It has been discussed a few times on the board that Michigan is typically very good at dictating the game to its opponents, and there is definitely evidence of that in the team’s offensive efficiency numbers. During the season to date, Michigan has maintained an average offensive efficiency of 1.20 with a standard deviation of 0.163 (0.118 during conference play only), which seems to me to be a relatively narrow band considering that the standard deviation for Michigan’s possessions per game was only 4 against an average of 62 (and 61 possessions with a standard deviation of 3 in conference play). Long story short, the play was relatively consistent in its production and pace. When we talk about how it is vital to impose your will early in a game, there aren’t too many teams that can do it quite in the way that Michigan has.
Below is the normalized graph for offensive efficiency:
You’ll note right away the relative handful of games on the extreme ends of performance. There are only four games with a Z-score greater than 1.00, meaning that offensive efficiency was greater than one standard deviation above the mean. On the other end, there were five games where efficiency was more than one standard deviation below the mean, all of them losses.
The story is a little different when we flip to defense, of course:
Here you can see a little more in the way of erratic behavior, but for those of us who kept saying that the defense “is what it is”, well, this is it. Interestingly, the distribution has a similar look to the offensive one with a standard deviation here of 0.168 against an average of 1.04. Seven games actually are greater than one standard deviation above the mean compared to six games more than one standard deviation below the mean. There is a marked jump in the number of “extreme” performances in this aspect of the game.
From this data, we can build a nice little set of histograms and get an idea of what the probability distributions looked like for efficiency on both offense and defense, but I would also like to throw scoring margin in here because it is interesting in the case of Michigan. Actually, let’s discuss that first.
For each of these next graphs, I broke the cumulative function into fifths (hence, for example, “0.00-0.20”, which represents the first fifth of the total area under the curve) and made the histograms based on relative position. For scoring margin, it is important to note that for the season to date (postseason included for giggles) our average margin is +9.45 points with a standard deviation of 16.08 points.
Here’s what the histogram for scoring margin looks like:
So, what you see here is a lot of close games basically. Indeed, we played in 20 games where the scoring margin was +10 or less (12 of which were wins), compared to only 13 games won by more than 10 points (also, two where the margin was exactly 10 points).
Here is offensive efficiency getting a similar treatment:
Again, the relative steadiness of the offense is seen here. If you look at the three bars in the middle, that more or less represents the two-thirds of Michigan’s games which sit in their “zone” around the 1.20 line, if you will.
Yeah, this one is decidedly wobbly and definitely skewed towards “meh” performances. Many of the games on the left (“better” defensive efficiency, in this case) represent our out-of-conference schedule actually.
Like everything else, this is for the board’s perusal. The only thing I hoped to do was perhaps give some numerical credence to some of the themes on the board of late.
Oh, and here's a gem...Super Mario 3, a cappella...
Continuing after the Purdue preview, I decided to start at the bottom and work my way up what I think will be the standings next year. Rutgers was not very good this year, finishing 5-13 in the not-so-good American conference. A lot of people would say, "you can only get better from here". This may be true for this Rutgers team. Rutgers loses seniors Wally Judge and J.J Moore. Jerome Seagears and D'Von Campell, and Craig Brown are also transferring. Losing these five players means a loss of 48% of their points and 41% of their rebounds per game, along with 50% of their minutes. They do bring in 4 freshmen who, unless they contribute right away will leave Rutgers pretty awful.
So here is their projected roster:
# Name HT WT YR POS
11 Kadeem Jack 6-9 230 SR. PF
Starting Power Forward, averaged 14.3 points per game with 6.8 rebounds. A close second to Mack.
4 Myles Mack 5-9 175 SR. PG
Starting Point Guard, averaged 15 points per game with 4.3 Assists. Rutgers' best player.
13 Malick Kone 6-5 200 SR. SF
The starting Shooting Guard, averaged 3.5 points per game last year.
44 Kerwin Okoro 6-5 220 JR. SF
Does not play meaningful minutes.
21 Stephen Zurich 6-5 205 JR. SF
Same as Okoro.
23 Jalen Hyde 5-8 160 JR. PG
Same as Okoro.
