Why yes there is a story behind this photo:
"I took this picture at the pre-Super Bowl NFL Tailgate Party last week of my brother and Urban Meyer. My brother's hat was backwards but he twisted it around as I set up for the pic. Thought you might enjoy."
--Jared of Sports Power Weekends
As you may have heard on National Signing Day Urban Meyer inked a lot of five-stars (and poached as many three-stars from his conference rivals), then rounded on the rest of the B1G for not faring so well. MaizeNBlueInDC took to the Scout rankings to confirm, compiling the recruits by state to demonstrate how each conference was doing versus its footprint. He starts with a chart that seems to suggest the Big Ten recruited just like every other major conference except the SEC which I graph:
The parts I faded are the top two teams from each conference according to Scout's team rankings, respectively Bama/Texas A&M, UCLA/Wash(!), Mich/OSU, Okla/Texas, Clemson/FSU, and Rutgers/Cincy. That's what Urbz is whining about; he and we finished with the 1 and 2 teams to Scout, and the fourth Big Ten team doesn't appear until two spots above Kentucky. Course I'm not sure what Meyer expects to say at the coaches meeting except "Stop being MAC coaches promoted to your Peter Principle limit." For QED purposes, a reminder of Big Ten coaching hires since 2007:
- 2007: Saban/Tressel acolyte who turned Cincy into a BCS team, LSU's DC, Mack Brown's recruiting guy, Indiana's OC who coached Ball State before Hoke.
- 2008: WVU's head coach who invented the spread 'n shred
- 2009: Eastern Kentucky's head coach (hired in '08 under grooming plan)
- 2010: Bob Stoop's longtime OC
- 2011: SDSU's head coach, NIU's head coach
- 2012: Two-time national championship winner at Florida, Toledo's head coach (CBs under Tressel), a Belichick assistant
- 2013: Utah State's head coach, Kent State's head coach (WRs under Tressel)
Recently the SEC has taken to hiring rising star high school coaches who spend a year at Arkansas State, but they've also pilfered Bielema and hired a string of successful coordinators and guys who turned mid-majors into Top 10 teams, and, you know, former national championship winners who tried the NFL because their NCAA dynasties were no longer challenging.
Returning to the Diary of the Week at hand, the rest of the charts use the state data to show things like the SEC has a third of the nation's talent while Big Ten states accounted for a sixth—every other conference is less than us. In the comments turd furguson charted where the schools line up in ranking vs avg prospect rank to see if they're just hauling in more kids period. That also makes for easy graphing and general usefulness so:
In other takes on meeting Meyer's standards, here's EGD with a list of Urban-approved, non-"Don't be a Peters'd MAC coach" tips for Big Ten coaches heading out on the recruiting trail.
Basketball, the What's Leftening: Two of the three remaining tough games for basketball were just played. Our Big Ten opponents all have enough rough stuff still to play that everyone's expected to end up 14-4.
Etc. A better-late-than-never wrap-up of things Brian said on the D.C. trip—if you ask your local alumni chapter nicely (and you don't live in a crappy, unvisitable place like Dallas) you too can get a visit. The weekly LSAClassof2000 stats thing is a Geographic survey of freshmen in the Bentley database that's mostly useless if you don't take out the walk-ons—I had a hell of a time with that same problem when I did the historical team makeup from Ohio (the yellow part) graph for 2011 HTTV. Free throw attempts = EFFORT (and refs but mostly EFFORT!) A made-up backstory for rapture guy (the guy who reached ecstasy in that one gif); the real story will be on these pages soon courtesy of Ace. Lacrosse opponents primer. Please give details. Blockhams was pretty funny.
Requested: A diary on Michigan's ski team, which is club but I'm told is pretty good this year and has Bob Thomas's son on it (and competes in a division called "Michigan Men").
[After the jump: the winner of last week's "Find me a Game…Stauskus lookalike from the Fab Five" contest, and some stuff from the board.]
