via Roar of the Tigers.
Also the front of the MGoWedding's save the date cards, minus the elder-terrifying text.
It's time for the annual approximately week-long Christmas break, which extends from tomorrow, the 23rd, to the 28th. Normal blog service resumes the 29th, with exceptions made for breaking news of an important variety. A recruiting dead period just began and the only sporting event in the interim is a basketball game against Bryant they should win by 30, so monumental news is unlikely.
Merry Christmas/Holiday of Choice.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at [email protected] or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Blake Countess Goes Blue
MD CB Blake Countess committed to Michigan last week. Tom spoke with Blake shortly after the commitment, and he had this to say:
I just fell in love with the school, the facilities, and everything the University has to offer really.
He also talked to The Baltimore Sun's Matt Bracken:
“The Big House, I knew about it but hadn't really seen it at all,” Countess said. “When I went there, it was just unbelievable. I really fell in love with the school, the atmosphere and Ann Arbor.”
Touch the Banner on Blake's game:
I can't honestly say that he's "great" at any one thing. But unlike several other cornerback recruits over the past few years (Justin Turner was too big, Demar Dorsey was too thuggish, Boubacar Cissoko was short and harbored too much ill will toward delivery boys), Countess doesn't have any glaring deficiencies. He has decent size, runs well, has good hips, is a solid tackler, and tracks the ball well in the air.
Hypothetical Decommitment Apocalypse
We've addressed rumors (and facts) re: Demetrius Hart's commitment status time and again, but the case remains the same: He's committed to Michigan as long as Rich Rodriguez is the coach. Florida scrapping the spread offense for pro-style sets narrows down the likely competition for Hart's signature, helping Michigan hold onto him. Of course, Alabama just so happening to spend thousands of dollars upgrading Dr. Phillips's facilities is coincidence, I assure you.
Elsewhere in decommitment scuttlebutt, FL CB Commit Dallas Crawford is starting to hear from his childhood favorite, the Miami Hurricanes. Like Dee, Dallas is unlikely to decommit as long as Rich Rodriguez's job is safe, but this certainly throws a wrench in the works. Tom talked to his coach, who gave some reassuring quotes. At least Miami's fans are sure to show the love.
"I think it's a media thing, what they're trying to do, making it a big deal,"
Which is 100% true, of course. Fellow commit Desmond Morgan is effusive in his praise of what a "great guy" Rodriguez is. He's also confident that the staff will return, but will stick with Michigan no matter what. (in the article above, Blake Countess makes similar statements).
And, while we're on the topic, I guess I'll have to mention the Detroit News article stating Dave Brandon's timetable is affecting recruiting, if only because Tom is quoted. My personal thought is that he's not going to change his mind, regardless of how much people bitch about it, so what's the point in continuing to rail on about it?
Looking for positive news? MI RB/Slot Commit Justice Hayes says more commits are on the way.
NC QB Marquise Williams is going to stick with UNC ($, info in header), unfazed by the USC-level sanctions headed their way. Of course, there's a contradictory article about his status every other day, so bear with that one.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost talked recruiting before participating in the Shrine Bowl last weekend:
"It's time for the (Army) All-American game in San Antonio and I'm really excited about that. [If he could choose what to play there] It would be receiver, my wish. That just goes back to showing what I can do. A lot of people want to stress and say, 'You're so good at linebacker so why are you thinking of receiver?' I haven't really been seen at receiver and I don't feel like it's that big of a deal. I'll always have something to fall back on. It's not like I'm running away from something. I feel like if I have an opportunity to do both I'm going to take it."
As for what's going to be the deciding factor between Michigan, LSU, and Auburn:
"It's pretty much going to come down to comfort level," Frost said. "It's going to be what is the best fit for me and what team is going to expose me the most and allow me to make plays and be the best I can be. I'm going to have some time now to look it over with my family and think about it and now's the time to get back to school, get back to studying and get back to the recruiting process."
He plans to make his choice at the Army game. Frost was named the defensive MVP for North Carolina in the game.
