Let's Chart Some Threes Because We're Nervous

Let's Chart Some Threes Because We're Nervous Comment Count

Brian March 21st, 2018 at 12:12 PM


[JD Scott]

Michigan's offense during the opening weekend of the tourney was… not great. Michigan failed to hit a point per possession in either game. A sloppy, weird, late-night game against Montana with 14 turnovers rather explains itself. The Houston game not so much.

While Houston does sport one of the country's better defenses, Michigan turned the ball over just seven times. They shot 45% from two, nine points under their season average; they were a grim 24% from three before Jordan Poole's miracle pulled them up to 27%. If they'd hit their not-very-impressive season average of 36%, the end of that game is Michigan putting the clamps on whilst up 6-8 points.

Game-to-game shooting variance is of course the very heart of basketball but I wanted to see if Houston had done anything that warranted that kind of performance or if it was just one of those things. So I started poking around and got quite deep in the weeds, because quantifying what's a good three pointer and what's a bad one is tricky. But I'm willing to give it a shot after checking out this paper from the 2014 Sloan Conference. It uses NBA data to create a model of what a good shot is; that model is way beyond the scope of this post but there were a couple of graphs that confirm everyone's eye test.

The first: catch and shoot is better than off the dribble.


Second, and possibly counterintuitively, every foot matters when you're closing out.


As the paper authors put it it, "it is not simply a matter of a shot being “contested” or not but ... there is significant marginal value in every foot of space between the shooter and the closest defender." I wouldn't necessarily have expected that. (Also, I assume that the big uptick in long jumper eFG when a guy is in your grill is because he's fouling you.)

These are NBA numbers but there's no reason to expect that college basketball players would deviate from either of these assertions. So, here's a bunch of three pointers charted. Spoiler alert: the large majority of the attempts Michigan got off were good looks with reasonable space between the shooter and the defender. A fairly typical look:



Y/N Length Shooter State Defender distance Contest Notes
MISS 22 Mathews catch and shoot 3 light Late clock jack is surprisingly clean look
MISS 23 MAAR catch and shoot 2 heavy Curl screen gets vg closeout from Houston defender
MISS 24 Simpson catch and shoot 6 none PNR switch w big sagging off Simpson, no contest
MISS 22 Livers catch and shoot 3 moderate drive and kick rhythm three from wing
MISS 22 MAAR off the dribble 4 light switch confusion for UH gives MAAR opportunity to gather and go straight up
MAKE 28 Robinson catch and shoot 3 heavy late clock deep jack is worst look of game so far, goes down
MAKE 24 Robinson catch and shoot 7 light V-cut and Teske screen gets Robinson clean look
MISS 22 Wagner catch and shoot 3 moderate pick and pop open-ish, decent contest
MAKE 22 Robinson catch and shoot 2 moderate Robinson's defender is lax for a second and DR just rises over him
MAKE 22 Poole catch and shoot 4 light penetrate and kick to Wagner, extra pass, open corner
MISS 22 Simpson catch and shoot 8 none drive and kick, Poole upfakes and dribbles once to draw a second guy, Simpson wide open in corner
MISS 22 Poole off the dribble 2 heavy bad heat check stepback w/ 21 seconds on clock
MISS 24 Poole catch and shoot 4 light drive and kick from MAAR
MISS 27 Robinson off the dribble 2 heavy late clock, initial contest and one-dribble lanch
MISS 24 MAAR catch and shoot 8 none numbers for M, shot fake from MAAR gets wide open look, airball
MISS 22 MAAR off the dribble 2 heavy last ditch attempt at end of half
MISS 22 Matthews catch and shoot 4 light Wagner kick to Simpson over for open look
MAKE 23 Wagner catch and shoot 5 light Simpson pick and pop
MISS 23 Wagner catch and shoot 5 light Near identical pick and pop from same spot on the floor
MISS 23 Simpson catch and shoot 4 light Poole drive and kick, token contest
MAKE 23 Wagner catch and shoot 5 moderate Pick and pop from left wing, and one
MISS 24 Robinson catch and shoot 6 none wing pick from Matthews opens this up. No contest... airball.
MISS 25 MAAR off the dribble 4 moderate PNR switch, pretty good contest from the big MAAR rises up on
MISS 23 Robinson catch and shoot 6 light Simpson drives baseline and kicks to left wing
MISS 22 Robinson catch and shoot 5 light OREB to scramble drill to corner 3
MAKE 22 Matthews catch and shoot 4 moderate Simpson drive and kick; lucky bounce off heel and straight up and down
MISS 25 Matthews off the dribble 2 heavy late clock jack is not at all a clean look
MAKE 30 Poole catch and shoot 2 heavy THIS IS A BAD LOOK BUT OKAY

Leaving out the two must-launches at the end of each half and Michigan had just 5 off the dribble looks on 28 attempts, two of those from MAAR in pretty good situations. One was a pick and roll switch with the big playing off, the other an opening when Houston got confused on another pick and roll.

