I'm finally getting around to this now that football is taking a breather. This is from last Monday, and I'll also have a transcript of Billy Donlon's illuminating media day press scrum tomorrow before digging into the meat of the season preview.
This was after only a couple practices, so it's light on specifics about how the team is looking right now, though there was still plenty to cover from the offseason.
The team spent a lot more time this offseason on individual defense.
Billy Donlon is, yes, a pseudo-defensive coordinator, and he's been very vocal in practice. Beilein notes that Donlon's defenses have been better than Michigan's, so he's listening closely to Donlon's input.
Beilein may be rethinking autobench. (!!!)
Xavier Simpson and Derrick Walton will play at the same time, perhaps with more frequency than we expect.
I nearly forgot my question after Beilein said he likes my tweets.
[Joined just after the start of the opening statement.]
Excited to get back to practice again, my 42nd season, my tenth season at Michigan. It’s wonderful to coach this group of young men we have right now. The transition with our staff thus far has been terrific. Really, really love the new information, the excitement, the great parallels between Saddi [Washington] and Bill Donlon, and Val Jordan and Bacari Alexander. It’s been a really good transition thus far.
We’ve had two practices, I can’t tell you a whole lot. I think that we spent a great, probably 500% more, in the summer, on just individual defense as opposed to evaluating players, so I don’t have a lot of evaluation for you today. We haven’t scrimmaged yet. I would say we’ve probably scrimmaged for 60 minutes the entire summer, so I can’t give you much information for what I feel, who’s where, other than what I do know. We’re trying to get in a stance, we’re trying to guard people, we’re trying to do a much better job that what we did last year. I hope you’ll see a little bit, it’s going to be a very boring practice for you, it’s going to be an hour of some stretching, and there will be some shooting, and there will be a little bit more. There won’t be a dunk contest and there won’t be any type of scrimmage in there at all, but you’ll get a little idea for who the players are, what numbers they are, and that’ll be just about it.
As I said, I feel recharged and reenergized by so many things that have occurred with this class of really five new players coming, with the four freshmen and Charles Matthews. Last year we just had Moe Wagner, that was it. Reteaching things, retooling things has been really energizing for us. Listening to Saddi and to Bill has been great. You go back six years ago and having Bacari and Val walk in, and Jeff Meyer, and it’s like that time all over again where I can say, okay, this is what’s gone on the last six years, this is where the game has changed, have I changed enough, and then we just go from there. A lot of trial and error still in practice in these six weeks, and then I know we won’t have it perfect by the time of the first game. We just want to be really good by the time we get to that Big Ten schedule.
I hope you’re all excited about our football team right now being 5-0. It’s a great start. I was following the game the other day, for you Catholics out there I don’t know if I’m in trouble, but I was looking at my phone during a wedding Mass on Saturday. That probably didn’t give me absolution for that, but I was following the game on the phone. I probably shouldn’t have told the bride and the groom that just now, either, but I just did.
let me show you how we handle punks in the district, punk [Patrick Barron]
Everywhere I turn this offseason, it seems someone is writing another article lauding the aggression, complexity, blitzes, and disguises built into Don Brown's defense. These attributes have obvious upside, but are we overlooking what could be a very steep learning curve for this defense? Can we really expect these guys to flawlessly execute such a reportedly complex defense within the first year?
There will be transition costs; there always are. When you're real good and have real good players those can be overcome. Last year's offense had a bunch of transition costs and still rocketed from 82nd in S&P+ to 30th; in FEI they went from 100th(!) to 33rd. This leap occurred despite weekly UFR diatribes about how various people on Michigan's offense still didn't really know what they were doing.
It going to be tougher for the defense to have anything similar since they were already very good. It's hard to improve much from 20th (FEI) or 2nd (S&P+). The leap from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is probably extant; it is certainly less grand than the leap from Brady Hoke to Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile Brown's defenses have tended to tread water in year one:
There's a ton of noise in that data since we're not accounting for returning starters and the like. It still suggests that a great leap forward should not be expected.
On the other hand, Don Brown has never been handed even half of the talent he's got this year and it's almost all very experienced. Michigan's starting D consists of eight seniors, a redshirt junior, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary. While these guys haven't worked on certain things Brown does, they've at least encountered them from time to time; they can also spend the bulk of their offseason working on that stuff since you can take it as read that they've got man free coverages down.
