Basketbullets: At Least There's Walton
Bracket Watch: The Other Bracket Looms
it us. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
The outlook is grim. After everyone but Derrick Walton sleepwalked their way to a loss against a mediocre Ohio State team, Michigan is 14-9 (4-6 B1G) and out of the projected NCAA tournament field. The Wolverines have to climb out of an increasingly big hole and they may have already missed their chance; KenPom says they've played the easiest conference schedule of any Big Ten team so far, and that's about to change in a major way:
Michigan only has three home games left; of those, a more confident and rested Michigan State squad is by far the most beatable. The Wolverines have yet to win a road game this season; they'll need to take at least two, and quite possibly as many as all five left on the docket, to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid. They're 79th in RPI. I had to edit the second sentence of this post multiple times before it was family-friendly.
If they lose tomorrow night, NIT bracket-watching begins in earnest.
[After THE JUMP: Some good news! Really! Also some bad news.]
At Long Last, Derrick Walton
The bright spot. [Campredon]
If you listened to the Signing Day podcast, you heard that I was already compiling the rather astonishing Derrick Walton stats since Maverick Morgan's (unfortunately accurate) "white collar" comment. Based on both his recent comments and play, it's clear Walton took particularly strong exception to that statement. This was after the Illinois rematch:
“Honestly, because I’m an inner-city kid, I’ve never been called soft ever. That’s never been a question in my mind. Nobody ever questioned my toughness before. I had to do some self-evaluating to see if I was actually soft—nah, I’m joking. (laughs) As a group, we’ve got a lot of inner-city guys. We’ve played a lot of basketball. People play ’21’ games where you’ve gotta be tough. It was kinda confusing.”
Since the first Illinois game, Walton has played like the player he was supposed to become out of high school. His averages in the six games since are all-conference—if not All-American—quality: 34.2 minutes, 19.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 turnovers. His shooting in that span is remarkable: 55% on twos, 50% on threes, 86% on free throws (on an astonishing 72% FT rate). He's taken greater control of the offense and still playing the most efficient ball of his career.
It may be too late, but it's not too little. It's bitterly disappointing that Walton's breakthrough comes in conjunction with what can only be described as a collapse by Zak Irvin, who has five points on 2-for-18 shooting from the field with zero free throw attempts, five assists, and six turnovers over the last two games. If Michigan gets much of anything out of Irvin over the last week, they're in position to make the tournament with a half-decent close to the conference schedule. They got practically nothing.
Speaking of practically nothing, here's a stat: Moe Wagner and Mark Donnal played 39 minutes against Ohio State and combined for one defensive rebound. OSU, the eighth-best offensive rebounding team in the conference, pulled down 48.5% of their misses.
As Jim Calhoun, who I thought did an excellent job breaking down the technical aspect of Saturday's game, pointed out multiple times, Michigan's big men were simply outmuscled. Wagner's issues usually stemmed from positioning; Trevor Thompson was able to box him out and seal him off, which shouldn't be happening on the defensive end of the floor. Donnal couldn't keep Thompson behind him even if he had good positioning initially; there was a rebound with five minutes left that I'm too ennui-stricken to clip in which Donnal had the initial boxout and let Thompson go right around him. Walton couldn't hide his frustration heading into the ensuing timeout.
Wagner doesn't have more than five defensive rebounds in any Big Ten game this year, and he's failed to surpass three in seven of those ten games. Donnal, meanwhile, has recorded multiple defensive rebounds in precisely one B1G game this season (3, vs. Maryland); Walton, the goddang point guard, is literally doubling his defensive rebound rate in conference play. (#FreeTeske.) DJ Wilson's defensive rebounding has also taken a sharp dive in B1G games.
As John Beilein pointed out after the game, this doesn't entirely fall on the bigs, either:
Some of the rebounds, as I watch it, will not be about effort. It will be about the ball bounced to them or they had really good positioning, or it was just about mix-ups on defense—where a guy either got blown by or we missed something somewhere along the line. When a guy steps off to give help and his man slides in and wedges you and gets a rebound—there’s no boxing out; he’s boxed you out before you could ever get there.
