CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the contenders I overlooked Wisconsin's George Marshall, who redshirted last year. He's a point guard. Given the redshirt it seems unlikely he gets thrust into the starting lineup, but he's another option for the Badgers there. In any case, Big Ten Geeks pointed out that the last time Wisconsin didn't have a point guard they won thirty games. Point guard: optional at Wisconsin.
Out: Bruce Weber, C Meyers Leonard, PG Sam Maniscalco, maybe SG Brandon Paul
In: PG Michael Orris (3*)
Status: On January 19th, A 15-3 Illinois team coming off that game against Ohio State where Brandon Paul turned into Michael Jordan visited Penn State, then 1-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois lost.
They'd win only twice more. Meyers Leonard would collapse into tears on the bench, Illinois bombed itself out of the tournament, and Weber would be fired because obviously. After whiffing on at least Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois settled on Wolverine-slayer John Groce as their coach. It seems no one is happy about this except Big Ten opponents other than Michigan.
Leonard just declared for the draft and Illinois's recruiting class consists of one three-star point guard and a preferred walk-on. Things are going to get worse for Illinois before they get better. Well… maybe not worse. But the prospects for an instant turnaround are not good when the rest of the league is reloading with NBA players and you've lost one of your two players at that level without bringing in a decent replacement.
That said, until further notice Brandon Paul does still play for the Illini. And DJ Richardson can shoot a little bit. And Tyler Griffey had a good game against Michigan and… no, it's not likely anyone can piece that into a team that makes the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Was it really all Bruce Weber's fault?
If you look at this roster it's filled with guys who should have better stats than they do. Paul shot 44% from 2 and 33% from three because he got Dion Harris'd playing with a 7'1" lottery pick. At some point that has to be on the guy in the suit jumping up and down like a lunatic.
According to Kenpom, Groce did better on offense with his Ohio squad. Illinois's best bet is that Bruce Weber was a Greg Robinson-style anchor on the offense and that an unfettered Paul shows Izzo that it was a good idea to fire him.
Minnesota: still history's greatest monsters
Out: PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, C Davide Curletti
In: C Alex Olah (3*), SG Sanjay Lumpkin(3*), SF Kale Abrahmson(3*), Nikola Cerina (TCU transfer)
The Wildcats graduate the leading scorer in program history plus the other two guys taller than 6'5" who played; they bring in a leafy, bitter vegetable and some other dudes with outlandish names. If you're worried that the post at Northwestern will not feature a guy who sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, don't be: the likely starter at center next year is TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a Serbian who went to "Nikola Telsa SS" high school.
The Wildcats still have some quality pieces, most prominently rising senior Drew Crawford and rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski. Crawford would start on the wing for just about any Big Ten team. He's a 41% three point shooter who's also efficient inside the line and provides decent ancillary stats. Sobolewski had an impressive freshman year and will take on big chunks of the scoring load left by Shurna. A fully healthy JerShon Cobb will help defensively.
But if this outfit plus John Shurna couldn't give away Northwestern's tourney virginity it's hard to see them on the bubble without him. The defense will remain substandard and it's going to be impossible to replace Shurna's efficiency (44% from three! A top 25 TO rate despite launching over 30% of Northwestern's shots! 92% of NU's minutes!). Minnesota: you bastards.
Question that needs resolving: God, it's me, Margaret. Why do you feel the need to troll Northwestern basketball so hard? Are you an Iowa fan? If so, why do you keep exploding all their tailbacks' ACLs?
Penn State basketball.
Out: SF Cammeron Woodyard, C Billy Oliver, SG Matt Glover, PG Trey Lewis, another Carefrontation subject or two who didn't play meaningful minutes.
In: PF Brandon Taylor (3*), SG Akosa Maduegbunam (3*), SG DJ Newbill (USM transfer).
Status: Penn State basketball is what would happen if Tim Frazier went through the tunnel in Being Tim Frazier: Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier.
Next year they will also be this, but maybe a little more so after Pat Chambers rubbed sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis the wrong way. Both of those guys have exited the program, leaving even less behind Frazier than Penn State had this year when he played 93% of their minutes and used a third of PSU possessions. Frazier almost literally can't do more.
So… who will? PSU fans are banking on DJ Newbill picking up some of the slack. Newbill transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year and is eligible in the fall. He was an efficient scorer at the CUSA level (54% from two, lots of free throws, no range) but a low usage guy who still managed to commit a bunch of turnovers. He's not going to be a program-changer.
In the frontcourt Penn State got a solid freshman year from Ross Travis and some decent minutes from other underclassmen. Frazier and the departing Woodyard were the only upperclassmen to play major roles, so Penn State should expect to improve quite a bit. They can do so and still be miles away from the tourney after finishing 12-20 last year.
Question that needs resolving: Can anyone else score?
Tim Frazier can only do so much, and at the rate he's doing it now Penn State is all but doomed to EFGs in the 300s. Actually, "can anyone else do anything?" might be a better question. Not only is Frazier far and away Penn State's best scorer but his assist rate of 45.3 was second nationally. Penn State has taken the concept of relying on one really good six-foot guy as far as it will go: not far. Newbill doesn't seem like the answer.
Out: Everyone, including Doc Sadler.
In: Some JUCOs and stuff plus new coach Tim Miles.
Status: Nebraska was 4-14 in the Big Ten last year and graduated four starters. Everyone behind the starters was a junior and is not likely to improve much. Their recruiting class consists of low-rated JUCOs and a 5'8" PG.
