is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
1/29/2012 – Michigan 49, Ohio State 64 – 16-6, 6-3 Big Ten
No one expected Michigan to go on the road against Kenpom's #1 team and come back with a victory, so frustration and alarm was kept to a low simmer as Michigan tried and generally failed to find a way through the thicket of arms and athleticism that Ohio State presents. While OSU also goes "small" by deploying just one post-oriented player at a time—6'7" Deshaun Thomas is the second-tallest player OSU starts, and he's an NBA-sized wing slasher who rebounds at a lesser rate than Trey Burke—there is small, and there is "small."
Michigan is the former, Ohio State the latter. Kenpom has OSU's effective height 78th. They're not huge but they're well above average while still getting to play four-out, one-in. So if a game in which an insurmountable three-point halftime deficit ballooned to 15 by the end is dispiriting, it's also an indication of Michigan's future, in which a post is surrounded by a point guard and bouncy guys ranging from 6'4" to 6'7". Just now, that seems like a pretty good recipe for success.
But Michigan's post guy is not Jared Sullinger and with the exception of Tim Hardaway, Jr., their bouncy guys range from 6'2" to 6'2" and have a tendency to bounce their arms into fastbreaking opponents' heads because they're not bouncy, so expected outcomes come out as expected. At the half, it seemed like Michigan's point total was about what you would expect and Ohio State's was a ton of missed putbacks. That proved itself in the second half.
Oh well. This one was house money anyway.
Down the road, the team keeps scraping out narrow wins against good competition and is on track to meet expectations. The overall picture has some concerns. Ubiquitous Michigan basketball messageboardist MHoops1 compiled some stats on three pointers in league play that point to a burgeoning problem:
Tim Hardaway Jr., with 55, has taken more 3s in conference games than anyone else--he is second in 3s per game to Illinois' Brandon Paul (who is shooting just under 40% from 3). …
There are 8 guys who are shooting 20-29% from 3 in conference play--two are Hardaway at just under 22% (2nd worst overall in the conference…), and Smotrycz at just over 24% (4th worst overall, ahead of Walker, Hardaway and Keith Appling of MSU, who is shooting just under 23% from 3.
[Only players with 20 or more attempts are considered.]
I just don't know what happened to Hardaway's stroke. Last year it was the key component driving Michigan to their bid—they took just about as many threes but were third in the conference at hitting them. You can poke at all the psychological explanations you want; I don't buy them and am left with helpless shoulder-shrugging and an increased appreciation for Darius Morris's ability to create shots from everywhere.
No matter what the reason is, Michigan has the most prolific and least efficient three-point shooter in the conference now. This is a trend that extends to the team as a whole. Kenpom's conference-only numbers have Michigan first in three-pointers attempted (43%) and tenth (31%) in makes. Often poor percentages from three aren't that harmful since threes are worth more points (SCIENCE!). Here, though, each three point shot taken is 10% less effective than an average two*. That's a big difference when you consider the standard deviations involved here.
And then there's the free throws. There aren't any. (You may have noticed.) Michigan is dead last at getting to the line. Add it up and it's a parody of Beilein's reputation for perimeter-oriented fooferah.
No one is turning their nose up at 6-3 halfway through what seems like the slightly tougher half of the conference slate, or what looks like a third tourney bid in four years. Playing Ohio State drives home what looks like a ceiling for this edition of Michigan. To compare them, just line Zack Novak up next to DeShaun Thomas. Sometimes your physical limitations catch up to you, like when you're playing a Final Four contender. So it goes.
*[By this I mean the average three pointer is worth more than the average two. The D-I average 3 is worth 1.03 points; the D-I average two is worth 0.95 points. So you can be below average from three and still not hurt yourself too badly if you take a lot. Michigan far exceeds this margin of error.
I know fouls and getting to the line argue in favor of going inside and complicate this analysis considerably.]
And to think you could have pissed off Valpo's conference opponents. Man, do people hate Zack Novak. While in OSU's case it's standard "you elbowed our dude" lingering bitterness, it seems like 75% of previews express some sort of distaste for the gritmaster. That as much as anything else is a tribute to his career. If he ever has a plaque somewhere in Crisler he should be bleeding profusely and it should read "booed at every arena in the Big Ten for obscure reasons."
