john beilein does in fact know what he's doing
This is not me. I wish it was.
Whoever sent me this POTATO!!!! Much appreciated.... pic.twitter.com/fVaqRvvgTn
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) March 15, 2017
It turns out to be a wildly successful marketing stunt for a company that will send you image or message-emblazoned potatoes. This company is inexplicably not based in Ohio. The best thing to come out of this is the Wall Street Journal giving the headshot treatment to Dirk's tuber:
Twitter did not find this nearly as amazing as I did, but rest assured this is incredibly entertaining.
Oregon: good matchup? The WaPo's Neil Greenberg seems to think so. He's using extremely small sample sizes, but given Chris Boucher's absence that's less unfortunate than it usually is. Transition is a major Oregon focus and Michigan's stepped up their stinginess:
In transition, Michigan has allowed opponents to score 39.1 percent of the time in the tournament, an improvement over their regular-season performance (46.3 percent) and a potential stumbling block for Oregon, who has scored almost two-thirds of the time in transition (63.6 percent) against their first two opponents. No other remaining tournament team has had better results on the break. Take that element away from Oregon, and it’s a big blow.
This item won't surprise you but will shock your January self:
The Ducks also won’t get as many open looks as they have through the first two rounds. Oregon has taken 24 of 32 (75 percent) catch-and-shoot opportunities unguarded, per Synergy Sports, scoring 1.08 points per shot. Michigan, however, has allowed just six of 22 (27 percent) catch-and-shoot attempts without a defender close by.
Oregon is was already a bit three-heavy with Boucher in the lineup and figure to be more so without him even if that hasn't shown up in the three games since his departure, and Michigan is very good at preventing threes from being launched.
They're 5'9" with big hair and one of them doesn't have a work visa. Welp, they've been found. Both DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner are major risers on Chad Ford's NBA draft board:
Moritz Wagner, F/C, So., Michigan
No one did more to help his draft stock over the weekend than Wagner. His career-best performance against Louisville -- 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting -- showed why he was been quickly moving up our Top 100 over the past month. Wagner is a fluid athlete at 6-foot-11 who can score off the bounce and on the block. He also has 3-point range.
When he's engaged and not in foul trouble, he can take over a game. The fact that he did it against a bunch of NBA-caliber athletes on Louisville impressed scouts. He sat at No. 40 on our Top 100 before the tournament and moves up to No. 21 in our latest rankings. That's a huge leap for any player, but if you watched his draft stock all month, it isn't just based on one game. It's just scouts getting more and more comfortable with the idea that he has all the skills he needs to be a good NBA player someday.
D.J. Wilson, F, Jr., Michigan
Wilson showed off all the strengths of his game against both Oklahoma State and Louisville. He's a terrific and versatile athlete who can stretch the floor, finish at the rim and block shots. He can even handle the ball and bring it up the floor.
However, his lack of toughness continues to bother some scouts who want to see him initiate and handle contact better. He grabbed only two boards against Louisville and at times seemed bothered by the physicality. Still, athletic 6-foot-10 guys who can shoot 3s and protect the rim don't come along every day and Wilson has made a strong case to be a first-round pick after hovering in the 30s in our Top 100 all season.
FWIW, I was talking to Sam Webb a month or two ago and at the time his impression was that the NBA was interested in both guys but that they were both likely a year away. Let's hope that's still the case, because I'm guessing Teske and Davis are going to need another year of grooming before they're ready. Also I really want to see weaponized versions of Wilson and Wagner.
If one or both does end up going this will be another situation where Beilein's astounding player development—despite almost no access to one-and-done types Michigan was 12th in NBA players produced entering the season—outpaces his recruiting. Nobody was expecting Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas to be two-and-out, and I don't think anyone thought Wilson or Wagner would have any chance of going to the league this year after the pair averaged two points a game in 2015-16.
Remember when Bernard Robinson sticking at the end of a roster for a year or two was notable to Michigan basketball fans? Slightly different situation these days.
Part of that development. Congrats to friend-of-blog Andrew Kahn for landing a WSJ byline. It's a look into some player development tools Michigan (and others) are using. Wagner has a bad day against Ohio State and Beilein set to work on his shot:
...Beilein set out to fix Wagner’s problems using one of basketball’s hottest new diagnostic tools: a machine that measures the arc of a shot as it reaches the hoop. ... [tool vendor] Noah’s data says the ideal shot comes in at about 45 degrees.
Wagner’s practice session showed that he was shooting the ball far too high, coming in at around 53 degrees. Beilein knew they had no chance of going in and pressed Wagner to adjust by flattening his shot.
“By the time we were done, he was draining threes all over the place at 45 (degrees), 46, 47,” Beilein said. Wagner, a 41 percent three-point shooter for the season, shook his slump and nailed 8 of 17 (47%) from deep the next four games.
Beilein is still adapting and taking advantage of new tools being created even though he's "no spring chicken," which not every coaching in his 60s does. You can safely assume that Michigan is on the cutting edge with this stuff. The results are proof enough.
