national champs baby
|WHAT||Michigan v. Iowa|
|WHERE||Iowa City, IA|
3:30 PM CST
4:30 Real Life Time
February 19th, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan -2.5.|
|TELEVISION||BTN (Eric Collins, Tim Doyle)|
As Brian said on WTKA Thursday, the outcome of the Illinois game doesn't have a huge negative effect on the tournament chances, except it's one hell of a "lack of positive" effect. Like missing a late goal trailing in a hockey game, it's the coulda-been point where it starts feeling like the thing is really over.
Michigan is now in serious need of an RPI top-50 win, and with four games left, there are only three options: 1) Beat Wisconsin. 2) Beat Minnesota and hope they end up in the top-50. 3) Beat Michigan State and hope the Spartans end up in the top-50. As much as it hurts to cheer for Sparty, #3 would be a huge benefit, because it would give Michigan two wins over a top-50 squad, including one on the road.
Until the fat lady does her thing, this is This Most Important Game of the Year Until The Next Game. The contest of Iowa isn't necessarily a "must-win," but it's definitely a "can't-lose," and since there are only two possible outcomes, well, I guess it's a must-win if Michigan wants to keep their tournament dream alive. A loss doesn't kill it, but means it would be necessary to sweep their final three regular season games (which, I hope they plan to win this one AND sweep the final three), and/or make a conference tourney run.
Last time around, Melsahn Basabe had a coming-out party, reaching a season-high point total (25), while pulling down 8 rebounds and notching a pair of blocks. Not to be outdone, Darius Morris recorded a triple-double, and the Wolverines got the last laugh with a comfortable win in Crisler Arena.
Since then, Michigan has shown that they've snapped out of their midseason malaise, but Iowa has proven that they're no pushover (who knows how they'll react after officially losing the chance to go .500 by losing to Northwestern on Thursday). There are no easy wins in NCAA basketball's toughest conference, especially on the road. Time to earn it.
With a few games under each teams' belts, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Iowa: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Iowa Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Iowa Def eFG%||65||182||MM|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Iowa eFG%||176||181||-|
|Mich TO% v. Iowa Def TO%||19||67||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. Iowa TO%||238||261||M|
|Mich OReb% v. Iowa DReb%||319||191||II|
|Mich DReb% v. Iowa OReb%||41||95||M|
|Mich FTR v. Iowa Opp FTR||342||7||IIII|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Iowa FTR||56||269||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. Iowa AdjD||54||48||-|
|Mich AdjD v. Iowa AdjO||66||140||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.
The Wolverines dominate the tempo-free stats, and Iowa's only big advantages are in rebounding Michigan misses and not sending John Beilein's squad to the free throw line. To sum it up, Iowa has a very slight advantage on Michigan's end of the court, and Michigan has a pretty hefty advantage when they're playing D.
So I spent a lot of the Illinois preview spilling words on how Michigan had turned into a pretty good offensive team during Big Ten play, and they managed to mae me eat my words by missing EVERYTHING on Wednesday night. A lot of that came from playing the #1 eFG% defense in the Big Ten, but even the open shots just weren't falling that night.
If Stu Douglass (54.7 eFG% on the year, 22.7 against Illinois), Zack Novak (55.2 this year, 42.9 Wednesday), and Darius Morris (52.5 season, 33.3 Wednesday) can snap out of their shooting funk, Michigan should be able to roll on the road. If Jordan Morgan can keep up his excellent form of late, that's icing on the cake.
I'm willing - based on 26 other games of evidence - to believe that the shooting performance was just a really bad night, and it won't be repeated against a much worse defensive team than the Illini. Keeping Melsahn Basabe from repeating his performance from Crisler Arena will be the bigger key to this game. Ken Pomeroy likes the Hawkeyes this afternoon, but I think Michigan emerges from Carver-Hawkeye with the 70-61 victory.
Kellen Jones M bowtie FTW.
Improving the not LOI. Compliance people complain to each other on twitter about people who abbreviate the "National Letter of Intent" as "LOI" instead of "NLI." Apparently there are other LOIs. You have been warned.
