"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
Oh, the faces you'll show. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's last-second attempt to tie from the corner summed up this Michigan team of late. Indiana looked like they'd win comfortably for most of the game, at times threatening to break the game wide open, but the Wolverines clawed back into it late, overcoming their porous defense with timely buckets.
The final possession played out similarly. Zak Irvin, whose hot hand brought M within striking distance, was clearly the first option, but IU wouldn't allow him a decent look. As the clock wound perilously close to zero, Michigan swung the ball around the arc, and suddenly there was MAAR, standing alone in the corner.
His try caught only iron, and we're once again left to commending Michigan's effort in a narrow loss against a better team.
This team, in its current form, just isn't talented enough to overcome too many mistakes. The first half featured Indiana jumping out to a lead in part due to too many Wolverine turnovers. The second half featured a couple critical missed layups—including MAAR blowing a breakaway that would've pulled M within two—and too many offensive boards for IU.
Michigan struggled throughout on defense, failing to keep Yogi Ferrell (18 points, six assists) out of the lane whether in man or zone; Ferrell did most of his damage in the paint, either swooping in for layups or creating open looks when the defense collapsed. Troy Williams posted 20 and 8 in an impressive performance highlighted by a couple thunderous dunks.
The failings on the other end meant Zak Irvin's 23-point output (9/16 FG) went in vain. Ditto Michigan's most productive performance from a big man in a long time, Ricky Doyle's 15 points on 5/5 FGs and 5/6 FTs. While the offense clicked in the second half, the hole dug in the first proved too deep to escape.
Facing their most difficult stretch of the season ahead, Michigan has a lot of positives to take from the last couple weeks. To actually start recording some signature wins, however, they must start shoring up the mistakes.
Michigan (13-10, 6-5 B1G) at
Indiana (16-7, 6-4)
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
|LINE||Indiana -8 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Clark Kellogg
Michigan has won just twice in Assembly Hall since the 1989 championship season, and they'll still be without the services of Derrick Walton this time around, though his prognosis has ever so slightly improved:
Walton, who has missed the last three games because of a foot injury, could return this season — a potential upgrade from last week, when coach John Beilein said that Walton would be out for "the foreseeable future" because of an injury compounded by a turf-toe issue. ...
"He's in that (walking) boot and when he can walk pain-free again, then we'll start looking at it. We're doing therapy in the pool and different things with him. We're very hopeful he can return at some point this year," Beilein told reporters Saturday.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. 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||11||Yogi Ferrell||Jr.||6'0, 178||93||21||No|
|Dangerous outside shooter and great distributor.|
|G||4||Robert Johnson||Fr.||6'3, 195||64||19||No|
|Sharpshooter takes half his shots from 3-pt. A bit turnover-prone.|
|G||1||James Blackmon||Fr.||6'4, 190||69||26||No|
|Excellent shooter, good athlete, can help on boards. Dealing w/ ankle injury.|
|F||5||Troy Williams||So.||6'7, 206||68||25||Very|
|Outstanding athlete, solid finisher and rebounder, not a shooter.|
|F||30||Collin Hartman||So.||6'6, 210||62||13||No|
|Low-usage stretch F hitting 59%(!) of threes in B1G play.|
|G||2||Nick Zeisloft||Jr..||6'4, 205||49||14||No|
|Almost exclusively a 3-pt shooter, hits 41% of them.|
|F||25||Emmitt Holt||Fr.||6'7, 215||33||14||Very|
|Low usage. Solid rebounder who tends to finish his chances at rim.|
|G||22||Stanford Robinson||So.||6'4, 193||31||20||Very|
|Slasher who hits just 38% of twos and is 0/9 from three on the season.|
Indiana looked pretty solid in nonconference play, beating #28 SMU and #18 Butler before taking #23 Georgetown to overtime; their loss to #11 Louisville was quite understandable, not so much a defeat at the hands of #125 Eastern Washington in Assembly Hall.
In Big Ten play, it's been all about the home/road splits: they're 4-0 in Assembly Hall and 2-4 away from it, with the road wins coming against Nebraska and Illinois. They've dropped three of their last four, though the most recent game, a road blowout at Wisconsin with James Blackmon Jr. sidelined due to an ankle injury, is hard to hold against them.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Michigan (15-8, 7-2 B10)
MSU (10-11-2, 4-3-2 B10)
Thanks Dave Brandon
|WHEN||8 PM ET Saturday|
Villiam Haag has a top quality hockey mullet
This is the same opponent Michigan had last week in a game that would normally be at Yost but is instead outdoors in Chicago. As a result season ticket holders are enjoying a six week gap between home games. Adding insult to injury, the announcement that this game would be in Chicago came after the season ticket renewal deadline.
