"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."
We're a week away from Signing Day and a bizarre recruiting controversy just arose, so it's time for a mailbag. Let's get this one out of the way...
The Daishon Neal Thing
— Craig Barker (@cdbarker) January 28, 2015
If you missed it, Michigan appeared on the verge of flipping SDE Daishon Neal from his Nebraska commitment until Greg Mattison's in-home visit went awry:
"Michigan was a powerhouse, they came in and they stormed us, they made one bad statement and it was over," [Neal's father] told 1620 on air. "They said without football, Daishon wouldn't be able to go to Michigan. Like we couldn't afford to send him there, or that we couldn't get him in academically.
"Once he said that, we pretty much escorted him out of the house."
Neal continued by stating: "(They) basically tried to call me stupid in front of my face."
There are a few issues at work here. First of all, Michigan can't comment on an unsigned recruit without breaking NCAA rules, so there's no way for Mattison to tell his side of the story; in all likelihood, this won't ever be addressed specifically.
Second, what Mattison reportedly said, in so many words, is often true—one of Michigan's most reliable recruiting pitches is that being a football player allows prospects the opportunity at a first-rate education that wouldn't necessarily be available otherwise. This isn't meant as an insult; plenty of smart people with strong academic resumes don't get into Michigan. I think it's great that Michigan presents this opportunity to those who may not have a 3.8 and a 30 on their ACT; football players have a huge impact on campus life and come away with well-earned degrees.
Finally, Mattison is a seasoned recruiter. I have a difficult time believing he presented this information in any way close to calling Neal "stupid." That's not a particularly effective way to convince a student-athlete to come to your school. A football scholarship pretty much guarantees admittance as long as the recipient clears NCAA academic requirements, which are far less stringent than Michigan's usual admission standards—coaches almost always check with admissions before offering a scholarship.*
Even if Neal has an excellent academic record, that doesn't offer the same guarantee he'd get in. Perhaps Mattison didn't put this in terms Neal and his family appreciated, but it seems far more likely this was an unfortunate miscommunication than a deliberate slight by Mattison. So it goes.
*Demar Dorsey stands as the exception to the rule, and that didn't work out so well.
[Hit THE JUMP for M's chances with Iman Marshall, the proclivity of TE/DE types, and how Harbaugh will look to replace Messiah deWeaver.]
1/27/2015 – Michigan 58, Nebraska 44 – 13-8, 6-3 Big Ten
I'm not sure whether MAAR is the gum wrapper or the battery, whether Dawkins is the shoe or the lamp, whether Bielfeldt is the broom or the package of pantyhose. I do know that Zak Irvin is pulling the contraption taut. Spike Albrecht is lighting the package on fire. John Beilein is glancing up from his maniac's blueprint, waiting for the moment when Tim Miles's friendly head is dead in the crosshairs.
"Subs away," he says.
Miles: 'Their system ... We made a little run against their 2-3, and we never saw it again.'
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) January 28, 2015
A hit, a palpable hit. Michigan goes to 6-3 in the Big Ten playing a lot of weird guys.
All the weird guys, really. I guess DJ Wilson would be slightly weird at this point, but not nearly so weird as Dan Dakich criticizing his son for not stopping the ball in transition. The weirdness is out there, man. It is starting and not coming off the floor.
Michigan got 37 minutes from a guy in Pennsylvania who Penn State didn't bother to offer and this was fine. Good, even. MAAR/Rahk put up nine points on eight shots, had a few rebounds and a steal, and played good defense. Fellow weird guy Aubrey Dawkins was headed to Dayton before Michigan stepped in; he put up 13 on seven shots, had a killer block, and generally looked like the top 50 recruit Michigan was supposed to have in this class.
And Bielfeldt. I must confess that whenever he ends up on the floor I wonder what on Earth Michigan could have seen in a player who can only be a 6'7" center. I guess they think he can beat up Walter Pitchford. Which he can, somehow.
