Thursday, February 20, 2014

What a Wednesday! JUDGMENT SUNDAY!

If you are not watching college basketball yet, you missed a helluva' Wednesday Night…#1 Syracuse goes DOWN at HOME to a BC squad (7-19 and 3-10 in league play) that hasn’t done squat all year…Florida barely hangs on….And it was basketball Armageddon in Columbus!  I hope you are watching as there is nothing better than a B-ball upset in the making!  Well, maybe a no-hitter in baseball…but the upset is fun to watch go down.

Part of the driver (if not ALL of it) for BC’s Miracle at the Carrier Dome Victory:  Longtime Basketball Media Relations Director Dick Kelley passed away from ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease) at the age of 48.  To say that the team was insrpired was an understatement.  Read Forde’s column here for a complete run-down.  And if it doesn’t bring a tear or two to your eyes…well, you’re dead to this fan and I’ll never be able to reach you.
In case you didn’t see it, the Kitty Kats and the Suckeyes had a “Skirmish” on the floor that resulted in two ejections (one for each team) and a combined 10 free throws (back to back) once all the fouls and technicals were added up and shot.  They say that the Kitty’s started it…but youknow how much I hate the suckeyes, so I’m blaming it all on them!
St. Louis and Arizona both needed OT to get victories also!
Sheesh….what a Wednesday!
Judgment Sunday
First – Can you name this afro and 'stache circa the 1970’s "Porn Star", turned evil Basketball Coach?  See answer at the end….

Heading into what will probably be the deciding weekend of who will win the B1G, I have been perusing several of the blogs that have a lot more time (read – no job) and knowledge (read – Stat Monkeys) than the ole MMPG.  What I have been able to gather from this research and have more or less gleaned from watching this team this season is this:
When Michigan does what they do on offense and executes to or above their averages, they’re pretty much unstoppable.  But, even when they are doing that, they are the worst defensive team in the B1G. 
Yep…That’s sad.

Here’s some info from mgoblog (WARNING:  If you are the defensive minded type when it comes to hoops, you are about to see something that might make you puke):
Rebound (9th in B1G)
Steal the ball (11th)
Block shots (12th)
Defend two-pointers (12th)

This team is fourth in the conference in three-point defense (both by 3PA/FGA and 3P%), yet they're still prone to giving up wide open looks and occasionally getting torched—while Yogi Ferrell and Roy Devyn Marble both shot far better than their averages suggest they should've, Michigan's perimeter defense had a hand (or, well, didn't) in that.

And this:
It's not good. Gasaway's Tuesday Truths have one over-arching truth for Michigan fans:

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Iowa              8-4   68.5    1.13    1.00    +0.13
2.  Michigan St.     10-3   63.7    1.10    0.98    +0.12
3.  Wisconsin         8-5   62.9    1.12    1.03    +0.09
4.  Michigan         10-3   61.8    1.15    1.07    +0.08
5.  Ohio St.          7-6   63.7    1.02    0.97    +0.05
6.  Minnesota         6-7   62.9    1.06    1.07    -0.01
7.  Purdue            5-7   64.7    0.99    1.03    -0.04
8.  Indiana           4-8   64.9    0.97    1.02    -0.05
9.  Nebraska          6-6   63.9    0.96    1.02    -0.06
10. Penn St.          4-9   66.2    0.99    1.08    -0.09
11. Illinois         3-10   63.8    0.94    1.04    -0.10
12. Northwestern      5-8   60.9    0.88    1.02    -0.14
AVG.                        64.1    1.03

That is: they are the worst defense in the league save for Penn State.  (HT:mgoblog)

So, Penn State plays defense worse than Michigan.  And that’s it.  But, look at how sucky you can be if you play decent defense but can’t score:  Sparty and suckeyes.  Granted, Sparty is tied for the top spot in the B1G, but there are others in the low 1.02-1.03 opponent PPP that just can’t win….Hence, I’m glad Michigan is an offensive juggernaut (When it wants to be!).
What does it all boil down to?  I still think Michigan has a better than average chance of winning Sunday against the Green Slime as the Slime will be under a lot more pressure to win.  (And if Purdon't can help us out tonight!) I think Michigan plays loose and starts shooting like mad men.  Sparty loses and Michigan secures at least share of the B1G title.  Even with a loss, Michigan is still way ahead on a Kenpom probability basis at 50% to win the title outright and at a 70+% rate to share the title, assuming they hold serve against the remaining games and opponents on their schedule.  (Top 4 - 95+%!!) 
But teams that are historically THIS BAD on defense that end up with a top 4 seed in the NCAA’s (after winning their conference) typically do NOT find their way out of the first weekend and usually lose in an “Upset” to a lower seed that can play defense in the round of 32.  There are plenty of examples of notable seeds (Indiana last year, Arizona in the 90’s – Michigan vs. Ohio 2 years ago) that had poor defensive efficiency that were upset in the 1st round!   So, there’s that….Which sucks…
Does it mean it’s not fixable?  I dunno…As they say, by this time in the season, you are who you are.  Michigan is a three point shooting dynamo that can get so far ahead of teams that it simply breaks their opponents' spirit.  But if they can’t stop the other guys early, well, they can’t set up the “Big Run” you need to come from behind and win games.   Yes – Burke, Harday and  McGary left offensive holes that were filled quite nicely.  But the defensive holes they left are what have become glaringly apparent at this point.
The one thing that’s worth mentioning is that throughout history, Belein’s teams have traditionally sucked at defense.  It’s said his theory ( is that by playing a softer defense and not exhausting players trying to deny their opponents points,  the legs and players are “fresher” at the end of any given game (and season) and can outplay their opponents at that point on the offensive end, assuming they are still in the game.  Again, I dunno if I buy into this completely, but it’s what we have to live with as Michigan fans.  And so far, so good.
What will Sparty do Sunday?
This one seems fairly easy to me:  Izzo and staff will watch the Wiscy and Iowa games and do with their big guys what both of those teams managed to do.  And hope that Harris shows up and hits some shots.  IF (big IF) neither or at least one of those things does NOT materialize, Sparty struggles in the game and Michigan keeps it close.  Dawson supposedly gets his pins out tomorrow (?).  I will believe that when I see it.  The MMPG’s guess is that kid is on the floor on Sunday in some way, even if in relief minutes if he is even in the remotest sense of the word, available. 
Of course, Sparty fully expected to be in the driver's seat on Sunday, but the Huskers saw to it that they remained tied...Can the Spoilers help Michigan out tonight?  Expect a report tomorrow if THAT happens in West Lafayette...Because you know that all the Sparty's are expecting a big W there!
Wiscy @ Iowa:  Yep – I’m a Wiscy fan as another Iowa loss would definitely but the Black Birds out of reach for a share of the title.  If Wiscy holds to form and can execute in Iowaland…all should be good.

Gophers @ Suckeyeland:  I’m not saying the Gophers NEED to win this game, but the GOPHERS ABSOLUTELY NEED to win this game.  I really think even with the relatively high RPI (mid 40’s upon last check), the B1G has not done themselves any NCAA Tournament favors by eating their own this season.  Illinois upsetting the Gophers on Wednesday didn’t help, either.  Gophers could still pull off a run in the B1G Tournament that would secure the bid…but still, it’d be nice to have the W in ohio….
Mystery Photo

Did you guess correctly?  The current B1G coach sporting the Porn Stache is none other than the Izzo Troll himself!  Gotta love the fro and collar on that shirt!

You can almost hear him asking the question:  “Where’s the fluffers?”

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