"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."
Three straight! Trey Burke! Denard and 'Tree in the student section! JOHN BEILEIN DANCING TO T-PAIN!
Yes, Muppets are very much in order.
And you can't have one without the other...
Get off our court, in so many words.
Git it awn. Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is your friend; coverage probably starting around 6:45.
Let's talk about something else, yeah?
San Diego State
- FCS Cal Poly, 49-21 (W)
- @ Army, 23-20 (W)
- Washington State, 42-24 (W)
- @ No. 22 Michigan, 7-28 (L)
- TCU, 14-27 (L)
- @ Air Force, 41-27 (W)
- Wyoming, 27-30 (L)
- New Mexico, 35-7 (W)
- @ Colorado State, 18-15 (W)
- No. 10 Boise State, 35-52 (L)
- @ UNLV, 31-14 (W)
- Fresno State, 35-28 (W)
- Louisiana-Lafayette, 30-32 (L) -- New Orleans Bowl
Record: 8-5 overall, 4-3 MWC, 4th in conference
|Rush:||184.5 ypg, 30th||169.5 ypg, 78th|
|Pass:||242.9 ypg, 49th||221.7 ypg, 56th|
|Total:||427.4, 27th||391.2, 68th|
|Scoring:||29.8, 46th||25.0, 57th|
|T/O Margin:||+12, 9th|
Season recap: In 2011, San Diego State lost nine starters, their head coach Brady Hoke -- you may have heard of him -- and their bubble screen-hating offensive coordinator among others in their coaching staff.
Despite that, defensive coordinator Rocky Long, known as one of the key developers of the 3-3-5 defense, took over the program and led the team to eight regular season wins and a bowl game. While they didn't really beat anyone good, given the circumstances and school (San Diego State, fergodsakes), I’m going to go ahead call that a successful season.
The Aztecs lost decisively to three teams: Michigan, TCU, and Boise State, but those three teams had a combined 34-5 record in 2011. Their other two losses were decided by their kicker missing a pair of field goals (39 and 27 yards) against Wyoming, and Louisiana-Lafayette’s kicker making his -- a 50-yarder -- as timed expired in the New Orleans Bowl.
Kickers win championships.
Other items of note: RB Ronnie Hillman, who was last year’s fourth most prolific rusher in the nation, edged out Virginia Tech’s David Wilson by two yards to finish third with 1,711 yards, and that was despite Hillman missing most of the Boise State game due to injury.
QB Ryan Lindley had an okay season. He cut down significantly on his interceptions, throwing 23 TD with just 8 INTs compared with last year’s 28 to 14, but his QB rating actually dropped from 149.4 to 125.7. I’m guessing that’s what happens when you don't have WRs Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson to throw to.
Best win: @ Air Force. They were the only team San Diego State beat with a winning record.
Worst loss: @ Michigan. All postgame reports indicate that they were so devastated by the loss to their former coach, they didn’t even make it to the presser.
At the time, we thought they were frightening as: Some convoluted analogy about ex-fiancées, which put them at around a 4.
But now we know they are as frightening as: About the same -- still can't figure out how they feel about you -- but when you meet them you find out they're two inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than you are. 3.5.
What the win meant for Michigan: First the bad. Denard’s arm made us feel queasy again when he completed fewer than half of his passes (8 of 17) for the third game in a row, throwing for just 93 yards, zero touchdowns, and two picks. His QB rating of 69.5 that game was the lowest of his career as a starter.
But Borges ran him 21 times for 200 yards and busted out the speed option, which was kind of cool. Additionally Denard was in the middle of fighting a nasty staph infection, so extenuating circumstances and all that. Credit to Michigan's offensive line for bludgeoning through San Diego State’s wispy defensive line -- even the tailbacks, who were just so-so at the time, combined for 100+ yards to give the Wolverines their second 300-yard rushing game of the season.
What made this game memorable was the defense finally returning from its two-year hiatus. Michigan played bend-but-don't-break to perfection; San Diego State racked up 376 total yards of offense and entered the Wolverines side of the field nine times ... only to come away with just seven points. The Aztecs’ drive summary reads like this:
- Turnover on downs
- Three and out
- Three and out
- Three and out
- Turnover on downs
- Turnover on downs
It's a pretty sight when it happens to other people.
