if you seek an image of the most Wisconsin OL ever, enter here
I had just been complaining to Seth about Michigan overlooking the diminutive speedster in their backyard, and lo and behold Detroit King's Dennis Norfleet woke up and faxed a letter of intent to Michigan. Norfleet is 5'6" on a good day but "simply electric."
If you're wondering how a guy like that fits into a pro-style offense, think Darren Sproles. When Michigan has a passing offense to be feared, a guy like Norfleet can take advantage of the space underneath to tear up defenses trying to defend against four verts.
More later as I assemble a full post here.
|4*, #19 RB,
|4*, #5 APB
|4*, #7 APB
Dennis Norfleet is not tall! He is short. When sites are being generous they say he's 5'7"; when they're not he's 5'6". Only one source, that SpartanMag, has bent the truth all the way to 5'9".
But who cares? If you're 5'9" or 5'6" the only way you latch on to a major scholarship offer is by being the quarkiest of quarkbacks. Norfleet is that:
One of the most explosive players in the class, Norfleet has great acceleration, open field elusiveness and a natural knack for making defenders miss. Has excellent skills in the pass game, and is a dangerous receiver. Is also a great return man. He is not the biggest back, although solidly built, but he is a guy who can be used in a variety of roles, including slot receiver.
Three out of four scouting services agree with that assesment; ESPN is notably less enthused. Their evaluation was last updated in early June, though, before Norfleeet tore through a bunch of 7 on 7s and his senior year. Since he didn't go to an All Star Game (by choice—Norfleet runs track and going to one would kill his eligibility thanks to some outdated MHSAA regulations), ESPN never checked back in.
Anyway, they think he's Dennis Norfleet except not explosive:
Flashes good quickness and explosive but lacks great top-end speed and a second gear. … For his smaller size you would like to see more elusiveness and speed in the open-field. Looks to lack really loose hips. Does not appear to have difference-maker qualities when projecting at the major college level or the size to handle high carries and run between the tackles.
This is an opinion shared by no one. Select highlights from his 7 on 7 tour of the country:
- PITTSBURGH: "There are a select few players who can make defenders in position totally whiff in one-hand touch, 7-on-7 football. There may be only one Dennis Norfleet, who seems to make a play or two like that every game. On one particular play, Norfleet put a move on two defenders at one time, splitting the pair and taking the ball in for a touchdown"
- RUTGERS: "Norfleet also has good hands out of the backfield, makes people miss even in touch football and he was also solid on defense. He may not be big, but he can be a special scat back in a spread offense."
- SOME PLACE CALLED BADGERSPORTS: "Norfleet is one of the better pass-catching running backs in the country. He was comfortable running the wheel route and taking it deep as well as catching swing passes and turning them into yards. He is incredibly quick after the catch, showing great burst in getting to the edge."[Caveat: does say "not the fastest player for his size."]
- MIDWEST SHOWCASE: "Although small in stature, Norfleet is hard to check in press coverage because defensive backs have trouble getting their hands on him. After creating separation at the line of scrimmage, Norfleet's speed and quickness in and out of his cuts usually allow him to find plenty of space to catch the football."
And those were just the camps that recruiting analysts were at. Last summer Norfleet hit up 7 on 7s($) at Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Mississippi State as well. A lack of offers from those schools should dampen your enthusiasm, but I don't care much. Tiny backs get lost in the shuffle all the time.
After all that, Norfleet put some pads on and annihilated Brother Rice($) in the Big Day Prep Showdown event at Eastern, causing Josh Helmholdt to deploy all the love he'd saved up by not thinking Chris Wormley is great:
The open-field jukes and stop-and-start plays he breaks off into long gains make the highlight reel, but what is less recognized is that Norfleet is a great between-the-tackles runner. He has powerful legs and the burst to exploit the smallest of holes. Norfleet showed once again that he can be an every down back, carrying 34 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Helmholdt is alone in his belief that Norfleet can work within the tackles, but he has seen him an awful lot, and calls him a "phenomenal receiver" in that electric article linked above.
Finally, high school opponent coach quote:
"He's better than anybody we got, he looks like Barry Sanders of high school to me," said Allen Park coach Tom Hoover. "He's for real. We don't have anybody good enough to catch him. He was beating our guys, and we haven't seen that all year. The flow goes there, you have to get here. You've got to go 5 feet, he's got to go 20, and he beats you there."
