"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[PROGRAMMING NOTE: as per tradition, OSU UFR comes early next week, as I rediscover "doing things."]
11/27/2012 – Michigan 79, NC State 72 – 6-0
get swag son (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)
I showed up on Michigan's campus in 1997 and did not go to basketball or hockey games for whatever reason. That year, hockey won a national title and basketball got bounced in the second round as a three-seed. I went with hockey, and that quickly proved to be a wise choice. Brian Ellerbe was resident at Crisler. Mike Comrie was at Yost.
A few years later I got a phone call the morning of the Michigan State game from my uncle, offering me a ticket. I muttered some excuse and went and did something else, what I don't remember. Michigan got annihilated like they always do. I felt like a bad fan, but short of being strapped to an immaculately-trained fetchin' donkey I was not going anywhere near Crisler that day. Michigan did not have the facilities to immaculately train fetchin' donkeys. Or basketball players.
At some point during the Amaker era I swung by a few games; I parked in the blue lot next to the stadium. Empty spaces abounded around me, and no one charged me. We wandered down from our upper-deck seats to the lower bowl without issue.
In the early days of the blog when liveblogs were just me updating a post with pictures of MacGuyver, I had a rule: I could stop once Michigan was down by 20.
The first time I went to a lot of games at Crisler was six years ago, in Beilein's first year. I got a partial season ticket to watch Michigan lose to Boston College after they had already lost to Western Kentucky; the next game they lost to Harvard. By 11. Harvard had just hired Tommy Amaker. The Canadian on that team shot 19% from 3 and 48% from the line.
During this period of time, the basketball team had to practice at the IM building when schedules overlapped with the women.
Several lost Chilean miners were found on the Crisler concourse after weeks of searching.
A small boy who had wandered up to the top row to see what it was like in 1999 was found ten years later the next section over, having developed a taste for foam padding and a hatred of whatever it was that Amaker called offense. When asked by the pith-helmeted explorers if he would like to return to civilization, he asked if it involved 20 turnovers a game, was told it did not, and left.
Yesterday seemed like the same old Michigan basketball before the game. When they raised Michigan's first championship banner since 1986, the stands were barely half-full and the three completely empty sections in the endzone grated.
But when I looked up after Michigan had forced a timeout out of a top-20 team, everyone had come in from the cold. It was loud, and Mitch McGary was waving his arms like a maniac to make it louder, and I thought to myself that guy has no idea.
He does not remember about the feral child and how Amaker offered him a scholarship that one year. He doesn't know you could park on the concourse if you wanted or that the answer to the question "would you rather have Michigan State tickets or an STD?" was "is the STD treatable with antibiotics?"
If he knows anything it's that people from Chesterton end up at Michigan because they are needed to have Aneurysms of Leadership at critical moments, and that Crisler ArenaCenter is under construction. Was under construction. It's all shiny now, just in time for Michigan to return to alpha-dog status.
None of these guys know anything. Nik Stauskas has spent most of the last 16 years shooting in his backyard and probably needs to be informed about recent developments like the fall of communism. Glenn Robinson just showed up, too, and even the veteran-ish stars came in for tourney appearances and an already-underway player development center. They have no idea that Michigan basketball is a self-flagellating moribund dungeon of a program still kicking itself for transgressions over a decade past that people just will not shut up about, ever.
Let's not tell them.
I AM ON TO YOU NIK* STAUSKAS
Congratulations on 3.5 million youtube views.
*[I'd been calling him Nick because at some point I thought I read something that said he prefers it, but Michigan and Kenpom both go with Nik so I will as well.
BONUS: every time I tag his name now I get to remember there is a tag on this blog like so: "nike would like you to wear this aerodynamic fez".]
