Well, how about that? Bernie Mac is back, and given all the crazy stuff on the bubble of late you have to think Michigan is in no matter what now. In. In.
And you can't have one without the other…
Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, but Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Minnesota|
|WHERE||Williams Arena, Minneapolis MN|
|WHEN||Noon, March 7th 2009|
|THE LINE||Ask Jamiemac|
|KENPOM||Minnesota 66, M 61 (28% chance)|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on ESPN|
Sims is in tough. By this point we know a few things about DeShawn Sims, and one of them is that he gets swallowed up by actual big and tough shot-blocky types. Ideally he'd be playing with an actual center next to him who would occupy that player, but he's not so hypothetical center isn't.
Minnesota has a number of big and tough shot-blocky types, and though they're young they're ridiculously blocky: Minnesota is #1 nationwide in block percentage, sending back an astounding 19.2% of opponents' shots. That seems like a preposterous typo, but it's not. (The national average is 8.8%.)
So it's not a huge surprise that Sims was not a huge factor in the first game. He had twelve points, but was just 3 of 11 inside the arc. I don't think we're going to get much inside.
Threes should be open, though. Michigan won handily against the Gophers by chucking it from deep, going 13-28 on threes. Grady was 3 of 3, Novak 6 of 10, Sims 2 of 5, Douglass 2 of 6. Lee and Harris both took two and missed both.
This was not totally anomalous. Though Minnesota opponents only make a slightly above-average number of threes, the Gophers do yield almost 37% of their FGs from long range, 284th nationally. Given all the shotblocking inside, there is a huge gap between the average return of a three (1.04 points) and a two (.86). This matches up well with Michigan's shoot-first-cross-halfcourt-later style,
Defensively, we are going to have to force turnovers. Minnesota coughs up a ton of them and though they don't shoot particularly well, be it from two or three, they crash the boards like a mother—63rd in offensive rebounding—even against teams not featuring 6'5" 'power forward' and a point guard rotation of Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy.
Michigan doesn't force a ton of turnovers yet—they're still too small for that zone to be really bothersome—but they get their share. Minnesota is 311th in steals allowed; each one of those allows Michigan to run the floor and avoid the aforementioned blocky guys. In a game that figures to be tight, the difference between two steal+layups and four is likely the difference between victory and defeat.
Uh… Kelvin Grady maybe? Grady's ability to push the ball upcourt lightning-quick could help here, right? I've seen so many threes launched over a helpless David Merritt that I can't think Grady's actually worse defensively.
Bizarre outlier! Minnesota, despite being huge and blocky and so forth and so on, is a below average defensive rebounding team. Ah, check that: I remember Brent Petway. These things are probably related. When four guys are skying to swat a ball anything that gets past their outstretched limbs is probably landing in the opponent's hands.
This disadvantage does not play particularly well into our hands, since we hardly ever crash the boards. It'll be interesting to see if Beilein changes his usual strategy here in search of an easy putback or two. Same with the Grady thing.
And, of course, the eternal question: How badly will Manny Harris's entire family be sodomized at courtside in front of everyone by every Gopher, roving bands of Minnesota students, Jim Delany, the ghost of Hubert H. Humphery, and the fabric of the land itself before one of the refs calling the game notices and calls a theatric technical on a Michigan assistant coach?
Eh, survey says probably pretty bad. Harris had an ugly game against Minnesota last time, going 2 of 8 and getting to the line just twice. Minnesota's slightly above average in FTA/FGA this year.
And I suppose I have to venture a prediction. I don't think we win. Relying on deep chucks on the road is a recipe for trouble, and that seems to go double for weird arenas like Williams, where the elevated floor puts weird juju into shooters or something. Michigan usually goes as Sims and Harris go—the last Minnesota game was a rare exception afforded by the scorching three-point shooting—and this doesn't look like a good situation for either.
But basketball is weird and all that. And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.
