I’ve been watching The Wire – I’m through Season 3, Episode 6. Won’t be writing about this D’Angelo though. (source)
Your weekly B1G Hoops column
Table of Contents:
D’Angelo Russell player similarities
James Blackmon player similarities
Melo Trimble player similarities
The Big Ten is weaker than usual
Ugly losses: not just for football!
Michigan missing NCAA Tournament: DEFCON 3
We aren’t the only ones to lose to good teams
Trending up, trending down
Other player comparisons, by request
Early frontrunner for most B1G game of the year
1. D’Angelo Russell player similarities
Over the summer, I devised a system by which current players and their statistical profiles can be cross-referenced against a database of former Big Ten players (from 2008-2014) to find the most similar players. The “Similarity Score” system uses the difference between the z-scores of each statistical category (weighted equally), adds up the absolute value of those differences, and the players with the smallest Similarity Score number are the most analogous players – statistically speaking.
A few caveats: it is early in the season and the quality of opposition hasn’t been great, so some of these names might be a little too complimentary for the players listed; this isn’t a comparison of playing style or even listed position – the numbers are blind to all of that; these guys aren’t necessarily “as good as” the players listed below them – they’re just the closest out of the sample of Big Ten players over the last seven years. Every statistical system has drawbacks and this is no different, but it does provide an interesting jumping-off point for discussion and it definitely has some merit.
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Trey Burke (2013), Gary Harris (2014), Jake Kelly (2009), Bo Spencer (2012), E’Twaun Moore (2011), Andre Hollins (2013), John Shurna (2012), Demetri McCamey (2011)
D’ANGELO RUSSELL IS NOT TREY BURKE. I’M NOT SAYING THAT. PLEASE DON’T ACCUSE ME OF SAYING THAT.
…but, against a terrible schedule, D’Angelo Russell has been absolutely superb. Maybe not Trey Burke superb, but pretty damn close if not. Even against Louisville – by far the best team that Ohio State’s faced thus far – he put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals (with 4 turnovers on rather inefficient shooting). There have been many impressive parts of his game – the steal rate bodes well for a potential NBA future, but nothing stands out to me more than his assist rate of 32.2 (5.4 assists per game).
Incredibly, he’s more efficient and has a higher usage than the names listed above (except for Trey Burke, with whom he’s on par). Again, he has only played one Kenpom Top-100 team, but that’s very impressive regardless.
Right now, everything suggests that Russell is a one-and-done talent. He stuffs the stat-sheet from the two-guard position with points, rebounds, assists, and steals; his tempo-free numbers are bound to regress against better competition, but Russell’s done everything that could be asked of him thus far. He hits threes – 20 of 46 for a nice 43.5% – and, at six-foot-five, he has size for the two-guard position in the league. Ohio State’s had plenty of NBA players under Thad Matta and, at least so far, it looks like Russell will be another one.
Also, another D’Angelo released a new album that’s pretty solid. [Ed-Ace: "Pretty solid" is a disturbing understatement, young buck.] [Ed-Alex: This is just the first step in truly refining my musical tastes.]
2. James Blackmon player similarities
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Nik Stauskas (2014), Deshaun Thomas (2013), Jon Shurna (2011), Drew Crawford (2012), Tim Hardaway (2011), John Shurna (2010), Matt Gatens (2012), Deshaun Thomas (2012)
Another five-star, another standout freshman. Blackmon isn’t quite as well-rounded as Russell and probably isn’t as sure of a pro, but he’s been terrific for Indiana thus far this season. According to Pomeroy, the Hoosiers have the ninth-best offense (and 174th-best defense) nationally and the backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon could stack up against nearly any other in college basketball – size (and, by extension, defense) is really the only major issue.
Like Russell, Blackmon’s blend of efficiency and usage is unsustainable, but absolutely excellent thus far. His shooting splits are fantastic: 53% on twos, 46% on threes, and 88% from the free throw line. Per data from Shot Analytics, he’s only taken 17 midrange shots – out of 130 total (13%) – which speaks to his shot selection and ability to get to the rim, where he finishes well.
