I can't figure out this Illini team. Sometimes they lose by 12 to Northwestern at Assembly Hall (No not THAT Assembly Hall), and sometimes they go into Evanston and hold the cats to 41 points. Sometimes they fall to Purdue by 20, sometimes they beat Indiana. Just when you're sure they're supposed to be a noble chieftain of a great confederation of Algonquian tribes, they show up looking like Colonel Kernel or Rabid the Squirrel. They have a guy named Nnanna Egwu, which that is at least the fourth thing you would come up with if you were given four n's and two a's and told to make a name.
How it works:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of the designated game, and put it in the comments, preferably in the format of [M's Score]-[Opponent's Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you were the closest, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
- Seriously, you don't have to actually guess a basketball score to get this shirt. You can buy it.
About Last Time:
This happened (should be ad-less right now):
And the winner was the dude who thought Michigan would score one less and Penn State score one more. We'll forgive him a couple of free throws, but then screw with him for trying to use header text in his user signature. I like Heading Style Six. Heading Six? Heading Six.
This Week's Game:
Na, na, na, na-na-na-naaaaaaa. Na-na-na-naaaaaa. Eg-wu!
And the Prize:
Fine print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (make it easy on me and write your score in digits with a hyphen between them. Deadline for entries is sometime within 24 hours before the start of the game—whenever I can get online in that time and lock the thread. MGoEmployees and Moderators exempt from winning because you can change scores. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm spent 10 years as the Indiana of basketball, if that makes sense. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm's name has to be spelled wrong. The algorithm is not just a shooter. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
The chaos! Illinois finally came through on its promise to be an agent of chaos in the Big Ten title race by going on a 13-2 run to beat Indiana; the final bucket was a wide-open layup off an out of bounds play that went down when Cody Zeller lost Tyler Griffey. Court-rush: approved.
Here is John Groce screaming at a shirtless child I hope is not his.
I hope it popped out of a woman at courtside who was not even pregnant.
The implications are large for Michigan. Indiana has now dropped two league games and has visits to OSU, MSU, Minnesota, and Michigan on tap along with a home outing against the Buckeyes. Michigan's tough games left are @ Wisconsin, @ MSU, MSU, and Indiana. Advantage M. While OSU and MSU are proving they are going to have a say in this, the most likely outcome of the season is that the M-IU conference finale will see one team playing for an outright title, the other for a share. Last night's stunner—I think Gasaway will let me get away with that—shifts the outright half of that to Michigan. Viva Illinois chaos machine. Don't make me take this back after your visit to Crisler, kthx.
Meanwhile for, you know, the Illini: their quest to be an at-large team with an under .500 conference record is looking pretty good right now. Adding Indiana to their pile of skulls gives them the good wins of a top four seed and they've got a few more shots at adding to that pile. I think even 7-11 might get them in now. Beilein's bubble resumes with 20-12-ish teams were considerably worse since the Big Ten wasn't nearly as good and they didn't have a pair of nonconference wins on par with Gonzaga/Butler, and on Selection Sunday they were easily in.
- MICHIGAN 2011: 19-12 regular season, 9-9 Big Ten, best wins over 10-seed Penn State, Dayton-bound Clemson, 9-seed Illinois, 10 seed MSU (2x).
- HYPOTHETICAL 7-11 ILLINI 2013: 20-12 regular season, 7-11 Big Ten, best wins over (CTD projection) 3-seed Gonzaga, 2-seed Indiana, 4-seed Butler, 4-seed OSU.
That Michigan outfit ended up nowhere near the bubble, finding themselves in that 8-9 game against Tennessee. Bubble teams are weak yo.
So… who wants to play a John Groce team that consists of a bunch of shot-jackers who can burn your tourney to the ground if you catch them on the wrong day? That's nobody, especially not me. This time Michigan won't see them, though.
Oops. Will Sheehey got a technical late in the first half.
This is either the best thing ever or Bob Knight yelling at librarians, which is also the best thing ever. From Midnight Maize's erroneously named "Crap You Wouldn't Buy On EBay" series:
Someone purchase this and send it to Wolverine Historian.
Words are very unnecessary here.
OSU highlights. A comprehensive reel from MGoVideo:
That sequence of Sam Thompson block to Burke three to Deshaun Thomas missed three to deflected Stauskas pass to Deshaun Thomas three was all sickening lurches back and forth.
Also in OSU video bits, Five Key Plays.
