Joseph Dressler / MGoBlog
An inextricable tenet of common basketball ideology is this: teams - or franchises, in the NBA’s case - become a possessive. The Lakers are Kobe Bryant’s team. They were once Magic Johnson’s team. The Warriors are Steph Curry’s team; the Cavaliers are LeBron’s team; the Knicks are Carmelo Anthony’s team. The list goes on.
Perhaps no other major American sport (save for professional football and the almighty quarterback) has a construct that elevates a player to the level of king among men like that. In college hoops, there is the Cult of Coaching - that is, the masterminds who attract those leaders are often worshipped far more than are the on-court leaders themselves. John Wooden (the archetype), Coach K, Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and yes, even John Beilein (who has won the degree of job security given to the aforementioned coaches) are the gods and the players are their kings, bestowed with divine right.
As an example, look no further than Michigan’s royal lineage over the last couple of years. The reign of Darius Morris lasted only one jaunty season before he abdicated his throne to journey on towards the NBA; Trey Burke eventually became the best in the country towards the end of his kingship and came tantalizingly close to a national title; Nik Stauskas rekindled the arrogance and bravado of the Morris era and championed one of the most dazzling offenses in recent memory. Caris LeVert was anointed as Nik’s successor -- in basketball parlance, he had next.
* * *
Even though the Wolverines have struggled often this season, Caris has done well (with a few glaring exceptions). Following up Burke and Stauskas -- two former conference players of the year -- was an unenviable task, but Caris has been decent enough and has shown the type of pro potential that makes him a projected first-rounder and an obvious candidate for early entry.
Jamal Crawford only played a partial season as a Wolverine, but the parallels between he and LeVert are too obvious to ignore. Caris’s offensive game -- his only game, really, as his length is underutilized in wing defense far too often (and whether that’s due to a lack of physical maturity or plain indifference is hard to tell) -- is decidedly Crawfordesque: though Beilein’s system typically discourages it, Caris seems compelled to draw into one-on-one battles with a defender, where his length and dizzying array of quick dribbles, crossovers, and jab-steps often allow some space to blow by whichever poor kid is in front of him. It’s a labor intensive process, and too often it seems as if challenging a rotating big man at the hoop is simply too much.
Caris channels the ghost of Wolverine Crawford in other ways: he’s a good shooter with a quick release from outside, either off the catch or off the dribble; he plays well in the pick-and-roll and can sometimes draw both defenders to him and lay it off to the big man; he has plus floor vision at the two-guard spot and makes the tough skip pass to the opposite corner when necessary; and he’s a microwave much like Crawford, building confidence and aggressiveness with each consecutive make.
Ace was kind enough to put together a gif of all of Caris’s makes from the critical win over Penn State:
The first was a simple catch-and-shoot corner three, something Caris will be looked to make often at the next level; the second was a nice pull-up long two that left Shep Garner in the dust; the third, another catch-and-shoot three, this time from the wing; the fourth, a Kobe Bryant shot fake to a smooth jumper that shook Ross Travis; the fifth, a nice drive past John Johnson (after hitting him with an array of quick crossovers) to a floater off glass; the sixth, a quick stop-and-pop that left Donovan Jack with no chance to contest.
Despite his flaws – Caris’s defense is not where it could be, given his length and lateral quickness, and he’s hesitant to attack the rim in the halfcourt when he could be challenged at the rim – he’s a solid prospect. Behind surefire one-and-dones Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, he might be the best wing prospect in the upcoming draft because of his plus size at the two-guard spot, his ability to break down defenders with his handle, and his outside shooting. We might only get another three months of LeVert as a Wolverine.
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To state the obvious, this season has been a disappointment. Michigan’s customarily blistering offense has looked stagnant and has been prone to bouts of cold shooting; Kam Chatman hasn’t been able to fill Glenn Robinson’s vacancy at the four; Michigan’s corps of big men have been underwhelming as a whole (even if Ricky Doyle has shown good things); Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton have been injured and Michigan’s struggled to get consistent production from the point guard spot.
