#39 Michigan (11-5, 1-2 B1G) at
#71 Illinois (11-5, 1-2 B1G)
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Wednesday|
Illinois -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -2 (Bovada)
PBP: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Seth Davis
Right: Tracy Abrams, who's still playing for Illinois, guarding a sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
As mentioned in yesterday's Basketbullets, Michigan is already edging towards "must-win" territory in games like this if they want to make the tournament.
This may go into the feelingsball realm, but Michigan has to play with a sense of urgency—especially on defense, where M's effort level seems to directly correlate with their success—that will match that of their opponent. Illinois is in virtually the same position; both teams are 1-2 in the Big Ten and among the last four teams to make the Bracket Matrix field. The Illini desperately need this home win. The Wolverines desperately need their first true road win of the season.
Both KenPom (Illinois -1) and Bovada (Michigan -2) have this as a virtual toss-up. While I hate myself for typing this, the team that plays like they want it the most should be the one that maintains their tenuous grasp on a tourney spot for at least another few days.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. 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. It's a free country.
|G||13||Tracy Abrams||Gr.||6'2, 185||66||20||111||No|
|Robbie Hummel, Guard Edition. Learned how to shoot while hurt, somehow.|
|G||5||Jalen Coleman-Lands||So.||6'3, 190||63||17||98||No|
|Just A Shooter™ beginning to heat up after a rough start to season.|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Sr.||6'6, 225||81||27||119||No|
|High-usage and efficient, versatile scorer. Draws a ton of fouls.|
|F||12||Leron Black||So.||6'7, 220||44||24||106||Very|
|Excellent rebounder on both ends. Decent finisher who gets to line.|
|C||33||Mike Thorne||Gr.||6'11, 280||37||20||105||Very|
|Decent rebounder, good finisher, bad FT shooter, not a rim protector despite size.|
|F||43||Michael Finke||So.||6'10, 230||51||18||101||No|
|Stretch four with career 52/36/64 shooting splits. Good offensive rebounder.|
|C||22||Maverick Morgan||Sr.||6'10, 245||43||20||107||Very|
|Good finisher and shot-blocker, not much of a rebounder.|
|G||1||Jaylon Tate||Sr.||6'3, 170||50||15||92||Yes|
|6-for-56 on threes in career, so he'll probably hit four of them tonight.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Orange Bowl grading. The PFF takes will not surprise you:
Michigan’s offense was completely overmatched against the Seminoles’ dominant front-seven, and the Wolverines earned well below-average grades for team run blocking and team pass protection. All five offensive linemen, fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi and tight ends Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley all earned below-average run-blocking grades
Woooooof. It is a good thing that Drevno has a track record that allows him to deflect most of that to the previous regime, but even with that track record I can see a bunch of discontent popping up next year when he's (probably) starting a true freshman again. Why does every departing coach at Michigan have to leave a ticking timebomb on the OL? This is three straight:
- Lloyd Carr's last team dug Alex Mitchell out of retirement so he could get rolled like everyone else against OSU and gave Rich Rodriguez seven scholarship OL.
- Rich Rod had a recruiting class with one OL, who was medicaled after a year. The next one saw him bring in an OG who quit football a week into fall camp.
- Hoke at least tried, but his 6-OL class looks like it's petering out into zero starters and the numbers after that were far from sufficient.
All the evidence you need about Hoke's OL recruiting is the projected number of Hoke-era OL who will be starters in Harbaugh year three: one.
Anyway, the defense was terrific. So hooray.
Draft in or out: mostly out. NFL decisions for 2017 Michigan opponents are rolling in. Gentlemen who are headed for the draft:
- Florida: LB Alex Anzalone, DT Caleb Brantley, CB Teez Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson
- OSU: WR Noah Brown(?!), RB/WR Curtis Samuel, CB Gareon Conley, S Malik Hooker, LB Raekwon McMillan
- PSU: WR Chris Godwin, DE Garrett Sickels, LB Nyeem Wartman-White
- MSU: DT Malik McDowell, S Montae Nicholson
- Northwestern: LB Anthony Walker
- Wisconsin: LB TJ Watt, OT Ryan Ramcyzk
- Indiana: LB Marcus Oliver(?!), RB Devine Redding(!?!)
