in re: is GRIII on a tear
This story is some sort of weird karma on a thousand different levels:
Illinois basketball player Alex Legion was arrested Monday night for driving on a suspended license.
An Illinois Department of Intercollegiate Athletics official said Legion’s license was suspended because of an unpaid moving violation ticket in Michigan. Legion is a native of Detroit.
You're probably well aware that Legion was Tommy Amaker's on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again final recruit, directed by God to go to Kentucky for a single semester and now a conscience-free midrange jumper specialist with the Illini.
But do you remember what happened a few years back after Illinois coach Bruce Weber was taking heat for the existence of Jamar Smith, Illini basketball player? Smith had nearly killed a teammate in a drunk-driving accident but remained on the Illinois team, prompting reporters to ask about it and Weber to act like a fool:
Weber also pointed out that “a kid in a program got arrested a couple weeks ago and he played in the next game.” Without naming him, Weber was referring to Michigan’s Lester Abram, who was stopped for speeding, then arrested for an outstanding warrant. That happened two days before Abram played for the Wolverines at Illinois.
“I don’t know if anything was talked about with him,” Weber said, his voice rising. “I don’t think so because I get a lot of feedback. You’re going to hold us to high standards but that kid got arrested and he played.”
Jamar Smith was the guy who drove his car into a tree, injuring teammate Brian Carlwell, who was a passenger. Oh, and Smith was drunk. Oh, and Smith believed that Carlwell was dead (he had a severe concussion), yet drove the car ... with Carlwell in it ... back home. Oh, and Smith went into his apartment, leaving Carlwell unconscious in his car.
Bound by infallible Logic, Weber has no choice but to do to Legion what he did to Smith: suspend him for the year and ship him to a directional Illinois school. Fret not, Alex Legion. God, unlike the Battlestar Galatica writers, has a plan. It involves the Missouri Valley Conference.
Whoah, nellie. The basketball teams is popping up on a number of early top 25 lists, which seems justifiable with only walk-ons and noncontributors on the way out and someone, anyone taller than 6'4" on the way in. I'd slot them just outside, but I can see sticking them in towards the end. Or, if you're Andy Katz, the beginning:
11. Michigan: John Beilein has made the Wolverines relevant again. He got the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament and won a game. Expect even more from Michigan with a true Michigan State-Michigan rivalry in hoops. These should be the two top teams in the league. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims might flirt with the NBA draft, but both are unlikely to stay in it. If they return with sharp-shooting guard Stu Douglass and quickly developing players Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry, the Wolverines will be a good watch.
!?!?! Uh… Purdue? Illinois? Pending NBA departures, no Big Ten team that picked up a bid loses more than a couple spare parts except Wisconsin and maybe the Illini, who lose a lot of minutes but from low-usage guys who can't be that hard to replace. State loses Suton but they'll live; BJ Mullens is in the draft but was a major disappointment last year and Ohio State gets David Lighty back anyway. Minnesota returns everyone of note.
If Michigan finishes second in the Big Ten next year I'll be ecstatic.
Moving on up, mostly. The final CSB rankings are out. F Chris Brown remains Michigan's top-ranked player eligible for the draft, dropping one slot to #30. Others:
- 2010 D Mac Bennett moved up from 63 to 40.
- F Kevin Lynch slid from 83 to 100, though his smokin' hot international tourney(pdf; Lynch leads the USA team in scoring) may reverse that trend.
- D Lee Moffie moved way up from 210 to 135.
- F AJ Treais moved up from 205 to 170.
That's a significant uptick in the draft stock of Michigan's incoming class (and a small chunk of 2010). Moffie is now in an area where he'll definitely get drafted; Treais is the only incoming recruit likely to slip through the cracks.
"We talked about all that as a family, and we felt that we didn't want to leave that way," Weis said during a recent 35-minute interview with the Tribune. "That would have been the easy way out. That's not why we came here."
What was that conversation like?
WEIS: I'm thinking about quitting, 5'3", 78 pound son of mine with a 3.7 GPA and 20/80 vision.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: Also you were born at 1:18 AM on February 17th.