Reasonable Responses to Disappointing Events
Last Wednesday was National Signing Day, which is a big day for unbalanced Twitter users everywhere. I had originally planned to dedicate this week’s entire TWIT to the scores of unstable fans who didn’t get what they wanted from Recruiting Claus. But after sifting through the charred remnants of the interweb, I opted to just share with you a small share of this Cornucopia of Derp. I’d like to leave you with at least SOME hope that the world is a fine place and worth fighting for.
Exhibit A: Vonn Bell
Bell was a five-star safety who had narrowed down his choices to Ohio State and Tennessee. Reports started filtering out on Wednesday morning that Bell would be attending Tennessee, which made it even more awkward for Vols fans when Bell subsequently chose the Buckeyes. Hilarity did NOT ensue in Knoxville.
Exhibit B: Robert Nkemdiche
Nkemdiche’s recruitment was both wild and well documented. However, by signing day most observers expected him to choose Ole Miss. So you’d think that when he DID choose Ole Miss, people would take it in stride, right? Please? Just this once?
Yeah, that wasn’t a high-probability event.
Seriously though… who are these sick people? Someone actually typed the words “Nkemdiche moms a fat walrus,” without a) noticing the glaring grammatical errors, and b) thinking “I am terrible at not being a terrible person.” We’ve all run across some players we’ve disliked on an unreasonably personal level, but for most of us spines and knees are off-limits even in the deepest recesses of our collective lizard brains. SEC, SEC, SEC.
I Believe The Children Are Our Future
We're only about six weeks into 2013, but the Creepy Tweet of the Year competition may be over before it really even began.
If you don't recognize the recipient, good for you (having a mental list of recruits' Twitter handles is one of the signs that you have a problem). It's Malik McDowell, all-everything DE from Detroit, who is rumored to be favoring Michigan and Notre Dame. The sender is a Notre Dame blogger. Remember a few months ago when Brian was complaining that there really aren't any good Notre Dame blogs? Yeah, this. It's this guy and Damefan1.
Dealer's choice as to where to focus your horrified bemusement: a blogger actively courting a recruit for a school, someone trying to get a minor to attend a certain school by promising him sex, or the rather obvious (given the language and the overwhelming whiteness of the ND student body) racial implications. I mean, I suppose there is a chance that this guy is telling McDowell that Notre Dame needs a saxophone player to back up Randy Watson. After all, what was the name of the fast-food joint in Coming to America? That's right. McDowell's:
Their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.
Whew. Glad there's a reasonable and NOT COMPLETELY DEPLORABLE explanation for this message.
Michigan played some basketball this week. It did not go well. PROOF:
This was just a small sampling of the responses to the Wisconsin and MSU games. Among the ideas that I saw floated were:
- Fire Beilein
- Bench Trey Burke
- Bench everyone but Trey Burke
- NO, FOR SRS, FIRE BELEIEIN
- Deport Nik Stauskas
- Sacrifice Vogrich to the Flying Spaghetti Monster
- File war crime charges against Hardaway
- Cut GRIII
- Cut RGIII (not sure how this would help, but I suppose it’s worth a shot)
- Forfeit the season and go caddy for the Dalai Lama
There were more, but these were the most reasonable.
Former Michigan Athletes Engage in Twitter Battles
This was a big week for former Michigan athletes in social media. Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) kicked things off with a spat with Chadd Scott (@ChaddScott), a radio host from Jacksonville. The website Awful Announcing put together a comprehensive recap of the confrontation, but it boiled down to this:
Mr. Scott is arguing that Desmond got his spot on Gameday because of his Heisman, which is probably partly true. But was that really the "easy path"? Winning a Heisman is only an easier path when the other options are “Earn Congressional Medal of Honor,” “Win Nobel Prize,” and “defeat Contra after 11 beers.” But beyond that, how many Heisman winners have been able to parlay their win into a successful announcing career? Doug Flutie and Eddie George do some college football analysis, and Tim Brown pops up here and there, but that's about it. Besides, it’s tough to argue that ESPN doles out Gameday jobs based solely on previous success in athletics; Lee Corso was 41–68–2 as a coach at Indiana, and Kirk Herbstreit wasn’t exactly a beacon of glory at OSU.
