Suddenly it’s happening [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Best/favorite/memorable senior-year breakout?
Brian: I surmise this is in honor of Derrick Walton?
Brian: We should point out that Walton's breakout is not merely a senior year breakout but the ultra-rare midseason senior-year breakout. After being called softbatch.
Ace: Yeah, I don’t really remember anything quite like what Walton has done over the last month, at least with Michigan basketball players.
Brian: I could kiss Maverick Morgan.
Ace: The senior-year breakout that comes to mind for me hopefully won’t have too many parallels to Walton. When I was a senior in high school, my parents got me a ten-game ticket package for Michigan basketball that covered the conference portion of the schedule. This was 2005-06, when it looked like this could finally be the year that Tommy Amaker’s squad snapped the tourney drought.
Senior Horton nearly got an Amaker team to the Dance. [MGoBlue.com via Holdin the Rope]
Up to that point in his career, Daniel Horton had been an enigmatic player: obviously talented, usually the best player on some mediocre teams, but clearly hamstrung by the system and surrounding talent. His ORating never cracked 100 in his first three years at Michigan, and after a junior season cut short when he pled guilty to domestic violence, it looked like his promising freshman year may stand as his peak.
It all clicked in his senior year. Horton took a Walton-esque leap with his finishing around the rim, hit 39% of his threes, and played remarkably efficient ball for someone shouldering such a huge load (111.4 ORtg on a 28% usage rage). He had several notable performances, most of which came down the stretch: 32 points in a win at Minnesota, 23 and five assists in a win over MSU at Crisler, 21 and five in the home rematch against the Gophers, and a masterful 39-point game to beat Illinois and get Michigan to 8-6 in the Big Ten and on the precipice of a tourney bid. (Someone, please, get that game on YouTube. That was as loud as I’d ever heard Crisler until the Final Four squad.)
Horton’s heroics weren’t quite enough to propel Michigan into the tournament. The Wolverines went 2-7 down the stretch, with Dion Harris’ ankle injury against Ohio State wiping out much of Horton’s scoring support; Horton’s 34-point game against Indiana still wasn’t enough to get M the final win they would’ve needed to get a bid. They instead had to settle for a run to the NIT final. Horton’s magnificent play to close out his career, however, remains one of my fondest memories from a relatively dreadful era in Michigan hoops.
[Hit THE JUMP for Seth just rocketing off answers before anybody else can]
impossible to google so here's his wiki photo
Michigan has hired former 49ers/UCLA offensive coordinator Michael Johnson in some capacity:
Head football coach Michael Johnson has resigned and is taking a position on staff at the University of Michigan. Good luck coach!! #GoBlue
— TKA Athletics (@TKA_Athletics) February 13, 2017
Michigan has all nine of their assistant coach spots filled so Johnson is an analyst until such time as the NCAA approves a tenth assistant coach, which is expected to happen in the near future. Sam issued a gut feeling that a guy matching Johnson's description would be coming in to help coach the WRs, which he's done on and off in the NFL.
Johnson's son, Michael Johnson Jr, happens to be 247's #1 dual-threat QB in the 2019 class. Johnson was until recently his son's coach. This is either good or bad for Michigan's chances with him depending on how this "individual associated with a prospect" legislation works out and what role Johnson actually fills.
If Johnson is the tenth assistant then Michigan can definitely recruit his son because the legislation only applies to non-coaching jobs. If he's a staffer, the legislation stipulates that you can't hire a guy for a two year period before the prospect's projected enrollment. Johnson Jr is more than two years from enrolling, so Michigan might be fine. There is some disagreement about this from our law-talking guy.
FWIW, Johnson was Jim Harbaugh's QB coach for a brief period when both were with the Chargers.
Bad things in East Lansing. This is going to be a bad week for Michigan State.
Tourney sel. chair Mark Hollis has canceled his 2-week CBB road trip due to obligations as Michigan St. AD that require him to be on campus.
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 13, 2017
Nothing definitive has been released yet save for MSU's statement that three players and one staffer are under investigation for sexual assault; people seem to be expecting something very bad. Bad enough that point and laugh rivalry stuff is inappropriate.
Solomon aftermath. Georgia fired its DL coach, Tracy Rocker, in the immediate aftermath of Signing Day. A Scout article asserted Rocker got in an argument with Aubrey Solomon's mom in an attempt to offer up an explanation, and recriminations ensued. Jeff Sentrell of Dawgnation* interviewed Sabrina Caldwell to get her side of things, and I have some bad news for Teddy Greenstein:
She said a big reason why Georgia didn’t sign her son centered on coaching decisions and not anything specific in their recruiting relationship.
Caldwell said they were affected by the scholarship that was no longer there for 4-star Texas RB and longtime UGA commit Toneil Carter.