High school fluff on Shawn Conway's JuCo adventure.
Michigan sent a big contingent of recruiters to visit SC WR Hakeem Flowers ($, info in header).
OH TE Darien Bryant committed to Nebraska, but wait! He immediately decommitted, so he may still be an option.
Happy Trails, NC TE Drew Owens, who committed to South Carolina ($, info in header).
Local fluffon CA K Connor Loftus, who holds a Michigan offer:
He came into Saturday night's CIF state championship Open Division bowl game with 15 field goals, including a long of 53, and he hasn't missed from under 40 yards. In the Pac-5 semifinals, he had a 68-yard punt against Mission Hills Alemany. Even more impressive is his ability to put the ball consistently into the end zone on kickoffs.
Yes plz. He plans to visit.
In his weekly update, Tom has information of FL S Roderick Ryles and MD DT Darian Cooper considering Michigan.
Michigan, Oregon, and Ohio State are the favorites for IL QB Robert Gregory. He likes that they "play athletes" at the QB position. Gregory was All-State as a junior.
The other part of Tom's brief interview with new Michigan commit Blake Countess regards recruiting for the Wolverines:
Ohh of course. Me and Stefon are really close, so thats definitely going to be something I look foward to doing in the future. We have a bunch of underclassmen studs at my school.
"Stefon" refers to MD WR Stefon Diggs, one of 15 wideouts Scout has already pegged with 4-star status for the 2012 class.
RC Slocum, man about town. This doesn't have anything to do with anything but here's Joe Paterno doing the limbo:
Sort of, anyway. I don't think you're supposed to go that way. Paterno probably thinks going backwards is a Hun affectation. Also prepare for the OBC to burn himself into your retinas:
These are from a recently unearthed cache of photos of former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum that features both Gorbachev and Mathew McConaughey, although not in the same picture. Barking Carnival theorizes that Slocum is the most interesting man in the world, and it's hard to disagree. Gorby!
OTL on oversigning. ESPN's put out what's hopefully part one of an extensive series of interviews with college athletes who have been screwed out of scholarships and swept under the rug. It's LSU again:
So Les Miles…
- Runs a program that oversigns and cuts players who don't seem useful.
- Doesn't bother to tell players they've been cut in a face to face meeting.
- Relies on someone else to send a letter to the kid.
- Refuses to meet with the kid after he's received the bad news.
- Baldly lies about the kid at media day.
Then Elliot Porter shows up and says he had to be a man about getting cut by Miles, demonstrating more maturity than his erstwhile head coach. Unfortunately for those of us making huge "Please Be Our DC, Randy" signs for the bowl game, Randy Shannon's rep as an awesome dude also takes a huge hit.
Not to beat this dead horse for the thousandth time, but this is some bullshit right here and should be a major target for reform. ESPN's doing the Lord's work, and I hope they continue.
The inevitable redshirt. To reiterate something from Tim's presser recap, Devin Gardner's back problems held him out of the last eight games and have set him up to take a (surprise!) redshirt this season:
“His back has been better, and he’s been able to do most of the stuff today,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Saturday.
Should a medical redshirt be granted, Gardner would, in theory, have two years to hold the starting quarterback job. Denard Robinson is penciled in as the starter through the 2012 season.
Yes, the nature and timing of Gardner's injury is unbelievably convenient, but if they've got documentation they've got it and the NCAA will have to grant Gardner his redshirt. We should all go back and undo the Great Gardner Non-Redshirt Infighting, since it looks like Michigan's going to have its cake and eat it too… unless Rodriguez gets fired and everyone transfers and we're starting Jack Kennedy next year.
Gwaltney in repose. A Bruce Feldman article on well-travelled former blue chip recruit Jason Gwaltney, who I remember openly campaigning for Rivals to raise his ranking as just another message board plebe, has a random quote about Rich Rodriguez($):
He says he did learn how to practice full-speed from his days at WVU. "They chiseled that into my brain," he said. "Coach [Rich] Rodriguez instilled something in me. I still owe that man a lot."