I was just reading your early recruiting analysis on 2010, and I was curious how we are allowed to offer so many scholarships. You noted that we had 17-20 to give, yet we have offered 46 by my rough count on your board.
Are there rules by the NCAA or conferences on how many scholarships a school can offer over their limit? If we receive our 17-20 commits and we do not have any more available scholarships, do we simply have to say, "No thank you" to anyone else who is considering their previously offered scholarship? (As opposed to Alabama's method)
Scholarship offers have no legal or NCAA standing until a school faxes a letter of intent to the player on signing day. Until that time, they're just fancy letters indicating a school would like you to play for them… if they don't change their mind by the time you make up yours, and you don't throw a cherry bomb at a six-year-old, and you don't flunk out.
Usually offer letters have some language indicating this. The relevant paragraph from Michigan's offer to Tate Forcier:
This award is contingent upon the satisfactory conclusion of your junior and senior years, both academically and athletically. NCAA minimum academic standards must be satisfied and internal admissions requirements must be met. This letter remains viable until such time as NCAA rule 15.5.5 regarding squad limits (85 total) would appear to be compromised. Therefore, as a necessary consequence, grants may only be awarded based on availability.
Basically: don't flunk out and don't wait for someone else to take your spot… oh, and don't suck at sports. Until a letter of intent is signed, the school has zero obligation to the player. Which, yes, can suck for the player.
Offers get pulled all the time, and when this happens to an uncommitted prospect for whatever reason it's always uncontroversial, as it should be. The player in question hasn't promised you anything and hasn't accepted your promise. Sometimes players try to commit only to be told they can't, and sometimes this causes bad feelings. Legendary Michigan cases involve Tennessee OL Brent Trott, who never had a Michigan offer, and a Florida linebacker named Justice whose first name escapes me who tried to commit and was told the inn was full. Both of those players had time to go elsewhere, and did, but were noisily displeased for a brief time.
Where it gets touchy sometimes is when players who have issued a verbal commitment are told they no longer have an offer. Sometimes this is due to academics or extra-curricular issues: in 2008 Ohio State pulled Devoe Torrence's offer when he got in some nasty legal trouble and this year OSU safety commit Bradley McDougald was told to head elsewhere after he was caught with weed. (He ended up at Kansas.) That's legit. But sometimes kids just get their offer pulled through no fault of their own. This happened at South Carolina last year and caused a minor stink.
In those cases there are no official repercussions but the PR hit is usually enough to keep schools in line. For one, South Carolina is never getting a kid from that high school again.
As to Michigan: if three quarterback recruits decide they want to commit tomorrow… well, Michigan will take them. Bad example. But if hypothetical eager QB #4 rings up Rich Rodriguez, Rodriguez is going to have to say "sorry." A commitment is a mutual thing, albeit one with no legal standing whatsoever.
I'm originally from Minnesota, and I still listen to the MN local radio. One morning show is a big fan of Denard Span, an up an coming player for the Twins. They created this bit, which also seems appropriate for the Michigan faithful who are excited for Denard Robinson. Enjoy!
Download, if you are so inclined (right click and "save as")
1) I predict that song makes an appearance during football liveblogging at some point this year.
2) When that song went to to the Betty Ford Center and came out the other end "Let's Get It Started" and was deployed as the theme song of the NBA Playoffs, was it the most impressive/ridiculous corporate rehab ever? I, being of sound mind and distance from preteens, had never heard the original ("Let's Get Retarded," an ode to pot*/alcohol) and it seemed like a perfect prefab song from a major label crapband. Then I find it's about basically the opposite of starting anything, it's about killing your brain. The mind boggles.
2a) Who would have thought that three or so years later that song would stand out as clearly the best and most appropriate NBA Playoffs theme song yet? Tom Petty? What?
*(Windows Live Writer has an auto-substitute list you can set up. IE: whenever I type recruiting board it points at the recruiting board automatically, or Varsity Blue or MVictors or, uh, Threetsheridammit chart. So that's why that. I would have deleted it but for the lulz.)
