in town for free camps
The day has (mostly) come. Expect a post at about 3:35 today, as Michigan has called a press conference featuring Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III at 3:30 wherein they will either announce their NBA draft futures or talk about their favorite things to put on hamburgers. Here's hoping it's the latter.
I don't think there's a huge amount of suspense with either of those two guys. Michigan is bringing in Muhammed Ali Abdur-Rahkman for an official this weekend, and now there are multiple reports that Robinson has signed with an agent or hasn't signed but is entering the draft anyway.
The suspense is with Mitch McGary, who is not announcing:
McGary's father, Tim McGary, told MLive on Monday night that his son has no intentions to partake in the press conference and is still undecided on whether he return to U-M or not.
"He's still back and forth on it," Tim McGary said.
So he's not gone; neither is he necessarily back. He has until the 27th to make that decision; the NCAA's deadline is an entirely artificial one.
The fact that he's still debating things is obviously good. It is not as good as McGary being ready to announce a return would be; it is still good. Scout's Brian Snow has reported a shift of opinion($) in the Indiana recruiting circles he pings regularly that is positive for Michigan, so there's that. Sam Webb confirmed, insofar as it is possible to confirm an opinion on a decision that clearly hasn't been made yet.
Abdur-Rahkman, 40 in white
ha no but man wouldn't that be something
he's the guy with the ball
not that I had to tell you that
Meanwhile, MAAR. If Michigan does settle on Abdur-Rahkman as a spring take I'll be satisfied; Beilein and company have proved they can ID a diamond in the rough and, like… MAAR for four years. Misspelled Smiths tie in acronym: yes please.
MAAR currently has a slate of mid-major offers after a senior season in which he averaged nearly 24 points a game for Central Catholic. Joe Stapleton's article linked above indicates the seriousness of Michigan's interest—Beilein calls him "at least three times a week"*—despite the fact that he is not just a shooter because he's not, in fact, a shooter:
Abdur-Rahkman would be a slight departure from the prototypical Michigan recruit in that he isn’t known for his shooting. In fact, the graduating senior said that while his shot has improved, he made his living getting to the rim and playing great man-to-man defense.
A defensive stopper type would be welcome, and shooting can develop. If Michigan was to offer it doesn't seem like it'll take a whole lot of thought from MAAR:
“(Michigan is) definitely the top school.”
Abdur-Rahkman also deviates from the Beilein model in that he's old for his class. In fact, he is literally as old as you can be and still play high school basketball in Pennsylvania:
Abdur-Rahkman turned 16 on Sept. 1 at the start of his freshman year, which means, of course, he turned 19 on Sept. 1 of this past year. The cutoff date for meeting the PIAA's age requirement is Sept. 1, meaning that had Muhammad been born on Aug. 31, he would have had to be part of the 2013 graduating class.
He'll be 20 by the time he arrives on campus. Good for immediate readiness, bad for upside. Kind of like grabbing a hockey player after a couple years of JUCO.
*[They deregulated phone calls in men's basketball, if that sounds like a violation to you. Kelvin Sampson sighs heavily at home about this.]
WELP. Here's this draft evaluation of Taylor Lewan from SBNation that discusses Taylor Lewan, who is of interest to us as a Michigan alum who is likely to go in the top half of the first round of the draft.
What a shitty offense
So I wanted to focus this breakdown on Taylor Lewan, not the severe annoyance I had with the way Michigan used him. But since it was the one thing that stood out to me the most while watching Lewan play, I am going to go ahead and address it right off the bat.
Now look, I don't profess to be some kind of expert on offenses, but some things about football I just feel like should be common sense. For instance, if you have a superior blocker at left tackle, most of your help from tight ends and running backs, whether it be run blocking or pass blocking, should go to the other four guys. It should also allow you to design plays built around his athleticism to help get your skill position players free out in space. Stuff like smoke screens (WR takes one step forward then one step back to catch the ball while his blockers lead up in front of him) or really any kind of screens, counter plays (where you pull the offensive guard and tackle from one side of the center to the other side of the center) and any number of sweep plays (runs designed to get wide outside of the offensive tackle).