Seriously though. 20 points on ten shots. 4/7 from three, which lowers his season average to 58%. And this:
NC State seems like a pretty awful defensive team but Pitt and Kansas State are not and he put up lethally efficient games against them as well. Probably the most remarkable stat in Stauskas's young career: he's leading the team in both free-throw rate and turnover rate (at a bogglingly low 7.7). Oh, and he's 20 of 21 from the line.
boggle boggle boggle boggle boggle
aint even phased that's less weird than someone shooting 58% from three
Shocking stat, of the somewhat not great variety. Hardaway was one of nine from three in the last outing, which shocked me when I looked it up because I didn't remember him taking anywhere near that many attempts from deep. None of them were bad shots, I guess—I have an elephant memory for those.
He's still at 37% on the year despite that and is shooting nearly 70% from two after going 6 of 9 inside the arc against NC State.
Robinson rebounding update. We mentioned this on the podcast: GRIII had an impressive two games in MSG, picking up 12 rebounds against Kansas State and battling Pitt's 6'9" Talib Zanna—a monster, monster rebounder who is 17% offensive/20% defensive—rebound for rebound. He's currently got an 11%/16% line, which puts him not too far off Branden Dawson's 13%/12% last year. He's converting twos at about the same clip Dawson did last year, and he's 5/13 from 3—Dawson was 0/3 for the entirety of last year.
Schedule strength caveats apply.
Depth? Hmmm: is there any? Michigan is again languishing in the 300s in bench minutes. Burke's minutes have dropped from 89% all the way to 85%, Hardaway's from 84% to 82%, and GRIII is clocking 80% as well. Michigan can throw out three posts, and does technically bring Stauskas off the bench, but yeah at everywhere other than the 5 Michigan's isn't getting much.
That depth at the five is very nice, though: against Kansas State both Morgan and McGary got in foul trouble and Michigan was just like "meh." Against NC State, Morgan played poorly and Michigan just went with McGary mostly.
McGary. Mitch McGary is a 6'10" puppy, one of those with the crazy googly eyes that runs around barking at everything because everything has always been so exciting it will kill him. This is obvious in the numbers: huge rebound rates! 19% offensive! 27% defensive! The worst turnover rate on the team! Averaging 7 fouls per 40! I wish they kept a stat for most times waving your hands up and down exhorting the crowd to be louder! Sometimes he nearly kicks the governor in the face!
That's great. His rebound rates are so high they're unsustainable; they are still extremely encouraging. With the three perimeter scorers Michigan doesn't really need a post who demands the ball, they need a guy who can generate possession advantage and play good defense. If McGary isn't the top-3 national player he was hyped up to be, he's still a huge asset for the team.
The skill is just a bonus. He had a pretty finger roll against Kansas State and took two dribbles to a layup in this one; he has also recovered from a poor start at the free throw line to hit five of his last six (which are the only ones Kenpom records since the rest were exhibitions or the Slippery Rock game).
Burke. Pretty pretty good. And hey look at his second-closest comparable so far:
Not a very close comparison since Burke shoots threes effectively. I'll take Darius Morris plus shooting.
Rotations. A small complaint: I don't like it when the two-post offense is out there with Burke or Hardaway on the bench. Not enough shot creation out there.
Defense. It looks like NC State can score in bunches. Despite that, there is reason for concern whenever your opponent hits 57% from the floor. NC State got a third of the rare misses, and it seemed like there were way too many easy opportunities at the rim. I'm not sure what the issue is here. Michigan goes without shotblockers for the most part and is not forcing turnovers, so there's that, but that was pretty much the case last year as well.
They are exceptionally young. Two of the three starters are freshman and the guy off the bench who plays the most is also a freshman. Hopefully they can work out some kinks before Big Ten play starts; they're through the tough stretch of the nonconference schedule.
This wasn't the best performance of a young season from his precocious, young team. But it was another impressive one from the Wolverines, now 6-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country — the program's highest perch since late in the 1993-94 season.
And that it came on the night they raised a Big Ten championship banner to the rafters, for the first time in more than a quarter-century, well, that meant something, too.
But leave it to the ones with the short attention spans to put things into proper perspective.