And how about an update on the last mailbag:
The Shegoses are from Flint. Matt and Duke ( I think) are the referees, I can't remember if Duke is the nickname for Mark Shegos or if Mark is a separate 3rd Shegos. For what it's worth, my uncle knows them and they are all very nice. They've been involved with hockey for time out of mind, although in my humble opinion, nice though they may be, they've never been the best officials. I think I heard the Shegos chant for the first time in the early 90's- anyway, it is definitely tongue in cheek. We did NOT actually want Shegos. Here's some fun Shegos opinions from a Sparty blog a few years back, where they also assert that "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."
The North Dakota playoff game at Yost in 1998 saw two Michigan goals waved off (I think both in the second period), inciting the crowd to a state of near-riotousness. They were not as bad as the ones which happened this year because at least they were judgment calls, but they did bring the crowd into a frenzied state. By the way, I was sitting right behind the Michigan penalty box for that game and Bobby Hayes used words I did not know when describing the officials- and I was living in South Quad at the time, I knew LOTS of fun words.
For people who don't mind being adventurous about Frozen Four tickets, I was one of those who bought way too many a few years back when all those WCHA teams played in Columbus. Ok, I get it, WCHA in Columbus, but demand was none. At least for that event, I can confirm that they were much less than face value. I stood outside trying to sell the tickets for like 3 hours and eventually was trying to give them away and couldn't. I think those willing to be patient can get tickets for a few dollars each, especially if your game is the late game.
On the Frozen Four thing, which I promise is advice for the entire universe and not an implication that Michigan will make it to DC, or, for that matter, not sack the program tomorrow: an excellent strategy if you're the late game is to camp outside the building after the early game ends; disgusted fans of the losing team will be exiting and selling at cheapo prices. Problem: last year there was no opportunity to do this because the semifinals were one ticket.
As to the Shegos brothers, the response received about them was totally outstanding. Some, like Jack, thought it was a sarcastic Shegos-oriented insult. Some thought there was one Shegos who was definitively better than the other Shegos and he was the one being chanted for at all times. And some thought it was an actual desire for a referee who wasn't Mark Wilkins (or, more cynically, attended Michigan, which at least one Shegos did). All of which adds up to a cheer that thousands of people are doing over a decade with completely different ideas of why they're chanting it.
|Pahokee, Florida - 6'0" 181
|Scout||3*, #33 WLB|
|Rivals||3*, #35 OLB|
|ESPN||78, #39 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, WVU, USF, Louisville|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Pahokee (Odoms, Smith). Florida small schools defender of year. Also: shirtless.|
Brandin Hawthorne is the one linebacker recruit in the class who actually played, you know, linebacker in high school and is scheduled to do so in college. Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones were safeties; high school linebacker Cameron Gordon is going to play wide receiver, at least for a while.
Irony enters the party now: Hawthorne is smaller than all of those guys. Generously listed at 6-foot-nothing, Hawthorne is safety- or even corner-sized. He was used mostly as a lightning-quick wrecking ball at Pahokee; check his eyepopping TFL stats:
Hawthorne finished last year [his junior season] with 80 tackles, and 31 of those were for losses. He forced two fumbles and recovered two more last season.
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings. When you have to make statements like this…
“Don’t let size fool you,” Hawthorne said. “There’s a grown man inside me.”
…you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. Also, you have something in common with Charlie Weis.
However, there are other reasons, reasons he got offers from Michigan and a wide variety of other schools:
On the college scene, Hawthorne's ''stock is exploding,'' according to Blue Devils coach Blaze Thompson. Hawthorne is ranked No. 17 on recruiting analyst Larry Blustein's Palm Beach list. He also has received plenty of offers, but has ''only five that I'm really concerned about'' -- Michigan, South Florida, Louisville, Tennessee and West Virginia.
