Mount St. Mary's hired a private equity CEO to be their president. You'll never guess what happened next.
This began as a post about Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and his ability to consistently get to the rim on his own, something Michigan as a team has been unable to do. That skill proved critical in last night's too-close-for-comfort victory at Minnesota.
While Rahkman had only a pair of two-pointers in the game, they stood out both for being timely and created entirely on his own. On arguably the most important play of the night—if it wasn't Rahkman's late chasedown steal—he drove baseline on Carlos Morris, used his shoulder as a means to create space without committing a foul (barely), and finished through contact for an and-one:
This is where this post takes an unfortunate turn. It's apparent to anyone who's watched Michigan this year that they've had a hard time beating defenders off the dribble and getting all the way to the basket. While looking up the numbers on Rahkman's ability to do just that, which I'll get to in a moment, I stumbled upon this alarming stat:
According to hoop-math, Michigan is 343rd out of 351 D-I teams in percentage of field goal attempts at the rim; M gets only 25.3% of their shots there, a far cry from the median of 36.1%. This isn't a be-all, end-all condemnation of the offense—Rutgers is 24th in the country in that category, while Purdue and Iowa both languish within ten spots of Michigan—but when combined with the individual stats and the eye test, it's easy to identify as one of the team's biggest issues.
I used data from hoop-math to put together this (chart?) chart, which shows MAAR's impressive ability to create high-percentage looks on his own as well as how badly this team needs LeVert back on the court:
|# shots at rim||% shots at rim||FG% at rim||% assisted at rim|
The critical stat here is the final column, which shows how often a player needs help to get baskets at the tin. It's not a surprise that almost all of Mark Donnal's production at the hoop is on assisted baskets; he's far from a dominant post player and gets most of his looks off the pick-and-roll. Zak Irvin's efficiency is great, but few of his shots are coming at the rim; Derrick Walton's mark is even lower and he's struggling to finish. Aubrey Dawkins' layups and dunks usually require a teammate to find him on a cut or in transition. Duncan Robinson is expanding his game but is still mostly a shooter, and one that looks to pass more often than not when he ventures inside the arc.
The two players able to both get to the rim off the dribble and finish at a high rate are LeVert and Rahkman; Michigan has, of course, had only one of those players available for the vast majority of Big Ten play. The Wolverines need LeVert back on the court in the worst way; his return, though, shouldn't diminish Rahkman's role too much.
That's not solely because Rahkman is capable of beating defenders off the bounce and finishing. He's steadily improved the other facets of his game, as well. After shooting 29% from three as a freshman, he's at 38% this year, and a hair under 40% in Big Ten games; combine that conference mark with 60% shooting on twos and he's fifth in the conference in eFG%. Rahkman has also drawn a lot more fouls—16th in the B1G in FT Rate—and he's making 77% of his free throws. He rarely turns the ball over. Even though he's still not a particularly willing passer, he ranks fifth in the conference in ORating—a very impressive mark even though it's helped by a low usage rate. Though this is admittedly faint praise, he's also arguably the team's best perimeter defender.
Rahkman has proven to be a reliable option when the offense is bogged down in the halfcourt, especially when Michigan needs a bucket late in the shot clock. A healthy LeVert is critical for this team to survive a tough final stretch with enough wins to make the tourney. Rahk has been an overlooked reason why Michigan is even in position to make it, though, and he'll play a crucial role the rest of the way.
So, uh, this is going to be shorter
Ain't much happening now other than Harbaugh fighting with the SEC commissioner about going to IMG. Michigan's sent out some offers, a few kids were on campus, and right now there's a slow trickle of news. It's nothing like the entertaining chaos leading up to Signing Day.
Talking with the man
MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, a freshly named five-star at 247, had a conversation with one Jim Harbaugh on Signing Day.
Just got off the phone with Coach Harbaugh !! A great guy ...
— DPJ™ (@dpeoplesjones) February 3, 2016
He is a priority. Surprise!
