spoiler alert: i linked this
11/17/2014 – Michigan 77, Bucknell 53 – 2-0
then he served Bucknell pancakes [Eric Upchurch]
That was rather impressive. The Bison are not a SWAC pushover. Historically they're one of the best teams in the Patriot League, and while they fell off a bit last year they were still good enough to put scares into Stanford and St. John's and beat Penn State by ten.
Michigan blew 'em off the court, opening up a 48-19 halftime lead and coasting from there.
We never think of the Kenpom. Speaking of the coasting: it got sloppy in the second half, with Michigan settling for a ton of long twos off the dribble with 25 seconds on the shot clock. These went clang, as dictated by Karma, and the blistering hot start petered out into a less than blistering 1.15 points per possession.
Broken record time: I don't mind open jumpers taken in rhythm, especially after you've gotten past a guy on a closeout and know you've got space to elevate without being harassed. I really do not like low-efficiency long twos that come without exploring your possession for better shots. There's a reason you can get those whenever you want. It's hard to yell at guys when you're hammering the opposition, but hopefully that's one of them coaching points that can be deployed.
THE CALVES THAT ATE THE AMERICAN WEST. So… remember that time someone asked why Max Bielfeldt keeps taking threes and Beilein responded that he was an assassin in practice? I guess that's accurate. On a night where one of the Big Three was struggling with his shot and Michigan got little production out of the four spot, Bielfeldt laid waste to the Bison. He hit all three of his attempts behind the arc and scoring 18 on 10 shot equivalents. Max was a one-man Manifest Destiny out there.
Does this mean something going forward? Maybe. Bielfeldt is still way undersized for the 5 spot in the Big Ten, and in this game there were a couple of post buckets by the spectacularly-named Nana Fouland that Bielfeldt could barely contest.
But maybe the four would work? If Bielfeldt is a credible threat in the corner and the matchup doesn't seriously expose him defensively that could be an option, Kenny Kaminski style. Bielfeldt is a decent matchup against Brandon Dawson types who aren't going to blaze by him to the basket, and Michigan's not getting much production out of that spot.
I still don't think you can build a Big Ten defense around a 6'7" post.
[After THE JUMP: rebounding strategy, HULK SMASH, Irvin "not bad" face.]
11/10/2014 – Michigan 86, Wayne State 43 – 0-0
Hey: basketball. I took in the exhibition, which exhibited various things I'll now detail.
I hope this was just nerves. Freshmen had a rough shooting night with the limited exceptions of Doyle and Dawkins, none more so than Chatman. He airballed his first two threes, took a bad, contested long two, and bricked a THJ-style pull-up long two; he did hit a three late.
On the good side, his other bucket was an impressive drive to the basket with a finish that made a lot of people look at their buddy so they could do this:
He also added four assists and led the team in rebounding with six; he also looked capable of switching on the perimeter at least as effectively as GRIII.
Shooting was never a strength for Robinson—he developed an elbow jumper he was proficient at but hovered around 30% from three—so even if Chatman isn't a great threat from deep Michigan won't be backsliding too much. And Beilein believes he can coach up anyone's three point stroke.
DJ Wilson. Wilson's going to be an interesting case this year. He's skinny as all git out but with his size and hops he's going to be much better at altering shots than anyone on last year's team other than Horford. Michigan has been playing him mostly at the 5 with occasional forays at the 4, and while Doyle's lingering ankle thing has something to do with that you get the feeling that when opponents have a lanky dude in there Michigan is going to counter with Wilson.
I could have sworn Wilson hit two late threes but the box score only gives him credit for one. Foot on the line? Either way he mitigated some of the freshman shooting questions by hitting those late.
Aubrey Dawkins. Skinnier version of GRIII. Can shoot some, 6'6", athletic, not going to create much. Had some issues dribbling.
MAAR. Or "Rahk." Rahk appears to be Beilein's favorite way of saying Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman without taking up nine syllables, and it has its appeal.
Anyway, MAAR has a much better handle than the rest of the freshman and is your third point guard. He had a nice take to the hoop that he followed with a layup that was way too hard; he had a second drive on which he'd gotten an angle to the bucket when his handle betrayed him and the ball looped out of bounds.
He ended up not hitting a shot; early yet.
Center fight. There are four options: Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, DJ Wilson, and Max Bielfeldt. I expect Doyle to emerge into a clear starter, with Donnal giving him a breather. The lack of pick and pop game with Donnal on the court says somethin' about somethin'.
