I GET IT
Sorry for the late post. WLW crashed at the worst time possible and their auto-recover function didn't work since it only took down one of my windows. So the column bit is shorter and I'll find links later.
1/8/2012 – Michigan 59, Wisconsin 41 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
If Michigan's season to date was a rollercoaster, it would be one with a cartoon bumblebee on the first car and a You Must Be This Short To Ride This Ride sign out front. They've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, lost to the ones they were supposed to lose to, and done these things more or less convincingly. Maybe the Virginia loss was a disappointment, but they're 14-1 now. Maybe Minnesota was uncomfortable. These are not events that will cause anyone in a television studio to talk about Michigan's wild season.
On the whole, that's a positive, but it does leave you wondering if Michigan is taking a step forward. Once Trey Burke hit the ground running it seemed like they should, but when you're sifting through the evidence all you've got are some instances of not blowing it. Tough to judge, that.
An 18-point win against Wisconsin is a step forward even if they're notoriously overrated by Kenpom. They are also rated by the people who vote in these things. North Carolina had to scrape by them at home; it took Michigan State overtime to dispatch them. They will likely recover from this sour start to easily claim an NCAA tourney bid, and Michigan ran them out of the gym.
This has a directly comparable moment from last year. It was this:
DEATH TO BACKBOARDS
THAT IS ALL
At that point even that hopeless freshman playing pinball for the win was regarded as "man fun," evidence that Michigan's basketball program was alive at 17-12, 7-9 in the league.
Michigan was rebuilding and started the Big Ten season off so poorly that the narrative of the season was near-misses that would cost them a tourney bid until, suddenly, it wasn't. When they got the bid they were staring down a second round matchup with Duke and the Sweet 16 was not a consideration until Darius Morris was running at the basket with time winding down.
This year they're coming at it from ahead, with a win or two in their pocket and a hope for more. Next year they won't be rebuilding anything. They'll be built, and expectations will loom. Right now we're going through the last vestiges of having no expectations because we have no program. Step by step, inch by inch, Michigan departs its past and becomes something else.
Bullets that can hit the backboard all they want
TREY BURKE! Burke followed up the worst game of his young career by outplaying Jordan Taylor. Taylor had a couple baskets late when he started forcing quick shots; these came against Stu Douglass and were desperate heaves in any case. In the first half Taylor had 4 points on 2 of 8 shooting; he hit a single additional three against Burke in the second half. For the game Taylor's late chucks got him to 12 points on 15 shots; Burke was not the model of efficiency but had 14 on the same number of shots. He did not pick up a single foul.
The rest of the defense! Michigan held Wisconsin to 0.76 points per possession, UW's worst output of the year. Marquette is next best at 0.86. I'm not sure how or why this happened, but it was no fluke. Wisconsin could not find an open shot anywhere. Despite having a terrible night, Taylor was forced into an even larger share of the offense than he usually has. He averages around 25% of UW's shots and hit 30% in this game.
Michigan showed on ball screens and Wisconsin could not pick and roll or find post players in good position. The Badgers had maybe three open looks from three all game, one transition basket, and vanishingly few dunks and layups.
Hardaway: more turnovers please. Last year, this site identified Tim Hardaway's abnormally low turnover rate for a high-usage freshman as a reason he would be an efficient player going forward. It would now like to retract that assertion since now it seems to mean Hardaway is settling for a lot of long twos.
In the last two games he's probably shot a half-dozen jumpers from just inside the three-point line with more than 25 seconds on the shot clock. I don't care who you are: that is not a good shot. You can make the case for the occasional semi-contested jacked up three as a decent opportunity that opens up later driving. You cannot for a slightly shorter shot that has about the same chance of going in but provides 33% less reward. Can Hardaway get that anytime he wants? Yes. Try to find something better with the time allotted.
If this results in more turnovers from young Skywalker, so be it. He's shooting 27% from 3—and probably about that from just inside 3—and 58% from two. Either drive to the basket or kick, and take the threes only when they come to you.
He seems to be overreacting to the first half/second half thing and is now shooting everything all the time. His shot% has cracked 30% and is now in the top 100, which is frustrating when a lot of the shots he's adding are low quality and he's got guys like Novak, Morgan and Smotrycz hanging out being deadly when the offense can create a shot for them.
Sanity check on aisle Wisconsin. Like Miami (That Miami) finishing third in offensive FEI, Wisconsin tenaciously clinging to their #2 spot in Kenpom despite a 1-3 Big Ten start is an unfortunate, credibility-sapping outlier. Sometimes these things happen to systems that try to rank teams by taking every possession into relatively equal account. Kenpom's strength of schedule adjustment is overwhelmed when a team beats its tomato cans by 54, 27, 36, 46, 23, 18, 33, and 34 in low-tempo outings. Computers have hearts, too. You can't expect them not to fall in love with that.