In all fairness, Caris has contributed to the disappointment as well – although, notably, he still leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Against NJIT, he put the team on his back to the tune of 32 points (on just 18 FGA) and Michigan still lost; but in other losses against Eastern Michigan, Arizona, SMU, and Purdue, he scored ten points or fewer, often inefficiently. It’s too reductive to place those losses squarely on Caris, but still, better performances (particularly against Eastern and SMU) might have made all the difference.
There’s another key point: Caris is still extremely young. He doesn’t turn 21 until next August, and it’s abundantly clear that his game is still very much a work in progress. His last name – LeVert – translates into French as “The Green” and Caris The Green is still as inexperienced and immature (physically speaking) as his name would suggest. Development can and does happen at the next level; Caris’s game (and his wiry frame) will grow over the next several years for whichever NBA team is fortunate enough to land him in the draft.
It’s tough in the here and now, though. Unfair amounts of criticism tend to fall on a team’s best player, and with Michigan’s rickety path towards NCAA Tournament contention, there might be more noise with each successive loss. The exodus of NBA talent has finally caught up with the Wolverines – it was probably naïve to assume that Michigan would reload with sufficient reinforcements (without recruiting at the type of level that keeps a continual pipeline of NBA talent).
In the end, it looks like what may possibly be the only season with Caris LeVert’s Michigan will wind up in disappointment,as Michigan enters into a brief rebuilding phase after the euphoric highs of the past few seasons. Here’s to enjoying Caris’s particular style in the meantime however, as it might be another decade-and-a-half before another player like him suits up in the Maize and Blue again. Any reprise of the 2011 surge into the NCAA Tournament would only add to his story.
Do not read if you only care about the next 2 years - Michigan football will be a veteran group. However, due to the disaster class of 2010 and resulting imbalanced classes the 2017 squad could be among the youngest we've seen in a while. Hence the 2015 and 2016 classes will be critical to make 2017 (2018) a success; we need both the correct positions filled, and a great majority of those players to "hit".
Below is a table showing each position and who on the current roster + the six 2015 commits fits into those positions (excluding kickers). As I was doing my position by position analysis for 2015-2016 I unfortunately noticed some serious "donut holes" (i.e. upperclassmen not followed by a bevy of underclassmen) in quite a few spots, bringing up some similar worries to the 2013-2014 OL situation.
Per the MGo depth chart here is how many openings we currently have in each recruiting class (of course there will be attrition to increase the #s) but it showcases the massive departures post 2016.
- 2015: 12 (this assumes both Glasgows and Kerridge get scholarships as they should and accounts for Bosch/Ferns departues) - 6 spots are already filled
- 2016: 17
- 2017: 26(!)
- 2018: 18
Put another way 43 (17+26) current scholarship players will use up eligibility by the end of 2016. That's 50% of the roster - and it's not far away. Hence a very young 2017 squad. Normally it would be something closer to 38-42%.
Again reverse engineering:
- A 2015 recruit will be either be a true JR or RS SO in 2017 - that's fine, but currently we only have room for 12 of them and 1 is a kicker.
- A 2016 recruit will be either a true SO or RS FR in 2017, not ideal for front line starter especially for line play or places like safety.
So a lot of the 2015 and 2016 recruits will be playing in 2017 with those class designations just due to vacancies.
|FB||1||Above Ave||W. Shallman|
|WR||6||Average||J. Dukes, R. Douglas, F. Canteen,|
|D. Harris, M. Ways, B. Cole|
|TE||2||Above Ave||K. Hill, I. Bunting|
|OT||5||Average||M. Cole, C. Fox, LTT, JBB, G. Newsome|
|OG||3||Above Ave||D. Dawson, D. Samuelson, J. Runyan|
|C||1||Above Ave||P. Kugler|
|NT||2||Urgent||B. Mone, B. Pallante|
|DE||2||Urgent||H. Poggi, L. Marshall|
|LB||4||Above Ave||M. McCray, C. Winovich, N. Furbush,|
|CB||3||Above Ave||R. Dawson, J. Peppers, B. Watson|
Surprising areas of concern - DTs and RBs.