OSU takes from Grantland. Mark Titus's power rankings spend a lot of time talking about how Ohio State should be about as giddy as you can be about a loss, lending credence to our "man OSU played well" meme. As for Michigan:
As giddy as I am over Ohio State's performance in Ann Arbor, a small part of me can't help but acknowledge the obvious — the Buckeyes played their best game of the season and Michigan still won. Similarly, Michigan didn't play very well at all at Indiana over the weekend, yet the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines by only eight. This is terrifying. Michigan is taking the best shots of some of the best teams in the country while not playing anywhere close to their best, and they're still tough to beat. They just have too many weapons, especially now that Mitch McGary is coming around. Very few guys in America can contain Trey Burke one-on-one, but if you decide to help too much to stop him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, or Nik Stauskas will make you pay. The only hope in beating Michigan is to hope several of their players have off nights (like they did at Indiana). I guess you could also try to beat them at their own game and get into a shootout, but unless you're Indiana or Florida, good luck with that.
He cites Michigan's recent three binge as a source of concern. If they have to keep knocking down threes at a 50%+ rate to win games that will indeed be a worry. I tend to chalk that up to randomness and Tim Hardaway going nuts.
Also, all those makes obscured the fact that only 40% of Michigan's looks were from deep. That's only a little high. D-I takes 'em at a 33% clip and Michigan is at 36%. If Michigan had shot a D-I average number of threes against OSU we're talking about four shots migrating inside the arc. I'm not sure that's anything to get exercised about, especially after Michigan was right on the average against Indiana.
I do think he's got a point about Michigan getting deep-jumper happy at times. Like, say, the end of a tie game.
Also on Grantland, Shane Ryan puts up ten things about the game. I disagree that the Burke block was even close to a foul, as he asserts. The last one probably was, sure, but Michigan didn't win this game in regulation by five so whateva. Ryan does slam the heroball bit.
Revise your self-reality-checking. Michigan has gone from 5-1 against to 7-2 against in Vegas. They're now co-favorites with Florida. Also, add this great shot from John T Grelick to both Tim Hardaway's photo pantheon and the rapidly growing Stauskas pantheon:
And you could stand to update you wardrobe, too. Your media meme of the moment is something about Urban Meyer SECizing the Big Ten. The sole piece of evidence cited is increased recruiting budgets at a lot of schools. This is not much evidence. Michigan, the one school to keep pace with OSU's recruiting, actually saw its budget fall this year. Ohio State's is up marginally… and 9th out of the ten schools that responded. Meanwhile the schools that saw massive increases are Nebraska, which is an outlier since they just changed conferences and have gone national in an attempt to replace lost clout in Texas, and teams coming up to the Big Boy average without positive effect on their recruiting.
Nevertheless, the meme is on high today after Meyer said something about learning up his peers on the whole recruiting shazaam:
"Our whole conversation [at the Big Ten coaches meeting] needs to be about 'How do we recruit?'" he told the radio station. "When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25 that’s something that we need to continue to work on and improve."
He called the recruiting discussion "essential," and he'll spearhead it Monday.
Urban Meyer's perception of this meeting:
What everyone else hears:
This is what they hear all the time anyway.
Fitz! Running! A nasty dual break of Toussaint's lower leg results in running ten weeks after:
"Saw him running around -- I was shocked," Jackson said Wednesday. "The kid had a broken leg. Ten years ago, that probably wouldn't have been the case. But he was running around the other day and I don't know if they had him cut, but to me, that's tremendous progress."
As previously noted, the average recovery time of soccer players who suffered the same injury would see Fitz available for the season opener. While everyone's hyped about Derrick Green, it's nice to have multiple options—especially ones versed in Michigan's blitz pickup schemes. And putting a redshirt on DeVeon Smith might be nice.
File under extreme writer envy. Charles P. Pierce, writing on the Ed O'Bannon suit, summarizes one of the running themes appearing in this space for years in a paragraph:
By and large, the people charged with running our various sports conglomerates have proven through history to be as incapable of taking the long view of their own survival as the average brachiosaurus was. They blunder around, eating whatever comes under their noses, trampling the scenery and hooting loudly into the wind. They never see the meteor coming.
Writer jealousy: engaged.
Hugh Freeze going all Lance on us. Ah, youth:
I'm so irritated right now, so forgive me," the Ole Miss football coach said. "I've taken it about up to here with all the media and the Twitters and everybody."
Up next: 7 SEC championships, denials, dating Cheryl Crow, more denials, epic wristbands, tearful Oprah confession.
This Week In We Are Not Iowa. Michigan is trying to assemble a stripeout for… the Penn State game. In basketball. I don't think this will work. Next time go for the Brownian-Motion-Out, you guys.They're wearing 1968 throwbacks, which are actually 1968 throwbacks if the items they're selling on the MDen's site are accurate. As such, they are uniforms, no Z. I actually like them better than the current outfits.
Etc.: ESPN comprehensive photo gallery from OSU. You know what bugs me about the Magic thing? Magic averaged over eight assists per game. 17 and 7 is impressive; 17 and 8 is like whoah. Also whenever it gets brought up my feed fills up with Spartan fans contemplating a raid on Bristol. Kansas lost to TCU! Hoke doesn't like recruiting deregulation. Also, don't freak out about the video: that is not Chantel Jennings looking freakily like Samantha Ponder, it is Samantha Ponder.