Doyle is both one inch taller and somehow way bigger than Donnal. He seems to have considerably more defensive upside. He's also finished much better around the basket in the two glimpses we've seen of him this fall. Donnal has been a below the rim Morgan type without Morgan's crazy efficiency; Doyle is finishing with both hands easily because he's got those super-huge hands and long arms that allow him to gently deposit the ball on the glass from whatever angle is called for.
This person looks like a person who will finish around the rim. [Fuller]
Wilson will rotate in at the 4 and the 5 depending on matchups and how Chatman's seemingly mercurial shooting stroke is going.
The returning folks. All looked pretty good minus some uncharacteristic three-point foibles (Irvin, Walton, Albrecht, and LeVert combined to go 3 for 12) that we can ignore because we have full-season samples for all those guys in which they hit 40% from deep.
I got this [Fuller]
LeVert looked ready to take on the alpha dog mantle passed down from Burke to Stauskas and now to him. He's taking the late clock shots; his length and ability to get to good spots on the floor mean these are usually okay shots.
Irvin was much more active on the boards, hauling in five rebounds in 29 minutes, and even had shots from within the arc(!). On the podcast we discussed how Irvin needs to be a "three AND" guy this year, whether that's perimeter defense or rebounding or sometimes venturing inside the line. So far so good.
Walton was hampered by a scary-looking injury that turned out to be a cramp; he was very assured on the ball and got to the line seven times—would have been eight if not for the injury.
The rotation. Until such time as one of the freshmen gains enough trust to be put out there in pressure situations, expect the main backcourt sub to be Spike. Beilein's always kept a short bench and Albrecht's utterly reliable with the ball in his hands. This is Beilein's favorite thing. He'll spot Walton for eight minutes a game and then Michigan will have ten or so minutes with both points on the floor, leaving 5-10 minutes for MAAR and Dawkins to scrap over.
A lack of flow. You know it's early and you've got a bunch of freshmen when your guards have to keep yelling at the posts to screen for them. Michigan used its time on offense inefficiently, with several incidents where plays had to be reset because of poor spacing and miscommunication.
In particular, there was one play featuring DJ Wilson where Wilson had two obvious opportunities to drift to the three point line in the corner and either force someone out of the middle or get a good shot. Instead he hung out 15 feet from the basket and neither option opened up. He was far from the only culprit, but that stood out as a moment where I may have been more familiar with Beilein's system than freshman X—I blinked a couple times because I couldn't understand what Wilson was doing.
Beilein seems pretty frustrated right now:
"We don’t have a very good package in, and I’m trying to figure out how that’s happened,” Beilein said. “We held things back today so it’s not on film, but it’s not very far right now. We’re creeping along. We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s really slow.”
He added, “It’s my biggest quandary every day, is whether we can move forward faster. We spend so much time on defense, because we realize that shots aren’t (always) going to drop. It’s hard to believe that we went to Europe and we aren’t further along and we’re not moving as quickly as I would have in past years.”
This team isn't appreciably younger than either of his previous two, which were amongst the youngest in the country. Hopefully they get it figured out before the preseason tourney rolls around.
How to stay good
Michigan endured yet another talent exodus this offseason and has to regress from last year's all-time Kenpom offensive efficiency record. To maintain their elite level they're going to have to make it up in other places. Here are a few candidates.
Rebound some low-hanging fruit. Michigan's rebounding production out of the 3 and 4 spots last year was not impressive. 6'6" PF Glenn Robinson had a 6% OREB rate and an 11.5 DREB rate; 6'6" SF Zak Irvin had a 3.3% OREB rate and a 7.7 DREB rate. Irvin was in fact the least likely guy on the team to get a defensive rebound—even Spike Albrecht beat him out.
A selection of 6'7"-ish forwards in the Big Ten last year:
- Troy Williams, IU: 8 OREB and 15 DREB
- LaQuinton Ross, OSU: 7.5 and 17
- Terran Petteway, NEB: 3 and 15
- Shavon Shields, NEB: 5 and 16
- Jon Ekey, ILL: 8 and 15
- Aaron White, Iowa: 7 and 19
- Melsahn Basabe, Iowa: 12 and 23
- Branden Dawson, MSU: 13 and 21
- Denzel Valentine, MSU: 5 and 18
(Should be noted that the Nebraska guys' OREB rates are a reflection of a team-wide allergy.) It isn't too hard to find guys with much better production. While Dawson and White are rebounding specialists who find a lot of their value as players in what happens when a shot caroms off the rim, no one is going to mistake Williams, Petteway, Valentine, or Ross for D-oriented role players.
Michigan can seriously beef up production here, and so far so good. Chatman led the team with six rebounds; Irvin had five.
Block some dang shots. Michigan had vanishingly little shotblocking on the team last year. Michigan was 308th nationally, and this contributed to their very bad two-point D.
