The Postseason Before The Postseason
The Big Ten Tournament walks a weird line between being the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. It also happens to be Michigan's only chance to, like, make the postseason (they do not plan to accept a CBI bid if they don't make the NIT). In Round 1, Michigan faces off against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 8/9 game, with a rubber match against Ohio State lurking if they should advance. Your full bracket, from the Big Ten:
To make the NCAA Tournament, the tall order of defeating Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue or Michigan State seems to be necessary. Basically what I'm saying is that there are only a couple basketball games left this season, so try to enjoy them.
Lists: We Is On Them
"We" being only DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris, of course. The Official Big Ten All-Conference honorees include DeShawn Sims as a Second-Team selection and Manny Harris as a Third-Team nod. Manny was named to the official First-Team squad in the preseason. Ohio State's Evan Turner was named the conference POTY.
Other outlets making lists include the Big Ten Network's Big Ten Geeks, whose squad (first team only, plus freshman of the year) includes no Wolverines (HT: UMHoops). The outstanding Michigan State (durr: oxymoron, durr) blog The Only Colors determines the Big Ten players who are most valuable based on PORPAG, whatever that means. Points Over Replacement Player Per Adjusted Game decrees that DeShawn Sims is worthy of his Second-Team consideration, and Manny Harris was one of the great disappointments in the Big Ten this year. Players of note:
|Big Ten PORPAG|
|1||John Shurna (NU)||4.41|
|2||Jason Bohannon (UW)||3.96|
|3||Robbie Hummel (Pur)||3.75|
|4||Evan Turner (OSU)||3.59|
|5||Demetri McCamey (Ill)||3.23|
The stat is imperfect - it only covers offense, and defensive rebounding is one of Manny's great strengths - but it indicates that he has a lot of offensive work to do, and would probably be better-served by staying in college for his final season.
You'll notice that the search box has migrated down from the header to the right sidebar, where it slightly displaces the diaries and board. I've moved the site over to a Google-powered search that is a thousand times more useful than Drupal's defaults.
You'll also note a "Refine" section right under your results. Right now there's just one option that will provide you only message board posts. If anyone has suggestions for other potentially useful refinements, let me know and I'll try to implement them.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson.
|Youngstown, Ohio - 5'10" 178
|Scout||3*, #103 S|
|ESPN||2*, 68, #270 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Wisconsin, Kent State, Bowling Green, Air Force|
|Commitment post. Brief interview with Tom.|
|Notes||Cardinal Mooney puts out a lot of talent every year.|
Ray Vinopal is the second member of Michigan's Rodney Dangerfield duo at safety, a two-star who was a surprise commitment at a time when Michigan had considerably higher-rated prospects on the board. Rich Rodriguez took some time to defend his new deep safety on signing day:
I hope people don't get too hung up in stars. I don't know what Ray's star rating was. Ray Vinopal I think is -- you know, valuable a recruit as anybody we have, because of what we've seen and what we think he's going to bring to the table. And I'm very excited about Ray. He's a guy, again, that kind of came out of nowhere in some people's minds, but not in ours. Tony Gibson did an outstanding job of reciting Ray.
It's more of the same when it comes to gurus and the players and the quotes and the laven:
Vinopal said he doesn’t put much stock in Internet evaluations of his play, either.
“I use it as motivation,” he said. “I know what I can do, the coaches obviously know what I can do, that’s why they offered me. I mean, it’s Michigan and the Big Ten, they’re not throwing out offers because they want to be nice. There’s a reason behind it.”
There is also a reason that the internet folks are down on Johnson. The common thread running through Vinopal's evaluations is a lack of athleticism. ESPN's mostly negative take:
Lacks desired length and height as a high-point safety as well. He is an active run defender who will come down and fill hard; provides good secondary support. Shows adequate closing burst and makes solid contact as a tackler with better-than-adequate pop. Overall underneath range and speed is good but he does not fill with great downhill burst and sharp angles; loses outside leverage on the ball at times. … Lacks quick diagnosing and reaction skills which is a concern. Not a guy who projects well playing down over the top of slots in man coverage schemes and feel he could struggle mirroring/breaking down on quicker skill players in space.
At the time of his commitment I compared him to Jordan Kovacs; Touch The Banner also referenced Kovacs in its scouting report. Again with the small/slow bits:
And that's the problem I have with the Vinopal offer and commitment. When I watch him, I don't see a whole lot to fix. He's pretty technically sound. He reads plays well, he accelerates well, and you can see that he goes full-speed. He goes all out . . . and I'm still not impressed. He's not a great tackler. He's not extremely fast. He's going to get overpowered in the run game, outrun in open space, and outjumped in the passing game. When he gets to full speed, his running form goes completely out of whack, although that's something that may be able to be fixed.
