Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
Yes please. Google is going to turn some city into the future by hooking them up with crazy gigabit fiber lines. That is one gigabit per second. That is 100 times faster than current high speed lines. You want this. The city and university have put together a fiber site that you can hit up and take action if you'd like to download wholesome educational programs at incredible speeds. Join the facebook page, submit your desperate plea to Google—if you're an orphan this is mandatory—and maybe hold a prayer session.
I will mention this again.
Delegation and goodbyes. So Tim is out of town this week and I think it's more productive to look up every last word written about Ray Vinopal than preview a Minnesota game that may make or break Michigan's NIT chances. UMHoops has its typically excellent preview if you are hankering. [ED: Ha ha! Tim just told me he's put up a preview. What part of vacation he doesn't understand, hat hat hat.]
It is senior night, and a word on DeShawn Sims: last year I thought Sims would escape the Lavell Blanchard limbo. Blanchard was a pretty good player on a series of lousy teams in the midst of Michigan's long period of raketastic basketball.
RAKE! I SAID RAKE!
He did and he didn't. He was singlehandedly responsible for burying Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament game that was Michigan's last chance to blow its first tourney bid since the Pyramids were built, and for that we thank him. He could not do enough to turn this season away from its head-on course with more rakes, and for that we feel sorry for him. He'll have a long professional career (probably in Europe) and come back in a while to a standing ovation he'll deserve.
As for Anthony Wright, who will not return for a fifth year: thanks for keeping us in that Oklahoma game. There are worse things than being remembered as the guy who inexplicably exploded in a second-round NCAA game. Zack Gibson: I thought they should have played him more, except when they did.
Emo Cold War details. Big Chill details have dropped. Bullets of interest:
- Hockey season ticket holders get the first crack at primo seats.
- Football season ticket holders get the rest of the primo seats.
- MSU's section is sizeable and pretty decent.
- Students are where students go.
- Sideline seats are $25, endzone seats $15. Seems a bit more expensive than I would have gone with.
If they put the MSU students… nevermind. MSU students don't go to hockey games. If, hypothetically, there were going to be any MSU students at the game and they got put in that overhang in sections 3 and 2 they will stand up and there will be crankiness similar to the first Cold War. Suggestion: don't do this.
More Graham. Brandon Graham tweaked his hamstring at the combine but put up an impressive bench and a 4.69 40, further solidifying his status as a first-round pick. He may be a high, high first-rounder:
Graham often gets knocked for his lack of height, but I saw him standing next to TCU’s Jerry Hughes, a very similar player, and Graham’s shoulders were visibly higher and wider than Hughes’. Graham also had better 10 second splits than Hughes, who is universally lauded for his explosiveness. If Graham had a neck he’d be at least an inch and a half taller, and then nobody would question his top 10 draft status. I know the Seahawks, who pick at #6, were paying real close attention.
There's also an approving mention from a Buccaneers site.
Etc.: Interesting News article on the divergent financial situations at Michigan and Michigan State. M is one of the few elite school still hiring and is thus getting their top picks just about everywhere; State is cutting almost a sixth of their undergraduate programs. Donations, endowments, and Michigan's high percentage of out-of-state undergrads are the difference. Will Leitch writes on Roger Ebert. Every time this happens it is a reminder of why Deadspin used to be something better than TMZSports. Rutgers fans know how we're feeling about the media.
Michigan 80 Iowa 78 (OT), MIchigan 13-12 (6-7 Big Ten)
It wasn't pretty, but at this point in the season it would be improper to take any win for granted, right? If Michigan was in position to grab an NCAA tournament bid, this would have been a scary game. However, the Wolverines are closer to missing the NIT than they are to making the Big Dance. Let's just enjoy the win.
After steady improvement throughout the month of January and the beginning of February, it's clear that Michigan's defense is not at a level that will win basketball games when the offense isn't working right. Like Wisconsin and Northwestern before them, the Hawkeyes shot the ball well, finishing with a 55 eFG%. Had Michigan not matched that number in one of their better shooting performances of the year, this game could have gotten ugly. Michigan opened up a 10-point lead late in the first half, but let Iowa claw back to tie it up by the break. Play was much more back-and-forth in the second half, but Iowa led by five with only 22 seconds to go, before Michigan managed to force overtime.
There were some bright points. On top of the newly-found shooting competence, this team actually showed some heart for the first time in quite a while, gutting out a win when it looked like all hope was lost. If they'd been able to do that a couple more times this year, maybe we'd be talking NCAA Tournament fringe instead of NIT fringe. A number of players stepped up that one probably wouldn't expect (primarily Laval Lucas-Perry), and seven whole players got double-digit minutes!
- Rough game for Manny Harris despite decent numbers on the scoresheet. He had six turnovers, and nearly fouled out. A couple of his fouls were borderline calls, but they were also plays he should be smart enough not to make. He shot just 7 of 17.
