also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Had some issues this morning; apologies for the late content.
Ambivalence at maximum. Michigan now has a Chief Marketing Officer, which is a development I meet with trepidation. On the one hand, maybe he'll think that Michigan's main asset is not being a pro sports team and he'll put a replica of Special K's head on a pike outside Michigan Stadium and we will never hear "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" at a Michigan sporting event ever again. On the other hand, he used to work for the Knicks and might think the thing that's missing from Yost is Saliva.
I have to say the guy's quotes do not fill me with joy:
"Digital marketing is a huge emphasis in the social media world," he said. "How do you take that to the next level?"
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN I LIVE ON THE INTERNET AND THOSE ARE NOT WORDS OF SENSE
There's more like that. Hopefully the guy does more to fill Crisler than to explore "revenue opportunities."
As a side note: There's been some chatter on message boards from people who saw Brandon speak at one of those alumni things about Michigan charging for admission to the spring game and plastering ads all over Michigan Stadium for the event. We'll see if that actually comes to fruition or if it's just idle talk but it sounded convincing, and it was on the internet. So definitely true.
Impending largeness. Michigan's got five games left in the regular season, one against a Minnesota team that escaped Crisler with a narrow win earlier this season. There was a hockey game at the same time so I have no idea what transpired in that game but if it was anything like what happened against Iowa, it was large and lumbering:
That's the zone they played; 45, 50, and 32 are Colton Iverson, Ralph Sampson III, and Trevor Mbakwe, who are all at least 6'8". With 6'7" Rodney Williams getting a bunch of time and Al Nolen out for the rest of the regular season, Minnesota is just an enormous basketball team. They're 7th nationally in Kenpom's "effective height" metric. But wait, there's more: Michigan plays #1 Illinois next. Outside shooting is going to be important, as will the ball movement to exploit some plodders.
This film does not exist. The Fab Five beatiing Illinois in 1993:
The striking thing how Michigan just forces stuff up that goes down, but that might be an effect of Wolverine Historian clipping out possessions that don't end in scores. Also: remember when Chris Webber could jump?
They were totally voluntary, for real. Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE:
Ole Miss releases scholarship numbers; Nutt says departures were voluntary
Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE UPDATE [same article]:
[Nutt] encouraged me to try to talk to the players and ask them if he ran them off. I have tried, of course. Haynes wouldn’t comment when reached on Thursday. And attempts to contact the other players have been unsuccessful.
Houston Nutt Roster Katana UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:
But soon after losing the competition for the starting job in late August, Bailey was approached by Nutt and (then-Arkansas special teams coach James) Shibest, who told the kicker he would have to pay his own way if he wanted to play football. As they explained at the time, they didn’t realize that Bailey’s partial academic grant would count toward the team’s 85-scholarship limit. …
Bailey and his family couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition, room and board. His father, Gary, is a production technician at Metal Container Corp. who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. His mother is a wedding coordinator. So Bailey returned home before Arkansas’ 2006 opener and stayed there for several months. Here was the class valedictorian at Yukon Southwest Covenant, just hanging around doing nothing.
Etc.: Adorable child sings The Victors. I elaborated on the Fanhouse/Bleacher Report post for Dave Kindred, who published an article about sports media remaining relevant in the internet era. In a nutshell, I think guys like Luke Winn doing stuff so good ESPN steals it is the route forward for official journalists. Urban Meyer blasts NCAA corruption, provides no details. Darius Morris numbers: sexy.
With Indiana out of the way, Michigan has now reached a certain point in their season. Every game is The Most Important Game Of The Season until it's over, at which point it just makes the next one The New Most Important Game Of The Season. So, what will it take to make the NCAA Tournament? Let's look at the numbers in comparison to the last two Michigan teams.
|Conf Strength (Kenpom)||5th||4th||1st|
|Big Ten Tourney Teams||7||5||???|
This team has a lot more in common with the 10-seed of 2009 than the squad that didn't even make the NIT last season, but it's still a bit worse. With a 3-2 close to the regular season (no small feat), the numbers should be approximately equal to the Tournament squad, though the Big Ten is much tougher this year than it has been in either of the past two seasons. However, the 2009 team had signature non-conference wins against UCLA (a 6-seed) and Duke (a 2-seed). This year's team has beaten Clemson, Harvard, and Oakland. All three are likely to make the tournament - assuming Harvard exacts revenge on Princeton for their only Ivy League loss - but not as top seeds.
