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Inside the Numbers

November 9th, 2013 by Drew Hallett

The fifth golden era of Michigan basketball

Posted Apr. 11 by Drew Hallett

Michigan is a “football school.” Always has been. Always will be. This is expected when Michigan is the winningest football program of all-time, leads the Big Ten with 42 conference championships, owns 11 national championships, has three Heisman Trophy winners, plays its home games in the nation’s largest football stadium, and has made more television appearances than any other college football program. But this “football school” label should not overshadow the achievements of the Michigan’s basketball program. Especially right now.

Michigan basketball is not some poor or substandard program. Michigan has won 14 Big Ten regular-season championships, which is one more than the number Michigan State has won. The Wolverines have appeared in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight 13 times each. Michigan has participated in the Final Four seven times. Only nine schools in the nation have advanced to the Final Four more often. And the Wolverines have celebrated one national championship. Indiana and Michigan State are the only Big Ten programs with more than one national title.

Unlike the football program, though, Michigan’s basketball program has experienced only sporadic success. Historically, Michigan has not always been one of the best basketball programs in the nation. Michigan has not competed for Big Ten or national championships on a consistent basis. When the Wolverines have competed at such a level, they have not been able to sustain it for an extended period of time. This is why, from the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939 to 2011, there had been only four brief stretches during which Michigan was near the top of the college basketball landscape.

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The best offense of the KenPom era

Posted Apr. 8 by Drew Hallett

In 2013, Michigan had the best offense in the nation. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. were the offensive engines, holding the two highest usage rates on the roster. Burke consumed a team-high 29 percent of U-M’s possessions, while Hardaway, Jr. used the second-most at a 22.3-percent rate. And neither wasted many possessions when they had the ball in their hands. They averaged a combined 33.1 points per game, accounting for 44 percent of Michigan’s points. Burke and Hardaway, Jr. were the main reasons why the Wolverines had the highest adjusted offensive efficiency in the country in 2013 (120.3).

It was no surprise then that Burke, the consensus national player of the year, and Hardaway, Jr., member of the coaches’ All-Big Ten first team, decided to forego their Michigan careers and declare for the 2013 NBA Draft. This left a huge void offensively for the Wolverines. How would Michigan overcome their departures offensively? Although Michigan had skilled, efficient players returning, none had before lifted the load the Burke and Hardaway, Jr. had just lifted. It was not preposterous to assume that their individual efficiency would suffer at the expense of a bigger workload. This is why most outside the Michigan locker room, myself included, expected the Wolverines to step back offensively in 2014.

Boy, were we wrong.

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The variance and cruelty of March Madness

Posted Apr. 1 by Drew Hallett

The best word to describe the NCAA Tournament is “unpredictable.” When a 68-school, single-elimination tournament is used to crown the national champion, chaos will ensue. Although the following counters what all traditional college basketball fans believe, forty minutes of basketball is not enough time to truly determine which of two teams playing each other is the better team.

This is why, every year in mid-March, there are top-four seeds losing in the Round of 64 (Hi, Duke!). There are double-digit seeds shocking the nation with Cinderella runs deep into the tournament (Hi, Dayton!). There are buzzer-beaters (Hi, Cameron Ridley!). There are overtimes (Hi, Tennessee, Stephen F. Austin, Connecticut, North Dakota State, San Diego State, Saint Louis, and Wisconsin!). This is why the NCAA Tournament is coined “March Madness” and why it is one of the most entertaining, dramatic, and popular sporting events. But this is also why it is one of the cruelest.

Before March Madness takes the nation by storm, the 68 NCAA Tournament teams generally have already played 30 to 35 games. It is during these 30 to 35 games that teams reveal their identity on the hardwood. Some, like Michigan, Duke, and Creighton this year, show themselves to be offensive wizards, with an ability to score from any spot on the floor, but incapable of preventing opponents from doing the same. Others, like Ohio State, Saint Louis, and Cincinnati this season, become defensive juggernauts that cannot buy a bucket for themselves. And few, like Florida, Arizona, and Wichita State this year, excel on both ends of the floor. The identities that teams established in the regular season are the ones that these teams are expected to assume in the NCAA Tournament.

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Previewing the Midwest Regional: Louisville and Kentucky edition

Posted Mar. 26 by Drew Hallett

Earlier today, “Inside the Numbers” provided Part One of its Midwest Regional Preview. Part One focused on the tough path Michigan faces to reach its second straight Final Four and presented an in-depth scouting report of Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen opponent, the No. 11-seed Tennessee Volunteers.

