in town for free camps
ROAR [Allison Farrand/Daily]
SHERMAN'D. Congrats to Michigan wrestling, which took down #2 Minnesota over the weekend thanks to a dramatic OT win by heavyweight Adam Coon over Minnesota's two-time defending national champion Tony Nelson. Well done, sirs.
Meanwhile, Dave Brandon captured the most important part of the meet:
— Dave Brandon (@DaveBrandonAD) January 20, 2014
Kudos to you sir on your triumphant victory.
Well… that sounds not ideal. Michigan's been extraordinarily fortunate to have their supposedly-middling recruits blow up into NBA first-rounders (yes even if we assume that John Beilein is a crazy talent evaluation ninja), but also kind of sort of unfortunate that their super good players have been of the variety the NBA covets instead of terrific college players the pros are indifferent to, like McDermott/Payne/Craft/Berggren etc.
You thought Nik Stauskas might be one of those four year awesome guys, but… uh… you've probably seen him play of late. And unless Joe Dumars clones himself and gets himself appointed to every other NBA GM job, chances are the NBA will think he's pretty good. If they do, don't expect Stauskas to pull the McGary. From a recent SI profile on the most swag Canadian:
“He sees the brass ring, like three inches away from his nose,” [father] Paul Stauskas said. “He knows all he has to do is keep his nose to the grindstone for another couple of months, and there’s a really good possibility he might be able to go pro. He’s working really hard to achieve that.”
Can't begrudge the kid, obviously, but a Stauskas departure would leave Michigan a bit thin next year on the wings. Also they would not have Hypothetical Junior Nik Stauskas, which…
The ideal is that the Uber-Loaded 2014 NBA Draft™ convinces Stauskas to return for one more year. I would brace for departure impact if Stauskas keeps doing what he's doing, though.
GRANDPA ASSASSIN. John Beilein's version of the Richard Sherman promo in the aftermath of the Wisconsin win:
"I don't care," the Michigan coach said Monday night, later adding, "It will be a good win if we have a great season." …
"Things that happen during the year, yeah, they’re cool and our guys like them. But where people are rated right now is such a projection. You can beat a team (that is) No. 1 in the country and by the end of the year, they might not even be in the top 25. So did you really beat the No. 1 team in the country?
"Here’s what it is: Any road win, I don’t care if we go to Concordia to play, is a quality, quality win. And (Wisconsin) was a quality win."
A requirement given Michigan's next two games. Me, I'm refreshing Kenpom every five minutes.
Tim Miles is okay by me. Nebraska picked up its first Big Ten win of the season last night, beating Ohio State at home. In the aftermath, Husker coach Tim Miles told BTN that he should probably go jump around during his post-game interview, and then took a selfie with a fan on the court.
Miles also has an entertaining-for-a-coach, actually-him twitter account and a Beilien-esque track record of success at smaller schools that led him to Nebraska. Viva Tim Miles. Viva Nebrasketball.
Lohan come back. Injured Michigan defenseman Kevin Lohan is badly needed with the Wolverines leaking goals and slipping in the pairwise. He should be back soon:
Right now, Lohan says he’s at about 90 percent — while the recovery process has been long and arduous, he’s progressing well ahead of schedule. On Nov. 5, Berenson said the injury was a “worst-case scenario” and that it would take at least three months until the defenseman had a chance to play again.
“He’s doing really well,” Berenson said. “He’s pretty close to going all-out.”
He won't play this weekend's series against MSU; the next week or the week after are targets for a return. Mike Spath reports that when he does come back, only Bennett, Downing, and Sinelli(!) are safe. This says much about the development, or lack thereof, from Clare and Serville.
“If you look at John over the years, he’s one of the best coaches of our generation,” said McCaffery, who will bring Iowa to the Crisler Center on Wednesday. “And the numbers bear that out. He’s going to stick with his style of play. They play a certain way. They can beat you in halfcourt, they can beat you in transition, they’re going to guard you.
"His offense is really sound, it’s not easy to guard and he’s going to plug the people into those positions and he’s going to go to those guys."
Meanwhile, Beilein provided an informative update on what's going on with redshirting Mark Donnal:
"He’s increased his strength a great deal. He’s probably like Horford or Morgan as far as a rebounder. Great hands. But he’s so much stronger than he was. He’s country strong anyhow, I mean he’s strong. He’s gaining weight. The one thing he has, which I’m looking forward to coaching, is he can really shoot the ball. He can really pass the ball. When you have big men who can do that, it can really open up your offense. But this was absolutely the right decision, because in all the other things freshmen go through — learning the offense but most importantly, defense — he needed this year to develop.”
