mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
This diary was prompted by the debate from Tuesday between Brian and the Big Ten Geeks regarding the value of defensive rebounding. I read the Big Ten Geeks article that morning and had many of the same thoughts as Brian-I've never been a fan of the stops metric, particularly the way it was being used to compare players. As the debate moved to the value of defensive rebounding percentage, I decided to look through some Kenpom numbers to make a better argument for the importance/insignificance of that particular statistic.
|D-Eff Type||eFG%||TO%||DReb%||FT Rate|
A couple of notes. While I've labeled it as "DReb%", the statistic used was actually Opponent Offensive Rebounding %, hence the positive correlation with Defensive Efficiency (both statistics are "better" for the defense when the number is lower). TO% has a negative correlation because a higher TO% is "better" for the defense, so a high TO% would lead to a lower (read: better) defensive efficiency.
(It’s interesting to see how the Kenpom adjustments to efficiency change the numbers. eFG% and TO% consistently drop when adjusting for competition, while Dreb% and FTRate rise. The smaller deltas for this year makes me believe that this is a result of conference play and the leveling the playing field between teams that played non-conference schedules of varying difficulty, due to the relatively large proportion of non-conference game in the 2013 sample. I digress.)
It is well-known at this point that eFG% is by far the most important factor in defensive efficiency, but I was surprised that DReb% was the second most important factor (I had assumed it would be turnover rate). After seeing these results, I looked at the correlations between the four factors next.
So, there is a weak, but significant (with >340 samples) correlation between eFG% and DReb%. Going back to the correlations with defensive efficiency, I ran a partial correlation between DReb% and adjusted defensive efficiency, controlling for eFG%, which produced a value of…0.41. About the same correlation as TO% (a partial correlation for TO% is almost exactly the same as one without the adjustment, as you’d anticipate based on the low correlation between TO% and eFG%).
It looks like defensive rebounding is at least as important as the non-eFG% factors. What about the effect on the offensive end? Like Brian, I believe that steals should be valued more than other defensive statistics, so I went in assuming that we’d see some sort of correlation between TO% and Offensive Efficiency.
Negative correlations are due to lack of adjustment to defensive ratings for use with offensive efficiency (switching from lower = better to higher = better). However, from this, we can clearly see that defensive rebounding is just as important as any of the other defensive factors when it comes to offense. Michigan’s offense this season has shown this fanbase how defensive rebounding can trigger the break, but it is even more evident when you watch other leagues, where fewer teams put an emphasis on transition defense and sending players back on a change of possession and the game often breaks down into 2-on-2 or 3-on-2 runouts in each direction.
However, after all of this, I still believe that defensive rebounding is overrated as an individual metric. I'm not complaining about Jordan Morgan’s season, but he just isn’t a defensive game-changer in the way of Jeff Withey, Anthony Davis, Fab Melo, Nerlens Noel, or even A.J. Hammons. As has been stated, his high “stops” count is due to both Michigan’s excellent team Dreb% and Morgan's high individual number. His block and steal numbers are very low (his block% is 7th on the team, lower than all other starters, McGary and Horford). I might even argue that his presence has some effect on Michigan’s defensive philosophy and their inability to prevent three-pointers. With Morgan not a threat to alter shots inside, Michigan has to constantly switch on screens in order to prevent easy dribble penetration and 2-on-1 scenarios. They can’t fight over the top of screens to better challenge outside shots.
There was a great example of the effect that a shot-blocker has in the Iowa-Purdue game from Sunday, where Iowa’s players often had Purdue defenders trailing them after screens, but could not drive inside easily due to Hammon’s presence. Unfortunately, there weren't any Youtube highlights for that game, so I had to make due with the Michigan-Purdue game for an example.
First, Morgan sets a good screen for Burke. Hammons did not follow Morgan out to the perimeter, and you can see Ronnie Johnson start to fight through the screen at the top.