If the Wolverines beat the Volunteers, they will face either the No. 4-seed Louisville Cardinals or the No. 8-seed Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight. Therefore, Part Two of the Midwest Regional Preview will provide an in-depth scouting report of each of the potential teams Michigan may see in the Elite Eight, so fans will know what to expect if U-M wins on Friday.

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Previewing the Midwest Regional: Tennessee edition

Posted Mar. 26 by Drew Hallett

Yesterday, “Inside the Numbers” provided a historical analysis of Michigan’s extraordinary success in the Sweet Sixteen. It was a fun post that allowed Michigan fans to reminisce and hope that the good times will continue to roll this weekend. However, with Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen contest only two days away, it is time to start looking ahead at the obstacles that stand between Michigan and a trip to a second straight Final Four.

This weekend, there will be three teams traveling to the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis along with No. 2-seed Michigan: No. 4-seed Louisville, No. 8-seed Kentucky, and No. 11-seed Tennessee. The Wolverines will battle the Volunteers on Friday night in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Wolverines defeat Tennessee, they will then play the winner of the Louisville-Kentucky matchup in the Elite Eight.

It is important to note the difficulty of maneuvering through this regional. Many fans may see that the other three teams in the Midwest Regional are only a No. 4 seed, No. 8 seed, and No. 11 seed and think that this will be a cakewalk for No. 2-seed Michigan. This would be foolish. All three of these schools are much better than their seeds indicate. In fact, advanced statistics show that the Midwest Regional is the toughest remaining regional of the four.

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It sure is sweet

Posted Mar. 25 by Drew Hallett

It sure is sweet.

On Saturday evening, No. 2-seed Michigan bombed No. 7-seed Texas, 79-65, with a school-record 14 three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. This is the second straight year and the 13th time in school history that Michigan will participate in the Sweet Sixteen. This also is the seventh time that Michigan has made the Sweet Sixteen when it did so the previous season.

The Wolverines will travel to Indianapolis this weekend, hoping they will be the lone school to survive the Midwest Regional. This will not be an easy challenge. In the Sweet Sixteen, the Wolverines will square off with the underrated No. 11-seed Tennessee Volunteers. With a victory, the Wolverines will play the winner of No. 4-seed Louisville and No. 8-seed Kentucky with a spot in the Final Four at stake.

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Will defense keep Michigan from Sweet Sixteen?

Posted Mar. 20 by Drew Hallett

Michigan fans are buzzing with excitement. Tonight, Michigan will kick off its journey in the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the Wofford Terriers in the No. 2 vs. No. 15 matchup in the Midwest Region. Michigan has its highest seed in the NCAA Tournament since it was a No. 1 seed in 1993 and seems poised to make a run at a second straight Final Four.

But should Michigan fans temper their excitement? History says that they should.

This season, the Wolverines have been an offensive juggernaut, recording an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 121.9. Not only is that rating the third best among all NCAA D-1 teams this year, behind only Creighton (125.0) and Duke (124.5), but it is the seventh best since 2002. It is testament to head coach John Beilein and the offensive talent on this Michigan roster that U-M’s offense has improved despite the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

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Breaking down Michigan’s odds to win the Big Ten Tournament

Posted Mar. 11 by Drew Hallett

Last week, Michigan clinched its first outright Big Ten regular season championship in 28 years, winning the league by three games. Accordingly, Michigan will raise a new banner in the rafters of the Crisler Center to open the 2014-15 season. With the Big Ten Tournament on deck, the Wolverines have an opportunity this weekend to add a second banner to that ceremony.

This year—and in recent years—fans have debated whether the Big Ten Tournament really matters in the grand scheme of college hoops. Many fans believe that the 18-game season, not a single-elimination tournament, crowns the true conference champion. Some of those fans even prefer that their team lose in earlier round in order to have extra days to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, unless their team is on the bubble. On the other hand, some fans feel that the Big Ten Tournament can significantly affect the seed a team earns in the NCAA Tournament, so all teams should take the conference tournament seriously.

But debating the merits of the Big Ten Tournament is not the purpose of this week’s “Inside the Numbers.” The purpose of this week’s column is to determine how likely it is that Michigan wins its first Big Ten Tournament since 1998. So put aside your feelings and opinions about the Big Ten Tournament as we explore these numbers.

