"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
I’ve been watching The Wire – I’m through Season 3, Episode 6. Won’t be writing about this D’Angelo though. (source)
Your weekly B1G Hoops column
Table of Contents:
D’Angelo Russell player similarities
James Blackmon player similarities
Melo Trimble player similarities
The Big Ten is weaker than usual
Ugly losses: not just for football!
Michigan missing NCAA Tournament: DEFCON 3
We aren’t the only ones to lose to good teams
Trending up, trending down
Other player comparisons, by request
Early frontrunner for most B1G game of the year
1. D’Angelo Russell player similarities
Over the summer, I devised a system by which current players and their statistical profiles can be cross-referenced against a database of former Big Ten players (from 2008-2014) to find the most similar players. The “Similarity Score” system uses the difference between the z-scores of each statistical category (weighted equally), adds up the absolute value of those differences, and the players with the smallest Similarity Score number are the most analogous players – statistically speaking.
A few caveats: it is early in the season and the quality of opposition hasn’t been great, so some of these names might be a little too complimentary for the players listed; this isn’t a comparison of playing style or even listed position – the numbers are blind to all of that; these guys aren’t necessarily “as good as” the players listed below them – they’re just the closest out of the sample of Big Ten players over the last seven years. Every statistical system has drawbacks and this is no different, but it does provide an interesting jumping-off point for discussion and it definitely has some merit.
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Trey Burke (2013), Gary Harris (2014), Jake Kelly (2009), Bo Spencer (2012), E’Twaun Moore (2011), Andre Hollins (2013), John Shurna (2012), Demetri McCamey (2011)
D’ANGELO RUSSELL IS NOT TREY BURKE. I’M NOT SAYING THAT. PLEASE DON’T ACCUSE ME OF SAYING THAT.
…but, against a terrible schedule, D’Angelo Russell has been absolutely superb. Maybe not Trey Burke superb, but pretty damn close if not. Even against Louisville – by far the best team that Ohio State’s faced thus far – he put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals (with 4 turnovers on rather inefficient shooting). There have been many impressive parts of his game – the steal rate bodes well for a potential NBA future, but nothing stands out to me more than his assist rate of 32.2 (5.4 assists per game).
Incredibly, he’s more efficient and has a higher usage than the names listed above (except for Trey Burke, with whom he’s on par). Again, he has only played one Kenpom Top-100 team, but that’s very impressive regardless.
Right now, everything suggests that Russell is a one-and-done talent. He stuffs the stat-sheet from the two-guard position with points, rebounds, assists, and steals; his tempo-free numbers are bound to regress against better competition, but Russell’s done everything that could be asked of him thus far. He hits threes – 20 of 46 for a nice 43.5% – and, at six-foot-five, he has size for the two-guard position in the league. Ohio State’s had plenty of NBA players under Thad Matta and, at least so far, it looks like Russell will be another one.
Also, another D’Angelo released a new album that’s pretty solid. [Ed-Ace: "Pretty solid" is a disturbing understatement, young buck.] [Ed-Alex: This is just the first step in truly refining my musical tastes.]
2. James Blackmon player similarities
Click on image to enlarge. Top comps, in order: Nik Stauskas (2014), Deshaun Thomas (2013), Jon Shurna (2011), Drew Crawford (2012), Tim Hardaway (2011), John Shurna (2010), Matt Gatens (2012), Deshaun Thomas (2012)
Another five-star, another standout freshman. Blackmon isn’t quite as well-rounded as Russell and probably isn’t as sure of a pro, but he’s been terrific for Indiana thus far this season. According to Pomeroy, the Hoosiers have the ninth-best offense (and 174th-best defense) nationally and the backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon could stack up against nearly any other in college basketball – size (and, by extension, defense) is really the only major issue.
Like Russell, Blackmon’s blend of efficiency and usage is unsustainable, but absolutely excellent thus far. His shooting splits are fantastic: 53% on twos, 46% on threes, and 88% from the free throw line. Per data from Shot Analytics, he’s only taken 17 midrange shots – out of 130 total (13%) – which speaks to his shot selection and ability to get to the rim, where he finishes well.
Nik Stauskas isn’t a perfect comparison for Blackmon, but there’s a lot in common: both are very efficient shooters who have fairly similar shooting splits. Stauskas was a much better distributor and got to the free throw line more (while Blackmon’s a better rebounder). Deshaun Thomas is another intriguing statistical profile: Thomas is much taller than Blackmon and played as a stretch-four, but they’re the same type of remorseless gunner that has a high shot attempts to assists ratio. Blackmon shoots at a higher percentage however.
I know I have to mention it: arghhh Michigan could have used Blackmon this season.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more numbers (obviously); STOP LOSING EVERYBODY; stuff on Michigan]
Well, crap, I guess I should probably do one of these.
