...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Duke's gameplan was obvious: don't let Nik Stauskas touch the ball, let alone shoot it, and force the rest of the Wolverines to find a way to score. Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones spent most of the game face-guarding Stauskas, limiting Michigan's leading scorer to four points—all on free throws*—on 0/2 shooting while the rest of the team faltered, save for a late push from Caris LeVert.
The 79-69 final score is rather deceptive; Duke led by double-digits for most of the game and pushed the margin as high as 18 points in the late stages, with Michigan unable to get closer than six points behind in the second half. The Wolverines scored 19 fruitless points in the final two minutes to carve eight points out of the deficit; by that time, Duke was content to keep Michigan at arm's reach with their free-throw shooting.
Simply put, this game was a major indictment of Michigan's supporting cast—at this point, it's clear that Stauskas is the offensive star, the rest playing supporting roles. Glenn Robinson III's woes on both ends of the court showed up at the worst time. He was nearly invisible offensively and ineffective when he attempted to get aggressive, scoring eight points on nine shots—with half those points coming after the game was well in hand—and failing to get to the free-throw line. He couldn't create a clean look for his jump shot or get around defenders to attack the basket. On the other end, he was pulled from the game at least once for repeated failures to box out his man, and when Michigan got lost on perimeter switches he was often involved.
Until Caris LeVert decided to put the team on his back in the second half, when he scored 20 of his team-leading 24 points, nobody else stepped up, either. Duke's aggressive hedging against the pick-and-roll made it difficult to get the ball to Mitch McGary in the post; even when he was open, the guards failed to get him the ball in good position—eight of his 15 points came in the final two minutes after Duke basically stopped boxing out. Derrick Walton had a couple very nice takes to the hoop in transition en route to seven points on 3/6 shooting; in the halfcourt, however, he couldn't facilitate the offense, tallying just one assist to three turnovers, one of which was a what-was-that pass deep into the Cameron Crazies. Zak Irvin was limited to 14 minutes and managed five points on five shots.
LeVert was certainly a bright spot in the second half, slicing his way into the lane with regularity, finishing well, and getting to the line; after going 2/5 in the first half with no free throw attempts, he shot 6/13 from the field in the latter stanza and knocked down all seven of his shots from the charity stripe. If there's one positive to take away from this game, it's his apparent willingness to be the go-to guy when Stauskas is rendered ineffective; after waiting on Robinson and McGary to be the guy, he had to step up and did so. Yes, he's occasionally overmatched by bigger players on defense; he's also very effective at the top of the 1-3-1 and is clearly the team's second-best offensive player this year.
His emergence in this game was too little, too late, unfortunately; Michigan needs more than one of their perimeter players to score consistently if they want to beat good teams, and they didn't have an answer when Duke took away Stauskas. I don't think this is a coaching issue; when an opponent is flat-out turning their back to the play and solely focusing on denying one player the ball, the rest of the offense should be able to create open looks while playing four-on-four. Aside from LeVert, nobody could manage this as Duke funneled everything inside—Michigan was 3/13 from beyond the arc—and forced the perimeter players to beat them off the dribble.
A loss to Duke at Cameron is nothing to be ashamed of, but the way this game played out should be very worrisome for Michigan. Stauskas has been identified as the main threat, and now there's a blueprint for stopping the offense cold unless someone else—not just LeVert—raises their level of play. This is still a young team that can improve dramatically over the course of the year; it's clear they're going to have to if they want to compete for a Big Ten title.
*To further emphasize how much Duke took Stauskas out of the equation, three of his four free-throw makes came after Blue Devil technical fouls, not anything he did offensively.
Duke: creating future generations of people who will crush the economy for their personal benefit
WELP. Ace will have a fuller postmortem shortly, but the short version of what happened at Duke: Michigan spent the first half playing offense like the football team not against ND or OSU and dug themselves a hole they could not extract themselves from.
Very frustrating that Duke can extend their defense so aggressively and not give up backdoor cuts, of which I don't think Michigan had a single one all night. I don't get it. A few bullets:
- GRIII is the same guy and has to be seeing his NBA draft stock crumble as teams get a longer look at him and see someone who can stand in the corner and make threes at an acceptable rate and throw down some dunks but do little else, especially as an NBA three.
- LeVert was pretty much the only guy willing to and capable of driving at a set Duke defense to generate shot opportunities.
- Michigan's defense was actually all right, but flattered by a poor shooting night for Duke in the first half. Duke didn't put Michigan in too many situations where they switched, which previously led to a lot of confusion and things like LeVert trying to cover a power forward. This happened maybe once or twice.
- Everyone in the Duke student section looks like the villain from a 1980s teen comedy.
- Sports! Hate you, sports.
Yeah, pretty much. Ross Fulton breaks down what happened in the OSU game on both sides of the ball, noting that OSU often didn't align well and seemed unprepared for some things that Michigan had shown plenty of:
Like Iowa this year or Cal two years ago, Michigan was able to get easy yards by aligning their blocking strength to the boundary and running to the edge. By aligning to the defensive front to the field and failing to adjust, the Buckeyes are outflanked before the snap. For instance, Michigan picked up easy yards by putting their tight end and wing to the boundary and running touch passes to Jeremy Gallon.
In fact, Michigan went so far as to put their tackle to the boundary to run speed option and the Buckeyes still did not adjust. Michigan has previously shown this look (with limited success) this season, but the Buckeyes did not seem to expect it.
