The mantra that "defense wins championships" isn't restricted to football, and that's starting to get kicked around as a potential problem for Michigan when the bullets start flying in March. Luke Winn gets the first kick at the can by leaving them out of a five-deep Prime Title Contenders tier in his recent column:
You might be asking, what about Michigan? If the Wolverines' profile stays the same, they could be the most interesting test-case of this NCAA tournament. They have the nation's best offense but only the No. 45 defense -- not red-flag-worthy, but well worse than any champ from the past 10 years. Michigan cutting down the nets in Atlanta would be a breakthrough statement for the power of offense.
Despite not playing, Michigan has risen to 39th since he put up his column. There is plenty of time for Michigan to get right in this metric.
But let's say they finish the season about where they are now. This seems like something of an issue. Winn assembled the last ten years of Elite Eight teams and found that relatively few found themselves outside of the top 25 in defensive efficiency.
If Michigan was to make the Final Four with its current defensive numbers they would be better than only four teams in the past ten years—the dual outsiders from a couple years back, Dwyane Wade's Marquette team, and TJ Ford's Texas team. Those are kind of grim odds.
However, not many of the teams to make it were the #1 offense in the country, either. And the ranks can be misleading here. As mentioned, they have slid up six spots whilst eating cheeseburgers the last few days, and if they were to shave a single bucket off 100 Hypothetical Opponent possessions, they'd leap up another 11 spots. The margins here are slim.
Meanwhile Michigan is leading the charts on offense by a mile. Their adjusted efficiency is 3.6 points clear of #2 Florida. You could hack off 3.5 points of that, toss it on Michigan's defensive numbers, and come up with a pairing of the country's #1 offense with the 16th-best defense and then you're looking at a tier I contender, no questions asked.
The point is that maybe the margins matter here, and the wheat gets separated from the chaff by differential. How does Michigan stack up there? Pretty well.
|Team||Conf||Adjusted Offensive Efficiency||AOE RK||Adjusted Defensive Efficiency||DOE RK||Efficiency Differential|
[numbers collected before last night's games, so this overrates Louisville a little.]
Florida has wrecked everyone they've played save K-State and Arizona and are far-and-away leaders here; Michigan is second. This is pretty close to the Kenpom rankings themselves, obviously.
Defense Wins Just As Much Championship As Offense
First: the Defense Wins Championships cliché doesn't stand up. I took Winn's data set, grabbed their year-end adjusted efficiency numbers, and got their efficiency differentials. I gave each team a point for each win they acquired after reaching the elite eight (3 for the champ, 2 for the runner up, etc.), and then acquired r values* between those three metrics of quality and wins. Over the decade-long sample there is basically no difference between offense and defense when it comes to acquiring wins—offense is actually ahead fractionally—and looking at the two metrics together is significantly more predictive:
- AOE R value: 0.28
- DOE R value: 0.26
- Efficiency Differential R value: 0.39
If you were so inclined you could argue that there's a winnowing effect that prevents poor defensive teams from reaching the Elite Eight, but then you're trying to find a mechanism that works for the first three games of the NCAA tournament only to abandon teams in the crunch—not likely.
I like this result. It is intuitive. It implies that scoring two points at one end is as valuable as preventing two at the other. It won't get me on Malcolm Gladwell's Christmas card list or acquire me a professorship at Princeton, but unlike the things that do bring those benefits this result makes sense.
So… as long as Michigan's efficiency differential remains sky high, they've got as good a shot at the title as anyone. Except Florida. Long way to go, obviously; if Michigan ends the season as they stand today they should be amongst the title favorites.
*[A brief word on R values: these are not significant, but something can be suggestive without reaching levels of statistical rigor necessary to declare you've found the Higgs Boson. In this case they're just one datapoint we are making a reasonable argument with, instead of flogging ridiculous things like David Berri does. As always, R can change wildly depending on the parameters you set.]
A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS
I took the top eight teams so far this year and threw them in with the 80 teams already in this sample and ranked by efficiency margin. There's good news and bad there. The good: Michigan is a notch above last year's Kentucky outfit! The bad: Florida is #2 in the entire sample, behind only the dominant Kansas title team in 2008 and just ahead of the dominant UNC title team in 2005. Florida is ridiculous right now.
Everyone looks good, in fact. Five of the eight teams from this year are in the top quarter of the sample and all are in the top half. I assume there's a flattening effect that goes on as conference play and mean regression brings high-fliers to earth; also this group of teams has not been ruthlessly culled by the VCUs and Butlers of the world. Strong teams also cry, Mr. Lebowski.
The table is after the jump for anyone so inclined.
[AFTER THE JUMP: A TABLE! WOO!]
Ace stole my joke so I guess I have to write something longer. /shakes fist at ace
@mgoblog Beilein is friends with Binghamton's coach -- not sure if that makes it OK, but there it is.
"Yeah, Binghamton Guy?"
"Could you do me a favor?"
"Anything, Binghamton Guy."
"I need you to punch me in the face really hard."
