A horribly enlightening graph. FEI and I were getting along just great until Mr. Fremeau had to go and put our kicker situation in a neat graph. Sit down and get a bucket, as this is a graph of Michigan's attempts against those of FEI #1 kicker Alex Henery of Nebraska:
This is nothing you didn't already know, but Michigan threw away 16 points on field goal attempts this year and was forced into some uncomfortable situations on fourth down because of those big red dots. I'm not sure if those were actual negatives because sometimes this happened:
Romer disciples would say being forced to go for it in that down and distance is probably a net benefit since anyone attempting a 50-yard field goal is going to have difficulties. There were certain situations less friendly, however, and Michigan still had to go because asking for anything more than an extra point was doom.
Michigan might need a kicker in this class.
A minor debunk. One of the rumors wandering around message boards was that Calvin Magee went down to Gainesville a couple weeks ago, supposedly to interview for a job. Given what we know about the Florida coaching situation (Meyer was days away from retiring) that doesn't make any sense and can probably be dismissed, and I can confirm from an excellent source that Magee never met with anyone at Florida. File that in the dustbin of history next to All Of Iowa Is Suspended.
It's a tragedy when you don't get along with your groin. The injury that held Bryan Hogan out of the Big Chill will sideline him for "at least a month," according to AnnArbor.com. That sidelines him for the GLI—a tournament Michigan should win even without him—and an early January series against the State team Michigan just beat 5-0 and is languishing near the bottom of the league standings. It sucks for Hogan to miss out just as he was establishing himself the starter but if he's got to be out a month this is the one to miss.
It is again the groin, but a different bit of the groin:
"But he made one move and he could just feel it."
Berenson said Hogan partially tore a tendon or muscle in his groin, but that it has nothing to do with the injury Hogan suffered last year.
A midseason review of the hockey team on AA.com points out that however frustrating the first half of the season has been Michigan's come out of it in decent shape. A quick glance at College Hockey Stats shows that Michigan's scoring margin is amongst the national leaders:
[Michigan opponents in italics.]
They're 12th, and that's with a few minor schools and ECAC pushovers in front of them. They're 11th in KRACH, which seems about right—a solid tournament team but not a top seed. (My usual complaint about KRACH is it overrates nonconference games and piles WCHA teams atop the rankings, and this is again true.) I'm still concerned that any mildly competent defensive team can reduce Michigan to pinging shots from the point and hoping something wacky happens. This will have to be true…
"I think we expected to be a little further ahead - but not a lot," Berenson said Tuesday. "You can't say, 'Oh, we're going to expect to lose four games in the first half.' I mean, which games are you expecting to lose? I wasn't expecting us to have four ties. … Our best hockey is still ahead of us.
"I think we've seen some glimpses, some good signs, and I think the second half will be our best half. But we're right there. We're knocking on the door. We're not bad."
…if Michigan is going to go into the tournament expecting something good.
Tearing it up. Michigan's current* 2011 signees continue to raise their stock of late. It was Trey Burke making a late-summer push at AAU events across Ohio, but as they enter their senior years its Brundidge making waves:
Brundidge opened the season up with 41 points in a blow out win over Mount Clemens but the competition began to heat up this week as Southfield traveled to Romulus, a consensus top 5 team in the state of Michigan. The burly guard answered the challenge as he poured in 29 points, 8 rebounds, and eight assists in a 78-70 victory. Unofficially, Brundidge was 6 of 12 from the field (2-6 3pt) and 11 of 13 from the free throw stripe.
Vince Baldwin took to the twitters to rave about Brundidge's passing in the aftermath.
As for Burke, he's shooting 79(!!!) percent in two games so far. Adding that guard tandem to Morris, and Douglass and you're verging on… loaded? Can we possibly say that about Michigan basketball? I'm confused.
*(There's still the possibility of a third if Michigan finds a guy—probably a Euro—they want.)
Meanwhile on Kenpom. Michigan poked its hypothetical head above .500 after the Utah game and is now sitting at 17-14 with seven conference wins. Every time I check it it seems they've moved up a spot or two thanks to other teams falling back; they're up to 59th now, twenty spots higher than they were about a week ago. Saturday's game against Oakland is a big one—the Grizzlies just beat Tennessee and played Michigan State to the wire. Win that and it's time to start eyeing an NIT bid.
