I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Note: My plan was to post this yesterday when it was a little more timely, but life and computer problems got in the way. Sorry for the delay.
I thought we could use a break from disappointing recruiting news and the loss to Ohio State in basketball (I guess we were right to be worried about free throw margin)*. and take a step back to look at the basketball season overall. During the football season Heiko added a feature called Opponent Watch that focused on the performance of Michigan’s opponents. I thought I would adapt that idea to the basketball season since the strength of schedule matters so much during tournament selection. UMHoops has a feature that looks at the conference teams on a weekly basis, but they don’t recap the non-conference season.
So let's look at the basketball season as a whole in terms of our opponents and their current standing with the two most relevant rankings systems - Kenpom and RPI. But if we want to look at this information, we're going to need....a chart? Yes - a chart! (rankings updated for Sunday games)
There’s a lot of interesting information there, so let’s try to break it down....
BEST WIN: Michigan State
In this case our best emotional win is also our best resume win. Michigan State is ranked in the top five by both KenPom and RPI. With another chance to beat them and three-in-a-row under our belt there’s another chance this weekend to boost our resume with a win.
GOOD WINS: Memphis, Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue
Memphis wasn’t the marquee win we expected at the time when they were ranked #8, but they’ve pulled things together enough to move to top-30 in both rankings. Iowa State after their upset of Kansas this past weekend has moved to a top-50 team in both rankings, including all the way to top-35 with KenPom. Minnesota and Wisconsin have both been up and down in conference play, but both are trending upward. The Gophers have cracked the top-50 in both rankings and we are aware of KenPom’s love affair with the Badgers. Purdue is on the fringe of the top-50 and ekes their way into this category.
GOOD LOSSES: Duke, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio
There is no such thing as a “good loss”, but in the eyes of the committee some are better than others. Duke and Ohio are top-tier teams and losing to them doesn’t hurt the resume. Despite already having five losses in conference Indiana remains a darling in the eyes of the rankings thanks in no small part to their own marquee wins. The surprising entrant on this list is Virginia, who is ranked very high in KenPom and top-40 in RPI.
BAD LOSSES: Iowa
This one still stings as the Hawkeyes are out of the top-100 rankings, even though road games are tough in the Big Ten. That lackluster performance, Burke’s foul trouble, and Beilein keeping him on the bench for 13 minutes resulted in this game being the worst loss of the season by far. On the bright side, this is the only game in this category.
LOOKING AHEAD: Upcoming schedule & rooting interests
There are no nights off in the Big Ten and there are some tough games ahead. MSU and Ohio are as tough as any game on the schedule all season. There are four other games against top-50 teams also on the schedule. In theory there are three winnable games against teams with lower rankings, but all three of them (Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State) are on the road – making them a far bigger challenge than the rankings would indicate.
As far as rooting interests, the season is a lost cost for some of the non-conference teams on the schedule with lousy rankings, but there are plenty of teams we can root for the rest of the way. Duke and Ohio should take care of business and remain final four contenders. You should be rooting for Memphis, Iowa State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin whenever possible since those are Michigan’s best wins. Having Virginia continue to play well to make that loss look good to the committee would also be helpful. Perhaps more importantly would be to have UCLA and Arkansas go on a run and crack the top-75, which would be a boost to the resume.
CONCLUSION: Michigan's resume so far.
As UMHoops points out in their first bracket watch post, Michigan has a very solid resume and finds itself with solid rankings in both services. The schedule doesn't get any easier, but holding serve probably means an above average seed to the tournament.
* A couple of quick Ohio State thoughts while I have your attention. If you don't care to rehash that game, feel free to stop reading here and surf over to Touchthebanner to see if he's posted any interesting recruiting information....or another one of his famous pictures.
First the good news – looking ahead to the 2013 match-up. I concur with Brian when he says it felt like they threw a continuous stream of 6’7” athletes on the floor and due to foul trouble and Horford’s injury we were forced to play McLimans extended minutes and Colton Christian more meaningful minutes than he’s played in months as the 9thman in the rotation. But next year that won’t be the case. We replace Stu (6’2”) and Novak (6’4”) with a healthy Horford (6’10”), Stauskas (6’6”), Robinson (6’7”), McGary (6’10”), and Beilfeldt (6’8”). If Christian plays in the game next year it will be as the 12thor 13thman and we’ll be winning by 20 points…..let’s look forward to that!
