Bracket Watch: The Other Bracket Looms
it us. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
The outlook is grim. After everyone but Derrick Walton sleepwalked their way to a loss against a mediocre Ohio State team, Michigan is 14-9 (4-6 B1G) and out of the projected NCAA tournament field. The Wolverines have to climb out of an increasingly big hole and they may have already missed their chance; KenPom says they've played the easiest conference schedule of any Big Ten team so far, and that's about to change in a major way:
Michigan only has three home games left; of those, a more confident and rested Michigan State squad is by far the most beatable. The Wolverines have yet to win a road game this season; they'll need to take at least two, and quite possibly as many as all five left on the docket, to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid. They're 79th in RPI. I had to edit the second sentence of this post multiple times before it was family-friendly.
If they lose tomorrow night, NIT bracket-watching begins in earnest.
[After THE JUMP: Some good news! Really! Also some bad news.]
As you might imagine after back to back classes in the high 20s, the 2018 class projects to be small. There are only nine seniors on the roster going into 2017. There are a number of guys who might not be brought back for a fifth year and there will always be losses to injury, the NFL draft and playing time transfers. The rise of early enrollment also creates a class of Derrick Green sorts who can grad transfer after three or three and a half years; there are another few guys who will end up seeing no path to playing time and take that route.
It would still be a surprise to see Michigan crack 20 recruits. 16-20 is a reasonable range.
Thompson-Robinson would be the most dynamic QB Harbaugh has brought in
The Roster. Michigan has Dylan McCaffrey and Brandon Peters in the last two classes. Both are tall, lanky pocket passers ranked just outside the top 100 on the composite. Nonetheless, Michigan will take one because you always take one.
The Recruits. Top target and NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson says UCLA is his leader—Jedd Fisch moving to the Bruins doesn't help there—but mom is a Michigan grad and Jim Mora is on the hotseat after a 4-8 year. Various other early targets have fallen by the wayside. Seven of the top ten pro-style QBs in the country are already committed; Michigan isn't involved with any of the remaining unless they pick it back up with IMG QB Arthur Sitkowski.
Instater Theo Day hasn't gotten much attention from Michigan yet, but he could draw more interest if DTR continues to trend towards UCLA. 24/7 bumped him to high four star status recently.
The Projection. 40% Thompson-Robinson, 30% Day, 30% a three star sort nobody's talking about right now.
The Roster. Despite a couple of late misses in the 2017 cycle, Michigan enters this year with a loaded backfield. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans were rotation pieces last year, with Evans emerging into the clear #2, and both will still be around when the 2018 class matriculates. Michigan also has Kingston Davis and Kareem Walker coming off redshirts along with incoming freshmen Kurt Taylor and O'Maury Samuels.
In a class that looks to be small this is a spot where Michigan can skimp. They'll probably grab one. Anything more would be a surprise.
The Recruits. IMG RB TJ Pledger is an all-purpose sort who Michigan has been pursuing heavily. He's originally from California. The other guys 247 lists as targets in their top two categories are 1) a guy from Ohio everyone expects to pick OSU, 2) a guy from Mississippi, next, and 3) a guy from Atlanta who currently seems to favor the Gators.
The Projection. One guy we haven't heard of yet.
St Brown will probably end up at ND, but if they go 4-8 again...
The Roster. Michigan's coming off an epic five-man recruiting class and reportedly likes the three survivors from the 2016 class, so they can swing for the fences here. If they don't hit on a big timer or two they can settle for a couple lower-ranked types and nobody's going to panic.
The Recruits. Big timers on the radar:
- CA WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has an older brother at ND.
- TX WR Al'vonte Woodard. Woodard's father was a reserve WR for Gary Moeller in the early 90s.
- CA WR Jalen Hall. Hall is the #1 receiver in the country at this point in the cycle. He's from one of those LA high schools which virtually guarantee the player in question will end up at USC, but Donovan Warren and all that.
- NJ WR Jahan Dotson. From New Jersey.
