Big Four, Little Ten?
Penn State had a heck of a day on Tuesday, beating out Ohio State—among many others—for four-star OT Sterling Jenkins, at one time the top tackle on Michigan's board, and four-star QB Brandon Wimbush. With 11 composite four-stars among their 15 total commits, James Franklin's program ranks behind only Alabama in the 2015 team recruiting rankings.
Given the circumstances, no school in the country is doing better on the recruiting trail than PSU right now, and they're doing so by dominating not only in-state recruiting, but the entire surrounding region—13 of their commits come from Pennsylvania or one of its bordering states. Michigan's had a fair amount of success in recent years recruiting in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia; with Franklin around, that success is going to be more difficult to replicate.
Meanwhile, Michigan State's on-field success is now translating to serious consideration from big-time prospects, and not just those from the Great Lakes State. Five-star WDE Jashon Cornell named the Spartans as his leader after visiting for the spring game, and he reiterated that stance in a free article by 247's Steve Wiltfong:
Cornell named the Spartans his leader following a visit to East Lansing for the spring game on April 26.
“I still feel the same way with them,” Cornell said. “They’ve had the best defense in the country the past three years,” Cornell said. “I’m trying to get better as a defensive player, and I feel Michigan State can help me become a better player and one of the best defensive players in the country.”
The Spartans aren’t the only contender for Cornell, who plans to make his college decision on Aug. 28, which coincides with the first day of school and his season opener.
“I have several schools in mind, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Miami and Iowa,” Cornell reeled off.
With a relatively early decision planned, Cornell could very well end up a Spartan, and such a high-profile commitment could potentially impact the decisions of other top prospects—we've seen this effect right here at Michigan. As for the in-state battles, MSU continues to be a thorn in Michigan's side, as well; the most recent development is their offer of 2016 South Lake four-star Martell Pettaway, who told Allen Trieu the Spartans are the team to beat ($):
"They will be a very tough team to beat. They are number one now. They kept it real with me since day one and showed me a lot of love. At the moment, I am not committing. I'm going to wait it out and rack up offers then look at my decision but it will be hard for anyone to be over MSU since the were the first ones who did it and they were up there always."
These aren't fun developments, of course. Please don't shoot the messenger, especially since the other headlining recruiting news this week is...
Kinnel Gets Alabama Offer
...Nick Saban going after Michigan four-star safety commit Tyree Kinnel. The Tide offered him on Tuesday, though for now, Kinnel isn't wavering in his pledge to the Wolverines, per Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“An Alabama offer means a lot,” he said. “I think it would mean a lot to any kid in the country that plays football. That is a big offer, but as of right now, I’m still 100-percent Michigan.”
There's good and bad here. It's never fun when the specter of Alabama snake-oiling is present; on the other hand, the fact that Saban is showing that much interest is nice validation that Michigan's got themselves a very good prospect in the fold. For positivity's sake, here's to focusing on the latter part.
Rumor Drama, Part Whatever
After four-star Mike Weber visited Notre Dame, Scout published an article with a quote from the Cass Tech back intimating that Michigan was on the outside looking in when it came to his top schools ($):
"Right now I like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame," Weber said. "I'm going to wait on a decision though because anything can happen and there's a lot of time left."
This caused something of a message board and social media firestorm, as these situations do. Weber took to Twitter to say he doesn't have a top four, and he talked to Brandon and further clarified the situation:
Mike Weber tells me he has no top 4 and "it's silly" that #Michigan isn't included among his favorites. He'll release a top group soon.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) May 6, 2014
While Michigan putting out multiple recent offers to fellow 2015 running backs—most recently, three-star Georgia RB/complete sentence Mikell Lands-Davis—suggests they're not in as strong a postion as they'd hoped with Weber and Damien Harris, the Wolverines certainly aren't out of the picture for either.
New Offer/Peak Highlight Video
Michigan's latest offer to a 2015 lineman went out to WA three-star OT Calvin Throckmorton, who told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz he's considering a trip from the West Coast to check out Ann Arbor ($):
Just six weeks away from summer vacation, Throckmorton says he plans to utilize his down time to take visits, with a trip to Ann Arbor to see Michigan on his mind as well.
