"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
And they're off. Internet speculation has settled on three candidates: WVU's John Beilein, SIU's Chris Lowery, and Xavier's Sean Miller, with Beilein's buyout and age posing issues for his candidacy. (BTW: the buyout is $2.5 million, not three as reported last year. It declines by 500k each year of his contract. Also, the Martin interview referenced earlier has this quote about Amaker's buyout:
Q: Are you going to pay him the buyout?
Martin: Of course we will. Understand that has been funded every year and that accumulated.
Odd question. It's basically "Are you going to get sued for doing something stupid?" Interesting answer though: the 900k Amaker is owed has been rolled up already and isn't an unexpected expense coming out of the U's coffers. Further evidence that Michigan is ready and willing to pay a competitive salary, as the 900k sitting around was earmarked for the basketball coach either way, be it in the form of a buyout or a raise.)
Of the three mentioned, Lowery is my preference for reasons outlined in this USA Today article:
"They invade your personal space," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was saying the other day. "I love their attitude. I think it's their mindset."
So this time, the underdogs are bringing their defensive nightsticks, You will find no more intriguing clash of style in the Sweet 16. The unstoppable force will be wearing white, the immovable object maroon. [this passage incorrect, since Kansas has the best D in the country and an average offense, as pointed out by Wonk -ed]
"I don't think we sell them on defense. We sell them on winning," Lowery said. "Defense is a part of that."
"Anything time you drive," Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell said, "you can expect to be cut off by another defender."
That's the whole idea. Ruin passing angles, interfere with flow, be ready to help, never quit. Not until the shot clock runs out, or a brick clangs off the rim.
"The biggest thing is," Lowery said, "they trust each other."
On its weekly notes, Southern Illinois includes testimonials from past victims. This from Missouri State coach Barry Hinson, on preparing to play the Salukis:
"We run down to the police station and we get all the German Shepherd attack dogs and we just bring them onto the floor, and we rub meat juice all over our arms, and we just get ready to practice."
"People say we slow down," Lowery said. "We don't slow down. We just make you catch up, and stay at a pace of intensity on defense throughout the game. At the other end, we're not gong to let you breathe."
(We should bring Barry Hinson along as Designated Guy To Give Awesome Testimonial Quotes if we hire Lowery, no matter the cost.) There are some concerns. SIU does play slow-down: Kenpom has the Salukis 312th in adjusted pace. The accusations that Big Ten basketball is basically the Carlisle Pistons versus the Riley Knicks are not likely to decrease if he's hired.
But good God, y'all:
Raw Efficiency : 104.4 (135) 93.5 ( 18)
Adj Efficiency : 109.2 ( 81) 86.7 ( 12)
Effective FG% : 52.1 ( 85) 47.7 ( 80)
Turnover Pct. : 22.3 (229) 24.3 ( 25)
Off. Rebound% : 31.4 (241) 28.9 ( 12)
Free Throw Rate: 31.9 ( 22) 49.8 (326)
3-Point FG% : 37.4 ( 61) 34.9 (180)
2-Point FG% : 49.8 (130) 45.4 ( 61)
Free Throw Pct.: 69.1 (172) 70.6 (248)
Block Pct. : 8.5 (130) 11.1 ( 64)
Steal Pct. : 10.7 (235) 10.5 (115)
3PA/FGA : 36.0 (118) 32.7 (122)
A/FGM : 54.9 (179) 51.3 ( 62)
Lowery's offense is plagued by turnovers -- ugh -- and awful offensive rebounding. Everything else is at least okay. Now consider this: SIU has one senior and no one playing significant minutes taller than 6'7". More impressive than their tourney run has been their ability to lock down a Sweet 16 seed from the MVC. SIU is a legit team that has an identity without anyone who will even sniff the NBA. He's the guy.
More. Sun-Times article on SIU's efforts to keep Lowery:
He put me and Tony [Young] and me against each other, and I thought he was trying to run us off, make us transfer schools," said Jamaal Tatum, the Salukis' leading scorer. "... He made things difficult for us. But he expects so much out of the players that he will push you. I'm thankful he did because I've become a lot better player."
