Meram is scoring some sweet-ass goals of late
Site note: As with last year, we'll be having a basketballgasm liveblog for Day 1 of the tournament, shifting to the hockey game at 3, and then going through the Round 1 matchup with Wofford. DraftStreet, whose 40k tourney is still filling up (as of this morning ~1600 of the 2000 spots are filled), is sponsoring, and a few former players will be joining us to promote the Go Blue Bowl.
Speaking of filling things, you're probably filling your brackets right now, so here's my now-annual post and tool for helping with that. Last year was the first since 2000 that I didn't win at least my buy-in back. Things I use:
The Power Rank (friend of the blog Ed Feng)'s interactive bracket. Ed is one of the cutting-edge guys in sports analytics. On his tool if you hover over any team you can see their probabilities to reach each round, or hover over a spot in the circular bracket to see every team's likelihood of getting there. Michigan is 58% to reach the Sweet 16; from there every game is virtually a toss-up.
The Wall Street Journal's blind comparison. They show you two profiles and say a little about the team, and you make your pick presumably without bias, though you can often figure out exactly who they're talking about:
Bracket Science's Bracketmaster tool. Peter Tiernan's blog is a standard for following bubble teams and gets things right that others don't (like Louisville as a 4 seed). The Bracketmaster+ tool lets you get into data going back to 1985. If you're a member it gets deeper but non-members can use it to do things like show Beilein's Michigan teams in the tournament:
Poologic Tool. This helps you decide how many upsets to pick based on the size of your office pool (in a large pool it's best to be the only one with a certain champ). Also you can calculate ROI on various picks.
My tool (download the excel sheet) Which uses straight-up Kenpom scores and provides a weak confidence score based on the premise that 16 seeds never beat 1 seeds. I also added injuries for each team. Looks like this:
What I do is normalize the closest 16-1 matchup (Wichita St vs. Cal Poly) as 100% for the 1 seed to win, set that as the "chaos factor," and use the KenPom ratings to percentile everyone else's games into a confidence number. Then I roll through anything under 70% and decide if my knowledge of those teams might justify taking the under.
If you're in a big pool, run multiple brackets, each with carefully selected upsets.There's no such thing as an NCAA tournament without lots of big upsets and at least one surprising run. The 1 seeds all made it to the Final Four just once. If you submit one milksop bracket you're up against every other milksop bracket and will get beat by the one crazy guy who had LSU going to the Elite 8 or something. Hitting on a carefully selected upset that rearranges a bracket and lets you ride a different high seed to the Final Four is the most typical route to a win.
If you're in a small pool, play conservative. One or two points won't usually make a difference in a small pool, but the likelihood of something crazy like that one guy's wife who picks based on the cuteness factor of mascots winning is cut down so you don't need to take risks to get ahead.
Pick the upsets the most carefully. I love picking 6-11 upsets because if you get it wrong they're bound to get wiped out by the 3 anyway. If you roll the dice on a 3-seed or lower losing early though, you'll feel like an idiot as the rest of your pool collects the easy points. A tournament without upsets never happens, but neither does a tournament with all the upsets. You can totally undo a great pick with a terrible one elsewhere.
Get value for your upsets. Know who's in your pool and the inefficiencies. This year, those of you in Michigan are facing the mother of all inefficiencies in that Spartan fans are bound to submit extra brackets just to have one that has State going all the way. Fans will generally take their favorite team to go two rounds later than they really belong and conference teams to go a round further. This is an inefficiency (even if MSU looked like they could dominate the tourney on Sunday).
Be really really lucky. This is really the only rule.
Also dear yente if you could saddle Wisconsin in an impossible bracket that'd be great.
In two days it shall be March. We're already familiar with the Big Ten Tourney participants, so let us look beyond to this NCAA tournament thing.
What, my dear yentes, makes a good or bad matchup for this Michigan team, what are some of the teams out there we might hope to avoid, and who among expected high seeds would Michigan match up well against?
Brian: Bracketology consensus has us a three or four right now; I'll go under the assumption they're a three just to simplify things. That means Michigan is looking at the top eight teams on S-curves trying to suss out a good matchup. Wisconsin is in that group for some lucky 7-seed but won't end up in Michigan's region. The others: Wichita State, Florida, Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, and some combination of Cincinnati/Villanova/Creighton.