Wilson visits, isn't committing yet
With the possible exception of CO QB Dylan McCaffrey, NY OL Isaiah Wilson is probably the top name on a hypothetical list of recruits Michigan fans are hoping to get an early commitment from. A combination of need, Wilson's rankings, and Michigan's oft-repeated status as his leader make him a prominent name early in the cycle.
We'll have to hold our horses a bit longer Wilson tweeted out a few days a go that he wasn't going to commit until "summer or maybe December." Still, things are pointing the right direction. Dude is retweeting Michigan softballists at the academic center.
— Michigan Softball (@umichsoftball) February 10, 2016
Early yet big name everyone's after etc. Knock on wood and everything; feeling pretty good here.
Stritzinger reiterates Michigan lead, Wilson drops by
Wilson wasn't alone; Michigan had a select group up over the weekend. MI ATH Allen Stritzinger took another visit to Ann Arbor and reiterated to Josh Newkirk that Michigan is his leader. He has seen the Peppers, and likes it.
“(Coach Wheatley) is still on me about playing running back,” Stritzinger said of UM running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. “But there are a lot of kids who are in the position to play both ways, and after seeing how Jabrill (Peppers) was used this year as an athlete, that’s what I’m looking at. That’s the same thing that I want to be, to be out on both sides of the ball, any way I can to get on the field.”
I expect this kind of thing to ramp up over the season to the point where McCaffrey is talking about playing some WDE. Stritzinger plans on extending his recruitment in to the fall; it would be an upset if he didn't land in Ann Arbor. Apparently as a defensive back.
The other uncommitted DB recruit on campus last weekend was Don Brown special and MI S Scott Nelson. He said some nice things and remains open. Still waiting for the Michigan State shoe to drop there.
Mending fences with Simmons
MI ATH Antjuan Simmons released a top 11 without Michigan in it, and then visited Michigan this weekend. This isn't a huge commitment since it involves walking across the street from his high school, but it does seem like whatever ill feelings existed after Michigan was slightly tardy in joining the offer parade he experienced last fall are getting patched over:
“I’m very interested in Michigan,” said Simmons. “It is a program on the rise. They are now in my top list and they're gaining ground.”
Simmons is going to look around extensively; he recently visited Texas A&M. Michigan at least figures to stick in his top list going forward.
MI CB Ambry Thomas is tough to read based on his interviews, which oscillate wildly. The latest comes from South Carolina's Rivals site after he got a Gamecock offer:
“Honestly, I’m feeling down south, somewhere down there,” he explained.
He plans a visit tour through the SEC and ACC in the spring. The last time we checked in with Thomas he was giving an ND site a midwest-oriented top five without Michigan, so… yeah. Get the feeling there are going to be a lot of changes in his recruitment. Out of state seems more likely than not at the moment.
New names and quick updates
Gentlemen will pop up on the radar with frequency now. This week's batch:
- 6'5" AL WR Nico Collins has set an unofficial for the end of March. That'll be his second time on campus, which is a indication Michigan is a real contender; Lorenz says dad is a M fan. Collins #54 on the composite. He is also 6'5". Yes, please.
- CA OL Brett Neilon and Wyatt Davis tell Brice Marich they have set a visit for late March as well; could be a junior-day-type-thing coming together.
- CA CB Jaylon Redd says a visit is a "strong possibility" and that he likes… wait for it… Jabrill Peppers.
- CA CB Greg Johnson names Michigan one of four schools pursuing him the hardest. He's planning a spring unofficial to Tennessee; no Michigan trip on the docket yet.
- CA TE Josh Falo has some interest in Michigan but won't take an unofficial. He'll have to wait for fall to come to campus. Michigan successfully executed the Asiasi recruitment in a similar situation, at least.
- Michigan (and Alabama) offered AL DE LaBryan Ray. Ray says he doesn't know if he'll visit Michigan, so… yeah. Probably nevermind on this one.
- Michigan offered OH TE Trey Pugh, a 6'6" 220 flex type. Duke, Northwestern, and Penn State are his other top schools so a high academic guy.
