Michigan looked fresh, resplendent in their 1968 throwback uniforms, several players with Fab Five-inspired fade haircuts. Crisler Center hadn't looked better as the Wolverines took the court in front of a who's-who of former Michigan greats in town for the building's rededication.
Then began the game, an expected blowout win over a hapless Penn State squad, and they didn't look fresh at all.
The Nittany Lions scored more points than they've had in all but two of their conference games, consistently finding gaping holes in Michigan's defense. While it never felt like the Wolverines were in serious danger of losing, neither did it feel like they were in serious danger of playing at their best.
Trey Burke was the only Wolverine who appeared to be playing with full force from the opening tip—no other Michigan player hit a shot from the field until over 11 minutes elapsed. Burke finished with a season-high 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting while doling out five assists with zero turnovers.
While it's expected that Burke will excel every game, Glenn Robinson III's performance this afternoon was a welcome sight after he'd been a non-factor in the last four games. Robinson tied a career high with 21 points (6-6 FG, 9-11 FT), attacking the basket with an array of dunks and adding 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
Michigan also got an offensive boost from Nik Stauskas, who overcame a 2-for-6 day from beyond the arc by getting to the bucket, hitting all three of his two-pointers and all six of his free throws en route to 18 points. On the other end of the court, though, Stauskas failed to bring the same intensity, and he was repeatedly the culprit when Penn State got an open lane to the hoop.
Stauskas wasn't the only offender, and it was that poor perimeter defense that led to a 32-32 tie at halftime; Penn State shot 50% inside the arc in the first half, and Michigan ceded an uncharacteristic ten free throw attempts. Even as the Wolverines slowly pulled away in the second half, the same problems remained, which is how they allowed a team averaging 0.86 points per possession in Big Ten play to put up 1.06 points per trip this afternoon.
The Wolverines lacked much in the way of secondary scoring. Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to struggle from the field, grinding out eight points on just 3-of-11 shooting. The next-highest scorer was Matt Vogrich with two points, and the three centers—Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, and Jon Horford—combined for zero points on five shots.
Morgan started for the first time in four games but is clearly still working his way back from an ankle injury—he played just seven minutes, with Horford taking his spot at the start of the second half. Vogrich, meanwhile, got his first meaningful minutes since non-conference play, but after he allowed two open Penn State three-pointers it was clear he's not the solution to Michigan's defensive woes.
The game wasn't all bad. Robinson dazzled the crowd with a series of impressive finishes, including one off an out-of-nowhere no-look pass from McGary. Burke played like he does, which is to say he dominated, hitting several unlikely looks. Stauskas found a way to produce even when his outside shot abandoned him.
Against a Penn State team that's now 0-13 in the Big Ten, however, it's hard to feel good about a few bright spots. The defensive effort Michigan put forth would result in a loss against any other team in the conference; their next opponent, Illinois, would be overjoyed to face the same level of resistance next Sunday.
It was a win, sure, and a much-needed one at that. If Michigan wants to claw their way back into contention for the regular-season title, though, they'll need to fix some glaring issues, and fast.
|WHAT||Penn State at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –25 (Kenpom)|
Right: Yeah, it's been that kind of year.
Last year, Penn State was about as close as it's going to get to a one-man team—point guard Tim Frazier had one of the top ten usage rates in the country and dragged the Nittany Lions to a 12-20 record (4-14 B1G). The good news for PSU was that Frazier would return for his senior season. The bad news was that they were still expected to finish at or near the bottom of the conference.
Then, just four games into this season, Frazier was lost for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Penn State still managed to get by with an 8-4 start fueled by a soft nonconference schedule, but since then they've lost all 12 of their Big Ten games, half of them by double digits.
Two of Penn State's guards will almost never leave the court—both D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall play over 85% of available minutes. Newbill has taken over Frazier's role of primary ballhandler and playmaker, averaging over 16 points and four assists per game, but with poor shooting numbers (45% from two, 20% from three) and a decent number of turnovers. Marshall spends more time on the perimeter but isn't exactly a sharpshooter, hitting 43% from two and 31% from three.
Rounding out the starting backcourt is 6'3" guard Nick Coletta, who joined the team as an open tryout walk-on after spending parts of his first semester on campus as a practice player for the women's team. Coletta is extremely low-usage and barely goes inside the arc, attempting just 11 two-pointers all years (he's made three); he's mostly a spot-up shooter, connecting on 32% of his threes.
