Unverified Voracity Holds It

Unverified Voracity Holds It

Submitted by Brian on March 19th, 2012 at 4:13 PM

1986 again. WH continues his flash back to 1986 with a copy of Michigan Replay from M's win over OSU that year. You should at least watch the first 1:35:

Yes, that's the podcast's theme music, kids. Forever will it be so. Also WH posted Bo's first game.

Senior. Spring practice fluffy video contains "senior" underneath Denard's name:

Sinking in slowly that this is the last opportunity to see the guy in a Winged Helmet.

What are you doing? Man, was that Purdue game last night frustrating to watch. The Boilers had it, but then started running clock with two minutes left and a three-point lead. TOC summarizes:

With 1:44 left to go in the Purdue-Kansas game last night, Robbie Hummel secured a defensive rebound with Purdue up by 3.

Of the 104 seconds that remained in the game, Purdue controlled the ball for 90 of them.

Kansas controlled the ball for the remaining 14 seconds.

Kansas scored 6 points in those 14 seconds.

Purdue scored zero points in its 90 seconds.

The risk of giving your opponent an extra 10 seconds to work with is perhaps being overestimated.

I'm beginning to think the best way to win a close college basketball game is to make sure your opponent has the ball with a one-possession lead with between 60 and 120 seconds left in the game.

Purdue held the ball until there were well under ten seconds on the shot clock in their 90 seconds and got horrible shots and turnovers for their trouble. If you had flashbacks to Rocky Harvey and various other late-game indignities foisted upon us by Lloyd Carr's tendency to clam up too early, you were not alone.

Rule: until you get into a range where the opponent is going to have to foul even if they get twos on all their remaining possessions, play as if there's 20 minutes left. With 1:44 you should only start stalling if you're up seven or more.

Side note: man, does Purdue have an unusual number of guards who can't shoot. Their dual Johnsons are both below 50% on free throws this year, and with 108 and 69 attempts that can't be explained away as a Douglass-like tiny sample size. Without Hummel and Ryne Smith the Boilers are going to be relying on DJ Byrd for a huge percentage of their outside shooting unless they've got some sniper freshmen coming in.

Let my people twitter. Brady Hoke thinks Michigan's silly secondary violation for congratulating Mike McCray on his commitment is silly:

When the linebacker picked Michigan earlier this month, Roundtree reached out to congratulate him. No big deal.

Except, he did it on Twitter. And that, according to NCAA rules, is a no-no. In fact, it's considered a secondary violation.

Brady Hoke sees something wrong with that.

"That one’s really silly," he said.

Hoke's in favor of loosening some of these restrictions put in place when media was media instead of everything being media. Despite his Fred Flintstone-like relationship with technology, he'd also like to let the Zooks run free with unlimited text messaging.  The NCAA should deregulate a bunch of this stuff so people can focus on important things instead.

Restatement of previous suggestion: if a kid wants to opt out let them sign a non-binding intent to commit letter that lifts contact restrictions for the school he's committed to, prohibits them from taking official visits or being contacted by other coaches, and can be rescinded at any time by the player.

Hobey Hunwick. The CCHA's second-team goalie is one of two netminders nominated for the Hobey Baker award:

Michigan senior goalie Shawn Hunwick has been named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation's top collegiate hockey player. Hunwick, named to the CCHA second team earlier this season, is 23-10-3 this season with a goals against average of 1.96 and a .934 save percentage.

Ferris State's goalie was not nominated for obvious reasons.

Profile season. The Daily covered Chris Brown. Texas? Texas:

Around Ann Arbor, he drives a massive black pick-up truck with Texas license plates slapped on it, a not-so-subtle reminder of the Division-I hockey player’s transplanted background.

And there is the music he listens to before games, so different than the hip-hop and electronic beats that usually flow in the locker rooms of Yost Ice Arena. Chris prefers country artists like Kenny Chesney and The Casey Donahue Band, whose most popular song is called “White Trash Story.”

Do you know how short Kenny Chesney is, though? He's really short.

The article goes in depth about the cross-country odysseys high level prospects have to undergo just to get to a place like Michigan. It's a nomadic existence. The only other athletes with comparable journeys are high-level soccer prospects.

Pro day stuff. Hemingway and Van Bergen showed well; so did Martin but that's no surprise. Gil Thorpe Brandt highlighted those two plus Molk and Woolfolk as risers throughout the draft process. Hemingway:

Junior Hemingway, WR (6-0 7/8, 221) — Hemingway looked very good catching the ball from Bruce Gradkowski, the Bengals QB who was brought in to throw. He’s a sleeper who should surprise on draft day when he’s selected earlier than expected.

It is tough to judge receivers in an offense piloted by Denard Robinson.

Quick exit. Holdin' the Rope on Michigan's exit:

Trying to make sense of the NCAA Tournament is like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach. Once you've made what you believe to be a certain amount of progress--you've counted each and every singular grain in your hand--the tide comes in, obliterating everything, weakening your assertion by introducing something entirely new to your worldview. Upsets happen all the time; it is the ordered disorder of this entire thing, a relatively brief spectacle that can either build upon or utterly destroy the five-month slog that precedes it. How upset you should be after this is a product of your pre-conceived notions of Michigan's abilities relative to college basketball as a whole, the somewhat distorting effect of a shared conference title, and most importantly, to what extent you think Michigan "overachieved."

