Kameron Chatman (L) and DJ Wilson (R/HAIR) will split minutes at the four
Thus far, this preview has covered the knowns for this season's iteration of Michigan basketball. The point guard position is rock-solid with Derrick Walton in line for a breakout sophomore season and Spike Albrecht's steadying presence on the bench. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin provide plenty of scoring punch (and much more, in LeVert's case) at the two and three, and both have the potential to take big leaps forward in 2014-15.
Now we hit the unknowns. For the purposes of this preview, the power forward position is considered a wing, just like it functions in John Beilein's offense—the small forward and power forward essentially mirror each other—and Michigan must replace a productive starter there with the departure of Glenn Robinson III.
We know this much: a true freshman will crack the starting lineup, almost certainly top-30 prospect Kameron Chatman, and the backups at both the three and the four will also be comprised of fresh-faced new arrivals. As Beilein noted at Big Ten Media Day, the team doesn't have any other choice:
“Guess what? There’s going to be young players out there all over the place,” he said. “We’re just going to have to throw them in there. … We can’t look to our bench and say, ‘Let’s get a more veteran player in there.’ There aren’t any. They’re just going to have to get in there.”
The good news for Michigan is they reeled in two highly touted freshmen, led by Chatman, and picked up two sleepers late in the cycle who could contribute as soon as this season, with each of them bringing something different to the table. After the jump, a much closer look at the four freshmen on the wing.
[Hit THE JUMP for detailed breakdowns of each player.]
So I'm about to break the no politics rule. I regret this, but…
1. If I'm going to run for regent that has to happen anyway.
2. I am only going to do this for Michigan regent.
3. I don't think regent is a particularly partisan position—see the lack of transparency as to how they operate and the lack of "no" votes.
4. I am not a registered anything. I don't like politics for the same reason I don't like coachspeak. I would strongly prefer regent elections to be nonpartisan, but they're not. This is life.
All right, that said: when the regents' candidate forum was canceled on October 8th (it is now Friday at 4 PM, be there or be square) for scheduling issues, one guy still came into town because he was planning to do so anyway. He did a number of previously-scheduled in-person interviews, then emailed me. We got a couple beers at Ashley's, and we talked about the state of the regents, what was wrong about the current setup, and how to fix it. That guy is Mike Behm, and I'm endorsing him for regent.
This is not because he uses MGoBehm.com for his web presence. Mostly not.
Behm is a lawyer who graduated from Michigan in '89 with a BA in English with deep Michigan roots—his dad played football and ran track in the 50s. He went to the Rose Bowl in '89 as a student, and he reads the blog. I asked him to boil down his philosophy and goals into a few hundred words, and he's done so.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the University right now?
A: Affordability and accessibility. Over the past four decades, the State of Michigan has drastically reduced its financial support of the University. Thirty-five years ago, the State of Michigan covered 70% of U of M's costs, with the other 30% being paid for by tuition and endowment. Today, only 30% of the costs are covered by the State. I would like to see the State of Michigan invest in one of its most valuable assets, and increase its funding for U of M. But because of today's economic environment, I don't believe there is going to be a drastic increase of state funding. This being the case, I believe it is very important to examine the present cost structure of the University and cut and reduce unnecessary costs at all levels, including administration and operations.
Next, I would like to investigate ways to lower interest rates on student loans. Presently, banks borrow money at a rate that is nine times less than the average student loan. New legislation that has been introduced recently (Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act) that would help to lower student loan rates. If the government is not successful in reducing student loan interest rates, I would act to direct U of M's newest endowment program (Victors for Michigan) to provide low interest loans to our students.
Q: What are your thoughts regarding U of M's compliance with the open meetings act?
A: While I understand the need to protect individual's rights of privacy when it comes to limited circumstances such as some personnel issues. I am a firm believer that the Board of Regents would benefit from seriously listening to the concerns of the public. In addition to having Regents meetings where decisions are made with public comment and public interaction, I would use other ways for the Regents to gather information. For example, while the composition of the Board of Regents cannot be changed without involving the State of Michigan Constitution, I would propose forming advisory committees. I am in favor of forming small separate committees of students, faculty members, and supporters of the Athletic Department so that they can meet with and advise the Board of Regents when it comes to making important decisions.
In addition to being an attorney, I serve as Chairperson of Business Forward Michigan, an organization that helps local business leaders from Michigan advise Washington on how to create jobs and accelerate our economic recovery. The present Board of Regents seems to conduct business like politicians in Washington, in an isolated and deaf manner. Like what I do with Business Forward, I will work to help the Regents make decisions with the help of many informed and concerned voices.
While the above issues are obviously more important than the athletic department, we talked about that, too, and he'd support a change at the top there.
The above language is a little stiff, I know, but in talking to him it was clear he deeply cared about the university and was basically just a guy who wanted to help out. He's not much interested in serious political office; the opportunity to help the U out was a different matter. I think you should vote for him, no matter your political affiliation.
Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
I know Hoke said they spent the bye week on Michigan's "identity," by which we're pretty sure he meant scrapping any semblance of sense again in favor of slamming fullbacks into people and praying for the turnover fairy to stop hating us. But for those people actually interested in how to defeat Michigan State's lauded/loathed defense, it appears to be vulnerable when you spread 'em out and test them deep.
Red: #2 receiver goes vertical. Blue: #2 receiver doesn't go vertical
With that many guys reading, the defense can play "9 in the box," by which they mean the safeties are part of the run fits. Their run D is gap-oriented.
Just an example. They change up who's got what
Note that screens and such are treated as runs.
[After the jump: tripping them up.]
ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.
When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.
ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.
ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.
Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.
ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.
ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.
I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.
ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as
- Jeff Long (Arkansas)
- Brad Bates (BC)
- Warde Manuel (UConn)
- Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)
There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.
Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.
ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.
ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]