this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
|WHAT||Michigan at Penn State|
State College, PA
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||M –6 (Kenpom)|
NO REASON WOO
Penn State is in a race to be the Big Ten's worst team with Nebraska. Nebraska is winning that race according to Kenpom, but the Nittany Lions aren't far off. As is often the case with bad teams, they have one decent-to-good player who they massively over-rely on.
Hi. You may remember me from such players as Dion Harris.
He's Tim Frazier and across the 345 teams playing D-I basketball this year he's 12th in time on the court, 9th in percentage of possessions used, 95th in shot percentage, and 2nd in assist rate. Given all that it's a credit to his game that he's shooting 46% from two and getting to the line a lot. He can't shoot threes (28% on just a couple per game) and I'm guessing his conference numbers are uglier than the overall ones, but Penn State has no choice but to have him launch a ton of shots.
There's a massive dropoff to the second banana, 6'4" sophomore Jermaine Marshall. Marshall launches enough shots to crack the top 400 players nationally but shoots 44% from two and 31% from three with few assists and few free throws drawn.
Senior Cammeron Woodyard is a pretty amazing statistical package. For one, he's shooting better from three (37%) than he is from two (34%!). For two he's got a tiny turnover rate and this is enough to see his ORtg creep near Frazier's on decent usage. Sophomore Matt Glover is the other nominal starter; he's shooting 30% from two, 18% from three, and 52% from the line. He's 6'4". He's got a really high turnover rate for a low usage player. I'll be amazed to see him on the floor. Any time he shoots and it goes in you should throw a little fit.
Penn State's center is a three-headed one; no head edges above a 100 ORtg. Sophomore Sasa Borovnjak is the guy who's gotten the most time. He's a tiny usage player that does shoot efficiently on his rare opportunities but produces very little other than that. Freshmen Ross Travis and Jonathan Graham are basically the same player with a little more usage and a little less shooting. As rebounders, they're meh. And free throw-shooters, they're all terrible.
Penn State is 4-13 in the league with home wins over Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Purdue. That Purdue win was by 20 and stands out as the most inexplicable game in the league this year. The nonconference schedule was probably worse what with losses to Kentucky (by 38), St Joe's, Ole Miss, Lafayette, and Duquense. They did pick up a win over bubble team South Florida.
In the first meeting Michigan won 71-53 in both teams' first conference game of the year. Tim Hardaway ripped off 26 points on 10-11 shooting from two (he was 1 of 7 from three) and Penn State shot 39% percent with no one other than Frazier cracking double digits. To get there he had to take 18 shots and commit five turnovers.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||44.5 12||54.0 11||49|
|Turnover %:||18.0 5||19.9 3||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||31.4 6||28.1 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||30.1 10||50.3 12||36.5|
Penn State can't shoot at all. They're last in the conference from both three and two, get more shots blocked than anyone else in the conference, and launch a low number of threes.
On defense, they give up a massive number of quality three-point looks. Opponents are shooting 40% from deep on 42% of their shots! Penn State is not good at basketball! At all at all at all! They're also allowing conference opponents to hit exactly 50% from two.
Feed Timmah. Given Hardaway's last game and his last outing against these dudes, Michigan should try to turn his status from "not as bad as he's been" to ON FIAH. Hopefully that does not mean contested three pointers. Given the numbers above it probably doesn't; Penn State probably hasn't contested a three all year.
Anyway, put him in a position to go to the basket and see what happens.
Get Douglass to slow Frazier with help from friends. Beating Penn State is making Tim Frazier score inefficiently, full stop. Michigan did an eh job of that in the first game and still came away with an easy win but if Frazier's points:shots ratio is over 1 in a road game there could be some uncomfortable moments if threes aren't falling.
Obligatory bit about threes falling. Seems like everyone else's do; Michigan hit 8 of 25 in the first go-round.
The Colton Christian show. With both Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz suffering stingers against Illinois their availability is questionable. Beilein:
"We'll know more after (Saturday's) practice," Beilein said Friday. "All the guys who played heavy minutes (Thursday) are going to do very little (Friday).
"(Morgan and Smotrycz) have seen the trainers, and they've had rehab and we'll see how they feel."
It seems like they'll go. How effective they'll be is still in question.
