this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Ace stole my joke so I guess I have to write something longer. /shakes fist at ace
@mgoblog Beilein is friends with Binghamton's coach -- not sure if that makes it OK, but there it is.
"Yeah, Binghamton Guy?"
"Could you do me a favor?"
"Anything, Binghamton Guy."
"I need you to punch me in the face really hard."
"Love to, Binghamton Guy."
I guess Binghamton gets a check for the one-off game. In all other ways that's a weird way to do a guy a favor.
Seriously though. I'd rather Michigan played a string of Bradley-type games where they play decent competition in home-and-home situations and just inflated the ticket price the dollar or whatever that they'd have to to compensate.
For one, it's more fun for everyone. For two, you get an RPI bonus for playing on the road, a relatively big one:
A home win now counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Inversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss. A neutral game counts as 1 win or 1 loss. This change was based on statistical data that consistently showed home teams in Division I basketball winning about two-thirds of the time. Note that this location adjustment applies only to the WP factor and not the OWP and OOWP factors.
You can futz with the system to give yourself an edge by playing a team that you should beat on the road like Bradley, and in doing so you prep yourself for playing in hostile environments a bit. I'd like Michigan to have a couple mid-major road tests a year.
Unfortunately the Bradley home-and-home is also a Beilein's buddy sort of thing—probably not a coincidence that this series was scheduled after Bradley hired Beilein's son. It's not a thing we can expect to continue. Michigan decided to stop playing Oakland because they were too good, which like… mmph.
That's unfortunate since that game in Peoria was a lot more interesting than this one. It's a lot better to see your team beat an opponent in front of a packed house of upset-demanding Peorians than a deservedly half-full Crisler. It will also be a relative asset come tourney time. I'd like it if Michigan made a habit of going on the road to MVC and A-10 schools. I mean, what if Michigan made a habit of playing at Calihan Hall? That's some branding activity right there.
Ah, that's not going to happen. I know I know incremental revenue is more important than anything that does not provide incremental revenue. As far as the actual game…
Idle Kenpom thoughts. It seems like the way to solve a problem like Wisconsin is to discount games between heavily mismatched opponents. You could feel Michigan just shrug in the second half as they launched uncontested three after uncontested three, and does it really matter that they weren't as good at annihilating a team that plays like that as Wisconsin is?
The problem with this theory is that I bet Kenpom tried it and it didn't work. When he makes changes to his formulas he checks them against previous seasons to see if the changes make them better or worse at predicting things, and I'm sure he's tried something obvious like lessening the importance of mismatches.
It is worth noting that Kenpom took a lot of heat for having Wisconsin second as of January ninth last year, when the Badgers were 1-3 in the Big Ten and had nothing positive on their record save wins over UNLV and BYU. Wisconsin won 11 of their final 14 regular season games and came within a point of upsetting Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Were they overrated? Yeah. Did Kenpom probably have Wisconsin rated better than people complaining about them? Yeah.
But maybe it's just time to throw your hands up at the Badgers and say computers can't rank them well. Last year:
For instance, one of the most respected ratings systems in the nerd world is the LRMC ratings. They had Wisconsin fifth before yesterday’s games. Last year, heading into the tournament, they had Belmont fourth, and their system outperforms mine! The Sagarin predictor, also deservedly respected, had Wisconsin second heading into yesterday’s games.
As always, this is the right attitude to take:
Q: Your work is flawed. (Not really a Q, either, I guess, but I get this all the time.)
A: Ugh, I hate it when people say this. Of course it’s flawed. The thing is, your knowledge is flawed, too. If you are ignoring potentially useful tools because of a single issue, then your judgment is flawed as well. And I’m guessing you’ve never tracked the quality of your knowledge so you don’t even know how flawed it is. If you’re like most people, you think you’re knowledge is great because you remember the predictions you made that worked out and you forget about the ones that didn’t. It’s human nature. …
I would say there’s still enough value in the work here to provide a useful reality check on your own knowledge. Used together, your flawed knowledge and my flawed tools can be more powerful than used separately.
