The title is both a track off an upcoming Sufjan Stevens album and a rock-hard truth: for the first time in all the times I can remember, Michigan enters NSD without so much as a random three-star on the hook. They've got their 27 guys, are without late-flip drama, and we're reduced to watching Ole Miss inexplicably reel in five star after five star for reasons related to Eli Manning and apple pie*, I'm sure.
Anyway, for reasons of holy pants that basketball game and ain't nothing going on, we're forgoing our usual monstrous all-day liveblog in which I answer the same question sixteen times for a more focused one. We'll kick it off at 1 PM and go through Hoke's 2PM presser; afterwards Ace will have some thousand-foot-view stuff for the people who don't care enough to bother except on one special day every year.
Wilton Speight's hello post will have to wait for tomorrow, I think. Not that we know much about him other than "is real tall, probably knows more about Thomas Jefferson than average high schooler."
*[There's a certain faction that will cluck at you when you imply that what's going on with Ole Miss's recruiting is suspicious. SAT analogy time: Ole Miss : recruiting :: 37-year-old baseball player having career year : steroids. I'm taking this recent Bill Simmons column and applying it to a new domain. The point at which schools received the benefit of the doubt is long gone.]
The highlighters are the good guys.
EDIT: Not working so well so I'm pulling down the one with our ads and giving you
Thorin's MGOBLUE's today.
ALL THE THREES
Aaron Craft lay on the floor, hands behind his head, defeated.
For 45 minutes, Craft and his Buckeyes put up a hell of a fight, trading blows with Trey Burke's Michigan squad in front of an electric Crisler Center crowd. Both point guards had their moments of triumph—Burke tallying 16 points and eight assists with just two turnovers, Craft pocketing three steals and scoring 11 points of his own.
In overtime, though, Burke came out on top, redeeming his missed three at the end of regulation with an improbable pull-up triple on Michigan's first overtime possession—a shot that would ultimately provide the winning points. Craft had a jumper from the elbow to give Ohio State the win with the shot clock turned off, but it was Burke's turn to win with his defensive exploits, swatting the shot to Glenn Robinson III. Craft was forced to foul—hard enough to get a review, as it turned out—and Robinson gave the Wolverines a two-point lead with his first free throw. The second was off the mark, however, and the ball found its way to Craft, who quickly drove the length of the court for a game-tying layup, only to be blocked again by Tim Hardaway Jr., and left to stare at the rafters waiting for a whistle that never came.
It was a classic finish to a classic game, in front of a Crisler crowd that was louder than any since the days of the Fab Five (or so I'm told—it was certainly the loudest I've heard dating back to the Ellerbe era). Michigan landed the first haymaker, racing out to an 18-8 lead, but the Buckeyes crawled their way back into it—a jumper from unexpected star LaQuinton Ross gave the visitors a 31-30 halftime edge.
Ohio State pushed their lead to as much as eight in the second half, but they couldn't find an answer for Hardaway, who hit all five of his second-half three-point attempts—including triples on three straight Wolverine possessions—en route to a game-high 23 points. Still, the Wolverines struggled to close the gap completely, failing to guard the interior time and again. It wasn't until a Nik Stauskas three with 3:23 to play that Michigan finally retook the lead, one that lasted all of 24 seconds before an Amir Williams free throw tied it up. After trading buckets, Burke's last-second triple caught only iron to bring on overtime.
While Jordan Morgan was limited to four ineffective minutes with a lingering ankle injury, Mitch McGary (at left, Upchurch) shined in 29 productive minutes—his 14 points proved huge, but even bigger were his four steals and stellar outlet passing, sparking the offense without putting the ball in the hoop himself. When Morgan is back at 100%, he'll still have his starting spot—Jon Horford again got the start tonight—but McGary has made his play for a bigger chunk of the minutes. Fellow freshman Stauskas knocked down 3-of-5 triples to do his part, while Robinson again struggled offensively, needing eight shots to notch ten points.
For the Buckeyes, Deshaun Thomas led the way as usual with 17 points, but Robinson's improved defensive effort forced him to take 15 shots to get there. Instead, it was Ross who repeatedly came up with big shots, pouring in 16 while shooting 7-for-10 from the field.
When the final buzzer sounded, however, it was Michigan coming away with the narrowest of victories. A missed call here, a lucky shot there, any small moment could have made the difference; this time it's the Buckeyes who will stare at the ceiling and wonder.
Uh… well… I think so.
And you can't have one without the other…
I'm going to go deflate over here now.
|WHAT||Ohio State at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||9:00 PM Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan –8 (Kenpom)|
Michigan gets the chance to avenge their first defeat of the season tonight when Ohio State comes to Crisler, where they will be greeted by the sun. Or possibly Michigan's maize-on-maize jerseys. Either way, I can't look at them long enough to tell the difference.
Anyway, Brian previewed this Buckeye outfit in detail just a couple of weeks ago, so I'll spare much of the redundancy and point you in that direction.
Since Ohio State last played the Wolverines, they've gone 4-1, with their lone loss coming by three at the Breslin Center. In that game, Deshaun Thomas scored scored 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting. None of his teammates had more than five points, and non-Thomas Buckeyes combined to shoot 9-of-27 from the field. While Thomas didn't lead the team in scoring in recent wins over Penn State and Nebraska, this is still very much Deshaun Of The Dead, and now there's a movie poster and everything:
So, yes, the situation is still the same. Thomas is the best pure scorer in the league, perhaps the country. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are stellar perimeter defenders, not-so-stellar shooters. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is a good defensive rebounder and the only guy outside of Thomas who's a real threat with his outside shot. Sam Thompson is a pogo stick who shouldn't ever shoot outside of zero feet. Amir Williams (the starting center of late) and Evan Ravenel will both do good center things—rebound, block shots, defend well—while not getting a whole lot of post touches. Thomas will be tasked with carrying the offense while the rest will play obnoxiously good defense, and it's that latter bit that gave Michigan a whole heap of trouble the first time around.
