just what the Pistons need: a third string center. Joe Dumars was replaced by a mean ol' alien a few years back you guys.
Death From Above: At Akron State
|WHAT||Michigan at North Korea DPR|
|WHERE||Value City Sellout Arena, Columbus, OH|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||OSU -17 (Kenpom)|
Hmmm. This isn't good. Ohio State is #1 in the Kenpom rankings and not far off with squishy hoo-man voters. Their tempo free individual stats are pretty terrifying.
At the top of the heap is post Jared Sullinger, who is…
- shooting 61% from 2 on 26% of OSU shots
- in the top 100 in eFG%
- getting to the line more than five times per game
- rebounding almost 30% of opponent misses, fourth nationally
- not turning the ball over much
- getting a good number of blocks and steals
/shakes fist at NBA lockout. Okay, right, obvious high lottery pick on the other team. Super. Good thing they don't have…
Oh, right, they do. Seconday scoring comes from senior William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas, both of whom absorb about as many of OSU's shots as Sullinger does. Thomas is actually better than Sullinger on twos (62%, 34% from 3) and almost as efficient overall; Buford has a been a little erratic but still bests Michigan's high usage players in ORtg. While Ohio State puts up very few threes (26%, 317th), if one is going up chances are its one of these two dudes launching it. Buford's hitting 39%. You can't leave these guys alone on the perimeter but neither are you asking for it, Diebler-style.
OSU plays four out, one in most of the time and Buford has to pick up a lot of the defensive rebounding; Thomas and Sullinger crash the boards on offense (along with Sullinger vacuuming up all those opponent misses).
The fourth guy on offense is PG Aaron Craft, a sophomore whose main role is setting up everyone else; his assist rate of 27 is the highest on the team amongst players who see a bunch of time. He doesn't shoot much but is efficient (53% on twos, high free throw rate) when he does. He can be prodded into the occasional three.
Where Craft thrives is on defense. He's by far the Big Ten's best at stealing the ball and his high-pressure defense starts opposing offenses in a hole even when he's not shooting down court for an easy bucket.
Past the big four it's a large array of young role-players. Guard Lenzelle Smith is the only other Buckeye to average over half of available minutes; he is an extremely low-usage player who rebounds, steals, and occasionally snipes from deep. Oddly, his FT% is exactly the same as his three-point percentage: 49%. Low sample size and all, but weird.
OSU only played three top 100 Kenpom teams in the nonconference schedule, beating #13 Florida by 7, crushing Duke by 22 in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and losing by 11 at Kansas in a game Jared Sullinger missed. They also beat SEC opponent South Carolina by eight; Not That USC also has losses against Elon and Tennessee State. So… yeah. Not good.
OSU's Big Ten schedule has been by far the easiest in the conference to date. Opponents are winning at a 39% clip in games not against Ohio State. The next softest schedules belong to Illinois and PSU at 45%; Michigan opponents are at 48%. This might make you feel a bit better if Ohio State hadn't annihilated all six of their victims. I mean, yeesh:
- Northwestern: W 87-54
- Nebraska: W 71-40
- @ Iowa: W 76-47
- Indiana: W 80-63
- @ Nebraska: W 79-45
- PSU: W 78-54
Their two losses in conference are by four at Indiana and by five at Illinois during the Chris Paul supernova; at home they are winning their Big Ten games by an average of 29 points.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||53.8 26||44.6 36||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 16||26.7 5||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||34.9 91||23.6 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||37.5 146||29.1 31||36.5|
Er. That adds up to the country's top defense, something you probably could have extrapolated from the Big Ten scores above, and the #14 offense. Other notable tempo free numbers are a high pace for the Big Ten and a huge quantity of twos launched.
Um, so, like… you can… No, probably not.
Maybe try to… Not likely, that.
If you move it like this and shake it like so and squint really hard? Still kind of seems like a ten point loss even then.
Drat. You said it.
Get insanely hot from three. Hey, maybe. If the random number generators fall right and a bunch of jacked-up three-pointers are dropping, Michigan can stay in contact. Michigan kept it close in a four-point loss at Crisler last year by going 11 of 24 from deep.
Convince Big Ten refs to put two early fouls on Sullinger in a home game. That's the ticket! While you're at it, I would like three on Buford and a pony. A pony made of lemon ice cream.
Make Tim Hardaway a superior defender. THE State University of South of Michigan's two primary non-Sullinger scorers are 6'6" and 6'7" athletes. Stu Douglass will draw one, leaving the other to either Novak or Hardaway. Neither of those seem like a good matchup, but Hardaway is a match for either in terms of length and jumping. Zack "I'm not a very good athlete" Novak may end up repeatedly bashing one in the head until he's ejected.
Unfortunately, Hardaway's athleticism hasn't made him a good defender so far in his career. If he doesn't get lit up 1) I'll be surprised and 2) Michigan will be a lot closer to winning.
Maybe zone? The closest thing to an Achilles heel OSU has is their outside shooting. If a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone can cut off supply to Sullinger and befuddle Thomas, I'll take the tradeoff given OSU's blistering shooting inside. Luke Winn's latest power rankings* (which are excessively bullish on Michigan) reveal a surprising fact:
This year's Wolverines are heavily man-to-man, though, playing 87.9 percent of their possessions in man according to Synergy.
What's curious is that, in a small sample, Michigan's defense has been much better this year in zone, holding opponents to 0.667 PPP using a combination of 2-3 and 1-3-1, as opposed to 0.856 PPP in man. Beilein seems to be employing the zones as a very effective changeup, in groups of just a few possessions at a time.
If you had asked me about that I would have assumed those numbers were reversed because it seems like going to the 1-3-1 ends up in a dunk or an uncontested corner three most of the time.
They aren't, though, and if Michigan can't match up on OSU's main perimeter scorers maybe they should pack the post with a zone and live and die by OSU three point shooting. This might be the ticket according to Eleven Warriors:
The mixed bag of Buford’s inconsistency to date and the lack of a consistent three point threat to complement Buford on the perimeter and give Sullinger and Thomas more room to operate will most likely be to blame if the Buckeyes fall short of the Final Four.
*[Which also contain a factoid that reinforces my dislike for those long Hardaway two pointers via the lens of Michigan State:
As a team, 26.2 percent of Michigan State's jumpers fell into the Long Two category, and the team converted them at a clip of just 0.682 PPP. This wasn't the only reason the Spartans' offense ranked 62nd in the country in 2010-11, but it was part of it.
This season, the Spartans are being much smarter about their jump-shot selection: Just 17.3 percent of their jumpers are Long Twos. Their two-point field goal percentage has jumped from 46.7 percent last season to 52.9 percent now, and their offense ranks ninth nationally in efficiency.
Death to the long two.]
Watch your pockets, Trey Burke. Maybe get a fanny pack or something for your passport. Burke had one of his poorer performances of the year against lightning-quick Lewis Jackson last time out and now faces a guy who inverts the danger to defense. Free transition buckets are not points Michigan can afford to give up at OSU, and getting into the offense efficiently will be required if Michigan's also-very-good two point shooting is going to keep pace.
Beast up, Morgan. Morgan has been a critical component of Michigan's offense in spurts against Arkansas and Purdue. Unfortunately, he has struggled against Sullinger, averaging just over five points in three meetings last year and getting destroyed on the boards. Sullinger had thirteen offensive rebounds in Michigan games last year to Morgan's three.
Closing that performance gap somewhat is feasible.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
OSU by double digits. It seems like there's going to be a horrible run by OSU at some point, whether it's the first five minutes or ten minutes into the second half.