I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
1/29/2009 – Michigan Not That Many, Ohio State Many – 14-7, 4-5 Big Ten
You're just an old man. And you don't appear to be a 6'10" shotblocking menace, either. Jerk!
Well, that appears to be that. Other than Iowa and Northwestern there doesn't appear to be a game on the schedule Michigan should win. Michigan's schedule is way backloaded and they could not afford to lose to Penn State or get swept by Ohio State and lose at home to Wisconsin. It's asking too much of them to win another five Big Ten games and arrive at the magic .500 conference record: it's the NIT for us.
And that's disappointing, sure, but they were supposed to be an NIT team when the year started and will be one when it finishes. Ekpe Udoh's transfer left… well, you know the deal. You've seen the team play in the Big Ten. Sometimes it looks like a really good AAU team has wandered onto the court in Michigan's uniforms. Sometimes Kelvin Grady ends up trying to check a seven-footer under the basket. They're too small and young and all that.
There isn't that much more to say. The problems are glaring. The starting power forward is a 6'4" freshman. They were 0-11 from 3 in the first half and are now 222nd in the country in three-point shooting at a measly 32.5%. They're sixth in number of threes launched and that number keeps going up. (It's now at 47.3%.) Whatever mojo they had earlier is obviously gone and doesn't seem like it's coming back. The defense is really terrible for obvious reasons.
I feel like I'm repeating myself. Does it feel like I'm repeating myself? I don't have much to say about the team other than "well, obviously." That Indiana game was a clear as day warning, and I said this then and said it now. I appear to be out of things to say re: this team.
It's just too bad it was a mirage.
- Novak should be suspended a game for the elbow.
- Harris is proving he's a good player who's nowhere near ready for the NBA of late: 3-18 in his last two games and though he put up 22 and 12 against Ohio State those came with ten(!) turnovers. The ultimate crap scenario is for Michigan to miss the tourney and then for one (or even both) of the stars to leave. I think that's getting less likely as we continue and they play more and more poorly, but stranger things have happened.
- I guess I don't understand the offense when it so often finds one guy inside the arc and four guys spaced around the three point line. Other teams will cut to the basket with much greater frequency. Is that by design? Or does it just reflect on the general youth of the team?
- I don't even know if the team is going to be any better defensively next year. They'll get Morgan and McLimans and Cronin and should return everyone except the sparingly-deployed Jevohn Shepherd, but man, all three of those big men are major projects.
- What happened to LLP? Yeesh.
1/20/2009 – Michigan 58, Penn State 73 – 13-6, 3-4 Big Ten
How's this for some trenchant analysis you can't get anywhere else: that was brutal. Let us never discuss it again.
Moving forward, the last two games have blown whatever margin of error Michigan had in their effort to make the tournament. Even if you assume wins home and away against Northwestern and away against Iowa—potentially dodgy but absolutely necessary to make the tourney—you have to find three wins in these games to get Michigan to .500 in conference:
Home: Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue
Away: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota
Is that doable? I don't know anymore. Maybe they can split with Minnesota and beat Penn State and home. Then it's a matter of getting really hot in one other game and stealing it. It won't happen when the team shoots 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half. Would that get Michigan in? If they beat UConn, obviously. If they don't that leaves them at 19-12 and fifth or sixth in the #2 league in the country, so yeah.
I guess the question is: will the team shoot as horribly as they have in the future? There's no chance they all grow three inches by Tuesday, and even if they did that would probably throw off their coordination significantly. You're going to see Michigan continue to get crushed defensively. Against Illinois (and, I guess, Ohio State) Michigan was overwhelmed by height that took away their inside game—Sims, their inside game, was 7 for 27. Against Penn State they weren't overwhelmed by height and still got crushed in the paint and on the offensive glass. This is the Beilein system taken to extremes, and that's understandable given the composition of the team. This was expected to be an NIT team for a reason.
I've been beating this drum since the Indiana game: it's been clear for a while now that the Duke and UCLA wins raised the profile of and expectations for the team disproportionately. Struggles against a wide array of very bad teams and near-implosions against Indiana and Savannah State didn't have the same impact because "a win is a win"* and all that, leading to a lot of irrational exuberance.
Welcome to the crash.
- UMHoops: "The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA). At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot."
- Beilein: “We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”
- Don't really have much other than "yeeaaargh" on this one.
- I would like to point out that everyone would take this if magically given the option at the start of the year. I was hoping for slightly above .500 and an NIT bid, and that was before it became clear the Big Ten is way, way better than it was last year.
