Nihilism factor EXTREME operative principle engage embed engage emb—
Oh my God. Make it stop. The Greg Paulus story has blossomed into the largest, most annoying complete non-story I've ever had the privilege to follow on the internet. I intended to fire and forget the post on his possible transfer with maybe an update along the lines of "hey, we might not have to play Nick Sheridan at any point this year, but then again he's actually played football sometime in the last four years so maybe he'll still be in front of Paulus."
No such luck. My feed reader over the past few days has been updated with a million breathless updates about The Man Who Will Compete With Sheridan. It's been heavily featured on Sportscenter, PTI, and every other show where people yammer about sports. And for what?
Again: we are talking about a person who is not obviously better than Sheridan and hasn't played football seriously in the last four years. People are digging up breathless scouting reports about what a freakin' incredible quarterback he is, but this isn't like LeBron James suddenly had an epiphany and decided he'd play football. Paulus is a 6'2" pocket passer who hasn't read a defense in four years. He doesn't fit the offense. He has no long term future. He will be at least six months behind Tate Forcier when he steps on campus.
Barring injury, what are the chances Paulus ever sees a meaningful snap at Michigan? There are none. What is the downside of allowing Paulus to walk-on and play at quarterback? There is none. You cannot bar injury, after all.
When Nick Sheridan went down with an injury, I'm sure Tate Forcier took on the mentality of a starting quarterback and began to take command of the huddle and build trust with the first team offense almost immediately. Now he has to look over and see a guy with a huge reputation and the immediate support of the Wolverine nation (as Mike said, they're already selling "Paulus for Heisman" shirts).
You too, gibbering Matt Hayes:
The guy who played point guard for Duke the past four seasons, who hadn't picked up a football in four years before, you know, getting his arm loose recently, could be the starting quarterback at Michigan this fall.
Maybe it's not really a red flag.
Maybe it's time to panic.
Hayes later name checks "walk-on" David Cone. Argh. Someone stop this man from having opinions. Offering Greg Paulus a walk-on spot is a perfectly sensible thing to do when you have three scholarship quarterbacks on campus and one of them is the Coner. It means nothing.
So why are we talking about this? Because Paulus was an annoying, bad point guard at Duke. This has no relevance to his football career except insofar as it's barred him from having one. But it's engaged the dread gears of the sports pundit noise machine because it's weird and everyone kind of hates Paulus for being a privileged white kid at Duke. And then people start talking about the noise itself and everything builds and I become very, very cross, and it all gets very meta and even dumber.
GREG PAULUS HAS WHAT PLANTS CRAVE. GREG PAULUS MAKES YOU WIN AT YELLING. GREIFNEFISSHSFIGHSING ISNEGH ISFIVN IWEWJNFIWN!!!
In the aftermath of Michigan's first tourney bid in forever and the looming (as in 2010) departures of the two guys who were the engine behind that bid there's been a lot of discussion about what we can expect in the future when Beilein doesn't have the services of two stars who wanted to play for someone else. There was a mailbag. There has been talking in comments and on blogs and on message boards. A winding response to various opinions follows.
It Can Work
Excellent diary from Bronxblue on the Beilein thing and potential ceilings it may have:
[Beilein's] system was designed to compensate for the lack of the "big time" star. The heavy reliance on three pointers that is a hallmark of his offense is designed to compensate for the lack of a post threat and/or a dynamic finisher around the basket. Similarly, the 1-3-1 was designed to create turnovers as a way to compensate for little interior defense from a dominant inside presence. …
Unfortunately … this type of system has a finite level of potential success - something I'll refer to as the Mid-Major Ceiling (MMC). Look at teams like Gonzaga (though their recruiting has gotten better over the years), Xavier, Creighton, and throw WVU into that mix (though they come from a major conference, they would never have succeeded in the Big East simply trying to out-recruit other teams). While they all are/were consistent NCAA teams, none ever made it past the Elite 8 (except George Mason, which was the flukiest of fluky runs), and even getting past the Sweet 16 was a crapshoot. The reason for this, at least in my opinion, was due to the fact that they inevitably ran into a team whose talent was great enough to expose the deficiencies each of those systems was designed to hide.
