Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest NCAA rulebook changes, a change in plans for Durham Smythe, a possible 2014 commit, and more.
NCAA Deregulation: All Of The Text Messages
Kelvin Sampson, presumably after hearing about the latest NCAA rule changes
On Saturday, the NCAA approved several rule changes that will have a major impact on recruiting. As part of an ongoing effort by NCAA president Mark Emmert to slim down a bloated rulebook, the changes are largely of the deregulation variety. To wit:
- Proposal 13-3 "will eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication during recruiting."
- Proposal 13-5-A eliminates restrictions on mailing printed recruiting materials.
That means, starting with the class of 2014, coaches can call, text, tweet, facebook, snapchat, or use whatever other form of communication they so desire to contact recruits as often as they want (recruiting dead periods aside, of course). It'll be open season on snail mail, too.
On the positive side, this means the NCAA can stop paying investigators to tally phone calls, and coaches can no longer get a recruiting edge by ignoring limits on communication (looking at you, Mr. Sampson). The negative is obvious: big-time recruits, already inundated with calls and texts from coaches and reporters alike, now must brace themselves for more of the same—especially with the potential for a recruiting arms race as coaches fall over themselves to make sure they're recruiting a prospect the "hardest".*
The other notable changes to recruiting involve the NCAA removing limits on which staff members can recruit. The Bylaw Blog's John Infante outlined the ramifications for Proposal 11-2, which eliminates the rule that recruiting functions must be performed by a head or assistant coach, in conjunction with deregulated communication with recruits:
The potential model of recruiting that develops is very clear. A general manager/director of player personnel will have a staff of recruiting coordinators who do much of the early grunt work in recruiting. They’ll watch film, gauge interest, rank prospects, and evaluate needs. The coaching staff will go see top targets in person, invite prospects on visits, and go see recruits at home or at school. The player personnel staff and the coaching staff will then meet to make decisions and send offers.
That would free coaches from much of the busy work of recruiting and let them focus on coaching their current teams. Player personnel will become the major track for aspiring coaches as well as a career path in its own right. Recruits may see more sophisticated and intense recruiting from a dedicated staff.
If Infante is correct—and you can bet he is—this means we'll start seeing separate player personnel staffs at the schools that can afford to create them. This is good news for Michigan and other big-budget athletic departments, and unlike the deregulated communication measure there isn't an obvious downside for the recruits themselves. The impact from a competitive balance standpoint is clear: the rich will get richer unless the Indiana States of the world successfully push for staff limits on these new player personnel departments.
*It's not hard to imagine Lane Kiffin screaming at his recruiting coordinator, "Mr. Orgeron, we must not allow a Snapchat gap!"
[Hit THE JUMP for Durham Smythe's visit plans, potential commitment watch for a 2014 in-state four-star, and more.]
Note: due to creeping hacking lung death, this feature did not appear last week. We'll cover the last two weeks of games for everyone as a result.
Michigan's split on the road against a tough pair of teams allows them to tread water at the top of the projections, as Duke suffered a loss to Michigan victim NC State and Louisville went down to Syracuse.
Michigan's actually crept upwards on RPIForecast, where they're now projected to finish seventh. They're down to fifth in actual right-now RPI. In 14 brackets updated since the Minnesota game, Michigan is a #1 in ten of them. They're up to third in Sagarin and fifth on Kenpom.
Projected ones: Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Louisville
The Nonconference Folk
dangit NC State
IUPUI, EMU and Binghamton continued losing to everyone, except EMU actually beat CMU. Those teams are KP300s, or almost, and will stay there. Cleveland State is muddling along at 2-3 in the Horizon. WMU opened conference play against the two best teams in the league (Akron and OHIO) by a wide margin, losing both; they rebounded to take out Toledo easily.
Bradley got blown out by Indiana State and Northern Iowa before rebounding to beat SIU narrowly. Disappointing week for them.
Big sorts of teams
@ Georgetown: W 73-45. Marquette: L 74-67 (OT). @ Villanova: W 58-43. UConn: W 69-61
Pitt's schizophrenic start to the year seems to have settled down into the profile of a decent team that won't threaten Syracuse and Louisville at the top of the league. They remain jarringly erratic.