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Stumbling out of the gates

Posted Mar. 4 by Drew Hallett

One down. Three to go.

Entering this season, Michigan had four primary team goals. They were: (1) to win the Big Ten regular-season title; (2) to win the Big Ten Tournament; (3) to advance to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament; and (4) to win the national championship. Accomplish any of these four goals, and Michigan would add to their collection of banners hanging from the rafters of the Crisler Center.

Check one off the list. On Saturday, thanks in part to Illinois’ stunning upset over Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan captured a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a 66-56 victory over Minnesota. This is the second conference championship and third banner the Wolverines have earned since 2011. No other Big Ten school can claim as many in that span.

Michigan has made this march through the Big Ten because its offense has been remarkably efficient. U-M has averaged 1.154 points per possession against conference opponents, which is the best in Big Ten play in the past three seasons. Further, Michigan leads the conference in two-point and free throw shooting and is a smidgen behind the top spot in three-point shooting. Accordingly, Michigan has the third-best adjusted offensive rating in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy.

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Go ahead and order the banner

Posted Feb. 25 by Drew Hallett

The stakes were set when Michigan and Michigan State took the floor at the Crisler Center this past Sunday. The victor would inherit sole possession of first place in the Big Ten and have the inside track to become the Big Ten regular season champion. Never before had the Wolverines and the Spartans played each other under these circumstances with so few games left in the conference season. It arguably was the biggest game in the history of this heated intrastate rivalry.

You already know what happened. The Spartans caught fire and sprinted out to an 11-point lead in the first ten minutes. But the Wolverines fought back to within two points at halftime and used a 21-4 run in a seven-minute span in the second half to pull away. Michigan bested MSU, 79-70, sweeping the season series and beating the Spartans for the sixth time in their past eight meetings.

With Michigan sitting atop the Big Ten standings, many U-M fans have wondered, “How likely is it that the Wolverines win the Big Ten regular season championship?” I have the answer, and Michigan fans will love it.

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The golden age of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry

Posted Feb. 19 by Drew Hallett

Michigan does not like Michigan State. Michigan State does not like Michigan.

This is no secret.

Those who have participated in the heated rivalry on the hardwood in recent years have made that very clear. Former U-M point guard Darius Morris told former MSU guard Kalin Lucas to “get the f*** off my court” after a Michigan win in Ann Arbor three years ago. U-M guard Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd moments after the Wolverines toppled MSU just last month. And MSU head coach Tom Izzo summed it up best in January 2012 when he told the press, “Do I like [Michigan]? Not one bit. I don’t like anything about Michigan and they don’t like anything about us, and that’s the way it should be.”

However, do not let the conduct that transpires before the tip and after the buzzer fool you into thinking that this intrastate rivalry has always been one of the best. For a rivalry to be at its best, both rivals must frequently sport top-notch teams, competing against one another with championships at stake year after year. This is not an apt description of the Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry prior to 2012.

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When will it stop raining threes?

Posted Feb. 10 by Drew Hallett

Two minutes into the Michigan-Iowa contest on Saturday, Roy Devyn Marble found himself open on the left wing behind arc. Marble rose, and with the flick of his wrist, buried a three-pointer jumper for Iowa’s first points of the game. Fifty-seven seconds later, Marble drained another three-pointer. Then he did it again. And again. And again. And, unbelievably, again.

Flames emanated from Marble’s right hand as he shredded the Wolverines at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In the first half, Marble scored 22 points and converted eight of his 13 shots — six of which were three-pointers. It was an extraordinary shooting display from Marble, who had made a slightly-above-average 35.5 percent of his three-pointers prior to Saturday’s game, and it helped Iowa cruise to an 85-67 win against the Maize and Blue.

But this is not the first time Michigan has seen its opponent explode offensively while on the road. If anything, it has become somewhat of a concerning trend. In its last three road games, Michigan has allowed Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa to score a total of 223 points in 182 possessions for an average of 1.225 points per possession. This is in stark contrast to the 1.082 points per possession U-M allowed in its first five road contests.

