"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
From our very own Zack Novak photoshop thread.
This is part two of the hoops season recap; part one, covering the guards, can be found here.
It should not come as a surprise to those who have followed John Beilein's Michigan squads that a post covering the team's "bigs" would feature a photo of 6'4" Zack Novak at the top of the post. Michigan entered the season relatively thin in the frontcourt, and things only got worse when backup center Jon Horford suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in December, an injury that would ultimately sideline him for the remainder of the season. When Evan Smotrycz suffered through a brutal slump to start conference play, Novak found himself starting at power forward, reprising his role from years past instead of playing his natural two-guard position.
While Michigan got solid seasons out of Novak and Jordan Morgan, along with some inspired efforts from Smotrycz, the lack of size up front was the team's greatest weakness. This was exposed each time Michigan played Ohio State or Michigan State, especially away from Crisler, and even when all of the bigs got in foul trouble at Northwestern and Colton Christian played important minutes at center. This shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with the addition of Mitch McGary and the return of Horford, but Smotrycz's departure hurts. Let's look back on each player's individual contributions:
Preseason Expectations: Morgan entered the season as the returning starter after a surprising redshirt freshman season, but he still had to hold off Jon Horford to keep the job. The hope was that he'd develop his post game while continuing to play solid defense, rebound, and hit his fair share of high-percentage shots.
Postseason Reality: Morgan still hasn't displayed much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, and he missed a maddeningly large amount of layups. The latter point was a source of great frustration, along with his propensity for early foul trouble, but overall Morgan was quite solid in the middle. His defense improved—including a sharp decline in foul rate—his rebounding was solid, and he shot just a hair under 62% from the field. Trey Burke didn't look to Morgan as much as Darius Morris did last year, and there was a clear adjustment period while he got used to playing with a different style of point guard. While there wasn't a big leap forward in Morgan's offensive game, as many had hoped, he did not regress, either. Meanwhile, he was in better shape, running the floor well and consistently posting strong defensive performances. Morgan probably isn't ever going to be an offensive force, nor a intimidating shot-blocker—the touch and explosive athleticism just aren't there—but he's a solid presence who should end up as a four-year starter.
Highlight: The Ohio State win was the most memorable of the season, and it was also the best game of Morgan's career, as he posted his first double-double—11 points (5-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds—while limiting Jared Sullinger to 14 points on 6-14 shooting. Morgan also beat Sullinger down the court for a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.
Lowlight: When Michigan matched up against Ohio State in the conference tournament, things didn't go so well. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines inside, and Morgan could only muster three points (1-5 shooting) and four rebounds while turning the ball over three times.
Key Numbers: 61.9 2pt%, 17.8 DR%, 3.9 fouls committed/40 minutes
Next year: Morgan should start at center once again, and it would be nice to see him break out a go-to post move. Mostly, however, Michigan will need him as a rebounder/defender/screen-setter, which falls right into his comfort zone. Also, make layups, please.
Preseason Expectations: Novak was expected to make a grand return to shooting guard, where the hope was that is offensive production would rise now that he no longer had to guard players a half-foot taller while shouldering a large part of the rebounding load.
Postseason Reality: Novak, of course, had to slide back to power forward when Smotrycz was benched early in Big Ten play, and for the fourth straight year his play improved despite not being the focal point of the team. He shot very well from the field—56% on twos, 41% on threes—and posted the team's best ORtg—his 123.3 mark was 39th in the country. Then, of course, you get Novak's trademark grit, as he still marveled with his ability to rebound among the trees while providing solid defense against players who theoretically should be dunking all over him (sometimes they did, but that happens when you're a 6'4" post player). Novak finished his career as the consummate role player, knocking down threes, hitting big shots when called upon, and otherwise doing everything to raise the level of play from his teammates. Michigan fans may not miss having a natural shooting guard at power forward when the 2012 reinforcements arrive, but they'll sure miss Zack Novak.
Highlight: Novak absolutely tore up UCLA back in November, scoring 22 points on eight shots from the field and chipping in three rebounds.
Lowlight: The final game in Novak's Wolverine career was sadly forgettable, as he could only muster a season-low two points on 1-5 shooting and didn't record a defensive rebound in Michigan's tourney loss to Ohio.
Next Year: Novak will take his grit to Europe. Godspeed, captain.
Preseason Expectations: Smotrycz was pinned as the X-factor for Michigan, a player who could put the team over the top as a sharp-shooting starter at power forward. After a solid but inconsistent showing as a freshman, he looked due for a breakout season.
Postseason Reality: It was a rollercoaster season for Smotrycz, who struggled early, caught fire at the end of nonconference play, then went into a prolonged slump that saw him lose his starting job for the rest of the season. The surprising post-season transfer fits that narrative all too well. The overall numbers are solid: Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points per game with a 58.9 eFG%, and he was also the team's most effective defensive rebounder, bringing in 21.4% of opponent misses when he was on the floor. However, Smotrycz never quite found his game again after losing his shooting stroke in Big Ten play, and his overall defense left much to be desired; he finished with a sky-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes as he played defense with his hands instead of his feet far too often. Smotrycz on average was an effective offensive weapon, but the inconsistency and defensive shortcomings proved too great to justify giving him starter's minutes.
Highlight: Prospects looked good when Smotrycz scored 20 points on eight shots (4-5 from three) and grabbed nine rebounds against Oakland. It's also worth noting that Smotrycz's 15 points on 6-7 shooting was really the only thing keeping Michigan close against Ohio in the last game of the season.
Lowlight: Smotrycz's final start was the debacle at Iowa, and he failed to score in 22 minutes of play while also committing two turnovers. That was the final straw, as Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting lineup against State.
Key Numbers: 58.9 eFG%, 21.4 DR%, 5.8 FC/40
Next Year: Smotrycz won't be here, which really sucks. Best of luck to him.
Preseason Expectations: Fight for the starting center job with Morgan, provide at least 15 quality minutes per game.
