"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
The Fab Five didn't cross my mind. Not when Michigan beat Penn State, not when William Buford's shot found twine and gave the Wolverines a share of their first Big Ten title in my lifetime, not until I read Brian's article today.
This is largely a function of age. When the Fab Five first played at Michigan, I was learning to read books made out of cardboard. I have no strong feelings one way or another when it comes to their legacy, because I can't properly contextualize it without having been there to witness it in the first place. I don't see their relevance to this year's team, though that doesn't mean it isn't there.
The teams I grew up watching, however, were the radioactive fallout from the Ed Martin scandal, and that experience has made me all the more appreciative of the John Beilein era. This has little to do with the character of the players—as a kid, you have little-to-no awareness of these players's existence when they aren't playing ball—and everything to do with coaching, the atmosphere surrounding the team, and the joy of simply watching them play.
I have a particularly striking memory from my early years of seriously following Michigan basketball. Brian Ellerbe was the coach, the Wolverines one year removed from the brief glimmer of hope provided by Jamal Crawford, and it was a gray Thanksgiving weekend in Ann Arbor. My friend Jeff and I would often walk over the Stadium bridge, usually with tickets from his parents, and enjoy all that Crisler had to offer. We had fun because we didn't know any better. On this particular day, we had no tickets, but with all the cash you'd expect a pair of middle-schoolers to have, we decided it was worth at least walking the 15 minutes from my house to Cazzie's and try our luck.
Through the power of the internet, I now know Michigan was playing Wagner, though I don't remember the details of the game. What I do remember is climbing the concrete steps in front of the arena to see a lone middle-aged man holding up two tickets; despite it being just before tip-off, I recall him being one of just a handful of people outside Crisler. Jeff and I walked up to him, each with a five-dollar bill extended—a bargain, in our minds. The man gave us a look of sheer pity, began to reach out for the money, then recoiled.
"I can't, in good conscience, make you pay for these," he said. "Just take them."
We couldn't believe our luck, nor understand why this man would give up a perfectly good pair of tickets for nothing. We settled in to our seats and watched the Wolverines cruise to a 98-83 victory. Both of us thought two freshman starters looked rather promising. Their names were Avery Queen and Josh Moore.
Two weekends ago, a college buddy called me up while on his way to Ann Arbor from Chicago. He'd also grown up as a die-hard Michigan fan in Ann Arbor, graduating one year ahead of me at Pioneer. He wanted to know if I could track down a couple of tickets for the Ohio State game.
When Michigan hired Tommy Amaker, I thought the times were changing. When he brought in a recruiting class featuring Lester Abram, Graham Brown, Chris Hunter, and the talented point guard Daniel Horton, I believed. Watching Horton average 15 points and 4.5 assists as a freshman while spearheading a 13-game winning streak after an ugly 0-6 start, I envisioned Michigan reaching the biggest of big stages while Horton earned All-American honors.
But Horton never got better, at least not until his senior year, when his Herculean late-season efforts were wasted on a team headed for yet another NIT appearance, two years after a deep run in that tourney had lost whatever promise it once held. Michigan never developed any semblance of an offense under Amaker. Aimless perimeter passes inevitably led to a hurried chuck from the perimeter; this was the Amaker Offense, as far as I could tell. Every once in a while Brent Petway would tip-slam an offensive rebound. Those were the moments I lived for.
On Sunday, as it has all season—and every year of Beilein's reign—Michigan's offense had a clear purpose. An intricate series of precise cuts and screens begot open look after open look, and the Wolverines connected with remarkable efficiency. Stu Douglass, once a one-dimensional outside shooter with a severe aversion to the paint, played near-flawless defense while creating baskets both inside and outside the arc. Fellow senior Zack Novak, though plagued by foul trouble, quietly scored 11 points, including a run-stopping jumper late in the second half that should've earned extra points for degree of difficulty. The two leaders and captains barely resemble the unknown two-stars who walked onto campus four years ago.
Sure, Michigan hired John Beilein in part because he's the squeaky-clean head of the ethics committee, a coach who will recruit players who pass the can-you-date-my-daughter test with flying colors. But Michigan also hired John Beilein because he's perhaps the greatest strategic mind in college basketball, a coach with an uncanny eye for talent, and the ability—working in tandem with his assistants—to develop that talent.
The newly-christened Crisler Center has received a major face-lift, the Wolverines are headed to their third tournament in four years—with the potential to grab a three-seed—and a banner will be raised next season over the heads of the best Michigan recruiting class in at least 15 years. More importantly, this team has an identity, and it all stems from their head coach—not just his nice-guy image and his emphasis on character, though that is important, but his offense. This is basketball, after all.
I'll happily pony up a few bucks to keep watching. The days of "just take them" are thankfully behind us.
