ESPN just tweeted out something about how true freshman Mason Cole was looking very good and "competing for the starting left tackle spot," so you'll forgive me if I take one more day to think about basketball before pivoting towards what will be a never ending supply of quotes about toughness that no one is going to care about until they actually see something on the field.
But first, a glimpse into what the next basketball seas-
At Michigan, toughness -- and new offense -- drive offseason
-on might hold. Michigan loses defensive keystone Jordan Morgan from what was statistical-
Remember when Michigan had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage?
“That's a toughness thing,” Hoke said.
-ly Beilein's worst at Michigan, and then the NBA draft-
Or what about not finishing, losing four games by a combined 11 points -- and leading three of them entering the fourth quarter?
“Toughness,” Hoke said.
JUST ONE FRIGGIN' DAY OKAY. JUST ONE. Jeez.
Anyway. Beilein loses defensive keystone Jordan Morgan off a unit that slipped to 101st after the Kentucky game; everyone else returns save those who will set sail for the NBA draft. So…
The NBA Draft
Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary will all have options. McGary and Robinson returned as a unit with the idea they would rip things up this year and then depart; McGary's injury and a bit of stagnation in Robinsons game interfered with that plan. Stauskas just plain blew up.
All available tea leaves point to Stauskas's departure. The feeling anyone in the building got when Michigan cut down the nets to celebrate their outright Big Ten title was that he was out. While Stauskas shot down his father's overly honest take as to his future, one of those things is PR and it's not hard to figure out which one.
Stauskas is solidly in the first round anywhere that bothers to rank prospects—17th at Draft Express, 15th to Gary Parrish, 21st to Chad Ford—and just saw two teammates drop in those rankings from the spot he's at right now to second round grades. It would be a Lewan-level upset if he came back.
The fates of Robinson and McGary are murkier. Robinson has alternately sounded like a guy open to a return…
"There have been times this year when I thought about it and heard a lot of talk and everything," Robinson said. "I just want to make the best decision, the best decision for me, because I want to play this game for a long time. So if I'm not ready, I'm not ready."
…and a guy headed out the door…
“At the beginning of the season, things weren’t going right,” Robinson explained on Saturday. “I was going to play the three and coach decided he wanted me back at the four when Mitch got hurt.”
The move was tough on the 6-foot-6 sophomore.
“I was kind of upset a little bit about that,” Robinson admitted. “I was kind of questioning my decision to come back.”
…depending on the context and question. Generally in these situations the out-the-door thing is more likely, but Robinson's stock has fallen to the point where he has a tough decision. Most places have him a second rounder—one in the range that Tim Hardaway Jr was last year before draft workouts saw him leap into the first round. DX has him 37th, Parrish 39th, Ford 32nd.
It's clear that Michigan sold Robinson on the idea of playing the three, his NBA spot, when he returned. They would have to do that again, presumably by promising a lot of McGary/Donnal frontcourts with Robinson on the wing.
And then there's McGary, who parlayed a brilliant six-game run in the tourney into a mid-first round grade, annihilated various camps in the summer, and came down with a back injury that lingered until it required surgery. What is an NBA draft executive supposed to do with that information attached to a guy a year older than his class? Guess wildly. McGary is also universally hailed as a early second-rounder; in his case the motivation to return seems obvious. A healthy year of McGary should make him an easy first-rounder once again.
If I had to guess I'd say Michigan gets one of the three back and that's Mitch. But nothing would shock me… other than a Stauskas return.
So Then What
Assuming the scenario in the last paragraph plays out, these are your 2014-15 Michigan Wolverines:
- PG: Walton (So., 30 min), Albrecht (Jr., 10 min)
- SG: Irvin (So., 30 min), Chatman (Fr., 10 min)
- SF: LeVert (Jr., 35 min), Chatman (Fr., 5 min)
- PF: Donnal (Fr., 30 min), McGary (Jr., 10 min)
- C: McGary (Jr., 20 min), Horford (Sr., 20 min)
That's an eight man rotation. Michigan also has Ricky Doyle and DJ Wilson coming in. If McGary returns they can definitely redshirt one and maybe both; if he returns they have to play one and maybe both. Michigan will be in the market for any LeVert-like spring risers in this scenario; they could also take a transfer.
