"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
In defense of 2015 [Fuller]
Ace: There's no question this basketball season was a strange one. Michigan headed in with many question marks but high expectations, started off the season with a couple quality wins and a very competitive game against one-seed Villanova, went on to lose head-scratchers against NJIT and EMU before getting run off the court by Arizona, lost their two best players to injury, and then saw flashes of great promise from several players that didn't necessarily show up in the team's final record.
Let's try to make some sense of this. What about this season would you consider a success, what was a failure, and how did it affect your expectations for the program moving forward?
Adam Schnepp: I've placed my hands on the keyboard and taken them off three times before I typed this, but not making the NCAA tournament is a failure. I'm hesitant because of the stark negative connotation of the word "failure."
|Anything that leads to more Dakich isn't so much "failure" as "awesomesauce with an oh darn." [Fuller]|
This is a failure that happened because of course it did. As the hockey guy I'm used to watching the type of failure where you have a team loaded with talent that underperforms and shoots itself in the foot until there's nothing left. Nothing. Not even, like, a bloody remnant that doctors could reconstruct. Just, poof, gone. This is a completely different kind of failure, a failure in which there are explanations (NBA attrition, injuries that led to a lineup Tom Izzo would find weird) that make sense and extend beyond "this is just what we do now."
Dave Nasternak: Michigan Basketball isn't in the same place that it was seven years ago (one huge mess, but with John Beilein). Its not even in the same place that it was 3 years ago (bummed about a tournament upset but only a round or two away from its ceiling). After seeing the faces of the players and coaches in that hotel in Atlanta two Aprils ago, this program expects to succeed at the highest level. National Championships, Final Fours, Sweet Sixteens, NCAA Tournament games, Big Ten Championships (regular season and tournament) are all accomplishments that this program expects to be competing for every year.
And that's the right answer. As Michigan players/staff/alumni/fans/constituents... that's why we are connected with this University. Now, we don't consistently get the freshmen that Kentucky and Duke get every year, so some of these goals will be a little too lofty from time to time. But I am willing to bet that if you asked people in and around the program if they were supremely disappointed with not obtaining some (most, all) of these goals, they would not only verbally say that they were, but that you would also be able to see it on their faces. That's just what the Michigan Basketball program has achieved.
[after the jump: no more dancing. Around the question I mean. Lots of the other dancing (not That dancing)]
Isaac tried to avoid the no-pads thing last year without success. Future Isaacs won't wonder about immediate eligibility, because the answer will be "nope." [Bryan Fuller]
I must be the only person on earth paying attention to @umichcompliance. This is normally evidence that the rest of you are sane and hearty individuals, but yesterday they posted what looks like relatively big news nobody else has mentioned yet:
Beginning fall 2015, 4-4 undergrad transfers may no longer use a NCAA waiver to be immediately eligible http://t.co/yPrPY4OmzQ
— Michigan Compliance (@umichcompliance) March 17, 2015
You may remember transfer waivers being a big thing during the Ty Isaac transfer saga. It was thought that Michigan might lose out on him since they were not within the 200-mile radius of Isaac's house the NCAA required for a hardship transfer. He decided on Michigan anyway, applied for his waiver, and was denied.
Why make the change? In recent years more and more players had been trying to get transfer waivers for increasingly dubious reasons. It was getting ridiculous, and threatened to create more of an open market for transfers than there was before. (You may think that's a good idea; the NCAA does not.)
Instead the NCAA will offer a one-year extension of the five year clock* in circumstances that warrant it. IE: if you've already redshirted you can make a hardship transfer without losing a year of competition. This wouldn't have affected Isaac but would remove a barrier to other athletes without the incentive of immediate eligibility.
Patrick Barron / MGoBlog
These will be my general thoughts from the Big Ten Tournament. I’ll delve into the season at-large some other time.
It was apparent for some time that Michigan would be locked into the 8 / 9 game in the Big Ten Tournament, meaning that we knew for weeks that any theoretical BTT run would have to go through a rested Wisconsin team in the Friday noon slot. Unfortunately, the most suboptimal path to the conference semifinal came to fruition: beat Illinois and then beat Wisconsin. Ken Pomeroy’s numbers gave us about a 2% chance of doing that.
