"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Talking turkey (HA!) with The Key Play, a Virginia Tech blog of some renown.
It looks like VT's vaunted special teams are mediocre or worse this year. What's with the net punting under 34 yards? Blocks, fumbles, a bad punter? Has VT made its usual complement of the gamechanging special teams plays that might not show up in the conventional numbers?
The starting punter going into the season, Scott Demler, had a lower back injury from his freshman year in 2008 that compromised his leg strength. Beamer went with him early, but it became clear he could not do the job. Beamer turned to true freshman Michael Branthover who has tremendous leg strength, but is woefully inconsistent with his drop due to inexperience with two-step punting. When he became so erratic that it threatened to cost them games, Beamer turned to receiver Danny Coale, who has kicked much better, but it has limited his touches in the passing game.
The Hokies were blessed with an outstanding return game the last two seasons. Beamer decided to benefit from Hosley and Wilson as returners, and taking field position, rather than blocking kicks. This season, the Hokies have been poor with their blocking on kickoff returns, and teams have kicked away from Wilson to Tony Gregory, who is in replacing an injured Dyrell Roberts.
On the punt return, every team has rugby and directionally punted away from Hosley. It has neutralized any attempt to block kicks (although the Hokies got a hand on punt versus Clemson that the ACC officials said never happened), but the Hokies have often benefited from a short field.
David Wilson: scary dude. What are his strengths and weaknesses? If you had to compare him to a back familiar to Big Ten fans who would that be?
Wilson has Michael Bennett-like speed, he set all sorts of Tech records in the weight room, and is a very tough runner. At times, he looks to make the big play rather than the smart play. If you need three and he has a small hole, he will still look to bounce, causing a large number of plays that would result in first downs to go backwards. He doesn't have Ryan Williams's field vision, and he looks for lanes going towards the sideline, rather than finding the cutback lane. That running style has caused the Hokies to abandon much of their one-back zone plays. At the same time, the kid runs really hard, and can make chicken salad out of garbage.
How did Clemson hold Wilson to 36 yards on 11 carries in the championship game?
Simple. The Hokies could not run up the middle because the inside of the o-line was dominated, so much so that Clemson moved both of their safeties up like 3-4 outside linebackers. Aside from Logan Thomas on designed runs, the Hokies have found their success running outside. If you take that away, they have been hesitant to even try up the middle.
Thomas is not as natural of a runner as Newton, nor as quick. However, they have similar builds and Thomas is a much better thrower at this point in his career. When asked to, Logan is essentially the Hokies' power back. On third and short, he is getting the ball. I think the 32 yards per game is misleading. He was not used as much against weaker teams, and he has taken a bunch of sacks in close games. He has delivered a highlight-reel-worthy steamroll on at least one guy every game this year. (Here is much more on Thomas.)
How is the passing game? Who are the dangerous guys?
If Michigan plays cover 3 or soft man, they are screwed. The Hokies have struggled against effective press coverage. They run a ton of deep combo routes, and bubble screens. Other than the bubble screens, most of their patterns involve all the receivers going deep, so they take time to develop.
Chris Drager has been effective on short curl routes from the tight end spot. Jarrett Boykin tends to be effective on double move posts and deep curls, but even with humongous hands he is good for one drop a game. Danny Coale is an outstanding blocker, and has a knack for always getting open, but Logan Thomas can miss him while looking deep. Marcus Davis has the speed and jumping ability to be a tremendous deep threat, but he is a poor blocker and terrible route runner. DJ Coles is physical, outstanding at blocking and catching the ball on screens, and he probably is the best Hokie receiver running after the catch. His route running could be sharper. He was the Hokies' best player against Clemson in the ACC Championship.
Virginia Tech's had a weird season, blowing out a pretty decent Virginia team 38-0 and putting around that much on Miami and GT but struggling against some of the worst teams on the schedule in a 17-10 win against ECU and a 14-10 win against Duke. What's the deal with the offense? Is it really that schizophrenic?
I think the offense was erratic due to matchups. If the Hokies could not run outside the tackles, or if the opposing team took away short throws and could rush the passer, the Hokies struggled.
On defense, I'm sure we're going to see a lot of eight man fronts. How has VT done against spread option teams this year?
The defensive ends will crash on the dive, leaving Robinson one-on-one with either Kyle Fuller (right, #17) or Tariq Edwards. [ED: Edwards is a linebacker, Fuller a S/LB hybrid actually listed as a CB on the VT roster because he is basically a corner. Fuller may be the only corner to ever rack up 14.5 TFLs. VT's defense is weird and aggressive.]
The Hokies defense dominated the four offenses that played the same style as Michigan (Appy State, ECU, Marshall, and Arkansas State), but none have Michigan's talent.
Do you think VT will blitz Robinson or lay back for him to make a mistake? (I think I know the answer to this one, but...)
They will blitz him.
Who should Michigan look out for on defense? Who is your insane undersized pass rusher du jour?
Kyle Fuller is one of the best open field tacklers I have seen in college football. He started the season at corner opposite Jayron Hosley, but moved to Whip linebacker after starter Jeron Gouveia-Winslow was lost for the year and his backup Alonzo Tweedy suffered a high-ankle sprain/didn't play well. Senior corner Cris Hill comes off the bench to replace Fuller at corner. Expect a lot of "nickel personnel" out of our 4-3 looks and scheme. The Hokies will use robber coverage and show man to bait Robinson, then jump routes from zones.
Once the Hokies got into the meat of the ACC schedule, aside from UVa, they could not generate pass rush from just the front-four. Sophomore James Gayle was the guy most of us thought would be the next big time defensive end at Tech. He's an athletic freak and won the Excalibur Award, the highest honor in the Hokies' strength and conditioning program. He has 7 sacks in 12 games, but has been hobbled by a sprained left ankle since Miami.
What makes you nervous about the game? What gives you confidence?
A possible lack of focus makes me nervous, and if we were in the Orange Bowl, again, I'd be even more anxious. More often than not bowl games are won by the team who wants it more. Being that it's Michigan's first BCS game since the 2007 Rose Bowl, and they're coached by a new staff looking to make their mark, I have to believe they're going to be super focused. At least more than the team who has only missed out on the BCS once in the last five seasons.
What gives me a little confidence is that I'm wrong a lot. After getting crushed by Clemson, the Hokies thought they'd finish out the season against an irrelevant SEC team in the Peach Bowl. Ho-hum. Then the Sugar Bowl came along and raised them up. (I went there.) The players and coaches are extremely excited for the game and matchup. They have a real second chance, an opportunity to end the season on a big stage with a win against a ten win team.
I'll take the Hokies in a close game.
Does VT actually jingle keys? If so, can we start a movement to redirect the scorn Michigan gets for that activity to its proper place? Michigan used to but hasn't in five or so years.
"The Key Play.com" /coughs
I don't think I've ever heard any opposing fan in Lane, on the road, or in a bar hate on us for that. I guess they never get tired of saying, "go win a national championship." [ED: Why do we get so much guff for it, then?]
Have you been able to regain your focus for the bowl?
“Yeah, I think so. We’ve have five or six very spirited practices, and they haven’t been clumped together so much that the kids have gotten tired. We kind of have a philosophy with bowl practices that we’re not going to practice real long anyway, so yeah, I think they’re pretty good that way.”
You’ve talked about quarterbacks taking a year or so to be comfortable with your system. Was that last game with Denard as close as it’s going to get before next season?
“Yeah. He’s getting there. The last game -- the last couple games, really Illinois to a degree, too, other than a turnover or two … but yeah, I think he’s catching on. He’s doing pretty much what every quarterback I’ve had in the first year has done. He started a little slow. Again, I said this before, is our passing game is so different from what they’ve done. There were going to be pains because there always is. He’s starting to absorb the concepts and be able to understand what we want, and it’s showing up at the end more than it did earlier.”
Is there something specific you’re looking at with Denard in terms of development going into the bowl game?
“Same stuff as always. Fundamentals. Fundamentals and basic understanding of route structure, timing the routes, it’s always the same, and it’s always a work in progress in the first year, but we’re further -- much further now than we were when we started.”
(more after the jump)
The NCAA today stunned Ohio State University’s football program by banning it from postseason play after the 2012 season, multiple sources told The Dispatch.
The penalty means Ohio State automatically is out of the running for any bowl, or a Big Ten or national championship next year, just as newly appointed head coach Urban Meyer is wooing recruits to the Buckeyes.
Athletic Director Gene Smith said previously that while Ohio State has been declared a repeat violator that failed to properly monitor its football program, a bowl ban would be out of line with penalties handed to universities with similar violations.
In its ruling to be made public this afternoon, the NCAA Committee of Infractions will levy the bowl ban and two other penalties on top of the ones the university already imposed on itself, the sources said. The NCAA will:
* Strip four more football scholarships over the next three years on top of Ohio State’s prior forfeiture of five scholarships over that span.
* Add an additional year of probation to OSU’s self-imposed two-year probation for the football program, meaning any violations through the 2013 season could draw harsher-than-normal penalties.
I still think it's weak—what happened to the NCAA's two-eyes-for-an-eye policy?—but it's certainly something, something that OSU insiders have been confidently proclaiming would not happen because they were listening to OSU's idiot athletic director. Who is an idiot.
"Stunned." Yeah, I bet you're stunned. The Ohio State athletic department is also stunned that OSU boosters would want to give free things to football players. Other things that stun the OSU AD:
- The sun rising in the morning.
- Malcolm Gladwell drawing grand conclusions from tenuously connected, dubiously supported facts.
- Troy Woolfolk getting injured.