No one in that group seems hugely appealing, but I like the Syracuse matchup best of the current one-seeds. They've only got one shooter, they're 11th on Kenpom, they've had a lot of close calls against not particularly good teams, Michigan played their zone last year, and they've got shooting from everywhere. 'Cuse's current backcourt is much smaller and less athletic than last year's version and Michigan's shot generation is a lot bigger, so going over the zone is much more of an option. Also, undefeated or not, Wichita State is short, largely untested, and not laden with NBA superstars future. I will take either of those one seeds.
Conversely, I want nothing to do with Arizona. Michigan damn near beat them earlier in the year, yeah, but that was thanks in large part to an avalanche of missed putbacks. Teams that can just implode Michigan on the boards are my biggest fear. Kansas and Florida are also teams I'd like to avoid.
'de-moh-NAY!' s'il vous plait.
The NCAA has published its 2013 data submitted by member institutions for the purposes of Title IX compliance. You can download the spreadsheets from ope.ed.gov.
Politics refresher: Title IX is a gray area topic since it is political but affects college sports which this blog is about. This is a feel thing: it is logical to point out that a male wrestler's experience will be more similar to that of any female basketball player than Derrick Walton's, it is politics to label that "reverse discrimination."
Quinze, seize you: Generally BCS teams spent between 37% (Stanford) and 77% (Oklahoma State) less on the women's sports than the men's. Michigan spent about $7.00 on the fellas for every $3.00 on the gals, a ratio near the top. BCS schools, private schools (who didn't used to have to comply) and Southern schools tended to higher disparities; among the 15 lowest women-to-men expenditure ratios all but three (Minnesota, ND and Pitt) were in the Confederacy. The Dept. of Education doesn't regulate an annual expenditure ratio between men's and women's sports, but they look at them as part of the nebulous compliance system.
|Avg Expenditures by Conference
(in millions) 2012-13
Building Lies. Weirdly, expenses appear more normal than the revenues, which get downright weird. A few examples (for reference, Michigan's men's hockey team reported revenues of $3.2 million, the 4th-most in that sport):
- Stanford's women's basketball team, which was a 1 seed that lost in the Elite 8, reported $16.5 million. The next-highest is Baylor's ($5.9 million), Vandy ($5.6 M), Tennessee ($4.9 M) and UConn ($4.7M)
- Clemson's women's diving reported revenues of $406k. Only two other schools reported any revenue for that.
- TCU said they made $3.4 million from horseback riding and $416k from women's rifling.
- Southern's women's soccer team, which didn't make the tournament field, reported $3.1 million in revenue, which is more than their football team and almost as much as all of their men's sports combined.
- Robert Morris's women's hockey team reported more revenue ($1.1 M) than its men's team ($997k).
- Michigan's men's lacrosse team led the country in revenue: $2.4 million
- Wisconsin's women's ice hockey reported $7.6 million; their men's team reported just under $12 million (double what next-highest, Minnesota, made).
Michigan's the rare school that doesn't pretend its opulent escalator entrance was built for the women's gymnastics team. [MGoBlue.com]
Wisconsin's hockey numbers might be a clue as to how these schools are getting their numbers. The Badgers recently built a practice facility adjacent to the the Kohl Center with donated funds; the women's team plays their game there. Stanford got a massive donation' last year from its version of Ross and built a multi-sport athletic facility with his name on it. Michigan appears to have funneled some of their Big House improvement through lacrosse.
It appears what's happening is when a donation is put toward a building project the schools tend to split that between whichever teams use it. End result: teams that funded major construction projects ended up with the highest ratios of $$ spent on women versus men.
Biggest liars? There's no way to figure out the accounting for these things but it's obvious some programs play with the books more than others. TCU is pretending they built a $3.4 million storage shed for saddles and bridles that the football team just happens to use as an indoor practice facility. They also upgraded the ROTC rifling range, which they attributed to the women's team. They're a private school that
to be a women's college and is still 57% female [ED-S: apologies—you have no idea how many people I've repeated that factoid to over the years] that spent the last decade trying to become a BCS program, which explains the fiscal acrobatics.
[After the jump, comparing expenses to recruiting and performance]
2/2/2013 – Michigan 73, Indiana 81 – 20-2, 7-2 Big Ten
Midway through the second half, Michigan popped into a 1-3-1 zone for a possession. I did not like this. I immediately thought "you can't run this defense with Jordan Hulls on the floor," and Indiana duly tossed the ball around the perimeter until Hulls was presented with an open three-pointer. He knocked it down. The 1-3-1 did not reappear.
Hulls didn't do much other than that. Unfortunately for Michigan, two of the other things he did were bury two more open threes; he missed only once. This is what you expect from Jordan Hulls, and it's why he's out there trying to check dudes a half-foot taller than him on defense.
