"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[Ed-Ace: Bumped on a slow day. I'm working on the initial Big Ten recruiting rankings for the class of 2013, which should be up later today.]
I have never played basketball at any level, outside of a few pickup games. I'm not all that good at statistics, so I apologize for any and all statistical errors. However, as a former actuary, I am good at finding trends and patterns in data. Last week, Maize N Brew had a good article on whether Michigan lives and dies by the three. The conclusion was that the offensive efficiency was not really dependent on hitting 3 pointers. When looking at it the data presented, it looked as though the more three point shots UM takes the worse the offensive efficiency. I decided to take a closer look.
3 point Attempts vs Offensive Effiency.
I went throught the game by game box scores and looked at the 3-point attempts and plotted it against the offensive efficiency. [I removed Ferris St. since they aren't a D-I opponent.] What I found was slightly disappointing. The correlation was -0.15 (the negative means the higher the number of 3-point attempts the lower the offensive efficiency) and the R-squared was a low 0.02. However, when I took a closer look, I noticed that two of our lower offensive efficiency numbers came against Ohio and MSU, which is no surprise considering that they are the #1 and #2 best defensive efficiency teams in the country.
So to adjust for that I looked at the amount the offensive efficiency exceeded the opponents average adjusted defensive efficiency from Kenpom. The result was more in line with what I expected. The correlation drops to -0.49 and the R-squared rises to 0.24.
Looking at the results, when U-M shoots 20 3-pointers or less, Michigan is 10-0 (4 of them RPI Top 50 wins, 5 more Top 100 wins). Shooting more than 25, Michigan is 6-3, but those wins came against Arkansas Pine Bluff, Oakland, 2 overtime wins against Northwestern, Bradley and Iowa St (the only quality win in regulation). The 3 losses were the 3 worst performances of the season, @Iowa, @Arkansas, and the loss to Purdue.
So is this unique to Michigan? I looked at Northwestern, a team I think is most similar to Michigan's style of play (in the B1G). They spread the floor, shoot a ton of 3s and look for back door cuts. And I found they have a positive correlation between 3 attempts and offensive efficiency. A correlation of +0.17 (after adjusting for defensive effiency). The R-squared is a pathetic 0.03, but I think it is important to note that the correlation is the opposite sign.
I also looked at Wisconsin. Ohio relies on Sullinger and MSU relies on the offensive rebound so much that I didn't think that they would be good comparisons to Michigan. For them it doesn't seem to matter if they shoot a lot of threes or not. A correlation of -0.1 and an R-squared of 0.01.
One of the 4 factors is Free Throw Rate. I think this may be the most important of the 4 for Michigan. Michigan is 10-0 vs RPI Top 100 competition when their FT Rate is greater than 25%. Michigan is 2-7 vs RPI Top 100 when the FT Rate is at or below 25%. How does this relate to 3-pointers? My theory is that Michigan is at their best when driving the basket and drawing fouls and not settling for jump shots of the 3-point variety (I'm looking at you THJ). It might also explain why Northwestern gives us fits. Their zone forces us to take a bunch of 3 point shots (like 38 of them).
So as we go into the post season:
- Cackle with knowing glee if Michigan is driving the basket
- Worry if we draw a zone team that forces us to shoot a lot of 3 pointers.
If anyone has a team they would like me to look at, let me know. I'm going to try to figure out how to add graphs so you can see the dramatic downward slope of Michigan's efficiency against 3 point attempts.
A while back I posted on an athletic department initiative to reclaim maize from the vast sea of generic (and increasingly bright) yellow that has slowly enveloped everything from t-shirts to the uniforms themselves.
This is the part where very serious people leap in to note the effects of lighting, your monitor, your mood, and your brain on your perception of color. When I asked for an official RGB conversion of the pantone colors the University recognizes as official to deploy here, helpful users came up with a hilariously diverse gamut of possibilities.
In response to this I threw up my hands and didn't change anything, because it's not like there's a right answer. The one useful thing we can draw from this is that all of these shades are darker than than the current deployments in basketball and football:
Gordon chosen for maximum soul-offensiveness; I was at that game and that seems like an accurate reproduction. Hardaway uniform an approximate median from the first couple pages of Google Image Search.
Insert usual disclaimers about pictures—the famous Desmond Howard picture I brought out for the original post is almost orange because of things not related to the actual uniform color—but I've been there in person, I've scanned the student section and had the lack of pop from an actually-maize shirt pop out at me: this is correct insofar as these things can be correct.
