GRIII: Pretty, pretty good at the whole "jumping" thing. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
I'm at a loss for words.
Michigan just secured their second Big Ten title in three years with two games remaining on the schedule. The year the Wolverines didn't win, they made the national championship game. At least four plays tonight were more spectacular than anything I witnessed Michigan do in the entire Ellerbe/Amaker era—good lord, Glenn Robinson—and this wasn't a good offensive effort by this team's standards.
The novelty of Michigan basketball being a legitimate national powerhouse hasn't worn off in the slightest. I still can't help but blurt out "oh my god" on press row when Nik Stauskas throws a lob to GRIII and he throws it down on two people without regard for gravity or human life. Ditto when the backup point guard with one scholarship offer sparks another highlight-reel alley-oop with an Unseldian outlet pass, then follows it up with a leaping high-wire act to tap keep a critical possession alive. Or when Caris LeVert, one-time Ohio commit, continues to develop into an all-B1G player before our very eyes.
I'm still trying to comprehend last year. Now this? Without Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. or Mitch McGary? My brain is a 404 error. The page you are looking for does not exist. Please return to the front page and continue staring at the banners above you until you're 100% sure this is reality.
Adding to my confusion is the manner by which Michigan won tonight. Their shots weren't falling in the early going; unlike the last handful of games, however, the Wolverines weathered an early opposition run with quality defense. Minnesota led 15-9 at the ten-minute mark of the first half. At halftime, Michigan led 31-20, even providing a signature defensive moment during their 22-5 run, a spectacular Robinson block of an Andre Hollins fast break layup.
The offense eventually found its rhythm thanks to the exploits of Michigan's three stars. Stauskas knocked down 5/8 three-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. Though LeVert (13 points) struggled outside the arc (1/5), he hit 4/8 two-pointers, dished out five assists, and used his three defensive rebounds to ignite transition opportunities. Robinson added 12 points, half of which came on alley-oops, seemingly touched the rafters to pull down a critical late offensive rebound before finishing the job himself, and knocked home one of his signature 18-footers.
Jordan Morgan scored five points on three shots, but that only scratches the surface on his contributions tonight. He drew a huge charge call in the second half, played his usual excellent defense, and pulled in ten rebounds. Morgan's final board, on a Stauskas miss with 1:45 remaining, led to Spike Albrecht sinking a dagger to put Michigan up ten, capping a high-impact outing for Michigan's backup point guard. Derrick Walton only played 18 minutes; in that time, he scored eight points on five shots.
Michigan will raise their third banner is as many years when the 2014-15 season begins. Several of tonight's key figures won't be in uniform—Morgan, definitely, and who knows what will happen with the pro prospect sophomores? It'll be a familiar feel to start a Michigan season, and that alone is astounding to this child of the late '90s and early aughts.
Better yet, this season isn't over, and once again the Wolverines are rounding into form as the calendar flips to March. I think this Beilein fellow just might work out.
While you're up there Glenn, go ahead and hang a banner.
These are banner muppets:
And you can't have one without the other…
For the second time in history a team with back-to-back losing records in its conference is probably going to the dance. The last time was Virginia in the brutal ACC of the 1990s. The next will most likely be Minnesota in this year's Big Ten.
This is the conference Michigan just clinched.
|WHAT||Michigan (20-7, 12-3 B1G) vs. Minnesota (18-11, 7-9)|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||6 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -9 (KenPom)|
|TV||BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Jim Jackson)|
Right: Like father, like son. [via]
While Michigan can't clinch an outright Big Ten title this weekend, they've already moved closer to a share of the title since the comeback against Purdue. This is thanks to respective losses at Indiana and Penn State for Iowa and Ohio State, who have been thusly mathematically eliminated from contention. Even before that occurred, the Wolverines had a 98% chance of winning at least a share of the conference crown. A win coupled with an Illinois upset at Michigan State on Saturday would ensure a banner, though that scenario has just a 12% chance of occurring, per KenPom.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
In both teams' Big Ten openers, Michigan knocked off Minnesota at The Barn, 63-60, thanks to huge contributions off the bench from Jon Horford (14 points, 6/8 FG, 9 rebounds) and Zak Irvin (15 points on 5/8 3-pt). The white-haired woman on the baseline didn't take this well.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||4||Deandre Mathieu||Jr.||5'9, 165||72.9||24.0||No|
|Explosive, gets to rim for majority of shots, solid finisher, lots o' assists & TOs|
|G||1||Andre Hollins||Jr.||6'2, 195||71.1||24.7||Not at all|
|Excellent outside shooter, not great inside arc, draws lots of fouls, 83% FT|
|G||20||Austin Hollins||Sr.||6'4, 190||80.3||20.0||Kinda|
|At best off dribble, jumper failing him this season, top-100 in steal rate|
|F||24||Joey King||So.||6'9, 225||49.5||16.3||Kinda|
|Low usage, takes mostly jumpers, not a great shooter, very low rebound #s|
|C||55||Elliott Eliason||Jr.||6'11, 240||58.0||15.4||Very|
|Great rebounder and shot-blocker, low usage, generates offense w/ ORebs|
|G||30||Malik Smith||Sr.||6'2, 200||49.4||19.6||No|
|Unabashed 3-point gunner, hits 37% from beyond arc, rarely ventures inside|
|F||10||Oto Osenieks||Jr.||6'8, 220||45.3||16.9||Kinda|
|Nondescript backup big missed last game and may not play (knee)|
|F||15||Maurice Walker||Jr.||6'10, 250||32.4||24.3||Very|
|Excellent offensive rebounder, good finisher, draws and commits lots of fouls|
Minnesota is riding high after Tuesday's home triumph over Iowa, but they haven't defeated a team within KenPom's top 70 away from The Barn this season; in fact, their only Big Ten road wins came at the expense of Penn State and Northwestern. They managed to take Michigan State to overtime, only to lose by 13, which is rather remarkable. Other road games against contenders haven't been close.
