Summary below for those that don't want the long version.
Yesterday, Brian discussed some Spring practice bits, within that, he talked about an assumption that Michigan was going to more of a quarters coverage base, similar to OSU and MSU.
I pretty adamantly denied that claim.
Brown has been a single-high base coverage throughout his career. A hybrid-SAM player has no relation to an Over front or a quarters coverage other than some teams use them in that way, just like Under teams and some 3-4 (3-3-5) teams do.
Brown has always been a 4-3 Under/One-gap 3-4 guy. It appears he's running something closer to an Under because of the personnel he has, but even then, I wouldn't be surprised to see Taco in a 2-point stance (though he'll nominally rush the passer 95% of the time). That's Brown's deal.
Peppers will play some SAM. He'll cover some TEs and the safety over the top of him will rotate to deep center field (the far safety will have SKY support in Cover 3 and will have man coverage in Cover 1 over the slot or on a back, and may help check a TE crossing the formation). I would be flat out shocked if Michigan came out running a 4-3 over quarters base, as what I described has been Brown's recent MO and the quarters thing has never been.
However, while I still stand by that being Michigan's base coverage, I wanted to clear up a few things.
Don Brown does have match-up concents within his defense, in particular, two-high safety match-up concepts. He also have Cover 2 concepts in his defense. Brown will play two-high safeties in certain situations. It likely won't be the base, and it won't be the standard coverage throughout games more often than not.
As far as his formations of choice, I did mispeak there in a way. His standard, from what I've seen, is a one-gap 3-4 or 4-3 under principles, but he has often run an over front with what I've called a "Jam" adjustment (it's MSU terminology), but he uses what he calls an anchor. I've also used the term "anchor" in the past as a technique, that technique essentially being that you "anchor a gap". I've used it in terms of anchoring the outside gap or anchoring against zone blocking schemes, Brown uses "Anchor" for the SDE that is needed to anchor a gap in his defense. You'll also notice that the WDE is often in a two point stance.
Here's where Brown uses a different tactic than most.
Here's standard over and under formations from my preview of Brown
Here's how Brown typically runs an Over front, from James Light's blog (which has been linked on the front page several times). This is what Brown calls a "72" formation
This is Brown's "Eagle" coverage, which is essentially a Cover 2 Trap. The CB has no responsibility for the #1 WR, his eyes are in the backfield looking for someone to run a route to the flat. He'll sink to a deep quarter if no one threatens the flat, and he'll essentially bait a throw to the flat by being a bit more flat footed in his technique and breaking down hard on any throw there.
But also notice the "Over" front with the anchor position. The SDE lines up in a 6i technique, or inside the TE. This provides more cover to the SAM, such that blockers cannot get out to him. The SAM is aligned on the inside hip of the SDE. Just as often, the SAM will line up on the outside shoulder of the TE or even wider, in a 5x5 to 3x3 technique. But it is an Over front, because of the shades of the DTs.
This is the formation handling a detached WR, with the SAM playing in an apex position
Note that this coverage is Cover 6. One side is playing "Cloud" leverage ("Side" above) in which he stays in the flat no matter what. The other side is playing the "sight" technique (trap technique in most terminology I've come across) which results in a Cover 2 or a 1/4-1/4-1/2 Cover 6.
This is a formation for handling a knob, in which the SAM plays a "tilt" position (essentially a Under front SAM technique)
And in almost all these instances, unless the Anchor is slanting outside, the SAM has responsibility for that outside gap. The point being, that Peppers, from the SAM position, would not nominally be a box defender (as in, inside the tackle box). He's playing outside the TE as much as anywhere.
As I said, Brown does have two-high safety coverages. He essentially winnows it down to a single coverage, but there are various techniques he runs (from MEG and MOD Cover 4, to trap and 1/4-1/4-1/2). He also has Cover 3 and Cover 1 coverages, which tend to be his base. And he'll have some combo coverages. Why does he prefer single-high looks? Because it's easier to bring multiple pressure looks with a single high safety. The run fits are easier (you rely less on DBs, who are typically limited in their run fits), you can bring pressure from more places, etc. It allows them to stay in their base coverage while doing something different with the front. And much of these pressure games come from his Under front or 3-4 front.
But at the end of the day, he is a "multiple" coach, which Michigan has almost always been dating back a long time. This, in and of itself, makes it very different than what MSU and OSU are doing. Those teams have vastly simplified their coverage (essentially, Cover 4 base, and then Cover 0 or 2-low, 3-high (MSU) or 3-low, 3-high (OSU)). Michigan won't be that. They'll mix and match and adjust the coverage to the opponent.
