I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Epic triple point. It happened.
Y'all better get over there.
Hype video. With a historical bent.
The format. The Big Ten announced the first four years of their hockey playoffs will be the single-elimination, neutral-site plan that symbolizes college hockey boldly forging a new path into… oh right, same old stuff.
At least the worst-case scenario was narrowly avoided. The tournament will only be on the far west edge of the conference half the time. The rest of the time it'll be at the Joe, or wherever the Wings happen to be playing.
It will surprise no one that I think this is kind of dumb. The Big Ten is going to get five games in one weekend when they could have set it up to get 10-15 over three. Unless these things are crazy-popular sellouts with separate tickets for each games—and they won't be—the Big Ten's taking in less revenue so they can play fewer games. But high school tournaments are a go, so there's that.
The other format. Teddy Greenstein has some bad news for fans of home games in a college football non-playoff event:
So what is most likely to happen?
Sorry, Big Ten fans, but Delany's "home game" model is on life support. It makes sense in that it would boost the regular season by rewarding the top two in the rankings. And it would eliminate the sham of another LSU-Ohio State national title game in the "neutral" setting of New Orleans.
So what's the problem?
Aside from SEC teams not wanting to play in Ann Arbor or Columbus in late December, it's logistics. Many schools won't have the infrastructure then because they're on holiday break. Stadium size would be an issue with schools such as Cincinnati (35,100), TCU (50,000) and Oregon (53,800). If there's a playoff, officials will want to maximize revenue by selling hospitality and luxury suites. And, besides, most fans love going to bowl games in places like New Orleans and Glendale, Ariz. Delany cited the comfort of the fans when he helped choose a neutral site (Indianapolis) for the Big Ten title game.
"Logistics" is of course a laughable excuse, as is citing Cincinnati's stadium size as a hurdle. Cincinnati? Seriously? But Greenstein is forced to repeat what people tell him, so that's what people are telling him. Woo back to back travel weeks making it even dumber for Big Ten teams.
Crack down. TOC picture-pages one of Michigan State's many, many successful outside overload run plays from last year's game. The motion guy at top of your screen…
…isn't even needed by the end of the play:
As they say in showbusiness, if you want daddy to stop drinking, stop doing that. The first step in doing that is getting those linebackers shifted over to the strength of the formation. Here Hawthorne (near) gets clubbed and Demens (far) has no shot.
More detail at TOC; dealing with these outside runs is priority #2 for Michigan this year. #1 is, of course, not letting two linebackers fly up the middle of the field untouched on 10 snaps.
The AAU deluge begins. In terms of recruiting service rankings, the next three or four months will be more important than any others for Michigan's three 2013 basketball commits, The summer before your senior year is when the pencil of early rankings turns quickly to pen. One of those weird erasable pens, but pen.
MI PG Derrick Walton is off to a good start in Las Vegas. Rivals's Eric Bossi:
Michigan has itself another nice point guard on the way in Derrick Walton. The four star point guard runs his team and has a burst off the dribble that allows him to get into the lane and make plays with regularity. He's also a communicator, plays hard and will ultimately be a very good replacement/complement to Trey Burke.
Dave Telep also chimed in with some Walton praise, adding a similar "no Burke, no problem" view.
As for Donnal, he is also playing at a high level:
Michigan has got themselves a good one in Mark Donnal. The 6-foot-9 big man is a smart and productive player who has a serious competitive streak in him. His footwork is outstanding and he’s a good athlete who can finish through contact.
Scout's Evan Daniels called him "physical and talented" and "much improved" on the twitter. Athleticism is the issue that might keep him from flying up recruiting rankings; in any case he'll be a great fit with Beilein.