"Love to, Binghamton Guy."
I guess Binghamton gets a check for the one-off game. In all other ways that's a weird way to do a guy a favor.
Seriously though. I'd rather Michigan played a string of Bradley-type games where they play decent competition in home-and-home situations and just inflated the ticket price the dollar or whatever that they'd have to to compensate.
For one, it's more fun for everyone. For two, you get an RPI bonus for playing on the road, a relatively big one:
A home win now counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Inversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss. A neutral game counts as 1 win or 1 loss. This change was based on statistical data that consistently showed home teams in Division I basketball winning about two-thirds of the time. Note that this location adjustment applies only to the WP factor and not the OWP and OOWP factors.
You can futz with the system to give yourself an edge by playing a team that you should beat on the road like Bradley, and in doing so you prep yourself for playing in hostile environments a bit. I'd like Michigan to have a couple mid-major road tests a year.
Unfortunately the Bradley home-and-home is also a Beilein's buddy sort of thing—probably not a coincidence that this series was scheduled after Bradley hired Beilein's son. It's not a thing we can expect to continue. Michigan decided to stop playing Oakland because they were too good, which like… mmph.
That's unfortunate since that game in Peoria was a lot more interesting than this one. It's a lot better to see your team beat an opponent in front of a packed house of upset-demanding Peorians than a deservedly half-full Crisler. It will also be a relative asset come tourney time. I'd like it if Michigan made a habit of going on the road to MVC and A-10 schools. I mean, what if Michigan made a habit of playing at Calihan Hall? That's some branding activity right there.
Ah, that's not going to happen. I know I know incremental revenue is more important than anything that does not provide incremental revenue. As far as the actual game…
Idle Kenpom thoughts. It seems like the way to solve a problem like Wisconsin is to discount games between heavily mismatched opponents. You could feel Michigan just shrug in the second half as they launched uncontested three after uncontested three, and does it really matter that they weren't as good at annihilating a team that plays like that as Wisconsin is?
The problem with this theory is that I bet Kenpom tried it and it didn't work. When he makes changes to his formulas he checks them against previous seasons to see if the changes make them better or worse at predicting things, and I'm sure he's tried something obvious like lessening the importance of mismatches.
It is worth noting that Kenpom took a lot of heat for having Wisconsin second as of January ninth last year, when the Badgers were 1-3 in the Big Ten and had nothing positive on their record save wins over UNLV and BYU. Wisconsin won 11 of their final 14 regular season games and came within a point of upsetting Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Were they overrated? Yeah. Did Kenpom probably have Wisconsin rated better than people complaining about them? Yeah.
But maybe it's just time to throw your hands up at the Badgers and say computers can't rank them well. Last year:
For instance, one of the most respected ratings systems in the nerd world is the LRMC ratings. They had Wisconsin fifth before yesterday’s games. Last year, heading into the tournament, they had Belmont fourth, and their system outperforms mine! The Sagarin predictor, also deservedly respected, had Wisconsin second heading into yesterday’s games.
As always, this is the right attitude to take:
Q: Your work is flawed. (Not really a Q, either, I guess, but I get this all the time.)
A: Ugh, I hate it when people say this. Of course it’s flawed. The thing is, your knowledge is flawed, too. If you are ignoring potentially useful tools because of a single issue, then your judgment is flawed as well. And I’m guessing you’ve never tracked the quality of your knowledge so you don’t even know how flawed it is. If you’re like most people, you think you’re knowledge is great because you remember the predictions you made that worked out and you forget about the ones that didn’t. It’s human nature. …
I would say there’s still enough value in the work here to provide a useful reality check on your own knowledge. Used together, your flawed knowledge and my flawed tools can be more powerful than used separately.
Just mentally account for the fact teams that annihilate low-majors can get overrated and that Wisconsin is currently benefiting from some amount of preseason expectation that is keeping them loftier than they otherwise would be.
No seriously this time I'll talk about the actual game…
Hardaway shooting alarm going off. Baumgardner wrote an article before this one mentioning that Hardaway's shooting had been falling off and that this was okay because he was doing other stuff. I'm on board, but at some point the shooting woes become problematic. In this one he was 2/9 from three, 1/4 from two, and the vast majority of those were wide open looks he just missed. His three point percentage has dipped to 33% and the number of threes he's taking is accelerating rapidly.
He started the year off going to the basket over and over again; he should resume that activity. I'd rather have the guy commit a charge per game than camp out at the three point line. We've got a guy for that now.
The inevitable decline continues. Stauskas was 4-8 from three and was saved a ninth miss on his record because he had a toe on the line—must have, anyway. He got hacked on a couple of short attempts, and this was ignored as the refs must have had DVRed a House marathon and couldn't wait to get back to watch it.
I am still in favor of Stauskas shooting all of the threes. Surprise.
Albrecht still pretty good. Perhaps less impressive against this outfit than Arkansas but in ten minutes he canned a three and had a 2-0 A:TO ratio. He keeps things moving when Burke's out.
