"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
PROS: If he was a Football Manager player, would have an influence and work rate of 20. This means he's a gritty grittenstein who everyone loves because he defies his physical limitations to be pretty good. Had an Aneurysm of Leadership to lead Michigan to its first victory in Breslin since 1997.
Also nailed six threes in that game. Iconically bled all over himself in a game against Illinois during Michigan's first tourney push since the program's NCAA immolation. Kind of a walking capital-L Leadership avatar. The kind of player opposing fans loathe. Our Brian Cardinal. Swears like a sailor and has problems keeping his emotions in check.
CONS: Was never a star. Senior year usage was 14.3%, in the "role player" arena. Repeatedly posterized by men a half-foot taller than him, though this could be filed under a positive from a grit perspective. Clocked an OSU player late in a loss to get booted.
PROS: Amazing sophomore year saw him finish top five in assist rate nationally and shoot efficiently despite an astronomic usage rate. Told Kalin Lucas to get off his #$&*ing court, and Lucas had to since Michigan had just swept Michigan State for the first time since paper was invented. Was the engine of Michigan's second tourney birth since the NCAA immolation, this one not a skin-of-your-teeth bubble nailbiter. Nearly led Michigan to an upset of Duke in the secound round. If only that floater had dropped…
CONS: Made a poor decision to enter the draft early, limiting his impact to that one year—his freshman year was not exactly Trey Burke's. Draft entry decision seemingly taken in full knowledge that he was unlikely to go in first round. That's tough to take, and it seems like a one-year phenom has to be more phenomenal to get in here.
Also while it's not his fault that Tim Doyle called him "butterfly," it is a regrettably true thing.
PROS: Best player on Michigan's tourney-drought-breaking team, with massive usage (32%, top 25 nationally), a nearly-as-massive assist rate, and okay shooting. Major factor in the win at Minnesota that essentially got Michigan into the tourney.
A guy who signed up with Michigan when he had other options and there wasn't much reason to be a Wolverine. Stuck with it despite the Amaker firing. Way less crazy than Alex Legion. Actual full name is "Corperryale L'Adorable Harris," which… wow. Key guy in Michigan's perception-altering wins over UCLA and Duke in 2009.
CONS: Also made a debatable-at-best decision to enter the draft early and has spent his NBA career on the fringes of the Cavs' roster. Had blowups with Beilein that caused him to sit during critical periods. Tended toward lazy habits like jacking up contested threes. Had a little Rasheed Wallace disease while at M wherein he seems like less than he should be. Michigan disappointed greatly in his final year despite losing only a couple of walk-ons and Kelvin Grady.
PROS: Yeah, he's eligible. If this is a surprise it just goes to show how long ago 2006 seems in basketball terms.
Horton's teams never made the tournament but in his last go-round he was the main man on an outfit Kenpom likes better (#31) than a couple of Beilein outfits that got in. And he was fantastic: 28% usage the #35 assist rate, a bunch of steals, 90% free throw shooting, 49% from two, and 39% from three. That team would have made the tourney if they a) hadn't gone from 16-3 to 18-10 to end the year and b) hadn't blown it against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
I think we all forget how good Horton was because his teams never got anywhere.
CONS: Teams never got anywhere. He's holding the NIT MVP trophy above, a career-summing photo if there ever was one. While this isn't his fault it is a downer. Got suspended for most of his junior year thanks to a domestic violence thing he pled guilty to.
This was difficult to separate out since there are a number of candidates with things to recommend them: Brent Petway, Graham Brown, and Stuart Douglass were tough to leave out, but they all seemed like junior versions of Novak in the grit category.
PROS: The other top banana on Michigan's drought-breaker. A skilled power forward forced to play out of position at center too much, Sims was a wildly inconsistent player capable of dropping 20 on 8 shots one night and 2 on 8 the next night. These swings correlated very well with the height of his opponent. Are you a below-the-rim 6'8" kid at Northwestern? Forget it. Are you a shotblocker? Enjoy your feast.
