...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Hey folks. Hope you had a pleasant holiday. I did except for my hard drive dying, then beeping alarmingly, then resurrecting itself. Either I need a new computer or I should hand over this hard drive to SCIENCE so all can benefit from this discovery. Probably the former. Anyway…
Merry Christmas. Stauskas attempts to hit 90% from three, does:
I like to have this man on a basketball team I like.
A non-ringing non-endorsement. Hoke on the Big Ten expanding:
Michigan coach Brady Hoke suspects it won't end there.
"It's probably not finished," he said Thursday in Tampa during a segment with Michigan Radio.
Although Hoke offered no dissension toward expansion, he also didn't endorse it.
"Is it a positive? I think it's the world we live in right now," he said. "As coaches, we have no say in anything, I want you to know. The presidents make those decisions -- people way up in the food chain. But I doubt it's done."
Bo is spinning in his grave right now. As I've mentioned before, at this point I'm all for further expansion since Big Ten Old and Big Ten New (And Purdue Or Something) is a much better setup than seeing Iowa and Wisconsin and whoever else once every million years.
Meanwhile, Michigan's moving to a third hotel Monday for some reason.
Hoke quote, epic variety. Is here:
Hoke on Denard & Kovacs: "So we have a distant cousin of Bob Marley and an accountant as our captains."
Cumong man. Very frustrating to hear Will Campbell speak of his laziness early in his career:
"When I was younger, I was lazy," Campbell said. "I didn't listen as much, I didn't take everything in like I should of. There were people around me telling me, too -- it was just me not doing it."
That's one thing recruiting rankings will always struggle to encompass. Jonathan Hankins couldn't get through three consecutive reps when he hit Michigan's camp as a rising senior, but got it together and turned into a beast. Campbell had that famous picture where he's all throwing guys all over the place…
…and then he doesn't really do much until he's a senior and by then we're just happy when he's okay. Meanwhile, repetition of theme about redshirting: RR threw Campbell on the field as a true freshman despite the fact he was patently unready, and now both Michigan and Campbell probably wish they'd have one more year together in which Campbell improved on his 2012 and maybe moved into the middle rounds of the draft. The redshirt forever.
On the other hand. Will Campbell on his beach day:
It's hard out here. I done fought two sharks, wrassled a sting ray, ate two crabs--had butter out there. It's hard out here but you know how we do it, I'm from Detroit. You know, it was nothing. Two great whites, punched a whale in the face... easy day. Go Blue.
He has never lacked for entertainment. The entire segment is pretty fantastic:
Also in this category. Brendan Gibbons on pirates:
Michigan placekicker Brendan Gibbons grew up a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and has always dreamed of playing at Raymond James Stadium.
Of course, he has a perfectly logical reason for loving the Bucs.
"I like pirates," he said.
Unfortunately, we are doomed since Gibbons no longer looks like Keith Stone.
Made with weed and torn ACLs. A reader sends along a shot of a micorbrewery in Coralville, Iowa, with a very special Extra Special Bitter:
Other than the relatively low alcohol content, perfect.
Exit bizarre decision guy. MSU wing forward Brandan Kearney announced he was leaving a few days ago, leaving Izzo to grasp his hair alarmingly($) and dance on the edge of calling Kearney a danger to society:
One of the more bizarre things I’ve been involved with in coaching. Came back from Christmas and (he) just informed me he thinks he’s better off going somewhere else. Not really happy with his role, you know. Wants more role, wants to score more, wants to do this more, wants to do that more. I gotta admit, it was a little strange for me and the players when a guy’s playing 17 minutes a game, but at the same time it’s gonna open it up maybe for another guy.
Thus ends what was, in retrospect, one of the most overblown recruiting controversies in Michigan basketball history: Carlton Brundidge vs Brandan Kearney. Answer: neither, and nobody in state. Unless I missed a guy from outside the Rivals 150 who is blowing up Amir Williams is the only guy from that instate recruiting class doing anything at a major school at the moment. Michigan did get a guy named Trey Burke that year, so that recruiting class something less than a total loss.