Zak Irvin is at the Nike Spring Showdown, where he led his team to a 6-0 record:
The intensity level of play increased when bracket play began on Sunday and Irvin’s play rose to the occasion. He struggled shooting the ball in his first Sunday game, but found other ways to make an impact. He commanded the ball, frequently playing point guard, and he sparked a crucial run by facilitating and getting his teammates easy baskets. With his team facing its only adversity of the tournament against Team D-Rose, Irvin became a better vocal leader. He displayed a calm demeanor and elevated his game as the moment grew.
He didn’t take long to get over his poor shooting performance, scoring a game-high 25 points, leading his team to a one-point overtime victory over the Illinois Wolves later in playoff action. He caught fire and was scoring in a variety of ways – establishing himself as the best player on the floor and everyone in attendance took notice.
Michigan is poking around numerous guys for the 2013 and 2014 classes; UMHoops has the details. Sam Webb has recently mentioned that Michigan continues to look for a grad-year transfer who will be eligible this fall, but no names yet except a guy who decided to stick at Xavier. There is a four year 2012 guy on the radar, though…
Possibly not done yet. As broken by Sam Webb($), Michigan is looking at OHIO(!!!) decommit Caris Levert, a rail-thin 6'5" shooting guard who opened up his recruitment in the wake of John Groce's move to Illinios. Levert appears to have had a monster senior year and has multiple Big Ten schools after him now, including Groce's new home at Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, and of course Michigan. Dayton is also in the running.
He saved his best performance for the state playoffs, getting top billing($) in ESPN author John Stovall's evaluation:
Caris Levert (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central)
2012, SG, 6-5, 185 pounds
He is one of the most improved players in Ohio. He was a 5-9 guard as a freshman and has continued to grow physically and from a talent standpoint. Caris is very good off the dribble, has the ability to create his own shot and has a chance to be a special talent at the next level if he continues to improve.
He was named the JJHuddle player of the year, an award with a damn good track record:
JJHuddle Ohio Player of the Year
Caris Levert (6’4.5/Sr.)- Pickerington Central
*Levert led Pickerington Central to the school’s first boy’s basketball state championship with a 45-40 win over Toledo Whitmer in the Division I title tilt. Levert scored 20 of his team's 45 points in the championship game including 11-straight in a pivotal third period and playing all 32 minutes. The Ohio University commit averaged nearly 19 points per game throughout his outstanding senior campaign. Coming into the year, Levert may not have been a household name, but his name is in the mind’s of many following this past tournament run along with a more than stellar regular season. Levert became the type of player capable of getting a bucket whenever the Tigers needed one. There were less than a handful of players in Ohio capable of doing so and the lengthy bundle of talent was at his best in big games. Levert shot slightly over 53 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range along grabbing 3.4 rebounds and swiping 3.4 steals per contest.
JJHuddle Players of the Year
2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio)
2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan)
2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats)
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)
While it's not a great year for Ohio talent—the only OH players in the Rivals 150 are UL commit Terry Rozier (#80) and MSU commit Kenny Kaminski (#113)—he sounds legit. Ohio does have a top 50 junior in OSU commit Marc Loving who Levert beat out.
No idea where he's leaning yet. He is a teammate of Taco Charlton, so Michigan will have a guy in his ear. Obviously they like Levert quite a bit more than new OSU commit Amedeo Della Valle; hopefully Michigan's sudden cancellation of his trip indicates they've got the inside track here. UMHoops has a bit more on Lavert's game plus some 2013 and 2014 notes.
We named the dog Indiana. Nick Baumgardner reveals the source of Spike Albrecht's odd nickname:
"I've been watching Zack Novak play since the first grade," Albrecht recalls. "He was tough back then, too."
No longer a first grader, and no longer the little kid whose obsession with constantly wearing baseball cleats earned him the nickname "Spike," the undersized Indiana-born point guard is ready to do whatever it takes to make an impact in Ann Arbor.
Just like Novak.
Wait… um… math. If Spike Albrecht is currently in fifth grade I think we've got ourselves a steal here.
