and... i like them? I think I like them.
1/28/2006 - Michigan 85-76 Wisconsin - 15-3, 5-2 Big Ten
Well, this is different. If you had told me in September that the best team on campus would be the basketball team, I would have punched you and called you Sparty. So it is, though. On Saturday Michigan leapt out of the gate, controlled the game from start to finish, and was never seriously threatened by a team that is in the top twenty of the RPI. At home, sure. Wisconsin's missing three guys due to academics, sure. Still: a comfortable victory over a team in the top twenty of the RPI and on top of the league, right after beating Michigan State. Thees... how you say... happy fun.
It says something when the only negativity in comments of this very blog is directed at a player who went 8 of 10 from the field and scored 18 points in 15 minutes on the floor. It says something good.
Update! Whoops. I forgot that I promised video of Graham Brown's thunderous screen from the heavens on Wisconsin's Guy Who Looks Exactly Like Chris Rock Guy. And, thanks to Tony of Have You Met Tony fame, here is the Graham Brown Screen Of Doom.
Now with non-pejoratives! Big Ten Wonk's "Is Michigan back?" test: fill in "As expected, Michigan _________" with something non-pejorative. We now have some non-pejoratives (all stats from Ken Pomeroy, hero of the proletariat):
- battered their opponents senseless on the boards. This isn't quite "As expected, Michigan." It's more "As expected, Graham Brown," but he's on the team, isn't he? Michigan rebounds 35.7 percent of its misses and allows its opponents only a 29.1 percent o-rebound rate, a significant gap that translates into several possessions a game. This helps mitigate the vast quantities of turnovers the team produces.
- powered through injury and the omnipresent Big Ten foul trouble with unexpected contributions from the bench. Seriously. Though Petway and The Riddler have a multitude of flaws, they're both productive players. (Hunter had 15 points against Wisconsin.) How many Big Ten teams can say that about posts #3 and #4? I think Michigan State's fourth post is Drew Naymick or The Gods Must Be Crazy-refugee Idong Ibok.
Couple the post depth with Ron Coleman's emergence as--I swear to God I'm not kidding--something of a defensive stopper and Jerrett Smith's uncanny ability to provide assists slightly more often than he turns the ball over and that's like a bench and stuff.
- shot the freakin' lights out. Pick a number that corresponds with Michigan's nationwide rank in effective field goal percentage. Wrong. Try five more times. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. The answer: 13th of 334 teams.This is not entirely attributable to Courtney Sims going all Brobdingnag on the Delaware States of the nonconference schedule, either. Michigan has four players above 40% on threes: Lester(s) Abram(s) (45.5), Jerrett Smith (42.9), Daniel Horton (41%), and Dion Harris (39.7... crose enough!). Plus they have Hunter and Coleman hovering around 35 to 37 percent.
This puts Michigan's 3PCT well into the range where Big Ten Wonk would probably sign off on it being a Perimeter Oriented Team with a couple of exclamation points and a reference to Michigan's Edvard Munch-level horrific turnover rate, but only 31% of Michigan's shots are its undeniably effective threes because they're shooting 55% on two-pointers. The mind! Boggling!
- played pretty OK defense. Despite not having any particularly outstanding features save the aforementioned rebounding, each portion of the defense is at least okay. The parts of it that are good (two-point field goal percentage, defensive rebounds, blocked shots) lift the meh parts to a place that's fairly secure: 69th in schedule-adjusted efficiency.
So, there you have it. A team that doesn't suck. I held back on the swanky new Horton/Cazzie Russel banner until after the Wisconsin game... you know, just in case. I've long been emotionally disengaged from the basketball team for obvious reasons, but at one point on Saturday I swore at the TV and I meant it. Long live inappropriately prioritized sporting events!
Two critical games today for the basketball and hockey teams. 123... don't suck.
Update 1/25: Added QB Lee Mondol. Linked to McKenzie Matthews article. Moved OL Steve Schilling to committed. Added links to a Rivals feature called "The Breakdown" with high praise for both Brandon Graham and Schilling and a Free Press article on Quintin Woods. Also: a Seattle Times article on the Schilling commitment. Linked to Greg Biggins post on S Jonas Mouton that indicates he's leaning to Michigan.
Editorial Opinion: The snippets on Graham...
WOW!! Big, Big-Time player. Great size, won't need to gain any weight, very physical ... a striker. Really has acceleration for his size as evidenced by punt blocks, pass rush and special teams coverage. He is a superior downhill player, has excellent body position when he tackles, uses his legs, can play deep in alignment and still get to the ball in a hurry. Clearly a man among boys. Hard to believe he can't play for Big Blue as true freshman. Maybe as impressive as any high school player on tape this year. He personifies what I call a "knock-back tackler."