In any case they should be heavily reformed. Right now they're one-way binds with silly timing that have created a cottage industry of kids who attempt to reserve their spot by being "committed, but open." Paul Johnson's opinion of this is similar to Artur Boruc's about corn:
What I’d like to see happen, but I’m probably by myself: if you have 85 scholarships, and you can sign 25 a year or however many you have. When they commit, they sign the papers and you stop. It would stop all the verbal commitments and all the hats. The guys who weren’t ready wouldn’t commit. You’d call their bluff. They couldn’t make their reservation. We’ll talk to kids all the time, juniors right now, who are committing. We’ll say ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’
“Oh coach, I’m open.”
[HT: Get The Picture.]
I'm not really sure what the argument against early signing is. The way it's set up now everyone scrambles to get their class locked in on Signing Day, so someone like FL WR AJ King who has his scholarship pulled by Purdue is in a tough spot in his attempt to find a landing place. If he was signed, he'd be signed and hijinks both ways would be seriously reduced.
The Bylaw Blog has a few other suggestions, one of which I've made in this space before: the NCAA should implement a "no contact" agreement. That piece of paper would be non-binding but would allow the school specified by the player to contact the kid without restriction… and make it a violation for anyone else to. Official visits would also be off the table. That's a verbal commitment that actually exists and would help coaches figure out who's serious and who's just making a backup plan.
Heart-hurting. Remember that video of the Detroit Renaissance coach declaring Michigan's treatment of former Ren players "hurt his heart," thus explaining why Michigan couldn't get anyone out of there no matter what? Raise your hand if you're surprised that Ren's Lawrence Thomas recited the entire negative recruiting playbook:
"Why not Michigan? They had problems. There were some past experiences with other Renaissance players that I didn't like. Plus, Rich Rodriguez sent an assistant to our school to recruit me. He wouldn't even send the defensive coordinator, just an assistant. Then we'd hear that Rich Rod would be in Florida recruiting."
The Renaissance players were Andre Criswell, a last-second addition at FB who never saw the field and was kept on as a GA after leaving the team before his fifth year, and Carson Butler, the insane tight end who finally ran out of chances towards the end of Rodriguez's first year. Butler was treated so badly he stuck up for Rodriguez during the jihad. Michigan did as well by those kids as they could given the latter's hatred of nerds, be they in the wrong dorm room or playing for Notre Dame.
So… this was not a situation likely to produce a commitment even if Rodriguez showed up with every assistant he had, and one that would likely have continued under Hoke. Similarly, when Taiwan Jones complains about a lack of attention from Michigan during his visit to the UConn game he's complaining as a guy who had been a MSU commit for months already and who Michigan never even considered offering.
This continues the theme from these Blue Chip articles in the News since the beginning of time: Michigan commits asked about State say something short, polite and vague, State commits asked about Michigan rant about a lack of respect, and the guys towards the bottom of the list submit a tear-stained questionnaire because neither school thought they were good enough. This will happen next year, and the year after, and so on and so forth.
Adventures in re-evaluating wins. So… how about not losing to Iowa by twenty points? Yeah, got a whole new sheen on it today, that does.
I mention it by way of inserting this "Fran-graph" from BHGP:
Michigan's at the top and you can see the extreme focus on the rim or the three point line in Michigan's field goals. BHGP's Horace E Cow explains:
In men's basketball in the NCAA this year, players have made 34.5% of threes and 48.2% of twos. The average value, then, of a three-point attempt is 3*.345 = 1.04, and the average of a two is 2*.482 = .964. This fact has led many college (and pro) coaches to the reasonable conclusion that three-point shots are better bets than two-point shots, and that their teams should take as many threes as possible (Todd Lickliter was one of these coaches, actually).
Not all twos are worth less than threes, though: shots at the rim are usually made at a very high percentage (60-70%) and thus the average dunk or lay-up is worth 1.2-1.4 points, much more than the average three. Putting these two facts together (threes are better than most twos, but dunks are better than threes), coaches have developed what could be called a "hollowing-out" strategy on offense: threes and dunks are encouraged, anything in between in discouraged.