SON: Isn't that--
WEIS: In a hospital. With doctors. Who had heads and legs and arms.
SON: –the easy way out?
WIFE: That's not why we came here. Also you would be walking away from enough money to buy Slovenia, whereupon we could deport simple goatherd Drew Sharp to a far more unpalatable nation.
WEIS: By jove, you're right.
SON: Speaking of easy ways out, I'm going to skip the next three days of school because you couldn't beat Greg Robinson.
WEIS: That sounds totally reasonable. Do you want to be the offensive line coach?
This has been picked up by College Game Balls and Dr. Saturday as something to note. They forget the #1 rule of Charlie Weis: everything that comes out of Weis' mouth is designed for the self-aggrandization of Charlie Weis. The "easy way out" involves forfeiting some fifteen million dollars; the hard way involves Weis being paid more than the GDP of Sri Lanka to lead Notre Dame to a ill-gotten BCS blowouts every few years. Weis' decided schematic advantage here is with the millions of dollars.
Elsewhere in Notre Dame: Dallas is trying to steal away the College Football Hall of Fame from South Bend, which pays the organization for the privilege of hosting. Yes, it's so perfectly Notre Dame to pay the CFHOF to stay in your decrepit one-moose town just for the vague prestige it brings in your own mind.
If you're like me, the only time the CFHOF has ever crossed your mind (other than articles about its potential move, which come out seemingly every year) was during this blessed event:
So, yeah, I'm onboard with moving it anywhere else. Dallas kind of sucks as a destination, but it's just wrong for the thing to be in the worst college town on the planet.
Seconded. Interesting proposal put forth by a member of Michigan's compliance staff in re: coaches' phone calls:
Judy Van Horn, the associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Michigan, wants to abolish rules about phone calls she feels are unenforceable. “If you have a coach who is intent on cheating, all they have to do is not give you all the phone numbers,” said Van Horn, who is also president of the National Association for Athletics Compliance.
Van Horn’s idea is to put the power into the hands of the student-athletes. Athletes who are inundated by calls or have coaches contacting them from universities they are not interested in attending would be able to go to the N.C.A.A.’s online eligibility center and pull up a list and click on those programs with which they no longer wanted to be associated. An e-mail message would be sent to compliance officers at those universities and the coaches would be told to stop calling. If the calls continued, the recruit could report it to the N.C.A.A.
Van Horn then raises the specter of unscrupulous coaches using disposable phones to avoid detection, which is like… really? Is this The Wire? Who is Ron Zook's Stringer Bell? Is Juice Williams going to get sick of going to every convenience store in a two-state radius and just buy a bunch from one store at the prodding of his annoying girlfriend?
Anyway, this is a limited version of the idea that recruits should be able to sign non-binding letters of intent. This got a fuller discussion before, but the general idea:
- Allow kids to sign LOIs before signing day.
- Anyone who's signed a LOI can't be called by opposing coaches.
- Kids can't take officials.
- Players can withdraw the LOI at any point until signing day.
Either would be a good idea; the NBLOI would allow kids to opt out of a potentially annoying recruiting process and provide some meaning to the idea of a "commitment" without locking kids in any earlier than they already are.
(HT: The Ann Arbor Chronicle.)
Aaaargh. My relationship with Tom Deinhart is a rocky and foreboding one. Despite being apparently subliterate when asked to give an opinion, any opinion, he pwned me like whoah during my attempt to play journalist at last year's Big Ten Media Days. So I had to consider the possibility that Deinhart could dress himself, drive a car, etc etc etc.
…he just released a ranking of the Big Ten coaches, and it was so ridiculous we planned on ignoring it until multiple people sent it to us. Here's how he ranked them:
- Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
- Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
- Jim Tressel, Ohio State
That's Iowa blog Black Heart, Gold Pants in the midst of tearing Deinhart a new one for his obviously stupid opinion. Various Ohio State blogs have ceased feeding on the souls of little children long enough to lol, too, but none so entertainingly. And here's a Michigan blog chiming in: dude, wrong.
