Holy pants. I can't be the only person who exclaimed "WTF!"—yes, I speak in internet acronyms IRL LOL—when Beadie Russell from The Wire showed up on The Office. For some reason I expect that people on The Wire are real and that seeing, for instance, D'Angelo Barksdale's mother on an episode of NCIS* means Pure Evil has undergone a shocking career change.
So, yeah, this from reader Ba Orao was pretty freaky:
Clockwise from top left:
- DT commit Pearlie Graves, a dead ringer for Marlo muscle Chris
- WR commit Jeremy Gallon, who could not possibly look more like Marlo muscle Snoop despite the fact that Snoop is, you know, a girl
- DE commit Anthony LaLota, a pretty good facsimile of Nick Sobotka
- RB coach Fred Jackson, a less scarred version of Norman Wilson, the mayor's right hand man
The first two are astounding.
*(Watched involuntarily, in case anyone has actually seen that abomination and is now reconsidering their allegiance to this blog.)
I want your… nah, too easy. Penn State defensive line coach/recruiting ninja Larry Johnson is under consideration for the Illinois defensive coordinator job, which strikes Black Shoe Diaries as very bad news:
I don't have to tell you this is bad bad bad. With an 82 year old head coach who can't spend more than two hours sitting down in a car or airplane, the assistant coaches are our greatest asset when it comes to recruiting. And Larry Johnson is one of the best of them. … To lose him would be, in a word, disastrous for our program.
Johnson's a Penn State lifer—he's been there since 1993 and both of his kids played for PSU—but cash rules everything around us:
…as a defensive coordinator, Johnson would receive a salary increase from his estimated $200,000 salary. Penn State is not known for boosting its assistants' pay, and Illinois is apparently willing to pay what's necessary in the increasingly competitive world of assistant salaries. That might be even more true after it lost offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who will make $325,000 a year with his move to South Carolina.
So I'm thinking to myself "this would be a really good idea for Illinois; Johnson is a killer recruiter and have you seen Penn State's defensive line at any point in the past decade?" And it occurs to me: hey, would that be a good idea for us? Yeah, maybe. And maybe we're in on it. Same article:
Illinois is in discussions with Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson about becoming the new Illinois defensive coordinator, but Michigan also could be interested in hiring Johnson, sources said.
With Tom Bradley's status as the real ultimate power at Penn State, Johnson is going to be locked out of a coordinator spot until such time as Joe Paterno finally steps down, which could be never-ever-ever. Now might be the time to move.
I'd be a happy man if Johnson was the new DC, though the chances of that seem low. Dollars to donuts he uses the leverage to squeeze a raise out of Penn State.
Bob Knight, ladies and gentlemen. Zack Novak on the General:
"He'd usually tell us, girls are going to tear you down -- if you see a nice-looking girl, turn the other way because she's going to kill you," Novak said. "I remember thinking, I'm in third grade and he's telling me about girls. But I think that's kind of why you've got to appreciate him."
I always thought Knight would make a good Batman villain, no?
Yikes. I didn't mean for this to be Basketball Downer day, but, eh… yeah. Luke Winn busts out the tempo-free stats to evaluate overvalued and undervalued teams based on, you know, reasons. Key findings:
No Final Four team in the past five years has been ranked outside the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency (a competition-adjusted figure). And only two Elite Eight teams in the past five years have ranked outside the top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency. It's unlikely that a team will make a deep NCAA tournament run with just a good offense, and only a mediocre D.
The good news, such as it is: one of those two Elite Eight teams to flout Winn's cutoff was 2005 West Virginia, which finished 78th in adjusted D efficiency and was an overtime away from the Final Four.
The bad news:
Which teams in the AP's top 30 might be suspect in the postseason because of their lack of a quality defense? Eight ranked schools had adjusted defensive efficiency ratings outside the top 60. Unless they shape up over the next few months, the odds are stacked against them making deep NCAA tournament runs:
Team AP Adj. OffEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Adj. DefEff. (Nat'l Rk.) Oklahoma 6 117.7 (8) 93.8 (66) Notre Dame 13 119.7 (3) 99.1 (146) Boston Coll. 17 112.2 (32) 96.1 (86) Minnesota 22 109.4 (51) 96.1 (88) Baylor 23 117.0 (11) 95.4 (78) Michigan 26 116.6 (13) 101.2 (185) California 27 115.6 (20) 93.5 (63) Arkansas 28 106.2 (79) 96.8 (103)
That's pretty frightening right there: Michigan has by far the worst defense of any team in the AP top 30. That bodes unwell for the short term.
For the long term: I'm slightly concerned. Beilein's last two West Virginia teams were 53rd and 57th in AdjDE, and I think they're slightly underrated because his teams force a lot of turnovers, which in theory should lead to a larger than normal proportion of fast break buckets and higher offensive efficiency. The higher-quality recruits he hypothetically has access to at Michigan may allow the team to play better defense than he's thrown out there before.
