I did not make this headline up
Spike was the best player on the floor today. Seriously. (Bryan Fuller / MGoBlog)
This season has been, for the most part, a sequence of ever-increasing disappointments: upsets at home, injuries to our key players, and narrow losses to good teams. Things just haven’t gone our way.
This was a beautiful afternoon of catharsis, when–despite a now-customary second half scoring drought–Michigan beat a good team and a bitter rival. I sat in the student section and, for the first time since the win over Syracuse, Crisler was alive and roaring.
I won’t profess to knowing the exact sequence of events: I didn’t take notes as I sat there, heart racing, as the Wolverines played their best half of basketball all season, then managed to hold on after taking the air out of the ball in the second half. It’s all an almost surreal blur. Our Weird Guys played a team full of veterans and/or blue-chippers, and but for those descriptions there was no doubt as to who was the better team in Ann Arbor.
Spike Albrecht was sublime (and the game MVP per Kenpom), playING one of his best games in a Michigan uniform. Spike had an efficient 16 points, grabbed 4 boards, tallyied 5 assists, swiped 2 clutch steals, and didn't the ball over once. He’s indispensible to this Michigan team. Ohio State threw a parade of long, quick, and athletic defenders at him, Spike was unflappable and managed to hold things together when things looked on the verge of collapse. Some poised inbounding at the end of the game was just icing on the cake.
Zak Irvin played very well too; his early five points (and a nice assist(!) to Ricky Doyle) enabled Michigan to jump out to a critical early lead, and get the crowd active. After Ohio State stormed back Irvin hit an absolutely vital three from the corner–and promptly celebrated with the Michigan bench, which was awesome–to extend the lead back to six. Ohio State never got closer than a few possessions for the rest of the game. Zak posted a line of 15-7-4-2, which says something about him not being just a shooter, or what have you.
Those two were the only Wolverines in double figures, but nearly everyone else chipped in to help pull off the upset. Aubrey Dawkins scored just five points, though two of them came on an impossibly athletic put-back late in the game. MAAR was a non-factor offensively, but he harassed D’Angelo Russell (who only scored 16 points on 16 shot equivalents and had 5 turnovers to just 2 assists) all game. Max Bielfeldt put up a workmanlike 7-and-7 and sonned Michigan expat Trey McDonald for two consecutive offensive rebounds late. Ricky Doyle had a frightening fall and rolled an ankle, but he put up 8 points in just 13 minutes. Even Kam Chatman had a few nice takes to the rack in the first half to tally six points, and Andrew Dakich of all people hit a jumper to extend Michigan’s lead during the torrid first-half scoring binge.
As for Ohio State, it felt like the Buckeyes didn’t play particularly well, but Michigan played a large part in that–UM ran its best offense all year, and the Wolverine defense consistently harassed Ohio State on drives to the basket, a stark change from the recent streak of permissive interior defense at home. Russell led OSU in scoring, but struggled with the Wolverine defense, often appearing visibly frustrated. Senior Shannon Scott just scored two points on six field goal attempts; Sam Thompson played alright, if not efficiently; Russell’s fellow freshmen Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate might have been two of the three best Buckeyes today.
And–because I have to say it – former McDonalds All-American Amir Williams (from Detroit) and fellow center Trey McDonald (from Battle Creek), combined for four points and ten rebounds in 32 minutes. Thad Matta eventually went with Tate as a small-ball five to match up with Bielfeldt because the Buckeye centers simply couldn’t produce.
Call it a regression to the mean–after all, Michigan simply couldn’t lose all of their close conference games down the stretch, right?–but this game felt like such an extreme departure from the bad luck that’s plagued the Wolverines all season. Today, Michigan played well against a quality opponent and made enough plays down the stretch to win; a nucleus of Spike, Zak, and Max--along with afterthought recruits Aubrey and Mo–finally notched a big win without alpha dogs LeVert and Walton around. This individual game doesn’t change the optics of the entire season of course, but dammit, it felt great to see Crisler alive with the euphoria of an exciting Michigan win again – and it showed what this team just might be capable of next year or a few years down the road.
