If we taunt them enough we might get a grail. Or a cow thrown at us.
Man we've been a sorry sack of something these past few weeks. All this negativity: negative posts, negative futures, negative rushing totals. Can we be positive? Finish this sentence:
For Michigan to have a shot at beating Ohio State, between now and then the offense needs to...
Coach Brown: ...pool their money together, hire a squad to kidnap the entire coaching staff and every starting player that Ohio State has until at least Sunday.
Seriously I think this game is going to be really, really bad. What Ohio State has done last year and this year is really something. I don't care about their strength of schedule, it is damn impressive to go almost two complete seasons without losing a game in a coach's first two campaigns. Hate Urban for being Urban, but the guy wins on the field.
|This isn't an argument.|
I know the power of a rivalry, especially in The Game, can level the playing field a bit, but I give Michigan close to a 0% chance of winning that game. Ohio State is clicking, Urban smells blood, and Michigan is going in reverse, literally and figuratively. I'm not being negative, I'm not a downer, I'm a realist. Ohio State pounded Penn State 63-14. It took Michigan 25 overtimes to suffer a loss to that same Nittany Lion team. There are so many things fundamentally wrong with what Michigan is trying to do that fixing just one of them isn't going to be enough to appease the fan base or be overly productive on the field.
I could vent forever and it would come off as whiny, pessimistic, and unrealistic because of expectations we all have for Michigan. It's not even the 6-3 record honestly, it's just how everything looks, feels, and seems. Brian and Ace nailed it on the podcast and the recent "I AM OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" post. I've turned off. I'm just the recruiting guy so this was my one opportunity to put some of these words down. I apologize for where this went.
“Let’s get this thing going and let’s go get us a win. Northwestern’s a very very good offense obviously. They’ve got a lot of weapons, Colter being the number one. He is an outstanding quarterback. We’re going to have to be ready and we’re going to have to come to play.”
Are they a different team without Venric Mark?
“They have a number of running backs. They’ve had four running backs that have played a lot, and their offense, they do such a great job of making you be honest with everything you do. Running back is good in their offense.”
There were some issues with the option against Nebraska. Will Northwestern be similar in terms of offensive style?
“There are some definite similarities. The thing that makes it difficult – a lot of those options in the Nebraska game came on third downs. You people all are saying, ‘Why don’t you pressure more?’ So I’m trying to pressure, thinking we can get home, and they check to option. That’s part of the game. That’s part of it. We had to rally to it, and we had to try to make a play on it. That’s the fine line where you decide if you’re going to be a pressure team in passing situations or are they going to change their game plan and check to a running play. There were a number of times when we came out of it okay, and a couple times we didn’t.”
South Carolina State tried trapping Michigan at halfcourt, packing the paint, and daring Michigan to knock down outside shots.
Challenge accepted. Caris LeVert hit his first five three-point attempts and finished with a career-high 24 points to lead the way for Michigan, while Nik Stauskas, often left all alone in his favorite corner, finished with 23 points and shot 5/6 from beyond the arc. Michigan's 15 made threes (on 28 attempts) came up one short of the school record as the Wolverines cruised from start to finish—they tallied assists on 19 of their 31 made shots, and just four of those came from the team's two point guards.
LeVert's stellar outing wasn't limited to his shooting; he added four rebounds, three assists, a steal, and two blocks while playing totally in control—he didn't record a turnover. Even when accounting for the opponent, he looked like a star in the making, building on his strong play in the two exhibitions and opener against UMass Lowell. While the photo above is representative of SCSU's perimeter, um, defense, LeVert created his shots in a variety of ways, including knocking down a couple threes off the dribble.
While Glenn Robinson III struggled from the field (4/12), he nearly brought down the house on two different dunk attempts that ended in fouls, and a 4/5 night from the charity stripe gave him 13 points to go along with nine rebounds and three steals; even when his shot wasn't falling, he was active on both ends. That said, he looks like the #3 option on this team, and that's without the presence of Mitch McGary; this isn't a bad thing as long as Stauskas and LeVert keep up their current level of play, but if either fall off the questions remain about GRIII's ability to create his own offense.
Jon Horford, meanwhile, has locked down the starting center spot in McGary's absence. In 24 minutes, he finished with nine points (4/8 FG) and 15 rebounds (5 offensive), and his lone block belied his ability to affect shots at the rim—SCSU shot just 15/45 from inside the arc and Horford played a big part in that. Jordan Morgan had four points, six rebounds (one off.), and two blocks of his own in 15 minutes of action; the team functioned much better on both sides of the court with Horford, however, and there's no question which player brings more from an athletic standpoint.
