I did not make this headline up
Brian Sipe and Al Borges did not see eye to eye
Nope. When Borges arrived someone asked him about having a QB coach, and he said that he wasn't a fan of the setup they had at SDSU, where Brian Sipe was hired as a dedicated QB coach. That relationship was strained, it seems, and Borges now handles all that himself.
My google-fu has failed me in an effort to find this quote, but a couple years back there was a direct statement from Borges that he prefers to work with the QBs himself, alone.
UPDATE: a commenter comes through.
“I’m sure there were times I was driving Brian nuts, because I was being driven nuts. Coaching quarterbacks is more my M.O.”
What is the argument for Borges?
What is the argument for Borges?
Watching bowl games and I'm jealous of Iowa and their dinosaur coaching staff occasionally running up tempo offense.
Al Borges has either had the game pass him by or hasn't trusted his QBs at michigan one bit. They don't/can't run tempo, don't/can't get out of the huddle in time to gather any info on the defensive alignment pre-snap and don't/can't commit to any spread concepts that put playmakers in space and pressure defenders to make one on one plays in space.
Michigan's offense doesn't take advantage of ANY of the benefits of modern college offenses.
The argument in his favor is that he does tend to have high YPA offenses when he has decent quarterbacks, and in YPA is generally regarded as the stat most predictive of victory. If you've heard the roundtable on WTKA this year you've heard Craig bring this up weekly, at which point I shoot him down because Michigan's running game is just so so bad this year. Then he brings it up the next week because his pet YPA stat was actually pretty accurate, and we repeat the cycle.
Anyway. In year two at SDSU, Ryan Lindley had a 9.1 YPA, which is near-great. In three years at Michigan:
- Denard 2011: 8.4
- Denard 2012: 7.9
- Devin 2012: 9.7(!)
- Devin 2013: 8.6
Things at Auburn were great, then increasingly grimmer. Jason Campbell cracked the 10 YPA mark in year one, then Brandon Cox went from 7.6 to 8.1 to 6.6, whereupon Borges got fired in favor of that Franklin spread guy who got fired midseason the next year, leading to Borges's current pathological worldview.
I'm not even sure how much of the Cox degradation I blame on Borges. I saw Cox live and in person in his senior year, and by that time his arm strength had degraded to Russell Bellomy-against-Nebraska levels. Meanwhile Tommy Tuberville's staff was a collection of Just In Charge Of Something For No Reasons that undermined the next guy and got fired as a unit as a result—they were Rodriguez's defensive assistants and Borges was Scott Shafer.
This year's actually-quite-good YPA stat (23rd nationally) is impressive in context. I think you can make a case that with a functional running game, Borges can pilot an effective offense. The program is pretty dinosaur all around, but at least Borges has shown that he is looking for the knockout punch.
I've read and heard a lot about our miserable offensive line and how Coach Borges's hands are somewhat tied with such an incapable unit. But it seems to me that the larger problem is the predictability of his play calling. I don't study tape or rewatch games the way our opponents must, but even I feel like I know exactly when he's going to run the ball and when he isn't. The Nebraska players said as much after they completely shut us down. The only game that I can remember saying to myself "I didn't expect that" with regard to our ground game was against OSU, and in that match-up our O line suddenly looked average/competent against a good Buckeye unit. I feel like Borges is a guy that really believes that as long as everyone "executes", it doesn't matter if the opposing defense has an idea of what's coming. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks again for your hard work.
When one half of your offense is totally incapable of picking up yard one in most games you do tend to get predictable. Defenses figure out the thing that you are trying to do and shut it down because they aren't worried about the other thing. The Kansas State game was a great example of that: once the Wildcats figured out what Michigan was doing and adapted to stop it there wasn't much else Michigan could execute so they had to keep doing the one thing they could do.