Probably not a whole lot of opportunity to deploy these guys for a while now, so let's shake the rust off, and they did beat Hated Rival OSU with a collection of misfit toys.
..and you can't have one without the other…
…NBA interested in Spike yo?
D’Angelo Russell: 16 pts, 5 reb., 2 assists Spike Albrecht: 16 pts. 4 reb., 5 assists, 2 steals
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) February 22, 2015
Michigan (13-13, 6-8 B1G) vs
Ohio State (19-7, 8-5)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
|LINE||Ohio State -6 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Bill Raftery
Before diving into the preview, let's take a look at next year's Big Ten schedule breakdown, which was released by the conference today:
Michigan Men's Basketball 2016 Big Ten Opponents
Home/Away: Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue
Home: Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers
Away: Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin
On the plus side, it's a relatively favorable schedule. Michigan's toughest home-and-home is, uh, Iowa? Maryland? While the road-only slate is rough, that's a schedule set up for making a run.
From a fan's perspective, however, it sucks that we won't see Ohio State or Nebraska in Crisler next year; ditto trips to the Breslin Center or Assembly Hall.
At this point, it's NIT bubble watch time. DRatings dropped Michigan from a two-seed to a four-seed in their latest update. The Bracket Matrix had the Wolverines as a six-seed before the loss to MSU. A loss to the Buckeyes won't bump Michigan from NIT contention, but a victory would make the stretch run a lot less daunting.
THE LAST TIME
Ohio State wallopped Michigan, 71-52, in Columbus. The Wolverines couldn't slow down freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell, who tallied 21 points and six assists, and they only managed 0.83 PPP even with LeVert and Walton in the lineup.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. 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||3||Shannon Scott||Sr.||6'1, 185||79||20||Yes|
|Great defender, facilitates offense well, still not much of a shooter.|
|G||0||D'Angelo Russell||Fr.||6'5, 180||90||29||No|
|Volume scorer. Great outside shooter, even off dribble. Solid passer, too.|
|F||12||Sam Thompson||Sr.||6'7, 200||88||18||Yes|
|Ridiculous hops. Very good finisher. Not a good shooter.|
|F||1||Jae'Sean Tate||Fr.||6'4, 190||59||21||Yes|
|Excellent on the boards, good finisher, active defender. Turnover-prone.|
|C||23||Amir Williams||Sr.||6'11, 250||43||15||Very|
|Effective finisher, good rebounder, blocks lots of shots. Turnover-prone.|
|F||2||Marc Loving||So.||6'7, 215||51||19||No|
|Losing role/PT to Tate, but still shooting above 50% from three.|
|G||15||Kam Williams||Fr.||6'2, 175||32||13||No|
|Efficient scorer sticks mostly to spot-up threes.|
|C||55||Trey McDonald||Sr.||6'8, 240||23||15||Very|
|Very good rebounder, especially on offense. Decent rim protector.|
While the Buckeyes have only won twice on the road—against Northwestern and Rutgers—since they last faced Michigan, they haven't been an easy out away from home; losses at Purdue and MSU came by a combined five points. They've easily handled all challengers at home since their Big Ten opener against Iowa. At 8-5, they're at the back of the group pushing for second place behind Wisconsin.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Tremendous Lloyd quote!
That's a young-looking Lloyd Carr from the 1990 recruiting pamphlet that Bauglieve found on Ebay. In case the photos come down from there eventually I put them on the MGoServer for posterity (click for each):
The comments have mined all sorts of nuggets from these. Count my vote with those who want to see Harbaugh bring back one-handed, shirtless pushups on the Diag. The football fans would feel more connected to the players, and I'm sure the student body would appreciate the peck show way more than the usual entertainment in that space.
Team 138 offers its sarcastic gratitude. Originally posted in the forums, I moved Qmatic's walk through the wasted redshirts on Michigan's roster to the diaries because this is something we're going to be referencing all too often for the next few years. Morris is on there although he had to play once Bellomy tore his ACL because Gardner's ribs were becoming…you know what, let's not get into what Hoke did with Gardner.
