The Michigan Difference: seeking input on offseason article topics and the first request being about punting and then getting a quick second! Ask and you shall receive.
MGoUser stubob asked whether or not outkicking the coverage on punts was a real thing and if there was an optimal distance to kick the punt. To look at this I looked at all “returnable” punts. Punts kicked from at least the 20 yards and that did not go further than the opponent’s 10 yard line and occurred in the first half of the game unless otherwise noted.
Unsurprisingly from the original hypothesis, the longer the punt, the longer the average punt return.
Average return yards/punt given punt distance
Initially, it does look like longer punts yield longer returns. Of note though is that the slope is significantly flatter than a 1 for 1 trade. The rough slope is that for every four yards of distance you add to the punt, you give back a single yard of average return (not counting touchbacks). This accounts for the average case, but doesn’t address the risk and variance.
The Big Return
Percent of returns going 10+ yards (Blue) and for TDs (Yellow)
Again, the data backs up the conventional wisdom on long punts. A 55+ yard punt has a one in four chance of coming back at least 10 yards. With an average return of 7+ yards this isn’t much of a surprise. The longer returns aren’t just a function of more space between the punting team and the return team. But even with smaller sample sizes, there is a strong trend between likelihood of a touchdown and the length of the punt. Even though the total odds of a 55+ yard punt getting returned for a touchdown is about 1 in 75, that is about 3 times the rate of a 30-35 yard punt.
If you look at the net implications of these two charts, the long term strategy clearly points to kicking it as far as you can, concerns be damned. Even when you factor in touchbacks, the odds of a punt netting 40 yards goes up dramatically the longer the kick.
Percent of punts netting 40+ yards by punt distance
55+ yards net over 40 yards nearly 9 out of 10 times, nearly 50% more than a 40 yard kick. Outkicking the coverage isn’t a valid enough fear to push for any decision other than kicking it long, except possibly in a late game situation where the small but increased risk of a touchdown on the return becomes more highly leveraged.
The Spread Punt
One of the few questionable decisions the Hoke era has produced has been the refusal to move to the spread punt. While I don’t have data on which teams have converted to the spread punt when, but if you trend punting data over the last 10 years, its clear that something is happening.
Average return yards per punt by season, excluding touchbacks
Over the last ten years, the average return yards per punt has decreased by 42%.
Percent of punts returned 10+ yards (Blue) and TDs (Yellow)
Just like above, the move towards lower return yards corresponds with a lower rate of long returns. The real indication of change comes next.
Gross (Blue) and Net (Yellow) punting (including touchbacks)
This generally otherwise uneventful chart shows that over the last ten years both gross and net punting have improved nearly every season. Not only has net punting improved, but it has improved at a rate faster (10.3% cumulative) than that of the gross punting (5.6%), which is the exact opposite effect you would expect based on the fundamental connection between punt distance and punt return yardage. This indicates that over the last 10 years there has been a shift in the basic nature of both the punt and the punt return. Correlation and causation and all that, but this is a pretty clear indicator that the widespread adoption of the spread punt formation has been a huge win for the punting teams.
If we make the weak but directional assumption that 2003 = Traditional Punt and 2012 = Spread Punt, the formation is worth about 3.5 yards per net punt and a 50% reduction in punt return touchdowns. Otherwise of note is that the block rate has dropped along a similar slope from 2.6% in 2003 to 1.0% in 2012. So net punting up, gross punting up, punt returns down, punt returns touchdowns down and punt blocks are down. Whatever has happened between 2003 and 2012 let’s hope Michigan is on board.
YOU'RE A TALLER. User Bombadil reports that Ian Bunting is still getting mail from Mississippi State, too.
This may be fake but probably not.
With men's swimming bringing home a title of their own plus the basketball team's run to the final, Michigan is actually threatening Stanford's Director's Cup hegemony. When the Director's Cup releases their updated standings tomorrow Michigan should be on top of the rankings with only a few sports left: golf, base/softball, track and field, women's water polo, women's lacrosse, and men's volleyball.
Michigan's pretty good at some of those… but, uh, unfortunately Stanford is better.
