Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers
The hoops preview returns after a brief AD-chaos-related absence; in fact, Alex already got the jump on me this week with his impressively thorough look at the top newcomers to the Big Ten. It's time for me to also turn my attention to the conference at large. Today, I'll take a look at how I expect the bottom half of the conference to shake out. The "Wisconsin & Friends" portion will go up later this week.
8. Illinois (Last Year: 20-15, 7-11 B1G, lost 2nd round of NIT)
oh was it ever so tempting to put Stauskas' end-of-half buzzer-beater here [Fuller]
Head Coach: Jon Groce; 128-84 career, 43-28 at Illinois (3rd year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 38th (#10 B1G)
Key Returners: G Kendrick Nunn, G/F Rayvonte Rice, C Nnanna Egwu
Key Losses: G Tracy Abrams (injury), F Joseph Bertrand, F Jon Ekey
Top Newcomers: G Aaron Cosby (transfer), G Ahmad Starks (transfer), F Leron Black
My #8 team in the Big Ten—and KenPom's #10—should make a push for the NCAA tournament bubble, in case you were wondering about the depth of the conference this year. Illinois gets a solid influx of talent in Jon Groce's third year while bringing back several key pieces from last season's NIT squad.
After finishing as the worst-shooting team in the conference last year, the Illini get a big boost in that regard from a pair of transfers, Aaron Cosby (39% 3-pt at Seton Hall) and Ahmad Starks (39.5% at Oregon State, where he holds the school record for most 3PM). The diminutive Starks, a shoot-first point with a solid outside shot and iffy efficiency elsewhere, should step right into the starting point guard spot to replace Tracy Abrams, who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Cosby should also get a big role in the rotation, likely splitting minutes on the wing with sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn and Rayvonte Rice give the Illini a pair of solid slashers off the wing, and while Rice's shooting comes and goes, Nunn connected well from deep as a freshman last season. The team is a little lacking in the frontcourt, however. Nnanna Egwu, their lanky no-offense, all-defense center, returns for his senior season; he is what he is at this point. Sophomore Malcolm Hill should split minutes at the four with top-50 freshman Leron Black; Hill emerged as a decent stretch four option as last season went along, while Black is the more physical and athletic option, which may be preferable next to Egwu.
The Illini should be a strong defensive team again this year; if they want to earn an invitation to the Big Dance, however, they'll have to be a much more efficient offensive squad. The addition of Cosby and Starks should help, but it'll take a more disciplined Rice (30% on 156 3PA in '13-14) and perhaps a breakout year from Nunn for them to really take the next step forward.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the bottom half of the Big Ten.]
When you’re grading film on Devin Gardner how much do the near-misses, the picks that maybe should have been, factor into that and how much do you talk about that?
“A lot. I mean, that’s always part of the evaluation. You want results but you’ve got to be process-oriented when you play the position. We’ve got to be on the right side of the field and have our eyes in the right place and our feet and timing and all that factors in, so any time we look at a pass play we look at all the factors that play into it whether it was a successful or not-successful play and why.”
Do you feel like you got away with a couple on Saturday?
“Well, I think there was a couple that I’m sure they felt like they should have had and obviously we look at it as well. Why were we there? Was it timing wrong or on the wrong side of the field, did we made a poor decision? The biggest thing is that goes back to communication and we talk all the time in our room [that] you’ve got to be open in communication because if I don’t know what he’s seeing then I can’t help him, so you’ve got to tell me what you see, what happened, what played out in your mind so now we can paint the real picture of what happened and get it corrected.”
How much extra does game performance count in terms of evaluation as opposed to practice? I’m thinking particularly in this instance of Drake Johnson.
“Well, I think obviously any time you play a game the goal is to play well and the best players in games are the guys you want to play. Now, that being said we evaluate practice every day. Guys challenge and compete and usually it’s very rare that you have a player that does not practice well that plays well.”
Does what he did give him maybe an extra look in terms of more snaps going forward?
“Well, I think that when you talk about Drake and what he accomplished it goes back to everything we talked about in the development of players and it’s kind of similar, it is very similar- I look back at where Derrick Green was at. We talked about right before he went down he had two very good weeks of practice and really kind of started to develop, and you look at Drake, once Derrick got injured the last two weeks he had two outstanding weeks of practice. Had the opportunity this week, did some great things, and [we’re] really excited about what he brings.”
To piggyback on what you were talking about earlier, how did Devin grade out? How would you evaluate him in that game?
“Devin did some really good things and he did some things we need to correct. Obviously 22/29, completed some balls, did some good things, two touchdowns, obviously the one interception we’d like to have back and there were a couple other decisions but he did some good things and he did some things that we corrected.”
