Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
2/1/2012 – Michigan 68, Indiana 56 – 17-6, 7-3 Big Ten
At the beginning of Michigan's most epic brutal stretch of the season, they made a radical change by consigning Evan Smotrycz to the bench in favor of Stu Douglass. Zack Novak wearily took up the mantle of power forward again and Michigan soldiered through. Five of six games into the MEBS they're now 3-2 and guaranteed to come out at least .500, eyeing a Sweet Sixteen seed if they can win the games they should down the road.
Small sample size and all, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the impact that shift has had on Michigan's defense. When Beilein made the shift he said it was his best defensive lineup, after all. Chart? Chart.
Michigan without Stu in the starting lineup:
[note that there are more home games than road; I attempted to adjust for that by subtracting 3.5 points from the opponent's efficiency. A home-road swing is worth 7 points and let's blindly assign half of that to the offense]
|Opponent||Score||Possessions||B10 Off Eff||Expected Score||Delta|
Michigan with Stu in the starting lineup:
|Opponent||Score||Possessions||B10 Off Eff||Expected Score||Delta|
So, there you go. Exceedingly weak statistical evidence in a small sample size* that shifting Douglass into the starting lineup has been worth one and a half points per game. Since Michigan won two of the games he started by 1 and 2 points, this seems relevant to our interests. Let's not make too much of it—Michigan State could blow this away in one shooting streak. But our Bayesian estimate of Douglass improving the M defense should shift over 50%.
This is only part of what Douglass has brought to the table. Now I'm going to delve in to wishy feely stuff; I wanted to get some numbers on the internet to make me feel better about what's about to come.
But… close your eyes and envision the two most improved players on the team this year. Did you get Novak and Douglass? I'm guessing you did, what with images of Douglass driving into the lane and something bad not happening or Novak pulling up for a midrange jumper that gets only net.
this could be going well! (Upchurch)
That's weird. Freshmen get better faster than seniors, especially when the seniors are guards and the freshmen are largely posts. This year's most prominent freshman-to-sophomore transitions have not gone real well. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a fair bit less efficient than he was as a freshman. So is Jordan Morgan. Smotrycz is a lot better but has been marginalized during this important stretch; his incredible shooting in the nonconference season has evaporated in the Big Ten.
Normally that would spell doom. If I materialized in your bathtub in October and said "ooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhhh, TIM HARDAWAY JR WILL AVERAGE 27% FROM THREE POINT RANGE, oooooOOOOOOoooooohhhh" you would be more terrified for Michigan's basketball prospects than the fact you'd just had a time-travelling blogger ghost appear in a place you thought was safe from that sort of nonsense. And that's saying something.
But even though Hardaway and Morgan are less efficient and Trey Burke isn't quite at the level Darius Morris was last year, here they are aiming for a Sweet 16 seed. You can say this is Trey Burke's team, and you'd be right, and you can say Tim Hardaway Jr. is Michigan's most important player, and you'd be right. The two seniors are the guys duct-taping up all the leaks the team has sprung as it moves forward without Morris and Tim Hardaway's 44% conference three-point shooting.
Michigan may get better after they leave on sheer talent, but Douglass and Novak are two remarkable overachievers. Michigan needed two guys like that to change the culture around here after a decade-long tourney-free streak. No one thought they'd be guys snatched from Valpo (if they were even interested!) and Harvard. Even if their numbers shouldn't get raised to the rafters, those who come after them will stand on their shoulders. It may be Trey Burke's team but it's Douglass's and Novak's program.
*[FWIW, Arkansas put up about four more points than you'd expect if M was equal to an average SEC defense. I think that's more about Michigan being unprepared for the press—giving those points up on offense.]
Bullets That Always Go In If Shot By Jordan Hulls
GOOD LORD JORDAN HULLS. Dude was shooting 48% from three before yesterday's 4 of 5 performance. And a lot of those were tough.
God, what does it take to get a three point sniper who's actually lethal in college, too? Vogrich was reputed to be the best shooter in the country and is struggling to get above 25%. Come on, Stauskas.
Christian Watford guarding Trey Burke. It worked for a while as Burke seemed confused by the very idea; then Burke started crossing the dude over and screaming towards the basket. Weird, weird idea. Glad that Burke played through it. It was looking a little hopeless on offense for a while there.
Watford, by the way, annihilated Michigan in the game in Bloomington and is shooting 47% from three—actually much better than he is from 2 (42%). Weird player.
