M's narrow loss to Maryland leaves them with work to do. [Paul Sherman]
When we last checked in on Michigan's NCAA Tournament chances, the Wolverines needed to take care of business against Northwestern and perhaps add another quality win to feel secure about their standing heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan accomplished part one last night, which has kept them on the right side of the bubble; they're still searching for that statement win.
The resumé as it currently stands:
Record: 20-9 (19-9 vs. D-I), 10-6 Big Ten
RPI Strength of Schedule: 68
KP SOS: 59
RPI Top-50: 3-8
RPI 51-100: 1-1
RPI 101+: 15-0
Since the last update, NC State has inched inside the RPI top 100 at #99, at least temporarily providing Michigan with a fourth win over such a squad. Northwestern (#105) and Penn State (#108) could give them three more top-100 wins with strong finishes to the season; while the cutoff is arbitrary, it stands out when committee members are sifting through a pile of spreadsheets.
[Hit THE JUMP for a look at updated brackets and your weekend rooting guide.]
The MGoRadio Show at Moe's 100th Birthday party last year.
This is not sponsored editorial, but it's editorial about a sponsor. I didn't tell Rishi I was even going to write this until like 10 minutes ago.
If you're not familiar with the history of collegiate sports apparel, here's a brief version: People used to go to sporting events in whatever their normal clothes were. Then in 1934 a sports apparel salesman walked into Moe's in Ann Arbor, and together they decided to sew big block M's on sweaters and sell them to Michigan fans.
When Moe retired he sold the store to Harold Trick, who had worked in the store for most of a decade, and adopted Moe's view that the campus sports shop should be part of the fabric of the Ann Arbor community. A generation later Trick sold it to Bud VanDeWege, who passed it on to his son, who was at that time the UM Women's Basketball Coach. Bud wanted to sell Moe's in 2010 to pursue other opportunities, but only to the right people who would continue that tradition of investment in the community as a whole.
If you're at all familiar with the history of MGoBlog you'll know it started as something Brian did in his spare time while holding down a "real" job, and that at some point in 2007-'08 that transitioned into his real job. A big part of that transition was Rishi Narayan and Ryan Gregg of Underground Printing coming on as a full-time sponsor of this site. They've been the difference ever since.
They are extremely good dudes who built UGP on the premise of if you help cool small businesses and charities around this town that everyone wants, people will buy shirts and stuff from you. When Bud Jr. was ready to sell the place where sports apparel began, the place that literally invented referee stripes, the place where Jim Harbaugh would spend all the money he'd saved raking leaves as a kid, the obvious guys to sell to were right there on everything from the local robotics competition, to Pear, to high school field hockey, and the local sports team's blogs.
From our t-shirt store, to our annual book, and even the short-lived radio show last year, all of these things were possible because Rishi and Ryan wanted them to succeed. If you spend enough time around Ann Arbor you can't miss them. They're the guy on a fold-out chair at a local gardening event who supplied the t-shirts to the volunteers. They're the guy with the glorious beard whose kid is dancing on the Crisler fan cam. They're our guys, and this site literally couldn't be our livelihoods without them.
So when this came in my email today:
I thought it as good a day as any to remind you that if you're going to buy Michigan stuff to wear to Michigan things, you should buy it from them.
By the way, our shirts are part of that "everything" that's 30% off this week. Use the same code— FEB30 —through Feb. 30 to stock up on whatever shirt you missed from this season. Like…
If you've ever got an idea for a shirt (and it doesn't violate copyright or NCAA rules) email me—Seth @ [this site].com—and if we got something I'll pass it on to Rishi. Either way, when you're next in Ann Arbor, stop in the store and tell the owners thank you for MGoBlog.
Tell me about this O'Korn future. [Eric Upchurch]
The Question: Five things you want to hear coming out of spring practices?
1. De'Veon Smith is not missing holes that do exist. After struggling most of the year with hitting holes with consistency, Smith appeared to get 'Lasik Surgery' before the Citrus Bowl. He definitely had his best game of the season in terms of vision. Hopefully, it was not just against a defense that was checked out and it will be obvious as Spring Practice picks up. Also, hopefully, the offensive line, who has mostly been together for a few years, will give him something to see.
