"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
1/17/2012 – Michigan 60, Michigan State 59 – 15-4, 5-2 Big Ten
It was stomach-churning when Draymond Green conjured a pretty good shot out of thirty-five seconds of Michigan State panic, and that moment when the ball hung in the air was heart-stopping. In the vast aeons before its fate was determined, the observer had plenty of time to remember how much he hated backboards.
Oh, backboards. Scourge of the 2011 Wisconsin game at Crisler. Failed Andrew Jackson assassins. Uncooperative gits, backboards. When Josh Gasser had thrown an eyes-closed prayer up last year, a backboard answered his call. I had vowed revenge after it worked this alchemy on Crisler:
Being in Crisler was to viscerally understand the cliche about the air going out of the building. The transition from a standing, raucous crowd to a bunch of pissed off people looking for their jackets was instant, and the ride home was mostly silence.
But Green had not stopped his side-to-side momentum before getting the shot off and when it bounced off the backboard it did so too far to the left; it glanced off the rim. Green's putback attempt was well short, and that was that. Rather than the Gasser shot we'd just witnessed a replay of Deshawn Sims's improbably good look at the end of the 2010 game against State at Crisler.
Crisler blew up, as you might expect. Then something strange happened: nothing. No student or fan set foot on the court. Izzo rushed the referees to plead something or other, the teams shook hands, and then they left the court. No mosh pit. Crisler was loud but something short of delirious.
And there you go: the infamous "gap" is pretty much closed. Novak in the aftermath:
"We're to the point now where (beating Michigan State) is something we expect to do," Novak said. "My first two years, it was like, you've got to do it first -- you've got to do it one time.
"After you get that first one, you get a taste of it, but then you've got to learn how to win."
The last three years Michigan is 3-2 against Michigan State with one failed buzzer-beater on each side, an MSU blowout at the tail end of the disappointing 2010 season, and two solid Michigan victories during the regrettably short Get Off My Court era. If they haven't reached talent parity with State just yet it won't take long for Robinson, Stauskas, McGary, Irvin, Donnal, et al., to make that distinction a hard one to make. The PDC is complete; planned Crisler renovations will bring Michigan's arena in line with the best in the country. John Beilein is pretty good at coaching basketball.
Michigan's at the start of a long Big Ten grind that will probably spit them out significantly bruised, but at this point it's hard to see them chewed up enough to miss the tourney. If things fall right they could even sneak a seed with which it's plausible to make a Sweet 16. That's three of the last four tournaments and at least a .500 record against State over the last three years, and then the cavalry arrives. The moment when Beilein's program goes from building to built is fast approaching.
Zack Novak doesn't care about that. He cares about February 5th in Breslin, when he'll have the opportunity to go out with a winning record against Michigan State. The last four-year player to accomplish that was… I have no idea.
Next year is the one everyone's pointing to as the one when big things happen; this year is Novak's last. He is thinking about titles and tournaments and somehow keeping all of the blood vessels in his head intact for another three months. Fans can sit back and wait for help; Novak only has a few urgent months left.
Here they are.
Photos from Eric Upchurch:
These are Creative Commons licensed, as always.
Via MGoVideo, Denard and Roundtree executing the Can't Turn You Loose dance next to a shirtless dude and an engineer:
What a knob.
Last 31 seconds:
Also there are BTN highlights.
The trenchant analysis! So of course after I point out Smotrycz's ability to stay on the floor as a key to the game Michigan starts Stu Douglass and plays 90% of the game with Novak on Draymond Green. Smotrycz gets ten minutes. At least I said Green was a more plausible matchup than most Novak-vs-PF outings.
But so anyway, point Beilein for running out the small lineup and not getting extensively punished for it on the boards… actually, wait. Michigan rebounded one of 23 opportunities on the offensive end and allowed MSU to rebound 39% of their misses. So they did get pummeled on the boards. They eked it out because…
Uh… They eked it out because…
Uh… Okay. They were ferociously effective from two-point range. This continues a season-long theme but was not expected after a couple of rough outings. I think MSU five-star Adreian Payne was a major factor in this. Michigan sliced open the MSU defense early with un- or not-very contested layups largely because Payne's help defense was nonexistent despite having a matchup against Jordan Morgan. Morgan is not a guy you have to worry about taking jumpers, but Payne consistently failed to show at the basket when Michigan's various six-nothin' white guys would drive to the hoop.
