I don't have anything sweeping to say about last weekend's basketball and hockey games that's not a replica of what I said over the past couple weeks. Depending on whether the hockey team is flinging in seemingly unplanned goals or not the team is either okay or difficult to watch, but they are winning just about as much as anyone else in the country so that's an improvement from last year. The basketball team is desperately young and looks it unless it's flinging in half its three pointers, which it has the last couple games.
But I did go to the Joe and Crisler over the weekend, so some assorted items.
Make it rain. I thought "7 of 17 is pretty good" at halftime, and then Michigan went 7 of 9 in the second half, finishing a second straight game with a 3PT% of essentially 50%. This is obviously unsustainable. The top shooting team in the country is Northern Arizona. They're making 45% from behind the arc… and are 312th in 3PA/FGA. Michigan's sixth in that category. The rims will go clang again when opponents are getting out on Michigan's shooters.
But they count just as much as all those jacked up threes they clattered off rims earlier in the year. Michigan's three point shooting has been steadily improving and now they can claim to be above average for what I believe is probably the first time in the Beilein era. They're up to 34.8%, good for #147. Smotrycz, Vogrich, Novak, and Douglass are all at or above 37%. The only sources of three-point shots that aren't net benefits are Morris, who's at 29% on slightly more than two per game, and Hardaway, who's at 31% with nearly six attempts per.
BTW, Michigan State is enduring an agonizingly similar stretch on defense—opponents are shooting essentially 50% on their last 71(!) attempts from three.
Hardaway volume redux. I don't think I had a problem with more than a couple of Hardaway's many, many shots against the Hawkeyes since he was either launching wide-open threes or dealing with a short shot clock. It's tough to complain when he was 5-10 from behind the arc.
After Beilein said he "almost" has a green light to shoot, which seems like a diplomatic way to say "has a little Stu Douglass disease going on" since apparently everyone else on the team has said light. Hardaway's got the worst two point pecentage on the team* to go with his below-average three pointers.
This isn't a knock on Hardaway's potential—if he can just get himself a little more under control and trust in the guys around him, those numbers should increase drastically. The individual stat that will bear the closest attention as Michigan goes into an important 2011-12 season is Hardaway's offensive efficiency rating. I'm betting it takes a big step forward and Michigan suddenly becomes a tough offense to deal with.
*[Colton Christian's 2-for-11 season excluded.]
Not Hassan Wasabi. I vaguely remember John Gasaway praising some Iowa freshman that Fran McCaffery took with him when he left Siena for Iowa, but didn't remember the name. So I spent a big chunk of the first half alternately angry at Michigan's defense and wondrous that a man named "Hassan Wasabi" was playing for Iowa instead of getting kicked in the face by Bruce Lee. (Or Vogrich @ right).
It eventually dawned on me that the guy's name was "Melsahn Basabe," which is still pretty awesome but doesn't quite live up to my misconceptions.
Also awesome: Basabe himself. If Iowa hadn't hired McCaffery he'd be destroying the MAAC, as Gasaway said. Hell, he's already doing that to the Big Ten: he's shooting 57%, around 100th nationally in OReb%, DReb%, and Blk%. He's a black hole with no assists and plenty of turnovers but dang, man. How was this guy ticketed for Siena?
Defense slowly evaporating. Of course, Michigan's defense had something to do with that. Whenever someone shoots 9 of 11 you've been pwned. Halfway through the conference schedule Michigan has flipped their scouting report from the nonconference—the defense is the relative weak point.
I couldn't tell you why other than to go "youth," but remember earlier in the year when I suggested Michigan would actually be a relatively big team this year? That's not happening because McLimans has played himself out of the rotation, Smotrycz has been erratic, and the two centers have been foul-prone. This results in quite a bit more of Zack Novak at the 4 than anyone wanted or predicted. The kicker: a good chunk of the time that lineup features Smotrycz as a hilariously undersized center. Result: effective height in the bottom third of the nation despite having an average height that's 42nd.
It's going to be up to the freshmen over 6'7" to make this better next year since both recruits are guards. The main problem to my eyes is that Smotrycz doesn't really have a backup. It's either Novak or Christian, neither of whom is a great option.
no blue line for you, except that means all blue line for everyone
Guuuughghghr. Michigan's played some entertaining low-scoring games—Friday against Alaska was one—but they've also played some clunkers, like that OT loss against Ohio State. That was a grunting nothing of a game played mostly between the blue lines that turned on some terrible goaltending. The game against the Joe was the latter. Scoring chances were few and far between anda lot of them were due to error more than someone actually doing something right.
Now I'm full-on worried. Michigan got outshot for the third straight game, this one against the tenth-place team in the CCHA. They've scored two goals in the last three games that weren't shots from the point, and while Caporusso's goal against MSU was a nice effort play by Scooter it was a play where a puck bounced fortuitously, not something Michigan had intent behind. You're going to get your share of those goals over the course of a season but it seems like teams that are Frozen Four good have more goals where plans were successfully executed. Michigan's had very few of those.