- I want Manny Harris to commit a charge per half the rest of the season.
*(For the past, yes. For the future, no: past performance is a better predictor of future performance than past results.)
1/14/2009 – Michigan 51, Illinois 66 – 13-4, 3-2 Big Ten
Illinois' gumpy 7-foot center can ball, man. I was worried what he'd do to Michigan on both ends of the floor before Michigan's first game against the Illini only for Weber to take him off the floor much of the night because he was worried about Tisdale's defense. That was a mistake he didn't repeat.
Meanwhile, DeShawn Sims fell prey to some rim-outs, was bothered by Tisdale's length, and couldn't finish at the rim a couple times and ended up 3-14. That's the ballgame right there. If Sims isn't a major threat to produce inside and there's a 7-foot shotblocker lingering near the hoop no one is going to get an open three or a backcut and the team's going to shoot around 32.2%, give or take a tenth. This I retroactively predict.
Walkons and white guys featured for about four minutes in the first half and a couple in the second, and that seemed like a bad idea. Sims, Harris, and LLP all on the bench? Urgh. I guess it worked out, sort of.
Stu Douglass put in better minutes in this game than he had in other recent contests, coming up with a couple of good passes and a corner three, but he also took another inadvisable NBA-range three.
I was pretty frustrated by the lack of productive offense. I don't know nearly enough about basketball to tell you why Michigan couldn't get good looks, but there seemed like there was way too much one-on-one stuff, either because the ballhandler wasn't looking for teammates or those teammates weren't cutting to spots on the floor where they'd be useful. Team is still very young and all that, but the offense seemed more, you know, offense-y early in the season.
It wasn't bad luck that Michigan shot 27% from 3; the only really good looks I remember were Stu's aforementioned corner three and one LLP three in transition that didn't go down.
Site note: A UMHoops/MGoBlog joint CIL is tentatively on for tonight's Illinois game. Tip is at 8:30, game is on BTN, CIL gets going about 15-30 minutes before.
Correction: Dennis Franklin wore #9, not #6 as claimed yesterday, in case you were looking for him in the afro-tastic team picture.
- Mobile MGoBlog was the big winner in the "new feature" category and will be implemented ASAP. Better integration with MGoVideo was also popular. A unified ticket search came in third.
- About 50% are registered (FYI: even if you aren't interested in posting, logged in users can customize how they see the blog. You can turn some blocks on and off, change the way comments appear, etc.)
- About 10% of people who tried to register never get a response. (If this happens to you, email me.)
- Most people read the board and diaries, with about half participating on the message board and a small number posting diaries, which is about right, IMO.
- Page speed was mostly "good."
- People seem to think the level of self-policing in the comments is about right, but they'd like to see better organization of the user-produced content.
- Advertising is at a tolerable level.
Sorry if you got locked out; I dislike Wufoo's pricing schemes. (I don't want to sign up for something monthly and have to cancel, but I'd pay ten bucks to have a single unlimited survey.)
Clone wars. UMHoops digs out some Kenpom stats and compares this year's basketball team to the 2005 West Virginia team that introduced the world to Gansey and Pittsnogle, et al. The key chart:
The offenses are eerily similar and can quickly be compared: Michigan doesn't shoot as well—though they're not bad—but values the ball more than anyone else in the country; they don't get offensive rebounds or free throws, as they are an extreme POT, which you can see by the percentage of three pointers chucked skyward.
Defensively it's a bit tougher. Michigan looks superior in just about every number up there except turnover percentage, but WVU's defense went up against a lot of good offenses. Michigan not so much.
One thing I did find interesting: Michigan isn't actually that bad on the defensive boards: 33.8 is just about the national average. That's still not good, as an average power conference team with 60+% of its schedule to date against mid- and low-majors should have above-average rebounding. I feel like that sentence was very confusing, but am at a loss to fix it. Rephrase: Michigan's probably a poor defensive rebounding team but not a disastrous one.
A side note: there's been some discussion of Kenpom's grim forecast for Michigan—8-10 in conference and 18-13 overall before the Iowa game, now up to 9-9 and 19-12—and what this says and etc. While I think the Kenpom ratings are worth looking at, keep in mind that they can't account for the absence of Laval Lucas-Perry—currently the team's most efficient offensive player—for about 60% of the season. That's probably worth a game or two (or three!) in Kenpom's projections.
Dylan has an array of interesting observations as well; check his post out.
Elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal takes note of the Big Ten's basketball revival, and does so with heavy deployment of tempo-free statistics.