Also Horford. Horford is Michigan's most active and impactful defender. McGary keeps sucking in huge rebound numbers (10 in 17 minutes in this one with four offensive rebounds) and will probably keep his place in line. I'm not sure I can detect any dropoff from center #1 to center #3. All of them bring different things to the table.
I'll be interested to see what happens when Cody Zeller comes to town. Eyeballing it, it seems like Horford is the best matchup against him. Will he get extended minutes or will Michigan roll with their current lineup?
The 1-3-1: too aggressive? I may be remembering this wrong but it seems like the 1-3-1 is now extending itself all the way to half-court, which seems like a problem. I recall Horford getting all the way out to the three-point line on one of the 1-3-1 possessions when a driver tried to take it between the trappers, and I recall that happening a couple feet closer to the hoop when I watched WVU.
The thing has not been particularly effective against teams other than Pitt and I wonder if they're just giving up too much space by extending it all the way out. I know a conservative 1-3-1 is a bizarre concept, but… yeah.
Opponent watch update! West Virginia lost to Duquesne for the first time since 2003 despite going up 25-10; they closed the game 9 of 32. Michigan should not have much trouble in Brooklyn.
They'll be undefeated in the nonconference pending matchups against two of Virginia, K-State, and Pitt!
They'll… go 10-8 in the Big Ten?
Whoah. Ah so:
Yes, Michigan is overrated. Pretty much anyone who's ventured an opinion about the mainstream basketball polls has done so to note that Michigan is overrated at #5, a faction that includes John Gasaway($), Eamonn Brennan, Kenpom above, and myself. As related by Brennan, this is the main reason why I'm with the skeptics:
The first is that, on Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted per-possesion basis, Michigan finished last season ranked No. 29 overall. Their offense ranked No. 22 in the country; their defense No. 60. No other current top-five team ranked outside the top 15. (Louisville, that 15th-ranked team, rode the No. 1 defense in the country to the Final Four. No. 11 Indiana had the nation’s fourth-best offense.)
They were never as good as the teams they split the Big Ten title with and were probably overseeded—if I wasn't a Michigan fan that game against OHIO would have been an easy upset pick in NCAA pools.
Brennan also tacks this on:
The counterpoint to such a crude year-over-year comparison is obvious: Michigan is hardly the same team as last season. Very true. The next question is whether that’s a good thing.
In the offseason, Michigan lost Zack Novak (graduation), Stu Douglass (graduation), and Evan Smotrycz (transfer to Maryland). All three were outside shooting specialists, and a big reason why the Wolverines ranked No. 8 in the country in their rate of 3-pointers to overall field goal attempts. They were also three most efficient offensive players on the team.
I'm not too concerned about that. While we love Zack Novak and have shirts and everything, he was a 6'4" power forward. Smotrycz was only getting about half of available minutes and seemed to have a chemistry issue with the rest of the team; Douglass was a quality on-ball defender and good shooter, but a low-usage guy. Novak and Douglass both find themselves in the "limited roles" section of Kenpom, and while Novak was unbelievably efficient it's not that hard to replace an efficient low-usage player. Between Stauskas, GRIII, McGary, and the return of Horford Michigan should get some combination of rebounding, defense, and shooting to replace Novak.
While Michigan will have to adapt to an offense that isn't spacing you out with four shooters, they've been pick-and-roll heavy the last two years. It won't be a huge leap. They'll improve… but I'm not expecting them to being the thick of a fight for a one seed at the end of the year.
Unless TREY BURKE
The good news. The AP top 25 is pretty good at IDing the right teams.
Yes please. Glenn Robinson's defense is getting talked up, which would be very nice:
"Glenn Robinson has shown some ability several times to really guard people," Michigan coach John Beilein said last week. "He's got instincts and he's really worked hard through the years to be a defender.
"That would be an easy way for him right now (to add to this team)." …
"We've been thinking about that," Beilein said. "You could switch on a ball screen (with the point guard) if his man is a bigger guy.
"I think he could do that."
Neither Burke or Hardaway has been a lockdown defender to this point and Michigan does need someone to go up against opponent's big time perimeter threats. Also you know how I feel about guys who contribute to teams without absorbing possessions. I like them—lots. If GRIII can be a plus player on defense and rebounding at both ends of the floor, he'll improve Michigan more than if he's doing equivalent stuff with the ball in his hands, because Michigan already has a lead ballhandler.
Sometimes uniforms are not crazy enough. 30 years ago, yeah, but whoah:
At least that one guy has a belt. Also, hey, Art Schlichter!
Oh good. Denard is not aging backwards.
"He should be fine," Hoke reiterated Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference. "It's just one of those things that flares up now and then depending on how he gets hit. He's better every day.
"We think he'll be fine."
It's official. The NCAA's long-awaited penalty system revamp is officially official. There are now four levels of infraction. Level four is "incidental" and roughly equivalent to old secondary violations. What used to be major violations are now binned into three different groups:
- LEVEL 1: Big, big stuff. Violations that "seriously undermine" the NCAA model. Penn State, obviously. Maybe USC's agent stuff. Hopefully UNC's you never go to class thing.
