This appears to be an effective hedge. [Fuller]
Brian directed me to an excellent Vantage Sports article detailing how NBA teams defend the on-ball screen earlier this week and suggested it would be a good idea to take a closer look at how Michigan does it. Before getting into the Wolverines specifically, a look at the three basic ways to defend this:
- Hard Hedge — The way M's done it the most under Beilein. The defender guarding the screener (usually a big man) aggressively slides out on the ballhandler to cut off a drive to the basket and make quick passes more difficult. This temporarily commits two defenders to the ballhandler and usually requires quick rotation from the other defenders on the court.
- Soft Show — A less aggressive approach that still briefly commits two defenders to the ballhandler, in this case the defender guarding the screener moves next to the screener, cutting off a drive directly to the hoop; he doesn't move all the way out on the ballhandler, however, and dives back to the screener after cutting off the initial drive. This still requires some weakside rotation.
- Drop Back — The conservative tack. The defender on the screener drops back (surprise!) into the paint, discouraging the ballhandler from driving while also lessening the burden on other defenders to rotate onto the roll man. This does require the defender on the ballhandler to fight over the screen well, otherwise there's room for a pull-up three.
As best I can tell, college teams favor the more aggressive approaches. This is likely due to two things: pro point guards are really damn good, and there's less space inside the arc to cover in college, making it easier to recover after a hard or soft hedge.
I went through the last three games—Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Nebraska—to see how Michigan defended the pick-and-roll. I found nine instances in which Michigan was in man defense against a P&R*; six times they hedged hard and three times they played a soft show. The results:
A few takeaways with picture pages after THE JUMP.
On the surface, Michigan's defense shouldn't have experienced the falloff it has this season. While Michigan's young, they're actually a bit older than they were last year. Mitch McGary has not been available, but there has been a groundswell of semi-indignation at Jordan Morgan's omission from the Big Ten's All Defense team.
But backslid they have. Last year's Michigan team finished the year 48th. This year's #48 defense is giving up 97.2 points per hundred possessions, adjusted for schedule. Michigan is well short of this number, at 100.6.
You'll note that this isn't actually that much. Michigan's about 6.6% worse on their possessions this year. The average NCAA defense is in fact 4% worse than last year, what with the rule tightening and virtual elimination of charges. A big chunk of the backslide is everyone's backslide. The rest, well…
The McGary Factor
watching the tourney run prompted this section, yes [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan entered last year's NCAA tournament 11th in the Kenpom rankings. Unfortunately, Kenpom doesn't keep individual running O/D rankings, but Michigan's surge to 48th on D and fourth overall coincided with Mitch McGary beasting up in the tourney. Michigan held a selection of very good teams to under a point per possession. They faced the #32, 21, 34, 12, 29, and 4 offenses in the tourney and held them to 0.97 points a trip.
McGary rebounded everything and stole everything. Michigan kept in contact before their late surge against Kansas thanks to his 14 rebounds. He picked up three steals, as well. McGary had five(!) steals against Florida and 12 rebounds against Syracuse. Jon Gasaway was tossing out stats I can't quite remember but were pretty much "Mitch McGary's DREB rate in the tourney is ALL THE REBOUNDS."
But that was five games. Before that McGary had been limited for much of the year. His impact on the stats is far smaller than his impact in our minds. If you're looking for a reason Michigan's not going to run to the national championship game again, he applies. In a discussion of why Michigan's statistical profile on D is grim he's not a primary driver.
Transition defense is a primary driver, probably the primary driver.
You've probably eyeballed this whilst exclaiming AAAAARRGGGHHH during the year, and your intuition is borne out by the stats. Michigan's actually been fine at preventing transition possessions—defined as shots in the first ten seconds of the shot clock—but they've been a lot worse at preventing dunk-and-open-three city.
This is partially because shots have migrated from two-point jumpers to shots at the rim and threes. They've also been considerably worse at preventing teams from both high-profit areas. While some of this is the new rules emphasis, transition is the part of the game where that has the least impact. Hoop-math doesn't have overall trends, unfortunately. Nor does it fold in free throws. Oh well.