That looks… wow. I am shocked at how good that looks given that this hypothetical scenario has bombed three NBA draft picks off the roster. (Trey would hypothetically be a senior if he was not Trey.) Michigan returns LeVert, who is improving nightly and still has buckets of upside since he's a year younger than most guys his grade. They have two top-50 recruits who turned in promising freshman years and promise to blow up themselves. They're guards entering year two under Jordan/Beilein. A veritable leap beckons.
What if Glenn's back?
You're an optimistic scallywag this afternoon. Robinson's return would probably chop five to ten minutes off of four players' time: Horford, Donnal, Chatman, and Irvin.
What if Mitch is gone?
You are a nasty pessimist this afternoon. McGary departing would likely force Ricky Doyle to pick up 15-20 minutes a game with the rest of the vacated post minutes going to Donnal and Horford; there would be more of those worrying small lineups with Irvin at the 4.
What kind of team is that one above?
Uh… well… I mean I know they'll have just spit out a bunch of guys to the NBA but doesn't that look like another protected seed? Obviously there's a large range of possibility there, ranging from another two to a four, but if you look at that lineup the one question mark is Donnal, who is Beilein's first true stretch big in his time at Michigan.
How did this happen?
I don't know man.
I hesitate to make any strident proclamations after Nebrasketball happened this year. Persist we must. Next year's Big Ten looks like a race between four teams: Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Surprise Team To Be Named Later That I Will Say Is Iowa, After Which Everyone Will Shake Their Heads Softly And Wonder What Is My Deal With Iowa.
Michigan State isn't going to drop out of the tournament but in the likely event of a Gary Harris departure they lose him, Payne, and Appling and haven't brought in the level of talent those gentlemen represent in a few years now. Travis Trice, starting point guard, says it all.
Michigan probably isn't going to have the best offense in the Kenpom era and win the league by three games again. Probably.
At the bottom of the league, Purdue and Penn State figure to be less annoying thorns in the side of teams up the ladder after the departures of all Johnsons from the Boilers and Tim Frazier from Penn State. Penn State is going to lean heavily on DJ Newbill, as they did a year ago. Purdue is going to turn to… Bryson Scott? This figures to be Matt Painter's last year in West Lafayette.
Also, Northwestern turns over more of the offense to Sanjay Lumpkin.
Who's about the same?
You'd think Ohio State would take a hit with the losses of Craft and Ross, but they were already 10-8 in the league last year. They've added Temple fifth-year transfer Anthony Lee to their frontcourt, get SG Kam Williams off a redshirt—although that redshirt does invite one to wonder about how good this dude actually is given the state of the OSU offense—and bring in an excellent recruiting class featuring next year's Guy You Wish Beilein Had, Keita Bates-Diop. They'll probably be the same middling Big Ten team that doesn't have to worry about the bubble next year.
Davis (#15) might be Indiana's starting 5 next year, and he is basically Will Sheehey
Indiana brings in some talented recruits with poor decision making skills. They lose Noah Vonleh and Jeremy Hollowell in the middle. The only guy taller than 6'7" on the roster for next year is Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who Indiana just about refused to play even before his DUI incident. Can a Big Ten team featuring Devin Davis at the 5 make the NCAA tournament? Looks like bubble at best.
Minnesota loses Austin Hollins and no on else of significance; will remain Minnesota until such time as they are not a .500-ish Big Ten team that barely misses or makes the tournament.
As appalling as this is to consider, unless Sam Dekker takes his talents to the NBA there's no reason Wisconsin should take a step back. If anything they should charge forward with a senior Kaminsky. Their only loss is Ben Brust, a highly effective outside gunner who Bo Ryan will replace seamlessly because that's how he do. As long as someone shakes Traevon Jackson and tells him he's not Trey Burke every 30 seconds, they have to be the league favorite.
