Forget the five-star freshman for a moment. You know, the one that scored 21 points on nine shots. Forget the star point guard; yeah, the one with 22 points and nine assists. Forget, even, about the shooting guard, the NBA progeny that turned in another efficient all-around effort.
Jordan Morgan—yes, that Jordan Morgan—stole a pass, dribbled the length of the court, and soared for a one-handed slam. That same Jordan Morgan also split two defenders with a quick hop-step and deftly finished with a layup. He also threw an alley-oop and even crossed a guy over. The coaches had raved in the offseason about Morgan losing weight and gaining some athleticism, but they said nothing about him turning into young Charles Barkley.
That's hyperbole, of course. But man, after that game, it's tough not to be hyperbolic. A sluggish start quickly gave way to a Michigan highlight-fest, with Morgan and Glenn Robinson III and Trey Burke competing for top gif-able honors until Jon Horford came in and blew them away with a savage throwdown in traffic. It's safe to say Michigan hasn't had a team this athletic since the Fab Five days.
What's really scary, though, is that they're skilled to boot. Robinson connected on his first eight shots, including three from distance. Burke overcame some sloppy play and hit four-of-seven threes of his own while getting into the lane at will, finishing when there was space and finding the open man when the defense collapsed. Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to show off his all-around improvement, pulling down seven defensive boards in addition to scoring ten on just five shots. Nik Stauskas missed his first three-pointer, then hit his next three, finishing with ten points.
This team isn't perfect, of course. The defense left too many shooters open, especially in the early going, missing a few switches and getting beat off the dribble—Stauskas and Mitch McGary both had moments of confusion that led to buckets. The Wolverines turned the ball over on 19% of their possessions, with Burke and Robinson each coughing up the pill three times and Stauskas looking shaky putting the ball on the floor. McGary biffed an open layup off a beautiful feed from Burke and generally appears to need some refining on both ends of the floor. And yes, they played IUPUI, which isn't exactly Duke.
When watching a Michigan team that now practices alley-oops, though, and Jordan Morgan going coast-to-coast, it's tough not to get very excited for this season. The Wolverines played a Division-I team with a pulse, had an ugly first ten minutes, and absolutely crushed them in the way that precociously-talented, well-coached teams are wont to do. That's not what Michigan basketball has been, but it sure feels like that's what it's going to be.
A smile crept across John Beilein's face as he pantomimed Trey Burke turning and flipping the ball underhand with "just the right spin" to Tim Hardaway Jr., who buried one of his five three-pointers (that part, unfortunately, not pantomimed by Beilein).
Michigan hit the century mark for the first time since 2007 in a 100-62 beatdown of Slippery Rock in the season opener, and it was Beilein's stars who led the way. Hardaway played one of his most complete games as a Wolverine, scoring 25 points on 8-10 shooting (5-5 from three) and adding ten rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Burke overcame a shaky first half to pour in 21 points of his own (9-17 FGs) and dish out eight assists; after turning the ball over four times in the first half, he had just one in the second stanza and finished on a 6-7 shooting tear.
Burke wasn't the only Wolverine to struggle out of the gate, as Michigan trailed 15-14 just over six minutes into the game before back-to-back threes by Burke and Hardaway—naturally—began to break the game open. They wouldn't completely pull away until a 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half, which featured eight points from Hardaway, including an emphatic one-handed dunk off a feed from Glenn Robinson III and back-to-back threes sandwiched around a missed free throw.
While the freshmen weren't filling the tin like they did in exhibition play—combining for 28 points, 11 of those coming in the game's final four minutes—they found ways to contribute. Robinson scored ten points on 5-7 shooting and picked up his rebounding efforts, pulling in eight total (six defensive) in 32 minutes. Mitch McGary pulled down nine rebounds—five offensive, though three came on one possession when he couldn't lay the ball in—in just 12 minutes while chipping in nine points; he also had three fouls, the big reason why he didn't play more. Nik Stauskas only attempted two field goals, hitting one, but got to the line to shoot a pair twice with some aggressive drives to the basket. Spike Albrecht was just 1-5 from the field, but he handed out two assists and didn't turn the ball over.
After missing the exhibition season with a knee injury, Jon Horford played better than the stats would indicate in eight key minutes after McGary and Jordan Morgan both found themselves in early foul trouble. On his first possession of the game, he rebounded a Morgan miss, hit the putback, and drew a foul, then drew a charge on the very next play. Later in the first half, he deftly slipped a pass to a cutting Robinson for an easy layup. While Horford was still limited—not by injury, but by his gas tank after missing the last two weeks—he appeared to have all of his pre-injury athleticism.