Postseason Reality: Horford's balky foot robbed Michigan of any depth at center and prematurely ended what was at times a promising sophomore campaign. He showed up much bigger than he was as a freshman, looking the part of a Big Ten center, and he was very active on the glass and as a shot-blocker. Horford doesn't have a polished offensive game, but he brings a lot of energy and is a more athletic option than Morgan, at least when it comes to quick-twitch explosiveness. Much is still unknown, however, as Horford only appeared in nine games.
Highlight: Horford hit all five of his shots from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots against UCLA, by far the best performance of his young career.
Lowlight: The stress fracture that erased the season's last 25 games.
Next Year: Horford probably won't surpass Morgan at this point, but he should be a valuable backup who won't be much of a dropoff defensively or on the glass. I really like Horford's athleticism and potential, and we'll see how he develops once he gets through rehab and can go full-steam again.
Preseason Expectations: McLimans came to the team with the reputation of being the type of sharpshooting big man that Beilein loves, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as a freshman. Expectations were rather low, with the hope being that he wouldn't really need to see the court behind a big man rotation of Morgan, Horford, and Smotrycz.
Postseason Reality: McLimans still isn't much of an inside presence, especially defensively, but he did manage to knock down a decent portion of his jumpers, going 5-12 from beyond the arc and 10-21 overall this season. McLimans only played more than eight minutes in a game once during conference play—the aforementioned Northwestern game—and only was used when both Morgan and Smotrycz got into early foul trouble.
Next Year: McLimans may see his role further decrease when Horford returns and Mitch McGary hits campus. He could see some time as a situational shooter, but he's going to need to really improve on defense if he wants to carve out a larger role.
Preseason Expectations: Provide the occasional boost of energy off the bench.
Postseason Reality: Christian played a total of 51 minutes on the year, grabbing six rebounds and hitting a few very unexpected shots. Still didn't display much of an offensive game, and was mostly content to hit the class and save his energy for defense.
Next Year: He won't be here, having also put in his name for a transfer. It's highly unlikely he would have seen the floor.
The only way we'll ever see FSU at Michigan again: a playoff
Playoff stuff. CBS anonymously surveyed conference commissioners and came back with indications as to where they're leaning if (when) a four-team playoff gets implemented. The most important bit from the Big Ten perspective:
CBSSports.com survey says: The commissioners that responded favored playing the semifinal games on campus and holding the title game at a neutral site -- either an existing BCS bowl or letting cities bid for the title game. There was not much support for holding the semifinal games at neutral sites.
I predict in 2014: Semifinal games will end up being played on campus sites with the current BCS bowls hosting the championship game on a rotating basis. Although, don't count out the BCS allowing other cities to bid for the game -- similar to the Super Bowl. Also it's a stone cold lock that the double-hosting format by the BCS bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose) will be eliminated when the new cycle begins.
That is the way it should be. Cut out the middlemen and provide home atmospheres. Brett McMurphy also reports that commissioners are split down the middle about restricting the field to conference champions, that semifinals will be played sometime around Christmas, and the final will be "as close to January 1 as possible." Oddly, the actual plus one—just another game after the bowls without a bracket—is still on the table.
Amazing how we've instantly flipped from never happen to definitely happening on this. Once Delany was proposing stuff in newspapers this was inevitable, I guess. Still a jarring shift in the landscape.
Burying the lead. David Stern got snippy when asked about the NBA's one-and-done rule recently, which got the headline and the attention. I think this is more significant, though:
“Years ago, I said to the NCAA, I’ve got a great idea,” he said. ‘We’ll insure a select group of basketball players. And that will make them more likely to stay in school, because they won’t feel the loss of a big contract. We’ll designate a pool, and those that are lucky enough to be drafted and make money will pay us back, and those that don’t, it’s our expense. The NCAA I think took it to a committee, that takes it to a census, that took it to a conference, then they have a congress and they came back to me and they said, well, it will only work under our rules if we do that for all sports. And I said, I don’t think that’ll work.”
NBA: Would you like some free money?
NCAA, thanks to the Indiana States of the world: No.
The NCAA is a lot like CONCACAF these days, dominated by a bunch of insignificant islands who have voting power out of all proportion to their relevance. This is D-I. Indiana State wants it to be intramurals. A split is necessary.
As far as the one-and-done model goes, the reason Stern gets snippy is because every time he has a press conference someone asks him about the one and done being ridiculous. This is because it is. John Gasaway was talking about this on twitter recently and I chimed in to agree: the NBA should move to the NHL model where everyone's eligible out of high school whether they opt in or not. NBA teams could then draft players without having to sign them, and sign them when they thought they could be a useful addition to the roster. You could expand the draft to five rounds and give NBA fans another reason to watch college basketball. The kids who aren't ready but keep declaring for the draft willy-nilly would evaporate. It would be a win for everyone.
Della Valle items. I'm watching his weird Findlay Prep team* club a high school that's actually a high school in a made-for-ESPN high school showcase. It's dififcult to judge Della Valle's offense since he's an afterthought amongst the mega-touted guys around him, but he plays probably 80% of Findlay's minutes so he's doing something right.
He's a scrappy, high-effort player who's doing pretty well defensively against other guys going to high majors, and it seems like he's making smart cuts to get open. These cuts are almost universally ignored by his teammates; the one time he did get a dump-down in the post he took a couple of back-to-the-basket dribbles before hitting a teammate flashing down the lane. The resulting thunder-dunk was aborted by a foul. He looks like a Beilein player out there amongst the athletes and whatnot. Findlay claims he's hitting 55% of his threes on the year, which… like… if that's true he's not shooting nearly enough.
His ballhandling is okay. You could get away with him as a backup point but wouldn't want to start him there. He'd be able to play at the two and three easily. I'd take him without blinking.
"I won't elaborate beyond that just because when our season ends we will be able to take the next step and get on the same page with Josiah moving forward. That shouldn't be interpreted as he will never play at Arizona again, but I know he won't play this season again."
This is Turner's second suspension. He did not travel with the team to Florida on Dec. 7, and Miller also held him out during the third game of the season to send something of an attitude adjustment message.
