I did not make this headline up
Bo Ryan calmly witnesses a murder (source)
As everyone predicted, Wisconsin ran roughshod through the Big Ten – only tripping up against newcomers Maryland and Rutgers (SERIOUSLY. RUTGERS. HOW.) on the road – winning the league by two games and posting a conference efficiency margin that was 12.5 points / 100 possessions better than the next-best team, Iowa. All hail our Badger overlords. The real validation will have to come in the NCAA Tournament, as Wisconsin will (probably) finally face elite competition there for the first time since early December.
Maryland finished second at 14-4: I’ll address the Terrapins later because there’s a huge dichotomy between their results and their statistical profile. Iowa, Michigan State, and Purdue each tied for third at 12-6 – fitting second-tier parity, also expected due to Wisconsin’s dominance. Ohio State rounds out the group of probable tournament teams with an 11-7 conference record and in sixth place.
The middle tier of the Big Ten effectively cannibalized itself throughout the season; according to the Bracket Matrix as of Monday afternoon, the Big Ten could find three of its best four teams (in my opinion and the opinion of several metrics) in unappealing 7- (Iowa) or 8-seeds (Michigan State, Ohio State). Indiana’s hilarious implosion down the stretch put them squarely on the bubble along with Purdue and Illinois; the Big Ten could theoretically get just five of its 14 teams into the tournament, which would be quite disappointing.
In reality, it’s been a disappointing year in the conference. Michigan and Nebraska were colossal disappointments; the Wolverines were having a nightmare year before brutal injuries effectively put the season out of its misery and the Huskers had everybody back from a tournament team last year and were… inexplicably terrible. Wisconsin is the league’s only top-15 team in Pomeroy’s algorithm and the league’s second-place team, Maryland, finished just 32nd.
After four years as Pomeroy’s top conference, the Big Ten backslid to fourth behind the Big XII, the old Big East, and the ACC. And honestly, we can’t even blame Rutgers for that.
* * *
I guess I’ll get this next part out of the way early -- as our Dear Leader often says, the strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to do this:
These things are really subjective and my vote literally doesn’t count for anything. If you have any complaints or disagreements, please meet me on the Diag at 3:00 A.M. tonight to let me know those concerns so I may better my arbitrary award judgment in the future.
(I did have to put Aubrey Dawkins on there because he’s fire from range and BOFA’d Nnanna Egwu that one time, even if he has a Stauskasesque indifference towards defense.)
* * *
Since I’m an advanced stats guy, I think conference-wide efficiency margin tells the story as well as anything else. Big surprise: Wisconsin’s way out ahead of everyone else.
Maryland (UMD) is sixth! Why is UMD sixth? HOT TAKE ALERT: Maryland isn’t that great. Even though their defense was best in the league by a slight margin over Purdue, their offense finished tenth and their efficiency margin was dragged down by it. Sure, they swept Michigan State and handed Wisconsin one of its only two losses, but the Terps notably struggled in some gimmie games – without losing: they were tied with Rutgers with three minutes left at home; they needed an improbably comeback and difficult buzzer-beater to beat Northwestern at home; Penn State was within one possession of Maryland in College Park with 2 minutes left; they swept Nebraska, but by a combined seven points.
While it’s important to note that Maryland did win all those games, it does reflect a sort of weakness. Very good teams don’t routinely struggle at home against bad ones, and even though the Terps avoided big upsets, those results imply that a) Maryland isn’t as good as its record and b) they’re especially vulnerable, at least relative to their perception. They’re currently ranked 8th and are in line for a 3-seed; they’re 25th in Sagarin and 32nd in Kenpom. Kenpom also has a “Luck” stat – which essentially highlights the difference between a team’s actual and expected results – and Maryland is first out of 351 teams nationally. Don’t be surprised if there’s a seemingly harsh regression to the mean next year.
