That went as expected.
The last time Bryant played at Michigan, the Wolverines rained in a school record 16 three-pointers in a blowout victory. This time around, Michigan one-upped their previous performance, tallying their 17th triple when Kam Chatman beat the shot clock and the final buzzer from right in front of the bench.
Any other drama had long since passed. Michigan tore apart Bryant's matchup and 2-3 zones in the first half, recording 12 of their threes in the first 20 minutes and tallying assists on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. Even though the defense had a sub-par half, Michigan went into the tunnel with a 22-point lead. The going wasn't quite as easy when the Bulldogs went man-to-man for much of the second, but by that point it hardly mattered.
What did matter, from Michigan's perspective, was seeing Zak Irvin get off the schneid; he connected on 2/4 triples after heading into the game with a 3/19 in the month of December.
"It was a huge weight off my back," said a visibly relieved Irvin after the game.
Irvin was one of several beneficaries of great ball movement by Michigan, led by Caris LeVert (8 assists), Duncan Robinson (6), and Derrick Walton (5). The Wolverines passed up open jumpers for even more open jumpers, and that opened up the paint, especially once Bryant switched to man; Michigan made 20 of 28 two-pointers in addition to their record-setting night from beyond the arc.
LeVert paced the team with 19 points, followed by Irvin with 16, and three others finished in double figures.
At long last, Michigan has made their way through non-conference play, and they'll carry a 10-3 record—with no bad losses—into the conference opener at Illinois on December 30th. The fans aren't the only ones who are relieved to see stiffer competition.
"I want to get on with the Big Ten and play," said John Beilein. Amen to that.
Michigan (9-3) vs
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -23 (KenPom)|
PBP: Jeff Levering
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
Right: If Bryant doesn't bring Tupper to tonight's game they deserve to lose by 50. [Photo: Tupper's Twitter]
DJ Wilson made a surprise appearance in garbage time against Youngstown State, so aside from the loss of Spike Albrecht this team is back at full strength.
Despite the injury issues, the rotation has taken shape over the course of the last few weeks, and tonight's final tune-up before Big Ten play should provide a preview of how John Beilein will utilize the bench even though another blowout is expected.
Meanwhile, Albrecht's father is quoted in a report from the Post-Tribune saying Spike will pursue a medical redshirt and he "think(s) he'll play" next season. While that opens the door for a return to Michigan, the Wolverines are currently oversigned by one player for 2016-17; transferring elsewhere for a grad year is a more likely option. MLive's Brendan Quinn caught up with the elder Albrecht to get further details:
According to Chuck Albrecht, there has been no conversation with Beilein about scholarships or the future — the issues that stirred a small sea of speculation on Tuesday night.
"No, we haven't talked, but we know the facts," Chuck Albrecht said. "We know they're over one scholarship. We know these things and we follow these things. We know there's a top point guard (Xavier Simpson) going in there next year. Those are facts that we know.
"But no, Spike hasn't sat down with coach Beilein, but I'm sure that'll happen sometime."
Another year at Michigan hasn't been ruled out, even if it appears unlikely; neither has a grad transfer or even playing pro ball overseas.
Michigan has beaten three opponents by 50+ points this season. As the #329 team on KenPom, and one that runs a lot of 2-3 zone, Bryant may very well be the fourth.
Senior point guard Shane McLaughlin is the team's primary distributor with 44 assists, 30 more than any other Bulldog, but his 33 turnovers are a serious issue. Shooting splits of 50/29/38 (yes, that's 38% from the line) aren't helping much, either.
Fellow starting guards Hunter Ware and Nisre Zouzoua both stand at 6'2" and take a little under half their shots from outside the arc, shooting 32% and 34% on three-pointers, respectively. Ware is the team's leading scorer by virtue of being much more efficient on two-pointers (48% to 36%), while Zouzoua is more likely to get to the line. Incredibly, Zouzoua (83% FT) is the only Bulldog to make more than two-thirds of his free throws, and one of just two regulars to crack 60%.
6'6", 215-pound starting four Dan Garvin is an good rebounder and shot-blocker; he also serves as the team's highest-usage offensive option. That latter bit hasn't gone so well. He's shooting 40% on twos, hit one of eight threes, and is languishing at 55% from the line.
Starting in the middle is 6'5", 250-pound true freshman Marcel Pettway; that height/weight listing is not a typo. Despite being quite undersized, Pettway has managed to make an impact on the boards, and he even posted a 15-point, 12-rebound effort against Georgetown, albeit in a game the Hoyas won by 30. Pettway has only four blocks this season despite manning the middle of a 2-3 zone; Michigan should be able to attack the basket without too much resistance.