That's not a long list and nobody on it seems particularly likely to end up at Michigan. There's a dearth of top receiving prospects in the Midwest this year. The composite currently has just two four-star WRs in the traditional Big Ten footprint: a kid out of Ohio who is committed to MSU (for now, anyway) and a low four star in PA. It's a good thing they loaded up this year.
Instate options are limited. The only WR currently on the composite is Southfield's Brandon Gray. At 6'5" he's intriguing. To date he's mostly fielded MSU interest.
The Projection. One or two guys nobody's talking about yet. If Michigan's lucky they'll be Oliver Martin types. If not they'll be three stars.
The Roster. Probably the only spot where need could be considered dire after a taking a pass on the position in 2016. Michigan will definitely take two and probably three. Holding onto Devin Asiasi, who transfer rumors are flying about, is obviously a key inflection point.
The Recruits. You can pencil in FL TE Will Mallory, who is one of those Mallorys. Other options:
- NV TE Brevin Jordan, a teammate of Thompson-Robinson's at Bishop Gorman.
- NY TE Jeremy Ruckert, who looks set to be a Michigan-OSU battle.
- FL TE JUDGE CULPEPPER, who is the law. Also from Tampa, where Frey does work.
- TX TE Mustapha Muhammad. Michigan was after him heavily but Lorenz recently reported that he was leaning towards schools closer to home.
Nobody other than Mallory seems like a slam dunk.
The Projection. Mallory, Ruckert, and an unknown name.
The Roster. Michigan got five in the previous class but wanted up to eight; OL will again be a priority. They have 14 OL now, will lose Mason Cole and Patrick Kugler after the season, and likely want to get up to 16 or 17. Expect another four or five guys.
The Recruits. One of those guys is already committed, IN OL Emil Ekiyor. At 6'3" Ekiyor is an interior OL only, but he's a highly regarded one: top 100 in the composite and the #4 guard in the country. Michigan has three OL recruits who are early four-stars on the composite: guard Marquan McCall, a teammate of JaRaymond Hall, center Tyrone Sampson Jr, and tackle Ryan Hayes. Michigan is the early crystal ball leader for McCall; MSU is the favorite for the other two. A fourth will arrive this fall, with FL OL Antwan Reed transferring back to Muskegon from IMG.
National names include Richard Gouraige and Nicholas Petit-Frere, who are both from the Tampa Bay area that has been a Greg Frey specialty. Oh and this guy:
Hell yes, 6'9" 390 pound Daniel Faalele is worth a flier.
The Projection. Ekiyor, Faalele, one of the Tampa kids, and McCall.
Ohio State muscled their way to the basket, then missed, then rebounded, picked up a foul, and made their free throws. Then Michigan attempted a three. That could be how the game ended, or any possession in a one-way physical battle that might have elbowed Michigan out of a place in the tournament. In fact I wrote it with six minutes left in the game. I get no points.
In a game expected to come down to whose backup center spent more time on the floor Michigan couldn’t keep its starter out there for more than five minutes. Unable to win battles in the paint Michigan lived and died by its three-point shooting while Ohio State owned the boards, taking 16/33 offensive rebound opportunities and 26/33 on their own end. The numerous second opportunities on Michigan’s side led to a lot of fouls, putting the Wolverines’ best frontcourt defenders on the bench and exacerbating the mismatches down low.
Derrick Walton continued his inspiring play since the Illinois “white collar” comment, leading all scorers with 25 points and nearly his team to a late comeback. Walton finished 6/9 from distance (a possible 7th was called a two-pointer could have gone either way). He also led the Michigan defensive effort with 10 rebounds, including his team’s first OREB of the game late in the 1st half, when he out-leapt even his own center:
Walton also drove to nearly tie it right before freethrowtime, missing both a tough layup and his attempted put-back. After Ohio State missed two free throws—just their third and fourth whiffed freebies of the game—Walton again put Michigan within one with his last three-pointer. That would do it for Wolverine scoring; Ohio State made their next four attempts to finish 24 for 28 at the charity stripe.
