alternate headline: man does job
Not good. The latest update on Vada Murray's condition is not good at all:
Vada was admitted to the hospital early last week, shortly after we learned that the cancer had metastasized to his brain. This, and a number of other complications from his pain meds caused a 5 day hospital stay.
Unfortunately, he was readmitted to the hospital this afternoon. … Because Vada is extremely tired & we are struggling to get his pain under control, we humbly ask you for privacy at this time.
That sounds like he doesn't have much time left. I don't have any personal memories of Murray—too young—but when and if the time comes I'll be looking for some from people who do.
HT: Gustave Ferbert on the board.
Forty gallons in a steady stream. Misopogon bumped UMHero's offer list to a diary and I was all like—dude. So I created a new wiki page for it. You can see it under "Useful Stuff" and people with over 500 points should be able to edit it. You will have to do this every thirty seconds to keep up with Michigan's enormous offer hose.
CEASE PANIC. Yesterday's offhand mention that Darius Morris was "leaning towards entering the draft" from NBADraft.net set the Michigan internets ablaze. Morris immediately appeared on the BTN, endured someone calling him "the butterfly" to his face without threatening to eat someone's pinky finger ("I don't know if it's catchy, but some people like it"), and said things that reassure:
The PANIC-related bits come at the end when Morris is asked about next year:
"We still have a lot of work to do. It's not going to come easy, it's going to take a lot of time in the weight room, a lot of time in the gym. But I definitely think we have the potential to be good down the road, be one of the dominant teams in the Big Ten in the future. I tell everybody 'just keep working hard, no matter what it looks like today.' We're always looking towards our future, and our future does look bright. We're all young, and we're all coming back next year."
Now, in the context of the interview that last statement was not a repudiation of the idea he'd leave. It was more a restatement of the fact that Michigan has no seniors. But even NBADraft.net suggested that Morris leaving would be pretty odd since he has an opportunity to play himself into a first round pick down the road and right now he'd be leaving for the un-guaranteed contracts of the second round. You'd have to be really mad to leave.
I have an email in to the author of the piece—who is not a random crank, BTW, he's making it his job—and will let you know if I get any more details.
On projected improvement. The Only Colors surveys this year's uniquely senior-laden Big Ten, finding that all the really good teams are getting about 50% of their points from old guys save OSU, and OSU is probably going to lose at least one guy in the offseason. You know this but Michigan checks in dead last with 0%. TOC on this:
Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan will basically return every significant contributor next season. Not surprisingly, the youngest teams also find themselves at or near the bottom of the standings.
This was written before the Iowa game when Michigan was hanging out in eighth but even then there's a big difference between where Michigan is and where Iowa and Indiana are. File under yet more reasons for optimism. The big takeaway: Penn State is going to be awful next year.
Also while we're on TOC, there's a diary purveying "enhanced" PORPAG but I'm pretty sure the basketball statistical community isn't a big fan of steals and blocks as a picture of defense, which is usually a team thing stats barely shed light on.
Where Michigan is: the vague bubble. After Michigan completed its nonconference schedule the conventional wisdom was that being vaguely on the bubble was M's best case scenario as the season wound down. The season is winding down and Michigan is indeed vaguely on the bubble. Huzzah for predictions.
The other prediction of late has been that 9-9 and a win in the Big Ten Tourney would be enough. Is that reasonable? I'm not sure—hockey bracketology is my specialty—but Maize and Go Blue has assembled a chart (chart) of various teams that are in the tournament according to Joe Lunardi:
|Team||Record||Conf. Pos.||Conf. Rank||RPI||KenPom||SOS||v. Top 50
||v. Top 100
One of those teams is Michigan. The other eight are in the tourney according to Lunardi. I won't spoil the surprise for people who don't know Michigan's conference record, but the studies of the other teams are pretty interesting. You have to think that going 2-1 against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan State would be enough if this rabble is in.
More Ward. AP article on the upcoming Willis Ward documentary contains quote on par with O Brother Where Art Thou in old-timey elegance:
"On Monday morning, (Ford) and Bill Borgmann told me that they'd done something during the game for me and I'll never forget it," Ward said. "It seems as though as the game got started, a fellow on the other side of the line made a remark about him loving people like me. And his adjectives, they were 'bleep' adjectives, so I won't use it. Whereupon Jerry and Bill put a block on him that ended that fellow's participation in the game. So they came back that Monday and told me that they dedicated that block to me."