Just mentally account for the fact teams that annihilate low-majors can get overrated and that Wisconsin is currently benefiting from some amount of preseason expectation that is keeping them loftier than they otherwise would be.
No seriously this time I'll talk about the actual game…
Hardaway shooting alarm going off. Baumgardner wrote an article before this one mentioning that Hardaway's shooting had been falling off and that this was okay because he was doing other stuff. I'm on board, but at some point the shooting woes become problematic. In this one he was 2/9 from three, 1/4 from two, and the vast majority of those were wide open looks he just missed. His three point percentage has dipped to 33% and the number of threes he's taking is accelerating rapidly.
He started the year off going to the basket over and over again; he should resume that activity. I'd rather have the guy commit a charge per game than camp out at the three point line. We've got a guy for that now.
The inevitable decline continues. Stauskas was 4-8 from three and was saved a ninth miss on his record because he had a toe on the line—must have, anyway. He got hacked on a couple of short attempts, and this was ignored as the refs must have had DVRed a House marathon and couldn't wait to get back to watch it.
I am still in favor of Stauskas shooting all of the threes. Surprise.
Albrecht still pretty good. Perhaps less impressive against this outfit than Arkansas but in ten minutes he canned a three and had a 2-0 A:TO ratio. He keeps things moving when Burke's out.
Also Horford. Horford is Michigan's most active and impactful defender. McGary keeps sucking in huge rebound numbers (10 in 17 minutes in this one with four offensive rebounds) and will probably keep his place in line. I'm not sure I can detect any dropoff from center #1 to center #3. All of them bring different things to the table.
I'll be interested to see what happens when Cody Zeller comes to town. Eyeballing it, it seems like Horford is the best matchup against him. Will he get extended minutes or will Michigan roll with their current lineup?
The 1-3-1: too aggressive? I may be remembering this wrong but it seems like the 1-3-1 is now extending itself all the way to half-court, which seems like a problem. I recall Horford getting all the way out to the three-point line on one of the 1-3-1 possessions when a driver tried to take it between the trappers, and I recall that happening a couple feet closer to the hoop when I watched WVU.
The thing has not been particularly effective against teams other than Pitt and I wonder if they're just giving up too much space by extending it all the way out. I know a conservative 1-3-1 is a bizarre concept, but… yeah.
Opponent watch update! West Virginia lost to Duquesne for the first time since 2003 despite going up 25-10; they closed the game 9 of 32. Michigan should not have much trouble in Brooklyn.
Jason Avant, you are Jason Avant. Be Jason Avant for us.
"I liked having him around." –everybody
Biannual obvious thing. PSDs go up 75-100 bucks for everyone, effectively raising ticket prices 10-15 bucks depending on the number of home games in any particular year.
At least as more and more of the ticket money gets shifted to annual donations not dependent on beating up small teams the financial window to bring in real opponents goes up. And Stubhub remains a ruthless final word as to pricing. I'm shining it as fast as I can over here, you guys.
Ominously included in the press release is something about Yost:
With the renovations to Yost Ice Arena, the athletic department has expanded offerings for fans interested in premium seats for ice hockey. In addition to the upper level club, the newest offerings are 14 Champions Boxes on the west side and Ice Level Seating in three of the four corners of the rink. There is no PSD for bleacher seating in Yost.
I have been able to walk in and get seats on the blue line twice in the past five years and Michigan has put their miserable early-season schedule up on deal sites the last two, so I don't think the threat is severe. But you never know.
Meanwhile. Attendance is down somewhat across college football, though the Big Ten remains largely immune. As always, announced numbers are thin fictions anyway. Here is a picture of the Orange Bowl as per contractual agreement.
Draft bits. Denard's stock will depend on how well he catches—surprise—and could be a second-rounder, while Lewan is in the same place he's been most of the year:
"It's Eric Fisher or Lewan to be the second tackle off the board," Kiper said. "In the Ohio State game, (Lewan) was beaten that one time, but overall he's been pretty solid this year, got better as the year went along."
Fisher goes to CMU, BTW. Michigan's other prospects are late-round sorts. I'd guess that Kenny Demens has the best shot.
