"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
It could've gone either way. Alvin Ellis drove baseline, Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman squared up, the two collided, then Ted Valentine hopped three times and called a block.
With 13:11 left in the first half, Adbur-Rahkman exited with two fouls. Michigan State led 11-8. When John Beilein reinserted him a little over eight minutes later, the Spartans held a commanding 33-14 lead.
It'd be too easy to point to that 16-point swing and say auto-benching MAAR proved the difference in the game. Michigan's problems tonight went far beyond early foul trouble for their freshman guard. No matter the defensive strategy, the Wolverines couldn't defend the paint. The Spartans finished an astonishing 25/32 on two-pointers, rebounded nine of their 19 missed shots, and turned the ball over just eight times. That's a far bigger issue than who's playing at one spot on the floor.
On this Michigan team, though, the dropoff is so severe that ceding points in the name of caution isn't an option—and, let's face it, playing Andrew Dakich instead of MAAR is handing over points to the opposition. That's twice now Beilein has benched MAAR for extended time while the Spartans pulled away. While it's unlikely Michigan would've forced overtime in this one, seeing MAAR score 12 points on seven shots in the second half—after Dakich went 0/1 with a foul in eight minutes—made it hard to imagine the strategy gave them the best shot at winning.
The story of the game on the other side was the dominance of Branden Dawson, who finished with 23 points (10/12 FG) and 13 boards. Michigan's wings couldn't handle Dawson one-on-one, but when the Wolverines went zone, Travis Trice served up lob after lob for the athletic forward to finish. Trice had an excellent night himself, scoring 22 points and dishing out seven assists; his two early threes from nearly the same spot above the break helped ignite MSU's early run. From start to finish, the Spartan offense ran smoothly and effectively.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, couldn't consistently hang. Zak Irvin needed 15 shot equivalents to score 16 points; Aubrey Dawkins needed 12 for his 12; Spike Albrecht ten for his 12. The big men were all but nonexistent; the bench, of course, depleted. On a night when Michigan's defense needed the offense to wring out every bit of talent, strategy, and luck available, they couldn't maintain that for 40 minutes.
Sometimes it's not your night. Lowrawls Nairn hit just his second three-pointer of the season early on, when Michigan sagged off of him, and it felt then like it'd be a long game. What's equally frustrating as the loss, though, is the overwhelming feeling that it could've—should've—been closer, if only Michigan approached the first half with the same urgency as the second.
Michigan (13-12, 6-7 B1G) at
Michigan State (17-8, 8-4)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||MSU -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich
While there's still hope that Derrick Walton will return before the season ends, he won't be back in uniform tonight.
Losing four in a row has put Michigan in danger of missing the NIT. The Bracket Matrix listed M as a six-seed when they updated at the end of last week; DRatings put them as the last three-seed; Big Apple Buckets placed them as a five-seed before the Illinois loss.
While Michigan finishes with two very winnable games (at Northwestern, Rutgers), they probably need to pull an upset in one of these next three much more difficult games (MSU, OSU, at Maryland) to feel comfortable with their postseason chances heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
As for pride, Michigan hasn't lost to State at Crisler since 2010, when the Spartans got away with murder on the would-be game-winning lob to Deshawn Sims.