This pattern is familiar from 2008, when Rodriguez would insert various tweaks and folds into his rushing offense that would work great for about a half and then die in a heap. Remember the 2008 Penn State game that was 17-14 at halftime and then ended something like 80-17 Penn State? Same thing: unleash something unexpected that really works (in that case it was MINOR RAGE), then have bupkis when opponent adjusts.
Predictability is a hallmark of crappy offenses, but it's more a symptom than a disease.
The Jerry Montgomery effect?
I see a lot of Michigan fans saying they will give the defensive staff a pass for this season's defensive performance because this is the same staff responsible for vast improvements seen in the first year under Brady Hoke. But, this isn't the same staff. We lost Jerry Montgomery to Oklahoma last offseason. Our d-line was definitely disappointing this year. Could you please comment on whether Montgomery leaving was a bigger blow than anticipated? Also, could you please comment on Roy Manning's performance as the linebacker coach?
Thanks and Go Blue!
How disappointing was it, though?
Our impressions are always colored by the most recent thing to happen and those two things were eviscerations by OSU and Kansas State, but the overall picture is less than awful. Michigan finished 35th in raw YPC without an imposing pass rush and without a whole lot of blitzing or load-the-box safety help. Their YPC allowed (3.81) was identical to last year's number, when Montgomery was around.
On an individual level, by the time the Ohio State game rolled around Ondre Pipkins had torn his ACL and Michigan's first choice nose tackle was 285 pound Jibreel Black, which went about as well as you might expect against what was by far the nation's top rushing offense. That is a huge and obvious personnel issue caused by injury—I continue to assume that something was just not right with Quinton Washington because otherwise his deployment makes no goddamn sense at all—and youth.
On an individual level, Michigan got strong upward ticks from everyone on the line:
- Frank Clark went from hype bust of the offseason to a solid, Tim Jamison-as-senior effort.
- Willie Henry went from obscure rotation guy to solid starter and potential future star.
- Black was considerably better than he was as a junior, though completely overmatched because of his size at certain points.
- Brennen Beyer… actually went backwards a bit, okay. But again this was Michigan's first choice SDE against OSU, a 250-pound dude.
The lack of imposing pass rush is an issue that needs to be addressed, yes. I don't think this season was necessarily that disappointing when you look at the roster at the three interior DL spots (SDE counts as one in my book). There is a gap akin to the interior OL on the roster.
Remove injured Pipkins and your non-freshman options at three interior DL spots that really need about six guys to rotate through are Black (285 pounds), Washington (inexplicable lack of PT), Ash (never played meaningful snaps in his life before OSU), and Heitzman (dumped from rotation in favor of 250-pound SAM). All things considered they were doing really well to hold up like they did before the season-ending collapse.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma was 53rd in rushing D, giving up a third of a yard per attempt more than M. I don't think Montgomery was a huge blow.
As for Manning, he's got the outside linebackers, which means SAM and only SAM. Michigan got quality play from first Beyer and then Cam Gordon; Jake Ryan was not as impactful this year but with the injury that's understandable. Tentative thumbs up in year one.
It wasn't too long ago that you were ready to cut someone about something something
EMO QUESTION OF THE WEEK OF THE YEAR
Is there a point for you at which fanhood of Michigan football is so disappointing because of things besides kids trying their best (e.g., Borges/Hoke insanity, almost everything Dave Brandon) that stop...like, really, at least sort of? As we as a fanbase get to consider your experience of being a fan and weigh it against our own, you shared some, I don't know, despondency or something at times this season, usually in appropriate situations. And in a time in my life when I am thinking of getting ready for my marriage, and getting something resembling a career going, and God help me I'll be a father in a few years...this football stuff just seems like a waste of time when everything besides the kids gets me as worked up as [REDACTED TOPIC OF CHOICE] does.
Honestly, larger than the blog, which I could see continuing in a hundred ways, is there a "this far and no further" point in your tolerance of extraneous bullshit for the sake of the joy or whatever it is that's so incredible when the kids on the field do amazing things?