BHGP settles on the idea that Deinhart doesn't have severe brain damage, is just being a provocateur for attention, and quotes Fire Joe Morgan in superior fashion, all of which is excellent. Read it. All of it is good. But I mostly want to highlight the words that should go on Pete Fiutak's gravestone:
This puts Dienhart in a different league than, say, CollegeFootballNews.com, who just plain never know what the fuck they're talking about. CFN is to actual analysis what ramming two GI Joes together is to MMA. It's only the same to 7-year-olds.
Etc.: Weird goings-on at the Freep's story on Paulus. Someone fooled them into thinking the Paulus report was an April Fool's joke. Someone get them a calendar. Also: a spring game boxscore; SMQB considers the "Rodriguez Leap" and its achievability this year; Brandon Smith is now a linebacker.
STAYING PUT: DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris said they will be back next year, Sims for his senior year and Harris for his junior season, putting off the chance at a pro career.
"I never even have thought about it," Harris said.
Awesome; expectations are now pegged at a tourney return at the least.
3/21/2009 – Michigan 63, Oklahoma 73 – 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten
The narrative of Michigan's basketball season was one of gritty, gutty, Eckstein-like overachievement, what with walk-ons at point guard and a 6'4" freshman at power forward and mismatched pieces in many places. It's not like this was a secret. I've typed "walk-ons at point guard" and "6'4" freshman power forward" probably a dozen times over the past couple months, often with exclamation points(!) in proximity.
But series finales are often overwrought things that take thematic overtones and bash them into your forehead, so Michigan drew the most un-Eckstein of opponents: Oklahoma and their THOG SMASH team. Then Manny Harris disappeared—maybe he's an angel—five minutes into the game and was replaced by Anthony Wright.
Wright proceeded to grit his way into 12 first-half points and Michigan went in behind by a single point at the half. They would have had a lead if not for the demands of the narrative, which caused them to blow a couple of easy fast break opportunities and the front-end of a one-and-one that would have pushed their lead to something substantial.
Halftime was spent in shocked contemplation of what had transpired. A brief attempt to calculate the probability of "Anthony Wright is Michigan's leading scorer at halftime of a second-round NCAA tourney game and the team is down one" was abandoned when one particular exponent was too large to fit in a 32-bit integer. A similar calculation for "Manny Harris plays five minutes in the first half and the team is down one" met a similar fate. ("Tim Brando is an abomination" came out to 1.)
So all this was clearly too good to be true, and Michigan duly proved that at the beginning of the second half when Harris emerged from the bench. But just as reality set in and began to harden, CJ Lee took a bite of his grit sandwich and gritted a gritty pair of gritballs, which in gritspeak are three pointers, three being the grittiest number and "balls" being the grittiest way to say "points."
Calculations begun! And hastily abandoned when Oklahoma threw it into Griffin and someone looked sideways at him and was whistled. Or something. Michigan loses, exeunt season.
And so. Here we are. This is going to be an embarrassing confession, but I remember standing in Crisler Arena on another Senior Day a few years ago and choking up a bit as the names along the lines of Chris Young were announced and the whatnot went on.
And I remember thinking that they should retire Lavell Blanchard's jersey, if only for sucking it up and staying home and enduring all the stuff you had to endure during that portion of Michigan's basketball history. At that point, anyone who managed to stay in school for four years without beating anyone with a belt or rolling an SUV or being Gavin Groninger seemed like a hero. I wanted to credit Blanchard with changing the culture of the program.
He actually which he may have done this, but the culture instituted was just a different kind of horrible. A much, much less horrible kind of horrible, but horrible just the same.
Thanks to Anthony Wright, we've all permanently lost our ability to criticize Beilein's rotation. This means we have to consider the walk-ons, and consider what it means when Jerrett Smith is deposited on Grand Valley State's bench and Kelvin Grady on Michigan's in favor of the above-pictured. In Smith's case, it just means he's bad at basketball. In Lee's case it just means he's better than Grady.
In Merritt's case… well. Merritt brought very little on the floor. His playing time is most easily interpreted as a rebuke to whatever Grady was doing that Beilein hated. Merritt is the culture Beilein wants, and he's going to get it, but a half-foot taller and able to pass and maybe score more than a couple points a game. This is just the end of the beginning.
