no, YOU'RE off topic
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1
After yesterday's look at the bottom half of the Big Ten, it's time to check out the top seven squads in the conference. There's one certainty heading into the season: Wisconsin is the favorite. After that, question marks abound. Can Ohio State score? Can Michigan hold up inside? Can Izzo work his magic with an underwhelming roster? Is Nebrasketball for real? I don't claim to have answers, so here goes nothing...
1. Wisconsin (Last Year: 30-8, 12-6 B1G, lost in Final Four)
Frank Kaminsky (#44) is the prototype John Beilein big man. [Fuller]
Head Coach: Bo Ryan; 704-224 career, 321-121 at Wisconsin (15th year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 6th (#1 B1G)
Key Returners: G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, G Bronson Koenig, F Sam Dekker, F Nigel Hayes, C Frank Kaminsky
Key Losses: G Ben Brust
Top Newcomers: F Ethan Happ
When looking at the Big Ten predictions, there are only two squads that are locked into their positions: Rutgers, bringing up the rear, and Wisconsin, the unanimous choice to win the conference.
It's easy to see why the experts love the Badgers. Bo Ryan unleashed an offense that was eminently watchable (gasp!), finishing fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency, which allowed Wisconsin to not just overcome a step back on defense, but ride a stellar last two months of the season into a Final Four berth before falling to Kentucky by a point. (Know that feel, Wisco bros.) Ryan's squad loses just one major contributor, Ben Brust, and have a ready-made replacement in sophomore Bronson Koenig.
Frank Kaminsky is the leading preseason candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year after becoming an inside-outside force at the center position last season; John Beilein may go so far as to hurt a fly if it resulted in a seven-footer with Kaminsky's ability ending up in Ann Arbor. The rest of the frontcourt is excellent, as well; Sam Dekker is arguably the top draft prospect in the Big Ten, an athletic slasher who could be really difficult to stop if he gains consistency with his outside shot, while big-bodied sophomore Nigel Hayes was so effective on the block even the notoriously freshman-averse Ryan had to give him significant minutes.
One infuriatingly good shooting specialist, Ben Brust, is finally gone, but Josh Gasser is still around to break hearts and shatter dreams. (Death to backboards, amen.) Koenig should step into the starting lineup and provide a more diverse offensive skillset than Brust, though his three-point shooting isn't yet on Brust's level.
Arguably the weakest spot on this team is point guard, and that features senior third-year starter Traevon Jackson, a solid all-around player whose main weakness is a propensity for going heroball despite being surrounded by more efficient scorers. It'll be a surprise if Wisconsin doesn't finish atop the conference, and they'll be right in the mix for a #1 seed—perhaps even the #1 overall seed.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how the other contenders stack up.]
Could he keep his job?
You can't twirl a dead cat anymore without hitting someone claiming, "if Brady Hoke wins out he could keep his job." If you ignore the fact that at no point has this team even competed with a competent team, there is still too much against him, right? If somehow the stars align and a UM team that was embarrassed in New Jersey can beat an OSU team that will probably be favored by 20+, Hoke is still gone, right?
I'm terrified that all this smoke about him still having a chance means there's fire. The last thing UM needs is to have Hoke Wayne Fontes his way into another chance. Pleases just tell me that a New AD means a new coach and I can enjoy watching Drake Johnson run roughshod over NW.
-Dylan [Ed: not that Dylan]
It's worse than that, actually: there are a number of people asserting crazy things about what happens if Michigan squeaks into a bowl game.
First, that is not likely. Michigan is a dog to a Northwestern team that just got blitzed by Iowa, and they'll probably be a slight favorite against Maryland before being a two-TD dog against OSU. Going to a bowl at all is a 30% proposition.
Even if Michigan finishes the season "strong" I can't imagine Hoke returning for a thousand reasons we've all seen. The major one is what happens to the season ticket base. It has to take a significant hit if Hoke's back, and with Brandon expanding his expenses even more rapidly than he expanded Michigan's revenue that could see Michigan dip into the red. That's not tenable.
Neither is Hoke. Without a miracle upset against Ohio State this year's resume consists of wins over some of the worst teams Division I has to offer and comprehensive blowouts against any team with a pulse. In year four, with an offense that is more experienced than Ohio State's.
Are we going back to the Duderstadt attitude?
What's up mgoblog,
I have read a lot about " be careful what you wish for" in terms of firing Dave. I think all football fans agree that we need to pay our coaches competitive salaries and Dave was on the same page.
