Today we shift back to the back court, to the offensively one-dimensional yet sneakily grit-tastic Matt Vogrich, the pride of Lake Forest, IL (sorry Tommy Rees).
NB: I didn't think of this until now, but I'm probably just going to do these previews for guys that are returning from last year. Of course, the 2012 class will be major contributors, especially given the turnover that Michigan has had (losing Novak and Douglass to graduation and also losing Smotrycz, Brundidge, and Christian to more playing time elsewhere). With that said, a "preview" post for Mitch McGary et al would just end up being a useless collection of Rivals/Scout links and pointless highlight videos. There's no point in wasting your time on redundancies like that so let's just keep talking about players we are already familiar with and can speak out with some level of authority.
Career To Date
I feel like I say this all the time, but man I cannot believe Matt Vogrich is a senior. Actually, I'm fairly certain that I say this every time I talk about a senior player in any of the Michigan sports I follow closely: once you find yourself saying this on the reg, you have proof positive that you are getting old. As we all know, time speeds along faster and faster the older you get, which I guess is a good thing if you're trying to get through the horrid thing we call The Offseason (that's right, it merits capitalization).
To be honest, Vogrich's recruitment at this point is a vague thing to me, so I checked his Rivals profile and was somewhat surprised to see some of the schools on his offer list. He was a generic 3-star, the type of 3-point gunner that John Beilein craves like plants crave Brawndo. It's science. Other than Michigan, Vogrich received offers from basketball names like Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Baylor, Georgia Tech, and Stanford, among several other lower level offers. So, it's not like he was just some guy like Zack Novak, whose second best offer after Michigan came from Valparaiso.
As a high schooler, Vogrich averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, which is also somewhat surprising given the fact that his offensive game at the college level hasn't materialized much at all yet thus far. Obviously, he came in with the hype of a deadly shooter from outside, but you don't average those numbers without being able to do a little more than shoot the three. Of course, high school is a different game: even the college spot up shooter can do some things on the bounce.
As a freshman, Vogrich played only sparingly, averaging 5.5 minutes per game. During the 2009-10 season, however, he did shoot 39% from beyond the arc, lending credence to the notion that he could in fact be the Mike Gansey-esque gunner specialist that Beilein had been searching for. In 2010-11, Vogrich nearly tripled his minutes, averaging 14 per game while also shooting 39% from 3 yet again. He even upped his percentage from the field overall, going from 40.5% to 42.9% from his freshman to his sophomore year.
We knew that Vogrich would be coming off the bench likely throughout his entire career, so expectations at that juncture--after his sophomore year, that is--were fairly reasonable. He would come off the bench and take a few shots, hit a couple threes, and contribute some general grit. He displayed a surprising ability to pick up rebounds despite only being 6'4'' and not much of an athlete, a facet of his game which inspired me to dub him Diet Novak last season.
Then the 2011-12 season happened, leaving us with some questions about what to reasonably expect out of Matt Vogrich.
In light of his 3-point shooting percentages during his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, it would not be unreasonable to posit that his performance from 3 last season was somewhat of an anomaly. Vogrich's percentage took a nosedive, dipping all the way down to 30%, a number which would be below average for a guy who is not a 3-point specialist, let alone for a guy who ostensibly is one.
With that said, his minutes also took a bit of a nosedive, going from the aforementioned 14 per game to 10.7 per last season. It might seem like an insignificant difference, but for a guy like Vogrich, this sort of decline in deployment means the world. It goes without saying that a guy whose offensive game depends almost entirely on the 3 will suffer when he doesn't see the floor a much.
As a Chicago Bulls fan, I saw the same sort of thing play out with a much better 3-point shooter in Kyle Korver. Korver, despite shooting an excellent 43.5% last season, often had off nights. Given the Bulls' prowess on the offensive glass, I distinctly remember several possessions during which Korver would clank a 3, only to get a second chance after an offensive rebound only to clank another one. Korver was also a defensive liability, so when the 3s didn't fall, his presence on the court became a net negative. This, in short, is the plight of the 3-point specialist. When the so called "rhythm" that commentators allude to so often isn't there--a notion which is generally directly correlated to playing time--the specialist becomes someone that you don't want on the court. It essentially becomes a situation where you are playing 4 on 5 when that person is on the floor.
The same could be said for Vogrich last season. We have already seen him shoot the 3 in a way that would make Rick James from Dave Chappelle's E True Hollywood Story sketch blush. However, in limited minutes last season, he would often get on the floor, miss his only one or two threes, and that would be it.
Things That Were Good
Of course, things weren't all bad for Vogrich last season. Against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, he dropped 11 points on 4-7 shooting (3-5 from 3). In only 11 minutes at Nebraska, he scored 9 points on 3-4 shooting from beyond the arc, a game which could have potentially been close if did not pitch in in the way that he did.
