alternate headline: man does job
Today's recruiting roundup covers the final 2013 Rivals250, a pair of new 2015 (yes, 2015) offers, a possible 2014 QB offer, and more.
Derrick Green Day Countdown
The top running back in the country decides between Michigan, Auburn, and Tennessee on Saturday at 4 pm. Let the anticipation build:
HURRY UP, WEEKEND.
Final 2013 Rivals250: Trending Down
The final 2013 recruiting rankings haven't been kind to Michigan's class, and the last of the four services to roll out their final update—Rivals—is no exception. Eleven Wolverine commits are in the updated Rivals250, but none are ranked above #70 (Henry Poggi) and all but Jourdan Lewis fell in the rankings:
- Henry Poggi dropped from #68 to #70
- Shane Morris dropped from #27 to #81
- Patrick Kugler dropped from #79 to #82
- Kyle Bosch dropped from #99 to #104
- Dymonte Thomas dropped from #107 to #109
- Mike McCray dropped from #88 to #115
- Jourdan Lewis rose from #147 to #131
- Chris Fox dropped from #123 to #142
- Jake Butt dropped from #141 to #144
- Taco Charlton dropped from #231 to #237
- Ross Douglas dropped from #238 to #241
- Logan Tuley-Tillman dropped off the list from #245
Derrick Green remains the top running back on the board and moved up to #8 overall, which hopefully will be relevant—he would be Michigan's highest-ranked commit on Rivals since Ryan Mallett in 2007.
It's clear that Shane Morris's uneven performance at the Under Armour Bowl—in both practice and the actual game—was a big hit to his recruiting stock, especially in the wake of a mono-shortened senior season. Only Scout has kept him as a five-star, while he's no longer the highest-ranked Michigan commit on the other three sites, which rank him #81, #81, and #127 overall.
I think the drop across the board for Morris is justified. I've seen him in person several times at this point and he definitely has five-star potential, but there were certain aspects of his game—accuracy and decision-making, most prominently—that needed improvement after his junior year. Morris was unable to show strides in that regard while missing most of his senior season, however, and when it came time to prove himself on the camp and All-American circuit he couldn't shake his inconsistency.
He's still got great potential—I've never seen a high school quarterback with that level of arm strength—and being a top-100 recruit doesn't make you chopped liver. It just didn't make sense for the recruiting sites to keep him above prospects who've been able to show off much more in their senior seasons.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on two new 2015 offers, Michigan's 2014 QB situation, and more.]
There is a special fondness for one’s earliest sports memories. They form the backdrop of experience against which all future events are contextualized.
My earliest datable memory is Kirk Gibson hitting a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Five of the 1984 World Series; from that day until his retirement he was my favorite baseball player. I learned to cheer for Isiah Thomas and Gary Grant. I cheered for Yzerman, and accepted that the Lions were always bad. And I rooted for Michigan football, with Jamie Morris and Mark Messner.
And Jim Harbaugh.
He won the Fiesta Bowl. He beat Ohio State with clutch play. He guaranteed a victory in ’86, and then beat Ohio State again.* He led Michigan to a Rose Bowl. To a young boy, he was a hero, everything that the winged helmet was supposed to be about. To everyone at Michigan, he was a Michigan Man.
*Someone recently argued on the board that Harbaugh essentially rode the coattails of Jamie Morris to the win, belittling his role in the game. That’s acceptable logic, if you’re willing to assert that Denard rode the coattails of Junior Hemingway to wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame last season--any takers?
* * * * *
Fast Forward to 2007. I was visiting Michigan from California, where I was attending school. I was enjoying one of the things I really missed about Ann Arbor--walking around the Ann Arbor-Saline Road Meijer after midnight. As I ambled past the U-Scan lanes, I happened to glance at the newspaper display. And there it was, front page.
Jim Harbaugh Criticizes Michigan Academics
“Jim,” I muttered to myself. “You fool. What are you doing?”