Hillman got his yards but fumbled away two possessions. Lindley was hurried all game and couldn’t get in sync with his receivers, completing less than half of his passes.
Many of you will probably remember that many of Lindley's incompletions were due to the emergence of Blake Countess, who made his debut in place of a struggling/injured Troy Woolfolk.
PBU. And Jelly.
Finally, we also got our first real glimpse of Brady Hoke the aggressive, calculated risk-taker when he went for a fourth down that robbed the Aztecs of a possession at the end of the first half. This decision and subsequent decisions of a similar nature helped redefine MANBALL and appease Lloydball-Hating Bloggers at Cook family tailgates everywhere.
And it totally felt as awesome as: Making it through the non-conference schedule undefeated for the third year in a row.
high, and low
Getting stopped was the straw that broke the camel's back. Press release:
University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced on Tuesday (Jan. 17) that wide receiver Darryl Stonum has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.
"I love Darryl and wish him nothing but the absolute best," Hoke said. "However, there is a responsibility and a higher standard you must be accountable to as a University of Michigan football student-athlete. That does not and will not change. It's unfortunate because I believe he has grown a great deal as a person since the beginning of the season. My hope is that maturing process continues."
Stonum started 25 of 36 career games at U-M, catching 76 passes for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned 62 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and holds the single-season kickoff return mark with 39 returns for 1,001 yards in 2009. Stonum redshirted in 2011.
"I appreciate everything the University of Michigan, Dave Brandon and Coach Hoke have done for me," said Stonum. "I look forward to continuing my football career down the road, but more importantly, right now I'm focused on graduating from Michigan this Spring. I understand only I am responsible for my actions. I'm sad about how all of this turned out, but I completely understand. I love this school and my team and will miss them all greatly. But I'll always be a Wolverine. I know I have grown and matured as a person over the last nine months, and I will continue to learn and grow every day. I want to thank everyone for all of their support, and I hope they will support me in the future."
Michigan now has a major hole at outside receiver with the departures of Stonum and Hemingway. Roy Roundtree will start at one spot; the other spot will either be Jeremy Gallon, Jerald Robinson, Jeremy Jackson, or some freshmen. Gallon will be needed for slot duties, so inevitably this puts Robinson and or Jackson on the field for a bunch more snaps. Probably Jackson; since Jackson is very much a possession type that will expose Michigan to the same sorts of athleticism issues that plagued them in the Virginia Tech game.
If Michigan knew this was coming it makes the Arnett situation strange; it was always strange they didn't take Devin Lucien last year; this may open up a spot for OH WR Monty Madaris, who is scheduled to visit next weekend and suddenly has a wide open depth chart to luxuriate in should he want to don a winged helmet. CA WR Jordan Payton committed to Cal at the Army game only to see his recruiter hired at Washington; Hoke has an in-home with him scheduled.
Yesterday, I highlighted one of the main issues with Michigan's offense in recent games: their struggles with the hard hedge against the pick and roll. When the Wolverines—especially Trey Burke—run a high screen, opponents have found success by having the man guarding the screener provide a strong double-team on the ballhandler, limiting his ability to drive to the basket and making passes into the post difficult.
There are several ways to counter the hard hedge, as discussed yesterday in both the post and the comments (thanks to all of you who added your thoughts—I'm not a basketball coach, so any additional knowledge about the game is very valuable). One such counter, brought up yesterday by MGoUser Kilgore Trout, is to get the opponent to commit to the hedge and then immediately cross back over, which should create an opening for a pass to the near-side corner.