Donnal will be Beilein's first post-type substance at Michigan who might resemble Kevin Pittsnogle in any way whatsoever. Will be interesting to see how that works with Michigan's current style of offense, which I assume isn't going away even if Stauskas exits since LeVert and Walton can pick up the pick and roll burden without issue.
Etc: Stauskas on the Journey. Wyatt Shallman shaved his head to look more like a kid at Mott. Michigan much better at offense, worse at defense without McGary, correlation is not causation. Michigan continues to dominate the USA's ice dancing program. Looking at Iowa's success.
This is very 2013 of you, recruiting.
Sam Webb is reporting that Damien Harris is no longer a Michigan commit($).
For what it's worth, his mom says that "Michigan is #1, and that hasn't changed," but that he wants to make sure he goes through the recruiting process and whatnot; also Borges's departure was a factor. (His high school coach used to be a GA for Borges.) Time will tell whether this is like the Jabrill Peppers wavering or more like George Campbell. Nussmeier made his first stop as OC Madison Southern, Harris's high school, so Michigan is on it, insofar as they can be on it.
I suggest we immediately move Fred Jackson to Beverage Coordinator and hire Mike Hart but that's just me.
Just about the most closely watched thing of this basketball season, right after McGary's clinical charts and forwards moving backwards on contact, has been the play of Derrick Walton. Reasons: here played Trey Burke, a couple of disappointing performances in the late non-conf schedule, Trey Burke used to play that spot, and because we read his recruiting profile and thought hey, freshman Trey Burke!
This weekend we got a chance to see Walton play against another of the highly rated point guards from his class. Granted, Bronson Koenig was on the floor for all of four minutes on Saturday, but that's 240 unheard-of seconds on a Bo Ryan team. It was also excuse enough to compare Walton's learning curve so far to the other 2013-14 freshman PGs.
Here's the class:
|Andrew Harrison||Kentucky||6'5"||205||5-5-5||1||109.1||Been improving lately.|
|Kasey Hill||Florida||6'1"||160||5-5-5||2||99.7||Splits PG time with sr PG/SG|
|Terry Rozier||L'ville||6'0"||170||5-4-5||3||116.3||Playing SG|
|Tyler Ennis||Syracuse||6'2"||180||5-5-5||5||122.4||Is good at basketball|
|Rysheed Jordan||St.Johns||6'4"||185||5-5-4||5||93.5||In and out of the lineup|
|Anthony Barber||NC St||6'2"||165||4-4-5||5||99.0||Starter since 5th game|
|Demetrius Jackson||ND||6'1"||185||4-4-4||7||115.1||Playing SG|
|N. Williams-Goss||Wash||6'4"||180||5-4-4||7||100.9||12/3 A/TO last 2 games.|
|Derrick Walton||Mich||6'0"||170||4-4-4||8||101.6||Not Trey Burke.|
|Conner Frankamp||Kansas||6'0"||160||4-4-4||9||97.1||Backup to Naari Tharpe|
|Roddy Peters||Md.||6'4"||180||4-4-4||10||90.5||Splits time with Seth Allen|
|Zach LaVine||UCLA||6'4"||170||4-4-5||11||120.0||Now 6'5, Playing SF|
|Stevie Clark||OklaSt||5'10"||163||4-4-4||13||109.0||Backup to Marcus Smart|
|Tim Quarterman||LSU||6'5"||180||4-4-4||15||82.0||Backup SG|
|Wesley Clark||Mizzou||6'0"||175||4-4-4||15||93.4||Sixth man|
|Bryson Scott||Purdue||6'1"||170||3-4-4||16||102.1||Backup to Ronnie Johnson|
|Monte Morris||IowaSt||6'1"||175||4-4-4||18||125.6||Playing SG|
|Billy Garrett||Depaul||6'3"||160||4-4-4||21||103.0||Starter since 6th game.|
|Nate Britt||N.C.||6'2"||180||4-4-3||22||84.6||Recently benched.|
|E.C. Matthews||R.I.||6'4"||180||4-4-4||23||97.5||Playing SF|
|Kendal Yancy||Texas||6'4"||195||4-4-3||23||98.9||Buried on the bench|
|Bronson Koenig||Wisc.||6'3"||180||3-4-4||25||116.0||Backup to Traevon Jackson.|
*star ratings from ESPN, Rivals, and Scout, respectively
**average national positional ranking from sites that ranked as a PG
The sites were in agreement that Walton belonged at the top of the consensus 4-stars; nobody threatened to add a fifth. I see one real standout above who isn't Just a Shooter™ at this stage. The closest comparisons around him are either riding bench or nearly a half-foot taller. Here's a closer look at those from above who've started at least a third of their team's games at PG:
I don't know how to read that except Tyler Ennis (NTTE) is pretty good, and 1.42 assists for every turnover isn't good but at least it's in line with two (Harrison and Jordan) of the four consensus 5-stars in his class. Mock drafts have Ennis from the end of the lottery to near the end of the first round. It is not freshman Trey Burke, nor does that show a guy whose role is dishing it to an array of sophomore scorers. Part of that is not having McGary to flip to inside for an easy two-from-the-elbow, part of that is the Stauskas-LeVert pick-and-roll game only asks Derrick to be a viable three-pointer threat on the opposite perimeter. But I can't hide my own disappointment that Walton has yet to find the keys to engage Lottery Pick Glenn Robinson.