I didn't see much of that in the five games that I watched. Furthermore, why in the HELL did Michigan keep a tight end to Lewan's side so damn much? He obviously didn't need the help. The quarterback was right handed anyway (with bootlegs you like for the tight end to be lined up to the side of the quarterback's throwing hand), and they could have potentially had a wide receiver there instead of a tight end. It would've increased the chances of success on passing downs as well as run downs if you get the opposing defenses spread themselves out. But is that what Michigan did?
This very long blockquote is not the end of former NFL DE Stephen White's evisceration of last year's Michigan offense, despite it being a very long blockquote. I expect that White will be getting some very stern comments from the folks around here who fought the rearguard action for Team Borges with such heroic ferocity last season when I made statements like "this is stupid," "this makes no sense," and "it is bad when your tailbacks run 27 times for 27 yards."
Michigan protected Taylor Lewan with a tight end so often that it made it hard for this draft evaluator to, you know, evaluate Taylor Lewan. Meanwhile, the interior of the line was a highway to Devin Gardner's ribs. And the kicker is: the tight ends couldn't even block. Michigan was tossing away its main advantage on the line—dang good tackles—because of their philosophy about manballin' it. That's alarming, because that seems like it comes from the top. It's all well and good to be Stanford or Alabama if you can be that, but when you're on your way to dead last TFLs… probably not.
We'll see. Rubber hits the road in September.
Oh, good. Putting Chad Lindsay on 27 tickets turns out to be premature, as the Alabama transfer is getting his woo on. After his visit to Michigan he hit up Louisville and Oklahoma; this week he's headed to Cal and… Ohio State. Oh goody.
OSU lost four seniors off last year's line and can pitch Lindsay playing time, and you know there's nothing in the world Urban would like more than grabbing Lindsay away from Michigan even if he ends up sitting on the bench the whole year. Especially if he ends up sitting on the bench the whole year.
Get out of there while you still can, Chad.
This will help you feel better about the previous section. Someone's really into Amir Williams saying coach be all over his di—
For pants sake, lady, can you see a camera without reflexively extending your tongue and squinting? I submit that you cannot.
Mascot of the week. The El Paso Chihuahuas' Chico has been hanging with Eight Ball the Tiger:
Mascots should be as frightening as possible. I approve.
YUP. It's almost like arguments against a college football playoff weren't particularly good ones.
40 bowl games next year. Man, I am old enough to remember when the worthless suits who run CFB said a playoff would kill all the bowl games
— jamie mac (@justcoverblog) April 15, 2014
Our worthless suit overlords think so little of us they kept the guy who was issuing these proclamations around to issue the exact opposite proclamations.
The Michigan Difference. Michigan PhD grad makes joke about Darren Rovell on twitter.
— neilla (@_neillam) April 8, 2014
1) "Wait, so who is this guy? Is
@darrenrovell actually famous?"
2) "What did he think we were going to do? Take away your diploma?"
/sings fight song, waves tiny block M flag
I am always very careful about how I mis-state the word rapper. Ace informs me that this gentleman with Devin Gardner is noted rappist "Two Chains," but I say balderdash, I say!
COUNT THE CHAINS, "TWO CHAINS." His real name is Excessive Watches IV. He goes home and takes off all of that, sits down with a Forbes, and looks exactly like Carlton. Fact. E-fact. Also his rap song just cannot compete with the Charleston.
This has been Brian pretends he's more out of touch than he is to forestall accusations of being out of touch theater. Thank you.
Thanks, bro. Horford opens up about his decision to leave to MLive; it turns out his zen does not extend to the rest of his family:
"(Transferring) is something that my family has been trying to persuade me to do for four years," Horford said. "So I guess naturally it's always been inevitable -- when people are telling you something all the time."
I get the feeling that Horford's support system regards Horford's abilities with… uh… enthusiasm not necessarily in line with reality. The reason his playing time dropped late in the season is that he wasn't playing well. I mean… when Morgan went out I was always like WHEN CAN WE GET MORGAN BACK IN. Play better and you get more time. Or wait for Morgan to graduate and go get it like he did.
