Two freshman bigs, Diamond Stone (L) and Caleb Swanigan, have changed the B1G outlook.
For a day, at least, Purdue is the center of the college basketball world's attention after the Boilermakers added the commitment of five-star big man Caleb Swanigan, Indiana's Mr. Basketball and one-time Michigan State commit. Swanigan will team with AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas to form what will certainly be the conference's largest and most talented group of bigs.
In a Big Ten conference with one clear but unproven frontrunner in Maryland, followed by a pack of contenders with glaring questions of some sort, Purdue is now very much in that group of flawed teams hoping to make a title run. Even Maryland, the prohibitive favorite after landing five-star center Diamond Stone, has issues they'll need to address if they want to live up to the hype. Here's a quick look at next season's contenders, the strengths that could power them to a conference crown, and the weaknesses that may do them in.
This team, on paper, has just about everything. The Terps can put four solid outside shooters around Stone, whose offensive skills are very advanced for a freshman. Melo Trimble was one of the best freshmen in the country last year, his efficiency should improve, and his remarkable knack for drawing fouls makes it difficult to keep him from consistently producing. Power forward transfer Robert Carter is a double-double threat. Maryland was a good squad last year and they should only be better this year.
So what's the problem? For one, Maryland might not have been quite as good as their record suggested last season. They pulled out so many tight games that they finished second nationally in KenPom's "luck" metric. The Terp offense ranked only tenth in the Big Ten in efficiency.
The offense will improve, to the point that it should offset regression in the luck department, but it's certainly worth wondering if a team that's proven so little will really end up in the national title discussion.
Denzel Valentine flourished last season, and while the surprising Final Four squad loses Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, the rest of the supporting cast returns. Transfer wing Eron Harris should pick up much of the scoring slack left by Trice, while top-30 recruit Deyonta Davis helps make up for the loss of Dawson. Tom Izzo is still here, and that should be enough to consider MSU a contender.
|Indiana could have a tough time defending the rim in 2015-16. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]|
But can the offense thrive with Tum Tum Nairn running the show full-time? Nairn's jumper is so wonky—25/75 on twos, 3/10 on threes—that opponents can sag off him without fear, and he didn't make up for it by being an elite passer; his turnover rate outstripped his assist rate last season. With Trice gone and no point guard incoming, Nairn is the guy at point guard, and State's success will depend on his ability to become some sort of threat on offense, especially since his height hinders him defensively.
The backcourt trio of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., and Robert Johnson is up there with any in the country, especially when it comes to raining in triples. Troy Williams is an explosive finisher on the wing. The starting five shouldn't have any trouble putting points on the board.
But, um, where'd everybody else go? Tom Crean is aware that five players are on the court at once, and at least one of those players is usually rather enormous, right? 6'10" forward Thomas Bryant enters with five-star credentials, but the depth up front is still a major concern, along with the usual concerns about whether this is the year Crean's unstable program finally collapses.
So many skilled wings!
So few proven bigs.
One should never count out a Bo Ryan squad, even in what should be a rebuilding year. Nigel Hayes is a legitimate NBA prospect whose game continues to evolve, and Bronson Koenig usurped Traevon Jackson as the team's best option at point guard even before Jackson went down to injury. Role players Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown will be juniors this season, and with Ryan's record of slow-build, big-payoff player development, it wouldn't surprise at all to see one or both experience breakout seasons.
On the other hand, I needed to bring up Showalter and Brown when discussing key returners, because the Badgers lost three starters, Jackson, and top backup Duje Dukan. That's a hell of a lot to lose for any team, and Wisconsin is only bringing in one top-100 recruit (SG Devin Pritzl) among their reinforcements.
The Buckeyes will need a heck of a youth movement to contend for the title, but they've got the talent to do so: five consensus four-stars, including three top-50 prospects, will join junior Marc Loving and sophomores Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, and Kam Williams to form the core of this squad. Big man Trevor Thompson is eligible after transferring from Virginia Tech last year, giving the team a much-needed frontcourt presence.
The positive is also the negative here. Can such a young team find the right combination of players to make a run? This team lacks a proven point guard, doesn't have much big man depth, and will have to find a number one option with the departure of D'Angelo Russell.
They're going to be a load to handle inside, with two skilled seven-footers in Hammons and Haas alongside the 6'8", 265-pound Swanigan at power forward. With last year's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Raphael Davis, on the wing, it's going to be very difficult to score on the Boilermakers.
