...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Remaining Games Chart:
Since the last time I've modified the chart a bit so instead of a non-sensical number average, "Difficulty" is now on a log scale of 1 to 10 of the KenPom/RPI average weighted by site of game.
|23||#South Dakota St.||5||103||75||71-56|
Well, Here We Are
Not surprisingly, the most difficult game by the numbers comes last. Michigan displaced the previous #1 KenPom team convincingly and is rewarded by playing the new #1 for the championship.
The good news is that these rankings and statistics are a formality at this point. The game is a one-off, winner-take-all, who is hot on the right night, who gets the 50/50 call, who can make the shots. Michigan has been in every single game this season except for one and the circumstances leading up to that game are not what we have here tonight.
NCAA Tourney Run vs B1G Gauntlet
If you laid out Michigan’s tournament games from the Sweet 16 to the Championship you would see before you, at least according to KenPom, an unrivaled task of difficulty – four consecutive top 10 opponents, with lots of travel and not much time to prepare.
Michigan, incredibly, has already run an equally challenging gauntlet earlier this year. There are no advanced statistics that can measure what kind of benefit of experience a team takes away from playing the top four teams consecutively (three on the road) in a nine day span; but it is safe to say that these are the kinds of things that either make you or break you. Regardless of outcome Monday night the answer is already clear.
February 2nd – 12th
March 29th – April 8th
As painful as it was to watch, can you draw up a tougher cluster of regular season games with which to teach and prepare this extremely young Michigan team?
- Without Burke, could Michigan have rallied vs Kansas?
- Without Hardaway pouring in 21 points on 5 of 7 three point shooting in a fifteen point victory, does Michigan have what it takes to beat South Dakota St?
- Without Stauskas firebombing Florida, do the Gators keep it close and have a shot to win?
- Without Robinson III's offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding does Michigan sputter in any of its tournament matchups, particularly Syracuse or SDSt?
- Without McGary becoming a world beater, doesn't Michigan suffer an inevitable "Wisconsin"-style loss to Syracuse or get blown out by Kansas or get upset by VCU?
- Without Albrecht becoming the most eligible bachelor and putting together a tournament highlight reel all his own, does Burke get worn down to the point Michigan exits early?
- Without LeVert making two critical three pointers and playing a terrific defensive game, does Michigan have what it takes to outlast Syracuse?
- Without Jordan Morgan "getting stops", does Michigan make it to the Championship game?
The best part of this run has been every rotation player has made plays crucial to the success of the whole team. As much as I thought the team's success would be utterly reliant on Trey Burke's performance, as went he so would the team's fate. Now vs Kansas this was true. But against South Dakota St and Syracuse in particular this was very much not the case. As a whole, the team has exceeded wildest expectations.
The Path To 32:
At Christmas I had seen this team play three games out in New York, I knew they were special. Now to climb to the top of the mountain we can throw out all the numbers, forget all the statistics, take our own time-out and appreciate how awesome this team is. The most difficult game of the season is the last. There is no tomorrow, but there is no fear.
(Photo from UMHoops)
Remaining Games Chart:Difficulty calculated by averaging rankings and weighting for home/road/neutral game sites.
- MSU and Ohio are teams of indistinguishable difficulty albeit different playstyles. B1G is just brutal this year.
- Worst major conference record of a team that still made the NCAA tournament was 7-9. Illinois (3-7) has a good shot at breaking that record.
- Still have no clue what to make of upcoming series against MSU, hope for a split I think.
- Pitt and Arkansas both had big wins that don't so much help Michigan's SoS as it does help Michigan by keeping the 1-seed line a little bit more accessible.
- Michigan has 4 "tough" and 4 "winnable" games remaining.
- Upcoming Penn State games will be a welcome breather, should be able to get the team well rested for a strong homestand finish against MSU and Indiana.
- Michigan has the "best" losses among all of the top-10 teams in the country.
Path to B1G Conference Title:
- Beat Wisconsin.
