landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
Lingo explained, mysteries solved
do not whip the baby
Tyler Sellhorn offers some insight into weird football terms we've been marveling over in this space lately. On "kiss the baby":
Taking the ball to the end zone or shall we say the "house" or shall we say the proverbial "crib" or shall we say the place where you "kiss the baby."
You, defensive back, you are in the crib, and you must kiss the baby.
On "buggy whip:"
Old school scouting/coach term for a live arm from a thinner QB, ie Marino and Leftwich have Horse strength in their arms, Namath and Dixon have buggy whips.
I've had this question about redshirts in general for a while and it's currently very applicable to the Shane Morris situation. Is there anything in the NCAA rules stopping Michigan from attempting to redshirt him, but suiting him up for each game and just burning his redshirt if Gardner gets hurt mid-game and can't play? I certainly recognize the strategic pitfalls of this, the main one being that if Gardner got hurt late in the season suddenly we're throwing a guy who has never played a down under center in a critical spot. So while this certainly doesn't sound like a realistic idea, is it possible? Or is it completely irrelevant considering Michigan wouldn't do it anyway?
That is entirely feasible. The only requirement for a redshirt is that the kid did not play at all that year, so Michigan could have Morris as the defacto #2 QB and still get a redshirt on him by inserting walk-ons if the only time Gardner is off the field is garbage time.
As you note, realistically this isn't happening. Michigan has a gangly scrambly guy at quarterback and nothing behind him. Gardner could also blow up into a major NFL prospect. If he leaves, you'd want Morris as seasoned as possible. I don't think that's at all likely—the NFL has caught on to the fact that experience is incredibly important for QBs and would probably want him to get a second year under his belt before taking a chance on him—but you can't rule it out.
Morris might get a redshirt next year when Bellomy should be back, but those sorts of post-freshman redshirts are extremely rare for a lot of reasons.
Even if Morris doesn't end up redshirting, Michigan should be in good hands when he graduates. If Morris is gone in four, the depth chart after his departure reads: Wilton Speight, redshirt junior, 2015 QB, redshirt sophomore, Messiah DeWeaver*, redshirt freshman. These days that's plenty of experience.
*[Official MGoBlog policy is to assume DeWeaver will be the 2016 QB until such time as it is obvious he won't be, because of Muad'dib jokes.]
UNKILLABLE FRED JACKSONS
all of these men are the best running back in history
To whom who actually answers the MGoBlog mailbox,
I don't know if this qualifies for a mailbag question or can be easily answered, but here we go.
To your knowledge, has there been another coach who has survived as many coaching changes as Fred Jackson? It's really quite amazing if you stop and think about him making it through three head coaches at the same university. I am completely unaware of another coordinator or position coach that has done the same. Maybe I'm wrong and this isn't as uncommon as I think it is. Your input would be greatly appreciated.
I have no idea, but I figure the best way to get an answer is to throw it out there and see if anyone can think of another coach who survived two regime changes at the same school. I can only think of one guy off the top of my head: Jeff Casteel, who stayed at West Virginia when Rodriguez left for Michigan and remained the DC when Dana Holgorsen became WVU's head coach.
Casteel's setup provides some broad outlines for coordinators who fit this pattern:
- established coach at successful program who stays when head coach leaves
- weak replacement for HC
- quick turnover
- second new HC is heavily involved in other side of the ball
That's a lot of hoops to jump through, especially because Successful In-House Coordinator is often a prime head coaching candidate at the school.
Position coaches I have no idea about. They seem much more fungible than coordinators, bring a lot of their value in recruiting, and move all over in search of better opportunities. Fred Jackson has got to be a very rare position-coach lifer. Best other bets would be Ferentzes or guys like Pat Fitzgerald. Nepotism and local herodom seem like the only things that could get you through the churning waters of coaching turnover.
Hivemind: anyone have other examples of coaches who have survived multiple coaching changes?
Student seating procedures
Received an email from a guy with the stadium staff who would prefer to remain anonymous about how the new general-admission student section is going to work:
We have made a decision to move to General Admission for our student ticketing and seating process, which in turn led us to make the following changes:
All students must enter Michigan Stadium through GATE 10. Only those with student tickets (accompanied by a valid student ID), including those with validated student tickets, will be allowed entry through Gate 10. Those with general public tickets will not be allowed through this gate.
Gate 10 will now open 3 hours prior to kickoff - 1 hour before the rest of the general public gates.
Students will move from a queuing area to a series of chutes at Gate 10 at 4 hours prior to kickoff. They will select the section they want to sit in at this time and will receive a section reserved wristband or ticket upon entering the stadium.
(Emphasis mine.) Enjoy your chutes, human cattle.
Mo Williams, back in the day.