"Those guys put a lot of hard work into that banner," said freshman guard Nik Stauskas, who, lest you forget he's a kid, actually admitted to being a Justin Bieber fan after the game. "But it's on to the next one. We want another one."
Michigan’s defense wasn’t nearly as effective as it has been in early season play. As I wrote in the preview, NC State has more than its fair share of individual one-on-one talent and Michigan had no answer on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolfpack matched Michigan’s heroic shooting effort, connecting on 60% of their two point attempts and racking up a 59% effective field goal percentage. Michigan’s front court defense couldn’t slow CJ Leslie, TJ Warren and Richard Howell as they combined to make 22 of 34 shots inside the arc and would have done even more damage if not limited by foul trouble. Michigan’s defensive rebounding also hit a snag, allowing NC State to rebound a third of its missed shots including seven second half offensive boards. 54 of NC State’s 72 points came in the paint and 14 of those were off of offensive rebounds.
Michigan basketball just has a different feel this season, and John Beilein sort of likes it
"I've frankly never had (this kind of athleticism)," Michigan coach John Beilein said after his third-ranked Wolverines improved to 6-0 win a 79-72 win over the Wolfpack. "I sort of like it.
"It's pretty good."
New header, same game. I had to look up who this school is, and discovered a lot of legal proceedings over calling themselves the Braves. And no it's not referring to the people at the end of the song where they bomb Fort McHenry all night and in the morning the flag is all like "Still standing, Brits! WASSUP!"
How this works again:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
About Last Week:
Nobody won but they picked up Tressel and carried him around the stadium anyway. Just like the 2010 Big Ten Championship!
This Week's Game:
Michigan @ Bradley. After the Pitt-K State-NC State gauntlet, your defending Big Ten Basketball Champions (banner!) get a breather in Peoria. Guess the final score; closest to the pin rules in effect with this one.
And on the Line…
Two tickets to Michigan-Arkansas! Section 225, Row 36.
These were generously donated by SeatCrunch. See the
button under the MGoBoard? They're the guys who are doing that for us. We chose them for the ticket center because they don't add fees; other than shipping of the physical tickets the price it says is the price. I used them to buy my tix for the MSU game this year, and while they probably don't want everybody requesting Saturday tickets on Friday mornings, at least we know they can handle that.
Also since nobody won last week you get the 4-letter-word shirt too.
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. Rutgers is from Jersey. Holy shit guys Rutgers is in the Big Ten. BIG TENNNNN! The algorithm constantly finds Jesus.This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Nik Stauskas says he never followed hockey. When asked about Alanis Morissette, he looks downright befuddled.
"I don't even know who that is."
Yes, Stauskas isn't your typical Canadian. That's because he spent his youth in the backyard—not on a frozen pond, but an asphalt court—hoisting three-pointer after three-pointer.
"I've probably taken a million shots in my life. That's pretty much all I'd do when I was a kid, just go outside and shoot. It's something I'm very confident doing," he said, after leading Michigan with 20 points on 6-10 shooting (4-7 3PT) in a 79-72 victory over NC State.
Thanks in large part to the shooting of Stauskas, Michigan was able to cruise for much of the game against a talented Wolfpack squad, weathering a late 10-0 run by the visitors to give the Big Ten its first win in this year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
It's a testament to the balance and depth of this year's squad that Trey Burke went scoreless in the first half; taking what the defense gave him, Burke doled out nine first-half assists as the Wolverines built a 43-36 lead. Burke went into attack mode in the second half, notching his first-career double-double with 18 points and 11 assists—he also had zero turnovers, as the team tallied just six total.
The four factors tell much of the story:
|O. Reb %||24.1||33.3|
Michigan had a lights-out offensive performance with stellar shooting, great ball control, and frequent trips to the free-throw line. Glenn Robinson III had a quiet 11 points on 3-5 shooting to go with seven rebounds, while Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary combined for 14 points while going 6-9 from the field, largely coming on open looks set up by Burke.