If they're limited it seems like it's 6'6" bench magnet Colton Christian in line to get the spare playing time. Michigan threw him out there against Meyers Leonard and survived. Christian had a nice roll to the basket for a layup in the first half and had another in the second half wiped out by a dodgy-seeming charging call. As a bonus, he didn't get owned by Leonard, though that had more to do with Leonard's disinterest in the first half and exhaustion in the second.
If he's the third guy at the five against Illinois there's no way he's not against Penn State. All he has to do is not give up easy buckets and provide some rebounding/"energy". Given his opponents that seems doable.
Don't inexplicably reprise the Iowa game. If Michigan loses this it's going to be on them.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by six.
Today's recruiting roundup takes a look at Patrick Kugler's newly-released junior highlights, breaks down 2013 Ohio rankings, discusses visitors and new offers, and more.
Commits: Prepared For MANBALL
Patrick Kugler's junior highlights were uploaded to YouTube today, and as you can see above, Michigan's latest commit has no problem playing through the whistle. Offensive line highlights start at the 2:32 mark (though his D-line clips are well worth a watch) and largely consist of Kugler planting a defender into the turf, often several yards downfield. Speaking of Kugler, GBW chatted with him recently, and it turns out he didn't even need to meet Brady Hoke before being sold on Michigan (free article!):
Patrick Kugler committed to Michigan football program this past weekend without even talking to his future head coach Brady Hoke. That has since changed as the four-star offensive linemen finally caught up with the head man last night.
"He is really exactly how I pictured him," Kugler said to GoBlueWolverine about his phone conversation with Hoke. "He has very high energy. He is serious and very straight to the point. I like everything about him on the phone. I can't wait to go meet him actually."
You can't say enough about the recruiting job Hoke has done in a little over a year at the helm in Ann Arbor, but don't undersell what his assistants have accomplished; if Darrell Funk isn't on multiple end-of-year best recruiter lists, it'll be criminal. The fact that Michigan has its line class sealed up in February is largely his doing.
Bucknuts is counting down the top players in the state of Ohio, and Dymonte Thomas comes in at #4 while Jake Butt
cracks makes the list at #10. (I typed "Butt cracks" without thinking and then started laughing my ass off. Yes, I'm 12 years old.) Here is ScoutingOhio's Mark Porter on Thomas ($):
“He is outstanding on both sides of the ball. He is a no-brainer at safety. He could play tailback because he is so explosive. On offense, he will deliver a blow. But I think Michigan really does see him as a defensive back.”
And Porter compares Butt to a guy who would live in Michigan's nightmares if not for Denard Robinson:
“Jake reminds me a bit of Kyle Rudolph, who went to Notre Dame out of Cincinnati Elder. He’s long. He’s fast. He just needs to get into a college weight room and get bigger and stronger. He has the potential to be a great college tight end.”
Scout, meanwhile, has released their top 50 for Ohio. Thomas is #2—behind only OSU commit Jalin Marshall (ahead of Rivals 5-star DB Cameron Burrows)—Butt is #10, Jaron Dukes is #20, and Taco Charlton is #29. Other recruits of interest include RB DeVeon Smith (#3), LB Ben Gedeon (#11), LB Mike McCray (#13), CB Gareon Conley (#16), CB Darian Hicks (#19), TE Jake Matuska (#22), and WR Kevin Gladney (#23).
Chantel Jennings profiled Wyatt Shallman today, and a big reason why the big athlete from Catholic Central committed to Michigan was because they gave him the chance to play tailback. Expect him to bring quite the physical attitude to the position ($):
"[My grandpa] always talked about how power football and power running, downhill, four yards a carry, that sort of thing, that has always been Michigan's M.O.," Shallman said. "That's really what Michigan football is about. That's really what football is about, smashing heads."
Shallman is training with Mike Barwis on top of his regular workouts with CC; heads will be smashed.
Quickly: The Wolverine breaks down film of Logan Tuley-Tillman ($), and the evaluation goes along the lines of everything else you've read on him: great athleticism and drive, needs work on technique. TomVH on the reinvigorated recruiting rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State ($).
Weekend Visitors, The Linebacker Crunch, and More
As far as I've seen, Michigan has just two visitors lined up for this weekend: Hudson (OH) LB Ben Gedeon (possible, not set in stone) and Indianapolis (IN) North Central OT/DT Darius Latham (both links $). Latham is an interesting prospect—he's adept on either side of the ball, though at this point the Wolverines would only take him at defensive tackle.
