Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Site note: As with last year, we'll be having a basketballgasm liveblog for Day 1 of the tournament, shifting to the hockey game at 3, and then going through the Round 1 matchup with Wofford. DraftStreet, whose 40k tourney is still filling up (as of this morning ~1600 of the 2000 spots are filled), is sponsoring, and a few former players will be joining us to promote the Go Blue Bowl.
Speaking of filling things, you're probably filling your brackets right now, so here's my now-annual post and tool for helping with that. Last year was the first since 2000 that I didn't win at least my buy-in back. Things I use:
The Power Rank (friend of the blog Ed Feng)'s interactive bracket. Ed is one of the cutting-edge guys in sports analytics. On his tool if you hover over any team you can see their probabilities to reach each round, or hover over a spot in the circular bracket to see every team's likelihood of getting there. Michigan is 58% to reach the Sweet 16; from there every game is virtually a toss-up.
The Wall Street Journal's blind comparison. They show you two profiles and say a little about the team, and you make your pick presumably without bias, though you can often figure out exactly who they're talking about:
Bracket Science's Bracketmaster tool. Peter Tiernan's blog is a standard for following bubble teams and gets things right that others don't (like Louisville as a 4 seed). The Bracketmaster+ tool lets you get into data going back to 1985. If you're a member it gets deeper but non-members can use it to do things like show Beilein's Michigan teams in the tournament:
Poologic Tool. This helps you decide how many upsets to pick based on the size of your office pool (in a large pool it's best to be the only one with a certain champ). Also you can calculate ROI on various picks.
My tool (download the excel sheet) Which uses straight-up Kenpom scores and provides a weak confidence score based on the premise that 16 seeds never beat 1 seeds. I also added injuries for each team. Looks like this:
What I do is normalize the closest 16-1 matchup (Wichita St vs. Cal Poly) as 100% for the 1 seed to win, set that as the "chaos factor," and use the KenPom ratings to percentile everyone else's games into a confidence number. Then I roll through anything under 70% and decide if my knowledge of those teams might justify taking the under.
If you're in a big pool, run multiple brackets, each with carefully selected upsets.There's no such thing as an NCAA tournament without lots of big upsets and at least one surprising run. The 1 seeds all made it to the Final Four just once. If you submit one milksop bracket you're up against every other milksop bracket and will get beat by the one crazy guy who had LSU going to the Elite 8 or something. Hitting on a carefully selected upset that rearranges a bracket and lets you ride a different high seed to the Final Four is the most typical route to a win.
If you're in a small pool, play conservative. One or two points won't usually make a difference in a small pool, but the likelihood of something crazy like that one guy's wife who picks based on the cuteness factor of mascots winning is cut down so you don't need to take risks to get ahead.
Pick the upsets the most carefully. I love picking 6-11 upsets because if you get it wrong they're bound to get wiped out by the 3 anyway. If you roll the dice on a 3-seed or lower losing early though, you'll feel like an idiot as the rest of your pool collects the easy points. A tournament without upsets never happens, but neither does a tournament with all the upsets. You can totally undo a great pick with a terrible one elsewhere.
Get value for your upsets. Know who's in your pool and the inefficiencies. This year, those of you in Michigan are facing the mother of all inefficiencies in that Spartan fans are bound to submit extra brackets just to have one that has State going all the way. Fans will generally take their favorite team to go two rounds later than they really belong and conference teams to go a round further. This is an inefficiency (even if MSU looked like they could dominate the tourney on Sunday).
Be really really lucky. This is really the only rule.
Michigan hosted some big time prospects this past weekend and they seemed to do very well with every one of them. It’s not unrealistic to say that three to four of the visitors could potentially become Wolverines.
CB Garrett Taylor - St. Christopher's School - Richmond, VA
Michigan hosted highly touted defensive back Garrett Taylor this past weekend and the Wolverines are in outstanding shape with him following his visit. Taylor arrived on Friday morning and spent the entire weekend in Ann Arbor, shoving off on Sunday morning. The extended time is sitting well with him.
I loved it, it was definitely a great visit. I really felt like the coaches were really excited to have me out there and that they really want me up there. I was really impressed with the whole package. They showed off all of their facilities which are great. The Al Glick Fieldhouse and Schembechler Hall were incredible and the campus was awesome. All of the football stuff was great but so was the academic side of things. We got to go to the academic building and it was really clear that there is a great support system in place. The tutors, the mentors, just everyone to help keep you on track was really cool.
Clearly Taylor enjoyed himself and the coaches did a solid job setting him up with a fellow Virginian to ensure that he would.
I had Wilton Speight as my player host. It was really cool, I definitely got to see what the campus life was like and what the dorm life was like. His roommate was real cool, Drake Harris, another early enrollee. I got to meet some other guys like Derrick Green and Shane Morris, hung out with those guys so it was really cool to see that side of things.
Just a few minutes after Taylor and I finished speaking he released his top five via Twitter, a group made up of Michigan, Stanford, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He has visited all of the campuses except for South Carolina and he plans to make his decision within the next month. Right now it is a two horse race between Stanford and Michigan and with academics being a huge factor for Garrett, Michigan finds itself in unfamiliar territory as the less heralded academic institution when compared to the Cardinal.