Burke is around the screen, but Johnson has followed him, preventing Burke from pulling up for an open three. Hammons is still in the paint, while Morgan is about to roll to the basket.
Finally, Burke has picked up the ball, unable to penetrate past Hammons or shoot over him. Purdue's defensive philosophy has helped remove the threat of a 3 from Michigan's balls-screen offense. Fortunately for Michigan, D.J. Byrd is still afraid of Burke and is about to jump in to help off Stauskas, leaving him open for a soon-to-be-bured 3. Not the best result for my example, but good for Michigan.
Further validating the importance of having a shot-altering presence: Correlation between block rate and defensive efficiency is very high (0.51), largely due to its influence on effective field goal % (correlation of 0.61).
This is all part of the bigger argument that the Big Ten Geeks make in their response to Brian's criticism-that post players/taller players should score higher on defensive metrics. Taller players can more easily influence defensive play away from their man, and playing on the interior puts you in better position for defensive statistics on every possession. Seeing as the objective of a perimeter defender is usually to prevent a single player from scoring/impacting the game, the best argument or evidence for an Oladipo or Craft would be to compare single game statistics vs season numbers for their primary defensive responsibility. They can’t impact the entire opposing offense and accumulate statistics in the same way as a Hammons or Berggren, but that’s a difference between the roles of perimeter defense and interior defense rather than a gap in defensive aptitude. You wouldn't want either of those guys I just mentioned chasing Trey Burke around the perimeter the way Christian Watford did, briefly, in last year's Indiana game. While Watford may have been successful initially, Burke got over the surprise and went on to score 18 points on 9 shots.
In my opinion, the best way to statistically evaluate individual defensive impact would be something similar to what Ace posted on Tuesday, evaluating lineups and considering an individual player’s ability to improve team defensive statistics while they are in the game. Now, this isn’t as fair to players like Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, who are rarely on the court with four other starters (theoretically the better defenders), but we could make an initial assumption that the other rotation players are all roughly equivalent when analyzing an individual player. It’s also unfair to players like Trey Burke, who might play 90% of the team’s minutes any given night and have a limited sample of largely garbage time minutes against which to compare the impact of their absence. That said, it would provide a better picture of a player’s ability to influence the opponent’s offensive strategy and results.
I am very curious to see the 3PA/FGA ratios and 3P% isolated for Michigan's three centers. Even though the team defensive philosophy remains the same for all three,it would be enlightening if opponents were taking more threes (or lower quality threes) depending on which player was protecting the paint. Ken Pomeroy wrote a blog post this week discussing the Syracuse zone and its (limited) ability to force lower quality three point attempts. Any effect at Michigan would likely be much smaller than that seen at the schools discussed in his post, but would still be worth examining.
So Brian talked to me about potentially posting some front page stuff from time to time, but format, style, content, and side dishes are yet to be set in stone. If anyone has thoughts, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I present some of the relevent happenings on the Twitters from the last week or so. Enjoy.
People Weren't Hypersensitive about Derrick Green or Anything
As you may have heard, Derrick Green is a rather talented running back-type creature from Virginia who held an announcement on Saturday. And with all signs pointing toward Michigan, It would clearly take a lot to shake Michigan fans' collective confidence and get other schools' fans' hopes up.
Imma shock the world tomorrow lol!! You just dont no!!
— D.GREEN #⃣2⃣7⃣ (@BrOoKyLn_boii27) January 25, 2013
Nope, never mind, that'll do it. Faced with two possible interpretations ("everything you have heard from dozens of insiders and paid professionals is wrong," or "I'd like to leave some suspense in this inevitable announcement"), a number of fans told Occam to take a coffee break:
5 star RB Derrick Green says he will shock the world... probably not Michigan then.