Free throw non-perturbation. To me it didn't seem like Michigan had a case for many more than the zero free throws they acquired before 37 minutes were gone. Maybe two or three—Craft obviously got Burke's follow through on a three he made anyway—but not so many that it would have had even a slight impact on the game. There was just little way through for most of Michigan's players. It's not hard to not foul a guy like Douglass when you can just follow him to the hoop and block his shot.
Sullinger attention == board obliteration. Michigan did an excellent job of rotating to Sullinger but all that defensive attention unbalanced Michigan's defense and allowed various Buckeyes to hammer the boards. OSU rebounded nearly 50% of their misses, which was death. Not sure what was the cause of the sudden inability to get the damn ball. Let's check!
Culprits in order: Hardaway, Douglass, Smotrycz, Sullinger double, Morgan, McLimans. Well… crap, try to fix that. I can't even claim that the Sullinger doubling was a major factor. It was just guys getting pushed out of the way and out-athleted by a 6-4 dude. Guh.
Smotrycz hat tip. Those possessions when he was matched up against Sullinger could have gone much, much worse. Still not contributing much on offense except in spurts. The small-ball lineup seems very effective defensively but lacks a certain something on offense.
Slightly tougher half in the rearview? I'd say so. Michigan had five at home and four away in the first half and must invert that in the second, but you can call the MSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, and PSU and Northwestern games a wash since Michigan will flip home and road with all those opponents. So then you've got:
- DONE: Minnesota, Wisconsin, @ Iowa,
- TO COME: @ Nebraska, Illinois, @ Illinois
Minnesota and Illinois at home are a wash. @ Nebraska is easier, and I'm not sure whether I'd play Wisconsin at home or Illinois on the road. Kenpom says definitely Illinois but it's been a little gaga for Wisconsin's nonconference blowouts all year. Anyway, I said slight. This section has been excessively defensive.
Iowa State watch. The Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten boys took out Kansas, which serves as a big, tourney-bid-validating win as long as they perform as expected down the stretch.
[UPDATE: There is some dispute as to whether or not Henry has committed. Tom texted Henry, who said he hasn't committed yet and was looking to announce on Tuesday ($). Sam Webb, on the other hand, confirmed the commitment with Ted Ginn, Henry's head coach at Glenville. Sounds like Henry will end up at Michigan either way and there was some miscommunication between him and Ginn about the announcement, but I'll let you know if circumstances change.]
Sam Webb is reporting on Twitter that Glenville (OH) DT Willie Henry, who visited and got an offer over the weekend, has committed to Michigan. Henry becomes Michigan's 24th commit of the class of 2012 and projects to fill a spot at three-tech defensive tackle. The last Glenville product to join the Wolverines was another three-star defensive lineman, current DE Frank Clark—let's hope Henry is able to impress the coaches as much as Clark did last year.
|3*, #38 DT||3*, NR DT||3*, 75, #97 DT||3*, 83, #75 DT|
Coming from a high-profile program in Glenville, Henry has had his fair share of exposure, and all four services agree that he's a low-to-mid three-star prospect. The general consensus on his size is that he's in the area of 6'3", 270 pounds, so he'll have to put on some weight if he's going to land at defensive tackle.
He appears to have the frame to do just that, according to ESPN's evaluation ($):
Though Henry needs to keep developing his frame and add some more good mass he does possess good natural size and looks to carry more bulk than is listed. As a defensive tackle he flashes a good get-off, but can be inconsistent and while at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. When he can gain leverage he is a tough guy to move, but he seems to make things hard on himself at times. He looks to have a solid reach for his build, but needs to do a better job of bringing and using his hands to keep blockers from getting into his frame. When he is active with his hands he can battle and be tough to handle, but with a tendency to pop up and lead with the shoulder and lose his hands he can let blockers into him and can be pushed back. Demonstrates adequate ability to locate the ball though doing a better job of separating from blockers could help to find the ball better. Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills.
