This is a big, huge, bighuge big week for Michigan basketball. If you've been following UMHoops.com you are probably aware of all of this, but in short:
- Beilein is hosting a wide array '09, '10, and '11 prospects this week at various camps.
- California point guard Darius Morris is making a visit.
Morris, a point guard who's #64 in the Rivals 100 and upwardly mobile, has been saying all the right things for going on six months now; this is the big week. The LA Times:
Michigan has had to be considered one of the favorites to land a verbal commitment from Darius Morris of Windward for quite sometime now, especially since his father had so many good things to say about the Wolverines and what they had to offer his son in this blog, back toward the end of April.
That said, it shouldn't come as a big surprise to learn there's a plan for Morris to visit Ann Arbor on June 29-30, according to quotes. The 6-foot-3 junior point guard has offers from Oregon St., Washington St. and USC. Other programs expressing interest include Arizona, Kentucky and Texas.
Morris is a huge recruit for Michigan basketball. He's a top-50-ish PG from across the country and would be the biggest recruit John Beilein has ever landed. He's Daniel Horton, except this time he'd be committing to the guy widely believed to be the best strategic coach in the country. Landing him would go a long way towards dispelling the perception that Beilein will only recruit six-foot white guys with peanut allergies.
If Morris commits, Michigan will be looking for a high profile wing to round out the class. UMHoops provides the lowdown.
Also, anyone got 40 million lying around?
According to a Crisler Arena infrastructure report recently completed for the university by architectural firm Jicking Lyman Powell Associates, renovating Crisler Arena could cost more than $46.7 million.
The report estimates the cost of a new practice facility at $20.5 million, bringing the cost of overhauling and building to approximately $67.2 million.
Shouldn't this check be bigger? I thought it was an iron-clad rule that any check made out for more than $9,999 had to be at least three feet long. Apparently not:
The OHL Draft is coming up this weekend, which is of relevance to Michigan fans because it will clarify where various college-interested recruits stand. First rounders are not likely to end up in college; talented players who slip significantly are. There are a bunch of targets out there but the main guys to keep an eye on are the two draft-eligible commitments, center Jared Knight and defenseman Jon Merrill.
The OHL Prospects magazine has a semi-useful scouting report on Knight:
JARED KNIGHT RC
Ht: 5.09 Wt: 170 lbs 1/16/1992 Home: Battle Creek, MI
Detroit Compuware U16
Scouting Report: Knight is a highly skilled forward who has shown a consistent willingness to play in both ends of the ice. He plays the game a lot bigger than his actual size, competing at a high level game in and game out. He always shows up to play, no matter the situation or the score. He is an excellent skater that possesses speed and quickness. He has that elusive extra gear that he can utilize too.
"Always shows up" is not particularly useful information, but FWIW.
Ht: 6.02 Wt: 175 lbs 2/3/1992 Home: Brighton, MI
Detroit Little Caesars
GP G A PTS PIM
- - - - -
Scouting Report: Merrill is an extremely talented offensive minded defensemen who plays a very high risk, high reward style of game. He is an excellent skater, possessing great mobility and a very smooth and effortless stride. He displays speed and quickness while showing the ability to move in all four directions equally well. His speed and quickness allows him to take away time and space in a heartbeat and his lateral mobility is outstanding.
Sounds like a non-Godzilla version of Jack Johnson.
Bob Miller's latest article on Michigan's recruiting says the current plan for both Merrill and Knight, along with uber-commit Luke Moffatt, a 2007 first-round pick of Kelowna, is to play for the NTDP the next two years, then hit Yost. Both eligible players would be obvious first round selections if not for their plans to go to Michigan. Merrill is ranked the #2 player available by ISS, while Miller says four separate OHL teams guaranteed Knight a first round slot if he would commit to playing for them.
Four Michigan targets are also draft-eligible; I'll relate what goes down with them next week.
A little of the old in and out. Ekpe Udoh remains at large, maybe transferring, maybe not transferring. Meanwhile, Beilein -- get this -- might be tracking down a top-100, four star point guard from California:
Darius Morris is a basketball player recruiting services such as Rivals.com and Scout.com are enamored with, ranking the junior from Windward among the top 100 prospects in the country and one of the top 15 point guards in the nation. The recognition is warranted too.