Ohio State won't win the Big Ten next year, either, Urban Meyer has just lied to a bunch of kids, and they will have a roster maximum of 82 for the next few years. I still think that roster maximum should be something like 79, but it could have gone worse.
Hoke pointing + Denard smiling == Christmas
WARNING: Christmas is approaching. You may already know this.
Since no one's going to be on the site anyway, this is an opportunity for the blog to take a little time off. The blog will be mostly dark from Thursday, the 22nd, to Thursday, the 29th. That means I'm not writing anything. I'll pop on enough to bump any diary that seems interesting enough, and it's possible some of the regular contributors might post something.
I wouldn't count on it. It's just that I don't run their lives and they might feel compelled to post something about, say, Eastern Michigan's season. I know that would be weird. This place is weird.
If something major breaks we'll cover it, but nothing major ever breaks over Christmas.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's contributed to the site over the year, especially those who do so out of the goodness of their heart and a craving for e-attention. Every football season I'm astounded at the quality of the user-generated content around these parts.
Six Zero, Boyz n da Pahokee, Maize_in_spartyland, Enjoy Life, Blue Seoul, AceUofMer, patstansik, Yesman2221, Eye of the Tiger, Ghost Of Bo, CRex, mfan_in_ohio, MaizeAndBlueWahoo, Lordfoul, ST3, mgoweather, LanyardProgram, chunkums, Chris of Dangerous Logic, that guy I photobombed who posted it on the message board, the hundreds of people I've undoubtedly forgotten in the diaries and the board, and even THE_KNOWLEDGE: thank you for helping this new media spectacularrr rumble along.
And most of all the moderators. Thank you, moderators. Without you, this place would be a desiccated horrorscape.
Anyway, content tomorrow and then the break. Merry holiday of choice.
JIM DELANY VS THE COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: FIGHT
Get the Picture unearths the reasons given by 100+ schools for overriding the $2k stipend recently adopted at the behest of the Big Ten and SEC. Two of them are BCS schools: Wake Forest and Rutgers. Rutgers manages to lose buckets of money, so that's obvious. Both schools bring up the Title IX implications as their reasoning, and even if I don't agree with how Title IX is implemented that's a federal mandate you can't get around. It's a legal concern.
Anyway, some of the reasons presented by smaller schools are valid:
The way this legislation was adopted was through channels intended for emergency or non-controversial issues. Neither applies in this case. [Miami (Not That Miami)]
Another reason for overriding this legislation should be the need to at least eliminate its application to FCS football. The football championship division exists because there are about 120 Division I institutions that sponsor football programs and choose to spend less on scholarships, coaching staffs, etc. than the Division I FBS members. Taking a stand against the Cost of Attendance, at least for FCS football, would be consistent with this philosophy. [Tennessee-Martin]
However, many are fist-shakingly cynical, totally oblivious, and/or as misspelled as this blog's "full cost of attedance [sic] scholarships" tag:
The insitution [sic] is not in a position to fund the additional costs associated with the miscellaneous expense. Many institutions are likely to be in the same position which would create a competitive advantage for those insitutions [sic] who had [sic] large budgets [Marshall]
Trying to legislate cost saving in other areas, while adding this potential hugh [sic] expense to institutions [Maryland-Baltimore County]
2011-96 provides an unfair disadvantage to smaller institutions that will struggle to find the funds necessary to provide the additional $2,000 to student-athletes. Some schools may only be able to provide these funds to their revenue producing sports by pulling money away from their other sports which could have a negative impact on the student-athletes involved in those sports. [Wright State]
"Unfair"? Unfair? IS THIS AMERICA OR NOT, YOU LILY-LIVERED PINKOS AT WRIGHT STATE? THIS IS CAPITALISM YO, SINK OR SWIM LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.
We are a "have-not." This rule benefits the Division I "haves" and would widen the chasm between "BCS" schools and non BCS schools. [Southeastern Louisiana]
Southeastern Louisiana's 2010 athletic department budget shows about 2.5 million in actual money taken in*, almost half of which consists of NCAA distributions from basketball tournament revenue and guarantee games from bigger schools. They should take their 1.1 million a year and say "yes, sir" if they want to keep up the fiction they are capable of competing as a Division I school.
*[They claim 10m in revenues with 6.9 million of that "direct institutional support" and 660k in "indirect facilities and administrative support." Also who knows what the 260k listed as "other" consists of.]
The Board of Directors passed this legislation that will cost 75% of the membership millions of dollars they don’t have. In addition to the obvious costs there are gender-equity implications of this initiative that make the costs even higher. It's not realistic to maintain that this legislation is permissive and not acknowledge the costs it will create because of competitive equity. [Tennessee-Martin]
In 2006, Tennessee-Martin's annual budget for men's basketball was $134,264, 331st of 331 teams then competing in D-I. (Since then 14 additional schools have decided to add basketball programs.) They are making same argument NBA owners make when they demand CBAs that prevent them from throwing outrageous contracts at bad players.
And then there's this from Tennessee Tech:
I want to share a very supportive and knowledgeable university professor's view of this change in legislation. He writes "Perhaps my biggest grievance is the apparent insensitivity and bad timing involved. It seems most dubious to give some student athletes what amounts to "tattoo money" at a time when far too many others are unable to put food on the table, and the institutions themselves are almost all facing choices among various undesirable options.
I'm not sure whether to high five the guy for calling the stipend "tattoo money" or mock this tweed-jacket-with-elbow-patch-wearing pipe smoker for deploying "most dubious" and expecting people to take him seriously. We are not contemplating an invasion of the Hottentots. Your diction is invalid.
I've apparently gone with the mocking option. In retrospect, it was inevitable.
BONUS: A number of overrides have been submitted for the next proposal, 2011-97, which allows institutions to offer scholarships longer than a year. It's like Boise State just came to this planet:
When you combine 2001-97 [multi-year offers] with 2001-96 [FCOA] it creates a culture of brokering. For a prospective student-athlete, the decision as to where to attend college and participate in athletics is most likely the biggest decision they will make at that point in their lives. That tough decision becomes more complicated when the student and his/her family have to factor in what school "offers the best deal" versus where they may want to attend if all offers were for one year without the enticement of 2,000. [Boise State]
I don't even know where to start with this being portrayed as a negative. A "culture of brokering" sounds a lot like "the exact goal of the legislation."
The current system works. We don't need to get into bidding wars where one school offers a $75% for 2 years and the other school then offers 85% for 3, etc., etc. This puts the kid into a situation where they almost need an agent/advisor just to determine the best "deal." Again, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. [Indiana State]
The person who does this for Indiana State watches ice skating exhibitions on Saturdays instead of football. ISU also submitted overrides for every proposal that attempted to increase academic standards.
BTW, Rutgers also objects to this proposal making me think ill of their athletic department. Utah is the only other BCS school to submit an override (because the "Student-Athlete advisory council" is against it since "they feel it locks student-athletes in," which it doesn't, and "eliminates the potential for other athletes to receive aid," which it does by increasing degree completion rates).
With only 48 overrides in for 2011-97, it looks like multi-year grants will pass even if they open the schools up to a horrifying world wherein they have to compete in one of those market things. Commies.
For those tracking Denard's passing acumen the tale has been one of major progression before 2010, followed by regression in 2011 followed by re-progression as he a.) grew more comfortable in Borges's offense, b.) played more out of the shotgun, and c.) gave his staph infection time to heal.
If you were reading the weekly previews this season you would have noticed the space for Michigan's passing game was consistently fretting about Robinson's accuracy. This would be followed by a game with some flash of the laser precision he seemed to possess at times in 2010, followed by a bomb that overshot Hemingway/Roundtree by 20 yards. This was our concern. The more intelligent announcers talked about where his shoulders and toes were at their release, and Borges pressers reiterated the footwork theory.
Then sometime around Purdue-Iowa-Illinois, said all, 2010 Denard worked his way back. I'd like to use this space to test if that was really the case.
The Hennechart you know (screens and Snackycakes have been removed):
|2009||2009, All Of It||1||7||4||2||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
That's lots of numbers. The easy metric to break these down metric is Brian's Downfield Success Rating at the far right. That's Dead-Ons and Catchables divided by all the rest (marginals are excised). But a few years ago, while trying to get a handle on what we had in Forcier, a few users thought to visualize this. I try that now with Denard's career:
I centered in the middle of the marginals to show how good the very goods were and how bad the very bads got. You kind of have to look hard to see it, but there is a regression apparent. Denard seemed to level off in the Big Ten season last year to a good chunk of accurate balls, one or two bad reads, and as many inaccurate as were dead on. For a good part of this year it was that one temptress of a perfectly thrown ball, one to five bad reads, and almost as many balls to Tacopants as the vicinity of his receivers. By Ohio State, on pure downfield success rating, it was just outside the UFR-era hall of fame (on many fewer attempts):
FTR by this metric, the Michigan State game this year is 3rd all time in the hall of shame, better only than Sheridan in the Badge of Fandom Endurance game vs. Northwestern, and Threet versus Purdue. Sheridan being on both lists was one (happy) fluke between games his coaches hardly let him throw more than a screen for fear of triggering an early duck season. 2011 Denard's is the opposite: one bad game amidst a bunch that range between mediocre and okay. His games aren't in the Junior Henne/Early Forcier range; they are about on par with Big Ten Forcier as a freshman, and he's better than freshman Mallett. This is without the legs.
There was also wide variance in number of throws, partly due to game-planning, but also having a lot to do with Borges leaning somewhat more on the running game when Michigan led. Look at the paucity of passes for Michigan against Purdue and Illinois, versus huge stacks for MSU (look at their pressure metric!) and Iowa. The percentages chart below can adjust for that a bit:
Click it to embiggen. I took out a few more bad defenses to make that one if you're wondering why fewer bars. Also those marks are the rankings by FEI of that opponent's pass defense—the worst pass defense would be at the very bottom, the best at the very top. Take with a huge grain of salt since FEI's weird this year. (No way Iowa and Purdue have the same secondary, nor do I believe either are 40 spots worse than Minnesota). Anyway it shows the metric is at least defense-independent.