As is expected with a sleeper prospect like Henry, improving technique will be key if he is going to contribute down the road, and it sounds like he has a fair amount of work to do in that regard. This is when it's quite handy to have three defensive line coaches on the staff. Scout, who ranked Henry the highest out of any recruiting service, has a more positive take on his game. They list athleticism, foot quickness, and pass-rushing ability as his strengths, with size as his area for improvement. Allen Trieu likes Henry's athleticism and, in contrast to ESPN, praises his jump off the line:
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
Trieu evaluated Henry at the Columbus NIKE Football Training Camp last May, where he competed alongside the likes of Ondre Pipkins, Danny O'Brien, Mario Ojemudia, and Adolphus Washington, and said he "produced outstanding results in the 1-1s. He’s quick and agile, and used that to win every rep he took."
John McAllister of MSROhio notes that Henry spent his winters focused on basketball, which could help explain his solid athleticism and his need to add weight, and he echoes the praise for Henry's quickness:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
To sum it up, Henry fits the mold of a raw but talented D-line prospect: athletic, quick, and with a good frame, but in need of some serious coaching on technique.
Henry held offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisville, Marshall, Ohio, Pitt, Syracuse, and Toledo. Obviously, that's a lot of MACtion, but offers from the Illini, Pitt, and Syracuse stand out.
No stats were available through an initial Google-stalk. If you spot any, post them in the comments and I'll update the post.
FAKE 40 TIME
ScoutingOhio lists Henry with a 4.78 40-yard dash. That would be outstanding for an interior lineman, even one who played TE and DE in high school, so I'll give that four FAKEs out of five and hope I'm wrong.
Henry boasts a rather extensive, and impressive, senior highlight film:
These are only highlights, obviously, but he looks very quick off the ball.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As stated earlier, Henry should land at the three-tech at Michigan once he puts on some weight. It's always tough to project these sleeper recruits as anything more than useful depth for the squad, but Henry looks like a player who could contribute down the road as a situational pass-rusher—if he can keep his burst and quickness after adding 20-30 pounds, he could be a real handful for interior offensive linemen. With Ondre Pipkins slated to hold down the nose and command double-teams for the next four years, Henry could see a lot of single-blocking if he eventually sees the field, and he has the athleticism to take advantage. Given the need to add weight and refine his technique—as well as the strong class of defensive linemen already in the fold—it's safe to assume that Henry will redshirt and likely take at least a couple of years to crack the depth chart.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Henry's commitment leaves up to four open spots in the class of 2012, but at this point there aren't four obvious candidates to fill those spots. With Josh Garnett, Armani Reeves, Alex Kozan, and Sam Grant all committing elsewhere over the past week, only Jordan Diamond remains as a clear option to join the class. He announces on February 3rd, two days after signing day, so we'll see if any other surprises pop up in the interim. There are no huge needs remaining for the class (more on that tomorrow), though getting at least one more offensive lineman—Diamond, in all likelihood—would alleviate some depth concerns. Other potential positions to watch would be tight end, wide receiver, and cornerback, though as I said there are no current targets on the radar, at least when it comes to the recruiting services. We'll have to wait and see if the coaching staff has other plans or if they choose to pocket a couple scholarships for the 2013 class.
This could be going better. I was really thinking there'd be a Hello post yesterday. Instead, bupkis. Armani Reeves sticks with his buddy and Alex Kozan commits to Iowa. Michigan's 50-50 shots are coming up tails. With Sam Grant headed to Oklahoma, even their better than 50-50 shots are coming up tails.
Big deal? Somewhat. It's not a huge deal to downgrade from a 3/4 star type like Kozan to a sleeper three star like new DT hotness Willie Henry*. Losing Reeves and having Yuri Wright go off the board** because of various tweets about organisms (not those organisms) does leave corner a little dodgy, especially if you look at 5'8" Cass Tech corners skeptically these days. The depth chart looks fine there, though.
OL and TE not so much. Diamond is a huge priority now and if Chris Muller looks like he might shake free from Rutgers (survey says… probably not, but not out of the question) I would hop on that rather than vacate a bunch of scholarships. Michigan has five more slots and looks like they'll fill two or three from Henry/Diamond. Insert extreme confusion about Arnett situation here.
Along with Kozan, Iowa's getting guys from eight-man football who have commit posts begin…
That's Nate Meier, a running back/MLB who will either be Chad Greenway or a shiftless hobo in five years depending on which side of the ball he ends up on. The point: no one in the division is recruiting at Hoke's level and with a huge focus on getting character kids, eventually that's going to pay off.