Let's look at some teams from last year that 1) had similar profiles to 201-11 Michigan, and 2) made the tournament. For the purposes of this exercise, only at-large teams from strong conferences are relevant. I've plucked a couple comparable teams from last year's tourney field. For the most part, these were the lowest-seeded teams from their respective conferences.
|2010 NCAA Tournament|
|Conf Strength (Kenpom)||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th|
|Conf Tourney Teams||6||7||8||5||4|
A couple notes:
- Georgia Tech was terrible in conference, but had good Kenpom and RPI numbers (they got into the tourney over 10-6 ACC Virginia Tech because the Hokies played a terrible non-conference schedule).
- MIssouri was by far the strongest team to Kenpom. They also had the fewest losses. However, they were one of only two teams to lose in the first round of their conference tournament.
- Louisville is the other first-round loser in their conference tournament. Their strength of schedule and decent finish in the Big East (a 16-team conference) got them in.
- Minnesota is probably the most comparable to Michigan this year. They have the most losses of any of these teams, but played their way into the tournament by reaching the Big 10 final.
- Florida played in the weakest conference of any of these teams, with the worst Kenpom and RPI numbers (taking strength of schedule into account). However, a winning record - and committee guilt about only three SEC teams getting in - helped them make the tournament.
Though they don't want to admit it--Tim Hardaway's epic coachspeak: "Make sure we take it one game at a time. The next game is the most important game."--the players are aware of the opportunity in front of them. The question becomes whether they'll rise to the challenge, as they did two years ago. or fold under the pressure. Here are a few other player quotes about looking to the Tournament:
- Stu Douglass, on whether the team has the tournament in the back of their minds: "We've said it out loud in the locker room. There's no hiding from it."
- Darius Morris, on the team's change after the MSU game: "From there on, we knew what kind of intensity we need to have."
- Darius Morris, on whether the team has talked about making the tournament: "You've gotta visualize your success before it can happen."
- Zack Novak, on watching other Big Ten games on TV: "If I'm watching, I kinda just watch as a fan... I think you usually know what team you need to win to help you out a little bit."
It seems like the team is determined to keep the NCAA Tournament run in the corner of their eye, but in order to achieve it, is focused on the old coaching cliche of "one game at a time."
What does it Mean?
If Michigan goes 3-2 over their final five games - as we'll see, that's no guarantee - their numbers should be comparable to their tournament team of a couple years ago, or Minnesota last year. However, they're doing it in a much stronger Big Ten. It's Kenpom's #1 conference; the past two years it was 5th and 4th. Reaching .500 in conference should land them around 6th, and going 1-1 in the Big Ten Tournament would likely be good enough to get into the tournament unless other results break against them, especially since there are three additional slots this year.
|Ohio State||24-1 (11-1)||1||3|
|Michigan State||14-10 (6-6)||48||48|
|Penn State||13-11 (6-7)||52||70|
That means your rooting interests are as follows:
- You want Michigan to win out (obviously). If they go better than 3-2 in their final five, I think they're a lock. Kempom predicts a win only in the season finale against Michigan State. He gives Michigan less than 25% chance of going 9-9 or better in conference (3-2 or better over the final 5 games).
- Cheer for all of Michigan's non-conference opponents. Bowling Green has a chance to win the MAC, Syracuse can win the Big East, UTEP can win Conference USA, Clemson can win the ACC(!), Harvard should win the Ivy League, and Oakland should win the Summit League. You want very badly for all of this to happen.
- In the Big Ten, cheer against the teams in Michigan's tier (see handy graphic at right), so the Wolverines finish as high in the standings as possible. This means pull against Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Penn State probably doesn't have a chance to make the tournament unless they win the Big Ten Tournament, but you still don't want them to finish ahead of Michigan.
- Also in the Big Ten, cheer against Purdue and Illinois, since those are the teams Michigan played once. When they play each other (as they did yesterday and will again on March 1st), you want Purdue to win, because of the above point.
Notes, items, and errata. You know, things bold at the beginning of them from the Indiana game and etc.
2/12/2011 – Michigan 73, Indiana 69 – 16-10, 6-7 Big Ten
At the moment Michigan is a drunken Popeye of a basketball team: prone to stumbling around aimlessly for long periods of time but in possession of giant, windmilling fists that smash things into bits when they hit. They landed heavy blows against Indiana, then ran out of spinach and almost hurled the win back up.
They did choke it back down and this is the Year of Comprehensive Youth and Understanding Fans, so okay. To paraphrase Chad Henne, wins are good but… uh… we love perfect, being better.
The dip. The queasy feeling you've had at about the five minute mark of the last two games in graph format. First Northwestern:
And then Indiana:
Michigan was coming from so far ahead in the IU game that the steady erosion of their lead didn't show up much in the win probabilities until that part right at the end where Indiana had it to a one-possession game with Morris heading to the line.
