"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
Fab Five. Wolverine Historian continues to feature Fab Five games that officially may not exist anymore:
The inside scoop. Seth Davis did one of those ask-coaches-off-the-record articles that always feature a mix of insight and bitchiness and make for quality reading. The take on Michigan (emphasis mine):
Michigan: The Wolverines are dangerous because they shoot the ball so well and stay within their sets, but they can also lay an egg because they rely so much on threes. You almost have to play small with them because they force you to. If you have a big man, it's hard to guard them because everybody will step out and score. I don't think Tim Hardaway Jr. is a tough kid. He just wants to shoot jumpers. If you have a dominant person inside, you can go right at them because they're not real big. Hardaway has not had the kind of year we were all expecting, but he has an uncanny ability to make threes late even when he's not shooting well. Trey Burke is the best guard in our league, and Jordan Morgan is much better offensively than he was last year. They don't scare you defensively. They'll get after you and compete, but you can run your stuff and score on them.
The section on Ohio State also mentions that they're "probably kicking themselves a little for not taking Trey Burke," and the Wisconsin bit is all about how terrible and awful and disrespectful they are.
Maybe this whole standards thing isn't a huge deal. Remember when some guy said that unconfirmed thing about Brandon saying that Michigan wasn't going to compete with the SEC for things and stuff and would have standard like things and everyone was all like boo boo boo we want to recruit Manninghams even if they like smoking pot, like, forever and ever?
Yeah, that was in the long long ago when Michigan was striking out late in the 2012 class and hadn't secured a top five 2013 class like two weeks into that recruiting cycle. But, like, you know who we lost out to for a couple important guys? Stanford. This Stanford:
Haskins points out that just because a guy plays football doesn't necessarily mean he's physically tough. From a mental side, Shaw maintains the Cardinal's rigorous academic requirements forces the program to get determined people. "To be honest, it's built in for us," he says. "We can look [at] the physical toughness when you watch a kid play, but we're also finding out about that stick-to-it-iveness when we're asking them to re-take tests, take AP courses and make tough decisions to try and get admitted here. That shows dedication, toughness and perseverance."
That's from a long Bruce Feldman piece on Stanford's ridiculous-not-just-for-Stanford recruiting. The Cardinal is proving that you can avoid the flakes and still bring in monster classes. Michigan seems to be doing the same, and as long as Notre Dame isn't swooping in on the guys they want they seem like they'll be able to maintain that over the long haul.
First one, then the other. I've been pining for Urban Meyer's shovel option for a while now. You know, this thing:
It seems like a natural fit for Michigan for multiple reasons: it's just power blocking, which Hoke loves. It forces the defensive end to either cheat down on the pitch or potentially let Denard outside. If Denard makes a bad decision the potential for disaster is low—either he is running around for a small loss (or gain!) because he kept or he's throwing an incomplete pass. The main issue is finding a tight end who can run it, but if Michigan's throwing Hopkins on the field as an H-back sort he's got the chops to make that a viable option.
Once you've got that in the book, you could add bells and whistles like a quick cover-two beater on the edge to give that corner a problem he can't fix:
Michigan did run some run-plus-short-pass concepts like this last year…
…so this might be something to keep an eye on as Borges tries to get the most use out of Denard's legs in year two. Borges loves to add new stuff on the regular; it's 50-50 we see something like the above in 2012.
Speaking of Borges. He talks with Howard Griffith:
Money quote: "I don't want to have an offense with a name" because then people start running clinics on how to defend it.
Unintended consequences. The NCAA's recent adjustment of kickoff rules smacks of a public relations effort to assure people concerned about concussions that football is also concerned. The net impact of slightly changing 2% of a football game is going to be statistically zero when it comes to long term health outcomes, but it says to the world that the NCAA is Doing Something, so it passes.
It won't do much. It might not do anything since the NCAA made a change that seems counterproductive to its goals: it's changed kickoff touchbacks to the 25. This is supposed to encourage returners to take a knee. Instead it may encourage kicking teams to not put it in the endzone.
