If you’re still trying to figure out why Michigan is struggling then you need to look no further than this chart. The chart graphs the proportion of three point field goal attempts (3PA/FGA) on the vertical axis versus 3PFG% on the horizontal axis. The origin of the graph is located at the conference averages (36% 3p%, 35% 3PA/FGA).
We’ve looked at this chart before, notably before the season when I plotted last year’s Big Ten conference-only numbers (there is also more explanation of the graph at this link) along with the numbers from Beilein’s past 5 teams. After plotting out all the data I concluded that Michigan was moving in the right direction, headed toward the upper-right quadrant where most of Beilein’s previous teams lived. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While we are on the subject of preseason prognostication, give Luke Winn a little credit for identifying Michigan’s potential three point problems before the season.
I like this Michigan team almost as much as the Geeks do; my only hesitation is that they don’t have the same caliber of shooters that the Mountaineers did in ’05, when Pittsnogle hit 42.6 percent of his treys, and five others hit 34.5 percent or higher (Mike Gansey, Joe Herber, J.D. Collins,Tyrone Sallyand Patrick Beilein). The Wolverines don’t have a single returning player who shot higher than 34.4 percent.
But then take that credit away because it didn’t stop him from ranking Michigan 16th in his preseason rankings. For more sobering and bewildering graphs, check out the Big Ten Geeks preseason look at Michigan showing the yearly improvement of John Beilein’s teams at West Virginia from year 1 to 3.
Back to the three pointers. Michigan is by far the worst three point shooting team in the conference (country!) and they continue to keep chucking them up (but do they really have a choice?). Interestingly enough, the Big Ten teams who shoot an average number of three pointers or less (I’m including Wisconsin because they are so close to the average) are 16-6 in conference play compared to the three point happy teams which are a combined 5-15.
Does this give credence to the idea that a three point centric offense doesn’t work in the Big Ten? Maybe, but I think it’s much more likely that the perimeter oriented teams in the Big Ten just can’t hit enough shots. All but Ohio State fall below the average three point shooting percentage.
Let ‘Em Play
In a critique of whistle happy Big 12 refs, John Gasaway uncovered that the free throw rate in the Big 12 conference play is higher than any other league. What I found interesting but not all that surprising was that the Big Ten is at the bottom of the list:
Major-conference FT rates, 2009: conference games only
FTA/FGA Big 12 0.39 ACC 0.34 Pac-10 0.34 SEC 0.34 Big East 0.33 Big Ten 0.32
The Big Ten would probably be considered the most physical conference. Michigan State and Purdue, rightfully so, have the national perception of extremely physical and tough teams.
Yet, somehow the conference has the lowest number of free throws attempted. This does nothing more than back up the point that Big Ten officials love to “let ‘em play”. They allow more physical play and enable teams like Purdue, Michigan State, and Minnesota to play their trademark defense.
Beilein is certainly one coach that would prefer to have the game officiated more strictly. After Michigan committed 23 fouls at Indiana, John Beilein actually praised the referees:
“I want the game to be officiated like it is. Hands on, we fouled three jump shooters and we’ve spoken to them about that,” Beilein said
As I mentioned in the Northwestern post-game, John Beilein’s contract was extended until 2016 this week and the announcement happened to come on the heels of one of Michigan’s most painful losses of the season. I think Brian Cook hits the nail on the head when he points out that in no way was this decided after the season started. Michigan is not trying to reward him for this year’s gravely disappointing season, they simply worked out a deal to reward him for taking last year’s team to the NCAA tournament.
Was this deserved? It’s tough to say that it isn’t. Michigan hadn’t made the dance in 10 years and the breath of fresh air that Beilein pumped into this program is undeniable. There is no denying that this year has been painful and next year doesn’t look great on paper. But at this point Beilein has earned the right to play out his hand.
John Gasaway posted a very early version of conference-only efficiency margins. Interestingly enough, Michigan has a positive efficiency margin mostly thanks to their offense which is tied with Purdue for 2nd best in conference play.
Ken Pomeroy examines the first minute of a college basketball game and concludes that it is the least exciting.
Ohio State came away with a huge win at Purdue last night thanks to the play of Evan Turner (32 points, 9 reb, 3 ast) who managed to overshadow Robbie Hummel’s impressive 8 of 13 3 point shooting for 35 points and 10 rebounds. In tonight’s Big Ten action, Michigan State hosts Minnesota.
Jordan Dumars appears to be enjoying his first few days in Ann Arbor.
If you’re in the Lansing area, there is a nice opportunity to check out some quality high school basketball on Saturday at the Mr. Basketball Classic hosted by Lansing Eastern. 2010 Michigan target Jon Horford will be in action in the 4PM game when his Grand Ledge team faces host Lansing Eastern. The nightcap, Detroit Pershing vs. Detroit Country Day (8pm), should also be a great game matching up two of the top players in the state in Keith Appling (MSU) and Ray McCallum (Amir Williams is injured).