Much of the focus on Michigan this season has revolved around the Wolverines tremendous transition offense, Trey Burke’s player of the year resume and the talented crop of freshmen that John Beilein brought to Ann Arbor. Or, more recently, Michigan’s floundering defensive mettle.
Out-of-bounds plays and after timeout situations can feel mundane when compared to transition offense or gaudy statistics but they are far from insignificant. While they aren’t the most prevalent scenarios by any means – 8% of Michigan’s logged half court possessions in Synergy Sports are baseline out of bounds plays, 5% are sideline out of bounds plays and 22% originate after a timeout – but they can be vitally important.
Big Ten teams average 5.4 possessions sideline or baseline out of bounds plays per game. That’s not enough to impact every game but it is enough to make a difference in close games.
Michigan’s execution out of deadball scenarios has been criticized from time to time but crunching the numbers from Synergy Sports proves that the Wolverines rate highly both offensively and defensively on SLOBs (sideline out of bounds), BLOBs (baseline out of bounds) and timeout situations.
BLOBs and SLOBs
As a much needed reference point, the average Big Ten team scores .86 points per half court offensive possession. Indiana (.98) and Michigan (.96) lead the conference in half court offense while the middle eight teams (barring Penn State and Purdue) fall somewhere between .89 points per half court possession (Ohio State) and .82 points per half court possession.
The following table shows the points per BLOB and SLOB as well as a combined points per out of bounds possession statistic.
2013 Big Ten OOB Offense: Combined, BLOBS, SLOBS
It should come as no surprise that Michigan and Indiana – the two best offenses in the conference – rank highly on this list. Michigan has the best baseline out of bounds execution while Indiana is the most efficient team in sideline out of bounds scenarios. Wisconsin, a team that doesn’t create much offense naturally, is also productive in dead ball scenarios and proves that there’s more to this metric than strictly a good offense.
Why is Michigan’s offense so effective in out of bounds scenarios? Because John Beilein has so many options from nearly identical sets. The Purdue game was a tremendous example of how many different approaches Michigan can lean on by utilizing small tweaks to the same offensive set.
Early in the game Michigan is able to hit on some of its quick hitter options. Hardaway catches the ball curling into the lane and drops it off to McGary for a layup and LeVert gets wide open for a three (although he misses). As the game wears on, the secondary pick and roll option becomes more effective. Burke, the inbounder, throws the ball to Robinson who has the option to hand the ball off to Burke – initiating a double screen and roll – or fake and roll to the basket. In this clip alone we see Robinson fake and drive, Burke use the screen and dish for an open three, and Burke use the screen for an isolation easy drive.
Scrolling through the Synergy video, Michigan’s array of BLOB options becomes even more evident. For example in last weekend’s game against Michigan State, the Wolverines didn’t use this same set we see against Purdue once.
Defending BLOBs and SLOBs
Defensive execution on dead ball plays is equally as important. This is an area where scouting is vital as most out of bounds sets are predominantly on film about half way through the season. Most other teams have BLOB and SLOB packages every bit as diverse as Michigan’s and teams that can’t scout will give up easy baskets.
It’s no surprise to see Tom Izzo’s Spartans on the top of this list. Izzo is one of the best defensive game planning coaches in the country and has always stressed the importance of OOB sets. It is surprising to see Michigan, one of the more mediocre defenses in the league, rank so highly on defensive OOB sets.
After timeout production is a loosely related cousin to SLOBs and BLOBs. Once again, Michigan ranks well in these deadball scenarios. The timeout is a hot topic among Michigan State fans trying to figure out why Tom Izzo called a timeout in the closing seconds of the Michigan State game.
Synergy Sports tracks after timeout production and I compiled the post-timeout offensive and defensive numbers for every Big Ten team, adding a margin column to see which teams are the best on both sides of the floor combined.
2013 Big Ten: After Timeout Production
|Team||Offense PPP||Defense PPP||Margin|
Michigan ranks 2nd in after timeout offense and third in defense but first in differential – a sign that whatever John Beilein is doing in the huddle seems to be working. There aren’t many outliers among other Big Ten teams. As the previously mentioned blog post noted, Michigan State hasn’t been great offensively out of timeouts. Ohio State is an interesting case, the Buckeyes are the third most efficient half court offense in the conference but the third worst out of a timeout.
There are a so many timeouts in a game that only the extreme examples are remembered. The negative fan will remember John Beilein hurling out a 1-3-1 zone at Indiana before Jordan Hulls hit a three but the positive fan might remember Michigan’s defense on the final possession of the first half against Michigan State.
Michigan comes out in some sort of amoeba zone and leaves the Spartans clueless for the entire possession, eventually forcing up an ugly contested jumper.
Caris LeVert and Mitch McGary are really the only two players positioned like they are playing a 1-3-1 zone, and it seems to transgress into some sort of 2-1-2 zone as the clock wears down.
The sample size is small for BLOBs, SLOBs and timeouts but it surprised me to see Michigan rate so highly across the board in dead ball situations. Michigan’s offense is very good but to have such precise executions with such a young team is impressive.
The Wolverines don’t rate favorably only at a Big Ten level either. Michigan’s 1.03 points per baseline out of bounds play is the best mark among major conference schools this season.
As the season extends into March take note of deadball scenarios; one or two easy baskets could be the difference between an NCAA tournament win or loss.