Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
2/12/2012 – Michigan 70, Illinois 61 – 19-7, 9-4 Big Ten
Sports have their own distinctive rhythms, sounds and moments and rituals that worm themselves into the observer's subconscious after repeated exposure. Basketball is rife with them. The seismic thud of the ball hitting the floor is shockingly tactile from time to time, especially during your first game of a new season. Back-to-back TV timeouts are agony and boredom. And the interval between a three-pointer's departure and arrival, when three fingers are raised in slow motion and a long heavy intake of breath fills the lungs, is the sort of intermittent reinforcement that ends with people saying "but she loves me… she's just misunderstood."
When those rhythms conspire against you in a cosmically unfair (and usually deeply random) fashion, building-wide manias develop. Rattling post after post in hockey, an avalanche of seeing-eye singles in baseball, the clang of iron on open look after open look—these things turn crowds into scalded, nervous things. When the shot goes up, the reaction is something it would take Steve Buscemi to adequately convey.
Oh no, here we go again
Maybe this time basketball will love me
Maybe this time basketball will care
Basketball is just misunderstood
No officer I would not like to press charges against basketball
Maybe next time
Probably next time
Definitely next time
Basketball is just misunderstood
When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.
It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.
Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.
It was the other one, though, that really got hearts open again, really open and ready for a surprising reversal that is in no way surprising. It wasn't a good shot, really, but when you're 6'5" and can jump really high there are few truly contested threes. This has been a foundational component of Hardaway's game and seemed brilliant when he was hitting 42% of them. When you're hitting 27%, not so much. Hardaway was hitting 27% as he made a token move to the basket and stepped back for a semi-contested three.
He'd hit one earlier and maybe the wincing wasn't quite as overt as he rose up. This one was perfect. It hit nothing whatsoever on its way through the hoop.
Hardaway didn't push it. There was no heat check, because sometimes a thing like making more than half of your shots in a game is a delicate one that must be shepherded through dangers.
Hardaway wasn't the only struggler to prop up fading hopes of effectiveness. Matt Vogrich had eight points on three shots, all makes, and Novaked himself a game-changing play* when his super-quick rotation on Meyers Leonard condemned Leonard to the bench for most of the first half. Evan Smotrycz hit a couple threes and managed 13 points; though he turned the ball over twice he was also credited with four steals. Michigan did not get blown off the court in the long stretches where a foul-limited Morgan wasn't on it thanks in large part to Smotrycz.
Both Vogrich and Smotrycz followed Hardaway's example and didn't push it. Between the three of them they took eight threes and hit six. As a team Michigan attempted just 35% from beyond the arc. It was a strange mirror of the first half against Nebraska, when Michigan took two thirds of its shots from three against the worst interior defense in the league. Here they took most of their shots from two against one a team much better on the interior than the perimeter.
Whether that was just what Illinois does—they're second in the league at preventing three point attempts—or Michigan treating their newfound deep shooting touch like a Faberge egg, the end result was a building that did not moan. Primed to believe long shots could actually go through the net, when Vogrich rose in the second half there was just anticipation.
Long may it last. It won't last. It might last. Basketball has been more into flowers lately.
*[Except of course if Novak had tried to do the same thing they would have called a block on him because referees hate Novak even more than opposing fans do.]
Bullets Will Drive Us Apart
As always, rely on MGoBlog for your super accurate predictions. In the preview I openly quailed at the prospect of Meyers Leonard going up against Michigan's undersized front line. At halftime I felt like the six-point lead was a missed opportunity that would bite Michigan in the ass after Leonard returned from the game-changing charge Matt Vogrich took on him for his second foul. Leonard's 7'1" frame sauntered onto the court and… scored one point in the second half. He had all of three FGAs, all of which IIRC were putback attempts (he had four offensive rebounds).
That's the game right there. I'm not sure how much of that was Michigan's doing and how much was Illinois drifting away from the early game plan (in short: "ALL OF THE LEONARDS") in favor of whatever it was they decided to do instead. It felt like Illinois didn't even bother looking inside much in the second half. When they did, doubles convinced Leonard to kick it out and active hands from Morgan and Smotrycz forced a number of turnovers. It's a tribute to someone on the coaching staff—maybe various someones—that this motely crew of iffy athletes and short guys finds itself an above-average Big Ten defense.
