Basketball Will Love Me Again

Basketball Will Love Me Again

Submitted by Brian on February 13th, 2012 at 12:02 PM

2/12/2012 – Michigan 70, Illinois 61 – 19-7, 9-4 Big Ten

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miss from the elbow; make from three
Detnews/AnnArbor.com

Sports have their own distinctive rhythms, sounds and moments and rituals that worm themselves into the observer's subconscious after repeated exposure. Basketball is rife with them. The seismic thud of the ball hitting the floor is shockingly tactile from time to time, especially during your first game of a new season. Back-to-back TV timeouts are agony and boredom. And the interval between a three-pointer's departure and arrival, when three fingers are raised in slow motion and a long heavy intake of breath fills the lungs, is the sort of intermittent reinforcement that ends with people saying "but she loves me… she's just misunderstood."

When those rhythms conspire against you in a cosmically unfair (and usually deeply random) fashion, building-wide manias develop. Rattling post after post in hockey, an avalanche of seeing-eye singles in baseball, the clang of iron on open look after open look—these things turn crowds into scalded, nervous things. When the shot goes up, the reaction is something it would take Steve Buscemi to adequately convey.

Oh no, here we go again
Maybe this time basketball will love me
Maybe this time basketball will care
Basketball is just misunderstood
No officer I would not like to press charges against basketball
Maybe next time
Probably next time
Definitely next time
Basketball is just misunderstood

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When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.

It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.

Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.

It was the other one, though, that really got hearts open again, really open and ready for a surprising reversal that is in no way surprising. It wasn't a good shot, really, but when you're 6'5" and can jump really high there are few truly contested threes. This has been a foundational component of Hardaway's game and seemed brilliant when he was hitting 42% of them. When you're hitting 27%, not so much. Hardaway was hitting 27% as he made a token move to the basket and stepped back for a semi-contested three.

He'd hit one earlier and maybe the wincing wasn't quite as overt as he rose up. This one was perfect. It hit nothing whatsoever on its way through the hoop.

Hardaway didn't push it. There was no heat check, because sometimes a thing like making more than half of your shots in a game is a delicate one that must be shepherded through dangers.

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Hardaway wasn't the only struggler to prop up fading hopes of effectiveness. Matt Vogrich had eight points on three shots, all makes, and Novaked himself a game-changing play* when his super-quick rotation on Meyers Leonard condemned Leonard to the bench for most of the first half. Evan Smotrycz hit a couple threes and managed 13 points; though he turned the ball over twice he was also credited with four steals. Michigan did not get blown off the court in the long stretches where a foul-limited Morgan wasn't on it thanks in large part to Smotrycz.

Both Vogrich and Smotrycz followed Hardaway's example and didn't push it. Between the three of them they took eight threes and hit six. As a team Michigan attempted just 35% from beyond the arc. It was a strange mirror of the first half against Nebraska, when Michigan took two thirds of its shots from three against the worst interior defense in the league. Here they took most of their shots from two against one a team much better on the interior than the perimeter.

Whether that was just what Illinois does—they're second in the league at preventing three point attempts—or Michigan treating their newfound deep shooting touch like a Faberge egg, the end result was a building that did not moan. Primed to believe long shots could actually go through the net, when Vogrich rose in the second half there was just anticipation.

Long may it last. It won't last. It might last. Basketball has been more into flowers lately.

*[Except of course if Novak had tried to do the same thing they would have called a block on him because referees hate Novak even more than opposing fans do.]

Bullets Will Drive Us Apart

As always, rely on MGoBlog for your super accurate predictions. In the preview I openly quailed at the prospect of Meyers Leonard going up against Michigan's undersized front line. At halftime I felt like the six-point lead was a missed opportunity that would bite Michigan in the ass after Leonard returned from the game-changing charge Matt Vogrich took on him for his second foul. Leonard's 7'1" frame sauntered onto the court and… scored one point in the second half. He had all of three FGAs, all of which IIRC were putback attempts (he had four offensive rebounds).

That's the game right there. I'm not sure how much of that was Michigan's doing and how much was Illinois drifting away from the early game plan (in short: "ALL OF THE LEONARDS") in favor of whatever it was they decided to do instead.  It felt like Illinois didn't even bother looking inside much in the second half. When they did, doubles convinced Leonard to kick it out and active hands from Morgan and Smotrycz forced a number of turnovers. It's a tribute to someone on the coaching staff—maybe various someones—that this motely crew of iffy athletes and short guys finds itself an above-average Big Ten defense.

At least I was on point with the increased use of zone—plenty when Leonard was on the court—and the total uselessness of the backup center (zero points, two attempts both on offensive putbacks against McLimans in 14 minutes). Didn't see Tyler Griffey as the guy who would light up Michigan's sagging perimeter defense.

Player items. Hardaway, Vogrich, and Smotrycz are essentially covered above. All had efficient shooting days for a change; as a unit that put Michigan over the hump despite a 5 of 15 day from Trey Burke. It certainly didn't feel like a 5 of 15 day from Burke, but there it is.

Not much stands out from the boxscore except another game in which Michigan had the crap kicked out of it on the boards. Illinois rebounded 40% of its misses. Michigan is now significantly below average in both offensive (10th) and defensive (8th) rebounding. This is an obvious consequence of moving Douglass into the starting lineup after they cruised through the nonconference schedule seeming like a good to very good DREB team. Not that doing that was a bad idea.

The upside of that. Michigan got a ton of fast break and secondary transition points; in the second half when Illinois was crashing the boards hard anything that didn't end up getting rebounded by the trees fell to a shorter faster Michigan player and the resulting transition opportunity was often an odd-man break. I'd be interested to see a breakdown of Illinios points off of offensive rebounds versus points in transition when Michigan actually got the board. I'd guess it would be a small advantage to Illinois, but not one that outweighs the benefits of going small to Michigan's halfcourt offense.

Small sample size. Vogrich is 5/5 from three in his past two games. Result:

Prior to the Nebraska win, Vogrich was shooting 20.5 percent on the season. Now, after one solid week, he's up to 30.8 percent from downtown.

Big Ten… um… title? It is vaguely possible. Via UMHoops, the four contenders (I've taken the liberty of bolding games versus the top four):

MICHIGAN ST. (9-3) OHIO ST. (9-3) MICHIGAN (9-4) WISCONSIN (8-4)
  vs. Wisconsin (8-4) at Minnesota (5-7) vs. OSU (9-3) at MSU (9-3)
  at Purdue (6-6) at Michigan (9-4) at N’Western (5-7) vs. PSU (3-10)
  at Minnesota (5-7) vs. Illinois (5-7) vs. Purdue (6-6) at Iowa (5-7)
  vs. Nebraska (3-10) vs. Wisconsin (8-4) at Illinois (5-7) at OSU (9-3)
  at Indiana (7-6) at N’Western (5-7) at PSU (3-10) vs. Minnesota (5-7)
  vs. OSU (9-3) at MSU (9-3)   vs. Illinois (5-7)
KenPom 41.8 30.5 52.2 54
Home 3 2 2 3
Away 3 4 3 3

You'll note that Michigan is one of them and that their last game against the cream of the crop is their next one.

It will take either a huge closing run or a specific combination of results to get Michigan a banner; I'd say we can forget about it if Michigan loses against OSU. Unless OSU loses at Minnesota that would mean Michigan was two back with four games left.

If they managed the upset, though…

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Illinois team practice. In games they headbutt each other and are eaten.

Weber watch. The vibe I get from the various Illini fans whose blogs I read or who I follow on twitter is extreme frustration with Bruce Weber. That makes sense after concentrating on Illinois's play. The Illini are like a pack of gazelles: breathtaking to watch run around but utterly incapable of passing the ball. Gazelles have hooves, and this fact explains things. Only two or three of the Illini have hooves. The rest of that is on Weber.

I mean, Brandon Paul should be an All-American. Instead he has a lower ORtg than literally every Michigan player with enough playing time for Kenpom to register save Vogrich. If they miss the tourney dollars to donuts Weber is having his hissy fits at home next year*. Because he won't have a job. I'm saying they'll fire him.

*[Seriously. Weber's fits might be worse than those of Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo. At least Ryan and Izzo seem to have a tangible effect on their teams. The only way Weber's message is getting through is if he's screaming "DRIBBLE AIMLESSLY AND THEN TURN THE BALL OVER." I mean:

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Detnews

Three of 22 pictures from the Detroit News gallery above feature Weber having a fit.]

Trillion watch. McLimans had a rare first-half trillion in four minutes.

Sold out? The game was technically sold out. Emphasis on "technically": large chunks of the upper-bowl endzones were empty the whole game. Who is buying those tickets and then ignoring them? I know they're not season tickets up there, so someone must be purchasing and then not using large chunks of the endzone upper decks. Strange.

Incredulous block/charge of the week. Brandon Paul's late first half clobberation of Trey Burke. Burke was set well outside the charge circle and Paul blew him up; this was an and-one instead of Paul's second. I haven't seen a replay but live it was a crazy call.

The only thing I can think might even vaguely justify the call is that Paul didn't hit Burke in the dead center of his chest. For some reason refs have a tendency to call blocks when a stationary defender takes an off-center or glancing blow from the offensive player. Why I don't know. In a situation like the Burke/Paul confrontation it seems like there are only two possible outcomes: a charge or a no-call. Referees disagree.

Elsewhere

UMHoops recap. They went inside the play with some Jordan Morgan bunnies. The Crimson Quarry breaks down Indiana's deployment of the 2-3 zone. Michigan ran a lot of 2-3 in the second half yesterday and may resort to it at times down the stretch when they're at a significant size disadvantage (most of the time). Just Cover on the argument about 8-10 Big Ten teams making the tournament.

Holdin' The Rope:

People are talking about seeding. A four, a five? There are distinct loci on the map of college basketball that Michigan now firmly occupies instead of the Purgatorial listlessness that once loomed over the program for over a decade. People are talking about Michigan's chances to win the conference title, regular season and tournament. That's not to say that Michigan will win either (the former hinges upon whether or not Michigan can beat the Buckeyes at home on Saturday), but people are talking about it. Think about how insane that is, as a concept and as a potential reality. A little over four years ago, Michigan was busy losing to an Amaker-coached Harvard squad, a moment in history that typifies the Universe's mischievous sense of humor.