Houston did force five heavily contested late-clock jacks, one of which went down when Robinson hit a deep one. There was also one more heavily contested three as Corey Davis came around a screen really well on an early MAAR attempt. The other 20 attempts I charted were all reasonable to excellent looks that simply didn't go down. Eight attempts from Michigan's worst three-point shooters, Simpson and Matthews, isn't a particularly unusual ratio. Those guys have about 20% of Michigan's attempts on the year. 8 of 28 non-desperation threes is a couple more than you'd expect, but not outlandish.

Verdict: just one of those things. One that happens to a team like Michigan that's not exactly Villanova.


Unverified Voracity Is Paterno 2.0

Unverified Voracity Is Paterno 2.0 Comment Count

Brian May 26th, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Baylor fires everyone some people. Others get tiny American flags. First Ken Starr, and today Art Briles. For Baylor to fire the best coach in their history by several light years, the reports that have already come to light are probably the tip of the iceberg. They're bad. They're very bad. But programs will go to extraordinary lengths to keep coaches as good as Briles around, so expect a bombshell. Like, another one. If "football team brings down university president" isn't enough for you. 

Oh and here it is:

That'll do it. Last time I mentioned Baylor I said you could "go either way" on Briles, which wasn't particularly clear: I meant whether he should lose his job, not whether he was implicated in this or came off well. Moot point now, and obviously there's no way to read Art Briles as anything other than despicable.

I wonder if the NCAA will get involved here. This is a million times worse than anything Ole Miss has done. Giving people money is generally helpful to them. Enabling sexual assault is… not. This should be the very definition of lack of institutional control; Baylor is systematically overlooking felonies to make their football team better. This is Paterno-level stuff here.

Pause. … Yeah, I mean that. Baylor created more rape in the world. This is probably worse, at least in terms of the actions taken by the football staff, than the Paterno thing since it appears people actively got involved in direct violation of title IX.

Meanwhile Starr is actually being reassigned to some cushy retirement position, the rest of Baylor's staff is staying on, and the athletic director somehow didn't get fired. Ooookay.

Like whatever man. This is my opinion on the #1 jersey:

I offered this opinion because like clockwork someone asked Edwards about #1 because someone had the temerity to issue it.

No offense to the Fab Five or Braylon Edwards, but I have massive fatigue about these topics. I don't want to hear about how Jalen Rose asked Sandy to the dance but Chris Webber already did that and now one of them is mad at the other and they haven't talked for 15 years. And I don't want to hear about Braylon Edwards's quest to take the One Jersey to Mount Doom and his inevitable opinion that anyone who hasn't taken the One Jersey to Mount Doom shouldn't get to wear it. I know how he feels about this. We can take it as read. I know that Jalen and Chris are in the world's longest performance of Mean Girls. I would rather hear about anything else.

Well maybe not anything else. It turns out that firing Jason Whitlock is necessary but not sufficient to have a successful venture. The first piece that's been social media'd into my lap from The Undefeated is this article on how black people don't do analytics from Michael Wilbon. Wilbon talks about how stats are dumb about as frequently as I talk about how people are just in charge of things, but usually he doesn't bring damn near 20% of the American populace with him. At least he included someone bombing his dumb ass in his own column:

“So many front offices are staffed by guys like me, who didn’t play the game, who didn’t come in through the coaching ranks … Don’t tell me that there are no black people who are good at math. There are black people who expert at qualitative analysis,” Elhassan said. “I worry that it becomes a way to exclude. Don’t tell me there aren’t any black people on Wall Street who are passionate about basketball. These people exist. Wall Streeters, people with qualitative analysis backgrounds. I know them. I went to school with them. I just don’t believe that one ethnicity is more predisposed to this than another. You realize, of course, that this is the new gateway into the game … into sports?”

I'll let Elhassan speak to the wider implications of Wilbon's piece. I just want to focus on Wilbon's inability to grasp what he's even saying. This paragraph is a perfect encapsulation of Wilbon's worldview:

My friend and ESPN colleague J.A. Adande relayed a conversation he had a couple of seasons ago with Stephen Curry when the then-future MVP was transitioning from shooting guard to point guard. Curry told Adande one of the biggest differences he noticed immediately was playing the point took him away from the corners of the court, where he felt most comfortable taking 3-pointers. Curry didn’t cite any numbers, just his comfort level shooting from the corners relative to the top of the arc. Only later, after the shift, did we learn how much better Curry was from the corners. One stat, according to ESPN Stats & Information, assigned Curry some number in excess of 100 for his 3-point sniping from the corners. This tells you just how bogus the exercise is if the “percentage” reports to be greater than 100.