This one has the story we've been telling: 2010 was fairly static, while 2011 was a dropoff followed by progression in the new offense (and a stinker in a trash tornado in the middle). Denard also maybe scrambled a bit more at the end of the season (the white bars). Overall you'd almost expect the two years to be flipped, with the hard learning and scrambling a sophomore campaign and the leveling off near the peak of the previous year the work of an upperclassman. If you consider time in the system, it's more like the work of a redshirt freshman followed by a true freshman.
The reads are another thing that fixed over time (Nebraska's weekly BR looks bigger in a small sample). The % of bad reads this year all told took a rather scary dip from pushing Sr. Henne to Threet-ish:
I'm ready to believe this was related to the footwork thing. If the staph infection affected him, it couldn't be more than the beating he took last year blamed for the perceived reduction in Big Ten play. There is evidence of greater pressure—the 7 categorized "PR" in the MSU game is one fewer than Brian gave for all of 2010—and all that.
How much this regression "hurt" Michigan this season can be overstated. Using all plays charted in UFR, Denard averaged 6.93 yards per play, as opposed to the 7.25 yards per play in 2010. That's not about bad defenses; against real opponents Denard's 6.55 YPA is better than his 6.30 in 2010. This is a result of the long passes against Notre Dame (10.09 YPP – which is ridiculous), but if we normalize every play longer than that to a cap of 20 yards, this is what he looks like per passing attempt (2010 schedule futzed with to match comparable games):
|Notre Dame||6.00||Notre Dame||7.77|
|Penn State||6.29||SD State||5.88|
|Michigan State||6.10||Michigan State||3.17|
|Ohio State||???||Ohio State||7.35|
Including only non-theoretical defenses (No FCS, EMU, BG, Indiana, WMU, NW), and again, counting everything over 20 yards as 20, Denard was getting 6.47 yards per attempt last year, and got 5.96 per passing attempt this year. That's still good. And it's a good bet, with a second year fusing with Mr. Borges, the performance level he got back to from Iowa through Nebraska is conceivable for the bowl game and beyond. If he can somehow sustain what he did against Ohio State he would be inconceivable.
So I downloaded and scouted VT's game against Duke. Literally everybody I've told this has laughed about the depth of my obsession, but there are good reasons for this. They are:
- Duke runs a spread offense and even brings in an underclass athletic QB type from time to time, so this was a rare opportunity to see VT operate against a zone read.
- The game finished 14-10. How does a team only score 14 on Duke? \
- I could be reasonably assured this content would not overlap with that of BWS or Ace.
- Hey, man, ACC Network action. Can't pass that up.
I have completed this process and will now go through a series of bullet points organized into offense and defense; this is not a FFFF so a more formal treatment of what Virginia Tech does will have to wait for that.
Apologies in advance for the video quality; ACC cappers are not up to the high standards of MGoVideo. Also, this game was originally broadcast in something called "standard definition" because the ACC Network is actually run out of Estonia.
QB Logan Thomas: legs. Thomas is a tank engine, more in the Tebow (huge and slow) mold than Denard (small and fast) or Cam Newton (huge and fast). His advantage in the run game comes when he can thunder straight ahead, which came on an assortment of inverted veers. This is one half of the Logan Thomas run game:
That sort of bulldozer running has the potential to neutralize Michigan's excellent third and short defense. If you don't have to move off the line of scrimmage to get a 6'6", 250 pound guy moving forward, a yard seems assured.
On the other hand, he's no Denard in space. This scramble picks up a decent chunk of yards but just lacks… oomph. This is against Duke, mind you, and Thomas seems plain slow:
While that tank thing still sees him pick up nine yards it's hard to imagine him getting any more than nine. Later in the game he'd break outside the pocket and lumber for the same nine yards John Navarre would have gotten in that situation. He's not a Miller-like threat.
Excise sacks and Thomas has 500 or so yards at 4.3 YPC. He's someone you have to account for on the ground, but he's not going to blow up for 100 yards in the Sugar.
QB Logan Thomas: arm. After watching Posey run circles around the Michigan secondary, Thomas's primary asset—an excellent deep ball—is a worrying one.
But wait, there's more, in the form of a 60-yarder to Danny Coale that hits his WR in stride.
We'll see if his uncanny accuracy over the top was a one-game phenomenon or a consistent thing as more games are added to the dossier. Extremely rough survey says: somewhere in between. Thomas averaged 7.7 YPA this year, which is above average but not spectacular. And Virginia Tech's schedule was not a high mountain—if you think the Big Ten was bad this year (and it was), the ACC was probably worse and VT's toughest nonconference opponent was East Carolina. East Carolina is trying to get fans to buy "virtual bowl" tickets, which are like real bowl tickets except there's no football game and the school selling them actually ends up making money. So… yeah. Not a tough schedule.
Anyway, if Thomas's distressing tendency to drop inch-perfect balls over the top of the secondary is stressing you out, this should help things:
He also forces things into places they cannot go, and does so without any semblance of a rush in his face. This shouldn't be overstated. Thomas had just 9 interceptions on the season. Sometimes, though, he unleashes the dragon.
RB David Wilson. Scary dude. There is no obvious analogue that pops to mind, but if you're thinking Anthony Thomas or Chris Perry you're as close as Michigan backs can come. Perry's probably the best comparison since Wilson has better balance than Thomas. He's also got a wicked stiffarm.
Those quick cuts that juke charging defenders are a regular occurrence, and you can see the size/speed combo that Thomas lacks. He'll be a load on a few plays where he bursts into the secondary. Concede his 120 yards and hope it doesn't hit 150 and it takes 30 carries to get there.
Offensive line. I just don't know about these guys. On the one hand, Duke rarely got a pass rusher within ten feet of Thomas. On the other, Duke's defensive line seemed to hold up pretty well. After running up a bunch of yards but not many points in the first half, VT got stoned more often than not in the second half.
On this play Duke's DE dives inside and gets pancaked by the tackle because he is a Duke DE and not very good; also I think the VT tackles may be solid. A big play threatens after Thomas cuts past a contain guy, but watch the backside guard give a ton of room, allowing the backside DT to run down the line and ankle tackle:
That would have me throwing a –2 at that G, and this was not an isolated incident. They couldn't convert a third and short to save their lives in the second half.
As for the pass rush, yes, "just Duke" caveats apply. VT is heavily run slanted (59%) as well. Still, they gave up only 15 sacks on the year. I did not look at this game in sufficient detail to say exactly why that's the case because the just Duke effect is at its strongest here—they're 93rd in sacks and 110th in TFLs. But to hazard a guess I'd say the tackles are good pass protectors and that's enough when you're rarely giving anyone else reason to believe you'll pass.
Receiving corps. I did not get much of a vibe in this game. A half dozen or more of Thomas's attempts were screens (frequently bubbles) and underneath stuff was usually swarmed. Danny Coale* got open deep for the 60-yard bomb linked above and then disappeared; Jarrett Boykin the 32-yard reception and then averaged 6 yards a catch on five others because they were mostly screens and dink hitches. I plead not enough data.
One guy who did make an impression was TE/H-back Chris Drager, a James-Rogers-like vagabond who bounced to defense and back over the course of his career. He was no backup, though. Drager started all but one game last year at DE. By all rights this should have been a signal of disaster but Drager has amazingly good hands for a guy who spent the last two years playing D. He made a few tough catches; he'll be a priority when VT is trying to move the chains on third and medium.
VT's backup tight end is a mess.
This may be useful in third and not-sneakable and goal line situations.
*[Who VT folk say will be punting(!) in the Sugar Bowl due to a dearth of other options.]
Keys for Michigan
Get to Thomas. Durrr QB pressure good. Yes. This is analysis just one step above the "score more points" school of Keys to Victory.
Three things make it better here. Thomas is not that mobile and if flushed out of the pocket is going to get some number of yards under ten unless something seriously wrong has gone down. He has a long, long delivery, which makes that window when he's made up his mind and has the ball in a dangerous position invitingly open. The Bank of Logan Thomas's Chest has extended hours for helmet deposits. And if Thomas is left alone to survey deep, the results will be not so good.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to mobile QBs: contain (think Iowa vs M) and attack (think MSU). Thomas is a guy to attack. The consequences of providing a running lane are less scary than those of providing time to survey and the chances of success are relatively higher.
Exploit the interior OL. I am of the opinion they kind of suck. When VT sprung a big play it was usually on the linebackers and secondary being slow or befuddled; several times Duke players made block-beating plays to hold down Wilson runs.
Have a centerfielder. You have to see if you can defend the VT run game straight up because you probably can, and then you have to take away that deep middle stuff Thomas can nail. I don't know if this is Woolfolk or Gordon after what we saw against Ohio State—but it's probably Gordon.
Gratuitous Appreciation of Duke Safety
That is all. I just wanted more than six people to see that.
Nothing is more frustrating for a football fan (especially a math/logic centered one) than to see coaches blow basic strategy elements to the game, many of which are black and white. I can be forgiving on a lot. As a 100-and-nothing-pound Mathlete growing up, I knew I wouldn’t do any better out there on the field but I knew a lot of times I could do better at some of the basic decision making and strategy. Coaches learn a lot about football as they progress through careers, but game-theory type strategy seems to be a common blind spot for many coaches to gain the hidden advantage. Luckily Michigan has a coach that had a pretty sharp first year in this regard, hopefully all the other Zookers out there don’t read this (yeah right) and catch up.
