I did not make this headline up
Hi. This is just going to be a Final Four linkdump. Otherwise it will be 3000 words.
Well, yeah. Burke won the Wooden award.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRIS WEBBER. You are the last person I want to think about right now. Literally the very last person.
Practice. They had it.
Burke. Kind of good. His top seven moments. Here's #6:
No. 6 -- 75 assists vs. 12 turnovers in 11 games
From Nov. 27 to Jan. 9, Trey Burke was as close to perfect as a point guard can get.
Burke put up a staggering 75 assists vs. 12 turnovers during an 11-game stretch, guiding Michigan to victories in every one of those contests.
During that run, Burke averaged 18.1 points, 6.8 assists and 1.09 turnovers per game.
Staggering numbers from a remarkably consistent player.
Subj: Recommended strategy. TO: THAT BOEHEIM GUY. TOP SECKRIT. Penn State provides its guide to beating Michigan:
Step 6: Be down by a ton of points in the second half. Trust me.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all about the element of surprise. PSU was down 66-51 with around ten minutes to go and came back to win by six. This is probably the only way to beat Michigan, and since your team is a heck of a lot better than Penn State, you could probably get away with a 30-35 point deficit late in the game. At worst, your team loses all hope, doesn't make a comeback and is super motivated for next year. A win/win, really.
So good luck, coach. Just know that should you fail to heed my advice and fall to Michigan, we'll have transitive bragging rights over you for quite some time.
Spike arrives. Can't… cope… with… infinite… Beilein… quotes… SPOCK
Beilein wanted to thank the fans for their support, for waiting in the cold, for acknowledging again that Michigan wasn't just a football school.
He also wanted to acknowledge the team, though, rattling off the players' names, class by class. And when he got to his fabulous freshmen, he started with the one name he knew would get the biggest cheer.
"How about this?" Beilein yelled, as his face broke into a big grin. "The most eligible bachelor on campus right now: Spike Albrecht!"
"Not only is Spike a rock star," roommate Nik Stauskas divulged, "Spike is a lady's man."
Wojo on shake. And such:
Yes, John Beilein did the "Harlem Shake," sort of. This is Michigan's first Final Four dance in 20 years and Beilein's first, and to appreciate how the Wolverines ended up here, you have to appreciate how the mild-mannered 60-year-old coach connected with one of the youngest teams in the country.
This is a tale that only happens in college, where players are talented enough to pull off great things, but raw enough to recognize the need for guidance. Beilein is meticulous, nearly to a fault, he admits. But this season, and especially during this NCAA Tournament run, the strangest thing happened. Just when the Wolverines could have tightened up, their coach loosened up, and this is how they ride.
Dear NBA draft speculation, please wait like four days. Goofy haircut guys trading off of Forbes's name—barrier to entry: email us and be willing to write for free—NBA draft Burke Hardaway whatever don't care let's talk next week. Right?
Do I think Burke will be back next season? What about Glenn Robinson III? Is Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play in the NBA? Has Mitch McGary’s rise made him a legit pro prospect?
Will this team’s run help recruiting? Will the team have enough talent left to do this again next season? Has Michigan surpassed Michigan State on the hardwood?
In other words: “What’s next?”
Well, to be frank, what’s next is what’s right in front of you.
YEAH OKAY. Wrong Lil don't care:
"This has been crazy," Burke's father, Benji described. "People tweeting, Facebooking and talking about him -- Jalen Rose, Charles Barkley, Bob Knight, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony.
Wait, what? Lil Wayne?
"It's been like 'wow,' " Benji added with a laugh. "He's known all over."
Scouting Michigan. Eamonn Brennan talks to an OSU assistant about how to deal with Michigan's offense. This is what I am saying about horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line jumpers:
[Hardaway] is excellent on catch-and-shoots (1.227 PPP), but his efficiency drops precipitously once he is forced to put the ball on the floor. Once Hardaway takes a dribble, his points per trip drop to just 0.711. Fly by on closeouts if that's what it takes, but make Hardaway do more than stand with his finger in the wind on the perimeter -- especially in the open floor.
