[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]
I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post. But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday. So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)
That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME! It was without a doubt our best game of the year. Heck it was our best game IN YEARS. It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between.
During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.
By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided. They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)
Defending the option
Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.
If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)
Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard. You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".
Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".
Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver. But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.
Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.
Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.
Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.
Getting off blocks
One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable.
We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.
So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block.
Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.
Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.
One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..
And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!
(The other 85% after the jump)
I'm back. To all three of you who missed the weekly user content post thank you for your patience as we got HTTV shipped, and then I unplugged and spent five days in the Canadian wilderness. There were loons, a bear, a moose and a bazillion bitemes, then I spent the ride home with a Space Coyote. This diarist of the week issued Part the Third of his awesome series on DG's spring game performance. A sample:
Play 13 - 4:50
Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play…
The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read). On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant. He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open.
These seem to be developing a theme: defense has the 3rd read wide open and gets pressure but the play never goes to the open guy because something short with a small window but higher in the progression order opens up first. I wonder if this is an effect of the defense knowing the offense, or an effect of Gardner's progression being slow, or as the OP seems to suggest, just one of those things. Coyote goes easy on Devin for doing what he's coached to do but I wonder if a senior with a lot of game experience will be more apt to go off the page and punish the defense for catching tendencies. It's may be irrelevant since our senior QB is a sophomore in West Coast passing schemes, but as Space Coyote notes a sophomore Henne once threw to the 2nd read on a very similar play to cap a last-play comeback win against Penn State.
Oy Boy! Last time saveferris penned a roll back the clock I asked for more, and we received. This time the quantum accelerator put us in the pads of Bill Taylor, c. 1971, when Michigan conquered space and Ohio State but couldn't defeat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As could only happen here, there's an argument in the comments between a historian armed with knowledge of the weather that week and a member of the band who was on the field that day about the grass conditions in Pasadena. Upon further review:
Looks pretty dry guys. How the hell did you remember that? My mom was a junior at Michigan that year and swears she can't remember anything except studying and getting good grades (and how cheap coffee was at Blimpy's). Also trying to imagine MMB choosing a selection with such strong political overtones today.
A second leap was made by Blazefire to 2007 so he could warn us to not get too confident over last year's leap, but Henne/Hart injuries didn't make the defense give up 36 points to an I-AA team man.
In other postseasons that Michigan can get screwed in/out of, Stephenrjking and oakapple are playoff wranglin'. The former is a worth-reading discussion on poll bias and how any system that leaves the least up to human pollsters is probably the best for determining a champion. The latter also discusses qualification models like polls, a selection committee, and autobids, and makes a good point about this being a very different animal from basketball's selection committee, which has never seen a champion from the lower 50% of seeds.
Getting crowded down there. Our resident UMgradMSUdad says Nebraska recruiting is starting to shift from Texas (17 players in Pelini's first two seasons, 7 in the last two full classes) to Ohio with the move to the B1G. Since it's mostly 3-stars they're going after, long-term this probably affects Michigan State, which under Dantonio took a lot of the guys Ohio State passed on and fought Nebraska the most in this study, more than Michigan, which is competing more directly with the in-state juggernaut. It helps them that Pelini's from Cardinal-Mooney (Ray Vinopal) in Youngstown, which in my study last year came out very Penn State-ish. This was bound to happen to some degree by letting them in. Nebraska is a traditional powerhouse from a state that doesn't produce a lot of talent, so they're going to pull more from their conference footprint than contribute to it. If the net result is it hastens the Spartans' inevitable return to Spartiocrity I'm okay with it, but the Cornhuskers have traditionally built from the Big XII's footprint; if these players are more and more coming from the Midwest it's going to thin the ranks of the Big Ten. File under obvious.
Etc. The Blockhams is tackling the dog. Soon the dog will be killed by the baby tackler's perfect Kovacsian form and replaced with a shaggy dog named Brian who is working on his blog all the time (MAKE THIS HAPPEN!). Space wallpaper (of Space!).
Best of the Board
FAMOUS PEOPLE SIGHTED, INDUCED TO SAY STUFF
We had a few people attend the myriad traveling events football players and coaches do during offseason and come back reporting on the proceedings.
- Hoke at Agonis. Correspondent hart20 recorded Hoke's comments to a group of people in Dayton, Ohio, mostly on things from in and around Dayton, Ohio, that people from Dayton, Ohio, care about, like Ball State, Kaleb Ringer, and Roy Roundtree, but also the Gentleman's agreement (something about golf) and conference realignment.