In a big home win against Illinois, Vogrich put up 8 points on 3-3 shooting (2-2 from 3); Michigan won that game by 9, FWIW.
In Michigan's second thrilling OT victory against Northwestern, Vogrich put up 9 points on 3-6 from 3, an obviously important game for him, played less than an hour away from his hometown of Lake Forest. He hit two big threes in the early going to held build Michigan's lead (which was of course squandered by halftime), and then hit a third to put Michigan up by 1 with just under 9 minutes to go. It's easy to forget such contribution on a team headlined by guys like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, but these subtle contributions are often the difference between winning and losing in close conference tilts.
Things That Were Bad
This section will probably be mostly redundant, but Vogrich failed to make an impact in several Michigan losses. At Iowa, Vogrich went 0-1 from 3 in 18 minutes, which can partly be attributed to the nature of that performance for the team as a whole, particularly the offense's propensity to break down if Trey Burke isn't functioning at peak levels or if the pick and roll is being stonewalled.
Otherwise, just scan his game log for yourself: it's littered with 0-2s from 3, which unfortunately was the standard Vogrich stat line last season. I get the feeling that I'm being almost unfairly negative here, so, to reiterate: it's very difficult for a player like Vogrich to make a difference with consistency when he's only putting up 2 shots, at most, on any given night.
The question becomes: what do you do about it? I'm not sure that Vogrich is an integral cog to the point that he should be asked to "keep shooting", as is often told to 3-point specialists when they are struggling. If he doesn't hit one of his first 2 or 3 shots, it's very difficult to justify that sort of advice, as much as I or any other Michigan fan would love to see him become that 3-point shooter that we all want him to be.
Maybe things will change this season, but Vogrich does not strike me as a guy like Novak or Douglass, players who were predominantly 3-point spot up guys for their first three seasons before the desert bloomed last season when they displayed an ability to make a difference on the bounce and in the mid-range game.
If Vogrich Was A Literary Figure
Harper Lee. Kind of a one-hit wonder. His ability to
Things That Would Be Prettyyyy Prettyyyy Prettyyyy Good
- Justify more minutes. As I mentioned, pure minutes played is a big issue for a guy like Vogrich. Getting on the floor more often--for instance, something in the neighborhood of the 14 minutes per game that he logged in 2010-11--necessitates doing other things other than 3-point shooting.
- GRIT. This has been a positive in Vogrich's game that has nothing to do with outside shooting. He hasn't exactly racked up eye-popping rebounding numbers, but I've found myself fairly surprised with his ability to pull down the occasional offensive board or two despite his obvious physical limitations. This is one of those aforementioned "other things" that Vogrich can do to get more minutes and, consequently, have more of a chance to get in a rhythm. Like major league hitters, 3-point specialists are creatures of habit and repetition.
- Yeah, 3-point shooting. For the millionth time, Vogrich needs to make good on his few attempts per game. This again is a nod to the point I made about Jordan Morgan finishing around the basket and the Ray Ratto "just win the game" reference. I'm not sure that there was anything explicitly off with his mechanics, footwork, etc. He just needs to make them when he gets the chance, which is unfortunately a difficult task given his overall lack of usage and his ancillary role on this iteration of Michigan basketball.
OFFICIAL EXPECTATIONS FOR SOMETHING THAT'S FOUR MONTHS AWAY
FROM STARTINGMichigan will likely have a team capable of winning the conference whether or not Vogrich returns to the form that he showed during his first two seasons. With that said, having a guy that shoots 40% from three, despite being very low usage, would be an incredible boon for a team that no longer has Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to rely on from outside, in addition to THJ being decidedly erratic from outside and Trey being approximately adequate from there as well. Luckily, Michigan does have reputed 3-point gunner Nik Stauskas coming in, but in a system like Beilein's--and today's college basketball world, generally--you can never have too much quality 3-point shooting.
I'm having a hard time getting a handle on what to expect from Vogrich this season. With Stauskas figuring to be a major component of this team, Vogrich's 3-point ability might be somewhat marginalized. Similarly, with THJ moving to the two (although I have always been somewhat skeptical of the rigidity of these number/position designations), minutes may be hard to come by in any greater number than they were last season.
Regardless, I think that Vogrich will prove that last season was somewhat of an outlier. He is a good shooter, period, and I'm confident that if he was playing for another team where minutes were more available, he would be able to show that on a more consistent basis. I think that Vogrich will see the court a little more than last season, and his percentage will climb back up to respectability. His 30% mark last season will be proven to simply be a convergence of bad luck and lack of run...I think somewhere in the range of 34-36% is a reasonable expectation for Vogrich in 2012-13.