Let's dig deeper into those things after…
Everything goes down. That's just how Wisconsin plays. I contradict myself on the dry spell near the end because we recorded this before I managed to rewatch it for the column today. Cackling about Bo Ryan.
Jordan Morgan sends it back. Hard hedging returns; a good performance against Wisconsin but how applicable is that to teams that don't provide matchups that are quite as friendly?
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
There is no bubble. The ineffable lightness of Fran McCaffery. Tom Crean as "Clappy," per internet. The statistically bizarre Northwestern Wildcats. Zak Irvin discussed. Dan Dakich's Overused Michigan Story Cram Period.
"Across 110th Street."
"The Mariner's Revenge Song," The Decemberists
"You And All Of Us," Hoots And Hellmouth
The usual links:
As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]
1/18/2014 – Michigan 77, Wisconsin 70 – 13-4, 5-0 Big Ten
It was unfair. It was beautiful.
Sam Dekker drove on Stauskas and put up a shot that Horford blocked. Sort of. Along the way somewhere between one and three fouls were committed. Michigan ain't care, though, and they grabbed the loose ball and ran back the other way, finding LeVert open in transition for three. He knocked it down to put Michigan up nine. ESPN cut to Bo Ryan.
You know that moment when you figure out that girl you've been certainly not in love with for 15 years is certainly not in love with you and then sparkles fall from the sky while unicorns burst from the chest of everyone in the coffee shop as you share a deep and passionate kiss that leads to a lifetime of happy contemplation about how fortunate you are compared to people who marry something other than the very embodiment of wonderfulness?
Yeah, you do. You're an American and therefore have been cast opposite Emma Stone in a romantic comedy. So you know that moment is the equivalent of getting socks on Christmas compared to the camera shot that followed LeVert's three: Bo Ryan squeezing every muscle in his face until his skin veritably roiled with the possibility of explosive decompression. His grinchy eyebrows plunged to a level even with his eyes as his mandibles expelled a torrent of profanity so pungent that the refs would have dissolved in front of his face if they had even a passing knowledge of the language of the bug people of Rigel.
SHOULD HAVE SENT A POET
Every Michigan fan's heart grew two sizes that day. On twitter, Ace's mentions filled up with demands for GIFs, and then threats. I cackled uncontrollably and swore joyously in human language at the TV. Somewhere in Iowa, Fran McCaffery found himself with an unprompted, mysterious, and not-entirely-unwelcome erection.
Fun was had watching Wisconsin play basketball. It's 2014, folks. 2014 is not 2013.
This was the proverbial statement win, work done to validate Michigan's play since the frustratingly disjointed Duke game. There the Blue Devils extended their defense to cut off Stauskas and the rest of the team flobbered around for about 30 minutes until LeVert decided he'd keep Michigan vaguely in it by himself.
Since, Michigan's offense blossomed into the prettiest whack-a-mole you've ever seen. Shut one thing down and something else equally deadly pops up. Leave Zak Irvin, and he'll kill Minnesota. Close out Walton wrong and he'll kill Nebraska. Try to keep Stauskas away from the rim and whoops the center got a layup. And then there's Stauskas in the middle of everything, not just shooting.
But aside from 1.15 PPP against Arizona, the competition level left questions. Even last year's beautiful machine tended to seize up and fall over when presented with road contests against the brutes of the Big Ten. These guys had beaten Minnesota and three outfits for whom the word "tournament" means ping pong in the locker room.
No more. While Wisconsin is not quite last year's outfit defensively, they remain Wisconsin, currently in the top 40 on defense on Kenpom, preventer of all threes and shots at the rim. (There's more about this in the bullets section.) Michigan went into the Trohl Center and shot 86%/55%/54%. Heck, that game against Northwestern is looking like an accomplishment now that the Wildcats have established themselves the second-ugliest basketball team in the country*. So they've played a couple upper-echelon defenses to go with some wonky ones They currently lead the Big Ten in two-point shooting by nearly seven percentage points. Subs, man. That's crazy.
