On the surface, Michigan's defense shouldn't have experienced the falloff it has this season. While Michigan's young, they're actually a bit older than they were last year. Mitch McGary has not been available, but there has been a groundswell of semi-indignation at Jordan Morgan's omission from the Big Ten's All Defense team.
But backslid they have. Last year's Michigan team finished the year 48th. This year's #48 defense is giving up 97.2 points per hundred possessions, adjusted for schedule. Michigan is well short of this number, at 100.6.
You'll note that this isn't actually that much. Michigan's about 6.6% worse on their possessions this year. The average NCAA defense is in fact 4% worse than last year, what with the rule tightening and virtual elimination of charges. A big chunk of the backslide is everyone's backslide. The rest, well…
The McGary Factor
watching the tourney run prompted this section, yes [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan entered last year's NCAA tournament 11th in the Kenpom rankings. Unfortunately, Kenpom doesn't keep individual running O/D rankings, but Michigan's surge to 48th on D and fourth overall coincided with Mitch McGary beasting up in the tourney. Michigan held a selection of very good teams to under a point per possession. They faced the #32, 21, 34, 12, 29, and 4 offenses in the tourney and held them to 0.97 points a trip.
McGary rebounded everything and stole everything. Michigan kept in contact before their late surge against Kansas thanks to his 14 rebounds. He picked up three steals, as well. McGary had five(!) steals against Florida and 12 rebounds against Syracuse. Jon Gasaway was tossing out stats I can't quite remember but were pretty much "Mitch McGary's DREB rate in the tourney is ALL THE REBOUNDS."
But that was five games. Before that McGary had been limited for much of the year. His impact on the stats is far smaller than his impact in our minds. If you're looking for a reason Michigan's not going to run to the national championship game again, he applies. In a discussion of why Michigan's statistical profile on D is grim he's not a primary driver.
Transition defense is a primary driver, probably the primary driver.
You've probably eyeballed this whilst exclaiming AAAAARRGGGHHH during the year, and your intuition is borne out by the stats. Michigan's actually been fine at preventing transition possessions—defined as shots in the first ten seconds of the shot clock—but they've been a lot worse at preventing dunk-and-open-three city.
This is partially because shots have migrated from two-point jumpers to shots at the rim and threes. They've also been considerably worse at preventing teams from both high-profit areas. While some of this is the new rules emphasis, transition is the part of the game where that has the least impact. Hoop-math doesn't have overall trends, unfortunately. Nor does it fold in free throws. Oh well.
With what we have to work with we can figure that a just over a fifth of Michigan's defense has gone from 1.08 PPP to 1.24 PPP. That is most of the statistical decline right there.
|Morgan committing a block under 2014 rule-type substances. [Eric Upchurch]|
The Insane Near-Abolition Of The Charge
There was a ton of speculation as to whether the new rules would help or hurt Michigan. Survey says: probably both. The good: offense takes off, foul trouble becomes more prevalent without touching Michigan, and Michigan's excellent free throw shooting is more prominent. The bad: Michigan's primary way to defend the rim has become more fraught with peril than ever.
FTAs have gone up nationwide, of course, and Michigan remains one of the country's least foul-prone outfits. They've dropped from first to third in that department. While that doesn't seem like a significant move, remember that thing I said in This Week's Obsession about how things tend to get stretched out at the ends of these Gaussian-ish distributions. Michigan's FTA/FGA allowed last year was preposterous 22.7, 13 points lower than the national average. This year FTAs are about 13% more common nationwide. Michigan is seeing opponents shoot 23% more FTAs.
If Michigan was in the middle of the pack that effect would feature a 40 spot dip in FTA/FGA; since Michigan was the nation's best by some distance a year ago it looks like they're basically the same. They are not.
Most of this is Jordan Morgan clutching his head and shooting imaginary eye lasers at the refs. His fouls per 40 minutes have leapt from 3.5 to 5.3, and one dollar says almost all of that is the charge random number generator being recalibrated away from defenders. The other difference that doesn't seem to be this year's whistle emphasis is increased playing time for the relatively foul-prone Spike Albrecht, who also gets whistled for a lot of ARE YOU SERIOUSLY HIGH RIGHT NOW SERIOUSLY blocking calls.
Free Throw Defense
Michigan was pretty good at it last year (68.5, 118th) and is miserable at it this year (72.9, 321st). Just one of those things. Every time I mention this someone asks about whether the distribution of shots between posts and guards is impacting this, and every time I say "maybe, but if so that is probably just luck as well."