Question that needs resolving: None. Nebraska will be the worst team in the league.
Brief vacation note. I'll be limited Friday and Monday as I visit some friends. I don't think it'll be that noticeable Friday but it's likely there aren't going to be any major columns Monday or Tuesday. I won't be able to catch the hockey game since they're not on TV, but I will write something up on the Purdue game whenever I get a chance.
Northwestern. Via mgovideo:
Podcast. I guested on The Solid Verbal. They asked me if I could think of anything wrong with Brady Hoke and I came up empty. It's been a good 13 months.
Beilein recruiting vs. development. I'm not entirely clear on whether Dan Hanner's recruiting and coaching rankings have methodology gaps that would particularly affect John Beilien but the general idea is to evaluate a coach's recruiting on the ORtg of his freshmen and his development of players on the movement of that ORtg as the players age. Survey says:
|Thad Matta||Ohio St.||8||10||3rd||12th||2nd|
There are some obvious holes in the evaluations here since they only take offense into account, they assume a guy like Burke's performance is all recruiting and no development when he's had on average a half-year of development by the end of his freshman year, etc. But they do make the case that Beilein's recruiting at Michigan has been horrendously underrated, especially since the defense is more than holding its own in this year's Big Ten. Throw it on the pile of evidence indicating Beilein has a great eye for players.
See also: Trey Burke, nation's #3 freshman according to CBS.
It might behoove us to move to a less three-mad offense. Emphasis on "might"—obviously there is something going on with Beilein's offense that works. But in Ken Pomeroy's ongoing quest to discredit defensive three point efficiency, he's doing collateral damage to offensive three point efficiency:
Oh dear. The defensive plot is just a random scattering of data, as has been discussed previously, but the offensive version isn’t much better. If you shot 45% in the first half of the 2011 conference season, you’d be expected to shoot about 35% in the second half. If you shot 25% in the first half, you’d be expected to shoot 33% in the second half. A difference you couldn’t notice with your eyes. I don’t know exactly what implications this has on strategy, but when evenly-matched teams get together, action happening beyond the 3-point line is like a lottery. You take a shot and a third of the time you have success.
In contrast, two-point shooting correlates well. Pomeroy admits he doesn't know what the impact on strategy is, and neither do I. This could be an argument for Michigan to move its game inside the line, but it's not hard to see Michigan's #6 two-point shooting as a number that benefits greatly from Michigan's long-range bombing. As long as Michigan is going four-out, one-in they're going to have to take a lot of threes to stretch opponents into giving them decent opportunities from two.
Thirty-eight is way too many, though. Right now the Wildcats are obviously right with Michigan; in the future when McGary, Horford, Glenn Robinson, and Stauskas give M a huge size and athleticism advantage bombing it from the outside is asking to get upset. I wonder if we see Michigan cut back on the bombs in their new era of talent superiority.
Meet the new GERG? Iowa's new offensive coordinator:
If you were hoping that the Greg Davis rumors were nothing but smoke and disinformation, well, today is not your day. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, a gentleman who is about as well-connected to the Texas football program as Mack Brown himself, reported today that Greg Davis had accepted the Iowa offensive coordinator position.
Davis was run out of Texas on a rail after Colt McCoy graduated and the offense collapsed. Before that he'd told Vince Young to run around out there to good effect and transitioned to a pretty good McCoy-led passing spread, so this is not exactly hiring a guy whose only success in the past ten years was a one-year blip (Greg Robinson).
Still, a 61-year-old retread who cratered that much talent has Iowa fans shrugging. The consensus at BHGP is "decent"; if things go south this fall they'll turn quickly. Looks like Jacobi had to rewrite his headline after his initial take:
Also on the url of the above Prevail and Ride cartoon as uploaded to SBN:
Mattison is probably not quaking at the hire.
Elsewhere in Iowa blogging. The High Porch Picnic evaluates Michigan's recent recruiting from an Iowa POV and is a bit bothered that Hoke and Ferentz seem to have a lot more overlap than the Hawkeyes did with the previous Michigan regime. If I was Iowa I'd be more concerned with Michigan's sudden relevance in Illinois, a place they've struggled in for the past five years.
This reminds me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing on the Solid Verbal: the current configuration of offenses in the Big Ten footprint is advantage Michigan recruiting. The two schools who do the best job of competing on the trail, Notre Dame and Ohio State, are now spread offenses. The second tier run pro-styles. Michigan looks like it's in a phase where it's rarely going to lose a battle against the second tier; meanwhile they should have an advantage with certain recruits in hostile territory simply because their opponents won't have a good place to put them.
Michigan's in a good position to starve Michigan State and, to a lesser extent, Iowa of offensive talent while bolstering their class with a guy like Jake Butt who Ohio State might have been pursuing hotly if they were still running a Tressel offense.
Side note: the impressive thing about Hoke's progress in Illinois is beating out ND. Remember when going up against Notre Dame was totally pointless, especially in Illinois? Yeah. We'll see what happens with Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell; if Michigan lands them that will be a huge statement.
List o' jerkos. CBS's Eye on College Football lists the 30 BCS schools who voted to override the multi-year scholarship legislation and points out that their real desire is to avoid giving out multi-year scholarships themselves:
The motivation in Austin, Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Norman isn't that they can't hand out four-year scholarships, it's that they simply don't want to.
