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Archive for the ‘wolverines’ Category

Close but no cigar

Our friends from Ann Arbor did everything they could to do us a solid (as the kids say), nearly upsetting Wisconsin in Madison.  They fell just short, losing 64-61.

The Wolverines played with an intensity rarely seen from the Maize and Blue in recent years–particularly on the boards.  They pulled down 19 offensive rebounds in 33 opportunities for a whopping offensive rebounding percentage of 57.6% (geeky stat note: excludes team rebounds due to delayed posting of official box score).

Manny Harris was a revelation.  He scored 26 points on 11-19 FG shooting.  He scored on a variety of driving lay-ups and floaters.  He has a remarkable knack for creating off the dribble for a college freshman.

In the end, the Badgers did what the Badgers always seem to do: hit big shots at precisely the moments they need them.  The biggest was Marcus Landry’s 3-pointer with a hand in his face to put Wisconsin up by 4 and effectively end the game.

The Wolverines will be inconsistent this year due to their lack of depth, but this game serves as evidence that Beilein is slowly turning them around.  As he brings in new players and the team adjusts to his system, the Spartan-Wolverine basketball rivalry could become a great one.  For now, here’s hoping the Wolverines come in deflated on Sunday after losing a game they fought so hard in and we pin one more blow out on them.

As for Wisconsin, they avoided the big upset that MSU succumbed to in Iowa.  I start to get the feeling that making up for the Iowa loss is going to take a couple really big road performances by MSU against the conference’s other top teams.

In closing, let me offer up a bit of advice to Brent Musburger:   Every shot is not “huge.”  In the course of a good college basketball game, there are maybe 3-4 plays that really affect the momentum of the game.   I’d estimate that Musburger uses the word 15-20 times per game.  It’s a shame we’re forced to listen to his over-the-top calls for nearly every Big Ten game on ESPN–particularly in light of the fact that Steve Lavin is such a great color guy, seamlessly blending real basketball insight with a splash of personality.

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Be sure to check out bterp’s rundown of the Minnesota game.  Bterp is, in ascending order of importance, the following:

3) The Official Brother of the Brother-in-Law of the Spartans Weblog.

2) A DirecTV subscriber–so he actually, you know, watches all the games.

1) Someone who knows something about playing basketball–as opposed to someone who knows how to perform various statistical manipulations on a box score.

So pay him heed, Spartans Weblog faithful.

Steve Grinczel worries about “interceptions for touchdown”–turnovers that lead directly to baskets.  He notes that Northwestern leads the league in 3-pointers per game and turnover margin, which together could be the formula for an upset Thursday night.  He also quotes Izzo on the 18 turnovers vs. Minnesota:

“Turnovers are a still a deficiency,” Izzo said. “If you add them up, there were three stepped-out-of-bounds, three charges, seven travels… the majority of them aren’t of the bad-pass nature.”

That’s 13 of the 18 turnovers in the unforced error category (relatively unforced, at least).  Grinczel implies these aren’t as bad because they’re like punts; the other team still has to run its offense to score.   But the unforced error turnovers are also the most bothersome because they’re (1) not the result of being pressed (which can also lead to easy baskets) or (2) trying to create a scoring opportunity.  This is probably a topic for a future post: the classification of turnovers.  I could bust out a Venn diagram.

Seth Davis gives kudos to the Spartans for a quality road win in Minneapolis and notes that many of the teams in bottom half of the AP poll have at least one bad loss already.  This helps explain why MSU is still at #10.  I guess we have to remember our team isn’t the only one to occasionally drop a bad game–although most teams score more than 36 points when doing so.

Programming note: Sunday’s home game against the Wolverines is now a 1:00 start (previously noon). 

Speaking of the Wolverines, UMhoops asserts that Dave Dye’s recent blog post, which cites fan comparisons of John Beilein to Brian Ellerbe, appears somewhat unjournalistic.  I’d tend to agree.  And I don’t think it’s fair at this point to compare Beilein–who is trying to implement new offensive and defensive systems without much talent to work with–to Ellerbe–who inherited quite a bit of talent (Traylor, Bullock, Baston) and proceeded to run the program completely into the ground.  Dye usually does a pretty good job–so chalk this one up to a moment of snarkiness.