The Georgetown blowout is worthy of a top ten team—GT took Indiana to OT earlier this year and beat UCLA; their only other loss was by a point at Marquette. Getting blown out like that cost GT 22 spots on Kenpom. So… yeah. Big Time.
Then Pitt goes out and loses to Marquette at home. OT, yeah, but I watched that one and it was grim. Back to back wins over Nova and UConn have them at .500 in the league with a couple of easy wins on the docket before 'Cuse and Louisville back to back.
There is a massive disparity between most bracket projections and Kenpom. Pitt's a top ten team on Kenpom; they're currently a ten-seed to bracketologists.
Kansas State (14-2)
@ West Virginia: W 65-64. @ TCU: W 67-54. Oklahoma: W 69-61.
We know West Virginia; they are not good, and scraping by them by a point is a bit of a warning sign. TCU is one of the worst major-conference teams in the country—Northwestern held them to 31 points in a 24-point beating—so beating them is expected, even on the road.
Beating Oklahoma is expected, but that's a decent team and winning will push their Kenpom projection up a bit. They could be in the 5-6 seed range. They've got Kansas next in what should be the game of the year in the Big 12, not that it's saying much. Bracketologits have them a weak six seed at the moment.
North Carolina State (14-3)
Georgia Tech: W 83-70. Duke: W 84-76. @ Maryland: L 51-50. Clemson: W 66-62.
The Duke win is obviously huge, both for NC State and Michigan. They'll probably be ranked at the end of the year, and a neutral-court win over a ranked team will catch the committee's notice. The next two games did not build on that accomplishment much, with a road loss against Maryland and an uninspiring win against a mediocre Clemson team. They're still a three seed to the bracket people.
MCHOBBIT UPDATE: Five minutes and four made free throws against GT, ten minutes over the next three games with no points.
@ TAMU: L 69-51. Vandy: W 56-33. Auburn: W 88-80 (2OT). @ Ole Miss: L 76-64
Arkansas is not deviating from its path as a .500 SEC team that heads to the NIT.
West Virginia (8-8)
@ Texas: W 57-53 (OT). K-State: L 65-64. @ Iowa State: L 69-67. @ Purdue: L 79-52.
West Virginia had been playing somewhat better these days, beating a lame Texas team in Austin and then suffering two narrow losses, one to K-State that we're fine with. Would have been nice if they had managed to pull off a road win against The Hoiberg Home For Lost Big Ten Boys, which is also known as Iowa State.
Then they got obliterated by Purdue. I should just move these guys into the category of limited attention.
CONFERENCE OF POWER RANKING POWER POWER
LAST WEEK Fell down by a billion early against OSU, tied it up, lost their minds late, ended up losing by three. Worked way to six-point halftime lead at Minnesota, blew doors off with 20-7 run to start the second half, and held off Minnesota's comeback.
THING Well, yeah, they're still up here with that impressive road win against one of the other contenders and Indiana's inexplicable home loss to Wisconsin. Sorry.
OTHER THING In the battle of leaping force versus surprisingly resilient object, the force won. Michigan's defensive rebounding collapsed as Minnesota picked up 47% of their misses. Michigan mitigated the damage by doing pretty well on the offensive boards themselves and winning the turnover battle.
OTHER OTHER THING Yeah, I got a lot of crap for not even mentioning this in the game post so like HOLY PANTS MICHIGAN DOES THIS SORT OF THING ON THE REGULAR YO
OTHER OTHER OTHER THING Nik Stauskas has met severe resistance thus far at the three-point line in the Big Ten, but his teammates are picking him up in a big way. Michigan now has six guys shooting at least 38% from deep: Stauskas is at 50%, Levert 43%, Burke is 40%, Hardaway and Robinson 39%, and Albrecht 38%. That's everyone who's taken a three except Matt Vogrich, now relegated to the bench.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Momentarily staggered assassins.
LAST WEEK Clubbed Penn State. Ran out to huge lead against Minnesota and held on to win by seven. Lost to Wisconsin at home in a grim 59-possession game that inexplicably did not end with Indiana fouling the pants off Ryan Evans and seeing if he could make some free throws. Kinda sorta struggled with Northwestern, eventually winning by nine.
