|WHAT||Michigan v. Kansas|
December 19th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan +13.5*|
*Lines brought to you by the best sportsbook on the internet.
The Wolverines finally stopped the bleeding on Sunday with a win over Detroit, but the task won't be so simple to duplicate in Lawrence. Traveling to face the number one team on the road is seen by the Wolverines as an opportunity. "I don't think it's different from the UConn trip [last year]," said DeShawn Sims, "We definitely need it. There's not going to be too many opportunities besides the best teams in the Big Ten."
A win Saturday would not only redeem a lackluster non-conference performance from the Wolverines, it would also prove something to the team itself. "It would just show that we've made some adjustments since the early part of the season," said Sims, "We're becoming more comfortable with what we have now, and coach made some great adjustments this week and last week. We're just finally coming along, coming around the corner."
Beilein, whose teams have performed their best when they have a lot of time to prepare for a single game, says he doesn't change anything in the team's preparation: "We do the same thing that we've done for any game we ever play, really. We don't go in there to do anything except to do our best. Whether we're playing one of our early season games or we're playing the #1 team in the country, we just expect to try to play our best."
What, specifically have the Wolverines been working on in practice over the long week? "We've been working on a lot of different things. A lot of man-to-man defense, a lot of boxing out," said Beilein.
The return of a fully healthy Zack Novak, who played against Detroit at less than 100% and missed the Utah game entirely, should be some help to Michigan.
The Jayhawks are the number one team in the nation for a reason. They've run roughshod over every team they've played except for Memphis and, oddly, UCLA. "There's certain times when you'll go into some of these arenas, and I would expect I'll look around and go, 'so this is Kansas,'" said Beilein said. Sims knows the crowd will play a huge factor. "I've seen Kansas on TV and you can definitely hear the crowd through the TV," he said.
The Jayhawks' roster is loaded. Two of the top players in the country, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, roam the floor in Lawrence. They get Xavier Henry a lot of good looks, helping him to one of the top eFG% numbers in the nation. "You've got the great combination of inside-outside threats," said Beilien. "You've got Collins, who by by himself can win a game. Aldrich inside, he's just a mountain with really long arms. And now Henry's shooting over 50 percent? He's getting some pretty good looks because he's got a great point guard and a great center." Adding, uh, injury to more injury, guard Brady Morningstar will make his season debut for the Jayhawks after serving a DUI suspension.
For a team struggling like the Wolverines, Kansas will be a difficult matchup. Beilein: "They rebound and they guard and they have assigned tasks and they're just difficult to stop."
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Kansas: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Kansas Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Kansas Def eFG%||236||2||KKK|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Kansas eFG%||231||6||KKK|
|Mich TO% v. Kansas Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. Kansas TO%||36||18||K|
|Mich OReb% v. Kansas DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. Kansas OReb%||319||10||KKKK|
|Mich FTR v. Kansas Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. Kansas FTR
|Mich AdjO v. Kansas AdjD||156||6||KK|
|Mich AdjD v. Kansas AdjO||153||2||KK|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc. I swear I'm not a Klan member.
Commence the fetal position and whimpering. Kansas is better than Michigan at almost everything. The Wolverines might get a couple turnovers, but they haven't had to defend a player like Cole Aldrich yet, and the opponent free throws might be misleading in this instance. Michigan's worst aspect, defensive rebounding, is one place Kansas really excels. This is a major statistical mismatch.
The only way to see Michigan coming away with a win is to make a couple assumptions. 1) Michigan has been playing well below their potential this season (something most observers would agree with). 2) Michigan is capable of turning around and playing well above that potential in a road game against the top team in the country.
Zack Novak thinks that's a possibility, saying "It's gotta bring the best out of you. We're looking forward to the challenge." There's something to be said for a John Beilein-coached team playing very well with a long break between games to rest up (Manny Harris didn't practice on Wednesday, according to Beilein) and prepare a gameplan. Still, the task may be too tall to accomplish.
This is a game that Michigan should be lucky to keep close. If the 3s start falling, like they did in last year's upsets over UCLA and Duke, there's a chance to be within striking distance in the second half. More likely, the team has a couple of those offensive slumps that we've come to know and despise and the Jayhawks capitalize with big runs and an eventual 20-point win.
Also, not Kansas-related, but 2010 MI SG Trey Zeigler talked to WDFN yesterday about various topics, including his recruitment. If Manny leaves following this season, Zeigler becomes a must-land prospect. Duke is getting involved.
The Michigan basketball team has struggled mightily so far this season, especially given the top-15 expectations that were (probably unfairly) heaped on them in the preseason. With two superstars returning and only two walkons, a backup point guard, and a Canadian leaving the team this was supposed to be a tournament team at the very least, and more likely a Sweet 16 squad.