6'6" forward Ross Travis is the team's best rebounder on both ends. He's also having a brutal season on offense, hitting just under 40% of his twos while going a Ronnie Johnson-esque 5-for-38 from downtown. He's joined in the frontcourt by 6'9" forward Sasa Borovnjak—the only Nittany Lion with an offensive rating above 100 aside from Frazier—who hits 51% of his shots (all twos) and has remarkably low rebounding numbers for a post player.
You get the picture. There's a reason this team hasn't won a conference game and isn't projected by KenPom to have better than a 14% shot at any of the remaining games on their schedule.
Mostly covered above. Penn State's has just two wins over KP100 opponents, one in overtime at a neutral site against #59 Providence when Frazier was still healthy, the other by three points at home against #64 Bucknell. Their next-best win came against #182 Army, and their last win of any kind came in 2012.
Four factors, conference only.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||39.9 (12)||19.2 (10)||29.1 (10)||31.6 (7)|
|Defense||49.1 (10)||16.9 (9)||30.4 (5)||58.5 (12)|
Those numbers paint a clear enough picture of a terrible team—I'm having a difficult time even fathoming how a team can foul that much on defense—but here are some others:
- Shooting (offense): 40.4 2P%, 25.7 3P%, both dead last in the Big Ten.
- Shooting (defense): 47.9 2P%, 34.4 3P%
- Opponents score 29.2% of their points at the free throw line, far beyond the D-I average of 20.3%. When non-conference games are included, they're third in the country in that stat, and that's not one where you want to be at the top.
As a result, Penn State has an offensive efficiency of 86.9 and a defensive efficiency of 106.3 in conference play. They lost at home to Nebraska. I feel mean just talking about Penn State basketball.
Don't embarrass yourselves. Please.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 25
Losing this game would redefine "debacle" and make Michigan fans pine for the days of getting merely humiliated in East Lansing. This seems very unlikely to happen.
Nobody else has posted a preview yet. Given the opponent and the fact that I'm writing this on a Saturday, that makes a certain amount of sense.
Our podcast this week was actually recorded in the immediate aftermath of the Wisconsin game, but due to technical difficulties I couldn't get my hands on the file for editing until yesterday. So we've dropped the Wisconsin bit—which sucked anyway—and now present the nearly hour-long 2013 recruiting class overview and award presentation, which is something other than Ace and I moaning about how terrible everything is. Except for the intros and outros, which are.
If it sounds different, the audio is lower-fidelity than it usually is, not that this is particularly important for two guys talking to each other.
Offense! Logan Tuley Tillman as Schrodinger's recruit. Sure things don't exist on the OL, but if they did they would be a couple of those guys. Derrick Green and such.
Defense! Taco Charlton as Logan Tuley Tillman. Henry Poggi as Mike Martin if Poggi can also become a slab of muscle more stone than man. Two flavors of cornerback, and Dymonte Thomas as no Michigan safety in memory.
Gettin' my Rob Parker on. Not really, but we finish with some gimmick superlative type stuff.
Music. "The Rat," The Walkmen. "Caring Is Creepy," The Shins. Creepy breakup songs are always best for recruiting. The latter is a shout-out to Black Heart Gold Pants and their much-better-titled version of the Hello post.
The usual links:
Within minutes of posting the Rapture Guy gif last week, a friend alerted me that she did, in fact, know Rapture Guy, and could set me up with an interview—that is, as soon as Rapture Guy returned from Mardi Gras. Clearly, this would be an interesting interview, and on Wednesday evening I got the chance to sit down and chat with the star of the latest MGoMeme.
Rapture Guy has chosen to remain anonymous, and given whose opinion he sought on the matter, I think we can all respect that decision.
"Lloyd Brady is actually a friend of mine, so I know his real name," Rapture Guy told me. "When someone posted on my Facebook wall, 'you’re the new Lloyd Brady,' I was like, ohhhhhh god. I said to him, 'you did it right. I’m going to follow that idea. I don’t want my name out there.'"
He was kind enough to give us a few background details anyway. The man you see above is a junior at the Ford School of Public Policy, as well as a Chinese minor, and he hails from New Jersey—that's where the instinctive fist-pumping comes from, he says.
After the jump, you can find the entire transcript of our interview—in it, he finds a higher power, compares the Ohio State game to Mardi Gras, explains the magical qualities of his banana suit, and by chance runs into his counter-MGoMeme in New Orleans.