It's worth noting that with Michigan's ninth win of the conference season they have permanently taken themselves off the bubble. For the first time since [REDACTED] Michigan's not going into Selection Sunday on pins an needles, even if they lose out. That was a preseason goal Michigan has met with authority.

AnnArbor.com on slumps ending(?). Daily on the limited Leonard opportunities and Michigan's remarkable performance given the Hardaway/Smotrycz slumps.

Hoops Picture Pages: Getting Hardaway Going

Hoops Picture Pages: Getting Hardaway Going

Submitted by Ace on February 10th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Despite finishing just 3-11 from the field for six points in Michigan's win against Nebraska on Wednesday, Tim Hardaway Jr. showed signs that he could snap out of the scoring funk that has plagued him for much of the Big Ten season. With Hardaway, it all comes down to shot selection; against the Huskers, he was 0-6 from three and 3-5 from inside the arc. In the second half, especially, John Beilein called plays designed to get Hardaway moving towards the basket.

The first play I'm going to look at needs a bit of an introduction, and luckily Dylan has already taken the time to picture page the play that sets it all up. Check out the second play (the one from the Nebraska game) in UMHoops's Inside the Play feature from today. The video is below, and you'll see that Jordan Morgan sets a high-side on-ball screen for Hardaway, rolls hard to the basket, and is wide open for a layup:

Here's the very next Michigan possession. The Wolverines set up with four plays in a box up top while Hardaway is isolated in the far corner of the court. As you'll see, this setup will allow Michigan to spread the floor and have ample room to set up that same screen action on the left side of the court:

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In the next frame, Burke has passed to Novak and gone to the near corner, and Novak has swung the ball to Morgan at the top of the key. Everybody but Hardaway is concentrated on the near side of the court:

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Hardaway flashes up to the elbow and gets the pass from Morgan, who comes over to set a screen. Morgan's defender (#13) is prepared to hedge, and Hardaway's (#3) begins to lean in to Morgan, anticipating having to fight through the pick:

vlcsnap-173537

Hardaway recognizes that his defender is cheating, so instead of coming over the screen he quickly takes it left and blows by his man. Note that Douglass and Burke are way out on the perimeter while Novak is clearing out to the far corner; with Morgan's defender caught up top, there's nobody in the middle to stop the drive:

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Hardaway gets into the paint with ease and rises above Novak's man, who has come over to help, finishing with a pretty finger-roll as someone's flash goes off:

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Full video:

This is a great way for Michigan to create offense for Hardaway when he has the ball in his hands, and it has the added bonus of making Jordan Morgan a viable offensive threat—he's at his best when he's rolling to the basket, and this setup forces the defense to pick their poison. Granted, the Huskers could be a lot more sound with their pick-and-roll D, but forcing a team to be aware of the roll while guarding the drive off either taking or refusing the pick will usually expose some flaws.

Michigan found other ways to get Hardaway involved in the offense, as well. On this next play, he sets an off-ball screen for Burke before getting the ball in that same spot on the wing. Instead of having the center—in this case, Smotrycz—come up for a pick, the Wolverines spread the floor, giving Hardaway all the space he needs to get to the hoop for another layup:

Hardaway's third field goal, in contrast to his first two, comes from his movement off the ball. When THJ sees Novak draw attention from the defense as he dribbles towards the top of the key, Hardaway makes a sharp backdoor cut behind his befuddled defender. Novak makes a gorgeous one-handed pass on the move, hitting Hardaway in stride for another layup:

While there will certainly be adjustments by future opponents, you can see that Beilein is working to get Hardaway the ball in a position where he can get to the basket, taking advantage of his athleticism while mitigating his shooting struggles. At some point Hardaway is going to have to find that shooting stroke, but in the meantime it helps that the team is focused on getting him great looks at the basket.

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

Submitted by Brian on February 9th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten

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First half, second half

I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.

While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.

Posthaste bullets

Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.

Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.

That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.

As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.

Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.

Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.

I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.

Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:

  • Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
  • Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.

[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]

Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.

Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.

Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.

Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.

As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.

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Patrick Radigan

Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.

Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:

  • A defensive rebound.
  • Two fouls.
  • A turnover.

Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."

Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.

Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.

This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.

Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.

Etc.

UMHoops photo gallery. AnnArbor.com version. Baumgardner article.

Send Lawyers, Shooters, And Rebounds

Send Lawyers, Shooters, And Rebounds

Submitted by Brian on February 6th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

2/5/2012 – Michigan 54, Michigan State 64 – 17-7, 7-4 Big Ten

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Dustin Johnston

Playing in Breslin without any tall people was exactly as frustrating as you would expect; Kenpom nailed that particular game down to the point. The way things played out was equally as easy to predict. Michigan struggled immensely to generate shots after Izzo locked down most of Michigan's tricks and niblets. Easy buckets reduced, State annihilated Michigan on the boards, and that was that.

It's hard to get worked up about that after the fact. It was painful during; after it was obvious. The four factors graph might as well read "chalk":

NCAA Basketball


SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2012-02-05

Michigan lost this game on the boards.

This is the kind of thing I was talking about after the Ohio State game. There's only so much you can do when you're running out one guy taller than 6'5" against very large men in a hostile environment. Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism.

That's no shame. It does make games like Sunday's uphill battles dependent on lighting it up from three. If this was part of, say, a decade-long slump with no light at the end of the tunnel it might be an occasion to rend the garments a little further. In the context of the last two years of Michigan basketball it's just another indication that Michigan isn't quite there yet.

Since the direction is clear, patience is easy. Two or three hours after the game, anyway.

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Michigan has pulled through their brutal Kenpom stretch 3-3 with only the first ten minutes against Arkansas a real disappointment. At this point a tournament bid is basically in the bag. They need two more wins to hit .500 and have seven opportunities to do so, two of which are against Nebraska and Penn State. After fighting through six games against Kenpom top ten opponents in the first 11 games, they have just one in their final seven. Realistic goals include a 12-6 conference record—Beilein's best ever in a power conference—and a Sweet 16 seed.

I'll take it.

Bullets

Oh, Hardaway. That game was the tipping point when the internet stopped whispering about what's going on with Tim Hardaway Jr. and started yelling uncomplimentary things. And… after going 1 for 10 and meekly saying "thank you sir" on a first-half MSU layup in the midst of months and months of clanged long shots it's hard to disagree with even the foamiest internet commenters.

Hardaway has been a huge disappointment. Burke is a freshman and not Darius Morris. He can only do so much. He needs help and he's getting more of it from Stu Douglass than Hardaway over the past six or seven games. It would be one thing if Hardaway was just in a shooting slump; add in the bad defense and bad shot selection and it's… well, it's not good.

I'm at a loss as to where to go from here: Hardaway is hugely inefficient and his defense is indifferent at best but the main option off the bench in his stead is a three-point specialist shooting 21%. There's nothing you can do except ride the lightning and hope some of those twos from right inside the three point line go down. Michigan just has to live with it and hope he starts finding a scoring touch.

At least the NBA isn't a threat, amirite?

BONUS disappointment: Michigan really needs Hardaway to rebound in this small lineup since he's the second-biggest and most-athletic guy; he had one offensive and one defensive as MSU grabbed almost half of their misses. On the season he's rebounding almost exactly as well as Trey Burke. I just don't know, man.

Novak and Douglass. Nails in this game just like they've been in virtually every other game. Novak was 5 of 8 for 14 points; Douglass only had five points but put up five assists and no turnovers. That's especially impressive when Michigan only had 19 made field goals.

Novak had a hand in Green's face as he knocked down a ton of tough fallaway jumpers; not much you can do about that.

There is small and there is too small. The Smotrycz at the five thing is maybe something you can get away with for a few minutes per game. It is not suited for all of Evan's minutes. Blake McLimans may not be great but at least putting him out there is less of a hilarious mismatch against whoever the post dude is.

Assuming the OSU game is a longshot this will not be hugely relevant down the stretch except against Illinois, whose best offense is tossing it to seven-footer Myers Leonard in the post and seeing what happens. The rest of their offense is Brandon Paul running around being inefficient. Michigan needs to find a way to neutralize the Leonard matchup, and that's not putting Smotrycz on the block.

Well fine then. Draymond Green backed it up.

Elsewhere

Holdin' the Rope:

It is difficult enough to win on the road, but with the current makeup of this team, we will lose to teams like Michigan State and Ohio and even some lesser teams--like Arkansas--that are able to surgically pinpoint our major weaknesses via their own specific approach to the game of basketball. I realize that is a little bit of an unfair (and crude) point to make, as teams like MSU and Ohio are very good teams; most teams lose to them. That is why they are ranked so highly. With that said, after these sorts of games have ended, I've been fairly at ease. As fun as this season has been, we are not even close to being on the same level as these sorts of opponents. Perhaps that will change next year when talented reinforcements will bring skills sets that Ann Arbor hasn't seen in some time. I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that the way the Spartans beat us was not at all surprising, and that I guess this isn't so negative after all since I'm not all that upset. If you can't tell, sometimes I devote many more words to a simple concept than are probably necessary; it's a personal flaw of mine.

UMHoops recap. I don't think "chemistry" is the problem with Hardaway's play. It doesn't take chemistry to rebound and play D, or choose good shots. Photos from UMHoops. Baumgardner on how MSU slowed Burke. UMHoops rounds up Big Ten action.

The Stu Effect

The Stu Effect

Submitted by Brian on February 2nd, 2012 at 1:16 PM

2/1/2012 – Michigan 68, Indiana 56 – 17-6, 7-3 Big Ten

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Eric Upchurch

At the beginning of Michigan's most epic brutal stretch of the season, they made a radical change by consigning Evan Smotrycz to the bench in favor of Stu Douglass. Zack Novak wearily took up the mantle of power forward again and Michigan soldiered through. Five of six games into the MEBS they're now 3-2 and guaranteed to come out at least .500, eyeing a Sweet Sixteen seed if they can win the games they should down the road.

Small sample size and all, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the impact that shift has had on Michigan's defense. When Beilein made the shift he said it was his best defensive lineup, after all.  Chart? Chart.