Etc.: Meyers Leonard is probably gone to the NBA; Shaka Smart is going to have to get a lot more out of Nnanna Egwu if he hopes to make Illinois competitive in year one. Red Line is not a fan of Boo Nieves for unspecific reasons. UMHoops has a state of the blog. Michigan is second on MaxPreps' early 2013 class rankings. OSU is #6, Penn State #7. #tenyearwarII #andintroducingPennState

It's time for death hockey.

Expectations Unlocked

Expectations Unlocked

Submitted by Brian on March 19th, 2012 at 11:36 AM

3/16/2012 – Michigan 60, OHIO(!!!) 65 – 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten, end of season

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I'm about to paint with the kind of broad brush that had a couple people call me kinda racist after I asserted that Illinois DT Corey Liuget and I probably didn't have a lot of common life experiences, but here goes anyway.

A guy on the internet asserted that there seemed to be a big gap between serious Michigan hockey fans and the rest of the Michigan fanbase in their reactions to Michigan's frustrating loss to OHIO(!!!) on Friday, and man do I see that. I did the usual kick-the-cat, drink-the-whiskey thing in the immediate aftermath, but then it was just… fine. It sucks for the guys, especially Zack and Stu, but they don't put up banners for getting to the Sweet 16. They do for winning the league, and Michigan did that.

The disappointment from the tournament is real, and I feel what Dylan evidently did after taking that punch in person…

In the present, the retrospection and drooling about the future can wait. This one hurts and there’s no sugarcoating it.

…it's just not viscerally there for me. The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better.

So, yeah, it's a downer. But if you've been trained in the fu of an April gut punch as well as Michigan hockey fans have, it ranks below… almost everything. Certainly the Nickelback goals and the Air Force horror and the black, burnt grass of an OT loss in the championship game. The hockey team is rarely facing a wall of doom in the bracket that promises to end things well short of the ultimate goal.

The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.

---------------------

As for the game itself, Michigan was never a team that could go into an opening-round game with the outright expectation of victory. Kenpom had 'em by five and then the Bobcats and Michigan combined to do this:

The statistical outliers are what truly decide any game. DJ Cooper, a 31% three point shooter, hitting three-of-six NBA range triples. Or TJ Hall, a 27% three point shooter, knocking down a critical second half three, his only shot of the game. Add in Michigan, the ninth best two point shooting team in the country, missing nearly a dozen layups and Ohio, a 68% free throw shooting team, hitting 15-of-17 freebies.

Don't forget Ivo Baltic canning two or three fadeaway 15-footers with Novak's hand in his face. Yeesh. There is your ten-point swing.

There are teams featuring very long forwards and centers who can rely on their arms to dissuade opponents from that ability, teams that get second chances on a ton of missed shots, teams that are just so much of one thing or the other that an OHIO(!!!) can't hang with them unless the probabilities swing two or three standard deviations against them. Michigan was never that team.

They were the best mid-major in the country, per Mark Titus, and when the other team was chuckin' it real good there was always the chance this happened. It did, and if we're executing Real Talk neither Michigan getting hammered by OSU in the Big Ten tourney nor the early NCAA exit was unpredictable given the nature of the season. Evan Smotrycz was the second-most-credible post player on the team for the entire Big Ten season. Tim Hardaway Jr. took more threes than anyone else on the team by a good margin and hit 28% of them. I mean, come on.

I tried to warn us. We didn't listen!

None of that changes the narratives of the seniors or the trajectory of the program. Michigan just graduated two universally-beloved program builders and going-pro-in-something-other-than-sports icons who will get a banner sometime next fall. They welcome three top recruits and get a couple of guys off redshirts; collectively they should transform the program from scrappy overachieving underdogs to a full-on Big Ten power program.

After the cat was kicked and the whiskey consumed, it's hard to find something to brood on. If Beilein wasn't about to give his team an extreme talent makeover, we could complain about an artificially low ceiling. If Michigan hadn't broken its Big Ten title drought we could complain about our beloved program builders leaving without anything to mark their passage.

Neither of these things are true, so it seems the thing to do is salute the departed and look to the very near future. Godspeed, men taken from Valpo and Harvard. The last word goes to Novak:

"…coming in, personally, I was the fat kid from Indiana.

"And (we were) able to make three NCAA Tournaments, win the Big Ten in a year when it was the best conference in the country and win a lot of games. You have to keep things in perspective."

Bullets

The downer bit. I did find it very frustrating that Michigan never switched to a zone for extended periods of time. Michigan's initial forays into zone did give up open looks from three, but given Michigan's crap defense all night it seemed like it couldn't be worse than the man to man. Whereas most of Michigan's shortcomings seemed to be necessary adaptations to their limitations, the man-to-man insistence was one of those things that makes you wonder long-term.

Only slightly, though. Beilein has dumped his 1-3-1 already and adopted a bunch of ball screen sets. He's not exactly a stick in the mud. It was just a little surprising to see Michigan get cut up like that without a response.

It is possible that the coaches thought they were fine if they would just rotate better. Novak got caught in the paint time and again when he was one pass from the ballhandler and seemed to be a major reason OHIO(!!!) found itself with open looks from three.

