Working on another wallpaper this coming week, but here's another since the last one people were commenting that they didn't like the "artsy" stylings of the recent ones. I like how this turned out, but as always, I'm open to constructive criticism to help me provide more of what the MGoCommunity is looking for.
EDIT: Already nitpicked at my own design. Corrected the alignment of the "the road to march" text area. Not sure why I didn't catch that since I'd originally had it right. Oh well. Carry on.
- Desktop (16:9) -
Mobile version to come!
After the Wisconsin and MSU loses I made comments about the attitude and will of Michigan’s basketball team. Even Dan Dakich (yes, who we all dislike) went on and on about Michigan’s lack of it during the MSU game. Sadly, he was right. Building on Ace’s piece the other day, there are a few pain points from the past four (I’m actually going to include the NW game as well, because 5 is more than 4) games which I thought I would focus on.
FREE THROW ATTEMPTS
One of the best stories I ever heard was from a former NBA star talking about Larry Bird. He said he was one of the very few players who could dominate a game while only taking 10 – 12 shots. He would make 8 or 9 shots with a couple from three. And the rest would come from free throws. I checked it out and indeed Bird averaged 5 free throw attempts per game throughout his career.
Here’s Michigan’s free throw attempts from the past five games. I’m only looking at the five highest players in minutes played due to the smaller rotation with Morgan out.
Keep in mind, that’s attempts, from the 5 primary ball handlers. In the biggest games of the year. Between Hardaway Jr, Stauskas, GRIII, and McGary among 20 opportunities to take at least one free throw in a game they failed to do so in 65% of them. And that includes going up against notoriously aggressive MSU and OSU defenses.
I point this out because free throw attempts are indicative of attitude. Sometimes you just have to make the other team foul you so you get a chance to get two points (or at least one) at the end of a game. Too often Michigan has had late game possessions which end in jump shots (most of them fading away from 18+ feet). Michigan (#6 in field goal percentage) is shooting 49% as a team. Michigan (#133 in free throw percentage) is shooting 70% as a team. I prefer 70% to 49% when I’m scrapping for points at the end of a close game.
Beilein has said in interviews he get’s just as excited about one of his players taking a charge as he does a dunk. In watching this team, you can tell Beilein and the other coaches work with the players on taking charges. i.e. he is using a rule in basketball as part of his strategy. I personally disagree with this because it is a very passive defensive attitude. When a player sets up to take a charge he gives the opposing player the ability to get a vertical advantage. Keep in mind, most charges come within 5-8 feet of the basket. Having a vertical advantage really means something in that close of range. Additionally, there are three things which can happen when a player sets up for a charge: 1) they get the charge call which equates to a turn over (yay) 2) There is no call made and the player either makes or misses the shot (keep in mind this is a closer in shot with no vertical defender because he is planted firmly to the ground) (advantage offense) 3) The ref calls a blocking foul and the player has a chance at making an uncontested shot from close range (boo). So of the three things that could happen, only one of them is actually good for the team. Now rewind to the end of the Wisconsin game. Michigan up 3. Jared Berggren (all 6’10” of him) beats his man and is driving uncontested to the hoop. Burke (all 6’0” of him) sets up just outside the charge circle to take the charge. Berggren dunks and gets the blocking foul on Burke. Berggren makes the free throw. Tie game. No ref will ever call that a charging foul. Instead of going back down court at worst up one (at best up two or three depending on Berggren making both free throws) with the shot clock turned off meaning Wisconsin would have to foul. Michigan goes back down court tied. I would much rather Burke make a hard foul to force Berggren to shoot free throws. Again, it’s about attitude. Be passive and hope the ref makes the call, or proactively make the other team beat you.
MY PERSONAL ANEURYSM OF LEADERSHIP MOMENTS
Against MSU in the first half when it was still a 10-12 point game and all hope was not lost Burke picked up his dribble against the sideline with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Hardaway Jr. was hanging out about 5 feet behind the three point line on the same side of the court as Burke. What he was going to do from that position I have no idea. The other Michigan players (all freshman, BTW) were properly spaced in the corner and on the other side of the court. The MSU defender immediately jumped Burke as the ref started counting the 5 second call. What happened? Nothing. That’s right nothing. Stauskas did not come to take the ball from Burke. Ok. Freshman. Hardaway (a Junior, not just Jr) was standing 10 feet away and continued standing there instead of helping his teammate out. I lost it. My 15 month old boy stood staring at the TV and his dad bewildered. The dog ran and hid under the table. The wife went to comfort the boy.