- DeShawn Sims, as we've come to expect, was this team's leader. He struggled making some layups through contact, otherwise he would have had a stellar outing. Very interesting for Beilein to (finally, in the eyes of some) play him with Gibson.
- Darius Morris was super-quiet. Two assists, three missed shots, and two personal fouls isn't a statline that shows off how much he's improved over the course of the year. He still needs lots of work on his shot, but this game wasn't as big a step backwards as it might seem.
- If we're criticizing LLP for being invisible most of the time, let's also give him props when he shows up to play. His 3/3 shooting from behind the arc to start the game got the offense moving, and though he didn't do a whole lot after that, he was the catalyst for Michigan's big run.
- Man, the Big Ten Network presentation was awful. We constantly got shots of the lights or the back of someone's head instead of, you know, the game. We got about 10 seconds of ridiculously loud music, presumably off someone's iPod in the production truck (I kid). The commentary was often too quiet to hear, but it doesn't matter, because the announcers had no interest in talking about the game. The Big Ten Network doesn't have a great reputation to begin with, and it's painfully clear that they have no interest in correcting that.
- [Editor's note: anyone else notice Jim Jackson's somewhat disturbing morph into Hubie Brown? I heard "blank is the best blank we have have in our league" a dozen times.
- It's nice to see Stu Douglass and Zack Novak find something of a shooting stroke. Both only shot 3-pointers, but if they can continue shooting well, Michigan might be able to surprise a team at the end of the year, and get some confidence for the future.
- Michigan still has a chance to go on a bit of a run here, with Ken Pomeroy favoring them to win three of the last five, including the next two. Dylan is hinting that Michigan is capable of sneaking into the tournament, but I wouldn't get so far ahead of ourselves quite yet.
- Getting back to the officiating for a second, I think Oops Pow Surprise said it best:
We're not stupid enough to think that Hightower and Valentine were somehow actively conspiring against Iowa; not only is Michigan plainly unworthy of a conspiratorial effort (see: not a tournament team), but that theory would require the supposition that the two men are actually capable of calling a good game and just choose not to. That's a fantasy.
Further, it's not the case that all the calls went against Iowa for the balance of the game. There were several calls that seemed to be a whistle just blown at random, and a good amount of them were in Iowa's favor. This is what happens in a Hightower/Valentine game.
Bad officiating is frustrating for all, even when it's not heavily slanted in one direction or another
[Editor's note: UMHoops pointed this out about the refereeing: DeShawn Sims says he complained to the refs about his game-tying three and the ref said he would have called a foul if he had missed, which just goes to show that every conspiracy theory you've ever had about basketball refereeing is true. Bastards.]
Did Anthony Wright get in a bar fight or something? Beilein:
“The facts are, over the last day, I believe that Anthony had done nothing wrong to what the facts that were presented to me,” Beilein said. “If the facts change, then I will make appropriate action. But the facts are the facts that we discussed.”
People, don't punch Ant Wright please.
The Nittany Lions of Penn State travel to Crisler Arena Saturday, looking to win their first game in the Big Ten this year(!). This is a good opportunity for the Wolverines to get a win against a pretty bad team, and it's also a football junior day (about which more in Wednesday Recruitin'), so let's get this team some fan support to close out the year.
Obvious but welcome. Brandon Graham is destroying all comers at the Senior Bowl and appears to be the player helping himself the most with his performance. Scout says he's gone from a borderline first rounder to a "lock"($). Another Scout guy says he's the best DL there($), Bruce Feldman tweeted about his ability to get into the backfield, and so on and so forth:
Michigan LB Brandon Graham is just about unblockable with his speed and spin moves. … Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham is causing fits for UMass OT/OG Vladimir Ducasse in drills. Graham is the most explosive defender on the field.
Mike Maycock, who previously suggested that Graham might be available for the Lions at the top of the second round because he does not have crazy gorilla arms, now says Graham will be off the board before the first round is over. The Lions would have taken Drew Stanton anyway.
BONUS! Orson on Graham:
Then, there’s Brandon Graham. There he is, saying “Hi, I spent the entire year getting double teamed on a terrible defense and still wrecked shit like my name was Haitian McSichuan Earthquake.”
Another chart. Here are all the teams that returned ten starters on offense since 2006:
Big Red Network is interested in this because their terrible offense returns ten starters. Michigan does better than anyone except Texas A&M's wildly inconsistent bunch, but the those numbers include the game against Baby Seal U and are probably somewhat optimistic. Also, coming up from 290 yards a game is easy. There's nowhere to go but up, really.
Michigan now returns eight or nine starters, depending on how you define things; it's got to be a rare thing to return eight starters a year after returning ten, yes?
