This team won't sniff the NCAA. They will be lucky to win 6 conference games. Time for change after this year.
Basketbullets: Bracket Watch, X Emerging, Dakich's Surprise
Bracket Watch: Getting Late Early
Regarding NCAA hopes, Michigan is backed into a corner. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After taking only one of three winnable games to start Big Ten play, Michigan has put themselves squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, and it will be difficult to recover from many more slip-ups.
Michigan is one of the last four at-large teams to make the field in the Bracket Matrix, which is updated as of last night. Of the 28 brackets that were updated yesterday, the Wolverines make only 11. As SI's Michael Beller points out in his first edition of Bubble Watch, they've left themselves with little room for error:
Michigan (11–5, 1–2) is in a similar spot [as Northwestern], without the pent-up frustration of never having made the tournament. The Wolverines did their best work to date out of conference, knocking off SMU and Marquette. But they’ve already lost to Iowa and Maryland in league play and are just 2–4 against likely or potential at-large teams. Michigan is not going to be the brand of team that can afford too many losses to teams without at-large hopes, which may end up describing both of their opponents this week, Illinois (11–5, 1–2) and Nebraska (9–7, 3–1).
That home game against Nebraska is as close to a must-win as you'll get at this point in the year. In addition to tomorrow night's game in Champaign, Michigan gets Illinois at Crisler next Saturday, and a sweep of the Illini would be of significant help; they're the last at-large team in the field on the Bracket Matrix.
Michigan needs to turn it around now because their conference schedule is brutally backloaded. They're favored on KenPom in five of their next eight games and underdogs in five of their last seven; incidentally, five of the next eight are at home and five of the last seven are on the road. Because of the number of coin-flip (or close) games, KenPom currently projects Michigan to finish 9-9 in conference, which would likely put them right on the bubble with a little work to do in the conference tournament. As esteemed Maize Rager and numbers-cruncher Crisler Spidey points out, however, 8-10 is currently more likely than 10-8:
Yikes. 9-9 is now the median at 21%, and 8-10 is more likely than 10-8. Remember what I just said about exceeding expectations? That's because these are the current expectations. The Wolverines have a huge week coming up with a road game against fellow "First Four Out" team Illinois, followed by a home game against conference wild card Nebraska. I really think they need to win both to stay alive. Kenpom claims they have a 38.2% chance of winning both. There have certainly been flashes of greatness from this Michigan team, but they have yet to piece it all together for 40 minutes since the 2k Classic. Now would be an excellent time for the proverbial light to go on.
[Hit THE JUMP for some less depressing stuff, I promise.]
"You'll Be Escorted to the Compliance Office"
Michigan had an open scholarship slot to utilize this season. John Beilein found a use for it, though the way he awarded it was downright evil:
Today's meeting was full of suspense , surprise & happiness ... especially for @daycheck3
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) January 10, 2017
I'm sure Andrew Dakich will be deeply grateful as soon as his heart rate drops below 200 again, which should be sometime around June.
Pic 1 Dak thinking he's going to jail Pic 2 Dak realizing he's not going to jail.
Pic 3 Dak celebrating he's not going to jail! LOL pic.twitter.com/Q4W1ecIMRc
— Jon Sanderson (@CampSanderson) January 10, 2017
Evil John Beilein is great. Congrats to Dakich, who put off redshirting in preparation for a transfer to somewhere he'd see the floor twice in two years to benefit the team when injury struck at point guard.
Signs of Life From X
After being near-invisible in his time on the court in non-conference play, Xavier Simpson has been more assertive over the last few games, a welcome development—if not for this year, than at the very least the next, when Simpson is expected to take over for Derrick Walton as the starting point guard.
While Simpson still isn't taking many shots, he did something seemingly no other Michigan player was willing to do on his lone two-point attempt in Big Ten play: get into the paint and shoot over imposing PSU shot-blocker Mike Watkins. Simpson's floater was an unexpected reminder that he was capable of scoring 65 points in a game in high school, and that's precisely the shot he'll need to have in his arsenal to overcome his small stature at this level.
