Praise to all available deities. I know it's 50/50 whether this is real or "we want to be aggressive" annual offseason pablum, but I'm storing my cynicism because I need it to be the former. Devin Gardner:
"Practices are really fast, we get a lot of reps. This was probably the fastest practice I've ever been a part of ... I feel like, right now, there's a lot of energy in practice. I'm happy with it. ... Coach Nuss definitely pushes tempo, makes sure we get to the ball fast, get the calls out, do everything you need to do and then get the ball hiked. He's pushing that a lot. And sometimes we just go hurry-up to get more reps."
It was as if a million botched two-minute drills cried out, and then were silent. [Ed-S: ...were suddently silenced! ARGH YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!] If you have not wandered on to this site straight from the maternity ward of the local hospital still covered in amniotic goo you are aware of the author's tendency to engage in spittle-flecked rants when it comes to the idea that you must slow down your offense to protect your defense.
(I MEAN WHAT DOES THAT IMPLY ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TEMPO?! YOU'RE FLAT OUT STATING THAT TEMPO IS DIFFICULT TO DEAL AND INSTEAD OF COMING TO GRIPS WITH IT YOU PREFER TO JUST NOT THINK ABOUT IT ARRRRRGH. I put this in parens so that you can't blame me for this spittle-flecked rant. I am invulnerable in here.)
So. More tempo means more reps, means more ability to go fast without sacrificing your ability to go slow, means the defense is better prepared to deal with teams that go fast, means less shoe-throwing as Michigan spends the last two minutes of the half imitating a newly-hatched sea turtle trundling towards the sea. All praise to modern football thinking.
…but I don't believe you for a second. While it appears that coaches are talking to the press when they talk to the press, they are in fact talking to their players. This one insight explains every bit of coachspeak ever: they speak in motivational parables designed to get people to try hard no matter how tenuous their relationship to something interesting or accurate.
So, when asked how he's evaluating his quarterbacks at this point, his answer was hardly surprising.
"We're going to evaluate everything, just like every other position on our offense," Nussmeier said. "We want to create competition, we want guys to go out and compete."
Articles about the "spring QB race" result. This space already had a spittle-flecked rant on this subject, so let me just reiterate that I will consume a rack of hats if Devin Gardner is not the clear starting quarterback.
Perpetually entertaining. If the Ed O'Bannon case does nothing other than bring to light internal NCAA emails that plainly admit that the NCAA is profiting off the likeness of their players, it will still be a worthwhile endeavor. (And it seems likely it'll do much more than that.) The latest quotes would be astounding if they weren't part of an ever-expanding genre:
Leeland Zeller writes back to the LSU official that an NCAA rules interpretation "clearly addresses" and prohibits "the use of the DVD as 'premium' in conjunction with a subscription. ... Regardless, SI does this every year. If the school asks about it, they are advised to send a cease and desist letter, which preserves the eligibility of the student-athletes. SI ignores the letter and we all go on about our business."
In other news, it was not a coincidence that the play by play guy could pronounce "Tebow," and EA was trying to weasel the names and faces of players into NCAA because it was just like television.
What was that? Episode two in "Brian crams Big Ten basketball talking into his UV because his other platform was stolen": what the hell was Iowa doing last night? They ended up losing 93 to 86 in a wild 83 possession game at Indiana.
Everyone knows Iowa likes to run and that's fine as it goes, but Iowa played directly into the hands of the Hoosiers by employing a half-assed 1-2-2 pressure that turned Indiana possessions into transition possessions, which is the last thing in the world you would ever want to do. And then several times they just did not run back on defense, leading to a parade of Will Sheehey layups. I was shocked that the combustible Fran McCaffery didn't throttle various players. It was thoroughly gross.
This one probably doesn't end like the Dr. V putter story. Everyone on twitter recommends this profile of Caris LeVert, because LeVert just put this out there in a press conference:
“Caris, have there been any defining moments in your life?”
He looks around an empty room, considering the question and the door it leads to.
“Well, on Easter of sophomore year of high school, me and my brother found my dad dead on our living room floor.”
Wow. Read the whole thing, as they say.
Help wanted. Hockey picks up a commitment from NAHL defenseman Sam Piazza, who had an interesting path to his commitment. It's not often you see a guy who was committed to Boston College for 2012 end up in the NAHL two years later. In Piazza's case a severe concussion held him out for at least five months in what was expected to be his final season of junior. Hockey DB shows just 18 games played for Piazza from 2010-12; BC deferred him, reasonably, and he ended up playing 25 games for Chicago before dropping to the NAHL level.