The freshmen had their ups and downs in this game. Derrick Walton had 12 points (5/10 FG) and an assist while creating a couple putback opportunities with aggressive takes to the hoop; he also got caught leaving his feet a couple times on defense and turned the ball over three times. Zak Irvin played solid positional defense but couldn't get his shot to fall, missing a couple open threes from the corner early and finishing with five points on 2/7 shooting. Spike Albrecht added three assists in 14 minutes and didn't record a stat otherwise; Max Bielfeldt contributed a late banked-in three.
Most importantly, the rotation sans-McGary has begun to take shape. Once again, the starters were Walton-LeVert-Stauskas-Robinson-Horford; Irvin was the first man off the bench when Robinson picked up an early foul. Albrecht and Morgan were the next two off the bench, coming in after the first media timeout. Nobody else saw the floor until Bielfeldt came in with just over four minutes remaining, quickly followed by the four walk-ons—if Bielfeldt is holding on to a spot in the rotation, it's by a thread.
It's early and Michigan hasn't played a team capable of posing a real threat; so far, however, it looks like the team's two hyped-up lottery picks may be the #3 and #4 offensive options, and that's quite a remarkable development.
|WHAT||South Carolina State at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||7 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan –28 (Kenpom)|
|TV||BTDN/MGoBlue (subscription required)|
Right: This "paws-a-tively charming" plush Bulldog mascot is available for the low, low price of $24.00!
South Carolina State went 6-24 (2-14 MEAC) last year with wins over Claflin, Webber*, NJIT**, Jacksonville, North Carolina A&T, and Delaware State. Just one SCSU player finished the season with an offensive rating above 100: 6'11" preseason All-MEAC center Matthew Hezekiah, the one player who can give Michigan anything resembling a matchup problem.
Thus far this year, the Bulldogs lost by 16 on the road to #214 Marshall and required overtime to defeat NAIA St. Andrews Presbyterian by four points. SCSU is currently ranked #340 on KenPom out of 351 teams, 16 spots worse than season-opening (and Division I debuting) opponent UMass Lowell.
THE THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE
Finish, big man. Jon Horford hauled in five offensive rebounds against UMass Lowell; while that part was good, his finishing was not, as he went 2-8 from the field, most of those simple putbacks. Everyone has their off-nights, and Horford did hit a nice fallaway jumper; it'd be encouraging if he'd connect more often around the basket, though, and Hezekiah will provide a decent test for him.
Start settling on a rotation. Michigan was tied at the half against Lowell in large part due to some lineup experimentation by John Beilein that didn't work out too well. At this point, I think it's safe to phase out the two bigs stuff until Mitch McGary is healthy—even then, I have my questions about its potential efficacy. Normally I'd say it's early in the season to start cutting down on the rotation, but a trip to Iowa State looms on Sunday. Even in the case of a blowout, I'd like to see Michigan start settling into a groove with their substitution patterns.
Establish the pick-and-roll early. The other big factors in Michigan's early struggles during the opener were a lack of proper spacing and poor execution on the pick-and-roll. They got it going in the second half, especially with LeVert and Stauskas handling the ball; I'd still like to see it more—guarding 6'6" guys who can handle the rock, finish at the rim, and shoot from deep is pretty difficult when they're properly utilizing picks.
Keep using GRIII as a post threat. Glenn Robinson III posted up a few times against Lowell, something we didn't see at all from him last year; while he didn't get field goals out of these, he got to the free-throw line multiple times. With his added bulk and athletic mismatch against just about anyone who's going to guard him, it's worth testing out if he's got enough of a back-to-the-basket game to at least take advantage when he's being guarded by smaller players.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 28
UMHoops preview with more info on the Bulldogs. Mitch McGary progressing, doing more in practice, "looks very good," and... still no timetable for his return. (Despite that last bit, that's pretty encouraging.)
According to U-M Media Relations, the captains this year are Jon Horford, Jordan Morgan, and Glenn Robinson III. It's just the ninth time in program history that they've had three or more captains, and Robinson is only the fourth sophomore to earn the distinction.
In another release, the department announced that Robinson and McGary are two of the 50 players on the preseason Wooden Award watch list.
*I'm going to assume they played a 40-year-old Chris Webber five-on-one and still gave up 66 points. Please don't correct me on this.
**NJIT avenged this defeat just six days later in a rare non-conference home-and-home and won on aggregate.
Michigan couldn't get yard one with the veer against Nebraska, and most of them ended up with an unblocked Nebraska player blowing up Gardner. It is time to look at them. For some reason. Why didn't I start a blog about 1980s hairstyles? 1980s hairstyles never make you want to rub your face in gravel.