As for the departure's impact, Kearney was playing about 40% of MSU's minutes but when the going got tough those dwindled to 6-9 per game. He was a quality defender with little offensive game; MSU will probably revert to the twin towers lineup they had scrapped earlier in the year in an apparently futile effort to cut down on turnovers. I'm not sure Kearney's departure is worth much—maybe a game—but in a brutal big ten every little bit helps, or hurts as the case may be.
Oh for pants' sake. One side of the story and all that but a former Louisville player has sued UL for cancelling his scholarship mid-year after
- two teammates attacked him in the locker room and broke bones around one of his eyes (they were later charged with assault and kicked off the team)
- he was told not to tell the doctor and other folks how he sustained those injuries
- a doctor told him to stop playing football after problems with his eyes
Cancelling a scholarship mid-year is against NCAA regulations, FWIW…
Mid-year cancellations must be for specific reasons in the NCAA bylaws or for violating a term of the scholarship agreement. Any cancellation or non-renewal requires the student-athlete to be provided written notice from the financial aid office and a hearing opportunity.
…and it seems like they could easily have medicaled the guy. I'm sure Strong and Louisville have their side of the story. Looks ugly.
As more money flows into the top echelons of the sport it's time to ask why the NCAA has such strict limits on scholarships issued. If a team wants to carry 100 scholarship players, why not let them? All of this oversigning business would be done tomorrow if the NCAA would restructure revenue sports in such a way as to encourage retention instead of attrition, as a hard cap does.
In the barn. The following six true freshman have enrolled early:
- OT Logan Tuley-Tillman
- OG Kyle Bosch
- CB Ross Douglas
- S Dymonte Thomas
- DE Taco Charlton
- TE Jake Butt
For Douglas, Bosch, and Butt the early enrollment should give them a better shot at early playing time. With the thin interior OL it's not out of the question that Bosch is in the mix to play from day one despite being an OL. Douglas will probably have to wait a year with Countess/Avery/Taylor in front of him but the fourth guy will get PT and the race is on for that spot. Thomas may play some as well; Charlton and LTT seem like obvious redshirt candidates.
All but out of the barn. Taylor Lewan:
"I have an idea what I'm doing. I'm almost positive what I'm doing. But at the end of the day, this bowl game doesn't have to do with what I'm going through. ... I'm playing football on Tuesday, Jan. 1, and I'll make my decision, and I'll talk to the coaches about it, and then we'll obviously go from there and what they want to do to get it out.
Is there something that could change his mind?
"No," Lewan said. "No."
So long and thanks for all the fish.
It all worked out. Followup on "how to schedule nonconference games": Michigan did pretty well this year despite the Binghamton game. They approach the finish line of their nonconference slate 15th nationally after playing 5 major teams and avoiding the very bottom of D-I with the exception of the Bearcats. Their peripheral numbers should be good come tourney time after slogging through the brutal Big Ten, and that'll give them a leg up on anyone with around the same record not named Duke when S-curves are plotted.
Fight. James Young vs. Derrick Walton, go:
Walton is ripping opponents for 30-40 points a game these days to go along with the point guard stuff. There will necessarily be a dip when Burke is gone next year; it may not be a huge one.
Etc.: Elliott Mealer reminisces about the bad thing. Tony Dungy drops in on Michigan. Chad Ford declares Trey Burke "firmly planted in the first round"($), so godspeed Mr. Burke. Going I-A: Why? Stop. Don't. Joe Lundardi has Iowa the last team in, Iowa fans excited. Craig Roh is about to break the Michigan record for consecutive starts.
I have just spent the last six hours watching SEC football. I feel filthy. I need a shower. But you need content so here's a little bit of stuff I've learned about Michigan's Outback opponent.
The Most SEC Team Ever
South Carolina is not just an SEC team, they are the most SEC team ever, so SEC in fact that they're coached by one Steve Spurrier. They're major over-signers, massively talented, and minimally sane. A third came from a JUCO or prep school—Fork Union Military Academy is Spurrier's
rubber-stamping [EDIT: I can't support this, see comments] prep of choice though Georgia Military or Hargrave it's all the same. They're the reason you can't just say "SEC West" when describing the epicenter of NCAA rot with any kind of geographic specificity. In good-guy/bad-guy cartoon world, they're evil's comic relief henchman who starts every sentence with "Duuuhhhh, hey boss…"
Arkansas is Bebop, SC is Rocksteady.