My theory is that Beilein was working with the medical center on a top-secret growth project that fell through. A 6'10" Max Bielfeldt is really something.
In any case, we're here now, having a season. It's not a good season. But it is a season that's worth watching.
It's quite a trick to have a massively disappointing year—one that was headed that way even before the injury avalanche—and still give off the aura of gritty grit and development that Michigan is. They're not good. They're not bad, though, when they obviously should be.
This collection of guys gets a little less weird every time Dawkins has a line-drive three nestle into the net and hang there for a beat longer than you'd expect, every time MAAR gets to the rim and finishes tough. With LeVert on the shelf, this is next year's team assembling itself one game at a time. Add Duncan Robinson and DJ Wilson and, like, a toe for Walton and you could have something there.
Either way, this assemblage of dudes is flipping through configurations every time the opponent gets a handle on them. They morph into the most effective possible shape given their personal shortcomings and prevent a meh year from becoming a nightmare one. Let's see where it goes.
I'm thinking it goes to the NIT, but I'm okay with that. I'll take a few more games of Beilein pulling out every last banana peel he has for the opposition.
How about those late pickups? Michigan fans were confused when Beilein pulled in both Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman very late in the last recruiting cycle. One seemed necessary given the roster; two was a flier on a random guy. Those pickups are now paying off.
The stats are still lagging, with both guys at the bottom of the list in terms of usage and with MAAR's early struggles holding his shooting numbers down; their play has improved greatly. Dawkins is the most efficient shooter Michigan has right now, at 57/42, albeit with a very small sample size. Both turn it over too much and aren't getting the assists Michigan will need them to acquire down the road, but at the very least both guys look like solid four-year college players.
That "four year" bit seems important these days. Michigan could use a dose of roster continuity in here.
This was a fortunate matchup. Nebraska's okay; Michigan matches up against them well this year. Michigan has a huge weakness on the defensive boards that the Cornhuskers generally do not even attempt to exploit. Pitchford's OREB rate is 3.7. The one guy who does get an appreciable number of OREBs, David Rivers, was out.
Meanwhile Michigan's zones give up a lot of corner threes against a team with no three point shooting. Petteway is at 34%; tiny pest Benny Parker is at 38% but is loathe to pull the trigger with just 29 attempts on the year. (Parker proved this by passing up multiple open looks in the second half.) The other guys pulling the trigger range from bad to abject.
Once Petteway turned out to be in bad Kobe mode it was just about whether Michigan could pull together enough offense to make it comfortable. They eventually could.
Bid? It's still highly unlikely. We could have been talking about it if they pulled out that Wisconsin game, which would not only have been a non-loss but also a big win. Without it there's not a whole lot of traction to be had in the remainder of the schedule. The Big Ten is having an off year and Rutgers is occupying two slots in the schedule that could have been any other Big Ten team.
Even if Michigan goes 12-6 in conference you're looking at a resume that is like so:
- 19-11 record pending Big Ten tourney
- Best nonconference win over Syracuse, which is likely to be a bubble team
- Maybe three wins over tourney teams in conference (6-3 finish likely assumes wins against NW and Rutgers and @ Illinois)
- Horrendous losses to NJIT and EMU
That's a bubble team, and one that could very easily get passed over. Michigan's RPI is currently 64th, they're 0-5 against top 50 teams, etc. It's a resume that could go either way depending on how Michigan's RPI shapes up.
But what if? Michigan's hit the meat of their schedule with six of their next seven games against Kenpom top 50 teams (and the lone exception is no cakewalk: @ Illinois). Go 4-3 in that stretch and then we might start tracking Bracket Matrix and the like.
Chatman. Oof. Not to pile on but man that guy is just completely out of it. He's not even close on his shots, he's repeatedly losing people on defense, he's turning the ball over a ton… you have to keep rolling him out there some since he's a guy who could turn it around and become a nice player down the road, but the regression from a place that wasn't that far off the ground to begin with is dismaying.