The freshmen promise to change that. Wilson is long and bouncy and once Doyle settles in it's easy to see him getting his share of swats. His arms are oversized. Michigan had six blocks in this game, albeit against a highly undersized opponent. If Doyle and Wilson can block some shots, alter others, and convince drivers to pull up because of the first two items, that goes some distance towards repairing last year's conference-worst two point D.
Get some steals. Steals are great. Open-court turnovers lead to transition opportunities on which Michigan is deadly. Michigan had eight, with the sneaky Spike Albrecht picking up three.
Stay in front. We all love Nik Stauskas but his defense was never a strong suit; meanwhile Robinson was not awesome laterally and gave up some inches to most of the guys he was checking. Replacing Stauskas with Irvin could be a major upgrade—too early to tell yet—and having athletes like Chatman and Wilson who are close to GRIII's level while also being significantly longer should help the D recover from its swoon into the triple digits on Kenpom.
Hooray basketball. Hooray not being scoreless 30 minutes into the game.
wit1/24/2013 – Michigan 68, Purdue 53 – 17-1, 5-1 Big Ten
Probably not many more of these for games not against Penn State, but I don't have any narrative for this one so let's just talk about stuff that happened.
Photos. Via Eric Upchurch:
It catches up in the end. The story of the first half was the normally deficient Boiler three-point shooting checking in at 54%, which was good enough to stake them to a one-point lead. In the second half they went 0-9 to finish almost exactly on their season average of 31.6%, and honestly it should have been worse what with DJ Byrd hitting one from 35 feet and banking in another. (As always, Death To Backboards.)
By the end of the game everything had averaged out to… averages and Michigan just about hit the Vegas line and Kenpom's prediction of a 17-point margin. If Ronnie Johnson hitting a three is the difference I'll live with it.
MY MAN RONNIE. That one make on three attempts pushed him to 14% on the year.
Purdue is kind of fun to watch. So you've got Ronnie Johnson's three-point futility plus his tendency to crash full-bore into opponents for charges that are so obvious the refs don't even get excited about them. Then you've got DJ Byrd hucking it up from anywhere, making a few and hilariously missing more. All other Purdue perimeter players are more or less versions of those two guys. The Johnsonbot named Terone adds a dash of circus shot to the stew.
The end result is balls flying all over the place. More than once last night I thought GO HOME PURDUE, YOU ARE DRUNK. This makes them significantly more entertaining than, say, Penn State or Nebraska. Nebraska does have Andre Almedia, I guess.
Does Michigan need to foul more? I think they might. There was a possession relatively late on which Burke extended pressure and harassed one of the many Boiler Johnsons into a near-turnover twice, and then Mitch McGary overplayed a passing lane to finally turn Purdue over. I'd like that to be a more frequent occurrence even if it comes at the cost of some additional fouls.
I can immediately think of some good counter-arguments:
- Michigan plays its starters a ton and there is a serious dropoff to the bench so foul trouble is to be avoided at all costs.
- Playing defense like that tires you out, bench thing again.
- Michigan likes games of HORSE.
But but but boy do I want this team to get out in transition and getting aggressive on defense seems to have some potentially large payoffs. Their transition numbers are nuts, in the 96th percentile nationally as of a few games ago according to Synergy and UMHoops. Anything they can do to push the pace is going to benefit them.
They only forced 12 turnovers in this one, limiting those opportunities. Their man to man seems a lot more passive than many teams'. This game in particular seemed to invite aggression: the Boilers have a very good eFG% defense and can't shoot free throws.
Specifically, I hope Caris LeVert can beast up over the next couple months. He's not going to foul out and if he gives up a couple of over-aggressive fouls on the perimeter it's not likely to end up hurting Michigan since they so rarely find themselves giving up the bonus. Stauskas, too—that man is still in the top ten nationally at avoiding fouls.
THEORY. It may be that Michigan's second-half surge is partially built on a lack of fouls in the first half? If they go into the locker room with everyone clean maybe they sit down and are like "okay guys now time to get aggressive"? I'll check the numbers on this to see if there's anything to it.
If I had to guess I'd say no. It feels more like Michigan's offense takes off right after halftime. But I'll check.
Throw out the rebounding record books when you play the Purdue Boilermakers. For the record, Michigan still won the battle on the boards against a team that looks damn good at that bit right now—22nd OREB, 64th DREB. They grabbed 12 of 30 opportunities; Purdue got 11 of 34.
And it was hard to be mad about many of Purdue's offensive boards anyway. Their misses were often so wild that attempting to get position was a futile project often ending with a ball heading directly at your head with hockey-puck speed. I hope no one on the team was in 'Nam. If anyone was they're having a seriously bad day today.