Jordan Morgan guarding Cody Zeller. Great, great job. Zeller is shooting 66% and has a top ten eFG%; Michigan held him to 4 of 9 shooting and IIRC two of his baskets were offensive rebound putbacks. This was almost all Morgan with a little Smotrycz in there, and Zeller could hardly get a shot opportunity.
Morgan's main advantage over most big men is his agility, activity, and endurance. He fronts everyone and rarely gives up good post position; Michigan cheats down behind him to cut off lob passes and leaves that backdoor three open. It's been effective overall.
You can see the good and bad of it in Michigan's conference Kenpom stats. They're #2 in the league at forcing turnovers; over 20% of opponent possessions end without a shot. They never put anyone on the line. Their 2PT% D is acceptable despite being short—their block percentage is last in the league. The main downside is giving up a lot of quality threes. 38% is good for only tenth in the league at 3PT defense. Given the composition of the roster, I'll take it. Michigan has to endure a lot of open threes to give themselves a chance inside. Considering the available athletes they're doing a good job.
Tim Hardaway jack watch. There were three or four, including another long two with lots of time on the shot clock. I don't mind him taking a three in the context of the offense. The ones where he just rises and fires are not good.
Michigan should start running him off Rip Hamilton-esque curl screens with the intent of getting him moving towards the basket with his man already to one side. That seems like it will result in profit. And possibly charges, but who cares about charges?
Watford and Zeller combined for 43 points in Bloomington; they only managed 19 between them last night. Hulls had 18 but he made some pretty tough shots to get there. You can live with that.
1/29/2012 – Michigan 49, Ohio State 64 – 16-6, 6-3 Big Ten
No one expected Michigan to go on the road against Kenpom's #1 team and come back with a victory, so frustration and alarm was kept to a low simmer as Michigan tried and generally failed to find a way through the thicket of arms and athleticism that Ohio State presents. While OSU also goes "small" by deploying just one post-oriented player at a time—6'7" Deshaun Thomas is the second-tallest player OSU starts, and he's an NBA-sized wing slasher who rebounds at a lesser rate than Trey Burke—there is small, and there is "small."
Michigan is the former, Ohio State the latter. Kenpom has OSU's effective height 78th. They're not huge but they're well above average while still getting to play four-out, one-in. So if a game in which an insurmountable three-point halftime deficit ballooned to 15 by the end is dispiriting, it's also an indication of Michigan's future, in which a post is surrounded by a point guard and bouncy guys ranging from 6'4" to 6'7". Just now, that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
But Michigan's post guy is not Jared Sullinger and with the exception of Tim Hardaway, Jr., their bouncy guys range from 6'2" to 6'2" and have a tendency to bounce their arms into fastbreaking opponents' heads because they're not bouncy, so expected outcomes come out as expected. At the half, it seemed like Michigan's point total was about what you would expect and Ohio State's was a ton of missed putbacks. That proved itself in the second half.
Oh well. This one was house money anyway.
Down the road, the team keeps scraping out narrow wins against good competition and is on track to meet expectations. The overall picture has some concerns. Ubiquitous Michigan basketball messageboardist MHoops1 compiled some stats on three pointers in league play that point to a burgeoning problem:
Tim Hardaway Jr., with 55, has taken more 3s in conference games than anyone else--he is second in 3s per game to Illinois' Brandon Paul (who is shooting just under 40% from 3). …
There are 8 guys who are shooting 20-29% from 3 in conference play--two are Hardaway at just under 22% (2nd worst overall in the conference…), and Smotrycz at just over 24% (4th worst overall, ahead of Walker, Hardaway and Keith Appling of MSU, who is shooting just under 23% from 3.
[Only players with 20 or more attempts are considered.]
I just don't know what happened to Hardaway's stroke. Last year it was the key component driving Michigan to their bid—they took just about as many threes but were third in the conference at hitting them. You can poke at all the psychological explanations you want; I don't buy them and am left with helpless shoulder-shrugging and an increased appreciation for Darius Morris's ability to create shots from everywhere.
No matter what the reason is, Michigan has the most prolific and least efficient three-point shooter in the conference now. This is a trend that extends to the team as a whole. Kenpom's conference-only numbers have Michigan first in three-pointers attempted (43%) and tenth (31%) in makes. Often poor percentages from three aren't that harmful since threes are worth more points (SCIENCE!). Here, though, each three point shot taken is 10% less effective than an average two*. That's a big difference when you consider the standard deviations involved here.
