Trey Burke doesn't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. If he doesn't win national player of the year, it'll be an upset. NBA types are scrambling over each other to draft him in the top ten despite his lack of stature. He picked up the baton left by Darius Morris and jammed Michigan forward into its first Sweet 16 in almost 20 years. (Turnovers be damned!) As a freshman he was the best player on a team that broke an even longer Big Ten title drought. Trey Burke must find internal motivation these days; haterz are thin on the ground.
If Michigan goes out against shot-swatting Jeff Withey and his band of athletic freaks, oh well. Vegas has figured it and pegs the Jayhawks as favorites; Kenpom has Michigan by one, basically a pick 'em. If Michigan's run ends here that won't reflect poorly on Burke. Like Denard Robinson, Burke's done all he can do in this town.
Unlike Denard, all of his limbs are still working, and if things break right mosaic artists in southeast Michigan are going to be living large for a while. With the potential for a tourney upset past, Burke's at the same point Shawn Hunwick was last year when his .932 save percentage saw Michigan into the hockey tourney as a top seed. The options now are: great or the greatest.
As always, merely great is the heavy favorite. The gauntlet Michigan has to run reads something like Kansas-Florida-Syracuse-Louisville. We are entering the Super Meat Boy Warp Zone portion of the tourney.
Michigan, unfortunately, cannot respawn.
I don't think these things weigh on Burke. When you can remember the one blistering sequence at Ohio State where Burke was rattled and a detriment—remember the gravity-shift terror of the new universe you found yourself in—that says more about his base state of being than any step-back jumper you care to name. There's a tag on this here blog about it. Trey Burke is more of an emoticon than any other point guard I've experienced, and it's this one:
He does things that make pinwheels explode from Mitch McGary's head with the laconic coolness of Death harvesting a plague-ridden city. Also my head, Mitch McGary being a low bar to clear in the realm of cranial pinwheel explosions*. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if he turned out to be a robot.
He's got a tough job tonight. Kansas runs out a pile of swarming, long, experienced athletes. If you get past the first guy, this guy lurks:
Even though Burke should get 20 minutes against 5'11" Naadir Tharpe nothing's coming easy. Michigan needs Trey Burke to make it look like it, though, to glide to that spot on the baseline he takes his leaner from, to toss his hot-potato floater over Withey's outstretched fingers, to pull up at the top of the key and fire in a three, to push any sliver of a fast break.
One game doesn't define a player, especially one who'll be running an NBA team for the next decade. Burke's just adding exclamation points after his name at this juncture. We're about to hit the exponential part of the curve, though.
x = games into tourney; y = burke apotheosis points
My preferred Burke exclamation point count comes with scientific notation. Screw Mudville, let's do this.
*[OH MY GOD HUMMUS IS 50 CENTS OFF /does cartwheels into banana display]
Today's recruiting roundup covers today's spring practice visitors, new 2014 offers, and updates on several top targets.
Michael Ferns, Rebel With A Cause
Michael Ferns: star high school football player, Michigan commit, GameBoy aficionado, leader of the air traveler resistance movement.
No flight attendant, I'm not turning my gameboy off. You can't stop this Pokemon master.
— Michael Ferns (@M_Ferns10) March 28, 2013
Also, wearer of silly hats.
Spring Practice Visitors
Michigan is hosting several recruits for today's spring practice. Here's a list of the top targets on campus today, culled from several outlets:
- TN OT Alex Bars — The four-star younger brother of U-M OL Blake Bars is one of the early favorites to fill a spot in this class, though a decision is not imminent.
- MI CB Jalen Embry — The Detroit King product does not hold an offer and probably won't get a chance to until he camps at Michigan this summer. If he earns one, however, the Wolverines are the likely favorite to land him.
- MI DE Malik McDowell — McDowell is still largely quiet about his recruitment, with the early consensus that it'll come down to Michigan and Notre Dame not really changing yet. Though I don't expect his recruitment to end any time soon, another trip to Ann Arbor can't hurt Michigan's standing.
- MI WR Maurice Ways — Detroit Country Day's Ways, much like Embry, is an intriguing in-state prospect who could earn bigger offers (including Michigan) down the road with a strong summer.
- 2015 RB Mike Weber, 2015 DE Joshua Alabi, 2015 QB Jayru Campbell — The Cass Tech rising junior contingent will once again make their way to campus. Weber and Alabi hold offers and regard Michigan among their leaders; Campbell, as a quarterback, will have to wait until the coaches get around to narrowing down their 2015 prospects at the position.
Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall was expected to be on campus today, but according to 247's Clint Brewster he was unable to make the trip.
