Not great. pic.twitter.com/DzuujyGixt
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) November 23, 2016
Sometimes it's not your day.
Zak Irvin had the worst performance of his career, fouling out with five points on 2-for-13 shooting and eight turnovers. The rest of the team followed suit. Michigan shot 19.2% from the field and 7.7% from beyond the arc, and no, those are not typos. They had two assists and 16 turnovers. Derrick Walton hit both of Michigan's three-pointers; they were separated by 32:10 of game time.
Sindarius Thornwell was everywhere for South Carolina, posting 21 points, ten boards, three assists, and three blocks. Michigan's defense otherwise held firm, holding USC below a point per possession, but there was little to be done on that end to overcome M's shooting woes.
While a game this ugly tends to leave a lasting impression, this is one best worth forgetting. Michigan may not be quite as good as they looked last week; they are certainly not as bad as they looked today.
MGoQuestion: This is one of the faster teams you’ll play this year. How do you counter that tempo defensively?
“Do you mean tempo meaning speed between plays or do you mean the team speed?”
MGoClarification: Speed between plays.
“Um, again, we’ve been seeing it on a week-to-week basis. Several teams we play run the spread or some kind of form of the spread. Ohio State does a little bit more with the power game, but, you know, you just gotta go ahead and get your calls in, get your guys lined up, and make sure you’re ready to go.
“To be quite honest, I think Indiana’s really fast. I mean, I felt that the other night, and I thought for the most part, expect for three snaps, we got our feet in the ground, all 11 ready to go. Feel good about to this point our preparation against spread offenses. We minimized our last spread outfit to 64 yards rushing, which is an important stat, especially when they’re in the 200s coming in. Felt like—feel like we’re in a good spot getting ready to go for this week.”
How tough is it specifically to deal with JT Barrett?
“He’s a good player. Does a good job. You’re gonna have to challenge your entire unit to stop him because when you’ve got an athlete at quarterback, you’ve got to chase an athlete with a bunch of athletes, so that becomes an important piece of this thing. You can’t just rely on the front four. You have to involve everybody in the process, whether it’s run fits or finding ways to be creative in rushing the passer on throw scenarios.”
[After THE JUMP: never, ever tease Don Brown about playing press man]
#15 Michigan (4-0) at
#57 South Carolina (4-0)
Colonial Life Arena
Columbia, South Carolina
|WHEN||5 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Fitzgerald
Analyst: Brooke Weisbrod
Right: South Carolina coach and well-adjusted human Frank Martin. [AP photo; original caption is amazing]
This section is blissfully lacking in major items to note right now. DJ Wilson is now the starting four and given the early returns that's not changing for the foreseeable future. Duncan Robinson is now an off-the-bench gunner. Moe Wagner and Mark Donnal have settled into an even split at center with Jon Teske getting spot minutes. Xavier Simpson and Ibi Watson are still settling into the rotation. That about covers it.
Michigan first true road game comes at South Carolina, a top-60 team on KenPom headed by former Kansas State coach Frank Martin, who should be good for a sideline freakout or three.
The Gamecocks are led by 6'5" senior wing Sindarius Thornwell, who's posting 21 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Thornwell is using a whopping 30% of South Carolina's possessions when he's on the floor and scoring with probably unsustainable efficiency: the career 32% three-point shooter is 10-for-21 from beyond the arc through four games. He's also putting up rebounding and block rates well above his career norms.
Point guard Duane Notice is a good outside shooter and surprisingly weak finisher for a burly 225-pounder. While he has 17 assists this season, he's turned the ball over three times in all four games, an issue South Carolina has struggled with as a team so far this season. Sophomore wing PJ Dozier is another Gamecock posting both high assist and turnover rates; he's 7-for-15 on threes this season after shooting only 23% on them as a freshman.
South Carolina has solid size up front. 6'9" power forward Chris Silva is seventh nationally in offensive rebound rate, grabbing 25% of opponent misses on defense, and 11th in the country in block rate while finishing well around the basket and drawing a lot of fouls. Fouls are Silva's Achilles heel right now; he's committing 8.4 per 40 minutes, and as a result he's only cracked 20 minutes played once this season. Estonian freshman center Maik Kotsar gets offensive rebounds and blocks and otherwise plays a minor role, but he's finished really well in limited chances, going 13-for-16 from the field. A 3-for-8 mark at the free-throw line indicates his skills may still be early in the development process. He's backed up by another raw freshman, Senegalese seven-footer Khadim Gueye.