I definitely shouldn't mention this. Tim Hardaway was 3/5 from deep today, bringing his three point shooting in league play to a Stauskas-like 15/29.
Trey Burke yawn yawn. Save for an uncharacteristically poor night from three (0 of 4), Trey was himself: 6/10 inside the arc with 4 FTAs, 8 assists, one turnover. Oddity: he blocked two shots.
Burke has surged into the KPOY lead now, passing Russ Smith and Mason Plumlee. Smith may have a case—he's putting up 36% of Louisville shots and has a huge steal percentage—but is hurt by inefficient shooting; Plumlee's presence is largely due to a huge DREB rate that seems to exist because no one else on the Blue Devils even tries.
There's a team adjustment in the kPOY that probably explains much of the movement. Louisville and Duke have had a rough past couple weeks; as their teams fall back to the pack their numbers go down.
it was a fumbly kind of game for big guys (Upchurch)
Blank-headed center regains third head. With Morgan and McGary having some struggles early, Jon Horford saw eight minutes for his first extended playing time in a while. His impact was not enormous—three rebounds, 1/2 from the floor—but it's nice to have him available.
This Week in This Week In Stop Asking For Post Touches: the beginning of the first half for Michigan, in which Jordan Morgan ended up taking on AJ Hammons directly and went 0-3. Morgan and McGary did have one nice one-on-one bucket apiece against Hammons; overall their efficiency was significantly lower than the rest of the offense.
Another oddity: Michigan's three posts saw a total of 43 minutes and picked up no fouls. This was because…
Holy pants was AJ Hammons awful. I've been talking him up based on watching some Purdue and seeing some nice things in the box score; in this game he was total non-entity. In 24 minutes he had 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers. While I wasn't enamored with Michigan's center play in this one, they have to get some credit for that.
That over and back call. A couple folks pushed back on twitter when I broke out the traditional "lol big ten refs" for the over-and-back on Stauskas, but I am sure I'm right on this. For over-and-back to be in play the entire ball and the entirety of the player's body have to cross the halfcourt line. By the time Stauskas caught up to the ball Byrd had poked out it had already started crossing the halfcourt stripe. This was obvious on TV but not to the ref, since said ref was well behind the play.
In any case, he clearly did not regain control of the ball until he'd entered the backcourt, in which case the tip indicated by the ref closest to the play was still the determining factor. That call was mystifying.
Yes, I can find things to complain about even when Michigan is the #2 FTA/FGA team in the nation. It's a skill, what can I say?
Second-half adjustment watch. This one was even coming out of the locker room, with both teams picking up five points in the first five minutes. Then Michigan went away with a 14-2 run in the next five. You can add that to the bin or not; your discretion.
On deck: huge swing game. I dislike this Illinois game coming up. Michigan should win, but this is an Illinois team that beat OSU's head in at Assembly (Not That Assembly) and could at any moment heat up on their many, many three-pointers. They'll be desperate for another marquee win that can cover up blemishes like "losers to Purdue and Northwestern" when tourney time comes around; I can see things going very well or very badly.
There's a cap on how well Illinois can do when they can't grab a rebound to save their lives; I am still wary of a team at the bottom of three-point percentage rankings on both offense and defense. That could turn around and bite you. Ask Gonzaga, on the wrong end of an 11/26 night from the Illini.
Kenpom has Michigan by eight and with a 77% chance of winning—feels a little more random than that to me.
As you've referenced with KenPom's research several times, it would appear that the best way to defend the 3 point shot is to keep your opponent from shooting them at all. Unfortunately, according to an ESPN insider article, Michigan is allowing its opponents to shoot them on 36.9% of their possessions, which ranks 295th in the nation. Does this concern you? I think we would all hate to see Michigan beaten in the tournament by a less talented opponent with a hot hand from deep because they can't prevent teams from getting off 3 pointers.
Somewhat. The nice thing about Michigan's defense is how few shots at the rim they give up. Michigan's forcing more two-point jumpers than any team in the league except Nebraska:
Team Defensive Summary
% of shots
% of Shots Blocked
Insofar as shots are migrating to three-pointers, they're shots at the rim. So… that's okay. Ideally you'd like to see that Nebraska shot configuration, but to do that the Huskers give up on the idea of offensive rebounding and steals.
I'm not sure what Michigan can do to improve their defense at this point. Forcing a lot of jumpers plus their defensive rebounding and lack of fouls has propped their defense up, and that's about all they can do. They don't have a shotblocker—at least right now, maybe Horford can provide some of that later in the season—or an elite perimeter defender. They rotate out on pick and rolls to prevent guys getting to the basket, and then you have to start rotating away from the corners. Threes inevitably result… if you're not Wisconsin.
