Hello. I went away, and did not tell anyone because I thought to myself "I'll have plenty of time to put some posts together in the evenings," which was not true. I should just admit to myself that sometimes I am actually on vacation. Anyway, on with talking about things.
2/24/2013 – Michigan 71, Illinois 58 – 23-4, 10-4 Big Ten
I did not have the privilege of taking in the Dan Dakich Trollganza, since I had no audio. I may have missed some things. Thing I didn't miss: Dakich's Trollrankings having Illinois in front of Michigan despite Michigan having beat them by 74 at Assembly earlier this year.
That's just cheap heat; I bet Doris turned him down and now he's taking out his anger at any available target. Doris, why?
Photos. From Eric Upchurch.
Trey Burke is kind of good, and in this one he was kind of Deshaun Thomas. On the one hand, Burke had a game that will rank with his statistical best no matter when he leaves: 26 points on 15 shot equivalents, eight assists, and the obligatory solitary turnover. Commence the waving of flags and blasting of trumpets.
On the other hand, where did everyone else go? Robinson and Hardaway edged into double digits, Stauskas was 0-fer, and the supporting scoring was a step back. I guess this is mostly Stauskas's off night, as if he gets off his requisite ten this is not even a conversation; as it was, Michigan still managed 1.15 PPP. To me that largely seemed like…
Illinois did not prevent Michigan from getting into transition. Doing that was always going to be difficult since Illinois relies on jumpers so much, and the Illini exacerbated their usual slate of ready-made breakaways off of long rebounds with a ton of open-court turnovers. Though turnovers were nearly equal—Illinois 13, Michigan 10—Michigan tripled Illinois's steals with 9, and it seemed like every one of those
- came at a junction where Illinois was pressing to extend their lead to an unmanageable distance or fight their way back into the game, and
- led to an uncontested layup.
Thus a 61% shooting night from two and Robinson's customary 5/6 line on which most of his makes required no dribbles. Burke, too, had two or three freebie layups. Those transition opportunities provided most of the distance between Michigan's twos and Illinois's twos, so provided most of the final margin in a game statistically even otherwise.
It's back: post-half run. Hypothesis about beating people with half-time adjustments took some hits over the ugly four-game run earlier, but it was golden in this one as Michigan went from down 31-28 to up 43-34 over the course of the first five minutes of the second half.
This did not compare to Michigan's blitz a few minutes later. Illinois hit a three to bring it to within four and then suffered a four-minute barrage spurred by those open-court turnovers. When it was over they were down 17 and it was all over but the pointless timeouts.
Morgan's defense: ninja impact. McGary started and after Michigan gave up 11 quick points Horford got a crack; those two alternated until Michigan found itself down eight with eight minutes left, whereupon Morgan came in. Morgan would play 17 of the remaining 28 minutes; Michigan would outscore the Illini by 21 in that time. Morgan's first stretch of PT from around 8 minutes to around 4 was a big chunk of that, as Michigan went on a 13-3 run on which the Illinois points were a Tyler Griffey free throw off of a GRIII foul and an unassisted Nnanna Egwu jumper. I know that's Morgan's man but like okay.
Morgan suffered the banked end-of-half three, and then came in a minute into the second half when McGary picked up a third foul. This was of course the second-half run; by the time Morgan left Michigan had made up a two-point deficit and led by seven. Morgan gave up a foul to get Tracy Abrams a couple FTAs; the only other make in that sequence was a DJ Richardson jumper.
So… yeah, if you want to point to Morgan as the guy who subtly swung the game from extreme danger to comfort you go right ahead. At this point it's clear his ankle is still bothering him but Michigan needs him; hopefully that's a good sign for Michigan's chances down the stretch as he gets healthier. He is clearly a better option than anyone else when McGary isn't acting as a possession fountain. In this game, McGary wasn't, with just one OREB and a steal. In that case the hedge-and-respond game Morgan has going is something the other two guys can't match.
