|WHAT||Michigan (17-6, 9-2 B1G) at Ohio State (19-5, 6-5)|
|WHERE||Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio|
|WHEN||9 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Ohio State -4 (KenPom)|
|TV||ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Mike Tirico; Analyst: Dan Dakich)|
Right: When we last met. [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
This is Michigan's only scheduled matchup with Ohio State this season; it's also the last game KenPom predicts they'll lose. Find a way to win this one and the Wolverines can afford a little wiggle room in the home matchups upcoming against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Lose it and the margin for error gets ever smaller for their hopes of winning the Big Ten title.
THE CRAFT FACTOR
WARNING: Dan Dakich is calling a game involving Aaron Craft. Adjust your volume settings accordingly, maybe practice a few eye-rolls to avoid any extraocular muscle pulls.
THE LINEUP CARD
Probable starters are in bold:
|G||4||Aaron Craft||Sr.||6'2, 195||86.0||17.6||Kinda|
|Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter|
|G||3||Shannon Scott||Jr.||6'1, 185||68.4||19.5||Yes|
|Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter|
|G||32||Lenzelle Smith Jr.||Sr.||6'4, 210||70.1||20.6||No|
|Good shooter, not great around basket, #2 offensive option behind...|
|F||10||LaQuinton Ross||Jr.||6'8, 220||67.6||27.0||No|
|Volume shooter with iffy selection, solid outside shot, decent rebounder|
|C||23||Amir Williams||Jr.||6'11, 250||59.9||19.6||Very|
|Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, lots of putbacks, Morgan-esque hands|
|F||12||Sam Thompson||Jr.||6'7, 200||57.7||16.7||No|
|Remarkably athletic, great finisher at rim, mediocre shooter, blocks some shots|
|F||2||Marc Loving||Fr.||6'7, 215||31.2||23.3||Yes|
|PT fading to ~10 mpg, hasn't hit FG since Jan. 20(!), okay rebounder|
|G||33||Amadeo Della Valle||So.||6'5, 190||29.9||21.4||No|
|Mostly a spot-up shooter, 36% from three, ineffective inside arc|
|C||55||Trey McDonald||Jr.||6'8, 240||27.9||12.8||Very|
|Good off. rebounder, poor def. rebounder, high FT rate, terrible FT shooter|
Thompson may start in place of Scott; he's done so in each of the last three games to help OSU get more offense on the floor. Scott is still averaging more minutes in those games, however, so I'm keeping the chart as-is.
Even though Michigan hasn't faced off against them this season, Ohio State's squad should look quite familiar—they're essentially last year's team minus Deshaun Thomas, whose high-usage, high-efficiency scoring has proven quite difficult to replace.
The backcourt remains the same. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are very similar players; great defenders with very aggressive styles—both rank in the top 20 in steal rate—and solid distributors who struggle with their shot. Craft gets to the rim more often but doesn't finish quite as well as Scott, likely a product of having to take more contested shots late in the clock; Scott has a better mid-range jumper, while Craft is more selective—and therefore more efficient—with his three-point attempts. Expect both to see plenty of time guarding Stauskas.
As mentioned above, Sam Thompson may start over Scott in an effort to get more scoring—and size—on the floor for the Buckeyes. He's a 35.6% three-point shooter and a great finisher at the rim; too often, however, he settles for two-point jumpers that he hits at just a 26.4% clip, per hoop-math. He's not the on-ball defensive terror that Craft and Scott present and his rebounding numbers surprisingly fall right in line with Scott's (read: not great); however, he does provide another shot-blocking threat on the floor.
LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are the primary scoring options, with Ross taking over 30% of the team's shots when he's on the floor, a top-100 rate nationally. Ross is a very good outside shooter (41.6% 3-pt) who finishes well around the basket, though his two-point percentage (44.6%) is dragged down by a healthy number of mid-range jumpers that aren't his specialty. As Dylan points out, Ohio State's chances at victory rely heavily on a good shooting performance from Ross:
6-foot-8 forward LaQuinton Ross leads the Buckeyes with 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. But as he goes, Ohio State’s offense tends to go. He has just a 38.7% effective field goal percentage in losses compared to 50.6% on the season.