Adding to the confusion: SEC All-Freshman kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was not extended a scholarship offer despite what he did to win games for the Bulldogs last season.
She said that was not her family’s fight but that it was a factor into how they perceived UGA.
“We were concerned with the scholarship issues of those not either receiving (them) or getting it pulled and again (this was) not our fight but it played a factor,” she said.
Michigan won that recruitment in part because it looked like the more stable and straightforward program a year after forcibly decommitting multiple kids late in the cycle. While there was something Michigan needed to get fixed (as I said at the time), fix it they did, and next year's Erik Swenson Is Thriving Despite Being Done Wrong article will have the same impact this year's did: nil.
Caldwell's comments caused some introspection at Georgia-focused Get The Picture. It sounds familiar to anyone who read "Pick Up The Damn Phone" last year:
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the amount of angst that cropped up in the comments following my post about Jeff Sentell’s interview with Aubrey Solomon’s mother. It’s hard to let go of a gauzy, romantic image that you’re invested in, and for many, the ideal of a football program that doesn’t stoop to making business decisions when it comes to roster management is a powerful one. (As powerful as the ideal that student-athletes are already more than fairly compensated for the privilege of playing. But I digress.)
Anyway, whatever else one might say about the Process, romantic it ain’t. Kirby is being paid to win. In his mind that includes pushing roster management aggressively. The issues with Carter and Blankenship arose because Smart was at the edge, numbers-wise, with the 2017 class before the four underclassmen stepped up to announce they were staying. That decision — and would any of us have preferred that they leave for the NFL? — meant that Smart had to do a lot of re-jiggering on the fly.
I’m not defending the way the Carter situation was handled. Smart botched that by not stepping up and telling the kid himself. But he’s being paid to put together the best roster he can and that’s what he’s trying to do.
For what it's worth, I believe that recruits' publicly stated reasons why they chose school X are almost always post-hoc backfilling after a decision has been made. Georgia wasn't the choice but Rodrigo Blankenship isn't the reason why.
Also: GTP mentions that 100% above-board Mark Richt often slogged through SEC seasons with 70-some scholarship players. That's the choice the current system gives you: nobly waste resources or push the envelope with the detrimental effects to the croots. That's a dumb system.
Michigan is navigating it better than they did last year, and Georgia will probably follow suit.
*[Despite the fact that it sounds like a dot blogspot, Dawgnation is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution-owned UGA site roughly equivalent to a single-team Land Of 10, which is also an AJC property. IE: they got the journalisms.]
The haves split from the other haves. Also spotted on GTP is this article from Jon Wilner detailing the coming revenue split even amongst the Power 5 conferences:
Fiscal year 2015 school distributions (all figures confirmed):
SEC: $32.7 million
Big Ten: $32.4 million
Pac-12: $25.1 million
Fiscal year 2016 school distributions
SEC: $40 million (confirmed)
Big Ten: $35 million (approximate)
Pac-12: $27 million (approximate)
That looks bad … that is bad … but it’s about to get much worse for the Pac-12.
Remember: The Big Ten’s new Tier 1 deal begins in 2017-18, and it’s also a whopper, averaging $440 million per year.
Which brings us to …
Fiscal year 2017-18 school distributions …
Big Ten: $45 million (estimate)
SEC: $43 million (estimate)
Pac-12: $31 million (estimate)
This is an even bigger gap than it looks because most SEC athletic departments run close to the bare minimum number of sports to qualify as D-I and Big Ten and Pac-12 schools carry up to 12 additional teams under that revenue umbrella.
Not only is paying the players the correct thing to do from a moral, ethical, and free market standpoint; it is a Very Good Thing for the Big Ten as it tries to be good at football. And there can be absolutely no argument that the money is there. As of 2011 the Big Ten's payout was 23 million. By 2018 there will be 22 million dollars a year that did not exist just a few years ago. Half of that is sufficient to pay the revenue sports athletes 100k a year.
In bubble news. (Not that bubble.) Disney CEO and therefore ESPN CEO Bill Iger:
Disney CEO Bob Iger thinks there are too many ads on TV, and he's exploring whether Disney's ESPN and ABC channels should reduce the amount of commercials.
“In general there is probably too much commercial interruption in television,” Iger said during Disney's quarterly earnings call Tuesday, especially when TV is competing with new digital upstarts like Netflix, some of whom don't have ads at all.
Iger said Disney would evaluate the amount of ads aired within programs for its ESPN and ABC TV channels, though he did not say that any cuts to the so-called ad load were looming.