On the opposite side of the spectrum that runs from Bo Ryan through Stalin to Rainbow Dash and ends at Tim Miles, Nebraska exists. Their only departure from a breakthrough tournament team is Ray Gallegos, who was marginalized as a senior because he was a Designated Corner Gunner who hit 33% and Nebraska no longer thought that was their best option. The Pitchford/Shields/Petteway core is all sophomores who will be around another two years, and this is a team that went from 8-8 to 19-11 to end the regular season. Second-half Nebraska is a league contender.
And I will put my hand in the fire again: it's Iowa's year, baby! They lose the talented but inconsistent Roy Devin Marble, generally inexplicable Zach McCabe, and Melsahn Basabe. They return a pile of enormous dudes: White, Olaseni, Woodbury, and Uthoff all go at least 6'9". Aging big men put it together and Iowa's got senior White, senior Olaseni, and junior Woodbury on deck. If they can find some shooters they'll be much better than they were a year ago.
Illinois found something at the end of the year and loses only Joseph Betrand; since one of the things they found late was "maybe we should play our freshmen" the future bodes well. Or at least better than 7-11 in the league. Meanwhile, incoming recruit Leron Black is described as a "junkyard dog"—exactly what the Illini need at the 4 next to the uninspiring rebounding of Nnanna Egwu.
How About A Stupid Prediction?
Going to have to wait until draft declarations are made.
Beilein by Fuller, Orr and Ooster via Bentley.
I got this question from PeteM on the board: Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches?
The question is subjective since everyone has their own criteria. Mine: wins (total), winning percentage, Big Ten regular season titles, tournament success, All-Americans/NBA prospects, and general good guy-itude.
Non-candidates for completeness:
I kept Cowles out of it since this was getting long and he only coached for a few (wild) seasons, wherein he dragooned football stars and developed the pick and roll.
For ease, I call the 2013-'14 season "2014" etc.
* Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
** NCAA tournament factor, equivalent to average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his average team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
† This could as well be 7 or 8: Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
I ended up breaking this up into two posts because it was getting long, so here's the candidates chronologically through Johnny Orr:
|Mather [via Wikipedia]|
E.J. Mather (1920-'28)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 108 wins (67%), 3 Big Ten titles (1 outright)
All-Americans: Bennie Oosterbaan (1927 & '28), Richard Doyle (1926), Harry Kipke (1924)
Pros: Kind of pre-dates that.
Story: Took over a young program and went 3-9 his first year, then tied for the Big Ten championship his second, winning his last 8 games of the season to tie Purdue and Wisconsin at the end. The 1926-'27 season, when Bennie Oosterbaan lent his talents, was the best; Michigan went 10-2 in-conference and 14-3 overall. Soon after that season Mather had major surgery for cancer, and wasn't the same after that. Yost coached the 1927-'28 team in Mather's name; the cancer claimed his life that August.
Thing: Mather was also a Yost football assistant, and two of his players later became football coaches.
Better than a Beilein: It's tough to judge that far back or guess what the future might have held, but he didn't have a nationally competitive team until his 8th year so I'm comfortable putting him behind.
[After the jump it gets tougher]
"Good Source" vs. Mom, or Just Another Day In Recruiting
Even though Damien Harris stepped back from his Michigan commitment after the firing of Al Borges, the top 2015 running back has maintained that the Wolverines are still right in the thick of his recruitment, if not leading it outright—his mother has gone so far as to say the Wolverines would still be his choice if he made it right now.
That made this Friday morning tweet from outspoken Rivals analyst Mike Farrell quite surprising:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) March 28, 2014
As it turns out, Michigan fans weren't the only ones caught off guard by this. Harris released an unordered top ten—yes, Michigan is in there, as are the four schools above—within the hour with no mention of a smaller top group. Harris's mother, meanwhile, offered a flat-out denial to 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"Maybe it's his top four after Michigan!," Harris's mother told me. "Just because he's opened up his recruiting doesn't mean Michigan has gone down on his list."