“Michigan had called me about two weeks before the Top Prospects Tournament, so I knew they would be watching,” the defenseman said. “After Top Prospects, they invited me to tour the campus. I was not expecting much, but they wound up offering right there.”
…so there's more expectation for success here than there would be with your usual 20-year-old late NAHL skater pickup. And this is of course excellent because Michigan needs defensemen badly. Coach quote:
“Sam is a powerful skater with great on-ice vision and stick skills. In the years I have been coaching junior hockey, I have not seen anyone with his vision on defense. When you couple that vision with his high-end stick skills, that is a tremendous combination for a hockey player,” Baxter said.
Center Ice has more.
Etc.: Joba Chamberlain scar smiley face zoom in. Needs "SOON" in last panel.
I believe Jen Bielema has a term for this.
She calls it "terrible help defense."
[The rest of the MSU game in GIFs after THE JUMP.]
"After I hit that shot that day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the tunnel. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Washtenaw County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Michigan. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Michigan. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going." — Caris LeVert, probably.
2/23/2014 – Michigan 79 – Michigan State 70 – 19-7, 11-3 Big Ten
There's a point where you cannot deny the thing you dearly wish was not true. For Michigan football, that moment was a Raymon Taylor interception followed by a negative-yardage drive that sealed loss 5 of 6 at Spartan Stadium last fall. Or maybe it was before that. Maybe it was the collective dread experienced by the fanbase going in. Michigan played Michigan State, and everyone expected to lose.
When they did, and it was worse that anyone could have imagined, any lingering sense of superiority went up like a torch. Michigan ended up dead last in TFLs allowed. Michigan State went from an offense that couldn't get yard one against WMU—one that looked a lot like Michigan's, in fact—to a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl win.
Take your Rich Rodriguez excuses, your theories about how it's all about whether Michigan is down or up, and stuff them in the closet. There is only one way to look at Michigan State football: up. The countdown clock is justified.
Michigan now has an opportunity to flip that script in basketball. They've won six of eight in the series. This year they've upset the paradigm of the previous couple years where MSU hammers Michigan at the Breslin Center and Michigan squeaks by at Crisler. They reached near-parity on the boards and just forced MSU to take more threes than twos. Both games featured extended foul-fests after Michigan opened up double-digit leads.
Talk of "closing the gap" is over.
On the RCMB, people complained about how nice Crisler is. For every one guy making rapidly downvoted assertions about how Dawson would have made the difference there were three asserting that Beilein owns Izzo—an assertion a lot of Michigan fans would be skeptical of.
For now. No matter what damage the NBA does to Michigan's roster in the offseason, it's Michigan State who will have to scramble to keep up when Payne, Appling, and Harris exit. Two straight years of recruiting airballs worthy of an unchecked Aaron Craft will do that. Meanwhile, Michigan's picking off Indiana Mr. Basketballs and consensus top-50 players from Oregon. They've got the king of exceeding expectations in the tourney. If Michigan takes care of business down the stretch they will be outright Big Ten Champions, one inch away from a three-peat.
They of course have to avoid the mother of all trap games in Mackey and hold home court against Minnesota and Indiana; they have to perform in the tourney to put the full lockdown on Michigan State's lingering sense of superiority. The opportunity is there.
Meanwhile, Michigan State will keep telling anyone who looks like a reporter about the blister between their toes in just the wrong spot. Appling:
"Those shots that (Nik) Stauskas got off on me, he probably wouldn’t have been able to get off on Branden,” Appling said.
That's the state of the programs, and it comes from the top. One guy flings histrionics back and forth and watches his scrubs woof at Michigan in an attempt to show they're tough. After they lose, they complain about the universe-wide conspiracy against them.
The other guy saves it up for one withering blast and refuses to answer questions about Mitch McGary, because they've moved on. Michigan found themselves in a hole in both of these games and pulled themselves out, because toughness is something other than acting hard because of something someone else did. Michigan State is cordially invited to get off our court. No drama necessary.
FLOOR SLAP WATCHDOG. Once; beginning of first half; Stauskas layup. In fact may have enraged Stauskas to the point where he saw nothing but blood and contested three pointers that were going in anyway because eff you, that's why.
Insofar as the floor slap set the tone, it was for a 45-point second half.
"Is the United States wasting billions of dollars a year prosecuting marijuana cases?"
