"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
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.
GRIII: "I see what you did there." Sobocop: "I THOUGHT THIS GUY WAS JUST A SHOOTER"
One shooting metric to rule them all.
I was reading through your post from today about the game last night (solid effort, can't wait for Saturday!) and I came across the part where you summarized Trey's statline, part of which was that he had 18 points on 11 shots. Is there a place that tracks "points-per-shot" (Kenpom maybe?), and do you think this is a worthwhile metric when tracking offensive efficiency of an individual player? I know the tempo-free stats usually look at eFG% as a major indicator of offensive prowess, but was wondering if points/shot would something akin to this for an individual player.
Thanks for your thoughts!
I just use points per shot as a quick-and-dirty evaluation method when I'm putting together a post because it gets the job done when we're running sanity checks on opinions from our eyeballs. As an out-and-out metric it falls short since it doesn't put free throws in the divisor properly—going 0-2 at the line doesn't hurt you. If you're reaching for an actual stat you can do better.
For a catch-all stat that encapsulates how many points a player acquires per shot attempt, I like True Shooting Percentage, which rolls FTAs into eFG% and spits out a number that's easy to interpret. Trey Burke is at 59%, which means that he is scoring at a rate equal to a hypothetical player who takes nothing but two-pointers and hits 59% of them. Easy.
For Michigan, there's little difference between eFG% and TS%—Burke is 175th in one, 189th in the other, etc—because they so rarely get to the line. Teams at the other end of that scale can see players with much larger differences. Iowa demonstrates this amply. Roy Devyn Marble's eFG% is 46% and his TS% is 53%—a major difference. FTA-generating machine Aaron White is around 200th in eFG% and around 100th in TS%. From an individual perspective, the latter is a more accurate picture of what happens when Aaron White tries to score.
The four factors everyone uses separate free throws from eFG%, so when you look at those as a unit you do see the impact of FTs. If you wanted to you could cram those factors down into a TS% factor and the other two factors into a Possession Advantage factor, but looking at four bar graphs seems to be okay for people.
Announcer meme overuse.
The announcers constantly having to tell us that Stauskas is more than just a shooter reminds me of last year's over used statement (story?), that Trey Burke played with Sullinger in HS. Seriously, they told us that every freaking game. So my question is, which one is worse?
I'm going to have to go with Burke. First, that was mentioned every game, whereas the Stauskas thing only gets mentioned in games where he has a take to the hole, which only happens MOST games. Second, at least the Stauskas thing is mentioned in context, as in, he just proved he was more than just a shooter which prompted the comment. The Burke/Sullinger mention was almost exclusively brought up out of the blue, and had nothing to do with anything happening in the game. It was as if the announcing team made note to make sure they mentioned it at a certain minute marker in the game because nothing plausibly could have brought it to mind otherwise.
P.S. If it had kept going, Dan Dakich's mention of that thing about Spike's dad would easily have been the worst. Luckily, he only told us that Spike's dad was the former best biddy basketball player in the world during Michigan's first four games.
These are different classes of announcing crutch. The Burke thing—which is still happening—is the equivalent of Tom Zbikowski Is A Boxer, a biographical detail that will be crammed in every game to hook casual viewers. The Stauskas thing is a generally applicable sentiment that can be applied to anyone who takes a lot of threes but has decided to venture within the line.
Neither really bothers me. "Not just a shooter" means Stauskas has just thrown something down or looped in for a layup, and I am probably typing something about blouses or pancakes into twitter. I have good feelings associated with its utterance. The Burke thing is just background noise.
So, no one is more sick of conference expansion talk as I am. I'm 100% with you that it's bent our tradition over a dumpster and I agree it's foolish to base major long-term decisions on a dying profit model.
Here's the thing though, does the fact that the current profit model is dying really matter. I mean, we're moving (slowly) to a system where you pay only for the channels you want instead of being extorted for a bunch of channels you'd never watch. So, under this new business model, although it may be less overall money than under the old system, wouldn't they still get more subscribers to be B1G network if they add more schools? There's not a single UNC fan who would pay $5 a month or whatever for the B1G network, but if they were added them, you'd get more subscribers than you would normally. I mean there's the chance that you weaken the brand that you lose more subscribers than you gain, but I don't think that's a serious concern.
TL; DR - It's about the money, and won't expansion bring more regardless of whether the old model is dying or not?
Expansion brings more money but it also brings more mouths to feed. From the perspective of a school in the league it only makes sense to add a team that is at least on par with you in terms of being able to bring fans and eyeballs. Penn State and Nebraska brought those numbers; Rutgers and Maryland likely do not.
The Big Ten can expand to acquire more subscribers but in a world where cable is a niche product to enjoy live sports, the amount of money you're getting is proportional to the number of fans shelling out. Right now it's proportional to population, which makes Rutgers seem like a good idea. Later maybe not so much.
People think things that make them feel better.
