"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Yesterday Jordan Kovacs casually tossed off something about helping out Dennis Norfleet—or dennisnorfleet, whichever—and other young safeties with minutiae, and then there's a clip of a 5'6" guy wearing 26 tackling someone else:
I hate this for lots of reasons.
The chance Dennis Norfleet becomes a good safety seems minimal. There's being small, and there's being Norfleet small. Bob Sanders is the go-to-comparison here and yes okay there has been one Norfleet-sized safety in the last ten years of college football who has been really good. I can think of plenty of mini-me running backs who have been somewhere between okay and great. Garrett Wolfe, Brian Calhoun, and Jacquizz Rodgers pop immediately to mind, a guy like Vincent Smith has provided Michigan value.
There would seem to be no need to make this move unless safety depth next year is just terrifying. With Gordon/Wilson the presumed starters, the very idea they'd need to move a kid like Norfleet to D says bad things about replacing Kovacs, or that neither Furman or Robinson is viable even as a backup.
Nickel corner? There's even less of a need there. Avery returns, Delonte Holowell is locked into nickel-or-nothing, and Terry Richardson is also a nickel sort. That they'd even try this seems to indicate a need in the secondary that can only be explained by attrition or inability to play.
We're really going to make this move before even trying the guy as a change of pace/third down back? He's clearly not needed to play S for the bowl game, but he may be needed to run the ball since Rawls isn't really getting it done and Norfleet—a guy who Hoke was pushing to get on the field on offense early this year—is just going to go by the wayside to not play safety? WTF?
I mean, if we're trying to win a bowl game here Norfleet has a much better chance of helping that cause on offense than the sideline watching Kovacs and Gordon play safety.
Hoke mentioned something about burning Drake Johnson's redshirt, which he probably won't actually do, but he has put it on the table:
He offered the proposal when asked about his running backs, who will take the field Jan. 1 against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl without starter Fitz Toussaint. Sophomore Thomas Rawls, redshirt freshman Justice Hayes and senior Vincent Smith are expected to be in the rotation.
That indicates Hoke would like to see true freshman Drake Johnson get some time against the Gamecocks. Johnson, who starred at nearby Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, is redshirting this year.
"Maybe," Hoke said. "We like what Drake's done to this point."
So instead of trying out the guy that Michigan thought was good enough to play on kickoffs they're thinking about burning a redshirt for a guy who only got an EMU offer before Fred Jackson swooped in.
This could mean Norfleet isn't good at running the ball to the point where it's not even worth trying him over Rawls. I find that hard to believe after watching his high school tape, but it is a hit on any expectations you may have for the kid as a runner. The nonsensical-seeming position switch is the first step on the road to obscurity.
But more likely it means he's not good at running through unblocked guys and that he might never get a shot running behind an offensive line that could get him some cracks.
Hopefully this is dismissed as a crazy bet Fred Jackson lost by Saturday.
going 12-0 is a often a recipe for this, but especially this year
With the pre-bowl season officially under wraps for 2012, it’s time for my annual review of teams whose record most greatly deviated from what it “should" have been.
To (attempt and fail to) avoid confusion, here is how I define Luck for this exercise.
What I Am Measuring
Luck can mean a lot of things but for this, I am comparing a team’s actual wins this year versus taking their opponent adjusted performance and re-simulating the season with the exact same schedule. Two teams who play a tightly contested game are roughly the same on that Saturday. Over a long horizon these wins and losses tend to even out but over a 12 game season there will always be teams whose final records don’t quite match how they played throughout the year.
What I Am Not Measuring
I am not looking at any preseason expectations. I am not looking at how each team did versus the recruits on their team. Those two would look at over-achieving teams of 2012 more than lucky. I am not going back to individual games or plays to look at if one or two games would have been different. I am also not looking at injuries on personnel changes throughout the year.
