at least it's not just us?
This is my first Diary entry. Go easy please.
UPDATE - Since the team got a huge makeover within hours of me posting it, I thought I'd make some update in the wake of the three transfers. I've updated the table with thoughts on the transfers and what it means for the other players. At the very end I have some thoughts on recruiting needs. As for Burke, if he leaves for the NBA (an unwise decision in my mind) then you can burn this piece and ask Illinois fans how it feels to miss the NIT because that's where we'd be headed without a single ball-handler.
Brian stole a lot of my thunder with his comprehensive game recap before I could get this posted, but I think there’s enough to discuss here that the post is still worth doing.
I considered breaking this long post up into in a series of smaller posts, but I suspect that there will soon be a flood of “looking toward next year” content in the Michigan blogsphere so I might as well get it all in now to launch that discussion.
I think there are three parts to any premature basketball preview and I’ll cover two of them here – player summaries and biggest off-season questions. The third, conference outlook, has to wait until the dust settles on the NCAA Tournament and the NBA draft deadline passes. Without further ado, let’s get started - which means….
Oh boy – not another alter ego voice.
Yep, that’s right – much like Temptation without War Chant you can’t have a long diary on MGoBlog without an alter ego chiming in.
Does that also mean we need a…..
…..Chart? Yes, yes we do. Below is a chart full of player summaries that touches on two critical aspects of the 2012-2013 season: what should the player be working on over the summer and what is a realistic outlook for their role next year?
|Player||He should spend all summer.....||Next year he will.....|
|Trey Burke||Breaking a hard hedge. Ask students on campus to run a hard hedge against him while he's walking to class. Learn how other teams defeat it while it cripples Michigan at times.||
Play 90% of the time and be a contender for conference player of the year.
UPDATE - ....realize what a great decision it was to stay at Michigan.
|Tim Hardaway||Dribbling!! His shooting should stabilize and he played well down the stretch. More rebounding would be nice, but he needs to be a reliable ball handler next year to take pressure off Burke and reach his star potential.||
Be the team's leading scorer and show more consistency with his outside shot, but will still have a couple plays per game that drive fans and coaches nuts.
UPDATE: ....searching for a mid-major out east where he'll be happy. Apparently he was unhappy and struggled with the rigors of a big time program and academic institution....though this is a big loss for Michigan and a shocking one to me. He would have been the starting PF and the third best player on the team.
UPDATE: ...take a redshirt season and wonder if he made the right choice leaving an offense that was perfect for him and a team poised to make another title run.
|Jordan Morgan||Doing layups and having Mike Barwis teach him to jump from flat footed.||Get the chance to be the starter but will get a quick hook if he's struggling with McGary and Horford breathing down his neck.|
|Matt Vogrich||Dribbling with Hardaway. Someone has to be an alternate ball handler and Vogrich has one last chance to be more than a role player if he can show the ability to handle the ball.||
Reprise his role as jump shooter off the bench. He may get a chance to start early in the year but is best suited to his 7th man role where he can park in the corner and hit 3s.
UPDATE: Needs to play more with Hardaway since GR3 will spend more time at the PF spot.
|Jon Horford||Rehabbing his foot and practicing a mid-range jumper. Of the three centers in the rotation he's the most likely to have the skills to play PF in this offense.||Compete with McGary to be the back-up center, sometimes getting 20 minutes per game and sometimes playing the McLimans 5-10 minutes for rebounding and shot blocking.|
|Mitch McGary||Learning the nuances of the offense from Jordan Morgan. McGary will step on campus with significantly more skill and talent than Morgan but needs to match his ability with the pick-and-roll in order to earn significant minutes.||
Start the season as energy off the bench and will have the opportunity to get significant minutes. Some fans will be disappointed at a pedestrian freshman season, but the outlook will be bright.
