"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Before I post a partial transcript of John Beilein's press conference, a few player interviews, and photo galleries from both Eric and Bryan, here are my main takeaways from yesterday's basketball media day:
- First and foremost, John Beilein is serious about playing two bigs and having a lot of lineup versatility—this sentiment echoed from Beilein himself down through the players, almost all of whom discussed playing multiple roles in some capacity. Everything from Walton/Spike/Stauskas/GRIII/McGary to LeVert/Stauskas/GRIII/McGary/Morgan is on the table; this team can play small or go very, very big—both Stauskas and LeVert are capable of running the point.
- Mitch McGary's health is a major question mark. Beilein isn't sure if he'll be ready for the first exhibition game—it certainly didn't seem like it—and would only say he's "day-to-day" when asked about a timetable. When asked about the nature of the injury, McGary responded that it wasn't an injury, but a "lower back condition" that the team is being cautious about right now. That's obviously a point of concern, even though McGary maintained that he felt good about where he's at right now and the upcoming season. He's definitely missing critical practice time—Beilein noted that he hasn't had a chance to practice his perimeter defense, a crucial area for improvement if McGary is going to be able to play the four.
- The physical development of the sophomores has been rather remarkable. Glenn Robinson III's improved vertical is getting a lot of attention—yes, he touched 12'3", maxing out Michigan's device for measuring vertical leaps—and similar gains have been made by Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. All three look noticeably more muscular; though LeVert is still very much on the skinny side, he's no longer rail-thin, and Stauskas appears capable of playing the three if need be. GRIII, meanwhile, looks the part of an NBA player.
- When asked about their new break-the-huddle mantra this year, Beilein responded that it's simply "champions"—whether that applies to the Puerto Rico Invitational, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Big Ten regular- and post-season crowns, or even loftier goals. Last year's team took the expectations to an entirely new level; it's clear this team is comfortable with that.
For direct quotes from Beilein, player interviews with Jon Horford, Jordan Morgan, and Derrick Walton, and photo galleries from media day, hit the jump.
Michigan opens the season on—[checks
watch smartphone]—oh lord, Tuesday, so it's time to get to this previewin' business. Of course, we already have an entire book dedicated to this, and you should probably check that out, as it goes into far more detail than I'm capable of doing here.
I'm dividing up the team like we did in the book for the positional previews: bigs, wings, and point guards. For the purposes of this preview, I'm considering Glenn Robinson III a wing, though he'll get plenty of run as the nominal power forward when Michigan goes to a smaller, more Beilein-friendly lineup. On that note, let's start with the men up front.
Measurables: 6'10", 255
Base Stats: 19.7 minutes, 7.5 points, 59.8 FG%, 44.2 FT%, 6.3 rebounds
Key Advanced Metrics: 16.0 OR% (10th nationally), 22.4 DR% (86th), 3.9 Blk%, 2.4 Stl%
After Jordan Morgan's ankle injury near the end of the 2012-13 regular season, Mitch McGary ascended from highly-touted freshman energy guy to do-everything future All-American with a remarkable run in the NCAA tournament. McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Big Dance, dished out six assists (previous career high: two) to break the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone in the national semifinal, recorded eight steals in two games against Kansas and Florida, and generally performed like a guy once considered a top-two prospect in his class.
The tournament performance vaulted McGary onto just about every preseason All-American list, often as the first-team center. That's a lot of hype generated largely by a six-game stretch, though McGary—who started his freshman year slow after an injury hampered his conditioning—displayed flashes of greatness from the get-go, pulling down rebounds and forcing turnovers at a very high rate all season.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the big man breakdown, with some bonus '90s rap nostalgia.]
I haven't had the chance to go through the full tape yet, but here are a few of the more memorable moments (from a Michigan standpoint) from Monday's title game. Above, obviously, is Spike Albrecht Bonanza. Hit the jump for a couple of high-flying Wolverines and some great shots from the CBS intro.
We're past the point of coherent thought. Let's watch some pictures move instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for the best gifs from the Syracuse game, including a complete Oliver Stone-style breakdown of Otto The Orange's tragic demise.]
When you're at a game and then spend an hour and a half walking around aimlessly afterwards because the closest bar to the Georgia Dome is in Alabama and exiting that place is like finding your way through an MC Escher painting, and then you laugh incessantly until they tell you there is no more beer to be had and you go to bed at like 4 AM and spend the next day writing stuff and watching Otto the Orange die over and over again, you can miss some developments in the narrative of said game.
Does that paragraph count as a one-sentence paragraph? I mean technically, sure. But come on. This paragraph is important philosophically because we are talking about block/charge calls. Some things are technically blocks, but come on.
Anyway. After that I caught up on what the rest of the world was saying. I was surprised to find out the play above generated a ton of muttering while I was wandering around Atlanta wondering if the Georgia Dome was in fact part of the city or connected to it by a wormhole I could no longer access. You gotta talk about something, I guess. A block/charge call is as good as anything because nobody in the world knows what a block or charge is anymore, even the refs hopping on one leg 40 times before pointing. Personally, the brain went CHARGE and wasn't even worried about which way the call would go. The ref making the call did not bother with the Cirque De Soleil routine. His body language read "bro you just charged" so matter-of-factly that I fell in love with whoever that guy was and wished we had ejected Ed Hightower into a hyperbolic orbit around the sun.
My favorite view is in fact the Otto-slaying GIF, which is in real time and repeats incessantly. At that speed you can only see Triche's "chest"—in this case a euphemism—plow head on into Morgan's. Even complaints about "sliding under" seem ridiculous since Triche is still on the way up when contact is made.
THE FINGER OF DEATH
But I've seen enough basketball to know that completely random things are decided to be charges and other completely random things are decided to be blocks.
I don't know man. I feel that you don't have much of a complaint when you plow a guy in the dead center of his chest. Feet trembling or not, someone square to you outside the circle is going to get that call almost every time. He got there first, and it's not like he was invisible before you jumped. The only situations in which the jumping complaint seems legit to me are those like that dubious charge McGary took against VCU, where the defender eats contact just as the shooter lands. Any "charge" where they also award the basket should be a block.
Suggestions for making this less of an unsolvable debate:
- Charges can only be committed by a shooter who still has the ball. If it's gone, any contact he receives before landing is a block. This may not be entirely fair but it is relatively easy. (Those rare charges that come after a guy has passed the ball still have to be called, I think.)
- The main point of determination is how the contact occurs. Forget the feet. Is the defender getting nailed directly in the chest? If yes, charge. If it's glancing, block.
- Whether the defender is moving should only be relevant if it changes the impact from head on to glancing. At the moment of contact, is the defender square and getting plowed in the chest? If yes, charge, if no, no charge. Determining motionlessness is basically impossible. If the combined vector of motion is the offensive player's plus or minus 10%, it's a charge.
- Outside the circle, obviously.
Right now the charge is some combination of technicality and feel that results in all charge/block calls being debatable because lawyers. It would be nice to move to a world where you could show someone this picture:
has ball, "chest" going into chest of squared up, vertical defender, no debate
And they would have to be like "right, well I'm obviously a twit, carry on." We don't live in that world. We live in one where every charge call gets put under a microscope that anyone can see however they'd like to.
In any case, live that was CHARGE to everyone and it was only once each frame got the Zapruder treatment that anyone other than 'Cuse fans thought otherwise. Therefore Jordan Morgan is cool. The end.
Jordan Morgan done killed a
man large citrus fruit.
[HT: MGoUser shorts]