I don't think that necessarily has to be the case. John Hollinger put out an article earlier this year noting that the percentage of three-pointers attempted in the NBA is rising relentlessly, and the teams that are playing better than expected are doing it with the longball. Check it:
In fact, few stats correlate better with winning than 3-point attempts. If you tell me only how many 3-pointers a team has chucked up this season and provide no other information, I can tell you whether it is a winning team and be right eight times out of 10.
Check this out: The teams in the top 10 in 3-point attempts per field goal attempt have a combined winning percentage of .593 … and those in the bottom 10 have a combined winning percentage of .400.
That's no accident. Three-point attempts have correlated highly with winning for the past several years.
Now, the NBA is a completely different animal where just about everyone can shoot and everyone has legitimate post players, but that's just attempts, not actually making them.
You can see the power of the three-pointer in Michigan's numbers this year, which are at right: though Michigan was well above average at making their twos and well below average at making their threes, the eFG numbers are almost identical. If Michigan was even a little less unbalanced, the torrent of threes they jacked up would be a net benefit even though the stats would say they're better at twos.
Okay, yes, this sort of analysis misses a ton of factors: drawing fouls (advantage twos), turning the ball over (advantage threes), offensive rebounds(?). Also you just can't shoot all threes. Some percentage of Michigan's threes are really good looks, and those have the best percentage. Some percentage of them are okay looks, and those have an okay percentage. And some of them are "Manny… no!" or "Stu… no!" shots that have a poor percentage. Threes Michigan didn't shoot were bad shots indeed.
But the raw data from a place where the talent is much more evenly distributed is that if you can put together a team that takes a ton of threes you will be pretty good. Jackin' it up doesn't concede defeat.
As to the 1-3-1, we have not yet seen the full annoying extent of its power, not with 5'9" point guards and 6'4" power forwards and so on and so forth. When there's one guy shorter than 6'6" on the court and they've all got long arms it becomes much more of an issue. And I disagree with Bronxblue's characterization of it. The 1-3-1 doesn't seem like a necessary response to deficient talent, it seems like a way for Beilein to run his perimeter-heavy, three-mad offense without getting crushed on the defensive end. Beilein didn't have a talent disadvantage at Cansisus or Richmond, at least not an insurmountable one, and that's where his system was developed.
Take Evan Smotrycz. He's 6'9" but a stick. He's a super tall small forward and will remain that way if Beilein has anything to do with it. If asked to check a post player in man-to-man he won't do well. He'll do better than Zach Novak, but not well. If stuck on the wing in the 1-3-1 he'll make the skip passes that are its achilles heel long, looping, fruitless things, and then Beilein gets to use a 6'9" three-point shooting small forward on the offensive end.
The 1-3-1 and the Beilein offense have synergy, which is a horrible corporate word that happens to be useful. I don't think they're responses to a lack of talent, I think they're a single way of having an unusual system that happens to be unusually efficient at basketball.
Put it this way: if Evan Smotrcyz turns out to be Dirk Nowitzki and Matt Vogrich turns out to be Kyle Korver Beilein's system isn't going to hold them back on their Final Four run.
Okay, Then, Why Did You Say This?
Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.
Because of Bob Huggins, basically. The year after Beilein left West Virginia, Huggins landed five-star Devin Ebanks, who originally committed to Indiana, seriously considered Memphis, and then ended up with Huggins. That's Kelvin Sampson, John Calipari, and a guy who had a 0.0% graduation rate at Cincinnati. He's a microcosm of why this blog has a tag called "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich."
Yes, it is possible to have a legit powerhouse without sketchy recruiting stuff going on but it takes time and tradition; Michigan isn't starting from square one on the latter but it's not far off after ten years of crap and scandal before that. Fair or not, the last thing anyone outside the Michigan fan community remembers as a positive for the program happened in 1989, which is 1) 20 years ago and 2) before anyone we're recruiting was born. So the only way to go from zero to powerhouse was to cut corners and hire a John Calipari. We did not do this.
