Say uaaaahhh [Upchurch]
Last week when I was talking about the position moves—Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, Roy Manning to cornerbacks coach, etc.—I was mostly positive in the analysis portion, explaining the move as a reaction to having their best defensive player at a defensive role that's quickly becoming as defunct as the spinning fullback.*
In the podcast Brian and Ace expressed some heebies and jeebies over the moves. I can't speak to all of those worries; who knows whether Jake Ryan can read run/pass, or if maybe Desmond Morgan's pass defense was a gaping hole the coaches were covering up in other ways. I can't even give a full answer since Brian didn't do defensive UFRs for Michigan's last three games. But I thought we might use the data we have to see whether the strongside linebacker position in Michigan's defense has been phasing out.
Spread level: rising. The vagaries of year-to-year scheduling and missing UFRs may throw off the data but Michigan's opponents indeed have been throwing out more wide receivers in their base sets as of late.
|Average WRs in Formation by Situation**|
2008 was thrown off by teams going uber-spread: Minnesota, Northwestern, Utah, Illinois, and Miami (NTM) all averaged more than three wide receivers on normal downs, the former three going 4-wide more often than not. That's not too surprising given that defense had a plausible 4-3 run-stopping depth chart, but a huge dropoff if you could mitigate the DL and get past Warren and Trent on the CB depth chart. After that things normalized to a spread-leaning mix of 2- and 3-wide sets until last year.
I wish I had complete numbers. I can tell you that next year Michigan replaces CMU, UConn, Akron, Nebraska, and Iowa with Appalachian State, Utah, Miami (NTM), Maryland, and Rutgers. I can use 2013 stats (from cfbstats) to show you the playcalling breakdown of these offenses:
[If you jump first]
"After I hit that shot that day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the tunnel. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Washtenaw County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Michigan. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Michigan. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going." — Caris LeVert, probably.
Take a bow, JMo. [Bryan Fuller]
I repeat "PLAYIN' A LOT OF WEIRD GUYS" about 60 times in a three minute span. Stauskas goes off, LeVert goes off, no respect for Jordan Morgan. Foot blisters.
Man, I don't feel good about this. Moving around all the assistants, trying Jake Ryan at MLB… smacks of desperation. Which I guess, yeah, they might want to be desperate now but these moves do not inspire confidence.
"Across 110th Street."
"People Got A Lot Of Nerve," Neko Case
The usual links:
Junior Day: No Commits, Still A Success
Shaun Crawford (left) and Tyree Kinnel at the MSU game [Fuller]
Brandon continues to round up reactions from yesterday's Michigan State game/Junior Day, which featured high-profile visitors such as Damien Harris and Brian Cole. Michigan nearly secured their second commit of the 2016 class; while Traverse City West OL Thiyo Lukusa ultimately decided to take his time, the Wolverines are his team to beat:
OL Thiyo Lukusa – It was sweet, super fun! I decided to put my commitment on hold for now. I just have to be 100% sure. The visit and the activities were 1st class as always. I’m still all Michigan right now but I just want to enjoy my recruitment.
Lukusa understandably wants to see more schools before he makes a commitment at this early juncture; it's tough to see a school overcoming Michigan even with so long to go until he signs an LOI. Hit the link for more reactions from yesterday's visitors.
After hosting him last weekend for their Underclassmen Day, Michigan offered 2017 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Josh Ross, the younger brother of Michigan LB James Ross. The younger Ross already holds offers from Oklahoma and Michigan State, and he told Steve Lorenz that U-M provides a point of comparison for the other schools pursuing him ($):
"I hear stories about [James's] work in the weight room and he is definitely enjoying his time at Michigan," [Ross] said of his brother. "It does give Michigan a bit of advantage because I've been around it a lot and know everyone in the program so well, whether it be players, coaches or even parents and all of that stuff. I know exactly what Michigan is all about and what they have to offer me. They give me something to compare other programs to going forward."
