This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
Despite losing star guard Caris LeVert for a month due to injury, Michigan currently sits in fourth place at 7-2 in the Big Ten; after a so-so non-conference showing, the Wolverines’ strong start to conference play has allayed any concerns about missing the NCAA Tournament. Still, there’s a lack of clarity with this team – even disregarding the uncertainty regarding LeVert’s return and ability to quickly and seamlessly reintegrate into the lineup.
With the notable exception of the win over Maryland, Michigan still is essentially a team that’s beaten the teams they should’ve beaten and lost to the teams they should’ve lost to (two neutral site games, UConn (loss) and Texas (win), were the only two against opponents close to U-M in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings). For the most part, the Wolverines’ wins in the Big Ten have been rather pedestrian: Rutgers and Minnesota were uninspiring home victories over terrible teams, sweeping Penn State isn’t a notable resume event, and the road wins in Big Ten play – over Illinois and Nebraska – were against teams that will surely miss the NCAA’s.
Still, between that win over the Terrapins, the complete lack of bad losses, and the tantalizing potential of adding an All-American level player to a team that’s already playing pretty well, there’s reason to hope that Michigan can round into a formidable squad heading into postseason play. The schedule from here on out in the Big Ten is undeniably harder – starting this week with home contests against Indiana and Michigan State. After Michigan’s solid start to the conference season, there are a few things we can point to as pretty important moving forward:
[After the jump, those things]
Announced announcements organized again
Your slightly adjusted who-is-announcing-when primer:
- 7 PM tonight: NJ CB Jordan Fuller. Michigan, OSU, ND.
- 9 AM, NSD: MI CB Lavert Hill. Michigan, MSU.
- 11 AM, NSD: MI K Quinn Nordin. Michigan, USC.
- 1 PM, NSD: NJ DE Rashan Gary. Michigan, Ole Miss, USC, Clemson.
- 1 PM, NSD: FL WR Pie Young. Michigan, Louisville, USC.
- 2 PM, NSD: AZ DE Connor Murphy. Michigan, USC, Oregon, ASU.
- 3PM, NSD: CA TE Devin Asiasi. Michigan, USC, UCLA, UW, Bama.
- 3PM, NSD: CA DT Boss Tagaloa. Michigan, USC, UCLA, UW.
Fuller's decision tonight
NJ CB Jordan Fuller seems to have successfully kept everyone in the dark about his final destination until this morning when Lorenz CB'd him to Ohio State, reporting that Michigan's coaching staff does not expect to come out on top. Before that both sides of the presumed Michigan/Ohio State battle had more or less thrown their hands up and said "dunno." Bill Kurelic just yesterday:
In the case of Fuller things have become tighter since I did my Crystal Ball of Fuller to the Buckeyes right before Fuller’s in-home visits – Michigan has staged a rally and is a very real threat and Notre Dame has not given up in their chase.
He still thinks OSU but hedged that very hard. Webb related that this is a "dogfight" and that things are 50/50.
If Lorenz is correct that's a bit irritating. Yesterday Fuller retweeted a Michigan edit and then a bunch of tweets from Michigan commits showing him the proverbial love. And… uh… some guy playing Counterstrike with an MGoUser told said user that Fuller would go to M, so we had that going for us. I just wanted Counterstrike guy to be right, really.
Double silent commit is extra ninja
Brandon Justice set off a 600+ comment thread here by reporting a "surprising pickup" on the twitters:
I was informed today, by the recruit, that he will silent commit to #Michigan 'sometime tomorrow', announce NSD. A surprising pickup for UM.
— Brandon Justice (@BrandonCJustice) January 29, 2016
He'd later reiterate that, yes, the gentleman in question has a commitable offer. Steve Lorenz reported that Justice's information was indeed legit but declined to steal the guy's scoop. In the aftermath everyone from TX OL Greg Little to USA ADM Chester A. Nimitz has been mentioned as a possibility.
Of late most speculation in the non-ludicrous category has centered on CA QB Vic Viramontes, a former commit and MGo fave-rave. Webb posted a potentially-related note about Vic's resurgence on Michigan's board, as Harbaugh has a "special appreciation" for the guy. Sam says he'll be one to watch through signing day.
We're putting him back on our best guess list based on that chatter and because it hurts too much to keep tearfully deleting it.
Hello again: Nate Johnson
Nate Johnson & Jim Hardbaugh hitting the Dab. pic.twitter.com/6RwjQGiepA
— James Johnson (@jtjohnson281) January 31, 2016
TN WR Nate Johnson's trip to Notre Dame was apparently as disastrous as Brady Hoke's most recent, resulting in a parting of the ways between the Irish and Johnson.
