"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
— Zoltan Mesko (@ZoltanMesko) January 17, 2014
ATTN: New Yorkers. Rather large game approaching on the 23rd. If you seek the camaraderie of your fellow Michigan Man, here is a thing you might do: hang out with Zoltan Mesko and two small dogs at Professor Thom's, with proceeds going to a good cause. Details:
Professor Thom's, February 23rd, Noon.
Happy hour drink specials, complimentary appetizers, door prizes & more!
A $10 donation at the door (or online) to benefit the Zoltan Mesko Foundation will be your ticket to the event. If you can't make it, but would still like to donate please do so at zoltanmeskofoundation.org
Here is the facebook page. No word about speedo availability, ladies.
Just the worst. If you follow me on twitter you already know about this, but since many people don't for excellent reasons like "tends to go on rants about Penn State bench players," let me introduce you to John Johnson, a guy getting ten minutes a game for Penn State who drives me completely insane because:
- His ORTG is 87, which is actually up two points from last night.
- Despite this he takes 23% of PSU's shots when he's on the court.
- He has an assist rate of 4.6 and TO rate of 20.
- His parents named him "John Johnson," which is… wow. Also what happens when he finds out about Major Major Major Major? Exactly.
I have to tell you about this here because BISB stole my platform to lob statistical oddities at you and now I just track Illinois defensive rebounding anomalies in my basement.
Did you know the Big Ten now has TWO guys named Maverick? Or that Purdue has only three guys playing more than half their minutes, and nobody (NOBODY) averaging 30 minutes a game? Or that Northwestern starts a guy, Sanjay Lumpkin, who takes fewer than 10% of available shots? Only me and the basement elves did.
By the way, do we have a Reggie Cleveland All Star team for guys who should be oompa-loompas but are in fact 6'6" half-Indian dudes? Because… well, you see where I'm going with this.
OTHER THING. Rewatching the Ohio State game made one thing clear: Amir Johnson tries to block everything. I mentioned the Morgan basket on a missed Albrecht shot that was functionally equivalent to a pass as Williams came over. That is a canonical example but far from the only one. About ten minutes into the first half it became clear that OSU's defensive rebounding problems were about 80% Williams attempting to swat everything, leaving Michigan bigs all alone on the weakside.
The offensive rebound numbers don't even tell the full story, as there were a number of instances in which Michigan was in position to add to their totals until funny bounces intervened. The numbers back this up, especially if you tick over to the conference only Kenpom stats. Ohio State is 11th in the league at defensive rebounding. And it doesn't even help their defense. In league play OSU is 10th at defending twos.
OTHER OTHER THING. What, you want links to things? Oh fine. Here is your Indiana schadenfreude after they managed to lose to Penn State despite being up 11 with three minutes left.
This is absolutely 100% unacceptable. This team is hot garbage with a bevy of talent. Seriously, I'm not going to talk any crap about youth or inexperience. That had nothing to do with the non-stop disasters that we've witnessed this year. I even want to try and blame this most recent egg on Tom Crean and I can't find where I actually feel he had a problem in this game.
Win chart? Hell yes.
I'd like to thank the Nittany Lions for doing that to someone else this year.
New rules. The NCAA proposes allowing replay booths to not only overturn targeting expulsions but also the targeting penalties, which was always going to happen once it became clear that leaving half of a non-penalty to stand was rage-inducing. So hooray.
The committee also recommended a rules change that will allow defensive units to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of each half, starting with the 2014 season.
If a team snaps the ball before 29 seconds on the play clock they will be hit with a five yard delay of game penalty.
You try to not be a jerk about everything and this is how they repay you.
More offensive yet is the stated reason for these changes:
“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun.
Nobody buys this. A player who is hurt or in trouble can fall over and the game will stop to accommodate them.
Speedy coaches have texted any reporter they know expressing their skepticism/disgust, and some guys have even taken to twitter to express something than bland positivity. "Think of the children" isn't flying in this case. The pushback here exceeds anything I've seen in the last decade or so. Even the hated clock rules that got rolled back after one season didn't get public heated disagreement from coaches.
