"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
12/2/2009 – Michigan 58, Boston College 62 – 3-3
Apparently there was a meeting this offseason and Michigan's three major sports bet each other they could be the most disappointing outfit on campus. Hockey is winning, but narrowly. Assorted thoughts on basketball season so far:
SON OF A BITCH. SON OF A BITCH.
Can We Please Assemble Yost To Point At The 1-3-1 And Call It A Sieve? Holy hopscotching hell. Michigan finally moved away from the disastrous fringe zone defense against Boston College, but before that it had given up enough points to seal Michigan's doom. This comes after the Marquette game, in which the Eagles averaged 1.27(!!!) points per possession, the worst output of the Beilein era, and the Alabama game, which wasn't as bad but lord it wasn't good either.
This isn't even a preparation issue. Marquette and Alabama did not put in special practice time to deal with Michigan when there was a 25% or less chance those teams would play the Wolverines; Michigan just sucks at the 1-3-1. Hard.
If this was football I'd have some amateur but fairly accurate point about scheme; since it's basketball I'm about as mystified as anyone else. The defense wasn't good last year but it wasn't anywhere near this bad and the only difference is replacing a couple walk-ons with Darius Morris. Morris hasn't seemed like the problem so far. Problems: Stu Douglass is a really terrible defender, Manny Harris is lackadaisical himself, and no one got any taller.
…but on the other hand. Morris has given Michigan zero offensively other than some fast break buckets against poor competition. I guess he makes sense in a high-paced transition offense that results from a ton of steals forced by the 1-3-1. Since Michigan is not getting a ton of steals, he's a non-shooter whose main contribution on offense is to pass the ball around the perimeter. Freshman and all that, but right now Stu Douglass is a much better passer and shooter and seems considerably more useful on offense. Is that worth the 3-4 wide open threes he'll give up? This is not a lovely choice.
And now we devolve into talk radio platitudes. Forgive me: I am about to sound like whichever post-Spielman droid is currently Pam Ward's color guy. In multiple ways. Brace yourself.
Doesn't this team look horribly coached? I keep going back to the haunting Manny Harris three against Alabama. With 20 seconds on the shot clock in a tie game with under a minute left, Harris comes over a half-hearted screen from DeShawn Sims and jacks up a three with a hand in his face. It, like 90% of Harris's threes to date, misses, and Alabama comes down for the winning basket after the rebound. Beilein benched Harris and Sims for large portions of the Boston College game, and they deserved it, and the team didn't play much worse. That's about all he can do but good God, by now the upperclass stars on the team shouldn't have to get benched.
Elsewhere in this theory: the 1-3-1 failure and the number of possessions that end with few ideas and few good shot options. Sometimes the dread specter of Amaker offense shows up. This should probably not be happening in year three.
I don't want to overstate the case: obviously I still support Beilein and think he's a good coach who will—has—been the most successful one at Michigan since Tom Goss and Ed Martin crushed the program's will to live. But in the aftermath of the Evan Smotrycz rise, Brundidge commitment and potential acquisition of Casey Prather or Trey Ziegler, I was teetering along the edge of taking back the "Beilein won't ever make Michigan elite" theory offered here earlier… now not so much.
Second: could "leadership" actually be an issue here? Resorting to leadership is the last option around here, but the team seems way, way worse than last year—even when you take things like losing to Iowa and almost doing the same against Indiana—and the only difference is that CJ Lee is running for congress or something and David Merritt is starting the next Nike. Similarly, the hockey team lost Aaron Palushaj but nothing else aside from a couple of gritty grit Gritsteins in Tim Miller and Travis Turnbull and has collapsed to the point where its decades-long tourney streak is in serious doubt.
I usually dismiss heart and leadership and whatnot. I still think this holds in football because football is a bunch of short, complicated bursts of activity. Whatever effect trying really hard has is dwarfed by knowing what the hell to do and doing it right. Aside from the occasional tired defensive linemen, coasting isn't an option. Football is kill or be killed; it has your full attention at all times.