The Gophers' high-tempo attack is led by their three-guard backcourt, with each player bringing something different to the table. Point guard Deandre Mathieu doesn't let his diminutive stature prevent him from getting to the tin, as shown by this shot chart from UMHoops:
At 5'9", he's hitting 65.5% of his shots at the rim, per hoop-math; color me impressed. He's also hitting 46.4% of his three-pointers, though he's only attempted 28 this season. Mathieu boasts a top-60 assist rate that's unfortunately coupled with a healthy number of turnovers.
Fellow guards Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins (no relation) are both shooting near the 40% range for entirely different reasons. Andre is the rare high-volume/high-efficiency three-point shooter (38.7% on just over half his FGAs), while he's struggling to finish inside the arc (43.9%). Austin is more of a slasher and converts at a solid clip within the arc (54.5%), though he's mired in a season-long shooting slump that's seen his three-point percentage drop to 30.8. (It's worth noting he went 4/6 against Iowa, so he'll probably knock down every outside shot he takes tomorrow.) Austin is also an excellent rebounding guard, while Andre is adept at both getting to the free-throw line (52.0 FT Rate) and converting (82.9 FT%).
Joey King and Oto Osenieks normally split minutes at the four, but the latter's status is up in the air, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Oto Osenieks is out for the time being with a left knee injury. Basically, he had surgery on it seven years ago and the cartilage has been slowly wearing away. He said it's really bothering him to put pressure on it when he runs and jumps. He was supposed to get a shot for it today. "We'll see how it acts after that," he said
First of all, ouch. Second, even if Osenieks gives it a go, his minutes have waned significantly this month, in which he's 2/11 from two and 1/6 from three; the injury is affecting his play. King's been playing around 30 minutes a game recently; he's a decent finisher with shockingly low rebound rates (5.6 OR%, 9.2 DR%) for a 6'9" big.
Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker are an effective one-two combo at center. Eliason is one of the nation's best rebounders and a very good shot-blocker. Walker does his best work on the offensive glass and, thanks to his wide frame in the post, he draws a lot of fouls; his inability to avoid foul trouble limits his minutes.
Guard Malik Smith provides an outside shooting specialist off the bench. Before Tuesday, 6'9" redshirt freshman reserve Charles Buggs would've gone without mention; then he scored 13 points on six shots against the Hawkeyes despite attempting just three field goals in the entire rest of the season. There's your name in bold, Mr. Buggs.
Mostly covered above. Minnesota is a totally different team at home—where they've knocked off Florida State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa—than they are on the road; their most recent visit to a quality opponent ended in an 18-point blowout by Ohio State.
While Minnesota shoots the ball fairly well from both inside and outside the arc, their offensive efficiency is right around the D-I average due to their propensity to cough up the rock. It wouldn't be surprising to see Michigan break out the 1-3-1 a little more frequently than normal to try to take advantage—the Gophers are dead last in the conference in opponent steal rate allowed.
The Gopher defense, meanwhile, is a train wreck. They're last in the B1G in efficiency and no better than eighth in any of the four factors. They give up a ton of assisted baskets and allow opponents to shoot nearly 37% from three-point land.
The jump ball means the game has started. Obvious point is obvious: maybe don't let the opponent run out to an early double-digit lead this time, guys. We can't afford to have Brian actually have an aneurysm.