35 Greg Lewis 6-9 260 JR. PF
The starting Center that has a decent rebound rate. With him starting Rutgers actually has a pretty big lineup.
10 Junior Etou 6-7 225 SO. SF
The starting Small Forward, averaged 5.3 points per game.
30 Khalil Batie 5-10 175 SO. PG
5 Mike Williams 6-2 180 FR. SG
3 Star, offers from Dayton, Iowa, ST. Johns, Temple...
3 Bishop Daniels 6-3 185 FR. SG
3 star, no other offers
14 Ibrahima Diallo 6-9 215 FR. C
Rawer than sushi. 3 Star
22 Dwayne Foreman 6-7 215 FR. PF
Offers from Iowa State, Minnesota, Pittsburgh...
My projected starting lineup:
Point Guard: Myles Mack
Shooting Guard: Malick Kone
Small Forward: Junior Etou
Power Foward: Kadeem Jack
Center: Greg Lewis
Michigan plays Rutgers at home and on the road next year, which is favorable for us.
In all, Rutgers is a pretty small team that is losing a lot of players of. They do not have depth, or much skill. The junior class looks to have nothing so the team will rely on mostly seniors. I project Rutgers will go 4-14 and tie with Purdue for last.
Next up... Northwestern.
Let me preface this by saying that this is my first thread here and it would be nice if you guys take it easy on me. I have always been interested in statistics and putting together previews of certain teams. I got the idea to go through an early preview of the B1G teams. So, here goes it.
The Purdue basketball team has suffered through an awful year in which they finished last in the B1G. The team lost seniors Terone Johnson (#0), Errick Peck (#32), Sterling Carter (#1), and Travis Carroll (#50). Not only did they lose these four core seniors, but they also lost Terone's younger brother Ronnie Johnson who is transferring. In addition, Jay Simpson unfortunately has suffered a career ending heart condition and will not be playing. Between these six players they are losing 55% of their minutes and 52% of their points. So here is the projected roster for next season:
Number Name HT WT YR POS
30 Neal Beshears 6-7 198 SR. SF
Has only played in 26 games in his 3 years, most likely will continue on that path.
11 Stephen Toyra 6-3 177 JR. SG
Kind of the same deal, only played in 19 games in his two years.
2 Jon McKeeman 6-1 180 JR. PG
Even more of a scrub, 6 games, 2 years.
*20 A.J. Hammons 7-0 251 JR. C
Hammons is one of the biggest headcases in college basketball. When trying, he is a dominant force, when careless, he is a foul and turnover machine. Could go pro this year, but not likely. Has averaged 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds over his career. Starting Center.
*35 Rapheal Davis 6-5 211 JR. SG
Davis will most likely be the starting two guard or three. He has averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds over his career. He is and most likely will continue to be just an average player.
*21 Kendall Stephens 6-6 193 SO. SG
Stephens is "just a shooter". He will most likely continue this. Because of his game he might play the 2 on offense and the 3 on defense. Stephens will most likely make a jump and add to his 8 points per game. May have to come off the bench.
*5 Basil Smotherman 6-5 222 SO. SF
Basil Smotherman, a candidate for name of the year, will continue his starting ways. He will look to add to his 5 points per game.
*12 Bryson Scott 6-1 201 SO. PG
Bryson Scott will most likely get the nod at the Point. He only started two games last year and his A:TO is not very good, but he can make a Freshman jump.
24 Anfernee Brown 6-1 190 SO. PG
Will not play.
44 Isaac Haas 7-2 275 FR. C
Thier highest touted recruit, a 7-2 center is a rare commodity and he may get some meaningful minutes. 4 star on rivals.
4 Vince Edwards 6-7 205 FR. SF
Another freshman that may get some important minutes, no more than any other established forwards, as there are plenty on the team.
23 Jacquill Taylor 6-9 215 FR. PF
May get some minutes.
31 Dakota Mathias 6-4 190 FR. SG
Possibilty for him to get some good minutes, relies on whether or not Eron Harris transfers. Although Harris does not play the same position, he would take up valuable minutes.
3 P.J. Thompson 5-10 155 FR. PG
Earlier today I wrote a diary which looked at how John Beilein has performed as a coach when his team gets 4-7 days of rest. Now I look at how John Beilein has performed as a coach in the tournament when compared to other coaches and the norm.
As many pundits such Nate Silver have pointed out, John Beilein is the best at outperforming his seed level. This was evident last year and back in his Richmond days when the No. 15 Spiders took down a No. 2 seed. But what does that actually look like?
John Beilein is 9-4 in the NCAA Tournament while at Michigan and he was 5-2 at West Virginia. He went 1-1 at Richmond bringing his combined tournament record to 15-7 or a .681 win percentage. Of course, some of those losses were with a stacked deck. Can anyone blame Richmond for losing a second round game in 1998? Can anyone blame John Beilein for losing to Duke on a missed floater, or losing to Louisville after last year's run?
By adjusting for what the expected outcomes are, John Beilein is solid in the NCAA tournament when favored to win or in a close matchup. He is also .500 when expected to lose. Yes. On the biggest stage, coach B is .500 when his team is expected to lose! Amazing.
Let's start at how I came to this conclusion
Richmond: 1-1 in games where he was expected to lose (15 seed).
West Virginia: 2-0 in games he was expected to win (vs. Northwestern State, Southern Illinois) and 1-0 in toss up games (his No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 Providence) and 2-2 in games where his team was the clear underdog.
Michigan: 4-1 when expected to win (the loss being against Ohio) and 2-0 in toss up games (Clemson, Tennessee). He is also 3-3 in games where his teams were expected to lose such as games vs. Oklahoma, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, Florida and Louisville. In fact that may be generous as many expected Michigan to fold against VCU last year. That could have been considered a tossup.
Spanning his three schools, coach B is 6-1 in games he was expected to win, 3-0 in tossup games and 6-6 where his team was an underdog. Based on Ken Pom rankings, you can make the case that this is a tossup game. Based on the seeds, you can say No. 11 Tennessee is a clear underdog. But even if you classify Michigan as the underdog, remember, coach Beilein is 6-6 in the NCAA Tournament in games he is supposed to lose with wins over top seeds and blue blood programs.
No matter how much love is given to Tennesee's big men or their tournament play as of late, Beilein has beaten better teams with far less. And for that, you have to feel pretty excited about his tournament odds.
By the way, his .681 win percentage is just slightly south of Izzo's .688 conference game winning percentage. And if you are wondering what the best percentage is in the tournament? Well, that belongs to coach K. He's right around .750.
When Beilein Has a Week to Prepare…
A wise man once said, When John Beilein has a week to prepare, there will be subs and it will be crazy. And looking at Michigan’s past games, that’s not really how the games go. Below, I take a look at how Michigan has performed against quality opponents with 4-7 days rest and prep-time. I have removed teams such as Long Beach State and Coppin State because it really does us no good to quantify.
2014 Non-Conference Games
Iowa State on the road with five days rest. Michigan loses 77-70.
Duke on the road with four days rest. Michigan loses 79-69
Arizona at home with seven days rest. Michigan loses 72-70.
Stanford at a neutral site with seven days rest. Michigan wins 68-65.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 1-3 in games after significant rest. However, we know that wasn’t the same Michigan team. Also, two road games and three contests versus the remaining Sweet 16 in which Michigan was 1-2.
2014 Conference Games
At Minnesota with five days rest, Michigan wins 63-60
At Nebraska with four days rest, Michigan wins 71-70
At home vs. Penn State with four days rest, Michigan wins 80-67
At Wisconsin with four days rest, Michigan wins 77-70
At home vs. Iowa with four days rest, Michigan wins 85-67
At home vs. Purdue with five days rest, Michigan wins 75-66
Against Wisconsin on four days rest, Michigan loses 75-62
At home against MSU on seven days rest, Michigan wins 79-70
At home vs. Indiana on four days rest, Michigan wins 84-80
Nuetral site vs. Illinois on six days rest, Michigan wins 64-63.
For those of you keeping score at home, Michigan went 9-1 in conference when they had four or more days of rest. Overall, Michigan was 10-4 this season when having four or more days of rest, with a record of 4-2 vs. teams that remain in the Sweet 16 and 5-3 against teams that have made the tournament.
At this point the results are pretty inconclusive. While Michigan tends to win more often than not when they have extra rest, they’ve also won more games in general this year. There have also been outliers this year such as Duke and Wisconsin where the team has had significant rest and looked bad and quick turnarounds vs. MSU where the team has looked good.
Let’s look at some other games to see if we can note any more trends.
Previous tournament games under coach Beilein:
2014 vs. Wofford on five days rest, Michigan wins by 17
2013 vs. North Dakota State on 5+ days rest, Michigan wins by 13
2013 vs. Kansas on six days rest, Michigan wins in OT by two.
2013 vs. Syracuse on five days rest, Michigan wins by two
2012 vs. Ohio on 5+ days rest, Michigan loses
2011 vs. Tennessee on 5+ days rest, Michigan wins by 30
2009 vs. Clemson on 5+days rest, Michigan wins by 3
Again, we find Michigan with a winning record in tournament games with significant rest. Here, Michigan has gone 6-1 in the NCAA Tournament under coach Beilein when they have had a few extra days to prepare. However, there are once again outliers where Michigan doesn’t perform well such as there game against Ohio. On the other hand, there are games on minimal rest such as last year’s contests vs. VCU and Florida where Michigan rolls.
Moreover, when Michigan beats Kansas by two after a furious comeback, is that a win because John Beilein has prepared well? Or rather because Kansas faltered and Trey Burke hit a wild shot? One can make the argument that Michigan stayed close because of great gameplanning by the coaches. It is all up to interpretation.
And while these results are a bit inconclusive because of the varying factors involved in such analysis (road games, top-ranked opponents, injuries, etc.) the results do favor Michigan’s chances a bit when they have extra time to prepare. Overall Michigan is 16-5 this season and in the NCAA tournament over many years under John Beilein when they have significant rest. While 16-5 isn’t a sure bet to win, that’s damn good considering the teams that were played. Wofford may be the only cupcake on that list. And for every South Dakota State, there are a few blue bloods.
Needless to say, Michigan with an extra day this week (six days off vs. Tennessee’s five) certainly favors Michigan but having a good coach favors them a bit more.
I wanted to name this “Best and Worst: Rounds 1000000 and 0100000” but thought better of it.
Best: Survivor Series
(Because I want to lose a quarter of my readership off the bat)*
Growing up, my favorite professional wrestling event was called the Survivor Series, which typically featured teams of 4 or 5 wrestlers competing in an elimination-style match until all members of a team were eliminated. Over time this conceit has been diminished to a minor role as the Series has become a more generic Pay-Per-View, but at its advent it created a rare opportunity to tell a multitude of storylines during a single match. With relatively simple booking, you could put together teams that worked both on a base level (heels vs. babyfaces) as well as a nuanced (frenemies competing together, fissures starting to form between former best friends, etc.) one, while also teasing marquee matchups in the future.
But these matches all shared a fatal flaw, one that probably explains why they are not very common in recent years. Before getting into it, though, I should probably step back for a minute and provide some ground rules for the 2 of you who didn’t skip this section but also don’t follow professional wrestling.
“Good” wrestling matches are like your classic three-act play: the first act sets the scene and fleshes the characters out (via your standard “wrestling holds” and light brawling); the middle act is where the drama begins, typically with the face/good guy in peril as the heel dominates; and the third and final act is when the face mounts his comeback and a resolution occurs, usually with a dramatic final move leading to a victory for one of the wrestlers.
The problem with an elimination-style match is that this predictable formula doesn’t work on a micro level between combatants; on a macro level, of course, you can have the “good” and “bad” teams follow the general formula. But you can’t have 8-9 confrontations end with a finisher and a pin because, well, fans would get bored and you need to “protect” future match-ups by leaving some mystery and uncertainty about the outcomes. And so, watching these old matches you see guys pinning each with transitional or intermediary moves like lariats, sunset flips, and rollups, reserving the more high-impact moves for the end of the match, if ever.
So what does this have to do with UM getting to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year? Well, it’s that this tournament run needs to be viewed as part of a larger piece, of a team “surviving and advancing” as much as vanquishing opponents. Just like last year, these first couple of games were marked by moments of extreme beauty (8-15 from 3 in the first half against Texas, GRIII “chess”-ing fools) and long stretches of blergh (missing 15 of 18 to start the 2nd half against Wofford). Last year’s first weekend was punctuated with the evisceration of VCU’s swarming defense, but it started with a pretty ugly win over South Dakota State.
Blowouts aren’t really this team’s M.O.; even when they are shooting the lights out (like they did against Nebraska and Illinois during the conference slate and for the first half against Texas), they don’t play that ball-hawking, turnover-forcing tempo that leads to the Cardinals dropping 58 in the first half against Rutgers. They deliver knockout shots, but they’re of the “punches in bunches” Floyd Mayweather type instead of Mike Tyson’s “good night sweet prince”.
And unlike last year, where UM was staring down a date with #1 seed Kansas followed by a terrifying Florida team, the Mercer Nae Nae’s give UM another double-digit seed before they’d face either (I’m guessing) a rematch with Louisville or a winnable contest with Wichita St. And so if they can continue playing acceptable enough defense to weather the inevitable rough shooting patches, the path is there for them to make it back to the Final Four.
Best: Going Out in Style
At some point Jordan Morgan’s senior year will end and he’ll move on to the next stage in his life, but he is doing everything he can to keep it going a couple more games. He pulled down 10 rebounds in both games this weekend and added 25 points and 4 assists. In so many ways is he the perfect center for this team (solid rebounder and defender, doesn’t need the ball to be effective, can run and always has his hands up to score off the pick and roll/penetration), and it’s been fun seeing him put a nice exclamation point on a memorable career.
Best: A Dog-Related Pun in Picture Form is Worth a Thousand Puns in Words
So yeah, GRIII had himself a weekend. Going into the tournament, one of the team’s more glaring weaknesses was its lack of a secondary rebounder after Morford. You heard rumblings about LeVert possibly helping out, but you can only expect so much from a guy whose official bio lists him 10 pounds more than Spike. No, if UM was going to have any chance of not getting obliterated on the boards, it was going to be from Robinson, and while it didn’t much matter against Wofford, I thought he held up well (12 total rebounds, including 5 offensive) in that regard while also playing 71 of a possible 80 minutes. Sure, Texas pulled down 21 offensive rebounds, but there are going to be lots of opportunities when you shoot 37% on 62 shots, and it felt like that number was goosed a bit by some clustering in the second half when Texas just crashed the boards in a mad scramble to make it close (they had 6 in about a 5-minute span in the second half as they cut UM’s lead from 17 to 11, and another 3 at the end of the game).
Plus, it felt like Robinson displayed his increasing assertiveness on the offensive end (a team-leading 14 shots against Wofford and another 10 against Texas), especially during that second-half stretch when Texas cut the lead to 8 and Robinson responded with 2 FTs, a block, a jumper and then a 3 to push the lead back out to 11. No matter how many cutaways they make to his dad in the stands at the game, Robinson will never have his game, but there has been a steady increase in his confidence, if not his competence, on the offensive side. He’s still a pretty horrible shooter all year from outside (28%), but he’s deadly from inside the arc (58%) and good at the FT line. He still isn’t a deadeye from outside, but a look at his boxscores shows fewer threes that (I presume) are more in the flow of the offense as well as a renewed scoring touch inside.
They’ll need his athleticism to help wear down Mercer, and Tennessee seems like a bruisier, more defensive-focused version of Texas (#3 in rebound margin nationally, top-20 defense). Holding up against the size and strength of Texas was a positive, and even though it increases the likelihood he’ll leave for the draft, it is great to see Robinson rounding into form when it matters most.
5 starters were in double-figures against Texas and 7 guys scored against Wofford with none more than Stauskas’s 14. Still, the best stat of the weekend is that the team had 31 assists on 46 makes, including a career-high 8 from Stauskas to go along with his 17 points against Texas. Beilein’s offense isn’t designed for a dominant ball-handler or singular scorer, so getting an assist on 67% of your baskets means everyone is touching the ball and the best shot is usually going up.
Best: “Veteran” Sophomores
It is weird to say this about a second-year backup, but having Spike’s “veteran” touch at PG has helped immensely so far in this tournament, especially when Texas turned up the press a bit and Beilein could bring in Spike to spell Walton. Between Stauskas, LeVert, Spike, and Robinson, you have 4 guys who were key parts of last year’s team and readily adaptable to defensive shifts and gameplan changes. Especially if Michigan runs into Louisville or some other team that loves to press and push the tempo, having that many capable ballhandlers will be immensely valuable.
Worst: Hold Onto the Damn Ball
Though they corrected course rather emphatically against Texas, UM had a very uncharacteristic 11 TOs against Wofford. As others noted, it was probably just a weird game that happens to everyone, considering this is one of the least turnover-prone teams in the country, though it was a bit shocking to witness. It (almost) made me sympathize with MSU fans who have had to watch that all year out of guys like Valentine.
And while it didn’t hurt them much against Wofford…
Worst: Damn Rollercoaster
I absolutely recognize that when you have a team as reliant on jumpshots and three-pointing shooting as UM, there are going to be stretches of “Death from Above” when your breakfast tastes better than any one you have ever tasted before, and there are going to be games when nobody seems capable of putting the ball in the hole. But that crystal-clear clarity doesn’t make me un-see that second half against Wofford or silence those concerns of how a game could get out of hand if the other team didn’t shoot 1-11 and 36% overall in that half as well.
I actually do think the defense has taken a small step up in the tournament, as they have escaped the dodgy refereeing of the Big Ten into a world on the “reality” side of the Mason-Dixon line of the charge/blocking call. No matter how you slice it, holding a tourney team to 40 points (a school tournament record) is impressive, and to follow it up with another nice performance against a tough Texas team that can give you fits inside shouldn’t be ignored or minimized. But they’ve also faced two of the worst shooting teams in the country, and no amount of increased pressure and “closing out” is going to sustain a 5/30 rate on 3’s.
So as cliche as it is, UM needs to keep starting games shooting well and build a lead that can be maintained when the shots stop dropping. While the team has shown great resiliency, this offensive scheme is so (relatively) ponderous that it isn’t equipped to score lots of points quickly. Indeed, this team is built to get a lead and then trade you buckets as you try to catch up, with long possessions and the effect it has on the game clock serving as a 6th defender. The nature of single-elimination tournaments is that sometimes you’ll keep throwing scissors while the other team can’t help but stumble into rock, but the fewer times you give let it stay close the fewer times you can be surprised.
Worst: Free Throw Defense
This probably sounds like a broken record, but Texas joined an illustrious list of squads that could not f’ing miss at the line all game. All year the Longhorns shot 66% on FT’s; this game, 94% on 16 shots. That’s a 5-point swing that pushes a comfortable victory into a bit of a runaway. It hasn’t hurt them yet and it may not this tournament, but man is it infuriating to watch.
Of the many things they fail to tell you at the hospital after your wife has given birth is that your sports viewing habits will be indelibly changed by your baby’s arrival. Whereas before you could walk into the living room and basically own the TV whenever your favorite team is playing, now I get this look from my just-returning-to-work-and-definitely-stressed mother of my child.
So combined with work and a long commute, I’ve had to watch these games in non-traditional formats, either on feeds via the internet or on DVR. In a sense it has helped because I know the outcome or am so distracted that I just root for the laundry and the final score. But at the same time, you feel a bit disconnected from the best part of fandom, which is organically enjoying athletes playing a sport and (hopefully) winning. I’m not trying to be a buzzkill because I am absolutely ecstatic that she’s in my life, but for future mothers and fathers out there I’m here to warn you that your friends who say nothing changes are either liars or delusional liars.
Best: On We March
So on to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, a streak that UM hasn’t enjoyed since [REDACTED]. Looking at the relative struggles of presumed “studs” like Florida, MSU, and Arizona as well as a number of key upsets, I feel much better about this team’s chances to emerge from this bracket, and at the very least make a solid run at a another championship game appearance.
Man, it feels SO nice to enjoy Michigan basketball again.