(You guys who use Synergy numbers need to learn about significant digits man. 1.2 and 0.7.) Boals goes on to talk threes and Michigan's defense and the like; highly recommended even if he thinks it's "weird" Michigan emphasizes limiting opponent transition opportunities, which I think the entire universe does.
The Orange weren't exactly the fastest team in the country this season -- they ranked No. 244 in Pomeroy's adjusted tempo -- but you really do not want to see them on the break. According to Synergy scouting data, Syracuse averaged 1.12 points per trip in transition this season, disproportionately more than in the half court.
I like the idea of transition-dependent offenses against Michigan.
You are a nut. Bacari Alexander:
So here it came, just as Alexander was wrapping up. A can of Pringles? Morgan guessed it immediately — "I knew exactly what he was doing," he said — but most of his teammates were stumped. Alexander said he'd put on the glove "just for effect." ("You know, 'What is he about to do? Is he about to smack somebody?' " he joked.) As for the chips, he'd spotted one of the team managers eating them earlier in the day, "and I just had an 'A-ha!' moment."
Ask Alexander about Mitch McGary's breakfast habits and he'll tell you he "has benefited from his enthusiasm and his consistency and really his unwavering pursuit of excellence."
Etc.: Rothstein details how Beilein got here and Tim Hardaway's lost friends. Card Chronicle asks Jay Bilas why he is so hood. Burke slideshow. Beard on Burke. Aw dang I missed one of the Syracuse zone posts. Beilein still in disbelief. Zones. Beilein was in Saving Private Ryan. Close enough!
Everyone and their uncle has a post about Syracuse's 2-3 zone and how to beat it, focusing on a lot of things but usually the usual: get the ball to the free throw line and make the right decision once there.
You have your pick:
Michigan versus Syracuse, 2011. The Shredder went back and looked at that weird early-season tournament game that was on HDNet, finding examples of Darius Morris doin' stuff:
Michigan shot 25% on 32 threes and lost 53-50 in a game well under a PPP on both sides. Morgan, Horford, and Hardaway were on that team; everyone else has been replaced. Hardaway was 1/8 from three. This was not a win for zone-busting. FWIW, Michigan and 'Cuse both went down in the second round of the tourney that year but the Orange were a considerably better team overall. That was a matchup between the #16 defense and #31 offense.
Michigan versus mini-Syracuse, earlier this year. UMHoops looked at this game in some detail.
Michigan has an advantage here: they've already played this zone. Former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy now runs the Eastern Michigan program. Michigan played them earlier this year. They even feature a former Syracuse recruit in seven-foot center Da'Shonte Riley. Remember this?
A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math
Michigan took a little time to get going before getting a fusion reaction going in the second half.
In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:
- adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
- getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
- teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.
McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.
The ball screen still works by focusing two defenders on a single guy. The zone has the advantage of making guy #2 a guard—in this case a very big guard—instead of a lumbering post who has to recover to the paint at some point. Two guys on one guy means some guy is open, though.
It's still just basketball. You are in a situation, you evaluate it, you make a decision. The Syracuse zone gets beaten when three guys make correct decisions in a row.
Eastern is of course not Syracuse. They're 122nd in defensive efficiency on Kenpom; Syracuse is 5th. Even if you don't like Kenpom's SOS adjustments, the Eagles only finished third in MAC play. Oh and they lost to the Orange 84-48.
Despite the Not Syracuse thing they're not the worst comparison you could find. Against Michigan they started Riley, two guys in the 6'8" range, and 6'6" shooting guard Daylen Harrison. In terms of size, the only thing separating Eastern from Syracuse was 30 minutes of 5'11" Jalen Ross.
