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Duke brings its collection of highly-touted freshmen to Madison, WI (source)
*I had my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday, so getting this together took longer than expected. Apologies. – Alex
Table of Contents
Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
Game previews: Tuesday
Game previews: Wednesday
Nebraska and Rutgers bring home wins
Tom Crean’s seat might be getting warmer
Holiday hoops recap – Part I
Holiday hoops recap – Part II
Holiday hoops recap – Part III
1. Major ACC – Big Ten Challenge storylines
As usual, the annual competition between the Big Ten and the ACC brings some of the most intriguing non-conference fixtures on the college basketball schedule. Unlike early-season tournaments or games at one-off neutral site venues, these will be played on campus – intersectional matchups between some of the most talented and prestigious teams in all of college hoops. As an added bonus, it provides 14 more data-points in the comparative analysis of conference strength.
The headliner of this slate of games is one of the best college basketball games of the year, on paper: two top five teams—Duke, led by possibly the best pro prospect in the country (Jahlil Okafor) travels to face Wisconsin, a veteran team coming off of a Final Four bid. Okafor, a mammoth center with precocious skill and coordination, matches up against Preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky, a versatile inside-out scoring five. Duke’s Justice Winslow meets Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker – both will likely be future NBA players, both are athletic, long wings who can score, defend, and rebound. Senior point guards Quinn Cook and Traevon Jackson form an intriguing matchup. This game – televised Wednesday at 9:30 E.T. on ESPN – is simply a must-watch.
With 14 games total, there are plenty more compelling matchups: Ohio State’s young squad faces its first real trip with a trip just south to face a vaunted Louisville team; Michigan welcomes an unusually inexperienced Syracuse team to Ann Arbor and will look to crack its characteristic 2-3 zone; Illinois and Miami – both undefeated – have a chance to enhance their upstart status; in a matchup of former conference foes, Virginia – and their unaesthetic brand of basketball – heads to Maryland (who will unfortunately be without the injured Dez Wells); Iowa has an opportunity to steal an upset at North Carolina; and Michigan State rekindles a football rivalry with Notre Dame – now a basketball member in the ACC.
This is one of the best short stretches of college basketball in terms of unique, high-level matchups, with the added element of conference camaraderie thrown in. Other leagues have since replicated the ACC – Big Ten Challenge, but this is still one of college basketball’s marquee events.
[AFTER THE JUMP: ACC—B1G analysis, recapping holiday tournaments]
2. Game previews: Tuesday
Illinois travels to Miami in a matchup of AP Top-25 Teams (source)
- Pittsburgh at Indiana (7:00, ESPN2)
- Minnesota at Wake Forest (7:00, ESPNU)
- Syracuse at Michigan (7:30, ESPN)
- Illinois at Miami (9:00, ESPN2)
- N. Carolina St. at Purdue (9:00, ESPNU)
- Ohio St. at Louisville (9:00, ESPN)
Favorites (by Ken Pomeroy’s algorithm): Louisville (82%), Purdue (71%), Miami (67%), Michigan (64%), Indiana (58%), Minnesota (57%)
Minnesota is coming off of a win and a loss after a week in New York City (to St. John’s and Georgia, respectively), but should be in for a relatively easy game. Wake Forest is in its first season under former Tulsa coach Danny Manning and the Demon Deacons are coming off of a home loss to Delaware State (who’s ranked 265th nationally by Pomeroy’s system). It’s a tough rebuilding job in Winston-Salem and Minnesota should be able to come out with a win, even though they’ll be on the road.
Indiana, who suffered an embarrassing home upset a week ago to Eastern Washington, welcomes the Pitt Panthers to Bloomington. Pitt acquitted themselves fairly well in the Maui Invitational – they took care of Chaminade, dropped a game to San Diego State, and dominated a decent Kansas State squad. Pittsburgh’s strength on the offensive glass could doom the Hoosiers: the Panthers are 27th nationally in offensive rebounding rate so far in this young season and Indiana has a dearth of serviceable big men in the post.
Syracuse and Michigan headline the opening window of games and there are several interesting storylines to follow: can Michigan distort Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone with excellent outside shooting? How well will the Orange and senior center Rakeem Christmas, in particular, be able to attack Michigan’s green frontcourt? Will Derrick Walton be able to suit up and run the offense for Michigan? It’s certain to be an intriguing game and a solid reference point for two programs hovering near the periphery of the Top-25.
