Unverified Voracity Schedules Self Behind Eight-Ball Comment Count

Brian March 22nd, 2016 at 12:08 PM

Kind of a big deal. PG recruit Xavier Simpson won the Ohio Mr. Basketball award after averaging 27 points and 6 assists a game. You may remember that one Trey Burke won Mr. Basketball in Ohio, an award that comes with some heft. Recent winners include Luke Kennard, Burke, Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Jon Diebler, OJ Mayo, and someone named Lebron.

Both Beilein and Simpson welcome the Burke comparison:

"With me going to Michigan and seeing the success they had with [Burke]. What I'm hearing, from out of high school no one ever thought he would go to the NBA. And Michigan put the ball in his hand and helped him make the right decisions and get better as a player. That prepared him for the next level, so hopefully they can do that for me."

Simpson is a much higher rated recruit than Burke was, but I think we'll take Trey 2.0.

Let's stop doing the dumb RPI thing. College basketball RPI is broken. Broken things can be exploited, and the Pac-12 did that so successfully that they got a bunch of ridiculous seeds in this year's NCAA tournament. Those teams all bombed out of the tournament save Oregon, which got a one-seed everyone thought MSU had on lock. Ask the Spartans if that mattered, assuming you can keep a straight face while doing so. (You cannot.)

This was not an accident. In both men's and women's basketball the Pac-12 has made a concerted effort to game the RPI. It started with the Washington women's coach, and the league is so proud of it they've put up articles it on pac-12.com itself:

Neighbors’ work developing a mathematical picture of success for the Pac-12 inspired conference coaches to change the way their programs scheduled in the non-conference seasons and has strengthened the conference from top to bottom.

“It’s one of the most productive things we’ve done,” Close said. “The best part about this story is Mike’s selflessness, but also the coaches putting the conference above themselves.” …

“He came in with this huge packet, with color-coded graphs. The message was, ‘Everybody needs to get eight or nine wins (in the non-conference) and you need to play the best teams you can beat’,” Close said. “Everyone was brainstorming. Everybody understood this has to be bigger than just your team. We have to help each other.”

This worked, as the Pac-12's evidently mediocre teams got seeds they did not deserve. Meanwhile, a 15-3 Big Ten champion got a five-seed, and Michigan was relegated to a play-in game largely because the Big Ten didn't put anyone in the 50-100 range of the RPI. Some of this is the Rutgers effect. (Thanks, Delany.) Rutgers was a mandatory anchor on every schedule in the league. But some of it is the fact that the league is playing far too many voluntary games against Rutgers equivalents.

I complain about this just about every year. Four years ago I put a post together titled "How To Schedule In College Basketball" after a selection controversy between Drexel and Iona. What leapt out at me was Michigan's nonconference SOS. It was objectively much tougher than either of those teams but when it came to numbers it was barely better than Drexel's miserable schedule and far worse than Iona's mediocre one.

This is because Michigan fills out the bottom of their schedule with the very dregs of college basketball. Jason Lisk:

Then, you look at the non-conference. Michigan played Xavier, NC State, Texas, Connecticut, and SMU. That’s more top quality games then most programs played. But, from December 12 to December 23, they also played Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State, and Bryant. They won them by an average of 40 points. Each of those teams is at 275 or below in the RPI. Those teams are collectively 28-90 against Division I teams, and play against other low level teams (that whole opponent’s opponent’s record thing).

That’s killing Michigan.

How much?

If you just took out two of those games, and replace them with home games against mid-level MAC teams like Eastern Michigan and Toledo, the RPI goes from 66 to 55. With just that change alone. Heck, even if they lost one of those games (and they would be heavy favorites at home), the RPI actually goes up slightly. That defies logic.

For years I'd assumed this was a Dave Brandon thing. Towson is cheaper than Richmond, end of story. After Brandon's departure it's clear that John Beilein is the guy lining up Delaware State (#348 in Kenpom) and Bryant (#345) because he doesn't want the slightest chance at a loss.

This hurts Michigan and the Big Ten because the chance Michigan loses to the #200 team is also negligible. For example, per Kenpom Michigan had a ~94% chance to beat then-#203 Minnesota when the teams played at Crisler in January. Despite the very small gulf in likely outcome between a game against a bad team and an awful one, the RPI assigns very different values to those games.

The committee does attempt to see through these flaws, but everything is framed by RPI. Your RPI. Your record against the top 50 and top 100 in RPI. Conference RPI. Gaming the system clearly works; Michigan is doing the exact opposite of that. It just about cost Michigan a bid this year. It's well past time for the school and the league to figure that out and exploit it.