Florida State has one of the best kickoff specialists in the country, Dustin Hopkins. Last year his 29 touchbacks were a victory. This year some back of the envelope calculations by Tomahawk Nation suggest the Seminoles' optimal strategy on kickoffs from the 35 will be this:
LET'S RECAP - If FSU does indeed ask Hopkins to kick it just a little higher and a little shorter, we can realistically expect him to average the ball around the 2-3 yard line with a hangtime of around 4.6 seconds. This is enough time that the majority of the coverage team will be inside the 25 yard line, with the faster players being somewhere around the 20. One can expect first contact to be made somewhere inside the 15 yard line on average. If the return man dances or does not immediately run full speed after the catch, it could be even worse. It may be a common occurrence for many returns to fail to exceed the 10 yard line. That is epic.
85% of TN readers think that's the way to go. The NCAA probably just made kicking for a touchback a mistake. There's a good chance these new rules go the way of the Hated Clock Rules from about five years back.
Two options: idiot or fabulist. Good lord, Phil Birnbaum points out that the Berri study-type substance on NFL quarterback draft positions…
- Uses a regression to determine "expected" draft position instead of using, you know, draft position.
- Their regression on expected performance does show a correlation between draft position and performance, but it's not statistically significant, so they use that to say "there is no relationship between draft position and performance."
- Tom Brady alone accounts for 14% of the plays from quarterbacks drafted from 150-250.
David Berri is the worst statistician on the planet.
BONUS OHIO STATE SCHOLARSHIP SIGN UPDATE! With Jordan Whiting's transfer to Louisville the only scholarship business major on the team is a kicker.
Etc.: Another rat is poised to jump off Dooley's sinking ship. He's their recruiting coordinator and would be the seventh assistant to leave this offseason if he takes an equivalent position at Nebraska. Michigan NFL combine recap. Molk says things, people take offense, Molk seethes, repeat.
Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after receivers in the
county country, adding six new offers to an already-impressive list in the two weeks since we last spoke. Rivals.com's #110 overall player recently picked up offers from Arkansas, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, UCLA, and Vanderbilt after earning a Michigan offer on signing day. I caught up with Devon a couple night ago to discuss his recruitment, interest in Michigan, and the day-to-day grind of being a highly-touted recruit:
ACE: How is everything going in your recruitment, and who have you picked up offers from lately?
DEVON: It's going pretty well. Just in the last couple of weeks Oklahoma State offered, UCLA, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Notre Dame. Those are the newest.
ACE: You're getting a lot of offers from schools that aren't close to home. Is distance going to be a factor at all for you in your recruitment?
DEVON: I've talked to my dad before this process happened about really trying to get out of state, maybe, and get away from the family for at least for years, kinda do my own thing. It's definitely not a factor. I wouldn't mind staying in state either, I'm not opposed to staying in state.
ACE: When I last talked to you, you'd only been on visits to Stanford and Arizona State. Have you been anywhere else in the last couple of weeks?
DEVON: Yeah, I've been to USC, and I was up at U-Dub [Washington] this weekend.
ACE: Are there any other schools you'd like to visit in the future?
DEVON: I think I'm trying to plan a visit to Arkansas with Tyler Bruggman, my quarterback, over spring break. Other than that I'm going to try to get to a few other schools in the Midwest. They're all by each other—Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State—all those schools are all around the same area, so I'll probably fly out there and then drive from place to place.
ACE: When we talked earlier, you said the Michigan offer sort of came out of the blue. Have you been in contact with the Wolverines more lately, and who are you talking to?
DEVON: Yeah, I talk to Coach Ferrigno once a week or so, and we talk on Facebook about every couple days, so the relationship is being built. They're asking me how I'm doing in track and everything. It's going pretty well. Michigan is definitely a top gun, and I definitely think that they have a great tradition and they always have great football, so you can't really be mad at that at all.
ACE: When you talk to Coach Ferrigno, what does he tell you about the school and your potential role with the team?
