"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Merry Christmas! Things are happening. So far not particularly interesting things, but my productivity is as damaged as all of yours. Our South Dakota State preview went up Monday. In a nutshell:
Nate Wolters is Summit Trey Burke. South Dakota State won the Summit with a 13-3 record; their only KP100 victories came against conference-mate NDSU (#72; SDSU went 2-1 against them) and a stunning road win over New Mexico that went down despite the Jackrabbits having to bus their way to Albuquerque. They finished third in their conference in defensive efficiency but no one plays D in the Summit and once Kenpom throws in the schedule strength adjustment, SDSUs defense drops into the 200s.
Michigan's defense isn't great, but it's nowhere near that. If Michigan can D-up a bit they should make it through.
S-E-C. Oh, Cuonzo Martin.
You guys are going to have to improve your level of play before we consider you a mid-major conference, I think. The game article of course focuses on how much longer Mercer had to get over the disappointment of making the tournament; Martin says his players were "emotionally drained," of course.
Titus says not today. I would mind Mark Titus being completely wrong on this:
Trey Burke will spoil the Nate Wolters coming-out party
I really hope I’m wrong on this, not just because I want to see my alma mater’s biggest rival lose in the first round, but also because there’s a decent amount of hype surrounding Wolters and I would love for him to live up to it. I’m fully aware of what he’s capable of against Summit League competition, but like most college basketball fans, I’ve yet to see him play on a big stage. And going toe-to-toe in the NCAA tournament against a former no. 1–ranked team led by the probable national player of the year is about as big as the stage gets. Because of this matchup and because a lot of people have heard about Wolters but haven’t seen him play, Michigan-South Dakota State is one of the most anticipated Day 1 games. Wolters’s entire career will culminate with his showdown against Burke, and his NBA future could depend largely on this one game. Unfortunately, I expect Burke to get the better of him and prove why he’s the best point guard in America. But I wouldn’t mind being completely wrong.
I too am dreading an unspecified commercial that will make me homicidal for the next three weeks. I swear to God if I see that dip with the blue guitar today I'm watching the entire tourney on mute.
People who don't understand probability make me mad and want to play poker. Kenpom takes issue with Mike DeCourcy's inability to multiply. I'm with him, of course. I mean…
Actually us “metrics people” can avoid it. Florida reasonably has a 10 to 20 percent of winning the tournament. They will almost surely end their season, like 67 other tournament teams, with a loss. Their chances of getting to the Final Four are less than 50/50. The “metrics” actually tell you this, but either Mike doesn’t understand the concept of probabilities, or he willingly ignores this to stake out a position that will make him look like a savant at some point over the next three weeks. His approach is very likely to win over an audience in the world of the metrics-haters. (Or as I prefer to call them, dorks.)
Stuff like this that drives me nuts even when I know I'm susceptible to the same thinking on occasion. (See: annual sheepish "we're sorry, Kenpom" when Wisconsin turns out to be kind of good.) DeCourcy isn't even interested in trying to figure it out, which is a crappy way to be an arguer about sports. "I don't understand your argument. Therefore you lack heart."
Morgan might not start. Hard to argue with that after the last few games:
"That injury really took his timing off," Beilein said. "He's a kid who takes the game very seriously -- maybe too seriously. He just needs to relax and play and know we believe in him.
"He's going to get in there tomorrow and we hope he's going to do what he needs to do."
Would be nice to get him back functional in the near future. The very near future.
Insert clasped "excellent" hands here. Devin Gardner on not being a supervillain:
Gardner also has immersed himself in non-Michigan film. Coordinator Al Borges has provided cut-ups of former NFL quarterback Jason Campbell when he played at Auburn under Borges, in an offense that will resemble Michigan's next season.
"It would be sinister for me not to watch those guys," he says.
Tate Forcier was last seen plotting to blow up the White House with a laser made from clips of him against Notre Dame.
"(I learned from Robinson) never get too happy, or too sad, when you do things," Gardner said. "It's just a happy medium you have to find."
In other spring news. Desmond Morgan working "exclusively" at MLB for the moment; expected to know both LB spots; dollars to donuts he starts at MLB with Ross on the weakside. Marvin Robinson is your extremely tenuous early Kovacs replacement leader; sounds like Burzynski is mostly focusing on guard right now.
Etc.: GRIII noncommital about NBA. Nothing can ever change in the NCAA. Do you like blurry photos of shirtless dudes too? Ondre Pipkins did lose a lot of belly. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are the Michigan and Indiana state players of the year, respectively.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Wisconsin|
|WHEN||2:30 PM Eastern|
Ah, Wisconsin. Tempo-clubbing, basketball-imploding, infuriating-non-call-generating, desperation-three-point-chuck-heaving, Kenpom-enthralling Wisconsin. How your presence enfouls all that is good about Big Ten basketball this year. Chernobyl: the basketball team. And so forth.
