to play football, not to play trumpet
That locks up an NCAA bid no one saw coming, and possibly the title for most over-achieving Michigan team in a long, long time (seriously, does anyone know what the last Michigan team like this was?). Muppets:
Because you can't have one without the other.
I think they were in either way but it would have been harrowing on Selection Sunday; now they've probably played themselves out of Dayton. I have no idea how. Does anyone know how that happened?
I had this post drafted last night. Michigan played poorly in the middle third of the game, and I deleted it. Michigan wins. CAUSALITY!
...and you can't have one without the... whaaaaa?
|WHAT||Michigan v. Illinois|
|WHEN||2:30PM EST (appx)|
KenPom: 33% W
|TELEVISION||ESPN (Dave O'Brien, Dan Dakich)|
This Is The Most Important Game Of The Season. It's the last one of those, too. If the Wolverines win this afternoon in Indianapolis, they'll participate in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. If not, they'll sweat it out on Sunday.
In the teams' lone meeting this season, Illinois emerged victorious in a heartbreaker for fans of the maize-and-blue, as Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass missed potential game-winners from 3. Not a bad result, considering Michigan had an uncharacteristically terrible shooting night, but you play to win the game. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Etc.
Since that game, Michigan has continued their strong late-season form, winning three of four, with the only loss coming on a banked buzzer-beater to Wisconsin. The Illini lost three of five, with the only wins coming at home against Iowa and Indiana - by far the worst teams in the league.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Illinois Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UI Def eFG%||49||24||I|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UI eFG%||155||31||II|
|Mich TO% v. UI Def TO%||13||259||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. UI TO%||254||108||II|
|Mich OReb% v. UI DReb%||327||157||II|
|Mich DReb% v. UI OReb%||67||169||MM|
|Mich FTR v. UI Opp FTR||336||67||III|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UI FTR||35||329||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. UI AdjD||52||20||I|
|Mich AdjD v. UI AdjO||51||34||I|
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.
The numbers are slightly more skewed in Illinois's favor than they were last time these squads played, though part of that is because the Illini closed the regular season with a trouncing of hapless Indiana (and a big boost to the Illini's field goal defense comes from unforced misses by Michigan last time around).
The keys for Michigan will primarily be based on the bigs. Michigan's post players must stay out of foul trouble. They did a decent job last time, but that's more the exception than the norm, especially against a huge team like Illinois. Keeping Illinois honest defensively will also be a key, and the Jordan Morgan pick-and-roll should be among the ways they do that.
The battle of the point guards will also be a factor. Demetri McCamey used the last game against Michigan to morph from a cancer in the locker room into the senior leader he's supposed to be. He was more scorer than distributor, but he did what he needed to do in order to win.
Finally: HIT YOUR SHOTS. Michigan's shooting had been steadily improving before last time these teams played, but 2/18 certainly isn't an encouraging factor. It's not going to be easy sledding against Illinois, so when Michigan can get an open look, they must hit it. Aside from preventing opponents from putting the ball in the net (at which they excel), the Illini are just an OK team. Take advantage when you can.
The loss in Assembly Hall left a bad taste in the mouth of Michigan's players and coaches, and they knew that a lot of their struggles were unforced. They're out to change that, and as one of the hottest teams in the country since the end of January, I think they will. Tim Hardaway Jr. will lead Michigan in rebounds and scoring, with Darius Morris close to matching his numbers (with assists instead of boards). Michigan pulls away to end the game, earning the 70-63 win.
John Gasaway—AKA Big Ten Wonk—likes crusades. His last one was to obliterate rebound margin and seems to be going well. Not many use plain rebounds as a metric anymore, which is good because it makes no sense at all to do so.
Gasaway's latest horde of European knights with fuzzy ideas about salvation is aimed at the tournament seeding process:
I’m on the record as thinking that the mere distribution of wins — with due consideration for opponent, time, and place — can yield sufficient information to draw a line across the top quintile of D-I and tell the teams above this line, “You’re in!” But trying to do something as precise as sequencing an entire tournament field on an S-curve armed only with wins is a little like playing the piano while wearing oven mitts. It can be done, but the music would sound better if we freed up our fingers.
A few years ago I had a back-and-forth with Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog about something similar: I was purveying a resume-based results-only college football poll at the same time he was publishing a top 25 from Vegas oddsmakers that claimed it was more accurate. Those are two diametrically opposed methods. The BlogPoll is descriptive: We have this data and this is our best guess at which teams have the most impressive resumes. Vegas is predictive: we have this data and this is our best guess as to who the best teams are.
So do you want your national title picked based on an assessment of the season or the team? I had a viscerally negative reaction to seeing things like LSU at #5 six weeks into the 2006 season when they'd lost to Auburn and LSU and beaten ULL, Tulane, Mississippi State, and Arizona. They proceeded to win the rest of their games. So Vegas was right, except if LSU was a little better and options at the top a little worse you can imagine a scenario where Vegas takes a team like LSU over some luckbox like 2002 Ohio State. Right or not, that ain't right.
The Vegas poll is answering a different question than I want the people deciding who should play for the national championship asking. If there are two major conference undefeated teams and a one-loss team that's so clearly better than the two undefeated teams but has an inexplicable turnover-filled loss in a driving sleet-storm that happened because their quarterback got injured, picking the obviously better team obliterates college football. It's not about some ineffable combination of NFL draft picks and victory margin, it's about wins. If that has embarrassingly dumbed down nonconference schedules at least it's provided a reason to play the games, and a reason to have your heart in your throat when the other team is driving for the win no matter what your MOV is.
No one is going to claim that loosening the dominion of wins over a sport that lets various .500 major conference teams compete for its title "obliterates" anything, but I'm still leery of a world where Michigan's overtime against Iowa is mostly important because it can push Michigan's Kenpom rating up a spot. Gasaway explicitly states he's fine with using wins for tourney selection but that only mitigates the problem; any solid at-large team sees that effect since they're just worried about seeding, not getting over the line.
It would be pretty dumb to have some guy from Wisconsin at the line shooting two to win against Ohio State and have those free throws hardly matter at all. Would it be fair? Yes. Would it result in better seedings for the occasional very good minor conference team that gets thrust into a tough first round matchup and can't show their stuff? Yes. But I think it would make the season much less vital. Sometimes a little unfairness is the lesser evil.
Now, if Gasaway's just talking about alerting the committee to performance-aware metrics when they attempt to evaluate the case of Utah State, a team that's obliterating the WAC but has only played three games against teams with a Kenpom rating higher than 90(!)* and gone 1-2 against them, sure. The way in which the Aggies have acquired their record should be able to influence the committee to bump them a little bit. His endorsement of Bilas's tweet calling RPI a "joke" suggests he's more militant than that.
Once you start talking about tossing a 17-7, 7-7 Big Ten team probably headed for 19-9 and 9-9 (this is Illinois—their finish: @OSU, Iowa, @Purdue, Indiana) onto a line where a Sweet Sixteen bid would only be a mild surprise you lose me**. The Illini's strong nonconference performance should easily see them into the tournament but while I love Kenpom I'd take eighteen games of .500 basketball over his rating when evaluating seeds.
Maybe I've read him wrong.
*[Iowa, the worst team in the Big Ten, is 82nd.]
**[To be clear, I'm not picking on Illinois because Gasaway is an Illinois grad. It's just that they're the Big Ten team with the goofiest-looking Kenpom rating given their record. Playing Texas, UNC, Maryland, Missouri, and Gonzaga in the nonconference will do that.]
[Also, think of the advantage lost in NCAA pools if people were fairly seeded based on Kenpom type metrics. Horror!]