"Prohibition is a failed policy, and disproportionately affects the lower rungs of the social ladder. Ask the Tick for our platform specifics. Or maybe he's Batman, we can never tell." [Bryan Fuller]
Three. Michigan won this game because they turned it over three times. With the teams matching each other on offensive rebounds (7; Michigan had more opportunities and thus slightly lost the board war) and MSU suffering 13 turnovers, that translated into ten extra shots via which Michigan won the game despite allowing MSU to shoot 68%/38%.
In fact, you probably remember all three:
- Shot clock violation in the first half.
- Twenty minutes of game time later, Stauskas throws a pass to the roll guy out of bounds. Camera cuts to Beilein, who smiles.
- Michigan is breaking four on two up 12 when Harris intercepts a Stauskas pass, thus preventing the Crisler roof from coming off.
That's it. MSU's not their vintage selves in the TO forcing department (sixth in the league) but three is ridiculously low. Michigan was just on the other end of that in a loss to Wisconsin featuring two Badger turnovers.
"They just wanted it more." I've seen a couple of MSU reporters deploy this cliché in the aftermath. While that assertion is always some guy with a parrot head substituting repetition for thought, in this case it's even dumber than usual. Adriean Payne afterwards:
[UPDATE: Video was taken down. It was Payne very near to tears]
That ripped him to his core. Talking about "wanting it more" is always vaguely insulting; here it is explicitly so.
Seriously though. I don't want any Payne-oriented roughhousing in the comments about that. That is exactly how you want the guy to react both as a Michigan State fan and as a Michigan fan. Think about Junior Hemingway after the Sugar Bowl. That kind of reaction is 80% of why college sports is more compelling than Ask Me About My Dreams pro sports.
I mean, we taunt the floor-slapping but there's no pro team that would do something so dorky and tauntable because they're too cool for school. As always, the rule here is that spiciness wins and should be encouraged. Payne above is a level above spiciness, into deep haunt-your-ass hurt, and I respect that.
Y'all be outside. Payne posted up successfully one time in this game. And I'm not talking about making a shot; I'm talking about taking one. Payne had one post shot, a miss that drew a legit foul on Horford. Morgan and Horford spent every bit of energy they had denying, denying, denying, and with the occasional double forcing Payne to pick up his dribble they shut off the post defense implosion suffered against the Badgers.
Michigan started playing no-threes defense with two minutes to go; before that MSU's shot breakdown stood at 20 twos to 21 threes. Michigan took 35 twos, 19 threes. That plus the rebounding draws in both games are a massive departure from the Payne/Nix-era Spartans, who were guaranteed to annihilate Michigan on the boards and launch a ton of shots from the post.
That's not likely to change in the near future, as Payne exits without a suitably intimidating replacement and Michigan acquires the services of a bonafide post-sized stretch four in Mark Donnal. Dawson makes some difference but as noted before the first matchup, MSU was only a middling OREB team this year when the stats were mostly a Dawson+Payne MSU outfit.
If McGary comes back, Michigan could have an advantage in interior burliness, as impossible as that sounds.
Make 'em say unh. I thought about Tim Hardaway Jr's assertion in January early in this game:
'Don’t give him a week to prepare for you because you will lose'
Michigan finally had some time to rest, recuperate, and plan for the heavy perimeter ball-denial that had largely neutralized Nik Stauskas for the past month. They came out with a bunch of back-cuts and down-screens for their posts; Stauskas got a dunk off one and had Harris beat a few other times in the first five minutes; Harris started playing Stauskas far more cautiously and Michigan got into their regular Stauskas-led offense. Ball denial: denied.
On rewatch I was surprised by how the game felt even as MSU extended to an eleven point lead early. Michigan's offense was getting great shots that just weren't going down. MSU was relying on Denzel Valentine hitting jumpers, which worked by sheer bloody chance.
Make 'em say unh, part 2. Stauskas had 25 points on 16 shot equivalents and five assists. His makes from three were all ACK NO YES shots off the bounce with Appling in the vicinity, but he was also 6/8 from inside the arc and drew some free throws. Even some of the questionable long shots had more upset than it might have seemed at the time: on one launch off a pick and roll early in the second half Michigan grabbed an offensive rebound because it was two on one down low after Payne attempted to contest.
Michigan showed a way forward for their ridiculously efficient offense in this one after a tough period. Sustaining that through the end of the season will be encouraging when it comes to tourney time; they added the constraint plays to their base offense.
Dribbles are bad. Glenn Robinson started the game with an ugly long two that bricked, missed all three of his three-pointers just as badly, and was 3/7 from the line. This would be another ARGH GRIII game except for the fact that he was 6/8 on his other shots, largely because those shots came without dribbles.
