The Catchup: Basketball Comment Count

Brian December 29th, 2008 at 3:02 PM

Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.

Basketball failed to implode spectacularly.

…probably. They've got winless North Carolina Central (Kenpom rank: #344 of 344) tonight. Kenpom predicts a final score of 96-49 and gives NCC a 0% chance of victory. It does not appear to be the height of hubris to predict a win.


The opponents since the watershed Duke game:

EMU and Oakland. These games were very similar to each other: Michigan plays a significant amount of uninspired basketball but is bailed out by smoking hot three-point shooting. It was 16 of 33 against Eastern and 13 of 29 against Oakland. Neither opponent could keep up with Michigan once the threes started falling (and, in Oakland's case, theirs stopped falling).

Of note in both these games: Michigan went to the 1-3-1 for brief periods in the first half, got torn apart, and spent the rest of the game in man-to-man. In the Oakland game the 1-3-1 was a very brief cameo indeed, as it was present for all of one possession—an Oakland layup—and was quickly shelved. Theory: there's some adjustment that prevents the layup line the 1-3-1 became against EMU but Beilein's vertigo-induced absence prevented that from being applied and Michigan just went to a standard defense against generally overmatched foes.

Oakland center Keith Benson used the man-to-man to go crazy, hitting nine of eleven shots and having a career game. It wasn't necessarily that the defense was bad, either; often times Benson was well defended only to hit a tough shot.

Reed Baker and the Rainmakers. Due to holiday travel I missed this one and it sounds like I should be glad I did. Michigan shot very poorly, but forced a zillion FGCU turnovers and limped to an ugly victory over a bad team.

And notes for the future:

Bernie-Mac-1-death laval-lucas-perry

Hello, America.

Minutes what? Laval Lucas-Perry becomes eligible, looks a lot like Bernie Mac, and hits a lot of threes. He's played 36 minutes in two games. Where are these minutes coming from? One obvious location: Anthony Wright has gotten two DNP-CDs since LLP shed his suit. But the other obvious location—walk-ons—not so much. Merritt and Lee have combined to average 25 minutes per game.

Wha? Well, Michigan is using Perry at the 2 and 3 and giving all point guard minutes to either Merritt or Grady. The two have combined for 79 minutes in the last two games: one or the other is always on the floor. Everyone was selling LLP as a combo guard or a scoring point; Michigan isn't even giving him a chance to be the best point guard since Magic Johnson.

The two possibilities here are

  1. LLP isn't actually any sort of point and Michigan will never play him there.
  2. Michigan's trying to work LLP in slowly and will start giving him point guard minutes as he gets more comfortable actually being on the floor.

I really hope it's #2; no offense to Merritt but he's a walk-on for a reason.

Minutes what part two. Okay, so LLP isn't taking Merritt's minutes. Fine. Question: why isn't Kelvin Grady?  There is nothing Grady isn't statistically superior to Merritt in except a couple of things with extremely low sample sizes:

Player ARate TORate Usage 2PT FG% 3PT FG%
Grady 17.8 15.3 14.6 36.4% 42.9%
Merritt 12.4 26.4(!) 10.1 50% 37.5%

Merritt's superior two point FG percentage is based on ten shots, and that usage rate is insanely low—way lower than even CJ Lee—so those should be almost entirely easy shots.

Unless Merritt's just way, way better on defense, which I concede may be true, there's no reasonable case he should be playing anything more than 5-10 minutes a game when Grady needs a breather.

Side note: how about that 43% on three pointers from Grady? We're still subject to a small sample size disclaimer, but dang, man. That's a seven-point jump from last year's meh 36%, and it makes him someone you have to get out on, which is dangerous because he's ninja-quick. If only he could make a layup.

Manny! I'm going to be the last person on earth to note how freakin' good Manny Harris is, but this, I think, is the key number: 33.2. Oh, and 31.6. And 17.3. These items are:

  • 33.2. Harris's assist rate, which is insane for a small forward, 13 points higher than last year's, by far the best on the team, and 62nd nationally. Also helping out: Harris' TO rate has dropped from 22.0 to 18.6.
  • 31.6. Harris's usage rate, which is insane for anyone—26th nationally—and actually higher than his very high usage from a year ago.
  • 17.3. Harris' defensive rebound rate, which is easily second-best on the team and a major reason the rebounding numbers are not worse than they are.