At least I was on point with the increased use of zone—plenty when Leonard was on the court—and the total uselessness of the backup center (zero points, two attempts both on offensive putbacks against McLimans in 14 minutes). Didn't see Tyler Griffey as the guy who would light up Michigan's sagging perimeter defense.
Player items. Hardaway, Vogrich, and Smotrycz are essentially covered above. All had efficient shooting days for a change; as a unit that put Michigan over the hump despite a 5 of 15 day from Trey Burke. It certainly didn't feel like a 5 of 15 day from Burke, but there it is.
Not much stands out from the boxscore except another game in which Michigan had the crap kicked out of it on the boards. Illinois rebounded 40% of its misses. Michigan is now significantly below average in both offensive (10th) and defensive (8th) rebounding. This is an obvious consequence of moving Douglass into the starting lineup after they cruised through the nonconference schedule seeming like a good to very good DREB team. Not that doing that was a bad idea.
The upside of that. Michigan got a ton of fast break and secondary transition points; in the second half when Illinois was crashing the boards hard anything that didn't end up getting rebounded by the trees fell to a shorter faster Michigan player and the resulting transition opportunity was often an odd-man break. I'd be interested to see a breakdown of Illinios points off of offensive rebounds versus points in transition when Michigan actually got the board. I'd guess it would be a small advantage to Illinois, but not one that outweighs the benefits of going small to Michigan's halfcourt offense.
Small sample size. Vogrich is 5/5 from three in his past two games. Result:
Prior to the Nebraska win, Vogrich was shooting 20.5 percent on the season. Now, after one solid week, he's up to 30.8 percent from downtown.
Big Ten… um… title? It is vaguely possible. Via UMHoops, the four contenders (I've taken the liberty of bolding games versus the top four):
|MICHIGAN ST. (9-3)||OHIO ST. (9-3)||MICHIGAN (9-4)||WISCONSIN (8-4)|
|vs. Wisconsin (8-4)||at Minnesota (5-7)||vs. OSU (9-3)||at MSU (9-3)|
|at Purdue (6-6)||at Michigan (9-4)||at N’Western (5-7)||vs. PSU (3-10)|
|at Minnesota (5-7)||vs. Illinois (5-7)||vs. Purdue (6-6)||at Iowa (5-7)|
|vs. Nebraska (3-10)||vs. Wisconsin (8-4)||at Illinois (5-7)||at OSU (9-3)|
|at Indiana (7-6)||at N’Western (5-7)||at PSU (3-10)||vs. Minnesota (5-7)|
|vs. OSU (9-3)||at MSU (9-3)||vs. Illinois (5-7)|
You'll note that Michigan is one of them and that their last game against the cream of the crop is their next one.
It will take either a huge closing run or a specific combination of results to get Michigan a banner; I'd say we can forget about it if Michigan loses against OSU. Unless OSU loses at Minnesota that would mean Michigan was two back with four games left.
If they managed the upset, though…
Illinois team practice. In games they headbutt each other and are eaten.
Weber watch. The vibe I get from the various Illini fans whose blogs I read or who I follow on twitter is extreme frustration with Bruce Weber. That makes sense after concentrating on Illinois's play. The Illini are like a pack of gazelles: breathtaking to watch run around but utterly incapable of passing the ball. Gazelles have hooves, and this fact explains things. Only two or three of the Illini have hooves. The rest of that is on Weber.
I mean, Brandon Paul should be an All-American. Instead he has a lower ORtg than literally every Michigan player with enough playing time for Kenpom to register save Vogrich. If they miss the tourney dollars to donuts Weber is having his hissy fits at home next year*. Because he won't have a job. I'm saying they'll fire him.
*[Seriously. Weber's fits might be worse than those of Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo. At least Ryan and Izzo seem to have a tangible effect on their teams. The only way Weber's message is getting through is if he's screaming "DRIBBLE AIMLESSLY AND THEN TURN THE BALL OVER." I mean:
Three of 22 pictures from the Detroit News gallery above feature Weber having a fit.]