My first experience with this line of thinking was watching some Kentucky game back in the day when Pitino was coaching them and hearing the announcer go on about how Pitino loathed shots just inside the arc. Beilein's system is the logical extension of that thinking. Michigan's makes against Iowa: 14 threes, nine layups/dunks, and ten anything else.
If you can get it to work it's great, and it's not a strategy that seems to have a ceiling. One of this year's other proponents of the dunk-or-deep strategy is #1 and current opponent Ohio State. Because they have Jared Sullinger they aren't launching as many threes but both their 2PT% and 3PT% are off the charts—they're in the top ten in both nationally. They've got four guys who take a large volume of two-point shots, and two of them are shooting a Jordan-Morgan-like 59%. Ohio State's distribution isn't quite as extreme but it's essentially the same thing.
The slight difference between the programs is the ability to recruit Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas every damn year.
180 update. Media 180, Signing Day edition:
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class looks like unqualified success
- Brady Hoke earns first win as U-M head coach — in recruiting
- Brady Hoke's first recruiting class adds toughness to Michigan football team
And I'm not even looking at the Free Press, which remains dead to me. I can only imagine the tiny drawings of angels.
I like the one that says there's more toughness now. That's definitely true. Being not tough was the problem, not the secondary being old enough to drive only if they all stood on each other's shoulders in a huge trenchcoat. Also that's the same guy who wrote about the "impossible expectations" driving Tate Forcier away. Pete Bigelow needs to make up his mind about toughness.
[Disclaimer section: Hoke did an okay job, but nothing that should push opinions either way. Not going into the year down eight kids is good. Losing Willingham to Central Florida(!?!?) is pretty wack, but being in a position to say that's wack is impressive since Michigan was nowhere with that kid before Mattison showed up. Losing Jake Fisher makes the tackle depth chart terrifying. I also don't understand telling Rivals 250 receiver Devin Lucien, a guy who was seriously looking at Stanford and silently committed to Rodriguez during The Process because he liked Michigan's academics, "defense or GTFO." Even if you don't want Hakeem Flowers, Michigan had room for another five players and has no receivers in this class.
Meanwhile, most of the guys picked up were of the low-hanging fruit variety: guys who were committed to Indiana or Minnesota or Vandy and didn't have a ton of other confirmed Big Ten options (Heitzman, Carter, Taylor, Bellomy) or guys who had been openly coveting Michigan offers (Poole, Rawls, Taylor again) but didn't get them until later. TX TE Chris Barnett is the exception.
This class is a wait-and-see sort of thing. We won't know if these late pickups were players RR and other Big Ten schools misevaluated or warm bodies for a while, and we won't know about Hoke's recruiting prowess until the 2012 commits start rolling in and he's competing against Ohio State. Not that Rodriguez won many battles against OSU.
On the other hand, a quarter of the class won't fail to show up or wash out by the end of spring like the last RR class so that's cool. Snatching Frank Clark away from MSU despite his existence in close proximity to Ted Ginn is promising. Also: kicker. Hoke uber alles.]
Etc.: Thomas Rawls may be a member of the Jackson family. The awkward Hoke-Rodriguez video. Going back to the 4-3. Michigan finishes 21st in the Rivals rankings. Hoke's got 8 years before the deck stacks against him significantly. Don't play the Hoke "toughness" drinking game. Nutt greyshirt hijinks.
I don't have anything sweeping to say about last weekend's basketball and hockey games that's not a replica of what I said over the past couple weeks. Depending on whether the hockey team is flinging in seemingly unplanned goals or not the team is either okay or difficult to watch, but they are winning just about as much as anyone else in the country so that's an improvement from last year. The basketball team is desperately young and looks it unless it's flinging in half its three pointers, which it has the last couple games.
But I did go to the Joe and Crisler over the weekend, so some assorted items.
Make it rain. I thought "7 of 17 is pretty good" at halftime, and then Michigan went 7 of 9 in the second half, finishing a second straight game with a 3PT% of essentially 50%. This is obviously unsustainable. The top shooting team in the country is Northern Arizona. They're making 45% from behind the arc… and are 312th in 3PA/FGA. Michigan's sixth in that category. The rims will go clang again when opponents are getting out on Michigan's shooters.