Step by step:

1. Curry says playing PG takes him away from the corners, where he thinks he shoots better.
2. Statistic created by ESPN confirms this.
3. Wilbon agrees that this is true.
4. Wilbon dismisses the stat because it is over 100.
5. Wilbon thinks this means ESPN believes Curry hits more than all of his shots from the corner.

That is the most ignorant thing ESPN has put in the world for years and yes I am including First Take. Wilbon doesn't bother linking to or explaining what this metric is, because he's a columnist and that means he can put a piece on the internet that references something else on the internet without telling you what that is. But I bet one dollar that this metric, as many are, is calibrated such that a league average player gets 100.

In the very next paragraph Wilbon whines that efficiency metrics are per 100 possessions instead of per 48 minutes. If black people really were the monolith Wilbon suggests they are, they would do well to assemble and vote him out of the race. Ditto SAS, who apparently got on the same bandwagon in a Sportscenter clip you literally could not pay me to watch.

Etc.: David Schilling blasts the Wilbon article in a witheringly entertaining piece. Saddi Washington profiled. Samoans happy to get a visit from Harbaugh. Ross Fulton on OSU's defense in 2016. Josh Rosen on UCLA's endorsement deal. Hockey gets a commit from Jake Slaker, who had 42 points in 57 USHL games this year. Also team captain. 19.


Jimmystats: The 2016 Schedule by Stats

Jimmystats: The 2016 Schedule by Stats Comment Count

Seth February 23rd, 2016 at 4:24 PM


As some noticed on the twitters I've begun putting together the stat boxes for this year's HTTV opponent previews. I figured I might as well share some of that data here in one place.

FEI and S&P+ things: Champion stats by the two resident best internet football stats guys. Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) of Football Outsiders, and Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) of that and Football Study Hall on SBNation.

Connelly is responsible for, among other stats, S&P+ ratings (for offense, defense, etc.), which are derived from play-by-play and drive data of every FBS game. S&P+ measures four of five factors that determine game outcomes: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. The fifth, turnovers, is relatively random so it's left out except as extra weight on sack rates, a thing that will effect at least one weird number we'll see. Garbage time is removed, and it's all weighted by opponents.

He also puts out pre-season projections based on recruiting, returning production, and front-weighted S&P+ of the last five years. Michigan's opponents by Bill C's Projected 2016 S&P+:

School S&P+ Rk/128 Recruiting Ret Prod 5-yr
Michigan 19.3 6th 14th 5th 17th
Ohio State 16.4 14th 5th 18th 3rd
Michigan State 13.5 22nd 18th 30th 12th
Penn State 11.3 28th 17th 39th 29th
Wisconsin 8.3 37th 33rd 60th 15th
Iowa 8.1 38th 49th 32nd 48th
Indiana 3.9 56th 55th 57th 75th
Maryland 2.9 62nd 47th 65th 77th
Illinois 0.4 76th 67th 76th 73rd
Colorado -2.2 82nd 50th 87th 101st
Rutgers -3.1 87th 60th 93rd 84th
Central Florida -7.0 99th 57th 113th 70th
Hawaii -13.4 118th 102nd 116th 120th

Not a lot of play in that schedule; the big rivals look to remain tough tests but that's it for the expected Top 25. The first two games should be good tuneups for O'Korn/whoever.

Brian Fremeau made FEI and F/+, based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Clock kills and garbage time are filtered out, and strength of schedule is factored in. Since it's an overall efficiency thing I prefer to use FEI as a single-stat measure of an offense or defense, while going to the play-by-play nature of S&P+, I tend to use that and the raw, sack-adjusted* yards per play, to represent an offense and defense's run/pass splits.

Those and more after [The jump.]

* [The NCAA treats sacks as rushing, which doesn't make sense. So every year I take the NCAA's base stats and treat sacks as pass plays.This makes a huge difference. I've put them in a Google Doc if you want at 'em.]


Mailbag: Of The Half-Decade, Demonic Button, Clock Malfeasance, Staff Composition

Mailbag: Of The Half-Decade, Demonic Button, Clock Malfeasance, Staff Composition Comment Count

Brian November 17th, 2015 at 12:29 PM


[Bryan Fuller]

Of The Decade update

Hi Brian,

Back in 2010, you gave us your "of the decade" team.  If five years later, you had to make another one (with this year crucially being the last year to include players from the 2006 team), who would you put on it?   And how many players from this year's squad would be included?