Speaking of untenable arguments, O HAI THERE Braylon Edwards:
Braylon’s brother, Berkley Edwards, is a speedy little running back who could be described as a poor man’s Dennis Norfleet. But Michigan just moved their ACTUAL Dennis Norfleet to cornerback [/pours a little out for Brian]. So being all “OMG Michigan needed this guy” is a tough sell. Besides, Minnesota was (probably) Edwards’ only committable BCS offer. He had an offer from Iowa pulled, and his Cal offer was on hiatus because of a coaching change. So it wasn’t as if Michigan was the only guy not courting this kid. We’ll always have Michigan State ‘04, Braylon. Now please sit down.
Finally, Wednesday brought us a less-than-civil war between Anthony Wright (@ItsAntWright) and ESPN commentator and professional quasi-troll Dan Dakich (@DanDakich). Wright started things, sort of, by tweeting “Shut up Dakich” during the Game That Never Happened But Nevertheless Pains My Soul. The next day, Dakich unleashed the fury:
There are a couple of things to notice here. First, Wright didn’t use Dakich’s Twitter handle in his tweet, and Dakich doesn’t follow Wright. So to see that tweet, Dakich had to search for his own name, which is indicative of a combination of narcissism and confrontationalism (IT’S A WORD). Second, and more interestingly, is how quickly and personally Dakich struck back. Calling someone “the biggest underachiever n the history of Michigan hoops” who “dog[ged] it thru games” is pretty harsh. But then, after some back and forth, things got downright bitchy.
Yeppers, that’s an ESPN analyst calling a former player and current high school coach fat, lazy, and illiterate. Dakich is usually pretty curt on Twitter (he tends to call people dumb), but this is a different level even for him. He’s one step away going full-on Dean Wormer. I personally think that Dakich is among the better pure analysts in college basketball 85% of the time, but he spends 10% of his time trolling as hard as one can troll. The other 5% is largely unintelligible, but seems to be about a lighthouse.
Les and Bo standing around, 1989. I'm just posting this for the shorts, really. Seriously, it's almost entirely guys just standing around. In shorts. From 1989.
This thing I am the foremost practitioner of is banned! Of all people, it fell to Barry Alvarez—he of the cancelled Virginia Tech game nigh on the eve of the season—to reveal that the Big Ten is going to dump I-AA opponents posthaste:
“The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous,” Alvarez said on WIBA-AM. “It’s not very appealing…
“So we’ve made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools.”
I… actually, I don't care. It does restrict the availability of cupcake games, thereby driving up the costs to schedule MAC folks and the like, but not significantly. If you want to have a walkover, Eastern Michigan's just as piteous as Northern Iowa—significantly moreso, in fact.
This man either gets it or does not get it depending on whether you get it or do not get it. Indiana's athletic director:
“What they like to do is make opportunities available to wear different kinds of uniforms,” Glass told Inside the Hall, “and we’ve had multiple opportunities to wear alternative uniforms, and we’ve respectfully passed on that. … I would never say never, but I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be doing that.”
A number of college and pro teams are trying the new jerseys out. We’ve seen schools such as Michigan State and Ohio State wear alternate uniforms in recent weeks.
So why not Indiana?
“The IU men’s basketball uniform is iconic,” Glass said. “I have a poster on my wall that is kind of like a fake group photo of all the All Americans that we’ve had in basketball, and the jerseys, whether its from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s, pretty much look the same.”
Indiana fans say "thank God" in the comments, because they either get it or do not get it. Kids hate it and Indiana's program will crater on Wednesday as the Hoosiers mass defect to Bill Walton's new Hypercolor State team.
Even more rules changes, these of the on-field variety. It's February, which means something something flowers and the NCAA's annual set of rules changes. These are just proposals at the moment, so don't write your congressman yet.
The flashiest is jacking up the targeting flag. Now it comes with a free ejection, and if it's after halftime a suspension for next week. Also a free review:
To balance out the incidents where a player is unfairly penalized, officiating crews would be allowed to review the hit through video replay. Said the committee, the replay official "must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field."
