i refuse to even consider this a possibility
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.
Ace pointed out a basketball coaching site yesterday that had a bunch of Beilein stuff and one thing led to another and this happened, because apparently this is just what I do.
Trying to see stuff in a basketball game was an interesting change of pace, since even with my Analytical Goggles on there's a lot of stuff that just seems to happen because players are good or not good. This aspect of football is obscured somewhat. A lot of coaches say The Expectation Is For The Position with a straight face—I don't think you've ever ever heard a basketball coach drop that.
The initial post Ace pointed out was a couple sections of Michigan's offense called "chin" and "shuffle" in which the center moves out to the free throw line and acts as a low-pressure fulcrum connecting two halves of the floor.
What struck me about chin/shuffle is how they use the center as a conduit, opening up space without putting undue pressure on what's usually the least skilled offensive player on the floor. Meanwhile, the other four positions rotate through a variety of spots, eventually becoming interchangeable parts looking for the half-step they need to attack or shoot instead of reset.
Michigan runs a variety of looks off of this, each of which probes the defense for an easy bucket before reverting to a high ball screen on which the guy receiving the screen has three options.
I set to watching the NC State game again to find examples of how this works, and came across an example of the two-post offense getting Morgan open underneath for two (eventually).
Setting The Offense
This is a bit of an oddity since it's a two-post lineup but the principles are the same; here the offense will work around the lack of a three-point threat from one of the wings thanks to a busted NC State defensive assignment.
The above is the on-court equivalent of this:
For reasons unexplained the document consistently calls the two-guard in this offense a "trailor" instead of a "trailer" or I guess a "tailor". Supposition: he is a trailer who is suppose to tailor some offense. YEAH
So here the post has "flashed" but McGary just kind of set up at the line as Burke brought the ball up the court. The things in the document are an idealized version of the real world, I find. For instance, in one of the ways the offense starts is by dumping the ball to the center and then having the point and "trailor" cut to the basket.
Once 5 catches the pass, 1 and 4 [ed: the "trailor" yes I will eventually have to either fix that or drop the quote marks] SPRINT backdoor to the block. 5 looks for either 1 or 4.
Real life is dang perfunctory relative to an all-caps exhortation to SPRINT. The document does admit a bit later that "It is not common for either player to be open of [sic] this cut" and asks the 2—Morgan in this play—not to be "robotic". On this play the initial movements of Burke and Hardaway are soft jogs to their spot.
On this play Michigan is running "shuffle" instead of chin. Shuffle looks like chin when they start the play, but starts like this:
dotted line is a pass
Once Morgan receives the pass, Burke and Hardaway jog to the spots they're supposed to get to…
…and McGary extends to the top of the key to receive a rote pass from Morgan. No one has made a decision yet.
Meanwhile, a conveniently-timed graphic notes that eight minutes into the game Hardaway has more points than the rest of Michigan combined. Naturally he is going to receive lots of defensive attention. The guy checking Hardaway is CHECKING HARDAWAY in his brain.
McGary now has a rote pass to make of his own, this one a swing to Stauskas.
"5 pops high, 3 reverses through the 5 to 2," sayeth document
Hardaway sets a "shuffle screen" on Morgan's man; Hardaway's man is looking at that graphic and going "oh man I better check Hardaway"; Morgan gets hand-wavingly wide open underneath the basket.
Stauskas dumps it down; Morgan misses, gets his own rebound, and finishes.
Meanwhile, Michigan has already executed the next part of the play with McGary screening whoever shows up on Hardaway.
If NC State had covered Morgan appropriately this was likely to be a quality three-point look for Hardaway.
"5 [McGary] sets the down screen for the 4 [Hardaway],
4 comes off the screen looking to shoot or curl it for a mid-range jumper.
2 [Stauskas] looks for 4.
After the screen 5 can look to slip to the basket or straight cut the FT line. 2 looks either for the lob[!] or at the elbow."
As it is, it's a layup for Morgan, eventually.
Things And Stuff
There aren't really many player takeaways on a short open layup that Morgan misses, gets back, and puts back. If we're trying to figure out some things about how Michigan runs offense, a lot of these broad early strokes are going to be off, as well. But…
A lot of the early movement in the offense is the process of getting into a play. On this play Michigan makes three passes and sends four players in motion before anyone has a decision to make. When Michigan dumps it to the center and then runs around and whatnot they're not really expecting to get a shot out of that, they're just moving into a variant of one of their standard looks.
Whoever is open is open. In half-court sets the guy who gets the ball is just going to be the guy who is open until nothing works and Burke has to create or die off a pick and roll.