This post was going to be longer. But:
- Michigan is a better defensive rebounding team this year, both in conference and overall.
- Michigan's TO force rate has dropped, but again so has the rest of D-I's. They were 240th last year. This year they are 243rd.
- Michigan's eFG allowed on half-court possessions has gone from 46.3% to… 45.9%. IE, it has improved in a tougher environment to play D.
They're not fouling more, they're not allowing more shots per possession, they're not allowing teams to shoot better in their half court sets. 100% of the defensive regression from last year to this year is on crappier transition D and charges being broken.
Is This Good Or Bad?
Well, it indicates what kind of team you'd like to see Michigan deal with in the tournament: slow ones. Failing that, it seems good that there's such an obvious problem that Michigan can try to mitigate by dumping a ton of practice time into.
On the other hand, we just saw Indiana chew Michigan up in transition, and they're not an efficient team in that department. They are a frequent team, with 28% of their shots coming quickly. But a big chunk of that is Indiana taking debatable shots quickly because they know their half court offense is going to suck. That's an obvious reaction, one Michigan should have seen coming. And yet there were multiple Indiana transition baskets of of Michigan makes. Almost 40% of Indiana's attempts were in transition*. This is not a waning issue.
Michigan has been able to slow down transition-oriented teams this season. Iowa and Michigan State are 6th and 13th at putting up early shots, respectively, and Michigan is 3-1 against those teams with three respectable defensive showings. (The two MSU games look bad because Izzo spent two solid minutes at the end of each game in a foul/matador cycle, but prior to that both games featured MSU at right around one PPP.) In the fourth, Iowa ran out to a big lead with a bunch of threes from Roy Devyn Marble, some of them in painfully wide open transition. 30% of Iowa's shots were fast, they went in at a 75% eFG clip, and Michigan got blown off the court.
I'd rather have one issue that Michigan can mitigate by sending waves of guys back than a big dip in half-court D, so I tentatively suggest this is a hopeful sign.
*[And of course Indiana was crazy efficient in half-court situations in that game. The overall trend is decent—or at least the same—half-court defense, though. Consider it stipulated that if Michigan plays half court D as badly as they did against Indiana, they're dead meat.]
RPI Effect Only Teams
UMass-Lowell lost to… aw, screw it. GRIII things.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (23-7, 11-7 Big 12)
This week: Beat Oklahoma State (85-81 OT)
Based on a the interweb mock brackets, there’s a fair-to-moderate chance that Michigan might get another shot at Iowa State, this time outside the friendly magical confines of the Hilton Arena Convention Center thingy. The Committee generally dislikes rematches, but right now Michigan is a high 2-seed and Iowa State is a low 3 seed, so it could happen.
If they DO end up as a 3-seed, they can thank Oklahoma State’s failure to come over to #TeamFoul. OSU was up 3 when they missed a free throw with five seconds left. So, instead of fouling, they gave a 39% three-point shooter (Naz Long) an open look. He promptly tied the game. If you were curious, Long is a 62.5% free throw shooter. FOUL, MAN. FOUL
Florida State (18-12, 9-9 ACC)
This week: Lost to Syracuse (74-58)
#7 Dook (24-7, 13-5 ACC)
This week: Beat North Carolina (93-81)
Like Iowa State, Duke is another possible Sweet 16 matchup for Michigan (they’re currently projected at around a 3 seed). Like Iowa State, a hypothetical rematch would be on neutral turf instead of a very hostile road venue. Unlike Iowa State, please don’t make us play these bastards again.
#4 Arizona (28-3, 15-3 PAC 12)
This week: Lost at Oregon (64-57)
Yeah, they lost to Oregon, but unless they lose their quarterfinal matchup to Utah, they’re a lock for a 1-seed. KenPom has them as 7 point favorites to get there, though Utah did play them close twice (including an OT game in February). And even if they lose that game they’re probably STILL a 1-seed.
Stanford (19-11, 10-8 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Utah (61-60)
They’re probably in. But I’m more concerned about KenPom’s description of their defense:
“Coach, can you explain your defensive philosophy in the second half?”
“Well, we didn’t think we were very effective in man-to-man, so we went with what we call our ‘shiny object’ set, which is sort of a hybrid man/zone concept where everyone just kinda guards the person near them until they see someone else open and then they guard that person for a while. Or if they get bored or want to be on the other side of the court for a while, they can do that too. The closest traditional comparison would be a triangle and one with a single-high safety.”
About the Big Ten Tournament making you tired.