Of course, the legislation doesn't mean any school -- BCS, mid-major, or otherwise -- is required to offer multiple-year scholarships. But since that might put the schools that don't at a recruiting disadvantage against schools that do, the Texases (and USCs, and Alabamas) have tried to prevent anyone from offering them.
In short: because these schools don't want to promise their athletes a full four-year college education, they've decided the athletes at other schools shouldn't have the benefit of that promise, either.
But whatever, they failed. Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school to ask for an override. Their football team signed up with most of the rest of the conference in offering four-year rides, though, so why is unknown. IIRC, their hockey team has a bit of reputation for cutting kids loose. That might be it.
Now the Free Press won't exist for anyone else, either. Gannett hastens its own decline:
“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, [Gannett] president of community publishing. The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.
The Free Press is a Gannett paper, so to get your Drew Sharp fix you'll have to start kicking in subscription dollars. I'm sure the line will be lengthy: Gannett projects they'll increase subscription revenues by 25%—$100 million per year. Think of all the press conference rehashes, trolling, and Mitch Albom columns about angels you'll be missing out on.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not going to steal Ace's recruiting roundup thunder entirely but just… holy hopping ham sandwiches:
The Levenberry family is looking for a paternal figure to guide son E.J.'s career. It's found him in Ann Arbor.
E.J. Levenberry Jr. said this week that Michigan is the lead school for his services. The ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker prospect from Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton referenced Wolverines coach Brady Hoke as one of the primary reasons why.
"He kind of reminds me of my dad, the way he carries himself," Levenberry said.
Add Levenberry, Isaac, Treadwell, and O'Daniel—all players who Michigan reputedly leads for now—and that's nine Rivals 100 recruits, three guys who would be consensus five-stars if rankings hold, and a class that will compete for the best in the country. They'll probably lose at least one of those guys and rankings do not hold*; even so… good God.
*[Because there's not many places to go but down and as the year goes along recruiting analysts will turn up top flight talent they missed the first time around. See: Ondre Pipkins. Even if Rivals's opinion of Jake Butt doesn't change at all he's likely to slide 20-30 spots by Signing Day.]
Briefly. Ohio State fans are now the ones annoyed by the "spread can't work in B10 lol" meme propagated by hobos, people who think wrestling is real, and newspaper columnists—all the same people. They get bonus annoyance because Rich Rodriguez just "proved" this by having a quarterback run for 1700 yards. As I said: people who think wrestling is real.
So they're trying to dispel the Rodriguez stink:
Rodriguez largely failed to evolve his offense past the spread's origins. Chris Brown, for instance, prophetically predicated at the beginning of Rodriguez's Michigan tenure that Rodriguez's passing game lacked the conceptual nature necessary to succeed as teams adapted to the spread's basic tenets. Nor did Rodriguez (for the most part) diversiify his offense in the way an Oregon has to counteract things such as scrape exchanges. Michigan never embraced plays such as the midline option, inverted veer, power or counter trey like others. The upshot is that, while Michigan's offense was largely succesful once Denard Robinson was in place, it never hummed in the way Oregon's offense did (particularly against better teams) to overcome Michigan's defense or special team liabilities.
That's not really true. Rodriguez adapted his system to use Lloyd's collection of tight ends, burned many defenses with plays specifically designed to blow up scrape exchanges, and eventually shelved large sections of the old playbook in favor of having Denard Robinson run QB isos and stretches, pairing those with "aigh he's open" moments when a Robinson run turned out to be a pass. The reason 31 points against Penn State and 28 with a missed chip shot field goal against Wisconsin were bad performances didn't have much to do with the offense.
Rodriguez's offense never reached the high-pitched hum of Oregon's because he never had a returning starter at quarterback and the only non-freshman was a breathtakingly green Denard Robinson. Also his tailbacks were pretty bad. If OSU fans are looking for narratives to combat hobos, "we'll have an assload of talent relative to Rodriguez" is your best bet.
Etc.: Tremendous has an even more detailed breakdown of Hoke's appearance at the Glazier Clinic. Rodger Sherman narrowly survived the Michigan-Northwestern game but the prognosis is grim. Michigan's off to a healthy lead in the name-based recruiting class derby but there's a "Zanquanarious Washington" out there—they will not win. Blue wall! You've already seen Luke Winn's decision to put us in SI's "magic eight" teams from which a national champion will come. That seems like a bad bet to me, but whatever. TTB interviews Jehu Chesson, who I will probably call "Jehuu Caulcrick" at some point during his career.
2/21/2012 – Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT) – 21-7, 11-4 Big Ten
LEFT: A fateful moment in which our brave comrade fouled the opponent's forearm in the eyes of corrupt capitalist lackeys. RIGHT: The imperialists were forced into illegal measures in their failed attempts to deal with Comrade Morgan.
Let the reign of Beilein be long and glorious. He is our sun and star and moons. He has brought basketball back to Ann Arbor long after we had ceded our land to the imperialists of East Lansing and set about hoping we would not be Northwestern forever. The bubble is banished and all loyal Wolverines are required to have Mao-style paintings of not one but two Dear Leaders. This is right and just.
But we have to talk about something, Oh Great Back Cut of Heaven. That thing is what to do when Michigan's glorious but thin frontcourt, sabotaged by foreigners who broke Comrade Horford's foot—we have executed the traitors or at least given people who probably know the traitors harsh looks—is brought low by the machinations of imperialist pig-dogs with whistles.
