The Evolution of Michigan's Three-Point Defense

The Evolution of Michigan's Three-Point Defense

Submitted by Matt Way on June 27th, 2018 at 2:07 PM

[Ed-Ace: It's my pleasure to welcome Matt Way as a basketball contributor. Matt also contributes to and his work has shown up in several corners of the basketball internets. As you'd expect, he'll be bringing an analytical bent with film breakdowns to match. We're very excited to have him on board, and you can follow him on Twitter @waymatth.]

Nine seasons into the John Beilein era, Michigan basketball still lacked a defensive identity. Beilein’s defenses had never finished in the top 35 nationally and they routinely failed spectacularly against good offenses. Opponents replicated the success that Michigan’s offense did in creating open looks from behind the arc.

Enter Billy Donlon.

As the primary defensive assistant, Donlon transformed a system focused primarily on not fouling into a more aggressive scheme which became among the best in the country at limiting three point attempts. His replacement, Luke Yaklich, improved on the foundation Donlon laid, resulting in Michigan fielding the third-best defense in the nation by year’s end.

Michigan Basketball Three-Point Defense Rankings    
Season Opp. 3PAr Opp. 3PT%
2014-15 217 178
2015-16 210 178
2016-17 8 314
2017-18 7 58

Under Donlon and Yaklich, Michigan’s defense has become a top ten unit in terms of suppressing attempts from behind the arc. 

Research suggests that three-point defense at both the college and NBA levels is largely about preventing attempts. Certainly teams can control the quality of shots by closely contesting them, but once the ball is released, a defense has no impact over whether it ultimately goes in. Contesting shooters is most impactful in its deterrence of the shot itself.

The variance in three-point defense is evident in Michigan’s opponents’ recent shooting percentages. Despite suppressing attempts in 2016-17, they were at the bottom of the barrel in terms of shooting percentage. Ranking similarly this past year while running a similar scheme, opponents shot significantly worse. Some of this likely relates to the quality of contests, but a lot of it is due to bad luck.

Yaklich’s iteration was better than its predecessors in one important area: defending screens. Where teams in the past took more casual routes chasing off-the-ball, last year’s team was aggressive in both fighting through picks and switching them.

[Hit THE JUMP for a deep dive into stats and video.]

WTKA Roundtable 1/18/2018: Duck and Cover

WTKA Roundtable 1/18/2018: Duck and Cover

Submitted by Seth on January 19th, 2018 at 8:11 AM

WTKA cover 1-18-18

This took place before the “basketball game” of course.

Things discussed:

  • Craig was playing tennis and dodging ICBMs. Craig finished the set.
  • The MSU game: Powering through a Teddy game, State was committed to backing down Robinson and Matthews, who won man-up on Bridges. How does State do it next time?
  • Craig likes TV Teddy—said the awful calls were mostly on his cohorts. Back when Craig was a kid in the crannogs of pre-Celtic Britain, Teddy was better than the rest, and they played six basketball games a week with no ill effects.
  • Maryland game: Terps made their bricks, Michigan stayed in it with good D until the shooting arrived.
  • All hail Yaklich! Encouraging they’re this good at D without a D guy. Groundwork laid with Donlon last year. Three better defenders getting more minutes: Z, Matthews, and Teske. P&R defense is vastly improved—M always been a hedge and recover team but they’re much better at it now.
  • Second guessing: Why have Z on the floor in a free throw situation?

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.


Valentine comes out of the Big Ten pro rasslin days.