We're never going to get anywhere doing this. I'd like to put aside the hard science of color and play a little feelingsball, if we can. Here's an email I received a couple weeks back after a guy tweeted at me about the differences between the Crisler floor (a darker shade I associate more strongly with maize) and the team's uniforms (YELLOW YELLOW YELLOW):
I saw your RT of some guy's tweet referencing the "maize" on the Crisler Center's floor and the "highlighter yellow" of the bball uniforms. I fall more on the highlighter side of the argument, as I remember as a kid watching teams in the late 70's and early 80's crushing opponents with maize pants that were far closer to the highlighter than the Crisler M border that reminds me of the maize used by t-shirt street vendors.
Bored, I dug around and found this article from 1996. Interesting read, but it seems that the author concludes that the maize we see in the uniform is closer to the 1912 approved colors than the border around the M. The last two pics are interesting in that the one on the right:
looks more like the bball floor than the approved:
Love the blog.
And now the background color of block quotes is really bothering me. We must forge on.
Here is the feelingsball: that strip on the bottom is wrong. It's Second-Great-Awakening-preacher wraoooong, at least as far as athletic teams are concerned. In other contexts I'm sure it's fine. If a Michigan team came out in a blue that light, though, there would be a riot. It would be a genteel Earl Grey kind of riot in which people hop on the internet to demand the email address of Dave Brandon, but it would be a riot nonetheless. I question the validity of applying the yellow from the official colors when the blue is clearly not right.
I bring it up because I've gotten a moderate amount of pushback on the idea that Michigan's current yellow is bad and ahistoric and should be hit with a shovel and buried in an Iowa cornfield. Like the guy above there's a group of Michigan fans out there that sees the lighter shade as the right one. I think they're in the minority, but they exist.
I'm with the darker shades mostly because I find them more aesthetically appealing. They're also more distinct and remind me less of the Seattle Sounders's increasingly neon kits.
Even if you're on the other side of the divide, we can all agree that this…
…is not good. Those are the actual helmet decals Michigan used this year compared to an actual Michigan helmet. MVictors acquired them from Helmet Hut, the manufacturer Michigan uses, and reports that Helmet Hut does have colors that match the helmet but Michigan wanted the darker shade.
Dave Brandon's all about uniformity of branding. This aggression will not stand, and on the thing Michigan could change immediately they went with a darker, maiz-ier color. That's the direction we're headed. When Michigan isn't wearing their commemorative flamenco-inspired jerseys against Notre Dame or their special Save the Marsupials outfits for the Big Ten opener, Michigan will take the field against a MAC team looking more like Rick Leach is piloting things. In this, we can take comfort.
SEE ALSO: Maize 'n' Blue Nation.
I'm sorry to descend on you with this but this makes me utterly livid. They are the all-CCHA teams:
Position Name, Year, School First Totals
F - Reilly Smith (JR, Miami) 10 50
F - Tyler Gron (SR, No. Michigan) 7 42
F - T.J. Tynan (SO, Notre Dame) 5 40
D - Torey Krug (JR, Michigan State) 10 50
D - Chad Billins (SR,, Ferris State) 9 48
G - Taylor Nelson (SR, Ferris State) 6 34
F- Justin Florek (SR, No. Michigan) 4 34
F- Cody Kunyk (SO, Alaska) 2 23
F- Jordie Johnston (SR, Ferris State) 3 22
D- Dan DeKeyser (SO, W. Michigan) 2 20
D- Matt Tennyson (JR, W. Michigan) -- 20
G- Shawn Hunwick (SR, Michigan) 2 24
Hunwick got two first place votes at goalie and lost out to Taylor Nelson of Ferris State. In CCHA play Hunwick had a .937 save percentage to Nelson's .927, had a 1.93 GAA to Nelson's 2.08, and played about 430 additional minutes.
You know what they say about the Gong Show and the CCHA: one is an unfunny joke begging to be put out of its misery, and the other was a syndicated 1970s amateur night featuring absurd prizes. It's no wonder that the competent teams all fled as soon as they could find a way to.
Adult Swim does not like OSU. This is not the first shot they've taken in Columbus's direction in the past year:
Now you can experience the Hoke yourself. Here's 54 minutes of Hoke talking to the Ohio High School Football Coaches' Association:
Haven't had the opportunity to check it out yet but it was recommended to me by one of the guys in the room as a great example of why Michigan's having the success they are on the recruiting trail. If it's anything like the Glazier clinic I was at, I agree.