*[Who is not the surprise I was talking about in an earlier post, FWIW. I think that is off the table now; not sure what changed but Henry certainly seems like a one for one drop in for mystery guy. Most likely scenario: they watched Henry's film just now and veered towards him over mystery guy.]
**[LEMON BET STATUS! since every post about Wright's situation ostentatiously mentions Michigan's withdrawal from his recruitment, it is void. The disbelief was that a player from NJ would choose to go to Colorado over Michigan; Wright basically had no choice.
Also: no, Yuri Wright did not get expelled for some frickin' tweets. That does not happen. Similarly, Michigan did not drop the kid for some frickin' tweets. Put the pieces together and you have something like Stonum. The relatively minor thing was the last straw. This is entirely speculation.]
Bye week hockey. Another chaotic weekend in college hockey saw Bowling Green win(!) and UMD come out of a weekend against Michigan Tech on the short end of things. Tech is now .500 on the year and 9-7-2 in the WCHA. Mel Pearson: I be like dang.
Anyway, when the dust cleared Michigan blipped down to seventh in the Pairwise and sixth in the CCHA, but it's not all that bad:
|Ohio State||10||7||5||1||36||22||1 1/3|
|Notre Dame||10||7||3||0||33||20||1 1/3|
|Lake Superior||9||9||4||4||35||22||1 2/3|
|8||Michigan State||8||9||3||2||29||20||2 2/3|
They are a point from a massive n-way tie for third. The schedule doesn't look that intimidating anymore, with series against #3, #8, #9, and 11, though of course there's little difference between 2-9 in the league.
What if we look at goal differential?
Michigan is #1 by a second ENG against OSU and faces #2, #7, #9, and #11. Suddenly things are manageable. After this weekend they'll be exceedingly so. Anything better than a split against Miami and they're rolling to the finish.
As for the Pairwise, pay no attention to the drop. Lowell, BC, and Ferris are ahead by RPI shavings. A collapsing OSU is ahead by a COP shaving. If Michigan plays like they deserve a one seed down the stretch they'll get it. The target number of wins to enter the CCHA playoffs as a top seed is six, which is very doable: sweep terrible BG and one other weekend, split the other two.
The only truly annoying comparison is versus CC, which overcomes a massive RPI gap by playing fewer TUCs (both teams are two games above .500) and beating Union instead of losing to them. Root against the Tigers from here on out.
Negative recruiting: not so much. Amara Darboh:
"A lot of the other coaches, when I would talk to them, they’d ask, 'What other schools you looking at?'" four-star Iowa receiver Amara Darboh said. "And then then they would talk badly about the schools, or bash where I just went.
"But, not Michigan. I don’t know why they didn’t, but I like that they didn’t, and it says a lot about them."
Wormley, Reeves, and Pipkins also vouch for that. And Darboh's guardian brings up Hoke's masterful self control during a key moment:
Dan Schaefer, legal guardian of Darboh, said he was highly skeptical of Michigan because of the failures of the Rich Rodriguez era and the instability of a coaching change. Two things changed his mind.
First, it was Hoke's measured handling of struggling punter Will Hagerup in the Ohio State game last season, which was Darboh's official visit.
"He wasn’t overreacting," Schaefer said. "Like, the punter missed the snap. But (Hoke) didn’t go over there and get in his business right away. I liked that. It gave me confidence he could handle Amara."
I was uttering every cussed cuss I knew and inventing six new ones as this went down. Mienke also has a story on Darboh's turbulent past. Turbulent as in "caught in a civil war."
'98 Wisconsin. Part of Michigan's recovery from that ugly 0-2 start ("Cross is boss! Cross is boss!"):
Via Wolverine Historian, obviously. You can also check out '83 Ohio State.
Well done, America. Texas hates Craig James:
Public Policy Polling just came out of the field with news that only 2 percent of Texas Republicans will vote for him for U.S. Senate. It's early yet, but if Republican political consultant Brian Mayes is correct, 2 percent is about where we should expect him to end up. In the interests of disclosure, I'm working for one of the Democrats in the race, and we aren't concerned with James in the slightest.
