well that's just, like, your opinion, man
At the time of this writing, we’re 2-for-3 in close games, with Duke getting everything they can handle from UNC Wilmington and UConn and Colorado heading down to the wire after a back-and-forth game. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at today’s later games:
3. Miami – 14. Buffalo (6:50, TNT)
After a down year in which Miami missed the NCAA Tournament, Jim Larranaga has quietly put together one of the better teams in college basketball: the Canes finished tied for second in the ACC and show good balance on both sides of the floor (though they’re slightly better on offense). I was actually lucky enough to catch a Miami game in person this year – unsurprisingly, attendance was sparse in Coral Gables – and they have three exceptional players: point guard Angel Rodriguez (formerly of Kansas State) is a consummate floor general, close to the platonic ideal of the undersized college PG; Sheldon McClellan is a fringe NBA prospect with great shooting splits on high usage; big man Tonye Jekiri is a long seven-footer who puts in the work as a rim-protector and offensive rebounder, but also can hit mid-range jumpers. Miami is a veteran team that could make a run.
Their opponents are back in the tournament for the second consecutive year, as Buffalo has been able to continue the momentum even after the departure of coach Bobby Hurley. The Bulls finished tied for third in the MAC East, but upset the class of the MAC – Akron – in the conference tournament championship. Miami is the best team that Buffalo has faced all year and the Bulls were blown out by all of their quality non-conference competition, but they return many of the same pieces that almost upset West Virginia a year ago.
[After the JUMP: more previews]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. As we settle into our “sick” days or prep the clandestine CBS browser window, let’s take a look at which games we should keep an eye on for this, one of the most wonderful days in American sports. Even though – unfortunately – some of the best games look to be the latest (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less), take heart in the fact that these games rarely follow the script and chaos can erupt anywhere at any time.
Here’s a look at today’s first 8 games:
4. Duke – 13. UNC Wilmington (12:15, CBS)
A year after a national title, it’s been a pedestrian season by Duke’s standard: a frighteningly shallow rotation and inexperience left the Blue Devils tied for fifth in the ACC. Serial tripper and classic Duke White Guy Grayson Allen has moved from the end of the rotation to be the featured guard (and has since played at an All-American level); one-and-done freshman Brandon Ingram plays as a stretch-4 and his skill-set mixed with his extremely lanky frame has drawn optimistic Kevin Durant comparisons; yes, there is another Plumlee.
It’s a rare game where a have-not gets to take on an in-state blue-blood – UNC Wilmington split the CAA regular-season title and won the rubber-match against co-champion Hofstra in overtime in the conference title game. The Seahawks favor an egalitarian approach on offense and feature a deep bench, but allow the second-most free throws of any team in the country – and their opponents are known to get more than their fair share of whistles.
Once the next game starts, consider flipping to it, but Duke – UNC Wilmington is positively dripping with schadenfreude potential so don’t stray too far.
8. Texas Tech – 9. Butler (12:40, tru TV)
While Minnesota is the worst Big Ten team (outside of Rutgers, obviously) under Richard Pitino, former Gopher coach Tubby Smith has taken the Texas Tech Red Raiders to their first NCAA Tournament in almost a decade despite starting 3-7 in conference play. Tech boasts a strong trio of guards: senior Toddrick Gotcher is the team’s best shooter, Keenan Evans gets to the free throw line a ton, and Devaugntah Williams is a defensive specialist. As a team, TTU’s strength is their free throw shooting: they were the second-best in the Big 12 in getting to the charity stripe and the best at converting those opportunities.
Butler’s third season in the New Big East has mostly been a success: even though they were swept by the league’s elite (Villanova and Xavier), they have two wins over Seton Hall, and possess non-conference wins over Cincinnati and Purdue. The player to watch in this game is Roosevelt Jones, an anachronistic bully-ball lead guard who’s seemingly been at Butler forever and never shoots threes despite standing at just 6’4. He’s flanked by an array of shooters, most notably Kellen Dunham.