THING Northwestern's 1-3-1 discombobulated the Hoosiers to some extent. Early in the second half they mostly missed bunnies and often got offensive rebounds off those missed bunnies; late they had significant problems generating shots. They turned the ball over only six times in the game, though, so the 1-3-1's goal was not met. I'm not sure Michigan would be wise to duplicate that.
OTHER THING Keeping Cody Zeller off the offensive boards is going to be a massive task for Michigan when the two teams face off. He can go quiet from the field because he does not like taking iffy shots, but he has a tendency to go GRAAAGH three or four times a game and put a tip dunk back in.
OTHER OTHER THING I dismiss the relatively close score against Northwestern; eight points in a 54 possession game is like eleven in a 74 possession game, and then no one's wagging their eyebrows about potential weaknesses.
THING THEY ARE LIKE sandbags
LAST WEEK Participated in Big Ten's annual Illinois Dismemberment Potluck. Suffered brutally effective Indiana onslaught in first half of a game at Assembly, then damn near got themselves back in it. The Michigan game was a similar script, but less extreme: Michigan got out to a big lead, but not that big, and Minnesota came back, but not that much.
THING Man, Tubby Smith's line change thing is weird. Ten players got at least six minutes against Indiana; ten got at least four against Michigan. The backup brigade was brutal in the loss to Michigan, with seven turnovers and just two rebounds in 43 minutes. Given that
- Minnesota rebounds everything on the offensive end and
- Michigan scores everything in transition
Those turnovers were decisive.
Those guys were a little better against Indiana, at least. I still don't know what the hell Oto Osenieks is doing on the floor in Big Ten games.
OTHER THING As we're about to cover in This Week In Minnesota Intimidation Factor, a turnover for the Gophers is an unforgivable sin. If you're getting half of the shots that go up on the board, you might as well avoid turnovers and take longer, safer shots. In the context of their team, Minnesota's turnover rate of 22%—245th in the country—is pretty much the only thing keeping them from elite-elite.
In conclusion, jack it up, Gophers.
THIS WEEK IN MINNESOTA INTIMIDATION FACTOR 40% OREB against Indiana, 47% against Michigan. Mbakwe and Williams combined to block ten shots in those two games. Both of those OREB performances reduced their season average.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Super pissed off pogo stick superball men about to take it out on squirrels.
LAST WEEK Beat Purdue at Mackey comfortably. Staved off slow-motion Michigan comeback to win by three at home. Dropped a narrow one at Breslin.
THING Shannon Scott may not perceive the passing of time accurately.
OTHER THING No, they have no secondary scoring still. A couple guys managed to get to nine points against Michigan; their top scorer outside of Thomas against Michigan State was Lenzelle Smith with six.
OTHER OTHER THING I'm still placing them above MSU due to the tendency of close winners of home games to lose the return trip; if we call that game even would you rather beat Michigan and get blown out by Illinois or get blown out by Minnesota and beat Iowa? Seems obvious to me.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Four anchors, one of whom is really good at defense, and a boat.
5. Michigan State (16-3)
LAST WEEK Came back to beat Iowa at CHA; had uninspiring wins against Nebraska and Penn State; squeezed it out against OSU.
THING It looks like State is going all-in on the dual-big lineup they scrapped earlier in the year. Payne had 32 minutes against OSU, Nix 35(!), and both played well. The major cost was a flurry of good three-point looks for Deshaun Thomas when Payne and Nix either could not communicate or could not get through screens effectively. Thomas was 6/11 from deep.
If MSU does the same thing against Michigan, GRIII's ability to match that production will be crucial. That and forcing the 20-ish turnovers MSU had been providing in games earlier this year.
THIS WEEK IN STOP ASKING FOR POST TOUCHES Not the best week for this one. Even if you set aside the Penn State game as meaningless, against OSU Nix and Payne absorbed 13 possessions with shots from the block and came away with 19 points; they had two assists and one turnover between them. As mentioned, they did have some difficulty guarding Thomas as a result.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Russell Crowe.
