Duke brings its collection of highly-touted freshmen to Madison, WI (source)
*I had my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday, so getting this together took longer than expected. Apologies. – Alex
Table of Contents
Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
Game previews: Tuesday
Game previews: Wednesday
Nebraska and Rutgers bring home wins
Tom Crean’s seat might be getting warmer
Holiday hoops recap – Part I
Holiday hoops recap – Part II
Holiday hoops recap – Part III
1. Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
As usual, the annual competition between the Big Ten and the ACC brings some of the most intriguing non-conference fixtures on the college basketball schedule. Unlike early-season tournaments or games at one-off neutral site venues, these will be played on campus – intersectional matchups between some of the most talented and prestigious teams in all of college hoops. As an added bonus, it provides 14 more data-points in the comparative analysis of conference strength.
The headliner of this slate of games is one of the best college basketball games of the year, on paper: two top five teams—Duke, led by possibly the best pro prospect in the country (Jahlil Okafor) travels to face Wisconsin, a veteran team coming off of a Final Four bid. Okafor, a mammoth center with precocious skill and coordination, matches up against Preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky, a versatile inside-out scoring five. Duke’s Justice Winslow meets Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker – both will likely be future NBA players, both are athletic, long wings who can score, defend, and rebound. Senior point guards Quinn Cook and Traevon Jackson form an intriguing matchup. This game – televised Wednesday at 9:30 E.T. on ESPN – is simply a must-watch.
With 14 games total, there are plenty more compelling matchups: Ohio State’s young squad faces its first real trip with a trip just south to face a vaunted Louisville team; Michigan welcomes an unusually inexperienced Syracuse team to Ann Arbor and will look to crack its characteristic 2-3 zone; Illinois and Miami – both undefeated – have a chance to enhance their upstart status; in a matchup of former conference foes, Virginia – and their unaesthetic brand of basketball – heads to Maryland (who will unfortunately be without the injured Dez Wells); Iowa has an opportunity to steal an upset at North Carolina; and Michigan State rekindles a football rivalry with Notre Dame – now a basketball member in the ACC.
This is one of the best short stretches of college basketball in terms of unique, high-level matchups, with the added element of conference camaraderie thrown in. Other leagues have since replicated the ACC – Big Ten Challenge, but this is still one of college basketball’s marquee events.
[AFTER THE JUMP: ACC—B1G analysis, recapping holiday tournaments]
Michigan (5-1) vs.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -3 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich
It's B1G/ACC Challenge season, and the good guys have jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead after two road victories last night: Nebraska over Florida State in what was expected to be a toss-us and Rutgers over Clemson in LOLOLOLOL (seriously, RU had a 19% chance at winning, according to KenPom). Before last night's hilarity, the ACC was a slight favorite to win the challenge; that is no longer the case.
Also, it'd be quite nice for Michigan to tally one of those signature non-conference wins that always helps with eventual NCAA seeding. This is their best shot, as the road trip to Arizona in a couple weeks looks much less winnable.
Derrick Walton will be a game-time decision after missing the Nicholls State contest with what is either a sprain or turf toe. DJ Wilson is out for 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee; Michigan is exploring the possibility of a redshirt, which would probably be best for all involved given how unready he's looked in limited minutes so far—a hypothetical fifth year for Wilson would serve this program much better than what he's likely to provide this season.
Syracuse isn't injury-free, either. Starting three Tyler Roberson's status is up in the air due to a "strained muscle" that's kept him out of the last two games. I'm including him in the lineup card in case he can go but Jim Boeheim has "no idea" if he'll play tonight.