Got into a discussion with a friend over the importance of the B1G tournament, he thought it was a useful "spring board", I did not. Did some gopher work on the results that might be interesting to you.
4 – Exceeds expectations, only 2009 Purdue wasn’t a #1 seed.
5 – played to seed
7 – Did not meet expectations. Although 3 of these are Sweet 16 losses, which aren’t absolutely terrible.
Year Champion B1G Tourney Seed NCAA Tournament Result
#3, lost in 2nd round. Later Ed Martin’d
#1, Lost in Final Four
#1, Won it all
#7, played to seed
#4, lost to #12 Mizzou in second round
#4, lost to #5 ND
#6, played to seed
#1, Lost in NCG
#3, Lost in first round
#1, Lost in NCG
#3, Played to seed, but lost to #10 Davidson
#5, played slightly above seed, lost to #1 Uconn in Sweet 16
Side note, doesn’t it seem like decades ago since Purdue was good at basketball?
#2, Lost to Tennessee in Sweet 16. In a cruel twist of fate, Bruce Pearl gets canned for lying about hosting Aaron Craft at his house
#1, lost to Kentucky in Sweet 16, [fart noise]. Is that big white guy from Kentucky still in the NBA?
#1, lost Louisville in Sweet 16
#2, got Shocked in Elite 8. All the debates about charges…..
Kent, a.k.a. Baloo_dance
That doesn't look like anything resembling a real effect, especially since only 1998 Michigan, 2002 OSU, and 2006 Iowa had anything resembling first-weekend surprise exits. OSU and MSU going out in the Sweet 16 after a two-week period in which they played two games can't be chalked up to fatigue unless you're Tom Izzo.
Also worth noting that teams that "play to seed" generally exceed the average tourney wins per seed line:
So a one seed that reaches the final four is about seven tenths of a win to the good. Big Ten Tourney champs have acquired 38 wins in the tournament since the BTT's inception; based on seedings they were expected to get 36.42. At the very least we can say there's no evidence that winning the Big Ten has any effect on your tournament hopes. Given the seed line graph above and the fact that winning games moves you up lines, it is undoubtedly a net positive.
Resolved: in favor of winning Big Ten Tournament.
On Michigan twitter.
In your opinion, is Delonte' Hollowell the most interesting M athlete to ever grace Twitter? I think so, but that's just, like, my opinion, man. At the bare minimum he has to be the greatest all-caps philosopher of all time.
If Twitter has proven anything it's that plebes are suckers for athletes who tweet in all caps, and I am in their midst.
Most athletes use twitter like high school kids with ten followers—like weird semi-public email, and that puts a damper on things. You can tell whenever a dude breaks up with a girl because he starts making tweets that sound like Gin Blossoms lyrics; a lot of the time you're just getting "hey @other_athlete, what's good". The rest of the time it is "rise and grind #blessed." This is fine and all but not particularly interesting to people other than @other_athlete.
Hollowell, on the other hand, spends large chunks of his time with ALL CAPS EXHORTIONS to be something or do something else that are meant to be twitter. He rises and grinds without informing the world of this fact, and he does not tweet #blessed. He seems perpetually irritated by everything. He is the best.
Other current Wolverines worth following:
- Henry Poggi's feed is mostly about the Big Lebowski, which means you may not want to follow it but I do.
- Andrew Dakich, obviously.
- Jordan Morgan trolls MSU fans, and keeps trolling.
- Graham Glasgow takes shots at his brother by deploying Snorlax. Frequently tweets about being sleepy or in bed.
- Desmond Morgan sarcastically deploys #blessed.
— Desmond Morgan (@D_Morgan48) March 10, 2014
#mcm == "Man Crush Mondays."
Ondre Pipkins would have been on the list, but he nuked his twitter last year.
On NBA Draft changes.
This question is undoubtedly way too soon. I normally don't like to engage in the "who are we losing" questions while still able to enjoy the product on the floor. However, I was reading about potential NBA draft changes and Adam Silver's emphasis on extending the age-limit prohibiting players from entering the NBA until they are done with their sophomore year.
Several articles mentioned NBA front-offices fearing a insanely weak 2015 draft if any changes were implemented. What do you think this potential, if any, has on a player like Nik Stauskas when evaluating an NBA departure?
No. Stauskas is projected in the top 15 of this loaded draft and there's hardly any difference between going 15th and 5th. That would not impact his decision.
However, it might impact McGary and Robinson. They would go from guys who might play themselves into the first round next year into holy first round locks. That would shift the equation significantly enough that it would suddenly be a very bad idea to enter.