Details as to that game and the rest of the Harry Kipke era can be found at MVictors. Also check out the comments to the AP article for a fun discussion of slavery and racism between morons. Godwin happens in post #5. Amurrica.
"Wurst state ever." What it says on the tin.
Etc.: NCAA baseball clamps down on metal bats to reduce the number of 25-19 games. Michigan folk estimate home runs will be halved; they'd gone up 41 percent(!) just since 2006. Wonk/Gasaway explains his thinking to Sippin' On Purple after the author there went slapfight on him. Man applies to manage Middlesborough FC based on Football Manager experience. Bruce Ciskie on college hockey's upcoming Big Ten realignment.
Rock Mocked. Are you up for some uncomfortable fun made at Tate Forcier's expense?
That's the hockey team's Mock Rock thing. The marching band won with the football team in second, says AnnArbor.com's Jeff Arnold in an article that emits the faint whiff of sarcasm. Selected highlights:
The band registered a string of six perfect 10.0 scores following a flawlessly choreographed routine … The two top finishes pulled away from the pack of other performances that ranged from the ridiculously creative Pokemon (men's and women's lacrosse) to the wildly entertaining "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (men's swimming); an act that ended in a speedo-inspired tribute to Michael Jackson.
Generic overwritten newspaperese or bitterness at drawing the short straw? We'll never know. I have no idea if the thing was actually entertaining or not since I was watching the basketball game.
In related news, here's an autotuned David Moosman snorting his phone.
Morris benching explained. You were probably saying something along the lines of "aaargh where Morris" with nine minutes left in the game. Even if he had done something wrong he was sitting on seven assists and one turnover at the time—he wasn't exactly a loose cannon. In the aftermath both Beilein and Morris are saying it was nothing except fatigue:
“I caught my breath,” Morris said. “They did a good job of pressuring the ball, and I was guarding McCamey as well. The coaches noticed I got a little bit tired and then when they took me out, we got on a little run before they separated again, but I felt rejuvenated when I came back in the game.
“It was the most rest I’ve gotten.”
Nothing to see here. /barbrady
Draft incoherence. The rejuvenated Bylaw Blog is admirably willing to say certain NCAA regulations don't make any sense, whether it's the NLI or the NCAA's willingness to let drafted kids play as long as they're not basketball (or I guess football) pplayers:
it is a violation to go through a draft if you decided you want to be in it. But it isn’t a violation in some cases if you are drafted and then attempt to negotiate the greatest possible compensation for your athletic skills. And it isn’t a violation to attempt that negotiation in order to enter the draft.
The fact that this is unfair to some student-athletes is secondary. Most important is that entering a professional draft is not sufficient evidence that you want to give up your collegiate eligibility. Entering a draft and deciding any contract offered would not be worth leaving college is no more or less an indication of a student-athlete’s intent to professionalize themselves than deciding a contract offer is not sufficient to leave college and enter the draft in the first place.
I'm not sure what harm would be done by allowing NBA teams to draft underclassmen, work them out at camps and whatnot, have them play summer league, and then send them back to school. Players wouldn't have a do-or-die decision to go pro or not and talented players might stick around another year or two. You'd also get some extra interest from NBA fans tracking their prospects.
That post also contains a discussion about NCAA president Mark Emmert's recent "over my dead body" statement about paying players. These things kind of go hand-in-hand. If paying players is a bridge too far I don't see why the NCAA can't allow players to sign with an agent or take some non-ludicrous amount of money from a pro team that's drafted them. Right now a major source of NCAA corruption comes from agents funneling money to players in the hopes of signing them; allowing kids to sign and take a bit of money wouldn't increase the amount of compensation they're getting.
Amateurism is all well and good if you can actually enforce it. If you can't—and it seems pretty clear that's the case—you should probably repeal Prohibition, make some reasonable concessions, and make your setup a little bit less hypocritical without actually spending any money yourself.
Morons on the loose, except no longer loose. You have probably heard that someone poisoned Auburn's trees at Toomer's Corner, then called into the Finebaum show to brag about it. The Auburn folk I follow on twitter and in my RSS feed spent yesterday pointedly not advocating the wholesale destruction of Tuscaloosa, which proves they're better people than I am. I'd be on the warpath. Here he is:
He was rapidly arrested because he is named "Harvey Almorn Updike" and lives in Dadeville—a town of approximately four people I drove through once en route to the Auburn-LSU game I attended—and told the radio he was "Al from Dadeville." This goes here.