As a result, Payne played only 14 minutes and finished with one rebound, that defensive. He should be awesome—dude is a physical marvel—except he's Mike Cox mentally. He got yanked a few minutes in. In the aftermath Izzo would bemoan a lack of "toughness," but what MSU lacked was between their ears, not their legs.
When Payne was out Nix didn't seem much better. For whatever reason the intimidating doom-bringers on the interior took yesterday's game off.
Uh… Also fouls and turnovers. The Valentine crew decided there were no fouls, much to my frustration in the first half when it seemed like various over-the-backs and Hardaway jumpers would have been fouls anywhere else on planet Earth. I know Hardaway is struggling, but there is no way he flat airballs two three-pointers in a short period of time.
HOWEVA, when it came to things actually called, Michigan had the advantage with just 8 fouls to MSU's 12 and 13 FTA to MSU's 5. This did not appear to be a home court effect. Even Michigan State people were unsurprised State had zero FTA at the half.
MSU also had six additional turnovers. Most of those came from Appling and Green as Michigan collapsed on them and they did not find assists to compensate. Appling did somewhat with his five but a 5-4 assist to TO ratio and a couple of charging calls is not ideal.
Tim Hardaway: come on, let's go. While Trey Burke is a fantastic player it doesn't seem disputable that Darius Morris was a much better shot creator last year than Burke is at this point in his career. That's been much to the detriment of Hardaway, who is now taking a lot of bad, contested shots and seeing his numbers drop precipitously. Michigan needs more of his last basket, when he shot by a defender and finished at the rim what with his six-five frame and leaping ability, and less of the shots like the above. Beilein also thinks this. Look at his face.
Hardaway did make an excellent decision to foul Nix on the floor after one of Michigan State's late whip-the-ball-around-until-it's-in-the-post-uncontested possessions. IIRC a turnover followed; those points were the difference (as were all points scored by M or not scored by MSU).
Stu Douglass: hat tip. After 38 minutes versus Iowa Douglass puts in 36 against MSU, plays his usual very good perimeter defense, had nine points on six shots, Michigan's lone offensive rebound, two assists, a steal, and a turnover. Even if I'm probably not going to say "argh where's Stu" next year like I will inevitably do when things are going poorly and Novak isn't around to grit something out, the intangible senior leadership Douglass provides is getting pretty tangible.
Burke. Yes, you're good. That three pointer was still a horrible decision. In all other ways, hurray.
Drive home safely. The visiting Izzone section. We have to talk, visiting Izzone section.
One: you came in a bus. Two: you bought a large section of tickets clearly designated the worst in the building, allowing you to stand as students will. Michigan is clearly complicit in getting you in the building, for whatever reason. Your bus did not appear to have a cloaking device.
Despite this, you sneak into the building incognito as if there are Izzone snipers stationed at the entrances. Then you chant "Daddy's better" at Tim Hardaway Jr., which… like… Tim Hardaway is one of the great point guards in NBA history. You know that, right? That's not actually an insult.
No points, mercy on your soul, etc.
Meanwhile. Does the Maize Rage do this? Could they do this? Why is Michigan selling a huge block of tickets to the Izzone? It doesn't seem likely that is the case. Why is Michigan actively annoying its fans by allowing this to happen?
Mathy Q. This would never happen and this is a conversation destined to remain hypothetical, but… how bad of a free throw shooter would someone on the floor have to be for a foul to be the right move in the situation Michigan was faced with last night?
I think a couple guys on the court were within range. Nix was 53% last year and is at 58% this year. If we give him 60% to make calculations easier, a non-shooting foul on him results in the following outcome after the one-and-one:
- 40%: Michigan with ball up one
- 24%: Michigan with ball tied
- 36%: Michigan with ball down one
That's if Michigan gets the rebound on the free throw, generally a good assumption but maybe less so in a balls-to-the-wall board crashing situation late.
I think there's a case for sending an under 60% free throw shooter to the line with 15 seconds or so left if they're going to get a one and one. Again, no one in the universe will ever try this in a game. But it's interesting to consider.