The Of The Decade team from 2010 versus a hypothetical 2006-2015 team:

2001-2010 POSITION 2006-2015
John Navarre '03 QB Denard Robinson '10
Chris Perry '03 RB Mike Hart '06
Kevin Dudley '04 FB Joe Kerridge '14
Braylon Edwards, whenever WR Devin Funchess '13
Mario Manningham '07 WR Manningham
Steve Breaston '06 WR Breaston
Bennie Joppru '02 TE Jake Butt '15
Jake Long '07 OT Long
Steve Hutchinson '00 OG Steve Schilling '10
David Baas '04 C David Molk '11
Jon Goodwin '01 OG Michael Schofield '12
Jeff Backus '00 OT Taylor Lewan '11
Brandon Graham '09 DE Graham
Lamarr Woodley '06 DE Woodley
Alan Branch '06 DT Branch
Gabe Watson '05 DT Mike Martin '11
David Harris '06 LB Harris
Larry Foote '01 LB Jake Ryan '12
Victor Hobson '02 LB Desmond Morgan '15
Marlin Jackson '02 CB Jourdan Lewis '15
Leon Hall '06 CB Hall
Jamar Adams '07 S Jabrill Peppers '15
Julius Curry '00 S Jordan Kovacs '12
Garrett Rivas '06 K Rivas
Zoltan Mesko '09 P Mesko

I've got four guys on there from this year's team, three of whom I assume are pretty obvious. Without a true nickel spot on the Of The Decade team Peppers is a bit of an awkward fit, but I mean cumong man. If I expanded the team to have a nickel, which I will definitely do in the future, he'd be it and Jarrod Wilson would slide into his spot. So 5-ish.

Desmond Morgan, you ask? The pickings are not great at linebacker over the past decade. The only eligible guy from the backups on the '10 team is Shawn Crable, and while Crable was a freelance sower of havoc he's competing with Jake Ryan, not Morgan. Morgan is one of the most sneaky-good players in the recent history of the program (and I'm through most of the first half against Indiana and he is doing really well in tough situations).

This year's team would have even more spots if that defensive line wasn't rough to get on. That's four guys with long NFL careers and dominant senior years.

Hey Brian,

Beyond the interpretation problems, have you given any thought to the enforcement process for targeting calls?

Not exactly an analogous comparison, but a thought - treat targeting calls more as a yellow card than a red card. More to the point, don't throw guys out in the moment on these judgment calls - refer questionable hits to the referees' office, let them have a look at it during the week, and decide if a future suspension is warranted, The NFL reviews plays for fines all the time so I don't see how this is much different. You'd think time and centralization make the enforcement more thoughtful and consistent, and thereby allow coaches to better correct their players.

Inherent in this solution is separating targeting from a personal foul, so you can still throw a flag for 15 yards on outlawed hits without necessarily an ejection. You still get some bad PF calls/no calls, but we've always lived with those - egregious ejections not so much. If you wanted there could be an accumulation component, which is also like yellow cards, so if you have a guy dishing out repeated borderline hits it's an automatic suspension at some point. Seems to strike a much better balance and still emphasize safety.

Anyway, sorry this is long. Curious if you've had thoughts of your own on this.

-Mike in DC

If they do centralize the review process instead of delegating it to a varying selection of potential incompetents I think a lot of the inconsistencies go away. I don't think many of the targeting calls I've seen this year have been the kind of thing that you can't determine the legality of within a few minutes, and the immediate ejection does have the benefit of helping the team that suffered the hit.

I do like the yellow card idea, if implemented correctly. If something like the Bolden hit gets inexplicably upheld at least it can be adjudged a yellow card (or flagrant 1, take your pick) and he can stay in the game. In that case I would prefer that yellows don't clear for ten games or so.

But the real problem remains the utter inconsistency with which the rule is applied. A world in which the hit by Bolden is an ejection and the hit on Sypniewski against Rutgers is nothing is one in which we're just polishing turds. This targeting call was overturned:


Until that gets fixed the penalty is a worthless piece of security theater.

[After THE JUMP: pushing a hypothetical demonic button, finding Marques Slocum, clock malfeasance, staff composition]


Mailbag: Stats Love Us, Saban Manball Canary, Substitution Style, Cole Absence, Playcalling Approach

Mailbag: Stats Love Us, Saban Manball Canary, Substitution Style, Cole Absence, Playcalling Approach Comment Count

Brian October 13th, 2015 at 11:34 AM


On S&P+


Number 3? For the statistically challenged, what do you think of this methodology?

S&P+ is as good as any other ranking system that drills into play-by-play data to get a clearer picture of a football game than scoring margin alone can give you. Bill Connelly, the guy behind it, also runs Football Study Hall. He does a lot of smart things. S&P+ is a valuable look at who is playing the best.