Garrett is a stand-up young man and said when he commits, he will be a man of his word and honor his commitment, a value instilled in him by his parents. Right now it really sounds like it’s about 50/50 between Michigan and Stanford and he said he may not be able to fit in any other visits so the positive memory of Ann Arbor will be the freshest in his mind. His offer list is stacked and landing him would be big for the Wolverines.
LB Justin Hilliard - St. Xavier - Cincinnati, OH
Justin Hilliard is one of Michigan’s top targets in the 2015 class and he seems to be pretty keen on the Wolverines as well. Hilliard has now visited Ann Arbor six times on his own dime and every time he returns he has positive things to say. He was really looking forward to this visit and he was able to experience some firsts this time around.
It was a great visit! I got to see how the coaches run practices. I was able to spend a lot of time with the coaches and the players. I spent most of my time with Coach Mattison and I was with a bunch of players that night but mostly Blake Countess.
Countess has the reputation of being a great host and Hilliard definitely seemed to enjoy himself. Hilliard has already included Michigan in his top 15 and I expect him to put them in his top ten as well when he releases that soon.
OL David Moorman - Northville High School - Pinckney, MI
As an in-state prospect with primarily MAC offers (Illinois as well) David Moorman is hoping that his recruitment will continue to gain momentum especially with Big Ten schools.
I grew up a fan of the Big Ten in general. I loved watching Michigan when Mike Hart and Coach Carr were there and as soon as Coach Hoke got the job I started appreciating Michigan football again. I’m still open to all schools and I’m just considering every option that’s out there for me.
Moorman was very excited to tell me about his experiences in Ann Arbor.
I pretty much just watched practice and got a tour of Schembechler Hall which was by far one of the nicest facilities I’ve seen. Practice was high tempo and intense and I really liked the way the coaches ran practice. All the coaches were great! I have a pretty good relationship with Coach Funk so it was good to see him again. Obviously it was really cool to talk to Coach Hoke and Coach Nussmeier too.
Moorman doesn’t hold that Michigan offer yet, but it has been discussed.
The coaches told me to be patient with them and if they can get some things worked out numbers wise an offer could come. If they did offer Michigan would for sure be at the top of my list and I would definitely highly consider them. Right now I’m training as hard as I can so in June I can go out on the camp circuit and prove that I’m one of the best offensive lineman in the country and then I’ll see what happens.
Before June gets here though, Moorman has intentions to re-visit Ann Arbor as well as some other campuses.
I’m for sure heading back to Michigan again soon and I’m going to visit Michigan State in the next couple of weeks and then probably Ohio State, Illinois, Toledo, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin.
QB Josh Rosen - St. John Bosco - Bellflower, CA
Rosen’s visit was kept under wraps for unknown reasons, but people don’t seem to care about that now. The visit happened and he enjoyed it. He’s a big time talent and getting him on campus about a week before he is set to commit was huge. Rosen is Michigan’s #1 target at quarterback but the Wolverines are playing from way behind trying to catch in-state and suspected favorite, UCLA. The coaches closed the gap but it is still going to be an uphill climb to land him.
Rosen is planning on announcing March 20th and even the Michigan coaches are wondering if his most recent visit was enough for him to rethink what everyone assumes is an eventual verbal pledge to the Bruins.
QB David Sills - Eastern Christian Academy - Elkton, MD
Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson talked David Sills into taking a visit to Ann Arbor and he told me that it was a really good time. He left Ann Arbor still committed to USC but he said that a flip commitment isn’t completely ruled out. He told me that he is planning on visiting Oregon and Penn State before he starts to think about what’s next in his recruitment.
Sills spent a lot of time with all of the coaches, most notably Coach Nussmeier and believes that if he had wanted to commit while on the visit he could have. The coaches are still in close communication with a lot of quarterbacks so the picture isn’t clear just yet. Sills did say that he’d like to make his final decision before his senior season starts so expect Michigan to stay in the loop.
TE CJ Conrad - Keystone High School - Lagrange, OH
CJ Conrad is a very real possibility for an offer in the future as potential top target Chris Clark committed to North Carolina over the weekend. Conrad talked with me about his visit and his future expectations.
Michigan was good. I talked to Coach Hoke and Coach Ferrigno. They said that they loved my film and they want me to come to a camp in order to evaluate me better and get a possible offer. I will definitely be at that camp on June 8th.
Conrad has around 15 offers but Michigan is one that he particularly covets.
If Michigan offered me they would be right up there. Right now Kentucky is my leader because I fit their offense really well and I really like Coach Marrow. I like Michigan a lot but I’m not sure if they can pass Kentucky or not.