— EagleDamnWar (@EagleDamnWar) January 25, 2013
5-star RB Derrick Green says he will shock the world. I think that means he will choose either Tennessee or Auburn
— Auburn Blogger (@AuburnBlogger) January 25, 2013
As you know, Green proceeded to shock the world by doing what everyone pretty much expected him to do. And while Michigan rejoiced with Green's selection, several Auburn and Tennessee fans (and at least one State fan) took things less than in stride. The Big House Report chronicles a few people who should maybe sit the next round out. PROTIP: if you are thinking about taking to social media to wish spinal damage upon someone for choosing a college that displeases you... maybe don't?
Confessions of a Derperous Mind
You know how Bond villains always explain their diabolical plan to 007, thereby ultimately spoiling their chances to pull off the caper? Twitter has become the modern-day real-world slow moving groin laser thingy. A couple of players at Florida International decided to take a recruit to a strip club, and then to tweet that they had taken a recruit to a strip club. What say you, FIU defensive back Demarkus Perkins?
Look, I get it. College guys tend to like women. Recruits tend to like women. Strip clubs have women. And sure, recruiting trips probably involve women more often than not. But DEAR LORD dude.
For a few hours last weekend, Michigan looked like it had FINALLY secured the commitment of 2014 WR Rodney Davis. Davis tweeted (since deleted) that he had committed to Michigan, and exchanged tweets with Michael Ferns and David Dawson. There was only one catch: no one had ever heard of Rodney Davis. Neither Rivals, Scout, 247, nor ESPN had profiles for him. In fact, "one catch" barely overstates the case; Davis only had 8 catches for 118 yards and a TD for his entire junior year. Some folks laughed, some fretted, and some, predictably, hit the roof/bottle. And sure enough, the next day Davis tweeted:
@DreamTeam_RoRo1: Sorry For The Misunderstanding I Was Only On A MLK Trip And Did NOT Commit To University Of Michigan
Yeah, okay. Davis' argument is that when he meant he had committed to play football at Michigan, he really meant that he was spending a day in Ann Arbor. It's like that time you were playing Monopoly, and tried to bump your piece from "In Jail" to "Just Visiting." Or that time you were just "asking that hooker for directions." But who really deserves the blame here: the uncle who claims to have stolen your nose, or the entire fanbase who flips out because "HOLY CRAP, MY NOSE"?
But as strange as the Davis Incident was, it actually trumped in weirdness by Stanley Williams, a 2014 Georgia commit, giving an interview about how well his visit to Notre Dame went... when he didn't actually end up making the visit. It's one thing for a random high school kid to have some kicks by throwing Michigan blog circles into a tizzy over the alleged Snow White of all sleeper commits, but for a relatively highly-regarded recruit to do this is just odd.
I fear we have entered into the Lennay Kekua Era* of social media, in which people don't feel bound by "reality" or "things what had happened." Buckle up, folks, because this is going to get worse before it gets better.
[*PLZ NOTE: The Te'o jokes are approaching the shark with great speed. They've surpassed That's What She Said, and are quickly gaining ground on "Wasssaaaaap." YOLO status might be obtained within the week.]
Ron English Lives on Prey
Former Michigan DC and current EMU head coach Ron English wins the "Succinct Yet awesome Twitter Profile of the Year" award:
I don't know what kind of Angry Bird the Rapacious Bird would be, but I'm guessing the game would be a heck of a lot easier (H/T @Nastinchka)
Attn: Mark Hollis
Kolton Parker (@koltonparker) authored this interesting piece about the Texas legislature attempting to prohibit its universities from requiring its student athletes to submit all their login information to a monitoring service that examines their social media contributions for inappropriate content. Apparently Texas and Texas Tech already require their athletes to submit to the service, which combs Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace (yep, MySpace, because why not) for such risque words as "Xploshun," "Muertoing," and "Bud Lite." Hooligans, I tell you. Ruffians.
There are a couple of problems with this proposal. They can try to prohibit the mandatory use of these services, but after the Freep Incident, we all know the phrase "practice is optional, but so is playing time." Coaches can be very persuasive, even in the absence of official rules. Moreover, I have it on good authority that many schools already have people who spend much of their day examining athlete social media for improper content (albeit primarily in the public domain).