Sounds a lot like the interminable and pointless elbowing reviews from basketball, except people do get hit with targeting flags at the moment. This will either lead to those calls disappearing again, or a parade of defensive backs making a split-second decision wrong heading to the locker room.
Others are minor cleanups aimed at giving referees an easier time:
- all blocks below the waist are legal if they're in front of a defender, illegal otherwise
- you can't spike the ball with one or two seconds left (presumably an attempt to prevent games where one coach disposes of his headset instantly and the other stages a hunger strike for his last second on the sideline)
- an extra official for Big 12 conference games
- Lane Kiffin and Boise State can't jerk people around by switching numbers or wearing blue on a blue field.
Nothing in those is going to have an impact on your viewing. I thought we'd hear something about repealing the helmet rule, too—seems like forcing a player without a helmet to stop playing is punishment enough. No dice on that one.
Good lord. Northwestern makes the case that their basketball outfit is cursed with low-effort sketchy photoshops and lots and lots of evidence:
Look, I'd do more unfortunate things for Northwestern basketball, butmore freakish unfortunate things happened to Northwestern basketball than happened to the players in that episode of the Simpsons where all the players get into freakish unfortunate accidents.
The Wildcats are now down JerShonn Cobb, Drew Crawford, Sanjay Lumpkin, Chier Ajou, Aaron Liberman, Alex Olah, and Jared Swopshire. A few of those guys are on redshirts and may be in the lineup if Carmody was inclined to waste their final year of eligibility on a team nowhere near the NCAA tourney; even so, that's Angry Blank Hating God territory and some.
This is Darren Rovell's fault, of course.
Bring on the bee people or whatever. Gerry DiNardo might know something about something. Not football, but moving because of football:
I don't think we'll ever play with a 14 team team conference, I think it'll be 16 (by 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers join). And I don't think they're going to go through all this conversation and all this realignment and do it again for just two more schools. Where are they going to come from? Hard to say, but I would guess the footprint would continue to grow southeast, so that would leave me to believe that would be the ACC. When you look at schools institutionally, they'll be schools similar to Maryland and Rutgers. They'll be an academic fit, which I think is important, and appear to be in areas where there's population, and I think those are the similar things that has driven expansion
The Big Ten Too is totally happening you guys. This is why the league is already talking about a ten-game conference schedule.
Nebraska hockey: not happening. Their athletic director just said "nope":
On his monthly appearance on the Husker Sports Network, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst threw cold water on the idea of the athletic department starting up a division 1 ice hockey program. The only sport Nebraska has any intention of starting is the new sand volleyball program. That's cold water, not the ice that a hockey program would need. A lot of people had hopes that with Eichorst's background at Wisconsin and the Big Ten's expansion into hockey that the Huskers might join the ranks of the division 1 schools with hockey programs. But that doesn't appear to be in the cards at this time.
The vast deserts of Nebraska have long teemed with moppets who have done nothing but play volleyball, so they should be an instant national power in that. If Nebraska isn't inclined to add hockey, I'm not sure who would. I bet it would be a success at Iowa—triangle of hate, good USHL base—but it's tough to find the money, somehow.
Zone read: not dead yet. Michigan will keep it around next year:
"Are we just getting rid of all the zone-reading? No, we're not," Borges said. "We're going to keep some of that stuff in our offense because we have a mobile quarterback, and as long as we have a quarterback that can threaten the defense as a runner, we're going to have bits and pieces of that that we're going to keep.
"Are we going to run him 25 times? That's over. We're not doing that anymore. That was logical, with what we had (in Denard Robinson). but now we want the quarterback to be more of a passer-runner, than a runner-passer."
I hope the end point is somewhere between 25 times and Gardner's ground efforts last year, where on-purpose runs were limited to some goal line rollouts and the occasional draw. I'd like to see Gardner get 6-8 called runs a game to go with whatever he gets on scrambles.
