NOTE: Given Ace’s current situation, I volunteered to write the game wrap. I regret everything.
The stages of a shocking upset are predictable. It starts with amusement. Then it moves to concern about the effects on KenPom or the polls. Then it becomes a mild concern that this might actually become a problem. Then there’s a moment when you realize, “uh oh.” And it stops being fun.
When NJIT hit an uncontested layup with less than 12 minutes left to take a 46-44 lead, it stopped being fun. When they took a seven point lead with 9 minutes left, it became terrifying. And when Damon Lynn hit yet another three point bomb to give the Highlanders a 4-point lead with under 3 minutes left, you stared at the calendar and thought to yourself “I thought football season was over.”
Lynn was insane in the second half, scoring 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting from deep. As a team, NJIT came in shooting 33% from three, but shot 64.7% (11-17 )in this one. It was reminiscent of the Detroit game, with one exception; they never. Stopped. Hitting. Adding to the problem was that NJIT connected on a half-dozen back door layups. All of this added up to an eFG% of 70.7% for the game. But other than a few breakdowns, Michigan’s defense wasn’t obviously bad. NJIT was just better.
[…Nope. Re-reading that last sentence didn’t make any more sense than it did the first time…]
The first half was statistically bizarre. NJIT shot 75% eFG% from the field, but forced almost no turnovers, didn’t record a single offensive rebound, and didn’t shoot a single free throw. Michigan jumped out to an 8-0 lead with NJIT turning the ball over on its first four possessions, and it looked like the expected walk-over was underway. Michigan had a five-point lead at the break, but came out of the locker room stone cold. They were stuck on 44 points for nearly seven and a half minutes, during which time their six point lead became a seven point deficit.
All of this wasted a masterful second half performance by Caris LeVert. He finished with 32 points on 20 shot equivalents (including 6 of 8 from 3), 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He and Lynn went back and forth trading daggers for much of the second half. Derrick Walton returned to the lineup with 16 points on 11 shot equivalents, though he turned the ball over four times. The problem was that LeVert and Walton didn’t get nearly enough help.
After a couple of solid outings, including a really good day against Syracuse, Kam Chatman came crashing back to earth with an 0-for-6 day. He repeatedly passed up open threes, instead dribbing into the lane (and into traffic). Those are shots Beilein’s offense needs the four-man to take and make at a reasonable clip, but Chatman doesn’t seem to have any confidence in it right now. Zak Irvin also had a rough day, going 2-11 (1-8) from the field for five points.
Possibly the biggest surprise (other than the obvious) was that Michigan’s bigs did almost nothing. Despite facing a vastly undersized Highlanders team, neither Donnal nor Doyle scored in the last 26:32 of the game. Donnal hit twice from the field (including his first three-pointer). Doyle grabbed four rebounds, but couldn’t corral a crucial defensive board
when he was absolutely mauled with no foul call with ten seconds left.
Michigan briefly busted out the 1-3-1 zone in the second half, resulting in one turnover and one wide open lay-up. We didn’t see enough of it to know how well the freshmen have grasped it, but at least we know it exists somewhere.
I've been conspicuously absent the past few days. I will not be covering the basketball game this afternoon, nor the game on Tuesday, and I'll be working in a limited capacity for the rest of this month.
Allow me to explain.
Over the past few weeks, my health has taken a turn for the worse. The diagnosis of gluten intolerance I received over the summer hasn't been the be-all, end-all answer I'd hoped; there is more going on, and right now I don't know what. I've been dropping weight at a rather alarming rate. I covered the Syracuse game on Tuesday while weighing 115 pounds. (I'm a hair under 5'11", and haven’t weighed this little since middle school.) My brother drove me to and from the game, because I didn't feel comfortable getting behind the wheel of a car—not the first time he’s done that over the last month, unfortunately.
That's the bad news. I'm very limited physically right now, to the point that covering games in person is not a feasible option, even though there's no part of my job I enjoy more than settling into my spot (or leaping out of it) on press row at Crisler.