2. John O'Korn's decision-making is ahead of schedule. With Gentry apparently moving to TE and Peters taking his first reps as a collegian, it should be O'Korn's job to lose. He's always had the arm and measurables. The only question has been his head. Making the right reads and understanding the offense early in Spring will be a great sign.
3. Devin Bush Jr's reactions are impressive. With Ben Gedeon being the only LB left on the roster to see significant playing time, snaps at LB are wide open. DBJ fits Don Brown's LB profile very well. He also enrolled early for a reason. There's a good chance Michigan will need him to play right away. Usually the main issue with young players is the speed of the game. If he's reading and reacting well from the get-go, that will be a very encouraging sign.
4. No new serious injuries. Injuries in football are usually unavoidable. Two of the past 3 seasons Michigan has had a devastating Spring injury (Ryan in '13 and Butt in '14). It was very nice to not have one of those in 2015 -although, Mone was lost in Fall Camp. I would be happy with a major injury-free Spring.
5. The attitude around the program is not winning but dominating. Time for my #hottake. In Spring Training of '86, Davey Johnson told the Mets that he didn't expect them beat teams but to dominate them. The Mets put some pieces together in '84 and '85, but they didn't put together final piece or have the experience of knowing what to expect down the stretch. After keeping things close initially, the Mets blew the doors off the league in the 2nd half and had one of the most dominating teams in last half century.
This is the attitude that I expect from Team 137. They played well last season but were just not good enough in a few crucial moments. If you think that multiple guys turned down the NFL just for a B10 title, you're crazy. This team is talented enough, they're deep enough, they have the experience, now. There is no reason to think that anyone they play is legit better. I don't want to just see them beat the opposition. I'd like to see them dominate the game play.
[Hit THE JUMP for what else we're ready to hear]
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) February 25, 2016
I doubt any Michigan basketball fan is quite as excited as the team's official account, but despite a hideous start and an underwhelming game in general, the Wolverines kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
For that they can thank Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the only consistent offensive force for Michigan, which played in front of a subdued and sparse crowd of brave souls undeterred by the winter storm. Rahkman scored 19 points and made 8/12 shots inside the arc as he gained the paint again and again.
Michigan's early energy matched that of the audience. Northwestern jumped out to a 10-0 lead; the Wolverines missed their first eight shots—including five by Duncan Robinson alone on a series of good looks—before Zak Irvin finally snapped the dry spell with a layup nearly six minutes in.
Certified Wolverine-killer Alex Olah kept the Wildcats comfortably ahead for most of the half, with Rahkman the main reason Michigan remained within striking distance, before the Wolverines crept back into it despite their shooting woes. Robinson hit the team's first three-pointer just before the first-half buzzer sounded; at that moment it looked like Michigan would pull away when they found their rhythm in the second stanza.
Instead, the second half began much like the first. Northwestern opened with an 8-0 run keyed by back-to-back Aaron Falzon triples before Rahkman stemmed the tide with a layup. Rahkman finally got some help in the form of Aubrey Dawkins, who seemingly found the shot Robinson has lost. His two three-pointers in the span of three possessions tied the game midway through the half. After the two squads went toe-to-toe for five minutes, Dawkins gave the home team the lead for good with his third triple after running the floor off his own defensive rebound.
Rahkman had one more big play, putting back his own miss to extend the lead to five, and the Wolverines were able to ice the game at the line—Derrick Walton (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) went 6/6 from the charity stripe down the stretch.
While this game won't blow away the committee by any stretch, Michigan managed to avoid a resumé-crippling loss. It's become a common refrain this season: in a home game against a crummy opponent, the Wolverines made it look tougher than it should've been. They probably need to win one of the final two games against Wisconsin and Iowa if they want to make the tournament. They definitely need to play better to do so.
Offense impressions, year one
I attended the DC event you did over the summer where you talked about what to expect from a Harbaugh offense. Now that there is a season's worth of data, do you have any plans to revisit and do a compare and contrast on that? I'm curious what new wrinkles can be attributed to Fisch, opponent specific stuff, or just flat out integrating plays he likes, as a way of understanding how he evolves his approach.