Wisconsin also has a narrow road loss to UNC and wins over Kenpom favorites BYU and UNLV, with only a home loss to Marquette a potential blemish before the clunky conference start. That the Badgers are still #2 after a home loss to Iowa and an 18 point blowout to M is a little dismaying; maybe Kenpom can find a way to discount possessions that are obviously scrub vs scrub or something.
UPDATE: Kenpom has a Wisconsin FAQ that seems driven by a lot of twitter @ replies.
The leap. The anticipated Kenpom surge was major: 12 spots—or three full seeding ranks in Pomlandia. Michigan's many indifferent outings against bleah competition saw them enter Big Ten play 52nd.
Let's go, Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten Boys. Michigan's meh nonconference schedule features just one win over a probable tourney participant (Memphis; Oakland is 3-4 in the Summit)… or at least it did until Iowa State swept Texas and A&M last week to kick off the Big 12 slate 2-0. The Cyclones also beat Iowa, which isn't a huge deal but does mean they're on a 7-game win streak in the aftermath of their loss in Crisler. Kenpom now projects a .500 conference record for them.
That would probably not get them in since their best nonconference win is against the Hawkeyes and they have losses to Drake and UNI, the other two instate schools. If they can swing an extra game or two their way, they could make it. FWIW, they're already in the top 50 in RPI.
The road ahead. Michigan has two should-win games next against Northwestern and Iowa. Iowa's on the road, though, which makes things touchy. See: recent Michigan trips to Carver-Hawkeye. See also: insane charge/block calls against Hardaway and Novak that cost Michigan the Indiana game.
Anyway, once they get past the next two games they have this daunting gauntlet (all rankings Kenpom):
- #7 Michigan State
- @ #85 Arkansas (annual inexplicable nonconference game)
- @ #29 Purdue
- @ #1 OSU
- #8 Indiana
- @ #7 Michigan State
If they can take care of business over the next week they can come out of that stretch .500 and still have established themselves a tourney lock. The home stretch is much easier: @ Nebraska, two against Illinois, @ Northwestern, @ Penn State, and return games from OSU and Purdue. If they manage to go 2-3 against the above conference opponents they'll be 7-4 in the toughest conference in the country with two gimmes and plenty of other games left to get to the .500 mark that will be auto entry for any B10 team this year.
The recruiting rankings return after the dead period and a New Year's Day siesta. Despite the dead period, there were a fair amount of commitments since the last rankings, including the Wolverines picking up Jehu Chesson (yes, it's been a while since I did one of these). Action since last rankings:
12-18-11: Ohio State picks up Noah Spence. Steffon Martin decommits from Purdue.
12-19-11: Indiana picks up Ryan Thompson. Illinois picks up Mason Monheim.
12-20-11: Nebraska picks up Mohammed Seisay.
12-21-11: Michigan picks up Jehu Chesson. Indiana picks up David Cooper. Ryan Frain re-committed to Illinois.
12-22-11: Indiana picks up Antonio Marshall.
12-26-11: Purdue picks up James Prince and Jason King.
12-29-11: Notre Dame picks up KeiVarae Russell. Penn State picks up Jamil Pollard. Purdue picks up Ryan Watson.
1-3-12: Iowa picks up Greg Garmon. Keith Brown decommits from Illinois. Nebraska picks up Jared Afalava and Avery Moss.
1-4-12: Sebastian Smith decommits from Indiana.
1-5-12: Illinois picks up Teko Powell.
1-7-12: Notre Dame picks up Elijah Shumate.
UPDATE 1-8-12: Ronald Darby decommits from Notre Dame (to answer your question: no, he is not considering Michigan, or at least they're not among his planned visits—Clemson, Florida State, and possibly LSU).
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]
Camp Hill (PA) Cedar Cliff tight end Adam Breneman is one of the most sought-after prospects in all of the 2013 class at a position of major need for Michigan. The junior already holds offers from Alabama, Boston College, Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Miami (YTM), Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Temple, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wake Forest. Breneman's early rankings reflect that impressive list of suitors, as he is on the ESPN150 Watch List and already ranked as a four-star to Scout and 24/7, with the latter listing him as the #32 overall prospect and top tight end in the class. I had the chance to chat with Adam yesterday, and here's a full transcript of the interview:
ACE: You just committed to participating in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game. What does that mean for you to be honored as one of the top recruits in your class?
ADAM: It's really exciting, and it's a great honor to be wanted by both the elite all-star games, the Army Game and the Under Armour Game. It's a huge blessing to be asked to participate on those big stages, and it was a really tough decision for me and my family, to decide whether I was going to play in the Army Game or the Under Armour Game. At the end of the day, I thought that the UA Game was the best place for me to go to, and I wanted to commit to a game before this year's game since I got early invitations, so I decided that it would be best for me and my family to go down to Orlando to play.