Unfortunately, it's too late for this incident to remove his genes from the pool—he's got kids named "Bear" and "Crimson."
Q: is this literally the worst possible thing a single fan could do to a rival fanbase? I think so. I can't think of another tradition that's so treasured and so vulnerable. You could cut off Bear Bryant's head* and they'd just put a new one on. It's metal. You could kill Uga, but Uga dies every year and they just keep making new ones. The trees are unique: iconic symbols of the university that can expire but don't do it on the regular.
The worst thing is it's not even clever. Boo, Alabama man. Boo.
Etc.: Grant Wahl is running for FIFA president. He's got my nonexistent unimportant vote. More on the first of the 30-for-30 style documentaries about Michigan football. Hockey's senior day is Saturday—a rare opportunity for students to be there. Yost fluff.
2/16/2011 – Michigan 52, Illinois 54 – 16-11, 6-8 Big Ten
Bear with me: if Michigan's basketball season was a hockey game, last night's basketball game was a really good scoring chance blown when you're down one with five minutes left. At that point you write the game off, because that was it. Objectively, your chance of winning hasn't changed much, if at all, but it feels like a door just closed.
Michigan's NCAA tournament hopes aren't much worse than they were 24 hours ago. Since Kenpom loves Illinois and Michigan outperformed expectations, its season prediction hardly moved. The evaporation of Michigan's 16% chance of winning in Champaign was made up for by significant positive moves in Michigan's four remaining games. But if Michigan's watching the NCAA selection show with a jaundiced eye, thinking about what could of been, they'll be thinking about ball after ball clanging off rims in Assembly Hall.
God, did anyone else scream horrible profanity at the world in general at that point in the second half when Zack Novak set up for yet another wide open three pointer that bashed the front of the rim? It's one thing if Michigan's firing awkward, contested threes deep in the shot clock and another when open look after open look isn't even close to going down. What's Stu Douglass—before yesterday a 40% three point shooter—supposed to do when he's standing still with the ball in his hand and no Illinois player within three feet? Shoot. He shoots, and this goes horribly, and Michigan still almost pulls off a statement win* and we're left to wonder what would have happened if they had just been miserable from three instead of abominable.
And then there's this: 4-28. That's what Michigan shot against Kansas in a game that went to overtime. Sometimes basketball makes you want to punch a wall even when you're in the bonus on the road with 14 minutes left in the half.
In the long view Michigan exceeded expectations again, if slightly, and has managed to stay in games even when threes aren't available or falling. Hope for next year increments slightly again. Right now, argh.
*[Statement is "hey, seriously guys we're on the bubble, seriously." That qualifies for the 335th-most experienced team in D-I]
Non-bullets that do not go in at all ever
Bruce Weber: not so much. That was a terribly coached basketball team that let Michigan hang around despite their inability to throw the ball in Tim Doyle's bad nickname repository by making inane turnovers and taking terrible shots. I'd be pretty upset if I was an Illinois fan. They are huge, veteran, talented, and headed for a second-round matchup with a one-seed.
Tim Doyle: not entirely horrible. I still cringe at "The Butterfly" and believe we should start calling Doyle "The Argyle Sock" in retaliation, but after listening to Stephen Bardo fire out two hours of inane cliches I appreciate Doyle a bit more. Anyone wondering what the hell Michigan could do to stop Tisdale from catching the ball two inches from the basket got some great analysis when Doyle pointed out that Zack Novak was way too far from the guy throwing the entry pass—far enough away that the guy could chuck a chest pass.
Doyle needs to realize his bid to nickname Michigan's point guard has failed and start using an outrageous Russian accent when he makes his Rounders references, but I'm slowly warming to him.
The rack: terrifying. Illinois's length started bothering Michigan immensely towards the end of the first half. After getting a couple shots blocked and seeing a couple others altered beyond recognition, Michigan players were extremely hesitant to take driving lanes and started settling for meh midrange stuff. Morgan was the lone exception, which was good—he was productive in the second half—and bad—a couple of the shots he put up were poor decisions early in the shot clock. Still mostly good.