Miller wouldn't comment on the chances of Turner -- rated the 10th-best recruit in the country last season by Rivals.com -- being with Arizona next season
Hmmm. Make this work, Sean Miller. Arizona currently has one scholarship available and is after Duquense transfer TJ McConnell, a PG (who can't play next year, settle down) who fits a bigger need for them. Without someone else leaving they would not have room for Della Valle. Root for McConnell to Arizona and Turner to zen meditation.
Della Valle visits Arizona the 13th and Michigan shortly after. Vibes have been good so far but not so good that it would be a shock to see him at Arizona. It seems to be down to M and the Wildcats, though.
*[The only students at the school are the guys on the basketball roster. It's a school in a very technical sense. The academics seem fine, as the kids go to a tony private school across the street.]
Beilein offense in detail. It's been like four days so it's time for another Massive Daily Profile. This one is on Beilein's offense:
Beilein rapidly moves the five pins around the board, showing the wide variety of offensive looks he uses. The only thing moving faster than his fingers is his mouth, as he breathlessly details what would be overly complex to most.
You realize Beilein is in complete control of this offense, and for good reason — it’s all his. Some may have similar principles in their system, but the minutiae, terminology and endless reads Beilein employs are unique to him. Though the basics come from some ancestral systems, he has morphed and twisted his attack into something all his own.
Ever wonder why you don’t see other teams running the Beilein system? It’d be impossible. The only man who truly knows its detailed intricacies is Beilein.
Today's recruiting roundup is the last one you'll get from me for a little while, as I'm taking next week off to recharge. Inevitably, there will be a deluge of recruiting news that I'll miss and the next Tuesday Recruitin' will be so long that it undoes all the rest I'll get on my vacation, but this is life in the Hoke regime. Hoke uber alles.
Updates on Massington, Treadwell, Isaac, and More
Tremendous caught up with Mesquite (TX) four-star WR Eldridge Massington, who told Aquaman that Michigan is currently his leader. He also said that his standard McDonald's order is eight(!) cheeseburgers. This immediately brought to mind a classic Belushi-era SNL skit, but since SNL is the Major League Baseball of television shows when it comes to allowing classic moments to be uploaded to YouTube, this is the best I could do:
Massington also plans to visit Ann Arbor for the first time this summer, but a date hasn't been set yet. One receiver who has finalized a visit date, however, is Laquon Treadwell; he'll be on campus on April 7th before visiting Ohio State and Oklahoma over his spring break ($). When you feel envious of big-time college prospects, remember that they sometimes sacrifice trips to Cancun for chaperoned visits to Norman.
Scout's Sam Webb posted a two-part interview with Tyrone Isaac, father of Ty. The first part is mostly a rehashing of Isaac's USC visit, but in part two the elder Isaac reveals what he knows about his son's current timeline ($):
If I had to guess, I would say before his senior season starts he will have made a decision as to where he’s going. He has made mention of it a few times that he didn’t want to go into his senior season with this hanging over his head heavy. He wanted to finally breathe again… take a deep breath, let it out, and start his senior year.
Ty has been under a lot of pressure during the recruiting process, and a summer decision—or even a spring choice—is quite possibly in the cards.
A decision date was set this week by Washington (DC) Gonzaga CB Devin Butler, who tweeted that he'll announce his choice on May 12th. Butler recently visited Michigan and has also taken trips to Wisconsin and Notre Dame over the past week. He'll be back in Ann Arbor for the spring game and is also looking to visit Madison again ($). He also enjoyed his trip to South Bend, too, so this recruitment appears pretty wide open.
Quickly: 2013 Grand Blanc DE Daniel Davis was on campus Tuesday, and while he had a positive reaction to the trip, he left without an offer ($). Peoria (IL) DE Josh Augusta, who holds an offer, will visit campus sometime this week while on his spring break ($, info in header). Also, I did a Q&A with Cari Greene of Black Shoe Diaries about the state of Michigan recruiting, and you're encouraged to check it out.
A Note on Rod Crayton
There's been talk coming from both TomVH and Sam Webb about Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton, who holds an offer and has visited campus, and his current status as a Michigan recruit. Tom and Sam have recently maintained that Crayton, likely due to a childhood foot injury, won't be a part of the class. While I assume Tom and Sam have good reason to say that, I spoke with a source close to the situation yesterday, and here's what he told me:
- Crayton spoke with the Michigan coaches on Wednesday, and they're telling Rod that he's their top nose tackle on the board right now.
- The coaches were aware of Crayton's foot injury—as a fourth-grader, he lost part of his foot in a lawnmower accident—before he ever visited campus. He plays with a custom-made brace and the injury hasn't hampered his impressive production and athleticism in high school.
- Crayton wants to head out of state for school. In fact, he's the one who first contacted Michigan, instead of the other way around. The Wolverines are up there among his favorites, as is LSU. The source expects an Auburn offer to come soon, but said that he still doesn't think Crayton will stay in Alabama.
Given the fact that the coaches have been very forthright with players about whether or not they're being actively recruited—Alex Anzalone and Shane Jones stand out as strong examples—I'd be surprised if Crayton wasn't still being pursued, at least based on what I'm hearing. We'll see how this one plays itself out.
Scout posted a free article on Detroit Loyola sophomore DE Malik McDowell, another player who's visited Michigan recently. McDowell is already 6'6", 260 lbs. at the age of 15, and his coach, John Callahan, is seeing him improve up close:
"He's 15 and he's 6'6, 260, and he plays basketball, so he does a lot of running, so his conditioning is good, but also, he's not your typical lineman where he'll eat two or three pork chops and go to bed and be 290-300-lbs. He's slim. You look at his body, he's not skinny, but he can carry 35-40-lbs. He's 260, but he's a slim 260. I'll tell you what, he's deceivingly strong. The thing about Malik where I've seen the biggest improvement is in the weight room. Last year, I'd bring him in the weight room and keep an eye on him and he'd be missing some reps and some sets. He goes in now and we have a pretty structured weight program and he makes sure every single rep, every single exercise is done and sometimes we'll go back and repeat a few things if he feels he hasn't gotten enough out of it, so his mindset in the weight room has improved 100%."