For that reason, the Big Ten Tournament was not a disappointment – not by any means. Michigan destroyed Illinois and its feeble NCAA Tournament hopes before acquitting themselves well in a loss against Bo Ryan’s Big Bad Badgers. 1-1 wasn’t enough to get Michigan into the NIT – which was a mild disappointment, if only because we want to see more of this Michigan team. Seriously: after Beilein’s last underachieving squad – the mightily frustrating 2009-2010 Manny / Deshawn team – didn’t get an invite to the NIT, it felt like a mercy kill of sorts. Now, we just wish we could continue to see this team develop and gel.
The Illinois game was a huge reason for this. Exactly a month after squandering a late seven point lead in Champaign to get blown out in overtime, Michigan was awarded a rematch with the Illini and, well, the Wolverines beat their asses. Illinois erased a 14-2 run from Michigan to open the game and eventually took a 19-17 lead, but Michigan went on an extended 27-4 run into the second half to run the Illini right out of the United Center. To be fair, Illinois played a ghastly game, replete with bonehead turnovers and impressively errant shooting, but Michigan played objectively its best game of the season Thursday in Chicago.
Some player bullets from that game:
Aubrey Dawkins tallied an efficient 18 points and was Kenpom’s player of the game; over the Northwestern, Rutgers, and Illinois games near the end of the season, Dawkins combined for 70 points. 70! Even though his shot wasn’t as lethal as it had been against the Illini, he shot 6-7 from inside the arc, including this Glenn Robinsonesque alley-oop from
Zak Irvin, who is truly not-just-a-shooter anymore. He wasn’t all that effective from the field against Illinois, but he tallied a career-high six assists and was an excellent distributor throughout. It wasn’t just a great game passing the ball from a former offensive black hole, it was just a great game passing the ball, period. His shot’s still not right but Zak’s emergence in the pick-and-roll as a complete player was one of Michigan’s biggest storylines moving forward down the stretch.
Spike “Nash” Albrecht, who now is and should be considered legitimately good, hit two big threes and had this wonderful assist to a cutting Dawkins. It was probably Michigan’s best highlight of the year, an artifact of Michigan’s beautiful, high-flying offense from the past few seasons.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was awesome as well – it was the first game where he and Dawkins combined to play well. Mo put up a line of 15-8-2 and that doesn’t seem like it tells the whole story; he drove the ball with reckless abandon and finished pretty well. It’s not often you see a freshman guard routinely barreling into the chest of a long senior shot-blocker (Nnanna Egwu) with such confidence and scoring tough layups.
Max Bielfeldt threw ten points up on the board. Thanks, Max.
Every time Dawkins made a nice basket cut, or Irvin threw a pin-point pass, or Rahkman challenged Illinois at the rim, I had this little tune ringing through my head:
Michigan was finally evolving and showing its true potential after all that time. Dawkins and Rahkman showed what they were capable of in combining for 33 points (which, when you really think about that, speaks volumes to Beilein’s ability to identify talent in the wake of unexpected NBA departures); Irvin was showing off the type of individual brilliance that will work excellently in a complementary role next season; Ricky Doyle didn’t play much against Illinois but looked great at times against Wisconsin; Kam Chatman even did a few nice things; and Spike Albrecht showed – as he did ever since Walton’s injury – that he’s a very useful college player and not just a quirky little stat from a national title game a few years ago.
After the game, I posted something that gained a ton of traction on Twitter: the scholarship offers of Michigan’s starting five in that Illinois game (which combined for 65 points and routed a pretty solid team)
- Albrecht: Appalachian State
- Abdur-Rahkman: George Mason, Bucknell, Harvard
- Zak Irvin: [was a highly-touted recruit, had plenty of good offers]
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dayton, Northeastern, College of Charleston
- Max Bielfeldt: Illinois*, Western Michigan, Ball State
*Should be noted that Bielfeldt’s family donates a crapton of money to Illinois’s AD.
Michigan would have these guys, if not for variably expected early entry or injury: Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton. Beilein was left with the lineup above and did as reasonably well as anybody could have expected with it.