WOW! Definitely the best OL I have seen on tape this year. He has a superior takeoff. Has a flat back when he comes off the ball. Can drive block and finish, has excellent time clock, can pull and run, can block standing targets. Can reach block and high arms on the stretch/zone plays. No pass plays to evaluate protection skills, but he is athletic enough to play on defense. Hard to believe he can't compete with older players as a freshman. He is going to be a great college player.
None of these guys are in Schilling's class. You have him rated as the top guard, and I'm not sure what the top grade possible is, but give it to him. He is already a very accomplished player already and think he is going to be a Sunday player.
...are as positive as you can get. Also, the Schilling commitment article from the Seattle has this lovely little snippet:
True to his low-key personality, Schilling announced his decision on a weekday night in front of a small group of family members that included his mother, aunt, grandmother, cousins and sister. None of them knew of his decision before Thursday.
"They wanted me to do the hat thing," Schilling said of laying out the school caps of the finalists, and picking up the one belonging to the chosen program. "So I did it for them."
I wonder if he picked up a UW hat first just to mess with people... probably not. More proof that the hat thing is achieving cultural hegemony... or something.
On Mouton: Greg "Em" Biggins says:
I heard from two good sources yesterday including a current SC commit that Jonas Mouton is leaning to Michigan. He'll announce on Signing Day.
Biggins is pretty reliable on the California kids.
Just like bizarro-world football, a Michigan victory over favored Michigan State has caused the loser's crochety old coach to mutter darkly about the refereeing:
"I want to figure out what word I can use," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said, and then he paused.
"I did not like the way it was called," he said. "It didn't cost us the game. We had some guys have tough games. But the fouls got us in trouble. We were very much out of synch with the guys in foul trouble."
I'm on record as agreeing with him, but it might be useful knowledge to have the next time you're at McDonalds and the guy watching the playland starts talking about what a poor sport Lloyd Carr is. I've got no sympathy whatsoever for the Spartans after the Desmond Howard trip and the Spartan Bob fiasco. In fact, I've been dining on delicious schadenfreude over at the RCMB. Try posting "they deserved better" in one of the dozens of threads dedicated to high-minded discourse on how Phil Bova, Zelton Steed, and that other guy should be drawn and quartered.
As expected, there is much joy from the Wolverine blogosphere. Johnny at RBUAS clearly doesn't know how to handle this, titling one post "The New Football" and discoursing as follows:
I could scour ever alcove of my subconscious and I don't think I'd find an instance where I watched a good
basketball team. It's not that I deny one ever existed â€“ I've seen good ones on highlight reels and VHS recordings and ESPN Classic â€“ but I've never prepared to watch a Michigan basketball game with the thought that I'd be witnessing a good team. Michigan
Football is the new, old, and forever football, but hell, let's not rain on his parade. Johnny also has a brief post on the Hunter three that's lyrical in nature.
ParadigmBlog ran some game notes, including this one I noticed myself:
Tim McCormick, I know you played here. Sometimes you bring your A-game. Today unfortunately, you've brought your C (as in Courtney) game. Who cares if Petway dunks and ignites the crowd 1.9 fucking seconds before the half. They'll have 20 minutes to chill out. Halftime has a funny way of killing crowd momentum.
McCormick seems like a good guy, but lord he was grating on Wednesday. He spent most of the first half playing up various guys as future NBA players and hardly mentioned the game taking place in front of him at all. I hate it when it seems like the announcers decided what they were going to say before the game no matter what is actually taking place in front of their eyes. McCormick said a lot of stuff that made no sense.
Meanwhile, Yost Built has plans for tonight's hockey game against State:
the best part of all this? Friday night I'll be in East Lansing for the hockey game. There will be no comments about basketball directed toward me, and if the Wolverines win, the "Just like football" chant can be amended to "Just like basketball". Gotta love it.
They'll have to play much, much better to generate that "just like basketball" cheer, but it would be sweet.
Non-affiliated Big Ten Wonk is happy for purely selfish reasons: it now looks like the Big Ten is headed for seven NCAA bids as long as no one collapses down the stretch. Previously espousing a theory that Michigan would be back when you could complete the sentence "Michigan, as expected, ______" with something non-pejorative, he offers a candidate:
We may now have a nominee for the blank. How about: "Michigan, as expected, got meaningful production from Daniel Horton at the free throw line." Last night Horton, who hits 90.6 percent of his freebies, scored 23 points on 8-of-8 shooting at the line, making him 18-for-18 over the last two games. Horton made the difference on a night when the Wolverines were without both Lester Abram (sprained ankle) and, in effect, Courtney Sims (17 minutes, four points, three boards).
Pat Forde signs off on the post-game rushing of the court. We get an exemption for ending "extreme and elongated futility against an arch rival."