Gedeon, meanwhile, is one of the top linebackers in the Midwest, but there's going to be a serious crunch at the position. Michigan leads for Good Counsel LB Dorian O'Daniel, who's higher-ranked than Gedeon, and also for top-50 overall prospect E.J. Levenberry, and they could secure the commitment of Trotwood-Madison LB Mike McCray on March 8th when he announces. After last year's bumper crop, the only spot along the linebacking corps that really needs reinforcements is at SLB, where both Levenberry and McCray project. O'Daniel and Gedeon seem more like MIKE/WLB types; right now it looks like Michigan will only take two LBs, though it's possible that they grab a third if the numbers work out and a guy like Levenberry is looking to commit. All four are high-quality prospects, so this could become a first-come, first-served situation.
O'Daniel wasn't the only player to name Michigan as his leader this week, as he was joined by Massillon (OH) Washington CB Gareon Conley, a four-star prospect ($, info in header). Conley plans to visit Ann Arbor on March 10th, and he wants to make his decision before his senior season; we'll see if things move quickly on that front, as he'd be the big (6'1", 170 lbs.) corner Michigan wants.
Quickly running through other players who named Michigan among their top x lists: Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton now has the Wolverines in his top five with Tennessee, Mississippi State, Penn State, and LSU ($, info in header). Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge DE Jonathan Allen named a top six of Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida and NC State ($, info in header). Five-star S/RB/LB Su'a Cravens hasn't narrowed down his list, but says that "USC, UCLA, Michigan and Washington are recruiting me the hardest right now," though he maintains that every school recruiting him is equal at the moment ($, info in header).
New Offers, Future Potential Visitors, and Happy Trails
A couple new offers surfaced for the Wolverines in the last few days. New Orleans (LA) Edna Carr TE Standish Dobard now lists a Michigan offer; he's a three-star recruit to 247, but is being pursued by most of the heavy hitters in the SEC. The Wolverines also recently offered Pendleton (SC) four-star DT Michael Hill, who's considering a summer visit to Ann Arbor ($, info in header).
Several players are planning future visits to Ann Arbor. Here's the most recent list:
- Pittsburgh (PA) Seton-La Salle TE Scott Orndoff just decommitted from Wisconsin and will be on campus March 17th ($). He says if he likes the visit, Michigan will shoot to the top of his list.
- Tampa (FL) Wharton five-star CB Vernon Hargreaves III might be a tough pull from the state of Florida, but he's considering a summer visit ($, info in header).
- 247's #37 overall player, Ft. Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas DE Joey Bosa, is in regular contact with Greg Mattison and will likely visit Michigan and Ohio State in an upcoming weekend ($).
- Perhaps the top priority among DT recruits, Baltimore (MD) Gilman's Henry Poggi, has already visited Michigan twice but wants to see Ann Arbor again ($, info in header).
- Chandler (AZ) Hamilton CB Cole Luke, a four-star prospect, is thinking about swinging by Michigan and Notre Dame after planned spring trips to Texas and Oklahoma ($).
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata DE Tashawn Bower is talking with Curt Mallory about setting up a spring or summer visit ($, info in header).
There are a couple happy trails to report. Camp Hill (PA) Cedar Cliff's Adam Breneman, the top-ranked TE in the country, will announce his decision on March 9th at 7 pm. He has not visited Michigan, so you can rule the Wolverines out; this will likely be a choice between Ohio State and childhood favorite Penn State, and I expect he'll end up with the Nittany Lions. Meanwhile, Centerville (OH) OT Evan Lisle, who held a Michigan offer prior to the O-line spots filling up, committed to Ohio State after receiving his Buckeye offer last week.
Quickly: Sam Webb profiles lineman Matt Miller, brother of Michigan center Jack, in the Detroit News; he could end up as a Spartan unless Michigan decides he's a good option at DT. Black Shoe Diaries recruiting analyst Jeff Junstrom notes an interesting lack of overlap between Michigan and Penn State recruits—only one of M's 13 commits held a PSU offer. Magnus released his initial TTB rankings for the 2013 commits.
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"?