Ross does a good job taking care of the basketball. He also rarely looks to pass, which helps keep the turnover rate low.
Smith, meanwhile, distributes his shots almost equally between two-pointers (51.5%) and three-pointers (38.0%); his turnover rate is even lower than Ross's despite the fact he's more willing to give the ball up. While Smith isn't a great athlete, he rebounds pretty well for a player his size on the defensive end.
Detroit native Amir Williams mans the center position; he's by far the team's best rebounder and one of the better rim protectors in the conference. His offensive game a still a work-in-progress, though his post game has improved; he finishes well off putbacks and open dumpoffs, which represent a good chunk of his attempts, but he doesn't have great hands—he'll drop an entry pass or two. He's backed up by Trey McDonald, who's a total offensive non-factor aside from solid offensive rebounding and terrible (32.1%) free-throw shooting on a high rate of attempts, though Thad Matta often eschews playing McDonald in favor of going small with Ross at the five.
Other backups who could see significant time include one-time Michigan recruit Amadeo Della Valle, a spot-up shooting specialist hitting 36.1% of his threes, and freshman forward Marc Loving, whose playing time has waned as he's in the midst of a horrible shooting slump (0/10 FG in his last five games).
The Buckeyes have won four of their last five—including road upsets at Wisconsin and Iowa—after they fell to 2-4 in Big Ten play with a four-loss skid capped by a defeat at Nebraska. The lone loss in their recent stretch was a bad one, however: in overtime at home against Penn State. OSU is 2-3 against KP50 teams, though they've played only one of those games at home—a ten-point loss to Iowa.
Yes, I'm toying around with the features on my new MacBook. Do y'all prefer the pretty charts below—with Michigan's four factors and the D-I average included—or the old way of doing things? Suggestions for how to improve this, as always, are welcome.
We've got enough of a sample that I'm now using conference-only four factors:
The Buckeyes are second in the B1G in defensive efficiency despite ranking 7th in eFG% against and 10th in DReb%. The reasons: OSU is first in forcing turnovers, first in 3-pt% against, second in preventing three-point attempts, and fourth in keeping opponents off the free-throw line. Two-point defense is the Buckeyes's glaring weakness, especially when Williams isn't on the floor.
On offense, OSU is in the middle of the B1G pack in just about every category save offensive rebounding (9th) and FTA/FGA (3rd). Don't expect many turnovers, as the Buckeyes take care of the ball well and Michigan doesn't force many anyway. The disparity in FTA/FGA will be key; if OSU gets to the line regularly, this could be a tough one to pull off for Michigan.
Free up Stauskas. Ohio State boasts two guards in Craft and Scott who are perfectly suited to replicating the aggressive ball-denial defense of Yogi Ferrell and (sigh) Mike Gesell that shut down Nik Stauskas in Michigan's two recent losses. If Michigan wants to pull this off away from home, they have to find a way—whether it's switching up their off-ball movement or having Stauskas play like a true point guard and start with the ball—to get their best scorer and creator the basketball, plain and simple.
Take care of the ball. The rather lackadaisical ballhandling exhibited by Stauskas, Glenn Robinson, and Caris LeVert in recent games won't fly against an aggressive Ohio State defense. Ohio State has enough trouble scoring in halfcourt sets that Michigan can't be giving them easy points on the break, and against such a good three-point defense the Wolverines also can't afford to waste possessions. If Spike Albrecht is the answer here, Michigan can hide his defensive issues a little by matching him up against Craft or Scott.
No easy looks. I don't have to remind you that Michigan's perimeter defense hasn't been good. While OSU doesn't boast a lineup of deadeye shooters, Ross and Smith are both reliable from the outside and Craft can connect when teams sag off too far. OSU's three-point shooting has been much better in wins than losses (surprise!); the Wolverines can't blow switches, fail to identify shooters, or flat-out fail to properly contest shots—ahem, GET YOUR HANDS UP, CARIS—or they could have a tough time making up those points on the other end.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Ohio State by 4
Drake Harris and Chase Winovich
All the three pointers. Hands up! Bad luck. Bad defense. What to do with Stauskas? Hey, they're still pretty good.