CALM DOWN BRANDEN DAWSON SRSLY
LAST WEEK Participated in the Big Ten's annual Illinois Dismemberment Potluck. Beat Indiana! On the road! Lost to Iowa, also on the road.
THING It's time for the annual obeisance to Kenpom after Wisconsin turns out to be pretty okay. We're sorry, Kenpom. You probably have Wisconsin too high but our bitching is less accurate than Beats Indiana On The Road.
OTHER THING Preventing three-pointers is a skill, and Wisconsin has it. In their win over Indiana they held Jordan Hulls to a single missed attempt. As a team Indiana launched just 12 attempts, five of them from Yogi Ferrell, a 24% shooter. In their loss to Iowa, the Hawkeyes hit just 2 of 10 attempts, with fully half of those coming from 29% shooter Mike Gesell.
On the year, Wisconsin is allowing just a quarter of their opponents' shots to come from behind the line—top ten nationally—and they're hitting just 30%. That is the biggest difference between Michigan and Wisconsin's Ds—Michigan cedes a lot of threes, and even though they're not going in that much they're still more effective than the foul-free twos Michigan allows.
OTHER OTHER THING On the other hand, conference opponents are shooting 21% from three against these guys. Even if you're good, you're not that good. Regression to the mean will burn the Badgers here. Probably. I mean, if you can keep getting sub-30% shooters to launch half of your opponents' attempts you're going to be fine.
THING THEY ARE LIKE whatever robots find uncontrollably sexy.
7. Iowa (13-5)
LAST WEEK coughed up the lead late against Michigan State, crubberated Northwestern on the road, finally acquired that elusive victory over a tourney-level team by running out to a big lead against the Badgers and hanging on.
THING Bet they're pretty ticked off that Roy Devyn Marble had a really ill-timed ankle injury that held him out of the narrow MSU loss.
OTHER THING Aaron White may have put up the unlikely statline of the year. Against Wisconsin he got to the line 15 times (he made 13). I would like to know the last time Wisconsin gave up 15 free throws to one dude.
That's a big strength for White, BTW: his FTRate is top ten nationally and he hits 76% at the line. Anything they can do to get his usage up will help this team—he's a low-turnover guy, too. Good, good player.
OTHER OTHER THING Man, this is not a good shooting team. They've got two guys over 30% from three, Marble and freshman Anthony Clemmons. They've got just about everything else in the green on Kenpom, but hitting 30% as a team is 286th.
THING THEY ARE LIKE Evidence for Quintessential Beilein Bubble Outfit continues what with the near miss at quality win and current projection of a 20-11, 9-9 season that would have them squarely on the bubble—but probably the right side of it.
8. Illinois (14-2)
LAST WEEKs Followed up thumping victory over OSU with 17 point loss to Minnesota, 23 point loss to Wisconsin, and 14-point loss to Northwestern. The first and last there were at home.
What was a bigger hoax? Manti Te'o's girlfriend or the Illini starting out the season 12-0?
Is it happening again?
THING yes, it's happening again
OTHER THING It's die by the three time for the Illini: they're hitting just 23% in conference play; opponents are hitting 43%. This means they are nowhere near as bad as they have seemed so far, because that is unsustainable at both ends.
NNANNA EGWU WATCH Probably had best rebounding outing of the year against the rampant Gophers, picking up nine (three on offense) and helping hold Mbakwe and company to just seven OREBs of their own.
The next game he was limited to 11 minutes with foul trouble, picked up one offensive rebound, and largely watched Wisconsin grab 55% of their misses. He only had 4 rebounds in 25 minutes against Northwestern, but Northwestern only had four rebounds anyway.
His DREB rate is now 11.1, still second-to-last on the team. The guy in last place? Sam McLaurin, his 6'8" backup.
THING THEY ARE LIKE last year's Illinois team
HENRI LINE OF ENNUI
LAST WEEK never really threatened OSU in a ten point loss at Mackey; beat up fellow Henri Division participants Penn State and Nebraska, put the spurs to West Virginia in one of those weird late nonconference games.
THING The Boilers and Wildcats have clearly separated themselves from Penn State and Nebraska. The former two teams are inside the Kenpom 100; the other two teams are nowhere near it. Purdue easily swept those guys and Northwestern has a win over a tourney aspirant.