This tendency had its worst expression on the back-to-back possessions late where Douglass and Morris both took step-back jumpers from the women's three point line. Those were bad shots for a lot of reasons, and it's hard to imagine either of them getting launched against, say, Penn State.
Final shot. Saw some e-complaints about Smotrycz not driving to the hole on Michigan's final possession but don't understand them. Smotrycz may not have been lighting it up from three but he also got blocked when he tried to go to the hole that one time and is not shooting a great percentage from inside the arc. Help defense would have arrived, and time's running down. You get an open three to win and you're a 38% shooter I think you should take it.
Bit before the final shot. The look on Beilein's face as he called timeout after Michigan had run 17 seconds off the clock when a two-for-one opportunity was staring them in the face was not exasperated enough, but for it to be exasperated enough he would have had to break the laws of physics. File under "young team" unless it happens again.
Seriously, make a shot. I have nothing useful to add. Just argh.
Mets Maize. Best bit:
Morris and Hardaway Jr. leadership dynamic. At this point, it's pretty clear they're the leaders of the team but it was interesting to watch them communicate between whistles. At one point, Morris yelled at Hardaway Jr. to "chill out". Unfortunately, they just never got on the same page: Morris with at least a half dozen forced penetrations without a single pass in the half court set, Hardaway Jr. hesitant to pull the trigger, pump fakes and generically drives and kicks. Early in the 2nd half, there was an awkward, back-and-forth turnover-fest by both teams that resulted in Tim Hardaway Jr. trying to push the ball, getting it stolen and an Illini cherry-pickin' jam on the other end.
As UMHoops pointed out on the twitters, Illinois has the best eFG% defense in the league for a reason—and Michigan let it get to them.
Dylan also points out that this was Michigan's best defensive game in a while:
Lost in the offensive struggles is the fact that this was Michigan’s best defensive game in Big Ten play. Michigan held Illinois to .90 points per possession and more impressively just .73 per trip in the second half. Michigan was abused by the high-low in the first half but made the right adjustments to negate Illinois’ size advantage in the second half. Illinois posted an eFG% of 48% – 56% on twos & 22% on threes – and only attempted 9 free throws on the game. Most importantly, Michigan did a great job on the defensive glass, grabbing 76% of Illinois’ missed shots.
A chunk of that was due to Illinois's troubles from three, but those rebounding numbers are impressive against a huge team. Michigan's moved up to 41st in defensive rebounding. (The one major misstep from Doyle and the PBP guy last night was repeatedly claiming Michigan was not a good rebounding team. They're well above average defensively; they get zero offensive rebounds but the overall gap is small. They're about average.)
Certainly Michigan is a game to worry about on paper. But the reality is that they're sloppy on offense, they take too many quick shots, they don't value the ball and they play multiple defenses, none particularly well.
Michigan is 19th nationally in turnover margin, 321st in pace, still 19th nationally in turnover margin, and plays 95% man with the occasional 1-3-1 possession. That's amazing.
Site update. It took a little longer than we thought it would but we have restored commenting abilities for IE users. This serves as your regular reminder that you should switch to Chrome or Firefox. Also, users should be able to upload avatars again. Also I updated the "MGoElsewhere" menu a bit so it contains links to twitter feeds for both Tim and Tom.
The destruction of the innocents. Basketball beat Northwestern 75-66 yesterday as Jordan Morgan went ham (11 of 13, 27 points) against the Phantom of the Opera and John Shurna failed to exist. Shurna's been limited much of the season and apparently picked something new up recently. His last three games are a DNP against OSU and two games in which he played around 25 minutes but only attempted 5 field goals. Michigan may have gotten a little fortunate there.
I don't have a ton to say that UMHoops didn't cover in the link above but some praise is in order for Morris, Hardaway, and Douglass for setting up Morgan's monster night. Almost all of Morgan's baskets were assisted and even on the ones that weren't his teammates were setting him up in excellent position. Example: Douglass had an excellent post feed—in a year when any post feed is a rarity—that allowed Morgan to immediately spin baseline for a layup. Northwestern's D is terrible so this may stand as a career game for Morgan but it was good to see him be so efficient after that Ohio State game where going up soft cost Michigan badly. Morgan started the game off in similar fashion before becoming ruthless.