Random. I think of this as Rasheed Wallace version of "THE GAAAAAME." Do you know what I'm talking about? After the Pistons won their championship Wallace called basketball that in his indefinable 'Sheed way. It is impossible to explain and impossible to google, but I swear some people will know what I'm talking about.
In lieu of providing this, here's Wallace signing along to GNR:
This is your erratic reminder that Rasheed Wallace should succeed the Most Interesting Man In The World.
That is not relevant, but you start looking up Rasheed Wallace videos on Youtube and things get crazy.
Green has guaranteed the return game($):
"They won three. Before that, how many how had they won?" Green said. "They got their little three, but they come to East Lansing in a few weeks.
"They better celebrate this one, because I can guarantee you they won’t get one in East Lansing. You can quote me on that one."
Three straight is of course half of Green's career against Michigan to date (MSU was one-play a couple years ago), but don't ask a State attendee to do math.
RCMB provides the 'freude:
Last year was somewhat understandable. We were bad then. We are pretty good this year. Even a mediocre MSU team should blow Michigan out of the water. Michigan can't be good. It doesn't F---ING HAPPEN. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
What a knob.
MSU needs better S&C.
Other basketball takes. Grantland* oddly dispatched a guy to cover the Michigan-Northwestern game. He comes back with an impression of Ann Arbor clearly derived from the rims clanging so loud it sounds like a Gary, Indiana, steel mill before it closed in 1979, but once he gets past the grim midwesternness of it all it's a good piece:
. In the post, Smotrycz and Novak get rough with Shurna, putting their bodies into him, bumping him off the ball, and generally making him fight for every inch. Shurna hates this physicality, hates it viscerally and philosophically and every other way you can hate something. More often than not, he casts a look at the referee, hoping for a foul call, before retreating to the perimeter. He'll finish the game with 21 points, but after his second jumper of the half, with 19 long minutes remaining, he's scored all but four of that total. The rest of the game is a vanishing act.
I still think whenever Beilein ends up with an open scholarship late he should scour Northwestern's commitments for whoever their totally rad guy is going to be. That seems preferable to snatching Colton Christian away from low majors.
Holdin' the Rope credits Denard in the headline and provides a link to the Novak dunk that brought down the house during Michigan's 10-0 second half run:
Re: Denard, A half-dozen Michigan football players including Roy Roundree and Denard held court in the student section after they were honored for winning the Sugar Bowl. One thing you can say about Michigan football: they are not too cool for school.
HTR also dubs freshman NU PG Dave Sobolewski "Sobocop" in an attempt to insult him for prompting the Morgan tech. This will certainly backfire and cause Northwestern fans to admiringly dub him that for the rest of his career. Sippin' On Purple, make this happen.
*[Grantland pays Brian Phillips and Chris Brown money to write about sports. I'm not hearing criticism of it even if it runs some dumb stuff. That's easy enough to ignore; the good bits are very good. VIVA LOS SIMMONS.]
Donnal update. Even Jordan Morgan is impressed by this stat:
Perhaps no one on the team has bought in to the new approach more than Mark Donnal, the 6-9 junior who is already committed to the University of Michigan. The league's top post player is averaging a team-high 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds after averaging 15 points and seven boards last season.
Donnal, who probably receives more double-teams near the basket than any other player in the NLL, is sinking 79 percent of his shots from the field, as well as from the foul line.
Big guys in high school usually tower over opponents and can just oaf their way to easy buckets, but if you've seen any video of Donnal you know he's unusually skilled for a 6'9" post type. He's Pittsnogalian.
That sounds like an adjective from a lost chapter of Gulliver's Travels featuring a race of lovable, enormous tattooed weirdos. It's a keeper, that is.
CSB midterms. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau has released their midseason rankings, which are the first to put a number on prospects rather than a vague letter. Voila:
#9 Jacob Trouba
#28 Phil Di Giuseppe (freshman)
#31 Boo Nieves
#82 Alex Kile (2013)
#157 Connor Carrick
#175 Justin Selman
Incoming goalie Jared Rutledge is the #36 goalie, which would mean he's not getting drafted. Daniel Milne and future Rutledge backup Steve Racine are the only draft-eligible recruits not listed.
Trouba is the top-ranked American. A CSB scout on him:
“Jacob has offensive skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he’s a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He’s going to be someone people are going to talk about; we’ve known about him for a couple years and he’s not disappointing this year.”