Do it. Er, not that. The seven Big East basketball-only schools have finally had enough with the ever-shifting crap fountain that has been the Big East since expansion got underway seriously and are considering a splinter league with these folks and probably a few others:
The group of 7 schools includes: Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul and Seton Hall. Those schools are concerned about the defection of the core of the Big East basketball conference–Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame as well as the expansion of the conference in football to 12 teams and the inclusion of schools such as Central Florida, Memphis, SMU, Houston and Temple in basketball.
Or, like, all of the others:
The Atlantic 10 has discussed the possibility of a 21-team basketball league in the event that the changing conference landscape makes high-profile Big East schools available, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com Tuesday.
I guess you could play a 20-game round robin and have a real league champion, but that's just weird. Not as weird as 14 team football conferences, but weird. If I was a Catholic School in this window I'd jump at the prospect of being the A-10 part two, adding Xavier and a couple others to form a solid, stable league instead of messing about with Tulane. The attraction of the Big East exited with the latest round of expansion. But money, etc.
Ratings. Here are all of the ratings for college football on networks. Michigan by weekend:
- Alabama: 4.8, #1 (#2: GT-VT on Monday, 2.8)
- Air Force: was a split with USC-Syracuse that averaged 3.3, also #1 but that's not quite fair.
- UMass: N/A
- Notre Dame: 4.0, #1 (#2: Clemson-FSU drew a 2.9 at the same time on ABC)
- Purdue: N/A
- Illinois: Michigan was in a 3-way window that averaged 3.1 on ABC and picked up 0.7 via reverse mirroring. So no idea. LSU-South Carolina did 3.7 and Stanford-ND 3.3.
- Michigan State: N/A
- Nebraska: 1.2, an ESPN2 way off ND-Oklahoma on ABC, a 5.2, and also off ESPN games MSU-Alabama (2.1) and OSU-PSU(2.3) despite the latter game being essentially a nonentity.
- Minnesota: N/A
- Northwestern: a 1.8 on ESPN in the noon window.
- Iowa: also a 1.8 on ESPN in the noon window.
- OSU: 5.8, noon ABC, #5 game of the year. Let's move it to October or make it a meaningless prelude to a rematch. Erosion, baby.
That Nebraska number is shockingly low. The Huskers drew a 2.8 for a game against Oklahoma, a 2.7 for their first game against Wisconsin, and a 3.1 against OSU. I guess ND-Oklahoma sucked everyone away.
Well yeah. GRIII has been playing at the four for Michigan, obviating preseason concerns about a potentially awkward fit between Michigan's personnel and the offense John Beilein has run in the past.
I don't think that preseason meme was a good one. Since arriving at Michigan, Beilein has ditched the 1-3-1 and an entire coaching staff and incorporated a ton of ball screens into an offense previously devoid of them. If it was a good idea, Beilein would probably do it. Playing two posts has not really been a good idea when you've got a 6'6" guy who can get up and shoot threes at the four, so he hasn't done it. Instead it's Izzo trying to shoehorn Nix and Payne into the same lineups before throwing in the towel on it.
Speaking of the 1-3-1. It doesn't really exist. Seth Davis is catching on you guys:
SI.com: Is it me, or are you not using the 1-3-1 zone as much as you used to?
JB: We've done it in spots, but we haven't done it at length for a while. We used it in the NCAA tournament and that was all people wanted to talk about. One of my assistants calls it Big Foot. Everybody talks about it, but nobody sees it anymore.
But conversation about it will not die thanks to quotes like this:
It's either you use it as a gimmick a couple times, or you either learn it," Beilein said. "We're not trying to be a gimmick team.
"We're trying to learn it."
Baumgardner highlights another portion of that presser in re: Caris LeVert:
"(When we saw that [a turnover] on film), we smiled," Beilein said. "It seems (LeVert's) his arms go forever. His quickness just adds to that. ... You remember in the past even when it was effective, mostly ineffective, Stu Douglass would be (out front) but he's not really long. Zack Novak would be out there.
"When Manny (Harris) played the one year he was more comfortable on the wing. (The front spot) is the most important position. We feel between Nik (Stauskas, at 6-foot-6) and Caris, those two guys are long enough and have the energy to do that."