In other tempo-free stat news, Big Ten Geeks points out that while North Carolina Central is bad, they have never been quite as bad as they were against Michigan—their 0.78 points per trip was a season worst. This is a Beilein team built on… defense? As long as the team is bricking wide-open threes by the bunch, apparently. On WTKA today Beilein said a couple items of note:
- They'd gone straight man to man the whole year because the team is very young and they'd rather do one thing well than a few things poorly.
- "This is Division I basketball" and when you have a wide open shot you have to take it. It doesn't sound like he's displeased with anything from the first half except the fact the ball didn't go in the basket. You could chalk it up to it being just one of those things… if this wasn't the third straight year Michigan hefted a ton of threes (16th nationally) and didn't make any of them (255th).
One step ahead of you. AA.com suggests a fix for the Big Ten logo fiasco:
The Big Ten can backtrack with a press release that says something to the effect of “we are sure honored to have such passionate fans, and we’ve heard their voices.”
Then hold a contest. Fans submit their best ideas for new division names and new logo - there are plenty of good ones floating around the Internet in recent days, ideas that exceed the cartoonish one delivered by the conference.
Hmmm. The M Zone tweaked the popular Tscherne entry by fanning the team logos out underneath the shield:
Now you can remember who's in what division. These are ordered alphabetically but maybe they could put the division champs on top every year? Or they could just go with the horrible periwinkle.
Etc.: The 85k number cited by Guinness is provisional "with the numbers continuing to increase." Dear Lynn Henning: I would have rewritten your column like so: "Yes." Further adventures in scouting Mississippi State continue with a breakdown of Dan Mullen's TE shovel pass, AKA "binky," which he's still running to good effect.
Photos from MGoBlue.com
The Michigan basketball team has continued to roll in games held anywhere other than Atlantic City. Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan are showing that they're a force to be reckoned with. Stu Douglass is sniping away from distance, as Tim Hardaway Jr. has cooled down a bit. Expectations for this Wolverine squad have been revised (slightly) upward - it's looking like a potential NIT team.
Michigan 75, Utah 64. Michigan 7-2.
The game against Utah was as thorough a beatdown as I can remember Michigan putting on any decent team in the past couple years. With the help of a couple early calls against the Utes, Jordan Morgan held a couple decent big men - even if Foster doesn't have much offensive production, he's still six freakin' inches taller than Morgan - in check. The game was never really as close as the 75-64 score makes it seem.
Darius Morris continued to show that he's improved by leaps and bounds since last year (partially due to the departures of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims giving him a higher usage rate). His only turnover was a failed alley-oop attempt to Jon Horford that Beilein attributes to Horford. He added 10 assists and 4 steals to go along with his 19 points on 57.7 eFG%.
Nobody else jumps off the page statistically, though Stu Douglass's 0/4 night from three is a letdown considering how hot he'd been shooting the ball. Matt Vogrich seems to have found his shooting stroke over the past few games, and he's been getting more minutes accordingly.
|Individuals v. Utah|
Speaking of Vogrich, he had a massively impressive performances in plus/minus (see the full chart at right). Of course, Darius Morris is killin' it, as he was +14 in a game that the team won by 11, meaning the Wolverines were -3 in the 2:21 he wasn't on the court. Tim Hardaway's up-and-down night is evidenced by his 0.
Using only one game of data means there's plenty of noise. For example, Jon Horford would have been higher had he not been on the court in the stretch late in the game when Michigan was content to let Utah chip away at a massive lead. Despite not accomplishing much on the scoresheet, Horford had something of a breakout performance.
If you want to see the data, and individual lineup effectiveness, you can check out the spreadsheet. Before Michigan enters conference play, I'll put together a total non-conference (minus Kansas) table with the minutes played and plus/minus of individuals and lineups. The most effective lineup against the Utes was Morris-Douglass-Vogrich-Novak-McLimans, which was +9 in 3:18. The most used lineup was Morris-Douglass-Hardaway-Novak-Horford, which played 7:49 and finished -3. Most of that came late in the game, as mentioned above.
NC Central Recap
Michigan 64, NC Central 44. Michigan 8-2.
