2013-14 Preview Coverage
Media Day Wrap: Beilein transcript + interviews with Horford, Morgan, Walton, GRIII
Position Previews: Bigs, Wings, Point Guards
Preview Podcast: With special guest John Gasaway
A Whole Damn Book: A whole damn book
Tonight's Game Info
What: Michigan vs. UMass-Lowell
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: 7pm, Friday (Banner raising ceremony at 6:40)
Line: Michigan -25 (KenPom)
TV: Big Ten Digital Network (subcription required)/MGoBlueTV (ditto)
Radio: 950 AM (Detroit), 102.9 FM (Ann Arbor), Sirius Channel 92, MGoBlue stream
UMass-Lowell is making their Division I debut after finishing 15-13 (10-12) as a member of the Northeast-10 (Division II) last year. A full-blown game preview is rather unnecessary.
"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." — Sir Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
As Michigan opens its season tonight against UMass-Lowell, I'm certain of two things about this team: they're raising a Final Four banner tonight, and they will be good.
The first is indisputable fact, not to mention a significant reason why it's easy to state the second: John Beilein's squad returns eight players (three starters, four more rotation guys) from a team that came within a half of requiring a bigger, fancier banner. Among those are two players garnering preseason All-American consideration, arguably the best shooter in America, a backup point guard who dropped 17 points in the first half of the title game, two experienced big men, and a sophomore oozing so much potential that he forced his way onto the court last year despite appearing malnourished.
On top of that, Michigan boasts one of the best coaching staffs in the country and bring in two top-flight recruits who will contribute immediately, one of whom (PG Derrick Walton) has already secured a starting role. They will be good, even without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway.
How good depends on a number of factors, however, and for every certainty there is an equal and opposite uncertainty.
Certainty: Mitch McGary is one of the most skilled, impactful centers in college basketball.
Uncertainty: When will he be able to return from his back "condition", and will it hamper him once he returns? (Also: how much do we weigh his tournament run versus his regular-season output?)
Certainty: Glenn Robinson III is an incredible athlete who had an exceptionally efficient freshman season.
Uncertainty: Can Robinson create his own shot, and can he stay so efficient with a bigger role?
Certainty: Beilein will try to play more two-big lineups this year.
Uncertainty: Will this work, especially with all the practice time McGary has missed? With all the talent on the wings, is it even worth trying?
Certainty: Caris LeVert is getting massive practice hype for the second straight year and looks like a potential breakout star as a shooting guard and part-time point.
Uncertainty: Will his practice/exhibition exploits translate to actual production against real opponents this year?
Certainty: Nik Stauskas is a great shooter; also: Not Just A Shooter.
Uncertainty: Can his lethal efficiency as a three-point shooter and pick-and-roll ballhandler continue when he's the team's first or second scoring option?
Certainty: Michigan is starting an extremely talented freshman point guard.
Uncertainty: Michigan is starting an extremely talented freshman point guard.
The list goes on and on*, and I'm okay with this. The uncertainty surrounding the football team this year has largely stemmed from "can this non-functional unit become functional"-type questions. The uncertainty surrounding the basketball team, on the other hand, is more of the "can this good thing become great" variety.
If the pieces all fall into place, Michigan is a national title contender once again. If they don't, this is still a team capable of winning the Big Ten (so long as Michigan State doesn't go full juggernaut, at least), and barring a rash of injuries they'll be a fun team to watch. None of us have any idea what's going to happen; it's still all but guaranteed to be more rewarding than watching this year's football team. Sit back and enjoy Michigan's status as one of the nation's elite programs, one that reloads instead of rebuilds, and savor that banner. We'll worry about certainties another time.
*Will the team's added functional size and experience on the wings equal better defensive performance, for example.
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.]
Indeed. Plaque up at Crisler.
Michigan's started preseason practice, looking less skinny or more skinny as appropriate. Stauskas in particular looks a lot more likely to power through contact this year:
YOU ARE DOING A BAD JOB AT DEFENSE, FOREGROUND
Unfortunately, Mitch McGary's got a lower back thing that's limiting him. A big guy getting a nagging old person injury is a thing that turns out to be chronic unfortunately often, but the noises from Beilein about it are encouraging:
"It's been day-to-day, pretty much all fall, and we're moving forward from there," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I'm very hopeful it'll be gone before too long.
"He's done some on-and-off things this fall."
McGary blew up various skills camps this summer, so whatever it is it's a recent thing.
Soldier on. Michigan does not change its depth chart on the OL. That probably means nothing; FWIW.