But more to the point, if you think these companies can come up with an algorithm that can track inappropriate content, I scoff. My son is 9 weeks old, and he already knows slang that makes me cock my head. Besides, a tweet doesn't have to have "inappropriate words," to be embarrassing as hell to a University. Follow ur OWN social media policy.
Unrelated Tweet Of The Week
The Dallas Police Department has issued a look-how-many-points bulletin:
Our apologies for the fruit Ninja tweet sent earlier. One of our kids played the game on our iPhone and unknowingly tweeted their score. (@DallasPD) January 28, 2013
Basketball highlights ho.
I vote all of these. A student organization at Illinois is holding a contest to pick a new symbol for the Illini. Whichever one wins will be ignored by the athletic department and consigned to the dustbin of history, and this is a tragedy. A dozen of the entrants would instantly be the best mascot in the universe.
Do you choose Colonel Kernel?
Or Rabid the Squirrel?
Rabid the Squirrel is a possibility for the mascot, but the overall concept is to represent the squirrel, a hardy survivalist being, bravely bears the cold winters, bike and street traffic, and is incredibly quick and graceful. For proof, walk anywhere on campus.
Or The Corn Guy?
The tagline for Corn Guy could be: A corn could be a cute and enthusiastic corn,
who opens his arms and welcomes smart students all over the world. Or a corn could
be a fighting corn, who, in orange skin and blue armor, revealing his muscle, with
fierce look, shows his vigor and is ready for an exciting game. This, is the Corn Guy.
You want something fierce? You want something amazing? You got it all right here. Super strong, super vicious, super I-will-wreck-everything- you-love. Ain't no one wanna mess with this. What, you expecting something cute and fuzzy like a squirrel or a PIECE OF CORN? HELL NO.
THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON HERE.
It matters not. You cannot go wrong. I vote for them all.
It is the state of Illinois with an Abe Lincoln hat with boxing gloves. Tough, Historic and blatantly Illinois. Hope you like it
I vote for them all.
K-State might be Michigan's best nonconference foe. NC State beat Duke and UNC, sure. Since they've lost to Wake Forest, Maryland, and Virginia. UVA is at least a bubble team; the other two aren't sniffing the tourney. Kansas State on the other hand just did this to Texas:
I got home, made some dinner, and kicked back to relax and watch the Texas game. It was not relaxing. I would have been better off waking up this morning, smashing a few glass bottles on my kitchen floor, opening a can of paint stripper, pouring it on the broken glass, rolling around in the mix of shards and methylene chloride, taking a shower, and calling it a day.
While Texas is real bad this year, Kenpom has them significantly above Wake Forest and the Wildcats beat the Longhorns raw—final was 83-57. They kept it close in their two league losses and are probably going to have 24, 25 wins by Selection Sunday.
I wish I had thought about this. The Hoover Street Rag introduces the Borges-O-Meter, which ranks Al on a Jorge Luis-based scale ranging from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius to The Gospel According to Mark. As you can see, Al is currently hanging out at The Lottery Of Bablyon, level six. I would actually swap level six (dubbed "fortunate") with level 5 (On Exactitude in Science, categorized as "precise"). In all other ways this is wonderful.
Yeah, I suppose Cal or Stanford fans probably would have done this, but whatever, they didn't because of a historical quirk that directed Borges (Al Edition) to Michigan instead of their schools.
Viva this fanbase.
[update: now with link!]
Viva this team. Mitch McGary on starting:
Late Tuesday night, an undecided Beilein asked McGary, "What do you feel about tomorrow? I don't know what to do yet. You both practiced well."
McGary responded, "Coach, I've been coming off the bench for two years. I'm cool with coming off the bench."
I'm not sure there's anything we thought McGary would do when he was the #2 recruit in the country that he's not doing despite a massive nose-dive in expectations late.