Nik Stauskas isn’t a perfect comparison for Blackmon, but there’s a lot in common: both are very efficient shooters who have fairly similar shooting splits. Stauskas was a much better distributor and got to the free throw line more (while Blackmon’s a better rebounder). Deshaun Thomas is another intriguing statistical profile: Thomas is much taller than Blackmon and played as a stretch-four, but they’re the same type of remorseless gunner that has a high shot attempts to assists ratio. Blackmon shoots at a higher percentage however.
I know I have to mention it: arghhh Michigan could have used Blackmon this season.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more numbers (obviously); STOP LOSING EVERYBODY; stuff on Michigan]
Recruiting and player development go hand in hand – a lesson we have learned the hard way over the past few seasons. While it is important to recruit highly rated players, it is equally important to be able to discern which ones are more likely to pan out. At the same time, no matter how much potential a recruit has it is crucial to be able to maximize that potential on the field. Obviously the ideal coach has the ability to both evaluate talent, and to create a staff that will get everything out of them.
Jim Harbaugh had four recruiting classes at Stanford (though the first and the last may not have been solely his due to the coaching changes). To keep this simple I have just used the Rivals ratings. The first two classes had a lot of two stars as reflected in the average stars below:
2007: 2.63 (one 4*)
2008: 2.70 (two 4* including Luck)
2009: 3.27 (eight 4*)
2010: 3.13 (five 4*)
As you can see the quality improved each year, and I would guess that 2010 would have been even better had he not jumped to the Niners. On a personal note, when I look at recruits I am much more interested in offer lists than star ratings. Beginning in 2008 I began to see Stanford offers popping up all over the country – both for big name players and diamonds in the rough. Stanford offers were practically non-existent in my Michigan-centric searches before that. Clearly JH was even then capable of spreading a very wide and selective net throughout the country.
In 2009 Stanford had risen from terrible to 8-5, yet Harbaugh’s first (mixed) class were only juniors, and his next two classes were sophomores and freshmen.
By 2010 when they went 12-1 the only upperclassmen were 3rd and 4th year guys from his weaker first two classes (average stars well less than three). Of course there must have been help from the stronger ’09 and ’10 classes, but they were only 2nd and 1st year recruits.
JH was able to create a solid BCS bowl winning team with talent that – on its face – looks a lot lower than what we get at Michigan. This indicates not only his ability to develop talent, but also the recruiting acumen to find players with more potential than their star ratings would indicate. In sum, it appears (not surprisingly) that JH brings the same intensity and ability to recruiting and talent development that he does to all phases of the game.
For the last few years, I've blatanly stolen Seth's idea to use advanced metrics both to fill out my Bowl Pick'Em and to decide on which games to watch. Two years ago, using this approach got me 69% correct picks in my pool, but last year things were a bit rougher - an FEI-based pick'em got 54% correct, while a Sagarin PREDICTOR based one got 57%. When something doesn't work, throw more data it. So I put together a more elaborate spreadsheet (available here) that presents picks from several different advanced metrics: FEI, Colley, Massey (Power), and Sagarin (new, improved GOLDEN MEAN).
The methodology is straightforward - I compared all the teams using these metrics, and using the difference between them picked the winners and the confidence in the picks. That is, a huge difference in the ratings of the teams suggests a lock, a difference of zero is a push. In addition to looking at these metrics individually, I also put together a composite score by standardizing all the values and averaging them together. The list automatically sorts based on the system you use, with locks at the top and coin-flips (and presumably more exciting games) at the bottom. Interestingly, the four different system present three different potential national title winners, but none of those include OSU, so take some small pleasure in that.