Brian, I have this constant argument with a Spartan at work...He says that Michigan's recruiting rankings are always high because when Michigan lands a recruit, the recruit gets a bump in ranking. According to him, this is because a large number of Michigan fans pay recruiting sites for memberships so the sites keep Michigan fans happy by giving them a higher ranking than other schools with lower memberships. He also says that MSU's coaches are just better at recruiting than the sites so that is why they do better than their rankings. Any thoughts on how to prove / disprove his theory?
It will not matter since from the sounds of this conversation your co-worker thinks Mike Valenti is a gentleman scholar and will find some other way to wheedle himself positive feelings until such time as his team is crushed under the boot of history.
HOWEVA, you could just point out that literally every four-star member of Michigan's recruiting class fell in the most recent Rivals update except Jourdan Lewis, who hopped up sixteen spots. This is pretty much inevitable: unless you're moving up, you're moving down as more and more players are discovered. This dude will wave his face around in a disturbing fashion and ignore this data.
As for the thing about MSU's coaches, yeah, recruiting ratings are not infallible and there will be teams that deviate above and below when touted guys bust and low-rated ones break out. MSU's gotten massive outperformance from its defense recently, and maybe they can sustain that in the same way Wisconsin can sustain its running game.
They'll be trudging uphill when it comes to Michigan and Ohio State. State fans love to point out Michigan's class rankings versus their performance over the last half-decade and say "see, nothing there." Taken over larger samples, though, recruiting does correlate with success. Michigan's fade was largely a lack of retention and coaching ranging from lackadaisical to awful. If MSU fans are counting on those two items to sustain them going forward they're in for a rude surprise.
As you've referenced with KenPom's research several times, it would appear that the best way to defend the 3 point shot is to keep your opponent from shooting them at all. Unfortunately, according to an ESPN insider article, Michigan is allowing its opponents to shoot them on 36.9% of their possessions, which ranks 295th in the nation. Does this concern you? I think we would all hate to see Michigan beaten in the tournament by a less talented opponent with a hot hand from deep because they can't prevent teams from getting off 3 pointers.
Somewhat. The nice thing about Michigan's defense is how few shots at the rim they give up. Michigan's forcing more two-point jumpers than any team in the league except Nebraska:
Team Defensive Summary
% of shots
% of Shots Blocked
Insofar as shots are migrating to three-pointers, they're shots at the rim. So… that's okay. Ideally you'd like to see that Nebraska shot configuration, but to do that the Huskers give up on the idea of offensive rebounding and steals.
I'm not sure what Michigan can do to improve their defense at this point. Forcing a lot of jumpers plus their defensive rebounding and lack of fouls has propped their defense up, and that's about all they can do. They don't have a shotblocker—at least right now, maybe Horford can provide some of that later in the season—or an elite perimeter defender. They rotate out on pick and rolls to prevent guys getting to the basket, and then you have to start rotating away from the corners. Threes inevitably result… if you're not Wisconsin.
As for the tourney, it will be tough for any major underdog to keep up with Michigan's offense, but a second or third round matchup against a good defensive team that takes and hits a lot of threes would be worrisome.
Whenever Michigan gets a 3-star recruit earlier in the process, there tends to be widespread complaining about taking up scholarships that could be filled by more highly rated players. The general response to that is, "I trust the coaches to evaluate players." This got me to thinking that most major programs essentially have their pick of just about any three star player that they want.
My question is, do three star and lower players who go to major programs perform better on average than the total population of three star players?
I understand it would be hard to distinguish between a three star player taken for depth/filling out a roster purposes compared to a three star player who the coaches think are better than their ranking, but I thought it might be an interesting topic to explore.
I'd guess it's actually worse since there's more competition and recruiting sites give recruits at the bottom end of the scale a courtesy bump to three stars 90% of the time a nobody commits to a power program.
At Purdue, everyone is a three-star player and someone has to be relied upon; sometimes you get Kawann Short. At Michigan—at least at Michigan in the near future—the three star is going to have to climb over some other guys to get on the field.
I do think that there is a big difference between a recruitment like Reon Dawson—who Michigan clearly grabbed to fill a previously designated spot that was vacated—or Da'Mario Jones—seemingly offered once Treadwell flitted off—and Channing Stribling, who Michigan liked at camp and then had a very nice senior year. To put in in Gruden terms, did Michigan want THIS GUY or just A GUY?
In your post, "Aging in a Loop", you mentioned how the solid defensive rebounding performance in Columbus proves that we are for real on the boards this year. I agree completely, but it got me wondering how much of that has to do with our sudden ability to actually have three to four non-midgets (relative use of the term, I get it) on the floor at once. I can't remember too many Michigan teams having anything resembling a luxury of length in quite some time.
Have ever looked for or found any statistical correlation between average height and rebounding prowess? Even the least astute observer must realize it will benefit the numbers, but I guess what I'm after is just how much it actually does?
[Note: since this email came in Minnesota did pound Michigan on the offensive boards.]
While much-improved, Michigan still isn't a very big team. Replacing Novak and Douglass with a couple of 6'6" guys and adding McGary into the mix has pushed them to a hair above average on Kenpom's "effective height,"* but that's in the context of 347 D-I teams. There are entire conferences where the 6'10" guy is a tourist attraction. They remain a lot shorter than Kentucky, Arizona, USC, Miami, Gonzaga, Eastern Michigan, and others. Effectively four inches shorter, in fact.