Upon hearing the news of Clark’s commitment I asked CJ if he had heard anything about it and he replied, “Yeah I just found out, that’s big news for me.” He saw the news on Twitter but immediately thought that he might benefit from Clark’s pledge in regard to his chances of earning a Michigan offer.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 3 (OT) – 17-12-4, 9-8-2 Big Ten
3/15/2014 – Michigan 6, Minnesota 2 – 18-12-4, 10-8-2 Big Ten
Michigan is barely ahead of the pack. [Bill Rapai]
Imagine a man tied to a pole with a bungee cord in zero-G. Grip this man with an enormous metal arm and pull him until the bungee cord has no more give. Let go. Watch as the man flies back and forth at maximum amplitude forever, occasionally bonking his head on the pole.
I've just saved you 500 bucks for a hockey season ticket. You are invited to give me a cut with the donate button at right.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can beat Boston College, they can run out to a 10-2-1 start, they can thoroughly dominate Wisconsin in a weekend series, they can beat Minnesota by sniping the water bottle four times.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State, lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State. They can let Western Michigan waltz, or possibly tango, through the slot a dozen times in a single hockey game. They can try some sort of center-ice pinch that was months ago but still remains crystal-clear in my memory as the most insane decision I've seen since Jack Johnson was around, making insane decisions seem like good ideas.
Yeah, actually. This hockey team is Jack Johnson, the hockey team.
But they have just about done it, with an assist from Minnesota's backup goalie. They have waddled their way into the NCAA tournament. Since they're on the bubble, their tournament starts one weekend early and has a very strange structure where one loss is permissible in most situations as long as it doesn't come against Penn State.
You may think this doesn't quite count. I do. I will be turning on a television at three on a Thursday to watch Michigan play a hockey game in front of 14 people as I try not to have a panic attack. If that's not the NCAA hockey tournament it's close enough.
If—if—if—ifffffffffffff Michigan does in fact get past Penn State, a possibility I am absolutely not taking for granted because this would be like taking a spiderweb for granted as you clung to it over the Grand Canyon, they will be in barring specific clusters of results. And that will be fine. Just making the tournament was everybody's first and only goal in a year when the second defenseman on the depth chart was terrifying—let alone the second pairing—and the goaltender situation was a cloud of question marks.
Even when they were rushing out to a blazing start, nobody who was watching them play was harboring delusions of grandeur. They're rickety on the back end and only flash their talent at forward often enough to drive you crazy when they go a month without scoring a goal on purpose. As the man said, they are who they are.
And since they are who they are—a man careening endlessly from one extreme to the other—they've got as much of a shot as anyone does in the barely-weighted plinko that is the worst championship format in sports. Once their spot is secured they could roll out onto the ice against the top two teams in the country and hold their own, as they did against Minnesota and Boston College.
They could implode in a pile of sawdust, yeah. Everyone can implode in a pile of sawdust. One seeds get plunked on the regular by random collections of initials that happen to have a hockey team. We've got one, and you don't want to face us, no way. Unless it's one of those days where you really do. But it might not be one of those days. It might be one of those other days. Nothing is certain, except that after it is over you will sit down and hold your head and wait for the room to come to a full and complete stop.
We're in! Ish! [Rapai]
Despite being a three seed if the season ended today, Michigan is not safe with a win over Penn State. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios that leave them the first team out if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten tourney. That's because the margins are tiny this year. The RPI gap from 11th—where Michigan sits—down to 17th is less than a point.
Michigan can't get passed by #17 Northeastern since they're out of the HE tournament, but Minnesota State, North Dakota, Vermont, Cornell, and Colgate are all within striking distance. All save Vermont are active in their conference tourneys. If Michigan beats Penn State they will finish ahead of the Catamounts; the rest is up for grabs.
Teams are so tightly packed that changing a single result has surprising and inexplicable consequences. In one scenario, Minnesota State beating Ferris in the WCHA final is the difference between MSU-Mankato finishing outside of the tourney or getting a three seed. It also knocks Colgate out as Michigan passes them for obscure opponents-opponents-win-percentage reasons.
But here are some things I can tell you:
Michigan is (almost certainly) safe if they reach the Big Ten final. Even in the worst case scenario where somehow they face MSU and lose to them, thus crushing their RPI along with my skull and providing MSU a bid, they sneak in over the line unless there are two additional bid thieves. If it's Ohio State or Minnesota their RPI will land them as a three seed even in the event of a loss.
They could sneak onto the two line by winning the tournament. A low two is their top end.
1-1 is very likely good enough. It would take some seriously bad luck for every bubble team to man up in the fashion necessary to boot M from the tourney.
0-1 is not over. BUT LET'S NOT EXPLORE THAT OKAY.
Teams you hate. Life gets much, much easier for Michigan if Cornell and Colgate lose their ECAC semifinals to Quinnipiac and Union, respectively. Both of those latter teams are already in. The two C outfits are right on Michigan's heels. Their performance is almost more important than Michigan's—they can get in with a Penn State loss as long as the ECAC results fall right.
Bid thieves are always a bubble team's foe. Those are UNH in Hockey East, BGSU and Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA, Denver, Miami, and WMU in the NCHC, and any Big Ten university with "State" in the name.
Teams you like. Root for North Dakota in the NCHC and Lowell in Hockey East, the former because it's the only current at-large from that league, the latter because every bit of schedule strength is going to count down the stretch here.