Being a "slim 260" at 15 is pretty mind-boggling. McDowell appears in line to be one of the top prospects in the class of 2014, and Michigan should be in good position to land him. He's got freakish potential as a defensive end.
Sam Webb profiled Beaver Falls (PA) Blackhawk QB Chandler Kincade, who made a (very) early commitment to Pitt but is now reconsidering his options after the departure of coach Todd Graham. He visited both Michigan and MSU recently and came away impressed. Kincade fits the mold of a pro-style gunner:
"[Former MSU QB Jeff] Smoker I considered more of an athletic guy that could throw the ball," said Scout.com East regional manager Bob Lichtenfels. "He was more an athlete that could get out of the pocket and hurt you in other ways. Chandler is what you expect when people say pro-style pocket quarterback. He's a 6-5, 200-pound kid standing back there slinging the rock. Chad Henne played that way, but didn't have that kind of size."
Whatever they're feeding kids these days, I'm pretty mad I missed out on it.
Quickly: TomVH on '14 Toledo (OH) Central Catholic QB DeShone Kizer, who has early offers from Bowling Green, Syracuse, and Toledo, and has early interest in Michigan ($, info in header). Tremendous gets a visit recap from Indianapolis (IN) Pike WR Dominique Booth, who made a quick trip to campus yesterday and had a very positive reaction.
Items of admittedly flimsy substance:
Lots of Rawls. Thomas Rawls is the tailback in most of these sets; Hayes does not appear and Toussaint only gets buried on a flare screen. Rawls mostly gets buried himself. Maybe he's just an excellent vehicle via which to express defensive competence.
Morgan is all over the place. He goes sideline to sideline to thump Rawls on one moderately successful run and generally looks like Michigan's best linebacker. Again, it's one thing to go sideline to sideline against Rawls and another on Toussaint or Smith. Morgan still brings the wood.
Line bits. You can see Chris Bryant acting as the RG on a play where Miller is snapping to Gardner: second unit. Hypothesis: Michigan thinks Mealer can really hack it all of a sudden and is placing the usual pressure on Omameh's job. Either that or they're just getting Bryant some snaps at both guard spots so he's comfortable at either one in case of an injury. There has been a little buzz about Graham Glasgow, the second-team left guard, as well—unrelated to a tandem bike, even.
Also, your second string NT is currently Richard Ash. Not much of a surprise, sure.
Edge defenders. On the play where Gardner escapes Frank Clark pressure to bomb a pass to Jeremy Jackson in the back of the endzone it's the second team OTs—walk-ons—getting smoked. The player coming in from the bottom is redshirt freshman Antonio Poole, which strikes me as odd. He's presumed to be playing WLB, so if he's coming at the left tackle he's either engaged on a seriously long journey from blitz to the quarterback or he's practicing at MLB. (Or SLB, I guess, but I doubt it.)
Adding to the oddness of that play: it really looks like the guy trying to recover on Jackson is #35… Joe Bolden. I am confused about that defense.
Slant. Dime? Denard throws a slant to Gallon immediately in front of Terrence Talbott, who's on the field with Kovacs, Avery, and Countess. People have been talking Talbott up in the recent insidery posts across the web, and that is first-team run he's getting. Michigan seems to have enough depth at corner to consider some dime packages in third and long.
BUBBLE?!?! IS THIS A BUBBLE SCREEN TO DILEO?
AL BORGES IS CAPTURED AND HIDDEN SOMEWHERE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN. WE LAUNCH OUR RESCUE AT 0600 SATURDAY.
Black appearance. Looks like Morgan and Black blow up the next play, one of those spring counters Michigan busted out against Minnesota for an unknown reason. Omameh gets beat, which I'd look at as a good sign since we know Omameh is a pretty good Big Ten player, one who has more trouble with strength than quickness. Black's being talked up as a quick penetrator.
Vincent Smith iso from the I. Zero yards. #sameasever. We get a glimpse of Cam Gordon rotating in with the ones on this play, which is good to see after he vanished last year. Smith does dance into the endzone a couple plays later on a power from the gun with #99 blocking—yeah, Michigan's rotating in a fullback wearing 99 now. Meet Paul Gyarmati.
On that play the second team is in. Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.
Mmmm Denard. Next play is a QB power on which Barnum pulls. The TV always tells me that's a rare thing that can be of great utility to an offense. Barnum gets well downfield and crushes Morgan to the inside, opening up a lane Denard hits for six. Not Morgan's fault. I wish we'd see Demens doing some of the stuff Morgan is in these clips.
…and Morgan gets beat easily on the next play for a Vincent Smith dumpoff TD.
BONUS TAKE: From Maize 'n' Blue Nation.
By now you've read the Burke tweet, which needed three full-sized threads before everyone could get their Ha-Ha's out: One to point out its irony, one for when big brother slapped him in the face for it, and of course the wicked hangover. The oddity I saw was "People u seek out is better than those that seek u" and "EVERYONE got something to say... smh I thought this was my life!" are in a dialect totally incongruent with every tweet I found in 20 minutes of scrolling through Hollis tweets. Dude wasn't just giving Trey Burke sage advice, he was delivering it in a language that young people understand. Allow me to translate:
This will all blow over soon enough but should serve as warning to young people everywhere: NEVER under any circumstances give your handle out to old people; they think you speak Jive!
Please tell me you got that. It's somebody's general rule that people won't watch movies more than 15 years older than they are.*† ‡ By this rule you'd have to have been born in 1995 (a high school senior) to be excused from Airplane! I'm looking at you, people who didn't get dragonchild's cockpit full of Michigan defenders.
Funny thing about Airplane!: I respect that flick as a classic to the point where I'll be condescending toward someone who hasn't
seen memorized it, but until recently I didn't even know it was an almost perfect spoof of Zero Hour! (1957). It's a testament to how good Airplane! is that it stands up even if you don't get the main joke; to be fair, the diary kind of doesn't. It's also ironic that I would make fun of people for a movie reference going over their heads when what that movie referenced totally went over my head.
