"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Since the draft deadline is now past, it's time for a three part early Big Ten basketball preview, starting from the top. After scouring Kenpom and my memory I have grouped the Big Ten teams like so:
OBVIOUS FAVORITE: Wisconsin
CONTENDERS: Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa
ONE IN, THREE ON THE BUBBLE: Michigan State, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana
NOPE: Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
And tackle them in approximate order, except I haven't really ordered the tiers. I am projecting a relative down year for the conference, because they've added one middling ACC program and Rutgers while MSU is poised for a major drop and Indiana/Illinois are still muddling along.
THE FAVORITE: Wisconsin
Generally excellent outside of a shocking run of five losses in six games—including two at the normally impregnable Trohl Center—Wisconsin was, like Michigan, downed by an improbable Kentucky three-pointer. In their case they'd already taken down Arizona to reach the Final Four.
WHO'S GONE: SG Ben Brust (all positions approximate)
WHO'S BACK: C Frank Kaminsky, PF Nigel Hayes, SF Sam Dekker, SG Josh Gasser, PG Traevon Jackson, PG Bronson Koening, PF Duje Dukan
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): sophomore C Vitto Brown
From that team Wisconsin loses only Ben Brust, who was mostly a three-point gunner (39% on 244 attempts). With Josh Gasser back and Kaminsky capable from the perimeter, Wisconsin won't be shooting deficient. Gasser was a deference machine last year, taking only 11% of Wisconsin's shots while he was on the floor despite hitting 44% from three over the past two years. If he leaps up to Brust's level the Badgers only have to replace about 100 efficient threes—very manageable.
- Experience. Wisconsin will start three seniors, a junior, and probably sophomore-to-be Nigel Hayes.
- Kaminsky. Developed an intimidating back to the basket game to go with his shooting en route to a 124 ORTG while taking 27% of Wisconsin's shots. Shockingly few TOs for a big man. Idea that senior bigs are surprisingly good downright frightening when applied to Kaminsky.
- Point guard. Traevon Jackson's actions in the late stages of the Arizona and Kentucky games were appalling, repeatedly going into isolation despite being a terrible isolation player when Kaminsky was on the block against guys much smaller than him. With a TO rate of nearly 20 and a 2PT% of 42%, Jackson is the primary weak point in the Wisconsin offense. Worse, he does not seem to know this.
THE QUESTION: Can Hayes and Dekker play at the same time? Nigel Hayes looked like a star to be at certain times this year and does bring a lot more banging and rebounding than the slight Dekker. But Hayes's face-up game does not extend to the three-point line and Wisconsin cannot have more than one non-shooter in the game at a time. Dekker's a mediocre shooter right now… he needs to have a leap there if Wisconsin can play what seems like their best lineup.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Is Wisconsin tolerable now? Yes, yes I think so. I am deeply alarmed by this development but with the FF run and the changes to defensive rules Wisconsin is way less annoying than they used to be. No longer does their good league record make the Big Ten look silly when they exit the tournament quickly.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: With Payne gone and Amir Williams probably not having an epiphany as we speak it's hard to see who in the league is going to match up with Kaminsky. (Hammons you say? 16 and 22 last year against Hammons.) Meanwhile Wisconsin's outside shooting should only dip slightly. Defense should improve if The Question above is answered in the affirmative. Wisconsin wins the league at 14-4 and gets a one seed.
Iowa fell off a cliff late last year after finding themselves in the top ten for a brief period, but it was still a little tiny bit of a breakthrough season for the Hawkeyes. While Iowa fans may feel that a First Four exit is hardly a tourney appearance at all, their game against the Volunteers felt more like a Sweet 16 battle than Dayton fluff and the Kenpom rankings of the participants suggested as much.
WHO'S GONE: SG Roy Devyn Marble, PF Melsahn Basabe, PF Zach McCabe.