I've read a lot of criticisms of this position that I'd like to address, and the best way is probably through a rare-but-deadly double reverse fisk. The WLA quibbled. Now comes the thunder:
-The question appears to be “can Beilein recruit like Izzo/Matta/whoever,” and the answer is very probably not.
Frankly, if this is the case, someone better inform Beilein. Brian waves off the 2010 targets Trey Zeigler, Casey Prather, and Will Regan, but, like, why? Prather, Ray McCallum, and Zeigler are respectively the #30, #56, and #75 recruits in the nation. Brian is appropriately skeptical of Michigan’s chances with Prather, but, as shown by Beilein’s near-steal of Nate Lubick from Duke, things can happen. Regardless, given Beilein’s snag of Darius Morris from across the country, the landing of highly-praised Matt Vogrich, and Michigan’s current lead for Zeigler - arguably the state’s best player - the evidence that Beilein can’t recruit on this level just doesn’t exist, unless you care to assume that Beilein’s recruiting won’t improve from Morgantown to Ann Arbor - a theory he’s already disproven.
Okay: I know we're all excited about Beilein's highest-rated recruits ever, but Morris is #77 on Rivals, #100 on ESPN, and an unranked three-star on Scout. Vogrich is #100 on Scout, #137 on Rivals, and unranked on ESPN. Those are the crown jewels of the class.
According to Rivals, the following Big Ten teams have two players rated higher than Michigan's two best in the 2009 class (ie: one higher than Morris, one higher than Vogrich): Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. At best Michigan has the fifth ranked class in the conference, with Wisconsin and Purdue not far off.
I didn't say Beilein can't "recruit on this level"; I said he can recruit like Izzo or Matta or anyone else who can expect to regularly assemble top 25 classes. Michigan's 2009 class does not dispel this idea. By the numbers Michigan will be operating at a talent deficit relative to the conference.
He is a guy who will bring guaranteed respectability, likeable teams, and a host of tourney bids with some fun runs to the Sweet 16 or whatever. Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.”
Look - a horrible Wisconsin team made the final four in the unwatchable Dick Bennett days. George Mason made it. Eighth-seeded Villanona and NC State won championships. Flukes? Definitely.
Again the talking is orthogonal to what I am saying. Sure, Michigan can get hot in a tourney and Pittsnogle their way to a final four at some point. It can happen. It nearly did for Beilein at West Virginia. But that doesn't mean it's likely to. "Not a powerhouse" does not mean "never makes Final Four." It means "is not likely to make Final Four."
Even if we move Brian’s argument out of the Tournament and into the realm of general regular-season success, the point seems to fizzle. As mentioned ad nauseum - Beilien started a walk-on point guard and two freshmen who would have been coming of Valparaiso’s bench barring Beilein’s desperation to bring in a few players upon his arrival in Ann Arbor. This Michigan team possibly had four players that had the talent to justify significant minutes in a major conference - Harris, Sims, Grady, and Lucas-Perry, and they still garnered a #10 seed and earned a second-round game in which they gave Oklahoma a tougher game than #3 seed Syracuse. With Michigan’s best recruiting class in years on the way and the probability of at least one additional top-100 player arriving the following year, is a #2 or #3 tournament seed that far out of the question?
You're just going to have to trust me on this: yes, it is that far out of the question. Michigan vastly exceeded expectations this year but on a possession-to-possession basis they finished 50th in the Kenpom rankings, which was sixth in the conference. They were three-point jacks away from losing to three different horrible teams and missing the tourney. One Big Ten team got a 2 or 3 seed and it was Michigan State, #8 in Kenpom. There is a huge gap between Michigan's team this year and the sort of seed expectation you just threw out, and more experience plus the 2009 recruiting class only gets you halfway there.
Why Am I Bothering With All This?
It really bothers me to see evidence of people going from "I hope we make the tourney before I die" to "Now we're Duke!" This WLA sentence is why this 2000 word post exists:
Comrades, now is a time for optimism.