Please please please let me get what I want (fewer timeouts) this time. Timeouts are a scourge upon basketball, not only turning 60 seconds of clock time into a writhing eternity of nothingness but also reducing the chaos factor that a trailing team attempts to insert into the game late. On four seconds trying to inbound the ball? Timeout. Trapped in the corner? Timeout. Want to get your defense set? Timeout. Timeouts are used to prevent turnovers, keep the leading team in the lead, and let over-coaching guys in suits maintain as much control as possible. They result in two and a half hour games that mean you have to stream the first ten minutes of your game on ESPN3. They are miserable and should be almost entirely removed.
They won't be, but at least the misery of them is a thing that has reached the people who can do something about it:
Everyone agreed that one of the biggest detractions of the current game is the eternity it takes to end a close one. That is largely due to the number of timeouts granted to each team, both officially (five per team per game) and unofficially (coaches are given a minute to substitute when a player fouls out). Replay reviews are viewed as a necessary evil in the quest for the right calls, but they also add to the length of an endgame situation. Coaches cherish their control of the game and thus will be loath to surrender timeouts, but fans everywhere would embrace fewer stoppages in play – especially late in a game. The NCAA said it will begin tracking the length of games next year, as it does in football.
"Length is becoming a concern," said David Worlock, NCAA associate director of men's basketball.
You're going to begin tracking games? And you don't think there's anything wrong with the current replay setup? Argh. But yes, please, shoot timeouts into the sun. One per team per game.
An elimination of live-ball timeouts, or at least limiting those calls to players instead of coaches. This would be a move toward FIBA international rules, which allow no live-ball timeouts.
Reducing the shot clock to either 30 or 24 seconds. Brey said he is in favor, and there seems to be fairly wide support for a reduction of some kind – although there also is a concern about college hoops becoming an NBA copycat league. (Interestingly, Byrd said his Belmont team occasionally uses a 12-second shot clock in practice to force tempo and enhance conditioning.)
With zone defenses viable and the skill level generally reduced, shortening the shot clock just results in more ugly shots. 45 to 35 was necessary, but in college 35 is fine.
this person is eligible to be drafted we know nothing else [Bryan Fuller]
Mississauga, ON’s Nik Stauskas will enter the 2014 NBA draft and choose Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports to represent him reliable sources have told Hoops Hype Canada.
Just wanted to reiterate that any reports about my future intenions are FALSE! I have NOT made ANY decisions on my future yet!
— Nik Stauskas (@NStauskas11) April 10, 2014
I'M GETTING MY HOPES UP
U-M hoops fans getting their hopes up … I wouldn't. That's not inside info. Just everyone thinks Nik will go. Nothing has really changed.
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) April 10, 2014
Actually that seems like a bad idea
Well this was pointless
Can we at least get some recriminations
For whatever reason, BS sourcing standards that would never fly for regular stories are commonplace for sports. "Sources say?" Come on.
— Zach Helfand (@zhelfand) April 10, 2014
Rounding up the exit. Further takes on the end of Michigan's season come from Genuinely Sarcastic:
In three of the last four seasons, Michigan's season has come down to one final shot in the dying moments. That's actually pretty astonishing when you think about it. All the chaos and moving parts of a basketball game, boiling down to one shot on three separate occasions in three separate games. All three involved different circumstances, and a Michigan program at different stages of its evolution.
Sometimes you don't appreciate you have until it's gone. Which is why I am thankful we were able to send off Jordan Morgan on a high note. Morgan is exactly what we want our players to be, tenacious, hard-working, always working to be better, and, oh yeah, a pretty damn good student to boot. To see all of the #ThanksJMo tweets after the game is to know that we didn't lose sight of what was going to end when Stauskas's last shot fell short. We know we're probably also losing some other players, and we'll deal with that when the time comes, but for now, we appreciate what we had, because it was fun. It was just fun.
INDIANAPOLIS — Moments after the game, the sun is low in the sky and Lucas Oil Stadium casts a long shadow across Indianapolis as, inside, Michigan walks off the court for the last time together. Jordan Morgan is first, well before anyone else. Glenn Robinson III gives a quick wave to the crowd and puts his head down. Nik Stauskas is emotionless. Mitch McGary, who was never getting into the game, walks off wearing the uniform his teammates have insisted he wear.