Everything You Need to Know About Airmen. So I checked out Zero Hour! and now one of the Airplane! jokes I never really got totally makes sense. You know how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's character is obviously Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but the narrative keeps trying force this "he's Roger the co-pilot!" thing, to the point that when they pull him away he's got his Lakers shorts on? In Zero Hour! the co-pilot was played by Elroy Hirsch.
ie Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsh…
…and when Kareem appears we're supposed to get how crazy it was that a kid could see Crazylegs in a pilot's uniform and not be like "OMIGOD YOU'RE ELROY HIRSCH!"
Crazylegs was a Badger who got moved to Michigan when a lot of WWII servicemen were transferred as part of a program to give in-training Navy and Marine officers a college education. Hirsch on the transfer:
"But I was to learn a far more important thing about Michigan. It's not something you can hold or see ... but you sure can feel it. I'm speaking about the great Michigan tradition. Corny you say? Not on your life. It's there ... it engulfs you."
Today the service academies don't get first dibs on any draft-age citizen they want, but they do have virtually unlimited scholarships, bringing in 40+ recruits a year (that makes two oversigners on the 2012 schedule). This and many more interesting facts about Air Force can be found in the very early preview by Rabbit21. The whole thing is fascinating. Diary of the Week!
Lines! The bats, oh the bats. They are home and hot, as softball swept their five-game homestand by 10-2, 11-2, 12-4, 6-0, and 12-2 scores. Outfielder Nicole Sappingfield had five RBI last night, including a walk-off grand slam. Shortstop Amy Knapp owes a girl in my section an apology for her put-away homer on Sunday vs. Penn State, which hurt the girl's wrist when she tried to catch it.
Etc. CenterIce's writeup on the incoming hockey recruits. AC1997 updated the basketball offseason outlook for departures; now with 100% more ohgodBurkestay! Helle had a board-bumped travel diary for this year's road games. If you're going to Minnesota, try the Jucy Lucy [sic]. Pro-tip: let it cool first.
* There's a corollary rule that states you will think anything made in the 15-year span around when you were born is pure genius, but this rule is really just an observation by people my age that most of the best movies (Godfather, Star Wars, Back to the Future, etc.) all came out around then.§
† Trekkies are of course excluded.
‡ It's at least 17, since my wife agrees with me that The Lion in Winter with Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn is way better than the remake with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close. Reminder: Angevin discussion is not OT in comments. Someone's going to take me up on this eventually.
§ Which is to say if some kid thinks Harry Potter and something with Russell Crowe in it constitutes the golden age of film, they should be beaten.‖
‖ Yes I'm doing the Alt85 thing again.
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YEA HE STRIKES AND HIS WRATH IS EVER VENGEFUL
Guys, we're friends. We like each others' blogs. We snark at each others' Neanderthalness. We trade ADs and sit in press boxes together and provide shoulders to cry on when clever un-hateable people in purple get pretentious in our homes. So, as a friend, you gotta get this shit under control, man. Do whatever it takes; run a passing spread, raze a heathen temple, sacrifice the virgins—use Nebraska's if you don't have any—hire a total outsider who hates defense and lose for three years; you must placate this thing before it escapes and wrecks every ballcarrier within 800 miles of a cornfield.
Also you may want to check the bottom of your RB depth chart to see if some weird voodoo is trying to find carries for the most surprising Heisman candidate ever. You're looking for something about 5'6", and looks at you funny if you touch his water bottle.
THIS IS NOT THE GREATEST GOALIE IN THE WORLD (THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE)
Wolverine Devotee put this together. I'm not a fan of great big dramatic music but I'm a huge fan of little goalies getting lifted by Vaughn then getting hardware from a guy a foot taller than him even without the skates on. I've never been so happy for a guy going to Columbus. He's definitely on the first ballot for the…
PANTHEON OF GRIT
Ezeh-E wants a two-miracle limit for guys to get in. Then he includes Woodson and RVB. On the one hand it's one of sports' ironies that often the guys who work hardest and put the most time and effort into playing their sports well are the biggest superstars. I'm all for this miracle thing if you remove the sandpaper and just call it the Pantheon of Wolverines with Paranormal Abilities. The obvious guys will get in but need to have moments that defy the laws of nature to do so. For example, running 85 yards after Patrick Omameh used an NFL-bound linebacker as a safety-hunting projectile just takes speed. Doing this on your first play ever…
Now that is a complete, out-of-the-sky miracle. Speaking of things falling out of the sky…
OHIO SUPERFAN BUCK I GUY HOSPITALIZED AFTER FREAK TURKEY VULTURE ACCIDENT
I just…that's the title. I'm still reading the title. He's going to be okay. Weird thing about Buck I Guy is Bolgen Gobcat fans think he's a dick but the Michigan fans seem to think he's a good guy. We now know where Turkey vultures stand. Stand…segue from stand.
LOOK, THEY STAND
Those figures: MSHOT92 made those!
And now for your moment of zen:
News bullets and other important things:
- The team will have practice today, tomorrow, and Saturday mainly to show off for the high school coaching clinic and to work on fundamentals.
- Chris Bryant is practicing primarily at right guard.
- Hoke seems high on Joey Burzynski. He's been mentioned several times throughout the spring now.
- Hopkins has put on some bad weight, but Hoke thinks he's done a nice job regardless. Thomas Rawls is also taking some snaps at fullback.
- Justice Hayes was mentioned as a pleasant personnel surprise so far this spring.
- Cam Gordon seems to be pushing Jake Ryan at SAM linebacker.
“This will be our seventh practice, which is -- you start finding out a little more about your team. Anytime you can get in pads is a plus, so we’ll find out a little more as we go through it. It’s kind of a busy weekend because our coaches’ clinic will have over 500 coaches here sharing ideas, talking football, some tremendous guys who have been very successful at the high school level. That’s good, but it’ll be busy. It’ll be good. We’ll get a lot done from our perspective. Practicing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will help us a little bit, the consistency we need to play with. I like the energy. I like the energy of how we’ve come in a meeting atmosphere and out there on the field.”
