...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
glenn robinson iii
Image via UMHoops
"Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought." — Theognis
Mitch McGary scored in double figures twice in his first 21 games for Michigan. Before last night, he had 18 assists... all season.
Nik Stauskas had made just two of his previous 16 three-point attempts when he took the floor against Florida.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Glenn Robinson III's season high in offensive rebounds was four.
Caris LeVert, expected to take a redshirt year, didn't play in Michigan's first six games. He'd scored a grand total of zero NCAA Tournament points heading into Saturday night.
Going into the last two games, Spike Albrecht had scored 54 points this season, 627 fewer than the man he backed up, Trey Burke.
Before the season began, I wrote about the lofty expectations for this team, and how much they had to rely on a talented but enigmatic group of incoming freshmen:
While the hype may be slightly overblown, anything less than the program's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994 would be considered a disappointment.
How the team reaches that point is still very much in question. Hardaway, plagued by a balky jumper, ceded the role of lead dog to Burke as the season wore on in 2011-12; if he regains his stroke, he could emerge as the top scoring option. The presence of Jordan Morgan, McGary, and a healthy Jon Horford up front gives Beilein new-found depth and versatility with his lineup—Beilein spoke at media day of an offseason spent studying NBA film to see how the pros utilize two post players, a luxury he hasn't been afforded during his time in Ann Arbor. For their part, McGary and Robinson must live up to sky-high recruiting hype if this team hopes to deliver on their potential.
The extent to which the Wolverines miss Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz depends largely on another freshman, Nik Stauskas, and his ability to connect from the outside. Yet another freshman, Spike Albrecht, will be called upon to replace "timeout" as Burke's backup. One more first-year guard, Caris LeVert, has earned rave reviews in practice and could provide scoring punch off the bench.
When the season began, Stauskas and Robinson managed to make an immediate impact. McGary, however, was simultaneously playing his way into shape and learning how to play his game without bashing into everyone and everything (including, very nearly, the Governor). Albrecht was largely a non-factor all the way through Big Ten season, called upon to keep the ship afloat—and no more than that—when the National Player of the Year needed a quick breather. LeVert appeared at least a year away from being a major contributor, showing flashes of sky-high potential but shooting under 30% on the season.
Heading into the tournament, Michigan was regarded, well, maybe not as a one-man show, but to keep it in-state let's say they were the White Stripes and Trey Burke was Jack White—take him away and you're left with a bunch of unmelodious noise that often strays off-beat. When Burke scored six points on 2/12 shooting in the opening game against South Dakota State, it was a clear case of fortunate timing, the only remaining game in which he could perform below his standard and see the Wolverines advance. That opinion did not change when Burke posted 18 and 7 against the vaunted VCU press, and was cemented during the final minutes of the Kansas game—despite his scoreless first half, and McGary's inspired play keeping the Wolverines within striking distance.
Then came the Florida game. McGary continued his transformation into Evolutionary Tim Duncan, posting 11 points, nine rebounds, and five(!) steals in just 21 minutes. Robinson, who'd struggled all season defensively, held Patric Young to eight points and a lone offensive board. Albrecht scored seven off the bench, broke a press with an absurd baseball pass to Jon Horford, and his three steals included this playground special. And Stauskas, of course, bombed the Gators out of the building with a perfect six-for-six performance from beyond the arc. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 8-for-29. The Wolverines won by 20.
Last night, it was McGary—not Burke—facilitating Michigan's most effective offensive possessions, dishing out six assists (including a no-looker to GRIII) and devastating Syracuse's 2-3 zone from the high post. For the second time in the tournament, Robinson recorded five offensive rebounds. Albrecht only played four minutes, but hit two huge threes—including a Burke-esque 30-footer—and helped handle the rock late when Syracuse turned up the pressure. With a migraine-limited Stauskas unable to score, LeVert stepped onto the big stage and immediately connected on a pair of game-changing triples—he played his usual solid defense and recorded four rebounds for good measure. Burke scored seven points, just one more than Albrecht*. Hardaway was 4/16 from the field. Despite a late Syracuse push, Michigan won with relative comfort.