Think of this exercise as a sort of Pythagorean Wins for College Football. A lucky season is a great one to have for a fan, because no matter what the expected value is, the end result is all that matters in looking back. But like Pythagorean Wins, “Luck” is a great starting point for looking ahead. There are a lot of different ways to get to the same record. Last year Texas A&M had the most unlucky season in the country and was nearly 4 games below their performance. Kevin Sumlin did a great job this year and having the Heisman Trophy winner certainly helped, but Sumlin’s team was in a much better position than their prior year’s record would have indicated.
Teams with great records are rarely unlucky and vice versa. The formula is [Actual Wins] – [Simulated Wins]. If you win most all of your actual games there is very little room for your simulated wins to be higher. It’s more a factor of math than destiny.
Coach Hoke’s alma mater was 2012’s luckiest team. Ball State was simulated to win 6.4 games this year but pulled out a 9-3 record. Beyond that, three of the four teams following Ball State are of high interest to Wolverine fans.
|Team||Actual Wins||Simulated Wins|
Michigan’s two biggest rivals and bowl opponent all crack the top 5. As noted above, Ohio St and Notre Dame were easy candidates for this list with perfect seasons, but their perfect seasons were the luckiest undefeated seasons in the seven years I have been measuring the luck factor, and by a considerable margin.
Michigan ended the season slightly lucky with 8 wins versus an expected 7.6 based on their total season performance.
Of the teams that finished the year with 2 or fewer losses, Florida State is the only team to finished at least 0.5 games unlucky, thanks to their upset to NC State and an otherwise weak ACC schedule. Their loss to the Wolfpack was the 7th most unlikely outcome of the season based on the simulation but the most likely outcome based on Seminole history. Of the Top 10 biggest upsets looking back, five happened in Week 1 and all by road teams (Youngstown over Pitt, McNeese St over Middle Tennessee, Tennessee-Martin over Memphis, Ohio over Penn St and Iowa over Northern Illinois). Only three of the top 10 happened after the second week of the season with
UMass topping Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic over Western Kentucky joined the NC St upset. The Ohio-Penn St game was an interesting one because people acted like it was at the beginning of the season even though it really wasn’t at the time. By the end of the season Ohio had tailspinned and Penn St turned out to be a much better team.
The unlucky list features some of the same teams from the biggest upsets above
|Team||Actual Wins||Simulated Wins|
Michigan State was a few spots down, as they finished nearly 2 games below their simulated totals, falling on the wrong side a few too many 16-13 totals.
Is This Luck Repeatable?
Almost certainly not. The scatter plot of current year versus prior year luck:
There are a lot of teams in each of those quadrants, each season is its own animal. Notre Dame’s was nearly 2 games above simulated this year but was –5.5 over the last three. Those who remember Northwestern as the team continually defying expectations. The Wildcats continued this year and are one of only two teams (Rice) who have had above average luck for all seven years. With Wake Forest right behind them I began started to draft a “smart schools are more lucky” section until I looked at the rest of the all-time top 10 and saw Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn and Ball State all on the list.
When you look at the spread of lucky years by
Count of teams by number of lucky seasons from 2006-2012
The twin peaks could mean there is a lucky and unlucky group, each normally distributed. It could also just a be bump in the data or it could be part of the fact that wins by program is somewhat consistent and luck is slanted if you are at one end of the spectrum. My biggest conclusion is that most of it is truly luck but that there is the possibility that teams like Northwestern or coaches like Les Miles have a true ability to consistently win more than they should but also that statistically, teams like that are bound to turn up even if its truly random.
Hokepoints of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile (sic)
We're just a few days away from the start of bowl season, which means I get make my annual appeal against subsidized hell. But first a short message from Billy…
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See for yourself what your friends are buzzing about (click on each logo to get at the full-sized, sponsor-free versions):
I'm not against branding. We do plenty of it, and I plan to do more. Sponsoring a nice thing so people can have it for free is one of the most polite ways folks have yet found to introduce themselves to customers. Marketing is subject to the same rules of propriety as all other intra-species communication. Polite: Your banner over the entrance to the guest lecture you're sponsoring. Impolite: making the lecturer interrupt his spiel to talk about the fantastic deals you're currently offering. Polite: Leaving your business card on the restaurant's bulletin board. Impolite: Renaming all the meats in the sandwiches after your products. Also impolite: naming your kid "Need School Supplies? Call 1-800-555-PENS and We'll Deliver!" so that every time the teacher does roll call you're drumming up business.