After watching Michigan eviscerate attempts to contain them on the pick and roll, Wisconsin was reduced to giving Michigan jumpers and hoping they'd miss. As the first half rolled along, Michigan did not. Glenn Robinson elevated above any hope of a contest on consecutive elbow jumpers that hit back rim and went straight down like the end of a training montage. Nik Stauskas pulled up from just inside the free throw line. When Wisconsin did manage to lose Morgan or Horford, they literally did not miss. Even Michigan's terrifying late drought consisted largely of wide open threes for Stauskas, a near alley-oop for Horford, and a LeVert shot that was halfway down.
Sometimes, the shots do not fall. You would be forgiven for forgetting that with this team.
Bo Ryan remembers, now. His report to the Grand Chitinous One will be filled with k'halaks powerful enough to rattle thoraxes.
*[According to the metric of Adjusted Offensive Efficiency – Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. You can take in #1 with a quick trip down US-23 to Bowling Green.]
That's just how they do. Much complaining from Wisconsin fans on the internet and some from Dan Dakich about the way Wisconsin was defending the pick and roll. To me, it looked like typical Wisconsin: Ryan has always preferred soft hedges where the big cuts off the basket and makes the pass to the guy slipping the screen difficult, if not impossible.
In exchange, Wisconsin gives up two-point jumpers from just inside the lane. Two point jumpers are generally worse shots than those at the rim or from three, and Wisconsin has encouraged them since Ryan's arrival. The problem for the Badgers in this one is that Michigan was hitting nearly every one of them.
Philosophically, Wisconsin just did what they always do. The texture of their stats is the same as it was last year when their defense carried them: good-to-great eFG%, vanishingly few threes attempted, few forced TOs or fouls committed, crash your own boards. It was just fine for them the last five years.
There is something wonky about Wisconsin's defense this year that was not the case last year. That is Wisconsin trading Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Neverending Ginger Assassin…
…for Frank Kaminski, Sam Dekker, and a 6'3" guard. Their ability to contest the jumpers their defense is designed to provide has been seriously compromised by their lack of size. Compounding issues: while Kaminski is taller than Berggren he's nowhere near Berggren's class as an intimidator.
Actually, disregard the previous paragraph's "seriously." Wisconsin's D is 33rd on Kenpom. They're not exactly last year's Penn State outfit. It is a step back; they are still pretty much Wisconsin, and Michigan eviscerated them.
Related: I understand those turnovers. Michigan didn't have many, as was always going to be the case when Michigan's precision met Wisconsin's passivity. Those they did were concentrated with LeVert and Stauskas on pick and roll action when they tried to get the easy buckets Michigan had gotten in the previous three or four games by dumping it off to the bigs. A number of these were after Michigan's opening barrage, when the natural reaction would be to press the ballhandler. Wisconsin stuck to their inherent Wisconsin-ness and the result was a few passes that were near-impossible to complete.
The grim period. Michigan was cruising up 66-53 with eight minutes left and then scored one bucket over the next seven as Wisconsin cut the lead to one. What happened on offense during the dry spell:
- Stauskas turnover.
- Stauskas misses wide open three. Michigan timeout before next possession, Stauskas exits.
- LeVert misses jumper.
- LeVert turnover.
- LeVert misses jumper.
- Stauskas returns. Stauskas misses wide open three.
- Stauskas hits two-point jumper.
- LeVert misses layup.
- Stauskas misses late-clock forced jack, Morgan fouled on OREB attempt, Stauskas engages beastmode.
The Stauskas shots were just one of those things. He has totally uncontested threes. He must take them.
Meanwhile, LeVert's role in the grim period has drawn some criticism on the internet in the aftermath. I think that's much more the swelling panic everyone felt than a rational evaluation of how Michigan's offense ran with Stauskas off the court, and I say that as a charter member of the WHAT IS HAPPENING WHERE IS STAUSKAS AAAAAH club as it was happening live. Events:
- M tries to post Robinson; LeVert declines entry pass and drives to lane, correctly diagnoses that an alley-oop to Horford is the play but throws it too high. Michigan resets, LeVert turns down P&R, takes a contested two with about ten seconds on the clock that is halfway down and pops out.
- Kaminski gets switched onto LeVert, LeVert tries to drive baseline, is obviously fouled, no call, turns the ball over.
- LeVert ends up taking a semi-contested pull-up shot off the pick and roll. It's a foot on the line item with 14 on the shot clock.