Lynch penalty shot. I had no real expectation he'd score, but the way that went down is a depressing summary of where the team is right now. Time was Michigan's second round picks were offensive machines; Michigan's are just guys. Lynch, Rust, Brown, Caporusso—all of them are second or third round draft picks that don't seem to do much in the offensive zone. All are getting outscored by Scooter. That's the big issue with the team—the guys who are supposed to carry the water offensively aren't. They've gotten away with it much of the year thanks to the defensive corps and Rust and Hagelin being an NHL checking line already.
Pairwise. One bad loss and Michigan slides down to ninth. As I said, when I first started looking at the thing a couple weeks ago Michigan was close to their apex with a lot of teams nipping at their heels. They cannot afford to struggle down the stretch.
Hello, Hunwick. Never say Shawn Hunwick can't take advantage of someone else's groin injury. His save percentage was hovering around .900 when Hogan went out. A couple months later he's at .923. Hogan's save percentage this year? .923. Hogan was dressed as the third goalie on Saturday and is close to returning but at this point it's hard to go with him over Hunwick—he's only played nine games in about the past year.
Obvious. As part of his annual defense of the recruiting-industrial complex, Doctor Saturday has surveyed many things. Now he has struck upon the most over- and under-achieving teams as seen through the lens of recruiting classes. The overachieving list has a variety of causes:
- Oregon. Spread genius.
- Oregon State. JUCO/grayshirt addiction.
- Virginia Tech. FSU, Miami, UNC, and Clemson all recruit like demons and suck on the field. The methodology here prioritizes wins over teams with good classes no matter their results on the field. The ACC champion is set up to do well here.
- Iowa. Own Penn State, greatly benefit from Michigan's implosion.
- Stanford. Harbaugh. Sigh.
The underachieving list… well, you don't even have to look, really. Guess which big time rivalry finishes 1-2? You get zero opportunities. You got it anyway:
Hurray! In Michigan's case the underachieving is due to massive attrition, a change in program philosophy, the program delightfully eating itself alive, and the dumbest hiring decision in the history of the world. Notre Dame had a decided schematic advantage.
The rest of the lame are UCLA, Texas A&M, Miami, and FSU. Unsurprisingly four of these teams have changed coaches in the last two years. UCLA is going to have a hard time not firing Neuheisel next year, leaving A&M the only school that may be able to dig out under the current leadership.
Special K is a disease. He infects the world. I could help but think about Special K when I read about UConn's spelling cheer. It's the generic spelling cheer wherein you spell out the thing you like and repeat it three times. Example: "B-A-C-O-N bacon bacon bacon!" In this case it's U-C-O-N-N. It would be better if it was bacon, but it's UConn.
UConn's version is actually a cool tradition, however, because of this guy:
His name is Kenny, and the reason UConn has a cheer almost as good as B-A-C-O-N is because this lone nut created it via force of personality. People love this:
The reason Big Red's cheer has caught on and become a marker of UConn's success for the past 20 years is because, unlike so many things at UConn games, it is organic. There is no sponsor. It is not forced. It is not pre-packaged. No, instead it is a reflection of pure joy at the success of the young men who step out on the court wearing the jerseys that say "UConn." It is beautiful, and cheering along with Big Red is one of my favorite parts of being a UConn fan.
Unfortunately this year the cheer has been pirated by the PA guy and is deployed at times completely irrelevant to the game situation. It's basically WHO WANTS SOME FREE UCONN CHEER. In two years it will be WHO WANTS SOME FREE UCONN CHEER BROUGHT TO YOU BY CORPORATION. It is in this way that genuine things are co-opted and destroyed by marketers.
Also: bacon, bacon, bacon.
Filling in another hockey blank or two. Hockey gets a 2012(?) commit from Max Shuart, a nephew of former Wolverine captain Alex Roberts. Shuart's playing for major midget—unusual for a Michigan recruit at this stage in his career—and has filled in with the U17 team this year. He's got no points in three games with the U17s.
Michigan also just picked up an Alex Kile from Compuware for 2013. Kyle leads his team with 18-19-37 in 32 games, and is ninth in the league in scoring. He was a 14th round pick of London in the OHL draft—it's always hard to tell how much of that seeming lack of respect is talent and how much is signability.
MHN points out that Kile and Shuart were born only ten days apart, so Shuart may be ticketed for 2013 instead of 2012. That would make more sense since a guy who's doing well, but not amazingly, in midget doesn't seem like a guy who's going to make an impact in two years. I couldn't find anything on the internets indicating either guy was getting early hype, FWIW.
Random two year old sings fight song. Aww.
Is there a way to avoid this pun? Rumors of Soony Saad's departure for Europe are no longer rumors. Michigan's going to have to replace basically all of their scoring next year, which totally sucks because with Saad they were probably Big Ten favorites and in position to establish the sort of success that sustains itself over years. Now I'm not sure who the hell is going to be probably better than Robbie Findley.
Yes, dolla bill. The number for Michigan's guarantee game against Air Force: 1.1 million, which tops Ohio State's million-dollar payout to Navy by a few thousand dollars but not their $2 million guarantee to Colorado. It's a little scary that we just went back to a mid-90s Michigan DC and we're going up against the triple option, no?
Bug status. Items fixed:
- The iPhone app.