Gwaltney ended up at a D-III HBCU in New Jersey and is in an upcoming all-star game with fellow spectacular flameout Fred Rouse. His brother Scooter Berry was an afterthought throw-in but developed into an All Big East defensive lineman as Gwaltney toured the lower divisions of college football, so he's got an obvious what-could-have-been in his own family.
Hello Georgia? After UGA's athletic director was pulled over for DUI with a girl in the passenger seat and her panties in is lap, UGA has a new athletic director. His first scheduling actions were cancelling games against actual opponents that the old guy had put in place, so it seemed like Georgia's brief glastnost period wherein they were prepared to end their infamous policy of never leaving the South was over. This, then, is a surprise:
Preliminary discussions have taken place with Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State about the prospect of one or more of them scheduling a home-and-home series with Georgia in the future, UGA athletics director Greg McGarity confirmed to Dawgs247.
“We’d love to do a home-and-home with a Big Ten or Midwestern school that has a rich tradition,” McGarity said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.
“Hopefully, within the next year, we’ll be able to have something in writing.”
Georgia and Clemson have a series that extends until 2014, so any series would have to wait until at least then. McGarity says the series would be "way down the road" so one school or the other would have plenty of time to cancel it.
Would Michigan be interested? I'd hope so. Dave Brandon's already set up a neutral site matchup with Alabama that's slightly cool but also thousands of miles from either campus in a generic, if swanky, corporate stadium. From a fan's perspective having a home and home with Georgia is way cooler than a one-off in Dallas. From a financial perspective not so much—Michigan's getting a home game's worth of revenue from the Jerryworld game—but money isn't everything and Michigan needs something to spruce up the schedule in years when Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are all road games. Of course, "sprucing up" the schedule in those years means "making it brutal," so maybe not.
Would they be more interested than the other three schools listed? Probably not. I'd bet Michigan is the least likely of the four to actually land a series with Georgia. Because of their Notre Dame series they have to work in games against actual opponents where they can; Penn State and Ohio State don't have any annual commitments and Notre Dame has to fill twelve games every year.
Limbo update, or backdate, or whatever. Yesterday Tom's recruiting post quoted Darian Cooper saying Tony Dews told him Michigan coaches would "know January first" whether they'd be around next year. Recent commitment Desmond Morgan was told something similar with more confidence but something less than rock-hard certainty:
“I’ve talked with coach Rodriguez and the rest of the coaches and they’re pretty confident he’s going to be there after the season,” Morgan said. “I’m pretty confident as well. No matter what happens, Michigan’s a great football program.”
So that's Morgan and Countess in the boat no matter what. Picking up two commits during this time of uncertainty is a nice insurance policy against the uphill battle a January coaching change would see the new guy fight.
Bang-bang. Soony Saad's been called in to the U20 team, whereupon he scored in a dismantling of Canada and essentially announced he'd be back for 2011:
Philadelphia Union striker McInerney scored in the 50th minute while Saad also notched an impressive 25-yard half-volley score in the 34th.
It's nothing new for Saad, one of the top strikers of the ball in the country, who helped lead unsung Michigan to the College Cup as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. "It was nice being in camp. It was kind of a tough adjustment coming off the college season," he said.
When the subject turned to the College Cup, where the Wolverines suffered a semifinal loss to eventual champion Akron, Saad declined to comment.
"Not until we win the College Cup next season," he said.
The usual disclaimers apply.
Etc.: Zac Ciullo comes in for an extensive profile in the News. Random New Yorker poem about Michigan. Jason King drops some positive fluff about the basketball team along the same lines as my column but with far fewer references to the DOS command line. Might want to update that photo, though.
This should be the last regular edition of Friday Night Lights for the 2011 recruiting class, but there's more to come with new commits and all-star games, etc. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
New Commit MD CB Blake Countess
As a defensive back at a program with lots of talent, Countess didn't have to spend much time on offense, and defensive stats go unreported in high school ball. Interpret the numbers below as a small part of his production this season.