As for the tourney, it will be tough for any major underdog to keep up with Michigan's offense, but a second or third round matchup against a good defensive team that takes and hits a lot of threes would be worrisome.
Whenever Michigan gets a 3-star recruit earlier in the process, there tends to be widespread complaining about taking up scholarships that could be filled by more highly rated players. The general response to that is, "I trust the coaches to evaluate players." This got me to thinking that most major programs essentially have their pick of just about any three star player that they want.
My question is, do three star and lower players who go to major programs perform better on average than the total population of three star players?
I understand it would be hard to distinguish between a three star player taken for depth/filling out a roster purposes compared to a three star player who the coaches think are better than their ranking, but I thought it might be an interesting topic to explore.
I'd guess it's actually worse since there's more competition and recruiting sites give recruits at the bottom end of the scale a courtesy bump to three stars 90% of the time a nobody commits to a power program.
At Purdue, everyone is a three-star player and someone has to be relied upon; sometimes you get Kawann Short. At Michigan—at least at Michigan in the near future—the three star is going to have to climb over some other guys to get on the field.
I do think that there is a big difference between a recruitment like Reon Dawson—who Michigan clearly grabbed to fill a previously designated spot that was vacated—or Da'Mario Jones—seemingly offered once Treadwell flitted off—and Channing Stribling, who Michigan liked at camp and then had a very nice senior year. To put in in Gruden terms, did Michigan want THIS GUY or just A GUY?
In your post, "Aging in a Loop", you mentioned how the solid defensive rebounding performance in Columbus proves that we are for real on the boards this year. I agree completely, but it got me wondering how much of that has to do with our sudden ability to actually have three to four non-midgets (relative use of the term, I get it) on the floor at once. I can't remember too many Michigan teams having anything resembling a luxury of length in quite some time.
Have ever looked for or found any statistical correlation between average height and rebounding prowess? Even the least astute observer must realize it will benefit the numbers, but I guess what I'm after is just how much it actually does?
[Note: since this email came in Minnesota did pound Michigan on the offensive boards.]
While much-improved, Michigan still isn't a very big team. Replacing Novak and Douglass with a couple of 6'6" guys and adding McGary into the mix has pushed them to a hair above average on Kenpom's "effective height,"* but that's in the context of 347 D-I teams. There are entire conferences where the 6'10" guy is a tourist attraction. They remain a lot shorter than Kentucky, Arizona, USC, Miami, Gonzaga, Eastern Michigan, and others. Effectively four inches shorter, in fact.
Michigan's moved up in the world in that stat—they've generally hovered around 250th in effective height since Beilein arrived—but I don't think that's the reason they've been so good at rebounding this year. I crammed together the data available on Kenpom to eyeball an ugly scatter plot, and here it is:
Libre Office makes sinfully ugly graphs yo.
That round ball with a dense central cluster is typical of things that are not correlated. You'd find something similar if you graphed hair color versus desire to eat bananas.
There is no correlation between effective height and defensive rebounding. If you insert a trend line into this—something I don't like to do in low-correlation graphs like because it implies that there actually is a trend—it actually goes down as your height goes up, at a surprisingly steep slope. Some people would try to apply some crazy mechanism to make that make sense here; I'm just going to tell you there is no meaning. There does seem to be some correlation between EH and offensive rebounding, but not much of one.
Anecdotally, that enormous Eastern Michigan team Michigan played earlier this year is below average at both facets of rebounding despite having played only a few games against decent competition. They're hideous on the defensive glass.
In general this is good news for Michigan, a team that trades some rebounding muscle for increased offensive effectiveness. But why are they so much better this year than last? Well:
- Luck, always luck.
- Effective height does not capture the difference between Mitch McGary and Evan Smotrycz very well.
- Michigan has not trudged through their Big Ten schedule yet; IIRC they entered conference play last year in the top ten and ended up 9th in conference, dropping to 99th overall.
- Tim Hardaway is serious, man.
- Some teams are abandoning the offensive boards in an effort to choke Michigan's transition game off.
If you asked me to put weights on these things I would give them nearly all equal weight, which means they can expect some regression as #1 and #3 betray them but should realize a significant gain from last year's 9th-place conference finish.
SIDE NOTE: You'll notice that GRIII > Novak is not on that list. While it's true that GRIII is much better on the offensive boards than Novak was, their defensive rebounding is essentially identical, lending credence to the idea that getting on the defensive glass is a matter of effort and positioning while offensive rebounding is more about being a skyscraper-bounding genetic freak. Holla at yo' Petway.