I digress. The first one comes on Michigan's first drive. A late blitz has just seen a power O slanted to and blown up for a one yard loss; it's second and eleven on the 24.
Michigan comes out with an H-back and two tailbacks in a twins formation, which necessarily means that the slot receiver is not an eligible receiver. Nebraska responds with 7.5 in the box, with the gray area defender just about splitting the difference between Funchess and the tackle.
On the snap Bosch pulls and the gray area guy sits and stares the backfield down.
Michigan shows veer action with Kerridge leading Toussaint to the outside; Michigan blocks the playside end, which would mean they're expecting to option the slot defender except 1) Kerridge is out there, so they're using one of their blockers on him anyway and 2) Gardner does not appear to be reading him but something further inside, if he's in fact reading anything. Gardner's awareness of this slot defender seems to start after the mesh point.
You can see that Gardner's helmet is not pointed at the slot defender as he starts making his decision:
What's he reading? Is he reading anything? I don't know. it doesn't seem like it. Watch the video in real time to get a feel for it. Toussaint does react like a guy who might get the ball, juking the blitzer, so I guess they're reading something. What is unclear.
Meanwhile, Kerridge is expecting the slot guy to contain upfield; instead he shoots upfield inside of him hard, too hard for him to adjust to.
Gardner pulls and seems to sense a disturbance in the force now; he goes straight upfield.
Toussaint dodges the blitzer, running into Gardner; Kerridge is prone, Gardner starts stumbling, and his momentum is taking him into the chest of an unblocked LB.
It's now third and nine, and Gardner's soul is now worn 1% more.
Items Of Interest
Optioning no one. We're back here, in year three. Michigan has a rudimentary read option game on which their QB doesn't know what to do too often and gets plays blown up, but here we're back to last year's Alabama game, where the defense made it so that Michigan's option plays didn't actually option off a defender, with similar results. No matter what happens on the edge here, the play still spends Kerridge and Toussaint on one defender and leaves an unblocked guy.
It would be one thing if I'd ever seen this fullback on the edge thing work. I have not. At best it's wasted him as he blocks a guy shooting up on the edge who is trying to contain Toussaint; at worst:
I'm about to get some comments about how this is Gardner's issue or Kerridge's issue and that Borges can't be held responsible for the results of this play. Sure. Any one play can be traced back to some execution error by the offense.
These posts are an effort to explain trends I'm seeing in the offense with particular plays, though, and this kind of half-ass option is par for the course. Michigan cannot get the fullback to be useful on these read option plays, and hasn't made him useful for three solid years.
This is the kind of stuff Denard papered over by being Denard. Even when Michigan was eviscerating Ohio State two years ago, they weren't really optioning anyone and it was left to Denard to make the magic happen against an unblocked dude at the LOS:
Michigan was fortunate that was a freshman Ryan Shazier on one leg. When you don't have Denard and you've turned your quarterback's ribs into a fine paste already, you no longer get 41 yard touchdowns and instead your unblocked dude gets a tackle for minimal gain, or more likely a loss.
They've had Kerridge for three years now and Gardner that long and Toussaint that long and they still can't get them to execute a real option. Either they're not trying or they're not coaching. And either way…
How is this supposed to work? It seems like the idea here is for the slot guy to run himself upfield outside of Kerridge to maintain a force back inside and then for Gardner to hit the gap between him and the rest of the defense. Nebraska beats that idea by using the slot guy super-aggressively.
How do you make this play work? Nebraska understood that Michigan's formation meant Funchess was not eligible; the gray area defender had no thought of a pass and ended up blowing up the play. But you can still make this work since Nebraska is sitting so deep with the safeties. Michigan has two options here: shooting Kerridge at the LOS, leaving Toussaint to his own devices, or using Kerridge to attack the slot defender and put Toussaint on the edge into acres of space.
This is the kind of thing you could come back to later with a tweak and bust a big gain. Clearly there were no big gains on this day. This design isn't necessarily bad; the inability to see what Nebraska is doing and get rock to their scissors at some point is. I mean, if you get this again and block the dude the defense has no force player, which means you get a lot of yards. This move by Nebraska violates a cardinal tenet of sound defense and works because they win on RPS, and if you probe at what they're doing here you can beat that. Instead Nebraska just kept chewing up Michigan's offense.
Hooray covered slot receiver. Hooray. I will never understand the point of that. If Michigan had some package where the ability of the H-back to get to the backside of the play meant something, okay. Instead you get nothing and if the D recognizes it, as they seem to here, you're playing 10 on 11. Temporary voluntary red card.
Again, maybe this is some sort of genius but since I've never seen it do anything productive it just seems dumb.