- Woodson at Sunda. Reporting not-live from Chicago, we go to samsoccer7 and coverage of Charles Woodson's new wine. This was originally published on the boards on May 18 but I re-set the clock so it can get its time as a deserved diary. Some good stuff in there, my favorite being why he didn't do the Heisman after the punt return v. Ohio State. Sorry grapenuts, nothing about the wine.
- Steve Everitt at Golf Tournament. Brady Hoke's Pet Viking (glad I contributed at least one MGoMeme around here) in an MGoShirt: Ja!
- WHENCE THE DUAL-THREATS OF YESTERYEAR?
Whatever happened to all the 2009 (Class of 2010) Elite 11 QBs? Leaders And Best tracked them down and found way more washouts and transfers than projected starters. Devin Gardner is second only to Tennessee's Tyler Bray in guys on this list you'd want to have at this point.
FIFTH IN HEAPING PILES OF SCRATCH
This year's athletic department budgets as reported on their Title IX forms. I think the "subsidies" in there relate mostly to major stadium improvements. Anyway Michigan raked in over $122 million in revenue and spent about $112 million. Alms for the band indeed.
Join the following discussion points. My two cents added here as examples, and because I can get away with it!
- What the hell is Devin Gardner's number now?
Seriously, is it 12 or was that just a very mean joke to play on someone who has to pay per page edits to a printed preview book? I've heard Funchess is 19 too. People with information, please inform
- What would you do if you were Brian for a day?
Bring back negging so I could neg-bang everybody who complains about the lack of neg-banging.
- Which Big Ten team are you really glad you're not a fan of today?
MSU – Too good to not care, always knowing you weren't good
- What was your most memorable Big House experience like?
Imagine if you could wrap all that is Desmond Howard and being 11 years old into one afternoon.
- (It's too late but…) Think of funny names for the sponsor levels
Come for the humor. Leave for the lack of relevance to your life.
- Six funny press conferences
I approved this guy's concept for a daily board post even though the first was very Bleacher Report-y, figuring he had the drive to keep improving. Then it ended after two I guess. The first, eh, forget about it. The second: Tune in, if only for the chance to remember John L. Smith's pouty face. Every time I watch that I see my little brother, age 8, staring straight ahead, explaining how he's pressing the right buttons but the Nintendo's screwing it all up!
FINAL SOFTBALL UPDATE
The season ended against Alabama in the NCAA Super Regional (i.e. Round 2). But this is a game where pitchers dominate and we had two dominant freshmen. Memories: Everybody dancing to Amanda Chidester's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" coming-to-bat song, Caitlin Blanchard getting hit by a pitch to beat Louisville in the regional, going perfect on the season against OSU/ND/MSU, including a weekend shutout over Michigan State, and this:
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN
(warning: may cause you to become trapped in amaranthine contemplation of Les Miles. HT: Orson)
CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the contenders I overlooked Wisconsin's George Marshall, who redshirted last year. He's a point guard. Given the redshirt it seems unlikely he gets thrust into the starting lineup, but he's another option for the Badgers there. In any case, Big Ten Geeks pointed out that the last time Wisconsin didn't have a point guard they won thirty games. Point guard: optional at Wisconsin.
Out: Bruce Weber, C Meyers Leonard, PG Sam Maniscalco, maybe SG Brandon Paul
In: PG Michael Orris (3*)
Status: On January 19th, A 15-3 Illinois team coming off that game against Ohio State where Brandon Paul turned into Michael Jordan visited Penn State, then 1-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois lost.
They'd win only twice more. Meyers Leonard would collapse into tears on the bench, Illinois bombed itself out of the tournament, and Weber would be fired because obviously. After whiffing on at least Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois settled on Wolverine-slayer John Groce as their coach. It seems no one is happy about this except Big Ten opponents other than Michigan.
Leonard just declared for the draft and Illinois's recruiting class consists of one three-star point guard and a preferred walk-on. Things are going to get worse for Illinois before they get better. Well… maybe not worse. But the prospects for an instant turnaround are not good when the rest of the league is reloading with NBA players and you've lost one of your two players at that level without bringing in a decent replacement.
That said, until further notice Brandon Paul does still play for the Illini. And DJ Richardson can shoot a little bit. And Tyler Griffey had a good game against Michigan and… no, it's not likely anyone can piece that into a team that makes the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Was it really all Bruce Weber's fault?