DEVON: He says that they always win football games, which is a big, big decision-maker, going to a place that wins. They talk about how they would use me in the offense, probably as a deep threat, playmaker, maybe a returner sometime in the future.
ACE: Do you have any favorites at this point in the process or are you still pretty open?
DEVON: I'm still pretty wide open. Like I said, I've only visited four schools, so it's really hard to tell. All the schools I've visited have been awesome and great; I just love the feel of being on a college campus. I'm pretty sure that most of the colleges that I visit in the future will be like that, too, so it's really going to be based on where I'm going to want to live for four or five years. Even if I didn't have football, if I'm going to go to school there also, that's going to be a big decision factor. But I don't really have any favorites right now.
ACE: Are there any schools that are really pushing for you harder than others?
DEVON: No, not really. I get a lot of mail from ASU, because I guess they're really pushing hard for a lot of the in-state guys to stay. I get a hand-written letter from all of the coaching staff at least once every two weeks, so that's really nice. I get hand-written letters from all the other schools, also, on a consistent basis; from Michigan, ASU, Stanford, Purdue, and U-Dub, those are probably the top five that have been the most interested in me right now. Arkansas, I talk to Coach K [I'm assuming this is Chris Klenakis] a lot, he keeps on me every couple of days, asking me to call him, so I talk to him a lot. We're kind of building a relationship, too.
ACE: I know track is a big thing for you. How is track season going so far, and is that your main focus at this point?
DEVON: Yeah, that's pretty much the focus right now. It's going great. We had our first meet today. It wasn't a big meet, it was just a dual meet, so I did just the 300-meter hurdles and the 4 x 400, just to get some conditioning in, but other than that it's going great. It's definitely something I'll want to do in the future, in college. Most of the schools I've talked to have been pretty cool with the idea of me running and playing football. I suspect that most of them will be okay because speed goes hand-in-hand on the football field.
ACE: What are your goals for track this year?
DEVON: The real, main goal this year is in my 200, I want to go into the 20-second range, so anything [like] 20.7, 20.8, would be my goal because once you get into that time your 100 is going to be at least 10.5, your 400 will at least be 46, 47, so that's pretty much the goal right now. With speed comes hurdling, though hurdling is more technique; last year I did well just because I was faster than everybody but I didn't really know how to hurdle very well, but I got around with it. So this year I'm working on technique a lot and I should break some records in the hurdles this year.
ACE: Going back to your recruitment, what kind of timeline are you looking at right now?
DEVON: I understand it'll kinda slow down here in the next couple months, the maybe open back up again after track season, so maybe sometime mid-football season next year or after the football season I think I'll try to get all my visits in and wrap things up. I'd kind of a stressful, yet fun, process, so I have to enjoy it while I can but also take it in stride so I don't get stressed out and crazy over it, too.
ACE: You mentioned the recruiting process being stressful and fun. What parts of it are you enjoying and what are you looking to get over with when you make a commitment?
DEVON: The enjoyment part is really getting to know all the schools and knowing that all these schools really want you as a person and as a player to attend your school and play for them. It lets you know that the hard work is paying off in the end, which is a good feeling. I get some publicity from it, it's cool to have that; your name gets out there, which is cool, but I try not to let it get to my head. It's kinda stressful just because, you know, making calls probably for an hour each night—which I don't mind, it's cool, I get to know the people and everything, but it gets a little stressful. Coaches are really hounding on their school, which I understand because they're trying to get me to go there.
ACE: How's the piano going?
DEVON: It's going pretty well. I haven't had much time to learn anything new, but I've just been playing what I do know. Once I get settled back in to school, because we've only been in school for about a month [this semester], and the track season starts going again I'll probably pick it back up and learn some new songs, get back to playing it consistently.
ACE: Between track and talking to coaches every night, what does a typical day look like for you?