There was one catch and insta-drive on Russell Byrd, who's probably still hitting himself while repeating "stupid, stupid, STUPID," as we speak. There may have been a power dribble under the bucket after one of Michigan's down screens got him position just outside of the charge circle. Those conclude Dribbles Leading To GRIII Offense.
And lo, it was as it should be. Walton and Stauskas and LeVert found him for dunks or quick layups, and if he'd just hit an open three or convert from the line as he usually does he's at a quiet 20, if such a thing exists.
The week off got Michigan back on that old time Beilein religion, what with the back cuts and guys popping up at the bucket uncontested. Robinson got back in his flush monster mode that he was so prolific in with Trey last year.
Hail Plastic Man. Michigan got through Gauntlet #2 2-2 thanks in no small part to Caris LeVert, who cracked 20 points in three of the four games. In the other he had 9 points, 5 boards, and two assists against zero TOs in the OSU win. He's not quite as efficient as Stauskas because he's not getting to the line or rim as much, but, like, wait a week and he'll be better. At his current rate of improvement he will escape containment and level Tokyo by 2016.
"Would you like to hear my one-man-show version of Les Miz?"
"Maybe later, Jon. Maybe later." [Fuller]
Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor. GRIII's defense was… not good. Schilling got two run-out baskets on which it seemed like maybe Stauskas was doing bad things; on both Schilling simply out-ran Robinson down the floor. On a couple of pick and roll possession he did things like stick to Russell Byrd instead of taking away the easy interior bucket. Walton had a couple of similar errors that irritated, but he is a freshman and Robinson is not.
He was a huge problem in transition and was fortunate that he wasn't trying to check a Dekker in this game. I'm still pretty frustrated with him overall.
"Makeup" call. The sequence where Jordan Morgan took a backcourt charge only to get a ludicrous blocking foul followed by a moving screen on Gavin Schilling looked like a clear makeup call, but on review the previous MSU possession had featured another blatant Schilling moving screen that got Harris an open look from three that he canned. That call was coming either way. The Morgan thing was just the usual vast incompetence. Izzo's reaction was everyone's, but really they just blew it.
The thing about rewatching these games in detail is that for every call you thought was bad live that replay suggests was legit or at least close there are 1.2 things you missed live that are just terrible.
But! Michigan State got away with an extended hand-check in the first few minutes by Valentine on Caris LeVert that I hollered about and then fretted about, fearing a reprise of the clutchy-grabby that prevailed at the Breslin Center. A couple minutes later, Costello got his second for bumping GRIII off a cut; Appling got a perimeter foul for grabbing Stauskas on a cut; Valentine got called for another extensive hand check sequence. Raftery marked each one by saying "nickel dimer"; hail nickel dimers.
I hope that was something other than calling the game the way the home team wants it.
1-3-1. Michigan deployed to excellent effect, not only in the second half but for a critical possession in the first. Appling ran over Jordan Morgan, picking up his second foul and heading to the bench for the next ten minutes. Izzo would moan about it afterwards in his press conference. Of course, if MSU didn't have to learn that they couldn't do various illegal basketball things that would have been one on Appling.
Damn you, Tim Miles! If you did not exist, John Beilein would be Big Ten coach of the year in a walk. Instead it is you in a walk.
For the love of pants. Would someone please run Tom Izzo over?
That's two points just begging to be taken.
"It must be really awkward when your dad says things about Aaron Craft."
"Naw, it's cool." [Fuller]
WHAT DOES JORDAN MORGAN HAVE TO DO. I just don't know, man. A detailed rewatch made it very clear that Payne got a couple of superstar calls on drives by LeVert that would have been fouls on any other post-type substance; meanwhile, Morgan gets his customary dual phantom blocking fouls. One led to a Kaminski three-point play, the other was made up on the other end, except not really.
Morgan is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Big Ten.
Abbreviated recap since my laptop ate the first one and we're about to record a podcast.
Nik Stauskas scored 21 second-half points [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Just when they needed it most, Michigan's stars aligned to lead them to a 79-70 win over Michigan State, wresting control of the Big Ten from the Spartans in the process.
Nik Stauskas scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, including 11 straight for the Wolverines. Regardless of the defender, Stauskas shot over Spartans for a series of daggers, including the three-pointer that gave Michigan the lead for good with 10:04 remaining. Despite taking a series of shots that few other players in the country could even attempt without getting pulled, Stauskas finished the game 9/13 from the field, with a 3/5 mark from beyond the arc.