Bryant's sixth man is 6'7" wing Bosko Kostur, who takes over half his shots from downtown while connecting on 25% of them. The primary backup big, Gus Riley, is a stretch-four type also making only 25% of his threes while posting a paltry 8.5% mark on the defensive boards; that should explain why a 6'5" freshman starts in the post.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Editor's Note: We consider the Harbaugh introductory press conference as the beginning of the photo year. We know that it happened in December 2014. Close enough. The Harbaugh presser will be eligible next year, too.
Also: all of our photos are Creative Commons (Attribution/Noncommercial) Licensed. That means that you can use them if 1) you mention where the photo is from and 2) don't sell them. We are delighted for you to use them. We spot them in fire dot emoji edits on the regular.]
For those of you that don’t know, I’m Eric Upchurch. I started covering games for MGoBlog during the 2011 football season. Bryan Fuller joined us in 2012. This past season we added former Daily photographer Patrick Barron as a regular. Here is the only photo that I’m aware of that includes all of us.
Patrick Barron, top, Bryan Fuller, left, Eric Upchurch, right
Photo of the year
Fuller's shot of Amara Darboh's amazing catch against BYU.
This photo is now in Schembechler Hall.
— Aaron Bills (@AaronBDesigns) December 16, 2015
On top of having a photo in Schembechler hall, MGoBlog photographers contributed more photos to John U Bacon's Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football than anybody else. We’re also responsible for Jim Harbaugh’s wikipedia photo.
We don’t get to say it much, but we wanted to thank the readership of MGoBlog for all of your support. Those of you that follow us on twitter and retweet and share our photos are a #blessing. We are very grateful for it. Bryan, Patrick and myself all have full time jobs outside of photographing Michigan athletics. We cover these games in our spare time and we love every minute of it. On a typical gameday, we arrive 3 hours prior to kickoff and we leave around 1-2 hours after the game ends. They are very long days. I live closest to the stadium out of any of our photographers and I’m 50 miles away in Sylvania, OH. Bryan drives in on gamedays from Kalamazoo. When Patrick covers a game for us, he’s travelling in from Appleton, WI. We take our work seriously and we are thankful that all of you support us.
It should be noted that this is the first season that MGoBlog has had a photographer at every regular season football game. Thanks to Patrick for putting this collage together.
Alright, now let’s show some photos.
The introductory press conference was like no other presser that I’ve ever attended. They are typically low key. This one was like a party. It was great. I was honored to be there. It appears as though Coach Harbaugh is looking directly at me. I think it was because I was standing on a chair right behind the TV cameras. He probably was wondering who the 8ft tall photographer was in the back of the room.
This photo is one that I try to get every season. This is one of my favorite moments before the team comes out of the tunnel.
This one is from Fuller... sometimes a photographer is in the right place at the right time.
This photo got a ton of use; Harbaugh at his first spring game as the head coach.
This from Barron communicates the importance of the Little Brown Jug better than anything else I've seen.
Another from Patrick that I loved. I didn’t even see this on TV. Even on replay. This may have been a facemask.
We cover more than just football and basketball games. Here are some photos from Bryan’s coverage of the softball team.
Patrick also covered some hockey for us.
We shot thousands of photos this season. It’s very hard to narrow it down to a few that we’d like to feature. Here are complete galleries of our favorite photos from 2015. Be sure to follow us on twitter for live photo updates during games. Eric Upchurch (@eupchurchphoto) Bryan Fuller (@fulloftwitt) Patrick Barron (@MGoDrone). Thanks again from all of us and Go Blue!
This looks familiar
Maybe this is a bit of an overreaction to the last thing that happened, but when Michigan was thrust into a D.C. search after one year of D.J. Durkin, Brian's not the only guy who immediately thought "I really hope we get a guy who can take down the spread!"
So can Brown? Well we haven't had that many opportunities to see. While you'd think the spread would be ubiquitous in college football now, there actually aren't as many teams who are dedicated to it as you'd think. Bill Connelly has a helpful (though far from perfect) list of offenses by how spread they were in 2014. Just three BC's FBS opponents this year were in the top 25 of spread-i-ness last year—Syracuse (2nd), Clemson (11th), and Louisville (23rd). Florida State, which spends most of its 1st down snaps under center, was 26th, just to give you a baseline. And Syracuse transitioned out of the gun-and-read offense this season.
So: Clemson. They're a lot like Ohio State. They line up in the gun with a slot receiver nearly always, hurry up, read-option as the basis of their running game, throw deep to keep safeties away from that, and work in a lot of power blocking. They also have access to way more talent than Boston College. So let's watch a quarter of that together and see how BC played it.
Play 1: Go route vs. Man 1 — The slot receiver comes in motion and that drags the nickel across the formation while the SS walks down. The free safety is lined up 13 yards from the line of scrimmage so he's not going to be able to help much against a run.