It is a concern, but the schedule is reassuring. I'll take a series of early biffs against teams Michigan beats by 21 instead of 28 if the payoff is a defense that is finally, finally, finally equipped with the state of the art in shutting down a spread n shred. The talent available should mitigate some of those hiccups—a coverage bust doesn't hurt you if the QB is running for his life—and once those get smoothed over, Michigan's ceiling is higher.
Let's go moo
In my travels throughout the internet I came a cross a rather unique rendition of 'Let's Go Blue' that I thought should be shared. There is a man named Farmer Derek, a high level Bard no doubt, who serenades his cattle and posts the songs on YouTube. At the end of his version of Royals by Lorde he goes into Let's Go Blue and the cattle respond in kind. I don't know what should be done with this video, if anything, but I believe it should be shared and thought you should be notified. Cheers.
Sincerely yours in football,
This is a great service to the fandom, Pinball Pete:
[After THE JUMP: not cows responding to Let's Go Blue so why even bother]
Shorter arms have an easier time with the bench press but that's still crazy. I'm anticipating Hudson's on-field impact almost as much as Gary's.
Football was different in 1977. Then-DC Bill McCartney on Michigan's philosophy:
These days waiting for a mistake is something that'll get you killed against the best offenses, and while teams like Iowa continue to keep everything in front of them their defenses top out at pretty good.
#disrespekt makes an arrest report. Draymond Green falls victim to the proverbial chip on the shoulder:
Per reports, the player in question is defensive back Jermaine Edmondson, who has zero career starts.
Early lines. Per the Golden Nugget, Michigan is an 11.5-point favorite over Wisconsin, a four point favorite over MSU, a 4.5-point favorite over Iowa, and a 3 point underdog to Ohio State. That Wisconsin number is surprisingly big even though they had a rough season last year; injury and inexperience on the OL was particularly harmful to their chances. Being solid road favorites against MSU and Iowa is nice.
These are all the wrong answers. Mississippi State put Jeffery Simmons, who was caught on film hammering on a prone woman, back on their team just before a month-long period with no press for Dan Mullen. They spent that month reviewing Dave Brandon's Big Book Of Real Good PR, resulting in some unbelievably ham-handed and offensive responses to the berating they had to know they were in for:
Dan Mullen on Jeffrey Simmons' 1-game suspension: "I wasn't involved much. It was a university decision."
I hate the "your wife or daughter" angle that always gets brought up when this happens. It is explicitly asking the responder to be irrational, to pass judgment in a situation when they should recuse themselves. But holy shit, that is the dumbest possible answer for that dumb (and very, very common) question. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since the athletic director cited the fact that Simmons could end up at another SEC school if MSU cut him loose when the decision was actually made. People in charge of things are just in charge of them for no reason, part infinity.
You knew this but now there are numbers. Out of 321 coaches in a Kenpom autobench study, John Beilein is 308th in his willingness to play guys with two fouls in the first half. The last four years Michigan has been 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 17th in free throw attempts per FGA. Nothing about this is rational.
You can put the statue back up but he has to be wearing a blindfold. Penn State got in a fight with its insurance company, because someone had a very bad idea at one point, and today various court records were released to the public. They're as bad as you might expect:
Per the deposition, Paterno knew as early as 1976 and responded to an allegation with "I don't want to hear about any of that kind of stuff." A deposition is not a conviction; it is a thoroughly damning document all the same. There are many of them:
That is but one of the multiple depositions from the documents illustrating claims of abuse that spanned more than two decades before it was brought to the attention of law enforcement. The documents stem from an insurance lawsuit over allegations that a boy told Paterno that Sandusky was abusing young boys.
It seems likely that both Bradley and Schiano knew about it and did nothing. McQueary has no reason to lie about any of this. There are probably many more who had less direct knowledge but heard dark rumors. It takes a village to enable a predator.
Scott Matzka has a very bad disease. Former Michigan hockey player Scott Matzka, who was a short-handed goal waiting to happen and took EECS 380 at the same time I did, has ALS. Please visit his site and help out if you can.
A Michigan Man does not jackknife powerbomb Kevin Nash.