It has been discussed most recently by Sam Webb that Schlissel has little interest in paying a coach top dollar.
Do you think there is some truth to this or do you think this is just speculation.
I am worried Michigan will hire a decent coach and be content with 8-4.
Mike V in CT.
I don't have much to go on in this department and I don't think many people know what's going on inside Schlissel's head. But: I seriously doubt that Schlissel is going to say anything to his athletic director about appropriate salaries as long as the department stays in the black. He's a doctor and a biology professor; he's going to look at numbers and do the thing that makes sense.
Since one of the best ways to keep the department in the black is to hire a real good football coach, I doubt a couple million a year is going to make or break M's ability to get the right guy.
If there's anything resembling a reconfiguring of priorities I would expect it comes in the academic component of the athletic department. That's something I forgot about in the previous mailbag when I was searching for good things Brandon did—under his watch Michigan pulled out of the Rodriguez transition APR disaster and graduated literally every senior FB player under Hoke. I don't think an emphasis on getting plausible students is going to have a ton of impact since Michigan is avoiding borderline guys already.
Michigan might scale back some of the more extravagant building projects for non-revenue sports, but I'm of the opinion that's a good thing. Palaces make some sense for the revenue sports because they, you know, generate revenue. (And those are all done anyway.) Adding permanent maintenance and debt service costs to the U's bottom line puts more stress on the fans to provide money and reduces Michigan's ability to get quality coaches in all sports.
[After THE JUMP: student attendance against Indiana, turnaround timeframe, WHYYYYY]
Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]
Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.
Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.
I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.
So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.
And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.
[After the jump: sirens]
Jack Miller, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan
Devin, we ask you every week but do you feel like you’re getting closer to 100%? It looks like every time you take a big hit it aggravates it a little bit. Is that just part of the game?
DG: “Yeah, sometimes but I fell like I’m getting healthier and healthier. I’m just doing everything I can to contribute as much as possible.”
Talk about your ability to read defenses. Have you made progress in Nussmeier’s system would you say?
DG: “Yeah, I think so.”
In what sense?
DG: “All of it. Making reads and getting us in the right plays, things like that.”
Devin, is it frustrating at all because there’s times where it seems like you want to put your foot down and run but it doesn’t seem like it’s there?
DG: “Yeah, it’s always frustrating because of the type of player I am and what I’m usually able to do but you’ve got to find a way.”
How limited would you say you are feet-wise with your ability to run?
DG: “I’m getting better. I mean, I’ll see on Saturday.”
How much is that changing what’s called for you, because you can have audibles and you can make decisions but is it your decision that you’re maybe not going to push it in terms of getting out and scrambling or is it Nussmeier’s?
DG: “This past week I didn’t have to scramble much so luckily I didn’t need to.”
On that 10-yard run it looked like that was one you tried to take off on…
DG: “Yeah, I probably would have scored [last year] but I got the first down and that’s what the team needed and it kept the chains moving, so that’s the most important part.”
[More after THE JUMP]
A NEW ROUND OF HE GONE. After San Francisco lost to the Rams in ridiculous fashion to drop to 4-4, the knives—already out—added numbers to their ranks. Jerry Rice:
"I think he’s gone," Rice said. … "We don’t really know if he wants to come back and be the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers...Maybe that’s starting to wear and tear on the team and it’s taking its toll."
San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice believes coach Jim Harbaugh's act is starting to wear thin, in part because Harbaugh's "collegiate mentality" is not suited to the pro game.
"I have heard some complaints from some players that he likes to try to coach with the collegiate mentality, and that's just not going to work in the NFL," said Rice.
“So I stood right by the team,” Young said. “It was right before halftime and afterwards. And I remember calling to my security guy that I’ve known for years and years, Jeff Rodriguez. I said ‘Jeff, something’s wrong with these guys. There’s a bad vibe. Guys on and off the field.’ … A lot of complaining, a lot of moaning coming off the field.”
49ers GM Trent Baalke agreed with that take without getting too specific.
Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami:
Less than 50%, then let's see how the season plays out. RT @chang358 your odds for harbaugh coaching Niners next year?
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 4, 2014
At 4-4, San Fransico is three games back of 7-1 Arizona and one back of the Seahawks, and the way the NFC is breaking down this year the wild card teams are likely to have fancy records. The 49ers are currently behind the Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
ON THE AD SEARCH. I got nothin'.