With ND out of the picture, Johnson's nominal commit gets far less nominal. He visited Miami, was committed to Purdue, and fielded an offer from in-state Tennessee; of those schools only the 'Canes seem like any threat, and there was minimal buzz coming off his official there. Wiltfong believes Johnson will stick in the Michigan class, and that makes sense.
The last hurdle there is whether Michigan wants to spend the scholarship, but NJ WR Donald Stewart committing to Stanford probably answers that question. As a reminder, yes, Nate Johnson can play football:
He's a guy Michigan went after with many other options available. It is very good to have him back in the fold.
[after THE JUMP: your very very last Gary panic of the week, admittedly speculative Bossiasi CB explanation]
When the threes aren't falling for Michigan, they're usually in deep trouble.
Today, however, that was not the case. The Wolverines hit six triples on 20 attempts, tying a season-low set way back in the opener against Northern Michigan, and yet they controlled the proceedings against Penn State while posting an impressive 1.20 points per possession.
The progression made across the board in Caris LeVert's absence was apparent. Michigan went 19/35 on two-pointers and 23/31 from the line, successfully going at the interior of Penn State's defense time and again. Nobody did it better than Zak Irvin, who attacked from the jump, scoring a team-high 20 points—whenever PSU switched a high screen, Irvin drove to the bucket and got results. As a bonus, he drilled a corner three to beat the first-half buzzer.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also had a lot of success off the dribble, working his way to the point for 15 points. Derrick Walton played the role of distributor with Irvin focused on scoring; he put up a 13-10-7 stat line, and when PSU threatened to make it a game late, he had six points and a gorgeous assist to Rahkman in the final four minutes and change to put it away. Mark Donnal added ten points on 2/4 FG and 6/8 FT with four offensive boards.
Foul trouble limited Duncan Robinson to 27 minutes and after an early triple he couldn't find the mark from deep again, finishing 1/5 from beyond the arc. That would normally spell doom for Michigan in another game without Caris LeVert, but Aubrey Dawkins provided a spark off the bench again with seven points, two steals, and an assist.
A month ago, under these circumstances, Michigan probably loses this game. The emergence of an effective ball-screen game keyed by Irvin and Donnal has changed the complexion of the offense, however, and that's allowed Michigan to be productive even in games when one or two of their main scorers aren't hitting their outside shots—today, Robinson and Walton combined to go 2/9 from three, yet the offense still hummed along.
Michigan will still need more of those shots to fall in marquee games against Michigan State and Indiana this week. For today, though, they managed just fine as a team working from the inside out. Remarkably, even though LeVert hasn't played a minute in 2016, the Wolverines are momentarily just a half-game out of first place in the Big Ten.
So this happened:
Per Baltimore (Md.) Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell, four-star offensive tackle Devery Hamilton has flipped his commitment from Michigan to Stanford.
Hamilton made it official Friday evening during his in-home with Cardinal head coach David Shaw.
"I think just the academics that Stanford has to offer and his parents having a family friend out there who can help make the distance more doable," Russell added.
This is absolutely not someone getting "processed," as Michigan needs offensive tackles and now doesn't have any in this class. Expect Ben Bredeson to kick out to OT. Michigan doesn't have any 2016 OL on the hook other than maybe GA OL EJ Price, a supreme longshot. They do have plenty of other guys looking to fill spots; it's possible they just try to lock down some 2017 five stars to fill the gap.
Michigan (16-5, 6-2 B1G) vs
Penn State (11-10, 2-6)
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
|WHEN||Noon ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -7 (KenPom)|
PBP: Gus Johnson
Analyst: Jon Crispin
Right: Michigan won the first leg with ease. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Caris LeVert is "unlikely" to return to the court tomorrow, though John Beilein said this afternoon that he's been doing more in practice.
Also of note from Beilein's presser today: he said either DJ Wilson or Kam Chatman needs to step up so the main members of the rotation can get more rest.