With his early offers and pedigree, Ross has the look of a national-level prospect—expect Michigan to have plenty of competition for his signature.
Offers keep going out to 2015 prospects, as well; four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis got one late last week and told Lorenz he plans to visit Michigan and MSU either this spring or summer ($). Curt Mallory has already established a strong connection with Lewis, including multiple in-school visits, which should help the Wolverines moving forward.
Michigan Adds Walk-On Long Snapper/Potential YouTube Sensation
Allen Trieu reports Michigan has added 2014 Troy Athens long snapper Andrew Robinson as a preferred walk-on:
"It is great to be given this opportunity. I have worked so hard and put so much time into my snapping, i would have never thought it could get me this far and especially to a school with such football tradition like Michigan. I never doubted myself, I just knew it was going to be a long process and I didn't know where I would end up at the end."
As you can see from the video above, Robinson has some skills—the coaches said he'll have the opportunity to compete for a starting job this fall.
Michigan's first 2017 offeree, OH OL Josh Myers, told Tim Sullivan about his reaction to getting offered by the Wolverines ($):
"My expectations were to meet the coaches, and have a good time and get to meet some of the other players that are getting recruited and are committed. I wasn't quite expecting an offer or anything going into it. With that being said, it surpassed my expectations bigtime. I couldn't really believe it to be honest. I had tears in my eyes. I thanked them - I couldn't thank them enough - and I was just really excited."
Michigan is the best program among Myers's five offers, though there's a long time to go, of course. He's still open to all schools and planning to visit Kentucky, Ohio State, and Tennessee over the new few weeks.
Fast-rising 2015 IN LB Josh Barajas put Michigan among his top schools after receiving an offer, per Allen Trieu ($):
Barajas also visited rival Michigan State and several new offers have come since. Even though he remains open, he does have a few programs he is liking.
"For the most everyone is on the same level but I'd say Michigan, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss are my top right now."
In variations on the same theme, coveted 2015 CA DE Keisean Lucier-South won't name leaders but did note the schools pursuing him the hardest, per Scout's Anna Hickey ($):
Though Lucier-South does not have any favorites at this point, he did name five schools that were recruiting him the hardest.
"UCLA, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee," Lucier-South said.
This one won't end any time soon, as KLS plans to take all his officials before making a commitment. LSU just put forth an offer, as well.
If you missed it, Brandon got an offer reaction from VA CB Garrett Taylor, who's got Michigan among his top schools.
(Apologies if this belongs elsewhere, but I haven't seen this analysis done yet).
At 11-3, with a half-game lead on Staee and four games remaining, Michigan is obviously in the driver's seat for the B1G basketball title. Using the game predictions from KenPom's site, I've done a quick probability analysis to see what the odds are that there's a banner to be hung.
First, Michigan's expected record, along with a percent chance:
(I used two significant figures, since there were two in the KenPom data; obviously, they won't add to exactly 100%).
Here's Staee's expected record:
|10-8 or worse||12%|
|10-8 or worse||2.4%|
|10-8 or worse||23%|
|10-8 or worse||68%|
Put it all together, and you get the following possibilities (all chances here are conditional -- e.g., each line should add up to 100% within the limits of rounding and significant figures):
|Record||Outright Title||Shared Title||No Title|
|11-7||< 0.01%||0.20%||> 99%|
When you factor in the chances that Michigan achieves each of these records (from the first table), and add it all up, and there is a 75% chance of an outright title, a 19% chance of a shared title, and a 6% chance of being bannerless. (Coincidentally, I coded up a simulation using the same KenPom percentages, ran it 100 times, and got at least a share of the title exactly 94 times).
Long story short, even with a single loss, the odds are still in our favor to win the title outright, since KenPom doesn't think Staee is likely to run the table, and 2-2 down the stretch is likely to be enough to secure a share of the title. Like many of you, I never would have predicted this in December.