However, despite the immediate salutary benefits for Michigan that is a step in the wrong direction. The right direction is draft and follow: everyone's eligible before their freshman year, five round draft, anyone who gets signed occupies a roster spot for remaining NCAA eligibility + 1 years no matter where they are.
after a loss michigan is 7-0 with an average margin of victory of 24 points. thats insane, no?
Be sure to note that Michigan notched its 7th road win of the season yesterday. Folks sometime forget how tough it is to win on the road in the B1G; how tough it is to win in East Lansing, or in Madison, or in Columbus -- much less in all three places in the same friggin' year. It's really an eye-popping achievement, and a testament to the job Coach B has done of getting them ready to compete in very hostile environments.
Stop! Have you considered you may not have to do this? [Fuller]
Always something to complain about.
Now that Stauskas has escaped from the Lilliputians and the offense has duly gone back to Brobdingnagian, are there ways to get the defense performing, say, at a top-50 instead of 100-ish level? 75? Or do you think at this point they just are what they are?
Ace: I think the Indiana game, despite the win, rid us of any notion that the defense will have a postseason breakthrough. The Wolverines are who we thought they were: a superlative offensive team with some major defensive issues. Michigan couldn't stay in front of Indiana's guards, failed to get back in transition—including after multiple made baskets—and had to go to the high-risk 1-3-1 for the entire second half to create enough empty possessions to somehow win while giving up a 66.3 eFG%. The Hoosiers entered the game with a 48.0 eFG% in conference play. That's bad, mmmmkay?
So, yeah, the defense is an issue, and projects to be going forward. Michigan was a much better defensive squad last season, and while they gave up a respectable 0.98 ppp in the NCAA Tournament, that figure swells to 1.03 after excising the first weekend. Also, that run featured the unleashing of Mitch McGary, Embodiment of Chaos, and this year's squad doesn't feature anyone with his ability to force turnovers, which proved key in the run to the title game. (Caris LeVert leads this season's squad with a 2.2% steal rate; McGary was at 3.4% last season, Trey Burke at 2.8%.)
With Michigan preparing for a potential three games in three days, followed by a prep week for the tournament that's likely to be geared more towards rest and scouting than working on defensive fundamentals, I don't think they're going to come up with a magical solution to the myriad defensive issues. The offense is capable of carrying this team into the Final Four. That's a good thing, because that will have to be the case if we're going to see a repeat of last year.
[jump…preferably before the shooter does]
2015 Quarterbacks: Wimbush, Waller Next?
Sam Webb knows things. So, when he pens a DetNews article on 2015 quarterbacks that features two unoffered prospects, it's a good bet that Michigan is strongly considering them for the next wave of offers. The first quarterback mentioned is dual-threat NJ four-star Brandon Wimbush:
One that appears to be becoming an increasingly viable option is Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters standout Brandon Wimbush. Ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 14 quarterback in the country by Scout.com, the 6-2, 205-pound signal caller currently holds offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, and a host of others.
“Wimbush has a big-time arm and showed it his junior season, which was his first as a starter,” Scout.com East Regional Manager Brian Dohn said. “He has huge hands, spins the ball well, can throw the 15-yard out on a line, and throws a nice deep ball. He is also a threat running and can make defenders miss. He needs to improve his intermediate throws and his accuracy, but could become a program-building quarterback.”
His highlights are above, and it'll take four plays at most before you're convinced he goes in the "DO WANT" category. After initially planning to make an early decision—which likely would've been in favor of Ohio State—he's taking his time after "other schools came in to play." Michigan would have their work cut out for them if they offer—the coaches plan to see him throw in the spring. Wimbush seems like a prospect worth putting in the effort; Webb notes he doesn't plan on visiting Ann Arbor unless he receives an offer.
Also featured in Webb's article is dual-threat CA four-star Travis Waller, another quarterback prospect seeing an uptick in Michigan interest since the Doug Nussmeier hire. Based on the type of quarterback Nussmeier appears interested in—big-armed prospects who can run—and this quote from Waller, you can get a sense of how the new OC wants the offense to look:
“(Michigan) came out about a month ago and then I talked to Coach Nuss on Twitter,” Waller said. “I gave him a call and we talked about how definitely I can fit into their program and make things happen – (how) I can help make them become a winning football team. (We talked about) how I bring my athleticism to the table, extend plays, and do the spread offense. He also told me, ‘We’re not just spread. We also do under center, single back -- that type of stuff.’ I was actually excited to hear that. I actually do like to drop back. Being in shotgun is fun, but I also like to go under center. So that’s what I like to hear. Coach Nuss said we’re going to get this thing started.