With what we have to work with we can figure that a just over a fifth of Michigan's defense has gone from 1.08 PPP to 1.24 PPP. That is most of the statistical decline right there.
|Morgan committing a block under 2014 rule-type substances. [Eric Upchurch]|
The Insane Near-Abolition Of The Charge
There was a ton of speculation as to whether the new rules would help or hurt Michigan. Survey says: probably both. The good: offense takes off, foul trouble becomes more prevalent without touching Michigan, and Michigan's excellent free throw shooting is more prominent. The bad: Michigan's primary way to defend the rim has become more fraught with peril than ever.
FTAs have gone up nationwide, of course, and Michigan remains one of the country's least foul-prone outfits. They've dropped from first to third in that department. While that doesn't seem like a significant move, remember that thing I said in This Week's Obsession about how things tend to get stretched out at the ends of these Gaussian-ish distributions. Michigan's FTA/FGA allowed last year was preposterous 22.7, 13 points lower than the national average. This year FTAs are about 13% more common nationwide. Michigan is seeing opponents shoot 23% more FTAs.
If Michigan was in the middle of the pack that effect would feature a 40 spot dip in FTA/FGA; since Michigan was the nation's best by some distance a year ago it looks like they're basically the same. They are not.
Most of this is Jordan Morgan clutching his head and shooting imaginary eye lasers at the refs. His fouls per 40 minutes have leapt from 3.5 to 5.3, and one dollar says almost all of that is the charge random number generator being recalibrated away from defenders. The other difference that doesn't seem to be this year's whistle emphasis is increased playing time for the relatively foul-prone Spike Albrecht, who also gets whistled for a lot of ARE YOU SERIOUSLY HIGH RIGHT NOW SERIOUSLY blocking calls.
Free Throw Defense
Michigan was pretty good at it last year (68.5, 118th) and is miserable at it this year (72.9, 321st). Just one of those things. Every time I mention this someone asks about whether the distribution of shots between posts and guards is impacting this, and every time I say "maybe, but if so that is probably just luck as well."
This post was going to be longer. But:
- Michigan is a better defensive rebounding team this year, both in conference and overall.
- Michigan's TO force rate has dropped, but again so has the rest of D-I's. They were 240th last year. This year they are 243rd.
- Michigan's eFG allowed on half-court possessions has gone from 46.3% to… 45.9%. IE, it has improved in a tougher environment to play D.
They're not fouling more, they're not allowing more shots per possession, they're not allowing teams to shoot better in their half court sets. 100% of the defensive regression from last year to this year is on crappier transition D and charges being broken.
Is This Good Or Bad?
Well, it indicates what kind of team you'd like to see Michigan deal with in the tournament: slow ones. Failing that, it seems good that there's such an obvious problem that Michigan can try to mitigate by dumping a ton of practice time into.
On the other hand, we just saw Indiana chew Michigan up in transition, and they're not an efficient team in that department. They are a frequent team, with 28% of their shots coming quickly. But a big chunk of that is Indiana taking debatable shots quickly because they know their half court offense is going to suck. That's an obvious reaction, one Michigan should have seen coming. And yet there were multiple Indiana transition baskets of of Michigan makes. Almost 40% of Indiana's attempts were in transition*. This is not a waning issue.
Michigan has been able to slow down transition-oriented teams this season. Iowa and Michigan State are 6th and 13th at putting up early shots, respectively, and Michigan is 3-1 against those teams with three respectable defensive showings. (The two MSU games look bad because Izzo spent two solid minutes at the end of each game in a foul/matador cycle, but prior to that both games featured MSU at right around one PPP.) In the fourth, Iowa ran out to a big lead with a bunch of threes from Roy Devyn Marble, some of them in painfully wide open transition. 30% of Iowa's shots were fast, they went in at a 75% eFG clip, and Michigan got blown off the court.