Illinois – Miami and Ohio State – Louisville are two excellent games, but both Big Ten teams are playing on the road. All four teams are currently undefeated: Illinois’s best win came in a tournament win over Baylor, Miami won a road contest against Florida as part of ESPN’s Hoops Marathon, Ohio State has been virtually unchallenged thus far, and Louisville defeated Minnesota to open the season in Puerto Rico. Illinois and Ohio State both are likely NCAA Tournament teams, but if either were to steal a win tonight, it would be a huge piece in an NCAA Tournament resume and could bump them up a seed-line come March. It will be interesting to see how Ohio State handles a team with the blend of talent and experience that Louisville has, especially in a road environment.
Purdue has been a relatively pleasant surprise thus far and they host North Carolina State in the Wolfpack’s first game outside of Raleigh. NCSU’s big men are foul-prone, so it would be nice to see some aggressiveness from Purdue’s promising big man tandem of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. The Wolfpack do hold their opponents to a low 2-point FG%, so it Purdue’s ability to score inside and draw fouls – something the Boilermakers should theoretically excel at – will be crucial.
3. Game Previews: Wednesday
STICKING SOMETHING IN AN OPPONENT’S FIELD IS DISRESPECTFUL (source)
Michigan St. at Notre Dame (7:15, ESPN2)
Virginia Tech at Penn St. (7:15, ESPNU)
Iowa at North Carolina (7:30, ESPN)
Virginia at Maryland (9:15, ESPN2)
Georgia Tech at Northwestern (9:15, ESPNU)
Duke at Wisconsin (9:30, ESPN)
Favorites: Penn St. (82%), North Carolina (76%), Wisconsin (62%), Virginia (60%), Georgia Tech (56%), Michigan St. (51%)
The headliner is Michigan State at Notre Dame; while the football rivalry has been curtailed because of Notre Dame’s quasi-inclusion into the ACC, that move makes it possible for the two to face off on the hardwood. Michigan State has won the games it was supposed to win and has lost the games it was expected to lose, but this Notre Dame game provides a nice opportunity for a quality road non-conference win, which is the only chance for that left on the schedule. ND is trying to rebound from a surprisingly disappointing season last year – they have now-eligible Jerian Grant back and have the nation’s best eFG% through the first few weeks of the season.
North Carolina suffered a surprising upset loss to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis; the Bulldogs grabbed an insane 29 offensive rebounds and UNC’s work on the defensive glass has been generally poor all season – Iowa’s cache of frontcourt talent could make the Tar Heels pay on that end. Still, North Carolina is an overwhelming favorite because they’re at home: the Hawkeyes haven’t been particularly impressive thus far but they potentially could have given UNC a scare at home if a few things went their way.
Penn State isn’t very good, but Virginia Tech is much worse. There’s not really a whole lot more to say about this one.
Wisconsin – Duke is easily the best matchup of the entire challenge and it’s possibly the best chance for either team to get a regular-season loss. Wisconsin’s a known quantity, though Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have shown more this year than they did a season ago. Duke is stacked with high-level NBA talent: Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow could be the most devastating duo in college basketball as a whole and they’re just freshmen. Both teams shoot the ball and avoid turnovers extremely well and Duke and Wisconsin are ranked #1 and #2 respectively in Pomeroy’s adjusted ORtg. It should be a phenomenal game.
The contest between Maryland and Virginia lost a little bit of luster with Dez Wells’s injury, but it should be interesting to see how Maryland’s home crowd responds to the first visit from a former conference foe. Virginia beat Rutgers by a ghastly score of 45-26 earlier this week and without Wells, Maryland’s offense could look quite ugly against the Cavaliers’ tough and frustrating pack line defensive scheme (the same one used by Wisconsin). Between the pace and the potential for offensive inefficiency, this could be one of the uglier games in the challenge, though both teams are decent.
Northwestern and Georgia Tech also play and there isn’t much to say about this game – perhaps the home-court advantage will help NU to a victory, though they’ve certainly struggled to look good thus far this season.
4. Result probabilities
There will be more on Rutgers and Nebraska’s road wins later on in the column, but as it stands right now, the Big Ten is up 2-0 on the ACC. Using Pomeroy’s win probabilities, I ran 1,000 simulations of the challenge:
With two road wins, the Big Ten is in great shape to win the Challenge outright and should be able to find six wins in a generally favorable home schedule (let alone any games they might steal on the road).