I'm all for keeping spread elements a part of the offense, and Michigan's focus on quarterbacks that threaten in the run game is fine by me.
Also in that article: Alex Malzone, who recently received his first major conference offer from Wake Forest, still wants one from Michigan and plans to visit for a spring practice, as does Waller. Meanwhile, QB guru Steve Clarkson goes full Fred Jackson when discussing his pupil, David Sills:
“I will tell you, if you like Johnny Manziel, he is a taller version of that without the off-the-field stuff.”
Sills's situation is one to monitor going forward; he has an offer from Michigan, but it was extended by Al Borges, not Nussmeier. Sills has, in my opinion, the least impressive film of the quarterbacks fielding serious Michigan interest; he's also among the lowest-rated. My guess is he'll have to show a whole lot more to Nussmeier in a throwing session if that offer is going to be committable. He's slated to visit on Thursday, so we might get some clarification on his situation soon.
[Hit THE JUMP for a new 2016 offer, updates on Mike Weber and Keisean Lucier-South, and more.]
My regional breakdown, still.
After I did that regional study of football talent production by state, Michael Elkon (Braves & Birds, SB Nation, regular HTTV contributor) asked if I'd do the same with hoops recruiting. I responded that I'd love to, but we just had our first child and I need some time to stare at her. This is also my response for why I didn't have any content last week. In fact it is my excuse for everything; to those who don't have kids I can say "you don't understand" and they have to shut up because this is the ultimate trump card. Those who are already parents keep quiet because they're in on it. Having kids is AWESOME!
Anyway it's back to work, and because it's me that means charts. So back to charts.
This is NOT exactly accurate
Data are from the Rivals (most easily accessible) databases since 2003. Putting lists of football and basketball recruits against each other is not a one-for-one comparison. Basketball has more teams, fewer recruits per team, way more international players, and players who went directly to the NBA or committed to Kentucky or some other stupid one before they're done with the pretense.
Top basketball players are also far more likely to go to prep schools, and these are often nowhere near their hometowns. The Rivals database lists actual hometowns for many prep players, but not international ones, so, e.g., Canadian from Canada Nik Stauskas registers as a Massachusetts recruit despite being from Canada. Where a hometown was noted I used that. Some states will appear disproportionately large because their prep programs draw kids from around the region, but that is also an advantage to the schools near the prep programs.
Talent Supply By Region
As with football, the Southeast appears to produce a disproportionate amount of talent compared to its population, but to nowhere near the extreme as it is with football. Observe:
|Region||% U.S. pop
|% of Top ~400
|% of Top ~400
|Atlantic||22%||20% (-2)||15% (-7)|
|Midwest||18%||18% ( - )||14% (-4)|
|Northeast||5%||6% (+1)||1% (-4)|
|Pacific||19%||14% (-5)||14% (-5)|
|Plains||17%||17% ( - )||18% (+1)|
|Southeast||19%||25% (+6)||38% (+19)|
The Atlantic, Midwest, and Northeast are considerably better represented, suggesting a marginally higher basketball orientation than the national average. My guess is this has a lot to do with the fact that it doesn't snow in gyms.
The list of top states in proportionally producing more basketball talent was heavily influenced by the prep school effect: New Hampshire (more than 3x their share of hoops talent) was done by three schools: Tilton, New Hampton, and the Brewster Academy. Most of Nevada was Findlay Prep, and Bishop Gorman sent most of the rest. Leaving those aside, the big basketball states (proportional to their population) were Kansas (209%), D.C. (202%), Mississippi (185%), Georgia (183%), Iowa (172%), Virginia (166%), North Carolina (154%), and Indiana (150%).
There's a reverse prep effect at the bottom: Vermont and Rhode Island were drained by New Hampshire it appears, and Delaware seems to have sent their kids to Virginia or D.C. The remainder to produce less than half as much talent as you would expect from their populations: Alaska (17%), Montana (25%), Colorado (34%), Nebraska (40%), New York (41%), South Dakota (45%), and New Mexico (47%).
Michigan (3% of the U.S. population, 2.4% of the top basketball talent) was about in the middle, about even with Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio, and Arizona. Straight-up Michigan is the 14th biggest producer of basketball talent, and the 12th biggest producer of football talent. I thought the more interesting stat was within the Midwest (that above table), where Ohio produces nearly half of the top football prospects the basketball talent is shared.
[jump for where they go]