“I don’t think I could really do those really until probably July or sometime then,” Throckmorton said. “But I definitely want to try to get out there to those schools.”
More importantly, somebody set offensive lineman combine highlights to the instrumental from Dr. Dre's "Nothin' But A G Thang" (baaaaaaaby), which is delightfully incongruous.
George Campbell Update
According to an article by Scout's Chad Simmons, Michigan is still hotly pursuing former commit George Campbell ($):
A number of schools are working hard to show Campbell he is high on their list. "Florida, Auburn, UCLA, Michigan, LSU, and USC are recruiting me the hardest," said Campbell.
An article on Cambell by 247's Shea Dixon features... an entirely different, shorter list ($):
“(UCLA coach Taylor Mazzone), (Florida coach Joker Phillips), (Alabama coach Lane Kiffin) and (Florida State coach Lawrence Dawsey) have all probably been recruiting me the hardest,” Campbell said. “I haven’t been talking with a lot of coaches, though. My uncle does.
"I will start taking serious visits and checking out schools, and after summer, I want to at least cut it down to a lower amount of schools and focus on those schools. It’s just a matter of time to see what I want to do.”
Florida and, interestingly, UCLA are the two constants; the Gators are considered the odds-on favorite at the moment. With Michigan failing to earn a mention for a potential official or unofficial visit in either article, expectations for a re-commitment should be very low.
2016 Traverse City West OL Thiyo Lukusa recently visited campus and told GBW's Josh Newkirk that Michigan is "still up there on my list"; also, damn you, polar vortex ($):
Due to 13 snow days this winter, Lukusa says his school year has been extended to make up for lost school time..Which mean his school schedule goes right into Michigan’s football camp season. So as of right now, he says his possible camp visit is pending.
“If I can make it down there one of these days and chill, maybe I can throw the cleats on and the helmet on and work,” he said. “I’ll have the helmet and cleats in the back of my car at all times this summer.”
Michigan checks in at #14 in the ordered top 15 released by 2015 five-star dual-threat QB Torrance Gibson, who currently has Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, and Ohio State on top, in that order. While that doesn't look so good, Gibson told 247's Ryan Bartow($) that Michigan's low placement was due to the fact they haven't offered—and he fully expects one to come once Doug Nussmeier sees him throw—and he later told Steve Lorenz an offer would jump the Wolverines up his list considerably ($):
Gibson tells me a Michigan offer would put them in his top 7 and that he would visit Ann Arbor at some point before ending his recruiting process.
Steve believes, and I agree, that even with an offer Michigan would be a longshot, but getting Gibson on campus would be a nice start towards changing that. The Buckeyes, unfortunately, may be the team to beat once they get him on campus—Gibson said the reason they landed at #4 is because he hasn't had a chance to visit them yet.
Harris had ten points on four shot equivalents in last year's matchup.
Open the floodgates. As you've probably heard, WVU transfer Eron Harris got his paperwork and immediately spoke to a gentleman of distinction:
West Virginia transfer Eron Harris has finally received his release. Told ESPN that Michigan's John Beilein has already contacted him today.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 7, 2014
That is quite interesting. Harris, a DO WANT shooter, is essentially a class of 2015 guy who will be super-ready to play with two years of eligibility. But after taking MAAR and Aubrey Dawkins, there's no question that grabbing him seriously impinges on Michigan's ability to promise 2015 kids like Jalen Brunson and Jalen Coleman playing time—and their ability to offer scholarships. (Maybe less so Brunson since he is more of a PG, but with Walton likely still around Michigan's pitch has to center around the two of them playing at the same time.)
Do you grab that guy? Since Michigan's having a hard time holding onto guards for more than a couple years, I would say yup. Harris is also less of a deterrent to the 2016 kids Michigan seems to be doing very well with since he'll be around a maximum of one year after their arrival.
In the flurry of articles following that tweet two things became clear. One, being closer to home is not as much of a priority as the right fit…
"The fit is more important that the location (of the school)," Harris said. "Eron is used to seeing his brothers and family more than he has the past couple years. But if he has to go to New York or California to find the right fit, then that's what he'll do."