Oh Thousand Shining Arcs From Behind The Line, your response in the Northwestern game was to bench Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz in favor of Comrades McLimans and Christian. They are a good loyalists who contribute all they can to the cause. Unfortunately for the Glorious Revolution, that is zero shot attempts and zero rebounds in fourteen minutes. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" suggests that Comrades McLimans and Christian are most needed in the towel-waving collectives of Ukraine, where they can fan our team to greatness.
When they are placed on the court, starvation ensues. Michigan led 11-3 when McLimans entered the game; Northwestern led 31-24 by halftime, when Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned to the floor. In that span of time, Northwestern had six offensive rebounds in eight opportunities*. In the other 31 minutes they had five in 24. Northwestern scored more points in the fourteen minutes without Morgan and Smotrycz (28) than they did in the other thirty-one(27).
Upon their return Morgan and Smotrycz promptly led a glorious charge into a lead foreordained by your divinity, Great Leveler. Unfortunately, rebel conspiracy sabotaged the bridge between Tim Hardaway Jr. and free throw makes, forcing the revolution into overtime. The people rose up and slew their purple oppressors with a thousand swords, as you decreed would always be the case.
Some of our less faithful comrades may have momentarily lost confidence, however. While the will of the people can never be defeated, it should be pointed out that basketball teams can and putting in comrades who are not very good at basketball could lead to a (temporary, meaningless) setback in Michigan's five-year plan.
When comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned it took 12 minutes for one of them to pick up a third foul. If they were allowed to continue playing in the first half it is true they would be in danger of fouling out early. But what would the consequences be in that situation? In the worst vaguely plausible scenario, both Morgan and Smotrycz foul out five or six minutes into the second half, forcing the Striped Orange Sun to… play McLimans and Christian for 14 minutes. The wisdom of the Shining Beacon of Halftime Adjustments is unquestioned, but in this one situation it seems like it is not infinite.
Earlier in the year, a similar substitution pattern saw Comrade Burke confined to the bench for a long stretch against Iowa. Burke left with Michigan down four and returned with them down twelve. Nefarious play by oppressors made Michigan play poorly throughout, so this did not make an impact on the outcome, but it didn't help matters much.
I submit that with Burke averaging 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes at the time of his transgression and six additional calls available to a two-headed center playing a team without any size, it would benefit Michigan greatly to roll the dice on players in foul trouble instead of willingly accepting the worst-case scenario of doing so. Oh sun and moon and stars.
*[It was actually 7 of 9 but one was a OREB credited to Northwestern's team after McLimans blocked a shot out of bounds. I don't think that shows up on the box score I'm using.]
Highlights from BTN and mgovideo:
Bullets that get dust on them
Defense! Zounds. UMHoops says Michigan had Morgan and/or Smotrycz for 40 possessions. On those possessions Northwestern scored 27 points, or 0.68 points per possession. That's outstanding. Northwestern has the country's 15th-best offense and the league's fourth-best; when Michigan wasn't going to the deep bench because of the aforementioned rigidity they annihilated the Wildcats.
The primary way they did this was by switching everything. IIRC there was a single breakdown for an open layup in the first half, then nothing the rest of the game. Everything else was contested. John Shurna was 2 of 5 from three and 4 of 11 from two with a couple of those twos ridiculous circus things; after the game Bill Carmody kind of called out his leading scorer for passivity:
"It just seemed the whole game that he was reluctant to do anything," Carmody said. "He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing. It was a game he had to take over."
Northwestern never tried to punish Michigan for switching players as small as Trey Burke onto Shurna. That's either blind luck or great scouting.
Threes? Michigan hit 37% on 38 threes for 1.1 points per attempt. Are we happy with that? I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of those were wide open when opponents sagged off Burke or left a corner three open in the 1-3-1. On the other hand, 38 threes. I'm guessing we would have had a much different opinion than confusion if Burke and Hardaway didn't put down back-to-back triples after Michigan found itself down four late. Those makes opened the door for the rat-tat-tat at the beginning of overtime. Before that the numbers were ugly.
1.1 points is not great. It sounds good as a shooting percentage but you have to take into account that way more twos than threes end up getting erased in favor of free throws. On the other hand, being willing to launch from deep really cut down on Michigan's turnovers (six to an uncharacteristic 14 for Northwestern) and would have led to some additional possessions via Morgan offensive rebounds if the refs hadn't gone from suck to blow in the second half. In the end, it worked. Worked authoritatively when Morgan/Smotrycz were in.
1-3-1 response. When Michigan's 1-3-1 was getting shredded early in the disappointing Harris/Sims post-tourney year it seemed like opponents were attacking it diagonally and getting to the basket. Michigan was hesitant to put the ball on the floor at all and ended up shooting over it on a large majority of possessions. When they did dump it in low, Morgan had a couple opportunities but didn't go up strong, as they say, and we got the obligatory missed bunny or two*. I wonder if Northwestern just runs the 1-3-1 a lot better than Michigan ever has in the Beilein era.
*[This should be less of a problem with McGary. When people are asking Morgan to go up strong they believe he can dunk a ball from a standing start under the basket, which I don't think he can. This should be no problem for McGary as long as he can catch cleanly—always an issue with big men.]