Southern won consistently before Lowery got there, so it is realistic to think it could win without him. But why take chances?
"He's the total package," Moccia said. "He's 34 years old. He has such a great floor demeanor. He can recruit. He's a great family guy. And he's unbelievably, wildly successful. That's kind of a rare thing. That's why we really want to keep him."
And why a lot of others might want him.
Lowery made approximately 300k this year. If we go after him SIU will probably increase that significantly, but I doubt they can go as high as we can.
Even more Lowery. From a pre-NCAAs PC this year:
REPORTER: Both of you, I know I'm putting you on the spot because your coach is sitting next to you, but what's special about playing for Coach Lowery?
YOUNG: The biggest thing about playing for Coach is he's one of the coaches that understands his players. You've got a lot of peopl
e that push you to do things you don't want to do, he gives us the freedom to go out and play the way we want to play but within his offense and the things he wants us to do. And he really rides us and makes us strive to be the best we can be as far as people, as far as players, really just all around. He doesn't settle for us being second best. He doesn't let us settle for it either.
TATUM: I'll agree with Tony on that. He definitely pushes us. When he came back from Illinois and we got our first workout with him, he put me and Tony against each other and I thought he was trying to make us transfer schools or something the way he came at us, but he was just expecting a lot out of us, he knew it was going to be a big year and he knew that he had some shoes to fill and we had some shoes to fill and that we had to be a good team and we were a great team that year and he came back and he really put it on us and made things difficult for us. That's the thing about him, he expects so much out of all his players that he will push you and I'm thankful for what he's done because I've become a lot better player under him.
"Young" and "Tatum" are two starting guards.
Two notes. Amaker has been all class as the outgoing coach. Reports are he called Legion and encouraged him to stick with his LOI, and he's also sending out notes to various people associated with Michigan. This went out to some alumni association presidents:
I just want to sincerely thank you for the opportunity that I was given to be the basketball coach at this tremendous university. I will always be grateful for it.
I truly loved teaching and coaching at the University of Michigan. I loved representing you, and I wish you all well.
Please continue to support the team and the new coach--they need you and deserve you!
Thank you so much for everything, and GO BLUE!
A similar email went out to the Maize Rage:
I just want to thank all of you for all of the support that you've given our basketball program and me during my time at Michigan. You've been phenomenal, and I will always be grateful for your support and enthusiasm for our team.
I truly loved coaching and teaching at Michigan, and I will always be grateful to have had this opportunity. I loved representing you, and I wish you all well.
Please continue to support the team and the new coach--they need you and deserve your support!!
Thank you again for everything you've done for me and Michigan Basketball, and GO BLUE!
Yes, this makes me feel a bit heelish for the constant snark, if you're asking.
All fixed now. Deadspin found hilarious video of a Kansas State player eating popcorn on the bench during an NIT game:
Far be it from us to understate the importance of the NIT -- no place is more dangerous than Crisler Arena in mid-March! -- but during the Kansas State-DePaul game the other night, an injured Wildcat sat on the bench eating popcorn.
Yeah, that momentary pang of sympathy is all better now.
Facilitate this. Article in the Freep yesterday from Mark Snyder:
"Usually the perception within the fan base is higher than the reality, like with football fans at Alabama who think they should go 12-0 every year," said Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel. "With Michigan basketball, it's the opposite. The perception in the fan base is, after so many years of the program having excuses made for it, the fans' view is lower than the reality college coaches put on the program. College coaches say that's a top 10 job."
Wetzel noted that the state of Michigan has incredible talent and there are more than enough players for Michigan and Michigan State to both thrive. He said Michigan kids are still split 50/50 on Michigan and Michigan State, with that number leaning heavily toward U-M in Detroit.
The bluster about Michigan's limited facilities and disinterested fan base is not a driving factor, Wetzel said.
