Damien Harris: Not Gone, Gone, Gone, Woooooaaaahhhh
Sam Webb caught up with Damien Harris's mother in the wake of the former commit's visit last weekend; she had very positive things to say about Doug Nussmeier, and it sounds like her son still has Michigan on top ($):
“It was the same comfort,” Ms. Harris reported. “I know for me it was. I really haven’t gotten a chance to sit down with Damien and discuss it (at length) because he has been in school and practice since we got home. I did ask him (Monday) night, ‘did the feelings come back that you had initially with Michigan?’ He was like, ‘the feeling never left. I never loss [sic] any of the feeling that I had for Michigan.’
In fact, Ms. Harris went on to say that she believes her son's recruitment is a Michigan-OSU battle and the good guys have the edge. There are several visits yet to come—Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, and Wisconsin all got mentions—and a long way to go until Signing Day, when Harris now plans to announce his decision. Still, this is a very positive sign, and per 247's Steve Lorenz, Harris may be back on campus in the near future ($):
"I haven't talked to Damien about it yet, but I believe we will be back up in the spring, and possibly the summer too," [Ms. Harris] said. "There are other schools he's looking to visit right now, and if we're not able to make it during the off-season, we will be up for at least one game."
All indications since Harris's decommitment have been that Michigan is still his favorite school and he just wants to utilize the entire recruiting process to check out other schools and ensure he makes a well-informed decision. In my opinion, nothing has changed there; if anything, Harris developing a relationship with Nussmeier has only strengthened Michigan's position.
Speaking of top 2015 targets, in-state four-star ATH Brian Cole also visited over the weekend, he told Tim Sullivan what he's looking for in his recruitment ($):
"I'm just trying to find the truth," he said. "That's basically it, just trying to find the truth, see who's real and not real. I don't know how I'll figure it out.
"Everybody's even. Everybody's No. 1 right now."
Michigan State and Michigan have been his presumed leaders for a while, with the Spartans seemingly holding the edge. Cole had to cancel a planned trip to Wisconsin recently that he plans to reschedule; he's also fielding increased interest from Alabama and could visit there, too.
[Updates on Michigan's 2015 defensive back commits, a look at U-M's options at linebacker, and more after THE JUMP.]
2/26/2014 – Michigan 77, Purdue 76 (OT) – 20-7, 12-3 Big Ten
If you're wondering where I was last night on twitter, I was studiously avoiding it because I was in Auburn Hills watching Lydia Loveless refuse to stop playing music when the rest of you were watching Michigan play Purdue. Lydia Loveless is a machine built to play country music some people are now describing as "cowpunk."
There was no encore, just the increasing irritation of her band as the set went on and on and on. She gave them a break to play a couple songs by herself, and then eventually it became clear the show was over about three songs after she had clarified they had time for just one more. Then after the end of the set she asked the guy behind the bar if being out of time meant they had to stop. To his immense credit, the guy made a combo shrug/thumbs-up motion. Lydia Loveless donned a jacket and drafted her pedal steel guitar bandmate to cover
- Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."
- An Eagles song that I don't recall lyrics from but sounded enjoyable despite it being the Eagles.
- One Direction's "They Don't Know About Us."
These were all transformatively great. It was insane, worrying—I asked the MGoWife if someone would have to tackle Lydia Loveless off the stage for the show to end—and ultimately awesome.
So I watched the Purdue game despite not watching the Purdue game, and then I watched it again. The second time only moved the swearing from the entertainment to the viewer, and concluded more strangely.
It did not start strangely. It started like it always starts, with Michigan falling in a well. They have something like a 98% chance to hang a banner at the end of the year and they have ended up in double-digit first half holes in five games running. This has to be some sort of record. Someone sic a sports bureau on the combination of conference championships and consecutive games with double-digit deficits.
I'll be over here deciding not to throw a glass of whiskey either at the cat, or the TV, or going outside and throwing it as far as I can manage in the hopes it will turn into a CERTIFICATE OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS that will self-replicate 12 times and flit away into the hands of the Michigan basketball team. Perhaps then, assured that their grit and determination in the face of adversity has been demonstrated to the point of official, gilt recognition, they will f---ing stop it.