The Most SEC Recruiting Ever:
SC has had a lot of attrition, to put it mildly. Of the 127 players to commit to Spurrier from 2008 through this season, 39 percent (50 players) are not on today's roster. Another five came back after a year of prep school. That's two dismissals, three early NFL entries, eight graduates (six JUCOs, two 2008 non-redshirts), four quits, two medicals, two unrenewed fifths, 14 transfers, and 15 non-qualifiers (one of whom made it back to FBS w/ Arizona).
Most of the transfers, as you might have expected, conveniently occurred under an over-signing scholarship crunch. Their 127 commits is just nine more than Michigan took over the same period, however M had a lot more scholarships available with massive attrition from small classes preceding the relevant years while SC's most egregious class was the 31 taken in '06. On the other hand the attrition wasn't so evenly managed as to not cause problems; as recently as 2011 their boards have had 'Never Forget'-levels of depth chart freaking out at cornerback. Their 2009 class is down to 11 from 29. With the new scholarship limits and attrition remaining very high (seven of those transfers happened this year), Spurrier has been doing it more with JUCOs lately, offering them scholarships on an availability basis. Things like grayshirting Matt Coffee because too many kids qualified seem to have been replaced with problems like "oh god we're out of linebackers!"
That said they've pulled in a lot of talent. Star chart (Rivals) of their current roster vs. Michigan's:
The five-stars are Lattimore and Clowney, and both were considered among the best overall recruits those years. Lattimore's season is over after one of those leg injuries you cannot unsee after seeing (case example: Tyrell Dortch vs. Wisconsin). Clowney is a freak.
Because he's hard not to watch I spent a good couple of drives focusing on Clowney, who of all the great DEs Lewan has gone up against is probably still the best. Clowney is really quick off the snap, as slippery as a defensive back, and so quick with his hands it is rare to see anybody get inside on him. Added this year, his swim move made every tackle he faced look ridiculous. Georgia held him like whoa, Florida optioned him off most of the game, and Arkansas mostly ran away from him or planned quick patterns. One time Florida tried to block down on him on a sweep and Clowney shot into the backfield so fast he arrived with the pitch.
SC tried to counter by doing some funny things, stunting Clowney around the formation or dropping him into coverage. At the latter he wasn't very effective; a couple of screens he should have blown up ended up going right by him. Optioning wasn't all that effective either, since Clowney often showed the agility to reroute and make the play anyway. Only teams with fast running backs made that work, and with Toussaint out this doesn't bode so well for Michigan barring a sudden emergence from Hayes or something.
You can try to put a tight end out there to double him but then this happens:
Neither is he an awesome tackler—more often he would just get to the quarterback so fast or break the pocket so badly that another guy got to clean up. Even our pair of escape artists is small solace; Michigan's best hope is that Lewan and Schofield can handle him. What worries me here is that Gardner was most effective against Northwestern and Minnesota thanks to long, leisurely days in the pocket; those won't exist unless we solve Clowney.
The Most SEC Offense Ever:
The first thing you notice while watching non-professional SEC football is the stupid. I went in expecting to blow up every stereotype about SEC speed versus Big Ten brains only to keep having those same stereotypes confirmed, especially with their offensive line.
Mattison is going to have some fun here guys. If you come at them straight up South Carolina's line can stand in the way as well as anybody; they've got quick feet, large bodies, and don't seem to be asked to do many non-simple things. As soon as things do get not-simple it's quarterback sacky hour. Stunts work, delayed blitzes work better, and I can't wait to see them try to react to Michigan's Okie package. The tackles Corey Robinson (6'8/337 lbs./RS So) and Brandon Shell (6'6/331 lbs/RS Fr) are big and young. Robinson has good footwork and is massive but I also saw him take a lot of plays off. The freshman right tackle will be really good one day; for now he's prone to lots of mistakes. The interior OL is older, smaller, and yet even more prone to mistakes—the right guard Ronald Patrick (#67) in particular seemed to miss a heck of a lot of blitzes.