But… Matt Hinton does point out that very few snaps would have much chance of running afoul of the rule. Oregon averaged 20 seconds per snap, so how many would actually be under ten? Not many.
I went back to the the canonical example of lightspeed, Indiana, to find out. Specifically, I wondered if that play on which Indiana's tempo burned Ray Taylor for a touchdown would have been affected. You know, this one:
That play was snapped exactly eleven seconds after the previous one ended. IE, it would have been legal, probably. Indiana may have had to wait a beat if the play clock took a second to reset.
Ten seconds is not many seconds. It may not even be enough to substitute confidently. If the rule does get passed it's probably not going to have the huge impact people fear it will.
It goes without saying that getting the rule change passed would be good for Michigan, which regards speed as a distasteful attempt to gain advantage.
It sucks you have to say this, but yeah you have to say this. Welp:
Goal No. 1 for Doug Nussmeier at Michigan? 'We're not going to go backwards'
May you succeed in this task, for all of our sanities. I'm encouraged by what this quote implies about Nussmeier's approach to data:
"There's a number of different things, you wish you can pinpoint one thing, but we need to get our players to understand how their success rate decreases with loss yardage plays," he said. "You look at statistical football, it doesn't add up. We've got to stay on schedule, within the sticks. We'll talk about that and it'll be a big part of the spring.
"We'll talk about our goals with down and distance, what we're looking for from each play yardage-wise. And what a negative play does to you as far as your percent chances to score and how our negative plays hurt our chances to score last year."
That sounds like a guy who's willing to look at stats to see if there's anything he can learn from them, which is a change of pace from the fancy-stats-are-for-losers approach of his predecessor.
Spartan health update. Izzo had the "feeling" Keith Appling was out a couple weeks as of February 9th, which would make his return for the Michigan game in some doubt. I mean, no doubt, really. But he might not be full go. Well, of course he won't be full go. No Michigan State player will be. For one, they'll be trying to cope with the emotional havoc associated with having a 14 year old call you names on twitter*.
I've had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what's being written.
The things these guys play through are insane. It's Iwo Jima out there.
Meanwhile, the Fist of Stupidity gets its pins removed on the 20th, which makes fist owner Branden Dawson hypothetically but not necessarily available for Michigan. Anyone ever had pins taken out of their hand? Would you be ready to play basketball three days after? Seems unlikely to me, but maybe they're really tiny or something.
*[First sentence of first comment: "Social Media is bringging this Country to its Knees."]
Etc.: Wildcats make preliminary argument to local labor relations board. Induction Burner! (It's not happening, Brian, stop trying to make it happen, Brian.) Andrew Sinelli, suddenly key defenseman. We may not have Oompa Loompa Reggie Cleveland, but we do now have the Basil Smotherman All Stars, which are comprised of the guys who sound the most like peers of the realm.
2/11/2014 – Michigan 70, OSU 60 – 18-6, 10-2 Big Ten
I'ma fall in this basket if that's what it takes
Early, it was a layup line for Ohio State. A combination of transition off turnovers and long misses and plain old WHAT ARE YOU DOING defense led to a stretch where OSU made seven consecutive shots, because all of those shots came within a foot of the rim. For its part, Michigan was stuck outside, with the now-standard point-guard-on Stauskas gambit making it difficult for Michigan to initiate offense through their best player.
Aside from the inexplicable avalanche of offensive rebounds, a sense of déjà vu prevailed. This was the same game Trey Burke's Michigan team had at OSU, the same feeling of being overwhelmed by a road game they had just experienced at Indiana and Iowa. Craft or a Craft-like substance was stuck to Michigan's engine, gumming up the works.
Dan Dakich rhapsodized; ESPN kept showing one particular defensive sequence where Stauskas got Walton a wide open corner three that GRIII rebounded and missed a putback on. What would ESPN have shown had either of those really good shots gone in? The same thing. The Aaron Craft narrative does not bow to things like reality. He is a winner, and if Ohio State does not win, they still win, because anything else is impossible.