File this under 'ploy': 2006 combo guard Eric Beverly really wants to go to Illinois, but they haven't offered. Now his coach is pissed:
llinois lost out on the state's top unsigned recruit Wednesday, according to his coach, Marshall's Lamont Bryant, who said Patrick Beverley had dropped the Illini from his final list of schools.
"I'm not happy with the way Illinois has been recruiting him," Bryant said of his star player. "I met with Patrick earlier in the week, and he is going to choose from among the schools who have made offers."
The article is interesting, as Beverly's coach comes off a little overbearing. Check this quote of extreme creepiness:
"Did Illinois take that long to make offers to other recruits?" Bryant said. "You can tell coach Weber we are no longer interested in Illinois."
Um... okie dokie then.
Dammit, Jason. Avant--attending the Senior Bowl--was recently featured in the Best ESPN Chat Ever. I will get out of the way and highlight.
Matt : TH: You stay in contact with Braylon Edwards anymore?
Jason Avant: Yeah, I talk to him every now and again. He's rehabbing and doing just fine. He should have a very productive year. He's still wearing pink shirts.
Adam (WI): Did you mean the second best school in the big ten Behind the Badgers??
Jason Avant: The who?
Jim (MI): What will be the first thing you buy after you are drafted?
Jason Avant: I don't plan on buying anything. I'm going ot keep my 2001 Cavalier with a dent in the side for a couple more years.
Adam PA: Excuse me I seem to remember the Penn State was the one in the Orange bowl?
Jason Avant: Once in 10 years. That's great.
Russell (Loras, Dubuque): Have you and Steve Breaston ever gone one-on-one and see if you could cover each other?
Jason Avant: Ah yes. We do that all the time. I win EVERY time. Seriously. EVERY time. We go best of five. He hasn't won a series on me yet.
BK-The Burger King: What do you think of my amazing commercials? Do you think you could cover me? Or could I cover you?
Jason Avant: You're too good! I can't cover you! You move like lightning!
Thanks for the questions. Nick Mangold sucks. But he's next up.
Best. Ever. Bleed Blue 'n' White is very excited about the last revelation, hailing it as the key to beating Michigan.
Etc: An interview with ESPN's ombud George Solomon; Dr. Z's NFL announcer grades; BC&RS finds out about "the milk thing"; the Sunbelt feebly attempts to convince the nation that they don't suck eight ways from Sunday.
I definitely stole the headline from a Rivals poster, who I don't know. If you read this and you're mad, speak up and take credit.
Yes, I think that does look familiar.
Five star offensive lineman Steve Schilling has committed to Michigan. Teh yay(!). Schilling's listed as an OT/OG by Rivals and is a bit shorter than Michigan prefers their tackles, but with the obvious need there I'm guessing he'll start on the outside and move inside only if he can't hack it. This does not seem likely, what with the five stars and all.
Schilling chose Michigan over UW, Cal, and USC. Here's the 'notes' section on him from the recruiting board:
high school nickname: "Wolverines." Helmet: Winged, Rivals 100(#25), Scout 100 (#4), Seattle Times article; Seattle PI article; News Tribune article; decides Friday, has dropped USC.
The rankings are out of date, FYI.
Informative update coming.
(Mildly) Informative Update: There's effusive praise out there in scads for Schilling, but as is usually the case with offensive linemen, it's vague. What we do know: Schilling plays RT for his high school team and its crushing ground game. The local papers get downright silly about him:
Offensive line, 6-5/290
Could be best lineman the state has produced. Ever.
Considering: Washington, Southern California, Michigan, California.
Bio: The last headliner of Bellevue High's four consecutive 3A state titles. He helped end De La Salle (Calif.) High's 151-game win streak, a national record, and the Wing-T-based Wolverines knocked off two nationally ranked opponents in back-to-back years. This season Schilling was a consensus top-10 lineman recruit nationally, was named to the Parade All-American team and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio earlier this month. Schilling, a tackle, received tutelage from offensive line coach Dan Dicks, a former Nugget and part of the UW's 2000 recruiting class. With his size, speed and athleticism, he is considered one of the state's best linemen ever.
Emphasis mine. Scout had this bit of analysis during their Army All-American Bowl runup:
From Bellevue, Wash., the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Schilling - ranked as the 2nd-best offensive lineman in America by Scout.com behind behemoth Andre Smith - Schilling is prospect talented and cerebral enough to tackle all five positions across the board, and tough enough and physical enough to compete right away in college for playing time. Not many linemen have the motor Schilling - a two-way star for the Wolverines - has. It's not uncommon for Schilling to be leading ball-carriers 30 and 40-yards downfield in a personal, one-man convoy.
