In fine form. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.
In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:
- I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
- I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories. The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.
- Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild. Speaking of running wild, this team is a little different than the others: today's group is comprised of the best contributors to the Bench Mob.
RINGLEADER: 2013-14 ANDREW DAKICH
The only member of the Bench Mob to merit his own highlight video. Dakich peaked in this role in 2013-14, when he could be the exuberant youngster instead of an assistant coach in the making. He's the ideal captain of a Bench Mob: he'll dance in the pregame huddle, be the first off the bench to greet players after a timeout, make a scene after a big shot, and coach up the point guards on the best way to approach the high ball screen. It won't be easy to fill (and leap out of) his seat.
Honorable Mention: 2012-13 Josh Bartelstein. Another walk-on who became a team leader, Bartelstein isn't your traditional hyper-excited bench fixture. Anyone with ESP, however, deserves serious consideration for the first team.
If we were ranking legendary Bench Mob moments, this would be at the top.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
it’s back [Bryan Fuller]
Single digits. Via the twitters,various numbers for incoming freshman are now known. The most significant development for Michigan numerologists: Crawford and EMB are both getting the #1. This is good; the number had gotten too bound up in its history to actually get used most of the time. I’m willing to give it to a guy who isn’t AC yet just to get it out of mothballs. Issuing it to a defender too is an interesting twist, especially a linebacker.
Other numbers: Devin Asiasi and Lavert Hill are both #2—no pressure, Lavert—and Rashan Gary will retain his #3 from high school—no pressure, #3.
[UPDATE: Seth relates that some of these numbers are just sticky notes, not plates, and that those are not official. Never mind some of this, then.]
Goodbye, ESPN. The last guy left in Bristol who can call college football is Joe Tessitore. All games this fall will be called by him or the army of Pam Ward clones currently being decanted in the basement:
- Mike Tirico left for NBC,which caused the accursed NFL to yoink Sean McDonough for Monday Night Football.
- McDonough’s broadcast partner Chris Spielman left for FOX, where he, too, will call f-ing NFL games.
- There are plenty of rumors that Brad Nessler is leaving for CBS, which seem to be backed by the fact that Tessitore got promoted to Saturday nights.
- Brent Musberger is still in SEC Network purgatory.
Tessitore is fine, and Fowler is fine. It sucks to lose McDonough, Spielman, and Nessler, all of whom are great.
Not that it matters so much to the Big Ten. They must have had a teleconference, because various reporters are now quoting ADs and Delany about the second half of the Big Ten’s rights package. Is the following real or posturing for a better deal from suddenly-miserly ESPN?
“No one has amnesia about the relationship we have had with ESPN. John Skipper and that group, they have been a wonderful partner. But we’re at a different place and I think they’re at a different place in 2016 than we were in the last round (of negotiations). That doesn’t mean we can’t get to the altar together and get married again. But we’re at the dating stage right now. And that’s a process.”
Whenever this comes up you hear that coaches are loathe to not have a relationship with the gorilla in the sports media ecosystem…
“I believe the Big Ten schools are, at a certain point, going to demand from their leadership, ‘We have to be on ESPN, for recruiting and for publicity. We can’t give that partnership up, it’s too valuable for us in in terms of our conference competing against other conferences for high school players,’” Deitsch said on his podcast. “I’m going to bet, in the end, there’s a deal there.”
…but I’ll believe a college athletics conglomerate is willing to leave money on the table when I see it.
Departing ESPN wholesale for (probably) FOX would be interesting. Right now the Big Ten gets a ton of viewership—would that move tank it? Or would the prospect of having an army of Pam Ward clones do every game at ESPN do so?
On that Tunsil lawsuit. Tunsil’s stepfather is on the stepfather is on the warpath:
Miller met with an NCAA investigator in July and told him about other possible improprieties he had witnessed dating back to Tunsil’s high school recruitment, when Tunsil turned down Nick Saban at Alabama and Mark Richt at Georgia to sign with Hugh Freeze at Mississippi.
Miller claims Tunsil’s academic records were altered. He said Polingo used to receive Western Union deliveries of money from Barney Farrar, Ole Miss assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations. An apparent reference to Farrar was made in the year-old text messages on draft night; when Tunsil asked the Ole Miss administrator for money, he responds, “See Barney next week.” Farrar has denied giving money to or being asked for money by Tunsil, Ole Miss is investigating and Farese predicts it will turn out to be “much ado about nothing.”