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||14||Kaleb Joseph||Fr.||6'3, 165||82||20||Yes|
|Top-50 recruit off to rocky start; high assist rate but huge turnover rate.|
|G||10||Trevor Cooney*||Jr.||6'4, 195||83||15||Kinda|
|Mostly a 3-pt shooter, but iffy one; has been getting to rim and converting well.|
|F||21||Tyler Roberson||So.||6'8, 212||35||20||Very|
|Rebounds well; otherwise struggled before injury. Bit player as freshman.|
|F||5||Chris McCullough||Fr.||6'10, 212||82||23||Yes|
|5-star, great shot-blocker, nice steal rate, good rebounder, finisher with a midrange game.|
|C||25||Rakeem Christmas*||Sr.||6'9, 250||71||27||Very|
|Beast. Huge rebound #s, top-50 block rate, shooting 57% with a high FT rate.|
|F||0||Michael Gbinije||Jr.||6'7, 200||53||17||Yes|
|Will start if Roberson can't; struggling with offense (esp. 3-pt shooting) but good on D.|
|F||2||BJ Johnson||So.||6'7, 185||53||19||Yes|
|Good rebounder, can block shots, also really struggling to put the ball thru the hoop.|
|G||4||Ron Patterson||So.||6'2, 200||25||16||Yes|
|Playing limited minutes as backup PG; okay AST/TO, woeful shooting (3/17 FG).|
Syracuse is currently a team that does a couple things quite well while otherwise struggling, although one of those things they do quite well is "defense," which is rather important; the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone is still vaunted indeed. They're #5 in defensive efficiency on KenPom with top-50 marks in all of the defensive four factors. They're not nearly so good on offense, as the lineup card might've led you to believe, but they've managed to avoid turnovers and crash the glass with aplomb, so despite horrendous outside shooting they're the #86 offense nationally at the moment—not great, but certainly good enough with that defense.
The dangerman is undoubtedly Rakeem Christmas, last year's starting center who's slid down to the four, taken on a larger role, and thrived. Offensively he does almost all of his damage at the basket, either by bulling his way to the hoop or putting back one of his many offensive rebounds; as you'd expect from a burly rim-crasher, he also draws quite a few fouls, and he shoots a respectable 70% at the line. On defense, he's also very good on the boards, and he's recorded 15 blocks through six games (though six of those came agaisnt lowly Loyola). One potential area to exploit: Chrismas has committed four or more fouls in all but one game this season, when he had... three. Getting him off the floor would be huge, obviously.
Unfortunately, Syracuse has a five-star freshman standing at 6'10" to help Christmas off the wing or slide into the middle as need be. Chris McCullough also has 15 blocks on the year with impressive rebounding rates (especially on offense). He's hitting 58% of his shots, and unlike Christmas his range extends beyond the paint; he's even hit his lone three-point attempt this year, though most of his shots come at the basket. He's drawing fouls at nearly the same rate as Christmas, but he's hitting only 62% of his free throws and he's also more turnover-prone.
The team's third player designated as a significant offensive contributor is top-50 freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, who's had a somewhat rough adjustment to the college game. While he's hitting half his shots (almost exclusively twos) and dishing out nearly six assists per game, he's also turning the ball over at a very high rate—his only games with fewer than four turnovers have come against Hampton and Loyola.
Shooting guard Trevor Cooney is a player you may remember from Michigan's Final Four victory over the Orange in 2013; a high-volume, low-efficiency outside shooter off the bench then, he's now starting, and while he's diversified his game a bit—he's getting to the rim more than he used to—his shot is still quite iffy; including his 9/33 mark this year, he's a career 34% three-point shooter.
There's the aforementioned uncertainty at the three. Starter Tyler Roberson may or may not be able to go with an abdominal strain; in very limited action over the last two years, he's been a good rebounder and a very inefficient scorer. If Roberson can't play, Michael Gbinije should start; he's not remotely on Roberson's level as a rebounder, and while he's hit 10/19 twos this year, he's off to a very rough 2/16 start from beyond the arc.
The Syracuse bench doesn't factor in much at all; despite Roberson's starting-when-he's-healthy minutes getting counted as bench minutes on KemPom, the Orange still rank 304th in bench minutes. BJ Johnson is another lanky wing who's struggling offensively. Ron Patterson will briefly spell Joseph at the point; he's been a little more responsible with the ball but can hardly hit a shot to save his life this season (3/17 FG). That's as deep as Jim Boeheim has reached into his bench against the two major-conference foes they've faced this season.
Sample size caveat still applies.
So, yeah, that 2-3 is liable to tear your face off. Opponents are hitting just 38.5% of their two-pointers against Syracuse (19%[!!!] of shots inside the arc are blocked by the Orange), second-chance oppotunities are scarce, and turnovers are abundant. Michigan has the two keys to beating that zone, however: excellent outside shooting and an aversion to turnovers. The Orange have allowed a very high number of three-point attempts, and while opponents are hitting just 26.6% of them, that number's not going to hold even if Cuse is guarding the perimeter well.