The good news is I have no shortage of support. My physician came into the office on a scheduled day off to see me on short notice on Wednesday afternoon, and as soon as I left he was on the phone with specialists at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital; I'll be in and out of appointments at St. Joe’s this week to begin anew the process of determining what, exactly, is going on with my body. As far as doctors go, I'm in very good hands.
The same can be said for my support system at home and at work. My parents and my brother are doing everything within their power to ensure that I'm comfortable, supported, and in good spirits; other than going to appointments, I barely have to leave the townhouse I share with my brother unless I'm up to it—they are taking care of me. I have friends near and far checking in on me, providing moral support or much-needed distraction; those often go hand-in-hand.
Brian, as he has been throughout my time at MGoBlog, has been remarkably supportive, especially when considering I've often had to bail out of work on short notice, and it's not like this is a large operation in which one employee's absence can go unnoticed. He's allowing me to scale back how much I'm working this month, which I hope will be all that's necessary before I'm able to return to writing at full strength, even if it takes longer for my body to reach that point. I've been able to do so time and again the last four years. Very little can stop me from doing what I love: writing.
For their part, the people in the sports information department for Michigan Basketball—especially the SID par excellence, Tom Wywrot—have been extremely flexible and understanding during this time, and I cannot thank them enough for it.
Same goes for fellow MGoBlog writers Seth Fisher, Alex Cook, and Bryan Mac, who've covered my ass on more than one occasion* when I’ve been unable to write, as well as our photographers, Bryan Fuller and Eric Upchurch, who've been extremely generous in offering their support. Thank you, as well, to MGoRightHandMan Dave Nasternak, who filmed high school games this fall when I didn't feel up to it, drove me to games when I did, and even stopped by the studio last weekend to give me a loaf of gluten-free bread after a podcast recording. I’m so lucky to be able to work with you all, and I don't get to convey my appreciation enough.
If I haven't responded to your emails, phone calls, messages, or tweets in recent days, I hope this serves as a reasonable explanation. I'll get to them when I can, if they truly require a response—these last few days have been spent in near constant communication with doctors and my family so we can get this figured out as soon as possible.
If I've been an asshole to you recently, as I know I have been with a few of you (including some who were beyond undeserving), I apologize. This has been a very stressful time. That’s not an excuse for taking it out on others.
If I told you I'd make plans with you, grab a drink, be in touch, or the like, I must apologize as well; right now, my life is on hold. Trust me when I say that I'd like to see or hear from you soon, but my big mouth occasionally promises more than I can provide, and that's been the case more than usual lately.
I turn 27 tomorrow. I've been dealing with strange health issues that have affected my everyday life since I was 17, when I'd often shoot awake at night in a cold sweat thinking my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I've been able to get through school and largely work around my health problems for a decade. Now is the time I must put my health first and foremost. Diagnoses of de Quervain’s thyroiditis, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and most recently gluten intolerance haven't fully addressed what's happening; this time around I'm determined to search until the true answer is presented.
I'm confident, with the remarkable support I have, that I'll get to the bottom of this. If there's a place to be sick, it's Ann Arbor, where it's hard to walk around the block without bumping into someone at the top of their chosen field. I still plan to write while the search continues, just not quite as much as I have in the past. I hope you’ll bear with me in the interim. If you’re looking for a way to support me, I hope you'll consider donating to MGoBlog. Brian is paying me full-time for work I don't fully have the capacity to do at the moment, and I don't plan on going anywhere. Supporting the site is the most direct way to support me both now and for the long haul.
Thanks for your understanding.
Now let's get Jim Harbaugh to Ann Arbor.
Michigan (6-1) vs.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||12:00 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -21 (KenPom)|
With major preseason matchup with Oregon, Villanova, and Syracuse out of the way, and tilts with Arizona and SMU remaining, this… is a game that is in the middle of those games. It is of little value as a win. It would be of incredible schadenfreude value as a loss, not to mention an albatross around Michigan’s neck come NCAA Tournament seeding time. So that’s your only real motivation here. You just need to work hard enough not to get fired.
