds of the 400-odd three-stars, etc.
Today I present a new metric for proving it: starts.
|Example of raw data, via UM Bentley Library.|
ALL the Starts
My project over Christmas was to take the data from Bentley's team pages (example at right), scrub the hell out of it, and produce a database of who started what years, at what positions, at what age, with what recruiting hype, etc.
A few weeks back I released the initial results of my starts data. We noticed there were a lot of problems in that. I went back and did a lot of fixing, mostly just finding more weird errors in the Bentley pages I'd culled the data from, sometimes emailing the guys themselves to ask things like "Was there a game in 2001 that either you or B.J. didn't start?"
I think I've got it cleaned up now; at least the total number of starts for each season matches 22 players per game.
Recruiting By Starts
Starting in 1996 we start getting relatively uniform star rankings for recruits, though I had to translate Lemming rankings and such into stars (he had position rankings and national lists that line up with what we call recruits today). So I took the average of available star ratings of all players to appear on Michigan's Bentley rosters from the Class of 1996 through the Class of 2010, and put 'em against the number of starts generated. Guess what: recruiting actually matters.
|2- or 2.5-stars||29||271||9.3|
Even with Michigan's notorious luck, the 5-stars were expected to give you about two seasons of starts, compared to the 8 or 9 games you'll get out of a 2- or 3-star. That is significant, and offers a bit more evidence toward the general statement about recruiting stars: the higher the star rating, the more likely he is to be a good college football player, though at best you're at 50-50.
As for walk-ons, I've linked to the list of the 217 guys in that time period who made the Bentley rosters and weren't special teamers, in case you doubt me. The Order of St. Kovacs have accomplished great things for Michigan, but turning up one of those guys anywhere other than fullback has been rare indeed.
I'm going to try to use the starts data above to get predictive. The scatter plot of the 1996-2010 group was pretty linear so I'm just going to plug in a linear equation:
Expected Starts on Avg M Team = Stars x 5.30 - 6.35
And that gives us a reasonable expectation of Michigan starts to expect from a class based on their rankings:
click big makes
For the Class of 2011-2014 projections, I just guessed by hand, so those projections are going to be increasingly inaccurate once I'm predicting 2017 starters and whatnot.
The chart above has two stories to tell: 1) The strength of a recruiting class is strongly correlated to the value that class will produce in starters, and 2) the damage done by attrition to the 2005 and 2010 classes created ripple effects for several classes afterwards.
An Average Michigan Team:
By some quick averages I was able to get an average makeup of a starting 22. I took the average number of starts by experience (i.e. year in the program) for the classes of 1995-2010, adjusted those numbers for a 13-game schedule, then divided by 13 games to get an idea of what the starters ought to be against years of interest.
|Senior / RS Jr||7||5||4||8||8||6||8||9|
|Junior / RS So||6||10||5||4||7||7||5||6|
|Soph / RS Fr||3||3||6||2||1||2||3||4|
|AVG starter age||3.55||3.27||3.18||3.82||3.50||3.27||3.77||3.50|
By this the last two teams look extraordinarily young—about as young as the 2008 team or younger. The 2012 team by contrast seems like a wasted opportunity. FWIW I counted Devin, not Denard, as the quarterback, or it would have been even older. That fits the narrative: 2012 was a wasted opportunity, as a line with three 5th year seniors (two of whom were long-term productive starters) plus Lewan and Schofield was coached into one of the worst offensive lines in memory.
UM 0 MSU 1 EV 03:09 Haag from Cox
Brennan Serville shoots and misses, and the puck hits the boards and caroms around and out of the zone. Joe Louis Arena’s boards are known for being springy, and this is a good example of that as I don’t think the puck would come as far out of the zone in a different rink as it did.
Michigan is set up for an offensive chance, so they’re naturally behind when the puck enters the neutral zone. Michael Downing is back to defend and needs to work toward the middle of the ice to break up the impending 2-on-1.
I was critical of Downing diving on Twitter, but now that I’ve had the benefit of watching the play over and over again in slow motion I have to take that back. His job on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass so that Nagelvoort can take the shooter, which is what he’s clearly attempting in the screen cap below. His dive fails because Cox delivers a perfect saucer pass over Downing’s stick. I used to try saucer passes in Ea Sports’ NHL series and was never able to execute one as well as this.
Nagelvoort has to adjust in this frame. His job has changed from taking the presumed shooter (Cox) to pushing laterally and covering the actual shooter (Haag).
Haag tries to hit the near-side corner. The puck hits Nagelvoort in the shoulder and is deflected up and into the corner of the net. Michigan’s goalies have terribly unlucky shoulders.