This is appropriate. Hockey picked up a big, late-blooming defenseman currently plying his trade in the BCHL named Kevin Lohan. As Yost Built mentions, yes, that Lohan: he's a cousin of Lindsay, who may be the spirit totem for this year's outfit. It is possible the third jersey does not display a badly-drawn weasel but is in fact a representation of Linsday Lohan on a bender.
Right now Lohan is insurance against potential departures from Bennett, Trouba, and/or Merrill and may or may not come in next year.
Yost Built also mentions that Mike Spath is reporting that Michigan will use the scholarship money freed by Daniel Milne's departure to go hunting for a goalie, apparently overseas.
Etc.: The Northwestern view of last night. Also found here. First comment: "Trey Burke is good. Holy shit." Burke is about to pass Darius Morris on Michigan's all-time assist list and has Morris's season record for assists squarely in sight. Men's gymnast Syque Caesar sets an NCAA record on the parallel bars. Nieves profiled by the Daily. 7-on-7 leagues examined. Five key plays from NW.
1/30/2013 – Michigan 68, Northwestern 46 – 20-1, 7-1 Big Ten
There was no look-ahead from either Indiana or Michigan last night, or maybe both these teams are too good to let a Purdue or Northwestern hang around even if they're spending most of the night playing mind Tetris. The casualness of both wins left an impression: these teams are that good.
Michigan dissected the Wildcats in a way the final stats don't quite show because that was the slowest game they'd played all year, 53 possessions. They didn't have a turnover until the game was almost three-quarters done and finished with two. Meanwhile, Indiana put up 1.45 points per possession against Purdue, hitting 50% from 2, 48% from three, and 19% from the line, rebounding more than half their misses, and suffering just eight turnovers.
All right then. Let's git it awn.
Photos. Via Bryan Fuller:
A perfect half of a half. I tweeted at halftime that it felt weird that Michigan was only up 15 after blazing the nets the entire time and not committing a turnover, and then I saw UMHoops issue its traditional halftime PPP with Michigan at 1.5(!!!). One division later and the reason the game was vaguely close was obvious: the first half featured an extremely low 24 possessions. If they'd played that well over a normal possession count they would have been more than 20 points clear.
I'm not sure that's possible, because I mean gol' dang. When Stauskas knocked down his third three I got an odd look from the wife because I was waving my hands around and giggling insanely. In retrospect the second-half dropoff was inevitable.
Okay, maybe not inevitable—see Indiana PPP above—but pretty dang close to such. Things that pretty don't last. Northwestern defense, I salute you!
good. good. good. (Fuller)
Trey! Burke had a day more in line with outsized player-of-the-year expectations than his previous outing: 18 points on 11 shots, 8 assists, 1 TO, 2 steals, and even a few rebounds. In this one the long stepback shots were excellent backup plans executed late in the shot-clock (with one exception, IIRC) and he facilitated the rest of the offense beautifully. Northwestern's accommodating defense disclaimers apply; you can't ask for much more from a point guard no matter who they're playing.
Since McGary is getting his McGary minutes and doing his McGary things this section will restrict itself to comparing Horford and Morgan. So let's do that.
I'm of two minds. The downside: Michigan got beat on the boards by a not-very-good Illinois outfit when Morgan went down and in this one they allowed Northwestern to exceed their OREB season average by a couple points.
You'd expect them to be under their average if they're going up against the #12 DREB team nationally, so that indicates something of a swing. Also, in Michigan's first game against the Wildcats Morgan had 13 rebounds, five of them offensive, and M held Northwestern to 25% OREB. That's far, far short of anything definitive; it's all we have to go on statistically and suggests… well, mostly noise. But what is not noise suggests there is some rebounding dropoff.
On the other hand, I'm inclined to exonerate the centers for any OREB issues in this one. Wildcat center Alex Olah had one. A couple went to Northwestern PF-type substance Jared Swopshire, and the rest were from guards.