Ballpark. Michigan is 99% to make it with a 2-1 record this weekend, 80% to make it with 1-1, and 50% to make it with 0-1.
So frustrating. I kind of get why Minnesota may have relaxed on Saturday after securing the conference title, but it's not like they had nothing to play for. The #1 overall seed gets the Atlantic Hockey opponent that is generally far worse than any other in the field (but will still have a goalie who makes 60 saves because goalies are all far too good these days). BC and Minnesota were competing for that.
It in fact turns out that they had nothing to play for because Boston College got knocked out of the Hockey East tournament, guaranteeing Minnesota the top seed in the tournament.
Minnesota didn't know that on Saturday, though and by the time their backup goalie had ceded his first truly bad goal he'd been beaten on a procession of perfect water-bottle pops that comprised the prettiest set of goals seen in Yost Ice Arena in a long time. And the previous night, when Minnesota was going all out for the title, Michigan played them dead even.
So if they'd done what a team that plays Minnesota dead even does against some of the worst guys on their schedule…
And the avatar of that. Alex Guptill came off his healthy scratch in the aftermath of one of those horrible losses and Got The Message for about the fifth time in his career, playing impressive hockey. Some of the stuff he does is NHL-level.
There was one particular rush on which he repositioned himself in just the proper way so he could snap a shot past the defender's leg. That shot was whistling towards the top of the net before the goalie managed to snag it. It did not go in, but I muttered "Jesus" under my breath because the move and shot were so nasty.
I just hope he doesn't run out of attention before the end of the season here. If he comes back for his senior year—no idea—with the intention of getting an NHL contract for serious he could be a Hobey finalist. Or he could just be the most frustrating player in the last 15 years of Michigan hockey. Enormous wild card.
Sinelli emerging. The crazy thing about Andrew Sinelli these days is that he couldn't manage to find his way onto the ice as a forward during his first two years. He seems so assured with the puck as a defenseman that it's hard to envision him as a healthy scratch. Now that he's settling into his new role he is activating himself on offense more, not only for his hat trick against MSU but also several times in the Minnesota series he found himself in a dangerous position with the puck after making a nice read as to how the play would develop.
Is he Michigan's #2 defenseman now? With Kevin Clare playing his best hockey, probably not… but it's close.
The Hyman breakout. Happy to be right about this:
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
After starting out with that 1-2-3 line in 13 games he put up 7-8-15 in his next 21.
Shuart's potential. Max Shuart has a nice combination of size and speed that hasn't really done much in his limited opportunities, but he seems like an intriguing guy to keep an eye on for next year. Could develop into a third line/PK guy.
Surprise Visitor Surprised By Visit
Most of the recruiting buzz last week centered on a surprise visitor who didn't want his name to be revealed. That visitor turned out to be five-star CA QB Josh Rosen, the first quarterback offered by Michigan in the 2015 class. Rosen had already set a March 20th decision date before his trip to Ann Arbor, and UCLA was—and still is—his expected choice. He told Scout's Greg Biggins, however, that Michigan made the choice more difficult ($):
“I was honest and told [Doug Nussmeier] that I didn’t see myself picking Michigan. He told me I should still come up, no strings attached but said to just come up and check out the school for the experience and I have to, it was a lot better than I thought. I was actually hoping to get up there and not like it to reaffirm my decision but I really loved it there, Michigan is an incredible place.”
Just getting Rosen on campus is impressive; the program leaving that level of an impression even more so. Unfortunately, it appears this will be a moral victory, as Rosen still plans to keep his current timeline, and he told Rivals's Adam Gorney that his ultimate decision is unlikely to change ($):
"Coach Nuss is a very convincing guy," Rosen said. "He talked about the pro-style versus the spread offense and how my skill set would fit in one versus the other. He took me to The Big House and there were a lot of academic meetings and there is a great support staff at that school.
"I'm going to step back and think a little bit. I'm pretty positive, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with who I originally thought of, but it makes the decision harder.
While it's unlikely Michigan ends up getting Rosen, that doesn't mean the weekend was all for naught. Word spreads quickly among top recruits, and Michigan is targeting several California prospects. While Rosen will likely be recruiting for UCLA, the Bruins can't land everyone in the state, and a good word for Michigan could help get other recruits on campus—and that's often all this coaching staff needs to make a huge move in a prospect's recruitment.
[Hit THE JUMP for a potential commit watch from a big-time recruit, visit reactions, other 2015 QB updates, and more.]
Michigan's first round opponent is Wofford, the single representative from the Southern Conference. It will not surprise you that Wofford's mascot is the terrier. Since 90% of terriers are named something along the lines of "Wofford," this is a natural fit. Also Wofford has the best logo in college sports.
Anyway, Wofford finished in a tie for third in the SoCon, well behind regular-season champion Davidson. They won the conference tourney after Western Carolina took out Davidson in OT by beating WCU themselves.
Let's meet the Terriers.
