i would find this more credible if it was about Tom Crean
So, I guess at this point we can admit that Michigan isn’t very good this year. And that’s okay! We can’t be super awesome and really good every year, after all.
I figured that my writing’s been too obsessed with numbers and data lately – and to be perfectly honest, it bores me after a while too – and I thought I’d do something different from what I normally do with the conference weekly recaps, because why the hell not?
After a while, I decided to focus on ten of the most intriguing, good, talented, enigmatic, compelling, or otherwise notable players in the Big Ten and write about, well, what I think of them, what I think when I watch them play, and (to a certain extent) what they mean to me and the conference at-large. Basketball can be boiled down to numbers, but it should be an affective experience as well. So here’s that side of things. Don’t read it if you’re blinded by hatred for the enemy; don’t read it if you’re just gonna skim for Michigan players because there aren’t any (though Caris would be on here if he wasn’t hurt and oh, the sadness, it’s back).
Anyways, here we go. In no particular order (five today, five tomorrow):
The discourse surrounding Tom Izzo’s Michigan State is easily definable: national broadcasters and pundits wax poetically about the – for lack of a better term – blue-collar identity of the program; State has fully actualized this aesthetic in a way that plays to the mythology of their nickname’s namesake.
With most narratives, there’s a kernel of truth to this characterization of State basketball – Spartan teams are characteristically strong on the boards, content to try pounding the ball inside with strong big men, and generally physical defensively. Though State has strayed away from this style somewhat this year (with a backcourt of Travis Trice and Bryn Forbes for most of the game, it’s hard for MSU to play their preferred bully-ball), there’s still an artifact of that idealized version of Big Ten basketball: senior forward Branden Dawson, out of Gary, Indiana.*
A former five star, Dawson is probably not destined for the NBA. His game is still often maddeningly simple – he doesn’t have any range on his jumper; he can’t create from the perimeter (and, in general, can’t dribble productively in the half-court much at all). Between those two things and his lack of size at the four spot, he’d have to reinvent himself as a defensive stopper to even have an outside chance at the next level.
But man, Dawson stays in his lane and he does what he does as well as anyone. Even at 6’6, he’s the best rebounder in the conference, capable of cleaning the defensive glass and attacking missed MSU shots with reckless abandon. He can protect the rim from the weak-side; he jumps passing lanes seemingly out of nowhere (to trigger one-man fast-breaks, which he enjoys finishing with thunderous windmill dunks); and, though he lacks the lateral quickness to be a true lockdown perimeter defender, he’s as much of a menace on that end as anyone in the conference. In my opinion, he’s the easy choice for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He has a rudimentary post game – not that college players need much more than that – and often scores at the rim off of basket cuts or offensive boards. Aside from the highlight-reel dunks, he’s as workmanlike as they come.
East Lansing’s Sparta was built on the cornerstones of defense, rebounding, and tough interior play – over the past several years, it has been the most “Big Ten” program in the Big Ten, more or less. Branden Dawson won’t go down as one of the best players to suit up in the green and white during Izzo’s tenure, but there’s perhaps no better archetype for the ethos surrounding Izzo’s program.
*Of course Dawson is from a famously hardscrabble Rust Belt town. It fits his game perfectly.
Mini-Harden, The New Boss
Behold: Maryland’s first Big Ten star, freshman point guard Melo Trimble.
He might not be a star quite yet, but based off of his promising sample of games thus far – plus the expected improvement that he’ll experience over the course of his college career, Melo Trimble will – in all likelihood – be the first face of Maryland Hoops in the new era. Right now, he might not even be the best player on his own team (that could be senior combo guard Dez Wells), but he’s probably been the second-best freshman in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell.
Here’s a brief primer on Melo’s game, from Trimble himself:
“It’s just something I’ve been practicing, knowing how to draw the contact. I’ve just been learning since I’ve been watching NBA players like James Harden. When he gets to the basket, he knows how to draw the foul,” Trimble said. “I watch how he does it, and I put it into my game.”