"Michigan can recruit nationally," he said. "It's an unbelievable school and campus; the only thing missing is structural advancements. Those are down the line. You can get guys out of major conferences to take this job. You can get a coach out of (the) ACC, Big 12. You can't get them to leave North Carolina, but from most places, you can."
There are further quotes from Jay Bilas, who's telling anyone who will listen that Amaker walked into Beruit six years ago and made it a happy bunny meadow:
"It's a high-level job, it's a Big Ten job," said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who coached with Amaker as assistants at Duke. "Now it's on a solid foundation, starting at the starting line instead of 20 yards behind like before (Amaker) arrived."
Bilas said the facilities are a significant problem and one could "make an argument" that the Minnesota job -- another high-profile opening -- would be competitive with Michigan because of its recent small-scale renovations.
"What they need to do is to find the best possible coach without regard to some type of template that the media likes to throw out," Bilas said of Michigan. "The bottom line is there are a number of coaches available. But in order to have an outstanding basketball program, you have to show a commitment to basketball, not just a coach but the entire community. Michigan hasn't made that commitment, and until they do ... they'll have issues to face."
Crap, I say. Amaker did walk into a bad situation, but no one held it against him when his first two years were miserable. The NCAA sanction cloud was always overblown -- after his first year, which everyone gave him a mulligan on, Michigan faced no significant recruiting restrictions -- and the facilities argument is being blown way out of proportion. Did Crisler Arena turn it over twenty times a game more often than not? Did the lack of a practice facility offer Smith and Coleman as sophomores? Was the brick in the locker room unable to improve Michigan's players? The overwhelming reason Michigan was not good at basketball the past two years was Amaker's lack of coaching ability, and anyone offering up weak facilities arguments is covering for a very, very nice man who can't coach.
The most irritating thing is that the facilities meme espoused by people trying to find any reason to argue for Amaker has spilled over into the mainstream media as a major reason the Michigan basketball program sucks. It's not. Since Steve Fisher left in the wake of Martingate, Michigan has been run by Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker. Ellerbe does not and never will have another D-I job, and I'd bet you a dollar Tommy finds himself in the same boat. Ten years of mismanagement by coaches is the reason the Michigan basketball program finds itself brought low. And since the all-encompassing ennui around the team has discouraged financial contributions for a freakin' decade -- one in which the facilities race really got started -- there has been no money with which to build the hypothetically opulent palace in which Amaker still would have been a very nice man who can't coach.
The AD at Michigan doesn't operate like the AD at other schools. They won't take on debt and they are self-funding (including 70% out-of-state scholarships at 30k per year -- you can make the argument that the AD helps support the university, not vice versa). When local columnists opine that Michigan must shell out for the program they neglect to mention where this money is going to come from.
Take the baseball program, which brings in almost no revenue. Rich Maloney showed up, looked at a decrepit and uncompetitive situation, and im
mediately started raising capital for a new stadium. At this very moment a multi-million dollar replacement of Fisher stadium is underway because Rich Maloney went out and found the money for it. If you really want to blame someone for the supposedly sorry state of the basketball facilities, you can find him wearing a mock turtleneck on the next bus to Durham. In this case: win, we'll come, and you'll build it.
Mr. Basketball. Is recruit Manny Harris, who says he's still a recruit... probably:
"I'm going to wait and see who they hire," said Harris, the 27th winner of the prestigious award, selected by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan in conjunction with the Free Press. "But my heart is still with Michigan."
Further bit about Amaker being all class:
Amaker had some advice for Harris.
"He told me 'Michigan is still Michigan,' " Harris said. "It's still a good school."
More on Harris from a Rise article earlier this year.
Guys ommitted for one reason or another... mostly unfeasible. Sean Miller is getting enough buzz to warrant a full profile.