To beat a team with a guy who shoots like that playing next to a sticky-fingered nightmare of a defender, the man Hulls is checking has to at least keep pace with the guy. Nik Stauskas didn't. He, too, is the sort of player that sends you to your toes when he's left wide open in transition, the sort of shooter that can create a buzz in an arena before the ball has even left his hand. He, too, had four good looks from three before the game had been decided. He missed all of them. (Hulls fouled him on a fifth.) The fourth miss was incredible, deflating, infuriating. This is not what is expected.
In a game where just about everything else did go as expected, that seems like the difference between a rock-'em-sock-'em affair ending at the buzzer and the marginally exciting contest that instead unfolded: Michigan's best shooter did not hit when presented with excellent looks.
And they were excellent. I'm not sure if Michigan came out with a concerted plan to emphasize the Hulls-Stauskas matchup or if Stauskas improvising based on his belief that Hulls couldn't check him; either way Michigan came out of the gate attacking that guy, and for naught. Stauskas drove for marginally-contested layups, and missed. He was found for marginally- or un-contested threes and missed. Michigan launched itself into desperation mode with two minutes left down nine, down exactly the same number of points Hulls had tossed in from behind the arc and Stauskas hadn't.
This is not to pile on Stauskas, who played about as well as he could up until the moment he let a shot go. This was not the Ohio State game, when he could not move towards the basket and found himself hacked out of the offense, reduced to jacking up deep, contested threes out of frustration.
When Stauskas made contact with Hulls he was largely quieted—along with the zone three two of his other looks came in transition. Stauskas didn't turn the ball over and had a couple assists. I can't recall any frustration shots launched. Afterwards, Beilein revealed Stauskas had missed practice the day before with the flu. Independent random trials can be a bitch even when you're healthy.
But there it is. While Glenn Robinson sputtered to two points and contributed little else in 40 minutes, his presence in the game always feels light. He largely cleans up other people's misses or throws down their assists. His absence or presence is something felt less viscerally than thinking TAKE THAT at maximum brain volume and seeing something betray Nik Stauskas's swag.
So it goes. Sometimes the damn thing won't go in the basket. The only thing to do is keep shooting.
Protip: stop falling behind by lots in tough road games. Against OSU, Michigan's offense came out discombobulated and staked the opponent to a 21-point lead. In this one, Michigan's defense couldn't make a rotation or stop the ball in the first ten minutes and staked the opponent to a 15-point lead.
Protip: once you have fallen behind by lots in a tough road game and come storming back, DO NOT TIE THE GAME. When this happened in Columbus Michigan started jacking up bad shots and was on the wrong end of a decisive 6-0 run. In Bloomington they managed to tie the game just a few minutes into the second half, and then suffered an 11-0 run.
Clearly a mandate must go out indicating that it's threes only if you have fallen behind by lots only to claw back and find yourself down two in a tough road game. No more ties. No more.
Protip: just predict what Kenpom predicts. Twice this year arrogant predictor guys at this very website have arrogantly deviated from the Great Book Of Kenpom and predicted road victories, first myself for the OSU game and then Ace for Saturday. Kenpom was off by a total of three points in these games. Yea, and it was wroth.
Halftime adjustments check: no. Michigan clawed back to even after five minutes, but then suffered the aforementioned run.
The Morgan question. Was his absence a major problem? The two minutes on a gimpy ankle he got seems to indicate the answer is yes, as does Indiana shooting 59% from 2. McGary's box score says no: 5/7 from the floor, 3 OREB, 4 DREB, an assist, 0 TO, two blocks, two steals, and a Wes Unseld hockey assist not recorded. Horford added a couple buckets, blocks and turnovers in ten minutes.
In the aftermath I've seen various folk complain about McGary overhelping and thus setting up Cody Zeller's three tip dunks, but if Oladipo is screaming at the basket that seems McGary has a bad choice either way. By helping McGary forced tougher shots and misses on those, at least. If he's not there and Oladipo throws down a rim-rattling dunk, um… well, that's not good either. It seems like the problem there is on the initial drive and McGary is picking the lesser of two evils.
Because this is an attempt to quantify the defensive prowess of an individual player, we of course have wildly differing metrics here. Some low-sample-size Synergy data from UMHoops suggests that Morgan is by far the better defender. That is in direct conflict with some low-sample-size data Ace assembled that suggests Michigan is a crap-ton better with McGary on the floor.