I'd rather have one issue that Michigan can mitigate by sending waves of guys back than a big dip in half-court D, so I tentatively suggest this is a hopeful sign.
*[And of course Indiana was crazy efficient in half-court situations in that game. The overall trend is decent—or at least the same—half-court defense, though. Consider it stipulated that if Michigan plays half court D as badly as they did against Indiana, they're dead meat.]
SOUNDS ENCOURAGING. Oy.
Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk says young linemen must move forward, 'we don't have any choice'
I already bombarded you with grim news about the OL yesterday, so I'll forgo that today.
Ten second impact: minimal. Patrick Vint went back to a few games of a hyperspeed nature to find out how many penalties would have been issued if you couldn't snap the ball until 29 seconds were left on the shot clock. Answer: a few. Auburn would have gotten hit four times in the Alabama game, presumably just by a second or two. It's really hard to get a play off within ten seconds of the previous one's end.
It still seems virtually guaranteed that the rule won't pass; even if it does it's not a huge shift in the game.
Stats by conference. They now exist on Kenpom and validate the steep drop in shot-making you have probably perceived in Big Ten games this year. The league is 30th of 32 leagues in eFG%. They're also 28th in FT rate. Even last year's Best League Ever was 28th and 25th in those metrics, but in 2012 the B10 was 8th in eFG.
The moral here is probably that these margins are very thin. The difference between the top power conference in eFG, the Big East, and the bottom, the SEC, is about two percentage points. IE, you'd see one extra make in 50 Big East shots.
One other notable thing: home dominance has plummeted this year. Home teams are at a 55% clip compared to 64% last year and 62% the year before. That's a big ol' swing.
The other side of the pit. Bill Connelly's OL stats applied to the defensive line reveal that Michigan was slightly below average at rushing the passer, good at preventing runs of more than five yards, and bad at holding up in short yardage and getting TFLs.
IE: their defensive line was bad. That's not a huge surprise given the obvious things like playing former WDEs at nose tackle and the still-inexplicable absence of Quinton Washington.
It's not good. Gasaway's Tuesday Truths have one over-arching truth for Michigan fans:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Iowa 8-4 68.5 1.13 1.00 +0.13 2. Michigan St. 10-3 63.7 1.10 0.98 +0.12 3. Wisconsin 8-5 62.9 1.12 1.03 +0.09 4. Michigan 10-3 61.8 1.15 1.07 +0.08 5. Ohio St. 7-6 63.7 1.02 0.97 +0.05 6. Minnesota 6-7 62.9 1.06 1.07 -0.01 7. Purdue 5-7 64.7 0.99 1.03 -0.04 8. Indiana 4-8 64.9 0.97 1.02 -0.05 9. Nebraska 6-6 63.9 0.96 1.02 -0.06 10. Penn St. 4-9 66.2 0.99 1.08 -0.09 11. Illinois 3-10 63.8 0.94 1.04 -0.10 12. Northwestern 5-8 60.9 0.88 1.02 -0.14 AVG. 64.1 1.03
That is: they are the worst defense in the league save for Penn State.
Oh no. Please don't. No one else can possibly wear a suit. Iowa's athletic director preserves the Big Ten's most precious tradition: making grandiose promises to quit if players get a larger slice of the revenue pile.
Barta suggests a pay-to-play system would force schools to put a monetary value on the different levels of competition in all collegiate sports.
"And I'll probably choose to do something else for a living if we ever had to go that route because it's so complex," Barta says. "Do you pay the Division III football player as an employee? Do you pay the tennis student athlete as an employee?"
I should probably be his replacement because I can figure out those two answers immediately: no, and no. Neither is involved in economic activity for their school since their programs are not making money and are therefore charity cases instead of employees.
[HT: Get the Picture.]
Defensive rotation. With Michael Downing and Andrew Sinelli both suspended for Friday's game after hits to the head against the Gophers, Michigan really needs some help. They will get it in the form of Kevin Lohan, who returns from injury after missing 19 games. Mike Chiasson will also draw in to a struggling blue line. Also returning is Alex Guptill and his wildly varying levels of involvement.