How did we get to a spot where making the tourney most years with a few runs to the Sweet 16 (or beyond!) isn't optimistic? Am I crazy? If Beilein does nothing more than he did at West Virginia—mid-conference finishes with consistent tourney bids, no high seeds, lots of fun in the tourney—he'll be an absolute roaring success. If there's a time to complain about Morgan instead of Appling or a stunning lack of Final Fours, it's fifteen years from now, when someone else is the coach.
Columbus has landed the 2009 APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition, which bills itself "the best show in public works" and is possibly the hottest conference for civil-engineering-type people anywhere. Maybe. I have no idea if their claims are true. But, thanks to a reader, I am sure Columbus wasn't their first choice:
(Offer not valid if you're wearing blue, or thinking about wearing blue, or asphyxiating, in which case banner should read "COLUMBUS – IT'S MORE HAZARDOUS THAN YOU THINK!")
Brian, I liked your spring summary and I agreed with most of the points.
However, I left the spring game wondering if the performance of our offense (and Forcier, to be more precise) was more indicative of our lack of depth on defense. They played the second team defense and generally had their way with them. Considering how bad our offense was last year, does this just show that our defense has bad depth or that our offense (and Forcier) will actually be serviceable/good next year?
Obviously, this is the million dollar question, but I honestly left the spring game more worried about our defense than impressed with our offense.
Please allay my fears! Thanks.
I will attempt to do so via the magic of bullet points:
- That wasn't the second team defense, it was somewhere between the second and third team defense with half of the starters injured or largely held out.
- Depth should improve in the fall when the freshmen arrive.
- The defense is adapting to a new scheme, their third in three years. While this isn't good they should improve more quickly than a team that knows what it's doing and still sucks.
- Forcier may have had a lot of opportunities he might not otherwise but at least he took advantage of them in a way that I don't think Sheridan or Threet would have, at least not so consistently.
While I don't think Forcier is going to finish many games 11/14 with three touchdowns against no interceptions, the thing to watch for are things that don't depend on the defense: when a slant comes open does Forcier see it and throw it on time and accurately? When Roundtree bursts open deep does Forcier hit him? How many horrible interceptions, or balls that should rightly have been horribly intercepted, did he throw? By this measure, Forcier did very well.
Your larger point about the seemingly huge dropoff to the second-string defense, well… yeah. I got nothing for that.
This next one caused this late mailbag to be posted today, because today is "Michigan Football Solstice":
Today (April 15) is the longest possible point between actually, non-scrimmage Michigan football games.
There are 288 days between Nov. 22, 2008 (when Michigan last played, @ OSU) and Sept. 5 (when they next play, at home against Western.)
Nov 22. was 144 days ago.
Sept. 5 is 144 days from now.
We’re now closer to the next Michigan football game than we were to the last one.
I've got a listserv with fellow alumni where we're discussing how to celebrate. Pop in the DVD of the 2004 Michigan/MSU game? Scour the internet to discover if any former D1 athletes have a year of eligibility left and might be interested in enrolling at UM and trying out at QB? In honor of this year's Michigan Football Solstice falling on April 15th, maybe we could have a Teabag Paulus Party? Can we institute some kind of MGoBlog approved ritual for Michigan fans to celebrate this solemn occasion every year?
- Daryl Vautour
Well, hopefully Michigan football solstice isn't ever on April 15th again. This is usually going to be an early summer sort of event, so early summer sorts of activities would be best: grilling outside, having a beer, maybe lighting a squirrel on fire with a magnifying glass.* Most of the suggestions above are sad or temporary things, but setting aside some time to watch an old glory past sounds good. So: grill tubes of meat, drink beer, and watch… uh… something uplifting from the 1985 season, if available. And you're not doing anything RIGHT NOW.
*(Just me? Oh.)
Whoah, nellie. The basketball teams is popping up on a number of early top 25 lists, which seems justifiable with only walk-ons and noncontributors on the way out and someone, anyone taller than 6'4" on the way in. I'd slot them just outside, but I can see sticking them in towards the end. Or, if you're Andy Katz, the beginning:
11. Michigan: John Beilein has made the Wolverines relevant again. He got the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament and won a game. Expect even more from Michigan with a true Michigan State-Michigan rivalry in hoops. These should be the two top teams in the league. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims might flirt with the NBA draft, but both are unlikely to stay in it. If they return with sharp-shooting guard Stu Douglass and quickly developing players Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry, the Wolverines will be a good watch.