So, uh, what happened?
There are two primary culprits for Michigan's struggles: defense and three-point shooting. Figuring out the defense is a task for another day (and for someone who knows much more about basketball strategy than I do), but shooting is a little simpler. It's also very important for Michigan, since the Wolverines hoist 42.9% of their shots from behind the arc.
There are two primary factors that play into a shot's likelihood of going in. The first is shot selection. If a player manages to shoot only when he is wide open, it's more likely that he will make those shots, no? Last year at Varsity Blue, I UFRed basketball games, and graded shot selection 1-3 based on how open the shooter was. Manny Harris was the only player who was consistently putting up shots from bad positions, and based on purely anecdotal evidence, I'd say that's probably the case again this season.
The second factor that plays a big role in shooting is the ability to actually knock down shots. If you left Ben Wallace wide open at the top of the key on every play, he wouldn't make many shots (and that's why teams do this). The same is not true for, say, Dirk Nowitzki. Talent is not something that varies from game to game. Players go through hot and cold streaks, but Stu Douglass is as good as he is, and isn't likely to get much better or much worse at shooting the three in one offseason. So is there reason to believe that anyone has shot below his ability so far this year? Sounds like time for a—
Chart. Players are sorted by 2008-09 percentage
|Michigan 3-Point Percentages|
|Player||2008-09 %||2009-10 %|
So what does it mean? On the face, it would appear that Michigan lost most of its best shooters, but that isn't actually the case. Puls, Lee, Grady, and Merritt all had few attempts (Manny and the two Indiana guys were the only people to shoot over 100 3-balls, and LLP would have gotten there if he'd played the whole season), so there is something to be said for sample size. The better takeaway is that Only Laval Lucas-Perry and DeShawn Sims are shooting better right now than they did last year, and most guys have seen a precipitous dropoff. It would be nice to get Matt Vogrich more attempts, but his defense has been poor so far this year.
Unless guys are exclusively taking horrible shots this year (and John Beilein said Wednesday that poor shoot selection may play some role in the shooting struggles), the bad shooting is an anomaly. They're sometimes painful to watch, but stick with this team, and things will probably turn around.
Michigan 75, Detroit 64. Michigan 5-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
At halftime, this game was looking like it might be just the latest in a series of disappointments in this young basketball season. Detroit led the Wolverines 36-33, and Michigan couldn't make a defensive stop to save their lives. If you had told me that it would be Michigan's defense that would carry the second half, I would have laughed in your face. The team put in a great defensive effort in the second half though, and the Wolverines were able to capitalize and get the 11-point victory.
Zack Novak, despite a poor day offensively, came away with a huge block on a transition play for the Titans. Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims carried the offensive torch for Michigan, and it was the first game in a while that they were both able to really get going at once. Manny finished with 27 points, and was a single rebound away from the double-double.
The outside shooting is still not where it should be, but 33% from behind the arc was a definite improvement over the past few weeks. If the defensive intensity can continue over the rest of the season, Michigan may have turned an important corner today. When opponents don't score, Michigan can keep games close and the shooting will come around eventually.
- Deshawn Sims was spectacular today. He scored 23 points on just 12 shots. Defensively, he was a little weak in the first half, but he was one of the guys who really turned it on after halftime.
- Rough day for freshmen. Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich both get very little run. Vogrich was in for just a minute, and still managed to commit a turnover. Eso Akunne was the best freshman on the court.
- The rotation was really small today. 5 players played 30 minutes or more, and only two other guys (Morris and Zack Gibson) had double-digit minutes.
- As mentioned above, the shooting was much better than it has been lately, but there's still some room for improvement. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are just going to tear up the nets at some point.
- Michigan outrebounded the opponent(!) but didn't force too many turnovers (7). Bizarre day, given the style that the Wolverines usually play.
- How in the world did Detroit land two transfers from Indiana? That should be a pretty good team in the near future.
"He knows we need him. That's something we talked about, and he just picked it up." Manny Harris, on Deshawn Sims's defensive effort in the second half.
"I think we're just a step slow right now... We've gotta be a little bit quicker." Zack Novak, on the team's defensive struggles this season.
"I just timed it up. You didn't know I could do that, I bet." Zack Novak, on his shot block in the second half.
"We've kinda been trying to play out of what we're capable of. Just stay solid. Stay solid on defense, don't gamble, run the offense. Just do what we've been practicing for the last 2 months." Stu Douglass, on how the team can improve its play.
"I just don't wanna be part of the losing side of that conversation." Deshawn Sims, on playing in-state opponents.
"Down three at the half, I think the guys felt a sense of urgency." John Beilein, on the defensive renaissance in the second half.