I don't know if that's good news or bad news. OSU's defense doesn't seem particularly well-organized (compare throwback/tunnel screens in this game to Michigan's attempt against MSU), which is a good thing in one game per year as long as OSU doesn't make changes. But some of their success being the stuff they'd already put on film that OSU was inexplicably unprepared for is less good than Michigan having a bunch of wizbang.
The proper way to have a vote of confidence. There is exactly one correct way to tell the universe that your embattled head coach isn't going anywhere. It is three sentences of boilerplate in which you strongly endorse the man in charge and say nothing else, because saying anything else is not useful.
For example: "Coach Hoke will be at the University of Michigan next year and for several years after. While this season has been a trying one, Michigan barely had a non-freshman interior offensive lineman on the roster and has to-date retained 51 of 52 recruits in Hoke's first two full classes, providing needed stability after years of turmoil on and off the field. He is the man for the job."
This is short, and crucially does not
MAKE IDIOTIC COMPARISONS TO NICK SABAN
Many don't remember that Alabama finished fourth in its division during Nick Saban's fourth year with the Crimson Tide. At present, Alabama seems to be doing pretty well!!
Nick Saban won a national title in his third year.
USE MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS LIKE A HIGH SCHOOL GIRL
I imagine the editorial meeting about this spent 15 minutes talking about whether "pretty well" needed two or three exclamation points, with the third getting axed because This Is Michigan and three exclamation points is just not done for anything other than the many and varied accomplishments of the University of Michigan.
BRING UP THE GUY MICHIGAN—***YOU***—WHIFFED ON BECAUSE OF THE PROCESS
Stanford had 4-8, 5-7 and 8-5 records under Jim Harbaugh before reaching its current string of consecutive BCS appearances
ALSO STANFORD WAS 1-11.
THROW A FORMER COACH UNDER THE BUS FOR NO REASON
The senior class was recruited by Coach Carr and had some terrific talent that had simply been underperforming.
Football is simple, says the BTN commercial.
NOT AT ALL INCIDENTALLY THROW DENARD ROBINSON, MIKE MARTIN, JORDAN KOVACS, DESMOND MORGAN, TAYLOR LEWAN AND JAKE RYAN UNDER THE BUS
Seriously, seniors recruited by Lloyd Carr had about 20% to do with that Sugar Bowl season, because his last class was horrendous.
MAKE UNJUSTIFIABLE ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE MOTIVATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS SEASON PUTS BRADY HOKE'S JOB AT RISK
Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football.
They will be taken to our new Go Blue Gulag in the upper peninsula.
MENTION THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BUT NOT MENTION THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
The transformation and improvement of our defense under the leadership of coach Greg Mattison has been outstanding.
This was taken as a sure sign Borges was getting axed when there has been very little indication that would happen from inside the program. This was not mentioned in the editorial meeting because of the exclamation point discussion.
But, hey, why say what you have to say in 100 words when you can take a thousand?
I HAVE JUST THE SOLUTION. From the NYT's repulsive tongue-bath of Jim Delany:
After the Southeastern Conference expanded to include the University of Missouri and after the Atlantic Coast Conference added the University of Notre Dame (the school’s football program remained independent) and the University of Pittsburgh — both schools within the Big Ten’s geographic footprint — Mr. Delany concluded that the Big Ten was in danger of ceding strategic ground. “We felt threatened,” he said.
The solution was clear.
Mr. Delany countered with the invitations to Rutgers, then of the Big East, and Maryland of the A.C.C.
YOUR MOVE, SEC.
wait youre just going to not do anything
UT San Antonio is out there man
make a move
Speaking of Rutgers…
So much for that theory. I'd ventured that Rutgers might actually become a good program in the Big Ten since New Jersey puts out quite a bit of talent and they would be able to flag down a lot more of it now that they were in a power conference. That prediction was looking pretty good as Rutgers locked down an array of quality local recruits en route to what looked like the best Big Ten recruiting class of the year, non-M-OSU division.
That's now in shambles as Rutgers deals with yet another coach-abuse fallout scandal. Recruits are decommiting in droves after this, which happened a week or two ago:
The incident -- which Jevon Tyree said occurred in April with the Rice fallout still fresh -- happened in front of approximately 10 teammates and a tutor, Jevon Tyree said, and it led to the 19-year-old's escalating ostracization, eventually driving him to quit.
Clarice Tyree called it "an outright bullying episode," and Mark Tyree said the behavior soon "transferred to the other coaches." Jevon Tyree, a redshirt freshman on scholarship, said that after the frightening incident, his standing on the team plummeted, along with practice repetitions and any shot at playing time. He said there were team meetings from which he was excluded.
Four of Rutgers's top recruits have decommited in the aftermath of this going public, including MI QB Tyler Wiegers.
Rutgers is just months removed from firing their basketball coach for flinging basketballs at players' heads and hired an athletic director who had been a coach so hated that most of her last team banded together to release a statement about what a horrible person she was. And no one got the football coaches together and said "hey, let's maybe not call people bitches two inches from their faces." The athletic director in the aftermath:
Look: I don’t know if Hermann is lying. I only know that her response, when I asked her on Saturday morning if she had indeed talked to Mark Tyree, was less than convincing.
This was the answer: “Yeah. Somebody – if it’s not him, who calls me and informs me of it? Otherwise I wouldn’t know about it. So I’m not trying to call – I’m not trying to use big words like the words he’s using, but I’m informed by him, to my knowledge. If it’s not him, who’s calling me?”