Senior night festivities. If you missed them:
Defending Aaron Craft's defense. I'm a big stats guy and everything but man, Aaron Craft is coming in for a beating after picking up the Big Ten's defensive player of the year award and when people try to justify this they are reaching for any blunt object in the vicinity. Here's Big Ten Geeks:
Aaron Craft is a very good defensive player. Let’s get that out of the way. Whatever you think of the next few paragraphs, remember that we all agree that Craft’s defense would improve just about any collegiate basketball team.
But the sophomore guard just earned some hardware that bestowed loftier praise than just being “very good.” Indeed, it is the opinion of Big Ten coaches that Craft is the conference’s best defensive player. At the risk of dismissing the opinions of 12 men who know a lot about basketball, I think they got this one wrong.
Measuring defense is not easy. Dean Oliver came up with the Stops metric which has some appeal in that it shows correlation with defensive efficiency year-over-year. The more Stops a team keeps, the better the defense holds up. If a bunch of Stops are lost to graduation or early-entry, the defense slides. That doesn’t make it the be-all, but it’s something.
And according to Stops, Aaron Craft isn’t in the conversation of the Big Ten’s best defensive player.
Stops == defensive rebounds plus blocked shots plus steals. Stops is a very, very rough metric, like all defensive stats. Defensive stats are useless on an individual level.
So you can argue with Craft, but most arguments boil down to "he's short." I don't think that should disqualify him. Ohio State finished #1 in overall defense at Kenpom and was top 30 in forcing turnovers. Craft's steal percentage was 15th nationally. It's not like giving him the award is crazy out there, especially since they weren't going to give both the POY and DPOY to the same guy.
The real complaint here is about the guy who won the conference without any all-conference players, with one top 100 recruit, and after being picked to finish outside the top three at the start of the year. That would be John Beilein, who is not your B10 coach of the year.
Braylon kerfuffle. Braylon being Braylon (tweets have been mildly de-tweeted for readability):
"I don't understand how my brother has the 8th (fastest) time in the country in the 60m, ran for 1800 yards last year and 20 and U of M won't call," Edwards tweeted around 8 p.m.
"Love my school and I played for coach (Hoke) but call my brother before its too late and you guys miss out like Lloyd would have if not for Soup."
At least… uh… Braylon Edwards always doesn't get how media works instead of only not getting it because he doesn't like the head coach? That's the ticket.
Obviously this would have been better suggested directly to Hoke, or not at all. For one, it is March. I know we have a slightly accelerated timetable these days, but it's March. Braylon didn't get his offer until midway through his high school season, IIRC. For two, it's still March. Camp, play your senior season, see what happens, don't throw a hissy because you expect better.
I'm guessing the Edwards clan is going to have to stew most of the year, if not all of it. Michigan's not going to have a lot of wildcard spots; those that exist look like they'll be ticketed for big time players.. They've already recruited Wyatt Shallman as a tailback, and are hot after Ty Isaac and DeVeon Smith. They've taken two third-down scatback types (Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet) the past two years. There is not a spot on the roster for a 5'8" tailback that does not knock out a four star player at a position of greater need.
If it was looking grim before, now Hoke has to consider the possibility that Braylon is going to go Craig James on him if he does end up offering Berkeley. Not a good move.
Building relationships, one coach at a time. Sounds like Trotwood's coach is a little peeved at OSU:
Trotwood-Madison High School football coach Maurice Douglass didn’t exactly say Ohio State fumbled the ball, but he didn’t have to.
“One man’s lump of coal is another man’s diamond,” Douglass said. “And Michigan got a diamond.” …
“They sent him a letter last Thursday telling him to hold on, that they were still evaluating linebackers,” Douglass said.
May this work out like Anthony Gonzalez did. Except backwards, obviously. Also, that last bit should assuage any concerns McCray would flip when the Great Meyer comes down from the mountain with a temporary, conditional, non-committable offer-ish non-offer (unless you want to take it). He was asked to cool his heels and flipped the bird instead.
As a result, it is time to RELEASE THE MCCRAYKEN
Someone photoshop some wings on to that thing.
Asshats. Roy Roundtree commits a meaningless secondary violation by mentioning the twitter handle of the McCrayken; Chatsports points this out because they are clickwhores who don't care if they're damaging people or programs. If you ever see James T Yoder in a public place please let him know that he's a bad person.
Etc.: ESPN the Magazine chronicles Rumeal Robinson's descent into madness. Does pointing at stuff make you seem smarter? Obviously. Going in depth on Michigan's offensive line present and future. Five Key Plays from PSU.
It's no secret that Evan Smotrycz has struggled mightily for a large portion of the Big Ten schedule. In the four games leading up to Sunday's tilt against Penn State, Smotrycz had scored just 12 points in 64 minutes. Against the Nittany Lions, however, Smotrycz went off to the tune of 17 points on 6-7 shooting, including 3-4 from downtown.