Top 25 Rankings for Stanford in spring sports, most rankings updated last weekend:
Softball - 16
Men's Golf - 8
Women's Golf - 12
Baseball - receiving votes
Women's T&F - 9
Women's Water Polo - 1
Men's Volleyball - 6
Women's Rowing - 9
Women's Tennis – 12
This is how you dominate the Director's Cup since a year after its inception. If you want even more details, the board has you covered.
Goodbye, 11 to 15 minutes. Draft Express's Trey Burke draft video is all kinds of fun. Even the five minutes dedicated to Burke drawbacks features a number of Kobe assists or shoulda-been Kobe assists:
What an awesome player.
YER A BALLERZ. The NCAA 14 cover:
Will I buy this crap-pile of a game from the worst company in America because it has Denard Robinson on the cover? Maybe. Have they fixed the kangaroo linebackers yet? Made any positive changes to gameplay since 2004?
- #34 JT Compher
- #49 Michael Downing
- #84 Tyler Motte
- #111 Nolan De Jong
- #136 Alex Kile
- #142 Andrew Copp
- #157 Evan Allen
2014 recruit Dexter Dancs fell out of the rankings after being 154th in the midterm. Everyone went up save Compher, who dropped from #20. Default reminder: the CSB has separate lists for goalies and Europeans, so add 30% to each guy's ranking to get a projected draft spot. FWIW, Compher and Downing have appeared in a lot of first round mock drafts I've seen.
So. Michigan's class may lack a Trouba-level dominant star, but it is extremely deep. Everyone who's coming in next year* save recent goalie pickup Zach Nagelvoort and Bryson Cianfrone is likely to get picked in the upcoming draft. Kile in particular is a bonus after being passed over a year ago. He nearly doubled his points in the USHL this year and gives Michigan another option for a scoring-line forward.
That helps make up for the fade from Cianfrone, who was headed for the first round of the OHL draft before his Michigan commitment. He's off NHL draft radars and has a 6-15-21 line in the USHL this year. He is a 5'8" kid who's coming in as an 18 year old, so you can construct a picture in which he still develops into what he was supposed to be a couple years ago.
Anyway: strong incoming class that hopefully sticks around long enough to be impact upperclassmen. And how about Andrew Copp?
*[Spencer Hyman and Max Shuart may also arrive, but neither signed a LOI so I assume they are walking on.]
And we're done. Show us what we've won. Oh, it's a wheezing dog and a dead iguana. Jim Delany on further Big Ten expansion:
"Given everything that has gone on, yes," Delany said when asked about the ACC’s deal cementing the current five major conferences to their respective lineups.
Although Delany said the 16-team superconference format was also "an arbitrary number" that he wasn’t part of, the Big Ten was open to further expansion. ... There still is the possibility that a team from the SEC (Missouri) could leave for the Big Ten -- the SEC has no grant of rights or exit fee -- but that’s a pipe dream, at best.
So here we are. Playing Rutgers and Maryland every year, and not Iowa and Wisconsin and Nebraska. It's hard not to see Delany as a giant middle finger to fans, just walkin' around. Mighty big hand you escaped from there. Tell us more about media markets. Please, yes, just like that. Yes. Like that. About media markets.
What is a name, anyway? The powers that be paid someone millions of dollars to tell them to call the college football playoff "College Football Playoff." Nice work if you can get it. Not quite as good as Bill Hancock's job, which is to say whatever the hell he wants at any time without bothering to pretend he believes it.
That is not actually a name. If you call your dog "dog" you have not named him but described him. It is bad when your "name" for a thing is in fact a description of a superset of what you are—there are already other, separate college football playoffs. Delany:
"I'll be happy with whatever. Obviously I'm not great with names."
Yes, but that's no reason to eschew the concept entirely. You can try again, Mr. Delany, as long as you float some trial balloons to see if the entire internet mocks you before you make a decision. You can love again.
Anyway. These folks trademarked their name-type substance. Can you even do that? I want to make shirts that say "COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF" to test this out. If Xerox is too generic to be a trademark, how can "college football playoff" be unique enough? Someone who likes being in lawsuits, please find this out.
