Oklahoma: The Numbers And The Fear

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2009 at 12:15 PM

 griffin-yo ginger-kids

So: Oklahoma, possessor of the most terrifying quasi-ginger manbeast* in college basketball lo these many years, comes up against Michigan, possessor of exactly two guys over 6'5", only one of whom plays at a time. Yipes.

Though Kenpom's taking a beating in this year's tournament, it's worth noting that Oklahoma, at 15, is a weak 2-seed in according to the numbers. This is more like a 4-13 matchup than a 2-10. Which I have no idea whether that's better or worse. Given what happens with 4-13 games, we have around a 25% shot, which is about what Kenpom says anyway. FWIW, Oklahoma was only the third-best team in the Big 12 in terms of efficiency margin, finishing behind Kansas and Missouri.

*(I couldn't find a picture that showed it well. I am of the opinion that Griffin is pigmented oddly in a way that I can't put a finger on but is definitely ginger-esque.)

Michigan Offense vs Oklahoma Defense

Two pointers. Oklahoma's extremely good at defending them, 17th nationally at 42.3%, and extremely good at avoiding opponent trips to the line. Continuing a theme, the Sooners get a lot of blocks: 11.4%, 51st nationally.

Three pointers. Oklahoma gives up an average percentage but allows slightly more threes than the average bear.

Possession advantage. The one glaring deficiency on the Oklahoma resume is turnover percentage, at which they languish in the 300s. Opponents just don't turn the ball over, probably because Oklahoma's defense is considerably less in-your-face than that of Clemson or whoever. That makes sense. They can just funnel drivers to Griffin and rely on their outstanding two-point FG defense and rebounding to do the work without getting in foul trouble. This explains the FTA/FGA, too. Don't expect a whole lot of ball denial on the outside.

That defensive rebounding, by the way, is good but not outstanding. They're 119th, which is above average, but for a power conference team that plays a significant portion of its schedule against weaker schools it's probably just average when adjusted for opponent difficulty.

Well? Given Michigan's profile we should expect few turnovers, a ton of threes attempted, very few trips to the line, and the occasional offensive rebound. Sounds like any other Michigan game, actually. Key matchup is Sims versus Griffin; Michigan's going to need more than what Sims provided against Clemson, and it'll be interesting to see what happens if the Sooners try to play man to man and Sims drags Griffin out of the paint. The outside shooting threat Sims provides could seriously limit Griffin's effectiveness on the defensive end.

Oklahoma Offense vs Michigan Defense

Oh, lordy. While Michigan's offense has a decent chance of working just fine, the offensive numbers are intimidating.

Two pointers. Oklahoma makes 56% of its twos, fourth nationally, thanks to Griffin. He's hitting 64% of his twos(!). Oklahoma also has a huge FTA/FGA ratio that is also fourth nationally—they take a bunch of free throws. This is also thanks to Griffin, who is #1 nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes.  This is probably not news, but: Blake Griffin is good.

Three pointers. Oklahoma's slightly above average at hitting 'em and slightly above average at taking 'em, likely symptomatic of opponents collapsing down on that Griffin guy and leaving open shots for the guys on the perimeter.

Possession advantage. IE: turnovers plus offensive rebounds plus free throw percentage. This is where it gets dicey. Oklahoma's slightly above average at taking care of the ball and pretty good but not obliteratingly good on the offensive boards: they rebound 36.5 of their misses, good for 52nd.

The somewhat good news is that all those free throws taken aren't hugely efficient. Unlike Manny Harris, Michigan's main source of FTs, Griffin has an encouragingly crappy time of it at the free throw line, shooting just 59%. Yes, this means that Griffin averages 1.28 points on an average shot and 1.18 points on an average trip to the line and sort of implies that Eric Puls should see the floor and foul out as quickly as possible, but that's before taking turnovers and stuff into account. It's probably close, though.

What do you do with this stuff? It doesn't appear that Oklahoma crushes the boards quite as much as Clemson did against Michigan. Aside from Griffin, who's an absolute vacuum defensively and very good offensively, they've got one other guy who plays much and hits the boards, and he's 6'7".

As far as Griffin goes, I guess you have to front him, double him constantly, prevent him from getting the ball, and possibly give him a ninja suplex to stop him. Any Michigan player with spare fouls should use them liberally should Griffin find himself in an advantageous position. Michigan's status as a team that uses a few different zones should help limit the damage Griffin can do, as they can switch between a few different defenses and confuse entry passes and the like from Oklahoma's young and not that great guards.

Miscellaneous Factors

Slidin', again. Michigan may be fortunate to have run across a team that, like Clemson, is sliding a bit as the season comes to an end. Oklahoma finished its year by losing four of six, including an opening-game loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney. I wouldn't get too excited, though: all of those losses game to quality tournament teams and only the Kansas game was at home. This is not analogous to Clemson's situation, which saw the Tigers drop games against the likes of Georgia Tech.