Some of what follows will be backed with hard data from my database, other will be solid and based on strong logic without play data backing (I don’t track timeouts in my database) and some will be things unprovable but backed by 30 years of watching the game from a different vantage point.
Issue 1: How to use your timeouts when you are trailing
Always take your timeouts on defense if there are less than 2-3 minutes left, you are trailing and the opponent is running out the full play clock.
Announcers always like to have have those final timeouts in your pocket for that last drive or to get the kicker out there one last time. Although that is a good to have, saving the time up front is a much better option for end game strategy. If your opponent is working to run out the clock, every timeout you take saves you about 38 seconds. On offense, if you have a reasonably efficient 2 minute offense, each timeout is probably worth 10-15 seconds. One timeout on defense is as valuable as 2-3 on offense. The other advantage you have on offense is you are in control of the play, you can restrict your plays to passing, sidelines and first down distance plays that assist in stopping the clock.
A final note on defensive timeouts, never take them immediately after the offense gains a first down. The clock stops to reset the ball and you will have three more opportunities to stop it later. Taking it after the first down is good for about 25 seconds, waiting will give you nearly 15 seconds more savings.
Issue 2: Should you ever use them when you are ahead
If the opponent is in the red zone pressing for a tying or go-ahead score, don’t be afraid to use your timeouts to ensure a chance to retake the lead.
Once the opponent is inside the 20 (and definitely inside the 10) in the final two minutes, losing the lead is a near certainty (especially if a field goal will do the job). If the opponent is drained or nearly drained of timeouts, all the better for you to use yours. They won’t be able to stop you from taking a knee if you do get a stop and you will have more time to come back if they do score on you.
The flip side is also true. Even if you are trailing but driving, if the opponent is already in a position to run out the clock if you are stopped, first priority is obviously scoring, but second should be not rushing to be faster because the goal is to make your drive the last drive. If it fails the game is over either way, if it succeeds you want to minimize the opponent's chance to score. Even if you started as a two-minute offense, if you get to the red zone fast enough it can make sense to slow down a bit. It will likely be your last possession no matter what, any time you are saving is for them and not you.
Note, this situation also applies to a tie game.
Issue 3: How to use your timeouts when you are tied
Tread lightly after first and second down but pull the trigger fast after third down.
As Bret Bielema and Bob Stoops found out this year, you have to be very careful on this one. Taking one after first down is the riskiest. At least Bielema took his with a Sparty offense facing a 2nd and 20. With two more plays left a lot can happen, unless the opponent is backed up deep in their own territory, it’s best to not get greedy after first down.
After second down can still be a bit risky, but at this point you have a much better idea on what the opponent is faced with and what their strategy is. The worse shape and more conservative the opponent is, the more a timeout makes sense.
After third down in a tied game is usually a straightforward decision. Unless their is a chance the other team will attempt a fourth down conversion, use the timeout right away, it’s your last chance to maximize the value of that timeout.
Issue 4: How soon can you take a knee and run out the clock?
Depends on your opponent timeouts,
0 left: 2 minutes and 6 seconds
1 left: 1 minute and 24
2 left: 46 seconds
3 left: 8 seconds
If there are a couple more seconds than this it gets dicey. If you lead by more than 2 points, you can always have your quarterback sprint backwards and run around to burn some time and take a safety if need be.
2 Point Conversions
Rule #1 of 2 point conversions is don’t even think about them until the fourth quarter. No exceptions. Do not chase points, there is too much variability left in the game to give up a point to get to a “nice number” or even worse to “get back” a point from a missed/blocked/botched PAT. Just don’t do it.
Two point conversion rates are hard to get a true number on. The best numbers I can get is somewhere between 40-45% success. This is backed by a limited sample on actual two point conversions and verified by 43% success on 3rd or 4th and goal from the 3.
Situations to go for 2 any time in the fourth quarter (margin before TD is scored):
Down 22: Prior to scoring this you were down 22, 3 touchdown, and 4 PAT points. That can come as 1/1/2 or 0/2/2. Going for two here is the only way to get even but still leave the door open. Make it and its 14, miss and it’s still a two possession game.
Down 15: In the fourth quarter possessions are limited. Forcing the decision early gives you the information on whether its a one or two possession game. Waiting till the second TD can leave you with a false sense that you are playing a one possession game when you have a less than 50% of hitting the 2 point conversion and may be out of time. Going for it after the first score allows you to make more educated timeout, on-side and fourth down decisions. Waiting may make you feel better about it still be a one possession game, but as Brian has said, it’s only a 40% chance of being a one possession game.
Down 14: This is the genius one. Fail and you still have a chance to get it back on the second TD, just as if you kicked it like a risk-averse NFL coach. But if you make it, you are not playing for overtime but the win. Depending on the 2 point conversion odds, this increases your chances of winning by 10-30% (not percentage points, you were down 2 TD in the fourth quarter, your odds are never great). At a 43% success rate this strategy is a 14% improvement of odds. With a good offense at 50% conversion you jump all the way to 29% improvement by going for 2 on the first TD.
Only if there are 2 or fewer possessions left for each team
Down 8, Down 5, Down 1 and Up 6: Same as above, with 3+ possessions left this is probably a no go but with a possession or two each to go. It’s now a one possession game and with very many possessions left there is too much that can happen to risk giving up the point too early.
Only if your opponent has one possession left
Down 2: You hear there’s no difference between 4 and 6 but there is if there are multiple possessions left. Field goals can really mess with this situation; take the point unless the opponent only has one shot left, in which case you might get a little insurance for a missed PAT if you can make yours. Even in this situation I don’t condone going for 2 when you were down 12 to make the deficit 4 or 6. Chances are your opponent is going to be conservative and a field goal is probably the best case scenario for them. Don’t let a FG end your game with an unnecessary risk.
Wanted to break things up a with a little Mgoblog favorite, a chart.
Outcomes from first possession of overtime period.
|Outcome||Win||Loss||Another OT||Win Odds|
|Fail to score||0||32||3||5%|
|Touchdown + PAT||33||4||31||73%|
This data comes from every overtime period from 2007-2011. What you don’t see here is the strong preference this overtime method has for winning the coin flip. There is a lot of talk about the NFL and its 59-60% advantage for the coin flip winner, but in college the coin flip winner holds a solid 56% advantage for getting to go second and knowing what you have to do.
A touchdown on the first possession puts you in great shape. A field goal attempt is OK if necessary, but you better be confident you can make it. Although there is obviously a greater chance of winning with a TD versus a field goal, the odds don’t support a highly aggressive fourth down strategy, especially inside the 10. Even though the temptation is higher close to the goal line, for most teams going for it on 4th and 1 or 2 make sense. Anything beyond that and the best bet is to give the ball to the kicker. Now a great offense or questionable kicking game quickly changes the calculus, but in close, the odds say kick it. Where it is a bit more interesting is on the first set of downs in the game. The odds actually favor a more aggressive 4th down strategy on 4 and 5 or less from the 16-20 on the first set of downs. At this range most college kickers are good but far from automatic; an aggressive play here can pay out.
Another hotly debated overtime question is going for 2 to win after the other team has scored and kicked. 10 out of 44 teams faced with this proposition have gone for it, their record is 4-6, about in line with the 40-45% 2 point conversion expectation. This would seem like a losing proposition but at 45% the odds would be in line with the chances in the next OT since you have to be on offense first. Not really a clear cut answer here, but either way can be justified and the presence of a great offense from either team can quickly make the decision to go for 2 a good one.
Surprise On-Sides Kicks
Do them more.
OK you need more than that? Advanced NFL stats ran the numbers for the NFL and found that success rates for onside kicks are 20% when expected and 60% when not expected. I found a similar spread for college. Out of 663 expected onside kicks in my database, 23% were recovered by the kicking team. Only 146 (about 1 per week) surprise onsides where tried but 64% of those were recovered. The break-even success rate needed for a surprise onside kick is 46%, the market for surprise on-side kicks is definitely undervalued.
Punting In Opponent Territory
One of the many reasons that punting in opponent territory is dumb is that it is usually couched on the assumption that “we’ll pin them deep.” There are two key problems with this assumption. The first is that 36% of punts from opponent territory result in a touchback or never reach the 20, and that’s before any returns are factored in. The second is that it’s pretty tough to actually down it close to the end zone, and unless you are at the 1 or 2, there is no special advantage.
As discussed previously, it is in an offense’s best interest to go super conservative at the 1 or 2. Outside of that it is nearly business as usual. There is only an 8% chance a punt from the opponent's territory is downed at the 1 or 2. It’s over four times more likely to not even pin an opponent inside the 20 than it is to force the offense’s hand by pinning them at the 1 or 2 yard line.
Another problem with an opponent territory punt is that it’s tough to get an even exchange. Punting into the short side of the field limits the best case scenario and assuming you can force a punt from the opponent, gives them a lot of positive variance opportunity. A long bounce going in brings the ball out to the 20, a long bounce kicking out can quickly turn into a 60-yard punt and a total flip of field position.
And of course, you give up a great scoring opportunity punting in opponent territory.
Red Zone Play-Calling
On a first down Red Zone play, teams are more likely to score if it’s a run than a pass if they are at the 8 yard line or closer. Anything between the 9 and the 20 favors a pass on first down. That doesn’t mean that 100% pass is the optimal strategy, just that the play calling should favor the pass (or run inside the 9). For goal to go situations after first down, second down is the ultimate OC’s choice. From anywhere 10 and in on second and goal running and passing have nearly identical touchdown percents. On third and goal, the run still holds up strongly. A called run is more likely to score a TD on anything from the 6 and in than a pass, which owns 7 and up. Again, not saying the strategy should be 100%, but there is real value to favoring the run inside the 7.
