rundown of Michigan's riser
John Beilein says "forks up" to his NCAA tourney bid
Pensive Dave Ablauf is not so sure
Trends. Tennessee is coming at this 8-9 game from a totally different place than Michigan: once entrenched in the top ten in the polls, Tennessee's season started off a cliff after a home loss to Oakland and never really recovered. Where Michigan has won 9 of 13 and was only beaten solidly by national #1 seed Ohio State during that stretch, Tennessee enters the tournament having lost 7 of 11 with two of those wins against terrible South Carolina. (To be fair, two of the losses were by one point, one against two seed Florida.)
That win against Pitt seems like a decade ago.
Defenses. Dylan points out that national commentators still hung up on the idea that Beilein is primarily running a 1-3-1—something that hasn't been true for two years—could have backed their way into some correct analysis.
What's the thing Michigan is guaranteed to give up when they switch to the 1-3-1? An open corner three. What's a shot you're comfortable with Tennessee taking? An open corner three not from Scotty Hopson. No Vol other than Hopson is shooting better than 32%. They've got a guy (Cameron Tatum) with 119 attempts who's shooting 28%—imagine what your reaction would be if half of Darius Morris's shots were threes.
So okay fine. Then add in the main benefit of the 1-3-1: turnovers generated. Tennessee has a tough defense and brutally effective offensive rebounders. Getting turnovers helps mitigate both advantages, and if they're settling for threes long rebounds are at least less likely to result in immediate putbacks.
OTOH, Tennessee's much bigger than Michigan and the 1-3-1 really prefers long guys who can make skip passes arc enough for the defense to recover so they don't give up open corner threes. Also the primary weakness of the defense is allowing (drumroll) tons of offensive rebounds. There's a chance it could backfire spectacularly.
I bet Beilein gives it a whirl at some point just in case it turns UT into a gibbering mess. Judging from the internet, Vols fans aren't impressed with their team's basketball IQ. And if you're not judging from the internet, you're on the wrong internet.
Sign those scrubs up. I'm not sure if this is real or just motivational but I'm hoping it's the former:
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
I checked the comments and sure enough there's a wag suggesting that if either of the scrubs can hit threes they should replace Tatum.
If this is a real thing Tennessee has trouble with in the game, it will be up to Novak to take advantage. Woolridge was playing the perimeter four and "messed [them] up good." I'm a little concerned about this since Novak's also got the toughest defensive assignment as he attempts to check 6'8" Tobias Harris. Novak's shooting slump earlier coincided with a lot of tough defensive work against guys bigger than him. I'll take open threes, though.
Tobias. The aforementioned matchup is high on Tennessee's radar:
“We’re ready for Tobias to have a big night in there, ya feel me?” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “Obviously we want to expose that, because Tobias is obviously one of the best players on our team. We’re looking forward to getting the ball inside more and taking advantage of (Michigan’s) lack of posts.”
Harris is a freshman with approximately Hardaway-level usage shooting 49% from two and 31% from 3. He's got a Morris-like distribution between the two. (IE: he takes a ton of twos and the occasional three.) Zack Novak is short. On the other hand, Michigan can double off anyone not named Hopson and what's Tennessee going to do, have Tatum shoot a three?
Michigan's gotten a lot of experience dealing with a post guy matched up with one shooter—three games against OSU's Sullinger-Diebler combo—and has frequently doubled from the baseline to force long skip passes. That burned Michigan against OSU's better-than-competent non-Diebler shooters (Lighty, Buford, and Craft are all around 40(!) percent from three). Maybe not so much against the Vols.
Etc.: Beilein gettin' forky with it comes from his personal site's "behind the scenes" post on Selection Sunday. Dylan and I used a bunch of the same links but he's got some extra at UMHoops. Tennessee fans say Michigan reminds them of a Pearl team, which… um… thanks? Oriental Andrew collects links too. The Fab Five's '93 matchup against GW.
in case you missed it, or in case you didn't
Assorted items off the top of the head.
