there would have to be some to wash away
So as you may know, Michigan has seemed to play considerably better when they have a good amount of time to rest. But how much better? I decided to take a look at the games Michigan played this year and their record based on time between games. Here is what I came up with:
A few notes on terms that should be pretty obvious for the most part, but just making sure everyone understands:
1 Day Since Last Game would mean that they played a game the day before.
(N) means Neutral Site
I think you can figure out the rest.
From this, there seems to be a pretty strong correlation between the amount of rest/time to prepare the team gets and how well they do. 9-0 when we have 5+ days since the previous game, 16-2 when it is 4+ days? That's a stat that I'm pretty happy with. However, it's worth noting that, with a few exceptions (e.g. UCLA, Illinois, Purdue), the majority of our more difficult games took place 3 days or fewer since the previous game.
As a side note:
Despite 18 (55%) of our games being played with 4+ days since the previous game, only 10 (45%) of our games vs top 100 RPI were played with 4+ days since the previous game. Granted, that's only two games that would have a longer time since the previous game if it followed the same percentage, but that seems like it could have had an impact.
Overall, this seems to bode well for us when we face Clemson. Not so much if we go on to face Oklahoma.
For what it's worth, Clemson's losses were:
Wake Forest - 7 days since last game
UNC - 4 days since last game
FSU - 3 days since last game
Viriginia - 5 days since last game
Virginia Tech - 3 days since last game
FSU - 3 days since last game
Wake Forest - 5 days since last game
Georgia Tech - 4 days since last game
With Michigan heading into their matchup against Clemson, I'm thinking about the full court press. Specifically, what's the best way to beat it. Am I the only one that thinks this: the key to breaking the press is the second pass?
Maybe I'm simplifying things because I'm basing this on a performance I saw at my D-III alma mater where they absolutely destroyed a team in their national tournament that had basically been running a full court press for 40 minutes every game up to that point. On the inbound pass, the receiver would immediately turn and make another pass to a third player up the court, giving a 3-on-2 fast break on every possession.
Midway through the second half the other team gave up and fell back into a traditional half-court man to man defense for the first time their entire season. It was quite a moment to see them so forlorn with the defense that had brought them so far.
Far too often with the full court press we see a good first pass, and the receiver stops and looks and allows the other team to surround him. One pass does not break the press. You break the press on the second pass.
When I was twelve and thirteen I would go with my best friend every summer to Ann Arbor to participate in Michigan’s basketball camp. I have fond memories of playing hoops in Crisler even if I was a chubby, awkward adolescent with a manic jump shot. We stayed in the dorms and, obstentiously, ate too much pizza and stayed up too late. We got jock itch and figured we could solve it by blasting ice cold jets of athlete’s foot spray on it because when you’re twelve that makes sense. I met Steve Fisher, twice, as he would have his picture taken with every kid in the camp. And one day I met Jimmy King and Ray Jackson who were at the time, just being students hanging around Crisler over the summer. They were both eminently polite and nice to the throng of us that went over and asked for autographs and as they scribbled their names on my shirt I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe as the two worlds I had always known, my own and that of Michigan athletics, had somehow seamlessly blended into a new reality. Walking home from Crisler that day it had begun to rain and I hurried back to the dorm and was dispirited as I noticed the rain had caused the autographs on my shirt to run and fade into barely discernable yellow-ish scribbles.
Then a few years later it all came crashing down. We all know what happened so it’s not like a history lesson is warranted here but it hurt. Deeply so. And it would be a decade before I returned to Crisler to see a game after a work associate offered me some tickets. We drove down, got into our seats and on February 21, 2006 watched a Michigan team led by an inspired Daniel Horton knock off a highly regarded Illinois team with Dee Brown and James Augustine. Horton dropped 39 points and it felt like he couldn’t miss that night. I was seated up from the back left side of the basket and in the second half it felt as if the Michigan players were coming right at me. And as Horton drained three after three I couldn’t help but stupidly feel that, somehow, I was being told that it was alright to be a fan again.
I’ve spent the last week or so turning the simple idea of Michigan basketball over and over in my mind. I live and grew up around East Lansing where something as simple as a tournament berth hardly scratches the local papers. Where seeding is the real issue and where it’s not so much a concept of “if” as “how far” when it comes to the tournament. My friends will no doubt needle me by extolling Clemson and openly pondering how much Michigan will lose by and they don’t seem to notice that I just smile and laugh with them because they simply can’t understand that just being there is enough. Just being able to talk about Michigan losing in the tournament is a reward in and of itself. They’ll hopefully come a day to demand more out of this program; when it won’t be enough to make the tournament, but to succeed after doing so. But that day is not this day. This is enough.
I still have those pictures and that shirt locked away in a footlocker where everybody keeps things just because they hold personal, not actual, value. Every once in a while, usually after a move, I’ll dig back in there and pull out the photos and shirt. But now when I look upon the picture of the chubby kid with the bowl cut standing next to Steve Fisher I just feel flashes of anger at the rosy cheeked, balding man standing next to me. But when I pull out the shirt I always look to see if the signatures have returned or if they’ve somehow become clearer in time. And over the last couple of years the signatures haven’t actually been restored, but somehow my reverence for them has.
For some reason, I was 100% positive that Michigan would make the tournament after the Iowa win (if the internet says it, it must be true!). I had no doubt that our name would appear eventually, so I was focused on our match-up. When I saw Oklahoma was the 2 seed in the South, I correctly figured that they would be our most likely potential second round opponent. I freaked out. "Wow, if our team has one crippling weakness, it's handling a dominant big guy," I thought. I resigned myself to - at best - a one game run in the tournament.
I was pumped to see Michigan's name finally appear, but I didn't know anything about Clemson. Imagine my chagrin at learning that they press every opponent for the entire game. "Wow," I told myself, "I forgot about our other crippling weakness: ball-handling under pressure."
So here's the dilemma. We have Mr. Grady growing roots on the bench. Say what you want about his defense; he is essentially the Hammer of God against a press. Our other guards are VERY shaky under ball pressure. I would trust Manny to help bring the ball up, but we don't want him tired out. If Beilein keeps Grady nailed to the bench, Clemson will be licking its chops after watching tape of our guards struggle under pressure (see, i.e., the end of the Northwestern game).
From what I hear, Clemson relies on TOs to feed its offense (hey, stat wizards of the world - is there any way to scrounge up some numbers on how Clemson's winning percentage, FG percentage, and three point percentage fluctuate with the number of TOs they force?). If we can take care of the ball, especially in the backcourt, can we dry up the well for Clemson? We are going to have to contend with their big hoss of a PF, but that's largely going to be on DeShawn (and maybe Gibson). The conventional wisdom seems to be that Grady is a vastly inferior defensive player to our other guards, but the best defense against Clemson might be to limit turnovers against the press. I don't there's even a plausible argument that anyone else on our squad can do that like Grady can.
Clemson apparently shoots a high percentage from outside (which would play into the hands of those that argue that Grady refuses to properly fight over screens), but I wonder if most of those threes come either in transition or off of kick-outs from their big guy. Anyone watch a Clemson game recently? What does their half-court offense look like?