It didn't seem like Horford was deficient on the boards. The rest of it was unambiguously good: he put up ten points on five shots, hitting 4/5 from the line and blocking three shots. Northwestern shot 47% from two—meh, a bit better than their season average—and only acquired 8 FTs. They're surprisingly good at getting to the line for a team with their athletic limitations, so that's a positive. One of Horford's fouls was a late hedge, which in the context of this team (tons of depth at the five, rarely gets up to seven fouls in a half) is meaningless. He had a couple of nice finishes on the pick and roll.
Eyeballing it, there's not much difference between Horford and Morgan.
BONUS. It was pretty cool to see Morgan in Horford's ear coaching him up at virtually every commercial break. This team, man.
Welp. Let's zoom in on that Wildcat observing Horford's pending layup:
maybe if I point my finger… (Fuller)
McGary minutes, McGary things. It would be McGary who broke a 28-minute streak without a turnover. It would also be McGary who ripped down a third of Michigan's rebounds in just 15 minutes of playing time. It would also also be McGary who flung himself to the floor and backhanded a ball back into play that eventually turned into a Michigan three-pointer.
His main weakness is picking up pug-like…
I spent far too long finding this video. People of the internet: please have higher standards for what qualifies as "insane" or "psycho" behavior from pugs.
…psycho fouls, but since most of those are loose ball/on the floor things they have about the same impact as Horford's hedge foul: none.
Tough day for Tim, or maybe not. Hardaway was 2/8 from inside the arc—not his best day. There were a couple of shots interspersed in those eight that were clearly frustration shots.
I'm okay with that. He only had a couple, and those sorts of "I NEED TO GET IN THE GAME" attempts are inevitable whenever you're a high-usage alpha-dog sort like Michigan wants Hardaway to be. He stepped back after missing those and let the offense run. He picked up three assists and a steal and his burgeoning shut-down defender rep was burnished by holding Reggie Hearn to 7 points on 8 shots with a 0:2 A:TO ratio. I still question that—the announcers brought up the DJ Byrd thing again and I was all like "more than half of DJ Byrd's points against Stauskas were from Indiana". I think he's obviously improved a great deal.
It's a broken record at this point: this year Hardaway contributes in columns other than total points, consistently. When he's crushing people's heads like he did at Minnesota he's an All-American; when he's not he's still a major asset.
He should be prepared to be shut off by Oladipo, though. His improved handle is still not enough to do much against that guy.
now I'll make a dog on the overhead projector (Fuller)
"Not Just A Shooter" Watch. I counted five—we are including slight variants of the sentiment—throughout the course of the evening: one pregame, two in-game, and two in BTN postgame coverage. I think we might make a shirt.
Other Stauskas news. The usual. A game… blouses dunk, a couple of sweet assists, 3/5 from three. The unusual: twice in this game he was singled up one-on-one with a pretty good scorer and dominated the guy. On defense!
Those two possessions were the first I can remember where Stauskas made an impact on the defensive end of the floor, and with Northwestern going 4/19 from three you can't dog the closeouts too much. Stauskas went under some screens against Alex Marcotullio early and paid for it, but the guy puts up 70% of his shots from three and hits 29%—I wouldn't be surprised if that was the gameplan against the guy. Keep your defense balanced and if he hits he hits.
I tell you what: he's not just a shooter. thatsracist.gif.
Light Rob. It has come to my attention that I rarely even bother to talk about GRIII, whether it's here or in the podcast, and this is kind of an incredible thing. I know I cannot contain myself about how exciting Stauskas is as a player, and why not: he's 8th nationally in ORTG as a freshman.
Robinson is sixth. At the end of every game he has somewhere between 12 and 20 points and Michigan has run no plays for him and he's taken about three dribbles to acquire those points and you're just like "oh, right… that incredibly efficient guy." In this one, 13 points on 7 shots. Another day at the office. GRIII's office is at the top of a beanstalk.