But, I will also add, Brian isn't wrong here. Michigan will play some Cover 4. They will run what is an Over front. But it won't be base quarters. The "4-high" looks will be a part of the plan (again, Cover 2 Trap, Cover 4 MEG, Cover 4 MOD, Cover 6), it will likely be base single-high, but it will be multiple.
Michigan won't be playing much quarters (Cover 4, like MSU and OSU). They will play two-high safeties in what is mostly a Cover 2 look. In their blitz scheme, they will utilize mostly single-high safeties (Cover 1 and Cover 3). They will run multiple coverages rather than prioritize a single coverage to become great at it (which is different than MSU and OSU).
Also, Peppers won't be playing inside the tackle box much.
Does that clear it up? Or did I just repeat the same thing and not clarify a thing?
Northwestern (17-10, 5-9 B1G) at
Michigan (19-9, 9-6)
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -7 (KenPom)|
Right: Alex Olah, a candidate for the “wait, this guy is still playing?” award that would have been Spike Albrecht’s [Upchurch]
Caris LeVert is out for the third consecutive game, though Beilein has evidently not ruled out a potential return sometime later this season. Spike Albrecht is apparently doing some work in practice, but his return seems even unlikelier.
Michigan currently checks in as a ten-seed in the latest bracket matrix update; with the Wolverines in the suspect position of having its best bullet point on its resume be “no bad losses,” a home loss to Northwestern would be disastrous. With three regular season games remaining – at home against Northwestern, at Wisconsin, at home against Iowa – Michigan’s best chance of getting a win that would lock up a winning record in conference play is tonight.
It’s debatable if Michigan can get into the Dance with just two more wins total (including what will probably be a relatively easy Big Ten Tournament opener), but in almost any scenario, they need to beat Northwestern to avoid putting their tournament hopes in serious peril.
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||30||Bryant McIntosh||So.||6'3, 185||87||25||No|
|Only Wildcat with a high assist rate (2nd B1G); eFG % has plummeted in B1G play|
|G||3||Tre Demps||Sr.||6’3, 202||91||23||Yes|
|Off-guard often forced to create late in shot clock, low TO, better at 2’s than 3’s|
|F||34||Sanjay Lumpkin||Jr.||6’6, 220||58||11||Sorta|
|Wallflower with just 79 FGA, terrible combo of efficiency and usage|
|F||35||Aaron Falzon||Fr.||6’8, 213||60||18||Not Really|
|Active on offensive glass, mostly shoots 3’s but only at 34%, low turnovers|
|C||22||Alex Olah||Sr.||7’0, 275||44||23||Very|
|Has dealt with injuries, but still a good rim protector, efficient scorer on offense|
|G||20||Scottie Lindsey||So.||6’5, 205||46||18||No|
|Other half of SF platoon w/Lumpkin, Northwestern’s best shooter at 41% from 3|
|F||44||Gavin Skelly||So.||6’8, 225||27||16||Very|
|Good rebounding rates in limited minutes, efficient from 2, rarely shoots|
|C||1||Joey Van Zegeren||Sr.||6’10, 235||26||20||Very|
|Great on off. glass, iffy on def. glass, bad at FT, blocks shots, fouls a lot|
|C||12||Derek Pardon||Fr.||6’8, 230||25||19||Very|
|Classic freshman big guy profile: rebounds well, fouls a lot, only 2’s (but at 67%)|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
With the raging debate about where Michigan stands as far as what they need to do to make the NCAA Tournament, I wanted to take a look at teams that had similar records going into March Madness last year. Which teams made the NCAA Tournament? Which got sent to the NIT? To do this, I took a look at three crucial measurements the committee seems to use: RPI, Record v. RPI Top 100, and Non-Conference SOS.
Let's say Michigan beats Northwestern and Nebraska in the 1st Round of the BTT and loses to Iowa, Wisconsin, and the BTT QF.
That would put them at 20-12 with an RPI in the 50-55 range, a 4-12 record against the Top 100, and a NC SOS of 172.
|Team||Record||RPI||vs. Top 100||NC SOS|
First thing I noticed is that outside of UCLA (which was basically the last team in the field, the NIT teams had a record against the Top 100 that most closely resembles Michigan as well as very similar NC SOS. Teams with RPIs in the low 50s tend to make the NCAA Tournament, though. Once that RPI drifts past 60, you might as well start making plans for the NIT unless you have something outstanding on your resume.
What stands out is that Michigan would be the first team since 2013's Cincinnati Bearcats to not lose a game against a team with a sub-100 RPI. That Cincinnati team finished 21-11, with a RPI of 50, 9-11 against the Top 100, and a NC SOS of 171. They got a 10 seed.