This is Dave Brandon reaching back to us from beyond the grave to torment us one last time, so here's an opportunity to give thanks that he darkens our doorstep no longer. It is ultimate Dave Brandon to take a Michigan State game out of one of the cathedrals of college hockey in favor of something called the "Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic" at a three-quarters empty NFL stadium. You and your logistics can go straight to hell, or Arizona. Wherever.
But… right… the game.
Michigan State remains Michigan State. They won the Joe Louis Arena contest the way they usually win games, scraping out a low-scoring snoozer thanks to a puck that bounced off multiple things before hitting the net, and then packing all six guys on the ice inside their crease for the remainder. It's ugly to watch and frustrating to lose to, but that's just the way things go against a style like that sometimes. It's .500 hockey against just about anyone, be they overmatched or… uh… undermatched.
More detail on MSU can be found in the previous post. In brief, MSU is a defensively responsible outfit with little offensive talent and a penchant for extremely conservative hockey.
Michigan fell a couple spots after last weekend's loss. They would still be in the tournament if the season ended today… unless conference tournaments went badly. They're solidly on the bubble. Losing again would push them out temporarily and eat up another one of the losses they can sustain before the end of the regular season.
Also, Michigan is five points clear of PSU and MSU for the Big Ten title—PSU has a game in hand. (College hockey awards three points for a win, remember.)
There are few stakes for MSU, which will be missing the tournament for the third consecutive year and sixth time in the last seven unless they win the Big Ten tournament. They could get within striking distance of Michigan for the conference if they win again, but sustaining that doesn't seem in the cards.
Hockey predictions are even dumber than most predictions, but Michigan does need to adjust the way they play if they're going to have a game that reflects the talent gap between the two teams. Michigan is far too prone to giving up uncontested shots from the slot and has gotten frustrated by MSU's tendency to lay five guys on the ice in front of any shooter.
Scoring the first goal is even more important than it is usually, as when MSU has to chase a game they come out of their shell and into the uncomfortable world of trying to play actual hockey. On the other hand, they are highly adept at choking out scoring chances.
"Remember, don't say a damn thing."
It's been barely 36 hours since National Signing Day, and it's clear the top question on everyone's mind is this: What should we be outraged over?
Since message boards (yes, including ours) seem to indicate EVERYTHING, I'm here to attempt a more even-handed approach.
RAGE ON: Bait-and-Switch Coaches
Seth covered much of this in today's Dear Diary, so I'll keep this short. Yes, it's grossly disingenuous for coaches who've spent years selling recruits on the prospect of playing for their program to take other jobs the moment the ink dries on their letter of intent. I was not born yesterday, and therefore refuse to believe that now-ex OSU RBs coach Stan Drayton just happened to field an out-of-the-blue job offer from the Chicago Bears yesterday, or that UCLA DC Jeff Ulbrich is still wrestling with the decision of whether or not to take a job with the Atlanta Falcons.
Mike Weber got unlucky; he found out about Drayton after he'd signed his LOI. Roquan Smith was fortunate; Georgia coaches—out of the purity of their souls, I'm sure—alerted him to Ulbrich's potential flight before he'd put pen to paper, and now Smith will take a week to reassess his decision.
The lesson here isn't that recruits shouldn't go to a school based on their coaches. That's just stupid. They'll spend more time with their coaches—and specifically, their position coach—than any professor or faculty member over the next four years. Having a good relationship with their coaches is hugely important for their sanity; getting quality coaching equally so for their dreams of making it to the next level. Yes, they should take into account potential flight risks and hopefully choose a school they'd enjoy attending regardless of sports, but it's hard to see the bait-and-switch coming when a coach is telling you stuff like this and this.
Just as I was finishing up this post, news broke that Texas' D-line coach took the same job at Florida, despite assurances from Texas head coach Charlie Strong to just-signed recruits that he wasn't going anywhere:
Getting off the phone with coach strong "coach rumph did not accept the offer"
— Call Me Deebs‼️ (@DeeChilllin) February 5, 2015
A day later, not so much.
The real lesson here is to not sign LOIs. They're binding only from the prospect's end, and while everyone signs them, they're totally unnecessary; a financial aid agreement serves the same purpose while giving a prospective student-athlete the ability to avoid just this situation.