2/23/2014 – Michigan 79 – Michigan State 70 – 19-7, 11-3 Big Ten
There's a point where you cannot deny the thing you dearly wish was not true. For Michigan football, that moment was a Raymon Taylor interception followed by a negative-yardage drive that sealed loss 5 of 6 at Spartan Stadium last fall. Or maybe it was before that. Maybe it was the collective dread experienced by the fanbase going in. Michigan played Michigan State, and everyone expected to lose.
When they did, and it was worse that anyone could have imagined, any lingering sense of superiority went up like a torch. Michigan ended up dead last in TFLs allowed. Michigan State went from an offense that couldn't get yard one against WMU—one that looked a lot like Michigan's, in fact—to a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl win.
Take your Rich Rodriguez excuses, your theories about how it's all about whether Michigan is down or up, and stuff them in the closet. There is only one way to look at Michigan State football: up. The countdown clock is justified.
Michigan now has an opportunity to flip that script in basketball. They've won six of eight in the series. This year they've upset the paradigm of the previous couple years where MSU hammers Michigan at the Breslin Center and Michigan squeaks by at Crisler. They reached near-parity on the boards and just forced MSU to take more threes than twos. Both games featured extended foul-fests after Michigan opened up double-digit leads.
Talk of "closing the gap" is over.
On the RCMB, people complained about how nice Crisler is. For every one guy making rapidly downvoted assertions about how Dawson would have made the difference there were three asserting that Beilein owns Izzo—an assertion a lot of Michigan fans would be skeptical of.
For now. No matter what damage the NBA does to Michigan's roster in the offseason, it's Michigan State who will have to scramble to keep up when Payne, Appling, and Harris exit. Two straight years of recruiting airballs worthy of an unchecked Aaron Craft will do that. Meanwhile, Michigan's picking off Indiana Mr. Basketballs and consensus top-50 players from Oregon. They've got the king of exceeding expectations in the tourney. If Michigan takes care of business down the stretch they will be outright Big Ten Champions, one inch away from a three-peat.
They of course have to avoid the mother of all trap games in Mackey and hold home court against Minnesota and Indiana; they have to perform in the tourney to put the full lockdown on Michigan State's lingering sense of superiority. The opportunity is there.
Meanwhile, Michigan State will keep telling anyone who looks like a reporter about the blister between their toes in just the wrong spot. Appling:
"Those shots that (Nik) Stauskas got off on me, he probably wouldn’t have been able to get off on Branden,” Appling said.
That's the state of the programs, and it comes from the top. One guy flings histrionics back and forth and watches his scrubs woof at Michigan in an attempt to show they're tough. After they lose, they complain about the universe-wide conspiracy against them.
The other guy saves it up for one withering blast and refuses to answer questions about Mitch McGary, because they've moved on. Michigan found themselves in a hole in both of these games and pulled themselves out, because toughness is something other than acting hard because of something someone else did. Michigan State is cordially invited to get off our court. No drama necessary.
FLOOR SLAP WATCHDOG. Once; beginning of first half; Stauskas layup. In fact may have enraged Stauskas to the point where he saw nothing but blood and contested three pointers that were going in anyway because eff you, that's why.
Insofar as the floor slap set the tone, it was for a 45-point second half.
"Is the United States wasting billions of dollars a year prosecuting marijuana cases?"
"Prohibition is a failed policy, and disproportionately affects the lower rungs of the social ladder. Ask the Tick for our platform specifics. Or maybe he's Batman, we can never tell." [Bryan Fuller]
Three. Michigan won this game because they turned it over three times. With the teams matching each other on offensive rebounds (7; Michigan had more opportunities and thus slightly lost the board war) and MSU suffering 13 turnovers, that translated into ten extra shots via which Michigan won the game despite allowing MSU to shoot 68%/38%.
In fact, you probably remember all three:
- Shot clock violation in the first half.
- Twenty minutes of game time later, Stauskas throws a pass to the roll guy out of bounds. Camera cuts to Beilein, who smiles.