THE LAST TIME
Led by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan almost pulled off a shocker in the Breslin Center, surging in the second half before going scoreless in overtime. The Wolverines haven't won since.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||20||Travis Trice||Sr.||6'0, 170||80||25||No|
|Disciplined, productive distributor. Dangerous outside shooter. Not great inside arc.|
|G||5||Bryn Forbes||Jr.||6'3, 180||68||15||No|
|Spot-up gunner hitting 46% of threes.|
|G||45||Denzel Valentine||Jr.||6'5, 220||75||28||No|
|Does a bit of everything: rebounding, passing, shooting, and hilarious turnovers.|
|F||22||Branden Dawson||Sr.||6'6, 225||84||22||Very|
|Great athlete, monster on the boards, excellent defender. Not a shot creator.|
|F||34||Gavin Schilling||So.||6'9, 240||45||18||Very|
|Solid rebounder and rim protector. Decent finisher.|
|F||10||Matt Costello||Jr.||6'9, 245||48||18||Very|
|Very similar minutes and profile as Schilling. Eminently elbowable face.|
|G||11||Lowrawls "Tum Tum" Nairn||Fr.||5'10, 170||41||13||Very|
|All-pass, no-shoot PG who's prone to freshman mistakes.|
|G||3||Alvin Ellis||So.||6'4, 205||18||14||Yes|
|Getting minutes with Javon Bess hurt. Has been really bad this year.|
Since the last meeting, MSU dropped a home game against Illinois, blew out Northwestern on the road, and most recently staved off Ohio State at the Breslin Center on a game-winner by Denzel Valentine. The Spartans are currently on the right side of the NCAA bubble. Michigan can play spoiler.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Brian buzzed me last week with a recruiting question on early enrollees:
1) Are EEs less likely to redshirt?
2) Are EEs more likely to start as freshmen? Underclassmen?
3) Are EEs more likely to be all-conference? Drafted?
4) Are EEs more likely to stick around as 4th and/or 5th year Seniors?
I hear a lot about the benefits of being an EE; you get on campus early, you get to start working out with the team trainers and players, start taking classes, etc. I think Clemson has something crazy like 12 EEs this year and I can't imagine that hurts their team development. I'm just curious if it actually gives any empirical advantage to those who do so.
Thanks and Go Blue!
I don't have national data, but I've got the early enrollees in my giant spreadsheet (see "EE" column). I'm pretty sure of things since 2008, but before that I had to rely on Michigan's press releases from signing days and spring games.
2015: Malzone, Cole
2014: Speight, Canteen, Harris, Cole, Mone, Ferns, Watson
2013: Douglas, Butt, Bosch, LTT, Taco, Dymonte
2012: Ringer, Bolden, Wilson
2011: Greg Brown
2010: Gardner, White, Hopkins, J.Rob, J.Jackson, Ricardo, Pace
2009: Forcier, V.Smith, Campbell, LaLota, M.Jones, Hawthorne, Vlad
2007: Mallett, Helmuth, Chambers
2006: C.Brown, Boren
2005: Kevin Grady
Just from reading that list you'll notice transition years have relatively few of them; a healthy Michigan probably has six or seven guys enrolling in January each year. You'll also note a lot of guys who left for one reason or another.
1) Are EEs less likely to redshirt?
Yes. 32% of EEs redshirted as freshmen versus 65% of those who enrolled in fall (those who never enrolled not counted). They obviously came to play.
2) Are EEs more likely to play early? Yes, but they're less likely to play overall. Here's the average number of starts per their season in the program for players who would be eligible*. Notice the difference?
* "Would be eligible" means I've removed redshirt (including medical), and transfer years, and 5th years of guys who never redshirted. Those lost to attrition otherwise are counted.
That is wow. It is extremely weird for there to be as many starts for true freshmen as for third- or fourth-year players. This shows that early enrollees are more likely to play as freshmen, but were progressively less likely to be starters each season thereafter.
You also can see the average start numbers per eligible player are rather low.
It's more accurate to say you find out what they are much earlier. Notably, NONE of the early enrollees to earn starts at Michigan redshirted initially (the 11 starts by a 5th year are all Gardner's).
It's also worth nothing that it wasn't the same guys contributing to those columns. Your true freshman EEs with more than 3 starts were Mason Cole (12), Jake Butt (8), Tate Forcier (12), and Darryl Stonum (10). Those guys—for reasons of injury, Denard, or temporal existence—contributed just 8 starts to the sophomore column, which is filled instead by Boren, Vincent Smith, and Jarrod Wilson.
3) Are EEs more likely to be all-conference? Drafted?
That seems to be much more relative to their talent, but we'd need national data to make that assumption. One day I'll add NFL draft information to the big spreadsheet; maybe we'll discover something then.
4) Are EEs more likely to stick around as 4th and/or 5th year Seniors?