A reader passes along that Mo Williams, recently referenced in the Kyle Bosch recruiting profile, was indeed a big timer:
Reading your bit on Bosch I remembered I save a bunch of info from recruiting back in the day (1990-2004). You mentioned you weren't sure how hyped he was. Here are my notes. Answer: Very:
Maurice Williams, OL/DL, Detroit, MI. 6'6", 275 lbs, 4.9 40. Williams
is the top player in the state of Michigan and is one of the top line prospects in the nation on either side of the ball; he is one of the top 100 overall prospects in the nation. He is an excellent student with a 3.5 GPA. Could play either OL or DL at Michigan, depending upon his preference and the needs of the team.
Lemming ranked Williams the state's top player and No. 2 in the Midwest. He
was a first-team All-State selection and ranked No. 1 on The Detroit News' Blue Chip list. He could play on the offensive or defensive line in college.
Rated #47 overall in composite National 100.
Detroit Free Press Best of the Midwest (BMW) #2.
Also considered Michigan State, Ohio State and Florida State, and Washington.
This was back in the Lemming days, before easily-accessed databases of these things existed.
Flippin' the line: feasible?
Schofield moved all over
How hard is it in mid game or mid season to change from a right handed to a left handed qb? Does the OL switch the guards and tackles etc.?
Not particularly hard, because the offense will almost certainly ignore the change and operate just like it was before. If there is a change, it will be flipping the tackles, something that teams occasionally do when guys go down injured. Either of these things are suboptimal, but if we are, say, talking about a potential Devin Gardner injury forcing Shane Morris onto the field, that righty-lefty switch is maybe 5% of the hit.
It might be more when there's a significant pass protection gap between your tackles. I'm projecting 6'7" Michael Schofield to be very good at that, so any blindside/non-blindside pass rush tradeoffs are minor. The run game shouldn't be affected, as QBs have to hand off to both sides of their body on the regular.
A couple years down the road when Morris is the projected starter it'll make sense to flip the right and left tackles over the offseason to give Morris better protection from behind, but that's a minor change when you've been given that much time. Schofield slid from left guard to right tackle, a much more drastic move, with not much ill effect.
Why you gotta be huge to play left tackle?
Quick question that may be obvious: why is height such an important asset in a left (or blindside) tackle? I've always taken it as a given but I'm not sure I've ever heard an explanation. Off the top of my head, I would guess it has to do with arm length and the ability to be massive yet retain a lean and athletic body (i.e. Schofield is 303 lbs but is quite a bit more lean and athletic than Ondre Pipkins).
OT Adam Terry (Baltimore Ravens) and OT Marcus McNeill (San Diego Chargers) are both former second round picks (Terry in 2005, McNeill in 2006) who both weighed in during their Combine appearances at 6-8 and around 330 pounds. However, the key difference during each player’s weigh-in was the dramatic discrepancy in the length of the two player’s reaches. McNeill measured in at 35½ inches and Terry posted a reach of 32 ¼ inches. Therefore, we have two men who are roughly the exact same size, however, McNeill has the length to match and maximize his 6-8 frame, while Terry’s length forces him to play like a tackle closer to 6-3.
There are other variables that go into a comparison like this, however, the facts are that McNeill has been the Chargers starting left tackle for each of the past five years, while Terry is considered now as nothing more than an NFL journeyman.
The same guy had an article the previous year on the same topic and a notable name jumped out at me: Robert Gallery, former Iowa superstar, top-five pick, and colossal bust. He also has T-Rex arms.
HOWEVA, Iowa pro-bowler Marshall Yanda's arms are 33.5 inches long, famous left tackle prototype Michael Oher the same. Joe Thomas is at 32.5, Jake Long 33. Arm length is marginal at best… at least when we're talking about guys in a narrow range from enormous to slightly less enormous.
Meanwhile, height is sometimes a… drawback? Again, talking on an NFL level where you can pick the top 1% of players, yeah. After Jake Long in 2008, the NFL didn't take a tackle taller than 6'6" until the 2011 draft, when it was so odd that there were so many huge guys that Mike Tanier wrote an article about it:
One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis said that diminishing returns kick in once an offensive lineman reaches the dimensions of an NBA power forward. “They have to keep working to bend at the knees, to not pop up at the snap,” he said. “They can’t ever let up on their technique.” …
Several of this year’s tall tackles are not just long, but lean. Castonzo has a classic lineman’s build, with a lot of mass in his thighs and butt, but Carimi and Solder have relatively narrow trunks. Their “high cut” bodies create even more leverage issues. Carimi, in particular, gets too narrow when run blocking: defenders can turn him sideways and slide around him. Carimi is so strong and athletic that teams will be willing to work with him to perfect his technique, but his size may never convert to NFL strength.
