I meant to have a diary up on this already but SAVE THE DATE: FRIDAY, SEPT 6 at 7:00 P.M. we will be gathering with Marlin Jackson and an assortment of his friends at the MGOPATIO across the street from the stadium. Details still being hammered out but it will at the very least include a Q&A session with Brian and Marlin and other luminaries. It'll be free to attend with a suggested donation to Marlin's Fight for Life Foundation, and an optional contribution to the food and beer.
Also reminder to New Yorkers that Brian and TomVH will be visiting you next Thursday, Aug. 15 at Professor Thom's between NYU and Stuyvesant Town.
It’s been a few weeks since I had cause to plop one of these on you; hopefully with the “There Are” posts now into backfield numbers that’ll be changing.
In the quiet time LSAClassof2000 has kept up with his charting, this time getting into 3rd and 4th down conversion success rate. The first look was pretty pedestrian, except when charting he added a percent of plays that were 1st down stat to them. I don’t think I’ve seen that stat used before, but come to think of it that’s a neat way to track offensive success, yes/no? Let’s try that:
PERCENT OF PLAYS on X DOWN:
Clickit to make it biggit.
My data are a little different than what you can pull from cfbstats or something because I left in things like plays that resulted in defensive pass interference or offsides (offensive penalties that caused a play to be wiped were removed). Anyway Michigan was sneaky good at avoiding 4th downs last year because of the high 3rd down conversion rate. The most efficient offenses in the conference were better at avoiding 3rd downs too; those were also the spread offenses.
LSA also took a second swing at the conversion stats but went the other way, tracking the differential between offensive and defensive 3rd down conversion rates, and how that tracks with win percentage and points per game. The Michigan difference:
Win your 3rd downs, win more games. My suggestion is to track this game-by-game against the opponents' average points for and against—smaller sample sizes but I bet you those swings make a huge difference in performance vs. expectation.
Bronxblue had a long "best and worst" diary to kind of preview this year's storylines. Things we'll be talking about:
- Football (as opposed to Johnny Manziel)
- Effect of non-Denardiness on offense
- Running back stable no longer smurf variants
- Less spread.
- Where's the pass rush?
- % less RichRodiness
- All those four/five star kids emerging into favorites
[Jump: best of the board, moment of zen]
Tomorrow is the Spring Game, though we've been completely distracting you from all the football going down this week. If you'll be in town for the game, stop by R.U.B. (on State & Packard) afterwards for a live Q&A with Marlin and some high-contrast bloggers. If you won't, the Q&A part will be liveblogged. Bring questions to save us from Chris Farley'ing. Hey remember when you shut down Reggie Williams in the 2002 opener? That was awesome.
That Was Awesome. Hey remember when we had a basketball team in the championship game? The staff here got a bit lethargic afterwards, and we were saved by the work of bronxblue, Diarist o' da Week, who kept a running diary of the entire tournament run. The good: THAT, likeable players, Beilein stories, Burke-Spike-McGary. Bad/Ugly: Refs, injuries, awful announcers, Adidas. Best-worst: expectations:
At the same time, though, the feelings of these past 4 weeks will probably never be there again, or if they are they’ll be tinged with a dread you can’t quite shake. The cloud over UM basketball has finally lifted; it may just be replaced with a far less oppressive one.
The "it's been awhile" sentiment was repeated in the other DotW by Tom From AA, which recounted a decade of would-be ascensions from Bernard Robinson to the walk-on-led B1G champs. Excerpt from the Not Just a Shooter™ prototype:
Stu Douglass – in addition to sporting a Spock-like haircut as a freshmen – was a prototypical example of what a player can be under John Beilein. Initially only an outside shooter (and a streaky one at times), Douglass turned into one of the teams most reliable ball handlers and its best off-ball defender by the end of his senior season – a compliment to both Douglass’ hard work and Beilein’s staff’s ability to develop players. Stu Douglass is the all-time leader in games played at the University of Michigan, beating out his partner in crime by two games. Douglass ranks fifth in career 3-pt field goals made and ninth in minutes played.