This 8/9 game is more appealing than the other one in this window; Texas Tech and Butler are decidedly offense-first teams and should provide a competitive game. One thing that could prove to be decisive is the Red Raiders’ weakness on the defensive glass.
[After the JUMP: more basketball]
Zak Irvin making plays late. pic.twitter.com/R5Ia8IbGsp
— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) March 17, 2016
Zak Irvin had been, for lack of a better word, terrible. His last shot had barely grazed the rim. His last drive had resulted in a depressingly predictable turnover. He'd made one three-pointer all game.
But when Irvin's defender ducked under a Moe Wagner screen, he didn't hesitate to rise and fire with Michigan down a point and less than a minute on the clock. Despite some trepidation from onlookers...
The look on John Beilein's face on that Irvin 3 pic.twitter.com/FbrqNjs3gH
— Patrick Barron (@BlueBarronPhoto) March 17, 2016
...Irvin's shot found twine. A couple stops and five free-throws later, Michigan booked a trip to Brooklyn to face six-seed Notre Dame.
While the game got the desired result, it's not one Michigan fans are likely to want to relive. Both teams went through first-half scoring droughts that exceeded six minutes. After the Wolverines finished the half on a drawn out 19-4 run to take an eight-point lead, they gave it all back in the first three minutes of the second before both teams went ice-cold.
John Beilein played Andrew Dakich for five frustrating minutes while Derrick Walton sat on the bench with foul trouble. For murkier reasons, he sat Wagner—Michigan's biggest bright spot all game—in favor of Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle before rectifying that error for the home stretch.
While the Wolverines were effective when they attacked the basket against an undersized Tulsa squad, only Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman—and on a couple surprising occasions, Wagner—was willing to drive to the paint with any consistency. MAAR wasn't a paragon of efficiency with 16 points on 5/16 FG, but he created havoc on the Tulsa defense that led to putback opportunities and drew enough contact to get extra points at the line (6/8 FT).
Wagner, meanwhile, played like he should be the clear-cut starter at center. After recording two blocks all season, he had four tonight in addition to pulling down eight rebounds and making both his shot attempts, including a poster-worthy slam on a second-chance opportunity to give M a late three-point lead. Michigan functioned better on both sides of the court with Wagner on the floor.
Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three; while he wouldn't hit another until late in the game, he found other ways to contribute—he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out a team-high four assists, and finished a few forays to the hoop to tally 13 points. The contributions of MAAR, Wagner, and Robinson—a sophomore no major program wanted, a freshman who barely clung to a role this season, and a D-III transfer—allowed Michigan to overcome underwhelming performances from their two go-to guys.
Then, with the pressure on, Irvin delivered. It wasn't pretty. It was, in fact, cringeworthy, as Beilein's face can attest. At this point in the year, however, the final score is all that matters.
Now somebody grab me a drink.
You will probably have to create your own copy but then you can type in any two teams and make a comparison. Thank you to Kenpom for the data and helpful Google Sheets script writers for helping me calculate distances. Drive times are calculated as 1.3 minutes per mile.
To get a copy:
Follow this link and play around with it on google sheets.
Follow this link to the spreadsheet.
Go to "File" and "download as". Choose a format and the rest is up to you.
To use it just put the two teams you're trying to compare and the round (it will return wonky stuff if those two teams aren't able to meet there). It'll show you things like Off and Def rank on Kenpom and a win confidence based on a factor of the average 1 seed will be 100% to beat an average 16 seed. It'll also bring up the site of the game and, new this year, the distance for each team in driving hours. Last it'll show any injuries I knew about when I made it last night.
Long-time reader, second time emailer. I sent you a fake inspirational poster featuring Tate Forcier when those were still things. You used it. Good times.