Probe, reset, probe, reset. This is not a good example because Michigan just gets a quick easy bucket, but the document suggests the rhythm you can pick up watching Michigan play sometimes as situations happen over and over on the same possession as Michigan searches for the edge.
Last Saturday Michigan ran 51 offensive plays. Of those the Big Ten's best rushing quarterback ever participated in 19. Two of the sans-Robinson plays were on the goal line; here's how Michigan fared on the other 49:
|Denard||Plays||Run%||YPA||YPA-Adj.*||1st half*||2nd half*||In box|
Yards per attempt-adjusted (*) means I capped maximum gain or loss on a play at 20 yards so the outliers don't throw off the rest. It's not a quotable statistic but I think it provides a more accurate apples to apples comparison of the offense with Denard under center and without. It shows how Ohio State's defense seemed to have every part of Michigan's offense pretty much shut down except Denard running. Then they shut that down too.
Success rate is a thing they use at Football Outsiders at the start of their S&P+ calculations, and measures how much of the distance needed for a 1st down was achieved given the down. On 1st down you need to get 50% or more, on 2nd down 75% or more, on 3rd down or 4th down 100%. It doesn't account for the time of the game, so running for 8 yards on 1st and 10 from your own 25 with 75 seconds left in the half is considered "success" here. Here's the four quarters by success rating:
|Denard||1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Total|
For all the Borges carping from the 2nd half, Michigan's ability to get chunk yards with Denard's legs despite having to double Hankins and the entire world knowing what's coming was some Level 4 Rodriguez 2010 stuff. Then the bad guys did something at halftime to shut it down and it went to 2008 Rodriguez stuff and Denard Robinson's Big Ten career ended with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter down 2 points.
A lot of folks have taken the "keying" quote to mean Meyer did something by alignment to take away what Michigan was doing until. I don't think this means what you think it means.
[See THE JUMP for a Picture Pages of the Keying]
Saturday's game was a weird one in which virtually all of Iowa's relevant plays came on two back-to-back drives in the first half. They went three and out on their four other drives before it was 42-10.
The first of these drives was Iowa's only sustained success of the day. Iowa's second drive was a couple of chunk plays and then six straight unsuccessful ones; a terrible roughing the passer flag in the middle of that sequence got the Hawkeyes into chip-shot field goal territory.
I, like you, was a little worried about that touchdown drive and what it said about the defense; after looking at it I feel a bit better since one major reason was a bad matchup between James Ross and Mark Weisman. Ross would show up in the hole and Weisman would run him over, because he is a horsecow and Ross is a freshman.
There were a couple other subtle ways in which Ross showed his youth, like on this nine yard run. Iowa has picked up a first down and now has the ball first and ten nearing midfield. They come out in their 2TE ace set; Michigan responds with eight-ish in the box, sliding the linebackers to the field and bringing Kovacs down behind.
Iowa pops a TE up and moves one of the WRs to the line, then motions him.
Various Michigan defenders adjust in slight ways to this. Notably, two of the three linebackers step to the 2TE side; so does Kovacs. James Ross doesn't.
Each of these guys has slid essentially a person-width over, which makes sense because Iowa has moved their center of gravity a person-width over. Except Ross. Does this end up mattering?
I really need to find a better way to generate suspense in these posts.
Okay, snap. Inside zone because Iowa always always runs inside zone. I'm sure the playcalls have subtle variances; these escape me and are probably unknowable without actually being the playcaller. At our level of detail, all Iowa running plays are inside zone.
Key still explaining time:
1. Craig Roh on the backside hanging out unblocked. This is not what Michigan wants, I don't think. Earlier plays have seen Michigan split in the middle like they're doing on this play with a key difference:
There is no unblocked end as Iowa is running from a balanced formation. See Roh? Right above him is one guy moving to the second level and two LBs. Michigan has a free hitter—Ross again—and he'll hit, and Weisman will get one yard.
2. Brennen Beyer getting doubled. Ideally I think Iowa wants to seal him inside but if he goes outside too hard the back will cut inside and the interior OL will release.
3. Kovacs containing. He is the force guy, can't let anything outside of him, etc. By moving the TE over they get him blocked while still getting that double.
4 & 5. Ross and Demens running at the right spot. This time there are blockers for both, though, as long as Iowa can get Beyer effectively blocked.