In the second half, when it was still a 16-18 point game with 12 minutes left, Valentine of MSU got a long rebound against the sideline. He was losing his balance and looking for someone to pass to. Stauskas was within 5 feet of him. Stauskas turned and ran back down court to play defense. Valentine regained his balance, came down court and Harris made an uncontested 3. The wife had taken the boy for his bath. The dog was still under the table.
This is about attitude. Do you jump at the opportunity to make a play or do you let opposing team dictate?
This is why I have concerns about this team for the tournament. Who will get that one point when you really need it without relying on a jump shot going in? Who will step up and make the other team react to your pressure?
One final point about attitude. I love Coach Beilein. I would want few others representing Michigan. On a whim I went to Google images and typed in Tom Izzo angry, Bill Self angry, Mike Krzyzewski angry, and John Beilein angry. Here’s what I got:
Seriously. Not kidding at all.
Friendly advice on a philosophy of watching college basketball from a Kansas grad:
Despite being a Michigan fan through-and-through, I attended KU as an undergrad. Why am I telling you this? Well, Mr. Spanish Inquisition, I am telling you this because it was while attending KU that I learned important lessons about following college basketball, lessons that I list below (and that you can of course take or leave). I've meant to post this at some point, and now seems as good a time as any given last night.
A quick note about KU: KU can lay claim to being the Michigan of college basketball. KU’s first coach, for example, was Dr. James Naismith himself, who course invented the game after the indoor dachshund fights that he had organized for his students led to the loss of a number of fingers and eyes. Kansas can also lay claim to Forrest “Phog” Allen (the father of basketball coaching), Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, and William S. Burroughs (the "Gentleman Junkie Jumpshooter"). More, KU has more than 2,000 college basketball victories, consistently dominates the Big 12 (and the Big 8 prior to that), has three national championships and numerous Final Fours to its name, and…you get the idea.
Naismith, moments before realizing that his over-sized ball fit into his basket:
KU fans have understandably high expectations for their team, and this is where the important point is for us: Hardcore Kansas fans are a largely joyless and unhappy bunch. The theory of hedonic adaptation posits (this is the short version) that humans will return to a certain baseline of happiness regardless of their circumstances, and, though hedonic adaptation is not universally recognized as a psychological reality, Jayhawk fans certainly seem exhibit it. They find little happiness in victories – even when those victories are in games that clinch a regular season conference championship or a conference tournament championship. These victories, after all, are expected. They happen most years. Kansas fans are accustomed to them, and what excitement is there in the status quo? The Kansas fan finds little to enjoy in the humdrum realities of simple excellence. Why should we clap when the sun comes up? It comes up every day.
KU fans suffer terribly, though, with almost any loss. Given that KU is supposed to win, it can only be the team’s own failures, the refs, or some cruel trickster god that could cause them to lose. Rarely is an opponent acknowledged as being better than the Jayhawks, and this leads to much hand wringing and gnashing of teeth among Kansas fans. Lose to Oklahoma State at home? How did that happen! Lose to Oklahoma? WTF – is this 1988? Lose to TCU? Is “TCU” even a thing?! These lows are rare, but they sting far more than the victories soothe, and they often last for the whole offseason. “There’s no success like failure,” Bob Dylan sang, “and failure is no success at all.”
Here is where my friendly advice comes to you, my fellow Michigan fans: Do not be like a Kansas fan. Think of every un-played game as a loss (it is, after all, not yet a win). Every game and every play must be won anew, and there is no guarantee at all that Michigan will win any of them. Remember that only five or six years ago Michigan was in the middle of a season that would see them lose to Harvard, Western Kentucky, and Central Michigan, all while winning only six Big Ten games. Remember that every team is like a snail walking on the edge of a straight razor, its destruction possible in any number of ways and its success possible in only a small few.
See this man for more on snails on straight razors:
Further, and for the love of all things holy, do not ever expect your team to make it to the Final Four. In 1996, Kansas fielded a 34-2 team that included Jacque Vaughn (2x consensus All-American), Raef Lafrentz (2x consensus All-American), and Paul Pierce (1x consensus All-American – and also Paul freakin’ Pierce). They promptly lost in the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas then went 35-4 the next year but lost in the second round to Rhode Island. Rhode Island! The tournament is chaos, and you cannot expect anything of chaos. Not even a juggernaut can expect safe sailing.
I imagine that someone will say, “We should expect nothing less than championships from Michigan, or we’ll never get them.” To this I say that we as fans don’t have to have those expectations. The players and coaches do, but we as fans are doing our part so long as we show up to all of the games and yell really loudly. No one will know it if we roll with the punches and savor even victories over the Penn States of the world.