- I've been in the camp that this class is so small we don't need a RB. I was wrong. We have 1 - count him - 1 RB on the roster for 2017. You need 3 to account for injuries and competition. Due to small class size can only take 1 this year but we probably need 2 next year to account for 1 of those 3 not "hitting".
- Our DTs are loaded for 2015-2016. But they almost all go away by end of 2016. For some reason we were not recruiting this position under Hoke for the 2015 class. (Swim lanes Brady! Swim lanes!) Do we really want RS FR or true SO starters on the interior of the line? It's not ideal - we've been overpowered there so often the past 2 years. We need a 2015 DT who will be a true JR or RS SO in 2017. And the 2016 class of DTs - probably 3 of them - will be primary backups even as true SO or RS FR. This all assumes Mone doesn't blow up the next 2 years and goes pro. In that case, well it gets worse.
Major areas of concern - S and DE, CB*
- No surprise on the DEs. With the misses of Hand, McDowell (who is probably more of a DT down the road), and now Roseboro we are thin in 2015 (4 DEs on roster), and very thin in 2016 (3). An urgent need for both the 2015 AND 2016 recruiting classes.
- S is scary. Again boggling why we stopped recruiting Montae Nicholson. At this point Kinnel is starting in 2017 no matter how good he is and his running mate at the other S is a blank space. If we don't have room for a 2nd safety in 2015 it will be a true SO or RS FR from 2016's class next to Kinnel - ugh. Assuming Kinnel is not a miss. And those 2 guys will be backed up by solely class of 2016 guys in 2017. The first solution coming to mind is "convert some corners" - well we don't have any to convert - we are thin at corner too!
- CB* - I am placing this here because of the increased reliance on 3 CB defensive sets... and Peppers. If Peppers leaves for the NFL you basically have 2 CBs - Brandon Watson and Reon Dawson. For 3 spots (incl a nickelback). That math doesn't work. We need 5 to account for flameouts and injuries. We will be young herein 2017 - again.
Hate to say it but some attrition in the next few weeks would do the balance of the depth chart between years some good in the long term.
Ignoring names here is what is most urgent in the 2015 class in the remaining 6 slots. I am creating an "up to" 9 slots for an "up to" 15 person class, assuming "up to"3 attritions from here. I mean we are not going to say no to Clark and TE is a need but in the big picture unfortunately we have needs even greater than TE (not that TE is not a need, we only have 2 of those in 2017)
- S #2 (S #1 is Kinnel)
- DE #1 (was Roseboro)
- DT #1
- CB #1 (was Taylor or Crawford)
- RB #1 (was Weber)
- LB #1 (was Kirkland Jr)
- CB #2 (was Taylor or Crawford)
- DE #2
- Best available player - Clark
*No room for a 2nd OG - this means Dawson, Samuleson Runyan are your only choices for 2 starters in 2017 unless we have a RS FR starting from the 2016 class. Not preferred.
*No room for a 2nd LB to provide competition and account for injuries and flameouts. So the 2016 LBs - true SO or RS FR will be at minimum key backups. People want to convert Furbush to fix the DE issue but we have a LB issue too - 4 guys for 3 slots.
*No room for a center so if Kugler is a flameout or is hurt not sure what we do here - you would normall say "convert a guard" but we only will have 3 of those so it's a class of 2016 RS FR or true SO backing up Kugler.
*No room for a FB on a manball team. In theory you could get a walkon in 2015 but for now it's Shallman backed up by a class of 2016 FB in 2017.
The curse of the 2010 class continues to haunt us.