- IE bug where content would show up way down the screen. (Inline CSS wasn't getting used on pages other than the homepage, for some reason.)
- Up/down voting has returned. It's a bit different, as an update in the software brought a new widget that tracks up and down votes separately and more obviously. There's also a setting to "dim" comments that fail to meet a certain threshold; I picked –5. No idea what that will do yet. [It appears the answer is "nothing," but maybe it puts classes on these items that I'm not doing anything with yet.]
- Have restored image upload facilities for trusted users using WLW. There is new login information that can be found in the post that explains how to use WLW with MGoBlog.
List of known issues in approximate order of importance:
- IE 7 users (and I think just IE 7 users) are having issues seeing the box wherein comments are composed. Note: I don't even try to support IE 6, so if your company hasn't updated its browser in ten years I cannot help you.
- The message board is ugly and uses space inefficiently again (but at least there are permalinks).
- Voting is not applying points to user accounts.
- mgolicious is not automatically updating.
- Sidebar pagers are goofy.
- The message board homepage is also in an undesirable state.
If there's something else wrong email me about it, please.
Etc.: There was a very silly AnnArbor.com article that chalked up Forcier's departure to the "impossible expectations" placed on his shoulders, such as going to class and not taking incompletes. It cried out to be fisked; The Wolverine Blog has fisked it. Tom Harmon is the #5 Big Ten Icon, so 1-4 better have dominated jungles, too. Braves & Birds explores why commentary is so dumb. Wrestling takes out OSU and Indiana; I stumbled across the OSU dual on BTN and decided "what the hell" since Michigan was ahead. It was surprisingly entertaining.
Signing day is almost upon us, and there are roughly six recruits to keep an eye on.This staff has done an excellent job keeping kids committed and adding additional pieces to fill gaps. Here's a look at what to expect, and when to expect it.
5'10", 215 lbs.
Rawls is a three star prospect, which most people assume is because of the concern with his grades. Most people assumed he would not qualify, which led to a not so impressive offer list. Also, since his high school coach is Fred Jackson's son and he's made no secret of the fact that if he qualifies he's going to Michigan other schools may not have bothered.
Don't let that list fool you, because Thomas is the kind of back Brady Hoke is looking for in his offense. I can only imagine the conversations about Thomas between Fred Jr and Fred Sr. [ed: "Son, you are the greatest coach in the world and you have created a combination of Herschel Walker, House, and Bo Jackson."]
Rawls recently came back from his trip to Ann Arbor with an offer and a plan:
I wouldn't say it was the dream offer, Michigan is the dream school. I grew up watching them, and I just worked to get there. I basically had the offer, but I just didn't say much. I don't want to say too much about academics, but I will be eligible for the 2011 season. I want to keep some stuff for my press conference, which will be at 9:30am on signing day at Flint Northern.
Thomas is "deciding" between Michigan and CMU on signing day. This should be an excellent pick up for Michigan, and an excellent job by Thomas to get eligible.
6'7", 270 lbs.
Traverse City, Michigan
Jake Fisher is fresh off a visit to Oregon, and it's coming down to the wire. Chip Kelly is pretty strict when it comes to prospects visiting and offers they hand out. They like kids to visit if they are seriously thinking about coming to Oregon, and I think Jake is. I spoke to him after his visit, and he had this to say:
Everyone is fair game right now. I'm going to sit down with my parents and talk everything over. I'm either going to announce the day before signing day, or on signing day.
He also told me the visit to Oregon went well, but not much more than that. Jake is really tough to read, so this could go one way or the other. The Michigan coaches have made him a priority. Will it be enough?
Who's Signing When
Signing day is Wednesday. As mentioned earlier there are roughly six prospects that Michigan has honed in on. They would have enough room for all six under certain circumstances. Here's who's left, and when they plan on announcing.
- MI RB Thomas Rawls: Signing Day at 9:30am.
- CO LB Leilon Willingham: Signing Day at 7pm MT. Michigan is in great shape still with Willingham. He'll be choosing between Michigan, ASU, Colorado, Washington, and UCF presumably.
- OH LB Frank Clark: Signing Day around 10 or 11am.
- MD DT Darian Cooper: Signing Day.
- MI OL Jake Fisher: Either announcing the day before signing day, or on signing day. Visit to Oregon went well. He plans on talking it over with his parents and then deciding.
- TX TE Chris Barnett: Will announce on Saturday. Wants to weigh out all the options rather than think on emotion. The Michigan visit went very well. He is deciding between Arkansas and Michigan.
Prediction: I don't like predicting, but Michigan has a legitimate shot at landing all six that are left. I don't know if they will, but they have a shot. I am confident about three of them, somewhat optimistic about one, and usure about two. I think when it comes down to it they will most likely land 3 or 4, if they get the 5th or 6th it's a bonus.
New Michigan commit(s), and this bad boy hits the front page. There's been tooooons of action since last rankings:
1-23-11 Michigan State gains commitment from Brandon Clemons. Illinois gains commitment from Darrius Caldwell.
1-24-11 Nebraska loses commitment from Aaryn Bouzos. Northwestern gains commitments from Andrew Smith and Deonte Gibson. Minnesota gains commitment from Wedley Estime.