- Michigan fans can't even assert that it was Harris' two quick fouls that doomed them since the guy soaking up the vacated playing time was Wright.
- As obliquely referred to above: Michigan had an opportunity to push its lead out to seven or eight points in the first half, which would have made the final, post-CJ-Lee-apocalypse minutes frenetic as hell. But they blew two fast breaks when guys pushing up the floor just had to catch the ball and lay it up, one of which led to a fast break the other way, and Douglass clanked the front end of a one and one. That's probably a seven-point swing,—you have to credit Oklahoma with about a point for their possession—enough to turn that five point deficit that was the closest Michigan came after their disastrous first few minutes of the second half into a two point lead.
These are the kind of opportunities you have to take if you're the ten seed, I think.
- I see I wasn't the only one to dub Griffin's treatment the Full Tebow. What perfect misfortune to draw the loathsome Tim Brando for this game. I mentioned this on Saturday, but at one point when it was declared Griffin had a "quiet" 30-15 I enjoyed a brief, dark laugh.
- The 400 shots of Griffin's parents may have made me want to claw my eyes out but at least they explained that weird ginger ubermensch effect going on. Over and over again. In the most annoying way possible.
- Also explained: why Griffin's opponents occasionally suplex him. He, Devendorf, and Vasquez should let their powers combine ("Ginger!" "Domestic Violence!" "Inadvisable Media Handling!") to summon forth Captain Douchebag.
So: Oklahoma, possessor of the most terrifying quasi-ginger manbeast* in college basketball lo these many years, comes up against Michigan, possessor of exactly two guys over 6'5", only one of whom plays at a time. Yipes.
Though Kenpom's taking a beating in this year's tournament, it's worth noting that Oklahoma, at 15, is a weak 2-seed in according to the numbers. This is more like a 4-13 matchup than a 2-10. Which I have no idea whether that's better or worse. Given what happens with 4-13 games, we have around a 25% shot, which is about what Kenpom says anyway. FWIW, Oklahoma was only the third-best team in the Big 12 in terms of efficiency margin, finishing behind Kansas and Missouri.
*(I couldn't find a picture that showed it well. I am of the opinion that Griffin is pigmented oddly in a way that I can't put a finger on but is definitely ginger-esque.)
Michigan Offense vs Oklahoma Defense
Two pointers. Oklahoma's extremely good at defending them, 17th nationally at 42.3%, and extremely good at avoiding opponent trips to the line. Continuing a theme, the Sooners get a lot of blocks: 11.4%, 51st nationally.
Three pointers. Oklahoma gives up an average percentage but allows slightly more threes than the average bear.
Possession advantage. The one glaring deficiency on the Oklahoma resume is turnover percentage, at which they languish in the 300s. Opponents just don't turn the ball over, probably because Oklahoma's defense is considerably less in-your-face than that of Clemson or whoever. That makes sense. They can just funnel drivers to Griffin and rely on their outstanding two-point FG defense and rebounding to do the work without getting in foul trouble. This explains the FTA/FGA, too. Don't expect a whole lot of ball denial on the outside.
That defensive rebounding, by the way, is good but not outstanding. They're 119th, which is above average, but for a power conference team that plays a significant portion of its schedule against weaker schools it's probably just average when adjusted for opponent difficulty.
Well? Given Michigan's profile we should expect few turnovers, a ton of threes attempted, very few trips to the line, and the occasional offensive rebound. Sounds like any other Michigan game, actually. Key matchup is Sims versus Griffin; Michigan's going to need more than what Sims provided against Clemson, and it'll be interesting to see what happens if the Sooners try to play man to man and Sims drags Griffin out of the paint. The outside shooting threat Sims provides could seriously limit Griffin's effectiveness on the defensive end.
Oklahoma Offense vs Michigan Defense
Oh, lordy. While Michigan's offense has a decent chance of working just fine, the offensive numbers are intimidating.