In hockey and basketball, on the other hand, you can sort of do things. You can defend the post with token effort, or lackadaisically close out, or not rotate. You can coast on your forecheck or not backcheck or not finish a check. It's far more possible to give poor effort. So it's conceptually possible to me that gritty heart dirt dog blah blah is actually important, and then you've got two separate teams that are a thousand times worse than they were last year despite personnel situations that should be considerably better but for the absence of Gritzilla. The conclusion, horrifyingly, is that maybe people who like Colin Cowherd aren't always wrong about everything forever.
It's just about over, isn't it? Michigan's put themselves in a position where they've blown virtually all of their winnable quality nonconference games—Creighton doesn't look like it will count—and now must either pull vast upsets against Kansas and/or UConn and maybe also beat Utah to scrape into the tourney with a similar conference record. If they win one of those games they probably have to go 11-7 in the conference to make it, and raise your hand if you think that's likely. Right.
You know, if I ever thought I'd get so much use out of the "i know it's over and oh it never really began but in my heart it was so real" tag, I might have considered another line of work. Like ninja.
Boston College 62, Michigan 58
Michigan 3-3 (0-0 Big Ten)
Buckle down, Michigan hoops fans; it's going to be a long season in Ann Arbor. Not literally, of course, because this doesn't look like a team that will extend its year into the postseason. But long like painful, you see.
At one point in the second half, I tweeted "Holy crap, this looks like an Amaker team." The unfortunate thing is that I wasn't saying it to be mean-spirited, it was just true. Uninspired defensive play and poor decisions offensively made for a highly unentertaining (and ineffective) brand of basketball. Sure the officiating was pretty bad, but I think if the game had been reffed well, Michigan might have just ended up losing by a much wider margin.
As things stand, the 3-point shooting still isn't there. Stu Douglass seems to have lost all confidence, passing up two open looks with less than a couple minutes left in the game, and Michigan still within striking distance. That lack of confidence is the story of the team right now, and they have to break out of this slump (which included a 64% mark from the free throw line) if they want a chance to play for the tournament.
After the disappointment in Orlando, Boston College appeared to be Michigan's lone chance for a signature out-of-conference win. Now the Wolverines face the daunting task of winning in Salt Lake City against Utah or in Lawrence against Kansas for their resume booster. With the way they've performed over the last week, neither looks likely, and coming down with a single win in those two games is looking less and less possible.
Something has to be said, however, for the Wolverines' refusal to give up. It shouldn't take a 15-point deficit in the second half to light a fire under their asses, but at least when they finally started playing the damn game, it was a flash of brilliance. Now, that just needs to be harnessed, and put on display for more than 5 minutes per game.
- Coming out of Orlando, DeShawn Sims was somebody who needed to step up his game. He finished with as many fouls as points (4).
- A hearty cheer for Zack Gibson is in order. He's really developed into someone who can contribute on both ends of the floor, and he kept this team in the game toward the end.
- Manny went 1-6 from 3-point range, and the only make was banked in. He isn't shooting well early in the year, and the way to solve that problem does not involve jacking up contested shots on every other possession.
- As mentioned above, free throw shooting continues to be a problem. At this point in the year "early in the season" can no longer be an excuse. This team has to be better from the stripe. 70% is not good enough, especially for a team that shot over 75% last year.
- Ben Cronin is not ready to contribute against good teams. He made a hustle play, but still doesn't have the athleticism back after his hip surgery.
- Darius Morris had a nightmare game. He turned the ball over more times than he shot it (1 to 0).
- I, too, am shocked that the headline of this post was not used up during the football season.
- The official attendance was over 10,000, but I'll be damned if that's anywhere near accurate. The gold level on both baselines was completely empty.
- Yay for the Big Ten finally winning the ACC Challenge. It's a hollow victory without a Michigan win.
- "This [Boston College] is obviously a pretty good team. Or we're a really bad team." John Beilein, on the team's performance.
- "We're frustrated, but the thing about college basketball is you've got to bounce back." DeShawn Sims, on the three-game losing streak.
- "I think we're losing focus a little bit, and you can't do it. Teams are too good." Zack Novak, on the defensive struggles.