As 15 seeds go, Wofford is a good draw. They're 184th; the other 15s are 98th, 129th, and 163rd. The only teams Michigan's played in that range this year they've blown out… or lost to that one time:
- #145 Long Beach State: W 85-61
- #176 Charlotte: L 63-61
- #151 Holy Cross: W 88-66
- #135 Northwestern: W 74-51
Meanwhile, Wofford's ventures into the Kenpom 100 have not gone well. At all:
- #75 Georgia: L 72-52
- #76 Iona: L 76-55
- #57 Minnesota: L 79-57
- #34 Saint Louis: L 66-52
- #12 VCU: L 72-57
All of these games were double-digit losses, as were Wofford's two conference matchups against #118 Davidson. In their only other game against a team in the top 200 on Kenpom they lost to William and Mary by three, at home.
Everything is crazy, etc., but Wofford hasn't been able to stay in contact with any team approaching Michigan's stature. Save an inexplicable reversion to Charlotte form complete with Caris LeVert sitting for most of the first half, Glenn Robinson getting only nine minutes, and Nik Stauskas limping around in the second half, Michigan should win the game.
Maybe You Should Play More Than Two Guys
In addition to William & Mary, Wofford also took on Emory & Henry and Johnson & Wales this year. Both of those are lower division teams; it is a great disappointment that Wofford's third game against a non D-I opponent was against Hiwassee instead of, I don't know, Steve & Bruce.
You'll Hear About
Primary game storyline will be about Aerris Smith, a senior with a senior citizen's knees who gutted out this season despite having no business doing anything more strenuous than thinking about chess while lying down and having a lemonade.
His minutes plummeted due to health issues this year but he played a few painful possessions for most of the year. He won't play against Michigan; he will get a soft-focus feature.
Also not playing: spectacularly-named junior Indiana Faithfull, who's injured.
You'll Actually Watch Play
Terrier point guard Karl Cochran is a Russ-Smith-level go to guy and a magnificent statistical oddity. For one, last year he launched 40% of Wofford's shots when he was on the court. This was a situation of desperation as the 2013 Terriers were horrendous—like 339th horrendous—on offense and he was the only semblance of a pulse. His usage was second in the country.
This year he's dialed his role in the offense back from insane to implausible. He still launches a third of Wofford's shots, but he's matured into a terrific all-around player. He's near the top 100 in steals, hits 40% from deep, has an Albrecht-level assist rate with a low TO margin, and does all of this with astronomical usage. And then there's his incredible 18% DREB rate, equivalent to Jordan Morgan's. Karl Cochran is 6'1".
Cochran's main problems: he does not get to the line much—just 74 FTAs despite the huge usage—and he is not effective inside the line. He is taking a lot of Dion Harris shots, I'm sure.
The Terriers are very small. Wofford's primary interior dude is 6'6" junior Lee Skinner, who has very good rebound rates, doesn't shoot well, and gets to the line. The backup posts are 6'7" and 6'6"; Wofford plays two of those three post-type objects the whole game. Except for that bit about fouls, that sounds like a good matchup for Jordan Morgan. Hopefully Mike Kitts is somewhere far away with a sock stuffed down his mouth.
Wofford gets some three-point shooting from a couple of freshmen who occupy a designated corner gunner role, but outside of Designated Corner Gunner and Cochran none of their guys are a threat to pull up unless a 30% shooter is a threat. Shut up about Shannon Scott.
They've Got The Same Shirts
Adidas: not even trying.
"You want us to design MULTIPLE shirts? Like, more than one? As many as several? What do we look like, an enormous international clothing retailer?"
Also, all of those guys have a career in voiceovers waiting for them when they're done. Those are some sonorous mofos right there.
The Future Should Michigan Be Fortunate Enough To Advance
Michigan did get stuck in a loaded regional, but it's mostly loaded for everyone else. Wichita draws the #17 team in Kenpom (Kentucky) as a potential second round matchup and the #2 (Louisville) in a potential Sweet 16 game. UMass will enjoy being a major underdog against a play-in game winner, whoever it is. Tennessee is somehow ranked above(!) Michigan.
Michigan did field the minor misfortune of drawing Duke—both the committee's and Kenpom's top #3. This is a tiny disadvantage relative to other threes. The difference between the Blue Devils and Creighton is nonexistent and Michigan also had a road loss to Iowa State. I only regret not drawing a flailing Syracuse outfit.
The only bad thing about the regional from Michigan's perspective is the very low chance their hypothetical elite eight matchup will be a non-elite team. That is not a big deal. If they were relying on an Arizona/Florida/Virginia upset in the other regions that wasn't likely to happen anyway.
Rick Barnes answers the question "how many NCAA wins do I have since 2009?"
The more important thing is that the potential second round matchup against Texas or Arizona State seems comfortable. Texas is the worst 7 by some distance; their lone nonconference game of any credit to them is a narrow win at North Carolina and they went 11-7 in the Big Twelve. They are atrocious shooters in all departments and rely on offensive rebounding to prop their offense up. They try to block everything and give up a bunch of OREBs themselves. Anything can happen, etc. It's not a scary profile.
Arizona State is in largely on the strength of a double OT home win over Arizona. Their most notable nonconference win is over Marquette; they got blasted by Creighton on a neutral court; they went 10-8 in the Pac-12 and got blown off the court by Stanford in their conference tournament opener. They're almost the complete opposite of Texas on offense: good shooters who abandon the offensive boards like crazy. On defense they are just like Texas, anchored by a shot-blocker.