Further confirmation. In not-quite-announced news that's pretty much announced, yeah, Desmond Morgan is permanently moving to MLB so James Ross can start at WLB:
“Playing in space is something I definitely had to adjust to my first two years here because I wasn’t used to that in high school. I was more of an in the box kind of guy,” Morgan said. “Going back over to MIKE, I kind of feel a little bit more comfortable in a sense because of that.
“During the spring, it’s been an adjustment but it was something I kind of grew up playing.”
Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone will back up the MLB and WLB spots, respectively.
BONUS: James Ross named "most improved player" this spring. Hype rocket is entering stage two.
Ann Arbor is pretty all right. Click for big.
WE AGREE OH MY PANTS. Dave Brandon and I both think a ten game conference schedule is a good idea.
"I'm in favor of looking at it for the same reasons we went from eight to nine," Brandon told MLive.com. Those reasons include more competitive schedules, as well as greater ability for players to see each of the league's 13 other teams in their careers.
The money thing is an issue, but raise your hand if you'd willingly eat the extra costs from a hypothetical exhibition game in exchange for a tenth conference game. That's everybody, right?
25 memories of "college sports' dumbest goldrush." Blake McLimans taking his talents to Oxford. RIP, Toomer's oaks. Senior highlights from Mark Donnal. Stretch four, yo. Athletic directors are sad. David Thorpe really likes Trey Burke($).
Yes, I have a prepared Hello post for somebody. No, it is not IL TE Ian Bunting. Michigan was thought to be trailing in his recruitment, but a visit this weekend flipped the kid unexpectedly and now he's all committed and such($). Here is a picture.
The 6'7" Bunting is a four star to 247 and ESPN (where he's 113th), a three star to Scout and Rivals. He plays exclusively wide receiver in high school but everyone is recruiting him as a Funchess-style flex TE. A more informative update is coming.
|3*, #17 TE||3*, #14 TE||4*, #5 TE, #114 overall||4*, #11 TE|
A wide split in opinion probably due to the fact that Bunting is a 6'6", 215 pound kid that requires some projection if he's going to be an effective college player. That uncertainty leads to three-star rankings, especially when Bunting missed a big chunk of his sophomore and junior years with injuries. I couldn't find details on his sophomore year; his junior issue was a sprained ankle. He only played four games.
That didn't matter to college coaches, who were hurdling over each other to offer the guy. Not only did Bunting have the big three in the Midwest he also got a USC offer(!), especially impressive given their restricted class size. Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, and many others jumped on board as well. ND's Scout site thought Bunting was their top target($) at TE. Mwa ha ha.
It was a little tough to find scouting out there; almost all of it came from 247 or Bunting's own mouth as he responded to the "scout yourself" question over and over again. Injuries, I guess.
What is out there emphasizes size and hands and routes. Rivals' take from a January camp:
4. IAN BUNTING, TE, HINSDALE (ILL.) CENTRAL
We have seen Bunting run at wide receiver in the past, but the 6-foot-7, 215-pound prospect has started to accept that he is headed to the tight end position in college and he performed well there on Monday. Bunting's speed creates mismatches with linebackers, and he complements that by being an outstanding route runner who possesses soft hands. His strength at the point of attack was better than expected, and he did a great job of getting off the line of scrimmage in one-on-one drills.
247 caught him a few times, mostly at Core 6 events: Wiltfong caught him at a Cincinnati event:
4. Ian Bunting: It’s a talented a year at tight end in the state of Illinois and the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Hinsdale Central standout may end up being the best one. He was dominant during 7-on-7 play, running away from the smaller defensive backs. Bunting has really good ball skills and catches everything thrown his way.
That #4 is no shame when Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Malik McDowell are at the same event. An earlier camp:
10. Ian Bunting, TE, Hinsdale (Il.) Central
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bunting continued to show that he is a sure handed flex tight end prospect. He ran precise routes in the short passing game, and caught the ball with soft hands and arms extended against attached coverage on numerous occasions. Bunting … was the top performer of the tight end prospects.