Etc.: Jeff Bridges has a go-to shirt. I'm fine with Michigan not having a member of Andy Staples's all two-star team this time around. It might be a problem that the Big Ten has eight kids on the team. Brief preview of Michigan's 2013 by me at The Saturday Edge. Goodbye, Matt Painter. Kenpom profiled.
Today's recruiting roundup covers newest commit Bryan Mone, what's shaping up to be a big visit weekend next week, the latest on Lawrence Marshall, and more.
Salt Lake City (UT) Highland DT Bryan Mone became Michigan's third 2014 commit on Tuesday, and Sam Webb caught up with Mone in the wake of his commitment—the rising senior told Webb that his commitment came as a surprise to the coaches, who said he could be a versatile presence on the defensive line ($):
Said Mone, “they told me I’ll play nose tackle, D-end, and wherever else they need me.”
Until then the talented youngster plans to work hard to improve his game. He has given up basketball for dedicate all of his free time to doing just that.
“I’m just lifting and getting faster after school now,” Mone reported. “I need to get slimmer. I’m getting too overweight. Focusing in the classroom is the main thing, but other than that it’s just getting faster, stronger, and trimming down my weight. I’m at about 340 lbs. now, and I want to get down to about 315 lbs.”
While Mone looked to be in shape at around 300 pounds last fall, I'm guessing he's carrying some bad weight at 340; if he's giving up basketball to get in shape, that hopefully won't be an issue moving forward. Webb also talked to Mone's high school coach, who gave more insight on both his football and leadership abilities ($):
“He had 75-plus tackles, 12 for loss, five sacks, and forced four fumbles… but then he turns around and starts on the offensive line,” Benson stated. “The kid never comes off the field. To be 300 lbs. and yet be able to do that, it says a lot about him as a player and his work ethic. He works his guts out in the weight room and does a real good job for us. He is big, strong, powerful, and tenacious. He flat gets after it. He uses his hands very well and he has real good feet for a big guy. He changes directions reallywell. He still has a lot to work on and he knows that. He is a kid that is never settled with where he is at, which is good. He is also very humble. He always makes sure that he directs everything towards his teammates. He is not a ‘me’ guy, he is a ‘we’ guy. He definitely is a great teammate and wants to promote his fellow players.”
Mone's coach also insists that his only visits will be to Michigan; he seems very solid in his commitment, especially since he'd maintained the Wolverines as his leader for months prior to making his pledge.
[Hit THE JUMP for the adventures of Lawrence Marshall and some big-time visitors for the next two weekends.]
The past four games have been a rude awakening for a Michigan basketball team once thought to be the best in the country. That same team is now looking up at three teams in the Big Ten standings, not to mention swiftly falling from contention for a one-seed.
The first two losses of this 1-3 stretch were understandable in both outcome and form; losing competitive games at Indiana and Wisconsin—while getting royally screwed by the officials in the latter—is understandable for a team of any caliber. Last night's debacle in the Breslin Center, however, took the cracks exposed in the three prior games and turned them into gaping crevasses.
In an effort to figure out how much to panic, how much to not, and where we go from here, here's a collection of thoughts on this recent stretch.
JOHN BEILEIN CAN'T MAKE HIS PLAYERS OLDER
I shut off my laptop last night after getting multiple tweets asking if John Beilein was at least a big part of the problem. As far as I can tell, Beilein made one critical coaching error last night: removing Trey Burke after his third foul, which sparked a quick 5-0 Spartan run early in the second half. At that point, however, State had already spent the game imposing their will on Michigan, and with the way the game played out it's hard to imagine Burke being in the game for that two-minute stretch would've changed the outcome.
The problem is not John Beilein, who's done a masterful job of putting this team together and coaching them into an offensive juggernaut. The problem is that he can't make his players any older, and now we're seeing why that's an issue. As it turns out, getting experience on the fly in the toughest conference in the country makes for some growing pains; there's no knowing how five freshmen (six if you count Max Bielfeldt) are going to respond when thrown into critical roles in adverse situations.