Hardaway. Yerg. Back to the salt mines: 2 of 9 from three, 4 of 10 from the line. Two of three from two… against a team that has no shot blocking. I don't think those distributions are going to get fixed this year; we can only hope the shots go down when Michigan really needs them to.
Rodger Sherman is not dead:
How. in the HELL. do we lose two games to the same ranked team in overtime? HOW? Why does this happen? THIS IS JUST THE WORST.
Northwestern has now played about 8000 close games this season and lost all of them. Here are my questions, and I am furious about each and every one.
You get the ball witha bout 50 seconds and a full shot clock. Instead of opting to go two-for-one and take the last shot, which ANYBODY WITH ANY SORT OF BASKETBALL SENSE IN THE WORLD would have done, Northwestern held for 35 seconds and had a possession end with a JerShon Cobb three, a shot which is about as efficient as repeatedly stabbing yourself in the face. YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES AGAINST A RANKED TEAM WITH ALL THE MOMENTUM. YOU WANT TO END THE GAME IN REGULATION. YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEATING A BETTER TEAM IN THREE POSSESSIONS (TWO OF WHICH ARE YOURS) THAN FIVE MORE MINUTES. This is inexplicable.
We will root for Northwestern from here on out. We have hurt them more than they deserve. AnnArbor.com on Vogrich:
"He's been a big part of this little surge we're having right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Vogrich. "You've seen all year long that we've struggled with our bench play.
"And we need that. He's done a good job."
During Michigan's current four-game winning streak, Vogrich has gone 9-for-13 from 3-point range, providing a spark off the bench that hasn't been there for most of the season.
Known as a 3-point specialist, Vogrich entered the Nebraska game on Feb. 8 shooting just 21.2 percent from behind the arc. But thanks to his recent hot streak, he's jumped up to a more respectable 33.3 percent on the year.
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
|LINE||M –1 (Kenpom)|
Remember when Michigan hadn't been to the tourney in ten years? Multiply that by infinity, give them a shot, and that is this game. Sippin' on Purple:
Hey, Northwestern's playing tonight! And it's not important at all! BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG) Hahahahahahahaha basketball is fun! (DIES)
So, Northwestern fans experiencing the team's first true bubble run don't really know how to feel. It turns out I've mastered the correct feeling, and here's how you do it: AFJKLSDSA;KLFJDL;ASJKADLS;KJFDAS WHAT WHAT IS HAPPENING AHHHHHH AHHHH EVERY SINGLE BASKETBALL GAME WE PLAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER TO HAPPEN EVER AND I'M NOT EVEN JOKING. There. Just be like that.
One of these pictures is of John Shurna, but which one? Okay, fine, you got it. It's the beak. Dead giveaway.
Penn State is terrible, Purdue is at home, and by the time Michigan plays Illinois Champaign will be in the throes of civil war. Thus tonight's game against Northwestern is Michigan's most daunting hurdle left. Kenpom says @ Illinois is more difficult but Kenpom cannot take the breakdown of civil society there into account.
Meanwhile, the stakes. Oh, the stakes. If Michigan wins they'll probably double their chances of getting a share of their first Big Ten title since 1986. If Northwestern wins they probably double their chances of getting their first tourney bid since the Big Bang. If Northwestern gets to 9-9 in conference they are in, and they have games against Iowa and Penn State left. Road game, sure, but their path to the a bid is clear if they defend home court tonight. Expect Welsh-Ryan to be bats. What's that, Stu Douglass?
"That gym's pretty small and it doesn't get too loud"
Expect Welsh-Ryan to be double bats.
The Wildcats got the preview treatment already. The main change since then has been due to injury: Luka Mirkovic has been out with an ankle sprain that must be of the dreaded "high" variety for him to miss so much time. In his absence, secret albatross John Shurna has played a lot of center—Northwestern's primary lineup these days is basically Michigan's lineup with Smotrycz on the floor and Morgan on the bench. Mirkovich did not play against Minnesota on Saturday and it doesn't seem like he'll return today.
Northwestern will go to a bigger lineup with post-type guy Davide Curletti, who got twenty minutes against the Gophers. Curletti is a lot like Mirkovich statistically but has significantly lower usage and turns the ball over a bit more. This may be due to Curletti playing more against Big Ten competition. Curletti's not much of a concern from the floor (low usage, 44%) or line (57%) and might see his time against Michigan reduced since the rebounding imperative will be lower than it was against Ralph Sampson III and company.
Northwestern also has guard JerShon Cobb back after a long injury absence. His numbers this year are too thin to draw much from; last year he was an inefficient offensive player (45% from 2, 30% from 3, few free throws but few turnovers). He has a reputation as a defensive stopper, however, and may be placed on Burke in an effort to slow him down. The Minnesota game was his first significant playing time since the Illinois game before the first Michigan-NU matchup of the year; he went 0-3 from the floor (all threes) in 24 minutes but had five steals.
Those are the relative newcomers. The team's engine is still John Shurna and Drew Crawford, who you know about. Shurna has massive usage, plays 92% of the time, never turns the ball over, and shoots 43% from 3. Crawford's got Hardaway-level usage, never turns the ball over, and shoots 40% from 3. Both are around 52-53% from inside the arc. They're quality.
The third banana is coming on like gangbusters as the season draw to a close. That's freshman point guard Dave "Sobocop" Sobolewski (right), who is averaging 14.8 points per game over the past six. He's got 22 assists to 8 turnovers in that span and is hitting 56% of his threes. He's only had one stinker in there (three points against Indiana) and if he can keep that up Northwestern's going to be hard to beat on their home floor.