The spokesman said that when a player opts to transfer from Michigan -- as Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge and Colton Christian did last month -- it's Beilein's preference that the player not choose a Big Ten school or a program that Michigan has on its schedule over the next two years.
That's his preference.
However, it's not a policy, the spokesman said. And it's not a hard and fast rule.
The spokesman said that should a situation arise where a transfer student shows a strong desire to attend a school Michigan has scheduled down the road, then Beilein would be open to having a discussion about the situation, and would not be absolutely opposed to allowing the transfer to occur before the discussion took place.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten transfer rule has changed. Previously, you could not be on scholarship at all. Now you can, but you lose the year of eligibility you would otherwise retain by not playing. The upshot is anyone who hasn't redshirted has a powerful incentive to transfer out of the conference, but anyone who has may as well go to Purdue or wherever because it doesn't make a difference.
It will still be extremely difficult to get a release to a conference school unless Lloyd Carr thinks you belong at OSU, though. That's one restriction I don't have a problem with. If transferring player X can't find a suitable home outside of his current conference that's more on him than on anyone else.
Etc.: A Lion Eye takes stock of where the Illini sit going into fall in a two-parter considering offense and defense. Offense might have some issues at tackle, where two redshirt sophomores are backed up by redshirt freshman, and running back. Defense seems sunny in places that aren't the secondary. Brandon "hopeful" that band will make it to Dallas, undoubtedly with someone else's money. Andy Staples with this year's edition of "recruiting rankings are valid."
Mike Martin bombs the GERGfense as "backyard defense" and says that Bruce Tall didn't know anything about coaching defensive line. Let's all have arguments about RR again!
From our very own Zack Novak photoshop thread.
This is part two of the hoops season recap; part one, covering the guards, can be found here.
It should not come as a surprise to those who have followed John Beilein's Michigan squads that a post covering the team's "bigs" would feature a photo of 6'4" Zack Novak at the top of the post. Michigan entered the season relatively thin in the frontcourt, and things only got worse when backup center Jon Horford suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in December, an injury that would ultimately sideline him for the remainder of the season. When Evan Smotrycz suffered through a brutal slump to start conference play, Novak found himself starting at power forward, reprising his role from years past instead of playing his natural two-guard position.
While Michigan got solid seasons out of Novak and Jordan Morgan, along with some inspired efforts from Smotrycz, the lack of size up front was the team's greatest weakness. This was exposed each time Michigan played Ohio State or Michigan State, especially away from Crisler, and even when all of the bigs got in foul trouble at Northwestern and Colton Christian played important minutes at center. This shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with the addition of Mitch McGary and the return of Horford, but Smotrycz's departure hurts. Let's look back on each player's individual contributions:
Preseason Expectations: Morgan entered the season as the returning starter after a surprising redshirt freshman season, but he still had to hold off Jon Horford to keep the job. The hope was that he'd develop his post game while continuing to play solid defense, rebound, and hit his fair share of high-percentage shots.
Postseason Reality: Morgan still hasn't displayed much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, and he missed a maddeningly large amount of layups. The latter point was a source of great frustration, along with his propensity for early foul trouble, but overall Morgan was quite solid in the middle. His defense improved—including a sharp decline in foul rate—his rebounding was solid, and he shot just a hair under 62% from the field. Trey Burke didn't look to Morgan as much as Darius Morris did last year, and there was a clear adjustment period while he got used to playing with a different style of point guard. While there wasn't a big leap forward in Morgan's offensive game, as many had hoped, he did not regress, either. Meanwhile, he was in better shape, running the floor well and consistently posting strong defensive performances. Morgan probably isn't ever going to be an offensive force, nor a intimidating shot-blocker—the touch and explosive athleticism just aren't there—but he's a solid presence who should end up as a four-year starter.
Highlight: The Ohio State win was the most memorable of the season, and it was also the best game of Morgan's career, as he posted his first double-double—11 points (5-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds—while limiting Jared Sullinger to 14 points on 6-14 shooting. Morgan also beat Sullinger down the court for a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.