!?!?! Uh… Purdue? Illinois? Pending NBA departures, no Big Ten team that picked up a bid loses more than a couple spare parts except Wisconsin and maybe the Illini, who lose a lot of minutes but from low-usage guys who can't be that hard to replace. State loses Suton but they'll live; BJ Mullens is in the draft but was a major disappointment last year and Ohio State gets David Lighty back anyway. Minnesota returns everyone of note.
If Michigan finishes second in the Big Ten next year I'll be ecstatic.
Moving on up, mostly. The final CSB rankings are out. F Chris Brown remains Michigan's top-ranked player eligible for the draft, dropping one slot to #30. Others:
- 2010 D Mac Bennett moved up from 63 to 40.
- F Kevin Lynch slid from 83 to 100, though his smokin' hot international tourney(pdf; Lynch leads the USA team in scoring) may reverse that trend.
- D Lee Moffie moved way up from 210 to 135.
- F AJ Treais moved up from 205 to 170.
That's a significant uptick in the draft stock of Michigan's incoming class (and a small chunk of 2010). Moffie is now in an area where he'll definitely get drafted; Treais is the only incoming recruit likely to slip through the cracks.
"We talked about all that as a family, and we felt that we didn't want to leave that way," Weis said during a recent 35-minute interview with the Tribune. "That would have been the easy way out. That's not why we came here."
What was that conversation like?
WEIS: I'm thinking about quitting, 5'3", 78 pound son of mine with a 3.7 GPA and 20/80 vision.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: Also you were born at 1:18 AM on February 17th.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: In a hospital. With doctors. Who had heads and legs and arms.
SON: –the easy way out?
WIFE: That's not why we came here. Also you would be walking away from enough money to buy Slovenia, whereupon we could deport simple goatherd Drew Sharp to a far more unpalatable nation.
WEIS: By jove, you're right.
SON: Speaking of easy ways out, I'm going to skip the next three days of school because you couldn't beat Greg Robinson.
WEIS: That sounds totally reasonable. Do you want to be the offensive line coach?
This has been picked up by College Game Balls and Dr. Saturday as something to note. They forget the #1 rule of Charlie Weis: everything that comes out of Weis' mouth is designed for the self-aggrandization of Charlie Weis. The "easy way out" involves forfeiting some fifteen million dollars; the hard way involves Weis being paid more than the GDP of Sri Lanka to lead Notre Dame to a ill-gotten BCS blowouts every few years. Weis' decided schematic advantage here is with the millions of dollars.
Elsewhere in Notre Dame: Dallas is trying to steal away the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend, which pays the organization for the privilege of hosting. Yes, it's so perfectly Notre Dame to pay the CFHOF to stay in your decrepit one-moose town just for the vague prestige it brings in your own mind.
If you're like me, the only time the CFHOF has ever crossed your mind (other than articles about its potential move, which come out seemingly every year) was during this blessed event:
So, yeah, I'm onboard with moving it anywhere else. Dallas kind of sucks as a destination, but it's just wrong for the thing to be in the worst college town on the planet.
Seconded. Interesting proposal put forth by a member of Michigan's compliance staff in re: coaches' phone calls:
Judy Van Horn, the associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Michigan, wants to abolish rules about phone calls she feels are unenforceable. “If you have a coach who is intent on cheating, all they have to do is not give you all the phone numbers,” said Van Horn, who is also president of the National Association for Athletics Compliance.
Van Horn’s idea is to put the power into the hands of the student-athletes. Athletes who are inundated by calls or have coaches contacting them from universities they are not interested in attending would be able to go to the N.C.A.A.’s online eligibility center and pull up a list and click on those programs with which they no longer wanted to be associated. An e-mail message would be sent to compliance officers at those universities and the coaches would be told to stop calling. If the calls continued, the recruit could report it to the N.C.A.A.