UPDATE: I still see him purely as a center, but maybe JB will break out a twin towers offense without Smotrycz.
|Glenn Robinson III||Learning from Zach Novak how to be Zach Novak. GR3 has a chance to be the spark off the bench at either forward spot and will have far more athleticism than Novak, but he could use a lesson in grit to help fill the void left by the captain.||
Be a significant factor in how far the team goes. Needs to spell Smotrycz at the 4 or play the 3 at times,
UPDATE: He's now slated to start at PF unless Jon Horford has a huge off-season or Bielfeldt surprises.
|Nik Stauskas||Learning from Stu Douglas how to play the second guard spot in this offense. Much like the other freshmen, Nik will be more talented than Stu, but has to fill his role to be truly effective early in his career.||The favorite to start at the SG spot and be the second ball-handler the team needs. Could play more minutes than anyone other than Burke and Hardaway if he shows he's ready for that role….and Michigan probably needs him to be.|
UPDATE: Follow McCallum around the Detroit campus instead? The skepticism about his role in this offense was apparently warranted - hopefully he can find a better fit.
UPDATE: Enjoy his redshirt season at a smaller school.
Shooting mid-range jumpers. There's an opportunity for minutes at the PF spot for someone who can hit a midrange jumper and mix it up inside a little.
UPDATE: Needs to enter the season trying to prove he could be the starter at PF.
UPDATE: Best case he will have a Morgan-like leap as a RS-Freshman and grab the starting spot. Worst case he needs to be good enough to play 10-12 minutes per game competently.
|Blake McLimans||Learn to run the pick-and-roll. He played some critical minutes with Horford out but the offense bogged down with him on the floor. His best chance at staying relevant would be to play PF and show he can run the offense.||
Learn to enjoy the view from the bench because unless Ted Valentine and Ed Hightower ref the same game it is unlikely that we'll need a 4th string center next year.
UPDATE: May see a few minutes per game at PFsince he can shoot and knows the offense.
Learning how to swing a rally towel or working with the genetics department to reconfigure himself into a back-up point guard.
UPDATE: I guess we didn't need the genetics department to turn him into a PG, his transfer should allow us to sign one to take his spot.
UPDATE: Enjoy Division-2 basketball?
Wow – that was a lot of reading and a lot to digest. Let’s break it down into some critical team areas now.
What is the biggest reason for optimism heading into the off-season?
Simply put – Trey Burke. He will be a contender for conference player of the year and would likely be on his way to the NBA lottery if he were a measly 3 inches taller. He should fill the leadership role vacated by Douglas and Novak well and gives us a chance to win every game we play.
UPDATE: Try not to think about him leaving....it will just make you cry.
Having depth and recruiting talent will make the season interesting, but Burke will ultimately determine how far this team goes. He had an amazing freshman year, but there is still a lot of room for growth on both ends of the court. Solving the various high-screen defenses he saw will allow him to be more dominant and open up more opportunities for his teammates.
What is the biggest reason for concern?
This is a more complex thing to address, but allow me to answer in the form of a question – who is the second ball handler on the team next year?
Wait – I ask get to answer a question for a change? Okay – I’ll say…..uh….hmm….that freshman with the funny name?
Nik Stauskas is the one you’re thinking of, and he’s a popular choice. But he’s a freshman and is also 6’6” tall. When was the last time you saw a good ball handler taller than 6’4” at Michigan? Jalen Rose 20 years ago?
In my opinion, finding someone to handle the ball besides Burke is the biggest concern going into next year. Douglas (and to a much lesser extent Novak) filled that role perfectly and Michigan doesn’t have a back-up point guard stashed on its bench. Maybe Stauskas will be the answer we’re all hoping for, or maybe Hardaway and Vogrich will improve their handles well enough to fill this role, or maybe Brundidge makes a huge leap forward – hopefully someone does. Otherwise opponents will just press full court and double Burke until someone else shows they can handle the ball.
UPDATE: Did I mention that thinking about Burke leaving would make you cry?
Who is the most important player next year (besides Burke)?
Obviously Burke comes first because we’ve established that there is no other option to run the offense and he’s so sensational. It may also be obvious now that Stauskas, despite being the lowest rated incoming recruit, may be the next most important player on the team. He needs to fill the 2-guard role on both ends of the floor well enough to play major minutes given the other options. If Stauskas struggles to earn minutes, there will be a large void at the guard spot – a big problem in a guard oriented offense.