And really, that should be Michigan's goal. If they hold serve against Northwestern and in the 1st Round of the BTT AND beat Wisconsin or Iowa, they'd have a very similar resume and I can't imagine they wouldn't get in. Also, Northwestern is currently at 103 in the RPI. Root for Michigan to beat them and then for the Wildcats to win their final 2 games and maybe pull an upset or two in the BTT.
This year's team doesn't have to win out, but the margin for error is virtually non-existent.
Paul Sherman – MGoBlog
After Michigan and Maryland traded baskets in the first five minutes of the game, the Terrapins locked up the Wolverines defensively and put together one of those frustratingly common runs that seem to take U-M out of the game. Over a span of about seven minutes, Maryland went on a 17-1 run and the game was following the script of Michigan’s many blowout losses this season. For the first time all season, the Wolverines stood in after taking a big early punch and managed to erase the deficit by the first TV timeout in the second half.
That resilience wasn’t quite enough, as Maryland eventually managed enough stops late in the game to pull ahead in what was an entertaining back-and-forth second half without much defense – Maryland (1.17 points per possession) put up its best performance against a Big Ten foe in nine games on the offensive end, while Michigan (1.09) mostly kept pace until the very end. Though no losses can be considered moral victories by this time of year, Michigan still acquitted themselves far better than they had in any loss so far this season – today, they were just unable to make enough shots in the final possessions to get away with what is still a much-needed marquee win for their NCAA tournament hopes.
Surprisingly, it was Michigan’s role players leading the charge – Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin combined for just 25 points on as many shot equivalents (though Walton added five assists, six boards, and three steals). Mark Donnal was excellent against a very good center duo: he flashed his full arsenal of skills in a 20-point second half as he finished with an extremely efficient 25, two offensive rebounds, and five blocks(!) Yet again, there was a significant drop-off from Donnal to Ricky Doyle and Moritz Wagner – per SCACCHoops, Donnal was +8 in 29 minutes. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also turned in one of the better performances of his season with 16 points and a career-high nine assists – as a team, Michigan had 22, indicative of the Wolverines’ excellent ball movement today. Duncan Robinson was largely off all day; Kam Chatman put in some of his best minutes off the bench and hit two threes (and no other bench player scored).
In Michigan’s win over Maryland, Zak Irvin won the battle of mismatched power forwards against Robert Carter – today, it was Carter who turned in a very good performance with an efficient 17 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and a critical tip-dunk to stretch the Terrapin lead to four with under two minutes left. Three others scored in double figures for Maryland: Jake Layman (16), Melo Trimble (14) – though he didn’t play well – and Diamond Stone (13). Collectively, UMD hit on 59% of its twos, 44% of its threes, and 90% on a high volume of free throw attempts; while both teams put up high eFG% marks and very similar rebounding rates and turnover rate, Maryland scored 12 more points from the free throw line than Michigan did. Michigan hit 13 threes on the game, which kept them in it; an atypically high turnover rate prevented them from getting as many looks as they should have.
Michigan now sits tied for seventh in the Big Ten at 9-6 and finishes the season with contests against Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Michigan needs two more wins to feel safer about a tournament bid – though if those wins are against NW and a weak first-round opponent in the Big Ten tournament, it might be dicey. Moving forward, we shouldn’t assume that the Wolverines will make it in, though as things stands right now, I think it’s more likely than not that they’ll be dancing in a few weeks.