1-25-11 Michigan gains commitment from Antonio Poole. Michigan gains commitment from Russell Bellomy, Purdue loses commitment from Russell Bellomy. Purdue gains commitment from Raheem Mostert.
1-26-11 Illinois gains commitment from Valdon Cooper. Indiana loses commitment from Donte Phillips.
1-27-11 Illinois gains commitment from Willie Beavers.
1-28-11 Michigan gains commitment from Chris Bryant. Ohio State gains commitment from Bryce Haynes. Nebraska gains commitment from Joseph Carter.
1-30-11 Nebraska gains commitment from Mauro Bondi.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
|#1 Ohio State - 22 Commits|
Long-snapper Bryce Haynes commits to the Buckeyes, and though he brings down their averages quite a bit, it's unfair to knock the Buckeyes below Notre Dame for adding another piece to their class.
|#2 Notre Dame - 23 Commits|
|George Atkinson III||S||CA||5.8||3||79|
No changes to the Notre Dame class. It's a very solid one, however.
|#3 Nebraska - 17 Commits|
Aaryn Bouzos drops the Huskers for Air Force. Nebraska responds by snagging defensive end Joseph Carter and kicker Mauro Bondi (the latter of whom ESPN gives a ludicrous 79 rating).
|#4 Michigan State - 20 Commits|
Michigan State picks up a highly-rated offensive lineman in Brandon Clemons. I think their class could jump Nebraska's with another talented commit.
|#5 Iowa - 20 Commits|
No changes for Iowa.
|#6 Wisconsin - 20 Commits|
The Badgers are still waiting on ESPN to rate Frederick Willis and Tyler Marz.
|#7 Michigan - 17 Commits|
The Wolverines pick up commitments from Russell Bellomy, Antonio Poole, and the long-awaited Chris Bryant. With very similar averages to Penn State, they're pushed ahead of the Nittany Lions on the basis of having more commits.
|#8 Penn State - 15 Commits|
No change for the Nittany Lions. As mentioned above, they're passed by Michigan in this week's rankings.
|#9 Illinois - 29 Commits|
Illini add a couple more pieces to what will end up as easily the conference's largest recruiting class.
|#10 Northwestern - 17 Commits|
Northwestern picks up Deonte Gibson and Andrew Smith. The Wildcats get a little bump up in the rankings.
|#11 Minnesota - 22 Commits|
The newest Minnesota commit, Wedley Estime, is not even in Scout's database.
|#12 Indiana - 15 Commits|
Indiana's class gets smaller as Donte Phillips is no longer a Hoosier. Class size drops them behind Minnesota and Northwestern.
|#13 Purdue - 14 Commits|
Some services are saying Armstead Williams is no longer committed to the Boilermakers, so keep an eye out for that next week.
Defensive tackle is one of the holes that hasn't been filled yet for Michigan, which makes Darian Cooper one of the most important recruits left on the board. Up to even a few weeks ago it seemed like Cooper wasn't going to entertain the idea of even visiting Michigan. The new coaching staff made him a priority and convinced him to visit this past weekend. Michigan has now moved into his top four with MSU, Iowa, and Georgia Tech. Here's his film, and what he had to say about the visit.
TOM: Tell me from the start what you guys did.
DARIAN: We got there at five on Friday, and we went and ate dinner at the Big House. After that I hung out with some of the players, we hung out with Josh Furman, Patrick (Omameh). We got to meet all the players and we played some video games.
TOM: Was Saturday more the business side of it then?
DARIAN: Yeah, Saturday was more the academic side of it. My mom and little brother were with me, and we spent a few hours with the Dean of business. They went over what a degree means from Michigan and the overall academics there.
TOM: That's usually what parents care the most about, did your mom come away impressed with that?
DARIAN: Their degree ranks 15th in the nation, so it's hard not to be impressed with that. My mom doesn't care so much about the football side. She wants there to be stability with the coaching staff. Football is football, you line up and the objectives are all the same, so she's worried about the other parts.
TOM: I'm assuming you also met with the coaches, Coach Hoke and Mattison, on Saturday. What did they have to say?
DARIAN: They were talking to me about my role on the defense. For the past few years their strength has been offense, and they were telling me that they're defensive minded coaches and they want to bring that defense back. They're putting an emphasis on defense now.
TOM: What did they say as far as your role in the defense, what's their pitch to you?
DARIAN: They were telling me it's a great opportunity to play early. My freshman year, Coach Mattison said I would be a relief for Mike Martin on the field. They would work me into a nickel package, and a third down rushing defensive tackle. Playing is good, I don't really care what my role is as long as I get to play.
TOM: You went from not wanting to visit Michigan, to now potentially having them in your top group when you decide. Did this visit help Michigan even more?
DARIAN: Michigan moved up in my mind, definitely. I'm really focusing on my experience with the players at each school. Buildings are buildings, but it's all about the people in the place not the bricks that have been laid.
TOM: Was there anything that really stuck out to you that was different from other visits?
DARIAN: It was an official visit, so everything's going to be great. What I liked was that they didn't take me to the most expensive restaurant that I'll never eat at again, which was interesting. They took me to the training table and told me everything that was real, and this is how you'd live here. They didn't try to sell me with stuff that wasn't going to be how it was there. I liked that part.
