this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Entering the season, Michigan expected Max Bielfeldt to reprise his role as the "break glass in case of emergency" third center for one last year before wishing him well in his future endeavors. Instead, Bielfeldt played his way ahead of Mark Donnal—more than doubling Donnal's minutes in conference play—and produced a little more on offense than starter Ricky Doyle.
With, for now, one scholarship open for 2015-16, it's no longer a certainty that Bielfeldt will move on from the program, even though he went through Senior Day festivities last weekend. The Daily's Lev Facher wrote yesterday that John Beilein hasn't ruled out a return...
“I would like him to go out and explore some options,” Beilein said. “We’ll look at some options and decide whether it’s a good option (for Bielfeldt) to come back.”
...and neither has Bielfeldt, who acknowledges the choice largely lies with Beilein:
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bielfeldt said. “Family and friends ask me the same thing — I give them the same answer. I really don’t know. I just like knowing what my options are. I’m obviously just going to look for options and kinda weigh them out.”
This raises the obvious question: Is it a good idea to bring Bielfeldt back? The answer isn't as simple as it may appear.
|Michigan's pursuit of 2015 German forward Moritz Wagner may preclude Bielfeldt's return. [Fuller]|
Caris LeVert's upcoming decision could play a huge role in Michigan's choice regarding Bielfeldt. Despite his injury, LeVert is still projected to go in the first round by both DraftExpress (#18) and Chad Ford (#30), but over the last month there's been increased optimism that he'll return for his senior season.
A LeVert return would put Michigan one scholarship away from the 13-man limit—before counting Bielfeldt. That makes the decision-making process more clear-cut.
Michigan hosted 6'10" German forward Mortiz Wagner for a visit last weekend. Wagner, who'd be a freshman in 2015-16, is reportedly leaning towards college ball over playing professionally, and Sam Webb expects Michigan will be the choice if he takes the collegiate route ($). Beilein isn't going to turn down a potential four years from a talented prospect for one more season of a backup-quality player, even if Wagner is much more wing than post.
The Wolverines are also reportedly one of several schools in pursuit of Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina, who'll sit 2015-16 due to NCAA transfer rules before playing out his final two seasons of eligibility. Given how active Michigan got with both late-emerging recruits (MAAR, Dawkins) and transfer candidates (Cole Huff) after the end of last season, it wouldn't surprise to see even more names emerge if the Wagner recruitment falls through.
What seems clear is that Beilein is keeping the possibility of a Bielfeldt return open as a backup plan, which to me is the approach that makes the most sense. Doyle and Donnal will be better next year—and hopefully less plagued by illness—while DJ Wilson, after plenty of time in the weight and film rooms, should be able to provide spot minutes at the five. Ideally, at least two of those three would progress to the point where Beilein wouldn't need to call on Bielfeldt for significant minutes.
While Bielfeldt's play down the stretch was a pleasant surprise, he still doesn't project as more than an ancillary player on a good team—life is tough for a 6'7" post that doesn't possess game-changing athleticism. Even if LeVert goes pro, it might be best for both parties to look at other options; Bielfeldt could see a larger role at a smaller school (or get his post-basketball career started) while Michigan could continue building for the future. If all else falls through, however, Bielfeldt is a nice fallback plan if he wants to return; he's proven he can be a contributor on this team.
I realize Strobel got one. Find a better photo then, pickers of nits.
This has to be talked about. Hoke left a roster that was in relatively good shape considering all the highly rated players who had to stick through some awful program degradation. He signed good classes, and those classes have by and large stuck around and fulfilled their academic duties. But an inordinate amount of them inexplicably didn't redshirt, and because of this there are some holes on the horizon.
I'm sure there are explanations in many of these cases that we are not party to. It's only the sheer volume of head-scratching non-redshirts under Hoke that gives us reason to call all of them into question. Like how I'm sure there are legit medical hardship waivers that occur at Alabama but [graph].
Some guys the coaches were forced to play early, and there's no need to discuss them beyond a mention as such, e.g. Jabrill Peppers. Mason Cole outcompeted a pile of guys to start at left tackle last season. That sort of thing gets a full pass. Beyond that, I've broken each Hoke class into categories of increasing argh:
- WTF. Wasting redshirts on special teams and dime back when last year's dime back is on the bench.
- Pick ONE. Needed bodies at this position, but not all the bodies. Battles for 2nd on the depth chart should be resolved in time for the ultimate loser to have a 5th year as consolation.