ACE: In terms of your recruitment, I know you've got offers from, well, just about everywhere right now. I won't make you run through all of them, but what schools are contacting you the most right now, and who's standing out to you?
ADAM: I don't really have a top schools list yet. Some of the schools that I think pretty highly of right now would be Maryland, Virginia, Miami, Rutgers, Michigan, Michigan State, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Alabama, just to name some of the ones that I've been in pretty constant contact with, and I've developed some pretty good relations with those coaches. It's still very early in the process for me, I'm nowhere close to narrowing anything down yet, but those are some of the schools that have gotten off to a good start. There are quite a few places, and I don't have a timetable at all, but those are some of the schools that have definitely gotten off to a great start.
ACE: With Michigan specifically, who has been in contact with you from them, and what is your general impression of the coaching staff, the school, and the program?
ADAM: Coach Montgomery is the defensive line coach—last spring, when I was a sophomore, he came to my high school to visit. He offered me then, he told me that they had seen my tape and they wanted to offer me. My recruiter is Curt Mallory, Coach Montgomery just happened to be in Pennsylvania and stopped by the school, but I've developed a good relationship with Coach Mallory. I talk to him quite a bit. Actually, I'd say probably a month ago I had, I guess you'd call it a conference call, with the coaching staff, and I talked with Coach Hoke for a while. That was the first time I got a chance to talk to him, and he seems like an awesome guy and it's just great to see what he's done at Michigan so far in a short period of time.
ACE: Just to talk about your junior year real quickly, can you recap how the year went for you, where you felt you got better on the field, just how the season went for you this year?
ADAM: We finished 9-3 on the year. We lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to the state champion, lost by three points. When we look back on it, we play in the biggest classification in Pennsylvania, but we're actually the smallest school in that classification, so to do what we did, there's a lot of things to be proud of that we accomplished as a team this year. Individual-wise, I made first-team all-state, I finished the year with 72 catches for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns, and making first-team all-state was one of my goals at the beginning of the year. Team-wise and personal-wise, it was a great year and certainly an exciting year.
ACE: If you had to do a self-scouting report, what would say are the strengths of your game right now, and what are you working on to get better for your senior year and on to the next level?
ADAM: I think in the receiving aspect I'm very good at the tight end position. I play a lot of wide receiver in high school—I think I actually have the ability of a wide receiver but I'm in a tight end's body. I pride myself in never dropping passes and beating linebackers one-on-one—it's just a lot of little things, running routes the right way, those are some of the things that I work really hard at. Moving forward, right now I'm about 6'5", 220, which is fairly thin for a tight end, so obviously moving on to the next level I'd like to put on some more weight, get stronger, and become the kind of tight end that can put his hand in the dirt and block. I do a good amount of blocking in high school, but obviously when you get to the next level the players are a lot bigger and a lot stronger, so just moving forward I'd like to just let my body develop more, put on some more weight, which I'll probably do naturally. I'm only 16 years old, so I'll probably put on a good bit of weight in the next couple of years, and I'll become a better blocker.
ACE: In terms of the offseason for you right now, do you have any idea, in terms of junior days and camps, places you'd like to visit before your senior year?
ADAM: Nothing is scheduled at all yet, nothing finalized. I know that I'll be going to Maryland for a basketball game and I'll definitely be visiting Miami—I haven't visited there yet, so I'll be going to Miami for a visit with my family. I'm about 95% sure I'll be coming up to Michigan, too. I don't know if I'll be doing a junior day or just a normal visit, but I'll be up there. Whether it's in February or in the spring I don't know yet, but we'll definitely be out there.
ACE: You said you don't have a timeline or anything right now, but in terms of just what you're looking for in a school, what are the ideal traits that you're looking for when it comes down to picking a school?
ADAM: A big thing for me is the kind of offense that I'd be playing in. Actually, it's not so much the kind of offense, but how I'll fit in to the offense. I love catching the ball, I love having the football in my hands, and I want to go to a school that's going to allow me to do that and allow me to be a playmaker from the tight end position, so I definitely want to play for a coach that has a history of tight ends and has a history of throwing the tight end the ball. Another thing is academics. Academics are a big part of my life—I carry a 3.9 GPA, so I take academics very seriously and I want to go to a place that's going to prepare me for life after football. Third of all, definitely the relationship that I have with the coaching staff—I'm going to be spending a lot of time with those guys, and if we don't get along it's going to be a long four years. That's definitely important, and just a place that fits me best athletically, spiritually, and academically, just having everything fit me in all three of those areas, that's where I'll wind up.