So yeah, my real beef is with naming rights that become a barrier to communication. The Rose Bowl doesn't need to remind anybody where it takes place or who's supposed to be in it because years of tradition have made it apparent. Outback Steakhouse annoyed me at first, but over a decade of having the name plus the smart decision to leave out the second half of their name (thus actually being easier to say than "Hall of Fame") allowed it to settle. Plus the Outback is a place on Earth; it is conceivable in the imagination that a bowl might be played amidst the gumnuts and wallabies. Bowls for causes annoy me less if they're nouns (Liberty, Independence) than adjectives (Humanitarian), which in turn is better than sentence fragments (Fight Hunger). Synonyms (Military*/Armed Forces) shouldn't be allowed. I'd prefer if newer bowls include the city name for the first five to ten years (e.g. San Francisco Fight Hunger Bowl). Anyway these are all things people might name an event without obviously having to get paid to do so.
That's where I draw the line. Adding "presented by ___" as part of the name makes it easier to ignore but still as disingenuous as if I changed my blogging handle to "Seth Presented by Iowa Corngrowers Association of America." Calling a young event the "Brelk" or "Breef-o-Ladies" means we'll never figure out where the hell it is. Letting that tire company with a name that sounds like a German salute name a second bowl after themselves when they lost the naming rights to the first is borderline criminal. Even more criminal is allowing a terribly named company to take over a well-established brand. The Copper Bowl can't claim the history of the Copper Bowl if it's no longer called the Copper Bowl. And here's where I bring up how the chicken people want to get rid of peaches:
I am guessing this is what the protests were about earlier this year.
*Since the one in D.C. is newer it should be told to change to something that differentiates it from the Fort Worth bowl. How about "The Great Big U.S.O. Show" since it's the U.S.O. that sponsors it anyway.
Half the bowls need to die. This year's lineup will feature 70 teams in 35 bowl games. For reference, the 71st-best team according to FEI this year is 3-8 Arkansas. Teams much worse than John L. Smith'd Arkansas are in bowl games. East Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette will have a bowl game for a $500,000 payout provided by the title sponsor, who is a trucking company from Wilmington, Ohio. Somebody will broadcast it, and TV crews will show that one ECU fan dressed like a pirate and a few Cajun fans while studiously avoiding angles that show the 90% of Superdome currently unoccupied. And ultimately many people—especially those schools who'll be shelling out way more than 500k to settle their entourage in bowl-approved New Orleans hotels—will ask "why are we even having this?" And the only answers are "because to somebody this is still profitable," and "we need the practices and the swag and the recruit invitations so we can remain competitive."
No I don't think it'll change anything. If someone was going to have a conversation about diluting the concept it would have been had 20 years ago. I am resigned to a future in which the Enterprise Products Partners Bowl matches the 9th Big Ten team vs. the No. 5 Sun Belt team (you are not sure if I just made that one up just now). A win here is if people on this site and others adopt the non-subsidized logos and terminology.
Tracking what Michigan's opponents are doing.
Winning against Arkansas isn't worth a whole lot but Michigan's opponents did well over the week, seeing them bounce up a spot on RPIforecast and Sagarin. Michigan fell a little on Kenpom, for which you can insert grumbles about MOV capping. Michigan remains second in RPI.
Seed projection is static: a #2, behind projected #1s Duke, Indiana, Florida, and Louisville/Syracuse winner.
you will probably not be surprised to find out that BJ Young shot did not go in
I'm dropping Slippery Rock since their season won't impact how anyone looks at Michigan.
IUPUI continued to be awful, losing to Butler and WKU by 20+.