Above all else, this has been the revelation of the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to understate the importance of Trey Burke, and how his masterpiece of a season got Michigan here. The contributions of Hardaway, Jon Horford, and the Jordan Morgan Redemption Tour have been invaluable all year, including the postseason. The emergence of the Fresh Five—all of them—however, is the biggest reason the Wolverines are playing for a national title on Monday.
John Beilein deserves much of the credit here, of course—not just for an exquisite eye for recruiting talent (usually before anyone else), but for masterfully managing their roles, minutes, and psyche. Before the tournament, there was no doubt that Michigan could pull themselves together and contend for a title if they played up to their potential. At this point, though, they're not just in position for this year—they're set up to reach the same heights on a regular basis. This is from the same article I wrote before the season:
Despite the inexperience and uncertainty, this team represents Beilein's surest bet to take this program to the next level, and could very well be his best shot for a long time. That may sound rash, but the Wolverines have been close to the leap before, only to fall back: the Amaker tenure crumbled despite early promise, the 2009-10 squad faltered despite making the tournament with the same nucleus the year before, and even last year's team tripped up against 13-seed Ohio in the Big Dance. Trey Burke probably isn't walking through that door next year. There's no guarantee Tim Hardaway Jr. will, either. For that matter, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have one-and-done potential if all goes well (too well, perhaps).
On Monday, we'll watch this team play together for the last time. We know this. They know this. Despite a rotation lacking a single senior, a large part of the team's core won't be back next year, and for damn good reason.
That no longer concerns me. John Beilein will find a way, replacing his bright youth with brighter youth, just as he has during his entire Michigan tenure.
*Though, for anyone who thinks Burke had an awful game, please refer to Michael Carter-Williams' final stat line.
The story of this game in three gifs:
Much, much more after the jump. Best of luck voting for just one favorite.
Mailbag: Big Man Rotation, Dealing With Withey, NBA Departure Odds, Big Puppy's Breed, Unhappy Visitors
I received a recruiting mailbag question via email and, in the process of requesting more questions on Twitter, this mostly turned into a basketball mailbag. So, here's a hoops mailbag with a couple of bonus football recruiting questions, I guess.
Starter of the future, also starter of the present (Photo: Bryan Fuller)
Do you think that Morgan getting rest against VCU could help him have a serviceable/good game against Kansas? — @carlseikoll
This is the first of two questions about the big men, so let's focus on Jordan Morgan's situation for now. He got a lot of rest against VCU—the whole game, in fact—on the heels of playing just one minute against South Dakota State and 18 combined minutes in the Big Ten Tournament.
It'd be nice to pin the blame for Morgan's reduced role on his midseason ankle injury, but I think we're beyond that point—he played over 22 minutes in each of the four games leading up to the BTT. It's entirely possible that coming back from the injury too soon sapped his confidence, especially in his ability to get lift off the floor and go up strong when finishing with the basketball. Or a bad stretch of games and subsequent benching may just be getting in his head.
Whatever the reason, it seems unlikely that John Beilein would keep Morgan nailed to the bench in the VCU blowout—not giving him the chance to regain some confidence in a low-risk situation—only to have a big role in store for him against one of the nation's best teams (and best big men). Which leads to the next question...
What is the hierarchy of McGary, Horford, Morgan, and what they can do to stop Withey? — @stephenjnesbitt
Mitch McGary is the starter at this point, a point I doubt anyone will dispute. He's emerged as both the team's most consistent and productive center, and as long as he stays out of foul trouble he should play the majority of the team's minutes from here on out.
Given the above, Jon Horford is the next man on the floor, and Morgan should be used either sparingly or only in case of emergency. While this rotation worked out great in the first two tournament games, however, there's reason to worry heading into the Kansas game.
The reason, of course, is Jeff Withey—a real, functional, productive big man, something Michigan didn't really see in the first two NCAA games. I don't think there's a huge gap between Michigan's three big men offensively, aside from McGary's stellar offensive rebounding; all three aren't players Beilein is going to post up often, especially against one of the country's best shot blockers. Against Kansas, whoever's playing center won't do much more than set picks and fight for putback opportunities.