I mean, after the 2009 Illinois game, I locked myself in a dorm and turned off my phone and didn't talk to anyone until late Sunday. As crazy and immature as that was, nothing about the disappointment of a loss has ever made me feel like I should stop following the team. But now I read about BWW Bowls and Jerryworld II and I'm like...whatever, man.
This is a natural consequence of aging and putting things in your life other than football that poop all over themselves when you would rather they not do that. Eventually, this will be you, wishing you weren't pooping all over yourself while watching Michigan poop all over itself in a hologram.
Anyway. It is an annual rite for person X on message board Y to declare that they just don't have the steam in them any more. I get it. To be blunt, I've been struggling with motivation issues since about midseason and understand anyone who flips the TV off and goes bowling*.
But, again, it is a human tendency to project most recent thing as thing that happens forever. It is not so. It was just last April that I was in the Georgia Dome, panicking about a Ke$ha song (probably, anyway; getting to the point where I can't necessarily discern which pop ingénues is which) because it was the thing going on before the national championship game. If they had played The Final Countdown I literally would have grabbed my buddy and gone AHHHH AHHHH AHHHH until he slapped me.
This season has been particularly enervating because of not only the suckiness of the team but its total unwatchability. As I mentioned in the post-bowl column, the 3-9 outfit was a worse team but they came by their awfulness honestly. Not that these folk didn't, but there is a special pain in rushing for negative yards consecutive weeks. It is transmitted direct to your eyeballs.
When this is not the case, you will discover the terror of your attachment again. Probably.
In your specific case, I've tied my career to this and don't have the option, so I don't know man. I tend to think I might get fed up, but I'm still getting hockey tickets and no one really cares if I go to hockey. Maybe I would just complain about feeling like a sucker and continue acting like a sucker.
*[I finally broke down and played Skyrim. Do not do this. Skyrim is the kind of awful that only reveals itself after you've set 60 hours of your life on fire listening to boring conversations and dully hacking things in the face. Their open world is beautiful and soulless, shiny on the outside but hollow in the center. Bethesda's mechanics are hopelessly broken in every single game they make, and while being able to jump across a continent in Morrowind was charmingly broken, Skyrim's mechanics invite you to a dull, iron-dagger-laden trudge through one moronically designed UI after another.
I just played the computer version of Michigan's 2013 football season. I DID IT TO MYSELF. AGAIN.]
Obviously changes need to be made, and probably already have for all I know. I posed this idea to some friends this morning and got intrigued responses but it was ultimately dismissed as unrealistic: Michigan should hire Pat Narduzzi as head coach right now.
He's obviously ready for a move, would clearly help Michigan's defense tremendously (and bring in a new OC who could only be an upgrade), and this would really hurt one of our division rivals who is on the verge of becoming a regular contender. I would say this move would be on par with hiring Bo (who, at the time, was an Ohio State guy, even though he was at Miami). Getting Narduzzi now is no different, except skipping the middle step of him coaching elsewhere first. Has anyone suggested this idea yet, and what do you think from the perspective of is it possible as well as is it a good move?
IT HAPPENED, JV
IT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW WITH EVERYONE WATCHING
"Whatever you need to make you feel, like you've been the one behind the wheel, the sunrise is just over that hill."