As Brian pointed out on Twitter last night, as ugly as the game was, it fell right in line with Ken Pomeroy's score prediction. Coming in, I had hoped the Wolverines would finally bludgeon an overmatched opponent, but they kept up their habit of playing down to the competition, especially in the first half. The Wolverines were bombing away from three, even when it wasn't the smartest play at the time, and they could have attacked the rim (especially on the break). In the second half, they made smarter plays, got hotter from outside, and took advantage of NC Central's curious move away from the zone that had stifled Michigan's offense in the first half.
Darius Morris and Jon Horford were the stars of the show for Michigan, as Darius had 12 points to lead Michigan, along with 3 assists and a steal to only one turnover, and Jon was just a missed free throw and a rebound away from his first career double-double. As the season goes on, you'll see more of Horford as he learns the game and develops physically. Thus far, he's made the most of his opportunities.
With Michigan's offense struggling early in the game, I was surprised to see McLimans come in as the first big off the bench rather than Horford, and also that Beilein didn't try to get Vogrich into the game sooner, as he'd been hot from the field (though that decision was apparently the correct one, as Matt was 0/3).
At the end of the day, Michigan played poorly against a bad opponent, and was still able to basically meet expectations. Take the win, and move on to the next one. Up next, the Wolverines face Oakland noon Saturday in Crisler Arena. The Golden Grizzlies are hot off a road upset of #7 Tennessee, so Michigan certainly can't play this poorly and come away with a good result. OU preview drops Friday.
I have weathered all the submissions and whittled them down to a plausible few. Many submissions either unwisely tried to shoehorn a 2 into the design, adopted the horrifying your-printer-is-out-of-ink cyan, or were not better than the New Coke logo. I ruthlessly cut those.
Our four candidates:
Yes, this is just the BTN logo minus "network" and with an extra star, but it's included because 1) it makes sense and 2) points out what a weird lack of cohesion there is between the two new marks.
The Reigning Champion
Who's cuisine reigns supreme?
Here's the Mississippi State offense against Kentucky:
The Bulldogs won 24-17 with a quick late drive featuring a Relf zinger over the middle that ate up a third of the field. Kentucky's defense was (sigh) significantly better than Michigan's this year but it wasn't great. They were 79th in rush D, 53rd in pass efficiency D, 49th overall. The don't fare nearly as well in FEI, though—they're 82nd, the worst defense other than Memphis the Bulldogs played. Michigan was 103rd. (Fun fact: only one other team had a winning record against I-A competition with a worse defense than Michigan, and that was Baylor.)
I charted Relf for the hell of it:
[Most of these were clear-cut, but there was a fade down the sideline that was well-covered, hit the receiver in the hands, got dropped, and then saw the receiver hit with an offensive PI call. That could have been anything from CA to BR. I punted and filed it MA—he should have led the receiver to the sideline but it wasn't awful.
The backup quarterback came in for a series, went run, BR, INX, and then ate bench. ]
So… that's not very good. That DSR is one pip off Denard Robinson's freshman year—you know, the one that spawned an offseason of debate about whether he should be a wide receiver or running back—and most of those INs were TacoBLANK specials where the receiver watched the ball zing well over his head or well wide or well short; receivers had no chance to bring in any of them. The two TAs are generous as well. Either could have been filed IN.
However, it should be noted that the Kentucky game was Relf's worst of the year by far. In his last two games against reasonable defenses Relf went 13 of 20 for 288 yards with 3 TDs, and one INT (Ole Miss) and 20 of 30 for 224 yards (Arkansas). This is not a representative sample.
Relf seems like a ridiculously fast version of Steven Threet—capable of those downfield darts in the seam that result in huge chunks of yards and blithering inaccuracy on the next play. In this game he had six complete misses against six accurate downfield throws, but three of the accurate ones were beautiful long gains.
I probably didn't give Relf enough credit as a runner. He was impressive in this game, making decisive option cuts and even throwing in an I-hit-circle spin move:
He's a better runner than Tebow, closer to a Scheelhaase than anyone else we saw this year. Yes, again with the Illinois comparisons and the grim prospect of not putting up 67 against a team with the Illinois offense.