People in charge of things are just in charge of them, possibly for no reason. In Rutgers's case, definitely for no reason.
Hockey commits. Michigan picked up a couple of future hockey players over the last few days. Cooper Marody is a '96 forward who is probably a 2015 recruit in his first USHL season; he's got 5-11-16 in 23 games and is second in the USHL for his age cohort in that department. SBN College Hockey notes he's a "blazingly fast skater" at six-foot-even. And I think this commitment is going to stick, you guys.
— Cooper Marody (@MarodShow12) December 1, 2013
-- Griffin Luce, the son of Florida Panthers (NHL) director of scouting Scott Luce, has decided on Salisbury. The St. Thomas, Ontario native, a top ‘98 defenseman who could be selected in the 1st round of the OHL draft next year, played for the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs this past season. Will be joined at Salisbury by his brother, Harrison Luce, who will be a PG.
The elder Luce played at Colgate, and they obviously know all about Griffin's options, so this is also a commitment that's relatively OHL-proof. Google knows nothing else about Luce, as is often the case for super-young hockey commits, especially defensemen.
Etc.: Charles Pierce on The Game.
The Michigan coaching staff is being diligent when it comes to offering quarterbacks from the 2015 class. Josh Rosen is still the only signal caller to be offered but two new names have surfaced as potential offerees: Zach Gentry and Jimmy Fitzgerald are both receiving substantial attention from the Michigan coaches. I was able to catch up with both to see how they are feeling the Wolverines and gauge interest from both ends.
Name: Zach Gentry
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/230 lbs.
Location: Eldorado High School – Albequerque, NM
Offers: Louisville, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State
When you are the grandson of the all-time winningest high school coach in your home-state you are expected to be a student of the game. Zach Gentry is just that as the grandson of Bill Gentry, a National High School Hall of Famer and all time wins leader in New Mexico. Grandpa Bill taught his grandson well and has helped mold him into a coveted prospect in the 2015 class.
Gentry was invited by the Michigan staff to attend the Ohio State game last weekend but being a New Mexican the travel arrangements and his basketball schedule proved to be too much to overcome. Gentry was legitimately bummed out that he couldn’t make it.
I wish I could’ve went but unfortunately between expenses and my basketball schedule I just couldn’t do it. I watched it on TV though! Michigan is a place that I am definitely interested in so I could see myself visiting at some point for sure. I would love to visit and it’s something I will discuss with my family, but I need to know where exactly they stand with me too.
It’s easy to understand why the coaches are interested in Gentry. At 6’6”, and over 230 lbs. he has prototypical size to run the pro-style offense. He’s also more athletic than most people give him credit for, running a 4.67 forty. I asked him to describe his own game.
I think that I’m described as a pocket-passer but people don’t realize that I can actually tuck the ball and I feel really comfortable running. If people watched me play they would see how I can sling the ball around well, but move and make quick cuts also for how big I am.
A few college coaches have told Gentry that he reminds them of a more athletic Ryan Mallett with his big frame and strong arm.
Michigan has shown an increased level of interest in Gentry recently and he is starting to form a pretty solid relationship with the staff.
They have done a great job staying in contact with me via game invites and mail. I’d say that of all the teams interested in me, Michigan has arguably sent me the most mail and invited me to the most games. I really like the staff there a lot and I think Coach Hoke will always have Michigan competitive. The staff has done a great job with me.
The young quarterback kept it PC and didn’t tip his hand to any type of leader or favorite at this point when it came to desirable offers. Being from New Mexico he didn’t really grow up rooting for any particular team.
A family friend of Zach’s currently attends Michigan and has spoken very positively of her experiences on campus and in the stands.
She has been to a lot of games and has said that they are absolutely awesome! She says that the crowd and pregame festivities are unbelievable!
Since Zach has never even been to the state of Michigan this influence from a family friend is a nice boost in his perception of student life in Ann Arbor. He hopes to someday experience it himself during a visit.
As always west coast kids can be hard to pull from home, but New Mexico isn’t California with multiple high-level universities to choose from. Gentry is 1,500 miles from Ann Arbor but that distance isn’t enough to keep the tradition and history out of his mind. He expressed how grateful he was that a school and program like Michigan was interested in him.
With a few offers already in his pocket and a senior season still to play Gentry has a while until a decision needs to be made and he is not in a hurry.
I’d like to let things happen and just play out for now, but if I feel really comfortable with a place I’ll go ahead and decide. As far as factors are concerned, the coaching staff, academics, and the type of offense they run are all important to me. I’d like an offense where I can sit in the pocket and throw the ball from a drop-back, but I’d also love to get the ball in my hands to carry it too. Michigan definitely fits the bill at this point.
I really like Gentry on film and he’s not lying when he says that he moves well for a kid his size. Louisville is a nice early offer for him but he didn’t mention the Cardinals at all when I asked him about a leader or favorite group. If offered I expect Michigan to get a very serious look from him.
Name: Jimmy Fitzgerald
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/220 lbs.
Location: Centennial High School – Champaign, IL
Offers: Akron, Harvard, Illinois, Yale
Clearly a smart kid, Jimmy Fitzgerald knew that he needed to be on hand last Saturday for The Game to take in his first experience at Michigan. Despite the outcome he came away more than impressed with the atmosphere of the The Big House.