- "Even my first year, I don't think it was this bad shooting-wise." Manny Harris.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff heads to Crisler Arena at 2PM on Saturday. Beat the Golden Lions or whatever.
After Michigan's 4-0 start the offense skidded downwards into mediocrity and inconsistency, gradually erasing the early giddiness around these parts. Early in the year, I said "the question is not whether this will be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade, but by how much," which… well… Alan Greenspan has something to say about that.
Still, for anyone who actually watched the team this year and last, the idea that things didn't improve is laughable. The favorite tool of folks who like to claim this is Michigan's scoring offense in the Big Ten. Check this pre-OSU Michigan Monday for an example. Okay, actual scoring—despite being the point of everything—is is kind of a wildly unreliable metric, especially when your quarterbacks are freshmen and very, very turnover-happy. But when a tempo-free aerial says basically the same thing when it comes to yards per attempt…
…the offense has not exactly reached juggernaut status.
Still, it did improve significantly. All of this focus on conference play ignores that last year Michigan was 1-3 outside the conference and lost to a 3-9 MAC team because it scored 10 points. Against Notre Dame the net offensive output was probably negative because of five horrendous turnovers. This year the MAC snacks were swatted away and Michigan was one of many teams to scorch TAH-NOO-TAH's blitz-mad ways. They were in the ballpark of crappy, and this represents a step forward from last year, when Michigan football was the Indiana basketball of the Big Ten: too terrible to even fit on the scatterplot. To repeat a theme of late, this is progress of a not-very-fun variety.
There is noise yet in the scatterplot, though, as it makes Northwestern's dink-mad offense look worse than Michigan's when it wasn't. Let's take away all the noise caused by varying numbers of drives, varying average drive start, and opposition offenses, and just look at how efficient Michigan was on a drive-by-drive basis.
Brian Fremeau maintains a rating that does this called the Fremeau Efficiency Index. It's similar in concept to the numbers the Mathlete has posted here over the last year or so: find the average success rate in Situation X and measure teams by how far above or below that break-even line they are. Fremeau has many numbers; we'll look at a few. OE is "offensive efficiency" and is just a measure of how much you score relative to the D-I average. It's a tempo-free stat roughly equivalent to Points Per Possession in basketball. The second, FEI, is this in the words of its author:
College football rating system based on drive-based Game Efficiency data that rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams.
I couldn't find a more specific definition of what exactly this means; IMO, this is less interesting as a performance measure than it is an attempt to make the ratings more plausible to human eyes looking for a ranking system. So the focus should be on the raw numbers.
100% Awesome Mediocrity
Raw and adjusted, your results:
|Year||OE||OE Rk||Off FEI||OFEI Rk|
(This rating excludes I-AA games, as all serious attempts to quantify college football do.)
So there you go: from one of the worst teams in D-1 to totally mediocre. Totally mediocre seems acceptable, or better, when you're graduating four starters, have a freshman quarterback, play most of the year without your best offensive lineman, don't get to use your senior tailbacks all that much, and suffer from another epic turnover plague.
The Unfortunate Flipside
The other side of the ball is sort of horrifying:
|Year||DE||DE Rk||Def FEI||DFEI Rk|
…but a little less horrifying than i expected. Michigan's defense under Scott Shafer was actually sort of good-ish, but submarined by terrible field position and a ton of drives faced because of the offense. FWIW, I don't think this reflects poorly on Robinson yet; one year doesn't tell you much of anything. Also, Michigan's two best defensive performances of the year (relative to the opposition) were against Minnesota and Northwestern, after Shafer was basically fired. (And, yes, after Michigan's disastrous attempt to switch to the 3-3-5 cost them the Purdue game.)
Improvement + implosion = ?
Your net numbers in efficiency: Michigan went from 85th last year to 62nd this year. In FEI terms, Michigan went from 71st to 56th. That is almost exactly in line with what I believe is a reasonable take on the team: it was terrible last year and significantly better this year, but the amount of progress was disappointing not just relative to expectations after 4-0 but relative to those in the preseason.
Attempting to downplay the real improvement that was obvious to anyone watching the offense in something other than the fetal position is silly, and a sign they're about to bring up the Braylon Edwards #1 jersey "controversy" as further evidence that Rodriguez should be fired.