They're not really there yet despite the success against Pitt—the 1-3-1 has resulted in a lot of open looks and dunks despite the addition of the proverbial length. It's been worth a spin to see; the answer is "not yet."
Andy Glockner sees warning signs in Michigan's defense to date:
Defensively, there's some room for concern, though. Michigan currently is living off a totally unsustainable combination of defensive rebounding rate (currently No. 4 in Division I at 77 percent) and not putting opponents on the line (No. 3 in free throw rate). Even with that combo, the Wolverines are "only" 25th in the country in overall adjusted defensive efficiency. In laymen's terms, that means they're not stopping people all that well on initial shot attempts.
Those numbers will come down a bit, sure, but Michigan outrebounded (in a tempo-free sense) OREB powerhouses Pitt (21st) and KState (5th) already this year. A decline to last year's poor conference DREB does not seem to be in the cards. I do agree that a defense without much shot blocking or forced turnovers has a ceiling on it that is considerably below Michigan's lights-out offense.
Batten down the hatches. Michigan gets to play the GLI without Trouba or Merrill. How do you feel about that, Red?
Losing Jacob Trouba for the GLI is a good problem to have says Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson
“We’ve taken a firm stance as a program that we support the World Juniors program,” Berenson said. “On the flipside, we miss them during the GLI. That’s a big hole on our team, but I’m not going to hold a kid back.”
Not the way the headline implied.
Etc.: Consensus: Taylor Lewan adds AP All-American status to those of Walter Camp, Athlon, ESPN, and CBS. Cincinnati's unsuccessful scramble to exit the Big East. Practices are intense man. Jay Bilas says Trey Burke is the top point guard in the country, does not mention anything about how Michigan should have kept Tommy Amaker. Volleyball makes the final four.
12/8/2012 – Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 – 9-0
mgouser Blazefire wins a cookie for being inside my brain / Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
A guy named Kikko Haydar popped off the bench, and John Beilein wondered who he was. So did the rest of Crisler. It turned out we already knew him: Haydar is from the Merritt/Lee school of useful walk-on that Michigan fans know so well. He hit a three, and then another, and then another, and when Michigan lost him again in the second half Kikko Haydar got a Nik Stauskas Memorial Road Crowd Groan. It was warranted. He hit it.
This is a problem. Some walk-on jumping off the bench to pick up 12 points on 5 shots throws a wrench in many of your victory plans, especially when this is part of a team-wide 60% effort from behind the line. For most teams, it is a problem that affects your win-loss record and makes everybody sad. For Michigan, it affects their Kenpom ranking in a displeasing way and just makes super-nerd subscribers to Kenpom slightly annoyed that Pitt has jumped Michigan and I mean seriously Ken let's get some margin of victory capping up in here. I may or may not be in the latter group.
Anyway. When an overeager Haydar picked up the blocking foul in the shot above, he laid on the floor theatrically for a moment, and then Tim Hardaway Jr. helped him up. Haydar smacked his hands together and smiled. Dollars to donuts he thought something like we are going to lose but at least I've got a story to tell about the time I rained on future NBA players. His parents are both professors, I mean.
Arkansas did lose. By a lot, while shooting 60% on 17 threes.
Arkansas made a push in the second half thanks to a bunch of Michigan turnovers and their unconscious three-point shooting, and I had an experience I only recognized as strange afterwards: I was annoyed. Not frightened or despairing or waiting for the inevitable thing that always happens to happen, like any sports fan who's watched a frustrating outfit has. Annoyed.
Like when Penn State scored on a screen to bring the Pit Bull game to within a touchdown. You know, this game:
Annoyed because the scoreboard isn't going to reflect what happened here today.
I thought back to watching Beilein's first team against Boston College, 3-3 on their way to 10-22. The BC game was the first one against a real opponent in Crisler, and I remember thinking the second-half run the Eagles used to put the game away was something bound to happen to this collection of young guys without much direction. A few players who saw the floor for at least 25% of Michigan's minutes: Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, Anthony Wright, Ron Coleman. Lee and Merritt were still a year away from maximum playing time. At some point you're going to have a collection of players out there that loses the plot, and then that's that.