The Syracuse offense, at this point, is predicated on second chances; that eFG% is ugly, but the rebounding rate should be a concern, especially since M struggled mightily to keep the other excellent offensive rebounding team they've faced (Oregon) from getting putback opportunities. Cuse is actually shooting the ball pretty well inside the arc (52.4%), but have been beyond bad from outside of it (19.8%); that latter figure should rise even though Syracuse doesn't boast much at all in the way of shooters.
Work from the middle. As we learned when Mitch McGary played like Magic Johnson in Michigan's Final Four triumph, the best way to break down the 2-3 zone is to get the ball into the middle, cause the defense to collapse, and find open shooters. The big issue for Michigan is how they'll accomplish this; Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle aren't ready to fill that McGary role, so they'll have to get creative, most likely by having their wings—especially Caris LeVert—cut to the middle and distribute from there.
Collapse inside. Syracuse is going to have to prove they can hit an outside shot. Michigan is probably going to need to give defensive help on Christmas and McCullough, not to mention throw everything they have at the boards to make sure those guys don't get second chances. Against this team, giving up open looks from the outside isn't the worst thing in the world; more important is making sure they go one-and-out on as many possessions as possible.
Pressure Joseph. Syracuse doesn't turn the ball over much with the notable exception of their freshman point guard, who's doing so quite a bit. Whether or not Walton is available, M should be able to turn up the heat on Joseph—or unleash Spike Albrecht on the passing lanes, as he does—and getting some easy transition points would be huge against a team that doesn't give much up in the halfcourt.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 3.
If Walton can't play, that obviously changes things, but Michigan's decided edge in shooting ability could make the difference either way.
RATS. You're no fun, N582CJ.
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. First, this is completely false:
Multiple sources I spoke with told me Jim Harbaugh has already told Michigan that he is not a candidate.
I know from people who have talked directly to Harbaugh that he has interest in the job and is telling Michigan that. The concern previously was that Michigan was not reaching out in any sort of semi-official manner. 247 reported earlier this week that bridge-mending was going on between Carr and Harbaugh.
This may be a he-said-she-said battle of the sources, but look at it from Harbaugh's perspective (or possibly his agent's). Harbaugh is under contract; the 49ers may try to trade him; any trade necessarily hampers his ability to win at the new place; the possibility of leaving for Michigan brings the price down and improves his leverage. Even if Harbaugh had 0.0% interest in returning to college he would not be telling people that.
And unless he's flat out lying to multiple former teammates that's not the case. If so, this is the appropriate GIF.
With that in mind, I'm not inclined to take the rest of Scott Roussel's alarming post seriously. His previous report about Hackett informing the regents he had not found anyone who could do the AD job at Michigan was 90% crap. It is a funhouse mirror version of the truth in which Michigan has decided that they should use Hackett for a transitional period specifically because football has a hiring season and they don't want to throw a guy in right now and expect him to get the thing right. Hackett's timeframe here is not likely to last past the summer.
The feedback I heard isn’t going to excite many at Michigan; in fact, one source was very blunt, saying “Michigan is struggling to find their next head coach.”
Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett and senior assistant athletic director Mike DeBord have spoken with a number of potential candidates is the what I’m told; and the reception thus far hasn’t been positive. We are told that the Michigan administration was hoping to have largely have their man identified by now and that does not appear to be the case as calls were ongoing yesterday.
This is how coaching searches go, and this year was particularly likely to end up with a lot of thanks-but-no-thanks calls as Michigan checks on Stoops, Patterson, Gundy, and maybe Shaw or Richt just in case. Florida got a head start and has already passed through this phase. Check out the names for Gainesville later in this post; they are not exactly A-listers for a job that's at least on par with Michigan.
After this period Michigan will get down to identifying a real set of candidates that are not ensconced at stable programs. Roussel does say that Michigan check on Butch Jones and he "won't be a candidate," and I believe that. It is a specific piece of information that I have not had directly refuted to me multiple times.
ON LES MILES. That story also has a bit on Les Miles. It is correct that there's a great divide in the program alumni about Miles, but it also asserts that Michigan would avoid him because of the chance they get turned down humiliatingly. That would not happen. If Miles is offered the job he would come.