Never take a touchback on a kickoff you don’t have to. The expected starting field position on a return from 9 yards deep is still the 21, plus the opportunity for a big play easily offsets the times when you start from the 10-15, which isn’t a big cost for the opportunity.
In a trash tornado game, the biggest value for the wind goes to the team that has it in the first and third quarters, not the fourth. When the wind is strong it usually takes a possession or two for the field position to level back out. Those possessions occur at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters, essentially giving the team with early field position the wind for about 2/3 of the game.
No numbers on this one but unless it's fourth down, stretching out the football is an extremely dumb move. At the goal line you can make a case for it if its 2nd or 3rd down, but there are very few situations where an incremental yard (nearly worthless) can be offset by the fumble risk of stretching the ball out.
Anything I may have missed here that you want to see, hit me up on twitter or in the comments and I’ll find a spot to address in a future article. I intentionally skipped fourth down decision making for this article. It’s too big of a topic. I previously wrote about it here and have an update to the article coming sometime this offseason.
May your holidays be filled with surprise on-side kicks, fourth down attempts and three wise timeouts.
This is edition the second of my wildly experimental basketball UFRs, and I've already gone and made major changes to the methodology. Gone is grading each possession by splitting up just one measly point. Now there's no set point total for a single possession, and instead I hand out anywhere between -3 and 3 points per player, still based on shot creation. The shot chart remains unchanged, and now there's a defensive shot chart—broken down by type of defense—as well. Still no defensive charting by player/possession because good lord I need to eat and sleep on occasion.
For those who missed it, here's my (now-altered) explanation of the charting from the Memphis UFR:
The play-by-play breakdown is relatively simple—it's broken up by possession ... I tell you the offensive set and defense (either man or type of zone, plus whether or not they pressed). FB == fast break. OOB == set from an inbounds play. I am not a basketball coach, and the last time I played competitively was in middle school, so corrections on terminology and the like would be much appreciated. Points do not coincide with made or missed baskets, but instead are awarded on the basis of creating shot opportunities—for instance, a pick to free a man, a cut to get open, or a nice pass may merit
half-points, and creating a bucket on an isolation will earn a full[more] point[s].
Shots are charted separately, and are broken down into three categories: dunk/layup, two-point shots, and three-point shots. They are further categorized by the level of contest from the defense—either no contest, late contest, or heavy contest—which, according to a tidbit from a BTN announcer, passed on to me by Brian, is how John Beilein charts shots.
For explanations of the offensive sets, click over to the Memphis post. I'm still deciding whether or not to put in unit +/- stats—those may come later in the season, as I start getting more used to churning these out on a regular basis. I do include substitution notes, so if some enterprising user has the will, it is possible to figure those out from the chart.
This is still very much a work-in-progress, and I'll be reading up on the Beilein offense over Christmas so that there should be more detail beyond the initial offensive set (which is almost always a 2-1-2) about what play was run. Right now, it's moving too quickly for me to figure it out based upon my current knowledge. So as always please leave suggestions in the comments and I'll look to incorporate them. Even if I'm not implementing suggestions from the Memphis UFR doesn't mean I've ignored them—it might just mean that I didn't have the chance to use them this time around, but I'm always looking back on old comments for reference.
With that, let's move on to BurkeFest 2011:
|After 15 seconds of setting up the offense, Morgan (+1) gets the ball on the right block, dribbles out of a double team, and makes a nice skip pass to Smotrycz. Smotrycz takes a couple hard dribbles towards the lane, drawing two defenders, then passes it out to Burke and immediately sets a screen (+1), which forces a switch. Burke crosses over the defender, blows right by him, and finishes with a layup (+2, dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Burke and Morgan run a pick and roll at the top of the key, but Oakland hedges hard on Burke and he has no space to get off a pass. Instead, Burke re-sets and hits Hardaway on the wing. Hardaway drives baseline, pulls up, and tried a contested 15-footer, which he airballs (-1, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Burke and Hardaway pass it back and forth for a while before Hardaway drives around a Morgan screen, getting around his man and drawing the defender from the weak side (+1). This leaves Smotrycz wide open in the corner, and Hardaway gives it to him, but the open three misses (3-pt, no contest, miss). Morgan comes down with the offensive rebound, takes a strong dribble into the middle of the paint, and puts up a baby hook that catches the back iron and bounces out (+2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|17:34||2-2||4-1 High||Man||Novak||3-pt Make|
|Novak gets the ball on the wing, fakes a shot from three, then drives just inside the FT line. He puts his body into his man and looks as if he's going to try to shoot, drawing the defense in from the perimeter (+2), before kicking out to an open Smotrycz, who buries a three (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Michigan pushes the pace after an Oakland miss. Burke gets the ball and tries to drive between three guys, then jumps into the lane without a clear idea of where he's going with it. He loses control of the ball and Oakland grabs it (-2 Burke, unforced TO).|
|Smotrycz gets it at the top of the key and drives to the left elbow before picking up his dribble, allowing his man to get right up in his business. Hardaway (+1) cuts along the baseline to give him an option, but Smotrycz's pass is knocked away and stolen (-2 Smotrycz, forced TO). Nice cut by Hardaway, and the pass nearly worked and would've led to a layup, but Smot needs to keep his dribble alive so he's not forced into such a tough play.|
|Novak sets a pick for Hardaway in the lane, then pops out to the key, where he's freed up by a pick for Morgan. Smotrycz, who gets the ball on the right elbow as this is happening, passes to Novak at the top of the key. Novak goes back around Morgan (+1), who picks off his man, and jumps off two feet at the left corner of the free throw line, hitting a nice pullup jumper (+2, 2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Novak runs out on the break after an Oakland miss, dribbling up the middle then going hard for the left corner. Novak (+2) draws three defenders as he does this, then kicks out to a wide-open Hardaway—trailing Novak on the play and finding open space—for three (+1, 3-pt, no contest, make).|
|After another Oakland miss, it's Smotrycz pushing the pace this time, recognizing that Oakland isn't in good position to get back (+1). He makes a nice pass to Novak on the wing; Novak (+1) immediately hits a trailing Hardaway, who's got no one around him at the three-point line. Unfortunately, he can't knock this one down (3-pt, no contest, miss).|
|Burke starts the offense by passing to Morgan at the top of the key; he turns and gives to Smotrycz on the right wing, and Smotrycz dribbles back towards Morgan before dishing it to Hardaway, who's just a few feet to his left. Smotrycz then fakes a screen for Hardaway before doubling back behind Morgan (+1), who frees up Smotrycz with a pick of his own. Smot is all alone on the backdoor cut, takes a nice feed from Hardaway (+1), and hits the easy layup as his defender can't recover (+2, dunk/layup, late contest, make).|
|Beautiful ball movement here as Novak leads the charge off a rebound, driving down the right side before handing off to Burke, who's running back towards the top of the key. Burke (+2) goes around a double pick from Morgan and Smotrycz, draws in the D, then passes over three converging defenders to an open Novak in the corner. One defender scrambles out to Novak, so he makes the extra pass (+1) to Smotrycz, who buries an open three (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Horford in for Morgan. Hardaway gets the ball on the left elbow and makes a solid skip pass to Burke in the right corner. Burke is well-guarded, but decides to go up for the shot anyway (-1, 3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Not the worst shot in the world, but there were still 23 seconds on the shot clock—I'd rather see Burke pull that one back out.|
|Vogrich in for Hardaway. Michigan cycles the ball around the perimeter for a while until Horford (+1) comes out to run a pick and roll with Burke on the right elbow. Burke gets around the pick but drives into two defenders with a third recovering. Burke (+1) turns and passes to an unguarded Novak in the corner. Money (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Horford (+1) runs a high screen and roll with Burke (+1) that gets Horford open under the basket, where he draws a foul. Douglass in for Burke. After passing ball around after the inbounds, Smotrycz (-1) drives from the corner and dishes in traffic to Horford, but the pass is low and Horford is well-covered—held ball, possession arrow for Michigan. Horford gets the next inbounds out past the three-point line, hands it off to Novak, who misses a three as the shot clock winds down (Team -1, 3-pt, late contest, miss). Ugly possession after the initial foul.|
|Michigan clears out for Smotrycz on the block, but he's fouled on the floor. Burke in for Novak. Michigan lines up in their normal OOB set, with their two bigs (Smot and Horford) in line with the inbounder (Burke) while the two wings form a box on the opposite side of the lane. The two bigs set a double screen; Douglass is the first man through and he splits between the picks and heads for the basket, while Vogrich trails and goes around both picks for the corner. Burke gives to Vogrich, who gets a good look from about 18 feet but can't connect (Team +1, 2-pt, late contest, miss).|
|Smotrycz dumps it in to Horford on the block, and Horford decides to take a couple power dribbles as the rest of the team clears out. He gets to the middle of the lane but can't finish a lefty baby hook with a hand in his face (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Good positioning by Horford, but this isn't really in his arsenal—those cancel out, so no plus or minus on this play.|