Other downer. Michigan was down three late for about three straight possessions and the offensive devolved into… actually, this may be my memory playing tricks on me. The late-clock offense did feature Burke twice pulling up from three when a big switched onto him, but it also got Novak a corner three and Smotrycz yet another layup Michigan somehow did not convert

Burke finished the year shooting 35% from three and those were pretty easy to get. That might be the play given that you're down three.

Final numbers. A shooting profile of Michigan's returning contributors:

  • Burke: 75% from the line, 49% from 2, 35% from three.
  • Hardaway: 72%, 54%, 28%
  • Smotrycz: 78%, 53%, 44%
  • Morgan: 51%, 62%, N/A

Novak was the most efficient guy on the team, hitting 86/56/41 and having the lowest turnover rate but he and Douglass were also in the "limited roles" category on Kenpom. Michigan isn't replacing guys who did the heavy lifting on offense. To maintain their offensive efficiency they'll only have to get few extra shots generated by Burke, Stauskas, Hardaway, et al.

Returns. Speaking of "returning contributors," Burke and Hardaway said they'd be back in the aftermath:

"No, I'm coming back next year," the [Hardaway] said after Michigan's 65-60 NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Ohio on Friday. "I'm coming back."

Burke, who earned the co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year award this season and finished the year as the team's leading scorer, was right in step with his teammate.

"I'm definitely coming back," he said. "I'm just going to learn from this loss and get ready for next season."

Those are emotional postgame sentiments that may or may not hold up over time. Still, Hardaway is not much of a threat to leave after struggling with his shot most of the season and Burke probably has to be an All-American sort to get a lock first-round grade at his height. It doesn't seem likely either will change his mind, especially with the lockout backlog clearing up.

IT'S NOT MAGIC IT'S CHANCEArglebargle argle:

Late-game magic escapes when it matters most

Glarb glarb glarb.

Are we really talking about this? Yeah, Smotrycz turned the ball over when Michigan put him in a crappy situation with seven seconds left. He'd also put up 15 points on seven shots before that. We really need Daily article and message board threads defending the kid because e-loons are on his jock? Sometimes I hate people. Sometimes is almost all the time.

Butthurt. One thing this has really driven home is how amazingly butthurt OSU fans are about Brady Hoke calling them Ohio. It drives them nuts. Their reaction to this whole upset was as if it was some kind of vindication.

And yet they use "TSUN" constantly without recognizing the irony. Even operating under the assumption that many OSU fans are only technically human, that's surprisingly dumb.

Suddenly next year

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Stauskas, Robinson III, McGary

As this season wraps up, eyes turn towards next year. Michigan loses Stu Douglass and Zack Novak; they bring in freshmen Mitch McGary, Nick Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III. They also get bigs Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford off of redshirts.

Though Novak was regarded as more integral to the team his absence is going to be easier to cope with. His minutes at the 3 and 4 will be fiercely contested by four or five players. Douglass's role as the go-to perimeter defender and secondary ballhandler… um. Michigan's best bets are Stauskas's nasty crossover immediately translating to the college level or a leap forward from Carlton Brundidge. Both are possible. Neither seems especially likely. If Michigan ends up with an unexpected scholarship dollars to donuts they scour for a backup at the one, whether it's the Italian kid with the 'fro or a grad-year transfer. If it's a grad-year guy, Beilein might sidle up to Max "My Name Is On Several Buildings At Illinois" Bielfeldt and delicately broach the idea he could pay tuition next year.

If that doesn't happen, one man's minute breakdown next year:

  • Point guard: Burke 35, Brundidge 5.
  • Shooting guard: Stauskas 25, Vogrich 15
  • Small forward: Hardaway 30, GRIII 10
  • Power forward: Smotrycz 20, GRIII 15, Bielfeldt 5
  • Center: McGary 15, Morgan 15, Horford 10

Center is up in the air. McGary could come in and establish himself as a 30 minute guy, in which case I'd bet that sucks up most of Horford's minutes. Christian and McLimans probably won't see the light of day.

That's an 8-9 man rotation with spot minutes from a couple other guys—Michigan's bench minutes should reach the middle of the pack.

Observations:

Michigan is suddenly huge. If Michigan actually sees the playing-time breakdown above, Michigan's average minute will go to a guy just under 6'6". (Assumptions: Stauskas and GRIII are listed at 6'6", McGary 6'10".) That's a five and a half-inch(!) difference from this year's roster, and that could be a conservative estimate. McGary and Smotrycz may see more time than estimated but probably not less; rosters do things like list Douglass at 6'3" and Burke at 6'1". With that conversion rate, guesses at 6'10" for McGary and 6'6" for GRIII may be an inch or so short.

That will take Michigan's effective height from –1.1 inches, good for a mid-major-ish 250th, to +4.4, which should be top ten nationally. That is whiplash-inducing. It's also pretty good company. Three of the four one seeds (all but MSU) are in the top 12 along with a two (Duke), a couple of threes (Baylor, FSU) and a four (Indiana). And… uh… Illinois.

Even if it's not a guarantee, height is strongly correlated with both offensive and defensive efficiency. This year's Michigan was about the third-best team you could put together with two guys over 6'5". That ceiling—one so harshly experienced by fellow first round upset victim Missouri—is about to lift.