Giants Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), and Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) all went in the first round, but so did three 6'5" guys. You'll note that Michigan's recruiting is heavily biased towards 6'5" high school tackles who have half the scouts pegging at tackle, half at guard.
Tanier does note that super long arms are, in general, a help, and that blocking techniques are designed with the assumption you're going up against a guy a couple inches shorter than you.
Here's my take on it: in general, bigger people are just harder to get around. A wider stance and longer arms gives a left tackle a bigger catching radius, as it were, to intercept pass rushers. When it turned out NFL teams were sending players of size X at quarterbacks, most of those guys turned out to be 6'3" or 6'4" and after some experimentation it was determined that guys a couple inches taller than those guys combined catching radius with balance. Balance is absolutely the most important thing for offensive linemen. Bigger guys with traditional lineman builds (ie, bottom heavy) take more force to get off balance than smaller ones, but only as long as they can keep a leverage advantage on their opponents.
Who takes the shot against Kansas and such, other than nobody?
With Trey & Tim leaving, who takes the end of shot clock and end of game shots for us next year?
I think McGary would be the obvious choice, but that can be pretty tough for a big man to create shots outside of the offensive flow. And it could pull him away from the basket and rebound opportunities. GRIII hasn't shown a lot in a way of creating his own shot. Walton would be an obvious choice, but he's a freshmen. Maybe some end of shot clock looks, but at the end of a close game? Same goes for Irvin. That leaves the other options as Stauskas (maybe?), Levert (supposedly a terror 1-on-1 in practice, but late game experience?) and Spike (not as terrifying as I thought a few months ago).
Who do you think becomes the regular closer out of that group?
Uh… I think they might go closer by committee?
There is no obvious answer there. McGary's usage shot up in the tournament but very little of that was McGary actually creating a shot—basically some jumpers from the elbow, a couple of sweet short-corner turnarounds, and his once-per-game two-dribbles-to-a-layup. Michigan never, ever posts guys up, and I don't think that's going to change. Meanwhile the other returning star had a usage rate of 13% and got virtually all of his baskets from Burke or off rebounds. Neither is a good candidate for late-game or late-clock hero duties.
With Michigan's emphasis on the pick and roll, it'll probably fall onto the point guard again. Derrick Walton isn't going to take step-back jumpers that somehow fall quite a bit; he's more distribution-oriented. Teams overplaying his penetration will find him kicking to Stauskas or Irvin or dishing to Robinson or McGary.
I can see three other guys possibly taking up the banner:
- STAUSKAS. Showed pretty good ability on the pick and roll, where he showed hints of a Darius Morris-like ability to find passing angles with his length. And you of course cannot go under unless you want punishment. Would take some development both on the bounce and as a distributor, but that's what freshmen do.
- IRVIN. 6'7" to 6'8" guy with an advanced pull up game already. By midseason will be able to get a midrange jumper whenever he wants. Prefer Michigan to try something else always, but late when refs are clenching their bowels and swallowing the whistle the midrange game is the part of your offense least affected by hacks.
- LEVERT. Yes, a stretch given his rough numbers and brief tourney cameos where he was unready for the moment. Seemed to be able to get where he wanted most of the year, small sample size, freshman improvement, and he should have buckets since he was both young and skinny.
This question is a "what we do without Burke" Q writ small, and the answer is "I don't know, but spread it around."
this would have been far less awful to behold if it was officially an exhibition
i seem to remember that rodriguez had some idea about doing spring game scrimmage with d2 or d3 schools. after this year's boring spring game, is doing something like that becoming more appealing to either fans or dave brandon types? bring on slippery rock!
RR's idea was actually to have a preseason game a la the NFL against a I-AA team to kick off the year a week early. It was his third-best idea ever, just behind inventing the zone read and recruiting Denard. I liked that idea for a lot of reasons:
- More football.
- …but of the sort that doesn't significantly increase injury risk since most starters will exit after a couple series.
- Fewer bodybag games, nationwide.
- An opportunity to have an interesting nonconference game along with ten conference games and still have seven home dates.
Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice. Maybe this makes me a freak. Even if it does, an annual exhibition game is more interesting stuff to watch because it gives teams an extra slot with which to schedule an actual opponent. If your objection is "you're adding more games and not paying these guys," I am with you on that.
That doesn't fix spring. Hoke has expressed a desire to have an actual game a la MSU, OSU, and ND, but he hasn't had the roster to do so—and neither did Rodriguez. Next year, you'd hope.