Even more Illinois comparisons. Seriously, they scored the winning touchdown on the inverted veer after their erratic but fast quarterback scrambled for a first down. The clip above is an option keeper. They love the jet sweep and have a difficult time throwing downfield. It's a really close comparison. The differences as I see them:
- Mullen is much more willing to chance his QB throwing downfield. Illinois games I saw this year almost never featured Scheelhaase throwing more than ten yards downfield. Mullen's takes his shots and lives with the balls to covered receivers because occasionally Relf nails a guy and Mississippi State has a much shorter touchdown trudge to make.
- Relf is a better power runner. Scheelhaase is fast but not a guy you're going to go to on third and two (or five, or nine) as Mississippi State does with Relf. He brings the wood and usually picks up two or three yards after contact.
- The Bulldog offensive line may not be very good. It's hard to tell without going super in-depth but it seemed like MSU bogged down when Kentucky players were not getting hooked on the outside or doing many things wrong on the long TD. Almost every time MSU faced a third and long situation they ran or moved the pocket, though, and their offensive design seems like it's built around not expecting a ton out of the OL.
Bumphis and Ballard. Those guys are the heart of the Bulldog offense. Both are short, quick guys capable of turning a small crease into a big gain. Ballard isn't going to break a ton of tackles but is very fast, getting to top speed quickly when an opportunity presents itself and capable of turning on the jets. A wrong angle on him and you've given up six points.
Bumphis is an A- version of a slot receiver.
General confidence level adjustment. Even despite the ugly Relf chart above since more recent info suggests he's not really this bad, because MSU put up 24 against a Michigan-ish caliber defense when their QBs went 7 for 19. If Michigan's 4-7 points worse than Kentucky (and many metrics suggest this) I'm not happy with the idea that they'll have to put up mid-30s to win with the opponent completing 33% of their passes.
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.
Desmond Morgan Goes Blue
Read the Hello: Desmond Morgan post for full details on the kid. He almost never smiles in pictures (at least ones on the internet), and more often looks ominous:
Fluff on Morgan's move to quarterback after only playing linebacker for his first three years. He's a well-rounded athlete, also playing hockey and lacrosse. The best part:
“Anything less than the playoffs would be very disappointing,” said Morgan, who has a 3.97 grade-point average. “There are a lot of great schools in the OK Red. I think the hard work in the offseason is going to pay off.”
Following the season, he was named to the All-Area First-Team defense, and captained it as Defensive Player of the Year:
“He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He makes the calls on defense and just his presence out there makes other guys around him better as well,” [West Ottawa Coach Jim] Caserta said. “… When you gameplan against us, you have to put at least a couple guys on him, and it makes the guys around him better.”
Opposing coaches were equally impressed:
“Desmond Morgan playing sideline to sideline, that kid can play at any college right now and I’ve admired that kid,” [Muskegon Coach Shane] Fairfield said after his team won 28-14. “That kid has inspired our defense, just watching him on film. He comes out here and runs like he’s Ironman. I’m glad our linebackers had a chance to play against him, because he made us grow up and realize how to play linebacker.”
Congratulations and welcome, Desmond.
Elsewhere in last weekend's visitors...
OH WR Darius Patton was "impressed" ($, info in header).
Though he visited last weekend, don't expect PA DT Rob Trudo to decommit from Syracuse ($, info in header).
MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel is ready to start thinking about a decision ($, info in header). Expect him to make his choice in early January.
Tom's Weekly Update has full reactions from OH WR Darius Patton, IL OL Chris Bryant, and LA CB James Richardson.
Prince Holloway, Come on Down?
FL Slot WR Prince Holloway is receiving an in-home visit from OL Coach Greg Frey later this month (the contact period ends next Monday), at which time his commitment status will be clarified. To recap, Holloway has said he's ready to commit to Michigan, joining his cousin, FL CB Commit Dallas Crawford, in the class.
Howeva, with MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes already in the class, I'm not sure if Holloway holds a committable offer at this time. Though MI WR Shawn Conway won't be a Wolverine next fall, Holloway, at 5-9, isn't really the prototype to fill the outside receiver position. He also has yet to achieve a qualifying score, and though it's possible for him to keep working toward that, Michigan's staff is probably leery of the risks after cases like Adrian Witty, Demar Dorsey, and Davion Rogers.