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An offense on fire

Posted Feb. 4 by Drew Hallett

Michigan suffered its first conference loss to the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Super Bowl Sunday. Assembly Hall has always been a “House of Horrors” for Michigan, as the Wolverines have won in Bloomington only once since 1995 and only twice since 1988. It was no different in 2014. Michigan struggled offensively. Its 52 points were the fewest it has scored this season, thanks in part to the contest having a very slow tempo at only 55 possessions. And Michigan’s 43.3 eFG%, which gives additional weight to three-pointers made because they are worth more points, was the lowest it has been in over two months. It was an ugly display by the Wolverines.

But do not let Sunday’s performance fool you. Michigan has been outstanding offensively this season, to the surprise of many I would presume. John Beilein-coached teams generally shine on the offensive end, but many wondered how the Wolverines would overcome the losses of consensus National Player of the Year Trey Burke as well as Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the NBA. Although Michigan had offensive firepower in Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary returning, no one expected this year’s offense to be better than last year’s offense.

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The meaning of Michigan’s magical 7-0 start

Posted Jan. 29 by Drew Hallett

Michigan has become the darling of the Big Ten. Prior to the Big Ten season, talk about the Big Ten’s elite focused on four teams: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State. Michigan was disregarded, thought to be in the second tier in the Big Ten and a bubble team once March arrived. The idea that the Wolverines could contend for a Big Ten championship seemed completely farfetched.

Well, people are certainly talking about Michigan now. The Wolverines are riding a nine-game winning streak—the second-longest with John Beilein as head coach. As a result, Michigan is 7-0 in the Big Ten and became the last unbeaten in conference play when U-M rallied past Michigan State to earn its second win in East Lansing since 1997.

This is rarefied air for Michigan. The Wolverines have had fantastic teams in the past, but few ever have had this type of start to the Big Ten season. This is only the fourth time in school history that Michigan has started the Big Ten season with a 7-0 record and the first time since the 1976-77 season.

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Ready for the rough road ahead

Posted Jan. 22 by Drew Hallett

Even though “Inside the Numbers” had been claiming for weeks that Michigan was a Big Ten contender, it was not until Michigan’s fifth straight victory to open Big Ten play that the rest of the nation realized the same. Last Saturday, Michigan walked into the Kohl Center—a place where U-M had not won since 1999—and beat the Wisconsin Badgers, 77-70, in one of the most aesthetically-pleasing college basketball games thus far this season.

The Wolverines were in command almost the entire contest. They led Wisconsin—last week’s No.3 team in the Associated Press poll—for all but one minute and 25 seconds and owned a 15-point lead midway through the second half. Wisconsin enhanced the drama by cutting U-M’s lead to one with two minutes left. But, in those final two minutes, UW never had possession of the basketball with the opportunity to reclaim the lead. That is because Nik Stauskas buried the Badgers with this “cold-blooded,” step-back three-pointer.

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Undefeated, yet unimpressed?

Posted Jan. 17 by Drew Hallett

Four Big Ten games down, four Big Ten wins in the books. Through the first three weeks of the Big Ten season, Michigan has a 4-0 conference record and is one of only two Big Ten schools that have yet to lose to a conference opponent. The other is Michigan State, sporting a 5-0 record. This is the first time the Wolverines have won their first four Big Ten games since 2003. Yet, of these two teams, the media have been impressed with only the Spartans, not the Wolverines.

In the past few weeks, many columns published by various media outlets have dubbed Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State as the best of the Big Ten. Very few have given Michigan a legitimate shot to win the Big Ten championship, with most slotting the Wolverines one tier below the top group. The media were skeptical of Michigan initially because U-M opened the season with a shaky 6-4 record. Nonetheless, despite U-M’s four losses, advanced metrics still ranked Michigan as a Top 25 team last month. Since then, the Wolverines have made those advanced metrics look quite intelligent, rattling off six straight wins.

However, the media still are not impressed with the Wolverines. They remain skeptical. The media see Michigan’s six-game winning streak and all they do is point to U-M’s weak conference strength of schedule. To them, Michigan’s perfect start to conference play carries little weight and is insignificant because U-M has not been challenged. Until the Wolverines beat one of the elite Big Ten squads, the media will continue to exclude Michigan from the group of contenders.

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Developing the defense – the key to a Big Ten championship

Posted Jan. 8 by Drew Hallett

Michigan can win the Big Ten regular-season championship. Even with no Trey Burke. Even with no Tim Hardaway, Jr. Even after Michigan opened with a lackluster 6-4 record. And even after Michigan announced that preseason All-American Mitch McGary opted to have back surgery and likely would miss the rest of the season. Michigan may be unranked, but many fail to realize that advanced metrics still view Michigan as a Top 25 team and Big Ten contender. But, if U-M wants to prove to the rest of the world that it is those things, it must improve its play on one side of the court.