- It's tough to envision a scenario given road game difficulty that doesn't land Indiana, MSU and Ohio all at 4 losses a piece.
- A big key will be getting Morgan healthy and back into game speed over the Penn State stretch.
- My earlier prediction was any team finishing 15-3 wins outright, 14-4 gives a shot at a split. This still looks to be precisely the case past the halfway mark in conference play.
- All of the top five teams in the conference are in the conference title race, it's any of those teams' to win.
- Beat Wisconsin. It will effectively knock them out of contention.
Special Feature - Path To The Most Wins In Michigan BB History:
In 1989 Michigan won 30 games en route to a National Title. In 1993 Michigan won 31 games (but later vacated the season).
Michigan sits at 21 victories with 8 regular season games remaining, a conference tournament that didn't exist twenty years ago, and a shot at a favorable seed for a deep NCAA run.
I'll let someone else run the win probabilities but eyeballing from the chart above Michigan can safely assume a worst case of 4-4 to end the year. They would then need to reach the BTT finals and the Elite 8 to tie for their best (non-vacated) win total in history. This is remarkably within reach.
If we assume a bit more optimism that Michigan will go .500 in their "tough" games and they finish out the season 6-2 they'll reach 27-4 and a shot at Michigan Basketball History will be well within reach.
The thing to take away from this Michigan team, about to face two more Big Ten contenders on the road, is that Michigan's only losses have come from the absolute best games from Top-10 rival teams on the road. And they kept it close both games despite absorbing (or allowing depending on your opinion) ridiculous runs to start each game.
Does Wisconsin (yielded 1.2ppp against Creighton and Florida) have an elite defender like Craft or Oladipo that can force Burke into an inefficient day? I personally don't think so.
I think Michigan wins for the first time in fourteen years up in Madison and carries the #1 ranking up into East Lansing playing with house money for the B1G Conference Title and a shot at their best season ever.
CHART - Remaining basketball games schedule:
- Wisconsin and NC State climb up.
- Illinois tumbles.
- Jury is still out on MSU but will know significantly more in next two weeks.
- Michigan has now played 4 of their hardest 10 games.
- Penn St be bad.
- Adidas jerseys are worse.
Path to B1G Conference Title:
- Michigan will not play another team with as much raw athleticism as Minnesota in the regular season (Indiana is probably more talented but not bouncier).
- Finish 6-3 or better on the road. To do that, Michigan must win @Illinois, @Purdue, and @Penn St. Then they have to take one of three from @Indiana, @MSU, @Wisconsin. That seems doable.
- Run the table at home or maybe just one loss.
- I think it's still easier for Wisconsin to get four losses than Indiana at this point, so the Badger's road win there will definitely have been a major deciding factor at the end of the year.
- My prediction is any team finishing 15-3 wins outright, 14-4 gives a shot at a split. I don't think Indiana will lose 4 more games in the conference so I disagree with the idea that 13-5 multi-way title will happen again.
Merry Christmas, MGoBloggers! Here’s something to keep the basketball fanatic in you warm and cozy until the Wolverines demolish the Chippewas on the 29th.
Living in Brooklyn, I’ve had the good fortune to watch Michigan handle Pitt, K-State and West Virginia in person this year. All three games Michigan looked composed and took care of business emphatically. Even when trailing Pitt by eight in the first half, it never felt like the game was getting away.
Coincidentally, the last time I saw Michigan play a basketball game in person? April 5th, 1993.
For me there is no question, this year’s squad is as fun to watch as the Fab Five was.
First, below is a breakdown of this year’s schedule and difficulty by game. What I’ve done is a Nate Silver style of measuring a team’s rank by averaging their current KenPom and RPI ranking then we can make eyeball adjustments for how tough a game will be based on home or away. I included Michigan on the chart just for comparisons sake. Feel free to print it out and pencil it in the rest of the way.
