Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday's Hearsay and Conjecture: Extra Crispy

Tommy Amaker = Matt Millen

I'm a big Michael Rosenbloom fan. The articles he pens for the Free Press almost make up for the paper employing a jackass like Drew Sharp. But the "Amaker is Millen" analogy is just perfect. Did you realize both men have been around for 6 years? Of course you didn't. You've been trying to fantasize that neither man really exists and that it's all just a horrible nightmare that you'll wake up from soon. Or is that just me?

In his most recent editorial Rosenbloom took aim at Tommy Amaker, criticizing Michigan's head basketball coach for the hollow praise from this young season that continually emanates from the Coach's mouth. Exhibit 1: "We're 11-1 right now," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker pointed out. "I feel like sometimes I'm still having to answer for things. I don't know what else we could do -- be 12-0?"

As I pointed out yesterday (and Rosenbloom points out today), Michigan's schedule to date has been less than stellar. No. That's not true. It's been terrible. Michigan has played three teams with winning records: NC State (7-2), Harvard (7-4!?), and Davidson (9-3). That's it. The won/lost record for this season's schedule is 51-74, and most of these schools are MAC or Southern League schools.

As much as Tommy tells us the schedule is the answer, we've played three NCAA tourney teams from last year with two (UCLA and G-Town) upcoming, it sounds more like a punchline. Michigan is 1-1 against last year's Tourney teams with a winning record (W Davidson, L NCST). However, no one will mistake Davison for an ACC top-middle program. The other team, Milwaukee-Wisconsin is 2-10 on the year.

Rosenbloom correctly points out that Michigan has the opportunity to prove it is a NCAA tournament worthy team if it can pull off the upset at UCLA. Fat chance. Rosenbloom also points out that Michigan is 17-37 on the road under Amaker. That's a bad, bad statistic. No one expects a team to be perfect away from home. Far from it. But people do expect competence on the road. Go .500. We're cool with that. But when your team loses more than two-thirds of its games on the road, you've got a problem. What makes it worse is the following:

Michigan's 17 road wins include five over Penn State, which fields a team only for tax purposes. And another two over Northwestern, which never has made the NCAA tournament. And then there were the road wins that only look good with parenthetical assistance: over (South) Florida and Boston (University, not College). And one over a Minnesota team that finished 10th in the Big Ten. And one over Butler.

The W/L stats are not in Michigan's favor. The way Michigan is playing right now doesn't inspire confidence either. MGoBlog "live blogged" the NCST game and went to the NIU game and Hoover Street Rag live blogged the NIU game as well. Bring kleenex to wipe your eyes. This is not a team that is playing well heading into its biggest game of the year to date.

At point Dion Harris has been serviceable. He's far and away taken the most shots on the team with 131. He's also missed more shots than all but three of his teammates have taken. On the plus side, he averaging around 5.5 assists a game and running the "offense" decently. I love his 63 assists, but I hate his 31 turnovers. Better shot selection and a few more drives to the paint would greatly help Harris' season. Jarret Smith has been useless, shooting at a mind numbing 37% clip while averaging 19 minutes a game. Just a thought, isn't a PG supposed to be able to drive the lane and create some opportunities? Instead he's standing at the top of the key waiting for other people do the work for him. Shooting 4 (four, quatro, catre) free throws in 12 games also tells me you suck right now.

At forward Brent Petway and Lester Abram have been meh. Petway has been a defensive stud, leading the team in blocks (24) and boards (92) but still hasn't managed to put it together consistently on the offensive end of the floor. It's generally thought that if you can keep Petway away from the rim, he's not going to hurt you. So far that's been true. Petway's gotten himself into trouble with turnovers, and when he's gotten to the basket and been fouled, his 68% free throw shooting doesn't scare anyone. If given space he can knock down a jumper. But he's more apt to force a bad jumper than set up a good one.

Abram's quietly been very disappointing this year. He's third on the team in shots, but like Harris, they're not going in. Against NIU he scored a season high 14 points on 5-11 shooting. He's hovering around 40% for the year but hopefully is showing signs of heating up. When shooting 10 times or more he's around a 45% hit rate, but he's not shooting enough. At this point he's only launching 7 shots a game. That's not enough out of him. Especially when his defense is akin to using a tampon to stop a tsumani.