Is it just me or have mainstream basketball writers taken to advanced stats much more quickly than writers covering any other sport? Baseball writers often take pride in their ignorance. Football broadcasts still propose that 3=7 whenever they mention redzone efficiency. Advanced hockey stats aren't yet important enough to sneer at. Basketball guys, on the other hand, took one look at Kenpom and said "hey, that makes sense." Wonder why that is.
Etc.: Rick Reilly declares beer pong the "next great American pastime," causing reader Jeremy Hekhuis to ask "if reilly is calling something the next great pastime, hasn't its time come and gone?" and causing me to respond "yes."
1/9/2009 – Michigan 5, Miami 1 – 14-7, 9-5 CCHA
1/10/2009 – Michigan 64, Iowa 49 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
1/10/2009 – Michigan 4, Miami 0, 15-7, 10-5 CCHA
So one of the parents in the Miami student section forlornly held the above banner aloft throughout Michigan's 5-1 asskicking on Saturday. About halfway through someone told her she was making an idiot of herself and she pointed it the right way, but it was too late: Fun With Palindromes was born.
Hello, weekend. You start late but finish smoooooth. Three Michigan sporting events lead to three blowouts, two of them absolutely critical, and it's all endorphins. I find it really hard to write columns I think are worthy of the "column-type thing" tag week in and week out during the longer and less intense hockey and basketball seasons, so this one's an assemblage of bullets.
Hell, yes. Michigan got a little lucky this weekend when Miami lost Carter Camper and Justin Mercier, their #1 and #3 scorers, for the Sunday matinee, but 9-1 over the course of the weekend brooks no serious "buts." Michigan owned the Redhawks, flat out, and that's a huge step forward from their series earlier in the year when it was the Wolverines scraping one goal across 120 minutes.
Michigan is still way, way behind Notre Dame in the race for the CCHA title, but they cleared one huge hurdle with that sweep. Sweep ND in a home-and-home in three weeks and Michigan is six back—assuming equal points in the next four—but with two in hand. That's a hill to climb; it's doable, though.
More realistically, the sweep puts Michigan in a strong position to finish top-four in conference and get a first round bye; it also will be very helpful at the end of the year when the pairwise somewhat arbitrarily hews the weak from the strong and assembles a tournament field. The PWR is still extremely unstable—even at the end of the year it's moderately unstable—but at the moment Michigan is a shocking sixth despite their rough start. If only Miami hadn't gacked away its holiday tourney despite outshooting their opponents by about 3-1 each night.
Hogan. This weekend was the first during which I felt Hogan seemed a superior alternative to Sauer. Lost amongst the Mingo-witnessed flurry of goals on Saturday was Hogan's solid play on a number of quality Miami chances that kept the door shut; that game could easily have been 3-3 after five minutes instead of 3-0. On Sunday Hogan didn't have a lot of rubber but when Michigan led 1-0 he made an outstanding stop moving side to side by closing the five-hole.
Yost Built mentioned this:
He's not remotely flashy, but he goes out and wins. Also, he hasn't given up a soft goal since the game at Munn over a month ago. Then again, he's only given up two goals since that game at Munn, which is kind of awesome.
Yes. Hogan was giving up a soft-ish goal per game early in the year, and now he's not, at all. I think that's at least somewhat luck; it's not all luck.
Skaters. I was feeling very good about calling Brandon Burlon the breakout player of the second half when he had a goal and an assist five minutes into the weekend, but did anyone else think the rest of his Saturday was kind of rough? Miami's heavy forechecking forced a lot of turnovers out of him, and the rest of the team. On Sunday it appeared that Michigan had figured it out (or Miami was tired or losing Camper and Mercier was a death blow) and was breaking the zone with ease; on Saturday there were a lot of ugly turnovers.
The other guy who leapt out did so on the penalty kill: Tim Miller, who got multiple standing ovations whilst sucking away Miami PP time in the corners. He would have had a great shorthanded goal if Langseth hadn't taken it away, which Miller was still bitching at him about as the team left the ice on Sunday. Miller was making a hockey stop as the pass came across the ice and deflected the puck into the net, a situation that is explicitly allowed by the change in the rule:
To make this rule as clear as possible, the group proposed adjustments to its rules that will allow all goals scored as a result of deflections. This will include deflections off an attacking player who is in the act of stopping, provided neither skate is used to direct the puck into the net. Pucks that are directed or kicked with the skate moving toward the goal will not be allowed.