Sims came back from an unimaginable personal tragedy—his brother was shot to death—endured during his freshman year to be a mainstay for his final three years. He was high-usage, a quality rebounder, and rarely turned the ball over. These things made up for some eh shooting percentages to make him an efficient player. Another guy who had options but decided to go with Michigan at a time where there was little reason to.
CONS: Has the same knock Manny Harris did since his final year was the disappointing follow-up to the tourney appearance. Was never a really great player and doesn't bring Novak-level fan intangibles (FANTANGIBLES!) with him.
[note: this post and the BWS post were written before the Northwestern game.]
A hearty thanks to Burgeoning Wolverine Star for showing men of pessimism what pessimism really is in his post on Michigan basketball's immediate future. Whereas I'm content to downplay Michigan's chances at making the tourney this year, BWS wants you to know that Michigan isn't making the tourney next year, the year after, or ever again.
I kid. I think so, anyway. But the thing that struck me as true Keyser Soze-level pessimism was when BWS downplayed the possibility Hardaway will blow up by comparing him to Manny Harris:
Hardaway's measurables and stats are remarkably similar to Harris' throughout his career at Michigan:
PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% Harris 07-08 16.1 4.2 2.7 38.10% 31.80% Harris 08-09 16.9 6.8 4.4 41.50% 32.70% Harris 09-10 18.1 6 4.1 42.10% 30.80% Hardaway 10-11 12 3.8 1.5 37.50% 32.60%
Not that adding Manny Harris to this team wouldn't be beneficial, but Hardaway's production and body type--to say nothing of his predilection to take bad three pointers--are things Beilein has had to play with in the past. With any luck, Hardaway will avoid the general apathy and combativeness with the coaching staff that Harris showed toward the end of his career at Michigan, but regardless, seeing Hardaway turn into an unstoppable force is a little optimistic IMO.
The thing about Harris is that he didn't get much better, as the above chart suggests. None of those percentages have anything to do with frequency. Harris's usage rates as a sophomore and junior were almost identical, he took as many threes, as many twos, etc. The main difference between the two years was a considerable drop in assist rate that the team mirrored, dropping from third to 21st in percentage of shots assisted. Since the only losses from the team were two walk-on guards and the Grady buried behind them you can argue that Harris actually got worse between his sophomore and junior years. Also, Manny collapsed every Big Ten season as defenses collapsed on him.
BWS uses this as a cautionary tale about projecting Hardaway down the road, but I think that's backwards. Players improve as they age and they improve a lot when they are young. Manny not improving at the same time he was getting suspended, sitting on the bench for OT against Iowa, etc., says more about Harris specifically than Beilein's ability to deal with a Harris-type player.
Even if Beilein's inability to cajole Harris into learning how to use his off hand or not jack up strange three-pointers multiple times per game suggests Hardaway's fate, Harris still improved radically after his first season. There will be graphs. Meanwhile, Hardaway has a much better offensive efficiency mark than Harris as a freshman with nearly as much usage. He's almost reached Harris's sophomore and junior marks because of one glaring difference between the two players: turnover rate*. Harris was at 22% as a freshman and only got down to 16.5% as a junior; Hardaway is 14th nationally at 9.3%.
Now, there are lots of reasons for this that have nothing to do with the relative merits of the players. They can be summed up with the words "Darius Morris," who has a Harris-like 18.8 TO rate that no one's complaining about because he's fourth nationally in assist rate. Hardaway does not have to be the primary ballhandler. He doesn't provide the assists Harris did. He has a lower TO rate than anyone on the team, three-point specialists included, despite using more possessions than anyone except Morris. He should learn what shots are good and which are not as his career progresses, something Harris didn't want to or couldn't because he didn't have the butter—[strangling sounds] version of Darius Morris next to him or anyone who could shoot ever.
While I don't think Hardaway is as good as Harris was as a freshman or will be as good as Harris was as a sophomore, he doesn't have to be in the context of this Michigan team to be more efficient than Harris could ever dream of being. Chart? Chart. Chartzzzz.
[These are adapted from the excellent Big Ten Geeks study from a couple years back that showed the general path of improvement as players age. Kenpom has not updated individual numbers from last night yet so these are a tiny bit out of date. Hardaway went 5 of 11—3 of 8 from three—was 4 of 4 from the line, and had four assists to two turnovers, so these are slightly pessimistic.]
Harris maintained an epic usage level his entire career; Hardaway has started off at nearly the same rate.
Due to the high usage both are below average. Harris was less efficient, likely because very few of his buckets were assisted. Hardaway should not expect to improve as much but should at least equal Harris next year; average is within reach.
Harris was slightly above average for the duration of his career but these numbers include a lot of stone-handed post players and are not targeted towards guards; I don't have any data but eyeballing it those numbers seem thoroughly mediocre.
Hardaway's numbers are remarkably good for anyone, even players who believe the ball is radioactive. He's the only freshman on the list until you get to #38, and the first frosh playing outside the Dakotas you find is #44 Jared Sullinger. The guys above him are folks like Wisconsin's Tim Jarmusz (9.5 usage rate), Illinois's Bill Cole(11.5), and… uh… Jordan Taylor (best point guard in the country unless you're an idiot).
His numbers are so good that we can expect him to regress next year, especially if he starts driving more aggressively. They're also too good to be a fluke given his usage.
Since Hardaway doesn't have to be the primary ballhandler he is crushing Harris and the average for freshmen. Improving shot selection, reducing usage, increasing assist rate, and general improvement should send this higher next year—higher than Harris ever achieved.
What would have happened to Manny Harris if he had an awesome point guard next to him? What about awesome point guard + conscience? What about awesome point guard + conscience + actually liking his head coach? These are the questions we're about to find out as we watch Tim Hardaway, Jr., go from maddening but efficient-for-a-freshman to something between a good second banana and a ninja.
SIDE NOTE: These numbers brought home another point: Darius Morris is a better player than Harris ever was, full stop. Literally the only thing Harris has on Morris is a few points of 3PT% and a slight edge in free throw rate**. Morris is shooting far better than Harris ever did from within the arc, assisting on damn near everything he's not scoring, and maintaining an acceptable TO rate.
Freshman, Minutes, And Improvement
To further dispute BWS, he mentions later that people are pointing towards the extreme youth of the team as a reason they will improve considerably:
The biggest source of hope is that Michigan's team is once again one of the youngest in the country. Much like in 2009, Michigan's team is at a serious disadvantage in terms of college experience. This was one of the biggest points of optimism for the 2010 season that ultimately saw the team flame out spectacularly and lose close games in agonizing fashion.
Even before the season it was clear Michigan was overrated at the #15(!) team in the country after finishing the year 50th in Kenpom. People expected them to get better and got worse, something I'd again argue was a chemistry problem largely brought on by Harris. That problem won't be around next year and even if it did the overall percentage of freshman minutes then was far lower than it is this year. In 2009 freshmen played 31% of Michigan's minutes. This year it's 44%.
What's more, the second and third highest usage guys on the team are freshmen who play at least 60% of minutes. In 2009 Douglass and Novak had low usage and Laval Lucas-Perry was a mid-year transfer who only played 33.% of Michigan's minutes. The percentage of possessions used by freshman this year is vastly higher. Two years ago: 26%. Now: 45%. That plus being on the same page should yield a significant improvement in 2011-12.
Yes, Mr. Gaerig, you are too pessimistic about basketball, but you already came to that conclusion yourself.
*[The percentage of possessions used that end in a turnover.]
**[Harris has an individual edge in rebounding but this year's team is much better in that category than they were the last couple years so how much of that is actually meaningful is in question unless you're David Berri. Also Morris doesn't play the three, Hardaway does.]
About that banner contest: obviously, it has not come off. This is because I am working on Hail To The Victors 2010, a process that should be complete in a couple weeks, at which point we will kick festivities off. If you wanted to submit a banner the door is still open.
Also in sitebulletins: there's a wiki page up designed to be an inclusive list of whatever the community thinks is worth keeping around in an easily-accessible form. Trusted users (>500 points) can edit it. It's available under the "Useful Stuff" tab.
