Characteristics of Final Four Teams/Their Relation to Beilein's Michigan

Submitted by mscharbo15 on March 3rd, 2017 at 4:07 PM


This study examines all of the Final Four teams from 2002-2016 and, based on their characteristics, establishes a criteria for making the Final Four and winning the championship. It's a long article; I've posted the Final Four criteria below for those who aren't interested in combing through the entire piece. Also, the article only briefly mentions Michigan and Beilein - those two are covered with more specificity below.


– AdjOE rank of at least 50 or greater (54 out of 60 have met)

– AdjDE rank of at least 40 or greater (54 out of 60 have met)

– Luck rank of at least 199 or greater (50 out of 60 have met)

– AdjTempo rank of at least 299 or greater (56 out of 60 have met)

– 3PA/FGA rank of at least 100 or lower (50 out of 60 have met)

– Winning Streak of 10 or less (55 out of 60 have met)

– Ranked in preseason AP poll (50 out of 60 have met)

50 out of 60 Final Four teams in the study met all or all but one of the criteria (2013 Michigan included*). Most Beilein teams decidedly do not, though, and often violate at least three different criteria (too high in 3PA/FGA, too low in AdjTempo, too low in AdjDE). 2 teams out of 60 (2016 Syracuse and 2011 VCU) have made the Final Four while not meeting 3 or more criteria.

Beilein has had a productive run at Michigan and is, by all accounts, a wonderful person and ambassador, but his program construction is fatally flawed in the area of consistent success in March.

*2013 Michigan began the NCAA tournament with a faster tempo than normal (rank: 200s), a lower 3PA/FGA than normal (rank: 100s) and a better AdjDE than normal (rank: 66th).



March 3rd, 2017 at 4:14 PM ^

flyers just cracked the top 25. they have won 9 straight and are 24 and 5. RPI OF 21. OSU or Indiana are going to snatch up Archie while we are losing meaningless first or second tournament games. then it will all start again next year. the highs and lows. bubble. bubble. how depressing


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:35 PM ^

You want to fire Beilein and hire Miller, a guy who is good at identifying under the radar talent and developing players. Good guy and his players seem to like him. So that 6-7 years later you can bitch about how he keeps recruiting under the radar guys instread of one and dones? The grass is always greener on the other side... I mean it isn't like Beilein has won the big ten or taken a team to the finals or anything relevant.

Brian Griese

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:45 PM ^

a Beilein hater explain to me where they're going to find a coach that:

-Is for sure going to come Michigan if offered
-Guaranteed to recruit better, chase after the one and dones and the All-Americans and get them without opening the money cannon
-Have an offense that is just as good with maybe having better tempo
-Vastly improve the defense

It's funny to me too, most of the names I've seen thrown out there are guys that have made a living finding and developing low-ranked guys, but the Beilein haters think they'll magically show up and every all-American will want to play here.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:46 PM ^

in a word, yes. Miller is doing more with less, only takes UTR players because he's at Dayton, not a power like MICHIGAN, and will turn out to be better than his Bro
who has been spectacular at Arizona. if we don't hire him well have to deal with him. Speaking of spectacular Morgan Miller in A2 would be great.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:55 PM ^

You say this in every thread. You put Miller in the B10 and pretty much every coach is going to run him out of the gym. Dayton has lost every tough, meaningful game they've played.

rob f

March 3rd, 2017 at 6:10 PM ^

pounding that damn drum out in the upper bleachers.

Not sure if I hate you more or those bastards in Atlanta doing the tomahawk chop all game long.

And don't get me started about the 'Go Cubs, go' song or all of Red Sox Nation.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:53 PM ^

it's always a gamble. we had Tommy Ammaker in his youth. wasn't as good as Beilein. sometimes the grass isn't greener. look at Iowa with Licliter or Minnesota with Tubby Smith. both hired around the same time as Beilein, both were considered "wins" for their respective hiring schools. Beilein outperformed/outlasted both. people take Beilein for granted. he has flaws, but it's far from a guarantee that anyone we land will be better than Beilein.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:17 PM ^

Not true. They very well may make the Final Four, but they're more unlikely to do so than other elite teams (top 15 in Efficiency Margin) who hit all of these criteria. Important distinction.

These classifications are also subject to change. If KU loses to Oklahoma State tomorrow in a close game and/or loses in the Big 12 Tournament, their luck will move down, possibly to a level in which they would hit all the criteria. UCLA is an interesting case as their defense has vaulted 30-40 spots up the rankings in recent weeks. If this continues, and they meet all other criteria, they will certainly be worth a careful look.


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:19 PM ^

That's only if these criteria have any predictive value.  I don't believe that they do -- and, in fact, your argument proves the point.  Does it make even the slightest bit of sense that a KU loss to OSU would improve their chances of being a Final Four team?

A system that produces counterintuitive results is not necessarily wrong, but it needs to be examined closely to make sure the conclusions are justified.  This particular analysis appears quite faulty. (I did a larger analysis elsewhere in this thread).