The depth is there for this team in a way that it hasn't been under John Beilein. Last year, there was no Horford to step in for Morgan, and certainly no McGary to add a second big man to the lineup. When Burke was off, like he was in the first half, there wasn't an Albrecht there to give him a chance to sit down and regroup, like he did nine minutes into tonight's game. And to have Robinson as a third scoring option, well, let's just call that an upgrade, and that's no slight to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass.
But tonight, the story was Hardaway and Burke. The two had a synergy tonight, Burke knowing just where to give it to Hardaway, Hardaway knowing just where and when to attack, that could take this team from good to great. And yes, at least tonight, there was even just the right spin on the ball.
Saginaw Valley exhibition things. Highlights:
The UMHoops recap notes that it was an immensely slow 54 possession game, making Michigan's PPP pretty freaking good: 1.4.
All due caveats apply to the below bullets.
- Trey Burke is good at basketball.
- Tim Hardaway Jr continued what looks like a concerted effort to become a more complete player with another half-dozen assists. He's being a lot more judicious with his shots—just five in 26 minutes. If that carries over to the regular season his ORtg will rise considerably and Michigan's offensive efficiency will rise with it. I did catch one of those contested long twos that give me twitches.
- Glenn Robinson was 3 of 5 from three with the two misses coming off the inside of the rim IIRC. If he can maintain a replacement three-point shooting percentage (33% or so) that clears up any concerns about where Michigan is going to get its rain of threes from. In this game over half of Michigan's shots were from deep and M hit at a 41% clip.
- Nick Stauskas is now 6 of 11 from three after the two exhibition games and he had an impressive take to the basket. Defense needs work etc.
- Mitch McGary is going to be one of those little things guys from day one: rebounds, hard hedges on screens, moving around on offense to open things up for other guys. He seems selfless out there. Doesn't care he's not starting, doesn't demand the ball, just goes out there and tries to win. Also sometimes he steals the ball and throws it down impressively. When he's healthy == Lebron, except bouncy.
- The Caris LeVert redshirt debate seems like it will end with a redshirt. With Albrecht and Stauskas coming off the bench plus compressed minutes at the three with Robinson sliding down there from time to time, LeVert would probably end up getting scant minutes anyway, and he hasn't demanded playing time with his exhibition minutes.
I'm excited about the passing—Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary have all made at least one nice assist in the two exhibitions to go with the Albrecht/Burke/Hardaway shot generation axis. They've got a versatile, large, skilled lineup. They will be good at basketball.
Horford to return. He should get some minutes Friday against Slippery Rock:
"I think he's full-go," Beilein said after Michigan's 76-48 exhibition win over Saginaw Valley State. "Our expectation is that he'll be in the lineup at some point -- he'll probably be rusty -- but at some point Friday."
I was going to say something negative about scheduling what's effectively another exhibition that somehow counts but then I remembered that if you're going to play a team that can't beat you it's better if they're not D-I because it won't drag down your RPI.
Not on board. Not to skip over what promises to be a thrilling and rewarding season, but Michigan's going to have an interesting time when it comes to the early draft entry window. Trey Burke, presumed gone, is still not any taller and checks in 30th on Jeff Goodman's inaugural 2013 Big Board:
Burke isn't physically imposing, but he can shoot and also excels in a ball-screen offense.
Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Hardaway, and Dennis Norfleet do not appear, nor do any of them appear on the most recent edition of NBAdraft.net's 2013 mock. GRIII is currently a lottery pick in 2014, though, so he is obviously a threat to move that timetable up. Hardaway is currently projected to be a second-rounder after a full four years. Chad Ford, meanwhile, has Burke 54th(!), McGary 65th, Hardaway 73rd, and Robinson 91st. I'm guessing that changes radically around midseason.
Michigan actually needs an early departure to fit their three-man 2013 class in. More than that and they could add another guy, but I'm guessing they'd just roll with what they have.
You may see this again. Via The MZone]:
Looks shopped to me—Ryan's arms are larger than that.
This again, with feeling. Many, many twitter wags piped up that Gardner's performance against Minnesota would start up the Gardner redshirt debate/fretting/confusion again, and lo twitter wags collect your prize:
"I've always been told the process was after the eligibility," Hoke said. "But I don't know if that is completely correct."
Turns out what Hoke had been told is not entirely accurate.