Meanwhile, at one point I exclaimed "shoot that!" when Hardaway passed up an open three. Progress all around. I wasn't even that mad about the terrifying Northwestern run because it was four straight three pointers, two of them challenged to the point where there could have been a foul.
Kenpom moved a bit afterwards. Not losing a game Michigan was only mildly favored in pushed the season prediction to almost exactly 17.5-13.5 and increased the chance of reaching 9-9 and therefore the bubble to 16%. Slightly beating the prediction moved Michigan up to 52nd, one spot behind Michigan State.
More fodder for next year's optimism. The Only Colors tracks an individual stat called PORPAG that sort of mimics baseball's VORP. (The usual caveats that basketball is a team game and you don't know about defense, etc., apply.) A quick glance at their top 15 shows Darius Morris sixth. That's excellent. More excellent still is that only four players in the top 15 are going to be around next year: UW's Jordan Taylor, Morris, Shurna, and IU's Jordan Hulls. The rest are seniors or Jared Sullinger. So not only is Michigan returning everyone but the rest of the Big Ten is getting hammered by graduation.
This is not a throwdown. So one part of the now confusingly diverse Maize 'n' Brew crew got sick of my repeated assertions that The Process was the worst way to acquire any new head coach, Brady Hoke or not. The result was this very long post that asserts Michigan's most recent recruiting class is "awesome" and makes other arguments that I don't even know what to do with. Since that post's been disputed by another of that site's contributors and effectively countered by a long message board thread here that's surprisingly light on snark and image macros. I'll forgo a response (other than, you know, this) because Mets Maize made it pointless:
One Small Step for Hoke, One Giant Leap for Hokeamania
There you go: the events of the last month delivered with maximum pith. Nothing has changed the fact Michigan had a candidate pool of one in their coaching search that started in January that they were probably going to start no matter the result of the bowl game.
Hopefully we'll start seeing some reason for optimism other than Mattison soon. Nothing in the intervening weeks qualifies, not even Jason Whitlock's endorsement.
Wasted effort. The Sporting News's Dave Curtis went to some trouble to find out that converting third downs is a good idea. It's gotten play a few places because it's February 10th and the long hard college football offseason has started. I don't like this because I am all mathy and stuff and this…
All five BCS bowl winners ranked among the nation’s top 13 teams in third-down differential. The differential statistic, not officially computed by the NCAA, takes a team’s third-down conversion rate on offense and subtracts its opponents’ third-down conversion rate.
…is not useful at all. "Drives are good," it says.
Worse, it places undue emphasis on third down itself when first and second down are equally, if not more, important. This has unfortunately succumbed to linkrot but back in the day I did an analysis of third downs by distance and frequency, coming to the unsurprising conclusion that short was good and great third down conversion rates are often more indicative of what you did before third down than anything else. Just looking at third down rates is goofy because first and second down contribute to the distance you have to go—you're really looking at "first and second and third down conversion rate," which is fine if you want to look at that. Just don't make it seem like third down is really really important when your number doesn't control for the effects of first and second.
Old news. I got distracted writing posts on the 4-3 and Tim Hardaway that ballooned into way longer thing than I thought they'd end up being, so some items fell through the cracks. You've seen these already if you read anything other than the front page here.
One: Wojo interviewing Brady Hoke. Amongst the increasingly familiar Passion For Michigan, Denard As NFL Vick, and Tremendous Toughness segments were a couple of things that are not familiar. One was Hoke saying he was "pissed off" at Michigan's factionalism the past three years, which is a refreshingly blunt way for a coach to say anything. The other was the admission that beer had a role in shaping Hoke's physique:
Q. Did you just drop a hint you were a bit wild back in your college days?
A. Uh, yeah, for two years I really didn't have the best goals in mind. I wanted to play football and try to drink every beer in Muncie, Ind. And I tell parents that on visits.
I'm trying to ignore the bit that follows wherein "funnest" gets deployed. Football coaches and grammar, man.
Hoke comes off as likeable, down to earth, etc. Even if you're of the opinion that ADs tweeting out old Jason Whitlock articles as evidence in favor of anything is awful, at least the guy he hired has a solidly positive rootability factor.
Q. How often do you chew a kid's tail?
A. Oh, usually daily.
Do yourself a massive favor by taking that out of context.