Curling digression. Proposal for winter decathlon. Which would be awesome. Downhill, slalom, 500m speed skating, cross-country, etc.
We run down all 16 recruits, hype up the wide receivers, express disappointment that the class did not reach at least 18 guys. What was with Montae Nicholson? Redshirt complainin'. Always redshirt complainin'.
"Across 110th Street."
"Nautical Disaster," The Tragically Hip
The usual links:
Mailbag: Playing Early, SEC Basketball Vs Big Ten Football Derpoff, Press Pleas, Permissible Jerk Level
INSTANT IMPACT; LATER IMPACT
First, in terms of player development, which position is the hardest to develop a freshman at for them to see playing time immediately. Conversely, which position is the easiest for a freshman to make a significant impact at without needing to redshirt or know the system inside and out? (Excluding punter and kicker)
Offensive line is by far the most difficult. Most incoming offensive linemen are man-mountains who have never seen anyone on their level in an actual football game. That is why almost all OL redshirt even in times of extreme need. See: Michigan last year. The reason OL are so hard to project is because they are so much farther from finished products than everyone else, and technique is paramount.
After OL there is a big drop to the next most difficult spot, which is QB. Freshman quarterbacks are nearly always pick-laden disasters. Next is probably linebacker, which both requires a lot of bulking up to be effective and constant reading of plays to see whether it's run or pass.
The easiest spots to make a freshman impact are the ones where athleticism is paramount and intelligence a nice bonus instead of a requirement: skill positions on offense and cornerback. NFL Wonderlic scores by position are a good proxy for how difficult it is to play position X right away:
I'm surprised LBs aren't higher.
In fact, the post that comes from references Mario Manningham's 6 on that test; Manningham was Michigan's most productive freshman receiver in a long time. (Martavious Odoms has since surpassed his first year production, but in a context of total roster chaos.)
Secondly, which conference is worse: B1G at football or SEC at basketball? I was watching a Georgia vs LSU game and it was atrocious. However, a Purdue vs. Illinois football game would be just as bad. Which conference has the ability to turn the corner and be a nation powerhouse?
They're virtually identical: nationally embarrassing save a couple programs at the top. Big Ten football coaches don't complain nearly as much about their place in the firmament, so SEC basketball wins worst conference.
Seriously. Remember that bit last year where everyone in the SEC whined about their bubble teams getting shipped to the NIT, whereupon they would lose in the first round? It was recently compounded by Ole Miss's coach claiming the reason the SEC is perceived to suck is because they're too good at football:
“I just think it’s an easy company line, and I do think there is a bias in the national media. They get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football. They just get tired of talking about it, so when there’s an opportunity to talk about something else, that’s what they’re going to do,” said Kennedy, who went on to use Kentucky as an example of the nation’s perception of the league.
Kennedy complained that the SEC teams getting snubbed had similar profiles to the mid-majors that got in, which 1) well, yeah, that's what happens, and 2) one of those mid-majors that got in, LaSalle, beat 4-seed Kansas State and then his own damn team to reach the Sweet 16. The committee's decision to pass over SEC teams last year was vindicated in spades and they're still complaining about it. So, yeah. Worst conference: SEC basketball.
WHEN CAN WE JAM AND SLAM MAN
Seattle won the super bowl and (sigh) sparty won the big ten playing virtually the same aggressive, almost illegal, defense. Countess returns, they have two 5 star recruits in Peppers and Thomas, and they have several larger DB on the roster who have had game experience. Have you heard/do you think Michigan will be playing more an aggressive defense similar to those teams this football season?
I know what you're getting at but first let me note that MSU and Seattle run different schemes. MSU is an aggressive cover 4 that keeps two safeties at about nine yards and uses them to hammer down at runs. Seattle is an aggressive cover 3 that keeps one deep safety for centerfield purposes and runs a lot of press coverage on the outside because they can get away with it.
