1/11/2011 – Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT) – 14-3, 4-1 Big Ten
I blame the Sugar Bowl trophy. Clearly, this edition has fey powers. Those powers are 1) making everything around it uglier so that it seems pretty in comparison and 2) driving Michigan towards improbable victories it does not seem to deserve.
Because of the trophy's presence we got an extensive dose of the exasperated wail basketball has a near-monopoly on*. Scoring is so frequent that extended droughts are rare, rarer still when the team in question is getting of a wide variety of high-quality shots. When that happens and the home team is still missing, still missing, still—argh that one was halfway down—missing, each subsequent missed opportunity comes with a rising crescendo of despair. Normally calm old men start throwing their hands hither and thither. People lose their minds the fifth time "all right, two points" turns into "how did you miss that?"
By my calculations, all minds in Crisler last night were lost 2.4 times in the first half. Michigan limped to the locker room trailing by seven after shooting 25% on their twos. One three that bounced in and around the rim before popping out caused a guy in front of me to undergo this sort of arms-raised twitchy anger dance. I felt ill.
It didn't seem like the team was playing poorly—at least not on offense—but rather that it had been cosmically ordained from above that Michigan was to lose this game. If it had been a video game, 15 minutes in would have been controller-throwing, reset-hitting, pout-and-watch-TNG time.
But they won, didn't they? They won by brutalizing Northwestern on the boards and in turnover margin, by somewhat limiting Wildcat threes (27% opposed to their usual 33%) and refusing to foul unless someone was launching a wild three with less than a second on the clock. It was ugly and terrible; it was the game that you point to at the end of the season as One Of Those Games. It was the inexplicable loss you suck up and overcome… and they won.
So okay. Damage escaped, Iowa next, let's keep on inching.
Bullets that could use a GPS or something
The hedge. Northwestern fiercely hedged all ball screens with Burke and got away with every single one. Burke tried to split one late and was fortunate to get a tenuous kicked ball call; all other saw him take the long way and not end up punishing the hedge.
This is a spot in which Morris had a major advantage because he was a half-foot taller and lanky. Hedge like that and the ball is going to the big slipping the screen for a 70% chance at a Jordan Morgan basket, or Morris will peel around the big guy with a good chance at catching him out of position and using his height to get a solid look. Burke… well, we need some work there.
Hypothesis 1: he should try to use his quickness by accelerating into the hedger before he can get set and get those Chauncey Billups calls. Hypothesis 2: we should run more pick and roll with Hardaway, who can pass over the shorter guy or drive to the basket against a guy who will probably not be blocking his shot. Hardaway has such height and elevation that little pull up jumpers are a high percentage business.
Do you think Beilein would be amenable to answering questions like that?
Small ball. I'm not sure if Northwestern's small lineup killed Michigan or not, what with the massive offensive rebounding numbers Michigan put up and Carmody's decision to go with Mirkovic for most of the stretch. If Michigan's shooting anywhere near a reasonable percentage given their shot quality the offensive benefits of the small lineup are outweighed by their terrible D numbers.
Michigan ended up going small in response, spending much of the second half switching Smotrycz and Morgan O for D; Stu Douglass ended up playing 38 of 45 minutes.
Insane devotion to foul orthodoxy. I can see yanking Smotrycz after his second since Michigan had a reason to go small and Smotrycz is the kind of guy who will foul out if you don't keep an eye on him. But Novak? UMHoops mentioned this gently; I'll restate: guy averages 2.8 fouls per 40 minutes. The risk of bringing him back in for the last five minutes of the first half is not high.
Stu! Douglass has quietly been an effective, important player in the last three games. His shooting helped a lot against Indiana and Wisconsin and his perimeter defense is the best on the team by a wide margin. He had five steals against Wisconsin and two in this game.
Even more importantly, switching Douglass onto Crawford slowed him considerably. In the second half and OT, Crawford had one dunk he was given after Michigan played great defense to deny three-point opportunities as NU wound the clock from 22 seconds to 8 and went 5/6 on free throws from Morgan and Burke fouls. The Douglass matchup:
- 1 steal
- 2 TO
- 1/5 from 2
- 0/1 from 3
IIRC Hardaway had Crawford for most of the first half when he went 6 of 9 with a made three.
Douglass couldn't throw it into Gordon Gee's mouth in this game but since no one other than Hardaway could that's a criticism to save for another time. Even so he was Michigan's second most efficient scorer in this game with 10 points on 10 shots; Hardaway and Burke bested him but Burke only did so thanks to his end-of-game free throw spree.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ice cold, young man, especially after playing the entire game.
Hardaway launch pad. He took a couple of wince-inducing threes but they went down in this outing. One was a heat check that is not statistically more likely to go in but is impossible to prevent even the meekest low usage guy from taking, so okay.