I have the following mailbag questions:
1. With the departure of Durkin, Baxter, Jackson, et. al, do you see the revolving door continuing for assistant coaches? I don't have a problem with it because HARBAUGH and it means they are poach worthy. What about Drevno? He seems unlikely to leave anytime soon. I guess my question is: how much of the offense is Harbaugh, and how much is Drevno/Fisch? Would there be a big change if one of the latter left? Butt's comments about not having to learn a new offense this year were nice to hear just for continuity's sake.
This offseason's turnover was a bit extreme. Maryland hiring Durkin after one year as a defensive coordinator actually in charge of his defense—at Florida he was under Will Muschamp—was unexpected. I figured we'd get a 3-5 year run from him before he was established enough to make the jump. Losing Baxter and Jackson is actually more of a worry for me. Baxter went back to California, which is understandable if you're sawft because you've spent your time in that climate. Jackson may have decided he's more of an NFL guy.
Harbaugh seemed to make a conscious decision to reduce staff turnover with his picks for replacements. College DC lifer Don Brown is past the point where he'd be a head coach candidate; Chris Partridge and Brian Smith are young guys moving up who will probably stick around a while before any potential bump to quasi-co-psuedo associate head coach and run defense coordinator. Michigan's defensive assistants should be set for a few years, with a Mattison retirement the next likely swap.
On the other side of the ball it's murkier. It's Harbaugh's offense, of that there is no doubt. Coordinators on the same side of the ball as a heavily involved guru head coach often take a significant amount of seasoning before they are targeted for a move up the ladder. (See: Pat Narduzzi.) Drevno had not been a full OC prior to the Michigan move and has been with Harbaugh for a long time; he doesn't seem like a threat to depart for a few years yet, and when and if he does it'll be because Michigan's offense is shredding opponents.
Meanwhile Fisch is set to negotiate an extension that should bump his salary up significantly after a buyout year when Michigan was more or less paying the Jaguars. He seemed to get on with the staff and clearly had OC-type input in the passing game…
"good shit, Jedd" pic.twitter.com/6LKlSnY7Qp
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) October 6, 2015
…so I wouldn't expect him to leave for anything short of a full OC spot. That may very well happen—before he was cursed to work in the mines of Jacksonville he had a pretty good run at Miami—but I think he'll be around for a while yet.
The guy to watch for a departure is Tyrone Wheatley, who has ambitions to be a head coach. He has a powerful motivation to stick around for four more years; after that I would not be surprised to see him look for an OC spot no matter where it is.
2. What about Chesson for the #1 jersey? Has that been officially retired? If so, I don't remember hearing much about it. I can't remember a better candidate in recent years than him.
#1 is not retired and shouldn't be. Devin Funchess just wore it, remember? The fact that this guy didn't remember that and I wrote most of this response before remembering that an NFL player wore #1 two years ago is… Brady Hoke, man.
Anyway: no retiring more numbers please. #21 getting retired is kind of a bummer, man, and I can't imagine #1 or #2 goes by the wayside for practical (running out of numbers) and recruiting (here's Charles Woodson's number) reasons. But I don't expect Chesson to take it. He is in a pretty famous WR number (86) already and he doesn't seem like the type of guy to care much either way.
Beilein status, part 1
Hey Brian. I see you trying to walk the line of criticizing U-M basketball while not calling for Beilein's head. Here's the issue to me...
it's easy to compare Beilein to what came before and say look at his improvement. But the "fire Beilein" says "Well, that's not good enough." The better comparison isn't to what came before but to what would come after. What are the odds of replacing Beilein with someone who runs a clean program, fits culturally with the university, and achieves more success on the court? I put it at about 10%. That's not a chance worth taking for someone who may be marginally better. But the only thing that would satisfy these guys is if we were dominating the Big Ten. So then you need to consider the odds of getting the coach who runs a clean program, fits in culturally and consistently out-performs Izzo, Crean, et al. I put those odds under 1%.
So it's a shame that Beilein isn't a slightly better coach than he is, but Michigan's biggest obstacle is that our rivals' programs are just consistently too good.