But they do share one very obvious commonality. They have their corners at the line of scrimmage, ready to get in the opponent's grill and reroute them against their will. In contrast, Michigan's defense was a passive bend-but-don't-break unit last year. As per every coordinator in the history of questions about desired changes, Michigan wants to get more aggressive. I bet you one dollar that something along those lines is said at the first spring press conference.
And in this case I think you can see the direction Michigan wants to go is big ol' corners that will put you on the sideline and be generally huge when you try to go over the top of this. Hoke has brought in the following corners after the grab-anyone transitional class:
- 2012: Terry Richardson (5'9")
- 2013: Channing Stribling (6'2"), Reon Dawson (6'2"), Jourdan Lewis (5'10"), Ross Douglas(5'10")
- 2014: Jabrill Peppers (6'0"), Brandon Watson(5'11")
Michigan also recruited Gareon Conley, another rangy 6'2" guy, and has seen enough from their current secondary that Douglas has been flipped to tailback after his redshirt year. Other than Richardson, who is the traditional tiny Cass Tech corner Michigan is duty-bound to take, the only other short corners were another Cass guy Michigan was duty bound to take and a guy no longer at the position.
While grabbing Peppers doesn't tell you anything other than Michigan is not run by complete nutcases, Michigan extending a camp offer to Watson while they still had a number of high profile DBs on the board does tell you something. Watson is a press fiend. Hit 1:40 on this video.
All the buzz from his commitment was that he was capital-P Physical and the only guy in camp with a prayer of checking Canteen, and "physical" is the first word out of the coaches' mouths when he comes up as a signee. That indicates the direction Michigan would like to go in, and it is towards MSU/Seattle-type defenses that are inviting you to try and throw a fade over a big corner.
HOWEVA, I'm not sure we see much of that nose-to-nose play this year. Michigan didn't like it with their personnel a year ago and that personnel returns. The addition of Peppers figures to be a nickel package thing at first, when press is often counterproductive. Even if Peppers emerges into a starter, press + freshman is playing with fire. Seems like Michigan will have to wait for 2015 to seriously amp up the pressure on the outside.
CAN I TELL AARON CRAFT HE'S ADOPTED?
The recent "Marcus Smart pushes loudmouth fan" incident has me ruminating on what is the ideal fan behavior at sporting events. Many of us often decry the laid-back atmosphere at football games with fans showing up late or presenting a "down in front!" mentality throughout, but at the same we look on in horror at stories of verbal assaults or flying trashcans we hear about at Ohio or West Virginia. Where is the line? (Obviously physical aggression is well past the line.)
Does calling someone a "piece of crap" rise to an egregious level where one should remove themselves from attending any live events for a year as the Texas Tech fan is doing or is that overly sensitive? Should sporting events exist in a weird other world where things that would otherwise be off-limits are somehow acceptable (the same way one can wear a bikini to the beach but would be fired instantly if they wore it to work)? And if so, should that be the case?
Basically, I'd appreciate your thoughts on how one should balance their impassioned fan-dom with common human decency.
First, there is no way that guy called Smart a "piece of crap" unless it was part of a larger stream of profanity. The guy in question is apparently a legendarily yappy guy. He got what he was coming to him.
In general, anything that you could fire off at one of your friends while giving them crap is in-bounds. Justin Beiber chants, deport Stauskas, etc.: fine. Anything about a person's game, or lack thereof, is fine. Generalized group insults like "ugly parents" are also fine. No one is going to lose their head over an obviously general comment not individually applicable. And if someone is acting seriously outside the bounds of propriety, you may as well tell them. The Auburn fans in the infamous Marshall Henderson GIF are giving him both verbal barrels; they've been provoked and anything they happen to be saying about Henderson is probably true. It doesn't change anything, but it feels good.
Just don't bring anyone's sister into things. Making things personal is where things start getting into Smart/jerko territory. You can only yell that Aaron Craft is adopted if he's not adopted. Or you're his secret biological dad, because funny is funny.
Last week I started playing with Lemming's recruiting information to see how national recruiting had changed over the last few decades. Too late for that article I realized I could actually take this study back more than a century using lists of historical lettermen published by various teams in their annual media guides. Using the same regional breakdown I tried to get data for the same six I used in the old decimated defense series—Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Alabama—but only three had accessible info.