Michigan was also skeptical about the idea that they aren't in Harris's top group, as they feel good about the relationship offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has built with the Harris camp.
The general, non-Farrell feeling about Harris is that Michigan and Ohio State are the teams to beat, with Florida making a push after a recent on-campus visit. A lot can change, especially as Harris continues taking visits, but I'd be very surprised if Michigan currently sat outside his top group.
[Hit THE JUMP for a look at Michigan's latest offer, Justin Hilliard's top ten, an update on Tim Settle, and more.]
3/30/2013 – Michigan 72, Kentucky 75 – 28-9, 15-3 Big Ten, season over
same damn shot
About three hours later, I realized I was on the same damn road, passing the same damn Indiana towns with ominous overtones in their names.
I was feeling the same damn way. I wanted the miles to evaporate faster than they were, to put all that behind me, to have a stiff drink at home. Mostly I just wanted to sit on a couch and exhale until everything had left my body and I flopped over on my side, inert, until the smell of bacon revived me in a day or a week or a year.
I kept trying to do this exhalation thing, and it was not working. I spent most of the game fearing the immaculately-coifed Kentucky fan in front of me would turn around and ask me to stop breathing so hard on her neck, whereupon I'd have to explain to her husband that yes I may be making your wife's neck uncomfortably moist but you see I am trying to expel my soul which really no that's not what I'm saying oh I see I've just been punched.
We made quite a crew in section 228: me trying to not die and not exist at the same time; the lady who is mercifully tolerant of moist neck; the XXXL Kentucky fan next to me complaining that the refs were treating Stauskas like a pretty pretty princess after every possession; the two Michigan bros a few rows in front of me taking their fashion cues from Macklemore and standing after every basket to make karma-obliterating woofing noises; and the unaffiliated mother with her family on the way to spring break trying to commiserate with me about how the Kentucky fans who made up about 90% of our section were just unreasonably into sports.
It took her a while but I think she finally put me into the unreasonable bin after the teams traded dagger three pointers with a few minutes left and the sun came through the floor of Colts Location Stadium, blasting us all with a heat only she noticed.
The boxing metaphor is inescapable. I have seen many basketball games; this one is the one that defies you to compare it to anything else. And it was specific: this was not the kind of boxing match where a Cuban with ten thousand amateur fights comes out and touches you up for twelve rounds until he's ahead on all the scorecards. This was two dudes with noses that might as well already be broken strolling out and windmilling at each other until one looks like Chernobyl… and he's the guy still standing.
Max Kellerman talks a lot about how great fighters are not like people, because when they get hit witheringly hard they don't want to dig a hole and lay down in it for a while. They instead get mad and start hammering back. This is an easy thing to feel you are capable of when not being hit witheringly hard, and pretty much the entire point of boxing is to strip this feeling from victim after victim. I have no illusions about my response to being hit like that. I will put my head in my hands, check twitter, and be nearly incapable of standing. One day I'm just going to fall over. I've made my peace with it.
Michigan—this Michigan team, this dead Michigan team—is not like that. They dug out of enough ten point holes midway through the season to demonstrate that, surely. Here every time Kentucky would threaten to pull away Stauskas would swoop into the lane or Morgan would collect a rebound and finish against Kentucky's never-ending assembly line of skyscrapers, or Robinson would nail the late momentum-shifting corner three that has become a trademark over the past month.
If Calipari had ran out to midcourt with a shovel and started whacking Morgan with it while screaming "WHY <whack> WON'T <whack> YOU <whack> DIE," this would have made total sense to everyone in attendance. Kentucky was hitting three pointers and taking zero jumpers otherwise. They rebounded 63% of their misses(!). Michigan was there, riddled with bullets but still lurching forward.
As the game went on and the temperature rose, the building knew. There is an odd shift in the dynamics of an arena once it becomes clear to everyone present that they are watching an out-and-out classic. The stakes, already astronomical, ratchet ever-higher as the imperative to not lose this game, to win this game, to have this thing in your heart forever for cold nights and funerals, reaches critical mass. I mean, what if Michigan loses in overtime to Kansas last year? It does not bear thinking about.