Before the season I sounded a note of caution on expectations for Harris as his freshman year had the distinct whiff of Bracey Wright to it. (I've done this twice, actually.) That whiff is gone. Harris has been maniacally efficient despite sporting an enormous usage rate. This was my hope before the season:

I hope in March we're here looking at scoring average going down a little bit but those field goal numbers going up a lot; we'll see.

Harris said "how about more usage and more efficiency" and I said "I wish to clone you every four years if that is okay with you sir."  That is stardom, and it's a quantum leap forward from his freshman year.



December 29th, 2008 at 3:53 PM ^

Usage rate is a formula that you can use to see the percentage of possessions a player uses. There are a couple of multipliers, but its basically measuring FGA, FTs, Assists, and Turnovers.

Basically, you want your good players to have high usage rates, provided that they can hit their shots and not turn the ball over. This does not mean players with high usage rates may be good, it might mean they just jack up shots and turn the ball over.


December 29th, 2008 at 3:25 PM ^

Manny's still got to take care of the ball a little better, though. He has 34 turnovers in 11 games, which is still too many. But on the whole, he's certainly much-improved.


December 29th, 2008 at 3:27 PM ^

I told you so, but I told you so.

JB loves Merritt....his playing time is going nowhere unless he becomes fodder in the Big 10.

JB has said over and over again this kid is the glue of the team. His role on the team is set unless he becomes so over his head in league play.

JB thinks he is a coach on the floor.

Other Chris

December 29th, 2008 at 3:35 PM ^

Ant Wright has a dozen stitches in his forehead following a practice accident. He has been spotted wearing a headband on the sidelines during the past couple games, which is not a usual look for him. Combined with the rumor, it may be an explanation.


December 29th, 2008 at 7:17 PM ^

I've always hated the 1-3-1, except when I played against it. With one quick skip pass on the perimeter, or a pass from a skilled post player to the opposite wing player sitting in a zone seam beyond the the three point arc, and you usually see a high percentage shot. In the 2-3 zone the rules are much more defined. In the early games, it's good to practice those quick on the fly defensive change ups for conference play later on. The 2-3 and,"Box and One," zones are easy for most guys to learn or relearn. The 1-3-1 is more tricky in my opinion because against zones,"You go to where the defense is not." And a few passes around the horn and the defense gets lazy and confused and usually forgets one player somewhere because of the rotations.

I think John Beilein's offensive scheme aids in Manny's numbers some. And that is why I am glad, "they is," in at Meechigan.


December 29th, 2008 at 11:30 PM ^

Merritt seems to be a calming influence on the floor. That is something that cannot be measured by the stats. Grady is much, much improved, but he still is a little bit "wild". Grady is a more dangerous player, but I think Merritt sets up the offense better and makes quite a few little plays that are hidden from the stat sheet. BTW, remember that Grady probably could have played FB in college. Probably would be a good slot receiver or kick/punt returner. Granted I've only seen mainly West Michigan kids play high school football, but Grady was one of the most explosive running backs I've ever watched.


December 30th, 2008 at 9:53 AM ^

Going by this comment from Tacopants,

"This does not mean players with high usage rates may be good, it might mean they just jack up shots and turn the ball over."

Basically, it appears usage rate measures the percentage of times down the court the player does something other than pass the ball around purposelessly. But since bad outcomes are mixed in with good outcomes its utility is limited and only accessable after comparison to other stats. Would it be so hard to split usage rate into bad outcomes and good outcomes? Wouldn't that be considerably more useful? Otherwise, usage rate in this context, and as a stand alone stat, is useless. No?


December 30th, 2008 at 12:27 PM ^

You're right. Usage as a stand-alone stat is useless. But in context, it provides color to other numbers. In general, players with low usage will be taking high-percentage shots generated by someone else. Players with high usage are either generating shots for themselves or others or are Bracey-Wright-like chuckers. Combining a usage rate like Manny's with his excellent efficiency numbers is rare and powerful.