These are based on letterwinners, not entire rosters, so scholarship freshmen on the scout team aren't counted. It still gives us a picture:
Vestibulum ut maior
First the goofy things. The breaks in Alabama's lines are 1919 and 1943, when the Tide didn't field teams because too many players were fighting World Wars I and II, respectively. That big spike for Bama right before WWII is because they were used as an officers training base just prior to the war. Michigan got this same temporary—by 1943 those officers had shipped overseas—bump, but not as many registered since most came from the Midwest (e.g. Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch from Wisconsin).
Second the obvious things. Notre Dame's claim to be a "national" program is defended by the data. From the 1920s through the '70s their teams were fielded from between 30% and 60% by players from outside of the Great Lakes States (plus Iowa). Since the '80s about 65% is the new normal. Michigan and Alabama tracked pretty similarly as major state schools who kept to their home regions up until Bo arrived. Beginning in 1969 Michigan began a trend upward that finally settled over 30% of players from outside their region. Alabama remained a predominantly regional program until Nick Saban arrived.
I zoomed in on the years since 1964 so we can better appreciate how coaching changes affected the programs:
Tangere facere magnum
Ewww don't touch me. I trust you know who Michigan's and Alabama's coaches were in 1964. The late '60s were the last time Michigan was as regional as Alabama. That now seems in danger of happening again. Last year Michigan dipped to 25.67% and Bama peaked at 25.33%.
Michigan graduated five players from outside the Midwest (Dileo, Gallon, Gibbons, Lewan, and Qwash), and two more (Ash and Furman) aren't returning for fifth years, but they brought in nine this year (Peppers, JBB, Winovich, Pallante, Watson, Speight, Mone, Cole and Canteen) so I expect their total to climb a little for 2014. It's too hard to say what Bama's number will be since they still need to cut 10 or 11 players before fall.
Championships win defense. Carr's 1997 championship, Parseghian's 1966 one, and Saban's 2009 title were all followed by steep increases in national recruiting; of the 14 titles in that chart two (Holtz's in 1988 and Stallings's in 1992) were accompanied by drops in the % of roster made up of extra-regional players. Michigan's historical peak is 2000, three years after their only TV-era national championship and one year after their Orange Bowl victory. The great Hoke classes of the last two years were very local.
[After the jump, I test another culprit]
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt/40: 6'0" / 185 lbs. / 4.41
Location: McKinney North High School – McKinney, TX
Offers: Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Clemson, Colorado State, Michigan, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, TCU, Texas Tech, Tulsa
Ranking: ★★★★ .9092 (247 Composite)
The Michigan coaches have ventured into Big 12 country and offered RB Ronald Jones II out of the Lone Star State. On film this may be one of my favorite recruits to be offered in the 2015 class. This kid is flat out electric with the ball in his hands and knows how to churn out yards despite not being the biggest back Michigan has targeted. The second I saw his highlight I thought Jamaal Charles 2.0, who coincidentally also hailed from Texas. The coaches will have to work very hard to pull Jones out of Texas but to me he would be worth the effort.
With the drama-free events of Signing Day for the Michigan coaches taken care of before lunch, the staff decided to extend an offer to Jones once the 2014 letters had rolled in. Jones explained how he learned of his offer and where Michigan ranks among his other offers.
My coach told me that he got the call from Coach Funk and then just told me you’ve been offered by Michigan. It felt good you know, Go Blue! They are definitely up there for me with the rich tradition and history they have. I definitely like them. They didn’t sign a running back today so that may make for a good opportunity for me.
The state of Texas is a factory for D1 football players and even though Michigan recruits Texas pretty heavily, the only Texan currently on the roster is Russell Bellomy. With Jones being born in Georgia and raised in Texas since he was a toddler, I asked him about how he perceives the Michigan program.
I’d call my interest right now medium or steady. I’m trying to learn a lot more about the program, I know about Denard Robinson and how he was on the cover of NCAA. I remember Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, Chad Henne, and that team. I know they got a lot of history. I know about Desmond Howard being on ESPN on Saturday’s. I actually know a lot about Michigan but it is far away and it might be an issue getting up there for like a junior day or a visit or something like that.