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:21 PM ^

Not only that, Beilein has been the at the front of the "modern basketball" movement where the emphasis is on 3 point shots and layups and elimination of mid-range jumpers with shooters everywhere. This is where all the NBA teams are going now with 7 foot plodding centers becoming a rare breed.

Why would we rely on data that looks back to irrelevant era with completely different playing style?

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

building up credibility by consistently winning (particularly on the road) makes it difficult for people to doubt a coach/his team/his program. Notice how some teams never seem to drop out of the polls and seem to start in the top-15 year after year (even when there are early departures).


For instance, why is Michigan Football ranked in the 2017 pre-season top-25 despite losing so many upperclassmen from the 2016 team to either the NFL and/or the draft?


And it's clear you're not familiar with Ken Pom's luck column. Here's the explanation:

"The new ones are Cons (Consistency) and Luck. The easiest one to understand is Luck, which is the deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record using the correlated gaussian method."

Ken Pom termed it "luck" but it's a misnomer.

Brian Griese

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:31 PM ^

for this year, and of the top 40, see how many you think will make the final four. I see one (Kansas). Given the luck explanation as you posted, I fail to see how it's not a stat skewed towards average to below average teams. For instance, Gonzaga in the regular season is "expected to win" damn near every game. So there luck rating is bound to suck because of the obvious and it does (148).

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:43 PM ^ CLEARLY says "Luck rank of at least 199 or greater (50 out of 60 have met)."

Hence, Ken Pom gives a huge range. There are 351 teams. So over 55% teams will qualify for this.

Here are the top-20 teams this year (ranked on that meet the aforementioned criteria:

- Gonzaga

- Villanova

- North Carolina

- Louisville

- Kansas

- Baylor



- Duke

- Oregon


- Butler


Moreover, you seem fixated on this category. All the categories work together to form a more complete picture.

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:19 PM ^

The defense and the pace are the 2 things that have bothered me about his tenure.


It's clear he can take underrated or lower-ranked players and build an elite offense. But he can't take those same players and build an elite defense. I'm resigned to the fact we will never have an elite defense (re: top-15-20 on Ken Pom) with Beilein as HC. There seems to be a fundamental tradeoff with his philosophy. But there's no damn reason why we can't have a defense inside the top-40.


On the other hand, pace can defintiely be fixed by pushing the ball up the court aggresively, progressing faster through reads in our sets, and trying more frequently to get to the rim. For instance, the 1-4high action we run can be done more crisply/precisely.




March 4th, 2017 at 3:09 AM ^

We still won't be great because Wagner just isn't a shot blocker/rim protector and gets abused in the post pretty badly.  He might bulk up and not get pushed around but he doesn't have the timing or arm length to block shots it appears. Interior defense is still going to be iffy. And with Robinson playing 20 min a game, that puts a ceiling on how good the d can be.

We should be better at preventing the dribble drive with X but he's so short people are still going to be able to shoot over him even if he's in great position.

Very curious to see Mathews but he can't be much better than Zak on defense because Zak is very good.

I do think our bad luck on opponent 3pt percent will regress to the mean a bit, and that alone will help. Also I think MAAR, DJ and others should be better in year 2 of Donlon. Could be our best defense since the Final Four team, although that's not saying much.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

Plain and simple . . . we live by the three and die by the three.
If we are hitting threes, we can overcome our defensive deficiencies.  If we aren't, we can't.
We are the type of team that can get hot and go on a run in the NCAA's.  But it's really hard for us to do it for 4 games in a row, especially since we would switch sites for the Regionals.
Not exactly how I would design a team given the way Michigan should be able to recruit.  But it is what it is.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:42 PM ^

Michigan does not live by the three and die by the three, any more than the 1-3-1 is a staple of their defense.  Their 3-point shooting is (a) consistent, and (b) less good, nationally, than ttheir 2-point shooting.

I've gone over this in other posts on the subject and I don't have time to recap it now, but you can find them if you're interested.  The short version is that the best barometer to the success of Michigan's offense is their two-point shooting percentage, because when the offense is operating well, it spreads the floor, opening up the pick and roll and the various types of cuts that generate easy looks.

Michigan plays a finesse, skill-based offense.  They do not attempt to out-muscle opponents, and they do not spend a lot of time trying to get post looks.  I understand that some people do not care for this style of play, and that's fine -- everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but this particular opinion is several years out of date.  (Think: pre-J-Mo).


March 4th, 2017 at 1:07 PM ^

Beilein's teams play at one of the slowest tempos in the country - they're ranked 343rd. Golden State is ranked second in the NBA in tempo. Golden State takes 35.9% of their shots from 3 - Michigan takes 45.1% of their shots from 3. Golden State is middle of the pack in offensive turnover percentage - they're 17th. Michigan is 5th in the country in offensive turnover percentage. They're really not similar at all.


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:25 PM ^

Beilein has had a productive run at Michigan and is, by all accounts, a wonderful person and ambassador, but his program construction is fatally flawed in the area of consistent success in March.

Nailed it.