But they count just as much as all those jacked up threes they clattered off rims earlier in the year. Michigan's three point shooting has been steadily improving and now they can claim to be above average for what I believe is probably the first time in the Beilein era. They're up to 34.8%, good for #147. Smotrycz, Vogrich, Novak, and Douglass are all at or above 37%. The only sources of three-point shots that aren't net benefits are Morris, who's at 29% on slightly more than two per game, and Hardaway, who's at 31% with nearly six attempts per.
BTW, Michigan State is enduring an agonizingly similar stretch on defense—opponents are shooting essentially 50% on their last 71(!) attempts from three.
Hardaway volume redux. I don't think I had a problem with more than a couple of Hardaway's many, many shots against the Hawkeyes since he was either launching wide-open threes or dealing with a short shot clock. It's tough to complain when he was 5-10 from behind the arc.
After Beilein said he "almost" has a green light to shoot, which seems like a diplomatic way to say "has a little Stu Douglass disease going on" since apparently everyone else on the team has said light. Hardaway's got the worst two point pecentage on the team* to go with his below-average three pointers.
This isn't a knock on Hardaway's potential—if he can just get himself a little more under control and trust in the guys around him, those numbers should increase drastically. The individual stat that will bear the closest attention as Michigan goes into an important 2011-12 season is Hardaway's offensive efficiency rating. I'm betting it takes a big step forward and Michigan suddenly becomes a tough offense to deal with.
*[Colton Christian's 2-for-11 season excluded.]
Not Hassan Wasabi. I vaguely remember John Gasaway praising some Iowa freshman that Fran McCaffery took with him when he left Siena for Iowa, but didn't remember the name. So I spent a big chunk of the first half alternately angry at Michigan's defense and wondrous that a man named "Hassan Wasabi" was playing for Iowa instead of getting kicked in the face by Bruce Lee. (Or Vogrich @ right).
It eventually dawned on me that the guy's name was "Melsahn Basabe," which is still pretty awesome but doesn't quite live up to my misconceptions.
Also awesome: Basabe himself. If Iowa hadn't hired McCaffery he'd be destroying the MAAC, as Gasaway said. Hell, he's already doing that to the Big Ten: he's shooting 57%, around 100th nationally in OReb%, DReb%, and Blk%. He's a black hole with no assists and plenty of turnovers but dang, man. How was this guy ticketed for Siena?
Defense slowly evaporating. Of course, Michigan's defense had something to do with that. Whenever someone shoots 9 of 11 you've been pwned. Halfway through the conference schedule Michigan has flipped their scouting report from the nonconference—the defense is the relative weak point.
I couldn't tell you why other than to go "youth," but remember earlier in the year when I suggested Michigan would actually be a relatively big team this year? That's not happening because McLimans has played himself out of the rotation, Smotrycz has been erratic, and the two centers have been foul-prone. This results in quite a bit more of Zack Novak at the 4 than anyone wanted or predicted. The kicker: a good chunk of the time that lineup features Smotrycz as a hilariously undersized center. Result: effective height in the bottom third of the nation despite having an average height that's 42nd.
It's going to be up to the freshmen over 6'7" to make this better next year since both recruits are guards. The main problem to my eyes is that Smotrycz doesn't really have a backup. It's either Novak or Christian, neither of whom is a great option.
no blue line for you, except that means all blue line for everyone
Guuuughghghr. Michigan's played some entertaining low-scoring games—Friday against Alaska was one—but they've also played some clunkers, like that OT loss against Ohio State. That was a grunting nothing of a game played mostly between the blue lines that turned on some terrible goaltending. The game against the Joe was the latter. Scoring chances were few and far between anda lot of them were due to error more than someone actually doing something right.
Now I'm full-on worried. Michigan got outshot for the third straight game, this one against the tenth-place team in the CCHA. They've scored two goals in the last three games that weren't shots from the point, and while Caporusso's goal against MSU was a nice effort play by Scooter it was a play where a puck bounced fortuitously, not something Michigan had intent behind. You're going to get your share of those goals over the course of a season but it seems like teams that are Frozen Four good have more goals where plans were successfully executed. Michigan's had very few of those.
