This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
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.
Site update. It took a little longer than we thought it would but we have restored commenting abilities for IE users. This serves as your regular reminder that you should switch to Chrome or Firefox. Also, users should be able to upload avatars again. Also I updated the "MGoElsewhere" menu a bit so it contains links to twitter feeds for both Tim and Tom.
The destruction of the innocents. Basketball beat Northwestern 75-66 yesterday as Jordan Morgan went ham (11 of 13, 27 points) against the Phantom of the Opera and John Shurna failed to exist. Shurna's been limited much of the season and apparently picked something new up recently. His last three games are a DNP against OSU and two games in which he played around 25 minutes but only attempted 5 field goals. Michigan may have gotten a little fortunate there.
I don't have a ton to say that UMHoops didn't cover in the link above but some praise is in order for Morris, Hardaway, and Douglass for setting up Morgan's monster night. Almost all of Morgan's baskets were assisted and even on the ones that weren't his teammates were setting him up in excellent position. Example: Douglass had an excellent post feed—in a year when any post feed is a rarity—that allowed Morgan to immediately spin baseline for a layup. Northwestern's D is terrible so this may stand as a career game for Morgan but it was good to see him be so efficient after that Ohio State game where going up soft cost Michigan badly. Morgan started the game off in similar fashion before becoming ruthless.
Meanwhile, at one point I exclaimed "shoot that!" when Hardaway passed up an open three. Progress all around. I wasn't even that mad about the terrifying Northwestern run because it was four straight three pointers, two of them challenged to the point where there could have been a foul.
Kenpom moved a bit afterwards. Not losing a game Michigan was only mildly favored in pushed the season prediction to almost exactly 17.5-13.5 and increased the chance of reaching 9-9 and therefore the bubble to 16%. Slightly beating the prediction moved Michigan up to 52nd, one spot behind Michigan State.
More fodder for next year's optimism. The Only Colors tracks an individual stat called PORPAG that sort of mimics baseball's VORP. (The usual caveats that basketball is a team game and you don't know about defense, etc., apply.) A quick glance at their top 15 shows Darius Morris sixth. That's excellent. More excellent still is that only four players in the top 15 are going to be around next year: UW's Jordan Taylor, Morris, Shurna, and IU's Jordan Hulls. The rest are seniors or Jared Sullinger. So not only is Michigan returning everyone but the rest of the Big Ten is getting hammered by graduation.
This is not a throwdown. So one part of the now confusingly diverse Maize 'n' Brew crew got sick of my repeated assertions that The Process was the worst way to acquire any new head coach, Brady Hoke or not. The result was this very long post that asserts Michigan's most recent recruiting class is "awesome" and makes other arguments that I don't even know what to do with. Since that post's been disputed by another of that site's contributors and effectively countered by a long message board thread here that's surprisingly light on snark and image macros. I'll forgo a response (other than, you know, this) because Mets Maize made it pointless:
One Small Step for Hoke, One Giant Leap for Hokeamania
There you go: the events of the last month delivered with maximum pith. Nothing has changed the fact Michigan had a candidate pool of one in their coaching search that started in January that they were probably going to start no matter the result of the bowl game.
Hopefully we'll start seeing some reason for optimism other than Mattison soon. Nothing in the intervening weeks qualifies, not even Jason Whitlock's endorsement.
Wasted effort. The Sporting News's Dave Curtis went to some trouble to find out that converting third downs is a good idea. It's gotten play a few places because it's February 10th and the long hard college football offseason has started. I don't like this because I am all mathy and stuff and this…
All five BCS bowl winners ranked among the nation’s top 13 teams in third-down differential. The differential statistic, not officially computed by the NCAA, takes a team’s third-down conversion rate on offense and subtracts its opponents’ third-down conversion rate.
…is not useful at all. "Drives are good," it says.
Worse, it places undue emphasis on third down itself when first and second down are equally, if not more, important. This has unfortunately succumbed to linkrot but back in the day I did an analysis of third downs by distance and frequency, coming to the unsurprising conclusion that short was good and great third down conversion rates are often more indicative of what you did before third down than anything else. Just looking at third down rates is goofy because first and second down contribute to the distance you have to go—you're really looking at "first and second and third down conversion rate," which is fine if you want to look at that. Just don't make it seem like third down is really really important when your number doesn't control for the effects of first and second.
Old news. I got distracted writing posts on the 4-3 and Tim Hardaway that ballooned into way longer thing than I thought they'd end up being, so some items fell through the cracks. You've seen these already if you read anything other than the front page here.
One: Wojo interviewing Brady Hoke. Amongst the increasingly familiar Passion For Michigan, Denard As NFL Vick, and Tremendous Toughness segments were a couple of things that are not familiar. One was Hoke saying he was "pissed off" at Michigan's factionalism the past three years, which is a refreshingly blunt way for a coach to say anything. The other was the admission that beer had a role in shaping Hoke's physique:
Q. Did you just drop a hint you were a bit wild back in your college days?
A. Uh, yeah, for two years I really didn't have the best goals in mind. I wanted to play football and try to drink every beer in Muncie, Ind. And I tell parents that on visits.
I'm trying to ignore the bit that follows wherein "funnest" gets deployed. Football coaches and grammar, man.
Hoke comes off as likeable, down to earth, etc. Even if you're of the opinion that ADs tweeting out old Jason Whitlock articles as evidence in favor of anything is awful, at least the guy he hired has a solidly positive rootability factor.
Q. How often do you chew a kid's tail?
A. Oh, usually daily.
Do yourself a massive favor by taking that out of context.
Two: De-emphasizing Denard, a little bit. This is almost a week old and has the freshness of Abe Vigoda but:
"To a degree … we're blowing a lot of it up," new Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "In our offense, I don't see Denard rushing for 1,700 yards, and I told him that. But I could see him rushing for 1,000 yards, and I could see him throwing for that 700 or 800 he didn't rush for."
Hives hives hives hives hives… mmm smaller, treatable hives. Borges later praises Denard's completion percentage as a couple other coaches make noises about a running game that looks "a little different" and emphasizes more "downhill" running. It then throws this in at the end:
Michigan was eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 488.69 yards, 13th in rushing (234.54), 25th in scoring (32.77) and 36th in passing (250.15).
…and returns ten starters. I'll come around on Al Borges after he's got a tall strapping fellow bombing it for 10 YPA but the chances I don't spend next year bitching about the misapplication of Denard Robinson are slim. I'm not even sure how you get him 1,000 yards if he's taking snaps from center. You can only run so many waggles and Incredibly Surprising QB Draws. As always, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Hoke uber alles.
Etc.: Michigan picks up a 2013 hockey commit; JT Compher is a forward from Illinois who seems high-end, like first-round OHL pick and easy NTDP pick high-end. We'll see if that holds up as he ages. Mets Maize on the Northwestern game. More justified hockey grumbling. Spring game will be April 16th. Michigan football documentary series planned. The Wolverine Blog points out that the guys who "couldn't shoot ever" now can and that's probably another thing we can add to the list of reasons Darius Morris is awesome. Scot Loeffler becomes Temple's OC.