Michigan started on a 9-2 run and pushed it as far as 19-8 early. But Ohio State battled back to a 36-35 halftime lead by dominating the boards on both ends despite their own foul troubles. The Buckeyes’ 10-1 first half advantage in offensive rebounds was augmented by an uncharacteristic six turnovers for Michigan, half off the hands of Irvin.
Matters got worse early in the first half as both Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson quickly picked up their third fouls. Ohio State took advantage, pushing their lead to 47-39 by the next break as their frontcourt feasted on Donnal and Robinson. Wagner came back in at the 15 minute mark but immediately picked his fourth whistle, putting Donnal back on the floor. Moe would enter again late, fouling out on Michigan’s last wrap-up in the waning seconds. Teske did not play.
Michigan has its other, more basketbally rival coming to town for a night game this week. It’s hard to see this team making the tournament if they’re as accommodating to those guests too.
|WHAT||Michigan (14-8, 4-5 B1G) vs
OSU (13-10, 3-7)
Ann Arbor, MI
|LINE||Michigan –8 (KenPom)|
Coming off a disappointingly typical loss at Michigan State against a very much untypical MSU team, Michigan now faces a must-win against reeling Ohio State. Per Kenpom this is Michigan's most likely win left on the schedule, a 75% shot. (At Rutgers is only 69% despite Rutgers being almost 100 slots worse in overall ranking, if you want a stark indicator of how much home and away swing affect college basketball.)
It would be nice if Zak Irvin had a bounce back.
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||3||Kam Williams||Jr.||6'2, 185||77||16||104||No|
|PG-sized but tiny assist/FTs rates and low TO rate mark him as Just A Shooter. Do not send to line, not that he'll force the issue there much.|
|G||4||JaQuan Lyle||So.||6'5, 210||78||23||107||No|
|Main creator has #56 assist rate in country, but TOs limit efficiency. Still the #1 guy Michigan has to check.|
|F||14||Jae'Sean Tate||Jr.||6'4, 230||79||33||108||Very|
|Junkyard dog has seen rebound numbers drop thanks to teammate Thompson; highly efficient at the rim, no game elsewhere.|
|F||0||Marc Loving||Sr.||6'8, 220||83||20||100||No|
|Never quite put it together. Good outside shooter; rest of his game is weak, with a bunch of TOs and iffy efficiency.|
|C||35||Trevor Thompson||Jr.||7'0, 250||56||23||115||Very|
|Rebound machine 40th nationally in OREB rate and 9th in DREB rate, also racks up a ton of blocks. Good FT shooter, too|
|G||51||CJ Jackson||So.||6'1, 175||38||20||97||Yes|
|Backup PG has similar assist/TO rates as Lyle; weak shooter.|
|F||25||Micah Potter||Fr.||6'9, 240||32||16||101||No|
|Backup post is all-around worse version of Thompson, but can shoot threes a bit.|
|F||5||Andre Wesson||Fr.||6'6, 220||22||16||83||Yes|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
I have revamped my player database, and learned how to make gorgeous interactive charts. Wanna see where this class stacks up?
Mouse over the dots to see whom each belongs to. The orange ones are this year’s class (they limit free users to only a few colors and I was trying out a bunch of these).
[UPDATE: Didn’t see that they limit your views too. No more interactivity—if somebody knows a good site to build these let me know. In the meantime if you download this and open it in your browser I think it will work for you.
The spreadsheet still lives here and includes a ton of updated data thanks to some readers who helped me out. If you want to see the actual ratings and rankings that went into these numbers I’ve put that all on a separate tab. Behold:
I had some help. Reader David Moorhead pulled out all of his old recruiting issues of The Wolverine that had data going back to 1990. Much of the National Recruiting Advisor (ancestor of Rivals), Parade, Lemming, PrepStar, Street & Smith, USA Today, and SuperPrep (Scout predecessor) data came from his work. Also reader Jeff Alotta helped me play around with the math some as I tried to rebuild how I give out star ratings for regional and national position ranks.
SO, HOW DID WE DO THIS YEAR?