You can't be 304th in the country in FG% defense (out of 350) and expect to win a national title. You can't recruit like you're at a mid major (every national champion since 1970 except 2012 UConn had at least 1 McDonalds All American on its roster) and expect to win a national title.

It's been 10 years so I don't expect him to suddenly find a solution to these problems. Unfortunate but its reality.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:38 PM ^

I was doing it from memory and I was wrong. It appears it was Maryland not UConn and it was in 2002. Also it was since 1979 not 1970. Here's the excerpt from ESPN. My apologies everyone.

Every year since 1979, except for one, there's been at least one McDonald's All-American on the national champion's roster. In fact, all but six of those teams had more than one McDonald's All-American on the roster. Somehow, though, Maryland coach Gary Williams won the 2002 national championship without a single McDonald's All-American on his roster. For the record, I voted for Chris Wilcox but he didn't make the game. Neither did Steve Blake, Juan Dixon or Lonny Baxter. In case you're wondering, San Diego State is the highest-ranked team in the country that doesn't have a McDonald's All-American. Will Kawhi Leonard be enough to help the Aztecs join the Terps?


March 3rd, 2017 at 4:26 PM ^

Could also translate to other team missing shots, turning it over and transition looks.  Or a team that is consistantly able to score quick and easy, ends up going far and with a higher pace.

Correlation does not equal causation.

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 4:31 PM ^

Hence, our team was not prepared to run a quick play going to the basket with 10 seconds remaining after Northwestern's miss.

MAAR, who is at worst our 2nd best player at attacking the rim, should have kept the ball and drove to the rim or initiated a PnR/PnP. Instead, we settled for a Zak Irvin 23 footer.

I recommend watching UNC play. The Tarheels are taught to push the ball up the court at every opportunity before the defense can get set. It goes hand-in-hand with UNC's reliance on bigs dominating the post. UNC is known for its transition offense and face pace. Look at UNC's adjusted tempo under Roy Williams and look at our adjusted tempo under John Beilein. There's a clear pattern.


March 3rd, 2017 at 5:50 PM ^

Michigan is top-15 nationally in eFG% in transition.  They are middle of the pack (164th) in % of initial field goal attempts after a rebound.  In other words, their transition game is very effective, but it's not used excessively.  They were -- or, should have been, based upon their in-game experience -- prepared to run a quick play.

Beilein coaches the team to take advantage of transition opportunities, but to run the offense if the opposition is able to recover.  I don't think this was a schematic failure so much as Irvin missing a shot that he appeared to rush.

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 6:26 PM ^

Yes, I know that we're very efficient at transition offense but don't do it often. Eamonn Brennan pointed this out in 2014 about the Stauskas-led team when he wondered why more fans didn't associate Michigan with slower pace of play the way casual fans automatically make that association with Virginia basketball under Tony Bennett.

The pattern holds in 2017:

Michigan averages 63 poessession per game which is 343rd.

Virginia averages 59.3 possessions per game which is 351st (the slowest).

By comparison, North Carolina averages 71.2 possessions per game which is 58th.


We should've been prepared to run a quck play but the way the play unfolded clearly shows that we lacked poise and the team organization. Often, many of our transition plays end in either dunks or wing 3s before a defense can get set. When a well-coached Northwestern team was able to get back on defense, MAAR gave up the ball and passed to Irvin who rushed a shot with 4 seconds left. Instead, MAAR should've called for a quick screen and tried to attack or dump off to Wagner. Settling for a 3 doesn't make sense in that scenario but I acknowledge that Irvin would've been hailed a hero if it had gone in.

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 7:50 PM ^

That the team didn't have the presence of mind to improvise and quickly run a set - even something as simple as a PnR - suggests that they're not adept at handling that type of pressure.

But to be fair, very few teams are capable of executing under that type of pressure. I recall Roy Williams facing some criticism last season for not calling a timeout in a similar situation. IIRC, an undermanned Duke team upset North Carolina in the Dean Dome when Joel Berry didn't run a good set play with time winding down in regulation.


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:36 PM ^

You're implying that they ran a poor play because their offensive scheme doesn't include transition play, particularly off of a miss.

Michigan is average at pushing the pace after a miss.  If your hypothesis were correct, I would have expected to see them toward the bottom of the pack in that statistic.  Therefore, I hold that their offensive scheme does include transition basketball after a miss, and that they should have been ready for it.

I agree that the play was rushed -- everyone acted like they had 5 seconds to get the shot off, rather than nearly 10.  But I don't think it's because they're not comfortable in transition -- I think it's because their upperclassmen made a series of poor decisions.  You can blame the players, or you can blame the coaching, but I don't think you can blame inexperience in transition.

Frank Chuck

March 3rd, 2017 at 7:59 PM ^

According to who or what?

Michigan excels in limited transition opportunities but those opportunities may have more to do with capitalizing on opponents' turnovers rather than aggresive fastbreak basketball following opponents' misses.

I would be interested to see a breakdown of what percentage of our transition points are from turnovers versus missed shots.