[After THE JUMP: Talking about Drake, Darboh, and the Devins]
Basketball approaches. Save us, basketball.
Schlissel speaks. Mark Schlissel sat down with the Daily to talk about the future of the athletic department. Schlissel has mastered the executive's ability to talk without sending people running for the 72-point font, but there were some interesting bits in there. It seems like the timing here caught everyone off guard:
“I would imagine that we’ll begin the process of organizing a search in the coming weeks,” Schlissel said. “I can tell you with certainty I haven’t talked to anybody at all — no matter what you read in the media — about whether they’re interested in a permanent position here.”
It seems like the decision-making process was winding towards that mid-November date when things got accelerated. Not sure I like the overtones of "begin the process of organizing a search in the coming weeks." That sounds like an extended timeline, and Michigan has some pressing priorities.
Schlissel flat out admitted that the names being floated in the media are people he's "never heard of before," which again shows his refreshing ability to say "I don't know" but I hope doesn't extend to the Michigan guys—at this point you'd hope he had a handle on the Long/Manuel/Bates group. He also said the usual bit about how they're not going to focus exclusively on Michigan guys.
In a second article, Schlissel cited Brandon's resignation as a reason he couldn't say much about exactly what went down but did offer this:
"One thing I will say is I expect everybody who works at this public university to treat the public with respect,” Schlissel said. “That’s a sort of condition of working at this university.
“Everybody should be respectful to the public we serve.”
That's the general outline; I'll round up the AD chatter in a separate post.
A bit of a difference. Nebraska folk are looking at their schedule and that of various Big 12 teams and noticing that one is not like the other:
Let’s pretend that Nebraska stayed in the Big 12 and West Virginia never received an invitation. Let’s give NU the Mountaineers’ 2014 home conference schedule. Ready?
I don’t have enough exclamation points at my disposal for that list. I get pumped just thinking about it. That’s a schedule from paradise, full of teams with speed and skill (OK, not so much Kansas). Or maybe it just seems that way based on Nebraska’s rice-cake diet this fall. Ready? Are you sure?
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Look at those two schedules. Look at 'em! The latter looks like an old catcher's mitt. It must be a sick joke, right?
This really hits home when you look at the basketball schedules: single-plays everywhere, even less balance than previously. Bleah. If the league was as responsive to legit criticisms as individual schools were, Delany would get run out of town on the same rail Brandon's on. But he's got that insulation.
Chaos in Bloomington. The last time things got so wild in central Indiana, Lucy left the barn door open and one of the cows got stuck in a police car. In the immediate aftermath of a freshman hitting one of his own teammates with a car, while intoxicated, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson have been hit with four-game drug suspensions. That brings the number of IU players involved in drug-and-alcohol-related incidents up to 6.
And guess which newspaper just hired the human molotov cocktail that is Gregg Doyel?
Firing Crean for his team's fifth alcohol-related incident in a year could be expensive.He has a $12 million buyout this year unless he's fired "for cause." Would nearly 40 percent of his roster -- five of 13 scholarship players -- being cited for alcohol-related offenses count as "for cause"? A judge might have to decide, if it gets that far. But if a fifth IU player is cited, then that's where it should go. Because the coach overseeing that program, I don't care how much I like the guy, would have to go.
Yep. The Indy Star. Dan Dakich, meanwhile, went off on his radio show:
"Gregg Doyel was dead on. Indiana players, you're getting ready to get your coach fired... I love Indiana basketball down to my core. It's who I am. But not this crap...
"When did you fans become so soft, become so accepting of mediocrity, promotion and crap?"
Sounds kind of like a blogger there.
It's funny because we suck. If we did not suck it would be somewhat less funny.
Something like injury information. Gardner is not right and it's obvious; he limped around to finish the Penn State game and is still hobbled:
After a play broke down in the second half against Indiana, Michigan's fifth-year senior quarterback tucked the ball near the 50-yard line and took off.
His mind said go, but his sore ankle wouldn't let him. He ended up rushing for a first down, but it was obvious things have changed.
"(A year ago) I probably would've scored," Gardner smiled Monday. "But I got the first down, that's what the team needed, it kept the chains moving."
Let's just put that on the pile then. Soon we will ski down Mount Devin Gardner Problems.