Van Horn then raises the specter of unscrupulous coaches using disposable phones to avoid detection, which is like… really? Is this The Wire? Who is Ron Zook's Stringer Bell? Is Juice Williams going to get sick of going to every convenience store in a two-state radius and just buy a bunch from one store at the prodding of his annoying girlfriend?
Anyway, this is a limited version of the idea that recruits should be able to sign non-binding letters of intent. This got a fuller discussion before, but the general idea:
- Allow kids to sign LOIs before signing day.
- Anyone who's signed a LOI can't be called by opposing coaches.
- Kids can't take officials.
- Players can withdraw the LOI at any point until signing day.
Either would be a good idea; the NBLOI would allow kids to opt out of a potentially annoying recruiting process and provide some meaning to the idea of a "commitment" without locking kids in any earlier than they already are.
(HT: The Ann Arbor Chronicle.)
Aaaargh. My relationship with Tom Deinhart is a rocky and foreboding one. Despite being apparently subliterate when asked to give an opinion, any opinion, he pwned me like whoah during my attempt to play journalist at last year's Big Ten Media Days. So I had to consider the possibility that Deinhart could dress himself, drive a car, etc etc etc.
…he just released a ranking of the Big Ten coaches, and it was so ridiculous we planned on ignoring it until multiple people sent it to us. Here's how he ranked them:
- Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
- Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
- Jim Tressel, Ohio State
That's Iowa blog Black Heart, Gold Pants in the midst of tearing Deinhart a new one for his obviously stupid opinion. Various Ohio State blogs have ceased feeding on the souls of little children long enough to lol, too, but none so entertainingly. And here's a Michigan blog chiming in: dude, wrong.
BHGP settles on the idea that Deinhart doesn't have severe brain damage, is just being a provocateur for attention, and quotes Fire Joe Morgan in superior fashion, all of which is excellent. Read it. All of it is good. But I mostly want to highlight the words that should go on Pete Fiutak's gravestone:
This puts Dienhart in a different league than, say, CollegeFootballNews.com, who just plain never know what the fuck they're talking about. CFN is to actual analysis what ramming two GI Joes together is to MMA. It's only the same to 7-year-olds.
Etc.: Weird goings-on at the Freep's story on Paulus. Someone fooled them into thinking the Paulus report was an April Fool's joke. Someone get them a calendar. Also: a spring game boxscore; SMQB considers the "Rodriguez Leap" and its achievability this year; Brandon Smith is now a linebacker.
Judging by the relative volume of email I've gotten on this, the entire universe read this FoxSports story and went "wha?"
The Green Bay Packers aren't the only ones who are interested in Greg Paulus.
According to sources close to the situation, the former Duke point guard was in Ann Arbor on Tuesday meeting with Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez about the possibility of playing this season for the Wolverines.
How can Paulus have eligibility at all, let alone this year? Apparently NCAA transfer rules don't apply if you switch sports and neither do eligibility limits. There's just the five year "clock" that starts when you enroll in college.
Though bizarre, this isn't totally insane. Paulus was actually a big time football recruit with offers from a number of major powers, including Michigan, before he chose the dark side. (And poorly: how many 6'2" white point guards are in the NBA?) Since he's got only one year left Michigan could put him on the team without adversely affecting next year's recruiting class. It's basically a free quarterback.
The only downside is being associated with this:
The great worry is that four years at Duke have burned this sort of behavior in Paulus' head and he'll fall over when pass rushers come upfield or, you know, the running back brushes him when he's trying to get the handoff.
Paulus hasn't played a down of football in four years, so the article's suggestion that he could "come in and play immediately" is more foreboding than a hopeful. Forcier isn't losing his job to this stopgap unless he's miraculously good. If Paulus comes and if he sees the field he's probably going to be really bad, but since there's a chance his really bad is less really bad than some walk-on's really bad there doesn't appear to be a reason to say no*.
If he does come don't revise your season projections either way.
*(Except for aesthetic ones embedded above.)