JT Barrett, Jason Cabinda, and Josey Jewell have announced returns. Michigan got good news from Mason Cole and Maurice Hurst and less good news from Jabrill Peppers; OSU is also expected to lose CB Marshon Lattimore.
Draft stock, meanwhile. Taco Charlton has cracked a couple of first-round mock drafts to pay attention to. PFF has him 29th:
Charlton was having a strong season then took his game to a new level down the stretch, grading as our No. 4 edge defender from Week 9 through the end of the season. He was strong against the run and disruptive as a pass-rusher, picking up eight sacks, 10 hits and 32 hurries on only 251 rushes, and his two-year production is among the best in the nation.
Meanwhile Todd McShay shot him all the way up to 13th:
Charlton finished the season on a tear, compiling 10 sacks in his final 10 games. He has always had the raw ability, but this season, he showed more consistency and refined technique. Charlton has the ability to be an edge defender in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme in the NFL.
He was 26th in late December. Peppers is still 8th to McShay; PFF has him a late first-rounder. Lewis is hanging around the middle of the first round, usually.
Coordinator lockdown. Michigan is going to lose coaches on a regular basis, because Harbaugh. They've set out to lock down their coordinators, though. Don Brown got a five year, $1.5 million deal that is certainly unprecedented for a Michigan assistant coach and may be unprecedented nationwide. I don't think I've ever heard of an assistant getting a five year deal.
Soon after, Tim Drevno got a five year, $1 million deal. Drevno might leave for a head coaching job at some point, but if it's not a P5 gig he'll be taking a paycut.
Rumors that Ty Wheatley might be a candidate at WMU seem to have petered out, FWIW.
Making football more like debate. Nate Silver did things approximately as nerdy as I did in high school, and they even had similar tournament formats:
The solution that debate tournaments devised is something called power-pairing. Power-pairing just means that teams with the same record are paired off against each other, so that a team that starts off the tournament 2-0 will face off against another 2-0 team, for instance. It usually works by drawing the first two rounds of a tournament at random,1 and after that, everything is power-paired.
This turns out to be a surprisingly elegant solution. It helps to make the matchups relatively even, which not only helps students to learn more but also usually tells you more in determining the best teams. Furthermore, the pairings are somewhat self-correcting. Suppose a good team happens to randomly draw very tough opponents in its first two rounds and gets off to an 0-2 start. They’ll receive some compensation by being paired with easier opponents the rest of the way out — an 0-2 team and then a 1-2 team, and so forth. As another bonus to this system, the best teams are put through the gantlet and really earn their keep. A team that finishes its tournament undefeated or with just one loss will have beaten a lot of very good teams along the way.
They also did this at quiz bowl tournaments. Silver proposes a radical reshaping of Big Ten play in which each team gets three rivalry games, a couple early-season games scheduled by the previous year's standings, and then four "flex" matchups based on current standings. He's honed it fairly well:
- You know whether you're home or away in the flex weeks.
- Three rivalry weeks is enough to satisfy anyone.
- The flex matchups make late season games more meaningful.
An example of the latter point:
In our simulated season, Penn State played (and defeated) Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois, a decent group of opponents whom they didn’t play in the actual regular season, but skipped games against mediocre Indiana, Purdue and Rutgers, whom they pointlessly faced in real life.
This site has railed against 14-team conferences and plead for dynamic scheduling since their inception. To me the uptick in meaningful games and much more meaningful result is worth disrupting the hallowed season-ending rivalry weekend, but I understand if that's a bridge too far for you. I'm in, though.
BONUS reminder: this is the best way to do Big Ten basketball scheduling:
19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin.
That would be killer, man.
Oh man... oh man. Here's this!
I'm trying to think of a less appreciated Tennessee assistant football coach than Mike DeBord.
Still ... OK, I give up.