It sounds like Derrick Walton will return, but how much he will play is unclear, especially if the game is not competitive for the full 40 minutes. DJ Wilson remains out.
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||5||Damon Lynn||So.||5’11, 165||95||29||No|
|Also known as “NJIT’s Offense” Volume shooter, mostly from deep. 48.3 eFG%|
|G||11||Winfield WIllis||Jr.||6'0, 180||68||18||Kinda|
|I have no valueable insight into Mr. Willis’s game|
|F||0||Ky Howard||Jr.||6'4, 185||83||20||Kinda|
|Splits between the three and four. three and the four. High 2pt%, good at drawing fouls. Lots of steals|
|F||5||Tim Coleman||So.||6'5, 210||53||20||No|
|Good 3pt shooter, but unrelated to Tevin, so relax|
|C||10||Daquan Holiday||Sr.||6'8, 205||45||18||Very|
|High block% and OR%. Coming off a battle with Christmas, this feels like a theme|
|G/F||23||Osa Izevbuwa||Jr.||6'3, 230||26||21||Maybe|
|A guy. He plays basketball|
|Splits minutes at the five, is 6’5. Good on the offensive boards.|
|Another guy splitting between the three and four|
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is the only Division I team that is not affiliated with a conference. They are best known for inventing the idea of “technology” in the late 1980’s. Just trust me.
Despite being 2-5 on the year, they are actually not as terrible as one might think when they see “New Jersey Institute of Technology.” They beat Duquesne (#156 to KenPom), Lost to Marquette (#102) by five. At the same time, their only other win was over Maine (#337) by four, and they lost to UMass Lowell.
No graphics today. Golden Retrievers aren’t as good at technology as, say, the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Take advantage of size. As you may have noticed, NJIT is very widdle. Their effective height is 346th in the country, and that runs across all five positions. Half of their center minutes go to a guy who is 6’5”. You may see some significant MAX time for the last time in a while.
Get out in transition. NJIT turns the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions. Michigan should be able to turn those into a lot of easy buckets.
Don’t miss everything. It’s hard to see this one being competitive, but if it does end up anywhere close to being close it will be because MIchigan just can’t make any of their many open looks.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 21.
I tend to trust KenPom here. And everywhere. But especially here.
Bryan Fuller / MGoBlog
Tropes about white basketball players – specifically smaller white players – are an inextricable part of basketball discourse, particularly at the college level. Take Aaron Craft, a very good (but inherently limited) player in his own right, who was incessantly inflated by platitudes about toughness, grittiness, the will to win, and all of those tired concepts that fail to explain the eminently explainable.* There’s something about that tiny white guy with immaculate hair, one who was the hometown hero of Everytown U.S.A., the Prom King of Everytown High, that kid who you look at and feel compelled to suggest a better hobby – chess maybe? – but that kid can ball, he really can, even though you know there’s no way in hell he’s going to make it to the NBA because look at him.
*For example, Aaron Craft was a great defender because of his amazing technique and lateral quickness. He was a very good player because of that tenacious defense. He wasn’t capable of somehow lugging the Ohio State offense to solid efficiency mark as a senior because of his leadership abilities once he was thrust into a feature role with players who weren’t as good as the ones he’d played with before. In the end, Craft’s offensive skill-set was lacking and no amount of “intangibles” would fix that.
Spike Albrecht fits that trope so well. His story is well-chronicled: he went to prep school in hopes of netting an elusive D-I scholarship offer, eventually managed to find one because of an amazing confluence of opportunity and luck, and played well on the big stage. He’s little – particularly relative to other basketball players – plays point guard, and if you’d like to play the “white basketball” word association game, you’ll find plenty of appropriate adjectives: scrappy (sure), heady (fine), feisty (yeah), dependable (why not). Spike Albrecht is just a blue-collar guy who heads to the court 9-to-5 every week, Monday-through-Friday, hard hat on his head and lunchpail in hand because he’s a company man and no sir, he doesn’t need the double overtime, he’s just here for the love of the game. He’s even from Indiana, if you want to throw Hoosiers in there, go right ahead. His given name – Michael – wasn’t enough, he’s “Spike” because, evidently, he wouldn’t ever take off his baseball spikes as a kid.