|After Laval Lucas-Perry misses a layup for Oakland, Burke runs out on the break. Michigan has a three on two with Burke in the middle, Douglass fading out to the 3-pt line on the left, and Smotrycz charging to the basket on the right—great spacing by all three guys here. Burke (+3) pulls up at the FT line, drawing one defender while looking off the other, who heads out for Douglass (+1), jumps as if he's going to shoot, then perfectly hits Smotrycz with a no-look pass for a layup (+1, dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Novak in for Smotrycz. Burke gets the ball on the left elbow and dribbles to the middle around a Horford (+1) screen. Burke's man goes under the pick, so he crosses back over, squares up, and drills a three (+2, 3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Douglass takes it up the court after an Oakland miss, and Michigan sets up briefly with two men (Horford and Vogrich) playing down low and three out on the perimeter—not sure if this is by design or a product of a quickly-run possession. Douglass dribbles into the lane and flips it underhand to Burke, who's open but a couple feet outside the NBA 3-pt line. He shoots anyway and misses (-1, 3-pt, late contest, miss).|
|Hardaway in for Vogrich. Hardaway runs a pick and roll with Horford on the left side, and Hardaway tries to drive right, is cut off, and throws a pass three rows into the seats (-3, unforced TO). He had Horford open on the roll but didn't see him. The pass is so poor it's unclear if the intended recipient was Douglass or Burke.|
|Douglass is fouled trying to corral a defensive rebound, and M is in the bonus. He nails both. Hooray for free points.|
|Morgan in for Horford. Novak gets the ball in the right corner and drives to his left, getting into the lane and forcing Morgan's man to switch out on him. Novak makes the right decision and tries to slip a pass under the basket to Morgan, who's now being defended by a shooting guard, but the pass is well wide and goes OOB (Novak -1, unforced TO).|
|Hardaway gets the ball right off the bat on the left wing, tries to drive baseline, and is stymied by two defenders. He leaves his feet and tries to pass to Novak in the opposite corner, but with two hands in his face this is difficult and the pass short-hops in front of Novak, who can't bring it in before it bounces OOB. Hardaway -2, unforced TO.|
|6:32||25-15||2-1-2||Man FC Press||Morgan||Layup Make|
|Burke breaks a one-man press and gets to the top of key as Morgan sets an off-ball screen for Hardaway. Oakland switches on the screen and Hardaway's man is late to recover on Morga, who is already cutting to the basket. Burke swings it to Novak (+1) who immediately hits Morgan under the basket for a layup (+2, dunk/layup, late contest, make).|
|Hardaway brings it up quickly after an Oakland miss and dishes to Burke on the left wing. Burke (+2) blows right by his man and draws the defender guarding Morgan, so he stops on a dime in the paint and slips it to Morgan for what should be an easy layup. Morgan biffs it (dunk/layup, no contest, miss). No minus for Morgan as this charting is about shot creation—his miss shows up in the shooting chart.|
|Vogrich in for Hardaway. Douglass flashes out to the 3-pt line and gets a pass from Vogrich. Stu drives to his right, gets stuck on the baseline, and tries a turnaround J from a few feet outside the lane. Airball (Douglass -2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss). With 20 seconds on the shot clock, that's not at all what you want.|
|This is close to being a nice play, but not quite. Vogrich gets the ball on the wing and drives right around his man, forcing Oakland's D to rotate and leaving Douglass wide open in the opposite corner. Vogrich sees this and passes to Stu, but the give is high and Stu's foot comes down OOB after he has to jump for the catch. Vogrich -1.|
|Horford and Smotrycz in for Morgan and Douglass. Smot gets the ball on the right sideline and drives to the lane. He tries to rifle a jump-pass to Horford, who is all of four feet away, and the pass ricochets off Horford's hands, then off the backboard, and is stolen (Smotrycz -2, unforced TO).|
|3:25||27-21||2-1-2||Man||Vogrich||Layup Make/FT (0/1)|
|Burke gets a pick from Horford well past the 3-pt line on the left side. Horford (+1) sets a great screen and Burke's man is picked off trying to go over the top; Burke slows as he nears the FT line and sucks in another defender, who was guarding Vogrich in the corner. Burke (+1) dishes to Vogrich, who goes hard to the hoop, hitting a very tough layup over a rotating LLP and drawing a foul in the process (+2, dunk/layup, heavy contest, make).|
|Smotrycz takes the ball on the right wing and drives to the basket. He tries to stop near the FT line, but travels. Derp. -2 Smotrycz, unforced TO.|
|2:17||29-24||2-1-2||Man||Burke||3-pt Miss/OReb/Layup Make|
|Burke runs a pick and roll with Horford up top, his man goes under, and he's got space to shoot a relatively deep three if he wants. Instead, Burke sees Vogrich open with help late-arriving and passes. Vogrich can't knock down the jumper as the defender gets a late hand in his face (+1 Burke, 3-pt, late contest, miss). Horford (+2) hauls in a tough offensive board between three defenders and kicks it out to Burke, who drives past two defenders and hits a quick layup before the D can recover (+2, layup, no contest, make).|
|Burke runs another high screen and roll with Horford, drives, spins, draws a few defenders, then tries to hit a cutting Vogrich at the three-point line. Unfortunately, his pass is behind Vogrich, who can't reel it in as the ball goes off his hands and OOB (-2 Burke, unforced TO). Burke a little wild here.|
|1:07||31-27||-||Man||Burke||2-pt Miss/OReb/Layup Miss|
|Burke pushes the pace off an Oakland miss, drives to his right, and forces a heavily-contested bank from just outside the lane (-1, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Horford again brings in the board, but he's in a good deal of traffic, and instead of kicking it out he tries a turnaround lay-in that comes up short (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss). Horford gets a +1—two in the positive for the tough rebound, one negative for forcing the shot.|
|0:44||31-29||2-1-2||Man||Burke||3-pt Miss/OReb/FT (1/2)|
|McLimans and Akunne in for Horford and Vogrich. Burke hangs around the perimeter, running the shot clock down to ten, which is just fine given the situation. He then steps up to the 3-pt line, makes one crossover dribble, and chucks up a shot with a hand right in his grill, missing everything but the backboard (-2, 3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Smotrycz (+2) comes up with the rebound, goes up strong, and draws a shooting foul.|
|Starters in for the start of the second half. After not getting anything going early in the clock, Burke resets the offense and calls a new play. He passes off to Smotrycz, who gives to Novak at the top of the key. Morgan (+1) sets a downscreen on Hardaway's defender, freeing up THJ on the left wing. Novak gives, and Hardaway (+1) is able to take a dribble inside the arc and rise up for an 18-foot jumper (Team +1, 2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Burke dribbles towards the left corner, handing the ball off to Hardaway, who's coming back behind Burke to the top of the key. Hardaway has space for a deep-ish three and puts it up, but misses (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Tempted to minus Hardaway here since his defender got there to contest the shot, but his high-rising jumper really makes the contest moot. Plus, nice to see him getting involved after a quiet first half.|
|18:40||34-32||2-1-2||Man FC Press||Hardaway||3-pt Make|
|Hardaway has to re-set the offense at the top of the key with around 20 on the shot clock. He calls for a pick from Morgan (+1), gets good penetration into the lane, then kicks to Smotrycz in the corner. Smot nails the three (+2 Hardaway, 3-pt, late contest, make).|
|Novak gets a pass from Burke and drives baseline, but stalls in the corner, where he's doubled by Smotrycz's man. Smot flares out to the 3-pt line, where Novak passes to him. A rotating defender flies by in a futile effort to steal the pass, while Smot's original man buys a pass fake from Smot and runs out to Burke. Smot is left wide open despite still holding the ball, and he drills a three (+2, 3-pt, no contest, make).|
|After an off-ball foul on Oakland, Hardaway comes free on an inbounds play (+1 Team) but can't knock down a 15-footer (2-pt, late contest, miss). Morgan flies in between two guys for the rebound but can't keep his pivot foot when he lands. Just a tough break for Morgan, as he had two defenders draped all over him. He gets a +1 for the board.|
|After Oakland misses a three, Hardaway (+3) gets the rebound and immediately takes off. He threads a perfect bounce pass to a streaking Morgan, who dunks with authoritay (+1, dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Morgan (+1) again sets an off-ball downscreen for Hardaway, who flashes out for a look from three as he gets a pass from Burke. Hardaway gets a decent look, but can't knock it down (+1, 3-pt, late contest, miss).|
|Smotrycz gets the ball on the wing and drives hard with his left hand to the FT line, drawing weakside help from Hardaway's defender. Hardaway (+1) dives for the basket and Smot (+2) feeds him a nice lefty bounce pass. Hardaway is met at the rim by two defenders and fouled.|
|Burke gets a screen from Morgan and tries to drive baseline, but he gets cornered near the basket, jumps, and has his pass to Hardaway in the corner stolen easily (-2 Burke, forced TO).|
|Smotrycz runs out after an Oakland miss and this is a semi-transition possession. He dribbles towards the Michigan bench, and Hardaway takes a jab-step towards the basket, then cuts behind Smot and takes a handoff. Hardaway gets into the lane and splits two defenders, but can't hit a tough underhand layup with two defenders contesting (+1, dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss). Morgan came open when his defender rotated onto THJ, but it would've taken a great pass to get it to him under the basket.|
|Hardaway drives to his right but is stymied by a double team, so he throws a skip pass to Burke on the left elbow. Burke drives into the paint, is temporarily stopped, but pulls a ridiculous between-the-legs crossover that gets him into the lane and draws three defenders. Burke (+3) kicks it out to a now wide-open Hardaway, who drains the three (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Burke has to re-set the offense after they can't get anything going early in the clock (Team -1). He waits, gets a screen up top from Morgan (+1), and blows by two defenders into the paint, where he pulls up for a running floater before help can arrive (+2, 2-pt, late contest, make). At this moment I'm now praying Burke stays in college for longer than two years. These last two plays were star caliber.|
|12:45||48-48||2-1-2||Man||Morgan||3-pt Miss/OReb/FT (1/2)|
|Burke (+1) drives to his right, hesitates, then finds room under the basket, where he kicks out to an open Hardaway in the corner. Hardaway can't connect (3-pt, no contest, miss), but Morgan (+2) jumps between two defenders to pull down the rebound. He pivots, goes back up for a layup, and is fouled in the process.|