Ace reports that the players on the team have nicknamed him "Light Rob" because of that effect when you look at the box score: "oh right, GRIII had a light 20 points." He is shooting 67% from the field and 40% from three. Kind of good.
Unfortunately for GRIII, this in no way translates to skills the NBA finds attractive. Being able to do this is a detriment because sometimes you get stuck in the rafters and have to be fished out at great expense:
Oh well, three more years at Michigan.
Spike doing things. Just four minutes for Albrecht but the thing about the guy is that he'll get those four, five, six minutes and do something with them. In this one he missed an open three—good shot from a good shooter so still counts to the good—and had a lovely push up the floor that turned a situation that did not necessarily look like a developing transition opportunity into an easy bucket.
Like LeVert, Albrecht is not likely to have a huge impact on the big games Michigan is about to embark on. Also like LeVert, he is capable of giving you a play or two that may make the difference. Both were late pickups from nowhere, and if Michigan finishes this year 5 to 1 against there will be at least one play featuring those guys that we'll point to as crucial.
This is John Beilein's Dumars moment. I'm not saying he's going to go out and recruit college versions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva at ruinous expense right after this. I am saying that there was a point in time during which Joe Dumars seemed like the smartest GM in the history of the NBA, and that this inevitably faded as his luck regressed to the mean, and that Michigan has just metaphorically traded Chucky Atkins for Rasheed Wallace.
John Beilein is a great, great basketball coach, and possibly an even better identifier of talent. But no amount of skill can guarantee this kind of team. Look at Calipari, sporting another shot-blocking monstrosity at center who will go in the top three picks in the draft. This year he's cruising towards the bubble, not the championship. This is the point at which Beilein seems impossible. Long may it last, but here's your biweekly unnecessary reminder to savor this.
Before I get any more behind on these, here's a double dose of gifs from the Purdue and Illinois games, plus a couple extras from recent Michigan appearances on BTN's The Journey. As always, click the still thumbnails to open the gifs in a lightbox, and hit 'escape' to stop animation on any browser but Chrome.
Kids are weird, man.
[For the rest of the gifs, including Trollface Ted Valentine, hit THE JUMP.]
HHHHYARRRR! A reminder from BHGP why you should generally root for Iowa basketball:
Avast! Mizzen the wizzenhench and agglomerate the septicules! NAVAL SPEAK MEANS GET OUT OF MY BANNNNNNNNK
Our good feelings are not helping them reach the tournament, unfortunately.
I dare you to release that Big Ten Network poll, then. In other Big Ten Expansionfiasco news, athletic directors claim that everyone likes having to figure out which division they're in via mnemonic:
"When the Leaders and Legends were first announced, people were like, 'What the heck does that mean?'" said Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. "I think people are starting to learn it, though. … I don't hear much from fans writing in and saying, 'You've got to change the names now,' or anything like that."
Some ADs, like Barta and Purdue's Morgan Burke, say they actually like the Leaders and Legends monikers.
We have a "faintest praise imaginable" winner. Men responsible for deciding to call something something admit—in public and everything!—that they like what they did. I bet 90% of the people who responded to the BTN's survey Strongly Agreed that "Leaders" and "Legends" were as good an idea as bringing Jim Bollman back to the Big Ten, but Morgan Burke probably likes that too.
Slight pessimism from Evanston. Rodger Sherman is not feeling the Wildcats' chances tonight. Reasons:
Even though Northwestern doesn't help heavily, Northwestern has a tendency of losing shooters: Hey, it's Nik Stauskas! Announcers like to mention that he's "not just a shooter!", because he sometimes does other stuff effectively, but that's like saying Rambo isn't "just an unkillable death machine" because he has lines of dialogue.
