In the face. (GIF via Vice Sports.)
For a reeling, young, undersized Michigan squad, Arizona represented one of the worst possible matchups.
The Wolverines fell in a laugher, unable to deal with the Wildcats' imposing combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Michigan's inability to generate shots inside the arc or hit them from beyond it led to an early deficit that only grew as Kameron Chatman and then Zak Irvin found themselves in foul trouble.
At one point in the first half, John Beilein threw out a lineup of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal; Beilein subsequently relented on his usually rigid foul policy and reinserted Irvin late in the half despite his two fouls.
The situation only got more dire in the second stanza, as M failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark; the Arizona faithful stood until that moment, displaying impressive adherence to tradition. The Wolverines remained unable to get into the paint, get out on the break, grab offensive rebounds, or defend the interior; adding to the blowout, Arizona got numerous second-chance buckets after failing to record an offensive rebound in the first half—not as much of a surprise as it may seem, as they only missed nine shots in that span.
The individual issues are barely worth noting; such is the nature of a bloodbath. Zak Irvin's shooting woes continued, and a mental lapse of some sort earned him a benching from Beilein mere moments into the second half. Caris LeVert, repeatedly denied even a sniff of the rim, couldn't carry the offense as he has in the past. The bigs were helpless against Arizona's impressive front line of Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Without context, this game may not be cause for sounding the alarm; after all, this was an extremely tough matchup—especially for a young Michigan front—against a very good team in the first true road game of the season. Coming off back-to-back upset losses at home, however, it's time to acknowledge the possibility that the Wolverines will have to claw their way into the NCAA tournament picture, even with Beilein on the bench. This team is better than it looked today, but it's also got a long way to go.
Circulating on Twitter
I wrote off Michigan’s struggles against NJIT as an aberration – after all, it’s unlikely that a team that shoots 34% (outside of their game against Michigan) hits 11-17 threes in a game – but at this point, it’s somewhat of a crisis: Michigan’s now 6-3, has two bad home losses, and is ranked 49th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and 98th in Jeff Sagarin’s. With Arizona on deck this afternoon, Michigan’s staring at a 6-4 overall record (really 5-4, as the game against D-II Hillsdale doesn’t count towards their resume) and a three-game losing streak.
Not to be too alarmist, but Michigan – projected by Pomeroy to finish 9-9 in the Big Ten – could find itself on the bubble and those two losses could be an incredible anchor dragging on the Wolverines’ resume. After the surprise run into the tournament in 2011, it’s been a given that Michigan participates in March Madness – two 4-seeds and a 2-seed over the last three years have been evidence of that – but as of right now, it’s hard to guarantee much. Pomeroy’s metrics gave Michigan a 97.5% chance of beating NJIT and an 86.8% chance of beating Eastern. U of M lost both: the chances of that were over 1 in 300.
At this point, Michigan is a complete unknown. Very solid (but not great) results against Oregon, Villanova – yes, it was a positive indicator of Michigan’s strength that they played the Wildcats close – and Syracuse contrast starkly with the embarrassing upsets at the hands of NJIT and EMU. Michigan was supposed to be a quality, fringe-Top 25 outfit and the first part of the young season certainly suggested that, but expectations need to be calibrated after losing a very bad and a solidly mediocre team at best.
Right now, NJIT is ranked 271st nationally and Eastern is 116th (via Pomeroy). In the last ten years, of Big Ten teams that made the tournament, there are only three roughly comparable home non-conference losses: Penn State lost to Maine (#209) and finished with an 10-seed in 2011; Purdue lost to Wofford (#197) as well as a sub-100 Iowa State team at a neutral site and finished with a 6-seed in 2008; Wisconsin lost to North Dakota State (#182) and finished with a 9-seed in 2006. NJIT is almost definitely worse than those Maine, Wofford, and North Dakota State teams. In and of itself, the Eastern loss isn’t that bad, but paired with the NJIT loss, Michigan’s almost certain to finish with a bad non-conference resume. Fortunately conference play should provide tons of opportunities for quality wins.