The Wisconsin game was a seemingly preordained loss, but Michigan made a very good game of it. From neutral observer Kevin Trahan afterwards:
Friday night Michigan lost to Wisconsin 71-60 in Chicago, in a basketball game that will likely never be noted for its historical relevance. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country, while Michigan might be able to sneak into the NIT, so this outcome was to be expected.
But this was no cakewalk for Wisconsin like it should have been. Michigan had the lead for much of the first half, and the Wolverines tied the game with five minutes left. Eventually, the Badgers' talent won out, but this game was brought up a situation that I've found myself noticing a lot this year: There was no way in hell Michigan should have been in that game.
Spike led the charge with 10 early points (but finished with just ten); Rahkman and Dawkins took a big step back and only combined for 13 points. Still, Zak Irvin played a phenomenal game and carried the Wolverines – 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against a one-seed is the Zak Irvin we could have only hoped for, even at the beginning of the season before the well-documented sophomore slump. Trahan wrote that Ricky Doyle “out-played Frank Kaminsky for a spell” which seems unfathomable – but correct.
Michigan played Wisconsin even for 35 minutes in Chicago, and though the Badgers’ impressive work on the offensive glass eventually ended the Wolverines’ season, it was still an indicator of positive things to come. This, to me, is the biggest story: over the two games in the Big Ten Tournament, Zak Irvin combined for 35 points, 17 rebounds, 9 assists (to just 4 turnovers) and 4 steals. The light finally came on for him and I’m miffed at the lack of NIT invite, maybe if only because I want to see how much more Zak can do. He faced a ton of criticism this year and, with his performances in Chicago, answered the questions about his game and quieted those asking them.
In addition, Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman showed positive signs of being program cornerstones – a wing and a guard, both capable of becoming solidly above-average Big Ten contributors for multiple seasons. If Dawkins learns to play defense, the sky’s the limit; Rahkman might be forever underrated because of his style – not as many threes, more tough, workmanlike defense. Ricky Doyle was sick for most of the end of the season, but he showed good things against Wisconsin – Michigan’s questions at the center position won’t carry over to next year, I’m thinking.
In the end, this was somewhat of a lost season, but only the true pessimists can’t see some silver linings from the last several games of the season. Michigan’s evolving, slowly but surely, and after some time in the chrysalis, the Wolverines will be back to being Big Ten contenders.
News bullets and other items:
- This is not a drill: the spring game won’t be a punting competition. In Baxter’s words, “We won’t kick at all in the spring game [except] maybe field goals or something.”
- Kickers and punters are kicking into nets; kickers haven’t kicked at uprights yet. Baxter is breaking down their mechanics and rebuilding and doesn’t want them worried about results yet.
- If the list he showed us is any indication then anyone who wants to compete at kick or punt returner should get a chance. Baxter had 14 guys try returning kicks yesterday.
- Baxter didn’t go on any recruiting trips. Harbaugh instead opted for him to stay in Ann Arbor and start installing his Academic Gameplan.
What's the good news?
"There's a lot of good news. We get paid to coach a kids' game. We wear the clothes to work that you'd wear to cut the lawn, and we get paid really good to have a lot of fun so good every day."
MGoQuestion: Maurice Hurst tweeted yesterday that he's taking 18 credits and that you're helping him with that. What can you do to help someone who's taking that many credits plus has the time demands of football?
"Well, one of the things that's been kind of the subject and topic of my life's work is helping young people be effective students, so I'm not only helping him I'm helping all these guys. But that's been Coach Harbaugh's mantra since we got here is we have student athletes, okay? And it's one thing to say you have student-athletes and it's another thing to live it, so when we got off the airplane he had me install the Academic Gameplan.
“We got off the plane on- I believe it was whatever day January 8 was, but we started that Monday at 6:15 and we met every night, and he left me home all the way through recruiting. I never went out. I was here every night with our players and we installed our Academic Gameplan system, of what we call the Champions Program, and we begin laying the foundations of being effective students.
