Merry Christmas! Things are happening. So far not particularly interesting things, but my productivity is as damaged as all of yours. Our South Dakota State preview went up Monday. In a nutshell:
Nate Wolters is Summit Trey Burke. South Dakota State won the Summit with a 13-3 record; their only KP100 victories came against conference-mate NDSU (#72; SDSU went 2-1 against them) and a stunning road win over New Mexico that went down despite the Jackrabbits having to bus their way to Albuquerque. They finished third in their conference in defensive efficiency but no one plays D in the Summit and once Kenpom throws in the schedule strength adjustment, SDSUs defense drops into the 200s.
Michigan's defense isn't great, but it's nowhere near that. If Michigan can D-up a bit they should make it through.
S-E-C. Oh, Cuonzo Martin.
You guys are going to have to improve your level of play before we consider you a mid-major conference, I think. The game article of course focuses on how much longer Mercer had to get over the disappointment of making the tournament; Martin says his players were "emotionally drained," of course.
Titus says not today. I would mind Mark Titus being completely wrong on this:
Trey Burke will spoil the Nate Wolters coming-out party
I really hope I’m wrong on this, not just because I want to see my alma mater’s biggest rival lose in the first round, but also because there’s a decent amount of hype surrounding Wolters and I would love for him to live up to it. I’m fully aware of what he’s capable of against Summit League competition, but like most college basketball fans, I’ve yet to see him play on a big stage. And going toe-to-toe in the NCAA tournament against a former no. 1–ranked team led by the probable national player of the year is about as big as the stage gets. Because of this matchup and because a lot of people have heard about Wolters but haven’t seen him play, Michigan-South Dakota State is one of the most anticipated Day 1 games. Wolters’s entire career will culminate with his showdown against Burke, and his NBA future could depend largely on this one game. Unfortunately, I expect Burke to get the better of him and prove why he’s the best point guard in America. But I wouldn’t mind being completely wrong.
I too am dreading an unspecified commercial that will make me homicidal for the next three weeks. I swear to God if I see that dip with the blue guitar today I'm watching the entire tourney on mute.
People who don't understand probability make me mad and want to play poker. Kenpom takes issue with Mike DeCourcy's inability to multiply. I'm with him, of course. I mean…
Actually us “metrics people” can avoid it. Florida reasonably has a 10 to 20 percent of winning the tournament. They will almost surely end their season, like 67 other tournament teams, with a loss. Their chances of getting to the Final Four are less than 50/50. The “metrics” actually tell you this, but either Mike doesn’t understand the concept of probabilities, or he willingly ignores this to stake out a position that will make him look like a savant at some point over the next three weeks. His approach is very likely to win over an audience in the world of the metrics-haters. (Or as I prefer to call them, dorks.)
Stuff like this that drives me nuts even when I know I'm susceptible to the same thinking on occasion. (See: annual sheepish "we're sorry, Kenpom" when Wisconsin turns out to be kind of good.) DeCourcy isn't even interested in trying to figure it out, which is a crappy way to be an arguer about sports. "I don't understand your argument. Therefore you lack heart."
Morgan might not start. Hard to argue with that after the last few games:
"That injury really took his timing off," Beilein said. "He's a kid who takes the game very seriously -- maybe too seriously. He just needs to relax and play and know we believe in him.
"He's going to get in there tomorrow and we hope he's going to do what he needs to do."
Would be nice to get him back functional in the near future. The very near future.
Insert clasped "excellent" hands here. Devin Gardner on not being a supervillain:
Gardner also has immersed himself in non-Michigan film. Coordinator Al Borges has provided cut-ups of former NFL quarterback Jason Campbell when he played at Auburn under Borges, in an offense that will resemble Michigan's next season.
"It would be sinister for me not to watch those guys," he says.
Tate Forcier was last seen plotting to blow up the White House with a laser made from clips of him against Notre Dame.
"(I learned from Robinson) never get too happy, or too sad, when you do things," Gardner said. "It's just a happy medium you have to find."
In other spring news. Desmond Morgan working "exclusively" at MLB for the moment; expected to know both LB spots; dollars to donuts he starts at MLB with Ross on the weakside. Marvin Robinson is your extremely tenuous early Kovacs replacement leader; sounds like Burzynski is mostly focusing on guard right now.
Etc.: GRIII noncommital about NBA. Nothing can ever change in the NCAA. Do you like blurry photos of shirtless dudes too? Ondre Pipkins did lose a lot of belly. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are the Michigan and Indiana state players of the year, respectively.
A picture of the conference. Michigan's defense isn't that much of an issue so far:
It's pretty good, and then the offense is off the charts. It's only in the context of the super-elite teams vying for a national title that it seems deficient. And with that offense… well… Gasaway's latest Tuesday Truths puts it in perspective:
It may turn out to be the case that Michigan is not in fact excellent at defense, that they're merely very good at it. But that needs to be seen in the proper context. First, this isn't a case like, say, Missouri last season, where a good many people chose to overlook the Tigers' vulnerability on D. (There was a push to give that team a No. 1 seed. I still shudder at the memory.) John Beilein's defense this season is day-and-night better, thus far, than Frank Haith's was last season.
Second, whatever Michigan's level of performance has been on defense, the Wolverines have been able to plug that in as one half of an equation whose result has been outscoring the best conference in the country by nearly a quarter of a point per possession. The Wolverines' only loss this season has come not to an offensive juggernaut that was able to exploit UM's worrisome deficiencies on defense, but to the hapless-on-offense Ohio State Buckeyes, who shut down Michigan's offense beautifully.
Lastly, the past 10 years can be ransacked profitably not only for prerequisites (and I'll be joining Luke on this beat soon -- watch for it!) but also for weirdness. I've seen a team rank No. 8 in its 12-team league in two-point accuracy and then go on to win a national championship. I've seen a team rank No. 103 in the nation in offense and then go on to make the Final Four. And do I even need to drag Gordon Hayward into this?
The most likely outcome of March is that Michigan will indeed lose to some other team in the tournament, because they are only amongst a leading group of teams. If and when that happens, people will point to the defense; I'll just be like "Michigan was the Vegas favorite and still 5 to 1 against."
Slightly more favored in the league. Michigan's huge scoring margin in the league sees them favored to win the Big Ten in SpartanDan's Bradley-Terry projection system*, which may not be a huge surprise. What is surprising is how much they're favored by.
Dan's basic system that does not take margin of victory into account says Michigan has a 69% chance of an outright title and an 85% chance of sharing. The margin-aware numbers are 80%(!!!) and 92%(!!!).
Those numbers are probably too high since Michigan is likely to have outperformed its real level of skill significantly in the opening third of the conference schedule, but… wow.
BONUS: Penn State has a 30% shot at going winless in the margin-aware system.
*[College hockey fans: this is KRACH.]
Bullet of stats-enthusiasm-dissing hypocrisy incoming. While I'm generally a fan of Big Ten Geeks, their latest foray into stat assemblage is goofy to me. They use "stops," which is a Dean Oliver formula that crams steals and blocks and rebounding statistics into a number. As with all attempts to create a catch-all defensive statistic, it waves its hand at who is in fact responsible for team defensive rebounding and how replaceable they may or may not be. Also unaccounted for is a player's contribution to the opponent's shot quality.
But they've compiled the numbers and shown you the results:
Let’s look at Stops:
Player Stops per 40 minutes Adam Woodbury 11.35 Mitch McGary 10.94 Jordan Morgan 10.47 Branden Dawson 10.21 Trevor Mbakwe 10.20 Cody Zeller 10.20 Ryan Evans 9.45
Well, this is interesting—we have a couple of freshmen leading the way. Both Woodbury and McGary are tremendous rebounders (as is Jordan Morgan this season), which explains why they rate so high. And to those who complain that Stops unfairly rewards good rebounders, I think that’s about as valid a point as the complaint that offensive rating unfairly rewards efficient scorers. Rebounding is defense—a big part of it.
So this works if rebounding is, in fact, defense. It's not. It has an impact but the top ten teams in defensive rebounding are 54th, 144th, 162nd, 147th, 103rd, 171st, 240th, 64th, 18th, and 25th in defensive efficiency. As I mentioned when pooh-poohing Mason Plumlee's KPOY candidacy, rebounding is the least important of the four factors. It's only its trackability that makes it so prominent. It's easy to say who got a rebound. It's really hard to credit someone for an effective rotation.
This metric thinks Jordan Morgan is a lot better this year because the team is better at rebounding. His personal DREB rate is a tick better this year, but it's still just 257th. He gets credit that other players don't because Tim Hardaway is mansome this year.
Morgan is then declared the best defensive player in the league because he fouls less often than the other guys at the top of the list, with this capper:
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Jordan Morgan has been the best defensive player in the Big Ten so far. Unbelievable. And in case you’re wondering, Oladipo fouls quite a bit—4.42 fouls per 40 minutes. Talk about the eye test all you want, but the numbers suggest he’s not the best defensive player (or even the best defensive perimeter player) in the Big Ten.
I accuse Big Ten Geeks of gross misuse of stats. Yes, it is unbelievable. Thus you should disbelieve it.
Victor Oladipo isn't a high-end defensive rebounder because he's frequently sticking his hand in the face of the highest-volume shooter the opposition has. His role defines his numbers. You can cram defensive rebounds into a slightly modified form all you want—notice that not one perimeter defender appears on this stops list—but all you get is a comparison between yourself and David Berri. Deployed.
Sometimes you have to go by the eye test because the stats compiled are inadequate, and until basketball stats get crazy detailed individual defensive performances are in that bucket.
BONUS WONKY STATS COMPLAINT. Most attempts to compile defensive numbers underrate the value of a steal, by the way. A defensive rebound is just the successful conclusion of a defensive possession ending in a missed shot. A steal ends a possession by itself—it's the miss and the rebound rolled into one—and frequently leads to a transition opportunity at the other end. That latter part is not well accounted for.
Morgan's ankle. Nothing broken, just a sprain, AP got a totally gross picture of it, if he can play basketball on Wednesday he will play basketball on Wednesday—I bet he cannot play basketball on Wednesday.
Zak Irvin continues rain of destruction. Last week: 26 points and 30 points in wins. One was over Arsenal Tech, both the best-named and top-ranked team in the state until Zak Irvin declared his school was now named Sharkfin Elfin 3000 and scored almost half of his team's points in a 64-59 win.
You want to watch the whole game, you say? You have free time.
If you are going to do this you probably want to start at halftime. Irvin scored 26 of his 30 after the break.
Zing. John Niyo on the Nobody Remembers #1 thing:
"It's Jan. 27," Beilein said after a 74-60 victory at Illinois last weekend, "and not one of you can remember who was No. 1 last Jan. 27."
Well, actually many of us can. It was a 20-1 Kentucky team that went on to win the Southeastern Conference and the SEC tournament and eventually the NCAA title.
But point taken.
5 to 1 against, 5 to 1 against, 5 to 1 against, repeat until you internalize the likely outcome of the season is not cutting down nets…
Etc.: You can be happy about being #1. Via UMHoops, the view on Bielfeldt from Peoria. Being back on top is nice and you should be happy. Here's an excellent primer on Beilein's 1-3-1 from the man himself.
By farside286. Please tell me that's a processor speed reference and not your Mo-Jo room number c. 1998-'99 because if it's the latter I'm so so sorry!
When I came to Michigan they had recently started doing these really interesting seminar classes that only freshmen could take. There was one on the Simpsons, one all about spring break destinations, and one on King Arthur that filled up right away since it got around you get to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail.* I ended up taking the Psychology of Business, basically an insight directly into the hive mind of management that would have been invaluable to a corporate career if it hadn't also completely turned me off from it.
Club_med, a statistician, mentioned a few of that class's signature readings on "flow" while showing that the team with momentum going into overtime does not have any advantage. He plans to see if other things like 4th downs or turnovers create swings. Hypothesis: if there's a difference at all it is probably a) buried in too small a data sample, and b) an effect of freeing coaches from their lizard brains to take appropriate risks. The ND-Pitt Hypothesis: success in overtime situations is directly correlated to which team is better at playing football.
*I appreciate a discussion on holy hand grenades as much as the next guy, but some of us honestly want to talk Alano-Sarmation Theory, and translate Nennius's list of battles into Welsh to see if it rhymes.
More Statistics Bias in This Week's Read These:
Run charts like running QBs. Please let's all welcome the nerdy and likeable LSAClassof2000 back to the diaries with a quick comparison of Michigan's rush/pass offense/defense over the last 10 years versus that of Iowa. Conclusion: having Denard Robinson or Brad Banks under center makes you good at running:
Whence the Tebowing? The guy who I think graduated from LSA in 2000 also decided to chart up the Denardian career. I don't like that the charts are all on a different Y scale so you can't really compare to each other until…
…arrrgghhhh 2012 Y R U no touchdowns!
Get yer head out of September. The Devin Gardening of the past few weeks has people thinking of 2013 things despite the 2012 things still being very much in play. Gordon put together a great list and discussion on the Big Ten's out-of-conference schedule for next year. Hurrah for the yellow and blue not starting against the Sabanic empire in Jerryworld and thus diminishing the excitement of the season right out of the gate. Somebody remind me to back-link this thing next August.
Hoops in Pittsburgh. I bumped ClearEyesFullHart's preview/obsessing over next week's basketball game at Pitt. And not just because I'm a sucker for Firefly references, even if I'm a hopeless sucker for Firefly references.
[JUMP for some epic weeklies and best of the board]