5. Challenge predictions
I’ll give it a shot – here’s a predicted winner in each game (Big Ten team in bold, home team in italics):
- Indiana over Pittsburgh
- Minnesota over Wake Forest
- Michigan over Syracuse
- Illinois over Miami
- Purdue over N. Carolina St.
- Louisville over Ohio St.
- Michigan St. over Notre Dame
- Penn St. over Virginia Tech
- North Carolina over Iowa
- Virginia over Maryland
- Georgia Tech over Northwestern
- Duke over Wisconsin
With the Big Ten’s two games in hand, I’m predicting a record of 9-5 and a comfortable Big Ten victory in the ACC – Big Ten Challenge. There have already been two, and this set of predictions calls for five more teams (Wake Forest, Miami, Notre Dame, Maryland, and Wisconsin) to lose at home, which would be a bit of a surprise. These are nothing better than (somewhat) educated guesses, so it will be interesting to see how well I do.
6. Nebraska and Rutgers bring home wins
On the first night of the challenge, the Big Ten leapt out to a 2-0 lead behind impressive road wins from Nebraska and Rutgers – neither of whom were favored to win, per Pomeroy. Rutgers’s offense, in particular, saw a little bit of a resurgence after scoring just 0.48 points per possession in their last contest against Virginia. 3 turnovers total was the lowest total that Rutgers posted this season and it’s a nice sign moving forward – teams that often get leveraged into less-desirable mid-range shots need to maximize the possessions they have.
Nebraska suffered through another high-usage game from Terran Petteway (who actually fouled out of the game with a few minutes left): Petteway scored 25 points, but they came on 26.5 shot equivalents. Shavon Shields posted another efficient game and had two nice assists down the stretch to seal the game for Nebraska, but it’s a little alarming that the Huskers are generally rather inefficient on the offensive end and that Petteway is taking so many shots.
Granted, this is a very small sample size of games thus far, but it’s something to track. My guess is that Petteway’s usage is correlated with better opponent defense and it’s hard to parse out if Nebraska’s poor offense is a symptom or cause of that dynamic.
7. Tom Crean’s seat might be getting warmer
Eastern Washington is currently ranked 120th nationally in Pomeroy’s system – for context, Northwestern is ranked 121st – and while this isn’t a truly horrible home loss for Indiana, it’s quite alarming (and besides, this might hurt if Indiana finds itself of the bubble come March). Their lack of inside presence really hurt – EWU managed an impressive 40 FGA at the rim (and made 25 of them, a good mark) and dominated the Hoosiers on the offensive glass. Hanner Mosquera-Perea hasn’t been as effective as Indiana had hoped and there’s precious little in the way of reinforcements. Indiana’s offense has picked up after the stark regression on the defensive end, but it wasn’t enough against Eastern Washington.
The offense hasn’t recovered to the impressive efficiency of the Cody Zeller / Victor Oladipo / Jordan Hulls / Christian Watford teams, but James Blackmon has been very impressive and Yogi Ferrell has continued his impressive level of play from last season. Still, without improvement on the defensive end – particularly down low – Indiana will struggle to make it back to the tournament again.
8. Holiday hoops recap – Part I
Baylor might not be quite as good as they have been over the last few years, but Illinois did well to handle the Bears in Las Vegas to win their holiday tournament. Baylor runs a bizarre, nebulous-looking zone that has elements of a rather conservative 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone, but Illinois navigated it well, held on to the ball, and won with their defense. Baylor did not shoot well from the field and Illinois deserves some credit, though jump-shooting is fairly random.
Sophomore Malcolm Hill – who Matt Silich mentioned to me as a potential breakout candidate for the Illini – played well, scored an efficient 17 points, and hit two threes from his spot as a stretch-four. Rayvonte Rice’s play was encouraging as well: he got his points efficiently enough and managed to pull in seven rebounds and three steals.
This is possibly the Big Ten’s best win in non-conference play thus far – Iowa State has been an offensive juggernaut with their spaced-out pro-style scheme under Fred Hoiberg, but Maryland stifled their typically excellent offense and held the Cyclones to just 0.93 points per possession. Iowa State’s 34.4 eFG% was just a tenth of a percentage point better than their worst shooting performance of the season last year.
While the Terrapins are 2-0 since their win over Iowa State, losing Dez Wells has proven to be a significant blow: Maryland barely beat an unspectacular Monmouth team in the first game without Wells and handled a bad VMI team a few days afterwards. Wells could very well be one of the top five players in the conference and Maryland will really struggle with him out – although freshman combo guard Melo Trimble (who already shouldered an impressive amount of responsibility for a newcomer) could have break out in Wells’s absence.