Minutes: an issue? Burke went his customary 39; Robinson and Hardaway had 36 each. Against Penn State(!) Burke went 39, Stauskas 34, Robinson 33. The debacle at MSU obscures what the numbers might have been in a game where Michigan was within 20 for big chunks of the second half; Burke went 40 in the OT game at Wisconsin with Stauskas at 39, Hardaway at 37, Robinson 33.
You get the idea. Michigan plays all starters except their five big minutes. Burke's minutes have been especially big. Is this going to catch up with Michigan come tourney time as Burke turns into a walking corpse?
As best as I can figure, it's not an issue. A lot of good teams ride their starters hard. Last year's final four featured Kansas (314th in bench minutes), Kentucky (323rd), Louisville (340th), and Ohio State (308th). Michigan's currently 328th in that stat, which is either "a troubling lack of depth" or "a ticket to the Final Four" depending on your half-empty/half-full status.
At 35 minutes a game Burke is 88th nationally and on another level from the other guys, who range from about 200th to about 400th in minutes averaged. He's not that far in front of the various point guards from last year's FF, though. UK's Marquis Teague and KU's Tyshawn Taylor averaged 33; Craft was at 32. Only Peyton Siva was a significant step back.
Last year's FF strongly suggests that the best teams in college basketball are heavily dependent on their starters and that PGs can handle minutes in the mid-30s without much problem. If Michigan goes out and Burke has an aberrantly bad game, his heavy minutes over the home stretch of the season will get a lot of blame. But he'll probably just have had a bad game.
First episode Walter White, part infinity. Beilein yo:
would you like to hear about covalent bonds they're super exciting (Upchurch)
Free throws! Michigan had some of them, and had most of them before a brief period of end-game fouling on which Burke was 3/4. (The previous possession ended with a Burke shooting foul but one after 35 seconds had expired—definitely not on purpose.) 17 is not a huge number, but after the last month or so where trips to the line have been beyond rare it's nice that Michigan can put together some FTAs even if they're against two of the hackiest teams in the league.
Rebounding lockdown. After a frustrating start in which Illinois picked up 6 offensive rebounds as they built a 21-13 lead, Michigan locked it down. After the first 12 minutes Michigan allowed two more OREBs and finished the game in a dead heat with the Illini on the boards. Still not great against one of the poorer rebounding teams in the league; we'll live with it.
There was a point at which I thought Nnanna Egwu had read the blog and was super mad about its season-long obsession with the fact that he can't grab a ball to save his life; this faded somewhat as the game progressed. We can add another 22 minutes without a defensive rebound to Sam McLaurin's ledger; the man is a miracle.
Today's recruiting roundup recaps reactions from the weekend's visits and discusses the impact of Jerry Montgomery's departure.
Big February Recruiting Weekend Produces No Commits... For Now
Drake Harris (photo via Detroit News)
There weren't eight commitments, not that anybody expected as much. There wasn't even one commitment. That doesn't mean that Michigan's big visit weekend was a failure; far from it, in fact.
If a player was going to pledge over the weekend, it was FL OL Mason Cole. While Cole didn't take the plunge, he told Scout's Josh Newkirk that Michigan solidified their place atop his leaderboard ($):
“Michigan’s leading,” Cole said. “but I don’t I really don’t have an organized top-five. And from here on out anything can happen.”
As far as a decision timeline, Cole didn’t let out any hints of an early commitment.
“I’m just going with the flow,” Cole said regarding a timetable.
Regarding that fluid timetable, Cole told ESPN's Chantel Jennings($, info in header) that a commitment "could come at any time," to one of his top schools—Michigan, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Florida State. If he makes a choice soon, it's almost assuredly going to be Michigan, and they've positioned themselves well for a commitment whenever Cole decides to, er, decide.