And then Michigan was down four at halftime. Four is a lot less than 20. Four is doable.
In the second half, Craft stayed stuck to Stauskas. Michigan came unstuck from Craft. Stauskas managed to find snatches of space in which to rise up or attack the basket on his way to 15 efficient points but was largely removed from generating shots for his teammates. Walton became a free-range annoyance to anyone who happened to have the ball.
Except Craft. Walton played free safety against Craft. If provided a mildly psychoactive taco, Craft would have seen Walton as a giant middle finger extended in the general direction of his offensive competence. A very small, very distant middle finger. And he still would have passed the ball to someone on the perimeter.
On the other end, Walton did a thing that was pretty good, and then a thing that reminded you of you-know-who, and then another couple things and then you had to say it even if you were afraid to do so.
The word "Burke" was uttered, in comparison instead of deficit, when Walton took a mishandled dribble and exploded to the basket for an and-one against a seven foot shotblocker. He extended his body past applicable limits and crashed to the floor after. It had to be mentioned. It was like seeing a ghost.
This is not even that shot.
This is an entirely different shot that is the same shot that is Burke's shot.
Walton's stats were incomprehensible in relation to his play. When he scored near the end of the first half and up flashed his line—two points, four rebounds—it felt wrong. The narrative of his play was at odds with the blunt numbers, and even afterwards he still has an impossible-seeming 2/8 in the two-point column. The other stats, however, back him up: 13 on 13 shot equivalents, ten(!) rebounds, six(!) assists, one turnover. OSU has the fourth-best defense in the country; Derrick Walton drove the bus against them in the second half as Michigan put up 70 in a 59 possession game.
For his part, Craft finally launched his uncontested three, which was an airball. A gritty winner of an airball, but an airball. Dakich started looking for another mancrush—literally, on air, this is a thing that literally happened on air.
As Michigan surged, you remembered the other bit of that Ohio State game last year: a 20-minute trudge to tie the game before a final slump finally condemned them. This trudge was from ten back, but it was no less of a grind against pretty much the same team that ground Michigan's offense into paste a year ago.
This Michigan team doesn't have a Burke, but when there's one Aaron Craft maybe it's better to have three mini-Burkes thrusting their rapiers wherever the armor is weakest.
Hello. Michigan has now won at OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. In the same year and everything. They also have a road win over (probably) tourney-bound Minnesota, and are very likely to end the conference season at least 6-3 away from Crisler. 7-2 is a distinct possibility. Yowza.
This probably missed. Michigan now knows the feeling. [Fuller]
Parade of missed bunnies. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: that game reminded me of the Michigan-Arizona game, with Michigan in the role of offensive rebound machine that can't convert any of the resulting layups. Michigan had 14(!), most of them in the first half, and after that frustrating 20 minutes they only led OSU 7-4 in second chance points.
This feels like a team-wide problem but it was mostly a Robinson thing. (Morgan did miss a first-half putback but that was his only miss of the night.) On the one hand, Robinson flashed to the bucket without a box-out on several possessions and created extra shots. On the other, those extra shots did not go in the basket. They kept flashing huge disparities in FG% in the first half and wondering how Michigan was in the game; those disparities would have been significantly less huge if Michigan was just getting one look at the basket.
Haunted. Now add in the three point play caused when Caris momentarily lost his mind and 'saved' a ball going out off of OSU. This is why large sections of the first half were agonizing about a score that should have been near even.
But welcome back, super-efficient two-headed center. As mentioned, Morgan missed one shot. Horford also missed one, a 15-foot jumper on which he was left open. Both guys used clever moves to get short-range buckets on route to a 7/9 night on which Michigan dominated the boards.
Box score change request. Spike Albrecht only got four minutes, picking up another turnover and missing one shot. HOWEVA, that missed shot should be credited as an assist, as he drove into the lane and put it so high off the window that there was little chance of a bucket. He did this because Amir Williams tries to block everything. Amir Williams tried to block it; the ball went directly to Morgan on the weakside; Morgan actually made the layup.