Etc.: Women's gymnastics beats Nebraska to take the Big Ten lead. Softball kicks off their season with a 4-1 trip. Dee Hart booted from Alabama for a pot possession charge. Lists of top recruiting classes over long periods of time always point out Michigan as a good recruiting school that sucks despite the recruiting; there really needs to be a recruiting + attrition study.
MORE LIKE AMBEARCROMBIE AND BEARFITCH, AMIRITE. Offensive linemen Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson as models of a certain variety:
Slight difference? Naw. Yes I am going to take this opportunity to note that Kalis seems closer to the field than Magnuson solely based on resemblance to Soda Popinski.
You are victorious. Savor your victory. Spencer will eat cheese, and refugees will be settled, and if any of them look like they might have a double-digit block percentage we're sitting pretty well.
Behold the eye lasers of Brady Hoke.
They are looking. Michigan's got a couple scholarships open and Hoke got locked into a luncheon where fans pepper him with questions so the first one everyone goes with is about the backup QB—could be worse, could be the starter. Answer:
"Yeah, we are (still looking)," coach Brady Hoke said Monday before the West Michigan Sports Commission Annual Luncheon at the J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids. "But, it's one of those things where there's a lot of I's to dot and T's to cross to make sure it's the right fit."
Michigan's got a month and a half before their summer semester starts, and hopefully they'll be able to reel in someone by then.
The double troll. Hoke got a two-for-one in at the same event:
"The Notre Dame game, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of," Hoke said Monday ….
The remark drew thunderous applause from the crowd.
"They're still gonna play Michigan State, they're gonna play Purdue, but they don't want to play Michigan," Hoke continued. "I don't know how they made that decision."
Tell it like it is, man. Kicker JJ McGrath approves.
U MAD? Also on twitter (shut up Bry):
— Jeff Hecklinski (@JeffHecklinski) May 11, 2013
#inthecommunity #intheweightroom #inurbasesteelingurdudes
Um, okay then. I guess if Michigan's going to have a nonconference game at a neutral site New York isn't the worst place:
"The reception we've had in New York every year we've played there has been tremendous," Beilein said. "I think it's the plan to get there often. How often, I don't know.
"Is it every year? Every other year? I don't know. Right now, it'll be two years in a row and there's a tournament down the line we're obligated to as well. We're going to get there often."
I would prefer games on campus in all situations, but it's less of a big deal when you have Arizona and Iowa State coming in. Michigan is generally going to be the defacto home team against anyone they play there.
Regional: acquired. Also: Super Regional. Michigan got knocked out of the Big Ten softball tournament in the semis, a disappointing result for team with a 91% win rate in conference play. Despite that, Michigan did get a seed, specifically the eighth and last. That means that not only does Michigan host an NCAA regional this weekend, but if they advance they will host the super-regional.
Central Michigan vs Cal kicks things off at 4:30 PM Friday; Michigan hosts Valpo at 7PM. Unlike the Big Ten tourney, NCAA regionals are double-elimination. Valpo is 34-25 and was 11-9 in the Horizon League; they should be a pushover. Cal had a good overall record but was 10-14 in the Pac-12; Michigan mowed CMU down 11-0 in a mercy-rule game about three weeks ago.
Moar replays, fewer charges. The NCAA basketball rules committee didn't do much. They allowed some late-game replays—just what the game needs, more stoppages—and changed the charge rule so that a defender need to be set before an offensive player "starts his upward motion" to pass or shoot to not get called for a block.
I am not a fan. The game's problems stem from a refusal to call obvious fouls, as anyone who's flipped on the NBA playoffs after immersing themselves in this year's Big Ten schedule has been shocked to find out. All that hand-checking? Yeah, gone.
Tightening up the charge rule in that manner just seems unfair to the defender, who can get there in plenty of time and still get nailed because he didn't anticipate that by the time he was getting plowed in the chest the offensive player would put his arms up.