Filler that's not painful
Cleveland State lost to NC State, but given the committee's emphasis on quality wins that's how we wanted it to work out. Bradley beat GW by four at home, which didn't push their season projections much to the positive. They've got a couple of extremely bad teams before a December 22nd matchup with VT. Western Michigan took some of the shine off Michigan's resounding victory over them by losing to Illinois State by 22, but ISU took Northwestern to OT and Louisville to the wire so we'll give them a pass.
Duquense: W 66-45. North Florida: W, 89-47.
With five straight resounding blowouts against bad teams after their loss to Michigan, Pitt is the Wisconsin of the Big East. The latest spectacular annihilation of an overmatched opponent actually pushed Pitt in front of Michigan in Kenpom.
The Panthers don't play anyone of note before the Big East schedule opens on New Year's Eve, at which point we'll find out whether there's any there there. I'm guessing the answer is yes.
Kansas State (7-1)
@ George Washington: W 65-62
K State edged out a game GW team on the road in a game I caught large portions of. They remain large but rely far too much on Angel Rodriguez chucking up circus shots to be a real threat. They'll likely make the tournament and get bounced early. Don't expect much more than a .500-ish Big 12 campaign.
North Carolina State (6-2)
UConn (neutral): W 69-65. Cleveland State: W 80-63.
Edged a game against UConn in the Jimmy V thing and eased past Cleveland State. NC State remains uber-talented and mercurial, capable of doing all sorts of things from NBA power dunks to preposterous turnovers. Hobbit PG still can't play.
The Hogs are coming off a stretch of five straight games against power conference foes, of which they won just one against Oklahoma. They're done playing good teams until the SEC schedule. Kenpom has them at 8-10 in conference and that seems about right after watching their circus shot exhibition last week. They're an NIT outfit.
The Future (Nonconference)
Deniz Kilicli is WVU's highest-usage player, and is shooting 41% from the floor.
Dreck. Binghampton should not be on the schedule; they're coming off a 22-point loss to Bryant. Michigan will eviscerate them tomorrow in a game a bizarrely specific Kenpom gives Michigan a 99.7% chance of winning. Central lost to Charlotte by 12 and actually bumped their rating a little bit.
Filler, not painful. Oh let's move Eastern Michigan here after they beat Purdue, though I think that says more about Purdue than it does EMU. Eastern also got pounded by Syracuse this week.
West Virginia (4-3)
Marshall (neutral court): W 69-59. Virginia Tech: W 68-67.
The Mountaineers got off the deck a little bit last week with wins over Marshall and a previously-undefeated Virginia Tech. I took in the second half of that game as well and came away less than fearful of Michigan's upcoming game with them. WVU can't shoot—they're 310th in 3PT% and 262nd in 2PT%—and generate offense almost exclusively by pounding the offensive boards, which leads to a bevy of fast-break chances the other way when the rebounding guys can't make it work. They look like the NIT team Kenpom projects them to be right now.
The Future (Conference)
NOW WITH WEEKLY COMPARISONS TO OTHER THINGS POWER RANKINGS
LAST WEEK: beat up on Central Connecticut
THING: Indiana is real good. They play Butler on Saturday.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Cashews. Tasty, curved, and about to get some ineligible foreigners back.
LAST WEEK beat up on WMU and beat Arkansas
THING: I wrote about these guys earlier today.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Ernest Hemingway. Muscular prose purveyors are shooting enthusiasts.
LAST WEEK: beat up on Long Beach State, held "celebration of perfection against Long Beach State" pep rally no one cared about.
THING: Amadeo Della Valle watch: 13% of OSU minutes, no assists, lots of turnovers, vanishingly few attempts. 10% block percentage! These numbers may have small sample size.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Sin.
4. Minnesota (10-1)
LAST WEEK: checked to make sure they had not lost to a Dakota team on the gridiron and chanted "just like football" at South Dakota State, annihilated USC.
THING: Oh yeah well we have our own 6'6" guy who occasionally bumps his head on satellites, Gophers. Scary thing about Minnesota so far: Trevor Mbakwe has only played 45% of their minutes.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: like what if you found a species of pogo stick gazelle men hiding in a Papua New Guinea rain forest
LAST WEEK: Beat Gonzaga! By nine! On the road! After falling behind by 11 early! Brandon Paul is a frightening dude and do your remember that Tyler Griffey guy who went off on M last year, well he's shooting 47% on a lot of threes!