You have to talk about that magical first half in Atlanta when you talk about Spike. He assured that, with every time he appeared in a game, for the rest of his life, someone would mention the one half he lived a basketball fever dream and became somewhat of a legend. It’s almost comical. Trey Burke, the consensus National Player of the Year, has to exit the game with early foul trouble and his backup – the guy that the announcers barely research for their pregame notes – checks in, just to hold steady and “Oh God, just please keep the game close until Trey gets back, Spike, please.” Louisville runs a vicious trapping press defense and Michigan’s backup point guard is a true freshman that looks like he was plucked right out of the makeshift student section behind the Michigan basket.
That’s it right there. That’s every suburban kid in every flyover state who rubs his hands together to keep them warm, who navigates the patches of ice in the driveway, who dribbles that ball outside, by himself, as he counts 5, 4, 3, 2… and throws the ball at the hoop as he yells 1. Spike was the unheralded recruit who managed to find his way to a major program, managed to find his way onto the floor at the freakin’ Georgia Dome, and just decided to go for it* instead of simply “managing” the game.
*The behind-the-back pull-up three in Russ Smith’s face (Russ Smith was probably the best defender in college hoops that year) was Spike’s ultimate I’m-playing-out-of-my-mind-let’s-test-if-this-is-a-dream-lol-yep-it-is moment in that entire sequence.
The story ended and the plucky underdog who came out of nowhere to play the game of his life eventually lost the Big Game. He didn’t even get the girl afterwards either (she’s dating another athlete now).
Let's go right to the hot subject shall we?
(FWIW I doubt we'll get Old Butthead out of Arkansas)
Fun Times in Cleveland: If you're in a certain radius of Cleveland you're probably seeing this ad I made last week linking to a January 12 MGoEvent. That's because the Cleveland Alumni Association is having Brian, myself, John U. Bacon, and former player Thom Darden at the Winking Lizard in Bedford to talk football and hoops, then watch the college football NC game. You get zero points for pointing out one of those speakers isn't likely to be as interesting as the rest.
CC: We probably don't need to keep labeling things with the "Coaching Change" tag, since it's pretty on-topic. Then again, it's useful so I guess keep it up. Also useful: all the reader content on candidates. Eye of the Tiger keeps ranking the top 12, which is as good a starting spot as any. He also continued his CC roundups with the fringe guys, getting only as far as Bob Stitt before getting into the jokes (Schiano, Chryst, Butthead, and Lane Kiffin). ReadYourGuard (a guy who played with Harbaugh by the way) recapped the firing process from Concussionaganza to today.
|But what if Mullen is actually just like his old boss except fiercely ethical, and we get another 10-year war before Urban assaults a Clemson player? Did you think of that? [AP via NBC]|
The other guy who's been providing consistent content on coach candidates is alum96, who went through the Football Outsiders stats on Dan Mullen, comparing him to Kevin Sumlin's star last year and suggesting the MSU (NTMSU) success comes from schedules with very few comparable teams:
12.5 months ago Mullen was sporting a 4-6 record with 2 games to go in year FIVE of his regime. Those 4 wins were over baby seals Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green,and soon to be 2-10 Kentucky. He did beat 3-9 Arkansas and won the Egg Bowl over 8-5 Ole Miss to finish off the year 6-6 before the bowl. So his regular season included 1 win of note...in year 5. Bret Bielema has done better in year 2 of his regime at Arkansas IMO in terms of upsets.
