The excuses don't quite cut it.
Yes, Michigan didn't have their starting point guard, Yes, they went on the road against a good SMU squad, and couldn't fly to Dallas until this morning. Yes, they're young and inexperienced. Yes, Caris LeVert had an uncharacteristically awful game.
The Mustangs managed to weather the loss of one of their key players, though, flourishing despite the departure of Markus Kennedy in the opening minute. The issues that have plagued Michigan's defense all season came to the fore tonight; SMU got dunk after dunk after dunk created by all-too-easy dribble penetration; the Mustangs didn't miss often, but when they did, they were more likely than not to grab the rebound; they rained in 8-of-15 threes on more open looks created by shoddy perimeter defense.
Walton's absence doesn't explain all of that. Youth only goes so far. Same for weather-impacted travel plans.
LeVert went 1-for-13 tonight. Without him carrying the load, only Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson could crack double-digit points. Even with the extenuating circumstances taken into account, Michigan remains too reliant on one player to carry the load on one end, and they're entirely too lost on the other to make up for it.
Michigan's next four opponents, each ranked worse than 250th on KenPom, all come to Crisler. That's welcome news for a team that needs to do quite a bit of tuning up before they're ready to take on the Big Ten.
Michigan (6-2) at
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||SMU -5 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dave O'Brien
Analyst: Len Elmore
Right: Larry Brown, champion of "the right way," rocking on. [Fuller]
Derrick Walton's status is still very much up in the air due to his ankle injury. At yesterday's presser, John Beilein said he's going to be careful handling Walton's return:
Beilein didn’t know on Monday if Walton would play, but noted that he learned his lesson last season of rushing Walton back from injury.
“If he does try and play and he can’t do it, he’s got to come out,” Beilein said. “It’s a very tender area of your body, and you also want to make sure that you don’t hurt him for down the road. An ankle injury will plague you all year long if you don’t allow it to heal.”
That doesn't make it sound like Walton will play tonight, let alone be a full go.
THE LAST TIME
This is the second game of a home-and-home after the Wolverines took on SMU at Crisler last December. Coming off three straight losses, Michigan hung tight through most of the game, but poor shooting (8/36 3P) doomed them to an eventual 62-51 loss after a late Mustang run went unanswered.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Early entry tea leaves. In a welcome change, Michigan has a number of underclassmen good enough to consider entering the NFL draft. This, unfortunately, brings with it the possibility that some of these folks will actually enter said draft. A brief rundown:
- Jake Butt said he would definitely come back if he wasn't projected to go in the top three rounds. Mel Kiper has him the second tight end available and NFL Draft Scout just posted a mock in which he is a third rounder, which seems low. Butt told reporters that "it's 50/50" yesterday. More encouragingly, he listed many reasons for a return and a desire to talk to Harbaugh about what he should do. [UPDATE: Butt tweeted he'd be back.]
- After a confusing interval in which Chris Wormley deflected questions about not returning for a fifth year, he apparently told reporters he would "definitely" be back.
- Jourdan Lewis offered up another tweet indicating he would return next year. He is doing his homework. QED. And another after some radio person urged him to go—said radio person, Mike Sullivan, is the producer of Michigan's IMG pregame show. Excellent career move, Mike.
- Willie Henry has not been heard from on this front. He is currently under the radar to NFL draft sites but if he wants to go he will get drafted at some point. There have been some rumblings that he would look to go if he met a certain threshold in his draft projections.
Michigan has several other draft-eligible players with remaining eligibility but none seem like serious threats to leave. The O/U on departures is set at 1.
In other Jourdan Lewis news. He is a first-team All-American to USA Today, which I now like better than the Thorpe committee until the next time I have to evaluate my relative preference for things based on my pre-existing opinions.
We are hungry for things. Michigan sold out its bowl allotment in hours.
Our bowl tickets allotment is officially sold out. Thank YOU, fans, for doing your part! Can’t wait to see you down in Orlando! #GoBlue
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) December 8, 2015
This is why they always get the top spot they could possibly get picked for. Michigan also implemented a system where fans could reserve bowl tickets for specific games and not others earlier this year, so they probably had a big head start on moving through those tickets. Even so… dang. I didn't know that was even a possibility any more.
Let's check in on Rutgers. The New York Times notices that Rutgers exists for a brief moment:
With the coach went the university’s athletic director, who never entirely recovered from suspicions that Rutgers had failed to vet her hiring two years ago. That was to replace the previous athletic director, who was fired along with the basketball coach after a video, looped repeatedly on national television, backed up allegations that the coach verbally and physically abused players — and that Rutgers had known about it.
And the bad news may not be over: The university is investigating whether the athletic department ignored its own policy requiring the dismissal of players who fail drug tests, as one told prosecutors after his arrest.
