Friday, October 9, 2009

Michigan Recap of the 08-09 Season

In 2008-09, Beilein Ball officially arrived in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, fresh off a rough 10-22 campaign, shocked the college basketball world with early victories over two 4th-ranked teams, UCLA and Duke. This non-conference performance was enough to catapult Michigan into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2006, where they sat for just three weeks before the Big Ten wringer knocked them out for good. Throughout the conference slate, the Wolverines played not like world-beaters, but like a middle-of-the-road team, defeating those teams generally worse than them and losing to those better than them (except for home wins over Illinois and Purdue). Add it all up and Michigan finished 9-9 in Big Ten play, forced to rest a large chunk of their tournament worthiness on their two big wins way back in November and early December. It ended up being enough for the selection committee, and Michigan returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 (does anyone else find it crazy that they were away that long?!). To put the icing on the cake, Michigan knocked off a good Clemson squad in the 7/10 match-up and even made Oklahoma work a bit in the second round. The season was an unmitigated success. Who could have seen it coming?

Well, the improvement actually wasn't that surprising given the traditional strengths of Beilein's teams. In our 5-year-trends post from last November, we noticed multiple areas where large improvement seemed likely based on Beilein's track record, specifically:
  • Turnover percentage (on both ends of the floor)
  • FG%, especially on two pointers
  • Assists as a percentage of made FG (which is more indicative of style than quality, but we'll include it anyway)
Here's a summary of how these categories changed year-over-year:



2007-08


2008-09


Type of change?


Offensive TO%


19.7


17.5


Big Improvement


Defensive TO%


20.5


20.8


Slight Improvement


2-point FG%


45.2


50.4


Big Improvement


3-point FG%


31.2


33.4


Big Improvement


Assists/FGM


55.0


67.1


Big Improvement

It's clear that Beilein's style has been embraced by his players, and it's already paying big dividends for a program that had been scuffling for a decade. When a coach is able to get those kind of results in just his second season - and after that season loses only role players from his roster - expectations tend to skyrocket. Michigan already made a huge jump from 112th to 50th in Pomeroy's ratings - is it reasonable to expect another big jump into top 20 territory? We'll delve into this question on Monday.

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