That might not do them much good over the rest of the year, but it's something.
OTHER THING You guys might as well get used to me pumping up AJ Hammons. The seven-foot freshman has 14 blocks in his last three games and is a major reason the best part of Purdue's team is their defense on twos. He's not very efficient on offense yet; if that comes, he'll probably be the league's best center next year as long as Zeller departs for the NBA.
RONNIE JOHNSON THREE POINTER WATCH 0/2 the last three weeks.
THING THEY ARE LIKE The kid picked third from last at kickball.
10. Northwestern (11-8)
LAST WEEK Cruised past Penn State at Bryce Jordan, got blown out by Iowa, participated in annual Big Ten Illinois Dismemberment Potluck, kinda gave Indiana a game at Assembly… kinda.
THING I'm not really seeing it for the Wildcats next year either. Crawford will be back; Hearn and Swopshire are out the door. So take the Northwestern team that played Michigan and add Crawford plus a year for the other guys. Is that a bubble team? Probably not. And that would probably be it for Carmody.
THING THEY ARE LIKE A ghost that would like to give you a quest.
11. Nebraska (10-9)
LAST WEEK lost by 15, 10, and 9 against Michigan, MSU, and Purdue in slow-it-down grind games; went to Bryce Jordan and stuck their flag in the ground with a 68-64 win. Congratulations, Huskers: you're not the worst team in the Big Ten.
THING Nebraska joined a sad, and ever-growing club of schools: We Were Already Gonna Die And Now Our Best Player Is Gone For The Season. Brandon Ubel is gone, joining Tim Frazier and Drew Crawford on the shelf. Hammons should be sleeping in bubble wrap.
THING THEY ARE LIKE pancakes of doom
12. Penn State (8-10)
LAST WEEK Annihilated by Indiana, Northwestern, and Purdue. Played relatively tight game against Michigan State, aided by their punchin' suspensions. Went down against Nebraska at home, and that's about it for their chances to win a Big Ten game this year.
THING they in da process of dyin'
OTHER THING oh man that is some viscera
OTHER OTHER THING i don't even know how you fit that much gore in a hamster
THING THEY ARE LIKE the butter of shame
Tourney locks sans Illinois-2011-style implosion
projected seeds included
#1 MICHIGAN, #2 Indiana, #3 Minnesota, #4 Ohio State, #5 Michigan State
#9 Wisconsin, #10 Iowa, #12 Illinois (currently in the midst of Illinois-2011-style implosion)
Northwestern Memorial wrong side of the bubble award
Rutgers Memorial what's a bubble award
Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue
Games relevant to your interest that are on the TV and may be worth watching after the first ten minutes. Bolded teams are suggested teams to root for, calibrated for …
1) helping M win conference title
2) best chance for quality-win pile-up to help M seeding
3) greatest number of tourney teams from league
4) eff Michigan State
5) also Wisconsin
Iowa at Ohio State, 6:30, BTN
Michigan State at Wisconsin, 7 PM, ESPN
Pitt at Providence, 7 PM, ESPN2
NC State at Wake Forest, 7PM, ESPN3
Kansas at Kansas State, 8PM, ESPN3(!!! What may be the game of the year in the Big 12 is streaming only.)
Illinois at Nebraska, 8:30, BTN
Penn State at Indiana, 7 PM, BTN
TCU at West Virginia, 7:30, ESPN2
Minnesota at Northwestern, 9PM, BTN
Mississippi State at Arkansas, 9PM, ESPN3
Purdue at MICHIGAN, 7 PM, ESPN
Ohio State at Penn State, noon, ESPN2
Arkansas at South Carolina, 1:30, ESPN3
Kansas State at Iowa State, 1:45, ESPN3
Minnesota at Wisconsin, 2PM, BTN
Northwestern at Nebraska, 3PM, ESPNU
Depaul at Pitt, 4PM, ESPN3
North Carolina at NC State, 7PM, ESPN
West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 7:30, ESPNU
Michigan State at Indiana, 1 PM, CBS
Purdue at Iowa, 3:30 PM, BTN
MICHIGAN at Illinois, 6 PM, BTN
Glenn Robinson III, quite casually, threw down a 360 dunk against Minnesota. I have no memory of a Michigan player ever doing the same, let alone with such ease. So, yeah, the full gif treatment is in order. Above is a little photoshop job, because something about that play didn't quite feel real. Below, every damn replay angle imaginable [click each thumbnail for the gif]:
[For the rest of the Minnesota gifs, featuring several more dunks and John Beilein's strange facial tic, hit THE JUMP.]