Later, Morgan, held up by his press conference, is one of the last to enter the Michigan locker room. Most of the room is composed except for Zak Irvin, who is emotional in one corner of the room, and for Morgan. He wipes his face with his sleeve and cries in front of the television cameras.
His teammates have said the loss is all the more difficult because it means they’ll never play another game with Morgan. The senior doesn’t know how to respond.
He pauses to wipe his eyes.
“I didn’t expect it to be my last game,” Morgan says.
“It’s over. I don’t know what else to say.”
And Nick Baumgardner:
But while every team in this NCAA tournament, save for one, ends its season with a loss, they don't all end their season without regret.
This Michigan team earned the right to live -- forever -- with a clear conscience.
"You can be mad if you want," Michigan's Jon Horford said. "But if you make guys hit tough shots they don't normally hit.
"Then you shake their hand."
Draft stuff. NBA draft types seem to be in consensus about Michigan's three early entry candidates: Stauskas is out the door, but the other two should return. "Should" and "will" are two very different things, of course. Also, when NBA draft types talk about these things they talk about them from the perspective of the NBA, not the player.
Disclaimers aside, NBA type on Robinson:
Projecting where Robinson could be selected in this year's NBA draft is difficult. His potential is boundless, but his play has been erratic. The scout described his prospective draft position as "all over the board for some people."
He concluded saying Robinson should return to Ann Arbor to "develop some consistency in his game."
A guy the BTN talked to:
Glenn Robinson III
Why he should stay: Should finally emerge as Michigan’s star player. Showed flashes of what people expected as a sophomore, but not consistently. Should look better with Walton having a year under his belt as point guard.
Why he should leave: Teams still like his skill and athleticism. Could flourish enough in workout situations to alleviate NBA concerns.
As I mentioned in the post a couple days ago, Robinson's clear frustration at being forced to play the 4 is something that will weigh on him. This makes Mark Donnal the most important guy on the team from GRIII's perspective. If Mitch returns Donnal is free to play the 4 for basically all of his minutes, and if he's a 25 minute or 30 minute guy that means Robinson's spending almost all of his time on the wing.
As for Mitch, there is almost universal agreement that it would be hard to take the guy in the first round with the questions about his back and relatively thin resume. McGary would have to be confident in his ability to go full McGary in draft camps this month if he was going to make a leap. Anonymous NBA guy:
If he chooses to declare for the draft, McGary's health will be "picked apart in this process" due to an injury classified only as a lower-back condition, according to the scout.
It's clear both Robinson and McGary entered the year planning that this would be their last at Michigan, and that momentum will make deciding to stay more difficult than it otherwise even if it seems like the best idea to return for both.
These days there is no withdrawal, so the dates that matter are April 16th, when the Portsmouth Invitational starts and the 27th, which is the last day to declare. GRIII and McGary will almost certainly decide by the 16th, as Portsmouth is where a lot of first or second round decisions get hashed out.
Also in draft stuff. I'm not sure if this draft blogger the BTN talked to has anything solid or if he's just guessing based on the fact that everyone flees West Lafayette, but here's the hypothetical death knell for Matt Painter's career:
Why he should stay: Showed very little improvement in many ways from freshman to sophomore year. A dominant junior year could make him a first-round pick.
Why he should leave: Skilled big men and shot-blockers are always in demand at the NBA level and Hammons’ development may have stalled at Purdue.
Prediction: Enters Draft
Tom Dienhart also predicted a Hammons departure, FWIW. I know Hammons is a frustrating dude but he's all Purdue has right now.
Other decisions the Big Ten is waiting on include Sam Dekker and (now) Frank Kaminsky at Wisconsin plus Gary Harris and Branden Dawson at MSU. Gary Parrish reported that barring a 180 in the next couple days, Harris is out the door. Dawson is a bit of a surprising name, but he's got financial issues and pretty much is what he is at this point: a 20-minutes-a-game defensive specialist.