Hinsdale (Ill.) Central receiver/tight end Ian Bunting stands in at 6-foot-7, 190 pounds with a frame to really fill out. Despite his size, he does a great job of sinking his hips and getting in and out of his breaks. In agility drills, he was better than a lot of the smaller receivers. .
While the Core 6 White team struggle to find a rhythm on offense, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central four-star tight end Ian Bunting was one of the more impressive players there, as he can beat you in many ways in the passing game. Short passes and over the top, Bunting has fantastic hands and ball skills while running very well.
Bunting is a big high school receiver who will make a move to tight end in college and could be a highly-productive receiving target in that role. His strength at this stage is very much as a receiver and he displays very good hands with the ability to consistently extend and snatch the ball away from his body. Possesses good body control and can adjust and grab tough, off-target passes, and demonstrates the ability to pluck effortlessly on the run. He will attack the ball in the air, high-point it and shows he is willing to take a hit to make the catch. Can track the ball vertically well and make the over-the-shoulder grab.
Hands, hands, hands. Coaches' eyes must bug out at this fact:
How would you describe yourself as a player?
"I'm definitely a mismatch [threat]. I can take on a cornerback and I'd be a foot taller than him, but also, a lot of kids that are my size aren't quick but I've got really good feet actually for my size and great hands too. I've been playing a bunch of different sports all my life, so it's really helped me become a better athlete all around and keep my agility at a high level even though I'm a lot bigger and taller than a lot of the other receivers that'll be out there. I also have great leaping ability and big hands and feet. I wear XXXL gloves -- although I might have to go XXXXL next year cause they're getting kind of small (laughter) -- and have size 17 feet."
He told an OU site that he plays corner on defense. Yup.
So… this is good. A 6'7" guy with skillet-sized hands, body control, and not-quite WR athleticism who is already a good route-runner is going to be awesome once he's a linebacker-flattening weight. Can I make a sleeper of the year prediction on a guy who's 10 months away from signing and is four stars on two sites? No? Well, fine. Guy seems badly underrated, is what I'm saying.
Bunting's offers side with the more impressive rankings. Aside from Michigan he also had offers from Notre Dame (that very early), Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri, Oregon, and others.
Hinsdale Central hasn't sent Michigan any prospects in the Rivals era. They did send Jack Allen to Michigan State a couple years ago; Allen's brother Brian just committed to the Spartans. Awkward.
Bunting only had four games last year, in which he caught 16 passes for 412 yards($). Over 100 yards per game and 26 per catch? Okay, we'll take that.
FAKE 40 TIME
Bunting lists his 40 at 4.63 on Hudl, which I award two FAKES out of five for a 6'6" kid.
His abbreviated junior year:
There's also an interview with Chantel Jennings:
Bunting also has a Hudl profile with separate blocking and receiving highlights.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Bunting should have an opportunity to redshirt with Devin Funchess, AJ Williams, and Jake Butt all on the roster for at least two more years once he arrives. He'll use that year to pack on weight, probably cool his heels for another year as Funchess and Williams play their senior campaigns, and then emerge into Funchess 2.0—maybe 3.0. Michigan is going to have no shortage of huge targets at TE in the near future.
A further prediction: if Bunting hits the camp circuit and stays healthy as a senior he'll jump everywhere save ESPN, who already projects him as a near top-100 player. He's got the profile of a guy who blows up what with the injuries and college coach trident fight over him.
The injury thing is probably just bad luck. Anyone can acquire the dread high ankle sprain, and that sort of thing doesn't develop into a chronic thing often, if at all. I get why a couple of the sites are cautious with his ranking as a result, but it's more that they don't have as much data on him than fear he won't be able to stay in one piece.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
With two tight ends in each of the last two classes and a smaller group this year, Michigan is probably done at TE for 2014. Maybe they would still take a Helm or a Mark Andrews, but only late, at which point those guys are likely off the board.