Until yesterday, Norfleet had been a Cincinnati commit, selecting the Bearcats over Michigan State and Tennessee presumably because he felt the UC spread was a better fit for his talents.
This year he rushed for 2,033 yards and 27 touchdowns as King reached the D2 semifinals. As a junior it was 1880 yards and 31 touchdowns.
FAKE 40 TIME
Norfleet also put up outstanding testing numbers at Alabama, running a 4.41 40-yard dash, a 4.17 shuttle and posting a 33-inch vertical jump. His play impressed Crimson Tide running backs coach Bobby Williams and had several other coaches on staff commenting on his play.
I give it two fakes out of five.
Senior clips are above. Here's his junior highlight reel:
He's also got sophomore film up.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Yessssss. Schools should recruit guys like Norfleet like they do kickers: have at least one on the roster at all times and maybe stash a second away so you've always got a quality specialist. With Justice Hayes Michigan now has two bullets in the space-player chamber.
Norfleet will instantly be in the mix for both return jobs. While Jeremy Gallon is likely to hold on to punt return duties, kickoff returns could use a jolt of athleticism after Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith split duties this year.
As far as a role on offense, he'll probably spend a year backing up Vincent Smith before fighting with Hayes for third down back. If Michigan really is moving to a "pro style" offense they'll have to define whether that means aimlessly running power over and over or pairing guys like Hayes and Norfleet with Shane Morris to create a Brees/Brady-style deadly passing spread. Survey says: some of both. Norfleet could have an impact in the former and will be a centerpiece in the latter.
Note: if you're one of the folks hoping that Michigan will retain some spread aspects to its offense even after Denard is gone, this is the kind of player who can force that to happen. I would greatly enjoy an offense that used Morris and the crew of receivers he's busy recruiting for 2013 as an every-play weapon you have to react to and then hit you underneath with Norfleet when you did.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
What rest of the class?
Etc.: Cincinnati was really excited about him but can't even be mad because of Stacey. TTB doesn't like the way he jogs into the endzone. I'll take that as an issue. This has nothing to do with anything but when you run across a comment like this about Jake Rodrigues in a "Summer Camp Risers" article, well… man:
Jake sucks. He has padded stats. His 5 month old son needs him to stay home and in his life. Stop chasing dreams. You are a dad. The opening players couldn't understand how he even made it there. OADDED STATS, he is no QB.
Jennifer Hairstylist would like to be Jennifer Rodrigues, and that ain't happening. Rodrigues signed with Oregon.
Well, we're going to do stuff anyway. The number of Michigan prospects who will commit on signing day: zero. This makes our annual signing day chat spectacular kind of pointless, but we'll do it anyway. It'll boot up an hour or two before Brady Hoke's 1 PM press conference and wind down after that. Also scheduled: a podcast, a 2013 reset, and a look at what other teams in the conference did (spoiler: not much). I look forward to answering the same question about whether there will be any surprise recruits two dozen times.
Ace has an ill-timed but unavoidable absence the next couple days and will by around as much as possible but not constantly.
McGary, Robinson, Stauskas
I'm not even mad. Scout updates its 2012 basketball rankings in much the same way Rivals did, dropping McGary to #20, raising GRIII to #27, and inserting Stauskas at #83. I don't mind McGary falling like that since it seemed like he was not quite on the same level as various other centers this fall.
Even better from the "keep McGary around some" POV: there are a whopping eight centers in front of him in the Scout rankings. He might want to cool his heels a little to clear out that logjam. Meanwhile, Robinson is two spots off a fifth star and Stauskas has converted just about everyone into a believer at this point.
- Record: 15-6 (6-3 Big Ten) [Div. 1 Only]
- RPI: 16
- SOS: 14
- Home Record: 11-0
- Away Record: 2-5
- Neutral Record: 2-1
- vs. RPI Top 50: 6-4
- vs. RPI Top 100: 7-5
That Wisconsin win is rounding into form, giving Michigan two victories over elite-ish competition. I'm pleasantly surprised the RPI is that high; I would have guessed they were ten or so spots lower. Michigan's lack of blowouts does not hurt them here, though. Thus that.