Though Sobolewski was just okay against Michigan the first time out he impressed with his ability to get to the basket. Again: Michigan should closely monitor all Northwestern recruiting classes for opportunities to violate gentleman's agreements.
Aside from the three bolded fellows and the guys who need no introduction there aren't many other players to mention. Only two bench players got more than a minute against the Gophers: Curletti and Alex Marcotullio. He and Reggie Hearn are generic Northwestern low-usage guards with a lot of threes and not much else. Hearn does get off a decent number of two pointers.
It's been a while since Michigan eked out a two-point OT win over the Wildcats in Crisler. Since that game Northwestern has gone 5-5 in the league. They beat Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan and then took care of some of the league's poorer teams at home; they also helped initiate the Illinois death spiral by beating them 74-70 at Assembly Hall, Champaign Edition.
On the less-happy side of the ledger they suffered double-digit road losses against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Purdue, a five-point road loss against Indiana, and a two-point home loss against Purdue.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||54.4 1||52.9 10||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 4||18.4 7||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||24.6 12||36.3 12||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||40.2 4||38.7 2||36.5|
Northwestern is Michigan only moreso. They are getting hammered on the boards in the post-Mirkovich era, and while they make up for that with excellent shooting on the offensive end—as a team they are hitting almost 40% of their threes in the Big Ten—they can't make up for the crappy defensive rebounding with good FG defense like Michigan does. As a result they're the second-worst D in the league, in front of only Iowa.
As you might expect, Northwestern launches a huge quantity of threes (44%, 7th nationally) and gets a ton of assists (65% of made field goals are assisted, 6th nationally); they also give up a lot of threes at a high rate of success and a low plenty of assists themselves.
Run 'em off the line. In a marked contrast with every other team in the league, Michigan should not have to double when the ball goes in the post—if the ball goes in the post—and can stick with their shooters. If Curletti is going to put it up, fine. If Shurna's willing to work for a two, fine. If a team that's hitting 40% from three gets a bunch of them, not so much.
The key thing to watch here is Sobolewski and Crawford penetrating. Without a post presence, Northwestern generates its open threes with a lot of penetrate-and-kick. Sobolewksi was effective at this in the first game. Trey Burke is going to have to D up a lot more than he did against the passive Aaron Craft. Stu Douglass will likely draw Crawford, and that will be okay unless he starts sinking a bunch of contested jumpers. Which could happen.
Anyway: reducing the numbers of threes taken is a priority. Michigan did a good job of this in the first game, holding the Wildcats to just 13 threes. That and a ton of offensive rebounding (17 on 44 opportunities) eventually gave them the win despite shooting 7 of 30 behind the arc themselves.
Morg-ownage: possible? Shurna at the five has been a problem for a lot of Big Ten defenses. Michigan would seem in better shape than most with Jordan Morgan, a relatively quick center who has the stamina to chase Shurna around the court. If Morgan can cope defensively, Michigan should have an advantage on the other end of the court when it comes to offensive rebounding. Yes, they're more than rumors.
Is that likely? Well… Shurna had 21 points on 15 shots in the first matchup. So maybe not. Morgan may be able to outrun most centers in the league but guarding Shurna on the perimeter has been an issue. So then you've got Smotrycz, whose defense is… inconsistent.
Morgan needs to dominate the boards here to make up for what will be an awkward matchup with Shurna.
Make some threes. Northwestern gives up a ton of quality three point opportunities and allows opponents to shoot 50% from two. There aren't a whole lot of bad shots when you play the Wildcats.
Michigan just has to hit them. That 7 of 30 thing is going to be tough to overcome on the road. Michigan's been judicious and effective from deep in the past couple games. Let's hope it continues. If Michigan can hit 35% instead of 23% they will win comfortably.
Yes, this bullet is basically "score points!"
Bench help. Matt Vogrich can be useful in this game; Evan Smotrycz will have a relatively even matchup when he's in at the five.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one. Sippin' On Purple's Rodger Sherman literally dies. The second part is not a part of the Kenpom prediction, at least not yet.
"If we play the way we play against everyone else, it opens things up for things they want to do offensively, such as back-door plays and cuts," Jordan said. "We have to figure out how to make a new habit in two days (of practice)."
But for Jordan, his task is daunting because he doesn't want to miss a single detail or not be prepared when the game plan is presented in practice to the players and coach John Beilein.
"The goal is to eliminate surprises. You want to try to crack the code," he said. "You want to give some sense of what maybe to expect, but a lot of it is personnel-driven."
That Sippin' on Purple item is also a game preview.
Other basketball takes. Grantland* oddly dispatched a guy to cover the Michigan-Northwestern game. He comes back with an impression of Ann Arbor clearly derived from the rims clanging so loud it sounds like a Gary, Indiana, steel mill before it closed in 1979, but once he gets past the grim midwesternness of it all it's a good piece:
. In the post, Smotrycz and Novak get rough with Shurna, putting their bodies into him, bumping him off the ball, and generally making him fight for every inch. Shurna hates this physicality, hates it viscerally and philosophically and every other way you can hate something. More often than not, he casts a look at the referee, hoping for a foul call, before retreating to the perimeter. He'll finish the game with 21 points, but after his second jumper of the half, with 19 long minutes remaining, he's scored all but four of that total. The rest of the game is a vanishing act.
