pick and roll
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.
Crimson and Crodcast. I appear on CrimsonCast talking about the game. I'm not very audible early, unfortunately.
FRAN! I ALREADY TOLD YOU THE MORTGAGE RATE WILL ADJUST IN FIVE YEARS HOW HARD IS THIS TO UNDERSTAND
GET OUT OF MY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK
(Iowa beat Penn State too narrowly for McCaffery's taste.)
Glory grasped. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl champs, man.
It doesn't get any better than this you guys.
Statistical indications. Dylan's hookup with Synergy Sports makes me all jealous and stuff, because he can tell you that Indiana's not real good at defending the pick and roll:
The Hoosiers rank in just the16th percentile nationally while defending pick and roll ball handlers. Michigan happens to have one of the best ball screen offenses in the country including the two best ball screen scorers in the league. …
For comparison, Ohio State – who stifled Michigan’s ball screen offense – surrenders just .56 PPP to screen and roll ball handlers (89th percentile) and .82 PPP to roll men (77th percentile).
There's still something that seems strange with those number since it seems impossible that allowing 0.84 points a possession on anything is, like, bad, but the percentiles are the percentiles. When it comes to the pick and roll, Indiana finds themselves squarely between Northwestern and Penn State:
Not where you want to be. Also note that Michigan's the best team in the league at defending the pick and roll what with their hard hedging.
Anyway, Burke and Stauskas's proficiency with the P&R will hopefully force Indiana to do things they don't want to—like play zone—or lead to lots of that scoring stuff.
Dylan also brings up a salient point from last year: Crean put Christian Watford on Burke, like, a lot. Given the relative success Illinois had at holding Burke's numbers down by switching Nnanna Egwu onto him in the pick and roll we might see something similar, at least until Mitch McGary rebounding against Yogi Ferrell becomes a bit of an issue.
More indications of how this is probably going to go. Barry Alvarez is on record that he would like to see Wisconsin play Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska yearly in the Rhombus of Hate. Add that to the pile of evidence suggesting the Big Ten will tear up the Where Is Wisconsin and Why Is Wisconsin Here divisions for the conference's brief stop at 14 teams.
Speaking of The Big Ten, Too model:
“Based on the last three years I’ve been in this business, you’d be crazy not to think about it," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "But it’s hard to model anything because you don’t know what to model. The minute you get yourself convinced that you’re going to go from 14 to 16, for all you know you’re going to 18, and a lot of people think the ultimate landing place is 20. Who knows?"
I guess it's a better ideal than this bit.
Gene Smith's still pushing for ten conference games, BTW.
Frieder: still mad. Bill Frieder's been making the rounds this week and seems to have a little bit of bitterness left over from his matchups at Assembly Hall back in the day:
"The hostility of that crowd and everything else you have to go against at Indiana (is tough)," he said. "You usually won't get good officiating at Indiana, you usually get a bad call or something bad with the administration along the sideline. There's something to do with the shot clock or the clock not starting on time.
"You'll have everything going against you, so you'll have to play extremely well to win the game. ... When you play Indiana at Indiana and they're a top five team, you're going to be the underdog, no matter where you're ranked."
If the second half goes anything like Illinois's against MSU last night I won't stop twitching for weeks.
Etc.: MSU guard Travis Trice apparently fine after nasty hit to head last night. More on the "catfishing" story, which I stopped caring about a lot faster than everyone else. Everyone's in a tizzy about whether in fact the term was used. Indiana-Michigan previews from Inside the Hall and the Crimson Quarry. Also UMHoops.
come back so I can mute you
WANT. Ace points out that this is a thing that exists:
The technology exists to remove commentary from live sporting events via your home sound system.
There's only one downside.
You may have to move to England to get the sound system as the Sony BDV-N7100W hits UK stores in May and contains technology initially developed by NASA. The new state of the art home system is able to differentiate commentary from background noise and remove the announcers' voices to allow you to enjoy the ambient atmosphere of the stadium with its "football mode"...
"Sony says that its speakers are able to recognise what is the natural ambient sound of a sporting event, and what is somebody nattering on top. …
The benefit is that fans can watch sport as if they're at the game, and not sitting next to a relentlessly unimpressive summariser with a booklet of cliches."
Goodbye, Craig James. Dick Vitale. Etc.
Meanwhile, I am off to patent a system that turns all color commentary into Dan Dakich hitting on Doris Burke. I'll see you from my space palace on Moon II.
Erp? As I type this Miami is housing Duke and Michigan is ticketed for #1 in the polls as long as they hold serve against Purdue. That's one thing. But being the odds-on favorite in Vegas?