—Cursive, The Gentleman Caller, The Ugly Organ
How about some good news regarding Michigan's football team? One runaway success you can attribute to this coaching staff is they've managed to hold onto their players, especially the ones they recruited. Better news: the thing about a lot of the teams that finished in the Top 10 in 2013 were they had lots of upperclassmen starters. Experience is still a big deal, and the only way to get that is to go a lot of years in a row without losing half your roster. Better better news: Michigan is (likely) going to be one of those teams in the not-too-distant future. Let's go right to the table:
% of PLAYERS REMAINING AFTER X YEARS FROM RECRUITING CLASSES 1993-'13
|Class||Recruited by||Class Size||1 year||2 years||3 years||P.O.E.*||Usage**|
|Average for 1993-2010||21||92%||85%||74%||58%||77%|
*(Played out eligibility, i.e. nonredshirted Sr's who played 4 years + guys who played 5)
**(Eligible seasons the class netted divided by 4 x class size)
There will be attrition from Hoke's classes as the position battles shape out, but for awhile there Michigan was regularly coming into a recruiting class's redshirt sophomore season with a third of that class already departed. As of now the only guy from that awesome 2012 haul not on the roster is Kaleb Ringer. You have to go back to the class of 2000*, which didn't qualify Reggie Benton, to find a class to make it this far as intact. It was so long ago that a guy from that class is now one of Michigan's coaches.
Plot the retention of the 2012 class to this point with the state of the classes before it coming into their 3rd season. It's stunning:
Years after coaching changes seem to witness an exodus spike, followed by a return to normal, which is to be expected. The last few years though…
*Even better was 1998. Henson (Yankees), Terrell (early NFL), Fargas (transfer to USC) and fullback Dave Armstrong (unrenewed 5th) were the only losses, and that was just a year of eligibility from each of them. Considering they were recruited after the championship year that's astounding.
[Jump for lots more charty charts.]
It's over. Hooray?
And lo, it ended. It ended for us before the new year, and now it's all over, all of it: the season, the BCS, the goofy bowl scheduling. Next year, there are three large games on New Year's Eve and three large games on New Year's Day, two of which are national semifinals leading to a final the next week.
The BCS itself was sent off with a grander finale than it deserved, a taut back-and-forth affair between Florida State and pretty-much-arbitrarily-chosen Auburn that worked out, unlike near-arbitrary matchups that ended up in one sided blowouts with another team with a near-identical resume looked on in disgust. With the playoff these outrages have been reduced in intensity and spread over a greater number of teams, which seems like progress.
How long this holds before expansion and realignment kicks in, I don't know. I tend to think we'll end up with an eight-team playoff sooner rather than later, and from there who knows what happens. Someone will say "but we can get more money," probably, and then things spiral on and on.
At the very least, a bunch of bad ideas have ceased to impact college football, like
- Coaches voting on teams they haven't seen and have a huge conflict of interest about
- Retired coaches voting based on what Oklahoma was like in 1975
- Computer polls that can't take margin of victory or anything else into account
- Richard Billingsley
Whether the new ideas are better is yet to be seen; they almost can't be worse.
OH GOOD. Penn State may have been an incestuous mockery of an athletic department for years, but by God did they turn that around quickly. Bill O'Brien goes so well that an NFL team scoops him up after two years and their sanction-riddled mess of a program heading for a crater is about hire away…
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 7, 2014
...the guy who turned Vanderbilt from a 2-10 type outfit into a consistent bowl participant and all-around thorn in the side of the SEC. Ace and I are trying to come up with the last Big Ten coach to have 1) a job at the time of his hire and 2) a resume better than Franklin's, and, well…
[12:22 PM] Ace: is it bad that kevin wilson was the first name that came to mind?
[12:22 PM] Brian Cook: #ImitateAdam_Jacobi
…we're having some difficulty. Ace throws out Dantonio, but Dantonio's record in three years at Cincinnati was 18-17. Best we've got is Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, who implemented a hugely impressive build at Utah State. But I dunno man, Vandy is coming off back to back 9-4 years. Vandy. Which is in the SEC.
Not sure how good of a cultural fit the fiery, weird Franklin (remember that thing about how he only hires guys with hot wives?) will be at Penn State, but for a team in their situation to poach the hot up and coming SEC guy is impressive.
Unless this is all agents getting their dude a raise, but there's a lot of smoke here indicating he's the guy. Which will mean Michigan is in a division with Urban, Dantonio, and Franklin. Plus Randy Edsall. It's not all bad, I guess.