My eyes pop out of my head when my mother voluntarily turns on cable TV programming with ads in it. (It's always HGTV, and they're always building tiny houses for some damn reason.) Live sports has long been the last bulwark against that kind of thing because there are no alternatives, but my God last year was brutal. The number of three-and-outs both preceded and followed by commercial breaks seemed to go up exponentially. At some point you have to balance out the money you're making now with the money your losing down the road by making your product worse, and it's especially grating when the people actually comprising the product are not even compensated.
In bubble news. (That bubble.) Michigan's moved out of the last four in on Lunardi's bracketology. They are one spot behind... Michigan State? The hell?
I mostly look at Kenpom so that's jarring. There MSU is 54th; Michigan 31st. Metrics that are not margin aware, like RPI, have that ranking inversed. MSU is #41 in RPI; Michigan is 61st. MSU's main accomplishment in the eyes of RPI is to have lost to a bunch of good teams.
Insert general scheduling lament here.
The little details. Good rostering continues:
— Matt Baldeck (@MattBaldeck) February 10, 2017
Michigan picks up another longsnapper, Matt Baldeck. Baldeck is making the Threet transfer: enrolling early and then transferring after his first semester. As a walk-on. Who was at Ole Miss.
Etc.: Freddy Canteen transfers to ND, which will be interesting. I expected him to land at a smaller school. Indiana takes from Quinn and Holdin' The Rope. More croot profiles: Brad Robbins, JaRaymond Hall. Not a banner year in the Big Ten.
Wagner hits 3, runs over Tom Crean. pic.twitter.com/YdwT35WGlv
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) February 12, 2017
In one sense, this felt deeply unfamilar. Michigan entered today's game with zero road wins on the season and one victory in 17 tries at Assembly Hall since 1996, that an overtime win over a terrible 2008-09 Indiana squad. They never trailed the Hoosiers or even came particularly close to relinquishing their lead.
In another sense, this felt pleasantly familiar. Michigan turned up the defensive intensity, forced 15 turnovers—ten in the first half—and rode hot perimeter shooting and another tremendous game from Derrick Walton for a comfortable victory over the Hoosiers.
If this wasn't a must-win game, it was damn close to it, and Walton once again played with an intensity that matched the stakes. He scored 25 points, going 7-for-13 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line, while adding five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. It was a masaterful performance that had the CBS announcers full-on fawning over his play:
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 12, 2017
Much like in the first contest, Walton's main scoring support came from big men Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson. Wagner overcame a series of extremely questionable calls to post an 11-point, ten-rebound double-double while helping keep star IU center Thomas Bryant (8 points on 8 shots, 3 turnovers) in check. Wilson did a little bit of everything on both ends; he showed off an NBA-caliber array of shotmaking to net his 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and his NBA-caliber combination of size and coordination to tally three blocks and three steals.
Other than Zak Irvin (5 points, 1-for-8 FG), whose offensive woes continued, the supporting cast had another strong outing. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman needed only four shot equivalents for his seven points and once again made James Blackmon Jr. a relative non-factor; Blackmon scored only six points, three of which came on a meaningless garbage-time shot. Duncan Robinson hit a couple timely threes, playing his part in making sure IU paid dearly for their live-ball turnovers. Xavier Simpson followed his breakout MSU game by converting a strong take the hoop on his only shot attempt and chipping in two assists and a steal in 12 minutes.
The first road win of the season couldn't have come at a better time. Michigan is now 16-9, 6-6 in the Big Ten, and they'll be in the field in the next round of NCAA tournament projections; in many of them, they'll be taking Indiana's place. A 3-3 finish down the stretch, which features four road games and tough home contests against Wisconsin and Purdue, should have the Wolverines in position for an at-large bid. That looks a whole lot more realistic this afternoon than it did a week ago.
#30 Michigan (15-9, 5-6 B1G) vs
#42 Indiana (15-10, 5-7)
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Sunday|
Indiana -3 (KenPom)
Indiana -3.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Dan Bonner
Right: Still obligatory. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
There's good news and bad news on the NCAA tournament front. The good: Michigan continues to get on more updated brackets in the Bracket Matrix. They're now the third team out of the field, and Sunday's matchup just happens to be with the last at-large team to make it; a win should get the Wolverines on the right side of the bubble for the moment.
The bad: the NCAA selection committee released the top 16 overall seeds this afternoon and the surprise of the day was the omission of the Big Ten (namely, Wisconsin, which is currently the top four-seed on the matrix). If the committee is down on the top of the conference, that spells trouble for the B1G teams on the bubble.
That all may become irrelevant, of course, if Michigan can't beat Indiana. The Wolverines need at least one upset win (by current KenPom projections) down the stretch to have a realistic chance at an at-large bid. This looks like one of their best opportunities but for the location of the game: Michigan is 1-17 at Assembly Hall since 1996, with the lone victory coming in overtime over a 2008-09 Hoosiers squad that finished 6-25.