The pleasant surprise of this season so far has been Epke Udoh. Despite the fact he's only play 18 minutes a game he's second on the team with 23 blocks, pulling down 4.5 boards, and taking care of the ball. Despite his youth and lack of playing time he's reached double digits twice and has a 9/11 assist to turnover ratio. I can't wait to see what he does over the course of his career.

Finally there's dear Courtney Sims. God love him, he's my favorite 7 foot toothpick. Stat wise Courtney's having a great start to the year. Matched up against another 7 footer against NIU he poured in 21 points and grabbed 13 boards, his third double-double of the year. But as Hoover Street Rag points out, they've been ugly. The one thing I haven't been able to figure out at this point (as Michigan games aren't broadcast often in Chicago) is whether Sims is being properly utilized. The thing that bugs me the most is that during the NCST game Sims had 7 shots when Harris had 20.

As I figure it, Sims has touched the ball a minimum of 176 times during the season. I got the 176 by adding assists (6), turnovers (30 [sheesh]), FGA (110), and free throw attempts divided by 2 (61/2=30.5). Not exactly scientific, but reasonable enough for the purposes of the conversation. 176 offensive possessions by Sims and 187 points, roughly a point everytime they feed him the ball at 1.06 points per "possession". If you want to get technical add 12 point to the total for his assists, but it doesn't change the outcome too much, giving him 1.13 points per "possession."

Harris is a similar story. Harris has 241 "possessions" so far this year (131 shots, 27 FTs/2, 63 assists, and 31 turnovers. He's scored 164 points on 241 "possessions" comes out to .68 points per possession, but with assists factored in he comes out to 290 points so 1.2 points per "possession." So, statistically they're equal threats, right?

Wrong. When your point guard, who's shooting ten shots or more per game, is only churning out that type of limited offensive numbers you've got a problem. Sims is Michigan's best offensive threat and the fact that he's got 20 fewer shots than Harris despite shooting 20% better than his point guard is cause for alarm.

But it's tough to blame Sims and Harris for the team's troubles when no one else is really contributing on the offensive end. Michigan has looked disorganized and disinterested during the games I've seen. The standard play is either stand around a loft a long range jumper with the clock winding down or to feed the ball to Sims. Unfortunately the former is more popular than the latter.

That issue boils down to coaching. Michigan should be burying the teams its played so far this season rather than eeking out wins. Sims should be seeing the ball more. Abram should be shooting it more and Harris should not. And someone, someone for pete's sake needs to step up besides Udoh. A drive to the basket or two would be nice as well.

What is boils down to is Michigan's game against UCLA is more than a early season sign post for where the team is going, but a clear opportunity for Amaker to show Michigan belongs in the NCAA tournament. Because is you can't win on the road, by definition, you can't win in the tournament.

Jim Harbaugh Named Stanford's New Head Coach

Sweet. I can't wait to see him punch the tree. Anyone else remember when he punched Jim Kelly in the grill for Kelly accusing him of being a "baby"? Awesome.


Pat Forde must like Michigan. I think somewhere in his heart "The Victors" plays slowly and often. For the record, Forde is picking Michigan over turnover and sack prone USC. But the best part of his little Bowl write up was this:

The useless information: Twenty-seven years later, it was still a fumble when Charles White went over the pile for the "winning" touchdown against the Wolverines in the '79 Rose Bowl.

Slight Oversights

I managed to leave two things out of my first set of the 2006 College Football Blogger Awards nominations yesterday. My apologies.

First, in the Best New Blog category I neglected to mention Stadium and Main, a recent addition to the Michigan blogosphere which consistently produces excellent game previews, write-ups, and "where are they now" pieces on former Michigan Michigan players.

Second, astute reader Andrew pointed out, in mentioning Hey Jenny Slater as one of the Funniest Blogs that I neglected to mention Doug's Interplanetary Social Chat #45089 which is one of the funniest things written in the 'sphere since I've been reading it.


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