Also thus: Michigan is homing in on a 5 seed according to bracketology folks. Lunardi has us a 4, Crashing the Dance a 6, and three other sources say 5. Michigan is tracking slightly better than my expectation at the beginning of the season, which was a 6.
All the outdoor games. The outside GLI thing is steadily moving from rumor to reality. A Windsor Star columnist is now saying that it will be officially official "next week." By the time that tourney's done Michigan will have played 5 outdoor games in four years. The novelty is officially worn off.
Loons. The SEC version of Thought Equity Motion is blowing out the youtube accounts of anyone with the temerity to post clips of decade-old games. Keep your old projects handy, WH.
The correct solution here is the same one that some music companies have started executing when they find their audio on youtube: leave it and take the ad revenue. No one who's putting these games up is doing so for the money. They just want to share the history of their programs with the world at large. And no one's going to pay to see the 1999 Wisconsin game, no matter how much you want to try:
I can no longer share my clips with the Bulldog Nation, but am forced to watch them by my lonesome (and I mean all alone -- strangely, my wife doesn't enjoy reliving the 1976 Florida game with me). However, if the Bulldogs were a member of the Big Ten, for example, the videos would remain on my blog and up at YouTube for the few viewers that actually wanted to watch them. …
One quick look at the SEC's site and I notice it has one of my favorite old Bulldog classics "on demand" -- the 1980 Georgia-South Carolina game. Before you could go to YouTube, or my blog, and view clips from this game. Now, you still can view the clips from the very same game via the SEC Digital Network, but it's gonna cost you: $3.99 to rent, $6.99 to own.
I bet the 1980 UGA-South Carolina game has brought in far less revenue than XOS has spent DMCAing clips of it. Work out a deal where you get the ad revenue and leave the old games alone.
These people are actually doing free work for you. They are not your enemies.
“If a player signs, he counts without regard to whether or not he actually enrolls,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said in an e-mail Monday. “ ‘Back counting’ is only permitted for mid-year enrollees who are able to be included as an initial counter for the academic year in which they enroll. ‘Back counting’ is an artificial term for this discussion and not accurate as the question is about the signing limit.”
So a team that signed 22 last year could still sign 28 this year as long as three were in early. A team that signed 25 (or 28) last year is limited to 25. Signees that don't make it in still count.
I wonder if we'll see certain SEC schools hold off on signing prospects until it is clear they're in. Despite all the hoopla a LOI is totally unnecessary. If a school wanted they could just enroll a kid and give him a scholarship. The current SEC rule will go national next year, affecting Big Ten schools not one whit.
BONUS: Here's an unintended side effect: these make JUCOs more expensive since you have a limited number of LOIs and they usually have just half the available eligibility. Taking those guys reduces your margin of error with high school kids. Since that margin is still roomy I don't think it'll have a major impact.
Etc.: ESPN's NHL insider projects($) Trouba #21, Di Giuseppe #30, and Boo Nieves #41 in his draft rankings. That is significantly lower on Trouba than most. UMHoops looks at Michigan halfway through the conference. Tight ends are becoming more important everywhere. Beilein hops on the "Ohio" train, further infuriating OSU fans who use "TSUN" reflexively.
The recruiting roundup is going to be rather quick today, as I'm supposed to hop on a plane this afternoon and I still have yet to pack. I'll actually be out of pocket for much of Signing Day—due to circumstances outside my control—but Brian is aware of this and will have all your NSD needs covered. On to the roundup...
Lifting the Cloud
Michigan headed into last weekend expecting to pick up at least two, possibly three, and just maybe four new commits for the 2012 class. Instead, Armani Reeves decided to join his godbrother at Ohio State, Alex Kozan chose Iowa, and Sam Grant pulled a shocker and picked Oklahoma, surprising even Sooner insiders. It was not exactly sunshine and lollipops in Wolverine land. I'll leave it at that.
Enter Cleveland (OH) Glenville DT Willie Henry, whose commitment was announced (early, it turned out) by head coach Ted Ginn yesterday afternoon, providing a ray of sunlight through the dense cloud of doom and gloom. For more on Henry, a promising but raw prospect, check out his commitment post. Sam Webb interviewed Ginn after Henry's, er, not-yet-commitment, and that critical pipeline to Glenville appears to be open once again for the Wolverines [emphasis mine]:
The Wolverines’ cause in this race was undoubtedly helped by Brady Hoke’s long standing relationship with Ginn… one that dates back to his time as an assistant at Michigan.
