photo does not fit with theme of bullet [Patrick Barron]
Pretty grim. Mark Titus on the state of Big Ten basketball:
We’re only four years removed from the Big Ten’s incredible 2012–13 campaign, when six different teams cracked the top 10 of the AP poll and the regular-season title came down to the final shot on the final day of conference play. A Big Ten national title seemed imminent then, if not in the 2013 tournament then certainly in the immediate years to come. Now, coming off a tourney in which the league’s champion got blasted in the Sweet 16 and its best team lost to a no. 15 seed, the Big Ten could fare even worse in 2016–17; its only hope of remaining in title contention by the end of the tournament’s opening weekend could hinge on Purdue, a team that blew a 14-point lead with five minutes to play against Arkansas–Little Rock in the first round of the 2016 tournament.
It's not great, Bob. Simultaneous collapses by OSU, MSU, Indiana, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Michigan have sapped the top of the conference. A few years ago there were 6 or 7 teams as good as any of the top end contenders this year and one to three teams who were legitimately elite.
Injuries play a role, but Matta seems to have hit a wall; Izzo and Beilein are 62 and 64, respectively, and may be slowing down as they near the end of their careers. Crean may be gone after this year.
Donnal departure is already agreed to, apparently. It's not like it's a huge surprise but Mark Donnal taking a grad transfer next year has migrated past "open secret" and reached "fait accompli":
Donnal is not being offered a fifth year at Michigan.
"There have been a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I really think my career here shaped me as a better person. Now I'm moving on."
Michigan has three recruits coming in and Donnal is the third senior. Without attrition they'd be full next year, but attrition is always a possibility.
Today in Big Ten refs. How did Iowa-Indiana go last night?
God, shucks, there were a lot of those, huh? 57 (!!) total in this game, with four Indiana players fouling out — something that likely cost a thin Indiana team this contest, ultimately.
Both sides of this game have reps on my twitter feed and both sides were incredulous at what they were watching. An explanation is not forthcoming.
Seriously, MLive asked after the Minnesota debacle and got this response from the league:
MLive requested a comment or clarification regarding the technical. Via a Minnesota spokesman, the Big Ten stated that the technical was a judgment call and, thus, the night's head official, Rob Riley, would not be made available for comment.
"We question the judgment of your officials."
"The judgment of our officials is not in question, the end."
This is gaslighting, right? Did I do that correctly? I'm not good with words and stuff.
The last unicorn. Indiana RB coach Deland McCullough is off to USC. With that move, Indiana has now lost the entirety of Kevin Wilson's braintrust. Almost everybody moved up. Greg Frey ended up at Michigan, McCullough at USC, Wilson himself ended up as OSU's OC, etc., etc.
Indiana responded by bringing in Mike Debord. While that's going to be bad for anyone who liked #chaosteam—and as a fan of a Big Ten team that managed not to lose to them—it's going to be great for anyone who wants to see what happens when you put a sloth in a NASCAR race. Let's gooooooo (not very fast).
The nation's foremost water-carrier. Tony Barnhart has always been a reliable mouthpiece for any rich guy involved in college athletics but this takes the cake. He writes an article about the spate of post-Signing Day coaching moves, which are cynically delayed until players are locked in to a LOI. He lists several examples, and then:
I did some calling around and the feedback I got essentially was this: “If this bothers you, then you’re being pretty naïve. Coaches leaving, or being asked to leave, right after signing day is just a fact of life in college football.”
Who did he talk to? Mack Brown and Rick Neuheisel. Both those guys—shock—think it's no big deal. This is like asking the head of Big Ten officials whether he sucks at his job. It's the full Greenstein right here.
As targeting ejections have doubled over three years, the NCAA Football Rules Committee is looking at changing the replay standards so a targeting ejection only occurs if the penalty is confirmed. Currently, if replay doesn’t have enough evidence to confirm targeting but can’t rule it’s not targeting, the call on the field stands and the player gets ejected.
There could be three different outcomes to targeting reviews:
- Confirmed: ejection, 15 yards.
- Stands: no ejection, 15 yards.
- Overturned: no penalty.
I'm not sure how many targeting penalties fall into that gray area in the middle, but we're about to find out. I guess a way to get calls like that Penn State targeting ejection less wrong is good?
Good ol' boys. It's still 1975 in Louisiana:
Ed Orgeron was just presented with a key to the local jail.
Just in case, the sheriff says, an #LSU player finds his way into there.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) February 18, 2017
After FSU and Baylor and Tennessee you'd think these kinds of wink-wink nudge-nudge events would be frowned upon. There are clear costs that have resulted in far worse things than the occasional drunken escapade on a stolen moped.
