mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Die, work productivity! Die before the might of The Great Thursday of the Basketballing (also: hockey), and the grilling of former football players on things of interest.
The Celebrity Mods: By seniority, Todd Howard (CB, 1998-'01); Brandon Williams (CB, 1999-'02), who wrangled them all together; Tim Massaquoi (WR/TE, 2001-'05); Jordan Kovacs# (S, 2009-'12); and Michael Schofield (OL, 2009-'13). They'll be in and out throughout the day.
# = never gets to live it down.
The Sponsor: As they did last year, our official fantasy game partner DraftStreet stepped up. If you're getting bored between games today, head on over to their dashboard and sign up for any of their games. That link goes to the NBA one I just started. Or just check in on your team for the $40k (or $20k if you came late) tourney we've been on about all week.
The Cause: We've got a bunch of former players coming by today to answer your questions, yap about the ballgames with you, and support the Go Blue Bowl, on April 4.
Flier (click to see list of players attending, etc.):
It's a series of evening flag football games at Pioneer between teams coached by former Michigan players. Two teams will be made up of sponsors and you can still get in on that. The event benefits Marlin Jackon's Fight for Life Foundation.
The Schedule: As we get going it'll be general discussion time while the Ohio State-Dayton (12:15) and Wisconsin-American (12:40) are on, continuing that through Pitt-Colorado (1:40), and Cincy-Harvard (2:10). At 3pm we'll switch to the hockey game vs Penn State, go to Michigan State's game after that, and that should carry us to the Michigan-Wofford game tonight.
GO BLUE! Always.
Iowa State - #3 Seed, East
Other than the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style rolling boulder of death that is Michigan State, it’s a pretty favorable draw for Iowa State. They get North Carolina Central, North Carolina Classic, and Villanova (which is probably in North Carolina, but I don’t feel like checking). They have the horses to run with anyone (Melvin Ejim was the Big 12 player of the year over Andrew Wiggins). I’ve got them in the Final Four, despite none of these games being played at Hilton.
Dook - #3 Seed, Midwest
If both survive, Michigan will meet Duke in the Sweet 16. This one will be in Indianapolis, which is a long way from Cameron. That should help. But Jabari Parker will be there. So that won’t help.
Arizona - #1 Seed, West
The tournament’s second overall seed, they might kind of have a cakewalk through their region. Wisconsin hasn’t been past the Sweet 16 in a decade. Neither San Diego State nor Oklahoma is particularly scary. Creighton has the potential to be an aerial death-bringer, but if Doug McDermott doesn’t have four good nights in a row it’s hard to see Creighton in the Final Four, and four good nights in a row is asking a lot.
I wouldn’t worry too much about late season losses to Oregon and to UCLA in the PAC 12 tournament; this is a team that seems to have found some balance and returned to form.
Stanford - #10 Seed, South
Stanford returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six seasons, ensuring in the process that Michigan DID beat a tournament team in the non-conference schedule. Their opening round matchup with New Mexico features two of the biggest teams in the country. If they survive that matchup, they get also-tall (though Embiid-less) Kansas. Tough to see them making it to the Sweet 16, but they probably accomplished their goal for the season, so it’s house money from here on in.
Florida State #1-seed, NIT
In Which We Look At Brackets
To clarify, this is NOT A RANKING, and should not be deemed an attempt to supplant the wisdom of Angry Michigan KenPom Defiance Hating God. It is simply a rundown of tournament teams, and the natural way to list such teams is by seed order.
Again, for the avoidance of doubt: not a ranking. Just a list. Organized by seed.
Michigan - #2 Seed, Midwest
Opening Round: vs. #15 Wofford. The Terriers were 20-12 in the Southern Conference. They have one KenPom top-200 win this year… against #200 Elon. Ace has you covered with a preview, but sufficed to say that this one is not scary, which should scare you, because it is March.
The Draw: Gets the winner of Texas/
Kansas Arizona State [ED: Must avenge bowl game...] in the second round, probably #3 Duke in the Sweet 16, and probably the winner of #1 Wichita State and #4 Louisville in the Elite 8.
Thing: It’s a rough draw to after the opening weekend, that’s for damn sure. My theory is that the Committee basically said that if they HAD to give Wichita State a 1-seed, they would. And they threw them in a region with their second highest 2 seed (a team that was in the running for a 1-seed like an hour before the brackets came out), and their highest-rated 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 seeds. Subtle, that.
Thing They Are Like: A team with some unfinished business.