Here's an example with multiple breakdowns:
OSU gets Michigan rotating with a high screen, and that rotation is the first problem: as OSU swings the ball into the corner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman gets caught ball-watching instead of getting back to a man, a bad habit of his that also led to at least one wide-open Marc Loving three in this game. Either MAAR or Donnal needs to be hauling ass for the paint, where Zak Irvin is tasked with guarding two players by his lonesome, which brings up another issue: M's defensive communication breaks down far too often.
Then there are the actual boxout attempts. MAAR is lost in space; Donnal is beaten to the paint and sealed off by Micah Potter; Irvin falls over after Loving slips around him and boxes him out; Walton never sees Andre Wesson, who ultimately grabs the rebound, sneak in from the corner. Donnal then allows an embarrassingly easy and-one to a guy three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than him.
If I had to pick one play to sum up Michigan's defense this year, that one's very much in the running.
What do they have to lose at this point? It is ridiculous that Donnal plays as much as he does.
I can envision him going to play overseas.
40 percent from NBA range, he might be able to stick in the NBA as a backup PG. He doesn't create for teammates and can't defend well enough to have better than a very small chance of making it though.
Certainly a place for him in some overseas league, I'm sure.
Does anyone else cringe like you're going to be hit in the head with a hammer when Zak Irvin gets the ball?
Be hit in the head with a hammer than Zak Irvin have the ball.
he has been SO disappointing. great kid. no doubt he puts in the work, but he's just not the same player he once was. we will be better offensively when he graduates. his shot volume is too high for what he makes.
Any stats under Beilein that shows M being a good defensive rebound team ever? I feel like year in and year out this is an awful portion of M's game. So sad..
They were the #2 defensive rebounding team in the B1G just last year. The year before that, #13. The peak Beilein squads were in the mediocre-to-below-average range, at least in conference play.
with Donnal playing 63 percent of center minutes last year, and Zak playing the four, we were a much better rebounding team. Whaaaaat?
There is some truth to the lucky/unlucky/variability argument here, but Donnal clearly isn't the same guy. He's gone into a shell after losing his starting job and is down to 10 percent DREB rate after being at 13 last year.
The bigger surprises are DJ only grabbing 12 percent of misses after scooping up more than 20 percent in non-league play, and Robinson who is only getting 7 percent this year after getting 13.5 percent last year.
There is no such thing as consistent luck/unlucky in basketball. Maybe on one play here or there, but not enough to drive statistics. There is hustle and no hustle.
...the one I most often wish I could clone is Jordan Morgan. This team might have five more wins with him.
could will a couple himself...
You say that, but Jordan Morgan also got embarrased en route to Kentucky rebounding 50% of their misses in that elite 8 loss. He may have been tougher and smarter but was limited by the lack of athletecism that Beilein seeks to actively have in his centers.
To be fair, Kentucky does that to most teams. That's what happens when you have a 7 foot 5 star center in Marcus Lee come off the bench as your 9th or 10th guy. But Morgan wouldn't make much of a difference on this team. We have a dearth of guard and wing talent which is the bigger issue.
I'll take a jordan morgan on the roster every time, especially since so many of our other bigs have been busts.
Also "getting embarassed vs. kentucky" is an absurd criticism. He was dealing with about four 5 star bigs coming at him in waves and did what he could in our 4-out-1-in system.
offensive system has nothing to do with defensive rebounding. But yes, Jmo (and friends) were being bombarded by giant 5 star bigs all over the place. As previous commenter said, they did/do that to everyone and the only thing you can do is try to minimize it.
"Jordan Morgan got embarrassed" against Kentucky is pretty unfair. He was basically 1 on 3 against 7'ers every rebound. He was the only guy that kept us respectable in defense & rebounding that year.
Wouldn't mind seeing him come back to coach a few of our bigs.
Hell, at this point I'd settle for DWJ coaching (teaching?) rebounding to our bigs next season as a graduate assistant.
I blame that on beilein putting griii at the 4 trying to guard julius randle. Randle was 3 inches taller and damn near 50 pounds heavier than griii.
I could be wrong, but alot of those offensive rebounds came when Morgan was off the court. I can remember a handful of them coming when Horford was on the court.
Mitch McGary. Not to mention it took Morgan a few years before he became serviceable.
This is not good.
For the record, though, can we retire the "white collar" meme. Say they didn't play hard enough, that they were outmuscled, whatever. But I despise these lazy dog whistling comments that put an unnecessary bias or prejudice on college kids playing a sport for our entertainment.