VegasInsider.com moved Michigan to a 5-1 favorite to win the NCAA tournament on Tuesday, the best odds of anyone in America at the moment.
I feel that this is irrational exuberance. Surely, like, Florida or something.
Derrick Walton: pretty pretty good. Via UMHoops:
He seems a lot like a guy named Trey Burke, except he never misses shots.
You did what? The NCAA just announced they were going to investigate their investigation of Miami because of… stuff. This bit I didn't understand:
Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.
As it does not have subpoena power, the NCAA does not have the authority to compel testimony through procedures outside of its enforcement program. Through bankruptcy proceedings, enforcement staff gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise.
If this seems like whatever, as it did to me, the problem is that people not named Nevin Shapiro who have not signed off on this are suddenly getting asked questions under oath about things that are not laws.
This has served as another opportunity for people to shout that there's little reason for the rules the NCAA is enforcing here to exist. They just push activity under the table and hurt organizations who try to stop it. Wetzel:
Whatever. At the end of the day it's a rich person sending money to a young – often poor – person. We are supposed to be outraged by this? This is how the country works, this is how the force of a capitalistic economy will always make it work. Only the NCAA thinks it can stop it.
The goal of the NCAA is to create the illusion of amateurism because it allows the NCAA to avoid paying taxes – billions and billions of dollars in taxes. Which means billions and billion in taxes have to come from somewhere else – like the rest of us.
I'm down with this. I'm not down with crapping on Mark Emmert constantly, since he inherited this crap and is understandably focused on bigger things than any individual investigation. He just hacked out 25 pages from the rulebook, he added multi-year scholarships, he tried to get the cost-of-living increase through before being shot down by Indiana State, and next year they're going to have a knock-down, drag-out fight about agents and transfer rules and whatnot. All of that is due in no small part to the fact that anyone under 60 with a platform is tearing the NCAA apart on amateurism issues, and this is good.
Crapping on Emmert himself seems counterproductive. The guy is ramming reform down a thousand-headed-hydra throat collective as fast as he can. The root of all NCAA evil is the precious idea that the playing field can be level—and Emmert's working group just inserted language into the bylaws specifically repudiating that. Yeah, enforcement's screwed up. Emmert's busy with more important things.
Pretty good. From Luke Winn's latest power rankings:
Winn also mentions that Michigan's leap in offensive efficiency is ninth in the country, which is all the more impressive because Michigan is coming from a place of strength (22nd last year) and most of the other teams on that list are coming around from awful—the best 2012 offense on the list other than M is Butler, 223rd last year. The rest are 284th or worse.
Show us the game! Here's an early candidate for rant of the year at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. It is dropping the bomb on the guy producing Syracuse's nail-biting win over Cincinnati:
2.5 -- And here we come to ESPN's coup de grace. Their fucking Starchild shot of the whole broadcast. With an incredibly important front-end one-and-one foul shot in a 2-point game, this is the camera angle ESPN goes with from the time Brandon Triche recieves the ball from the official all the way through as he shoots, misses it, Cincinnati rebounds it, and then calls time out:
I always want to watch important plays from the worst seat in the house! In fact, it's why I usually watch games on TV instead of heading to the arena...because you can just never get those worst-seat-in-the-house tickets.
Any live shot that is not the traditional sideline view is fist-clenchingly bad. You are not Stanley Kubrick, director guy. Just push the button.
Grraaagh. There's always a chance Penn State loses a game 19-16; outside of that Michigan State's 49-47 win over Wisconsin is assured of being the ugliest game of the year in the Big Ten. Consider this sentence:
This one was a double shutout until Wisconsin hit a 3 four minutes into the game.
And then this one:
A layup by Dawson with 6:58 to go to give MSU a 47-43 lead would be MSU's last field goal of the game.
They scored two points in the final seven minutes! And won! Wisconsin shot 30% from 2 and 3 and 39% from the line, and lost by two!
Neither of these teams will play a game this bad again this year, so prepare to be frustrated when they score in the, like, 50s.
File under Everyone Hates Wisconsin. Possessions in Wisconsin's Big Ten games so far: 59, 57, 59, 59, 64 (Iowa), 55. Prepare for a grim, grim game. Given Wisconsin's free-throw shooting woes—61% on the season, 331st, and 52% in Big Ten play—Michigan's low-foul ways might actually work against them in this one.
If they find themselves down, hack-an-Evans should be a real option. He's 33 of 84 from the line (39%) and a team with Michigan's offense should be more inclined to exchange points at the line for extra possessions than normal.