Over the season, I created the “Game Score” metric, which essentially normalizes a team’s performance based on their opponent’s average on both the offensive and defensive ends. For example, an offensive game score of zero would be an efficiency mark that’s equal to an opponent’s average defensive efficiency and a defensive game score of one would be holding that opponent to one standard deviation below their normal offensive output. The total game score would be one. It’s an intuitive metric, and it spits out these results:
Click on images to enlarge; the scatterplot’s x-axis (offense) is – 1 > x > 1, the y-axis (defense) is –5 > y > 5. The question mark pattern in the scatterplot is indicative of the mystery of the Big Ten’s bloated middle, or something.
[Much more on B1G Hoops after the JUMP]
Friday, March 6, 2015
Penn State 6 Michigan 4
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 03:13 Scheid from Richard and Conway
Penn State chips the puck in and chases. Zach Werenski loses a battle along the boards behind the net, leaving Scheid with the puck. As he takes off up the boards Kevin Lohan skates behind the net to cover.
Dylan Richard starts skating to the net while Scheid turns behind him. It isn’t quite a pick, but it (apparently) is enough of a diversion to wreak havoc.
Lohan makes an intelligent coverage switch to cover Richard. Scheid shoots, however, and beats Racine five-hole. This kind of goal (read: soft) is the reason no one has been able to win the starting role. It’s the goaltender problem in microcosm.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Spring Visits Taking Shape
The Spring Game won't just be the first opportunity to see Michigan playing under Jim Harbaugh; it'll also be a major recruiting weekend for the program. The stakes got a little higher last night when Top-150 ILB Dontavious Jackson and three-star S Chris Brown, both M offer recipients from Houston (TX) Alief Elsik, booked their flights for a three-day visit that weekend, per Steve Lorenz.
While Jackson is one of the top targets for the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, Michigan is the highest-profile school to offer both him and Brown, which may give the Wolverines an edge. Securing an unofficial visit is a good sign they'll at least be a major factor going forward.
Four-star FL ILB Devin Bush Jr., who recently said Michigan was one of a handful of schools sticking out to him, told Sam Webb that he's looking to visit for a spring practice at the end of the month ($). An FSU legacy, Bush said he's been learning about the school from DJ Durkin, who's spearheading his recruitment.
Another four-star linebacker, California offeree Darrian Franklin, told Scout's Greg Biggins that he's also looking to visit this spring, and with a summer decision looming Michigan is among his top schools ($):
"Right now, the main schools I'm really feeling are USC, Michigan, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and LSU. I haven't decided if I'll still take some official visits after I commit or not. I kind of want to for the experience and see some places but I haven't really thought about it too much yet. I still need to make a decision first and then I'll go from there."
USC is his stated leader; we should find out soon if a visit can change that.
GBW's Josh Newkirk reports that Michigan is "comfortably within" four-star Cass Tech S Demetric Vance's top five, and Vance plans to visit for a spring practice ($). M's made positive strides with Vance since offering him last month.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
3/6/2015 – Michigan 4, Penn State 6 – 19-12, 11-6 Big Ten
3/7/2015 – Michigan 3, Penn State 4 – 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten
twilight (not that twilight) [Patrick Barron]
A few years back I wrote something about a pivotal series against Miami that felt both correct and histrionic simultaneously. Michigan was swept 4-2 and 3-0, dumb penalties piled up like Lions mistakes with the Suh contract, and it felt like there was something gone from the program:
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Michigan proceeded to advance to the national championship game, so I may have pulled the trigger slightly early. But that feeling turned out to be correct, give or take a year. The next year one-seed Michigan was unceremoniously bounced from the tourney by Cornell in the first round; they have not been back since.
Their absence has grown more dispiriting and infuriating as it's lengthened. When Michigan started their slippery slope, they finished seventh in the CCHA only to storm through the tourney, beating #1 Miami on the way, before falling to those same Redhawks when every Michigan fan's "rule most likely to lead to homicide"—a goal waved off because the referee can't see the puck—came to fruition in overtime.
A couple years later they turned around a dismal season about halfway through, reaching the CCHA finals. There they found a very good Notre Dame team that beat them comprehensively in terms of attack time and chances, with the usual vagaries of hockey holding Michigan in it.