- FL OL Tedarrell Slaton has publicly backed off his previous assertions that Michigan led while talking to Miami's Rivals site. That's the kind of thing that happens sometimes when a kid is open about a favorite or two early in the process and gets some pushback. Michigan will no doubt stay involved.
After cruising for most of the game, Michigan found themselves against the ropes, up only five in the final minute on the road with the momentum suddenly on the side of host Minnesota.
Derrick Walton had the ball poked away from behind and Carlos Morris looked to cut the lead further with a 2-on-1 the other way. Out of nowhere, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman poked the ball out from behind, chased it down, and threw it off Nate Mason to retain possession. Walton iced the game at the line and the Wolverines escaped Minneapolis with a much-needed win.
Aside from that shaky moment late, Walton was masterful, scoring a career-high 26 points on 9/15 FG with eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. He had a hand in 15 of Michigan's 19 points over the final 5:50 of the first half, which culminated in a Rucker-caliber Walton crossover and three in the face of Joey King at the buzzer to give the Wolverines a 14-point lead.
Walton picked up where he left off early in the second half, and he started getting help from Abdur-Rahkman (16 points on a perfect 5-5 night from the field) and Duncan Robinson (14 points, 4/7 3P, career-high 8 rebounds). Michigan's lead reached as many as 19 points and stayed in double-digits until Nate Mason hit a one-handed runner while falling out of bounds with 5:46 to play.
Michigan found themselves unable to keep the Gophers guards out of the paint. Dupree McBrayer bulled his way to the hoop to earn two straight trips to the line. Walton tipped a potential defensive rebound back to Minnesota and Mason nailed a pull-up. A Robinson triple only temporarily stemmed the tide as McBrayer, Mason, and Morris answered with consecutive layups to cut the margin to two.
Then Rahk saved the day, first by putting his shoulder into Morris on a baseline drive for a tough and-one layup, then by cleaning up after Walton on Michigan's next possession. In the process, he may have saved the team's NCAA Tournament hopes.
Michigan (17-7, 7-4 B1G) at
Minnesota (6-17, 0-11)
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Wednesday|
|LINE||Michigan -7 (KenPom)|
PBP: Cory Provus
Analyst: Shon Morris
Right: Not even a poor shooting night could prevent Michigan from winning the first matchup. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Caris LeVert is pain-free, practicing, and officially in control of his return to the court:
According to Michigan coach John Beilein, LeVert has been cleared to play and is the sole decider in when or if he will return to the floor for the Wolverines.
The senior star, an All-American candidate prior to injury his lower left leg in late December, is pain-free and still gradually returning to form.
"This is his call," Beilein said Tuesday. "This isn't my call. We'll see what he feels like after today's practice — how much he can go."
While LeVert could potentially return tonight, there's reason to believe he should wait a little longer; Beilein said LeVert has just worked his way up to an hour of practicing and he's yet to go 100% in a full-court setting. If he plays, it'll be in a limited role as he works his way back into game shape.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan beat Minnesota 74-69 a few weeks ago in Crisler in a strange and uninspiring performance. The Wolverines jumped out to a big first-half lead, then went ice-cold from the field and allowed the Gophers to cut the deficit to as little as three points in the second half; despite this, Michigan's win probability on KenPom never dropped below 90%—in large part because Minnesota is bad, but the Wolverines controlled the game and simply couldn't knock down open looks. They won anyway. Minnesota is bad.
Have I mentioned Minnesota is bad? They are bad. As such, this is a must-win game for a Michigan squad that needs to win at least three of their last seven regular-season games to feel half-decent about their NCAA Tournament chances—and four if they don't want to be under serious pressure in the Big Ten Tournament. Tonight's game is one of only two in which Michigan is outright favored; the other is February 24th against Northwestern. Those two are must-haves, and then the Wolverines have to defend home court against Purdue on Saturday or put themselves in the position of needing a tough road win or an upset in the finale against Iowa.
This game also has stakes beyond Michigan's postseason outlook. This is for history.
Real possibility there's an upcoming game between teams that are a combined 0-28 in league play. Can't be much precedent for that.