“I had a relationship with Brady going back with (former Michigan defensive end) Pierre (Woods),” the Glenville coach recalled. “Then he went to Ball State and (the relationship) increased… he took about five or six of my guys. The relationship has always been there. It’s a new day and a new way (at Michigan).”
CAN I GET AN AMEN? Sorry, got caught up for a second. But yes, after Michigan's relationship soured with the Ohio powerhouse at the end of the Carr era and under Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines have pulled in Frank Clark and Willie Henry from the Tarblooders (yes, the Tarblooders) in consecutive classes. This not only bodes well for the current squad, but future recruiting classes.
"You watch his film and you go, 'why isn't he ranked higher?'" Trieu said. "You also go, 'Wow, why didn't he have a ton more offers?'" ...
"He just didn’t play much, didn’t really make an impact as a junior, and that happens at talented schools like Glenville," Trieu added. "He was a kid who just completely stayed off the radar until late. But, once you saw him play, you could tell he can really play.
"Michigan's getting a very good player, even if he isn't ranked like it."
Scout's Dave Berk is also a fan; sounds like Henry is a potential contributor despite a recruiting process that would imply he is not one.]
Michigan now has one known target left on the board: Chicago Simeon OT Jordan Diamond, who announces his choice on Friday between Michigan, Arkansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin—Diamond has confirmed he dropped Ohio State from his list, but denied doing the same with Auburn ($).
Addressing the Needs
I thought, after the general panic caused by Michigan's 0-for-3 weekend, that this would be a good time to take a look back at initial expectations for the class. Enter the 2012 recruiting board (not updated in a long time, I know), where Tim outlined the needs at each position for the class. Here's a breakdown of each position group and the number of prospects Tim projected the Wolverines to get based on need:
QUARTERBACK: 1. Not filled, but can I interest you in a Shane Morris? I thought so.
RUNNING BACK: 1+. While M missed out on Bri'onte Dunn, Drake Johnson and Siome Houma are both in the fold.
WIDE RECEIVER: 2. Done, not only with high-caliber prospects, but high-caliber people in Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson.
TIGHT END: 1-2. Welcome, Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 4-5. Michigan has filled the minimum requirement with high-quality prospects, and Jordan Diamond would give them one of the best offensive line classes in recent memory.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2. Ondre Pipkins should be a 3+ year starter at the nose, Henry fills a need at the three-tech, and both Chris Wormley and Matt Godin could end up here, too.
DEFENSIVE END: 2. Wormley and Godin are joined by Tom Strobel and Mario Ojemudia, giving Michigan a talented and versatile set of DEs.
LINEBACKER: 2-3. Michigan has three All-Americans plus an early enrollee in Kaleb Ringer (UA All-American Joe Bolden also enrolled early).
SAFETY: 2. Jarrod Wilson, Allen Gant, and Jeremy Clark all project to safety.
CORNERBACK: 1+. All-American Terry Richardson addresses that need, though it would've been nice to get one more.
The only need that isn't already addressed in this class is quarterback, and Michigan already has one of the top quarterbacks in 2013 committed (and doing a little recruiting himself). Not only that, but the talent level puts this class easily into the top ten nationally. There's the ledge, and you shouldn't be anywhere near it.
In other news on committed prospects, Scout released their final rankings for the Midwest region and the state of Michigan. Five of the top seven in-state prospects are blue, as are seven of the top 21 Midwest recruits, and that number would go to eight if Diamond comes into the fold on Friday.
Quickly: Kyle Meinke with a great article on Darboh's tumultuous childhood over at AnnArbor.com; Chris Wormley, just chillin' and watching the AFC title game with Greg Mattison—NBD; Tom writes a free (hooray!) article on social media and its impact on the current class.
[ED: this section by ed, who is Brian.]
The Detroit News's Blue Chip list survey annually produces bold statments, total fiction, and pathos when they ask the #15 ranked kid in the state why he didn't go to State or Michigan and he doesn't say "neither of them wanted me." This year's edition is no different. Your winner for quote of the year comes from Tennessee commit Danny O'Brien:
I just don't like Ann Arbor. It's a little too liberal for me.