Two points. The Big Ten did pretty well in the first weekend of the tournament, sending three teams to the Sweet 16 and Shutting Up All The Haters, except not really. Mark Titus:
As soon as the buzzer sounded on no. 7 seed Michigan’s 73–69 victory over no. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday afternoon, the talk of the internet became whether the Big Ten, which was complete trash from November through early March, had been underrated all season. ... [The Big Ten got three S16 teams and the ACC was bad.] ... Clearly this had to mean something, right?
Of course not. You know what Michigan beating Louisville and Wisconsin beating Villanova proved? That Michigan outplayed Louisville and that Wisconsin outplayed Villanova. How come everyone who gets so wrapped up in conference-pride bullshit always seems to move the goalposts with these arguments?
Neither side of any conference superiority argument generally marshals anything resembling a coherent argument. It is talk-radio fodder.
While a few tournament games don't establish that the Big Ten was at the level it was a few years ago, neither was it "trash." They entered the NCAA tourney fifth out of six power conferences on Kenpom, all of two points behind the second-place ACC. That's roughly the difference between #20 Michigan and #24 Butler, or #37 Northwestern and #44 Illinois State—ie, barely any difference at all. The first two rounds should at least be sufficient to demonstrate that the Big Ten is in the same range as any other power conference (with the possible exception of the Big 12).
This weekend did matter in the computer rankings, sliding the Big Ten up to fourth, and it should influence our perception of the league this year. The real answer, though, is that the Big Ten was just slightly down. Titus seems to be projecting his feelings about Ohio State, which was so trash that many Michigan fans gave up on their season after losing to the Buckeyes*, to the wider league.
Nice. 2017 PF Isaiah Livers won Mr. Basketball. He's a 6'8" stretch four with game and hair fairly reminiscent of DJ Wilson.
Wilson has a couple of inches of both height and hair on Livers, but hopefully he's able to step into the rotation next year.
Star-crossed Ricky Doyle. Remember how he was ill or injured seemingly perpetually? This has not abated, at all.
Ricky Doyle, a Bishop Verot Catholic High School alum, was forced to sit out this season after transferring from the University of Michigan due to NCAA rules, as well as a tumor.
“I just kept having these stomach pains for a long time and I just kind of pushed them off,” he said. “One day, I just had to go to the hospital and it turns out that my appendix has been burst for two months…they found a tumor about the size of a softball and they had to cut 6 inches of my colon out.”
The tumor was non cancerous, Doyle said, and his body formed it naturally around the burst appendix to prevent poison from seeping out and killing him.
Doctors believe the medicine Doyle is on for his sleep apnea dulled the pain to the point where he didn’t realize how severe the tumor was.
Writing on the wall. There's a ton of football stuff that we'll get to in a week or two as part of a spring preview, but one roster note: Sam Webb replies to people asking about a lack of Shelton Johnson coverage that "he is not a part of [Scout's] defensive line preview." I would not expect him on the roster this spring.
Etc.: A lot of people say the tournament saps the importance of the college season. I don't buy that, because I like Big Ten championship banners. For an example of a season that truly doesn't matter, I give you the NBA.
Every Michigan 3 against Oklahoma State. Holdin' The Rope on the Louisville game. Five key plays from said game. We are #3 in Will Leitch's rootability rankings, because of "cattywampus." Leitch on the Brad Underwood hire. TTB talks to Kevin Koger. Jim Harbaugh promotes colon awareness.
I prefer the shot on the left. So does Beilein. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After the Nebraska evisceration, I wanted to take a closer look at something we discussed on this week's podcast. Michigan generated 12 more three-point attempts than the Huskers, which added to the growing pile of statistical evidence that the Wolverines have undergone a fundamental shift—not on offense, but on defense. John Beilein gave the money quote on it after the Purdue game:
We’ve made a conscious decision to defend the three-point line, knowing that a tough two is much better to give up than an open three, which we were giving up like crazy in our earlier struggles.
The key number to look at is 3PA/FGA: the percentage of each team's field goal attempts that come from beyond the arc. The offense is shooting threes at the usual Beilein offense rate: 45.3%, 16th nationally. Before this year, Beilein's Michigan defenses haven't been good at preventing opponent three-point looks; his best finish in 3PA/FGA was 108th in 2014, and most of his M teams have been in the 200 range.
This season, Michigan opponents are attempting just 29.0% of their field goals from beyond the arc. That puts the Wolverines tenth in the country.
The shift in defensive philosophy, likely a product of adding Billy Donlon to the staff, has created a massive gap in points generated from the three-point line between Michigan and their opponents. Critically, the Wolverines aren't forcing shots to make it happen. I put together a video of Michigan's three-point attempts (two garbage-time attempts excised) against Nebraska with freeze-frames just before the point of release; there are only a couple questionable shots among the 25:
I did the same for Nebraska's shots. While they had a few wide open looks, Michigan did a much better job of closing out on Husker shooters than vice versa, and that's not even the most telling part of this video—that would be the length of the video itself. What's not in there is the number of times Michigan defenders ran potential shooters off the line, forcing them to take those tough twos instead.
