Halfway Home

Dylan Burkhardt

The Standings. Right now Michigan is 8th in the Big Ten, a half game behind Northwestern. It’s important to remember that the Big Ten schedule is very unbalanced this year. Some teams have played some teams twice already (e.g. Michigan and Illinois) and some haven’t even met once this year (e.g. Michigan and Minnesota).

In order to try and make some sense of the standings I pulled some simple data: home losses, road wins, games remaining against Indiana, and home games remaining. Home losses and road wins are crucial in a league where it is so important to defend home court. At this point Indiana is really the only cupcake in the league (even though they might still beat someone) so if you have games left to play against the Hoosiers that is definitely an advantage. The table is sortable and the team names are linked to their WarrenNolan RPI profiles.

Team Wins Losses Road
MSU 7 2 4 2 2 5
Purdue 6 2 3 1 1 5
Minn 6 3 3 2 1 4
Illinois 6 3 1 0 1 4
PSU 6 3 2 1 1 4
OSU 5 4 2 1 0 5
NW 4 5 1 2 1 4
Mich 4 6 1 2 0 4
Wisc 3 6 1 2 2 5
Iowa 2 7 0 2 1 5
Indiana 0 8 0 4 0 5

It is pretty clear that Michigan is not in ideal shape. They are the only Big Ten team that has already played 10 games, they have already dropped 2 at home, they have only one road win, and they don’t have any more games against Indiana remaining. Wisconsin looks like they could still make a run for a tournament spot thanks to two games against Indiana but their margin of error is slim after a 6 game losing streak.

Tempo Free. Spartans Weblog and Big Ten Geeks have all the tempo free Big Ten statistics that you could possibly need. KJ posted an updated aerial last night:

AerialBecause we have seen Michigan’s struggles first hand, it isn’t that surprising that Michigan has gone from the best offense (after the non-conference season) to the below average range with Iowa and Northwestern. Purdue and Illinois have the best defenses in the league and you will notice that the standings pretty much fall right in line with defensive efficiency. On the offensive side of the ball the top dogs are Michigan State and surprisingly Wisconsin. Wisconsin has struggled lately but apparently this is due to their defense rather than their apparently solid offense.

Three Point Shooting. It doesn’t take a statistician to know that Michigan had an awful time shooting the ball in January but the numbers really are ugly. Looking at Stat Sheet’s three point tracker it becomes pretty clear why Michigan is struggling to win games.

Michigan shot 37.9% from long range in December while taking 29 three attempts per game. They shot the ball well for pretty much the whole month and the three point shot helped them to the huge upset win over Duke. They are only shooting 27.8 attempts per game in January but they are shooting a dreadful 29.6%.

Announcers and writers love to make the point that Michigan is shooting the most three pointers in conference play yet they are shooting the lowest percentage. It is definitely important to score inside but the fact is that Michigan is not equipped to score inside. Michigan was already mediocre at getting to the line and the more physical Big Ten limits them inside the arc. The bottom line is that this team needs the three point shot to win games in conference play because they are so undersized.

If the three point shooting numbers in February don’t look more like December than January then it is probably a safe bet that Michigan didn’t turn their season around.

Tournament Chances. Michigan needs to win 5 more games to get to 9-9 and I have a hard time seeing a 19-12 (9-9) Michigan team that beat Duke, UCLA, Illinois and others left out of the dance. Adding in a first round tournament win and a likely second round loss and you are looking at a 20-13 overall record.

Andy Katz listed the teams that have made the tournament with losing conference records and there is more or less one per year and sometimes more. In my book Michigan would be one of the top candidates in the country to make the dance at 8-10. They beat Duke and UCLA in the non conference and play in the Big Ten which is arguably the deepest conference in the country and has the #2 ranked RPI. Not to mention Michigan’s strength of schedule will likely be top 10 when all is said and done.

The Penn State game on Thursday is looking more and more like a “must win”. If Michigan loses Thursday, a 5 game losing streak is not out of the question. However if they can knock off Penn State, the team that they appear to be competing with for a tournament slot, they will at least stop the bleeding a bit. The three other remaining home games are Michigan State, Minnesota, and Purdue and the “winnable” road games are at Iowa and at Northwestern. It would be ideal to get to 9 wins before finishing the season off with road games at Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The road certainly isn’t easy but I wouldn’t say it is impossible just yet. Then again, it’s hard to be confident when the major bracket projections (sidebar) don’t have Michigan any better than “The Last Four Out”.


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  • Bungaman

    I think a 9-9 conference record would put Michigan at 19-12 before the BTT…

  • Yea, I think I forgot that WarrenNolan doesn’t add in wins over

  • jmblue

    So according to Davis, if you swing your elbows like Manny did, it must be either a no-call or an ejection? That’s crazy.

  • JimC

    Well we don’t really know what will happen.
    They gotta play the games.

    The shooters need to get hot, then there’s just about no limit.

  • Avery Queen

    That “must win” phrase that has been tossed around all season is official this Thursday.

  • Yup, it is a “must win” because those couple “it would be very helpful to win” games went the wrong way…

  • Avery Queen

    Yeah. Especially the sweep by OSU. Is Lighty ever coming back?

  • AG2

    If we can finish ahead of Wisconsin and Northwestern in the standings, we would be in good shape for the Big Ten tournament. As a 7 seed, we’d face Iowa in the 1st round and either Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, or Penn State in the 2nd round. That’s our best shot at 2 wins in the Big Ten tournament as it helps us avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State.

  • JimC

    Thinking back over the season so far, the only game I really thought we’d win, but we lost, was the OSU game at Crisler. That hurt.

    We CAN win the game vs. PSU tomorrow.

    If this team can beat Duke, they can beat anybody at home. We need 3s to drop!

  • raiderfan

    Does anyone think Shep will get pt with Novak back in the lineup? Why is it that JB thinks Novak is a 4? Am I the only one that thinks Shep was a huge reason to our early season success?

  • Tom

    I am beginning to think that if a team needs 3’s to drop to win, it is in rough shape. It’s like a football team that has no running game and passes all the time….. We need an inside game for future success….

  • Dave

    jovohn seems to come up wiith big plays i have noticed when needed and i have said this before is probably the most athletic person on the team…….he definitely needs to be at the 4 and let zach wander a bit more for 3s since hes our best three point shooter at this point…….thats for raiderfan and has for Tom i have said this many many times that we need versatility not just an inside presence…..we obviously need more than just 3 pt shooters and a inside game……..we need mid range gamers as well as people who can consistently get into the lane and makes plays and create some stuff and we need that real bad

  • Dave


  • Evan

    I see winnable games in the next 6 Big Ten games. Either road games against beatable teams or home games against the top Big Ten teams. Even the next game, at Wisconsin, looks a lot easier than it did two weeks ago.

    The team has struggled, but I just have enough faith in Beilein that the team won’t head in the wrong direction throughout the rest of the season. Last year’s team picked it up at the end of the year. I’m taking that as an indication it can happen again this year.

    I can see 5-3 over the rest of the Big Ten season. Last year we ended the Big Ten season at 4-4 over our last eight games.