Amir Williams. There's no nice way to say this. He is not all there. OSU has yanked him from long stretches of games for defensive incompetence; in this one Michigan's two centers picked up seven OREBs despite being much smaller and less athletic. He also committed one of history's worst fouls when he ran over Walton with the shot clock expiring on a critical possession down the stretch.
I remember Williams getting yanked from the M-OSU game at Crisler two years ago after some comically bad defensive possessions, and while he has improved somewhat from that point he remains a massively frustrating guy prone to fits of ain't-care. I know this because I was rooting for OSU in their game against MSU and built up large reserves of loathing for his game.
Irvin up and down. Irvin extended OSU the same favor Williams did at the end of the first half by fouling LaQuinton Ross on a three. It wasn't nearly as bad. He's a freshman, not a junior, and that was a quality look from the corner instead of a desperation jack from about five feet behind the line. It was still bad. Irvin also added in a trio of errors on possessions down the stretch:
- fouling Ross as he initiated a desperation drive to the basket with three seconds on the shot clock
- turning the ball over on a sloppy perimeter pass
- getting burned by Ross on the next offensive possession for a layup and an OREB that turned into a three point paly
The refs credited the first foul to Horford, somehow, but it was Irvin who made the contact, and Stauskas is listed as the guy with the TO in the box score. I don't think I'm remembering it wrong, because at the time everyone in the room was moaning at Irvin.
[UPDATE: I remembered this wrong. The bail out foul was in the first half, as was the ensuing TO, and then the third error was the foul on the three. Irvin did get a TO from Ross in between these issues.]
So there's that. But Irvin also had ten points on five shot equivalents. This is a much shorter section than all the things that went wrong but it's equally as important. That is two points per Irvin-initiated shot. That is good, Adam Jacobi. His threes were needed shots in the arm when Michigan was getting wobbly; he's nearing Stauskas for team three point champion. Achievement unlocked: Modern-Day Microwave.
Wait. Should we call him "The Induction Burner"? Or is that stupid?
Yeah, okay, it's stupid.
This three was slightly lower pressure. [Fuller]
Glenn is so broken don't take that oh OKAY. Another miserable game for Robinson, but this one was capped off by a critical corner three in crunch time that pushed Michigan out to 7 and was the beginning of the end. He was 2/9 on his other shots, many of them point-blank. At points it was like his God-given athleticism was just an elaborate way to troll Michigan fans.
But at least it seems like the message has been received. Michigan posted him up for one of his buckets. Robinson eschewed dribbles for the most part (0 A, 0 TO) and went hard on the offensive glass. Even if it didn't pay off in this particular game, more 4 OREB performances from Robinson will get him into that "quiet 14 points" range he was so effective in last year.
His defense was also notably better on Ross than alternatives. Irvin was inserted for a run in the second half right after a couple of plays around the rim on which Robinson did not convert, and there were a couple of possessions on which it was clear that Ross could just back Irvin down inside the paint whenever he wanted. GRIII is much more sturdy.
Hurdle cleared. Kenpom had Michigan with a 33% chance to pull that game off. The algorithm has been giving OSU a bit of the Wisconsin treatment this year after the Buckeyes stormed through an undefeated nonconference schedule with no good teams on it. Despite being .500 in the league they're still in the top 20. Even if they're overrated by computers, that was a road game against a 19-5 team, Michigan's last against anything resembling a tourney outfit.
Their only trips remaining are to Purdue and Illinois, collectively 7-15 in the league. Michigan is now better than 70% to win every game left on the schedule save MSU, a 65% proposition, and is projected to finish a boggling 15-3 in the league.
Craftbow. I don't hate Aaron Craft and would take him on this Michigan outfit no question even if he is allergic to shots. But man, I hate Aaron Craft. This has nothing to do with anything other than the Tebow effect wherein announcers praise a player so much that you're just so damned sick of hearing about it.