TOM: Where do you go from here?
DARIAN: Most likely make my decision on signing day. I'll sit down with my mom, and make my decision.
Michigan Men's Lacrosse has captured the last thee national titles in the MCLA, the highest level of club lacrosse in the country. They begin their quest to make it an unprecedented 4-peat tonight at 6:00PM in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, with a pre-season scrimmage against Division 1 squad Bellarmine.
Let's look at the personnel.
Key Returners: Mark Stone (HM AA, 2nd Conf), Andrew Fowler
Losses: Conor McGee
Mark Stone and Andrew Folwer split time in net almost equally in 2009, and though Fowler missed some time with a leg injury, he got the start in the MCLA Championship game. Last year, however, Stone took over as the #1 keeper, playing almost twice as many minutes as Fowler, and posting a slightly better save percentage (.609 to .595) overall.
This season, look for Stone to be the starter again - and increased performance out of both main keepers in their senior years. Sophomore Cy Abdelnour is the third option, as Conor McGee has transferred to UVa.
Key Returners: Harry Freid (1st AA, 1st Conf), Austin Swaney (2nd Conf), Justin Burgin (3rd Conf).
Losses: Zach Mueller, Theo Lederfine Paskal, Bob Diehl.
Newcomers: Dakota Sherman, Pat Stansik, Jake Dockser.
Harry Freid enters his senior year after back-to-back First-Team All-American seasons, and he's been named to the MCLA's all-decade team. He's the key player in the Wolverines' defensive corps, and will probably spend next spring playing a year of Division-1 lacrosse.
Austin Swaney is the team's #2 defenseman. His athleticism and instincts are the keys to his success. The starting unit could be rounded out by either Pat Stansik or Justin Burgin, though Burgin is coming off an injury. Stansik is a big, intimidating defenseman, and Burgin excels going up the field in transition.
JD Johnson, Dakota Sherman, and Paul Hegeman should also get some good playing time in a very deep defensive unit.
Key Returners: Matt Asperheim (3rd AA, 1st Conf).
Losses: Anthony Hrusovsky (2nd AA, 1st Conf), Jordan Kirshner (3rd AA, 1st Conf), David Rogers (2nd Conf), Svet Tintchev (2nd Conf), Michael Bartomioli (HM Conf), Jamison Goldberg (HM Conf).
The midfield is the hardest-hit unit by graduation, with only senior Long-Stick Matt Asperheim returning among players who received All-American or All-Conference honors. Asperheim is an important part of the team's defensive play, but also has great stick skills, and can score.
The other starters of Michigan's defensive midfield have graduated, so Jordan Kirshner and Michael Bartomioli (now an assistant at Michigan's Feb. 19th opponent Florida) will need to be replaced. Sean Sutton should be one of the starters, but the other is still up in the air, with Rob Healy a strong contender.
Michigan also lost a lot from their offensive midfield units, with #5 scorer Svet Tintchev out the door, along with #7 Anthony Hrusovsky, #9 Jamison Goldberg, and #10 David Rogers. Young players such as Joey Hrusovsky will have to step up, and don't be surprised if the Wolverines have more 2-way midfielders this season.
Key Returners: Edward Ernst, Harrison Silver
Losses: David Reinhard (1st AA, 1st Conf)
David Reinhard was a huge part of Michigan's success over the past two years, as the diminutive faceoff specialist won nearly 70% of his draws, helping the Wolverines dominate possession against all competition. With Reinhard out the door, it's up to junior Edward Ernst to carry the torch at the faceoff X.
Ernst actually performed better overall (80.6 win percentage), though most of his attempts came late in games, and especially against lesser competition. He'll have to step up his game for Michigan to control possession like they have the past few years.
Key Returners: Trevor Yealy (1st AA, 1st Conf), Thomas Paras (2nd Conf)
Losses: Kevin Zorovich (2nd AA, 1st Conf), Josh Ein (HM Conf), Clark McIntyre (HM Conf)
Though Michigan's #3, 4, and 6 scorers from last year have graduated, the Michigan offense still has its most important piece in Trevor Yealy. The senior captain has been a deadly finisher on the crease the last three years, with a mind-numbing 77 goals last year alone - compared to a grand total of 2 assists. This year, he should play a more versatile role, including out on the wing. Even if his scoring production drops, it will be for the betterment of the team on the whole.
Michigan's #2 scorer from last year, Thomas Paras, should be improved in his second year in the program. Since the Wolverines lost two lefties (Zorovich and Ein), the addition of St. John's transfer Ryan-Dutton O'Hara (HT: UMGoBlog) is important. He's a big attackman with good finishing ability.
The Wolverines may have scoring spread more throughout the roster, so keep an eye on Chad Carroll, who's new to the team after not playing lacrosse the last couple years, and freshman jitterbug Jeff Chu.