To the surprise of some U-M fans, that side of the court is not the offense. In the preseason, there were questions about whether the Wolverines would be able to replace the offensive production of Burke and Hardaway, Jr. They were fair questions, too. Not only were Burke and Hardaway, Jr. first-round selections in the 2013 NBA Draft, they had the two highest usage rates for Michigan last season. More possessions went through Burke and Hardaway, Jr. than any other Wolverine for an offense that was considered by advanced statistics to be the most efficient in the nation. Overcoming two losses that significant is no simple task.

Yet, Michigan has done so. U-M currently does not have the most efficient offense in the nation like last year, but there has been only a slight regression.

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What went wrong?

Posted Jan. 1 by Drew Hallett

On September 7, 2013, there was an excitement—a buzz—around the Michigan football program. The #17 Wolverines toppled #14 Notre Dame, 41-30, at Michigan Stadium. Offensively, Devin Gardner lit up the Fighting Irish, accounting for 376 total yards and five touchdowns. Many believed Gardner had just jumpstarted his Heisman campaign. Defensively, U-M allowed 30 points, but ND’s offense mustered only two touchdowns. The Wolverines nearly played a flawless game.

As a result, the Wolverines were 2-0, jumped to #11 in the Associated Press Poll, and were given 12-to-1 odds to win the BCS National Championship. On that date, only three teams had better odds to win the national championship: Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon. Playing in a subpar Big Ten and having the luxury of hosting the Buckeyes in the regular-season finale, Michigan seemed to be in prime position to make a run at a historic season.

What went wrong?

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A departure from postseason custom

Posted Dec. 24 by Drew Hallett

The dictionary defines a “custom” as “a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.” The prestige of Michigan’s football program was built on custom. Look no further than its 910 all-time wins, 42 Big Ten championships or its rivalry with Ohio State, which has been U-M’s regular-season finale for all but three years since 1935. Fans have accepted this way of behavior from the Michigan football program.

Another custom Michigan fans have accepted involves a New Year’s Day ritual. After ringing in the New Year with family and friends, they awake the following morning. What each Michigan fan does when it wakes up on New Year’s Day varies from person to person. But they all know that, in a few short hours, they will be watching, whether it be in person or from their couch, the Michigan Wolverines play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Michigan fans have become accustomed to this New Year’s Day ritual because fans have been able to follow it most years since 1975. Before then, though, participating in any bowl game was a rarity for Michigan. This was not because the Wolverines were undeserving of a bowl bid, but because the bowl system’s structure at that time limited U-M’s opportunities to play in bowl games.

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When records and polls lie

Posted Dec. 18 by Drew Hallett

Note: “Inside the Numbers” has returned. With only the bowl game remaining for Michigan football, this column will turn most of its attention to the Michigan men’s basketball team for the remainder of the athletic year. This is the first such installment. Enjoy!

Panic. Michigan is 6-4. This became Michigan’s record when Nik Stauskas’ three-quarters-court heave ricocheted harmlessly off the backboard as the buzzer echoed throughout the Crisler Center last Saturday. It signaled that Michigan had fallen to the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats by two points at home. The loss snapped the Wolverines’ home non-conference winning streak at 20 games.

Panic. Michigan is 6-4. The Wolverines suffered their fourth loss this season on December 14th. Last season, U-M did not lose its fourth game until February 12th, when U-M’s rival from East Lansing beat it by 23 points, handing the Maize and Blue its only double-digit loss of the season. That was 60 days later in the season than when this year’s squad earned its fourth loss.

Panic. Michigan is 6-4. Last season, Michigan was one of three teams that never fell out of the Top 10 in the Associated Press Poll, with the other two being Indiana and Duke. This year, the AP ranked U-M at #7 in the preseason. Now, just seven weeks later, the Wolverines received only three measly votes in the AP Poll.

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Screw the numbers, Beat Ohio (State)

Posted Nov. 27 by Drew Hallett

Michigan versus Ohio State. Maize and Blue versus Scarlet and Gray. The greatest rivalry in all of sports. No fancy nickname or trophy is needed to enhance the rivalry’s prestige. It is known simply as “The Game,” a term that implies that no athletic competition is better, more important, or more anticipated than the one played on the gridiron between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes each year in late November.