The first is the right idea with execution that's just off, the second is a ref boner, and the third is pretty bad. And as soon as that happened, Stauskas was back. You can't tell much of anything from three possessions and LeVert put up 20 points on 16 shot equivalents.
Stauskas comparison of the week. Stauskas has started adding a thing on the pick and roll that evokes memories of Chauncey Billups: once he gets past the screen, he sticks out his butt to keep his man behind him and then takes a dribble or two, waiting to see how the situation develops.
Stauskas also got 0.01 brownie points for hitting all six of his game-sealing free throws, because I have irrational expectations when it comes to Stauskas hitting free throws.
[@ Right: Chris Smith/UMHoops]
Just hanging out in the corner. Derrick Walton's night went a little beyond quiet, as he took only three shots and had two assists in 31 minutes. And that's totally fine, as Michigan was on fire for most of the night. Walton took the opportunities that came to him and his 36% three-point shooting is enough to keep his guy on his jock as Michigan works a two-man game against three-phobic Wisconsin.
Walton's reduced role on offense helped him on D, where he held Traevon Jackson—just coming off a monster Indiana game—to 3 for 11 shooting and just seven points.
If Michigan's in a situation where there are transition opportunities or a weak point guard or they're leaving him open in the corner, Walton can take advantage. When those things aren't available he's able to defer. Walton's ability to push the ball was part of Wisconsin's even-more-extreme-than-usual abandonment of the offensive boards.
In Big Ten-long game of "HORSE," Morgan is currently on R [UMHoops]
Horgan. Even acknowledging the fact that 90% of their buckets are assisted layup or dunk attempts, the efficiency with which Michigan's two-headed center is scoring is boggling. Morgan is at nearly 70% for the season and since Mitch McGary got shut down for the season he has 23 makes on 28 attempts. That is 82%. Remember that business where you'd get super mad at Morgan and I'd point my fingers at a shooting percentage in the low sixties and say "please stop, you make no sense"? Yeah, well now his ORTG is 127. Now I point at Kenpom and say "please continue, you make no sense."
Horford has been barely less efficient in that timeframe, hitting 22 of 32, 69%, and since Horford's game is a little bit more diverse—he's got that baseline jumper and a post move or two—that's understandable. At least insofar as "understandable" can be deployed in service of explaining a guy shooting 70% from the floor.
Meanwhile, the bigs have TO rates ranging from acceptable-for-a-big (Morgan's 18, which is a couple of points better than last year) to astounding (Horford's 10, which is equivalent to GRIII's number).
Is this sustainable? Well, somewhat. Six-six shooters are going to plunge into the lane and non-Wisconsins are going to give up a number of good looks, and both of Michigan's bigs are better than they used to be. But there will be some regression and guys like Amir Williams and Adriean Payne have overwhelmed M with their athleticism and shall do so again. I'll take it.
The silver lining. The announcement of McGary's surgery was my muse for a tweet that read simply "GODDAMMIT," and it is still pretty depressing to think about putting the demon from last year's NCAA tournament on a team that's already 5-0 in the Big Ten and 14th on Kenpom. A healthy McGary probably swings a game or two in Michigan's favor and… right, not what this bullet is about.
This bullet is about how it's kind of great that Morgan is back in the lineup and playing well after being relegated to the bench during the run last year. He returned without the expectation of much playing time despite an ability to go anywhere with the grad transfer rule, lost what backup minutes he was looking to get to Horford early, and is now making me go "whoa" a couple times a game. This warms the cockles.
Speaking of "whoa." JORDAN MORGAN PUT IT BACK IN YOUR FACE, WISCONSIN. And then looked like he was thinking "did I do that" afterwards. Yes, yes you did.
I like this better than that. Hoo man I just went back to Tommy Amaker's last year at Michigan($) to compare someone to Morgan and found that the best ORTG guy on that team was Ron Coleman. Viva Beilein.
The road ahead. Recent events have freed the Big Ten from a tyranny of Kenpom projecting a Badger conference championship in a year when they don't have to go to OSU or MSU—the most Badger championship of them all. Your new favorite is MSU at 14-4, with Michigan and Iowa projected a game behind at 13-5, Wisconsin a game further back, and OSU a fringe contender projected to go 11-7. Michigan's next two games are against the two top contenders. It's kind of a big deal.
The upcoming home game versus Iowa is huge. Huuuuuuge. Winning the Big Ten is about holding serve at home and picking off one, maybe two road games against contenders. Michigan's got one in the bag; Iowa has an opportunity to pick one up. Michigan beats Iowa and the MSU game is entirely house money instead of 80% house money.
The Big Ten, man. Basketball is the opposite of football.