Remember that these are North American skater rankings only; Europeans and goalies will push these folks down. Those are mid-second-round ratings for PDG and Nieves, not late first.
WCH calls out Connor Carrick as notably under-ranked; if that's true Michigan will definitely have five draftees with Selman a potential sixth. Kile is a surprise. One: I didn't know he was draft eligible this year. Two: he's got 7-8-15 in 29 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, which is a far cry from the 38, 35, 30, 29 you see at the top of their scoring charts. He's kind of big at 6-foot, 195, but not the kind of big that gets you drafted above your skill level by the NHL.
Meanwhile in the odious machinations of junior hockey magnates. Nieves's rights were traded in the deadline flurry. This is never good, but Nieves has reconfirmed that he has no interest in the OHL:
Nieves was traded to Saginaw, which isn't any closer to home than Michigan or notorious for shelling out under the table payments. Also if he was going to leave he had an opportunity before signing up for another year of prep hockey with Matt Herr. Usually when a player committed to college changes his mind it's the year before he's scheduled to arrive. Only the specter of competing against Shawn Hunwick is sufficient motivation to ditch when college is around the corner.
Meanwhile in things you'd do for a dollar. Rumor is the Winter Classic is headed to Michigan in the near future, and not just the state:
Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that the NHL is in advanced discussions with the University of Michigan about holding the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
One source, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wasn't initially sold on the idea of the NHL hosting an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. But over a matter of a couple of weeks, the source said "something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will."
No doubt long deliberations with a man dressed in a curly fries outfit eventually led to the breakthrough. Would Dave Brandon threaten to break Michigan's own attendance record and hopelessly conflict a ton of people when Michigan inevitably plays a bowl game on the same day? Yes. The curly fries are very convincing, and there is at least one dollar in it.
Guh. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan unless I need to give Tony Gibson minus even more of the points:
The previous CB coach, Gibson, who I believe also is joining the Arizona staff, wasn't big on technique, at least not when he was a WVU. Players have stated that he would tell them, "just get to the spot." Lockwood came in and changed that, and with that change came nice strides of improvement in the cornerbacks.
Unfortunately, the spot was ten yards away from the receiver.
Etc.: The university's policy of exorbitant FOIA fees is an embarrassment. Roundtree's looking for a bigger role next year. BC Interruption is feeling the MGoPlayoff. Horford may be able to return this year. Silver lining if he can't: the ensuing redshirt will give some separation between Michigan's bigs, three of whom may leave in the same year if McGary is two-and-out. UMHoops picture pages a bunch of out of bounds plays.
When UV bullets keep expanding you must post them as posts.
I hit up Crisler for the first time this season to take in Michigan's 76-66 win over Iowa State; it wasn't that close. Michigan led by 20 for a good chunk of the second half before getting sloppy and letting ISU whittle the lead down to 8 or so; I got frustrated. KenPom is always watching.
Anyway, items. First, Eric Upchurch's photoset. (Thanks to the Ann Arbor Observer.)
Photos are Creative Commons licensed.
If you want it large, there is a link that takes you there.
THJ Face Pantheon addition. This is an all-timer.
McLimans is pretty good, too.
Speaking of the Bird. McLimans and Akunne put up ten points in the midst of a game-opening run that took Michigan from down two to a comfortable lead and we were all like "WTF." Via UMHoop's five key plays:
McLimans came in with a rep as a big who could shoot threes but has struggled to do so; with no other discernible skills that means bench. Akunne spells Burke at "point guard," though when he's in the offense doesn't run through him. Doesn't really run through anyone. They're making shots, though, especially Akunne.
The downside of Akunne's time is that it means someone else is struggling. That would be Vogrich, who's started the year off one of ten from three. When shooters can't shoot they can't play.
Novak's addition. Novak's added a pump fake and step-in midrange jumper to his arsenal this year that he's knocking down with excellent consistency. He has some awesome shooting numbers thus far: 12 of 19 from two, 13 of 28 from three.
Not to be outdone. Jordan Morgan is 20 of 25 on the season. Hit up the Five Key Plays to see his 12 points in the second half and note that only one bucket was the undefended throwdowns that seemed to be most of his points last year. He hit a jumper from the elbow, had a couple of baby hooks in the lane, and seems like a guy who can maybe generate some of his own offense from the post.