Indiana parallels. In depth piece on Indiana basketball finding its footing in a world where it's no longer the 1970s at the Crimson Quarry:
The factors that made Indiana a great job 30 years ago simply don’t hold as much water today. We live in a world that is now smaller due to cheaper travel, social media, national AAU programs and circuits, prep schools. Indiana is far less cordoned off than it once was, and college basketball in the state and nationally is far deeper than it was in the peak of the Bob Knight era. Bloomington isn’t an NBA market like Los Angeles. Indianapolis is known for quality, not necessarily quantity, in producing top-level recruits that power programs to titles.
The comparisons between Indiana basketball and Michigan football over the past 40 or so years aren't dead on but there are some parallel tracks:
- Bo and Bob Knight are both cantankerous program legends who cast a long shadow for anyone who follows.
- Immediate successors are assistants promoted to the head job. Gary Moeller is the hand-picked successor; Mike Davis is an interim after Knight goes off the rails late who eventually gets the head job. Both have decent teams that aren't good enough to keep people from yelling for their heads and don't last.
- Controversial outsiders Rich Rodriguez and Kelvin Sampson are brought in, have short, tumultuous reigns featuring NCAA trouble. (Sampson's are much worse, resulting in a five-year show cause penalty.) Both last just three years.
- Dorfy-looking head coaches with somewhat questionable credentials are next. Major difference here is that Crean inherited a disaster zone and Hoke inherited Denard Robinson, so Hoke's tenure looks like a man careening downhill on moguls he doesn't know how to ski and Crean had an upward trajectory until recently. Still: dorfy.
It's rough when you've done things one way for a million years and then have to adapt.
Etc.: More croot profiles: J'Marick Woods, Kwity Paye, Luiji Vilain, Deron Irving-Bey, Ambry Thomas. Nevermind on Michael Johnson, who took a WR job at Oregon because he is terribly unqualified. What if Michigan never returned to the Big Ten?
Sorry to bump down Hutchinson but this is bigger news.
This one hurts. After rumors he hadn’t returned all semester, and that Michigan was apparently doing everything short of moving California to get him back, sophomore tight end Devin Asiasi is transferring to a school closer to home for personal reasons. Apparently now it’s official, via Harbaugh, via Baumgardner.
Harbaugh says Devin Asiasi is transferring.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 22, 2017
As just a true freshman Asiasi was one of the best blocking tight ends at Michigan in recent memory, and showed plenty of receiving ability to make him a major dual threat. There are plenty of other tight ends on the roster, and RS sophomore TJ Wheatley can fulfill much the same role. Still, this is still a major, major bummer. This is a player on the verge of stardom who was a perfect fit for the Michigan offense, and given the youth all over that side of the ball we were really looking forward to having at least this weapon at Harbaugh’s disposal.
As an additional knife, likely destinations for Asiasi include UCLA, where he would rejoin Jedd Fisch and best friend Boss Tagaloa (Jim Mora Jr.’s program has been a weird thorn in Michigan’s side lately despite going 8-5 and 4-8 the last two seasons). Asiasi also could wind up at USC, Cal, Stanford, or anywhere else that’s not here.
The word "lanky" comes to mind. [Isaiah Hole/247]
Michigan added a legacy to the 2018 class this evening when four-star Dearborn (MI) Divine Child DE Aidan Hutchinson, son of All-American defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson, committed to the Wolverines over the likes of Louisville, LSU, and Michigan State.
It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine pic.twitter.com/WS4UzDddUb
— Aidan Hutchinson (@aidanhutch28) February 22, 2017
Hutchinson is Michigan's third commit in the class, joining IN OG Emil Ekiyor and GA S/OLB Otis Reese.
4*, #16 DE,
4*, 83, #11 DE,
4*, 93, #5 SDE,
4*, #9 SDE,
It's still early in the 2018 evaluation process and Hutchinson is a prospect who requires quite a bit of projecting from a physical standpoint, so it's not a big surprise to see a significant split in his rankings. ESPN and 247 both consider him a fringe top-100 prospect; Scout has him as an early four-star; Rivals considers him the #14 prospect in the state—in a down year compared to 2017, at that. Rivals' Josh Helmholdt had a positive evaluation of Hutchinson after yesterday's Best of the Midwest Combine, so we could see these rankings tighten up before long.