I'm sorry, but aside from Walton this is a white collar team. Beilein and MAAR have even conceded as much in different terms.
I think the point is that it can be lazy analysis. Even the quote from Walton is of him laughing off the assertion.
Walton has always exerted great effort on the defensive end and the boards. That's not new at all and to assert it took the "white collar" comment for him to "get tough" is lazy. People are noticing Walton because he's having a torrid stretch, but he's put in that defensive effort all year.
if they make the tournament? They are not good enough win games against elite competition. Beilein and staff need to spend their time recruiting good basketball players and their recent track record isn't very good.
One of the consequences of hiring JH is he has raised the standard for our atheltic teams. The teams that are mired in mediocrity should look for coaching changes. Beilein will not be terminated so the only hope is he voluntarily retires.
How exactly do you expect them to recruit good players if they don't make the NCAA tournament?
"Hey kid, come to Michigan, we almost made the NIT last year!"
Yeah....THAT'LL draw them in....SMH....
It is very frustrating that we can probably count on one hand the number of times that both Walton and Irvin were on a hot streak at the same time.....over a four year career for both. I like both players a lot and I do think they could have been parts of great teams. But it is clear that they can't be the #1-2 options for great teams. They are better as support pieces with an alpha dog in the mix that has been missing with the early departures and Caris being hurt.
I've defended them and Beilein for the past three years, but my support is definitely waning after so many close losses this year. Just think of how many games they were in late that would have made this season a success. Ouch.
isn't missing because of early departures or Caris being hurt this year. All apha dogs we've had recently (Trey, Stauskas, Levert) would have exhausted their eligibility by now anyway. This year we don't have an alpha dog because we've failed to recruit one for four straight years.
could possibly be the MOST disappointing team in a long long time
the last couple of years at least could use injuries as an excuse. They've been been injury free this year.
I would say the 2009-2010 team, coming off of M's first NCAA appearance in 10 years and ranked #15 in the preseason, was more disappointing.
I was hopeful that Donnal was going to show continued improvement going from his third year in the program to his fourth. Instead, he has regressed. The weird thing is, his percentages have continued to increase, but he's looking at the basket less and less. Check out his stats:
His FG% by year is: 0.522, 0.575, and 0.633.
His 3P% is: 0.368, 0.303, 0.462.
His FT% is: 0.710, 0.712, 0.769.
So he's shooting better, but his attempts per 40 minutes have gone from 11 last year to 7.3 this year. But they keep asking Irvin to jack up contested two's and three's off the dribble, and they continue to clank off the rim.
In addition to not shooting this year, he's not playing much defense as indicated by his blocks per 40 minutes going from 1.3 and 1.5 to 0.7, and thousands of Ace's GIFs. It appears that he doesn't care and that's he's just going through the motions.
AND YET, Beilein put him in for defense to save Wagner. If anything, his shooting percentages have gotten better so he should be brought in as an offensive player, and Teske should be brought in for defense. But Donnal's so worried about getting pulled for a bad shot, he doesn't even look at the basket anymore. This is one of Beilein's coaching errors this season. The others are letting DJ spend entire games hanging out 22 feet from the basket, not getting the ball to Moe down low, and relying too heavily on Irvin to generate offense. And I guess not spending enough time to make sure the players understood the new defense.
it is pretty clear he's not all there. It seemed like when he won the job last year from Doyle and gained confidence, he was a solid player. Having lost the job from Wagner, he's lost his confidence and has been awful. Not looking for his shot, like you mentioned, not getting blocks at the rate he did last year, his rebounding rates are down (13 percent DREBs last year to 10 this year).
And stats aside, he's had so many plays where his head wasn't in it. This gif here he lazily gets back to his man instead of jumping in front to stop the cut or box out. He just watches the guy shoot the three while his man blows past him to get rebounding position.
to the nuts with Donnal is that he's the only big JB trusts to bring off the bench. At this point Donnal is just a body to give Moe or Wilson some rest. He unfortunately doesn't bring much else to the table right now. Add to the fact that Simpson is pretty similiar to Donnal - he doesn't bring much to the table right now other than being a body to give one of the guards some rest, and UM is left with virtually no productive players off the bench other than Robinson.