The team's roster construction could hold back Purdue's scoring, however. Spacing is going to be an issue for a team with only one above-average shooter, SG Kendall Stephens, projected to start. An offense can only be so efficient these days without boasting at least a decent outside shooting threat, but Purdue doesn't project to add much shooting after finishing last in the Big Ten from beyond the arc last season. Unless a returning wing—like sophomore Vince Edwards—really improves from the outside, the Boilermakers may run into trouble trying to bull through every team in their path.
I think I'm stretching the definition of "contender," but the Big Ten's middle is so murky it's tough to tell. The Illini have a couple very promising players, especially Malcolm Hill, and John Groce is bringing in a strong recruiting class featuring three four-star prospects. They also get PG Tracy Abrams back from a torn ACL, though how much that's worth is quite debatable.
Illinois loses Rayvonte Rice, who really came into his own last year, as well as Nnanna Egwu. Rice was the team's best bet to get to the basket the last couple years—and developed a lethal outside shot as a senior—while Egwu leaves a hole at center that'll be filled by either Maverick Morgan, who hasn't impressed thus far in his career, or an undersized, totally unproven option.
you asked for it
"Soon he will start appearing in historically significant photos and no one will remember that he was not, in fact, present."
Harbaugh put his Jim Harbaugh on the Declaration of Independence, and war was avoided. The British decided to do anything else at all; Harbaugh was forced to invent the game of baseball so he could play it with himself.
Shot clock effect on upsets.
Given that lowering the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds had little to no effect in the NIT, and that we can expect the same for a full season, I wonder if a side effect of the change might be fewer upsets. While efficiency might not change, the number of possessions will. I would think that with more possessions the better team is likely to win, because more possessions mean less randomness and greater reversion to the mean overall.
Give EMU 50 possessions against Michigan vs. 100 possessions against Michigan, and I would think that they would have a better chance to win with 50 possessions than 100. Could the 30 second shot clock actually make March Madness less maddening by reducing upsets? Thoughts?
-A slightly amused reader who still hopes for upsets
I think that's correct. I still remember that game back in the Amaker era when Illinois was at their apex and Michigan was rolling out Dion Harris and walk-ons named Dani. Michigan's strategy was to run the clock down without running offense and have Harris take a contested shot—the most Amaker strategy ever—and it worked for a while.
Anything that increases the number of trials without making those trials significantly less reliable indicators of talent should reduce upsets. It should be a real effect, but it might be so small as to not be reliably measurable. Maybe Kenpom will address it once he's got a big ol' bag of data.
I have gotten a lot of questions/assertions about the 30 second shot clock—far more than I think the change warrants. The differences are going to be minor. The median NCAA team saw only 10.7% of its shots go up in the period of time just erased. Some of that time can be reclaimed by being more urgent about getting the ball up the floor. (For example, the NBA's back court violation is an eight second call, not a ten second call.) The net impact is likely to be less wasted time and approximately equal efficiency. That's a good change for the game.
More on shot clock
I don’t believe this will affect the quality of shots as much as it will affect substitutions…
On a number of occasions I watched several teams, Wisconsin and Michigan included, essentially ‘waste’ at least 5 seconds tossing the ball back and forth outside the 3 point arc without any other movement. Case could be made this was simply being used to offer the players a short rest on offense, meaning that the top players likely play longer before substitution.
This may mean that teams with deep and talented benches gain an advantage…so the question may become whether it is the team with the best starters or the team with the best top 9 that wins.
-Howard [ed: a basketball referee]
There's another effect: if teams do decide to make those five seconds up by being quicker that's going to result in more pressure to get up and down the floor and more tired legs late in games. That'll be something to watch next year: does the percentage of bench minutes go up as a result?
Again: probably marginal impact but one that I would argue is unambiguously good.
[After the JUMP: another theory of baseball competitiveness, sea cucumbers.]
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Interest Level: Cold
Michigan offered four-star 2016 NC OT Landon Dickerson last week, per The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($). As is the norm with a touted recruit hailing from south of the Mason-Dixon line, Michigan will not only have to overcome offers from several powerhouses, but also concerns about the weath-- wait, what?
Right now Dickerson is the No. 16 guard in the country and just a three-star prospect, but with an offer list that includes schools like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, South Carolina, and Tennessee among others, his ranking is likely to get a boost. Still even with all of those high-profile offers, the Maize and Blue appeals to him.
"Geographically Michigan is probably a great place for me," he said with a laugh. "I'm a cold-weather kind of guy. I'm the guy that when it's 25° outside I don't have a shirt on and I'm in flip-flops. I don't think it could be any better geographically.