The difference will come at the defensive end. Morgan has certainly struggled in the last couple weeks, to the point that I don't think Michigan can confidently throw him into the fray on Friday; that's a problem, because he's still by far their best on-ball post defender, and Withey is a skilled post player with a high usage. McGary, meanwhile, has done everything well recently except defend on the ball—overlooked in his performance against VCU was the Rams' lone big man, Juvonte Reddic, scoring 16 points on 7/11 shooting in 24 minutes, with only one of those baskets coming off an offensive rebound. McGary is also foul-prone, though not as much as Horford, who commits a sky-high 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes.
I still don't think Morgan will play much, if at all. If he does, it will be because Withey is terrorizing the defense in the post. The best thing Michigan can do against Withey on Friday is to try to lure him away from the basket as a shot-blocker—expect a lot of pick-and-roll action—and look to deny him post touches defensively. This is one of the worst games for the Wolverines to be without a full-strength (mentally and physically) Jordan Morgan, but that's the way the ball bounces.
[Hit THE JUMP for the odds of Michigan's underclassmen jumping to the NBA, searching for Big Puppy's breed, and a couple of recruiting questions.]
Appreciate + Reciprocate. The student organization that puts on the Appreciate + Reciprocate dinner has snagged Desmond Howard this year. Nice.
They're raising money for the LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund, which supports students facing unexpected financial crises at home.
Get yer tickets. Details:
Date: Friday, April 12, 2012
Location: Great Lakes Room, Palmer Commons
Speakers: Desmond Howard and others to be announced!
Time: Appetizers at 6:30, dinner served at 7:15, event conclusion at 9:30
Tickets (partially tax-deductible): $100 for individuals, $50 for recent graduates, $200 to sit with a speaker
Silent auction offerings will include items signed by Coach Hoke and Desmond Howard, a tour of the new Player Development Center with Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander, a skating lesson with US Olympian Emily Samuelson, and more.
Women play tonight. The women's basketball team has made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in a while; they take on one-seed Stanford at 9:50 tonight on ESPN2. They're obviously the underdog; Swish Appeal has keys to the upset. It would be Michigan's first ever Sweet 16 on the women's side.
Yes, this is the same time as USA-Mexico. I get complaints whenever I mention soccer, so you guys who complain about soccer should watch the basketball.
Projected spring practice content levels drop 85%. What am I supposed to write about now that Brennen Beyer has been moved back to SAM? I can't write about someone moving to SAM… or can I?
Brennen Beyer could move to SAM.
This isn't working at all. Dammit. Wait a minute…
Mattison said the move is not permanent, and that Beyer likely will shuffle back to the line once Ryan returns.
BRENNEN BEYER COULD MOVE TO WDE BOOM
I thought you guys were short newshole. How many words do you think an article about John Beilein's relationship with his former equipment manager at LeMoyne would be? Where in the country would this article originate? When would this article be published?
Bafflingly, the answers to these questions are "one butt ton," "Syracuse, New York," and "not 1980; in fact, right now." What a country.
Merph. I have a powerful desire to stick my fingers in my ears and go LA LA LA LA whenever the topic of the NBA draft comes up and understand entirely if you do this while reading this section. Let's not dwell on the pointlessness of this operation.
Anyway, Trey Burke is destined for the top ten and everyone expects him to be gone. The news on Glenn Robinson III is the thing that keeps varying. He's gone from off the radar to hyped to less hyped and now the hype is returning:
"Robinson may have helped his draft stock more than anyone on our Big Board this week," Ford wrote. "He's still raw offensively and depends on (Trey) Burke to set him up, but he has all the physical tools of a NBA small forward and is showing increased confidence at the right time.
"Someone will roll the dice on him in the 10-to-20 range if he decides to declare."
I don't know man. I'd think NBA teams would want to see him develop into a guy who can create his own offense and defend NBA threes. Robinson is noncommital about returning.
Ford also talks up McGary as a potential second-round pick, which doesn't seem like much of a threat.
