Oklahoma Wins; Season Over

Michigan succumbed to the Sooners, but for some reason I’m not mad. It wasn’t our year yet. Our two best players had foul trouble for most of the game, leading to lots of playing time for Walkons, Canadians, and Anthony Wright.

Speaking of whom, dude killed it tonight. Even if he reverts to Anthony Wright 2007-08 next year, I still don’t think I can make fun of him again, because he was a stone cold sniper in a tournament game. For Michigan. Anthony Wright. Seriously.

It’s a small miracle Michigan got to this point, much less gave a #2 seed one hell of a game. However, there’s a reason Blake Griffin is basically the consensus player of the year. He’s a damn good ball player. There’s also a reason opposing fans hate him, on top of the “beating the hell out of their team” thing. He acts like a bitch, is one of the cockiest players to ever not draw a taunting technical, is ginger, etc.

Getting to the NIT was a lofty goal for this team at the beginning of the season. Making the tournament was absolute gravy, despite what many people expected after wins over UCLA and Duke. Getting to the second round was just short of unbelievable, and we ran into a decent team with the best player in the country. So be it. Michigan in the tournament is crazy enough.

A more comprehensive basketball season wrapup is coming later next week, then you may return to your regularly-scheduled footballcentric programming.

A los barcos, hemos quemado.

Posted under Basketball

Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on the Sooners of Oklahoma at 5:50 PM tonight on CBS in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The game takes place in Kansas City, Missouri at the Sprint Center.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Oklahoma: National Ranks
Category Michigan Oklahoma Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Oklahoma eFG% D 115 42 O
Mich eFG% D v. Oklahoma eFG% 151 7 OO
Mich TO% v. Oklahoma Def TO% 19 313 MMM
Mich Def TO% v. Oklahoma TO% 133 119 O
Mich OReb% v. Oklahoma DReb% 290 122 OO
Mich DReb% v. Oklahoma OReb% 219 52 OO
Mich FTR v. MSU Oklahoma FTR 329 26 OOOO
Mich Opp FTR v. Oklahoma FTR 25 5 O
Mich AdjO v. Oklahoma AdjD 47 52
Mich AdjD v. Oklahoma AdjO 64 11 O

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

Oklahoma is going to be a big favorite in this game, as should be expected of a 2-seed going up against a 10-seed. The Sooners are better than Michigan in nearly every facet of the game. In fact, the only area in which Michigan is expected to be better is not turning the ball over themselves. This means the Wolverines absolutely must hold onto the rock (and they did a decent job against Clemson), and hit the shots that they have open. Of course, the paint is going to be a very troublesome area for Michigan, as even Clemson’s non-all-everything players were able to get theirs and more from the lane. Oklahoma’s advantage in rebounding is surprisingly small to me, especially following the dismal performance on the defensive glass against Clemson. KenPom predicts a 73-67 Clemson win in a 65-possession game.

EEK! Blake Griffin! Who is the last guy that this Michigan team, what with their small size and inability to match up well in the paint wants? Why, a center who happens to be the leading candidate for most Player of the Year Awards! DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson’s ability to defend Griffin without fouling too much is of paramount importance in this game. Because of that, I expect to see a lot of 2-3 zone. The only other Sooners I know off the top of my head are Griffin’s “big” brother Taylor, and that point guard with the hideous hair decisions on both head and chin.

Yeah, so this is a really, really bad matchup for Michigan. I want to delude myself into thinking Michigan can win, but there’s no way I can convince the rational side of me. The success of the 2-3 zone is encouraging, and Oklahoma’s smaller rotation (only 7 players get significant playing time) certainly helps. Considering Griffin has been beat up of late, suffering a concussion against Texas toward the end of the regular season, and getting flagrantly fouled Thursday against Morgan State, the Sooners may wish they had spent more of the year developing depth. However, I’d rather predict a Michigan loss and be pleasantly surprised when they win than predict a win (foolishly) and be disappointed and wrong if they lose. So yeah, Michigan might be able to make this one close, but I really see this as a matchup of doom.

Posted under Analysis, Basketball

Friday Quick Hits

…because I’m pseudo/fully lazy.

Important games today:

  • Michigan baseball home opener 3:05 EDT at Ray Fisher Stadium. The Wolverines take on IPFW. Paul and I will be in the house, so stop by and say hey.
  • Michigan hockey in the CCHA semifinals against Alaska. Yost Built has 10 Things to Know about the Nanooks.
  • Michigan lacrosse against Eastern Michigan in their CCLA conference opener. 8PM at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Come support an awesome club varsity team. $3/6 for students/non.

Hockey Sophomore Louie Caporusso has been named a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Great honor for the young player, though his torrid goal pace from the beginning of the year didn’t hold up.

Michigan Sports Center has your first glimpse at the 2009 student football shirt. For the record, I don’t mind the slogan on the back, more as a reminder to those who wear them than as decoration for other people to see.