Within a week, we should have a much better idea of where Holloway stands with this coaching staff. Sam says on WTKA that he would already be committed to Michigan is not for a bit of a "slow-play."
Coaching Carousel Reopens Doors
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett says he'll see who Pitt hires as a replacement before making any sudden decisions. If the new coach brings along a whole new, staff, it's more likely he'll decommit ($, info in header). However, he wants other coaches to know that he's available if they just wanna, you know, have a chat.
MI CB Valdez Showers remains committed to Florida for now. Now that the Gators have hired Will Muschamp, he'll likely come to a decision on his commitment soon.
FL DT Tim Jernigan eliminated Michigan and USC last week (HT: Dreisbach1817), but with Meyer resigning at Florida and the Wolverines playing in a bowl game just an hour away from his hometown of Lake City, Florida, might MIchigan have a chance to change his mind?
LA DT/OL Gregory Robinson commits to Auburn.
MD DT Darian Cooper has eliminated Michigan from consideration.
PA DE Myles Jackson committed to Rutgers.
OH LB Steven Daniels committed to Boston College.
GA S Avery Walls committed to Cal in the only painful recruiting loss in this week's update. Walls was actively recruiting for Michigan in the summer, but coaching uncertainty made it tough for him to pick the Wolverines, as he wants to enroll in January. (I'm not sure how it makes more sense to pick a school that went 5-7 and will be looking for a new coach soon, but whateva).
OH CB/Ath Tyler Williams committed to Akron.
MI RB Thomas Rawls is serious with his recruitment.
He’ll take an official visit to Central Michigan — the school that first expressed interest — next weekend. Then it’s off to the University of Michigan the following week, with a stop due in Toledo sometime in January. Cincinnati is in the process of setting up a date as well, said Rawls.
When he reaches a decision, he'll hold a low-key press conference at his school. And should he receive a qualifying test score, don't be surprised if that choice is Michigan. More local fluff.
OH QB Cardale Jones and his teammate, OH WR Shane Wynn, didn't make it to Ann Arbor for the Big Chill. Jones, at least, will try to reschedule for later this winter.
NJ TE/QB Tanner McEvoy has a final four ($, info in header). Spoiler alert: Michigan is in it.
Michigan has offered OH TE/Ath Frank Clark, and they're now a co-favorite for the Cleveland Glenville prospect ($, info in headers). Perhaps his recruitment will have an effect on his teammate Cardale Jones.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost still wants to start out at wide receiver at whichever school he chooses. His coach says he'll be excellent at either:
[Butler Coach Mike] Newsome said, "He's great on both sides of the ball. He thinks he's a better receiver than linebacker. I think he's a better linebacker than receiver, but the thing that makes him so much better a football player is he's just got 'it.' He's got the other factor to him that I can't coach into him, and that factor that takes his game to a whole 'nother level. He's just got an intensity level that helps him be better than folks he faces."
That intensity and his physical gifts - Frost has a 35-inch vertical leap and has been timed at slightly less than 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, for example - are what led more than 30 Division I colleges to offer him a scholarship.
Opposing coaches give the same level of praise:
South Mecklenburg coach James Martin said, "From a defensive standpoint, he completely understands the game. He understands formations. I've seen him make so many checks. He's one of the best linebackers I've seen since I've been coaching in Charlotte. On offense, when he gets out on the open with his hands and speed, he's a true threat."
Michigan can probably offer him much more opportunity at the wideout position, since Shawn Conway won't be in the class.
FL S Roderick Ryles, a teammate of FL RB Commit Dee Hart, will not attend Arkansas, because they don't need safeties. Michigan may be interested, though they didn't offer Ryles prior to his commitment to the Razorbacks.
JC defensive back Anthony Baskin visited Michigan last week.
PA LB/FB Nicholas Klass may walk on at Michigan ($, info in header).
MD CB Blake Countess is close to a decision ($, info in header).
Local fluff on an offer to CA K Connor Loftus.
IL QB Robert Gregory was named First-Team All-State as an athlete.
Michigan is in the top five for MI RB Juwan Lewis.
MI CB Terry Richardson was named an Under Armour All-American.
Sam Webb's recruiting column last week covered a junior combine that took place over the weekend. Once the 2011 class is wrapped up, the Wolverines will start to show serious interest in some of these guys.