MSU is also offering firm handshakes to potential fifth-year players Alex Guana and Russell Byrd. The latter is a little sad, since he had the highest ratio of bark to bite in the Big Ten. From the spectator's position, it's always tough to lose a guy like that.
Freshman talk. Via MGoVideo:
Canteen made a catch! And he's wearing 17. Always enjoy guys wearing oddball numbers I have no association with. Looking forward to Canteen changing it six times over the course of his career.
Wrong move, buddy. Now we're going to try and beat you. Ohio State cockiness increments yearly these days. And one day super super soon they are going to regret it, I tell you. Until then, the prospect of random OSU assistant coaches spouting off about Michigan remains. Ed Warinner:
Ed Warinner: "If you're worried about Wolverine fans, just move to Pasadena. You'll never have to deal with 'em."
— Marcus Hartman (@marcushartman) April 2, 2014
Standard message board banter. Okay. And then:
Warinner on lost playbooks in Michigan: "I heard Brady was upset because he hadn't finished coloring them."
— Marcus Hartman (@marcushartman) April 2, 2014
From the People In Charge Of Things Are Just In Charge Of Them file. Texas has a new athletic director, who is in charge of Texas. He is also an idiot.
He sees Texas as being in a unique position to grow its international brand and said it's essential to use athletics as a platform to tell the university's story.
"They shouldn't be done for junketeering purposes," Patterson said. "They should be done in a fashion that grows the profile and the interest of the university of a broad scale internationally."
Patterson reportedly has expressed interest in playing a nonconference football game in Mexico City. Another possibility Patterson acknowledged Tuesday could be a future sporting event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This dude already scheduled a Texas basketball game in China, but will not even consider playing Texas A&M. The goal appears to be pissing off your core fanbase as much as possible. CEO types are just emperors running around naked as the day is long these days, searching for growth at all costs like their department is a publicly traded company.
Also… "junketeering." Just keep shooting bullets into the English language until it topples, guys.
It's on. The Michigan legislature passed a bill allowing Michigan to sell alcohol for that rumored Man U/Real Madrid friendly this summer, which was followed up by an announcement there would be an announcement tomorrow. Expect them to announce a series of announcements about announcements culminating in a soccer game.
I have a copy of the Kentucky game. I went so far as to open it in the program I use to make GIFs, because despite the outcome I thought Caris LeVert's block/tie-up of Julius Randle was worth GIFing for future reference. Naturally, CBS showed one useless replay angle and cut off the second, useful angle halfway through the play.
There will be no Kentucky GIFs today.
Anyway, the Tennessee game worked out much better and also provided several great moments, none more important than the charge Jordan Morgan drew on Jarnell Stokes:
I know this is an utterly pointless exercise, but this call has been much-discussed—was it really a charge, or did Morgan just hit the deck at the first sign of contact?
Unless you want to argue that Morgan committed a blocking foul—dubious, in my opinion—then the answer is irrelevant. Watch Caris LeVert poke the ball away as the contact occurs; watch how the ball voodoo-spins and somehow stays inbounds, and LeVert making the heads up play to go after it until the whistle blows. If this had been a no-call, it would've been a steal, and the song remains the same.
Since Stokes lowered his shoulder like he was Marshawn Lynch in the open field against a safety, this whole aside was probably unnecessary.
[Hit THE JUMP for the bench mob ending the season in style, Nik Stauskas going Harlem Globetrotter, DEATH FROM ABOVE, and more.]
Jordan Morgan recorded his second double-double of the weekend in the most Jordan Morgan way possible: by attempting to take a charge, not getting the call, and grabbing a board anyway while he's flat on his back.
This didn't make the top ten from the weekend. Don't fret, though—Morgan still makes several appearances. For the rest of the first two rounds of the tourney in GIFs, hit the jump.
[JUMP like GRIII over Javan Felix.]
3/22/2014 – Michigan 79, Texas 65 – 27-8, Sweet 16
The last time Michigan played an NCAA tourney game involving a two seed, it was their first bid in ten years. After not quite blowing a huge lead against Clemson in the 7-10 game they ran up against a brick wall named Blake Griffin. Insofar as you can call one of the most athletic dudes on the planet a "brick wall," anyway.
