Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Michigan's remaining 2013 targets, a surprise move in the 2014 class, and more.
Weekend Visit Recap: One Decision Down, Three To Go
TX TE Durham Smythe is back on the market and looking at Michigan
As signing day rapidly approaches, Michigan's path to closing out the 2013 class becomes more clear. Over the weekend, the Wolverines picked up IN OL Dan Samuelson, who told Scout's Allen Trieu that his decision came down to distance ($):
"It came down mostly to distance," he explained. "I shouldn't say mostly, it was completely distance. It is only about a three hour drive, Nebraska being an 11 1/2 hour drive."
With Samuelson in the fold, Michigan now has six offensive lineman committed; does that leave room for CA OL Cameron Hunt, who was also on campus over the weekend? According to Hunt, per an interview with Scout's Greg Biggins, the answer is 'yes' ($):
“The coaches told me they still had room for me,” Hunt said. “I know six offensive linemen is a lot but I’m not afraid to compete. After taking all my trips, if I feel Michigan is the best spot for me, I’ll still go there and be ready to win a job. There is going to be competition anywhere you go so that doesn’t bother me.”
Hunt went straight from his Michigan official to one at Ohio State, and also has trips lined up to Oregon and Cal (where he's still a very soft commit) before he makes his decision.
OH CB Reon Dawson, an Illinois commit, also took a Michigan official over the weekend; he told ESPN's Jared Shanker that a decision is coming soon ($):
A final decision will come Wednesday after talking with his family and his girlfriend’s mother, with whom he has a very close relationship.
“I’ve been thinking about it ... and first off, education will be big. You can get hurt on any given play and you need something to fall back on,” Dawson said. “I’ll talk to my family, and by Wednesday it’ll be done. I need a couple of days to think about this decision.”
Dawson will choose between Michigan and Illinois; given that he'll be just a few days removed from checking out Ann Arbor when he makes his choice, there's definitely reason for optimism.
That won't be the only decision coming down this week, as in-state kicker JJ McGrath tells The Big House Report that he'll choose between Michigan, LSU, and Southern Miss on Friday. McGrath doesn't hold a scholarship offer—he'd come on as a preferred walk-on—but says that he'd have the opportunity to earn one when Brendan Gibbons graduates. The Wolverines are in a strong position to land McGrath, who also was on campus last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Derrick Green and Durham Smythe, a surprise commitment to Ohio State's 2014 class, and more.]
1/13/2013 – Michigan 53, OSU 56 – 16-1, 3-1 Big Ten
Michigan lost its mind to start this game, finding themselves down a grim amount—24 points at the maximum—as their offense abandoned them and an excess of switching on the defensive end confused them more than their opponent. It was a brutal flashback to the time when 20 turnovers was not an uncommon thing to go over, and faith-shaking.
I thought back to the Amaker/Ellerbe days when I was allowed to go watch something else once Michigan was down 20, and other than that 34-2 start at Cameron I couldn't think of anything else that had gotten so out of hand so quickly. I considered turning it off at one especially grim bit.
Then a thing happened: Michigan stepped up on defense and started chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. By halftime it was twelve. They cut it to eight, saw the lead push out again, and cut it back to eight again, this time following up. Six. Four. One; back to three. Finally, tied. Michigan had clawed all the way back from a 21-point deficit against a ranked team on the road.
Championship stuff. Gritty grit Eckstein stuff. Sportswriter hearts swelled, encomiums at the ready. It is in these fires that the heart of a champion is forged. The will to win surpasses. They just wanted it more. The trend was clear, and the final six minutes would be distance Michigan continued to put between themselves and OSU after their disoriented start.
Michigan then lost its mind again. The next six shots were all misses, and only two were even close to good looks, both missed threes from Robinson and Hardaway. The other four shots were nuts: an incredibly tough long two from Burke and jack-it-up contested threes from Burke, Hardaway, and Stauskas. If that's what you've got at the end of the shot clock, okay I guess. Those four shots were launched with 16, 17, 25, and 26 seconds on the clock*, and the box score credits Evan Ravenel with a block on the Burke three. That shot: not a good idea.