Lowlight: When Michigan matched up against Ohio State in the conference tournament, things didn't go so well. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines inside, and Morgan could only muster three points (1-5 shooting) and four rebounds while turning the ball over three times.
Key Numbers: 61.9 2pt%, 17.8 DR%, 3.9 fouls committed/40 minutes
Next year: Morgan should start at center once again, and it would be nice to see him break out a go-to post move. Mostly, however, Michigan will need him as a rebounder/defender/screen-setter, which falls right into his comfort zone. Also, make layups, please.
Preseason Expectations: Novak was expected to make a grand return to shooting guard, where the hope was that is offensive production would rise now that he no longer had to guard players a half-foot taller while shouldering a large part of the rebounding load.
Postseason Reality: Novak, of course, had to slide back to power forward when Smotrycz was benched early in Big Ten play, and for the fourth straight year his play improved despite not being the focal point of the team. He shot very well from the field—56% on twos, 41% on threes—and posted the team's best ORtg—his 123.3 mark was 39th in the country. Then, of course, you get Novak's trademark grit, as he still marveled with his ability to rebound among the trees while providing solid defense against players who theoretically should be dunking all over him (sometimes they did, but that happens when you're a 6'4" post player). Novak finished his career as the consummate role player, knocking down threes, hitting big shots when called upon, and otherwise doing everything to raise the level of play from his teammates. Michigan fans may not miss having a natural shooting guard at power forward when the 2012 reinforcements arrive, but they'll sure miss Zack Novak.
Highlight: Novak absolutely tore up UCLA back in November, scoring 22 points on eight shots from the field and chipping in three rebounds.
Lowlight: The final game in Novak's Wolverine career was sadly forgettable, as he could only muster a season-low two points on 1-5 shooting and didn't record a defensive rebound in Michigan's tourney loss to Ohio.
Next Year: Novak will take his grit to Europe. Godspeed, captain.
Preseason Expectations: Smotrycz was pinned as the X-factor for Michigan, a player who could put the team over the top as a sharp-shooting starter at power forward. After a solid but inconsistent showing as a freshman, he looked due for a breakout season.
Postseason Reality: It was a rollercoaster season for Smotrycz, who struggled early, caught fire at the end of nonconference play, then went into a prolonged slump that saw him lose his starting job for the rest of the season. The surprising post-season transfer fits that narrative all too well. The overall numbers are solid: Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points per game with a 58.9 eFG%, and he was also the team's most effective defensive rebounder, bringing in 21.4% of opponent misses when he was on the floor. However, Smotrycz never quite found his game again after losing his shooting stroke in Big Ten play, and his overall defense left much to be desired; he finished with a sky-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes as he played defense with his hands instead of his feet far too often. Smotrycz on average was an effective offensive weapon, but the inconsistency and defensive shortcomings proved too great to justify giving him starter's minutes.
Highlight: Prospects looked good when Smotrycz scored 20 points on eight shots (4-5 from three) and grabbed nine rebounds against Oakland. It's also worth noting that Smotrycz's 15 points on 6-7 shooting was really the only thing keeping Michigan close against Ohio in the last game of the season.
Lowlight: Smotrycz's final start was the debacle at Iowa, and he failed to score in 22 minutes of play while also committing two turnovers. That was the final straw, as Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting lineup against State.
Key Numbers: 58.9 eFG%, 21.4 DR%, 5.8 FC/40
Next Year: Smotrycz won't be here, which really sucks. Best of luck to him.
Preseason Expectations: Fight for the starting center job with Morgan, provide at least 15 quality minutes per game.
Postseason Reality: Horford's balky foot robbed Michigan of any depth at center and prematurely ended what was at times a promising sophomore campaign. He showed up much bigger than he was as a freshman, looking the part of a Big Ten center, and he was very active on the glass and as a shot-blocker. Horford doesn't have a polished offensive game, but he brings a lot of energy and is a more athletic option than Morgan, at least when it comes to quick-twitch explosiveness. Much is still unknown, however, as Horford only appeared in nine games.
