"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
This is not a column, but I did take in most of the North Carolina Central game and should share some impressions:
Eh. The team looked sloppy, and I'm torn as to whether that's just disinterest or if it's an indication this team is not quite a top-25 squad—which would be a 6 seed—and is more of an 8-10 or, shudder, a #1 in the NIT. At this point we know they're going to get killed on the boards and struggle defending big teams man-to-man. They can survive this with good three-point shooting and low turnovers. Those two items led to a blowout over Eastern and a comfortable win over a pretty decent Oakland team; the lack of them made for a couple of uninspiring games in which Michigan probably would have lost if it wasn't playing a truly horrific team.
You hear that "anything can happen" in all sports at all times, but Michigan will be more random than most given their predilection for three pointers. When they go in, Michigan can beat anyone. When they don't, they can lose to anyone, especially in this year's Big Ten, where everyone save Indiana and Iowa have quality wins.
RPI disaster. Michigan would have been better off if it had never played NCCU. Dylan noted the huge drop in Michigan's shiny RPI number immediately after the game went off:
The final thing that’s frustrating about tonight’s game was that our RPI fell from the mid teens all the way to 37th. Our strength of schedule also took a huge fall down to 87. The Big Ten season will help the numbers but a game like this shows why it is so important to play teams that are going to fall in the 100-200 RPI range rather than the 300+.
Cosigned. That's a major flaw in the RPI, BTW: the chances of NCCU beating Michigan were essentially zero and Michigan should be punished for that, but the team at #183 or whatever would also have an essentially zero chance of beating Michigan. If M had played that random team they'd be considerably better off today. Also, Michigan's got a Big Ten opener in two days.
Slight trend. I complained about the PG minute distribution yesterday just in time for Grady to get 27 minutes to Merritt's 13, a significant shift towards Grady. He rewarded Beilein's faith by going 0-4 from the floor (all threes) and missing his only free throw. Sigh. (He did have four assists and zero turnovers, FWIW.)
PA guy. Remains an abomination. WHO WANTS SOME FREE PIIIIIIIZZAAAAAA?
Someone make this movie. Apparently one of the Beastie Boys has a documentary out about some high-profile high school game at Rucker Park. I think a more interesting documentary is about North Carolina Central, kind of a Hoop Dreams II that follows the guy who ended up at some horrific JUCO named "Arkansas State Mining College"* in my head, except in this case it's the worst team in D-I. Who are these guys? How did they get where they are? What do they think about their futures? Is that point guard actually smaller than Avery Queen? Etc.
*(He ended up doing okay.)
Wisconsin/Illinois. Michigan starts off the Big Ten season with two winnable home games that will set the tone for the rest of the Big Ten season. Are they legit, or were those games flukes? Can they rebound well enough against Actual Teams? Are Harris and Sims going to keep up the ridiculous production against a steady diet of non-cupcakes? Much will be answered in the next week.
Meanwhile, articles on FL WR Jeremy Gallon (and OH CB Justin Turner), LA LB Barkevious Mingo, another on Gallon, FL QB Denard Robinson, LA DT DeQuinta Jones, CA QB Tate Forcier, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
AL CB Dre Kirkpatrick might visit Michigan, though he remains a huge longshot. I'll put him on the board if he actually visits.
Removed MD DE Jason Ankrah (Nebraska), JUCO DE Pernell McPhee (not M).
As always, some links from Varsity Blue.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. MI panic machine Will Campbell is discussed here and here; don't ask me, I don't know. Other items follow; it's a busy week with the Army All-American game practices in full swing and most of content flowing freely. On with the show.
Gentlemen of a committed persuasion
OH CB Justin Turner, FL WR Jeremy Gallon, FL K Brendan Gibbons, and NJ DE Anthony LaLota are all on the East team; I haven't heard much about Gibbons or LaLota—some of the kids don't get down until later—but the other two have been impressive.
Gallon tore it up the last couple days, catching a number of touchdowns and generally appearing to be the best receiver on his team:
"He's electric," East coach Terry Smith said. "He's very shifty, very athletic. We're trying to get some plays to get some space for him to let him do what he does best."
Michigan recruit and probable Tennessee decommit Je'Ron Stokes echoes the praise:
"He's good," wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes said. "They have him in the slot and the way our offense is run I might want to go to the slot. He's getting a lot of passes thrown his way. He's doing a great job. The thing is they have a receiver lined up on the linebacker. That's a mismatch right there."
Gallon reaffirmed his Michigan commitment recently for those (understandably) spooked about decommits.