Fitzgerald has made a big enough impression on the coaching staff for Coach Mallory to make a trip to Centennial High School on Tuesday to watch him throw in person. Fitzgerald told me that he threw it well enough to warrant a return trip from Coach Borges next week.
His offers from Harvard and Yale prove that he’s an intelligent young man and when I asked him to describe his game he answered just how you’d expect him to.
I’m about 6’3” and 220 lbs. and I ran a 4.71 40. I consider myself a coach on the field and I love to distribute the ball to our athletes and give them room to work.
He compared himself to Andrew Luck, which is obviously a tall order to live up to, but clearly this kid has confidence in his ability and his intelligence.
Michigan has been recruiting Fitzgerald pretty aggressively and he spoke very highly of the university and the coaching staff.
Michigan is a great school academically and athletically. It really would be a great opportunity. I already feel like I’m pretty close with Coach Mallory. I had a brief conversation with Coach Hoke on Saturday during my visit but Coach Mallory is my main contact.
Fitzgerald admitted to following the Illilni growing up in Champaign but he’s grown to like a lot of other schools realizing that they all have something different to offer a student athlete. He didn’t mention any specific schools as a leader or an early favorite, rather he said his main focus right now is just working hard in the weight room and concentrating on his studies.
Fitzgerald is nowhere near a decision at this point in his recruitment but he did say he will commit whenever it feels right. He is very serious about his academics and that is going to factor in just as much if not more than his athletic desires. It is worth noting that his grandmother is a Michigan graduate so he does have some Wolverine blood in him.
Fitzgerald is actually listed as a dual-threat quarterback on Rivals but on film his mobility appears slightly above average. He’s not going to run all over the place but he can move the chains and keep a defense honest. He seems to be pretty high on the quarterback board as Coach Mallory and Coach Borges have already made plans to watch him throw again next week. He is definitely an offer possibility.
It appears that the Michigan coaches are focusing in on about 4-6 quarterbacks in the 2015 class and Gentry and Fitzgerald appear to be two of them. I still believe the rest of the list consists of Kyle Kearns, Riley Neal, Nick Johns, and Alex Malzone. If the coaches approach the quarterback position like they did last year we are still about two months away from finding out who will claim the #2 spot behind a Cali-school-bound Josh Rosen.
The best reason I've been able to come up with for how this Michigan team could put up that kind of yardage against Ohio State is that Ohio State's defensive players are—man, how do I say this without being a total jackass homer rival?—more prone to mental errors than your average Big Ten starters.
|I hereby dedicate this post In memory of the too-short MGoCareer of Heiko "Bubble Screen" Yang. Who needs doctor money anyway?|
Another way to say it: the best and most representative player on that unit is Ryan Shazier, who is basically Jonas Mouton with five years of good coaching. Another way to say it: they're exactly as dumb as they are talented, and that's why a group of 5-stars are just an average defense. I am a total jackass homer rival.
The second-best reason, and the best you can say without coming off like a TJHR, is that which Borges himself apparently gave in the pre-game interview with Musberger: "We emptied the drawer." In other words, they finally ran all of those counters to the things they'd been doing all year.
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to wonder why it took this long to throw paper, especially when that gamble came up just short (and the last play was a rock that OSU allegedly* RPS'ed) of paying off. For the moment, let's look at one of the "third" things they brought out for this game and what that did for the offense.
* Ohio State's players threw out one of those heartbreaking quotes about being uber-prepared for what was coming, but the play also had Gallon about to break open.
|It's hard to argue Funchess isn't an "ideal" slot ninja, isn't it? [Upchurch]|
The Bubble Package
Yards per attempt; attempts in parentheses:
|MSU||2.0 (1)||8.0 (1)||5.0|
|Northwestern||5.3 (7)||5.7 (3)||5.4|
|Iowa||3.0 (5)||1.0 (2)||2.4|
|Ohio State||4.5 (4)||7.7 (3)||18.0 (1)||7.4|
|TOTALS||4.2 (17)||5.6 (9)||18.0 (1)||5.2|
Michigan does the bubble differently than Rich Rod—he made it an automatic check against the slot defender getting too close to his running game—but both work under the same principle: keep your grubby SAM's hands away from my interior running game!
The Borges Bubble game debuted against Michigan State as a bubble screen(!) that got a remarkable-for-that-day eight yards, followed by a fake bubble (out of the shotgun) to inside zone that got unfortunately blown up by a double-a gap blitz. It really came out in the Northwestern game: ten plays for 5.4 YPP. Of those, three were the bubble screen, four were a fake to an inside zone, and three to an iso. Once it was on film, Iowa adapted but Michigan ran the same (basically) two things they had against the Wildcats. The result was 2.4 YPP on seven tries: 2 bubbles and 5 inside zones.
They run it out of different formations, usually with two tight ends opposite the bubble twins (20/27 plays I have charted were from the Ace twins twin TE or I-form twins). They do run other stuff from these formations but twins (two receivers to one side) with Gallon on the line and Funchess in the slot is a good sign the bubble game is in play.
It's a good fit for this team since it: A) de-emphasizes interior blocking by holding the SAM outside and letting his OL play 5-on-5; B) Utilizes the surprising multi-threats of Gallon (as a blocker) and Funchess (as a slot receiver), and C) Lets them get Derrick Green running downhill.