And, yet, this year, Michigan fans are dreading the 110th edition of “The Game.” Even worse, U-M fans are apathetic about it. Yes, they still have an interest in the game’s result. But the passion and fanatical excitement that usually accompanies that interest? Gone. Or diminished, at best.

Michigan fans finally have bailed on this season. They held onto hope for as long as they could that the Wolverines could right the ship, even after the Wolverines needed incredible plays just to eke out victories against Akron, Connecticut, and Northwestern—teams with a combined 9-23 record. But after U-M blew a 14-point halftime lead against Iowa to lose its third game in four weeks, fans let go of that hope.

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Avoiding the goose egg better than anyone else

Posted Nov. 20 by Drew Hallett

October 20, 1984 was a long time ago. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison were coaching football, not at Michigan, but 100 miles west of Ann Arbor at Western Michigan. Teachers was the highest-grossing film of the weekend. Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the second straight week. The price of regular gasoline was only $1.21. The author of this column would not even be born for another 53 months. Yet, that date marks the last time the Michigan football team put a goose egg on the scoreboard.

On that October Saturday in 1984, the Iowa Hawkeyes held Michigan scoreless, winning by a score of 26-0. It was an ugly, ugly game for the Wolverines. Michigan managed to accumulate only 187 total yards, did not see a single play gain more than 14 yards, and turned the football over four times. U-M’s quarterback tandem of Russ Rein and Chris Zurbrugg completed only 11-of-25 passes for a whopping total of 83 yards and completed three more passes to the wrong team. Michigan’s leading rusher, Rick Rogers, toted the rock 19 times, but averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. There is no play-by-play available to indicate if the Wolverines blew any easy chances to score. Nonetheless, the hideous box score indicates that this was a Maize and Blue mess. [Edit: As reader sarcasMike pointed out below, Rein threw an interception on 3rd-and-goal from the Iowa 14 in the second half].

Michigan has had putrid offensive performances after that dreadful day in Iowa City, but the Wolverines have not had such a showing of offensive ineptitude in the 29 years and one month since. In that span, Michigan has scored points in 361 consecutive games, tying Brigham Young’s NCAA record when Brendan Gibbons split the uprights from 25 yards out with 8:45 remaining left in the first quarter against Northwestern last Saturday.

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Sending out an S.O.S on the LOS

Posted Nov. 13 by Drew Hallett

Since returning to Ann Arbor in January in 2011, head coach Brady Hoke has preached that he wants to “hear football.” He wants to hear the sound of helmets striking each other, shoulder pads colliding into each other, and players trying to drive one another into the ground. He wants to “hear football” when Michigan takes the field because he wants his team to be tough, physical, strong, and powerful. Yet, the only thing Hoke has heard from his offensive line is silence.

Michigan’s offense has derailed in the month of November, and its offensive line deserves much of the blame. Prior to November, U-M’s offense averaged 42.4 points and 446.5 total yards in its first seven games. In its two November contests, the offense has scored 19 points and gained 343 total yards combined, averaging 9.5 points and 171.5 total yards per game.

To make matters worse, not only has Michigan rushed for minus-69 yards on 65 carries in its last two games, it has rushed for positive yardage in only one of those eight quarters. Against Michigan State, U-M set a program low with minus-48 rushing yards, breaking a 51-year-old school record that Michigan wanted to stand untouched for all of eternity. Then, with minus-21 rushing yards against Nebraska the following week, the Maize and Blue became only the second team this millennium to turn in negative rushing performances in back-to-back games.

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The biggest house of them all for 250 straight games and counting

Posted Nov. 6 by Drew Hallett

The first three editions of “Inside the Numbers” have analyzed statistics and records earned by Michigan coaches and players. This week’s feature has a slightly different focus. This column celebrates the students, the alumni, and the fans that have supported the Maize and Blue for the past 38 years. Their efforts likely will result in the achievement of a historic milestone this Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

College football is one of the most attended sports in North America. In 2011, 37,411,795 people walked through turnstiles to watch an NCAA FBS football game in person. An average of 46,074 attended each of these contests. These statistics ranked NCAA football second in total attendance behind Major League Baseball and second in average attendance per game behind the National Football League two years ago. Much of college football’s attendance success can be attributed to having games played regularly in 14 of the 15 largest football stadiums in the United States and having several of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports.