- LEVEL 2: Serious stuff, violations that "provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage." OSU's tatgate. South Carolina's hotel stuff.
- LEVEL 3: "isolated or limited in nature; provide no more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and do not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit." Michigan's practice stuff.
Coaches now can't play see-no-evil and punishments are hypothetically ramped up, but we won't know for a while: anything that's happened before today will get the more lenient, older penalty structure.
Nope not happening. The CHLPA wants CHL players to be NCAA-eligible. This is not happening without significant concessions from the CHL. When the NCAA relaxed its standards for foreign player eligibility, hockey got together and had this inserted into the bylaws:
126.96.36.199.4 Major Junior Ice Hockey. Ice hockey teams in the United States and Canada, classified by the Canadian Hockey Association as major junior teams, are considered professional teams under NCAA legislation.
That was inserted specifically to prevent CHL teams from getting their claws into players who would otherwise be ticketed to junior leagues that position themselves as college feeders. The USHL is now a fine feeder league for the NCAA and there's no reason to give CHL teams a marketing point that won't have any bearing in reality and will in fact encourage CHL teams to make sure their players are not eligible, whether it's for academic or amateurism reasons.
The CHLPA is trying, though, and an extremely long post by Guy Flaming indicates there has been some movement on the whole amateurism front—the CHL has gone from specifically defining itself as professional to specifically defining itself as amateur. The fact that signed NHL players can still participate is an issue that has not been resolved—and it's hard to see it getting resolved. A large part of the CHL's appeal is having a bunch of first round picks around. They've built that into the NHL CBA by prohibiting junior kids from playing in the AHL until they're 20.
Meanwhile, the CHL can call itself whatever it wants and the NCAA can still reject players from that league. Unless the NCAA sees a benefit, they will not change their stance. The only way I could see something happening is if the CHL gives significantly and agrees to not poach players signed to LOIs, or poach guys mid-year, etc.
The only reason they'd do that is to stop this ramshackle insurrection they have on their hands. Right now it's just bad PR and erratic Georges Laraque appearances. We're a long way from what would be a seismic shift in college hockey.
Etc.: Oregon's using double stacks, too. More Michael Ferns tribute. Bring kleenex. Why does the NCAA want basketball coaches to explode? Hockey series against Miami recap. Don't be mean to Russell Bellomy or Lewan will eat you. Wolverine Historian puts up 2007 Minnesota.
Basketball: really as good as all that?
Now, it doesn't matter for the Big Ten regular season...it is what it is, we went 13-5, and earned a share of the title. But what does it mean for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA?
Ask yourself this question when it comes to evaluating the Michigan season...was it a solid 13-5 or a weak 13-5? Was it a 13-5 that with a few breaks was 15-3? Or was it a 13-5 with a bunch of breaks that could have easily been 10-8? Which of those is more representative of the basketball we saw this year? Death from above in the two tournaments?
Northwestern looms. Twice we played them. Twice we went overtime with them. Could have lost both. Didn't. Positives to be sure. But who shows up come Friday? …
To me, happy we share the title. Not convinced at this point we are as good as either of those other two teams. Proud of the heart, proud of the overall result. Concerned about the two tourneys.
Bluntly, Michigan was not as good as either of the two teams they tied with. You can see that in the efficiency margins:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 13-5 65.4 1.10 0.93 +0.17 2. Michigan St. 13-5 62.5 1.08 0.92 +0.16 3. Wisconsin 12-6 58.0 1.03 0.97 +0.06 4. Michigan 13-5 58.9 1.06 1.01 +0.05 5. Indiana 11-7 65.4 1.11 1.06 +0.05 6. Purdue 10-8 64.0 1.10 1.09 +0.01 7. Northwestern 8-10 61.0 1.08 1.12 -0.04 8. Minnesota 6-12 62.6 1.00 1.04 -0.04 9. Iowa 8-10 65.8 1.03 1.09 -0.06 10. Illinois 6-12 63.7 0.97 1.05 -0.08 11. Penn St. 4-14 62.3 0.97 1.10 -0.13 12. Nebraska 4-14 61.9 0.93 1.09 -0.16
Kenpom will confirm that for you: it has MSU and OSU #2 and #3 behind Kentucky with Michigan idling at 20.
Meanwhile, going 13-5 would not have netted Michigan a title in any other year since the Big Ten went back to 18 games. Most years they wouldn't even be within a game. There's no denying they were fortunate to end up where they are now. Michigan lost one close Big Ten game (@ Indiana, 73-71) and won four to six (NW x 2, MSU, Purdue, maybe Minnesota and OSU depending on how you feel about five-point games). You can grub grub grub about will to win and finding ways to win and winning is for winners; I don't buy that stuff.
In terms of efficiency margin and Kenpom rankings, Michigan is about where we'd hoped they'd be before the season: slightly improved despite the loss of Darius Morris, short of truly contending for a conference title. In terms of wins they're a three seed and a Big Ten champ.