Derrick Walton's defense. Mathieu is a lightning-quick slasher at the point, and Michigan's had some trouble keeping quick guards in front of them—though they did limit Mathieu to nine points on 3/11 FG the first time around. The onus for defending him will fall mostly on Derrick Walton; while Spike Albrecht can do well against Mathieu when Michigan has the ball, that's not a matchup I like very much on defense. Walton has to play on his toes tomorrow on both ends, as Mathieu is also pretty good at stealing the ball and going the other way for an easy bucket.
Run when you can. Minnesota is turnover-prone and generally awful defensively. This sounds like a recipe for easy baskets. If Michigan can do as much in transition as Minnesota, a team that relies far more on generating points on the break than the Wolverines, they should find a relatively easy path to victory.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 9
Houston's D-League affiliate is a John Beilein wet dream. Brian Phillips just published an article on Indiana basketball that I'm gonna go ahead and assume is really good and worth your time.
Praise to all available deities. I know it's 50/50 whether this is real or "we want to be aggressive" annual offseason pablum, but I'm storing my cynicism because I need it to be the former. Devin Gardner:
"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps. This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of ... I feel like, right now, there's a lot of energy in practice. I'm happy with it. ... Coach Nuss definitely pushes tempo, makes sure we get to the ball fast, get the calls out, do everything you need to do and then get the ball hiked. He's pushing that a lot. And sometimes we just go hurry-up to get more reps."
It was as if a million botched two-minute drills cried out, and then were silent. [Ed-S: ...were suddently silenced! ARGH YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!] If you have not wandered on to this site straight from the maternity ward of the local hospital still covered in amniotic goo you are aware of the author's tendency to engage in spittle-flecked rants when it comes to the idea that you must slow down your offense to protect your defense.
(I MEAN WHAT DOES THAT IMPLY ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TEMPO?! YOU'RE FLAT OUT STATING THAT TEMPO IS DIFFICULT TO DEAL AND INSTEAD OF COMING TO GRIPS WITH IT YOU PREFER TO JUST NOT THINK ABOUT IT ARRRRRGH. I put this in parens so that you can't blame me for this spittle-flecked rant. I am invulnerable in here.)
So. More tempo means more reps, means more ability to go fast without sacrificing your ability to go slow, means the defense is better prepared to deal with teams that go fast, means less shoe-throwing as Michigan spends the last two minutes of the half imitating a newly-hatched sea turtle trundling towards the sea. All praise to modern football thinking.
…but I don't believe you for a second. While it appears that coaches are talking to the press when they talk to the press, they are in fact talking to their players. This one insight explains every bit of coachspeak ever: they speak in motivational parables designed to get people to try hard no matter how tenuous their relationship to something interesting or accurate.
So, when asked how he's evaluating his quarterbacks at this point, his answer was hardly surprising.
"We're going to evaluate everything, just like every other position on our offense," Nussmeier said. "We want to create competition, we want guys to go out and compete."
Articles about the "spring QB race" result. This space already had a spittle-flecked rant on this subject, so let me just reiterate that I will consume a rack of hats if Devin Gardner is not the clear starting quarterback.
Perpetually entertaining. If the Ed O'Bannon case does nothing other than bring to light internal NCAA emails that plainly admit that the NCAA is profiting off the likeness of their players, it will still be a worthwhile endeavor. (And it seems likely it'll do much more than that.) The latest quotes would be astounding if they weren't part of an ever-expanding genre:
Leeland Zeller writes back to the LSU official that an NCAA rules interpretation "clearly addresses" and prohibits "the use of the DVD as 'premium' in conjunction with a subscription. ... Regardless, SI does this every year. If the school asks about it, they are advised to send a cease and desist letter, which preserves the eligibility of the student-athletes. SI ignores the letter and we all go on about our business."
In other news, it was not a coincidence that the play by play guy could pronounce "Tebow," and EA was trying to weasel the names and faces of players into NCAA because it was just like television.
What was that? Episode two in "Brian crams Big Ten basketball talking into his UV because his other platform was stolen": what the hell was Iowa doing last night? They ended up losing 93 to 86 in a wild 83 possession game at Indiana.
Everyone knows Iowa likes to run and that's fine as it goes, but Iowa played directly into the hands of the Hoosiers by employing a half-assed 1-2-2 pressure that turned Indiana possessions into transition possessions, which is the last thing in the world you would ever want to do. And then several times they just did not run back on defense, leading to a parade of Will Sheehey layups. I was shocked that the combustible Fran McCaffery didn't throttle various players. It was thoroughly gross.
This one probably doesn't end like the Dr. V putter story. Everyone on twitter recommends this profile of Caris LeVert, because LeVert just put this out there in a press conference:
“Caris, have there been any defining moments in your life?”
He looks around an empty room, considering the question and the door it leads to.
“Well, on Easter of sophomore year of high school, me and my brother found my dad dead on our living room floor.”
Wow. Read the whole thing, as they say.
Help wanted. Hockey picks up a commitment from NAHL defenseman Sam Piazza, who had an interesting path to his commitment. It's not often you see a guy who was committed to Boston College for 2012 end up in the NAHL two years later. In Piazza's case a severe concussion held him out for at least five months in what was expected to be his final season of junior. Hockey DB shows just 18 games played for Piazza from 2010-12; BC deferred him, reasonably, and he ended up playing 25 games for Chicago before dropping to the NAHL level.
“Michigan had called me about two weeks before the Top Prospects Tournament, so I knew they would be watching,” the defenseman said. “After Top Prospects, they invited me to tour the campus. I was not expecting much, but they wound up offering right there.”
…so there's more expectation for success here than there would be with your usual 20-year-old late NAHL skater pickup. And this is of course excellent because Michigan needs defensemen badly. Coach quote:
“Sam is a powerful skater with great on-ice vision and stick skills. In the years I have been coaching junior hockey, I have not seen anyone with his vision on defense. When you couple that vision with his high-end stick skills, that is a tremendous combination for a hockey player,” Baxter said.
Center Ice has more.
Etc.: Joba Chamberlain scar smiley face zoom in. Needs "SOON" in last panel.
We believe the guy with the fake mullet managed to convince him it is, while acknowledging the recently greater popularity of Freesia. [Fuller]
Molecules of competitiveness. I don't get all of the WWE references in the Best and Worst columns. For example, would this qualify as a bodyslam or a chair to the face:
MSU hit a school record 17 3 pointers against Purdue, including 6 by Gary Harris. In their losses to Nebraska and UM, they hit 14 total out of 47, with Harris going 5 of 20. Apparently, those wrists, shoulders, and ankles were fine on Thursday but that long bus ride between East Lansing and Ann Arbor jostled all the bones out of sorts again.
Chair to the face I'm guessing, since most of the momentum was generated by Izzo's bouncing off the ropes, and bronxblue just put a hard object in the way. Either way it's pretty entertaining.
|Scientists think Morgan and Morris may have cohabitated in ancient Crisler, and may have even interacted.|
Creationists claim Jordan Morgan is less than 4,000 years old. The debate rages as ClearEyesFullHeart presented evidence that a Jordan Morgan-like creature was living in Crisler back when it was still called an arena. What appeared to be advice to competitors was found on cuneiform tablets that match Morgan's particular type of swagger. CEFH also suggested that J-Mo-anthropus may have domesticated dogs, and participated in battles against the ancient Greeks.
How bad can we make it? There is a singularly small type of person who sees a sexual assault expulsion and jumps for joy for the hammer with which he can pound a sports rival program on internet message boards. All fanbases have them, all fanbases are embarrassed by them. The best way to manage them is if the thought leaders, i.e. the journalists, maintain a high level of integrity and investigation, focusing on facts, providing context, and discouraging over-speculation. Good journalism is a thousand times better than good P.R.
If you're wondering why it's Sparties, of all roaches, doing most of the scuttling, it's because their media are 30% trolls themselves, 60% too biased to consider fighting the trolls, and the remainder aren't trying all that hard. I removed, at last count 13, fight-back threads this and last week, because there's nothing to be gained by criticizing the journalistic integrity of Mike Valenti or Graham Couch or Eric Thomas, etc. There's a certain type of person you just remove from the message board; if somebody's given him a broadsheet or a highly trafficked url or a 15,000-watt microphone instead, roll your eyes and ignore it.
The least we could hope for is for those without a dog in the fight to not be lazy with the publically available facts. Like how FERPA works (BiSB's fisk of MLive's attempt to get in on the Daily's glory). Or that the Ed Dept.'s involvement began when they used Title IX to tell the university to institute the policy they're reviewing, not last week, and that at last count 24 universities' policies were under investigation, with two more completed and seven more have had recent controversies. Or that a few minutes on the chief complainant's blog raises obvious credibility concerns that he should have to address when interviewed.
The Daily has continued to produce the best reporting on the subject, while the Detroit papers, SI, Huffington Post (to their credit they at least edited their article at the end with suggested corrections), and now Mlive have, while trying to play catch-up on the students, been caught biting at the chum of shock value while burying or ignoring the easy context. Prediction: in 10 years half of the metro-Detroit media will be replaced by former Dailyites and bloggers. Most of those who haven't will cater to Michigan State fans, because roaches are survivors.
Etc. Michigan is 98% to hang a banner. Ron Utah says the position changes are a Hail Mary and this inspires…confidence? Six of eight is a narrative-beater. DCAlum provided his eyewitness account of the MSU lining up fiasco. Goal-by-goal vs. Minnesota was too depressing for me to even read this week. LSA columns on win probability and home versus away stats.
[Jump for the best of the board, and the title reference]