WHO'S BACK: PF Aaron White, C Adam Woodbury, C Gabriel Olaseni, SF Jarrod Uthoff, PG Mike Gesell, SG Josh Oglesby, PG Anthony Clemmons
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): SG Peter Jok, JUCO PG Trey Dickerson
With 6'9" guys falling all over themselves for playing time the departures of Basabe and McCabe should be manageable, possibly even beneficial. Iowa had a whopping 11 guys average at least seven minutes and was in the unusual position of having two guys designated "starters" by Kenpom who were off the floor more often than not. This is a team that could stand to tighten its rotation.
- Hugeosity. Despite losing a 6'6" guy and two 6'7" guys, Iowa projects to play six guys 6'5" or above, with only the PG spot below. This served Iowa well on the boards last year as they were 19th on offense and a respectable 68th on D; they finished in the top 40 at blocking shots as well.
- Depth. Iowa will still have the option to go ten deep and can sustain foul trouble to its front line better than anyone in the league.
- Shooting. Iowa typically plays a two-big formation with White at PF, and he is not a threat from deep. No one on the team was particularly accurate except Oglesby, who was buried down the depth chart… and he was coming of a THJ-like sophomore year during which he hit 27%. With Marble gone, Iowa has to have a prominent and functional Oglesby.
- Defense. More on this later, but Iowa fell apart on D late in the season, tried to dig themselves out with a zone that hurt more often than it helped, and project to have some of the same issues this year.
THE QUESTION: Who picks up Marble's playmaking and "oh crap do something" shots?
After initial flashes of promise, Anthony Clemmons became very turnover prone and has now settled into a limited, defensive role. Meanwhile Jok and Oglesby, the most likely replacements, are shooters, not creators. That puts an awful lot of weight on Mike Gesell to create shots in the half-court, which was already a struggle a year ago.
Iowa's best hope here may be an explosive debut from JUCO PG Trey Dickerson, who's averaging 20 points a game in North Dakota and is on JUCO AA lists after one season.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Can the Hawkeyes match up on D?
The big lineup caused defensive issues, as anyone who watched White try to stay in front of Nik Stauskas remembers.
Late in the year, Iowa tried a zone defense. It got shredded.
MSU shooting at 70.4% effective rate. This is no longer a coincidence. The zone is a miserable failure.
— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) March 7, 2014
Now down their best perimeter defender, Iowa has to figure out whether they're going to double down on the zone or hope Olaseni and Woodbury can erase enough perimeter mistakes to keep their head above water.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: Iowa leaned heavily on Marble to fill in the holes in their offense and he has no obvious replacement. That'll drag down both Iowa's transition and half-court offense. But big guys develop slowly and one of Woodbury or Olaseni seems likely to bust out, providing back-to-the-basket shot generation that will help paper over those issues.
Assuming that Iowa either figures out the zone or figures out they should abandon it and gets their defense in order, they should poke their head above .500, especially in a weakened league. 12-6, 4 seed.
Another year, another beating taken from the NBA draft. The falloff last year was microscopic, if it even existed, thanks to massive sophomore leaps from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. Can Beilein do it again?
WHO'S GONE: C Jordan Morgan, C Jon Horford, C Mitch McGary, PF Glenn Robinson III, SG Nik Stauskas
WHO'S BACK: PG Derrick Walton, SG Zak Irvin, SF Caris LeVert, PG Spike Albrecht
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): C Mark Donnal, C Ricky Doyle, PF DJ Wilson, PF Kam Chatman
That is an awful lot to lose from the one true post spot in the Michigan offense and not very many guys in the "who's back" spot, but those first three are doozys. LeVert had a massive leap, essentially replacing NBA ROY candidate Tim Hardaway Jr's production, except with more efficiency. Irvin and Walton are the first top-50 guard recruits John Beilein has ever had and look to make the patented Leap after promising freshman years. And Spike's not bad either.
- Shooting. The four guys returning shot 41%, 41%, 43%, and 39% from three on piles of attempts. To that Michigan adds a starting center with true three-point range and a couple of Beilein-standard stretch fours.
- More shooting. That previous bullet probably deserves to be mentioned twice.