Though he didn't execute it perfectly, and the play didn't result in a basket, Tim Hardaway Jr. provides a decent example of how to do this, and you'll be able to see the possibilities it opens. With teams over-committing to the screen, something inevitably must open up, and in this case several holes emerge in the defense. Here's the setup, as Hardaway has just received a pass from Trey Burke:
As you can see, Hardaway has the ball on the left wing, and Jordan Morgan is setting an off-ball screen for Douglass in the middle of the court—Stu will head to the near-side corner and Burke will clear out to the high side on the opposite side of the court so the team maintains proper spacing. Now that the team is properly spread out, Hardaway calls for a screen, and Morgan makes his way over:
Hardaway starts to dribble towards Morgan, but as soon as Melsahn Basabe (#1, guarding Morgan) jumps out to hedge, Hardaway makes a quick crossover dribble back to the near side—this is exactly how you want to counter Basabe's aggressiveness in this instance, especially with Hardaway's man already attempting to fight over the pick:
This opens up several possibilities. If Morgan was ready for the crossover, he could crash hard to the basket, forcing the defender guarding Douglass to slide down and vacate the corner or give up an open dunk (or the defender guarding Novak could do this—either way, a open corner three should be there). Morgan doesn't roll hard, likely because he hadn't fully set the screen when Hardaway made his move, and also because Hardaway will drive to the lane himself. Hardaway's drive accomplishes what Morgan's roll would do—force the near-side defender to commit, leaving Douglass alone in the corner:
Unfortunately, what you see above is where this particular play doesn't work as well as it should. Hardaway picks up his dribble before he gets into the lane, so when he passes to Douglass, the sliding defender still has time to get back out and force Stu to drive. I think if Hardaway takes another dribble, it would create enough separation for Douglass to get an open three, a much-preferable option in Michigan's offense (and especially with Stu, who's much more comfortable as a stand-still shooter than a slasher). As it is, the defender is able to get out on Douglass, and Stu drives and misses a pull-up jumper in the paint. Full video of the play:
As was pointed out yesterday, the biggest problem here isn't the play, but the execution. If Morgan dives hard to the basket, or Hardaway penetrates further into the paint, this play likely results in a bucket. Instead, Douglass is forced to settle for a contested fallaway in the lane when he doesn't have the space to get off an open three. If Michigan can execute this adjustment with a little more precision, however, it should help keep opponents from over-committing to the hedge defensively and allow the Wolverines to run the pick-and-roll more effectively.
A quality Michigan State team is brutalist architecture, all extruded concrete and towering bureaucracy. There is a rebounding tax for every possession. There is a paint tax. There is a three-point tax. There is never, ever a refund and you must get that basket stamped in triplicate.
This has transpired this year. The next section has all the numbers, but rest assured that this is a team that will brutalize you on the boards and pound you on the interior on both ends of the floor. Hope you like Blake McLimans, because Jordan Morgan will have two fouls in the first five minutes.
Anyway. The MSU offense runs through senior point-forward-type-guy Draymond Green and sophomore PG Keith Appling, who is currently in the midst of a Morris-like second-year leap. You probably know about Green: he's a roly-poly shortish post with great range (41% from three) and court vision. He is a monster rebounder, grabbing 25% of opponent misses when he's on the floor and 9% of his team's whiffs.
Appling has been a revelation after a freshman year during which he was mostly a defensive specialist. He's shooting 52% from two, gets to the line, and has an excellent assist rate; while his turnovers are a bit of a problem he adds up to an efficient, high-usage player on the whole.
There is no clear third banana a la Smotrycz. Instead there is a horde of six players averaging at least 45% of MSU's minutes who are not the stars. They are:
- Valpo grad-year transfer Brandon Wood. Kind of sucks for Valpo that they lose the best player in their league before his senior season; Wood is a good three point shooter who is also hitting nearly 60% from within the arc; he has a solid assist rate, low turnovers, and cracks the top 100 in Kenpom O-rating.
- Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne, the two-headed center. Collectively they rebound 12% of MSU misses, which is a lot. Their offense is Morgan-like: high efficiency shots someone else gets them or they generate with offensive rebounds. Straight post-ups are more frequent than they are in the Michigan offense. They are still not frequent.
- Freshman burlywing Branden Dawson, another punishing offensive rebounder with low usage outside of putbacks. He's not Green—he does not shoot 3s and is hitting 59% of his FTs—but he's just a freshman.
- Freshman Travis Trice, a combo guard who is MSU's best three-point shooter but has struggled inside the line.