- Need the dudes (and other things I don't blame on the coaches). Immediate starters or guys who played because Michigan sorely needed his body and his pulse at that position.
Names that should have redshirted are in red.
Class of 2011
Did you really need both, 2011? [Upchurch]
Hoke arrived to an offensive machine with two years of eligibility remaining, and a nightmare defense of guys who couldn't displace recent departures like Jonas Mouton, Ray Vinopal, Adam Patterson, Greg Banks, and James Rogers. The immediate need was obvious and Hoke rightfully set about recruiting freshmen who could fill those roles. So I'll give him a pass for some of it.
|Hollowell's 2011 contribution was more than scooping up a fumbled kickoff against VT, but it was also more than Ray Taylor's. [Melanie Maxwell|AnnArbor.com]|
Raymon Taylor and Delonte Hollowell. The year following the Never Forget defensive backfield, Hoke recruited five likely cornerbacks: Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell, Tamani Carter (redshirted, transferred before 2012), and Greg Brown (early enrollee, transferred before 2011 season). The roster still had J.T. Floyd, Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott (left program summer before 2012 season), available. In a pinch, Troy Woolfolk could have converted back when Thomas Gordon won the free safety job. At least one, and probably two true freshmen would have to play.
It immediately became apparent that one would be Countess. So to fill out the two deep they would need to burn Taylor or Hollowell's shirt. Hollowell arrived as the quintessential Cass Tech mite corner. The guy was 164 pounds, but saw some action at dime back vs. Nebraska, and recovered the fumble at the end of the first half. Taylor had two tackles and a personal foul.
Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark. Going into the season Beyer was a SAM and Clark a WDE. The difference between those positions in Michigan's 4-3 under was not very great, particularly because when Beyer was inserted it was for a 5-2 look. The WDE's depth chart was Craig Roh and Jibreel Black; SAM was Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon. The reason I say one would have played anyway is the rush end position has a lot rotation, and Black was already the starter in the nickel formation.
There wasn't much to differentiate the two in aggregate play; Beyer was the more consistent, Clark the more explosive. The coaches chose to have them compete through the year instead of preserving one. Had they done so Beyer was the obvious choice despite Clark's higher ceiling. Beyer was smaller and Michigan had Roh to be a more solid edge defender, but only Clark to be a merchant of chaos (remember the Sugar Bowl interception). On the other hand Frank had a rough history before Glenville, and could have used an adjustment season. Either way he would have been dismissed after last year's incident.
Needed dudes etc.
Blake Countess and Desmond Morgan won starting jobs on the 2011 defensive reclamation project. They also both would lose a season to injury so we have them back yay. Thomas Rawls I'm not broken up about, though he will be a pretty good MAC back this year. RBs usually have most of the "it" they ever will as freshmen, and if they do become long-term starters the toll it takes on their bodies means they're often better off moving through their careers early. A redshirt year can make a guy a better blocker, or put some distance between a good back and his heir, or let a smaller guy fill in. Matt Wile is a special pass even though they wasted his redshirt on kickoff duties (and punting during Hagerup's first suspension). I learned recently that Wile made it clear from the start he intended to graduate in four years and do engineering things.
[Save your anger for after the jump.]
Bo Ryan calmly witnesses a murder (source)
As everyone predicted, Wisconsin ran roughshod through the Big Ten – only tripping up against newcomers Maryland and Rutgers (SERIOUSLY. RUTGERS. HOW.) on the road – winning the league by two games and posting a conference efficiency margin that was 12.5 points / 100 possessions better than the next-best team, Iowa. All hail our Badger overlords. The real validation will have to come in the NCAA Tournament, as Wisconsin will (probably) finally face elite competition there for the first time since early December.
Maryland finished second at 14-4: I’ll address the Terrapins later because there’s a huge dichotomy between their results and their statistical profile. Iowa, Michigan State, and Purdue each tied for third at 12-6 – fitting second-tier parity, also expected due to Wisconsin’s dominance. Ohio State rounds out the group of probable tournament teams with an 11-7 conference record and in sixth place.
The middle tier of the Big Ten effectively cannibalized itself throughout the season; according to the Bracket Matrix as of Monday afternoon, the Big Ten could find three of its best four teams (in my opinion and the opinion of several metrics) in unappealing 7- (Iowa) or 8-seeds (Michigan State, Ohio State). Indiana’s hilarious implosion down the stretch put them squarely on the bubble along with Purdue and Illinois; the Big Ten could theoretically get just five of its 14 teams into the tournament, which would be quite disappointing.