That was awesome, do it more. Twitter was agog about the ESPN News section of ESPN's BCS overkill broadcast, as it featured coaches (and Chris Spielman and Matt Millen) with instant off the cuff reactions to what was going on. I was with Twitter. Spielman's fervor for assignments came through clearly as he steamed about Auburn's screen touchdown, and then Kevin Sumlin jumped in to say that is what Auburn does, they put the eye candy in front of you for just those reasons, and everything was just terrific.
A few suggestions:
- Everyone do this all the time. Seriously, I would watch Glen Mason in a room just dying in disgust as he tries to watch Michigan run the ball. This may qualify as torture under the Geneva Convention; if it doesn't, do it.
- The game is the most important bit, so make it the whole screen, with the coaches popping in with small PIP boxes. The All-22 camera angle combined with the smaller box for the actual game was problematic, and I have a huge TV. Maximize the game size; no need to cut to visuals of Spielman, et al., when I can hear them talking.
- Cut two guys. One guy to run things, one D guy, one O guy, and Spielman.
- Send small electric shocks to anyone who talks in platitudes, like Paul Chryst did much of the night.
What I have been trying to express all year. Smart Football profiles Gus Malzahn for Grantland. This is the core of the offensive philosophy that brought Auburn from 0-8 in the SEC to the precipice of the national title in one year with a converted cornerback at QB:
Malzahn had never been in charge of an offense before. Searching for help, he turned to a book famous in coaching circles, The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football, by Harold "Tubby" Raymond, and followed it "word-for-word."
The genius of Raymond's book is that it's not merely a collection of football plays, though there's still plenty of that. Instead, it's primarily a treatise on how to think about offensive football. "The Wing-T is more than a formation," Raymond wrote. "It is sequence football." The animating idea behind Raymond's "Delaware" wing-T was his belief that the best offenses were built around a tightly wound collection of plays that fit together so that defenses effectively dictated the next play; each time a team tries to stop one thing, it opens itself up to something else. Beginning in the 1950s and lasting into the early 2000s — first as an assistant under wing-T innovator David Nelson, then as head coach from the mid-1960s on — Raymond fielded teams that devastated defenses. If the opposition tried to stop his base plays, Raymond had counters to his counters, counters to his counters to his counters, and so on. He amplified this "sequential" approach by "utilizing the misdirection theme to its fullest." With a dizzying array of motions, backfield actions, and fakes, Raymond correctly determined that defenses wouldn't be able to stop his offense if they couldn't find the ball.
Auburn's offense is a modernized version of that. It's like Fritz Crisler, basically, except not as wacky. Michigan does not have a tightly wound collection of plays, partially because they can't execute basic runs and partially because that's just not how Al Borges rolls. Borges does have sets of plays that are interrelated, but instead of piling wrinkle on wrinkle like Malzahn does—his thing this year was double arc blocks…
…Borges goes to a different package once his previous stuff has been figured out. And they dispense with the frippery. To me that's a philosophical thing on par with huddling.
How do you run the ball in college football? The top 25 teams in yards per carry this year, with offense type appended (note: distinction between spread to run teams and passing spread teams largely based on how many yards the QB had. Generally spread to run teams had 500+ QB rushing yards, and usually 700+).
|1||Ohio State||6.8||Spread to run|
|3||Northern Illinois||6.35||Spread to run|
|4||Auburn||6.3||Spread to run|
|5||Oregon||6.26||Spread to run|
|6||New Mexico||6.14||Spread to run|
|9||Missouri||5.66||Spread to run|
|10||Florida State||5.63||Passing spread|
|15||Arizona||5.32||Spread to run|
|19||BYU||5.23||Spread to run|
|20||Oklahoma||5.21||Spread to run|
|21||Texas A&M||5.17||Spread to run|
|22||Wyoming||5.1||Spread to run|
Yeah, it's possible to have a good running game by going under center and grinding it out, but is it likely? Four of the top 25 teams are pro-style outfits, one of which is Alabama and their overwhelming talent. Is Michigan going to be Wisconsin? I hope so, because that's the only way we get on this list.