Michigan's suddenly deep at places that aren't point guard. Assuming one of Robinson or Hardaway can handle some minutes at the two, they'll have two reasonable bench options for every spot on the floor except point guard. When Hardaway is broken, Michigan can put him on the bench. When he's hot they can ride him. They can effectively threaten playing time in a way that they could not last year.

Someone's going to lose out at center. The above minute breakdown at the 5 may be realistic over the course of the season, but when it comes down to crunch time they'll probably go with two guys unless severe foul trouble intervenes. That guess seems like the weakest above.

Questions:

Can anyone spot Burke? Everyone on the roster has a reasonable backup or two except Burke, whose only support is a seldom-used guy who came in as a shooting guard who can't really shoot. It was a very bad sign for Brundidge when Eso Akunne was drafted to take over point guard opportunities early this year.

I know there's a lot of time for the guy to develop but I'm not seeing it. Maybe there's a system in which a 6-foot guy who could get to the basket in high school but doesn't seem to have the handle to do it in college could be effective, but it's not this one. Add in a scary asthma incident that kept him out of a few practices and prevented him from traveling to Michigan State and his prospects of serious playing time get slimmer still.

Should we play a ton more zone? Length is commonly associated with being good at playing zone. Michigan will have lots of it next year.

Also, a quick survey of the backcourt options reveals nothing even resembling a shut-down on-ball defender unless we want to hand that job to Burke. Since Burke is going to be heavily relied on to run the offense, I'd rather not do that. Other options are Stauskas, Vogrich, and Hardaway. None of them figure to be even above-average, let alone shut-down. While Michigan figures to have a lot more shotblocking next year to cover up for that deficiency, consistently allowing penetration is a recipe for open shots and bad defense.

So… zone, whether it's a 2-3 or a resurgence of the 1-3-1, seems like something Michigan might look at. The argument against it is that you should focus on your existing system and get better at it; the football team has amply demonstrated that changing your D every year is not a recipie for great success.

Can Bielfeldt play? The plan at the beginning of the year was to redshirt and Michigan stuck with that even when Horford went down. This would be ominous except Bielfeldt had some tendinitis issues that sounded relatively severe. Also, big men develop slowly and unpredictably and getting a fifth year out of them is often a much better idea than flinging spare minutes at them when they're an overwhelmed freshman.

Bielfeldt is a wide guy with a good jumper who Beilein says is a "tremendous" rebounder and good in short spaces. This is him:

“Long and bouncy, Max is not,’’ Mathews said. “But in the right program, he could be ultra productive. Because good big men are hard to come by.

“He’s a throwback. He’s gonna bang. He’s gonna be physical. He’s gonna draw contact. He’s gonna set a hard pick. He’s gonna pop and hit an open jumper. He’s gonna be able to guard their 4, their big who is posting up back to the basket. He can get in there and guard that guy. Sometimes, 6-10, long and bouncy doesn’t guard those big, husky bodies inside.

“But Max can do that.’’

I'm not exactly sure where he fits. He's probably not big enough to play as a 5 in college and if he doesn't have a three-pointer it's going to be tough for him to contribute enough on offense to supplant Smotrycz or Robinson.

Hardaway: the usual? Please bounce back please bounce back please bounce back.

Is Nick Stauskas finally the ludicrous 45% three point shooter Beilein has been craving forever? Would it be nice, yes? I speak like Russian contemplating this. Da.

Elsewhere

UMHoops recap. M&GB says things. More Key Plays from UMHoopsBaumgardner:

Almost 10 minutes after their final games in a Michigan basketball uniform, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass emerged from the Wolverine locker room one last time — and neither one of them quite knew what to do.

Douglass, eyes puffy and red from the tears that welled inside them moments earlier, and Novak, wearing an emblematic bruise on his cheek and bump across the bridge of his nose, walked a lonely hallway inside the bowels of Bridgestone Arena to meet with the media one final time.

"I don't know," Douglass said in a somber tone. "I just didn't think this would happen today."

With that, Novak and Douglass were gone.

John Niyo:

It was the end of an era of low expectations for the Wolverines. And that's the kind of ending so many Michigan fans have been anxiously waiting for, isn't it?

Five years after John Beilein arrived to begin another tedious rebuilding effort in Ann Arbor, it's safe to say, as departing senior Zack Novak did following Friday's loss, "The foundation is set in place."

From the new-and-improved basketball facilities on campus to the stable coaching situation to a more-energized fan base, that's hard to argue now, even in a cramped postgame locker room choked with disappointment.

Yes.

Postgame transcript.

A Final Word On OHIO

A Final Word On OHIO

Submitted by Brian on March 16th, 2012 at 5:12 PM

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FIGHT!

We've previewed the Bobcats, talked with people who've seen a lot of them, and revisited OHIO with some keys and questions. Meanwhile, the rest of the Michigan blogosphere has done the same. Maize and Brew already assembled the linkdump, so here it is:

Ohio has been covered well across the Michigan blogosphere, from here (Impressions From Ohio vs. Akron, Quick Ohio Profile, Breaking Down Ohio with MAC Report Online, Breaking Down Ohio with the Hustle Belt) UMHoops (Film Room: Scouting Ohio, Film Room: Ohio's Defense, Opposition Q&A, Presser Transcript) and MGoBlog (Death From Above, Another Q&A with the Hustle Belt, Scouting OHIO) in particular. The content during this past week has been fantastic, and there's been no shortage of information on a relatively unknown opponent.