Game 1. Preview. Good Counsel defeated Cincinnati St. Xavier 21-6. Article 2. Another article. None of the articles mention Countess, but his junior teammate Stefon Diggs stole the show (more on him in tomorrow's recruitin' post). Blake had 1 rush for 3 yards and 2 receptions for 22 yards.
Game 4. Good Counsel smashed Bishop O'Connell 53-7. Blake didn't accrue any offensive stats.
Game 5. Good Counsel pasted Bishop McNamara 48-0. Blake came up big on special teams:
The only score in the first quarter followed an excellent punt return by Blake Countess of 52 yards to the Mustang 17 yard line...
Then the "Play of the Game" ensued. With McNamara kicking from deep in their own territory, Blake Countess received the punt at the Mustang 39. He headed straight up field and then, behind some solid blocking, broke left and scampered to the end zone...
The Mustangs kicked off to open the second half and Blake Countess, the Gameday Player of the Game, took the kick at the 13 and raced 87 yards for another touchdown.
He also had a 16-yard touchdown reception. The kickoff return:
Game 7. Paul VI. Blake had 3 catches for 39 yards and a score.
Game 8. Good Counsel beat St. John's 27-14. I don't think Blake played in the game.
Game 9. Good Counsel beat Gonzaga 50-38. Blake didn't accrue any offensive stats, but had a 9-ayrd kickoff return.
The official website for Good Counsel Football is a little more... complete. I encourage you to check it out, because it links to a lot of 1-play highlights that aren't feasible to embed here. It credits Blake with the following stats on the year:
|Blake Countess 2010|
|St. Xavier||W 21-6||1||3||1||9||0||9.00||1||0||0||0.00||2||2|
|State College||W 35-13||0||0||3||46||0||15.33||2||34||0||17.00||4||3|
|Paul VI||W 42-0||0||0||3||39||1||13.00||0||0||0||-||1||0|
|St. John's||W 27-14||DNP|
FL RB Demetrius Hart
Dee is the class 6A Player of the Year, which makes him a finalist for the Mr. Football award for the state of Florida. More Dee fluff. He got to attend the Heisman banquet as a candidate for Army Player of the Year.
Last Week: Opponent perspective. Game preview. Previews galore more . Dr. Phillips fell to Miami Central 27-42 in the State Championship Game, and Dee was kept out of the endzone for the first time all year. Video:
Stats below from the DP Website.
|Demetrius Hart 2010|
|Cypress Creek||W 52-0||14||168||4||12.00||1||7||0||7.00||3||24||0||8.00|
|Oak Ridge||W 56-28||21||126||3||6.00||4||37||1||9.25||1||5||0||5.00|
|West Orange||W 49-6||11||121||4||11.00||4||24||0||6.00||2||69||1||34.50|
|Oak Ridge||W 45-0||18||129||4||7.17||2||71||1||35.50||2||86||1||43.00|
|Seminole Ridge||W 38-28||21||218||2||10.38||2||40||0||20.00||3||66||0||22.00|
|Miami Central||L 27-42||20||39||0||1.95||0||0||0||-||6||105||0||17.50|
This week: Dr. Phillips season has ended at 14-1 as the State Runners-up.
FL OL Tony Posada
This week: Plant's season has ended at 13-3 as State Runners-up.
FL CB Dallas Crawford
Crawford participated in an area All-Star game last week, throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass.
South Fort Myers' season ended in the State semifinals. Dallas finished 126/181 passing for 2349 yards and 26 TDs to only 6 interceptions. He ran 112 times for 450 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also had 4+ interceptions, a pair of them returned for scores. He's the career record holder for passing yardage in his county.
Seasons Complete After the Jump
MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes
Hayes missed most of his senior season with a broken wrist. Grand Blanc finished 7-4 and lost in the second round of the State Playoffs to Lake Orion.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Traverse City West's season is over, with a 6-4 record and a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs. Fisher was 1st-Team All-District as a defensive end. Postseason fluff. Jake was named All-Divisions First-Team All-State (Dream Team).