Meanwhile, Turner—a safety in high school—is getting reps at corner, where Michigan wants to move him when he gets to campus. He's playing opposite onetime Michigan recruit Darius Winston and living up to his rating (same article):
Michigan commit Justin Turner was at cornerback and even surprised himself with his strong performance after not stepping on the field since his Massillon (Ohio) Washington team lost in the playoffs on Nov. 1. Turner is rated as the third-best safety in the 2009 class but moved to corner because of the missing players.
"I haven't touched the field since we lost in the playoffs so I'm very surprised with what I did," Turner said. "All the great athletes and coaches out there watching, you can't get beat. You don't want to get beat. That was my first time on the field since we lost. I've been lifting. I feel good."
Elsewhere, "Worldofx"—mentioned as a reliable source in the day's earlier Will Campbell post—relates these items on Michigan commits in attendance:
WR: Gallon messed with the secondary most of the day. Stokes had some big plays. Thomas way too stiff to be playing receiver.
CB: Winston was a lot better than everyone here. Turner moved to corner and adjusted fairly well.
Ah, Darius Winston, why did you decommit only to recommit?
Speaking of Stokes
That guy praising Jeremy Gallon up there, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, appears to be Michigan's best shot at another outside wide receiver in the class, which may or may not be a need depending on the final positions of commits Dewayne Peace (a potential defensive back) and Cameron Gordon (a potential linebacker). Stokes' commitment to Tennessee is flimsy at best:
Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes is only 50/50 about sticking to his commitment to Tennessee according to good sources. Stokes committed to Tennessee back in April but waivered a bit when new head coach Lane Kiffin decided against keeping Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty in the 2009 recruiting class. Stokes wants to visit Illinois and Michigan in January and is also looking at Florida and Georgia. His younger brother, 2010 quarterback Malik Stokes, had an offer from the old staff but is being re-evaluated by Kiffin. Stokes has been told that Tennessee will not be taking a quarterback in this class and will go after a big name in 2010.
Far be it from me to question Lane Kiffin's decision to boot a top 100 QB prospect in favor of nobody whatsoever, but some lucky school is going to send him a thank-you note later, and it sounds like either Illinois or Michigan has an excellent shot at following that up with a boquet of flowers.
Mingo the Merciless
There are a thousand reasons to desperately want LA LB Barkevious Mingo, at least 400 of which relate to his name, but it he's unlikely to sign with M despite Michigan being his only scheduled visit:
Though the Wolverines are set for his first visit, Mingo confirmed that does not mean that they're one of his top schools. In fact, they have some ground to make up as the 6-foot-5, 209-pounder currently lists a top three of USC, Alabama and LSU, in no particular order.
If he visits there's a chance and etc etc etc.
Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't materialized on the lists of any quarterbacks that weren't already listing them. This leaves FL QB Denard Robinson as the only potential accompaniment for Tate Forcier in this year's class. The latest on him:
"I like Michigan because the old coaches from West Virginia are there," he said. "Coach Rich Rodriguez is trying to install his system there and I think I'd be a good fit. They need a good dual-threat quarterback like me."
Robinson has already visited Georgia and Florida and plans to go to Michigan, Kansas State, and UCF.
Tate Forcier, meanwhile, was on the radio a few days ago and said things. A brief example:
LL: Is there a quarterback that is in college or the pros that you think your game might remind people of a little bit?
TF: My goal is to be a little bit like Colt McCoy. I'm almost nearly the same size and speed. It’s possible I may have a stronger arm than him. That’s kind of a lot to say, but I think if I worked hard I could maybe follow in his footsteps and be the type of quarterback that he is.
More at the link.
Praise for Jones
The best defensive lineman in the state that no one ever talks about is Bastrop's Dequinta Jones (6'3 275), who runs a 4.8 forty and can play the game as well as any in the country. Jones is committed to Michigan, and I predict he will start after one year and play as a true freshman for the Wolverines.
LSU got a commitment from teammate Josh Downs, who is 6'1 280 and is more of a true nose guard. I really think Jones is the best defensive tackle on the team and could be as good one day as former Bastrop defensive tackle Claude Wroten as well as current LSU and former Bastrop player Kantravious Aubrey.
Now Michigan just needs to hold onto him; Jones is something of a soft commit and has tentative plans to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Etc.: OH RB commit Fitzgerald Toussaint reaffirms commit, is interviewed by the Vindicator.