Last year's home lineup consisted of a meager four games, but that's paid forward to 2011, with 8 home contests, including 2010 tournament teams Florida, BYU, Boston College, Colorado State, and Arizona State (last year's runner-up). I break it down into about 4 parts:
Jan. 29, 6:00PM
NCAA Division-1, 9-6 in 2010
Feb. 4, 7:30PM
NCAA Division-3, 10-5 in 2010
Feb 12, 7:00PM
NCAA Division-3, 6-8 in 2010
Early Season/Road Trip
Feb. 19, 7:00PM
SELC, 12-4 in 2010 (First Round MCLA Tournament)
Feb. 25, 6:00PM. Los Angeles, CA
PNCLL, 10-5 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
@ Loyola Marymount
Mar. 2, 3:00 PM. Los Angeles, CA
SLC, 13-5 in 2010
Mar. 5, 1:00 PM. Orange, CA
SLC, 16-3 in 2010 (MCLA Final Four - Lost to Michigan)
Mar. 12, 2:00 PM. Athens, OH
CCLA East, 11-2 NCLL in 2010
The Home Stand
Mar. 18, 7:00 PM
RMLC, 12-6 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament Second Round - Lost to Michigan)
Mar. 19, 7:00 PM
CCLA East, 5-10 in 2010
Mar. 25, 7:00 PM
PCLL, 11-3 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
Mar. 26, 7:00 PM
SLC, 10-6 in 2010
Apr. 1, 7:00 PM
RMLC, 17-2 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament Second Round)
Apr. 2, 7:00 PM
SLC, 16-4 in 2010 (MCLA Runners-up - Lost to Michigan)
Apr. 9, 7:00 PM
GRLC, 8-7 in 2010
The Home Stretch
Apr. 16, 7:00 PM. Birmingham Seaholm HS
CCLA, 10-6 in 2010 (MCLA Tournament First Round)
Apr. 23, 7:00 PM. Toledo, OH
CCLA East, 8-6 NCLL in 2010
May 5-7 Saline, MI
May 17-21 Denver, CO
Michigan's recipe for success over the past few years has been to dominate possession, owning the faceoff X and riding opponents into turnovers to hold on to the ball much more than the opposition.
Michigan's biggest question mark this year, then, will be on faceoffs. In the one-on-one battle at midfield, they need to have Edward Ernst step up to continue the formula that's brought them such success. Ernst has David Reinhard, last year's All-American specialist, teaching and competing with him in practice (just like Reinhard had with Brekan Kohlitz a couple years back), so he should be able to step up.
Other than faceoff, Michigan's top-end talent and depth are both exceptional. Plugging Division-1 transfers into holes created by graduation is not a luxury all club programs have, and the Wolverines have some of the best coaching in the MCLA as well.
It's likely, unless there are some early-season stumbles, that Michigan will be favored - and often heavily so - in every game this year. They've earned it by losing only one game in the past 3 years, and refusing to ever rebuild, but always reload. It doesn't hurt to have the runaway favorites for MCLA Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year on your squad, either.
If you're looking to make it out to just a couple games, I recommend tonight's scrimmage, as Bellarmine is a D-1 opponent, and the back-to-back home games against Colorado State and Arizona State.
At long last, IL OL Chris Bryant has committed to Michigan. Tom talked to Michigan's 17th commitment, and he had this to say:
"It was a tough choice, I put a lot of thought into it. I went through each school, and when I said that name I knew it was the school for me. I'm comfortable there, and I have a good relationship with the coaches. I want to compete and work towards a championship. I'll be down there in June and I'll be ready to play football."
On with the show.
|3*, #21 OG||4*, 5.8, #20 OT, #196 Overall||3*, 77, #37 OG|
Bryant's position in college is something of a question. He's a huge kid, listed at 6-5 and 330 pounds by his Rivals profile. He has the height to play tackle, but it seems Michigan is looking at him as a guard. He had previously only played guard in high school, but shifted to tackle this year. ESPN evaluates him, and we'll start with the positives:
Flashes good pull / trap ability; can kick out and seal up inside showing the ability to play on his feet in space. We see a player capable of making the necessary run blocks at the next level of play once his techniques improve. His nimble feet and arm length should be assets in pass protection; flashes short set ability however his bend and base need attention; is capable of sliding his feet and playing flat footed in a reduced area; demonstrates the upper body playing strength to control pass rushers however all areas of hand use need refinement. We like the aggressive finishing attitude this guy brings to the game, it's what we like to see from offensive linemen.
Unsurprisingly for a high school kid his size, conditioning is a key to his future improvement:
Has the size for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition however his body mass will need to be redistributed through off season conditioning... Can come off the ball low and hard but more often his initial fit and pad level are high; needs to improve his ability to play low coming off the ball... This player could have problems with active 1st and 2nd level defenders unless his initial quickness and pad level improve.
Initial quickness will be improved with conditioning, and turning his body into that of a high-caliber college offensive lineman. On his Scout profile, Bryant talks about his game:
“I’m big and quick. A lot of college coaches like that I can move. Also, I’m not a sloppy 330, I’m built. I have a real powerful punch too.
“But I’m trying to improve my footwork and my overall technique. I’m just trying to get it all down.”