I don't have Iowa video but I can show you how they adapted. The first time Michigan ran it they threatened blitz with the SAM:
Then had that guy back out and attack Funchess. The idea was to lure Michigan into a screen if this was a check, and then blow it all to hell. Like I said, it's on tape. Fortunately Michigan doesn't run checks; they called run:
Iowa got to play their base defense against that basic zone run, and the result was 5-ish yards. That is rock on rock: it's blockers versus the blocked until safeties arrive, however the SAM was kept away from the running game by the threat of Funchess. The thing is, up to then Michigan only had a rock and a scissors, so Iowa could spend all day in this defense, ceding 3-5 yards when Michigan ran it, and blowing up the bubble constraint.
Here's what this looked like when OSU defended it:
Same playcall as Iowa except since they knew it wasn't a check they didn't bother with fake SAM ("Star" in Buckeye terminology) blitz—just lined him up against Funchess. A screen is dead.
But watch Joey Bosa (#97 on the bottom of OSU's line) get way too upfield and try to knock down the screen pass that isn't coming, thus taking himself completely out of the play. He's matched against Lewan instead of Butt, though, so Michigan was probably going to get something out of that block anyway; you still don't want to make it so easy.
The middle linebacker (#14 Curtis Grant) compounded matters by Obi Ezeh-ing his way to the hole, which gave Kerridge enough time to arrive and pop in an advantageous position. Finally, the safety (#3 Corey "City in Pennsylvania" Brown) took a long time to read the play, backing out a few steps before setting up at the 1st down line. He might have been run through if the other safety (#4 C.J. Barnett) hadn't made his way over, got depth with a neat little athletic step, and helped stop it.
So rock on rock nets a big hole and big yards, because Ohio State's defenders are something-something box of rocks. But they're not the only talent-deficient guys on the field. Michigan's OL screwed up rock on the third bubble package play of the game:
That's inside zone. With the Star taken out by the bubble fake, everyone is blocked except the safety coming down (#3 Corey "a Jewish suburb west of Pittsburgh" Brown). And he was set up outside so if Mags and Glasgow can hold their downfield blocks this could bust huge. However Glasgow and Kalis didn't do a very good job on their exchange—or else the DT (#63 Michael Bennett) just did a great job fighting through it—and the Buckeye DT ends the play with a mouthful. Bennett was bent back when Glasgow released so my inclination here is to point at Kalis and call it ten-man football.
In the Iowa play I wish I had video of, that DE threw off Butt, and the middle linebacker, despite drawing Lewan, managed to attack quick enough to cut off escape until everyone else arrived, which didn't take long since Iowa's safeties were playing with their ears back. However Green's momentum vs the size of those guys got an extra two yards. Here his 240 lbs. are irrelevant against a wall like Bennett.
[After the jump: other things you can make your fist into]
|WHAT||Michigan at Duke|
|WHERE||Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina|
|WHEN||9:15 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Duke –2 (KenPom)|
Right: A book that's every bit as good, if not better, than its cover art.
OBLIGATORY DICKIE V IN CAMERON WARNING
Dick Vitale is calling a game at Duke. You have been forewarned.
Yes, another section before we get to The Them, because Michigan is dealing with a potential absence of great significance: as of yesterday, John Beilein still wasn't sure if Nik Stauskas (ankle) will play tonight—it all depends on how he looked in practice yesterday, and there hasn't been word about that as of this writing. If Michigan is missing their go-to scorer at Cameron, odds of a victory are pretty slim. If you know of an ancient dance—preferably involving liberal use of three-goggles—that can cure sprained ankles, now is the time to perform it.
While it might not be fun for tonight, Michigan fans should be quite happy that 6'8" freshman forward Jabari Parker (right, via) chose Duke over Michigan State, as the five-star is already living up to prodigious levels of hype. Parker leads the Blue Devils with averages of 23 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 57% from two and an even 50% from three; he also has a team-high 14 blocks and is second on the squad with 10 steals in eight games. His matchup with Glenn Robinson III is going to get more attention than any other in this game, and for good reason; only Arizona has been able to slow Parker this year—he needed 21 shots to net 19 points and pulled in just three rebounds—and they're one of two teams to beat the Blue Devils this season.
Fellow 6'8" forward Rodney Hood, a sophomore transfer from Mississippi State, is the other Blue Devil to average 20 points per game; while he doesn't rebound or block shots on Parker's level, his shooting stats are actually better (63% from two, 59% from three) and he gets to the line with the same high frequency (6.1 fouls drawn/40 minutes, identical to Parker). Duke should feature plenty of three-guard lineups with these two up front; when they do, it'll be a huge test for Michigan's bigs and their ability to defend the perimeter.
When Duke starts the game, at least, they'll have 6'8" senior Josh Hairston on the floor—he's started the last two games at the five after 6'9" sophomore Amile Jefferson started the first six. I'm assuming Hairston is out there for his defense, as he's a very low-usage player offensively and he rebounds at a low rate for a big man; he's also extremely foul-prone. Jefferson, meanwhile, is the team's second-best rebounder after Parker and finishes well around the basket—he's 19/27 from the field—but his offensive game has been marred by free-throw woes (8/24), an issue compounded by the fact that he draws a ton of fouls. The two combine to play around 28 minutes per game, and this is definitely the weak spot in the Duke rotation.
