no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
3/22/2014 – Michigan 79, Texas 65 – 27-8, Sweet 16
The last time Michigan played an NCAA tourney game involving a two seed, it was their first bid in ten years. After not quite blowing a huge lead against Clemson in the 7-10 game they ran up against a brick wall named Blake Griffin. Insofar as you can call one of the most athletic dudes on the planet a "brick wall," anyway.
Michigan was still not exactly complete at this juncture. Manny and DeShawn headlined; the rest of the starting lineup consisted of freshman versions of Novak and Douglass plus the CJ Lee/David Merrit walk-on duo. Kelvin Grady, Jevohn Shepherd, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Gibson, and Anthony Wright were the bench. Every time you end up looking at that roster the immediate thought is "these guys made the second round of the tournament?"
Meanwhile, Griffin's stats are as hilarious as you would expect from "Blake Griffin takes on guys like Zack Novak." He used almost a third of Oklahoma's possessions, rebounded a third of defensive opportunities, drew more fouls than anyone else in the country, and shot 66% from the floor—mostly by dunking from halfcourt. Watching him live was mostly an experience in terror. Dual undercurrents cut it: one of outrage that he could do the things he did and still call himself human, a second of excitement at the same thing.
Michigan managed to stick close despite foul trouble for Harris. Anthony Wright played the game of his career, and Michigan kept in contact. As the second half progressed, though, a feeling of inevitability fell over the proceedings. Michigan was just not good enough to make up the deficit presented them. They made a push or two; each was quickly met with a riposte.
That is entirely the wrong word, since it indicates finesse. Every time Michigan approached Oklahoma it was called a nerd and thrown bodily into a dumpster.
"Hey, Novak! Your kid is going to have a picture of that on his wall!"
Michigan lost by ten; it may as well have been a billion. Novak would later be featured in a Sports Illustrated article dedicated to all the guys Griffin has posterized. He took it with good humor, because sometimes life puts you in china shop with Blake Griffin and asks you to get it tea.
Nik Stauskas has taken to opening games with a demonstration of force. The first shot of most Michigan games is Stauskas raising up over his defender to hit an eyebrow-cocking three. Welcome to the gun show, it says. I can do this whenever I want. Later he'll fly over a screen and rise up when the big starts sagging back into the lane. It goes in, because it just does. One moment is all it takes. In your face, Charlie Murphy. Stauskas is the Big Ten player of the year for a reason.
That reason is not that he has to take all of Michigan's shots. He takes barely more than an average share of them, so when you start freaking out about Stauskas the ball is in someone else's hands. That person is generally flying towards the basket (if he is Jordan Morgan) or aligning himself for a catch and shoot three pointer he knocks down at 40% (if he is anyone else). They'll bail you out with a turnover maybe twice a half.
This is a different kind of hopeless thing to be in opposition to, but it is just as dispiriting as knowing that Blake Griffin has the ball on a fast break and you are supposed to do something about it. Novak in SI:
"When I get to the three point line, I start thinking, Why am I doing this?" … "Next thing I know his feet are at my face."
You can get in deep, quick. If Michigan is going well, things will get somewhat out of hand before the opposing coach throws his hands up at the man to man defense that has been the heart of his philosophy for his entire career and goes to a zone. Yeah, against a team that shoots 40% from three. Yeah, we're not even much of a zone team. It can't be worse is the thought. Often it is followed by why am I doing this?
Texas was so discombobulated by the basketball portion of the first half that they came out in the second determined to play volleyball on one end and a random matchup zone on the other. It worked, a bit. Texas pulled to within six. Things threatened to get serious, but then a rather important flaw in the idea of playing zone against Michigan presented itself. First Robinson got lost, then LeVert, then Albrecht.
They rained in death from above, as they are wont to do.
The look on the faces of Texas' staff right now ... if you could only see.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 22, 2014
I know that look. I have had that look, when Blake Griffin was doing Blake Griffin things and the only response was stare ahead and think what is anyone supposed to do about THAT?
I thought about Griffin in the second half as Texas drew nearer. I was nervous, of course, but it was only a part of my consciousness instead of its entirety. In a commercial break someone said something about the last four minutes of stagnation, and I said they were still getting great looks and they would be fine. It then dawned on me that I meant it.
I was not waiting for the roof to fall in. I was waiting for water to find its level. And then it did. They're still bigger and stronger than Michigan, but these days it's the bullies getting put in the dumpster.
The column in one emoji. I could have just embedded that LHN tweet instead.