I am not trying to comment here on the status of the Michigan basketball program or make any predictions about it. I am, though, encouraging Wolverine fans not to get caught up in Kansas Fan Syndrome, where success and the expectations that come with it lead to almost nothing but misery. Relish every win or even good play if you can and consider any defeat to be only a return to the likely state of things. Don’t suffer the pain of having your expectations torn down – instead have no expectations.
I should say one more time that I offer this as friendly advice (and I also don’t mean to imply that I’m always able to follow my own advice). And if you don’t find this helpful, well…that’s cool, man. Here are some of Naismith’s fighting dachshunds for your troubles:
(Click the Image to See Full Size Version)
I'd like to pre-emptively apologize to all of the Sparty fans who'll be sure to write in and complain that this is not at all how a sofa looks after it's been torched on a porch. I'm sorry-- I have no reference. I've never burned a couch, sofa or loveseat. Not even a futon.
I'd never make it as a Sparty... Thank you Jesus.
Friday Fun will involve me drawing something about Michigan athletics. I'll do it on Friday, and it might even be Fun.
Some new formatting news for the New Year:
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Wednesday here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
In December, Brian was nice enough to come to DC and do a question an event for the Washington, DCMichiganalumni group. There was a great turnout for the event. Some of this is really out of date (recruiting, New Years bowls, Lewan leaving), but some of it is still relevant.
In the off season, he is going to overhaul the blog and switch it to a magazine style layout so stories do not get lost as easily. Will also have "drill-down pages" for some of the smaller sports, softball, lacrosse, so that those sports don't get lost on the board.
Will eventually add a subscription model, the site will remain free, but subscription could offer no ads, a copy of Hail to the Victors, a tee shirt and discounts at Moe's.
Is going to do a basketball podcast in the winter, but probably not much more with the podcast. For a recruiting podcast, listen to him with Sam Webb.
When asked how much time do you spend on UFR - he just said a lot.
Said 8-4 was fine, about what people expected, keeps the momentum going on for the program. Pointed out that everyone has been worried about Denard getting hurt for 3 years and when it did, Gardnerwas able to step in. Gardnerwas much better than the coaches thought he would be - and everyone else I guess. Brian had a great line about Denard, said he will not be the best Michiganplayer of all time, but he will be a lot of people's favorite Michiganplayer.
Next year, the defense, assuming they can replace his binky, Jordan Kovacs, will be in great shape. Was impressed Quinton Washington, thinks Pipkins will back him up, although he will play a lot of downs. Thoughts Pipkins was bad this year because he lacked technique, and pointed out he got pancaked by a running back, but Brian thinks he will be really good as an upperclassman, said his faith is in part from the Heininger Certainty Principle - Heininger went from a liability to a strength on the team because of the coaching and the technique he learned. Brian believes that will be there as long as the defensive coaches are there. Brian thinks that linebacker will be a strength with three quality players in the mix. Likes Ross a lot once he bulks up.
The offense line will be the question mark next year having to start 3 freshman. But was pleasantly surprised by the development of Michael Schofield who should not be a disaster in place of Lewan. Said it says a lot about the end of Carr recruiting and Rodriguez recruiting. Thinks once all of Hoke's recruits are in place, team will be in a position to compete for national titles. The difference going forward is attrition will be for guys not getting playing time not simply leaving the team because they didn't get along with the coaches or coaching changes. Looking forward to freshman TE Jake Butt and RB DeVeon Smith (and Green if he commits). Things the pro style offense could look like Stamfordor New England. In the New Englandversion, Jake Butt and Devin Funchess play the roles of Gronk and Hernandez. Doesn't think WR will be that great. Didn't know about the redshirt for Gardner, but thought the staff should try and redshirt Morris next year, but burn it before putting Bellomy back out there, unless up 50 points, then put in Kennedy.
Thinks there will be a ten year war with Ohio- and guessed that Michiganwould go 4-6 (including this year). I asked if that meant Urban was the better coach and he said Ohiohas natural recruiting advantages and we would see.
Said we need to give the coaches (read Borges) two to three years to get their own players, switch to a pro-style offense before can accurately judge them. The worst criticisms about Borges that we have are probably not valid yet. Pointed out the most legitimate criticism was how badly the missed on Belomy and Gardner. They see both guys in practice and thought that Belomy was a legitimate option and Gardnerwas not. Noted that kicking game (save for kickers) was really bad and that the coverage was not good. Not sure why the staff has not adapted. Also questioned why they are huddling so long, thinks you lose something by taking that long, getting set and allowing the defense to sub in.