So much for that complaint. DeShawn Sims on that jersey tug:
“Yea, a little bit,” Sims said when asked if he was held on the play. “But this is the Big Ten. If I was the other team, I wouldn’t have wanted them to call that.”
That article's headline has a teeny slant: Sims "says he was held on the final play against Michigan State," it reads despite Sims immediately moving on from that and saying he didn't think it was a call and it wasn't the reason he missed the shot.
Redshirt war ammunition. First, let's kick Stewart Mandel since it's been a long time:
Meanwhile, Michigan fans are hopeful Devin Gardner, Rivals' No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, can provide an immediate spark -- but he may be even rawer than one of last year's Michigan freshman quarterbacks, Denard Robinson.
No, he is not. I don't think this is even possible. Denard Robinson wasn't even a quarterback to most schools; Devin Gardner went to the Elite 11, where Rivals guys named him the top quarterback there. Denard Robinson is perhaps the definition of raw.
Anyway, the actual reason to bring up this article:
"After watching him in Orlando [during Under Armour practices], I think he needs a redshirt," said Newberg.
That's a major step back from the aforementioned Elite 11 performance and what we saw from Gardner early in the season; I read it as evidence for my pet theory that Gardner's mechanics degraded severely over the year as he got away from the coaching he had in the summer and slid back into old habits.
Etc.: Hey Jenny Slater kicks off its list of the 50 most loathsome people in college football. Entertaining, but Paul Johnson doesn't come within a half-mile of the list if anyone other than a Georgia fan is compiling it. Also, Mike Patrick is somehow excluded.
Northwestern 68 Michigan 62. Michigan 8-7 (2-2 Big Ten)
At this point in the season, we have a good idea who these Michigan Wolverines are. They'll finish middle of the pack in the Big Ten, lose to most opponents better than them, and just about split with teams at or below their level. In that sense, the Northwestern loss yesterday wasn't surprising. It still hurts though. The team dominated the first 16 minutes of the contest, and a valiant comeback effort fell just short.
The way this game played out, and I'm sure a lot of people noticed this, was a lot like the Penn State game on Thursday with Michigan's role reversed. A big difference, however, is that Michigan continued to fight when the tides turned. Whereas Penn State folded up when the Wolverines took the lead, yesterday Michigan was able to stem the Northwestern momentum and even briefly lead the game in the final minutes.
Turnovers told the story, just like against Penn State. Whereas the Wolverines took good care of the ball in the first half, the Northwestern defense stepped up its pressure after the break, and Michigan's young ballhandlers coughed up the rock too many times. When the rhythm was disrupted on one end of the floor, the players got distracted, allowing Northwestern to take over the game.
- Just came through now, and is unrelated to this game in particular, but John Beilein has extended his contract with Michigan through the 2015-2016 season.
- Despite a couple ill-advised turnovers toward the end, I thought Darius Morris looked as comfortable on the court as he has all year, with 7 assists to his name and a couple 3-balls, one when Michigan absolutely needed it.
- It's hard to say Manny had a tough game when he nearly had a double-double, but he made a couple killer mistakes (the turnover at the end comes to mind), and at the very least didn't play his best game out there.
- Zack Gibson made his requisite boneheaded play (letting a pass slip through his hands under the basket), but didn't get enough time to make of for it with his requisite awesome athletic play. With such a short bench (and as the only backup in the post), he needs to get more than a couple minutes.
- The commentators who always say "you need to pound inside to DeShawn Sims" (Jay Bilas and others) frustrate me, because John Beilein has proven at multiple coaching stops that it's possible for his teams to win without using the low post as a main source of offense. However, when Sims was playing so well at the beginning of the game, I wish they'd continued that when Northwestern started going on a run, to settle the team and prevent the game from getting out of control. Congratulations to Sims for being named the Big Ten Player of the Week, as well.
The Wolverines have just a couple days to recharge for a big Weekend. Indiana visits Crisler Arena on Thursday at 9PM for what has become a must-win game. On Sunday, UConn will stop by to close out the non-conference schedule. This is also a big football recruiting weekend, so they'll be taking in the UConn game.
Michigan 73, Ohio State 64. Michigan 7-6 (1-1 Big Ten)
Michigan's schizophrenic season took yet another turn tonight as the Wolverines knocked off the #15 Ohio State Buckeyes in Crisler Arena. The Buckeyes' Jon Diebler started the game hot, and it seemed like we were doomed to watch yet another opponent shoot out the lights. However, it was Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims who stole the show. Michigan's big two scored 52 of their team's 73 points, with Manny adding 5 assists and Peedi pulling down 9 boards. Freshman shooting guard Matt Vogrich also led the team in offensive rebounding(!) and had a key block in the paint(!!).