What a good organization to admit to the Big Ten. Rutgers doesn't get a full cut until 2021, which will be just in time for the league to kick them out in a world where the cable bundle has evaporated into countless disparate streams. Is there another article about that now?
No amount of wishing upon a star at the Disney offices in Burbank or the ESPN offices in Bristol, Connecticut, can hold back the forces of consumer choice that the Internet has unleashed. As a cable industry executive put it to Sports Business Daily recently, “The cost of goods is going up and sales are going down…that’s not a good trend.”
Every participant in the sports economy—franchise owners, athletes, programming networks, cable companies, and even the fans themselves—have benefitted from this broadband version of the hide-the-ball trick. That big fat $100 average household cable bill that everyone pays has served as a siphoning conduit of cash forcibly flowing from fan and uninterested non-fan alike.
The brazen economics of modern sports are being revealed and dismantled by the Internet, and the coming fumble-pile of desperate industry participants should make for some great viewing. That’ll be bad news for $30 million-a-year over-the-hill third basemen, the greater fools who pay them, and the unknowingly subsidized superfans who love them.
This is probably a good joke. I don't understand econ jargon, but those of you who do may enjoy this tweet.
(Ryan marrying our Econ stats teacher) Priest: Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Ryan: I fail to reject
— Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) December 8, 2015
I hope this was a good tweet.
I was going to put this in the mailbag but it took so long to read this that I had to go have a lie down. A reader asked for an opinion on a very long meditation on "access" going the way of the passenger pigeon by John Herrmann of the Awl.
If you're unfamiliar with Herrmann, I mostly come across him when he writes exhaustingly nihilist pieces about the changes the internet is forcing on content providers. (He recognizes this: "The Content Wars is an occasional column intended to keep a majority of Content coverage in one easily avoidable place.") They are full of bloopers from robotics competitions repurposed into depressing metaphor gifs. Each accurately diagnoses something going on and collapses, like the robots, into a pile of loathing at the end. This one is no exception.
But, yes, access. It's difficult to find the summarizing quote to pull in a piece that's seemingly UFR length. I guess here's this bit on sports:
A world in which the NFL doesn’t need TV would be a world in which the NFL really doesn’t need a traditional outside press corps. To that end, perhaps, ACE is a new media company created by the NFL Players’ Association that hopes to succeed by “leveraging… exclusive group player rights and access to more than 1,800 active players to produce compelling sports-lifestyle content focused on athletes.” This month, a player for the Jets is suggesting to reporters, apropos of not very much, that reporters have too much access to players in the NFL, which is arguably the most restrictive league in professional sports. Also this month, when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, he didn’t give an exclusive to a reporter who had covered him for years, or to Sports Illustrated, or to anyone. He published it as a personal post on the Player’s Tribune, a first-person platform for athletes founded by Derek Jeter and open to all major sports. (NASCAR? Sure!) The rest of the sports media, again, wrote its stories anyway.
A lot of the handwringing over loss of access strikes me as ludicrous. What's being removed is not really access but "access," that fiction in which a person of interest pretends to give something so a writer can pretend to critically evaluate the thing the person of interest said. When Rasheed Wallace blew that fiction up a lot of people got really mad:
And I guess if your job consists of surrounding the things that other people said with some sentences to link them together that would be a… actually, wait. "Both teams played hard" makes your job easy. Getting mad at that is not about whether your ability to do your job has been compromised, it's getting mad at Rasheed Wallace for yanking away the curtain on the City Animals presser you've been having for decades.
Back when MGoBlog stuck its toe into the access pool it felt like a trap. It still feels like a trap, because if someone gives you something they can take it away. Relying on access is like relying on Twitter's API—you can make the best third-party client in the world but Twitter's going to pick a winner and then you're going to die if you're not that winner. Then Twitter's going to buy that winner because if they're picking a winner, Twitter seems like a pretty good one.
So we have access, but we don't rely on it. Of late Adam's gotten some one on one time at media availabilities and used it to get some interesting stuff. We'd miss it if it was gone. But it wouldn't kill us.
If you are in business with someone who can kill you with no repercussions to themselves, you are on death row. Some people figure this out and go become lawyers. Some don't.
Michigan, and colleges in general, are less likely to cut people off like the NFL is definitely, definitely going to do in the near future. They are (mostly) public institutions with a point of view on press freedoms (sort of) subject to FOIA. But that doesn't change the fundamental law content in the internet age: be the quote, not the quoter.
Etc.: A list of all the weird and unfortunate things that happened while Cody Kessler was at USC is a very long list. Chad Catt looked pretty good in the second half of the Saturday Wisconsin game. Doyle is sweaty.
: Hey there, Steve!
: Why so glum?
: Then why aren't you happy?
