pick and roll
[Left: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog; Right: Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Zak Irvin's transformation from unabashed gunner into complete player has become especially apparent over the last month as he's arguably become Michigan's most important player on both ends of the floor in Caris LeVert's absence. In seven Big Ten games, Irvin is averaging 13 points and five boards per contest; more importantly, the man who never tallied more than three assists in a single game until last February is doling out four assists per game over that span.
While Irvin's rediscovered outside shot has opened up the rest of his game, he's also become adept enough as a ballhandler and passer that he can make a significant impact even when he's not scoring much. That came to the forefront in Saturday's victory at Nebraska; Irvin had eight points on seven shots, deferring to the hot hands of Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton, but when asked to run the offense he excelled, dishing out five assists—all coming off some form of screen—with no turnovers.
I went to clip highlights and ended up cutting videos of each of his five assists; while they all utilized a pick, they all took slightly different forms.
1. Cut, drive, and kick.
On his first assist, Irvin started in the far corner, took a handoff from Mark Donnal that acted as a screen, and drove hard into the teeth of the defense. This is something relatively new from Irvin: a drive clearly intended to draw in defenders to set up a pass instead of a drive directly to the hoop for a layup attempt. A couple hard dribbles towards the paint are enough to freeze the defender tasked with defending Duncan Robinson in the corner, giving Irvin an easy dumpoff that results in about as automatic a three points as you'll find in the college game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
Wagner is the rare C that can attack off the dribble. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
After playing all of 22 minutes through Michigan's first four games, freshman center Moe Wagner poured in 34 points on 21 shot equivalents over the last three contests—incidentally, all Michigan wins. He's gone from the #4 center to the #2 center in the span of a week; with how he's playing on offense, John Beilein may have no choice but to start him before long.
That's because Wagner's offensive skill level is leaps and bounds better than any other center on the roster in a way that opens up the entire offense. That impact was on full display last night against NC State.
Let's start with a look at his dunk; Wagner holds the ball at the top of the key, Michigan runs action like he's going to hand it off to Caris LeVert, and instead he goes off the dribble to posterize a guy:
Wagner's understanding of how the defense will react to this is so impressive for a freshman. He goes to the hoop the moment his defender, Beejay Anya, takes a false step towards LeVert; he also seems acutely aware that the weakside defender took a step out of the paint—he doesn't hesitate to go for the dunk because of the room that provided him.
Speaking of room, check out the spacing a skilled center provides in a John Beilein offense:
With two very dangerous shooters on the other side of the floor and Wagner operating on the perimeter, five NC State defenders have a combined one foot in the paint. This is also quite helpful when running the pick-and-roll, and Wagner did a great job as the roll man last night.
[Hit THE JUMP to see Wagner's impressive instincts on the high screen.]
Max out. Max Bielfeldt heads to Indiana unless he gets cut before the season starts, which is about 50/50 given Tom Crean's roster ADHD.
It'll be interesting to see how that works out for both teams: Michigan knows exactly what went down in practice and did not ask Bielfeldt back even after it became clear they had an open scholarship slot. Since Bielfeldt was out-performing Donnal late last year (Doyle was almost always the first option when he was not sick as a dog), the confidence expressed by that decision seems to be about newly-strapping DJ Wilson. Wilson is certainly going to be more of a defensive presence than the ground-bound Bielfeldt.
Rebounding? Eh… leave it to Walton. I may actually be serious about that. In any case, rebounding is the most replaceable skill.
That is a frequently-injured, pre-Sanderson, freshman Doyle outperforming everything with reasonable sample size except senior Jordan Morgan. (Donnal's numbers should be taken in context: there were a half-dozen roll attempts last year that looked good on which Donnal didn't even attempt a shot, kicking back to the perimeter instead of opting for what should be one of the most efficient shots in basketball.) Bielfeld had 12 pick-and-pop possessions, FWIW—on actual rolls to the basket he was at 23 points on 21 buckets. That's 1.09 PPP.