Is this inane or brilliant? Like all the best newspaper headlines, I can't tell if this News editor is serious or making a terribly sly joke:
New names add flair to Big Ten for next season
Flair you say?
The awful periwinkle logo does look like it belongs on a button that says "my other car is the incorrect belief I have a sense of humor."
Oddly, multiple readers have emailed to inform that the agency who put together this debacle is "highly respected." I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around a marketing firm named "Pentagram," which seems deliberately mom-terrifying and reminds me of Dan Akroyd in goat leggings and generally seems like a thing you should avoid if you don't want to give off the wrong impression.
Meanwhile, the public loves it:
According to an unscientific poll on ChicagoTribune.com, 6 percent believe Legends and Leaders "represent what the Big Ten is all about," and 94 percent say, "You have to be kidding … is this the best they can do?"
Similarly, 93 percent of those responding to a midwestsportsfans.com poll voted for either "terrible" or "it makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon." Others opted for "awesome" (2 percent) or "indifferent" (5 percent).
94%! You can't get 94% of people to condemn murdering six year olds these days. In two weeks all FAIL pictures on the internet will have been mysteriously replaced by images of Jim Delany.
The count. They announced 113,411 at the Big Chill by adding up every single person who was there and counting Red Berenson as six because obviously, but when Guinness sits down to actually put a number in the book it will be considerably smaller than that because they take a more restrictive view on what counts as a spectator:
The school counts players, media and others at the game to work. Guinness doesn’t count any of those people.
"It's a combination of scans with the barcodes on tickets," Janela said, explaining how Guinness reaches its number. "It's not for tickets sold but for people who actually show up. People who weren’t ticketed, marching band for instance, or people who were given special passes."
Media and players, he said, do not count in the numbers because they are not actually spectators of the game.
UPDATE: Wow. Guinness says the actual count was 85,451, which seems low.
Also from that article, a ref skated over to the Michigan bench after the Wohlberg extra-point celebration and said any more funny business would result in a penalty and Rick Comley said it was "uncalled for." The NFL infects all.
Speaking of. A reader emails that the XP is not lost to history:
I also broke a cardinal rule of game columns by not checking my feed before posting, so I missed an extensive WH highlight package:
Casteel Watch. Jeff Casteel remains the most plausible defensive coordinator candidate out there, having established a level of performance with the 3-3-5 that's become as impressive as Rodriguez's WVU offenses were. That level is "really impressive… for the Big East." Even with that BE caveat, WVU's defense is #1 in FEI this year and equally impressive in conventional metrics. The three years before this they were 33rd, 28th, and 8th. I'd be willing to roll with Rodriguez again if the band got back together.
Unfortunately, after two swings and misses the chances of that are miniscule unless Bill Stewart whittles on down that road. Fortunately, there are machinations afoot in Morgantown, with Oklahoma State OC Dana Holgorsen heavily rumored to be taking the job after Stewart coaches the bowl game*. Though a Smoking Musket rumor that Stewart was out was refuted on the twitters by multiple players, actual newspapers are saying that may be a matter of timing:
Sources confirmed today that a high-ranking official from West Virginia's athletic department has been in contact with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen about the head coaching position at West Virginia, even as there is no vacancy. …
A source confirmed it is probable Stewart will be fired if West Virginia does not win that bowl game, and could happen regardless of the outcome. A win in the bowl game would give the Mountaineers a 10-win season.
It's possible Holgorsen would look at the defensive side of the ball and decide that he shouldn't fix what isn't broken but the chances of landing Casteel go from zero to non-zero if Stewart gets the boot. Let's hope NC State wins 3-0.
UDPATE: Newspaper type folk are reporting that Holgorsen is in as OC/coach in waiting and will replace Stewart after next year without touching the defensive coaching staff. Dangit.
*(Is it just me or are there an inordinate number of coaches in limbo this year? Usually it's fire and forget immediately after the regular season, but this year the coaching carousel has a number of schools half in, half out.)