[AFTER THE JUMP: More teams playing in various tournaments. Also Indiana]
Even though Devin Funchess is
more of a wide receiver these days, the tight end position is once again a prominent piece in the Michigan offense. Jake Butt had great success as a true freshman and Ian Bunting looks like a Funchess-style matchup problem who could grow into a combo star in the future. The 2015 class for Michigan is expected to be around 15 or so and the coaches would like for two of those spots to go to tight ends. At this point five tight ends have been offered and two of them do seem like possible eventual commits. There are multiple others who have been in contact with the coaches to some degree and may earn an offer moving forward.
Devonaire Clarington – Champagnat Catholic – Hialeah, FL (★★★★ .9535)
Clarington is a Funchess-type of athlete at 6’6” and just over 220 lbs. and could be the same type of weapon at the next level. While he holds a Michigan offer I don’t see much of a chance he ends up in Ann Arbor. Clarington told me that he hears the most from Miami, living just miles from campus it’s easy to understand why. He also said this his entire recruitment is extremely difficult to sort through. He says that he has no leader and all teams are even right now, but I’m pretty confident that Ann Arbor won’t be his future home.
Chris Clark – Avon Old Farms – Avon, CT (★★★★ .9386)
Chris Clark surprised a lot of people by committing to North Carolina just a few days ago, including me. I intro’d Chris back in December when he only had 10 offers, a list that didn’t include Michigan at the time and when he committed he had over 40. I had actually been in pretty regular contact with Chris as he was set to visit Ann Arbor this upcoming weekend and I didn’t get the slightest feeling that the Tarheels had a chance with him. I actually thought he’d be a Wolverine, Buckeye, or a Sun Devil based on our conversations. He told me that in the end North Carolina just felt like home to him when he visited. He also cited the way that UNC uses their tight ends as a reason he liked them and that the recent success of Eric Ebron was a good testament to that. Chris was really looking forward to his visit to Ann Arbor but the charm of Chapel Hill won him over before the visit happened.
Hale Hentges – Helias – Jefferson City, MO (★★★★ .9378)
Hentges told me that he and Chris Clark are actually close friends and talked about their recruitment weekly and even he was surprised by Clark’s commitment to Carolina. That being said, Hentges may be the new top target for Michigan and they are preparing for his visit the weekend of April 4th. Hentges actually spoke with Coach Ferrigno the day I spoke with him and he said he was getting anxious to check out Ann Arbor. Hentges rattled off an unofficial top 5 of Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, and LSU when I asked him what schools he was serious about. He plans to visit all of those schools and possibly a few others. Hentges will not camp at Michigan this summer be he said he would like to see a game during the fall. Competition will be stiff for him, but his upcoming visit to Ann Arbor could really help Michigan’s chances.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. – Canisius – Buffalo, NY (★★★★ .9252)
“TJ” as he’s known, is thought of by most as a virtual Michigan lock, but everything he has ever told me doesn’t necessarily support that. He was very open with me when I asked him about his recruitment.
I have no leaders or favorites. My recruitment is still wide open and I’m talking to new schools every day. I was recently offered by Louisville and Auburn so I’m still just trying to get to know everyone and see all of my options. I’m still not even sure if I want to play tight end or defensive end at the next level.
247Sports has 25 Crystal Ball predictions for Wheatley Jr. and 100% of them say Michigan is the future spot for him. I asked him about that and asked him to clarify why “expert opinions” are so strong in favor of the Wolverines and his answer was pretty interesting.
I mean they probably think that because my dad played there and I have lived there, but you’d really have to ask them how they came up with that because I’ve honestly never spoken to any of them. I myself wonder sometimes how they come up with that stuff. I mean I have talked with some of the Michigan guys (I mentioned Lorenz, Webb, Sullivan) but not in a while, but there’s like 25+ predictions. I’ve talked with like four people.
Wheatley Jr. says he’d like to take officials but won’t know where to until much later in the process. He is not looking that far ahead yet, he’s just trying to succeed in the now.
It obviously wouldn’t surprise anyone if Wheatley Jr. eventually did choose Michigan, but I don’t believe it’s 100% guaranteed like many might think. TJ has a stacked offer list and Michigan isn’t the only place he could make an impact.
Jalen Wilkerson – Coffee – Douglas, GA (★★★ .8845)
Wilkerson is a Georgia product that doesn’t appear to be leaving the south as 247Sports says he’s high on Florida State, Auburn, and Alabama. Wilkerson hasn’t responded to me recently and his name is almost never brought up in Michigan circles. He doesn’t appear to be a realistic option.