Michigan without Stu in the starting lineup:

[note that there are more home games than road; I attempted to adjust for that by subtracting 3.5 points from the opponent's efficiency. A home-road swing is worth 7 points and let's blindly assign half of that to the offense]

Opponent Score Possessions B10 Off Eff Expected Score Delta
PSU 53 62 94.2   58.4 5.4
Minnesota 56 58 100.8   58.4 2.4
@ Indiana 73 66 109.1   72 1
Wisconsin 41 54 102.7   55.5 14.5
Northwestern 64 65 97.9   63.6 -0.4
@ Iowa 75 62 102.9   63.8 -11.2
AVERAGE 2.0
ROAD ADJUSMENT -3.5
AVERAGE, ADJUSTED +1.2

Michigan with Stu in the starting lineup:

Opponent Score Possessions B10 Off Eff Expected Score Delta
MSU 59 57 109.3   62.3 3.3
@ Purdue 64 59 104.1   61.4 -2.6
@ OSU 64 59 111.5   65.8 1.8
Indiana 56 59 109.1   64.4 8.4
AVERAGE +2.7

So, there you go. Exceedingly weak statistical evidence in a small sample size* that shifting Douglass into the starting lineup has been worth one and a half points per game. Since Michigan won two of the games he started by 1 and 2 points, this seems relevant to our interests. Let's not make too much of it—Michigan State could blow this away in one shooting streak. But our Bayesian estimate of Douglass improving the M defense should shift over 50%.

----------------------

This is only part of what Douglass has brought to the table. Now I'm going to delve in to wishy feely stuff; I wanted to get some numbers on the internet to make me feel better about what's about to come.

But… close your eyes and envision the two most improved players on the team this year. Did you get Novak and Douglass? I'm guessing you did, what with images of Douglass driving into the lane and something bad not happening or Novak pulling up for a midrange jumper that gets only net.

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this could be going well! (Upchurch)

That's weird. Freshmen get better faster than seniors, especially when the seniors are guards and the freshmen are largely posts. This year's most prominent freshman-to-sophomore transitions have not gone real well. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a fair bit less efficient than he was as a freshman. So is Jordan Morgan. Smotrycz is a lot better but has been marginalized during this important stretch; his incredible shooting in the nonconference season has evaporated in the Big Ten.

Normally that would spell doom. If I materialized in your bathtub in October and said "ooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhhh, TIM HARDAWAY JR WILL AVERAGE 27% FROM THREE POINT RANGE, oooooOOOOOOoooooohhhh" you would be more terrified for Michigan's basketball prospects than the fact you'd just had a time-travelling blogger ghost appear in a place you thought was safe from that sort of nonsense. And that's saying something.

But even though Hardaway and Morgan are less efficient and Trey Burke isn't quite at the level Darius Morris was last year, here they are aiming for a Sweet 16 seed. You can say this is Trey Burke's team, and you'd be right, and you can say Tim Hardaway Jr. is Michigan's most important player, and you'd be right. The two seniors are the guys duct-taping up all the leaks the team has sprung as it moves forward without Morris and Tim Hardaway's 44% conference three-point shooting.

Michigan may get better after they leave on sheer talent, but Douglass and Novak are two remarkable overachievers. Michigan needed two guys like that to change the culture around here after a decade-long tourney-free streak. No one thought they'd be guys snatched from Valpo (if they were even interested!) and Harvard. Even if their numbers shouldn't get raised to the rafters, those who come after them will stand on their shoulders. It may be Trey Burke's team but it's Douglass's and Novak's program.

*[FWIW, Arkansas put up about four more points than you'd expect if M was equal to an average SEC defense. I think that's more about Michigan being unprepared for the press—giving those points up on offense.]

Media

AAHAAHAHHAHAHAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH

Also some highlights and Beilein's pregame speech. Via MGoVideo.

Photogallery from AnnArbor.com. Another  from UMHoops. And of course Eric posted his set last night.

Bullets That Always Go In If Shot By Jordan Hulls

GOOD LORD JORDAN HULLS. Dude was shooting 48% from three before yesterday's 4 of 5 performance. And a lot of those were tough.

God, what does it take to get a three point sniper who's actually lethal in college, too? Vogrich was reputed to be the best shooter in the country and is struggling to get above 25%. Come on, Stauskas.

Christian Watford guarding Trey Burke. It worked for a while as Burke seemed confused by the very idea; then Burke started crossing the dude over and screaming towards the basket. Weird, weird idea. Glad that Burke played through it. It was looking a little hopeless on offense for a while there.

Watford, by the way, annihilated Michigan in the game in Bloomington and is shooting 47% from three—actually much better than he is from 2 (42%). Weird player. 

Jordan Morgan guarding Cody Zeller. Great, great job.  Zeller is shooting 66% and has a top ten eFG%; Michigan held him to 4 of 9 shooting and IIRC two of his baskets were offensive rebound putbacks. This was almost all Morgan with a little Smotrycz in there, and Zeller could hardly get a shot opportunity.

Morgan's main advantage over most big men is his agility, activity, and endurance. He fronts everyone and rarely gives up good post position; Michigan cheats down behind him to cut off lob passes and leaves that backdoor three open. It's been effective overall.

You can see the good and bad of it in Michigan's conference Kenpom stats. They're #2 in the league at forcing turnovers; over 20% of opponent possessions end without a shot. They never put anyone on the line. Their 2PT% D is acceptable despite being short—their block percentage is last in the league. The main downside is giving up a lot of quality threes. 38% is good for only tenth in the league at 3PT defense. Given the composition of the roster, I'll take it. Michigan has to endure a lot of open threes to give themselves a chance inside. Considering the available athletes they're doing a good job.

Tim Hardaway jack watch. There were three or four, including another long two with lots of time on the shot clock. I don't mind him taking a three in the context of the offense. The ones where he just rises and fires are not good.

Michigan should start running him off Rip Hamilton-esque curl screens with the intent of getting him moving towards the basket with his man already to one side. That seems like it will result in profit. And possibly charges, but who cares about charges?

Elsewhere

The Minute After from Inside The Hall. Crean calls the start "a joke." Then he married Roseanne, said "mein laven" and found that his stapler was covered in jello. #allthetomcreanlookalikes

Holdin' the Rope:

Watford and Zeller combined for 43 points in Bloomington; they only managed 19 between them last night. Hulls had 18 but he made some pretty tough shots to get there. You can live with that.

UMHoops recap. Michigan's RPI moves to 17. Zack Novak gives you a tour of the PDC.

Jared Sullinger And Tim Hardaway Jr Screaming At Each Other

Jared Sullinger And Tim Hardaway Jr Screaming At Each Other

Submitted by Brian on January 27th, 2012 at 1:24 PM

LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"

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AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHMichigan-at-Purdue-2811_thumb[1]

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRR

jared-sullinger[1]tumblr_lif6loQCKl1qin0sto1_400[3]

AAAAAAAHHHRHHRRRRRRRRRAAA

AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!

sullinger_1[1]

YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!

sullinger_225[1]MICHIGAN-TAKES-STEP-FORWARD[1]

YAAAHHHHHH!!!!! YAH!

JARED-SULLINGER-thumb-300x391-97991[1]mich12py[1]

RARARARARARRRRRRRR! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

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YARRR!!!!!

gyi0064079340[1]

ORK?

jared-sullinger[1]

Nerk.

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FIN

Hoops UFR: Michigan State Defense

Hoops UFR: Michigan State Defense

Submitted by Ace on January 20th, 2012 at 4:32 PM

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!

Ahhhhh. Thank you, Matt Austin Thornton, for your steadfast belief in running the play even if it means passing up a wide-open three to give it to your heavily-guarded big man:

"I was extremely wide open," Thornton said of the final sequence. "We wanted to get the ball inside. I think everyone was surprised by how open it actually was. Play it over again, I'd probably do the exact same thing. Get the ball to our star and hopefully he goes up and gets fouled or makes a shot."

Also, thank you, Jordan Morgan, for stepping up beautifully to block Keith Appling's shot, forcing State to scramble for that final, desperation look by Green. My body is still in the process of uncurling from the fetal position, but I swear I'll jump up and down in celebration as soon as that is physically possible.

You know what happened. I know what happened. It's Friday afternoon. Let's just jump right into the big chart:

Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
20:00 0-0 HC Man Hardaway 2-pt Miss
State gets the ball to Adreian Payne in the post, and while he's established great position on Jordan Morgan (-0.5), Zack Novak (+1) is right on time with a double, forcing Payne to kick it out to Brandon Dawson. Dawson is briefly unguarded, as Tim Hardaway was forced to rotate down to Draymond Green in the post, but Dawson drives and tries to shoot a floater. Hardaway (+2) steps up and gets a hand on the shot, and the ball falls harmlessly into Morgan's hands (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).
19:08 3-0 HC Man Morgan Layup Make
MSU pushes the pace after Novak sinks a three, and as they're setting up Morgan (-1, I guess) trips and falls in the post. Appling immediately passes to Payne, Hardaway (+0.5) rotates to force the pass, but Payne makes the right play in passing to Dawson, left alone by THJ, who drives and hits a layup (dunk/layup, late contest, make).
18:39 3-2 HC Man - 2-pt Miss
Payne gets a pass on the wing, about 15 feet from the hoop, and decides to attempt a quick shot. Morgan doesn't respect Payne's jumper, nor should he, and the shot bricks off the far side of the rim (2-pt, no contest, miss). Novak chases down the rebound.
18:10 5-2 HC Man Douglass Turnover
Appling gets a pick from Green, but Burke (+0.5) stays right with him and Novak (+0.5) takes away any drive with a good hedge. Appling gives it off to Wood, who tries an entry pass to Payne in the post, but Morgan (+1) bats it away, unfortunately right to Dawson. Dawson tries to drive on Hardaway, but Douglass (+2) sags off of Wood and strips the ball away, coming up with the steal.
17:25 7-2 HC Man Novak Turnover
Appling gets both an off-ball screen and the a high side pick early in the play, but Burke (+1) is right with him through both. He eventually gets the ball back up top and takes another pick, and Burke has no help as Novak and Hardaway are in the middle of a switch. Appling sees this and crosses over, running Burke into Payne, but Novak (+1.5) slides over to stop the drive, and Appling travels.
16:29 10-2 HC Man Burke 2-pt Make
Green comes out and sets a very high screen for Appling on the edge of the Block 'M', and Burke (-1) goes under the pick. This gives Appling just enough space to utilize his speed and get to the basket, and he hits a driving floater over Burke (2-pt, late contest, make). Burke recovered decently on this play, but he can't let Appling get a running start like that.
15:35 13-4 HC Man Hardaway 3-pt Miss
Wood gets a pick up top from Nix that stalls Douglass, but Morgan (+0.5) steps out and Wood picks up his dribble and makes a jump-pass back up top to Green as Novak (+0.5) rotates nicely. Green swings it to Thornton in the corner, but Hardaway (+1) closes well and gets a hand right in his face - the shot misses (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Burke (+1) jumps over Appling and Nix to grab the rebound.
15:11 13-4 FB FB Burke 2-pt Miss
Appling rushes the ball upcourt after an ill-advised Hardaway three was off the mark. State doesn't have numbers, but Nix goes barrelling down the middle in front of Appling and Burke (-0.5) gets caught behind him. Appling pulls up just inside the arc and shoots, but can't knock it down (2-pt, no contest, miss). This was almost a moving screen by Nix, but Burke still has to do a better job of getting out to Appling.
14:28 13-4 HC Man Novak Layup Make
Green starts with the ball up top and drives hard to his right against Novak, then spins into the lane, getting by Novak (-1) and forcing Morgan to slide over. Morgan (-0.5) is a split-second late to take the charge, and he hits the deck as Green slips a pass to Nix, who has an open lane for a layup (dunk/layup, no contest, make). Hardaway (-1) is also culpable, as he doesn't recognize the need to rotate onto Nix and is far too late getting over.
13:46 15-6 HC Man Hardaway 2-pt Miss/OR/Layup Make
Wood curl-cuts at the baseline, getting a screen in the process, but Douglass (+0.5) stays right with him. Wood gets a pass on the wing and dumps it to Nix in the post. Morgan (+0.5) is right on him and Novak (+0.5) comes over to help. Nix has an opportunity to hit Green wide open in the post as Hardaway (-1) doesn't rotate, but he instead dribbles into the lane, puts up a heavily-contested shot that misses (2-pt, heavy contest, miss), and is fortunate to have the ball bounce right back to him for a tip-in (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make).
12:45 15-8 FB FB Novak Layup Miss
Appling again rushes upcourt after a missed three, giving to Wood on the wing, where he's guarded by Douglass. Wood fakes and is able to get past Douglass (-1) on the baseline, but Novak (+2) is in perfect position just outside the charge circle. Wood is forced to double-clutch as he avoids barreling over Novak, and his layup attempt misses (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss). Great job by Novak to get to the right spot, put his hands straight up, and avoid committing a foul.
12:15 15-8 FB FB Douglass 3-pt Miss/OR/Layup Make
Again, Appling breaks out after a missed Michigan shot. He flips a short pass to Wood, who jacks up a deep three and misses (3-pt, late contest, miss). Draymond Green is late coming up the court and Douglass (-2), who's responsible for the weak side, doesn't pick him up and box out. Green gets to the basket unimpeded and tips in the missed shot (dunk/layup, no contest, make).
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Novak, McLimans
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
11:32 17-10 HC Man Douglass 2-pt Make
Appling gets a pick from Green up top that Douglass goes under. Novak steps out and switches to prevent Appling from driving. Payne then sets another pick for Appling coming back the other way, and this time Novak (-0.5) has to go under while McLimans hedges. Douglass (-1.5) fails to switch onto Payne even though Burke has sunk down, ready to take Green, and by the time McLimans gets back on Payne he has great post position. Appling gives to Green, who has a better angle to pass into the post. He does, and Payne takes a couple dribbles and sinks a baby hook over McLimans (2-pt, heavy contest, make). McLimans actually gets a +1 for defending this as well as he could, but he didn't have much of a chance to make a play.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Smotrycz, McLimans
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
10:35 19-12 HC Man McLimans 3-pt Miss
Wood gets a high-side screen from Green, takes it, and immediately gives to Green as he pops out to the corner. McLimans (-1) looks very confused in the post and is way late getting over after Smotrycz (+0.5) correctly hedged, and Green has space for an open three, but misses (3-pt, no contest, miss).
9:48 19-12 HC Man Burke Timeout
Price sprints up the court after a miss, but Burke stays with him and Smotrycz (+0.5) comes over to stop the drive on the baseline. Price gives to Wood and gets it right back, and Burke (+2) turns up the heat, pinning Price against the sideline and forcing him to take a timeout.
Lineup: Burke, Vogrich, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
9:33 19-12 HC Man Vogrich Foul/3-pt Miss
Price gets the sideline inbounds and tries to drive right against Vogrich (+0.5), but can't find room, so he tries an ill-advised jump pass to Wood on the opposite wing. The pass nearly goes out of bounds, but Wood chases it down just as Hardaway gets there. Wood takes a bump from Hardaway and stumbles backwards, drawing a dubiously-late foul call. If the ref calls this when contact is made, fine, but he blows his whistle only after Wood travels. Refs -1. On the subsequent inbounds, M shows a 1-3-1, then moves into man. Wood gets it on the wing and Hardaway (-1) overplays the drive to his right, allowing Wood space to shoot a three, which he misses (3-pt, late contest, miss).
8:58 21-12 HC 2-3? Burke 3-pt Make
I think this is a 2-3, though the video doesn't show the initial setup and it could be a rotated 1-3-1 (picture here). Appling drives sideline around Hardaway and passes in the corner to Green, who shoots over Burke. Burke (+0.5) gets up and provides a great contest, but Green has enough size to still get a good look and knock down the shot (3-pt, heavy contest, make).
8:26 21-15 FB FB Hardaway Layup Make
Appling gets the ball after an MSU steal and charges down the court on the right as Green accompanies him on the left. Burke and Hardaway both attend to Appling while Vogrich (+0.5) gets back on Green. Appling is able to cross over inside of Burke, and Hardaway, who didn't hustle into postion, can't contest and ducks away from contact as Appling hits a layup (-3 Hardaway, dunk/layup, no contest, make).
Lineup: Douglass, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
7:56 24-17 HC Man Morgan Turnover
Appling drives to the left against Douglass and passes to Green, now guarded by Smotrycz, in the post. Morgan (+1) jumps over for a quick double, and Green throws up what appears to be an alley-oop attempt to Nix that ricochets off the rim and into Novak's hands.
7:22 24-17 FB FB Hardaway Layup Miss
Broken record alert: Appling leads a fast break after a missed shot. He charges unimpeded up the middle of the court, and Hardaway is there to stop him at the 3-pt line, except Hardaway (-3) continues backpedaling and tries to steal instead of taking a charge or steering Appling away from the basket. Appling goes right by him and tries a Gervin-style finger roll, but it luckily rims out (dunk/layup, no contest, miss). Hardaway's lack of effort on the defensive end is troubling, to say the least. Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich both rip into him for not stopping the ball, and they're justified in doing so.
6:59 24-17 FB FB Novak 3-pt Make
After Smotrycz misses a layup, Appling—yes—pushes the pace. He gets to the top of the key and sees Trice all alone on the wing as Novak (-1) is late getting out there. Trice gets the pass and sinks a three despite a strong effort from Novak to recover and contest (3-pt, late contest, make).
6:32 24-20 HC Man Hardaway 3-pt Miss
Yeesh, Hardaway. He starts the possession by picking up Nix after State rushes the ball upcourt, but drifts to the perimeter, forcing Novak (+0.5) and Smotrycz (+0.5) to sink into the post to pick him up. Green drives into the lane and passes to Wood in the corner, and Hardaway (-2) is late getting there, but the shot rims out (3-pt, late contest, miss). You could pin some of the blame on either Novak or Smotrycz, but I think both were right there in scrambling to defend the unguarded player in the lane, especially since it doesn't look like Hardaway communicated at all that he was switching men on the play.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
5:57 26-20 HC Man Hardaway 2-pt Block
Nix gets the ball on the baseline against Morgan and Novak slides off of Green to provide help. Nix passes out top to Wood, who drives into Hardaway and Novak (+1), but Burke (-1) is late rotating onto Green and Wood slips him a pass under the basket. Hardaway (+2) makes a fantastic recovery and cleanly blocks Green's shot (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Thanks for playing defense, THJ.
5:34 28-20 - - Burke Turnover
ESPN doesn't show the play, but Burke (+2) steals Green's inbounds pass after a made basket and immediately drives for a layup. I think this kid is going to be good, you guys.
5:23 30-20 HC Man Morgan Foul/3-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Make
Novak is called for a foul after executing a nice switch with Douglass—he didn't quite move his feet fast enough to avoid tripping up Appling. ESPN doesn't show the subsequent inbounds, but Nix gets it in the corner and hands off to Green while effectively screening off Novak. Morgan (-1) doesn't jump out and Novak gets a late contest as Green misses (3-pt, late contest, miss), but Hardaway (-1) bats the ball into the air instead of grabbing it and Brandon Kearney gets an offensive rebound. Kearney gives to Trice, who immediately passes to Nix in the post. Nix's first shot is off the mark (2-pt, heavy contest, miss), but he's able to bat the ball off the backboard, grab it, and go up again, this time finishing (2-pt, late contest, make).
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
4:15 30-22 HC Man/2-3 Douglass 2-pt Miss
Michigan appears to start the possession in man, but when Appling gets the ball on the wing, Burke (+0.5) and Vogrich (+0.5) execute a nice trap, forcing him back well beyond the arc, and M falls back into a 2-3 zone. Trice calls for two separate screens from Payne, and both times Douglass (+1) hands with him; on the second pick Trice drives and Stu forces him to attempt a running jumper that doesn't fall as Morgan (+0.5) gets a hand up to contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Interesting defensive look here from Beilein.
3:30 30-22 FB FB Burke Layup Make
Appling once again charges up the court after a miss, and he's able to blow by Burke (-2), get to the right side of the lane, and hit a driving layup as Morgan is picked off by Payne near the basket (dunk/layup, no contest, make). Burke has to do a better job of stopping the ball in transition on this play.
3:01 30-24 FB FB Douglass Timeout
Michigan turns it over, so Appling leads the break again. This time, Michigan is prepared, as Vogrich (+0.5) and Novak (+0.5) stop Appling's drive in the lane and Douglass (+1) tips Appling's pass out of bounds as he tried to hit Trice in the corner. Timeout.
2:55 30-24 HC Man Morgan 2-pt Make
Green gets the ball in the post and quickly whips it to Kearney in the opposite corner. Kearney swings it to Appling on the high side and gets it right back, then feeds Payne in the post. Morgan (-2) tried fronting Payne but gave up the pass along the baseline, allowing Payne to turn into the lane, back down Vogrich, who has no hope of defending the much-larger player, and hit a short jumper (2-pt, late contest, make).
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
2:06 30-26 HC Man/2-3 Hardaway 3-pt Make
Michigan switches mid-play from man to 2-3, and the timing is very poor, as the switch is made right as Wood gets the ball in the corner and beats Hardaway (-1) along the baseline. Morgan steps up to stop the drive, but Novak is stuck on Green in the post and nobody is guarding Kearney in the far corner. Wood jumps and passes to Kearney, who drains the open three (3-pt, no contest, make). Hardaway can't give up the baseline that easily, but this also seems like a bad choice to change defenses mid-play. It doesn't look like the call came from the bench, but I'm not sure who made it on the floor; I think it was Douglass, but I'm not positive.