The dumb very much does not extend to the coaches. Spurrier's old "Fun and Gun" offense is mostly gone, replaced with a base shotgun, spread stuff, options, zone reads, and wide receiver screens. What hasn't changed is all the cheating that Spurrier opponents have long complained about. SC has a tendency to come out in a wedge formation (I never saw them get called for it, though the tackles are clearly lining up a yard or more off the LOS) on passing downs. I also can't remember ever seeing so many pick routes and offensive holds to get their receivers open. When they get going Spurrier will speed up the tempo however they usually get set with about 17 or so seconds on the clock.
Quarterback Stephen Garcia is gone, but his hometown is Tampa and that's plenty of excuse to dig up every Stephen Garcia thing this week. Actual Gamecocks QB Conner Shaw was out (sprained foot) for the Clemson game but is expected to be back under center for the Outback bowl. The junior doesn't have the breakaway speed of Braxton Miller or Taylor Martinez, but Shaw definitely qualifies as a dual-threat by matching either for acceleration, and usually his third read is to scramble. The leaky line has made Shaw overly jittery in the pocket; he will move around a lot and get 10 yards if you break contain; if you don't he'll hold onto it too long and drive SC fans nuts. When he's got time to set and throw Shaw will put it on the money, however he's plenty liable to run around and toss something off his back foot even when he doesn't have to, and at this he's less accurate than he thinks he is.
The effective play of Dylan Thompson (more of a drop-back) against Clemson has started a bit of QB controversy, though nobody outside of South Carolina seems to think this is a thing (see: Denard vs. Gardner).
The blitzes they mostly minimized before with play action to Lattimore (no longer an option) and a dangerous QB draw it seems Shaw is allowed to call at the line:
The receivers are like our receivers—short but capable of whoa. Ace Sanders (#1) is the slot "weapon" who we'll come back to when talking about special teams. Nick Jones, an even tinier dude, is nominally the 2nd receiver. The deep threat is Damiere Byrd (#3); at 5'9 a giant among these men, Byrd is a Gallon-like player who made a ridiculous catch against Georgia. Bruce Ellington is the Dileo of the bunch. Dudes over 6 feet are extant but mostly freshmen; when bigosity is called for they go to the tight ends. The senior and better blocker is #87 Justice Cunningham (6'4/264), though Cunningham's been a receiver option plenty (22 catches for 287 yards this season). Sophomore Rory "Buster" Anderson (6'5/218/#81) caught 21 passes for 452 yards and 8 TDs in his first two seasons. There's a freshman they use sometimes here too.
The Most SEC Defense Ever
They're a base 4-3 that goes to a nickel against spread-ish teams. That nickel ends up looking a lot like a 3-3-5 because they'll split Clowney off into a 9-tech:
If you line up in a I-form on an obvious running down they will stack the line and creep up like woah—expect to want to kill Borges at least once when he runs Vincent Smith into that.
Clowney you've heard of, but he's not all they've got. The rest of the defensive front are eh—the other end is a Pat Massey-ian 6'8 except more athletic than Massey—but the DTs are active and vicious. They're big dudes with active hands who don't provide much in the way of pass rush except to shove your center back a few yards and make things even messier once Clowney begins breaking things.
The swing player is DeVonte Holloman, who plays Spur, the roving LB-safety spot that Michigan had during our 3-3-5 days—in SC's defense it's basically strong safety or nickel back depending on formation, though Holloman is liable to line up anywhere. Free safety D.J. Swearinger is a Kovacsian dude who seems to get to the ball quickly—I'm not sure why there isn't more hype for him. It's kind of hard to get a read on anyone else since Clowney forces the play so often that the linebackers are making tackles on dumpoffs more than anything.
The senior middle linebacker Reggie Bowens (#47) is good; he doesn't read plays that quickly but he's great at staying off of blocks and picking through trash to get to a ball carrier, and Bowens is big enough that when he arrives the RB's momentum immediately stops. The other guys tend to stand around a lot. Cooper just tore his ACL and SC blogs seem to agree that one or two 2013 recruits will start (if they can recruit any—that so far has been a disaster); backups are nonexistent.