The receivers and front seven look amazing when stacked against the players who’ve come through here in the modern era. It’s also a very balanced class. And it’s huge. Getting to Best Class Ever™ would be tough. The Class of ’94 formed the basis of a national championship team and while not everyone stuck around almost everyone made it to the NFL. The next class then produced two guys in the conversation for greatest football player who ever lived in Woodson and Brady. On the other hand this class matches either of those in average quality, and then doubles the size.
AND STARS MATTER?
That appears to be the case, statistically, when I compare the star ratings of past players to how many games they started at Michigan. Note not just the trendline, but where the NFL players came from:
The average star rating (on my 5-star sliding scale) of a future NFL player coming out of high school was just under 4.25. That’s roughly equivalent to a top-125 player who’s the #2 player in Ohio or the 9th best cornerback in a deep year.
That r-squared is saying “they’re related but star rating is no guarantee.” Note however that lots of starts don’t necessarily mean quality, e.g. Ezeh. You should also note that the number of little diamonds bunched at zero starts gets thinned out considerably as it gets into the 4-star range. This is consistent with every other study that compares on-field performance to recruiting ranking, which always show you can get great players from the 3-star ranks but the higher-rated players are progressively more likely to contribute.
Let’s blow up that bottom corner to see the 5-stars who had fewer than 10 starts at Michigan:
It’s hard to look at that and make a claim that the scouts got it wrong. Five of the seven left with eligibility remaining to play with another Power 5 school or the Yankees—Fargas, Simmons, and Mallett would all play well as upperclassmen elsewhere and stick in NFL. Baraka couldn’t stay sober, so that wasn’t even a scouting issue. Henson is a special case.
That leaves Green and Grady. On review of every other consensus 5-star running back in recruiting database history up to when Green committed that seems to just be horrible bad luck. Grady and Green were overrated or undeveloped, which sucks since every other RB rated as highly was either awesome or lost his career to something not related to talent.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND?
The last two classes, like the 2012-’13 hauls under Hoke, are making up for the two smaller classes between. The 2016 class had to play a lot of guys right away to fill the depth chart and this year will be the same. There’s no way around having an incredibly young team this year. By next year however these hauls will start to show. I think we’re done with 30-man classes for the time being.
National championship teams have to get close enough for luck to do the rest. The 2016 team was that with terrible luck despite a lot more misses than normal for the quality and size of Hoke’s early classes that built it. Harbaugh’s found Michigan another one or two shots at it again down the road. That’s all you can ask.
[ed-Seth: Special thanks this year to Matt Gase, Michigan grad and CEO of Eat Well Embrace Life, for being a most excellent sponsor of Joe Pichey’s most excellent recipes. I don’t know if I’d have tried his stuff if he wasn’t a sponsor, but now that I have I freak out when my wife forgets to pick up more. He’s also got some plain ones out there now that I plan to try.]
I don’t know about you guys, but I am a strong believer that all Super Bowl grub should be of the FINGER FOOD variety. I need one hand for my beverage of choice and one hand filled with something smoked, fried or DIP-ABLE. Preferably with meat or cheese tucked away all up in there. These 2 recipes have been favorites for awhile and are really easy. I learned a new technique from my buddy Trace of ThunderBird Wings & Thighs Food Truck in Nashville and I’m passing it along. It’s my new favorite way to smoke wings and I’m sure you will love it. His Chicken Scratch rub is LEGIT and fantastic on Wing and Thighs.
- Chicken Wings (Leave em whole or separate them into dummies and midsections)
- Olive Oil
- Thunderbird Chicken Scratch Rub - (Please add link) www.thunderbirdwings.com
- Honey or Maple Syrup
Fire your smoker up to 225 - 250 degrees and add some PECAN wood to the coals. I know, I know!!! Only 225 - 250 degrees for chicken wings? What about the skin? That’s exactly what I said too. I have always smoked my wings at 325-350 degrees to make sure my skin was crispy at the end. This was more grilling than smoking, but It still produced good wings. Trust me, this method is better. As your smoker is heating up. separate your wings into sections or leave them whole. I did a little of each for this batch. I added all of these to a large bowl and added a little olive oil. Just enough to coat the wings. For these 20 wings, it was about 3 TBS.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how to get that gold. AND A BONUS RECIPE]