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 22, 2014
I'm not just going to do Novak like that. I did write a thing about Novak getting posterized that I should link if I'm going to include that picture.
Epic victory. Jordan Morgan flat wore Cameron Ridley out, with an assist from the opening nine-minute stretch of gametime without a whistle. Ridley was coming off a 17-point, 12 rebound, 4 block, 2 A, 0 TO performance against Arizona State's 7'2" shotblocker Jordan Bachynski.
Morgan limited him to 5 FGAs and six points and out-rebounded him. And he had 15 points himself in a fashion so quiet I exclaimed "how did that happen?" when someone mentioned it to me in the immediate aftermath.
That is a terrific sign for Morgan's matchup with Vol Jeronne Maymon, who is another 6'8" widebody post type.
The zone did put a brief halt to Michigan's offense after it adapted from a straight 2-3 that Michigan melted into a pile of scrap. To my eyes that drought was largely bad luck. Stauskas had a Blake Griffin-level dunk rattle out; Robinson had a putback facilitated by the zone go halfway down before popping out; a couple of open looks didn't fall. It happens. And then water finds its level.
The best scouting report ever. The way that game played out was downright eerie. Isaiah Taylor takes nothing but floaters; Isaiah Taylor took nothing but floaters aside from a couple of takes where he actually got to the basket, and then he finished with the most Isaiah Taylor line ever: 8/22, all shots from two.
Junk defense after junk defense. The hypothesis that Illinois actually did Michigan a favor by scaring the hell out of them with a 2-3 zone is now upgraded to a theory. It took about four possessions for Texas to decide a straight up 2-3 was even more doomy than their man to man, with the last straw a Morgan dunk from the baseline.
They then switched to a 1-3-1 for one possession, which frustratingly saw Michigan do nothing for about 30 seconds until Stauskas rose for a long contested three that led to a transition opportunity. Barnes immediately shelved that in favor of an odd-looking matchup zone that I couldn't quite figure out. Michigan seemed hesitant about it, too, but eventually Texas started matching up with the wrong dudes. There was that one LeVert three on which he didn't have anyone within ten feet of him.
Mildly mitigated. Normally you'd look at a game in which Michigan picked up 11 offensive rebounds and say that was good enough for shot parity. Nope, as Texas spent the second half rebounding damn near every one on their infinite misses and finished the game with more OREBs than Michigan had DREBs.
That is an alarm bell heading into a matchup with a burly Tennessee outfit, though again some of those just seem like crappy luck. Texas guards grabbed eight of their offensive rebounds and two were credit to "team"; Morgan and Robinson nearly matched the posts' contributions with seven offensive rebounds to Holmes and Ridley's nine. If that minor advantage holds up for the Tennessee posts I'm feeling pretty good about Friday.
Must work on free throw defense. Texas goes 15/16. Cumong man. Michigan did give most of those FTAs to the Texas guards and not their bricklaying bigs, so they couldn't have expected 10/16… but still. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining in a game where Morgan goes 7/8.
A quick look at Tennessee. Much more on this later, of course, but at first glance Tennessee is Texas after leveling up a few more times. They don't shoot well but make up for it by pounding the offensive boards; their defense is tough to shoot against and doesn't force many turnovers. Unlike Texas, Tennessee does a good job of preventing threes from being launched. They also have a semblance of outside shooting.
As you've probably heard, the Vols are huge Kenpom darlings, currently 6th in the rankings despite being an 11 seed. They're favored by a point in a game Kenpom sees as a virtual tossup, and trash Kenpom at your peril—they certainly made short work of UMass and Mercer after an OT win against Iowa.
As per usual, bizarrely high computer rankings are built on margin of victory. Tennessee spent the year blowing out SEC opponents or losing to them narrowly. They finished the year with 76-38, 82-54, and 72-45 win over Vandy, Auburn, and Mizzou; they beat Virginia by 25 in December. They also lost to UTEP, NC State, Texas A&M, and Vandy. They're also 0-3 against the Gators.
1/25/2014 – Michigan 80, Michigan State 75 – 14-4, 7-0 Big Ten
Keith Appling had just jumped on Caris LeVert's back from behind as LeVert was going up for a layup. Using LeVert's back as leverage, Appling raked his hands across LeVert's, sending both LeVert and the ball flying. The ref on the baseline looked on dumbly and did nothing as Michigan State took the ball upcourt.