I don't know about you, but when the basketball team you are hoping wins gets down that much, the ensuing trudge back (if there is one) is an exercise in irrational hatred of everything. The OSU and MSU games were fine, as ten-point hole was ephemeral. Michigan quickly achieved near-parity and went from there. This one was an extended exercise in rolling around with a straight jacket on. I don't need them to play better or win more. I just need the points to be more evenly distributed across the 40 minutes of play. (I need them to play better and win more. More, always more.)
But hey, they won. On the backs of Glenn Robinson, Jordan Morgan, and Spike Albrecht, just like everyone expected.
Robinson in particular played a complete game the likes of which he has not put together in a long time: 17 points on 13 shot equivalents, eight rebounds, three assists, and one turnover. He generated a good number of his shots himself, against a defense that was amped up and aggressive on the perimeter.
I've made no secret of my frustration at Robinson's game this year. He hasn't seemed to add anything; meanwhile LeVert and Stauskas are entirely different players. His rebound rates are pedestrian at best. (He's currently tied with Derrick Walton in DREB rate.) I am still suspicious of his awareness on defense—his dude, Rapheal Davis, had five offensive rebounds one game after multiple MSU baskets were directly attributable to Robinson not getting back in transition.
And then sometimes, Lottery GRIII appears. Sometimes he elevates for a jumper that cannot be contested because getting your hand in his face would require cutting it off and throwing it at him. Sometimes there's a lob in the direction of the basket and he continues ascending after he makes the catch. Sometimes, though. Just sometimes.
At Michigan's time of need they knew Purdue would overplay Stauskas and that they should try to hit something over the top, because they needed one measly point and they had 2.9 seconds to get it. They drew up a lob pass with Spike screening GRIII's guy, and executed—barely.
The pass was a rainbow that managed to get over an outstretched hand but took its target a step too far outside, a step too far towards the baseline. Robinson took a power dribble as he landed from the catch to reset his feet; he did not gain the requisite distance as Spike's defender came in to harass him. It looked grim.
But there are people who can make a One Direction song sound poignant, and there are people who can catch alley-oops and hang there, untethered. Some people can leap from behind the backboard outside the paint and still be in the air five feet later, just where they need to be as the clock strikes zero.
Gotta shore up that free throw defense. If you screamed "MISS ONE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE" sometime in the second half with a Boiler at the line, you are not alone. The worst FT shooting team in the Big Ten hit 17 straight to open before the final, fateful miss; Michigan was a couple of shots behind their season average at 17/25. When all was said and done that was the difference between an extremely annoying but eventually comfortable win and TERROR IN CENTRAL INDIANA.
That business is just luck, pure and simple. At one point Stephen Bardo chalked it up to Purdue's "focus." Stephen Bardo could show up at a casino and praise the little old lady at the slots for her mental toughness when she hits a jackpot.
The hand of fate. A lot of these early holes seem like a series of completely random misses and makes. Michigan fell down against MSU early because Denzel Valentine hit a 30-footer and a running transition 3 while Michigan's generally excellent three point shooting put up a bunch of bricks; here Purdue gave up a half-dozen quality looks from three early and Michigan started 1/7 behind the line.
Meanwhile, Terone "Ann Arbor's All-American" Johnson hits his first four. Purdue isn't quite the crew of bricklayers they were last year but they're still 9th in conference at making threes and 11th at taking them, and at one point Michigan was 1/7 from three while Purdue was 5/10. Things returned to normal for the Boilers by the end; Michigan, not so much.
A very distributed night. If it was hard to pick out anything in particular anyone was doing right, that's because Michigan spread everything out. Six players grabbed offensive rebounds; five had at least three assists; six guys had at least eight points. Robinson and Morgan were your best players in terms of efficiency, but everyone was setting up everyone for shots so it was a team effort to get to 1.12 PPP despite shooting 6/23 from three.
Call it, for pant's sake. Heard today from someone who talked to a MAC assistant. Refereeing came up and he said that refs have a really tough job because they do all kinds of games for all kinds of conferences and they're told to call games differently based on what conference they're in. It will not surprise you that the Big Ten tells people to let things go way more than others.
