spoiler alert: i linked this
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.
I guess we should discuss that. The other thing, too. Let's open the floor for questions.
— Jay Winkler (@jman077) February 8, 2016
@AceAnbender when will we stop playing like Rutgers?
— Anthony Lodato (@ajlodato) February 8, 2016
@AceAnbender why is basketball
— Burrill Strong (@sgtwolverine) February 8, 2016
— Stefan Zonia (@iamstefanzonia) February 8, 2016
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) February 8, 2016
I'm sensing some despair. Does anyone have a more specific question?
— Tom Lawrence (@LordSupremo) February 8, 2016
Ah, so. Let's try this again after the jump.
[JUMP, if you dare.]
Basketball preview here.
Super Saturday. Photos from the doubleheader from the Players' Tribune:
The Manuel UConn tenure. Jeff Jacobs has an exellent, comprehensive rundown of Warde Manuel's tenure at the UConn AD. Some UConn fans blame him for the Huskies getting left behind in the zombie Big East while Louisville got the golden ticket to the ACC; other than that somewhat fanciful complaint his tenure was rock-solid:
There are people who disagree with this, but Manuel handled the Kevin Ollie hiring as full-time coach just about perfectly. Ollie's biggest supporters, some who held their own power, wanted Ollie to get a long-term contract immediately. Manuel wanted to get to know Ollie, wanted to see him in action. Ask yourself this: What defined Ollie? He always had to work the hardest to prove himself on the court and that narrative continued for more than a decade in the NBA. If he was to be a success, the best possible outcome would be for Manuel to wait, like what he saw and give him that long-term deal three to four months into his job. That's what happened.
When Ollie was on his way to winning a national championship in 2014, there was Manuel ahead of the curve to lock in Ollie with a new five-year deal.
UConn's four major sports (football, both basketballs, and hockey) are all on the upswing or maintaining a high level of success. Manuel also pulled UConn out of a Jim Calhoun-generated APR disaster and spearheaded a move to Hockey East.
He's gone as soon as the NFL comes calling. Harbaugh writes an article for the Players' Tribune:
I’ve talked to a lot of people who feel that way about Michigan — and I’ve talked to a lot of other people who feel that way about their college, too. It happens everywhere. You probably feel that way about where you went to college.
But in my unscientific surveying of people I’ve talked to, I feel that it happens the most here at Michigan.
Which is why finally, I moved to Ann Arbor a third time. To be the head football coach.
A lot of people outside of Michigan asked me why I decided to make that third move to Ann Arbor. It’s pretty simple: I love football. I love coaching. I love Michigan. And for me, there’s no better place for those three things than right here in Ann Arbor.
It doesn't hurt that there's no megalomaniacal guy in a fur coat hovering over his shoulder in Ann Arbor.
As a side note, do you know what I see in my head whenever I hear "Players' Tribune"?
This is what I see, except with cards that read "PRESS" sticking out of their hats.
A firm-ish return date. Beilein on Levert's return:
John Beilein to @dandakich , "Caris LeVert has been out 5 weeks, he's getting better, hope to have him back on the court this or next week".
— Producer Kyle (@ProducerKyle) February 1, 2016
It's good to have a timeframe. It's unfortunate that timeframe isn't a little quicker now that Michigan's World Tour Of Bad Big Ten Basketball has concluded.
Death to autobench, in numbers. Tucked away in a piece on Washington having an unprecedented number of guys foul out is this note on the most DQ-averse team in college basketball:
By the way, there has been only one team to avoid a disqualification this season. The last time a Michigan player fouled out was February 17th of last season when the human box-score line-break, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman fouled out against Michigan State. My stance on when to sit players in foul trouble is somewhere between “ignore foul trouble completely” and “always sit guys in the first half that have two fouls”. It’s a very tough problem to study. But it seems to me that if you do subscribe to the latter approach, the fact that none of your players are fouling out is an indication your instincts for loss aversion are too strong.
The fact that Michigan fouls so rarely in the first place makes the autobench even more frustrating in practice. It is what it is; it's a blind spot.