I am vaguely hopeful the proverbial crackdown will be more effective. From Andy Glockner:
The other changes, which really are just a re-emphasis of existing rules on the book, will require officials to consistently and, perhaps exhaustively, crack down on handchecking, armbars, and other techniques used both on a primary ballhandler and on cutters moving through the lane. If the officials do call this regularly, we’ll end up with a lot of fouls and free throws early in the season, and then hopefully teams will adjust and we’ll see better, more free-flowing offense later in the campaign. The off-ball contact in the lane is an especially big problem in the college game, and it will again challenge coaches who teach this as part of their defensive approach to find another way to successfully guard.
If that actually gets called like the NBA, the game is going to get a lot cleaner once we get past the section of time when all games are horrible foul-fests. That would be great for Michigan, which is historically a low-foul team that uses a crapton of cuts.
I AGREE WITH NICK SABAN. I've been agreeing with Dave Brandon lately about things like "how many conference games should we have?" and "should we schedule Virginia Tech," so I may as well just agree with everyone about everything. Here we go:
“I’m for five conferences – everybody playing everybody in those five conferences,” theAlabama coach said Thursday night before speaking at a Crimson Caravan stop. “That’s what I’m for, so it might be 70 teams, and everybody’s got to play ’em. …”
Saban reiterated his desire for the SEC to expand from eight conference games to nine per year for each team.
I… I'm with Napoleon.
Hockey commits. Michigan picked up a commit from OJHL goalie Hayden Lavigne for either next year or the year after. So while the door for Rutledge is hypothetically still open, he's just picked up two competitors for the rest of his career. I don't think he's coming back. Lavigne started 18 games last year, posting a .922 and being named "second team All-Prospect" in his league. He was a third round pick in the most recent USHL draft even though his OJHL team expects him back this year.
The addition of Lavigne signals a sea change in the way Michigan is acquiring goalies. Used to be they'd plug and play a top prospect every 3-4 years. Now they're adding a third contender to the mix, and instead of first-round draft picks they're random guys. This can work. It's clearly not the best way to go about things, but Jeff Jakatis and various Miami goalies have proven that goalies are weird and can come from anywhere.
Michigan also picked up a commit from a USHL defenseman named Cutler Martin. He's a '94 (ie, he'll be 20 when he comes in next year) and has very little internet profile out there. Seems like he'll be a third pairing guy to fill out roster depth.
At what point does something become and out-and-out lie? Here's NBC Irish blogger Keith Arnold claiming "Michigan asked to stop ND series first" because Bill Martin wanted to put in one of the occasional two-year hiatuses that the series has seen since its resurrection. Is this merely dishonest or a flat out lie? I think it's actually the latter, since of course "stopping" the ND series is something you do when you, say, cancel all future games. Michigan never had any intention of doing that.
Etc.: More than you needed to know about the all-time-wins chase from the perspective of a Texas fan. Women's tennis hits the sweet 16, their fourth straight. Men go down to a first-round upset. Soccer brings in the #6 class in the country(!). More things you wouldn't buy on eBay. It's Mott Takeover week at WTKA.
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.
2/17/2012 – Michigan 79, Penn State 71 – 22-4, 9-4 Big Ten
Y U NO PLAY DEFENSE (Bryan Fuller)
A home game against Penn State is supposed to be a laugher, and on one side of the ball it was. Michigan put up 1.2 points a possession even without the participation of their centers—literally. McGary, Horford, and Morgan combined for zero points in 43 minutes. No one really noticed because Glenn Robinson III spent most of the day playing NBA Jam and Nik Stauskas was so much more than a shooter that it took five or six drives before something akin to "Not Just A Shooter" got exhumed by the announcers. Michigan did what it does, on one side of the ball.
On the other side of the ball, raise your hand if DJ Newbill's umpteenth only vaguely resisted drive to the basket in the first half caused you to exclaim a variant on "you have got to be kidding me." That's everyone.