I'd like to hear your opinion as to what time you think students will need to show in order to get great sideline seats (sections 26-27, rows 30-50) for premium games like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio in 2013. I'm a rising senior and I've shown up 45 minutes to an hour early for every game over the past three years, and up until this year's basketball season, I would have thought an hour would probably be enough time to secure a pretty good spot in GA football seating. But after showing up to the Ohio basketball game this year at 4:20 pm (9pm start time) and seeing that there were already 1500-2000 students ahead of me, I'm less optimistic about the situation. Ditto for the NCG viewing (by the time they started letting people in there were at least 4000 people in a line that stretched from Crisler all the way through the parking lot, around Keech, and up to Main).
For basketball, it seems like all of a sudden it has become "cool" to show up to premium games outrageously early even for fans who couldn't name a single player on the basketball team (seriously). It's about to become "cool" to show up to football games outrageously early too. I only see two semi-plausible arguments as to why the lines won't be as bad.
1. There's no clear border between good seats and bad seats for football. In basketball, there's a pretty big drop-off if you don't get in the Maize Rage, so there's a lot of pressure to get those first 500 spots.
I'm not so confident with this one. It's not as if we don't know where the good seats are in the football student section. People are going to want to be in the first 5 rows all around, as well as sections 26 and 27. Those will fill up fast. Show up less than three hours early for UTL or the Ohio game and you will be in the corner or the end zone.
2. There's pretty much no pre-gaming tradition for basketball games.
For this one, it seems to me like a pretty big assumption that all the people who were pre-gaming up until halfway through the first quarter will continue to do so now that there is a competition for seats. The game has been changed. People will go to great lengths to make sure they get better seats than everyone else at a marquee event. It confers a feeling of superiority, whether or not the person actually cares more about the event than everyone else.
I guess it depends on what your definition of "good seats" is. Personally, I think you have to be nuts to want to sit in the first ten rows, especially in the endzone. The worst seats I ever had were on a trip to Iowa: temporary bleachers actually on the field. I had no idea what was going on most plays until I saw it on the replay boards.
Others disagree; those will go quickly. From my experiences at other stadiums with GA student seating, if you're in the stadium 45 minutes before gametime you'll have your pick of seats outside the might-hug-Devin zone. I've been to plenty of Michigan State-Michigan games at Spartan Stadium where the student section is half-full 15 minutes before kickoff. When I went to the UGA-Tennessee game last year, Georgia students filed in at a desultory pace. The number of seats that are at least okay is an order of magnitude higher, so I do think that cliff you reference is a major control on fan insanity.
Another you don't mention is the average level of commitment of a football ticket holder versus a basketball or hockey one. Football has 10x the number of students that either of those sports do, and many of them get tickets not because they're hardcore sports fans but because it's part of the college experience to show up in the second quarter with HOTTT on your ass barely able to walk. (I was even more curmudgeonly about these people when I was in college, thank you very much.) A lot of people aren't going to care much about where they sit.
I'm confident that anyone who gets to the stadium when I do will be able to pick damn near any seat they want outside of the first ten rows. If Michigan's taking on OSU to go 12-0… I still think you're good, actually. If 50% of students aren't showing up on time, do they really care enough to secure better seats for themselves? By definition they don't really care about what they're watching. They're going to feel superior anyway. Their ass is HOTTT.
I heard Hecklinski quoted as saying the speed in a WR is over-rated. Michigan's prototype now seems seems to be 6-3 strong WR with fair speed while OSU prototype is 5-11 inch burner. To me, I would rather have the burner. I do understand it is a different offense with need for blocking more important with pro style offense, but I cannot believe speed in a WR that you are hoping to stretch the field is unimportant in any offense.
It's not necessarily the case that big receivers have to be slow. The fastest guys in the world seem about evenly split between outside receivers (Usain Bolt, for one) and slots. Michigan's brought in a couple of guys—Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris—that are both large and very fast. Most of the top receivers in any given year will be both large and fast, and Michigan will take those guys when they can get 'em.
When they can't, like most people most of the time, Michigan will take large over quick. Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one. As long as they're quick enough to get on the right side of a cornerback, those midgets can have all the recovery speed they want, it's not going to help. Despite being just 6'1", Junior Hemingway was an excellent example of this style of deep threat. Notre Dame's been running them out for years: Michael Floyd—yeesh, that guy—Jeff Samardzija, hell, Tyler Eifert. None of those guys were close to burners, but they certainly stretched the field anyway.
Michigan does give something up in the quicks department by going this route. They're not going to be a great WR screen team. Al Borges is fine with this. He hates throwing behind the line of scrimmage. He also loves the deep ball. I mean, come on, this is Al Borges we're talking about, the offensive coordinator who wants to call a 30 yard pass every down.
Title: Dave Brandon run for Senate?
Me: Go away!
DB: "Go away?"
[DB laughs as I begin crying]
Me: I hate you, I hate you.
DB: Where would you be without me, dollar, dollar? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!