They just barely do. Here Weisman is heading outside and Ross has gotten to the LOS so Iowa has run out of time to double Beyer. The outside guy pops off and Beyer is still not sealed:
Now this is where two things about James Ross combine to submarine Michigan. These are both basically "is a freshman." One is the the lack of response to the shift shown above. Take Ross in the above frame and move him a body-width to the outside. Now he's a step faster to this contact. He's outside, and his momentum is more downhill than it is here. With Beyer on the outside all he needs is a little bit of help…
Just a yard, just a hesitation, just any bit of delay. Beyer just needs one step. He doesn't get it, and then there's the other thing about being a freshman:
Sometimes you get picked up and dumped nine yards downfield.
Ross's lack of momentum when he meets the blocker is more apparent with the moving pictures.
Things And Stuff
This is something of an RPS play for Iowa. Beyer makes a nice play and may hold this down if he gets that step from Ross, but Weisman also has a cutback inside of that guy since Black goes straight upfield and Demens gets blocked. I don't think that's a problem with either of those guys since it seems like Michigan's strategy on the zone was to get aggressively upfield in gaps and let one of the two linebackers flow free:
would be a first down as Demens did not funnel back to Ross, may picture page later
On this play Michigan doesn't adjust and gets that unblocked backside guy they don't want. As a result someone has to beat a block to make a play; Beyer does and it is for naught.
Michigan still could have held it down. That one step Ross didn't take is probably the difference between two yards and nine; if he hits a little earlier, with a little more authority, Weisman slows and Beyer gets his cookie.
An older Ross could have made this mistake and still held it down. And then it's just getting carried. Of all the flaws to have this is the best one because it's obvious and not at all hard to fix; it was still a bit vexing on this drive.
Weisman was a bad matchup for Ross. Ross would show up in the right spot a lot and still get crunched back for significant YAC. On the third and five that set up Iowa's sneak, he did a great job to get to the hole on Yet Another Inside Zone and make contact with Weisman. Result:
That probably doesn't happen if Morgan's in the game. People stop when they meet Morgan. A guy like Weisman may pound out a yard or two; Iowa is still facing a fourth and three or four, and probably kicking except this is Ferentz we're talking about, the sandbagger.
Ross is still super instinctive. Once the ball is snapped Ross is almost certain to read quickly and get to the spot. While he still needs some work on zone drops, if he can put on 15-20 pounds and do that the sky is the limit for him. Of all the ways Iowa's rushing offense could have been better than expected "Weisman running over Ross" is the best one from a Michigan fan's perspective. Once Ross turns those twelve tackles into twelve tackles a yard closer to the LOS, with a yard less YAC, look out.
I came away from this game thinking that Ross was a major culprit in the admittedly limited success Iowa had on offense and that he was going to be really good possibly as soon as next year, if that makes any sense. The mistakes he makes are small, and given his high football IQ it seems certain he'll fix them by the time next fall rolls around. Add on the usual amount of mass and you've got my #1 pick for a breakout player on Michigan's 2013 D.
So. Michigan got a nice play from Will Campbell to turn second and three into third and one despite kind of conceding the first down, then saw Kenny Demens blow upfield as soon as he saw Venric Mark block a blitzing James Ross. He hewed down a Colter scramble in the backfield. Now it's fourth and two, and all the timeouts have been taken.
Michigan comes out in… this. I guess. Whatever this is. Weird is what it is.
Please note that Northwestern has also brought their share of weird to the party. They're in a two back set with all three WRs to the field, which means one of those slots is covered up. Michigan is seven on eight in the box, with a safety—Gordon—hanging out deep. If Northwestern can get guys blocked they should have a guy running free. As we'll see, they don't.
This has been mentioned before, but Michigan came out in this weird formation on fourth and two in an attempt to bait Northwestern into a handoff up the middle, which they successfully did.
As a bonus, the bait here is compounded by Northwestern confusion. It does not matter what Colter does here. They're dead.
Part The First: Black Surge
Jibreel Black is shaded playside of the center above and immediately shoots upfield of said center.
This is easy for him. Just go straight upfield. It does two things:
- Invites Colter to hand off. That looks dangerous to him because if he's forced to pitch early by a Black surge then Roh is likely to contain the back.
- Forces the dive back to the backside of the play, where there are two Northwestern OL and three Michigan defenders.
In the wider view you can see three Northwestern OL releasing, with the fourth dealing with Clark.
Part The Second: Handoff Away From Strength
That looks un-promising. But here's what they'll do:
The option provides blocking strength to the front side of the play because you're letting the end go to option him; on the backside you're blocking him. Here Northwestern burns that strength as two confused guys go after Ross. A third has to cut Ryan, and there's no one for three separate Michigan defenders.
At the mesh point Colter is looking at Roh on the edge and Black surging through, which seemingly puts acres of space between the NT and backside DE. There are acres, in fact.