This is cold comfort to Nik Stauskas today, I'm assuming. By the end of the game he was plunging into the lane and missing layups badly because he wasn't getting hammered on them. The standard of refereeing shifted dramatically from Sunday, when Bill Raftery deployed "nickel-dimer" a half dozen times in the first half, to Wednesday, when you had to ride over a guy's foot with a lawnmower to get a call. Unless it's Jordan Morgan, who will be told to stop bleeding all over the court and get up.
Just one of those nights. I had almost no problem with the shot selection aside from a couple of possessions where LeVert dribbled around for 15 seconds and hoisted one; Robinson also had a couple of nononoYES long twos. The 23 attempts from behind the arc were almost entirely great looks, because Purdue gives up great looks from three quite a bit. They're dead last in conference by some distance at permitting three point looks.
The crappy shooting got in Michigan's head. There was one transition opportunity on which Caris passed up an open corner three from the run-away-I-know-it's-good spot, whereupon Michigan turned the ball over. I exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL"; the TV informed me that John Beilein had just exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL" and I felt better.
Spike! Kept Walton stapled to the bench despite the terrifying prospect of a Spike-vs-pick-a-Johnson defensive matchup, and it paid off. He grabbed a rare two-point bucket, stole the ball twice, set up Morgan for two of his OT flushes, and had one bad ass alley-oop to Robinson.
Walton didn't do much other than shoot some threes against the persnickety perimeter defense of the Johnsons; Spike was better able to find shots for his teammates. "Luxury" doesn't begin to cover Albrecht's status on the roster.
RPI Effect Only Teams
RPI is dumb. It is overly simplistic, dumb, unhinged from reality, and stupid. But because the Committee looks at RPI, and this section is called “RPI Effect Only Teams,” We may as well look at RPI. Ugh.
Two teams are as bad in the RPI as they are in the bouncy shooty areas. Out of 351 teams, Houston Baptist (6-22) is #344, and South Carolina State (9-17) is #334. These are terrible teams in hindsight, and they were terrible when they were scheduled. UMass-Lowell (9-18) at #286 and Coppin State (9-18) at #254 are mildly ahead of their KenPom rankings, but is also remain very very bad. On the other hand, Long Beach State (12-14) at #150 is behind their KenPom ranking (110). Charlotte (14-12) is at #163, which you’ll probably see several times in the coming weeks because DAMN YOU, PUERTO RICOOOOOOOO.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (22-5, 10-5 Big 12)
This week: Won @ TCU (71-60), Beat West Virginia (83-66)
Michigan and Iowa State continue their bracketology pas de deux, duking it out for one of the final 3-seeds. Iowa State is still projected to lose two more games (trips to Kansas State and Baylor).
Florida State (16-11, 7-8 ACC)
This week: Won @ Pitt (71-66)
The Seminoles are going to be a bubble team right to the end here. A win over Pitt puts them back in the picture, but they probably need at least four more wins. They have Georgia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse, and the ACC tournament left, so the clock is not their friend.
#6 Dook (23-6, 12-4 ACC)
This week: Beat Virginia Tech (66-48)
We ran into a serious glitch in the Matrix this week, when someone dared to pick against KenPom:
Like Norlander has a feeling about Bradley, I have a feeling about Virginia Tech tonight. Sorry, Dukies. #UpsetAlert
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 25, 2014
I feared this would be one of those space-time continuum things, but just like in Back to the Future, those rules apparently don’t apply. Then again, I’m not sure there was much, even a KenPom-initiated KenPom jinx, that could have affected the outcome of a game between Duke (who is good at basketball) and Virginia Tech (who is okay at football). The lowest win probability Duke had all night was 97.5% when VaTech closed the gap to 3-2 about 90 seconds into the game.
#3 Arizona (26-2, 13-2 PAC 12)
This week: Won @ Colorado (88-61), Beat Cal (87-59)
Okay, so maybe I was a little quick on the "Arizona is dead" trigger. They plowed a couple of decent (like Minnesota/Nebraska-level) teams in Colorado and Cal. It appears they finally found a tactical solution to the absence of Brandon Ashley, and that solution is "have Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon and let them do things."