Martin utilizes his bench quite a bit. 6'4" senior sixth man Justin McKie has played over half the team's minutes. He's a poor outside shooter who'd made up for it so far by going 10-for-14 inside the arc. Backup point Hassani Gravett is a JuCo transfer who's struggled with this year's transition to D-I; he's got seven turnovers and eight assists in 19 minutes per game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Yeah man, rate hike. Rate hikes are bad for you unless you get in before them, which you should. I know rate hikes are like streetcars and seem hopelessly outdated, but it could be a thing.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: By far Michigan's most common approach:
4-3 even with Peppers as a SAM; press coverage with one high safety. Very, very Durkin. Remains to be seen if they maintain this with a running QB threat. Survey says "no": against most spread teams they've been two high, with one of those guys inserting in the box unpredictably.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: More rotation this week after things got very constricted against Iowa. Charlton led all DL with 58 of 67 snaps. Wormley and Glasgow got 47 and 45; Hurst and Godin got slightly over 30 each; Gary and Mone got around 20; Winovich got 10.
Gedeon, McCray, Peppers, and Stribling did not leave the field. PFF has Jourdan Lewis out for two snaps, but I don't remember what those snaps were; Hill and Thomas both lost a couple snaps to Kinnel, who got 7. There were rumors we'd see more of a few different players; he was the only one to even get on the field.
Brandon Watson was the only other player to appear; he got three snaps.
[After THE JUMP: the usual, and then snow]
About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
When they play Michigan: This is a pretty simple week.
We can discard with the usual trappings of this column. Every other week of the season we recap the opponents’ previous games, and we analyze how frightening they are, and we look at what should worry you about those teams and what shouldn’t. Those are necessary artifices when we are trying to add some color to a game three weeks out against Maryland, or to put a win over Illinois in greater context. The Game needs no added color. It needs no greater context. It brings its own.
You don’t need me to tell you what can make you feel better about this game. Nothing can, and you know that. You don’t need me to tell you why you should worry about this game, assuming you have the power of memory. And we don’t need to recap Ohio State’s previous games, nor Michigan’s for that matter. They don’t particularly matter, nor do they tell us much of note. The Game is an entity untethered from the rest of the season. Last year, Michigan came in as a top-10 team, and got their doors blown off at home. In 2013, 6-5 Michigan was a two-point conversion away from beating 11-0 Ohio State. In 2011, it was Luke Fickell’s 6-5 Ohio State team was one overthrown bomb away from beating Brady Hoke’s Sugar Bowl team. And the John Cooper era was one long video game where the player breezes through the level but can’t get past the boss.
The rest of the season has to be played, of course. Each week the two teams dutifully clash with their respective opponents. But each does so with one eye on the other, like two Homeric heroes cutting their way towards each other on an ancient battlefield. And sometimes, when things line up just so, the teams arrive as they do this year; with each having something extra weighing on the outcome. Not since 2006 have both teams had so much relying on the final score. But that simply affects the week leading up to The Game, and the days, weeks, and months afterward.
The hatred and familiar loathing take on a different hue in light of the conference and playoff implications, but the underlying artwork is unchanged. The first time the ghastly tones of that abhorrent fight song hit your ears, or the first time some Buckeye player throws up an O-H, or (god forbid) the first time the broadcast shows that vapid, poorly-cased narcissism sausage, Big Nut, you will be transported back to the place where the context is irrelevant, and the hatred is all-encompassing. Is this 1970? 1986? 2016? Who knows. Who cares. It’s these guys. I *hate* these guys. Get ‘em. F***ing get ‘em.
For those who demand greater context? Fine. Win, and there is a fooball game next weekend. Michigan goes to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time. You see Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt and the rest of the seniors play to hoist a trophy. You will get to see more Jabrill Peppers. Michigan will be the favorite to earn a playoff berth. A win sends Ohio State, who entered this week as the #2 team in the playoff rankings, home as the #3 team… in their division. Lose, and none of these things happens, and the one-sided nature of the rivalry continues unabated for another year.
But that’s Saturday morning stuff. That’s just what they’ll talk about on College Gameday outside the Horseshoe. Noon on Saturday is about Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray and a hundred urgent, violent moments. Let God and the committee sort the rest out.
This week: Everything. Noon. ABC.
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
Hawaii (5-7, 4-4 MWC)
Last week: Won at Fresno State, 14-13
Recap: Hawaii took down Fresno State, and is now one win away from Bowl eligibility (they get 13 games because they’re in the middle of the ocean and that’s how things work). To get there, they will have to win a rivalry game for the Voyages That Would Have Killed Anyone In The First 95% of Recorded History Trophy, as Umass will travel more than 5,000 miles to play the Rainbow Warriors. It would be quite something, after the entire offseason of laughter about Michigan’s no-conference schedule, if all three teams made a bowl game.
This week: vs. UMass, Midnight (Hawaii -7.5)
[AFTER THE JUMP: I told y’all about the Buffs…]
Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley
For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?
CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”
JB: “I second that.”
EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”
Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?
JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”
I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?
KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?
CW: “Compared to what you guys see?
EM: “Michigan reporters only.”
KK: “Yeah, no comment.”
EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]