Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy

Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2019 at 4:23 PM

Hockey's season went out with a whimper as they were swept at the hands of Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. That's disappointing but not particularly surprising for anyone who watched most of Michigan's season.

What went wrong? Michigan's various problems follow.

Age

Michigan was one of the youngest teams in the country, and the bottom of the age standings are pretty ugly:

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ND and Denver are in the top 16 of the pairwise. Otherwise this is a list of the teams that generally recruit the best across college hockey and are struggling in the new over-30 NCAA. Not one of Minnesota, Michigan, BC, BU, or Wisconsin is in position for an at-large bid. It should be noted that 50-52 are Quinnipiac, Providence, and Harvard, who are all set for at-large bids, but even those teams in close proximity by rank are almost a half-year older than Michigan and the rest of the "we recruit the NTDP" class.

Under Pearson they've moved to taking more overagers, but those guys are all underclassmen. Michigan is in the process of having some 23 and 24 year olds; they are not there yet. At some point Michigan's going to be a mix of older players and high-level NHL prospects. Currently they are young and had 1.5 high-level prospects. Speaking of:

Talent level

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Norris was M's only PPG scorer and missed half the year [Bill Rapai]

As discussed in the previous post about Michigan's gap year, this year's freshman class had zero drafted players for the first time in probably 20 years. Michigan found a good fourth line as Moyle and Van Whye emerged midseason; that line then became their de facto second line because nobody else was doing anything. Compounding matters was the previous class, which was Hughes and Norris (woot woot!) plus Mike Pastujov, whose star fell precipitously after his commitment, and then whatever Mel could scrape up. That turned out to be Becker and Raabe, two guys who have chipped in but aren't scoring line players at this point in their career.

So when Norris goes out midseason, they have zero underclassman forwards capable of playing on a scoring line. This is untenable for a program that is constantly getting raided by the NHL—you aren't getting Cooper Marody back for a senior year.

Michigan did have some guys: Lockwood put up 31 points in 36 games; Slaker and Pastujov put up 25 and 24. It's not a coincidence that two of the three top scorers were older draftees. There just weren't enough of them. Michigan has always been more talented than all of its opponents, which is how they make up the perpetual age gap. This year they weren't. Opposing goaltenders put up a .914; Michigan was 41st in shooting percentage. Even more telling: Michigan's power play conversion rate nearly halved from 19% (average-ish) to 10% (national worst) when Norris went out.

[After THE JUMP: woe! fie and woe!]

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Unverified Voracity Extracts Concessions

Unverified Voracity Extracts Concessions Comment Count

Brian February 19th, 2019 at 12:40 PM

Getting more out of Livers. It's a project that is underway:

“It’s something we’ve been talking with him a lot," said Michigan coach John Beilein. "He leaves a lot on the table. He shoots 3s well, but there’s another element to his game that he’s still developing. We’ve got to encourage it."

Livers has been an excellent complementary player during his first two seasons at Michigan. He won a starting job as a freshman last season as the Wolverines made it to the national title game. This season, though, he has come off the bench. Teammates have referred to him as a "glue guy."

He's already bumped his usage from 12.9 to 15.4; if he's able to do that again next year he'll be at ~18, and at that point he's enough of a contributor that you're not worried that his presence is pushing someone up to usage levels they're not efficient at.

Rebounding is variable. I know this John Gasaway assertion is true after several years in which Michigan took a top-50 DREB rate into conference play only to finish 10th in that department:

Defensive rebound rates can translate a bit better from whole-season to conference (cf. Maryland, Colorado, and Michigan), but even here you can’t just assume you’re hitting statistical bedrock every time. Take Kansas State, No. 17 nationally in defensive rebound percentage, more than 100 spots higher than its nearest in-conference competitor (Oklahoma, No. 132). Actual Big 12 play, however, has swiftly devolved into a vicious egalitarian struggle where every team’s virtually identical on the defensive glass and the Wildcats nominally rank No. 4 in the league in that category.

These numbers are in motion, of course, but this isn’t primarily a sample-size thing. It’s more of a basketball thing, or, better still, one more peculiarity of a mass-audience sport wherein the teams themselves select a sizable portion of their own opponents. There are few bread-and-butter box score numbers that vary as much as rebound percentages due merely to non-conference scheduling philosophies and/or to how certain coaches choose to change their look for conference play.

Those were usually Zack-Novak-at-power-forward teams that suffered when larger people entered the equation. Michigan's maintained much better the last two years. They finished last year 2nd in B10 DREBs and are fourth this year.

Also in that post, a bizarre thing going on at MSU:

Inverse-Michigan Factor (IMF)
Standard deviations above/below conference means
Conference games only

                          OR%     DR%     IMF
Michigan State    2019   1.75   -1.20    2.95
Rutgers           2017   1.62   -0.90    2.52
West Virginia     2019   1.11   -1.35    2.46
Providence        2019   1.07   -1.33    2.40           

These are the largest IMF numbers we’ve seen in the past five years in major-conference play. Purdue 2019 is not far behind.

MSU is the best offensive rebounding team in the conference… and 13th on the other end. MSU's block rate probably has something to do with this. They're #1 in conference play, and that's without anyone particularly large-huge and leapy. Surmise: MSU's trying to block everything and giving up OREBs when those attempts go awry.

[After THE JUMP: Mike Leggin' it]

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Unverified Voracity Moves To Nowhere Alberta

Unverified Voracity Moves To Nowhere Alberta Comment Count

Brian January 24th, 2019 at 2:17 PM

Matthews on the shot. Via Orion Sang:

Matthews was standing in the left corner. As Brazdeikis had drove past him, Matthews held both hands out, ready to catch and shoot just in case the ball found him.