If you don't know about the Bobcats by now, you will never ever know the Bobcats.

The assumption of most of the mainstream guys is that the game hinges on the one-on-one matchup between Trey Burke and DJ Cooper. That seems overblown to me since it's Stu Douglass who is likely to get the Cooper assignment and Michigan switches constantly on screens anyway. Also, a zone is a strong possibility at some point.

To me, Michigan needs to rotate well enough to prevent Cooper from getting too many easy looks or creating them for his teammates. I assume Michigan has a plan; we'll see how it works. On offense, either Hardaway has to continue his late-season resurgence or Beilein ball shreds an aggressive, risk-taking defense.

Predictions are stupid. Hope to be back with muppets around 10.

Scouting OHIO

Scouting OHIO

Submitted by Brian on March 15th, 2012 at 3:40 PM

UMHoops got its hands on a torrent of the MAC championship game and chopped it into scouting reports on a majority of OHIO's players. Read it. The following post consists of assorted things I'll be looking to as keys to not blowing it.

Chuck, And Ye Shall Receive (Sometimes)

The lion's share of Ohio usage goes to diminutive, ball-domineering DJ Cooper. UMHoops compares him to Tim Frazier, and that's about right. You could also call him MAC Iverson if you want:

read the rest of this post. it is excellent.

That, my friends, is a chucker. I knew it in my bones the moment I looked at the Kenpom profile but there it is in the flesh. Fadeaway threes? Check. Shots from a distance freshman Stu Douglass thinks is outlandish? Check. Wild drives into tons of traffic with resulting chaotic results? Check. Way too many of those shots going down? Check.

Opposing a chucker is equal parts smug haterdom and fist-shaking frustration. If Cooper goes NBA Jam on us there's not much anyone can do. If he hews to his season percentages or is off, Michigan feels comfortable unless there's an equal and opposite force preventing it.

Given the chuckerdom and OHIO's generally poor three-point shooting, there is an obvious way to defend them. I'll let two more MAC Q&A answering expert-type guys execute the reveal:

Fitzwater: Teams that play a lot of zone have given Ohio problems. Teams with strong, tall forwards can also force a lot of fouls and dominate the paint. But nobody blew OU out this season; they were in a position to win every game and were up two possessions late at Louisville. The Bobcats thrive against teams that don’t take care of the ball, don’t deal well with high ball screens, give up offensive rebounds, or depend on the three.

Hmmm. Michigan takes care of the ball, does well against high ball screens only when Morgan is in the game, has had problems with rebounding, and takes a lot of threes. But they also can play zone.

Arkley: Typically teams that slow it down (lower possessions) give Ohio more trouble. Slower paced teams that play a lot of zone even more so. The Bobcats have been inconsistent at best from three and can have problems generating points if not getting any full-court opportunities

Ohio has played well against teams that don’t have good inside-out balance offensively. The Bobcats have been good enough defensively this season to take away opponents top option or two on the offensive end. Ohio wants to run as well, so they haven’t had many problems with high-pace teams.

Also zone. Zone zone zone. Michigan's gone away from the 1-3-1 and has mostly used the 2-3 this year; it will be an option if Michigan can't contain Cooper early.

Despite the above I assume man to man is going to be plan A. Once you go to a zone it gets harder to deal with specific three-point threats like Nick Kellogg, who's hitting 42%. Also, OHIO's four is a smooth-shooting 6'8" guy with range to exploit the gaps in a 2-3 around the free throw line. If Michigan can hedge and recover on the lighting quick Cooper they'll stick with man to man. Morgan's very good at that… when he's not picking up silly fouls on the perimeter. Smotrycz is crap at hedging and a zone will be preferable when he's in the game.

The other thing the Cooper tape shows is that he doesn't need a ball screen to get penetration. Most of Ohio's sets above are 1-4s where Cooper's isoed at the top on a single defender. He gets penetration and either shoots or finds an open guy. Stu Douglass is going to have his hands full.

Rebounding: Can We Do It?

Yeah, even against a MAC team. Michigan is tiny* and the combination of Cooper and a couple of 6'8" bigs with OREB rates over 12% could lead to issues. Cooper poses a couple problems: 1) as mentioned above, late or poor hedges are likely to lead to perimeter fouls and a lack of Morgan, and 2) since it's impossible to stay in front of him one on one he forces bigs over to help. Even if the resulting shot is wild, now you've got an uncovered big on the weakside. I'm watching Louisville-Davidson as I write this and Peyton Siva missed shots are all but assists as he pulls Wildcat defenders to him and leaves his center wide open.

The good news is that it doesn't look like anyone on the roster other than the center is much of a threat. Even if Ivo Baltic is a lot bigger than Zack Novak he's a stretch four whose bread and butter is pick and pop stuff or long twos off kickouts—he has the offensive game of an unathletic NBA power forward. Think late-stage Antonio McDyess. This means he's not often around the bucket to snatch up loose balls. His OREB rate is only incrementally better than Zack Novak. The difference doesn't seem likely to manifest.