Northwestern's best defensive weapon is running the 1-3-1 to throw teams off: MICHIGAN RUNS THE 1-3-1 AND WILL DESTROY IT LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL RUNNING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE BIGASS HAMS WITH THE BONE STICKING OUT OF IT. Even if they didn't run the 1-3-1 and know exactly what to do against it, they're one of the best teams in the nation at not turning the ball over and have a lot of guys who can shoot, so this would be an awful idea.
They do have Reggie Hearn tonight, and unlike last time the Michigan starter who's supposed to be out (Hardaway then, Morgan now) is actually going to be out. Even so, it's an extreme uphill battle that awaits them.
Power rankings. Luke Winn's latest power rankings have Michigan #1, leaping a Jayhawks team that had a close call against West Virginia, and focus on Trey Burke's jumpers off the dribble. Turns out he's good at basketball:
If Michigan wasn't the killer offensive team it is, the step-back twos that rubbed me the wrong way against Illinois might not be bad shots. 124 > 111, so they remain a little frustrating. Especially since there are threes going in at approximately the same rate as the twos mixed into the above chart that prop up the overall PPP.
If you've already run your offense and that's what you've got with five seconds on the clock, it's a great backup option. If you've got other avenues to try, like Nik Stauskas pick and rolls dumping in 1.6 PPP, you should try them.
When I rewatched the Illinois game it did seem that Burke adjusted more quickly than it felt live. He was robbed of a few assists by fouls, fumbles, and Jordan Morgan going down in a heap. Winn includes the step-back at the end of the first half as a GIF, which was both pretty and strategically a better idea than certain other shots since Michigan was holding for the last shot.
Other bits from Winn's power rankings:
- Tim Hardaway is the nation's second-most-efficient scorer in transition.
- Burke is ninth when it comes to transition possessions used per 40 minutes, which is pretty impressive given the pace Michigan plays at. I expect to see Arkansas's BJ Young at the top of that ranking; not so much the point guard for a team hovering in the mid-200s of pace rankings.
- Duke's defense has collapsed without Ryan Kelly.
- Somewhat indirectly: Winn mentioned a stat put together by TeamRankings that averages offensive and defensive rebounding together to get you an overall rebounding stat. Michigan is outside of the top ten, but only just, at 12th.
- #HotCaochTakes. Jeff Goodman assembles the always-entertaining anonymous opposing coach evaluation article on the Wolverines. Ace points out we have a Not Just A Shooter™ reference:
"Burke, but don't sleep on (Nik) Stauskas. He's not just a shooter. He much more than that. But Burke is the guy for them. You can't shut him down, but you need to find a way to slow him down."
The article is filled with lots of praise and some wishful thinking:
“They're not a very deep team. And if you take away their wide-open shots, and make them execute, that's when they'll struggle.”
“Try to get them in foul trouble. They don't want to have to think about picking up an early foul or two.”
The equivalent of telling someone you're going to stop the run when that run comes from Alabama: easier said than done. There's also a lot of stuff about how they are either tough enough or not as tough as last year. Winning ugly and that.
It is a concern, IME. Take that Nebraska game and make the opponent a Michigan State or a Wisconsin and I can see things going down to the wire.
Er. Nyet. GRIII is up to 18th on Chad Ford's NBA draft board. That's a rise from 25th and starting to get into that guaranteed-first-round area that gets scary. Ford still acknowledges he could benefit from another year:
Robinson is still scratching the surface as a basketball player. But his elite athletic ability (YouTube his 360 dunk versus Minnesota last week), rebounding ability and improved shooting touch all have scouts drooling. If teams are looking for a player who could be a home run down the road, Robinson could easily end up in the lottery. He's not ready yet, but all the pieces are there.
Hardaway doesn't show up in Ford's first round or his "next five in," FWIW.
Etc.: Top tailbacks seem to have two outcomes: great and headcase. I'll take those chances when the average NFL draft slot is a second-rounder. Kenpom continues crusade to have three-point defense recognized as pretty dang random. Michigan State is not their usual selves this year.
Hockey : (