[ASSOC. EDITOR'S NOTE: After discussion with the author, this article has been edited materially from its original form in order to remove parts that could have been damaging to someone's reputation based only on hearsay and a grainy gif, and which took attention away from rapture guy. I want to thank the readers who argued with me and turned me around on this--Ace asked both Brian and me to approve the original--and I apologize for having to kill off their comments in order to follow their wisdom.]
[HIT THE JUMP]
Why yes there is a story behind this photo:
"I took this picture at the pre-Super Bowl NFL Tailgate Party last week of my brother and Urban Meyer. My brother's hat was backwards but he twisted it around as I set up for the pic. Thought you might enjoy."
--Jared of Sports Power Weekends
As you may have heard on National Signing Day Urban Meyer inked a lot of five-stars (and poached as many three-stars from his conference rivals), then rounded on the rest of the B1G for not faring so well. MaizeNBlueInDC took to the Scout rankings to confirm, compiling the recruits by state to demonstrate how each conference was doing versus its footprint. He starts with a chart that seems to suggest the Big Ten recruited just like every other major conference except the SEC which I graph:
The parts I faded are the top two teams from each conference according to Scout's team rankings, respectively Bama/Texas A&M, UCLA/Wash(!), Mich/OSU, Okla/Texas, Clemson/FSU, and Rutgers/Cincy. That's what Urbz is whining about; he and we finished with the 1 and 2 teams to Scout, and the fourth Big Ten team doesn't appear until two spots above Kentucky. Course I'm not sure what Meyer expects to say at the coaches meeting except "Stop being MAC coaches promoted to your Peter Principle limit." For QED purposes, a reminder of Big Ten coaching hires since 2007:
- 2007: Saban/Tressel acolyte who turned Cincy into a BCS team, LSU's DC, Mack Brown's recruiting guy, Indiana's OC who coached Ball State before Hoke.
- 2008: WVU's head coach who invented the spread 'n shred
- 2009: Eastern Kentucky's head coach (hired in '08 under grooming plan)
- 2010: Bob Stoop's longtime OC
- 2011: SDSU's head coach, NIU's head coach
- 2012: Two-time national championship winner at Florida, Toledo's head coach (CBs under Tressel), a Belichick assistant
- 2013: Utah State's head coach, Kent State's head coach (WRs under Tressel)
Recently the SEC has taken to hiring rising star high school coaches who spend a year at Arkansas State, but they've also pilfered Bielema and hired a string of successful coordinators and guys who turned mid-majors into Top 10 teams, and, you know, former national championship winners who tried the NFL because their NCAA dynasties were no longer challenging.
Returning to the Diary of the Week at hand, the rest of the charts use the state data to show things like the SEC has a third of the nation's talent while Big Ten states accounted for a sixth—every other conference is less than us. In the comments turd furguson charted where the schools line up in ranking vs avg prospect rank to see if they're just hauling in more kids period. That also makes for easy graphing and general usefulness so:
In other takes on meeting Meyer's standards, here's EGD with a list of Urban-approved, non-"Don't be a Peters'd MAC coach" tips for Big Ten coaches heading out on the recruiting trail.
Basketball, the What's Leftening: Two of the three remaining tough games for basketball were just played. Our Big Ten opponents all have enough rough stuff still to play that everyone's expected to end up 14-4.
Etc. A better-late-than-never wrap-up of things Brian said on the D.C. trip—if you ask your local alumni chapter nicely (and you don't live in a crappy, unvisitable place like Dallas) you too can get a visit. The weekly LSAClassof2000 stats thing is a Geographic survey of freshmen in the Bentley database that's mostly useless if you don't take out the walk-ons—I had a hell of a time with that same problem when I did the historical team makeup from Ohio (the yellow part) graph for 2011 HTTV. Free throw attempts = EFFORT (and refs but mostly EFFORT!) A made-up backstory for rapture guy (the guy who reached ecstasy in that one gif); the real story will be on these pages soon courtesy of Ace. Lacrosse opponents primer. Please give details. Blockhams was pretty funny.
Requested: A diary on Michigan's ski team, which is club but I'm told is pretty good this year and has Bob Thomas's son on it (and competes in a division called "Michigan Men").
[After the jump: the winner of last week's "Find me a Game…Stauskus lookalike from the Fab Five" contest, and some stuff from the board.]