The Wolverines struggled to put away an athletic Wolfpack squad, however, as they couldn't protect the defensive glass in the second half—NC State scored ten points off of seven offensive boards in the final stanza. The frontcourt of C.J. Leslie, T.J. Warren, and Richard Howell poured in 46 combined points, taking advantage of the inexperience of Robinson and McGary to create several open looks.
Though the end got a little hairy, this was a game that Michigan largely dominated. Early foul trouble for Howell—who would eventually foul out—and Leslie forced NC State to go to a zone defense, which the Wolverines picked apart with ease. While Tim Hardaway Jr. had an off night from beyond the arc (1-9 3PT), he and Burke both took advantage by getting to the paint for pull-up jumpers—Hardaway finished with 16 points, shooting 6-9 from two-point range.
When Michigan most needed a bucket, leading by just five with 1:38 to play, it was Hardaway who put the game away, finding a lane and banking a shot home from just outside the paint. On a night when Burke went scoreless for nearly 23 minutes and Hardaway shot 7-18—against a top-25 ACC opponent, no less—the Wolverines had a comfortable lead for most of the game and survived a late scare.
For that, they can thank Stauskas—for growing up obsessed with his jump shot, not his wrist shot, even in Ontario.
|WHAT||NC State at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||7:30 PM Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan –11 (Kenpom)|
Right: Mark Gottfried continues Sidney Lowe's tradition of wearing pretty incredible suits.
NC State started off the season ranked #6 in both polls but has tumbled to #18—and #31 in KenPom—after a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State and a two-point win over UNC-Asheville in the last ten days. Despite the early-season struggles, this is one of the most talented teams Michigan will face all year, as the Wolfpack return four starters from a team that gave Kansas a serious scare in last season's Sweet 16.
There's not a lot of depth on the Wolfpack, but they spread the load very evenly among their seven-man rotation—six players average 24-32 minutes and 10.6-14.8 points per game. Every man on the court is a threat to score, though some are more efficient in that regard than others.
The highest-usage guy thus far is lead guard Lorenzo Brown, and that hasn't been a positive: he's boasting an ugly 35.9 eFG% and his 25% assist rate is offset by a 28.3% turnover rate. Brown's a decent slasher with a knack for getting to the line, however, and at 6'5" he's a tough matchup at the point.
Brown is joined in the backcourt by McDonald's All-American freshman Rodney Purvis, a 6'2" scorer who can finish at the rim or hit from the outside (10-17 3PT). With senior three-man Scott Wood (13-29 3PT), NC State has a pair of outside shooting threats that Michigan must watch carefully.
NC State's best player so far this year has been freshman four T.J. Warren, a highly regarded recruit who's currently hitting 70.7% of his two-point shots, including a remarkable 91% rate at the rim. Though he's got good size at 6'8", 233, Warren hasn't done much on the boards, and he's shooting a dismal 7-18 at the free-throw line—giving him a good hack when he gets the ball at the rim is not a bad idea at all.
On the inside, the Wolfpack boast a solid two-man rotation in junior C.J. Leslie and senior Richard Howell. Leslie, a viable NBA prospect, was the team's leading scorer last year and has improved greatly at finishing around the rim since his freshman year. Like Warren, his weakness comes at the line, where he shot 60% last year and is a little below that mark so far this season. Howell is the team's big body at 6'8", 261, and he's an excellent rebounder on both ends of the count.
That's about it as far as the rotation goes; freshman point guard Tyler Lewis will see a few minutes—he's attempted all of ten shots and has had some turnover issues.
Sophomore big Thomas de Theay may see spot minutes in the event of foul trouble—he's appeared in three of the team's five games this year. EDIT: de Theay left the program on Monday. So yeah, they're very thin up front.
Along with the aforementioned Ok. State loss and narrow win over UNC-Asheville, NC State has a trio of victories over less-than-formaidable opponents: Miami (OH), Penn State, and UMass.
