#30 Michigan (15-9, 5-6 B1G) vs
#42 Indiana (15-10, 5-7)
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
Indiana -3 (KenPom)
Indiana -3.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Dan Bonner
Right: Still obligatory. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
There's good news and bad news on the NCAA tournament front. The good: Michigan continues to get on more updated brackets in the Bracket Matrix. They're now the third team out of the field, and Sunday's matchup just happens to be with the last at-large team to make it; a win should get the Wolverines on the right side of the bubble for the moment.
The bad: the NCAA selection committee released the top 16 overall seeds this afternoon and the surprise of the day was the omission of the Big Ten (namely, Wisconsin, which is currently the top four-seed on the matrix). If the committee is down on the top of the conference, that spells trouble for the B1G teams on the bubble.
That all may become irrelevant, of course, if Michigan can't beat Indiana. The Wolverines need at least one upset win (by current KenPom projections) down the stretch to have a realistic chance at an at-large bid. This looks like one of their best opportunities but for the location of the game: Michigan is 1-17 at Assembly Hall since 1996, with the lone victory coming in overtime over a 2008-09 Hoosiers squad that finished 6-25.
In preparation for this game, John Beilein chose to give Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin two days off of practice this week in hopes of keeping the former at his current form and snapping the latter out of his slump. Irvin is quite aware that he needs to play better than he has over the last three games:
"I told the guys this, I know that in order for us to be able to achieve the goals we want, I've got to step up," Irvin said. "I told them that. I look forward to the challenge.
"Everyone goes through adversity throughout the season. It's been my time these last three games and I've gone through it. But I'm not going to let that define me in any way for the rest of the year. I told them, no matter what, whether I'm shooting the ball well or not, I'm going to be positive and I'm going to be a leader out there."
Irvin's last good game came against these very Hoosiers; he had 12 points on nine shot equivalents, three assists, and no turnovers in the blowout at Crisler. A return to that form would be most welcome.
THE LAST TIME
Derrick Walton scored 21 points, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson exploited frontcourt mismatches with IU's Juwan Morgan limited in his first game back from an ankle injury, James Blackmon Jr.—who sat out the next three games with a knee injury—only mustered four points, and Michigan won by 30.
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||2||Josh Newkirk||Jr.||6'1, 195||66||19||105||No|
|Most PG-like player, but has higher turnover rate than assist rate.|
|G||4||Robert Johnson||Jr.||6'3, 195||70||23||112||Not At All|
|Sniper beyond the arc, solid finisher inside of it. 16th in B1G in eFG%.|
|G||1||James Blackmon||Jr.||6'4, 200||62||24||122||Not At All|
|High-volume, high-efficiency scorer. Went 3/14 in first game back from knee injury.|
|F||13||Juwan Morgan||So.||6'7, 230||47||16||126||Yes|
|Great rebounder and finisher this year. Commits too many turnovers.|
|C||31||Thomas Bryant||So.||6'10, 255||70||22||118||No|
|Excellent rebounder and post scorer, good shot-blocker, hits occasional three.|
|C||20||De'Ron Davis||Fr.||6'10, 240||33||24||114||Very|
|Good offensive rebounder, high FT rate, struggling with TOs and finishing.|
|G||11||Devonte Green||Fr.||6'3, 186||32||17||94||No|
|Shooting has fallen off in conference play, very turnover-prone.|
|G||0||Curtis Jones||Fr.||6'4, 175||31||18||101||No|
|Outside shooting threat, struggling to finish inside arc, turnover-prone.|
|F||15||Zach McRoberts||So.||6'6, 200||29||6||130||Kinda|
|Minuscule usage walk-on pressed into action as undersized four.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Ed-S: Team 40 played their first game today, beating Delaware 7-0. Before you ask: no, the Delaware softball team doesn’t use wings on their softball helmets]
It’s that time of year once again! [Photo credit: Bryan Fuller for all photos]
For the last four years, and especially the last two, Michigan softball has been defined by two women named Sierra. The two Sierras, Romero and Lawrence, headlined a star-studded line-up that shattered school, conference, and national records and propelled the Wolverines to the highest echelons of the sport. Perhaps even more importantly, the 2015 and 2016 teams catapulted the softball program into the spotlight among Michigan fans, capitalizing on a void left by underwhelming performances from the revenue sports. Over the course of the last two years, tickets to big games at Alumni Field have sold out in hours, game threads have exploded in length, and the names of the stars – Romero, Lawrence, Christner, Wagner, Susalla, Sweet, Betsa, and more – have become household names.
Now, it’s time to turn the page, and the Michigan softball machine will have to turn to younger talent to fill out the roster in 2017. Even with a number of returning stars there’s no mistaking the sense that we’re entering a new era, and things are going to look different. After several years as one of the nation’s top offensive teams, this year Michigan’s fortunes will most likely be determined by how far their ace pitcher can carry them. Especially in the post-season, when teams often lean on a single pitcher game in and game out, Michigan’s senior flame-throwing righty will be the driving force. If the last four years have been the Era of Sierra, 2017 should be the Year of Betsa.