Trimble’s game is positively Hardenesque, though he’s probably a four-year player and will never draw qualitative comparisons to one of the NBA’s MVP frontrunners. Still, stylistically, there are several points where Trimble’s film study pays dividends: like Harden, he gets to the free throw line at an absurd rate (and converts from the line); he attacks the rim well for a smaller player, though he’s not a great finisher yet; he eschews low-value mid-range shots; he can shoot well from behind the arc, off the dribble or off the catch; and, most of all, he can create for himself and others – a true combo guard, equal parts distributor and scorer.
My fear is that, like many other players who rely on drawing contact and heading to the free throw line, Trimble will develop a reputation – fair or unfair – for flopping. Harden’s flops are well-chronicled, and I’m hoping that Trimble doesn’t head in that direction – or worse, face criticism for imagined dives. He’ll be around for a while, so the Big Ten will have to get used to it.
The Terrapins are – and will be – the new guys for quite a while (though they do benefit from the conference-wide disdain of fellow newcomer Rutgers) and though they’ve had an illustrious basketball history with successes on par with many of their new conference rivals, they have to forge a new identity in the Big Ten. Melo Trimble will lead the charge, two free throws at a time.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Three more guys]
I changed up the format this week since the question was a seven-parter. A reminder of who everyone is:
- Brian: Blogger of mighty repute.
- Ace: Lead reporter, recruiting/basketball guy.
- Seth: Associate editor/site business guy
- BiSB: A funny person.
- Adam Schnepp: Press correspondent (Heiko's old job) and hockey guy.
- Alex Cook: Basketball correspondent
- Dave Nasternak: J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Lead Backend Logistics Strategist and Associate Vice President of Name Day Nittany Lion Taunting and Corporate Titlery (i.e. a responsible adult)
The Question Seven Questions:
Brian: Best recruit? Most important? Most likely to outperform ranking? Best name (nationally)? Guy who got away who will haunt you? Guy you are most irrationally enthusiastic about? Overall class hot take? Harbaugh?
BiSB: Brian Cole. He's a fantastic athlete, but more importantly Cole is a guy with speed in a position where, despite the assertions of some, SPEED IS A GOOD THING THAT CANNOT BE TAUGHT AND IS A GOOD THING. One caveat: Roquan Smith takes this category if he picks Michigan.
|Five votes for the superlative in-stater. [Allen Trieu/Scout]|
Seth: Brian Cole. In a terribly weak in-state class, this player this year was the perfect opportunity for Dantonio to flip the in-state script—no weird families or MSU connections or coaches who lock players in their cars during their Michigan visits or questionable transcripts.
AND he's a great player at two positions of need. Other than Borgesian leapers at receiver there's Canteen and Drake Harris's un-Dude hamstrings. Safety is an even greater need; if by some holy luck Peppers stays through 2018, Michigan would have two safeties in 2018. I'd gladly take Cole and four more just like him.
Adam Schnepp: Zach Gentry. I am an unabashed fan of gun-slinging giants who causes Physics and Anatomy to get into a fight over who left THAT loophole open. I think about fitting him into a Harbaugh-ffense and find myself chortling under my breath. If you're a commit who makes me chortle when thinking about your fit with Michigan's system then you too could be a contender for next year's Best Recruit.
Dave Nasternak: Probably Brian Cole. I can see arguments for Gentry, but I think that Cole is the best overall player, right now. And I think (hope?) he is the only member from this class who will not see a 2015 redshirt...if for no other reason than they just will not be able to keep him off of the field. There are a handful of places that he should be able to contribute early -WR, Returner, ST coverage, etc.
Ace: Another vote for Cole. He's such a good athlete that it's hard to imagine he won't end up contributing somewhere, and he's especially impactful with the ball in his hands.
Alex Cook: Brian Cole. The whole "the best players from Michigan go to Michigan" thing is, um, patently false, but there's a good chance that Cole will be the best homegrown recruit in this cycle. Oh, and he was a presumed State lean before committing to Michigan - and he stuck through the coaching change? Great. I'm sold.