Two for one. Beilein went for one at the end of the game; it did not work out because the pass to Hardaway was a little off and the resulting Novak three left only a six-second difference between shot and game clock, and then the insane Hardaway foul erased that. Good idea, though.
Speaking of. Ohmygawd what was that at the end of the game? If Northwestern had been in the bonus I think my head would have come off. They are letting almost everything slide and then they call a nothing foul with ten seconds left. Face, meet palm.
And then Douglass hacks the hell out of Crawford because Michigan has fouls to give and the refs ignore that. Quite a sequence there. Don't get me started on Novak trying to take charges.
Timeouts. Argh. All basketball games would be improved by cutting two timeouts. This one would have been immensely so.
*[Hockey has a version of it when one team is throwing chance after chance at a hot goalie and his even hotter goalposts in a close game—call it the Ryan Miller Experience. Baseball has nothing like it and the tenor of a frustrated football crowd is different; the anger is usually more directed. This frustration is a cosmic one.]
Sorry for the late post. WLW crashed at the worst time possible and their auto-recover function didn't work since it only took down one of my windows. So the column bit is shorter and I'll find links later.
1/8/2012 – Michigan 59, Wisconsin 41 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
If Michigan's season to date was a rollercoaster, it would be one with a cartoon bumblebee on the first car and a You Must Be This Short To Ride This Ride sign out front. They've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, lost to the ones they were supposed to lose to, and done these things more or less convincingly. Maybe the Virginia loss was a disappointment, but they're 14-1 now. Maybe Minnesota was uncomfortable. These are not events that will cause anyone in a television studio to talk about Michigan's wild season.
On the whole, that's a positive, but it does leave you wondering if Michigan is taking a step forward. Once Trey Burke hit the ground running it seemed like they should, but when you're sifting through the evidence all you've got are some instances of not blowing it. Tough to judge, that.
An 18-point win against Wisconsin is a step forward even if they're notoriously overrated by Kenpom. They are also rated by the people who vote in these things. North Carolina had to scrape by them at home; it took Michigan State overtime to dispatch them. They will likely recover from this sour start to easily claim an NCAA tourney bid, and Michigan ran them out of the gym.
This has a directly comparable moment from last year. It was this:
DEATH TO BACKBOARDS
THAT IS ALL
At that point even that hopeless freshman playing pinball for the win was regarded as "man fun," evidence that Michigan's basketball program was alive at 17-12, 7-9 in the league.
Michigan was rebuilding and started the Big Ten season off so poorly that the narrative of the season was near-misses that would cost them a tourney bid until, suddenly, it wasn't. When they got the bid they were staring down a second round matchup with Duke and the Sweet 16 was not a consideration until Darius Morris was running at the basket with time winding down.
This year they're coming at it from ahead, with a win or two in their pocket and a hope for more. Next year they won't be rebuilding anything. They'll be built, and expectations will loom. Right now we're going through the last vestiges of having no expectations because we have no program. Step by step, inch by inch, Michigan departs its past and becomes something else.
Bullets that can hit the backboard all they want
TREY BURKE! Burke followed up the worst game of his young career by outplaying Jordan Taylor. Taylor had a couple baskets late when he started forcing quick shots; these came against Stu Douglass and were desperate heaves in any case. In the first half Taylor had 4 points on 2 of 8 shooting; he hit a single additional three against Burke in the second half. For the game Taylor's late chucks got him to 12 points on 15 shots; Burke was not the model of efficiency but had 14 on the same number of shots. He did not pick up a single foul.
The rest of the defense! Michigan held Wisconsin to 0.76 points per possession, UW's worst output of the year. Marquette is next best at 0.86. I'm not sure how or why this happened, but it was no fluke. Wisconsin could not find an open shot anywhere. Despite having a terrible night, Taylor was forced into an even larger share of the offense than he usually has. He averages around 25% of UW's shots and hit 30% in this game.
Michigan showed on ball screens and Wisconsin could not pick and roll or find post players in good position. The Badgers had maybe three open looks from three all game, one transition basket, and vanishingly few dunks and layups.
Hardaway: more turnovers please. Last year, this site identified Tim Hardaway's abnormally low turnover rate for a high-usage freshman as a reason he would be an efficient player going forward. It would now like to retract that assertion since now it seems to mean Hardaway is settling for a lot of long twos.
In the last two games he's probably shot a half-dozen jumpers from just inside the three-point line with more than 25 seconds on the shot clock. I don't care who you are: that is not a good shot. You can make the case for the occasional semi-contested jacked up three as a decent opportunity that opens up later driving. You cannot for a slightly shorter shot that has about the same chance of going in but provides 33% less reward. Can Hardaway get that anytime he wants? Yes. Try to find something better with the time allotted.