THESE ARE THE WAGES OF NUTS
They did not attempt to run their offense, and after all that. After imploding and then crawling their way back into it. After figuring out how to do things, they did not do them.
By the time this was over they were down six points with under two minutes left; while they got a shot to steal the game late thanks to a couple of steals that led to fast-break baskets—one of which even counted—the loss is right there.
I don't get it. I get being flustered in your first road game against elite competition, and falling behind extensively. I get scraping and clawing your way back into the game gradually when you're a good team. I don't get doing that and immediately going back to flustered. Turnovers or an inability to find a shot and just jacking it up, okay. That… that is confusing, like if that Benjamin Button movie was about a guy who yo-yoed between 22 and 6.
They are young, it turns out. If you think about it hard you can realize this yourself despite what it looks like on the court. Squint and maybe rub your temples and you'll be like "ohhhhh right, they have five freshmen who play." For the first time, it looked like it.
At the beginning, and at the end, anyway. In the middle, they had a near-elite team choosing to initiate their offense with 15 seconds left because they didn't want any part of a long game with the Wolverines. Work on the bit where you're six, I think.
*[I bet that is actually a couple seconds shorter than the actual shot clock; I'm just taking the difference between the previous recorded event and the shot, and there's often a second or three that runs off the clock before the shot clock resets as the team takes it out of bounds or goes for the rebound.]
How young? The most shocking stat on a page that proclaims Michigan the second-best team in the country at defensive rebounding: Michigan is 338th of 347 teams in average experience. (FWIW: Kentucky is a lot below them, and Texas is dead last.)
It's not a mystery. In re: why it's so hard to win on the road in this league. In this game, Michigan got the short end of three not very close block/charge calls worth a total of eight points, saw an obvious goaltend on a ball that went off the backboard not get called, and saw Trey Burke grabbed from behind on a breakaway for a foul on the floor instead of the only two possibly legit calls: and-one or an intentional foul. Oh and there was that unbelievable Hardaway-no-call on a possession Michigan ended up hitting a three. Also Evan Ravenel hit an 18-footer, which cannot be legal.
Yeah, Michigan didn't get called for many fouls themselves, because they never do. They're currently #1 in defensive free throw rate.
I'm just like… okay. That sucks, and is predictable. At least it's relevant!
Corollary. Kenpom keeps bringing this up: the narrow winner of a home game is very likely to lose the return match due to things like the above.
When the home team was the winner of the first game, they were a collective 309-326 in the rematch. That’s right, a home winner is more likely to lose a rematch than win it. It gets better, though. A home team winning the first game by single-digits went a collective 96-195, winning 33.0% of the time. Considering that overall, road teams win conference games about 38% of the time, close home winners are really not proving their superiority at all.
Wait, there’s more. Home teams that won by one or two points were 16-52 in the rematches, winning just 23.5% of the time.
This game was a point off his prediction, FWIW, which means I should not ever poke Kenpom.
STOP THE ELBOW REVIEWS. Stop it. The elbow reviews. Stop it. If there is a truly flagrant elbow delivered to a player, have the league suspend the guy after the game. Since that almost literally never happens there will not be a major impact, so we can cease halting games for five minutes of staring at a man staring at a monitor for no reason whatsoever. It's like instant replay in football that never changes anything.
Also just take the good threes okay. A thing that drives me nuts: guys passing up good looks at three so they can take a dribble and shoot a long two, which Burke and Levert both did during Michigan's extended time in the wilderness early. Just take the open shot you have an equal chance of hitting that is worth 50% more, please.
Well… Craft. In the preview I said this had to be at least a draw, and it wasn't. Burke was 2/8 from 2, 2/5 from three before and hit five free throws. 15 points on 13 shots is not particularly efficient, and then 4 assists to 4 turnovers is a fail. You may want to mentally deduct the last three as well since it was a meaningless, banked heave with a second left. Craft wasn't that efficient himself—9 points, 9 shots—but his role is to turn Burke into not the best player on the floor, and he did that. There is a reason he's one of the few non-Michigan players to have a tag on this blog.