Miss State seemed to play a lot of really awful teams (which they beat) and a lot of really good conference teams (which they almost always lost to). The gist of the concern here is it may take Mullen four years to build a winner, by which time Michigan will have found enough reasons to run him out of town like we did the last two dudes.
I don't think it will take so long. Brady Hoke has left a team in relatively good shape; in the years to come we'll be talking about the devastating 2015 class (which fell apart because Hoke didn't win in 2013 and 2014), quarterback, and the safety and defensive line depth charts, the latter of which is another losing-related thing. As for the offensive talent, these guys were actually kinda good at running zone by the end of the season; you can absolutely teach them to do that in a spread offense. Also offensive line starts happen to be one of the better predictors of offensive success, and Michigan returns a ton of them in 2015 and 2016.
Shane Morris would probably fare better in a spread because the decisions are way easier, his legs are good enough to be something defenses have to account for, and his arm is more than adequate to be scary downfield. Malzone's talents are best used in a passing spread.
Etc. CLord on the karmic relevance of OSU maybe missing the playoffs for JT Barrett's injury. Basketball stats so far. Best and Worst. Inside the Box Score. Coach Schiano muses about stuff while waiting for the splosions.
[Jump for, well, more CC]
PULL THE STRINGS. There was another round of echo-chamber Carrspiracy stuff on the various message boards over the past couple days. No idea why, unless Brian Griese expressing his opinion that he wouldn't go after Harbaugh is reason to envision Carr as a puppet master cackling behind the scenes. For the nth time, Carr is a civilian who only talks to the athletic department when they call him up. That is not frequently.
And then there's this, via Craig Ross by way of Sam Webb:
“I am not involved in the coaching search in any direct way,” Carr said. “However, I have been asked my opinion. My opinion was Jim Harbaugh would be my number one choice.”
We've confirmed with a few different sources that any animosities between former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr and Harbaugh have been mended, and very recently. Carr's influence at this point is unknown, but it's believed he had a hand in the hiring of Brady Hoke during the last coaching search, and there's been a history of a tenuous relationship between the two since Harbaugh's comments about Michigan football and academics when he coached at Stanford. This is mostly important in the idea that there's no doubt Harbaugh will be Michigan's top target when the job opens up, and it's looking more and more like it will be a full group effort with all the oars rowing in the same direction. That makes this likely coaching search different than the last two already.
Even that bit about "having a hand" in the last search conflicts with my information, in which Carr was asked if he thought Brady was a good dude and said yes because everyone says yes to that question.
Carr is not interested in machinations. Michigan might be better off if he was—if he was inclined to call his guys up and get them to toe the line. But that's not who he is, for better or worse. I look forward to my next item pointlessly begging the internet to stop it with the Carrmason stuff. Y'all should get a pool going. I've got two hours ago.
TIMEFRAMES. Hackett met with the players yesterday and told them they'd have a new coach within a month:
"He wasn't overly specific," one person said. "But he mentioned that in all likelihood the whole situation will be resolved before the players return from their Christmas break."
That would be the start of the new semester on January 4th, a timeline long enough to resolve the Harbaugh issue. Or it could happen any time before that.
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. Zero clarity. Sam threw some cold water on the idea($), citing a couple of sources who think it's going to be tougher than they previously thought. His best guess is still Harbaugh, FWIW. Those are gentlemen who have talked to Harbaugh directly, so I would take that seriously. Gregg Henson, who's been beating the ITSHAPPENING.gif drum harder than anyone for a solid month now, is also walking his position back a bit.
On the other hand, Rivals is emitting the kind of ambiguously encouraging bits that have little information content—they're enough to get people in frenzy mode but laden with plausible deniability. There was poll on their board about what people would do in the event of a Harbaugh hire; it was heavy on the wink-wink with "but it's still a coinflip" attached. That link above is to a "you're gonna like Jim Hackett!" tweet. I mean… cumong, man.