"I'm surprised it's that high," said Mayes. "If you ask the average Republican voter... he's remembered for the scandal at SMU and using his position at ESPN to get a wildly popular coach fired. He is by far one of the most hated men in West Texas."
"It's not that people in West Texas don't like him," said Mayes. "It's that nobody likes him."
The only downside to this is ESPN will rehire him on the Stephen A. Smith principle: ESPN hates us as much as America hates Craig James and knows we can't change the channel.
Let the looting begin. The NCAA has come to a fairly obvious realization in the aftermath of finding out there's an Indiana State:
Association President Mark Emmert said Sunday he'll appoint a working group to examine the issue, stressing it will focus on "the way in which Division I is organized for the purposes of making decisions" - and not on a competitive format that now groups football programs into bowl and lower-tier championship subdivisions.
IE, Indiana State shouldn't be able to say anything to anyone. Anonymous officials a bit later in the piece suggest Emmert is being coy in public and another split between football programs is at least going to be spitballed.
Anything that gets San Jose State out of I-A is fine by me, but it seems unlikely anything will come to fruition here. If it does, the break should be based on institutional support offered a football team. If it's over X, GTFO. Prediction: if there is a split, eventually those left behind from the current I-A will merge with FCS as it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the two lower divisions apart.
Success with… actually let's just scratch both. Penn State cuts freshman center Peter Alexis from its basketball team, effective at the end of the season. This is described as the result of a… "carefrontation." That is not a word.
Alexis appears to be a good student and has not gotten in any trouble. Two thirds of BSD voters say this is okay even if it was "purely based on his basketball ability."
This is what happens. Q: What is Molk talking about here?
"I don't like it; I don't care about it; it (ticks) me off," Molk said. "It just adds to my anger."
Also, Molk has to be Michigan's internet-era record holder for most bowdlerized quotes in the newspaper. This story alone has the above plus:
"Missing the Senior Bowl (stinks)."
And then Barwis gets in on it:
"It shows something to the NFL that the guy tore a tendon off a bone and played with a tendon off the bone, and he said, '(Forget) it, I'm going to dominate a game."
Etc.: The East side upper deck of Spartan Stadium is "kind of like 1980s Poland," says A Beautiful Day For Football, which I can vouch for since I've been in it three times. If it was just a holding pen for opposing fans it would make sense. It's not. How to tweet at recruits. I'm surprised Kenpom isn't sitting on top of something tall, screaming "COME AT ME BRO" about Wisconsin after the Badgers resurrected their season.
Bob Miller scouts U17 NTDP commits JT Compher, Tyler Motte, and Evan Allen plus fellow 2013 commit Michael Downing. TomVH gets Barwisized. Remember how Ohio State fans were outraged by oversigning? Never mind. Plague of non-caring students extends to MSU.
LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"
AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!
YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!
|WHAT||Michigan at North Korea DPR|
|WHERE||Value City Sellout Arena, Columbus, OH|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||OSU -17 (Kenpom)|
Hmmm. This isn't good. Ohio State is #1 in the Kenpom rankings and not far off with squishy hoo-man voters. Their tempo free individual stats are pretty terrifying.
At the top of the heap is post Jared Sullinger, who is…
- shooting 61% from 2 on 26% of OSU shots
- in the top 100 in eFG%
- getting to the line more than five times per game
- rebounding almost 30% of opponent misses, fourth nationally
- not turning the ball over much
- getting a good number of blocks and steals
/shakes fist at NBA lockout. Okay, right, obvious high lottery pick on the other team. Super. Good thing they don't have…
Oh, right, they do. Seconday scoring comes from senior William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas, both of whom absorb about as many of OSU's shots as Sullinger does. Thomas is actually better than Sullinger on twos (62%, 34% from 3) and almost as efficient overall; Buford has a been a little erratic but still bests Michigan's high usage players in ORtg. While Ohio State puts up very few threes (26%, 317th), if one is going up chances are its one of these two dudes launching it. Buford's hitting 39%. You can't leave these guys alone on the perimeter but neither are you asking for it, Diebler-style.
OSU plays four out, one in most of the time and Buford has to pick up a lot of the defensive rebounding; Thomas and Sullinger crash the boards on offense (along with Sullinger vacuuming up all those opponent misses).