"Usually the last thing that comes to young players is defense, not just individually, but also off the ball." John Beilein, on giving freshmen onl limited playing time.
The Wolverines have this week off to take their exams, and then have a date with Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are the consensus #1 team in the nation, and Michigan will need a small miracle to come home from Lawrence with a win.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Detroit|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -13.5*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
We're all-too-familiar with the Wolverines' deficiencies by now: They can't shoot and can't rebound. That has led to a lot of trouble, mostly against teams with very athletic guards (Marquette) or good size inside (Boston College, Utah).
Can the team finally snap out of the shooting slump at home against Detroit? They'd better hope so, because the problems have to be worked out in a hurry for the team to even have a chance to keep it respectable against the Jayhawks of Kansas next weekend.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Detroit: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Detroit Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Detroit Def eFG%||269||128||DD|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Detroit eFG%||241||146||D|
|Mich TO% v. Detroit Def TO%||2||62||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. Detroit TO%||12||248||MMM|
|Mich OReb% v. Detroit DReb%||259||152||DD|
|Mich DReb% v. Detroit OReb%||324||135||DDD|
|Mich FTR v. Detroit Opp FTR||292||214||DD|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Detroit FTR||3||14||M|
|Mich AdjO v. Detroit AdjD||207||167||D|
|Mich AdjD v. Detroit AdjO||116||188||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This is what it has come to? Michigan appears to be at a definite statistical disadvantage to... University of Detroit? The only areas in which Michigan appears to be better are holding onto the ball and getting opponents to give it away. HOWEVA, there's something to be said for strength of schedule (Detroit's has been crap so far, outside of a game at Cal). Michigan hasn't put away any teams that are remotely as talented, or those that have looked nearly as good statistically, but Detroit's rankings are something of a scam so far.
The Titans are far better at rebounding, which is something Michigan fans have gotten used to and have no reason to believe will change ever this year. They also draw a good number of fouls, which is a product of playing teams that have no chance of stacking up in the paint. Michigan should be (a little) more able to do that without fouling.
It's hard to tell exactly how good the Titans are, due to their schedule, but it skews toward quite bad, with a loss to Kenpom's #280 team, Tennessee State. Michigan hasn't convinced anyone that they're actually good this year, but being not bad should be enough to put away Detroit i the second half.
Well, damn. BREAKING NEWS(!!!): Brian Kelly is indeed the guy at Notre Dame. Notre Dame fans of the insane variety are hilariously opposed to the move on the grounds that Kelly isn't Bob Stoops, Bill Belichick, or one of the ND Nation moderators; everyone else is terrified that Notre Dame has now acquired a coach with a track record of doing anything at all.
This is probably going to go poorly. Kelly is the most competent coach Notre Dame has hired since Holtz and at the very least should turn Weis's excellent recruiting classes into a genuinely good team in short order. Smart Football says so.
Next year might be meh since his one option at quarterback is going to miss spring practice and large chunks of summer conditioning with an ACL tear, but expecting an implosion similar to the Michigan one is foolhardy: for one he'll have a five-star quarterback throwing to Michael Floyd and plenty of talent on defense if he can get a defensive coordinator to manage it. Something thematically similar to Michigan's 2004 Rose Bowl season might go down. Michigan had to get clutch drives from a freshman quarterback and an onside kick to get to 9-4 that year. A Gator Bowl or something with incredible expectations in 2011 seems the most likely outcome.
This makes the next two years against Notre Dame pivotal for Rich Rodriguez. If Michigan loses to Notre Dame next year against Kelly when he's finally got a quarterback experience edge over someone, anyone, it'll look like a rough year and possibly the end of everything.
There are some minor plusses in the hire: I assume Kelly won't keep Corwin Brown around, which should help Michigan recruit against ND. Also for whatever reason Weis just killed Michigan head-to-head and Kelly can't possibly do better. I've heard conflicting things about what high school coaches in the state think about him, FWIW. I imagine that's something you could say about any coach.
We are so terrible. The basketball… it is not good anymore. I don't really know why, but holy crap:
- Michigan’s defensive rebounding percentage of 60.7% ranks last among all Division 1 major conference teams.
- Michigan’s three point percentage of 28.3% is better than only two major conference teams (Oregon St. and UCLA) yet only two major conference teams (Iowa and Northwestern) shoot more threes than Michigan (3FGA/FGA).
- Michigan is allowing opponents to shoot 52.2% on 2 point field goal attempts, the worst percentage allowed by any major conference program.
Dylan has a few more numbers that look more like Indiana last year than a team with any tourney aspirations. They add up to "ugh."