It gets pretty wild in slots 10-20. Let me tell you. The rest at CBS Sports.
|WHAT||#36/31 Michigan v. Boston College|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 2nd, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -5.5*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The travel schedule for the Old Spice Classic makes it difficult for the Wolverines to prepare for a big game the following week, with only Tuesday to practice. That's the way of the Thanksgiving tournaments, however, and it's basically the same for every team. The team's weekend was disappointing, but they are young, especially in the backcourt, according to John Beilein. Darius Morris is still learning about the responsibility of being a D-1 point guard, and will only improve over time.
The team is still figuring out who plays the best in the zone defense, and Alabama did some things that the Wolverines hadn't seen before against the zone defense. There won't be mass personnel changes this week, but playing time will be adjusted for individual players.
The biggest woe for Michigan at this point in the year has been shooting. The Wolverines have a 46.6 eFG% at this point in the year, after reaching 50.3 last year. Part of that is getting Zack Novak more shots, according to Beilein, but a big part of it is the shooters just getting enough good looks, and stroking them with confidence.
Boston College is 4-2 so far this season, with both losses coming in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, to St. Joseph's and Northern Iowa. The Eagles beat South Dakota State in The Jam, and also beat Dartmouth, St. Francis, and Providence, with only the last coming away from home.
Boston College has been snake-bitten so far this year, suffering through numerous injuries. The biggest yet would be Joe Trapani (pictured above), the Eagles' leading scorer who has been suffering from flu-like symptoms this week. He currently leads the team in minutes played and points, and is second in rebounds and blocks. Coach Al Skinner says Trapani will likely be a game-time decision. Dylan of UMHoops adds on Twitter that the Eagles definitely won't have Rakim Sanders, and will probably be without Tyler Roche.
John Beilein wasn't so concerned with personnel losses for Boston College, noting that their team is 10 men deep, before adding, "I'll believe they're not at 100% when I see it."
It's far enough into the year that tempo-free stats might mean something, so here's the first tempo-free breakdown of the season. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Boston College: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Boston College Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. BC Def eFG%||220||165||B|
|Mich Def eFG% v. BC eFG%||226||75||BB|
|Mich TO% v. BC Def TO%||4||330||MMMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. BC TO%||33||66||M|
|Mich OReb% v. BC DReb%||259||68||BB|
|Mich DReb% v. BC OReb%||310||12||BBB|
|Mich FTR v. BC Opp FTR||253||20||BBB|
|Mich Opp FTR v. BC FTR||5||155||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. BC AdjD||137||206||M|
|Mich AdjD v. BC AdjO||133||13||BB|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
It's hard to read into Boston College's numbers as a predictor too much, since they have so many players either out or less than 100%. Still, they look like the slightly better team coming into this contest. I'd imagine Michigan's shooting improves at home, and the home crowd will play a factor as well.
If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution. The season is winding down, as only 5 commits were still playing coming into the week, and all but the Louisiana guys wrapped up their seasons over the weekend.
New Commit PA CB Cullen Christian
Penn Hills went 4-5 in the regular season, and bowed out in the second round of the playoffs to Gateway. I couldn't find individual stats for Christian.
MI QB Devin Gardner
Last week: Fluff. Pregame fluff. Inkster falls to Lowell in the State Championship Game 6-27. Gardner finished 9-17 passing for 134 yards, but his offensive line got him killed all day, and he rushed for -26 yards.
This week: Inkster (9-4) loses the State Championship, and their season is over.
|Devin Gardner 2009|
|East Kentwood||L 33-52||19||30||389||3||1||63.33||12.97||10||102||2||10.20|
|St. Edward||W 14-7||1|
|Highland Park||W 27-22||9||16||127||2||2||56.25||7.94||11||74||2||6.73|
|Bay City Central||W 27-20||7||13||132||1||0||53.85||10.15||15||95||1||6.33|
|Muskegon CC||W 34-19||4||9||110||0||0||44.44||12.22||99||1|
|St. Ignatius||L 20-49||1||0||1|
|Edsel Ford||W 51-19||4||7||51||2||0||57.14||7.29||6||98||2||16.33|
|De La Salle||W 12-3||7||16||75||0||2||43.75||4.69||5||34||1||6.80|
SC QB Conelius Jones
Conelius Jones paced Spartanburg, completing 10 of 19 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 39 yards on 20 carries.