“One of the things that I've learned over time is never sell yourself short as a teacher. If we can get guys to know all the complexities of our defense and our offense and our pass protections and all those kinds of things, if I can get a guy to run 60 yards full speed into another guy [then] we can teach them how to take notes. We can teach them strategic planning. Generally that's what's happening."
How much of your day is spent doing that versus Xs and Os and on the field type of work?
"It just kind of depends. I won't speak specifically about any player, but I'm going to meet one of them tomorrow morning at 7:30 and we'll eat breakfast together and we'll look over his strategic plan and that kind of stuff, but for the most part I'd say 90% of my day is spent on Xs and Os. When it comes to the Academic Gameplan stuff, I mean, I copyrighted the program in 1999 and I've been teaching it in one form or another since I was a graduate assistant in '86 so I don't need to spend any time on it. We can get it up and running at a moment's notice."
What are some of the things that constitute the foundation or is it tailor-made to each individual?
"The foundation for academics? Okay, simple. It's really simple. They all have a planner and that planner's called a GPS, which stands for guidance, performance, and strategy and in a nutshell we don't take notes, we take answers, just like all of you are doing. You're not taking notes, you're taking answers, And it's strategic planning, prioritized daily task lists, and essentially we show them- because in college you deal with a syllabus, and basically it's how to take this chaotic world and go chaos to concept and process to product.
“It's just – it's a way to process the information that's coming in because really when – I know when I went to college I was probably not just the last generation but the last year, I graduated high school in '81 in college and '85, and never touched a computer. Never touched it one time. So I would equate it to- when I was in college we were still using encyclopedias, looking stuff up in the card catalog, and kind of drinking out of a garden hose. Now they are drinking out of a fire hydrant and you have to help them sort through that chaos if they're going to be effective students."
[After THE JUMP: A “radically different” approach to special teams]
A man who knew how to live.
RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.
Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.
I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:
There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.
Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.
This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.
Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.
If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.
YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.
Leach + Ufer. Via Dr. Sap:
Enter the 30 second shot clock. The NIT is experimenting with that and an NBA-size restricted circle, both of which are changes I can get behind as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL CRISIS skeptic. Kenpom notes that the Vegas over/unders for opening-round NIT games differ from his numbers by…
Predicted total score of Tuesday’s NIT gamesMe Market Ala/Ill 126 136 GW/Pitt 125 136 NCC/Miami 117 129 UTEP/Murray 144 151 Mont/TAMU 125 134 UCD/Stan 140 148 Iona/URI 144 152
The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.
…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.
If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.
Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.
I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.
But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:
Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.
Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.
If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.
Harbaugh is hands on. Knuckle placement.
Hearing about it is one thing.
But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?
Well, things get real at that point.
"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.
"So, I enjoyed it."
"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."
More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.
Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:
It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.
Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)
On long practices. Joe Bolden:
“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”
This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.
— cuppycup (@cuppycup) March 17, 2015
Etc.: Engineering your bracket. MGoGirl basketball post mortem. Jordan Morgan has a foundation now. John Harbaugh talking to the team. Enter another Glasgow. A comprehensive look at when to foul late in basketball games.
With the regular signing period for the 2015 class less than a month away, it's time for one of our every-so-often basketball recruiting roundups. Headlining this edition is a visit from one of the best players in the country.
Jaylen Brown Sets Official
2015 GA SF Jaylen Brown, the #2 overall prospect in the country, has twice had to cancel planned official visits to Michigan due to scheduling conflicts. The third time should be the charm, as Sam Webb reports he's set to visit later this week:
Scout's #1 player in 2015, Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler SF Jaylen Brown is slated to visit #Michigan Thursday and Friday of this week
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 16, 2015
A potential commitment from Brown would have a significant impact on the outlook for next season, but Michigan faces daunting competition: Brown has also visited Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UCLA, in addition to the in-state pairing of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Everyone's favorite one-and-done factory currently leads his 247 Crystal Ball picks.
Brown is one of two 2015 prospects left on Michigan's radar with one scholarship available, making the not-so-safe assumption that Caris LeVert stays and Max Bielfeldt doesn't return. The other, far more likely option is German forward Moritz Wagner, who added a scholarship offer during his official visit for the Rutgers game.
[Several class of 2016 updates after THE JUMP.]