Bo's phone call. Mason relates what happened after the 38-35 Buffalo Stampede game in which Minnesota ran rampant on Michigan:
“We ended up basically being able to run the ball against anybody,” Mason said. “When we blew that game against Michigan in ’03, after we had a 21-point lead, my secretary took a call on Monday and said, ‘[Former Michigan coach] Bo Schembechler’s on the phone.’
“I picked up and Bo said, ‘Mason, I never thought I’d see the day when Notre Dame or Ohio State rushed for 424 yards against Michigan, much less Minnesota,’ and then he hung up.”
Bo probably threw in some other words that Mason left out.
Also, Glen Mason's take on what Minnesota's doing is relevant to our current interests:
“There are less moving parts with the read option"
Brace for impact. Michigan is currently a whopping 21 point favorite over Minnesota after opening at 16.5. It is unclear whether that projects turnover margin or final score.
Minnesota did look completely terrible against Iowa, losing 23-7 and barely getting across the line of scrimmage on its 27 rushing attempts. For the game they had 27 yards rushing, 135 passing, and threw two picks. The jury's still out on Iowa's defense, which seems improved but ceded 30 to NIU and 21 to Iowa State; Minnesota looks like a product of its schedule.
Yes, even more so than Michigan does, sheesh. Thus the line cited above.
Meanwhile, across the triangle of hate Iowa fans are feeling rather chipper after matching last year's win total in week 5. Highlights:
Iowa's athletic department has figured out how to use the "upload" button on YouTube
Rudock has some decent wheels; Mike Patrick can be boring about a 74-yard touchdown; Michigan's nose tackles watched this game and said "FINALLY WE WILL BE ON THE FIELD" to themselves.
Jacobi points out that Iowa is actually a slight favorite(!) for this weekend's matchup against Michigan State. Projected final score: 1.
You kickstarted this. Martavious Odoms's thing bears fruit (HA!):
We have brought you low. Michigan instrumental in midseason firing of Paul Pasqualoni. Yes. That is the ticket. Ignore the 41-12 loss to Buffalo behind the curtain. Also in expectation-dampening sad things: Akron loses by lots, Notre Dame loses by lots, Central Michigan loses by lots. I liked this season better three weeks ago.
Why fire Pasqualoni now?
It's all happening.
60 minutes of unnecessarily rough pass interference somewhere else. Actually, various folks are chattering about Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi taking the UConn job:
Spoke w some coaches re: UConn. Strong feeling among group I spoke w that Pat Narduzzi will get good look.
This tweet gets a hilarious set of responses that are exactly what you'd expect: MSU fans painting the UConn program as a deathtrap and saying things like…
Unless he gets offered a place like Texas I honestly don't see it happening. His kids love it hear and he is very close
The opposite of Indiana. In a not good way. Via Chantel Jennings, the dichotomy of Michigan State in stark relief:
Indiana | Oct. 19
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 1
Total defense: No. 11
Michigan State | Nov. 2
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 11
Total defense: No. 1
Who is State ahead of? Purdue, obviously. Obviously Purdue. Indiana is ahead of Nebraska. Think about that when you consider the depths to which Bo Pelini's defense has sunk. #Kiffin4Nebraska
Etc.: Details of the Harmon exhibit at the Bentley. Boy, do I not care about Michigan's spot in the polls right now. Illinois pounds Miami (Not That Miami). I don't understand this thing about a dog named Jake Butt. The history of Michigan decals.
Sponsor note. You may have noticed HAIL2VICTORS recent diary detailing his Sports Power Weekend for the Notre Dame game. I ran into that dude at Angelo's early that day and he didn't mention he was on an SPW trip, but he was yet to be impressed with the fact that Jared tracked down tickets, a field-level Big House tour, and—the capper—hotel rooms actually in Ann Arbor. I get emails about this. They are piteous emails that I can do nothing about.
If you would like to exchange money for the goods and services of a no-hassle trip to see Michigan do the opposite of whatever they did last weekend, you can grab a bus from NYC or DC to Penn State (UConn's sold out) or grab packages for home games against Nebraska and Ohio State or road games at Northwestern and Iowa. No Stubhub wrangling or sleeping on a piece of cardboard that doesn't even offer a continental breakfast. Also if you're the guy who gets stuck driving, buses are so clutch.
It got over the goal, but there's still cool stuff to acquire. Two hours left.
SKYWRITINGGATEGATE. I am a hopelessly naïve cherub, so I assumed that the "GO BLUE" that people saw over Spartan Stadium hours before MSU curbstomped Youngstown State and Michigan had a near-death experience against Akron was the work of a not-very-creative alum or a rogue skywriting company agent taking matters into his own hands. Alas:
Suzanne Asbury-Oliver, who runs Oregon Aero SkyDancer skywriting with her husband Steve, told MLive the Wolverines' athletic department hired her business to put Michigan slogans into the air above Ann Arbor then East Lansing on Saturday.