- Diversity of weapons. Few teams in the conference will have as many places to go for shots as Michigan. LeVert is obvious; Walton is likely to come into his own in year two; Irvin just launches when given a sliver of space. Five-star-ish recruit Chatman is regarded as a point forward who can get his and set up his teammates. And Donnal adds a pick and pop element Beilein has lacked since the days of Pittsnogle expired. While the departure of Stauskas is a blow, he only took 23% of Michigan's shots. That's extremely low for a go-to lottery pick and is a testament to the pieces surrounding him.
- Rough 'n' tough stuff. Michigan seemed a little flimsy inside last year, and now they've lost their entire center corps and starting PF. They'll be taller, with two 6'8" PFs and Cs an inch or two taller than Morgan, but unless Max Bielfeldt presses his way into the lineup the vast majority of Michigan's minutes in the frontcourt will go to freshmen—three of them true freshmen. Rebounding and meanness have never been Beilein strengths; this year will really push the limits of what you can do with a fleet of B-52s.
- THE QUESTION: Is this an infallible assembly line? Based only on the returning gentlemen, Michigan is probably not a contender. But that's what everyone thought last year when Michigan sat at 6-4 and McGary went out for the year. Then Stauskas, LeVert, and Morgan blew up and when the dust cleared Michigan had won the conference by three games. It is irrational to expect that sort of improvement on an annual basis, touted recruit or no. Or is it?
- THE OTHER QUESTION: Is the defense really going to be worse? Michigan's D took a huge step back last year, from 48th to 109th. They were 10th in the conference, down from 6th, and the absolute worst at preventing two-pointers. They had the second-worst defense in the league over the course of the entire season, ahead of only Iowa. It might not get better but since it was already scraping the bottom of what a non-Rutgers Big Ten D might do, there might not be much of a drop.
- PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: The offense is a given what with Beilein and at least three plus guys on the back end. The defense… well, it's not going to be great. It may not be as bad as you would think, at least relative to last year. 12-6 after a rough nonconference schedule sees Michigan enter the tourney a 5 seed.
xkcd. it's funny because SCIENCE okay?
As the Rigelians informed us, basketball it turns out is the universe's favorite sport. Of the trillions of basketball leagues worthy of broadcast, the most incompetent is Lockeceles VI's "Internashunil Assosiation of Basketball Playig and Shoving Sharp Objects Into Our Eyes [sic]," [sic] best known for their ruling that the Targavian Turnips should have to play an entire season hopping on one leg and bent sideways after a local columnist accused the Turnips' frontcourt of not hustling. Fortunately for the players, Targavia was a city entirely made up of chiropractors, so nobody's life was ruined. The season was of course a disaster.
|If the NCAA just claimed the refs were getting too expensive we would have believed it.|
The second most feckless basketball league in the universe is, of course, Earth's "National Collegiate Athletic Association," which recently challenged the IABPSSOIOE[sic]'s title by issuing a one-year (effectively life) suspension to an injured player who tested positive for a recreational, performance-reducing substance that everyone uses.
You may ask what were they smoking at the time, but that would appear rather obvious.
Alas, the burden of picking up the pieces shall fall upon the TV camera crews at Crisler, who must find a way to shoot the games without broadcasting all of those extended middle fingers, and the Michigan Wolverines Basketball team, who'll have to figure out how they're supposed to rebound anything. And it shall fall upon the MGoBloggers to inform you how that will go down:
The cagers are suddenly without a front court. Has Michigan slid back to pack for now or is this all just a setup for the Beilein Little Shooters Magnum Opus? What's your take on Donnal? Can we do this without becoming a study on Bielfeldt anatomy?
Even after his meteoric rise from unheralded three-star to coveted five-star, Glenn Robinson III was never the centerpiece. In John Beilein's 2012 recruiting class, Mitch McGary commanded the most attention. In Michigan's offense over the following two seasons, Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas were the focal points. Playing a game in which the object is to put the ball through the hoop, Robinson was notable for how rarely—and briefly—he touched the rock.
He waited on the periphery, and when the opportunity arose, he struck with such suddenness and forcefulness that even if you forgot he was on the court, you were sure to leave the game talking about whatever he just did. One moment, he was a 30% three-point shooter standing harmlessly in the corner. The next, some unsuspecting defender was attempting to discard a 6'6", 220-pound hat with ill intentions.