If this results in more turnovers from young Skywalker, so be it. He's shooting 27% from 3—and probably about that from just inside 3—and 58% from two. Either drive to the basket or kick, and take the threes only when they come to you.
He seems to be overreacting to the first half/second half thing and is now shooting everything all the time. His shot% has cracked 30% and is now in the top 100, which is frustrating when a lot of the shots he's adding are low quality and he's got guys like Novak, Morgan and Smotrycz hanging out being deadly when the offense can create a shot for them.
Sanity check on aisle Wisconsin. Like Miami (That Miami) finishing third in offensive FEI, Wisconsin tenaciously clinging to their #2 spot in Kenpom despite a 1-3 Big Ten start is an unfortunate, credibility-sapping outlier. Sometimes these things happen to systems that try to rank teams by taking every possession into relatively equal account. Kenpom's strength of schedule adjustment is overwhelmed when a team beats its tomato cans by 54, 27, 36, 46, 23, 18, 33, and 34 in low-tempo outings. Computers have hearts, too. You can't expect them not to fall in love with that.
Wisconsin also has a narrow road loss to UNC and wins over Kenpom favorites BYU and UNLV, with only a home loss to Marquette a potential blemish before the clunky conference start. That the Badgers are still #2 after a home loss to Iowa and an 18 point blowout to M is a little dismaying; maybe Kenpom can find a way to discount possessions that are obviously scrub vs scrub or something.
UPDATE: Kenpom has a Wisconsin FAQ that seems driven by a lot of twitter @ replies.
The leap. The anticipated Kenpom surge was major: 12 spots—or three full seeding ranks in Pomlandia. Michigan's many indifferent outings against bleah competition saw them enter Big Ten play 52nd.
Let's go, Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten Boys. Michigan's meh nonconference schedule features just one win over a probable tourney participant (Memphis; Oakland is 3-4 in the Summit)… or at least it did until Iowa State swept Texas and A&M last week to kick off the Big 12 slate 2-0. The Cyclones also beat Iowa, which isn't a huge deal but does mean they're on a 7-game win streak in the aftermath of their loss in Crisler. Kenpom now projects a .500 conference record for them.
That would probably not get them in since their best nonconference win is against the Hawkeyes and they have losses to Drake and UNI, the other two instate schools. If they can swing an extra game or two their way, they could make it. FWIW, they're already in the top 50 in RPI.
The road ahead. Michigan has two should-win games next against Northwestern and Iowa. Iowa's on the road, though, which makes things touchy. See: recent Michigan trips to Carver-Hawkeye. See also: insane charge/block calls against Hardaway and Novak that cost Michigan the Indiana game.
Anyway, once they get past the next two games they have this daunting gauntlet (all rankings Kenpom):
- #7 Michigan State
- @ #85 Arkansas (annual inexplicable nonconference game)
- @ #29 Purdue
- @ #1 OSU
- #8 Indiana
- @ #7 Michigan State
If they can take care of business over the next week they can come out of that stretch .500 and still have established themselves a tourney lock. The home stretch is much easier: @ Nebraska, two against Illinois, @ Northwestern, @ Penn State, and return games from OSU and Purdue. If they manage to go 2-3 against the above conference opponents they'll be 7-4 in the toughest conference in the country with two gimmes and plenty of other games left to get to the .500 mark that will be auto entry for any B10 team this year.
Quality looks. Photos via Dustin Johnson and UMHoops.
(Stats via Kenpom($).)
With a 90-80 win against Oakland on Saturday, Michigan has completed the competitive section of their nonconference schedule with the exception of their annual inexplicable nonconference opponent stashed in the heart of the Big Ten schedule. This year's: @ Arkansas on January 21st. Why does Michigan do it? I have no idea. It's a persistent mystery.
Anyway, we won't learn much of anything about the team we don't already know as they take on Arkansas Pine Bluff, Alabama A&M, and Bradley. The former two are ranked 300+ by Kenpom; Bradley is 209 and has a loss to Wofford on their resume. We have 95% of the data we'll have by the time Penn State rolls into down on the 29th. So what have we learned?
The Big Ten is insane. Michigan checks in at #39 in the Kenpom ratings, which is good enough for a projected conference record of… 8-10. Glurp. That's because there are five teams in the league currently ranked in the top 15: #1 Wisconsin, #3 OSU, #12 Michigan State, #13 Indiana, and #14 Purdue. Michigan is currently leading a second tier from 39 to 52 with Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Nebraska's by itself in the 70s; Penn State and Iowa are horrible.
The Big Ten has a monster lead on the #2 Big Twelve for the title of best tempo-free conference in the country. It is a brutal league. Without a hugely disappointing tourney, it will be a runaway winner in the KenPom rankings for the second straight year.