Unfortunately, it can only go on the data that exists and in early-season college football that's always going to be sparse. Meanwhile some folks will dispute lot of the assumptions S&P+ makes, primarily that turnovers are super random and not major factors in the rankings. It also values all games evenly in ways that humans aren't always big fans of. Utah is significantly below Michigan because:

  • the Michigan-Utah game was about even down to down and turned on turnovers
  • Utah did not significantly outgain Utah State or Fresno State
  • Michigan yardage-murdered everyone other than Utah

S&P+ is not trying to be a descriptive ranking (ie: these teams have had the best season so far) but rather a predictive one (ie: if these teams were to meet who would win). Michigan has performed like an elite team so far according to S&P+, and I can see why it thinks that.

FEI, the other major ranking that takes more than score into account*, is more skeptical than S&P, but I think that's because that still bakes some preseason assumptions into the ranking.

*[AFAIK Sagarin only uses the final score.]

Can we manball it when even Saban flees to spread-type behavior?

It seems that Nick Saban has recently admitted that his current style is a bit outdated, that he needs to adjust to the recent trends in college football. It is pretty obvious that teams like OSU, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, even BGSU are seeing a lot of success by utilizing both up-tempo and featuring quick guys in space.

Can you speak to offensive philosophies such as Alabama and Stanford and how this may or may not be a concern for us going forward? I understand that "smashmouth" football is not mutually exclusive with up-tempo and quick guys in space. But it just seems to me that Harbaugh's style doesn't seem to emphasize either of these current successful trends.


Given how the season has gone so far I actually think Michigan might occasionally run into the opposite problem. They've been absolutely lights out against six consecutive spread offenses. (Not very good spread offenses, sure, but Michigan isn't holding these guys to 20 points and high-fiving afterwards. They are crushing opponents.) Meanwhile the Harbauffense is winning plays against teams that aren't always comfortable putting heavy D packages on the field or filling all the gaps Harbaugh creates.

Saban's move to a more spread and tempo oriented offense is a reaction to the many times his defense has been blown out of the water by those kind of attacks over the past few years. When the Tide get to line up against one of the remaining "pro style" offenses, the results are generally ugly. Ask Georgia.

Michigan might not have that issue. Durkin seems very comfortable devising ways to neutralize spreads. I will have trepidation when and if Michigan does come up against… well, pretty much just Alabama.

On and off and on and off

Brian or Ace-

Do you know, or, if not, could you ask someone, why Dan Liesman (I think that is who it is, at least according to my Mini-Program; it is #54) comes out a few yards onto the field between plays almost every time when we are on defense. It is as if he is not sure whether he is going in or not, but since he NEVER goes in, it is obviously for some other reason. Is there some rule about substitutions that this relates to, are we trying to confuse the opposition, or does he just like to pretend he might be going in? There has to be a reason, and I would think most MGoBloggers would love to hear it. Thanks


We've seen Ross and Gant also do this. It's just a substitution strategy. After the play Michigan sends guys who may or may not be in the defensive package, depending on what the offense does, to about the numbers. (Any farther could get you an illegal substitution penalty.)

If opponents send in two or more blocky-catchy types, the linebacker will stay in and a DB will be removed. Since every team Michigan has played almost never uses two or more blocky-catchy types the LB heads back to the sideline almost all the time.

Liesman specifically is interesting because Michigan usually has Ross available; I haven't noticed if sometimes he is poking his head on the field when Michigan's already in a 4-3. That would imply Michigan has a heavy package in case someone tries to manball them.

Someone was confused.

Mr. Hammond

I wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy your broadcasts of Notre Dame football.  Your kind deference to Our Lady's University is a beautiful expression of the christian love that infuses your broadcast persona.  Thank you so much!  You are a good man.

May God bless you and yours.

Andrew V.

I did flip over to the Notre Dame-UMass game when it was interesting for a minute and heard Hammond's dulcet tones. He's missed.

I assume that guy who made the Tom Hammond tie is in Congress by now.

[After THE JUMP: early drives allowed, Harbaugh's playcalling system, a search for superclusters.]


Behind the Sticks: Advanced Stats and Brady Hoke’s Offense

Behind the Sticks: Advanced Stats and Brady Hoke’s Offense Comment Count

Adam Schnepp May 21st, 2015 at 10:00 AM


[Adam Glanzman]

“Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude, in Los Angeles… But sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced him enough.” –The Stranger, The Big Lebowski

In mid-2010 I got hired by a bank to be a Customer Service Representative teller. This put me on the front lines of the never-ending war between people’s money and the financial organizations that hold it. I learned very quickly that there were two things that could turn a mild-mannered citizen into a venom-spewing troglodyte: bank fees and Rich Rodriguez.