Robinson's ability to make these lightning strikes look effortless belied the skill required to execute them. Correctly timing a cut requires not only reading the defense, but also your teammates—a foray to the rim is worthless if the cutter and passer aren't on the same page, and a poorly timed one can ruin the offense's spacing.
[Hit THE JUMP because of
excessive entirely necessary GIF usage.]
Ask Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann is a syndicated column found in newspapers across the country. Universal Syndication, Inc., is not responsible for the content, opinions, punctuation, or ethics espoused in this column. Ask Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann should not be relied upon for advice. She threw volleyballs at us until we let her do this. Please, someone stop her. We need… a hero.
Dear Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann,
Hi! I'm a journalism student. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I'm ready to take on the world. Where do you think I should apply for a job?
GG, I hope you die. I hope you die in a tower of fire a thousand feet tall, writhing in agony as I watch. I'll throw volleyballs at you even though I know they'll be incinerated by the tower of flame before they reach you because I just love throwing volleyballs at people, cackling madly as your body burns to a cinder. You'll smell of crisp pork; I will start salivating involuntarily; after you have vaporized I will go get barbecue.
Good luck in your search.
Dear Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann,
I seem to be having trouble making my offensive line do anything at all. They just sit there, wondering what to do, and I fear that if they do not improve I will be fired. What's the best way to motivate your charges?
BH, I've always found that aggressive leadership paves the way to success. If they do not respond to simple commands, taunting people about their probably-very-real learning disabilities inspires action. Nobody wants to be the team Lenny. I assume the pillar of flame is out since you need these people to save your ass, so if that doesn't work try calling them alcoholics and whores. (Note: "whores" is mostly effective against women, so you may want to change it up for men. Try "sea buffalo crack baby," "the Antichrist except stupid," or "Charlie Weis.")
If these motivational tactics don't work, wholesale purges are necessary. My "lawyers" have forced me to cut this paragraph down from 15000 words of detailed instruction, so in lieu of the master plan please just google "Joseph Stalin wiki."
Dear Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann,
We have experienced a tragedy in our family that has left one of our sons disabled but defiant. An inspiration to all who meet him, we were looking for the best way to publicize his story, so he can live his life as he might have if his legs had not been so cruelly taken from him. Advice?
-Persisting Through Pain, The Parent
PTPTP, I have a terrific idea. As athletic director of Rutgers University I have some not-insignificant pull around here. Why doesn't your son come in and give a commencement speech to our graduates? Great! We are all agreed. Let's just get this contract signed and then…
…oh, sorry about that, must have been a gust of wind. Let's just get this contract signed and then…
…getting a little impatient here, PTPTP, we're going to have to get this done pretty soon…
…HAHAHA he's sooooo slow it's like he doesn't even have a spiiiiine
Dear Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann,
I crave your very presence. I need you in my life, Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann. I need your great giant… demographics. I think about tenderly stroking your skyscrapers. No, Julie, no. Don't tell me about Rutgers. Tell me about the world.
-Certainly Not Jim Delany
I may have some sort of disease that makes me incapable of perceiving the appropriate thing to say in any social situation, CNJD, but even I know enough to not talk about the various accomplishments of Rutgers athletics to someone interested in having Rutgers athletics in their conference.
Dear Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Herrmann,
For years I have been plagued with voices that I know are not real but tell me to do and say unspeakable things to the people around me. I worry that one day I will no longer be able to distinguish reality from fiction and do something terrible, but I also fear that revealing my disease will get me fired from my job and accelerate my downward spiral. What should I do?
HV, I have it on good authority that Rutgers will be looking for a new athletic director soon and you sound like the perfect candidate.
read option [Fuller]
I am determined this spring to mine every possible stat for every possible insight. This week I delved into quarterback rushes. Not sacks. I wanted to know which offenses tended to have their quarterbacks take off, or planned runs for them into their game plans.