Highlight: Horford hit all five of his shots from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots against UCLA, by far the best performance of his young career.
Lowlight: The stress fracture that erased the season's last 25 games.
Next Year: Horford probably won't surpass Morgan at this point, but he should be a valuable backup who won't be much of a dropoff defensively or on the glass. I really like Horford's athleticism and potential, and we'll see how he develops once he gets through rehab and can go full-steam again.
Preseason Expectations: McLimans came to the team with the reputation of being the type of sharpshooting big man that Beilein loves, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as a freshman. Expectations were rather low, with the hope being that he wouldn't really need to see the court behind a big man rotation of Morgan, Horford, and Smotrycz.
Postseason Reality: McLimans still isn't much of an inside presence, especially defensively, but he did manage to knock down a decent portion of his jumpers, going 5-12 from beyond the arc and 10-21 overall this season. McLimans only played more than eight minutes in a game once during conference play—the aforementioned Northwestern game—and only was used when both Morgan and Smotrycz got into early foul trouble.
Next Year: McLimans may see his role further decrease when Horford returns and Mitch McGary hits campus. He could see some time as a situational shooter, but he's going to need to really improve on defense if he wants to carve out a larger role.
Preseason Expectations: Provide the occasional boost of energy off the bench.
Postseason Reality: Christian played a total of 51 minutes on the year, grabbing six rebounds and hitting a few very unexpected shots. Still didn't display much of an offensive game, and was mostly content to hit the class and save his energy for defense.
Next Year: He won't be here, having also put in his name for a transfer. It's highly unlikely he would have seen the floor.
I had these tweets up from Sam Webb that hinted at some attrition from the basketball team but that's all irrelevant now:
University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Wednesday, March 21) that sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz (Reading, Mass./New Hampton Prep [N.H.]),sophomore forward Colton Christian (Bellevue, Wash./Hargrave Military Academy) and freshman guard Carlton Brundidge (Southfield, Mich./Southfield HS) each decided to leave the Wolverine basketball program and transfer to another school.
Smotrycz is the headliner here. He started the first half of the year before Michigan went to Stu Douglass in the starting lineup; playing out of position the rest of the year at the five he still saw 20 minutes a game and was Michigan's best three-point shooter over the course of the season. He was projected to start at the four next year. His loss is both inexplicable and harmful. Unless Smotrycz was flat out told that McGary and Robinson were going to eat his minutes I don't understand that departure.
Brundidge only saw a few minutes spotting Trey Burke; Christian was also an end of the bench type.
Michigan's scholarship crunch just got blown away: Michigan could bring in two additional guys in the 2012 class and still have room for their three guys in 2013 without any further attrition. They only have one active target, 6'5" Findlay Prep PG/SG Amedeo Della Valle. He's got a top five Michigan is a part of along with Texas A&M, Ohio State, Arizona, and Gonzaga. They could also get in on the Trey Ziegler transfer sweepstakes now.
It's no secret that Evan Smotrycz has struggled mightily for a large portion of the Big Ten schedule. In the four games leading up to Sunday's tilt against Penn State, Smotrycz had scored just 12 points in 64 minutes. Against the Nittany Lions, however, Smotrycz went off to the tune of 17 points on 6-7 shooting, including 3-4 from downtown.
With little depth up front and Tim Hardaway's production a major question mark, the Wolverines might have to rely of Smotrycz's secondary scoring to carry the team through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments if they hope to survive and advance. After appearing to lose confidence in his shooting stroke in conference play, Smotrycz was assertive and productive against Penn State.
It should not come as a surprise that much of the credit must go to John Beilein and the coaching staff, who found several different ways to get the ball to Smotrycz in good shooting position. How did they do this? Let's go to the tape.
