John Beilein's still got it.
Aside from Derrick Walton, Michigan couldn't hit an outside shot to save their lives against Minnesota, and for most of the game the offense stagnated. With a heavy dose of the 1-3-1 zone down the stretch, however, the Wolverines hung in the game with their defense, ultimately forcing 17 Gopher turnovers.
The master stroke from Beilein, though, came with 38 seconds left, when he called a timeout after a timely Caris LeVert steal with M holding a tenuous two-point lead. The play he drew up couldn't have worked better. Derrick Walton doubled back to take a Ricky Doyle screen, Doyle slipped to the basket unimpeded, and Walton tossed a lob that Doyle threw down with screaming emphasis on top of Minnesota's Maurice Walker. A Crisler Center crowd that spent most of the afternoon library-quiet followed Doyle's lead.
"He was the guy that was making us go," Beilein said of Walton. "Today was all about Derrick Walton." Walton's strong play down the stretch led to Beilein putting the ball in his hands on the game's critical play; with four options, including shooting it himself, it's safe to say Walton rewarded his coach's trust.
The Gophers couldn't recover, and a few Zak Irvin free throws provided the final margin. Despite all their struggles, Michigan now stands at 3-1 in the Big Ten, and just sent Minnesota reeling to 0-4.
While Michigan looked resplendent in their 1989 throwback uniforms, their play was anything but attractive for most of the game. They went 0/8 from three in the first half, allowed the Gophers far too many open looks from the perimeter, and eventually fell behind by as much as nine in the second half.
Then Walton took over in the latter half of the second stanza, scoring five straight points to cut the lead to seven, then throwing a fast break lob to Zak Irvin after crossing up a defender in the backcourt off a Spike Albrecht steal. A few minutes later, Walton gave Michigan the lead with another triple, assisted by a cross-court pass from LeVert, who'd later stretch the margin to five when he drew a foul on a three-point try of his own, then buried every free throw. Shortly after Andre Hollins, who scored a game-high 18 points, answered with a triple, LeVert stole a Hollins pass on the sideline; the fateful timeout ensued, and Doyle drove the final nail into the coffin.
Walton and LeVert each tallied 15 points to lead the Wolverines, though Walton did so in much more efficient fashion; he added five rebounds and three assists, while LeVert came away with four steals, three coming in the second half. Doyle, by far M's best big man on the day, scored 12 on 5/8 FGs, including a pivoting, Olajuwon-esque and-one to key the second-half rally; he also pulled in four offensive rebounds. Zak Irvin, who continued to struggle with his shot, chipped in 12 points. Spike Albrecht (six) and Kam Chatman (two) were the only other Wolverines to score on the day.
Even though Michigan continued to have a hard time getting their shots to fall, they found a way to pull out a tough game against a Minnesota squad whose conference record belies their quality. Active zone defense bailed the Wolverines out time and again down the stretch. Add in a little Beilein clipboard wizardry, and suddenly Michigan is riding back-to-back wins into a showdown in Columbus on Tuesday.
Joseph Dressler / MGoBlog
An inextricable tenet of common basketball ideology is this: teams - or franchises, in the NBA’s case - become a possessive. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant’s team. They were once Magic Johnson’s team. The Warriors are Steph Curry’s team; the Cavaliers are LeBron’s team; the Knicks are Carmelo Anthony’s team. The list goes on.
Perhaps no other major American sport (save for professional football and the almighty quarterback) has a construct that elevates a player to the level of king among men like that. In college hoops, there is the Cult of Coaching - that is, the masterminds who attract those leaders are often worshipped far more than are the on-court leaders themselves. John Wooden (the archetype), Coach K, Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and yes, even John Beilein (who has won the degree of job security given to the aforementioned coaches) are the gods and the players are their kings, bestowed with divine right.