The Badgers' calling card is defense, and how, but we'll discuss their abilities in that department in the Tempo Free section. On offense, they've got one of the most bizarre breakdowns I've seen in many years of clicking refresh on Kenpom. Senior power forward Ryan Evans is Wisconsin's highest-usage and lowest-efficiency player. As statistical anomalies go, that's pretty amazing. Evans absorbs 26% of Wisconsin shots despite shooting 42% from the floor; he also shoots 42% from the line. He gets to the line rather frequently, but since that's to Wisconsin's detriment it's not a particularly good representation of his game, which is midrange jumper after midrange jumper. He is an excellent rebounder and, like almost everyone on Wisconsin, turns the ball over rarely.
Three players provide what offensive firepower the Badgers have, most prominently center Jared Berggren. Berggren is yet another 6'10" upperclassman who has three-point range and can beast you on the inside. Berggren is more beast and less sniper than, say, John Leuer; they all come from the same mold. Berggren rebounds at both ends, blocks shots without fouling, and has an incredibly low TORate for a guy his size. The main flaw in his game is 25% shooting on 75 threes. He's terribly underrated.
You probably know Ben Brust, a perimeter-oriented shooting guard hitting 40% from three. He is much less effective inside the line (48%; very rare trips to the line), and Michigan should close him out ferociously.
The third offensive cogs doesn't even start: freshman Sam Dekker. He's getting barely over half of Wisconsin's minutes despite shooting 55%/43% on quality usage. He's not the rebounder Evans is and isn't the defender; he's a much, much better offensive option.
Point guard Traevon Jackson is a high-turnover player who shoots 41%/30%. Michigan might well encourage him to shoot; Mike Bruesewitz tells you all you need to know about him with his last name. He's there to D up, rebound, and put up a small number of high quality looks. Like Berggren, he takes threes when they present themselves despite hitting well under 30%.
Wisconsin had a weird finish to their season after that prayer by Brust. They lost in OT at Minnesota the next night, had consecutive whompings of Ohio State(!), Northwestern, and Nebraska, and then finished the year on a depressing slide. They lost to Purdue by 13 at home and at Michigan State by 15 in a game in which they put up a measly 43.
They finished the year with another desperation three, this one at Penn State. While Michigan had their own, worse struggles at Penn State, that ain't good. The Badgers finished the Big Ten season with the same 12-6 record Michigan did and won the tiebreaker for the fourth spot thanks to the Brust prayer and Michigan's lack of a return game.
Four factors, now conference-only (small sample, yes, but numbers are equally skewed by various cupcakes on the non-conference schedule):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||46.9 (6)||16.2 (3)||30.3 (8)||29.5 (10)|
|Defense||42.2 (1)||15.4 (11)||27.0 (1)||23.5 (1)|
The Badgers are a funhouse mirror version of Michigan. Both teams take care of the ball, force very few turnovers, never get to the line, and never put their opponents on the line.
The distortions come in defensive rebounding—Wisconsin is great and Michigan progressively worse—and eFG% at both ends of the floor. On offense Michigan is great, with Wisconsin scraping out a middling existence. On defense Wisconsin is great, with Michigan scraping out a less-than-middling existence.
Run two guys off the line only. Preventing three pointers is a skill that Wisconsin has and Michigan should try to emulate. Dekker and Brust should be closed down with extreme predjudice; everyone else you can chill on save backup PG George Marshall.
Get handsy on D. If you're putting Wisconsin on the line that's only a slight downgrade in expectation, one that should be offset by an increased ability to get those stop things. Obviously, Evans is the main issue for the Badgers here.
For pants sake don't hedge the pick and roll hard. Look man, if Traevon Jackson wants to pull up, let him pull up. Don't unbalance your defense and invite Jared Berggren to beast on Trey Burke. Just go under the damn screen. This will not happen.
Brust P&R is another matter, but even then Michigan has to stop pointlessly getting its big well outside the three-point line, whereupon disaster occurs.
Make your midrange jumpers. Wisconsin's defense is so good because they get away with subtle murder. Refs don't want the bad man to yell at them. But also they cut off good shots. Hoop Math shows that nearly half of shots Wisconsin faces are two point jumpers, AKA The Devil's shot. Points per shot on the three categories:
- RIM: 1.1
- TWOS: 0.7
- THREES: 0.9
Michigan got off more threes than Wisconsin usually allows in the first game. They hit only five of 18.
I don't have much hope that Michigan is going to break Wisconsin tendencies here, so the answer is Hardaway and Burke making their pull-ups. Pull-ups suck, but you can't get a blocking call on Wisconsin to save your life and Burke's floater is deadly. In the last game, Wisconsin continually sagged off Burke on the pick and roll; Burke hit 6 of 13 twos. That was almost good enough.
This is a terrible matchup for Stauskas, who may be Not Just A Shooter™ but has very little midrange game. In the first game he had five points on seven shots.
McGary: fight Berggren to a standstill on the boards. Self explanatory.
Do something, GRIII. Ditto.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1.