Hutchinson is listed anywhere between 6'4", 227 (Rivals) and 6'6", 245 (Scout). He told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown this week that he's at the high end of that range and may still be growing. When he fills out, he should land at strongside defensive end, though if he gets much taller he may merit a look at offensive tackle.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Irvin or Robinson?
Choosing between defense and offense. [Left: Campredon; right: Barron]
I put out a call for hoops mailbag questions over the weekend. A theme emerged:
@AceAnbender why doesn't Duncan Robinson start/play Irvin's minutes? Irvin is broken and it's not like the D can get substantially worse
— RIP D (@affluenzaQB) February 21, 2017
— Bob Dively (@bobdively) February 20, 2017
With Duncan Robinson's semi-emergence on defense (feels weird saying that), why is Coach Beilein not inserting him into the clutch-time lineup for Zak Irvin? I live in constant fear of Irvin hero-ball and I just don't trust him to make shot these days, let alone the right decision.
I'd feel much more comfortable with a Walton-MAAR-Robinson-Wilson-Wagner lineup offensively at the end of the game, and if the defense only takes a small step back isn't it worth it?
The first two questions are slightly different from the third. To address those first: Zak Irvin is going to remain in the starting lineup. I agree with that choice because of the difference Irvin makes on defense. I disagree with the premise in the first question; the defense can get substantially worse—we all saw as much in January—and Irvin is a big reason why Michigan has improved on that end.
Irvin's versatility on defense is more important than people seem to think. He can do everything from stay in front of two-guards to play passable post defense; did we already forget about this? (And this? And this too?) Michigan doesn't have another wing (DJ Wilson, if you're inclined to count him, excluded) with anything resembling Irvin's combination of strength and quickness; his presence allows M to switch on defense without creating too many mismatches. He's one of Michigan's better on-the-ball defenders, too.
Robinson has made strides on defense; he's still far from a good defender. SI posted anonymous coach quotes today on several potential tourney teams. From the Michigan section, which was critical but fair:
If [senior guard Duncan] Robinson is in the game you want to attack him defensively. Everybody knows that.
Robinson hasn't been caught out of position as often as he was earlier in the season. He's still susceptible to being attacked off the dribble by quicker guards/wings and he doesn't have Irvin's strength to hold up when he's switched onto a post player. Yes, Robinson is the superior offensive player; Irvin, in my opinion, has as much of an edge on defense.
A straight-up comparison between the two isn't sufficient; this is, after all, a team sport. You can gameplan to hide a struggling offensive player, especially when the rest of the offense is clicking like Michigan's. Irvin, in fact, is playing a decreased role in the offense over the course of this slump. This mathematical approach isn't perfect, but Irvin averaged a 27% usage rate over M's first seven conference games, with a high mark of 32% (Maryland) and a low of 21% (Illinois). That average is down to 17% over M's last seven games, in which he's surpassed the 20% only three times, topping out at 24% in the Wisconsin win; he's gone as low at 8% in that span, using only five possessions in the MSU win. Walton and MAAR have been able to pick up the slack.
It's much more difficult to hide a weak defender; you don't get to choose what set the opposing team runs. Robinson has been such an effective offensive player this season in part because John Beilein can cherry-pick his matchup on both ends. Robinson wasn't nearly as efficient as a starter last year (107.7 ORating in B1G games) compared to what he's done as the sixth man this year (122.8 ORating in B1G); while correlation doesn't equal causation, I don't believe that's a coincidence.
If Irvin continues to take on big late-game possessions—I'll admit I cringed when he waved off Derrick Walton in a second-half late-clock situation at Minnesota—then I wouldn't mind seeing Beilein use Robinson over Irvin in certain late-game situations, as Christian suggests, especially if he can go offense-defense with his substitutions. Benching Irvin is a step too far; Michigan still has the best offensive efficiency in the conference with him playing 89% of the available minutes, and he's played a major role in the defensive improvement of the last month. Another stat of note: Robinson averages 22.3 minutes per game in Michigan's seven conference losses; he's at 17.6 in their seven conference wins.
[Hit THE JUMP for the path to the tourney, Minnesota technical explanation, and more.]
With just four games remaining for most Big Ten teams, it’s pretty safe to say at this point: the Big Ten just isn’t that good this season. Of the seven teams with positive efficiency margins in conference play, only three – Purdue, Wisconsin, and Maryland – are locks to make it into the NCAA Tournament; the other four (Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan) will probably total three or four bids, but none are safe with three weeks remaining in the season.