Denard at WR. As you might expect, he's inexperienced.
Gilmore said Robinson has some tangible and intangible qualities that should allow him to make up ground quickly. "The language I'm talking right now to him is foreign," Gilmore said. "It's Chinese. But the one thing I appreciate, he's asking questions." On Monday and Tuesday, Robinson stuck close to Gilmore when he wasn't taking reps. When Robinson saw something he either didn't understand or wanted to clarify, he asked Gilmore. "He's very coachable," Gilmore said. "He's a very humble kid. He asks some great questions. Not good questions. Great questions." That willingness to learn combined with Robinson's superior athleticism should help him close the gap with more experienced receivers. "Because of the athleticism he possesses, it will be a shorter learning curve than most," Gilmore said. "Once again, the God-given ability will take over. He's just got to get the reps."
But we want to visit the empty cathedrals of college football. Talkin' up neutral sites is one Gene Smith:
Big Ten athletic directors have a lot of decisions to make for the future, including the possibility of playing nine or even 10 conference home games per season starting in 2014. If the league does go that route, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has an idea.
"I would like to see more neutral sites in those scenarios," Smith told ESPN.com. "We've got a great stadium in Chicago, one in Detroit, one in Indianapolis, and now we have the East Coast. So I can see more neutral sites for conference games."
I find myself strangely unoffended by this because it seems like Smith is talking about moving games from Rutgers and Maryland to somewhere other than Rutgers and Maryland. And… yeah, I don't care. No one's ever going to move a Michigan home game away from Ann Arbor, so I don't care. I do have a problem with Penn State essentially buying an Indiana home game and moving it to Philly, as that upsets competitive balance. Moving a Rutgers game to the Meadowlands doesn't, so I don't care.
I probably should care, but I've already done my YOU BLEW IT UP YOU MANIACS bit and am now settling in to my new reality in the dystopian future I thought couldn't happen to us. Vat-grown protein for all.
Etc.: Denard's getting mixed reviews as a wide receiver at the Senior Bowl. Ain't no gentlemen 'round here. Mitch McGary profiled and profiled. Devin Booker scores points in front of Michigan coaches. Irvin, Kennard also score points. Mark Donnal scouted. Winning by lots is good. Purdue braces for impact. ADIDAS SCREWED UP 1928.
For the first time this season, Michigan's offense looked stagnant for prolonged stretches against Ohio State, largely due to the Buckeyes shutting down the pick and roll game. Going back over the film, it was clear much of this had to do with the on-ball defense of Aaron Craft, who hounded Trey Burke into a 4-for-13 shooting performance.
Interestingly, Craft was able to get away with going under the screen for most of the game despite Burke hitting a three-pointer when he did so in the game's opening minutes. With Burke not shooting over the top, Craft was able to take away his ability to get to the basket, and with that the easy buckets that Burke usually creates for himself and his teammates.
While Craft played a stellar defensive game, however, it wasn't his play alone that mitigated Michigan's go-to offensive play; the Wolverines simply didn't execute well on offense. Here's one such example—Michigan has just reset after an offensive rebound, and Mitch McGary comes out to set a screen for Burke:
Note that there's plenty of space in the middle of the Buckeye defense above. In the next frame, you'll see Craft has gone over McGary's screen and is now stuck behind Burke, so OSU center Evan Ravenel steps up to cut off the drive while McGary starts his roll to the basket:
At this juncture, Michigan should be able to create a good look. Burke is past Craft and therefore occupying Ravenel. McGary is heading to the basket, which should force Deshaun Thomas (defending in the paint) to abandon guarding Tim Hardaway Jr. entirely—which, of course, leaves one Buckeye to guard both Hardaway and Nik Stauskas. If Sam Thompson—at the top of the screen—comes down to help, Glenn Robinson III should be open in the corner for a... wait, Glenn, where are you going?
Unfortunately for Michigan, Robinson cut to the basket at precisely the wrong time—he heads right into the space that McGary is cutting towards. When coaches talk about the importance of spacing, this is what they're talking about. The spacing issues Robinson's cut creates are really apparent in the next frame:
Even though Burke still has a step on Craft, OSU has every Michigan option covered. Ravenel is both taking away the drive and any passing lane to McGary, while Thompson is doing the same on Robinson. Thomas is able to step out on Hardaway. Stauskas is occupied in the corner. Now Burke is forced to try to make something out of nothing:
That something turns out to be a contested layup over Ravenel that doesn't even catch iron. Note that a small blanket could cover both Robinson and McGary.