As an example, look no further than Michigan’s royal lineage over the last couple of years. The reign of Darius Morris lasted only one jaunty season before he abdicated his throne to journey on towards the NBA; Trey Burke eventually became the best in the country towards the end of his kingship and came tantalizingly close to a national title; Nik Stauskas rekindled the arrogance and bravado of the Morris era and championed one of the most dazzling offenses in recent memory. Caris LeVert was anointed as Nik’s successor -- in basketball parlance, he had next.
* * *
Even though the Wolverines have struggled often this season, Caris has done well (with a few glaring exceptions). Following up Burke and Stauskas -- two former conference players of the year -- was an unenviable task, but Caris has been decent enough and has shown the type of pro potential that makes him a projected first-rounder and an obvious candidate for early entry.
Jamal Crawford only played a partial season as a Wolverine, but the parallels between he and LeVert are too obvious to ignore. Caris’s offensive game -- his only game, really, as his length is underutilized in wing defense far too often (and whether that’s due to a lack of physical maturity or plain indifference is hard to tell) -- is decidedly Crawfordesque: though Beilein’s system typically discourages it, Caris seems compelled to draw into one-on-one battles with a defender, where his length and dizzying array of quick dribbles, crossovers, and jab-steps often allow some space to blow by whichever poor kid is in front of him. It’s a labor intensive process, and too often it seems as if challenging a rotating big man at the hoop is simply too much.
Caris channels the ghost of Wolverine Crawford in other ways: he’s a good shooter with a quick release from outside, either off the catch or off the dribble; he plays well in the pick-and-roll and can sometimes draw both defenders to him and lay it off to the big man; he has plus floor vision at the two-guard spot and makes the tough skip pass to the opposite corner when necessary; and he’s a microwave much like Crawford, building confidence and aggressiveness with each consecutive make.
Ace was kind enough to put together a gif of all of Caris’s makes from the critical win over Penn State:
The first was a simple catch-and-shoot corner three, something Caris will be looked to make often at the next level; the second was a nice pull-up long two that left Shep Garner in the dust; the third, another catch-and-shoot three, this time from the wing; the fourth, a Kobe Bryant shot fake to a smooth jumper that shook Ross Travis; the fifth, a nice drive past John Johnson (after hitting him with an array of quick crossovers) to a floater off glass; the sixth, a quick stop-and-pop that left Donovan Jack with no chance to contest.
Despite his flaws – Caris’s defense is not where it could be, given his length and lateral quickness, and he’s hesitant to attack the rim in the halfcourt when he could be challenged at the rim – he’s a solid prospect. Behind surefire one-and-dones Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, he might be the best wing prospect in the upcoming draft because of his plus size at the two-guard spot, his ability to break down defenders with his handle, and his outside shooting. We might only get another three months of LeVert as a Wolverine.
* * *
To state the obvious, this season has been a disappointment. Michigan’s customarily blistering offense has looked stagnant and has been prone to bouts of cold shooting; Kam Chatman hasn’t been able to fill Glenn Robinson’s vacancy at the four; Michigan’s corps of big men have been underwhelming as a whole (even if Ricky Doyle has shown good things); Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton have been injured and Michigan’s struggled to get consistent production from the point guard spot.
In all fairness, Caris has contributed to the disappointment as well – although, notably, he still leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Against NJIT, he put the team on his back to the tune of 32 points (on just 18 FGA) and Michigan still lost; but in other losses against Eastern Michigan, Arizona, SMU, and Purdue, he scored ten points or fewer, often inefficiently. It’s too reductive to place those losses squarely on Caris, but still, better performances (particularly against Eastern and SMU) might have made all the difference.
There’s another key point: Caris is still extremely young. He doesn’t turn 21 until next August, and it’s abundantly clear that his game is still very much a work in progress. His last name – LeVert – translates into French as “The Green” and Caris The Green is still as inexperienced and immature (physically speaking) as his name would suggest. Development can and does happen at the next level; Caris’s game (and his wiry frame) will grow over the next several years for whichever NBA team is fortunate enough to land him in the draft.