I still think whenever Beilein ends up with an open scholarship late he should scour Northwestern's commitments for whoever their totally rad guy is going to be. That seems preferable to snatching Colton Christian away from low majors.
Holdin' the Rope credits Denard in the headline and provides a link to the Novak dunk that brought down the house during Michigan's 10-0 second half run:
Re: Denard, A half-dozen Michigan football players including Roy Roundree and Denard held court in the student section after they were honored for winning the Sugar Bowl. One thing you can say about Michigan football: they are not too cool for school.
HTR also dubs freshman NU PG Dave Sobolewski "Sobocop" in an attempt to insult him for prompting the Morgan tech. This will certainly backfire and cause Northwestern fans to admiringly dub him that for the rest of his career. Sippin' On Purple, make this happen.
*[Grantland pays Brian Phillips and Chris Brown money to write about sports. I'm not hearing criticism of it even if it runs some dumb stuff. That's easy enough to ignore; the good bits are very good. VIVA LOS SIMMONS.]
Donnal update. Even Jordan Morgan is impressed by this stat:
Perhaps no one on the team has bought in to the new approach more than Mark Donnal, the 6-9 junior who is already committed to the University of Michigan. The league's top post player is averaging a team-high 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds after averaging 15 points and seven boards last season.
Donnal, who probably receives more double-teams near the basket than any other player in the NLL, is sinking 79 percent of his shots from the field, as well as from the foul line.
Big guys in high school usually tower over opponents and can just oaf their way to easy buckets, but if you've seen any video of Donnal you know he's unusually skilled for a 6'9" post type. He's Pittsnogalian.
That sounds like an adjective from a lost chapter of Gulliver's Travels featuring a race of lovable, enormous tattooed weirdos. It's a keeper, that is.
CSB midterms. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau has released their midseason rankings, which are the first to put a number on prospects rather than a vague letter. Voila:
#9 Jacob Trouba
#28 Phil Di Giuseppe (freshman)
#31 Boo Nieves
#82 Alex Kile (2013)
#157 Connor Carrick
#175 Justin Selman
Incoming goalie Jared Rutledge is the #36 goalie, which would mean he's not getting drafted. Daniel Milne and future Rutledge backup Steve Racine are the only draft-eligible recruits not listed.
Trouba is the top-ranked American. A CSB scout on him:
“Jacob has offensive skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he’s a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He’s going to be someone people are going to talk about; we’ve known about him for a couple years and he’s not disappointing this year.”
Remember that these are North American skater rankings only; Europeans and goalies will push these folks down. Those are mid-second-round ratings for PDG and Nieves, not late first.
WCH calls out Connor Carrick as notably under-ranked; if that's true Michigan will definitely have five draftees with Selman a potential sixth. Kile is a surprise. One: I didn't know he was draft eligible this year. Two: he's got 7-8-15 in 29 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, which is a far cry from the 38, 35, 30, 29 you see at the top of their scoring charts. He's kind of big at 6-foot, 195, but not the kind of big that gets you drafted above your skill level by the NHL.
Meanwhile in the odious machinations of junior hockey magnates. Nieves's rights were traded in the deadline flurry. This is never good, but Nieves has reconfirmed that he has no interest in the OHL:
Nieves was traded to Saginaw, which isn't any closer to home than Michigan or notorious for shelling out under the table payments. Also if he was going to leave he had an opportunity before signing up for another year of prep hockey with Matt Herr. Usually when a player committed to college changes his mind it's the year before he's scheduled to arrive. Only the specter of competing against Shawn Hunwick is sufficient motivation to ditch when college is around the corner.
Meanwhile in things you'd do for a dollar. Rumor is the Winter Classic is headed to Michigan in the near future, and not just the state:
Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that the NHL is in advanced discussions with the University of Michigan about holding the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
One source, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wasn't initially sold on the idea of the NHL hosting an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. But over a matter of a couple of weeks, the source said "something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will."
No doubt long deliberations with a man dressed in a curly fries outfit eventually led to the breakthrough. Would Dave Brandon threaten to break Michigan's own attendance record and hopelessly conflict a ton of people when Michigan inevitably plays a bowl game on the same day? Yes. The curly fries are very convincing, and there is at least one dollar in it.
Guh. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan unless I need to give Tony Gibson minus even more of the points:
The previous CB coach, Gibson, who I believe also is joining the Arizona staff, wasn't big on technique, at least not when he was a WVU. Players have stated that he would tell them, "just get to the spot." Lockwood came in and changed that, and with that change came nice strides of improvement in the cornerbacks.
Unfortunately, the spot was ten yards away from the receiver.
Etc.: The university's policy of exorbitant FOIA fees is an embarrassment. Roundtree's looking for a bigger role next year. BC Interruption is feeling the MGoPlayoff. Horford may be able to return this year. Silver lining if he can't: the ensuing redshirt will give some separation between Michigan's bigs, three of whom may leave in the same year if McGary is two-and-out. UMHoops picture pages a bunch of out of bounds plays.
1/11/2011 – Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT) – 14-3, 4-1 Big Ten
I blame the Sugar Bowl trophy. Clearly, this edition has fey powers. Those powers are 1) making everything around it uglier so that it seems pretty in comparison and 2) driving Michigan towards improbable victories it does not seem to deserve.