DEVON: To go off today, today I woke up—I didn't go to the gym with my father this morning because I had a track meet today, but usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get up at five to go the gym with my dad. Get out [of the gym], take a shower, get back and go to school. Maybe break for lunch, I've got time to give a coach a call, they ask me to call, and today an analyst from Arkansas wanted to talk to me. Then I go to track practice until about six, I get home, take a shower, eat—that's about seven o'clock. Then I get on to Facebook, check my messages—I usually have about six or seven—and coaches ask me to call them, so I call them, talk to them, build a relationship until about 8:30, nine, then I get started on my homework and go to bed at probably about 11. Then I start it all over again the next day.
ACE: Man, I kinda feel guilty now. Do you ever rest?
DEVON: (laughs) Yeah, I usually try to take a break on the weekends. I've got the weekend to relax.
3/1/2012 – Michigan 72, Illinois 61 – 22-8, 12-5 Big Ten
If you were in a really, really good mood in June and thought of Tim Hardaway Jr's sophomore season, you probably envisioned him tossing in three-pointers like he's casually skipping stones across Lake Michigan, rebounding like he's a bouncy Zack Novak, and maybe developing enough of a handle to attack the rim when people close him out hard.
Instead you got… not that. Instead you got every preview of every Michigan game having a section on Hardaway that is the verbal equivalent of:
You got not that until yesterday, when Hardaway flung in 25 points on 7 shots and secured an array of bouncy, mansome rebounds en route to holding Illinois to six offensive rebounds in 31 opportunities. Oh, and Michigan won a road game by double digits. This is what you envisioned last summer when you closed your eyes long enough for Denard Robison-related daydreaming to pass.
That didn't happen so much but Trey Burke showed up on a mission to discredit scouting services and picked up most of the slack there, so that was okay. Michigan muddled through to its best record in a long, long time. Hardaway lingered, though, a hovering sad inexplicable what-if and source of indigestion whenever he rose up for a three-pointer that had a 26% chance of going in.
We spent the season waiting, mostly winning but mostly frustrated. Every flash of effectiveness was dissected for repeatability; every clanged shot was a re-descent into depression. The last time this team played Illinois, Hardaway had an efficient game that fluttered hopes:
When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.
It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.
Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.
He then proceeded to… well, defy easy classification. Tim Hardaway Jr, this is a five game stretch in your sophomore year:
There's some frustrating wobble in there what with the 0-fer from three against Purdue and the Ben Wallace free throw shooting against Northwestern. There is also the 25-points-on-7 shots outing last night, two other extremely efficient games, an obvious uptick in turnovers, Hardaway's second double-double of the year, and the same 42% shooting from deep that carried Michigan to a shock tourney bid last year.
This chart reminds me of the NCAA hockey tournament. IE: it terrifies. If Hardaway is off, Michigan is capable of losing to anyone in the tourney, literally. The Ben Wallace FT game saw them go to overtime with Northwestern, currently the last team in on many brackets. If he is on, daggers rain from the sky and Michigan can take down just about anyone.
Michigan has no choice but to deal with this. They have one and a half backups and the fourth-shortest bench in the country. If Hardaway isn't producing, there's nowhere to turn. We've got little to go on either way. As Hardaway bounces up from a pretty horrendous year he settles back into a funk for back to back games, then surges.
Riding him is being at sea in a storm. When he rises up for his first-three pointer in Columbus or Pittsburgh or Nashville against an autobid from a small conference, every Michigan fan from the eight-year-old who thinks Trey Burke is the greatest point guard in history to John Beilein himself will watch the flight of the ball, thinking please, please, please.
Burke + Hardaway == um. This will not be an original thought, but finally finally finally Michigan got good, efficient performances from Burke and Hardaway at the same time. No one else did much offensively but it did not matter because the top guys had an 80% eFG% and were 10 of 10 from the line even before Illinois started fouling tactically late.
That is going to be tough to beat; that is far from guaranteed. Who would have thought Anthony Wright would be the guy holding Michigan in against Blake Griffin a few years back?