While the top three aren’t likely to receive impressive seeds in the NCAA Tournament (mostly due to a lack of significant non-conference wins and the general mediocrity of their conference opponents), there could be some surprises in March. As of right now, the Bracket Matrix has Purdue as a 4, Wisconsin as a 5, and Maryland as a 6.
- PURDUE: Feature National Player of the Year candidate and likely 1st-team All-American PF/C Caleb Swanigan (as well as 7’2 gargantuan Isaac Haas), one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, in the top 20 nationally on offense and defense.
- WISCONSIN: Veteran team with five multi-year starters, have one of the most unique big men in college hoops in Ethan Happ (a defensive menace) as well as two key seniors in guard Bronson Koenig and wing Nigel Hayes, have a top 10 defense nationally.
- MARYLAND: Rank much lower than the other two in computer metrics, but have won a lot of close games throughout the season, start three impressive freshmen in Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson, offense and defense are outside top 40 nationally.
Maryland is a year ahead of schedule and quite unlikely to make it to the Sweet 16, in my opinion, although Melo Trimble’s record in tight games over his three seasons in College Park have indicated that the Terps possess perhaps more late-game chops than the conventional statistical wisdom of “results of coin flips are random” would suggest. The Cowan / Huerter / Jackson trio is the best young nucleus in the conference, but tournament success will be difficult for such a young team. I’ve been mostly wrong about UMD since they’ve joined the Big Ten though, so who knows.
Wisconsin and Purdue are better equipped to do some damage as part of March Madness: the Badgers made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last season and the Boilermakers were felled in a 4/13 first round upset. Recent offensive struggles and a hobbled Koenig make me a little more leery of Wisconsin’s prospects, but their experience and the presence of Happ make them a relatively safe bet.
Purdue is probably the best team in the Big Ten; a frontcourt of Swanigan and Haas is a formidable matchup for any team, and Matt Painter has surrounded them with a cast of sharpshooters who enable them to operate effectively inside. Teams with strong offense and defense (as opposed to one or the other) as well as one of the best players in the country are always threats to make a deep run and the Boilermakers could be a Final Four team if things break right – though their guard play is still suspect.
[More on the Big Ten – including the bubble – after the JUMP]
Hey, so you may have noticed that things are slightly busted around here. The site's been in more or less the same state since I cobbled it together some seven years ago, with tweaks here and there and an ever-increasing amount of metal on the back end. This was fine; it's gotten increasingly less fine as time goes on. Let's bring in bolded alter-ego.
Why does your site look like Geocities still?
this was a bad idea
Does Marissa Meyer run this place or what?
Finding good developers turns out to be hard. Twice I've engaged professionals to do a thing, and neither time have the professionals actually managed to do the thing. A revamp of the comment section simply did not work; a planned site overhaul set to launch last summer obviously did not.
I think this is about to change. A few weeks ago I met with a gentleman from Human Element, a local outfit. They're taking over the stalled site revamp. HUEL* has several things going for it. They are local, so keeping in contact is easy. They have 30 people, so they have become good enough at what they do to grow significantly. They're big enough that they've got experience in whatever CMS you would throw at them. Their wifi password is reassuringly nerdy.
For the first time in a while I'm optimistic this will get done and before football season.
*[Referring to them as HE was weirdly religious and quickly discarded. HUEL had much to recommend it.
Internally they go by HEI but you will agree that HUEL is superior morally and ethically.]
But I hate change.
Indeed you do. There will be some changes. The most obvious will be a magazine-style front page. This will require some extra clicking but with the amount of #content on the site, especially during football season, we feel it is required. Not that much else will change, at least at first. The site revamp is a necessary first step before moving forward.
But we can look forward to some new features?
The new design is responsive, which means it'll look good on tablets and phones. It'll be professionally designed, so you'll know that the navigation menu above has useful things that drop down. (Do you know that?) You'll be able to get to the second page of the board without clicking on the mgoboard link above. Points will be exchangeable for Venezuelan bolivars. The site should be much faster and less prone to going down when traffic spikes.
Going forward a continued relationship with HUEL should allow us to implement some larger changes, but let's eat one apple at a time.
What about the app(s)?
Those will also be revamped when the site re-launches. They have to get massively updated anyway since the APIs they ping will change so it'll be a refresh for both. Apologies for the situation with the MGoBlog HD app; I am an Android person and did not know that the standard app had so many problems. Unfortunately the HD app was never authorized and when we were looking for performance improvements before Signing Day it stood out as a big drag.
Please bear with us. That should be fixed when the site re-launches. Your patience will be rewarded. With bolivars, but rewarded all the same.