2005 West Virginia vs. 2009 Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

I was taking a look at Michigan’s Ken Pomeroy profile and compared it to West Virginia’s 2004-2005 profile. 2005 was the year West Virginia made the surprising run into the NCAA Tournament and guys like Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey became household names.  Here are the tempo free stats with the NCAA rank in parenthesis.

0509I think looking at these two profiles it becomes pretty clear that we are beginning to see the Beilein blueprint. I didn’t include it but the 2006 team also follows most of the same trends.

On offense:

  • Both teams played right around 64-65 possessions per game and had relatively similar adjusted efficiency numbers.
  • They take about the same numbers of three point shots (46% of field goal attempts) and while Michigan makes a few less of their threes, their percentage has been rising since shooting 28.6% in November.
  • Michigan also values the ball more than just about anyone in the country and this is absolutely key in the system.
  • The offensive rebounding percentages and free throw rates for both teams were the glaring weakness and the numbers and rankings there are almost identical.
  • Assists per field goals made, 2 point field goal shooting, and free throw shooting are other similarities between both teams offensive profiles.

On defense:

  • Michigan does a very good job of not allowing their opponents to get to the free throw line and this was a strength of West Virginia as well.
  • Opponents tend to get a lot of offensive rebounds.
  • West Virginia allowed their opponents to shoot an eFG% of over 50% which is even worse than Michigan’s mediocre 47%.
  • West Virginia caused a few more turnovers (22.9%) compared to Michigan’s 21.4%.

Of course there are issues with this analysis, the fact that West Virginia played in a different conference and Michigan has only finished half of their season are just a few. But I think there are still some interesting conclusions we can take from this.

For a little clarity lets try to remember just who exactly the 2005 West Virginia Mountaineers were (video version here). Everyone knows about their tournament run that left them an overtime away from the Final Four but what did they accomplish in the regular season? They started out 10-0 in the non-conference season but their only “quality” win was at LSU, the rest of the pre-conference slate was filled with cupcakes (they did beat NC State and George Washington). After starting 10-0, West Virginia lost six of their next seven including a home loss to 6-22 Marshall and a 38 point loss at Villanova. West Virginia ended up 8-8 in the Big East regular season that year but only had to play UConn (2nd), Syracuse (3rd), and Villanova (4th) once each en route to a 7th place finish.

The magic began when they caught fire in the Big East tournament. West Virginia beat Providence, a Boston College team who swept them on the season, and the same Villanova team that beat them by 38 points earlier that year, before falling to Syracuse in the Big East final. Their tournament performance earned them a 7 seed in the Big Dance and the rest was history.

This West Virginia team certainly wasn’t dominating but they had the unique ability to get hot in a hurry. West Virginia’s effective field goal percentages in NCAA Tournament games were 56.5%, 57.8%, 55.8%, and 74.4%! They also shot over 50% from long range in both of their upset wins in the Big East Tournament. By all accounts, 2005 was a magical year for the Mountaineers but looking at their record if a couple games didn’t go just the right way they might not have even been in the tournament.

Michigan has played 16 games this year and have managed two wins over top 10 teams while (barely) avoiding any embarrassing losses. This Michigan team is playing the same style of ball that Beilein’s team at West Virginia played and they have already proven that they can beat anyone. Looking at the past though I would say fans probably shouldn’t be surprised to see Michigan drop a game or two they should win on paper.

The newest debate on the internet is whether Beilein’s offensive system is a “gimmick” because of it’s reliance on the three point shot. There is no denying that Michigan takes a lot of three point shots but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Beilein has a philosophy and it has worked for him for 30 years. Taking a lot of three pointers is just another way to try and win games. Everyone has an idea of how to win whether it is Izzo putting football pads on players or Bo Ryan slowing the game down with the swing offense.

Beilein is one win away from 500 career wins and I think he’s pretty confident that his system works. As fans we can find solace in the fact that it appears John Beilein’s system is fully in effect in Ann Arbor. I’m not trying to jump to conclusions and say that because Beilein’s system is “in place” that Michigan will make a run in the NCAA tournament or even that Michigan is guaranteed to make the tournament. But I am ready to say that John Beilein has taken this program by the reins and stamped his name on it faster than anyone would have expected.

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  • Those offensive profiles are uncannily similar. I’d guess you’d be hard pressed to find any profile among the 340+ Division 1 teams that matches Michigan’s as well as the 2005 WV profile does.

  • jg

    Beilein clearly knows what he’s doing and what he wants his teams to do. That doesn’t mean the guys on the court will always do what Beilein wants them to do or necessarily be capable of what Beilein ultimately wants his teams to do, but the bottom line is, the man can coach with the best of them.

    I think its funny that so many people on here think they know of a better way to utilize a player like Jevohn Shepard or Gibson or C.J. Lee. Who think Novak is getting way too many minutes right now or this and that. Are we really fooling ourselves into thinking that these are all things Beilein, along with the assistant coaches at his disposal, hasn’t thought about and considered?

    Yeah, I’d like to see Jevohn get some more minutes, if for no other reason that I think he deserves them, but the guy clearly has some offensive deficiencies that are at odds with what Beilein wants his teams to do on the court.

  • Steele

    Awesome post. It’s frustrating that people call the Beilein system a gimmick. I’m sure the spread offense in football used to be looked at that way, but it’s just another way of utilizing & maximizing your talent. If it works over the long term, I don’t think it can be called a gimmick.

  • blueinflorida

    Dylan—nice work and great post. I have a question thats a little off-topic.