[after the jump: targets]
Michigan (25-8, 15-3 B1G) vs.
Wofford (20-12, 11-5 SoCon)
|WHERE||Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI|
|WHEN||7:10 pm Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -12 (KenPom)|
Win or go home.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||2||Karl Cochran||Jr.||6'1, 175||79%||29%||No|
|SoCon Trey Burke: huge usage, excellent A:TO, post-like DREB. Make him shoot twos.|
|G||5||Eric Garcia||Fr.||5'11, 170||63%||15%||Not at all|
|46% from deep but took only 82. Not just a shooter: assists. Make him shoot twos.|
|G||32||Spencer Collins||So.||6'4, 195||77%||22||Yes|
|Driver hits 49/30% on 2s/3s. Low TO rate, gets to line.|
|F||34||Lee Skinner||Jr.||6'6, 220||82%||23||Very|
|DREB machine at 6'6 probably SoCon artifact. Gets to line a lot. Not a shooter.|
|F||31||CJ Neumann||So.||6'7, 230||50%||12||Very|
|Doesn't shoot much but is 64% from two. FT% terrible, foul if in dangerous spot.|
|F||24||Justin Gordon||So.||6'6, 205||45||21||Very|
|Other post-type substance pounds offensive boards. Another horrible FT%.|
|G||20||Jaylen Allen||Fr.||6'3, 180||33||21||No|
|Like Garcia, but slightly worse everywhere.|
|G||3||John Swinton||Jr.||6'2, 185||25||10||Very|
|Drink if he takes a shot, let alone makes one.|
Cochran is the Wofford offense.
Wofford's offense revolves around 6'1" guard Karl Cochran exactly as much as Michigan's previous team revolved around Trey Burke. Cochran's SoCon Burke impression is fair, but he struggles inside the three-point arc (43%) and doesn't have Burke's astronomical assist rates. He is still a multifaceted guard who will be tough to check for Michigan's wonky perimeter defense. He's just a 29% shooter on two point jumpers, so run him off the line and live with the consequences if you have to.
Eric Garcia is not quite a Designated Corner Gunner mostly on volume. Normally a guy hitting 46% gets off 200 or so if he wants to be a DCG; Garcia is well under that. His height is a limiting factor. He's by far the most efficient Terrier, so limiting his attempts will be key. Stauskas likely to check him because he's the least threatening Terrier guard on a drive, but Michigan will be switching so much it won't matter.
Wofford has three "posts" that range from 6'6" to 6'7". None of these guys has three point range. All rebound well in the SoCon context; CJ Neumann and Justin Gordon are extremely bad FT shooters should they grab a putback opportuniy. Lee Skinner is a more frequent and more notable presence; he is a frequent recipient of Cochran assists under the basket and makes a respectable 63% at the rim.
6'4" guard Spencer Collins is a slasher more likely to create his own shot than anyone other than Cochran, and he's pretty good on two point jumpers. Unless he starts going Shannon Scott on Michigan, sagging off him and responding is the likely recipe. Likely to draw Caris LeVert defensively with Walton on Cochran.
Aside from Gordon, the third post-type guy, Wofford's bench is short. Very short. Like one guy short. That guy is Jaylen Allen, a freshman who shoots decently (45/38%) on normal usage. He doesn't get to the line or assist much and turns the ball over quite a bit. The only other Terrier to see time is John Swinton, who has a total of 33 FGAs on the year.
As mentioned in a previous post, Wofford has struggled against teams approaching Michigan's stature even when we take the most liberal possible view of stature:
Wofford's ventures into the Kenpom 100 have not gone well. At all:
- #75 Georgia: L 72-52
- #76 Iona: L 76-55
- #57 Minnesota: L 79-57
- #34 Saint Louis: L 66-52
- #12 VCU: L 72-57
All of these games were double-digit losses, as were Wofford's two conference matchups against #118 Davidson. In their only other game against a team in the top 200 on Kenpom they lost to William and Mary by three, at home.
All of those games against the top 100 were on the road, for what it's worth. Not much when the closest game is a 14-point loss.
A closer look at the Minnesota game is in order since you're familiar with the Gophers. Minnesota put up 79 by shooting 61% from two, with just about everyone contributing an above-50% performance. Wofford stayed somewhat in contact by getting 18(!) offensive rebounds but shot 38%/19% from the floor. Cochran came off the bench (discplinary?) and hit just 3 of 13 shots. Minnesota blocked a whopping 12 Wofford attempts.