Me: [stops crying] Not anymore.
DB: What did you say?
Me: Hoke looks after us now. We don't need you anymore.
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
[DB screams in frustration]
Me: LEAVE! NOW! AND NEVER COME BACK!
[DB is silent]
Me: [looks around] We told him to go away... and away he goes, Precious! Gone, gone, gone! Michigan is free!
It's been three and a half years since you posted a pic of my son as a 7 WEEK old in a post.
I made a "vine" of him Tuesday. He's keeping up with this "Mgoblog's biggest fan" moniker at the ripe old age of almost four.
Your head might explode if you turn the sound on here.
I've been watching the debate over who is going to start for Michigan next year with McGary and Robinson moving down to the 4 and 3 respectively. My thought is that doesn't UM need Stauskas or LeVert to start at the 2 because they need the extra ballhandler to assist the point guard?
I don't know much about Irvin's ball skills, but last year Michigan had Stauskas and Hardaway to assist Burke with bringing the ball up the court from time to time, so at a minimum they need at least one other above-average ball handler to assist Walton/Albrecht in their starting 5. Thoughts on this?
Like everyone else, I did a virtual spit take when McGary and Robinson declared they'd be moving a slot down in the offense. That goes against everything John Beilein's spent his career developing, and "right after a loss in the national title game" seems like a weird time to decide a conventional two-post lineup is where it's at.
First, one of Stauskas and LeVert is going to be on the court almost all the time in any scenario. When they're both on the bench, Michigan's proably in a dual-point lineup. Irvin does have some off the dribble game, but he dribbles looking for the pullup even in high school and will struggle to create shots by himself in year one. Minutes for Horford and Morgan at the five come from the guys who would play the three not named GRIII (ie, LeVert and Robinson), not the SG position.
Let's take a look at hypothetical worlds, one in which Michigan continues much like they have been, another in which McGary is mostly at the 4 and Robinson the three.
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert (10)
SF: Irvin (30) / LeVert (10)
PF: GRIII (30) / Morgan (10)
C: McGary (30) / Morgan&Horford (10)
PG: Walton (25) / Albrecht (15)
SG: Stauskas (30) / LeVert(10)
SF: GRIII: (20) / Irvin (20)
PF: McGary (30) / GRIII (10)
C: Morgan (25) / Horford (15)
You're taking minutes from LeVert and Irvin and handing them to Morgan and Horford. Is that plausible? We are talking about a redshirt senior and a redshirt junior at center versus a freshman and sophomore who was on a redshirt track last year, so… it isn't totally implausible.
To make it work, though, McGary has to be ready for a lot of weight offensively as a high-post forward who can be a triple threat from the free throw line. Otherwise the spacing Beilein's spent his career building breaks down and things get grunty. Also, Robinson has to be a more willing and effective shooter. Michigan isn't going to be able to go with two bigs if the starting three has a usage rate of 13%.
Do I think this is particularly likely? Uh… no. I do think we'll see periods where McGary acts as a high-post fulcrum, and Michigan will try to develop a two-post offensive plan for times when Robinson isn't feeling it, is in foul trouble, or has a bad matchup like this year's Michigan State games. Michigan will try to acquire some flexibility they lacked this year when Robinson's backup was Still Glenn Robinson.
Upshot: Michigan will spend a lot of time this offseason working with those two guys at the positions they said they would work at, and then go with what works. That'll depend on
- How much LeVert improves
- How good Irvin is immediately
- How quickly Morgan can shake his funk
I think the answers to #1 and #2 are "a lot" and "quite good as long as he's not burdened with creating shots too much," so talk of playing big will remain mostly talk.
where is M's Oladipo?
I understand Michigan will be losing Burke and Hardaway BUT I feel that this might not be that big of a blow if they improve defensively. See their defensive ceiling is very high and with an entire offseason ahead maybe this team could become one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten but the question is, how do they do so?
I view Ohio State as an example. They lost almost 43% of their scoring with the losses of Sullinger and Buford but managed to be within one poor half of being in the Final Four. A lot of their success could be attributed to their outstanding defense.
- Ali Maki
Where is Michigan's defense going to come from? Ohio State didn't just have Aaron Craft, they also had 20 minutes a game from steal fiend Shannon Scott and rebounding from everywhere. Fun fact: every non-point guard to play for OSU this year had a higher DREB% than Nnanna Egwu, and even the PGs were in double digits.
Meanwhile, Michgian's 39th-ranked defense is the second-best of his entire career. (The 2011 outfit finished 34th.) Thad Matta has done better than that every year but one since 2003. Beilein compensates by having great offenses—actually, Matta has a lot of those, too. Anyway. The point is: until we see Michigan take a leap forward into uncharted territory for Beilein it's going to be tough to predict they can scrape together a top-ten defense, which OSU has been for three years running.