Michigan is not in the top tier because of their defense. Their offense is 21st nationally (about which more later); their defense is 80th. The league has four defenses allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions*; Wisconsin and OSU are 1-2 nationally at 81 and 83.5. Michigan's giving up 95, which is good for ninth. They beat out only Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State.
That's a disappointing backslide for a team that you'd expect to be better on D. Darius Morris was the only loss and Michigan went from one of the youngest teams in the country to middle of the pack, but Michigan was 34th last year. Small sample size caveats apply; IIRC last year at this time Michigan's defense was just as shaky and they pulled it together in the Big Ten.
*[adjusted for schedule strength]
They are #1 in the country at something. Go ahead, guess. You'll never get it. No, none of those things: Michigan is #1 nationally in making two pointers. I should have told you to sit down. I cannot be held responsible for people falling over at this news.
Now that you've recovered, it makes some sense, doesn't it? I mean, Jordan Morgan missed a bunny against Oakland and Greg Kelser joked about how that will cripple his 77% shooting, and you were like "whoah." There is one guy on the team with enough minutes to register in the stats who's shooting under 55% percent, that Jon Horford at a horrendous awful terrible 53%. Michigan's four highest-volume two point shooters are at 76% (Morgan), 58% (Smotrycz), 56% (Hardaway) and 55% (Burke).
This is partially an effect of the schedule. The defenses they've gone up against have not generally been high quality. It was somewhat ugly against Virginia, possessor of the one elite defense they've faced so far. Michigan went 12 of 28 from two and only stayed in the game with blistering three point shooting—they actually shot better from 3 in that game than 2, 46%-42%.
That's an abnormally good defense, sure, but half of Michigan's Big Ten games are going to be against Virginia-quality Ds. This is a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust conference. That second half against Duke, when they tore up ALL OF THE PLUMLEES, is encouraging. They're #1 for some reason, it's not all schedule.
The rest of their offensive stats are basically in line with expectations. They shoot a ton of threes (20th), are only decent at making them (86th), rarely turn the ball over, rarely grab offensive rebounds, and rarely get to the line. POT, now and forever.
That's not a revelation. That's just how Beilein plays the game. We should be looking at these items in relation to last year. The four factors:
- SHOOTING. Massively improved thanks to the aforementioned two-point fiesta. Third nationally.
- TURNOVERS. Poor relative to last year. There is no easy finger to point: everyone's TO rates are up. Burke does have an alarmingly high 22.6; raise your hand if "freshman PG's most obvious flaw is an excessive quantity of turnovers" surprises you. Right, that's Josh Pastner and no one else.
- OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING. Less putrescent than usual! Last year they were the Maryland-Baltimore County of offensive rebounding. This year they're Marist. This gives you no context at all. They're up three percent, good for a significant leap.
- FREE THROW RATE. Also less putrescent than usual; they've gone from the Towson of free throw rate to… well, not good but also not terrible.
Smotrycz needs to stay on the floor. Smotrycz has improved massively in just about any category you care to name save one: fouls per 40 minutes. He's at 5.9 this year and was at 6.4 before staying out of foul trouble against Oakland. Minutes that do not go to Smotrycz go to Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich, statistically inferior players in almost literally all possible ways. And those stats don't even account for the defensive problems Michigan has when Smotrycz is on the bench. Michigan will get significantly better if Smotrycz can get his minutes percentage from the 50s into the 70-75 range.
The same assertion goes for Morgan but at least he has a positional analogue on the roster. Michigan's backup 4 is 6'4" Zack Novak.
Defensive issues. The main one: too many quality three-point looks from opponents. They have not been burned by it yet but Oakland missed an array of wincingly wide-open three pointers, as did Virginia. Duke… did not miss, nor did they shoot a lot of quality threes. But the overall point is this: Michigan is facing almost as many threes as they jack themselves. If they're still near 300th in threes faced at the end of the season opponents will have made it rain and Michigan will be staring at a disappointing tourney seed.
The other stuff is the usual: they're mediocre at defending twos, rarely get turnovers, and foul too much. They're kind of short, kind of young, and not that athletic, so none of these things are surprises, but, like, Wisconsin. Michigan can be better defensively—they were better last year—and getting that leap from mediocre to quality will be the difference between a season spent idling near the bubble and waiting for Stauskas/GRIII/McGary and a decent shot at a Sweet 16.
Novak usage. Zack Novak's shooting 64% from two, 44% from three, and has a TO rate under ten. His offensive rating is off the charts… and his usage is in the "limited roles" range. While you can't really run an offense through him, if Michigan could focus a little more on getting him shots it seems like he would reward that effort. That pump-and-step-in jumper he's developed is money.