The William Campbell recruitment is the reason the letters W, T, and F were invented. A couple days ago, Campbell publicly eliminates (or near-eliminates) Michigan after months of foregone conclusion-hood. WTF?!?!?
Numerous sources have confirmed that Michigan is still in the picture for Campbell and will be one of the candidates for his pledge on Saturday. One source went as far as saying that he felt Campbell would certainly re-commit to Michigan, noting the big defensive tackle's sense of humor and tendency to joke around.
Meanwhile, the inbox says this:
Friend at Miami says his sources tell him they think Will is all theirs.
Source at USC says TJ McDonald reported to the USC staff (who have been absolutely confused by Will during their recruitment of him) that Will Campbell was making up all the dropping Michigan stuff. After I relayed this to my friend at Miami he was very unconfident about the Will to Miami report, so that probably isn’t a strong rumor.
He [Campbell] told TJ [McDonald] he was just f---ing around.
Who is this? Read on. –ed.]
Worldofx is a legitimate contact for recruiting and has consistent dialogue with USC staff and works at the USC and Rivals SoCal combines. I recommend you join the message board for his recruiting information (www.fvsports.com)
What is known is this: Will Campbell was an unofficial visitor to every Michigan home game, even though he de-committed after the Utah game. Cissoko, Gordon, and Jones are all Cass Tech team mates and there was talk during the season of Will “joining his team mates.” And that there is a Will Campbell on the winter enrollment list.
And on yesterday's WTKA recruiting roundup, Andre Barthwell of GBW said he's still going to Michigan. WTF, and hurray.
But wait. What if the failure of Campbell's hypothetically attempted ruse drives him mad with anger and he actually does pick somewhere else just to prove you can't predict what William Campbell is going to do? Arrrrgh!
Here's a picture of an otter with a beer.
Under no circumstances should Will Campbell be informed he is mentioned in this post, which is about otters.
Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Basketball failed to implode spectacularly.
…probably. They've got winless North Carolina Central (Kenpom rank: #344 of 344) tonight. Kenpom predicts a final score of 96-49 and gives NCC a 0% chance of victory. It does not appear to be the height of hubris to predict a win.
The opponents since the watershed Duke game:
EMU and Oakland. These games were very similar to each other: Michigan plays a significant amount of uninspired basketball but is bailed out by smoking hot three-point shooting. It was 16 of 33 against Eastern and 13 of 29 against Oakland. Neither opponent could keep up with Michigan once the threes started falling (and, in Oakland's case, theirs stopped falling).
Of note in both these games: Michigan went to the 1-3-1 for brief periods in the first half, got torn apart, and spent the rest of the game in man-to-man. In the Oakland game the 1-3-1 was a very brief cameo indeed, as it was present for all of one possession—an Oakland layup—and was quickly shelved. Theory: there's some adjustment that prevents the layup line the 1-3-1 became against EMU but Beilein's vertigo-induced absence prevented that from being applied and Michigan just went to a standard defense against generally overmatched foes.
Oakland center Keith Benson used the man-to-man to go crazy, hitting nine of eleven shots and having a career game. It wasn't necessarily that the defense was bad, either; often times Benson was well defended only to hit a tough shot.
Reed Baker and the Rainmakers. Due to holiday travel I missed this one and it sounds like I should be glad I did. Michigan shot very poorly, but forced a zillion FGCU turnovers and limped to an ugly victory over a bad team.
And notes for the future:
Minutes what? Laval Lucas-Perry becomes eligible, looks a lot like Bernie Mac, and hits a lot of threes. He's played 36 minutes in two games. Where are these minutes coming from? One obvious location: Anthony Wright has gotten two DNP-CDs since LLP shed his suit. But the other obvious location—walk-ons—not so much. Merritt and Lee have combined to average 25 minutes per game.
Wha? Well, Michigan is using Perry at the 2 and 3 and giving all point guard minutes to either Merritt or Grady. The two have combined for 79 minutes in the last two games: one or the other is always on the floor. Everyone was selling LLP as a combo guard or a scoring point; Michigan isn't even giving him a chance to be the best point guard since Magic Johnson.
The two possibilities here are
- LLP isn't actually any sort of point and Michigan will never play him there.
- Michigan's trying to work LLP in slowly and will start giving him point guard minutes as he gets more comfortable actually being on the floor.
I really hope it's #2; no offense to Merritt but he's a walk-on for a reason.