As you probably guessed from the above chart, they are way LESS likely, and from the data it appears that's mostly because they're flight risks. Even if you figure all of the current players make it to graduation, early enrollees at Michigan have an average of 1.92 (!) lost seasons of eligibility out of the four they get, compared to 0.82 for fall entries.
This remains true even if you remove all the guys currently on the team. Here's a breakdown of the % of former players (from 1993 class to 2014) who stuck around X amount of years by when they enrolled:
|Seasons at M—>||5||4||3||2||1||DNQ|
That is stark. A good third of early enrollees left the program after just a year, and the hits kept on coming. When you total up all the eligible seasons of enrollees lost to various types of attrition, the EEs were particularly likely to be giving those seasons to other schools:
|% of Season Lost To:||Fall||Early|
|Gave up football||10%||2%|
Of the 37 early enrollees, six played out their eligibility and 13 are currently on the team. Three losses were natural attrition (Mike Jones was an unrenewed 5th, Hopkins gave up football, and Pace was a medical loss), and three were dismissals (Forcier, Stonum, and Austin White). That leaves 12 transfers: Boren, Mallett, Helmuth, Chambers, Emilien, LaLota, Ricardo, J-Rob, G.Brown, Ringer, Bosch, and Ferns.
Only the first two of those transfers wound up helping Power Five programs, though Bosch and Ferns still have the opportunity to do so. Mallett and Boren would have been guaranteed starters on the 2008-forward teams. The rest seem to be guys who were buried on the depth chart and realized it early.
What have we learned?
An early enrollee is more likely to care extremely about early playing time. They chose Michigan in part for an immediate opportunity to start, thus raising the likelihood of early playing time. However they are way more volatile in attrition.
Your expectations of an early enrollee from Michigan's smallish sample is that you'll find out right away if he's going to be either a long-term starter or a non-major contributor. A lot of these guys come to compete for an open spot, and either win it or move on.
Apologies. This posted as a draft yesterday and I didn't notice until late.
2/14/2015 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 6 – 16-9-0, 8-3 Big Ten
2/15/2015 – Michigan 0, Minnesota 2 – 16-10-0, 8-4 Big Ten
There can be no contrast of hockey styles greater than going from playing Michigan State on ice that may as well be gravel to Minnesota's immaculate Olympic sheet. On the Olympic sheet you will play the biggest, fastest, and often finest players the "State of Hockey" has to offer. Also the occasional Austrian. (This year Minnesota State, the school you thought was fictional, has claim.)
Sometimes this goes okay. Sometimes it really does not.
Michigan got bombed out of the building on Friday as Minnesota repaid the favor Michigan did them when they met in Yost; they lost narrowly the next night as Minnesota repaid the favor from the first matchup. It wasn't fun, except it kind of still was even when Michigan was getting their ass handed to it.
I don't know man, it's weird. Multiple times a period teams would make little clever passes to break out of the zone and rush the puck in. Dump and chase, these days the default method of doing anything, was just about unheard of. The Olympic ice has weird effects on visitors, who tend to spread out on both ends. On offense this leaves you taking speculative shots from the outside that don't have a lot of chance to go in; on defense your slot is exposed*.
*(That's not what she said.)
So Minnesota opened the scoring by wiring a puck from the slot to the top corner on a power play and things continued from there. Hockey's weird and I don't think this means Michigan's a thousand times worse than the Gophers any more than the previous series meant the inverse. But sometimes you get Minnesota and you're just like… dude.
You have Hudson Fasching, a guy who I've heard about since he was 15, and he is a boring third-liner. The tic-tac-toe of the puck is mesmerizing, and if they get zeroed in on your breakout, as they did in the second period Friday, you are in deep without a paddle. Friday's game went from a relatively even 3-0 game to a 4-0 blowout over the first ten minutes of the second, if that makes any sense.
The kind of things Michigan does to a lot of star-struck opponents (or did until the last few years) Minnesota does from time to time. Sometimes when they're on, etc. Michigan competed, but they currently do not have the defense to deal with these things. Minnesota erased Zach Hyman with NHL uber-prospect Brady Skjei; Michigan has no equivalent defender. Zach Werenski is real good… and 17. Check back with me when Werenski is a senior to see if he's as good as Skjei, a junior, is now.