Hockey departure update. Red:
Berenson on Trouba: "We'll have to wait and see how that works out with Winnipeg. He's done as much as he can do for a freshman."
Berenson says he doesn't expect anybody else besides Merrill or Trouba to consider leaving, but that he's been surprised before.
That qualifies as good news, I think. Hopefully at least one of the two defensmen won't want to leave Michigan after that season.
Inside South Dakota State. Grantland was embedded with the Jackrabbits and their offensive desire to get Michigan instead of Michigan State:
Moments later, Michigan State is announced as the third seed, and a chorus of gasps echoes through the room. "Oh no," I hear a player say. "Oh no oh no oh no." Like the Baylor team that eliminated SDSU last year, the Spartans' strength is their frontcourt, and the Jackrabbits don't match up well against big, athletic front lines. Yet they are spared from the bruising that MSU's Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix would lay on them, and instead Valparaiso will face the Spartans.
When Gumbel reaches the South bracket, he announces that the 4-seed is Michigan. "I'll play Michigan," says Jordan Dykstra, a sweet-shooting big man and the Jacks' second-leading scorer. "Let's play Michigan." Gumbel announces the 13-seed. It's South Dakota State.
They'll play Michigan.
This would be better if it was VCU. The whole thing is worth a read in any case.
Swing, pendulum, swing. Michigan's VCU blowout has earned them a ton of cred with the talking heads that were generally dismissive just one week ago. All four of CBS's basketball writers go with Michigan in the KU-M matchup. Andy Staples picks Michigan to win the regional. Myron Medcalf of ESPN picks Michigan just behind Louisville in a re-seed of the teams. Goodman say Michigan was the most impressive team of the opening weekend, and Kenpom's computer says Michigan has a… uh. Oh. A 3.2 percent chance to win the whole thing. That's up from 1.9 percent, though. Sweet.
The problem there is being in the same region as a Florida team taking on FGCU in the other matchup, so if you think the computers are vastly overrating the Gators you can up your optimism accordingly.
Anyway, I'm more on the Kenpom side of things. Whereas before the tournament people were extrapolating that the OHIO upset would always happen forever now they're assuming the VCU dismantling will always happen forever. As a guy who thought Michigan had a great draw the first weekend I'm looking at the Kansas game as a coinflip at best.
I guess. It's looking like Northwestern will hire Duke assistant Chris Collins. He's from the Chicago area and has experience in the kind of circles that might send a kid to Northwestern but it seems like hiring an assistant when you have 200-some mid-major coaches to choose from is risky.
DANTONIO UPDATE: STILL DANTONIO. Someone probably asked him if he'd watched the VCU game.
Dantonio abruptly ends scheduled media interview after five minutes, 30 seconds. Questions were harmless. Bizarre.
Etc.: Scouting Kansas. Pat Forde complains about coaches' complaints when coaches get fired. I'm with him, though I do like seeing Tom Izzo collapse into the fetal position when asked about it. Michigan needs Russell Bellomy to be viable if they're going to redshirt Morris.
Denard signed the Shredder's photoshops. For the first time since 1979, no Michigan team will play in the NCAA hockey tourney. The Daily on Hunwick's rise and the end of the streak. Will Leitch is more understanding of referees than I am.
Mitch McGary was unquestionably the star of Michigan's tournament weekend. He will appear several times in later on in this post. But my gawd, Spike Albrecht, you just made the pass of the year on a team with Trey Burke. Take a bow.
Four other reasons this gif wins the weekend:
- You can see VCU's defender rip open Glenn Robinson III's jersey as he runs down the court. This did not appear to affect GRIII very much.
- The bench goes nuts... before GRIII even dunks.
- Both Tim Hardaway Jr. (bottom left corner) and Trey Burke (in front of the bench) hop in identical fashion at the exact same time, like it's a Pavlovian response to Robinson's dunk.
- Spike rounds off his run at the three-point line. Walk it out like crutches, Spike.
All these things are great, and all pale in comparison to the pass itself. Thread, meet needle.
[Hit THE JUMP to see (and vote for) the best gifs from Michigan's opening weekend, also known as Mitchapalooza.]