Michigan's moved up in the world in that stat—they've generally hovered around 250th in effective height since Beilein arrived—but I don't think that's the reason they've been so good at rebounding this year. I crammed together the data available on Kenpom to eyeball an ugly scatter plot, and here it is:
Libre Office makes sinfully ugly graphs yo.
That round ball with a dense central cluster is typical of things that are not correlated. You'd find something similar if you graphed hair color versus desire to eat bananas.
There is no correlation between effective height and defensive rebounding. If you insert a trend line into this—something I don't like to do in low-correlation graphs like because it implies that there actually is a trend—it actually goes down as your height goes up, at a surprisingly steep slope. Some people would try to apply some crazy mechanism to make that make sense here; I'm just going to tell you there is no meaning. There does seem to be some correlation between EH and offensive rebounding, but not much of one.
Anecdotally, that enormous Eastern Michigan team Michigan played earlier this year is below average at both facets of rebounding despite having played only a few games against decent competition. They're hideous on the defensive glass.
In general this is good news for Michigan, a team that trades some rebounding muscle for increased offensive effectiveness. But why are they so much better this year than last? Well:
- Luck, always luck.
- Effective height does not capture the difference between Mitch McGary and Evan Smotrycz very well.
- Michigan has not trudged through their Big Ten schedule yet; IIRC they entered conference play last year in the top ten and ended up 9th in conference, dropping to 99th overall.
- Tim Hardaway is serious, man.
- Some teams are abandoning the offensive boards in an effort to choke Michigan's transition game off.
If you asked me to put weights on these things I would give them nearly all equal weight, which means they can expect some regression as #1 and #3 betray them but should realize a significant gain from last year's 9th-place conference finish.
SIDE NOTE: You'll notice that GRIII > Novak is not on that list. While it's true that GRIII is much better on the offensive boards than Novak was, their defensive rebounding is essentially identical, lending credence to the idea that getting on the defensive glass is a matter of effort and positioning while offensive rebounding is more about being a skyscraper-bounding genetic freak. Holla at yo' Petway.
*[IE, if you have a seven-footer who plays 10 minutes and a 6'8" guy who plays 30, the 6'8" guy counts three times more than the seven-footer.]
Brian, Quite often the site discusses the ability of an offensive lineman to pull. Why is this difficult? My understanding is that pulling requires the lineman to:
(0) (set up:) ignore the guys across from him before the snap, because the lineman is about to pull,
(1) after the snap, back up a step or two,
(2) run sideways behind other blockers, and then
(3) find a guy to block.
So what is hard? I'm not saying there isn't anything, I just don't know what it is. Is finding the right guy to block hard? Or backing up and running?
Also, have you thought about doing a basketball version of HTTV?
One of the major takeaways from the clinic swing I did last spring was that everything is hard on the offensive line. I missed most of a three-hour presentation by Darryl Funk on inside zone because I was at Mattison's thing, and when I came in I was too far gone to understand much. I also sat in with a wizened consultant who scribbled various v-shaped diagrams on an ancient projector and demonstrated how if you stepped like so your world would end, and if you stepped like so demons would pour into the world from outside known space, but if you stepped like so there was a slight chance of you living to see dinner.
All of these steps looked identical to me. Offensive line is hard.
So. Consider the pull. You are 300 pounds, and you are lined up across from men who would like to run you over, and you are trying to get to a hole past other 300 pound men before a 200 pound man lined up a gap closer to this hole can get there. On the way you may encounter bulges in the line you have to route around. When you arrive you have to instantly identify the guy to block, reroute your momentum, and get drive on a guy.
This is a tall order. Michigan particularly had difficulty with step 2 the last couple years. Here's a canonical example from the uniformz MSU game. Watch Omameh (second from the bottom):
"Run sideways" goes all wrong there as Omameh arcs slowly and Denard ends up hitting the hole before he does; Denard has to bounce as a result when a block on Bullough is promising as the left side of the line caves in MSU.
To get to the place you are supposed to be you have to execute a series of steps as carefully choreographed as anything on dancing reality TV and be able to adapt on the fly, and you have to be able to redirect your momentum quickly enough to go in three different directions in a short space of time, with enough bulk to be, you know, an offensive lineman. Getting there in time is harder than anything the tailback has to do.
How does this impact Michigan's search for run-game competence in 2013? I hope it doesn't since I'd rather have Schofield back at right tackle than moving back inside.
it worked out okay for everyone in the end
Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?
Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.
Mike in Ohio
I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.
The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.
It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."
*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]
obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)
With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.
My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is. I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.
A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.
What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.
As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?
Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.
Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.
"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."
It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.
but but but oversigning
Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!
The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”
What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?
It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.
- Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
- Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
- Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby, and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
- Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.
That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.
My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.
I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.
Notre Dame == Michigan?
Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?
No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.
ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.
Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.
This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.
Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.