2008-2009 Season

Questions & Answers: One Month Progress Report

Michigan is sitting at 5-1 after a very successful November. Not many would have expected this team to beat UCLA and lose only one game (to Duke). I was convinced that Northeastern had at least a 50/50 shot to knock us off early in the season. However even with the surprising record there might be even more questions about this team now than before the season tipped off.

Should Anthony Wright be starting?

Using play by play data, I took a look at Anthony Wright’s numbers from tip off to the first media timeout. Besides the opening game against Michigan Tech the numbers weren’t encouraging.

Through 6 games Anthony’s stats in roughly the first four minutes are: 6 points, 2-12 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 2 steals, and 1 assist. In fact if you take out the Michigan Tech game these numbers are even worse: 0-10 shooting and 0 points. Michigan has also been trailing by an average of 2.66 points at the first media timeout.

For comparison’s sake I wanted to look at DeShawn Sims’ numbers in the first four minutes he’s in the game. Substitution data is apparently very hard to come by in the college game so I could only look at the first four minutes after DeShawn registered a statistic. DeShawn’s totals from roughly his first four minutes: 6-12 shooting, 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and 2 steals. (* Play-by-play data for UCLA and Duke games didn’t have anything besides rebounds and field goals)

While DeShawn’s numbers are clearly better than Ant’s, this could also just prove that DeShawn is a better spark off the bench. My biggest issue is that we are trailing by 2.66 points at the first timeout in games where we have won by an average margin of 11 points.

The concern I have with starting DeShawn is whether he really plays better coming off the bench, if he is more comfortable that way let it ride. There are plenty of other scenarios as well, DeShawn could start for Zack Gibson or Jevohn Shepherd could start for Anthony Wright.

The bottom line is that Michigan can’t afford to let a team like Maryland get off to a hot start on the road because they will never look back.

What effect has the three point line moving back had on shooting percentages?

The national average for three point shooting this year in the month of November is 33.7% compared to last year’s November average of 34.6%. However last years 34.6% was the highest November three point percentage in at least the last 10 years so this year’s number isn’t that unreasonable. Check StatSheet for every statistic imaginable about three point shooting.

Where has Michigan improved?

I posted a statistic earlier that Michigan’s three point percentage is much worse at this time than last year at this time 28.6% vs 36.3% last year. This number is also well below the national average of 33.7%.

Let’s take a look at the four factors:

08-09 07-08
eFG% 50.5 45.8
TO% 21.1 19.9
OR% 34.9 33.6
FT Rate 34.5 28.3

This is comparing this month’s numbers to last season’s numbers as a whole but still there is some remarkable improvement. Michigan’s eFG%, offensive rebounding percentage, and free throw rate have all shown improvement. The turnover percentage is probably influenced heavily by Michigan’s last game against Savannah State, before this game the turnover % was only 19.62.

The other improvement this year appears to be defense. Michigan is running the 1-3-1 zone a lot more successfully this year and it’s paying dividends.  Michigan’s opponents are shooting an eFG% of 43% compared to 51.4% last year.

Michigan has also improved in stealing the ball with a Steal% of 12.3 compared to 9.6 last year. Blocks are down from 9% to 7.3% which is understandable with the departure of Ekpe Udoh.

The Beilein recipe is to not turn the ball over, make three pointers, and create turnovers with the 1-3-1. Right now it appears that they are doing two of those things very well. This improvement along with Manny and DeShawn’s improvement inside the arc is carrying Michigan right now.

If you have questions on tempo free stats, start here.

Is Michigan a 2 man team?

The other issue is that right now Michigan goes as Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims go. Right now the duo combines for 54.48 % of Michigan’s points, 68.18% of free throws, 54.1% of offensive rebounds, 48.46% of defensive rebounds, 28% of assists, 33% of steals, 37.5% of blocks, 39.5% of turnovers.

Both Manny and DeShawn are playing better this year and also playing more consistently. DeShawn has increased his eFG% from 45.2% to 54.7 and is averaging 8 rebounds per game compared to 5.4 last year.  Manny has made even bigger improvements increasing his eFG5 from 43.1 to 58.3, his rebounds from 4.2/game to 8.0/game and assists from 2.7 to 4.2/game.

Right now these two kids are carrying the team and I guess you could say this is a bad thing but the improved efficiency is definitely encouraging.

What should Michigan fans expect this week?

Michigan has two very tough games this week with a road trip to Maryland and a home game against Duke. I think any Michigan fan’s should be pleased with a split.

This team hasn’t played a road game yet and Maryland will be a very good test. Vasquez is a streaky player and it will be important to slow him down early. Maryland looked solid in beating a Michigan State team that looked vastly overrated in Orlando. However they followed that game up with two sub-par performances against Gonzaga and Georgetown.

The Blue Devils are rolling and have a huge game at Purdue coming up Tuesday night. They handled Michigan with relative ease in their first matchup at the Garden and it would be hard not to predict another Duke win. Duke seemed to pick to the 1-3-1 zone apart for long stretches in that game. Michigan get’s another chance at home in front of a home crowd that will be out in full force.

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