1:11 34-29 HC Man Morgan Turnover
Appling gets the ball on the wing with 12 seconds on the shot clock and tries to get into the lane, but Douglass (+1) sticks with him while Morgan steps up to force a pass. Burke (+0.5) gets out quickly onto Trice, who drives baseline, and Morgan (+1.5) again steps up to force a pass. This time, the pass zips by Payne and Hardaway is there to steal and head the other way.
0:37 36-29 HC Man Hardaway 3-pt Miss
Trice runs the clock down to 10 seconds, then drives left and gives to Thornton, who has lost Hardaway (-2) on a screen. Morgan steps out to take Thornton, but Hardaway doesn't switch, instead playing just a couple feet behind Morgan. Payne and Green set a double screen for Wood on the weak side, and Green pops out to the arc, where he's unguarded as Novak and Douglass must choose to take two of the three players on their side of the floor. Thornton passes to Green, who misses a wide open look (3-pt, no contest, miss). Terrible first half on both ends for Hardaway.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
19:35 36-29 HC Man Hardaway 3-pt Miss
Draymond Green gets the ball as State comes upcourt and dribbles to the left elbow, where Morgan (+1) steps up, stops the drive, and nearly knocks the ball away. Hardaway (-2) gets distracted as he stands next to Green but doesn't fully commit to a double-team, allowing Wood to get open in the corner. Douglass (+0.5) rotates out to get a decent contest, and Wood's shot hits the side of the backboard (3-pt, late contest, miss). Hardaway either has to double hard on Green or stay with his man. He did neither.
19:18 38-29 HC Man Morgan 2-pt Make
Dawson gets the ball on the baseline to the right of the hoop, and Hardaway (+1) pressures him well while Douglass (+0.5) nearly steals the ball on a good double. Dawson kicks it out top to Appling, who gives to Nix on the block. Nix backs down Morgan (+0.5), pivots, hesitates, and then rattles in a short hook (2-pt, heavy contest, make). Decent defense from Morgan here, and Nix nearly picked up a three-second call.
18:05 40-31 HC Man Hardaway Turnover
Appling gets a good screen from Nix and gets a step on Burke (-1), but Morgan (+1) hedges and does a solid job of staying step-for-step with Appling. Still, Appling is quick enough to get to the left side of the hoop, but he runs right over Hardaway (+2), who establishes position just outside the circle and draws the charge.
17:09 40-31 FB FB Burke Foul (1/2)
Wood catches a long rebound on the run and is one-on-one with a backpedaling Burke. Burke (-1) can't get set to take a charge or block the shot, but he doesn't get out of the way and picks up a ticky-tack foul as Wood misses the lay-in (dunk/layup, no contest, foul). Questionable call, but if Burke doesn't have a play, he either needs to foul hard to prevent the layup or clear out—he's lucky Wood doesn't have an and-one opportunity.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
16:49 40-32 HC Man Smotrycz Turnover
Nix gets the ball a few feet outside the lane against Smotrycz, and Hardaway (+0.5) comes over to cut off the baseline. Nix tries to drive into the middle of the lane, but Smotrycz (+2) easily takes the ball away as Nix turns right into him.
16:32 40-32 FB/HC FB/Man Smotrycz Layup Miss/OR/Layup Make
Smotrycz turns the ball over at halfcourt and Wood charges back the other way as State has a four-on-one. Somehow, Douglass (+2) is able to position himself under the basket and force a miss when Wood gives to Dawson for a layup (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss), but Wood is able to bring in the rebound and bring it out top to reset. Wood passes to Dawson on the high side and gets it right back as Nix sets a downscreen for Dawson, who cuts to the basket as Smotrycz (-2) misses a switch, and Wood throws a lob that Dawson lays in for two despite a great effort from Novak (+1) to recover (dunk/layup, late contest, make).
15:41 40-34 HC Man Douglass 2-pt Make
State with a nice play in the corner to set up a bucket. Green sets an off-ball screen for Dawson, who pops out to the corner and gets the ball as Douglass (-1) is late getting out and overcommits, allowing Dawson to get a step, drive to the lane, and kick out to Green for a 12-footer (2-pt, late contest, make) as the defense collapses on Dawson. Douglass actually gets a hand in Green's face late, but that's a pretty short shot for a good shooter.
15:02 42-36 HC Man Smotrycz Turnover
Wood comes off a screen and dumps it in to Green in the post when Douglass (+0.5) sticks right with him. Novak holds his ground and Green passes to Nix just outside the charge circle, but Smotrycz (+2) comes over after taking a step towards Green, gets his hands up, takes a bump, and then strips the ball away as Nix starts to bring it up for a shot. Nice play.
14:31 42-36 FB FB - Turnover
After a missed three, State runs the break, but Wood trips over himself and travels as he starts to drive. Derp.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
14:10 44-36 HC Man Hardaway Foul/Turnover
Novak (+0.5) and Douglass (+0.5) make a timely switch as Green runs a pick-and-pop with Appling. Appling gives off to Green, who lobs it towards Payne in the post. Morgan (-1) was fronting and grabs Payne to prevent him from catching the pass, which would've led to a layup, and he's called for a foul. On the inbounds, Green gets it in the corner and goes baseline against Novak, but Hardaway (+2) steps up and takes a charge. Credit to Hardaway for doing that a couple times this half, as I'm sure he got chewed out at the break.
13:31 44-36 HC Man Morgan Turnover
Green tries to lob a pass to Payne in the post, but Morgan (+2) is fronting Payne and this time easily steals the pass.
12:55 44-36 FB Man Morgan 2-pt Miss
Appling pushes the pace after a Michigan miss and Green—who runs upcourt and notices Morgan (-2) is heading back to the post instead of guarding him, as Novak has taken Payne—turns around and sets a crushing pick on Burke, who had no chance on this play. Somebody needs to call that out, as well as pick up Appling on a switch, and I think it's Morgan. Appling gets a wide-open look from a couple feet inside the arc, but misses
12:16 47-36 HC Man Morgan 3-pt Make
Appling gets a high side screen from Payne and gets a step on Douglass (-0.5), who has to go under the pick, and Morgan (-1) doesn't slide over to stop the ball. Hardaway (+1) is forced to abandon the weak side and does a good job of setting his feet, but Appling passes to Thornton, who's now all alone in the corner. Thornton sinks the three (3-pt, no contest, make).
11:11 47-39 HC Man Morgan Turnover
Nix sets another high side screen for Appling with 11 seconds on the shot clock, but this time Morgan cuts off the drive and forces a pass into the corner as Douglass (+1) trails. Morgan (+2) then sinks back onto Nix, who had posted up Burke, cutting off any chance of a pass and forcing Thornton to make a skip pass to Wood. Wood tries to drive on Burke (+1), who recovered well and cuts off the lane and Novak(+1) tips Wood's desperation jump-pass. Douglass is there to intercept before the shot clock expires.
10:35 47-39 HC Man Morgan 2-pt Make
Appling gets another high ball screen, but Morgan (+1) hedges well again. Appling loops around and can't get by Morgan, but he throws up a teardrop from outside the lane that somehow falls through (2-pt, heavy contest, make). Ridiculous shot is ridiculous.
9:55 47-41 FB FB Novak 3-pt Make
Burke has a three-pointer partially blocked and Appling runs again. Michigan does a good job getting back and Novak (+1) gets right out onto Wood as Appling feeds him in the corner, but Wood sinks a three anyway (3-pt, heavy contest, make). C'est la vie.
Lineup: Burke, Vogrich, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
9:03 49-44 HC Man Burke 2-pt Block
Vogrich stops an entry pass into the post with his foot, so State inbounds the ball with 15 seconds on the shot clock. Appling gets it up top and drives quickly, before Nix can get over to set a pick, and Burke (+2) plays him tight, times his jump perfectly, and blocks a pullup J right into Vogrich's hands (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).
Lineup: Douglass, Vogrich, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
7:54 49-44 HC Man Douglass 2-pt Miss/Foul/Layup Make + Foul
Appling gets a pick up top from Nix, Douglass (+1) goes over and hangs with him, and when Appling doubles back over another Nix pick Morgan (+1) is there to hedge, forcing Appling nearly out to the edge of the midcourt circle. State quickly swings the ball down to Nix in the post, but Novak (+1) holds his own as Nix bricks a hook from outside the lane (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Morgan (-1) is caught shoving Green under the basket on the rebound, an unnecessary foul given where the ball was headed. On the ensuing inbounds, State whips the ball around the perimeter as Novak, Douglass, and Vogrich (+0.5) all do a fantastic job of rotating and switching, but great ball movement gets it into the post for Nix against Douglass, and Nix hits a lefty layup and gets the foul (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make + foul). Great defense, better offense.
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Hardaway, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
6:54 49-47 FB FB Douglass 3-pt Make
Appling pushes the pace after Vogrich bricks a three, and while Burke (+0.5) and Morgan (+0.5) pick up Appling and Nix, Douglass (-2) stays near the lane instead of getting out to Kearney in the far corner. Appling makes a quick pass to Kearney, who drains a three over a late-arriving Douglass (3-pt, late contest, make).
Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan
Time Score Offense Defense Player Result
6:22 49-50 HC Man Burke 2-pt Make
Burke (-1) doesn't anticipate a pick by Nix, but Morgan hedges nicely on Appling to force him towards the sideline, and Appling gives the ball up. He gets it up top again with 8 seconds on the clock, again gets a screen that picks off Burke, and while Novak (-0.5) picks him up, he's able to turn the corner and get up a shot before Morgan can rotate over. The floater falls (2-pt, late contest, make). Morgan comes out even after the nice hedge but a late rotation.
5:29 52-52 HC Man Morgan 3-pt Make
Green gets the ball on the block against Novak and Morgan comes out to double. Green is able to throw a skip pass to Kearney in the opposite corner, and Morgan (-2) never gets back onto Nix, instead staying with Green along with Novak. Kearney gives to Nix, who has to be picked up by Hardaway, and Thornton, Hardaway's man, runs out to the corner. Nobody's there to pick Thornton up, and he hits a three over Hardaway (+1), who made a great effort to guard two players but didn't have much of a chance (3-pt, late contest, make).
4:39 53-55 HC Man Morgan Layup Make
Green takes a pass from Appling at the top of the key and gets a pick from Nix. Morgan (-1) is late with the double, and Green is able to lob a pass to Nix in the post. Hardaway (+0.5) is there on the rotation, but there's little he can do as Nix goes right over him to lay it in (dunk/layup, heavy contest, make). Morgan has to get there earlier so Green can't get space to make the entry pass or he's got to stay on Nix.
4:07 54-57 HC 1-3-1 Morgan Turnover
MSU can't find an opening as Michigan throws out the 1-3-1, and Appling eventually drives wildly into the paint, charging over Morgan (+2) as he tries to pass and picking up, well, a charge.
3:24 56-57 HC Man Burke Foul/2-pt Miss/Foul (2/2)
Douglass (+0.5) stays right with Wood as he comes around a double screen off the ball and gets it on the wing. Wood dumps it in to Green, who spins baseline against Novak (-1) and passes to Payne before Morgan (-1) rotates. Hardaway (+1) does a good job just to foul Payne on the floor before he can dunk. Trice gets the ball on the wing, calls for a pick from Green, and drives to the right, but Novak (+0.5) picks him up and when Trice pulls up for a jumper, Burke (+1.5) blocks it (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). The ball goes right to Thornton, however, and he's able to pick up a shooting foul as he slashes into the paint. Unlucky break, that.
2:20 58-59 HC Man Burke Turnover
Green gets the ball up top and holds until 10 seconds remains on the shot clock, then calls a timeout. Thornton inbounds it to Appling a couple feet inside the half-court line, and Burke (+2) hounds him, forcing Appling to dribble off his foot. The ball goes over half-court, and Appling gets a backcourt violation as Izzo screams in protest about... good defense? [Ed-S: +1 Izzo for gif-friendly chewing of playbook)
1:36 58-59 HC Man Burke 3-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss
Appling drives and gets caught in the air due to great defense again from Burke, just chucking the ball near the perimeter, where he's fortunate that Wood gets to the ball first. Appling gets the ball again in the corner, takes a couple dribbles towards the top of the key, and pulls up from beyond the arc, but Burke (+3) nearly blocks the shot and it's off the mark (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Douglass (-2) can't locate the ball even as it bounces off the floor three feet away, and Wood grabs the rebound. State resets. Appling gets a screen from Green and drives, but Morgan (+1) steps up nicely and Appling can't sink a floater as Hardaway (+1) helps out with the contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Hardaway taps the rebound out to Burke.
0:36 60-59 HC Man Morgan 2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/OR/2-pt Miss/VICTORY
Thornton gets a pick under the basket from Green and pops out wide open to the three-point line, where he gets the ball from Appling. Novak doesn't run out when Hardaway is caught on the screen, but Thornton immediately passes to Green a couple feet outside the lane. Normally I'd ding Novak for this, but it's clear his instructions were to not leave Green—State's #1 option—at all. Green is forced to pass out top by Novak (+0.5) and Hardaway (+0.5), Nix gets it on the block and passes out to Appling, who drives wildly and has his pullup J blocked by Morgan (+2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Wood gets the ball, nearly loses it, and fights a pass through to Green, who drives to the lane and misses a runner over Burke, who smartly decides not to put his hands up and risk a foul (2-pt, no contest, miss). Green's tip-in attempt, at least according to the play-by-play, comes after the final horn. Exhale.