[Hit THE JUMP for sketchy media members, sketchy greyshirts, unfortunate fan reactions, Thomas Wilcher's strong words about OSU, and something we actually shouldn't be harping on the Buckeyes about. Oh, and Graham Couch being Graham Couch.]
DON'T DO THIS
WEBER FIASCO DEFCON 1. The damn day after Mike Weber signs a LOI to Ohio State, running backs coach Stan Drayton leaves for the Bears. Weber:
I'm hurt as hell I ain't gone lie
— Mike Weber (@mikeweber25) February 5, 2015
The timing of this move is odd, to put it mildly.
John Fox was named the new Chicago Bears coach in early January, and much of his coaching staff was in place shortly thereafter. It seems curious Drayton would be making the move only after Weber signed his letter of intent to play for Ohio State.
UCLA pulled a similar stunt with their DC. Roquan Smith managed to find out before he used the fax machine, but you have to think that maybe some of UCLA's defensive commits would have looked around if UCLA had announced when they knew about it a month before signing day. Just more of the usual crap.
Recruits! DON'T SIGN A LETTER OF INTENT.
DON'T SIGN A LETTER OF INTENT
I mean, if you're a random three star and they say sign this paper or we're moving on, go ahead. If you're a big deal, do this:
The NCAA last fall began allowing football prospects who plan to enroll in January to sign financial aid agreements with college programs as early as August 1 of their senior year. The agreement, which allows the college program to have unlimited contact with the player and publicly speak about him, binds the school to the prospect, but not the prospect to the school. So there's nothing to dissuade a situation like that of Josh Malone, who signed financial aid agreements with four schools before ultimately signing with Tennessee.
Sign a financial aid agreement. It's like the LOI, except backwards, and that makes schools hate it. Instead of stuff like this happening to you, you can have hilarious quotes like this apply to your situation:
"You're basically taking the word of the kid," Mallonee told the AJC. "That's part of the issue."
Meanwhile. Can't say I'm surprised about this.
Unconfirmed rumblings that an Ohio State BEAT WRITER knew the RB coach was leaving, but held off on reporting it so not to lose Mike Weber.
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) February 6, 2015
Upshot. Could this lead to Weber flipping back to Michigan? Maybe. Schools can release players from LOIs.
Institutions are now empowered to grant a full and complete release from the NLI at anytime. To do so, an official Release Request Form must be initiated by the prospect and submitted to both the NLI office and the signing institution.
There's also an opportunity to appeal when school refuses to release a player, a process that ND signee Eddie Vanderdoes successfully went through a few years back. I'm unclear on what, exactly, this means as part of the Vanderdoes case:
The victory for Vanderdoes comes after a rather lengthy (and sometimes public) spat with Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly, who allowed Vanderdoes to enroll at UCLA, but refused to release him from the letter of intent he signed with Notre Dame in February.
Kelly can't prevent a guy from enrolling wherever he wants, and there appears to be no partial release from a LOI. The Bylaw Blog post on the topic implies that this was a straight-up win for Vanderdoes after Kelly refused to release him.
In any case: OSU could release him if the publicity gets bad enough, or Weber could decide to go somewhere else and attempt to appeal. If he did not win that appeal he would have to sit out his freshman year and he would lose that year of eligibility, making him a true sophomore in 2016.
Weber would have to want to pursue that, of course. It's possible he gets over it.
ESPN doing Hatch things. Hatch things:
Hiring various people for 'crootin' and 'lyzin'. Michigan announced they've hired longtime college coach and Harbaugh family associate TJ Weist as a "senior offensive analyst." Weist was the WR coach at Michigan in the early 90s, when a guy named Desmond Howard was hanging out, and was most recently the OC at Connecticut.
This analyst position is not a full assistant job, so Weist won't be able to work with players directly or recruit. He'll do film, find tendencies, and advise. Usually when established coaches take these jobs they're short-term gigs before something opens up elsewhere.
Michigan's also hired Gwendolyn Bush as "director of player development." Bush is the mom of Wayne Lyons, the fifth-year Stanford transfer who's supposed to be landing in Ann Arbor.
This has led to a couple of assertions that Michigan is getting down and dirty. If so, let's be clear why: it's not because Michigan wants a defensive back who will be around for one year. It's because Bush was—uh—"team mom" for South Florida Express, a high-powered 7 on 7 outfit that launched the careers of Teddy Bridgewater and Geno Smith, amongst many others.