I can show you how Hoke's redshirting practices compared to his predecessors because it's tracked on my spreadsheet:
Circumstances played a role in this certainly, but by Hoke's third year the rate of redshirting should have shown a climb into the 70s that a healthy program has. I'll probably address this in a Jimmystats sometime this offseason.
How to Man Your Baughlls
Just a glance at his formations screams old-school, smash-mouth, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust SPARTAAAA:
Thing is, these offenses are notorious for being predictable in an era of S&C parity. So why does it work?
Tell us, dragonchild.
Deep head trauma is bad. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a horrible, progressive, degenerative disease of the brain long known to the sports world as "punch drunk." The provable link between it and repetitive brain trauma (specifically deep trauma, i.e. not all concussions) is meaningful to football especially because there is a clear moral dilemma in rooting for people to do a thing that can do that to them.
Neurologists released a study awhile ago that linked the age of first exposure to football and cognitive impairment. As happens with released studies, a few people who read the peer reviewed journals pour over it, and media folk read the title, decided if it fit their favorite narrative, and either canonized it or ripped it.
TSS wrote a diary this week to walk you through the study and what it actually says, which is that the progression of CTE is suggestively linear from the point you started playing football.
Best of the Board
BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE ITS OWN LOGO
Over the last couple of weeks it came out that the extremity of the student body's distribution of doucheiness is trying to Create the Future™ of Michigan-themed game day music. What I mean by that:
My best friend was not being hyperbolic about his freshman roommate.
Wolverine Devotee decided to use this as a reminder that we have traditional songs beyond The Victors. Hot Time might have been relegated to history, but we still sing Varsity during the pre-game, and Let's Go Blue!, and the cowbell cheer, as well as several covers the band has adopted (Blues Brothers, Temptation, Hawaiian War Chant), and the alma mater. If, like me, you've been singing "Denard Robinson, Robinson oh Robinson" to Varsity since Brian suggested it, maybe it's time we all learn the lyrics. They are (music):
Men of Michigan onto victory, Ev'ry man in ev'ry play.
Michigan expects her Varsity to win today!
Rah! Rah! Rah-rah-rah! Win for Michigan!
Varsity, Down the field.
Never yield, Raise high our shield.
March on to victory for Michigan,
(And the Maize and Blue)
Oh Varsity, We're for you,
Here for you to cheer for you.
We have no fear for you. Oh Varsity! (repeat)
At the risk of moving myself incrementally rightward in the douchechart, I posit that Michigan's second fight song is a better composition than 90% of fight songs.
COYLE V. SCHEMBECHLER
Michigan House '75 has a brother in law who played from '69 to '73 with, among other legends, 1972 captain and right guard Tom Coyle, who passed away in 2012. This was how Coyle was recruited to Michigan:
He and Tommy had just gotten back from a job and were covered in paint. This and twelve other kids running around when Bo and Malony arrive. Old Man Coyle proceeds to pass beers around to everyone including Tommy. Bo is shocked, turns to Mrs. Coyle and says, "Excuse me Mrs. Coyle," and then turns to Tommy - "If you drink that beer, I'm going to kick your ass!"
Bo was no teetotaler, but he did refuse to do Michigan Replay if Budweiser was sponsoring it. So guess what happens then, or read on.
Your Moment of Zen:
via Dr. Sap
"I think we'll always run the option because what it can do to defenses." –Jim Harbaugh
|WHAT||Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
|WHERE||Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
|WHEN||7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
|TV||BTN plus (ie: no)|
[@ right: Bill Rapai]
It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.
The other half is the worrisome state of the league.
Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was 7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.
PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.
Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.
All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.
Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.
THE LAST TIME
PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.
Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)
Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.
If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.
Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.
If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.
Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.
a more pleasant item to lead the blog
When I write a thing of that length that I figure will stand as one of the things people think about when they think about MGoBlog, I like to talk about the aftermath.