Two pointers. Oklahoma makes 56% of its twos, fourth nationally, thanks to Griffin. He's hitting 64% of his twos(!). Oklahoma also has a huge FTA/FGA ratio that is also fourth nationally—they take a bunch of free throws. This is also thanks to Griffin, who is #1 nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. This is probably not news, but: Blake Griffin is good.
Three pointers. Oklahoma's slightly above average at hitting 'em and slightly above average at taking 'em, likely symptomatic of opponents collapsing down on that Griffin guy and leaving open shots for the guys on the perimeter.
Possession advantage. IE: turnovers plus offensive rebounds plus free throw percentage. This is where it gets dicey. Oklahoma's slightly above average at taking care of the ball and pretty good but not obliteratingly good on the offensive boards: they rebound 36.5 of their misses, good for 52nd.
The somewhat good news is that all those free throws taken aren't hugely efficient. Unlike Manny Harris, Michigan's main source of FTs, Griffin has an encouragingly crappy time of it at the free throw line, shooting just 59%. Yes, this means that Griffin averages 1.28 points on an average shot and 1.18 points on an average trip to the line and sort of implies that Eric Puls should see the floor and foul out as quickly as possible, but that's before taking turnovers and stuff into account. It's probably close, though.
What do you do with this stuff? It doesn't appear that Oklahoma crushes the boards quite as much as Clemson did against Michigan. Aside from Griffin, who's an absolute vacuum defensively and very good offensively, they've got one other guy who plays much and hits the boards, and he's 6'7".
As far as Griffin goes, I guess you have to front him, double him constantly, prevent him from getting the ball, and possibly give him a ninja suplex to stop him. Any Michigan player with spare fouls should use them liberally should Griffin find himself in an advantageous position. Michigan's status as a team that uses a few different zones should help limit the damage Griffin can do, as they can switch between a few different defenses and confuse entry passes and the like from Oklahoma's young and not that great guards.
Slidin', again. Michigan may be fortunate to have run across a team that, like Clemson, is sliding a bit as the season comes to an end. Oklahoma finished its year by losing four of six, including an opening-game loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney. I wouldn't get too excited, though: all of those losses game to quality tournament teams and only the Kansas game was at home. This is not analogous to Clemson's situation, which saw the Tigers drop games against the likes of Georgia Tech.
Coachin'. The Beilein-as-tourney-mastermind meme continues with another upset for his hall of heads, albeit against the active coach with the worst PASE score in all the land. Jeff Capel doesn't have much of a record, but it's better than Oliver Purnell's:
- 2004: Capel gets VCU in as a 13 seed, where they lose to #4 Wake Forest by a single point.
- 2008: Oklahoma makes the field as a 6, handily beating St Joseph's in the first round before getting clubbed by Louisville 78-48.
Capel went to Duke, for whatever that's worth. Anger about someone else getting a good coach from Duke? General anger about the white Devils? I don't know.
Common Opponent. There was just one: Oklahoma beat Purdue 87-82.
The General Feeling Of Foreboding
Yeah, I've got it too. Or, rather, I've got it as much as anyone can have it when you're dealing with this Michigan basketball team that has exceeded expectations so massively.
Michigan finds itself facing a team poised to exploit their greatest weakness. I mean…
For being a scout team player that saw all of 20 minutes of floor time this season, Eric Puls got plenty of attention Friday afternoon.
The 6-foot-10-inch University of Michigan redshirt freshman played the role of Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin during Friday's practice session at the Sprint Center as the Wolverines prepared for tonight's NCAA Tournament South Regional test against the No. 2-seeded Sooners.
…greatest weakness, man. I am racking my brain for things Eric Puls has in common with Blake Griffin and can come up with two: being 6'10" and having a cardiovascular system.
Playing man to man against Griffin is a recipe for points on your face and Michigan is going to have to do that after misses and turnovers, though thankfully there probably won't be much in the way of turnovers. They don't even have the post depth to foul freely.
I can see Michigan staying in the game for a while, but I can also see that one deadly Oklahoma run that pushes a close game to an eight or ten point gap all too clearly. This is probably it, but hey: okay.
WOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! MUPPET
BRAIN OFF WOOO ZACH GIBSON WOO MANY HARRIS WOOO
ONE… OTHER! WOOO