Some Oakland-specific things? Sure.
Trey Burke! That is all.
Trey Burke! No it's not. How crazy would it be if he was backing Morris and eating up half of the minutes currently being forked over to Douglass and Vogrich? Ah, hell. That crossover-in-a-phone-booth that led to a wide open Hardaway three was fantastic, as were many other things. He just needs to get an increment better here (TO rate) and there (three point shooting) to be a bonafide collegiate superstar.
NBA: you hate 5'11" point guards. Leave him to us for now.
Laval Lucas-Perry. The festival of charges and other ill-advised decisions combined with defensive lapses to paint a picture of why LLP and Beilein had a falling out that led to his transfer. I was going to point out that he would still be welcome on a team with zero bench but I looked him up and he's shooting 26% from three and 48% from two. Michigan's getting that out of Douglas.
He does get to the line a lot, FWIW.
Tim Hardaway, come out and play. In the second half it seems like Michigan tries to run its offense through Hardaway for three or four possessions in a row, which is because he has two shots and two points in the first 20 minutes. He refuses to force the issue, which is why his turnover rate remains abnormally low for a guy with high usage. I'd still like to see Michigan force Hardaway into the game earlier; once he starts shooting regularly other opportunities open up.
Brundidge: there is no Brundidge. They have already burned Brundidge's redshirt unless they're going to Devin Gardner him an injury, so insert usual concern about Eso Akunne getting the backup point minutes, such as they are. Akunne looks about as comfortable at the point as I would and the offense gets extraordinarily ponderous when he's in the game.
He hasn't missed a shot yet, though. Let's give him time at the two. I'm not sure if I'm serious here. Vogrich is one for a billion from three, so Akunne may actually provide more value at the moment.
When UV bullets keep expanding you must post them as posts.
I hit up Crisler for the first time this season to take in Michigan's 76-66 win over Iowa State; it wasn't that close. Michigan led by 20 for a good chunk of the second half before getting sloppy and letting ISU whittle the lead down to 8 or so; I got frustrated. KenPom is always watching.
Anyway, items. First, Eric Upchurch's photoset. (Thanks to the Ann Arbor Observer.)
Photos are Creative Commons licensed.
If you want it large, there is a link that takes you there.
THJ Face Pantheon addition. This is an all-timer.
McLimans is pretty good, too.
Speaking of the Bird. McLimans and Akunne put up ten points in the midst of a game-opening run that took Michigan from down two to a comfortable lead and we were all like "WTF." Via UMHoop's five key plays:
McLimans came in with a rep as a big who could shoot threes but has struggled to do so; with no other discernible skills that means bench. Akunne spells Burke at "point guard," though when he's in the offense doesn't run through him. Doesn't really run through anyone. They're making shots, though, especially Akunne.
The downside of Akunne's time is that it means someone else is struggling. That would be Vogrich, who's started the year off one of ten from three. When shooters can't shoot they can't play.
Novak's addition. Novak's added a pump fake and step-in midrange jumper to his arsenal this year that he's knocking down with excellent consistency. He has some awesome shooting numbers thus far: 12 of 19 from two, 13 of 28 from three.
Not to be outdone. Jordan Morgan is 20 of 25 on the season. Hit up the Five Key Plays to see his 12 points in the second half and note that only one bucket was the undefended throwdowns that seemed to be most of his points last year. He hit a jumper from the elbow, had a couple of baby hooks in the lane, and seems like a guy who can maybe generate some of his own offense from the post.
We'll have to see if he can continue this against quality competition. I mentioned this before but he seems to be tracking like DeShawn Sims, where he can blow up crappy defensive teams (with a lot of help from the pick and roll) but doesn't have the height or athleticism to deal with guys like those at UVA. This is maybe not good news against MSU later this year—Adreian Payne is approaching the top 100 in block rate. OTOH, he did have an efficient 12 against Duke's diverse Plumlees.
Burke and Morris. Holdin' The Rope on the divergent point guards:
I miss Morris's ability to get into the lane at will using his size but Burke's outside shooting and distribution is getting to be just as fun to watch. He will surely hit a rough patch or two at some point this season, but he seems to have the perfect demeanor to weather those storms. While Morris thrived on a sort of expletive-based verve, Burke is a cool customer. Both work, but the latter is particularly surprising for a freshman. The minutes he has been logging thus far is somewhat worrisome, however. I guess I'd have to go back and see what kinds of minutes Morris was getting last year (I'd imagine they were similar if not higher), but you'd imagine that Morris's body would be more capable of handling a long season, including a TOUGH Big Ten schedule. I actually didn't realize this until looking at the box score just now but apparently he went 3/11 from three, which: a) is not good and b) only in a Beilein offense can you shoot 11 threes and be okay.