Dakich is normally my favorite color guy other than Jay Bilas, but hearing him call an OSU game is pure torture. His normally reasonable comments about effort go from getting your hands up on shooters and boxing out to ludicrous flights of fancy wherein he literally says things like "the ball knows" that you have reversed the floor and then goes in. In this game he started the first ten minutes bitching about how Michigan was barely trying, and then had to stare at Michigan ending the game on a dominant run.
Effort is so fetishized by commentators that they'll ignore randomness, confusion, youth, and uncertainty to rail on it. Craft exacerbates that 1000%. It got so bad that Dakich started going on and on about Horford's huge effort level… on an uncontested dunk. I'm delighted I never have to hear about Craft again. No offense to the man himself.
Creepy balance. To the point about many mini-Burkes instead of one Burke: Michigan played seven guys an appreciable amount of time in this game. Usage: 22, 22, 21, 19, 18, 18, 16. Walton and GRIII are at the top; LeVert is at the bottom.
Baraka Obama-a. Remember Kelly Baraka? Unless you're an old-school M recruitnik probably not. If you don't: he was supposed to be a total ninja RB before a number of high school pot arrests saw him lose his shot at an M scholarship. He never made it anywhere else and has regularly featured in "where are they now?" features end up with the Kalamazoo Xplosion, a minor league football team. Not that you needed me to tell you that with a name like "Xplosion."
Yeah… anyway. About that ninja bit:
LeGarrette Blount ain't got nothing on Kelly Baraka.
Video revamp. Inside Michigan Football sans browser-crippling software:
Schilling's beard is a confidence-building one.
Slings and arrows. The Mathlete takes a look at luck over the past two years in the Big Ten and nationally, re-running last season based on performance-adjusted PPG metrics and slicing out some of the huge swings from random plays like fumbles (he leaves in interceptions). Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been on the kind end of things:
I had some questions about whether this "luck" factor was really luck, but there doesn't appear to be any correlation between excellent teams and good fortune. OSU and Penn State average out to be basically even. Iowa nets out around –2. Michigan State's 9-3 2008 team was the second most-fortunate in the country that year, something that checks out in the statistics. It passes a cursory sanity check.
So, then: Northwestern is your official Big Ten lucksack with Minnesota a distant second. If I'm reading the graph right, the Wildcats have been the luckiest team in the country two years running. The negative outlier for 2009—that dot sitting right at –3.0 on the y axis—is Oklahoma, by the way. Not that you needed to be told that a seven-win Stoops outfit suffered its share of outrageous fortune even beyond the Bradford injury.
One stop scouting. The NTDP moved to the USHL this year, which the NHL scouting community loves. Previously, the development team had puttered along in the NAHL, in which draftable prospects are few and far between. Now they're in the USA's premiere junior league and scouts are going "eeee":
"The whole design of the program has given us the selfish benefactor of comparing the Under-18 team on one weekend against the University of Michigan and older players, and then watching them against their group peers the following weekend. But because this is such a select team, an elite team, we think that the elite 18-year-olds should be able to compete against the 21- and 22-year-olds who were not selected in the draft. Those players are older and more savvy but for some reason were passed over."
This should help the NTDP hold on to some of the elite Americans they've lost in recent years. (Example: Stefan Matteau, son of longtime NHLer Stephane Matteau, has accepted a slot according to Michigan Hockey Net.) The 2011 NTDP is a relatively motley bunch. Michigan hasn't recruited anyone from it, a rarity these days. That will change for 2012, as Michigan will have at least two on next years U17s. Boo Nieves is a holy lock for the team and Heisenberg says Connor Carrick has already accepted an invite.
More Brandon panting. David Brandon loves America:
“Expanding the tournament, I believe is a bad idea … there are certain things that if they are not broke, don’t try to fix ‘em. If there is a better, more outstanding platform out there than the NCAA Final Four and basketball tournament, you have to tell me what that is.”
Not that this matters as the 96-team tournament becomes a foregone conclusion. I can't wait for that 9-24 matchup that will determine who has the right to face at eight seed. Guh.