Recruitin' rabblin'. Andy Staples on the decommit thing:
We'll need to hear Michigan's side of the Swenson case before passing judgment, and NCAA rules will keep Wolverines coaches from publicly discussing the specifics of Swenson's recruitment until after he signs. If it turns out Michigan's staff waited until January to tell Swenson—who committed to then-coach Brady Hoke in November 2013—he wasn't wanted, then the Wolverines deserve criticism for being lousy communicators. If Swenson had this knowledge in September or October, he could have reopened his recruitment earlier at a time when other schools would have had more open slots. The well-paid grown-ups here should be held to a higher standard than the high school students, and if Swenson's camp is telling the truth, Michigan's staff might need to learn how and when to break bad news.
It beggars belief that Swenson's camp is telling a full and honest accounting of the story if only because Michigan insiders started chattering about his place in the class months before the actual decommit, first privately and then in public. A final decision may have been delayed; if he didn't know it was because he didn't want to. Either way, Michigan should be explicit about these things much earlier.
The bump. Bill Connelly has an article on the "Bama bump," which is the perception that recruits committed to or recruited by Alabama get rankings boosts. Some services say they peek; others say no way:
To summarize, Luginbill said, "It absolutely exists because of subscription sales." Scout's Brandon Huffman said, "We don't do it, but others might." 247Sports's JC Shurburtt said, "Nah, but they do produce a lot of NFL talent, which matters," which seems like a roundabout way of saying it does kind of exist, only for reasons other than subscription sales.
Only Rivals' Mike Farrell said, "Nope!"
The denials here are odd, since re-evaluating a prospect once you get information like "Nick Saban is a fan" seems, you know, sensible. Connelly is in favor of the bump, and for the most part so am I. And it does exist. In Michigan's case it's usually when they become interested in a lower-rated guy. An unranked or two star player is about 99% likely to work his way up into generic three-star territory by the time Signing Day rolls around.
And for all of Luginbill's protestations, they absolutely do bump guys. When Khaleke Hudson committed to Michigan he was rated a 74 and below guys headed to Georgia Southern and schools of that ilk. Fast forward to today and he's flown up 34 spots. But that's fine! Before the bump Hudson's ranking looked plainly goofy. I think you should be humble enough to take Harbaugh's opinion into account when you rank guys. It's a better system than "did this guy show up to our camp," for sure.
Now, it's possible that Bama sees guys in the manicured regions move up. I don't follow their recruiting closely enough to know. This is not generally the case for Michigan commits, who tend to slide gradually as the recruiting year goes along. When I do job interviews I ask why this is, and I don't think I've heard the correct answer yet*. Michigan commits tend to slide because they stay the same while a select group of recruits below them emerge into big-time prospects. When you're perched in the top 10% of all high school recruits the direction you generally go is down even if you are ranked correctly.
*[It's still useful for hearing a person's ability to reason on the fly.]
Glasgow on Harbaugh. Stay enthusiastic, my friends:
“You know those commercials, The Most Interesting Man In The World? He’s like the most interesting coach in the world,” Glasgow said this week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“He’s a really, really genuine guy and he just really cares about his players. Even though he looks crazy out there on game days and all that stuff, he’s really not like that behind closed doors.”
Only refs and people who drive slowly cause Harbaugh to throw conniption fits. BTW, we already have a "jim harbaugh is the most interesting man in the world" tag.
Jimmy & Johnny. Ann Arbor Pioneer is inducting Jim and John Harbaugh into the Hall of Fame of Purple-Wearing Athlete People on March 11; the eventbrite site just went live yesterday. The Facebook page has been posting vintage photos all week of the Harbros and here's one contest that was over before it began:
Sam & Ira are hosting, and they've invited us.
Michigan replay, 1992. Check the sweater:
Etc.: Former Gilman head coach Biff Poggi is taking another head coaching job in Maryland and thus won't be joining the staff. Carr on the Manuel hire. The year in Harbaugh hijinks. Baumgardner has a long article in which Lorenz and Trieu offer some takes on the class. Why Holtz is going to SOTS.