Just Burke. Very, very smooth last night, pushing the ball when it needed to be pushed and ruthlessly punishing high-screen switches with easy step-up three-pointers. Long term that's his future—he won't get better than last night but will have more nights like that. Exception: as he learns the intricacies of the Beilein offense he'll increase his assist rate and maybe edge up his two-point shooting because fewer of his attempts will be heaves late in the shot clock.
Smotrycz. He managed to foul out in 14 minutes and has a lot of people down on his potential contributions next year. Two things:
- Big men develop slowly and unpredictably.
- Smotrycz is badly miscast as a center and will benefit more than anyone else on the roster from the additions of McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt to the lineup… unless Bielfeldt turns into a Draymond Green-style four, in which case he's screwed. Chances of that next year are low.
Next year he should be able to take Novak's role in the offense and on defense, something he's better suited for. He may be a bad matchup in certain situations and get lifted, but—holy pants—next year Michigan will be able to do that by inserting GRIII, McGary, or Bielfeldt at the four. He will not have to take on Adreian Payne, Jared Sullinger or Meyers Leonard next year, and thank God for that.
Jalen Rose is one divisive guy. I was not a fan of his color commentary last night and tweeted something out about it. In the next ten minutes that tweet received an avalanche of support, criticism, and hur hur jokes about racism. Say what you want about Rose, but he moves the needle.
Of course, the thing I say about Rose is that he moves my needle in the wrong direction. The contrast between Rose and Bardo was obvious: Bardo was a pro; Rose sounded like he'd won a fan contest to call a game.
It wasn't all bad. Rose consistently made an excellent point about players trying too hard to take charges or block shots when they should just be annoying presences to contest shots, and he backed it up every time he should have. I bet he's a lot better when he's not covering a Michigan game.
Injuries. Smotrycz and Morgan were both dinged but it doesn't sound like anything serious:
"I hope they're all right," Beilein said. "Both of them had little stingers, (Morgan) in the shoulder and (Smotrycz) to his hip.
Losing either one would obviously be a disaster sans Horford.
“Having a winter break right now, Tim has used every bit of it,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He's been in the gym like crazy. Just looking at his shot, we've been watching the video tape, seeing any different type of quirks that maybe he could work out. He's such a student of the game, so he's really worked at it.”
I'm not sure what it is about playing Illinois, but it has for whatever reason brought out the very best in THJ this season. He was just about as efficient as you can possibly be, and his shot was crisp, clean, and confident. Bacari Alexander will now be given the task of using whatever psychological tropes he can muster to convince THJ that they are playing Illinois before every game from here on out. John Gasaway says:
It's hard to disagree. This Michigan team has, by varying combinations of Trey Burke, Beilein sorcery, TRUE GRIT, and Bacari Alexander motivational ploys, manufactured a 22-8 record with THJ struggling for long, bleak stretches of conference play. Imagine, oh imagine, what this team can accomplish with a THJ circa the end of last season added to the fold.
A Lion Eye is depressed; A Lion Eye is always depressed. A Lion Eye reminds me of me two years ago.
Hardaway is interviewed at Grantland:
Your dad was an NBA All-Star. Did you grow up playing against him? At what age could you beat him?
Yeah, when I was a kid we played a seven-game series every Saturday. I used to go to open gym to play with my friends and teammates, and I'd get there 30 to 45 minutes early so I could play one-on-one against my dad. When I reached ninth grade, I was finally able to beat him. He'd win the seven-game series, mostly, but I knew if I got two or three wins I could tell everybody that I'd beat my dad one-on-one. That's when I knew he was done.
But even when I started beating him regularly, he wasn't mad at all. He'd still teach me things I could get better at. To this day, I go up to him and ask him for advice about what I need to work on, and he always does a great job helping me out. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of trash talking when we played one-on-one.
What kind of trash talk, specifically?
I can't say. I can't say!
Asked whether this is his last year at Michigan, he says "I'm not sure" and "I can tell you I don't plan on leaving." I'm guessing he's around for at least another year since he's probably not a first-rounder after this business.