Dolla dolla bill. We have money. Some of it comes from the only incompetent Germans.
According to a study done by the Portland Business Journal, Michigan's contract with Adidas (which is currently set to expire in 2016) is the most lucrative apparel deal in the country. Yes, more than Oregon's flashy contractual arrangement with Nike.
Per the study, Michigan currently receives a total of $8.2 million annually from Adidas stemming from the contract signed in 2007 between the two parties.
Michigan receives $4.4 million in equipment and apparel, and $3.8 million in cash. That's more than twice as much as the next-highest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska, which makes a total of $4 million from Adidas.
Part of that is the fact that Michigan has so many sports, which drives up the equipment and apparel bit. I wonder what will happen in 2016; that Most Favored Nation status Martin acquired has long driven ND crazy and Michigan's national appeal has… uh… suffered in recent years. The brand, if you will. Maybe we'll run an ad campaign about how we know our football is terrible so we changed our football sauce.
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 5’11" / 196 lbs.
Location: Washburn High School – Minneapolis, MN
Offers: Minnesota, Florida, Iowa State, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Syracuse, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★ .9454 (247 Composite)
This isn’t exactly breaking news at this point but it is something to watch as signing day nears. 2014 RB Jeff Jones is currently committed to his home-state Golden Gophers but after his MVP performance during the Under Armour All American game his recruiting is more hectic now than it’s ever been.
Jones committed to Minnesota back in March and has flown under the radar for most of that time period. Once he landed in Florida for the UA game, that all changed. He routinely caught the attention of coaches and reporters during the week of practice and took his performance to even another level during the actual game.
I was able to exchange just a few messages with Jeff about his Michigan offer and his revved up recruitment. He told me that his recruitment is a lot crazier now than it ever has been. He also said with a laugh that he thought all of that stuff was supposed to be over with once he committed. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your standpoint, his phenomenal performances have led to a late upswing in his recruitment.
Jones visited Michigan back in June and left impressed but wasn’t pursued very aggressively at that time. After his showing in St. Petersburg the Wolverine coaching staff wasted no time in extending an offer, one that Jones says is big news.
Michigan wasn’t the only school to take notice of Jones’ performance in Florida, as the Gators extended an offer as well. Jones isn’t certain whether he’ll visit anywhere else or not and didn’t offer up any information as to what his plan is moving forward. He currently remains a “soft commit” to Minnesota and I’m sure Jerry Kill and staff are working overtime to make sure he stays that way until February 5 when faxes start rolling in. I think Michigan has a slim, outside chance to make a late impression on Jones. I believe it would’ve been a very different story had the coaches chosen to really go after him following his visit to Ann Arbor this past summer.
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
1/5/2014 – Michigan 74, Northwestern 51 – 10-4, 2-0 Big Ten
METAPHOR ALERT: Drew Crawford jumping futilely as Stauskas is about to put a dunk on the Wildcats' faces. [Bryan Fuller]
Game. Blouses. [Fuller]
Drew Crawford's been around forever. He's always been too good to be one of those eighth year senior types; players like that generally need to be obscure bench types for a hunk of their career. Crawford was instantly a starter, playing almost 30 minutes as a freshman, so you knew exactly how long Crawford had left and that he would get an extra year with the Wildcats after injury ended what should have been his final season in 2012-13. His presence is not a surprise.
But Drew Crawford's been around forever all the same. This is how long Drew Crawford's been around: he helped pilot a season sweep of Michigan that was depressing but not all that surprising. This was 2010, when Michigan was coming into a year with expectations for the first time ever and sputtered to a 15-17 record. Northwestern beat Michigan twice, and it wasn't particularly close. The combined margin of the two games: Northwestern +21.