WHY. A number of protests were lodged about why I wouldn't just leave the past in the past and move on. There are multiple reasons that post needed to happen.
- I needed an elucidation of the argument I couldn't quite make when I was on with Dan Dakich in the aftermath of the email article. The way in which Brandon screwed up so hard with Morris was a natural result of the way he approached every petty problem he met previously, an indication that he was a terrible leader for reasons both private and public.
- This is a space that tries to document what happens to Michigan. I got the same complaints about my Rich Rodriguez obit. We mostly look backwards here, talking about what has happened. Not having a summary of the Brandon era would have been a glaring omission. I do these for players annually, usually in the magazine. Hoke will get a (much less incendiary) recap as well.
- Never forget. For this to not happen again we must identify the problem and remain vigilant against its recurrence. Those who forget history, etc.
Now that I've said my piece we can move on. Harbaugh excelsior.
WHY NOW. A variant on the previous bullet:
Brian's post has no new information or even new feelings or analysis of information he compiled. It doesn't even have information or ideas new to his own previous posts on this blog. Why did he do this? I'm genuinely curious. It's like a political post mortem in The New Republic or Investor's Business Daily against a vanquished foe, but an untimely one. Has the piece been on his desktop for the last several months awaiting completion? Was he waiting for additional DB shoes to drop that would need inclusion? Was it an incredible stream-of-consciouness thing that just kinda poured out of him over a few very intense hours? I don't know, but I'd like to. Brian?
I will say that it is very clearly grave dancing, but it's Baryshnikov or Shakira cutting the rug, or dirt or whatever (apologies to dance fans if these examples are crap, but you get the picture).
Brandon was canned during football season, when time for a 5k word piece was not available. Then we had the coaching search, which sucked up all available oxygen—I barely thought about this piece until Harbaugh was in the boat. After that was the recruiting sprint to Signing Day. All of these things took precedence; now that we're past all that it was time.
FWIW, the piece was assembled in bursts, with a slim majority of it coming together in the last couple days.
On calling someone a piece of shit human being. Some protests about that phrasing. This seems like different borders for a term. Complaints about it tended to invoke physical violence against innocents, ISIS, Boko Haram, assertions verging on Godwin and occasionally directly invoking it. I would file such things under "evil," "monstrous," etc. Being a shitty person doesn't rise to that level.
I did get a very long, well-argued email from a walk-on who had been around for a portion of the Brandon era asking me to separate out my critiques of the man from critiques of the athletic director. It cited a number of positive personal interactions with Brandon, and it's true that the one group of people universally in his corner are student-athletes. John U Bacon invited me to present a guest lecture to one of his classes this fall; as fate would have it that date landed about ten days after the Morris incident. Bacon's class was split about down the middle between athletes and regular students, and when I expressed my opinion about Brandon bluntly I got equally blunt pushback from a couple of the athletes.
I appreciate that point of view. I reject it all the same. Brandon was clearly not an asshole to all people. That does not excuse the careers he shattered for little or no reason or the condescension to people trying to talk to him politely. I still can't get over the guy taking shots at some emailer's marriage when he was being painfully polite whilst trying to explain why Brandon had caused him an issue by telling his wife to find a new team. It doesn't excuse the relentless strip-mining of Michigan's primary asset, fan goodwill, in order to make the spreadsheet numbers go in the right direction. It doesn't excuse the constant litany of untruths culminating in a five-day firestorm based on the fact that Brandon's first reaction to any crisis was to lie.
I believe his interactions with the student-athletes were genuine and positive. I don't judge people based on how they treat their most favored class of person. Nixon had a dog, after all.
On giving money to Mott. There's a parable about this.
On cancer kid. It's easy to be nice to kids with cancer, especially when you trumpet it from the mountain. It's standard practice to be open to Make-a-Wish; not doing so results in major backlash and Brandon's not a literal psychopath. When these arguments are made I always think of the Chris Rock bit about how you're not SUPPOSED to go to jail, you low-expectations-havin' mofo.