Saturday’s basketball game against Oklahoma will take place at 5:50 PM EDT. Don’t forget to check out last night’s victory post, and I’ll have your preview of the Sooners coming tomorrow.

Speaking of posting previews on the weekend and such, I know the semi-regular schedule around here has gravitated toward “hectic and random” of late, but it’s a fairly busy time, what with the basketball team in the Tournament and all. Once they bow out, the football-centric Varsity Blue you know and love should return.

Recruiting Update coming this afternoon.

Posted under Baseball, Basketball, Blog News, Hockey

Where Does the Offense Go From Here?

Much to the delight of Michigan fans (or maybe just bloggers), Smart Football has taken a fairly serious interest in Michigan since Rich Rodriguez has been the headman. Of course, part of the reason that the Wolverines get mentioned time and again is the fact that everything is not all sunshine and lollipops in Ann Arbor. Of course, Rodriguez has never taken a significant interest in the defensive performance of his teams, so surely the focus of Smart Football is on that side of the ball, no?

Not So Fast My Friend. It is in fact the offense that Chris has taken an interest in. More specifically, it is the idea that Michigan’s offense is not as diversified or systematic as perhaps it should be. This is not an old issue for Chris, who has brought up the point before that the passing game is not conceptually designed. In the more recent post, he goes a little more in-depth:

If Rodriguez wants his offense to be truly elite again, it’s the passing game that has to be the source of innovation. The run game tools are largely in place. There’s some room for improvement all around, but, last season with general inexperience — and without a legitimate running threat at quarterback — the lack of a viable downfield passing attack worked to help cripple the Rodriguez offense. But the fact that this aspect never developed over the course of the season was what really troubled me.

There’s much more to say on this topic, but for now suffice to say that Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it’s of a slightly different order with Michigan.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Passing Game
Smart Football sez:

But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you’d think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall. The only hope is the increased athleticism masks these deficiencies.

Brian’s take on the matter is that Rodriguez hasn’t been forced to have a complex passing game, because with Pat White at the helm, a dominating run game and simple pass game will work just fine, thank you. I tend to agree with that assessment, and it better be true, because, as noted by Smart Football, the Wolverines are likely a year away from being able to add any complexity to the passing game.

With Pat White able to run the ball like he did, and probably not able to pass well enough to have a full pass game installed, it’s easy to see a potential reason the pass game stayed stagnant. Rodriguez’s recruiting has shown that he’s more interested in being able to throw the ball, however, and Tate Forcier may even be a better passer today than White, if not quite the runner:

Running Game
Smart Football:

Compare their offenses with Rodriguez’s: there’s not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure.

All due respect to Smart Football (and I may be wrong here, because he knows a hell of a lot more about the game than I do), but I’d be willing to say that even Rodriguez’s ground game, at least as implemented last year, is simpler than other spread teams, most notably Florida and Oregon. Again, part of that might have been players who were less-than-optimal for the spread offense, particularly at the quarterback position.

In the future, however, a diversification of the offense, perhaps including innovations like Meyer’s use of the H-back as a shovel option, or more counters, even the triple option/throwback pass that WVU used in the Meineke Bowl. Having better fits at the QB position, and not having to install just that base offense all offseason, will certainly help that in the future.

The Future

Perhaps Pat White got a bad rap as a passer, or maybe Bill Stewart actually knew what he was doing for WVU’s offense, thoughthe stats don’t agree – and that’s in a year where a senior Pat White was supposed to lead WVU to one of the most prolific offenses ever. However, with White looking more like a quarterback than a wideout or return man at the NFL (for better or for worse), it looks like Rodriguez’s schemes will be able to develop more complexity down the road.

As far as diversifying schemes goes, Chris points out that Oklahoma is an example of a spread team with a much more complex (and effective) passing game than Michigan’s. The use of the tight end is pointed out specifically. In fact, Rodriguez has reportedly planned to visit Oklahoma’s coaches in the offseason to trade information on the passing game, particularly the use of tight ends (of which Michigan has many who aren’t getting very much use).

In the future, I would love to see visits to Florida as well, for diversifying the running game a bit, along with figuring out other ways to use the tights ends effectively in the spread offense.

And, as pointed out by Smart Football, Oregon’s offense is one of the best-designed as well. I’ve pointed out in the past that I don’t think Michigan’s schemes are as creative as Oregon’s, and that’s one area where there is room for improvement. Perhaps in the future, Rodriguez can pick the brain of Chip Kelly.

And, most importantly for the future comes recruiting. Rodriguez has more resources available at Michigan than he ever did at West Virginia. White’s emergence as a possible NFL QB has to help recruiting as well. Even if he didn’t tweak his offense at all, if he continues to recruit like he has for the past two classes (or, more likely, improves it by having more success on the field), He could be able to usurp the quality of his offenses in Morgantown. With minor improvements to certain aspects of the offensive side of the ball, an outstanding offense is likely in the future of Michigan football.

Posted under Coaching, Football