At corner I got to see why Jimmy Legree lost his job when Akeem Auguste returned (Legree turned several plays into major gainers by going for a strip), but not much else. Everything just pivots around Clowney all the time.
The recipe here seems to be creativity. If you play them straight-up it's going to be just another Clowney show but Florida did a whole bunch of interesting things and ended up moving the ball enough to win by a lot. If Michigan can utilize our talent in the backfield to probe the weakside behind Clowney there's space here to put up points.
The Most SEC Special Teams Ever
Ace Sanders averages a bazillion per return, is described as "nifty" and never ever calls for a fair catch. Too bad we can't take advantage of that. Their punters seem to have little in the way of leg, which is scary if you imagine Gallon having to run up 20 yards to make a fair catch amongst a sea of coverage all the time. This would be a good time to deploy Dileo as short returner.
On Denard, On Devin, On Russ Bellomy! On Morris, On Swieca, On Jack Kennedy!
The latest practice report is slim on information as per the norm. Bullets anyway:
- In the video Denard takes one snap with the twos (Glasgow and Braden appear in the picture), that being a QB run. He is still wearing the RB-style gloves.
- Devin appears once in a pass skeleton, completing a pass to Jackson.
- Norfleet is covering a scout teamer who is wearing 82 but is obviously not Darboh. Not-Darboh has at least 20 inches in that matchup. Hoke says he expects Norfleet will play in the bowl game.
That is all.
Are you expecting content right now? Probably not. I feel duty-bound to inform you, though, that this is the annual MGoBlog Christmas week off and there will probably not be any content unless something enormous happens. I say probably because I haven't checked in with Heiko or Seth. Due to pending bowl game, Saturday and Sunday will be active as we figure out South Carolina. Until then, enjoy the holiday with your families or robotic servants.
I'm sure you do. Youtube search feed scouring turned up something better than ads for illegal internet streams today:
Tate Forcier highlights set to Hell's Bells! Posted by… TateForcierHighlight (1 video). TateForcierHighlight thinks this about Tate Forcier:
Highlight complication of Tate Forciers 2 year career with the University of Michigan wolverines football team. He is in my opinion a under looked quarterback that is yet to prove him self.
ARGH TATE WHY DIDN'T YOU GO TO CLASS.
You are psychic, guy on facebook. The "representative comment" for the anti-Outback-uniformz faction mentioned in a previous UV asked "what's next a dubstep Victors?" Uh. Dammit, guy. Prepare for this next year:
[ED: DO NOT CLICK PLAY MGOBLOG CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CARPETS, PETS, OR GRANDMOTHERS WRETCHED UPON AS A RESULT OF CLICKING PLAY]
nimnim2500, your evil is galaxy-spanning.
[HT: Stephen Nesbitt.]
The bereaved. Michigan State did not acquire one year of services from Jabari Parker, yesterday. Some guy at the LSJ hit "publish" on the wrong story, though, leading to the internet producing this:
Parker is kind of a big deal—the #1 recruit in the 2013 class—and MSU is currently without a 2013 recruiting class despite having two open spots after missing on a variety of other targets. So it's not good. But is it worthy of having a sleepover and reassuring Izzo that people really actually like him?
Let us come together in this time of trial when Tom Izzo only projects to have four McDonald's All-Americans on his 2013-2014 roster who kind of underperform expectations and are regarded by the NBA as poison.
This is ridiculous for a few reasons. Patrick Hruby details the extent to which Ohio State is monitoring their players now that Pryorgate has dropped:
In the wake of a tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal that violated National Collegiate Athletic Association amateurism rules and left this year’s undefeated Buckeyes squad bowl-season ineligible, the school has increased its annual athletic department compliance budget to more than $1 million and upped the size of its corresponding department to 14 full-time employees -- four more people than are on the football squad’s coaching staff. Where are the money and manpower going? Toward background checks on the 4,000-some people who receive free game tickets from football players, the better to sniff out agents and other undesirables. Toward investigating license plate numbers jotted down during regular surveillance walks through the players’ parking lot. And toward hiring a former NCAA investigator whose job, according to the New York Times, is to “educate local businesses -- like barbershops, nightclubs and tattoo parlors -- on NCAA rules.”