Hardaway is critical for the team to succeed, but there are other players to help when he goes into his funks. Smotrycz needs to show that he can be a consistent threat playing his natural position and be the third scoring option for the team, but he’s already shown that to some extent and there are other options if he struggles. McGary isn’t as important given the depth and experience at center. Stauskas is the one player who fits nicely into the offense as the second guard and has the biggest shoes to fill.
How excited should we be for McGary? Is this going to be like the Fisher era with Vaught, Mills, Webber, Howard, Taylor, and Traylor? (on the court, not off)
Well, I’ve personally lowered my expectations for him and I think most fans would be wise to do the same. From the videos I’ve seen he’ll be a great addition to the team with his size, athleticism, rebounding, and hustle…..but not an all-conference contender anytime soon. He looks like a bigger, better version of Jordan Morgan – which is great, but not the next Webber. I suspect he’ll be a solid contributor and play a lot of minutes but won’t stuff the stat sheet until his sophomore year.
Wait a minute – he’s Michigan’s best recruit in a really long time and you’re bashing him?
No, I think he’ll turn out to be a great college player if he stays for2-3 years but will not make the immediate impact some are expecting. There are several reasons:
- Big men take longer to adjust to the college game, even though he’s old for his class.
- He doesn’t yet have a jump shot that will make him versatile, making him purely a center in Beilein’s offense and not a power forward. But Michigan’s offense doesn’t feed the post players like MSU or an NBA team would. He’ll have to get his points like Morgan does – which is fine but limits his upside.
- He’s stepping into a crowded center competition with two guys that know the system and have contributed in the past.
I actually think McGary may have the smallest impact on next year’s of all the recruits given that both Stauskas and GR3 are better fits at replacing the void left by the seniors. McGary will contribute and be fun to watch, but lower your expectations to fully enjoy it rather than wondering why he isn’t dominant.
Speaking of McGary, how is the center depth chart going to play out?
This is going to be fascinating since Beilein only historically plays one true post player and now has three players worthy of ample playing time. Even Tom Izzo with his deep bench only plays two true centers. I think Morgan will remain the starter for a lot of next year but I like Brian’s 15-15-10 prediction for minutes with McGary splitting equal time. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride – we’ll never have to worry about foul trouble, teams with a lot of height, or seeing McLimans or Smotrycz play critical minutes at center.
What do you think the rotation will be?
I thought about predicting minutes per game, but Brian did an admirable job of that already. Instead I’ll talk in generalities. Here’s the rotation as I see it:
- Morgan (on a short leash)
GR3 (energy off the bench at the 3 or 4, replacing Stauskas or Smotrycz)
- McGary (essentially getting starters minutes)
- Vogrich (basically the same as this year, maybe a few more minutes at best)
- Horford (the 3rdstring center still averaged 8 minutes per game this year)
Brundidge (a few minutes spelling Burke)
Christian(suddenly one of these two needs to play a fair amount of minutes at PF)
Wow – that rotation sounds like something to be excited about!
That’s a true 9-man rotation, dwarfing the deepest rotation Beilein has ever had at Michigan, and a few spare parts that are still viable options.
UPDATE: Until another recruit joins the incoming class (more below) that's still possibly a 9-man rotation if Bielfeldt steps up or McLimans plays more at PF.
Next year is going to be a unique experience for this program with the depth, talent, leadership turnover, height, and relative youth. The B1G will be as tough as always, but Michigan should be a contender once again, even if there are some growing pains early in the season.
UPDATE: So we suddenly have scholarships to offer...what should we do with them?
Obviously we should take one or maybe two guards and whoever the coaches feel is deserving of a scholarship. There has been plenty of speculation at MGoBlog or UMHoops about players who may be available, so I won't spend too much time on specific names since no one really knows and no one has an official offer.