Even folks who are trying to talk up Vinopal's potential tend to mention his general failure to be Adrian Peterson:
"Ray's a kid that when you look at him, he's always going to be underestimated because he's not as athletic as most of the Division I safeties probably are. But Cardinal Mooney guys are pretty darn successful. If you look at a guy like Kyle McCarthy at Notre Dame, he's probably not as big, as fast or as athletic as any other defensive back there [at ND] but he led them in tackles each of the past two seasons.
"Ray Vinopal could be similarly productive, and he has more speed than McCarthy."
I'm on the record as a big Kyle McCarthy fan—he and David Bruton were everything Michigan safeties were not the last couple years—but while McCarthy just put up a 4.65 at the NFL combine he also finished second amongst safeties in the bench press, three-cone drill, and shuttle. McCarthy is a big, athletic guy who happens to be a little slow. Vinopal is a considerably smaller player who many people knock for his lack of athleticism.
On the other hand, there are some indicators that Vinopal is actually pretty fast. He is a member of Mooney's state championship 4x100m relay that has won back-to-back state titles and will go for a third this spring. As a freshman in a (no doubt hand-timed and still probably FAKE) 4.5 40 at an underclass camp. He claimed a 4.41 electronic time to Sam Webb on signing day.
Afterwards, Vinopal was getting a ton of letters from all over, but none of them materialized into offers save for scattered MAC teams and service academies until Michigan stepped in. Wisconsin said he was "definitely an offer guy" after he hit their summer camp, and on Signing Day Vinopal did claim a late Badger offer. Other than that, the BCS was indifferent. Notre Dame brought him in for a visit and was considering an offer, as were BC and Pitt, but Michigan short-circuited that by picking up his commitment.
So. Previously I explained my bullishness on Carvin Johnson despite his who-dat status. Vinopal doesn't have any of those same indicators except maybe the late offers, and Vinopal's only got the one from Wisconsin. That doesn't match Johnson's three or four from programs like Tennessee. Vinopal got a small bump from Scout after committing to Michigan but actually lost ground at Scout. Rivals was unmoved. And there's no one out there other than Vinopal's coach…
“He is extremely physical, extremely explosive,” Fecko said. “He did some things where there were some balls, fades thrown up along the sideline, and it looked like they were going to be a completion and he was coming across just smacking people, dislodging footballs. A great run-stopper that was a sure tackler, and when he had his chance to lay a lick on you he definitely did.”
…saying the kid is someone who should have grabbed more attention.
Now… I feel bad, right? I read articles in which Vinopal or Johnson says stuff about people not liking them or needing to prove people wrong and I think that I am a person who they believe needs to be proven wrong—needed to, in Johnson's case. But the goal of this series is to assemble information and guess, and the information assembled doesn't paint a picture of a major contributor.
However, it is just a guess, and Michigan's long, inglorious history at safety is significantly crappier than, say, Wisconsin's. Or Iowa's. Or a whole section of Big Ten teams that put out good defenses with guys you've never even heard of. So maybe Rodriguez and company found a guy who can be Tyler jimmer-jammin' Sash. It's possible. McCarthy, an extremely successful college safety from Mooney, was a meh 5.5 three star to Rivals. These things are not stone.
Why Brandent Englemon? Small two-star safety who had poor other offers and average athleticism. Englemon is sort of a default comparison. And it should be noted that Englemon's presence in the program was a positive. He was an off-and-on starter.
Guru Reliability: High. Cardinal Mooney never lacks for attention and this year they had a big time running back in Braylon Heard, who ended up going to Nebraska, so Vinopal was thoroughly scouted. He was healthy throughout high school, too.
General Excitement Level: Low. If there's ever going to be a low, it's got to be a guy with Vinopal's offers and rankings.
Projection: Well. If Vinopal is ready he will play from day one. I don't think anyone expects that to happen since everyone on the roster will have more experience or better rankings. A redshirt seems likely and then a couple years of special teams time, at which point he'll have an opportunity to start as an upperclassman if he develops.
While North Carolina isn't quite the Goliath they have been in the past, Michigan did have to go into Chapel Hill and face the #12 team in the nation with what's been a suspect offense at best. It didn't turn out all that well. Michigan was swept on the weekend, losing two extremely close games on Friday and Saturday, and was blown out on Sunday to fall to 4-7 on the season.
Starting pitching on Saturday and Sunday just wasn't good enough to compete with the Tarheels, but there was some life shown by the offense.