Just in time for me to rend my garments about a Merrill non-return and add a "jon merrill's infinite suspension" tag, various players hop on twitter to say he'll be on the ice tonight. Via Michigan Hockey Net:
Just moments ago freshman Travis Lynch tweeted:
Big game tonight against Lake Superior State. Jonny is back!
That was followed up by freshman Alex Guptill tweeting:
The three most feared words in hockey. Jonny. Is. Back.
Thank Beesus. May we sting our way to a better future.
LEFT: Nittany the Lion drinks hemlock. RIGHT: why Tom Bradley is not an option.
DEAREST PENN STATE NITT-ANY LION FANS,
I am a fan of Michigan, a team that used to be in your conference. I have just been informed that due to unapproved activities involving… well, nevermind what the activities involve. That's not really the issue here.
The issue is that longtime coach Joe Paterno was ignominiously forced out after at least six years as the head coach at Penn State, and that many people who remember this halycon half decade or so are peevish that unapproved activities have led to the firing of the hallowed JoePa. You probably know this bit.
The activities are so unapproved that they have irradiated the rest of the coaching staff with fatal doses of public relations. Coaches at other schools not currently suffering fatal doses of PR are so leery about getting irradiated themselves that they refuse to take millions of dollars to coach a football program that's still in a pretty damn good spot long term.
So the Penn State administration hired one of the more tenuous branches off the sickly Belichick coaching tree in the full expectation he'll fail massively, and soon. They would have hired Charlie Weis but—and you're probably not going to believe this—someone beat them to it. I know. Funny ol' world. They would have hired Ron Zook but Ron Zook is a chronic disease. So they hired some guy unreassuringly named Bill O'Brien who sponsors a bowl in St. Petersburg.
Do not look on Bill O'Brien as a head coach. Bill O'Brien is pickled ginger. Like the snake at the base of the tree that holds up the world, you have just finished consuming the largest piece of nigiri ever made. It was made of yourself. There's more, but for the full experience you must spend the next three to five years cleansing and preparing your palate.
Do not regard Bill O'Brien as a person who can succeed or fail. He is doomed. You will put him in your mouth and gnaw on him and once you swallow him and dissolve him in your stomach acids you can get on with things. Bill O'Brien is football pickled Jesus ginger. He will die for your sins… someone's, anyway.
Prepare thine heart for a messy one-way divorce. You may think Penn State is a school. You may have attended it, and loved it, and thought of the football program as the bit of the iceberg above the water: the most accessible part of your much greater love for the institution as a whole.
This must be true. I have been to State College in the summer, when no one is around. It is pretty. There are bars there with good microbrews in which weird cover bands play as you try to determine whether the sax guy is literally a muppet or just impossibly muppet-like. It is an outcrop of something in the middle of nowhere, easy to fall in love with.
Unfortunately, you're about to find out that a lot of your favorite people on the iceberg think Penn State is literally one dude. Lavar Arrington:
"I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage," Arrington said. "Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that's the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I'm done. I'm done with Penn State. If they're done with us, I'm done with them."
Brandon Short [ibid]:
"I don't want to be affiliated with the university if they don't choose a Penn State guy because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important... it's no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC. They are intent on turning it into a booster culture. Ira Lubert went out and purchased a national title with wrestling and he's under the illusion that he can do that in football. Well, ask (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder about that."
"Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they've turned their backs on our entire family."
“I feel badly for him (because) he is clueless and will not have the support of the majority of the Lettermen. This is a hornet’s nest (for him).”
There is no one in the world who did not play for members of the Penn State coaching staff who believes anyone on staff during the time in which the unapproved activities occurred can stay at PSU. Instead of acknowledging this reality, certain players you loved are going to firebomb the program until Football Pickled Jesus Ginger is gone and someone with a tangential relationship to Paterno is found, whereupon they will say they knew it all along. They will not acknowledge their contributions to the situation.
This is going to piss you off and sour some of your fond memories. Nothing can change this, but you can be prepared. Latch on to the current players, who have done nothing other than not leave when they maybe should.
Look… just… don't. You may be inclined to say something about the enormous hissy fit being thrown by certain players as indicative of the problems with the culture that got you in this spot in the first place. This is probably not a good idea even if you secretly think it's true.
Don't extrapolate your problems across the whole of college football since your worldview has been so jaundiced that hope and joy experienced by others only serves to reinforce the existentialist dread that overwhelms your existence. Looking at you, Weinreb.
In lieu of on-field substance prepare for cheesy pro-style stadium exper— oh, right, I see you've got this one covered. Let's form a support group. I need help coping with these things.
MANTRAS FOR HOPE. It is not going to be fun. By saying these things over and over again you might find some modicum of serenity:
- Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno.
- How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten.
- At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame.
Good luck, and godspeed.