— Brett Goetz (@sfecoach) February 5, 2015
SFE won the national 7-on-7 championship, which is apparently a thing that exists now, and got profiled in SI, etc etc.
Meanwhile, Lyons. The Lyons transfer thing has broken loose from the paysites and made the Mercury News:
Stanford coach David Shaw on Wednesday enthusiastically described all 22 players who signed letters of intent as part of another well-regarded recruiting class. He was slightly less eager to discuss a player who might be leaving the program.
Cornerback Wayne Lyons is reportedly considering a transfer to Michigan, where he would play one season (as a graduate student) for former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
"For those guys going into their fifth year that want the opportunity to play someplace else,'' Shaw said, "I've never said no, never tried talk anybody out of it.''
Lyons started seven games last year for Stanford's kick-ass defense. Michigan doesn't really need a defensive back but they've got a slot if Joe Kerridge isn't guaranteed a scholarship (and since it's highly likely someone leaves the team before fall that's probably moot anyway). May as well fill it with a quality player.
Michicon Valley. SJSU hires a familiar name:
I'm hearing former NFL lineman and Michigan GA Adam Stenavich will be the new #SJSU OL coach with Keith Carter off to the Atlanta Falcons.
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) February 5, 2015
Then they did the thing:
SAN JOSE -- San Jose State officially announced two of its coaching hires on Thursday, with Al Borges being named offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Dan Ferrigno the special teams coordinator/tight ends coach.
Greg Robinson is of course the DC. It will be… interesting to see how SJSU does this year. I predict bad.
Meanwhile in offensive coordinator hires that Michigan fans are extremely skeptical of. Tennessee is actually, officially doing their thing:
For UT followers: Mike DeBord has told his staff, colleagues at Michigan that he is leaving for Vols, per source w/ knowledge of situation.
— Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) February 5, 2015
DeBord has never coordinated anything approximating a mobile quarterback and couldn't even find a position coach job after leaving the NFL, instead landing at Michigan for an Olympic sports administrator thing. Let's see if he can submarine Butch Jones's 80 recruits per year.
Dabo's very particular. This private bathroom thing is a thing.
My favorite thing that I've seen so far covering National Signing Day at Clemson. pic.twitter.com/EmY13lhwsv
— Brian Franey (@FraneyESPN) February 4, 2015
I've heard worse ideas. BYU signed a guy who's never played football before. Does this sound like an idea on par with hiring an Olympic Sports Administrator to be your offensive coordinator? Not so fast my friend:
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) February 4, 2015
That's no moon. Unless it's orbiting a planet. Then it totally is.
Etc.: In case you were considering taking Dave Zirin seriously about anything ever, you probably shouldn't. Vegas odds for the hockey national title are bonkers. Iowa wasn't real happy with the Higdon flip.
On Wednesday morning, under pressure to do so in time to headline a Signing Day ceremony at his school, Cass Tech running back Mike Weber decided on Ohio State over Michigan by the slimmest of margins. On Thursday, Weber's position coach and lead recruiter for Ohio State left for the Chicago Bears. Weber:
He also removed all references to Ohio State from his profile.
Michigan fans jumped on this because it's in our interest that every recruit and coach of a recruit and parent of a recruit believe Urban Meyer a slimy salesman (he's not). Ohio State fans jumped to defend it by characterizing Drayton's departure as a surprise to everyone including Drayton, and equating it with signing a junior transfer quarterback after Gentry's LOI was in.
When Ohio State does something shady (or not shady but treated as such in the weird morality of college sports), Ohio State fans will be the first to tell you that everybody does it. They're right to a degree, but the degree is the difference between how much heat the Earth radiates into space, and the Sun. Regardless of whether Urban knew Stan Drayton was leaving beforehand, or if Drayton knew he'd get the job until then, what's clear is they didn't let Weber know the coach he was committing to was likely to walk away as soon as they had his signature on the dotted line.
Purposely fraudulent or unbelievably unfortunate timing, the real lesson here is that coaches are free to make the best decision for themselves, and players are manipulated into signing away that liberty.
And for nothing. Signing Day, really, is only the first day of a period that stretches through April that schools may receive official commitments, in the form of a "Letter of Intent." That letter is merely a non-compete agreement in which the school the player signs with provides nothing in return. The scholarship offer is a completely separate deal.