Here are the four factors numbers from both last and this year:
|Off. 11-12||Off. 12-13||Def. 11-12||Def. 12-13|
|eFG%||50.4 (118)||57.0 (16)||47.1 (85)||44.0 (72)|
|Turnover %||18.7 (81)||19.1 (106)||18.6 (256)||18.6 (259)|
|Off. Reb %||35.8 (45)||31.1 (197)||30.9 (121)||31.7 (149)|
|FTA/FGA||36.3 (174)||43.5 (70)||32.1 (71)||27.4 (46)|
NC State wasn't a lights-out shooting squad last year but they've improved with the additions of Purvis and Warren in a small sample size. The defense is relatively average—none of their players is noted for his efforts on that end—doesn't force a lot of turnovers, and blocks a very low percentage of opponent shots (5.8%).
Most of the Wolfpack's shots come from inside the arc, though they're well above-average connected on both threes and twos; they struggle mightily from the charity stripe, however, hitting just 61.3% there.
Um, keep doing what you've been doing? I mean, right?
Attack the rim. NC State's big man rotation consists of all of two players, essentially—Warren is more in the Glenn Robinson III mold of a relatively skinny finisher who can get by at the four due to superior athleticism. Michigan has gone to the rim far more this season than in years past under Beilein; Tim Hardaway Jr., Robinson, Trey Burke, and even Nik Stauskas can all score off the drive. If Michigan can get Leslie and Howell into foul trouble, the Wolfpack will be forced to go small and inexperienced up front, and should be ripe for the picking defensively.
Use those fouls. This is going to take a long time to get used to saying, but Michigan has plenty of depth up front. NC State's bigs are very efficient at scoring around the rim, but downright bad at earning their points at the free-throw line. If Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, and Jon Horford have to resort to delivering a good thwack to Warren or Leslie to prevent a layup, so be it. Michigan should be able to survive foul trouble even if they have to turn to Blake McLimans and Max Bielfeldt for spot duty—both have proven passable in limited stretches this year.
Keep doing what you've been doing. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 11
Save these lockers. A few years ago Michigan redid the locker room. Where did the lockers go? Pretty much a warehouse:
We're a demolition company that does contract work for the university. A few years ago we got contracted for the locker room renovation and removed all the lockers. We were selling them for scrap metal and a UM fan almost killed us when he found out! We posted them on ebay and sold about 20 of them at $1000 each at that point.
We're getting busy (doing more UM jobs) and need to clear house on the remaining 20-30 lockers. They are full lockers, and we have working combinations for them as the university gave them to us to make taking them apart easier. We have a "letter of authenticity" which is a portion of our work contract signed by the athletic department asking us to remove them.
General numbers are going for $800-1000 and the big popular numbers for $1000-1500.
We run major shipments from here all the time and ship them in about 10 days anywhere in the USA via yellow trucking or UPS. We've been charging $200 to ship to a location with a loading dock and $250 to a residential address.
If you're interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orson in Columbus. A must-read:
17. In summary: Ohio Stadium is brutal, gray, loud--yes, loud, by any standard--mean, cold, and constructed out of concrete bearing a few too many visible cracks for you to be totally comfortable seeing in a structure capable of holding over 100,000 people. (The ledge from the upper deck on the east and west sides had me hyperventilating.) There are grim bells, columns, and one jumbotron plastered onto the south endzone. The effect is that of a flatscreen slapped on the wall of a Roman gladiator's quarters, something very modern hanging on a wall bearing the scars of prehistoric combat.
18. Which, in cliche and reality, is totally what Michigan/ Ohio State is. I get that now after seeing it, because this is not about fun, glorious spite, or simple culture-clashes. Robots programmed this rivalry, and its only prime directives on either side is opposition. You may joke about other rivalries claiming to have been at war with Eastasia, but to either side, the war is eternal, and it is the other side that believes in obliteration of the self and will not stop chewing at the borders of the free nation of Oceania.