Hawkins' high school coach at Camden, Dwayne Savage, confirmed that Hawkins is not in school yet as he's still awaiting clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse -- now known as the NCAA Eligibility Center. Savage said that Hawkins still plans on playing football at Michigan this season and hopes to have his clearance at some point toward the middle of July.
"He's not in school yet," Savage said. "I believe it's a Clearinghouse situation. Right now everything's still a go for Michigan. He just has to get everything cleared before he can step on campus."
This doesn't happen often with Michigan recruits so I don't have a feel for how likely it is that things get resolved by fall. Sam Webb is saying he doesn't have high hopes Hawkins will enroll this fall. Michigan might pick him back up after a prep semester.
If you've read the recent recruiting profiles, you know that in my opinion this is more of an issue for the safety depth chart than receiver because I really like the two sleeper-ish guys they took and have yet to get to Dylan Crawford.
Speaking of those sleeper-ish guys. PSU, OSU, and MSU are all using a ton of cover four, so this Ian Boyd article on the route slot receivers have to get down to bust these Ds is of considerable relevance:
For teams with QBs that have enough arm, against cover 4 defenses that like to bracket the single side receiver, this is a really popular way to attack the field safety:
Defenses that either want to bracket the single-side receiver in cover 2 or else drop the boundary safety down to stuff the run love to play this coverage against trips formations. The outside corner is in straight man coverage on the "X" receiver while the space-backer (S), middle linebacker (M), and field safety (F) are playing zone over the two slot receivers.
This is variously called "flag" or "seven" or a "corner" route. I go with the latter in UFR, FWIW.
Impact on the game
Perhaps the biggest response to cover 4 that has come into vogue around the game is the use of vertical routes from the slot receiver with which to attack the safeties. There are other good route combinations for attacking cover 4 that don't include seven routes but they all generally involve sending a slot receiver down the field to either attack the safety or occupy him so the offense can isolate a corner.
Teams that don't have receivers they can use in the slot to attack safeties down the field are at a major disadvantage in stopping cover 4 teams from successfully bringing numbers to stop both their outside receivers AND their running backs.
Perhaps the biggest winner in all of this is the "undersized" outside receiver who's excellent in running a variety of routes from different areas on the field. Three of the top four receivers in Big 12 play in 2015 (statistically) were Sterling Shepard (5'10" 195), Corey Coleman (5'11" 185), and Jakeem Grant (5'7" 168). Each of them were wildly effective in part because of the seven route and the way that opening up space outside allows smaller receivers to move inside and still have opportunities to run vertical routes.
Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, and Dylan Crawford are all this guy. (Crawford's not undersized but he's not huge either.) Michigan appears to have recruited this year's class with a major emphasis on winning vertical matchups from the slot.
This can't be rational. Kenpom puts together a graph of playing time for starters depending on how many fouls they have and comes back with a very Beilein approach:
Two fouls: The player with two fouls has his minutes severely restricted for the entirety of the first half. There is some leniency given with 4-6 minutes until halftime, but there is very little opportunity for the player with two fouls to see the floor in the first half. There is odd unanimity among coaches that a player with two fouls should be protected with 20:01 remaining and should not be protected with 20:00 left in the game. If you are of the mindset that coaches are too aggressive benching guys with two fouls, this is a good piece of evidence that a herd mentality exists.
I am of that mindset and even more of that mindset when it comes to John Beilein teams, which have historically been top ten in foul avoidance. I have zero hope that Beilein will suddenly change his behavior in this department, so let's at least hope that Billy Donlon makes the defense way more handsy so that first-half autobench is at least somewhat more justified.
Large men: present. Michigan's basketball roster just got a lot more beef on it. One, Mo Wagner is no longer a chopstick:
Two, both Jon Teske and Austin Davis are listed at 240+ on Michigan's just-released roster. Both are physically viable this year. This will be a nice change from last year, when Wagner couldn't get off the bench for big chunks of the season and Mark Donnal was the default.