Despite the above, the staff are really highly thought of, tight-knit group. His sources said the staff was night and day compared to the coaches under Rodriguez. Really professional group of guys, great teachers.
Said the real battle will be when Mattison retires (he thought it might happen after a big ten title or Rose Bowl win), who will take the DC position. Said it probably comes down to Curt Mallory, the DB coach and Jerry Montgomery, the DL coach. Whoever is elevated, if they do a good job, would be the internal candidate to take over for Hoke in 10-12 years. Said after Bielema left is even happier about Hoke.
Bielema led to a discussion about paying coaches, Brian said it came down to priorities, Arkansas and Wisconsin have almost the same athletic department budget, but Arkansas willing to pay more, especially for assistant coaches. Wisconsin has the money chose not to. Reflection on the SEC/Big Ten - Mississippi State has 8 teams, Ohio State has 40+ including a rifle club. He also mocked the crew team having an indoor rowing facility, thought they should be outside.
Oh, Brian thinks the big ten will go winless in the bowl season.
Doesn't look good for Treadwell, but may be in good shape on Green, just because every other school fired their coach and Miamiis Miami. Thinks they might be in good shape with Conley and Dawson. If Conley commits, he might end up at WR, especially if Mike McCray's teammate, Reon Dawson, signs with Michigan. He hopes that the staff will pursue Eldridge Massington, who recently decommitted from USC. The staff wants to add a linebacker because one of the young linebackers might be leaving the program for medical reasons.
Brian loves Stauskas - even more than appears on the blog. He is also delighted that the NBA does not focus on a player with his skill set so he will be a "foundational" player for the next couple of years. Impressed with how much Hardaway changed his game during the off season. Pointed out that people have really stepped up after Douglass and Novak (the aneurysm of leadership) left. Specifically mentioned McGary as a leader of the freshman, didn't complain that he wasn't starting, went to the older players and asked what he should do. Compared McGary to a puppy.
Brian is very excited about this team - final four caliber - but also the direction of the program. Sees the strength of the team on offense, hard to double team guys when there are so many offensive weapons. Thinks the weakness is on defense, young team, not great shot-blockers, slow on rotations. Going to lose Big Ten games, like to Indianabecause of defensive liabilities.
Brian is very impressed with Beilein, including his ability to change up his style, moving from a 1-3-1to man, adapting to the team's strengths, like more alley-oops this year. Says Beilein reminds him of a chemistry teacher - compared him to Walter White on the first episode of Breaking Bad without the meth or cancer. Also very high on the assistants, including Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan. Thinks that they could be head coaching material, but will probably stay to see how this group of players develop.
Odds and Ends
Brian was depressed and didn't want to talk about hockey, said real chance they will miss the NCAAs. Not sure why, the team has talent. Did say the goal keepers we not to blame as much you might think. Was asked a question about Red if he was going to be pushed out, said that Red was the Hockey Bo, could stay as long as he wanted, but would step away if it came to that.
Brian is not a fan of expansion, and did a straw poll with 80% of the audience against it. His ideal expansion plan would be to go to 20 and have everyone that joined in 1990 or later be in the other division and he could forget about them. He also doesn't think the big ten people really have a clue, both for the future of television and how the conference should be aligned. Brian thought the future was a la carte with only the true fans paying for football on cable, and grandma watching matlock on netflix. If that is the case, Rutgers, even though they are in NYC, doesn't make a lot of sense, they do not have a passionate fan base. Brian noted that Louisville is in a much smaller media market, but they are the only game in town and have a huge fan base.
For alignment, Brian pointed out there is a major problem with Michigan and Ohio in different divisions - if they are playing for the big ten title the week following the Game, do they play as hard, do they not show the whole bag of tricks, or rest starters? Would be a de facto division championship if they were in the division.
Regarding Dave Brandon, he said that the Hoke hire was great, but everything else is reducing the program and the experience. Said that he doesn't want to see a Lions game at Michigan Stadium, that Michigan is unique and Brandon is turning it into something generic. Would tell him not to make Michigan into pizza if he could talk to him. He pointed out that we do not watch college sports because it is the best product that is the pros, but there is something special about college sports.
We spend so much time on college football recruiting. Ace works on it full time, and the Mathlete uses it in his models. If you don't believe how much MGoBlog readers care, check out the comments on Ace's post today.