If Harbaugh doesn't end up at M a ton of people are going to be pissed at them and they'll blame the people who are praising them to the heavens now, just like they strenuously denied that Harbaugh and Brandon had a problem working together until the instant Brandon left.
But that's none of my business.
The upshot here: Sam's hearing stuff that we don't want to hear, Henson is still pretty gung ho but hearing some things that give him pause, and Rivals is on the optimistic side. 247 has not ventured anything($) resembling a "probably" or "probably not," which is where I'm at, too: at this point it feels like Harbaugh's yes or no is about which neurons fire in his brain at the critical moment.
Meanwhile, Wojo details why things might go better this time:
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett knows it can't be cursory, which was the case four years ago. Dave Brandon didn't want to play the wooing game and cede control. But now Michigan football sits at another dangerous juncture, and while Harbaugh isn't the only prime candidate, he's the first and best one, an instant infusion of energy and credibility. And I doubt he'd use his alma mater simply to get a better deal elsewhere. I think he'd tell Michigan if he weren't interested, and he hasn't done that yet.
Wojo's "sense" is that Michigan would pay in the Urban Meyer range, which is kind of close to the Godfather offer reports.
STOOPS STOOPS STOOPS. Also zero clarity, with plenty of people saying there's no way and plenty of other people saying that this might be a point at which a mutual separation from Oklahoma makes sense.
I personally doubt it's feasible because of the Florida search, but as I mentioned in the comments of the Mullen PIH "Jeremy Foley is not good at his job" is a reasonable explanation for a lot of Florida's actions over the last five years, so it is possible that they just overlooked the possibility. Also, Stoops has a game this weekend and may be evaluating his situation more closely afterward.
Stoops's justifiably pissy reaction to the "ARE U JOB X" question sticks out, though. Chatter is just chatter.
ON THE RADAR. A group of guys appear to be filling out the B list:
- JIM MORA, UCLA. Sam Webb broached his name in an article, and now Cowherd's chattering about a secret Michigan candidate who is thankfully not Greg Schiano. Cowherd is based in LA and would have more reason to know about a guy in LA; I've also gotten a little chatter to that effect. Former M OL Courtney Morgan is on Mora's staff, so he could be a point of contact. Sam also points out that Mora and Mike DeBord were on the same Seahawks staff($) five or so years ago.
- KYLE WHITTINGHAM, UTAH. Wittingham's well-known to the Michigan brass after multiple encounters with him in the recent past and has a solid resume. Poachability is a bit of an issue, and Utah had a rough transition to the Pac-12, but he's a solid option Sam says is getting some chatter from the West.
- DAN MULLEN, MSU. Sam says that "surprisingly enough," Mullen is getting attention. That this would be surprising bothers me, but there it is.
- STEVE ADDAZIO, BC. I hate this idea but it has enough chatter that someone somewhere clearly has him on the list. Again, Addazio is 55 and is coming off consecutive seven-win seasons at BC; he was the disastrous follow-up to Mullen as Florida OC. He makes no sense unless Mullen is off the table.
- Butch Jones is seemingly also a person of interest, but with Tennessee preparing to give him an extension after a 6-6 year when he's got four years left on his contract it looks like the Vols are trying to block interest before it gets started. Carr also pumped up Art Briles to Craig Ross when they talked, which is pretty interesting. Unfortunately you have to figure that if Briles wanted to leave Waco he'd be the guy at Texas right now.
OKAY THEN. Someone asked Teryl Austin about the Michigan job, and this is an actual-denial denial:
But Austin says he has no interest in pursuing the Wolverines' head coaching position, which opened after the firing of Brady Hoke earlier this week.
"No," he said. "I'm interested in this (Lions) job."
Michigan going after someone in his first successful season as a coordinator (and second overall) was a monster longshot anyway.
SORRY, THAT'S NOT ALL OF US. Local New Orleans reporter on the Sean Payton loves hotdogs thing:
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherMackel) December 4, 2014
Rivals broadened their hot board in response… by adding Mike Tomlin and Josh McDaniels.