In reality, it’s been a disappointing year in the conference. Michigan and Nebraska were colossal disappointments; the Wolverines were having a nightmare year before brutal injuries effectively put the season out of its misery and the Huskers had everybody back from a tournament team last year and were… inexplicably terrible. Wisconsin is the league’s only top-15 team in Pomeroy’s algorithm and the league’s second-place team, Maryland, finished just 32nd.
After four years as Pomeroy’s top conference, the Big Ten backslid to fourth behind the Big XII, the old Big East, and the ACC. And honestly, we can’t even blame Rutgers for that.
* * *
I guess I’ll get this next part out of the way early -- as our Dear Leader often says, the strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to do this:
These things are really subjective and my vote literally doesn’t count for anything. If you have any complaints or disagreements, please meet me on the Diag at 3:00 A.M. tonight to let me know those concerns so I may better my arbitrary award judgment in the future.
(I did have to put Aubrey Dawkins on there because he’s fire from range and BOFA’d Nnanna Egwu that one time, even if he has a Stauskasesque indifference towards defense.)
* * *
Since I’m an advanced stats guy, I think conference-wide efficiency margin tells the story as well as anything else. Big surprise: Wisconsin’s way out ahead of everyone else.
Maryland (UMD) is sixth! Why is UMD sixth? HOT TAKE ALERT: Maryland isn’t that great. Even though their defense was best in the league by a slight margin over Purdue, their offense finished tenth and their efficiency margin was dragged down by it. Sure, they swept Michigan State and handed Wisconsin one of its only two losses, but the Terps notably struggled in some gimmie games – without losing: they were tied with Rutgers with three minutes left at home; they needed an improbably comeback and difficult buzzer-beater to beat Northwestern at home; Penn State was within one possession of Maryland in College Park with 2 minutes left; they swept Nebraska, but by a combined seven points.
While it’s important to note that Maryland did win all those games, it does reflect a sort of weakness. Very good teams don’t routinely struggle at home against bad ones, and even though the Terps avoided big upsets, those results imply that a) Maryland isn’t as good as its record and b) they’re especially vulnerable, at least relative to their perception. They’re currently ranked 8th and are in line for a 3-seed; they’re 25th in Sagarin and 32nd in Kenpom. Kenpom also has a “Luck” stat – which essentially highlights the difference between a team’s actual and expected results – and Maryland is first out of 351 teams nationally. Don’t be surprised if there’s a seemingly harsh regression to the mean next year.
Over the season, I created the “Game Score” metric, which essentially normalizes a team’s performance based on their opponent’s average on both the offensive and defensive ends. For example, an offensive game score of zero would be an efficiency mark that’s equal to an opponent’s average defensive efficiency and a defensive game score of one would be holding that opponent to one standard deviation below their normal offensive output. The total game score would be one. It’s an intuitive metric, and it spits out these results:
Click on images to enlarge; the scatterplot’s x-axis (offense) is – 1 > x > 1, the y-axis (defense) is –5 > y > 5. The question mark pattern in the scatterplot is indicative of the mystery of the Big Ten’s bloated middle, or something.
[Much more on B1G Hoops after the JUMP]
Friday, March 6, 2015
Penn State 6 Michigan 4
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 03:13 Scheid from Richard and Conway
Penn State chips the puck in and chases. Zach Werenski loses a battle along the boards behind the net, leaving Scheid with the puck. As he takes off up the boards Kevin Lohan skates behind the net to cover.
Dylan Richard starts skating to the net while Scheid turns behind him. It isn’t quite a pick, but it (apparently) is enough of a diversion to wreak havoc.
Lohan makes an intelligent coverage switch to cover Richard. Scheid shoots, however, and beats Racine five-hole. This kind of goal (read: soft) is the reason no one has been able to win the starting role. It’s the goaltender problem in microcosm.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
Spring Visits Taking Shape
The Spring Game won't just be the first opportunity to see Michigan playing under Jim Harbaugh; it'll also be a major recruiting weekend for the program. The stakes got a little higher last night when Top-150 ILB Dontavious Jackson and three-star S Chris Brown, both M offer recipients from Houston (TX) Alief Elsik, booked their flights for a three-day visit that weekend, per Steve Lorenz.
While Jackson is one of the top targets for the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, Michigan is the highest-profile school to offer both him and Brown, which may give the Wolverines an edge. Securing an unofficial visit is a good sign they'll at least be a major factor going forward.