The second part of the scheme, we are going to look at the Florida State game. While I focused on the front 7 in the Alabama's post, I'm going to focus on the exotic parts of Durkin's game in this post. As usual Durkin ran the 3-4 under on almost every 1st down. It's on 3rd down against a NFL ready QB is where Durkin convinced me he is going to be a HC one day. He played the ultimate game of chess against Jameis, and as a coach should he won every single time. When I say he was always one step ahead, he was. He knew what checks Jameis would resort too based of off previous knowledge, and had the perfect counter every single time.
In this game they assigned the Sam to follow the Tight End post huddle who happened to be their second leading receiver on the season. Creating what you would call a normal 3-4 Over look, but the Defensive Line and Line Backers never shift out of the normal 3-4 Under alignment, and if the Tight End motions post snap the Sam never follows. Durkin has learned from that Alabama game, and I didn't see him have his LB following a motioned Tight End the rest of the season, he got beat deep on the first play of Alabama game, and never allowed his defense to be beat that way again.
Okay, on the first 3rd & 6 Jameis is facing a front he hasn’t seen from Florida.. Florida has the Defensive End standing, and have put the Mike right on top of the Center. Showing a heavy pressure look but a completely even one blitzing wise. You have what you call immediate threats, each side had two with the Mike in the middle. Once Jameis makes his blitz protection calls and switches the blitz pickup, Florida shifts into a completely different look, bringing 7 in the box, overloading the right side of the Offensive Line. This creates a situation where the Left Tackle & Running Back doubles a Defensive End, the Center & Left Guard doubling the Nose Tackle, and the Right Guard being left to block both the Mike & Will. This almost forces an interception, and but settled on being a 3 & Out.
On the very next drive Jameis is facing a 3rd and 8, and Florida again comes out in the look they showed on the previous drive. FSU comes out in a Bunch Left look which should based on the pre-snap look should flood the middle. Florida only rushes 3 while FSU only sends out 3 WR's, the numbers every coach wants. Florida does what I like to call Charka defense, it’s where the LB’s play three level of zones directly on top of each other. They have one spy and then blitz, one play shallow for quick posts and then blitz, and one plays man to man on the first WR who crosses into his zone. He throws an interception to the deep post who had ran a deeper route than Jameis expected because of how crowded the middle was.
On the next drive Jameis facing a 3rd and 11 sees the same front he's faced the previous 3rd downs. He goes to the Line of Scrimmage checks out, because of how bad it was I'm not sure what he checked into. Florida only sends four and has immediate a-gap pressure from the who is there almost as soon as Jameis catches the snap. He manages to break the sack and just throws it away, causing another 3 and Out with a win on 3rd down.
And finally, facing 3rd & Goal, Durkin comes out in the same pre-snap look as he have before. FSU comes out in an empty look, the Sam that has been following the Tight End in coverage all game is assigned to blitz this time, with the Free Safety asked to roll over and play Man to Man on the Tight End. Jameis comes up to identify the Sam & Will shifting his entire OL to the left to accommodate pending blitz. The Mike comes free, every WR is covered, Jameis just makes a tough throw to the TE scoring a TD. This was a perfect defensive call, and on 4 consecutive 3rd and distance Durkin called up the same front and ran 4 different defenses. With 1 Interception, 2 Incompletion, and 1 TD(on an impossibly hard catch), I believe he confused the most NFL ready QB since Luck. He knew Jameis had the ability to change protection schemes, and used that as his advantage.
This is my first diary, I am sorry if the up to par. I'll attempt to get better with each one I make explaining things in better detail, or simplifying things if need be. Or futhering explinations on others.
Since JH was hired, I have spent time watching Florida game film seeing what type of defense Durkin might run. While everything you've read on him online says he runs a 4-3 scheme, from the tape I've watched I've come to the conclusion this is a 3-4 Under scheme almost akin to what the 49ers ran. I heavily broke down Florida's games against Alabama, Missouri, Florida State, and East Carolina to see how they've handled the four main offensive systems in football. A smash mouth run game, a spread passing attack, a pro style route tree, and a no huddle offense. I'll start this by showing his tape against Alabama.