Michigan shredded these folks for 1.33 PPP, shooting 51% on twos and 50% on threes—Stauskas poured in 5 of 8—while rebounding almost half their misses. Eastern Is Not Syracuse but they are in a couple key respects: block percentage (4th nationally), TOs generated (38th), three pointers ceded (346th, ie they give up a zillion billion), 3P% defense (just under 30%, 16th nationally). Syracuse was much better at 2PT defense and played a much tougher schedule; otherwise the underlying numbers aren't that different.
Syracuse vs Louisville, Big East Championship Game. UL's second-half clinic in the Big East Championship game is examined by UMHoops as well. (Caveat: UL's first two games against 'Cuse were a 70-68 loss and a 58-53 win.) That was a lot of triple-threat at the free-throw line featuring Louisville's jump-shooting 6'10" center Gorgui Dieng.
Can McGary handle that role? Cody Zeller failed spectacularly. I'm saying there's a chance. McGary's displayed a soft shooting touch at the elbow in the tournament; his 2P jumper percentage is just a point off Dieng's. He has also displayed the capability to put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two to get to the rack. The issue is passing Dieng is a regular participant in UL shot creation. McGary has not done that much for Michigan. While his heads-up play indicates he might be able to, the Final Four seems like a less than ideal place to try it out.
The other primary candidate is Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway has a quality jumper, the height to see and pass around the trees, a low TO rate, and does assist on a number of buckets. Unfortunately he's coming off a weekend in which he was 7/24 from the floor. If he's not on, Michigan may have to sink or swim with McGary in the high post—or just screen screen screen Burke into similar situations.
Syracuse vs Indiana, Sweet 16. Inside The Hall's focus is helpful because it's not about what worked, but about the many many ways in which Indiana failed to handle the 2-3 effectively. Zeller's refusal to take the elbow jumper was a problem:
That turnover aside, similar shoulder-dropping moves put Zeller underneath the bouncy Syracuse centers and led to an astounding six of his eleven shots being returned to center.
More ominous is a version of the Stauskas three from the EMU game embedded above in which Indiana gets an "open look" that gets blocked.
Even if Michigan is smart enough to avoid that thunderous closeout, Michigan's shooting efficiency plummets once they move from catch-and-shoot to off the dribble. Michigan's corner gunners do have a couple inches on Abell and six on Jordan Hulls, but that closeout from a 6'8" dude is tough no matter how tall you are.
Take open looks. If it's there, just put it up, and go get it. This includes lining up a foot or two behind the arc. A spot-up NBA three is a better shot than the horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line thing fierce Syracuse closeouts threaten to induce.
Get Burke to the free throw line (not that free throw line). This will have to be a lot of ball screening, possibly versions of the double high screen Michigan used to free Burke at the end of the Kansas game (sort of, anyway). Michigan will also have wing threats that will make it hard for Fair and Southerland to close out two players on the perimeter.
Burke is better equipped than anyone on the team to make the right decision once he's past the first layer of defense, and if McGary isn't triggering from the high post he'll be in a better rebounding position.
Hardaway? They'll try it. They'll have to make a quick decision on his effectiveness. If he's off, he's off.
Screen the wings. Michigan can prevent things like that Abel block above by using McGary to impede closeouts. If they can get off a bunch of quality corner threes, they likely win.
“We’re so proud of those guys. We’re so proud of that basketball program. I mean, what they’ve done with that young team is so special. We’re pulling for them just like everybody else.”
What do you see from Jarrod Wilson?
“I’ve seen him since the day he got here, and he’s one of the first we brought in at semester. He’s very mature. He’s a young man that studies the books, studies exactly what he’s supposed to do by position, has great pride in the way he plays, and he’s a very good athlete. All he needs now is just continued reps in game-like situations, and that’s what we do in practice a lot. He’s a very consistent football player, too. A lot of times young guys will show flashes of why you recruited them, and then you say ‘Aw man’ when you step back.”
A Google search for “sports as escape” produces about 300 million results. A similar query for “sports as entertainment” reveals over 3.5 billion.