ESPN would beg to differ with his assessment of his body build. The Scout profile also lists testing numbers of a 395 pound bench and 420 pound squat. That seems ridiculously top-heavy to me, going along with the idea that he needs to redistribute that weight. UMGoBlog's analysts both point out that his athleticism is amazing for his size:
“Unbelievable athletic ability for a man his size. He moves his feet as well as any 300+ pound player you'll find...a mammoth kid who despite his size, is a pretty good athlete.?"
Bryant held a number of BCS-level offers outside of the Michigan one that he ultimately accepted. Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Stanford were his flagships. That's no 5-star offer sheet, but nor is it like some of the others we've seen lately, with a couple Big Ten rejects and some Big East and MAC offers. Ohio State came in late, but did not offer.
The offers that Bryant holds confirm the recruiting services' rankings, on the border between a 3-star and a 4-star. His final group consisted of Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, and Pittsburgh.
Bryant is an offensive lineman, and therefore does not have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists his 40 time at 5.30 seconds, which seems fairly realistic. We do have to take into account that the kid is THREE HUNDRED THIRTY POUNDS, however, and didn't get there via a college-level weight training program. I deem this time worthy of two FAKEs out of five.
Highlights from the Michigan Football Showcase, held in Glick Fieldhouse last winter. He looks surprisingly agile for a guy his size.
Junior highlights on both sides of the trenches:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case you haven't gotten the vibe quite yet, a year of redshirting to do some work in the gym is all but mandatory. He needs to turn some of his extra pounds into muscle, and also shed some serious poundage as well. I would guess a playing weight around 310 is a good goal.
One thing I worry about is his ability to get weight off, keep weight off, and stay in game shape. We saw Quinton Washington (who Rich Rodriguez's staff pegged as the #1 overall offensive line recruit in the class of 2008) struggle to crack the two-deep in his first couple years after redshirting, and eventually move to defensive tackle. It could take Bryant a little longer than expected to make his way into the lineup.
Michigan's current guards are Patrick Omameh and (probably) Ricky Barnum. Once they graduate, Bryant should be able to work into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore. If he can stay in shape through his entire career, All-Big Ten seasons are a definite possibility.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Every recruit for the rest of the class is an independent case, as it's unlikely Michigan will run up against the scholarship limit, and the needs are mostly filled - outside of tight end and defensive tackle. Even at those positions, Michigan will take who they can, and move along should they not land anybody.
OH TE/LB Frank Clark, CO LB Leilon Willingham, MI OL Jake Fisher, TX TE Chris Barnett, MD DT Darian Cooper, MI RB Thomas Rawls, and OH FB Trayion Durham are the main remaining targets.
Bryant is a teammate of 2012 IL OL Jordan Diamond, who likes Michigan early in the process, and 2012 QB Robert Gregory. Having the opportunity to join Bryant in Ann Arbor may help push them to the Maize and Blue.
The local beat reporter in Colorado Springs has tweeted that Michigan will fill in one of its holes in the 2012 schedule with Air Force. That's a one-off at Michigan Stadium, obviously, and a higher-quality one than usual. Given the way these things go Michigan is probably going to be shelling out a cool million bucks to the Falcons.
Why? Well, that year's home schedule is awful—OSU, Nebraska, and Notre Dame are all on the road with Alabama in Dallas—and whatever small cachet Air Force brings to the schedule it's better than Eastern Michigan or Baby Seal U. I'd expect the last nonconference opponent to be a MAC team.
1/27/2011 – Michigan 61, Michigan State 57 – 12-9, 2-6 Big Ten
left two Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com
A couple years ago Michigan fans were wondering if they really had something or if an unexpected win against UCLA was just a one-off when they took on Duke in Crisler arena. Michigan won that game, and the moment I remember most was Zack Novak holding his follow-through an ostentatiously long time. He'd just hit a three pointer to push Michigan well in front that sent Crisler into honest-to-God hysterics. It was an ungritty thing to do, but if anyone can justify a little flash now and then it's Zack Novak.
Yesterday Novak had what can only be described as a leadership aneurysm. It was the grittiest twitchy, alarming fit anyone's ever had. MSU fans rushed to put it on the internet the better to mock him by:
This worked out about as well as painting "1,181" across your hairless, AXE-laden chests.
You know this, but: 6 of 8 from three, 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and various dogged things that don't show up in the box score but contribute to the bottom line. In the aftermath of the game David Merritt tweeted something about how if you question Zack Novak's importance to the team you "don't understand team sports*". That and math.
Because Michigan followed up a series of promising performances against elite teams with road duds against Indiana and Northwestern, beating Michigan State won't mean anything outside of the thing itself. Michigan's not likely to get even an NIT bid because of the win. Before my fiancée fell asleep for the second half she remarked that even though Michigan was in front "they make everything seem so hard," and they do.
Michigan is aimless. The announcers kept talking about Michigan taking a lot of time off the shot clock like that was a special strategy for this game when they're almost as slow (327th) as they are young (337th) and played at the exact same pace against South Carolina Upstate. When it's going well they're "deliberate," but to my eyes it's a team that doesn't really know what it's doing. They're forced to improvise when time gets low after chucking it around the perimeter for 20 seconds. It's almost exactly what Amaker teams did down to pulling the big out of the lane to provide a low-threat passing option as the ball cycles around the three point line.