Doyle was on par or better than Bielfeldt at just about everything you can do on a court other than grab defensive rebounds. He should improve a great deal as he ages, and then you've got Wilson and Donnal… minutes are going to be scarce.
Speaking of Walton. Any fears you may have had that his foot thing was going to be a problem this fall should be put to rest:
— spike albrecht (@SpikeAlbrecht) May 22, 2015
Walton joins a Camp Sanderson field that includes almost the entire team plus guys like Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. Word is that one of the most impressive guys there is… Aubrey Dawkins. Going to be a good year.
Meanwhile, Spike's projected return:
Beilein also offered an update on Albrecht on Monday, saying that both of the guard's offseason hip surgeries were successful. Albrecht is still on crutches, but projects to a having a full return by the fall.
"In September, yeah, there's no question," Beilein said.
He should be ready for the season no problem.
A smart guy. Beilein on what the rules changes might mean:
Most focus on the offensive impact of the shot clock change, but the reverberation will reach the other end of the floor. Beilein noted that defenses will likely be more prone to shift from man-to-man to zone defense late in shot clocks.
"I think you'll see more teams flipping stuff and going zone later on because the ballscreen becomes so prevalent at that time," he said.
That would be interesting.
A litmus test. The NCAA just about gave up on serious punishments for anything short of child rape negligence after they threw the book at USC. OSU took a bowl ban and had to get rid of Jim Tressel after Tressel repeatedly lied to the NCAA, but they were spared the kind of scholarship restrictions that put a serious long-term dent in a program. Other than that it's been a series of wrist-slaps.
If anything is going to upset the current "do whatever it's fine" state of affairs, it is the situation at North Carolina. The NCAA at first decided to ignore it, but when forced to revisit the issue they seem to have done so with force. The notice of allegations has just been released, and it contains five separate "severe" violations, most of which are backed up by assertions of dozens of different incidents they encompass.
This will be the first truly major case since the NCAA moved away from calling everything from SMU to stretchgate "major" violations and implemented a four-level system. North Carolina is likely to admit lots and lots of "severe breach of conduct." The penalty guidelines for level 1 violations include:
- 1-2 years of postseason ban
- loss of 12.5% to 25% of scholarships
- up to a half-year ban on a head coach
If the violations are deemed to have induced "aggravation" those penalties can double, and if they stack… hoo boy. The NCAA would be well within its rights to bomb UNC's major sports into the stone age.
Will they? I doubt it.
I'm not really paying attention to this any more. Phil Steele's All Big Ten teams are… well, there's a lot of them. They don't seem that accurate:
The Wolverines did have a few All-Big Ten honorees, however, led by senior linebacker Joe Bolden. Bolden, who broke the 100-tackle mark last season, is a second-team All-Big Ten pick, per Steele.
Linebacker Desmond Morgan (third), offensive guard Kyle Kalis (third), wide receiver Amara Darboh (fourth), defensive back Jabrill Peppers (fourth) and punter Blake O'Neill (fourth) also received mention.
Just from a Michigan perspective, no Jourdan Lewis, no Jarrod Wilson, and Kalis over Glasgow make me wonder if Steele does much more than look at stats and recruiting rankings and guess. (He also does the irritating thing where he throws corners and safeties into the same bucket of defensive backs.)
Ratings up. If softball seems like a bigger deal than it did a few years ago, you aren't alone:
ESPN saw record viewership for the 2015 Women’s College World Series, notching its top two most-viewed Women’s College World Series bracket round games ever this past weekend. LSU/Michigan on Sunday averaged 1,950,000 viewers for the company while UCLA/Auburn on Saturday drew 1,612,000 viewers. Overall, the 2015 Women’s College World Series bracket round (May 28-31) averaged 1,055,000 viewers. Meanwhile, the 2015 Women’s College World Series Championship Finals Game 1 on Monday drew a 1.0 overnight rating, which is tied for the highest-rated WCWS Championship Finals Game 1 on record (since 2007) and a 43% increase (0.7 overnight) from 2014 WCWS Championship Finals Game 1.
The final two games may have beat that admittedly short-lived record.