Stanford (18-9, 9-6 PAC 12)
This week: Beat UCLA (83-74) [EDIT: and lost to Arizona State in the middle of the night, (76-64)]
Bracket folks seem to have Stanford around an 8-seed right now, which probably means they’re going dancing barring an epic collapse.
[AFTER THE JUMP: The Big Ten picture becomes clearer]
UNBELIEVABLE. LET'S NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN.
|WHAT||Michigan (19-7, 11-3 B1G) at Purdue (15-12, 5-9)|
|WHERE||Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana|
|WHEN||7 pm Eastern, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -7 (KenPom)|
|TV||BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Stephen Bardo)|
Right: Matt Painter is still looking for answers. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
From this point forward, Michigan just has to win games they're supposed to win to secure a Big Ten title. According to KenPom, this is the second-most difficult game left on the schedule, and his algorithm gives U-M a 74% chance at victory.
Michigan State hasn't played since Sunday's game and won't until they host Illinois on Saturday, so a win would give Michigan a full game's lead on the Spartans with both teams having three games left to play. The dark horse in the Big Ten race is no longer Iowa, which currently sits in fifth place (8-6 in Big Ten) after consecutive losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota. At 10-5, the Badgers could share the conference title if they win out—a decent possibility with Penn State, Purdue, and Nebraska remaining on their schedule—and get a lot of help from U-M and MSU.
The upshot is essentially the same as it was earlier this week: Michigan is all but assured a share of the title unless they lose three of their final four games. The only way they'd miss out on a title in that situation is if MSU, losers of five of their last nine games, wins out.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
Derrick Walton had one of his best games in the first matchup [Fuller]
Michigan overcame their uncharacteristically sloppy play (16 turnovers) with hot shooting against a lackadaisical Purdue defense, coming away with a comfortable 75-66 win at the Crisler Center.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||3||Ronnie Johnson||So.||6'0, 178||66.8||23.0||Kinda|
|Decent distributor, okay shooter, poor finisher at the rim, gets to FT line well|
|G||0||Terone Johnson||Sr.||6'4, 198||71.9||22.5||Kinda|
|Volume shooter of bad shots, better finisher than Ronnie but still not great|
|G||21||Kendall Stephens||Fr.||6'6, 193||47.2||17.5||No|
|Three-point specialist, no inside-the-arc game, solid outside shooter|
|G||35||Raphael Davis||So.||6'5, 211||40.0||17.7||Yes|
|Decent offensive rebounder, draws fouls, not much of a scorer otherwise|
|C||30||AJ Hammons||So.||7'0, 251||55.6||25.5||Very|
|Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, offense/effort comes and goes|
|F||5||Basil Smotherman||Fr.||6'5, 222||48.0||13.4||Very|
|Tiny usage, much of offense comes off putbacks, recently lost starting job|
|G||12||Bryson Scott||Fr.||6'1, 201||40.4||25.5||No|
|A shorter, higher-usage, less-efficient version of Terone Johnson|
|F||32||Errick Peck||Sr.||6'6, 223||45.7||14.7||Kinda|
|Solid rebounder, turnover-prone stretch four with iffy outside shot, tiny usage|
Disregard, Carter tore his ACL last weekend
|F||23||Jay Simpson||Fr.||6'10, 250||28.2||23.7||Very|
|Hammons's primary backup, strong rebounder, not good at much else yet|
Terone Johnson is slated to slide back into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for Sterling Carter in their last game, while Raphael Davis is set to start his second game this year. This starting lineup, which Purdue hasn't used yet this season, would be their 13th different lineup of the season. Remember what Matt Painter said before their first game against Michigan?
Purdue coach Matt Painter, on his rotation: "I'd like our guys to play better, so I'd know who the hell to play."
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) January 27, 2014
He's the B1G coach who should be complaining about PLAYING SOME WEIRD GUYS OUT THERE, though it's mostly his fault for recruiting this bunch. (Seriously, Matt Painter, what happened?)
Purdue is still trying to figure out their rotation. It's February 26th. They haven't suffered any major injuries. That's good from a team health perspective and terrible from every other perspective.