While I'm on Brandon, contrast Michigan's hiring process with the fiasco that went down in Eugene after Mike Bellotti was presented a $2.3 million going-away present after accepting a job with ESPN:
[Oregon president Richard] Lariviere made two things clear: that he initiated the change in leadership and that university officials made missteps in dealing with Bellotti’s contract that no longer will be tolerated.
“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past,” Lariviere said. “That will not be repeated by my administration.”
Makes the hundred grand or whatever Michigan spent vetting candidates seem like the chump change it is.
Lariviere fired Bellotti because of an "increasing need for strong financial and business management"; the ESPN job was a late development that seemed to allow all parties to save face. (Then it blew up in their face, but it was a nice try.) The trend in athletic directors is clear: CEO types.
Walk it back. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick has read enough livid emails about Notre Dame's national cachet and the potential damage to Catholicism that would result from Our Lady joining up with those secular hooligans and is now changing tack on Notre Dame's role in Big Ten expansion:
That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big Ten or any other league.
"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it's not three divisions in college; it's four. It's the big change.
"I don't see that happening."
Please reduce your ND-to-B10 DEFCON to 85. Swarbrick adds:
"I really do believe strongly that we're sort of uniquely positioned to continue to chart our own course."
Sort of uniquely positioned? DEFCON back to 84!
In other Big Ten expansion news, Barnhardt writes about a 16 team Big Ten, spurring another round of PANIC duly shot down by DocSat, resurrected by the St Louis Post-Dispatch and OSU athletic director Gene Smith:
"I believe that if we expand, you probably ought to look at more than (just adding a 12th school)," Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said.
Stressing that was his opinion and may not be shared by some colleagues, Smith added that he believed the impact "would be pretty massive."
A sixteen team Big Ten is stupid. I complained earlier that an expansion to 14 would see Michigan play Penn State 29% of the time; going to 16 would drop that to 12% (eight conference games) or 25% (nine). That's not a conference any more. The only way it could work would be to adopt promotion and relegation. Whenever I bring this up people point out that the radical swings in team quality characteristic of college football could doom very good teams to irrelevance, and they're right. But it makes more sense than pretending to be in a conference with a team you play once every eight years.
If you're going to expand like that, I think 15 is the number. My completely bats proposal for a 14-team Big Ten is mathematically unworkable, but if you add a 15th team you can break the conference into three divisions of five that play each other and two (or possibly three) opponents in each of the other divisions, and then you can have relegation/promotion crazytimes at the end of the season. This will never, ever happen.
I'm hoping this is all a game of chicken to convince Notre Dame to sign on the dotted line. Expansion of the Big Ten past twelve teams is an idea on par with a 96 team NCAA tournament.
Reviews of a mixed variety. Local scouting service "Best of the Best" returns from the MSHAA playoffs with impressions of a number of players, three of them relevant to your interests. Isaiah Sykes:
He doesn't have a jump shot to save his life, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better finisher and slasher in the 2010 class statewide. Also drop dimes like a 5'9 PG. Terrific rebounder, and is great at getting the defensive board and starting the fast break and making something positive happen with the basketball. High majors are recruiting him, and it's warranted, would be a good late pick up for any up-tempo college team.
He's already committed to Michigan, but I don't know if he'll be successful in that system. In order to succeed at the highest level, picking the right system will be a absolute necessity for him. At the end of the day, he's a SG, and that's the bottom line. He produces and gets the job done, at that's what every team needs. He's a very good finisher for his size at the high school level and he can score in bunches when he gets rolling. All in all, his upside is limited in my opinion.
Decidedly negative, that. Hopefully he can develop a jumper over the next year and a half. Finally, Amir Williams:
A defensive phenom no matter the game because of his length, size, and timing, his effect on the game will be felt no matter what. He is also a hungry rebounder, who attacks the glass. Those are two big positives that you'd like every big man to have in their game, once the offensive part of his game becomes more consistent, we could be looking at another McDonald's All American out of the Country Day program.