As I delved back into game logs from Crawford's career against Michigan I was surprised to find that against Michigan he'd had as many clunkers (2/21/2012: 6 points in 27 minutes) as the maddening why-is-Drew-Crawford-knifing-me-I'm-just-a-merchant outings. I expect Drew Crawford to be maddeningly good and look like perfect fit for Michigan. I expect to write something about how Michigan should follow Bill Carmody around, you know, just in case*.
History says that's confirmation bias. Sometimes Crawford's good, because he's a good player. About half the time he's not much of a factor. I remember the good bits because when he was a freshman and Michigan was getting solidly beaten by the Wildcats, he was dumping in threes.
With Michigan and Northwestern slated to play only once this year, Crawford had to compress his awesome game with his meh one. He duly obliged, scoring 13 in the first half and just four in the second. Not coincidentally, Michigan pulled away in the second half, first pushing the lead out to 12, then enduring a period of sloppy basketball in which Northwestern crept to within 6 before blowing the doors off. Twitter got jumpy about the Wildcats hanging around for a bit there, and not without reason: they were.
But let's reflect on the fact that 2010 is not that long ago, Drew Crawford has not in fact been around forever, and that Michigan is down one Naismith winner, one other NBA first round pick, and their preseason All-American. Northwestern's not a good version of Northwestern, but neither was that Wildcat outfit that swept Michigan back in the day. They went 5-11 in their other Big Ten games.
Meanwhile, Michigan fans were slightly cranky about a game with a Kenpom win percentage chart that looks like this:
I was too, for a bit, but then I thought about Drew Crawford and how Northwestern is still pretty much Northwestern and that Michigan is no longer around, even with Mitch McGary in a suit. After some wobbles early you had to wonder, but after ripping off four straight wins with a couple of quality outings in there, Michigan now seems back on track to be whatever you thought they might be minus their best player.
This is not a smoldering heap. Playing a Northwestern outfit that is provides a reminder that things could be a lot worse.
*[Another excellent reason Michigan should follow Carmody around just to see what he's doing: Imagine Bacari Alexander in a huge black trenchcoat going SHHHHH at anyone who calls him by name as he tries to figure out who Carmody is looking at in this Lakeview gym divided between basketball and a Magic The Gathering tournament. SURPRISE: it's one of the Magic players, and he'll shoot 45% from three for whoever Carmody is scouting for.]
Horford coming into his own. [Fuller]
Let's hear it for center depth. McGary out, Morgan and Horford combine for 38 minutes, 15 points on 11 shot equivalents, and 16 rebounds as Northwestern acquires four OREBs. It was in fact Morgan who kept Michigan solidly in the lead about midway through the first half, and since no one has ever been more enthused about pointing out a good hedge than Shon Morris we got to hear plenty about the various small defensive things both were doing. (Don't take this as a criticism: compare Morris to virtually anyone the BTN has for football. Go Shon Morris.)
I'd forgotten about Morgan's thing where he gets a bucket in most games by running the floor hard after a rebound, and enjoyed its revival in this one. Unfortunately, that also kicked in some other memories of what Morgan tended to do against Northwestern-type teams without large athletic posts (do very well) and what he did against big leapy guys (look overmatched). At least this year when Morgan is not a good matchup they can try Horford, who just went off for 14 points on 6/8 shooting against Minnesota.
I'm still looking at Amir Williams and Adriean Payne with trepidation I would not if McGary was out there; as with the team in general it could be a lot worse.
You did what to who? Northwestern was pretty good about not giving Michigan open threes (6 of 18 on the day), though that came at a stiff price as M shot 63% from inside the arc and acquired 22 FTAs. This was their plan, and it got eviscerated.