But the concern comes in when Huggins arrives at WVA. In year one, defensive efficiency moves from 57th to 24th, and in year two they're second, using mostly the same players Beilein recruited. They're older and better, certainly. Is that the only difference? Probably not.
Well, at least we've been spared four years of tortured puns:
"To tell you the truth, I wanted to play wide receiver," Peace said. "I told the Michigan coaches that I wanted to play receiver. At the beginning of my commitment they said I could play cornerback or receiver. Then as time went on, I went on my visit and told them I just wanted to play receiver and if I could only play corner then I would look for another school to go to. They told me that it was fine and I could play receiver. Then something came up where they didn't land enough corners so that is where they wanted me."
And that is where he not wanted… him. Self. Or something. So he decommitted and is now favoring Kansas.
As usual, there are multiple ways to spin this:
- Michigan would rather have Travante Stallworth and Je'ron Stokes and Willie Haulstead instead of the #100 player in Texas, or
- They really really need corners.
Neither makes perfect sense, as Michigan isn't exactly overflowing with 2009 receivers of the not-slot variety and none of the receivers above look like locks or anything. But it's hard to interpret a conversation like "I know you told us if you had to play corner you would decommit, but we want you at corner" as anything other than a polite way to say goodbye.
That's fine if they replace Peace with an equivalent prospect. On the surface that shouldn't be too hard since Peace is a replacement-level Michigan recruit, but Chitownblue makes a good point when he notes that Michigan currently has no replacement-level recruits available at corner and will likely be offering a sketchy player or two at the position. The best case scenario appears to be an Adrian Witty (two star CB with KSU, FIU offers) commit that induces a Denard Robinson (big-time QB/ATH/DB recruit) commit. Then Tate Forcier becomes Colt McBabyJesus and Robinson is free to be a kickass corner.
That's a lot to ask for.
1/7/2009 – Michigan 72, Indiana 66 – 12-3, 2-1 Big Ten
image via jcmcmann @ flickr
Maybe Assembly Hall does have some sort of weird voodoo hex power that it uses for evil whenever Michigan shows up. After all, the last time Michigan won at Indiana there were actual Fab Five members still on the floor.
But it's more likely Michigan fans were just handed a harsh dose of reality made barely palatable by a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front iron only to bounce straight up and through. Moments before Michigan had been down six to the worst team in the Big Ten and were fortunate to be that close. Then Manny Harris launched an ill-advised three, one of eight on the night, that went in, and Lucas-Perry launched a desperate three, one of nine, that got a friendly roll, and overtime was a mélange of more deep chucks and many, many missed IU free throws. At the end of everything they were up six, somehow.
Don't ask me how. It got so bad at one juncture in the second half when back-to-back possessions ended in horrible contested threes at the end of the shot clock that I thought to myself "this looks like an Amaker team." (I then immediately crossed myself and said four Hail Marys in penance.)
At one point they had launched 27 threes and made six. By the end of the game they had chucked up a prodigious 40—to only 21 two-pointers!—and made twelve. If they weren't playing the basketball equivalent of this year's Michigan football team they would have lost by double digits.
You can play this off as a hiccup, I guess, like rough games against Eastern Michigan and Savannah State and a housing at the hands of Wisconsin, but, man, has it ever occurred to you that maybe Michigan's shocking leap forward was at least somewhat illusory, man?
No. No, that had probably not occurred to you, unless it had. This is the same point I was trying to make about Michigan State football last week: we've been damn lucky. I didn't want to bring this up because it seemed like an unnecessary, party-pooping move, but Ken Pomeroy hates us. It's nothing personal, I promise. But the following graph from Big Ten Geeks, which measures the difference between a team's Pomeroy Rank and its average rank according to voters, was assembled before Michigan failed to achieve even in the modest goal of outperforming Lipscomb at Assembly Hall:
Yea, verily, on a difficulty-adjusted per-possession basis Michigan is one of the most overrated teams in the country. Two stellar games against UCLA and Duke coupled with a nonconference schedule featuring a wide array of teams not merely bad but outright awful have obscured the game-in, game-out struggles of the team. How many times has the general opinion after a game been "well, they won, but they really need to play better in the future?" By my count, about six.
Things get grimmer still when you focus on the Big Ten, where Michigan is not dancing with the angels, or the committee:
See, this is why I didn't want to bring it up. I sound like a negative old crank. Michigan is 12-3 with its first tourney bid in a decade in its sights and I'm sitting here telling you to turn off the lights, turn down the music, and go to bed.