I learned this with the 2006 Tigers: the team that takes you up the mountain is the one that will always stick with you; every run afterwards the excitement ebbs into fear of falling short. In this the randomness of single-elimination is your friend. Given the nature of March Madness, I have zero fear of not being able to appreciate any future run to the Elite 8 or beyond.
This 20-year rundown of M players with NBA and/or Euro careers by AC1997 is a quick read in the same vein of we've been through that, appreciate this. Speaking of guys who terminate their college careers just to end up playing in some foreign country…
Trouba No! Jacob did the awful thing, leaving a huge hole on Big Blue's blue line so he could play for a team in Manitoba or Saskatchewan or Nunavut or Prince Edward Island or YES I CAN NAME ALL OF YOUR PROVINCES TAKE THAT CANADIAN STEREOTYPES! If you're wondering what comes after the defections of Merrill and Trouba, read. You can tell MGoBlueline is gonna end up on that Mt. Blogmore image one day because he's already getting his bolded subconscious on.
Other Jumps. I bumped from the boards this Drbogue post where he did some of the early legwork for what could be an important study on whether a player should go pro or not. The evidence suggests young players are so likely to burn through that first year's earnings so fast they ruin this advantage for themselves. Just in case here's a look by 1484 of which NBA teams might have interest in early entry Wolverines. Burke to Pistons yes I am biased.
In a comparison of non-random groups of Sparts and Bucks encountered by mgrowold the in-staters were the bigger jerks. Spartanfreude board threads throughout the week (usually of RCMB melting down with envy) attested to the instability of the green psyche, but the smart ones were with us. I watched every round but the last with my Little-Brother little brother, who after MSU went out added all of his vim to my might and main. His reasoning: if M played themselves into four lottery picks they might all go do that, leaving a smoother path for…
More in perspective. Remember when we hired Beilein? The final version of this-used-to-be-Games Remaining by mistersuits has a final ranking of 2012-'13 games by difficulty according to Kenpom; the last was the toughest. And lunchboxthegoat penned a personal diary of his one-year MGo-Exile, self-imposed after he reamed out Burke for what we thought was a decision to play the 2012-'13 season with the Heat or whatever. Take notes future trolls of America: this is how you redeem yourself.
Dated tourney blogs you still ought to read: fuzzy247 rewrote Casey at the Bat for Burke, and UMAmaizinBlue did Devil Went Down to Georgia for Pitino. Stopthewnba quantified the Big Eastness of the refs for the Final Four—Louisville was familiar with them, though I can't imagine that translated to Pitino telling his players not to worry about Trey Burke because they're gonna make up a million fouls on him. Official ref venting thread. Save this for when you go to Atlanta. Some jonvalk wallpapers for the Final Four and Final Final. Where wast thee in '93? How to crush oranges. Non-dated shots from the tourney: LSAClassof2000's statistical review. Being a Michigan dad (bonus: when your kid gets a photo with Novak)
[LET'S JUMP TO THE BOARD.]
3/14/2013 – Michigan 83, Penn State 66 – 26-6, entry to second round of BTT
Bleary-eyed and maybe a little puffy after having a good cry about the last two minutes of the Indiana game, Michigan staggered into the United Center wondering why everything was so bright and loud and wondering if a hot dog would make them feel better or worse. A few minutes later, they were down 14-3 and every Michigan fan had a personal reckoning with their panic tolerance.
Did you run around screaming "everything is over?" Did you stuff 35 multivitamins down your esophagus in a cry for help? No, don't tell us. Down 11 a few minutes into a tournament game against Penn State a man finds himself in a place he never thought he'd be. What happens down there is something we should hit with a shovel and bury deep. If you were more animal than man at 2:45 PM yesterday, well… so be it. Character is about recovering from your impulse.
The team did this. Michigan spent the first couple of breaks smacking themselves and screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT," and thanks to the utterly unflappable Trey Burke and Mitch McGary—a man who seems to be productively deficient in human emotions like doubt or restraint—they did. In these moments I like to go check out the Kenpom prediction (which is almost always the Vegas line, give or take a point) and think about how points are worth the same whether you score them early or late. It was 16 in this one; Michigan beat it by a point.
It's strange how frustrating it is to pull away late or recover like Michigan did against Purdue. Or, rather, it's not strange at all. You have to try as hard as you can to say the order in which the points came is not a reason to run around, ripping chunks of hair from your head and shouting "my basketball team ate this."
