Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Am I too pessimistic about Michigan basketball?

After yesterday's post on the basketball team, a few commenters noted that I was probably too pessimistic about the team and was showing a bias against Beilein. I took exception to that but realized that I hadn't ever fully explained why I was concerned about the direction of the team.

In short, my biggest concern is that Beilein isn't bringing in the kinds of (or level of) players that he needs to make his system successful. The shooters he's recruiting and mentoring aren't turning into the kind of knock down shooters that his style of basketball needs to be consistently good. But since he plays a high variance brand of basketball, you occasionally get games that look a lot closer than they should be against elite teams and a lot worse than they should be against bad teams. The only way to negate this variance is to find consistent performers and stock your team with them. In my opinion, Beilein hasn't done that and doesn't appear to be taking the team in that direction either.

So I decided to take a look at all of Beilein's WVU teams, as well as the last three year of Michigan's squad. I charted all of the players that recorded over 60 three-point attempts throughout the season (an average of about two per game). I then took those numbers and looked at what percentage of the team's three pointers were being taken by those players and what their collective shooting percentage was:
Year Record 60+ attempts % 3s from 60+ 60+ 3P% % total shots from 3
WVU 02-03 14-15 P. Beilein (36/105)
K. Pittsnogle (49/103)
J. Herber (35/92)
T. Sally (25/85)
D. Schifino (25/83)
J. Yeager (20/68)
536/593 (90.3%) 190/536 (35.4%) 593/1577 (37.6%)
WVU 03-04 17-14 J.D. Collins (19/47)
P. Beilein (69/170)
T. Sally (24/68)
K. Pittsnogle (53/144)
T. Relph (29/80)
462/656 (70.42%) 175/462 (37.87%) 656/1631 (40.2%)
WVU 04-05 24-11 P. Beilein (70/197)
K. Pittsnogle (60/141)
T. Sally (48/132)
M Gansey (44/127)
J. Herber (47/124)
F. Young (21/64)
785/885 (88.7%) 290/785 (36.94%) 885/1930 (45.8%)
WVU 05-06 22-11 K. Pittsnogle (91/227)
P. Beilein (67/203)
M. Gansey (75/175)
F. Young (42/134)
J. Herber (29/114)
J.D. Collins (20/63)
916/967 (94.7%) 324/916 (35.3%) 967/1875 (51.6%)
WVU 06-07 27-9 F. Young (117/270)
A. Ruoff (69/205)
J. Alexander (40/131)
D. Nichols (50/119)
D. Butler (39/113)
J. Smalligan (31/68)
906/989 (91.6%) 346/906 (38.2%) 989/2011 (49.2%)
Mich 07-08 10–22 D. Sims (43/142)
M. Harris (42/132)
A. Wright (35/123)
K. Grady (33/92)
R. Coleman (23/73)
562/731 (76.8%) 176/562 (31.3%) 760/1758 (43.2%)
Mich 08-09 21-14 M. Harris (52/159)
S. Douglass (52/155)
Z. Novak (52/151)
LLP (31/90)
K. Grady (30/83)
D. Sims (26/82)
720/912 (78.9%) 243/720 (33.7%) 912/1910 (47.7%)
Mich 09-10 15-17 S. Douglass (52/158)
M. Harris (48/156)
Z. Novak (44/144)
LLP (30/103)
D. Sims (21/74)
635/760 (83.5%) 195/635 (30.7%) 760/1758 (43.2%)

What you see probably isn't very surprising. Beilein's best team (06-07 West Virginia) saw 91% of their three pointers being taken by six players that were shooting a collective 38%--not to mention that they shot almost 1,000 threes that season. His worst seasons, obviously, are ones in which the majority of the three pointers are coming from a group of players that isn't shooting the ball very well (see: Michigan 09-10).

The more disturbing trend, IMO, is that Michigan's offense through 2009 didn't appear to have the definition that West Virginia's did during his time there. More than one in every five three pointers over the last three seasons has been shot by someone not in Michigan's core group of shooters, implying that Beilein had either given the green light to too many players or the team was just wildly undisciplined (my guess is the former). Much like Beilein abandoned the 1-3-1 last year, it seems that the schemes that made him a commodity at West Virginia were being scrapped for some sort of hybrid system.

This year, however, Hardaway, Novak, Douglass, Smotrycz, Morris, and Vogrich have all taken over 50 shots (about two a game, like above). These six account for alomst all of Michigan's threes--546/576 (94.7%)--and they're shooting at a decent clip, too--197/546 (36.1%)--which looks more like Beilein's better teams in the past and is far more defined that any of his previous Michigan teams.

These are not exactly the numbers I expected going into this process, though. After looking at the success of the 2008-09 season against the statistical breakdown above, the decline last year looks more reasonable: Beilein tried to define his offense in the mold of his previous success but was crippled by horrible shooting. This year, the team's shooting breakdown looks similar to that of previous successful Beilein teams and has some of the shooting to match. Not only does this look sustainable, but it looks like Beilein finally has a plan in place for this team.

I'm still concerned about the collective defense and big-man depth, but if this team can sustain this kind of performance and gain only experience next year, we could potentially see the same success Beilein generated in Morgantown. So while I don't think I was being overly pessimistic/biased, I was uninformed. Which is probably worse.


AG said...

While this year's defense is pretty weak, keep in mind that this is an unusually good year for Big Ten offenses, and a strong year for the Big Ten overall. Next year the Big Ten will be weaker, as PSU loses a senior-laden team, Purdue loses its 2 best players, MSU loses Summers and Lucas, OSU loses Diebler Lighty Lauderdale and maybe Sullinger and Buford.

Poole1Dan said...

Shooting the ball has been a problem in the Beilein era, but so has a string of bad luck. Robin Benzing never got into U-M while Ben Cronins body exploded. That's 2 seven footers who could be used against the Ohio States and Wisconsins of the world. Instead we've got Zack Novak and all his grit and blood at PF for 3 years running. Then you've got youth: the 2008 team and this years team were/are proposterously young. And I read a few months ago that according to Kenpom (or some source like that), the 2009 Michigan team was on the luckier said whereas the 2010 team was incredibly unlucky. Beilein can be blamed for being a piss poor recruiter compared to Thad Matta or Tom Izzo, but everytime I want to slice his throat, the Wolverines pull off impressive victories against solid basketball teams. He's going to get at least as much time as Amaker.

Go Blue!

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