Now raise your hand if that exclamation included a swear word you invented on the spot. That's probably just me, but it got bad. Michigan turned to Matt Vogrich in the second half. Since Stauskas was going off this was presumably a move to shore up the defense; Vogrich promptly lost his guy and gave up open corner threes on consecutive possessions. The first one was a reaction to a bad McGary gamble, sure. The second… dot dot dot. At many points Penn State should have been down 15, and the scoreboard said they were down by 3 or 5.
This felt bizarrely familiar to me, and I figured out why: I've watched a lot of NC State this year. This game was disturbingly reminiscent of watching the Wolfpack play. This is not good. You get a window into the psyche of another fanbase when you adopt them as Michigan-by-proxy, and I think NC State fans are pretty pissed off that their combination of players is barely over .500 in a weak ACC. I kind of hate them myself because they combine some breathtaking talent with total indifference on defense. They can beat Duke; they can give up 86 points to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
Finding a shadow of that team in this Michigan outfit that was until recently cruising towards a one-seed is not fun. This is analysis! This is Thunderdome!
Oh, but that shadow is there. Click the conference-only checkbox on Kenpom and you get a shocking splash of red:
Michigan is easier to shoot against than anyone in Big Ten play. Easier than Nebraska. Easier than Iowa. Easier than Penn State. Easier than Illinois despite Illinois playing with big men that may in fact be ghosts. Easier than the crippled husk of Northwestern.
Northwestern is the Rasputin of the Big Ten: shot, stabbed, poisoned, shot again, trampled by horses, chucked in the river. Finally dead and bloated, they are aimlessly floating towards the next life. It's harder to shoot against them than Michigan.
It gets worse when you consider the low number of transition opportunities Michigan provides since they're so responsible with the ball on offense. It has nothing to do with possibly-meaningless three-point shooting, at which Michigan is perfectly average at defending. It is entirely because they are also dead last at keeping twos out of their basket. It's repeatable stuff that the stats are probably not fully encapsulating. It is Not Good. (This is analysis this is Thunderdome.)
Earlier in the year a few people sounded the alarm about Michigan as a national contender, citing its defense. I said "but look at the outlying offense and wait for the defense to maybe move up a bit, Michigan is for real." That's a tough case to make right now. The offense has given up its massive lead and slid back to third; the defense has gone the wrong direction.
When DJ Newbill has a band in ten years they will be called The Unresisted Forays Into The Crisler Lane, man. Sound the alarm. It's time for a hard look at drastic actions, whatever those might be. Waving your hands in the general direction of a shooter is a start.
From Bryan Fuller:
Threes. They feel not random. The numbers say they are. Opponents' three point shooting since the start of Michigan's brutal stretch:
- Indiana: 7/18, 39%. Season average: 42%.
- OSU: 7/16, 44%. Season: 37%.
- Wisconsin: 10/24, 42%. Season: 34%.
- MSU, 7/20, 35%: Season: 35%.
- Penn State: 6/18: 33%. Season: 30%.
It has felt like Michigan is giving up open look after open look and is getting scorched from deep. The result of this feeling: approximately three extra makes across five games, so far within the province of random noise that Autechre is jealous.
Way back in the ur-blogging days when Big Ten Wonk was an anonymous man with a large vocabulary and not John Gasaway we had a conversation about whether or not the fact that Michigan's opponents were raining in threes at a hellacious clip during a particular Amaker campaign was luck or not. I said yes, he said yes but only partially, and I eventually came around to his point of view. Any short-term blazing above 40% will regress.
Lately, Kenpom has been on a crusade to declare three-point shooting defense to be totally random. I entered this section planning to write that I felt streaks like Michigan's recent one were earned, and now I don't know what to think.
- Michigan is average at defending three pointers (7th in the league, 99th nationally) but gives up a lot (10th in the league, 293rd nationally)
- Their eFG% on threes is 50.4, which is in fact worse than their horrible 2-point defense, so the combination of these two things does make their eFG D worse.
Inside the line or out, pick your poison.