On the sideline, John Beilein executed a sort of rage-squat as he barked at the guy who had evidently been placed on the sideline without any instructions as to what the shiny silver thing in his mouth did. MSU got a layup on the other end; Michigan dumped the ball down to Robinson and got a whistle for an extended hand-check by Russell Byrd.
This did not mollify Beilein. He'd seen enough. He'd had just about enough of being the corny high school chemistry teacher kids roll their eyes at.
artist's impression of MSU lineup
In the aftermath we got the usual press conference from Tom Izzo in which he specifically enumerated all the things he wasn't blaming the loss on. Payne's out. (You may have heard of Mitch McGary, though maybe I shouldn't bring him up since he outcoached Izzo.) Dan Dakich trolled Dawson. (Izzo's the one who recruited Punchy McAngerIssues.) Harris and Appling got tired. (Because they had to play fewer minutes than Stauskas and LeVert.) Appling got his wrist dinged a month ago and can't shoot. (Selected Appling scorelines since injury-type substance: 27, 14, 14, 20, 24. Three point shooting in Big Ten play: 31%, right in line with last year's 32%.) He had to play the crappy players behind his starters. (They are crappy because he hasn't brought in a premier player other than Harris in three years.)
And, of course, the piece de resistance: "curious calls" that happened when the game was tied at 60.
The nerve of this guy.
Midway through the second half, Spike Albrecht was informed that to receive a timeout from the officials he has to submit a 20-page research paper on the semiotics of the term "timeout" and submit seven different forms of identification, three of which do not exist. Gary Harris's brilliant perimeter defense on Nik Stauskas was greatly aided by constant jersey tugs and in a couple cases just flat out grabbing the dude as he tried to cut. Travis Trice's attempts to stay in front of anyone on the floor via arm, shoulder, trip, or pathetic mewling would have been hilarious if they had not been uncalled and therefore enraging. Jordan Morgan fouled out on a series of ghost calls, including a double technical acquired after Russell Byrd, of all people, taunted Glenn Robinson. That was Morgan's fourth; Izzo managed to complain that Appling picking up his third with under eight minutes left was a great strain because it forced him to the bench.
Yes, in the same press conference in which he bitched about Appling not getting enough rest. The nerve of this guy.
By the end of Izzo's self-pity-fest you could feel the dim bulbs in the room composing their 30 for 30 pitches:
What if I told you that a team with a lottery pick shooting guard playing out of his mind stayed within five points of a team down the Naismith winner, another first round NBA draftee, and a preseason All-American?
What if I told you they were playing at home, but there was that one time a referee was not utterly petrified of someone in the stands calling him a bad name?
What if I told you that the first team had actually won two of the previous seven games against the second team?
ESPN 30 for 30 presents "THE GREATEST COACH IN THE UNIVERSE OF FOREVER."
Tuesday, January 25th, 2014.
Post-loss Izzo press conferences are IQ tests for Lansing-oriented sports reporters, and they all fail, always. A Mike Griffith gentleman writing for MLive used these sentences back-to-back:
There was no mention of the Spartans having to use a 10th different starting lineup on account of Dawson's injury.
"In the 30 years I've been here, I've never been more proud of a team,'' Izzo said. "I played guys I haven't played in a month.''
Someone remind Griffith to breathe regularly, because it's clear that he doesn't have enough cells to spare for autonomic brain stem functions.
I know. I know that our nation is built on brazenly lying to each other. Cigarettes and organic food and the waiting list for Michigan football season tickets, it's all the same. Some person thinks they can make money on some activity and just lies and lies until the jig's up. But at some point self-respect has to kick in with the observers. I mean. At least you'd think so, right?
This is why I don't go to press conferences. I would just laugh, and laugh, and throw in some derisive snorts and eventually I would just start asking questions like unedited versions of the things I write and eventually I wouldn't get to go to press conferences. I am not a sports journalist because I can't smile when someone deposits a plate of poop in front of my face and calls it pâté.
AND GODDAMMIT JOHN BEILEIN ISN'T CALLING THAT PATE ANY MORE EITHER.
He exploded! With just over four minutes left there was some sort of mutual in-our-grills screaming session, followed by Beilein explaining to one of the other refs that the other end of the Breaking Beilein drama had in fact bumped him—there was a lot of pointing at Beilein's nose in this section, to indicate that someone had impacted this section of Beilein's all-encompassing rage—followed by the ref who had apparently taken aggressive physical action against a coach coming forth to apologize.