Since Weber already sent in his LOI, his choices are to stay at Ohio State, wait a year for the LOI to expire then transfer and wait another year, or ask Ohio State to release him, in which case
he still has to wait out a year under NCAA transfer rules CORRECTION: would be free to choose any school. Ohio State can hold him to the LOI, or release him only to schools they choose. They can also rip away his scholarship for just about any reason.
The recruits are finally starting to get wise. Roquan Smith is still unlikely to end up at "Michigan University," but he was moments from sending in his LOI when news (that reporters meant to embargo until after Signing Day) broke that his coaches might not be there. Because he waited, he can now take another week to consider his options.
A Florida commit's father yesterday explained why his son is holding off too, tweeting "…Florida making too many coaching changes this is not a game it's my son's life." He followed up in response to angry idiot-who-tweet-at-recruits fans with the central moral question:
It's not, except in the warped morality of the NCAA and its apologists who think "amateurism" means players shouldn't be entitled to the same rights as every other citizen.
Signing Day is a total boondoggle. Recruits who have any sort of leverage should never sign a LOI, and should never feel pressured to commit on Signing Day. They should ask to sign a financial aid agreement only.
Meanwhile the NCAA should look at allowing players to transfer and play immediately if their head coach or primary recruiter leaves the school. It would prevent players from getting bait and switched, give coaches more job security, and ultimately plateau coaching salaries as schools come to value longevity instead of flashiness in their hiring of them.
How Karan Came. Michigan did get a highly rated running back in the class. Brian already linked to it in yesterday's recruiting post but if you missed it, Karan Higdon's coach is a MUST READ for anyone interested in how this process plays out:
I immediately called the Michigan football office and spoke with a secretary. I told her that there was a running back in Sarasota that may be worth a late look and she advised me to send and email with his profile. I sent his recruit profile and his HUDL highlights. I was contacted almost immediately afterwards and spoke with Chris Singletary. The first thing he asked was what type of kid is Karan and what his grades were.
Meta: Cumong! Brian's eye dialect for "come on!" has an origin. That diary is way more investigative and thorough than you thought it was when you saw it floating on the sidebar all week.
It also got me thinking about just how old this site is, and some of the other characters from Brian's section to be immortalized in these pages. Like "UNACCEPTABLE!" guy. And the narratively adorable moppet from the first great MGoBlog game column. That kid is probably in an English lecture right now. Which reminds me: happy 10th birthday, MGoBlog, belatedly (it was December 4).
Softball is Fun and Has a Woodson.
Sierra's gloves are purely hypothetical by now. Photo: The Californian
Softball has been initialized. This year's team will have to overcome the graduation of a great class, but returns shortstop Sierra Romero and three candidates for best pitcher in the nation. South Bend Wolverine has your full preview, to which I'd like to add my take.
A great pitcher pretty much owns in softball, and Michigan is filthy rich in them. The lefty/righty combo of Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga could easily be the best duo in the country if both seniors regain their forms after somewhat disappointing (for them) 2014s. Sophomore Megan Betsa is due for a season on par with the best of the Wagner/Driesenga era. They also added the top pitching prospect in the nation in Tera Blanco out of California. Like Driesenga, Blanco is as dangerous at the plate as on the mound.
And there's Romero. As a sophomore, Sierra was one of three finalists for softball's version of the Heisman. Most of that is her Cabreraian bat, which is already bopping out national records. My favorite of those: Career Grand Slams—the NCAA record is nine; half-way through her Michigan career Romero already has seven (tied for third all time with 2005-'08 Wolverine Samantha Findlay).
Last year Sierra also finished tied for seventh all time for walks in a season with 67, 20 of which were intentional (the most you get is about 250 plate appearances so that's quite a lot of walking). Since Michigan graduated her protection and two top-of-the-order bats, we could end up seeing that number skyrocket if Coach Hutch doesn't find some hitters to fill the bases ahead of Romero and clear 'em behind her. If she does, this is a national championship team.
A Special Hell for Terrible Michigan Coaches
There is a place where they man-block with Patrick Omameh, run Denard Robinson under center, and never use counters. In this place they run a 3-3-5 defense that only ever rushes three and tells its middle linebacker to line up a foot in front of the guard whose job it is to put the middle linebacker in that spot. When they punt, and they punt quite often, they only use two gunners, because that's what NFL rules say.
No, this place isn't some nightmare mashup of the worst parts of the last six years of Michigan. It is called San Jose State.
- Offensive coordinator: Al Borges
- Defensive coordinator: Greg Robinson
- Special Teams coordinator: Dan Ferrigno
I know I shouldn't watch. But I have to.
Your Moment of Zen: