Kickstarter, eh! After many requests we have added a couple of kickstarter tiers for international folks: 20 bucks for one mag, 40 for both, and we'll eat the extra costs for anyone who goes for the 50+ tiers.
Reminder: we have made our base goal and are now shooting for the 50k stretch goal, whereupon the basketball/hockey preview mag is a real thing on paper.
Meanwhile if you're in the giving mood check out Marlin Jackson's Fight For Life charity. Very good cause. Seth posted extensively on what they do this morning.
Our linemen are a wonderful freak show. They're all having huge lumberjack beards and looking like Freddie Mercury and, uh, this:
That's walk-on Dan Gibbs's twitter avatar. We probably should have started him against Jesse Williams, who Gibbs is seen riding. Equal to the task is Gibbs's twitter avatar: DJBunyan.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Elliott Mealer has shaved the beard.
as if millions of follicles suddenly cried out in terror
We will always remember you, ZZ Top beard.
This year's OL has a lot to live up to. They are off to a good start, at least.
Michigan has a five star basketball recruit for the second straight year. (isportsweb)
It's too bad he can't compete with the big boys. Rivals has given Zak Irvin the GRIII bump, moving up ten spots after his Mr. Basketball season in Indiana. This nets him the coveted fifth star. Walton is #37—also a ten-spot bump—while Mark Donnal is #111, one of the last four-stars. IIRC Donnal was just inside the top 100 last time. He got one of those "you stay the same and we find twelve guys we like a lot" downgrades.
Indiana's six-person oversigning extravaganza is the best class in the Big Ten according to the sites. Michigan is second, #13 nationally at ESPN. Illinois and Wisconsin are next, but it's always hard to figure out how to rank basketball classes because they're so divergent in terms of numbers.
Speaking of Tom Crean…
You're Nick Saban, dude. A year after Indiana signee Ron Patterson was told he couldn't enroll at Indiana in August—ie, the Les Miles—Tom Crean signs six players and is oversigned by one going into the late signing period. Out you go, Remy Abell. Indiana currently has 13 players. They've just offered Jaren Sina, the former Northwestern commit who opened up his recruitment when Bill Carmody was fired.
Now is the time on Sprockets when brows are furrowed about young men and how it's disappointing they've left the program and etc. etc. etc. It's not disappointing, it is mathematically required by Coach Schrute's recruiting. Someone was going to leave, full stop. There's no difference between what's going down at Indiana and Nick Saban's annual purge. In this, OSU and Michigan fans are united.
The thing is: Crean's just flat out saying they're oversigning, which is at least more honest than Saban's approach.
Again, this was not unexpected, and IU coach Tom Crean admitted as much when he spoke with assembled media in Bloomington, Ind., Thursday afternoon. He knew he might have two guys leaving early, in addition to three seniors (Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston) which is, Crean told the Indianapolis Star, "one of the reasons we oversigned."
Wait ... what?
Yes, the Hoosiers enter the second straight summer with more players signed than scholarships to give out — this time 14 for 13. (Last season, IU's 15 signed players ended with senior guard Matt Roth's seemingly confused, thensuddenly uber-positive, departure, and a fortuitous turn in freshman Ron Patterson's academic ineligibility.)
Even without further departures Michigan will go into next year with an open scholarship. Purdue's down to ten. Schrute is looking for more guys to run off. Hard to have the moral high ground as a conference when you… uh… don't have it.
Godspeed, Tom Hammond. The Great and Powerful Hammond is being replaced by some guy named Hicks on Notre Dame broadcasts. A tip of the cap to a man who overcame his fear of cameras to be on television, like, all the time. We'll always have the picture and the tie.
See you around the rhythmic gymnastics odeon. /brohug
Baseball making it happen. Rich Maloney's ouster last year was sudden and controversial. So far it looks to have been the right move as the previously moribund base-to-ball team is currently 7-2 in the Big Ten behind freshman starting pitcher Evan Hill's dominating 1.89 ERA. Baseball America takes note:
The future looks bright for Michigan, which has a strong freshman core leading its resurgence this spring. Michigan’s best starter has been freshman lefthander Evan Hill (6-1, 1.89), whose projectable 6-foot-5 frame helped him rank No. 165 on the BA 500 heading into last year’s draft. Hill still is just scratching the surface of his potential, but he is maturing quickly and has settled nicely into the Saturday starter role.
“He still is a projection guy—his best years are ahead of him,” Bakich said. “But he’s very talented, he works extremely hard. The mental game has been critical for him, because he’s learned how to breathe and focus on executing the next pitch, that’s been a big part of his development mentally. But he’s still a long, lean, tall, thin guy who has a good fastball, and he’s got good offspeed pitches. He just doesn’t always have the command that he’s going to have in the future of his secondary stuff. But a lot of his success has come from pitching off his fastball. He throws a cutter and a curveball, and when those are on, he usually does pretty well.”
Two other freshmen have earned starting jobs on the left side of the infield and in the top half of the batting order. Travis Maezes (.308/.396/.421) has shown good athleticism, instincts and arm strength at shortstop while hitting in the No. 2 hole. And third baseman Jacob Cronenworth (.339/.397/.460 with two homers and a team-leading 26 RBIs) has been very steady in the cleanup spot. He has a balanced, line-drive approach from the left side of the plate to go along with good speed. Cronenworth also has a strong arm at the hot corner, and he can run his fastball up to 92 mph off the mound, where he has emerged as Michigan’s closer, posting a 1.06 ERA, six saves and a 16-3 strikeout-walk mark in 17 innings.
That's a hell of a freshman class.
Michigan's coming off consecutive sweeps of MSU and Penn State; they take on ND today at 4, with Eastern coming in tomorrow at 6. If you're in Chicago, Michigan plays Northwestern at Wrigley Saturday.
It was a bet with Zak Irvin. A picture of a displeased Gary Harris wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt made the rounds on twitter recently, and I was all like "dude lost a bet with Zak Irvin?"
M&GB: Can you tell us about that picture of Gary Harris that surfaced on twitter of him wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt?
Irvin: (Laughs) As a matter of fact I was just talking with him about that a couple hours ago but that was from last year. When Michigan played Michigan State we had a bet that whichever team won, the loser had to wear that team’s shirt to school the next day, and Michigan won so Gary had to wear a Michigan t-shirt all the next day.
Just not a recent one.
Not playing coy about Dymonte Thomas. Courtney Avery's job is officially in serious danger given the way Michigan usually talks about freshmen. No one's bothering to say Dymonte Thomas is a long way off or whatever:
"He’s a very conscientious young man. For a guy that comes that should have been at his prom to be here the whole time, and for him to pick it up like he did ... Dymonte Thomas had a very, very good spring for a freshman.”
So there's that. He's playing. Starting? We'll see.
Cumong, NCAA man. Oregon and the NCAA agree that Oregon paid Willie Lyles 25k to help recruit players. Also this:
There is no information," according to the NCAA, "in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon. That said, Lyles did provide a meaningful recruiting advantage by orally providing background information about prospects to the coaching staff and also by serving as a conduit to facilitate communication with prospective student-athletes."
I hate you, NCAA enforcement. Oregon has proposed two years of probation and one lost scholarship for a few years. Seriously. Sic 'em, Get The Picture.
Etc.: A tribute to Trey Burke. His finest moments. Oh yes "Roger Federer as a Religious Experience" reference in regards to Trey Burke, oh yes. HSR on the end of basketball season.
UMHoops talks to 2015 SG recruit Luke Kennard. MSU is selling spots in the press box for their spring game. How much? Next question. The definition of amateurism is "whatever the NCAA says it is," and changes constantly. Four(!) Michigan players make John Gasaway's final top 25 freshmen($), with Spike Albrecht making the tail end of the list at 25. That's for show, man. David Allen Grier gets Trey Burke to smile. It is possible. Drake Harris "commitment" scarequotes are unbecoming.
The main reason Michigan lost a heartbreaker to Indiana on Sunday—yes, even more than their late-game free throw misses—was their inability to keep the Hoosiers off the offensive glass. Indiana rebounded 24 of their 40 missed shots; once second in the country in defensive rebounding, the Wolverines are now eighth in their own conference.
What's odd about this at first glance is that Michigan boasts a trio of centers who are all proficient rebounders. Jordan Morgan (#9) and Mitch McGary (#5) both rank among the top Big Ten players in defensive rebounding percentage, and Jon Horford would rank just ahead of Morgan if he played enough minutes to qualify.
After looking at the film, it's apparent that Michigan's bigs lack the support they need to defend the boards; the team's overall inexperience and poor perimeter defense are most apparent in this area. One play in particular from the Indiana game bears this out:
Let's look at this frame-by-frame, starting with the defensive lapse that begins the sequence—Tim Hardaway Jr. falling asleep in the corner and allowing Victor Oladipo to beat him on a backdoor cut:
Zeller has no problem getting the ball to Oladipo in great position for a shot. With Zeller and Jeremy Hollowell (#33, on the other side of the FT line from Zeller) at the top of the key—drawing Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III way from the basket—Hardaway must fend for himself:
Here's where Michigan's rebounding issues begin in earnest. This is the point where Oladipo releases his shot. Note that Zeller, Morgan's man, has stayed on the perimeter, while Hollowell is crashing the paint behind Robinson. Hardaway is accounting for Oladipo and Robinson should be responsible for Hollowell; both are in decent position right here, while Nik Stauskas has been beaten to a good rebounding spot by Will Sheehy:
At the moment before Oladipo secures his own rebound, however, it's clear that Michigan's perimeter players haven't done their job. Hardaway first goes for the block and then reaches for the ball instead of putting a body on Oladipo, who will easily step by him and get the board. Robinson has watched the ball the entire time and allowed Hollowell a free pass to the basket. Stauskas is lucky not to give up a putback after letting Sheehy get right under the basket. Morgan is in solid position but the ball doesn't bounce his way. This is not good:
Oladipo kicks the ball out to Jordan Hulls, who gets a wide-open look from three after Trey Burke drifted away from the play. At the moment Hulls releases his shot, most of Michigan's players have at least partially recovered—Burke is attempting to close out, Morgan is on Zeller, and Hardaway and Stauskas have found their men. Robinson, however, is still watching the ball, unaware that Hollowell is on the complete opposite side of the lane:
As the shot comes off the rim, you can see three Wolverines—including Robinson—trying to box out two Hoosiers on the left side of the lane, while Morgan is left with the unenviable task of being one guy having to guard two guys:
This, predictably, does not go well. Zeller taps the rebound to Hollowell, who's able to gather the ball and go up for a layup despite Morgan's best efforts to be two Jordan Morgans.
To sum up, on this play we've got:
- Hardaway falling asleep on a backdoor cut
- Stauskas getting beat along the baseline
- Hardaway not boxing out Oladipo
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell again, nor even being in the same general area
Watch Robinson throughout the play, here in handy gif form:
He never leaves an area covering about 15 square feet until it's far too late. You know how coaches say the key to a freshman succeeding is having the game slow down for him? On defense, at least, the game is going about 200 mph for Robinson, who's trying to defend with his eyes instead of his feet—while he's watching the ball, he's losing his man.
One play doesn't make a trend, of course, but there were several other instances of Michigan's non-centers being the culprit for an offensive rebound.
[For more rebounding pain and suffering, hit THE JUMP.]
"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise."
~ Winston Churchill
Trey Burke works the ball up the court, and crosses mid-court with just under nine seconds left. Jordan Morgan sets a high screen on Oladipo, and in an instant the much ballyhooed pre-game narrative is wiped out of the picture. This will no longer be a symbolic battle for the Big Ten Player of the Year. Indiana's best defender is a bystander. Instead it is Cody Zeller on Burke 30 feet from the basket.
History may be written by the winners, but in sports the winners rarely read the history they write. For the victor, the simple fact of the victory can obscure whatever came before. The foibles and missteps were merely a part of the rich tapestry that was their inevitable triumph. It is the character-building fire that forges their mettle. It is for the loser, rather, to lament the components of their fate. Almost exactly a week before Jordan Morgan set his screen, Keith Appling was dribbling the ball up that same court, in a tie game, with the shot clock off, when Trey Burke stole the ball and turned the tables on all the percentages. And when a second Burke steal sealed the game, no one cared that Michigan had frittered away a ten point lead in the last four minutes, or that they had missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Michigan State one last chance. It was Sparty, rather, who spoke with the bitter tinge of "what if" of their blown opportunity to win on what should have been a final possession.
Burke gains the corner on Zeller, but only by a bit. Yogi Ferrell starts to sag off of Stauskas, but thinks better of it. Ferrell knows full well that Burke is taking this one to the rack, but Stauskas is not to be left. Christian Watford is under no such restriction on the far side against Glenn Robinson III, and he helps down. Burke isn't going to leave this one in the hands of a jump shot from a freshman, no matter how talented that freshman may be. Zeller extends an impossibly long arm over Burke, who responds in kind with a fully extended flip of the ball. Jordan Morgan has reached the free throw line.
If you are anything like me, dear Michigan fan, then there is a part of you that is relieved that it got this far. The recent history of Michigan basketball is one of repeated crashes to reality. A first NCAA berth in a decade is followed by a 15-17 season. A first Big Ten title in centuries and a four-seed leads to an early exit against Ohio (YTO). So when Michigan came out of the gates this year as an unstoppable hell-beast, there remained a little voice in your head that urged caution. Like the slave used by Julius Caesar to ride on his chariot to remind him of his mortality, the little voice kept whispering in your ear, "they are not Gods. They are merely human." When Ben Brust hit a half-court heave and Michigan was run out of the Breslin Center and utterly collapsed in Happy Valley, those whispers became screams that could not be ignored. And when Michigan went down 10-3 early, there was a part of you that said, "please not this again."
[After the jump, not this again]
3/10/2013 – Michigan 71, Indiana 72 – 25-6, 12-6 Big Ten
One of my earliest memories of basketball was brooding over a narrow loss. I have no memory of who may have been playing but since at this point in my life I lived in Denver and regarded the Alex English-era Nuggets as a curiosity, it must have been some Michigan game that my dad put on.
What struck me is the infinite variety of moments I had to brood on. This free throw here, this missed layup there, that egregious foul call: 40 to 48 minutes of opportunities to not lose by a point. Basketball is weird in that way. Most sports come with thunderclaps from God. If you're caught on the wrong end of a scoreline you brood over, oh, I don't know, a friggin' Honduran defender with one goal to his name at any level being momentarily possessed by the spirit of Pele. Something titanic. A keystone kops attempt to tackle in the secondary, eight blown tackles on one play, somehow giving up a 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway, etc. That goal. That massive refactoring of the world from something in which pleasure beckoned into one containing only sand and dust. THAT.
On Sunday, mere hours after Michigan had choked away a second consecutive Big Ten title, we were treated to the NBA equivalent of the bicycle kick linked above when DeAndre Jordan caused twitter to explode into a panoply of jokes about the murder and death of one Brandon Knight.
Like you 1) haven't seen it and 2) won't watch it again:
The Clippers were awarded two points! That is a lot of points to get on one basketball possession! The Clippers acquired a third thanks to a free throw! That made the Clippers lead by 22 points instead of 19, so it was super helpful in their efforts to victory.
Basketball is weird in this way. It's the highlight thing. Baseball highlights are hugely important near-replicas of every other baseball highlight you've ever seen (man swings bat, ball goes far). Basketball highlights are unique snowflakes with almost no impact on the outcome. Except, of course, in those odd situations when the things are balanced on a knife edge right at the end, and everything that goes wrong is one of the thousand papercuts that did you in.
My most recent basketball memory is brooding over a narrow loss. Also there are a couple additional narrow-loss broodings in there ranging from 10th to 4th most recent. I don't know, man. Michigan probably wouldn't have grabbed that share of the Big Ten title if the conference season was 1800 games long. If Morgan's tip goes down their collective margin of victory over the teams they hypothetically would have shared with would have been 4; their collective margin of loss was 34. They were 3-3 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. They lost to Penn State. In the end, they got a fair result.