And then there's the free throws. There aren't any. (You may have noticed.) Michigan is dead last at getting to the line. Add it up and it's a parody of Beilein's reputation for perimeter-oriented fooferah.
No one is turning their nose up at 6-3 halfway through what seems like the slightly tougher half of the conference slate, or what looks like a third tourney bid in four years. Playing Ohio State drives home what looks like a ceiling for this edition of Michigan. To compare them, just line Zack Novak up next to DeShaun Thomas. Sometimes your physical limitations catch up to you, like when you're playing a Final Four contender. So it goes.
*[By this I mean the average three pointer is worth more than the average two. The D-I average 3 is worth 1.03 points; the D-I average two is worth 0.95 points. So you can be below average from three and still not hurt yourself too badly if you take a lot. Michigan far exceeds this margin of error.
I know fouls and getting to the line argue in favor of going inside and complicate this analysis considerably.]
And to think you could have pissed off Valpo's conference opponents. Man, do people hate Zack Novak. While in OSU's case it's standard "you elbowed our dude" lingering bitterness, it seems like 75% of previews express some sort of distaste for the gritmaster. That as much as anything else is a tribute to his career. If he ever has a plaque somewhere in Crisler he should be bleeding profusely and it should read "booed at every arena in the Big Ten for obscure reasons."
Free throw non-perturbation. To me it didn't seem like Michigan had a case for many more than the zero free throws they acquired before 37 minutes were gone. Maybe two or three—Craft obviously got Burke's follow through on a three he made anyway—but not so many that it would have had even a slight impact on the game. There was just little way through for most of Michigan's players. It's not hard to not foul a guy like Douglass when you can just follow him to the hoop and block his shot.
Sullinger attention == board obliteration. Michigan did an excellent job of rotating to Sullinger but all that defensive attention unbalanced Michigan's defense and allowed various Buckeyes to hammer the boards. OSU rebounded nearly 50% of their misses, which was death. Not sure what was the cause of the sudden inability to get the damn ball. Let's check!
Culprits in order: Hardaway, Douglass, Smotrycz, Sullinger double, Morgan, McLimans. Well… crap, try to fix that. I can't even claim that the Sullinger doubling was a major factor. It was just guys getting pushed out of the way and out-athleted by a 6-4 dude. Guh.
Smotrycz hat tip. Those possessions when he was matched up against Sullinger could have gone much, much worse. Still not contributing much on offense except in spurts. The small-ball lineup seems very effective defensively but lacks a certain something on offense.
Slightly tougher half in the rearview? I'd say so. Michigan had five at home and four away in the first half and must invert that in the second, but you can call the MSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, and PSU and Northwestern games a wash since Michigan will flip home and road with all those opponents. So then you've got:
- DONE: Minnesota, Wisconsin, @ Iowa,
- TO COME: @ Nebraska, Illinois, @ Illinois
Minnesota and Illinois at home are a wash. @ Nebraska is easier, and I'm not sure whether I'd play Wisconsin at home or Illinois on the road. Kenpom says definitely Illinois but it's been a little gaga for Wisconsin's nonconference blowouts all year. Anyway, I said slight. This section has been excessively defensive.
Iowa State watch. The Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten boys took out Kansas, which serves as a big, tourney-bid-validating win as long as they perform as expected down the stretch.
LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"
AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!
YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!
I still can't believe it's called "The Journey," which should by rights be a Hallmark Channel series about entering puberty. But it's talking Michigan-Michigan State. Cazzie Russell gets his eyebrow on and Novak rains threes in Breslin:
The Aneurysm of Leadership is discussed.
It's the… uh… economy? This is unbelievable:
Once regularly an asylum for 1,200 Crazies, Section 17 at Cameron Indoor Stadium now rarely plays host to a student-only crowd.
Student attendance at men’s basketball games has fallen consistently over the last five years, even dropping after Duke won its fourth national championship in 2010. This season, approximately 650 undergraduates have attended each game, 150 fewer than during the 2008-09 season. As a result, Duke Athletics has begun to sell an increasing number of general admission tickets in the student section on a regular basis.
“It has nothing to do with the revenue. We just want it to be full,” Director of Marketing and Relations Mike Forman said. “If there were 1,200 students every game we would love it.”
I've given Michigan students crap for late/spotty attendance at football and hockey (basketball seems immune for some reason) but, like… Jebus. If Duke can't sell out their student tickets it is a nationwide epidemic.