Sean Miller, Xavier
|2007||25-9, 13-3 A-10 (champs), NCAA second round|
|2006||21-11, A-10 playoff champs, NCAA first round|
|2005||17-12, no tourney|
|Inherited||Thad Matta's program, usually amongst the cream of the A-10.|
|Has done a good job at Xavier. Was an Oden flagrant from upsetting OSU and reaching the sweet sixteen. Already outrecruited us for Dante Jackson and is outrecruiting us as we speak for top 50 big man Kenny Frease. Might bring Frease along for '08 if he comes.|
|Kind of like Crean in that he would be signing up to play Luke Skywalker to a Big Ten Darth Vader. Hearing him scream "you're not my father!" would get tiring after a while. Track record at Xavier is nice but not quite on a level with other up and comers being considered. Like Lowery, inherited a mid-major power instead of building one with blood, sweat, and tears. Has ridiculous Lavin/Donovan hair.|
|If we're going to grab a young mid-major coach with only three years of experience it should be Lowery, who has led his team to greater success and has that defensive viciousness down.|
- Rick Majerus, Anywhere With A Buffet. Age and weight make a precarious combination. Landed Utah on probation for persistent minor rules infringements. Has a reputation as a flake.
- Rudy Tomjanovich. If he wanted to get back into coaching would be a strong candidate. Alum, NBA championship winning coach, etc. But he's given no indication that he's looking for a job after battling bladder cancer. Doubtful he has the energy of a younger candidate. Would be totally sweet if he was interested and brought in a couple Xs and Os guys along with Jalen Rose as assistants, but filed under "pipe dream." No one's even floated his name, so I assume he's out of the picture.
- John Calipari, Memphis. Are you on drugs or something? Seriously. About the only candidate out there less realistic on multiple levels than Tom Crean.
- Ernie Kent, Oregon. See Stan Heath: let's not grab a guy who's currently on the outs with his athletic department, especially one who's 1) still on the outs despite being in the Sweet 16, 2) buoyed in recruiting by vast pools of Nike money, and 3) enough of a nut to come out and complain that he should be allowed to talk to Michigan if he wants during the NCAA tournament his team is still active in. Yeah, he got Malik Hairston. But two words: hell no.
Mike Montgomery, Unemployment Eagles
|2004||30-2 (17-1), PAC-10 Champs, NCAA 2nd round|
|2003||24-9 (14-4), NCAA 2nd round|
|2002||20-12 (12-6), NCAA 2nd round|
|2001||31-3 (16-2), Pac-10 Champs, NCAA Elite Eight|
|2000||27-4 (15-3), Pac-10 Champs, NCAA 2nd round|
|1999||26-7 (15-3), Pac-10 Champs, NCAA 2nd round|
|1998||30-5 (15-3), Final Four|
|1997||22-8 (12-6), Sweet 16|
|1996||21-8 (13-5), NCAA second round|
|1995||20-9 (10-8), NCAA second round|
|1994||17-11 (10-8), NIT
|1993||7-23 (2-16), no tourney|
|1992||18-11 (10-8), NCAA 1st round|
|1991||20-13 (8-10), NIT Champs(!!!)|
|1990||18-12 (9-9), NIT|
|1989||26-7 (15-3), NCAA 1st round|
|1988||21-12 (11-7), NIT|
|Inherited||Freaking Stanford, which hadn't been to the NCAA tourney since 1942 before his arrival.|
|The record above speaks for itself. Turned the most difficult place in the country to admit and keep recruits into a national power. Clean enough that he felt it was his place to call out Billy Donovan for being a dirty cheater. Good God. Look at the record.|
|Old now: 60, and had an undistinguished run at Golden State. Presumably accepted the Golden State job only because it was Bay-Area local. He's been there for the past twenty or so years and may be hesitant to uproot whatever family hasn't moved out by now (he is 60, after all). Tournament performance never lived up to regular season levels.|
|Option A, B, and C, in my opinion. If you can get him, get him. Unlikely, though.|
Tubby Smith, Kentucky(?)