The NYT has an interesting article up on the variations between basketballs making life difficult on road teams. Bo Ryan is specified as a guy who uses a weird ball that causes problems for visitors; this made me think of a recent Daily article on Michigan's odd choice of ball:
“I just have a long association with The Rock,” he said. “I used it way back to LeMoyne and also at the Division-I level. I’ve used The Rock, I think, all the time. They have a good product.”
Though many teams choose to stick with their school’s sponsor for their choice of ball, Michigan passed over Adidas in favor of The Rock — a brand from Anaconda Sports.
“It feels very much like the Wilson, which we use in the NCAA Tournament,” Beilein said. “That’s why I like it.”
In fact, the NYT article seems like an rehash of the Daily article what with its frequent referencing of Wisconsin's unusual deployment of Sterling basketballs and focus on the home/road effects. Zinger not contained by NYT for obvious reasons incoming:
But if Michigan fans are worried about the Wolverines’ play without The Rock in the postseason, there is good news. On Dec. 10, Michigan put up a season-high 90 points in a victory over Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
The ball? Wilson. The same brand used for March Madness.
Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway.
Or is that "Hawafty"?
|WHAT||Michigan at Illinois|
Yet Another Assembly Hall
|WHEN||7 PM Eastern, Today|
|LINE||M –1 (Kenpom)|
Illinois was previewed before Michigan's 70-61 win in Crisler a couple weeks ago. The Illini were in the midst of a tailspin having lost five of six, but had no idea how bad it was going to get. They lost convincingly in Ann Arbor and at home against Purdue before consecutive road blowouts against Nebraska(!!!) and Ohio State saw them plunge off the bubble and all but end Bruce Weber's Illini career.
Not much has changed in the four games since these two teams met: Illinois remains a team with three quality offensive players and total hot garbage behind them. Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard are the primary shot creators.
Leonard is a 7'1" shot-blocker who shoots 60% from the floor with good usage. In the first matchup Illinois ominously fed Leonard for the first few minutes until Matt Vogrich took a charge for Leonard's second foul. He went to the bench for the rest of the half; by the time he returned in the second his teammates had forgotten all about him. After drawing a bunch of e-derps for crying on the bench in the midst of the Nebraska(!!!) blowout, Leonard flirted with the bench despite the total uselessness of his backup. Unfortunately for Michigan, his last outing was a monster (22 points on 13 shots, 14 rebounds, six of them offensive) and may find him back on track in the friendly confines of Yet Another Assembly Hall. After what happened in Crisler you know Illinois will be emphasizing feeding Leonard at all costs.
Paul is Paul, a fantastic athlete and mediocre shooter who is often saddled with the "oh crap there's five seconds on the shot clock" offense. He tries to do too much because he has to. He totally destroyed Ohio State that one game.
Third banana DJ Richardson is mired in a Hardaway-like slump in which he's not making many threes but by God he's shooting him. Over his past five games he's 7 of 33 from three. This has sunk his three point shooting to 28% in conference play—sound familiar?
You'll be pleased to know that 6'8" shooter Tyler Griffey has faded into the background after singlehandedly keeping Illinois in the first matchup. He hasn't scored more than a handful of points in any subsequent game and is struggling to see more than 10-15 minutes in most games. Completely horrible point guard Tracy Abrams did blow up for 22 against Purdue and had an efficient game against Nebraska but has since settled back into his usual offensive inability.
This was mostly covered above. Illinois has lost 9 of their last 11 Big Ten games but did beat Iowa by 11 in their last outing.
THE STUPID-LOOKING BRUCE WEBER PICTURES
We should get them in while we can.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||49.3 8||52.1 8||49|
|Turnover %:||21.7 11||19.5 5||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||29.0 9||29.7 5||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||31.9 8||36.7 10||36.5|
As before, Illinois is an inexplicable debacle on offense and mediocre defensively. They're 11th in the conference at shooting threes at 30 percent and dead last in opponent three-point percentage (though that might be random) at 40%. They do shoot well on twos and prevent opponents from taking a lot of threes.