Simpson is also improving as a passer. He has five assists against one turnover in his three Big Ten games after posting 16 assists and 11 turnovers in non-conference play. His growing comfort and confidence showed against Penn State. Shortly after the floater, he picked apart a PSU zone look with a textbook play, getting into the middle of the zone and fooling the defense into thinking he'd kick it out to Walton before zipping a no-look pass to DJ Wilson for two of the easiest points Michigan has come across all season:
He's also been a pest on defense. He plays at full tilt on that end, which puts him in rather stark contrast to much of this team. He looks like he could be Michigan's best on-ball perimeter defender by the end of this season and he already has the best steal rate (in an admittedly small sample) of anyone on the team by a healthy margin.
Avert Your Eyes, It's Three-Point Defense
Good (left) and, uh, not-so-good (right). [Campredon]
Michigan's opponents are making 41.4% of their three-pointers, the seventh-highest mark in the country, and that figure has risen in Big Ten play to an astonishing 54.7%.
While that number will inevitably fall—you have to go back to 2006-07 (Utah, 46.5%) to find a season-long mark worse than 43.1%—it doesn't mean it's entirely a fluke. Dylan did the dirty work for me and put together screenshots of each of Maryland's 11 three-point attempts at the point of release. It's not pretty:
It's not any one player or one problem, either. A couple of Maryland's three-pointers were pull-ups when Michigan guards gave them a little too much space; a couple were the product of miscommunication; a couple came when defenders didn't fight their way through screens. In large part because of M's issues contesting perimeter shots, the defense now has the worst adjusted efficiency of any Beilein team dating back to 2002.
Billy Donlon still has his work cut out for him.
Well, I don't need KenPom or Bracket Watch to tell me what my eyes see. Its been bad basketball for about a month. Yeah, they were like the last team in last year, so I wasnt far off. They play soft, cant shoot, cant defend or rebound. Shooting 30 3's with no shooters is not go basketball. But because its not Ellerbe or Amaker, who cares. So lets set the standard at that.
just an fyi, you're not being negged because you're necessarily wrong. it's because you are being an asshole.
The guy's posting history is fascinating. The RAGE is strong in him.
You aren't going to beat good teams. Most teams that Michigan plays have the best player or the best two players on the floor. That makes it very difficult to win games.
Hope X continues to step up. His future looks bright.
earned a scholarship a long time ago for his contributions to the bench mob. I don't care if it doesn't necessarily translate to the floor, it has been a joy to watch his celebrations.
Also, I don't think I could have recovered to celebrate receiving the scholarship after that set up. I would have been absolutely terrified in that situation.
Looking at the schedule 8-10 seems our most likely outcome and honeslty 7-11 feels more likely than 10-8
Conference games which is really sad and frustrating. JBs teams usually improve a lot during conference play, they were also not this experienced. It's tough to see that same level of improvement this year.
1/17 @ Wisconsin
1/21 v. Illinois
1/26 v. Indiana
1/29 @ MSU
2/4 v. OSU
2/7 v. MSU
2/12 @ Indiana
2/16 v. Wisconsin
it seems to be so balanced this year who knows how it's going to turn out. I don't think there are any great teams, but at the same time other than maybe Rutgers there aren't really any awful teams either. It really seems that any team could beat any team on a given night.
And yet, I don't see a single give win or loss on that schedule. This conference is so weird right now, nobody really looks like a clear, dominant club.
your observation does not inspire confidence. And I say that as a Beilein fan. Despite criticisms fair AND unfair of the players, what this team most needs is an injection of moxie and confidence. Who knows if they get them.
Even with this expanded field of 68. And I remember when the field was 48. Hopefully, we can make a run in the NIT.
It started off so well with those SMU and Marquette games but holy shit have we fallen since then. We're getting dominated by super young teams and just look terrible.
It's funny, when X made that floater I had the same exact thought of 'oh yeah this guy was a big time scorer in high school.'
if M misses the tournament this year, does Beilein get let go?
But the seat will be pretty warm.
I don't think so, but Ace would probably have a better understanding. That said, the question becomes should he?
I've always thought of the hierarchy of college basketball as so:
Tier I (Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, UCLA, Indiana, Michigan State):
These are the blue bloods where similar to Michigan in football, there is expectation of national titles (or at the very least Final Four appearances) year after year after year.
Tier II (Michigan, Syracuse, UConn, Villanova, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Villanova, Illinois, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Houston, Florida, Arizona)
This is the much larger second tier of programs where a Final Four appearance is celebrated and a National Championship exalted. Obviously, some of these schools have iconic coaches (Boeheim, Calhoun, original John Thompson, Lute Olsen) while others cycle through. So let's take a look shall we.