It was completely insane. Every neutral I follow on twitter who was watching the game immediately tweeted "I have never seen John Beilein anything like this," echoing the play by play announcer and your brain. Beilein took 30 years of goodwill built up by not being Bo Ryan or Tom Izzo to referees and cashed every last scrap in, somehow avoiding a technical throughout this sequence.
And, of course, it was completely for naught. The very next Michigan possession saw Nik Stauskas thunder in for a transition dunk; Keith Appling again attempted to make a defensive play from behind. This was the result.
SEEMS LEGIT [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
This was adjudged to be all ball; Michigan did not score on the ensuing possession. Beilein could do nothing but laugh bitterly on the sideline.
If we're being honest with ourselves, yeah, Horford was moving on the first "curious call" and Appling got hit by a non-stationary defender as he took a shot. In a basketball game, that is a foul. Whatever happens in the Breslin Center is not a basketball game, though, and maybe John Beilein screaming BE A MAN or IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT BASKETBALL TO BE or I USUALLY GET A FOOTLONG TURKEY WITH THE CHIPOTLE SAUCE AND EXTRA OLIVES WHAT IS YOUR PREFERENCE reminded the men with whistles that road teams are people too. Or maybe it was just continued incompetence. I'm betting on incompetence.
Either way, nearly three years to the day after Zack Novak's Aneurysm of Leadership propelled Michigan to its first win at Michigan State since the Harding administration, another spittle-flecked unhinged rant propelled Michigan. Two minutes of game time later, Michigan had gone on an 8-0 run featuring two wild Keith Appling drives on one side of the floor and perfectly executed transitions on the other.
Beilein sucked all the anger out of his team and unleashed it on those who deserved it, and all that was left was cool execution. In the ensuing parade to the free throw line Michigan took deep breaths and drove the nails deeper, until Izzo was wiping away tears in the press conference and imagining an alternate reality where he was the put-upon underdog.
Bad news, everybody! Technical issues blew up the first half of our podcast. We are trying to reschedule and retape; upshot is no podcast today.
Double point us the way to victory [Bryan Fuller]
Wow. Going into Gauntlet #1, Michigan fans were demanding one win, hoping for two, and not even thinking about three. Three wins later, Michigan is clearly in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title. Not only have they disposed of three top ten opponents, they've taken out two of them on the road. They've also put away road games against a third tourney-bound B10 team in Minnesota and Increasingly Dangerous Nebraska™.
Meanwhile, as Indiana and Illinois continue to struggle* future trips to the Big Ten's sundry Assembly Halls seem significantly less ominous than they did a couple weeks ago. Because basketball is basketball, Michigan's going to have a night where they shoot ARGH from three they're still going to drop a game or two against teams that are clearly beneath them in the Big Ten pecking order. Even so, all they have to do is split Gauntlet #2…
- @ Iowa
- @ OSU
…and it's hard to see anyone passing them. Catching, maybe. Passing… nyet.
If Iowa can beat MSU at home tomorrow, Michigan will be two games clear, and their primary chasers have a schedule that's just as difficult. MSU has games at Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State plus a home game against Iowa; Iowa has home games against OSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin plus trips to Minnesota and MSU.
*[Indiana is now just ten spots ahead of Nebraska in Kenpom and Illinois is 15 spots back. BTW, I am officially claiming Nebraska as my Most Interesting Big Ten Team of 2014-15.]
Chunkums. Yes. Yesssssss. Yesssssssss.
Hitting things with your hand is bad. Appling's wrist is barely attached to the rest of his body and therefore he can't shoot. This is known. It is gospel.
Idea: maybe you should stop hitting things with your hands. Desks, floors, engineers in Rather Hall: these are all objects that should not have force applied to them with hands. Appling and Dawson should have taken NO HIT HARD THINGS WITH SELF 101, but they heard it was a lot harder than BANG THING BANG BANG LOUD 100.
This was slow and weird and distorted. This game featured a full two minutes of intentional fouling and no-threes defense, seriously distorting the stats. Michigan had a whopping 16 free throws on intentional fouls, and then their intentionally crappy interior defense made the game look more offensively oriented and faster than it was.
This was going to be a snail-tastic 56 or 57 possession game if either team had gotten clear by the two minute mark; it eventually got to a still-slow 63. At the point the fouling started, Michigan had 66 points on 54 possessions (1.22 PPP) and MSU had 60 (1.11). By game's end those numbers had been pushed to 1.27 and 1.19.
So… still offensively oriented, and no wonder with Michigan blazing the nets from deep and MSU following suit with a 50%/41% shooting. A great deal of this was acquired with difficulty since the refs were in a whistle-swallowing mode.