Collapse collapse collapse. Collapse like Mesa Verde circa 1300 AD. Illinois' best shots all come from Leonard and Illinois can't shoot threes to save their lives right now. The previous edition of this preview said "watch out for DJ Richardson from deep"; now he's Hardaway. Double Leonard all day and twice on Tuesday.
Zone zone zone. Zone zone zone. Part of Michigan's fantastic ability to deny Leonard the ball in the second half of the first matchup was extensive use of a 2-3 zone. Again, you can take your chances with Illinois shooting from deep. Unleash the zone kraken!
Obligatory Hardaway section. Is obligatory.
Switch everything not Leonard-based on the perimeter. Remove driving lanes by doing this; if it encourages someone on Illinois to go isolation on a mismatch I think that's a bonus even if it's Paul. Paul is not an efficient offensive player for a lot of reasons.
Exploit the confusion and depression and disunity. I'm nervous that Illinois comes out annoyingly rejuvenated; I assume Illinois fans are nervous that Illinois comes out like they have for most of the season. I'm guessing Michigan gets their fair share of easy layups because Illinois is just not in the game. This could be a totally wrong thing to think.
Let Novak and Douglass get more aggressive with the ball earlier in the shot clock. It would be nice to take some of the pressure off Burke; with both of those guys proving they can create shots of late, Michigan should show the ball screen and then try to use the space it creates by pulling Leonard out of the lane to get Douglass and Novak drives to the basket for either insane heistation layups (Douglass); high-percentage pull ups (Novak) or kick outs for open shots.
More Leonard foul trouble please. It would be nice.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one. Sippin On Purple's Rodger Sherman rises from the grave to rend his garments and screams about Michigan's luck in close games to the heavens.
McGary said he isn't remotely ready for the NBA and is looking forward to playing at Michigan with Glenn Robinson III, an Indiana high school teammate at Ann Arbor and the son of former NBA star Glenn Robinson. Sampson said he is grateful for his two years at Brewster, adding, "I think if I had gone to St. John's and never come here, I would not be nearly as well off as I am now."
Barry Larkin isn't walking through that door.
The AP published a fascinating article yesterday about Big Ten baseball's next move after years of thwarted attempts to level the playing field that has me wondering about what the point of a baseball national championship is, anyway.
The Big Ten is essentially a mid-major in baseball for structural reasons: the season starts in February, the Big Ten plays virtually its entire nonconference season on the road, and recruits gravitate towards places that don't force them to spend a month of time when they're hypothetically in school hanging out in Florida.
The obvious solution in this era of year-round schooling for virtually all athletes is to push the season back, but the teams who like the current North-screwing setup outnumber those screwed. They like getting a ton of home games by default and not having to compete against major athletic departments in the North. Surprise!
So the Big Ten is rumbling about radical departures—literally:
Minnesota's John Anderson, the winningest baseball coach in Big Ten history, is pushing for his conference to break away from the NCAA's traditional February-to-June schedule and play when the weather in the north is more favorable. In short, the Big Ten's boys of summer would be on the field in summer.
Such a move would cost the Big Ten schools any shot at playing in the NCAA tournament. That doesn't bother Anderson.
"There were four SEC teams in the College World Series last year. We're never going to catch those people," he said. "The system works for them, and they're not going to want to change it. People are going to criticize this idea, but we need to get people talking about it."
No Big Ten team has made the CWS since Michigan in 1984, so it's not like they'd be giving up much. Players headed to the Big Ten are not doing so because they're banking on NCAA tourney appearances anyway. Meanwhile, the Big Ten Network is hurting for content in the summer. It might not hurt recruiting much if Big Ten teams could promise a ton of televised games and a format specifically designed to appeal to pro teams—wood bats, maybe, the conference can afford it.