If Michigan misses the tournament this year:
John Beilein: 10 years, 6 NCAA App., 1 NCG App., 1 Elite 8 App.
Nolan Richardson: 17 years, 13 NCAA App., 1 NC, 1 NCG App., 1 FF, 1 Elite 8
Mick Cronin: 10 years, 6 NCAA App. (7 straight if they make it this year)
Travis Ford: 8 years, 5 NCAA App.
Jay Wright: 16 years, 12 NCAA App. (missed first 3), 1 NC, 1 FF
Bruce Weber: 9 years, 6 NCAA App., 1 NCG App.,
John Thompson III: 12 years, 8 NCAA App., 1 FF
Sean Miller: 7 years, 5 NCAA App., 2 Elite 8 App.
So, Bruce Weber might be the most apt comparison here. He started off hot and slowly tailed off at the end of his Illini tenure and even the magical Dee Brown/Luther Head/Deron Williams season wasn't enough to ultimately save him after 3 straight down years. Beilein had the Burke, Stauskas, THJ, GR3 core that got him his two crowning achievements, but it's been hit-or-miss outside of that.
Weber came from Southern Illinois where he turned that program into a really good mid-major, so he had less experience than Beilein did. After Illinois fired him, he went to Kansas State where he had two good years with the Wildcats before they finished near or below .500 the past two years. This year, they're at 13-2 and ranked #25. Illinois hired John Groce, made the tournament his first year, and has slowly gone down each year after that.
Just putting the evidence out there as I honestly don't know what Warde Manuel should do if Michigan misses the tournament this year.
MSU is a blueblood? Whoa there.
If Sparty is a blue blood, so is U of San Francisco. Both have two titles
Oh come on. Izzo has taken MSU to at least the elite 8 9 times in his 20 years as a head coach. He won them a title and got back to the title game again in 2009. Duke, probably the most consistently-elite team in recently history, has won or come in second 5 times. If Michigan can be considered a blue blood in football right now, MSU is at that same level under Izzo.
Michigan's a blue blood in football because it's the winningest program of all-time.
MSU is a good basketball program that is overachiving at the moment, due to having a Hall of Fame coach. They weren't like this before Izzo and I'm not sure they can keep it up after he leaves.
I think we have to distinguish between programs that have pretty much always been good (bluebloods) and those that used to be average but are now very strong. MSU is in the latter category. If Izzo's successor also wins big, I'd then elevate them to the blueblood group.
Under Izzo they sure as hell are. I hate the guy and the team as much as anyone but let's be honest here.
Izzo's a Hall of Fame coach. But I don't think MSU as a program has the kind of institutional advantages the bluebloods (Kentucky, UNC, UCLA etc.) have. It's more of a Tier II program that is currently punching above its weight class because of Izzo.
Anyway, the description of a Tier I program above ("there is expectation of national titles (or at the very least Final Four appearances) year after year after year") doesn't fit MSU fans in my experience. Their expectations are more for tournament appearances every year, and a Final Four run every few years.
I'd swap them with UConn in the above list. UConn's now won four national titles since 1999. They've quietly become a juggernaut.
Not sure he's the best comparison. He rode the coat tails of Bill Self. Self put together the Illinois teams that brought Weber so much success.
Rockets on tier II?
I agree that they're not quite on tier I with the Lakers, Celtics, and maybe Bulls and Knicks.
Now they are in Tier 4. The other teams in Tier II are still competitve, Michigan would lose to everyone of those teams this year, starting with the Illini tonight.
I hope he does, and I think 99% of this board would want him gone in that scenario. It's a shame, but we've lost our patience. No fundemental coaching improvement out of his teams.
The real question is if that would actually happen.
I don't think 99% want him gone. I think a loud minority have wanted him gone both before and after that 2-year run. He needs to be evaluated like all coaches, but there is a mindset here that demands change without any foresight on who that agent of change will be. Football I get lacking patience, since that's an historical power with a million advantages. But basketball I think people need to be more patient with or, alternatively, point to legitimate upgrades available.
How patient do we have to be? Michigan has poured in a lot of money and resources into the basketball program, including a lofty salary for the head coach. In that context, the program is underachieving. Right now, Michigan is giving the appearance that they're willing to accept a mediocre but clean program. I really hope that's not the mindset they have.
I mean, it's a product that is clean, for whatever that's worth, and made the national title game and then the elite 8 in the past 4 years. They've put a lot of guys in the NBA compared to historical averages. it's on a downturn, but it doesn't feel like a death spiral. And I'm actually a bit high on the coaching change and recruiting. It's just a time because the senior players didn't grow into better players. I honestly think another year under Conlon and they'll be a solid defensive club with some real size and good shooting.
Those are actually Maryland's ten *makes*. They attempted fifteen three point shots. One screenshot seems to be in there twice, which is how you get to eleven.
Yes, some/most of those are bad defense. Some of those are also three point attempts from *well* behind the arc. How far out are our guys supposed to defend the three? There comes a point where you *want* to encourage an average-to-good shooter to take a deep three because it's a bad shot. We did that against Maryland and they made them. Sometimes teams choose the high variance option and it comes up in their favor. What are you gonna do?
I'm not worried about opponents' three point FG percentage against us. I'm sure our defense against threes is bad, but it's *not* 10/15 bad, especially given the range those guys were making from. More worrying is our complete inability to stop dribble penetration and, having given penetration up, our complete inability to box out, leading to ridiculously easy offensive putbacks for the opposition.
Yes, this team plays bad defense. Yes, they are super frustrating. Yes, it's very often joyless basketball. Yes, it feels like a brutal slog way too much. Yes, we are losing games we should win. We *still* would have beaten Maryland if they make 7/15 threes instead of 10/15. Jared Nickens, who wasn't even on the MGoBlog preview lineup card for the game, went 4/4 from three. Come on.
Here are Jared Nickens' three point shooting nights according to ESPN's game logs:
0-4 (W, American U, #305 Kenpom, #205 Kenpom Defense)
1-6 (W, @Georgetown, #56, #60)
2-6 (W, St. Mary's, MD; DIII school not on Kenpom)
0-1 (W, Towson, #166, #130)
1-3 (W, Stony Brook, #238, #274)
0-0 (W, Richmond, #115, #152)
0-1 (W, Kansas State, #29, #36)
1-5 (L, Pittsburgh, #53, #141)
0-0 (W, Oklahoma State, #14, #94)
1-3 (W, Howard, #337, #316)
0-3 (W, Saint Peter's, #190, #72)
1-1 (W, Jacksonville St., #199, #281)
2-5 (W, Charlotte, #216, #269)
1-3 (W, Illinois, #72, #89)
1-1 (L, Nebraska, #88, #64)
4-4 (W, Michigan, #39, #110)
Which is the outlier there? Nine of those defenses are at least as bad as ours. Only a few are substantially better. Do we really think that our three point defense is so bad that it takes a guy making 1/3 threes on the year and turns him into a guy making 4/4?
Again, I'm not saying that our three point defense is good. It's not. But the nature of basketball is such that sometimes you lose games because randomness. You can't get too high or too low on the basis of one game (or even a handful of games), especially when there's a pretty obvious FUCK YOU from the Universe right there in the box score staring you square in the face.
Now the fact that we never box out? Yeah. What the actual fuck?
While much of this is true, this Michigan team is not losing games because of randomness, where eventually much of it will even out. This team is losing games because of a lack of talent, full stop. Its a team full of players who would be great as third or fourth options on a legit team. Michigan rarely has the best player on the floor, which has consistently been the easiest way to win basketball games.
I broadly agree with you. The point I'm trying to make is this:
Despite all its flaws and limitations, this team is still the team that dominated in NYC and is ranked #39 on Kenpom. Clearly they aren't as good as they looked in NYC nor as bad as they've looked in the last couple of games.
Yes, there are obvious "real" reasons that the team lost to Iowa and Maryland and had to come back against PSU. But those same "real" reasons were there when we thrashed SMU and Marquette. It's the same team. Why did we look awesome for a couple days in NYC and so bad for the last week?
Matchups? Sure, possibly. Deterioration in our own level of play? Yeah, I guess we could be getting worse. Better scouting from opponents? Yeah, could be. There are obviously a myriad of reasons why a team wins or loses any given game. You can point to anything.
But a large part of the difference in these two stretches is almost *certainly* randomness. Yeah, we lost to Maryland because our defense is bad, but also because Maryland got lucky. If Maryland shoots like they normally do, or even modestly better than they normally do because our defense is bad, *we still win the game.* They had to shoot *astronomically* better than their season average (which will happen in small samples), so much higher that you can't blame it simply on bad defense.
Now, squeaking by Maryland at home would have been nothing to be proud of, just like beating PSU by three at home is nothing to be proud of. That's why we're falling like a rock on Kenpom. While we are *definitely* worse that we looked early in the year, let's not overreact by thinking that we are *actually* seven points worse than Maryland at home. We aren't. We're probably a point or two better, which is not great, and definitely worse than the seven points Kenpom predicted.
So don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that this team is a top 25 team being held back by bad luck. I'm not saying we've *only* lost because we've been unlucky. I'm saying that despite all our flaws, we've still been on the short end of some pretty crappy sticks and if you don't adjust for that, you're gonna get a skewed picture. That's the reason systems like Kenpom are great: they take all that human cognitive bias out and present the most objective picture they can. We're probably around the 38th best team in the country (like Kenpom thinks), maybe better (hooray!), maybe worse (boooo!). The nature of bastketball is such that you can't overreact to such short stretches.
A few years ago, when Michigan started 6-4 but then won its first 8 in the Big Ten, no one was saying calm down, this is the same team that lost to Charlotte. They didn't because teams change. Sometimes they do for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Yes, U-M crushed SMU and Marquette. In the month and a half since, Walton has racked up monster minutes because of poor depth. Is he the same player now that he was against SMU? If he isn't, how is Michigan the same team?
The problem with clinging to the Kenpom ranking is that it's based on data that may not be relevant anymore. Kenpom is great for identifying teams' strengths and weaknesses, but if viewed without context, it can actually be even more misleading than the plain old standings. I mean, the idea that Maryland had a 27% chance of winning at Crisler per Kenpom was absurd to anyone who's been paying attention.
I've been paying attention. I watch every game. And yeah, I have bad feels about this team right now; I didn't feel good about Maryland going into it. But I also know about recency bias, that humans tend to overweight data points that happened recently. Yeah, teams change. You're totally right, this team could just be worse. I'm not discounting that possibility. But I'm not overweighting it either. It's very hard for humans to disentangle signal from noise over short stretches. We can always tell just-so stories to explain small sample sizes. That's why it's so important to temper the bad feels with objective analyses.
is the odd ranking right now. As Ace pointed out most brackets don't have UM in the tourney and in the rpi rankings UM is 72nd.
If you're arguing that this team wouldn't make the tourney with its current résumé, I agree completely. That's what Bracket Matrix and RPI are best for, because RPI is something the committee cares about, and Bracket Matrix is explicitly trying to predict the committee.
But neither are particularly good measures of team quality. RPI is a junk stat that remains unfortunately popular with the committee. And Bracket Matrix isn't even trying to measure team quality; it's trying to predict the tourney field. I'd trust Kenpom over both for measures of team quality.
That doesn't mean Kenpom can't be wrong. Again, this team feels worse than Kenpom says to me too. But I'm human like everyone else. I've got the same cognitive biases. That's why objective measures like Kenpom are so important: flawed as they are (and I suspect many of the flaws people think exist in Kenpom are just further examples of human cognitive illusions), they still provide an objective basis to frame our feels.
They're favored on KenPom in five of their next eight games ....
I do not find this reassuring. Seems like the KenPom kiss of death for us.
to think kenpom doesn't know what he's doing.
Michigan was favored by 7 over Maryland?!?!?!?!
I'm just tired of Beilein teams that shoot threes and only threes, especially in years like this when they have no three shooters.
this is some hot take hot garbage right here. You do realize we have 5 guys shooting over 35 percent from three, four guys over 39 percent, and those numbers don't even count Donnal who is 4/8.
In the field??
I could be in the minority, but I'd rather see them miss if they are going to get in as a last-4 again. An NIT appearance may cause Warde to wake up from his slumber to evaluate this program.
When Rich Rod was near the end and playing Miss State in that final bowl game, I was extremely indifferent towards the result. Change was needed.
I'm slowly starting to enter that territory. Something needs to shake this program out of the coma it is in.
I agree with you that the evaluation needs to start. A change may not happen, which is fine if Manuel thinks Beilein is still the guy, but evaluation needs to start. The one part of your post I strongly disagree with is you hoping for the team to miss the tourney. It is always better to be in the NCAA than the NIT. Always.