There might not be much mention of Charlton in the preseason considering he has started just four games headed into his senior season, but film doesn't lie, and NFL scouts have Charlton pegged squarely on their radar. At 6-6, 285 with long arms and a muscular build, Charlton has the perfect frame to play as a 3-4 defensive end. However, he could also serve as a 4-3 base end with the ability to bump inside on rushing downs in the NFL. Charlton had 33 pressures and 5.5 sacks despite playing just 43 percent of the Wolverines' defense snaps and those numbers are getting ready to make another jump. Charlton has freaky athletic traits and functional power to go with them.
This 285 pound dude is likely Michigan's starting weakside end, because the rest of the line is two-deep with very good veterans or Rashan Gary. Anyway, this is what I am talking about when I mention Charlton as a big breakout candidate. His production in limited time last year was really good. Michigan's depth means he might jump from the rotation guy with the least playing time to the one with the most. With Lawrence Marshall moving to the strongside, Chase Winovich is the main and only competition at WDE.
Wormley also made the list a few spots lower:
6. Chris Wormley, Michigan
Wormley Has the frame and athleticism to be considered as either an interior lineman or defensive end in a 4-3 or at defensive end for an odd front. Wormley is powerful and can plow through the edges of blockers. While some rushers are content to try and whip the man in front of them, Wormley is able to dart left and right to create doubt and uncertainty for blockers. He combines his strength and foot quickness to generate a pass rush that is very translatable on the next level. Wormley is generating a good deal of buzz in the scouting community and that buzz will get much louder this year.
Wormley is apparently headed for three-tech this year if things go to plan. Gary will have to obliterate the TEs.
Peppers makes the LB list and Lewis the DB list, though Lewis is just 9th because his size puts a "firm ceiling" on his NFL draft prospects.
Recruiting is important, part infinity. PFF released a list of the top 101 players in college football that we mentioned in this space because it has five different Michigan defenders on it. Some dude on 247 ran it through some statistical analysis. Results:
Minimum: 1 ~ 1.000 First Quartile: 31.5 ~ 98.40 Median: 238 ~ 90.90 Third Quartile: 1000 ~ 84.19 Maximum: 3000
Over 25% of players listed in PPFs player rankings were rated as 5* players coming out of high school by the composite. Over 50% were rated as 4* players. While recruiting rankings aren't perfect they are a strong correlate of future success.
Five star players are approximately 1-3% of the pool and four-stars about 10%. This is in line with findings about the NFL draft; applying this analysis to PFF's rankings of college players based on their performance right now is even stronger evidence that recruiting rankings matter.
Zak Irvin had been, for lack of a better word, terrible. His last shot had barely grazed the rim. His last drive had resulted in a depressingly predictable turnover. He'd made one three-pointer all game.
But when Irvin's defender ducked under a Moe Wagner screen, he didn't hesitate to rise and fire with Michigan down a point and less than a minute on the clock. Despite some trepidation from onlookers...
...Irvin's shot found twine. A couple stops and five free-throws later, Michigan booked a trip to Brooklyn to face six-seed Notre Dame.
While the game got the desired result, it's not one Michigan fans are likely to want to relive. Both teams went through first-half scoring droughts that exceeded six minutes. After the Wolverines finished the half on a drawn out 19-4 run to take an eight-point lead, they gave it all back in the first three minutes of the second before both teams went ice-cold.
John Beilein played Andrew Dakich for five frustrating minutes while Derrick Walton sat on the bench with foul trouble. For murkier reasons, he sat Wagner—Michigan's biggest bright spot all game—in favor of Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle before rectifying that error for the home stretch.
While the Wolverines were effective when they attacked the basket against an undersized Tulsa squad, only Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman—and on a couple surprising occasions, Wagner—was willing to drive to the paint with any consistency. MAAR wasn't a paragon of efficiency with 16 points on 5/16 FG, but he created havoc on the Tulsa defense that led to putback opportunities and drew enough contact to get extra points at the line (6/8 FT).
Wagner, meanwhile, played like he should be the clear-cut starter at center. After recording two blocks all season, he had four tonight in addition to pulling down eight rebounds and making both his shot attempts, including a poster-worthy slam on a second-chance opportunity to give M a late three-point lead. Michigan functioned better on both sides of the court with Wagner on the floor.
Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three; while he wouldn't hit another until late in the game, he found other ways to contribute—he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out a team-high four assists, and finished a few forays to the hoop to tally 13 points. The contributions of MAAR, Wagner, and Robinson—a sophomore no major program wanted, a freshman who barely clung to a role this season, and a D-III transfer—allowed Michigan to overcome underwhelming performances from their two go-to guys.