I have heard that Walton and Irvin are good defenders—Irvin in particular is dedicated and long—and if LeVert can turn some of his rep into actual defense, they should be improved on the perimeter. They still won't have that impact defender you can put on the other team's top scorer or leave in the post to murder anyone who steps in the paint. Without an Oladipo or Craft or Withey or Russ Smith, it's tough for any defense to be great. Those guys are kind of like high-usage players on offense, taking the heaviest duty and allowing other guys to base their game off of what the opponent probably can't do. I don't see one of those guys on the roster next year. Maybe LeVert, maybe Irvin, but probably not.
This is not to say that I don't expect them to improve defensively. They will be less blitheringly young next year. Players improve most from year one to year two, and Michigan has an awful lot of guys making that transition. They will improve. It's a long way from 39 to 9, though.
Consider what Beilein has accomplished, coach a coach. IF we win tonight, he'll have bested Shaka Smart (Final Four, 2011), Bill Self (national champs, 2008), Billy Donovan (national champs, 2006, 2007), Jim Boeheim (national champs, 2003), and Rick Pitino (national champs, 1996). And he'll have done so with the youngest team in the tournament. Wow.
We didn't win but… yeah, wow.
It seems like Michigan went through Murderer's Row to get to the Final. Since the seedings can be pretty political, does Kenpom or some other objective measure tell us how difficult our path was compared to the Finals teams in recent history?
Yes, Kenpom in fact did pile together a toughest-path ranking, and Michigan made the top ten at #8 of 44 teams to make the Final Four in the past 11 years. This year's Wichita State team was #1. The top ten is mostly 3s and 4s plus outlying small conference schools (along with WSU, George Mason and Butler x2), which makes sense since often a 3 or 4 will have to go through a tough second-round matchup and then take out the 1- and 2-seeds in the region.
In Michigan's case the 2-seed went down only to be replaced by what was then the #1 team in Kenpom, Florida. (UF finished second.)
I hope this painting is called "Malcolm Gladwell's childlike naiveté"
I'm curious about Beilein's defensive tactics. Why doesn't M ever run a full-court press? I would have guessed that a young team that rarely fouls would be a good team to press with, but apparently not. Why is that? Then down the road, when these gents have another year of experience, do you think Beilein will feel more comfortable switching up defensive schemes in a game?
Short answer: a press is not free. Short answer #2: …and Michigan was not constructed to run one.
This was the subject of the dumb article Malcolm Gladwell wrote that marked the end of his status as a sports blogosphere fave-rave. Gladwell observed a sociopathic girls' basketball coach (emphasis on girls: 12 year olds, dude) running a full court press and mused about how everyone who doesn't run one must be using their brain wrong. Rick Pitino comes in for praise for actually having the smarts to run a press, first at Providence and then elsewhere. Louisville just won the title, and all it took was… uh… a veteran, hugely talented team specifically recruited to run it.
The press can be effective if you recruit to it. As we've seen with VCU and Louisville, you usually end up with a certain kind of team: cat-quick small guards, a big who can run the floor, an undersized power forward, a deep bench, and one guy who isn't a bricklayer from three. Michigan doesn't look much like this press team except at PF and designated corner gunner.
Most important is the depth: Michigan had none. Teams that press heavily use a lot of energy. They don't run their players out there for almost 90% of available minutes (Burke), or even 85 (Hardaway, Robinson). UL's Smith and Siva were down around 75%; no other Cardinal cracked 65. No one on VCU or Arkansas cracks 70. In Michigan's case, a press would have meant a big chunk of gametime with LeVert or Albrecht out there instead of Burke, Hardaway, et al. And there's no way Robinson can go 35, 38, 40 minutes in a lot of games, so then you're cobbling together 10+ minutes of awkward lineups. Even if you can effectively deploy the press, is it worth those six minutes a game it puts Trey Burke on the bench?
Meanwhile, Michigan was already discombobulated in half-court defense for big chunks of the year. Time given over to a press is time not spent working on half-court rotations that are useful on every possession, or time not spent working on offense. You don't get a press for free, and the consequences of having a crappy one are easy buckets.
Beilein's not a press guy, so Michigan won't run one next year. That's like asking Al Borges to run a spread—if he has to, he'll do it, but it will always be awkward. Hypothetically next year would be a better opportunity since Derrick Walton won't be the player of the year and LeVert and Albrecht will be higher-quality bench options in year two. But it's not happening.
Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors
I received a recruiting mailbag question via email and, in the process of requesting more questions on Twitter, this mostly turned into a basketball mailbag. So, here's a hoops mailbag with a couple of bonus football recruiting questions, I guess.