Point guard Quinn Cook is having a breakout season so far, averaging 13.4 points and six assists per game with improved shooting numbers (56% from two, 38% from three) and a lowered turnover rate. He commands nearly all of Duke's minutes at the point—he's already played 36+ minutes four times this season. 6'2" senior Tyler Thornton and 6'4" sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon platoon at shooting guard. Thornton starts and is the team's perimeter defensive specialist—his 11 steals nearly match his 15 field goal attempts, though he's a capable outside shooter. Sulaimon is mired in a sophomore slump after starting for the Blue Devils as a consensus five-star freshman, connecting on 39% of his twos and 31% of his threes; last year he was at 46% and 37%, respectively, with higher usage numbers, so at some point one would expect he'll get back into the groove and see more time.
The other Blue Devil worth noting is 6'5" shooting specialist Andre Dawkins, who plays around 12 minutes per game and has connected on 12 of his 27 three-point attempts this season.
Both teams carry two losses into this game; Duke's, however, look much better on paper than Michigan's, as both came in neutral-site games against top-ten teams: #8 Kansas (by nine points) and #7 Arizona (six). Their only other game against a top-100 KenPom team was a ten-point win over #55 Alabama in the NIT Preseason Tipoff. Their five other victories were relatively comfortable home triumphs over middling-to-bad teams with the notable exception of a one-point escape against #158 Vermont in which the Catamounts shot a remarkable 31/41 from inside the arc.
Four factors, with obvious sample size caveats applying (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||59.5 (6)||15.2 (38)||28.7 (256)||48.3 (72)|
|Defense||48.3 (140)||18.0 (201)||31.8 (170)||43.0 (206)|
Duke's offense currently ranks fourth in the country in adjusted efficiency; they do everything well except rebound their misses, and misses haven't come too often—as a team, they shoot 57% from two and 43% from three, which is obviously excellent.
Defensively, however, they've experienced a significant dropoff from last season, when Mason Plumlee patrolled the paint. While the Blue Devils are very good at preventing three-point attempts (24.2 3PA/FGA, #17 nationally), which opponents are making at just a 27% clip, they've allowed 50.7% shooting inside the arc, just 207th in the country; their shot-blocking (7.5% of opponent attempts) ranks even worse.
Feed the beast. Given Duke's lack of a true interior presence with size remotely comparable to Mitch McGary, this is a game for Michigan to look to run their offense from the inside out, especially if they have as much trouble as other teams in getting good looks from the outside. McGary should factor in as both a shooting and passing threat in the post while also getting plenty of chances to for putbacks—Duke isn't great at preventing offensive rebounds.
Work for good looks. In games against high-tempo teams—and Duke fits that bill—Michigan's perimeter players have been prone to taking contested shots early in the clock. Simply put, the Wolverines can't afford to waste possessions against a team that's going to put up plenty of points. If Michigan gets impatient, Duke could run away with this one. With Duke's issues defending the paint this season, Stauskas, LeVert, Robinson, et al need to aggressively attack the basket instead of settling for perimeter looks unless they're quite open.
Get a body on Parker. Parker has been quite active on the offensive glass in Duke's wins; in their two losses, however, he's combined for just one offensive rebound. He's going to get his points, even if he's not shooting well—his 19-point output against Arizona was his lowest of the season. If Michigan is allowing him second-chance opportunities, they're going to have a tough time keeping up.
THE QUICK VICIOUS ELECTRONIC QUESTIONING
I answered a handful of questions about the game over at Duke Basketball Report, and DBR's JD King was kind enough to return the favor:
Has there been a common thread in Duke's two losses? Looking at the box scores, it seems like cold shooting doomed them against Arizona while rebounding and interior defense were the problem against Kansas. Is that a fair assessment, and is there anything those teams did that you think Michigan can replicate?
Not exactly but close. In both games size hurt Duke. Right now Duke's depth is sort of undeveloped. And Amile Jefferson, of whom much is expected, isn't playing very well. Neither is Rasheed Sulaimon. Duke will be a lot better when they come around.
According to KenPom, the offense has been just as good as it was last year, while the defense has taken a plunge into the mediocre. Is that your sense from watching this team, and what's been the biggest issue defensively?
It's a very young team. It's a gifted group offensively, especially Parker and Hood, but defensive principles take longer to learn. Help defense has been erratic as has communication.
The exception to the defensive issues appears to be on the perimeter—Duke isn't allowing many three-point attempts, and when they do opponents aren't hitting them (27%). This has been a hallmark of Coach K teams going back many years. What makes the Blue Devils so good at defending against the outside shot, and what does Michigan have to do to counter this?
Duke really emphasizes three point D. Michigan, under Beilein, is really good at making Duke commit to either the three or the drive and then taking what's open. It's not much fun to play against.
In your opinion, what's the matchup that you think most favors Duke over Michigan, and vice versa?
Parker and Hood are a load. Cook can be brilliant. I'm honestly not familiar enough with Michigan this year to comment there.
How do you see this game playing out?
Duke is really tough at home but Michigan's offense is brilliant and has given Duke trouble since Beilein got there. Plus the 1-3-1 zone gives Duke fits and Duke has not handled the zone well this year at all.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Duke by 2
In a game at Cameron, just about everything needs to go right for a victory, and the questionable status of Stauskas is quite worrying—even if he plays, it's pretty clear he won't be 100%, and that alone will be difficult to overcome. Michigan can take advantage of Duke's interior defensive issues; they'll need to shoot well from the outside, however, to stay competitive, and Duke's perimeter defense is excellent. The wild card is the aforementioned 1-3-1; if Michigan can deploy it successfully without allowing too many open looks from the outside, they've got a chance to not only slow down Duke's offense, but also get out in transition, where they've been far more effective than in the halfcourt so far this year.