Saturday I had the exact opposite experience. This team is too good and too deep and just too damn efficient to let a middling team keep it close even when they execute their impression of Beilein's first team.
So: here we are. It took nine games of watching these guys to go from thinking they're overrated to comparing them to the 2006 football team's defense. The capital-e Expectations have arrived, and are settling in for a long stay. This is going to be a different thing for all of us.
I spent large chunks of last year talking about how lovely it was to be able to appreciate a Michigan team with Novak and Douglass for exactly what they were, and be content with how they ended up as soon as they got that banner in Crisler. The loss to OHIO in the tournament sucked but it didn't suck in that way I know so well from hockey fandom:
The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better…
The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.
These gentlemen do not have that luxury. They are too too good at basketball to lose to a short guy nailing a bunch of threes, as OHIO did last year. They are too too good to get flustered by a full-court press, or even see much of one.
This is no longer a scrappy program. This is a program that will step on your throat. It took nine games.
They are the hunted now.
Shots from Bryan Fuller:
Forty minutes of mildly annoying warmth with mosquitoes. Arkansas's vaunted press was rarely applied in this game, in part because Arkansas rarely got an opportunity to set it up because they weren't making many baskets—they stayed in it by making most of their makes worth three. When Arkansas did get a make and set up, Michigan broke the press with a couple passes and that was it. I don't recall a single turnover forced by the press.
That's another example of the growth on the team after they got flustered and behind 17-4 last year. This time out they were calm and prepared; they've now got four guys on the floor who are above-average handlers for their position most of the time, and a plan. Once Michigan got it to Burke it was over, and Arkansas knew it. Nice to prove that.
BOX OUT! …is something Mike Anderson must scream in his sleep. Michigan—which I remind you is Michigan, a historically rebound-allergic team—outrebounded Arkansas. On Michigan misses. Yes. Michigan had 16 offensive rebounds to 15 Arkansas defensive rebounds. On the other side of the ball, it was 5 to 23.
This is something you could have predicted as Arkansas is horrendous at defensive rebounding and meh on offense; it's still something to marvel over. It's hard to remember that Mike Anderson took three Missouri teams to the tournament before moving to Arkansas, because the team Michigan just went up against looked Amakerian in its inability to do anything right. Just year two for him, I guess.
[@ right: Fuller]
Ruthlessly hacked to the bench. Matt Vogrich, we'll always have the 2011 Tennessee blowout in which you went 5-5 from the floor for 11 points in 16 minutes and got a gritty offensive rebound and a gritty steal and generally contributed to a huge fun tourney blowout that eventually produced this picture:
He'll probably show up in a game or two this year when injury or foul trouble forces him to but it really looks like short of that he's joined the McLimans brigade. Which is something, because though he'd had a dismal start to this year Vogrich had some bonafides coming in and now he's seemingly done save for extenuating circumstances.
I can't say that's wrong—Vogrich was really not playing well. I'm just pointing it out as another example of Beilein changing his mind in ways some other coaches would not.
Now. Now. Now. That Caris LeVert hasn't done a whole lot in Vogrich's stead is actually evidence that the coaches are planning for this to be the year. LeVert has a lot more upside, and if he doesn't get there this year you can always try Vogrich again in February and make a decision as far as march goes. But Beilein went into this year thinking about LeVert's redshirt senior season; now he's thinking about ten to fifteen possessions in a game this march. That's the right call, I think.
Let's hear it for Horford. Another game without a shot attempt in which Jon Horford comes out seeming like a potentially key piece in some game down the stretch when Michigan is struggling with a post player. UMHoops highlighted this defensive possession that is an I be like dang moment:
Three blocks, four rebounds, and a steal in ten minutes on the floor is exactly what Michigan needs from Horford when the starting lineup is pouring in at least twelve per person. McGary and Horford are producing a lot of extra possessions, and the offense doesn't need that many more to be lethally efficient.