Goodbye: Chris Clark
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) December 2, 2014
Mere moments after the announcement of Brady Hoke's dismissal, four-star 2015 TE commit Chris Clark decommitted in a move that came as little surprise. In talking to The Wolverine's Brandon Brown, he gave the impression Michigan is pretty unlikely to regain his commitment ($):
"I'm still interested in Michigan but it kind of just depends on the impression the new coach makes on me," he said. "I'll be honest, it's probably going to be pretty tough but we will see. I just really have to see who the new coach is going to be and what coaches are going to be on his staff.
North Carolina, the school Clark originally committed to, is among four other programs vying for his services, along with Texas, UCLA, and USC. Providing a small ray of hope, Clark said he'd like to take one of his official visits to Ann Arbor, and his recruitment should extend until Signing Day or close to it.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup, including updates on Kinnel, Cole, the 2016 commits, and Wheatley.]
Hello. Let's do a Q&A thing using twitter. It is embedded below. TO PARTICIPATE: hop on twitter and send a Q to @mgoblog.
I KNOW IT'S OVER AND OH IT NEVER REALLY BEGAN EXCEPT FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME APPEARANCES BUT IN MY HEART IT WAS SO REAL. San Francisco is eliminated from the playoffs. (Thanks, Lions!) This should accelerate everyone's decision-making process. Harbaugh is now going to consider his future in earnest; Michigan will enter with their bag with "$$$" on the side and hope to woo the fair maiden.
I've heard that both Harbaugh and the 49ers will start moving now. While official announcements may wait until after the season, the process of making a decision starts in earnest now.
This time there will be no coy crap, no hedging on the part of the athletic director about how much control Harbaugh will have or how much film he gets to watch. (Academics are the one area in which Harbaugh will have to compromise somewhat, as the AD does not have control over Michigan's willingness to admit JUCOs. The guy made it work at Stanford; Michigan is way less hardcore than Stanford.) Michigan will approach Harbaugh with an offer competitive with the NFL and the promise that at no point will he be forced to apologize for one of his players putting a piece of metal in the ground.
If he doesn't end up coming, at least we'll know that Michigan did everything they could this time.
ON LES MILES. I have to make an about-face here. Just yesterday I said that Miles had seemingly found himself on the shortlist after years in the wilderness. Another day's worth of information and I don't know that's true. Michigan made basic contact with Miles (or, in one version of the story, his agent finally got through to someone after calling repeatedly) and that's as far as anything went.
Depending on who you talk to, he's either a prominent non-Harbaugh viable option or far enough down the list to be irrelevant—ie, behind a guy who would obviously take the job. It sounds like a lot is being made of not much contact. There is a large group of guys close to the program who advocate for him, and I think that's where that's coming from.
Still, the next two bullets mean he's in play.
OFF THE BOARD. OSU OC Tom Herman takes the Houston job. I had just heard the first reliable thing that Michigan was looking at him as a plan B option and now he's (almost certainly) not one of those. I am distressed, because I'm with Bruce Feldman:
If I was a #Houston fan I'd be thrilled. I think Tom Herman is as close to a 'Can't Miss' as you're gonna find in a first-time head coach.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 15, 2014
On the positive side, OSU no longer has the guy.
MEANWHILE, PLAN B. It's not hard to see things falling through to Miles if Harbaugh doesn't take the job. There is no consensus on who secondary options are. Scout keeps pushing Jim Mora; Rivals keeps pushing Bob Stoops. I've heard both. The problem there is that neither is in a bad spot; either could be mentioned largely because agents are trying to get an extension for their clients (Mora) or make their guy look attractive after a crappy season (Stoops). People high up in the university admin think that the reported Stoops interest is indeed an agent play.
If neither of those guys makes a move, the next best idea the paysites seem to have is Sean Payton. As discussed, I will believe that is even a vague possibility if Payton is fired by the Saints and only then. The prominence of a sitting NFL coach with an $8 million contract on the plan B list is a bit alarming. To me that means "we do not have enough reasonable names to fill out a plan B list."
If Michigan refuses to consider Dan Mullen and Herman is off the board, then after they get through their list of debatably available sitting head coaches who's left?
That's some good pointing at least.
ON DAN MULLEN. There has been absolutely nothing about him anywhere, from my inbox to the paysites to randos on twitter who seem to have a connect. Nothing. The only chatter anyone's gotten is that Mullen is off the radar after Michigan called up Jeremy Foley and Foley bombed him.