Despite playing a non-conference schedule that featured wins against five teams from power-conferences, the bulk of Michigan’s difficult games lie ahead. I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that the B1G regular season championship will be won or lost against the cadre of nearly indistinguishably ranked teams Illinois, MSU, and Ohio.
RPI and KenPom disagree a lot on the caliber of team Pitt is. When Cincinnati comes calling on New Year’s Eve we’ll learn a lot more. There is an undeniable dropoff in competition level going from Pittsburgh
Conference play can be penciled in with nine should-wins and likely-wins to go along with four or five lean-win and toss-up. You could make an argument that @Indiana or @OSU is lean-loss but beyond that it’s a stretch. The fact that you cannot point to a game remaining on the schedule and say “guaranteed loss” should be all you need to know about where expectations are.
That said, Iowa is highly rated and flying under the radar, and we should hope that Michigan doesn’t suffer its annual inexplicable loss to the Hawkeyes.
Interestingly, a number one rating could be on the line January 13th when the pride of Columbus returns home to take on the Buckeyes given that Duke travels away from home to play NC State the day prior.
Comparisons to 2011-12 Michigan Team
Michigan’s NCSoS was #187 last year according to KenPom and #192 this year so against a very similarly grading set of opponents Michigan is vastly outperforming what they did a year ago.
Last season Michigan broke 1.2PPP five times all year. Michigan already has seven games at or above through twelve games this season.
* 2012-13: 1.23ppp (3rd)
* 2011-12 (non-conference): 1.10ppp
* 2011-12 1.07ppp (60th)
Michigan 2012-13 36.9% 69th
Michigan 2011-12 28.0% 285th
It’s as if Zack Novak grew six inches and doubled his motor.
3Pt% (Thank you Nik Stauskas)
Michigan 2012-13 41.1% 7th
Michigan 2011-12 35.0% 135th
Things Michigan Lead The Conference In 2011 (First or Second):
- 3-Pt Baskets Attempted
Things Michigan Leads The Conference in 2012 (First or Second):
- Win %
- Field Goals Made
- Free Throw %
- 3-Pt FG %
- Effective FG %
- Defensive Rebound %
- Assist To Turnover Ratio
- Turnovers Per Game
- Fouls Per Game
To review, these stats all demonstrate a meteoric rise in nearly all major offensive categories. It's just plain filthy.
It is the responsibility of John Beilein, Trey Burke, and Tim Hardaway Jr. to keep the team focused night in and night out and to not overlook any game on the schedule. It is our job as overzealous bloggers and sports fans to do what they cannot. Sorry, pet peeve.
Read the following two statements. Afterwards, select which should be spoken by Michigan’s Mens Basketball Head Coach and which is appropriate only to be posted on a Michigan sports fan blog post.
Statement #1: Central Michigan has a tremendous basketball team with a lot of talent. They play with a lot of poise and can give you a lot of different looks that our guys are going to have to be careful with. We have to be patient and play within ourselves and continue to go out every night and work to be the best basketball team we can be and let the rankings fall where they may at the end of the year.
Statement #2: Iowa looks like it could be a sleeper but that game’s at home so we’re looking at 16-0 going into Columbus to play for Michigan’s best start in school history which, like, awesome. A win in that game and then you start to play connect-the-dots on how does Michigan win the B1G regular season title and see if the Wolverines can’t hold onto a #1 seed going into the tourney.
New Years Resolutions (a.k.a. Michigan will win the B1G / go to the Final Four if…)
In order of importance…
5. Caris LaVert realizes his upside as a lockdown defender and can be a solid contributor on offense. To me this is the biggest unknown remaining for Michigan this year. He is a lanky guard who, at a glance, has the potential to be an impact player. The ten minutes of playing time per game may not seem like much but when you consider that it’s either him or a struggling Vogrich or an Akunne (see: NC State) you begin to realize just how important his role is for every game and why after that N.C. State Beilein burned his redshirt.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to clean the defensive glass all year long. Hardaway has found where he shines, using a size advantage at the guard position to dominate defensive rebounds. The equation from there is simple – grab the rebound and then out-athlete the other team down the floor in transition. He has always been twice the player when focused and he has maintained it in laser-like fashion through the non-conference slate. Not being called upon to carry the load scoring or creating on the offensive end actually enables him to do both better. Hoping for a streaky Hardaway to get hot from three is a recipe for losses when the random number generator doesn’t fall kindly. What he’s done so far looks to be very much repeatable.