I just finished re-reading Brave New World. Considered to be Huxley's finest work, it in fact deserves all the acclaim it receives. The beginning chapters of the novel move at a pace that likens to Michigan's rushing attack with Brady Hoke, extremely slow or nonexistent. Huxley drags us through this slodge describing gene slicing, Boknovasky Groups, bottle rooms, child conditioning, etc... The book finally picks up when a man named Bernard Marks and his ladyfriend Lenina decide to go on a date to the "savage" reservation where Native Americans still practice their cultural values. Bernard finds a white savage named John. Bernard calls the director that operates in London and the government brings them all back. This is where the book really gets interesting as it delves into themes such as love, god, death, happiness vs stability and most of all, the individual vs the masses. Over time Bernard makes a lot of fake friends that just despise him and his grand discovery. Lenina tries to sleep with every guy she meets ( which is what she is conditioned to do btw ), and John discovers that modern society is ROYALLY FUCKED TO THE MAX.John goes on an angry rampage when Lenina tries to sleep with him even though he loves her and he wants to marry her. John calls her a lot of bad names and physically abused her where shortly after he receives a phone call from a nurse at a local hospital that tells him his mother is dying. John goes to said hospital and little kids are crawling on her and making fun of her while John watches. He decides to throw out all of their soma ( a drug that makes you feel really good and forget all the bad things in the world ) and tell them that they are slaves to the government and not really free. The police are called and the handle the situation by subduing him.He is then taken to one of the WORLD CONTROLLERS( Name is Mustafa Mond) and talks to him.Turns out this bastard has a lot of books that are deemed illegal and keeps them for himself. Books like the bible and Shakespeare of course. The world controller tells him that because of his actions he will be sent to somewhere isolated and that it should be considered a reward since he won't have to deal with the modern world anymore. Because of the outside world always finding and bothering him, John eventually hangs himself. Sad ending I know, but I don't blame the guy. The world at that point was only about being satisfied and not really living. Sure, everyone was happy, but there was no substance. No love, no risks, and no art or beauty. Everyone and everything was built to stabilize society. After finishing BNW, I think Huxley was trying to ask us a question. Would we rather live in a world where there is no war, disease, or famine for the exchange of our freedom or live in a world with freedom in exchange for our happiness? A question I personally know the answer to, which is life with freedom and all the wacky bullshit that comes with it.
Brave New World Score: 8/10
It’s hard to believe, but John Beilein’s now in his ninth season at Michigan. About a week and a half ago, he coached his 300th game for the Maize and Blue. After a coach has been around for a certain amount of time, he essentially becomes a known quantity: his offensive philosophies, defensive strategies, substitution patterns, recruiting priorities, and player development trends are all well-known among Michigan fans, and at this point, there’s little mystery about John Beilein or his methods.
In the wake of two embarrassing blowout losses to hated rivals, there was predictable bellyaching about Beilein’s level of job security – some fans even went as far as to call for his firing (while evidently forgetting the Ellerbe-Amaker purgatory that Beilein pulled Michigan out of in the first place). To be sure, it’s easy for people to harp on Beilein’s perceived blind spots and, to be sure, some of those complaints are valid. The reluctance to play guys in foul trouble has surely cost Michigan games over the years. Empirically, we’ve discovered that he manages to develop average defenses at best, and usually they’re far more mediocre than average. Sometimes it seems as if he struggles to accommodate players who don’t have skill sets tailor-made for his system. Gripes about his recruiting strategy and/or the outcome of his recruiting classes have varying levels of credibility.
Still, it’s important to remember Beilein’s strengths. He was well ahead of his time with his insistence on spacing, shooting, and using a non-traditional four in his signature four-out motion offense. There are several notable examples of his players vastly overachieving relative to what their recruiting rankings would project. He adapted to the unprecedented level of talent on his teams by implementing more pick-and-roll action into his offense – and indeed, the trend of his guards developing their passing ability in those sets can surely be attributed to coaching. He coached the best offense in the country in two separate years. He’s won two Big Ten titles – including an outright title in a year in which #2 finished three games behind Michigan in college basketball’s toughest contest. He was once a few possessions from winning a national title. He was once a few possessions from reaching another Final Four.
All of that is to say: you’re crazy if you legitimately want Michigan to replace John Beilein. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and it’s pretty green here already.
* * *
More or less, this has been a pretty frustrating season (and I’m convinced that the hideous shorts play a not-insignificant part in that). With the notable exception of wins over Maryland and Purdue – more on those in a second – Michigan has won as the favorite and lost as the underdog, and more than a few of those losses have been complete annihilations. Spike Albrecht’s senior season died before it could even begin. Caris LeVert missed over half of Big Ten play with an injury (but he’s back! Woo!). The reality has probably been better than the discourse would indicate: Michigan’s sitting in fourth in the Big Ten, should be safely in the NCAA Tournament barring an epic meltdown, and, critically, still has plenty of room to improve – especially if LeVert makes it back to his phenomenal early-season form.
Anyways, back to those wins over Maryland and Purdue. Those two wins are the linchpin of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament resume: without them, Michigan would be in the unenviable position of talented low-major programs that put up a gaudy win-loss record before losing in their conference tournament – without wins over good opponents, those teams typically find themselves in the NIT.
What do Maryland and Purdue have in common? Per KenPom’s “effective height” metric (which adjusts each individual’s height based on how many minutes they play), they are the two tallest high-major teams in the country. A common criticism of John Beilein teams is that they are ill-equipped to deal with teams with size: juxtaposed against the construct of the big, burly, physical Big Ten, Beilein’s teams – which prize skill and shooting – often match up poorly, in theory.
[After the JUMP, small-ball defeats bully-ball]