With a simple tweet of "GO BLUE!" this morning, Macomb (MI) Lutheran North kicker/punter JJ McGrath announced his intention to accept a preferred walk-on spot in Michigan's 2013 class, choosing the Wolverines over LSU and Southern Miss. While McGrath won't be on scholarship to start his career, he'll have the chance to earn one when Brendan Gibbons's eligibility expires after the 2013 season.
McGrath isn't ranked on any of the four recruiting services, but he does earn a 4.5-star rating—on the border between Division I and Division II prospect—from Chris Sailer Kicking. They rank him as the #33 punter and #57 kicker in the 2013 class and give this evaluation:
JJ is a big time talent. He is a big, tall, strong athlete that shows outstanding potential. His best ball is as good as any 2013 punting prospect. As he works on his consistency, the sky is the limit. I expect big things from JJ. Also a very capable kicker and kickoff specialist. Could be a top national combo prospect with hard work. One to keep a very close eye on. Nice prospect.
Listed at 6'2", 210 pounds, McGrath has plenty of size to put a solid boot behind the ball. He certainly showed off plenty of leg in his senior season, per 247's Todd Worly ($):
“I have three field goals of 57, 54 and 34 yards, all (kickoffs have been) touchbacks but one, a punting average of 45 yards and 100% on PAT’s,” McGrath said. The 57-yarder was a game-winner.
That was in October—by the end of the year, McGrath had connected on 8-of-11 field goals and all 26 of his extra point attempts with a punting average of 42 yards and touchbacks on 29 of 34 kickoffs. His head coach at Lutheran North talked to MLive in October about how much of an asset McGrath's leg was to his team:
["]The field position that he adds is number one,” Ryan Wesley said. “The scoring that he adds is number two. Being able to tell an opponent that their [sic] going to be starting on the 20 yard line, no questions about it, that is a great thing to be able to do.”
On the rare occasion McGrath doesn't boot a touchback, he's apparently not afraid to finish the job himself:
In fact, McGrath has had just one kickoff returned against him all season. As competitive as he is, McGrath was not afraid to make his opponent think twice about returning one of his kicks.
“The kid actually made it to me and I jacked him pretty hard,” McGrath said. “I was pretty angry that it didn’t go in (the end zone). I was pretty ticked off so I ran up and hit him pretty hard.”
With his leg strength, McGrath should at the very least be able to contribute as a kickoff specialist. If he can maintain accuracy on the thinner college goalposts, he'll also be in the running for starting placekicker—perhaps after Gibbons graduates, or more likely when Matt Wile is gone after 2014.
McGrath didn't receive any scholarship offers, but he reported interest as a preferred walk-on from Alabama, LSU, Michigan State, and Southern Miss, among others.
From the 247 article linked above, McGrath's junior stats:
McGrath was named First Team All-State as a junior, converting 8-of-12 field goals with a long of 53 yards. All of his misses came from beyond 50 yards. 22 out of his 27 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, and he also averaged 44.6 yards per punt, with a long of 68 yards.
In his final two high school seasons, McGrath was a combined 16-for-23 on field goals and 42-for-42 on extra points while averaging 43.5 yards per punt and booting 51 of his 61 kickoffs for touchbacks.
Lengthy senior highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
McGrath should redshirt next season with Gibbons and Wile returning. With Gibbons and Will Hagerup (if he's even back next year) gone after 2013, we'll see if the coaches want Wile to handle kicking, punting, and kickoffs; if not, McGrath could compete with Kenny Allen for the punter job or Wile for starting placekicker, and he could also handle kickoffs if called upon. When Wile is gone after 2014, McGrath should have every chance to take over at kicker.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Since McGrath is a preferred walk-on, his commitment doesn't change the 2013 scholarship numbers; there are still a couple spots left with Michigan waiting on VA RB Derrick Green and TX TE Durham Smythe.