Minutes what part two. Okay, so LLP isn't taking Merritt's minutes. Fine. Question: why isn't Kelvin Grady? There is nothing Grady isn't statistically superior to Merritt in except a couple of things with extremely low sample sizes:
|Player||ARate||TORate||Usage||2PT FG%||3PT FG%|
Merritt's superior two point FG percentage is based on ten shots, and that usage rate is insanely low—way lower than even CJ Lee—so those should be almost entirely easy shots.
Unless Merritt's just way, way better on defense, which I concede may be true, there's no reasonable case he should be playing anything more than 5-10 minutes a game when Grady needs a breather.
Side note: how about that 43% on three pointers from Grady? We're still subject to a small sample size disclaimer, but dang, man. That's a seven-point jump from last year's meh 36%, and it makes him someone you have to get out on, which is dangerous because he's ninja-quick. If only he could make a layup.
Manny! I'm going to be the last person on earth to note how freakin' good Manny Harris is, but this, I think, is the key number: 33.2. Oh, and 31.6. And 17.3. These items are:
- 33.2. Harris's assist rate, which is insane for a small forward, 13 points higher than last year's, by far the best on the team, and 62nd nationally. Also helping out: Harris' TO rate has dropped from 22.0 to 18.6.
- 31.6. Harris's usage rate, which is insane for anyone—26th nationally—and actually higher than his very high usage from a year ago.
- 17.3. Harris' defensive rebound rate, which is easily second-best on the team and a major reason the rebounding numbers are not worse than they are.
Before the season I sounded a note of caution on expectations for Harris as his freshman year had the distinct whiff of Bracey Wright to it. (I've done this twice, actually.) That whiff is gone. Harris has been maniacally efficient despite sporting an enormous usage rate. This was my hope before the season:
I hope in March we're here looking at scoring average going down a little bit but those field goal numbers going up a lot; we'll see.
Harris said "how about more usage and more efficiency" and I said "I wish to clone you every four years if that is okay with you sir." That is stardom, and it's a quantum leap forward from his freshman year.
Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Hockey won the GLI.
Yay, divers alarums and all that but unlike most years, when a GLI win would entail a victory over at least one tourney-bound opponent, Michigan beat the last place team in the WCHA and the last place team in the CCHA. It's good they did so, and did so in dominating fashion, but this was a must-win situation for a team currently flirting with missing the tourney more than a big step forward.
Some items on the State game (yrs truly was sleeping in a car during the Tech game):
This is the third game I've seen Michigan play State and it's still stunning just how bad they are. There were three separate shifts where State got stuck in its own end for a minute and a half against Ciraulo, Glendening, and Fardig. The fourth line. The fourth line when two of Michigan's forwards are at the WJC. It's not surprising that Lerg faced more than 100 shots on the weekend.
Could this be it for Comley? He's two years removed from a national championship, which no matter how fluky it was remains a national championship. On the other hand, State is beyond terrible. Their recruiting must have fallen off a cliff, though it's hard to tell in college hockey. They did bring in a first-round draft pick in Daultan Leveille this year (and Leveille is third on the team with… eight points) but Leveille was from the lightly-scouted and lightly-recruited GOJHL, a junior B league a level below the BCHL or OPJHL. While this is a triumph of scouting for State to get on this kid early, it's not exactly a battle won against Michigan, North Dakota, etc etc etc. Just look at the NTDP recruiting: Michigan has eight guys coming in over the next two years and State has two, one of whom is the backup to M recruit Jeff Campbell and the other is Austin Czarnik, the 5'8" cousin of Robbie. Czarnik's doing well this year (8-6-14, tied for 3rd on the team in scoring) but Michigan has Merrill, Moffatt, Jacob Fallon, and Kevin Clare plus Campbell lined up from that year's team.
Comley's old and seems to be flagging; State should probably give him the heave-ho this year or things could seriously slide.
Meanwhile, on Michigan's side of things: If you're looking for a breakout player of the second half it's got to be Brandon Burlon. He was slowed by an ankle injury early, then struggled a bit with rust; of late he's been doing a lot of things that you have to be ridiculously talented to do. In the State game he leapt up into the slot, pounced on a loose puck, and effortlessly labeled one top corner to force a good glove save out of Lerg. In the previous two State games he had a sick end-to-end rush goal and a critical assist when he leapt into the play, created a two on one, and set up an easy, tying tap-in for Hagelin.
Burlon doesn't have Jack Johnson's size or hatred of all living things on skates, but he might have something approximating his puck skills. He's going to blow up in the second half of the season.