The fourth guy on offense is PG Aaron Craft, a sophomore whose main role is setting up everyone else; his assist rate of 27 is the highest on the team amongst players who see a bunch of time. He doesn't shoot much but is efficient (53% on twos, high free throw rate) when he does. He can be prodded into the occasional three.
Where Craft thrives is on defense. He's by far the Big Ten's best at stealing the ball and his high-pressure defense starts opposing offenses in a hole even when he's not shooting down court for an easy bucket.
Past the big four it's a large array of young role-players. Guard Lenzelle Smith is the only other Buckeye to average over half of available minutes; he is an extremely low-usage player who rebounds, steals, and occasionally snipes from deep. Oddly, his FT% is exactly the same as his three-point percentage: 49%. Low sample size and all, but weird.
OSU only played three top 100 Kenpom teams in the nonconference schedule, beating #13 Florida by 7, crushing Duke by 22 in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and losing by 11 at Kansas in a game Jared Sullinger missed. They also beat SEC opponent South Carolina by eight; Not That USC also has losses against Elon and Tennessee State. So… yeah. Not good.
OSU's Big Ten schedule has been by far the easiest in the conference to date. Opponents are winning at a 39% clip in games not against Ohio State. The next softest schedules belong to Illinois and PSU at 45%; Michigan opponents are at 48%. This might make you feel a bit better if Ohio State hadn't annihilated all six of their victims. I mean, yeesh:
- Northwestern: W 87-54
- Nebraska: W 71-40
- @ Iowa: W 76-47
- Indiana: W 80-63
- @ Nebraska: W 79-45
- PSU: W 78-54
Their two losses in conference are by four at Indiana and by five at Illinois during the Chris Paul supernova; at home they are winning their Big Ten games by an average of 29 points.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||53.8 26||44.6 36||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 16||26.7 5||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||34.9 91||23.6 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||37.5 146||29.1 31||36.5|
Er. That adds up to the country's top defense, something you probably could have extrapolated from the Big Ten scores above, and the #14 offense. Other notable tempo free numbers are a high pace for the Big Ten and a huge quantity of twos launched.
Um, so, like… you can… No, probably not.
Maybe try to… Not likely, that.
If you move it like this and shake it like so and squint really hard? Still kind of seems like a ten point loss even then.
Drat. You said it.
Get insanely hot from three. Hey, maybe. If the random number generators fall right and a bunch of jacked-up three-pointers are dropping, Michigan can stay in contact. Michigan kept it close in a four-point loss at Crisler last year by going 11 of 24 from deep.
Convince Big Ten refs to put two early fouls on Sullinger in a home game. That's the ticket! While you're at it, I would like three on Buford and a pony. A pony made of lemon ice cream.
Make Tim Hardaway a superior defender. THE State University of South of Michigan's two primary non-Sullinger scorers are 6'6" and 6'7" athletes. Stu Douglass will draw one, leaving the other to either Novak or Hardaway. Neither of those seem like a good matchup, but Hardaway is a match for either in terms of length and jumping. Zack "I'm not a very good athlete" Novak may end up repeatedly bashing one in the head until he's ejected.
Unfortunately, Hardaway's athleticism hasn't made him a good defender so far in his career. If he doesn't get lit up 1) I'll be surprised and 2) Michigan will be a lot closer to winning.
Maybe zone? The closest thing to an Achilles heel OSU has is their outside shooting. If a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone can cut off supply to Sullinger and befuddle Thomas, I'll take the tradeoff given OSU's blistering shooting inside. Luke Winn's latest power rankings* (which are excessively bullish on Michigan) reveal a surprising fact:
This year's Wolverines are heavily man-to-man, though, playing 87.9 percent of their possessions in man according to Synergy.
What's curious is that, in a small sample, Michigan's defense has been much better this year in zone, holding opponents to 0.667 PPP using a combination of 2-3 and 1-3-1, as opposed to 0.856 PPP in man. Beilein seems to be employing the zones as a very effective changeup, in groups of just a few possessions at a time.
If you had asked me about that I would have assumed those numbers were reversed because it seems like going to the 1-3-1 ends up in a dunk or an uncontested corner three most of the time.