Irvin. With Derrick Walton out someone… needed to pick up the rebounding? Yes, yes, apparently. That was Irvin, who notched a double double. Hopefully this can get him more into games where he's not getting a ton of shots, or not hitting many of them.
Yea, and we shall block things
Ace: Which returning player do you expect to have the biggest breakout season under Jim Harbaugh? Who benefits the most from the coaching change? To keep us from all answering the same thing, first responder gets to take Butt/Bunting.
Adam Schnepp: Butt/Bunting or whoever lines up at Y/TE are obvious (and very merited) choices, but I think that the returning player most likely to have a breakout season under Harbaugh is the guy who ends up being the starting quarterback. That may seem like a strange pick considering that there isn't actually a specific player whom I can definitely name here, but there's pretty solid circumstantial evidence to back up my prediction.
|Beeeeeee goooooooooood. [Fuller]|
Harbaugh's long had a reputation as a quarterback guru, and for good reason: he developed Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick while helping resuscitate Alex Smith's career. Smith had a career completion percentage of 57.1% and threw for 6.2 yards per attempt in the five seasons before Harbaugh arrived. In two years under his tutelage, Harbaugh simplified the offense and Smith's stats benefited for it; his completion percentage in those two years rose to 64.3% while his yards per attempt rose to 7.4.
After years of suffering through Brady Hoke and his offensive staff trying to slam a round peg into a square hole over (Denard) and over (Devin) and over (Shane) again, it's going to be a breath of fresh air to watch Harbaugh implement an offense that's supposed to work to a quarterback's advantage. In the Smart Football article linked above Chris Brown discusses how Harbaugh erased sight adjustments from his offense so that the quarterback didn't have to hesitate when the defense presented coverages that shifted post snap. Instead there were built-in hot routes in every play that didn't require the quarterback to hope the receiver reacted the same way to the coverage they were presented with.
If the past is any indication of the future then whoever wins the quarterback battle is going to have a firm grasp of progressions as well, because Harbaugh tries to make this as simple for the quarterback to rapidly work through as he can (more on that here and here). I expect Harbaugh to implement similar concepts at Michigan, where the power running game should open up options for the quarterback to create the type of big plays that we didn't see last season.
[After the jump: someone will take Butt/Bunting. Eventually.]
Derrick Walton came out for warmups, limped around on his injured toe, and exited early to the locker room. He'd emerge in sweats, out for a critical game against Nebraska and their stout defense.
You'd have been excused for assuming the worst at that point. Michigan not only found a way to win, though, they did so comfortably, relying on defense and contributions from players who weren't even expected to see significant minutes when the season started.
The Wolverines stifled the Huskers while switching up defensive schemes regularly; star Terran Petteway was totally off his game, going 1/11 from the field to finish with just seven points. Nebraska started cold and couldn't snap out of it, missing contested shot after contested shot. High scorer Shavon Shields even required 16 shot equivalents to tally his 14 points.
With Walton sidelined, Michigan needed a big performance from Zak Irvin, and he came through not only with his scoring—a team-high 14—but also with career highs in rebounds (12) and assists (3). Irvin's effort on the boards covered for Walton's usual contributions in that regard.
The play of a pair of freshmen was just as encouraging. Aubrey Dawkins had an efficient 13 points on seven shots, hitting three triples and two midrange jumpers off curl cuts that were eerily reminiscent of GRIII's pet shot. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added nine, helping Michigan pull away in the second half with a pair of impressive transition finishes and a tough and-one. His burst to the basket stood out in a season when Michigan has struggled to get to the rim.
Max Bielfeldt continued his recent solid play with a 12-point, nine-rebound performance; four of those boards came on offense as he simply outworked Nebraska's bigs. His performance proved critical as Ricky Doyle had a quiet 14 minutes and Mark Donnal missed the game due to illness.