We'll have to see if he can continue this against quality competition. I mentioned this before but he seems to be tracking like DeShawn Sims, where he can blow up crappy defensive teams (with a lot of help from the pick and roll) but doesn't have the height or athleticism to deal with guys like those at UVA. This is maybe not good news against MSU later this year—Adreian Payne is approaching the top 100 in block rate. OTOH, he did have an efficient 12 against Duke's diverse Plumlees.
Burke and Morris. Holdin' The Rope on the divergent point guards:
I miss Morris's ability to get into the lane at will using his size but Burke's outside shooting and distribution is getting to be just as fun to watch. He will surely hit a rough patch or two at some point this season, but he seems to have the perfect demeanor to weather those storms. While Morris thrived on a sort of expletive-based verve, Burke is a cool customer. Both work, but the latter is particularly surprising for a freshman. The minutes he has been logging thus far is somewhat worrisome, however. I guess I'd have to go back and see what kinds of minutes Morris was getting last year (I'd imagine they were similar if not higher), but you'd imagine that Morris's body would be more capable of handling a long season, including a TOUGH Big Ten schedule. I actually didn't realize this until looking at the box score just now but apparently he went 3/11 from three, which: a) is not good and b) only in a Beilein offense can you shoot 11 threes and be okay.
Burke was 3 of 4 at one point before finishing on an 0-for-7 skid, which does lend some credence to the idea that he might be losing his legs. Nick Baumgardner:
Entering Saturday's home game against Iowa State (noon, BTN), Burke is averaging 31.6 minutes per game, third-most on the team. However, in Michigan's last six games, its freshman point guard is averaging nearly 34 minutes.
The problem Beilein is faced with is simple: Outside of Burke, who is averaging 11 points and 4.1 assists this season, the Wolverines have no other true viable point guard option. …
"If we had a true other point guard, we wouldn't be concerned," Beilein said. "When he's on the floor, he's one of our best guys to just run our offense. But he does need to get two to three minutes of rest every half. At least that's our plan."
Or it might mean nothing. We're early enough in the season that sample sizes are laughable. Burke went from a 42% three point shooter to 31% in those seven shots. Ask again later.
Q: where does the backup point come from? Next year's recruiting class is a post and a couple of 6'6" guys. Akunne is never going to get penetration; Michigan really needs Carlton Brundidge to develop into a viable option over the next year or so.
The truly important thing. Our long local annoyance is over: no longer does Crisler have "souvenir" and "large" options for soft drinks in which "large" is the smaller size. "Large" is now "regular" and I don't have to tell the teenager behind the counter that when I say large I want the large one, not the small one, who's on first. VICTORY
Half of the new Crisler. It is a massive improvement and I'm happy to report that rumors the seats were reminiscent of flying coach turns out not to be true. Room was sufficient. The place looks a lot better, which is step one. Step two is not being able to look around and think "the empty seats do look a lot better."
This week in terrible fan-spurning ideas. Crisler is going to be re-seated next year based on priority points. Are you really going to tell the guy in the third row who's been buying tickets for a decade that because he hasn't coughed up enough dough he gets booted to crappier seats?
This is man who has endured. He deserves our respect and admiration. Instead Dave Brandon puts his hand out. His drive to undermine fan loyalty is relentless.
Why always the terrible teams? I'm looking at the schedule. Michigan's small conference opponents by Kenpom rank: #117 Oakland, #217 Bradley, #289 WIU, #316 Arkansas Pine Bluff, #327 Alabama A&M, #331 Towson.
I know they're going to fill their schedule with some creampuffs but I wonder what the impact of having so many awful opponents has on the RPI. Towson is 0-7 and projected to go 3-27. Alabama A&M just lost to South Alabama but 23; they're in the SWAC and should go 9-9 in conference because the best team in the league is ranked #292. I'd rather see more Bradleys and Oaklands on the schedule, for both entertainment and RPI-jiggering purposes.
L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz
Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially
kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.
Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:
Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.
It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.
Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.
Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.
Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.
The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.
(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)
The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.
At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.
Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.
There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.
I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.
This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.
Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.
All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.