Olympic Mascot Horror Lookalike. The Olympic mascots:
Yes, they're terrifying. Yes, they're hovering. It is now time for everyone to figure out what they look like from your childhood. My entry: the Spathi from Star Control 2. They're cowardly mollusks!
I'm waiting for the day when the Olympic mascots look like the Umgah. (Also: SC2 was released as open source and is now available in a form that functions on modern computers. If you didn't play it back in the day you'll probably find it too clunky, but anyone looking for a blast from the past will enjoy a game still in my top five list all time.)
Guh. I know this is a very nice column with many nice things to say about Zack Novak and Manny Harris, but… just dude dude no:
Manny, Manny kudos to Wolverines' Novak
| Five minutes with most NBA Draft prospects and you can tell if they have character; if you can pay them a fortune to represent your team and not lose sleep at night.
You know they've got game, but can you trust them?
Five minutes is all it takes.
Do their faces light up when talking about the game? You need that, rookie or vet, in an 82-game season.
And so forth and so on with the one-sentence paragraphs hot of the cliché press. Anyway, apparently Harris patterns his game after George Hill. Do you know who George Hill is? He's a 6'2" point guard who started about half of the Spurs' games this year because Tony Parker was injured. He averaged 12 points per game. He's also a 40% three-point shooter. Manny Harris compares himself to a player who is 1) nothing like him and 2) not even that good. I don't even know what's going on. What is going on? I don't know.
He's very nice and says nice things about Zack Novak when asked about it by a guy who speaks like a slightly deranged man, offering staccato blips about what's important in Northwest Indiana. Then, to see if he can get away with it, he compares himself to a cucumber. But, like, the cucumber that plays for the Timberwolves. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Moving on up. The Big Ten is pushing for an earlier start to official visits, namely June:
"So many kids are taking unofficial visits right now and the cost to families is astronomical trying to go see X amount of schools in June,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It only makes sense. How many of these kids are making early decisions, making verbal commitments, without ever taking an official visit that you can pay for to be on campus for that 48-hour window?"
This is an obvious thing for the Big Ten to push for since top recruits are concentrated in the South these days and getting a kid to campus radically increases your chance of signing him. It also reflects the changing reality of recruiting, where a ton of kids are off the board by the start of their senior seasons. Undoubtedly, the SEC and Big 12 will try to shoot it down but what their rationale could possibly be is a mystery.
Also, there's the now-usual assertion that an early signing period is on its way:
"The coaches are in favor of [an early signing period], most of the leagues are in favor of it," Alvarez said. "Somehow it got stopped in legislation last year. We're not really sure where, but everyone seems to be in favor of it. That wasn't the case a few years ago. A few years ago, it was split 50-50."
As I've said before, I don't see why there have to be signing periods at all. Just implement a system where any time a prospect wants he can be put on a non-binding "do not call" list that exempts one school. Coaches can't contact a player on the list and players can't take official visits to schools other than the exempted one. That way the "verbal commitment" actually means something without locking in a player in case of a coaching change.
Lethal. One of Michigan's soccer recruits got a shiny thing. That's incoming freshman striker Soony Saad and the Sports Drink Co Soccer Player Of The Year Award. Saad got it for scoring 76(!!!) goals this season and leading his team to the… round of 16. It's his measly 15 assists that did them in.
The Saad shiny thing dossier:
An All-America first team selection by ESPN RISE and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American in 2009, Saad was also the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year. The Michigan Soccer Coaches Association's Mr. Soccer this past fall, Saad concluded his high school career with a state-record 172 goals to go along with 51 assists.
Good lord. Does this happen in high school soccer programs? Do people just put up like three goals a game? Dearborn is representing of late, what with Miss USA and Saad.
He should be an impact player at Michigan immediately after choosing Michigan over UCLA and Akron, which latter is a much bigger deal than it sounds. #1 Akron was undefeated last year until the NCAA final and stomped Michigan 5-1 during the regular season. The entirety of their starting defense was named to the US-U20 team. Akron is no joke.
Etc.: Six Zero continues his series profiling the many eccentric characters who comprise the MGoCommunity. This edition features MS Paint maestro The Shredder. The RCMB spends much time putting video game Tate Forcier in compromising positions. The new Miss USA drops a "Go Blue" on the Today show, then explains her stripper pictures. Win? Win. Cam Gordon is Bruce Feldman's #2 breakout star of spring.