Even if Nebraska had hit their open looks, they had little hope of keeping up with Michigan's offense. Their second three-point attempt of the game came with under five minutes left in the first half; by that point, M had opened up a 20-point lead while shooting 8-for-12 on triples.
As conference champion Purdue found out, it's hard to close the three-point gap on Michigan with two-pointers, even when they're going in at a relatively high rate. It helps, of course, that Beilein's offense also generates great looks inside the arc; Michigan is 12th nationally in two-point percentage. This leaves opponents in a bind. Do they try to match Michigan three-for-three, even though the Wolverines have superior shooters to almost any team they face? Or do they run their normal offense and hope to either hit twos at a remarkable rate or get an off game from Michigan's shooters?
I'm not sure there's a good answer.
[Hit THE JUMP to see the numbers behind the three-point gap.]
Five days ago. [Bryan Fuller]
That wasn't a fun way to lose. I'll cede that point. The reaction to a one-point road loss, however painful it may have been, has still been borderline hysterical. Heading into last night, Michigan had won five of six—with the one loss a ref screw-job in Minneapolis—while moving off the NCAA tournament bubble. They have the best offense in the Big Ten by a wide margin and a defense that's steadily improving. They lost last night on a prayer of a play that was inches away from backfiring spectacularly; if Nathan Taphorn's pass flies another six inches or so, Michigan is inbounding under Northwestern's basket with a chance to win in regulation.
With a night to sleep on it, here's where things really stand: Michigan is still comfortably in the NCAA tournament field. Jerry Palm's latest bracket denotes 15 bubble teams, including Michigan State. Michigan, projected as a nine-seed, isn't one of them. Joe Lunardi dropped the Wolverines one seed line—to a nine-seed. Michigan is still an eight-seed on the Bracket Matrix, though they'll slide back to a nine as more projections are updates; that's still not on the bubble.
Illinois, a team that Penn State swept this season, has moved into the field on several projections, including Palm's. This year's bubble is really soft. If Michigan loses out, they're in danger of a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday. They have two very winnable games left: at Nebraska, a team that's never beaten Michigan since joining the Big Ten, and a neutral-site game in the BTT against a team that won't be seeded higher than ninth. KenPom gives Michigan a 63% chance to beat Nebraska. The most likely BTT scenario, a 7/10 matchup with Ohio State, gives M a 68% chance of picking up another win, per Bart Torvik's tourney simulator. That works out to a 12% chance of losing both games.
The rending of garments is premature.
[Hit THE JUMP for the final play and more.]
Via the mothership:
And the relevant bits from the release:
The terms of Beilein's extension call for him to earn a base salary of $400,000 with additional compensation of $1,470,000 per year for TV, radio, internet, shoe/apparel sponsorships, consulting, promotion and other services. In separate deferred payments, Beilein will receive an additional $1.5 million annually through the University's Supplemental Defined Contributions Retirement Plan.
The contract also provides opportunities for supplemental pay based on a range of performance measures from winning the Big Ten regular-season title and tournament championships as well as selection to and victories in the NCAA Tournament.
The perception already was that he was here through retirement—Michigan would be insane to let him go—but it was time to do this again because his last contract, signed in 2013, would have expired when this year's freshmen are seniors. When this one runs out he'll be 68.
So the Cassius Winston situation cleared up in a hurry.
As it turns out, Michigan had a top-100 prospect ready to commit, and 2016 Lima (OH) point guard Xavier Simpson did just that this afternoon after a late push by the Wolverines. Simpson originally planned to choose today between finalists Illinois, Iowa State, Miami, and Wisconsin. Increased attention from Michigan's staff in the wake of Winston's shifting visit plans changed the outlook entirely.
Simpson is the fourth commit in the 2016 class, joining wing Ibi Watson and big men Jon Teske and Austin Davis.
4*, #12 PG,
|4*, #87 Ovr||
4*, 84, #12 PG,
3*, 92, #13 PG,
4*, #13 PG,
The four services are in general agreement on Simpson, all listing him in the bottom half of the top 100 overall prospects. He's the #12 or #13 point guard prospect in the country on the sites that bother with positional rankings; Rivals, for some reason, not only fails to do those but lists players only at G, F, or C unless you click on all their profiles.
Simpson is diminutive. He's listed at 5'11 and 165-170 pounds on three of the four sites; Scout has him at 5'10, 155.
Here's Scout's free evaluation:
EvaluationSimpson isn't the most physically gifted player in the class, but he is one of the most effective. Standing only 5-foot-11 he shows absolutely no fear on the basketball court and has set his team up for a lot of wins during his high school and AAU careers. He needs to continue to refine his jumper, but his leadership and ability to run a team make him an in demand prospect.
- Basketball IQ
- Big-Game Player
Areas to Improve
- 3-Point Range
I'll have much more on Simpson tomorrow in an updated post. Football duties beckon for now.