Runner-up in this category: Robbie Czarnik, who's either Milan Gajic or Kevin Porter at this point. Both got, and flubbed, a zillion chances as underclassmen. Porter blossomed into the Hobey winner and a surefire NHLer; Gajic squeezed his stick into sawdust and left Michigan the ultimate tease of a hockey player. For Czarnik's sake and mine I hope the pucks start going in.
Louie? I'm still confused about Louie Caporusso, an obviously good hockey player who seemingly has no business leading the nation in goals by four. He's small. He doesn't have the ridiculous dangle of a Hensick or Comrie, nor does he have the ability to teleport from one end of the ice to the other like Tambellini or Cogliano, nor does he have Tambellini's laser wrist shot. He seems pretty good at all these things, just not great. And yet: 18 goals, and a crazy PPG mark as a freshman that was obscured by an injury that held him out a third of the season.
The nearest thing I can figure is that Caporusso is some sort of crazy anticipatory genius who finds open spots on the ice and uses his extremely accurate shot to make the best of things when the puck comes to him. His latest goal (above) against Michigan State, wherein he schooled Leopold Buttery Stotch and came in on Lerg, was perhaps the best example of this to date: Caporusso was travelling at high speed about two inches from Lerg and managed to roof the puck. The angle involved was very narrow. Maybe Caporusso has that Ryan Smyth ability to put himself in open spots and put pucks exactly where he wants them? I will make it my mission to find this out.
Scooter. Scratched with the return of Kampfer. Harsh, man… I thought surely it would be Pateryn or Llewellyn—who is taking a lot of foolish penalties—in the suit. Scooter did make a couple critical errors in the State game at Munn (he was the guy who pinched and yielded the two-on-one that led to State's first goal in that game), I guess. Competition for playing time on D is going to be brutal for the remainder of the season.
Hogan. I guess he's the man, man. I didn't think he was playing any better than Sauer when the two platooned, and the stats back that up. But he's clearly not playing any worse, and when you have these two guys as your options…
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with no history in NCAA tournament
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with two consecutive season-killing meltdowns
… you should go with the devil you don't know. No offense to Sauer but I hope we don't see him more than a few times the rest of the year, as that will mean Hogan has continued to play at a high level.
Miami. The upcoming games against Miami—this is hockey, wherein Miami is most definitely not Fake Miami—are the bar-none biggest of the year. Return the sweep Miami inflicted at Goggin and Michigan leaps back into the CCHA race* and gives themselves a significant margin of error as far as making the tourney goes. Get swept again and it will be tooth and nail for a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and a tourney bid. Split and eh.
January 9th and 10th: big.
*(Five points back with two games in hand, though Notre Dame remains way far ahead and Michigan would almost definitely have to sweep them in a home-and-home at the end of January to have any chance of winning the league. In all likelihood the regular season title is gone and Michigan is fighting for a first-round bye and secure tourney bid the rest of the way, but sweep the #1 and #2 teams in the country and we're in it, yo!)
Will Campbell flew down to the Army All-American game yesterday and dropped a bomb on Michigan fans:
Although Campbell still denies a leader and maintains he favors Miami, Michigan, LSU, Alabama and Florida, in-state favorite Michigan now seems like a long shot. "I'm really looking to get away from here," Campbell said. "I liked my other visits and I'm thinking of seeing something new. I'm thinking about leaving Michigan."
He repeated this to a number of other people (one example); it's no fluke. Commence red alert and all that, OMG death etc etc etc. Then last night mods on the premium sites started posting items that ranged from cautiously suggesting Michigan probably isn't 100% out to "Campbell is coming to Michigan, but I will use my infuriating pidgin to communicate this."
The great hope here is that Campbell is attempting to add drama to a recruitment long considered a foregone conclusion even before a William Campbell showed up in the Michigan directory on the same day Tate Forcier, Vincent Smith, and the rest of Michigan's early-enrolling squad of folks did.
Is this a plausible hope? Eh… maybe. The Campbell recruitment is different than that of Nick Perry or Ronald Johnson. There was never any consensus on Perry's destination. Johnson was supposedly a Michigan lock but that information was solely provided by moderators at the premium sites and never had any outside corroboration. In Campbell's case we've had reports from random people about conversations with Campbell or his teammates or people close to the situation that indicated he was coming to Michigan. There's a ton of evidence out there, and even if that "evidence" is the shaky anonymous internet variety it's prolific enough that it seems credible.
But it's really hard to look direct quotes in the face and conclude they mean nothing. If Campbell was looking to inject drama into his decision, he's succeeded.