Brian: I'm going with Zach Gentry. You do not get guys flying past safeties 50 yards downfield at 6'8" anywhere, and Gentry improved considerably over the course of his career. John Navarre running Buffalo 100 Meter Dash? I'll take it. Gentry has higher bust potential, yeah, but that upside. Yooooooo.
[Hit the jump for most important, sleeper, best names, the one that got away, and bloggers going squeeee]
So a business school student and his LSA buddy had a spectacularly bad idea. No, we don't need a new fight song to pair with The Victors, the best fight song in the long and storied history of fight songs. That suggestion alone is enough to make an idea very bad indeed, but what sets this bad idea apart is the details. Lord almighty, is this just the worst of ideas. Why?
WE ALREADY DID THIS. Remember "In The Big House"? Dave Brandon already tried this. When Dave Brandon tries something, it means you should never, ever try to do that thing again.
WHY IS THIS EVEN A GOAL?
“This project is meant to be, number one, extremely unique,” Weiss said. “The goal of this song is to get a lot of big names that are associated with the University.”
I'll try to ignore that the kid called his unoriginal and terrible idea "extremely unique" and address the idea that the University of Michigan needs "big names" associated with it.
I think we're good, thanks.
FINE, LET'S HEAR YOUR BIG NAMES.
While the song’s lyrics and tune are still undetermined, Weiss said it is the organization’s aim to involve big names in the music business and University alumni to contribute to the song. For example, he said Weinberg wants to get Eminem involved.
Weiss also said that David Banner, a rapper and music producer, has already agreed to produce the final product.
I'd laugh if not for the overwhelming feeling this guy is serious, which makes me quite sad. Let's start with Eminem.
- Not an alum! You probably knew that.
- In fact, his daughter goes to Michigan State.
- Peaked in 1999, hasn't made good music since 2002. His new music is basically the old music with more yelling, less novelty, worse production, and an unfortunate amount of auto-tune.
- Is gleefully misogynistic and homophobic in his music, which probably isn't the ideal way to represent the University.
- Charges in the neighborhood of $30-40K per verse, so not only is he a bad idea, he's an expensive bad idea.
In the other corner, we've got David Banner, who's from Jackson, Mississippi, and is inextricably associated with Southern rap. His solo career peaked in 2005 with the club single "Play" and he hasn't released a major label album since 2008. It's a little shocking that a current college student would suggest David Banner, because I feel old playing "Cadillac on 22's" in my car. I can't imagine most students associate the name David Banner with anything outside of the Incredible Hulk.
HERE'S WHAT AN EMINEM/DAVID BANNER COLLABORATION WOULD PROBABLY SOUND LIKE IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2015.
“The Victors” could soon have a modernistic younger sibling.
If a resolution presented to the Central Student Government on Tuesday night passes, the body will provide funding to a group of students looking to develop an additional thematic song to play at University athletics events.
Central Student Government.
I don't know who you are. If you're looking for jobs I can tell you I don't have any. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired from the internet. Skills that make me a nightmare for people who will be in job interviews with people who have googled you. If you vote this down unanimously, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for your facebook photos. I will not scour your instagram. But if you vote for this, I will find your linkedin. I will find your whole internet. And I will kill your search results.
dude annihilated his twitter page two seconds after I found it
The patient zeroes:
Business sophomore Adam Weiss, a representative on the CSG Assembly, spoke on behalf of the song campaign, which he called “Hail and Unite.” He said his friend, LSA senior Mike Weinberg, conceptualized the project.
“This project is meant to be, number one, extremely unique,” Weiss said. “The goal of this song is to get a lot of big names that are associated with the University.”
"Extremely unique." #expelAdamWeiss
NJ DT Rashan Gary may be M's most important target in the 2016 class.