* * * * *
Jim Harbaugh was calling out the academic integrity of Michigan Athletics. He was dropping Bo’s name (after Bo died, something that sat poorly with myself and others) and using it as a cudgel against Michigan. And, by all appearances, he was doing so in an arrogant way to burnish his own program’s reputation.
Nobody in the Michigan camp liked it. Now, I suppose there could be discussion about whether or not he had any legitimate points. Many blogs, including this one, vehemently refuted his accusations and sharply criticized him for making them. I believe it can safely be said that the vast majority of the Michigan family disagreed with both the content and the method of his message.
But this is not about what he said in 2007. This is not about whether or not he wanted to “come home” after Rich Rodriguez left.* I want to address a debate that has bounced around the Michigan family for more than five years now:
Is Jim Harbaugh one of us?
Hey, basketball! We meant to have these the past couple weeks but a slammed Sunday with both men's and women's going at the same time nixed us two weeks ago and it was black death time for me a week ago.
If I sound weird it's because I'm sucking on cough drops the whole time.
All the starters. We're all like "Trey Burke is good" and this is why we get paid the okay bucks.
I accidentally dis Jordan Morgan. Ace calls me out, yo.
Stauskas! Come back to me, 57% shooting.
Various gigglings unbecoming manly men. Sorry.
Talking Big Ten with Jamiemac. We run down the league, and groan expressively about Wisconsin. Then the phone lines go out (srs) and we finish up the contenders discussion ourselves.
Music. "El Scorcho," Weezer, since we are giggling like children anyway.
The usual links:
John Beilein likes to say that the best defensive rebound is one by his point guard. Why? That's the best way to get out in transition. I decided to investigate Beilein's claim—at least as it applies to Michigan—by going through this season's play-by-plays and charting each defensive rebound.
In the (chart?) chart below, I've tracked each defensive rebound as well as any resulting fast break field goal attempts or drawn shooting fouls—a fast break, in this case, being defined as any shot coming within 10 seconds of the defensive rebound, so long as the ball remained in play the whole time. Also in the chart is how often each player gets a fast break assist or made basket off their own defensive rebound. "% Opp" is the percentage of individual defensive rebounds that result in fast break field goal attempts or drawn shooting fouls, and "% Conv" is the percentage of made fast break FGA and shooting fouls drawn.
SPOILER ALERT: Beilein's theory is correct.
|PLAYER||Def. Reb.||FB FGA||FB FGM||Assist||Self Make||FT||% Opp||% Conv|
GOOD PLAYERS ARE GOOD
Trey Burke is far and away the best on the team at turning defensive rebounds into transition opportunties, and the reasons are two-fold. For one, it's Trey Burke—you know, the guy you want running the fast break. Second, as you can see in the video at the top of the post, as a diminutive point guard many of Burke's rebounds come on shots that carom far away from the basket, providing a better chance to turn and run than a rebound in the charge circle.
Burke is also the best at converting his own rebound at the other end, with—surprise!—Tim Hardaway Jr. second in that regard; both have seven made baskets off their own rebounds while Hardaway has one more free throw opportunity... off 34 more defensive boards. Though Burke converts at a higher rate, Hardaway has the highest defensive rebound rate on the team by a non-center, and you can see just how valuable his newfound dedication to that area is to the team.
MCGARY'S OUTLET PASSING
Jordan Morgan (and, in small sample size territory, Jon Horford) has a rate well below the team average when it comes to turning defensive rebounds into transition opportunities, which is understandable: as a center, he's not turning and leading the break, and most of his boards come from right under the basket, where it's hardest to spark a transition opportunity.
That makes McGary's ability to turn 48.1% of his defensive rebounds into fast break chances—a better rate than Hardaway—all the more impressive. The difference, as far as I can tell, is in McGary's outlet passing; he's got surprisingly good court vision, which allows him to turn quickly off a rebound and find his point guard. This is one area where McGary has a decided edge on Morgan, especially since his defensive rebound rate is also higher.