I mean, yeah. I think we're all pretty disappointed where the program is right now but that's largely an artifact of Beilein's insane level of success over the three years from 2012-14, which went
- Big Ten Title
- National Championship Game
- Outright Big Ten Title & Elite Eight
Frankly I didn't expect that level of performance from Beilein when he was hired. I just wanted to make the tournament most of the time and Pittsnogle some higher seeds. Take that expectation and remove the team's star for consecutive years and this is what you get.
That said, the trend here, especially on defense, is alarming. It's not really about the level of the program, it's about the direction of the arrow. If Beilein's projected performance going forward is the average of his Michigan career minus his first year (which I think we can issue a mulligan for given the state of the roster) then yes, it will be very difficult for Michigan to match or exceed that. If it's the last two years, even considering Levert's injury, then the pool of candidates who can expect to match or do better expands considerably.
I don't think that's clear yet. I do think we're going to see an offseason shakeup and hopefully a defensive specialist brought in. I am still resigned to the fact that Beilein's peak is likely to have already passed and that we'll probably be gunning for a Sweet 16 or two before he retires, not a title.
[After THE JUMP: more Beilein feelingsball, PWO pickin', can the Big Ten replicate the Harbaugh model?]
MGoQuestion: Which receivers have impressed you the most since spring started?
“Well, you know, we haven’t had Jehu [Chesson]. Amara [Darboh] has had a very good spring so far. Really working hard at his craft. I mean, just you would think—you know, it felt like he just picked up where he left off against Florida. Grant Perry, same thing. Really good spring so far. Picked up where he left off. Drake Harris had a really good last two days. Had his best day today. Really making some plays with his—we all know he’s a basketball player, right? But he’s shown that ability. And then Ahmir Mitchell’s come in and he’s competing. These guys are supposed to be in high school right now and he’s practicing as hard as he can. And Moe Ways has improved a lot. Moe Ways, I’m not sure I can remember a drop in spring. I think Moe Ways leads us with the least amount of drops, so it’s been a good—you know, those guys have all come in and they’ve all done a nice job coming back and kind of letting us pick up where we left off.”
What kind of things are you able to do with them this year now that you’re not building the foundation like last spring? How much further ahead?
“Yeah, well, we’re a little light on numbers until the next batch comes in in terms of we’ve got four or five guys coming in. So in terms of what we’re doing, we’re just building off of what we did and asking these guys to really push themselves and fight through it and they’ve become really well conditioned, and then you’re able to tweak a route or tweak a release or change some things up. ‘Hey, this is how we did it all of last fall. Here’s you on film’ rather than ‘Here’s Allen Robinson on film’ or ‘Here’s Brandon Marshall on film,’ [it’s] ‘Here’s you on film. How can we make that better?’”
With so few, are you able to do more individual tweaking?
“Yeah, that’s one of the benefits of where we’re at right now is you can really hone in and focus in and spend the time getting Ahmir caught up to speed, time getting Grant ready to play outside and inside, really focusing in on Moe Ways playing both spots on the perimeter and just kind of making those ‘Hey, in one-on-ones, here’s you running the route; here’s you last year running the route. Look at the difference.’”
After what Amara and Jehu gave you last year, what do you still need from a third wide receiver or a fourth wide receiver?
“Um, well, we need more production. We need someone else to be in that range of 40 or 50 catches. We need Amara and Jehu to be in the range of 75 catches. You know, they need to get up and the third receiver then needs to bring his numbers up. Maybe our third receiver had like 20 catches or something. Let’s get to 40. Let’s get to two more first downs a game. You know, give us two more first downs a game. Give us one more explosive play a game. Keep us on the field for one more drive, and then allow us to play with more guys. Let’s play with more receivers, you know, and get more guys ready to go. It’ll be fun to see what these guys can do.”
[After THE JUMP: if you would like to be considered for the starting quarterback position please leave your application at the front desk]