Although the Roquan Smith decision looms, the recruiting focus has almost entirely turned to the 2016 class, one that comes with significant expectations for Jim Harbaugh. While there wasn't nearly enough time in the 2015 cycle for Harbaugh to make a huge splash, 2016 should be the class in which the results start meeting the hype.
With Michigan handing out a rash of new offers in the last couple weeks, this seemed like a good time to take some of your questions.
Biggest Positions Of Need
What do you see as the biggest position of need, outside of possibly quarterback? Our lack of weapons at WR, especially when compared to the elite teams last year, has me leaning that way.
While Michigan will certainly take a receiver or two—with a focus on pulling in a top-flight talent like Dylan Crawford—I don't see that group as the most pressing need in this class. There's plenty of talent on the depth chart left over from last year, and you shouldn't sleep on redshirt freshmen Drake Harris and Moe Ways; both have big-time ability.
Three position groups come to mind immediately. On offense, the O-line is in need of sheer numbers after Michigan took just five total in the last two classes—one of whom, Mason Cole, didn't redshirt and therefore may as well be regarded as a 2013 recruit. The Hoke regime provided Harbaugh with a decent start here; 2016 commit Erik Swenson is a borderline top-100 prospect. Expect Michigan to add at least two more on the line, and preferably more. Given Harbaugh's offense, adding a high-level tight end or two is also a priority.
The biggest need on the team is at defensive tackle. Michigan didn't take one in 2015, and six of the nine DTs on the current roster are in their final two seasons of eligibility—the only exceptions are sophomores Maurice Hurst Jr. and Bryan Mone and redshirt freshman Brady Pallante. While Hurst and Mone have already started contributing, Pallante was an undersized prospect who was initially offered as a grayshirt before Hoke missed out on several D-line targets.
Given how long it usually takes for DTs to develop, landing two recruits there at a minimum is a must. Luckily, Michigan is off to a strong start in the recruitment of Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Rashan Gary, the #2 overall prospect on the 247 Composite.
[Hit THE JUMP for questions on the quarterback outlook, California recruiting, fullbacks(!), and reasonable expectations for the class.]
This has been the worst-kept secret in Michigan football for a month or two now, but I think this from Rivals is the first official confirmation that Michigan is indeed bringing in Stanford defensive back Wayne Lyons as a graduate transfer this fall:
Lyons confirmed his plans to transfer to Michigan.
"Midterms have my attention, but yes, there is some truth to the rumors," Lyons said via text Feb. 9, adding he planned to report June after graduation. "I'm looking into taking a visit before then."
I'm going to ignore the "some truth" bit since everyone's been discussing it sotto voce for a month and his mom got hired and he's planning to report in June.
Lyons was a touted recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, a top 100 player on the composite and the #4 safety in the country. He broke his foot two games into his freshman year and has been a contributor since as a cornerback. He moved into the starting lineup as a junior, finishing fifth on the team in tackles and picking off Notre Dame twice. He was less involved last year, and Stanford fans are kind of eh about him:
He's a decent corner. I've heard that he'd be better as a safety (or maybe nickel corner, which is how we used him a lot this year), and supposedly we wanted to move him that way.
I think the consensus would be that he never quite played up to his expectations, but I'd be sad to see him go.
With Jabrill Peppers moving to safety, Michigan has more of a need at corner. Michigan lost Raymon Taylor and returns Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis; there is an opportunity to be a nickel corner or to beat out Countess, who had a shaky junior year.
Michigan's walk-on situation makes it difficult to determine exactly how many scholarships are available. Lyons's arrival would hypothetically deprive Kerridge or maybe Kenny Allen of a scholarship, but in all likelihood someone leaves before September. In practice, it's moot. FYI: Michigan has filled 16 slots with their recruiting class and the transfers of O'Korn and Lyons, which is approximately the number they had to give.
UPDATE: there's an excellent diary from alum96 with more background on Lyons. It doesn't sound like he's a world-beater, but sometimes kids get a lot better as seniors. And the alternative here is leaving a scholarship open.