That's the thing that Michigan lacks, by the way, an elite defender. Ohio State seems to have too many of them and nobody who can actually hit a shot, which is why they had to squeeze this win out despite Michigan putting up 38% from the floor—but it would be nice if Michigan had a guy they could go to to harass the opponent into a bad day.
The main non-Craft problem: terrible screens? In this game the screens didn't seem to actually slow anyone down. That's not always the screener's problem since he doesn't control how close to him the ballhandler goes. It didn't seem like the answer here was very close at all, and frequently what resulted was an instant trap on the ballhandler.
Stauskas: shut off. Three shots, all threes, all misses. Two of those were very bad shots clearly arising from a frustration at not being involved, the second one of the Fatal Four discussed above. I wonder if would have been more effective if he had gotten the obvious-obvious-obvious block call on that first drive. After that he didn't really try to do anything once he got his hands on the ball. In situations like this where the guy is in Stauskas's shorts, where are the back cuts? Vogrich was usually good for one of those a game despite being not six-six. I'm puzzled why Stauskas isn't getting at least a couple backdoor opportunities a game.
Rebounding: sufficient on defense, meh on offense. At this point I think you should put aside any remaining skepticism about Michigan's defensive rebounding. They're due for some regression, but OSU could only grab six offensive rebounds—21%. If it wasn't pretty good they would have had one of those nights by now, either against Pitt or KState or this outfit. Michigan just improved its season average against Ohio State. It is legit.
Meanwhile, once you add in a few "team" offensive rebounds, Michigan actually outperformed OSU in this one, but barely. 23% is nothing to write home about. But, hey, I'll take winning rebounding matchups against OSU.
McGary check-in. I really wanted him on the floor more than Morgan in this one. In 18 minutes he put up 3/3 shooting, got two offensive rebounds, and blocked two shots, both rather impressively.
Depth. Er. Hardaway: 40 minutes. Robinson: 38. Burke: 37. Stauskas got some sucked away because of the abovementioned items, so Albrecht and Levert both got around 10 minutes… hopefully one or the other develops into someone who can take some of the heat off those guys. Albrecht in particular was impressive.
Hello. Brian again.
|WHAT||Michigan at Ohio State|
Heart Of All Evil, Ohio
|WHEN||1:30 PM Sunday|
|LINE||OSU -2 (Kenpom)|
ABANDON A LOT LESS HOPE THAN USUAL YOU GUYS
AHHHHHH I LIKE PRETENDING I'M AT THE DENTIST
On offense, Ohio State is Deshaun Thomas and a cliff. Thomas puts up almost a third of OSU's shots, connecting at a 52% clip from two and 40% from three, with an impressively low turnover rate. He's another one of those NBA prototype small forwards that gets drafted into duty as a "power forward" in college, and will provide a stiff test for Glenn Robinson III—and the team as a whole. With 6'5"+ guys at two of the other wing spots, Michigan may end up switching a lot of screens in an attempt to force Thomas into jumpers.
Thomas's box scores against the top opposition OU has played reveals a consistent level of production:
Michigan does not have an elite interior defender like Duke and Kansas, but neither are they as incompetent positionally at the five as Illinois is. Thomas will get his; Michigan would do well to force him to take two-point jumpers as much as possible. Note the assists, or lack thereof, as well. Not sure if that's on him or his teammates or a combination… either way, heavy rotation to him probably won't burn Michigan too badly.
The other star-type substance for Ohio State is point guard Aaron Craft, who hounded Trey Burke for most of last year. Burke's box scores versus OSU:
|GAME RESULT||2PT FG||3PT FG||FT/FTA||PTS||A||TO||STL||MIN|
Craft forced Burke into 16 turnovers in three games. This year, Burke has twelve in his last 11 games and is averaging 1.6 per game against major competition. If Burke is going to be the national player of the year, this is the matchup he has to flip from last year. He can't be as efficient as he has been for big chunks of the year but he has to turn in something at least on par with his performance in Michigan's win last year.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Craft has not picked up the offensive slack left by the departures of Sullinger and Buford. He remains a low-usage player of middling effectiveness, shooting 44%/33%. He does a good job as a distributor; OSU needs points from someone, though, and he doesn't appear to be the guy. Duke basically dared him to score and he responded with a 2 for 11 performance from two, 1 of 4 from three. He had seven points on nine shots against Kansas and only made two shots in the halfcourt against Illinois, adding two fast break layups off his own steals to crack into double digits.