[AFTER THE BREAK: Panic! Or don’t. Whatever.]
The importance of coach background?
Patterson is a rare defensive HC standout
I know there are plenty of questions about the coaching search coming through, I'd hoped to give a different take.
In your opinion what is the preferable background of a coach. In the modern game with high powered, explosive offenses being the key to success, the trend seems be leaning towards guys with strong background in developing offenses (Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn, etc). I still maintain that the best background for a head coach is having a much stronger background on the defensive side of the ball. A top notch defense requires the ability to adapt to the offense (everyone runs the same offense week to week, defenses must adjust) putting a higher premium on extensive experience multiple jobs running multiple defenses.
The other key to success is recruiting (it seems you can out scheme your way to an effective offense, but a defense is more about the 'Jimmy's and Joe's). In my estimate, the best coach would be a guy with a lot of DC experience who knows what hates to defend and hires that guy. For instance, if Hoke had just admitted he didn't know anything about offense and spent the blank check Brandon gave him on the best guy to run a Denard led team (As I recall there were heaps of Oregonesque coordinators out there who would kill to walk into an experienced Denard job with money to spend on top assistants), we would probably be celebrating Hoke as a genius for not wearing the headset. I'm not sure Rodriguez hiring a stud D coordinator and letting them run the D the way they wanted would have worked because a number of his D recruits didn't pan out, which I believe goes to talent identification.
Please don't excommunicated me from the M family, I still think Harbaugh is the top candidate despite his offensive background!
You've got a pretty good case with "DC who knows what he hates to defend," as that's exactly what Bob Stoops did and he's been pretty successful. On the other hand, the top guys in college right now have a decided offensive bent.
Defensive guys at top 25 schools: Saban, Dantonio, Patterson, Snyder, Whittingham, Mora.
Offensive guys: Meyer, Helfrich, Fisher, Briles, Mullen, Freeze, Rodriguez, Johnson, Richt, Graham, Pinkel, Swinney, Andersen, Malzahn, Harsin, Petrino, Miles, Sarkisian, Kill.
A few of those are tenuous (Swinney was never a coordinator, Kill has been a head coach for so long he's just a head coach); even considering that it seems like the rapid evolution of offense has made OCs preferable to DCs.
And when DCs do have sustained success it's often because they have an oddball system they make work, whether it's Saban's NFL-style pattern matching, Dantonio's hyperaggressive cover 4, or Patterson's 4-2-5. Imposing your will is possible on defense; it seems to be a lot easier on offense.
I know you are being loaded with questions around the coaching search. My question is for after the search is over. The basis of the question is simple. How long do you think until Michigan is back to at least consistent 8 to 9 win seasons.
My personal belief is that with Harbaugh the chances are quick. But, what if it is not Harbaugh and someone who specializes in spread concepts to their offense, ie.) a Mullen or Herman? Do you think those hires would lead to as heavy an attrition as the Rich Rod transition did? If not how well would the current roster mesh with those schemes. Lastly if one of those two or another spread guy was hired, and the transition isn't a great fit, should we be prepared for Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, all over 4 years from now? Thanks in advance.
There wasn't actually that much Rich Rod-Hoke transition attrition. Most of the guys who left did so because they couldn't stay in school or find playing time. IIRC, Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal left with Tony Gibson to go to Pitt, but I don't think anyone else could be claimed to have left as direct effect of the changeover. (Check the most recent Attrition Watch and correct me if I'm wrong.) In general, transfers are rare. PSU had their program burned to the ground and open season declared on their players and they only lost a few guys.
Recruits who haven't signed LOIs are a different matter, but if Michigan has a coach in January they'll have about ten spots to fill.
As far as spread/not spread, the differences in personnel there are considerably overstated. OSU and Miss St run power-oriented spread offenses built on being beefy mean guys; that kind of offense would fit well with Michigan's recruits on the OL. Receivers are receivers; Michigan has a couple slot guys. Tailbacks like Brandon Minor and Carlos Hyde function in the spread; Michigan's current crew could do just fine.