While Craft recovered nicely, this is a play that should've resulted in a Michigan basket, but it was thwarted by inexperience; a simple mistimed cut from Robinson is enough to throw off the entire play.
As Michigan romped through non-conference play, it was easy to forgot that they're still a very young team. Some freshman mistakes are more obvious than others, like when Caris LeVert threw a pass to no one after leaving his feet, giving Ohio State an easy fast break layup. Plays like the one above—after a reset, when a player needs to know on the fly where the offense calls for him to be on the floor—are more subtle, but also show off mistakes born from inexperience.
Those plays should be fewer and farther between as the season goes along; at the same time, this team is going to rely all year on five freshmen. Trey Burke is a great example of a player making a big leap after getting familiar with John Beilein's system—that leap, of course, came between his freshman and sophomore seasons. It's doubtful Michigan is going to eliminate these types of errors by March.
That's not to say Michigan can't make the Final Four by sheer force of talent combined with Beilein's coaching; if they do, though, they'll have to overcome their youth.
Trey Burke had—by his standards—a sub-par performance against Nebraska, needing 16 shots to score 18 points and only dishing out three assists. In the post-game presser, I asked John Beilein if Nebraska did anything defensively that he hadn't seen so far this year; without going into details, he mentioned that the Huskers had a different way of defending the pick and roll—Burke's bread-and-butter play.
After taking a look at the film, I think I've found what he was talking about. Last year, opponents utilized a hard hedge—doubling Burke off the screen with their big—as a way to dial up the pressure against the diminutive point guard. On Wednesday, Nebraska came with a variation, which this uneducated blogger will call a 'soft hedge'. To the screencaps!
After Michigan reset up top, McGary comes over to set a screen for Burke. The key player for Nebraska will be McGary's man, Brandon Ubel (#13), who in this frame is fighting through a screen by Tim Hardaway Jr.
As McGary sets the (not great) pick, Burke's man fights hard over the top; his responsibility is to make sure Burke can't pull up for three. Instead of hedging hard, Ubel positions himself a few feet inside the arc; his primary objective is to take away the drive.
Burke's man has successfully gone over the screen and recovered position, with Ubel in position to stymie any attempt to attack the basket off the dribble. Meanwhile, Hardaway's man (#24 Dylan Talley, standing right below the 'B' in the paint) has sunk back to defend a pass to McGary on the roll.
With Burke contained, Ubel slides back onto McGary while Talley heads out towards Hardaway.
I should probably have kept the next part in the video: Talley is late getting back out to Hardaway, who drives to the free-throw line and knocks down a jumper. Still, that was a tougher shot than what Michigan usually produces off the pick and roll (a layup or an open three), and I don't think Talley needed to sink so far into the lane with Ubel falling back.
What does the soft hedge accomplish? A few things.
No open threes. With the guard going hard over the top, Burke doesn't get a good opportunity to pull up for three, especially with Ubel in position to step out and contest.
No dribble drive. With the way the defense is aligned, if Burke wants to drive he can only go to his left—straight into Ubel. That's not much of an option.
No easy slip. One of the ways Michigan counters the hard hedge is to have the screener "slip" the pick—roll to the basket before fully setting the pick, ideally to receive an early pass before the double can get to Burke. With the big hanging back in this case, that option isn't there either.
Of course, there's no perfect way to defend the pick and roll, or John Stockton and Karl Malone wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I see two counters to the soft hedge. One is what Michigan did above: kick it back out to the wing (in this case, Hardaway), who should have an open look from deep or the opportunity to drive if his defender is late to recover or closes out too hard.
The other actually occurred a few minutes earlier in the game and should've resulted in an easy two points. On this play, Nebraska defends the initial pick in the same fashion; instead of rolling to the basket, however, McGary doubles back and sets another screen going the opposite way. The Huskers are forced to double Burke, and McGary slips the pick; Burke's feed is on the mark, but McGary's dunk attempt ricochets off the back iron:
Surprisingly, Michigan didn't really go back to this tactic despite the fact that it should've resulted in a (successful) dunk.
While Nebraska's defense did a solid job of limiting Michigan's points off the pick and roll, I don't think this is the magic bullet to stop that aspect of the Wolverine offense. The picture-paged example shows some sloppy play from Michigan; McGary's pick is too shallow, allowing Burke's man an easy path over the top, and the offensive spacing on the perimeter isn't ideal. Then, when Michigan countered, they did everything right except convert an open dunk.
The soft hedge is another way to slow down Burke, however, and does a good job of forcing him to give up the basketball—any defense that takes the ball away from Michigan's best player is one we'll likely see a fair amount moving forward.