- Senior gritty gritterson Austin Thornton. Low usage, bad shooting, inexplicably high FT rate.
MSU's steady diet of putbacks evens out usage numbers into a great flat plain after Green, FWIW.
So, yeah. This is a large team that crashes all of the boards and has great eFG numbers on both ends of the floor. Surprise!
THE TEMPO FREE
Kenpom loves MSU almost as much as Wisconsin and for the same reasons: pounding blowouts of bad teams. MSU against low majors has equaled 35, 22, 32, 42, 20, 14, and 35-point wins. That's not quite as dominant but MSU hasn't started the Big Ten slate off 3-3, so people aren't asking Pomeroy annoying questions about them.
Their four factors are so Izzo:
|Effective FG%:||52.7 (48)||43.5 (23)||48.9|
|Turnover %:||20.0 (134)||21.3 (143)||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||39.4 (13)||27.0 (16)||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||39.8 (97)||35.3 (147)||36.6|
Crawl a bit deeper and you get even further down the Izzo hole: a block percentage of 14% places them in the top 30; they are shooting just 27% of their shots from 3. They yield a ton of low-quality long shots because going inside… eh… not the best idea.
State has bounced back from their disappointing season of a year ago, whipping off a 15-game win streak after opening the season with a noncompetitive loss to North Carolina (ON A BOAT) and a five-point loss to Duke that wasn't much more competitive than Michigan's. Then they waded into the usual array of teams starting a one-armed Prussian who died in 1894 at center, and crushed them all.
Amongst the Prussians were two quality teams. MSU whipped FSU at home in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and won by seven at Gonzaga. Those teams are 28th and 29th in the Kenpom rankings, FWIW; Michigan is 35th.
In conference, MSU has home wins over Iowa (by a ton) and Indiana (by 15), road wins against Nebraska and Wisconsin (the latter in OT). Their most recent outing was a seven-point loss to Northwestern that made Michigan fans feel a lot better about the usual debacle that transpires whenever Michigan visits Carver-Hawkeye.
Yeah, that's basically [SCREW YOUR FIRST NAME SPELLING ARGH] Payne.
For the love of God, rebound. Obscured in the Morris get-off-my-flooring last year was the fact that MSU—surprise!—brutalized Michigan on the boards. At Crisler, State rebounded 38% of their misses while allowing M just 12% of theirs. While things were considerably more even in East Lansing, MSU still had a 26%-22% edge.
Now that MSU has repaired the horrendous backcourt situation that turned last year into a struggle, there is no way in the thousand hells Craig James is destined for that Michigan wins the game if they are blown out like the last time these two teams met at Crisler.
The good news for Michigan is they're suddenly a quality defensive rebounding team… as long as Smotrycz is on the floor. About that…
For the love of God, stay out of foul trouble. With Horford out the only backup with any size is Blake McLimans. While he's been serviceable in short bursts lately, his usage is minuscule and Michigan often goes small with Smotrycz at the five when Morgan gets in trouble (or Smotrycz gets in trouble). I can't imagine that's an option against MSU's extruded concrete. The over/under on McLimans minutes in this game is 15. I'm betting on the over.
If Smotrycz is the guy who's out that either puts Novak on Green—actually more plausible than most Novak-PF matchups—or forces McLimans and Morgan on the court simultaneously, whereupon one of them will pick up three fouls in ten seconds. Either of these things seems to be asking for it.
Find a way to generate shots off of something other than the pick and roll. Curl screens for Hardaway, Burke driving to the bucket to dish, Smotrycz shooting over the smaller Green, Morgan… uh… watching other people generate shots… something. Because MSU will hedge just as hard as everyone else has and then it's one-armed backwards three-pointer time.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.: go to the basket. Wot it says on the tin. Also, if you could rebound like a mofo that would be good.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
State by four.
BONUS heebie-jeebies: this may be the effect of the last couple games overriding reason but, man, I am not confident here. I think the matchups overrule the numbers and Michigan's shooting from the interior will be ugly, which means three-point shooters can be covered with impunity, and… like… the boards. The boards after the inevitable big man foul trouble. /cowers