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||33||Shep Garner (inj.)||So.||6'1, 185||86||23||No|
|Nominal point is more of a scorer. Shooting better from 3 than 2.|
|G||3||Devin Foster||Sr.||6'2, 205||50||13||No|
|Low usage, bad finisher (21/47 2P) and FT shooter, turnover-prone.|
|F||0||Payton Banks (inj.)||So.||6'6, 220||71||22||Yes|
|Decent finisher and rebounder, iffy outside shooter.|
|F||10||Brandon Taylor||Sr.||6'6, 225||80||28||No|
|Huge usage, middling efficiency (47/35/72 shooting splits).|
|C||44||Julian Moore||So.||6'10, 235||41||16||Very|
|Good rebounder and decent rim-protector, draws fouls and hits FTs.|
|C||32||Jordan Dickerson||Sr.||7'1, 245||44||11||Very|
|Top-25 block rate, excellent offensive rebounder, low usage.|
|F||1||Deividas Zemgulis||Fr.||6'6, 220||30||15||Yes|
|Good scorer inside arc, but only 8/31 on threes.|
|F||5||Donovon Jack||Sr.||6'9, 210||33||19||Kinda|
|Decent inside-outside scorer, but turnover-prone and huge foul rate.|
Penn State has undergone some lineup changes since they visited Crisler a few weeks back. Sophomore Julian Moore took the starting center job from senior Jordan Dickerson, starting guard Josh Reaves is out with mono, and two more starters—including PSU's top guard—are banged up:
Pat Chambers said Shep Garner (ankle) has not been practicing; will be game-time decision Sat. vs. Mich. Payton Banks dealing w/back injury.
— Jeff Rice (@JeffRice247) January 28, 2016
Garner's absense would be significant; not only is he their lead guard, but he plays a whopping 86% of the team's minutes and PSU is already thin in the backcourt.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Good morning everyone, and thank you for coming. Before today's very special announcement I want to acknowledge the University of Michigan Board of Regents. Their support, their dedicatio,n and their advice during this process was invaluable. Joining us today our region's Bernstein, Ilitch, Dietch, White, and Diggs, and I'm sure the others are busily at their day jobs and watching us on television.
I'm pleased to announce that I have selected Warde Manuel to serve as the next Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan. [/clapping.] My work here is now done. [/aughs.]
Warde will begin on March the 14th. Warde knows how to compete and succeed in the classroom and on the field. He is a three-time University of Michigan alumnus with a degree in general studies and a focus in psychology, a Masters in social work, and an MBA from our Ross School of Business. He was a University of Michigan student athlete in football and track and field and played under Bo Schembechler.
I want to thank interim A.D. Jim Hackett for his exemplary service to the athletic department and the University of Michigan. Jim, could you please stand up? [/clapping] For more than a year Jim served with a level of distinction and integrity befitting the University of Michigan's highest values. He accomplished a great deal in a very short time and leaves the department in wonderful shape. He brought us Coach Harbaugh, contract extensions for coaches John Beilein and Kim Barnes-Arico, a new apparel contract with Nike, and most importantly has upheld the high expectations we have for the academic, social, and community success of our student athletes on our 31 teams. Jim's willingness to assist with the A.D. search has helped me identify an outstanding successor.
In addition to him I also think the six other members of the search and advisory committee. I thank student government president Cooper Charlton for advice, and our search consultants Len Perna and Gene DeFillipo from Turnkey for their excellent work. We reached out and solicited broad community input and we set the bar high in our search for a permanent athletic director. We considered a large pool of outstanding candidates. Central criteria included a focus on the success and well-being of our student athletes in the classroom, in their sport, in the Ann Arbor community, and with respect to their health and safety; uncompromising integrity with an absolute commitment to play and win by the rules; competitiveness at the highest levels – at Michigan we strive for league and national championships, every team, every year; a passion for integrating athletics with the entirety of our campus community– we are at our best when our strengths as a university complement and enhance one another; respect and appreciation for the U of M's traditions, including the importance of athletics to our students, our alumni, and our fans. We were looking for an innovative but financially responsible steward for our self-supporting athletic department, and someone who can be a national voice for maintaining and enhancing the collegiate model of athletics.
Warde brings outstanding athletics experience to Michigan and embodies all of those characteristics and values. He has worked in our athletic department under former A.D. Bill Martin. Since then he has served as an A.D. at Buffalo and Connecticut, where his teams have won championships and dramatically improved classroom performance. Michigan athletics is celebrating its 150th anniversary this academic year and our University is gearing up to celebrate it's 200th birthday. Nowhere else are traditions of excellence in academics and athletics measured in centuries. The amazing accomplishments of our teams and student-athletes bring our community together in celebration of the values and success and we are known for worldwide: 56 team national championships, 307 individual national titles, 376 Big Ten championships, and 121 academic All-Americans. I have every confidence that our future will be even brighter, and Warde Manuel is the right individual to lead Michigan athletics into that future. Warde, on behalf of the Michigan family I welcome you, your wife Chrislan, and your family back to Ann Arbor. I look forward to working with you, and let me be the first to say to our next athletic director Go Blue.
[After THE JUMP: Manuel's remarks, in which I will butcher someone’s name and I apologize for that but I think he thanked the entire staff of the University and Google only gets you so far]