A search for “sports as inspiration” generates 296 million—a lofty number, sure, but it’s telling that (at least by this wholly unscientific method) we tend to view sports as a way to avoid our problems instead of a source of motivation from which we can better ourselves.
I include myself in that number. Normally, when watching sports, it's for entertainment, or to take a break from whatever pressing real life issue I don’t want to deal with at the moment. Through circumstances largely outside of my control, however, covering Michigan basketball this season became an exercise in understanding and appreciating why we really care and what can be produced through a deep connection with sports.
In my junior year of college, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a less common name for the illness that better captures its severity—and I’ve suffered from symptoms going back to my senior year of high school. It’s a disorder about which much is still unknown, including both its cause and cure. In fact, it's still the subject of controversy, especially regarding the CDC (a story that is both too unrelated and too lengthy to detail here, but I’d strongly encourage you to read this article).
The primary symptom of ME is “post-exertional malaise,” or what ME patients often refer to as the “push-crash” phenomenon. It is exactly what it sounds like. The amount of energy available to an ME patient varies greatly on a case-by-case basis, but we’re all in the same boat—if an ME patient uses more than their allotted energy (whether over the course of a day, week, month, or even year), they will pay for it dearly, with compound interest, in the form of worsening symptoms.
I’ve experienced crashes before, but mostly in the years leading up to my diagnosis. Without knowing what I was dealing with, I spent my first three years of college taking 16 credits per semester, working as a receptionist at the Michigan Union, and living the social life of your typical liberal arts major at a state school. My family and I realized I was dealing with something more than a sleep issue when I was fired from my job for repeatedly calling in sick and put on academic probation for failing, of all things, an intro-level stats class—one I probably attended twice, choosing much-needed sleep instead.
Pretty shortly thereafter, I went to see a world-class ME specialist in North Carolina, Dr. Paul Cheney, and received my diagnosis. In the aftermath, I slowly but surely made significant alterations to my lifestyle. I took fewer classes, pushed off graduation for a semester, and moved back home (for those who aren’t familiar with me, I grew up in Ann Arbor and attended U-M) for my final year-and-a-half of school.
Upon graduating in December of 2010, I did not go searching for jobs. Instead, I stayed home, enjoying my new-found freedom to spend more time with friends and posting on my old blog. I turned down a chance to interview for a PR position at GE in Cincinnati; on its face, because that wasn’t the field I was interested in, but mostly because I wasn’t in a position to take a demanding job away from my support system.
When Brian posted the MGoBlog job opening in August of 2011, I leapt at the opportunity to continue blogging—a profession that allows me to mostly work from home, with flexible hours and the opportunity to write about my hometown school and alma mater. For my first year on the job, I continued to live with my parents, and despite the new work demands my health improved markedly.
At both my parents’ and my own behest, I moved out last September, renting a place with two close friends just down the street from Michigan Stadium and the Crisler Center. Dealing responsibly with ME while still trying to live a normal life is a constant game of testing one’s own (constantly changing) limits, and it was time to find out where mine were. Through the end of football season, things couldn’t have gone better—work was going well, I had a sufficient social life, I got to live away from home with a pair of great roommates, and I even resumed some level of physical activity, playing co-ed soccer over the summer at Fuller Park and working out in a gym we set up in the basement. When basketball season rolled around, I took the chance to expand my coverage and applied for a season credential, looking to attend every home game and some handpicked away games.
As it turned out, I added a little too much to my plate. As Michigan raced out to a 20-1 start, I felt my health start to decline. Nowhere was this more apparent than at Crisler, incidentally. While I hunched over my laptop, my lower back ached, a signal that my body was tapping into my adrenal glands for an unsustainable source of backup energy. I became increasingly sensitive to sound and bright light—pregame player introductions were particularly uncomfortable, even painful. But I wanted to be there, and not only because of my job—I savored every second of watching the Wolverines electrify a building transformed from gray obsolescence to modern basketball mecca.