Coachin'. The Beilein-as-tourney-mastermind meme continues with another upset for his hall of heads, albeit against the active coach with the worst PASE score in all the land. Jeff Capel doesn't have much of a record, but it's better than Oliver Purnell's:

  • 2004: Capel gets VCU in as a 13 seed, where they lose to #4 Wake Forest by a single point.
  • 2008: Oklahoma makes the field as a 6, handily beating St Joseph's in the first round before getting clubbed by Louisville 78-48.

Capel went to Duke, for whatever that's worth. Anger about someone else getting a good coach from Duke? General anger about the white Devils? I don't know.

Common Opponent. There was just one: Oklahoma beat Purdue 87-82.

The General Feeling Of Foreboding

Yeah, I've got it too. Or, rather, I've got it as much as anyone can have it when you're dealing with this Michigan basketball team that has exceeded expectations so massively.

Michigan finds itself facing a team poised to exploit their greatest weakness. I mean

For being a scout team player that saw all of 20 minutes of floor time this season, Eric Puls got plenty of attention Friday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10-inch University of Michigan redshirt freshman played the role of Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin during Friday's practice session at the Sprint Center as the Wolverines prepared for tonight's NCAA Tournament South Regional test against the No. 2-seeded Sooners.

greatest weakness, man. I am racking my brain for things Eric Puls has in common with Blake Griffin and can come up with two: being 6'10" and having a cardiovascular system.

Playing man to man against Griffin is a recipe for points on your face and Michigan is going to have to do that after misses and turnovers, though thankfully there probably won't be much in the way of turnovers. They don't even have the post depth to foul freely.

I can see Michigan staying in the game for a while, but I can also see that one deadly Oklahoma run that pushes a close game to an eight or ten point gap all too clearly. This is probably it, but hey: okay.



March 21st, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

There's some Rumsfeldian poetry from OK's coach in the Mgolicious mlive article on the freshmen:

"'They understand who they are,' Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said Friday. 'And more important than that, they know who they're not. They don't try and do the things they're not good at. They focus on what they do.'"


March 21st, 2009 at 1:02 PM ^

A few things.

Blake Griffin only shoots 59% from the free throw line. You gotta think that JB knows this and will not be afraid to send him to the line often.

If there was ever a game that Sims and Gibson don't play at the same time this would be it.

Beating dead horse: hitting our 3s will be an absolute key. Sounds like OU doesn't play the hawking style of defense as say Dook or Clemson. Maybe a little extra space will be enough to free up our perimeter boys to hit maybe 12-15 threes today.

This game has be be a personal challenge to Sims. Hopefully JB and staff can get this young man into the right mindset mentally to play an effort game today if for nothing else than to keep Griffin running around a bit on defense.

Didn't we play Oklahoma at Crisler a few years ago?


March 21st, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

Both also have a nervous system, so there's that in common as well......actually maybe not. Griffin reminds me so much of Robo-Henne, that maybe there's nothing but microchips in there.

Might we really see something like 5-6 minutes out of Puls today. I, eh, uh, cant wait!

Good stuff, as always Brian.....busy day for you, I am sure....have fun at the Hockey game, if you're going.

Go Blue!


March 21st, 2009 at 2:17 PM ^

If this is as small as the gap is, then that'll be a nice achievement. I fear it'll be closer to 12-15, with deficits close to 20 at some points during the game.


March 21st, 2009 at 3:16 PM ^

sample games


ok 82 davidson 78 dav.- 35% sh. 10-29 3's

ok 80 gardner webb 76 gw-44% sh. 10-24 3's

ok 73 usc trojans 72 usc-50% 8-11 3's

ok 77 tx a&m 71 txa&m-40% 7-21 3's

ok 77 colorada 72 col-51% 7-18 3's

ok 87 kansas 78 kan 46% 9-19 3's

ok 82 ok st 78 okst 43% 7-24 3's


ok87 ot purdue 82 pur 48% 12-33 3's
ok 46 ft att pur 5 ft att


ok 88 arkansas 96 ark 51% 6-13 3's 30-43 ft

ok 70 ok st. 71 ok st 41% 9-25 3's

The FannMan

March 21st, 2009 at 3:14 PM ^

We are playing with the house's money here. As Brian said we have so massively exceeded expectations its literally amazing. Our guys should have zero, I mean zero, pressure. If they can keep it close, OU will begin to grip. Then . . . who knows?

Just becuase I love the quote:

"Ships, shoes, basketballs, whatever," Lucas-Perry said. "We're burning ours first, because we're coming to take theirs. We want it bad."

Go Blue!

Swayze Howell Sheen

March 21st, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

i think capel is more likely referring to a famous John Wooden quote: "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." Since Wooden said it, it must be gold (but actually it makes a lot of sense).


March 21st, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

That is great- "I am racking my brain for things Eric Puls has in common with Blake Griffin and can come up with two: being 6'10" and having a cardiovascular system".


March 21st, 2009 at 5:31 PM ^

"*(I couldn't find a picture that showed it well. I am of the opinion that Griffin is pigmented oddly in a way that I can't put a finger on but is definitely ginger-esque.)"

I believe you're describing a daywalker. What might appear to be freckles-- and thereby qualify him a pure-bred ginger-- is more likely acne or acne scars. Puberty was unkind to Flake Griffin.