Trimble is somewhat of an under-the-radar B1G Freshman of the Year candidate: he’s scored 31 points against an alright Arizona State squad, scored 24 against Monmouth, and put up 19 in the game against VMI.
9. Holiday hoops recap – Part II
A few brief comments on these teams, who basically fared as expected:
- Purdue lost to Kansas State, beat an atypically bad Missouri team, and notched a nice overtime win over BYU in their three games in Maui. Isaac Haas emerged as a legitimate force backing up AJ Hammons, who was predictably inconsistent in his time on the court. Vince Edwards looked particularly great against BYU and has been the most surprising freshman thus far – the three 3-pointers he hit against the Cougars with Maui’s notoriously soft rims are just a bonus to the hustle and athleticism he brings.
- Wisconsin won the best preseason tournament quite handily in the end, but they didn’t get the type of elite opponents that they could have faced; with Georgetown’s upset of Florida, Oklahoma’s upset of UCLA, and especially Butler’s upset of North Carolina, the Badgers lost opportunities for truly high-quality wins. Georgetown was surprisingly difficult, but Wisconsin overcame a less-than-stellar performance from Frank Kaminsky to pull out a win late. After trailing by nine with just over 11 minutes left, Wisconsin ended the game on a 24-12 run to close out the game.
- Michigan beat Oregon (who they were supposed to beat) and lost to Villanova (who they were supposed to lose to), so in the end, the Wolverines fared about as well as expected. The second-half surge against the Wildcats was particularly impressive after a stretch of truly awful offensive basketball (especially by Michigan’s lofty standard), but it was simply too difficult to sustain that level of play throughout the whole game. Michigan did play a talented, veteran Villanova squad basically even over forty minutes at a neutral venue, and the Wolverines’ defense – which held the Wildcats to just 0.94 PPP – was encouraging.
10. Holiday hoops recap – Part III
Like Michigan, Michigan State beat the overmatched teams they were supposed to beat and lost a close game to Kansas at the end. After three games in four days and with an ill Branden Dawson, it’s hard to draw too much from that game.
St. John’s isn’t an especially good team, so it’s a little disappointing to see Minnesota drop this game – they’re probably better than both St. John’s and Georgia, but they didn’t demonstrate it. Poor shooting and an inability to get to the line was the problem against SJU, while improved shooting from outside helped carry them to a win against Georgia.
Sam Webb with the scoop:
Source has confirmed that Brady Hoke has been fired from post as #Michigan's head football coach. Team to be briefed during 3pm meeting
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) December 2, 2014
Michigan (5-1) vs.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -3 (KenPom)|
PBP: Mike Tirico
Analyst: Dan Dakich
It's B1G/ACC Challenge season, and the good guys have jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead after two road victories last night: Nebraska over Florida State in what was expected to be a toss-us and Rutgers over Clemson in LOLOLOLOL (seriously, RU had a 19% chance at winning, according to KenPom). Before last night's hilarity, the ACC was a slight favorite to win the challenge; that is no longer the case.
Also, it'd be quite nice for Michigan to tally one of those signature non-conference wins that always helps with eventual NCAA seeding. This is their best shot, as the road trip to Arizona in a couple weeks looks much less winnable.
Derrick Walton will be a game-time decision after missing the Nicholls State contest with what is either a sprain or turf toe. DJ Wilson is out for 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee; Michigan is exploring the possibility of a redshirt, which would probably be best for all involved given how unready he's looked in limited minutes so far—a hypothetical fifth year for Wilson would serve this program much better than what he's likely to provide this season.
Syracuse isn't injury-free, either. Starting three Tyler Roberson's status is up in the air due to a "strained muscle" that's kept him out of the last two games. I'm including him in the lineup card in case he can go but Jim Boeheim has "no idea" if he'll play tonight.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open.