I don't say this to bring anyone down. It's wonderful. For this team to accomplish what they have is fantastic, and at this point anything after winning a 3-14 matchup in the first round is gravy.
I do think they'll be a particularly vulnerable three, though, and won't be surprised to see them flame out in the second round*. I also won't let that damage the wonderful run they went on to erase a lot of bad streaks. From a logical perspective I get the "concern"; from an emotional perspective it went from 90% house money to 110% as soon as Buford hit that shot. The worst that happens is Michigan State fans say "see you weren't really a Big Ten champ." This will not prevent the banner from going up.
*[I'm not predicting that by any means. Michigan gave Duke all they wanted last year and a hypothetical second-round opponent will be much worse than the Blue Devils were last year. Beilein is a consistent outperformer when he reaches the tourney.
HOWEVA, I do loathe the prospect of drawing a couple of the current six-seeds in Jerry Palm's bracket. They are all dangerous mid-majors: UNLV, New Mexico, Wichita State, and St. Mary's. In Kenpom's eyes that's two teams better than Michigan (Wichita, New Mexico) and two who are a dozen or so spots worse (UNLV, St. Mary's).
You may remember the Dohrmann UCLA article mentioning the success of a couple transfers out of the program: that's basically UNLV. Chace Stanback is a 6'8" guy hitting 47% from three; Mike Moser is a 6'8" guy in the top ten in defensive rebounding with high usage and an inside-out game.
I find Palm's fives a lot more palatable: Louisville (#30 Kenpom), FSU (#28), SDSU (#51), and Creighton(#35). No matter what I expect a second-round nailbiter.]
The golden child's effect on the OL.
Brian or Ace or Anybody;
I am confused, when talking about o-line prospects in the 2012 or 2013 class, some say "Fox makes an ideal RT" or "LT-T is the prototype Left Tackle.". Is the fact that Shane "Obama circa 2008" Morris is a southpaw baked into the projections as to who plays where on the OL? Wouldn't the proto LT be moved to RT for a lefty QB, or no?
Are you and your Bloggy ilk keeping this in mind, does it make a difference for a lefty qb?
I don't think it matters much. Many players at Michigan and elsewhere have flipped from right to left tackle without a problem; when Morris becomes the starter Michigan will put their best pass protector at right tackle and he'll adjust over the course of an offseason. Jake Long switched from right to left after his first year as a starter; Mike Schofield was pressed into service as a left guard after practicing mostly at tackle and did fine.
There might be some slight issues if Morris is either in (because of Gardner injury) or out (because of a Morris injury) of the lineup unexpectedly. In that case you probably wouldn't want to screw up the line's performance by flipping them mid-game and will be exposing either Morris's or his backup's blind side to slightly worse protection. That's life.
Even if that happens it doesn't look like there's going to be a huge difference between the starting tackles at any point in the near future. Whoever the #2 guy is will have beaten out an array of 6'5"-6'7" blue chips. This is not going to be Jake Long opposite Rueben Riley. It's going to be Almost Jake Long opposite Decent Approximation Of Jake Long.
MANBALL concerns revisited.
I WANT YOU TO JOIN UP
ALL OF YOU
THAT WAS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
You have argued over the past several years that you think Michigan will be at a talent disadvantage compared to teams like Ohio and SEC oversigners like Alabama, so long as the status quo persists. You've also argued that, schematically, the best way to deal with this deficit is the spread offense. I am curious if you think Hoke (and Borges) can build an offense in their mold that can truly compete on the national stage. What do you think it will take in terms of recruiting and scheme to be a legitimate contender for the national championship? Do you think that we have the ability to recruit the offensive talent we need to contend for a national title? Or is it perhaps too early to tell?
Obviously an elite defense, which I think we are building, mitigates the need for an elite offense, but recent BCS title games have demonstrated that you can't rely on just defense to win that game. Ultimately I am asking what combination of scheme and talent you think we need to achieve in order to win the national championship.
All the best,
My concerns about Michigan's ceiling have been blown away by Hoke's early recruiting returns. If Michigan is bringing in top five classes consistently—Hoke's already two for two a month into his second class—and is approaching games with the controlled aggression that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges displayed in their first year, there is no reason they can't run a conventional offense and compete for national titles.
When you have a huge talent advantage or are Wisconsin you can line up and beat heads in: top ten FEI offenses* this year include Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC. Alabama was #11. All you need to replicate that is a ton of NFL guys on the line, an NFL quarterback, and some NFL skill guys. Check, check, well… we'll see.
I get the vibe from your email that you're a bit skeptical of Michigan's skill position recruiting. I think that's premature. Shane Morris is a Henne-level QB recruit. Michigan did pick up a consensus four-star in Amara Darboh at WR and came close to flipping Brionte Dunn; this year they've got a top 100 tight end (for now, anyway—Butt will probably fall into the 100-200 range as the year progresses) and seem to lead for a couple five-star types in Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell. If Hoke lands those guys Michigan's weak spot in the 2012 and 2013 classes is…
…uh… cornerback? For now, anyway.