Thursday, five PM: muppets? If Michigan actually nails down Mitch McGary I think I might deploy the first-ever recruiting muppets. This is when and how that might happen:
The 6-foot-10 McGary will announce Thursday for either Michigan, Duke or Florida, and his father confirmed Mitch will announce on ESPN.
“Yes he will,” Tim McGary said by text.
ESPNU has a “Recruiting Nation” show slated for 5 p.m. EST Thursday.
Both ESPN and Scout are already calling McGary to Michigan.
After a brief period of worry about Duke, everyone who's offered an opinion says it's M. Duke is on the verge of locking down another PF ranked in the top 25—must be nice—and Florida hasn't gotten a visit in a long time.
If and when McGary picks Michigan, the muppets will be warranted. That recruiting class will be McGary, Glen Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas: a top 10, top 50, and top 100 recruit to go with Burke/Brundidge/Hardaway/Horford/Morgan and followed by the Irvin/Walton/Donnal 2013 class. It will be the cherry on top of a basketball program that is all the way back to national relevance and the capper to the surge that began in East Lansing last January.
PDC, yeah you know me. It is here. It has iPads:
Brundidge, Novak, McLimans, and Burke:
"Tap it again to make the white one poop out a bomb"
It may be a ridiculous outlay of funds on something of debatable social value, but hey, man, it comes with touchscreens. Don't be a downer.
The usual. Epic Daily profile makes you wonder how long various students will outperform the local paid media? Epic Daily profile makes you wonder how long various students will outperform the local paid media. This one is on Tim Hardaway Jr:
The doors on the all-white BMW 645Ci slammed shut, beginning the short journey home that would feel like an eternity.
The father, who had all the glory any man could hope for, was in the driver’s seat, casually turning the wheel in rhythm with the Miami streets. The son, a 16-year-old child trying to forge his own story in the shadow of his very name, leaned against the door of the passenger’s seat, with nothing to say.
It was like after any other of the
son’s high school basketball games. He won or he lost, and he and his father climbed into the luxury car without saying a word, draped in an oppressive silence.
I didn't even have time to link up the previous Molk piece before this one hit.
A monster draft beckons. NHL.com had three fellows deploy mock drafts and they are littered with Michigan players. One is expected—Jacob Trouba is widely regarded a top-ten lock. We've been hearing stuff about Boo Nieves as a second-rounder or a late first, and then there's a guy already on the team making an appearance. Their projections:
- Trouba: 5th, 8th, 10th
- Nieves: 19th, 26th, 28th
- Phil Di Giuseppe: 11th(!), 28th, NR
That's a bit higher than expected for Nieves and hello Mr. Di Giuseppe. Michigan hockey followers have been buzzing about Di Guiseppe since he started pumping goals in and it appears a couple of the guys in suits who hang around Yost have also taken notice. The guy Michigan picked up in the aftermath of Lucas Lessio's defection looks like he'll go higher than Lessio did (56th). This isn't ironic but it's the kind of thing people identify as ironic.
I actually missed Di Giuseppe on both mocks he features on because I wasn't even looking for his name. What a find. If Rutledge plays well Michigan will be a contender next year.
As for this year, Michigan continues the longest home winning streak in its history and takes on WMU this weekend in a game that suddenly looks like a huge one in the conference race. The undefeated (5-0-3, paging user Undefeated Dream Season of 1992) Broncos were the second consecutive team to sweep Miami and are currently the only team without a conference loss. They're the league's stingiest defense with only 13 goals allowed; Michigan is ten goals clear of those same Broncos in scoring, all of which came in a single game against St. Lawrence.
Groping a bit. Not like that. A couple things in Michigan Monday this week irked me. Irk #1: asserting that Denard's interception was a lock-on before the snap. It was a second read, something that Belotti pointed out on the replay by circling the first read on the other side of the field. He got beat by the eight-man drop but he at least went through a progression. Irk #2:
As an aside, a 41-yard carry for a non-fast quarterback makes you wonder what's going to happen over the next month when they face Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller, no?
That run came with the score at 36-7 in the fourth quarter. Various starters had been pulled, including the WDE. True freshman Frank Clark blew the contain on the QB. So… yeah. Not relevant.