This will not be a problem in Knoxville.
Other quotes of note come from Mario Ojemudia ("it was definitely the [M] coaches who changed my mind" on where he should go to school), Royce Jenkins-Stone ("there was no way I would go there" if Rich Rodriguez was still coach at M), Devin Funchess (consistent complaints about MSU "favoritism"), and MSU commit Jamal Lyles, who says Michigan wanted him as a tight end.
No new offers to report for now, but Michigan has picked up interest in a couple of prospects: Riverside (CA) J.W. North TE Marcus Baugh, a four-star on 24/7 ($, info in header) and South Jordan (UT) Bingham DT Lowell Lotulelei, also a 24/7 four-star ($, info in header), who were both visited by Michgian coaches this past week.
Several big-name targets received major offers from elsewhere, however. OT Logan Tuley-Tillman visited Alabama last weekend and got an offer from Saban ($, info in header). Michigan is still presumed to be the leader, but Tuley-Tillman did say that the 'Bama visit was "awesome." Ohio State offered a pair of Michigan targets in Hudson (OH) LB Ben Gedeon ($, info in header) and Warren (OH) Howland RB DeVeon Smith ($, info in header). Tyrone (GA) Sandy Creek CB Shaq Wiggins picked up an offer from home-state school Georgia ($, info in header), and now has an updated top five (in no particular order) of the Dawgs, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, and Ole Miss.
Finally, happy trails to a pair of recruits: Alabama landed running back Altee Tenpenny ($, info in header), who didn't have an offer but was an early target, and Ohio State nabbed early five-star athlete Jalin Marshall.
One last note: If you missed my post on the board yesterday, I recorded a pre-NSD podcast with Jeff Junstrom of Black Shoe Diaries and Alex Gleitman of Eleven Warriors—we give an overview of each of our classes, break down a few of the top recruits, project how each class will round out, and discuss some big names that are on the radar in 2013. This should be a recurring feature; it's always good to keep a close eye on the enemy.
- @ Boston College, 24-17 (W)
- Eastern Illinois, 42-21 (W)
- @ Army, 14-21 (L)
- @ Illinois, 35-38 (L)
- No. 12 Michigan, 24-42 (L)
- @ Iowa, 31-41 (L)
- No. 21 Penn State, 24-34 (L)
- @ Indiana, 59-38 (W)
- @ No. 10 Nebraska, 28-25 (W)
- Rice, 28-6 (W)
- Minnesota, 28-13 (W)
- No. 14 Michigan State, 17-31 (L)
- Texas A&M, 22-33 (L), Texas Bowl
Record: 6-7 overall, 3-5 B1G, 5th place Bo Division
|Rush:||166.6 ypg, 45th||176.7, 83rd|
|Pass:||254.2 ypg, 38th||230.4, 71st|
|Total:||420.8 ypg, 34th||407.1 ypg, 80th|
|Scoring:||28.9 ppg, 51st||27.7 ppg, 66th|
|T/O margin:||+3, 40th|
Recap: My friend who went to Northwestern tells me that the campus isn’t as pretty as I remember it (from about a decade ago, when I went there for nerd camp) due to deforestation. Can someone confirm this? If so, that sucks.
That has nothing to do with their football season, which was one most Wildcats fans would probably want to forget. You kind of don’t feel too bad for them, though, because they set themselves up for disappointment. But hey, at least the Heisman campaign was pretty epic. I wonder if I asked nicely I could have some surplus Persastrong dumbells.
(more after the jump)
This is the continuation of last week's glance at the defensive line prospects from the perspective of body size against M linemen of yore at the same age. The point was to try to project what a certain body size and shape becomes and use that to relate the huge DL crop of 2012 to players we're maybe more familiar with.
This came about when I figured tried sorting the BMI (metric weight divided by height squared) of past players and found similar guys of memory ended up beside each other. Again, BMI is really for assessing whether normal people who are not 18-year-old athletes are overweight; do not interpret the numbers as any measure of how "in shape" any of these guys are.