Also distorted: individual stats. If you were shocked that Derrick Walton ended up with 19 points you are not alone. He had nine before the and-one that put Michigan firmly in the drivers seat and then acquired 8 FTAs in desperation time. He hit seven, which was greatly appreciated by Michigan fans and their cardiologists.
This still didn't warrant the BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE WOW reaction the media provided. Walton was good; he did not drive much offense. He picked his spots and fulfilled the niche this site talked about a couple weeks back. This is good and important, of course. It's just not quite as impressive as the box score makes it seem.
FWIW, the other eight intentional FTAs were distributed equally between Robinson and LeVert.
okay this is a two but you get the point [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]
Except the threes. On my re-watch the thing that leapt out at me was the fact that Michigan's blazing three point shooting was a direct result of MSU giving Michigan a ton of great looks. Caris's game-tying bomb late was a great example. MSU was so concerned about giving up penetration and so aggressive about disrupting Michigan's offensive flow that they plain forgot to defend a corner three from a 38% shooter.
Meanwhile, screens were gone under on Nik Stauskas, or bigs did not aggressively hedge, allowing him to get quality looks that were at best semi-contested. Peripheral shooters took almost entirely wide open looks—IIRC one or two of Irvin's were contested.
Board war: in which a stalemate is declared victory. Michigan actually out-rebounded Michigan State. Yes. Michigan grabbed 11 of 31 opportunities on the offensive boards and held Michigan State to 10 of 33. Michigan's output is thanks to Jordan Morgan and a whopping four OREBs credited to "team."
The main disappointment. Robinson had a pretty miserable night all around. He was hit on the arm without calls on three or four of his shots, but he's got Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine on him. He should be able to get things that are not jumpers. He did only once with an awkward but effective up and under to kick off the second half. When Michigan was looking to generate secondary offense, they turned to LeVert. Robinson did well against Iowa after some early issues on the defensive boards; Michigan wanted more from him in this game.
Nope. Some M fans are trying to make a big deal out of the incident with about two minutes left where Harris and LeVert both ended up on the ground. LeVert ended up there because Valentine came in and whacked him either in the stomach or the viagras; that contact was certainly not intentional.
It was about as bad as the event earlier in the game where Horford was going for a rebound and accidentally brushed/whacked Trice, who went down in a heap because it is really hard to not be in a heap when you're Travis Trice. He's just heap-oriented.
I'd like to thank The Free Press for being a wretched hive of scum and villainy that naturally induces Michigan fans to seek out content not designed to enrage them.
Oh man this guy:
— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) January 27, 2014
This is why you shouldn't get up in arms about Richard Sherman, because then you start complaining about a lack of class while wishing someone would get maimed for blowing you a kiss. This spurred a long twitter discussion about the practicality or lack thereof of maiming someone in an alley. Twitter thinks it is not very practical since Nik Stauskas probably goes to, like, basketball gyms instead of hanging out in alleys.
Five key plays. The dagger:
The hell is over.
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. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, 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:
Contractually obligated front-page video inclusion:
I think the ads are off today. I also think they put Appling's dagger "three will take the roof off" in there twice. Hi visiting MSU fans please click.
I unknowingly tempted the Kenpom gods by skipping Wisconsin and asking you to predict what I figured would be a far more watchable affair. There is no mercy from the Kenpom gods. Heiko is now the last of us to not have tempted their wrath.
The closest anyone got was B-Nut-GoBlue with 71-65 Sparty, but that's like saying Antarctica is closer than Ann Arbor to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. At that distance all scores are relative, and I am giving the t-shirt to the guy who called me out for tempting deities who have no sense of humor.
This Week's Game:
Penn State comes visiting this Sunday, thank the gods. It helps if you post your score in the format of [M's Score]-[Opponent's Score].
And the Prize:
I'm not feeling like Blouses or anything right now; I feel like this team needs a reminder before they give me an aneurysm. And it just so happens that Novak is in town this week.
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 played like it's from Jersey. The algorithm is not just a shooter.. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Totem animal qualities. I thought this was an interesting shot from the extensive ESPN galleries put up in and around the OSU/Indiana games. It's a switch board; each player has an abstract quality they would like to embody they are supposed to dwell on:
Yes, it bothers me that some of these things are qualities one can possess—toughness, perspective, pose—and others are not. You cannot have "smart"; You can be smart. One can have determination; you cannot be determination.