I loved when people came into the bank wearing college gear because it meant I’d be able to easily strike up a conversation about football, and people are a little less likely to verbally assault you when you’re able to find some common ground. The operative word in that last sentence is “little,” but I digress. By the fall of 2010 people were so fixated on the abject disaster that was Michigan’s defense that they willfully ignored how incredible the offense was. This was the fuel they needed to turn the “RichRod isn’t a ‘Michigan Man’” fire into a raging inferno, and it got so out of control that I talked to people who were even criticizing Rodriguez’s wife for not being Michigan-y or Michigan-ish or something crazy like that. At one point someone complained to me about her having blonde hair.

The Microscope of Public Scrutiny was so zoomed in on Rodriguez and everything surrounding him that Dave Brandon was able to make the Free Press look stupid and then lie in wait. At some point in 2010 Brandon’s opinion aligned with the bank’s clients; to them, the Rodriguez experiment had failed. Enter: Brady Hoke.

Hoke represented everything that the anti-Rodriguez movement wanted: familiarity with the program, a defensive background, and the mixture of self-oriented humility manifest in his claim that he’d walk across the country for the job and the program-oriented bravado in the interminable fergodsakes claim.

The honeymoon phase lasted a full season, but by the end of Hoke’s fourth year the program was in a place similar to where he found it, a place all too familiar to Michigan’s fanbase. One side of the ball was above average, but the other side was in such shambles that the team collapsed under the dead weight. 



"Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play."

Brady Hoke, 3/23/2011

The transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke was like switching from cold brewed coffee to run-of-the-mill drip coffee; a move away from the newer, higher-octane movement and toward what felt more traditional, the tried and true. The fallout from this was immediately apparent in the speculation that one of the most dynamic players to every don the winged helmet might transfer to a school with an offense better suited to his talents (i.e. a school that wouldn’t put him under center and have him hand the ball off).

In what may be one of the most significant events in program history (more on that later), Denard stayed. Al Borges still tried to put Denard under center and Michigan did rep power, but there were enough zone reads incorporated to allow Denard to continue waking up opposing defensive coordinators in cold sweats. You know all of this. You watched it unfold. That also means you watched crimes perpetrated against manpanda and an offense hell-bent on skinning its forehead running against a brick wall before finally, mercifully, abandoning their MANBALL-big-boy-football-noises ideals and exploding out of the shotgun.

This piece is intended to be the counterpoint to the memory’s emphasis on the spectacular. The intent isn’t to accuse, but to take a more calculated look at what exactly happened to Michigan’s offense over the last four years and see where things went well, as well as where and how things stopped functioning.

[After THE JUMP: charts and tables]


Unverified Voracity Names A Ferret

Unverified Voracity Names A Ferret Comment Count

Brian May 11th, 2015 at 12:35 PM


  • Ferret Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson
  • Ferret Queen Elizabeth
  • Ferret, James Ferret
  • Ferret Canteen

I also have names that don't start with "ferret," but those run the risk of having your animal misidentified as a marmot.

  • Sir Toothsalot
  • Not A Marmot, Esq.
  • Aussie Punter
  • Maude

I would suggest you leave your candidates in the comments but I'm completely certain that would be superfluous after the bravura performance above.

They're #3. Softball gets the soft-quivalent of a one-seed in the tourney. (They only seed 16 of the 64 teams because they regionalize the tournament to save money.) That means a home regional and, should they win that, a home super-regional. Michigan has a real shot at it:

Michigan plays Oakland at 6 on Friday. It's on ESPNU for those out of the area. Cal and Pitt are the other teams headed to AA.

This is a very Michigan softball record. Congrats to Sierra Romero for setting the NCAA record for grand slams. She is a junior.

This is kind of about sports. I've actually read this Daniel Kanheman book about the way brains work, and liked it. It has lots of things like this in it:

Professor Kahneman discussed an intriguing finding that people score higher on a test if the questions are hard to read. The particular test used in the study is the CRT or cognitive reflection task invented by Shane Frederick of Yale. The CRT itself is interesting, but what Professor Kahneman wrote was amazing to me,

“90% of the students who saw the CRT in normal font made at least one mistake in the test, but the proportion dropped to 35% when the font was barely legible. You read this correctly: performance was better with the bad font.”

I thought this was so cool. The idea is simple, powerful, and easy to grasp. An oyster makes a pearl by reacting to the irritation of a grain of sand. Body builders become huge by lifting more weight. Can we kick our brains into a higher gear, by making the problem harder?

Then he checked it.