In January, I was granted a credential for the February 2nd game at Indiana. A few days before the game, I asked Brian if he’d like to go in my stead; I’d spent the week feeling flu-ridden and unable to think clearly, and even though he declined to take the press pass I didn’t make the trip down to Bloomington. For the past two months—except for the week when Brian mercifully granted me sick leave—I’ve mostly worked from my bed, and in this final push before the offseason everything in my life has taken a back seat to work. This week, I came back to my parents’ place in order to make matters easier on myself, and we’ve decided that it’s best for me to move back home when my lease is up in the fall.
I promise that there’s a non-depressing point to writing all this, but first I feel the need to say something about what I’ve just revealed. The reason I’ve only told a small group of family, close friends, and co-workers (actually, just Brian) about my illness is that one of the worst aspects of being sick—for anyone, in my experience—is being related to as a sick person by other people.
I am not defined by my illness. I do not need your sympathy, which could be better directed towards any number of other places. I live a rich and fulfilling life. I love my job. I have a very understanding boss. I have a great group of close friends. I have access to world-class, cutting-edge medical care. Most importantly, I have a wonderful, supportive family. As soon as I’m able to get some rest, I’ll be back to my normal self, and even if my normal may not fit your definition I happen to really enjoy it.
The reason I’m writing about this, and writing about it now, is to illustrate a larger point. I should probably get around to that now, shouldn’t I?
Sports were an escape for me before they became my job, and even then the, let’s say, wide-ranging nature of blogging versus more traditional media has allowed me to continue relating to them as a fan. I’ve never been one to focus too much on the Sports As Microcosm Of Life, Big Picture stuff (except to convince my father that I’d chosen the right career path). I simply love watching them, and am endlessly fascinated by humans pushing their bodies to unseen heights, as well as the intricate strategies and minutiae that drive team sports—hence my gravitation towards football, perhaps the most violent and entertaining version of chess. When Tom Rinaldi appeared on my TV screen, poised to tear at my heartstrings over a soft piano soundtrack, I almost always changed the channel.
When searching for inspiration, I never turned towards sports, instead looking to any number of other things: music, beer, friendship, traveling, beer, family, school, job hunt, beer, etc. These last two months, however, I’ve either been cooped up in my room or covering Michigan basketball—alternative options have been limited.
If this were a Michigan hoops team from another year—especially any of the years of my childhood—perhaps I’d be feeling different about my life right now. I’ve been so fortunate to cover this particular team, in person for all but a couple of home games and from home for the rest. Their success alone has been a source of considerable joy, of course, but it goes far beyond simple wins and losses. Even given the same success, a different team with a different coach probably wouldn’t affect me the way the 2012-13 Wolverines have.
It hasn’t been hard to muster the energy to write about these guys, and frankly that’s not the case when it’s time to put together a football recruiting roundup. Getting to watch this crew, whether I’ve been in the press seats at Crisler or glued to my couch, has been a true pleasure. They’ve made my job easy at a time when that can’t be said for much else in my life.
I’ve drawn inspiration from Trey Burke’s unflappable will, the way his expression never changes regardless of circumstance*. The same goes for John Beilein’s genuine decency and mastery of his profession; Mitch McGary’s infectious enthusiasm for, well, everything; the sacrifices players like Jordan Morgan, Matt Vogrich, and even Tim Hardaway Jr. have made in the name of the team; the love these players show for each other. I wouldn’t change a thing about these last two months, crash be damned, and those guys deserve much of the credit.
Sports can be an escape, sure, or simply a source of entertainment. But there’s a deeper level, too, and looking back I think it’s influenced me more than I’ve ever acknowledged until recently.