: I see. Well it looks like you need LANGUAGE!
That's right, Steve! You see, I'm a scientist. And we here at the Human Race have developed a special patented technology called Language™ to communicate ideas using mutually understood sounds.
One of the keys to our Language™ technology is the ability to identify a person, place, or thing by association with a specific set of organic sounds called "nouns." Through the transmission and recognition of commonly recognized nouns within a grammatical framework, we make it possible for another human to actually understand what bowl you're actually talking about!
Our nouns are specially pre-formulated to achieve maximum comprehension. By using a noun your listener is already familiar with, the thing you actually meant to convey will be transmitted directly to the brain thing of your audience, enabling 100% instant, seamless, optimized, non-GMO return on linguistic investment.
: Well that's the great news, Steve: you know them already! But if you hit THE JUMP right now, you can have all of these nouns that describe bowl games, and their commercial-free logos, for absolutely free!
Graham Glasgow and Joe Bolden
Just thoughts on the bowl game and the Citrus Bowl and the matchup with Florida, generally speaking.
JB: “Florida’s a good team, solid team. I think their offense obviously hits plays and has hit plays this year. Haven’t been too deep into the film. Just watched a little bit of the SEC title game but I’ve seen their defense play, too, and they have a solid defense as well.”
What have you seen in their defense, Graham? Have you watched them?
“I watched a little bit of the SEC championship game like Joe, and they have a solid defense. Lot of big hitters, big plays, and I think that we’ll gameplan them well and we’ll be ready to go on…January 1st. Yeah, that’s when we play. All right, awesome.”
Coach Durkin was obviously a big part of what you guys did this year. Your thoughts on shifting gears to Greg Mattison this game?
JB: “It’s what we- some of us, it’s what we know better, I guess, in a way. I’ve played three of my four years under him. I love how he coached and how he coaches. Just excited to- you know, I came in and my first game was under him, and I’m going out and my last game’s going to be played with him calling the defense, too. So, it’s pretty exciting from my standpoint. I think defensively there’s not much…I mean, Durkin and Matty were together before Michigan, and there’s not a whole lot of I guess you could call it turnover if you want from one system to another or one guy to the next.”
What was DJ’s message to you when he told you he was going to take the Maryland job and what are your thoughts about him moving on to a head coaching position?
JB: “Yeah, I think everyone on the defense is excited for him. I think we all knew at some point he was going to be a head coach being only 37 years old and being the coach that he is. We’re all excited for him. Excited for him, but at the same time I guess for the guys next year, obviously they want to beat him.”
Any words of wisdom for Maryland players dealing with his ‘explosability’?
JB: “Yeah. [/laughs] Just soak it all in. Listen to him every time he speaks. He’s a younger guy with a lot of energy and he knows exactly what he’s talking about.”
[After THE JUMP: Chesson, Butt, and Wormley]
“We’re very excited to be invited to the bowl and sounds like it’s gonna be great, fair, honest, healthy competition. We’re looking forward to it.”
Have you decided on your defensive coordinator for the bowl game?
“Yes. Greg Mattison’s going to coordinate the defense and we’ve also hired Chris Partridge to coach the linebackers.”
With Mattison, is that just for the bowl season or is that a permanent change?
“That will be for the bowl season. And we’ll evaluate from there.”
Speaking of the defensive coordinator, do you have a timetable in mind that you’d like to have a permanent hire in place? How are you approaching that?
“We’re approaching it to win our next game. No timetable. We’ll evaluate as we go. Excited to have Greg coordinate the defense. I think he’ll do a fantastic job, and Chris Partridge- great chance to have Chris coaching on the field. He’s done a fabulous job in every task he’s been on top of. I’m excited to watch him coach and Greg coordinate.”
Is it possible that Chris could earn himself a permanent full-time job with you guys as a coach?
“Yeah, very possible.”
Any familiarity with Jim McElwain and how he runs the program and offense? Any familiarity with him?
“Just that he enjoys an incredible reputation in the profession. That would be…I think we all know that. From people I respect and know very well, he has a fine reputation as a good coach.”
You probably haven’t had time to look at Florida, but anything you know about this team, particularly the defensive side of the ball? I mean, DJ Durkin obviously coached there last year.
“Yeah, I watched probably about half of the games right now. Fantastic season they’ve had. They play with great intensity, and much respect for what they’ve done. Heck of a year for them.”
Can you update us on Jake Rudock? Do you expect him to play in the game, and what’s his health status?
“Yeahhhh, I mean, I think it’s just- I’ve talked to him a few times, I think he’ll play in the game. There was a period where- he hasn’t thrown yet, but I think he will be soon.”
[After THE JUMP: “I don’t think of it as a foundation, I think of it more like a train, more like a locomotive.”]