They aren't, though, and if Michigan can't match up on OSU's main perimeter scorers maybe they should pack the post with a zone and live and die by OSU three point shooting. This might be the ticket according to Eleven Warriors:
The mixed bag of Buford’s inconsistency to date and the lack of a consistent three point threat to complement Buford on the perimeter and give Sullinger and Thomas more room to operate will most likely be to blame if the Buckeyes fall short of the Final Four.
*[Which also contain a factoid that reinforces my dislike for those long Hardaway two pointers via the lens of Michigan State:
As a team, 26.2 percent of Michigan State's jumpers fell into the Long Two category, and the team converted them at a clip of just 0.682 PPP. This wasn't the only reason the Spartans' offense ranked 62nd in the country in 2010-11, but it was part of it.
This season, the Spartans are being much smarter about their jump-shot selection: Just 17.3 percent of their jumpers are Long Twos. Their two-point field goal percentage has jumped from 46.7 percent last season to 52.9 percent now, and their offense ranks ninth nationally in efficiency.
Death to the long two.]
Watch your pockets, Trey Burke. Maybe get a fanny pack or something for your passport. Burke had one of his poorer performances of the year against lightning-quick Lewis Jackson last time out and now faces a guy who inverts the danger to defense. Free transition buckets are not points Michigan can afford to give up at OSU, and getting into the offense efficiently will be required if Michigan's also-very-good two point shooting is going to keep pace.
Beast up, Morgan. Morgan has been a critical component of Michigan's offense in spurts against Arkansas and Purdue. Unfortunately, he has struggled against Sullinger, averaging just over five points in three meetings last year and getting destroyed on the boards. Sullinger had thirteen offensive rebounds in Michigan games last year to Morgan's three.
Closing that performance gap somewhat is feasible.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
OSU by double digits. It seems like there's going to be a horrible run by OSU at some point, whether it's the first five minutes or ten minutes into the second half.
In case you missed the announcement on Tuesday, recruiting roundup posts are now a twice-a-week affair. Today, Josh Garnett's commitment to Stanford is discussed, as are updates on the status of the remaining 2012 targets and new offers to members of the class of 2013.
Garnett to Stanford (Sad Trombone)
As I'm sure you are well aware of if you're the type to be reading this post, blue-chip OL Josh Garnett chose Stanford over Michigan last night. Beyond losing out on a potential All-American guard, this isn't a huge blow to Michigan's recruiting class—the team is still in good shape with Jordan Diamond and Alex Kozan, for starters—but it's disappointing nonetheless. I asked the Twitter world last night if any Stanford bloggers would like a detailed commitment post, and the general response was, "LOL Stanford football bloggers?" which, like, good point.
How will Garnett's decision impact Michigan? Well, the Wolverines can still fill a spot along the interior of the line if Kozan goes blue when he announces on Sunday ($, info in header). Kozan has narrowed his choices to Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn—I've said this before, but Kozan might actually be the most important recruit left on the board, as he's the only lineman among M's commits and targets who projects to center, where the Wolverines have major depth issues. Kozan hasn't given any indication about holding a favorite, so we'll just have to wait and see who he chooses.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce on February 3rd, and the big tackle has reportedly cut down his choices to three schools, one of which is Auburn ($), but he won't reveal the other two at the moment. It appears that Ohio State is out of the picture, and a Brian-approved insider posted on the MGoBoard yesterday that Diamond is really down to Michigan and Arkansas. His recruitment has taken so many twists and turns that I won't bother to throw out a guess.
One other O-lineman has entered the picture in Rutgers commit Chris Muller, a four-star tackle who holds a Wolverine offer. According to Rivals national analyst Mike Farrell, Muller was contacted by Michigan—along with several other schools—yesterday in the wake of the breaking news that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had taken the head coaching job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We'll see if Muller's reported interest culminates in a visit.