Lynch penalty shot. I had no real expectation he'd score, but the way that went down is a depressing summary of where the team is right now. Time was Michigan's second round picks were offensive machines; Michigan's are just guys. Lynch, Rust, Brown, Caporusso—all of them are second or third round draft picks that don't seem to do much in the offensive zone. All are getting outscored by Scooter. That's the big issue with the team—the guys who are supposed to carry the water offensively aren't. They've gotten away with it much of the year thanks to the defensive corps and Rust and Hagelin being an NHL checking line already.
Pairwise. One bad loss and Michigan slides down to ninth. As I said, when I first started looking at the thing a couple weeks ago Michigan was close to their apex with a lot of teams nipping at their heels. They cannot afford to struggle down the stretch.
Hello, Hunwick. Never say Shawn Hunwick can't take advantage of someone else's groin injury. His save percentage was hovering around .900 when Hogan went out. A couple months later he's at .923. Hogan's save percentage this year? .923. Hogan was dressed as the third goalie on Saturday and is close to returning but at this point it's hard to go with him over Hunwick—he's only played nine games in about the past year.
Every recruit ever committed to Michigan. To recap the "Hello" posts if you missed any of them during GMD11:
- Three star OH CB Tamani Carter, a recent Minnesota commit, was offered by Michigan and flipped.
- 3/4 star CB Raymon Taylor, an Indiana decommit, went with Michigan when they offered him the second time around.
- Michigan replaced decommit K Matt Goudis with CA K Matt Wile, an Army All-America participant who doesn't have the rankings but we're talking about kicker rankings here.
- 3/4 star LB Antonio Poole was offered and quickly committed after meeting with Mattison. Touch The Banner also has a take.
- Michigan snake oiled Purdue commit and three star TX QB Russell Bellomy. TTB sees shades of McNown.
In addition, OH TE/LB Frank Clark and CO LB Leilon Willingham have moved into the "expected to commit" category. Clark's from Glenville, of all places.
The names and stars aren't that impressive—the partially shirtless are shirtless in the same way Martavious Odoms was, a four star to one site and a generic three star to the others—but if we're talking about Michigan 2013 is the new Martavious Odoms better than air? Yes. And who doesn't like Odoms, anyway?
Even if this is just a version of Rodriguez's quick strikes upon taking the Michigan job, Hoke and Mattison (and I guess some other guys*) are doing this in about a fourth of the time Rodriguez had to assemble the last eight members of his hybrid class. And they screwed over Purdue in the process, thereby twisting the knife on Danny Hope and blowing up one of the very first Rodriguez The Demon memes: the "gentleman's agreement." Excellent work all around. Hope you play as a redshirt senior, kid.
Now we've got some insight into what the coaches think is lacking on the team: defense. Here is a small child reacting to this not at all obvious revelation.
there's gambling in this establishment?
More than the linebacker avalanche it's Michigan essentially turning down one-time silent WR commits Devin Lucien, one of those borderline four star types, and Hakeem Flowers, a three star with epic offers. Both tried to firm up those commits with the new staff and were politely told "defense or GTFO." They chose the latter. Michigan has a surplus on the outside now but surely one of those guys wouldn't have been overkill, right?
Similarly, this Heitzman kid they picked up from Vandy is a 6'3", 225 pounder who doesn't seem like he's got a high upside as a DE. So everyone assumed he was a tight end, since Michigan was trying hard to acquire one even before the shift to a more MANBALL philosophy. He denies this, saying Michigan isn't even talking about offense. Which is weird because between Roh, Paskorz, and Beyer Michigan seems to have undersized weakside DE covered for a good long while.
*[Seriously, all the commits save the Purdue snake oilin' are on defense, and the only defensive coach other than Mattison is Mark Smith. Smith is a 50-something dude who's afraid of flash photography. While a lot of the guys are linebackers I think "I coached Ray Lewis" is more the pitch than "I was the ILB coach at Indiana State for 22 years."]
Good for Michigan State hockey, good for interesting games against State in the future, still extremely uncertain if they'll get back to where they were under Mason. They've never recruited at the level Michigan has but made up for it with suffocating anti-hockey. Now they're not very good, playing in a dead, half-full building, and trying to compete against the OHL, Michigan, Miami, and Notre Dame. If they hire a real star they'll get back quickly but is Blasi going to leave Miami for MSU? Is George Gwozdecky? I have a hard time seeing MSU splashing the cash for their hockey coach—we'll see.