A side note not just in this class but on Michigan's recruiting in general: this is another guy who Michigan has come from behind on very quickly. 247's prediction crystal ball was 100% ND until today, when Steve Wiltfong got wind of the change and got a flip in just before the news dropped. For a certain sort of kid, the Michigan visit just about ends their recruitment. Bunting's take($) from Allen Trieu's article:
"When I went there and visited and got to spend a lot of time with the coaches, players on the team and got to spend the night with them. It felt like home. It felt like the right place for me. My parents came with me and they both loved it and the coaches were so nice and welcoming and it really had a good sense of family there which is one of my favorite parts about game of football is brotherhood and the bond with the teammates and could definitely sense that it was there. Not just with the kids, but coaches too. I got to meet all the coaches' families and it was just the right place for me."
That's how you snatch a kid who compares himself to Tyler Eifert($) out from ND's nose.
Snatching a kid like Bunting from Notre Dame and Ohio State was a nonexistent occurrence under Rodriguez and frankly pretty rare under Carr, too—remember Charlie Weis's inexplicable winning streak over Michigan? That's done. Ohio State's winning their share of battles, but four of Michigan's six commits so far this year are head to head wins over both ND and OSU—everyone save Mone and Speight. (With Michigan hot on the trail of McDowell, Hand, and Lawrence Marshall I'm assuming Brady Pallante's grayshirt doesn't get upgraded.)
The student section is going general admission next year, which basically confirms a long-standing nonpolicy in which your ticket was checked at the section entrance, but the actual section was a free-for-all. Students hate it!
Here's the poll on the
@michigandaily facebook page: 589 "hate" GA policy. 104 "love" it. 44 "dislike but understand." 30 are indifferent
I love people who vote "I don't care" on polls.
Anyway, the given reason:
“This change in policy from reserved seating was put in place as the student section is the driving force behind our home field advantage and we need students to get there early and often to create a loud and full student section for kickoff.”
I guess that whole "you can get a t-shirt for going to every game on time" thing didn't work out despite being a Best In Class Loyalty Program. These are people involved in the decision to expand the Big Ten to 14 teams. We should not be surprised this was apparently unforseeable.
Michigan's also upped the price of student tickets by about eight bucks a pop. Sucks for the actual students. Might convince some of the DGAF crowd to pass, thus opening up seats for actual fans, but the kind of people who drop 200 bucks on season tickets and don't show up on time or sometimes at all are probably not going to be dissuaded by another 50 bucks on top of their tuition and whatnot.
I really wish I could find this email from a mewling brat of a student from the last time it was Complain About The Students time on mgoblog, because it was dripping with entitlement so vast it would have established a new frontier in Michigan Man jokes. It's lost in the deep recesses of my inbox, unfortunately.
In any case: I don't care about you, guy who shows up late. At all. If you're hungover or don't have time to get drunk or are too tired to show up on time, terrible subsection of students who think this blog is an inexplicable acronym, I don't care. I can't conceive of a world in which I, or anybody else, would find the slightest bit of sympathy for you. It's six or seven Saturdays a year—five or six now that they're going to have a night game annually. If you can swing that because of… actually, if you can't swing that for any reason whatsoever, I don't care. That is your problem.
For the students who read this blog this is a good thing. You can swing into the stadium at the appropriate time and plop down on the 20 yard line 30 rows up like I used to and get an excellent view of proceedings. Since I'm always in the stadium 45-60 minutes early I'll keep you guys abreast of the seating situation on the twitters so you can time your entrance to snag the seats for people who actually want to watch football. Since people will cram the first few rows overfull, anyone in the stadium sweet spot will probably be comfortable. And a drunk girl with JEALOUS on her ass can't show up in the second quarter to kick you out.
Problems: Still Extant
This isn't going to do much for the grey ring of apathy at the top of the section, which has always been a combination of the aforementioned crowding near the field and people who either don't show up at all or show up late, don't care that they're far away, and leave early. These people must be found and scolded personally.
I still don't understand why Michigan isn't using the ticket scans to give priority to people who show up on time. A subsection of primo seats for early-arrivers would do more to help out the future superfan types; I wouldn't mind telling perpetual late-arrivers they can get tickets at the full sticker price or not at all.