What I've noticed is he doesn't deviate from 4 basic coverages. Quarters, Cover 3 Press, Cover 1, and his favorite blitz is the Fire Blitz from the QB's blind side. He hardly ever runs Man Under, Tampa 2, or Cover 0. He values speed and isn't against running a 3-4 with 3-3-5 personnel. After the first touchdown by Alabama, I found him running 3-3-5 personnel, on around 75% of the snaps, occasionally using a 4-2-5. While they'll never call it that, I expect the 3-3-5 to be Michigan's most used personnel grouping in 2015. I hope that doesn't scare anyone because this was one of the most fundementally sound defenses I've seen. I seen few blitzes out of him, he sent 3 on more snaps than he sent 5 on. He makes that up by changing which 4 he sends and by rotating out his players a lot. It's not
On Alabama's first snap of the game they broke with 11 personnel, which is 3 WR's, 1 TE, and 1 RB. They created a twist by showing a Empty look, and then motioned the TE to the opposite side and the Mike followed him in man coverge and was out of place immediately post snap. They were in a Cover 1 with the Sam & RCB playing Press, and the LCB and FS playing off. Alabama runs a screen to the right with the TE and RB with the opposite side doing what the defense presumes to be a Shallow Cross. The Mike who was assigned to spy Sims dropping back to take away the first read, and the screen being well covered, Kenyan Drake ran a well timed double move route beating the cheating LCB and SS deep for an 87 yard touch down. The SS being out of position stemmed from the motion pre-snap, he looked there immediately post snap becoming flat footed and out of position deep.
On Alabama's third drive of the game they faced a 2nd and 3. As usual with Alabama they rolled out a 6th OL and a TE in the pistol. Florida responded with their usual 3-4 Under look, but with a unique twist they subsituted a LB for a safety in the box. They also only had 10 men on the field for this snap. That doesn't matter as much because this play is a schametic marvel. Alabama is running a Run, Option, Hitch play. Where Sims can hand it off, keep it for an option, or throw a quick out/hitch to either WR. They crash of all their LB's into the gaps and left the WR's on man to man coverage. Instead of press, they back up the CB's almsot forcing Sims to throw the quick out which is the correct read based on the defensive look he was seeing at the time. But, to his surprise the subbed FS immediately pull up, and the CB crashes causing what should be an automatic first down just a 2 yard gain.
Later in the game facing 2 WR - 2 TE - 1 RB, Florida comes out in the 3-4 Under look again, once again with an FS subbed in as a LB. Once again the LB's play sound gap technique forcing only a 2 yard run on an inside zone. Alabama calls a no huddle, and runs a play action off ot the inside zone which the FS immediately sniffs out playing perfect contain on Sims getting 5 yards of penetration as soon as the fake was done. This forced blake to nervously throw the ball away which was tipped and intercepted by Florida's defense. Subbing in the speed of a FS to play contain absolutely amazing adjustment against a team that was running Inside Zone and showing Empty looks out of the same 11 personnel.
Finally,in a tied game on a 1st and 10 Alabama ran no huddle after a 3rd and 1 pickup with 6 Offensive Linemen, a TE, 2 WR's, and a RB. Florida responded by bringing 9 in the box, arguably 10. Once again the FS is playing as a LB in his 3-4 under alignment. Blake audibles out of the run into a play action. I find this play interesting because not one player became flat footed and fell for the play fake. The Ends pinned their ears back and rushed down field, and the LB's immediately went into coverage. As Sims is finishing his 7 step drop back, the end meets him 10 yards in the backfield on his blind side. He ends up sacking Sims while the rest of the defense plays a Quarter with inside releases forcing the entire play to develop inside of the hash marks keeping sims relatively simple, but also garuanteeing he stays within the pocket.