On the civility of the previous bullet point. Not very civil, I agree. I did weigh that, but I felt that pulling punches in any way here was 1) not going to be credible and 2) did a disservice to the lesson learned. I often write swears in first drafts that get edited out later, sometimes to my regret. There is something about the well-placed expletive that gets a point across in a way I cannot seem to replicate with less naughty language, and this was a full-auto post.
On the shittiness of those emails. From user Evenyoubrutus:
What convinced me of how clueless he really was was his email that said "I suggest you find a new team to support." This was clear proof that he was still trying to sell pizzas instead of honoring the tradition of Michigan Football. Yes, if you don't like Domino's, try Pizza Hut. But I don't have over two decades of memories of sitting down at Domino's with my dad since I was a fucking CHILD eating the pizza, and memorobilia of Domino's items and memories in my house, and I don't dream of sharing the same experiences eating Domino's with my young boys, or memories of watching Domino's win championships and feeling some of the happiest moments of my life because Domino's! "Find a new team to support" Okay. Ass.
On things I missed. Inevitably there were going to be issues and problems with the Brandon era I missed, even in a post pushing 5k words. A selection:
- BursleyHall82 reminds us that it was only a sustained campaign from MVictors that finally got Brandon to relent and allow Willis Ward to be honored and his story told.
- I did not mention "The Process" via which Rodriguez was fired. That two-day dog and pony show was a quintessential example of doing something ostentatious to look impressive instead of just getting it over with quickly. Hackett fired Hoke and announced it in about 10 minutes, because he is not concerned with looking impressive. (Hackett occasionally dresses like Seinfeld's dad because he gets things done instead of picking out clothes.)
- JeepinBen points out I didn't mention the press blitz after the Morris incident or the infamous "my personality is to the best of my ability and I have to fix that" statement. That was triply odious: Brandon hired a PR firm only after he'd burned the house down and then spent Michigan's money trying to prop himself up instead of repairing the damage he'd done. Add in the content of said blitz and you've got a triple. Oh, and he invoked his family as a shield. Home run.
- I missed the giant Brandontron next to the stadium.
- And of course whenever I bring it up more people add their stories to the list, including this gentleman who was dismayed because the athletic department tried to charge the hospital a licensing fee for sick babies in winged helmets.
- There are many, many stories of people in the department being treated shabbily from Jon Falk on down. I didn't mention most of them because I hear most of them indirectly. Bacon's upcoming book on all this should shed a lot of light in this department; he reports that he has never seen people more eager to talk to him.
On revenues as a measuring stick. A common defense of Brandon is to point at the budget. I've repeatedly stated why I don't buy that argument but I've never stated it as eloquently as Blue Durham did in a comment on the post:
Increased revenues from sources like the Big Ten Channel can't be attributed to anything that he had done, and others, like Brian refers to, like the sale of water or the hoped-for rental of seat cushions(!), bring in little but have a great, negative impact in PR. So where is Brandon's biggest contribution in increasing revenues?
As far as I can tell, it was by increasing ticket prices. But all that did was to sell off an asset built up by preceding ADs, the waiting list and goodwill of fans, alumni, and students. When I was an undergraduate and graduate student at UM in the 1980's, everyone knew that the AD could have easily charged more for tickets.
But I think this was part of a policy to try to treat current students as future donors, and for the alumni, as a way to stay connected to the University in order to have more generous donors. Obviously this worked given all of the alumni events that occur every fall that revolve around a home football game.
All Brandon did was sell this asset off, to the University's detriment. This is akin to a kid selling is father's car and taking credit for all of the money he made doing it without taking into account the value of the car.
The damage he wrought in that department will be felt for years, or at least until HARBAUGH
On solutions. User Njia protests that the post was an unconstructive bombing. Guilty as charged. I'll put together something about the direction to go in an effort to rebuild ground zero.
The unedited post is available as an e-book for 50 bucks. To buy one, just go to this video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."
And now let's never talk about… that again.