This is a guy named John Adams. He is a newspaper columnist engaging in such 1990s classics as "talking down to his readers" and "using points and yards per game," so he's a natural DeBord ally. Hell, he's still using 1990s offenses as benchmarks.
In fact, DeBord proved to be one of Jones' best hires. In his first season, he revived UT's running game, which averaged 223.7 yards per game, second in the SEC. This past season, the Vols averaged 36.4 points and 443.7 yards per game.
In 1997, with senior All-American Peyton Manning at quarterback and offensive guru David Cutcliffe calling the shots, the Vols averaged 34.3 points and 482.8 yards per game.
This will be news to Adams, Debord, and Baby Spice, but it's no longer 1997. Tennessee's offense finished 28th in S&P+, which is almost perfectly mediocre in a metric that adjusts for strength of schedule. There is a reason DeBord moved to Indiana and not up the P5 ladder.
Walker is still extant. Kareem Walker had a rough start but seems to have evened things out:
"I got a 3.0 this semester," Walker said with a smile. "At Michigan. That was like 'wow." That felt good. I worked hard for that.
"(Harbaugh) hasn't seen (the report card) yet, but I told him I about a grade I got (a while back). I had to leave practice one day for a paper and I ended up getting a B+ on that. I told him about that grade. He liked it."
There are going to be a ton of early enrollees and even so the most fascinating guy to hear about and see will probably be Walker. He was brought up unprompted by various people during bowl practices as a guy to watch, and he's a talented dude.
What went down at Minnesota. The abortive boycott after ten players were suspended in the wake of a sexual assault investigation looked terrible, and looked worse after the Title IX report was released. Tracy Claeys got fired in its wake. If you're wondering what those guys were thinking, the Pioneer Press has an extensive interview with DE Gaelin Elmore:
PP: But at any point, when Coyle comes in to explain the suspensions, did anyone think, well, he’s the AD, he knows what he’s doing?
GE: No, because his answers made it seem like he had no idea. And it was like, you’re the AD, you did this; how do you not know enough? That’s when a lot of guys were like, ‘This isn’t right.’ We had no idea. (The suspensions) came out of nowhere. If someone just has a conversation with us before (the suspensions) happen, says, “You know what? This is a Title IX, EOAA investigation, it’s really out of our hands; we’re going to suspend the guys until it’s clear,” we’d have been fine. Or even when it was released to the public, at least tell the public the kids were suspended based on the investigation that has been ongoing since Sept. 2. If that’s said, (the boycott) doesn’t happen. But none of that happened, and our team felt we had no other option.
Bad decisions with low information from the team and a Dave Brandon Classic mismanagement of the public relations from the Minnesota AD. I'm a bit surprised that PJ Fleck decided to jump into that business feet-first, but then again he is crazy.
Let's patch holes in this boat that's already on the bottom. What's worse than not enforcing any of your actual rules? Making up new ones to seem virtuous.
One of the buzz words from Tuesday's NCAA recruiting seminar is: IAWP. As part of recruiting reform, the NCAA has proposed during a two-year period before a recruit's anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the recruit's enrollment, an institution shall not employ individuals associated with a prospect (IAWP) in a non-coaching staff position.
Harbaugh's done this three times, hiring Gwen Bush, Chris Partridge, and Devin Bush Sr. All three of these people are good, and qualified for, the jobs they now have. Meanwhile half the SEC signees are getting paid. What's the point of restricting possibly dubious transactions when you are utterly incapable of enforcing the rules already on the books? Ugh. Amateurism is the worst.
Speaking of, here is a NYT article surveying CFB players on how they spend their stipends:
When the full-cost-of-attendance stipends were approved two years ago, there was worry among some college administrators that athletes would waste the money on frivolous purchases. But Georgia running back Nick Chubb said he saves his money every month, and his teammate Jeb Blazevich said he was surprised to learn how many Bulldogs send the money home to their families as soon as they receive it.
“That blew me away,” said Blazevich, a tight end from Charlotte, N.C. “That’s the thing that got me to love this team so well, just seeing these guys’ heart and sending the stipend home. These guys are good guys, and they want to do well by their family.”