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 9, 2016
Please don't screw this up. Yes, Minnesota-Rutgers could be a special kind of historic.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||2||Nate Mason||So.||6'2, 185||80||25||Kinda|
|Good assist:turnover, 79% FT shooter, inefficient from the field.|
|G||1||Dupree McBrayer||Fr.||6'4, 195||53||19||Yes|
|Role increasing, but shooting 35% on twos and 16% on threes.|
|F||23||Charles Buggs||Jr.||6'9, 230||51||13||No|
|Stretch four type who can shoot, but doesn't have much impact otherwise.|
|F||3||Jordan Murphy||Fr.||6'6, 230||60||24||Kinda|
|Top-15 rebounder on both ends in B1G, decent shot-blocker, 57% on twos.|
|C||21||Bakary Konate||So.||6'11, 235||51||14||Very|
|Good finisher/rebounder/shot-blocker, somewhat foul- and TO-prone.|
|F||24||Joey King||Sr.||6'9, 240||77||16||No|
|Deadeye outside shooter also getting to the line. Not great inside arc.|
|G||11||Carlos Morris||Sr.||6'5, 185||62||24||No|
|PT decreasing as he's been mired in a shooting slump.|
|G||4||Kevin Dorsey||Fr.||6'0, 185||42||26||Yes|
|Draws a lot of fouls and hits FTs. Mediocre finisher and terrible 3P shooter.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Crootin'. Here's a 35-minute video breakdown of the recruiting class from Scout.
Helen Lovejoy, commissioner. Obviously the SEC was going to get fusty about Michigan's plan to practice at IMG over spring break. They did not do so in a way that came off at all plausibly. Shot:
“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we've got one program taking what has been 'free time' away,” Sankey said. “Let's draw a line and say, ‘That's not appropriate.'"
“The net of that is to say the Southeastern Conference is not going to be outpaced in recruiting,” Sankey said. “If the national approach is that we want to have more aggressive summer camps and coaches touring around all summer, then we will not only engage in that behavior, we will certainly engage in that behavior more actively -- probably more effectively than others.”
Shorter Greg Sakey: we are concerned about the kids, but if we don't get our way screw the kids. Par for the course amongst lizard people. This is of course a conference that's completely fine with a baseball schedule that sees Northern teams literally spend a month straight in the South, but don't screw with a man's right to go to South Padre, brah.
Meanwhile, try not to burst out laughing at this one:
Sankey is also concerned Michigan would be at a “site full of prospects run by a business enterprise that has a lot of interests -- but one of those is sports agents. It seems like very much the wrong tone.”
The "wrong tone," says the comissioner of the League of Extraordinary Bagmen. I'm all for people getting whatever money they can out of college athletics but to turn around and wave the rulebook at Michigan's face while crapping on it daily is hypocrisy worthy of… well… a high-ranking NCAA official. I cannot top reality there.
Hello: Bush the Elder? Buzz has been building that Michigan would fill one of its open recruiting/analyst spots with Devin Bush Sr, who built the Flanagan program from nothing into a state champion. That had been constrained to subscription sites until this article:
Multiple sources have told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that Flanagan coach Devin Bush is on the verge of joining the staff at Michigan where three of his Falcons -- son and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. and safeties Devin Gil and Josh Metellus -- have signed.
An announcement is expected next week. Bush is obviously a natural for the spot Chris Partridge vacated when he got bumped up to linebackers coach. The two guys have very similar backgrounds. Both were/are HS head coaches who made previously lagging programs into powers by getting gents to transfer. Partridge was interviewed by the WSJ a few days ago, providing some insight into why his hire was so successful for Michigan's New Jersey recruiting efforts:
How much does your New Jersey background help you land recruits from there?
Shoot, some of these kids I’ve seen play football since the fifth and sixth grade. I know them, I know the guys that have coached them their whole lives, I know similarities in the styles that they play, you know people that know their families. Of course, it gives you an advantage because you’re just so familiar and because they feel comfortable. And ultimately, they know that I’m watching out for them.
Hopefully Bush can have a similar impact in a bigger pond.