Center AJ Hammons remains the most dangerous player on this team as a seven-footer with considerable skill. He's reliable for rebounds and blocks; that's about it when it comes to reliability. Hammons hasn't cracked eight points or played more than 20 minutes in any of the last three games; over that span, he has ten fouls and six turnovers. He preceded that with four straight games in double-digits, including games of 18/12 and 20/14 (points/rebounds). His defensive effort also comes and goes. Trying to predict whether or not he'll show up is a fool's errand.
The two other Boilermakers you're most familiar with are brothers Terone and Ronnie Johnson, Purdue's bricktastic backcourt duo. While the Johnsons are getting more selective, and therefore more efficient, with their outside shooting, both still struggle to finish inside the arc (41.0% and 43.9%, respectively).
The other two starting spots have changed since last we met. Freshman Kendall Stephens, who's shooting 38.6% from beyond the arc, is slated to get his second straight start at the three; he's a pure three-point specialist. The Boilermakers plan to start four guards, as 6'5" sophomore Raphael Davis is penciled into the four spot. Davis is decent on the offensive glass, gets to the free-throw line frequently, and otherwise doesn't add much.
Purdue gives ten players regular minutes in their ongoing quest to find a few half-decent options. Freshman four Basil Smotherman lost his starting gig a couple weeks ago; he's an undersized forward who scores well inside the arc but can be overwhelmed at times. Errick Peck will also see minutes at power forward; he's a slightly better rebounder than Smotherman but not on his level as a finisher.
6'10" freshman Jay Simpson spells Hammons off the bench; he's a very good rebounder who doesn't do much else well at this stage in his career. The primary backup guards, Bryson Scott
and Sterling Carter, both take lots of shots they don't hit very well (in Scott's case, tons of two-point jumpers; in Carter's, three-pointers). EDIT: Carter tore his ACL against Nebraska on Sunday and is out for the season. I may be slipping on my "watching/caring about Purdue" obligations, which is for the best.
5-9 in the Big Ten with their best win either a triple-overtime triumph over Minnesota, a six-point victory over Nebraska, or an 18-point spanking of Indiana, all of which came at home. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all handled the Boilermakers easily in Mackey Arena. Their best road win came against #62 West Virginia by three points.
Purdue is eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency and ninth in defensive effiency. Other than rebounding (2nd offensively, 3rd defensively) and shot-blocking (2nd), they're well below average at just about everything. The number that stands out the most is the percentage of three-point attempts they allow: 38.4% of opponent FGA come from beyond the arc, the worst mark in the conference. Purdue is lucky to be just seventh in 3P% against.
Fire away. If Purdue is willing to give up threes, by golly, Michigan should take them. Their perimeter and pick-and-roll defense are bad, especially when Hammons gets lazy with his hedges, which happens often. Michigan went 7/13 beyond the arc in their first matchup; last week, MSU bombarded Purdue with a 17/32(!) three-point performance.
Get Hammons away from the hoop. Hammons is both a lackadaisical perimeter defender and generally foul-prone (yes, there's a correlation between the two). Running lots of pick-and-roll not only draws Purdue's only rim protector away from the hoop, it's likely to end with him in foul trouble. Purdue is 11th in two-point defense despite Hammons's inside presence; other teams have figured this out.
Box out. With their poor shooting numbers from both inside and outside the arc, Purdue's best chance at victory is to crash the offensive boards with aplomb. Morford should be able to mitigate Hammons's offensive rebounding—he had just one in the first matchup—so it's on Glenn Robinson and Caris LeVert, mostly, to make sure to get a body on their man. The Boilermakers had ten(!) different players get an offensive rebound in the first game, in part due to the wild bounces their wayward shots took off various parts of the rim/backboard; when that's the case, out-jumping offensive players for rebounds isn't enough.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 7
That left corner isn't just "Stauskas Corner" anymore. Also, just 'wow' in general—you're highly encouraged to read the whole thing.
The Daily's Daniel Wasserman addresses the Maize Rage issue Brian and I discussed on the podcast; I co-sign everything in this piece.