1/17/2013 – Michigan 83, Minnesota 75 – 17-1, 4-1 Big Ten
Trey Burke came to Michigan fully-formed, a stone-hearted superman with a wicked handle and cool demeanor. His only vulnerability is Craftonite. In year two he's improved, of course; he remains essentially Trey Burke, just smoother.
If he does indeed take off for the NBA after this year his impact on Michigan fans will be almost that of spectacular a one-and-done player. An Anthony Davis, a Carmelo Anthony. I beheld this, and it was the unchanging visage of glory! Yea, and it spoke unto me thusly: I ARRIVED AND I WAS. I LEFT AND I AM.
Tim Hardaway came to Michigan as a tall Stu Douglass. He was a streaky gunner who accumulated box score things largely because balls bounce unpredictably and eventually some of them come to you. The tempo-free lines of Douglass and Hardaway from that year are different only in that Hardaway took a bunch more shots and never turned the ball over*. Last year those numbers didn't move much except that the threes didn't go in, and people despaired.
Tim Hardaway is no longer that guy. Even on a night where he hit seven of eight shots he made the rest of the box score relevant: five rebounds, three assists, six(!) turnovers, two blocks, three steals. This is a sanity check for what you are seeing.
You are seeing this: Minnesota is on its horse trying to catch up with Michigan, and they are in the midst of one of those putback-rebound-putback-rebound sequences that inevitably end with a ball going in the basket or free throws. Andre Hollins has the ball surrounded by three Michigan players, and goes up with it and suddenly he does not have it. A jam-packed Williams Arena howls. Dick Vitale exclaims something along the lines of "NO FOUL HOW CAN THAT BE"—and you're kind of like yeah I mean seriously—as Tim Hardaway Jr. flies upcourt with the ball, a seven point lead, and 35 of the 100 seconds left in the game on the shot clock.
When they put the replay on, it's Hardaway airborne. He has jumped in a way that makes it seem like he has already made the decision to foul this guy and not permit a layup, that way-too-early jump that gets you on top of the guy so you can sit on his head and prevent him from getting a three point play. Hollins shows the ball, and Hardaway just, like, takes it. The meme generator in the head goes "yoink." Vitale's says "that looks like ball" and you're kind of like yeah. I mean, seriously.
Hardaway gets ranked on Kenpom's defensive rebounding leaderboard now, as a wing. That is has a very real impact on Michigan's bottom line—they've gone from #99 to the #3 in that stat. He is no longer the frequent target of CUMONG TIM brain rages on defensive possessions. His fouls are down; his steals and blocks are up. The little man in your head with the gavel who sits in judgment of all shots is screaming "TAKE THAT" on 80-90% of Hardaway's attempts, and fist-pumping as Hardaway knocks down nearly 40% of his threes.
When Burke was still shaking off the effects of Sunday's encounter with Craft and Minnesota was blazing the nets from three, hitting their first five attempts, Hardaway had the answer. He kept Michigan level until his bros showed up. When Burke was rattled, Hardaway stepped up. Last year this is a guy who specialized in the long two with a ton of time on the clock. If Tim Hardaway is still that guy, Michigan ends up in the deep end again, wondering if the first 16 games were all a mirage.
Tim Hardaway is not that guy. Tim Hardaway is serious these days.
*[Okay, Douglass had a miraculously weird thing going on with free throws: he took 13 on the season and hit 3; both of those numbers are spectacularly low. Jon Horford attempted 18 free throws that year. He played 14% of Michigan's minutes.]
Welcome back, Yawn At Another Trey Burke Boxscore Bullet. Missed you xoxo. He was inefficient from two but 9 assists to 1 turnover is where it's at. He took some bad shots early in what looked like a carry-over from the Ohio State game, where he was pressing for points. Once Michigan got past that section of the game even thanks to Hardaway going off, Burke ran the break perfectly.