It’s tough in the here and now, though. Unfair amounts of criticism tend to fall on a team’s best player, and with Michigan’s rickety path towards NCAA Tournament contention, there might be more noise with each successive loss. The exodus of NBA talent has finally caught up with the Wolverines – it was probably naïve to assume that Michigan would reload with sufficient reinforcements (without recruiting at the type of level that keeps a continual pipeline of NBA talent).
In the end, it looks like what may possibly be the only season with Caris LeVert’s Michigan will wind up in disappointment,as Michigan enters into a brief rebuilding phase after the euphoric highs of the past few seasons. Here’s to enjoying Caris’s particular style in the meantime however, as it might be another decade-and-a-half before another player like him suits up in the Maize and Blue again. Any reprise of the 2011 surge into the NCAA Tournament would only add to his story.
Those Van Bergenian thighs. That Clarkian pass rush. That responsible chin…[Fuller]
Final reminder to settlers along Lake Erie: We're coming to your Cleveland on Monday to talk about…I dunno…basketball or kickers or something. We've now added "Big Ed" Muransky to the lineup. Here's some footage of Muransky (#72 right, sometimes left tackle) as a sophomore against MSU, courtesy of WH. The rest of "we" are Brian, John U. Bacon, [huge gap in how much you care] and myself.
We've got the area reserved behind the bar through 11, and there's about 100-120 people coming, which means when the Ohio State fans show up later to watch the national championship game there'll be this wall of Michigan fans to greet them. And a bearded blogger guy rooting loudly for Oregon…while standing behind Big Ed Muransky.
Huge thanks to this lemon-eater for setting it up.
OT don't care SVG is boss: The Pistons cut their best player then ripped off a seven-game win streak. To win #6 they had to preserve a 1-point lead from the defending champions on the road, so Van Gundy used the last rasps of his weakening voice to demand the stones "Just form a [bleep]-ing wall." So I formed an effin' t-shirt.
If you hate this one you're all fired. My "IT'S H4PPENING" shirt is gone now but we've got several other new offerings if you haven't been on the store lately:
Not this again! New coaches mean new schemes to learn and WMUKirk did an amazing job in two diaries of showing how Durkin likes to play chess. Part 1 got into the base stuff and Part 2 was about how he mixed those to stay one step ahead of Jameis Winston's reads. There's this from Part 1:
What I've noticed is he doesn't deviate from 4 basic coverages. Quarters, Cover 3 Press, Cover 1, and his favorite blitz is the Fire Blitz from the QB's blind side. He hardly ever runs Man Under, Tampa 2, or Cover 0. He values speed and isn't against running a 3-4 with 3-3-5 personnel.
Florida's 3-3-5 was lifting one of the middle linebackers for a safety/spur/hybrid space player dude, and looked thusly:
The WDE is a pass rusher type and is standing up. On 1st and 15 this is Xtreme speed.
That's a 3-3-5 but not a Casteel stack; it's more like one of Mattison's okies except the MLB is a LB, not Mike Martin.