Paternalistic concerns about How The Youth Will Spend Their Money are the worst arguments in favor of the current system. If they waste it all they're no worse off than they are now.
Etc.: What do you have to do to get ejected from a Philly press box? You can find out here. Rumors that Michigan-Florida might get moved to Sunday are unlikely to amount to anything. Spencer on the title game and the Rose Bowl. Smart Football on that power read pitch both teams were running in the championship game.
Bracket Watch: Getting Late Early
Regarding NCAA hopes, Michigan is backed into a corner. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After taking only one of three winnable games to start Big Ten play, Michigan has put themselves squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, and it will be difficult to recover from many more slip-ups.
Michigan is one of the last four at-large teams to make the field in the Bracket Matrix, which is updated as of last night. Of the 28 brackets that were updated yesterday, the Wolverines make only 11. As SI's Michael Beller points out in his first edition of Bubble Watch, they've left themselves with little room for error:
Michigan (11–5, 1–2) is in a similar spot [as Northwestern], without the pent-up frustration of never having made the tournament. The Wolverines did their best work to date out of conference, knocking off SMU and Marquette. But they’ve already lost to Iowa and Maryland in league play and are just 2–4 against likely or potential at-large teams. Michigan is not going to be the brand of team that can afford too many losses to teams without at-large hopes, which may end up describing both of their opponents this week, Illinois (11–5, 1–2) and Nebraska (9–7, 3–1).
That home game against Nebraska is as close to a must-win as you'll get at this point in the year. In addition to tomorrow night's game in Champaign, Michigan gets Illinois at Crisler next Saturday, and a sweep of the Illini would be of significant help; they're the last at-large team in the field on the Bracket Matrix.
Michigan needs to turn it around now because their conference schedule is brutally backloaded. They're favored on KenPom in five of their next eight games and underdogs in five of their last seven; incidentally, five of the next eight are at home and five of the last seven are on the road. Because of the number of coin-flip (or close) games, KenPom currently projects Michigan to finish 9-9 in conference, which would likely put them right on the bubble with a little work to do in the conference tournament. As esteemed Maize Rager and numbers-cruncher Crisler Spidey points out, however, 8-10 is currently more likely than 10-8:
Yikes. 9-9 is now the median at 21%, and 8-10 is more likely than 10-8. Remember what I just said about exceeding expectations? That's because these are the current expectations. The Wolverines have a huge week coming up with a road game against fellow "First Four Out" team Illinois, followed by a home game against conference wild card Nebraska. I really think they need to win both to stay alive. Kenpom claims they have a 38.2% chance of winning both. There have certainly been flashes of greatness from this Michigan team, but they have yet to piece it all together for 40 minutes since the 2k Classic. Now would be an excellent time for the proverbial light to go on.
[Hit THE JUMP for some less depressing stuff, I promise.]
Farewell. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
After wrestling with a decision many thought was a foregone conclusion, Jabrill Peppers informed Sports Illustrated today that he will enter the NFL Draft:
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Peppers said. “I’m choosing between cementing my legacy as a college player and starting my pro legacy. It’s something you dream of when you were a kid. I was torn between the two.”
Peppers said he ultimately came to a decision this weekend while visiting his family in his native New Jersey. He informed Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh of his decision in a meeting in Harbaugh’s office on Monday. “He thanked me and told me it was a pleasure to coach me,” Peppers said. “I told him it was a pleasure to play for him. He molded me for the next level, that’s how he operates. He runs his program like an NFL team. He’s done more than enough to prepare me for this moment.”
Peppers leaves Michigan as a Heisman finalist and consensus All-American, not to mention one of the most explosive, versatile, and entertaining players ever to grace the field at the Big House. Whether as a hybrid linebacker or safety, he should be selected in the top half of the first round.
When a pulled hamstring kept Peppers out of the Orange Bowl, we got a preview of what the VIPER(!!!) position could look like in his absence. Sophomore-to-be Josh Metellus took most of the available snaps at the position with junior-to-be Noah Furbush providing a more traditional linebacker look against heavier sets. Sophomores Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow and freshman Jaylen Kelly-Powell will also compete for snaps as hybrid safety types, as would Willie Gay if he ends up in the 2017 class; sophomore Josh Uche will push for situational snaps as a pass-rush specialist.