Last week I did the nose tackles. Moving up the line is the DT, or the 3-tech. A quick technique refresher:
Mentally shift the "1" in a 4-3 under to shaded over the center. In Mattison's defense the 3-tech is the guy lined up in the "3" spot on the line, shaded on the outside shoulder of a guard. He's the "4-3 Pass Rush Tackle," and this defense is designed to let him be more of an attacker than a "plugger." Pursuant to our discussion, greater heights that create leverage problems at the nose are not so much of a problem at 3-tech, which makes this guy more of a 3-4 DE than your traditional over-the-guard tackle. And lo the heights climb—a good 2 inches more than NT among Michigan's DTs.
I thought about sprinkling in the SDEs since there's considerable overlap. Mentally start 5-techs around Willie Henry (B.Graham is above that). I'm leaving in the current players nominally slated for DT.
|3T/5T||Ryan Van Bergen||2007||6'5||260||30.8||34.1||9.7%|
You can see there's a lot of overlap, but in general the big dudes end up inside and the leaner guys are out. Latest recruit Willie Henry is right with Kenny Wilkins as kind of tweeners between NT and DT, comparable to Will Johnson, who maintained his weight (though it was much Barwicized), and Larry Harrison, who added a lot of it and played beside like-massed Watson in a more even front.
So long as Michigan runs a 4-3 under you need to stop looking at a 265-pound freshman "DT" and imagine him lifting his way to 300. The talk of "frame" and "carrying more weight" could matter if you're expecting Henry to be a breather for Pipkins (he might be) but not if he's a 3-tech.
After a drop-off you get to the RS freshmen Rock and Heitzman, and incoming Wormley and Godin. This is the Ryan Van Bergen/Norman Heuer*/Grant Bowman region which slowly drifts down a list of tweener 3- and 5-techs like Biggs, Zenkewicz, Banks, and Feazell, then Normal Heuer.*
Those guys were a little smaller than seems optional at the position, but they're also both quintessential Hoke DTs; if Wormley becomes RVB2 and Godin is Bowman, that would be win. Quinton Washington was a larger freshman than any of these guys, much larger than even Alan Branch or 22-year-old freshman Renaldo Sagesse. Q has dropped his BMI by 7.6% to reach a playing shape still large for 3-Tech but not as big as Branch (who was 6'6) played. A freakmonster like Branch or (pro comparison) Shaun Rogers/Tommy Kelly can do well here by bull-rushing hapless guards on a direct route to emptying a QB's alveoli…
(after the jump, you know what's coming)
1/29/2012 – Michigan 49, Ohio State 64 – 16-6, 6-3 Big Ten
No one expected Michigan to go on the road against Kenpom's #1 team and come back with a victory, so frustration and alarm was kept to a low simmer as Michigan tried and generally failed to find a way through the thicket of arms and athleticism that Ohio State presents. While OSU also goes "small" by deploying just one post-oriented player at a time—6'7" Deshaun Thomas is the second-tallest player OSU starts, and he's an NBA-sized wing slasher who rebounds at a lesser rate than Trey Burke—there is small, and there is "small."
Michigan is the former, Ohio State the latter. Kenpom has OSU's effective height 78th. They're not huge but they're well above average while still getting to play four-out, one-in. So if a game in which an insurmountable three-point halftime deficit ballooned to 15 by the end is dispiriting, it's also an indication of Michigan's future, in which a post is surrounded by a point guard and bouncy guys ranging from 6'4" to 6'7". Just now, that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
But Michigan's post guy is not Jared Sullinger and with the exception of Tim Hardaway, Jr., their bouncy guys range from 6'2" to 6'2" and have a tendency to bounce their arms into fastbreaking opponents' heads because they're not bouncy, so expected outcomes come out as expected. At the half, it seemed like Michigan's point total was about what you would expect and Ohio State's was a ton of missed putbacks. That proved itself in the second half.
Oh well. This one was house money anyway.
Down the road, the team keeps scraping out narrow wins against good competition and is on track to meet expectations. The overall picture has some concerns. Ubiquitous Michigan basketball messageboardist MHoops1 compiled some stats on three pointers in league play that point to a burgeoning problem:
Tim Hardaway Jr., with 55, has taken more 3s in conference games than anyone else--he is second in 3s per game to Illinois' Brandon Paul (who is shooting just under 40% from 3). …
There are 8 guys who are shooting 20-29% from 3 in conference play--two are Hardaway at just under 22% (2nd worst overall in the conference…), and Smotrycz at just over 24% (4th worst overall, ahead of Walker, Hardaway and Keith Appling of MSU, who is shooting just under 23% from 3.