[After THE JUMP: Are teams allowed to go more than 20 minutes without scoring? I investigate]
Same business. I already wrote the column about John Beilein as MacGuyver, and this was more of that, except moreso. After ten minutes of post-game frustration, I have the same emotional reaction to beating Nebraska handily at home as losing in OT on the road to MSU down LeVert and Walton (and DJ Wilson and Mark Donnal and those five guys in the NBA): wow.
Once we have experience/players they'll get back to it. It's unfortunate they ended up on the wrong side of a couple of games that look like they'll prevent them from getting to the tournament. Let's see what the guys can do for the rest of the year and then go into next year with confidence. And so forth and so on.
MAAR/RAHK. In a meme:
MAAR had an efficient 18 points on 14 shots and a few rebounds. He didn't exactly fill up the box score—just one assist and one TO and a bunch of zeroes places other than points—but Michigan needs points more than anything else.
MAAR's ability to get to the basket and hit contested layups is a foundation for expanding his game. Once teams start to focus on him that will hopefully lead to more good looks for other people.
Autobench. In fact Michigan lost this game because MAAR picked up two first half fouls, leading to an extended period with Andrew Dakich on the court. Dakich played 16 minutes, attempted one shot, got one rebound, and turned the ball over once. Replace a few of those minutes with MAAR minutes and that's probably worth another few points—in his absence defaulted to posting Max Bielfeldt.
MAAR then finished with two fouls, frustratingly. I complain about this every time it happens but I'll keep complaining about it. Every year Beilein has one of the least foul-prone teams in the country, and every year he yanks an important player from the lineup for ten minutes because a guy who averages 2 fouls per 40 picks them up early. When that guy is a scholarship player who has some ability it's one thing. When it's a walk-on who was a few bounces of the ball away from a 16-minute trillion it's another.
I'm enjoying the scotch-tape-and-soda thing as far as it goes, but it is still frustrating to feel that you could have won this game if you'd just had faith a guy averaging 3.5 fouls per 4 could handle a few first-half minutes with two.
This is like timeout strategy with NFL coaches: even the best people are seemingly insane about it.
Assist drought. Michigan struggled through this game with a measly 8 assists (30% of their baskets). MSU was at 70%. That's the offense's struggle in a nutshell. There's a lot of one on one basketball and not much ability to find an open guy. Irvin actually led the team with three. That was the second straight game he'd managed that. Believe it or not, that's the first time in his career he's had back-to-back games of three+ assists.
Michigan has very little ability to penetrate without two of their big three, and unless MAAR develops into more of a point guard instead of a shooting guard that's going to persist. The offense's smoothness will require assists in the 15-18 range instead of the 8 number they've put up in many of their Big Ten games.
Irvin. A frustrating year from him, one in which he's suffered greatly from Michigan's general lack of shot generation. He's improved in that department, but he's gone from "zero" to "not much"; many of the shots he gets for himself are heavily contested bad ideas. As a result his efficiency went off a cliff. His assist rate remains well under 10 despite the recent surge-type event and he's not a plus rebounder on either end.
Early in the season I was hoping Irvin could become a "threes and" guy, whether that was threes and D or rebounding or shot generation. He hasn't really. It's not so much about the shooting. He's been hurt by Walton's evident lack of burst all season, and would no doubt be just as deadly as he was last year if he was getting the same shot quality. It's about how he tends to drift out of games when he's not scoring.
Center spot. Bielfeldt hit some shots but not efficiently; he rebounded but was generally overwhelmed by MSU. He did screen much better than we've seen the freshmen do this year—too often they are imprecise and the screen just wastes time instead of creates room.
Michigan needed Doyle to have one of those games in which he seems like a future star; instead they got some iffy defense (he was too aggressive in the short corner in the 2-3) and one shot attempt in 15 minutes. He is a freshman post and so will be up and down for the next two years; really would have been nice to get a Syracuse-like performance from him.
We saw some brief passages with Bielfeldt at the 4 next to Doyle and I wonder if that'll be more common going forward when Donnal gets back. Against low-usage Big Ten 4s, Bielfeldt brings more rebounding, and if MAAR can pick up spot PG minutes that might be a way to prevent the dual-walkon backcourt we saw at the tail end of the first half.
Fifth year though, right? Michigan does not have any recruits in the 2015 class as of now; unless they do there seems to be no reason to not bring Bielfeldt back if he's willing. I know he was thinking about heading elsewhere for his final year so that he could get some playing time… but he is getting some now and I don't see why that would not be the case next year as well.