On the other end, OHIO is a relatively poor defensive rebounding team (245th, about 70 spots below average but not awful). Michigan all but abandons offensive rebounding save for its center; it does seem like Morgan will be able to do some work.

This looks like a push. If it's not it's probably because Morgan's in foul trouble and Michigan is struggling to cope.

*[For the last time. Michigan loses a 6'2" guy and a 6'4" guy after this year and adds Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, Max Bielfeldt, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas to the roster. All five of those guys are 6'5" or bigger. Prepare for vertigo when Michigan takes the court next year a huge, athletic outfit.

I wonder if this will alter Michigan's approach to offensive rebounds. Sending Novak to or Douglass to the glass is obviously less of a good idea than sending Smotrycz—soon to be liberated to the four again—and GRIII.]

Three Point Defense: A Real Thing?

I remember talking about this a long time ago with Big Ten Wonk when he was just some guy in his basement littering the internet with bolded, exclamation-point-laden sentences. At the time Michigan was enduring a rain of threes from opponents that seemed incredible. I took the position this was luck; Mr. Gasaway said the percentages were unsustainable but evidence of a real skill, or lack thereof, possessed by Michigan.

Gasaway moved on to ESPN, where the power of the WWL has made him not only wrong about all current things ("Michigan's 1-3-1 is difficult to prepare for!" —Digger Phelps literally every time he is asked to say anything about Michigan) but also all things he has said in the past. Kenpom has set out to make this true. You've probably seen this graph before:

Def_3P_Pct[1]

That's how well your three point defense in the first half of your conference season correlates with three point D in the second half. The answer is "not well." The R-squared is zero. The graph is the classic blob you'd get if you compared two totally unrelated variables like the number of letters in someone's first name and his height.

I've been reading too much Phil Birnbaum to take the above absence of evidence as evidence of absence, but it is suggestive that the graph for attempts allowed is well correlated. Statheads correct me if I'm wrong, but those are the same data sizes and for one to correlate pretty well suggests that it's not a sample size issue when the other doesn't.

If it's just dumb luck that OHIO is a really good three point defense, Michigan will play its game and get its requisite number of open looks and either hit some or miss some. If they really do stick to shooters hard, Michigan has options with backdoor plays and screen and rolls. You'll be able to tell this is happening when Burke or Hardaway or someone gets the ball to the post on a pick and roll. Is it an uncontested thunder dunk? They're sticking to shooters.

That's probably not the case. Akron hit 9 of 12 threes in the MAC championship game, and they were often like this:

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A nap and a double feature of Ishtar and Dances With Wolves later, that guy knocked it down. Michigan will get their looks.

Key Thing

Open court turnovers. Burke's coming off a terrible performance in which he got Craft'd. Ohio forces a lot of turnovers and tries to transition that into offense so they don't have to stand around waiting for Cooper to do something. Limiting Michigan's turnovers not only helps the offense but the defense, then, and it's much worse to get your pocket picked than to chuck a ball into the stands. Michigan's fantastic at the latter but only pretty good at the former.

They'll get a test in that department tomorrow. If we're sitting around muttering on Saturday the reason will probably be double-digit transition points.

Vicious Electronic Questioning: Matt Sussman On OHIO

Vicious Electronic Questioning: Matt Sussman On OHIO

Submitted by Brian on March 13th, 2012 at 1:36 PM

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I hit up Hustle Belt's Matt Sussman to enquire about the OHIO Bobcats. Matt's a BGSU man himself but has taken in scads of MAC basketball this year. Hit his site Hustle Belt or follow him on twitter. Curling tweets!

Matt was also good enough to clarify the origin of Ohio being OHIO: "if you gander at ohio.edu you'll see the all caps damn near everywhere. Just doing what they want, to the extreme." The Mountain Dew of schools. Still, they annihilated GT.

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointSo... how mad is OHIO about Ohio State being called "Ohio" by Brady Hoke and now everyone affiliated with the university? Quantify their lust for revenge in points per game.

It's a terrible strain on OHIO football fans to get mentally prepared for, say, Kent State then suddenly hear in the news that they might be playing Michigan, spend $50 on a one-game ticket, watch film on Denard then finally realize what Brady Hoke is doing. All this money adds up especially when compounded with student loans and translates directly into 4.6 points per basketball contest.

There are a few things that leap off the page when you hit up OHIO's Kenpom sheet:

1) Turnovers forced. The Bobcats are second nationally. DJ Cooper has an Aaron Craft-like steal percentage. Can he give Trey Burke as much trouble as Craft, or is he more of a high-risk, high-reward type of guy? Do they use weird zones or is this just a man to man D that gets into passing lanes really well?

Coop (the kids call him Coop) is kind of a risk-taker and they'll go between zone and man. Really I think the entire team is so solid defensively that they can allow Cooper (sportswriters call him Cooper) to really frustrate his man. 

2) Three-point defense. Pomeroy has dedicated a series of posts this fall to the idea that three point D is basically luck and that the real number to look at is the number of threes conceded. The Bobcats are great at the former (19th nationally, 30%) and not good at the latter (36% of opponent shots are from three, 261st). Not to denigrate the MAC, but is this a league with a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks?