The only reasonable explanation. Michigan State lost the outright title, still won a share, and collectively reacted like this…
…the likely explanation is that they were more focused on denying Michigan than their own team. That game meant very little in the grand scheme of things to MSU. It mattered to OSU and Michigan.
No, it wasn't hard to root for Ohio State yesterday. I didn't even notice.
Irrational optimism getting less irrational. Michigan has two five-star sorts in its upcoming recruiting class and the guy I'm most excited about may be the other dude. That is 6'6" shooting guard/potential Burke backup Nik Stauskas, who just outdueled Nerlens Noel, a 6'10" center who recently reclassified to 2012 and instantly became a top five player after doing so, for tournament MVP at the NEPSAC championships. He is not just a shooter($):
Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark’s)
2012, SF, 6-6, 205
Stauskas finished with 19 points but his impact on the game far exceeded that total, as he not only scored the ball in different ways but also facilitated for others in both pick and roll as well as drive-and-kick action. While the complete versatility of Stauskas’ offensive repertoire was on full display, the most impressive part of his performance was that innate star quality that allowed him to make big play after big play at the most pivotal moments of the game.
The main thing keeping him from being another five-star type recruit is his athleticism. That shouldn't prevent him from being a shot generator at the college level—he'll enter with far more skill than Stu Douglass had, for one. I mean, look at his evil beard:
IF that does not fill you with confidence, nothing will.
Stauskas also drew raves from NERR. Meanwhile, Mitch McGary's Brewster team suffered an upset while Glenn Robinson III helped his team win their first sectional title since '97. All that and more at UMHoops.
McCray/Gedeon/Levenberry: Linebacker is the new offensive line
brief comment on the linebacker crunch. My trapper keeper with Michigan's projected recruiting class surrounded by hearts has at least two slots for linebackers, but if the third guy is going to be O'Daniel/Levenberry/Gedeon it probably has three. Sam Webb first thought this was not the case, but recently reversed course.
It should be clear why after a quick glance at the depth chart by class. With announced positional rearrangements taking Beyer and Paskorz away from the SAM spot, that is now the sparsest position on the depth chart. Insert First World Problems GIF here. Michigan has three more years of Jake Ryan, two of Cam Gordon, and nothing else. Even if you figure one of the 2012 recruits is destined to move down—something the coaches denied on Signing Day—that would seem to make a third linebacker a reasonable acquisition.
Even if that's the case now, if O'Daniel and Levenberry hew to their current plans and take their decisions to Signing Day there's a pretty good chance room opens up for one of them. The current assumption on this site is 22, but that assumes Michigan only loses two players to attrition*.
That's an extremely conservative estimate. If Michigan gets up to 24, they can take…
- Another RB
- Two more WRs
- A third TE
- Another CB
- Two DL
…and still have a couple spare scholarships. You may have spotted the assumption here: Michigan will only take one three-tech/SDE type in this class. I think that's reasonable after taking four (Wormley, Godin, Strobel, Henry) last year, especially with two 2011 recruits coming off redshirts and the possibility/likelihood that Wyatt Shallman ends up weighing 280 by his sophomore year.
When all is said and done the bet here is Michigan has a couple scholarships to play with in January and SLB is an excellent candidate to use one of those spares even if Michigan already has a couple linebackers committed. It sounds like McCray and Gedeon are about to drop; if Levenberry changes his mind and attempts to commit on his Spring Game visit he's not getting turned down.
BONUS HYPOTHETICAL EXTRA SCHOLARSHIP DISTRIBUTION DESIRE: Cornerback. Michigan… uh… has fewer blue chip guys there than anywhere else in the last two classes.
/runs around laughing maniacally
//falls in trough
/continues laughing maniacally
We do it better than Todd Graham.
*[Two more players are assumed to not be getting fifth years.]
A rule to live by. Orson just tossed this off and I'm thinking of embroidering it on a sampler or something:
Never have anything to do with a recruit who wants to sign after Signing Day.
This may be sour grapes.
June building stuff. The Washington Post highlights Cato June, new head coach at Anacostia High School in DC. He's filling his staff out with a familiar name:
June quickly turned to [retired HC Willie] Stewart, asking him to help coach the Indians next fall. He also named his close friend and Michigan roommate Walter Cross, the 1997 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year from Oxon Hill, as his offensive coordinator — the same position Cross held at Potomac (Md.) this fall.
Apparently anyone in DC can transfer without a reason, so if June gets things off the ground Anacostia could be a fertile ground for recruiting—not that Brady Hoke needs another one.
Bye-week hockey events. Michigan pulled the worst possible opponent in the second round thanks to Northern Michigan going down in flames against Bowling Green and all other higher seeds holding. They go against Notre Dame, who gave them a very tough weekend about a month ago. The Irish are 19th in the Pairwise and entering a do-or-die weekend for tourney hopes.