In preparation for this game, John Beilein chose to give Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin two days off of practice this week in hopes of keeping the former at his current form and snapping the latter out of his slump. Irvin is quite aware that he needs to play better than he has over the last three games:
"I told the guys this, I know that in order for us to be able to achieve the goals we want, I've got to step up," Irvin said. "I told them that. I look forward to the challenge.
"Everyone goes through adversity throughout the season. It's been my time these last three games and I've gone through it. But I'm not going to let that define me in any way for the rest of the year. I told them, no matter what, whether I'm shooting the ball well or not, I'm going to be positive and I'm going to be a leader out there."
Irvin's last good game came against these very Hoosiers; he had 12 points on nine shot equivalents, three assists, and no turnovers in the blowout at Crisler. A return to that form would be most welcome.
THE LAST TIME
Derrick Walton scored 21 points, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson exploited frontcourt mismatches with IU's Juwan Morgan limited in his first game back from an ankle injury, James Blackmon Jr.—who sat out the next three games with a knee injury—only mustered four points, and Michigan won by 30.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||2||Josh Newkirk||Jr.||6'1, 195||66||19||105||No|
|Most PG-like player, but has higher turnover rate than assist rate.|
|G||4||Robert Johnson||Jr.||6'3, 195||70||23||112||Not At All|
|Sniper beyond the arc, solid finisher inside of it. 16th in B1G in eFG%.|
|G||1||James Blackmon||Jr.||6'4, 200||62||24||122||Not At All|
|High-volume, high-efficiency scorer. Went 3/14 in first game back from knee injury.|
|F||13||Juwan Morgan||So.||6'7, 230||47||16||126||Yes|
|Great rebounder and finisher this year. Commits too many turnovers.|
|C||31||Thomas Bryant||So.||6'10, 255||70||22||118||No|
|Excellent rebounder and post scorer, good shot-blocker, hits occasional three.|
|C||20||De'Ron Davis||Fr.||6'10, 240||33||24||114||Very|
|Good offensive rebounder, high FT rate, struggling with TOs and finishing.|
|G||11||Devonte Green||Fr.||6'3, 186||32||17||94||No|
|Shooting has fallen off in conference play, very turnover-prone.|
|G||0||Curtis Jones||Fr.||6'4, 175||31||18||101||No|
|Outside shooting threat, struggling to finish inside arc, turnover-prone.|
|F||15||Zach McRoberts||So.||6'6, 200||29||6||130||Kinda|
|Minuscule usage walk-on pressed into action as undersized four.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Ed-S: Team 40 played their first game today, beating Delaware 7-0. Before you ask: no, the Delaware softball team doesn’t use wings on their softball helmets]
It’s that time of year once again! [Photo credit: Bryan Fuller for all photos]
For the last four years, and especially the last two, Michigan softball has been defined by two women named Sierra. The two Sierras, Romero and Lawrence, headlined a star-studded line-up that shattered school, conference, and national records and propelled the Wolverines to the highest echelons of the sport. Perhaps even more importantly, the 2015 and 2016 teams catapulted the softball program into the spotlight among Michigan fans, capitalizing on a void left by underwhelming performances from the revenue sports. Over the course of the last two years, tickets to big games at Alumni Field have sold out in hours, game threads have exploded in length, and the names of the stars – Romero, Lawrence, Christner, Wagner, Susalla, Sweet, Betsa, and more – have become household names.
Now, it’s time to turn the page, and the Michigan softball machine will have to turn to younger talent to fill out the roster in 2017. Even with a number of returning stars there’s no mistaking the sense that we’re entering a new era, and things are going to look different. After several years as one of the nation’s top offensive teams, this year Michigan’s fortunes will most likely be determined by how far their ace pitcher can carry them. Especially in the post-season, when teams often lean on a single pitcher game in and game out, Michigan’s senior flame-throwing righty will be the driving force. If the last four years have been the Era of Sierra, 2017 should be the Year of Betsa.
Bidding farewell to the class of 2016 has not been easy, neither for fans who will miss watching living legends step to the Alumni Field plate week in and week out, nor for the coaches working overtime to find ways to replace their remarkable production. This remarkable group of young women won a staggering 210 games in their time at Michigan, 4 Big Ten regular season championships (3 outright), and 1 Big Ten Tournament Title. In the post-season, they earned 4 trips to both the regionals and the super-regionals, went to the WCWS 3 times, and reached the final game of the season in 2015.
In addition to role-players Olivia Richvalsky, Lauren Connell, and Mary Sbonek, the 2016 class included some true Michigan legends.
[cont’ after THE JUMP]