Kenpom or conspiracy. The Big Ten got a wet sloppy kiss from the committee this year. While they scored the expected Sweet Sixteen seeds, where eyebrows cocked was about the other four teams. Michigan got an eight, Illinois a nine, Penn State and Michigan State tens. For all the bubble talk over the last month when it came down to it no Big Ten team was one of the last seven(!) in, and Michigan wasn't even on the bubble.
Talk radio in Boulder, Colorado will center around the fact that OSU's AD was the head of the committee, but I wonder if people in the room actually paid attention to how well the Big Ten represented in Kenpom and other computer rankings. They definitely didn't do this on a team level—Kenpom #17 Utah State got rewarded with a 12 seed, #19 Belmont a 13—so maybe it's just a coincidence and the conspiracy theorists are closer to right.
As far as Michigan specifically, I also wonder if Michigan's narrow losses to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin were an influence. At first blush they look way overseeded. Narrow losses and a blazing finish might explain the difference between Michigan's resume and its seed.
The opponent. It's "hey, look at this coach who should definitely be fired" week on MGoBlog as Michigan draws dead man walking Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee probably-not-Volunteers.
Q: how many tournament appearances do you have left
A: plenty, ask Tim Floyd
Q: AT TENNESSEE SMART GUY
Despite seeming to be overseeded, Michigan caught an opponent that's equally, if not more, uninspiring on paper. Tennessee was 8-8 in the crappy SEC and had a violently mixed nonconference schedule that features wins over Pitt, Villanova, VCU, and Belmont (twice, albeit the second time by just one) and losses against Oakland, Charleston, and Charlotte. In the SEC tournament they beat Arkansas before losing to Florida.
Kenpom has them 55th. Michigan's up to 40th after splitting their pair at the BTT, so Michigan will be about a 60% favorite according to the system. Tennessee's most outlying statistical points are great offensive rebounding (12th nationally at almost 38%) and terrible three point shooting (30%, 315th). They're vaguely in the middle of the pack in everything else, above average at most things except getting their shots blocked.
crap, he can drive past white guys
The stars. Tennessee's offense revolves around SF Scotty Hopson and and PF Tobias Harris to about the same extent Michigan's revolves around Harris and Hardaway, except for the fact that Hopson and Harris actually get some time on the bench. They're kind of meh as far as efficiency goes; Hopson is a good three point shooter (38%) but no one else on the team is much of a threat.
The guy you're going to be screaming "AAAARGH REBOUND" at is Brian Williams (not that Bison Dele), who's ninth nationally in OREB%. He's a foul machine averaging 5.5 per 40 minutes and only gets about 20 per game but his backup is just a slightly worse version of him: John Fields is a foul machine averaging 7.2 per 40 who vacuums up offensive rebounds at only a slightly less monstrous rate.
The best team ever, for a given definition. Yes: right now this team is better than the Sims/Harris '09 team that slid into the tournament for the first time in forever by both Kenpom and tourney seeding metrics. This has been a remarkable job by Beilein; if he can build on it the next couple years Michigan will have an actual program again.
In the future they'll call them Lonbrays. You know who else has joined the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society? Braylon Edwards:
In other facial hair news, Mustaches for Michigan is launching the 2010 campaign.
I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Not really, desperate newspaper executives, but Darren Everson provides some reason for hope going into year three of the Rodriguez era:
Year three, statistically speaking, is when it all starts to come together—when the no-longer-new coach's recruits and systems settle into place, and the team reaches new heights. The records of college football's current major-conference coaches bear this out: They had a .548 win percentage in years one and two combined, then a .627 mark in year three.
This bodes well for our current head man, Rich Neuheisel, Bo Pelini, Bobby Petrino… and uh… Paul Wulff.
Right before practice. This is probably the second-best thing in the history of MVictors' trawling of Michigan's football heritage, a form Fritz Crisler had one Tom Harmon fill out before the 1939 season:
#1 is still the drunk guy trying to tackle Harmon, but it's close.