The article goes on to describe a couple of reasons for the decline: the prevalence of online streaming (which seems ludicrous since I'm sure all Duke games are televised in Durham) and "the students' misconception of the time commitment involved." Apparently it's first-come, first-serve and you show up for a game sans ticket and hope to get in. That's a little nuts.
Even if Duke is too far at one end of the scale, Michigan could slide closer to them without incurring the same effect. Offer incentives for having your tickets scanned on time or early and revoke student ticket privileges for people who don't bother to show up.
Attacking the symptom. Bowls are out of control but this does not attack the matter at its heart:
There is "growing support" among conference commissioners, athletic directors and bowl officials to increase the difficulty of becoming bowl eligible by requiring teams to have seven victories, or a winning record, when the new BCS cycle begins in 2014, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com. The seven-win requirement would also mean a handful of bowls likely would be discontinued because there would not be enough eligible teams to fill all of the current 70 berths. In the past two years alone, 27 teams with 6-6 records were needed to fill all the bowl slots, meaning nearly 20 percent of the bowl field didn't have a winning record.
That would hack out about seven of the existing bowls, none of which would be missed in the slightest. It would still allow a dozen or more bowls that are net negatives to exist. The way to fix the current system is to get rid of ticket and hotel guarantees and let the bowls, not the schools, assume the risk of a crappy matchup.
Slicing out the bottom of the barrel is better than nothing, I guess. And at least athletic directors and presidents are getting wise to the scam:
"The 7-5 proposal is getting serious support," a non-BCS bowl official said. "They're telling a coach [that] 6-6 doesn't cut it, but then the coach gets a $50,000 or $100,000 bonus for a bowl game that none of the fan base wants to see. Athletic directors feel like they're pouring money down a hole and they're getting frustrated with it. The only people making out on 6-6 bowl games are the coaches."
…and the dudes in blazers, of course.
Burn. The Daily profiles Brian Wiseman by featuring his ridiculous peewee campaign:
You’ve probably heard about Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson’s phenomenal six-goal game with the St. Louis Blues in 1968. But what about the record-breaking season of one of his assistants, who averaged over five goals per game en route to a 413-goal campaign?
“They didn’t even keep those stats when I was a kid,” Berenson said.
Alex Guptill says no sale.
Wiseman can only say "keep scoring" at the moment, but don't find yourself in a drought, Alex.
I'll take f-bombs for 1000. David Molk is interviewed by Kyle Mienke:
He's certain of one thing, though: He has doubters. And he knows exactly where they can go.
"It's just, stuff like that pisses me off," Molk said, voice rising. "Any scout who denies me pisses me off. 'Oh, this is what you got. You’re not good enough.'
"Well, (to hell with) you, let me show you what I got."
For the record, I have never doubted Molk and move around constantly so my location cannot be pinned down. Also, Molk's Sugar Bowl injury was a severed tendon. Competition for center of the 2010s is now closed.
Here are the statistics for the percentage of minutes played by the bench (Bench Minutes/Total minutes) under John Beilein since 2005:
Year Bench % Rk 2012 22.3% 327 2011 19.3% 337 2010 22.1% 327 2009 35.6% 66 2008 31.6% 147 2007 24.7% 282 2006 20.0% n/a 2005 31.2% n/a Average 25.9%
Beilein has high expectations and he’s going to play who he trusts at any given time.
The last three years Michigan has been incredibly thin. I'm hoping that changes next year. Michigan's not going to shoot up into Arkansas territory but if they can get into the middle of the pack injuries get a lot less frightening and players having off nights can spend more of them on the bench.
Random old game. Michigan-Illinois 2002, via WH:
Beilein knows talent. This is a meme that's been gone over before in this space and Trey Burke is an obvious addition to Beilein's list of who-dat finds. But do you remember Kevin Pangos? Michigan was after the Ontario point guard and possible marsupial early($) despite his low recruiting profile; other offerees at that time were UNLV, Temple, and Portland.
Pangos ended up at Gonzaga, where he's been statistically better than Trey Burke, albeit against considerably weaker competition. He's shooting 40% from 3 on 105 attempts, 51% from two, has excellent assist and turnover rates, gets to the line, and has pretty good usage. It all adds up to the #47 player in O-rating as a freshman point guard.
Pangos is another of Beilein's many low-rated targets that ended up tearing it up wherever they ended up. See also: Joe Trapani, Kyle Kuric (low usage but a 45% three point shooter a year ago), Klay Thompson (who shot a ludicrous third of WSU's attemps last year and still managed to hit 40% from 3), and Robin Benzing, not to mention the players he's actually recruited like Burke, Hardaway, Novak, etc. Add in the increased profiles of Stauskas and Robinson and it seems like mid-majors should be following Beilein around to see who he doesn't end up with. This will be a tough task since Michigan's 2013 class is already full.