Michigan went on a 21-3 second-half run in which Stauskas and Caris LeVert (23 points) scored every Wolverine point. In addition to hitting huge shots in the second half, LeVert keyed the Michigan offense in the first, scoring 14 points and nailing a buzzer-beating triple to end the first stanza; before the shot even hit its apex, LeVert was already skipping back to the locker room.
Glenn Robinson III (15 points, 6/12 FG), the only other Wolverine to score in double-digits, made the most noise with his final shot from the field, a spectacular reach-back alley-oop finish on a feed from Stauskas to put the Wolverines up 11 with 2:33 to play. Not only did the dunk put the game out of reach, it nearly brought Crisler crumbling to its foundation.
Aside from the offensive heroics from Michigan's stars, the biggest contribution came from John Beilein, whose call to go to a 1-3-1 defense in the second half played a huge role in Michigan's big run. Not only did the Spartans commit seven second-half turnovers, they had difficulty getting the ball to Adreian Payne (12 points) even though Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford both dealt with foul trouble.
There were other contributions, as well. Spike Albrecht spearheaded a 10-0 first-half run when Keith Appling had to sit with two fouls. Horford and Morgan limited MSU's offensive rebounding. Derrick Walton threaded a gorgeous pass to Robinson for one of his three assists. Zak Irvin threw down a breakaway dunk to highlight the run started by Albrecht after Spike and LeVert forced a Payne turnover.
In the end, the extra possessions generated by Michigan's incredible ball control—just three turnovers all game—and State's inability to do the same made the difference. The Wolverines now stand alone in first place with a favorable schedule moving forward. The Big Ten isn't secured just yet; this was, however, the biggest hurdle remaining in the race for a banner.
Caris LeVert's 25 points ultimately weren't enough [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Oh, it should've been, could've been worse than you would ever know.
Well, you told me about nowhere well it sounds like someplace I'd like to go.
You know it's not going well when the arena staff decides Modest Mouse's "Dashboard" is an appropriate song to play during halftime. With Michigan down 34-19 to Wisconsin at the break, however, the choice proved prescient.
If not for Caris LeVert's 17 second-half points, this game never would've been close, and even the final 13-point margin doesn't capture Wisconsin's dominance. The Badgers raced out to a 14-4 lead as Michigan's familiar defensive woes reared their ugly head, dominated the boards, and pushed the gap as wide as 18 points when U-M went 5:05 without hitting a field goal.
The deficit proved too much to overcome despite LeVert's best efforts. After the sophomore connected on a pair of three throws to cut Wisconsin's lead to three points with 6:16 remaining, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky answered with a post-up finish. Kaminsky proceeded to take over, hitting his next three shots—including an and-one and a stepback three—to give the Badgers an insurmountable 65-52 edge with just over two minutes left.
Michigan couldn't find an answer all afternoon for Kaminsky, who finished with 25 points (10/14 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt) and 11 rebounds (four offensive). He attacked Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford in the post, caught them flat-footed when he got the ball on the perimeter, and capped it off with that late triple.
While the Wolverines—namely LeVert—found their shot in the second half after going just 7/22 from the field in the first, Wisconsin's major edge in rebounding and turnovers proved to be the difference.
The Badgers coughed the ball up just twice; Michigan had seven turnovers in the first half alone. In a 59-possession slog, those mistakes proved quite costly, especially with Wisconsin generating lots of second-chance opportunities. The rebounding numbers would look much worse if Bo Ryan didn't play it conservative and start sending all five players back with a comfortable lead in the second half.
Wisconsin also prevented Michigan from getting the shots they wanted, especially in the first half. U-M only attempted 16 three-pointers, couldn't get to the rim, and had to settle for a series of long two-pointers. This showed up in the numbers. Nik Stauskas scored 11 points on 13 shot equivalents, going 0/2 from beyond the arc. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin were a combined 1/13 from the field, the only make a meaningless late three from Irvin.
While Glenn Robinson finished with ten points on ten shots and the Morgan/Horford pairing hit 3/4 FGs, the open inside looks that Michigan generated in the first matchup just weren't there. Just five of Michigan's 20 made field goals were assisted; none of those came in the first half.
Dropping a winnable game at home is a big blow to Michigan's chances of winning the Big Ten title outright, but it's far too early to count them out, especially if Michigan State trips up in one of their games (Nebraska, @Purdue) between now and Sunday's in-state battle at Crisler.
Make no mistake, though: this was a blown opportunity, and the state of the defense isn't pretty. After ceding 1.28 points per trip to Wisconsin, Michigan ranks 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, 11th in eFG% against, and 9th in both turnovers forced and defensive rebounding. If there isn't improvement between now and the postseason, there won't be much madness in March for Michigan.