Here is the table of composite picks:
|Rose Bowl Winner||Sugar Bowl Winner|
|Confidence - Watchability:||0.0807|
|Bowl||Date||Projected Winner||Confidence - Watchability|
|New Mexico||12/20/2014||Utah St||0.7864|
|Advocare V100 Texas||12/29/2014||Arkansas||0.7151|
|Popeyes Bahamas||12/24/2014||W. Kentucky||0.4061|
|Heart of Dallas||12/26/2014||Louisiana Tech||0.4038|
|Idaho Potato||12/20/2014||Air Force||0.2092|
|Quick Lane||12/26/2014||N. Carolina||0.2037|
Good luck in your bowl pools and happy holidays.
While we continue to play the waiting game these next few weeks — and in the spirit of today’s NFL scoreboard-watching and a ongoing analysis of the college “Football Four” — I had an idea. There have been endless speculation and rumors and so little clarity, and a myriad of possible head coach candidates multiplied exponentially by multiple coaching destinations for Candidate #1. Y’all know what we need, right? Of course, the device that always solves these types of multi-faceted challenges: Make a bracket.
Specifically, we’re going to create a “Harbaugh Four” semifinal bracket.
To borrow ESPN’s CoFoPo slogan, I believe we’ve seen the pool of possible destinations for Harbaugh get distilled down over the past few weeks, albeit via buzz, more buzz, and the Sportsbook odds (http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/michigan-now-leads-harbaugh-sportsbook-odds). The final four appear to be the following:
#1 Seed: San Francisco 49ers While everyone would agree that they are the least likely “winner” of this bracket given the alleged bad blood boiling in the organization, the seeding is based on the bigger picture. Harbaugh is, in fact, their CURRENT COACH RIGHT NOW, and he has had tremendous success over his entire three-plus-year tenure there, so we’ll base the 49ers’ seed on being the “incumbent.”
#2 Seed: Oakland Raiders Oakland makes it “in” based on buzz and those NFL “insider” reports we love to hate, plus the whole Bay-Area thing and the fact that the Raiders gave Harbaugh his first pro coaching opportunity.
#3 Seed: Miami Dophins Miami represents what Vegas has on the boards as “other NFL team.” While it seems unlikely that Stephen Ross in any way publicly stated that he’d like to hire Harbaugh (that would be tampering), the concept does seem plausible. A much as Ross loves Michigan, his more direct business interests are with the team he owns.
#4 Seed: University of Michigan We’re in! Vegas’ up-and-down odds currently have Michigan #1 but this seeding is based on U of M being two factors separated from Harbaugh’s current status: Not only would be be switching teams, but also switching entirely back to the college-game paradigm.
Semifinal #1: San Francisco vs. Michigan
It’s Harbaugh’s friendship with former teammates and other UM alumni vs. the deteriorating relationships within the 49ers organization. It’s Schembechler vs. Walsh, former home vs. current home, pro vs. college. Some tough matchups, but if we are to believe that 49er management and ownership are ready to part ways with Harbaugh, with few tears shed by the players, then on this side of the bracket, Michigan wins and it’s not close. However if reality is not perception, and at the end of the season the Niners front office, the players and Harbaugh all come to some sort of meeting of the minds and decide that they have a good thing going, then the Niners will have justified their #1 seed — he simply stays put.
All things considered, though, assuming ships have sailed in Santa Clara, we’ll give this one to Michigan.
Semifinal #2: Oakland vs. Miami
The NFL season ends with both Miami and the 49ers missing the playoffs (and, of course, the Raiders too). The 49ers begin negotiations with Harbaugh and his agent regarding a trade. Several teams including the New York Jets express interest, but the Raiders and Dolphins rise to the top. This is where Jim Harbaugh is using Michigan as leverage: If he doesn’t like the destination where the 49ers want to trade him, he can simply tell them he’s going back to college. So the Raiders and Dolphins make the cut. Most (perhaps not all) other NFL suitors seem below the “Harbaugh-to-Michigan line” — if the 49ers attempted to trade him anywhere but the Raiders or Dolphins, he’d instead bolt to Michigan.