THING: Hmmm. John Groce may be okay at this basketball thing. Problem: Nnanna Egwu is terrible. Like, he is an absolutely appalling player. He is seven feet tall and the seventh-best rebounder on his team and he is drawing 6.2 fouls every 40 minutes.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: like what if the pogo stick gazelle men had a basketball team coached by John Beilein
6. Michigan State (8-2)
LAST WEEK: Blew out SWAC team, struggled with Loyola-Chicago before pulling away late.
THING: Nobody on this team can shoot threes except Travis Trice and probably Gary Harris. MSU needs Trice to be a bigger part of the gameplan than he has been so far. Injury limitations don't explain him getting just 20% of MSU minutes while Russell Byrd has acquired 30% and Brandan Kearney 46%.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: An ugly, oversized, defense-oriented, Michigan-obsessed crab. So "any Michigan State sports team."
LAST WEEK: Beat up on South Dakota, finally beat Iowa State in anything at all.
THING: This is not a good defensive team, and they can't shoot threes. Going to be a slog for them in the Big Ten.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Corn. Full of starch until you put the heat on them, when they become distended and unbalanced. Delicious covered in cheese powder.
8. Wisconsin (6-4)
LAST WEEK: Exploited Kenpom's algorithm with a 46 point win over Nebraska-Omaha, got rolled by Marquette 60-50.
THING: GO AWAY
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Boring death. Obviously.
LAST WEEK: Ran out to a huge lead and shockingly won against Baylor, reviving bubble hopes, then lost solidly to Butler, putting bubble hopes back on life support.
THING: Hey, Northwestern fans, at least this means the Wildcats will do better than expected in the Big Ten so they can rip your heart out in March.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: A nation of really depressed otters: Also delicious covered in cheese.
10. Nebraska (6-2)
LAST WEEK: Ran USC out of their building, then got bombed by Creighton.
THING: Nebraska has a guy named Andre Almeida who is listed at 6'11", 314, and has to be 50 pounds heavier than that. He's top 20 in block rate, which is like wow guy how do you even get off the ground.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: A squirrel on a conveyor belt facing away from the woodchipper.
LAST WEEK: Beat a guy named Lamar. Did not beat a guy named Eastern Michigan.
THING: Your Ronnie Johnson three-pointer watch: 9% on 23 attempts. At least they held up the conference's honor in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, unlike Wisconsin.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: A blindfolded man with a machine gun.
12. Penn State (5-4)
LAST WEEK: Got beat by La Salle by 35; beat Army. By eight.
THING: This program has been to the tournament four times since the last time Rutgers went in 1991.
THING THEY ARE LIKE: Rutgers, EXCEPT MUCH BETTER.
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 Indiana, #2 Ohio State, #2 MICHIGAN, #4 Minnesota, #5 Illinois, #7 Michigan State
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes.
It's a thin week what with finals going on. Things pick up on Saturday… sort of.
West Virginia at Duquesne, CBS Sports Network, 7 PM
Binghampton at MICHIGAN, BTN, 7 PM
Eastern Michigan at UIC, Comcast Chicago, 1 PM
Indiana vs Butler, CBS, 2PM
Iowa vs Northern Iowa, BTN, 2:30 PM
Purdue vs Notre Dame, 4:30, ESPN2
Nebraska at Oregon, FSN, 5:30
MICHIGAN vs West Virginia, ESPN, 8 PM
Kansas State at Gonzaga (in Seattle), ESPN 2, 9 PM
The rest of the schedule consists of games against low-majors that should be blowouts.
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Derrick Green and Laquon Treadwell (this has been a recorded message), Cameron Hunt getting a little too hype, and more.
The current front page of The Wolverine teases a Mike Farrell video interview with VA RB Derrick Green, and the headline speaks for itself: "Green says Michigan has the edge". Lo and behold, that's exactly what he said($), confirming what most have presumed since Auburn and Tennessee fired their respective head coaches.