Now the negative part. Unlike Brian, I felt that the way the game was officiated had a direct impact on the outcome. I had no delusions that the fouls would be even given the styles of play, the home court advantage, and Ted “TV” Valentine calling the game, but I think it was still excessively skewed toward OSU. The refs allowed them to play a very physical style of defense without calling any fouls and yet many of Michigan’s fouls had little impact on the shooters’ ability to get the ball off. Having Morgan, Novak, and Smotrycz all on the bench with foul trouble is among the biggest reasons Michigan lost (along with OR% and missed shots at the rim). I knew we were doomed during a sequence in the first half – Burke drove baseline and used his forearm to clear space and then draw contact…..he was called for an offensive foul. On the NEXT POSSESSION Jared Sullinger got the ball at the high post, put his forearm into Smotrycz’s chest, shoved him out of the way, crashed into him to draw contact, and got both the basket AND the foul. I wasn’t shocked by either call taken individually…..but the fact that they both went in OSU’s favor is an indication of how they let the game play out – and the resulting 18-4 free throw attempts coincide nicely with the margin of victory. Let's hope for some friendlier whistles in the rematch.
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As I was reading through fellow fans' reactions to recent recruitment news, someone had mentioned that 'recruiting doesn't really matter.' I'd read that several places, and in the back of my mind I probably didn't believe it. So, I decided to see if the quality of the class as measured through the eyes of a scouting site really did matter.
Turns out, it may not really matter. (Note: This isn't an end all be all of an analysis, and I'm not an expert on Statistics, Recruiting or Women. I also only looked at the top 12 as this takes a lot of time, plus it afforded me another opportunity to disrespect Ohio.)
What?! How dare thee suggest class rank doesn't matter! I'd kindly refer you to the table.
What is this table that thee speaketh of? Uh, chart?
|2011 AP||Team||Average Class||Difference||2011 Rank - 2007/8 Class||2012 Class||2011 Class||2010 Class||2009 Class||2008 Class||2007 Class|
Alabama and LSU have consistently strong classes, and the oversigning debacle probably helps them out some more. They along with USC seem to perform commensurate with expectations.
Some of the interesting items are the massive difference between expectations and results for a few select schools: Boise St, Michigan St, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma St and Notre Dame. You can see for yourselves, but Boise St rocks it with classes that are rarely in the top 50%. Their average class is sitting at 70. Texas and Notre Dame have the opposite problem.
You clearly need to have quality players. However, strong coaching, an eye for talent and knowing how to use and motivate that talent go far. Also, it may suggest that these recruiting services "one size fits all" approach to ranking players and classes is largely irrelevant to a team's performance. There's a long list of 5* failures and world beating 3* guys.
I didn't do a regression analysis as I'm a) lazy, b) not The Mathlete and c) things seem fairly obvious after perusing the data. Also, any laser focus on a single aspect of a team's record will probably miss the forest for the trees, but I'm just trying to provide some evidence on this point specifically.
Let's talk data sources and definitions. I used the final AP Ranking for this past season. The class ranking data is from Scout. I imagine it would be easy enough to bump this against some of the other scouting services to see what they say, as well as perhaps the Coach's Poll and whatnot, but I my imaginary army of minions was busy doing something else. So, this is what we're left with.
The "Average Class" is the class average from 2007 through 2011. I felt that the 2012 rankings, while somewhat finalized, aren't really part of this equation, yet. More just a "that's kinda interesting" rather than a "I think there's something there."
The "Difference" is the difference between that aforementioned "Average Class" and the final 2011 AP Ranking.
The "2011 Rank - 2007/8 Class" is the 2011 AP Ranking minus the average of the 2007 and 2008 Recruit Class.
So, what do you think?
'Intelligence is important, but a great work ethic can overcome much of what some players lack in natural "smarts."''He [the QB] should know exactly how his coach thinks and be able to regurgitate it verbally at the drop of hat.'