OH OL Jack Miller
St. John's finished the season 11-2 with both losses to Toledo Whitmer (in the second in Round 3 of the State Playoffs). Miller was also named 1st-Team All-District, and the District Lineman of the Year. Also 1st-Team All-State.
OH DE Chris Rock
DeSales's season ended at 5-6 with a loss in the first round of the State Playoffs.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
TX LB Kellen Jones
St. Pius X's season finished with a 10-3 record and a loss in the second round of the TAPPS playoffs. Jones finished with 110 tackles, 25 for loss, and 7 sacks, to go along with 3 fumbles forced, 2 recovered, and a punt block. He was named TAPPS first-team All-State.
MI LB Desmond Morgan
West Ottawa went 8-3 on the season, with a loss in the second round of the playoffs. Desmon was named the captain of the All-Area Defensive First Team, despite spending most of his time as a quarterback.
OH CB/S Greg Brown
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
As we get closer and closer to signing day, Michigan nabbed two quality commitments this week in instate LB Desmond Morgan and Maryland DB Blake Countess. Michigan is currently at 13 commitments, which leaves anywhere between 5-7 more spots open. A few updates from this week, and a look at what could happen going forward:
6'1", 185 lbs.
I'm sure everyone has noticed that Roderick has an outstanding set of dreadlocks, always key in recruiting. Ryles was committed to Arkansas, but recently decommitted/had his offer pulled from the Razorbacks. He has opened up his recruitment, and Michigan will be part of the process.
I'm not with Arkansas anymore, so it's back open with everybody. I'm definitely interested in Michigan. I just talked to Coach Smith on Thursday (10/9).
Dr. Phillips just lost in the state championship game so Roderick will be focusing on recruiting going forward. He hasn't set up his visit date yet, but is looking to do that soon.
6'1", 275 lbs.
I'm not sure where it originated, but there was a rumor that Michigan was out of it for Darian Cooper. That's not entirely true. This was somewhat discussed in this thread earlier, and this is what Darian had to say about it.
Tony Dews came out on Thursday, and we talked about some things. I asked him about the coaching situation and he said that we'll know on January 1st. They're not out of it yet, I'm just concerned with what's going on with them because I had a friend go through that too.
While Michigan isn't out of it for Cooper, they are slightly behind the likes of Penn State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, and Michigan State. We won't know if Michigan is back in it until we know the fate of the coaching staff.
[Ed.: That's quite a statement from Dews, if second-hand. Not even a "we'll be back." Everybody limbo.]
6'4", 230 lbs.
Red Bank, New Jersey
Jack Tabb and recently offered Glenville prospect Frank Clark are the main tight ends on Michigan's board these days. Tabb has decided that he's ready to announce his decision after visiting Michigan, Arkansas, Iowa, and North Carolina.
I'm announcing either Wednesday or Thursday, I'll find out tomorrow. I'll have hats for Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Iowa.
The coaching situation at Michigan has also been in Tabb's mind recently. He really liked his visit to Ann Arbor, but I wouldn't get your hopes up with him.
- Commit Demetrius Hart told reporters last night that he will officially visit Florida, and still plans on enrolling early wherever he decides to go. If Rich Rodriguez stays, then I think Dee will too. If Rich Rod goes, then so will Hart.
- Instate DB Raymon Taylor was offered by Michigan this week. He's a lifelong Michigan fan, and barring anything out of the ordinary there's a good chance he'll be a part of this class. Taylor is a Rivals four star who was committed to Indiana before their coaching change; the other sites have him a generic three-star.
- The Army All American game will be played on January 8th, and Michigan fans will have reason to watch. Michigan commits DB Blake Countess and RB Demetrius Hart will be in the game. The two prospects announcing their decisions during the game to keep an eye on are FL S Wayne Lyons and NC ATH Kris Frost.
- There's a dead period that starts today that will run through January 3rd. The next big recruiting visit weekend will be that following weekend of the 7th. We'll have more as it gets closer, but so far WR Devin Lucien, TE Frank Clark, DB Sheldon Royster, DB Dallas Crawford, and DE Deion Barnes are scheduled to be there.