Last year all they had to do was beat Penn State, nascent, fledgling Penn State, in the Big Ten tournament to all but guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They lost in two overtimes to a team that was 8-25-2 on the year, allowing 65 shots—44 in regulation. This year they approached Happy Valley in first place in the league, an at-large bid within their grasp, and they blew it. They were down 3-0 and 4-2 in games they'd lose, and this is now their situation:
Gross weekend. Per http://t.co/9RVMXcI80e, chances of making tourney now 25%, 1% without winning B1G Tournament. Just 45% to get a bye.
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 8, 2015
On the one hand you can't be surprised. Michigan has been playing with fire with sloppy goaltending and guys wandering through the slot unchecked all year. It's tough to get points when you give up five goals per game.
On the other… how the hell did we get here? Michigan had a 22-year (22 year!) tourney streak during which it was mostly impervious to these sorts of wobbles. We should be grateful for that. Minnesota, BC, North Dakota—every one of these programs had a year or three in which they were inexplicably bad. Michigan avoided that for an astoundingly long period of time.
No longer, and there's a pretty easy proximate cause to point to:
|YEAR||M RECORD||M TOURNEY||MEL||TECH RECORD||TECH TOURNEY|
|2015||19-13||must win BTT||Tech||26-8-2||#5 PWR|
Mel Pearson left for Michigan Tech after the 2010-11 season and immediately made them competitive; this year they're damn good. The above chart probably sells it short since it only goes back four years before the change. That middling year from the Huskies is a major outlier amongst even more seasons with 4, 5, 6 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan was rampant.
Even when Michigan beat Tech in the GLI, they were under siege for most of it, getting outshot 41-21. The series in Houghton was simply not competitive. Michigan was at ful strength; goals were 10-3 Tech. The inverse of that used to be the expectation for a Michigan versus Tech series.
Berenson's contract has one more year on it, and when it was signed he said it was almost certainly his last. I can't see any way that's not the case, and if Hackett has the stones to make a change now (I cannot believe I am saying this…) it might be time. In another situation with an unclear candidate pool, the argument for waiting would be stronger. With Pearson available and acting out the best-case scenario for Tech hockey, if you can get it done now that's a move you have to make.
Maybe Michigan wins the Big Ten tourney; maybe they outscore their mistakes for a bit in the tournament. The direction the arrow is pointing is clear enough even in that hypothetical scenario.
Disappointing lack of calves on the jersey plaque. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Max Bielfeldt recorded his first career double-double. Aubrey Dawkins nearly tied the single-game school record for three-pointers. Michigan's game-ending lineup featured Austin Hatch, two walk-ons, and two student managers turned practice players.
Needless to say, the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Save for a 19-0 Rutgers run to close a contest that had long been decided, Michigan maintained a death grip from start to... well, almost-finish.
On his Senior Day, Bielfeldt opened the proceedings with a hook shot before going on to score 14 points (6/10 FG), pull down 11 boards, and even hand out three assists. Bielfeldt earned a couple ovations on the day, including a "double double" chant when he grabbed his tenth rebound.
While it was Bieldfeld's day, Aubrey Dawkins stole much of the spotlight. Setting a career high in points for the second consecutive game, Dawkins rained in eight of his 11 three-point attempts—finishing one make short of Garde Thompson's school record—on his way to a game-high 31. He also provided the highlight of the afternoon with a forceful two-handed finish of a Spike Albrecht lob.
Albrecht generated much of Michigan's offense despite scoring just seven points on eight shots. He repeatedly found open shooters after lulling Rutgers to sleep with his patented forays along the baseline, ultimately dishing out nine assists, tying a career high.
As a result, the Wolverines literally shot until the lights went out. After Dawkins knocked down his first four three-pointers, Kameron Chatman added one of his own to give Michigan an early ten-point lead; the lights in Crisler Center promply shut off, causing a brief delay in the action. It didn't seem to affect Michigan, which continued its assault right up to the halftime buzzer, when Chatman drilled another triple from the corner to boost the lead to 19.