The dot at the top is every study combined. The effect does not exist. Why do I bring this up instead of coming up with more ferret names? (MC Furo. There's another one.) Several reasons.

  • I get irritated at sports stats that actively try to be interesting. Whenever a team goes up by score X and they have an interesting record, the sports people will tell you DETROIT is SIXTY BILLION AND ZERO when they LEAD BY A GOAL on TUESDAYS SINCE 120 AD. There are so many teams and so many events that somebody's got a stat like that. So they cherry-pick the outlier. You never see all the completely un-fascinating stats.
  • You should be suspicious of anything that's cool and intuitive. These are just as likely to be accurate as anything that gets published. (When your sample size is 40: not likely.) They are way more likely to be picked up and passed around by frizzy-haired Explainer Laureate types. So many holy-crap stats evaporate when you try to replicate them… and those are exactly the things you're likely to hear of.
  • Stats that sound crazy unlikely are almost certainly not checked. This study. Or a report from the CDC that autism has gone up 30% in the last two years that I looked up during an argument about how prevalent that was. That same article uncritically relates that the autism rates in New Jersey are four times higher than they are in Alabama. I read that and immediately think "all these numbers are horseshit." People in charge of numbers are just in charge of them. Etc.

There was a sports in there.

Sir you got some jay in your walk. Michigan reported some minor boo-boos to the NCAA since Harbaugh's hire. These include Mike Zordich accidentally mentioning Wayne Lyons at a press conference and this doozy:

Separately, on March 18, Jim Harbaugh sent an autographed team helmet and jersey to an auction organized by a former high school classmate of his to benefit suicide prevention and awareness. The donation was not reviewed beforehand by Michigan's compliance office, and the items that were auctioned ended up being used to assist a scholarship fund in the name of a student who had committed suicide, something Harbaugh was not aware of, according to U-M's self-reported violation. …

Per NCAA rules, programs/coaches may not personally donate items to benefit high school scholarship funds.

I mean, I get the potential issue there—welcome to St. Thomas Aquinas's NICK SABAN TOE AUCTION—but you gotta be kidding me.

On grad transfers. Stewart Mandel hits on the goofiest part of the NCAA's PR campaign against grad transfers:

In short, it's patently absurd for officials who claim to have athletes' best interests in mind to be threatening one of the most athlete-friendly rules in their book, not to mention one that specifically incentivizes players to graduate. No, most of them don't go on to complete their master's degrees, but that doesn't mean they don't better themselves.

The rule gives guys who may otherwise be dubious about getting that degree a major reason to do so. You have to decide whether that's helping your achieve your goals or not. If you actually want players to graduate it is.

Jim Delany 0, always 0. Mere days after he stuck up for satellite camps whilst running down a number of activities both worthy of attention (oversigning) and not (recruits decommitting), this happens:

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Someone was going to give Jamel Dean a shot. In stepped Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

Dean, the former Ohio State cornerback who was medically disqualified by the Buckeyes before ever playing a game in Columbus, announced on Friday that he will be enrolling at Auburn with the intention of playing football for the Tigers.

That's just the way things go these days. Annual signing limits, please.

Etc.: Arguments against the end of intentional fouling are not real good. Michigan is courting 6'8" Brent Hibbits as a preferred walk-on. Hibbits has a number of MAC-level offers. Wagner doing things at the U19 level. Steve Shields joins Michigan as a volunteer assistant. My goalie buddy who follows these things very closely thinks that's a big help.

Georgia's AD is jealous of "Third Down For What." Larkin at the World Championships. Everett Golson has been barred from transferring to "a number of Big Ten schools." I guarantee you one of them is M.


Mailbag: Recruiting Fallout, Kill For Kill, Fancy Metrics, Anti-Mascot For Michigan

Mailbag: Recruiting Fallout, Kill For Kill, Fancy Metrics, Anti-Mascot For Michigan Comment Count

Brian October 23rd, 2014 at 12:40 PM


Henry was not the same kind of risk Chris Barnett was [Bryan Fuller]

Fliers actually a good thing?

You mentioned in the last UV that "If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys
they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are
actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last
It seems like a large percentage of the big names on the team today
were fliers in the Hoke/RichRod class and Hoke's first class. Names
that immediately came to mind as late offers that panned out better
than expected are Norfleet, Morgan, Taylor and Henry. I wonder if
taking a few more chances on last-minute fliers wouldn't pay off for
this recruiting class?


There's a difference between late fliers you take after scouting them in secret for a while and the kind of late fliers Michigan took after Brady Hoke was hired and they needed to cram ten guys into Rodriguez's battered final class. Morgan was a Rich Rodriguez add after extensive scouting; Henry was a Hoke add after the same; Norfleet was a highly touted spread guy Michigan had room for on Signing Day; he was well known.