He was also ready to crash the boards.

“I know Iggy. That’s my little brother. He’s like a bull in the china shop when he’s going to the rim," Matthews told reporters. "So he ain’t looking to kick out. So I just said, ‘You know what, he might miss this one, let me try to just go get the rebound.'

"And thank God I was in the right position for it. Gotta know your teammates. Know your personnel."

Matthews' eyes – along with every other pair of eyes in Crisler Center – followed his teammates' shot.

As he saw the ball tipped toward him, he darted forward with a couple quick steps. Then he got the ball.

"(Charles is) always around the basket," Beilein said, "and he mopped up.”

"You know, he might miss this one" is a good thought when the pronoun in question is 4/17 on the night.

A couple of blips on the freshmen who aren't playing. Andrew Kahn gathers a little data on the three guys who haven't seen much time:

Nuñez is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who has yet to score on the season in limited action. His teammates talk up his shooting in practice. "Adrien's shot is phenomenal." Livers said recently. "He has the most perfect form I've ever seen out of a shooter."

There have been times this season Michigan could use another shooting threat on the floor, but it seems unlikely Nuñez will get that chance this season.

Castleton is also a year away from contributing. Like the other players unlikely to see the court, he’s been hitting the weights hard, even on game days. Strength coach Jon Sanderson said he’s put on 17 pounds since arriving on campus, a priority for the 6-foot-11 center.

DeJulius got some mention from Beilein as a guy who's battling Brooks and that "tonight" it was Brooks who got the playing time. With Brooks locked in a pretty gnarly slump I'd like to see DeJulius get a shot.

[After THE JUMP: uh mostly hockey recruiting?]

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Unverified Voracity Is Perfectly Calm

Unverified Voracity Is Perfectly Calm Comment Count

Brian December 6th, 2018 at 1:24 PM

The prayer forced. Michigan's communication and Jon Teske's unexpected switch and quick hands forced Northwestern into a chuck:

Anonymous quotes about basketball's defense. Right this way, via Jeff Borzello:

"They're so much further ahead of everyone right now, it's not even funny," one opposing Big Ten coach said, referencing their experience. "What they were doing at the end of the year has carried over." …

"They have an alpha male at the point in Simpson," a Big Ten assistant said. "He holds those guys to what I would call a gold standard. He doesn't allow them to slip. When they don't do something correctly, he makes sure they know about it."

"Zavier just plays his ass off," another opposing coach said. "He may be smaller, but he's dialed in every possession, and they put a lot of length around him. He's a junkyard dog."

Michigan's 23-1 run stretching back to last year would be the #1 efficiency D in the history of Kenpom if it was a single season. And it seems like the bit from last year is the "bad" part.

Beilein's greatest enemy returns. NBA draftniks have started talking up Ignas Brazdeikis, who slides in at the end of the first round in SI's latest mock draft:

27. IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS, F, MICHIGAN | FRESHMAN

Height: 6’7” | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: NR

As has been widely noted, Brazdeikis turns 20 in January and is only technically a freshman, after doing a prep year in Canada. The good news is, it doesn’t really matter. Brazdeikis has been Michigan’s most consistent scorer and impressed with his ability to hunt shots off the ball. He can shoot it from outside or face up and attack the basket, and profiles as a useful offensive-minded role guy in the pros. His competitiveness and feel stand out, The big question with him is perimeter defense, as he will probably need to be parked on fours in the NBA. Regardless, if the Wolverines continue to play this well, Brazdeikis won’t have to stick around long.

Matthews (#38) and Poole (#51) also show up in their top 60, though Poole is in the you-should-return range and the author admits even that is "speculative." 

The Athletic's Sam Vecenie is more skeptical of Iggy as a one and done, placing him 50th in his latest top 100 and causing a blizzard of HEY WHAT ABOUT IGGY comments that he responded to at length. A portion:

Here's where I'm worried: Athleticism here is still a pretty real NBA concern on defense. Iggy is smart on that end and has taken to what Yaklich/Beilein want him to do well. But it also says something, IMO, that Michigan has been better on defense with him off the floor as opposed to when he's been on it -- especially in their games against high-major competition (vs. Nova, PC, UNC, Purdue, NW, Michigan had a 74 DRTG with him off the floor, and an 88 DRTG with him on it). That's a bit noisy, and the overall number is still good at 88. But I think Michigan has done more to insulate him rather than him being a true difference maker on that end, too.

On offense, over 75% of his offense has come from spot-ups, transition opportunities, back-cuts, and O-Rebs. The spot-up stuff is useful obviously, as he's a terrific shooter who can put the ball on the deck and attack a closeout.

Brazdeikis has done good work as a college four checking guys like Paschall and Maye but might not have the lateral agility to keep up with NBA wings. The stat about his offense seems… wrong, though? That's probably from Synergy and is therefore meticulously charted but it certainly feels like Iggy's creating a lot of his own shots. He dug Michigan out of some trouble against Northwestern by getting to the rim with frequency.

Vecenie says that if Iggy can maintain his effectiveness once he's 1) scouted and 2) the primary focus of opponent defenses he'll shoot up his board. One thing that hurts his stock—his age, which is a year older than most freshmen—is the kind of thing that makes you leave instead of makes you stay.

Let us resolve to enjoy the rest of this season.

[After the JUMP: potentially better NFL draft news?]

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