[Cont. after the jump]
Michigan (9-6, 2-1 B1G) vs
Minnesota (11-5, 0-3)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Clay Matvick
Analyst: Sean Harrington
Right: Michigan swept last year's games against the Gophers; Saturday's tilt will be their only matchup this regular season. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||4||DeAndre Mathieu||Sr.||5'9, 170||74||18||No|
|High assist and steal rates, solid finisher given stature.|
|G||1||Andre Hollins||Sr.||6'2, 195||71||22||No|
|Excellent outside shooter, not as good inside arc. On a cold streak.|
|G||11||Carlos Morris||Jr.||6'5, 175||70||23||Not really|
|High usage, only decent efficiency, at best when he gets to rim.|
|F||24||Joey King||Jr.||6'9, 235||72||16||No|
|Sharpshooting stretch four, doesn't do much work on the boards.|
|C||15||Maurice Walker||Sr.||6'10, 255||56||26||Very|
|Very effective at the hoop, great rebounder and shot-blocker.|
|G||2||Nate Mason||Fr.||6'1, 185||60||19||No|
|42% 3P shooter, top-15 steal rate, and decent passer.|
|C||55||Elliott Eliason||Sr.||6'11, 245||36||15||Very|
|Low usage, 69% FG. Monster on offensive glass. Solid shot-blocker.|
|F||23||Charles Buggs||So.||6'9, 220||27||18||Not really|
|Okay shooter, not much of a rebounder. Baptized by GRIII.|
The Gophers are winless so far in Big Ten play, though much of that has to do with a tough schedule: after opening conference play at #63 Purdue, a game they kept close, they lost handily at #20 Maryland before falling to #17 Ohio State at home in overtime—the OSU game was a tight, exciting contest throughout. Minnesota's two nonconference losses are also of the quality variety, against #9 Louisville (neutral court) and at #34 St. John's.
Quality wins, however, are lacking. Other than a neutral-court triumph over #33 Georgia, Minnesota hasn't beaten a team ranked higher than #115 (Western Kentucky), and only one other win came against a top-200 opponent.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
visor pace Spurrier
Per many, many people, Michigan's hired former Jacksonville Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch as a WR coach and "passing game coordinator."
Fisch's coaching trajectory is an odd one. He played high school tennis, showed up at Florida hoping to sign up as a manager, and got rebuffed. He got a break a bit later:
An assistant coach for the Gators was recruiting one of the players on Fisch’s high school team, and before long, he had invited Fisch to do odd jobs around the football office. He spent a year quietly laboring before another assistant started giving Fisch higher-profile tasks.
His break had come. Finally.
“After a year of hiding around the office to do random projects, Coach Spurrier started noticing the work I was doing and liked what I was doing,” Fisch said. “Our relationship grew tremendously.”
After a couple of years as a GA under Spurrier at Florida, Fisch latched on to a defensive quality control spot with the Texans for a few years, then got an assistant (to the) QB/WR coach job with the Ravens, a spot he held for four years.
At this point his career blew up. First he got an honest-to-God position coach slot coaching WRs with the Broncos. That didn't last. The next year he was Minnesota's offensive coordinator and QB coach. That didn't last. He bounced back to the NFL the next year as the Seahawks' QB coach. That didn't last; the next year he was OC/QB with Miami (college edition); after two years of that he bounced to Jacksonville, where he was just unceremoniously terminated.
Fisch hasn't been anywhere for more than two years since his stint as an assistant to an assistant with the Ravens and has held three different offensive coordinator slots since 2009.
|2011||Miami||3||23||26||18||Jacory Harris, SR|
|2012||Miami||47||41||16||25||Stephen Morris, JR|
|2013||Miami||14||5||11||10||Stephen Morris, SR|
Fisch's first year with the Hurricanes (which was also Al Golden's first year) saw a drastic improvement at QB. The year before an interception-flinging Jacory Harris struggled to the point where he was platooned with true freshman Stephen Morris. Harris completed 55% of his passes for 6.6 YPA and had a TD:INT of 14:15.
Fisch enters; Harris holds the job for the entirety of his senior season, completes 65% at 8.3 a pop and has a 20:9 TD:INT. Miami leaps from the middle of the pack in YPA to the top 20 and maintains that performance the next two years as Morris becomes a solid option.
The 2011 Miami season stands out as one of the weirdest in advanced stats. It was thoroughly discussed at the time around here since I like using FEI and having a Miami team that pooped out a 6-3 win over South Florida that far up the chart was credibility-sapping. As best I can figure, a 35-point performance against a rampant Virginia Tech defense was fuel for that ranking. S&P was not so impressed with the Fisch impact.
In any case, Fisch had a clear positive impact on the Hurricanes offense, especially in the passing game.