Finally, reason #64 that, for all its flaws, college basketball is so much better than the NBA: Count the number of steps Mr. Billups takes before he launches his game-tying 3-pointer (go to the 1:20 mark of the embedded video below for a close-up view of the play).  I count four.  The rule book says you get, at most, two.  Basketball is a tough sport to officiate, but the traveling call is a pretty easy one to make.  While the NBA has clearly made the decision that playing according to fixed rules isn’t good for the league, the college game is making steps back toward fundamental play by, for example, putting an emphasis on calling palming violations.

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Since MSU didn’t play a game mid-week, I thought I’d take a quick look at last night’s intra-state tilt between Michigan and Oakland. [Insert snarky joke about playing for bragging rights as the second best college basketball team in Michigan here.] You’ll recall this is the same Oakland team that took MSU down to the wire before losing by four points a couple weeks ago.

The Wolverines defeated the Grizzlies handily, 103-87. Official box score here. This was a pretty fast-paced game–77 possessions. But Michigan’s 103 points are still hugely impressive, equating to 1.34 points per possession. They shot the ball well from all areas: 64.3% on 2-pointers, 41.2% on three-pointers, and 87.5% on a whopping 32 free throw attempts. Everyone kicked in, with the bench contributing 31 points. Hence the glowing AA News recap of their offensive performance.

If I were a Wolverine fan what would concern me is that they still didn’t show much on the defensive end. Oakland’s 87 points still equate to a healthy 1.13 points per possession. The Grizzlies didn’t shoot very well (46.2% on 2-pointers, 33.3% on 3-pointers), but they took a whopping 76 shots from the field–plus 21 free throw attempts. This was mainly a function of not turning the ball over. They gave it up on just 8 possessions for a microscopic turnover percentage of 10.4%. If they’d connected on more of their 24 3-point attempts, they might have approached 100 points, too.

So the preliminary verdict on the Wolverines remains unchanged: pretty good potential on offense, but that 1-3-1 zone is a work in progress.

The Big Ten Chronicle has links to reports on other Big Ten action last night.

Additional Ginsu-knife-like bonus: I’ve updated my MSU individual tempo-free stat spreadsheet. Glossary here.

MSU TFS Spreadsheet (12/13/07) (PDF)

I won’t do a full rundown, but I do want to highlight Durrell Summers’ stats:

  • PPWS: 1.32
  • 3pt%: 66.7%
  • FT%: 92.9%
  • OR%: 13.7%
  • DR%: 15.3%

Those are some pretty impressive shooting and rebounding stats–albeit in fairly limited minutes (13.7 per game). It will be interesting to see if he can sustain numbers in this neighborhood when/if his minutes go up with Chris Allen out for at least one game.

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Surfing the information highway while listening to the Spartans on the radio . . .

Tommy Amaker took revenge on his former employer today, as the Harvard Crimson beat the Michigan Wolverines 62-51 in Boston.  The Crimson scored the final 11 points of the game.  Deshaun Sims led the Wolverines with 14 points, but took 18 FG attempts to do so.

The loss drops Michigan to 3-5.  Taking a gander at Michigan’s tempo-free stats sheet coming into the game, not a lot stands out–except the following:

  • Their opponents are shooting 43.0% from three-point range.  Michigan ranks 315th in the country on this stat.
  • Their opponents are recording assists on 65.2% of their field goal makes.  Michigan ranks 316th in the country on this stat.

While I have yet to see Michigan play this season, these stats would indicate that the Wolverines haven’t picked up John Beilein’s patented 1-3-1 defense yet.  Their opponents seem to be (1) passing the ball well over the zone and (2) getting and making good three-point looks. Beilein’s West Virginia team from last season actually held its opponents to the 7th lowest three-point percentage in the country–quite an achievement for a team playing a zone defense.

And the trapping inherent to the 1-3-1 zone doesn’t appear to be creating turnovers.  Michigan ranks 251st in the country on opponents’ turnover percentage at 20.2%.

The 1-3-1 zone is pretty fun to watch, so I’m looking forward to watching Michigan play under Beilein.  We’ll see if they can begin to implement the defense more effectively.  If not, it could be a very long season in Ann Arbor–as opposed to the Michigan football head coaching search, which only SEEMS like it’s already taken a long time.

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