No rest for the weary; on to demon Wisconsin. Death to backboards, half court, and everywhere in-between.
Zone? Hi. If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me, um, ranting about Michigan's refusal to even try out a zone defense despite a team that shoots 30% from three gutting the interior of Michigan's defense to the tune of 11/17 shooting from two by Sasa "Pretty Much Shaq" Borovnjak and DJ Newbill in the first half. In the second half we then suffered through five to eight minutes of Penn State keeping pace with Michigan's blistering offensive pace.
For the game, Penn State put up 1.1 PPP. Defense remains a huge issue. At least there's some sort of upper bound on how bad it can be, right? That's the ticket.
Grrr aarrgh. Jordan Morgan came out with the weight of a barely-missed Big Ten championship not so much weighing on his shoulders as burying him neck-deep in misery. Trey Burke's abnormally low assist output—three—was almost entirely on Morgan's four missed bunnies. Morgan was also out of sync defensively as Michigan's pick and roll D was gutted by Sasa "Basically Pau Gasol" Borovnjak. Morgan was the guy who Borovnjak drove from almost the three-point line on.
Enter Mitch McGary, in full on Big Puppy mode. He ripped down boards, he went 5/6 from the floor, he had a steal, block, two assists, and escaped the wrath of the scorer on a turnover that was obviously his fault but seemed to escape the box score entirely. After one hardman board, he let out a simian bellow—an entirely justified one.
When Morgan struggled at the start of the first half, he got a quick hook and his minutes were given to Jon Horford. A strange phenomenon ensued: Gus Johnson started talking about how incredibly impressive Horford had been in the first half, an opinion with no basis in reality. Horford then demonstrated that Gus Johnson is aging backwards through time or something. Horford chucked in 11 points in 10 minutes, blocked a couple shots, grabbed various rebounds, and went 3/3 from the line(!).
John Beilein won't say if he'll leave struggling Jordan Morgan in Michigan's starting lineup
Yow. That says volumes. Also this:
"It's up in the air if I decide it's up in the air," Beilein said. "Right now it's too soon to make that (decision).
"I'll watch some film, we'll talk, we'll look at matchups and decide what we're going to do."
I'd guess Morgan still starts, but Beilein will have a quick trigger a la the second half. Michigan won't be able to crawl out of 14-3 holes with as much ease the rest of the year.
blouses (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)
Not just a shooter. Stauskas had 15 points on nine shot equivalents plus two assists and zero TOs. Sometimes I think Michigan would be better off moving some of Hardaway's usage to Stauskas. He's got a better handle and seems to create shots a bit better. This may not be the best time to argue that when Hardaway had five assists.
Stauskas also did a much better job on Jermaine Marshall this time around. He torched Michigan behind the line in the last game; in this one he scored 8 points on 14 shot attempts—basically the only PSU player to have a bad day.
Trey statistical weirdness day. Burke assists: 3. Burke blocked shots: 3. Boggle.
Hardaway check. After the Wisconsin game on February 9th, Tim Hardaway was shooting 54% from three in 11 Big Ten games. Since he is 9 of 45, 20%. Michigan's offense has survived admirably in that absence; it would be nice if he was to start hitting some dang shots. I am not sure what to say about this other than "make your threes," but I can say it very loudly if that is required.
A thing that leaps off Hardaway's season box score at Kenpom: his FTAs have evaporated. Up until the Minnesota game Hardaway had gone to the line in every game and had at least six FTAs in 8 games. Since he has been shut out entirely 7 times. Three games in which he was not were against the hackmasters in Happy Valley; other than those games the only times he's been to the line: 3/5 against OSU, 4/5 against Illinois, 1/1 against Purdue, 0/2 against Indiana.
I will repeat my grand desire to see Hardaway commit between one to three charges every game.
GRIII check. If Morgan wasn't struggling so badly I bet we would have seen some dual post action; as it was I was surprised that Bielfeldt didn't get some run early when Penn State was grabbing a bunch of offensive rebounds and Ross Travis found himself having a nice day offensively. Travis shoots 39% from the floor. He was 5/9 in this one.