Starter of the future, also starter of the present (Photo: Bryan Fuller)
Do you think that Morgan getting rest against VCU could help him have a serviceable/good game against Kansas? — @carlseikoll
This is the first of two questions about the big men, so let's focus on Jordan Morgan's situation for now. He got a lot of rest against VCU—the whole game, in fact—on the heels of playing just one minute against South Dakota State and 18 combined minutes in the Big Ten Tournament.
It'd be nice to pin the blame for Morgan's reduced role on his midseason ankle injury, but I think we're beyond that point—he played over 22 minutes in each of the four games leading up to the BTT. It's entirely possible that coming back from the injury too soon sapped his confidence, especially in his ability to get lift off the floor and go up strong when finishing with the basketball. Or a bad stretch of games and subsequent benching may just be getting in his head.
Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely that John Beilein would keep Morgan nailed to the bench in the VCU blowout—not giving him the chance to regain some confidence in a low-risk situation—only to have a big role in store for him against one of the nation's best teams (and best big men). Which leads to the next question...
What is the hierarchy of McGary, Horford, Morgan, and what they can do to stop Withey? — @stephenjnesbitt
Mitch McGary is the starter at this point, a point I doubt anyone will dispute. He's emerged as both the team's most consistent and productive center, and as long as he stays out of foul trouble he should play the majority of the team's minutes from here on out.
Given the above, Jon Horford is the next man on the floor, and Morgan should be used either sparingly or only in case of emergency. While this rotation worked out great in the first two tournament games, however, there's reason to worry heading into the Kansas game.
The reason, of course, is Jeff Withey—a real, functional, productive big man, something Michigan didn't really see in the first two NCAA games. I don't think there's a huge gap between Michigan's three big men offensively, aside from McGary's stellar offensive rebounding; all three aren't players Beilein is going to post up often, especially against one of the country's best shot blockers. Against Kansas, whoever's playing center won't do much more than set picks and fight for putback opportunities.
The difference will come at the defensive end. Morgan has certainly struggled in the last couple weeks, to the point that I don't think Michigan can confidently throw him into the fray on Friday; that's a problem, because he's still by far their best on-ball post defender, and Withey is a skilled post player with a high usage. McGary, meanwhile, has done everything well recently except defend on the ball—overlooked in his performance against VCU was the Rams' lone big man, Juvonte Reddic, scoring 16 points on 7/11 shooting in 24 minutes, with only one of those baskets coming off an offensive rebound. McGary is also foul-prone, though not as much as Horford, who commits a sky-high 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes.
I still don't think Morgan will play much, if at all. If he does, it will be because Withey is terrorizing the defense in the post. The best thing Michigan can do against Withey on Friday is to try to lure him away from the basket as a shot-blocker—expect a lot of pick-and-roll action—and look to deny him post touches defensively. This is one of the worst games for the Wolverines to be without a full-strength (mentally and physically) Jordan Morgan, but that's the way the ball bounces.
[Hit THE JUMP for the odds of Michigan's underclassmen jumping to the NBA, searching for Big Puppy's breed, and a couple of recruiting questions.]
Beilein's time out management. In light of almost blowing it at the end of MSU, he did the same thing on Sunday and it cost us. The first one in the second half,, the trey on the floor one, and the the THJ in bounds at the end (even though he jumped the gun a few sec early) were all legitimate but the other was a total waste and should have been banked.
Also, do you think having a t.o at the end, w 10 sec left, would have really mattered? or is the quality of the look Trey and Jordan had high enough to negate whatever impact the t.o would have had?
DB [ed: not that DB]
Not having timeouts at the end of a couple of close games doesn't move my coaching-issue needle. UMHoops just posted some data on baseline out of bounds and sideline out of bounds plays; Michigan is tops in the league at those two combined at 0.95 points a possession. They score 0.96 in their generic half court sets—there is no difference. After a timeout they score 0.93, and given the rarity of timeouts relative to other possessions that's probably just sample size.
Having a timeout for the last possession would have given Michigan a sideline OOB throw in with six or seven seconds left, at which point Trey would have probably done the exact same thing he did without one. The defense would have been at least as set, and possibly better prepared to challenge. Michigan got a meh look for Burke that came paired with a high chance of a Kobe assist since Zeller abandoned Morgan. It's hard to criticize that outcome anecdotally, and if the numbers show any trend it's towards timeouts being slightly advantageous to the defense.
You mention that Michigan's lack of timeouts nearly cost them against State when Michigan was stuck inbounding to 44% FT shooter Mitch McGary. That's true, but it cut the other way in that one when Tom Izzo called timeout on MSU's last possession. That turned a transition opportunity into a set defense and set up a Trey Burke steal when a prepped Michigan team denied a screen for Harris and trapped him on the perimeter.