Michigan knows this all too well, having kept in constant contact with Morris for quite sometime now, even offering him a scholarship along the way. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines are considered the early front-runner to win his services, according to these quotes.
The "quotes" link goes to a premium Rivals story; suffice it to say that this LA Times blog post ends "it appears as if everyone is trailing Michigan at this point." If Beilein can reel the kid in Morris would be his highest-rated recruit ever.
(For some reason the embedding on these MGoBlue videos doesn't seem to work on the site sometimes; if you can't see anything above, here's a direct link.)
Speaking of Michigan S&
C, a couple readers forwarded along this remarkable passage from the Sports Illustrated vault:
O.K., Mel. Let's give it a try. How about...Greg Skrepenak, enormous offensive tackle, University of Michigan? "The bottom line on Greg Skrepenak, in my opinion, is that he wasn't the true dominant lineman he should have been," says Kiper. "He's not a strong lineman; he's 315 pounds. 320. but he's not doing the 25 reps |he's not bench-pressing 225 pounds the requisite 25 times], he's not attacking and burying people at the line of scrimmage. He only did 16 reps at the scouting-combine workouts, but the problem is at the strength program at Michigan, where they do a lot of machine lifting instead of free weights.... I think Skrepenak will be better once he gets in the NFL than he appears now, which means that someone like the Bears, picking in the latter part of Round One, could be interested in bringing in a guy like that."
Here, Mel was right on: Skrepenak went at the top of the second and took a while before breaking into the Raiders' starting lineup. (He's now the chairman of the Luzerne County board of commissioners, BTW... another life sadly wrecked by the Michigan football program's callous disregard for its players.)
It is always so. Most criticisms of drafting and recruiting rankings boil down to -- as SMQB eloquently puts it -- "Experts suck because Tom Brady," using anecdotes in place of research because research is hard and yammering away is easy. But, like... research:
I've seen versions of these graphs for anything that has a draft -- there was an especially good one for the NHL that I, regretfully, cannot locate -- and they all look remarkably similar: a logarithmic dropoff from a super-high starting point.
Hey... Buzz Bissinger! That was pretty crazy, huh? I've read a lot of stuff about it, but I'm really waiting for Rock M Nation's opinion.
Bleah. Sick day taken. Enjoy this 1/3rd of a UV; I'll be back monday.
I shoot them in the head.* UMHoops points to two pieces on St. John's transfer Larry Wright, a 40% three-point shooter from Saginaw who's returning home after two years in NYC. He'll be going to school somewhere in state, according to Eric Lacey:
"He told me he doesn't want to leave the state of Michigan," said Dawkins, who has already spoken to Oakland coach Greg Kampe about Wright. "So that's a good sign."
Wright is returning to Michigan because his mother has had serious back surgery and will attempt to get a waiver to play next year. Is he Big Ten caliber? Failing that, is he Michigan caliber? (ZING!) St John's hoops blog East Coast Bias thinks so:
St. John's fans are pissed. PISSED, because we're losing Larry Wright. He was on his way to becoming a cult hero; but unlike other fan favorites, this isn't a case of that scrappy walk-on kid who plays tough defense and just makes plays. Larry Wright was possibly the team's best scorer and certainly the most accurate shooter, and the justifiable focus of the fans/ message boards' "Free Larry Wright" posts.
There's much, much more in a gargantu-post on Wright; his game sounds like a good fit for Beilein's system:
As for Larry's game, he shoots deep shots in the flow of the offense and doesn't overdribble. If he doesn't have his shot, he looks for the next man. He tends to shoot from around the top of the key, but last year his some of his memorable shots from the corner (I think the Notre Dame game, his last shot was from the right corner? Correct me if wrong). When he gets the ball, he seems ready to shoot or drive, and if he's blanketed, he doesn't force it. he doesn't take his man off the dribble often, but he's probably quick enough to do so. ...
Larry Wright isn't the second coming. He is a role player, for sure, and limited in some ways; but that role is an essential one for every single basketball team; the guy who can score in bunches and won't hurt you in other ways on the court. He could be a potential star and with more regular time, I expect his outside shooting percentages to go up.