If you grew up in a place like Michigan, you not only know people like this exist, but that they're the exact type of person you want playing offensive line for your football team. Dickerson is a long way from making a decision, though he says Virginia Tech and Tennessee have stood out to him. If he wants to get that warm, fuzzy feeling of advanced hypothermia, however, he may seriously consider his new offer.
Dickerson isn't the only rising senior O-lineman to nab an offer of late. Three-star PA OT Johncarlo Valentin* added an offer last week, and he told TMI's Brice Marich he's already familiar with the program ($):
“They offered me after they watched me work out,” Valentin told The Michigan Insider. “I was overly excited. Not really did I see it coming. I am very interested in Michigan. I like everything about them.”
“I already have visited them. I was there last summer and it went wonderful. I do want to visit again, but I just don’t know when yet.”
Michigan joins Arizona State and Virginia Tech as significant offers on Valentin's list, and he's fielding interest from several other top programs. Valentin is high school teammates with one of M's top tight end targets, Naseir Upshur, and the two have spoken about playing together at the next level.
Michigan also offered 2017 four-star MD OT Jordan McNair, who told Marich he's "very interested" in the Wolverines ($).
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Kickstarter expiration imminent. Our Hail To The Victors kickstarter ends at 5 PM. If you have been procrastinating, you have run out of time. We'll have copies in the MGoStore for those who haven't been able to participate. Signed copies, Kickstarter-exclusive shirts, and the ability to get your name in the thing are only available until 5. Consume!
there was a lot of this last weekend [Bryan Fuller]
CROOOSH. Softball annihilated its regional over the weekend, coming up a single run short of mercy-ruling all three of its opponents. They draw #14 Georgia in the super regionals at Alumni Field in a Thursday/Friday series. Thursday's game is 9PM on ESPN2; Friday's is at 6 on ESPNU. South Bend Wolverine, who graciously previewed the regional for us, is planning on profiling Georgia on Wednesday.
Hiring the team mom. Andy Staples interviews Harbaugh about the Gwendolyn Bush hire:
Bush peppered the coach with the same kinds of questions she did when Harbaugh was recruiting Lyons to Stanford out of Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High. The banter gave Harbaugh flashbacks to the lengthy questionnaire Bush asked all the coaches recruiting her son to complete in 2010. It also gave him an idea. No parent he’d dealt with had studied the recruiting process as thoroughly as Bush. “Some people don’t take the time to really learn the process,” Bush said. “They just let it happen.” Bush wouldn’t allow that for her son. Inspired by St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High tailback James White, who sent coaches brief surveys before committing to Wisconsin, Bush and Lyons designed a 50-question exam for coaches to complete before they could recruit Lyons.
Plus, Bush now also had the experience of a parent whose child had played high-level college football while completing a demanding degree program. As a bonus, she had worked in the Broward County school system in a variety of positions for 27 years. She had administrative experience. She would be perfect for Harbaugh’s version of the director of player development position. “With her credentials in the educational system, I thought she’d be a tremendous liaison to academics and also a voice for the moms,” Harbaugh said. “In the recruiting process, the mothers get very little airtime—even throughout the entire college experience.”
Wayne Lyons was headed to Michigan either way, and Harbaugh just took the opportunity provided by Bush getting back in touch to hire a person with that level of detail.
Seeya. The number of Indiana basketball players hitting the highways and byways of America, bindle over shoulder, swelled to five over the weekend with the dismissals of Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. The reason for their departure: Davis was cited for pot possession. Perea's offense was being in the room.
Kevin Trahan notes that the departure of these gentlemen on such a flimsy pretext likely means they were out the door no matter what:
…two Indiana players—Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson—failed multiple drug tests last fall, yet only received four-game suspensions that were more like two-game suspensions, given that two of the games were exhibition contests.
Why the Roger Goodell-like disciplinary inconsistency? It's hard not to wonder if Mosquera-Perea and Davis are less incorrigible embarrassments to Crean's team than a pair of inconvenient bench bodies, victims of scholarship oversigning. After all, Williams was a star for the Hoosiers and integral to their future success. Mosquera-Perea and Davis are not. Meanwhile, Crean needs an open scholarship as he looks to sign star high school big man Thon Maker—and surprise, two spots just become available.
Robinson got the ziggy earlier this offseason after demonstrating he can't shoot at all; Williams is still around, mean-mugging after he successfully makes tea.