His teammates certainly aren't surprised at the attention.
''Brandin's a monster,'' [Pahokee corner Willie] Hickman said. ``He goes 100 percent -- the whole play, the whole game -- he's just a monster. It's good to have him on your team. You don't have to sit around and wait for somebody else to make the play, because he's going to make the play.''
ESPN, oddly, had few concerns about size($), at least in the long term:
Hawthorne possesses all the physical tools for a college program to mold into a disruptive perimeter player at the next level if they are patient with his development. He can run, close, and hit and has incredible upside. Tall, rangy frame with a very long wingspan; should play at close to 225-pounds at next level while retaining his good play speed and athleticism.
They did say he needed "major bulk and size" before he was college-ready, but was "greatly underrated and is a definite late bloomer with a ton of natural gifts to develop at the next level." They then rated him the #39 OLB, which is about where everyone else rated him. So go figure.
Teammate and recruiting kerfuffle origin Nu'Keese Richardson echoes the "monster" diagnosis:
"I've never seen anyone hit like Hawthorne, even Janoris," Richardson said. "Brandin Hawthorne will make you think twice about coming his way."
So does his coach:
Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.
And so does he (link ibid):
"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."
I'm a get you. Those four words come from a kid in Pahokee, Florida, where the only industry just got bought by the government and linebackers get murdered for being in the wrong part of the muck and kids chase rabbits for something to do, and represent the vast gulf in culture between the old guard and the new better than anything I've run across so far. Hawthorne's home life… probably a bit different from your average Massey or Boren. The fact that Hawthorne and Smith fit in so well with the coaches recruiting them they would commit to Michigan sight unseen (and, unlike DeQuinta Jones, stick to that commitment) indicates a shift in philosophy. It's not seismic if you've got Forcier and LaLota and Roh and Turner and Gordon and etc etc etc, but it's real.
I've brought this up before in these profiles: Michigan is recruiting kids with an eye towards the future of offense, and this is most obvious at linebacker, where corner-sized Hawthorne is the only high school linebacker arriving. They are also recruiting kids who don't have much other than football, for whom buy-in is not an option to think about if they don't want to go plow driveways for dad.
I like Hawthorne's attitude and ability to turn opponents into random high-velocity subatomic particles; I like the fact Michigan jumped on him with an early offer and pursued him without reservation. I like the fact he has a place he'd like to visit but not live. I wish he had more than one big offer (Tennessee) outside of Michigan, and wish he wasn't so small. Hawthorne seems rated about right to me, and is a guy who is about 50-50 between starting and fading into Bolivian.
Why Ian Gold? It's not a very good comparison, since Gold was moved from running back, but Gold was an undersized but quick WLB, good in coverage and a dangerous blitzer.
Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be overlooked.
General Excitement Level: I have hard time getting over how small he is. On the other hand, Hawthorne seems likely to make the most out of his physical attributes, and if ESPN thinks he's got the frame that's a good sign. Here's a passage that sums all that up:
When Cardinal Newman hosted Pahokee this year, Crusaders kicker and punter Brendan Gibbons was rumored to be headed to Michigan. Blue Devils linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, one of this area's meanest hitters, already had made an oral commitment to the Wolverines.
So when Hawthorne had a chance to drill Gibbons after a punt - which he did at least once the previous season - he let up. "I'm not going to knock you out this time since you're going to Michigan," Hawthorne said after the play.
Gibbons was grateful, although at 6-foot-0, 212 pounds he is roughly Hawthorne's size.
I dunno, evil, vicious, bullet… kicker-sized linebacker. Moderate, I guess. Anyone you're expecting to put 40 pounds on may come out the other end of that incapable of moving his neck and stuff.
Projection: Very, very probable redshirt, and then I think he'll have to wait for Mouton to graduate. Redshirt sophomore before he's got a real shot at the field; may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D.