…and two, Michigan's going to have to put on its prettiest dress and bat its eyes:
Within two hours of getting his release, Harris had already been contacted by Butler, Indiana and Purdue as well as Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA.
Harris is a terrific get-your-own-shot shooter who would have an apprenticeship before seeing the floor. If he's fleeing Huggy Bear because of fit, Beilein is pretty much the opposite… and this quote all but begs you to read between the lines:
“It is going to be the place that I can be myself,” said Harris. “I want to be myself. I want to go out there and play basketball and love playing basketball. I am a competitor first, and I want to play instinctively. That is it. I want my coach to respect me and I will respect him."
The art of shade, man.
OPEN THE PRETZEL. One WI SG Brevin Pritzl, a shooting guard out of Wisconsin, blew up over the past couple of weeks of AAU tourneys. This has intrigued Michigan, who's bringing him in for a visit this weekend. An offer is probably not in the offing unless they're really serious about moving on from the dawdling Jalen Coleman, but he's a guy to keep an eye on down the road.
2016 priorities. MI PG Cassius Winston is a highly-rated gentleman in his own right, one who Michigan has a lot of interest in. He's waiting for an offer this summer, but not in June:
“I’m pretty sure, if I know correctly, that I’ll be offered by the end of the summer,” Winston said on Saturday at the Spiece Memorial Run-n-Slam.
To me that says Michigan is going to give Derryck Thornton the first crack before they expand their PG POV. That expresses a level of confidence that Michigan didn't have when they went after Derrick Walton; they offered the other instate PG, Monte Morris, at the same time.
In other Thornton news, current main competitor Arizona picked up their second 2015 commit from a highly-rated PG, which can't hurt.
Hibbity hooblah! It's NFL draft time, hooray. Taylor Lewan will go in the first 15 picks tonight; Jeremy Gallon and Michael Schofield are likely to follow in the next two days. Baumgardner profiles Gallon:
"We've had dozens of guys go off to college and (not make it)) that had circumstances a lot better than Jeremy's," said Rick Darlington, Gallon's former coach at Apopka High School. "He had to fight to get into college. Then he had to fight to stay in college. Then he had to fight to get on the field.
"You look at him now, and it's easy to say he was a great college player in the end. But it was never as easy for him as it was for others. He always had to struggle ... it didn't come easy."
Gallon had to take three classes after his graduation just to get to Ann Arbor, which I know is something that was a problem with admissions. Not in Gallon's specific case, necessarily, but in the sheer numbers of guys Rodriguez recruited that needed serious help. Michigan would not look at Gallon today even if he was 6'4" because hypothetical rising senior Gallon's grades would make them move on.
On the one hand, some guys come through and become Jeremy Gallon. On the other, attrition watch.
In other news, Hoke defends Taylor Lewan again.
I didn't expect anything different, but wow. Various NCAA personages are appearing in front of a congressional committee today to talk about unionization. There is a lot of ludicrous stonewalling like the Stanford AD refusing to state how much his coaches make when you can google it in five seconds—the answer is three million dollars—but nothing quite so faceplam inducing as congressmen taking up irrelevant talking points that have already been eviscerated and left for dead while waving his iPad around:
Congressman Roe: "I just pulled up on my iPad (holds up iPad) that most schools lose money." …
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
Congressman Roe then resumed playing Candy Crush Saga before a brief nap, so he missed this riposte:
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) May 8, 2014
People in congress are just in congress for no reason.
Anger bit. Jim Delany talked to USA Today for two extensive pieces, one of which makes me involuntarily shake my fist at nothing in particular when Delany has the balls to make this assertion:
Q: Eight games vs. nine is a hot topic right now. What was the driving force behind the Big Ten going to nine conference games?
A: For us, it's a combination of things. One is the Playoff. Another thing is we're going to get larger (as a conference), we're going to play each other more. We want to be a conference.
Well, you were, Jim. And then somebody had to chase money in a nonsensical way, thanks to the faulty assumption that the current setup wherein sports leagues can involuntarily tax non-fans is going to last in an era of streaming.