Personally, I'm not enthralled with a 61-year-old who's been the subject of an OTL episode about cutting players, coming off a meh year and possibly the downside. But he'd come. Assertions to the contrary are from the camp that doesn't like Miles because of the way he and Carr have butted heads over the years.
THINK OF THE THE SCION IN CHARGE. Last week's deflating loss against Seattle caused the 49ers' owner to tweet something about how it was "unacceptable," leading to a veritable e-kerfuffle. Jed York was seen talking to the GM! A teenage girl said something nasty about Greg Roman! Dark days. Speculation about an immediate firing was faintly ridiculous then and more so a few days later.
In the aftermath Adam Schefter reported that Harbaugh's fate would be determined after the season and that the Raiders and Jets were the favorites to land him.In general, NFL sources are swearing up and down that nobody leaves the NFL on purpose. Historically, they're correct. But I roll my eyes when they start making those assertions about Harbaugh staying on the West Coast because his wife likes In And Out.
There is a large complicating factory with talk about the Raiders that national guys completely overlook. Tim Kawakami:
I doubt York wants to see Harbaugh coaching the Raiders, wherever they end up playing in 2015–and remember, there is a possibility the Raiders play in Santa Clara for a few years.
Harbaugh coaching the Raiders in Santa Clara? That is NOT what Jed York wants, though who knows, he might Tweet something to clarify all this.
Underestimating the petulance of the extremely rich is never wise. Where would York prefer Harbaugh to be: Oakland or Michigan?
PLAN B? With Harbaugh uncertain, Michigan is going to need to do groundwork to have a set of alternate candidates in place to prevent a repeat of the 2007 search, in which ideas after Les Miles ranged from "uhhhhhhh" to "wellllllll". Oh, and the 2011 search, in which ideas after Jim Harbaugh ranged from "welllllll" to "welllllll". Who might those guys be?
I think you can strike everyone who may or may not be available. Early returns from not only the Michigan search but the Florida search indicate that the Petersen will-he-or-won't-he types are firmly in the NOPE camp. So who might Michigan look at after you excise the Gundy/Patterson types? I have no idea. I hope Jim Hackett does.
I don't think Les Miles is going to be the guy. There is a ton of opposition to him that would be difficult to overcome. After that you're outside the realm of guys who got yelled at by Bo.
Obviously, Dan Mullen is a guy you have to kick the tires on. The recent issue with a QB getting his offer pulled looks bad; you have to get Mullen's side of that, as he's prevented by NCAA rule from offering it publicly. Lloyd Carr had a few incidents in which he got blasted by recruits that I don't think were entirely, or even mostly, on him. In this case Mullen asked the guy to grayshirt out of the blue, which is not kosher but isn't as bad as a total kiss-off.
After Mullen it's down to flier types and coordinators. And extremely angry unemployed guys. You know me: I prefer the coordinator/innovator route to a guy with veins permanently etched on his forehead.
WHAT'S GOING ON AT FLORIDA? A reported 4 million dollar offer to Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze resulted in a raise and extension for—surprise!—another Jimmy Sexton client. Florida sources are chalking that up to Ole Miss getting Sexton'd; the SBNation reporter who broke the news is standing by the report since these days a coaching 'offer' is only definitively given to the guy that gets the job. And I see his point.
But whatever, Freeze seems off the table. The current names are:
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a consideration, according to one source, confirming a report by Football Scoop, although there is concern regarding McDaniels' availability to join Florida immediately upon his hire. The Ohio native and longtime Bill Belichick assistant has not coached in college since a stint as a graduate assistant at Nick Saban's Michigan State, and his only head coaching experience came in 2009 and 2010 with the Denver Broncos.
This is good news from our perspective since none of those names seem like they would become prominent here in the event M strikes out on Harbaugh. I'd be shocked if Patterson was available for anyone; McElwain's reported $7.5 million buyout is offputting when there are guys with better track records who would require less outlay.
And then there's Josh McDaniels. That is particularly bats. He's barely coached in college and has made his name coaching Tom Brady from 2004 on, after the point at which Tom Brady's QB coach was himself. His brief foray as the Broncos head coach ended before two years were up; he had one year as the Rams' OC, and now he's back under Belicheck's wing. He is 1000% flier.