Trillion watch. McLimans had a rare first-half trillion in four minutes.
Sold out? The game was technically sold out. Emphasis on "technically": large chunks of the upper-bowl endzones were empty the whole game. Who is buying those tickets and then ignoring them? I know they're not season tickets up there, so someone must be purchasing and then not using large chunks of the endzone upper decks. Strange.
Incredulous block/charge of the week. Brandon Paul's late first half clobberation of Trey Burke. Burke was set well outside the charge circle and Paul blew him up; this was an and-one instead of Paul's second. I haven't seen a replay but live it was a crazy call.
The only thing I can think might even vaguely justify the call is that Paul didn't hit Burke in the dead center of his chest. For some reason refs have a tendency to call blocks when a stationary defender takes an off-center or glancing blow from the offensive player. Why I don't know. In a situation like the Burke/Paul confrontation it seems like there are only two possible outcomes: a charge or a no-call. Referees disagree.
UMHoops recap. They went inside the play with some Jordan Morgan bunnies. The Crimson Quarry breaks down Indiana's deployment of the 2-3 zone. Michigan ran a lot of 2-3 in the second half yesterday and may resort to it at times down the stretch when they're at a significant size disadvantage (most of the time). Just Cover on the argument about 8-10 Big Ten teams making the tournament.
People are talking about seeding. A four, a five? There are distinct loci on the map of college basketball that Michigan now firmly occupies instead of the Purgatorial listlessness that once loomed over the program for over a decade. People are talking about Michigan's chances to win the conference title, regular season and tournament. That's not to say that Michigan will win either (the former hinges upon whether or not Michigan can beat the Buckeyes at home on Saturday), but people are talking about it. Think about how insane that is, as a concept and as a potential reality. A little over four years ago, Michigan was busy losing to an Amaker-coached Harvard squad, a moment in history that typifies the Universe's mischievous sense of humor.
It's worth noting that with Michigan's ninth win of the conference season they have permanently taken themselves off the bubble. For the first time since [REDACTED] Michigan's not going into Selection Sunday on pins an needles, even if they lose out. That was a preseason goal Michigan has met with authority.
2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten
First half, second half
I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.
While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.
Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.
Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.
That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.
As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.
Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.
Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.
I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.
Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:
- Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
- Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.
[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]
Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.
Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.
Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.
Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.
As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.
Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.
Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:
- A defensive rebound.
- Two fouls.
- A turnover.
Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."
Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.
Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.
This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.
Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.
|WHAT||Michigan at Nebraska|
|WHERE||Devaney Sports Center,
|WHEN||9 PM Eastern|
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
Nebraska basketball: waiting around for Ndamukong Suh Jr. to rescue your program… in 2042.
The only thing keeping Nebraska from the title of "easily the worst team in the Big Ten" is the existence of Penn State. They're .500 on the year and 3-8 in the league. They're not very good. But it's a Big Ten road game so Michigan has to overcome not only the opponent but the heebie jeebies.
Senior guard Bo Spencer is the main guy. He shoots nearly 30% of Nebraska's field goal attempts and has a decent assist rate. Unfortunately for the Huskers, he turns the ball over a ton, shoots a lot of threes at a 31% clip, and hits only 48% from within the arc. His stats have a Dion Harris vibe to them—on a better team he'd be taking a lot fewer shots and making more of them. One thing to avoid: putting Spencer on the line. He's an 88% FT shooter. Michigan isn't giving up many free-throws (second in the league), FWIW.
After Spencer, senior wing Toney McCray is the main man. He's efficient when he gets a shot off and a good defensive rebounder but is also a turnover-prone black hole who doesn't get to the line.
Guard Brandon Richardson is a low-usage version of Spencer, with a good assist rate, terrible TO rate for a guard, and meh shooting. He is hitting nearly 40% from deep, though, and does get to the line from time to time. 6'4" guard Caleb Walker is low usage and high-turnover; when he gets a two off it's a good shot.
Post Brandon Ubel looks like a standard-issue guy who gets a bunch of offensive rebounds but is otherwise not a big part of the offense. Normal starting center Jorge Brian Diaz is out with a foot injury. Diaz is a quality shot blocker; Ubel is not.