The first play I'll feature was also broken down by Dan Dakich—who I think is a great commentator, by the way—so I'm cheating a little bit here, but it's worth another look. The side pick-and-pop is one of the staples of Beilein's offense. It starts with Michigan resetting to their base 2-1-2 look, with Smotrycz manning the middle as the center:
In the frame above, you see Burke heading to the far corner after passing off to Hardaway, while Vogrich cycles up top. Below, you'll see that Novak has worked his way from the near corner to the edge of the paint, and Smotrycz has turned towards the basket to set a pick. Vogrich now has the ball at the top of the key; Michigan's spacing, as usual, is excellent. The Beilein offense is predicated on spreading the floor at all times, forcing the defense to extend to the perimeter.
Novak comes around Smotrycz's pick and curls into the lane, getting past his man and forcing Penn State's center—previously guarding Smotrycz—to stay at home. With Novak drawing two defenders inside, there's ample room for Smotrycz to pop out to the perimeter:
Vogrich delivers the pass, and Smotrycz's man is in no position to get out and properly contest. Smotrycz will fire away and knock down the triple:
Here's the full video of the play:
This is a very simple concept, but when executed properly it's tough to defend—there's a reason Beilein loves big men who can shoot. With Smotrycz at the five, he produces major matchup issues on the offensive end. In this case, a lumbering center is forced to make a very athletic defensive play to prevent an open layup by Novak on the curl-cut, then get out to Smotrycz on the pop; he's incapable of doing so, and Michigan gets an open three. If Penn State's defenders stick with their men, they'll likely give up an easy two points to Novak. If they switch—not easy on the fly, though probably the best way to defend this play—Michigan will at least have created a couple of mismatches on the floor.
When Smotrycz plays at the four, he's able to get screens of his own away from the ball. In this next clip, watch the two-man game with him and Jordan Morgan on the far side. Smotrycz first cuts from the corner to the basket, briefly drawing two defenders, then gets a screen from Morgan as he heads to the perimeter. He gets the ball on the wing and, with his defender still scrambling to get outside, is able to take a couple of dribbles towards the paint, then smartly pull up for a short jumper:
That shot is easy money for Smotrycz, but Morgan's man can't fully commit to contesting without potentially giving up an open dunk to Morgan. Caught in no man's land, he's forced to concede a 10-footer; it's a nice play by Smotrycz to recognize this and pull up instead of trying to take it all the way to the basket.
Finally, you have your standard pick-and-roll. With opponents often hedging hard on Trey Burke—one of the few ways teams have found to slow him down—it's imperative that the screener knows when it's time to dive to the basket. On this play, Smotrycz times it perfectly, slipping the screen a little early to give Burke enough space to pass before the hard double is fully there. The result? An easy layup:
Beilein's offense is regarded as quite complex, and with the wide array of plays involving intricate off-ball movement I'm not one to argue. However, that doesn't mean there aren't some very basic concepts that produce much of the offense, and most of the stuff above—especially the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop—isn't difficult to spot even for a novice fan. Much like with football, fully appreciating the minutiae of Michigan's offense involves taking your eyes off the ball. For a player like Smotrycz, especially, most of his shots are going to be created when the ball isn't in his hands.
3/1/2012 – Michigan 72, Illinois 61 – 22-8, 12-5 Big Ten
If you were in a really, really good mood in June and thought of Tim Hardaway Jr's sophomore season, you probably envisioned him tossing in three-pointers like he's casually skipping stones across Lake Michigan, rebounding like he's a bouncy Zack Novak, and maybe developing enough of a handle to attack the rim when people close him out hard.
Instead you got… not that. Instead you got every preview of every Michigan game having a section on Hardaway that is the verbal equivalent of:
You got not that until yesterday, when Hardaway flung in 25 points on 7 shots and secured an array of bouncy, mansome rebounds en route to holding Illinois to six offensive rebounds in 31 opportunities. Oh, and Michigan won a road game by double digits. This is what you envisioned last summer when you closed your eyes long enough for Denard Robison-related daydreaming to pass.