Michigan fans should recognize the coverage since it's exactly what we ran all year. Only thing is the free safety was bracketing the receiver at the bottom of the screen so this one has pure man. He has a step but the ball's overthrown.
Play 2: Read option vs Man 1 — Same look again with the backside safety walking down and the free safety playing way high. But this time they're blitzing the WLB. The DE forms up to make it handoff, and everybody has their gaps. The playside DE shoved the RT upfield so there's nowhere to go, but the backside DE whiffs when closing in. It looks dangerous for a second and then the free safety has arrived.
Play 3: Go route vs Man 1—We get a glimpse of why this was such a good pass defense. They come out in the Okie:
(free safety is way deep)
With the RB staying in the MLB came on a delayed blitz. Slot got separation downfield but the ball went over his head. FS is trailing way behind like he was bracketing the other side again.
Things: So far this is a lot like Michigan's defense. Clemson had two chances for an 80-yard TD against man coverage that they missed, and one running play that went for a loss because the SDE made a great play.
I think the free safety is helping out with a particularly dangerous receiver and Clemson is using that to target the other side. A safety who can range sideline to sideline is a luxury beyond the means of B.C. and they were living dangerously because of it.
But like Michigan their down linemen are good with their hands and can handle soloing gaps. I would be interested to see the Okie come back—some of the fun 2011 defense things we had to do to glue that thing back together are worth trotting out still even if the main thing is sound.
Then again it's been three plays and other than the little variations this is the same defense Michigan had all year.
I'll get into another drive or two tomorrow.
As always, click the links/stills to open each GIF in a lightbox.
I attended my first Michigan game in 1994, at the tender age of six. One year later, Charles Woodson made his debut in Maize and Blue.
Yesterday, Woodson announced his impending retirement. In the interim, he put together arguably the greatest career by a defensive player in football history. Those of us lucky enough to watch him at Michigan are hardly surprised.
I could talk about how Woodson changed the game of football at the college and NFL level, how he became the archetype and the prototype of a spread-killing defensive back. Today, though, I'd rather remember how he changed the games in my backyard. In my first couple years in Michigan, I'd run through the yard as Tyrone Wheatley or Tim Biakabutuka, scoring touchdowns against imaginary defenders. After seeing so many athletic feats of this ilk, however...
...I spent much more time crouching down, backpedaling, and jumping imaginary hitch routes. Woodson made defense cool. How could you not want to be this guy?
As Woodson's Michigan career wore on, imitating his greatest moments required an increasingly versatile imagination. Doing so also had some unintended consequences. My mother always wondered why we had so much trouble growing a patch-free lawn in the backyard. My attempts to replicate cuts like this didn't help the cause.
Then, of course, there was his most famous moment as a Wolverine.
Throw the ball as high as you can, catch it clean, take off towards the fence, cut up towards the house, cut back to the fence, then make sure not to trample the garden/bench while sprinting up the imaginary sideline. I did that more times than I could count.
With Woodson, though, some moments transcended imitation even by the most imaginative of grade-schoolers. I could not fly 15 feet in the air, so I didn't attempt his Michigan State interception. I could not float for an eternity, so I was content to leave his final collegiate pick as a memory.
20 years after he first arrived in Ann Arbor, Woodson is still making awe-inspiring plays. Just two days ago, the 39-year-old met 220-pound James Starks—ten years his junior—in the open field; while Starks had a full head of steam, Woodson's perfectly placed shoulder jarred the ball loose. I watched the play unfold on my television, and while I didn't head to the nearest park to replay it, the thought crossed my mind.
As I write this, I'm sitting on the couch in my parents' house, the same I house from which I walked to the Big House with my dad on so many football Saturdays growing up, with the very backyard in which I tried with all my might to be Charles Woodson. We're sitting down to dinner soon. While sports are rarely the foremost topic of conversation in the Anbender household, there's no doubt Woodson's retirement will come up; the only question is how long we'll swap stories once it does.
Perhaps, once the food has settled, I'll sprint aside that fence one more time.
Brown is reportedly beloved by his players.
After news broke of Michigan's now-official hiring of defensive coordinator Don Brown yesterday, reactions poured in from various corners of the internet, and I've yet to see anything that even approaches a negative take.
Boston College blogger Bill Maloney is in the bargaining stage:
Michigan fans: if you want we will trade Brad Bates and a extra Hockey National Championship trophy if you give us Brown back.
— Bill Maloney (@bcatleagle) December 20, 2015
Brian would take this trade. I'm a little less inclined, as podcast listeners could guess. Maloney was kind enough to email Brian some more detailed thoughts on Brown:
BC fans were pretty familiar with Brown prior to him coming to Boston because he had coached all throughout the region and on teams we faced at UMass and Maryland. His 2007 UMass team gave Matt Ryan a tough time by blitzing from everywhere.