Bracing? ISS has its final draft rankings out:
Final @ISShockey rankings for upcoming NHL draft: U-M D Zach Werenski is No.11 and F Kyle Connor (U-M commit) is No.13.
— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) June 2, 2015
Hopefully neither of those guys ends up in the wrong place. IE: The Kings or a like organization that doesn't want their guys to play college.
Etc.: In expected news, JT Compher is your hockey captain. Incoming forward Brendan Warren profiled. I could describe a great deal of commentators as "continual boofheads." AFC Ann Arbor origin story. You can chat with Stauskas and Beilein, get autographs and the like, for #chadtough.
This appears to be an effective hedge. [Fuller]
Brian directed me to an excellent Vantage Sports article detailing how NBA teams defend the on-ball screen earlier this week and suggested it would be a good idea to take a closer look at how Michigan does it. Before getting into the Wolverines specifically, a look at the three basic ways to defend this:
- Hard Hedge — The way M's done it the most under Beilein. The defender guarding the screener (usually a big man) aggressively slides out on the ballhandler to cut off a drive to the basket and make quick passes more difficult. This temporarily commits two defenders to the ballhandler and usually requires quick rotation from the other defenders on the court.
- Soft Show — A less aggressive approach that still briefly commits two defenders to the ballhandler, in this case the defender guarding the screener moves next to the screener, cutting off a drive directly to the hoop; he doesn't move all the way out on the ballhandler, however, and dives back to the screener after cutting off the initial drive. This still requires some weakside rotation.
- Drop Back — The conservative tack. The defender on the screener drops back (surprise!) into the paint, discouraging the ballhandler from driving while also lessening the burden on other defenders to rotate onto the roll man. This does require the defender on the ballhandler to fight over the screen well, otherwise there's room for a pull-up three.
As best I can tell, college teams favor the more aggressive approaches. This is likely due to two things: pro point guards are really damn good, and there's less space inside the arc to cover in college, making it easier to recover after a hard or soft hedge.
I went through the last three games—Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Nebraska—to see how Michigan defended the pick-and-roll. I found nine instances in which Michigan was in man defense against a P&R*; six times they hedged hard and three times they played a soft show. The results:
A few takeaways with picture pages after THE JUMP.
Swish. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
In the last three games, Michigan earned their status as the team to beat in the Big Ten by sandwiching road wins at Wisconsin and Michigan State around a home victory over Iowa; all three teams ranked in the AP top ten when they played the Wolverines and sit at #6 (Iowa), #8 (MSU), and #14 (Wisconsin) in the latest KenPom rankings. Michigan ranks #7 on KemPom themselves after entering the Kohl Center at #19.
This brilliant three-game stretch also vaulted Nik Stauskas up the NBA Draft boards (from unranked to #14 in Chad Ford's latest rankings[$]), gave him the inside track for Big Ten MVP, and landed him the #8 spot in the KenPom POY standings. Before I get to the video breakdown, here are Stauskas' numbers from the last three games:
- 68 total points (22.7/game) on 10/19 2-pt, 12/24 3-pt, 12/13 FT shooting
- 13 assists to five turnovers, 11 rebounds (one off.), three blocks, three steals
- 28 points generated by assists (includes FTM)
- 96 points generated on 74 possessions used* for a mark of 1.30 points per possession
- Let me state that again: 1.30 POINTS PER POSSESSION
Keep in mind that, while Wisconsin is struggling defensively (#10 in B1G defensive efficiency), Michigan State and Iowa rank first and third in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. Those numbers are patently ridiculous; just as impressive is the variety of ways Stauskas generated those points. I compiled a video of every point Stauskas produced in the last three games, broken down by how the shot originated. It is highly recommended viewing:
Apologies for the slight audio issues in the Iowa clips.
Stauskas scored in just about every fashion imaginable, regardless of how opponents tried to defend him, and created most of his points himself—only six of his points and two of his assists came off non-transition spot-up opportunities. The "Not Just A Shooter™" meme is a tired one at this point; that doesn't mean it's not fitting.
For further examination of how Stauskas is this outrageously productive, hit the jump.