That didn't happen so much but Trey Burke showed up on a mission to discredit scouting services and picked up most of the slack there, so that was okay. Michigan muddled through to its best record in a long, long time. Hardaway lingered, though, a hovering sad inexplicable what-if and source of indigestion whenever he rose up for a three-pointer that had a 26% chance of going in.
We spent the season waiting, mostly winning but mostly frustrated. Every flash of effectiveness was dissected for repeatability; every clanged shot was a re-descent into depression. The last time this team played Illinois, Hardaway had an efficient game that fluttered hopes:
When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.
It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.
Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.
He then proceeded to… well, defy easy classification. Tim Hardaway Jr, this is a five game stretch in your sophomore year:
There's some frustrating wobble in there what with the 0-fer from three against Purdue and the Ben Wallace free throw shooting against Northwestern. There is also the 25-points-on-7 shots outing last night, two other extremely efficient games, an obvious uptick in turnovers, Hardaway's second double-double of the year, and the same 42% shooting from deep that carried Michigan to a shock tourney bid last year.
This chart reminds me of the NCAA hockey tournament. IE: it terrifies. If Hardaway is off, Michigan is capable of losing to anyone in the tourney, literally. The Ben Wallace FT game saw them go to overtime with Northwestern, currently the last team in on many brackets. If he is on, daggers rain from the sky and Michigan can take down just about anyone.
Michigan has no choice but to deal with this. They have one and a half backups and the fourth-shortest bench in the country. If Hardaway isn't producing, there's nowhere to turn. We've got little to go on either way. As Hardaway bounces up from a pretty horrendous year he settles back into a funk for back to back games, then surges.
Riding him is being at sea in a storm. When he rises up for his first-three pointer in Columbus or Pittsburgh or Nashville against an autobid from a small conference, every Michigan fan from the eight-year-old who thinks Trey Burke is the greatest point guard in history to John Beilein himself will watch the flight of the ball, thinking please, please, please.
Burke + Hardaway == um. This will not be an original thought, but finally finally finally Michigan got good, efficient performances from Burke and Hardaway at the same time. No one else did much offensively but it did not matter because the top guys had an 80% eFG% and were 10 of 10 from the line even before Illinois started fouling tactically late.
That is going to be tough to beat; that is far from guaranteed. Who would have thought Anthony Wright would be the guy holding Michigan in against Blake Griffin a few years back?
Just Burke. Very, very smooth last night, pushing the ball when it needed to be pushed and ruthlessly punishing high-screen switches with easy step-up three-pointers. Long term that's his future—he won't get better than last night but will have more nights like that. Exception: as he learns the intricacies of the Beilein offense he'll increase his assist rate and maybe edge up his two-point shooting because fewer of his attempts will be heaves late in the shot clock.
Smotrycz. He managed to foul out in 14 minutes and has a lot of people down on his potential contributions next year. Two things:
- Big men develop slowly and unpredictably.
- Smotrycz is badly miscast as a center and will benefit more than anyone else on the roster from the additions of McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt to the lineup… unless Bielfeldt turns into a Draymond Green-style four, in which case he's screwed. Chances of that next year are low.
Next year he should be able to take Novak's role in the offense and on defense, something he's better suited for. He may be a bad matchup in certain situations and get lifted, but—holy pants—next year Michigan will be able to do that by inserting GRIII, McGary, or Bielfeldt at the four. He will not have to take on Adreian Payne, Jared Sullinger or Meyers Leonard next year, and thank God for that.
Jalen Rose is one divisive guy. I was not a fan of his color commentary last night and tweeted something out about it. In the next ten minutes that tweet received an avalanche of support, criticism, and hur hur jokes about racism. Say what you want about Rose, but he moves the needle.