Armani Reeves Update; Sam Grant Non-Update
Sam Webb caught up with Armani Reeves's godfather, Brent Williams (father of best friend and Ohio State commit Camren Williams), for a two-part interview last night. In part one ($) Williams discussed the in-home visits of Brady Hoke, Curt Mallory, and Greg Mattison—they went well—and debunked the rumor that Urban Meyer showed up late for OSU's in-home visit. He also soundly denies that Reeves and Camren Williams are a package deal, which is obviously good news for Michigan. Part two ($) has the most relevant info, as Sam asked Williams about a a possible decision date for Reeves:
Brent Williams: “Well, I’m not saying that there’s a date. I would say he’s going to have some time… a lot of time… this weekend to think it through. He has a pretty good game on Friday. After that I think he’ll have Saturday and Sunday to kind of think things through. We’ll sit down over the weekend and kind of talk about the pros and cons of both situations and go from there. We’re not doing a hat; we’re not doing a press conference. Call the coach, and tell him you’re coming… then call the other coach, and tell him you’re not. It’s pretty simple. At this point the whole mystery behind pulling hats and whatever tricks you got… we’re just not really focused on that. We’re just trying to find the right school that is going to help him going forward.”
It sounds like we're unlikely to hear about a decision until Sunday at the earliest and the process could possibly stretch into next week. Every indication is that Reeves is still undecided.
As for Michigan's other prominent target, tight end Sam Grant, he was visited at home by Brady Hoke last night, but there hasn't been any word about a possible commitment. The consensus is that Michigan leads, however, and we could hear his final decision at any time—Grant has talked about wrapping up his recruitment quickly since December, but new offers threw a wrench into those plans. Now that he's got everything laid out in front of him, I don't think we'll have to wait too long for an announcement.
Chris Wormley's Interesting Choice in Pre-Game Music
Tremendous caught up with Chris Wormley this week to talk about his recruitment as well as his pre-game ritual. The latter line of questioning is where things got interesting:
Tremendous: So before you get on the field, who are you listening to in order to get you amped up?
Chris: Usually Lil' Wayne, Drake or Adele.
Tremendous: One of those is not like the other.
Chris (laughs): I like listening to Adele. She calms me down. People laugh when I say that I listen to her.
Tremendous: How does it pump you up though? It's Adele!
Chris: With Adele, I just like listening to her because she sounds good. It doesn't really pump me up or calm me down.
Tremendous: I like Lady Gaga, Chris. It's alright.
Chris: Eh, she's a little weird for me.
Tremendous: Thanks dude.
I don't mind Adele, so I can't hate. Lady Gaga, well, I'll just leave that one alone. I'll also save you the rant about how current popular hip hop is a steaming pile of hot garbage. ANYWAYS, Tremendous also interviewed Mario Ojemudia, who's already starting the trash talk about the Michigan-MSU rivalry:
Tremendous: I asked Devin [Funchess] the same thing: What's it going to be like to play against [MSU commit and high school teammate] Aaron [Burbridge] for four years?
Mario: It would have been nice to play together, but I always figured we'd end up at different schools. It's going to be fun beating him for four years though.
Well played, Mario.
Quickly: The Detroit News profiled Ben Braden in their ongoing Blue Chip series, but it's a rehashing of the "hey, this big guy played hockey in high school" story that's already been beaten into the ground months before he's even on campus.
247Sports released their Class of 2013 All-American team, and it's littered with Michigan targets. The Wolverines have offered or shown strong interest in RB Ty Isaac, WR James Quick, WR MarQuez North, TE Adam Breneman, OL Laremy Tunsil, OL Steven Elmer (ND commit), OL Ethan Pocic, OL Jake Raulerson, DE Jonathan Allen, LB Su'a Cravens, LB E.J. Levenberry, and ATH Jalin Marshall.
Running through news on the current juniors, there are a couple of new offers to report: Wexford (PA) North Allegheny OL Patrick Kugler ($, info in header), a four-star to 24/7, and Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen ($, info in header). Michigan is offering a ton of receivers in the junior class—it's clear that getting a couple big-time playmakers at the position is a huge priority.
Quickly: Michigan also appears close to offering four-star Washington D.C. lineman Derwin Gray ($, info in header); Avon (OH) cornerback Ross Douglas will take an unofficial visit on February 3rd ($, info in header)—he believes he's close to an offer, as well; Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights DE/DT/OT Donovan Munger is in regular contact with Greg Mattison, and he would favor Michigan and Ohio State if he was offered ($); Magnus scouts Wheaton (IL) St. Francis OL Kyle Bosch, one of Michigan's top targets along the offensive line.