The Wolverines also strengthened their position with current Michigan State commit Drake Harris, the top in-state wide receiver. Harris told 247's Steve Wiltfong that every school he's looking at—Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia, and Notre Dame—is on equal footing, and the attention shown to him by both Michigan's coaches and commits made a big impact ($):
The Michigan coaches aren’t the only ones recruiting Harris. Quarterback commit Wilton Speight is also working to get him in the fold, as is 2013 signal-caller signee Shane Morris. Speight was on campus this weekend hanging with Harris.
“He seems like a great person,” Harris said. “I’ve been texting with him but this was the first time meeting him and we had a good time. I look forward to hanging out with him more. I’ve been in contact with Shane Morris and he wants me there. Everyone was giving me a lot of attention including Coach (Brady) Hoke and Michigan made a great impact on me this weekend.”
Harris has already set his next visit to Ann Arbor for March 10th, when the basketball team takes on Indiana in what should be a game with plenty of hype and excitement. Getting back-to-back visits is a great sign, even if there will be stiff competition from upcoming visits to Florida (March 22nd) and Ohio State (planned, not set).
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the reactions from the weekend and the impact of Jerry Montgomery's departure.]
Michigan's defensive line coaching staff. Bryan Fuller|MGoBlog (Title Reference)
There's never been a better time to start in life. It ain't too early and it aint too late!
Starting as a farmer with a brand new wife. Still be living in a brand-new state!
Brand new state- Gonna treat you great!
OOOOOOKLAHOMA! Coaches at large schools have done well to be entering their third year at the helm with their own jobs intact. To get that far with all of your coordinators means taking out several mortgages with every deity who still accepts sacrifices. You do poorly, can a coordinator. Do well, your best guys are instantly on the short list for whichever second-rate SEC school fired Houston Nutt this week. Do… well there isn't a middle ground is there?
So it is with great remarkability that I announce that the staff Brady Hoke arrived with in 2011 has finally had its first defection. Jerry Montgomery, a guy who's a few months older than me and a few months younger than Brian, is leaving the job he shares with the guy he reports to, and the guy that guy reports to, in order to actually coach defensive linemen at Oklahoma. This was an inevitable move once the soul patch became a full-grown beard and "knows what Adult Swim is" ceased being relevant to a generation of recruits who don't even realize robot Optimus Prime is supposed to look like a truck.
Gonna buy you barley, carrots and pertaters,
pasture for the cattle, spinich and termaters,
Flowers on the prarie where the June bugs zoom,
Plen'y of air and plen'y of room, Plen'y of room to swing a rope!
Plen'y of heart and plen'y of hope.
OOOOOOKLAHOMA! Montgomery did in fact prove himself adept at connecting with recruits on a football level. Whereas in 2012 many of the big Ohio recruits were in Mattison's western territory, Montgomery is the guy who in 2013 cracked open Pickering/Columbus and did his part in reeling in a five-star running back. For this, that, and the other reason it was coming time for him to go somewhere where he isn't just [the young guy on staff who's there to relate to the kids, aka…] the Beyonce.
Down in Oklahoma, Josh Heupel has dreamy eyes and probably knows what it's like to get in trouble for texting during class, something neither I nor Montgomery can relate to. Jerry is moving up, even if the school is a step down (to us) or sideways (to everyone else). He's coached DL under Hoke and Mattison and now he'll add Stoops to his resume, and in three or five years somebody will see if he knows how to run a defense. This wasn't Stoops coming in with a magic potion, nor did ol' Jud ride in on his fancy wagon to outbid another Big Ten team for its favorite up-and-comer. It's the way things go.
The rest of the staff is expected to be here awhile, or at least until Fred Jackson decides it's time to hold an event like the Olympics but more athletic to determine whether Hart or Wheatley's the more worthy successor. Michigan now has an opening for an assistant coach who knows what it feels like when Instagram deletes all your photos to cover a nominal position and stop by Ann Arbor every few weeks to deliver a batch of LOIs. In this day and age it's crucial to have at least one guy on staff who doesn't know the words to Oklahoma.
OOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain!
|WHAT||Illinois at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||1:00 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –11 (Kenpom)|
Right: John Groce's Jedi mind tricks weren't enough to stop a 14-point Michigan win the last time around. (Photo: Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
When Michigan travelled to The Other Assembly Hall a month ago, they faced an Illini squad that had stumbled to losses in five of their last eight games; the Wolverines, on the other hand, had only suffered one conference loss.
This time around, the Illini are riding a five-game winning streak—including upsets of Indiana and Minnesota—while Michigan has lost three of their last five, with this game coming on the heels of an uninspired performance against a terrible Penn State outfit.
Since I previewed this Illinois team last month, I'll save a few words and point you in that direction. The short version: three guards—Brandon Paul (never met a shot he didn't like), Tracy Abrams (mostly inside the arc), and DJ Richardson (mostly outside the arc)—are all volume shooters. None are particularly efficient, but if they catch fire the Illini can beat anyone in the country. Wing Joseph Bertrand is a low-usage but efficient player, while backup forward Tyler Griffey is an extreme streak shooter who's been more cold than hot this season. Power forward Sam McLaurin is notable around these parts for his inconceivably low rebound rate (6.5 DR%(!)), as is center Nnanna Egwu (13.0% despite being 6'11"), who at least provides a strong shot-blocking presence.
Illinois has collected an impressive a set of signature wins, with triumphs over #52 Butler, #4 Gonzaga, #13 Ohio State, #2 Indiana, and #18 Minnesota this season. Aside from an ugly 14-point home loss to Northwestern and a 7-point defeat at Purdue, none of their losses has come to a team ranked lower than #23 (Missouri).
Four factors, conference play only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||46.6 (7)||17.4 (6)||33.0 (4)||30.6 (8)|
|Defense||49.2 (10)||21.5 (1)||34.3 (9)||42.1 (10)|
Illinois does a couple things very well. Offensively, it's scoring inside the arc, where they connect on 48.9% of their shots (#3 in the B1G); of course, they're largely content to shoot three-pointers, which they hit at just a 28.8% rate. Defensively, they force a ton of turnovers, but that's about all they're doing well on that end.
The keys from last time around still work pretty well:
Protect the rock. Illinois gets a ton of blocks and steals, but otherwise their defense is underwhelming. If Michigan takes care of the basketball, they should win, but they could get into trouble in their outside shots aren't falling—the turnovers could come if they try to force their way to the basket.
Hands off. The Illini have the best free-throw percentage in the conference and a couple guys who can attack the basket in Paul and Abrams. With their shooting struggles, Illinois would love to get opportunities for easy points; thankfully for Michigan, they're still #2 in the country in free throw rate against. Playing like they've been playing should take care of this.
Run, run, run. Michigan can really open up this game if they're able to get out in transition, and there should be plenty of chances off long rebounds when Illinois shoots (and misses) from outside. Illinois plays at a higher tempo than most Big Ten teams, but that may not play in their favor—Nebraska had success (or at least kept Michigan close) by grinding the pace to a halt and refusing to let Michigan get out on the break.
The biggest key for Michigan, of course, is making strides with their interior defense. The Illini, however, don't boast much in the way of an interior scoring threat, and Abrams is the only guy who attacks the rim with great frequency (Paul is very capable of doing so, but mostly chooses to shoot jumpers). This isn't a great measuring-stick game for Michigan's defensive progress, unless Illinois is getting tons of points inside, and then the situation may be even more dire than we thought.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 11
It went pretty well the first time around, and that was on the road. As long as Illinois doesn't catch fire from deep, Michigan should be able to handle this challenge, assuming they come out with more energy and focus than they did against Penn State.
Today's recruiting roundup covers a huge visit weekend, new offers, and more.