I'm not sure where Big Ten Geeks grabbed this stat, but I retweeted it since it was in line with my eye test:
McGary has grabbed 11 of the 14 chances he's had for a rebound. GR3 is 2 of 10.
McGary went through a stretch in which he couldn't grab a rebound to save his life, like the rest of the team. Robinson has been pretty weak on the boards since the start of Big Ten play. Against the top four teams in the league, Robinson's rebounding has looked like this:
- @ OSU: 38 minutes, 0 OREB, 1 DREB
- @ Indiana, 40 minutes, 2 OREB, 2 DREB
- OSU: 41 minutes, 33 minutes, 3 OREB, 1 DREB
- @ Wisconsin: 1 OREB, 2 DREB
- @ MSU: 21 minutes, 2 OREB, 0 DREB
- MSU: 31 minutes, 2 OREB, 1 DREB
- Indiana: 37 minutes, 1 OREB, 4 DREB
In one(!) of those seven games GRIII has acquired more than two defensive rebounds despite playing huge minutes at the four in all of them. He's done a bit better against the rest of the league; when the going gets tough he's been found wanting. Ace looked at in detail and found that Robinson was frequently a culprit. I'm getting progressively more frustrated with him as Michigan's defensive rebounding continues its glide path down to last year's numbers. In this one Michigan won the board war but still allowed Penn State to grab 34% of their misses, with Ross Travis grabbing 4 OREBs. Borovnjak was 0 (OREB) and 2 (DREB) going up against the fives.
The bad thing about the way that went down. Michigan is facing down four games in four days if they are fortunate enough to get that far. Because of the slow start starters not named Morgan played 34, 35, 35, and 33 minutes. I generally downplay the idea that a few minutes extra is going to kill an 18-20 year old who spends his entire existence in a gym, but once the games come rapid-fire—and you're going up against teams who had today off—that's a situation in which wilting legs seems like a real issue.
I guess the good bit is Michigan is playing Wisconsin's tortoiseball today. If there's a team less well-positioned to take advantage of their opponent's heavy legs, I don't want to perceive their existence. I don't want to perceive Wisconsin's, man.
Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mitch McGary snatched the rebound out of the air, turned towards the Michigan bench, and let out a guttural yell that could be heard from across the court.
Michigan had looked listless—yes, again—to begin the game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-3 lead after Jordan Morgan couldn't finish three layup attempts and the Wolverines as a whole couldn't slow down Penn State's pick and roll. Enter McGary, who ended PSU's run with a layup, then overcame a missed breakaway dunk to record a first-half double-double.
The McGary Growl came with the score tied at 16, and his histrionics immediately lifted the spirits of the players on the bench—and on the court. On the next possession, Nik Stauskas sunk a three, and the Wolverines wouldn't trail for the remainder of the game, pulling away late for a comfortable 17-point win. When called upon to infuse energy to a team that couldn't shake their previous struggles against Penn State, the freshman big man did that and more, finishing the game with ten points on 5/6 shooting (all in the first half) and 11 rebounds, five of them offensive.
After McGary kept the team afloat in the first half, the rest of the team stepped up in the second. Trey Burke led all scorers with 21 points, pouring in 13 in the second half on 4/6 shooting. Stauskas contributed nine of his 15 points in the latter stanza, including a "Game ... Blouses"-style dunk and nifty and-one layup. Jon Horford tallied all 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes, going 4/4 from the field in that span.
Gradually, over the course of the second half, Michigan's lead grew—after PSU's Jermaine Marshall tied the game at 39 with 17:25 left, the Wolverines outscored the Nittany Lions 44-27. Some added defensive intensity certainly helped; after Michigan ceded 14/26 two-point shooting in the first half, Penn State hit 12/26 from inside the arc in the second half. That may be just a two-shot difference, but the makes were more difficult to come by, at least.
Michigan moves on to play Wisconsin in the second game of the day tomorrow (~2:30 EST), and this game brought up some concerns for the rest of the tournament. Interior baskets were far too easy to come by for PSU, especially Sasa Borovnjak, who scored 15 points on 7/10 FG despite no offensive rebounds. The Wolverines looked lost defending the pick and roll, and offensively they biffed more than their fair share of layups.