    Do you know where to find or can you post any pre/post-game speech footage in the locker room before games? I know you posted a pre-game speech by David Merritt before the Duke game and I thought it was awesome.

  • Steve

    Very good post. Love the stats. Open jump shots are what you strive for, and if Beilein can recruit good enough shooters, it’s not a gimmick.

    Sure, there are games when we go ice cold… but teams can go cold from 2 point land as well. It’s college basketball, inconsistencies happen all of the time.

  • KJay

    What I really wonder about is how Beilein will deal with his post players when he has talented balanced rosters. He recruited Cronin and Jordan Morgan, and I can’t see either of those guys becoming a Pittsnogle, Alexander or Sims. If they do, Beilein’s an even better skills developer than I thought. Looking at some of the athletic bigs out there in the in state class of ’11, I’m curious to know what Beilein thinks he can do with them. Will he mold them into face up type/high post bigs? Or would he let them play with their backs to the basket, establishing position on the box? I guess what’s not clear with me is how much these teams’ play is a function of “playing the hand you’re dealt” talent wise.

  • blueinflorida – They showed that one on ESPN. I’m not sure if there has been any other games where Beilein allowed the camera in the locker room. There is one from West Virginia floating around on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6RJXe1w4MA) but beyond that I don’t know.

  • JimC

    Did I read that right:

    “…Dylan guarantees Michigan will make the sweet 16, or he buys every blog subscriber a $50 Applebees gift card…”

    This site gets better every day.

  • J.M.

    Dylan — Great comparison and I really like this site. Hate to nitpick but WVU’s first 10 wins that year were not all cupcakes — As you mentioned a win at LSU also at NC State ranked #17 at the time and a ranked George Washington team in Morgantown I guess that is a nitpick but what the heck

  • Merlin

    One of your best posts Dylan-fascinating. The comments are right on. Beilein is about to get better players than he has ever had including post players. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Thanks JM. I saw the GWash and NC State wins but was just looking at the end of season RPI… NC State finished at #73 with a 21-14 record and George Washington finished 22-8 with an RPI of 58. Duquense (274), Radford (279),St Bonnies (320), James Madison (303), UNC (259), and Coppin State (126) were the bulk of that schedule and they all appear to be cupcakes in my book.

    I had no clue that NC State and GW were ranked though so I’ll add a little note.

  • MattNYC

    JG: The nature of fandom allows criticism — it would be a boring pursuit otherwise.

    To give another example: I don’t know as much about politics as my blessed Governor Patterson but that doesn’t mean I can’t critique what I see as weaknesses in his actions and policies.

    I don’t pretend to know anywhere near the amount of Coach Beilein, but that doesn’t mean I can critique him where I see fit.

    That said, Beilein is a great coach and I have nothing but nit-pickings this year for him.

  • I certainly have no problem with critiquing Beilein, otherwise this site would slowly die out. :-)

  • J.M.

    You (as usual) did your homework — GW was actually better at the time than NC State — both teams were very good early that year – and you’re right the others were indeed cupcakes

  • jjwalker

    The sucky offensive rebounding is definitely a result of a strategy decision by Beilein, probably because he’s worried about our transition defense getting scorched. He’s probably thinking that we’re not a great defensive team in general so we need to limit easy baskets as much as possible.

    But the second the ball goes up, 4 or even all 5 of our players immediately turn and run up the court, there’s no attempt to go after offensive rebounds unless it comes right into their laps. They’ve clearly been instructed to play transition d as opposed to crashing the offensive glass. I actually think we could be a so-so offensive rebounding team given the talent we have, offensive rebounding is more about quickness and hops than it is purely size, like on the defensive end. Manny and Deshawn could probably wreak a little havoc, maybe even Novak, but I gotta trust Beilein knows best on this one. I’d like to see more second chance opportunities, but we absolutely can’t afford to give the opponent any more easy buckets than they already get against our cruddy half court defense.

  • One thing that I’ve wondered about: Does Beilein have any history of using a full court press? I think that against slow paced teams a lineup of Grady/Manny/Shepard/Peedi/Gibson would be a doberman like pressing team.

    My guess is they don’t practice it that often due to the other things Beilein is trying to implement and it only comes out on rare occasions.

  • Avery Queen

    Good stuff Dylan.

  • Very informative post, good work Dylan. I appreciate the work you do here.

  • Giddings

    The one category where there is a major difference is opponents’ 3-point shooting %. The fact that WV gave up such a higher 3-point % than we do kind of scares me… maybe we’ve been getting lucky so far? Duke obviously died by the three (although we still outplayed them overall), and teams have gotten plenty of open looks against the 1-3-1 that they just haven’t knocked down.

    Just to make myself feel better, I will say that we are playing the 1-3-1 well enough to keep teams off balance and out of their comfort zone, which may lower their percentage… also, the new 3-point line probably has something to do with the lower %, although if you look at the total NCAA average the difference has been very, very small.

    Random note: Are they talking about the same Courtney Sims that we know and love in this article? http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/art_garcia/01/08//dleague.20090108/index.html

    Also Dylan, obviously the analysis in this post was superb and I’m glad you did it, but will there be an Iowa +/- post before the Illinois game?

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  • rlc

    “The fact that WV gave up such a higher 3-point % than we do kind of scares me… maybe we’ve been getting lucky so far?”

    The line is now further out than it was in ’05.

  • AG2

    I can see why people would accuse Beilein of gimmickry. On its face, it must seem strange that a team that bases their offense around a low-percentage shot like the 3 does not emphasize rebounding. Add to that the reputation Beilein has as not recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans and one-and-done types and people think “this is the type of offense you run when you don’t have talent.”