Shooting guard Lenzelle Smith is a quality three-point shooter who is a liability once you run him off the line. He shoots 46% from within the arc, doesn't get to the line, and is under 60% when he does get there. Small forward Sam Thompson is a super-athletic sophomore without much game outside of leaping over people and dunking on their face—think Rodney Williams a couple years ago.
Ohio State has a rotation similar to Michigan's at the five, with Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel splitting minutes about down the middle. Neither has much post game; Ravenel is slightly more likely to put up a shot, and Williams picks up a lot of free throws—that he converts at a 50% clip. Williams is a shot alterer with a block rate above 10% and a high-volume offensive rebounder who gets in foul trouble frequently. Ravenel has some OREB game himself but is a less imposing defender at 6'8" to Williams's 6'11". He may get the occasional post touch.
That's six; OSU goes eight deep. Sophomores LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott are the primary post players. Ross is a high-volume, high-turnover black hole is an effective slasher and not much of a shooter. Scott has emerged into an assist machine and defensive menace—top ten steal rate—in his second year of being Not Trey Burke. He's not a shooter at all, with a 56/44/37 FT/2/3 shooting line.
Ohio State had somewhat close games against powers that finished in defeat. OSU actually led Duke (at Duke) most of the way, but fell behind at the six minute mark and lost by five. A home game against Kansas was much the same way, with OSU leading for much of the first half before finding offensive stagnation and letting the game slip away from them. They had just eight points in the final ten minutes.
Less understandable than getting Withey'd was a 19-point blowout at Illinois; Purdue hung relatively tough at Mackey, but was never in serious threat of taking the lead. The rest of OSU's schedule has very bad; their only KP100 wins are against #92 Purdue and #85 Washington.
It's hard to separate out what is real in these numbers and what is the schedule:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||52.3 (43)||16.2 (13)||35.6 (76)||35.4 (180)|
|Defense||43.1 (24)||21.9 (115)||26.6 (22)||31.0 (86)|
That looks capital-E elite and has the Buckeyes tenth in the Kenpom rankings, but it is built on a lot of dominating blowouts against bad teams. Games against major competition have gone less well… but other than that Illinois game, there's nothing there you can point out as a huge-huge disappointment.
Burke vs Craft must be at least a draw. I don't think Michigan is winning a lot of games where Burke goes 1-11 from the floor with 8 turnovers. This is going to be a war; quien es mas macho?
Two point jumpers for everyone. Bizarrely, the only players who crack 40% shooting two point jumpers for OSU are Ravenel and Williams, and that's very small sample size. Thompson, Scott, and Craft are hovering around 25%. By contrast, Michigan has Burke above 50% and Robinson and Hardaway near it. Stauskas not so much, but only 13% of Stauskas attempts are two point jumpers.
If Michigan can keep OSU away from the rim, they should be able to win HORSE against these guys. If they had some variety of pack-line defense they could run, that would be ideal. They don't, but they can help off just about anyone not named Thomas and they'll be fine.
Rebound on par. Through three games in conference, Michigan is second in both offensive and defensive rebounding, albeit against meh competition. On the other hand, Ohio State has played Purdue and Illinois instead of Northwestern and Iowa and is currently getting shot down on the offensive boards (8th) and doing well on defense (third). Part of Win At HORSE is battling the Buckeye to a stalemate on the boards. Without a lot of dual post action from either team and Michigan just about matching OSU's athleticism, that should be doable.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 4! Screw you, Kenpom! BOOM
Well, this is a new one: as broken by Patrick Kugler (and later confirmed by Steve Wiltfong), IN OL Dan Samuelson has committed to Michigan while on his official visit to Ann Arbor. Samuelson was previously a Nebraska commit, but the Wolverines became a serious contender after he took an unofficial last month. He becomes the sixth offensive lineman in the 2013 class and the 25th commit overall.
|4*, #25 OT||3*, #31 OG||3*, 75, #87 OT||3*, 89, #13 OG|
Samuelson is a three-star prospect to every service save Scout, which places him just outside their top 300 recruits (the #24 OT, Logan Tuley-Tillman, is #300 overall). All four agree that he's 6'5", with his listed weight ranging from 275 to 295 pounds—the latter figure seems more up-to-date.