Baseline: here's Michigan and their opponents last year. Sacks and yardage lost to them are not counted, but I couldn't tell from scrambles and QB sneaks, or stuff like if he took off for 10 yards on 3rd and 15 that defenses are happy to give up:
|Season Avg||vs Mich|
|Opponent||QB Rush||Yards||QB Rush||Yards|
Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Kansas State ran option games. Minnesota's offense was QB power running (thing it is like: Michigan's 2010 offense when Rodriguez gave up on trying to make Denard into a zone reader). According to the UFR database Minnesota quarterback running plays vs Michigan were as follows: 7 QB powers; 2 draws; 2 zone read keepers; a false zone arc sweep thing, a QB sneak, and 7 scrambles.
The stats can't tell the difference between this kind of offense and a dedicated Richrodigan spread 'n shred. There aren't many teams who run this as their base offense, as simple as it may be, but a lot of teams have a mobile change-of-pace quarterback and a small package built around him. Notable teams who deployed a second guy:
|Player (2014 Elig)||Team||% of Snaps||% Will Pass||Rush||Pass|
|Austin Boucher (graduated)||Miami(NTM)||51%||73%||80||211|
|Austin Gearing (So.)||35%||35%||129||70|
|Drew Kummer (Jr.)||14%||71%||22||55|
|Nate Sudfeld (Jr.)||Indiana||61%||94%||22||338|
|Tre Roberson (Jr.)||38%||62%||84||139|
|C.J. Brown (11th year Sr.)||Maryland||73%||72%||119||303|
|Caleb Rowe (Jr.)||26%||91%||14||136|
|Philip Nelson (transferred)||Minnesota||59%||72%||79||200|
|Mitch Leidner (So.)||38%||51%||89||91|
|Gary Nova (Sr.)||Rutgers||68%||93%||25||328|
|Chas Dodd (graduated)||32%||87%||21||143|
|Tommy Armstrong (So.)||Nebraska||39%||68%||63||135|
|Ron Kellogg III (graduated)||31%||90%||16||141|
|Taylor Martinez (graduated)||30%||77%||34||116|
|Trevor Siemian (Sr.)||Northwestern||63%||92%||29||315|
|Kain Colter (graduated)||36%||50%||98||99|
|Braxton Miller (Sr.)||Ohio State||72%||65%||150||276|
|Kenny Guiton (graduated)||25%||74%||39||110|
I included Rutgers to show Chas Dodd wasn't a Drew Henson-ian run threat except in comparison to Gary Nova.
[Jump: Okay spread zealots, do teams with running QBs have an advantage?]
But have you thought about Tokyo? Assertions abound that the Big Ten might fling a conference tournament to DC:
Hearing the Big Ten Tournament will be moved out of Indianapolis and to Washington DC for at least one year. Disappointing. #iubb
— Justin Albers (@Justin_Albers) May 4, 2014
That would be convenient for Maryland fans and the expat lawyers Big Ten schools fling to major metropoli across the country. Not so much anyone else who cares about basketball—the only other schools within one BILLION miles of DC are Penn State and Rutgers. But we must #footprint and #footprint and #footprint until our #footprints are #footprinted across the land.
All right. The Big East and Big Ten have announced one of those challenge-like things, though this one is partial:
The Big Ten and the Big East on Monday will announce a new partnership, the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series of eight games between the two conferences that will run through 2020.
All of these games will come in the first week of the season, a time generally reserved for Michigan versus Five Guys We Found On A Farm, Yes We're Pretty Sure They're People. Every Big Ten team will participate at least four times in the eight-year deal. (That leaves eight free slots over the eight years, FWIW.)
Thanks, I guess. Corn Nation points out a thing:
Q: How will the seeding committee determine which teams play in which semifinal?
A: In theory, priority will be given to placing the No. 1 seed in the bowl geographically closest to its campus. For instance, if Florida State is No. 1, it would play in the semifinal at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, which would send the No. 2 team to the Rose Bowl.
So the CoFoPoff acknowledges that being close to home is a nice thing. Wonderful. Let's envision a scenario where Purdue finishes the year #1 to the committee. They get slotted in…
Atlanta! Congratulations, Purdue.