I don't know how other people are getting more than that. Schlissel just told the Daily the search is restricted to his head at the moment, so I regard all insider information on this skeptically. I don't suspect bad faith on anyone's part. I just doubt any of these sources have a great handle on the situation no matter how many times reporters use "Fact" as a sentence. Fact. (Actually, opinion.)
That goes double given the wildly divergent timelines that have been thrown out there. Sam Webb was mentioning Hackett could be around 18-24 months on WTKA, which freaked a lot of people out; Rivals was first positing nine months and now has their prediction in the heart of common sense, mid-December; Coaching Scoop just asserted that the goal was to have an AD in place by the time the whistle blows on the Ohio State game. That's 25 days from now.
In the absence of any information you don't already have or anything resembling consensus amongst the people who say they have some, I resort to common sense—
—nevermind. I resorted to common sense right before I projected Brady Hoke had a 0.0 percent chance of being Michigan's coach, so common sense and I aren't on speaking terms.
It is worth noting that the long Hackett timeframes may be maximums instead of likely lengths and may not preclude a long-term AD being brought in, with Hackett as a bridging aide.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR CANDIATES OUTSIDE THE MICHIGAN BOX. A few candidates have drawn mention:
- Joe Schad reported that Michigan "has targeted" Northwestern AD Jim Phillips. Phillips is the president of NACDA, which is the national trade group for ADs and was AD of the year a couple years back. Before Northwestern, Phillips was the AD at NIU; he's an Illinois grad. FWIW: I've heard from Northwestern people that Phillips is going nowhere, and he's got the list of spurned suitors to back that up.
- Football Scoop's Pete Roussell brought up Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione. The site just doubled down on that, saying "sources within the industry" thought he was the name and that he would take the job if it was offered. (Bob Stoops would not be coming along.)
- Sam Webb suggested that Michigan would look at Greg Byrne, the Arizona AD. This would of course be the most hilarious option.
Meanwhile, Warde Manuel told his local paper that he hasn't heard from Michigan.
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers
The hoops preview returns after a brief AD-chaos-related absence; in fact, Alex already got the jump on me this week with his impressively thorough look at the top newcomers to the Big Ten. It's time for me to also turn my attention to the conference at large. Today, I'll take a look at how I expect the bottom half of the conference to shake out. The "Wisconsin & Friends" portion will go up later this week.
8. Illinois (Last Year: 20-15, 7-11 B1G, lost 2nd round of NIT)
oh was it ever so tempting to put Stauskas' end-of-half buzzer-beater here [Fuller]
Head Coach: Jon Groce; 128-84 career, 43-28 at Illinois (3rd year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 38th (#10 B1G)
Key Returners: G Kendrick Nunn, G/F Rayvonte Rice, C Nnanna Egwu
Key Losses: G Tracy Abrams (injury), F Joseph Bertrand, F Jon Ekey
Top Newcomers: G Aaron Cosby (transfer), G Ahmad Starks (transfer), F Leron Black
My #8 team in the Big Ten—and KenPom's #10—should make a push for the NCAA tournament bubble, in case you were wondering about the depth of the conference this year. Illinois gets a solid influx of talent in Jon Groce's third year while bringing back several key pieces from last season's NIT squad.
After finishing as the worst-shooting team in the conference last year, the Illini get a big boost in that regard from a pair of transfers, Aaron Cosby (39% 3-pt at Seton Hall) and Ahmad Starks (39.5% at Oregon State, where he holds the school record for most 3PM). The diminutive Starks, a shoot-first point with a solid outside shot and iffy efficiency elsewhere, should step right into the starting point guard spot to replace Tracy Abrams, who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Cosby should also get a big role in the rotation, likely splitting minutes on the wing with sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn and Rayvonte Rice give the Illini a pair of solid slashers off the wing, and while Rice's shooting comes and goes, Nunn connected well from deep as a freshman last season. The team is a little lacking in the frontcourt, however. Nnanna Egwu, their lanky no-offense, all-defense center, returns for his senior season; he is what he is at this point. Sophomore Malcolm Hill should split minutes at the four with top-50 freshman Leron Black; Hill emerged as a decent stretch four option as last season went along, while Black is the more physical and athletic option, which may be preferable next to Egwu.
The Illini should be a strong defensive team again this year; if they want to earn an invitation to the Big Dance, however, they'll have to be a much more efficient offensive squad. The addition of Cosby and Starks should help, but it'll take a more disciplined Rice (30% on 156 3PA in '13-14) and perhaps a breakout year from Nunn for them to really take the next step forward.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the bottom half of the Big Ten.]