|2007||22-11, NCAA second round|
|2006||22-13, NCAA second round|
|2005||28-6, Elite Eight
|2004||27-5, NCAA second round|
|2003||32-4, Elite Eight|
|2002||22-10, Sweet 16|
|2001||24-10, Sweet 16|
|2000||23-10, NCAA second round|
|1999||28-9, Elite Eight|
|1998||35-4, National Champions|
|1997||24-9, NCAA first round (@ Georgia)|
|1996||21-10, Sweet 16 (@ Georgia)|
|Inherited||Kentucky, but before that built a program at Tulsa and had those two good years a Georgia.|
|Only guy potentially available with one of them national championship thingies. Might be willing to give Joe Crawford a wedgie on his way out of town. A Lloyd Carr-like presence with unquestioned dignity, integrity, and success.|
|Lloyd Carr-like failure to satiate the ravenous demands of an occasionally petulant fanbase that expects the moon. National championship has a distinctly Coker whiff to it, as it was in his first year taking over for Rick Pitino and he hasn't approached that level since. (He does have three Elite 8s to his credit.) His ceiling at Michigan has to be lower than his apparent ceiling at UK, doesn't it? Last two years have been Alamo outrages to UK fans.|
|Last two years raise questions, but had been to the Sweet 16 seven of the ten years before that. No doubt has recruiting connections all over the country, including some inroads in Michigan with Crawford and '08 recruit Draymond Green. Even in these two down years UK has reached the second round of the tournament. Would be a big splash as a name and can evidently coach even without Pitino afterglow: witness that three-year stretch with loss totals of 4, 5, and 6. Those are his kids and his program. A tendency to flame out earlier in the NCAAs than UK fans would like is a small concern, but maybe we can deal with that if we reach 30 wins, yesno?|
Only feasible if UK wants to eject the guy. As of now he's the highest paid coach in the country and no doubt has a mountainous buyout. He won't be making the money he is at UK, but he'll also be a god walking amongst mortals instead of one of the most hated men in Kentucky. Smith would be an outstanding option if he comes free.
Lon Kruger, UNLV
|2007||30-6 (12-4 MW), awaiting Sweet 16 game versus Oregon|
|2006||17-13, no tourney|
|2005||17-14, NIT second round|
|2000||22-10, NCAA second round (@ Illinois)|
|1998||23-10, Big Ten Champs, NCAA second round (@ Illinois)|
|1997||22-10, NCAA second round (@ Illinois)|
|1996||12-16, no tourney (@ Florida)|
|1995||17-13, NCAA first round (@ Florida)|
|1994||29-8, Final Four (@ Florida)
|1993||16-12, NIT (@ Florida)|
|1992||19-14, NIT (@ Florida)|
|Earlier||Four straight tourney bids as HC @ alma mater Kansas State|
|Inherited||Mostly poo everywhere he's been. Florida had virtually no program. UNLV had gone through 9 coaches in 13 years. Illinois was a decent program under longtime coach Lou Henson but was coming off an NIT bid when Kruger arrived.|
|Consistent winner everywhere he's been. Has UNLV in Sweet 16. Took Illinois to the second round three times in four years and established the program Bill Self walked into just in time for it to turn monster. Took Florida to a Final Four. Has a reputation for scrupulous honesty.|
|Oldish like all these guys. Rep for honest comes couple with rep for distaste for AAU sleaze factory that is where all blue chippahs come from these days; may have trouble recruiting. Would have to pry him away from UNLV boosters intent on keeping him.|
|I'd be happy with him but not thrilled.|
John Beilein, WVU
|2007||24-9 (9-7 BE), NIT|
|2006||22-11 (11-5 BE), Sweet 16|
|2005||24-11 (8-8 BE), Elite Eight|
|2004||17-14 (7-9 BE), NIT|
|2003||14-15 (5-11 BE), no tourney|
|2002||22-14, NIT (@ Richmond)|
|2001||22-7, NIT (@ Richmond)|
|2000||18-12, no tourney (@ Richmond)|
|1999||15-12, no tourney (@ Richmond)|
|1998||23-8, NCAA second round (@ Richmond)|
|Earlier||Cansisus (2 NIT bids, one NCAA)|
WVU program with little history. The season before his arrival they were 8-20.