As expected, Michigan basketball guard Manny Harris has elected to forego his senior season with the Wolverines to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Press release quotes from Manny Harris and coach John Beilein:
"After long discussions with the U-M staff and my family and friends, I have decided to pursue my dream of professional basketball and leave U-M early for the NBA," said Harris. "It is important for me to thank the University of Michigan, Coach Beilein and his staff, my teammates, my professors, as well as all those in the athletic department who have helped me over the last three years. My growth as a person and player wouldn't have been possible without them.
"I will always appreciate the college game and what it has done for me, but playing professional basketball has always been a goal and I feel it is the best time to pursue that. I will always be a Michigan Wolverine at heart and bleed Maize and Blue forever."
"Manny believes it is his time to move on to the NBA and we fully support him," said U-M coach John Beilein. "It was a tough decision for him and we are prepared to assist him in every way we can as he begins this new chapter in his life. Manny has assured us he plans on successfully finishing this semester, which would put him in a position to graduate from Michigan with just one more academic year."
"In three short years, Manny has compiled outstanding career numbers in points, rebounds, assists and steals -- milestones many very good players do not reach during a four-year career. I have many fond memories of Manny's time at Michigan. He has been clutch in so many big wins we certainly will miss him however we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond."
That's mostly boilerplate, obviously. A few notes from the press conference, with bonus DeShawn Sims material as well:
- Regarding his draft stock: "I believe the work you put in is what you get out." He's not worried about his projections for the draft, and will simply work hard to achieve his dream of playing in the NBA. If that means he has to play in Europe or the D-League first, he's willing to do so.
- Harris plans to hire an agent, and will not be able to return to Michigan next season. He will keep working out with Michigan's coaches and strength staff to prepare for the NBA.
- Manny said it's very hard to leave Michigan, but at the end of the day you've got to make a decision. He consulted AAU coaches, old high school coaches, and family and friends.
- Manny stressed that his relationship with Coach Beilein is good (despite butting heads with him a few times this year), and he will always support the program and Michigan. Playing the 3 position at Michigan is "a great experience," and he would encourage any talented guard to come play at Michigan. Beilein's probably happy about that, as he said, "If there's a kid out there who will help us replace Manny, we'll recruit him."
- For all Manny did for this team, Beilein pointed out that it's his clutch free throw shooting that the team might miss the most.
- DeShawn Sims said that Manny feels like he's been around longer than his three years, because he's had to bear so much responsibility from the beginning.
- DeShawn will definitely attend the Portsmouth Invitational. He's working out in Ann Arbor with Michigan's coaches and Manny to prepare for the NBA.
- Sims said that next year's team will be improved because the players will understand the system, and chemistry will be improved. He noted that poor chemistry might have been the source of some of Michigan's troubles this season.
Rumors flying, with an official decision Monday:
"I'm going to make my decision on Monday," Harris told The Daily this afternoon in a phone interview.
He declined to comment further.
General feel is that this presages a departure, possibly an irrevocable one. I'd think Manny would at least leave the door open for a return based on the returns from predraft camps. If he doesn't, that says a lot about his relationship with Beilein, IME.
"A fertile ground for dangerous upstarts lately." That's the accurate, expected, still painful knife Doctor Saturday gently slips between Michigan's ribs in his latest premature assessment, this of the UConn team that will inaugurate Michigan's luxury boxes and possibly clock year three of the Rodriguez era on the head before it can even kick over some MAC team's sand castle.
The assessment doesn't exactly live up the DocSat's foreboding tweet, which said he would be the first person to jump on the bandwagon of a "serious contender in the Big East." That sounds bad. It's not quite that bad in the final analysis, though:
The Huskies are a couple playmakers away from standing out as a conference favorite, and one of those guys may emerge on one side or the other. Unless they come up with more firepower on both sides, though, the existing talent level makes it hard to forecast anything better than 8-4. That's not a breakthrough, exactly, but it is a more generous guess than they've ever gotten before at this time of year.