And there are, of course, many disclaimers to that go here. Kenpom ratings are not perfect, they don't predict particularly strongly, and you can quickly pick out a half dozen "but what about…?" results if you want to. However, I do think they reveal something box scores and win/loss doesn't, and what it reveals is scary for Michigan fans dreaming of an eight seed in March.
What I'm trying to get at is this: this team is still painfully young, and is not as good as their record. They were extremely fortunate to scrape by a couple of very poor teams and also fortunate to catch Duke on a day when they were ice-cold from outside. They've not lost a close game and have won four. Brace yourselves, because it's going to be bumpy. I'm telling myself this as much as anyone reading this. I caught myself checking out Bracketology this week and thinking to myself "only a nine seed?"
Only a nine seed? Who am I, Jay Jacobs? The only senior who did anything yesterday was CJ Lee, a walk-on. Underclassmen sucked up 73% of the minutes. There are two players taller than 6'5". With Cronin redshirting, Michigan is playing short four scholarships.
"Only a nine seed." Does Michael Douglas sit around thinking to himself "if only I could have hooked up with Scarlett Johannsson?"
Bullets of EXTREME REASON
- I freakin' knew I shouldn't have talked up Manny Harris, because he's fallen apart since the Big Ten season hit. Yeah, 17 points yesterday but a lot of those were end of game free throws. He was 4/12 with four TOs. He's shooting 33% and has an A:TO ratio of 10:12. In this game he took a whopping eight threes and just four two-pointers, which is at least reversed. If Harris takes twelve shots nine of them should be twos.
What happened? You could see the frustration building in the Wisconsin game and after the third time he drove the lane and got hacked with no call he started going nuts, driving wildly and forcing the issue. Similar things happened against Wisconsin, and then tonight he gave up and started chucking. Late in the game Harris got yanked for CJ Lee and the team's performance actually picked up.
I'm not sure what you do if you're Beilein other than jump down the ref's throat every time they miss a foul call on a Harris drive. Harris really needs a 8-10 foot pullup jumper, because without it you just pack the lane and wait for chaos.
- One thing Harris hasn't fallen off in is rebounding. Eleven against IU, the last a monster board that sealed the game after a turnover and comical blocking call brought Indiana within three.
- What happened to Shepherd? I don't get it. People say he wasn't performing offensively; the stats don't bear it out. Small sample size and all that, but Shepherd has a higher offensive rating with more usage than either Novak or Douglass. He's 20-30 from 2 and almost 70% of his shots are from there. In a game where Michigan couldn't or wouldn't go inside, his game could have been used.
- Sims was the only player with more than two two-point baskets; he was 7/11 from inside the arc.
- I agree with The Hoosier Report's take: "I would have rather [Indiana] lost by 20." Also, this is nice:
As I was going to say in my gracious post-game victory post, it's an odd sensation to have a 17 point home lead and yet fear that Michigan's coach might engineer a comeback. I didn't feel that way when Michigan was good, let alone the last 10 years.
That may say more about Indiana's team this year than Michigan's, but I'll take it.
- No, the picture above isn't from the game. You can tell because of Thad Matta. And it's at Crisler. And David Merritt's wearing #11—apparently he changed numbers, who knew? I usually try to find an appropriate image from the game itself but I couldn't find one that summed the game up very well. At least the opponent is wearing red.
This is actually Dylan's show, but we've gotten some requests for basketball liveblog/chat action so he's graciously agreed to let MGoBlog co-host. Gametime is 6:30; action here and there starts 15 minutes prior.
Background: Dylan's Indiana preview, the Hoosier Report's Michigan preview. Inside The Hall also has a competing liveblog if you want to see them get incensed about the exact opposite calls we get incensed about.
To the point: the BlogPoll is expanding its reach into college basketball and is now looking for voters. If you have a blog that meets these criteria…
- has existed for six months or more
- covers college basketball regularly (at least 3 posts a week, give or take, during the season)
- has 100+ hits per day
- is written by someone willing to fess up to having a favorite team
With a lot of the focus on the All American games, Michigan's newest quarterback has quietly made his way to Michigan. Tate Forcier arrived in Michigan today, and we spoke about what the future holds, and how he plans on getting himself, and the team on a winning track.
TOM: What are you most excited for on your way to Michigan?
TATE: Just getting started, it’s kind of hard because it’s different from San Diego. This is my new home, a new experience. I’m just going to have fun.
TOM: What’s the first thing Coach Rodriguez wants you to do football wise?
TATE: I’m supposed to meet with him tomorrow. I’m assuming he’s going to get me with Mike Barwis. I’ll be hurting the next day, but it will be good pain.
TOM: Have your brothers given you any advice on how to adjust, both to college life and to the speed of the game?