This is not a "conference":
What I really like is that every athlete in the Big Ten who plays football will play every opponent inside the four-year period. That's what I like.
That is more of a conference than the SEC's setup where crossover teams without protected rivalries see each other once every six years, but Michigan hasn't played Wisconsin in four years. They may as well be in the Big 12. Going forward they will play the other division less than half the time.
I feel that this has to be intentional trolling. I mean I just…
Michigan's new "historic traditions" football page features an Adidas uniform they wore once. http://t.co/8nwffdIzZi
— Ben Mathis-Lilley (@BenMathisLilley) May 6, 2014
There is subset of MBAs who have their own opposite-day dialect of the English language.
Simplify : offense :: aggressive : defense. "Seven ways that Lane Kiffin will change Alabama's offense" unfortunately doesn't include "make it squintier" but does include this familiar refrain:
3. Playbook simplified
One change won't be too obvious from the seats or living rooms. After playing with in an offense known for complicated terminology, players see a difference in Kiffin's style.
"Some coaches and quarterbacks over-analyze things at times," receiver Amari Cooper said. "Sometimes it can be pitch and catch, let the play-makers make plays."
Cooper, the leading receiver each of the past two years, also likes the in-game adjustments he saw from game film.
"Coach Kiffin calls plays based on matchups and what he sees," Cooper said. "Like I said before, it's a simple offense. If he sees they are in man-to-man coverage and I have a hitch route, it converts if he's close to me, we are going to throw a little fade route and make something out of it."
I really need Al Borges to get hired somewhere so there can be an article about how he's going to simplify offense X.
That article includes obvious balderdash like "finding the playmakers" as if that's a huge overlooked priority for an outfit that saw AJ McCarron throw for 9.1 yards a pop with a 28:7 TD:INT ratio and rushed for 5.8 yards a carry without even removing sacks. But it also gives you some insight into what Nussmeier does:
2. Fullback added
Alabama's been primarily a one-back running team during the Saban era. They used an H-back to help clear the way, but it sounds like the Tide will be using a more traditional fullback in 2014.
Michigan's picked up a one-back offensive coordinator just in time for their four-man fullback crop to ripen. To H-back you go, gentlemen.
Etc.: NFL.com scouting reports are creepy. Remember when John Beilein was not a golden colossus? Why Nick Saban hates the hurry up. Former MI SF AJ Turner is now prepping in NH and might be a guy to keep an eye on if Coleman doesn't work out.
Name: Mikell Lands-Davis
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 5’11" / 206 lbs. / 4.53
Location: Alexander – Douglasville, GA (2015)
Offers: Clemson, Michigan, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Miami, Middle Tennessee State, NC State, North Carolina, South Alabama, Syracuse, UAB, Wake Forest
Rating: ★★★ .8667 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #525 NAT / #42 RB (247 Composite)
Michigan will be a big time player in the recruitments of both Damien Harris and Mike Weber, but if either of them decide that the Wolverines aren’t for them the coaches will need other options at running back and just a few days ago they offered Mikell Lands-Davis for that reason. The coaches have been after Lands-Davis since mid-April, when they stopped by his high school. Since that visit Lands-Davis was very excited to hear from Michigan and was really hoping for an offer. When it came he couldn’t hold back his excitement.
It was such a blessing when they stopped by to see me. I was just hoping for a Michigan offer. I love the fact that I have them as an option. I’m really excited about it! It was a huge offer for me that I really didn’t expect to get. I’m really blessed.
Coach Hecklinski headed up the recruiting efforts involving Lands-Davis and his pitch to the young running back is one that surely impresses all recruits.
Coach Heck told me to call him and he asked me if I’m seriously interested in Michigan. I said of course! The he asked me if I can tote the rock in front of 115,000 people every Saturday on the biggest stage in football, and again I said of course! Then he offered me and now he said he’ll just be in contact with me and that he’s going to recruit me to Michigan.
Lands-Davis runs with a style that the Michigan coaches like and with a 205 lb. frame, good balance, and a nice burst he appears to be a nice fit into the scheme moving forward. He explained his game in his own words.