Samuelson should be ticketed for guard at Michigan, but ESPN's evaluation likes his prospects better at tackle ($):
Samuelson plays effectively at the guard position showing the upper body playing strength needed to control defenders when single blocking. However his size and athleticism appears better suited for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition. ... Playing out of a three point stance we see the first step quickness needed to gain and immediate advantage, however we do detect some lower body stiffness when playing in space and adjusting to change of direction movement. This lineman comes off the ball aggressively with good pad level and a solid blocking base; flashes the explosion and pop necessary to knock defenders off the ball on first contact however there is the need to follow through with consistent leg drive. Is quick out of his stance when releasing up on linebackers or pulling to trap; flashes the ability to reach on offset down linemen and get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Can get tossed at times needing to improve his agility and balance when playing in space.
I should say, ESPN says that they like him at tackle, then go on to talk about issues blocking in space and on the edge. Does not compute. Mentions of good pad level and second-level blocking make him sound like an ideal guard. That's certainly the impression of Scout's Bryan Munson, who scouted Sameulson after his commitment to Nebraska ($):
When you watch Samuelson’s film you see the skill and you see the ability. He’s quick for a guy his size, 6-foot-5 and around 280-pounds, and he loves to hit people. What you see when you watch Samuelson is a guy that gets onto his block and drives his guy either into the ground or 20 yards down field.
There are also some pretty good indications of strength too. While I haven’t seen any reported strength numbers specifically you can see the way that he just handles the guy that he has to block. The way that I would sum up Samuelson is simple: Big, smart, strong, dominating run-blocker with a need to develop pass-blocking skills.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt echoes the sentiment that Samuelson plays with good pad level ($):
"I liked Dan's film," Helmholdt said when asked for his evaluation of Samuelson. "He's a guy who played offensive guard as a junior, and I don't see anything that tells me he couldn't play right tackle. So there's some versatility there. He has the potential to play probably multiple positions on the offensive line.
"He's an above average athlete for the position. He really moves his feet well. He plays with great leverage. I think that something that really stands out in his film is that he's always up underneath the pads of the defensive lineman. He just does a lot of things well. I wouldn't say there's any one thing that makes you say 'wow', he's just a well-rounded offensive line prospect."
When Scout gave Samuelson his fourth star, Allen Trieu said he's got the potential to be a multi-year starter down the road:
It seems like every year the Midwest produces tough, hard nosed linemen who get overlooked. I think Samuelson is one of those blue collar kind of guys who is going to come in, work hard, be a starter and an all-conference kind of guy, and in the past, would have been underrated. On film, he showed good footwork and once we saw more of him pass blocking, we felt confident he could be a multi-year starter in college.
Samuelson seems like a guy who could slot in at either guard spot or even right tackle; while he might not be a dominant presence, he's got a solid base and should fit into the offense as a road-grater type.
Samuelson had a Nebraska offer, of course, and prior to that commitment he was a one-time pledge to Pittsburgh. His other offers came from Bowling Green, Illinois, Miami (OH), Minnesota, Wake Forest, Western Michigan, and Wyoming.
No stats, offensive lineman.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 5.3 seconds, which gets one FAKE out of five.
The only video I can find of Sameulson on YouTube is cutups from a single game:
You can check out film from several other individual games on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As said above, Sameulson should end up at guard when he gets to Michigan given his size and skill set. With his combination of size, fundamentals, and run-blocking skills, he should compete for a starting spot down the road, though he'll almost assuredly redshirt in 2013. He'll have a lot of competition from more highly-touted members of his own class in David Dawson and Kyle Bosch, as well as Kyle Kalis and Blake Bars in the year ahead of him, but Samuelson should provide solid depth until he gets a chance to compete for a starting job as an upperclassman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan should be able to take two or three more players in the class—the worry at this point is the 85 total scholarship cap, not the 25 single-class cap, since six members of the 2013 class enrolled early. It's even possible that the Wolverines take another offensive lineman in Cameron Hunt (on his official visit right now) or Dan Skipper.