The tempo-free theme is turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. No Nebraska player cracks the top 500 least turnover-prone players in the country; everyone who sees playing time has a TO rate of at least 17. Michigan has three starters well under that mark (Hardaway, Novak, and Douglass) and their high-usage freshman PG has a TO rate three points lower than Spencer.
While Nebraska is not good at basketball they have risen up to disturb tourney-bound teams more than once this year. Their only actual win against a tourney aspirant was by one point against Indiana but they tested Illinois and Wisconsin (on the road, even) and hung in for a surprisingly long time against Michigan State in a game they ended up losing by 13.
Those mitigating factors aside, yeesh. Nebraska had one win against major competition in the nonconference (a double OT win against 6-18 USC) and lost to bad Oregon and Wake Forest teams; their conference wins aside from Indiana are against Penn State and Iowa.
Michigan's visit to Carver-Hawkeye earlier this year is ample evidence that no road game should be taken for granted, but if you were going to do so this would be the one.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||46.9 10||52.1 9||49|
|Turnover %:||23.0 12||19.5 6||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||26.5 11||33.9 10||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||31.1 9||35.9 8||36.5|
Nebraska does nothing well and the only thing they do sort of okay is force turnovers. This looks like a high-risk, high-reward sort of outfit. They lead the league in steal% at 11.5; they are dead last at defending twos, allowing nearly a 55% conversion rate.
Nebraska hits only 30% of its threes but takes 41% of its shots from long range. They're tall and old, though—Kenpom has them #2 in experience.
For the love of God, Hardaway. Please, please, please let you get what you want this time.
Michigan needs rebounds, defense, and better shot selection from Hardaway. If he's taking a late-clock force, an open three off ball movement, or going to the rim I don't care if it goes in or not. Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock have to die, and he has to close out, and he has to get on the defensive boards.
The worst part about Hardaway's slump is how useless he's been at all the things other than scoring that you can do. Fix that, and Michigan can live with the shooting, or lack thereof.
this, do this
Skip the threes. This is a team giving up 55% from inside the arc. They're actually decent at defending threes. Backdoor, screen, etc. Any and all threes should be open looks based off penetration. Go inside.
This goes double with Diaz out. The starting center is rejecting 1.6 percent of available shots. Run at the rim with impunity.
Um. Show up on defense. Looking at the conference numbers and it's just, like… I don't see how this team does anything. They shoot free throws well; in all other categories they are eighth or worse in the league.
Presumably Douglass gets Spencer, which seems like a fine matchup from Michigan's perspective. Novak will draw a guy approximately his size—Nebraska seems to rotate the posts at the five and there are no other players on the roster taller than 6'6" who get minutes. The main concern is again Hardaway, who will get McCray's efficient shooting and vast turnover supply.
Usual Big Ten road game stuff. The heebie jeebies!
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Ohio St. 8-2 66.7 1.11 0.84 +0.27 2. Michigan St. 7-3 62.3 1.10 0.93 +0.17 3. Wisconsin 7-4 57.7 1.02 0.96 +0.06 4. Michigan 7-4 59.4 1.04 1.01 +0.03 5. Indiana 6-6 65.6 1.10 1.09 +0.01 6. Minnesota 5-6 64.2 1.02 1.02 0.00 7. Illinois 5-5 62.6 0.98 0.99 -0.01 8. Purdue 5-5 63.7 1.03 1.08 -0.05 9. Iowa 5-6 67.3 1.03 1.10 -0.07 10. Northwestern 4-6 61.4 1.04 1.12 -0.08 11. Penn St. 2-9 63.0 0.94 1.09 -0.15 12. Nebraska 3-8 62.6 0.92 1.08 -0.16 AVG. 63.0 1.03
Michigan plays #1 at home and then has games against 7 (two of them), 8, 10, 11, and 12. The games against the bottom three are on the road, but if you were going to split up the home/road games to maximize likely wins that's the way you'd want it.