Burke was 3 of 4 at one point before finishing on an 0-for-7 skid, which does lend some credence to the idea that he might be losing his legs. Nick Baumgardner:
Entering Saturday's home game against Iowa State (noon, BTN), Burke is averaging 31.6 minutes per game, third-most on the team. However, in Michigan's last six games, its freshman point guard is averaging nearly 34 minutes.
The problem Beilein is faced with is simple: Outside of Burke, who is averaging 11 points and 4.1 assists this season, the Wolverines have no other true viable point guard option. …
"If we had a true other point guard, we wouldn't be concerned," Beilein said. "When he's on the floor, he's one of our best guys to just run our offense. But he does need to get two to three minutes of rest every half. At least that's our plan."
Or it might mean nothing. We're early enough in the season that sample sizes are laughable. Burke went from a 42% three point shooter to 31% in those seven shots. Ask again later.
Q: where does the backup point come from? Next year's recruiting class is a post and a couple of 6'6" guys. Akunne is never going to get penetration; Michigan really needs Carlton Brundidge to develop into a viable option over the next year or so.
The truly important thing. Our long local annoyance is over: no longer does Crisler have "souvenir" and "large" options for soft drinks in which "large" is the smaller size. "Large" is now "regular" and I don't have to tell the teenager behind the counter that when I say large I want the large one, not the small one, who's on first. VICTORY
Half of the new Crisler. It is a massive improvement and I'm happy to report that rumors the seats were reminiscent of flying coach turns out not to be true. Room was sufficient. The place looks a lot better, which is step one. Step two is not being able to look around and think "the empty seats do look a lot better."
This week in terrible fan-spurning ideas. Crisler is going to be re-seated next year based on priority points. Are you really going to tell the guy in the third row who's been buying tickets for a decade that because he hasn't coughed up enough dough he gets booted to crappier seats?
This is man who has endured. He deserves our respect and admiration. Instead Dave Brandon puts his hand out. His drive to undermine fan loyalty is relentless.
Why always the terrible teams? I'm looking at the schedule. Michigan's small conference opponents by Kenpom rank: #117 Oakland, #217 Bradley, #289 WIU, #316 Arkansas Pine Bluff, #327 Alabama A&M, #331 Towson.
I know they're going to fill their schedule with some creampuffs but I wonder what the impact of having so many awful opponents has on the RPI. Towson is 0-7 and projected to go 3-27. Alabama A&M just lost to South Alabama but 23; they're in the SWAC and should go 9-9 in conference because the best team in the league is ranked #292. I'd rather see more Bradleys and Oaklands on the schedule, for both entertainment and RPI-jiggering purposes.
I would pay in diamonds if this was Michigan related. Someone found this in Thailand:
Thailand: not just for sex tourism anymore. That is amazing. The people who take these pictures immediately clean out the store, right?
Well, you can't say never anymore. Since Dave Brandon created The Horror II there is no nonconference scheduling scenario that you can entirely rule out. A six-game series with Washington State on the moon? Someone call Richard Branson to see if that's been floated.
Still, this seems pretty implausible:
"His expression to me was he felt he had a better chance to win the national championship at Arizona [than Tulane] if he recruited properly and they promised him they would put Michigan on the schedule within three years."
That's a Louisiana high school explaining to Tulane boosters why Rich Rodriguez took the Arizona job over Tulane. (He could have just gone with "duh.") So this is a second-hand account of a one-sided promise that Arizona may or may not have actually offered presumably made without actually talking to anyone in Ann Arbor, involving Michigan playing a real nonconference opponent.
If there wasn't a risk of enormous humiliation I'd say there was a zero percent chance of that happening. Since there is, ballpark it at 10%.
Michigan was never able to find an offensive rhythm against Virginia’s Packline defense. The Wolverines scored just .93 points per trip despite shooting 45 percent from three point range. Michigan, obviously bothered by Virginia’s physical play, was unable to convert the two point shots that carried the offense in Maui and converted just 42% of its two point looks. That lackluster two point shooting was accompanied by first half turnover woes and little to no production on either the offensive glass or at the free throw line.
Dylan says the offense "devolved into glorified isolation plays most of the night," and it's hard to disagree.
I am surprise. The guy who runs the book at the Wynn on Hypothetical Sugar Bowl Everyone Is Projecting:
SUGAR BOWL, JAN. 3
Michigan Wolverines (+4.5) vs. Houston Cougars
“The Cougar football program gets center stage for the first time,” Avello said. “The Wolverines have struggled in bowl games losing eight of their last 10.”
Houston's offensive numbers are gaudy as all git out but the one BCS team they played was UCLA, who they scraped by 38-34. I'd think that line would go the other way.