Rule No.1? Apparently, it’s start snitchin’.
At least all this has made the flow of money from booster to Buckeye a more annoying process. Slightly, anyway. As with most OSU waves towards legitimacy, it's designed to look good without actually doing anything. Until this thing called cash is banned, it'll still happen, but don't worry, the NCAA is working on this:
Awards received by student-athletes from a bowl game may not be sold, exchanged or assigned for another item of value.
Most bowls give out the equivalent of cash by deploying gift cards, because if they actually gave out cash they would have to stamp "NOT LEGAL TENDER" on it, and I don't think that's legal. BAN CASH.
That's one half of the brain—this is basically an unsolvable problem. The other half is: why is this a problem? Man with lots of money would like to give some of it to man without money. Man without money sees that his activities are so popular that he is overseen by man with lots and lots of money. I'd like people to follow the rules, but mostly because Michigan does, and level playing field and all this nonsense.
Aside from all the fairness reasons, your selfish Michigan fan reason to want NCAA amateurism to die in a fire is because it'll let Michigan do what plenty of other schools already do and collectively cannot stop doing.
Aw man. Kovacs's NFL prospects are not shiny:
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said recently that Kovacs has a shot to become a late-round pick in April's draft. But it could be a long one.
ESPN slots Kovacs as the No. 29 safety and projects him to go undrafted. Sixteen safeties were selected last year
CBSSports.com is higher on Kovacs, projecting him as a sixth- or seventh-round selection. He's ranked the 214th player overall, and the No. 6 strong safety.
I get it. I also think there's a decent chance he carves out a role for himself anyway.
HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY WHAT IS GOING ON. I both agree with and dread the implications of this statement from Mitch McGary:
"I just think I need to slow down a little bit, I'm moving too fast," McGary said. "A couple games here and there, I knew what I was doing, but my body was just moving too fast."
"Coming in here, I had never really lifted a weight," McGary said. "Being as big as I am, I'm still just trying to transition into the college format. I'm just learning the offense, learning all the footwork."
He's at least a couple years from being an NBA type player but in the long term, it's probably better for Michigan that he's the #20-ish guy instead of #2.
What I am talking about. The instachuck three from Stauskas is #2:
That is contested but it's up so quick and even falling away a little that it does not matter. [Via Five Key Plays at UMHoops.] If you can do that at 6'6" you are unguardable even without the handle.
Etc.: EDSBS on the uniformz. Why Illinois won't implode this time. (My reason Illinois won't implode this time: that was a –3 STDEV event.) Roundtree fluff. RIP Bob Derleth. Beard bullets. From Rod Beard, not about Elliott Mealer. Don't play CODBLOPS drunk. Michigan showing interest in a 6'7" wing from Shane Morris's school. Trey Burke annihilating WVU.
12/20/2012 – Michigan 93, Eastern Michigan 54 – 12-0
Sometimes games just happen, and then we skip right to the bullets. Actually, here is some video
And here is Bryan Fuller's photoset:
The set features this guy calmly departing for his home planet:
your efficient three point shooting has finally recharged my ionic crystals and I can return to my home planet thank you hooman. thank you hooman.
McGary, not so calm.
A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math
No fly, zone. Eastern is a horrible offensive team, but defensively they present some challenges with their zone and Da'Shonte Riley's shotblocking, so this was a game in two phases
- hurry up already and get this defensive possession that tells us nothing over
- alright let's see if Michigan can figure out a zone with major conference size
The Kenpom numbers are stark: EMU is one of the worst offensive teams in the country (#322) and an average defensive team (#161) overall. They'd still be 12th in the Big Ten if Delany were to snap them up tomorrow (time's running out, Jim!), in front of only Penn State, but Michigan had struggled against zone so far this year. Having a 40-minute class on how to deal with it effectively against a decent D was useful.
In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:
- adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
- getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
- teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.
McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.
This kind of thing happens regularly with Beilein; you can see the kids get something down in the middle of a game. I give that a thumbs up.