Some of that has already been accounted for in the allegations the NCAA has investigated. This lawsuit promises to uncover further things, because it looks like Ole Miss got caught giving him a bunch of different piddly stuff:
The NCAA said Tunsil was not initially honest but that five rules violations were confirmed: Tunsil improperly used three loaner cars without paying during a six-month period; received two nights’ lodging at a local home; accepted a free airline ticket; used a rental car for one day for free, and received an interest-free four-month loan to make a $3,000 down payment on a used car.
That’s not a one time thing, that is five different incidents of giving the guy cash, directly or not, and looks like the tip of the iceberg. What are the chances that this pattern is not repeated with other players? What are the chances that these are the only five things Tunsil was provided? Zero and zero.
Old school items. Via Dr. Sap:
I don’t know why people suspected Caris was soft. He has a broken foot:
LeVert revealed here this week that his injury -- the nature of which was kept under wraps during the season -- is a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The injury, he said, is similar to the one he suffered earlier in his career.
He hoped the fracture would heal on its own, but when that process was slow-going, he opted instead to have surgery after the season by Dr. Martin O'Malley.
LeVert was still on crutches this week in Chicago, and said he will need to wear a boot on his left foot for another four weeks. That means he won't be doing any predraft workouts with teams.
The idea that Levert would try to avoid playing time this year was always goofy. Nobody wants to enter the NBA draft after two years mostly lost to injury. Even if he was only thinking of his draft stock, he would have played if at all possible. But rabblers gonna rabble.
Inevitable comparison. Beilein is going to go there with Xavier Simpson. He’s going with Trey Burke:
"I do," Michigan coach John Beilein was saying recently, asked if he sees significant comparisons between the two, other than they're both from Ohio.
"I see the dog in him, and I mean that in a positive. He goes out there and guards people and plays and he's a high competitor.
"This guy might be a guy that comes in the door with those competitive instincts."
A step towards sanity. The Big Ten will start using campus sites for hockey playoffs once ND joins, with a single week of best two-of-three games before a single elimination final four at an as of yet undisclosed location that I hope is the league winner’s home ice. The winner gets a bye, you see, and it would be weird if their reward was not playing any games at home.
John Gasaway compiles a list of the top shooting performances in the Kenpom era that surprisingly does not include a Stauskas or Burke team; it does include last year’s MSU game, with Michigan on the “whoops” side.
Michigan (20-10, 10-7 B1G) vs
Iowa (20-9, 11-6)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||8 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Iowa -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Joe Davis
Analyst: John Crispin
Right: Sadly fitting that our best picture of Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht together doesn't feature them in uniform. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Tomorrow is Senior Day, an even more bittersweet experience than usual this year because both seniors, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, have season-ending injuries. For those attending the game, you're encouraged to show up early; the pregame ceremony starts at 7:45.
While LeVert is going to prepare for the NBA when he's healthy again, Albrecht could conceivably get a medical redshirt and play another year if there's a scholarship available. That's on the table, though it doesn't sound too likely:
On a conversation with Coach Beilein about a potential return: “I haven’t really had a conversation with him about it, just because I know like you guys know with the scholarship situation and things like that, but I know at this time that I’m not feeling good and I’m not ready to play. I always told him that I’m not going to use up a scholarship if I don’t think I can play and help. I won’t be making that decision until after the season, I don’t want to distract him more than anyone else.
Michigan is clinging to one of the final at-large bids in most NCAA Tournament projections. A victory over Iowa—even this patented late-season collapse version—should secure a place in the field. A loss and it'll be a nerve-wracking conference tournament; speaking of which, M is locked into the BTT eight-seed.