Hockeybear searches for the best place for a Big Ten tournament
I guess it's college hockey so I shouldn't be surprised. Apparently the ludicrous worst-case scenario for a Big Ten playoff is maybe possibly happening:
Andy Baggott is reporting that a majority of athletic directors from the future Big Ten hockey schools are in favor of moving their postseason tournament to a neutral location, rather than having home sites host tournament games. The tournament would take place over three days, with all six teams from the league involved, meaning the top two seeds would receive byes into the semifinal round. Baggott also reports that the league is close to finalizing a deal with the XCel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota to host the tournament.
Why on earth anyone other than UW and Minnesota would agree to this, let alone have it at the X, escapes me. Before you, Minnesota fan, go "durr durr money" consider three weeks of home series: 10-15 games averaging between 6 and 15 thousand people sold at full price. This alternative is five games, only two or three of them anywhere near a sellout because they'll feature Minnesota. It would be marginally worse at the Joe (fewer fans per local attraction but more of them plus more OSU/PSU fans).
This setup is throwing away tens of thousands of dollars, cheapening the regular season, and giving Minnesota an unearned home-field advantage because a couple schools want to use their buildings for high schools. It's almost as ridiculous as not having a regional closer to the CCHA than Green Bay this year and St. Louis(!) last year.
Red isn't having it, at least, and at least provides the hope the dumb single-weekend system won't necessarily be the worst possible one:
Berenson: I'd prefer to see early rounds of Big Ten tournament played at teams who earn home ice, semis and finals at a neutral site. … Berenson also said he hasn't heard Minneapolis as the front runner, but certainly in consideration. Thinks Detroit should be as well.
It never made sense that Michigan, MSU, Penn State would ever agree to the XCel bit. All have (or will have, in PSU's case) dedicated hockey facilities. Even if OSU wants a one-weekend system that's still 3 vs 3 and it appears that we're talking a rotation between the XCel and the Joe.
Neutral sites… guh. Why does college hockey hate atmosphere and money?
Speaking of atmosphere. Hey, this sounds cool:
The Big Ten is not only ready to listen to proposals regarding a national four-team football playoff, league and school officials are kicking around an intriguing idea.
Sources told the Tribune that a Big Ten plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS bowl pool and have semifinal games played on the college campus of the higher seed. That would do away with the facade of “neutral” sites such as New Orleans, Miami and Pasadena, Calif., and ease travel concern for fans.
The championship game then could be bid out, like the Super Bowl.
Two more games and making the Rose Bowl the permanent location for the title game and we're talkin' MGoPlayoff. I'll take an 80% solution. Everyone and their uncle has cannily pointed out that Jim Delany's suggestion benefits the Big Ten(!) since it wouldn't require two rounds of distant travel for teams that are remote from bowl games. This is true. It also helps cut out the thieving middlemen, raises the importance of the regular season, and would be awesome. In this instance, naked self-interest benefits everyone not wearing a yellow jacket.
More importantly: that's it, there's going to be a four-team playoff. Delany is publicly negotiating terms of surrender. He knows he's lost the war and is trying to get the best deal possible for the Big Ten. Since it's the thing that actually makes the most competitive and financial sense, let's hope he wins out.
Alabama game setup: banned on the West Coast. Interesting change to the Pac-12's bylaws:
No member institution shall enter into an agreement to play a neutral-site football game (except in circumstances where such neutral-site game is the away leg of a home-and-home series) unless such agreement provides the Conference with the exclusive broadcast rights and digital rights in all media, and copyright to such neutral-site game.
IE, no more Washington State-Notre Dame in Texas. Previously the Pac-10 banned these sort of things within their footprint; now it's everywhere. This is a clear shot at Jerryworld-type games.
Q: Why are Jerryworld-type games becoming vogue? A:
- The Big Ten shares all television revenue*, even that acquired from nonconference games. Michigan makes no profit relative to the rest of the league for playing Notre Dame instead of East Nowhere State, because all that money goes into the kitty that's distributed evenly at the end of the year.
- Independent skylarker in Texas figures out he's not a part of the Big Ten footprint and can make an end-around on this agreement by paying two teams to show up and selling the television rights himself.
- Teams get home game money—possibly more than home-game money—plus big national attention and sign up.
- Conference loses revenue from big team home game.
- Conference bans these sorts of things.
I would not be surprised to see the Big Ten follow suit shortly.