Here are the guys Michigan added after The Process concluded in early 2011 (minus Chris Bryant, because Bryant was on the verge of committing to Michigan for months beforehand):

  • Chris Barnett (flamed out before fall camp)
  • Frank Clark (check)
  • Thomas Rawls (never played, now CMU feature back)
  • Russell Bellomy (third string QB)
  • Antonio Poole (pec injury forced retirement)
  • Matt Wile (kicker)
  • Keith Heitzman (backup to AJ Williams)
  • Raymon Taylor (check)
  • Tamani Carter (transferred after one year)

They got two players out of eight swings and they got one of those because Frank Clark went from 210 to 280 like guys who get drafted from MAC schools. That's not a great hit rate, and that hit rate was about as expected. Only Taylor, one of the two hits, had a recruiting profile even on the 3/4 star borderline. All others were fliers picked away from Vandy, Minnesota, Purdue, etc.

Now combine that with the rest of the class, which featured four more guys who didn't make it through year one (Greg Brown, Chris Rock, Kellen Jones, Tony Posada) and that's a 20 commitment class in a year you could have taken 25 that has way too many washouts. 

This year is different. A guy coming in at the same time Hoke did last year would only need to add four or five guys and the guys already in the class aren't particularly likely to flame out, because that's the thing Hoke has been terrific at. They would not desperately need the the late flier guys to work out, and that's a good thing because they would not be likely to.

It shouldn't matter in a class that looks like it'll top out at 15. So I'm just sayin' if it's January 1 and Michigan has just installed a new AD I wouldn't necessarily think Hoke is safe.

[After THE JUMP: anti-mascot concept art]


Dear Diary Maintains Gap Integrity

Dear Diary Maintains Gap Integrity Comment Count

Seth September 19th, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Immediately place your mouse here, tap your index finger, and be whisked away to my all-time favorite series of preview diaries: EGD’s Four Plays. He draws up two base offensive plays for Michigan and two base offensive plays of the opponent, shows how each team defends those plays, and then breaks down the individual matchups. A sample:


WDE Frank Clark: Gap-exchange with WLB Joe Bolden; backside pursuit of RB Devontae Booker

NT Ryan Glasgow: Defend backside A-gap against LG Junior Salt

DT Willie Henry: Defend playside B-gap against RG Isaac Asiata, constrict playside A-gap

SDE Brennan Beyer: Defend playside D-gap (outside TE) vs. TE Westlee Tonga; backside pursuit if QB keeps, set edge point and force run back inside if QB gives

WLB Joe Bolden:  Gap-exchange with WDE Frank Clark; defend backside C-gap vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi, set edge point and force back inside if QB keeps, backside pursuit if QB gives

Make this part of your preview regimen. In other O’s, Brhino mini-UFR’d the Shane Morris plays (both rollouts so pocket presence information is unavailable).

Coaching searches are like recruiting: five stars wanted. The other big diary this week is resph1’s look at all the coaching searches among Power Five programs since 2007.

Coaching search lesson 1

By year four most guys in the study had their programs in better shape than the previous three seasons. Also very few of them were still around:

Only half the coachs on our list of 36 are still at their schools. It gets worse as you go farther back in time. Of the 8 coaches hired for the 2007 season, Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio are the only ones still around. A whopping 5 were fired and another (Harbaugh) left for the NFL.

Even among the 14 “winners” covered above, the story is not much better. 5 guys capitalized on their success and moved on to other positions, and 2 were fired (one scandal, on failed to sustain their initial success), only 7 remain (Snyder, Saban, Briles, Hoke, Kelly, Fisher, Cutcliffe).

I did a somewhat similar study of Big Ten and SEC coaching hires since 1999 in this year’s HTTV, breaking them into categories of “Strong” (like stealing another BCS team’s HC for unholy money), “Average” (like upgrading a proven mid-major coach or BCS/NFL coordinator) or “Cheap” (what Purdue does). Of the SEC’s 30 head coaching hires, 18 were in the “Strong” category, while economy class was reserved for only Vandy, Kentucky, and Arkansas needing a one-year stopgap; only three (Rodriguez, John L. Smith, and Urban) of the Big Ten’s 22 hires rated that, and 13 were on the cheap.

Things Brian linked already on the front page but bear reminding: what’s going on in the student section, another non-reflective boxscore, Best & Worst called Gardner a chaotic neutral.

Etc. Gulo Gulo reviewed betting lines, Ron Utah reviews the last few years of Michigan football and wonders if maybe we just should feel sorry for ourselves, LSA on where Michigan stands in basic stats.