Are you feeling better about your defensive line?
“I feel better because I think each one of those guys is improving. Probably not at the rate that we’ll ever be satisfied because of the expectations, but I think Will has really matured, which is a big part of it. [He] understands the expectations of how we expect him to play. Jibreel inside and Craig at the strongside end or the 5-technique is a plus. The competition with Beyer and Clark. Competition with Jake Ryan and uh, daggone it -- Cam Gordon. All those things are real positive. You look at a guy like Richard Ash. He’s getting a little better every day. As coaches you want him to get better faster. Him and Quinton Washington and Kenny Wilkins are doing some better things. We’re not where we need to be. Glad it’s not September 1st, but I think they’re really motivated to try and play the position the way we’d like for them to play it.”
What has Elliott Mealer done that you like, and is Chris Bryant being looked at for either guard position?
“When you look at Elliott, I think his confidence level is better, and that’s a big part of it. I think guys feeling confident and guys being in the system obviously helps. I think Chris has mainly taken snaps at right guard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t flip flop him. For a young guys, you’d like to keep him on the same side, the same stance. I think Joey Burzynski is a guy who’s made some real movement in how he comes out every day either at center or guard. I think we’ve got a pretty good group of guys competing.”
(more after the jump)
wait… Phoenix still has a team? image via AA.com
Michigan will have to replace two-thirds of its top line. Via Tom's twitter:
@Darrendreger Phoenix agrees to terms with '09 2nd rd pick Chris Brown from U of Mich. Brown will forgo senior year and turn pro
Brown was one of a number of Wolverines hovering around the points leaderboard. Though he was fifth in team scoring he was only four points off of Guptill and Wohlberg's team-leading 33. Unless Selman or Milne plays better than his profile would suggest he would right away, this probably forces Boo Nieves on to a scoring line at wing. Random guess ho:
- Nieves-K. Lynch-PDG
- DeBlois-T. Lynch-Hyman
Mike Spath was making some noises about a potential departure from Sparks as he searches for a team that will ice him consistently, as well. Insert usual complaints about his ice time here.
Condolences. RIP Jon Hoke, Brady Hoke's father.
All hockey nicknames end in an "-ie" sound so let's just call him Dali. Shwn Hunwick's life story reached clock-melting levels of surrealism yesterday when a flood of current, future, and former Michigan hockey players started tweeting out congratulations on Hunwick's NHL debut. His father understandably thought this was a hoax:
“I thought he was pulling my leg. He’s kind of a prankster,” Rich said. "When I realized he wasn’t joking, it was just an incredible feeling.”
As did the security guy at the Blue Jackets' arena:
A 2003 Ford Ranger pulled into the players’ parking lot on Wednesday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Assorted hockey gear, two small goalie leg pads and a winged helmet sat in the bed of the pickup truck.
The newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the window to speak to the lot attendant.
Shawn Hunwick told the attendant that he was here to be the back-up goalie.
“I don’t think he really believed me,” Hunwick said. “But then he radioed up to somebody, and they said I was good.”
As did Ira Weintraub of WTKA. The fact that most of the congratulatory tweets were hash-tagged "midget" didn't help.
But lo, it was not a hoax. Wearing #31, a winged helmet, and his block-M-bearing goalie pads, Shawn Hunwick was the backup goalie for the Blue Jackets last night. There's evidence and everything:
With Blue Jacket goalies dropping like flies Hunwick may get signed for the duration of the season.
Q: is there a Hunwick Effect?
His powerful goalie repellent saw multiple touted prospects flee for the sanctuary of the OHL and Bryan Hogan twice suffered injuries that opened the door for him. It's possible his effect extends to nearby pro teams. Not only are the Blue Jackets ready to sign anyone who's available but Detroit started Ty Conklin last night thanks to injuries to both Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald. If emergency Blue Jackets starter Allen York suffers a lethal hangnail, Hunwick's ability to get on the ice can only be occult.
BONUS CBJ IS A MESS NOTE: Jack Johnson has set franchise records for TOI twice in the last week, breaking his record of 31:25 yesterday by logging 32:26. Those are Torey Krug levels.
He needs your help. Will Hagerup's immortal animated GIF is up against a runaway golf cart in the GIF bracket's final four. He must not be defeated until the final, where even a partisan like myself thinks Rollerblading Raptors Mascot is a worthy challenger. I mean…
…every time. Gets me every time. I really need to stop watching it. Okay one more time. Okay one more time. Okay one more time. I think I need an intervention.
I ARE PROUD OF U AND TINK U SULD R BE HAPPY. Good lord, the Hollis thing. If you are living under a rock—even more than the tail I think it's the derp derp derp of the mouth that makes it—you should know that yesterday Trey Burke tweeted out something frustrated about making a decision and MSU's athletic director revealed himself to be a lolcat:
My advice believe in YOUR heart & mind, everything else is interference. People seek u out is better than those that seek u.
Yes, MSU's athletic director tweeted unsolicited advice to ignore unsolicited advice and toppped it off by writing "people is". Also I just punched that into twitter and found he had three more characters to spell out at least one of those "u" abominations, both if he dropped the period. The parody twitter account was inevitable, if sadly lacking in laughable grammatical errors.
The fact that MSU's AD appears to be a lolcat probably shouldn't be a surprise:
That's MSU agreeing to road games against WMU, CMU, and Eastern, though it's not like we have much of a leg to stand on what with The Horror II on the docket and Brandon tweeting out something in response that, while about 10% as foolish, was unnecessary.
Moral of the story: athletic directors should not exist outside of press conferences. Also,
In other Trey Burke stay or go news. Chad Ford's flat response to a Q on Burke's draft status:
Trey Burke's draft stock?
Second round. He should go back to school
There is no hedging there. About the only thing he could have said that would have been more encouraging would be "…for six to ten years."
I don't get it. Dabo Swinney, who I want to call Dabo Dabo Doo but will not, wants spring practice to end with a scrimmage against another team:
It’s an idea that has been kicked around before. Here are the basics of Dabo’s proposal: College football teams have the option of a spring game against themselves or another team. If you play another team, it must be both an out-of-conference team but also one within a reasonable driving distance. The coaches will agree upon the rules of the scrimmage in advance.