Green does, however, say that he's still open to other schools—and says recruiting is "picking up again," so it sounds like new schools are in contact with him—and his recruitment could stretch to signing day. That's a change from his earlier intentions to enroll early, and one that doesn't favor the Wolverines—Green's only visited Michigan, Auburn, and Tennessee, and would obviously be the favorite if he chose without seeing other schools.
Josh Helmholdt catches up with IL WR Laquon Treadwell, who says he still has Ole Miss out in front, followed by Oklahoma, then Oklahoma State and Michigan ($). Treadwell previously took an official to Ole Miss and will take his to Oklahoma this weekend; he hasn't scheduled any further officials but leaves open the possibility for the other two schools in his top four; he's eliminated any other schools from contention.
As you're probably well aware at this point, former Michigan commit Gareon Conley pledged to Ohio State last weekend during his official visit. The Wolverines will obviously keep pursuing Leon McQuay III, and it looks like they've already identified their backup plan for Conley: OH CB Reon Dawson, and Illinois commit who was offered last week.
[Hit THE JUMP for an update on Cameron Hunt, interest in a new '13 prospect, and more.]
12/8/2012 – Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 – 9-0
mgouser Blazefire wins a cookie for being inside my brain / Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
A guy named Kikko Haydar popped off the bench, and John Beilein wondered who he was. So did the rest of Crisler. It turned out we already knew him: Haydar is from the Merritt/Lee school of useful walk-on that Michigan fans know so well. He hit a three, and then another, and then another, and when Michigan lost him again in the second half Kikko Haydar got a Nik Stauskas Memorial Road Crowd Groan. It was warranted. He hit it.
This is a problem. Some walk-on jumping off the bench to pick up 12 points on 5 shots throws a wrench in many of your victory plans, especially when this is part of a team-wide 60% effort from behind the line. For most teams, it is a problem that affects your win-loss record and makes everybody sad. For Michigan, it affects their Kenpom ranking in a displeasing way and just makes super-nerd subscribers to Kenpom slightly annoyed that Pitt has jumped Michigan and I mean seriously Ken let's get some margin of victory capping up in here. I may or may not be in the latter group.
Anyway. When an overeager Haydar picked up the blocking foul in the shot above, he laid on the floor theatrically for a moment, and then Tim Hardaway Jr. helped him up. Haydar smacked his hands together and smiled. Dollars to donuts he thought something like we are going to lose but at least I've got a story to tell about the time I rained on future NBA players. His parents are both professors, I mean.
Arkansas did lose. By a lot, while shooting 60% on 17 threes.
Arkansas made a push in the second half thanks to a bunch of Michigan turnovers and their unconscious three-point shooting, and I had an experience I only recognized as strange afterwards: I was annoyed. Not frightened or despairing or waiting for the inevitable thing that always happens to happen, like any sports fan who's watched a frustrating outfit has. Annoyed.
Like when Penn State scored on a screen to bring the Pit Bull game to within a touchdown. You know, this game:
Annoyed because the scoreboard isn't going to reflect what happened here today.
I thought back to watching Beilein's first team against Boston College, 3-3 on their way to 10-22. The BC game was the first one against a real opponent in Crisler, and I remember thinking the second-half run the Eagles used to put the game away was something bound to happen to this collection of young guys without much direction. A few players who saw the floor for at least 25% of Michigan's minutes: Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, Anthony Wright, Ron Coleman. Lee and Merritt were still a year away from maximum playing time. At some point you're going to have a collection of players out there that loses the plot, and then that's that.
Saturday I had the exact opposite experience. This team is too good and too deep and just too damn efficient to let a middling team keep it close even when they execute their impression of Beilein's first team.
So: here we are. It took nine games of watching these guys to go from thinking they're overrated to comparing them to the 2006 football team's defense. The capital-e Expectations have arrived, and are settling in for a long stay. This is going to be a different thing for all of us.