Michigan needs a shooter. Correction: Michigan needs 3-5 shooters. Wright appears to be a shooter and got 9 PPG in under 20 minutes in the Big East. He's going to a school in the state of Michigan. Git er done.**
*(reference explanation: I used to watch David Letterman in high school. Once, Laurence Fishburne was on the show promoting his latest gangster movie and somehow the conversation turned to if he preferred "Laurence" or "Larry," he obviously said "Laurence." Letterman asked "what do you do to people who call you Larry?" and Fishburne replied "I shoot them in the head.")
**(you have permission to shoot me in the head.)
Think we're still on the bubble? No? No?
Anyway, hockey is way less depressing. Tonight the playoffs open. Items:
Injuries. Kolarik is in, Vaughn and Rust are out. Both Vaughn and Rust may make it back next weekend; Rust broke a "non-weight bearing" bone in his leg.
Teevees. Saturday night's game is on Comcast for the super-duper package recipients of the world; Friday and Sunday are sorta available. Yost Built:
Friday's game and Sunday's if necessary game can be viewed (for free) at MGoBlue.com courtesy of WOLV-TV. Saturday's game will be aired on Comcast Sportscenter or whatever the hell the not-Comcast-Local station is called. It's in the 900s on your digital box. Thank God for Slingbox.
Elsewhere. Root against CC, North Dakota, and Wisconsin in their opening-round CCHA series.
ggggargharagharagh. See, my main concern with the basketball team is this: maybe Manny Harris just isn't good and won't get good. He's a second-team all Big Ten player as a freshman, but there's a severe Bracey Wright effect going on. Wright was the Indiana shooting guard who set Big Ten Wonk all a-frenzy because people kept insisting he was an All-Big Ten player:
Bracey Wright being named first-team All-Big-Ten ranks alongside Milli Vanilli's Best New Artist Grammy as the epitome of travesty-by-award.
Main point cited was Wright's tendency to score a lot of points by shooting without remorse. A table compiled from Kenpom:
|Player||Usage||eFG%||Ast Rt||TO rate||FT rate||Overall O RT|
Freshman Manny Harris is a much, much crappier version of senior Bracey Wright, which is not to say that he's bad, but to say that he's the basketball equivalent of Jimmy Clausen: the perfect kid to overrate. In Clausen's case the factors were multifarious (famous name, ND commitment, overcoaching, being older than everyone, playing solely against overmatched tiny schools). It's simpler for basketball players; all they have to do is take a buttload of shots.
This Harris did, with the 32nd highest usage rate in the country. Harris also had the lowest eFG% of anyone on the team except Anthony Wright and walkons. More damningly, the "best" player on the team also had a higher TO rate than anyone except David Merritt.
There are two large mitigating factors: he's a freshman, and he's dealing with a mini version of the Dion Harris effect wherein a high-usage player on a crappy team ends up taking a lot of horrific shots and turns the ball over a lot because he's playing one on five. This happened to Harris (Dion version) his sophomore year, when Abram missed the season, Horton got suspended for half of it, and the rest of the team was limping in slings and casts and the like. Everyone expected a breakout season when he wasn't playing with Dani Wohl, and they got... eh, pretty much the same.
My winding point: Harris is not one of the ten best players in the Big Ten, not by a longshot, and he will have to improve significantly or draw the wrath of the Ghost of Wonk. And the pained apathy of this space.
Angry Michigan Safety Hating God is wroth at the hockey team for some reason. First, Kolarik went down, then Scooter Vaughn (in one of the all-time stupid Michigan hockey injuries, up there with Josh Blackburn slipping on a nut when carrying a fridge), and now Eric Elmblad may have broken Matt Rust. Yost Built:
Rivals reported yesterday that he went knee-to-knee with Eric Elmblad and apparently Red will update his status after practice today. Keep your fingers crossed on this one, because rumors are swirling that he has a broken leg.
There is a chunk of good news:
Senior Chad Kolarik, who has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury against Lake Superior State Feb. 16, is "99-percent sure" he'll play in Friday's game. He resumed skating with the team last Tuesday.