Little Big Dog is also a highly efficient peripheral scorer. He lead Michigan with 17 in this one and did it in two ways, mostly: on wide open shots from behind the line and on layups/dunks other people set up. Robinson has the athleticism to make those assisted interior buckets extremely high percentage and is beginning to finish through contact effectively, but Michigan doesn't really run anything from or through him. He's there to finish, clean up, and shoot when you sag off him, and he's doing all of those exceptionally well: he's got a top 100 ORtg, a low TO rate, and a top 250 OReb rate.
Part of the reason this team is playing so well is it has guys who are extremely effective without the ball, and Robinson is probably the best example of that.
BONUS DAWSON COMPARISON CHECK-IN: Creepy, in fact.
- Rebounding rate (O/D): Robinson 11.6/14.3, Dawson 11.2/13.2
- Twos: Robinson 32/53, 60%. Dawson 47/77, 61%
- FTs (FT rate/FT%): Robinson 39/76%, Dawson 28/45% (he was 60% last year FWIW)
- A/TO rate (A/TO): Robinson 7.3/13.8, Dawson 13/25.6
Dawson has a higher usage rate by a few points and seems to be in a situation where he's being asked to generate some offense of his own. The big differences are in shooting (big edge to GRIII, who's hitting 38% from three and is a non-liability on the line) and defense (statistically a big edge to Dawson, who is blocking a ton of shots and getting a ton of steals; in this case I think those statistics bear out a real difference since GRIII is not an impact defender by any stretch of the imagination).
Hardaway complete player watch. Michigan's an extraordinarily good defensive rebounding team this year, currently fourth behind some small schools. They'll come back to earth some in the Big Ten like they did last year. I don't expect that will be nearly as harsh that decline to ninth in the league, though, as you've got Robinson replacing Novak, McGary and Horford replacing Smotrycz, and Tim Hardaway's massive improvement in this category pushing things over the top. Hardaway is mere decimal points away from passing Jordan Morgan in DR%.
Spike! Albrecht isn't giving Burke much more of a rest than he had last year—Burke minutes have dropped only 5%—but he is proving a nice player to have around. In this game he hit a key three and pushed a partial break off the press to set up GRIII for one of his layups. On both plays he showed a confidence that belied his class status if not his years—he's actually a few months older than Burke.
He's probably never going to be a starter aside from a few games at the beginning of next year before the Derrick Walton era gets under way, but he's an excellent guy to have around steadying the ship for the next few years. Burke and Beilein on Spike:
"There was a time around the seven- or eight-minute mark (of the second half) where it was just up and down for about six or seven possessions," Burke said after Michigan's 80-67 win over Arkansas. "I don't know if I had gotten a foul or what, but there was a dead ball and I was pretty tired because it was just non-stop.
"But Spike did a great job. And coach Beilein did a great job of getting guys in and out."
And, sure enough, moments after entering the game with under eight minutes to go Saturday, Albrecht made a difference. The freshman backup point guard nailed a 3-pointer to push Michigan's lead up to seven.
The next trip down the court, he found Glenn Robinson III for a layup. When he left the game two minutes later, the Wolverines were up nine and things were basically in hand.
"Spike was terrific, wasn't he?" Beilein remarked afterward. "I don't think he had a turnover, his numbers were terrific and they continue to be. He really helps us."
John Beilein is good at talent evaluation. E-fact.
Morgan silly foul re-evaluation watch. Repeating myself here but when Morgan shot out to the perimeter to get a silly foul on a screen hedge late in the first half, my reaction would have been…
…last year and has now become…
…and this was a game that Morgan was dominating. I was just like "okay McGary or Horford will maintain approximately this level of play" and that was basically right. I like depth! It's fun.
Three headed-center totals in this one normalized to 40 minutes (they got 49): 15 points on 53% shooting, 16 rebounds, 8 of them offensive, 3 blocks, 3 TO, 2 steals. That center spot may be the least glamorous on the team but it is producing as well as any of the other starters.
I was not surprised when they called that, FWIW, and don't care if it was slightly unsportsmanlike. (Neither does anyone else.) Look how much joy he is bringing Mitch McGary. Mitch McGary only feels that much joy six to eight times an hour. Would you rob him of that?