I spent large chunks of last year talking about how lovely it was to be able to appreciate a Michigan team with Novak and Douglass for exactly what they were, and be content with how they ended up as soon as they got that banner in Crisler. The loss to OHIO in the tournament sucked but it didn't suck in that way I know so well from hockey fandom:
The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better…
The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.
These gentlemen do not have that luxury. They are too too good at basketball to lose to a short guy nailing a bunch of threes, as OHIO did last year. They are too too good to get flustered by a full-court press, or even see much of one.
This is no longer a scrappy program. This is a program that will step on your throat. It took nine games.
They are the hunted now.
Shots from Bryan Fuller:
Forty minutes of mildly annoying warmth with mosquitoes. Arkansas's vaunted press was rarely applied in this game, in part because Arkansas rarely got an opportunity to set it up because they weren't making many baskets—they stayed in it by making most of their makes worth three. When Arkansas did get a make and set up, Michigan broke the press with a couple passes and that was it. I don't recall a single turnover forced by the press.
That's another example of the growth on the team after they got flustered and behind 17-4 last year. This time out they were calm and prepared; they've now got four guys on the floor who are above-average handlers for their position most of the time, and a plan. Once Michigan got it to Burke it was over, and Arkansas knew it. Nice to prove that.
BOX OUT! …is something Mike Anderson must scream in his sleep. Michigan—which I remind you is Michigan, a historically rebound-allergic team—outrebounded Arkansas. On Michigan misses. Yes. Michigan had 16 offensive rebounds to 15 Arkansas defensive rebounds. On the other side of the ball, it was 5 to 23.
This is something you could have predicted as Arkansas is horrendous at defensive rebounding and meh on offense; it's still something to marvel over. It's hard to remember that Mike Anderson took three Missouri teams to the tournament before moving to Arkansas, because the team Michigan just went up against looked Amakerian in its inability to do anything right. Just year two for him, I guess.
[@ right: Fuller]
Ruthlessly hacked to the bench. Matt Vogrich, we'll always have the 2011 Tennessee blowout in which you went 5-5 from the floor for 11 points in 16 minutes and got a gritty offensive rebound and a gritty steal and generally contributed to a huge fun tourney blowout that eventually produced this picture:
He'll probably show up in a game or two this year when injury or foul trouble forces him to but it really looks like short of that he's joined the McLimans brigade. Which is something, because though he'd had a dismal start to this year Vogrich had some bonafides coming in and now he's seemingly done save for extenuating circumstances.
I can't say that's wrong—Vogrich was really not playing well. I'm just pointing it out as another example of Beilein changing his mind in ways some other coaches would not.
Now. Now. Now. That Caris LeVert hasn't done a whole lot in Vogrich's stead is actually evidence that the coaches are planning for this to be the year. LeVert has a lot more upside, and if he doesn't get there this year you can always try Vogrich again in February and make a decision as far as march goes. But Beilein went into this year thinking about LeVert's redshirt senior season; now he's thinking about ten to fifteen possessions in a game this march. That's the right call, I think.
Let's hear it for Horford. Another game without a shot attempt in which Jon Horford comes out seeming like a potentially key piece in some game down the stretch when Michigan is struggling with a post player. UMHoops highlighted this defensive possession that is an I be like dang moment:
Three blocks, four rebounds, and a steal in ten minutes on the floor is exactly what Michigan needs from Horford when the starting lineup is pouring in at least twelve per person. McGary and Horford are producing a lot of extra possessions, and the offense doesn't need that many more to be lethally efficient.
Little Big Dog is also a highly efficient peripheral scorer. He lead Michigan with 17 in this one and did it in two ways, mostly: on wide open shots from behind the line and on layups/dunks other people set up. Robinson has the athleticism to make those assisted interior buckets extremely high percentage and is beginning to finish through contact effectively, but Michigan doesn't really run anything from or through him. He's there to finish, clean up, and shoot when you sag off him, and he's doing all of those exceptionally well: he's got a top 100 ORtg, a low TO rate, and a top 250 OReb rate.
Part of the reason this team is playing so well is it has guys who are extremely effective without the ball, and Robinson is probably the best example of that.