- Michigan is breaking four on two up 12 when Harris intercepts a Stauskas pass, thus preventing the Crisler roof from coming off.
That's it. MSU's not their vintage selves in the TO forcing department (sixth in the league) but three is ridiculously low. Michigan was just on the other end of that in a loss to Wisconsin featuring two Badger turnovers.
"They just wanted it more." I've seen a couple of MSU reporters deploy this cliché in the aftermath. While that assertion is always some guy with a parrot head substituting repetition for thought, in this case it's even dumber than usual. Adriean Payne afterwards:
[UPDATE: Video was taken down. It was Payne very near to tears]
That ripped him to his core. Talking about "wanting it more" is always vaguely insulting; here it is explicitly so.
Seriously though. I don't want any Payne-oriented roughhousing in the comments about that. That is exactly how you want the guy to react both as a Michigan State fan and as a Michigan fan. Think about Junior Hemingway after the Sugar Bowl. That kind of reaction is 80% of why college sports is more compelling than Ask Me About My Dreams pro sports.
I mean, we taunt the floor-slapping but there's no pro team that would do something so dorky and tauntable because they're too cool for school. As always, the rule here is that spiciness wins and should be encouraged. Payne above is a level above spiciness, into deep haunt-your-ass hurt, and I respect that.
Y'all be outside. Payne posted up successfully one time in this game. And I'm not talking about making a shot; I'm talking about taking one. Payne had one post shot, a miss that drew a legit foul on Horford. Morgan and Horford spent every bit of energy they had denying, denying, denying, and with the occasional double forcing Payne to pick up his dribble they shut off the post defense implosion suffered against the Badgers.
Michigan started playing no-threes defense with two minutes to go; before that MSU's shot breakdown stood at 20 twos to 21 threes. Michigan took 35 twos, 19 threes. That plus the rebounding draws in both games are a massive departure from the Payne/Nix-era Spartans, who were guaranteed to annihilate Michigan on the boards and launch a ton of shots from the post.
That's not likely to change in the near future, as Payne exits without a suitably intimidating replacement and Michigan acquires the services of a bonafide post-sized stretch four in Mark Donnal. Dawson makes some difference but as noted before the first matchup, MSU was only a middling OREB team this year when the stats were mostly a Dawson+Payne MSU outfit.
If McGary comes back, Michigan could have an advantage in interior burliness, as impossible as that sounds.
Make 'em say unh. I thought about Tim Hardaway Jr's assertion in January early in this game:
'Don’t give him a week to prepare for you because you will lose'
Michigan finally had some time to rest, recuperate, and plan for the heavy perimeter ball-denial that had largely neutralized Nik Stauskas for the past month. They came out with a bunch of back-cuts and down-screens for their posts; Stauskas got a dunk off one and had Harris beat a few other times in the first five minutes; Harris started playing Stauskas far more cautiously and Michigan got into their regular Stauskas-led offense. Ball denial: denied.
On rewatch I was surprised by how the game felt even as MSU extended to an eleven point lead early. Michigan's offense was getting great shots that just weren't going down. MSU was relying on Denzel Valentine hitting jumpers, which worked by sheer bloody chance.
Make 'em say unh, part 2. Stauskas had 25 points on 16 shot equivalents and five assists. His makes from three were all ACK NO YES shots off the bounce with Appling in the vicinity, but he was also 6/8 from inside the arc and drew some free throws. Even some of the questionable long shots had more upset than it might have seemed at the time: on one launch off a pick and roll early in the second half Michigan grabbed an offensive rebound because it was two on one down low after Payne attempted to contest.
Michigan showed a way forward for their ridiculously efficient offense in this one after a tough period. Sustaining that through the end of the season will be encouraging when it comes to tourney time; they added the constraint plays to their base offense.
Dribbles are bad. Glenn Robinson started the game with an ugly long two that bricked, missed all three of his three-pointers just as badly, and was 3/7 from the line. This would be another ARGH GRIII game except for the fact that he was 6/8 on his other shots, largely because those shots came without dribbles.