The department denies this, stating that locations all over SE Michigan were targeted. I asked twitter and no one saw anything outside of Ann Arbor that hasn't been used by a Spartan alum to make M look stupid while raising money for cancer.
This continues a pattern of behavior from the department where they do something inadvisable and then go into damage control mode. Just in the last couple months we've seen noodle, seat cushion, and field goal net gates. They seem to be sticking by their guns after overselling the student section by 50%, but that's a math problem with one answer so they kind of have to. That, too, looks like a panic move (even if I agree with the principle behind it) since Michigan announced their ticket policy a month before the season, after they'd sold 4,500 tickets under false pretenses.
So either the athletic department knows exactly what it's doing or they have no idea what they're doing. Which of these possibilities is worse is an exercise left to the reader.
A LIST OF THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MAYBE WORTH YOUR TIME TO SKYWRITE OVER SPARTAN STADIUM.
- GO STAEE
- WE WANT TERRY
- FIRE IZZO
- WHERE ARE MY PANTS
- HOW DO I LAND
- TREY BURKE STEAL DOT JPG
The worst part about all of this is how boring it is. "GO BLUE" is weak troll game. The only people the athletic department is good at trolling are Michigan fans.
A quainter time. Remember when coverage maps were important? When you play an AAC team on the road at night they become so again. Yellow is saved, blue is watching on ESPN3:
Nebraska, you're in the Big Ten now.
Transfers to make more sense, possibly. After a crapton of bad publicity as some coaches punitively limit their transfers' options, the NCAA finally seems to be moving towards a more reasonable system:
"It would be a situation where a kid would provide notice that he's transferring and wants to talk to these five schools, for example," Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, told ESPN.com. "Schools can't say, we're giving you permission but not to these five schools. It's in the student's control more."
I still think it's reasonable to prevent a kid from transferring to another school in the same conference; other than that, fire away. Coach K suggests to do away with all transfer waivers, because something something something.
I like Mitch McGary.
Hockey schedule. There are a lot of Michigan hockey games on television this year, 28 games to be specific. Excellent for most purposes, but I'm a little concerned that there are four 6:30 home games on Friday and the vast bulk of the rest of them are at 7 PM. A decade ago Michigan standardized its games at 7:35 PM to help attendance. This isn't going to help.
On the other hand, Wisconsin has just 11 games televised this year. Pick your poison.
Etc.: Here is a gent who's been to 504 straight games, dating back to 1971. We'll update basketball recruiting during the bye week, but for now here's UMHoops running down where things stand. Todd McShay ranks Gardner a third-day NFL draft prospect. Hurray? Meanwhile, SI's guy lists Taylor Lewan as a faller because M struggled with Akron, something he had zero to do with.
sometimes google image search is art
We are not worried about this frivolous lawsuit. NCAA Football is dead, you guys:
NCAA will not renew EA Sports contract
The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. The current contract expires in June 2014, but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning. As a result, the NCAA Football 2014 video game will be the last to include the NCAA’s name and logo. We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
Paired with the credit-rating downgrade the NCAA just received, that sounds like a team of lawyers running around in circles shouting "THINK OF SOMETHING" to each other. Most favored bomb-thrower Patrick Hruby:
What gives is lawyer-ese. The NCAA is never going to publicly say that the O’Bannon case has them scared, because that would imply they’ve done something wrong and therefore have reason to be afraid of adjudication. However, the current facts of the case don’t look good for it: O’Bannon’s claim is rooted allegations that the NCAA and co-defendants EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company colluded to profit from the unauthorized use of former players’ NILs – price-fixing their value at zero – and documents uncovered by the plaintiffs’ lawyers during discovery strongly support said allegatioons.
The other tell? Check out the rest of the NCAA’s brief statement, which says that “given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.” (Bold added.) In this case, current business climate and costs of litigation are lawyer-ese for ruh-roh.
Individual schools and conference can still license their trademarks to EA. Will they? I'm guessing yes, as Kotaku explains that most of the licensing is through the CLC, making the NCAA's decision "nearly a technicality."
If not get ready for EA Sports Football Type Substance And Incredibly Easy To Edit Thing 2015. Back in the day when I was playing the college version of Front Office Football I had to download a file to turn "South Bend" into "Notre Dame," and such, but it's a lot harder to import winged helmets than change names.