They finally beat Penn State handily, however, outdoing KenPom's prediction by a point. Blemishes or no, that's taking care of business, and the team's first double-digit win since February 24th was a welcome sight.
Mitch McGary may not play pretty, but his contributions were also a delight—both to the fans and his teammates, apparently.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Penn State|
|WHERE||United Center, Chicago, Illinois|
|WHEN||~2:30 PM Eastern, Thursday (20 minutes after ILL/MINN)|
|LINE||Michigan –16 (Kenpom)|
I'm fresh off a four-hour drive and Minnesota/Illinois is halfway over, so this will be short and sweet.
Penn State has received the preview treatment twice around these parts: Preview One, Preview Two. In their prior matchups, the Wolverines defeated the Nittany Lions by eight at home, then were upset by six in Happy Valley for their worst loss of the season.
Penn State finished the regular season 10-20 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten, with their only conference wins coming against Michigan and Northwestern (the latter, surprisingly, on the road).
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||42.6 (12)||18.9 (9)||28.9 (10)||34.2 (5)|
|Defense||49.7 (11)||16.9 (10)||28.9 (4)||55.3 (12)|
The numbers are still ugly despite Penn State's late-season surge from GopherQuest Hoops Edition to Respectably Crappy.
Box out. For the love of all things sacred and holy, put a body on someone.
Close out. In Michigan's loss to Penn State, the Wolverines allowed the Nittany Lions to hit 10/20 three-pointers—seemingly all blitheringly wide open looks from Jermaine Marshall—despite them shooting below 30% from downtown this season. Michigan's perimeter defense has lacked lately, but all they need to do it get a hand in the shooter's face and they should be able to keep Penn State from putting up big numbers—when contested, their shots tend not to fall.
Get to the paint. Penn State is an undersized squad that allows opponents to shoot nearly 50% from inside the arc despite fouling at an incredible rate (342nd nationally). Good things happen when teams get to the bucket against them.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 16. I continue to believe that Penn State is the team I've seen against every other member of the Big Ten, and not the upset-waiting-to-happen that they've been in their two games against the Wolverines. On a neutral court, with the chance to secure a first-round NCAA tournament game at Auburn Hills, expect Michigan to take care of business.
Woman with Cat|Pierre Bonnard
True Genius is Getting Away With It. Before I get into my self-indulgent emo crap about the Penn State game, go read consecutive Diarist of the Week Ron Utah's conclusion to the two-parter (Part I here) on Hoke vs. Saban recruiting and whether Michigan's at least following Bama's recruiting pattern toward future success. Money chart shows contributions from Saban recruits of various rivals ratings, with 1 (blue) the washouts, 2 (orange) the spot starters/useable depth, and 3 (maize) the starters & stars:
Yes, chartnazis he should have labeled that better. As I've mentioned before a lot of those sub-four stars (5.7 and lower) were down-rated against their apparent talent by Rivals and other sites because the kids were high-risk to meet NCAA academic requirements. Saban's strategy for tapping all of that talent was to oversign like a mother and let that the risk work to his benefit. Hoke's smaller classes have very few academic risks.
Diaries Etc.: LSAClassof2000 found the Big Ten has rushed for enough yards since 2000 to make two trips to the moon. I'll let GOLBOGM update his charts before diving too far into his comparison of the best NCAA hoops coaches. Here's his latest remaining schedule update. The Blockhams have a power outage and this is a metaphor for something. Marching On (the wallpaper by jonvalk). Marching on…
Best of the Board
So this week we learned a few hard truths. Like this basketball team isn't a 1 seed. And according to this thread there's a lot of people who come to MGoBlog for something other than cleverness and cats.
The "I only come for Brian" crowd got an inadvertent taste of that yesterday. Thursday content on the front page after a game with Penn State is supposed to be Ace's gifs, Brian's game column, the video highlights thing that keeps promising me they're upgrading their servers, UV, and This Week in Twitterverse. Instead you got Brian talking to cats and then nothing, because—raise of hands—after THAT who really wants gifs and highlights and links and tweets of Michigan defenders standing around while PSU's floppy walk-on drives for easy layups? If you weren't around for the game thread, or the postgame thread, I'll save you the trouble: it's 1200 comments alternating between calling our defense pathetic and the refs awful.