Neither of these outfits is a UConn or Memphis or Kentucky that would veritably loom as a potential second round exit. Then once you get to the Sweet 16, you're going to be playing someone pretty good, and Duke's hardly invulnerable against lower-level teams. In the past month they've lost to Wake Forest, scraped by Clemson by a point, scraped by Maryland by a point. They could go down.
Yeah, it's loaded. For Wichita. I'll take a rematch against Duke in Indianapolis with a healthy Nick Stauskas as a potential coinflip S16 matchup.
Michigan lost the Big Ten title game but did get to Indianapolis as a two-seed in the Midwest region. Their first round opponent is Wofford. The local bracket:
10. Arizona State
Should Michigan reach the Sweet 16, Duke is the 3 with UMass the 6, facing down the worst possible Kenpom 11 in the Iowa/Tennessee winner. Potential elite eight matchups include Wichita State, Louisville, and Kentucky.
So… positive early, ramping up late.
Michigan opened the Big Ten title game with consecutive three-pointers.
That was the good. From there, the game became a slog. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford each picked up two fouls early in the first half, leading John Beilein to play Max Bielfedt for 12 critical first-half minutes. Morgan's absence proved especially integral; without him on the court, the interior defense suffered, MSU dominated on the boards, and Michigan couldn't find a rhythm offensively.
The officiating didn't help matters; while both teams were victimized with early foul trouble, the Spartans weathered it much better than the Wolverines. Mostly, the constant whistles just made the game unbearable. Both teams were in the bonus around the midway point of the first half; in the second half, neither team got there until the waning minutes. The inconsistency was maddening, albeit not determinative.
The real problem for Michigan was the offense; the Wolverines shot 36% from two and made just six of their 23 three-point attempts. Given the numbers, it's frankly surprising that the final margin wasn't larger. Nik Stauskas went just 4-for-14 from the field with three turnovers, needing six free throws to reach 17 points, a team high. Caris LeVert shot 2-for-10 with three turnovers of his own. Glenn Robinson III went 2-for-8, and didn't hit a field goal until the second half. Aside from Derrick Walton's 11 points on eight shot equivalents, Michigan got almost nothing in the way of secondary scoring, either.
Michigan got outplayed, plain and simple. Those hammering the panic button, however, should keep last year's Big Ten Tournament—and subsequent run to the NCAA title game—in mind. Now the Wolverines wait to see if today's loss cost them a one-seed.
3/15/2014 – Michigan 72, Ohio State 69 – 25-7, 15-3 Big Ten, BTT Finalists
Sometimes when you're on. Good lord man. This team is capable of sending anyone watching into a fit of giggles as shot after shot splashes down. The general process:
- All right, here we go.
- ON FIAH!
- /giggling fit
As Michigan extended to a 16-point lead early despite Ohio State doing offensive things that are well out of character (IE: making shots), it was giggle fit time. Michigan has previously done this to Nebraska and Illinois in the process of running them out of the building. If they're fortunate enough to make a tourney run at least one win will be reminiscent of the Florida game last year, wherein there is a period of death from above that leaves the other team looking like Dresden.
Welp. I don't know, man. Michigan's defense looked pretty good to me in the mirror universe where Shannon Scott remains Shannon Scott. Scott entered the game a 28% three point shooter and a 38% shooter on two point jumpers. He got zero looks at the rim and yet exited with 18 points on ten shots. Yeah, most of his jumpers were not particularly contested, but there's a reason for that. When Scott elevates for a jumper you have just done a good job as a defense.
The other problem with the defense was a problem with the offense. Steve Kerr mentioned that all of Michigan's seven first half turnovers were live-ball situations. Live-ball turnovers lead to transition, and transition leads to sadness. Michigan failed to push the margin out to crippling levels because of uncharacteristic sloppiness when Ohio State turned up the pressure.
Other than that, the defense did what it wanted to do: protect the rim and live with whatever else happens. OSU just hit shots they usually don't.
Hidden in the terror is a comfortable-ish win. Michigan was 10/19 from the line, well below their season average. Jordan Morgan was the biggest part of that, as he went 2/7. That dropped his season total from 62% to 57%.
Craft. When Craft does something Crafty and wins, there is a collective old white sportswriter dude explosion, and when he does something Crafty and loses, the OWSD collective sighs and shakes their head at a world full of haters. Forde is on it:
For all the many people who hate Aaron Craft, here’s your chance to pile on.
You’re a strange, sad lot. You’ve got issues. Ripping a guy with a 3.9 grade-point average who plays his guts out is a weirdly trendy thing to do for college basketball fans.
But for those disposed to do so, congrats. Today is Bash Aaron Craft Day.
I'm not here to bash Aaron Craft, but let's be clear: he is a role player. He is the apotheosis of the role player, sure, but the reason people get cranky about Aaron Craft is the never-ending hagiography for a guy who is merely a pretty good player.