Chatman would finish with 13 points on 4/5 shooting. Zak Irvin had an off day, knocking down just 5/15 shots on his way to 12 points, but it was barely noticable with all the offensive fireworks going off around him.
The second half mostly featured both teams playing out the string—or canning more threes, in Dawkins' case—until the late Rutgers run. While the final few minutes provided John Beilein with some teachable moments, it didn't threaten to change the final outcome. Bielfeldt gave himself a proper sendoff, while Dawkins continued a hot streak that should have Michigan fans very excited about his future.
Michigan is now locked in to the #9 seed in next weekend's Big Ten Tournament. Their opponent will be either a reeling Indiana squad or, if they lose to Purdue this afternoon, Illinois. Either way, the Wolverines managed to build a little momentum for themselves after a heartbreaker earlier this week at Northwestern.
Michigan (14-15, 7-10 B1G) vs.
Rutgers (10-20, 2-15)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||2:15 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -10 (KenPom)|
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Goodnight, sweet calves. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Crisler will host Senior Day festivities for Max Bielfeldt tomorrow before tipoff, which should end any speculation Michigan will bring him back for a fifth year in 2015-16. Bielfeldt became an unexpectedly critical contributor this season after there years spent mostly on the bench. His calves have been, remain, and presumably always will be magnificent.
UPDATE: As it turns out, Bielfeldt will start tomorrow:
Beilein says Max Bielfeldt will start tomorrow for Senior Day. Ricky Doyle has not practiced b/c of an intestinal problem.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 6, 2015
As for Derrick Walton, there's less and less optimism he'll make it back onto the court this season:
"We're running out of time," U-M coach John Beilein said Wednesday night on his weekly radio show. "We're guaranteed at least two more games, but he has not been able to do anything close to going at full speed. When he pushes off in certain ways, it bothers him. His (practices) with us are usually very short -- 10 or 15 minutes."
To sum it up, Walton is still not pain-free.
Until he is, he won't play.
Today, Beilein confirmed Walton is out for Rutgers and said he's "doubtful" for the Big Ten Tournament. I don't see much reason to push it at this point.
THE LAST TIME
In the first game after Caris LeVert went down for the year with a broken foot, an illness-ravaged Michigan squad edged past Rutgers, 54-50. The then-novelty of seeing freshmen and walk-ons stepping into bigger roles helped make up for the game's lack of aesthetic appeal.
A loss to Rutgers probably dooms Michigan's NIT hopes unless they make a solid run in the Big Ten Tournament. There are also potential BTT seeding ramifications: Michigan should be the #9 seed (facing off against either Illinois or Indiana) unless they lose to Rutgers, Northwestern beats Iowa, and Wisconsin beats Ohio State—then M would be the #10 seed.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||4||Myles Mack||Sr.||5'10, 175||88||23||Not really|
|Scoring and assist leader is RU's only player with ORtg above 100.|
|G||2||Bishop Daniels||Jr.||6'3, 185||66||23||Kinda|
|Not very efficient but draws a lot of fouls. Very turnover-prone.|
|F||10||Junior Etou||So.||6'7, 230||70||14||Kinda|
|Team's best defensive rebounder. Not a good shooter. Draws lots of fouls.|
|F||11||Kadeem Jack||Sr.||6'9, 235||77||27||Yes|
|43% on twos and 31% on threes, so naturally takes a crapton of shots.|
|C||35||Greg Lewis||Jr.||6'9, 245||58||15||Very|
|Okay rim protector, mediocre rebounder and finisher.|
|G||6||Mike Williams||Fr.||6'2, 190||38||19||Yes|
|Spot-up shooter who can't knock down shots (22% 3P).|
|F||22||DJ Foreman||Fr.||6'8, 230||37||20||Yes|
|Poor finisher, decent rebounder, especially on offense.|
|C||40||Shaquille Doorson||Fr.||6'11, 275||25||11||Very|
|Low usage, solid off. rebounder and shot-blocker, TO- and foul-prone.|
Rutgers has lost 13 in a row, which dates back to two games before their first matchup against Michigan. This is likely the last time their résumé will be discussed in any capacity.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]