What I will say is this - I want a true point guard in this class....and I don't care what their star rating is, how big they are, whether they have pro potential, or any of that stuff. I think every team needs a back-up PG who can play 10-15 minutes per game where he runs the offense, doesn't turn the ball over, plays good defense, and hits the occassional open shot. The kind of guy who will play four years, possibly all of them as a back-up, work his tail off, be thrilled to play for Michigan, and be a great insurance policy if the starter can't play. Everyone needs one of these types of players and we're sorely lacking one. Even if Burke stays another year, we still will only have one PG the following year and that person would be a true freshman.
I can think of two perfect examples of this - Travis Trice at MSU and Stilman White at UNC. Both were undersized 3-star recruits surrounded by higher ranked players and lacking any other major offers. Both players stepped up with a few minutes per game when their teams needed it. Both will be around for three more years being solid system guys. We need one of those.
Of all the names mentioned so far, Spike Albrectch seems like the closest fit to this role. He's a true PG who has lead both his AAU and Prep teams to a lot of success playing a ton of minutes. He's played with many of our two best incoming recruits. He can hit a three pointer if left alone. And he's essentially the same size as those two examples listed above. Maybe there are better choices out there and if so I hope the coaches can sign them. If not, I'd gladly welcome Spike to fill that role.
It was loud. It was dramatic. It was legendary. It was historic.
It was the weekend Jed Ortmeyer achieved greatness. It was the weekend a mascot was ejected. It was the weekend Ron Mason coached his last game, and Ryan Miller played his last game. It was the weekend the CCHA Humanitarian of the Year almost murdered a dog. It was the weekend Denver stole Michigan’s locker room. It was the weekend the NCAA reconsidered its regional hosting policy.
It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. And incredibly, it was ten years ago this Friday.
You wouldn’t have expected this if you watched the first game. Ron Mason’s Spartan squad played so lifelessly against Colorado College that they forgot to even pull the goaltender (Michigan arch-nemesis Ryan Miller) until it was too late. I was preparing for a standard, slightly-louder-than normal playoff game against St. Cloud when I heard it: the chant that irrevocably signaled that the weekend would be among the most memorable in Michigan history.
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
On March 22 and 23, 2002, the six-team NCAA Hockey West Regional came to Yost Ice Arena. The teams were Denver, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Saint Cloud State, and Colorado College. The two days of hockey that those teams produced comprised the greatest weekend in the history of Yost. You can find the results in a database, and the results will tell you that Minnesota beat Colorado College and that Michigan beat Denver to advance to the Frozen Four. Those were the results.
This is the story.
The Molly Game: Yost at its Craziest
Michigan was a four seed drawn to play St. Cloud State as a 5 seed, a rematch of the West Regional final from the year before in Grand Rapids. Early pregame talk about the game surrounded St. Cloud’s inability to win in the NCAA tournament (the program didn’t win a game until 2010) and Michigan’s presumed home-ice advantage.
The conversation changed when the Michigan Daily picked up a quote from SCSU on-ice cheerleader Molly McGannon, who told the St. Cloud Times that she was treated poorly by Michigan fans in Grand Rapids. Her quotes spread all over town. “They’re horrible people,” she said. She further predicted that, on Michigan’s home ice, “They’ll be worse.”
She was right.
The initial team warmups were a normal affair, but as soon as the Michigan team left the ice and the band had concluded its pregame rendition of “The Victors,” the two sections reserved for Michigan students erupted in loud “WE WANT MOLLY!” chants. When Saint Cloud cheerleaders and the Husky mascot, Blizzard, emerged from the entrance behind the north goal, the noise became a roar.
As the cheerleaders performed their standard pregame routine of skating around in circles and waving pom-poms, the students showered them with catcalls and insults. It was loud, menacing, and for the husky mascot, infuriating. The routine ended as the Saint Cloud players took the ice from the north endzone; the students began waving and howling “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh” expecting them to depart promptly. They did not understand that the cheer team procedure involved remaining on the ice almost until faceoff; following their exit, cheerleaders traditionally entered the grandstands for the hockey action during the period.
The cheerleaders would not be entering the stands at Yost.
Michigan took the ice and began its customary counter-clockwise warmup skate. Star defenseman Mike Komisarek noticed that two cheerleaders were standing in formation on Michigan’s half of center-ice, and as he skated around he very deliberately lowered his stick and tapped the back of the girl’s skates, nearly causing her to fall. After “The Victors” concluded students resumed taunting the cheer team, whose members were now so psychologically shattered that they could only exchange terrified glances at each other.