Precisely, good sir. Harbaugh on Sankey's Think Of The Children campaign:

“I thought it was fake outrage. I thought it wasn’t really real,” Harbaugh told Mike & Mike when asked his reaction to their reaction. “The moral high ground of the sanctity of spring break, that’s what people chose to use as their moral stance? I thought it was fake. I thought it was fake outrage.”

January February Middle Tennessee April. Pat Forde in the aftermath of MSU getting Giddy Potts'd:

Here’s what might also have played a part in Middle Tennessee’s calm reaction to shocking the world: the Blue Raiders knew they were no 15 seed. That was a joke, and part of a major choke.

By Michigan State, yes. But also by the NCAA tournament selection committee.

All hail MTSU, which put Murfreesboro, Tenn., on the map Friday. Its 90-81 upset of the Spartans is one of eight all-time victories for a No. 15 seed over a No. 2 seed – but Middle Tennessee never should have been a 15.

That’s on the committee.

The facts that Forde marshals for his argument are ridiculous. One: the winner of CUSA has never been seeded that low. CUSA used to have Memphis in it. This version of the CUSA had zero top-100 Kenpom teams. Forde cites the fact that CUSA was the #21 league at that very site without considering the fact that teams are not leagues. MTSU was not even the best 15 seed per Kenpom—that would be Cal State Bakersfield. The only teams in the tournament rated lower than MTSU above the 15 line were a couple of 14s.

MTSU was off by a seed line at most, which they promptly demonstrated by getting hamblasted by Syracuse.

Well, yeah. Kyle Connor left Penn State in a state of disbelief:

"I’m a firm believer that Kyle Connor is the best player I’ve ever played against and I even told him that in the handshake line,” Goodwin told reporters after the game. …

“[Connor] does everything very, very quickly,” Guy Gadowsky told reporters. “It’s amazing how he just gets himself into such an offensive advantageous position. I think it’s just what you can’t really explain that just makes him so darn good.”

After a few years of struggle against PSU, Michigan put the hammer down in 2016. They scored at least six goals in each of the five games, culminating in 7-1, 6-1, and 6-2 demolitions.

I mean I guess I'm not surprised. No idea if CBC News has the inside scoop on Kyle Connor but I'm not exactly expecting him back next year, and neither are they:

The focus on him is certainly justified and if Connor decides to leave school once his season wraps up (no decision has been made in this regard, though it would be a shock if he chose to stay at Michigan), signs with the Jets and eventually settles into the NHL game at the level that's expected of him, then let the good times roll.

I would assume that comes from the Jets' camp and indicates they intend and expect to sign him. I always think NHL teams are shortsighted to do this because the CBA accelerates free agency for players under 20; grabbing a kid at 19 is removing a year of team control at 27. But nobody seems to care for whatever reason.

Hockey incoming. NTDP forward Will Lockwood draws notice from NHL draft expert Kyle Woodlief, who names him a rising prospect:

Will Lockwood (U.S. NTDP U-18) — Showed lots of speed and was buzzing all over the offensive zone at last month’s Five Nations tournament, where he was one of the best U.S. forwards.

Lockwood is one of seven scholarship skaters* Chris Heisenberg shows as committed to Michigan next year; they are scheduled to lose two guys to graduation. Even if Connor, Werenski, and Downing** are all signing there's quite a logjam. Michigan has eight D this year and is set to carry nine next year even minus Werenski and Downing; they'll add an extra forward as well.

*[F Lukas Samuelsson is also listed but Michigan did not acknowledge him when they announced their incoming class. Generally that means the player is a PWO.]

**[Ben Clymer and Random Verb Guy were talking about Werenski and Downing like they were both out the door to the NHL after this year. Werenski we all expect to go; Downing hasn't been talked about much. I'm guessing they got word from someone or another and were impolite enough to repeatedly reference it on the broadcast because they can't talk about gritty grit heart for literally the entire thing.]

Etc.: More satellite camps: Dallas and Waco are on the table, with the Waco event a stop at Baylor's camp. That company that runs the summer soccer friendlies briefly listed Chelsea versus Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium on July 30th; it's since been changed to TBA. Harbaugh clinic notes.



March 22nd, 2016 at 12:22 PM ^

It's actually kind of fun that Middle Tennessee got blown out of the pool by Syracuse, so that it removes the "unluckily got in the way of team of destiny" excuse for Sparty.

Also, isn't it kind of obvious why NHL teams encourage 19-year-olds to sign?  Someone like Connor, it's sort of evident that college has sharpened that particular knife as much as it can.  The AHL would be a step up, and Dylan Larkin has shown it's even possible to get an NHL contribution right away.  Even more so on the Jets, who suck.  Why worry about eight years from now when you can make your team better right now or one year from now?