"I'm just getting my hands back, getting my endurance back," he said yesterday. "I'm feeling a lot better today. I was pretty excited out there, having a good time and joking around."
That article has some noises by Vaughn about trying to go this weekend, too, but those are shot down by Red. He might be back for the Joe, though. Also mentioned: the possibility of moving Hagelin to center in Rust's absence. I've been idly thinking about the composition of next year's top line: Pacioretty is obviously on it, and since Palushaj seemed much more effective with Porter and Patch than Turnbull he's probably next. But who centers? Bork? Bork. Either him or Caporusso, who seems wasted playing with Turnbull and Miller and Fardig and such on the third line, no offense to those fine penalty-killing wingers.
Anyway, the Nebraska-Omaha series opens tomorrow at Yost.
Victory! Michigan's road to San Antonio began today with a thrilling 6-4 victory over Iowa that featuerd a 12-minute field goal drought for both teams combined. Prediction for tomorrow's game against Wisconsin (noon, ESPN): Michigan 7,000, Wisconsin 5. Suck on that, BAD-gers. Zing! (UMHoops on the win-like substance.)
Also, confirmed white guy Kyle Cassity has been offered. You'll love this bit:
In addition to Michigan, Cassity has indicated that he also plans to visit both St. Louis and Evansville, with the possibility of a couple other visits being worked out after that. Nevertheless, a school that we believe is also very much in the picture for Cassity and cannot be counted out is Southern Illinois (Carbondale), as both head coach Chris Lowery and assistant coach Rodney Watson have been in frequent contact with Cassity and have expressed a high level of interest. While the Salukis are currently out of scholarships for the class of 2008, Cassity is without question Southern Illinois' #1 recruiting priority should something open up in that class. Even if it does not, there is still a strong possibility that Cassity could receive preferred walk-on status at SIU next season with the understanding that a scholarship would be available for him for the three years following that.
Why go to Michigan when you can be a preferred walk-on at Southern Illinois? In Soviet Russia, walk-on recruits you! What a country!
There's some speculation that Cassity hasn't actually actually been offered offered and that Michigan still prefers Georgia's Ebuka Anyaorah (given Beilein's tendencies and that guy's name, I should clarify that we're talking about Georgia the state, not Georgia the country), even though Anyaorah couldn't come on a scheduled visit.
And hey, that guy who was the crown jewel of Harvard's recruiting class decided he didn't want to spend four years thinking "for God's sake, put on a tie" and decommitted. Apparently West Virginia was on this guy previously, and we could use another post, no? For those doubting his ability to play at a Big Ten level, 1) alternative: Zack Gibson, 2)
Jackson said that in the past day, he had received calls from Connecticut, Boston College, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, DePaul and Rutgers about Ben-Eze's availability.
A final note in picture form:
That's from Spartans Weblog and is a game-by-game plot of Michigan's offensive and defensive efficency with a corresponding trendline. Is there improvement here? Defensively, it appears so. Offensively... no. And you should keep in mind that Michigan's schedule was heavily frontloaded; this does not appear to be the trajectory of a team on the upswing.
Etc.: Junior day is today; Varsity Blue has it covered.
Really really? Like really? The Free Press cites an anonymous source and cribs from the subscription-only Sports Business Journal about the Big Ten Network potentially coming to an irritating corporate monolith near you:
The Big Ten Network appears on its way to most homes in Michigan.
According to a source close to the negotiations, Comcast and the BTN have made significant progress toward a deal and only an unforeseen setback would prevent it from being on the cable system by football season.
This would appear to be Comcast caving on their sport-tier-only proposal... mostly:
Sports Business Journal, which reported a deal was close in its Monday edition, said Comcast has agreed to place the network on expanded basic in most of the Big Ten footprint, but not all.
That's odd. What areas of the Big Ten footprint wouldn't be covered? Parts of Pennsylvania, maybe, and Ames, Iowa, I guess.
A wholly uneducated hunch on the Comcast reversal: with AT&T bringing U-Verse online and Verizon's FIOS service rapidly expanding its footprint, Comcast doesn't want to give the apartment-bound and tree-blocked a further reason to switch.