Also, was it just me or was Burke more of a defensive pest for chunks of the game? I wonder if one of the coaches took him aside and was like "if you want to be great-great you have to add some of that Craft stuff to your game." He hounded Minnesota's PG into a steal in the first half, and he had a couple against Craft late in the last game.
Mbakwe. Good gravy. Jordan Morgan had his first two shots blocked by Mbakwe, who had a double-double featuring five offensive rebounds and five blocked shots. It's a tribute to John Beilein that Michigan came out of the locker room with a play that got Morgan a bucket, and that Michigan managed to get him up to nine points in the second half. Speaking of…
BEWARE THE BEILEIN HALFTIME ADJUSTMENT. Michigan won this game in the first six minutes of the second half when they went on a 20-7 run. This is a season-long trend. They did it against Iowa (opened second half with 12-4 run), West Virginia (11-4 run), Bradley(11-4), NC State(13-8), KState(14-2), Ohio State(7-2) and Pitt(8-4). The only game that was close at halftime in which Michigan did not significantly help itself coming out of the locker room for the second half was Arkansas (3-6).
Beilein figures out what you're doing on defense and assassinates you. That makes you feel real real good about Michigan's coaching acumen, and the apex of that is Beilein knowing a way to get Jordan Morgan a couple of easy buckets against Trevor Mbakwe.
Schedule now looking manageable. Illinois is looking more like the team that eked it out against Gardner-Webb than the one that took it to Gonzaga because opponents are hitting 43% of their threes in conference play and the Illini are hitting 23%. They're last in the league in both stats.
While that's probably more luck than anything, the Illini are also eleventh on the defensive boards and at giving up three throws; they're mediocre on both sides of the ball on shots coming from within the line.
They've gotten hammered their last three games, the latest an embarrassing 14-point loss at home to Northwestern, and have slid an impressive 30 spots in Kenpom's rankings. All of this makes next Sunday's game at Assembly Hall (not that Assembly Hall) quite a bit less intimidating than it did at the beginning of conference play. With that game sandwiched by home games against Purdue and Northwestern, Michigan is now entering one of two relative breather sections on the schedule. In February it gets real again with the Indiana-OSU-Wisconsin-MSU gauntlet.
It finally cracked. It took a game against the #1 offensive rebounding team in the country to do it, but Michigan finally got beat up on the boards. Minnesota entered the game rebounding 48% of their misses and got 46% in this one, with five coming from Trevor Mbakwe alone.
It was going to happen sometime. Given the gap between Minnesota and the next most prolific set of offensive rebounders in the league (Indiana) is almost ten percentage points, we can hopefully chalk that up to Mbakwe and move on against mortals. M remains the best at defending their own boards in conference play, albeit by a slimmer margin now.
Vogrich == Toussaint. In that I constantly think "Poor Damn Vogrich" whenever he appears in my life. Poor Damn Matt Vogrich had a 0-minute trillion in this one* as he hopped on the floor for about four seconds, seemed to cause a Hardaway turnover as his man left him to attack THJ from behind. Hardaway chewed him out—serious—and Beilein yanked him so he could chew him out. PDV, man.
In this instance you can't blame the blocking; I still feel bad for the guy.
*[The box score has his minutes as "0+"]
Stauskas: let it come man. Opponents are fully aware of the guy now and stick to him desperately because if they let that guy get open their coach will open the bowels of hell upon them. So his shots are down, and his three-point percentage is falling as he offers up a couple of unwise ones out of frustration a game. He's so out of sorts he's missing multiple free throws a game. Freshmen, eh?
At least we saw the first Stauskas backdoor play run successfully. If Vogrich can't even stay on the court for a full minute he can at least tutor Stauskas in the tao of backdoor.
Couple of iffy threes aside, Stauskas did pretty much let it come: he threw down a GAME… BLOUSES dunk, picked up a couple of assists, and collected 11 points on six shots. Hardaway got some great looks in this one, probably because the opponent was so focused on Stauskas.
This Week In Post Touches Suck. McGary got one and nearly flung a turnover. Morgan had one and Mbakwe blocked it without thinking twice. For the game the two centers were 8/11 and I don't think they had a miss that Mbakwe didn't block spectacularly—I think we're okay without using post touches to generate shots.