19. It feels old, and wears its own leather helmet while drinking scotch and staring at a gray sky. It had been a while since I'd been in the Midwest, and the thought initially filled me with a real and arbitrary sorrow. Driving through Columbus, there are all these lost things--cabbies that arrive on time, bland family restaurants with buffets and non-chain restaurant names, bells that ring in buildings ripped from a Wes Anderson movie's backlot--all these things that never existed where I'm from.
Um, okay guys. It's tough to tell which is the more bizarre thing when it comes to the coaches' half of the All Big Ten teams announced yesterday:
- Jake Ryan, honorable mention
- Patrick Omameh, first-team
In past years I've usually given the coaches' list more credence than the media, but putting Omameh on there is a pretty definitive indication that no coach has come within 50 feet of an All Big Ten ballot this year. They should rename it "SID's team," except then people would think of deceased infants and be sad.
Taylor Lewan and Will Hagerup made first teams and won their OL/P of the year awards. To maintain this blog's tradition of ignoring officially sanctioned Big Ten names for things I will tell you that these are the Long-Hutchinson and Zoltan-Zoltan awards, and feel slightly better about everything.
Craig Roh was second team to the SIDs and Ryan did scrape his way to second-team according to the media. Jordan Kovacs was second team to the coaches, but not the media. In his stead: Daimion Stafford!
definitely not discussing Stafford blowing a coverage so badly Bo Pelini had an aneurysm; definitely not something that has come up time and again
Micah Hyde! Johnny Adams! Josh Johnson!
/eyes roll so far back in head they explode
Positive spin! Michigan was third in total defense in the league, a mere four yards behind Wisconsin. Their haul of All-Big Ten players consists of some scattered second-team nods. Meanwhile Ohio State was seventh and had six different defenders lock down first team nods on either the coaches or media lists.
Imagine what might happen when Michigan has talented dudes. Pretty pretty good I bet.
GHOLSTONWATCH. Second team media. Four sacks on the year.
Salty. Collectively, Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett have bombed Hoke/Borges on twitter for the Denard/Devin thing and now they're all laying down the wood on the ABT choices:
That's not even the biggest stunner involving an Ohio State player. Buckeyes linebackerRyan Shazier did not make the first team, falling behind Michigan State's Max Bullough and Wisconsin's Chris Borland (Penn State's Michael Mauti is an understandable lock). There was talk of Shazier for Big Ten defensive player of the year after the way he blazed through the second half of the season. But that looks less likely now. (Unless the coaches want to engage in some serious trolling by naming Miller the offensive player of the year and Shazier defensive player of the year as second-teamers). Also bizarre: the coaches did not select Michigan's Jake Ryan for a first- or second-team spot. Ryan is undoubtedly one of the Big Ten's top four linebackers.
Quickly. One man's All Big Ten team, with the caveat that I didn't see much of Indiana or Penn State this year:
QB: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (read too much of Ross Fulton pointing out Braxton Miller errors to give him the nod)
RB: LeVeon Bell, MSU (poor damn LeVeon Bell), Venric Mark, NW
WR: Allen Robinson, PSU, Kenny Bell, NU, Jared Abbrederis, UW
TE: CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa
DL: John Simon, Johnathan Hankins (OSU), Kawaan Short (PU), Eric Martin (NU)
LB: Jake Ryan (M), Max Bullough (MSU), Ryan Shazier (OSU)
DB: Jordan Kovacs(M), Isaiah Lewis(MSU), Darqueze Dennard (MSU), Bradley Roby(OSU)
Other thing I looked up. Michigan had just 41 punts this year, which was last in the Big Ten by ten. Also despite having the second-best gross average their net was only seventh:
Those punt returns stats aren't that bad despite seeming like they were going to be a disaster at any particular point; looks like the high touchback rate was an issue.
Scottish Premier League this baby. Tom Izzo is concerned [freep] that the Big Ten regular season title is no longer going to be an important thing, as I think everybody is. It was a big, big deal for Michigan to claim a share last year.