As always, take this with a hefty dose of skepticism.
Update! Might want to ratchet down the skepticism. The Sporting News has the full text of the SBJ article, and it's convincing.
Tell me about the rabbits. EDSBS linked up this ESPN feature on Muck City, Florida, where they 1) play football, 2) play football, and 3) chase rabbits around. This is the home of incoming WR recruit Martavious Odoms:
Super secret alias. So if you go puttering along for information on new basketball recruit Zack Novak, you get this near-blank AAU profile page that reveals the secret true identity of "Zack Novak"...
More serious like, there's a surprising profusion of information on a guy who claimed offers from Ball State, Colorado State, Valpo, Oakland, and the Fort Wayne version of the confusing "Indiana-Purdue" chain of alphabet soup public schools at the time of his commitment.
One: dude scores lots, averaging over 28 points a game and shooting better than 40% from three. Two: he is either a 6'5" shooting guard or a "smallish 6'3" swingman"; given the offers it's probably the latter. Three: he is "a smart kid and an American," according to the same article. Good to know Indiana (motto: "Easy to leave!") remains a part of the union. Four: uh...
"Coach (Bob) Buscher told me I had a nice butt," Novak said. "Guys might be bigger than me but I can get lower to the ground."
So there you go.
In the realm of effusive quotes we have Bob Gibson:
"Novak is an outstanding catch-and-shoot wing player," ESPN.com's national recruiting director Bob Gibbons said. "He appears to be an ideal player for coach John Beilein's style of play."
Head coach Tom Peller:
"You know the rule, give it to Zack and get out of the way," Peller said. "In my opinion, he's the best all-around player in Northwest Indiana. His outside shooting is so much more consistent. He's very, very good inside and he has a tremendous driving game. He's truly the complete package now."
The same coach who was checkin' out Novak's assets earlier:
"He's the best player in the conference and by far the best warrior," he said. "We tried to stop him but he plays all over the court. We should take a lesson from him."
Some guy named "Bigfoot" on a Ball State message board who knows the family:
I would add to what PL BSU said that Michigan recently had Zach go through some sort of a work out highlighting his ball handling and shooting skills. I heard they are looking to improve their outside shooting and feel Zach may fit that bill. I also was told that Zach really lit the gym up in this workout with his outside shot to the point that he got in a groove that even Zach was surprised about. I was told he hit 16 of 21 shots from what would be the equivalent of an NBA 3 from various spots on the floor. I guess in the shooting side of the work out he hit nearly 80% of his shots from various ranges.
I understand he an the Michigan Coach even chuckled about it but none the less it was a very impressive shooting performance.
Someone mentioned a comparison of Novak to Tom Coverdale which strikes a cord with me. Zach would be a much bigger version but there are similarities. Zach would be more versatile player IMO as he can go down low and score in a crowd with his strength (has strong thighs and calves) as well as upper body for a HS kid. I would see Zach as a real threat with a three guard offense in particular. It would take a very athletic defender with size to handle him at a small three position.
I also heard Zach is still growing not that his current 6'4" height wouldn't work already for us.
If we can sign him I think people will some day wonder why he was not better known. Being
a four year starter at a large school like Chesterton that plays in a tough league speaks volumes about his ability. He was not only a starter in his early years but was a prolific scorer even then.
Another one for the potential whitewash down the road. I'll reserve judgement on Beilein's recruiting until these guys actually get in and play for a year or two; though their rankings are universally meh Beilein has made his living finding and coaching up kids like this.
Outposts. Spartans have finally started slouching into the blogosphere, and though they're the last Big Ten school to find representation their initial attempt is a good one: Spartan Weblog is a tempo-free-focused basketball blog in the vein of Big Ten Wonk that hates Drew Sharp and has affectionate, obscure acronyms for dear, departed Wonk. Recommended.
Also, frequent MGoBlog commentator gsimmons85 has started up his own blog. The prose is rough but the technical detail is... uh... detailed. As an honest-to-god football coach, his knowledge outstrips mine; also recommended. Sample posts here and here.
Finally, there is a blog called MGoSwim that covers Michigan swimming. Check the freaky banner: it moves.