Yost Built saw the thing many times on replay and sayeth:
Now, I can't remember how the rule reads, since I'm pretty sure they changed it after the title game last season. If the puck can't hit off a skate and go into the net at all anymore, then it was the right call, and just a stupid rule. If it's allowed to hit your skate and you just can't kick it, then it was a terrible call.
The rulebook sayeth: terrible call. Note: this is the second straight year Langseth cost Michigan a goal against Miami.
I bet this seemed like a good idea at the time. The program for the Miami game was very fussy about what you can call Miami of Oh—
Who's up for never calling Miami anything but Miami of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio)? This guy.
Strategy. Here's a tip I've picked up from the local scribes: if a team completely destroys a respectable opponent mere days after you question how good they are, claim it was your criticism that focused them, forging them into the towers of steel they became. Y'all can thank yrs truly for that performance.
More seriously: yes, that was more like it. Michigan made a concerted effort to go inside to Sims, and though the reward was a lot of shots that went down and then infuriatingly rimmed out, the overall quality of looks they got was greatly increased.
One downer, and I again hate to bring this up given the box score, but I didn't like Manny's game in this one much more than I did in the other Big Ten games. He took four three-pointers, each of them with a hand in his face when he just decided to chuck instead of drive, and a lot of his offense came off of turnovers. Take those away and his shooting percentage dips precipitously. OTOH: Harris was super-active in the passing lanes and was the cause of at least four Iowa turnovers that turned into fast-break buckets, mostly by Harris.
I just worry what happens to his offensive efficiency when the opponent isn't as generous, is all. He has not been effective in the halfcourt in conference play.
Stu and Zack. The relative stars of the two Indiana freshmen have crossed since it looked like Douglass was going to be a gritty, tough-nosed gym rat with a high basketball IQ and Novak couldn't buy a bucket. Now it's Novak destined for vaguely uncomfortable praise and Douglass who looks like he'll be in a battle for playing time when Vogrich and Morris arrive (and, hopefully, no one leaves unexpectedly).
This is a really easy observation to make after Douglass took a couple threes from 27 feet and seemed largely responsible for Iowa's garbage-time comeback, but sometimes you have to pick the low-hanging fruit. Douglass' basketball IQ doesn't seem particularly high.
Or, rather, it seems wildly variable. He made two excellent passes in this game, and seems to thread a needle or throw an accurate bounce pass on the break just about every time he gets an opportunity; he also made a great cut to the basket when Novak was trapped and got a layup for his troubles. His future is up in the air. If Good Stu wins I think he can be a significant role player the next couple years and a solid starter as a senior. If Evil, 27-Footer-Chucking Stu wins he's likely to get the Shepherd treatment.
Novak, on the other hand, is the unathletic white guy who actually deserves the "he's white!" praise that will no doubt be heaped on him the next three and a half years. He harasses people into bad decisions, rebounds very well, and does—ugh—the little things that don't show up on the box score.
Great, now I have to take a shower to wash off the sportswriter cliche.
Wha? That was a charge on Manny—you know what I'm talking about—and a blocking foul on Gibson—you also know what I'm talking about. Not like it mattered, but, man… Big Ten referees, folks. Also, what was with the foul on the follow-through of a Novak three that wasn't a shooting foul? Have you ever seen that before? Will you ever see it again?
The near future. With Michigan's two must-wins against the lower echelon of the Big Ten out of the way, they've got a tough road game against Illinois that seems like a freebie. Win and that's great. Lose and, okay, you're still on track.
After that, though, is four game stretch with two against a struggling, depleted Ohio State team that seems NIT caliber at best and one each against Northwestern and Penn State. 3-1 is good, but 2-2 against those four teams with a fairly daunting homestretch (Purdue x2, MSU, UConn, Minn x2, @ Wisconsin with PSU, NW, and Iowa sprinkled in) and it'll be touch and go. I expect/hope they'll be 6-3 in conference at the midway mark.
Holy pants. I can't be the only person who exclaimed "WTF!"—yes, I speak in internet acronyms IRL LOL—when Beadie Russell from The Wire showed up on The Office. For some reason I expect that people on The Wire are real and that seeing, for instance, D'Angelo Barksdale's mother on an episode of NCIS* means Pure Evil has undergone a shocking career change.
So, yeah, this from reader Ba Orao was pretty freaky:
Clockwise from top left:
- DT commit Pearlie Graves, a dead ringer for Marlo muscle Chris
- WR commit Jeremy Gallon, who could not possibly look more like Marlo muscle Snoop despite the fact that Snoop is, you know, a girl
- DE commit Anthony LaLota, a pretty good facsimile of Nick Sobotka
- RB coach Fred Jackson, a less scarred version of Norman Wilson, the mayor's right hand man
The first two are astounding.