The reward gradation from awesome fan to terrible fan should be a lot steeper. Right now it is Free T-Shirt versus No T-Shirt. Do you know how many old free t-shirts I still have from my student days? Dozens. (AMD ROCKS!, says one.) I cannot think of a less valuable item than a t-shirt to a college student. The good half of the student section is the best subsection of Michigan fans, and right now they're getting too much of the crap for the other half without much in the way of tangible benefit.
What does bug me about the student ticket prices is that they're a terrible idea from a marketing perspective. Hook 'em young and you've got a customer for life. Continually piling annoyances on the new generation of fans bodes unwell for the future. Throw 'em a bone, starting with a kickass stadium wifi setup*.
*[YES IT'S FOR THEM AND NOT ME. I actually get out stuff just fine most of the time. I should see if my cell phone company wants me to advertise this fact for them.]
UPDATE: Kyle Meinke tweets that Michigan averaged an astounding 5400 no-shows per game last year, or 25% of student tickets sold. Anyone who missed more than one game should be told to pay full price, at the very least.
I've been watching the debate over who is going to start for Michigan next year with McGary and Robinson moving down to the 4 and 3 respectively. My thought is that doesn't UM need Stauskas or LeVert to start at the 2 because they need the extra ballhandler to assist the point guard?
I don't know much about Irvin's ball skills, but last year Michigan had Stauskas and Hardaway to assist Burke with bringing the ball up the court from time to time, so at a minimum they need at least one other above-average ball handler to assist Walton/Albrecht in their starting 5. Thoughts on this?
Like everyone else, I did a virtual spit take when McGary and Robinson declared they'd be moving a slot down in the offense. That goes against everything John Beilein's spent his career developing, and "right after a loss in the national title game" seems like a weird time to decide a conventional two-post lineup is where it's at.
First, one of Stauskas and LeVert is going to be on the court almost all the time in any scenario. When they're both on the bench, Michigan's proably in a dual-point lineup. Irvin does have some off the dribble game, but he dribbles looking for the pullup even in high school and will struggle to create shots by himself in year one. Minutes for Horford and Morgan at the five come from the guys who would play the three not named GRIII (ie, LeVert and Robinson), not the SG position.
Let's take a look at hypothetical worlds, one in which Michigan continues much like they have been, another in which McGary is mostly at the 4 and Robinson the three.
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert (10)
SF: Irvin (30) / LeVert (10)
PF: GRIII (30) / Morgan (10)
C: McGary (30) / Morgan&Horford (10)
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert(10)
SF: GRIII: (20) / Irvin (20)
PF: McGary (30) / GRIII (10)
C: Morgan (25) / Horford (15)
You're taking minutes from LeVert and Irvin and handing them to Morgan and Horford. Is that plausible? We are talking about a redshirt senior and a redshirt junior at center versus a freshman and sophomore who was on a redshirt track last year, so… it isn't totally implausible.
To make it work, though, McGary has to be ready for a lot of weight offensively as a high-post forward who can be a triple threat from the free throw line. Otherwise the spacing Beilein's spent his career building breaks down and things get grunty. Also, Robinson has to be a more willing and effective shooter. Michigan isn't going to be able to go with two bigs if the starting three has a usage rate of 13%.
Do I think this is particularly likely? Uh… no. I do think we'll see periods where McGary acts as a high-post fulcrum, and Michigan will try to develop a two-post offensive plan for times when Robinson isn't feeling it, is in foul trouble, or has a bad matchup like this year's Michigan State games. Michigan will try to acquire some flexibility they lacked this year when Robinson's backup was Still Glenn Robinson.
Upshot: Michigan will spend a lot of time this offseason working with those two guys at the positions they said they would work at, and then go with what works. That'll depend on
- How much LeVert improves
- How good Irvin is immediately
- How quickly Morgan can shake his funk
I think the answers to #1 and #2 are "a lot" and "quite good as long as he's not burdened with creating shots too much," so talk of playing big will remain mostly talk.
where is M's Oladipo?
I understand Michigan will be losing Burke and Hardaway BUT I feel that this might not be that big of a blow if they improve defensively. See their defensive ceiling is very high and with an entire offseason ahead maybe this team could become one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten but the question is, how do they do so?