Then, with the pressure on, Irvin delivered. It wasn't pretty. It was, in fact, cringeworthy, as Beilein's face can attest. At this point in the year, however, the final score is all that matters.
As time winds down on the regular season, Michigan finds itself squarely on the bubble – the classic meh major-conference team that gets sent to Dayton as an 11-seed. Big Ten play is almost over and we know the Wolverines were a middle-of-the-road team (as of right now: 7th in Sagarin’s and Pomeroy’s ratings, 7th in conference efficiency margin, and are likely to tie Ohio State as the 7th place team in the league). When your best resume asset is that you haven’t lost to any bad teams, it hasn’t been a great season. The very real possibility that Michigan misses the NCAA Tournament would qualify this year as a big disappointment.
Still, even though Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht have combined to play just 48 minutes against Big Ten opponents, Michigan will finish with a winning record in Big Ten play and (probably) a positive efficiency margin in league play. This season’s path was very comparable to last season’s: the teams had uninspiring non-conference performances and Caris was lost near the beginning of league play (and Spike and Derrick Walton were injured this year and last, respectively). A year ago, the Wolverines finished 8-10 in Big Ten play – losing four overtime games and winning one – and this year, 10-8 or 11-7 will be the final result. Since Michigan didn’t drop a stinker like NJIT or Eastern Michigan like last season, we’re going to be nervously watching on Selection Sunday – can 3 good wins and a bunch of chalk get us in?
The reason why Michigan hasn’t been better is fairly obvious.
I don't expect Michigan to be actually good at defense for a lot of different reasons, but there's a difference between Michigan's usual meh and this. The trend is worrying. Defensive efficiency in the Beilein era:
This is the third straight year of a triple-digit ranking. While you may remember things as "not good" even when the larger picture was much prettier, this is a whole new era of ineptness only matched by Beilein's first team of castoffs and runaways. This year's team is in fact considerably worse despite than those guys despite having a reasonable amount of experience. For the first time in a while Michigan doesn't have a freshman playing major minutes; for the first time in a while they've crawled out of the 300s in Kenpom's experience stat. This was the first year in a while you could reasonably expect year to year improvement, and yet.
The Manuel UConn tenure. Jeff Jacobs has an exellent, comprehensive rundown of Warde Manuel's tenure at the UConn AD. Some UConn fans blame him for the Huskies getting left behind in the zombie Big East while Louisville got the golden ticket to the ACC; other than that somewhat fanciful complaint his tenure was rock-solid:
There are people who disagree with this, but Manuel handled the Kevin Ollie hiring as full-time coach just about perfectly. Ollie's biggest supporters, some who held their own power, wanted Ollie to get a long-term contract immediately. Manuel wanted to get to know Ollie, wanted to see him in action. Ask yourself this: What defined Ollie? He always had to work the hardest to prove himself on the court and that narrative continued for more than a decade in the NBA. If he was to be a success, the best possible outcome would be for Manuel to wait, like what he saw and give him that long-term deal three to four months into his job. That's what happened.
When Ollie was on his way to winning a national championship in 2014, there was Manuel ahead of the curve to lock in Ollie with a new five-year deal.
UConn's four major sports (football, both basketballs, and hockey) are all on the upswing or maintaining a high level of success. Manuel also pulled UConn out of a Jim Calhoun-generated APR disaster and spearheaded a move to Hockey East.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who feel that way about Michigan — and I’ve talked to a lot of other people who feel that way about their college, too. It happens everywhere. You probably feel that way about where you went to college.
But in my unscientific surveying of people I’ve talked to, I feel that it happens the most here at Michigan.
Which is why finally, I moved to Ann Arbor a third time. To be the head football coach.
A lot of people outside of Michigan asked me why I decided to make that third move to Ann Arbor. It’s pretty simple: I love football. I love coaching. I love Michigan. And for me, there’s no better place for those three things than right here in Ann Arbor.
It doesn't hurt that there's no megalomaniacal guy in a fur coat hovering over his shoulder in Ann Arbor.
As a side note, do you know what I see in my head whenever I hear "Players' Tribune"?