Michigan was still not exactly complete at this juncture. Manny and DeShawn headlined; the rest of the starting lineup consisted of freshman versions of Novak and Douglass plus the CJ Lee/David Merrit walk-on duo. Kelvin Grady, Jevohn Shepherd, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Gibson, and Anthony Wright were the bench. Every time you end up looking at that roster the immediate thought is "these guys made the second round of the tournament?"
Meanwhile, Griffin's stats are as hilarious as you would expect from "Blake Griffin takes on guys like Zack Novak." He used almost a third of Oklahoma's possessions, rebounded a third of defensive opportunities, drew more fouls than anyone else in the country, and shot 66% from the floor—mostly by dunking from halfcourt. Watching him live was mostly an experience in terror. Dual undercurrents cut it: one of outrage that he could do the things he did and still call himself human, a second of excitement at the same thing.
Michigan managed to stick close despite foul trouble for Harris. Anthony Wright played the game of his career, and Michigan kept in contact. As the second half progressed, though, a feeling of inevitability fell over the proceedings. Michigan was just not good enough to make up the deficit presented them. They made a push or two; each was quickly met with a riposte.
That is entirely the wrong word, since it indicates finesse. Every time Michigan approached Oklahoma it was called a nerd and thrown bodily into a dumpster.
"Hey, Novak! Your kid is going to have a picture of that on his wall!"
Michigan lost by ten; it may as well have been a billion. Novak would later be featured in a Sports Illustrated article dedicated to all the guys Griffin has posterized. He took it with good humor, because sometimes life puts you in china shop with Blake Griffin and asks you to get it tea.
Nik Stauskas has taken to opening games with a demonstration of force. The first shot of most Michigan games is Stauskas raising up over his defender to hit an eyebrow-cocking three. Welcome to the gun show, it says. I can do this whenever I want. Later he'll fly over a screen and rise up when the big starts sagging back into the lane. It goes in, because it just does. One moment is all it takes. In your face, Charlie Murphy. Stauskas is the Big Ten player of the year for a reason.
That reason is not that he has to take all of Michigan's shots. He takes barely more than an average share of them, so when you start freaking out about Stauskas the ball is in someone else's hands. That person is generally flying towards the basket (if he is Jordan Morgan) or aligning himself for a catch and shoot three pointer he knocks down at 40% (if he is anyone else). They'll bail you out with a turnover maybe twice a half.
This is a different kind of hopeless thing to be in opposition to, but it is just as dispiriting as knowing that Blake Griffin has the ball on a fast break and you are supposed to do something about it. Novak in SI:
"When I get to the three point line, I start thinking, Why am I doing this?" … "Next thing I know his feet are at my face."
You can get in deep, quick. If Michigan is going well, things will get somewhat out of hand before the opposing coach throws his hands up at the man to man defense that has been the heart of his philosophy for his entire career and goes to a zone. Yeah, against a team that shoots 40% from three. Yeah, we're not even much of a zone team. It can't be worse is the thought. Often it is followed by why am I doing this?
Texas was so discombobulated by the basketball portion of the first half that they came out in the second determined to play volleyball on one end and a random matchup zone on the other. It worked, a bit. Texas pulled to within six. Things threatened to get serious, but then a rather important flaw in the idea of playing zone against Michigan presented itself. First Robinson got lost, then LeVert, then Albrecht.
They rained in death from above, as they are wont to do.
The look on the faces of Texas' staff right now ... if you could only see.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 22, 2014
I know that look. I have had that look, when Blake Griffin was doing Blake Griffin things and the only response was stare ahead and think what is anyone supposed to do about THAT?
I thought about Griffin in the second half as Texas drew nearer. I was nervous, of course, but it was only a part of my consciousness instead of its entirety. In a commercial break someone said something about the last four minutes of stagnation, and I said they were still getting great looks and they would be fine. It then dawned on me that I meant it.
I was not waiting for the roof to fall in. I was waiting for water to find its level. And then it did. They're still bigger and stronger than Michigan, but these days it's the bullies getting put in the dumpster.