During player introductions the cheerleaders continued to be jeered on the ice, occasionally interrupted by the introduction of players. When each Michigan player was introduced, the mascot would skate up to them and take fake-swings at their heads with his hockey stick while spewing taunts. He was not being ironic.
Following introductions, the cheerleaders finally left the ice to a muffled C-YA chant as the teams huddled around their respective goals. The Husky, however, refused to leave, and a linesman eventually had to corral him and physically escort him to the north exit, behind the goal Michigan was huddled around.
That’s when the mascot speared defenseman Brandon Rogers.
And that was when backup goaltender Kevin O’Malley, who was named CCHA Humanitarian of the Year just the week before, launched himself toward the exit. He went fully airborne, blasted straight through the linesman, and attacked the mascot just inside the door. It was total chaos.
Then the actual game started.
It was a good one; Michigan charged to a 3-1 lead in an electric first period, chasing Husky goalie Dean Weasler. Enigmatic freshman winger Milan Gajic scored the goal of his life, a behind-the-back spin-pass to himself behind the goal followed by a gliding skate out front and a roofed shot. But the moment everyone remembers was this one, perhaps the best hit in Michigan history, served by the peerless Jed Ortmeyer.
St. Cloud crept back into the game, trailing only 3-2 in the third, but star forward Mark Hartigan missed a wide-open net after deking past Josh Blackburn. St. Cloud could not recover, and Michigan won 4-2.
It was time for Michigan to play #1 seed Denver.
The Denver Game: Yost at its Loudest.
Michigan’s new locker room, still a sparkling part of the facility, was much nicer than the other three locker rooms available for regional competitors. In the week leading up to Regionals, Denver made a stink about this and Michigan was ordered to vacate its locker room and allow top seed Denver to use it.
After the game, Red Berenson said, “Maybe they shouldn’t have taken our locker room away.”
This game doesn’t get the legendary treatment of the game the day before, but it was my favorite part of the weekend and one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed. Many fans who were there say that it was the loudest they’ve ever heard Yost Arena; the only game that comes close was the ’98 regional game against North Dakota.
It was a wonderful game. That ’02 Denver team was terrific, and they played a defensive, checking style very similar to the MSU teams of the era. Goalie Wade Dubielewicz was a dominant player, and after their WCHA title many favored them to win the national title.
After a scoreless first period the teams traded five goals in the second. Michigan seemed to be in good shape up 2-1 until Mike Komisarek attempted to kill a penalty by grabbing the puck and throwing it 150 feet down the ice; the resulting 5-on-3 allowed Denver to tie the game, and they took a 3-2 lead a short time later.
Denver never gave away third period leads--they were 28-1 when leading after two. The crowd was nervous, or at least subdued; I was terrified. This was it, the season on the line, needing a goal against an impenetrable team.
Eric Werner tied the game 4:47 into the period. The crowd was back. Raucous “Go! Blue!” chants traded sides. Every hit was cheered, every shot exhorted. Michigan took control of play, but as the clock ticked down overtime seemed certain.
Jed Ortmeyer did not come to Michigan as an exceptional offensive talent, and NHL scouts never drooled over his physical attributes. He had the face of a teddy bear. There were always players on Michigan who were more imposing, players who were better skilled. But Ortmeyer was a remarkable leader and a tireless worker. And he lived for these moments.
With less than two minutes left, Mike Cammalleri fed him the puck in the neutral zone...
(Look closely for the Michigan player who pulls the net off its moorings to allow the rest of the team to pile on top of Ortmeyer. Red trains smart players.)
Ortmeyer’s goal blew the place up. I’ve attended UM-OSU football games at both venues; I’ve been to games at Texas A&M and LSU; I’ve been to Red Wing playoff games; but I’ve never been in a place like that. The audio on the recording simply does not convey how ear-bleedingly loud Yost was. The Denver players couldn’t look away from the crowd--they were beaten, it was over, and they knew it.