Half the specialists should be fine. Excellent dairy from "Wonk" addresses Michigan's punting situation by looking at the recent track record of true freshman at the position. It's not exactly quarterback:
The total averages for all of the years:
- Average Rank: 73.42
- Average Punting Average: 39.30 yards (editors note: yecch)
- Average Rivals Rating (for those who were actually rated): 5.21
So a true freshman punter is going to be just a little below average, as you might expect, and Hagerup comes in with more recruiting pedigree than anyone save Zoltan (38th in 2006) and Wisconsin's Brad Nortman (32nd in 2008). Hagerup should be fine.
Another winner. The first time a coach does something self-evidently petty and dickish, you can write it off as generic coach stuff. They've very stressed people. The second time approaches a trend, and Derek Dooley has just executed Dick Move 2 in his first offseason as Tennessee's coach:
As of Tuesday, a Tennessee spokesman said that request had come without a face-to-face meeting with Dooley, who seemed to confirm to the Knoxville News-Sentinel that he hadn't talked with the younger Brown at all throughout the saga: "The reason it has continued on (since the spring) is because Bryce has not come to me, looked me in the eye and said 'I want a release to so-and-so school.' At some point, that's got to happen." Arthur Brown told Schad, however, that there was a meeting between Dooley and Bryce last Saturday, before Bryce returned home to Kansas, which Dooley mysteriously asked the family to keep under wraps.
So not only is he not releasing Bryce Brown to Kansas State—who is not on Tennessee's schedule for the duration of his eligiblity—but he attempted to keep a meeting between the two parties secret, then lied to the media about whether it had taken place in an effort to make his decision seem more legitimate. This comes on the heels of his petulant decision to make Aaron Douglas transfer at least eight hours from Tennessee's campus (and his home). Douglas ended up at an Arizona JC; hopefully he'll cool his heels for a year and then stick it to Dooley by transferring back to the SEC.
Tennessee hasn't even played a game since the unceremonious end of the Kiffin era and the tune is already sounding disturbingly similar when it comes to euphemisms:
This story does once again confirm the notion that Dooley plays things close to the vest, having met with Brown on Saturday but denying it in the media.
Lane Kiffin Knows Exactly what he is doing
…Kiffin's schtic [schtic sic] in the SEC did exactly what he wanted it to do. Gain attention for his program, he admitted as much in Part II of my interview with Kiffin at the Pac-10's media event here in NYC.
Sure he does. Note: USC is down to 71 scholarship players and will lose 20 seniors this offseason, of whom they can replace 15. They'll be down to 66 next year if they miraculously suffer zero attrition.
(HT: Team Speed Kills.)
Fiutakin' it. Via WolverineWill, Rick Reilly takes up the banner for Lane Kiffin. It was inevitable that some sportswriter would do this eventually, and it was just as inevitable that it would be shoddily argued to the point that it could appear on CFN:
And don't forget, Kiffin knew USC was about to be hit with some whopper sanctions by the NCAA over the Reggie Bush case, sanctions he had no hand in creating. He came anyway. And now that the sanctions are twice as bad as he thought they'd be, is he leaving? Is he complaining? No, he's trying to make filet mignon out of horse meat. He's stuck with 71 players when every other team with have 85. He's stuck with trying to sell kids on a school that will have no bowl games for two years and a Swiss-cheese roster.
Lane Kiffin told every high school kid in America that USC was going to get a stern look and a belly rub from the NCAA, so either he didn't know USC was going to get nailed or he merrily lied to USC's entire recruiting class. Also he is complaining. Rick Reilly is Fiutakin' it, man.
Etc.: GS continues its series on the instate recruiting war by looking at some recent history. You probably already know the way this ends—recruiting 40% of the top-quality instate prospects and a bunch of the rest gives you a program that looks a lot like Michigan State.