You alive?

Maybe.

Want to talk about it?

Sure. Michigan got brutalized on the boards, still had problems properly defending the fast break, and had a couple major breakdowns in communication. Despite all that, they held MSU to just under 50% shooting from the field, allowed just five (!) free-throw attempts, and forced turnovers on 24.6% of Spartan possessions. I really don't know what to make of this game, except that I'm giddily happy that Michigan pulled out a victory.

Did I really see a 2-3, or was that a hallucination?

Fear not, self, for you aren't trippin'. Check out this little trick:

Michigan starts out in man-to-man, but after an early trap they fall back into a 2-3 zone. This curveball appeared to catch State off guard, as they tried a pair of fruitless pick-and-rolls that resulted in a tough shot from within the teeth of the defense. I don't remember Michigan doing this before and I like the wrinkle so long as they know when to break it out. Michigan was later burned on a mid-play switch to the 2-3 that was poorly timed, so this must be handled with caution.

You're getting a little ahead of yourself. How about a...

Chart?

Chart.

Defensive Shot Prevention
Player + - T Notes
Burke 18 7.5 10.5 Tasked with staying with Keith Appling, who was the focal point of both State's half-court offense and their fast break, and he did an admirable job. Burke is getting better at playing defense with his feet instead of reaching for the ball, and for the most part he kept Appling in front of him despite being run through myriad screens. Forcing the late halfcourt violation was the cherry on top of a strong defensive performance. Also: two blocks!
Hardaway 16 17 -1 It was a tale of two halves for Hardaway. In the first, he looked generally disinterested in playing defense, loafing back on a couple fast breaks and getting caught out of position several times. THJ refocused in the second half and took a couple charges while doing a much better job of staying in position. Still, much of what he did in the first half was inexcusable from an effort standpoint.
Novak 13.5 4 9.5 Not sure what Chris Mackinder saw to grade Novak so poorly, as I thought he did a great job shutting down Draymond Green (7 points, 3-8 shooting, 2 offensive rebounds). While Novak didn't have a direct hand in many turnovers, he played great help defense and was rarely in the wrong spot. All that was missing were a couple of Novakian drawn charges.
Smotrycz 5.5 2 3.5 Only played 10 minutes. Missed a switch that led to a basket. Had a couple of nice steals. Generally solid in limited playing time.
Morgan 19 14 5 Had one of the tougher jobs of the night, as he spent much of his time on defense trying to run with Keith Appling after hedging on screens. He was inconsistent with his positional play, missing a couple switches, and pulled in only two rebounds. That block in the waning seconds was huge, though, and he defended the pick-and-roll quite well.
Douglass 12 10 2 Not one of Stu's better games as he uncharacteristically got caught drifting away from his assignment on a few plays and gave up some open looks. Still, Douglass came through with a nice steal, disrupted a few passes, and did a solid job on Appling when Burke needed a breather. Needs to do a better job of boxing out.
Horford - - - DNP (foot)
Vogrich 2.5 0 2.5 Picked up some half-points for rotating well. He really is a mini-Novak, hustling all over the court and even pulling down a pair of rebounds.
McLimans 1 1 0 Two minutes, one good play, one bad play.
Akunne - - - DNP
Christian - - - DNP
TOTAL 87.5 55.5 32 Not bad. Not as good as the 2:1 +/- ratio from the Wisconsin game, but overall a pretty solid effort.

So, um, Hardaway.

Yeah. This is pretty unacceptable defense:

Hardaway doesn't hustle into position and Appling gets an easy two points as a result. This happened twice in the first half to go along with a few instances where he either didn't make a switch or failed to communicate that he was abandoning his man. That's not so good. On the other hand, he had a much better second half and took those two charges. He needs to make that level of effort throughout the game, though, and not after Beilein is forced to pull him multiple times in order to chew him out.

Everybody else?

Pretty, pretty good. Hardaway was the only player to finish in the negative, Morgan worked his tail off, Burke hung with Appling, and Novak shut down Green. Douglass had his ups and downs but was still decent on the perimeter. I think the strength of Michigan's overall team performance is reflected in the...

Shot chart?

Yes. Shot chart.

  Dunk/Layup 2-point 3-point Total
Defense NC LC HC NC LC HC NC LC HC NC LC HC OVR
Man 1/1 2/2 3/3 (1F) 0/2 5/5 (1F) 3/12 1/3 1/5 0/2 2/6 8/12 (1F) 6/17 (1F) 16/35 (2F)
1-3-1 - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2-3 - - - - - 0/1 1/1 - 1/1 1/1 - 1/2 2/3
Fast Break 3/4 (1F) - 0/2 0/2 - - - 2/3 1/1 3/6 (1F) 2/3 1/3 6/12 (1F)
TOTAL 4/5 (1F) 2/2 3/5 (1F) 0/4 5/5 (1F) 3/13 2/4 3/8 2/4 6/13 (1F) 10/15 (1F) 8/22 (1F) 24/50 (2F)

State certainly helped Michigan out by missing four uncontested two-pointers (including Green's last shot, as Burke decided—smartly, in my opinion—not to put his hands up and risk a foul), but they couldn't generate many open looks down low out of their half-court offense and were forced to settle for a whole lot of contested mid-range shots.

That's nice. How did Michigan force so many turnovers?

Tight defense and timely swipes at the ball, for the most part. Here's some of Douglass's finer work, as he recognizes that Brandon Dawson is going to drive to the middle, sags off his man—who's hanging out harmlessly beyond the arc—and comes away with a steal:

Smotrycz also came away with a pair of strips just from playing solid man defense and waiting for his man to bring the ball down and in front of him. He's shown a propensity for doing that and he's beginning to cut down on the reach-in fouls that usually accompany such plays.

Even when State did get a bucket, they usually had to work for it. Watch how well Novak, Douglass, and Vogrich rotate and switch on this play, despite in ending in a Spartan and-one after some fantastic passing:

Just like in football, good offense beats good defense (hence all the scoring). There's not much more you can do on the above play, especially along the perimeter.

Heroes?

Once again, Burke stood out to me as the team's best defender—watch your back, Stu. Novak deserves major credit for the job he did against Green, and I thought Morgan did well in every area save rebounding.

Goats?

First-half Hardaway. Let's hope we don't see that again.

Anything else?


(via Lost Lettermen)

That is all.

Mailbag: 3-4 Switch (Again), Kenpom, Basketball Leaders, The More You Know

Mailbag: 3-4 Switch (Again), Kenpom, Basketball Leaders, The More You Know

Submitted by Brian on January 19th, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Brian,

What is the possibility of switching to a 3-4 defense next year?  With a lack of a proven option at DT, and a seeming plethora of linebackers coming in that look ready to start from Day 1, it seems like it would be a wise move.  Mattison ran it at Baltimore so we wouldn't need to worry about running a system our DC doesn't understand.  Or is that asking for trouble with Will 'high pads' Campbell trying to absorb double teams? 