The annual Detnews Blue Chips player interviews are a bit less interesting than usual. Reschke slams Urban Meyer, guys not recruited by Michigan are a little bitter, etc.
Basketball highlights ho.
I vote all of these. A student organization at Illinois is holding a contest to pick a new symbol for the Illini. Whichever one wins will be ignored by the athletic department and consigned to the dustbin of history, and this is a tragedy. A dozen of the entrants would instantly be the best mascot in the universe.
Do you choose Colonel Kernel?
Or Rabid the Squirrel?
Rabid the Squirrel is a possibility for the mascot, but the overall concept is to represent the squirrel, a hardy survivalist being, bravely bears the cold winters, bike and street traffic, and is incredibly quick and graceful. For proof, walk anywhere on campus.
Or The Corn Guy?
The tagline for Corn Guy could be: A corn could be a cute and enthusiastic corn,
who opens his arms and welcomes smart students all over the world. Or a corn could
be a fighting corn, who, in orange skin and blue armor, revealing his muscle, with
fierce look, shows his vigor and is ready for an exciting game. This, is the Corn Guy.
You want something fierce? You want something amazing? You got it all right here. Super strong, super vicious, super I-will-wreck-everything- you-love. Ain't no one wanna mess with this. What, you expecting something cute and fuzzy like a squirrel or a PIECE OF CORN? HELL NO.
THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON HERE.
It matters not. You cannot go wrong. I vote for them all.
It is the state of Illinois with an Abe Lincoln hat with boxing gloves. Tough, Historic and blatantly Illinois. Hope you like it
I vote for them all.
K-State might be Michigan's best nonconference foe. NC State beat Duke and UNC, sure. Since they've lost to Wake Forest, Maryland, and Virginia. UVA is at least a bubble team; the other two aren't sniffing the tourney. Kansas State on the other hand just did this to Texas:
I got home, made some dinner, and kicked back to relax and watch the Texas game. It was not relaxing. I would have been better off waking up this morning, smashing a few glass bottles on my kitchen floor, opening a can of paint stripper, pouring it on the broken glass, rolling around in the mix of shards and methylene chloride, taking a shower, and calling it a day.
While Texas is real bad this year, Kenpom has them significantly above Wake Forest and the Wildcats beat the Longhorns raw—final was 83-57. They kept it close in their two league losses and are probably going to have 24, 25 wins by Selection Sunday.
I wish I had thought about this. The Hoover Street Rag introduces the Borges-O-Meter, which ranks Al on a Jorge Luis-based scale ranging from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius to The Gospel According to Mark. As you can see, Al is currently hanging out at The Lottery Of Bablyon, level six. I would actually swap level six (dubbed "fortunate") with level 5 (On Exactitude in Science, categorized as "precise"). In all other ways this is wonderful.
Yeah, I suppose Cal or Stanford fans probably would have done this, but whatever, they didn't because of a historical quirk that directed Borges (Al Edition) to Michigan instead of their schools.
Viva this fanbase.
[update: now with link!]
Viva this team. Mitch McGary on starting:
Late Tuesday night, an undecided Beilein asked McGary, "What do you feel about tomorrow? I don't know what to do yet. You both practiced well."
McGary responded, "Coach, I've been coming off the bench for two years. I'm cool with coming off the bench."
I'm not sure there's anything we thought McGary would do when he was the #2 recruit in the country that he's not doing despite a massive nose-dive in expectations late.
This is appropriate. Hockey picked up a big, late-blooming defenseman currently plying his trade in the BCHL named Kevin Lohan. As Yost Built mentions, yes, that Lohan: he's a cousin of Lindsay, who may be the spirit totem for this year's outfit. It is possible the third jersey does not display a badly-drawn weasel but is in fact a representation of Linsday Lohan on a bender.
Right now Lohan is insurance against potential departures from Bennett, Trouba, and/or Merrill and may or may not come in next year.
Yost Built also mentions that Mike Spath is reporting that Michigan will use the scholarship money freed by Daniel Milne's departure to go hunting for a goalie, apparently overseas.
Etc.: The Northwestern view of last night. Also found here. First comment: "Trey Burke is good. Holy shit." Burke is about to pass Darius Morris on Michigan's all-time assist list and has Morris's season record for assists squarely in sight. Men's gymnast Syque Caesar sets an NCAA record on the parallel bars. Nieves profiled by the Daily. 7-on-7 leagues examined. Five key plays from NW.
|WHAT||Michigan at Illinois|
|WHERE||Assembly Hall (NTAH), Champaign, Illinois|
|WHEN||6:00 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –9 (Kenpom)|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
Right: Let's all agree not to discuss anything John Groce did last year.