I view Ohio State as an example. They lost almost 43% of their scoring with the losses of Sullinger and Buford but managed to be within one poor half of being in the Final Four. A lot of their success could be attributed to their outstanding defense.
- Ali Maki
Where is Michigan's defense going to come from? Ohio State didn't just have Aaron Craft, they also had 20 minutes a game from steal fiend Shannon Scott and rebounding from everywhere. Fun fact: every non-point guard to play for OSU this year had a higher DREB% than Nnanna Egwu, and even the PGs were in double digits.
Meanwhile, Michgian's 39th-ranked defense is the second-best of his entire career. (The 2011 outfit finished 34th.) Thad Matta has done better than that every year but one since 2003. Beilein compensates by having great offenses—actually, Matta has a lot of those, too. Anyway. The point is: until we see Michigan take a leap forward into uncharted territory for Beilein it's going to be tough to predict they can scrape together a top-ten defense, which OSU has been for three years running.
I have heard that Walton and Irvin are good defenders—Irvin in particular is dedicated and long—and if LeVert can turn some of his rep into actual defense, they should be improved on the perimeter. They still won't have that impact defender you can put on the other team's top scorer or leave in the post to murder anyone who steps in the paint. Without an Oladipo or Craft or Withey or Russ Smith, it's tough for any defense to be great. Those guys are kind of like high-usage players on offense, taking the heaviest duty and allowing other guys to base their game off of what the opponent probably can't do. I don't see one of those guys on the roster next year. Maybe LeVert, maybe Irvin, but probably not.
This is not to say that I don't expect them to improve defensively. They will be less blitheringly young next year. Players improve most from year one to year two, and Michigan has an awful lot of guys making that transition. They will improve. It's a long way from 39 to 9, though.
Consider what Beilein has accomplished, coach a coach. IF we win tonight, he'll have bested Shaka Smart (Final Four, 2011), Bill Self (national champs, 2008), Billy Donovan (national champs, 2006, 2007), Jim Boeheim (national champs, 2003), and Rick Pitino (national champs, 1996). And he'll have done so with the youngest team in the tournament. Wow.
We didn't win but… yeah, wow.
It seems like Michigan went through Murderer's Row to get to the Final. Since the seedings can be pretty political, does Kenpom or some other objective measure tell us how difficult our path was compared to the Finals teams in recent history?
Yes, Kenpom in fact did pile together a toughest-path ranking, and Michigan made the top ten at #8 of 44 teams to make the Final Four in the past 11 years. This year's Wichita State team was #1. The top ten is mostly 3s and 4s plus outlying small conference schools (along with WSU, George Mason and Butler x2), which makes sense since often a 3 or 4 will have to go through a tough second-round matchup and then take out the 1- and 2-seeds in the region.
In Michigan's case the 2-seed went down only to be replaced by what was then the #1 team in Kenpom, Florida. (UF finished second.)
I hope this painting is called "Malcolm Gladwell's childlike naiveté"
I'm curious about Beilein's defensive tactics. Why doesn't M ever run a full-court press? I would have guessed that a young team that rarely fouls would be a good team to press with, but apparently not. Why is that? Then down the road, when these gents have another year of experience, do you think Beilein will feel more comfortable switching up defensive schemes in a game?
Short answer: a press is not free. Short answer #2: …and Michigan was not constructed to run one.
This was the subject of the dumb article Malcolm Gladwell wrote that marked the end of his status as a sports blogosphere fave-rave. Gladwell observed a sociopathic girls' basketball coach (emphasis on girls: 12 year olds, dude) running a full court press and mused about how everyone who doesn't run one must be using their brain wrong. Rick Pitino comes in for praise for actually having the smarts to run a press, first at Providence and then elsewhere. Louisville just won the title, and all it took was… uh… a veteran, hugely talented team specifically recruited to run it.
The press can be effective if you recruit to it. As we've seen with VCU and Louisville, you usually end up with a certain kind of team: cat-quick small guards, a big who can run the floor, an undersized power forward, a deep bench, and one guy who isn't a bricklayer from three. Michigan doesn't look much like this press team except at PF and designated corner gunner.