The lid wasn’t even on the 2014 class yet and already coaches, especially Michigan’s, were able to really focus on the 2015 class, so I asked Ronald about how he plans to approach the now current 2015 recruiting cycle.
I want to make a decision pretty early I guess. Right now I’m just focusing on getting stronger. I’m just trying to enjoy the process. I’ve already taken a junior day visit to Baylor, I’ve been to Oklahoma, and I plan on going to TCU for a camp too. Honestly I would really like to check out Michigan. I’m going to talk to my mom and try to set something up either during spring break or over the summer when I actually have the time, but yeah I really want to try and make it up there.
I try to stay neutral when it comes to expressing my interest in players due to the nature of what I do, but this kid is a big YES PLEASE. His film is beyond impressive and talking to him was no different. He was a well-spoken, humble-sounding, yes-sir type of young man. His knowledge of Michigan also caught my attention because that’s not something that recruits can usually spout off the top of their heads.
Michigan recruits aggressively in Texas, but Texans can be hard to nab because they have so many solid options within their home state and in surrounding areas. Jones, as you’d expect, grew up liking the Longhorns, has been to multiple games in Austin, and was receiving a lot of attention from UT before Mack Brown was replaced by Charlie Strong. Jones said he hopes to starting hearing from the new staff and thinks an offer could be possible.
If Jones puts enough effort into checking out Ann Arbor I’d give Michigan an outside shot at landing him, but as of right now I think he’s going to be nearly impossible to lure away from the likes of a sexy Baylor, a refreshed Texas, the now-big-time Texas A&M Aggies, a confident Bama-beater in Oklahoma, as well as hot programs like Clemson and Oklahoma State.
Ht/Wt/40: 6'3" / 212 lbs. / 4.67
Location: Andrean High School – Merrillville, IN
Offers: Illinois, Michigan, Purdue
Ranking: ★★★★ .8900 (247 Composite)
At the end of January I spoke with 2015 LB Josh Barajas after I had learned that Coach Mallory stopped by his high school. Barajas was impressed with Mallory, called Michigan a top program in the country, and felt honored that one of the coaches took the time to see him. At that time their contact was limited and the main purpose of the visit seemed to be to invite Barajas to the junior day event planned for February 23. An offer didn’t seem imminent and Barajas told me that they never even said the word "offer during their initial contact. Eight days later and Barajas held an offer from the Wolverines.
Barajas was beyond excited to learn that he had earned a scholarship offer from Michigan.
Today after school my high school coach told me to give Coach Mallory a call. I called him and he immediately gave me the good news! I was in shock. I didn’t expect it to come, especially this early. I am super excited. It’s a big step in my recruiting and I’m just trying to soak it all in. Coach Mallory and I get into a ton of specifics but right now he said they’ve offered me at linebacker.
Barajas also spoke about how he likes Michigan for reasons besides football.
I know Michigan is a huge program and just as big, if not bigger, academically. I know the atmosphere is absolutely awesome. I see Michigan fans everywhere. Obviously the most winningest program in the nation will have that.
"Most winningest"! Barajas doesn’t have any formal connections to the university but he does have a Michigan advocate in his ear.
My school's baseball coach is a HUGE Michigan fan so I hear from him daily. I haven’t ever been there but I plan to for the junior day at the end of February.
With just three offers in his pocket Barajas expects his recruitment to pick up considerably and that means patience will be important as he starts to narrow his list and ultimately closes in on a decision.
It’s a big decision so I think I’m going to wait a while before committing of course. I want to get a taste and a feel for a lot of colleges to make sure I really like the one I choose. I definitely think that Michigan will be in the mix throughout though.
The process is in the early stages for Barajas and with Michigan being early to offer and being his biggest to date, I think the Wolverines will be in it for his services. I learned that Josh is very close friends with Enoch Smith Jr., a 2013 Spartan commit, and that Barajas is also quite high on Sparty, so if they decide to throw their hat into the ring, they could become the team to beat.