That's the ticket. The #1 Meyer won't destroy us theory is that he doesn't scout, choosing instead to use recruiting lists from the gurus and annihilating the programs he leaves with his crappy recruiting. That's grasping at straws, as all reasons Meyer will not succeed are, but given what went down with Jerimy Finch I think you can make the case Meyer recruits a lot of flakes. Por ejemplo:
One day after the coach who recruited them to Florida was introduced as the new boss at Ohio State, once-hyped recruits Joshua Shaw and Lyndren Trail announced plans to transfer from Gainesville, making them the ninth and tenth members of Urban Meyer's 2010 recruiting class to leave the team in less than two years.
Florida's roster is down to 68 scholarship players. A bunch (11) have taken off since Muschamp arrived, but Jebus, man.
Speaking of flakes, Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer are desperately clawing to hire… Tim Brewster. TRY FIGHT WHAT
Hatchdate. Hatch will not play high school basketball this season:
"Austin continues to make great strides in his rehabilitation; this first year is vital to the recovery process," the statement begins. "As a result, it is unlikely that Austin's physicians will clear him to play basketball this season."
I assume this means he's reclassifying to 2014, which would clear any scholarship logjam in future seasons unless no one goes pro or transfers before the 2013 class hits campus—unlikely to say the least.
With the Poke and the man. Oh, good lord, Michigan just recruited a 1996-born hockey player. His name is Dylan Larkin and all you get is stats:
His 13 goals this season is tops on the team, which leads the Great Lakes Division of the MWEHL with a 14-0-3 record. The next highest on the team has 9 goals. He's also second in points (Kyle Connor has 21). Surprisingly, only one of his 13 goals has come on special teams, so he's getting it done at even strength. He also leads the team with 4 game-winning goals.
This is because he is a 2014, Michigan's first. Presumably he's pretty good.
In other hockey news, crap crap crap crap crap. Michigan's losing streak has hit four, the defense is totally clueless, Hunwick isn't exactly bad but he's not playing to last year's standard, and a lot of the games have embarrassingly thin crowds. It's not so good.
Not having Merrill is obviously a big problem. Brennan Serville had his pocket picked for Union's second goal Sunday and sat until the 13 minute mark of the third period. Their third pairing is terrifying and I'm not so sure about the second one, honestly. Not skating Burlon in the title game and the fallout from that, plus the Merrill thing has turned the defense corps from the deepest in the country to one pairing and then Katie bar the door. I don't even know, man. Michigan plays a Michigan State team this weekend that's not much better on paper but has actually won some games recently; if I'm back in the MGoDitch feebly trying to have a real good time after this weekend you know what happened.
The bombs, even more targeted. Dan Wetzel wrote "Death to the BCS," so his take on the latest BCS debacle is not a surprise. It is also not wrong:
No matter what it says, the BCS is not a system designed to choose a championship matchup. It is merely a tool to stave off the inevitable playoff bowl directors fear will cut into their millions in tax-free profits, a casino-style distraction to placate the masses.
It is what it is, and until it collapses (even a four-teamer is a major, positive step), college football is stuck.
That said, if the BCS somehow survives in its current incarnation, the formula to determine 1-2 must be scrapped.
It currently consists of two-thirds human opinion polls that are ripe for political foolishness, full of oft-uneducated voters and subject to groupthink.
I'm waiting for the championship games to play out before doing the Official Tedious Thing I always do around this time, but imagine a six-team playoff with no autobids with the first two rounds played at home sites and the final at the Rose Bowl. Tentative version of that this year:
1. LSU vs 4. Oregon/5.Wisconsin
2. Alabama vs. 3. Oklahoma State/6. Stanford
Or something along those lines. What matters? This weekend. Who can complain about the outcome of that? No one. What does it do the bowl system? Hardly anything. What does it do to the importance of the regular season? Increases it.
Bowls are parasites on college football.
Etc.: Spencer Hall hits up the last Texas-Texas A&M game. Bust details. Rumors that Dayne Crist is going to use the fifth-year transfer rule to become Wisconsin's next free agent quarterback abound. The Big Ten has denied they are employing seat fillers for the championship game, which is true in a narrow technical sense only.
left: no. right: no.
It was the kind of game that leaves you writing a rage list a la Artur Boruc. Here's the Iowa version of this:
THINGS THAT DON’T WORK, FRAN MCCAFFERY
- Having your entire defense collapse on a player charging into the low post area. THIS LEAVES AROUND 3-4 GUYS WIDE OPEN TO SHOOT A 3-POINTER. WHEN EVERY TEAM HAS AN “UNUSUAL” AMOUNT OF SUCCESS BEHIND THE LINE IT ISN’T BECAUSE THEY’RE “JUST HAVING AN ON NIGHT.”