|12:07||49-49||2-1-2||3-2 Zone||Burke||3-pt Make|
|Douglass and Horford in for Smotrycz and Morgan. Oh, hey, a zone! Oakland decides to put three guys up top instead of the more common 2-3. They don't come out far enough, however, as Burke is able to rise up from NBA distance and drill a triple (+2, 3-pt, no contest, make). If Burke can hit that shot, I'm all for him taking it given the complete lack of pressure from the D.|
|Surprise! Oakland abandons the zone. Novak and Hardaway run by each other at the 3-pt line and Novak hands off, but Hardaway drops the ball and LLP steals it (-2 Hardaway). THJ was moving a little too quickly for his own good and didn't make sure to secure the ball—the pass wasn't bad by any stretch.|
|Horford (+1) with another off-ball pick for Hardaway on the weak side frees him up for an open look from three, which he hits after getting the pass from Burke (+1, 3-pt, no contest, make). THJ and whoever is playing center are just abusing the man defense on the weak side—that's the third time they've created an open look using the same play this half. Gotta think Beilein saw something there.|
|Hardaway and Horford (+1) run a high pick and roll at the top of the key. Hardaway's defender goes under the screen, so he pulls up and drains a three (+1, 3-pt, no contest, make). Oakland made that one easy for THJ, especially with him on a bit of a shooting streak at the moment.|
|Burke steals an Oakland inbounds pass near midcourt and Douglass is already streaking up the middle of the court ahead of everyone. Burke (+1) floats a nice pass to Stu, who hits an uncontested layup (+1, dunk/layup, no contest, make). Stu's point is for getting up the court so quickly, not for making an open layup, FTR.|
|Hardaway is fouled by LLP going for a defensive rebound and M is in the bonus. He misses the front end of a one-and-one.|
|Smotrycz in for Novak. Burke runs a high pick and roll with Morgan (+1), his defender goes under, and Burke pulls up and hits a three (+2, 3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Burke gets another high screen from Morgan and drives hard to the left, drawing an extra defender as weakside help comes to cover Morgan. Burke (+2) uses a slight hesitation move to get himself space then hits Douglass on the wing with a jump-pass. Douglass collects the pass, which was a little low, and hits an open three (+1, 3-pt, no contest, make).|
|Vogrich in for Hardaway. Burke has to drive wide around a pick from Morgan, but gets around the corner and draws three collapsing defenders as he nears the lane. Burke (+2) kicks out to Smotrycz, who pump-fakes a three with the D recovering, drives around a man, then hits a tough double-clutch runner as he gets into the paint (+2, 2-pt, heavy contest, make).|
|High pick and roll between Morgan and Burke, again. Burke (+2) gets penetration, again. This time he hits a rolling Morgan for an open layup (+2, layup, no contest, make). Oakland can't stop Burke, nor, at this point, can they hope to contain him.|
|Douglass (+1) initially has a 2-on-2 fast break off a long rebound, but smartly pulls out and resets the offense. Burke again runs a high P&R with Morgan, but as he drives to the lane he loses the ball out of bounds (-1, unforced TO). Only Trey Burke can stop Trey Burke.|
|6:46||70-61||2-1-2||Man FC Press||Morgan||2-pt Make|
|Smotrycz gets the ball on the wing, tries to drive off a pick from Morgan, but can't get any penetration, so he gives to Morgan a couple feet outside the paint. Morgan squares up, pivots in a complete circle to give himself space, and calmly knocks down a jumper (+2, 2-pt, late contest, make). If he can consistently hit that shot, I'll be very excited about his offensive development.|
|Burke is fouled going after a long defensive rebound and goes to the line. He hits the first and misses the second. Thanks for the free point, Oakland.|
|So, this Burke kid. This time he stays patient after Oakland hedges hard on a—guess what?—high pick and roll with Morgan, gets another screen from Smotrycz, and pulls a quick crossover to split right between the two defenders. Burke (+3) ends up with all five Oakland players surrounding him in the lane, so he kicks out to Douglass, who can't knock down the open three (3-pt, no contest, miss).|
|Akunne in for Burke. After the ball cycles around for a while, Akunne (+1) eventually gets it on the left elbow and throws a solid skip pass to Douglass in the opposite corner. Stu gets a good look, but misses the three (3-pt, late contest, miss). Morgan (+2) pulls in another tough offensive board between two guys. Eventually, Akunne (-2, forced TO) gets the ball out top and just has it stolen from him, but...|
|...Smotrycz steals the ball right back, and M gets a fresh shot clock. He passes to Akunne, who awkwardly dribbles to his left and gets picked clean (-2, forced TO). Akunne just doesn't look comfortable handling the ball, to say the least.|
|4:39||73-67||?||Man||Douglass||3-pt Miss/OReb/FT (1/2)|
|Lots of confusion at the start of this possession as Akunne and Douglass go to the same spot on the floor, with Stu yelling at Akunne and pointing for him to go to the wing. He does so, and ends up getting an open look as Hardaway (+2) comes off a pick from Morgan and kicks out, but Akunne can't connect (3-pt, no contest, miss). Smotrycz grabs the long board (+1) and passes out to Douglass, who's now running the point. Stu (-1) gets trapped near midcourt, but is bailed out by a foul call and goes to the line.|
|4:04||74-67||4-1 High||Man||Burke||3-pt Make|
|Burke in for Akunne. Burke runs a high screen with Morgan, then doubles back and takes another pick from Smotrycz (+1) that frees him up to drive to the baseline. Burke (+1) starts to fall OOB but makes a last-ditch pass to Hardaway, who drains a killer corner three (3-pt, heavy contest, make). Dagger.|
|Smotrycz (+2) comes up with a steal, takes a couple dribbles, and threads a fantastic bounce pass ahead to Douglass, who's out in front of everyone. Stu dunks, which is always fun (+1, dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|3:04||79-69||4-1 High||Man||Burke||3-pt Make|
|Burke, Morgan (+1), high pick and roll. Burke (+2) finds space on the right side, drives to the lane, and kicks out to an open Stu for three (3-pt, no contest, make).|
|2:27||82-69||4-1 High||Man||Burke||Layup Make|
|Burke kills clock until there are just six seconds left to shoot, drives left from a good five feet outside the NBA 3-pt line, and blows by LLP for a driving layup (+2, dunk/layup, late contest, make). Charting ceases as this becomes free throw city and M doesn't attempt another field goal.|
TREY BURKE LIKE WHOA
Indeed. It's a little easier to do this as the point guard, but he's the focal point of this offense, and right now he's having no trouble carrying that burden. Outside of a few freshman mistakes—usually when he tries to do too much—Burke is playing within himself and making a lot of fantastic plays in the process.
JOHN BEILEIN LIKE WHOA
Yep. Much like Memphis, Oakland played almost exclusively man-to-man, and Dylan threw in this tidbit about how the Grizzlies game-planned for Michigan:
At the press conference after the game on Saturday, Oakland coach Greg Kampe said the Grizzlies’ game plan was to limit the back-door cuts and make the Wolverines beat them from behind the arc.
Live by the sword, die by the sword, I guess. There weren't too many plays where Michigan freed up an open cutter to the basket, but that's mostly because they were busy pick-and-rolling Oakland's defense to death. With Michigan raining in open threes (more on that after the shot chart), many created by Oakland playing soft on screens instead of following over the top, you'd think Kampe would've made an adjustment, but none came. I guess there was one 3-2 zone, which in theory should limit three-pointers, but they played so soft that Burke calmly drilled a three anyway. After that, zone abandoned, and Michigan resumed death by picks. Fantastic game-plan by Beilein, and great execution by the team.
Big men like whoa?
You seem slightly less enthused, self, and I'm not surprised—I'm a little confused, too. As you'll see below, both Morgan and Horford come out with huge positive scores and barely anything in the negative, mostly thanks to both having solid days on the glass and being major parts of the pick-a-palooza. I'm still trying to figure out what a big man can do to earn a negative in this offense aside from turning the ball over—since they rarely get the ball in the post, there's not many opportunities to force bad shots, and otherwise they're mostly setting screens and getting in position to grab offensive rebounds. Suggestions, please?
Way to pawn off all the work on the readers.
Shut up. On to the...
[All credit to a2_electricboogaloo for the above]
|Burke||43||12||31||Holy Horton, we got ourselves a point guard.|
|Hardaway||16||8||8||Quiet first half, some bad turnovers, but mostly solid. Needs to find a way to get more involved early, though foul trouble played a role in this game.|
|Novak||9||1||8||Extremely sound. I agree with Brian—I'd like to see him get the ball more. Other than Burke and Hardaway, he's the one guy who can consistently create and knock down jumpers from inside the arc when he's got the ball.|
|Smotrycz||17||7||10||Very nice game for Smot. Still not great handling the ball, but he's creating more offense for himself and also doing a good job of hitting the glass. His slow, awkward drives are still slow and awkward, but much more effective these days.|
|Morgan||24||1||23||Product of tons of good screens and some nice work on the boards. Going to have to figure out what to do about tiny negatives for big men—Morgan did not have twice the impact as Smotrycz, though he still played well.|
|Douglass||5||3||2||Relative non-factor in the shot creation department. Dunked.|
|Horford||10||1||9||More death by screens.|
|Akunne||1||4||-3||Please, please, no more putting him at the point.|
|Vogrich||2||1||1||Starting to show ability to get to the basket and finish. Quiet day otherwise.|
|McLimans||0||0||0||Nothing of note in one minutes of PT.|
|Team||3||2||1||Some nice inbounds plays, and I really could've added a lot more here for killing Oakland with the off-ball screens.|
|TOTAL||130||40||90||Again, no context for these numbers, but Michigan had a very strong offensive game while playing at a high tempo, mostly thanks to Oakland pushing the pace like crazy.|
Those overall numbers are wildly in the positive, obviously, but I think as we go along (assuming I stay with this method, which I rather like on first glance), that will be the norm, though maybe not to such a high degree—basketball offenses score a lot of points, and usually it's missed shots that keep a team from scoring on most possessions, not poor plays. Since this is about shot creation, with shooting taken out of the equation, the numbers should be positive or something went very wrong.