Here's some perspective on this offseason's vigorous Creaning: for a football team to go through this much premature attrition they would have to lose 33 players. Tom Crean is the Houston Nutt of basketball. Giggity.
What about the other slot? A familiar name might fill it:
Michigan graduate transfer Max Bielfeldt, who won an appeal that will allow him to transfer within the Big Ten, will visit Indiana on Sunday according to a report from Jon Rothstein.
Bielfeldt confirmed his plans to visit in a text message to Inside the Hall on Saturday afternoon.
Inside the Hall optimistically lists Bielfeldt at 6'8" and most of the comments are along the lines of "he can't be worse than Perea." Which… okay, maybe.
Dave Brandon 2.0 has not been stopped yet. I feel for Texas fans with no light at the end of their terrible AD tunnel yet. Steve Patterson, the new Worst Athletic Director In America, on playing Texas A&M:
On playing the Aggies, Patterson said, "We're booked through '27. My phone's not ringing every day."
— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) May 17, 2015
On playing in Mexico City:
Texas AD Steve Patterson says UT could play a football game in Mexico City before 2020.
— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) May 17, 2015
Patterson is obsessed with the possibility people in Dubai or Mexico might buy a UT t-shirt because he is the kind of executive sociopath that is more concerned with putting a bullet point on a resume than actually figuring out what is a good idea.
Jerry Hinnen points out that playing at Azteca has historically been a nightmare for the USMNT due to the altitude, smog, and heat. Mexico plays all their games there specifically to discomfit visitors; Patterson wants to play a football game there in the vague hope it gives Texas recognition in a country that doesn't care even a little tiny bit about American football.
Etc.: Doug Skene and Mike Spath break down Rudock's game against Wisconsin. That is the next passing UFR on my list, and it projects to be an encouraging one. Get The Picture on the coming attendance dip. Angelique talks to Adidas. NoDak hockey coach Dave Hakstol hired by the Flyers in the same position.
AFC Ann Arbor beat Oakland United Sporting Real Dinamo Forest FC SC 4-0 to win their first-ever league game. Points to the rowdies for chanting "dos a cero" for the period of time that was a thing.
imagine this with bloody stumps and shears
The NCAA announced a not-quite-official suite of rules changes in men's basketball that, in the words of John Gasaway, have left twitter speechless in the wake of "a rather disconcerting overabundance of wish fulfillment." Well, most of twitter.
MURDER MORE TIMEOUTS NOT ENOUGH TIMEOUT MURDER MUUUUURDER THEM
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) May 15, 2015
The rules changes fall into three main categories plus some miscellaneous minor fixes. Those are:
A VITAL CHANGE TO THE SHOT CLOCK DOT SARCASM FONT. The shot clock will be 30 seconds as college basketball seeks to combat the scourge of possessions without a turnover.
I've seen a lot of speculation on Michigan boards that such a change will hurt Michigan's offense disproportionately. It is possible. I downloaded Hoop Math's data on late clock shots (ie, shots in the last five seconds of the shot clock) and there is a surprising large spread through D-I. Wisconsin puts up 18% of their shots late; Iowa State is at just 4%.
As you might expect, Michigan is consistently towards the Wisconsin end of the spectrum. Last year 15% of their shots were attempted in a period that will no longer exist. Despite having an off year (after back-to-back #1 finishes in offensive efficiency at Kenpom) they were also very good at executing late, with an eFG of 49.4%. That was 30th nationally.
You could look at those numbers and worry that a hunk of time that Michigan utilizes unusually frequently and well is going away. You could look at those numbers and revel that the NCAA is moving a number of shots into a late-clock situations and Michigan will be better prepared than most to deal with that fact.
If the NIT is any evidence, both of these hypotheses will be hard to test because the shorter shot clock won't have enough impact on efficiency to make a difference.
TIMEOUTS AND PACE OF PLAY. There is one fewer, and any TO within 30 seconds of a media timeout becomes that media timeout. As noted above, your author does not believe this is anywhere near enough timeout murder. He will take what he can get until Congress passes the To Take A Timeout A Basketball Coach Must Cut Off One Of His Digits Act, though.
The NCAA prohibited live ball timeouts… but just from coaches. That will not prevent players from preventing turnovers by spending TOs. They also are "emphasizing" returning to play quickly after a TO and have removed the free timeout teams get after a player fouls out. (Maybe. Those latter changes have gray areas and there is a tendency to backslide whenever a rule is not a bright line.)