12/18/2010 – Michigan 69, Oakland 51 – 9-2
This doesn't happen so much anymore, but back in the day there was a point in the lifetime of any Windows installation at which the operating system was so loaded with cruft that the only thing to do was take it out back, shoot it in the head, and reinstall. During this process there was always a moment when the computer reminded you in all caps that you were about to shoot it in the head.
The moment when you hit "Y" was always slightly* thrilling. At that time you had to beat your head against extended memory to get Master of Magic to play—there was always a chance your brilliant reinstall plot would end with you banging your head against the case screaming vile things about Bill Gates's parentage. But if things worked out you'd be able to open your word processor without it automatically typing "I hate you and you are stupid."**
Watching this year's basketball team is like sitting in front of a blue screen that asks you if you'd like to format C:. Last offseason John Beilein saw that prompt and hit "Y," and how. This was not entirely voluntary, since DeShawn Sims had run out of eligibility and Manny Harris tolerance for college, but Beilein also lost Anthony Wright and Laval Lucas-Perry to smaller schools in the area—seemingly by his choice, not theirs—and fired his entire coaching staff.
As a result Michigan entered the year without five of the nine players Kenpom had individual stats for last year. Only one—seldom-used freshman Matt Vogrich—used enough possessions to escape the "limited roles" dungeon. Here's what the very bottom of Kenpom's "height and other stuff" shows when you order by average experience:
Anyone who had coached the straggling returners and a couple of redshirt freshmen was out the door as well. An entirely new coaching staff started burning up twitter with exclamation points, installing a man-to-man defense, and trying to get three pointers to fall. The Big Ten was projected to be brutal, with Michigan a speed bump. This was to be a year of banging the head upon the case without even much hope that it would amount to anything.
Eleven games in, Michigan has essentially completed the nonconference schedule. A game against 1-9 Bryant remains and Michigan bizarrely takes on Kansas in early January, but we've gotten all the information we're going to get before Michigan's brutal Welcome To The Big Ten And Kansas stretch (all numbers Kenpom):
- Dec 28: #11 Purdue
- Jan 2: #74 Penn State
- Jan 5: #9 @ Wisconsin
- Jan 9: #2 Kansas
- Jan 12: #3 Ohio State
That still looks like pain, but after three bludgeonings of okay teams and one stirring comeback against Tommy Amaker's Ivy League favorites the chance Michigan swipes one of those uphill battles is something less than infinitesimal. They'll be worth watching, at least. The stretch after that is littered with teams from 15 to 81, with just two forays back into the top ten after, and with Kenpom wavering between 7-11 and 8-10 for the league record both math and your lying eyes suggest this is an NIT team.
So that's weird. Weirder still is how this is being accomplished: with fierce man to man defense. After shutting down Keith Benson Michigan is now 16th in defense, and we're getting to the point where you can't wave away the results as small sample size against poor competition. UMHoops:
Michigan’s defense held Oakland – a team that has already faced West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, and Tennessee – to their worst offensive output of the season. I’ve been hesitant to believe that Michigan’s defense is the real deal, because making bad teams look terrible only goes so far, but right now there’s no denying that Michigan is playing great defense.
On one particular possession on Saturday, Michigan did so well over 35 seconds that the crowd rose to its feet like the hockey team had just killed off a 5-on-3 power play. With the offense still bombing away from 3 (sixteenth nationally) despite not making any of them (253rd), the primary difference between this year and last year is a switch-mad man-to-man that is totally unlike anything Beilein's ever put on the court before.
That, the complete lack of seniors, and the expectation the team's best player returns. We're about to hit the stretch in the format process where the drive makes horrible noises and bad sectors pop up, but the path from here to the point where our word processor loves us again is far clearer than it was two months ago. This, too, is slightly thrilling.