Wheat, wheat, chaff. The last couple days have been very good for Michigan's tourney chances:
South Florida 70, Cinci 59
St. John's 59, Georgetown 56
Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63
North Carolina 86, Va Tech 78
Georgia 90, Kentucky 85
Mississippi State 80, Florida 71
Georgia Tech 78, Miami 68
The only bubble results to have gone against Michigan were in their own conference, with Ohio State narrowly escaping a late barrage of Iowa three attempts, Northwestern getting back on the bubble by winning at Purdue, and Minnesota possibly solidifying a bid by taking down Wisconsin. (New Mexico beating Utah is also Not Good, I guess.)
Some of those losses are horrible and those teams have basically eliminated themselves. Kentucky now has the #78 RPI and the #68 SOS; Miami is 6-9 in the ACC and 17-11 overall. This probably doesn't change the do-or-die nature of the Minnesota game, but it does significantly smooth the rails should Michigan pull off the mild upset.
Pendulum reverse. I don't know what's with Jay Bilas. Maybe he's been bludgeoned into saying nice things about Michigan by ESPN higher-ups. Maybe he values a win over Duke more than everyone else in the universe. Or maybe he's on a manic swing right now, because now whenever you get him on TV talking about the bubble he brings up Michigan as obviously in no matter what happens against Minnesota.
The only problem with this: it is almost certainly wrong.
Allow myself to introduce myself. Leon Hall, now of the Cincinnati Bengals, got a painting commissioned. Naturally, it's dedicated to how awesome Leon Hall is. The painter put up a time-lapse video of its construction and decided to set it to the least appropriate music ever (it's SFW, just all about how awesome Ohio is*):
Whilst fast forwarding I couldn't help but think of Bill Simmons' column on NBA finances and how broke-ass all these NBA stars are. Leon, my man, couldn't you think of more socially productive uses for that money?
Um, well, okay. Varsity Blue's odd new series profiling each of the Michigan commits who didn't end up signing provides a jumping-off point for a final review of how Michigan's class was impacted.
|Kevin Newsome||Tate Forcier|
|Shavodrick Beaver||Denard Robinson|
|Bryce McNeal||Je'Ron Stokes|
|DeWayne Peace||Adrian Witty?|
|Will Campbell||Will Campbell|
|Anthony Fera||Brendan Gibbons|
The dastardly defectors are at right. There is one obvious push: Will Campbell's quasi-defection. McNeal and Stokes are also about equal in the eyes of the recruiting services. At quarterback, Newsome, Beaver, Forcier, and Robinson all exist outside of top 100 lists but in that 100-250 range; pick your preferences there. Some people don't think Robinson is a quarterback, but that goes for Newsome, too. That's basically a push.
Then you have the strange cases of DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes. Neither is anything more than a replacement-level recruit for Michigan, so the loss there is not so much in the talent of the player lost but the scholarship that will go to waste this year. That's a small cost, but one that it appeared Michigan was willing to take when it dropped out of contact with Barnes, who eventually ended up at Oklahoma State, and told Peace they wanted him to play corner—something Peace had told the coaches he didn't want to do. That VB article highlights one of the blunter quotes I've heard from a coach on signing day: "sometimes a kid does you a favor when he decommits." Barnes and Peace would fit into that category.
Kicker Anthony Fera was replaced by Brendan Gibbons, and that's likely to be a small downgrade. Fera was rated higher by the recruiting services and was Michigan's first choice. Gibbons is a few slots lower. Given how erratic kicker rankings are—which says more about kickers than the rankings—it's not a big deal.
So we've dismissed or replaced everyone on the list until we get to the last two: defensive tackles DeQuinta Jones and Pearlie Graves, signing-day decommits Michigan did not have time to replace. Signing just one defensive tackle this year is a major bummer, and there had been rumors swirling around the two for months before they finally pulled the trigger. Michigan was caught with its pants down there. (Larry Harrison jokes in the comments will be downgraded for low SOS.)