Four-star FL ILB Devin Bush Jr., who recently said Michigan was one of a handful of schools sticking out to him, told Sam Webb that he's looking to visit for a spring practice at the end of the month ($). An FSU legacy, Bush said he's been learning about the school from DJ Durkin, who's spearheading his recruitment.
Another four-star linebacker, California offeree Darrian Franklin, told Scout's Greg Biggins that he's also looking to visit this spring, and with a summer decision looming Michigan is among his top schools ($):
"Right now, the main schools I'm really feeling are USC, Michigan, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and LSU. I haven't decided if I'll still take some official visits after I commit or not. I kind of want to for the experience and see some places but I haven't really thought about it too much yet. I still need to make a decision first and then I'll go from there."
USC is his stated leader; we should find out soon if a visit can change that.
GBW's Josh Newkirk reports that Michigan is "comfortably within" four-star Cass Tech S Demetric Vance's top five, and Vance plans to visit for a spring practice ($). M's made positive strides with Vance since offering him last month.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
3/6/2015 – Michigan 4, Penn State 6 – 19-12, 11-6 Big Ten
3/7/2015 – Michigan 3, Penn State 4 – 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten
twilight (not that twilight) [Patrick Barron]
A few years back I wrote something about a pivotal series against Miami that felt both correct and histrionic simultaneously. Michigan was swept 4-2 and 3-0, dumb penalties piled up like Lions mistakes with the Suh contract, and it felt like there was something gone from the program:
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Michigan proceeded to advance to the national championship game, so I may have pulled the trigger slightly early. But that feeling turned out to be correct, give or take a year. The next year one-seed Michigan was unceremoniously bounced from the tourney by Cornell in the first round; they have not been back since.
Their absence has grown more dispiriting and infuriating as it's lengthened. When Michigan started their slippery slope, they finished seventh in the CCHA only to storm through the tourney, beating #1 Miami on the way, before falling to those same Redhawks when every Michigan fan's "rule most likely to lead to homicide"—a goal waved off because the referee can't see the puck—came to fruition in overtime.
A couple years later they turned around a dismal season about halfway through, reaching the CCHA finals. There they found a very good Notre Dame team that beat them comprehensively in terms of attack time and chances, with the usual vagaries of hockey holding Michigan in it.
Last year all they had to do was beat Penn State, nascent, fledgling Penn State, in the Big Ten tournament to all but guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They lost in two overtimes to a team that was 8-25-2 on the year, allowing 65 shots—44 in regulation. This year they approached Happy Valley in first place in the league, an at-large bid within their grasp, and they blew it. They were down 3-0 and 4-2 in games they'd lose, and this is now their situation:
Gross weekend. Per http://t.co/9RVMXcI80e, chances of making tourney now 25%, 1% without winning B1G Tournament. Just 45% to get a bye.
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 8, 2015
On the one hand you can't be surprised. Michigan has been playing with fire with sloppy goaltending and guys wandering through the slot unchecked all year. It's tough to get points when you give up five goals per game.
On the other… how the hell did we get here? Michigan had a 22-year (22 year!) tourney streak during which it was mostly impervious to these sorts of wobbles. We should be grateful for that. Minnesota, BC, North Dakota—every one of these programs had a year or three in which they were inexplicably bad. Michigan avoided that for an astoundingly long period of time.
No longer, and there's a pretty easy proximate cause to point to:
|YEAR||M RECORD||M TOURNEY||MEL||TECH RECORD||TECH TOURNEY|
|2015||19-13||must win BTT||Tech||26-8-2||#5 PWR|
Mel Pearson left for Michigan Tech after the 2010-11 season and immediately made them competitive; this year they're damn good. The above chart probably sells it short since it only goes back four years before the change. That middling year from the Huskies is a major outlier amongst even more seasons with 4, 5, 6 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan was rampant.
Even when Michigan beat Tech in the GLI, they were under siege for most of it, getting outshot 41-21. The series in Houghton was simply not competitive. Michigan was at ful strength; goals were 10-3 Tech. The inverse of that used to be the expectation for a Michigan versus Tech series.
Berenson's contract has one more year on it, and when it was signed he said it was almost certainly his last. I can't see any way that's not the case, and if Hackett has the stones to make a change now (I cannot believe I am saying this…) it might be time. In another situation with an unclear candidate pool, the argument for waiting would be stronger. With Pearson available and acting out the best-case scenario for Tech hockey, if you can get it done now that's a move you have to make.
Maybe Michigan wins the Big Ten tourney; maybe they outscore their mistakes for a bit in the tournament. The direction the arrow is pointing is clear enough even in that hypothetical scenario.