So it was over the weekend, as two teams playing with buckets of space made it 120 minutes of 4-on-4. 120 minutes of 4-on-4 is terrific to watch even if you aren't, like, scoring any goals. It restores a faith you didn't know you needed restoring in the wisdom of flinging pucks at a guy in a mask.
Margin for error is gone after losing three of four with weak competition ahead. Michigan is 17th after the sweep, currently on the wrong side of the bubble. They have eight regular season games left against the dregs of the league and Penn State; they have to win a lot of games if they're going to feel good about their at-large chances.
Michigan's schedule strength is languishing at 34th nationally despite nonconference matchups against Lowell, BU, BC, Michigan Tech, and New Hampshire. The league is really dragging them down, and they got unlucky to draw a really bad version of RPI (the university).
Anyway: I figured that Michigan had three or four games to give if they wanted to be secure going into the Big Ten tournament. They've just about given all of them. It is go time the next two weekends against Ohio State (who may not be as bad as they seemed the first time around, as they were dealing with a Michigan basketball level of injuries) and dire Wisconsin. Sweeps in both are imperative.
Olympic ice is terrific. I don't see any reason not to adopt it. More ice to cover means long periods like 4-on-4 hockey where the team with the puck can maintain possession and threaten for a 30 or 40 second period, as both Minnesota and Michigan did. I prefer anything that brings the skill of the rush back to prominence, especially a week after MSU's "line four guys up on the blueline and pray" strategy.
If I was the NHL commissioner I'd decree any new building has to have Olympic ice. I'm a fan of weird variations in playing situations, something that gives baseball some of its allure. The time to make that change was probably 20 years ago before the various stadiums went up, but I'd make that change anyway.
Goaltending: insufficient. Nagelvoort got chased on Friday as he let in one very soft goal (the second trickled through him and he was unaware of that fact, leaving a ton of time for a forward to swat at the puck twice) and did not make many of an admittedly very difficult sequence of saves on water-bottle jobs from the Gophers. Still, I don't have much confidence in either guy at this point… and that's coming from a person who was claiming the problem largely rested with the defense corps for the first half of the season.
Which it certainly does, in part. Michigan's slot has been… not well defended dammit that's still a PHRASING. Is there any way to talk about the section of the hockey rink between the circles that now that I'm thinking in this manner really really resemble breasts ARGH I blame twitter for everything.
Nieves is modern day Milan Gajic. Looks like he should be a scorer, isn't a scorer, reinforces this by putting his first two in since November in a situation in which no one will remember because they don't matter.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Minnesota crew. The color guy was a little willing to condone disproportionate reprisals for a bit of Michigan frustration on Friday and the PBP guy was inclined to exclaim "no penalty!" in situations where there wasn't even much complaining from the crowd. Other than that, they were excellent—much better than the anodyne BTN duo, still featuring Fred Pletsch for reasons that escape me.
The PBP guy, who turns out to be named Doug MacLeod, brought up Ufer apropos of nothing other than respect for the fraternity of announcer bros, and that felt appropriate. He has that certain gravitas a Bud Lynch or Carl Grapentine does.
One thing not so much though. The color guy kept knocking Compher for not pulling the trigger on a couple of 2-on-1 opportunities he got. This felt wrong because Compher's last second pass after a shot fake trickled through the crease and Shuart really should have gotten a stick on it. If he did that was a slam dunk into an open net. The other one didn't come off as his attempted saucer pass was flicked into the air by a defenseman's stick, but a super great opportunity for a tap-in in two tries is worth more than any two two-on-one shots are.
At halftime of an eventual 71-69 win over Illinois of late January last year, Izzo explained to ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams: "We had guys not catching the ball, but I've got some weird guys in there right now." In the hall of Tom Izzo excuses it ranks primarily for catchiness—certainly not for originality. This past December, in a press conference explaining his team's loss to Texas Southern, he blamed himself for going easy on his tired kids, then blamed early foul trouble for Valentine and "not enough bodies left."