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:41 PM ^

came out thinking of the entire tournament as one "event" that would have its peaks and valleys, whereas MTSU was pouring all of their physical and emotional resources into winning that game.  That is common and it happens a lot with higher seeds, but something Izzo has said all year stuck with me throughout the game.  State was very good in almost all areas, but they were not "dominant" in one particular area.  As such, when they got down 15-2, they went into kind of an identity crisis.  Were they the strong inside team with a senior and a lottery pick, or were they the 3 point bombing team oft seen throughout the season?

Not pouring salt into the wound, but in the end they did not have that strong of a leader, despite all of Valentine's press clippings.  MTSU was not incorrectly seeded.  Michigan State was just looking ahead and was not good enough at any particular thing to lean on to get them through a jacked up and very focussed opponent.


March 22nd, 2016 at 2:41 PM ^

They had (and still do) the #1 offense in the country, led by the #1 3pt shooting % IN THE COUNTRY.  #1.  The best.  I'd say that's pretty dominant.  Ironically, this was by far the most Beilien team Izzo has ever had, as Izzo has certainly made a bit of transition toward 3 pt shooting, like much of the rest of basketball.  But like Beilien has always been willing (or had) to do, MSU sacrificed perimeter defense to get that 3pt shooting.  Harris and Forbes are pretty poor defenders, and despite having very good interior defense and shot blocking presence, they finished with a sub-top-50 defense and got bombed by MTSU to the tune of 90 (!!) points. 

To say they were very good at everything and not dominant at anything is completely the opposite. They were a dominant offensive and 3pt shooting team.  But they weren't a "very good" defensive team, especially on the perimeter.


March 22nd, 2016 at 6:30 PM ^

entire response is based on one statistic, and frankly one that does not impressively retort my point. You are clearly a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but statistics are misleading and paint an incomplete picture, and they certainly don't "win" a discussion. State was a confused basketball team. They had no firm identity to fall back on. Izzo himself was even confused.


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:32 PM ^

Do you think a guy named Heisenberg only performs well in front of large crowds? Perhaps we can't possibly know where he is on the ice and how fast he is skating at the same time?


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:32 PM ^

Do you think a guy named Heisenberg only performs well in front of large crowds? Perhaps we can't possibly know where he is on the ice and how fast he is skating at the same time?


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:35 PM ^

Can we please have maize and blue "January February Middle Tennessee ..." Shirts in the same style as MSU on the MGoStore? I'd be one happy guy


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:15 PM ^

and you should stick with that impulse now.  I wear Michigan gear because that's my team and I want them to beat everyone, especially their rivals.  As for the rivals, I care whether Michigan beats them and it's a bit of fun when someone else does, but I sure as heck don't need to adopt another team, much less expand my wardrobe, just because that team beat a Michigan rival.

When Michigan played at the Palace during the 2013 NCAA tournament, some Sparty bros in front of me thought it would be awesome to wear South Dakota State t-shirts during Michigan's first-round game.  At the time, it seemed like a little-brother thing to do, and I haven't changed my mind since.  Let's celebrate Michigan's successes rather than a rival's failures -- or, better yet, both at the same time.


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:47 PM ^

watched some of Simpson's highlights.  He looks very good but needs to get that shot off of his shoulder or he is going to have trouble getting it off.


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:12 PM ^

Burke had to start becuase Morris left early.  Then Walton had to start because Burke left early.  This will be the first time Michigan will have its PG and PG heir apparent on the team at the same time under Beilein. 

I'll be happy if Simpson can give Michigan 8-10 good minutes per game his first year.  I hope for more, but all he needs to do is be a viable back-up.


March 22nd, 2016 at 10:42 PM ^

This exactly. We need ten minutes from someone next year to spell Walton and RAHK. I'd say it's safe to assume he's better than Dakich (though I love me some Dakich)- so there's improvement right there.

All major players coming back plus a useful backup PG- next year we'll be back competing for a BIG championship (or at least second, that MSU class is ridiculous.)


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:56 PM ^

They could get some consulting company or data scientist to fix the RPI in a matter of weeks, for a tiny amount of money. It's hard to understand why a system that is so obviously bad is given so much importance. I guess they just don't care!

The NCAA would be better off just buying Kenpom's system.


March 22nd, 2016 at 12:57 PM ^

I prefer Middle Michigan State University.  Only need to add a single word prefix to their name and it stings.


It also works because they're in the middle of Michigan.


MTSU's slogan is "I am true blue". I like these guys.


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:13 PM ^

The first time I called MSU Middle Michigan State University a few years ago, I was negged quite badly (no chance of that happening now.) I think it was because of the general feeling that we don't do the scUM or O$U thing on this blog, but now that MSU has actually lost to MTSU, I think it's hilarious.