Meanwhile Flanagan is set to replace Bush with Pretty Much Devin Bush. DC Stanford Samuels, another Florida State legacy whose son is a major recruit, is expected to get a promotion.
Oversigning, the coda. The oversigning thing doesn't get brought up anymore because people mad about it more or less won. Get The Picture has a list of SEC signees per team before and after the Houston Nutt cap was implemented that shows a big dropoff for the worst offenders:
|SEC Average Signing Class Numbers|
|Team||Average Class 2007-11||Average Class 2012-16||Difference|
(He's using that to show that Georgia is now fighting with both arms instead of one.) Even if the LOIs foregone were mostly sign-and-place type deals where a guy who's going to JUCO signs a letter of intent for funsies that's still an improvement since no longer is that guy restricted if he does get eligible—and he isn't signed with a team that doesn't even want him to qualify.
The NCAA should still move to a yearly cap with no limit on overall scholarships to remove the incentive to get rid of a guy entirely.
I thought this was the entire point of dodgeball. If this was the standard for psychologizing folks in my time, whole dang middle school would have been in a line going out the door of the psychologist's office:
Harbaugh had to see the psychologist because he drilled a kid in the head during a game of dodgeball. In the fourth grade.
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) February 5, 2016
Dude didn't dodge the ball. That's the name of the game, man. Can't hold Harbaugh accountable for that unless you're the SEC commissioner.
I want to see his review of Infinite Jest. Harbaugh went on a media tour at the Super Bowl, the highlight of which was this:
"You look like a writer!" Harbaugh says with enthusiasm as we shake hands.
Harbaugh saw a movie about a writer recently, on a flight a couple months back. It was calledThe End of the Tour. He loved it, loved the dialogue. And now he has just one question.
"Was that a real person, David Foster Wallace?"
I don't expect or even want my football coach to know the answer to that question because I expect that people who know the answer to that question are bad coaches. But I do think he should start with a Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again because it is the most accessible writing DFW did and that he'll probably think "oh, the NFL" after seeing the title.
Etc.: Shoe not effective when used as gun. Michigan is 6th in the post Signing Day S&P rankings. Austin Davis is tall. Children are not. Harbaugh has no unfinished business in the NFL. Wheatley in the Players' Tribune.
So please throw out the old one; I've re-jimmied my historical recruiting spreadsheets to create a new formula for reporting a consensus star rating, kind of like 247's composite rating except it's not just 247 who has one now.
What I mean by "STARs" We are all familiar (I hope) with the idea of a 5-star player and a 4-star player, etc. For a long time on this site we've also been talking about "consensus" 5-stars, versus maybe "4.5-stars" who were maybe 5-stars to half the scouting sites and 4-stars to the other half. Thing is that's not very useful either; a guy whom every site ranked 1 spot below the last 5-star and a guy whom every site ranked just above the first 3-star are both "consensus 4-stars" but should have very different expectations.
Besides the sites really use their own scoring systems, having a certain score equal star ratings just for the sake of comparison. Or even if they don't (Scout) they rank players against each other. That's a lot of data they're trying to tell us about our recruits, but difficult to access. Why can't we have just one number on a simple scale that says all that?
Oh right we do: the 247 composite. Well why can't we have another?
The idea was to take all the different recruiting scoring systems and have them fit a simple star rating system. My previous attempt had some problems, mostly with ESPN not syncing up with the others. So here's the new attempt:
|★★★★★||6.1 (Top 10)||Top 10||91+||99+|
|4.40||5.9 (t100)||Top 100||84||95|
|★★★★||5.8 (t250)||Top 250||81-82||92-93|
The one potentially confusing thing is "3.80" and not "4.00" is the baseline of a low-ish 4-star. Ditto "2.75" for a low-ish 3-star. I did that because the sites have up to 300 guys who get a 4-star ranking, and also have Top ~250 or 300 lists. Since what we think of as a "4-star" is usually the kind of guy who makes that list, I wanted the numbers to reflect it.
[after the jump: how I did it, and free spreadsheets yay!]