That's a conversation for next year. It will be interesting to see how Michigan's philosophy changes going forward; right now I the only things I have to compare it to are NFL offenses in a vastly different competitive environment and a five-year-old Stanford team with a largely different braintrust.
Meanwhile it'll probably take another year before the Death Star is even vaguely operational. You could see the outlines of the things Harbaugh wants to do, but it's always much easier to see what the shape of a thing is when it works as intended. Michigan's ground game didn't do that enough to get a feel for the shape of he whole thing.
One thing that did stand out was the week-to-week diversity of formations and plays. Michigan had a T-formation package last seen in college football decades ago; they had a week where they ran a handful of zone read; they fiddled with some diamond formations. While the wrinkles didn't always add up to much in year one, they do speak to Harbaugh's philosophy: he wants to constantly show you things that make you uncomfortable and get you to bust a run fit.
It's mostly the same for the offensive line. They get a call and they execute the call. Those calls are almost always standard power, inside zone, or outside zone. The only things that Michigan did that they didn't do much under previous staffs were quick trap pulls.
Harbaugh puts a bunch of window dressing around it and uses his blocky/catchy types to spring the surprises. Going forward I am guessing you are going to see a high priority put on RB/TE/FB types who are highly intelligent, because the bulk of the week-to-week changes are on them. I think that's a major reason Michigan's PWO class is heavy on high-academic blocky/catchy types—there might be an Owen Marecic lurking in there.
[After THE JUMP: extensive takes on the envelope pushing and overall grades for Hoke]
Northwestern (17-10, 5-9 B1G) at
Michigan (19-9, 9-6)
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -7 (KenPom)|
Right: Alex Olah, a candidate for the “wait, this guy is still playing?” award that would have been Spike Albrecht’s [Upchurch]
Caris LeVert is out for the third consecutive game, though Beilein has evidently not ruled out a potential return sometime later this season. Spike Albrecht is apparently doing some work in practice, but his return seems even unlikelier.
Michigan currently checks in as a ten-seed in the latest bracket matrix update; with the Wolverines in the suspect position of having its best bullet point on its resume be “no bad losses,” a home loss to Northwestern would be disastrous. With three regular season games remaining – at home against Northwestern, at Wisconsin, at home against Iowa – Michigan’s best chance of getting a win that would lock up a winning record in conference play is tonight.
It’s debatable if Michigan can get into the Dance with just two more wins total (including what will probably be a relatively easy Big Ten Tournament opener), but in almost any scenario, they need to beat Northwestern to avoid putting their tournament hopes in serious peril.
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||30||Bryant McIntosh||So.||6'3, 185||87||25||No|
|Only Wildcat with a high assist rate (2nd B1G); eFG % has plummeted in B1G play|
|G||3||Tre Demps||Sr.||6’3, 202||91||23||Yes|
|Off-guard often forced to create late in shot clock, low TO, better at 2’s than 3’s|
|F||34||Sanjay Lumpkin||Jr.||6’6, 220||58||11||Sorta|
|Wallflower with just 79 FGA, terrible combo of efficiency and usage|
|F||35||Aaron Falzon||Fr.||6’8, 213||60||18||Not Really|
|Active on offensive glass, mostly shoots 3’s but only at 34%, low turnovers|
|C||22||Alex Olah||Sr.||7’0, 275||44||23||Very|
|Has dealt with injuries, but still a good rim protector, efficient scorer on offense|
|G||20||Scottie Lindsey||So.||6’5, 205||46||18||No|
|Other half of SF platoon w/Lumpkin, Northwestern’s best shooter at 41% from 3|
|F||44||Gavin Skelly||So.||6’8, 225||27||16||Very|
|Good rebounding rates in limited minutes, efficient from 2, rarely shoots|
|C||1||Joey Van Zegeren||Sr.||6’10, 235||26||20||Very|
|Great on off. glass, iffy on def. glass, bad at FT, blocks shots, fouls a lot|
|C||12||Derek Pardon||Fr.||6’8, 230||25||19||Very|
|Classic freshman big guy profile: rebounds well, fouls a lot, only 2’s (but at 67%)|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]