Bidding farewell to the class of 2016 has not been easy, neither for fans who will miss watching living legends step to the Alumni Field plate week in and week out, nor for the coaches working overtime to find ways to replace their remarkable production. This remarkable group of young women won a staggering 210 games in their time at Michigan, 4 Big Ten regular season championships (3 outright), and 1 Big Ten Tournament Title. In the post-season, they earned 4 trips to both the regionals and the super-regionals, went to the WCWS 3 times, and reached the final game of the season in 2015.
In addition to role-players Olivia Richvalsky, Lauren Connell, and Mary Sbonek, the 2016 class included some true Michigan legends.
[cont’ after THE JUMP]
Less than a week ago, Michigan hosted a bad Ohio State team and lost, even though the Buckeyes’ best player (JaQuan Lyle) was hobbled and a key cog (Jae’Sean Tate) spent most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble. The Wolverines allowed 16 offensive boards and took over two-thirds of their shots from behind the arc in the narrow defeat. At the time, it felt as if that loss signalled that Michigan wouldn’t be competing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
A quick turnaround for the next game - a rematch against Michigan State soon after a competitive loss in East Lansing - wasn’t a problem; the offense caught fire in the first half and ran the Spartans out of the building, and the rest of the game was spent in garbage time with Michigan holding a commanding lead. Like they did against Indiana, the Wolverines managed to put together strong offensive and defensive performances at the same time and atoned for last season’s home no-shows against those teams: in 2016, Michigan lost to IU and MSU by a combined 39 points, and in 2017, they beat those teams by a combined 59 points in Ann Arbor.
If you’d have told me before the season that Michigan would blow out IU and MSU like that in the Crisler Center, I’d be expecting a shot at a top four seed in the tournament. As it stands, Michigan’s still squarely on the bubble; at 5-6 in a mediocre Big Ten conference, the Wolverines probably need to win at least four more to have a good shot at getting in. Road victories over Rutgers and Nebraska are a must, and Michigan needs to steal multiple wins from a group of games that includes trips to Indiana, Minnesota, and Northwestern, and tough home contests against Wisconsin and Purdue. A tournament bid is feasible, especially if Michigan keeps up its newfound defensive competence - after allowing 1.23 points per possession over their first five Big Ten games, they’ve given up 1.01 PPP over their last six, an improvement from historically bad to slightly above average.
As of right now, Michigan ranks 30th in Kenpom, 30th in Sagarin, and 31st in T-Rank, indicating that they have the quality of a tournament team, even if they don’t have the requisite resume. The Wolverines boast the best offense in the Big Ten because of elite shooting - especially due to easy 2-point looks created by their signature scheme - and elite turnover aversion.
Even with John Beilein’s most talented teams, there was usually a significant gap between the offense and defense; Michigan would score so efficiently that indifferent defense didn’t really matter. What Michigan has decidedly lacked since the exodus of talent following the 2013-14 season has been a dynamic playmaker who can take over and dominate in the spread pick-and-roll sets that have become deeply ingrained in the Beilein offense. Of course, Caris LeVert’s injuries were a big reason for that void over the last two seasons, and Zak Irvin has unfortunately been uneven at best as the focal point of Michigan’s attack.
[After THE JUMP: Walton fills the void.]
Bracket Watch: Still A Thing!
Derrick Walton is settling in for a potential tourney run. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Michigan's NCAA tournament hopes were hanging by a thread heading into Tuesday's blowout of MSU. In the aftermath, well, they're still hanging by a thread, but at least the thread hasn't snapped. The Wolverines are the fifth team out of the field in last night's update of the Bracket Matrix, making 31 of the 99 included brackets. They're moving in the right direction, however, making 17 of the 40 that were updated on Wednesday or Thursday. That update doesn't include today's revised brackets; CBS's Jerry Palm, who already had Michigan as an 11-seed, bumped them up to a 10-seed today—clear of the last four in.
As ESPN's Eamonn Brennan points out in his latest Bubble Watch post, Michigan can strengthen their case for an at-large bid on Sunday by weakening the case for Indiana, a fellow bubble team:
Despite last week's home loss to Ohio State, this could end up being a net-plus week for Michigan's once-long NCAA tournament odds. The Wolverines blitzed Michigan State by 29 on Tuesday, and on Sunday they travel to Indiana, which is not only vulnerable but one of the bubble teams the Wolverines need to drift away if they want to secure their own bid in the coming weeks.
Not that you need the rooting incentive, but Michigan State is another one of those bubble teams that Michigan is hoping to pass; while they did so on Palm's bracket, most have kept the Spartans a couple seed lines above the Wolverines. Michigan still needs to win more than their fair share of coin-flip-ish games down the stretch to have a realistic shot at the field; a victory on Sunday would go a long way towards making that a reality.
[After THE JUMP: getting X going, transition threes, lineage of poodles, etc.]