*(very, very slightly)
**(Things like this actually used to happen. They were called macro viruses and I managed to get one back in the day when I shared a spreadsheet with a lab partner. I don't remember exactly what the cryptic message was, but whenever I opened Word it would type a bunch of stuff, delete it, and then type something else that might have been "ferret" but is probably just me misremembering things.)
The All-Seeing Eye. You know it's a good game when the thing that makes you wince in the second half is when the other team goes on a run to cut the lead from 20 to 10 because the all-seeing Eye of Kenpom will disapprove. Fouling and whatnot pushed Michigan's final margin out to 18, and the Great Eye is pleased—Michigan has run itself from triple digits after the UTEP game to 52nd. They've cleared Penn State and Iowa and are in a virtual dead heat with #50 Northwestern, #51 Minnesota, and #54 Indiana for the title of Sixth Best Team In The Big Ten According To Ken Pomeroy.
As far as tourney resumes go, Michigan is clearly behind Minnesota and their wins over UNC and WVU but well ahead of Northwestern (one decent win against GT and that's all) and Indiana (best win over Wright State). If the Big Ten is destined for seven bids, the last one seems up for grabs with Michigan in the conversation. I don't think the BT is going to get seven mostly because none of the three teams after Minnesota has a nonconference win that would cause the committee to sit up and notice, but Michigan could be vaguely on the bubble late this year.
Put this in your pocket. Illinois suffered a demoralizing loss to their version of Oakland, barfing up a 57-54 stinker against Illinois-Chicago. The difference is UIC isn't secretly pretty good—they're 5-7 and have already lost to Akron, Illinois State, Central Michigan, and other less than awesome teams. Here's a reason why:
When UIC took the 1-3-1 zone against us, we looked lost, and since we were unable to shoot ourselves out of it, we were flailing.
Well, then. Michigan plays the Illini only once and that's in the middle of February, so maybe this won't have a huge impact. But if Michigan pulls the 1-3-1 out against Illinois remember this post.
(Side note: Central Michigan is completely awful despite having what must be the most talented player in the MAC. Trey Zeigler and company are 2-8 and just got obliterated by Detroit. This is depressing but from the Zeiglers' perspective the only thing keeping dad around is the presence of his son so the decision makes sense.)
Doubling down. Michigan doubled Benson the instant he got the ball, which was new. They hadn't helped out their center all year even when Harvard's counterpart was tearing Morgan up; in this game they forced turnovers and kickouts from Benson all day. Morgan held up pretty well with the help.
Infectious coaching. Beilein must have gotten a tiny thrill after Jon Horford gave up an and-one to Benson in the first half when both Zack Novak and Darius Morris went over to him to demonstrate what he did wrong on the play. Novak even provided helpful "arms straight up" versus "whatever you were doing, freshman" pantomimes.
I know how you feel. The UMHoops game preview said "expect a lot more zone" and I thought "that's a really good thing to put in the preview because it's probably going to be true" and then the only zone we saw was a single possession of 1-3-1 at the end of the first half.
How Darius Morris makes the defense go. Thanks to their huge point guard, Michigan's perimeter rotation of Morris, Novak, Douglass, Hardaway, and Vogrich is all about the same size, which allows them to switch relentlessly on all screens, which goes a long way towards making up for a lack of quickness from the pastier guys in the rotation, which means teams get few opportunities to drive the lane because there's always a dude right in front of them.
Michigan's defense is now Wisconsin's: built on never fouling you, never blocking your shots, never stealing the ball, but forcing you into a wide array of not-very-good shots. Michigan is 10th in three point D, 57th in two point D, 11th in FTA/FGA, 14th in eFG%, and well down the list when it comes to forcing turnovers and getting blocks. Instead of leaving their feet they get in spots to take charges and get their hands in the air.
It's the exact opposite of the 1-3-1, which might make the 1-3-1 pretty effective if they 1) figure out how to use it, and 2) deploy it as a change up.
UMHoops game recap. Beilein on guarding Benson. The Wolverine Blog talks about the defense. Morgan fluff from the News. Five Key Plays from UMHoops features this assist, which wasn't key but it was awesome:
There is a shaky but extant torrent.