What I am saying about the thing I was saying. Braves & Birds has a profile of two anonymous teams:
|Team A||Team B|
|Pts Per Game||21.4||26.0|
|Pts Allowed Per Game||12.4||19.5|
|Yards Per Play Gained||5.1||5.6|
|Yards Per Play Allowed||4.2||4.5|
|Yards Per Play Margin||+0.9||+1.1|
They're basically identical except one is in the Big Ten and has one loss and the other is… not. Michigan's schedule has been even softer than Team A, which okay I'll tell you is Penn State.
This is my concern, dude. Everyone regards PSU as a fraud, and we're kind of the same team except our loss was more competitive and our conference wins against even weaker competition.
A second chance. A couple years ago the BTN debuted internet streaming of untelevised games. This didn't go well. When I hit it up to watch a hockey game @ OSU the lag was such that I ragequit after one period in which the screen froze twice and came back to OSU celebrating a goal.
Maybe it's better? You can stream Michigan's basketball exhibition for free with the coupon code "BTDN3FR33"—good opportunity to find out if the product has improved.
Etc.: Bacon chat at the Detroit News tomorrow. Get your tickets for the outdoor hockey game in Cleveland. More MST3K Michigan defense parody. The Blue Ribbon preview of Michigan is a freebie. Michigan Hockey Net rounds up Michigan's commitments and how they're performing. Remember when we all would have killed for Jeff Tedford?
Meta. Here's a screenshot of a blog taking a screenshot of itself:
I wish I had thought of that. That's UMHoops. After a season of coverage they're gently prodding people to click the donate button. I did, then checked my email to find that I had received a donation exactly the same size as the one I'd just made. I promise this will happen to you if you chip in.
If you promise to be gentle, I will gingerly shake your hand. Congratulations to wrestler Kellen Russell, who won the national championship at 141 pounds and was the primary reason Michigan finished 15th at the national championships. He beat Boris Novachkov—no doubt sent by a Russian oligarch to destroy democracy—of Cal in the final.
Russell went 38-0 against an insane gauntlet of opponents. The Big Ten featured five of the top six wrestlers in his weight class. Russell beat all of them, beat a bunch of them again in the conference tourney, beat a bunch of them again again in the national tournament, and finally defeated Russia's nefarious plans in the final. Statistically it's the best season in Michigan wrestling history even if it came by the slimmest of margins:
It didn’t matter when he heard his ankle pop while he was tied, midway through the championship match and couldn’t put pressure on his leg.
It didn’t matter that it took Russell a combined four overtimes to advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, or that both wins came from the slimmest of margins — a meager 21 seconds of combined riding time, earned by being on top of your opponent.
Russell returns for another go-around next year.
We are talking about practice. Normally the start of spring practice would get banner headlines around here, but something something basketball something so here's this:
I was slightly disturbed by the bit where they run through the dong forest:
Whatever happened to family values? /boren'd
Draft tea leaves. Michigan had their pro day, during which Jonas Mouton showed relatively well and Martell Webb showed at 274(!) pounds. Commence retroactive Greg Frey assault, though:
G Stephen Schilling did pretty much what everyone expected in Ann Arbor. His athleticism, quick feet and pulling speed continue to entice NFL teams. He looked solid in positional drills, showing he can physically do what he will be called upon to do.
The one issue that showed up during his workout, something not unexpected from watching Schilling on film, was his shaky technique. He often bent at the waist and leaned rather than keeping his feet under him.
I'm not even mad. The Tennessee game was a crazy outlier, a 30-point blowout in which the winning team made no free throws and only attempted one. Surely you cannot find one Tennessee fan on the planet who is complaining about the refereeing in the aftermath. Surely this is the one game ever played in which everyone agrees that—
Tennessee is better than Michigan.
Yeah, I said it. Tennessee is better. It was obvious at the outset that Michigan could not guard Tennessee. They were too slow. They were guarding with their hands and fouling. We were getting past their defenders at will.
Then, about 10 minutes in, we were only up about 5 and we had completely outplayed them. I began to think we may have problems.
Then the refs took over. They called charges if Michigan's players even thought about moving their feet to establish position...which they never did. After four bogus charges (and one legitimate one on them that went uncalled), Tennessee changed its offense. UT no longer drove the ball. They settled or outside shots and pull ups. They missed. A lot. The refs had accomplished their mission. They single-handedly took Tennessee out of its offense. Then Michigan started hitting from outside.