This is what I see, except with cards that read "PRESS" sticking out of their hats.
A firm-ish return date. Beilein on Levert's return:
John Beilein to @dandakich , "Caris LeVert has been out 5 weeks, he's getting better, hope to have him back on the court this or next week".
By the way, there has been only one team to avoid a disqualification this season. The last time a Michigan player fouled out was February 17th of last season when the human box-score line-break, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman fouled out against Michigan State. My stance on when to sit players in foul trouble is somewhere between “ignore foul trouble completely” and “always sit guys in the first half that have two fouls”. It’s a very tough problem to study. But it seems to me that if you do subscribe to the latter approach, the fact that none of your players are fouling out is an indication your instincts for loss aversion are too strong.
The fact that Michigan fouls so rarely in the first place makes the autobench even more frustrating in practice. It is what it is; it's a blind spot.
We'll need to hear Michigan's side of the Swenson case before passing judgment, and NCAA rules will keep Wolverines coaches from publicly discussing the specifics of Swenson's recruitment until after he signs. If it turns out Michigan's staff waited until January to tell Swenson—who committed to then-coach Brady Hoke in November 2013—he wasn't wanted, then the Wolverines deserve criticism for being lousy communicators. If Swenson had this knowledge in September or October, he could have reopened his recruitment earlier at a time when other schools would have had more open slots. The well-paid grown-ups here should be held to a higher standard than the high school students, and if Swenson's camp is telling the truth, Michigan's staff might need to learn how and when to break bad news.
It beggars belief that Swenson's camp is telling a full and honest accounting of the story if only because Michigan insiders started chattering about his place in the class months before the actual decommit, first privately and then in public. A final decision may have been delayed; if he didn't know it was because he didn't want to. Either way, Michigan should be explicit about these things much earlier.
The bump. Bill Connelly has an article on the "Bama bump," which is the perception that recruits committed to or recruited by Alabama get rankings boosts. Some services say they peek; others say no way:
To summarize, Luginbill said, "It absolutely exists because of subscription sales." Scout's Brandon Huffman said, "We don't do it, but others might." 247Sports's JC Shurburtt said, "Nah, but they do produce a lot of NFL talent, which matters," which seems like a roundabout way of saying it does kind of exist, only for reasons other than subscription sales.
Only Rivals' Mike Farrell said, "Nope!"
The denials here are odd, since re-evaluating a prospect once you get information like "Nick Saban is a fan" seems, you know, sensible. Connelly is in favor of the bump, and for the most part so am I. And it does exist. In Michigan's case it's usually when they become interested in a lower-rated guy. An unranked or two star player is about 99% likely to work his way up into generic three-star territory by the time Signing Day rolls around.
And for all of Luginbill's protestations, they absolutely do bump guys. When Khaleke Hudson committed to Michigan he was rated a 74 and below guys headed to Georgia Southern and schools of that ilk. Fast forward to today and he's flown up 34 spots. But that's fine! Before the bump Hudson's ranking looked plainly goofy. I think you should be humble enough to take Harbaugh's opinion into account when you rank guys. It's a better system than "did this guy show up to our camp," for sure.
Now, it's possible that Bama sees guys in the manicured regions move up. I don't follow their recruiting closely enough to know. This is not generally the case for Michigan commits, who tend to slide gradually as the recruiting year goes along. When I do job interviews I ask why this is, and I don't think I've heard the correct answer yet*. Michigan commits tend to slide because they stay the same while a select group of recruits below them emerge into big-time prospects. When you're perched in the top 10% of all high school recruits the direction you generally go is down even if you are ranked correctly.
*[It's still useful for hearing a person's ability to reason on the fly.]
“You know those commercials, The Most Interesting Man In The World? He’s like the most interesting coach in the world,” Glasgow said this week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“He’s a really, really genuine guy and he just really cares about his players. Even though he looks crazy out there on game days and all that stuff, he’s really not like that behind closed doors.”
Only refs and people who drive slowly cause Harbaugh to throw conniption fits. BTW, we already have a "jim harbaugh is the most interesting man in the world" tag.