Given the WE ON shirts, we can put grammar next to drawing free throw attempts as Michigan's main weaknesses.
Trice nyet. Travis Trice will miss The Big Game tonight. That leaves MSU with little on their perimeter bench other than Denzel Valentine, a slick-passing wing type with a whopping 31 in the TOrate department. So maybe not as slick passing as you'd hope if you're Tom Izzo. MSU also has Russell Byrd, who's like Stauskas if Stauskas was hitting 18% of his threes.
Expect both backcourts to get scant rest, then. Projected MSU minutes without at least one of Appling/Harris: 0. Impact won't be large except in the unlikely event that Harris or Appling gets in foul trouble.
In the negative column, it doesn't seem like Jordan Morgan will be available, either, after Michigan "shut him down."
Foul: nyet? The foul-or-defend up three late discussion has been raging for years, to the point where Ken Pomeroy's effort starts its title with "Yet another. " Most studies show there's little difference; further most give the slight edge to playing D. Kenpom's results:
W L OT Win% Cases Foul 122 5 10 92.7 137 Defend 598 2 77 94.0 677
That gap is narrow enough that the gap could be chance, but you can say that there's no evidence fouling is better in practice. Note that Michigan's recent misfortune does not make these statistics since this data only covers possessions that start with between 5 and 12 seconds on the clock, which will no doubt give our local Bo Ryans the wiggle room to say this does not apply. While I'm still on Team Foul, the margins here are so narrow that it doesn't seem that important. Certainly less important than the pending invasion of the planet.
I mean, NBA types are two of 64 on similar shots since 1996. Debating whether or not that late game strategy is correct is like debating whether the windows are ready for a hurricane when you live in Michigan.
More games: da. We've heard it before only to have it go poof, but yet another round of stories endorsing a nine or ten game conference schedule has burst onto the internet, leaving a legendary trail of leadership viscera behind:
After spending Monday in meetings with coaches and athletic directors at conference headquarters in Park Ridge, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the Tribune the status quo of eight conference games “is not even on the table right now.”
It will be nine or 10, with the decision to be made this spring.
Insert the usual AD assertions that without seven home games they will have to dress all of their teams in sackcloth and ashes, but it looks like at least nine games are on the way.
Also on the table: November night games, early conference games, and the usual chatter about having an East-West split. The bizarre bit in there:
Central time zone schools Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern could be joined by Indiana, Purdue, Michigan or Michigan State. Delany said the conference would try to “figure out a way” to maintain rivalries between in-state schools.
Michigan State keeps getting lumped in with the schools that could be put in the other division… and Michigan is actually in here as well. No further words need to be spent on how dumb it is to have Michigan and Ohio State in opposite divisions; assuming that's not the case, hopefully MSU isn't allowed to nonsensically flee the division Michigan is in and expect to maintain an annual rivalry with them.
A little more detail on the divisions model that seems to have the most favor this instant:
Although the Big Ten presented the athletic directors -- and several university presidents who came to the league office Sunday -- with several models for divisions, don't be surprised if the league decides to keep things simple with an East-West alignment following the additions of both Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The simplest solution -- one the athletic directors are discussing -- is to assign teams based on their time zone (Eastern or Central).
The lone caveat: there will be eight Big Ten teams in the Eastern time zone -- Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue -- and only six in the Central time zone (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois). So one team from the Eastern time zone would need to move.
That article from Rittenberg also plays up the possibility that Michigan State will end up in the other division. This would either stick Michigan with a protected crossover—thus trading games against interesting teams in the other division for constant Purdue/Indiana games—or bust up the in-state rivalry. Neither is appealing. Let us condemn Michigan State's Rose Bowl hopes to death and keep them in the East.
The worst part about this is I can no longer dump on Indiana State as much. Indiana State, of course, submitted an override to the barely-passed multi-year scholarship legislation reading as such:
The current system works. We don't need to get into bidding wars where one school offers a $75% for 2 years and the other school then offers 85% for 3, etc., etc. This puts the kid into a situation where they almost need an agent/advisor just to determine the best "deal." Again, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. [Indiana State]
Since I've used the tree people as the primary example of why the NCAA's governance structure is permanently broken: programs with nothing in common with each other are under one large dumb tent. So I am dissapoint, Big Ten, that you are trying to fight the recent recruiting deregulation:
We are specifically concerned with the following three proposals and ask that they be tabled along with Proposal 13-2:
Proposal 11-2: Athletics Personnel - Limitations on the Number and Duties of Coaches - Elimination of Recruiting Coordination Functions
Proposal 13-3: Recruiting - Deregulation of Modes and Numerical Limitations on Communication
Proposal 13-5-A: Recruiting - Elimination of Printed Recruiting Materials and Video/Audio Legislation
We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches. We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.