Whoever the Quarterback is at Michigan, Harbaugh will teach him that “He needs to win at everything he does”.
He made it, and Maryland won the game (source)
Your Weekly B1G Hoops Column
Table of Contents:
Week I results
Introducing the Big Ten Schedule Matrix
Team of the week: Maryland
Player of the week: Jarrod Uthoff
Stat of the week: Melo’s free throw parade
Post-Week I Big Ten standings
Michigan’s week that was
Michigan’s week ahead
Week II schedule
1. Week I Results
After the first week of Big Ten play, there’s a little more clarity. Wisconsin dispatched Penn State and Northwestern with ease in what were the two biggest blowouts of the week. Maryland managed a double-overtime win in East Lansing over Michigan State – even if it isn’t a vintage Spartan team, it’s still a very impressive Big Ten debut for UMD – and Iowa came away with a road upset over Ohio State in two of the more notable results of the week.
Elsewhere, Purdue defended its home court with back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Michigan; Penn State lost two on the road (including an ugly game against Rutgers at the RAC – Rutgers had lost a similarly hideous contest earlier in the week to Northwestern) and tripled their loss total on the year in the process; Illinois also lost both games of a tough road swing against Michigan and Ohio State – they let the one in Ann Arbor slip away; Minnesota started their season on a two-game road trip and lost both, to Purdue and Maryland.
At the end of the week, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Purdue are the only teams sitting at 2-0. The newcomers have been the most impressive, as Wisconsin faced weak opponents, and Purdue held serve at home.
2. Introducing the Big Ten Schedule Matrix
Over the weekend, I threw together a handy way to visualize which teams only play an opponent only once this season, when two opponents play each other at a give location, and how a team does at home or on the road, among other things.
As the season progresses, the graphic will become much more informative, but it’s a convenient reference point and will be a weekly fixture in this space.
Click on image to enlarge
3. Team of the week: Maryland
Winning at the Brez isn’t easy; Maryland did it on their first try (source)
With apologies to Wisconsin – who overwhelmed two far inferior opponents and posted the week’s two highest points per possession totals – Maryland deserves this spot after winning in East Lansing and holding off Minnesota at home.
The game against Michigan State was a slog. From the 15-minute mark to the 5-minute mark in the
second first half, the Terrapins outscored the Spartans 4-2, concurrently one of the roughest offensive stretches that either team will see all season; MSU recovered to lead 17-14 at halftime (the aggregate score of the two overtimes – in ten minutes – was 20-18, Maryland).
Aside from that, it was a surprisingly great, back-and-forth game that featured a few amazing plays from Maryland senior Dez Wells, who hit a last-second, game-tying three pointer at the end of regulation and had a beautiful steal and breakaway dunk in the second OT (both highlights in this video). There were enough high-leverage plays near the end of regulation and in both overtimes – enough to make up for the brutal first half and the teams’ combined jump-shooting (0.54 points per shot on 84 attempts) – to make it a good game, in the end.
Dez Wells and Melo Trimble is looking like the conference’s best backcourt: key plays from Wells and nine made free throws from Trimble helped steal the win against Michigan State, and the duo combined for 32 points in the game against Minnesota. Most impressive against the Terrapins was Damonte Dodd: in 20 minutes, the big man scored an efficient nine points, hauled in 12 rebounds, and had 3 blocks. The Terps opened up a 11-2 run to open the second half and pull away from the Gophers on Saturday.
Right now, Maryland looks like Wisconsin’s best challenger. They don’t travel to Madison and they’re currently projected to finish 13-5 in the league by Kenpom’s algorithm (though Wisconsin, incredibly, is projected to finish 16-2). UMD is balanced – 30th offensively, 25th defensively, per KP – and although their defense may regress some due to their untenably outstanding 3-point defense, they’ll be a tough out for anyone in their first year in the Big Ten.
[Hit the JUMP for No. 4-10]