I’m 5’11” and 206 lbs. and I run a 4.53. When watching me play you’ll see a physical guy who can hit the homerun play as well. I’m really patient in the hole and I’m either running someone over or slithering to break an arm tackle to get north and south as fast as I can. I’m all about running north and south, it’s the easiest way to score. I get a lot of comparisons to Tre Mason.
I agree with everything Lands-Davis said about himself. His knack for running to positive yardage in a straight line without any wasted energy is noticeable on film.
Even though Lands-Davis is a Georgia kid he said he’s not afraid to move away from home for school.
My recruitment is all just coming real fast to me. Colleges are coming out of nowhere. I got an Indiana offer recently which was really out of nowhere. After spring ball I’m going to look at all the colleges and pick a top 5 or 6 and visit them this summer. I need to see which school is the best fit for me and which school is going to help me be most successful in football and career wise. Michigan will definitely be in my top group. It’s hard not to like them.
I asked Mikell to expand on what makes Michigan so likeable.
I know historically it’s a top 5 program for football with rich tradition. I know they don’t send out offers to just anyone like some other schools do. They are limited and really go after great players which is why I feel so blessed. I know it’s cold (laughs) but it’s big time football.
Lands-Davis isn’t the first recruit to mention how cold Michigan can be but he sees a silver lining in the frigid reputation of the great lakes state.
It would just be something I’d have to get used to. Georgia is nothing but humid so every place has it’s downside. Hardest part of the year here is training camp.
Lands-Davis was actually born in California and moved to Georgia as a youngster. Those west coast roots turned him into a USC fan early on, mostly because of his affinity for Reggie Bush. He admitted with a laugh that an offer from the Trojans would be cool, but he doesn’t really rank them any higher because of that. He says a visit to USC’s campus would be necessary just like for anywhere else.
A visit to Michigan this summer is in the cards for Lands-Davis and then a top group of 5 or 6 will be formed that he says will include Michigan. He has plans for the rest of the spring and summer as well.
I plan on having my top list after spring ball which ends May 16th for me. I plan on making my decision before the season starts and I’m going to visit all this summer and see how everything goes. I haven’t thought about my list much yet, I’m just enjoying the process right now. Michigan will be in there though.
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
Mikell was pretty clear about how much he likes Michigan and with a look at the rest of his offer list, the Wolverines are probably in decent shape with him on name alone. A strong visit to Ann Arbor this summer will go a long way in forming a hierarchy in his top group. Damien Harris and Mike Weber are far from certainties to end up at Michigan and a backup plan is definitely necessary. That being said, it will be interesting to see how aggressively Coach Heck and company recruit Lands-Davis to see how much of a “backup” he actually is.
Rudimentary photoshop skills + advanced dunking ability = this
Yesterday's post on Glenn Robinson III actually began as an attempt to compile his greatest GIFs, only to morph into something different when the process of narrowing down my list of favorites proved extremely difficult. If you haven't, read that for an impassioned discussion of GRIII being much more than Just A Dunker.
With that said, the dunks were pretty fun, you guys. I've combed through my hard drive and picked out my 20 favorite GRIII dunk GIFs. These aren't necessarily his 20 best dunks as a Wolverines—I didn't (quite) GIF everything from the last two seasons—but it's a pretty great sampling nonetheless. Throw on the Space Jam soundtrack and let's do this.
Click on the still frames to open each GIF in a lightbox, and don't forget to vote for your favorite at the end of the post.
20. Beilein +2
Not the most elaborate dunk, though the elevation always impresses. This just happened to be the best view of John Beilein's offense at work—watch Caris LeVert make a subtle cut across the lane just as Mitch McGary sets a sneaky pick to give GRIII an uncontested run to the rim. It's a gorgeous play with a pretty nice finish, too.
19. The Genesis
I had to include the first Robinson alley-oop, from the season-opening exhibition against Northern Michigan in 2012. The first, and by no means the last, time that GRIII dunked through significant contact with no call, which will be a running theme throughout this post.
Also, the title of this GIF on my computer is "griiialleyoop.gif" because I lack foresight, apparently.
