Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The strange consistency of the Michigan Wolverines, part II
In Ann Arbor: Michigan State vs. Michigan (ESPN, 7 ET)
It's past time for a fresh round of theorizing around here. So:

The Michigan theory of chaotic status quo. All Michigan events and decisions sum to zero and perpetuate the status quo in Ann Arbor. Even seemingly diametrically opposed actions work in concert to reproduce the past. (How Hegelian!)

Take this year....

You wouldn't know it to look at their record or their coverage but the Wolverines' defense this year is significantly better than it was last year. Only problem being, of course, that their offense also happens to have fallen off by almost the exact same margin, netting out to still another year of uncertainty in late February.

So Tommy Amaker's late-season decision to start Ekpe Udoh in place of Courtney Sims would ordinarily be seen as a tacit acknowledgment that he's moved his chips onto the "defense" square for the rest of the year. (I don't know that I've ever seen a situation quite like the Sims case. Here's a senior who started the first game of his freshman year and has more or less started ever since. And he's benched in the February of his final season. Wow. Fortunately the Lansing State Journal isn't the paper of record for the Wolverines so we were at least spared the Elwood P. Dowd "Sims sits to strengthen Michigan bench" headline.)

As a starter, Udoh in fact becomes arguably Michigan's most important player. The strength of this newly defensive-oriented team is its interior defense. And Udoh blocks shots at a rate exceeded in the Big Ten only by a certain someone in Columbus. Playing alongside Brent Petway, Udoh gives opposing teams reason to think twice before venturing into the lane.

Thing is, Amaker didn't just bench Sims, he benched Ron Coleman, too, and replaced the latter in the starting lineup with Jerret Smith. This move gets some assists into the starting lineup--but it gets some turnovers there, too. Almost precisely as many turnovers, in fact, as Amaker removed with the benching of Sims.

Amaker's even Steven, no matter what he tries.

BONUS second-guessing! Is giving Sims' minutes to Udoh really such a no-brainer in terms of defense? Yes--as long as there's no rebound to be secured. Then Sims is far superior to the frisky freshman, who rebounds a paltry 13 percent of opponents' misses while he's in the game. Sims, by contrast, pulls down 20 percent.

Lester Abram. Godot. Compare. For years we waited for the season where Abram would be healthy. When that day came, it was said, look out. Well, that day came this season and the results have been surprisingly meh. Abram apparently scores more efficiently when hobbled, if his 1.09 PPWS while healthy is any indication. (Dion Harris--1.06 PPWS--has also struggled. Amaker simply has no offensive options that combine efficient scoring with a lack of turnovers.)

(By the way, if you're interested here's part I.)

If you can find a shorter game preview, I'll delete my verbs!
Tonight's game features the two most
turnover-prone teams in the Big Ten. But TOs hurt Michigan State more than they do the Wolverines. So the Spartans' chances of pulling off the road win increase with each turnover they don't commit. (More here.)

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Amaker says finishing the year with home games against Michigan State and Ohio State presents his team with "opportunities"; Sims says winning both would change the perceptions of this team; Ann Arbor News columnist Jim Carty says amen to that; Wolverines found to be "erratic"; Spartans found to be focused and Izzo-flavored; Drew Neitzel said to be over the flu, yet only "90 percent" certain to play.

Wisconsin big man Brian Butch is expected to miss four to six weeks with a fractured right elbow.

Ohio State is number 1 in both polls.

Indiana is treating tomorrow night's game at Northwestern as a must-win.

Penn State guard Ben Luber may be done for the year and Jamelle Cornley may miss tomorrow night's home game against Iowa.

Illinois is being called a tournament "lock" by some but not by Bruce ("We can't bomb at the end") Weber, who says this season's been "difficult."

O, the blogging! O, the fatigue!
It's that time of year, bay-bee! Seven-day-a-week blogging commences Monday and goes through the national championship game. Next week's festivities to include:

--2007 All-Wonk (the official 2.0 release)
--The 2007 tempo report--how fast (or not) did the "power" conferences play this year?
--Other things I make up before then

Tune in next week!

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Why do POTs shoot twos so well?

I didn't notice until now that Northwestern is shooting over 50 percent on their twos. At first I struggled to understand why a team that is so effective from inside and so horrific from outside (27.3 3FG pct. in-conference) would insist on being a POT (42 percent of their shots are threes).

So after thinking this through, I realized that while Northwestern may have the three-point attempts of a POT, their offense is actually designed to get easy twos. It's their inability to create easy twos in under 35 seconds that causes them to decide to shoot so many threes.

I have a feeling Northwestern would be much more dangerous without a shot clock, not only because there would be fewer possessions per game, but also because the Cats would have the all the time they need to create the good shots they're looking for.

Robin F.

Thanks, Robin! Note also that West Virginia last year devoted the lion's share of their attempts to threes--and missed a lot of them. But the Mountaineers were uncannily accurate on their (rare) twos. Hmmm....

<< Home

wonk back!
email me

a very special wonk
the blog's final days

me, simmons, and 150 million other american males
the four dullest topics for a hoops blog
drama, magnitude, and finality
2007 "power"-conference velocity report
special report: in tedium's path
stop DAD: defensive attention deficit
consistency, threes, and stereotypes
they shoot free throws, don't they?
every rebound needs an adjective
fouls: call fewer or allow more
was norman dale wrong?
what's PPWS?
POT: perimeter-oriented team
symphony of altruists
mammalian theory of extreme home-court advantage
law of november weight change
scoring and preventing points: how to

tempo-free aerials
(conf. games only)
big east
big ten
big XII

geek chorus
intro to tempo-free stats
2007 big ten team tempo-free stats
2006 big ten team tempo-free stats
2005 big ten team tempo-free stats
state of the stats, april '06

canonical bloggers
yoni cohen
ken pomeroy
kyle whelliston
ryan kobliska
chris west
brian cook

November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
August 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
August 2006
September 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
October 2007