If you look at this roster it's filled with guys who should have better stats than they do. Paul shot 44% from 2 and 33% from three because he got Dion Harris'd playing with a 7'1" lottery pick. At some point that has to be on the guy in the suit jumping up and down like a lunatic.
According to Kenpom, Groce did better on offense with his Ohio squad. Illinois's best bet is that Bruce Weber was a Greg Robinson-style anchor on the offense and that an unfettered Paul shows Izzo that it was a good idea to fire him.
Minnesota: still history's greatest monsters
Out: PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, C Davide Curletti
In: C Alex Olah (3*), SG Sanjay Lumpkin(3*), SF Kale Abrahmson(3*), Nikola Cerina (TCU transfer)
The Wildcats graduate the leading scorer in program history plus the other two guys taller than 6'5" who played; they bring in a leafy, bitter vegetable and some other dudes with outlandish names. If you're worried that the post at Northwestern will not feature a guy who sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, don't be: the likely starter at center next year is TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a Serbian who went to "Nikola Telsa SS" high school.
The Wildcats still have some quality pieces, most prominently rising senior Drew Crawford and rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski. Crawford would start on the wing for just about any Big Ten team. He's a 41% three point shooter who's also efficient inside the line and provides decent ancillary stats. Sobolewski had an impressive freshman year and will take on big chunks of the scoring load left by Shurna. A fully healthy JerShon Cobb will help defensively.
But if this outfit plus John Shurna couldn't give away Northwestern's tourney virginity it's hard to see them on the bubble without him. The defense will remain substandard and it's going to be impossible to replace Shurna's efficiency (44% from three! A top 25 TO rate despite launching over 30% of Northwestern's shots! 92% of NU's minutes!). Minnesota: you bastards.
Question that needs resolving: God, it's me, Margaret. Why do you feel the need to troll Northwestern basketball so hard? Are you an Iowa fan? If so, why do you keep exploding all their tailbacks' ACLs?
Penn State basketball.
Out: SF Cammeron Woodyard, C Billy Oliver, SG Matt Glover, PG Trey Lewis, another Carefrontation subject or two who didn't play meaningful minutes.
In: PF Brandon Taylor (3*), SG Akosa Maduegbunam (3*), SG DJ Newbill (USM transfer).
Status: Penn State basketball is what would happen if Tim Frazier went through the tunnel in Being Tim Frazier: Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier.
Next year they will also be this, but maybe a little more so after Pat Chambers rubbed sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis the wrong way. Both of those guys have exited the program, leaving even less behind Frazier than Penn State had this year when he played 93% of their minutes and used a third of PSU possessions. Frazier almost literally can't do more.
So… who will? PSU fans are banking on DJ Newbill picking up some of the slack. Newbill transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year and is eligible in the fall. He was an efficient scorer at the CUSA level (54% from two, lots of free throws, no range) but a low usage guy who still managed to commit a bunch of turnovers. He's not going to be a program-changer.
In the frontcourt Penn State got a solid freshman year from Ross Travis and some decent minutes from other underclassmen. Frazier and the departing Woodyard were the only upperclassmen to play major roles, so Penn State should expect to improve quite a bit. They can do so and still be miles away from the tourney after finishing 12-20 last year.
Question that needs resolving: Can anyone else score?
Tim Frazier can only do so much, and at the rate he's doing it now Penn State is all but doomed to EFGs in the 300s. Actually, "can anyone else do anything?" might be a better question. Not only is Frazier far and away Penn State's best scorer but his assist rate of 45.3 was second nationally. Penn State has taken the concept of relying on one really good six-foot guy as far as it will go: not far. Newbill doesn't seem like the answer.
Out: Everyone, including Doc Sadler.
In: Some JUCOs and stuff plus new coach Tim Miles.
Status: Nebraska was 4-14 in the Big Ten last year and graduated four starters. Everyone behind the starters was a junior and is not likely to improve much. Their recruiting class consists of low-rated JUCOs and a 5'8" PG.
Question that needs resolving: None. Nebraska will be the worst team in the league.
2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten
First half, second half
I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.
While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.
Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.
Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.
That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.
As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.
Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.
Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.
I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.
Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:
- Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
- Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.
[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]
Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.
Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.
Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.
Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.
As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.
Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.
Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:
- A defensive rebound.
- Two fouls.
- A turnover.
Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."
Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.
Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.
This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.
Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.