The key for Michigan will be watching Notre Dame's goalies play as poorly as they have in all games not against Michigan. Steven Summerhays put up a .945 in the M-ND series; for the year he's at .908.
Pairwise. Michigan's off weekend saw them move up thanks to a one-point weekend from Minnesota-Duluth that cost them the regular-season WCHA title and put their one-seed in flux. Michigan still doesn't win that comparison—I told you it would be tough—and still wont even if they sweep next weekend despite UMD drawing 12-22-2 Minnesota State. Michigan can win the comparison by sweeping ND and doing better than UMD at the conferences' respective finals… as long as UMD doesn't lose this weekend.
Weird system: you are rooting for UMD to win this weekend and get annihilated at the Final Five.
BONUS CCHA BIDS ODDITY: remember that period in the season when seven CCHA teams were destined for the tournament? That's been whittled down to four as of today. Five of the first six teams out of the tourney are CCHA teams. Western, Lake Superior, and ND can still play themselves in.
It's March, so it's time for huge Daily profiles. Luke Glendening is first up:
It was late April 2008, and the Michigan hockey assistant coach had just extended a one-year tryout offer to Luke Glendening, a forward recruit from The Hotchkiss School, a prep institution in Lakeville, Conn.
“You’re on a one-year tryout,” Powers told Glendening. “If you’re good in practice, you’ll stay.”
Powers left him with one last word of warning.
“If you have somewhere else to go, you should probably do it.”
We're living in the golden age of angles, I'm telling you.
A fantastic idea. Mike Spath proposes a new format for the NCAA tournament:
To start, the NCAA should collaborate with the NHL to form six permanent sites, rotating among the six for the four yearly locations: Boston, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto. The Frozen Four would also rotate among those six cities instead of taking us to Tampa Bay or Washington D.C.
That would be excellent. You might want to add a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh but that's fine. No more Green Bay, St. Louis, Tampa, etc. Take the money the NHL is giving you and use it to lower ticket prices so you get a local crowd—part of the horrendous attendance in Fort Wayne was the $90 session passes—and try to fill those buildings as much as you can. If you want to "grow the sport" you can promise a local regional/FF to areas considering the addition of hockey programs.
In response to this idea, the NCAA announced the next six Frozen Fours would take place in New Zealand.
Retconned history. The New York Times has a look at how the Big East fell apart featuring this tactical error back in the day:
Tranghese tried to tell the Big East’s university presidents and athletic directors as much as early as 1989 when he was Gavitt’s assistant. Gavitt thought the conference needed to bring Penn State into the fold. Penn State was an independent at the time, looking for the security of a conference.
The membership voted no, with St. John’s, Villanova and Georgetown leading the resistance. At the end of the meeting, Gavitt asked Tranghese what he thought about the decision. “I said, ‘We will all rue the day about this decision,’ ” Tranghese said. “I understood how big football was. I didn’t understand how big it was going to become.
“At that point, the Big East had so much success in the ’80s, everybody sort of forgot about it. But I felt looking back on the history of the Big East, that was probably the biggest mistake we made.”
The conference has been regularly pillaged since and will be a nationwide amalgam of mid-major football schools minus flagship Syracuse as a result. I wonder if the Big Ten would still be ten teams today if the Big East hadn't screwed it all up in the late 80s.
Etc.: Wojo on Sunday's events. I bet a dollar Burke and Cody Zeller end up splitting the freshman of the year award. From Old Virginia takes a look at where lacrosse is headed, speculating that Michigan will eventually end up in a "Western" conference with OSU, PSU, Detroit, Air Force, and Denver. BSD recaps the PSU-M game from their perspective. Michigan engineers elect Bender to school board.
Cass Tech OL David Dawson is one in a long line of Technicians who have pledged to become Wolverines, including his junior teammate Jourdan Lewis. He's also one of five four-star offensive linemen in Michigan's 2013 class, with the versatility to play anywhere along the line. I got the chance to catch up with David yesterday to discuss his commitment, the Cass Tech pipeline, where he'll play as a freshman, and more:
ACE: What made you decide you wanted to commit?
DAVID: I committed because I had been up there three or four times before I had been offered. My mom liked the academics and I felt at home. That was about it. The coaches were down-to-earth, it wasn't like they were trying to be fake or anything. It helped that our cornerback [Jourdan "J.D." Lewis] committed, so that was good.
ACE: Having you and Jourdan commit seemingly within minutes of each other, how did that go down, and how did it play a factor in your decision?
DAVID: We were joking about it earlier that day, saying "do you want to commit?" Stuff like that. They pulled me into an office with Coach Hoke and I sat down and talked with him for about 5-10 minutes. He offered me and I told I want to commit, and then he hops up yelling and everything, Coach Jackson came in. We called [Jourdan's] name, and about a minute later they were screaming out the back, walking in smiling, saying he committed too. That was just a great day.