|G||14||Kaleb Joseph||Fr.||6'3, 165||82||20||Yes|
|Top-50 recruit off to rocky start; high assist rate but huge turnover rate.|
|G||10||Trevor Cooney*||Jr.||6'4, 195||83||15||Kinda|
|Mostly a 3-pt shooter, but iffy one; has been getting to rim and converting well.|
|F||21||Tyler Roberson||So.||6'8, 212||35||20||Very|
|Rebounds well; otherwise struggled before injury. Bit player as freshman.|
|F||5||Chris McCullough||Fr.||6'10, 212||82||23||Yes|
|5-star, great shot-blocker, nice steal rate, good rebounder, finisher with a midrange game.|
|C||25||Rakeem Christmas*||Sr.||6'9, 250||71||27||Very|
|Beast. Huge rebound #s, top-50 block rate, shooting 57% with a high FT rate.|
|F||0||Michael Gbinije||Jr.||6'7, 200||53||17||Yes|
|Will start if Roberson can't; struggling with offense (esp. 3-pt shooting) but good on D.|
|F||2||BJ Johnson||So.||6'7, 185||53||19||Yes|
|Good rebounder, can block shots, also really struggling to put the ball thru the hoop.|
|G||4||Ron Patterson||So.||6'2, 200||25||16||Yes|
|Playing limited minutes as backup PG; okay AST/TO, woeful shooting (3/17 FG).|
Syracuse is currently a team that does a couple things quite well while otherwise struggling, although one of those things they do quite well is "defense," which is rather important; the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone is still vaunted indeed. They're #5 in defensive efficiency on KenPom with top-50 marks in all of the defensive four factors. They're not nearly so good on offense, as the lineup card might've led you to believe, but they've managed to avoid turnovers and crash the glass with aplomb, so despite horrendous outside shooting they're the #86 offense nationally at the moment—not great, but certainly good enough with that defense.
The dangerman is undoubtedly Rakeem Christmas, last year's starting center who's slid down to the four, taken on a larger role, and thrived. Offensively he does almost all of his damage at the basket, either by bulling his way to the hoop or putting back one of his many offensive rebounds; as you'd expect from a burly rim-crasher, he also draws quite a few fouls, and he shoots a respectable 70% at the line. On defense, he's also very good on the boards, and he's recorded 15 blocks through six games (though six of those came agaisnt lowly Loyola). One potential area to exploit: Chrismas has committed four or more fouls in all but one game this season, when he had... three. Getting him off the floor would be huge, obviously.
Unfortunately, Syracuse has a five-star freshman standing at 6'10" to help Christmas off the wing or slide into the middle as need be. Chris McCullough also has 15 blocks on the year with impressive rebounding rates (especially on offense). He's hitting 58% of his shots, and unlike Christmas his range extends beyond the paint; he's even hit his lone three-point attempt this year, though most of his shots come at the basket. He's drawing fouls at nearly the same rate as Christmas, but he's hitting only 62% of his free throws and he's also more turnover-prone.
The team's third player designated as a significant offensive contributor is top-50 freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, who's had a somewhat rough adjustment to the college game. While he's hitting half his shots (almost exclusively twos) and dishing out nearly six assists per game, he's also turning the ball over at a very high rate—his only games with fewer than four turnovers have come against Hampton and Loyola.
Shooting guard Trevor Cooney is a player you may remember from Michigan's Final Four victory over the Orange in 2013; a high-volume, low-efficiency outside shooter off the bench then, he's now starting, and while he's diversified his game a bit—he's getting to the rim more than he used to—his shot is still quite iffy; including his 9/33 mark this year, he's a career 34% three-point shooter.
There's the aforementioned uncertainty at the three. Starter Tyler Roberson may or may not be able to go with an abdominal strain; in very limited action over the last two years, he's been a good rebounder and a very inefficient scorer. If Roberson can't play, Michael Gbinije should start; he's not remotely on Roberson's level as a rebounder, and while he's hit 10/19 twos this year, he's off to a very rough 2/16 start from beyond the arc.
The Syracuse bench doesn't factor in much at all; despite Roberson's starting-when-he's-healthy minutes getting counted as bench minutes on KemPom, the Orange still rank 304th in bench minutes. BJ Johnson is another lanky wing who's struggling offensively. Ron Patterson will briefly spell Joseph at the point; he's been a little more responsible with the ball but can hardly hit a shot to save his life this season (3/17 FG). That's as deep as Jim Boeheim has reached into his bench against the two major-conference foes they've faced this season.
Sample size caveat still applies.
So, yeah, that 2-3 is liable to tear your face off. Opponents are hitting just 38.5% of their two-pointers against Syracuse (19%[!!!] of shots inside the arc are blocked by the Orange), second-chance oppotunities are scarce, and turnovers are abundant. Michigan has the two keys to beating that zone, however: excellent outside shooting and an aversion to turnovers. The Orange have allowed a very high number of three-point attempts, and while opponents are hitting just 26.6% of them, that number's not going to hold even if Cuse is guarding the perimeter well.