Does this mean much? I'm not sure. All basketball teams go through stretches where they seem terrible, and Michigan's are a bit longer than most because of the youth and lack of depth at key positions. I'm with Beilein when he says the free throw issues are just a weird thing that shouldn't repeat, and if Michigan makes a reasonable number down the stretch we're talking about the slight annoyance of letting a 22 point lead get whittled down to ten.
On the other hand, Michigan had big second half leads against MSU and Iowa* they let get whittled down and led OSU by six a few minutes into second half before getting a run in their face. Even excluding the latter, in four of the last six games they've suffered dips of varying severity in the last ten minutes.
*[Okay, Iowa's a little bit of a stretch but what happened in that game would have been what happened in the IU game if Michigan could have hit a free throw.]
Tourney chances. Tim will cover this in detail later today. In brief: by holding serve these last two games Michigan's more than doubled their shot in Kenpom's view, going from 10% to ~25%. You can think that's a bit pessimistic since the team is young and therefore should be improving more rapidly than older teams if you're so inclined.
Hardaway killswitch still engaged. So Tom Crean says Hardaway "punked" his team, which means Hardaway had forcible prison sex with them. This is true (26 points on 9 of 11 shooting) and also something elderly white guys probably shouldn't be saying for the same reason they shouldn't show up at 50 Cent shows wearing bandanas. Still, dang, dang, dang:
In the last five games, Hardaway has averaged 18 points, 4.2 rebounds, shot 55.2 percent (32 of 58) from the floor and 50 percent (17 of 34) from the 3-point line.
The Hardaway vs Harris post suggested Hardaway's TO rate, eFG%, and efficiency would go up as he reduced his bad shots and drove to the hoop more. It didn't suggest it would happen right now, in buckets. The recent tear has popped Hardaway's 3PT% from 30% to 34% and his 2PT% up a couple points, too.
Hardaway's going to come down to earth before the end of the year. I repeat this so I will not be disappointed when it happens. In the meantime I'm tapping my fingers waiting for Kenpom to update its individual stats, because I think there's a good chance that Hardaway's offensive rating* will at least temporarily match the ~106 Harris put up in his last two years. [Update: Kenpom updates; Hardaway's up to 105.9 with the same Shot%.]
Again, that's not to say he's a better player since his usage will drop and it's pretty easy to have a massive ORtg when all you're doing is throwing down dunks other people generated for you—see Brent Petway, 2006. In the context of the team, having a high-but-not-monster usage freshman equaling the previous star's efficiency should mean the ceiling the next couple years is higher than it was the last couple—possibly much higher.
*[Got a couple questions about what the hell that was. It's… um… complicated. So complicated that most people won't even try to show your the formula because of its insane complexity. The closest thing to an explanation I found is here. It's a way of wrapping all of a player's offensive stats into a single number that should correspond to number of points produced per 100 possessions used. It seems to work pretty well as a proxy for being good at stuff, with the caveat that the number is heavily dependent on usage.]
Suddenly B-52s. Michigan's epic run of three-point bombing continued with an 8 of 15 performance against Indiana; they poured in seven of ten attempts after halftime. Why is this happening? Candidate reasons:
- Actual in-season improvement as shooters.
- A reduction in bad threes taken after winging it around the perimeter for 30 seconds.
- An increase in wide open threes generated by the team's increased penetration.
- A reversion to the mean.
- A reduction in threes attempted by poor shooters.
All of these have some impact but I think #2 and #3 are the main reasons. Amakerian possessions spent 30 feet from the basket have been reduced to a few here and there—usually when Morris is getting his two minutes per game on the bench. Michigan broke out of its slump by bombing MSU (10 of 21) and Iowa (14 of 28) into oblivion. After watching that OSU came out with a gameplan to limit three-point attempts at all costs. This worked to an extent but Michigan has adapted—even thrived—as opponents focus on limiting threes until they figure they have to limit Morris and Morgan, at which point they give up a bunch of threes:
Those are three game moving averages so they lag slightly but the trend is clear. Michigan starts off taking a lot of threes and hitting a decent number, take even more and make way too few. They double down, taking a billion threes and hitting a bunch of them, at which point opponents are like "uh oh" and start limiting their opportunities but not their success.
There's a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on here—Michigan beat MSU thanks to a number of contested threes, and while Iowa wasn't as good defensively that two-game blitz seems to have convinced the rest of the league to keep on the shooters, at least insofar as they can.
Epic wallpaper. You must have it.
Five key plays feature Hardaway, three pointers, turnovers, and FT misery. UMHoops scouts potential 2011 PF target Larry Nance, Jr. and recaps the Indiana game. Wojo on the NCAA question. Mets Maize also tackles Indiana happenings. Epically long Darius Morris profile from AnnArbor.com.