This comes up over and over. Look:

Brian - Any chance Mattison takes a stab at running a 3-4 next year with Will Campbell as the space eater in the middle and Cam Gordon/Jake Ryan the speedy LBs? I image he prefers that base defense because of the variety of blitzing looks it can bring to confuse a 20 year old QB but has he discussed it at all in press conferences. Also, the LBs coming in are upgrading the athleticism to potentially smooth the transition in coming years.

 

-Jim Dudnick BBA '01

I think I've already dispelled it multiple times, but here it goes again: Michigan will not switch to a 3-4. If it looks like they're recruiting to a 3-4, well, that's because the 4-3 under is halfway between a traditional 4-3 and a 3-4.

4-3-under_thumb[1]

Consider the effect of shifting the line against the strength of the formation:

  • The SDE moves inside the tight end and becomes vulnerable to double teams
  • The NT hovers near the center
  • the DT is lined up just outside the guard
  • the WDE gets outside the tackle and is hard to double team

What personnel do you want for that? You want a big bulky DE on the strongside and a penetrating, athletic whip on the weakside. Your nose tackle needs to be able to take on and beat double teams either by splitting them or forcing both players to stay in to block him; the three-tech also must hold up on the interior. That's not that different from what you want from your three down linemen and weakside OLB in the 3-4; add in the SLB hovering around the line and the two MLB types hanging out off the LOS and the under is probably closer to the 3-4 than a 4-3 in terms of personnel.

What the under gives you that the 3-4 doesn't is flexibility in your playmakers. This year Mike Martin one-gapped the hell out of opponents, darting into the backfield and destroying play after play. Next year Ondre Pipkins or maybe Campbell (but probably Pipkins) may be able to shove opponents five yards backwards but he's not going to be as explosive. This should be okay since he will free up Demens. In the 3-4 Martin is not a viable nose (or at least not as good of one) because he has to two-gap—hold his ground and be able to pop off either side. Theoretically, anyway. These days fronts are multiple.

Moving to the 3-4 does not fix any hypothetical issues on the line; Roh and the various WDEs become OLBs* and you're still replacing the three interior players. Instead of allowing those new guys to take one gap and hit it hard you're asking them to play both sides of a player, which means they have to  be immensely strong and able to anchor; quickness is much less of a consideration. The 3-4 would exacerbate potential issues with young and/or light players (like Brink). It is the opposite of a panacea.

*[Remember that Michigan's one-year dalliance with the 3-4 saw Lamarr Woodley play OLB.]

35th in Kenpom seems low for a team that beat their number 3 and 6 teams. This seems to be a big game team, they play well against good teams and then sleep walk through Iowa and Alabama A&M Tech State.  What would our ranking be if we removed every team over 50th (arbitrary cutoff)?

I don't know but I agree that Kenpom seems to have a weakness in that sloppy games against poor competition seem to have a greater impact on the rankings than they do expectations from Vegas. This can make the rankings and predictions look odd.

But that's tough to weed out. If I understand his methodology correctly, Pomeroy tests out changes to his rankings and only implements them if they improve the overall accuracy of his prediction engine. The '06 Gonzaga team is one that Pomeroy thinks his system underrated because they did not play with much effort defensively unless they had to and thus didn't rack up the huge margins of victory that see teams like OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin near the top of his ratings this year.

In Wisconsin's case you can make an argument that their defensive style is dominant against weak competition but fails for whatever reason against better competition… but then how do you explain the Badgers' considerable success over the past half-decade? If you can't find some correlation to go with your model that's as useless as a correlation without a model.

Michigan beat Western Illinois by four and a few other weak teams by ten or thirteen and thus hover lower in the rankings than they maybe should. (Iowa is another matter. That's not screwing around after getting a big lead, it's getting blown out by a bad team.) Could Pomeroy find a way to downplay games between badly mismatched teams? Maybe. If and only if it made the prediction engine stronger, though. Evidently he hasn't.

DISCLAIMER: I know I rely on Kenpom's tempo-free stats extensively but they are just numbers and they do have flaws even Pomeroy admits; that doesn't make them bad or useless. It's a reminder to keep them in perspective.

Brian,

What are the options for captains on the men's basketball team next year? With Novak and Douglass around it's something we haven't had to think much about much lately, but what scenarios do you foresee playing out? I figure you're looking at a group of players (provided no unexpected attrition) from Vogrich (Sr), Morgan (Jr), Smotrycz (Jr), Hardaway (Jr), and Burke (So). Being that Vogrich seems to have a dab of the gritty mcgrit that Novak and Douglass feature along with being the only senior, I can see him being one of them. But from there do you hope THJ matures with the imaginary 'C' on his jersey? Do you go back to the sophomore route that worked with Novak and give a nod to Burke? Do you tap into the floppy hair of McLimans? So many options...

That is tough, and gives me the heebie-jeebies as I think about Michigan's inexplicable collapse in 2009-2010 after the departures of CJ Lee and David Merritt. That decline is the most powerful argument in favor of gritty leadership I've ever run across, and Michigan is going to have huge shoes to fill in that department next year. Getting that right is going to be captial-I Important.

Honestly… doesn't Burke seem like the guy despite his youth? He spent the offseason before his arrival documenting his insane workrate on the internet and has immediately become the headiest player on the team, non-Novak division. Hardaway has the passion but often fails to control it; Morgan is a quiet guy who has to be goaded into emotion by Bacari Alexander, Vogrich doesn't seem to have the on-court impact to be a candidate, and Smotrycz… I don't know. Smotrycz just doesn't give off the vibe. I'd guess Burke and Hardaway, as odd as that might seem.

The more you know, part one.

If Wikipedia is correct, Denard Robinson has the chance to be the first player in Michigan history to be a three-time team MVP. There have been 6 two-timers:

Ralph Heikkinen
Tom Harmon
Ron Johnson
Mike Hart
Brandon Graham
Denard Robinson

Nobody has been a two-time B1G MVP

This may be something to keep in mind when debates about Robinson's place in Michigan history (like, is he patch-worthy) come up. Unless Robinson makes that argument moot.

The more you know, part two.

A commenter dug down to find the last Michigan players who graduated with a winning record against MSU:

It was Louis Bullock (1995-99), unless we're not counting the vacated games. If we're not counting any of them (we vacated the 1992-93 season and everything from 1995-99), I believe we have to go back to the seniors on the 1989-90 team (Terry Mills, Rumeal Robinson, Mike Griffin and I think someone else [ed: Loy Vaught]).

Bullock does not count. Bullock can go to hell. Vacated games do not count generally. So it's been over 20 years. That's what's at stake for Zack Novak and Stu Douglass in Breslin.

Side note: I hear tell Michigan is going to PSL-up the lower bowl in Crisler next year, with one section opposite the students at midcourt designated for high rollers with a 1k+ PSL attached. Part of this revamp will be the addition of a club analogous to the one at Michigan Stadium for said high rollers.

It sure would be nice to somehow name it after a guy who's given his all for the program like Novak

…instead of a rich guy whose contributions we certainly appreciate but do not viscerally feel, no offense rich guys.

Been There Before

Been There Before

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2012 at 1:33 PM

1/17/2012 – Michigan 60, Michigan State 59 – 15-4, 5-2 Big Ten

6718568839_17d0a54697_z[1]zack-novak-msu-2

It was stomach-churning when Draymond Green conjured a pretty good shot out of thirty-five seconds of Michigan State panic, and that moment when the ball hung in the air was heart-stopping. In the vast aeons before its fate was determined, the observer had plenty of time to remember how much he hated backboards.

Oh, backboards. Scourge of the 2011 Wisconsin game at Crisler. Failed Andrew Jackson assassins. Uncooperative gits, backboards. When Josh Gasser had thrown an eyes-closed prayer up last year, a backboard answered his call. I had vowed revenge after it worked this alchemy on Crisler:

Being in Crisler was to viscerally understand the cliche about the air going out of the building. The transition from a standing, raucous crowd to a bunch of pissed off people looking for their jackets was instant, and the ride home was mostly silence.

But Green had not stopped his side-to-side momentum before getting the shot off and when it bounced off the backboard it did so too far to the left; it glanced off the rim. Green's putback attempt was well short, and that was that. Rather than the Gasser shot we'd just witnessed a replay of Deshawn Sims's improbably good look at the end of the 2010 game against State at Crisler.

Crisler blew up, as you might expect. Then something strange happened: nothing. No student or fan set foot on the court. Izzo rushed the referees to plead something or other, the teams shook hands, and then they left the court. No mosh pit. Crisler was loud but something short of delirious.

And there you go: the infamous "gap" is pretty much closed. Novak in the aftermath:

"We're to the point now where (beating Michigan State) is something we expect to do," Novak said. "My first two years, it was like, you've got to do it first -- you've got to do it one time.

"After you get that first one, you get a taste of it, but then you've got to learn how to win."

The last three years Michigan is 3-2 against Michigan State with one failed buzzer-beater on each side, an MSU blowout at the tail end of the disappointing 2010 season, and two solid Michigan victories during the regrettably short Get Off My Court era. If they haven't reached talent parity with State just yet it won't take long for Robinson, Stauskas, McGary, Irvin, Donnal, et al., to make that distinction a hard one to make. The PDC is complete; planned Crisler renovations will bring Michigan's arena in line with the best in the country. John Beilein is pretty good at coaching basketball.

Michigan's at the start of a long Big Ten grind that will probably spit them out significantly bruised, but at this point it's hard to see them chewed up enough to miss the tourney. If things fall right they could even sneak a seed with which it's plausible to make a Sweet 16. That's three of the last four tournaments and at least a .500 record against State over the last three years, and then the cavalry arrives. The moment when Beilein's program goes from building to built is fast approaching.

--------------------------

Zack Novak doesn't care about that. He cares about February 5th in Breslin, when he'll have the opportunity to go out with a winning record against Michigan State. The last four-year player to accomplish that was… I have no idea.

Next year is the one everyone's pointing to as the one when big things happen; this year is Novak's last. He is thinking about titles and tournaments and somehow keeping all of the blood vessels in his head intact for another three months. Fans can sit back and wait for help; Novak only has a few urgent months left.

Here they are.

Media

Photos from Eric Upchurch:

These are Creative Commons licensed, as always.