I have mixed feelings about this. While Jerryworld-type games are a trend I'm not a fan of, I'm even less of a fan of meaningless cupcakery and this is a move clearly designed to keep the Indianas and Purdues of the world hooked into a revenue stream they have nothing to do with. That wouldn't be a disaster except for the fact that removing 11/12ths of the financial incentive to schedule a real opponent has seen college football nonconference scheduling devolve significantly. If teams were free to cut their own deals on nonconference games we'd see a lot more competitive matchups.
At least the BTN gives the conference at large a similar incentive: the desire to improve nonconference inventory is the impetus behind the Big Ten-Pac 12 scheduling agreement that will at least slightly increase the number of real games going on in September.
*[This was true as of a few years ago at least. I was having a discussion with someone in the AD about the sorry state of college football scheduling and this was brought up as a major reason.]
This is never going to happen, but if it does… If College Hockey Inc can actually pull this off, Paul Kelly is a genius:
College Hockey Inc., is working to enact legislation — either with the oversight of the NHL or through the transfer agreement between USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to bar Canadian major junior teams from stealing a player who has signed a letter of intent until after the player’s freshman year.
IE, Michigan has John Gibson and a letter of intent actually means there is a 100% chance that player shows up on campus for a whole year.
The only problem is there is no incentive for the CHL to go for this. USA Hockey does have a potential saber to rattle: right now USA kids can go play in major junior at any age. As we learned during the Max Domi head fake, Canadians who want to play in the USHL must have their families move to the United States. That's a clear double standard, one that USA hockey could threaten to go both ways. That would get the CHL's attention.
UND's Dave Hakstol also wants to give CHL players NCAA eligibility, which sounds good in theory but would not work in practice. A kid who has spent his junior and senior years of high school in the CHL would have a zero percent chance of being academically eligible for NCAA play—major junior franchises will see to that. Hypothetically opening the door back to the NCAA will just give the CHL a marketing bullet point with little basis in reality.
And now the glidepath. If you're wondering just how tough basketball's last stretch was, they currently sit #1 nationally in Kenpom's Pythagorean strength of schedule($):
They've faced the most imposing opponent offenses and the tenth-most imposing defenses. It eases significantly from here.
Geediot. Stop talking!
"We hired the best coach and we went out and got the best kids so get a life," Gee said of Bielema's criticisms.
Stop dressing like a five-year-old, as well. Actually continue these things.
Etc.: The Daily successfully trolled me with this Jon Merrill article. Yeah, Denard is everywhere. So is Roundtree. Can we get some Roundtree love? Michigan's RPI is 15. I looked up their nitty gritty stats on ESPN and, man: 3-3 against the RPI top 25. They've really been playing some tough opponents. Yesman breaks down Michigan's special teams goals against Miami.
2/5/2012 – Michigan 54, Michigan State 64 – 17-7, 7-4 Big Ten
Playing in Breslin without any tall people was exactly as frustrating as you would expect; Kenpom nailed that particular game down to the point. The way things played out was equally as easy to predict. Michigan struggled immensely to generate shots after Izzo locked down most of Michigan's tricks and niblets. Easy buckets reduced, State annihilated Michigan on the boards, and that was that.
It's hard to get worked up about that after the fact. It was painful during; after it was obvious. The four factors graph might as well read "chalk":
Michigan lost this game on the boards.
This is the kind of thing I was talking about after the Ohio State game. There's only so much you can do when you're running out one guy taller than 6'5" against very large men in a hostile environment. Michigan is at a severe disadvantage against teams with elite size and athleticism.
That's no shame. It does make games like Sunday's uphill battles dependent on lighting it up from three. If this was part of, say, a decade-long slump with no light at the end of the tunnel it might be an occasion to rend the garments a little further. In the context of the last two years of Michigan basketball it's just another indication that Michigan isn't quite there yet.
Since the direction is clear, patience is easy. Two or three hours after the game, anyway.