Once you get to 14 teams, you're playing everyone once and then missing about half the league the second time around. Schedule imbalances will lessen the importance of the regular season unless you go to 22 or more conference games, which may not be feasible.
Alternative: 19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin. Rutgers is relegated to the Big East every year.
PROS: Absolutely fair. Winner is undisputed. Makes Big Ten title a huge important deal. Final six games for teams that make upper half would be knock-down drag out brutal free-for-all for league title. Would give top teams impregnable schedule strength. You could televise the schedule draw with Ronaldo and Messi in suits.
CONS: May cost league NCAA bids if the best team in the bottom half can't get any marquee wins in the last six games or the worst team in the top half just gets blitzed. Bottom half is just kind of sadly playing out the string. Uncertainty about final three home games may impact ticket sales negatively. Extremely distant possibility that the 8th best team 13 games in can climb all the way to the top.
In conclusion, anything that amps up the value of the regular season is good. Play For Stuff.
What is this? Folks who cover the USMNT drop lists like this projecting the 23 guys who end up on the next World Cup team. I have appropriated it. Regarding the number of tickets: 22 starters on offense and defense + 2 kickers + nickelback + FLEX TE + fullback.
THIS IS THE Signing Day Update. Certain recruits are added, NFL departures (or returns) are accounted for, and bowl performances are taken into account. Next update is after spring practice.
PACK YOUR BAGS
Jake Long wannabe took second-to-last step to full clone by forgoing sure first-round status in this year's draft to return for senior year. Upside: shut off Clowney in bowl game, gives Michigan second returning starter, was All-American last year. Downside: has reportedly sold his twosie.
The Barbarian is Michigan's best defensive player and a lock for preseason first-team All Big Ten. Can change direction in a flash; consistently shocks opponents with his explosive acceleration.
Schofield came into his own midway through last year. Getting some NFL draft buzz now; shut down a talented SoCar bookend in the bowl. Could move to guard if necessary; idealls remains outside.
Groza semifinalist and hair enthusiast has turned his career around after early struggles. Hit 52-yarder last year en route to record accuracy for Michigan kicker. Likes brunettes and Keystone Light.
Should break out for real after a year to bulk up and work on his routes. Frequently targeted a year ago without effect, will need some outside threats to develop to truly annihilate defenses.
Former Rodriguez slot-dot is Michigan's leading receiver and should be again. Still a somewhat awkward fit as an outside receiver; a threat on end-arounds and screens. Punt return job may be up for grabs.
7. QB Devin Gardner, Jr.* [Last time: 12]
Late-season rankings slide of Shane Morris and solid bowl performance move Gardner from very likely to be Michigan's starter to a holy lock. No true freshman is supplanting him.
Safety attached to notorious six-pack has been a steady performer and a major contributor to Michigan's extreme lack of big plays allowed in the Mattison era.
Season surprise emerged into upper-echelon Big Ten nose tackle out of nowhere. Has the physical ability to be an NFL player. Requires your head, sorry, nothing personal.
Filled in admirably for Countess. Avery won't pass him, and it's doubtful any freshman will. Still needs to tighten up his zone coverage but has excellent size and athleticism for the position. Likely to move to boundary corner.
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
Most college-ready OL out of the Midwest in years probably could have—probably should have—started last year. If he does not ascend to starting job will have been beaten out by a classmate, freshman, or walk-on. Not happening; cue Imperial March.
Sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome proved is mettle in 2012. If a pass is physically reachable by him, will be brought in. Feet will motor afterwards. Lacks top gear.
Converted OL Michigan's best bet at inline blocking TE sort; needs to work on his technique in a serious way. Could near 300 pounds after an offseason in the weight room. Fears no fish.
Pressed into service as a started his freshman year before settling into perpetual third-best-corner-on-rosterdom. Will see half of the defensive snaps, covering slots and the like.