QB is the big difference, and it's an issue. I do think Morris has sufficient wheels to be a keep-'em honest threat, and as OSU's shown over the past half-decade or so, a spread oriented system tends to keep reads for shaky QBs relatively simple.
Hoke did a very good job stocking the roster with guys who stick around and they are beginning to mature, so a relatively quick (read: year 2) turnaround is within the realm of possibility.
[After the JUMP: frankly, things get very silly.]
META: I'm baaaaaaack. Here's what I know so far; while it's not quite a full diagnosis, like Seth suggested, it's all very good news. I underwent a colonoscopy/endoscopy on Wednesday morning, and while I'm still awaiting the results of the accompanying biopsy, all they found initially was a hiatal hernia and an ulcer—this should rule out Crohn's Disease. I've got a CT scan scheduled for next week just to cover all the bases.
My appointment with an endocrinologist and subsequent testing Wednesday afternoon revealed the really good news: I tested positive for adrenal insufficiency, which explains my litany of symptoms. It's most likely primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison's Disease) as opposed to secondary (driven by the pituitary gland); I've already started treatment with hydrocortisone, which should start helping very soon. The next step is to confirm that it's Addison's Disease—I'm awaiting test results on that—and see a rheumatologist, since the vast majority of the time an autoimmune issue of some sort is the cause of this. I also have a follow-up appointment with my endocrinologist next week. The doctors at St. Joe's have done a remarkable job; after ten years of searching, this is a massive breakthrough.
Thank you so much to everyone who's reached out to me over the last week; I'm incredibly fortunate to have the support of such a strong community, and it helped my spirits more than I can possibly convey. Now, let's talk basketball...
Michigan (6-3) at
|WHEN||5:25 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Arizona -9 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dan Shulman
Analyst: Jay Bilas
Right: The last week or so.
THE HELL IS GOING ON
I mean, seriously.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. 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.
|G||4||TJ McConnell*||Jr.||6'1, 195||70||21||Kinda|
|Excellent distrubutor and defender. Cold shooting this year, but good over career.|
|G||1||Gabe York*||Jr.||6'3, 185||54||18||No|
|Low usage. Career 37% 3-pt, rarely ventures far inside the arc.|
|F||5||Stanley Johnson||Fr.||6'7, 245||68||27||No|
|Top-3 recruit. Good shooter, rebounder, defender. Draws tons of fouls.|
|F||21||Brandon Ashley*||Jr.||6'9, 230||74||21||No|
|Excellent post scorer, takes most shots at rim but has range. Solid FT rate.|
|C||35||Kaleb Tarczewski*||Jr.||7'0, 245||70||16||Very|
|Efficient finisher, mostly on easy stuff. Turnover-prone.|
|F||23||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||So.||6'7, 220||65||24||Yes|
|Country's best sixth man? Very athletic; great finisher, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|G||24||Elliott Pitts||So.||6'5, 285||36||11||Not at all|
|Pure sniper, and good at it: 53% from three this season. Tiny usage.|
|G||0||Peter Jackson-Cartwright||Fr.||5'10, 160||28||18||No|
|23/4 assist-to-TO ratio. Whoa. Shooting really well, too.|
Arizona is off to an undefeated start that includes three wins over KenPom top-100 opponents, though all of those games were close: four points over #78 Kansas State (neutral site), two points over #23 San Diego State (neutral), and a three-point comeback win in overtime at home over #10 Gonzaga. They've blown out everyone else on the schedule, including #110 UC Irvine and #149 Mizzou.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. All silent, aside from random NFL scouts lambasting the search and asserting that Harbaugh is not leaving the NFL ever-ever. It's a leap to go from "Michigan seems to be taking an exceptionally long time" to "there is no reason this could be, therefore Michigan is clownfraud."
The very fact that Michigan hasn't hired, or come close to hiring anyone, is evidence enough that they are waiting for definitive word on Harbaugh. And then you have everyone who talks to anyone inside the Michigan program saying that very loudly. Michigan may not get the guy, but it won't be because he turned Michigan down two weeks ago.