|A ton of experience, as he's been a head coach for almost thirty years. Has revived, or possibly just -vived, the West Virginia program. Coached a guy named "Pitsnogle" who was basically a tatoo-covered Bill Laimbeer. Clean as a whistle.|
|Is his crazyass style of play applicable to the highest levels? Beilein, who has toiled for so long at places where a 6'5" guy starts at center, has developed a style suited to those constraints: a 1-3-1 zone on defense and his famous three-mad modified Princeton offense. It's working well enough in the Big East but it seems analagous to Mike Leach's mad scientist bit at Texas Tech. It might be good for pulling up doormats but seems inherently limited at the highest levels.|
As noted, Beilein has an enormous 2.5 to 3 million dollar buyout. Could Michigan pay the buyout, pay Amaker's buyout, pay for Beilein, and turn Crisler into something other than a derelict lean-to in the eye of a hurricane of public opinion? Probably not.
BRIEF YEAH, RIGHTS:
- Tom Crean, Marquette. As mentioned earlier, Crean is the fourth-highest-paid coach in all the land. He'd have to take a paycut to come here. Since Wade left, Marquette has gone to two NITs and gotten booted in the first round two other times. Plus he would commit hari-kiri if he ever beat Izzo. Pure fantasy on the part of Detroit sportswriters.
- Stan Heath, Arkansas. Leaving aside the MSU stuff, Heath was one SEC tourney run away from getting canned. No thanks. Let's try to find someone who's actually liked by their fanbase... Tubby Smith potentially excluded.
- Bruce Pearl, Tennessee. 1) probably wouldn't leave, as Tennessee would pony up to keep him, 2) has a mildly skeezy rep, 3) exposure of Illinois cheating somehow makes him a controversial figure instead of, you know, the guys doing the actual cheating.
- Jamie Dixon, Pitt. Why on earth would he leave Pitt? Michigan would be a lateral move for him.
- Mark Hughes, Sacramento Kings assistant. A Michigan alum, but no head coaching experience outside of the CBA.
Reggie Theus, New Mexico State
|2007||25-9, WAC Playoff Champ, lost as 13 seed to Texas in NCAA|
|2006||16-14, no tourney|
|Inherited||A 6-24 team that hadn't been to the tourney since 1999.|
|Quick turnaround has people buzzing. College and NBA stardom a benefit to recruiting, and appearing as Coach Bill Fuller on "Hang Time" would provide a steady stream of material for this here blogger -- no dobut high on Bill Martin's priority list. Sure to be popular with mom on in-home recruiting visits. Apparently he's dreamy.|
|Only two years as a head coach gives him a flimsier resume than Amaker. Sure, he made a tournament but he didn't win the WAC and didn't stay close with a Texas team that was unceremoniously booted in the next round. Association with Jerry Tarkanian, the dean of dirty basketball coaches, can't sit well with Michigan administration. Apparently took a major shortcut to success:
The former NBA star has used his star power to attract a great deal of mercenary talent to the Las Cruces campus. By my count, 10 current players transferred from other universities, including players from Utah, St. John's, UNC-Charlotte, and Kansas State. Add in a Juco player, coach's second cousin Londale, and a couple of other Freshman, and you've got yourself a decent team.