There's nothing in the first and last proposals that has material impact on prospects or their associated hangers-on, and the horrors of communications deregulation seem eminently preventable. "Hello, Coach X. Please limit your contacts with me to X in timeframe Y, or I will not consider your school." Or, like, turn your phone off when you don't want to use it.
The assertions about "adverse effects" on people in the athletic department who now have to hire "u r gud art fertbar"-texting interns and print glossy media guides are more credible, but shortsighted. If you want to play on level ground on the big stuff you have to let the NCAA dump big sections of meaningless secondary violations.
In the building. Zack Novak returns to the scene of the Aneurysm of Leadership tonight:
"It's going to be so weird, I've only been to one Michigan basketball game in my life watching it, it's going to be odd," Novak said by phone Monday. "But I know this would be a big win for them, and I know they'll be ready to go.
"I know it's disheartening to lose a game the way they did at Wisconsin, but it's a great opportunity for them to go in and get a win on the road at Michigan State. That would totally bring the team's psyche right back to where it needs to be. It'd get their swagger back, and that's big."
His team in Holland has a week break.
Ondre is smaller. Down to 315 from 347.
Etc.: Four down at Alabama, leaving just six left to cut. Tifos at Georgetown. The Daily bombs hockey after suffering yet another sweep. Twice. Michigan's commits are lighting up high school basketball—Derrick Walton has had triple-doubles in two of his last three games, and Irvin puts up 30 a game it seems. Paterno business is "200 pages of nothing." Hate quantified. Players only.
Everyone said stuff about the Fab Five next, and a few people bugged me for muppets. I'm not going to celebrate sportswriters voting on something, but…
Ace and I were doing a podcast and it came up that the Illinois game came on the anniversary of the Aneurysm of Leadership from which a line straight up to this point can be drawn. Ace suggested this should be memorialized.
It shall be so.
The font of all excellence.
As Michigan rises in the rankings, so does Burke, an adept ball handler who reads defenses well and excels in ball-screen situations, an NBA bread-and-butter play. Burke continues to be a little sloppy at times, but he is boosting his draft stock significantly in his second season. Burke's field-goal percentage (48.1) and three-point percentage (37) are up from last season.
ESPN's Chad Ford doesn't seem to have updated since the season started.
Not spotted: Tim Hardaway Jr, which is a bit of a surprise given his lights-out start to the season. Hardaway is still languishing in the second round of DX's 2014 mock behind luminaries like Josh Smith and Adriean Payne. Apparently he'll have to continue turning heads through the Big Ten season to break through in draft analysts's minds. Given his start, I think we're expecting that.
(Side note: GRIII has dropped to 25th in 2014 on DX. Meanwhile, both Pitt starting forwards feature on that 2014 mock draft with Stephen Adams 15th and Talib Zanna a second-rounder. Michigan outrebounded those guys badly. NC State meanwhile has the #7 and #8 guys in 2014 and the #20 guy this year. Michigan has already beaten some talented teams.)
Early unreliable tempo free numbers. I hereby take the Kenpom Small Sample Size Oath I understand that player stats are based on extremely limited information in mid-November. A quick check of Kenpom reveals four early trends that leap off the page:
- Unstoppable Throw-Ball-In-Hoop-God Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is currently 4th in ORtg, a composite measure that weights various offensive stats together, 5th in effective field goal percentage, first in true shooting percentage (eFG adjusted for frequency of FT attempts and FT shooting), near the top 50 in TO rate, and is drawing free throws more frequently than anyone on the team. That is all nuts. He'll come down to earth… maybe. His usage is about where Novak was last year; so far he is an offensive upgrade on a guy who shot 85/56/41 from FT/2/3 last year.
- GRIII OReb upgrade. GRIII is the second-best offensive rebounder on the team and is grabbing more than double the opportunities Novak did last year. Not that I'm picking on Novak. It enrages me when people say "John Beilein finally has a lights-out shooter" when Novak shot 41% last year. Novak was awesome. What I am saying is that between Stauskas and GRIII, Michigan has upgraded its shooting and rebounding by splitting Novak into two different people, both of whom are bigger than him.