After a brutal second-half collapse in 2011-12 cost head coach Bruce Weber his job, Illinois started the 2012-13 campaign 12-0 under new head man John Groce. Instead of a storybook turnaround, however, it's been déjà vu for the Illini, losers of five of their last eight games with a brutal stretch ahead (Michigan, @ MSU, Wisconsin, Indiana, @ Minnesota).
6'4" guard Brandon Paul reprises his role as the team's leading scorer, and he's much more efficient than he was last year, shooting 49.6% from two and 34.1% from three while getting to the line frequently. Paul is at his best when he's attacking the basket, though he takes half his shots from beyond the arc; Michigan would probably prefer to keep him on the perimeter. Defensively, Paul is actually the team's second-best rebounder—Groce asks his guards to hit the glass hard, and as you'll see there's a good reason why.
Point guard Tracy Abrams distributes the ball well and is a solid shooter inside the arc, but he's struggled with turnovers and is just 17-for-60 on three-pointers. Joining him and Paul in the starting backcourt is 6'3" gunner DJ Richardson, who's already launched 141 threes (against 62 twos) this year but is hitting them at just a 32.6% clip. Richardson is mostly content to spot up and shoot—both his assist and turnover rates are quite low.
6'6" wing Joseph Bertrand is the team's best defensive rebounder and most efficient shooter, hitting at 59.1% inside the arc and 38.5% from outside. He's got a lower usage than any of the three guys above, however, and as a result is the Illini's fourth-leading scorer.
6'11" center Nnanna Egwu is the object of fascination for somehow being an atrocious defensive rebounder, posting a paltry 12.1% rate despite being, again, six-foot-eleven. Egwu is a non-factor as a scoring threat, though he at least manages to pick up a decent number of offensive rebounds, but does provide a shot-blocking presence defensively.
The rest of the Illini big man rotation doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents, either. 6'9" forward Tyler Griffey takes over half his shots from three and is a rebounding non-factor on both ends. 6'8" backup Sam McLaurin shoots just 44% from two and has posted an astounding 7.1% defensive rebound rate—lower than Trey Burke and Caris LeVert.
The only other backup to see significant time is wing Myke Henry, an offensive black hole (2.9% assist rate vs. 20.6% turnover rate) who's hitting just 34.5% from two and 32.3% from three.
Illinois built that 12-0 against a slew of cupcakes and huge wins over #28 Butler (by 17 on a neutral court) and #12 Gonzaga (by 11 on the road), as well as KP100 triumphs over USC and Georgia Tech. The last month hasn't been kind, however. Their first loss came by nine to #36 Mizzou, they were upended by seven at Purdue, and then—after blowing out Ohio State at home—they suffered three consecutive blowout losses to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northwestern, the third a 14-point home loss. Illinois is coming off a 20-point home win over Nebraska, but, well, that's Nebraska.
Four factors, conference play only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||44.6 (9)||19.4 (8)||33.3 (5)||32.2 (7)|
|Defense||48.7 (8)||21.4 (1)||33.2 (10)||44.0 (11)|
You can see why the wheels have come off this season: Illinois isn't shooting the ball well in Big Ten play and is coughing up the rock too much, and on the other end their forced turnovers are offset by fouling all the time and giving up too may rebounds. Their offensive efficiency has dropped over ten points per 100 possessions in conference play, while their PPP allowed on defense has risen by nearly as much.
The Illinois live and die by the three, and right now they're dying: they take the third-most threes in the conference and are hitting just 24.8% of them. They're actually second-best in the conference at shooting inside the arc, but that hasn't been enough for a team that jacks up so many outside shots.
Protect the rock. Illinois gets a ton of blocks and steals, but otherwise their defense is underwhelming. If Michigan takes care of the basketball, they should win, but they could get into trouble in their outside shots aren't falling—the turnovers could come if they try to force their way to the basket.
Hands off. The Illini have the best free-throw percentage in the conference and a couple guys who can attack the basket in Paul and Abrams. With their shooting struggles, Illinois would love to get opportunities for easy points; thankfully for Michigan, they're still #2 in the country in free throw rate against. Playing like they've been playing should take care of this.
Run, run, run. Michigan can really open up this game if they're able to get out in transition, and there should be plently of chances off long rebounds when Illinois shoots (and misses) from outside. Illinois plays at a higher tempo than most Big Ten teams, but that may not play in their favor—Nebraska had success (or at least kept Michigan close) by grinding the pace to a halt and refusing to let Michigan get out on the break.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 9
With Illinois, there's always the fear that they catch fire from outside—when they do, this team is capable of beating anyone. We saw against Purdue, however, that it takes more than a half-long hot streak from outside to beat Michigan, and the Illini haven't been able to sustain much of anything in conference play.