What is this? Folks who cover the USMNT drop lists like this projecting the 23 guys who end up on the next World Cup team. I have appropriated it. Regarding the number of tickets: 22 starters on offense and defense + 2 kickers + nickelback + FLEX TE + fullback.
THIS IS THE POST-SEASON LOOKING FORWARD UPDATE. New team equals wholesale changes.
PACK YOUR BAGS
1. QB Devin Gardner, Sr.* [Last time: 7]
Has an offseason to heal after maniacal up and down first full year as a starter contained plenty of brilliant plays and plenty of awful ones. Upside vast; variance vast; someone get this man a flak jacket.
2. SAM Jake Ryan, Sr.* [Last time: NR due to ACL]
Was not quite the same sower of destruction after midseason return from ACL tear, but kept adding Jake Ryan-ness as year went along. Should go out with quite a bang as a chaos merchant and TFL provider. Gordon's departure leaves him without much of a backup. Has a porsche. DOES NOT HAVE A PORSCHE, OSU FANS.
3. WR Devin Funchess, Jr. [Last time: 5]
Blocking improved not one iota but when the man is 6'5" and jumping over cornerbacks and running past safeties it doesn't matter. Neared 750 yards, most of it after WR switch. Going to absorb a ton of Gallon's targets. This is a very good thing. Still wish he was wearing 19. No longer chasing Jim Mandich's record because cumong man. Do not put weight on this man.
4. CB Blake Countess, Jr* [Last time: 17]
Returned from ACL tear with spate of terrific interceptions; largely avoided despite Taylor playing pretty well on the other side. Slot tasking in nickel packages may go away with Peppers arriving and Thomas maturing; either way he's on the field for every snap he's healthy for.
5. ILB Desmond Morgan, Sr. [Last time: 14]
Michigan's QB on defense and most reliable tackler. Thumper somewhat lacking in athleticism but UConn interception begs to differ with you, last year's book on Desmond Morgan. Brings the wood when he tackles. Maybe not quite Chris Borland. Bolden, Gedeon will spot.
Did not have the breakout season predicted as the defensive tackles had trouble keeping him clean. Still clearly outperformed his competitors and the promise of a Pipkins/Henry DT pairing next year would be the kind of outfit that could result in a huge year for Ross.
Grady Brooks grumbles gave way at midseason as he rounded into a pretty good player. OSU stoned him; still well short of elite. That's probably not happening but his progression is encouraging; if continued he's a fringe all-conference sort. Wait, he's already second team ABT?
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
Clearly Michigan's best option at safety with Gordon and Avery gone. Choosing to believe that all of the late safety shuffling was because he was privately injured, and then publicly when he played on special teams against OSU with a huge cast on his arm. Has upside; needs to be secondary QB.
9. SDE Brennen Beyer, Sr. [Last time: NR]
Beyer was playing too well to send to the bench when Ryan came back, and with Clark's rapid progression midseason the move for Beyer was to SDE, where he was kind of effective and kind of really small. M will try to get him up to 285, a la Craig Roh, and get Roh's B+ senior performance out of him.
10. FLEX Jake Butt, So. [Last time: NR]
Passed blocking-only AJ Williams in utility midway through last year en route to 17 catches. Bulked up significantly from spring to fall; if that continues should be an effective dual threat tight end the likes of which Michigan lost once Kevin Koger graduated. Will get playing time split out in shotgun sets. Twitter isn't over his name yet.
11. 3TECH Willie Henry, So.*
Enormous, powerful freshman alternated ragdolling OL and getting blown out of holes by them; sometimes combined those things on the same play. If technique takes a major step forward, look out. Heininger Certainty Principle, don't fail me now. May be used at NT if Pipkins is still damaged.
12. K Matt Wile, Sr. [Last Time: 15]
Gibbons graduates, leaving Wile the presumed starter at kicker. Has a bigger leg; does not have a track record of being automatic from within 42 yards give or take a shaky four-game sequence in his senior year. Will also handle kickoffs and at least pooch punting.
For the love of slippery Jesus cannah get this guy a hot tub? I mean playing time. Playing time where he does not get the ball every time he's on the field. Give this man the ball in space. I beg you. Things will HAPPEN, man. Fun-ass things. Also there are no other slot receivers on the roster yet.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
This low not because of what he did but because of one Jabrill Peppers. Could see his job reduced to nickel if Peppers meets the hype. Coming off quality, play-laden junior year; consistency and run support are issues.
15. NT Ondre Pipkins, Jr. [Last time: NR]
This low because his a very large man coming off a midseason ACL injury. Is otherwise the heir apparent at nose. Was making signs of progression before injury; this would be the year he blows up into a mighty thing. Stupid ligaments.
16. C Graham Glasgow, Jr* [Last time: 15]
The only interior lineman to not lose his job at some point during the year is likely to play somewhere. If Kugler is all that as a redshirt freshman, it'll be at guard. If he's not quite ready, as OL tend to be, it'll be at center. Technically a walk-on but probably time to get over that.