So the Raiders bring a few positive elements for Harbaugh to consider: They’re of course Bay Area-based, but only for the time being it appears. The may, however, end up remaining in California, moving to L.A. They have some positive history with Harbaugh, having given him his first NFL coaching gig, and present a challenge for JH to sink his teeth into. An NFL insider report this morning notes that the Raiders are ready to change GM’s and spend more, and could offer Harbaugh a GM-Head Coach package.
But not so fast: The Raiders are not quite the destination the 49ers had in mind: They’re a regional rival, and would be motivated to bring an alternate team into the conversation — one that is ideally in the other conference. Enter: The Dolphins.
The Dolphins have been on the fringe of the playoff hunt all year, and they remain there this week. However as the end of the season nears, their chances continue to diminish. The conventional wisdom is that if the Fins make the playoffs, their owner Stephen Ross would be compelled to stick with current head coach Joe Philbin. However, a sketchy “report” today has Ross stating that he’d like to go after Harbaugh if Miami misses the playoffs. While the report seems fuzzy since this would be tampering on Ross’ part, the concept seems sound.
I don’t know enough about how the process of the 49ers and Harbaugh extricating themselves from their situation will work in terms of draft picks, and who has more “say” in where he would go. If Harbaugh has “veto power,” or if York and Baalke will call him into York’s office and tell him where he’s going. But I can see the Raiders finding a way to screw this up, and the Dolphins being motivated to sweeten the deal. Especially, say, if the division-rival Jets are also suitors.
This one’s a toss-up, but today I’d give it to the Dolphins. Like I said, this morning’s shady/fake/whatever report on Ross’ intentions was at least plausible, and I would give the edge in any such contest to Ross over Mark Davis, NFL negotiations or otherwise.
So it’s the Dolphins.
Finals: University of Michigan vs. Miami Dolphins
In a stunning(?) upset, the top-seeded Bay Area contingent is shut out of the final, not-so-single-handedly by Stephen Ross (we figure Jim Hackett has a hand in there as well).
So here’s what this matchup will come down to, and Brian strongly alludes to this in his freshly-posted SEARCHBITS XV: MACHINATIONS http://mgoblog.com/content/searchbits-xv-machinations: If Jim Harbaugh wants to remain in the NFL, he will have options. If Jim Harbaugh decides that the college game suits his style better, he’ll return there. The choice will come down to the best NFL option (I think the Dolphins) vs. the best college option (Michigan and only Michigan).
The Stephen Ross factor Ross is more than the elephant in the room, he IS the room. Ross has been heard saying that he would love to see Jim Harbaugh return to Michigan. As UM athletics’ biggest benefactor (by far), he could be playing a leadership role alongside Jim Hackett and former UM greats in convincing JH to return “home,” and may be able to play a financial role. This was a few weeks ago, and made sense because Ross wouldn’t want to undermine his sitting head coach Joe Philbin. Fast forward to this week, and the “machinations” may be starting to move in a different direction, as the Dolphins are slipping out of the playoff picture.
So Ross plays a big role in this “contest,” but of course it all comes down to Mr. Harbaugh.
If Jim looks at the Oakland and Miami situations and feels that he a.) wants to continue to challenge himself in the NFL and b.) either of these franchises is the place to do it, he will likely work with the 49ers and either Allen or Ross to make that happen. If it’s the Dolphins, he will have made it clear to Mr. Ross that he prefers the NFL and Ross will rather see him coaching his NFL team than someone else’s, if Michigan isn’t in the cards.
Be it by direct statements by Ross and/or Harbaugh, or simply by implication, the Michigan fan base will have an understanding of “it’s not you, it’s me.” If Harbaugh considers himself an NFL lifer, this cannot be in any way considered a slap in the face. Many will take it as such, but it will be difficult to blame either of these men if Harbaugh wants to stay on the NFL path.