Well, four of the five first team All-MACers were power forwards, so ... maybe kinda. (The fifth was DJ Cooper, FWIW.) Couple theories on this: the one you mentioned, or that their interior defense is better than advertised so all they have left is to shoot the three. I can think of one "chucker" in the MAC and he plays for Buffalo, a team they beat three times despite having two outstanding forwards and a better seed in the MAC Tournament.

3) Speaking of a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks, if you click the conference toggle for the Bobcats Kenpom tells you they're dead last at shooting threes (barely over 30%) and take a ton (38%). These guys are just going to shoot over guys without even trying to find an open shot a lot, right?

Is this another question about DJ Cooper? Because yes. I think the ghost of Tommy Freeman does inhabit the occasional Bobcat from time to time. The only one who usually makes them is Clark Kellogg's son Nick, and if CBS wants to run that storyline into the ground they'll find a way. And yes, they are prone to going three-happy, and risk-taking in general on offense. Oh, that can sometimes have hilarious results.

As far as individual matchups go, it looks like OHIO is actually bigger than Michigan. M rotates Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan at the five and will have both on the floor for a few minutes per game; it looks like Ohio has a 6'8" two-headed center and an actual power forward named Ivo Baltic. How much of a post force is he? Can Zack Novak reasonably match up against him?

Anytime I see Baltic play, he has some nice quick moves whether it's to the basket or to separate for a 10- to 15-footer. He's a reliable 4 but I wouldn't call him one of the tops in the MAC ... just one of the many sound interior players along with Reggie Keely and Jon Smith.

OU-KSU-15[1]DJ Cooper (right) has a monster assist rate, draws a ton of fouls, shoots well from the line... and is pretty horrible at all other shots. Poor man's Lewis Jackson: fair comparison? What does he have to do to make Michigan worry?

The team is nothing without him but he can't be everything. When he stays as a true point guard he's at his best. He can score 20 points as long as he lets Baltic and Keely and Kellogg and Offutt also score 10 or 15 points. If those other guys are getting into position and he can pass to them regularly, then he's going to put Michigan in a world of hurt.

While he can sometimes get the big shot, he's not particularly known for it. Dangle that carrot in his face that the game depends on his very next shot with 12 minutes to go and that may be the key to his undoing.

Is there anything in what Ohio does that seems likely to give an undersized, outside-shooting-dependent, shallow Big Ten team issues?

You gave away the answer already! Three-point defense. Take Northern Iowa for example. Big-time reliant on the 3-point shooting, not a lot of inside size. OHIO's guards contested lots of threes, rebounded well, and they put UNI away by several points on the road. It was a big win at the time that looks progressively worse with age, but that's basically the blueprint. Strong guard defense, get everybody involved on offense.

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Two years ago OHIO took down three-seeded Georgetown by 14, with Cooper featuring. Anything other than a coaching talking point to be taken from that? Repeatable due to scheme and talent?

Keely got some points, Baltic had a cameo appearance, but other than Cooper's great game and John Groce being present and clapping and stomping I'm not putting much stock into that anomaly. Let's remember that OHIO was a NINE seed in the MAC tournament that year. They were about as inconsistently hot that year as a Hot Pocket. It's been two years since the Georgetown upset and I still can't figure out how it happened other than to say it was just the best two-week stretch of Armon Bassett's life and maybe he was bitten by a radioactive basketball.

On an upset alert scale ranging from "Captain Renault is shocked that Kansas underperformed its seed" to "Sixteen seed takes down one," how would you rate this 4-13 matchup?

Sir Lancelot, played by D.J. Cooper, single-handedly storming the castle where a wedding is being held, but never gaining ground. Like many other 4-13s: can happen, might happen, probably won't happen, not willing to wager money it won't happen.

MAC rivals have started calling the Bobcats "Ohio State," right?

That's not really fair to a team that will actually travel to a MAC school for a game.

I guess they'll have to start calling them Michigan State, then. Thanks again to Matt. Hustle Belt, yo.

Unverified Voracity Scoffs At Vikings

Unverified Voracity Scoffs At Vikings

Submitted by Brian on March 12th, 2012 at 4:22 PM

Brief Big Ten Tournament note. No column on it; I wasn't feeling massively invested because I had to miss the second half of the Minnesota game to go to Yost and watched it after I knew the outcome, then Ohio State came out and was all like "today we will play like a team with two lottery picks on it." Once that happened and Burke got annihilated by Craft it was clear this was going to be an ugly old-style loss, which fine. Michigan is not on the level of national contender… yet.

If anything the tourney just reinforced my feeling that this team did fantastically to pick up a Big Ten title split and now that there's a banner in hand the rest of this is house money. After beating OHIO*, that is. Losing to a 13 seed would leave a sour taste. Everything else is gravy-coated candy.

I'll leave the garment rending about how we're not competing for a one-seed for the next couple years.

Side note: now do we believe that Craft is a totally awesome defender? Yes? Okay.

*[SBN MAC blog Hustle Belt refers to the Bobcats as "OHIO" for reasons that are unknown but very probably related to their stunning upset of Georgetown as a 14 seed two years ago.

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Since giving them the all-caps treatment is a term of respect that doubles as diss of plain ol' Ohio, this blog will refer to the Bobcats as OHIO from now on.]