The most eye-opening section of the season was the first half against Northwestern, when the Wildcats team ran a series of intricate cuts that opened up Michigan's defense for a rain of open threes and drives into the lane against mis-positioned defenders:
Michigan gets a lot of that from Darius Morris but Northwestern gets it from all over. Morris has an astronomic assist rate but if you compare the teams there are seven(!) Wildcats between him and Stu Douglass, Michigan's #2 guy. Despite the hype about Beilein, right now Michigan's offense boils down to "do something, Darius."
Fortunately for Michigan, Darius Morris has proven pretty good at not only that but twisting down the lane and getting awkward shots to fall. He was somehow 5 of 8 from inside the arc despite his teammates assisting on zero of his buckets; most of those were Dion Harris-style "well, someone has to put it up" buckets while swarmed in the lane. Combine that with near 50% three-point shooting and a you've got the recipe for an upset.
You don't have something sustainable to go back to the rest of the season.
Michigan's going to get better the rest of the way, but it might be hard to tell because of noise. They'll probably even get better more quickly than more experienced teams. IE, all teams. They still won't be very good. That's okay. Beating Michigan State at Breslin hasn't happened since I was a freshman in college—JESUS—and while it's very Sparty to say they can pack it in the rest of the year and there will still be some satisfaction from the season, it's also true. As a self-contained thing it is the best of all basketball things.
In the larger picture it's just one of those games when Colton Christian hits an 18-footer as the shot clock expires. They happen. Where this game gives hope is for the offseason, when Zack Novak will call for a captain's practice and the his teammates will remember he was the man who sprayed gore all over the Breslin Center and showed Michigan State it was theirs.
*[He also mentioned that he used to throw "Office" quotes back and forth with Douglass.]
Non-bullets and whatnot
Not a vintage MSU team. At some point in early in the game a goofy white guy did something bad and I was about to kick something when I realized he was playing for Michigan State. Late in the first half I was wondering why the goofy white guy never came off the floor when the announcers mentioned his name, which was a different name, and I looked at their numbers and they were different too and it dawned on me that there were two goofy white guys who only did bad things splitting 40 minutes of playing time. One of them was an elf who bakes cookies.
It was at this point hope dawned.
Novak and Stu as reasons for Beilein hope. They're obviously better than Smotrycz on a possession-to-possession "oh God, what was that?" level, and I'd throw in Hardaway and his addiction to chucking up not-very-good shots in there too. Novak and Douglass were just as shaky as freshmen. Douglass had the same disease Hardaway does. Now they have the best eFG% on the team excepting easy-bucket machine Jordan Morgan. Douglass was a conscience free gunner his first couple years; now his usage rate is in the "limited roles" category and his three point percentage is a point short of 40%.
If Hardaway and Smotrycz can advance at the same pace they can be those guys plus three inches each. I'm relatively serene about Beilein's bulletproof status because his recruiting's improved tremendously, the team would be a lot different if Robin Benzing and Ben Cronin hadn't flamed out, and it's at least worth checking out what will happen next year when experience goes from almost dead last nationally (337 of 345) to approximately middle-of-the pack. If you add a year of experience to everyone they'd be in a huge multi-way tie for 126th, but that's generous because Michigan will play Burke and Brundidge.
Beilein's already earned next year, and when they take the inevitable step forward in '11-'12 he'll get year six, and that's got at least a decent chance of working out.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., please report to the lost and found. We have found your conscience. Please re-insert it and stop leading the team in three-pointers attempted despite only hitting 30% of them. He's got a higher percentage of shots while he's on the floor than Morris does, which is kind of amazing. Michigan would be better if he got that usage down to around 20%. I'm sure, like Stu, that he'll learn.
The strange thing about Smotrycz. Does anyone else think his best defense is played in the post? This isn't really a compliment—he's probably the worst defensive player on the team, constantly getting lost. But when Michigan goes tiny they have him defend the five and I can't remember thinking "this has to stop" during any of those long stretches.
Seriously. Someone at The Only Colors complained about my characterization of the streak guys as "meatheads." Seriously?
You can seriously look at those guys and envision them doing anything other than slather each other in AXE as they recite "Sex Panther" quotes back and forth to each other before heading out to a kegger where they are totally going to get laid, or at least slapped?
This has something to do with the juggalos post in the aftermath of the football game this fall, but here I was just making an observation about five guys with spotlessly hair-free chests whooping like monkeys. Michigan has meatheads enrolled. I met plenty. It was not a shot at anyone except the jinx-bringers.
Also, seriously: juggalos in Ann Arbor last fall. Seriously. Never been that bad, even when OSU fans were 30k strong for the 2009 Game. This is because the OSU fans who showed up were the kind that went to the game instead of just hanging out for an opportunity to take out their insecurities. Dozens of Michigan fans have told me this, a good chunk before the post even went up.
Well, that's one streak of days stretching into the thousands down. Bonus for those five gloating meatheads ESPN showed at every opportunity: the guys who painted "1" on their chest don't have to change anything to be accurate tomorrow as long as they sit separately. The "8" guy will have to sit at home and cry for a week.
And you can't have one without the other…
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