Part The Third: Free Train With Purchase Of Handoff
ACRES OF PAIN WOO
Everyone run around and do things! Be happy! And then play the dog groomers song and kill everyone's buzz. But those first 5 seconds were rad.
Things And Stuff
This was dead in every way. If Colter decides to keep he is probably going to get pushed wide by Black, maybe even have a pitched forced by him a la Mike Martin last year. If he does not…
…it's Mike Trumpy in space against Jordan Kovacs with Roh pursuing from the inside-out. We've seen how that story ends, against this team even.
That was forth and inches, this is fourth and two. I'll take my chances there.
This play seems specifically designed to defeat the option. The Black surge is going to do one of two things. One option is what it did. The other is for the playside G to block Black, likely with help from the center, and leave one guy for Ross. If those guys can combo Black a keep meets the same fate you see in the frame on the last bullet. If those guys can combo Black and the C manages a release to the second level, then you are possibly in business as you hypothetically have enough guys to block the LBs.
I don't see how that happens though given what Black does here. No one is coming off that guy fast enough to be useful. The only option that gets yards is a check.
Nothing else? Just a check? The only other way in which this might eke out the first down is by letting the backside end go, too, and having that tackle hit Demens. This may or may not work and exposes the back to Clark coming down the line; at least if he's hit by Clark it's from behind. Really, though, there's nothing.
Demens! This isn't the hardest play in the world for a linebacker but even so you can't do it any better. There's no drama after this:
No spinning out or grinding forward or sliding off. The guy just goes down, backwards, game over. That's one of them form tackles.
Cat and mouse. This play followed a series of timeouts. Michigan showed the formation they ran before the first one:
Northwestern called TO, and came out with their covered slot formation. Michigan again showed the 3-3-5 alignment…
…until everyone in the front seven yelled at Ryan to get on the LOS…
Roh had to do a ton of pointing and talking to get this to happen
…and then Michigan called timeout before a false start. As a bonus, unless the slot receiver moved after the camera took him out of the picture, Northwestern only had six on the line of scrimmage and would have been hit with an illegal formation.
So they went to it, got a TO, showed it, got rid of it, called a TO, and then ran it. The dance of doom.
A gimmick defense for gimmick times. Yeah this could get gashed by stuff other than what Northwestern ran; Michigan knew their comfort zone and had a plan to blow it up. They had plenty of problems in this game, and I think Mattison is going to have to make some adjustments to slow the Wildcats down in future years, but at the end it was Michigan who got the last stab in after a knock-down, drag-out fight.
Last time on keeping Michigan's overtime record sterling, Will Campbell played both sides of a guy and turned second and three into third and one. Venric Mark gets dinged on that play, Mike Trumpy comes in, and it's time for third and short.
Northwestern comes out in a goal-line version of the pistol they just ran. They again flip the FB:
Michigan sets up in an over front, which was unusually prevalent for the second straight week. It won't matter much because this is going to be a pass, which third and one with Kain Colter and you throw—Michigan's defense puts the fear of God into you on short yardage.
Michigan sends James Ross; Gordon and Floyd back out into coverage. Both NW players are taken care of, leaving only the tight end on the backside, who is running a slant to the interior.
This is not Demens's guy, it's Taylor's. Michigan is in man, which you can tell because of this:
The instant Mark lowers his head to block Ross, Demens starts flying at the LOS. He's got the RB out of the backfield, and once that RB commits to a blitzer he is now in QB attack mode.
Here's a wider shot:
Demens is moving before Colter even completes his drop. By the time Colter has taken a single step, Demens is across the LOS and closing:
It's now fourth and the game.
Things And Stuff
Colter had the third guy in the pattern but did not have the patience. He decides to take off after seeing the first two reads covered. Demens's presence may dissuade him from trying the route, but that TE is well inside Taylor and Ryan if Colter waits another beat or two for Demens to fly up at him.
Those guys were pointing at each other before the snap, confused; I am not sure if it's on Ryan or Taylor. Either way those guys are going to have a little trouble covering this since they're both lined up outside of him.
Can't really blame Colter for going one-two-go in this situation, but it looks like Michigan was banking on that being the default reaction here given how aggressively Demens plays this. He was likely told that if the back stays in go get the QB. If it's third and five, maybe he waits for Colter to take off.
Ross and Washington give Demens the space. Washington's playing this like he would a goal line carry, submarining the OL with no other thought than moving the LOS backwards. Look at that still above: mission accomplished. Ross meanwhile has bashed the OL he blitzed into into that mess and is taking the Mark cut block. Colter is looking at two guys against one blocker, who is Venric Mark, and knows those odds—another reason he was all GTFO.