Hockey at the Big House: Michigan State is in; the Wings are out.
Etc.: Mike Valenti could be joining Rob Parker in the soup kitchen line soon. He should have MADE PLAYS instead of RUNNING HIS MOUTH IN HURRICANE KATRINA. The Big House Blog recaps and rates Michigan's nine announced preferred walk-ons.
Stipulated: Michigan has no case for the NCAA tournament unless it wins at Minnesota on Saturday. The rest of this post assumes a Michigan win to get to 9-9 in the Big Ten, because if it does not it is pointless. Let this not be a jinx.
Why is Penn State in brackets ahead of Michigan? Look: they're currently in Lunardi's Bracketology and several others in the Bracket Matrix. 33 brackets have PSU in; just 11 have Michigan in. Hypothetical Michigan is 9-9 in conference and 19-12 overall pending the Big Ten tourney. Hypothetical Penn State (@ Iowa, Illinois) is probably 22-11 and 10-8 in conference. Right now they're 9-7.
Penn State has an advantage in conference, then. However, out of conference:
|Games Against Kenpom Top 100||Duke(5), UCLA (9), Duke(5), UConn(3), Maryland(58), Northeastern(96)||Temple (52), Rhode Island(66)|
|Wins against same||Duke, UCLA, Northeastern||None|
Penn State's best nonconference win is against #104 Georgia Tech, which is headed for a one-win season in the ACC. Hell, Michigan's win over #113 Oakland is about as impressive as that. You can wipe away the Temple/Maryland losses as equal and call Michigan's win over #96 Northeastern equal to PSU's loss to #66 Rhode Island—very generous—and then you've got two wins in four games against top-ten opposition by Michigan versus Penn State's absolutely nothing. Surely that's a more impressive record even if Penn State is 1.5 games ahead in the conference standings, especially in a year when Michigan is missing the surest conference win of all: home against Indiana.
I make this point because I've heard a lot about Michigan's lack of a killer road win this season, which is something that makes little sense to me especially in relation to conference opponents. Penn State and Michigan play virtually the same schedule in conference, but you get the impression that a team that goes out and loses all its home games and wins all its road games is in much better shape than a team that does the opposite. This is clearly bats, as both teams have the exact same SOS, but the hoo-hah about road wins is the most ominous thing we hear about Michigan, and if they get bumped off the bubble it will obviously be the #1 thing cited. No matter that Michigan actually played a nonconference schedule, unlike PSU.
I don't know where Michigan stands in relation to teams in the Big East or Pac 10 or SEC, as there are just too many variables. But if 9-9 Michigan gets left out of the field and 10-8 Penn State gets in, there will be a fit around these parts. Road wins are a stupid metric. And even if they're a good metric it's because it showcases the team's ability to play at a very high level and do a very difficult thing, which Michigan has already demonstrated by beating UCLA on a neutral court and Duke at home.
Update: forgot about the UConn game.
Update II: some protest in the comments. Let's look at it like this: in the hypothetical situation where M beats Minnesota and PSU splits its last two, Michigan and Penn State will have identical records across the 16 conference games they shared. Consider the conference games the teams didn't share as nonconference games and this is what you're looking at:
|Games Against Kenpom Top 100||N-Duke(5), N-UCLA (9), Duke(5), UConn(3), OSU (46), @ Maryland(58), @ Northwestern(68) Northeastern(96)||@ MSU(14), Temple (52), N-Rhode Island(66)|
|Wins against same||Duke, N-UCLA, @ Northwestern, Northeastern||@ MSU|
Then you are basically holding Penn State's one win at MSU against 2 losses to meh teams equivalent to Michigan going 4-4 against the schedule you see above including two wins over top ten foes. Does not compute.
Again, if Michigan loses to the Gophers this is moot, and if Penn State wins its last two it's also moot. I just don't understand how you can look at the above resumes and give Penn State the edge.