- Having your power forward take countless jumpshots. UNLESS YOUR POWER FORWARD IS TIM DUNCAN, HE SHOULDN’T BE SHOOTING 15 FOOTERS.
Etc., etc. I felt a lot like the above during the game last night as Michigan ran a zillion ball screens on which Virginia showed harrrrrrd, resulting in Stu Douglass dribbling the ball 30 feet from the basket with ten seconds on the shot clock. Apparently our offense only works when the opponent is drunk on coconut milk. /shakes fist
/continues shaking fist
/gets tired, shakes other fist
/realizes he is doing dance moves now
Tony Bennett is a war crime. That was hard to watch. Anything involving a Bennett coaching basketball is. I guess it works. I get that Memphis and UCLA are stupid teams with terrible defenses ripe for Michigan to pick apart and that Virginia is not, but what I don't get is how Michigan tore Duke apart in the second half of that game in Maui.
Guess: Duke doesn't really have a PG and put either Curry or Rivers on Burke, which led to a ton of quality penetration and nine Burke assists. In this game Burke had a tough time with Virginia's similarly lightning-quick PG and the offense was reduced to chucking it around the perimeter a la Amaker.
And we're in pine for next year mode. My inner monologue never gets more AAAARGGGGGH than when Beilein fields a lineup mid-majors would laugh at, like late in the first half when Christian, McLimans, Douglass, and Akunne were out there. Like… together. I know. Novak was the other guy on the floor.
It's times like that when the talent on the team still seems desperately deficient. Next year that lineup reads McGary-Robinson-Stauskas-something-something, which seems more likely to score on large athletic people. Or anyone.
Tim Hardaway Jr. fouled out five minutes into the second half. That is the effect of sitting a guy with two fouls for the final 15 minutes of the first half. All coaches do this, so this is not a Beilein-specific complaint, but good lord. Hardaway averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year and Virginia had a couple of shooters on the floor… is Joe Harris really going to draw a ton of fouls on Hardaway?
By sitting your best player the entire first half you're enacting the worst case scenario of leaving him in. Hardaway picked up one foul in the 20 minutes he was allowed to play.
Novak. Nails. Can't guard actual scoring power forwards.
Morgan and Horford. Keep repeating "bigs take time to develop" to yourself. They were in a tough spot against guys taller, older, and more athletic than them. Anyone with that kind of front line is going to shut off Michigan's frontcourt scoring, not that there really is any frontcourt scoring that isn't set up by the guards.
The 1-3-1. Equals six offensive rebounds. The best play against it when you've got seven-footers is to avoid the risk of a turnover by throwing up a brick and crashing the boards. I have no proof of this but it seemed a lot less effective than straight man to man. (We hope to get some proof of this in the future.)
My wildly bipolar relationship with Evan Smotrycz. I was at an Interpol concert a few years back when I ran across this couple. He: a slightly nebbishy lawyer sort in a button down and flat-front pants. She: dyed red hair on the edge of punky, little zebra-striped dress, pouty, vacillating wildly between emotional states. The terms of the relationship were instantly clear. She did whatever the hell she wanted and he put up with it because, goddamn, that dress. I present a metaphor for my feelings about sophomore Evan Smotrycz that seems a lot creepier than I thought it was going to be when I started it.
I loathed Smotrycz for much of Maui and expected to hop on the internet to find that others were ranting about his lack of development only to find the opposite ; in this game he was 4/4, 2/2 from three, and… fouled out in 22 minutes. One, a bailout of their 88% FT-shooting power forward with four seconds left on the shot clock, saw expletives arc gracefully across my living room. All basketball players look incredulous when called for a foul but Smotrycz takes it to another level, especially when he's just done something 1) obvious even to me and 2) really, really dumb.
He is putting on the floor a lot more these days to good effect and he's still the floor-spreading four Beilein wants. It's just that sometimes I want to strangle him. That's all I'm saying.
8 assists. Glarg glarg glarg glarg. When is the last time Michigan had more turnovers (11) than assists under Beilein? Half of those came from Burke, BTW. The rest of the team generated basically nothing.
Open threes. They has them. We don't. Very frustrating. Burke had his moments but isn't at the point Morris was last year. Morris created an absolute ton of shots. Not only was he third in assist rate last year but he launched a quarter of Michigan's shots when he was on the floor.
Burke was never going to fill that void himself, so who else steps up? It looks like the answer is "nobody." Maybe Hardaway, but Hardaway has kept up his freshman tendency of disappearing for long stretches. He doesn't have the handle to create shots in an isolation situation so he has to get things from the framework of the offense. Maybe that means good defenses can shut him down? (See also: his coach leaving him on the bench for 15 minutes in the first half.)