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Regression Toward the Mean: Michigan Falls, and Falls Hard, at Ohio State

As the season progresses it is becoming increasing apparent that Michigan's early season triumphs were the exception rather than the rule. Statistical outliers. Anomolies. What we've seen is Michigan slowly converge on the slope their performance last year set them upon. This isn't a bad thing. Going into this season Michigan was pegged as an NIT team. A vast improvement over the 20+ loss debacle of a year before.

But when hopes get high, and those statistical outliers come to early in what is truly a 30+ game experiment, we ignore or forget a statistical certainty:

Regression to the mean is a mathematical inevitability: any measurement of any variable that is affected by random variance must show regression to the mean.

And it has.

Michigan was outplayed, out hustled, out sized and basically out basketballed by a better team last night. The result was a 72-54 loss to Ohio State in Columbus. Over the last two weeks it's been comical to watch 6'4" Zack Novak try to guard a 7 foot center. Unfortunately, it's been just as comical to watch 6'10" Zack Gibson do the same.

But this shouldn't be a surprise. Michigan is a small, guard heavy team. Even our big men are perimeter players (with the exception of Sims). Michigan will live and die by their ability to shoot from the outside, and judging by their last six games funeral arrangements are being made.

What hurts the most is you can see Michigan collapsing under the weight of it's own expectations. They came out of nowhere to upset one good and one very good team early in the season. No one took them seriously early and they paid for it. Michigan won big games. Michigan wasn't a push over. Michigan was relevant again after a decade of irrelevance on the hardwood. Michigan was all of a sudden supposed to win.

There's a big difference between being expected to win and being expected to lose. the latter frees you to do whatever you can to win. The former can make you tight, scared, concerned that what you're doing will cost you a game you should win. And that is what is happening now.

Michigan is wound so tightly you could use its players as industrial strength coils to support a battleship during refurbishment. They can't play defense so the only way to compete is to score. But when they can't score, man, it's like they believe every  contested three pointer will somehow tie the game. This is a team that doesn't know what happened to get them to a point where they were expected to win and now doesn't have a clue how to deal with being who they were supposed to be before the season started.

But these are things that happen when a good program has been down for a long time. This is a very young team. They're nervous. They're tentative. They're making decisions on the court that bely just how inexperienced they really are. Give them a few games. Give them a year. They'll be good. At the least, they'll be better.

But right now they are who we thought they'd be at the start of the season. They're just not who we hoped they'd be after beating Duke.

SCM on the Novak elbow. I whole heartedly agree:

The Novak thing was really pretty uncalled for, Novak says he was trying to aggressively box out... the camera unfortunately shows him pretty solidly lining up PJ Hill's face and then trying to cave it in with his elbow.

Novak should sit for two games. I've heard sit a game. But that was a total crap move on his part. Keep your cool, son. The only thing worse than being called an asshole is proving that person right on national TV. Beilein needs to come down hard on him, especially after what happened to Kampfer on the ice. Michigan can't talk out of both sides of it's mouth on cheap shots.

One more thing from SCM of note:

20 freakin percent shooting in the first half guys... that's ungodly bad.

Yeah. That's bad. What's worse is Michigan was 0-11 from three and 5-14 inside the arc in the first half. That's not going to cut it in any league. This team is waaaaaaaaay too content taking bad three pointers rather than executing the offense. The pick and roll we saw earlier in the year has completely disapeared. And sadly with the pressure D Ohio State was offering this was a perfect time to bring it back.