Even if one of those two guys escapes we're still 11 months from Signing Day; more targets will emerge. It seems like Michigan's going to be able to focus a lot of attention on any holes they have in the class come, oh, May.
My main concern with Michigan's scheme going forward is a potential over-reliance on a fullback. It seems like most pro-styles have moved to double TE sets. See this Chris Brown article on Alabama's very MANBALL, very NC-worthy offense. I hope that's where Michigan's going, too. Tight ends threaten defenses vertically in a way that fullbacks do not; they're better athletes, generally, and better targets for downfield passes. Fullbacks… eh.
I think this is also where Michigan's going. Their TE recruiting is massive—they're looking for a fifth in two years—and there's clear distinction between guys like Jake Butt and Khalid Hill, a 6'2", 230 pound guy designated a "U-back" or "move tight end" according to TomVH.
So, like, whatever. My beefs 14 months into the Hoke era are "that one punt against Illinois" and "taking a scholarship fullback." Oh, and the complete implosion of the offense in a couple games. But that's not a long term issue.
Hoke has dumped game-changer after game-changer on us since his hire to the point where the internet is making memes like this…
Ben Gedeon's visiting, you say?
…if we're feeling for a ceiling it's a bit hard to find right now. One will probably come, but there's no reason to go looking for it just yet.
*[I know FEI put up some weird results this year what with Navy and Miami in the top ten as well but it at least tries to account for strength of schedule and pace of play; FWIW, Stanford was 8th in total yardage, Wisconsin 14th, USC 21st, 'Bama 31st.
Also, as long as you're down here, how about Paul Chryst? I predict Wisconsin has a noticeable dropoff in his absence.]
What is the possibility of switching to a 3-4 defense next year? With a lack of a proven option at DT, and a seeming plethora of linebackers coming in that look ready to start from Day 1, it seems like it would be a wise move. Mattison ran it at Baltimore so we wouldn't need to worry about running a system our DC doesn't understand. Or is that asking for trouble with Will 'high pads' Campbell trying to absorb double teams?
This comes up over and over. Look:
Brian - Any chance Mattison takes a stab at running a 3-4 next year with Will Campbell as the space eater in the middle and Cam Gordon/Jake Ryan the speedy LBs? I image he prefers that base defense because of the variety of blitzing looks it can bring to confuse a 20 year old QB but has he discussed it at all in press conferences. Also, the LBs coming in are upgrading the athleticism to potentially smooth the transition in coming years.
-Jim Dudnick BBA '01
I think I've already dispelled it multiple times, but here it goes again: Michigan will not switch to a 3-4. If it looks like they're recruiting to a 3-4, well, that's because the 4-3 under is halfway between a traditional 4-3 and a 3-4.
Consider the effect of shifting the line against the strength of the formation:
- The SDE moves inside the tight end and becomes vulnerable to double teams
- The NT hovers near the center
- the DT is lined up just outside the guard
- the WDE gets outside the tackle and is hard to double team
What personnel do you want for that? You want a big bulky DE on the strongside and a penetrating, athletic whip on the weakside. Your nose tackle needs to be able to take on and beat double teams either by splitting them or forcing both players to stay in to block him; the three-tech also must hold up on the interior. That's not that different from what you want from your three down linemen and weakside OLB in the 3-4; add in the SLB hovering around the line and the two MLB types hanging out off the LOS and the under is probably closer to the 3-4 than a 4-3 in terms of personnel.
What the under gives you that the 3-4 doesn't is flexibility in your playmakers. This year Mike Martin one-gapped the hell out of opponents, darting into the backfield and destroying play after play. Next year Ondre Pipkins or maybe Campbell (but probably Pipkins) may be able to shove opponents five yards backwards but he's not going to be as explosive. This should be okay since he will free up Demens. In the 3-4 Martin is not a viable nose (or at least not as good of one) because he has to two-gap—hold his ground and be able to pop off either side. Theoretically, anyway. These days fronts are multiple.
Moving to the 3-4 does not fix any hypothetical issues on the line; Roh and the various WDEs become OLBs* and you're still replacing the three interior players. Instead of allowing those new guys to take one gap and hit it hard you're asking them to play both sides of a player, which means they have to be immensely strong and able to anchor; quickness is much less of a consideration. The 3-4 would exacerbate potential issues with young and/or light players (like Brink). It is the opposite of a panacea.
*[Remember that Michigan's one-year dalliance with the 3-4 saw Lamarr Woodley play OLB.]
35th in Kenpom seems low for a team that beat their number 3 and 6 teams. This seems to be a big game team, they play well against good teams and then sleep walk through Iowa and Alabama A&M Tech State. What would our ranking be if we removed every team over 50th (arbitrary cutoff)?
I don't know but I agree that Kenpom seems to have a weakness in that sloppy games against poor competition seem to have a greater impact on the rankings than they do expectations from Vegas. This can make the rankings and predictions look odd.