18. Style Points
Trey Burke's pass may be the prettiest part of this—if it isn't the uniforms—but Robinson makes this look so smooth, especially with the way he spins through the landing.
Another running theme: defenders seeing GRIII tear through the lane and freezing like deer in headlights. Austin Hollins wanted absolutely none of this. The next dunk on the list validates this course of action...
16. Late Contest Blues
Included because (1) dat pass, (2) oh, just casually dunking all over some schlub, and (3) the look of devastation of Sasa Borovnjak's face as he realizes how damn idiotic it was to try and stop this from happening.
[Hit the appropriately named JUMP for the top 15.]
Since the draft deadline is now past, it's time for a three part early Big Ten basketball preview, starting from the top. After scouring Kenpom and my memory I have grouped the Big Ten teams like so:
OBVIOUS FAVORITE: Wisconsin
CONTENDERS: Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa
ONE IN, THREE ON THE BUBBLE: Michigan State, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana
NOPE: Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
And tackle them in approximate order, except I haven't really ordered the tiers. I am projecting a relative down year for the conference, because they've added one middling ACC program and Rutgers while MSU is poised for a major drop and Indiana/Illinois are still muddling along.
THE FAVORITE: Wisconsin
Generally excellent outside of a shocking run of five losses in six games—including two at the normally impregnable Trohl Center—Wisconsin was, like Michigan, downed by an improbable Kentucky three-pointer. In their case they'd already taken down Arizona to reach the Final Four.
WHO'S GONE: SG Ben Brust (all positions approximate)
WHO'S BACK: C Frank Kaminsky, PF Nigel Hayes, SF Sam Dekker, SG Josh Gasser, PG Traevon Jackson, PG Bronson Koening, PF Duje Dukan
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): sophomore C Vitto Brown
From that team Wisconsin loses only Ben Brust, who was mostly a three-point gunner (39% on 244 attempts). With Josh Gasser back and Kaminsky capable from the perimeter, Wisconsin won't be shooting deficient. Gasser was a deference machine last year, taking only 11% of Wisconsin's shots while he was on the floor despite hitting 44% from three over the past two years. If he leaps up to Brust's level the Badgers only have to replace about 100 efficient threes—very manageable.
- Experience. Wisconsin will start three seniors, a junior, and probably sophomore-to-be Nigel Hayes.
- Kaminsky. Developed an intimidating back to the basket game to go with his shooting en route to a 124 ORTG while taking 27% of Wisconsin's shots. Shockingly few TOs for a big man. Idea that senior bigs are surprisingly good downright frightening when applied to Kaminsky.
- Point guard. Traevon Jackson's actions in the late stages of the Arizona and Kentucky games were appalling, repeatedly going into isolation despite being a terrible isolation player when Kaminsky was on the block against guys much smaller than him. With a TO rate of nearly 20 and a 2PT% of 42%, Jackson is the primary weak point in the Wisconsin offense. Worse, he does not seem to know this.
THE QUESTION: Can Hayes and Dekker play at the same time? Nigel Hayes looked like a star to be at certain times this year and does bring a lot more banging and rebounding than the slight Dekker. But Hayes's face-up game does not extend to the three-point line and Wisconsin cannot have more than one non-shooter in the game at a time. Dekker's a mediocre shooter right now… he needs to have a leap there if Wisconsin can play what seems like their best lineup.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Is Wisconsin tolerable now? Yes, yes I think so. I am deeply alarmed by this development but with the FF run and the changes to defensive rules Wisconsin is way less annoying than they used to be. No longer does their good league record make the Big Ten look silly when they exit the tournament quickly.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: With Payne gone and Amir Williams probably not having an epiphany as we speak it's hard to see who in the league is going to match up with Kaminsky. (Hammons you say? 16 and 22 last year against Hammons.) Meanwhile Wisconsin's outside shooting should only dip slightly. Defense should improve if The Question above is answered in the affirmative. Wisconsin wins the league at 14-4 and gets a one seed.