Thanks to the above elements, Michigan went on a run. Tennessee got down. Then Tennessee quit. I'm not excusing that, but given the recent events of the past few days and given that it was abundantly clear from the officiating that UT would not be allowed to win this game, it's understandable. So a loss turned into a blowout loss.
Thank God college basketball is over. I won't watch another game in this tournament because it's ridiculously subjective and corrupt. I just don't know if I'll care enough to watch any of it next year. It's like scripted reality TV. Can't wait for football.
That is amazing. I love this man for posting this thing on the Tennessee message board that had the nice story about Beilein. He has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no possible game in which fans of the loser will not blame the refs.
Exit Pearl. Bruce Pearl has been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. There were some minor recruiting violations and one extremely minor violation of the bump rule, too, but if Pearl just says "my bad" in the room he gets away with a minor suspension a la Izzo/Calhoun. Instead he lies and then fails to report the bump violation and he's out.
Is this Tennessee doing a 180 from earlier in the year when they seemed determined to hold on to Pearl at all costs? It doesn't look like it. Fans are apoplectic. Wes Rucker tweeted that anyone who thinks Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wants a new coach "is wrong"; that link contains one of those impossibly long and plausible-seeming emails that get batted around the internet but can never be confirmed suggesting the same. Meanwhile, FOX's Jeff Goodman says that UT's hand was forced:
Hamilton — according to sources — was recently informed that the NCAA would be coming down hard on Pearl and he opted to cut ties.
Add another notch on Bylaw 10.1's belt.
The obvious comparison is to Tressel, who voluntarily extended his suspension to five games as if his violation is on par with those of his players. Media still isn't buying this, especially if the suspension only applies to gameday. In Tressel's corner: he didn't lie to anyone's face and he didn't follow up his transgression with an otherwise minor violation that proved he'd learned nothing, then score another violation in March—ie, now. Not so much in his corner: Pearl's troubles stem from a minor recruiting violation acquired in the pursuit of a player he didn't actually get; Tressel covered up violations that made five important players ineligible through an entire season, failed to disclose the problem four separate times, and duped the NCAA into making them eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I think Tressel's violation is considerably worse than Pearl's but that could just be a zillion losses talking.
Here's one bet on supplemental. Notre Dame terrorbeast Michael Floyd got hit with something between a garden-variety and Kevin Grady "Mickey Mouse is a dog" frightening DUI, getting pulled over with a .19 BAC after running a stop sign. That would warrant a game or two suspension at most places. At Notre Dame they have some jackbooted bureaucrats called the Office of Residence Life who are like every evil movie dean ever, though. Pot possession? Gone for the year… or out for the Purdue game*. Drankin'? No big deal or season-long suspension.
Which will it be? Well, that last link may be the most relevant: TE Will Yeatman got booted for a year for being one of 37 underage ND students ticketed at a house party. He had picked up a DUI in January for driving down the sidewalk with a .11 BAC. Floyd has not one but two underage drinking citations in his past and by exceeding .15 BAC has been charged with a more serious version of drunk driving. If precedent holds Brian Kelly is going to watch his best player get suspended by the dread Office and head to the NFL's supplemental draft.
*[I could not for the life of me find definitive word on what Ragone got hit with, but the NCAA says he played in every game except ND's opener.]
Just screwin' around for pi day. It turns out Zack Novak doesn't know 62 digits of pi:
He does know more than you do.
Etc.: Jalen Rose makes it very clear for anyone who still has trouble parsing Jalen Rose's very clear sentences. Ohio State rabble-rouser Bruce Hooley gets insta-fired for his comments about Tressel, and my reaction is admiration—people in Ann Arbor itself still have to deal with miserable schticky losers, let alone Detroit. Eamonn Brennan says Michigan fans have a lot to look forward to. Boston College fans shipped to St. Louis as four seed UNH gets to play at home are on-board with ditching the current regional format. The Bylaw Blog argues that anyone with a problem with the NCAA should really look at the NBA and NFL for providing zero alternatives. Nebraska won't add hockey even though they've got a multipurpose arena opening in 2013. The culprit is the usual: Title IX, a law made in a different world. In this one 57% of college students are women.