ESPN isn't as effusive, ranking him a comparatively conservative 105 and giving him a 7.1, on the low end of the "very good" scale. They still say nice things:
He is an excellent pulling lineman that gets down the line of scrimmage, turns up field and locates defenders well. He does a good job of always keeping his feet moving and maintaining a good base. He does a great job of finishing blocks.
Etc. There's a lot of that. Lemming chimes in:
Already, he has the build of a major college tackle -- he's well ahead of kids his own age. A great ball-rusher and a natural leader, he earned first-team All-State honors in 2004 while grading out at well over 90 percent of his blocking assignments.
Standard "Lemming is creepy" disclaimer: Lemming is creepy.
So: sounds like a right tackle in the mold of Jansen, Runyan, and Long. Pass blocking is rough but has the agility to play tackle even if he's a tad short. I'm exhaling about the OL thing.
1/26/2006 - Michigan 72-67 Michigan State - 14-3, 4-2 Big Ten
2. Beat Michigan State.
I present ??? to you:
Horton was the Making Things Happen Guy Who Takes Over and Makes Things Happen Player Of The Game, but we needed him to play like he did just to stay close. It was Chris Hunter's second half reminder that yes, he does exist and yes, he plays basketball that provided the impetus that put Michigan past the Spartans. (It's unfortunate that Hunter is a senior: dubbing him "The Riddler" is terribly clever but hardly worth doing for the few months that remain in his mercurial career.)
Hunter relegated Courtney Sims to the bench for most of the second half by scoring seven of the nine points that pushed Michigan from a 39-45 deficit to a 48-45 lead they would never relinquish, playing excellent defense (two blocks), and--this is important--only travelling once. The whole game! It's no exagerration to say that he was the best big man on the floor, as Sims provided a valuable service by transmitting his acute vaginitis to Paul Davis, turning the much-ballyhooed beast of board into a nonfactor.
Now for the profit. Michigan has a marquee win for the committee and can get another by beating Wisconsin. After that, with three of the four hopeless teams in the Big Ten on the schedule, a win over Wisconsin, well... this falls solidly into the "getting way, way ahead of yourself" category, but it's conceivable that in a couple weeks we could be in some sort of Big Ten title race. And ranked. And thinking more about seeding than pretty please can we get in.
Crazy? You can't discount the Purdue game entirely, but outside of that hiccup Michigan has:
- lost narrowly at Illinois and Indiana
- stomped Northwestern and Minnesota
- beat Michigan State.
That's five out of six performances any team in the country would think acceptable, even ones that have big hopes for March. Our hopes may not be big, but they're extant. All thanks to The Riddler(!) and one game against MSU that did not end with tragedy. Let it be said: this could be the point at which the program turns around. Michigan fans are starved for something positive after football's Season of Infinite Pain. The hockey team is mired in the middle of the CCHA pack. A sold-out Crisler sounded like a real arena; the team that played inside it looked like a real team.
All that's just 'could,' but hey, it says 'did' up there today.
- Brent Petway's collision with Ager didn't appear intentional to me, but I think once it was clear the two were going to bump into each other Petway decided to get his money's worth. Ager's response: hunch over and allow teammates and medical staff to swarm over him. Bill Laimbeer he's not. Ager then went 0-4 for the rest of the game, though he did have 4 FTs.
- Was it unethical/wrong/evidence of the moral decay inherent in the Michigan program? Um... ask someone who doesn't regard that Laimbeer guy as something of a father figure. IMO: he didn't intentionally clock the guy, so play on.
- Was the foul called on Graham Brown for watching Paul Davis fall over the worst in the history of basketball? Discuss.
- ...but, yeah, Spartans got jacked something fierce. I don't think I could have gotten through that game had the calls been reversed without calling a friend and ordering a hit on Bova. My friend would have told me "I'm a computer engineer, I don't kill people," I would have said "but what about the snake, man?" he would have said "that's a foosball move," and that would have been that. But I would have tried.
I do think Michigan earned a certain level of positive FT differential by playing better, less grabby defense than MSU, but the Spartans were in the penalty with about 11 minutes left in both halves and that was due to three or four fouls per stanza that were phantom in nature.
- The other candidate for ???: Ron Coleman, who filled in admirably for Abram. Coleman was 4/5 from the floor, one of those being a three, and somehow managed to stay in front of Shannon Brown for the entire game. I assumed that projected mismatch would see Brown traipsing through the lane unmolested, but Coleman held his ground. Brown was all of 2-5 from within the three-point arc. Shocking.
- MSU: 16 turnovers. Michigan: 15 turnovers. Zounds.
- Another major factor: Michigan pounded the crap out of MSU on the boards. Michigan's offensive rebound percentage: 34. MSU's: 18.