TATE: Both of them said it’s going to be different, but the first few days you’re going to think these guys are all amazing players. After a few practices it will start to slow down and you’ll learn what you can do and what you can’t do. They told me not to try to do too much, just take it one day at a time. Stay busy, and don’t ever catch yourself doing nothing.
TOM: Realistically, where do you want to be for spring ball? As far as knowing the playbook, weight training, and chemistry with the offense?
TATE: I want to satisfy the coaches. I want to be where they want me to be. I’m not sure the exact plans yet, but they’re not going to throw everything on me all at once. I’m just not going to rush it, that’s why I came out early, and just try to learn and have fun.
TOM: I read in another interview, you said you want to be like Colt McCoy. After that being said, is that who you would compare yourself to? Who do you think you see yourself really being like as a collegiate quarterback?
TATE: He’s nearly the same size as me; they don’t run a complete spread, but they run close to what Michigan does. When I watch all the college quarterbacks, he’s who I would describe myself as. He makes big plays, and he can run. I’m almost exactly like him.
TOM: Have you talked to any of the other offensive players yet, either current players or commits?
TATE: I have been talking to Willie Haulstead, and I’ve been trying to get him to commit. I’ve talked to him several times, it seems like it’s between Michigan and Florida State. What I’ve been saying to everyone is this is not any other school, this is Michigan. People ask me why I chose Michigan, and the first thing I say is because it’s Michigan. You can’t really ask for anything more than what’s here, it’s the best of everything.
TOM: Your teammate, Brennan Clay, is a Michigan target for next year. Is there anything you’ve said to him about joining you, or is there anything you’ll do in the future?
TATE: I’ve been working on him since day one. He’s getting a lot of attention, he just got offered by USC last week. I want what’s best for him, but I have a good feeling if he was going to come back east, this would be a school he could choose. He’s going to come out for spring ball, so hopefully I can convince him. I know he loves Coach Smith and Rodriguez, and he likes Michigan. Talking with those guys is like extended family, they’re just really cool guys, which helps.
TOM: I know everyone is expecting a lot out of you in your first year, how do you deal with the expectations and pressure that comes along with this experience?
TATE: I’ve watched a lot of freshman play, and Coach Smith talked to me about this. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m going to manage the team, rather than try to make the big play and taking a sack. The seniors and juniors make the plays, and I’ll just keep moving the chains. Take it one week at a time.
TOM: You’re going to get every chance to compete for the starting job, but it’s not going to be handed to you, what are you going to do to ensure you are the starting quarterback?
TATE: I can’t even answer that, there’s so much I have to do. I don’t care who you are, you have to earn it. I need to learn the playbook; work with the receivers, there’s so much. I can’t answer that until maybe spring ball, because I don’t know how to answer it.
TOM: What were your thoughts and initial feelings when you heard that Shavodrick Beaver had changed his commitment to Tulsa?
TATE: Shavodrick, I told Coach Smith I knew it was going to come. I almost felt like he was just trying to wait me out, to see what I would do. I think sometimes kids make their choice for the wrong reasons, and then this ends up happening. Decommitting happens though, but this is Michigan, we should have no problem filling those spots, and we haven’t. As much as we would like to have those guys, we have found great replacements for them that are as good, if not better.
TOM: Have the coaches said anything to you about anything new they want to try, or anything on the offensive side that will change this year?
TATE: Coach Rodriguez says he’s going to be able to open up his offense more with me. With Threet and Sheridan you can’t really run the option with pro style quarterbacks. It’s hard to run the true spread without a dual threat quarterback. He’s going to have me running a lot. I just have to listen and learn.
TOM: Throughout college there’s going to be a lot of adversity. With not being selected to the All American games, and the star rankings you experienced a little already. How do you use that to your advantage?
TATE: That makes me want to prove myself, and nothing against the recruiting services, but the star system is just opinion, it’s not fact. I have a lot to prove, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t rated higher than I am just based on stats. But, I don’t really care what the recruiting services say; I care what the coaches say. I was recruited by Michigan, so that’s proof enough for me. I just want to show everyone a freshman can do it.
TOM: I know you’re not there yet, but what are the keys to success for Michigan this year? Is there anything the coaches have been emphasizing?
TATE: For the team, I need to get more involved to answer that. For myself, it all comes on me, no one’s going to do it for me. I need to study, get all the guys together for drills. I have to go to them, they can’t come to me. Understanding why the coaches have the plays built the way they do is huge.
TOM: So, let’s put a hypothetical out there, or a look into the possible future. Tate Forcier is the starting quarterback, and the Wolverines are about to take the field. Everyone looks to you as the leader, what’s the message you give? How do you command your offense?
TATE: Show confidence. I’m going to have the same swagger as I always have. The quarterback is the leader for a reason. Michigan saw something special in me, and I’ll project that to the team. I want to be the same confident kid that I’ve always been.