The only movement yesterday was a brief explosion of optimism last night based on a post from the very edge of the internet that got deleted once it was passed around, but not before the echo chamber went into full effect. No idea how seriously to take that. It does sound like certain people on the inside are beginning to believe it's really happening.
ON WHITTINGHAM. With the exception of Sam Webb, listening to talk radio guys is never advisable. 97.1's Jeff Riger just re-confirmed that yesterday by asserting that Kyle Whittingham was literally in Ann Arbor, a claim debunked a few hours later when Whittingham showed up at his previously-scheduled team meeting.
Like the Brandt thing, this was obviously untrue on its face: Michigan was never going to fire off an offer to Cutcliffe at this stage of their search, and sitting head coaches do not fly to towns with open jobs. These meetings take place in airports until it's time for a press conference, and again there is no way Michigan fills this job until they get a definitive answer from Harbaugh.
ALSO IN RE: WHITTINGHAM. I've heard there may have been some actual family issues involved with Gary Andersen's departure to Corvallis: namely, Andersen is Mormon and it's possible they were having a tough time adjusting to Madison. That's a reason Michigan and Mendenhall or Whittingham are unlikely to hook up.
I mean: these are two very successful coaches who haven't had so much as a sniff at bigger jobs. Utah blew out Alabama to go undefeated in 2008 and then went 10-3 the next two years and nobody so much as flirted with the guy. It is really hard to get coaches out of the state of Utah.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HOT DOGS? Sean Payton strongly denied any rumors that he'd be somewhere other than New Orleans, correctly dubbing them "silly":
Asked at his press conference today about the possibility that he might step down following this season, Payton said, “Absolutely no way.”
Payton said he is aware that there’s been speculation that he wants to leave New Orleans, but Payton added, “It’s silly. It won’t happen.”
I don't care what insiders said X or Y about Payton's availability. The ghost of Bo could appear to me and tell me Payton was the guy and I would say "he has an eight million dollar contract until 2018, Bo—y'all be crazy." If the Saints decide to pull the ripcord on the best coach in their history thanks to one bad year and eat what I assume is a simply massive buyout, then we are getting to the realm of vague plausibility. Until that highly unlikely event transpires, "silly" is the kind way to put it.
These last two items are me getting exercised about people reporting things without considering how likely they are outside of "I herd it from mah dudez". I heard the weirdass Marvin Lewis thing and told you, but I also mentioned it was weirdass and I didn't expect anything to come of it.
NEVERMIND THE CHEESEOFF. Wisconsin takes under 24 hours to hire Paul Chryst, removing the admittedly remote possibility Michigan and Wisconsin would go after the same guy. Hilariously, a source says "I thought this would be the scenario from Day 1" on Day 1.
Alvarez is going through the "public posting" kabuki but it's done, according to everyone.
THIS IS NEWS FOR SOME REASON. Michigan sent out a release this morning stating that they've hired Korn Ferry as their search firm for 80-250k. Why Michigan would tell people this now (they've been working with the firm since Hoke got cashiered) and why people would repeat it out loud remains a mystery to me. Hackett said he'd be employing a search firm and everyone pretty much knew who that would be once he said said search firm would be familiar with Michigan.
It's a thing you can tweet, I guess.
Reactions have mostly fallen into one of two camps. One: "let me google that for you." Two: "lol these guys hired Brandon and Hoke." I agree with #1. Not so much #2. Brandon was a locked-in insider candidate after being a regent and helping hire Mary Sue Coleman (see Coleman's going-away present of a six-year guaranteed contract); Hoke was a locked-in insider candidate that Brandon was going to hire no matter who the search firm was after Harbaugh went with the 49ers.
All those guys do is give you a list of vetted names; Michigan's screwups are their own. That was supposed to be more reassuring than it ended up being.