Another thing that doesn't seem right. Newbill ended up 3/10 from two. The guy who hurt Michigan was Sasa Borovnjak at 7 of 9, mostly on uncontested rolls to the basket. Michigan's rotations were late and sometimes the pick and roll guy was making the dump inside, which is a big no-no. When Michigan hedges, they play it such that if the guy getting the ball screen can toss it to the big, they're done. Too much of that in this one.
Trey. Dang man, 29 points on 16 shots—and four extra possessions with free throws, something we actually have to adjust for after this one—five assists, and zero turnovers. A couple of shots bugged me, as they were taken with no hope of an offensive rebound, but the efficiency speaks for itself.
Stauskas. Not Just A Shooter was in full effect as Stauskas picked up 12 points inside the line on perfect shooting—3/3 from the floor and 6/6 at the line, though IIRC one of those trips to the line was a non-shooting foul at the end of the first half. He also added four assists. The only thing he didn't do well was shoot the J, going 2/6.
I did have further frustrations with him on defense, and it seems like Beilein did too since we got to see Vogrich unearthed. That was the equivalent of a frustration foul.
GRIII: hello again. A series of highlight-reel dunks against a porous defense and Robinson is back. His success in this one only highlighted the reasons he'd disappeared in the previous few games: he's a top-quality finisher who rarely takes a bounce to get a shot. If put in a situation where he has to make his own shot, he defers. Once or twice a game he will go at the basket himself. That's all.
That's fine, but after the tough stretch it seems like far too much of Michigan's shot creation is on Burke's shoulders. Stauskas does a good amount for a third option; Hardaway not so much and then Michigan gets almost none from the 4 and 5 aside from putbacks.
Not so good: Hardaway, centers. Hardaway didn't shoot well. Okay, it happens.
The centers were a little bit more alarming. The shooting is one thing. They went 0/5 in 43 minutes. The rebounding is another: just 3 and 3 as Penn State outrebounded M 31% to 22%. Defensive rebounding is the only thing that Penn State actually does well (5th in conference; they have no other above-average factors) so I guess that's expected. But combine those numbers with Penn State's frequent dump-ins to Borovnjak—which are usually the hedger's fault for providing a passing lane or not getting back once the ball screen recipient tosses it to another perimeter player—and it was rough day.
I'm torn on Morgan. On the one hand, I'm hoping that Morgan's ankle is still bothering him extensively and he shouldn't be playing because then the fact that he seems like he's not offering any help to the beleaguered defense has an explanation. On the other, I'd really like him to be full strength posthaste. At least Michigan doesn't have a midweek game coming up. Hopefully he'll be ready by Illinois.
End of half heroball update. Burke was forced into the backcourt by his man, then trapped as he crossed the line, causing him to dump the ball with time running out and getting Michigan another terrible shot. Because Burke wasn't taking it, it did not go in.
What is the point of those end of half timeouts? All of them seem to consist of "Trey, go do something" and 28 seconds of staring at each other. I would prefer something with a second option like "Nik, go do something" or "Tim, go do something."
This week's refereeing outrage! Er, it actually went in Michigan's favor as Newbill picked up a critical third first-half foul on something that was not even close to a charge.
How do you fix charges? I don't know. Newbill's first charge was legit, as he plunged his shoulder into Stauskas and knocked him back with an arm, but this caused Pat Chambers to have a conniption fit because Stauskas didn't collapse into a Duke-like pile of flop and shame. His second was not, but did feature a guy getting bowled over. I think I'd change the rule so that feet had nothing to do with it except when it comes to getting outside the circle. It's a charge if the guy nails you directly in the chest, and a block if it's to the side. Expand the no-charge circle a bit and make the reform that Jay Bilas is always on about where if you move under a guy who's already in the air it's a block. And explicitly make simulating a charge a foul.
Anyway: Michigan got to the line a whopping 35 times after games of 2 and 6 FTAs. This is because Penn State is not at all subtle in their hackathon, for which I commend them. Unmissable foul perpetrators of Happy Valley, the honesty in your illegality is award-worthy.
Here is an award.
Uniforms. I liked them.