Please? The Hoover Street Rag points out that fixing the current schedule imbalance in the Big Ten East is not a difficult thing as long as 1) MSU is also amenable to that change and 2) IU doesn't care:
Since Indiana is in the East, both Michigan and Michigan State play them every season. Fortutiously, Indiana played MSU at home and Michigan on the road this year. Therefore, all you have to do is flip the Indiana game from a home game to an away game and flip MSU from an away game to a home game. Everyone still ends up with the same number of home and away games, and the bottleneck is cleared.
Current 2016 Schedule
UM at MSU, at OSU, vs IU
MSU vs UM, vs OSU, at IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU vs MSU, at UM, at OSU
Proposed 2016 Schedule
UM vs MSU, at OSU, at IU
MSU at UM, vs OSU, vs IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU at MSU, vs UM, at OSU
Seems like all three programs in the MSU/OSU/M troika would prefer to have one at home and one on the road for balance and ticket sales reasons.
Alert! Alarm! The word from Boston:
If I ran Boston College, I'd be worried about losing AD Brad Bates to Michigan
— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) November 4, 2014
Never! Mind! The word from Boston:
This is a big bowl of awkward.
Tommy Amaker is set to coach No. 12 seed Harvard against No. 5 seed Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday, and when the Crimson lose their next game, Amaker is gone. He’s Jacoby Ellsbury gone. Harvard’s loss will be Boston College’s gain.
BC hired Ohio coach Jim Christian instead. On the bright side for Shaughnessy, Jacoby Ellsbury was never found again.
Number one. Would you like a lot of quotes about Jim Hackett? Angelique has them for you:
"Number one, he's nice," Gilmour said. "Number two, thoughtful. Number three, clearly deep. … He is a thoughtful and organized person. And he may be the interim (athletic director) but he won't be a caretaker. He will be moving the athletic department ahead."
The Schiano rehabilitation project begins now. A long Pete Thamel piece on Peter Kings site finds Greg Schiano looking up at nothing in particular while exposing his teeth for reasons he doesn't understand.
I know that feeling of panic whenever someone points a camera at you and says "look like a human being," bro.
Anyway, Schiano makes breakfast, he is enamored with Urban Meyer's juice, he sings songs about chores to Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, he won't be an enormous Brandon to NFL scouts anymore, etc. Schiano's image was run through the woodchipper over his two years in Tampa and he's trying to be… well… that guy above instead of the guy who has his players go after people on a victory formation play.
(Also, what is that diagram? Is he demonstrating Notre Dame's last touchdown in 2011? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?)
Stuffing the Passer is now an animated comic strip, because of course it is.
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt)
Rankings via the 247 Composite
The Big Ten doesn’t have any elite one-and-done candidates coming in this year; there aren’t any surefire lottery picks among these freshmen. Still, the collective 2014 recruiting class is very deep: seven players in the top 50, 12 in the top 100, 24 in the top 200. Certain teams—particularly Ohio State, Maryland, Indiana, and yes, Michigan—will need immediate impacts from their incoming freshmen, and several transfers (which will be covered after the freshmen) will be counted on for immediate production. Talent in college basketball oscillates dramatically from year to year, as talented players often defect for the NBA at the first available opportunity, small rosters experience a high percentage of yearly turnover, and incoming freshmen are often ready to contribute meaningful minutes. The Big Ten lost a lot of top-notch talent this offseason, but there likely will be some stars in this crop of newcomers.
It’s easy for Thad Matta to get lost in the shuffle amongst the collection of stellar coaches in the Big Ten, but he’s simply phenomenal (even notwithstanding last year’s backslide): few coaches have a comparable coaching tree—the Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and Illinois’s John Groce headline—few can recruit as well as Matta does on a consistent basis, and few coach defense as well as he does. With the departures of Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, and LaQuinton Ross, Matta needed to win some major recruiting battles and unsurprisingly, he finished with the best class in the conference. Because of the influx of promising blue-chip talent (and incoming Temple transfer, Anthony Lee) and the existing nucleus of solid defensive players—Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams all fit nicely into Matta’s tenacious man-to-man scheme—Ohio State is projected by many to finish second in the conference behind Wisconsin. It’s a hard-to-predict team with a high floor and a low ceiling, but they do look pretty great on paper.
D’Angelo Russell is the most well-regarded incoming recruit in the league and he should start next to Scott right away in the backcourt. Like Ross and Deshaun Thomas before him, Russell will likely be tasked with being Ohio State’s primary offensive weapon. Between his excellent shooting ability, all-around scoring potential, and his frame and athleticism, Russell is a prototypical two-guard. He doesn’t have elite, NBA-ready physical tools, but OSU could do a lot worse than turning to Russell in hopes of resuscitating a staid offense that finished 128th nationally last season.
Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate (both former Michigan targets) sort of overlap, but they play with distinctly different styles. KBD and Tate are combo forwards; either can probably play the three or the four—KBD is a skilled and very long stretch-four who can slide to the three; Tate is too small to play the four right now, but his maximum upside probably comes as a ferocious rebounder and inside-out scorer as an undersized four. KBD’s best known for his scoring, Tate’s best known for his rebounding ability, though both can certainly defend. How the Buckeyes sort out the minutes on the wing will be quite interesting: Sam Thompson and Mark Loving deserve major minutes, but KBD and Tate might be too talented to leave on the bench. Dave Bell probably won’t contribute this year with the logjam of players ahead of him.
Click on image to enlarge.
Anthony Lee was a good addition for Ohio State: Big Ten players who had statistically comparable seasons to his final year at Temple were almost all fairly decent rotation guys at the worst. He’ll probably play center for the Buckeyes and he’ll compete with Amir Williams for minutes. In any case, the platoon of Lee / Williams is significantly better than Williams and Trey McDonald. Lee may provide more scoring punch than Williams has so far in his career, but Lee isn’t outstanding in that regard—he takes almost three quarters of his shots at the rim and only finishes at around 50% there (per Nylon Calculus).
[After THE JUMP: Maryland, transfers, and such.]
From left: Brady Hoke & Jerry Kill in 2011 [Upchurch], Les Miles and Cam Cameron at the 1989 spring game [Bentley], and James Franklin as a coordinator [courtesy Maryland Athletics]
For HTTV this year I did a study on Big Ten and SEC, and the factors that led to a marked disparity in football success that grew up between them since 1999. One of the most stunning differences I found was in the splashiness of coaching hires.
Someone on the board early this morning asked whether high-profile candidates are such a big deal. The original study answered this emphatically: "Yes!" I thought I'd extend it to the rest of the Power 5 hires since '99 and see if that's still true.
Methodology: I looked at the circumstances at the moment of hiring of every coach (156 total) who started a tenure at a currently Power 5 program since 1999, and put them into one of three (plus one) categories:
- Strong: Stealing another BCS school's coach, or the heir apparent at a power program, or grabbing the year's hottest candidate, or being the school that finally pries a legendary mid-major coach away when everyone else has been trying for years. Universally, these are headline-grabbing guys who probably needed a major monetary incentive to pry them from their last position.
- Average: A guy who was obviously responsible for turning a mid-major into a perennial 9- or 10-win team, a successful NFL or power program coordinator, promoting your own heir apparent (not after firing his boss), etc. These are the hires that you nod at and say "that makes sense" or "B+".
- Cheap: Promoting a coordinator you didn't plan on, grabbing a mid-major coach with mediocre success or success that's not obviously his. Grabbing a washout from the NFL or the Power 5, or a guy who wouldn't have been on any coaching radar except yours.
- (Interim): Don't count unless they were made full.
- These are of course debatable, since they're the opinions of one dude who's been obsessively following college football over this time period, so you can only draw so much. I didn't remember all of them, obviously, but I was able to jog my impressions by reading articles on coaching searches around the time. This is one instance when my life was actually made better by the annual proliferation of "we grade this year's hires" articles from mainstream outlets. When I couldn't decide, I defaulted "average."
- I welcome your suggestions for changes, so long as they fit the criteria (hindsight must be irrelevant).
- The data:
[After the jump: what we learned]
photos via 247Sports
As much of the Michigan media assembled in the Regents Room to hear Mark Schlissel announce Dave Brandon's resignation, The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan was doing some work, as well—breaking news of the most oddly timed commitment in recent memory:
Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy 2016 linebacker @dele_harding commits to Michigan.
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 31, 2014
Junior linebacker Dele' Harding, a high school teammate of current M players Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, pledged to the program at the very apex of its turmoil. He became Michigan's third commit in the 2016 class and the first on defense, not to mention the football program's first commit from any class since the day before this ill-fated 2014 season began.
While having two former teammates on campus certainly helped with the decision, the timing and the quotes Harding's father gave to Sullivan make it clear he committed with much more than football in mind:
While [Canteen's and Watson's] presence in Ann Arbor was a bonus for Harding, it wasn't the main reason he picked the Maize and Blue.
"They stay in touch all the time," David Harding said. "That plays a very small part. I think it's more than anything, that's just an icing on the cake. The body is what Michigan has to offer. His commitment is to the university, not just for football. It's the total package."
Welcome, Mr. Harding. You picked a mighty fine university, and they're really working quite hard to figure out the football bit.
[Hit THE JUMP for the full, informative portion.]