Corn Nation's not too happy about that:
TRADITION! was the battle cry for Delany, the world "tradition" meaning "bullshit most of you will still buy" as any pretense that college football is about money has been swept away by more, more, more of it. TRADITION! - even though the Big Ten expanded with Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland throwing out decades of tradition - but Delany knowing that all those alums from Michigan and Ohio State and et al would buy into "tradition" because they've been eating that Rose Bowl bullshit so long that they don't realize what low-grade bullshit it is.
Hey man don't look at me I was advocating home sites just like everyone else from the #footprint that offered an opinion.
Draft projections. With the deadline passed, people get serious about their mock drafts. Results are good for Stauskas:
"Stauskas seems to be garnering more and more buzz of late," Ford wrote. "His abilities as a shooter with deep range and a quick release are unquestioned. It's his ability to also play a little point guard that has moved him into the lottery. This is the highest he has been ranked on our Big Board, and I don't think it's out of the question that he could go even higher when all is said and done. The Sixers, Nuggets, Wolves and Suns are all options in the lottery."
Robinson's hanging on to the end of the first round on Ford's draft but not DX; Chad Ford and DX don't have McGary in the first round. I have to believe that as it gets late in that first round some good team is going to think they could use a pile of rebounding and enthusiasm who's at least going to be a good player.
Good idea. I give it ten seconds to live. Penn State is going to visit Georgia State's camp en masse this summer:
New Penn State James Franklin and his entire staff will work as guest coaches for Trent MilesFootball Camp at Georgia State on June 10.
The radical arrangement appears to be a win-win for both programs: Penn State gets to personally evaluate high school players who would never travel to its camps in Pennsylvania, while Georgia State will get exposure to more high-profile recruits than normal.
This is an end-around of NCAA rules that prohibit folks from having a camp outside their home state unless it's within 50 miles of campus and will probably get nerfed the next time someone comes around with the rule stick. Clever idea for now, though.
BONUS: That article contains a quote that NCAA lawyers trying to flog competitive balance in court are going to hate:
“We’re not going to recruit the same person, you know? There’s no way. The Sun Belt doesn’t recruit against Penn State. Let’s face it: I’m not competing for kids against Penn State, or Georgia and Alabama. I’m just not. Nor will we ever. It is what it is."
/NCAA lawyer hits self in face with already-empty bottle of whiskey
Coleman can get buckets
AAU business. The annual Spiece tournament is going on in Indianapolis, featuring a number of Michigan targets. The most prominent is IN SG Jalen Coleman, who is still in no hurry to come to a decision:
When asked for an updated list of schools, Coleman rattled off Indiana, Purdue, NC State, Providence, UCLA, Arizona, Michigan, Michigan State and noted that several other Big Ten schools are also involved.
He didn’t name a leader, a top group or even mention that any schools are recruiting him harder than others.
In actual news, IL PG Jalen Brunson has cut his list to eight; Michigan is one. Temple, Villanova, Kansas, UConn, Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue. If one of those programs doesn't look like it belongs, Brunson's dad played at Temple. "But that doesn't explain Purdue," you exclaim, and I agree.
I don't know but probably not right now. Ross Fulton asks if Doug Nussmeier can fix Michigan's offense, detailing his history. It starts off with an involuntary moan from you:
Nusmmeier's primary plan to solve the situation is to bring a coherent offensive framework to Michigan.
Sounds like a plan, you guys.
We must destroy this buck in order to save it. Via Get The Picture, the NCAA has earmarked some funds for legal stuff this year:
For example, NCAA finances are as difficult to sort through as the numbers are high, and the figures can vary hugely with the bias of those reporting them. Most media outlets glibly equate “unionization” and “compensation” with professional salaries for NCAA athletes, but the association knows Huma isn’t pursuing any such thing. The only big number that concerns him is the $600-plus million announced as this year’s NCAA war chest for legal and legislative expenditures.
Six hundred million dollars available to defend amateurism. Meanwhile non-profits try to fill in the gaps left when dudes get spine injuries.
Etc.: Recruiting folks did rather well by this year's projected first round. Mmmm anti-SEC conspiracy theories. NCAA unionization gets a congressional hearing. I welcome the departure of teams that should not be in D-I from D-I. Eastern Michigan, looking at you. Michigan spends money on things. Lax got competitive this year.