FWIW, Casey Prather is a rare Beilein evaluation miss. He's struggling to get on the floor at Florida and is just 8 of 33 from two this year.
This section inspired by the Big Ten Geeks post on M-MSU.
Youth is wasted on the green. John Niyo has a column on the Michigan-Michigan State game that repeats a few of Izzo's hangdog assertions in the aftermath of the M win, most prominently in the headline (which Niyo, of course, did not write):
Michigan State hurt by lack of experience
…Lost in their surprising 15-game winning streak and run to a top-10 national ranking was the fact the Spartans' depth and chemistry -- both vastly improved over last year's dysfunctional bunch -- still are reliant on what Izzo not-so-affectionately calls his "three-and-a-half freshmen."
That'd be first-year players Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Brandan Kearney, as well as senior transfer Brandon Wood. And with the exception of Kearney's cameo, none of them looked the slightest bit comfortable as they stepped into the fray Tuesday against a Michigan squad that's no longer afraid of its in-state sibling.
Wood had the most disastrous showing, starting with some wild 3-point attempts early and ending with a crucial defensive breakdown late. But he was hardly alone.
"I thought our young guys really looked young," said Izzo, who wasn't in the mood to say much about the young guy for Michigan (freshman guard Trey Burke) who really looked great. "The inexperience hurt us."
Niyo does nod to Michigan's general lack of Grizzly Adams beards, but just to clarify, Michigan is actually younger than Michigan State this year. Kenpom ranks M 222nd in average age*; Michigan State is 198. The difference is negligible. If you want to argue Brandon Wood is "half a freshman" that still doesn't make him younger or more likely to have eligibility next year, when Michigan loses Novak and Douglass versus State losing Green, Wood, and Thornton. The age thing isn't going to be much different next year.
*[This is adjusted for minutes, so Brundidge's existence doesn't count for much since his minutes are few. Burke, on the other hand…]
The balm of Payne. A guy named Chris Mackinder does defensive box scores that are pretty interesting, if difficult to interpret. His output for the MSU game:
And explanation of his numbers can be found at the Audacity of Hoops. The numbers don't make total sense to me. Novak was largely tasked with Draymond Green. Green takes 27% of MSU shots when he's on the floor; in this game he managed only 17%, scoring seven points on eight shots with five turnovers to three assists. Even if those turnovers were largely forced by other players it doesn't make much sense that the numbers claim he was the worst Michigan defender. Apparently he got blamed for over-helping. Meanwhile Hardaway makes out okay because he guarded Thornton for half the game. We'll see what Ace says.
Even so, it's interesting to look at 1) the abject cluelessness of Payne, who was charged with 3.5 baskets against a fifth of a stop (that a missed FTA—another way in which this system is pretty weird) in just 14 minutes, and 2) Keith Appling losing his matchup with Burke. Also, the extremely low defensive usage applied to Douglass would seem to confirm everyone's eyes in re: Douglass's perimeter defense. The good shots are elsewhere.
(HT: TOC contributor and gap-maintainer KJOnTheBanks.)
Brick city. UMHoops looks at Michigan's three point issues both for and against. Prepare for an ugly chart covering Michigan's three-point shooting in conference:
|Tim Hardaway Jr||8||42||19.0%|
Yuck. That Hardaway leads the team in attempts and is making 19% of them should mean he is no longer given a green light unless someone else creates the shot for him.
This is the opposite trend from last year, when Hardaway went nuts from deep during the Big Ten season. Shot quality is a big part of this—not many of Michigan's looks in the Big Ten have been clean. Hopefully a larger part is just a random slump. Michigan's not going to win many games from here on out without making their share of threes.
Inroad. Cato June is apparently the new head coach at Anacostia in DC. It would be nice for Michigan to get an in somewhere in that city, which pumps out prospects yearly.
Etc.: Hockey picks up a 2015 forward commit from Kyle Connor. As per usual he's too young to really know how good he is but he does lead his team in scoring by a considerable margin and is supposed to be a NTDP lock. Shawn Conway article from the Seaholm High School(!) newspaper finds him at a JUCO on the West Coast, Arizona offer in hand. Bama fans can make excuses for anything. You're paying $70 per year for ESPN.