While it would've been wonderful, to say the least, for Peppers to return for one more season, no reasonable person could blame him for beginning what should be a long and lucrative career in professional football. He'll be a fascinating player to follow at the next level; he was a delight to watch at Michigan.
Indiana’s De’Ron Davis and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ [Darron Cummings – AP]
Two weeks into conference play, and each team has already suffered at least one loss. By splitting a pair of games on the road against Indiana and Purdue, Wisconsin is positioning themselves well for a run to the Big Ten title, but there’s a ton of basketball left to be played, of course. Minnesota and Nebraska are pleasant surprises thus far, while Indiana and Michigan have disappointed.
Onto the biggest storylines of the week:
Wisconsin goes 1-1 in the state of Indiana
It was pretty clear that these two games would go a long way in determining Wisconsin’s Big Ten hopes; the Badgers are probably the best team in the league and, after beating Indiana but losing to Purdue, they’re in the driver’s seat for the conference now that what are likely their two toughest games are over. As of right now, Kenpom predicts that both Wisconsin and Purdue will finish atop the league with 13-5 records; because the conference is too large an unwieldy these days, there won’t be a regular season rematch between the two teams.
Wisconsin leapt out to an early lead against Indiana at Assembly Hall with a 13-0 run; although Indiana eventually was able to take a brief lead in the second half, the Badger offense was running too effectively (1.23 PPP) for IU to keep up. Ethan Happ led Wisconsin in scoring with 19 points, but more importantly held Indiana big man Thomas Bryant to just 6 points on the night. Bronson Koenig hit all five of his three point attempts and UW went 10-20 from behind the arc in total. It was the third straight loss for Indiana (though to be fair, two of them came to excellent teams) – they rebounded nicely with a comfortable home win over Illinois to get their first conference win.
Against Purdue, Happ had another standout performance – the sophomore is arguably the best player in the conference (and played across from the other candidate, sophomore big man Caleb Swanigan, in that game) and scored 17 points. Happ also added six steals – as a 6’10 center – and had four assists in both games. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, his teammates were largely held in check and they combined for just two three-point makes on the game. Swanigan also played well: 18 points and 13 rebounds made for a great double-double but he did turn the ball over 8 times as well. Fellow big man Isaac Haas, who now comes off the bench, chipped in 13 points for the Boilermakers.
There’s a four-way tie for first place in the conference right now but Wisconsin is favored in each remaining game, per Kenpom, and has less than a 60% chance of winning just two of those games.
[More on the week that was after the JUMP]
If you read last week’s roundtable and you’re anything like me, you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about different line combinations and wondering who might be able to slide where and which guys are most ready to see the field right now. That’s where Youtube comes in.
Cesar Ruiz is purported to be one of the more college-ready linemen in the 2017 class, which is something of an OL luxury for Michigan if that does end up panning out. Ruiz earning the starting nod at center would allow them to move Mason Cole out to tackle if need be; yes, that’s putting the cart before the horse, but you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t a cart-before-horse-putter now and then. Thankfully, Ruiz went to IMG Academy. IMG has a number of games on the youtubes, and a week without hockey to GBGA presents a perfect opportunity to take an every-snap look at the nation’s composite best overall center.
I couldn’t find a full game where Ruiz was lined up across from a DI nose tackle, but the Cetennial game cut-up below does feature a two-star 3-4 DE in BYU commit Seleti Fevaleaki. On top of that, the game itself was incredible. It was a true shootout, with the teams practically trading touchdowns and extra points until there were just 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. IMG converted on 3rd-and-16 with a 38-yard heave into the end zone; they then decided to go for the two-point conversion (and likely win). They converted, Centennial’s Hail Marys fell short, and IMG held on in a fashion befitting the teams that would end the season ranked third (IMG) and eighth (Centennial) nationally in USA Today’s HS poll.
[Hit THE JUMP for the scouting report]