Hasn't proven he can recruit high school kids -- though I bet he'd be pretty good -- or sustain success.
|No. Two years as a head coach and a sketchy turnaround is not enough of a resume.|
Todd Lickliter, Butler
|2007||currently 29-6, Horizon League champs, awaiting Sweet 16 matchup with Florida|
|2006||20-13, second round NIT|
|2005||13-15, no tourney|
|2004||16-14, no tourney|
|2003||27-6, Horizon League champs, Sweet 16 loss to Oklahoma|
|2002||26-6, Horizon League champs, secound round NIT|
|Inherited||Three-time Horizon League champs coming off back-to-back NCAA bids.|
|Two Sweet 16s at a mid-major like Butler is no mean feat. But more impressive is the way Butler earned this year's berth by rolling up a series of quality nonconference wins and earning a #5 seed, unheard of for a Horizon team. Some mid-major coaches get a bunch of hype because their teams get hot from three for a couple games; Lickliter's club would have probably finished third in the Big Ten this year. And... uh... the last Butler head coach to move on up in the world, Thad Matta, is working out all right.|
|Kind of old (51). A Butler alum who makes a decent chunk of change already and may be a little tough to pry away. What's with those middle two years there? Some of his success seems to piggyback off Matta.|
|Maybe not the first choice but certainly a very strong candidate.|
Chris Lowery, Southern Illinois
|2007||29-6, 15-3 MVC, awaiting Sweet 16 matchup vs. Kansas|
|2006||22-11, 12-6 MVC, NCAA 1st round|
|2005||27-8, 15-3 MVC, NCAA 2nd round|
|Inherited||A mid-major juggernaut.|
|Southern Illinois is rapidly turning into a basketball Miami of Ohio. Illinois' Bruce Weber and Purdue's terrifying Matt Painter are the last two coaches of a program with six straight MVC titles -- and the MVC is no joke -- and six straight NCAA bids. The Salukis are a four seed in this year's tourney: like Butler, they are a straight-up team and not a product of hot shooting at the right time.
Kyle Whelliston describes the Salukis like so:
The regular-season champions of the Missouri Valley play at one of the nation's slowest, nastiest paces and own the nation's third-stingiest team points-allowed average at 56.3. After dispatching OF Virginia Tech 63-48 in a second-round sludgefest, SIU is the sour part of this Sweet 16, the chocolate filled with rusty thumbtacks in the heart-shaped box.
There's nothing fundamentally incompatible with kickass defense and kickass offense and if anything the D is more a function of coaching than the O, which requires a far greater proportion of raw skill. Even in a down year it's likely a Lowery team would be a pain to play against and capable of scraping itself to something half decent.
|The aforementioned brutality would be fine if we win but agony if it doesn't work out. Recruits might be turned off by the prospect of joining the Riley Knicks. Also, Lowery doesn't have the track record of a few other prospects. He's got just one more year of experience than Theus and is only 34.|
|IMO, the top mid-major candidate available. Has enough on-the-job experience that his success is not a fluke, and the Salukis have earned a Sweet 16 seed this year because Lowery has them playing evil defense.|
Greg Marshall, Winthrop
|2007||29-5 (undefeated in conference), lost in second round to Oregon.|
|2006||23-8, first round loss to Tenn but scared the hell out of them as a #15.|
|2005||27-6, first round loss to Gonzaga|
|2004||16-12, no tourney|
|2003||20-10, no tourney|
|2002||19-12, first round waxing at hands of Duke|
|2001||18-13, lost in play-in game|
|2000||21-9, waxed by Oklahoma|
|1999||21-8, waxed by Auburn|
|Inherited||A 7-20 team that hadn't had a winning record since hammerpants were cool: 1990.|
|Has been to seven(!) tournaments since Michigan made its last appearance and did it at a program that had gone a decade without the barest hint of success. Hmmmm. Sounds familiar.|
|When I say "waxed" above I mean it. Seriously, we're talking 80-37 type scores more suited for the women's tournament. Winthrop is evidently not a mid-major; the Big South conference is the home of stellar clubs like Maryland-Baltimore county, who you may remember lost to Michigan in their tour of awful nonconference opponents this year. Winthrop's first four bids were as one of the lowliest members of the field and the results reflected that. This is a ton of success at a low major.|
|Maybe? I think Marshall's more of a risk than either Lowery or L
ickliter because up until the past few years Winthrop has been the big fish in an ugly little pond. After their two misses, however, Winthrop finally found some traction. They gave Gonzaga a decent game, were ousted on an improbable Chris Lofton buzzer-beater last year, and finally broke through against Notre Dame (ha-HA! [/nelson]) this year.