For decades, one school has set the bar for high attendance totals: Michigan. Fans have been pouring into Michigan Stadium to support the Wolverines each Saturday in the fall since it was erected in 1927. Although the venue was designed to seat 72,000 fans when it first opened, the Regents of the University of Michigan opted to incorporate former Michigan head coach Fielding H. Yost’s proposal that the stadium’s footings be constructed in a way that would permit future expansion. Yost foresaw a future when over 100,000 people would attend a football game in Ann Arbor, and he wanted to ensure that the possibility could one day become a reality.

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With MSU looming, Michigan must not make manball mistake

Posted Oct. 31 by Drew Hallett

Ladies and gentlemen, it is State Week.

The big question many Michigan fans have been asking this week is whether Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges will finally solve the complex puzzle that is Michigan State’s defense. Despite a dramatic, last-second victory for the Wolverines last October, no team has given their offense more fits than the Spartans. In the past two contests against MSU, the Maize and Blue averaged 13 points and 288 total yards. Those numbers are the worst Michigan has averaged against any opponent it has played more than once since U-M hired Borges.

Do not expect the puzzle to become any easier this Saturday. If anything, it has become even more challenging. Statistically, Michigan State has one of the best defenses in the country, if not the best. The Spartans’ national ranks in each relevant defensive category speak for themselves. They are ranked in the top three in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, rushing yards allowed per carry, passing yards allowed, passing yards allowed per attempt, and passing efficiency defense. MSU is the only team in America to have such a high ranking in all of these categories. Other than Michigan State’s tendency to force referees to throw an inordinate number of yellow flags—MSU is ranked 109th in fewest penalty yards per game—the Spartans’ defense has no weaknesses for Borges to exploit.

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Despite pint sized stature, Gallon may be one of Michigan’s best ever

Posted Oct. 21 by Drew Hallett

What is the prototypical Michigan wide receiver? For many, it is a wide receiver that is six-feet-and-three-inches tall, weighs 210 pounds, and can dunk a football over the crossbar effortlessly. For years, they have walked through the doors at Schembechler Hall and dazzled those in attendance at Michigan Stadium. They include Braylon Edwards, Amani Toomer, Tai Streets, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, and Derrick Alexander. The list is seemingly never-ending.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has expressed his desire to add more of them to the list and has done so since taking over the program, obtaining verbal commitments from nine receivers that are all at least six-feet-and-two-inches tall in his 2012-15 recruiting classes. Yet, it is the five-foot-eight wideout from Apopka, Florida, that may just be one of the best to don the winged helmet.

On June 5, 2008, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon gave a verbal pledge to then-Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez that he would leave the warm confines of the Sunshine State to play his collegiate ball in Ann Arbor. Gallon was expected by Rodriguez and the staff to have a versatile role for the Wolverines, lining up in the slot, in the backfield, and as a returner. Rodriguez wanted to utilize Gallon by putting him in space in the middle of the field, where his quickness and speed would expose linebackers in coverage and generate plentiful yards after the catch.

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Beating the odds you don’t want to beat

Posted Oct. 16 by Drew Hallett

Michigan’s soul-crushing, quadruple-overtime loss to Penn State last Saturday has sent much of its fan base into panic mode. Despite Michigan being one of 17 unbeaten teams prior to last weekend, many fans and national media personalities have given up on the Wolverines after just one loss, some even going so far as to predict that Michigan will stumble to a 2-4 or 1-5 regular-season finish. The changes in expectations are not because Michigan lost to a far inferior team—the Nittany Lions were only a 2.5-point underdog. Instead, the changes in expectations are because Michigan was on the wrong end of the last-minute luck it benefited from in its first two seasons under head coach Brady Hoke.

What is last-minute luck? It is a term that embodies a rare combination of coaching miscues, lack of execution, bad bounces, and missed opportunities that allows a left-for-dead opponent to steal a win in the final minute. The more popular term for this type of collapse is “choking.”

In 2011 and 2012, Michigan benefited from such last-minute luck in two contests: Notre Dame in 2011 andNorthwestern in 2012. This stroke of last-minute luck was not going to continue to work in Michigan’s favor. Sooner or later, there would be a game in which the Wolverines would fall victim to it. This is the nature of football, especially at the collegiate level. It happens to all teams. No team is immune. Unfortunately, it happened to Michigan in the worst possible way this past Saturday in Happy Valley.

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