THE LAST TIME
Back when the Hawkeyes looked like a candidate for a one-seed, they beat Michigan by 11 in Iowa City, led by Jarrod Uthoff (23 points) and Peter Jok (16). While the Wolverines put up a strong 1.13 points per possesion, they allowed 1.30 to Iowa—the Hawkeyes lit it up from the field and only committed four turnovers.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||10||Mike Gesell||Sr.||6'2, 190||74||19||No|
|#30 assist rate nationally, low-volume but effective shooter, high FT rate.|
|G||5||Anthony Clemmons||Sr.||6'2, 200||74||18||Kinda|
|Solid passer, decent finisher, outside shot is iffy (31% 3P).|
|G||14||Peter Jok||Jr.||6'6, 205||65||25||No|
|Good athlete with solid jumper, getting to line more. 2nd in B1G in steal rate.|
|F||20||Jarrod Uthoff||Sr.||6'9, 221||77||26||No|
|8th in KPOY standings. 47/39/81 shooting splits, excellent shot-blocker.|
|C||34||Adam Woodbury||Sr.||7'1, 250||62||17||Very|
|Plus rebounder, skilled around the basket, might poke you in the eye.|
|F||25||Dom Uhl||So.||6'9, 215||44||19||No|
|Backup big hits 47% of threes, hits offensive boards. Not a good finisher.|
|F||51||Nicholas Baer||R-Fr.||6'7, 200||36||14||No|
|Efficient gunner (61% 2P, 43% 3P) also a decent shot-blocker.|
|F||0||Ahmad Wagner||Fr.||6'7, 225||24||14||Very|
|Shoots 69% on twos, good rebounder and shot-blocker.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
While this news was beginning to feel inevitable, it is no less depressing: after missing 15 of the last 16 games with what's only been described as a lower leg injury, Caris LeVert has been shut down for the season, ending his college career. From the official release:
University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Tuesday, March 1) senior co-captain Caris LeVert will sit out the remainder of the season to concentrate on his continued recovery after suffering a lower left leg injury at the end of December.
"After some prayer and talking it over with my family, Coach Beilein and the medical staff, we all feel it is best for me to concentrate on getting fully healthy," said LeVert. "There is still some discomfort that does not allow me to help this team the way I want."
"I am so thankful for what Coach Beilein, the assistants and the medical staff have done for me during my collegiate career and in particular while I have dealt with these injuries.
"U-M has provided me the chance to live my dream of playing college basketball and to earn a Michigan degree. There are really no words to express my gratitude for that as well as my love for all my teammates. I am so blessed to be part of this wonderful university and will forever represent the Maize and Blue."
"This has been a tough two months for Caris," said Beilein. "He has worked so hard to get back to this point, and Caris' long-term health is what is most important.
"Caris has been a pleasure to coach; he is a wonderful young man with a brilliant future. I am confident he will have a very successful professional career because his talent, attitude, quickness and versatility make every team better.
"He has always carried himself and handled these situations with such class and a level of maturity that is unmatched. This is not how he wanted to finish his career here; however, we know he can hold his head high for how he has represented this great university and our basketball program."
An unheralded recruit Beilein plucked from Ohio University, LeVert shed his redshirt to contribute to the 2013 Final Four squad and played an integral role in the 2014 Elite Eight team. After injuries cut short a disappointing junior year, LeVert began this season playing like a Wooden Award candidate, only for injury to strike again when he rolled his ankle in the waning moments of the Big Ten opener against Illinois. When LeVert briefly returned to the court against Purdue, he clearly wasn't close to 100%.
The program ran out of time to get LeVert healthy and incorporated back into the rotation while they fight for a tournament bid. While we won't see LeVert in a Michigan uniform again, he can now focus on getting back to 100% in time to convince the NBA that a lanky, athletic, sharpshooting wing is well worth the risk of a first-round pick.
Even though LeVert's college career ended far too soon, he left an indelible mark on the program. Here's hoping we see him fully healthy and reaching his prodigious potential in the NBA before too long.
Derrick Walton had taken nine shots. None of them had gone in. With Michigan improbably within three points in the waning minutes against Purdue, however, he crossed over PJ Thompson and charged into the paint, laying his first bucket in off the glass as AJ Hammons knocked him to the floor.
While Walton missed his chance to tie the game at the line, he more than redeemed himself, pulling down two signature high-flying defensive rebounds and making 4/4 free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory.
On the afternoon Caris LeVert finally returned to the court, only to play 11 scoreless first-half minutes before sitting out the second half, Zak Irvin also played out a redemption tale. Coming off an ugly 1/8 performance against Minnesota, Irvin went 2/7 in the first half and had his first shot of the second swatted by Hammons. Then he heated up from the outside and turned around his battle with burly Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half, including the winning points on a pull-up from the free-throw line with 1:09 remaining that barely crested over Hammons' fingertips.
