Visualizing Michigan’s Defensive Struggles

Visualizing Michigan’s Defensive Struggles

Submitted by Alex Cook on March 2nd, 2016 at 11:12 AM



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.

From Brian’s post on Monday:

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:

  • 2008: 100th
  • 2009: 69th
  • 2010: 58th
  • 2011: 37th
  • 2012: 61st
  • 2013: 48th
  • 2014: 109th
  • 2015: 107th
  • 2016: 145th

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.

When you’re worse than Rutgers at something as critical as 2-point FG % defense, you have a major problem.

[After the JUMP, a lot of graphs]

This Week's Obsession: Def Con Five

This Week's Obsession: Def Con Five

Submitted by Seth on March 12th, 2014 at 10:37 AM


Stop! Have you considered you may not have to do this? [Fuller]

Always something to complain about.

Now that Stauskas has escaped from the Lilliputians and the offense has duly gone back to Brobdingnagian, are there ways to get the defense performing, say, at a top-50 instead of 100-ish level? 75? Or do you think at this point they just are what they are?

Ace: I think the Indiana game, despite the win, rid us of any notion that the defense will have a postseason breakthrough. The Wolverines are who we thought they were: a superlative offensive team with some major defensive issues. Michigan couldn't stay in front of Indiana's guards, failed to get back in transition—including after multiple made baskets—and had to go to the high-risk 1-3-1 for the entire second half to create enough empty possessions to somehow win while giving up a 66.3 eFG%. The Hoosiers entered the game with a 48.0 eFG% in conference play. That's bad, mmmmkay?

So, yeah, the defense is an issue, and projects to be going forward. Michigan was a much better defensive squad last season, and while they gave up a respectable 0.98 ppp in the NCAA Tournament, that figure swells to 1.03 after excising the first weekend. Also, that run featured the unleashing of Mitch McGary, Embodiment of Chaos, and this year's squad doesn't feature anyone with his ability to force turnovers, which proved key in the run to the title game. (Caris LeVert leads this season's squad with a 2.2% steal rate; McGary was at 3.4% last season, Trey Burke at 2.8%.)

With Michigan preparing for a potential three games in three days, followed by a prep week for the tournament that's likely to be geared more towards rest and scouting than working on defensive fundamentals, I don't think they're going to come up with a magical solution to the myriad defensive issues. The offense is capable of carrying this team into the Final Four. That's a good thing, because that will have to be the case if we're going to see a repeat of last year.

[jump…preferably before the shooter does]