[Only players with 20 or more attempts are considered.]
I just don't know what happened to Hardaway's stroke. Last year it was the key component driving Michigan to their bid—they took just about as many threes but were third in the conference at hitting them. You can poke at all the psychological explanations you want; I don't buy them and am left with helpless shoulder-shrugging and an increased appreciation for Darius Morris's ability to create shots from everywhere.
No matter what the reason is, Michigan has the most prolific and least efficient three-point shooter in the conference now. This is a trend that extends to the team as a whole. Kenpom's conference-only numbers have Michigan first in three-pointers attempted (43%) and tenth (31%) in makes. Often poor percentages from three aren't that harmful since threes are worth more points (SCIENCE!). Here, though, each three point shot taken is 10% less effective than an average two*. That's a big difference when you consider the standard deviations involved here.
And then there's the free throws. There aren't any. (You may have noticed.) Michigan is dead last at getting to the line. Add it up and it's a parody of Beilein's reputation for perimeter-oriented fooferah.
No one is turning their nose up at 6-3 halfway through what seems like the slightly tougher half of the conference slate, or what looks like a third tourney bid in four years. Playing Ohio State drives home what looks like a ceiling for this edition of Michigan. To compare them, just line Zack Novak up next to DeShaun Thomas. Sometimes your physical limitations catch up to you, like when you're playing a Final Four contender. So it goes.
*[By this I mean the average three pointer is worth more than the average two. The D-I average 3 is worth 1.03 points; the D-I average two is worth 0.95 points. So you can be below average from three and still not hurt yourself too badly if you take a lot. Michigan far exceeds this margin of error.
I know fouls and getting to the line argue in favor of going inside and complicate this analysis considerably.]
And to think you could have pissed off Valpo's conference opponents. Man, do people hate Zack Novak. While in OSU's case it's standard "you elbowed our dude" lingering bitterness, it seems like 75% of previews express some sort of distaste for the gritmaster. That as much as anything else is a tribute to his career. If he ever has a plaque somewhere in Crisler he should be bleeding profusely and it should read "booed at every arena in the Big Ten for obscure reasons."
Free throw non-perturbation. To me it didn't seem like Michigan had a case for many more than the zero free throws they acquired before 37 minutes were gone. Maybe two or three—Craft obviously got Burke's follow through on a three he made anyway—but not so many that it would have had even a slight impact on the game. There was just little way through for most of Michigan's players. It's not hard to not foul a guy like Douglass when you can just follow him to the hoop and block his shot.
Sullinger attention == board obliteration. Michigan did an excellent job of rotating to Sullinger but all that defensive attention unbalanced Michigan's defense and allowed various Buckeyes to hammer the boards. OSU rebounded nearly 50% of their misses, which was death. Not sure what was the cause of the sudden inability to get the damn ball. Let's check!
Culprits in order: Hardaway, Douglass, Smotrycz, Sullinger double, Morgan, McLimans. Well… crap, try to fix that. I can't even claim that the Sullinger doubling was a major factor. It was just guys getting pushed out of the way and out-athleted by a 6-4 dude. Guh.
Smotrycz hat tip. Those possessions when he was matched up against Sullinger could have gone much, much worse. Still not contributing much on offense except in spurts. The small-ball lineup seems very effective defensively but lacks a certain something on offense.
Slightly tougher half in the rearview? I'd say so. Michigan had five at home and four away in the first half and must invert that in the second, but you can call the MSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, and PSU and Northwestern games a wash since Michigan will flip home and road with all those opponents. So then you've got:
- DONE: Minnesota, Wisconsin, @ Iowa,
- TO COME: @ Nebraska, Illinois, @ Illinois
Minnesota and Illinois at home are a wash. @ Nebraska is easier, and I'm not sure whether I'd play Wisconsin at home or Illinois on the road. Kenpom says definitely Illinois but it's been a little gaga for Wisconsin's nonconference blowouts all year. Anyway, I said slight. This section has been excessively defensive.
Iowa State watch. The Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten boys took out Kansas, which serves as a big, tourney-bid-validating win as long as they perform as expected down the stretch.