Elevator pitch time I’ve developed an “elevator” pitch for Jim Harbaugh, should I ever find myself (ha ha) crossing paths with him. In the vein of Apple CEO Steve Jobs courting Pepsi CEO John Scully with “do you want to sell sugar water, or do you want to change the world?” I would ask “do you want to be your brother, or do you want to be Bo?” Meaning, do you want to spend years trying to match your brother’s one Super Bowl ring, or do you want to win multiple Big Tens, go to a few Rose Bowls, and top Bo by winning a national championship?
I hope that’s the line of thinking, because I believe Harbaugh has his best chance of building his legend at a place where he’s already off to a gigantic head start. But I envision the endgame involving the Dolphins surfacing as the sweepstakes winner among NFL teams, and then things will probably centralize around a meeting between Ross, Hackett and Harbaugh, with the NFL vs. college decision crystallizing. You could say that Hackett and Michigan are the only ones who could lose in this situation. Harbaugh will do what he wants and get paid handsomely for it, and Ross wins either way.
Brian may not be bullish on Michigan’s prospects, but he’s certainly optimistic albeit cautiously so. Taking that plus today’s betting lines — and the fact that I along with everyone else on this board want it so badly — I’ll give the edge to Michigan. It “feels” like he’s leaning ever-so-slightly toward leaving the 49ers empty-handed and giving Ann Arbor every consideration.
So, this isn’t the NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket, so no running out of timeouts and no crappy calls on a last-minute shot block.
College football beckons. Legendary status awaits. Harbaugh returns. Michigan wins.
Circulating on Twitter
I wrote off Michigan’s struggles against NJIT as an aberration – after all, it’s unlikely that a team that shoots 34% (outside of their game against Michigan) hits 11-17 threes in a game – but at this point, it’s somewhat of a crisis: Michigan’s now 6-3, has two bad home losses, and is ranked 49th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and 98th in Jeff Sagarin’s. With Arizona on deck this afternoon, Michigan’s staring at a 6-4 overall record (really 5-4, as the game against D-II Hillsdale doesn’t count towards their resume) and a three-game losing streak.
Not to be too alarmist, but Michigan – projected by Pomeroy to finish 9-9 in the Big Ten – could find itself on the bubble and those two losses could be an incredible anchor dragging on the Wolverines’ resume. After the surprise run into the tournament in 2011, it’s been a given that Michigan participates in March Madness – two 4-seeds and a 2-seed over the last three years have been evidence of that – but as of right now, it’s hard to guarantee much. Pomeroy’s metrics gave Michigan a 97.5% chance of beating NJIT and an 86.8% chance of beating Eastern. U of M lost both: the chances of that were over 1 in 300.
At this point, Michigan is a complete unknown. Very solid (but not great) results against Oregon, Villanova – yes, it was a positive indicator of Michigan’s strength that they played the Wildcats close – and Syracuse contrast starkly with the embarrassing upsets at the hands of NJIT and EMU. Michigan was supposed to be a quality, fringe-Top 25 outfit and the first part of the young season certainly suggested that, but expectations need to be calibrated after losing a very bad and a solidly mediocre team at best.
Right now, NJIT is ranked 271st nationally and Eastern is 116th (via Pomeroy). In the last ten years, of Big Ten teams that made the tournament, there are only three roughly comparable home non-conference losses: Penn State lost to Maine (#209) and finished with an 10-seed in 2011; Purdue lost to Wofford (#197) as well as a sub-100 Iowa State team at a neutral site and finished with a 6-seed in 2008; Wisconsin lost to North Dakota State (#182) and finished with a 9-seed in 2006. NJIT is almost definitely worse than those Maine, Wofford, and North Dakota State teams. In and of itself, the Eastern loss isn’t that bad, but paired with the NJIT loss, Michigan’s almost certain to finish with a bad non-conference resume. Fortunately conference play should provide tons of opportunities for quality wins.
[AFTER THE BREAK: Panic! Or don’t. Whatever.]