Short of that the Big Ten is working on a weird proposal to allow up to 14 non-conference games in the fall that would count for the spring/winter season as well. Purdue coach Doug Schreiber came up with that idea when he wasn't busy emailing Corn Nation about Big Ten schedule strength misconceptions. That email spells out how deeply screwed the Big Ten is by the current system:
So, according to your rationale, Big Ten teams need to play a murderous, non-conference schedule prior to their conference season when 95% of these games will be on the road. It may help with improving the RPI's a little, but probably not the overall winning percentages, which will cancel out the tough schedules being played.
The choice here is between a lot more home games and something to do in the summer and the dream of reaching the CWS after a drought approaching 30 years. I'm with Anderson: withdraw from the current system, set yourselves up as pro-friendly as possible, use the Big Ten Network as a club, try to get other Northern schools to join you, and raise your profile regionally by being interesting when nothing else is going on (August). It's not like things can get worse.
Let's get even more radical, in fact. BYU's soccer team is not a part of the NCAA. They play in the PDL, "the top-level U23 men’s league in North America," alongside a vast menagerie of local club teams and MLS youth sides. [More on the transition here. It's really interesting.] If the Big Ten baseball is going to forgo the NCAA tournament in favor of a summer-based schedule they might as well go whole-hog with it and leave the NCAA entirely.
They could then use their huge pots of money to their advantage by offering 18, 20, 22 scholarships instead of the 11.7 (IIRC) teams are currently limited to. Leaving the NCAA might also allow them to tailor their schedule to something more MLB-friendly, or even join a relevant minor league so they could compete for a championship bigger than the Big Ten. Players could sign with pro teams and still maintain their eligibility. It could serve as a giant middle finger to the Southern teams. Hearing them complain about the lack of a level playing field would be delicious.
Even if that's judged too radical, it's time to stop working with the current NCAA system.
This message board post gave me an idea: this blog should create an e-HOF for Michigan athlete in the sports it covers. Retiring numbers is something that people do 30 years down the road, and probably never in football; legends patches will be issued to like six people. There should be an intermediate ground. Now is the time to create plaques.
First we must set ground rules.
Q: should there be a waiting period?
I remember thinking Michigan should retire Lavell Blanchard's number because he represented the start of a new era in Michigan's basketball program. That didn't so much happen. There's a reason HOFs usually impose a five-year waiting period.
On the other hand, it might be a good idea to be able to recognize players right away, and unlike actual HOFs if we mess up we can implement the Bill Simmons solution by creating a pyramid with the all-timers at the top and the guys were may have gotten over-excited about at the bottom.
Q: what should the criteria be for admission?
For one I think only players who played after 2005, when the blog started, should be eligible—at least at first. There may be a time when we start reaching further back but fundamentally this is about experiencing the careers of the guys who get in, something we can't do with Tom Harmon.
As far as who is a quality candidate, this is some combination of being really good and an ineffable other quality that encompasses having dreads or bleeding all over everything or developing a pathological hatred of the media or absolutely stoning North Dakota or talking up brunette girls in the aftermath of your game-winning kick. Like… this should be a thing Zack Novak gets in, no questions asked. It should be equally about the impact player X has on the pleasure of being a Michigan fan than about being really good. Really good helps, of course.
When Deadspin bothered with their HOF they required a 75% approval rate to get in. Here voting would only be open to >100 point users, I'd imagine. Is that the right number? Should it be a sliding scale such that anyone who just graduated needs 95% and it drops five percent each year until it gets to 75%?
Q: should there be an annual cap on admitees?
I was thinking three, but surveying this hypothetical field of candidates makes that seem slender: RVB, Martin, Novak, Hunwick, Molk. And then there's a backlog of players who have impacted in the era this blog was talking about sports. Maybe there should be a larger inaugural class.
Q: what about sports that don't get coverage around here?
Football, basketball, and hockey are going to get adequate face time. Other sports, not so much. This is largely because they don't get enough attention to have the aforementioned impact. I'd like to recognize everyone else but the reason I don't write about everything is I can't do so competently. Does this thing have a place for the Kellen Russells/Samantha Findleys of the world? Maybe we should set aside a non-revenue spot every other year or something.
The comments are your debating ground.