There's a new ceiling for Michigan basketball these days, and it figuratively extends from the top of the polished Crisler Center straight to the shiny floor. You could argue the structure, from the arena to the team, looks as good as it ever has — and expectations are higher than they've ever been.
The Wolverines aren't some quick-shooting oddity anymore. They're deep, talented and feisty, and here's the notion that should warm Michigan fans — they're getting tough in the trenches, with the size and gumption to rebound.
Highlights from Arkansas:
Meta stuff: Still working out the kinks on this feature. There shouldn't be 30-second ads in the future (just 15-second ones). The plan is we'll get to pick certain highlights to be included, and that these will be available as soon as a few hours after each game. Also working on not having such an ugly branding banner on the top there.
Also taking suggestions for what we should call it and what else we can do with it. We don't really have time to do entire video UFRs but maybe video picture pages or something? What're you interested i?
Some games are just games. When there are just games we just write the bullets. Don't forget Ace's instant recap.
12/4/2012 – Michigan 73, Western Michigan 41 – 8-0
So Michigan gets 7 and 9 points from Robinson and Hardaway as both shoot 3 of 10 from the floor and they win by 32. The new normal: better than the old normal. That was offset by a monster night from Trey Burke: 20 points on 11 shots, 7 assists, no turnovers, three steals. And onward.
Pick your sloppy point. Michigan is still working through long sections during which they look pretty sloppy, which probably shouldn't be a surprise with two or three freshmen on the court at all times. In this game it was early; in the previous two the rough patch was down the stretch. The net effect was about the same adjusted for level of competition.
To some extent that is basketball, but if they can just smooth out a couple of the rough patches by March…
/picks up paper bag
Tempo still slow, slow, slow. Michigan is 324th in tempo. I don't get it. It seems like Michigan is pushing the ball as much as makes sense for them to do. The Daily has an article headlined "Transition becomes Michigan's best option on offense" and I thought that was reasonable. A couple times in this game I thought Hardaway was going into two or three players when pulling it out and setting up the half-court offense was a better idea. And yet Michigan's tempo has barely budged. They're up under a possession a game from last year.
All I've got is this: Michigan takes care of the ball so well (13th in TO%) and doesn't force a whole lot of turnovers, leading to fewer short possessions that tend to lead to yet more short possessions when an open-court turnover turns into a fast break.
Supporting evidence: Beilein's teams at West Virginia forced a ton of turnovers and were a bit faster, ranked in the 270s and 280s instead of the 320s as Michigan's last four teams have been. Beilein's fastest team since 2003 was his first one at Michigan; that outfit had a lot of TOs, at least relative to Beilein averages.
It should be noted that the differences here are not huge: Michigan is about four and a half possessions away from the national average.
Big shooting: more spread out but more of it. A game like the WMU game stands out because Michigan's bigs were collectively 9/11 from the floor and took zero jumpshots to get there. Most of their efforts were throwing it down off the pick and roll, with a coast-to-coast Morgan steal and layup thrown in for good measure.
Anyway: though the bigs' collective usage is never going to approach the 2010-11 version of Morgan, Morgan only played 60% of Michigan's minutes that year. He got up 225 shots, which he made at a 63% clip. This year Morgan and McGary are collectively getting 87% of Michigan's minutes and are collectively 43/66.
Since there are two of them the lower usage is made up for by more efficient minutes. Michigan played 35 games two years ago. If they get the same number this year those two bigs shooting 64% will have gotten up 289 attempts. Michigan keeps sucking bad attempts out of the offense.
Given that, what is the weak spot on Michigan's offense? Is it GRIII? I think it is. GRIII would have been the best or second-best player on almost every Michigan team since the Fab Five exited, and he's the perimeter-ish guy on the floor who has low usage and isn't Stauskas. His ORtg is 126, which is near the top 100. In this game I got a little annoyed at him because of context.
/breathes into paper bag
Speaking of context. Trey Burke, who has been only okay shooting so far this year, was 8 of 11 and scored 20. I wrote that sentence and then looked it up to check. Burke twos are going in at an excellent 57% clip, which places him… fifth on the team.