Michigan could have applied for the waiver at any point after Gardner's freshman season and there is no statute of limitations on when the school can file for the waiver.
"Institutions do not have to wait until after a student-athlete's true senior year, but rather, may submit a request as early as the end of the season in which the injury or illness occurs," Big Ten associate director of compliance Kerry Kenny said in an email on Monday. "Although we establish deadlines as to when an institution can submit a waiver request for the purposes of the bi-weekly review schedule, we leave the decision about when during a student-athlete's career to submit a medical hardship waiver up to institutional discretion."
Hoke said Monday that the school has not yet applied for Gardner's waiver.
Apparently it's the conference, not the NCAA, that decides these things. I'd assume Michigan applies for it after this season so they can plan for having him or not in 2014.
OL changes? They have been hinted at:
"Yeah, I am," he said. "I think we had some protection breakdowns that we can't have last week -- that we haven't had, to some degree. I think us moving the line of scrimmage (is an issue).
"We got to do a better job at the point of attack."
Hoke said he has considered making personnel changes to the line, including inserting Joey Burzynski or Jack Miller, but has held off because the current group also has had nice moments.
I know that the coaches have been high on Miller and his nasty disposition for a while now. He's listed at 288; while that's somewhat light it's not like he's 270. He's also been a center for over a year now, which is more than either Barnum or Mealer can say. I'd guess they give him a drive or two the next couple weeks to see if that helps things.
Hatch back on the court. Conditionally, anyway:
Austin Hatch has been conditionally released by his medical team to begin practicing with the Canterbury High School basketball program. The first official practice is today, however, Austin is limited to the types of drills he can participate in at this time. Although everyone is encouraged by the progress he continues to make, Austin and his family ask that you do not approach him for interviews at this time.
He has reclassified to 2014 already. The most likely outcome is that Michigan takes him and puts him on a medical scholarship, but he's got a couple years yet to recover fully.
Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God progressing towards sated. Michigan had a rough weekend in Marquette, barely squeaking out a tie in game one and losing 4-3 in game two with Jacob Trouba sitting out for what sounds like a devastating hit on Wildcat Reed Seckel. Michigan had to ice Jeff Rohrkemper on D.
Michigan should be getting towards healthy this weekend in a home and home against State. Trouba won't see his suspension extended and Brennan Serville may return after missing the NMU series with a concussion. Emphasis on "may":
Sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville, who suffered what Berenson called a “facial concussion” against Miami (Ohio), should be back for this weekend’s series against Michigan State, according to Berenson.
Berenson said before the defense can live up to its high preseason expectations, there need to be enough healthy bodies.
“We’ve got to get everybody healthy, number one,” Berenson said. “And then start jelling like we thought we would. Hopefully Serville’s back.”
No word yet on John Merrill's potential return.
Lewan quote of the week. It's a goodun:
"I've never focused on scores my whole life," Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said. "In high school we played in a state championship game, we were getting killed and I had no idea. It was the fourth quarter and I was like 'guys, we got this, we got this.'
"Then I look up and it's 38-0, and I'm like 'alright, I guess we don't got this.' I've never been one to watch scores."
Etc.: Everything you ever wanted to know about CHL/NCAA eligibility issues from the Bylaw Blog. A post-jail Greg Skrepenak profiled by LSA Magazine. UMHoops requests your support.
I've got to get on a plane shortly so shortly the links will go.
Brief thoughts on the first exhibition:
- Albrecht is an extremely wise pickup; if he can hit threes and break the press and get M's offense in motion he'll be at least a solid backup for four years. Michigan needed some stability at that PG spot and he looks like he'll provide it.
- Stauskas is going to be a lights out three point shooter and he has enough other game to contribute to the rest of the offense; D needs work.
- McGary's FTs will probably be fine, his stroke looks good. Hopefully that leg injury clears up and he gets that extra 10% athleticism that made him a huge prospect after his AAU season.
- GRIII is Branden Dawson-ish with more shooting and less rebounding but probably not much less rebounding.
- Hardaway played a much more complete game than we're used to seeing. Thumbs up.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone says "must resist making little Brown Jugs" joke at picture of hot woman in brown bikini, predicts 28-10.
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care exists, predicts on non-football factors, does so 38-13.
- Maize and Go Blue goes with 37-10.
- Maize and Blue Nation says 27-2, which I should have thought of.
- The Daily Gopher can't even find a jug picture where it's being held by a Minnesota player—RVB is the man—and goes with 31-13.