Also, Michigan scored 1.25 points per possession against Oakland—the offense was lethal, and the numbers reflect that, at least as far as I can tell without another reference point. The only major knock against Michigan's offense this game would be turnovers—the Wolverines had a 23.7% turnover rate, which is not so good—but that was more than made up for by the team rebounding over 27% of their misses and also getting to the line with relative frequency.
As for individual players not covered in the previous section, I'm really impressed with the improvements in Zach Novak's game. He still has all of the grit, but he's also turned into a smart distributor—this game: eight assists, one turnover—and while he doesn't take many shots, when he does, they're good looks. Especially in situations where Hardaway is struggling or off the floor, I'd like to see the offense run through Novak a little more.
Smotrycz had the most impressive game statistically, scoring 20 points on just eight shots and hauling in nine rebounds, and he seems to be getting more comfortable in the offense. As you'll see below, he took advantage of a lot of open looks, but he got into the lane and was able to hit the two contested shots he took—tough to ask for much more from a sophomore big with limited athleticism.
Shall we go to the shooting chart? You're writing too much.
Yes I am, and it's Friday, dammit. Shooting chart (now with player and team totals so it's actually useful!).
|Hardaway||-||-||0/1 (1F)||-||1/2||0/1||4/6||0/1||1/2||4/6||1/3||1/4 (1F)||6/13|
|Smotrycz||1/1||1/1||(1F)||-||-||1/1||3/4||-||-||4/5||1/1||1/1 (1F)||6/7 (1F)|
|Morgan||2/3||1/1||(1F)||-||1/1||0/1||-||-||-||2/3||2/2||0/1 (1F)||4/6 (1F)|
|Vogrich||-||-||1/1 (1F)||-||0/1||-||-||0/1||-||-||0/2||1/1 (1F)||1/3 (1F)|
|TOTAL||7/8||3/3||1/3 (4F)||-||4/6||1/6||13/18||1/6||1/4||20/26||8/15||3/13 (4F)||31/54|
Almost exactly half of Michigan's shots were of the "no contest" variety, and all of those were either dunks/layups or three-pointers. This is exactly what you want to see out of John Beilein's offense, which is predicated on creating either open layups or good looks for three points. The Wolverines shot the lights out—their 71.3 eFG% is the third-highest in any game of the Beilein era, according to Dylan—and it's easy to see why when you look at the above.
Interestingly, most of the team's bad shots came on non-layup two-pointers, and looking back at the play-by-play, that's mostly because those shots came outside the framework of the offense. Of note: no single player took more than one heavily contested two-pointer, which says to me that this team is well-coached, though we already knew that. Same goes for tough dunk/layup attempts (on which M drew more fouls than they had missed shots), and only Burke and Hardaway jacked up threes while being heavily guarded—if I'm going to pick two guys to do that, it's those two.
Can we see some videos already?
Sure thing. Here's Trey Burke being totally awesome:
As Greg Kelser was saying before I cut off the clip, that's just a perfectly-run fast break, especially by Burke. I don't have much analysis here other than saying that, well, that guy doesn't look like a freshman point guard, even with the higher-than-ideal turnover rate. All three players run this perfectly, with Stu fading off to the perimeter to stretch out the defense, Smotrycz going hard in the paint, and Burke using the threat of his pull-up J to freeze the defense and allow him to dish for an easy assist.
More Burke ridiculousness, you say? Here you go:
That elicited a rather loud "WUT?" when I watched it live, and I'm still not really over this—that's just a sweet move in traffic that takes a bogged-down play and turns it into an opportunity for a wide-open three. Burke doesn't have the size of Darius Morris, which allowed Morris to bully his way into the lane with regularity, but he's quicker and those handles let him do many of the same things Morris did, just in a different fashion. He used that same crossover—though not between the legs—to slice between two defenders jumping out on a pick and create a wide open three for Douglass when the entire defense freaked and collapsed into the lane.
As for general Beilein scheme stuff, check out how much Novak moves on this play, which ends in him knocking down a pull-up jumper:
He starts at the top of the key, cuts hard to the hoop, sets a screen, pops back out the top of the key, goes over a pick from Morgan, and gets himself a good shot. This is what Beilein's offense is all about, especially against man defense—eventually, lots of cuts and screens should free up an open shooter, whether it's the guy with the ball or some moving away from the play.
What about the defense?
Ah, yes, there is now stuff on the defense, though admittedly not nearly as much as the offense. The main feature I'm introducing is the defensive shot chart, which is the same as the offensive shot chart but broken down by type of defense:
|Man||3/4||2/4 (1F)||3/6 (2F)||2/3||1/2 (2F)||1/11 (2F)||2/6||2/6||3/6||7/13||5/12 (3F)||7/23 (4F)||19/48 (7F)|
|Fast Break||-||-||1/2 (1F)||-||(1F)||-||-||0/1||-||-||0/1 (1F)||1/2 (1F)||1/3 (2F)|
|TOTAL||3/4||2/4 (1F)||4/8 (3F)||2/3||1/2 (3F)||1/11 (2F)||2/7||2/7||2/6||7/14||5/13 (4F)||8/25 (5F)||20/52 (9F)|
Turnovers: Man—8 (2 forced, 6 unforced), 1-3-1—0, Fast Break—2 (1 forced, 1 unforced)
This doesn't match up exactly with the stats from the box score (which has Oakland going 26/59), mostly because Oakland rained in 11 points in garbage time and I was done charting at that point. But yeah, check out that shot distribution versus Michigan's and you get the story of this game—Michigan was able to generate a lot of open looks, and Oakland was forced into taking a lot of tough shots.
Also, as you can see, Michigan spent almost the entire game in man, throwing out the 1-3-1 on one possession when the Grizzlies made their big run at the end of the first half. They also did a good job of getting back in transition, as Oakland wasn't able to generate many good shots even when out on the break. Some might look at the box score, see that Michigan gave up 80 points, and think that they didn't play good D, and I think those hypothetical people would be wrong. Oakland was hanging almost exactly at one point per possession until garbage time got them up to 1.09 ppp.
No lengthy breakdown on individual defenders yet, as this is long enough already, but off the cuff I was impressed with Smotrycz—who came up with two steals, had seven defensive rebounds, and only recorded two fouls, which have been a bugaboo this year—and the interior duo of Morgan and Horford, who didn't let much open up inside the lane. Burke needs to learn that he doesn't have to contest every shot, as he got into some unnecessary foul trouble, and Hardaway allowed Laval Lucas-Perry to blow right by him for an and-one, which was kinda embarrassing.
Burke, of course. Other than him, Smotrycz had a great day shooting and was solid all-around, Novak was very efficient, and THJ managed to score 18 second-half points after early foul trouble. Also, John Beilein for coaching circles around the other guy, again.
First-half Hardaway only had three points while amassing two fouls—he's got to snap out of that habit before Big Ten season. Eso Akunne should probably not play point guard again. I'm getting a little worried about Carlton Brundidge, because while Akunne has more experience, he looked lost at times in the offense and is completely out of his element as a primary ballhandler. Could Brundidge really be worse as a third-string (behind Douglass), couple-minutes-a-game point guard?
Nah, I think I've pretty much covered it all, though I'm sure I'll be proven wrong about that in the comments. Fire away, people. Let me know what you think of this.
“We had two practices last weekend on Friday and Sunday. We’ll have seven practices starting tonight. Trying to juggle the times around finals and all those academic issues that guys have to work through, being a student athlete, so our hours are off the charts a little bit, but we’ll go tonight and we’ll go tomorrow morning, then we’ll go Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday, then Friday morning the guys will practice and then have a short break. We’ll meet down on the 28th in New Orleans. We’ll practice shortly after we arrive and get used to the facilities, the sites as far as practice-wise and start really game-planning full throttle on Monday, because coaches have been out. They’ve been running, lifting, doing all those things to try and stay in as much football shape as you can. I think last week the two practices had high energy, high tempo. Got to do a couple things with the young guys in scrimmage situations, do some tackling and blocking and those things.”
Any of the young guys catch your attention that you maybe haven’t talked about yet?
“You know, I think Chris Bryant is becoming a better guard, blocking and some of the power pulls and those kind of things. You know, those guys have been going on cards all year, so it’s a very scaled down defense and offense, so hopefully their reactions take over and their fundamentals and techniques that they’ve got take over.”
How physical is practice in terms of pads?
“It will be pretty physical Monday and Tuesday. Probably back it down a little down on Wednesday. We’ll be physical. We’ll be in pads of some sort either just shoulder pads and helmets or full pads. We’ll go shoulder pads and helmets tonight, full pads tomorrow, and then on Monday will be full. Tuesday will be full, and then Wednesday we’ll start backing it down. When we get into New Orleans, we’ll [have a] quick practice on whatever day it is, the 28th. We’ll go about 10 good periods and just really get them familiar with the locker room and the practice facilities and do some conditioning and run them a little bit, do some skelly, do a couple switch periods so we can refresh their memories on some of the things in the game plan.”
(more after the jump)