Yeah, I write about kids playing games for a living. That may not sound fulfilling to most, but it works for me. I’ll feel no shame about my maniacal fandom this weekend, allowing this team to grab my emotions and take them where they take them. They’ve earned that right. Whatever happens in the next four days, I’ll never forget this team and what they’ve unknowingly taught me—about perseverance, loving what I have, and appreciating being a part of something greater than myself—in the course of their being kids and playing a game.
*Celebrating miraculous 30-foot game-tying jumpers excepted, of course.
It's back, it's being Kickstarted, and we're totally doing a second book this year: a basketball/hockey combo mag that will launch in September. Note: this is what's called a "stretch goal" if we make 50k—which we did last year—the basketball/hockey book will be paper. Otherwise, eBook.
Here's the spiel:
Hail To The Victors is a yearly magazine from MGoBlog that previews football. It's like Athlon or whatever, except instead of two pages by an intern who doesn't know who Dennis Norfleet is you get 128 pages from the kind of internet obsessives that start their own websites just so someone might read what they have to say.
As an independent publication, we can do things like have a beautiful cover with Denard Robinson or Taylor Lewan on it unencumbered by "TEN WAYS TO MAKE YOUR PUNTER BEHAVE," or have heartfelt personal memoirs that made our previous publisher break out in hives. This is indie, which means it can be weird, which means it can be good in ways other previews can't.
Each edition comes with:
FULL TEAM PREVIEW. Written by Brian Cook of MGoBlog; goes down the roster in excruciating, unbowdlerized detail. Yeah, Athlon, put "unbowdlerized" in your magazine.
OPPONENT PREVIEWS. Each scheduled opponent is previewed; you can know how much fear and hope to have.
TWISTED BLUE STEEL. Michigan's players and coaches profiled. We say goodbye to Denard.
TECHNICAL DOSSIER. Nitty-gritty details on Michigan's schemes, recruiting, and prospects. Stats and diagram heavy. This year's focus: what is an Al Borges offense going to look like?
OLD BLUE. 20 or so pages about Michigan's history. This year's section features Ron Kramer stories. Unedited Ron Kramer stories.
This year's Kickstarter exclusive shirt plays off the awesome "Sports" GIF Ace put together of Facepalm Guy and Rapture guy.
Not quite final. We're tweaking it to look better.
Many thanks to both Facepalm Guy and Rapture Guy for being cool about this.
You can also get last year's Photobomb shirt:
If neither of those strike your fancy we'll have a half-dozen popular MGoShirts available.
WHY IS THE GOAL 30K INSTEAD OF 20K?
We anticipated we'd sell a significant amount of books post-launch last year, which was not really the case. 30K is basically what it costs--it's actually still a little short--and we'd like to not lose our shirts. If this year's like last year we won't have a problem.
NEW BONUS NEW NEW NEW BONUS BONUS
Basketball! Hockey! We're launching a second book covering basketball and hockey. We project it will be 2/3rds to 3/4ths basketball given the level of interest in the two sports -- oh and that whole Final Four thing. We are committed to doing the book either way. But here's one of those Stretch Goal things: if we don't hit 50k, it'll be an eBook. If we do hit 50k, it'll be a real magazine and everything.
Risks and challenges
Last year we had issues collating and shipping effectively; this year we plan to address those by using a custom solution at UGP's storefront instead of the many-points-of-failure system we used before.
One thing we learned: we can't accommodate unique requests (ie, I want ten books sent to these addresses) effectively. Hopefully you find something to your interests in the offerings; to better fulfill the promises we're making here we have to hold it to just the listed options.
Hoke said you talked to Shane Morris after Russell Bellomy’s injury. How does the injury impact Shane, and how does this impact how you coach him?
“Really not as much as you might think. He was going to come in and compete anyway. There’s one less slot there to go through, so that’s really all it impacted. He knows there’s one less body. Doesn’t affect him as much as you might think.”
Does Shane come around a lot?
“Oh yeah. All the time. He’s been around for a couple years, actually. He committed early, so he knows everybody on the team and they all know him. He’ll hit the ground running when he gets here.”