"Keep in mind that the quarterback does not look over 6' 4" and 6' 5" linemen. He is seeing and throwing through windows in the pass rush."
Last May, I read some tea leaves in anticipation of the 2011 football season. After careful analysis, I concluded that our defense was likely to go from terrible-to-average, and our offense from great-to-good. In all likelihood, it was thought at the time, that we'd go 8-4 or 9-3, with a signature victory over either Li'l Bro or Ohio. A dreary, depressing repeat of 2010's 7-5 was considered the second most likely scenario. All things pointed to "kinda, sorta better...but not really that much better." In other words, not necessarily better than Rich Rodriguez would have done in a hypothetical year 4, though qualitatively different.
Then, at midseason, I read some more. We'd made it to East Lansing undefeated--with 1 more win than we had when we played them in 2010, and 2 more than we had when we played them in 2009. Things looked pretty good. Though 9-3/good 8-4 was still considered the most likely scenario, now that gleaming city on the hill, a 10-2 regular season record, seemed attainable. Imaginable. Plausible.
Then we did it: we went 10-2. Then we did it some more: we beat Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl. In doing so, we accomplished a few things we hadn't done in a while, such as:
Winning 10 games for the first time since 2006-7.
Winning a bowl game for the first time since 2007-8.
Winning a BCS bowl game for the first time since...1999-2000.
That, deserves a big round of applause, doesn't it? So I'd like give it up for Team 132, Brady Hoke and the rest of the coaching staff for exceeding my, and most people's, expectations for the 2011-12 football season. Huzzah!
That Sugar Bowl victory was a funny one, wasn't it? We didn't look like the better team most of the team, and our opponents looked like, well, they looked like the another team with really fast DEs and LBs and a moving rock at QB who can kinda sorta run and kinda sorta pass, but excels at shredding us for big gains. That's right, the Mississippi State team that beat us 52-14 in the 2010 Gator Bowl. Yet, somehow, this time they only scored 20...and we scored 23.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, captures the difference between 2010 and 2011 like the difference between our bowl performances. In 2010 we ran all over the field but couldn't score against good defenses when it mattered, while pretty much anyone with a pulse could score on us at will. In 2011, we sometimes struggled for yards, but scored as much against the good teams as the bad (excepting, of course, Minnesota). Good teams couldn't really put the ball in the endzone on us either, even when they picked up yards. We were good when it mattered; no, we were better when it mattered.
Comparing Performance to Expectations (and 2011 to 2010)
To finish off the diary series, I thought I'd look back at the previous sets of predictions and see how they fared. The initial prediction of 9-3/good 8-4 was predicated on certain concrete ideas about how much we'd improve vs. our performance in 2010. So let's get compare those to what actually happened:
Initial Prediction: A major improvement from wretched (ranked in the 100s) to average (ranked in the 60s-40s).
Midseason Preduction: These guys might be a top 30 defense.
Postmortem: To put it mildly, the defense exceeded all expectations. We weren't an average defense, as predicted back in May, or even a somewhat above average defense, as predicted at midseason. Rather, we were the #17 defense and #6 scoring defense. That's up from #110 and #107 last year.
Or, to put it in more objective terms:
Initial Prediction: A moderate decline in total yards and scoring.
Midseason Prediction: A moderate decline in total yards, but no decline in scoring.
In objective terms:
...and there you have it. We gained fewer yards but scored more points on offense. We allowed fewer yards and even fewer points. Oh, and we kicked a few field goals, thanks to the Brunette Girls of the world.
For one thing, we now know that Mattison is a Defensive God. He, Hoke and the whole defensive staff pulled off something I previously thought impossible...turning a laughing stock into a top-tier unit in exactly 1 year. If we doubted that the problem was coaching before, we know it was now. This unit was the best we've had since 2006-7, and didn't have nearly the talent that defense did.
For another, we now know that Borges can roll with the spread, and will tailor his schemes to what he has around him. Looking forward to 2012 and beyond to the Devin Gardner year(s), this will serve us well. He might not be the offensive genius Rich Rodriguez is, but he's a crafty fella who knows how to win. Should work even better in the Shane Morris + deadly line of maulers era.
Finally, we can dig into the stats a bit and see that one of the underlying constrasts was in Time of Possession. I
t used to be common sense that you tried to dominate ToP, and then the revisionists came around and said that there was no evidence slow offensive teams did better than fast offensive teams. Now, instead, you were supposed to jettison the possession game and score quickly. Or not. Because it didn't matter.
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
In 2010 and 2011, by contrast, we had an uneven group of starters, and wisps of smoke behind that. Brady Hoke's decision to slow things down paid off for us in 2011, even if it meant losing a little razzle-dazzle in the process. Going uptempo or playing the possession game is a choice you make based on your personnel, not an ideological question with a "right" and a "wrong" answer. In 2011, we chose the right course for that roster, and it made a world of difference.
- 1998: 4
- 1999: 2
- 2000: 4
- 2001: 4
- 2002: 2
- 2003: 3
- 2004: 3
- 2005: 2
- 2006: 5
- 2007: 6
- 2008: 6
- 2009: 5
- 2010: 3
- 2011: 2
- 4 is enough for now (given the MWC and WAC just got raided)
- B12 needs to get up to 12 teams
At this point we'd have 6 BCS conferences with at least 12 teams and each conference having a title game. That leaves you at the end of the regular season with 6 conference championships and history suggests that normally at least 2 of the confereces will have be having off years and can be eliminated via polls. As I mention above this also makes the conference championship games a round of the playoffs. It as also makes the regular matter. Consider the years when a 4 loss team won the Big East. I don't really feel they should have a shot at the national championship. So discarding teams like that ensures that no one will slack off in the regular season. Also if conference winners autobid in, it creates scenarios where you pull your starters when playing teams that aren't in your division, since all you care about during the regular season is winning your division.
The 4 team playoff becomes this weird animal where up to 12 teams can have a shot at the playoffs going in to the title game weekend (assuming B12 gets back to 12). 6 will lose and go off to bowls. 2 will be eliminate by polls and go off to bowls.
History shows that all 6 BCS conferences rarely produce elite teams at the same time. To get to six elite teams for a playoff you need the MWC and WAC producing talent. Those conferences have just been raided (either for coaches or for entire programs) and it seems unlikely we'll see elite talent from the non-BCS conferences for a time period. So if we're seeding 6 every year, we run the risk of having to seed really unworthy teams for #5 and #6.
Basically 4 means you're killing two teams via poll voting and that can at times present problems. 6 teams means you're letting inferior teams many years, but avoiding having the polls as the headsman.
One other comment...if you let all conference champs always get into the playoffs... Giving any conference an autobid to the playoffs is bad for the regular season. Consider the following scenario. Michigan and Ohio State have both won their divisions and are about to play The Game (as in 2006). This means they will meet in the conference championship game no matter what happens in The Game.
If the conference champ of the B1G automatically makes the playoffs, you have a massive incentive to sandbag The Game. You want to the win the B1G Title Game, The Game is meaningless. You actually have an incentive to hide your playbook (since you're playing again next week) and pull players to avoid an injury. #1 OSU vs #2 Michigan is a lot less epic since the coaches care more about winning the following week. If Michigan loses The Game, but beats OSU in the Title Game and goes on to the playoffs we'd be a lot happier than if the opposite outcome happened.
If only 4 out of the 6 BCS Conference champs make it to the next level though that changes. Now you not only have to win your conference but also put together a resume that beats at least of the other conference champs. So then going 2-0 against Ohio State becomes more important.
Whew, it is finally done...
I walk away from this really feeling like we're in a situation where we can move forward logically. If you simply average the numbers for each year, you come up with a 4 team playoff working just fine.
However that ignores the fact that in recent years we had some seasons where 5 and 6 team playoffs were needed. On the other hand, the BCS conferences raiding the MWC and WAC may have put an end to that trend.
As it stands I would consider the logical action to be pushing for a 4 team system to be ready to go when the BCS expires. Install that system for a time period and then watch to if programs arise out of the MWC, WAC, and C-USA. If they do, when the 4 team expires, consider moving to a 6 team system.