Michigan has pulled through their brutal Kenpom stretch 3-3 with only the first ten minutes against Arkansas a real disappointment. At this point a tournament bid is basically in the bag. They need two more wins to hit .500 and have seven opportunities to do so, two of which are against Nebraska and Penn State. After fighting through six games against Kenpom top ten opponents in the first 11 games, they have just one in their final seven. Realistic goals include a 12-6 conference record—Beilein's best ever in a power conference—and a Sweet 16 seed.
I'll take it.
Oh, Hardaway. That game was the tipping point when the internet stopped whispering about what's going on with Tim Hardaway Jr. and started yelling uncomplimentary things. And… after going 1 for 10 and meekly saying "thank you sir" on a first-half MSU layup in the midst of months and months of clanged long shots it's hard to disagree with even the foamiest internet commenters.
Hardaway has been a huge disappointment. Burke is a freshman and not Darius Morris. He can only do so much. He needs help and he's getting more of it from Stu Douglass than Hardaway over the past six or seven games. It would be one thing if Hardaway was just in a shooting slump; add in the bad defense and bad shot selection and it's… well, it's not good.
I'm at a loss as to where to go from here: Hardaway is hugely inefficient and his defense is indifferent at best but the main option off the bench in his stead is a three-point specialist shooting 21%. There's nothing you can do except ride the lightning and hope some of those twos from right inside the three point line go down. Michigan just has to live with it and hope he starts finding a scoring touch.
At least the NBA isn't a threat, amirite?
BONUS disappointment: Michigan really needs Hardaway to rebound in this small lineup since he's the second-biggest and most-athletic guy; he had one offensive and one defensive as MSU grabbed almost half of their misses. On the season he's rebounding almost exactly as well as Trey Burke. I just don't know, man.
Novak and Douglass. Nails in this game just like they've been in virtually every other game. Novak was 5 of 8 for 14 points; Douglass only had five points but put up five assists and no turnovers. That's especially impressive when Michigan only had 19 made field goals.
Novak had a hand in Green's face as he knocked down a ton of tough fallaway jumpers; not much you can do about that.
There is small and there is too small. The Smotrycz at the five thing is maybe something you can get away with for a few minutes per game. It is not suited for all of Evan's minutes. Blake McLimans may not be great but at least putting him out there is less of a hilarious mismatch against whoever the post dude is.
Assuming the OSU game is a longshot this will not be hugely relevant down the stretch except against Illinois, whose best offense is tossing it to seven-footer Myers Leonard in the post and seeing what happens. The rest of their offense is Brandon Paul running around being inefficient. Michigan needs to find a way to neutralize the Leonard matchup, and that's not putting Smotrycz on the block.
Well fine then. Draymond Green backed it up.
It is difficult enough to win on the road, but with the current makeup of this team, we will lose to teams like Michigan State and Ohio and even some lesser teams--like Arkansas--that are able to surgically pinpoint our major weaknesses via their own specific approach to the game of basketball. I realize that is a little bit of an unfair (and crude) point to make, as teams like MSU and Ohio are very good teams; most teams lose to them. That is why they are ranked so highly. With that said, after these sorts of games have ended, I've been fairly at ease. As fun as this season has been, we are not even close to being on the same level as these sorts of opponents. Perhaps that will change next year when talented reinforcements will bring skills sets that Ann Arbor hasn't seen in some time. I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that the way the Spartans beat us was not at all surprising, and that I guess this isn't so negative after all since I'm not all that upset. If you can't tell, sometimes I devote many more words to a simple concept than are probably necessary; it's a personal flaw of mine.
UMHoops recap. I don't think "chemistry" is the problem with Hardaway's play. It doesn't take chemistry to rebound and play D, or choose good shots. Photos from UMHoops. Baumgardner on how MSU slowed Burke. UMHoops rounds up Big Ten action.
Blood battle part deux. Beat Michigan State. Give blood.
And there was much jumping up and down and yelling. Look at those wing defenders not sagging off the corner threes.
A key point UM Hoops doesn't quite get to: a major reason these things work is the position of the ballhandler and the frequency with which Michigan runs ball screens. On each play (there's a third one on which Novak gets the layup attempt) the post defender is sticking close to his man because he is expecting Michigan will ball screen and he will have to hedge hard upcourt when that happens. On two of these Smotrycz is the five and there is some justification for checking him out to 18 feet*, but on that first one you've got the opposing center guarding Jordan Morgan basically at the three-point line.