Things weren't nearly as successful with Minnesota. Fisch's single year there saw Adam Weber regress in most statistical categories, throwing a bunch of picks. It's hard to pick what was going wrong there, deep into the Tim Brewster era. Not much was going right with the Gophers and a single year there is no more indicative of coaching talent than Doug Nussmeier's lost 2014.
There's not much to like about Fisch's tenure with the Jaguars.
|2014||Jacksonville||31||31||32||Blake Bortles (rookie)|
But there wasn't much to work with, either. Fisch had a rookie QB last year; three of the top four Jags WRs were also rookies. Denard Robinson had just established himself a pretty good running back when he was lost for the year, leaving a meh offensive line trying to get Toby Gerhart yards. No offense to Chad Henne, but he doesn't seem like an NFL QB.
Fisch was hurled overboard as Gus Bradley tries to salvage his job. On the one hand, you've got a short stint with an already moribund franchise that features a ton of injuries and rookies; on the other you've got a guy who is 38 and has already impressed enough people to be an offensive coordinator at three different places. The one situation he found himself in that could plausibly result in success—Miami under the competent Al Golden—resulted in that. He's a bit of a swing for the fences, but… I mean… he's basically a position coach with a cool title..
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'd be leery of Fisch as a coordinator since his track record is a little short and uneven. As the kind of sort of third OC behind Harbaugh and Drevno and a WR coach, it's a good get. Fisch doesn't have much college experience but the guys around him all do, and if this is his goal…
What’s down the road for Fisch? Ultimately, he wants to be a head coach, and he’s working fervently to get there. He takes detailed notes in every meeting, saving the dozens of notebooks he’s amassed over the years so he can always look back along the way.
“You try to take what you can use today and use it today and then you try to store the rest of it,” Fisch said. “There’s so much from each one of these guys. I’m trying to soak it in and then make it my own — I’ve got to make sure I’m not trying to be somebody else but that I’m learning from all of these guys.”
…you know he's going to get after it as a recruiter despite having little track record in that department so far.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE COACHING STAFF
We're just about complete here, with one spot on each side of the ball yet to be determined. The leaders for those spots are Roy Manning and Jimmie Dougherty, but Manning might get pushed out if Michigan needs a bonafide second DBs coach. Chart:
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|QB||Jim Harbaugh||lock||DL||Greg Mattison||lock|
|RB||Ty Wheatley||very likely||LB||Durkin||lock|
|WR||Jedd Fisch||lock||DB||Greg Jackson||lock|
|TE||Jimmie Dougherty||probable||ST||John Baxter||lock|
S&C: Kevin Tolbert.
All year long I've been playing the NFL games of our fantasy partner Draft Kings, and every time I've pulled up a game I see the same four dudes vying for a sixth of my salary allotment. Even more than college (thank goodness) the pro game is a quarterback game, and picking the right one for your fantasy team will make or break your week.
Wouldn't you know it, come the Division series those dudes are still right there.
A quick rundown of the buttons: Rodgers has the same calf injury, Peyton's got a thigh bruise, Brady's ankle's still bothering him, and Andrew Luck reports he is so distracted by the whole "that was Peyton's team" angle that he's considering quitting the NFL, tracking down his old college coach, and enrolling at whatever school that is under an assumed name.
I'd tell you to choose somebody else, but it's probably worth a grand of fantasy bucks not to be against the Seahawks' defense right now. Russell Wilson against Carolina is intriguing if he wasn't the same price as the guy in New England, what's his name?
Pre-playoffs you can go cheap but since the big-money QBs are the ones who get this far, you're gonna have to try to get value. That's why I'm rolling with Brady: in these big leagues (this one has 57,500 entries max and is well on its way there) you're hoping to explode—you need to get past 200 fantasy points to win the big bucks—and except that one day a year Flacco goes off Touchdown Tom is the only QB capable of putting up a 40 spot who's not on the elite cost tier. Give him a crisp, clear day in Foxborough and he's been money this year.
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