Michigan's taken lump after lump and yet have somehow pushed through to 6-3 in the Big Ten. Given the circumstances, this may have been the most impressive win so far. With a collection of walk-ons and freshmen supporting Irvin, the Wolverines blew out a Nebraska squad that entered with the second-stingiest defense in the conference.
While expectations have lowered significantly with Caris LeVert out for the year and Walton hobbled, this team has become... fun? Yeah, let's go with fun.
Another game, another backbreaking loss. (Source)
Your Weekly B1G Hoops Column
Since the B1G typically doesn’t have conference games on Mondays, might as well move this column to Tuesdays for good.
Table of Contents
Week IV Results
Post-Week IV Standings
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Player of the Week: D’Angelo Russell
Efficiency Scatterplot From Conference Games
Michigan’s Week That Was
Michigan’s Week Ahead
Week V Schedule
1. Week IV Results
Poor Damn Northwestern.
After jumping out to a 21-10 lead at home against Ohio State, they let the Buckeyes take control of the game – Northwestern was able to tie the game with about four minutes left, but D’Angelo Russell was too much to contain and they eventually lost by two. They led for almost the entire contest against Maryland on the road and squandered an 11-point lead with less than four minutes left in the game. This was the final sequence:
The final sequence of Northwestern' s crushing loss at Maryland. https://t.co/8qNDeRSxnO
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) January 26, 2015
The loss to Ohio State was brutal; the loss to Maryland was absolutely soul-crushing. Northwestern needs an exorcism or something.
Elsewhere – Wisconsin absolutely murdered Iowa, Indiana beat Maryland at home only to turn around and lose to Ohio State on the road; Wisconsin came away with a tough OT win against Michigan; Nebraska held serve at home with two narrow wins over Minnesota and Michigan State.
2. Post-Week IV Standings
Wisconsin’s still the class of the conference (as evidenced by their excellent efficiency margin), but they haven’t managed to distance themselves after four weeks of conference play because of the unfathomable loss to Rutgers.
Maryland and Indiana are the two lurkers – Indiana’s excellent offense is offset by their permissive defense; Maryland is the inverse. Wisconsin only plays each team once: Maryland on the road, Indiana at home. Whether either are legitimate challengers is certainly up for debate (I personally think Wisconsin’s still the overwhelming favorite), but the conference race has been more entertaining than it was supposed to be, at least.
Ohio State and Michigan State have the best efficiency margins behind Wisconsin – and they’re quite a ways behind the Badgers – though both have already gotten three losses in conference play (along with four other teams at either 5-3 or 4-3 overall). With Wisconsin’s likely dominance (they’re projected to get to 15 conference wins by Ken Pomeroy’s algorithm), those two might be out of the race already.
The race for second place should be a dogfight, and there’s little clarity there, as seven teams are within a game and a half of Maryland. All of them – except for Michigan – have an efficiency margin at or above even; none have an efficiency margin better than +0.07.
3. Team of the Week: Wisconsin
This picture is incredible. (Source)
Wisconsin’s offense is nothing short of amazing. Even without senior point guard Traevon Jackson, the Badgers are a ruthless, efficient machine. Bronson Koenig has aptly stepped into the starting role running the show; Frank Kaminsky is perhaps exceeding the lofty expectations that accompanied him into the season; Sam Dekker is showing off his NBA potential (and efficiently, at that); Nigel Hayes, Josh Gasser, and the rest of the Badgers are all playing well.
Here are the most efficient players in the Big Ten during conference play:
Hayes is the most efficient player in the Big Ten with a significant usage – Aaron White, Yogi Ferrell, Rayvonte Rice follow him – and Kaminsky and Dekker are fifth and sixth respectively. Overall, having 5 players in the top 13 is just absurd, and Wisconsin’s methodical offense is as surgical as ever.
Their win over Iowa – a Top 25 contest, nationally televised on ESPN – was a complete ass-whupping; Wisconsin scored an unbelievable 1.52 points per possession, and, if not for their customarily slow pace, it could have been an even worse blowout. It had the fingerprints of classic Wisconsin basketball (turnover avoidance on offense, foul avoidance on defense – which really hurt Iowa), but it’s hard to remember a time that they played a better game than this against fairly quality competition.