The column in one emoji. I could have just embedded that LHN tweet instead.
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 22, 2014
I'm not just going to do Novak like that. I did write a thing about Novak getting posterized that I should link if I'm going to include that picture.
Epic victory. Jordan Morgan flat wore Cameron Ridley out, with an assist from the opening nine-minute stretch of gametime without a whistle. Ridley was coming off a 17-point, 12 rebound, 4 block, 2 A, 0 TO performance against Arizona State's 7'2" shotblocker Jordan Bachynski.
Morgan limited him to 5 FGAs and six points and out-rebounded him. And he had 15 points himself in a fashion so quiet I exclaimed "how did that happen?" when someone mentioned it to me in the immediate aftermath.
That is a terrific sign for Morgan's matchup with Vol Jeronne Maymon, who is another 6'8" widebody post type.
The zone did put a brief halt to Michigan's offense after it adapted from a straight 2-3 that Michigan melted into a pile of scrap. To my eyes that drought was largely bad luck. Stauskas had a Blake Griffin-level dunk rattle out; Robinson had a putback facilitated by the zone go halfway down before popping out; a couple of open looks didn't fall. It happens. And then water finds its level.
The best scouting report ever. The way that game played out was downright eerie. Isaiah Taylor takes nothing but floaters; Isaiah Taylor took nothing but floaters aside from a couple of takes where he actually got to the basket, and then he finished with the most Isaiah Taylor line ever: 8/22, all shots from two.
Junk defense after junk defense. The hypothesis that Illinois actually did Michigan a favor by scaring the hell out of them with a 2-3 zone is now upgraded to a theory. It took about four possessions for Texas to decide a straight up 2-3 was even more doomy than their man to man, with the last straw a Morgan dunk from the baseline.
They then switched to a 1-3-1 for one possession, which frustratingly saw Michigan do nothing for about 30 seconds until Stauskas rose for a long contested three that led to a transition opportunity. Barnes immediately shelved that in favor of an odd-looking matchup zone that I couldn't quite figure out. Michigan seemed hesitant about it, too, but eventually Texas started matching up with the wrong dudes. There was that one LeVert three on which he didn't have anyone within ten feet of him.
Mildly mitigated. Normally you'd look at a game in which Michigan picked up 11 offensive rebounds and say that was good enough for shot parity. Nope, as Texas spent the second half rebounding damn near every one on their infinite misses and finished the game with more OREBs than Michigan had DREBs.
That is an alarm bell heading into a matchup with a burly Tennessee outfit, though again some of those just seem like crappy luck. Texas guards grabbed eight of their offensive rebounds and two were credit to "team"; Morgan and Robinson nearly matched the posts' contributions with seven offensive rebounds to Holmes and Ridley's nine. If that minor advantage holds up for the Tennessee posts I'm feeling pretty good about Friday.
Must work on free throw defense. Texas goes 15/16. Cumong man. Michigan did give most of those FTAs to the Texas guards and not their bricklaying bigs, so they couldn't have expected 10/16… but still. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining in a game where Morgan goes 7/8.
A quick look at Tennessee. Much more on this later, of course, but at first glance Tennessee is Texas after leveling up a few more times. They don't shoot well but make up for it by pounding the offensive boards; their defense is tough to shoot against and doesn't force many turnovers. Unlike Texas, Tennessee does a good job of preventing threes from being launched. They also have a semblance of outside shooting.
As you've probably heard, the Vols are huge Kenpom darlings, currently 6th in the rankings despite being an 11 seed. They're favored by a point in a game Kenpom sees as a virtual tossup, and trash Kenpom at your peril—they certainly made short work of UMass and Mercer after an OT win against Iowa.
As per usual, bizarrely high computer rankings are built on margin of victory. Tennessee spent the year blowing out SEC opponents or losing to them narrowly. They finished the year with 76-38, 82-54, and 72-45 win over Vandy, Auburn, and Mizzou; they beat Virginia by 25 in December. They also lost to UTEP, NC State, Texas A&M, and Vandy. They're also 0-3 against the Gators.