Via MGoVideo, Denard and Roundtree executing the Can't Turn You Loose dance next to a shirtless dude and an engineer:

tree-denard-maize-rage[1]

Photo gallery from UMHoops. Also from AnnArbor.com. Izzo's press conference is precious:

What a knob.

Last 31 seconds:

Beilein postgame:

Also there are BTN highlights.

Bullets

The trenchant analysis! So of course after I point out Smotrycz's ability to stay on the floor as a key to the game Michigan starts Stu Douglass and plays 90% of the game with Novak on Draymond Green. Smotrycz gets ten minutes. At least I said Green was a more plausible matchup than most Novak-vs-PF outings.

But so anyway, point Beilein for running out the small lineup and not getting extensively punished for it on the boards… actually, wait. Michigan rebounded one of 23 opportunities on the offensive end and allowed MSU to rebound 39% of their misses. So they did get pummeled on the boards. They eked it out because…

Uh… They eked it out because…

Uh… Okay. They were ferociously effective from two-point range. This continues a season-long theme but was not expected after a couple of rough outings. I think MSU five-star Adreian Payne was a major factor in this. Michigan sliced open the MSU defense early with un- or not-very contested layups largely because Payne's help defense was nonexistent despite having a matchup against Jordan Morgan. Morgan is not a guy you have to worry about taking jumpers, but Payne consistently failed to show at the basket when Michigan's various six-nothin' white guys would drive to the hoop.

As a result, Payne played only 14 minutes and finished with one rebound, that defensive. He should be awesome—dude is a physical marvel—except he's Mike Cox mentally. He got yanked a few minutes in. In the aftermath Izzo would bemoan a lack of "toughness," but what MSU lacked was between their ears, not their legs.

When Payne was out Nix didn't seem much better. For whatever reason the intimidating doom-bringers on the interior took yesterday's game off.

Uh… Also fouls and turnovers. The Valentine crew decided there were no fouls, much to my frustration in the first half when it seemed like various over-the-backs and Hardaway jumpers would have been fouls anywhere else on planet Earth. I know Hardaway is struggling, but there is no way he flat airballs two three-pointers in a short period of time.

HOWEVA, when it came to things actually called, Michigan had the advantage with just 8 fouls to MSU's 12 and 13 FTA to MSU's 5. This did not appear to be a home court effect. Even Michigan State people were unsurprised State had zero FTA at the half.

MSU also had six additional turnovers. Most of those came from Appling and Green as Michigan collapsed on them and they did not find assists to compensate. Appling did somewhat with his five but a 5-4 assist to TO ratio and a couple of charging calls is not ideal.

6718559291_b0cb0a65ae_z[1]

Upchurch

Tim Hardaway: come on, let's go. While Trey Burke is a fantastic player it doesn't seem disputable that Darius Morris was a much better shot creator last year than Burke is at this point in his career. That's been much to the detriment of Hardaway, who is now taking a lot of bad, contested shots and seeing his numbers drop precipitously. Michigan needs more of his last basket, when he shot by a defender and finished at the rim what with his six-five frame and leaping ability, and less of the shots like the above. Beilein also thinks this. Look at his face.

Hardaway did make an excellent decision to foul Nix on the floor after one of Michigan State's late whip-the-ball-around-until-it's-in-the-post-uncontested possessions. IIRC a turnover followed; those points were the difference (as were all points scored by M or not scored by MSU).

Stu Douglass: hat tip. After 38 minutes versus Iowa Douglass puts in 36 against MSU, plays his usual very good perimeter defense, had nine points on six shots, Michigan's lone offensive rebound, two assists, a steal, and a turnover. Even if I'm probably not going to say "argh where's Stu" next year like I will inevitably do when things are going poorly and Novak isn't around to grit something out, the intangible senior leadership Douglass provides is getting pretty tangible.

Burke. Yes, you're good. That three pointer was still a horrible decision. In all other ways, hurray.

Drive home safely. The visiting Izzone section. We have to talk, visiting Izzone section.

One: you came in a bus. Two: you bought a large section of tickets clearly designated the worst in the building, allowing you to stand as students will. Michigan is clearly complicit in getting you in the building, for whatever reason. Your bus did not appear to have a cloaking device.

Despite this, you sneak into the building incognito as if there are Izzone snipers stationed at the entrances. Then you chant "Daddy's better" at Tim Hardaway Jr., which… like… Tim Hardaway is one of the great point guards in NBA history. You know that, right? That's not actually an insult.

No points, mercy on your soul, etc.

Meanwhile. Does the Maize Rage do this? Could they do this? Why is Michigan selling a huge block of tickets to the Izzone? It doesn't seem likely that is the case. Why is Michigan actively annoying its fans by allowing this to happen?

Mathy Q. This would never happen and this is a conversation destined to remain hypothetical, but… how bad of a free throw shooter would someone on the floor have to be for a foul to be the right move in the situation Michigan was faced with last night?

I think a couple guys on the court were within range. Nix was 53% last year and is at 58% this year. If we give him 60% to make calculations easier, a non-shooting foul on him results in the following outcome after the one-and-one:

  • 40%: Michigan with ball up one
  • 24%: Michigan with ball tied
  • 36%: Michigan with ball down one

That's if Michigan gets the rebound on the free throw, generally a good assumption but maybe less so in a balls-to-the-wall board crashing situation late.

I think there's a case for sending an under 60% free throw shooter to the line with 15 seconds or so left if they're going to get a one and one. Again, no one in the universe will ever try this in a game. But it's interesting to consider.

Random. I think of this as Rasheed Wallace version of "THE GAAAAAME." Do you know what I'm talking about? After the Pistons won their championship Wallace called basketball that in his indefinable 'Sheed way. It is impossible to explain and impossible to google, but I swear some people will know what I'm talking about.

In lieu of providing this, here's Wallace signing along to GNR:

This is your erratic reminder that Rasheed Wallace should succeed the Most Interesting Man In The World.

That is not relevant, but you start looking up Rasheed Wallace videos on Youtube and things get crazy.

Elsewhere

Green has guaranteed the return game($):

"They won three. Before that, how many how had they won?" Green said. "They got their little three, but they come to East Lansing in a few weeks.
"They better celebrate this one, because I can guarantee you they won’t get one in East Lansing. You can quote me on that one."

Three straight is of course half of Green's career against Michigan to date (MSU was  one-play a couple years ago), but don't ask a State attendee to do math.

RCMB provides the 'freude:

type_angrysoapboxlynchmobLast year was somewhat understandable. We were bad then. We are pretty good this year. Even a mediocre MSU team should blow Michigan out of the water. Michigan can't be good. It doesn't F---ING HAPPEN. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

The same guy reacts… poorly to a suggestion that this loss doesn't mean anything. Also here. This is the bit in the game thread you want. Also this one.

Wojo column. Baumgardner on Douglass's winner.

Holdin' the Rope column. BWS column contains ludicrous assertion that the lasting memory of Novak will be him missing threes. UMHoops recap and five key plays. Recap features this outstanding shot:

Michigan-State-at-Michigan-15_thumb[1]

What a knob.

MSU needs better S&C.

Hoops Picture Pages: Countering the Hedge, Pt. 1

Hoops Picture Pages: Countering the Hedge, Pt. 1

Submitted by Ace on January 17th, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Yesterday, I highlighted one of the main issues with Michigan's offense in recent games: their struggles with the hard hedge against the pick and roll. When the Wolverines—especially Trey Burke—run a high screen, opponents have found success by having the man guarding the screener provide a strong double-team on the ballhandler, limiting his ability to drive to the basket and making passes into the post difficult.

There are several ways to counter the hard hedge, as discussed yesterday in both the post and the comments (thanks to all of you who added your thoughts—I'm not a basketball coach, so any additional knowledge about the game is very valuable). One such counter, brought up yesterday by MGoUser Kilgore Trout, is to get the opponent to commit to the hedge and then immediately cross back over, which should create an opening for a pass to the near-side corner.

Though he didn't execute it perfectly, and the play didn't result in a basket, Tim Hardaway Jr. provides a decent example of how to do this, and you'll be able to see the possibilities it opens. With teams over-committing to the screen, something inevitably must open up, and in this case several holes emerge in the defense. Here's the setup, as Hardaway has just received a pass from Trey Burke:

vlcsnap-49040

As you can see, Hardaway has the ball on the left wing, and Jordan Morgan is setting an off-ball screen for Douglass in the middle of the court—Stu will head to the near-side corner and Burke will clear out to the high side on the opposite side of the court so the team maintains proper spacing. Now that the team is properly spread out, Hardaway calls for a screen, and Morgan makes his way over:

vlcsnap-49282

Hardaway starts to dribble towards Morgan, but as soon as Melsahn Basabe (#1, guarding Morgan) jumps out to hedge, Hardaway makes a quick crossover dribble back to the near side—this is exactly how you want to counter Basabe's aggressiveness in this instance, especially with Hardaway's man already attempting to fight over the pick:

vlcsnap-49449

This opens up several possibilities. If Morgan was ready for the crossover, he could crash hard to the basket, forcing the defender guarding Douglass to slide down and vacate the corner or give up an open dunk (or the defender guarding Novak could do this—either way, a open corner three should be there). Morgan doesn't roll hard, likely because he hadn't fully set the screen when Hardaway made his move, and also because Hardaway will drive to the lane himself. Hardaway's drive accomplishes what Morgan's roll would do—force the near-side defender to commit, leaving Douglass alone in the corner:

vlcsnap-49697

Unfortunately, what you see above is where this particular play doesn't work as well as it should. Hardaway picks up his dribble before he gets into the lane, so when he passes to Douglass, the sliding defender still has time to get back out and force Stu to drive. I think if Hardaway takes another dribble, it would create enough separation for Douglass to get an open three, a much-preferable option in Michigan's offense (and especially with Stu, who's much more comfortable as a stand-still shooter than a slasher). As it is, the defender is able to get out on Douglass, and Stu drives and misses a pull-up jumper in the paint. Full video of the play:

As was pointed out yesterday, the biggest problem here isn't the play, but the execution. If Morgan dives hard to the basket, or Hardaway penetrates further into the paint, this play likely results in a bucket. Instead, Douglass is forced to settle for a contested fallaway in the lane when he doesn't have the space to get off an open three. If Michigan can execute this adjustment with a little more precision, however, it should help keep opponents from over-committing to the hedge defensively and allow the Wolverines to run the pick-and-roll more effectively.