[After THE JUMP, updates on new offers, some big-time potential visitors, and more.]
The preview went up Wednesday, but those are always so opponent focused that I didn't get around to mentioning a couple of things about how Michigan might approach this game. Those are:
Could we see the 1-3-1? [@ right from a post back in 2007 explaining the defense under the assumption Beilein was going to actually run it.]
The setup is tempting. Kansas struggles with turnovers and has no real point guard. Meanwhile the payoff for an open-court turnover is higher than normal with the #1 eFG defense in the country awaiting half-court sets.
Downsides: Kansas is tall so passing over the zone will be easier. Ben McLemore and Travis Releford are 40%+ three-point shooters.
Upsides to the downsides: Releford has just 94 attempts on the year and McLemore has been struggling extensively of late. The other three-point shooters on the team are meh. Plus, if you believe that stuff, dome.
It would be a shock if Michigan didn't try to play it straight up to start. If they're getting torn up, or if McGary gets in foul trouble, I'd be surprised if Beilein didn't see if it discombobulated the Jayhawks. Michigan rescued their game against Pitt earlier in the year with this season's most extensive 1-3-1 deployment. Pitt also featured a high-TO point guard, an offense prone to clunkiness, and a two-post lineup that made life tough on half-court offense. Kansas is a version of Pitt with strengths and weakness that generally argue even more strongly for a high-risk, high-reward defense, save the prospect of getting bombed on corner threes.
Speaking of believing in the dome effect. FWIW, poster stopthewnba took a look at the last five tournaments and found that scoring has dipped at basketball sites during the second week of the tourney and increased at domes. Caveat: analysis is not tempo-free.
Meanwhile, players were asked and seemed to think there was something to it:
"There's so much space behind the basket, and we're not really used to that," said freshman sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, who has never played in a dome. "But that was the whole point of today -- just get some shots up, and get a feel for the arena. We got adjusted to it. I think we'll be all right.
"I felt good by the end of the practice."
That might be something of an anti-placebo effect at this point. More alarmingly, GRIII said the rims were tight.
Whatever happens, we know that 1) if Kansas shoots well, their Georgia Dome game will be credited and if 2) Michigan shoots well their familiarity with raised courts (thanks to Minnesota's Williams Arena) will be credited.
Nik Stauskas: just take what they give you and live with a crappy outing. This is a terrible matchup for Stauskas, who is good behind the line and at the rim and turrible at jumpers inside the line. He's hitting at a 32% clip, better than only Caris Levert. I'm sure he'll get some looks from three, which he should just take. If those go down everyone's happy. If not, oh well.
GRIII versus Kevin Young. Young is tall but skinny, an excellent rebounder on both ends and middling offensive contributor. Meanwhile, GRIII functions well in lob-recipient and putback roles while dabbling in wide open corner threes. I'm concerned Michigan gets little from Robinson against an outstanding defense that won't be sagging much and Young carves up the sometimes indifferent rebounding output GRIII provides.
In that case, hello Jordan Morgan. Morgan has the size to D-up Young, and box him out. I would not be surprised if Michigan went with two posts for large chunks of this game. That seems like a better substitution than inserting Caris Levert (who has been as iffy as Stauskas on jumpers). I wonder if Beilein has the flexibility to run Morgan out there for 20 minutes at the 4, assuming the first five go well.
I also won't complain about not fouling enough in this one. A consistent complaint about Michigan's defense in this space is that they don't push the envelope enough and occasionally pick up fouls doing so. If there's anything this basketball season has taught it's that a defender can do damn near anything they want to a shooter as long as they don't use their arms, whether that's bumping from behind or undercutting or running your chest into the lower body of a jumpshooter. How terrible this makes everything and how this is the basis for Wisconsin's success is a conversation for another post.
This one is on about how Kansas is a very good free throw shooting team and avoiding a few points on the line here and there might make the difference. Only Young is bad, and he's at 60%. Tharpe and McLemore near 90%, Releford and Johnson aren't far off 80%, and Withey is at 71%. Meanwhile, Kansas is pretty bad at a shooting twos. Token contests are the order of the day here. If guys get to the rim you have to contest and live with the results, I guess.
"It's a very, very, very aggressive style of rap -- he yells when he raps, just like if he's on the court screaming after a rebound," Robinson said. "It's kind of like Rick Ross, a little bit. He tries to make his voice really deep, and yells while he does it. Cracks us up every time, because he actually thinks he's good, I think."