Two: De-emphasizing Denard, a little bit. This is almost a week old and has the freshness of Abe Vigoda but:
"To a degree … we're blowing a lot of it up," new Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "In our offense, I don't see Denard rushing for 1,700 yards, and I told him that. But I could see him rushing for 1,000 yards, and I could see him throwing for that 700 or 800 he didn't rush for."
Hives hives hives hives hives… mmm smaller, treatable hives. Borges later praises Denard's completion percentage as a couple other coaches make noises about a running game that looks "a little different" and emphasizes more "downhill" running. It then throws this in at the end:
Michigan was eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 488.69 yards, 13th in rushing (234.54), 25th in scoring (32.77) and 36th in passing (250.15).
…and returns ten starters. I'll come around on Al Borges after he's got a tall strapping fellow bombing it for 10 YPA but the chances I don't spend next year bitching about the misapplication of Denard Robinson are slim. I'm not even sure how you get him 1,000 yards if he's taking snaps from center. You can only run so many waggles and Incredibly Surprising QB Draws. As always, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Hoke uber alles.
Etc.: Michigan picks up a 2013 hockey commit; JT Compher is a forward from Illinois who seems high-end, like first-round OHL pick and easy NTDP pick high-end. We'll see if that holds up as he ages. Mets Maize on the Northwestern game. More justified hockey grumbling. Spring game will be April 16th. Michigan football documentary series planned. The Wolverine Blog points out that the guys who "couldn't shoot ever" now can and that's probably another thing we can add to the list of reasons Darius Morris is awesome. Scot Loeffler becomes Temple's OC.
Darius Morris had a triple-double against Iowa—just the third in the program's history—and I managed to completely omit any mention of this when I talked about the game. In an effort to repair the fail here it is in its entirety thanks to UMHoops and Josh Houchin:
It got fancy in there for a moment. Almost as if someone was… dancing.
1/27/2011 – Michigan 61, Michigan State 57 – 12-9, 2-6 Big Ten
left two Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com
A couple years ago Michigan fans were wondering if they really had something or if an unexpected win against UCLA was just a one-off when they took on Duke in Crisler arena. Michigan won that game, and the moment I remember most was Zack Novak holding his follow-through an ostentatiously long time. He'd just hit a three pointer to push Michigan well in front that sent Crisler into honest-to-God hysterics. It was an ungritty thing to do, but if anyone can justify a little flash now and then it's Zack Novak.
Yesterday Novak had what can only be described as a leadership aneurysm. It was the grittiest twitchy, alarming fit anyone's ever had. MSU fans rushed to put it on the internet the better to mock him by:
This worked out about as well as painting "1,181" across your hairless, AXE-laden chests.
You know this, but: 6 of 8 from three, 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal, and various dogged things that don't show up in the box score but contribute to the bottom line. In the aftermath of the game David Merritt tweeted something about how if you question Zack Novak's importance to the team you "don't understand team sports*". That and math.
Because Michigan followed up a series of promising performances against elite teams with road duds against Indiana and Northwestern, beating Michigan State won't mean anything outside of the thing itself. Michigan's not likely to get even an NIT bid because of the win. Before my fiancée fell asleep for the second half she remarked that even though Michigan was in front "they make everything seem so hard," and they do.
Michigan is aimless. The announcers kept talking about Michigan taking a lot of time off the shot clock like that was a special strategy for this game when they're almost as slow (327th) as they are young (337th) and played at the exact same pace against South Carolina Upstate. When it's going well they're "deliberate," but to my eyes it's a team that doesn't really know what it's doing. They're forced to improvise when time gets low after chucking it around the perimeter for 20 seconds. It's almost exactly what Amaker teams did down to pulling the big out of the lane to provide a low-threat passing option as the ball cycles around the three point line.
The most eye-opening section of the season was the first half against Northwestern, when the Wildcats team ran a series of intricate cuts that opened up Michigan's defense for a rain of open threes and drives into the lane against mis-positioned defenders:
Michigan gets a lot of that from Darius Morris but Northwestern gets it from all over. Morris has an astronomic assist rate but if you compare the teams there are seven(!) Wildcats between him and Stu Douglass, Michigan's #2 guy. Despite the hype about Beilein, right now Michigan's offense boils down to "do something, Darius."