As suggested, if they win all 5 road games you can book their tournament spot, short of getting to 9-9, I don't see it happening.
I do not understand how DJ repeatedly got wrecked by a chubby 6'4 guy.
he has the 7th best 2pt percentage in the big. He's uncanny down there. Some guys are really crafty down low and that chub helps get position and clear space. I did hope DJ would be able to use his height better but Tate plays a lot taller than he is.
Yeah, I understood last year when even as a freshman he wrecked Irvin. But DJ is 6'10 with long arms, good hops, and he's pretty thick himself.
See: Charles Barkley. Some guys with that frame just have "it".
ORtg is an estimate of how many points a player scores per 100 possessions. DRtg is an estimate of how many they give up. I calculated the net Rtg for the top 10 rotation players (ORtg-DRtg.) Fascinating results:
DJ Wilson +28.4
Derrick Walton +21.8
Moe Wagner +21.4
Duncan Robinson +13.7
Jon Teske +12.9
Zak Irvin -2.7
Xavier Simpson -5.6
Ibi Watson -33.5
I've bolded the problem.
Just one or two recruiting wins could have made such a difference this year. This team might be much better with Tyus Battle or Luke Kennard in the fold.
Teske has only played 10 minutes in 10 Big 10 games. I would like to see him get more minutes going forward. Ibi has gotten 9 minutes in conference games. X is starting to play better to my eye, but you are right, we've basically gotten zero out of the freshmen this season.
TJ Leaf - 6'10
17.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg. 64% FG%. 46% 3 pt.
As a freshman... not from an inner city.
Vs Auston Davis.
^ This. Kennard would have been huge. He was the missed recruit that really stung. IIRC Beilein began recruiting him as a freshman. He was Michigan forever until the Dukies came it at the relative last minute to swoop him away. I'd like to see JB win a big recruiting battle again (like Mitch's).
It looks like the only variation here is based on Ortg, and that you've subtracted the team Drtg (or Drtg that are very tightly packed). In any case, the estimates for Drtg are cetainly not good estimates.
So yes, Donnal, who has the best Ortg on the team (by a wide margin), would look good when true defensive impact isn't taken into account.
Even his Ortg doesn't really help the team that much because he's low usage and only takes shots when they're high percentage. You'd have to weight that by usage for it mean much anyway. Zak has been pretty brutal for sure, but he gets stuck with a lot of late clock situations that hurts his Ortg. He plays good defense too which isn't correctly being reflected here.
I took it from the sports-reference website. It does vary a little from player to player. X appears to be our best defensive player. I think he was the only one with a DRtg < 100. It may be that Irvin is asked to guard the best player on the other team and Donnal is guarding a schlub. I don't know if they correct for that.
Donnal's ORtg doesn't help at all because of his low usage. I guess what I'm getting at is that we should be encouraging the better ORtg players (Duncan, DJ, Derrick, and heck, even Donnal) to stop deferring to Irvin. Beilein's sets take so long to get an open shot, I'd rather see them run more and play more pick-and-roll basketball (except for Irvin with Moe/Donnal, which often leads to a poor pass and a turnover.)
They take the team Drtg and modify it slightly by player based on his block and steal rates. Since X has a crazy high steal rate thanks to feasting on Maryland Eastern Shore and Central Arkansas, he has the best Drtg based on this formula.
It's a total garbage stat in terms of being able to determine actual defensive value and the variance is tiny. Donnal and Robinson would score a lot worse than they do here and Irvin and DJ would score a lot better if it was actually reflective of defensive value. You really have to chart plays to get an idea on that end of the floor. There aren't counting stats that reflect defense well enough.
And to your point about the better offensive players. DJ and especially Donnal and Robinson have high Ortg because they have the luxury of basically only taking wide open shots that are created for them by the offense or by another player. They can't just increase their usage within the flow of the offense. Zak is a terrible creator, but we don't have any one that can make anything happen when the offense breaks down and fails to get one of the aforementioned guys a shot.
Interesting, though I think there's some extrapolation problems. Well, clearly there's extrapolation problems with Donnal. Donnal is basically playing very limited minutes and his shooting percentage is super high because he's not taking anything that's not a super high percentage shot. However, the fact that he's being used over Mo for defense is supported here.