UConn suffered through a series of painfully close losses before a breakthrough-ish game against Notre Dame launched them on a four game win streak. Syracuse, USF, and South Carolina were the other victims. In any case, UConn returns a crap-ton of starters from an 8-5 team that saw the breaks go against it last year. I don't think they'll end the year #2, but the specter of that Utah game has been duly raised.
Hypothesis damage. It's not like losing Manny Harris is going to help the team, especially if it continues to shoot zero point two percent, but I can't be the only person who has glanced at Harris's relatively meh efficiency numbers (47.7 eFG, basically equivalent to Novak) and thought that replacing him might not be the mountain it appears to be.
Here is a chart that slaps that idea in the face and tells it to sit in the corner. Presenting the top ten Big Ten players in John Hollinger's comprehensive PER stat:
|1||Evan Turner, OSU||28||35.4||22||15.5||26.8||6.6||24.8||15.7||31.3|
|2||Robbie Hummel, PUR||27||30.3||12.9||6.5||19.6||6.5||21||13.7||28.31|
|3||Draymond Green, MSU||32||25.4||22.6||12.8||18.1||10||22.1||16.1||25.85|
|4||Damian Johnson, MINN||34||25.5||18.6||10.7||16.6||6.8||12.5||9.6||25.36|
|5||DeShawn Sims, MICH||32||32.1||5.2||8.4||23||12.7||18.6||15.6||25.2|
|6||Manny Harris, MICH||31||36.1||17.3||12.1||24.4||6.8||15.4||11.1||24.76|
|7||JaJuan Johnson, PUR||32||31.1||4.6||11.4||19.7||9.3||18.1||13.7||24.66|
|8||John Shurna, NW||33||36.3||12.7||9.9||21.8||6||16.1||11.1||23.68|
|9||Zack Gibson, MICH||32||10||6.8||13.5||15.1||12.1||16.2||14.1||23.66|
|10||Trevon Hughes, WIS||31||32.5||14.2||10.4||23.5||4.6||13||8.8||23.3|
One-grunt observations on the three bolded folk: obvs, guh, wha?
Okay. I think that Michigan playing super small at all times skews this towards the players on the team who actually haul in rebounds. Still, this is one statistical measure that passes the sniff test—check out the top of the national leaderboard for Enter Samhan, Some UNI Guy, and Argh Running 40-Footer—that disagrees with the various Kenpom measures that declare Manny Harris a prolific but inefficient scorer.
Also… holy jeez maybe we could have figured out a way to put Gibson on the floor a bit more.
(HT: Inside The Hall.)
Money money money. Bleed Scarlet shouldn't feel too bad about missing USA Today's most recent FOIA rampage, a January database of revenue and expenses at public division I schools. It seems like the entire blogosphere whiffed on. I certainly hadn't seen it.
Anyway, this perked my ears up:
The vast majority of sports programs — even those that purport to support themselves — receive significant financial backing from their institutions to operate. Of the 99 institutions in the table below, all but four — Louisiana State, Ohio State, and Purdue Universities, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln — reported receiving at least some revenues in the 2007-8 fiscal year from one of four categories of “allocated” revenues: student fees, direct state or government support, direct institutional support (general fund money), or indirect institutional support (facilities, energy costs, etc.).
Eh? Really? No Michigan? A quick zip over to the database provides an answer. It is not earth-shaking:
As of 2008, six hundredths of a percentage point of Michigan's athletic department funding comes from the university. This is not a one-time fluke, as direct support went from zero in 2005 to about 30k the next year and 50k the year after before landing at its current totally insignificant amount. What is it? I asked SID Bruce Madej:
This is how we are required to report when we receive funds to pay for work study students who assist us during the year.
That mystery solved.
Now let us ask the eternal question: why does Eastern Michigan have a football program? 86% of athletic department "revenue" comes as a subsidy.
Etc.: Hidden in the night game announcement is a two-year break in the M-ND series in 2018 and 2019, which an mgoblog user picked out and MVictors confirmed was a new development. DocSat on the "cult of the bracket."