*[IE, if you have a seven-footer who plays 10 minutes and a 6'8" guy who plays 30, the 6'8" guy counts three times more than the seven-footer.]
Brian, Quite often the site discusses the ability of an offensive lineman to pull. Why is this difficult? My understanding is that pulling requires the lineman to:
(0) (set up:) ignore the guys across from him before the snap, because the lineman is about to pull,
(1) after the snap, back up a step or two,
(2) run sideways behind other blockers, and then
(3) find a guy to block.
So what is hard? I'm not saying there isn't anything, I just don't know what it is. Is finding the right guy to block hard? Or backing up and running?
Also, have you thought about doing a basketball version of HTTV?
One of the major takeaways from the clinic swing I did last spring was that everything is hard on the offensive line. I missed most of a three-hour presentation by Darryl Funk on inside zone because I was at Mattison's thing, and when I came in I was too far gone to understand much. I also sat in with a wizened consultant who scribbled various v-shaped diagrams on an ancient projector and demonstrated how if you stepped like so your world would end, and if you stepped like so demons would pour into the world from outside known space, but if you stepped like so there was a slight chance of you living to see dinner.
All of these steps looked identical to me. Offensive line is hard.
So. Consider the pull. You are 300 pounds, and you are lined up across from men who would like to run you over, and you are trying to get to a hole past other 300 pound men before a 200 pound man lined up a gap closer to this hole can get there. On the way you may encounter bulges in the line you have to route around. When you arrive you have to instantly identify the guy to block, reroute your momentum, and get drive on a guy.
This is a tall order. Michigan particularly had difficulty with step 2 the last couple years. Here's a canonical example from the uniformz MSU game. Watch Omameh (second from the bottom):
"Run sideways" goes all wrong there as Omameh arcs slowly and Denard ends up hitting the hole before he does; Denard has to bounce as a result when a block on Bullough is promising as the left side of the line caves in MSU.
To get to the place you are supposed to be you have to execute a series of steps as carefully choreographed as anything on dancing reality TV and be able to adapt on the fly, and you have to be able to redirect your momentum quickly enough to go in three different directions in a short space of time, with enough bulk to be, you know, an offensive lineman. Getting there in time is harder than anything the tailback has to do.
How does this impact Michigan's search for run-game competence in 2013? I hope it doesn't since I'd rather have Schofield back at right tackle than moving back inside.
1/13/2013 – Michigan 53, OSU 56 – 16-1, 3-1 Big Ten
Michigan lost its mind to start this game, finding themselves down a grim amount—24 points at the maximum—as their offense abandoned them and an excess of switching on the defensive end confused them more than their opponent. It was a brutal flashback to the time when 20 turnovers was not an uncommon thing to go over, and faith-shaking.
I thought back to the Amaker/Ellerbe days when I was allowed to go watch something else once Michigan was down 20, and other than that 34-2 start at Cameron I couldn't think of anything else that had gotten so out of hand so quickly. I considered turning it off at one especially grim bit.
Then a thing happened: Michigan stepped up on defense and started chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. By halftime it was twelve. They cut it to eight, saw the lead push out again, and cut it back to eight again, this time following up. Six. Four. One; back to three. Finally, tied. Michigan had clawed all the way back from a 21-point deficit against a ranked team on the road.
Championship stuff. Gritty grit Eckstein stuff. Sportswriter hearts swelled, encomiums at the ready. It is in these fires that the heart of a champion is forged. The will to win surpasses. They just wanted it more. The trend was clear, and the final six minutes would be distance Michigan continued to put between themselves and OSU after their disoriented start.
Michigan then lost its mind again. The next six shots were all misses, and only two were even close to good looks, both missed threes from Robinson and Hardaway. The other four shots were nuts: an incredibly tough long two from Burke and jack-it-up contested threes from Burke, Hardaway, and Stauskas. If that's what you've got at the end of the shot clock, okay I guess. Those four shots were launched with 16, 17, 25, and 26 seconds on the clock*, and the box score credits Evan Ravenel with a block on the Burke three. That shot: not a good idea.
THESE ARE THE WAGES OF NUTS
They did not attempt to run their offense, and after all that. After imploding and then crawling their way back into it. After figuring out how to do things, they did not do them.
By the time this was over they were down six points with under two minutes left; while they got a shot to steal the game late thanks to a couple of steals that led to fast-break baskets—one of which even counted—the loss is right there.
I don't get it. I get being flustered in your first road game against elite competition, and falling behind extensively. I get scraping and clawing your way back into the game gradually when you're a good team. I don't get doing that and immediately going back to flustered. Turnovers or an inability to find a shot and just jacking it up, okay. That… that is confusing, like if that Benjamin Button movie was about a guy who yo-yoed between 22 and 6.