So Michigan executes its version of that Syracuse possession with about seven missed shots in four seconds except Jordan Morgan wills the ball in the basket with his goddamned mind, and then it's just one guy taking a bad shot that looks improbably true.
It was probably the guys tweeting that they were watching Cosmos and regretting that they were responsible adults with children instead of super high and watching Cosmos that put me in this frame of mind but on the same damn road I started thinking about how space was unfathomably large, cold, and empty.
We'd just exited what was temporarily the saddest Culver's in America, on the vanguard of a highway of silent maize-clad Michigan fans acknowledging each other with a sigh and a shrug at chain restaurants and rest stops. In the fifteen minutes it had taken to eat, the twilight had turned definitively into night. The sun down, I tried exhaling again. Still nothing.
You know, I was basically okay. I thought about Jordan Morgan and the Kentucky fans all screaming out defensive instructions to their players whenever Stauskas touched the ball and figured out the exact tenor of my sadness. I had been eroded in the presence of the sun, and was glad for it, but now that place was getting smaller and farther all the time.
We were an outbound comet, hoping, waiting for the next opportunity to feel the stellar wind blow.
Jordan Morgan. Uh…
— John Mozena (@johnmoz) March 30, 2014
I'm not actually sure I can or want to do that. Usually those kind of things are reserved for the Cazzie Russell types but these days anyone that good exits before he can… well, I kind of want to say "program icon status" but if I say "Trey Burke" one of two images pops into your head so that's not quite right. But they're awesome and gone so fast it feels a little weird putting them in the rafters. (Being a Kentucky fan these days must be the weirdest experience in sports. Entirely new team every year.)
Watching Morgan's up and down career end with a tournament run in which he was one man trying to hold back the hordes… it does make you wonder. Morgan is the embodiment of the program's straight arrow up in the Beilein era, and he is an epic twitter troll with two engineering degrees. Save a Tyler Hansborough/Russ Smith type who is awesome but has one critical flaw in his game that prevents the NBA from swooping in on him, it's hard to think there are going to be many more deserving four-year guys.
Nik Stauskas. If that was the last game, and I'm guessing it was, he went out with a bang. I think swooping layups and rim attack after rim attack against Kentucky may perk up NBA draft executives' ears.
It is kind of crap luck that the guys Beilein turns into killers are so so good that they're two or three and out these days. As Morgan demonstrated, seniors are nice to have. You're up, Caris.
Welp. Michigan was set to win this game despite getting bombed on the boards, just as it had been ordained, but Kentucky, the #249 team in the country from three, went 7/11 behind the arc on looks that were mostly contested. If you find randomness on the street, slug it in the gut and say that's from MGoBlog.
SOFT THREE-DEPENDENT BEILEIN. That's continually the line from MSU fans. Michigan from two against freakin' Kentucky: 20/39. Michigan State versus UConn: 7/17. MSU took 12 more threes than twos. Shirtless AXE bro, heal thyself.
(Two point baskets by players who will probably return to MSU next year: 1, by Dawson.)
The NCAA tournament remains great. Hunter Lochmann probably had a stroke when he realized that absolutely no piped in music would be provided. Wait until they see a February NBA game, he thought, 'I'm Gonna Make You Sweat' is gonna make YOU sweat.
Do you know what they did during TV timeouts? Nothing. They put some trivia up on the scoreboard. There was the occasional announcement. Otherwise the commercial breaks were bands playing music and nothing else. It was amazing.
No one left at halftime, muttering about how if they can't hear "Ceiling Can't Hold Us" there's no point to sports. "Why will no one direct me to make noise?" this nonexistent person asks. "Where is my kiss cam? Are you guys even having a sporting contest? GIVE ME MY HAT SHUFFLE."
Anyway, for all the commercialism the NCAA packs into their every waking moment they have really minimized it for the event itself. The tournament is a national treasure for that reason. Michigan should emulate that instead of the ECHL.