Fortunately for Michigan, Darius Morris has proven pretty good at not only that but twisting down the lane and getting awkward shots to fall. He was somehow 5 of 8 from inside the arc despite his teammates assisting on zero of his buckets; most of those were Dion Harris-style "well, someone has to put it up" buckets while swarmed in the lane. Combine that with near 50% three-point shooting and a you've got the recipe for an upset.
You don't have something sustainable to go back to the rest of the season.
Michigan's going to get better the rest of the way, but it might be hard to tell because of noise. They'll probably even get better more quickly than more experienced teams. IE, all teams. They still won't be very good. That's okay. Beating Michigan State at Breslin hasn't happened since I was a freshman in college—JESUS—and while it's very Sparty to say they can pack it in the rest of the year and there will still be some satisfaction from the season, it's also true. As a self-contained thing it is the best of all basketball things.
In the larger picture it's just one of those games when Colton Christian hits an 18-footer as the shot clock expires. They happen. Where this game gives hope is for the offseason, when Zack Novak will call for a captain's practice and the his teammates will remember he was the man who sprayed gore all over the Breslin Center and showed Michigan State it was theirs.
*[He also mentioned that he used to throw "Office" quotes back and forth with Douglass.]
Non-bullets and whatnot
Not a vintage MSU team. At some point in early in the game a goofy white guy did something bad and I was about to kick something when I realized he was playing for Michigan State. Late in the first half I was wondering why the goofy white guy never came off the floor when the announcers mentioned his name, which was a different name, and I looked at their numbers and they were different too and it dawned on me that there were two goofy white guys who only did bad things splitting 40 minutes of playing time. One of them was an elf who bakes cookies.
It was at this point hope dawned.
Novak and Stu as reasons for Beilein hope. They're obviously better than Smotrycz on a possession-to-possession "oh God, what was that?" level, and I'd throw in Hardaway and his addiction to chucking up not-very-good shots in there too. Novak and Douglass were just as shaky as freshmen. Douglass had the same disease Hardaway does. Now they have the best eFG% on the team excepting easy-bucket machine Jordan Morgan. Douglass was a conscience free gunner his first couple years; now his usage rate is in the "limited roles" category and his three point percentage is a point short of 40%.
If Hardaway and Smotrycz can advance at the same pace they can be those guys plus three inches each. I'm relatively serene about Beilein's bulletproof status because his recruiting's improved tremendously, the team would be a lot different if Robin Benzing and Ben Cronin hadn't flamed out, and it's at least worth checking out what will happen next year when experience goes from almost dead last nationally (337 of 345) to approximately middle-of-the pack. If you add a year of experience to everyone they'd be in a huge multi-way tie for 126th, but that's generous because Michigan will play Burke and Brundidge.
Beilein's already earned next year, and when they take the inevitable step forward in '11-'12 he'll get year six, and that's got at least a decent chance of working out.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., please report to the lost and found. We have found your conscience. Please re-insert it and stop leading the team in three-pointers attempted despite only hitting 30% of them. He's got a higher percentage of shots while he's on the floor than Morris does, which is kind of amazing. Michigan would be better if he got that usage down to around 20%. I'm sure, like Stu, that he'll learn.
The strange thing about Smotrycz. Does anyone else think his best defense is played in the post? This isn't really a compliment—he's probably the worst defensive player on the team, constantly getting lost. But when Michigan goes tiny they have him defend the five and I can't remember thinking "this has to stop" during any of those long stretches.
Seriously. Someone at The Only Colors complained about my characterization of the streak guys as "meatheads." Seriously?
You can seriously look at those guys and envision them doing anything other than slather each other in AXE as they recite "Sex Panther" quotes back and forth to each other before heading out to a kegger where they are totally going to get laid, or at least slapped?
This has something to do with the juggalos post in the aftermath of the football game this fall, but here I was just making an observation about five guys with spotlessly hair-free chests whooping like monkeys. Michigan has meatheads enrolled. I met plenty. It was not a shot at anyone except the jinx-bringers.
Also, seriously: juggalos in Ann Arbor last fall. Seriously. Never been that bad, even when OSU fans were 30k strong for the 2009 Game. This is because the OSU fans who showed up were the kind that went to the game instead of just hanging out for an opportunity to take out their insecurities. Dozens of Michigan fans have told me this, a good chunk before the post even went up.