GAP BETWEEN FRESHMEN: NOT THE ONE YOU'D EXPECT
What surprised me most when putting this together was the gap between Nik Stauskas (53.1% Opp) and Glenn Robinson III (32.1%). While Robinson matches up against bigger players, ending up closer to the hoop for rebound opportunities, he's also the more athletic of the two. It's Stauskas, however, who's the only player besides Burke to crack 50% in major minutes—this despite rarely being involved in the play at the other end of the floor.
Perhaps there's a lot of noise in these numbers given the sample size (I'd say yes—I'm mostly ignoring the "% Conv" figure because of this) but that doesn't entirely explain that large a gap. Like with the big men, I believe this has to do with the difference in court vision and passing ability; so far this season, Stauskas has proven himself the more adept passer. Meanwhile, Robinson still seems to be adjusting to the college game; in a year, I'd bet his transition rate will be better than Jordan Morgan's.
[Hit THE JUMP for an update on the Kobe Assist and Adjusted Points Per Shot numbers from last month.]
The mantra that "defense wins championships" isn't restricted to football, and that's starting to get kicked around as a potential problem for Michigan when the bullets start flying in March. Luke Winn gets the first kick at the can by leaving them out of a five-deep Prime Title Contenders tier in his recent column:
You might be asking, what about Michigan? If the Wolverines' profile stays the same, they could be the most interesting test-case of this NCAA tournament. They have the nation's best offense but only the No. 45 defense -- not red-flag-worthy, but well worse than any champ from the past 10 years. Michigan cutting down the nets in Atlanta would be a breakthrough statement for the power of offense.
Despite not playing, Michigan has risen to 39th since he put up his column. There is plenty of time for Michigan to get right in this metric.
But let's say they finish the season about where they are now. This seems like something of an issue. Winn assembled the last ten years of Elite Eight teams and found that relatively few found themselves outside of the top 25 in defensive efficiency.
If Michigan was to make the Final Four with its current defensive numbers they would be better than only four teams in the past ten years—the dual outsiders from a couple years back, Dwyane Wade's Marquette team, and TJ Ford's Texas team. Those are kind of grim odds.
However, not many of the teams to make it were the #1 offense in the country, either. And the ranks can be misleading here. As mentioned, they have slid up six spots whilst eating cheeseburgers the last few days, and if they were to shave a single bucket off 100 Hypothetical Opponent possessions, they'd leap up another 11 spots. The margins here are slim.
Meanwhile Michigan is leading the charts on offense by a mile. Their adjusted efficiency is 3.6 points clear of #2 Florida. You could hack off 3.5 points of that, toss it on Michigan's defensive numbers, and come up with a pairing of the country's #1 offense with the 16th-best defense and then you're looking at a tier I contender, no questions asked.
The point is that maybe the margins matter here, and the wheat gets separated from the chaff by differential. How does Michigan stack up there? Pretty well.
|Team||Conf||Adjusted Offensive Efficiency||AOE RK||Adjusted Defensive Efficiency||DOE RK||Efficiency Differential|
[numbers collected before last night's games, so this overrates Louisville a little.]
Florida has wrecked everyone they've played save K-State and Arizona and are far-and-away leaders here; Michigan is second. This is pretty close to the Kenpom rankings themselves, obviously.
Defense Wins Just As Much Championship As Offense
First: the Defense Wins Championships cliché doesn't stand up. I took Winn's data set, grabbed their year-end adjusted efficiency numbers, and got their efficiency differentials. I gave each team a point for each win they acquired after reaching the elite eight (3 for the champ, 2 for the runner up, etc.), and then acquired r values* between those three metrics of quality and wins. Over the decade-long sample there is basically no difference between offense and defense when it comes to acquiring wins—offense is actually ahead fractionally—and looking at the two metrics together is significantly more predictive:
- AOE R value: 0.28
- DOE R value: 0.26
- Efficiency Differential R value: 0.39
If you were so inclined you could argue that there's a winnowing effect that prevents poor defensive teams from reaching the Elite Eight, but then you're trying to find a mechanism that works for the first three games of the NCAA tournament only to abandon teams in the crunch—not likely.