Most important is the depth: Michigan had none. Teams that press heavily use a lot of energy. They don't run their players out there for almost 90% of available minutes (Burke), or even 85 (Hardaway, Robinson). UL's Smith and Siva were down around 75%; no other Cardinal cracked 65. No one on VCU or Arkansas cracks 70. In Michigan's case, a press would have meant a big chunk of gametime with LeVert or Albrecht out there instead of Burke, Hardaway, et al. And there's no way Robinson can go 35, 38, 40 minutes in a lot of games, so then you're cobbling together 10+ minutes of awkward lineups. Even if you can effectively deploy the press, is it worth those six minutes a game it puts Trey Burke on the bench?
Meanwhile, Michigan was already discombobulated in half-court defense for big chunks of the year. Time given over to a press is time not spent working on half-court rotations that are useful on every possession, or time not spent working on offense. You don't get a press for free, and the consequences of having a crappy one are easy buckets.
Beilein's not a press guy, so Michigan won't run one next year. That's like asking Al Borges to run a spread—if he has to, he'll do it, but it will always be awkward. Hypothetically next year would be a better opportunity since Derrick Walton won't be the player of the year and LeVert and Albrecht will be higher-quality bench options in year two. But it's not happening.
One of these is Jamar Adams, the other Jarrod Wilson (by Fuller)
Here's a little tradition from around these parts that you're not happy to bring back: who's going to be the new safety starter? Yeah, remember that conversation? Remember how it went around picking up all the we-hope-he's-at-least-an-Englemons out of Gibson'ed secondaries?
The best of all that. This last bout of hand wringing finally ended with the best safety tandem we've had in the Cover-2 era. In their two years together Kovacs and Gordon were the first capable pair since Brandent and Jamar, easily the best since Marlin and Ernest, and probably ranked higher than any since Marcus and Tommy or earlier. We can actually chart the stuff since '07, thanks to Brian's Upon Further Review charts (which total up the plusses and minuses accrued in each game into a rough net contribution stat). I've got my UFR database now updated that far (any further and the knowledge isn't really there to make it relevant or comparable). Remember this is a game-by-game exercise that wasn't meant to remain standard across the ages; that said the Chart?-Chart! chart totals for Michigan safeties in these six seasons very much fit your recollections:
|Jared Van Slyke||0||0|
Chart notes: maize is positive, blue negative so that can stand out more. Time spent at the Spur in the 3-3-5 years was counted as linebacker, likewise Brandon Harrison's 2007 at nickel, which was a starting position on the English defenses. I tried to separate Woolfolk's corner games from his safety games; for the record here's the breakdown for 2009:
…when he was obviously a better corner than a safety but as you can see from above, was needed more at the latter.
Still the totals at the bottom tell a story of a moderately positive '07 (Stevie Brown—0/-8/-8 in The Horror) did most of his damage in one game, which itself did plenty of damage to that season), three years of atrociousness, and dramatic improvement under the new staff. If you remember 2010 as worse than '09 that's because the cornerbacks were just as bad. The disparity between Kovacs 2011 and 2012 is easy enough to explain by there being far fewer opportunities for him to make those Kovacsian stops after 7 yards as Michigan faced either Alabama or teams who either didn't test or schemed against him (Air Force, Nebraska).
Also I had to chart The Horror myself because Brian didn't at the time. Thanks Brian.* Anyway the charting says Thomas Gordon (!) was the best safety at Michigan in the last six seasons. Should we be talking about all-conference stuff for ol' Prison Abs in addition to the leadership stuff? Gee, maybe. He had a spectacular spring game, which I don't think many people noticed.
As for what's opposite him Michigan has to find something out of the blues above plus another year of progression.
*Had this been done under modern UFR standards it would have doubled any record for RPS debacles. Just to know I tried doing that, handing out the remainder of expected points for any play that weren't on the players as Brian does in UFR-ing and came out with this staggering figure of +23/-46/-23. RPS is never that much of a variable, except in this game it was the alignment of linebackers, stunts (!), not stacking the box, and not responding to the QB draw even though they only ever ran one play out of that alignment.
[After the jump: Candidates]