There is frankly a racial component to this. You don't see people falling all over themselves to hype up Briante Weber, whose VCU team is ranked and headed for about the same seed as OSU thanks in large part to Weber's third consecutive year at the top of the Kenpom steals leaderboard. Or his teammate Shannon Scott, who is also top ten in steals. It's Craft that gets glorified as the underrated gutty gritty leader in a way that is out of proportion to his talent.
That's unfair to the his teammates and Craft himself. I've long defended the guy whenever people try to trash his game (no offense to Derrick Walton, but put Craft on this Michigan team and oh my gawd), but that's because I love guys who can make an impact without using possessions. They need to be put with high-usage guys, though—you know, stars. Craft is not that. But he comes with an avalanche of hype enough to get him on the midseason Wooden list as he leads his team to a 10-8 Big Ten record while taking 15% of OSU's shots.
At its heart, Craft backlash is Forde-and-company backlash. Some of it's misdirected; a lot of it is from 14 year olds; everyone would be much better off if people in the media would just acknowledge that Craft is who he is. GIFs of aairballs are prominent because the media is insistent on pretending Aaron Craft is something other than what he is.
Please be a new meme, please be a new meme, please be a new meme. We've had planking and Bradying and all sorts of ing ings, and now there needs to be an internet full of pictures of clothed people sitting in bathtubs looking hard.
YOU DON'T WANT THIS
Is Glenn On Fire Watch. Another efficient game with 11 points on 9 shot equivalents, and he brought defensive impact with a couple of blocks and three steals. He's still alarmingly light on rebounds.
There is the hint of a recovery in his three point shooting, as well. Over the last four games he's 5/13. Not much to go on for a guy who was at 32% last year and is at 28% this year, sure. Still another data point for those hoping Glenn is this year's tourney Mitch.
Is Stauskas Human Watch. NOPE.
I mean, he does that crossover to three pointer thing.
Death from above watch. Michigan's quest to end the season with five guys shooting 40% from three is very, very close. Walton is at .398, Spike at .390. LeVert has pulled himself a couple points above the line, sitting next to Irvin. Stauskas can't even see 40% unless he's got binoculars.
Seeding business. Most observers from Lunardi to the Bracket Matrix have moved Michigan to the one line after Wisconsin's Big Ten Tourney exit, and a lot of folks are speculating that Michigan may be locked in to that spot no matter what happens today.
Here’s my prediction: Michigan gets the fourth No. 1 seed today regardless of whether it wins or loses the Big Ten title game.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 16, 2014
Seems pretty easy for the committee to have a contingency plan based on the result of the championship game, but in past years it has seemed like they ignore or at least downplay Sunday results.
If Michigan does get that one seed they'll be in the East and acquire a Michigan-friendly Madison Square Garden. In that event I withdraw my Syracuse request, as they're one of the few schools that could overwhelm Michigan's NYC fanbase.
It's pointless to mention this when they're just going to unveil the brackets in a few hours but I started this sentence anyway so I will proceed by mentioning that I am not a huge fan of Lunardi's bracket, which features Oklahoma State as the eight seed, and greatly prefer the GW/Stanford setup presented by Palm.
Another motivation to get that one: Louisville has moved up to the three line on just about everyone's bracket, so a one can't draw the red hot 'Cards until a regional final.
SHON AND TOM
A short play in one act
Tom, a basketball coach
Shon, a television color commentator
SHON: "Yes. Yes, Tom. What is it Tom."
T: "I just had a thought Shon."
S: "What is that thought Tom."
T: "There are millions of planets and some of them have life, Shon. Inevitably some of these societies are millions of years more advanced than ours. They have not visited. There is no evidence of their existence. We dream of traveling the stars, but we cannot. Otherwise someone would have visited us.
"The reason we have not been visited by any of these societies is that it is simply not possible. Physics is a dead end, Shon."
S: "But what about when the sun…"
T: "All of this dies, Shon. We have an expiration date. Physics is a dead end."
S: "Physics is a dead end."
T: "I have a great sadness all about me, Shon. It overwhelms my being. It is as if we already do not exist."