Despite inconsistent performances from their stars, foul trouble for Mark Donnal, and Rapheal Davis once again eliminating Duncan Robinson (4 points, 0/1 3P) from the offense, Michigan found a way to win. To earn it, they had to lean on defense and rebounding.
Against the best rebounding team in the conference on both ends of the floor, Michigan won the battle of the boards, pulling down 28% of their misses to Purdue's 20%. While Swanigan (14 points, 6/9 FG) proved tough to handle, the bigs collectively slowed the two-headed center monster of Hammons and Isaac Haas (combined 21 points on 24 shots) with help from timely double-teams by the guards.
That's how Michigan could go 5/20 from three and still beat a team that presents major matchup issues. Purdue went 6/12 from beyond the arc but only 15/41 within it, and the second chances they normally rely upon weren't available very often. Days removed from one of the most demoralizing weeks in recent memory, Michigan is 9-4 in the Big Ten, all alone in fourth place and needing only two wins in their final five games—which includes a home matchup against Northwestern—to feel very good about their NCAA Tournament chances.
Perhaps—just perhaps—we were too quick to bury a John Beilein team. It wouldn't be the first time.
This began as a post about Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and his ability to consistently get to the rim on his own, something Michigan as a team has been unable to do. That skill proved critical in last night's too-close-for-comfort victory at Minnesota.
While Rahkman had only a pair of two-pointers in the game, they stood out both for being timely and created entirely on his own. On arguably the most important play of the night—if it wasn't Rahkman's late chasedown steal—he drove baseline on Carlos Morris, used his shoulder as a means to create space without committing a foul (barely), and finished through contact for an and-one:
This is where this post takes an unfortunate turn. It's apparent to anyone who's watched Michigan this year that they've had a hard time beating defenders off the dribble and getting all the way to the basket. While looking up the numbers on Rahkman's ability to do just that, which I'll get to in a moment, I stumbled upon this alarming stat:
According to hoop-math, Michigan is 343rd out of 351 D-I teams in percentage of field goal attempts at the rim; M gets only 25.3% of their shots there, a far cry from the median of 36.1%. This isn't a be-all, end-all condemnation of the offense—Rutgers is 24th in the country in that category, while Purdue and Iowa both languish within ten spots of Michigan—but when combined with the individual stats and the eye test, it's easy to identify as one of the team's biggest issues.
I used data from hoop-math to put together this (chart?) chart, which shows MAAR's impressive ability to create high-percentage looks on his own as well as how badly this team needs LeVert back on the court:
|# shots at rim||% shots at rim||FG% at rim||% assisted at rim|
The critical stat here is the final column, which shows how often a player needs help to get baskets at the tin. It's not a surprise that almost all of Mark Donnal's production at the hoop is on assisted baskets; he's far from a dominant post player and gets most of his looks off the pick-and-roll. Zak Irvin's efficiency is great, but few of his shots are coming at the rim; Derrick Walton's mark is even lower and he's struggling to finish. Aubrey Dawkins' layups and dunks usually require a teammate to find him on a cut or in transition. Duncan Robinson is expanding his game but is still mostly a shooter, and one that looks to pass more often than not when he ventures inside the arc.
The two players able to both get to the rim off the dribble and finish at a high rate are LeVert and Rahkman; Michigan has, of course, had only one of those players available for the vast majority of Big Ten play. The Wolverines need LeVert back on the court in the worst way; his return, though, shouldn't diminish Rahkman's role too much.
That's not solely because Rahkman is capable of beating defenders off the bounce and finishing. He's steadily improved the other facets of his game, as well. After shooting 29% from three as a freshman, he's at 38% this year, and a hair under 40% in Big Ten games; combine that conference mark with 60% shooting on twos and he's fifth in the conference in eFG%. Rahkman has also drawn a lot more fouls—16th in the B1G in FT Rate—and he's making 77% of his free throws. He rarely turns the ball over. Even though he's still not a particularly willing passer, he ranks fifth in the conference in ORating—a very impressive mark even though it's helped by a low usage rate. Though this is admittedly faint praise, he's also arguably the team's best perimeter defender.
Rahkman has proven to be a reliable option when the offense is bogged down in the halfcourt, especially when Michigan needs a bucket late in the shot clock. A healthy LeVert is critical for this team to survive a tough final stretch with enough wins to make the tourney. Rahk has been an overlooked reason why Michigan is even in position to make it, though, and he'll play a crucial role the rest of the way.