That does not stop a man from running his fingers through his hair and thinking of a half-court shot at Wisconsin and Jordan Morgan's putback hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim, hanging on the rim. Change a brush of the finger on those, and Michigan is the team raising a banner all by themselves. There are many things to brood on, things that make no sense and can be blamed on no one except bloody fate.
This is why I basically shrugged when Michigan went out in the first round last year—they'd come from a much more fortunate place than they did this year and still got that banner up. They don't give banners for falling valiantly in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not sure we should be talking about salvage after Michigan's best season that counted in a long, long time, but after Sunday a lot more rides on the single elimination portion of the schedule. If the season was a game, it's one against a very good opponent coming down to the wire.
Make a macro free throw maybe?
REBOUND. Ugh, ugh, ugh. A cripplingly bad defensive rebounding performance is finally what doomed Michigan. Indiana recovered 57%(!!!) percent of their misses, with Oladipo snagging seven OREBs by himself. It's kind of hard to figure how Indiana didn't score more with that sort of second-chance rate. The end result of that bombing was to drop Michigan's defensive rebounding to 80th—they entered Big Ten play second in the country—and 8th in conference. They're actually worse this year in Big Ten play.
Much of this has happened just lately. This space was talking about how Michigan was in the upper echelon halfway through the conference season and holding their own as recently as a couple weeks ago. As mentioned after the Purdue game, the fives are a big issue: Morgan had six offensive rebounds but only two on defense; Michigan rolled out five different guys at that spot and got three defensive rebounds. Also, when Oladipo is going off like that someone isn't boxing him out: Tim Hardaway, who had two rebounds.
Generic mutterings about getting that fixed before the tourney go here.
Make your free throws, etc. I think it would have been good if Michigan had made the front ends of one and ones late. #strongtake
Good thing you didn't change the outcome of the game you guys. If a guy is gone for a dunk and someone prevents that from behind, is there a rule against that or not? A: yes, lol jk no. Even Clark Kellogg, last seen accusing his grandmother of fouling Cody Zeller, thought the obvious intentional foul was obvious. Michigan got neither the dunk or intentional call and ended up losing by a point. But at least they looked at it on the monitor!
The other ref bitches are the usual except for the blatant goaltend on a Burke shot that hit the backboard before being rejected. Missing that call should be grounds for termination. It is black and white, and of course cannot be reviewed.
Death to timeouts, Part MCMVII. The last ten seconds were a terrifying whirlwind because Michigan had no timeouts. Michigan couldn't go to the sideline, decide their play would be "Trey, do something" and then see if Trey could do something. Instead Trey just got on with the doing of things. A neutral observer probably enjoyed that quite a bit. It amplified my terror, to be sure.
This is what all basketball games could be like if timeouts were drastically slashed. In these situations there would not be ten-minute stretches of financial service commercials occasionally interspersed by basketball midway through the second half.
Zeller. Despite putting four fouls on Mitch McGary in eight minutes of play plus five more on other Michigan centers, Zeller's ORtg was just an ok 108 because of six turnovers. And some of those came against McLimans and Biefeldt, both inexplicably inserted late in the first half despite Horford not having any fouls. It's a small thing, but all small things are important in a one point game.
Tom Crean: pretty much. I can't believe this guy is this guy:
At least he lets you know by looking like Dwight Schrute, and by saying "whoops, Ron Patterson, you are vaguely ineligible because we don't have a scholarship.*" Apparently Meyer's work in the state of Indiana is a source of conflict:
There have been unfriendly recruitments between Indiana and Michigan in last year. Major source of issues between staffs. Will leave it at that.
Beilein is getting his punches in between the lines:
“Michigan’s always going to win with class, and it’s going to lose with class,” Beilein said. “I’m proud of the way Jeff [Meyer] showed great poise.”
YEAH KILL 'EM PILOT WALTER WHITE
*[He was so ineligible he ended up at Syracuse.]