Since they last played, OSU has the aforementioned loss at Michigan State, comfortable home wins over Iowa and Wisconsin, and road wins over doormats Penn State and Nebraska—the latter got a bit hairy at parts, but the Buckeyes held on for a seven-point margin. They sit tied with Michigan and Michigan State for second in the Big Ten behind Indiana; winning this game is pretty important for Michigan, obviously.
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||50.3 (5)||19.4 (9)||25.8 (10)||31.8 (6)|
|Defense||43.6 (2)||17.8 (8)||28.4 (3)||23.2 (1)|
Ohio State's offense is well below elite, producing the fifth-ranked offensive efficiency in the conference—nearly 18 points per 100 possessions behind Michigan. There's no one area offensively in which they really stand out (for good or bad) unless you count Deshaun Thomas as an area.
Defensively, however, this is the top-ranked unit in the conference and #9 nationally. They're allowing Big Ten opponents to shoot just 43% on twos and 30% on threes, though the latter number seems fluky—they're 10th in the conference at 3PA/FGA allowed, which is a stronger indicator of their three-point defense. The interior guys block a ton of shots, and despite that aggressive approach the Buckeyes keep opponents off the free-throw line better than any other Big Ten team.
Find a way to get the pick-and-roll working. Michigan's loss at Ohio State came in large part because the Wolverines could not find a way to get the bread-and-butter play working. Utilizing Aaron Craft's quickness and aggressiveness, the Buckeyes "locked the rails" against Trey Burke, pinning him to the sideline and keeping him away from the middle of the floor:
The key here won't so much be Burke as it will the bigs—if McGary/Horford/Morgan can slip a few of those picks or flip the pick to catch OSU off guard, they can create some easy buckets and force the Buckeyes to go back to the drawing board. If Craft gets hit with a cheap foul or two that he wouldn't get in Columbus, that would be nice, too.
Always, always account for Thomas. In the first game, Glenn Robinson III got lost a few times defensively and allowed Thomas to get open looks, which he of course knocked down. Robinson is coming off his worst game of the year—on both ends of the court—against Indiana, and he can't afford a repeat performance given his matchup. Michigan will likely give him plenty of help, but there can't be communication errors or lapses in concentration—Thomas will take advantage just about every time.
Aim for the head. Walking Dead enthusiasts know what I'm talking about.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 8
I'll never doubt you again, KenPom.
Three products of the Detroit suburbs. Watson & Trent: MGoBlue archives; Ojemudia by Eric Upchurch
In most states, the conversation on National Signing Day is about how awesome the kids are at football. Everybody looks at the rankings, those at the top have their little ceremonies around fax machines, and then everybody hits a lot of refresh to see whether mortgaging all of your elementary schools was enough to lure that top talent to your favorite team.
Well let me explain some tings about da Great Lakes State. First of all, people in the lower p like to explain tings. The second thing you should know is we got Sparties. Holy wah do we got Sparties. And the ting about Sparties is dere everywhere, and you're not allowed to shoot 'em.
Already by this point the scripts for tomorrow are written: State can't compete with Michigan for the guys Michigan wants. Michigan wins in February, State wins in October (one time in three). Detroit has the 5-stars but Grand Rapids has the players. Hoke has changed the dynamics in the rivalry. No, services just overrate his guys. Fewer people in the state means recruiting has suffered. Mom, Michigan's making fun of me. Are we at the Zilwaukee Bridge yet? I can't answer every great question in the Great Lakes State, but I figured I might tackle a few of the factoids that float around the peninsulas every year around this time.
Did the Talent Leave with the People?
The state indeed has been losing people, although most of the people who fled Detroit didn't make it past Oakland County. Estimated population in 2012 was 9,883,360, while the 2000 census read 9,938,444. We lost like a half a percent. If you look at it against U.S. growth as a whole, Michigan's population was 3.53% of the country and now it's 3.15%, an effective drop of 11% if the shift proportionally affects people who graduated after 2001 who have football talent and the opportunity to develop football skills. If that's had an effect it's not noticeable in the small sample:
I'm not letting population shift or Rivals off the hook for no in-state 5-stars in three years; I'm saying there's more evidence that mononucleosis is to blame. And anyway can you blame them now for not giving one to Lawrence Thomas last year? What's weirder is the last three (Will Gholston, Campbell and Ronald Johnson) all turned out to be somewhat below those expectations.
Does MSU recruit just as well in-state as Michigan?
Does the East Get Overrated Compared to the West?
This is a thing coaches sometimes still say, and was repeated often enough by my west side friends as truth in my college days. I don't know if it's still even said—maybe it was just the typical whining that always comes from the direction Brian Kelly is in. But we can test it a little anyway. Here's how I split up the map:
Apologies for the greenness of the blue state; the relative partiality to one school or another is another thing we ought to test. Now here's how recruits were spread across it over this period, next to the spread of games played in the NFL by players from whichever region:
The West's distribution isn't any different than its recruit contribution. Once in awhile a 2-star at a Grand Rapids-ish school may get overlooked, come to Michigan, and end up earning $12 million/year in the NFL, but most of the time those 2-stars are Obi Ezeh.
The thing that's off here—by a lot—seems to where I'm sitting…
[After the jump, something stinks in Oakland County. Other than the author I mean.]