The Syracuse offense, at this point, is predicated on second chances; that eFG% is ugly, but the rebounding rate should be a concern, especially since M struggled mightily to keep the other excellent offensive rebounding team they've faced (Oregon) from getting putback opportunities. Cuse is actually shooting the ball pretty well inside the arc (52.4%), but have been beyond bad from outside of it (19.8%); that latter figure should rise even though Syracuse doesn't boast much at all in the way of shooters.
Work from the middle. As we learned when Mitch McGary played like Magic Johnson in Michigan's Final Four triumph, the best way to break down the 2-3 zone is to get the ball into the middle, cause the defense to collapse, and find open shooters. The big issue for Michigan is how they'll accomplish this; Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle aren't ready to fill that McGary role, so they'll have to get creative, most likely by having their wings—especially Caris LeVert—cut to the middle and distribute from there.
Collapse inside. Syracuse is going to have to prove they can hit an outside shot. Michigan is probably going to need to give defensive help on Christmas and McCullough, not to mention throw everything they have at the boards to make sure those guys don't get second chances. Against this team, giving up open looks from the outside isn't the worst thing in the world; more important is making sure they go one-and-out on as many possessions as possible.
Pressure Joseph. Syracuse doesn't turn the ball over much with the notable exception of their freshman point guard, who's doing so quite a bit. Whether or not Walton is available, M should be able to turn up the heat on Joseph—or unleash Spike Albrecht on the passing lanes, as he does—and getting some easy transition points would be huge against a team that doesn't give much up in the halfcourt.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 3.
If Walton can't play, that obviously changes things, but Michigan's decided edge in shooting ability could make the difference either way.
This will almost certainly be you know what:
Expecting a 4:30 news conference in Ann Arbor this afternoon with #Michigan interim AD Jim Hackett - official update on Brady Hoke likely.
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) December 2, 2014
RATS. You're no fun, N582CJ.
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. First, this is completely false:
Multiple sources I spoke with told me Jim Harbaugh has already told Michigan that he is not a candidate.
I know from people who have talked directly to Harbaugh that he has interest in the job and is telling Michigan that. The concern previously was that Michigan was not reaching out in any sort of semi-official manner. 247 reported earlier this week that bridge-mending was going on between Carr and Harbaugh.
This may be a he-said-she-said battle of the sources, but look at it from Harbaugh's perspective (or possibly his agent's). Harbaugh is under contract; the 49ers may try to trade him; any trade necessarily hampers his ability to win at the new place; the possibility of leaving for Michigan brings the price down and improves his leverage. Even if Harbaugh had 0.0% interest in returning to college he would not be telling people that.
And unless he's flat out lying to multiple former teammates that's not the case. If so, this is the appropriate GIF.
With that in mind, I'm not inclined to take the rest of Scott Roussel's alarming post seriously. His previous report about Hackett informing the regents he had not found anyone who could do the AD job at Michigan was 90% crap. It is a funhouse mirror version of the truth in which Michigan has decided that they should use Hackett for a transitional period specifically because football has a hiring season and they don't want to throw a guy in right now and expect him to get the thing right. Hackett's timeframe here is not likely to last past the summer.
The feedback I heard isn’t going to excite many at Michigan; in fact, one source was very blunt, saying “Michigan is struggling to find their next head coach.”
Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett and senior assistant athletic director Mike DeBord have spoken with a number of potential candidates is the what I’m told; and the reception thus far hasn’t been positive. We are told that the Michigan administration was hoping to have largely have their man identified by now and that does not appear to be the case as calls were ongoing yesterday.
This is how coaching searches go, and this year was particularly likely to end up with a lot of thanks-but-no-thanks calls as Michigan checks on Stoops, Patterson, Gundy, and maybe Shaw or Richt just in case. Florida got a head start and has already passed through this phase. Check out the names for Gainesville later in this post; they are not exactly A-listers for a job that's at least on par with Michigan.
After this period Michigan will get down to identifying a real set of candidates that are not ensconced at stable programs. Roussel does say that Michigan check on Butch Jones and he "won't be a candidate," and I believe that. It is a specific piece of information that I have not had directly refuted to me multiple times.