March 22nd, 2009 at 3:46 AM ^

in 2002, my best friend's 14-year-old sister hung herself in her bedroom closet. In her suicide note, she wrote about the relentless taunting she received because of her red hair; her peers had isolated her to such a degree that she believed taking her own life was preferable to living in a world in which she felt she didn't belong.

Whenever I see posts like yours, I am reminded of what happened seven years ago, and how it's tools like you that should be the ones voluntarily checking out of life. Comments about another person's appearance, to the degree that such comments make that person seem sub-human, are incredibly immature and serve no purpose other than making the commenter feel better about their own pitiful existence.


March 22nd, 2009 at 6:31 AM ^

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend's sister. I bet her red hair was very becoming. I assure you I would never make similar comments about a 14-year-old girl or any other redhead not staring at guaranteed NBA millions.

There's a key difference between your post and mine: You suggesting I kill myself = malice. Me calling Blake Griffin a daywalker = jest.

Given the experience you outlined above, I would expect you to be more hesitant to suggest that others take their own lives, no matter how toolish they appear. (And yes, I am a pretty big tool.)


March 21st, 2009 at 8:14 PM ^

There were a couple of things with this game(and some of the last) that really stand out.

1. Stu and Zach will eventually be marginalized over their time at MI. Neither are effective off the dribble. You can say they are young but if you are realistic you'll see the mold for their careers. You just cannot have 4-5 guys around the arc dribbling horizontally waiting for something to open up. Stu especially changes the whole rhythm of the game.

2. MI is and was really one great Swing/Power forward away from beating OK. Oklahoma will be upended against the Orangeman.

3. I did not understand the substitutions. Wright sat alot for shooting as well as he did. I like the confidence in Douglas and Novak but it was their KEY misses at a KEY time which literally shot MI into a rut.

4. Harris needs a year or more before he goes pro. He's raw and young.

5. The refs had a love affair with OK it seemed.

All in all it was a game that could have been won. It was not a painful loss, just a confusing loss.


March 21st, 2009 at 8:47 PM ^


1. A great coach sets his emotions/loyalties aside. Wright should have been sent to the scorer's table right after the ball was inbounded to start the 2nd half. He scores 12 again in the 2nd half and we have a chance.

2. Manny just has to learn a mid-range pull up ala Rip and/or he has to learn to finish at the rim better to a. take Michigan to the next level, and b. have any shot at an NBA career.

3. Sims needs to learn to concentrate better around the rim. I'm willing to bet he's left hundreds of points under the basket in his 3 years at Michigan.

4. Cannot agree more on Stu/Novak. These are basically the same guys playing at the same time. We're a much better team with those guys sub-ing in for each other. I'm afraid that JB already has a lover affair for both of them and they will continue to limit our offense for the next 3 years.

5. Gibson could really turn into a great x-factor for us next year. I couldn't stand his game earlier this year but improved GREATLY down the stretch.


March 21st, 2009 at 10:38 PM ^

I was kind of waiting for Gibson, Sims, Wright, Lucas and Harris. Because that would've drawn Griffin away from the hoop and opened up some driving lanes for the other guys. Also would've helped with the rebounding. Plus Sims and Gibson have shown they can hit the triple. In this game I really felt that( two big guys who brought griffin out ) would've been a good equalizer. Even if they( OK ) were in a zone. Also defensively that lineup made sense because in the 1-3-1....it left Novak/Lee as weakside rotation on Ivan Drago/Griffin! Which did not work. And by the way Griffin had a mind controlled presence you know. You know how when you have headphones on and you can hear yourself chew but it sounds really loud. Every time the camera cut to him I felt like that. I don't see it for him long term in the NBA. A good role player at 7-13 points a game in the NBA(if he gets his reps).

I think the fouls hurt them tonight. But I also think, my opinion here, that the substitutions are the reason why MI will go at times 5-7 minutes w/out points. And why is this? Because each player brings a new rhythm to the mix. This is what really stood out to me about Stu. His rhythm is his and it changes the whole feel. He's young, but all in all when he contributed, it was mainly ineffectual. If ineffectual is a word. He's there making shots when it does not matter it seems. Once again though he is young. You just can't have two Rob Pelinka's( stay cool in Cali bro) running around hoping to shoot though! Now in the first game against Clemson Stu was there and it worked. I think his presence was the equalizer against a team that relied on hysteria like Clemson did. But in this game, a half court game. They were not a factor and almost a hindrance. I like them don't get me wrong. But if you wanna advance to the Sweet 16 and your JB you need something or someone whose a tweener at 6'7 who can also put the ball on the floor and rise up on the 6'10-7'0 guys.

It was just sort of confusing for me to watch the way it was lost. I left the game thinking they are really one or two guys away from a really, really great lil program. And perhaps now recruiting will start up. I think Beilin will be at many state championships over the next few days. Hopefully he scores!

Yinka Double Dare

March 21st, 2009 at 8:16 PM ^

"I can see Michigan staying in the game for a while, but I can also see that one deadly Oklahoma run that pushes a close game to an eight or ten point gap all too clearly. This is probably it, but hey: okay."

Ding ding ding. Unfortunately.