There are slew of coaching change information flying around. The volume is so high it is deafening, and you can’t make sense of one rumor to the next. Who should you believe? What rumors can you trust? What exactly is happening?
Having a working understanding of how coaching changes work may bring you some level of clarity and ability to weed out chaff from the seeds. For those of you who actually have a life and have no clue how these things usually work, here is a short synopsis of how a new coach is hired by a major program.
Stage 1: Highlander
The battles are coming and the players are getting themselves ready.
This is when the search committee is making a list and checking it twice. The list is large (20+) since anyone who with any reasonable qualifications will be reviewed. The goal is to reduce this number to a manageable number where the vetting can begin. No candidates have been contacted officially, but feelers for obvious top candidates (HARBAUGH!!!) have been sent out via tertiary parties.
You will know when you are in this stage: This is also when you have the most noise, since any agent worth a damn is “leaking” information on how his candidate is a target for the job. Whenever you hear talking heads talk about “I heard from this agent” or “information from my trusted source” not related to the university, you can safely assume that it is coming from the agent who is trying to get his client added to the list (aka. “Michigan reached out to Jay Gruden”).
Harbaugh Deviation: You know you are the top candidate. Everyone you know who is related in anyway with Michigan is telling you, you are the top candidate. You talk about the job with your friends and family, but you are in the middle of a playoff charge, you do not have time to focus on something else.
Stage 2: The Quickening
The bodies of non-contenders are piling up and we start to see who is in it to win it.
The initial list of candidates are whittled down to a manageable size (Hackett is saying this is 14 for Michigan) so that actual vetting can begin. The possible candidates/agents are contacted to see if they are available. If they are, resumes are reviewed, backgrounds are checked, and discussions are held. You will leave enough room so that the candidate can honestly refute that he is looking at another job.
You will know when you are in this stage: You don’t hear a pip from real candidates since the search committee wants to keep this process private and will not look favorably to leaks coming from the candidate’s camp. You will hear from people who were contacted but responded with no interest (aka Cutcliff). There will still be residue noise coming from those who were not contacted, but really wants to be considered (GO AWAY JAY!!!)
Harbaugh Deviation: Your already slim playoff hopes are getting slimmer still. You know you are not coming back with the Niners and start thinking about what comes next. Everybody you know from Michigan are hounding you about taking the job.
Stage 3: Final Dimension
The final scene is set with our hero and his nemesis, and the final fight is coming.
The number of final candidates are set and stack ranked based on desirability. If the candidate is currently employed, the current employer is contacted for permission to interview. High-level negotiations are held to find out exactly what is going to be required to lock down the candidate and whether or not the candidate will accept the offer if given. Interviews are held in secret. Only thing left is the formal offer.
You will know when you are in this stage: There are a torrent of leaks from the target coach’s administration. The real candidates stop denying that they are looking for another job. Various rumors about salary numbers and other perks are leaked. Reports about a random dude claiming that he is a candidate disappears. There are various leaks about candidates turning down the offer (this is when this news would be legitimate).
Harbaugh Deviation: You ask for the world and you are somewhat surprised to find out that Michigan is more than happy to bend over backward to fulfill it (like Carr announcing publicly that Harbaugh is his choice). The season is over now and you are getting Facebook friend requests from various NFL owners. Do you stay in NFL or go back to college?
Stage 4: End Game
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!
You have gone one by one down the stack ranking, and FINALLY one of the candidate says yes. You draft a formal agreement and send it for signature. When it is signed, you announce to the world that a coach has been hired. You deny anyone who suggest that you did not get your top choice and proclaim that only one offer was made and the candidate accepted it (which is technically true).
You will know when you are in this stage: You have a new coach.
Harbaugh Deviation: WHY WON’T YOU TAKE THE JOB????!!!! JUST TAKE THE JOB ALREADY!!!!!
From my point of view, we have just entered the stage 2. I suspect we will get to the stage 3 next week when Niners are officially out of the playoff picture. Hold on to your hat, it is going to be a bumpy one.