This season is even worse than what went down in football. Everyone knew this wasn't the #15 team in the country but it shouldn't be a team that will be lucky to make the NIT. (No, seriously. You have to get to .500 and Michigan is going to come out of the nonconference 6-6 unless they beat UConn or Kansas, so then they have to go 9-9 in the Big Ten despite showing no ability to hang with mediocre teams from mid-major-ish conferences.) This is stunning underachievement. And what happens next year when Manny is gone and the only big guys on the roster are Ben Cronin, who may or may not still be broken, Blake McLimans, and Jordan Morgan? Morgan and McLimans are redshirting; Cronin almost literally can't jump.
I know I shouldn't be surprised about anything nasty happening to Michigan sports these days, but seriously… what the hell. There can be no place underachieving expectations across the board like Michigan is these days.
PREWB! Also BREAKING(!!!) is that nine MSU players got tagged with multiple misdemeanor charges based on the video evidence of the frat beat-down. Three more kids ended up suspended, including the other Chris Rucker on the team. Don't recruit guys named Chris Rucker no matter what their middle initial is.
I only mention was seems like a formality because the crack MSU reporters at the Free Press immediately came out with an article arguing that most of the charges would get dropped as various members of the team agree to testify against the ex-members of the team.
Meanwhile, the News gets clarification from Winston's initial victim on what, exactly, happened…
Montgomery, a student at Schoolcraft College, was hanging with friends near the Michigan State campus on Oct. 19, 2008, when Winston approached him and MSU hockey player A.J. Sturges and dropped them both, each with one punch, police said. Montgomery's fractured jaw was wired for six weeks, and Sturges' skull was fractured. …
"I was attacked for no reason. I was not in a fight. I was with a friend, and Glenn Winston came and hit me for no reason at all."
…in a story that has the fantastic lead "Ian Montgomery has an intimate familiarity with Glenn Winston's fist." They also reveal that Jenrette's mysterious redshirt was because of a robbery that happened August 1st of 2008, literally days before Jenrette arrived on Michigan State's campus. Jenrette was already sporting a 2005 offense. Michael Rosenberg's column awaits him.
Again, this is not really about Dantonio, whose public image has taken a hit but will recover in time as long as these things don't keep happening, but the rampant bias at the Free Press that would be funnier every day if it wasn't having a material impact on the local/national perception of Michigan.
Etc.: WVU fans, prompted by bubble pipe professor Matt Zemek's assertion that he'd rather have "integrity and humanity" in the form of Bill Stewart instead of whatever Rodriguez is, debate whether they'd rather have their current coach or our current coach. Opinion is split. CATS 4 GOLD. Sun-Times asserts that Harbaugh actually met with ND officials; tomorrow they announce that Bob Stoops is back in the picture!
Michigan 4-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game against Utah is that the team looked, at times, as competent as it's been all year. The rest of the game though, not so much. The shooting woes continued, with the team shooting a collective 34% from the field and a horrendous 55% from the free throw line.
Zack Novak didn't play against the Utes, missing the game with the flu. It's impossible to know whether he would have been the difference in the game, especially since a 6-5 power forward is probably unlikely to see tons of success guarding guys a half-foot taller than him.
The depth is so bad that Ben Cronin actually got first-half minutes, as did walk-on Eso Akunne... and the team might have played better with them in the game than it did without. This whole post is turning out to be really bullet-y, and the heart's not in it, so I might as well get right to the...
- This might sound like a pretty mean-spirited thing to say, but at one point Paul said to me "Why didn't Anthony Wright go on paternity leave or something?" I totally agree. I fail to see why he continues getting minutes, when he's such a liability on both ends of the court. I'm sure he's a great guy, but he's not producing for this team.
- Manny and Deshawn both got going in this game, though they were the only two Wolverines in double digits. Sims only scored 10, but that's not too bad against such a tall lineup. You'd like to see him get enough to keep the defense afraid and open up the outside for the shooters, but...
- AAARGH SHOOTING. It has to get better sometime, right?
- I don't intend to accuse the referees of bias, because I would even guess that Michigan got the better end of more calls last night. Still, holy crap is the officiating in NCAA basketball horrible. Seriously, make me the head of officiating and it will get better in a snap.
- Hats off to Eso Akunne. Dude's a freshman walk-on and he played his ass off.
- I kept waiting for Gibby to break out and do a couple awesome things, but he never did. I guess more playing time wasn't what he needed, one-game sample against a very tall team noted.
- Michigan actually seemed to be forcing a good number of turnovers, both from man and the zone. Unfortunately, they were pretty generous with the ball themselves, and didn't come down with many rebounds.
Detroit comes to Crisler Arena at Noon ET on Sunday. The game will be available on the Big Ten Network. After that, the Wolverines will sacrifice themselves to Kansas the following Saturday.