They are young, it turns out. If you think about it hard you can realize this yourself despite what it looks like on the court. Squint and maybe rub your temples and you'll be like "ohhhhh right, they have five freshmen who play." For the first time, it looked like it.
At the beginning, and at the end, anyway. In the middle, they had a near-elite team choosing to initiate their offense with 15 seconds left because they didn't want any part of a long game with the Wolverines. Work on the bit where you're six, I think.
*[I bet that is actually a couple seconds shorter than the actual shot clock; I'm just taking the difference between the previous recorded event and the shot, and there's often a second or three that runs off the clock before the shot clock resets as the team takes it out of bounds or goes for the rebound.]
How young? The most shocking stat on a page that proclaims Michigan the second-best team in the country at defensive rebounding: Michigan is 338th of 347 teams in average experience. (FWIW: Kentucky is a lot below them, and Texas is dead last.)
It's not a mystery. In re: why it's so hard to win on the road in this league. In this game, Michigan got the short end of three not very close block/charge calls worth a total of eight points, saw an obvious goaltend on a ball that went off the backboard not get called, and saw Trey Burke grabbed from behind on a breakaway for a foul on the floor instead of the only two possibly legit calls: and-one or an intentional foul. Oh and there was that unbelievable Hardaway-no-call on a possession Michigan ended up hitting a three. Also Evan Ravenel hit an 18-footer, which cannot be legal.
Yeah, Michigan didn't get called for many fouls themselves, because they never do. They're currently #1 in defensive free throw rate.
I'm just like… okay. That sucks, and is predictable. At least it's relevant!
Corollary. Kenpom keeps bringing this up: the narrow winner of a home game is very likely to lose the return match due to things like the above.
When the home team was the winner of the first game, they were a collective 309-326 in the rematch. That’s right, a home winner is more likely to lose a rematch than win it. It gets better, though. A home team winning the first game by single-digits went a collective 96-195, winning 33.0% of the time. Considering that overall, road teams win conference games about 38% of the time, close home winners are really not proving their superiority at all.
Wait, there’s more. Home teams that won by one or two points were 16-52 in the rematches, winning just 23.5% of the time.
This game was a point off his prediction, FWIW, which means I should not ever poke Kenpom.
STOP THE ELBOW REVIEWS. Stop it. The elbow reviews. Stop it. If there is a truly flagrant elbow delivered to a player, have the league suspend the guy after the game. Since that almost literally never happens there will not be a major impact, so we can cease halting games for five minutes of staring at a man staring at a monitor for no reason whatsoever. It's like instant replay in football that never changes anything.
Also just take the good threes okay. A thing that drives me nuts: guys passing up good looks at three so they can take a dribble and shoot a long two, which Burke and Levert both did during Michigan's extended time in the wilderness early. Just take the open shot you have an equal chance of hitting that is worth 50% more, please.
Well… Craft. In the preview I said this had to be at least a draw, and it wasn't. Burke was 2/8 from 2, 2/5 from three before and hit five free throws. 15 points on 13 shots is not particularly efficient, and then 4 assists to 4 turnovers is a fail. You may want to mentally deduct the last three as well since it was a meaningless, banked heave with a second left. Craft wasn't that efficient himself—9 points, 9 shots—but his role is to turn Burke into not the best player on the floor, and he did that. There is a reason he's one of the few non-Michigan players to have a tag on this blog.
That's the thing that Michigan lacks, by the way, an elite defender. Ohio State seems to have too many of them and nobody who can actually hit a shot, which is why they had to squeeze this win out despite Michigan putting up 38% from the floor—but it would be nice if Michigan had a guy they could go to to harass the opponent into a bad day.
The main non-Craft problem: terrible screens? In this game the screens didn't seem to actually slow anyone down. That's not always the screener's problem since he doesn't control how close to him the ballhandler goes. It didn't seem like the answer here was very close at all, and frequently what resulted was an instant trap on the ballhandler.
Stauskas: shut off. Three shots, all threes, all misses. Two of those were very bad shots clearly arising from a frustration at not being involved, the second one of the Fatal Four discussed above. I wonder if would have been more effective if he had gotten the obvious-obvious-obvious block call on that first drive. After that he didn't really try to do anything once he got his hands on the ball. In situations like this where the guy is in Stauskas's shorts, where are the back cuts? Vogrich was usually good for one of those a game despite being not six-six. I'm puzzled why Stauskas isn't getting at least a couple backdoor opportunities a game.