- THJ complete game watch. After six games, Hardaway is the team's second-best defensive rebounder at 19% and has drastically increased his shooting inside and outside the arc; his TO rate has hardly budged from his extremely good freshman number. Assists are actually down so far.
- Big Puppy sucks up all the rebounds. If Mitch McGary had played 40% of his team's minutes instead of 36% he would rank 8th in offensive rebound percentage and 29th in defensive rebound percentage. He is of course blowing everyone out of the water in this regard so far.
Obviously there's a long way to go before we get much of an idea how legit any of these things are; I remember Michigan being an outstanding defensive rebounding team in the nonconference schedule last year, but click that conference-only box on Kenpom and 2012 Michigan drops from 99th—good—to 9th in conference—not good. This year Michigan's defensive rebounding is 4th nationally, but how will it hold up in the Big Ten? Probably better, but how much? Etc.
Speaking of Novak. UMHoops interviews him:
As for Glenn playing an undersized four, he is built like an upperclassman already so I don’t think he’s going to be getting pushed around by very many people. I think as he gains experience and gets a feel for what players can do at that level, he’ll have no problem guarding guys down low. I think a lot of players underestimate how effective just playing “solid” down low can be. Many guys in college basketball struggle to score through a strong chest. Figure out how to hold your ground and you have won half of the battle. When he stays between his man and the basket, he can be more effective than I was because of his great length. There were times I could guard a guy perfectly, but he’d just shoot it right over me. That shouldn’t happen to him as much.
He doesn't bite on the "potential undoing" question; I will: foul trouble for Robinson would force Michigan into the rickety two-post offense for extended periods and could bring things down. There isn't really a guy who can spell him and shoot unless it's Bielfeldt.
The enduring legacy of DJ Jazzy Jeff. Athlon surveys college basketball players anonymously:
Have you ever received benefits from a booster?
Have you ever had a grade changed because you were an athlete?
Those seem like high numbers, but not as high as these:
What is your favorite TV show?
Family Guy (9.6%)
Fresh Prince (6.8%)
Everybody Hates Chris (5.5%)
Fresh Prince of Bel Air went off the air in 1996, and Martin in 1997, which means these kids were like two or three. [HT: Daily Gopher]
More alumni points. Michigan's changed the priority points system to further prioritize alumni and former letterwinners, but the thing I found fascinating was the chart MLaw06 attached to his diary:
Climbing halfway up the points list costs about 2000 bucks; getting to 90 costs as much as a new car. (A new car!) The change deflates point values slightly but on a 1-1 ratio that's like giving alums an extra $1,500 head start on other folk. Opinions on this will be split down the middle between alums and non-alums.
Ah yup. Via Maize and Blue Nation, correlation:
The strength of that correlation may change if Michigan gets aggressive about throwing under Borges. Right now, pretty stark, especially those two years under 40 rushing yards.
Protip: don't do this. Former ND hockey player Riley Sheahan arrested wearing a teletubby costume (Tinky Winky, if you're interested). Arrest is for being drunk and driving; drunkenly stated he had not finished high school when asked if there was anything that might prevent him from properly answering the questions. Was carrying a teammate's license on him. None of this is good. Except the costume.
BONUS: Apparently "superdrunk" is a term of law in this state?
JongShow. Hockey commit Nolan DeJong is profiled by the Hockey News:
“I like to be offensive,” he said. “But I take pride in my defense. I’d say my stability, my size and reach are my strengths. I like to be as active as possible, but I want to work on my positioning.”
De Jong would also admit he’s not the most physical out there, but has a pretty good role model right now in locked-out Colorado Avalanche rearguard Ryan O’Byrne, who is a volunteer coach for his hometown Victoria squad while the NHL is on ice. De Jong also worked out with O’Byrne and Jeff Compton, whose clients include several NHL and Western League franchises, in the off-season.
Etc.: Four Michigan guys make the BTN All-Freshman team. I look forward to a day when that number is zero, or one or something. Next year probably won't be that year since redshirts are included and Michigan figures to start at least two freshman OL.
Big Ten title game not a hot seller. With how spread out the conference is going to be it might be wise to just make it a home game for the team with the better conference record, with record of your conference opponents breaking ties.
Leftover Big Ten/ACC thoughts from Brennan. Minnesota is kind of good this year; mentally swap those guys with Wisconsin. College hockey features on Grantland. This post about the athletics bubble may overreach a bit but the general outline is right. People who decided to add Maryland say adding Maryland is a good idea. NC State/Michigan key plays. Barking Carnival interviews Texas F Girl.