Jimmy & Johnny. Ann Arbor Pioneer is inducting Jim and John Harbaugh into the Hall of Fame of Purple-Wearing Athlete People on March 11; the eventbrite site just went live yesterday. The Facebook page has been posting vintage photos all week of the Harbros and here's one contest that was over before it began:
Ace: There's no question this basketball season was a strange one. Michigan headed in with many question marks but high expectations, started off the season with a couple quality wins and a very competitive game against one-seed Villanova, went on to lose head-scratchers against NJIT and EMU before getting run off the court by Arizona, lost their two best players to injury, and then saw flashes of great promise from several players that didn't necessarily show up in the team's final record.
Let's try to make some sense of this. What about this season would you consider a success, what was a failure, and how did it affect your expectations for the program moving forward?
Adam Schnepp: I've placed my hands on the keyboard and taken them off three times before I typed this, but not making the NCAA tournament is a failure. I'm hesitant because of the stark negative connotation of the word "failure."
Anything that leads to more Dakich isn't so much "failure" as "awesomesauce with an oh darn." [Fuller]
This is a failure that happened because of course it did. As the hockey guy I'm used to watching the type of failure where you have a team loaded with talent that underperforms and shoots itself in the foot until there's nothing left. Nothing. Not even, like, a bloody remnant that doctors could reconstruct. Just, poof, gone. This is a completely different kind of failure, a failure in which there are explanations (NBA attrition, injuries that led to a lineup Tom Izzo would find weird) that make sense and extend beyond "this is just what we do now."
Dave Nasternak: Michigan Basketball isn't in the same place that it was seven years ago (one huge mess, but with John Beilein). Its not even in the same place that it was 3 years ago (bummed about a tournament upset but only a round or two away from its ceiling). After seeing the faces of the players and coaches in that hotel in Atlanta two Aprils ago, this program expects to succeed at the highest level. National Championships, Final Fours, Sweet Sixteens, NCAA Tournament games, Big Ten Championships (regular season and tournament) are all accomplishments that this program expects to be competing for every year.
And that's the right answer. As Michigan players/staff/alumni/fans/constituents... that's why we are connected with this University. Now, we don't consistently get the freshmen that Kentucky and Duke get every year, so some of these goals will be a little too lofty from time to time. But I am willing to bet that if you asked people in and around the program if they were supremely disappointed with not obtaining some (most, all) of these goals, they would not only verbally say that they were, but that you would also be able to see it on their faces. That's just what the Michigan Basketball program has achieved.
[after the jump: no more dancing. Around the question I mean. Lots of the other dancing (not That dancing)]
things were bad all around when Bump was doing his best
Bad times man
Could this year be the first year that all three major sports missed the post season?
I tried to look it up but realized I was wasting too much time doing so.
Thanks for the leg work. Sorry for bringing it up, though.
This isn't actually that hard to do. Michigan had a 30-some year bowl streak starting with Bo and a 22-year tourney streak starting early in the Red era. Basketball made the tournament the last two years, so we start with 1974 and go back from there. So:
Hockey had a tourney drought from 1965 to 1976(!)
Basketball made it in '74, reaching the Elite Eight, but hadn't made the tourney since 1966 previously.
It was Rose or nothing for football back then, and nothing happened in 1974 and 1973
So, 1973. Meanwhile, the late sixties were not much fun to be a Michigan fan, with no postseason appearances from the big three from 66 to the 1970 Rose Bowl.
Hockey still has a shot to avoid the trifecta. Also HARBAUGH
Why in the world does a coach as good as Beilein continually pull the autobench? Which is basically taking the penalty for a crime you haven't committed yet. Also, what's the team's +/- in the last 5 minutes of the first half this season? That seems like when the autobench would be hurting us. Thanks.
Funny you should ask that, I was just about to—
BAH GAWD THAT'S ZACH JONES'S MUSIC
Given the discussion via both the website and Twitter today railing against the autobench, I put together the attached file to see what's actually going on. Thought you might be interested in the results. Dan Dakich said something interesting during the broadcast about people not talking enough about the importance of the time at the end of the first half on the outcome of a game. I've always thought this, as well, so I also put in a +/- on Michigan's performance from the final media timeout of the first half to halftime [in both autobench and non-autobench situations].
The document is here if you want to look at the details. The summary data follows.