Michigan isn't in any position to look at this as just another win, but perhaps the upset isn't as big as it seems. Despite Michigan's early-season woes and Ohio State's lofty ranking, the Buckeyes were actually an underdog according to Vegas. Michigan's inconsistencies from game to game have obscured how good the Wolverines actually are, and the low points will have to be smoothed out if there's to be any expectation of a postseason visit.
For now, it's nice to be able to bask in the glow of victory for a change, especially when that victory comes over the Buckeyes.
- Man, Crisler was rocking in the second half. That's easily the loudest I've heard it since the Duke game last year. Me likey. The sound system was busted, however.
- LLP was very quiet. I guess it doesn't matter since Manny and DeShawn were basically all the offense the team needed for a win, but to continue winning games, Laval needs to contribute.
- No sign of Jordan Morgan or Blake McLimans. I guess they'll continue on a redshirt track, despite the losses of Eric Puls and Ben Cronin.
- Manny was much more authoritative on his drives today. He was willing to go to his left, which he hasn't done much this year. He also had a thunderous dunk that brought the house down.
- Vogrich moved positions, he's now backing up Manny Harris at the 3 guard spot.
- To slow down Diebler during his hot start, Beilein had Stu Douglass guard him. I wouldn't have thought of Stu as a big defensive stopper, but that just goes to show what I know.
- Maybe Michigan was hesitant to start their New Year Run before the calendar changed...
"It only takes one game to start your momentum rolling." DeShawn Sims.
"It was just an overall good effort by the whole team. I was the recipient of a lot of passes from a lot of people today, and that's pretty much what got us ahead today." DeShawn Sims, on his offensive output.
"I don't know what it is, we're just getting down to the basics a little bit." Stu Douglas, on the team's overall effort.
"I was just trying to be a spark... It's Ohio State, so it's hard not to bring energy in this game... Everybody probably thinks I'm 7-foot if they just look at my stats in this game." Matt Vogrich, on his surprising performance.
"Coach has really been stressing that to me... that defense is gonna win games. Right now, that's what my focus is." Darius Morris.
"It's Michigan-Ohio State. That's one of the reasons you come to Michigan, to play Ohio State." Zack Novak.
"I wish we'd shown some of that patience at Indiana and Kansas." John Beilein, on the team running its offense.
"Both are terrific basketball players... We weren't able to them at the times that we needed to." Ohio State coach Thad Matta, on Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.
"It's Big Ten play. You've got 9 at home, and you've gotta take care of your home court." Thad Matta.
The Michigan basketball team has struggled mightily so far this season, especially given the top-15 expectations that were (probably unfairly) heaped on them in the preseason. With two superstars returning and only two walkons, a backup point guard, and a Canadian leaving the team this was supposed to be a tournament team at the very least, and more likely a Sweet 16 squad.
So, uh, what happened?
There are two primary culprits for Michigan's struggles: defense and three-point shooting. Figuring out the defense is a task for another day (and for someone who knows much more about basketball strategy than I do), but shooting is a little simpler. It's also very important for Michigan, since the Wolverines hoist 42.9% of their shots from behind the arc.
There are two primary factors that play into a shot's likelihood of going in. The first is shot selection. If a player manages to shoot only when he is wide open, it's more likely that he will make those shots, no? Last year at Varsity Blue, I UFRed basketball games, and graded shot selection 1-3 based on how open the shooter was. Manny Harris was the only player who was consistently putting up shots from bad positions, and based on purely anecdotal evidence, I'd say that's probably the case again this season.
The second factor that plays a big role in shooting is the ability to actually knock down shots. If you left Ben Wallace wide open at the top of the key on every play, he wouldn't make many shots (and that's why teams do this). The same is not true for, say, Dirk Nowitzki. Talent is not something that varies from game to game. Players go through hot and cold streaks, but Stu Douglass is as good as he is, and isn't likely to get much better or much worse at shooting the three in one offseason. So is there reason to believe that anyone has shot below his ability so far this year? Sounds like time for a—
Chart. Players are sorted by 2008-09 percentage
|Michigan 3-Point Percentages|
|Player||2008-09 %||2009-10 %|
So what does it mean? On the face, it would appear that Michigan lost most of its best shooters, but that isn't actually the case. Puls, Lee, Grady, and Merritt all had few attempts (Manny and the two Indiana guys were the only people to shoot over 100 3-balls, and LLP would have gotten there if he'd played the whole season), so there is something to be said for sample size. The better takeaway is that Only Laval Lucas-Perry and DeShawn Sims are shooting better right now than they did last year, and most guys have seen a precipitous dropoff. It would be nice to get Matt Vogrich more attempts, but his defense has been poor so far this year.
Unless guys are exclusively taking horrible shots this year (and John Beilein said Wednesday that poor shoot selection may play some role in the shooting struggles), the bad shooting is an anomaly. They're sometimes painful to watch, but stick with this team, and things will probably turn around.