Karl Hobbs, George Washington
|2007||23-9 NCAA first round (hammered by Vandy)|
|2006||27-3, A-10 champs, NCAA second round|
|2005||22-8, NCAA first round|
|2003||12-17, no tourney|
|2002||12-16, no tourney|
|Inherited||A mediocre 14-18 team.|
|Built George Washington back up to its Yinka Dare glory days, though that appears to be limited to first-round appearances most years. Still: three straight bids and a second round appearance a year ago with a 27-3 team. Unlike Lowery, didn't inherit a program. His previous job was as a UConn assistant, where he was credited with recruiting Khalid El-Amin and Richard Hamilton.|
|His previous job was as a UConn assistant, where he was credited with recruiting Khalid El-Amin and Richard Hamilton. This, if you listen to certain axe-grinding segments of the media, is the equivalent of eating babies. And not in a good Jason Maxiell kind of way. Might run a gimmicky offense based on tons of backcuts.|
|Maybe? Certainly has built GW into an A-10 power. That 27-3 year netted them an amazingly low seed, though -- like an 8 or 9 or 10 or something -- which raises questions about the level of competition. What's your personal preference: a guy with better teams (Lowery) or a guy who built a program up (Hobbs, Winthrop, etc?).|
- Anthony Grant, VCU. Everybody's hero after VCU booted Duke out of the tourney, but has been a head coach for one year. Longtime association with Billy Donovan does not help... unless he's the guy who got them Roberson and Horford. But did he do it on the up and up?
- Sean Miller, Xavier. Doesn't have the resume the above do, IMO, and has the dreaded Product Hair.
It was pointed out that Ron Lee's sudden absence from the Michigan staff passed without mention here; that it did. That occasionally happens when I throw something up on the Fanhouse that's specifically Michigan-related.
Expanding on the above-linked: Lee did seem unable to get any of his charges to improve in hindsight, but that's just hindsight. Remember when we were big fans of Morgan Trent? Yeah, that was about eight games into the season. Maybe more. Once you got past Hall the cornerback talent Lee was presented with was mediocre at best. Anyone who's followed this blog over the past couple years knows that Michigan's been snakebit at corner in recruiting. A full list of those available to Lee:
- Hall. Granted, he's very good.
- Trent. Fast as hell but seemingly incapable of cutting fast enough to bother anyone on short routes. (This may be the much-referred-to "hips" and "swivel" jargony football experts throw out on draft shows.) Was rated and came to Michigan as a wide receiver and sort of looks like a wide receiver out there.
- Charles Stewart. Future safety. Destroyed in game against Minnesota.
- Johnny Sears. Redshirt freshman sleeper who was clearly not ready. One year of varsity high school football before coming here. Lee can't really be blamed for his struggles, nor should Sears be written off just yet.
- Brandon Harrison. Five-eight guy who bounced to safety and back, played in the nickel this year. Main contribution was missing a few tackles, IIRC.
This is the long way of saying that whatever the reasons for his hasty departure, they probably aren't entirely, or even mostly, about the secondary's struggles at the end of the year. (Safeties were supposedly still coached by English, though it seems odd to have one coach for just the cornerbacks.)
So what else is there? Recruiting, I guess. It's been widely speculated that the staff shakeup last offseason was a major factor in Michigan's crappy recruiting year (other factors: 7-5 2005, ill-advised decision to split Michigan recruiting up amongst various staff members, general bloody-mindedness of the universe). Perhaps Lee was a part of that, and if you're going to have a guy who only coaches a few players, especially when your DC is a secondary coach, he'd better be a bang-up recruiter in the Orgeron mold.
So there's my completely unfounded speculation as to the reasons Lee was let go and a projection for his replacement: a pretty face who coaches "the secondary" but mostly goes into people's homes and steals the athletic children. So a Viking. Nordic hhhyyyyarr.