Ideally, this is a team that would come back intact next year and be an odds-on favorite to make the Final Four—they need the experience, conditioning, and added size. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
INTERIOR DEFENSE IS A PROBLEM
The hope was that an unstoppable offense would cover for Michigan's defensive shortcomings, but when the offense isn't unstoppable, boy do those shortcomings get exposed. Even in the victory over Ohio State, the Wolverines got abused on the interior defensively, and their two-point defense is now dead last in the conference—B1G opponents connect on 48.9% of their twos against Michigan.
The injury to Jordan Morgan, the team's best on-ball interior defender, has hurt, but the problems go much deeper. Mitch McGary is an active defender with a ton of potential on that end, but he's also prone to freshman mistakes and positional errors, like the one that allowed Jared Berggren to drive for an and-one dunk late in the Wisconsin game. Jon Horford isn't at the same level of on-ball defense as Morgan and he fouls far too much—7.7(!) per 40 minutes in conference play.
Then there's Robinson, who's clearly hit a wall and is struggling mightily to defend larger players. He's not big enough to defend a guy like Derrick Nix or Adreian Payne one-on-one, nor does he have the stamina at this point to attempt to do so and still have an impact on the other end of the floor. He's missing switches and has been late getting out to his man on the perimeter—freshman mistakes, and ones that can't be made in critical moments.
Michigan can spell Robinson with Max Bielfeldt for stretches, but Bielfeldt's offensive limitations make that only a stopgap solution—by my charting, in about a game's worth of offensive possessions in conference play with Bielfeldt on the floor, Michigan is scoring just 0.90 points per possession. The Wolverines are going to need Robinson to find a way out of his funk, plain and simple.
BURKE IS STILL THE LONE CREATOR
When the best point guard in the country leaves the court, there's obviously going to be a bit of a dropoff offensively. Michigan's Burke-free offense is downright stagnant, however, because none of the other players can create a shot at the rim off the dribble.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is still too easy to pickpocket when he puts the ball on the floor inside the arc; last night, you could see him overcompensate by trying to shield the ball with his entire body, which led to some ugly twisting layup attempts in traffic. He's much better when he can drive to the free-throw line and pull up, but opponents have learned to take that part of the court away.
Robinson, for all his athleticism, still hasn't proven himself a threat off the dribble. Nik Stauskas could be that guy, especially with his skill in pick-and-roll situations, but the last four games he's been invisible when his outside shot isn't falling. Caris LeVert isn't strong enough to get all the way to the hoop, forcing him to try an array of pull-up jumpers that aren't falling with any consistency.
The pieces all fit together when Burke is on the floor. When he's not, this team is disjointed and surprisingly easy to defend—take away Hardaway's drive to the middle, don't sag off of Stauskas, and let them miss tough shots.
THE SILVER LINING
Even the most optimistic of Wolverine partisans would've been at least grudgingly accepting of a 2-2 record over the last four games, especially with Morgan hobbled. Despite all of the above, Michigan came within a half-court shot of just that. The last four games also don't discount what happened in the first 21; let there be no mistake, this is still a team that can get hot at the right time and win a six-game single-elimination tournament (yes, that one). Is that likely? Well, probably not. Is it within reason? Sure, if the matchups fall their way.
In fact, this team can still grab a share of the Big Ten title. In a conference that is cannibalizing itself, the Wolverines have one of the easier closing slates—including playing Penn State twice in the next three games—before the season finale against Indiana. If Michigan beats the teams they should beat, they may find themselves in control of their own destiny at the very end after all.
Also, this team still has Trey Burke, who still very much deserves his status as a national player of the year contender. He is still a joy to watch, and this is almost certainly the last time he'll be in a Michigan uniform. I, for one, am going to do everything in my power to sit back and enjoy the privilege of seeing him play.
2/12/2013 – Michigan 52, Michigan State 75 – 21-4, 8-4 Big Ten
HERE IS A PICTURE OF PAD THAI. NO YOUR PICTURE SELECTION DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY PEOPLE WHO COMPLAINED ABOUT BO RYAN PICTURES. NOW THAT I AM STARING AT THIS PAD THAI AND THINKING ABOUT WHAT ELSE THIS PICTURE COULD BE, I FIND MYSELF ON THE SIDE OF THE BO RYAN COMPLAINERS. GOOD JOB BO RYAN COMPLAINERS. LET US ALL ENJOY THIS PICTURE OF PAD THAI, A JOB WELL DONE.