The Badgers averted an upset in Ann Arbor – the game was incredibly slow (which benefits the underdog), but after Wisconsin opened up with a quick run to start overtime, Michigan couldn’t claw back again. It was an underwhelming performance against a much lesser opponent, but credit to Wisconsin for holding on in a tough road environment and defeating the reigning conference champions in their only meeting this season.
Previously: Iowa (Week III), Maryland (Week I), Rutgers (Week II)
[Hit the jump for the rest of the article]
Gentry vs Malzone: FIGHT
Quarterback recruiting policies.
I know that Harbaugh has every right to recruit his own personnel, but considering that Malzone is already on campus, did he just get royally screwed? If he never suits up, can he transfer without having to sit out?
The idea that a quarterback would be screwed over by the addition of another guy at his position in the same class is Hoke-era thinking that should be quickly discarded. Wilton Speight doesn't seem to mind:
Boom!! Loading the stable! #goblue
— Wilton Speight (@WiltonSpeight) January 25, 2015
sent in the immediate aftermath of Gentry's commit
Every other position sees fierce battles; QB should be no different. And even if Malzone is put off by the idea of sharing a spot in the class with Gentry, I think that's more than offset by the idea of getting coached by Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch.
FWIW, Malzone could transfer after his first semester at Michigan. He would have to redshirt and then would be a redshirt freshman wherever he ended up, as Steven Threet was when he fled Paul Johnson's triple option system at Georgia Tech.
The more likely exit scenario for the quarterbacks who find themselves down the depth chart in the midst of cutthroat competition is to get a degree in three years and then transfer with two years to play two. An increasing number of elite QB recruits are throwing themselves in grinders like Michigan's with that idea in their back pocket. If Michigan is going to take two QBs a year that should be part of the pitch: the least you leave here with is a Michigan degree and three years of kickass coaching. Malzone has a head start on that with his early enrollment.
By the way, with reports that elite CA QB KJ Costello is heavily interested in Michigan, this could be the respective first two QB recruiting years of Hoke and Harbaugh:
- Hoke: Russell Bellomy.
- Harbaugh: Malzone, Gentry, DeWeaver, Costello.
That's one three star previously committed to Purdue versus what is probably four four-star recruits. (Hoke did recruit Malzone but Malzone is a block-M true believer who stuck with his plan to enroll early despite Michigan not having a coach at that juncture.) One of the major reasons the Hoke list is so short is that in deference to Shane Morris they didn't take another quarterback in his year… or the year in front of him. That was a disastrous decision. Let's not do that any more.
Harbaugh won't: at Stanford he took an average of two QBs a year.
Two stars bad. More stars good.
@mgoblog with so many high end prospects out there showing interest,why are we pursuing 2 ⭐️players at any position right now?
— Tessmer (@TyTessmer) January 25, 2015
There are only a couple guys on the board who fit that description: recent OH OL commit Nolan Ulizio and as-yet-unoffered FL CB Markel Bush. Everyone else is at least a three star and—unlike many of the transitional Hoke recruits—courted by or committed to high level BCS schools. (Hoke got decommits from Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Minnesota; Harbaugh has flipped guys from Texas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.) So Harbaugh is already doing well.
As for the two stars, Bush is clearly a backup plan in case they don't get two of the four guys they've offered (Iman Marshall,
Will Lockett, Damon Arnette, and Jarius Adams). Ulizio is an offensive lineman. Offensive linemen are less likely to fulfill recruiting expectations than any other position, and as you say Michigan had opportunities to look at other, more highly-rated guys. They passed. Is that a concern?
…let's cool it on the judgy bits just yet.
[After THE JUMP: Marrow, length of tenure, Dymonte Thomas, sloxen, Gary Danielson email]