Major drop from last time out; was overranked to begin with since Bolden is pushing from behind. Excellent frosh play in bowl game puts job under a bit more threat. Realistically it'll be hard to move out of the MLB spot.
Kugler buzz sees Miller slide a bit as his competition will come in far readier than most to start from day one. Still seems unlikely a guy with a labrum injury can find the strength as a freshman to displace him.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
With Courtney Avery seemingly comfortable in the slot, Countess is likely to reclaim the field corner job he locked down midway through his freshman season… as long as he isn't hampered by lingering effects of his injury.
Early enrollee groomed as the Kovacs heir apparent as soon as he arrived, playing in certain nickel and dime packages as a freshman. Has not appeared on The Price Is Right, that's 'shopped, rookie. Marvin Robinson may challenge.
The only thing keeping Ross so low is classmate Joe Bolden; the two freshmen split snaps with veterans and played well. Ross seemed more instinctive and gets the nod here; had a great day against Northwestern and just needs 20 pounds to be a quality option.
IN A BATTLE
Yep: making the switch here, as Fitzgerald Toussaint now has to deal with not only DeVeon Smith but a 220 pound slab of muscle coming in with as much hype as it is possible to garner. Tailback is an immediate-impact spot.
Beyer has nosed ahead of Frank Clark and Mario Ojemudia since he's a better run defender. Recruiting sites liked him best, too. Likely to split time with the other two contenders here even if given the green light as a starter.
Mountain-sized guard missed 2012 with a broken leg; will return for spring practice. Has to fend off freshmen and walk-ons, mostly. The non-Kalis guard spot will see a lot of intrigue.
Started to rack up meaningful snaps late in the year; will have to fend off challenges from Tom Strobel and possibly Chris Wormley and Jibreel Black, if he's not at three-tech. Injury-enforced retirement of Nate Brink means he's at least going to reprise his role this year.
Nominally in line to replace Will Campbell at starting three-tech but will be pushed hard by trio of redshirt freshmen, and may move out to SDE. May not have the size to start at his current position.
Someone large and leapy will have to pick up where Gardner and Roundtree(?) left off. Darboh did nothing as a freshman but seems likely to move in front of Jerald Robinson and others to claim the other spot outside.
Stephen Hopkins' departure makes Kerridge the leader at fullback when face-smashing is called for; the additions of Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman may move Kerridge to the bench for periods of time when Borges wants pass-catchers at the spot. Houma?
Bowl suspension has Will Hagerup on thin ice, thin enough that it seems 50/50 he returns, at best. If Hagerup is out the door, Michigan won't miss much of a beat with Wile, who averaged 48 yards a kick in the bowl game. Picture may be slightly old.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Shane Morris—hopefully he redshirts.
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint—worst. year. ever.
RB DeVeon Smith—most likely to fit what coaches want at RB spot
RB Dennis Norfleet—MOVE HIM BACK MOVE HIM BACK
OL Erik Magnuson—third option at tackle.
OL Ben Braden—rumor is they may give him a shot at guard with Lewan back.
C Blake Bars—if Miller is just too too small.
C Patrick Kugler—the chosen center, but labrum injury hampers.
WR Jehu Chesson—should be ready to go after redshirt in search of bulk.
DE Tom Strobel—oversized end coming off redshirt, should be quality run defender.
NT Ondre Pipkins—get thee to the technique hut, son.
DE/DT Chris Wormley—has the size, has the hype, has the ACL recovery process.
WDE Frank Clark—rotated with Beyer last year.
WDE Mario Ojemudia—seemingly the best bet for an impact pass rusher at the spot.
MLB Joe Bolden—needs weight, but coming off meaningful freshman PT.
SLB Cam Gordon—spots Ryan.
CB Terry Richardson—weight weight weight weight weight
CB Jourdan Lewis—will a Cass corner ever meet the hype?
S Marvin Robinson—not sure if he'll ever be reliable enough to play.
S Josh Furman—ditto