When not playing teams in the top 100, the Terriers finished 11-5 in the SoCon, tied for third.
UPDATE: Ace provides his graphs.
Wofford is a grim offensive team that is respectable defensively. They finished second in the league on both offense and defense, so it's safe to say that it's their offense that bogs down against higher level competition. When they've got the ball:
- They don't shoot many threes despite being a whole lot better at hitting those than hitting twos.
- They rarely get to the free throw line, and rarely hit their FTAs when they do get there.
- They're okay at rebounding.
- They don't turn it over much.
- They do everything fairly well except defend twos and block shots.
- They prevent three pointers from being launched and don't let a lot of them go in.
The Minnesota game suggests that driving to the basket is going to be there. Wofford has even less shot-blocking than Michigan does, possibly less shot blocking than any other team in the tournament.
Wofford is a really slow team—only 14 percent of their shots are in transition. That plays into Michigan's hands.
All eyes on Cochran. He's their alpha and omega, and that usually means you can clamp down a guy
Defeat their rebounding. For such a short team, Wofford rebounds well. They're nationally average on offense and quite good on D; they were third and second, respectively, in conference. Michigan is as good on defense as the Terriers against a slightly different schedule and is not good at offensive rebounding.
With turnovers projected to be low, rebounding will be the main source of shot advantage.
Be patient and drive the ball. Against a fierce defensive team that forces a lot of turnovers, quick long-ish shots are defensible with Michigan's lineup of shooters. Against a team with no inside presence that apparently emphasizes preventing threes, Michigan should probe for at least 20 seconds before defaulting to shooting mode.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 12.
Previously: Enter The Terrier (Wofford)
This is not a jinx, as KenPom predicts Michigan will make the round of 32, and the KenPom Curse defeats all other curses by analytical submission.
Despite their placement in a loaded Midwest region, Michigan actually lucked out with their early draw. Not only is Wofford considered the weakest 15-seed in the field, Texas/Arizona State is the 7/10 matchup least likely to produce an upset—Nate Silver gives U-M the best odds of any two-seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
Silver has Texas/ASU as a 50-50 tossup, while KenPom gives the Longhorns a 52% chance at victory. While the game is a coin-flip, the teams involved look remarkably different. Here's an overview of Michigan's potential round of 32 opponents.
TEXAS (23-10, 11-7 Big 12)
The Longhorns are an unpredictable squad, having gone up against several top opponents this season with very mixed results. The above dunk came in a 12-point home win over #8 Kansas; on the return trip, however, the Jayhawks won by 31. Texas upended #26 North Carolina by three points in Chapel Hill; three days later, #10 Michigan State pulled away for a 14-point victory in Austin.
The Longhorns swept the regular-season series against #31 Baylor, then lost to them by 17 in the conference tournament, their fifth loss in the last eight games. That final stretch included a six-point loss at #86 Texas Tech, the worst team they fell to all season.
The unpredictability can be chalked up to a very iffy offense. Texas ranks 79th in the country in efficiency despite boasting the sixth-best offensive rebound rate (39.4%) in the country. That's because they can't shoot a lick: they're ranked 244th in 2P%, 266th in 3P%, and 285th in FT%. Six Longhorns have attempted at least 45 three-pointers this year—none shoots better than 35.4%, and their highest-volume shooter—5'11" shooting guard Javan Felix—is at 33.3% on 171 attempts.
Texas isn't winning a game of HORSE against Michigan even if Nik Stauskas decides to shoot exclusively left-handed. The Longhorns have the #36 defense in the country and they're 15th in 2P% against. They give up a very high percentage of three-point looks, however, and they start three guards ranging in size from 5'11" to 6'2" — not ideal for contesting Michigan's shooters.
6'9", 285-pound center Cameron Ridley is 50th nationally in OR%, 195th in DR%, 48th in block rate, 97th in fouls drawn, and 22nd in FT rate, per KenPom. Despite his considerable girth, he manages to play 63% of the team's available minutes. Ridley will be difficult to keep off the boards, and if officials are calling things tight, a Max Bielfeldt first-half cameo isn't out of the question. That'd be a worst-case scenario, as the only way I see Texas winning this particular matchup is by overwhelming Michigan on the boards.
While the rebounding is a concern, Texas's inability to shoot, lack of size on the perimeter, and the coaching mismatch of John Beilein against Rick Barnes lend me to believe this would be a game that very much favors Michigan.
[Hit THE JUMP for the outlook on Arizona State]