If it's Danton Cole that's the equivalent of hiring Brady Hoke. He'll be decent but that hire won't put the fear of God in Red or Jeff Jackson. The only name in the TOC thread on this is current assistant Tom Newton, which would be like hiring Mike Debord if Carr had stuck around for the 3-9 year. I'm sure you can dismiss that possibility.
While we're on hockey here's that delightful interlude from the aftermath of the Brown scrum:
Via Michigan Hockey Net.
People started muttering about what it would take for John Beilein to get the axe. It's in the paper and everything. BWS is digging out the wet owl and following that up with the obvious argument about his record.
This is what it will take for John Beilein to get fired this year: Armageddon. There are enough arrows pointed in the right direction, mostly in the persons of Burke, Brundidge, Robinson, Hardaway, et al, that Michigan will give Beilein the epic length of rope they gave Tommy Amaker. He won't get nailed next year and the team will be considerably better in 11-12, and probably better yet in 12-13, whereupon they'll either be a consistent tourney team or even the smitten Michigan athletic department will have to cut the cord.
Of course, I said this about Rich Rodriguez, too, but John Beilein is the kind of saint Michigan likes to be associated with.
Doctor Saturday embarked on his annual defense of the "recruiting-industrial complex." Every year the numbers are the same: on an individual and team basis recruiting numbers are not fate but not useless. Get The Picture set to highlightin' the bit I was going to highlight because Michigan is Georgia:
Those 13 schools [at the top of the recruiting rankings] alone have consistently produced a majority of the top five in the final polls, half of the top 10, at least half of the teams in the BCS and all of the national champions in the BCS era. (With Auburn’s triumph – thanks mainly to über recruit Cam Newton, the five-star headliner of a top five class last year – only two of the top dozen recruiting powers have failed to win a BCS championship: Georgia and Michigan. [Emphasis added.]
We've had a lot of reasons our recruiting success hasn't translated to the field—at least, not the field in Ann Arbor. Georgia not so much, as they seem around where Carr was in '05—good young second year quarterback on a team that's around .500 with a declining coach that has maybe a kick or two left at the can.
People who don't lift weights found out what "rhabdomyolysis" is thanks to Iowa. I'm on with Orson when he dismisses the "save the children" aspect of the media reaction—the big issue is more effective sickle cell trait screening, not squatting until you pee brown. While Iowa's strength coach should probably be fired it's more stupid than immoral.
But man can Iowa rack up the terrible PR. Kirk Ferentz wasn't even at the press conference, and the university thought it could get away with a bland press release about thirteen kids being in the hospital. Add that to Iowa's seemingly biannual drug explosion, that weird press conference held late last year in which unnamed rumors were debunked without mentioning what they were, the laundry list of Hawkeye arrests, and that sketchy sexual assault cover-up-type-substance and it's a wonder that beautiful square-jawed Kirk Ferentz is still regarded a molder of men. Or maybe it's not.
Was that a question?
All right then.
The meme was blessed by Steele. Remember those depressing charts from the past couple years with returning starters and whatnot? Yeah…
|3||San Jose St||7||11||2||20|
…different story this year. That doesn't even count Troy Woolfolk, though it does count Terrible McFieldgoalkicker. Call it a wash.
Oh, Snape. Michigan soccer associate head coach Paul Snape got the head job at Butler. I'm only mentioning it so I can post… awww. Stupid Google. I can't find the version of this…
That I once saw somewhere that said "Oh, Snape." Also it turns out to be a Harry Potter reference. Stupid Harry Potter and the horrifying things you'll see photoshopped if you attempt to find the slightly modified version of this stupid animated GIF.
Etc.: Thumbs up to the Mountain West for its supreme dickery in moving this year's TCU-Boise game to the blue turf. Mark Smith looks like that all the time, but it's less alarming when he's talking. Hecklinksi, meanwhile, sounds like he's saying "you are feeling very sleepy" no matter what he's saying. It's very soothing.