|WHAT||Michigan (25-7, 15-3 B1G) vs. Michigan State (25-8, 12-6)|
|WHERE||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|WHEN||3:30 pm Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analysts: Greg Anthony/Steve Kerr
Right: Tom Izzo, in a rare moment of restraint. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan can cap off the rare three-game season sweep of Michigan State with a win. Oh, right, and secure the Big Ten Tournament title and almost certainly the final one-seed in the Big Dance.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
Michigan got a combined 63 points from Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III, turned the ball over just three times, and played MSU even on the boards in a 79-70 win at Crisler. State played some weird guys because Brandon Dawson went Hulk-mode on a table. Caris went running. Keith Appling's wrist prevented him from properly contesting a series of Stauskas jumpers. Or something.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||11||Keith Appling||Sr.||6'1, 185||71.5||22.5||110.6|
|Averaging 5.5 points over last 8 games with 33 assists and 21 turnovers|
|G||14||Gary Harris||So.||6'4, 210||72.8||26.1||113.7|
|High usage and high efficiency, great defender, should match up w/ Stauskas|
|G||45||Denzel Valentine||So.||6'5, 225||73.0||18.7||108.1|
|Point forward type, solid rebounder, error-prone, not a great shooter|
|F||22||Branden Dawson||Jr.||6'6, 225||47.9||19.1||119.8|
|Putback machine, also great on defensive boards, blocks shots, not a creator|
|F||5||Adreian Payne||Sr.||6'10, 245||53.9||26.8||111.6|
|Very effective near basket or outside, decent rebounder and shot-blocker|
|F||10||Matt Costello||So.||6'9, 240||35.3||13.9||126.6|
|Excellent shot-blocker and offensive rebounder, shoots 62% from field, foul-prone|
|G||20||Travis Trice||Jr.||6'0, 170||51.7||16.8||116.6|
|Excellent outside shooter, poor inside finisher, decent assist rate, not good at D|
|F||30||Kenny Kaminski||Fr.||6'8, 225||25.2||15.0||135.8|
|Pure stretch four gunner, great shooting numbers, tiny rebounding rates|
|G||3||Alvin Ellis||Fr.||6'4, 195||19.2||15.2||91.8|
|Role diminished since Appling's return, no points (0/3 FG) since February 20th|
Crap, I actually have to write this from scratch because the last one was all about Dawson's absence, Payne playing Michigan for the first time this season, and Appling's wrist.
Point guard Keith Appling has played a lot of minutes since returning from his wrist injury eight games ago, but his production hasn't been there—he's averaging 5.5 points per game in that span on 16/28 two-point and 2/9 three-point shooting. While he's willing to attack the rim—and still pretty effective in that regard—he hasn't shown much confidence in his outside shot. The opposite goes for his backup, Travis Trice, a 45% three-point shooter who hits just 38% of his attempts inside the arc. Appling is the superior defender; Trice is doing a better job of taking care of the ball of late.
Gary Harris is really good at basketball. You know this. While he hasn't had a huge game in the BTT, he's still been quite efficient, and he's also MSU's best perimeter defender. After what Stauskas did to Appling the last time out, Harris should match up with him for most of this game.
The proverbial wild card is Denzel Valentine, who does a little bit of everything as a 6'5" small forward who can also run the point. That includes a new-found outside shot (37% 3-pt) and a surprising number of defensive rebounds; it also includes Izzo-aneurysm-inducing turnovers. His versatility allows MSU to play small if they want—when they need shooting, they'll put out a lineup with him at the four.
For the first time this season, Michigan will face both Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne. Dawson is a beast on the boards, generating the majority of his offense on putback opportunities or open looks created by his teammates. Payne is equally threatening on the block or beyond the arc, though he's been inconsistent since returning from a foot injury that cost him seven games. Payne scored five points on 2/8 shooting with six rebounds in their quarterfinal win over Northwestern, then bounced back today with 18 points on 7/10 shooting—albeit with just four boards—against Wisconsin. His conditioning seems to be an issue.
Matt Costello provides shot-blocking and solid finishing at the rim off the bench. If MSU wants more of an outside shooting threat at the four, they'll bring Kenny Kaminski—35/71 on threes this season—into the game instead. Gavin Schilling is liable to play a few minutes and commit a few fouls—he had four in eight minutes(!) against the Badgers. Alvin Ellis sees spot minutes at guard; he's been a non-factor for the last month.
After losing to Michigan at Crisler, State closed out the regular season with a seven-point loss at home to Illinois, a ten-point home defeat of a reeling Iowa squad, and a two-point loss at Ohio State.
Michigan State is first in the conference in three-point shooting while taking the fourth-most attempts. This is real life. They're also a strong offensive rebounding team with Dawson back in the lineup. Turnovers are an issue for them, however, and they don't get to the line much at all.
The Spartan defense is giving up lots of three-point attempts themselves and seeing a solid chunk (36.3%) of those go in. What separates them from Michigan, though, is impressive defense inside the arc, ranking second in the league in 2P% against and first in block rate. They are very foul prone, though striking a balance between attacking their bigs and generating two-point looks that don't rely on bailout calls can be difficult.
Dare Appling to shoot. The biggest defensive adjustment for Michigan in their win over Ohio State was bringing a hard double-team onto LaQuinton Ross whenever he got the ball; they were able to do this because Aaron Craft can't shoot. Appling has been Craft-esque from beyond the arc—both in percentage and willingness to fire—since his injury. If Michigan can get away with sagging off of him while giving extra attention to Harris, they should do it.
Keep the rebounding close. Michigan managed to win the rebounding battle in the first matchup and keep it even in the second, though as every State fan/television announcer will tell you, they haven't had to face both Dawson and Payne yet. I don't expect Michigan to crash the offensive glass much at all; they're going to need some help from the perimeter players on the defensive boards to get this done.
Win the turnover battle. Here's how Michigan can make up for any extra possessions MSU generates with their rebounding: take care of the dang ball. They're much better at this than the Spartans on the average day, though they got a little sloppy today against the Buckeyes (admittedly, a better turnover-forcing squad than MSU). In a game that should be close, the Wolverines can't afford to waste possessions and give up easy buckets on the other end.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1