The top remaining target, of course, is Derrick Green, who announced today that he'll make his decision on January 26th—Michigan is in very good position to land his commitment. OH CB Reon Dawson, another player taking his official visit this weekend, is also a candidate to take one of the last couple spots.
Trey Burke had—by his standards—a sub-par performance against Nebraska, needing 16 shots to score 18 points and only dishing out three assists. In the post-game presser, I asked John Beilein if Nebraska did anything defensively that he hadn't seen so far this year; without going into details, he mentioned that the Huskers had a different way of defending the pick and roll—Burke's bread-and-butter play.
After taking a look at the film, I think I've found what he was talking about. Last year, opponents utilized a hard hedge—doubling Burke off the screen with their big—as a way to dial up the pressure against the diminutive point guard. On Wednesday, Nebraska came with a variation, which this uneducated blogger will call a 'soft hedge'. To the screencaps!
After Michigan reset up top, McGary comes over to set a screen for Burke. The key player for Nebraska will be McGary's man, Brandon Ubel (#13), who in this frame is fighting through a screen by Tim Hardaway Jr.
As McGary sets the (not great) pick, Burke's man fights hard over the top; his responsibility is to make sure Burke can't pull up for three. Instead of hedging hard, Ubel positions himself a few feet inside the arc; his primary objective is to take away the drive.
Burke's man has successfully gone over the screen and recovered position, with Ubel in position to stymie any attempt to attack the basket off the dribble. Meanwhile, Hardaway's man (#24 Dylan Talley, standing right below the 'B' in the paint) has sunk back to defend a pass to McGary on the roll.
With Burke contained, Ubel slides back onto McGary while Talley heads out towards Hardaway.
I should probably have kept the next part in the video: Talley is late getting back out to Hardaway, who drives to the free-throw line and knocks down a jumper. Still, that was a tougher shot than what Michigan usually produces off the pick and roll (a layup or an open three), and I don't think Talley needed to sink so far into the lane with Ubel falling back.
What does the soft hedge accomplish? A few things.
No open threes. With the guard going hard over the top, Burke doesn't get a good opportunity to pull up for three, especially with Ubel in position to step out and contest.
No dribble drive. With the way the defense is aligned, if Burke wants to drive he can only go to his left—straight into Ubel. That's not much of an option.
No easy slip. One of the ways Michigan counters the hard hedge is to have the screener "slip" the pick—roll to the basket before fully setting the pick, ideally to receive an early pass before the double can get to Burke. With the big hanging back in this case, that option isn't there either.
Of course, there's no perfect way to defend the pick and roll, or John Stockton and Karl Malone wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I see two counters to the soft hedge. One is what Michigan did above: kick it back out to the wing (in this case, Hardaway), who should have an open look from deep or the opportunity to drive if his defender is late to recover or closes out too hard.
The other actually occurred a few minutes earlier in the game and should've resulted in an easy two points. On this play, Nebraska defends the initial pick in the same fashion; instead of rolling to the basket, however, McGary doubles back and sets another screen going the opposite way. The Huskers are forced to double Burke, and McGary slips the pick; Burke's feed is on the mark, but McGary's dunk attempt ricochets off the back iron:
Surprisingly, Michigan didn't really go back to this tactic despite the fact that it should've resulted in a (successful) dunk.
While Nebraska's defense did a solid job of limiting Michigan's points off the pick and roll, I don't think this is the magic bullet to stop that aspect of the Wolverine offense. The picture-paged example shows some sloppy play from Michigan; McGary's pick is too shallow, allowing Burke's man an easy path over the top, and the offensive spacing on the perimeter isn't ideal. Then, when Michigan countered, they did everything right except convert an open dunk.
The soft hedge is another way to slow down Burke, however, and does a good job of forcing him to give up the basketball—any defense that takes the ball away from Michigan's best player is one we'll likely see a fair amount moving forward.