Often forgotten, the officials stopped the game for ten minutes to deal with a timekeeping problem. The crowd roared unceasingly throughout the stoppage. When retiring rink announcer Glenn Williams gave his celebratory “You’re Welcome!” to the students, they went nuts. When Eric Nystrom flipped a puck from center ice into the open net, the place went bonkers again.
At the conclusion of the game, after the handshakes, Ortmeyer organized an improptu fan salute, before it was a regular procedure. The players gathered in the center circle and faced outward, grins on their faces, and raised their sticks in the air. The crowd gave one last, deafening cheer. Triumph.
What a weekend.
(Click the image to view full size)
That glorious time of year for football fans when the torch is passed
to a new set of leaders, the hunger for gossip is well fed, and
optimism is recharged, renewed, and rewarded.
This spring we have ample reason to be excited, most obviously because
we're once again coming off a successful season with a BCS win under our belt.
But, those victories are now the past, and it would be wise not to dwell on them
much longer with the national champions looming just beyond our horizon.
Still, with the sounds of pads hitting sleds echoing through the
Al Glick Fieldhouse, there's plenty of reason to be enthused. Go Blue.
OnThursday we'll look to the ice, where East Pneumonia's favorite Michigan family will gear up for Hunwick and company as they attempt to return to the Frozen Four.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least
every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest
feature, Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
Truth defeating falsehood was the theme of the day as Michigan shut out the Spartans. The doubles point was fiercely contested as both schools managed to win a game. King and Bernstein prevailed on 1 court for Michigan, winning 8-3. Freshman team Petrone and Zhu struggled early on and lost their doubles match on 3 court, 6-8. Among other problems both Wolverines struggled to land their first serves and had trouble finding traction in long volleys. The third doubles match was won by Michigan in the tiebreaker. Buzzi and Franks both made fine plays for Michigan at the net and behind the baseline. MSU's players struggled at times to hit the ball over the net and to get second serves in the box, a trend that continued in singles play.
No. 10 ranked Evan King made short work of MSU's tank at Court 1, prevailing 6-0, 6-2. Up 4-0 in the second, King had two break points against his opponent but yielded the point, settling for a non-6-0-6-0 score. Buzzi won the next match at 6 court, defeating his opponent 7-5, 6-3. Buzzi is looking very solid these days and has improved to 3-3 on 6 court this season. Zhu and Franks also won their matches in straight sets. The grittiness prize goes to Petrone from the match. Down 3-0 in the third set, the fabulous freshman rallied to win the final set 6-3. Bernstein has also made strides in his game recently. His serves, particularly in doubles, were much more testing than they have been in the past, and he got them in the first time more frequently as well.
The heavy rains the night before the match delayed the start of play for almost an hour as staffers with towels and leaf blowers were deployed to help dry out the courts. The match was Michigan's first home outdoor match of the season, the road series against Hawaii also having been heavily delayed by rainfall. Fortunately the Michigan women's team was scrimmaging on adjacent outdoor courts, preparing for their Sunday match against UNC. Michigan lost 4-3 in that matchup.
With Saturday's win Michigan men's tennis has now won its last nine matches against MSU, and boasts a 1-0 Big Ten record. At 8-4 Michigan needs five more wins to match its record from last year. Wins against Wake Forest and Hawaii to round out the nonconference season help take off some of the pressure, although Ohio is as formidable as ever.
Michigan gets two more commits over the past week, so the Big Ten recruiting rankings are front-paged. Also making a big move is Penn State, which grabbed a pair of commits of their own. Changes since last rankings:
3-9-12: Penn State picks up Adam Breneman.
3-10-12: Michigan picks up Gareon Conley.
3-13-12: Michigan State picks up Caleb Benenoch.
3-14-12: Notre Dame picks up James Onwualu.
3-15-12: Illinois picks up Jesse Chadwell.
3-17-12: Michigan picks up DeVeon Smith. Penn State picks up Brendan Mahon.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the three recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as one-star players. This may be a bit unfair this early in the process, considering there are many unevaluated recruits out there at this stage, but that's life.
On to the full data, after the jump.