Bacari isn't having it, though:
"The only thing Mitch McGary can rap is gifts on Christmas," assistant coach Bacari Alexander quipped. "In his mind, he's a poor man's version of Jay-Z. He thinks he has a little Rick Ross in him.
"At the end of the day, I don't think he's even on the level of even Heavy D."
Please Bacari don't hurt 'em.
The MLive guys valiantly try to reverse the media jinx. Kansas says the prospect of playing Trey Burke makes them wee their pants in fear. Jimmy King has given them a pep talk. Morgan will be needed. Wojo. Wetzel goes and brings up Rumeal Robinson watching from prison.
- Jake Ryan had his surgery on Thursday.
- "No update" on Will Hagerup's suspension.
“We’re going to get after it pretty good tomorrow. I thought we had a good practice. I think it was practice eight. I think we’ve done a nice job of competing. I think a lot of the young guys are really doing a good job in the competition area and also how they’re grasping the things that we’re doing offensively and defensively.”
Has Jake Ryan had surgery yet?
Do you have any sense of his recovery timeline is?
“No. I think everybody’s different, so I think -- nine months, 12 months some people say. Some people say six to nine. I think it just depends on the individual.”
(pic via Dawg Day Afternoon; need help finding the artist)
This week I saw a photo of Jerryworld with its floor removed in preparation for 2013 tourney games, and I was reminded of the horrific things that must be buried in that dirt: the blood from a terrible Indian battle, bits and pieces of Woodson's collarbone (Superbowl XLV) and Denard Robinson's shoulder dislodged by Dee Milliner, perhaps the remains of five hookers.
Among various banners this basketball team has been asked to carry, one is a flag of redemption for Michigan's other sports. Given the site and the stage, sure why not the Alabama game too? The last trip to the Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington parking lot from hell dismantled every shred of hope and excitement for the last year of Denard. Now another former Big Ten coach who moved South and built a pro factory of mauling blue chips could end our association with Burke. ClearEyesFullHart starts with Bill Self's Illinois teams to preview tonight's Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas.
If this trip doesn't work, there may be an opportunity in 2015.
Excelius in'dome'ine. Say hello to stopthewnba, who received a points advance so he could post another attempt to get all statistical about the "domes hurt shooting" meme. This is of course super-relevant to Michigan in Jerryworld tonight since we're very much the shootier squad. The data haven't gotten any larger, however there's knowledge gained:
In four of the past five seasons, among Sweet Sixteen teams, one of the top two teams that increase their scoring average in the tournament over their regular season average made the Final Four. Similarly interesting is that in four of the past five seasons, one of the bottom two teams who score LESS in the tournament than their regular season average also made the Final Four:
I think I found the sampling bias in that: the further you go in the tournament the tougher defenses you will happen upon. The teams who score way above their normal rates those who "got hot" and they of course will go further, but good teams who are playing at the same level they did all year should see their scoring rate dip both due to the improved quality of defenses, and the fact that defenders are more rested thanks to all the advertising breaks. What sold this diary to me was the Excel sheet he attached, which gives me an opportunity to try out my new embedding plug-in:
That work? Sweet.
Pipkins Dominates the Michigan Drill. This was on the boards but it' the diary of the week, easy. Michael Scarn took the "Michigan Drill" I referenced last week and broke down how Ondre Pipkins did it right. The drill heavily favors the offense: a defender has to beat a blocker and contact the runner. A snippet:
As he makes contact with Bosch, Pipkins has already driven off his right foot as well, generating more power and force into Bosch. His hands have shot inside very quickly and, as we'll see, will allow him to control Bosch.
When I watched this earlier I didn't want to over-emphasize because I thought Bosch probably true freshman'd something. He did, but Pipkins was able to use his technique mastery to take advantage of that. Read this if you want to know what Hoke is talking about when he gets defensive liney.
Goal by goal. Relive the wonderful Saturday and ultimately disheartening conclusion to hockey's last-ditch CCHA run via your last goal-by-goal analysis until probably sometime next year (hopefully MGoBlueline will start in November). Lost with the championship game was the glory of the semifinal against Miami (NTM), which itself can be a pleasant memory to keep from an otherwise unpleasant season.
You should hold a hat ceremony too! I gave The Michigan Men's Football Experience the recruiting profile treatment:
If you are participating I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to mock the recruiting system as well.
Etc. LSAClassof2000 calculated the chances of various matchups occurring in this tourney, and you can follow the charts as games get decided; Ohio State's victory last night raised the likelihood of Michigan facing them in a championship to…I can't tell but it's like 5% or something. Sweet 16 Wallpaper by jonvalk. Blockhams uses a semicolon incorrectly.
[The Best of the Board, after the jump]