Darius as mini-Denard part two. Way back on Friday Michigan dismantled Utah in an 11-point game that wasn't really as close as that, and people are beginning to pick up on Darius Morris's leap forward. Someone was asking about surprise teams on the most recent Big Ten conference call and both Tom Crean and Matt Painter cited Michigan, with Painter specficially mentioning Morris as the reason. Big Ten Geeks:
Darius Morris led the way with 19 points to go with 10 assists, and it’s hard to ignore his play so far this season. A role player last year, Morris has become much more assertive in running the offense. This is actually somewhat of an exception--role players don’t suddenly start consuming possessions over an offseason in general--but one should keep in mind that with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims monopolizing the offense last season, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Morris. It’s been a different story in his sophomore season, as Morris is quickly becoming one of the Big Ten’s best floor generals. He’s shooting an amazing (for a 6-4 guard) 61 percent from 2-point range, along with one of the best assist rates in the country.
At times in the Utah game the problem with the offense seemed to be Morris's lack of assertiveness—most of Michigan's worst possessions saw him with limited time on the ball.
If Morris is shooting 61% from two he's probably not shooting enough, which is an interesting problem to have. Last year Manny Harris was sucking up 30% of Michigan's possessions while shooting 48% inside the three-point line. The rest of the team shot at a higher clip, and while that was because Harris drew so much attention I often felt like the team would have been better if the shots were more evenly distributed.
This year Morris is killing people; the rest of the team is doing well but can't keep up. Major SOS caveats apply, but I think I'd like to see Morris try to get a few more shots off per game. A complicating factor is Morris's assist rate, which is fifth nationally—a major reason he's not getting off more shots is he's turning Jordan Morgan into a 61% shooter, too.
Speaking of Morgan, he bounced back from a couple of rough outings with solid, annoying post defense against Utah's bigs, who are very big indeed. UMHoops grabbed a sequence in which he took a couple offensive fouls:
I wish they'd also clipped the possession before that, in which Morgan went to war with Foster for the duration of the possession and eventually got an elbow to the head for his troubles. The ref let that go but was looking for any funny stuff on the next trip and got it when a pissed-off Foster barged into him. Foster's not any good offensively—his usage rate is an amazing 8.9%—but he also did a good job on Washburn, and this year I think all we're looking for out of Morgan is holding his own against the mediocre and beating the bad.
Morgan drew a third charge with help defense later, but since he was 1) moving and 2) directly underneath the basket in the pretend no-charge circle the NCAA instituted last year that was positive reinforcement of a negative play Michigan got lucky on.
OH SO TINGLY. I may not be a fan of Michigan Stadium hosting dancing curly fries but some of the things Dave Brandon is plotting are major compensations:
Q: You also have talked about new scoreboards for Michigan Stadium. Your vision is not Cowboys Stadium huge, but pretty huge?
A: Pretty huge. If you picture the size of those (current) scoreboards and maybe something that's 30 percent larger, 40 percent larger, but then the entire surface or at least the vast majority of the surface would be video screen. I think those scoreboards look wimpy now with this structure and then the fact the HD video portion is only about a third of the surface. We can't do what our fans want us to do in terms of showing them really high-resolution replays, game action and even a lot of the marketing stuff we're doing with videos and pre-game and halftime shows — these screens are just not acceptable. This is very old technology, and they don't look very good, either. Think 30 or 40 percent larger and think big-image area for high-definition resolution screens. I think our fans will love it.
If you have never been to a stadium with video boards that size, it's a massive difference. It is Brandon's "hope" they are in for 2011. Brandon also re-iterates that advertising for the Big Chill does not presage advertising during football games. That's part of an extensive interview with Angelique Chengelis, BTW, that you should check out.
Time to go. The Only Colors takes an unprecedented step for them and calls for the replacement of Rick Comley as Michigan State's head coach. Despite how much I've been enjoying this stretch in MSU hockey, I'm with them. This is the third straight year they'll miss the tourney and the second time in three years they're virtually indistinguishable from Bowling Green, a school that's considering dropping their program. This year is like Rich Rodriguez having another 3-9 year two years after his first, and while Comley does have a fluke national title that sort of thing shouldn't be survivable at a program like MSU.
Etc.: Doc Sat points out how weird it is that awards lists are featuring Denard Robinson as something other than a quarterback when they were fine with Eric Crouch, et al, as QBs. Robinson completed 60% of his passes… what more do you need? Basketball takes on North Carolina Central at 7 this evening.