Wisconsonian. With just one game to go before conference play starts, Michigan's defense is looking like vintage Bo Ryan. Wisconsin teams rebound and try to get their chest into you when you rise for a shot but virtually never go for the ball. The result is a lot of contested jumpers at a poor percentage, no free throws, no offensive rebounds, no turnovers, no blocks, and no steals.
For example, last year the Badgers did this in conference (offense on the left, defense on the right):
The rebounding was a little weak and the blocks a little stronger than usual. Other than that, there is the platonic ideal of a Wisconsin defense. It has been effective despite the Badgers consistently lacking the sort of athletes that alter shots—they were third on D in a tough Big Ten last year.
- 89th (of 347) in eFG% D and about there from both 2 and 3.
- 228nd in TO%, and that number will drop as teams like Eastern sag off the schedule
- 7th in defensive rebounding
- 1st(!) at not putting opponents on the line
- 252nd and 273rd at blocks and steals, respectively.
The big thing Wisconsin does that Michigan has not been able to match so far is keeping guys from shooting threes: the Badgers were second nationally in fewest threes allowed last year, a stat that Kenpom has been hammering as more important than the actual percentage you allow from deep for a bit now. Michigan is below-average there, though they are giving up a low percentage… so far. If that trend continues into Big Ten play I don't think opponents are going to keep hitting 31%.
Another consistent aspect of Wisconsin's defense is not giving up assists—we are talking not huge margins here but the Badgers have not been lower than about 20th in a long time in that department. In general, assisted shots are high quality ones, so A/FGM is a decent proxy for shot quality. There too, Michigan cannot quite match Ryan's team. They are slightly above average; they're not elite.
The upshot: this is a model for defense that works in the Big Ten; Michigan is good at it but not as good as the Badgers, and they'll probably hold steady at around 4th or 5th on D in conference play.
Big Puppy. Michigan needs to get Mitch McGary's minutes up to 16+ a game so he'll rank on Kenpom leaderboards, because his rebound rates remain outlandish. If he'd played a couple minutes more per game he'd hit the 40% threshold and rank second in OREB and 31st in DREB; in this game he had a double-double in 18 minutes.
McGary still looks a little heavy on the floor, so he's not blocking many shots and picks up too many fouls, etc., but he's a major asset. If he can undergo the same transformation Morgan did over the offseason, look out.
Bonus McGary thing: two assists to one turnover in this one including the announcer-must-reference-Wes-Unseld soccer-throw-in outlet pass to Hardaway for a slam dunk.
STAUSKAS SWAG ALERT. I don't care that the behind the back pass didn't work. SWAG.
(okay maybe he should calm down a little)
Also on Stauskas. Does anybody else have this sense of panic whenever Stauskas misses from deep, like he's going to suddenly revert to Disappointing Shooter Of Christmas Past and this nonconference napalming is going to be a faint, low-sample-size memory? I do. The airball from the corner was death despite it being a late-clock, heavy-contest instachuck.
So then the guy goes 5-7 the rest of the way with another couple of instachucks going in… and exhale. Our sample size in which Stausaks is a 56% three point shooter has risen to 61, praise everything. As a team, Michigan's long distance shooting dropped a half-point in Big Ten play last year, so the tougher defenses shouldn't actually impact that number much. As the attempts go up, so does our confidence.
What separates Stauskas from the rest of the universe is that instachuck shot. If he's got time to set up and fire, he's deadly; he also has a mode where he gets his shot off so quickly that he can make a heavily contested three not that contested. That is a skill that will see him linger in the NBA until you're like "Nik Stauskas is still in the league? I knew Nik Stauskas Jr and Nik Stauskas III were, but the original is still playing for the Triton Methane Atmospheres?"
Trey Burke turnover == shock. Eight assists to one TO in this game, which I think brings his total over the last seven games to seven, for a guy who plays 36+ minutes in most games and dominates the ball. The TOs are so rare that you can remember the most recent one: Burke tried to chuck an an OOB restart between two guys, who deflected it and eventually recovered, and you were like "dang" and then you were like "oh right if I get mad at that I do not understand math or life or anything."
Applicants to Hardaway face pantheon.
I feel like these should be called "the discovery of fire" or something.