There was one catch and insta-drive on Russell Byrd, who's probably still hitting himself while repeating "stupid, stupid, STUPID," as we speak. There may have been a power dribble under the bucket after one of Michigan's down screens got him position just outside of the charge circle. Those conclude Dribbles Leading To GRIII Offense.
And lo, it was as it should be. Walton and Stauskas and LeVert found him for dunks or quick layups, and if he'd just hit an open three or convert from the line as he usually does he's at a quiet 20, if such a thing exists.
The week off got Michigan back on that old time Beilein religion, what with the back cuts and guys popping up at the bucket uncontested. Robinson got back in his flush monster mode that he was so prolific in with Trey last year.
Hail Plastic Man. Michigan got through Gauntlet #2 2-2 thanks in no small part to Caris LeVert, who cracked 20 points in three of the four games. In the other he had 9 points, 5 boards, and two assists against zero TOs in the OSU win. He's not quite as efficient as Stauskas because he's not getting to the line or rim as much, but, like, wait a week and he'll be better. At his current rate of improvement he will escape containment and level Tokyo by 2016.
"Would you like to hear my one-man-show version of Les Miz?"
"Maybe later, Jon. Maybe later." [Fuller]
Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor. GRIII's defense was… not good. Schilling got two run-out baskets on which it seemed like maybe Stauskas was doing bad things; on both Schilling simply out-ran Robinson down the floor. On a couple of pick and roll possession he did things like stick to Russell Byrd instead of taking away the easy interior bucket. Walton had a couple of similar errors that irritated, but he is a freshman and Robinson is not.
He was a huge problem in transition and was fortunate that he wasn't trying to check a Dekker in this game. I'm still pretty frustrated with him overall.
"Makeup" call. The sequence where Jordan Morgan took a backcourt charge only to get a ludicrous blocking foul followed by a moving screen on Gavin Schilling looked like a clear makeup call, but on review the previous MSU possession had featured another blatant Schilling moving screen that got Harris an open look from three that he canned. That call was coming either way. The Morgan thing was just the usual vast incompetence. Izzo's reaction was everyone's, but really they just blew it.
The thing about rewatching these games in detail is that for every call you thought was bad live that replay suggests was legit or at least close there are 1.2 things you missed live that are just terrible.
But! Michigan State got away with an extended hand-check in the first few minutes by Valentine on Caris LeVert that I hollered about and then fretted about, fearing a reprise of the clutchy-grabby that prevailed at the Breslin Center. A couple minutes later, Costello got his second for bumping GRIII off a cut; Appling got a perimeter foul for grabbing Stauskas on a cut; Valentine got called for another extensive hand check sequence. Raftery marked each one by saying "nickel dimer"; hail nickel dimers.
I hope that was something other than calling the game the way the home team wants it.
1-3-1. Michigan deployed to excellent effect, not only in the second half but for a critical possession in the first. Appling ran over Jordan Morgan, picking up his second foul and heading to the bench for the next ten minutes. Izzo would moan about it afterwards in his press conference. Of course, if MSU didn't have to learn that they couldn't do various illegal basketball things that would have been one on Appling.
Damn you, Tim Miles! If you did not exist, John Beilein would be Big Ten coach of the year in a walk. Instead it is you in a walk.
For the love of pants. Would someone please run Tom Izzo over?
That's two points just begging to be taken.
"It must be really awkward when your dad says things about Aaron Craft."
"Naw, it's cool." [Fuller]
WHAT DOES JORDAN MORGAN HAVE TO DO. I just don't know, man. A detailed rewatch made it very clear that Payne got a couple of superstar calls on drives by LeVert that would have been fouls on any other post-type substance; meanwhile, Morgan gets his customary dual phantom blocking fouls. One led to a Kaminski three-point play, the other was made up on the other end, except not really.
Morgan is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Big Ten.