- Women’s basketball: the best team Michigan’s ever had. Encourage everyone to get down there this year and see it (they’re 12-0 at home). Watch #1 Kysre Gondrezick their star PG, junkyard dog Jillian Dunston, and freshman center Hallie Thome (50 blocks this year!)
- Men’s basketball: the best game Michigan’s ever had against Michigan State? MSU shot clock violations: Derrick Walton preventing them from getting it to their PG. Finally DW’s becoming the guy we though we recruited.
- X-W Package!
- Defensive rebounding is worse than normal this year. #FreeTeske
- Everybody should name a good thing Brian said on the radio.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Aidan Hutchinson with swaggy G
The Roster. Michigan took a horde of defensive linemen a year ago—7 or 8 depending on where a couple of two-way guys end up. They're set to lose just Mo Hurst after the year; they'll probably take another two or three to prevent gap years like 2017 projects to be.
The Recruits. MI DE Aidan Hutchinson is a Michigan legacy and likely a slam dunk. FL DE Nik Bonitto told 24/7 that Michigan led for him in November; he also said that Florida was his proverbial dream school. They had not offered at that juncture. Lorenz recently reiterated that Michigan was in a good spot.
At DT, Michigan is chasing FL DT Taron Vincent, an IMG kid who transferred in from Biff Poggi's old school. He's got a public pecking order on which Michigan is 5th at best right now, so it'll be one of those recruitments where an unofficial either kicks things off in earnest (Nico Collins) or functionally ends it. New Jersey has a couple of touted kids in Tyler Friday and Dorian Hardy, plus Jayson Ademilola could shake free if ND has another crater of a season.
The Projection. Hutchinson, probably Bonitto, and we'll say Friday because Michigan's gotten the top kid in New Jersey the last four cycles.
Reese is a cornerstone
The Roster. Michigan took three or four linebackers in last year's class, depending on where Ben Mason ends up, and loses just Mike McCray after the season... probably. Jared Wangler and Noah Furbush are both potential fifth years who haven't contributed much. Depending on how the depth chart shakes out this year there could be just a couple spots or up to four.
The Recruits. GA LB Otis Reese is already in the boat and both Scout and 24/7 have asserted that Michigan is super-high on him at VIPER. Long way to Signing Day and all that; with Solomon already in Ann Arbor and Reese currently not expected to take visits he seems likely to stick.
MI LB Kolin Demens is the younger brother of Kenny. Michigan offered him way back in April but there hasn't been much talk about him since. He's a 3.5* type in early rankings, so Michigan might not be pushing for him all out just yet. Michigan also offered MI LB Ovie Oghoufo; he went off the board to ND a couple weeks later but with ND coming off a 4-8 season and Oghoufo wobbling a little bit publicly he's at least somewhat in play.
Outside the state, Michigan is going to try with VA LB Teradja Mitchell but is currently trailing. OH LB Dallas Gant, the cousin of former Wolverine Allen, is in nearby Toledo and will be heavily pursued.
The Projection. Reese and one ILB type. Demens is the most likely.
Taylor-Stewart has a hyphen, you know
The Roster. Michigan took four and maybe a fifth if they move Brad Hawkins to safety, but they lost that many guys so there has not been a major influx. Everyone's young—no seniors—so Michigan will go relatively light here.
The Recruits. MI CB Kalon Gervin is your annual Cass Tech cornerback prospect. At 5'11' he's a little bigger than they usually are. CA CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart has a hyphen in his name, recently moved up to the #15 prospect in the country on 24/7, and says Harbaugh is his favorite coach. He recently backed off naming Alabama his leader, FWIW. FL Brendan Radley-Hiles is at IMG, has a hyphen, and visited Michigan over the summer.
At safety, TX S BJ Foster is a top ten player in early rankings who Michigan will try to get in with. They haven't had much luck getting guys out of Texas—even Chuck Filiaga was more or less from California—but it's de riguer to mention the five star you've offered in these things. Same deal with FL S Tyreke Johnson, who the nation is after, and FL CB/S Al Blades (yes that Blades). Blades has already committed to and decommitted from his father's alma mater Miami.
GA S Myles Sims is a less highly touted name who Lorenz says Michigan is after as if he is one of those top top guys.
The Projection. Gervin seems likely what with the Cass Tech thing, and then let's flip a hyphen for the second corner spot. Sims seems like the most realistic shot at safety.
Wild-ass guess that should be taken seriously in no way whatsoever
FWIW, the version of this that was published a year ago got 10 of Michigan's eventual 30 signees correct. We're projecting 20 this year.
A confidence level of "high" means approximately a 50/50 shot they end up in the class. "Low" means this is more or less a placeholder. The composite currently has zero fullbacks ranked and they'll probably go get a guy. This is denoted in the chart appropriately.
|State||Position||Player||Approx. Stars||Confidence Level|
|FL||TE||Will Mallory||4||Very High|
|MI||DE||Aidan Hutchinson||4||Very High|
This might be less of a blockbuster class since Michigan is not, at first glance, in on a bunch of five star sorts. That should change in 2019 when the state has two guys who will contend for that status.