Iowa fell off a cliff late last year after finding themselves in the top ten for a brief period, but it was still a little tiny bit of a breakthrough season for the Hawkeyes. While Iowa fans may feel that a First Four exit is hardly a tourney appearance at all, their game against the Volunteers felt more like a Sweet 16 battle than Dayton fluff and the Kenpom rankings of the participants suggested as much.
WHO'S GONE: SG Roy Devyn Marble, PF Melsahn Basabe, PF Zach McCabe.
WHO'S BACK: PF Aaron White, C Adam Woodbury, C Gabriel Olaseni, SF Jarrod Uthoff, PG Mike Gesell, SG Josh Oglesby, PG Anthony Clemmons
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): SG Peter Jok, JUCO PG Trey Dickerson
With 6'9" guys falling all over themselves for playing time the departures of Basabe and McCabe should be manageable, possibly even beneficial. Iowa had a whopping 11 guys average at least seven minutes and was in the unusual position of having two guys designated "starters" by Kenpom who were off the floor more often than not. This is a team that could stand to tighten its rotation.
- Hugeosity. Despite losing a 6'6" guy and two 6'7" guys, Iowa projects to play six guys 6'5" or above, with only the PG spot below. This served Iowa well on the boards last year as they were 19th on offense and a respectable 68th on D; they finished in the top 40 at blocking shots as well.
- Depth. Iowa will still have the option to go ten deep and can sustain foul trouble to its front line better than anyone in the league.
- Shooting. Iowa typically plays a two-big formation with White at PF, and he is not a threat from deep. No one on the team was particularly accurate except Oglesby, who was buried down the depth chart… and he was coming of a THJ-like sophomore year during which he hit 27%. With Marble gone, Iowa has to have a prominent and functional Oglesby.
- Defense. More on this later, but Iowa fell apart on D late in the season, tried to dig themselves out with a zone that hurt more often than it helped, and project to have some of the same issues this year.
THE QUESTION: Who picks up Marble's playmaking and "oh crap do something" shots?
After initial flashes of promise, Anthony Clemmons became very turnover prone and has now settled into a limited, defensive role. Meanwhile Jok and Oglesby, the most likely replacements, are shooters, not creators. That puts an awful lot of weight on Mike Gesell to create shots in the half-court, which was already a struggle a year ago.
Iowa's best hope here may be an explosive debut from JUCO PG Trey Dickerson, who's averaging 20 points a game in North Dakota and is on JUCO AA lists after one season.
THE OTHER QUESTION: Can the Hawkeyes match up on D?
The big lineup caused defensive issues, as anyone who watched White try to stay in front of Nik Stauskas remembers.
Late in the year, Iowa tried a zone defense. It got shredded.
MSU shooting at 70.4% effective rate. This is no longer a coincidence. The zone is a miserable failure.
— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) March 7, 2014
Now down their best perimeter defender, Iowa has to figure out whether they're going to double down on the zone or hope Olaseni and Woodbury can erase enough perimeter mistakes to keep their head above water.
PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: Iowa leaned heavily on Marble to fill in the holes in their offense and he has no obvious replacement. That'll drag down both Iowa's transition and half-court offense. But big guys develop slowly and one of Woodbury or Olaseni seems likely to bust out, providing back-to-the-basket shot generation that will help paper over those issues.
Assuming that Iowa either figures out the zone or figures out they should abandon it and gets their defense in order, they should poke their head above .500, especially in a weakened league. 12-6, 4 seed.
Another year, another beating taken from the NBA draft. The falloff last year was microscopic, if it even existed, thanks to massive sophomore leaps from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. Can Beilein do it again?
WHO'S GONE: C Jordan Morgan, C Jon Horford, C Mitch McGary, PF Glenn Robinson III, SG Nik Stauskas
WHO'S BACK: PG Derrick Walton, SG Zak Irvin, SF Caris LeVert, PG Spike Albrecht
WHO'S NEW (or close enough): C Mark Donnal, C Ricky Doyle, PF DJ Wilson, PF Kam Chatman
That is an awful lot to lose from the one true post spot in the Michigan offense and not very many guys in the "who's back" spot, but those first three are doozys. LeVert had a massive leap, essentially replacing NBA ROY candidate Tim Hardaway Jr's production, except with more efficiency. Irvin and Walton are the first top-50 guard recruits John Beilein has ever had and look to make the patented Leap after promising freshman years. And Spike's not bad either.