So cats. This isn't solely an internet phenomenon. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats for their irreverence in the face of massive upsets to Hittites. The ancient Michigan fans used pictures of adorable kittens to make it through the aftermath of The Horror.
Since the late '90s the nittany variety has been that cathartic release for Michigan. Whenever it looked like our program was about to atrophy, a kitten in a scarf would appear, dressed all up nice like a real national program of consequence and culture, and lose in a fashion that let us regain at least some plausible measure of being Michigan fergodsakes. It was their apparent strength that catapulted the 1997 team to a #1 ranking we'd never relinquish. My freshman year a theretofore underwhelming squad blanked a top ten Penn State team in what's still one of the most memorable games I've ever been to. Minnesota tripped up their title-bound team in '99 but Michigan traveled to Happy Valley the following week, went nose to nose with Arrington and Brown, and sealed Tom Brady as the comeback kid. There's 2002. 2005 when is seemed all we could do was lose 4th quarters. 2007.
I discovered MGoBlog during that whole '07 Comcast/Big Ten Network spat. The Midwest's least favorite company was having a hissy fit over putting another Fox channel on a basic tier, because the way cable works is you have to buy 150 channels you don't want before getting to the ones you do, and nothing drives the masses to move up like sticking the Michigan game just out of reach.
As a result I had to go to a local bar to watch the Northwestern game. Amidst a classic DeBordian display of zone left that made that game way too close I ran into my old fraternity brother Dave Malak, who informed me there's a website that responded to Appalachian State by turning pink and posting lots of cats. Phones didn't yet have the internet they have today so it wasn't until that evening that I got home, searched for "michigan blog cats the horror" and got the September archives starting with the newest on top. The first MGo article I ever read began thus…
9/22/2007 - Michigan 14, Penn State 9 - 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
Adrift on a sea of bodies, legs gone, head yanked back, enemies all around and pawing, Mike Hart stretches for the inch he needs and gets it. When Hart is gone and I am old and my mind flips through the rolodex of players past, this will be the image that lingers. It's his career writ microscopic. He takes his natural ability, and stretches it to its breaking point, and Michigan has a season again.
Somehow Mike Hart still feels like a secret. In some extremely obvious ways he is not: one of Michigan's vaunted triplets going into this season, he is widely acclaimed as the best back in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Anyone claiming the "no respect" card for Hart is going to have to make a strong case indeed. Everyone knows he is good. Maybe even great. But they don't know.
You can maybe forgive me and the other front-pagers if we try to sound like that sometimes. Writing is an impressionable craft; consciously or unconsciously we all imitate what we admire. I read Cook long before Foster-Wallace whom I've since devoured; prior to that my major sportswriting influences were Mitch Albom and Craig Ross. I adopted Brian's cheekiness because levity is the key to his genius for brevity and that's something I've always lacked; in turn he has little use for my themography or acoustic sensibilities. The advent of blogging sparked a new age of Impressionism in sports journalism, and I ask your patience as those of us who came after the vanguard fill in the white space of d'Orsay with our mimicry; we're all here for the Monets.
Contractually obligated highlight video
Board etc.: Denard catches footballs. MJ14 culled Twitter for some recruiting updates. Michael Scarn put together a handicapped 2014 recruiting board. M1817 explains Tom Brady's restructured contract so you can explain to people who question how/whether Tom could take less money.
Krzychawe Kryzewefski Coach K comments spark an interesting discussion on when it's appropriate to rush the court, situationally and in a "give the other team a second to get off the court" kind of way. The M's in the center of Crisler and Yost are "UNACCEPTABLE" according to M. Discover posters' super-secret double identities. Blackhawks fan tries to solicit mourning from Red Wings fans over the potential loss of that rivalry if Detroit moves East, receives a chorus full of "Yeah we'll miss you when we play Florida, maybe."
Your Moment of Zen:
From Marley Nowell.
As of this week for the first time in my adult life I have a front yard. I'm stoked for gardening and tossing various balls back and forth and stuff, but so far this is all I've done with it.