Big February Visit Weekend Is An Annual Thing, Apparently
It's that time of the year again, when Michigan rounds up a large group of highly-touted recruits, shows off their program with the coaches and current commits in full-on recruiting mode, and renders me unable to leave my laptop for the weekend. Those hoping for a repeat of last year's eight-man commitapalooza should temper their expectations, but there's nothing wrong with getting excited about the talent that will be on campus ($). Here's a rundown of this weekend's visitors (all are 2014 prospects unless otherwise noted):
- OH LB Michael Ferns and VA QB Wilton Speight — Two of Michigan's three commits—and the two that have been most active in recruiting other prospects—will be on campus doing their best Shane Morris impressions. Both have been mentioned by other prospects as doing an impressive job of selling Michigan.
- OH LB Kyle Berger — Berger hails from the same Cleveland St. Ignatius program that produced Jake Ryan, and it could come down to a Michigan/OSU battle for the four-star linebacker.
- FL OL Mason Cole — If a player is going to commit this weekend, it's probably Cole, a four-star guard who's already made multiple trips up from Florida. Getting Cole would be big in its own right, and it would also give Michigan the inside track at his high school teammates, four-star WR Artavis Scott and 2015 blue-chip ATH George Campbell—both have offers, and Campbell will accompany Cole on this weekend's visit.
- MI WR Drake Harris — This will be the first visit for Harris since his commitment to Michigan State; he's since opened up his recruitment after deciding he'll focus exclusively on football at the next level, though he still remains a soft Spartan verbal. Wilton Speight told Sam Webb he's been talking with Harris on a daily basis and convinced him to spend two days on campus this weekend. While Harris doesn't seem close to making a final decision, a productive visit could move him closer to making a change in his commitment.
- NC RB Elijah Hood — The four-star back had Michigan tied for fifth in his recruitment as of last week, but he's since updated that list and now has the Wolverines in fourth, per ESPN's Kipp Adams ($). This weekend will be key if Michigan hopes to make up ground on Notre Dame, Hood's leader, especially since he plans to make a decision before his senior season.
- MI DE Lawrence Marshall — Marshall briefly committed to Ohio State a couple weeks ago before opening up his recruitment after visits to Michigan State and Michigan forced him to reconsider. I'd expect the Southfield four-star end will take a little longer before making another pledge.
- MI DE Malik McDowell — While McDowell has been a familiar face around Ann Arbor, he's yet to spend a lot of time with the coaches—that should change this weekend, obviously. McDowell has been mum about his leaderboard, but it's believed that Michigan and Notre Dame hold an edge over Ohio State and Michigan State, and this will be a chance for the Wolverines to separate themselves from the pack.
- 2015 FL ATH George Campbell — As said above, Campbell is teammates at Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake with Mason Cole and Artavis Scott, and he appears ticketed for five-star status when the 2015 rankings eventually come out. This will be his first visit to Ann Arbor.
- 2015 MI ATH Brian Cole — Cole projects to be one of the top athletes in Michigan's rising junior class and could end up at receiver or defensive back at the next level. The 6'2" product of Saginaw Heritage already holds offers from both Michigan and MSU. This will be his first visit to Ann Arbor.
- 2015 OH CB Shaun Crawford — Crawford doesn't yet hold a Michigan offer, but that didn't stop him from pegging the Wolverines as his favorites in an interview with Scout's Bill Greene ($). He already holds offers from Illinois and Tennessee and ran an electronic 4.52 40-yard dash at a Nike SPARQ combine last week, so don't be surprised if Michigan comes through with an offer sooner or later.
The only player on this list that can be reasonably expected to commit this weekend is Mason Cole, and that's by no means a guarantee. As we've seen in the past, however, strange things can happen when this many prospects get on campus at the same time.
[Hit THE JUMP for the early leading candidate for dumbest rumor of the 2014 cycle, a couple of new offers, and more.]