Dave Brandon approves. Michigan-ND 1978 was like Michigan-MSU 2012 in two ways: one team looked totally ridiculous and lost 28-14.

The two games were different because one team didn't look ridiculous and Ufer was going ape in '78.

This game also provides ammunition for both sides of the maize/yellow debate. It's clear that UM's maize is much lighter than the yellow ND is wearing; it's also unattractively blinding.

Also ridiculous. I wish I'd found this before I posted on hockey's tourney streak today, as it really hammers home how remarkable it is:

Let me put that in perspective- of ALL of the teams that have won a National Championship in Hockey the last 21 seasons, here's the tournament appearances:

Michigan- 21
Boston U- 15
Minnesota- 15
North Dakota- 14
Michigan State- 14
Maine- 13
Wisconsin- 13
Boston College- 13
Denver- 10
Lake State- 6
Northern Michigan- 5
UM-Duluth- 4

Inside that, the longest streak is 9, shared by Maine, Michigan State, and North Dakota, but North Dakota will extend that to 10 this year. At least should.

Unless there's a power lurking outside this list—and I don't think there is—every other team has missed the NCAAs at least six times during the streak.

Help next year. Hockey's got blue chips on the blue line and at forward in their next recruiting class. Boo Nieves is the forward, and he sounds a little like Carl Hagelin:

Matt Herr thought he had seen it all after taking over as coach at the Kent School in Connecticut following a productive collegiate and professional playing career.

That's before he was introduced to 6-foot-3, 184-pound center Cristoval "Boo" Nieves last season.

"I don't know how he skates so freaking fast for his size," Herr told NHL.com. "He's one of the best skaters I've seen this year. I think he can jump into the American Hockey League and play right now and you wouldn't even blink." …

"He just explodes off the mark and has agility, balance and quickness to break loose from traffic," Eggleston said. "He also has the physical strength to plow through checks along the wall and bring the puck with him. He sees the ice very well, is a very smart and creative playmaker and captains the team ... he's a very good team player."

Herr then compares him to Joe Thornton, which… like… probably not. Here's hoping, though. If Michigan doesn't suffer any departures at forward I'm guessing that AJ Treais slides up to the top line next year between Brown and Guptill; Nieves should center the second line with PDG and… Moffatt? That sounds pretty good to me.

If they can keep defections on defense down to one they'd be skating something like Trouba-Merrill/Bennett, Moffie-Chiasson, Clare/Serville-Carrick. Depth is a bit scary there but kids develop; Serville especially seems like an offseason in a weight program will do him good.

Help the Mathlete. He needs some crowd-sourcing to fill in holes in his recruiting database. Your reward is good feelings and some interesting posts.

That's the ticket. Kyle Meinke tries to make us all feel better about going up against that Alabama defense:

"There ain't no one who can learn that defense in under a year," outgoing free safety Mark Barron said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "We played in a very difficult defense, first of all. We did a lot of different schemes.

"I really don’t believe anyone can learn that defense in under a year."

Score! Please score.

Trey Burke is childhood friends with everyone on an Ohio D-I roster. OHIO backup PG and lightning bolt Stevie Taylor has played with and against Trey Burke for big chunks of his career. UMHoops has the story and the requisite adorable picture:

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Um… check with the basketball team. Michigan's hockey team has adopted a mantra that should be familiar to anyone who followed Michigan basketball's NCAA drought-breaking team of a few years back:

The No. 4 Michigan hockey team emerged from its locker room before Saturday’s game against Notre Dame wearing shirts with the team motto, “Burn the Boats,” prominently displayed.

Hey! I remember that! Isn't that…

“(Sophomore forward Luke) Moffatt brought it up this year,” said sophomore forward Derek DeBlois last month. “It has to do with the Vikings. When they would go to fight, they would burn their boats. No retreat, you just kind of lay all your chips on the table and fight until you win.”

…NOT ABOUT VIKINGS AT ALL. It's actually a famous event in the Spanish conquest of everything when they were discovering the new world, which is why the basketball team's version of the slogan was in Spanish. [Ed-S: actually...] Come on. Vikings. I've never heard about anything so ridicul—

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SHOULDN'T HAVE TALKED ISH ABOUT VIKIIIIINGS AIEEEE—

 

Etc: James Rogers interviewed. Michigan Tech goalie coach and former Michigan goalie Steve Shields profiled. MEL PEARSON UPDATE: Tech reaches the Final Five for the first time in five years. Tech is two games away from .500 on the year. Carty on Draymond Green and Zack Novak. Ohio's PG in a bikini.

Michigan Gets A 4, Will Play Ohio (Not That Ohio)

Michigan Gets A 4, Will Play Ohio (Not That Ohio)

Submitted by Brian on March 11th, 2012 at 6:41 PM

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Michigan's third bid in four years is a Sweet Sixteen seed in the Midwest region and draws Brady Hoke's favorite team: Ohio. Not that Ohio, Actual Ohio. This Ohio:

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Ohio won the MAC title and is #72 in Kenpom.

A second round matchup will be against either Temple (#37 Kenpom), Cal, or South Florida. According to Kenpom, Michigan got a better draw than Michigan State. Also Seth Davis hates the entire Big Ten.