- Shooting. The four guys returning shot 41%, 41%, 43%, and 39% from three on piles of attempts. To that Michigan adds a starting center with true three-point range and a couple of Beilein-standard stretch fours.
- More shooting. That previous bullet probably deserves to be mentioned twice.
- Diversity of weapons. Few teams in the conference will have as many places to go for shots as Michigan. LeVert is obvious; Walton is likely to come into his own in year two; Irvin just launches when given a sliver of space. Five-star-ish recruit Chatman is regarded as a point forward who can get his and set up his teammates. And Donnal adds a pick and pop element Beilein has lacked since the days of Pittsnogle expired. While the departure of Stauskas is a blow, he only took 23% of Michigan's shots. That's extremely low for a go-to lottery pick and is a testament to the pieces surrounding him.
- Rough 'n' tough stuff. Michigan seemed a little flimsy inside last year, and now they've lost their entire center corps and starting PF. They'll be taller, with two 6'8" PFs and Cs an inch or two taller than Morgan, but unless Max Bielfeldt presses his way into the lineup the vast majority of Michigan's minutes in the frontcourt will go to freshmen—three of them true freshmen. Rebounding and meanness have never been Beilein strengths; this year will really push the limits of what you can do with a fleet of B-52s.
- THE QUESTION: Is this an infallible assembly line? Based only on the returning gentlemen, Michigan is probably not a contender. But that's what everyone thought last year when Michigan sat at 6-4 and McGary went out for the year. Then Stauskas, LeVert, and Morgan blew up and when the dust cleared Michigan had won the conference by three games. It is irrational to expect that sort of improvement on an annual basis, touted recruit or no. Or is it?
- THE OTHER QUESTION: Is the defense really going to be worse? Michigan's D took a huge step back last year, from 48th to 109th. They were 10th in the conference, down from 6th, and the absolute worst at preventing two-pointers. They had the second-worst defense in the league over the course of the entire season, ahead of only Iowa. It might not get better but since it was already scraping the bottom of what a non-Rutgers Big Ten D might do, there might not be much of a drop.
- PRE-SCHEDULE WAG: The offense is a given what with Beilein and at least three plus guys on the back end. The defense… well, it's not going to be great. It may not be as bad as you would think, at least relative to last year. 12-6 after a rough nonconference schedule sees Michigan enter the tourney a 5 seed.
xkcd. it's funny because SCIENCE okay?
As the Rigelians informed us, basketball it turns out is the universe's favorite sport. Of the trillions of basketball leagues worthy of broadcast, the most incompetent is Lockeceles VI's "Internashunil Assosiation of Basketball Playig and Shoving Sharp Objects Into Our Eyes [sic]," [sic] best known for their ruling that the Targavian Turnips should have to play an entire season hopping on one leg and bent sideways after a local columnist accused the Turnips' frontcourt of not hustling. Fortunately for the players, Targavia was a city entirely made up of chiropractors, so nobody's life was ruined. The season was of course a disaster.
|If the NCAA just claimed the refs were getting too expensive we would have believed it.|
The second most feckless basketball league in the universe is, of course, Earth's "National Collegiate Athletic Association," which recently challenged the IABPSSOIOE[sic]'s title by issuing a one-year (effectively life) suspension to an injured player who tested positive for a recreational, performance-reducing substance that everyone uses.
You may ask what were they smoking at the time, but that would appear rather obvious.
Alas, the burden of picking up the pieces shall fall upon the TV camera crews at Crisler, who must find a way to shoot the games without broadcasting all of those extended middle fingers, and the Michigan Wolverines Basketball team, who'll have to figure out how they're supposed to rebound anything. And it shall fall upon the MGoBloggers to inform you how that will go down:
The cagers are suddenly without a front court. Has Michigan slid back to pack for now or is this all just a setup for the Beilein Little Shooters Magnum Opus? What's your take on Donnal? Can we do this without becoming a study on Bielfeldt anatomy?