Except for PA announcer guy. It started off poorly when he called Caris LeVert "Caress" LeVert and continued for the entire two games; even when not doing that the Colts Location Stadium PA announcer sounded like a terrible parody of a smarmy PA guy instead of a PA guy. Imagine Rob Schneider doing PA guy, and then make him worse at it. Oy.
Stagger. My one problem with the tournament setup is one I'm sure everyone shares: what is up with the game stagger in the Sweet 16? There's no reason MSU and Virginia should be going down to the wire at the same time Kentucky and Louisville are melting down Colts Location Stadium. Also you have large video boards; when game action isn't going on those should be playing other games.
Basketball of the future. Michigan wanted to force Kentucky into two-point jumpers. Nope:
With that distribution it's a victory that Michigan only gave up 48% from two in the second half, and yes, Daryl Morey is subscribing to Calipari's newsletter.
Stats! This game created or cemented a few remarkable ones.
@JohnGasaway It was the highest combined offensive rebounding percentage game of the entire season among two D1 teams
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) March 31, 2014
Moral Victory: Michigan finishes with an adj. offensive efficiency of 124.1. That's the best in the KenPom era.
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 31, 2014
He doesn't care about this now, but Jordan Morgan set the Michigan record for best FG% in a season (70.0%) and a career (63.1%).
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 31, 2014
70%! For a below-the-rim center. John Beilein is a genius, man. Also, best offense in 11 years (shhh, don't mention the rule changes).
Dammit. I said I wasn't going to think about McGary what ifs. Impossible not to, though. Imagine Morgan bumping down to the 4 for big chunks of this game with Mitch's crazy defensive rebounding on Dakari Johnson. On the other hand…
Michigan won the Big Ten by three games was a coinflip away from the Final Four without Burke, Hardaway, and McGary. I'd say let that sink in, but it should have been doing so for weeks now and it hasn't and it probably won't. The shots Michigan took should have had them down and out since they don't recruit at a super-elite level, but instead they blew through a conference that had three Elite Eight teams. And even though they're likely to take more NBA hits this offseason, they should enter next year as one of the conference favorites. It boggles the mind.
Postgame locker room, via @umichbball
67 of the 68 teams that make the NCAA Tournament have their seasons end in heartbreak. For the second straight year, Michigan came excruciatingly close to being that lone exception, only to lose in a classic game.
Even though it's exceedingly likely your team will be one of the unfortunate 67, it's impossible to prepare for a moment like this. We got to bask in the glory of the Tennessee win for, oh, half an hour before fretting about the next opponent. From the moment Kentucky emerged over Louisville, we've spent our time worrying about that matchup.
From the moment of tipoff this afternoon, two of the most talented teams in the country played an incredible back-and-forth affair. And until Nik Stauskas's prayer thudded harmlessly against the backboard, we held out hope. Then it hits, the realization that this amazing run is done—and another shot at that elusive, ultimate banner has gone with it. It's like having your breath return after holding it for two days, only for the first inhale to precede a deep sigh, or perhaps a body-shaking sob.
For Jordan Morgan, there are no more shots. He'll be fine when the shock wears off—Michigan engineering grads tend to do okay after college—but in the interim, I ache for him. To a lesser extent, that goes to the rest of the players and the coaching staff, but I wasn't ready to see Morgan's pundit-defying career end.
I've got no more to offer in the way of words or feelings; after three weeks on tilt, I'm completely spent. Thank you, Kentucky, for giving us a whale of a game. Thank you, Michigan, for being a source of joy all season, again. Thank you, Jordan Morgan, for everything.
The Sponsor: There are a few defining moments which truly capture what it means to be a Michigan Wolverine. Michigan Basketball, thank you for creating those moments for us this season. Bring us home the championship! Go Blue! - MaraWatch & Company.
The Rules: "You must have chaos within you, but mitigate it in your liveblogs, to give birth to a dancing star." –Friedrich Nietzsche