ON LES MILES. That story also has a bit on Les Miles. It is correct that there's a great divide in the program alumni about Miles, but it also asserts that Michigan would avoid him because of the chance they get turned down humiliatingly. That would not happen. If Miles is offered the job he would come.
Personally, I'm not enthralled with a 61-year-old who's been the subject of an OTL episode about cutting players, coming off a meh year and possibly the downside. But he'd come. Assertions to the contrary are from the camp that doesn't like Miles because of the way he and Carr have butted heads over the years.
THINK OF THE THE SCION IN CHARGE. Last week's deflating loss against Seattle caused the 49ers' owner to tweet something about how it was "unacceptable," leading to a veritable e-kerfuffle. Jed York was seen talking to the GM! A teenage girl said something nasty about Greg Roman! Dark days. Speculation about an immediate firing was faintly ridiculous then and more so a few days later.
In the aftermath Adam Schefter reported that Harbaugh's fate would be determined after the season and that the Raiders and Jets were the favorites to land him.In general, NFL sources are swearing up and down that nobody leaves the NFL on purpose. Historically, they're correct. But I roll my eyes when they start making those assertions about Harbaugh staying on the West Coast because his wife likes In And Out.
There is a large complicating factory with talk about the Raiders that national guys completely overlook. Tim Kawakami:
I doubt York wants to see Harbaugh coaching the Raiders, wherever they end up playing in 2015–and remember, there is a possibility the Raiders play in Santa Clara for a few years.
Harbaugh coaching the Raiders in Santa Clara? That is NOT what Jed York wants, though who knows, he might Tweet something to clarify all this.
Underestimating the petulance of the extremely rich is never wise. Where would York prefer Harbaugh to be: Oakland or Michigan?
PLAN B? With Harbaugh uncertain, Michigan is going to need to do groundwork to have a set of alternate candidates in place to prevent a repeat of the 2007 search, in which ideas after Les Miles ranged from "uhhhhhhh" to "wellllllll". Oh, and the 2011 search, in which ideas after Jim Harbaugh ranged from "welllllll" to "welllllll". Who might those guys be?
I think you can strike everyone who may or may not be available. Early returns from not only the Michigan search but the Florida search indicate that the Petersen will-he-or-won't-he types are firmly in the NOPE camp. So who might Michigan look at after you excise the Gundy/Patterson types? I have no idea. I hope Jim Hackett does.
I don't think Les Miles is going to be the guy. There is a ton of opposition to him that would be difficult to overcome. After that you're outside the realm of guys who got yelled at by Bo.
Obviously, Dan Mullen is a guy you have to kick the tires on. The recent issue with a QB getting his offer pulled looks bad; you have to get Mullen's side of that, as he's prevented by NCAA rule from offering it publicly. Lloyd Carr had a few incidents in which he got blasted by recruits that I don't think were entirely, or even mostly, on him. In this case Mullen asked the guy to grayshirt out of the blue, which is not kosher but isn't as bad as a total kiss-off.
After Mullen it's down to flier types and coordinators. And extremely angry unemployed guys. You know me: I prefer the coordinator/innovator route to a guy with veins permanently etched on his forehead.
WHAT'S GOING ON AT FLORIDA? A reported 4 million dollar offer to Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze resulted in a raise and extension for—surprise!—another Jimmy Sexton client. Florida sources are chalking that up to Ole Miss getting Sexton'd; the SBNation reporter who broke the news is standing by the report since these days a coaching 'offer' is only definitively given to the guy that gets the job. And I see his point.
But whatever, Freeze seems off the table. The current names are:
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a consideration, according to one source, confirming a report by Football Scoop, although there is concern regarding McDaniels' availability to join Florida immediately upon his hire. The Ohio native and longtime Bill Belichick assistant has not coached in college since a stint as a graduate assistant at Nick Saban's Michigan State, and his only head coaching experience came in 2009 and 2010 with the Denver Broncos.
This is good news from our perspective since none of those names seem like they would become prominent here in the event M strikes out on Harbaugh. I'd be shocked if Patterson was available for anyone; McElwain's reported $7.5 million buyout is offputting when there are guys with better track records who would require less outlay.
And then there's Josh McDaniels. That is particularly bats. He's barely coached in college and has made his name coaching Tom Brady from 2004 on, after the point at which Tom Brady's QB coach was himself. His brief foray as the Broncos head coach ended before two years were up; he had one year as the Rams' OC, and now he's back under Belicheck's wing. He is 1000% flier.