Except for the fact that they were not nearly ruthless enough, all of these changes are excellent.
FLOPPING. The NCAA will implement the full NBA-sized restricted circle and can call fouls on players who are deemed to have flopped when they are in the middle of an interminable review. Thumbs up on the former even if it hurts Michigan's defensive strategy; the latter isn't likely to have much impact.
- Refs can check for shot clock violations whenever they want. This is clearly spurred by that Nigel Hayes basket in the Wisconsin-Kentucky game and will just add to the reviews that almost never actually result in a call getting reversed. A good rule of thumb is that any law named after a deceased child is a terrible law; the basketball equivalent is that any rule change clearly traceable to a single possession in an NCAA tournament game is almost certainly not going to be worth the extra time spent reviewing things.
- "Class B" technical fouls are now just one shot. Remember when Aaron White didn't get ejected from a game in which he had two techs? Apparently that was legit because one of those was for hanging on the rim, which is a Class B tech. Now people will know that there are different classes of techs—which I did not. So they've got that going for them.
- There is no more five second "closely guarded" rule. I'm torn. In no way was that rule important, but when it got invoked it felt like a reward for superior perimeter defense. On the other hand, I'm all for reducing the burden minor rules impose on referees in the hope that they'll get the more important stuff right.
- You can dunk during warmups. Aubrey Dawkins has been high-fiving himself for days now.
There is also a potentially massive future change on the horizon: adding a foul per player. The NCAA plans to test that at the NIT next year. I am not in favor of that at all; offering additional incentive to foul the pants off your opponents is not going to help create the open, flowing game everyone says they want.
Last Push. We have the weekend and then HTTV's kickstarter closes. If you just want a book this is fastest and least expensive route (not counting going to an MGoEvent or tracking me down when there's a box in my car). If you want the Fingerguns shirt…
…this is your opportunity. If you want your annual purchase of HTTV stuff to go to a good cause, get in on the kickstarter, because a dollar of book orders and $5 of your t-shirt orders go to Vincent Smith's #EATING charity, which will be starting an urban garden in Flint. Pass along to friends, family, family friends, and anyone you have knowingly shared a "Harbaugh? Harbaugh." with this past year.
A lineman reviews Jake Rudock. Spath came up with a really cool idea for analysis videos: watch some Rudock film with a former player. The player he dug up was Doug Skene. The game was Iowa-Wisconsin. I plan to draw up a couple of them—would like an end analysis. One thing that stood out is he uncharacteristically went deep a lot—against Sojourn Shelton(!) #KirkFerentzTrollsIowaFans
This should be a video. Wolverine Devotee found all the Michigan punt and kick returns since 1948; unfortunately he put them in a chart instead of going down to Bentley, pouring through reels of film, and creating a Youtube of them. We'll just have to watch this one again:
Raindrops on roses and Katzenmoyer missin's. Dez in the pose and that punter needs mittens. 46 falling and sadface Germaine; that's why I watch this again and again.
Is it really that weird that Michigan hasn't had a kick or punt return touchdown in years? No.
Give Norfleet back two of three TDs he's had called back by insano refs calling ticky tack things that had no bearing on those plays and this is like any other era. The rich times were the early '90s, when Dwyane Ware blocked two within weeks, and Derrick Alexander co-existed with the guy who literally won a Heisman for being so good at returns. With return TDs such a rarity across history, two in a season is good, and more than three would be a record. Add the spread punt, which turned half of would-be punt return attempts into fair catches, and I'd bet you a lot of teams are on similar droughts.
WD also did a turf/grass/field turf study if you're nerdy enough to care about that. The only part that really interested me was dates for the different types of surfaces at the Big House:
|Tartan Turf (artificial turf)||1969-1981||73-8-3 (.887)|
|All-Pro Turf (artificial turf)||1982-1990||46-10-0 (.821)|
|Prescription Athletic Turf (grass)||1991-2002||63-12-1 (.836)|
|FieldTurf (artificial turf)||2003-2009||36-14 (.720)|
|Duraspine (artificial turf)||2010-present||27-8 (.771)|
Etc. All you need to know to start paying attention to lacrosse. Jake Butt as James Bond wallpaper. There's only one player (and neither coach) left from the hybrid RR/Hoke Class of 2011. Ugliest Michigan gear. Couldn't get tickets for softball? Go see AFC Ann Arbor in their first-ever league game.
Your Moment of Zen:
Coaches on the road recruiting equals Northwest Airlines video:
Michigan State recruits China.