BONUS DAWSON COMPARISON CHECK-IN: Creepy, in fact.
- Rebounding rate (O/D): Robinson 11.6/14.3, Dawson 11.2/13.2
- Twos: Robinson 32/53, 60%. Dawson 47/77, 61%
- FTs (FT rate/FT%): Robinson 39/76%, Dawson 28/45% (he was 60% last year FWIW)
- A/TO rate (A/TO): Robinson 7.3/13.8, Dawson 13/25.6
Dawson has a higher usage rate by a few points and seems to be in a situation where he's being asked to generate some offense of his own. The big differences are in shooting (big edge to GRIII, who's hitting 38% from three and is a non-liability on the line) and defense (statistically a big edge to Dawson, who is blocking a ton of shots and getting a ton of steals; in this case I think those statistics bear out a real difference since GRIII is not an impact defender by any stretch of the imagination).
Hardaway complete player watch. Michigan's an extraordinarily good defensive rebounding team this year, currently fourth behind some small schools. They'll come back to earth some in the Big Ten like they did last year. I don't expect that will be nearly as harsh that decline to ninth in the league, though, as you've got Robinson replacing Novak, McGary and Horford replacing Smotrycz, and Tim Hardaway's massive improvement in this category pushing things over the top. Hardaway is mere decimal points away from passing Jordan Morgan in DR%.
Spike! Albrecht isn't giving Burke much more of a rest than he had last year—Burke minutes have dropped only 5%—but he is proving a nice player to have around. In this game he hit a key three and pushed a partial break off the press to set up GRIII for one of his layups. On both plays he showed a confidence that belied his class status if not his years—he's actually a few months older than Burke.
He's probably never going to be a starter aside from a few games at the beginning of next year before the Derrick Walton era gets under way, but he's an excellent guy to have around steadying the ship for the next few years. Burke and Beilein on Spike:
"There was a time around the seven- or eight-minute mark (of the second half) where it was just up and down for about six or seven possessions," Burke said after Michigan's 80-67 win over Arkansas. "I don't know if I had gotten a foul or what, but there was a dead ball and I was pretty tired because it was just non-stop.
"But Spike did a great job. And coach Beilein did a great job of getting guys in and out."
And, sure enough, moments after entering the game with under eight minutes to go Saturday, Albrecht made a difference. The freshman backup point guard nailed a 3-pointer to push Michigan's lead up to seven.
The next trip down the court, he found Glenn Robinson III for a layup. When he left the game two minutes later, the Wolverines were up nine and things were basically in hand.
"Spike was terrific, wasn't he?" Beilein remarked afterward. "I don't think he had a turnover, his numbers were terrific and they continue to be. He really helps us."
John Beilein is good at talent evaluation. E-fact.
Morgan silly foul re-evaluation watch. Repeating myself here but when Morgan shot out to the perimeter to get a silly foul on a screen hedge late in the first half, my reaction would have been…
…last year and has now become…
…and this was a game that Morgan was dominating. I was just like "okay McGary or Horford will maintain approximately this level of play" and that was basically right. I like depth! It's fun.
Three headed-center totals in this one normalized to 40 minutes (they got 49): 15 points on 53% shooting, 16 rebounds, 8 of them offensive, 3 blocks, 3 TO, 2 steals. That center spot may be the least glamorous on the team but it is producing as well as any of the other starters.
I was not surprised when they called that, FWIW, and don't care if it was slightly unsportsmanlike. (Neither does anyone else.) Look how much joy he is bringing Mitch McGary. Mitch McGary only feels that much joy six to eight times an hour. Would you rob him of that?
There's a new ceiling for Michigan basketball these days, and it figuratively extends from the top of the polished Crisler Center straight to the shiny floor. You could argue the structure, from the arena to the team, looks as good as it ever has — and expectations are higher than they've ever been.
The Wolverines aren't some quick-shooting oddity anymore. They're deep, talented and feisty, and here's the notion that should warm Michigan fans — they're getting tough in the trenches, with the size and gumption to rebound.