Basketball coaches call timeouts to give themselves the illusion of agency late. It's their equivalent of pushing the "close door" button on an elevator that doesn't have it hooked up.
Another emailer had a similar complaint about the timeouts, which I omitted. Here is a second potential issue:
Why put in McGary at the 8 minute mark? I thought this was a huge mistake
when it happened and it ended up allowing Zeller a couple of easy inside
buckets for fear of foul trouble. At this point Morgan still had 2 to give
and I felt he should have been the one on the court with 8 minutes to go.
Then, Indiana subs Zeller out at 5 mins and Morgan goes in.
Personally, I feel like this should have gone the other way. Zeller has an uncanny ability to have things go his way in a basketball game so I don't think sending someone with 4 fouls onto the court against him with 8 minutes left was the best move.
Thanks for your time. Go Blue!
I've always been a play 'em zealot since in some sense fouls you don't use are wasted resources. If McGary has four fouls and his mean time to fouling out is six minutes, you might as well throw him in there at eight minutes if you think he can help.
The thing that destroys those assumptions is the fact that basketball players like staying on the floor and once they get in foul trouble it affects their game negatively. Did that happen with McGary? Not to my mind. McGary stuck his chest in for a charge, got Zeller to turn it over once more, and did fairly well against a guy who was pretty rampant against Morgan, too. The PBP shows this Zeller/McGary related stuff starting at eight minutes:
- Zeller turnover
- McGary missed layup
- Zeller layup
- McGary OREB
- McGary missed layup
- McGary OREB (of own miss)
- McGary layup
- Zeller missed jumper
…and then Morgan is back in. Except insofar as everyone on the floor was hurting Michigan by not acquiring offensive rebounds, it doesn't look like McGary's entry at 8 minutes was detrimental.
Generally I'm in favor of playing guys. The worst thing that happens is they foul out, and by putting them on the bench for huge stretches of the game you're kind of fouling them out yourself. Now, in McGary's case the frequency he was racking up whistles demanded he hit the bench. When it's Burke or Stauskas or whoever, benching them drives me nuts.
Any chance that Michigan starts Pipkins and Washington in a similar way that they used Washington and Campbell this year?
Today, after I posted on that possibility yesterday:
Just sayin... haha
FINE DANIEL HERE WE GO
I've been skeptical that Pipkins will start at the three tech* for a couple reasons. One is that Pipkins was pretty far away from being a quality option last year and he would have to make a major leap to go from meh backup to starter quality in an offseason. It is possible; if I had to bet I'd guess he ends up behind someone else, and at that point you may as well have him back up the nose.
The second is that defensive tackles rotate so extensively that the second nose is going to get up to 40% of the snaps if he's good. Pipkins is the only non-freshman available to back Washington up unless you think Richard Ash is going to surge to playing time. At this point, that's unlikely, so moving Pipkins away from the nose damages your depth chart at that spot more than it helps at a fairly well-stocked three-tech.
If Pipkins does play the three that's probably good since it means Ash or Willie Henry is pretty good and/or you can't keep Ondre off the field. It just seems unlikely either of those things is true just yet. Wait until 2014.
*[I assume Washington, having established himself a quality Big Ten NT, will stay there; Hoke certainly made it seem like he was a given. ]
The Borges difference
Howdy Brian -
Man, when it comes to gutshots, Michigan's b-ball games against Wisconsin and IU have got to be in the top 5. A missed lay-up here, a missed free throw (or five) here and we're talking smack on a grand scale to our midwestern friends. Ah well. Beer.
Anyway, I randomly came across this today:
[ed: The Garden of Forking Paths is a Jorge Luis Borges short story inside several other short stories that… well…
Borges conceives of "a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression", asking the reader to "become aware of all the possible choices we might make."… You "create, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork".
Borges (not that Borges) was a weird guy, brilliant guy.]
I challenge you to work that into a blog post, what with the author clearly being a long lost distant relative of Big Al Borges. Or maybe make Lorne do it. Call it initiation or something. :)
Hope all is well. Go blue!
Oh man. I would if I could but Borges (not that Borges) was a genius and any imitation would be terribly pale. It is exactly right though, and I wish I had thought of it when trying to talk about the infinite opportunities for brooding that basketball provides when it goes awry. Fork not that many paths this year and Michigan is your outright Big Ten champs. Makes you appreciate last year all the more, as that team was well below the other two co-champs in efficiency margin and still managed to pull it off.
Can I tell you about my unfinished screenplay that's an adaptation of the Library of Babel in which two Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-type figures wander the library in search of the book that tells them how to get out of the library? I'm titling it "Michigan State Rose Bowl." This concludes today's Jorge Luis Borges joke festival.