Broken record time: that's a major mistake. At this point, Jeremy Foley's hired a blindingly obvious Urban Meyer, Ron Zook, and Will Muschamp. He drew every media member within a 500 mile radius to his contract negotiations, like the world's most wizened sixty-foot tall bug zapper. If he has opinions, Michigan should take those into consideration.
It's possible he'll emerge if Michigan gets shot down by the currently mentioned Plan B guys—coaching searches are weird like that—but that's if and only if Miles is truly unpalatable to the key players. Which he might be, for reasons both valid and not.
ON LOU HOLTZ. COULD HE BE PLAN B? Probably not. According to a reader, Holtz doesn't think it's going to happen. He cites the "wife loves the West Coast" issue, so take it FWIW. While wearing a raincoat, in possession of scuba gear. Preferably.
I WOULD CHORTLE. Please please please:
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 15, 2014
Not only would that be hilarious, it would open up a number of Notre Dame commits to poaching in a situation where Michigan is going to need to make some fast friends.
Etc.: Kawakami on how the 49ers management undermined their season.
REMAIN CALM. I am now getting some chatter to the effect that Harbaugh is coming, pending t-crossing and i-dotting. None of it is from a source I would consider rock solid, and all of it comes with an ominous "barring a last second change of heart" disclaimer. Please remain calm.
It feels like warranted optimism transforming itself into e-fact via a game of telephone—I can confidently say that there are people close to the situation who think it is happening, some of them very strongly. Whether they're right is another matter. Harbaugh may get NFL offers that change the equation. Right now Michigan can talk to him all they want; NFL teams would get hit with accusations of tampering if they did so. Everyone, including Harbaugh, is working with incomplete information.
A POTENTIALLY MEANINGLESS STATEMENT WE'LL TAKE AS GOSPEL. Raiders owner Prince Valium on his general manager:
-Q: Have those two wins helped you in your assessment of the football operation? Are you sticking with Reggie McKenzie?
-DAVIS: As I said, I never really said I wasn’t going to keep Reggie on board.
-Q: He’s your guy still, right?
-DAVIS: He is my guy right now, absolutely.
-Q: That means there’s still the possibility of dramatic changes, I guess.
-DAVIS: There are always possibilities for anything.
-Q: What do you think about Jim Harbaugh?
-DAVIS: (Laughs.) It was great talking to him.
McKenzie (not that McKenzie) is coming off an excellent draft, FWIW. Davis seems positive about him but "never really said" and "right now" are back doors that indicate some hesitancy. The upshot for Michigan is that if Oakland is inclined to keep McKenzie, they wouldn't be offering Harbaugh the moon that is full personnel control.
Of course, Oakland could be convinced to throw McKenzie overboard if Harbaugh was interested. Cue rumor:
Oakland preparing for sweeping changes that involve its GM Reggie McKenzie, according to league sources. Mark Davis getting ready to spend.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 14, 2014
This has been a completely useless searchbit. Thank you for your patronage.
OTHER NFL MACHINATIONS. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is under pressure in Miami, with local reporters asserting that his job "may hinge" on making the playoffs. Philbin's in his third year with Miami, having gone 7-9 and 8-8 in his first two years. They're 7-6 this year and currently trailing the Patriots. If they do lose that game they'll have a very tough road to a bid.
The guy firing Philbin is of course Stephen Ross, Michigan mega-donor. Ross has been rumored to be amongst the heavy hitters putting together a neato financial package for Harbaugh, so a Harbaugh pursuit would be an about-face. Said local reporter says this would happen. At least, I think so. The article is full of seeming autocorrect errors:
The source said Ross would try to upgrade a team that missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year by revisiting the idea of hiring Jim Harbaugh. … If the Dolphins cannot get to the postseason, Ross would have work to do and most of the assignment will center on Harbaugh.
Anyway: Ross pursuing Harbaugh would be tricky if Ross wants to get into all the good parties when he comes back to Ann Arbor. If Harbaugh does turn down a generous Michigan offer because he wants to stay in the NFL and that becomes public—probably because Michigan hires someone else—then Harbaugh could end up with the Dolphins without making Ross look that bad. Anything else and not so much. Steve Lorenz reports that Ross gave his word he would not chase Harbaugh to "more than one figure" in the Michigan community.
Given that, if the Dolphins do go hard after Harbaugh you should take that as a sign the dream is dead.
NON-MACHINATIONS? Ian Rapoport says the Dolphins are still not a player for Harbaugh. Rapoport previously reported that M left a meeting with Harbaugh "convinced he wants to be an NFL coach" a week ago, something that is almost certainly not true given the way the search has developed (or not developed) and the steady drumbeat of positive insider chatter. So take it with the appropriate level of certainty.