Shots fired. Will Muschamp is pretty cheesed off at Urbs, you guys. SEC Media days are ongoing, and Muschamp's turn at the tiller included this gem:
Muschamp, who succeeded Meyer as the Gators' coach, is even borrowing a page from Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who won't even call Ohio State by its full name.
"That's really a dead issue with me," Muschamp said Tuesday at SEC media days. "In both situations, we were turned in by Ohio. We didn't do anything wrong. The University of Florida didn't do anything wrong. And so we appreciated our friends from Ohio making sure we're compliant with NCAA rules. They certainly know a little bit about that subject."
That zing was followed up by a personal shot at Urban Meyer for fostering a murderer he is responsible for. No, seriously:
"You can’t expect a coach to know where all 125 players are all the time," Muschamp said. "But you also can’t stick your head in the sand and think everything is OK. You're 100 percent responsible."
Arrest Urban Meyer! Unless that would help his recruiting, which it might. Arrest Urban Meyer or take a picture of him checking out a Justin Beiber concert?
I hope you guys are better at real defense than computer defense. Ondre Pipkins played Dymonte Thomas in NCAA and came out with a screenshot that is just all kinds of wrong:
Are these 30 minute quarters? Why are you taking Ohio State? Why has Ohio State scored if that was the case? What is going on? IS URBS GOING TO FLIP DYMONTE?
Slive pushing. Self-interest, sure, but self interest in the name of providing a fig leaf of player compensation is better than the alternative:
"The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds," said Slive, about to begin his 12th year as commissioner.
The issue, in a nutshell, is that some schools can afford to pay the stipend and some can't. Those that can't are able to keep the idea bottled up. Those that can, like schools in the SEC, are getting tired of it.
"Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes," Slive said.
Slive followed up by saying that in meetings with other conference commissioners "there appears to be a willingness" to go through with a cost of attendance adjustment, at least until individual schools submarine it through the override process.
Mitch staying. SI spotlights Mitch McGary in a manner that'll get your salivary glands going:
When he submitted his name to the NBA's draft advisory board, McGary was told what he already suspected: He was a surefire first-round pick, and very possibly a lottery pick. The vast majority of college players would have jumped at that opportunity, but McGary defied convention and announced he would stay in school. "I want to prove to people that my potential is much greater than what I showed," McGary explained. "The way I look at it is, so far I've only cracked the glass. Next year I'm trying to break through it."
McGary is down to around 255 after starting last season twenty pounds heavier—too heavy—and you could see the increased stamina and athleticism late. That was the #2 recruit in the country, and Michigan figures to get that this year.
TSN's Mike DeCourcy, meanwhile, says McGary is still a load even at the lighter weight:
4. Jadeveon Clowney was a big topic of conversation at SEC Media Days. What current college hoops player could take your head off if he played football?
DeCourcy: Michigan’s Mitch McGary. Not messing with that dude. If Mitch had been the Wolverine in possession of that football instead of Vincent Smith back in the Outback Bowl, it might have been Clowney whose helmet went flying.
So much for that. If you were hoping that Fox Sports 1 would be an alternative to ESPN, it will, but not in the way you want:
…to differentiate FS1, to lend it personality and create a distinct brand, Fox is going with a concept that David Hill, chief executive officer of Fox Sports, calls “jockularity.” The plan is for FS1 to be the funny, irreverent, less serious sports channel.
Among other things, that involves hiring a couple of Canadian pranksters to anchor the network’s flagship program and building another show around Regis Philbin.
So much for that unless the Canadian is Norm Macdonald.
Never say die. The Big Ten has created a new bowl at Ford Field, but the Pizza Bowl guys won't let it die:
Ken Hoffman feels there’s no reason Ford Field can’t handle playing host to two bowl games starting in 2014.
Hoffman’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was on the outside looking in following the news Wednesday the Detroit Lions bowl game was official, starting Dec. 30, 2014, with a Big Ten team going up against a team from another power conference.
Guys. It's over.
Etc.: Eleven Warriors' guide to visiting Ann Arbor is seemingly designed to get you to dislike Ann Arbor, but I guess it's aimed at guys who get ATV catalogs. Pro sports attendance beginning to suffer in baseball and basketball. Average Boston Red Sox ticket cost: 88 dollars! FIFA can't sell the World Cup to pay-TV in the UK.
Music City Bowl will pit an SEC team versus an ACC/B10 team for the next five years. A la carte ESPN projected cost: 30 bucks. Thanks, people who don't care about sports but pay for ESPN anyway. Old man yells at cloud. Potential VCU rematch in the second round of Puerto Rico.