Because of the trophy's presence we got an extensive dose of the exasperated wail basketball has a near-monopoly on*. Scoring is so frequent that extended droughts are rare, rarer still when the team in question is getting of a wide variety of high-quality shots. When that happens and the home team is still missing, still missing, still—argh that one was halfway down—missing, each subsequent missed opportunity comes with a rising crescendo of despair. Normally calm old men start throwing their hands hither and thither. People lose their minds the fifth time "all right, two points" turns into "how did you miss that?"
By my calculations, all minds in Crisler last night were lost 2.4 times in the first half. Michigan limped to the locker room trailing by seven after shooting 25% on their twos. One three that bounced in and around the rim before popping out caused a guy in front of me to undergo this sort of arms-raised twitchy anger dance. I felt ill.
It didn't seem like the team was playing poorly—at least not on offense—but rather that it had been cosmically ordained from above that Michigan was to lose this game. If it had been a video game, 15 minutes in would have been controller-throwing, reset-hitting, pout-and-watch-TNG time.
But they won, didn't they? They won by brutalizing Northwestern on the boards and in turnover margin, by somewhat limiting Wildcat threes (27% opposed to their usual 33%) and refusing to foul unless someone was launching a wild three with less than a second on the clock. It was ugly and terrible; it was the game that you point to at the end of the season as One Of Those Games. It was the inexplicable loss you suck up and overcome… and they won.
So okay. Damage escaped, Iowa next, let's keep on inching.
Bullets that could use a GPS or something
The hedge. Northwestern fiercely hedged all ball screens with Burke and got away with every single one. Burke tried to split one late and was fortunate to get a tenuous kicked ball call; all other saw him take the long way and not end up punishing the hedge.
This is a spot in which Morris had a major advantage because he was a half-foot taller and lanky. Hedge like that and the ball is going to the big slipping the screen for a 70% chance at a Jordan Morgan basket, or Morris will peel around the big guy with a good chance at catching him out of position and using his height to get a solid look. Burke… well, we need some work there.
Hypothesis 1: he should try to use his quickness by accelerating into the hedger before he can get set and get those Chauncey Billups calls. Hypothesis 2: we should run more pick and roll with Hardaway, who can pass over the shorter guy or drive to the basket against a guy who will probably not be blocking his shot. Hardaway has such height and elevation that little pull up jumpers are a high percentage business.
Do you think Beilein would be amenable to answering questions like that?
Small ball. I'm not sure if Northwestern's small lineup killed Michigan or not, what with the massive offensive rebounding numbers Michigan put up and Carmody's decision to go with Mirkovic for most of the stretch. If Michigan's shooting anywhere near a reasonable percentage given their shot quality the offensive benefits of the small lineup are outweighed by their terrible D numbers.
Michigan ended up going small in response, spending much of the second half switching Smotrycz and Morgan O for D; Stu Douglass ended up playing 38 of 45 minutes.
Insane devotion to foul orthodoxy. I can see yanking Smotrycz after his second since Michigan had a reason to go small and Smotrycz is the kind of guy who will foul out if you don't keep an eye on him. But Novak? UMHoops mentioned this gently; I'll restate: guy averages 2.8 fouls per 40 minutes. The risk of bringing him back in for the last five minutes of the first half is not high.
Stu! Douglass has quietly been an effective, important player in the last three games. His shooting helped a lot against Indiana and Wisconsin and his perimeter defense is the best on the team by a wide margin. He had five steals against Wisconsin and two in this game.
Even more importantly, switching Douglass onto Crawford slowed him considerably. In the second half and OT, Crawford had one dunk he was given after Michigan played great defense to deny three-point opportunities as NU wound the clock from 22 seconds to 8 and went 5/6 on free throws from Morgan and Burke fouls. The Douglass matchup:
- 1 steal
- 2 TO
- 1/5 from 2
- 0/1 from 3
IIRC Hardaway had Crawford for most of the first half when he went 6 of 9 with a made three.
Douglass couldn't throw it into Gordon Gee's mouth in this game but since no one other than Hardaway could that's a criticism to save for another time. Even so he was Michigan's second most efficient scorer in this game with 10 points on 10 shots; Hardaway and Burke bested him but Burke only did so thanks to his end-of-game free throw spree.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ice cold, young man, especially after playing the entire game.
Hardaway launch pad. He took a couple of wince-inducing threes but they went down in this outing. One was a heat check that is not statistically more likely to go in but is impossible to prevent even the meekest low usage guy from taking, so okay.
Two for one. Beilein went for one at the end of the game; it did not work out because the pass to Hardaway was a little off and the resulting Novak three left only a six-second difference between shot and game clock, and then the insane Hardaway foul erased that. Good idea, though.
Speaking of. Ohmygawd what was that at the end of the game? If Northwestern had been in the bonus I think my head would have come off. They are letting almost everything slide and then they call a nothing foul with ten seconds left. Face, meet palm.
And then Douglass hacks the hell out of Crawford because Michigan has fouls to give and the refs ignore that. Quite a sequence there. Don't get me started on Novak trying to take charges.
Timeouts. Argh. All basketball games would be improved by cutting two timeouts. This one would have been immensely so.
*[Hockey has a version of it when one team is throwing chance after chance at a hot goalie and his even hotter goalposts in a close game—call it the Ryan Miller Experience. Baseball has nothing like it and the tenor of a frustrated football crowd is different; the anger is usually more directed. This frustration is a cosmic one.]