Rebounding: sufficient on defense, meh on offense. At this point I think you should put aside any remaining skepticism about Michigan's defensive rebounding. They're due for some regression, but OSU could only grab six offensive rebounds—21%. If it wasn't pretty good they would have had one of those nights by now, either against Pitt or KState or this outfit. Michigan just improved its season average against Ohio State. It is legit.
Meanwhile, once you add in a few "team" offensive rebounds, Michigan actually outperformed OSU in this one, but barely. 23% is nothing to write home about. But, hey, I'll take winning rebounding matchups against OSU.
McGary check-in. I really wanted him on the floor more than Morgan in this one. In 18 minutes he put up 3/3 shooting, got two offensive rebounds, and blocked two shots, both rather impressively.
Depth. Er. Hardaway: 40 minutes. Robinson: 38. Burke: 37. Stauskas got some sucked away because of the abovementioned items, so Albrecht and Levert both got around 10 minutes… hopefully one or the other develops into someone who can take some of the heat off those guys. Albrecht in particular was impressive.
Programming note: The podcast is delayed until tomorrow due to some technical issues.
obvious problem was obvious
File under "through the looking glass." Ah yup:
Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons among 20 semifinalists for Lou Groza Award
I remember that back in the other universe Gibbons couldn't kick field goals and everyone wore their ties backwards. He's 13 of 15 this year with a 52 yarder! Viva hair. If you are failing at things, stop shaving.
Intriguing helmet news from Leo Thompson, who writes: “Jon Falk, the equipment manager over at the University of Michigan, was interviewed on a local Michigan radio station when a question came up asking whether or not Michigan would ever change their helmets. Mr. Falk answered with something along the lines that he wanted to get have ‘shiny helmets like Notre Dame’ but that it was tough to do right now because of the specific colors of Michigan. He then went on to say that we may see something new next year.”
This has caused a severe fainting couch shortage across the state, but Hunter Lochmann—no longer sporting a Lochdog twitter handle—says this is not a true thing:
@TheBlockhams do not believe everything you read. We are not messing with the helmet.
Do not believe everything that Jon Falk says, because Jon Falk is probably joking.
Exhibition #2. Basketball tips off against Saginaw Valley State tonight in their second exhibition game. UMHoops covers the storylines, the most obvious of which is the return of Trey Burke to the lineup after a one-game suspension for the proverbial violation of team rules. The battle to start at point guard starts tonight!
With Jon Horford still sidelined with a knee issue we probably won't see much in the way of two-post offenses that might lead to some of those rebound things*:
Michigan recorded 50 rebounds, 19 of them on the offensive end -- the latter being the most impressive part.
When's the last time a John Beilein-coached team recorded 19 offensive rebounds in a game?
"I don't think it was in this century," Beilein joked afterward.
It sounds like McGary is still working his way into game shape:
"Jordan's not as big as he was, I think he's more agile and jumps a little higher and moves a little quicker," Beilein said. "With Mitch, we have to continue to get him in better shape. We were being very cautious with his foot and his calf, it didn't get him in great shape -- through water workouts, pool workouts, bike riding and now he sprints in practice.
"So that'll help."
I wonder how long this nagging injury has been sapping his athleticism—maybe it explains the dropoff in his recruiting rankings.
*[Caveat: Michigan has actually been decent on the defensive—er. Well, they were 99th—considerably above average—in defensive rebounding last year but when you hit the conference-only check box on Kenpom they drop to exactly the NCAA defensive rebounding average and finish ninth in the Big Ten. Caveat withdrawn.]
This is not a decision. Hoke said as much in the recently-completed presser, but you can't believe anything you don't read on the internet, so let me reiterate:
Decision '13: QB or WR?
Wolverines face big decision on where best to utilize Gardner next season
MINNEAPOLIS-- As Michigan transitions from its quasi-spread offense to Brady Hoke's preferred pro-style set for 2013, the Wolverines will be fortunate enough to have a talented wide receiver and quarterback on hand to help power the offense.
Unfortunately for them, it's the same player.
This is not really a decision. Gardner will be one of two QBs on the roster in spring and three in fall, so he'll go into the fall the presumed starter. Shane Morris is unlikely to beat him out. While Michigan has issues at WR, the issues at QB without Gardner are enormous. With Darboh, Funchesss, and Chesson entering their second years and another wave of guys hitting campus, Michigan will muddle through with their leftover RR slots and such.
Do or die with a true freshman who had mono for a big chunk of his senior season sounds a lot less appealing than the above.
Of course. I told you about the malevolence.
Upon further review, No. 2 Chris Brown and No. 2 Bennett Jackson were both on the field when Pitt kicker Harper missed the game-winner.