WE MIGHT EVEN PASS ON JAY GRUDEN. ESPN Insider's rumor mill thing picks up the RealGM "nugget" on Jay Gruden's supposed interest in Michigan, then mentions that there's another guy out there:
Former UM quarterback and current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is another name that has come up often for the Wolverines job in recent weeks, and given Harbaugh's ties to the program and the likelihood that his days in SF are just about over, it's reasonable to believe that he could be the school's No. 1 coaching target, even ahead of Gruden.
This insight is available for just a few dollars a month.
FAN PECKING ORDER. 24/7 ran a series of polls asking their users about whether coaching candidates would be okay. The results:
- Harbaugh (95% yes)
- Stoops (89%)
- Miles (81%)
- Mora (77%)
- Mullen (69%)
- Herman (49%)
- Bielema (46%)
- Narduzzi (41%)
- Cutcliffe (41%)
- Whittingham (34%)
- Gundy (29%)
- Schiano (14%)
- Addazio (12%)
Gundy is a huge surprise down there. Addazio not so much.
Etc.: More on the role this advisory committee thing is playing. Sam says Les Miles's age isn't going to be a hindrance($) to his candidacy and that the search is apparently narrowed to four guys($), though which four is unclear. Miles and Harbaugh are amongst them; past that nobody knows.
META first: Happy to announce that Ace's thing was diagnosed and he's gonna be fine.
Out of the Blue. It was refreshing, wasn't it, when Hackett killed off the Michigan Man Bler.
Bo retired with a cult of personality because he was great at coaching football, and great at improving the lives of people around him. Trusting him and his guys served Michigan well enough so long as he and those guys and their guys continued to do things well and righteously.
|Camus on why Candyland is the greatest game ever. [Existential Comics]|
Hoke was righteous; he didn't do well. Outside Michigan circles there was general bewilderment that Brady could come to this year's football bust, sit beside the men who fired him for fielding progressively worse football teams, and receive a standing ovation. Winning football games can you earn you a lot of respect, but it's not the only way to get it.
I too want to move on from the Cult of Bo, and I too concede that most football coaches out there are good guys. I don't see any problem with recognizing these things and also recognizing that Brady Hoke stood out among his coaching peers. You see it in his players. We'll see it again in the coming years when there are more transfers and more off-field things to wag fingers at, because Brady is an extraordinary human who genuinely cares about people beyond the normal good guy capacity. That quality isn't what got him fired; it's what got him a shot at his dream job in the first place.
We needed to get out of this Blue Bler and relearn how to make decisions with something other than faith in a dead man—sadly it took the people in charge two transitions to realize it. There's no way to eradicate the bler people; fortunately there is a home run-seeming candidate who grew up around the program and quarterbacked it for a time.
Ultimately the question on Harbaugh is 100% "Will he?" Communist Football made the case for the thing we want to believe. If it happens yay for Michigan and the world and the ozone layer. If not, we're…
Into the Black. If we're not looking for the next Bo Schembechler to run Bo Schembechler's program, what are we looking for?
Nobody's telling us. In his Highlander movie-themed discussion of Michigan's pursuit of Harbaugh, I think Gameboy absolutely nailed the coaching search process, which goes:
- Big list of candidates
- Whittling of candidates into a pool
- Precision ranking and clarity among top tier
- Pick the guy
Because fans don't get to be part of the process, the bits that leak out make no sense. We are the mortals who keep finding bodies beheaded by swords all over town, plus a few bread crumbs left by those who seek to use us for their own ends, and start drawing conclusions.
Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: In looking for a new paradigm a lot of us have settled on Urban Meyer's regime and coaching tree. Copying a successful rival is as good a strategy as any; in fact it's exactly how Canham chose Bo in 1969.
In that vein, Kyle Whittingham is the next Urban Meyer-like candidate to get the alum96 treatment. Among Urban-like names being tossed around, Whittingham is probably the most palatable to the residual bler in Michigan's brass—Mullen carries the stench of the SEC and we have no idea whether they see the things in Herman that we do. Like Harbaugh, his candidacy is more of a "Will he?" than a "Can he?"
[After the jump, there's more to the picture than meets the eye.]