“Personally, I think it would be a good thing for college football to do,” Swinney said. “College football takes in a lot of money. I think it would be an opportunity to give something back to your school or a charity."
I guess that would be okay, but I like Rich Rodriguez's idea to institute a preseason game against a I-AA foe as an annual event much better. That gives you another game, gets rid of the annoying bowl eligibility stuff, allows you an opportunity to get some preseason kinks out, and can be put in that week in late August when nothing's happening. And since it's a scrimmage no one can beat you.
The best part about all of this is new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's response to the idea:
"Dabo wants a jamboree? Why not?"
Hoodaddy Dabo wants a jamobree I tell ya. /boomhauer'd
Etc.: UMHoops kicks off postseason recaps with five low points from the season. That's the Michigan Difference right there. User Rabbit21 previews Air Force, his undergrad alma mater. Option option option. More exit talkin'($). People hate parking tickets.
Murdoch envisions an ESPN competitor, just like NBC envisions an ESPN competitor. I'll believe it when a major college football conference ends up on one of those channels and not before. Fox did grab the World Cup the instant ESPN figured out how to cover it really, really well. I'm still watching the raptor gif.
Photo by Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog
Now that the disappointment stemming from an early NCAA tournament exit has largely melted away—replaced instead by a crippling fear that Trey Burke will go pro in similarly too-soon fashion—it's time to take a look back on the 2011-12 basketball season. Heading into the season, expectations weren't particularly high after the early departure of Darius Morris, and the burden was largely placed on Burke to get Michigan back to the tournament. From my season preview:
This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.
Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.
Michigan spent most of the season not on the tournament bubble, but firmly in the top 25, thanks to a fantastic freshman campaign from Burke. A late-season push, coupled with a little help from Ohio State, brought the team a share of its first Big Ten title in my lifetime. The team stumbled in the postseason, getting demolished by the Buckeyes in the conference tourney before bowing out to OHIO in the NCAAs, but there's no arguing that the season was a rousing success.
Today's review covers the guards—before you ask, Zack Novak gets lumped in with the forwards—and looks at their highlights, lowlights, and expectations for next year:
Preseason Expectations: Burke headed into the season as the big question mark on the team. We knew the freshman was talented, likely beyond what his recruiting profile would suggest, but would he pick up the offense quickly enough to carry the burden of being the team's lone true point guard?
Postseason Reality: Burke not only grasped John Beilein's complicated offense quickly, but proved to be a dymanic scorer with an on-court maturity well beyond that of the average freshman. He scored in double figures in all but four games and played 30+ minutes in every game after the season opener, including three 45-minute efforts. Burke's quickness and finishing ability made him tough to handle on the pick-and-roll, which became the staple of Michigan's offense, and he was also adept leading the fast break. He also held up well defensively, posting the lowest foul rate on the team despite playing in a conference chock-full of talented point guards. Burke had his freshman moments, struggling a bit against larger guards and aggressive hedging, but he was the clear-cut best player on the team. The only question now is if Burke was a little too good, at least when it comes to the prospects of next year's squad.
Highlight: For a single play, Burke's improbable floater off the high glass to seal the Ohio State victory stands out above the rest, doubly so because he made the shot over childhood friend and future lottery pick Jared Sullinger. For a game, however, I'm going with his 30-point outburst against Minnesota in the first round of the BTT, as the freshman carried the offense in what was otherwise an ugly slog—Burke shot 11-14 from the field, the rest of his teammates a combined 13-35. Burke played every minute of the game, and Michigan needed all of his production in a three-point overtime victory.
Lowlight: The next day wasn't as kind, as Burke—gassed from playing 45 minutes the night before and matched up against B1G DPOY Aaron Craft—was just 1-11 from the field with eight turnovers in a 22-point loss to Ohio State. The larger Buckeyes exploited Michigan's lack of size across the board, giving Burke little room to operate, and the game got out of hand in a hurry.
Key Numbers: 28.7% assist rate, 49.0 2pt%, 34.8 3pt%, 1.7 fouls committed/40 minutes.
Next Year: PLEASE COME BACK. If Burke returns, he'll once again carry the load at the point, as Michigan is hoping to land either a grad-year transfer or true freshman to provide some backup help. Most of Burke's improvement should come from a full year in a college strength program and a greater understanding of Beilein's offense—remember the second-year leap of Morris—which should help him learn how to deal with big, aggressive defenses. There are little things, like leaving his feet on the baseline without knowing where he's going with the ball, that Burke needs to work on. That's picking nits, however, and if he returns he should contend for All-America honors.
Preseason Expectations: Knock down some threes, play the usual solid perimeter defense, spell Burke at the point on occasion, and provide critical senior leadership.
Postseason Reality: The numbers don't jump off the page, but that was never the expectation from a willing role player. Douglass not only was the team's top perimeter defender and an outside shooting threat—he developed into a reliable second ball-handler and had a knack for getting to the rim, an aspect of his game that was entirely nonexistent until this season. Douglass knew how to avoid mistakes on both ends of the floor, posting a very solid 14.4% turnover rate and committing just 2.2 fouls per 40 minutes. Though he never developed into a lights-out shooter, Douglass helped the team in so many ways—especially on defense—that the numbers probably don't do his contribution justice. He stepped into the starting lineup when Evan Smotrycz struggled in Big Ten play, gave Burke the space to run the team, and matched up against the opposing team's best scorer on most nights—nobody will ever accuse Stu of not being a team player.
Highlight: Douglass's best game came on the road at Northwestern, as he helped push the team to an overtime victory with 12 points (4-7 from three) and five assists while shutting down a red-hot Drew Crawford in the second half and OT.
Lowlight: Douglass struggled down the stretch, shooting a combined 6-18 and dishing out just four assists over the team's last three games.