- I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team has a mathematical model that says 33-23 and a non-gambler guy who picks Michigan to cover: "I would have loved to start this post recalling the last time the Gophers beat Michigan in Minnesota, but I don't remember it at all. This is mostly because it was five years before my birth."
Kovacs is a truthful dude. Post-Nebraska:
"A lot of it is the games we played," Kovacs said. "Air Force didn't necessarily throw the ball on us a lot, and Alabama didn't have to.
"There's some open receivers last game that (quarterback Taylor) Martinez didn't see. There were a couple blitzes we ran, and we had a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. Can't let that happen. We've been fortunate they haven't hit 'em yet."
So that means the secondary is playing at a high level, but maybe not its highest level?
"I don't know," Kovacs said. "I think we're playing all right. I think last game we didn't play well enough at all, specifically the defensive backs."
- Well, yeah. Gibbons:
"I really don't groom that much," Gibbons said, smiling.
Now he's going to bleed on you, Baumgardner. Or more likely whoever wrote this headline:
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Matt Vogrich could finally give John Beilein a consistent deep threat in Ann Arbor
Zack Novak shot 41% from three last year, and whenever he gets back from wrecking Belgium he's going to be ANGAR. Elsewhere, Spike Albrecht is called "mini Steve Nash," which is definitely not getting ahead of ourselves and headline guy is definitely going to put a "got" in between the first two words of this one after a loss at some point this year:
Youth served: Michigan's talented freshmen five show ability, poise in college debut
Falk on Jug. Not like that.
Whatever that might mean.
Seriously, they can do this? Whenver M plays at Northern I think the exact same thing Yost Built does:
Unlike SOME SCHOOLS THAT I KNOW OF, Northern offers streaming video of their games for $7. You can also buy a season pass for $75, and if you're reading this blog, don't have season tickets, and claim that you wouldn't fork out that much for a Michigan version of the same thing, I will call you a damn liar. It's 2012 and this is Michigan fergodsakes. We shouldn't have less access to video of games than Northern Michigan fans. Just saying.
I've watched three or four games at NMU the past few years, and M hockey fans outside of the local area can't get one.
Meanwhile, MHN highlights the scheduling thing we'll hear all season:
LAST TRIP TO MARQUETTE?
The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future. Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.” By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year. He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.
Honestly, good for NMU.
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan expects lack of goalie ejections at Northern Michigan. Yost Built previews NMU. NCAA dooms Midwest regional to 20 people in stands for 13th year of 14 by giving it to Cincinnati, which has one program (Miami) within a four hour drive. Leitch should totally ditch the Knicks. Catching up with Hunwick.
File photo, obviously. You'll be happy to know those shoes/socks did not make an appearance.
Spike Albrecht spotted up in the corner and launched a three. Swish.
Albrecht split a double-team, then kicked it out to Glenn Robinson III at the top of the key. Swish.
Albrecht split two defenders again, banked in a layup, and got the foul. His free throw, naturally, swished.
After two more threes—from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Robinson—and a Matt Vogrich layup, Michigan held a 17-0 lead less than four minutes into the 2012-13 season. Though the shooters would cool off a bit, the team never looked back, cruising to an 83-47 exhibition victory over an overmatched Northern Michigan squad.
With a suspended Trey Burke watching in street clothes, it was the freshman point guard, Spike Albrecht, stepping to the forefront to lead the way to victory. The diminutive Indiana native finished with 16 points on 4-7 shooting (3-6 3-pt) with six assists to just two turnovers, knocking down open jumpers, moving the ball with confidence, and showing that unlike last year, Michigan has a backup point guard.
If tonight's game was any indication—and in an exhibition against Northern Michigan, grains of salt are of course recommended—this Wolverine team will spread the ball around with a variety of players putting the ball in the basket. Freshman Nik Stauskas led all scorers with 17 points (5-8 FG, 4-6 3-pt), coming off the bench and netting his first career points on a corner three off an inbounds pass mere seconds after entering for the first time. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III each chipped in 13, with Robinson providing some high-flying acrobatics and Hardaway stuffing the box score with eight boards—all defensive—and five assists.