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:48 PM ^

Agree.  I hate the whole scUM and O$U thing, too.  I just thought it was funny for a day or two with my MSU colleagues.  I'll end up forgetting about it pretty soon.

For the record, it's way more clever and applicable than scUM or O$U.  If a Spartan somehow found a clever way to rib us for App State, I couldn't fault them.


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:28 PM ^

He's not going to fix it.


Beilein pointed to Rutgers and Minnesota as not helping, but mentioned a few other opponents that sustained multiple injuries throughout the season that hindered Michigan's final number as well.

"Here's exactly what happened," he said. "Nebraska would have been a 50-to-100 team if SHavon SHields hadn't gotten hurt. Minnesota dropped off the face of the earth at the end. Illinois had the injuries. We should have had several opportunities there. Charlotte was another team taht wasn't in the area that they usually are. There was just a void there of teams that for no fault of their own weren't in that 50-to-100 category. That won't happen many more times."


Cue the rabid beilein defense squad


March 22nd, 2016 at 2:01 PM ^

It's a flaw in how he schedules; nobody is arguing about that.  And he needs to schedule less of the body-bag games; nobody likes those.  But he's also right that Nebraska, PSU, and Illinois could have been a bit better this year and then you have those wins in the 80s and 90s that other teams point to as "good" wins.

But I don't think anyone really likes how Beilein schedules, and I for one thought it was Brandon's fault until it became clear it wasn't.


March 22nd, 2016 at 2:52 PM ^

Basketball is different from football, but in both cases it drives me crazy when high-level college teams (especially Michigan) schedule games that are non-competitive.

I won't travel from CA to A2 to watch Michigan play Ball State or Akron. There are only 12 regular season games in college football, play 12 real games.  It doesn't have to be Oklahoma every week, but Boston College or Colorado or Oregon State are so much more fun than an inevitable slaughter (or worse, a "horror-ble" embarrassment).

Regarding basketball, what, exactly, is the point of a game against Houston Baptist?  A competition should be just that - competitive. Of course, a basketball team can't play Kansas every game, but the floor should be MAC-level teams.

Michigan is blowing a great opportunity to help local schools by scheduling games that would be far more interesting than a blowout against Bryant.  Why not play some combination of directional MAC, Oakland, U of D every year, instead of Delaware St. and (cringe) NJIT?  I just don't get it. 

Makes for better basketball and solves the RPI issue.


March 22nd, 2016 at 5:49 PM ^

100% right. Writing a check to Northern Kentucky when you could write it to Oakland or Eastern or UDM—and improve your RPI in the process—is ridiculous.

But Beilein doesn't want to risk the L. He has said that before, when he canceled the Oakland series. In his defense, the Eastern debacle last year illustrated his reasoning. The mathematical effect of such a loss doesn't factor in the tailspin it can put your team in.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


March 22nd, 2016 at 3:26 PM ^

Have either of these teams ever been good on a consistent basis?  PSU has prettymuch been a regular in the lower 3rd of the Big Ten standings for the past 20 yrs.  They've made the NCAA tourney 3 times since they joined the Big Ten.

Nebraska had a nice year a couple seasons ago but that's the exception.  They had a nice run for 5-6 years in the late 80's/early 90's but that's it.  The Huskers have only made the NCAA tourney 7 times in the history of their basketball program.  

The chances are much more likely these teams are going to be sub 100 rpi teams than in the 50-100 range.



March 22nd, 2016 at 1:53 PM ^

So Belein decides to dress Mitch Mcgary for a tournament game resulting in a drug test and early exit and now BC says he's the culprit for Michigan's low RPI. 

I'll hang up and listen.


March 22nd, 2016 at 1:58 PM ^

I get why teams don't worry about the CBA and rights because, in most cases, teh guys at the the top aren't sure they'll have a job in 8 years, so if there's a kid who can help them win now they will.  Baseball guys have gotten a bit better about that after the Rays and other teams really took advantage of that extra year of service, but it's part of the reason there's a (slightly) higher age limit in basketball; namely, to protect teams from themselves.  

As for MTSU, that always struck me as a fluke loss, but also one that MSU was bound to have at some point.  They probably are one of the top 4-5 teams in the country when they are clicking, but nobody on that team is just a dominant, go-to player, and in the tourney you needs guys like that to win.  With the right draw (like they seemed to have), they could have made it to the FF or even the title game, but at some point you run into a KU, a UNC, even a Duke/UK-type that isn't perfect but truly forces you to play left-handed, and that's when you get into trouble.  


March 22nd, 2016 at 2:30 PM ^

Simpson is going to be a stud. I don't think he's as much like Burke as people say. He's a great player, but seems to just play a little different. He's still a great fit for Michigan's system.