Damn you rock. Damn you.
|WHAT||Indiana at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||4:00 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Indiana –2 (Kenpom)|
Michigan hosts Indiana on Sunday afternoon with a chance to grab a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Since the first time these teams met (original preview here), the Hoosiers have established themselves as the clear-cut team to beat in the conference and perhaps the best team in the country.
Indiana is led by not one, but two contenders for national player of the year honors. Center Cody Zeller is an excellent rebounder with deft touch around the basket, and he's easily the best big man in the country when it comes to getting points in transition. He scored 19 points on 8/10 shooting in the first matchup, though Jordan Morgan was limited to just two minutes and will have a much greater impact this time around.
The other big star is wing Victor Oladipo, a spectacular athlete and defender who's turned himself into a lethal finisher from both inside and outside the arc (67.0 2P%, 49.1 3P%). Oladipo didn't put up huge numbers in the first game (15 points on 5/9 shooting), at least by his standards, but Tim Hardaway Jr. had a tough time staying in front of him; there are going to be times that Oladipo gets into the lane, and if Michigan doesn't rotate on defense better than they have lately he's going to get his share of thunderous dunks.
What gives Indiana the best offense in the country is that they'll kill teams that collapse on Zeller and Oladipo. They boast one of the nation's best shooters in Jordan Hulls, who hits 48.3% of his threes—a number that seemingly rises to 100% when he's got a wide-open look—and power forward Christian Watford connects on 48.1% of his triples. Hulls isn't a strong defender and Michigan has to find a way to isolate and attack him on that end. Watford is the team's best defensive rebounder and gave Glenn Robinson III a lot of trouble with his size and skill set in the first game.
Rounding out the starting lineup is freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who's still figuring things out offensively—he's got a 42/32 2P/3P split and is prone to turnovers—but is a solid distrubutor and surprisingly good defender. The top backup is 6'7" wing Will Sheehy, a solid slasher who hits nearly 56% of his shots inside the arc, while reserve guard Remy Abell has hit 13/27 three-pointers this season.
Indiana is the #2 team in the country, with their only losses coming to Butler, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio State. Before Tuesday's nine-point home defeat against the Buckeyes, they hadn't lost a game by more than five points.
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||53.4 (1)||19.1 (9)||37.3 (2)||48.6 (1)|
|Defense||44.8 (2)||20.4 (2)||34.8 (10)||29.0 (4)|
The only real weakness the Hoosiers have on the offensive end is a proclivity for turning the ball over; with their brutal shooting efficiency (49.1 2P%, 41.5 3P%) Michigan is going to have to capitalize on any chance they get to force an empty possession.
Defensively, Indiana doesn't allow a lot of three-point attempts, and as a result have ceded a somewhat-fluky 29.1 3P% in Big Ten play; Michigan hit just 7/23 attempts in the first game while desperately trying to dig themselves out of a big hole.
Get in transition. Indiana is perhaps the only team in the country that Michigan may not want to get into a track meet against, but the Wolverines are going to have to find a way to generate some easy points, and not a lot has come easy lately when Michigan isn't on the break. Farrell is a solid point guard but he's still just a freshman, and Trey Burke has really been turning up the heat lately with his on-ball pressure—expect more of the same in this one.
Get one of the big four in foul trouble. Indiana's pieces on offense fit so well together that it's nearly impossible to stop them when everything is clicking—Zeller posting up, Oladipo attacking the rim, and Hulls and Watford waiting to knock down open threes. Get one of those guys off the court for extended time, however, and it's a whole lot easier to keep up. Burke, Stauskas, and Hardaway should look to attack the basket and see if they can get a couple cheap ones, either on their man or on Zeller inside.
Don't make mistakes. I know, duh. But this is a game where the margin of error is razor-thin. Michigan can't afford to take bad shots, cough up dumb turnovers, or lose a key player to foul trouble—not to mention continue to blow defensive rotations and get beat off the dribble. Beating the best team in the country means playing like the best team in the country; Michigan's shown at times this year they can put it all together, and they need to bring a complete effort on Sunday.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Indiana by 2. I'm expecting a very close game, and having Morgan back for this one is huge, but I learned my lesson about deviating from KenPom the last time.