Key Numbers: 15.0% assist rate, 14.4% TO rate, 83.9 FT%
Next Year: Farewell, Stu. Douglass has graduated and will likely pursue a pro career overseas.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Preseason Expectations: After an outstanding freshman season, Hardaway was expected—perhaps unfairly, given his greater first-year production—to make a Morris-like leap to superstardom as a sophomore. Leading the team in scoring was a given, even if it meant a slight dropoff in efficiency, as was contention for postseason honors.
Postseason Reality: While Hardaway's per-game numbers weren't bad at all—14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists—his long-range shooting was inconsistent at best. THJ finished the season shooting 53.5% from two on 235 attempts, a solid improvement over his first season, but just 28.3% from three on 187 attempts, a big dropoff. Tasked with creating his own shot more often, Hardaway struggled with his shot selection, often launching unnecessary long twos or contested threes early in the shot clock. Though he showed flashes of All-American potential, getting hot from the outside or finally using his superior athleticism to get to the basket, he never appeared fully comfortable with his shot, even battling a late-season swoon at the free-throw line. Issues with ballhandling—despite posting a low 14.4% turnover rate—and defensive effort also appeared at times during the season. It wasn't all bad—Hardaway finished the season strong and had several great games throughout—it just wasn't the year everyone, including Hardaway, was expecting.
Highlight: Michigan traveled to Illinois for a critical late-season contest in the midst of Hardaway's funk, and he snapped out of it to the tune of 25 points on 6-7 shooting (9-10 from the line) and 11 rebounds. THJ also scored 20 on 8-13 shooting and dished out four assists in the win over UCLA and poured in a season-high 26 against Penn State.
Lowlight: The dream of sweeping Michigan State twice in as many years met a rude reality in the Breslin Center, as Hardaway managed a season-low 4 points while connecting on just 1-10 shots from the field.
Key Numbers: 4.7 fouls drawn/40 minutes, 53.5 2pt%, 28.3 3pt%
Next Year: It's all but assured that Hardaway will return next season, and with Michigan losing Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass, and Zack Novak, he'll have to improve his shot selection from beyond the arc and bring that 3pt% at least close to where it was his freshman year (37%). Whether Burke stays or goes, Hardaway should also work on his handle, as too many times he simply lost the ball while driving into the paint. Mainly, however, Hardaway's 2012-'13 outlook depends on his mental approach; if he's willing to take the ball to the basket more often and play within the offense, his numbers will improve and so should the team. If that happens, we'll see the Hardaway many were afraid would be making the leap to the NBA by now.
Preseason Expectations: A few quality minutes off the bench while displaying the shooting prowess that made him one of the country's top long-range gunners in high school.
Postseason Reality: Vogrich didn't get a lot of burn, playing 26.5% of available minutes, in large part because his 30.2 3pt% mark fell short of expectations. However, Vogrich showed improvement on defense as well as a Novakian ability to come away with a surprising number of offensive rebounds. He also finished better at the rim this season, hitting 13 of his 23 two-point attempts. The long-range shooting, however, is what he's here for, and the significant dropoff from his freshman and sophomore years was worrisome.
Highlight: As Michigan once again needed overtime to put away Northwestern in Evanston, Vogrich hit 3-6 from deep and even chipped in two assists and a block. His nine points were a season high outside of his 11 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Lowlight: A 4-16 slump over a 10-game span in December and January really hampered Vogrich's overall numbers, and unfortunately also coincided with shooting woes from Hardaway and Smotrycz.
Key Numbers: 3.6 OR%, 56.5 2pt%, 30.2 3pt%
Next Year: Vogrich will have a role, but how large of one will depend on his shot with two-guard Nik Stauskas coming to campus as a highly-regarded shooter. If Vogrich can continue to hit the boards, he should get minutes in a thin backcourt, but in the end it all comes down to whether or not he connects from three. I'm guessing he bounces back, as he shot much better in his first two seasons than he did this year.
Preseason Expectations: Provide emergency minutes if Trey Burke needs oxygen.
Postseason Reality: Akunne played just 48 minutes all year, and only 10 in Big Ten play, mostly at the point. He did hit 4-5 of his three-point attempts, but also had four turnovers to a lone assist while looking a bit uncomfortable as a primary ballhandler when faced with pressure.
Highlight: Played 12 minutes against Iowa State and was 2-2 from the field (1-1 from three) for a career-high 5 points.
Lowlight: Coughed the ball up twice in two minutes against Oakland.
Next Year: With so little depth at the point, Akunne might be called upon to play a few minutes. Making sure he's comfortable taking the ball upcourt against a press or trap would be helpful.
Preseason Expectations: Brundidge, despite the four-star recruiting profile, wasn't expected to have the impact of Burke. The big question was how the 6'1" slasher's game would translate to the college level.
Postseason Reality: Brundidge played four fewer minutes than Akunne and shot a combined 1-8 from the field. He never played more than four minutes in a conference game, had a scary midseason bout with asthma, and never looked like he'd settled into Beilein's offense or the pace of the college game in general.
Highlight: The freshman's lone made field goal came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, when he played a season-high 12 minutes.
Lowlight: His post-season transfer.
Next Year: Brundidge was one of three players to transfer after the season, so here's hoping he lands on his feet and carves out a role for himself at another program.
Have you ever ridden on the tandem bike with Taylor Lewan?
“Yes. It was a magical experience.”
Does he prefer to be in front or in back?
“He usually takes the front. It’s his bike, so he takes the front. Taylor’s back is the most amazing thing to look at. I’ve only done it once. I mean, it was magical but I don’t know how many more times I want to ride it.”
Did he have one in high school as well?
“He just bought the tandem bike actually. I think it’s a good purchase on his part. It goes with his persona -- the mustache tattoo, the tandem bike, just all fits in with it.”
Was it your idea to move to the strong side?
“They initiated it, but Greg Mattison was very avid on explaining that that’s really the best fit for me. I truly believed it, too. I’m more of a guy that’s a point of the attack, explosive guy. I just need to put the weight on. From what I’ve done so far in spring, I really like the position because the ball’s coming to you a lot more and it seems like you have the opportunity to make more plays. Plus you don’t have to run as much to get to the ball, which is nice.”
(more after the jump)
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