17. T Erik Magnuson, So.* [Last time: NR]
First he was preferred to Ben Braden for injury and 6 OL sets; then he was thrust into the lineup at RG; then he was flipped to LG so Michigan could pull someone else off the field. In the heaving mass of chaos of last year's OL that's a strong recommendation. Now please put on 30 pounds.
18. NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, Fr. [Last time: NR]
FR seems like closest thing to Woodson 2.0 imaginable. Unlikely to burst right into starting lineup with quality veterans returning, but demands immediate PT and can be boundary w/ Countess at nickel. Was that something about visits? LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU.
19. TE AJ Williams, Jr. [Last time: 13]
Blocking tight end was unable to block. Slight issue. Technique bad; strength seemingly eh; only high up here because no one on roster duplicates hypothetical skill set save Paskorz. Wanted to noodle as recruit, that's why the picture.
IN A BATTLE
Freshman year mostly miserable due to things out of his control (OL) and in it (his weight). 82 carries is 60 more than De'Veon Smith, his nearest competitor, and while a platoon figures to be in the offing he should be the guy with the plurality of carries.
21. S Jeremy Clark, So.* [Last time: NR]
This is supposed to be Dymonte Thomas, but Clark has an experience edge on Thomas, who has still not actually played a deep safety in HS or college. Clark has, and at 6'4" has some nice upside. Hill may also factor in here. Easily the most uncertain spot on the defense.
Still projecting Darboh to be the #2 receiver despite the year lost to injury as Chesson did not have the kind of impact that would clearly move him past a guy who was slated to start. Still Freetown's finest.
Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts to provide heavy competition in the catchy/runny/blocky areas; Kerridge only does the latter. Still, who likes freshmen? That's nobody. Kerridge will still be the guy called on more often than other options here.
Part of the problem last year; yanked midseason so Michigan could insert Magnuson, a 285-pound tackle; reinserted after Bosch had an ugly game of his own against Northwestern; did participate in good game from line against OSU. Should develop; could easily be replaced.
25. G Kyle Bosch, So. [Last time: NR]
Started a few games as true FR, was good in a couple and bad in a couple. Rep as nasty mauler, of course; needs strength and technique; lost in pass pro, but was freshman. Major leap would be nice. There can only be one highlander.
26. T Ben Braden, So.* [Last time: NR]
Once the presumed starter at LG, Braden fell off the radar in fall camp because he is "just not a guard" and then did not re-emerge even amongst the chaos. Hopefully that is just a fit issue because there's not a whole lot of competition for him other than 6'4" Dawson.
27. P Will Hagerup, Sr.* [Last time: NR]
Has kept his nose clean so far through Stonum suspension and will be given opportunity to reclaim punting job. Was already wildly variable. How will he be after a year off? Best thing going for him is all the stuff on Wile's plate. Occasionally makes faces other than OH GOD BALL WHERE IS BALL OH GOD I'M GOING TO DIE.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Shane Morris—M should try to redshirt him with Bellomy back and Speight on campus. If Gardner gets hurt he'll have to play; hand garbage time and odd snaps where Gardner has to leave to Bellomy.
QB Russell Bellomy—Will be healthy. Arm strength unlikely to improve significantly.
RB DeVeon Smith—Came on late; should be #2 option in rotation.
RB Drake Johnson—Listed second on depth chart early in season before ACL tear. If he's the best blocker they've got there's a role. Probably their fastest guy, too.
RB Justice Hayes—Cameos as WR out of backfield; move to slot possible.
C Patrick Kugler—sure thing for an OL, which means not that much of a sure thing.
C Jack Miller—may have seen his last snap without injury but remains an option.
G Blake Bars—needs to come a long way to compete.
G Chris Bryant—maybe a healthy year gets him where he needs to go.
G Dan Samuelson—least touted of 2013 OL class still kind of touted.
T David Dawson—will compete at RT with Braden.
T Logan Tuley-Tillman—unlikely to be ready just yet.
T Chris Fox—ditto.
WR Jehu Chesson—likely a de facto third starter at WR. Still needs bulk.
WR DaMario Jones—could push for some PT in slot.
WR Drake Harris—injured as SR but does enroll early and should be healthy in the spring. Brings more upside than last year's recruits.
WR Freddy Canteen—route artisan may be best candidate for Dileo role even as FR.
SDE Keith Heitzman—strictly a plugger; should feature in the rotation.
SDE Tom Strobel—assume he plays SDE this year; buried as a 3T.
DT Maurice Hurst Jr.—Mike Martin-style penetrator should get rotation snaps at NT.
DT Richard Ash—could be in the rotation, maybe?
DT Henry Poggi—RVB-type balance maven also should push into rotation.
DE/DT Chris Wormley—Plenty of PT a year ago; needs more explosion.
WDE Mario Ojemudia—all right as sophomore. Weight seemed to strip some quickness.
WDE Taco Charlton—could blow up; could be meh.
SAM Mike McCray—technically not a SAM yet. Will be by end of spring. Book it.
MLB Joe Bolden—Played a lot, but how well was debatable.
WLB Ben Gedeon—Showed well in some playing time late. Freak athlete.
CB Channing Stribling—will be good if he just stops phasing out.
CB Jourdan Lewis—apologize to the gypsy, son.
CB Ross Douglas—Avery type probably has to cool his heels another year.
S Josh Furman—forced into lineup last year with poor results.
S Delano Hill—rep as a guy with advanced safety skills coming out of Cass, so make of that what you will.
S Dymonte Thomas—burned redshirt to block that one punt; still raw.