But like… at some point in the second half, Spike Albrecht was left utterly alone at the top of the key, and even though it took him a couple seconds to realize that no one was bothering to check him this did not cause a Northwestern dude to, like, check him. He drained a wide open three, his only shot of the day.
something something about how the basketball is The Rock and Walton knows his role [Fuller]
Freshman arriving. Zak Irvin didn't do much with Northwestern aggressively overplaying the three point line. This is fine since his presence helps open up swooping Stauskas drives to the basket, and when Minnesota took a different approach he torched them with 5/8 from behind the line. He's Just A Shooter, and that's fine when he's at 42% on the season—48% in this four game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Walton has started to settle into a third or fourth banana role. His game against Minnesota was more impressive than it appears statistically, as he helped harass the Hollinses into a 4/19 shooting night; against Northwestern he pushed the ball efficiently on the break and penetrated to score or draw fouls; when it wasn't there he kicked it around and let someone else do the heavy lifting. He seems to be finding his niche, and you can slowly expand from there.
Oh look they're passing it to each other how cute. Michigan had a 2 on 0 break with Irvin and Robinson on which Robinson made one very early pass so Irvin could set him up for an alley-oop. This caused Morris to wax about the unselfish play of the team. I saw that a bit differently, as when Robinson passes that ball you know what he is thinking. Everyone does.
Zak Irvin knows what to do not because he has a special bond with GRIII but because he is in Crisler Arena, and everyone knows that if Zak Irvin takes this basketball and lays it in, Glenn Robinson will have a blood vessel burst in his head. He will probably say something along the lines of DO YOU KNOW WHAT I DO FRESHMAN AAAAAAH, so Irvin giving it back is less about charity than it is about self-defense. Which is all well and good because yes we have a two on zero break and Glenn Robinson III, it's time to see something cool. I approve of this entire sequence.
But that first pass came with an implied threat. Let's be real.
Caris. Your mojo. Where did it go? Leaving aside an overmatched Holy Cross squad, LeVert's last three games: one point, four points, seven points. He does have nine assists against four turnovers and five steals in that span, so he is still providing some playmaking and defense; the guy who was taking it to Duke for most of the second half has faded out. He's probably a lot better scouted now and will have to have an adjustment period where he figures out how people are playing him and adapt. Would be nice to get a solid game from him in the near future.
You can see why Carmody got axed, but counterfactuals are fascinating. Q: if Crawford and JerShon Cobb are healthy last year does Northwestern make the tournament? And if so, Carmody keeps his job and then has this team minus Crawford, which goes like 2-16 in the league. Does Carmody then get fired a year after making the tournament for the first time in the history of the program?
Unfortunately, the answer to the first Q is likely "no" since I don't think Crawford and Cobb bring you from 4-14 in the league to a bid, so this is a pointless bullet indeed.
But anyway, yeah, it seems like Carmody had finally run out of magic (the gathering) when it came to scooping up underrated recruits. There's not much on this team, even for Northwestern.
A tip of the hat. Would like to thank the BTN crew for getting "not just a shooter" out of the way quickly. Standing policy should be one "not just at shooter" when he has a pretty assist or thunders to the hoop for a dunk or swooping layup, and then we can all have a little laugh or a shot or whatever as we think about the fact that Nik Stauskas is a white Canadian so we have to say this every time he does something he does all the time—Stauskas's FT rate is nearing the top 100. Then we can move on with the game and acknowledge the fact that Stauskas is approaching elite on offense, in all facets.
On defense… Well, he did help shut down Crawford after halftime, and I'm of the opinion that when he's actually on the ball he does really well these days. Remember Stanford trying to dump it down to a 6'9" guy they'd switched onto Stauskas and getting two heavily contested fade-away misses? Or in this one Crawford making about four different moves before getting off a tough fadeaway that he hit? Stauskas's length is a big asset when he can stay in front of a guy, which is something that he doesn't seem that much worse at than other guys.
The issues come off the ball, mostly, when he gets lost on screens or closes a guy out either late or with his hands down. I think his bad rap in that department is at least partially undeserved, as Michigan does have a pretty good Kenpom defense (38th) without much size (they're about average) or an imposing shotblocker.