We love to carp on Izzo's alibis, mostly in wonder at his acrobatic rationalizations. We feel justified in doing so because we're two years removed from a national championship appearance and the best freshman class since that one, and Michigan's spending a fifth of its minutes with Andrew Dakich on the floor.
If you're looking over the list of dudes you can draft for your daily fantasy teams, or are subjecting yourself to the "okay, let's have some fun with this" brand of basketball Michigan's playing these days, you've seen the going get weird. The difference in Ann Arbor is Beilein's entire career here so far has been the going getting weird, then the weird turning pro.
State, meanwhile, hasn't had Javon Bess since regulation of Michigan's visit to Breslin. If Izzo just happens to lose to a team led by freshmen Beilein plucked last April from Rice and Dayton, I'm sure the old knob will mention that in a delicious presser.
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From Part I of this brief mini-series:
After a while, I decided to focus on ten of the most intriguing, good, talented, enigmatic, compelling, or otherwise notable players in the Big Ten and write about, well, what I think of them, what I think when I watch them play, and (to a certain extent) what they mean to me and the conference at-large. Basketball can be boiled down to numbers, but it should be an affective experience as well. So here’s that side of things. Don’t read it if you’re blinded by hatred for the enemy; don’t read it if you’re just gonna skim for Michigan players because there aren’t any (though Caris would be on here if he wasn’t hurt and oh, the sadness, it’s back).
The first five players – Branden Dawson, Melo Trimble, Denzel Valentine, D.J. Newbill, and Frank Kaminsky – are in the post linked above. Here are the next five (again, in no particular order):
Champion: “a knight who fought in single combat on behalf of the monarch.”
Back in the day (as far as I know), armies lined up across each other from far away, sent out their best fighter, and watched as the two fought in lieu of a full-blown battle. My best versus your best, and the gods will decide who’s better. In that way, I visualize Nebraska’s offensive strategy as an attempt to rekindle that ancient strategy; they send out Terran Petteway holding a sword and a shield, decked out in armor, to battle the opponent.
It’s an old – read: obsolete – basketball strategy too: get this guy the ball, the rest of you just play defense and rebound. Allen Iverson’s 76ers took this to its logical extreme and, with efficiency prized as a valuable stat, it’s hard to believe that giving a guy 20 or more field goal attempts in a game to get maybe 25 points from him is a sound strategy… unless you’re Nebraska!
“Terran, go do something” is the Huskers’ modus operandi offensively (unless Shavon Shields wants in on the action every so often), and, unsurprisingly, Petteway has the highest usage rate in the league this season. He’s put up some gaudy point numbers; he’s put up a ton of shots. A few nights ago, he put up 21 points against Wisconsin on 27.5 shot equivalents. With Nebraska in catch-up mode – due to their stagnant offense early on – and the offense devolved into hoping that Petteway would do something (which, to be fair, sort of worked better than their regular offense did).
It’s a high variance strategy; sometimes he pours in an efficient 32 (like he did against Michigan State), sometimes he puts up 18 shots and only makes five (like he did against Rhode Island). It’s a nightly adventure – is Petteway on or not? To be clear, he gets buckets – if sometimes inefficiently – and he’s a good basketball player on the whole: Petteway does have an eye for distributing the ball; he’s great attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line; he’s a passable outside shooter, especially since a lot of his attempts are of the pull-up variety; and the most underrated part of his game is that, like every other Husker, he’s a very good defender.
Sending Terran Petteway, Champion of Nebraska, Noble Warrior of the Corn to fight mano a mano with the other team’s champion simply isn’t feasible. The rules of engagement have changed. Still, he gets buckets. For that reason and that reason alone, he’s always compelling – good, bad or neutral. And since he’s going to put up a ton of points one way or another, he’ll be rewarded with a spot on the First- or Second-Team All-Big Ten team.
[after the jump: odes to Hammons, Rod Williams, Yogi, and Russell]