The first column is Michigan's overall margin at the end of the game. The second is Michigan's performance in the last four minutes of the first half in all games; the third is Michigan's margin in autobench situations.
parens means negative numbers
The conclusion seems to be that John Beilein has not adapted his autobench policy to the injuries of Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, and is still coaching like he has solid depth. This is emphatically not true, as the result of the autobench today put Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan on the floor for extended time.
Anyway, like I said, I thought you might find this interesting.
This was pre-Northwestern but with the only autobench in NW coming from Kam Chatman it's still accurate. Most of Michigan's deficit in Big Ten play post-injuries has come in autobench situations.
Autobench was a reasonable strategy earlier in the year when the guy coming off the bench was usually Spike (or Spike was the autobench subject). Lately it has gone very un-well.
These are tiny sample sizes that you can't draw any statistically significant conclusions from, but they do confirm the eyeball test. Michigan scored once in ten possessions at the end of the first half when Irvin and MAAR were benched, and that was the difference. MAAR's absence in the MSU game corresponded with a huge MSU run that put that game out of reach.
It's one thing to bring Dawkins or MAAR or Spike into the game because one of your guys has a couple fouls. It's another to have a lineup with Lonergan and Dakich on the floor.
The other recent controversy.
I watch the multiple M games with my Michigan grad neighbor and occasionally we get into battles about Michigan coaching strategy. This came into fruition during the NW game in both the regular time and the OT. I have always held the strategy: if it is under the shot clock (35 seconds left ) with a lead of over 2 points you should foul with the ball under ½ court with the opposing player in no act of shooting. This holds true especially in the 1-and-1 and with a timeout (to escape the trap by calling timeout). My theory is that you give the opposing team no chance to tie the game on their possession. Add to that if the ball is brought up court by a poor free throw shooter, to miss the 1-and-1 reduces dramatically to the 2 points awarded. I also have a time out to call in the event of an inbounds trap. The net is you give up 2 points max up by one with an out of bounds pass and a timeout. You inbounds the pass up by one shooting a 1:1 probably immediately fouled.
My neighbor argues that playing good defense is a valid strategy, citing the NW player stepping out of bounds giving Michigan the ball.
We would have won the game at Northwestern if we deployed this strategy in both the regular time and/or the overtime. We let them win by two miracle Trey Burke shots to tie that never should have happened. Please convince me by math that I am not insane that the “prevent” defense in college basketball is not better than in the NFL and insanely underutilized.
I am #teamfoul all the way, but any discussion of this has to point out the most extensive study of this decision on the college level was done by Ken Pomeroy and it didn't show what you think it might:
W L OT Win% Cases
Foul 122 5 11 92.0 138
Defend 598 2 76 93.5 676
(That post was spurred by Ben Brust's DEATH TO BACKBOARDS heave, because of course.)
Now: fouling does prevent OT. 13% of "defend" instances made it to an extra five minutes. 8% of "foul" instances did. The increased chance of an insta-loss offset that in a sample size that's suggestive but not definitive.
So. Despite being #teamfoul, this is the kind of game theory noodling that is way less significant than anything that gets you a single extra point over the course of 40 minutes. There are some game theory noodles that are worth exploring (fourth down decisions in football, calling your f-ing timeouts when the opponent has first and goal). This one appears to be marginal.
The more important thing is what the hell Bielfeldt was thinking when Olah set a screen for Demps in that situation. There is no way Demps should have been that open.
[After THE JUMP: Mary Sue Coleman's role in Brandongate, Mike McCray deployment, #harbaugheffect]
play this man in all kinds of weather [Bryan Fuller]
Autobench bitchin'. 1-3-1 after halftime not a great move. Would still give Beilein all my food. In praise of Spike. Center position down the road. Dawkins offer lack confusion part sixteen. Chatman! Life!
Back in it. Margin of error very slim now. Werenski a terror on both ends, no matter who's defending. Goalie business.
GIMMICKY SPRING PRACTICE SECTION
TOP FIVES! Our top five most secure and least secure projected starters. You'll never guess what our least secure spot is. (You have never seen football and are naming positions in cricket.)
"Across 110th Street"
"King of the Road," (spectacularly drunk) REM
"Wabash Cannonball," Townes Van Zandt
"Hercules," Aaron Neville