*[Not much of one, though. The threat is a long two, ie: not a threat.]
Tempest in the Urban-pot. This is not a very good bolded sentence or two. It was one thing for Bret Bielema to complain about Urban Meyer's "illegal" recruiting tactics. Bielema tends to say things without considering how they'll make him sound, and do things without considering how many dead Hoosiers will be on his hands. But they appear to be pursuing this business by complaining to teacher:
“I can tell you this,” says Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form.”
Just so we’re clear: Bielema wasn’t talking about winning national championships. He was talking about Meyer’s recruiting tactics—and how after a little more than two months on the job, Meyer already is getting under the skin of his colleagues.
Just how much, you ask? Bielema, whose teams have won more games than any other Big Ten team in his six seasons in Madison, says Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez will speak Friday with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about Meyer’s recruiting methods during the league’s athletic director meetings in Chicago.
That is a cheesed off coach. All of this is because of one decommit. I wonder what Bill O'Brien thinks about the four Penn State suffered?
“I’m looking forward to getting back [to the hotel] and working on third downs in the red zone."
Oh. Bill O'Brien is wondering when the draft is.
Meanwhile, Michigan State is firing up a recruiting "rivalry" based on their solitary decommit of a guy who never would have committed in the first place if Ohio State had a long-term coach. The long term impact of this: zero. Ohio State will stop talking to Wisconsin and Michigan State commits because no one who secretly wants to play at OSU will commit to them. I'll believe the "illegal" bit when I see it.
"You're pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got 9 guys who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time."
LET'S GET READY TO RUMBBBBBBLE.
Green knee update. There's nothing seriously wrong with Draymond Green's knee but it sounds like his availability for Sunday is far from certain. Green's mom:
Babers said her son is off the crutches he used Tuesday night and has a chance to play.
"It's a possibility," she said. "He's able to put some pressure on it. But it's just that he has some swelling. It's all about how fast his body heals."
Meanwhile, Izzo said on Wednesday that Green "could return to practice within the next few days." Green himself tweeted out a picture of his leg in a futuristic fast-healing encasement.
I'm sure that if the doctors don't outright disqualify him he'll be on the floor. How likely that is, and how effective he'll be will be uncertain until tipoff and possibly a while after. It seems hard to believe he'd be full go six days after being unable to put any weight on it.
With freshman Brandon Dawson coming on I'm not sure how much it matters except when it comes to three-point shooting. I mean, it obviously matters. But don't get your hopes too extended. Green has not played well against Zack Novak to date so it's uncertain how big of a blow that is.
Brock Mealer standing some more. This is relevant to my interests, and apparently Jessica Rabbit's.
Novak prepares for the chantings. The AP has picked up on the Everyone Hates Zack meme:
Zack Novak has a pretty good idea what kind of reception he'll face when he takes the court Sunday at Michigan State.
"Awful," the Michigan senior said with a slight smile. "Yeah, I'm not very liked." …
It's easy to understand how Novak became the Michigan player opposing fans love to hate. His enthusiasm is on display every game, whether he's chasing after a loose ball or trying to fire up his teammates in a huddle. He's the type of player fans can't stand losing to.
Also he occasionally hits people in the head, hard. Surprisingly, he singles out Indiana as the worst place for taunting. I would have bet many dollars on MSU.
Two: two dumped recruits ah ah ah. Three star defensive lineman Darius Philon got dumped on Signing Day by the Sabanator and ended up signing with Arkansas. Clearly, the SEC's new cap on signees is one that has some impact. Now two guys currently on Alabama's team get to keep their scholarships and the two guys cast off are less likely to meet the same fate. Stars apparently don't care about this, unfortunately, but at least the worst excesses of oversigning have been tamed. Good job, internet?
Etc.: Daily on MSU matchup. Wojo on same. Mike Martin on the Huge show; TTB collects what people are saying about his draft prospects. Rittenberg puts out an all-name team for Big Ten recruiting. Late Iowa flier Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara is a strong challenger for Hugs Etienne's name of the year title. AA.com on the linebacker haul.