ACE: What else set Michigan apart from the other schools you were looking at?
DAVID: Like I said, it would be academics. Everyone always says not everyone goes to the league, so the academic part was a big part. Then the possibility of working with a lot of the high-caliber guys that we're bringing in right now who are going to be there when I get there, that also played a big part in my decision.
ACE: You mentioned coming in with those high-caliber guys in your class. It seems like you guys have really made a pretty strong connection, obviously being there for that huge visit weekend and then over social media. What's it like to be part of a class that's already so tight-knit—and also so talented—this early?
DAVID: It feels great. We were on that Recruiting Nation show, and I saw that a couple of weeks ago. I like that we target the offensive line a lot, we pulled in five four-stars, that's always great. There's Shane [Morris], a good quarterback, and we've got a couple guys from the city who are going up there, plus a couple guys from Ohio. It just feels great to be a part of this class.
ACE: Michigan already has five offensive linemen, including yourself, committed in the class. What have the coaches told you about where they see you playing at the next level, and where do you think you fit in best along the offensive line?
DAVID: Coach Hoke was saying that I could play right tackle or they looked at me at guard, but he says when I get there they'll put me at right tackle and see how it works out there because he likes my athleticism and my feet. I guess when I get there we'll see.
ACE: Coming from Cass Tech, that's obviously a pretty huge Michigan pipeline. Are you excited to be back at Cass and rejoining your old teammates this year?
DAVID: Definitely. It'll be good playing another year with these guys, before going off to college I'll be playing with J.D. and [Kenton] Gibbs and everybody, then going off to college I'll be back up there with Delonte [Hollowell], Terry [Richardson], and Royce [Jenkins-Stone].
ACE: You mentioned a few of your former teammates that are now at Michigan. Did you talk to those guys at all when you were making your decision? Did they help you at all coming to your choice?
DAVID: Yeah. It was great; they didn't pressure me, but they said if that's where you want to go, there's no point in waiting and stuff like that. Royce and I talked a couple times before I made my commitment. I told him I wanted to commit and he didn't believe me, so when I did he was just like, "congrats," and he still didn't believe me until I saw him up there at school.
ACE: You guys have a pretty high standard up there at Cass Tech after coming off a state championship last year. What's the expectation this year for the team and for you personally?
DAVID: For myself, personally, just to finish a strong year, possibly get into one of the All-American bowls. From a team standpoint, we should just focus on our first game in Brother Rice on August 25th, then we can take it week-by-week, but ultimately we'll be playing at Ford Field in Week 14.
ACE: After spending the last year down in Texas, what was it like having that experience for a year and what's different about high school football down there versus back up in Michigan?
DAVID: Being down there, they work more on your football IQ. We had class down there, we'd watch film all the time, we watched film of us practicing—they'd film practice and we'd go and watch film of what we did that day. The coaches taught technique every day and then you'd play against high-caliber athletes week-in and week-out. It's somewhat different than Michigan. We have high-caliber athletes up here but there's a lot down there. That's what I think separates Texas and Michigan.
ACE: Heading into this year, you're already going to be playing—there's already Khalid Hill from Detroit Crockett committed. What's it like not only having a Michigan commit on your own team, but competing against future teammates as opponents before you head off to college?
DAVID: I played against Khalid my sophomore year, when we played them for the district championship, I think. I got to block him when I was there at that time. Senior year I just can't wait for us to line up until the end, then we'll line up and shake hands because we can't wait to go to college. But right now we're focused on another state championship for Cass, so anybody that's in the way has just gotta deal with it.
ACE: Going back to your recruitment and talking about the coaches real quick, what set Michigan's coaching staff apart from the other coaches you were dealing with?
DAVID: Like I said before, when I go up there, it's not like they're putting on a show. You see what you get. That's how they act. I felt comfortable because Coach Funk, that's going to be my position coach for the next four to five years, so that played a big part in it. Then Coach Hoke, he's just a down-to-earth guy, he's very cool, and I just felt like I was at home up there at Michigan. Everything played out.
ACE: When you come to Michigan, what do you bring to the table? What do you think are your biggest strengths as a player and what are you working on before you get to the next level?
DAVID: I bring my aggressiveness, footwork, strength, and my run blocking skills to the table. I just need to work more on pass blocking. Also footwork, you can never work enough on footwork, so that's something I'll want to improve before I get there. I'm very coachable; Coach Funk will tell me something once and I'll do it. They also tell me I have a good mean streak. I just like to play football.
ACE: Sum up in a few words what stood out about Michigan, what your choice ultimately came down to.
DAVID: I felt at home up there. The coaches are down-to-earth, the academics, and they're bringing in the high-caliber athletes that they're bringing in. That played a big part in my decision.
|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.