Full Recaps and Series Thoughts after the jump
(photo to right from minervacat's photo stream)
I remember when this guy was not just a photoshop creation but a
representation of the state of the athletic programs.
At this time it may be appropriate to purchase flowers. As it tends to do, getting obliterated by Michigan State has caused no end of soul-searching about the basketball program. Example: Genuinely Sarcastic is moved to write something featuring a Dire Straits song.
I don't know. I started fast-forwarding after about ten minutes and turned the thing off entirely once Michigan ended up down 34-14, invoking a personal rule from back in the Amaker days where any game that Michigan was 20 points down was no longer something I had to pay attention to. I wasn't exactly surprised. I know why people are leaping off e-buildings in the aftermath, but that seems like a willful lack of attention paid to results to date.
Now: since this is the 2009-10 season and we are talking about a team in maize and blue, evaluating the "when can we fire this guy?" question is inevitable. Proof: some idiot on the Rivals hockey board even asked it about Red. With Beilein, I don't think he can or should be axed any time in the next two years and that a sixth year is likely almost irrespective of Michigan's performance on the court.
However, I also don't have a lot of hope that things will change for the better. This year, exactly zero players showed any improvement as Michigan backslid. The offense looked positively Amakerian for much of the year. Aimless passing around the perimeter was a major feature. Outside of a game roleplayer in Zack Novak and a possibly useful point guard (albeit one who can't shoot) in Darius Morris, Beilein's first two recruiting classes look like anchors:
- The post recruits are basically Justin Turner minus the recruiting hype: how terrible do you have to be to 1) be a post and 2) get zero minutes on a team with two guys taller than 6'5"?
- Matt Vogrich was 5/5 from three against D-II Northern Michigan and then looked like a slightly larger version of Reed Baker the rest of the year.
- Laval Lucas Perry was on the bench behind…
- …Stu Douglass, who had an eFG of 42.7 and an offensive rating of 93.9 with a 15% usage rate. If Stu Douglass was a team, he would be Southern, a 5-25 SWAC team with the same overall eFG%. And those guys have to average 20% usage. In non-tempo-free numbers: made a third of his twos and 30 percent of his threes.
It's really hard to see how this team gets better next year with or without Manny unless Evan Smotrycz is Dirk Nowitzki. I am writing this right now and I think that's irrational because Michigan will return everyone other than Sims and will finally have enough size to play a proper 1-3-1 and etc etc, but if zero players on the team improved from year one to year two, why will they improve next year? Players are supposed to have their biggest leaps between their freshman and sophomore years, and Michigan's sophomores went backwards.
Votin'. I don't know if a Facebook page attempting to get Brandon Graham on the cover of NCAA Football 11 is going to overcome the fact that Graham didn't play in a bowl, but they make weird choices sometimes and it can't hurt. I bet a dollar it's Tebow.
Talkin'. I presented a talk called 'Building the World's Most Popular College Football Blog"—which, excluding large corporate conglomerations like Fanhouse, is troof—at Ignite 3 on Thursday. The title's sort of misleading, as they often are when you come up with them before coming up with what you're going to say. It's more about what I think is a generally applicable approach to becoming the head of your own nation of racist dwarves no matter what the topic area is.
Please excuse the various ums and ahs, as I didn't get to practice as much as I wanted, and the shirt I didn't realize could have been in the "Evenflow" video until a local wag brought it up. I didn't wear totally awesome cargo shorts, at least.
I'm the first guy in the second half, but you'll have to skip to 1:20 for the part that is not the emcee.
Everyone moves. The NHL trade deadline was devoid of blockbusters but ridiculously heavy on Michigan movement:
Anaheim: traded G Justin Pogge and Boston's fourth-round pick in the 2010 or 2011 draft (previously acquired) to Carolina Hurricanes for D Aaron Ward.
Colorado: traded LW Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix Coyotes for RW Peter Mueller and C Kevin Porter. …
Columbus: traded D Mathieu Roy to Florida Panthers for C Matt Rust. Traded LW Alexandre Picard to Phoenix Coyotes for C Chad Kolarik.
Montreal: traded RW Matt D'Agostini to St. Louis Blues for RW Aaron Palushaj.
Add in Steve Kampfer getting sent to the Bruins for a fourth-round pick—totally weird trade since Kampfer was a fourth-rounder—and that's six Michigan products moving teams in two days. Los Angeles, unsurprisingly, didn't pick any of them up.
Well, okay. I spent a large chunk of the last offseason blasting anyone who dropped Rich Rodriguez on a "hot seat" list as he entered year two. Even a crappy, bowl-free season would not result in Rodriguez's termination, and that has proved to be the case. Now, though, Rodriguez is. No protests when Tom Dienhart and that coaches hot seat whatever throw him on the list.