This week: Spartanburg (5-9) has seen its season come to an end.
|Conelius Jones 2009|
|Boiling Springs||L 35-39||1||0||77||1|
|Rock Hill||W 41-28||0||0||0||0||0||-||-||18||110||2||6.11|
TX RB Tony Drake
This week: Skyline (12-1) Has been eliminated from the State Playoffs.
|Tony Drake 2009|
|Plano East||W 45-19||15||167||1||11.13||0||0||0||-|
|Lake Highlands||W 42-27||19||226||2||11.89||1||6||0||6.00|
|W.T. White||W 62-3||4||50||1||12.50||0||0||0||-|
|Cypress Woods||L 21-28||22||78||0||3.55||1||-1||0||-1.00|
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last week: Parkview Baptist beats Patterson 33-21.
Drew Dileo and Brandon Johnson each rushed for 114 yards.
This week: Parkview Baptist (10-1) v. White in Round 4 of the State Playoffs.
|Drew Dileo 2009|
|Christian Life||W 60-14||1||50||1||50.00|
|Church Point||W 54-0||2||40||1||20.00|
|Port Allen||W 32-7||11||65||0||5.91||3||92||2||30.67|
|West Feliciana||W 23-7||50||1|
LA S Carvin Johnson
This week: Rummel (12-0) v. Westgate in Round 4 of the State Playoffs.
|Carvin Johnson 2009|
|East St. John||W 20-14||0|
|OP Walker||W 23-0||1|
|Brother Martin||W 13-7||0|
|St. Augustine||W 7-6||1|
|Archbishop Shaw||W 18-17||0|
|Captain Shreve||W 10-3||2||2+||2|
MI RB Austin White
Stevenson's (8-3) season is over after falling in the second round of the playoffs.
|Austin White 2009|
|South Lyon||W 37-0||8||173||3||21.63||0||0||0||-|
|South Lyon East||W 47-20||16||234||5||14.63||0||0||0||-|
|Catholic Central||L 0-38||10||75||0||7.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Marcus (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and Hopkins's senior season is over.
|Stephen Hopkins 2009|
|Plano West||W 35-25||28||128||3||4.57|
|Tyler Lee||W 17-7||22||118||1||5.36|
|Southlake Carroll||L 30-41||28||150||1||5.36|
|Flower Mound||W 63-39||21||217||2||10.33|
|Cedar Hill||L 17-41||20||50||1||2.50|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Pioneer's (8-3) ended after a loss in the second round of the playoffs.
|Ricardo Miller 2009|
|Arthur Hill||W 58-20||1||20||0||20.00|
MI WR Jeremy Jackson
Huron's (5-4) season ended without a playoff berth. Jackson finished with 43 catches for 573 yards.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Canton South (3-7) missed the state playoffs, and its season is over.
OH WR DJ Williamson
Harding (6-3-1) will not make the State Playoffs, and its season has ended.
OH OL Christian Pace
Avon Lake (8-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
OH DT Terry Talbott
Wayne's (7-4) season ended with a defeat in the second round of the playoffs.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
Trinity (4-6) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Hampton (7-4) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and Paskorz's season is over. Coach fluff.
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Liberty (4-6) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
FL S Marvin Robinson
Lake Region (0-9) missed the playoffs, and their season is over.
OH CB Courtney Avery
Lexington (6-4) missed the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
WI P Will Hagerup
Whitefish Bay (5-5) has completed its season after a first-round playoff loss. Will named 1st-team All-State.
2011 OH CB Greg Brown
Ross (5-5) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
|Greg Brown 2009|
|Benedictine||W 28-21 (OT)||6||99||1||16.50|
|Findlay||L 40-43 (3OT)||8||122||1||15.13||0||0||0||-|
|Marion Harding||L 0-21||0||0||0||-||4||13||0||3.25|