A few weeks ago, this space batted around the shocking revelation that Michigan was something like 338th in average experience, and asserted that this certainly didn't seem like the case. It does now. Michigan has built first-half deficits of 21, 15, 9, and like a billion in their losses, all of which came on the road. They managed to avoid that fate against Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois, which does count for something. Not enough of a something to file this team as elite, or a national championship favorite, or even particularly likely to beat MSU and Indiana at home.
And I guess that's fine. Most Michigan fans entered the season leery of the top-five ranking bestowed on the Wolverines because Trey Burke, and if you'd handed them this…
…before the season they'd have snatched it from your hands gleefully, especially if you'd mentioned that the Big Ten was obviously the toughest league in the country and that three-games stretch in November was against a couple of teams on track for Sweet 16 seeds and a third not too far off.
This perspective is brought to you by gritted teeth and turning off a game like Brian freakin' Ellerbe was on the sidelines. It is hard-won. Stupid everything.
So… yeah. This is not a miracle team like last year's all-the-freshman Kentucky outfit, and now we know that. Michigan played ten guys before walk-on time kicked in (with eight minutes left): six were freshman of some variety, and zero were seniors. This is no longer a cleverly obscured fact. It's a thing that becomes obvious when the pressure turns up on hostile courts, and separates Michigan from being a truly elite team. They probably aren't getting a one seed; they probably aren't winning the league. Here is a picture of pad thai.
It could be a lot worse. Getting teased like this is still teeth-clenching.
Well, at least one guy came to play. I can't say I liked a lot of Burke's shots early, but once it became clear that he was the only guy on the floor who could do, like, things. He put in 18 points on 11 shots and had four of Michigan's six assists.
Things went from bad to worse in two periods when he was on the bench. The first was a generic get-this-guy-rest period in the first half that featured two bigs, Albrecht, Levert, and Hardaway. That did not go well. The second was a brief period after Burke picked up his third foul early in the first half on an over-aggressive three closeout that looks exactly like every other overaggressive three closeout that knocks the shooter over. By the time Burke returned a pretty-much-over game was over.
And poof like that he's gone. Glenn Robinson III's cliff-dive is now undeniable. He'd put up at least eight points in every game this season other than a couple of low-major blowouts; in the three recent losses he's acquired 2, 4, and 2 points. Michigan stashed him on the bench for half of this one, choosing to go with a clumsy two-big lineup for large chunks of the game. Robinson has to score if he's going to be out there against Adriean Payne, and as soon as he put up that ugly brick on one of those pass-up-a-set-open-three-for-a-pullup-two shots that are just the worst, you could see that Michigan wasn't getting anything from him.
Part of that is the permissivity of Michigan's defense in these games. It's hard to get into transition, where Robinson has made a lot of hay, when you're picking the ball out of the basket every time down the court.
Stauskas defense: actually impactful. In the wrong way, obviously. He was checking Gary Harris; Gary Harris hit 5 of 9 threes because each was a comfortable look. That was the first time his guy had really gone off.
A question. So, let's say Tom Izzo is three feet onto the court as his team is trying to play defense and Mitch McGary barrels into him at top speed, sending him flying into the bench. Is that a technical on Izzo? On McGary? On both? What would happen if someone went out of their way to make the presence of a basketball coach on the damn court a problem? I assume that in the rules leaving the approved coaching box is a technical foul, but basketball doesn't really have rules, it has easily-ignored suggestions.
All hell would break loose, at least.
How you lose by 23. Michigan got doubled up on the boards (18% to 37%), in turnovers (16 to 8), tripled in FTAs and assists, and gave up 55% shooting from two. I have lost all motivation to discuss this game right now. Just now, it happened. I was going to keep putting words in there about how this performance was ass, just comprehensive and disillusioning ass, and now I feel that this is so beyond pointless that I don't even think I'm going to finish this sent