But that's tough to weed out. If I understand his methodology correctly, Pomeroy tests out changes to his rankings and only implements them if they improve the overall accuracy of his prediction engine. The '06 Gonzaga team is one that Pomeroy thinks his system underrated because they did not play with much effort defensively unless they had to and thus didn't rack up the huge margins of victory that see teams like OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin near the top of his ratings this year.
In Wisconsin's case you can make an argument that their defensive style is dominant against weak competition but fails for whatever reason against better competition… but then how do you explain the Badgers' considerable success over the past half-decade? If you can't find some correlation to go with your model that's as useless as a correlation without a model.
Michigan beat Western Illinois by four and a few other weak teams by ten or thirteen and thus hover lower in the rankings than they maybe should. (Iowa is another matter. That's not screwing around after getting a big lead, it's getting blown out by a bad team.) Could Pomeroy find a way to downplay games between badly mismatched teams? Maybe. If and only if it made the prediction engine stronger, though. Evidently he hasn't.
DISCLAIMER: I know I rely on Kenpom's tempo-free stats extensively but they are just numbers and they do have flaws even Pomeroy admits; that doesn't make them bad or useless. It's a reminder to keep them in perspective.
What are the options for captains on the men's basketball team next year? With Novak and Douglass around it's something we haven't had to think much about much lately, but what scenarios do you foresee playing out? I figure you're looking at a group of players (provided no unexpected attrition) from Vogrich (Sr), Morgan (Jr), Smotrycz (Jr), Hardaway (Jr), and Burke (So). Being that Vogrich seems to have a dab of the gritty mcgrit that Novak and Douglass feature along with being the only senior, I can see him being one of them. But from there do you hope THJ matures with the imaginary 'C' on his jersey? Do you go back to the sophomore route that worked with Novak and give a nod to Burke? Do you tap into the floppy hair of McLimans? So many options...
That is tough, and gives me the heebie-jeebies as I think about Michigan's inexplicable collapse in 2009-2010 after the departures of CJ Lee and David Merritt. That decline is the most powerful argument in favor of gritty leadership I've ever run across, and Michigan is going to have huge shoes to fill in that department next year. Getting that right is going to be captial-I Important.
Honestly… doesn't Burke seem like the guy despite his youth? He spent the offseason before his arrival documenting his insane workrate on the internet and has immediately become the headiest player on the team, non-Novak division. Hardaway has the passion but often fails to control it; Morgan is a quiet guy who has to be goaded into emotion by Bacari Alexander, Vogrich doesn't seem to have the on-court impact to be a candidate, and Smotrycz… I don't know. Smotrycz just doesn't give off the vibe. I'd guess Burke and Hardaway, as odd as that might seem.
The more you know, part one.
If Wikipedia is correct, Denard Robinson has the chance to be the first player in Michigan history to be a three-time team MVP. There have been 6 two-timers:
Nobody has been a two-time B1G MVP
This may be something to keep in mind when debates about Robinson's place in Michigan history (like, is he patch-worthy) come up. Unless Robinson makes that argument moot.
The more you know, part two.
A commenter dug down to find the last Michigan players who graduated with a winning record against MSU:
It was Louis Bullock (1995-99), unless we're not counting the vacated games. If we're not counting any of them (we vacated the 1992-93 season and everything from 1995-99), I believe we have to go back to the seniors on the 1989-90 team (Terry Mills, Rumeal Robinson, Mike Griffin and I think someone else [ed: Loy Vaught]).
Bullock does not count. Bullock can go to hell. Vacated games do not count generally. So it's been over 20 years. That's what's at stake for Zack Novak and Stu Douglass in Breslin.
Side note: I hear tell Michigan is going to PSL-up the lower bowl in Crisler next year, with one section opposite the students at midcourt designated for high rollers with a 1k+ PSL attached. Part of this revamp will be the addition of a club analogous to the one at Michigan Stadium for said high rollers.
It sure would be nice to somehow name it after a guy who's given his all for the program like Novak…
…instead of a rich guy whose contributions we certainly appreciate but do not viscerally feel, no offense rich guys.
Oh, I'm an idiot. WCBN's fundraising drive lasts until March 20th, which is… um… four days ago. I said I'd give them a plug. This is it. Their online donation form is still up, though, so this isn't completely useless.
Pads! OH MY GOD IT'S SPRING PRACTICE VIDEO
Excellent savvy on the part of the athletic department to defuse any panic about Michigan wearing white pants this fall. Someone in the department has learned about the internet.
The Wolverine Blog has some spring practice content up, with five guys with the most to lose and most to gain. Maize and Blue Nation has had "whispers come across his desk" that may be random unreliable internet stuff but include reassuring comments like "Craig Roh three point stance" and "Thomas Gordon seeming competent at safety."
Think about that bit: Thomas Gordon seems like the most likely of what will be three or four moved linebackers to be a competent free safety due to his size, speed, and high school position. He was a strongside linebacker last year. Cam Gordon is a strapping guy headed for 230 pounds everyone thought would play linebacker even when he was a receiver. He started at free safety. This year we might (will probably?) see those guys switch positions.