/paper bag no longer works
Stauskas crazy stats watch. After missing two of four free throws he's down to an almost-human 89%, but going 3/4 from behind the line pushes his 3PT% on the year to 64%(!!!) and keeps that efficiency off the charts: 2nd in true shooting, 3rd in eFG, 3rd in ORtg. He picked up four assists in this one, too, including a couple of those pick and roll jams.
Western largely got the message about Stauskas and was able to limit his attempts to six—eight if you count the free-throw generating events, but one of those was off an offensive rebound. The beneficiaries of that were the bigs.
I'd like to see a little more of the offense run through Stauskas putting it on the floor. A couple of buckets in this game came when he drove, passed it out to the perimeter, and then Hardaway or Burke drove again, passing to a post for an easy layup or and-one. Both are in that highlight reel above. Reason this seems to work so well: you have to close Stauskas out so hard that help defense has to come over really early—on the and-one Stauskas only takes a couple steps—and then when the second guy gets the ball he gets an extra rotation and by that point if you're still effectively covering a post player well that's pretty dang impressive.
Stauskas also had a couple moments on the pick and roll, one a quick-release three, the other a Burke-like bounce pass for a McGary dunk. What I am trying to say is that Stauskas is really good. He could play some spot minutes at the point even.
Defense? It's hard to complain too much when the opposition shoots under 30% but Jim Jackson kept pointing out that Michigan's hard hedging put them in bad positions when opposition players were allowed to make easy passes for a series of layup-type-substances in the first half, and I was like "yeah" and grumbly.
Michigan adjusted shortly thereafter and then Western was close to helpless. I still think there's something just not there with the defense yet. I can't quite put a finger on it. Overall they're probably better because they've got the athleticism to rebound a lot more consistently, so it's got to be a lack of a guy who seems like a really good perimeter defender to harass the opposition's best player.
Horford helps out. No shots from Michigan's third big in ten minutes but five rebounds, one on offense, plus a couple other plays that didn't make it into the box score: he deflected an interior pass that led to a fast break, got a tap-out that led to an offensive rebound that I think gets credited to someone else and D-ed up on a couple of other possessions.
A good night for SOS. NC State came out on top of a nip-and-tuck battle against UConn; Northwestern went to Waco and beat Baylor. The rest of the Big Ten held serve against low-level competition, though Illinois had a scare against 3-6 Western Carolina. Their chances of beating Gonzaga: not great.
Albrecht > McDonalds AA (Detnews)
Speaking of NC State. I watched the second half of that game and still can't get over Tyler Lewis, their hobbit backup PG, being a McDonald's guy. When he came in Ryan Boatright's eyes got wide and he got to the lane for a couple easy buckets before Gottfried yanked Lewis. He's 5'11" and is truly indistinguishable from Albrecht; his one contribution to the offense was missing a tough jumper from around the free throw line after failing to get past Boatright.
Sanity checking the eye test with season stats: a third of NC State minutes, 17% usage, huge TO rate, 5 of 13 on the year from two and 0 of 3 from three. Albrecht is in fact a much better player statistically.
How anyone could look at Lewis versus Stauskas and rank the guy seven inches shorter way above the 6'6" assassin is inexplicable. The hobbit was at Oak Hill and Stauskas is Canadian. End of plausible explanations. I even find that dubious since Stauskas was all over the AAU circuit.
I can't wait for Lewis to be an okay player as an upperclassman and for this section to be used in an article on how he has Overcome The Critics.
Photos. From Bryan Fuller:
ANN ARBOR -- Midway through the first half Tuesday, Michigan fans got a first-hand glimpse at the eccentric personality of freshman big man Mitch McGary.
During a media timeout, McGary was featured during a pre-recorded, university-produced question and answer spot on the arena's large video screen.
But in the process of answering questions like "what's your favorite movie" and "who is your favorite singer," the 6-foot-10, 260-pound power forward broke out into song.
But not just any song, a Justin Bieber song.
Recaps from Holdin' The Rope, the News, and UMHoops. Baumgardner on Burke. Interviews with McGary and Burke. Bielfeldt sprained his ankle in practice, wore a boot on the sideline last night, and will miss a week or two.