To the delight of the crowd, John Beilein inserted all five true freshmen—Albrecht, Stauskas, Robinson, Mitch McGary, and Caris LeVert—into the game in the first half; he'd admit post-game that was unintentional, and actually the first time he'd played all five together (though they did team up in a well-publicized offseason scrimmage). In a hopeful sign of things to come, Albrecht was the heady floor general, Stauskas the dead-eye shooter, Robinson the all-around offensive force, and McGary the energetic madman (5 points, 6 off. rebounds, 2 blocks, multiple floor burns). Only LeVert failed to hit full stride in his debut, hitting just one of five shots in ten minutes, though he still managed to connect on a three-pointer as the freshmen combined for 54 of the team's 83 points.
The story of the game will undoubtedly center around Albrecht admirably filling in for Burke; it could just as easily be about a total team effort—the Wolverines had 17 assists on 27 made baskets, swinging the ball around the perimeter in dizzying fashion until a shooter found an opening. Even when Burke returns on Monday, it's clear this team will be far more balanced than they were last season, less reliant on Burke and Hardaway to lead the way night in and night out.
- It's obvious that Hardaway worked hard in the offseason to turn himself into a more well-rounded player. Even though he only shot 3-of-9 from the field, he distributed the ball well—Beilein said he actually had to tell him to play more selfishly—and attacked the basket (7 free throw attempts, of which he hit 5) in addition to playing solid defense and really cleaning up the glass.
- The defensive effort all around, even given the opponent, was encouraging given the team's youth. Robinson executed a switch on a pick-and-roll on the first NMU possession, then stuck with his man before Jordan Morgan came away with a block. NMU shot just 19-for-59 from the field, rebounded just 10 of their 40 missed shots (a few of those coming late with the main rotation players pulled), and only got to the free-throw line for four attempts.
- Morgan and McGary didn't see the floor together, but if they do Michigan could be very difficult to keep off the offensive glass—in addition to McGary's six offensive boards, Morgan hauled in five (of his 12 total) on that end. Beilein noted after the game that Morgan has slimmed down since last season, and he appears to have a little more explosiveness off the floor.
- One area McGary will need to work on: free-throw shooting, as he went just 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. While it's nice that he was able to grab offensive rebounds after two of those misses, he can't be a liability in that regard or opponents will know the formula for stopping him, and Beilein will be limited with his late-game lineups in close contests. Beilein mentioned that he's still working into shape, as well, after an offseason foot injury hampered his conditioning; it wasn't a surprise, then, that Matt Vogrich earned the starting nod tonight with Robinson playing the four.
- Given the distribution of minutes tonight, as well as individual performances, expect a lineup of Burke-Hardaway-Vogrich-Robinson-Morgan on Monday, with Stauskas and McGary getting big minutes off the bench. Albrecht should see a fair amount of time spelling Burke, and Beilein mentioned the potential for playing both in the same lineup, but LeVert could have a tough time finding minutes when the season comes around—he's got skill, but he's clearly pretty raw and had some trouble with defense and rebounding due to his very thin frame.
- Overall, with opponent caveats acknowledged, this went about as well as one could hope for the team's first exhibition game. There's clearly more talent on this squad than Beilein has had at Michigan, and quite possibly at any point in his coaching career, and for a freshman-heavy team they really played well together—I'm sure it helps that McGary, Robinson, and Albrecht played AAU ball with each other. If Stauskas can continue to knock down just about every open jumper, this team also has a lights-out shooter that they haven't quite had yet under Beilein, which could really make this offense lethal. It's early yet, of course, but the potential is apparent.
"Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought." — Theognis
There is no "next year."
Not in today's college basketball, where Kentucky wins a national championship starting three freshmen and two sophomores, the NBA draft age limit creates a one-year holding pen for the sport's brightest young stars, and no graduating senior was selected in this year's lottery. It's not a new reality—as Michigan, home of the Fab Five, should well know—but one that's reaching its apex in the Age of Calipari.
This year's Michigan squad is no exception. The star of the show is sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who nearly exited for the pro ranks in April and, if all goes well, won't be back the next time around. A pair of precocious freshmen, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, will start and hopefully star—three more newcomers should play prominent roles. The grizzled veteran of the team's core, junior swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., is still unable to legally imbibe.
John Beilein is building for the future, and a bright future it is. After sharing a Big Ten title last season, however, and then pulling in Michigan's finest recruiting class since the Ed Martin era, the Wolverines carry a top-five preseason ranking and expectations to win now. 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 Even 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.
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).
As the season tips off tonight in a refurbished Crisler Center, there's a distinct sense of urgency—not just to prove that this program is going places, but that they've already arrived. If the season goes according to plan, there won't be need for talk of next year, and that will truly signal the new age of Michigan basketball.