*(Watched involuntarily, in case anyone has actually seen that abomination and is now reconsidering their allegiance to this blog.)
I want your… nah, too easy. Penn State defensive line coach/recruiting ninja Larry Johnson is under consideration for the Illinois defensive coordinator job, which strikes Black Shoe Diaries as very bad news:
I don't have to tell you this is bad bad bad. With an 82 year old head coach who can't spend more than two hours sitting down in a car or airplane, the assistant coaches are our greatest asset when it comes to recruiting. And Larry Johnson is one of the best of them. … To lose him would be, in a word, disastrous for our program.
Johnson's a Penn State lifer—he's been there since 1993 and both of his kids played for PSU—but cash rules everything around us:
…as a defensive coordinator, Johnson would receive a salary increase from his estimated $200,000 salary. Penn State is not known for boosting its assistants' pay, and Illinois is apparently willing to pay what's necessary in the increasingly competitive world of assistant salaries. That might be even more true after it lost offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who will make $325,000 a year with his move to South Carolina.
So I'm thinking to myself "this would be a really good idea for Illinois; Johnson is a killer recruiter and have you seen Penn State's defensive line at any point in the past decade?" And it occurs to me: hey, would that be a good idea for us? Yeah, maybe. And maybe we're in on it. Same article:
Illinois is in discussions with Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson about becoming the new Illinois defensive coordinator, but Michigan also could be interested in hiring Johnson, sources said.
With Tom Bradley's status as the real ultimate power at Penn State, Johnson is going to be locked out of a coordinator spot until such time as Joe Paterno finally steps down, which could be never-ever-ever. Now might be the time to move.
I'd be a happy man if Johnson was the new DC, though the chances of that seem low. Dollars to donuts he uses the leverage to squeeze a raise out of Penn State.
Bob Knight, ladies and gentlemen. Zack Novak on the General:
"He'd usually tell us, girls are going to tear you down -- if you see a nice-looking girl, turn the other way because she's going to kill you," Novak said. "I remember thinking, I'm in third grade and he's telling me about girls. But I think that's kind of why you've got to appreciate him."
I always thought Knight would make a good Batman villain, no?
Yikes. I didn't mean for this to be Basketball Downer day, but, eh… yeah. Luke Winn busts out the tempo-free stats to evaluate overvalued and undervalued teams based on, you know, reasons. Key findings:
No Final Four team in the past five years has been ranked outside the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency (a competition-adjusted figure). And only two Elite Eight teams in the past five years have ranked outside the top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency. It's unlikely that a team will make a deep NCAA tournament run with just a good offense, and only a mediocre D.
The good news, such as it is: one of those two Elite Eight teams to flout Winn's cutoff was 2005 West Virginia, which finished 78th in adjusted D efficiency and was an overtime away from the Final Four.
The bad news:
Which teams in the AP's top 30 might be suspect in the postseason because of their lack of a quality defense? Eight ranked schools had adjusted defensive efficiency ratings outside the top 60. Unless they shape up over the next few months, the odds are stacked against them making deep NCAA tournament runs:
Team AP Adj. OffEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Adj. DefEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Oklahoma 6 117.7 (8) 93.8 (66) Notre Dame 13 119.7 (3) 99.1 (146) Boston Coll. 17 112.2 (32) 96.1 (86) Minnesota 22 109.4 (51) 96.1 (88) Baylor 23 117.0 (11) 95.4 (78) Michigan 26 116.6 (13) 101.2 (185) California 27 115.6 (20) 93.5 (63) Arkansas 28 106.2 (79) 96.8 (103)
That's pretty frightening right there: Michigan has by far the worst defense of any team in the AP top 30. That bodes unwell for the short term.
For the long term: I'm slightly concerned. Beilein's last two West Virginia teams were 53rd and 57th in AdjDE, and I think they're slightly underrated because his teams force a lot of turnovers, which in theory should lead to a larger than normal proportion of fast break buckets and higher offensive efficiency. The higher-quality recruits he hypothetically has access to at Michigan may allow the team to play better defense than he's thrown out there before.
But the concern comes in when Huggins arrives at WVA. In year one, defensive efficiency moves from 57th to 24th, and in year two they're second, using mostly the same players Beilein recruited. They're older and better, certainly. Is that the only difference? Probably not.