3. Mitch McGary continues to average 1 point and 1 rebound per two minutes of playing time and avoids foul trouble to see his minutes rise into the 25 minute per game range. When he is on, he seems to be involved in every play on both ends of the floor. The amount of upside potential that he can reach by March (avoiding fouls and getting into “playoff” conditioning form) will be tantamount to any legitimate Final Four run. There will be at least one key game where Michigan will need McGary to take over.
2. Nik Stauskas shoots north of 50% and close to an unworldly ~60% from downtown. The Maple Leaf Mamba’s scoring will be the difference-maker in a handful of very competitive games this year. Almost as important is the effect his scoring has on players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. – defenses are faced with a catch-22: sag off of Stauskas or defend him close, giving Michigan’s backcourt room to drive.
1. Trey Burke stays healthy, rested, and focused. There is no understating the team will go as far as Burke takes them. It was true last year and anyone watching saw him run out of steam after playing all fourty-five minutes of a B1G conference tournament game versus Minnesota. In Michigan’s final two losses following that the team averaged 0.93 PPP and Burke shot 6 of 26 (2-16 3PT). This year, all signs are pointing to Burke feeling fresher and his body responding better to the rigors and the pacing of the season. The B1G conference play is sure to challenge that, but he has more scoring options to distribute to.
This team is fun to watch and at the holiday break is empirically at better odds to reach a Final Four than any Michigan team in decades. Catch them in action if you can because you never know when, as fans, we'll have this chance again.
See you in 2013.
See you in Atlanta.
It's a 3 or a 4. Here's how it breaks down.
Unless craziness happens, Baylor and Marquette have 3-seeds locked down. Here are the remaining teams competing for the last two slots. Stats according to CBS. In no particular order:
Remember UConn last year shot up all the way to a 3-seed with their Big East tournament run. Louisville, despite finishing the regular season slow, has the opportunity to do similar here. FSU, if they were to beat Duke and UNC on back to back nights, would have a case for themselves as well. Georgetown's numbers are very similar to Michigan's and both had rather ignominous conference tournament exits. At this point, it seems unlikely that either Indiana or Wisconsin would pass Michigan on the NCAA S-Curve, but crazier things have happened.
Tomorrow you are rooting for North Carolina to crush Florida State and eliminate one of the contenders. It'd be nice if Cincinnati won tonight, but it does not appear that is going to happen, so we're stuck with Louisville for the time being. In the most likely scenario it comes down to Georgetown vs Michigan for the last 3-seed, and we're splitting hairs at that point so it's guess work as to what the selection committee will decide.
Fortunately, there have been a lot of upsets in the mid-major conference tournaments and the overall competitiveness of the 13 and lower seeds has seen a significant drop in the last week.
Here are the teams that are likely to be 13 and 14 seeds (Michigan's likeliest opening round opponents, in no particular order):
|Long Beach St||13||38||122|
|New Mexico St||13||64||116|
|South Dakota St||13||45||184|
Long Beach St would be the worst draw here, and I'm hoping they move up in the S-Curve to a 12 seed or better. They beat Xavier and Pittsburgh and they lost by single digits in road games vs UNC, Kansas and Louisville (i.e. they can play with anyone).
South Dakota St's best wins come over Oral Roberts and Washington. Common opponents they split their season series with Oakland and lost to Minnesota by 16.
Colorado has a bunch of Pac-12 wins and not much else to speak of. They lost OOC to Wichita St, Colorado St, and Maryland. They are not a good team on paper but someone had to win the P12 Tournament!
New Mexico St managed to beat New Mexico on the road and that is it on their list of impressive games.