I do think Rapoport's more likely to be on point when he's talking to NFL teams about what they plan to do than trying to read the mind of Jim Harbaugh. Also:
@dpascoe72 yes i do.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 14, 2014
If Michigan was convinced that Harbaugh wasn't coming, wouldn't Ross 1) know that and 2) being going full guns here?
PLAN B. To my moderate chagrin, it is looking increasingly like Miles is the fallback option. He is definitely a fallback option, and depending on who you listen to (and what time you listen to them) there are somewhere between 0 and 2 guys between him and Harbaugh. Since the guys who could intervene are usually of the Stoops/Mora/Payton variety—longshots—Miles would become the favorite if Harbaugh turns M down.
The heavy favorite: everyone who knows Miles swears up and down he would come with two nanoseconds of the offer. What about 2007? Miles was never officially offered in 2007 and got roped into an LSU extension before Michigan could seriously contact him; with LSU on the verge of playing for a national title and Michigan's interest uncertain Miles had to go with the LSU AD's clever power play. There is no such hold on Miles now, as his team prepares to play in the Music City Bowl.
Why only moderate chagrin? Hey, he's not Schiano or Adddazio.
ON THE OTHER HAND. Webb reports that contact with Miles has not yet been "substantive." The focus is on Harbaugh.
IT COULD HAPPEN
JOE MOGLIA IS ALL YOU NEED TO HEAR. Football Scoop weighed in again, for what little that's worth. Michigan's honchos now "understand that Jim Harbaugh is unlikely to come to Michigan," according to site that previously said M had been turned down flat two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Steve Lorenz reports that the idea that Jim Mora and Dan Mullen have been run by the regents is "total bunk," so that's most of the post.
The rest of it is spent promoting the fortunes of Joe Moglia, the CEO-turned-Coastal-Carolina coach, who is 65 and coaching FCS. (Yes, that's totally different than pumping Bob Stitt.)
While I'd like half of that post to be true (the bits about Mora and Mullen being next options), it's clear that whatever FS gets right about this search will be by accident. This offseason they've already "reported" Bo Pelini to Youngstown State, Bret Bielema to Nebraska, and Lane Kiffin winning the Broyles.
GOING OFF THE BOARD? Ohio State OC Tom Herman is under heavy consideration at Houston. Houston's a good mid-major job that has sprung Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin into the big time, and Herman has a decade of Texas experience to his credit. Houston would be dumb not to offer him the job; Herman would be dumb not to take it. If Houston does in fact go after Herman that'll almost certainly be before Michigan gets down to the coordinator-scouring level. So merph.
Given the Miles chatter this is all likely to be moot anyway.
ALSO OFF THE BOARD. Sportsbook.ag again pulled the Harbaugh bet after more and more Michigan money came in. Last time this bet came up, a commenter pointed out that as online books go, Sportsbook.ag has a D- grade from an industry rating service and is not taking major money on this—it wouldn't take a whole lot to swing those odds.
FOUR WAY TRADE? Bo Pelini for Pitt. Yeah. Yeah man.
Etc.: ESPN's Dan Murphy has the least dismissive national take on Michigan's search that I've yet seen.
In the face. (GIF via Vice Sports.)
For a reeling, young, undersized Michigan squad, Arizona represented one of the worst possible matchups.
The Wolverines fell in a laugher, unable to deal with the Wildcats' imposing combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Michigan's inability to generate shots inside the arc or hit them from beyond it led to an early deficit that only grew as Kameron Chatman and then Zak Irvin found themselves in foul trouble.
At one point in the first half, John Beilein threw out a lineup of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal; Beilein subsequently relented on his usually rigid foul policy and reinserted Irvin late in the half despite his two fouls.
The situation only got more dire in the second stanza, as M failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark; the Arizona faithful stood until that moment, displaying impressive adherence to tradition. The Wolverines remained unable to get into the paint, get out on the break, grab offensive rebounds, or defend the interior; adding to the blowout, Arizona got numerous second-chance buckets after failing to record an offensive rebound in the first half—not as much of a surprise as it may seem, as they only missed nine shots in that span.
The individual issues are barely worth noting; such is the nature of a bloodbath. Zak Irvin's shooting woes continued, and a mental lapse of some sort earned him a benching from Beilein mere moments into the second half. Caris LeVert, repeatedly denied even a sniff of the rim, couldn't carry the offense as he has in the past. The bigs were helpless against Arizona's impressive front line of Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Without context, this game may not be cause for sounding the alarm; after all, this was an extremely tough matchup—especially for a young Michigan front—against a very good team in the first true road game of the season. Coming off back-to-back upset losses at home, however, it's time to acknowledge the possibility that the Wolverines will have to claw their way into the NCAA tournament picture, even with Beilein on the bench. This team is better than it looked today, but it's also got a long way to go.