/shakes fist at sky
The second-dumbest thing. Apparently I'm not done with people who say stupid things about Jalen Rose, but what am I supposed to do when Jason Whitlock writes this?
And if it’s clear Rose and Jimmy King were speaking in past tense, there would’ve been no need for Rose to send Hill and Jay Williams tweets before the documentary aired explaining that’s how the Fab Five felt 20 years ago.
Or it was clear but since it was not explicit Rose made it so before the damn thing ever came out, for all the good that did. Whitlock then goes on with his usual condescending What Ails Black Folk crusade because that's what he does. Here's Dave Zirin at the Nation—high up on the list of websites I never thought I'd have cause to link to on MGoBlog—annihilating Whitlock*.
Meanwhile, Frank Beckmann should drop the "mann" from his last name:
I love that Jack Sharp looks like he could be Purdue's head coach. I don't love that a guy closely associated with the University is essentially Glenn Beck.
*[This is not an endorsement of the Nation's opinion on anything other than Jason Whitlock. I still remember that back in the day the most ludicrously communist Daily columnist during my time as an undergrad got a coveted internship there that he used to write more ludicrously communist pieces. It is a silly place.]
Bah, Burlon. Brandon Burlon's strep infection/bad reaction to antibiotics is probably going to knock him out for the entire weekend. Red's already said playing Friday is out of the question and this doesn't sound like he's going to be able to go at all:
Burlon — out of the lineup for both games this past weekend at Joe Louis Arena — has been plagued by an “inflamed esophagus,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.
The junior defenseman has been in and out of the hospital since last Monday when he came down with strep throat. He’s had trouble eating solid food and has lost about 15 pounds over the past week.
Also in that article: Shawn Hunwick is having a mid-life crisis because he never wants to leave Michigan. His first action is taking a fifth year. Suggestion: master's degree. It worked for me.
Gotta collect 'em all. Ray Vinopal's transfer destination is Pitt, which is indeed closer to home—it's about an hour—and also features a bunch of Michigan's former coaches, including his position coach. Because this is a Michigan safety we're talking about he will become an All-American now that he's free from the clutches of Angry Michigan Safety-Hating God.
Guh. You don't even need to know what SDPI is to know this is true:
/shakes fist at Greg Robinson hire
/also 3-3-5 installation
/actually hasn't stopped shaking fist since January 2nd
Even more hockey recruiting. The United States of Hockey checked out a recent NTDP game and reports back on goalie John Gibson, amongst others:
John Gibson: The big goaltender looks like a pro goalie when he plays. He takes up so much net whether he’s standing up or on his knees. During the shootout, when he came out to challenge, I think the net basically disappeared. When I say the moves Gaudreau and Girgensons put on Gibson were nasty, I mean… just filthy. The big guy made 35 saves, including several key stops late.
I asked one of the team staffers if Gibson was excited about his season and his commitment to Michigan. The reply, “Gibby doesn’t get excited about much of anything.”
So Gibson is the exact opposite of Shawn Hunwick. Warning: don't read the bits on Rocco Grimaldi. They will make you sad he is headed for North Dakota.
Kenpom is the bible. Pete Thamel's NYT article on how accepted Kenpom is amongst college basketball coaches makes me wonder what it will take for halftime statistics to feature offensive rebounding percentage. The brilliant/frustrating thing about tempo-free numbers is that they're stupidly easy to explain (with the admittedly vast exception of "offensive rating"): we took this number, and then we divided it by something. This allows coaches to say things like this:
“I’m not a math geek,” said the George Mason assistant coach Chris Caputo, who does all of the team’s scouting reports. “But it gives me a quick statistical synopsis of who they are before we watch tape and personnel. What do they do well? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do their points come from? It’s a snapshot of relevant statistics.”
No football or baseball coach that confesses he looks at advanced metrics would start off his statement "I'm not a math geek," or at least they'd obviously be lying. With Kenpom it's plausible Caputo just knows how to divide.
The frustrating part about all this is how stubborn the broadcasting establishment is about incorporating this stuff. I'm tired of seeing "FG%" next to "three pointers" and trying to figure out on the fly what each team's percentage on twos is.
Ain't nobody there. Mmmm fluffy headline:
Brady Hoke reaffirms Wolverines' love for recruiting from Detroit
I'll take that over "Darius Morris can't be sure he's returning to Michigan State" any day, though. The Hoke Media 180 continues unabated. Let's hope it's as important as the media thinks it is.
Etc.: Northwestern won't be adding D-I hockey either. Notre Dame seems to be preparing for life without Michael Floyd. Minnesota and Wisconsin nonconference schedule issues. Derek Dooley gets a "year zero," which seems fair but makes me think about Nick Sheridan. The Hoover Street Rag has fired up its annual hockey tournament preview. Yost Built on the BTHC—FWIW, I doubt that both Alaska schools will end up in the same conference because I don't think you can exempt four games up there, thus depriving them of their main enticement.