Belmont is another scary draw. Their wins this year aren't flashy but they took Duke to the wire, losing by 1 point at Cameron. They also lost on the road to Memphis.
Montana has an impressive win streak going but they have played the weakest schedule of this pack of teams. Their best win came over Long Beach St at home.
Ohio who nipped Akron for the MAC title, wouldn't it be fun to draw this team in the first round. What would we chant? Ohio (not THAT ohio) has no real impressive wins to speak of and didn't play a grueling schedule. Their best "win" was a 5 point loss at Louisville back at the start of the season.
Davidson's results read something like, boring boring boring, WTF-beat-Kansas, boring boring boring. They beat Kansas on the road by 6 back in December. Their other 4 games vs respectable tournament quality opponents were all losses.
Cackle With Knowing Glee: New Mexico St, South Dakota St, Colorado, Montana, or Ohio
Worry If: Belmont, Davidson, or Long Beach St (or whomever Long Beach Supplants from the 12-line).
Good night and see you after the selection show tomorrow.
TLDR: The three seed is currently a coin flip. We have a really good chance to have a team we should throttle in the opening round.
Three weeks ago we predicted the MSU yardage exactly and modeled the score very closely for what would have been in a turnover neutral game. Two weeks ago vs Iowa we had this:
Dear god, help us.
It's about time for our defense to turn in a performance that exceeds expectations, and when these are your expectations one can only pray that they are exceeded.
If they are, Michigan might have a shot in this game - but only if our offense actually puts together a real game when it counts in the Big Ten.
Iowa did gain fewer yards than predicted, thank god. I feel like this was mostly due to conservative play-calling on Iowa's part. It was clear that when they desired greatly to move the ball, they were able to pull out the stops and march down with little resistance. But their coaches saw a path to victory that involved simply out-executing and took it.
- Turnovers killed.
- If turnovers didn't kill, special teams and penalties killed.
- The defense held Iowa to less yardage than expected but that could possibly be due to Iowa's average field position (40 yard line anyone?), our turnovers, and conservative play-calling from Iowa once they had a huge lead.
Enough emotional prognosticating, here be the numbers:
Chart of Expectations (through 7 games)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings.
Usage: The chart doesn't predict that #3 would beat #5. Instead it tries to predict with the most accuracy how many points/yards on average each of these teams would score against a common opponent.
Surprisingly boring results after a bye week.
- We have yet to play the best two N-PPG offenses we will face this year.
- Our other three games are against three of the bottom half, including arguably the two worst.
- I really hope that at some point we start converting the yardage gained disparity into the points column.
- But it could mean that we just have awful special teams and killer mistakes that make us have to move the ball a lot farther for every point we get.
- But at least we're moving the ball!
- All of our wins are looking cheaper by the week:
- Indiana is tied for last in the Big Ten.
- BGSU is last place in the MAC.
- UConn is last place in the Big East.
- UMass got rolled twice by some terrible Colonial teams.
- Notre Dame got blown out by Navy.
Conclusions Based on Saddening Data
What a big, big opportunity for the Maize and Blue this weekend. Penn State took a gracious Minnesota team to bring up it's averages (Minnesota fwiw would be a 22.1 NPPG team and 351 NYPG on the chart - better than BGSU, worse than UConn).
The yardage doesn't lie, Michigan has a potent - albeit highly volatile - offense. And the fact that the team has an great opportunity to improve from last years mark with a defense that's the worst we've ever seen is very encouraging if you believe that defense will eventually get better.
Michigan's new best-case scenario (Michigan offense operates at or near 100% N-PPG and opponents score 125%) in the Big Ten is 4-4. That means the next three games are must win to stay at .500 in Big Ten Play.
In a worst-case scenario our only remaining win is Purdue.
Our new outlook ranges between 6-6 and 8-4!
Prediction for Penn St:
Based strictly on the numbers:
|Team||PPG vs Mich||YPG vs Mich|
Penn State 24