My one criticism the first two years was that he sort of square peg/round holed Spaz's roster into what he wanted to do. Spaz ran a more traditional 4-3 cover two and his DBs were almost undersized LBs who were asked to tackle a lot. This led to BC giving up some late leads when the other team figured out the different looks and the DBs got exposed.
What made this year different is that he finally had great DBs, especially at corner. This allowed him to do all sorts of twists, stunts, blitzs and allow the LBs to focus on run stopping. The DBs were asked to play lots and lots of man. And they played it physically. Brown also sort of coaches a "be really physical on every play because it is not going to get called Pass Interference every time." Maybe that will change if he has elite talent at Michigan, but he did that at UMass and UConn too.
Brown also has good eye for the type of players he wants. I don't know of any Midwest recruiting ties, but if he can find elite corners out of low level, small town New England teams, I think he can adjust.
This is a big loss for BC. I hope he fits in with Harbaugh and Michigan since it it probably his last stop.
Brown should have no issue deploying his more aggressive schemes with a defensive backfield featuring Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers.
Card Chronicle gentleman Mark Ennis is happy to see Brown go:
RIP Big Ten. Brown is a mad scientist. https://t.co/8vOCiBuDFl
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 20, 2015
Crazy thing about Don Brown's defenses is even going back to UConn they've been insanely good and never paired with even a decent offense.
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 20, 2015
Everyone can have their own opinion but I don't think there's a better defensive coordinator in college football. https://t.co/FuKWGBFFU3
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 20, 2015
As a Lousiville person, Ennis had to put up with Brown during both his UConn and BC days. A former Clemson blogger for PhilSteele.com piggybacked off Ennis' comments to say he's as good any anyone in the country:
Just to reiterate what @MarkEnnis has been saying, Don Brown is that good. I'd take him over Venables, Smart, anyone. He's the best.
— M. Ryan Hayes (@mRyanHayes) December 20, 2015
There are many more testimonials from various sportswriters in a post on the board.
247's Clint Brewster passed along this note from a coach who's gone against Brown:
"Very unconventional. Aggressive defense. Really good third down packages. Attacks protections well. BC had the best defense we played against the past couple years"
Yes, a dollar says that coach is Tim Brewster, the FSU tight end coach who watched as BC held Dalvin Cook to easily his worst game of this season.
Despite his Bad Cop countenance, Brown has an engaging personality and is apparently beloved by his players:
BC player that tipped us on Don Brown to #Michigan: "We loved him. He was by far my favorite coach. Definitely a father figure."
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) December 21, 2015
Since Brown has spent the entirety of his coaching career at recruiting nonentities—save, I guess, a two-year stint at Maryland—that's as good an indicator as any about his potential impact in that area.
There's ample evidence that Brown will be a very easy coach for fans to support, too. He'll hopefully get active on Twitter again, as his account is internet gold:
— Don Brown (@FBCoachDBrown) June 1, 2015
During camp he acknowledges a daily #DUDEOFTHEDAY and an occasional #GUYOFTHEDAY; it appears that a GUY is someone who has yet to become a DUDE.
"Be a dude" served as BC's mantra for the last couple years due to Brown's influence:
It started with defensive coordinator Don Brown.
"That's his saying all the time, be a dude," Addazio said. "And what being a dude is is being a baller. You know? Just being a real baller. Just being a dude.
"Be great. Be a baller. Be great at what you are. Just don't be average."
That message found a receptive audience in the Eagles' locker room.
"It just resonated with our team, you know what I mean?" Addazio said. "It just started kinda, 'Hey, be a dude, man. Be a dude.' And then we got going with recruiting and it kinda really caught on."
Expect Michigan's defensive coaches to sound unusually similar to Jeff Spicoli going forward.
MLive's Nick Baumgardner found a couple more of Brown's go-to mantras. One year at UMass he simply yelled "SMASH" at every opportunity—I'll keel over and die if he alters this to "BLUDGEON" at Michigan—and his other UMass slogan suggests he'll fit right in on this coaching staff:
"'Leave Earth' was it one year," recalls Jason Hatchell, who played linebacker for Brown from 2004-07 at UMass. "That basically meant 'don't be normal ... don't be the norm, be better than that.'
"It was on the back of our shirts."
Smash. Leave Earth. Play with your hair on fire. Be better than the norm.
If any of this line of speech seems familiar to Michigan fans, it should. Jim Harbaugh's been known to speak in catch phrases and slogans from time to time. And Michigan's head coach is also known for his intensity.
It's hard not to love this hire.