I don't know, man. Keep "road game at Indiana" in perspective here: despite giving up 1.17 PPP, Michigan's defensive ranking on Kenpom actually moved up slightly after the game. If Indiana shot too well from two they also got up far fewer shots than Michigan thanks in large part to McGary, and without the intentional fouls at the end of the game that PPP rate drops to 1.10. It's complicated.
One spot at which Morgan may have helped: the four. Michigan hasn't taken Glenn Robinson off the floor since Morgan got hurt, and in this game he wasn't doing anything to justify 40 minutes. Morgan would have brought extra rebounding and been better able to hold up against Christian Watford on the block; Robinson would probably have been more effective if he knew he was going to get some rest here and there.
Speaking of the overhelping bit. I think we can put the Tim Hardaway Jr lockdown defender meme to rest. Oladipo roared into the paint with frequency against him, hitting 5/9 from two and IIRC having two of those misses thundered back into the basket by Zeller since he'd drawn two guys.
Hardaway's better than last year; in no way, shape, or form does he approach the level of an impact perimeter defender like, say, that Oladipo guy.
Hardaway was an effective shooter in this one, largely when Oladipo switched off onto Burke.
Oblig. Burke check. Hoo boy he put up a lot of shots: 24 in total. We should remove the rushed heaves at the end of the game to get a better picture of what he did when quality was more important than quantity. This slices out four 3PA, one of which went down, and two generous assists on similarly rushed heaves by Hardaway and Stauskas.
Those excised, Burke:
- 5/12 from 2
- 3/8 from 3
- 3/4 from the line
- 6 A, 3 TO, 2 steals, 2 OREB(!)
- 22 points on 20 shots
Burke was tasked with a good number of Oh God Oh Jesus Oh God late-clock possessions as Indiana's defense came to play; he had difficulty with Oladipo, as you might expect. His numbers would have been less extreme and likely less inefficient if Stauskas had been healthy and accurate. As it was more and more of the offense devolved onto him.
He carried Michigan when they had to be carried. To exceed a point per shot against a top-tier defense while sucking up 40% of Michigan's possessions is remarkable.
Oblig. ref check. Fouls were even before Michigan went into game extension mode. There was a 15 to 7 FTA disparity for Indiana that seems mostly attributable to random chance. Two goofy calls stood out: the Oladipo continuation bucket and a blocking foul assigned to Hardaway that was a textbook charge—one, in fact, that Hardaway repeated moments later, getting the call.
Rebounding check. Michigan lost the battle on the boards thanks in no small part to those Zeller slams. It was close—29% to 34%—though, far less of a factor than IU doubling up Michigan when it came to turnovers.
The bright side! This may put a damper on GRIII to NBA worries?
"Cumong man" of the game. Indiana hit 88% of their free throws and didn't miss once in their last 14 tries. This is not conducive to exciting finish, Indiana. I am dissapoint.
The oddity of having a really good basketball team. You get punished by having Dick Vitale assigned to your games. I've always experienced him as an annoying presence on Duke broadcasts I'm not going to watch more than a few minutes of; this year I've finally been exposed to 40 minutes of the guy repeatedly.
I am not enjoying this experience. Take it away, Wikipedia:
He is known for catchphrases such as "baby"
The worst part is that when Vitale finally retires—he's 73—the ESPN executives who have not ordered him to do middle school games at 3 AM on ESPN3 will slide a howler monkey into his place and hope no one notices.
I wonder how Duke fans must feel about the guy. Sure, he's basically an extension of your university but even when he's yelling inanities in favor of your team, they are still inanities detracting from the important thing you are trying to pay attention to. And he is omnipresent. I don't think I could deal, man. We should have asked Jamiemac—who admitted no rooting interest in Saturday's game!—about that when we were quizzing him about the Yankees' chances this year in the podcast.
Anyway, in most other sports ascending to the big time level is a reward. Gary Thorne does the NCAA hockey tournament, and Sean McDonough will do your college football games. People bag on Musberger but I like him, and there's no comparison between Vitale and Herbstreit. Big NBA games get you Marv Albert.
I guess Tim McCarver and Jim Nantz do loom, but what this is all about is WHERE'S GUS JOHNSON, STRING?
HUH? WHERE IS GUS? STRING!
It's strange to me that I love Raftery and Gus Johnson so much and find Vitale so detestable. All three bring buckets of enthusiasm and get criticized for it by haters. I am only in that group for the last guy. Maybe it's because "baby" is not a catch phrase, it is a useless appendage, where as "onions" is delightful and Gus Johnson makes lip-curling noises.
Does anyone like Vitale? Stand and be heard. I want to know if he appeals to anyone. We should do announcer approval ratings.
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!]