I like this result. It is intuitive. It implies that scoring two points at one end is as valuable as preventing two at the other. It won't get me on Malcolm Gladwell's Christmas card list or acquire me a professorship at Princeton, but unlike the things that do bring those benefits this result makes sense.
So… as long as Michigan's efficiency differential remains sky high, they've got as good a shot at the title as anyone. Except Florida. Long way to go, obviously; if Michigan ends the season as they stand today they should be amongst the title favorites.
*[A brief word on R values: these are not significant, but something can be suggestive without reaching levels of statistical rigor necessary to declare you've found the Higgs Boson. In this case they're just one datapoint we are making a reasonable argument with, instead of flogging ridiculous things like David Berri does. As always, R can change wildly depending on the parameters you set.]
A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS
I took the top eight teams so far this year and threw them in with the 80 teams already in this sample and ranked by efficiency margin. There's good news and bad there. The good: Michigan is a notch above last year's Kentucky outfit! The bad: Florida is #2 in the entire sample, behind only the dominant Kansas title team in 2008 and just ahead of the dominant UNC title team in 2005. Florida is ridiculous right now.
Everyone looks good, in fact. Five of the eight teams from this year are in the top quarter of the sample and all are in the top half. I assume there's a flattening effect that goes on as conference play and mean regression brings high-fliers to earth; also this group of teams has not been ruthlessly culled by the VCUs and Butlers of the world. Strong teams also cry, Mr. Lebowski.
The table is after the jump for anyone so inclined.
[AFTER THE JUMP: A TABLE! WOO!]
Spring of 1989 was the semester we switched from playing football during recess at Quarton Elementary School, to hoops. A particularly muddy field that spring made this the sane thing to do. Upside: you get in less trouble when you don't come home from school covered in mud. Downside: the best athlete in the class* was staunchly against it since he was also the 2nd shortest guy in the class, and under the Universal Rules Regarding the Governorship of Boys in the 3rd Grade the best athlete gets to decide which game we play. What finally changed "I'm Tony Boles" to "I'm Rumeal Robinson"† was twofold: the Pistons went to the NBA Finals and were on their way to another, and then this happened:
By fall the spell was broken and some kid got bloodied pretty badly by falling on the pavement and the recess calls were back to "I'm Desmond Howard!" We were off to middle school by the time the Fab Five arrived. But for a time in '89 the only thing on anybody's minds was "wow when did Michigan basketball get so good?". I wonder what made me think of that.
* Ironically that kid who gave me a blue Michigan football for my birthday, then announced we can't play with any other ball ever again, ended up a mouthy walk-on on MSU's 2000 championship team. And a nice guy, for a Spartan.
† I was always Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson until some other kid started fighting me for it and I switched to Mark Aguirre.
How it works:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
About Last Time:
"I am a structural engineer and I know that that bicyle [sic] on the shirt has a flexural hinge waiting to happen. I could not wear the shirt in my right mind without modifying it."
This Week's Game:
Michigan versus Purdue tomorrow night. I'm Trey Burke!
And the Prize:
Look soft? It is soft. It's tri-blend, so it feels like you've been breaking it in since "Michigan Man" became a thing, except this time your mom won't rip it up and use it for rags.
Normally I post a prize from the MGOSTORE, but this week I thought I'd expand a bit outside our corner and highlight an important partner of this site: Underground Printing and Moe's, without whom we don't have a store, we don't have a book, and Brian Cook is some kind of computer engineer with a blogspot page. Other than MGoShirts, their calling card is those comfy retro tees.
This I appreciate, since my actual vintage 1989 Michigan basketball shirt was a tattered rag by 1993. Oh it would fit; my generation was fortunate to come upon the "wear everything three sizes too large" fashion period when we were still growing. By the time clothes were meant to fit again, ours did, even if the hyper color was washed out.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm tore its ACL. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm goes on 20-6 runs out of halftime.. This is not the algorithm. This is close.