[JUMP, AS IS TRADITION.]
After Michigan's first outing against Ohio State Zack Novak gave an interesting interview to UMHoops in which he described how the Buckeyes shut down Michigan's pick and roll game:
Well for the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Coach has referred to “locking the rails” in describing what OSU does to guard sideline ball screens, a huge staple of the offense. They do this better than anyone else. Many teams will take away a ball screen by having the defender on the ball play with his butt to the other sideline and bringing a big man in front of the ball handler. They take it to another level. They pretty much play the ball handler not to go to the opposite corner of mid court, essentially taking away any chance for the ball handler to still use the screen. This takes away all uncertainty a big man would have in playing in front of the ball handler.
In other words, big men usually hedge after a ball handler uses a ball screen. Even if the plan is to deny the ball handler from using it, the big still must be ready to hedge in the event the defender does not prevent the screen from being used. This uncertainty can cause big men to be just a fraction late, which in basketball is enough time for a good offensive player to exploit it.
In my eyes, it seemed like their big men were in position every time because they knew there was no chance the guard could use the screen.
Michigan sputtered to an 0.88 PPP outing, one of their worst of the season. In the offense-heavy rematch that moved up to 1.19, thanks in no small part to 58% shooting from three. But Burke also got free on a number of P&R possessions in the first half, with a rolling Mitch McGary the frequent beneficiary. Here's an example from early in the game; this is actually McGary's first offensive possession.
Michigan initiates the offense with a pass from GRIII to Burke and then flashes McGary to the top of the key.
By the time he gets there, Craft has set up shop such that there's no way for McGary to screen him.
This is "locking the rail." If Burke goes anywhere, it is right, and the big no longer has any hesitation.
McGary backs off, taking Williams with him, and then Burke attacks the basket, getting Craft outside of him with a crossover.
If Michigan acts quickly now, they can get the screen. McGary is waiting for this and Michigan successfully breaks the rail and gets the P&R.
Williams hedges hard as McGary rolls; Burke finds him.
Lenzelle Smith comes over in an attempt to pick up a charge. He may or may not get there in time, but we don't end up finding out because McGary's agility allows him to pull up short and avoid the contact as the arena is bathed in a mysterious rush of light.
A quick two for McGary enroute to 5/8 from the floor in the first half.
Things And Stuff
Burke shakes free. Burke needs help, but even if that drive doesn't get past Craft it necessarily puts him out of position when McGary re-establishes the pick and roll. It takes a little more work to set it up, is all. Burke was also able to shake Craft from the rail at times, like this late-clock move that puts Craft out of the picture and gets Ravenel on his heels, opening up the three:
With everyone on the floor staring down Burke this would be an opportune time for someone to dive to the rim, but oh well.
Planning ahead. Michigan executes a similar set with Hardaway on the next possession, but actually runs it too fast. Hardaway ends up trapped as Williams is much closer to the ball*, but the idea is the same. Next possession: same. Hardaway makes a token drive to the right and then comes back to a McGary screen; McGary gets a roll pass and misjudges how much room he has to attack, throwing up an awkward elbow jumper. After getting very little from the pick and roll in the first game, Michigan adapted, with moderate success inside the arc and Great Success outside.
*[Hardaway gets it to GRIII, who makes an excellent shot for himself against Thomas; Williams throws it back, whereupon Stauskas does his stepback swag in the corner that gets him gif'd.]
McGary skill level. Ohio State gets a defender over in position to take a charge; McGary pulls up short of him and puts up a lane floater that sneaks over the front of the rim. McGary has a high skill level for a 6'10" guy.
Almost inevitable offensive rebound. McGary also pounds Smith under the basket after the shot goes up; Amir Williams is hanging out with Burke well outside your picture, and GRIII has gotten good position on Thomas here. Note also that by the time Burke's three goes down, Craft is trying to box out Horford. That's one vs four, but a relatively high chance of an OREB anyway.
One of the problems against Wisconsin was a relative paucity of shots where offensive rebounds are on the table in the event of a miss.