Of course, the thing I say about Rose is that he moves my needle in the wrong direction. The contrast between Rose and Bardo was obvious: Bardo was a pro; Rose sounded like he'd won a fan contest to call a game.
It wasn't all bad. Rose consistently made an excellent point about players trying too hard to take charges or block shots when they should just be annoying presences to contest shots, and he backed it up every time he should have. I bet he's a lot better when he's not covering a Michigan game.
Injuries. Smotrycz and Morgan were both dinged but it doesn't sound like anything serious:
"I hope they're all right," Beilein said. "Both of them had little stingers, (Morgan) in the shoulder and (Smotrycz) to his hip.
Losing either one would obviously be a disaster sans Horford.
“Having a winter break right now, Tim has used every bit of it,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He's been in the gym like crazy. Just looking at his shot, we've been watching the video tape, seeing any different type of quirks that maybe he could work out. He's such a student of the game, so he's really worked at it.”
I'm not sure what it is about playing Illinois, but it has for whatever reason brought out the very best in THJ this season. He was just about as efficient as you can possibly be, and his shot was crisp, clean, and confident. Bacari Alexander will now be given the task of using whatever psychological tropes he can muster to convince THJ that they are playing Illinois before every game from here on out. John Gasaway says:
It's hard to disagree. This Michigan team has, by varying combinations of Trey Burke, Beilein sorcery, TRUE GRIT, and Bacari Alexander motivational ploys, manufactured a 22-8 record with THJ struggling for long, bleak stretches of conference play. Imagine, oh imagine, what this team can accomplish with a THJ circa the end of last season added to the fold.
A Lion Eye is depressed; A Lion Eye is always depressed. A Lion Eye reminds me of me two years ago.
Hardaway is interviewed at Grantland:
Your dad was an NBA All-Star. Did you grow up playing against him? At what age could you beat him?
Yeah, when I was a kid we played a seven-game series every Saturday. I used to go to open gym to play with my friends and teammates, and I'd get there 30 to 45 minutes early so I could play one-on-one against my dad. When I reached ninth grade, I was finally able to beat him. He'd win the seven-game series, mostly, but I knew if I got two or three wins I could tell everybody that I'd beat my dad one-on-one. That's when I knew he was done.
But even when I started beating him regularly, he wasn't mad at all. He'd still teach me things I could get better at. To this day, I go up to him and ask him for advice about what I need to work on, and he always does a great job helping me out. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of trash talking when we played one-on-one.
What kind of trash talk, specifically?
I can't say. I can't say!
Asked whether this is his last year at Michigan, he says "I'm not sure" and "I can tell you I don't plan on leaving." I'm guessing he's around for at least another year since he's probably not a first-rounder after this business.
The NYT has an interesting article up on the variations between basketballs making life difficult on road teams. Bo Ryan is specified as a guy who uses a weird ball that causes problems for visitors; this made me think of a recent Daily article on Michigan's odd choice of ball:
“I just have a long association with The Rock,” he said. “I used it way back to LeMoyne and also at the Division-I level. I’ve used The Rock, I think, all the time. They have a good product.”
Though many teams choose to stick with their school’s sponsor for their choice of ball, Michigan passed over Adidas in favor of The Rock — a brand from Anaconda Sports.
“It feels very much like the Wilson, which we use in the NCAA Tournament,” Beilein said. “That’s why I like it.”
In fact, the NYT article seems like an rehash of the Daily article what with its frequent referencing of Wisconsin's unusual deployment of Sterling basketballs and focus on the home/road effects. Zinger not contained by NYT for obvious reasons incoming:
But if Michigan fans are worried about the Wolverines’ play without The Rock in the postseason, there is good news. On Dec. 10, Michigan put up a season-high 90 points in a victory over Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
The ball? Wilson. The same brand used for March Madness.
Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway.
Or is that "Hawafty"?