With little depth up front and Tim Hardaway's production a major question mark, the Wolverines might have to rely of Smotrycz's secondary scoring to carry the team through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments if they hope to survive and advance. After appearing to lose confidence in his shooting stroke in conference play, Smotrycz was assertive and productive against Penn State.
It should not come as a surprise that much of the credit must go to John Beilein and the coaching staff, who found several different ways to get the ball to Smotrycz in good shooting position. How did they do this? Let's go to the tape.
The first play I'll feature was also broken down by Dan Dakich—who I think is a great commentator, by the way—so I'm cheating a little bit here, but it's worth another look. The side pick-and-pop is one of the staples of Beilein's offense. It starts with Michigan resetting to their base 2-1-2 look, with Smotrycz manning the middle as the center:
In the frame above, you see Burke heading to the far corner after passing off to Hardaway, while Vogrich cycles up top. Below, you'll see that Novak has worked his way from the near corner to the edge of the paint, and Smotrycz has turned towards the basket to set a pick. Vogrich now has the ball at the top of the key; Michigan's spacing, as usual, is excellent. The Beilein offense is predicated on spreading the floor at all times, forcing the defense to extend to the perimeter.
Novak comes around Smotrycz's pick and curls into the lane, getting past his man and forcing Penn State's center—previously guarding Smotrycz—to stay at home. With Novak drawing two defenders inside, there's ample room for Smotrycz to pop out to the perimeter:
Vogrich delivers the pass, and Smotrycz's man is in no position to get out and properly contest. Smotrycz will fire away and knock down the triple:
Here's the full video of the play:
This is a very simple concept, but when executed properly it's tough to defend—there's a reason Beilein loves big men who can shoot. With Smotrycz at the five, he produces major matchup issues on the offensive end. In this case, a lumbering center is forced to make a very athletic defensive play to prevent an open layup by Novak on the curl-cut, then get out to Smotrycz on the pop; he's incapable of doing so, and Michigan gets an open three. If Penn State's defenders stick with their men, they'll likely give up an easy two points to Novak. If they switch—not easy on the fly, though probably the best way to defend this play—Michigan will at least have created a couple of mismatches on the floor.
When Smotrycz plays at the four, he's able to get screens of his own away from the ball. In this next clip, watch the two-man game with him and Jordan Morgan on the far side. Smotrycz first cuts from the corner to the basket, briefly drawing two defenders, then gets a screen from Morgan as he heads to the perimeter. He gets the ball on the wing and, with his defender still scrambling to get outside, is able to take a couple of dribbles towards the paint, then smartly pull up for a short jumper:
That shot is easy money for Smotrycz, but Morgan's man can't fully commit to contesting without potentially giving up an open dunk to Morgan. Caught in no man's land, he's forced to concede a 10-footer; it's a nice play by Smotrycz to recognize this and pull up instead of trying to take it all the way to the basket.
Finally, you have your standard pick-and-roll. With opponents often hedging hard on Trey Burke—one of the few ways teams have found to slow him down—it's imperative that the screener knows when it's time to dive to the basket. On this play, Smotrycz times it perfectly, slipping the screen a little early to give Burke enough space to pass before the hard double is fully there. The result? An easy layup:
Beilein's offense is regarded as quite complex, and with the wide array of plays involving intricate off-ball movement I'm not one to argue. However, that doesn't mean there aren't some very basic concepts that produce much of the offense, and most of the stuff above—especially the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop—isn't difficult to spot even for a novice fan. Much like with football, fully appreciating the minutiae of Michigan's offense involves taking your eyes off the ball. For a player like Smotrycz, especially, most of his shots are going to be created when the ball isn't in his hands.
Early in the 2011 football season I noticed an odd, seemingly-impossible task handed to one of the inside linebackers: going from one hash to the other while attempting to get enough depth to cover a receiver who's starting the play on the opposite side of the field from the linebacker.
Here's Brandon Herron trying this admittedly hard task:
This would end up a Western Michigan first down as the receiver would sit down at the sticks; you can tell that Carder has already identified the open man and is throwing before the WR makes his break. He'd do better on a subsequent attempt to cover this but still give up another completion. He got there, basically, but because of the angle he had to take to do so he wasn't in a position to do anything about the ball when it was in the air:
This was odd behavior to me. Most of the time a Picture Pages is trying to explain something; this one was just "I noticed this weird pattern… isn't it weird?" It seemed bizarre to ask a not-very-good coverage guy to make a very hard drop, especially when the quarterback is getting blitzed from the same side of the field and will naturally look for a hole in the zone from the direction of the blitz.