(One item of protest: throwing Ralph Friedgen in the "inferno" section is pointless when Maryland is already planning a transition to its offensive coordinator.)
Default Big Ten expansion talk. Gary Pinkel interviewed by a few locals, topic inevitably comes up, Pinkel responds with the usual:
one of the really big problems with this league is the TV contract. Two areas of the TV contract, really. First of all, the TV contract itself. In the next five years, per year Illinois will get about $12 million more (from the Big Ten’s TV contract) for their athletic budget. Multiply that by four years for the four years we have left in our contract. So, the University of Illinois is getting $48 million more. That’s hard to understand. I think it’s about $14 million more in the Southeastern Conference. It’s hard to explain that to anybody.
Another issue we have in this league is you look at the SEC and the Big Ten, and they have revenue-sharing. They understand you’re as strong as your weakest link and that the strength of your league is important. So, you share TV revenue. Even though we’ve been on the upper side of that ourselves, it’s not the right thing, in my opinion, for the Big 12. So, there’s some issues here. Those things are out there, and that’s kind of disappointing. Other than that, they’re not going to let me make decisions anyway.
It can be a great league, but there are things financially that are absurd. I can’t even explain it.
That's not much different from the president of the university or the governor's take; Missouri is going to make noise until such point as they cannot make noise because the Big Ten picked someone else or don't have to because it picked them.
Apologies for the lateness - transportation issues left me unable to publish the preview -t
|WHAT||Michigan v. Michigan State|
|WHERE||East Lansing, MI|
March 7th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +10.5*|
|TELEVISION||CBS (Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner)|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
When Last We Met
The Wolverines dropped a heartbreaker in front of a Maize-Out crowd as DeShawn Sims' alley-oop layup just missed the mark at the buzzer. Kalin Lucas's icy jumper with just a couple seconds left on the clock proved to be the game-winning basket, as the Wolverines fell to their rivals by a score of 57-56.
As has been the case much of the year, Michigan's defensive and offensive execution was very good, but the open shots just weren't finding the bottom of the basket. The Wolverines managed just 38.8 eFG%, while allowing the Spartans to make a hair over 51 eFG%.
Since Last We Met
It could be said (and perhaps this is the actual case) that the Wolverines just continued being a mediocre and inconsistent team following the loss at the hands of Sparty. On the other hand, I think it's at least a little bit true that they were demoralized coming off this game, and entered a mini-tailspin, disrupting the solid improvement they had been making in conference play.
Either way, Michigan has gone 4-5 since the State loss, with all four wins coming over Iowa and Minnesota, and losses coming in winnable games against Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois, as well as in predictable blowouts against Wisconsin and Ohio State. If DeShawn Sims's shot had been just a half inch one way, this team probably has not just one more victory at this point, but probably more like three or four. As it stands, they're playing for their NIT lives.
Sparty, on the other end of the court, has gone through a rough patch of their own (compared to their standard, of course) since knocking off the Wolverines. A 5-4 stretch in conference play has eliminated their chance of winning the regular season conference title, after an 8-0 start. They still have a chance to share the conference crown with the Buckeyes if they can beat Michigan, though Ohio State holds the tie-breaker.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Michigan State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. MSU Def eFG%||227||78||SS|
|Mich Def eFG% v. MSU eFG%||228||56||SS|
|Mich TO% v. MSU Def TO%||7||252||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. MSU TO%||45||199||MM|
|Mich OReb% v. MSU DReb%||286||17||SSS|
|Mich DReb% v. MSU OReb%||254||9||SSS|
|Mich FTR v. MSU Opp FTR||337||26||SSSS|
|Mich Opp FTR v. MSU FTR||10||229||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. MSU AdjD||82||35||S|
|Mich AdjD v. MSU AdjO||50||29||S|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Michigan is up against the numbers yet again, as they only have meaningful advantages in holding onto the ball and preventing the Spartans from doing so. Michigan State, on the other hand, has big advantages in shooting and rebounding.
If the Wolverines are to come away with the win, they'll have to use a similar gameplan to the one that knocked off Minnesota twice this season: win the turnover battle in a big way, and get hot from the field. Playing with discipline offensively will be a huge key, because mistakes are sure to snowball against a Tom Izzo team, especially one with such a talent gap over this Michigan squad.
Ken Pomeroy likes the Spartans by 8 points at home, giving them an 81% chance of getting the victory - and the tie for the Big Ten Title. Vegas thinks the Spartans should be about 10.5-point winners. Michigan has teased at times this year, but they've been just that - a tease. Michigan State probably emerges victorious by about 10 points.