One of the ancillary benefits of checking out those coaching clinics, however, has been an increased understanding of what's going on when this happens. A hash to hash zone drop requires a particular set of circumstances:
- The defense is sending a zone blitz with a three-deep coverage behind it and three underneath defenders, one of whom is an inside linebacker*.
- The three underneath defenders are instructed to "drop off of" a particular receiver.
- The offense aligns or motions itself into a situation with three wide receivers to one side of the line.
In this situation… well, here's some Xs and Os that should help:
This comes from Coach Hoover via Smart Football and is a fire zone similar to one Greg Mattison explained at his Glazier Clinic talk. Michigan's running something similar above, with the WLB tasked with a "hot" coverage on a receiver. It is far from uncommon—the Coach Hoover post calls it "America's Fire Zone."
Our linebacker chugging across the field in a futile attempt to wave at a ball he's not looking at is "hot 3."
Hot 2? Hot 3? What? The goal of this defense is to get pressure without giving up big plays and often devolves into man to man coverage. Defenses number the opposing WRs from the outside. Above the two receivers are the #1 receivers and largely dealt with by the corners. The tight end is the field side #2 and will be the responsibility of the SS; the dropping "F" (in Michigan's scheme this would be the WDE, Craig Roh last year) is going to pick up any back coming out of the backfield to his side of the field; the WLB has whoever's left. Hot X defenders are supposed to get their man until he breaks to safety depth at 15 yards—again, pseudo man-to-man.
If you're running a three-under combo like this and you are facing an I-Form, no problem. The WLB is going to have to make up a yard or two of distance if he even gets a guy to play pseudo man-to-man on. He may watch a back stay in to block, in which case he's just an extra guy or becomes a delayed blitzer. If he does get a second guy leaking out of the backfield, he's probably a fullback. Crisis: not present.
Unfortunately for weakside linebackers everywhere, a million billion plays these days are run with three or four wide receivers on the field. This means the WLB is going to have to deal with a player who is a lot faster than a fullback and much farther away from his starting point, with results often like what you see above.
Mattison's video jockeys did find an example of the coverage working against a slot receiver, but where they had to go to get it was telling. It featured Brandin Hawthorne against Purdue running over the top of a seam route. It's not in the UFR because it was in garbage time.
Hawthorne took off for his drop the moment the ball was snapped without even thinking about the possibility of a run, which caused one of the coaches in the audience to ask after that odd behavior. Mattison hadn't selected the clips and this one did not jump out from his memory for obvious reasons, so he attributed it to Michigan's scouting and whatever the potential down and distance was.
He was right, but it doesn't take much scouting to predict a pass when the second team is in up 36-7 in the fourth. The one example Michigan had of this drop working against a spread formation was better evidence that it didn't work than it did.
His Rock, Your Scissors
Getting rained on like this is a frequent problem in the current college football metagame. Offensive coaches are always searching for ways to get bad matchups; defensive coaches are looking for free rushers and no holes. The hash-to-hash thing leapt off the page in the opener because it was strange and seemed really hard.
Unsurprisingly, it faded as the year went on. Like Mattison flipping his line every time an opponent changed its strength, it was a makeshift band-aid made necessary by a lack of experience with Mattison's defense. If Michigan's running a fire zone and gets a bunch of receivers to one side of the field, this year you'll probably get something like this:
That is from a post at Coach Hoover detailing a half-dozen coverage adjustments this blitz can undergo to combat bad matchups like you see above. Here the D sees a bunch of guys to the wide side of the field and switches the blitz, sending the WLB and giving the closer MLB slot duty. WLB high-fives himself, MLB grumbles, defense probably gets a better result.
That adaptation is well underway at Michigan. Linebackers will look at each other, pat their helmets or cross their forearms or give each other finger gunz, and check into something less ostentatiously weird. Not every time, but enough to relegate those hash to hash drops into the realm of oddity. We'll see them from time to time as Mattison tries to bait opponents into big wrong decisions and not much more.
[Hoover HT: Smart Football.]
*[Nomenclature NOTE: the middle and weakside linebackers are almost but not quite interchangeable and I use this term to distinguish them from the SAM, who is almost but not quite a DE.
Also while you're down here: these Purdue plays were actually cover four but all of Mattison's clinic stuff assumed cover three so I'll stick with that for the explanations. I assume Michigan was intent on preventing big plays in game one or didn't think WMU could run the ball at all.]