"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Several large bright objects have been reported in the skies above Ann Arbor this week. One is almost certainly this "Sun" the ancients were always going on about. But before we declare spring and release the frisbee people from their hibernation deep inside North Face jackets, we should rule out several other possibilities, like:
A Tiny Running Back Who Blocks and Makes the World Better
We will be in Ypsi tomorrow afternoon with Vincent Smith to benefit #EATING's Flint Garden. Corner Brewerey, 4-8pm.
A Basketball Team That Looks Like Spike Albrecht
Surely after a stretch that looked thusly:
in LSAClassof2000's seasonal four factors table, and that before losing Walton and LeVert, this season wasn't likely to end in the dance. Once those guys were out too, the step-back year because the Year of the Albrecht.
He has another left, but I think this season will go down as, metaphorically, the Spike one. They are too short, overlooked, worse offensively than they look, prone to the mistakes one makes when trying to do things outside the realm of normal basketball, and once in awhile pull something outside the realm of normal basketball:
click for Ace's gif
The artistry of Albrecht is the ridiculousness of the feint. In the above Spike takes two steps like he's about to posterize Ravote Rice. Unless they installed a trampoline in Chicago, Spike's Michael Jordan imitation will fall several feet below the rim. But Rice's brain isn't prepared for Albrecht to attempt this, because Albrechts don't attempt this, so Ravonte's body automatically does the thing it's been taught to.
When Spike would dribble the baseline you'd have two posts watching him whiz by like "is he serious?" And yet their bodies have been taught to twitch angrily at such attacks from far more plausible people. Because Spike was a sideshow, it took a year of this before coaches finally taught the collapsing guy to go for the steal instead of challenging the front of the basket.
Spike's shtick is the basketball version of that time Gardner took an Ohio State defender off his feet with a pump fake to nobody. You take advantage of the fact that a defender is a tightly wound spring of muscle memory. But it's not sustainable. In today's game Spike feinted like he was coming off a double on Dekker, then popped back on him and forced a turnover to help Michigan claw back in it in the 2nd half.
A Meatball All Covered With Cheese
Specifically one off the bat of one Sierra Romero. She's hitting .545 with 30 RBI in 55 at bats. Meanwhile the pitchers went through the first half of the season—all spent on the road because that's life as a northern team these days—with a 1.62 ERA.
Michigan is ranked #4 in the country, with two losses to #1 Florida, and a loss to Arizona State. The home opener is a doubleheader tomorrow vs. Kent State, and some MGoCrew are trying to make it out there for Sunday afternoon.
If you're going to follow this season, you need to know about the pizza. No, this is not a Gittleson diet; it's the most charming thing in Michigan sports since that rainbow smiling Iowa safety ankle breaking dude. Via junior catcher Lauren Connell:
We began to call Lindsay Montemarano "Monte Pizza" after she went on and on about all the reasons why New York pizza is better than Midwest pizza, as she deems herself a pizza expert. Every time Monte Pizza got on base, we would "Sprinkle the cheese" in the dugout, and thus, a new Team 38 tradition was born. Soon, we were sprinkling the cheese for everybody after a nice hit. We then rediscovered our love for the greatest food item on Earth as it quickly became the topic of all jokes and Instagram captions. Throughout the course of the season, we have developed a system involving pizza for singles, doubles, triples and home runs
Single they roll out the dough. Double they sprinkle cheese. Triples they make it rain pepperonis. She who hits it out gets to come home to sprinklers, and…
she *CHOMP* eats the pizza.
Michigan has 44 pizzas this season, nine of which the work of Romero.
Most Harbaughs Since Harbaugh
|1985 quarterbacks, courtesy of John Kryk|
WD noticed that the roster this year will include more QBs (walk-ons too) than any season since 1985. It makes sense since the roster was pretty bare when Harbaugh assumed the starting job in 1984, so this was the reload. In the comments markusr2007 tracked the '84 depth issues to when Steve Smith was the apparent starter for the foreseeable future, putting a dent in recruiting behind him. I'm sure Harbaugh appreciated the situation then, and certainly appreciates the value of QB depth and competition now.
My friend is married to Kyle Anderson, who saw the post and said there weren't really that many guys competing for the job since a few of them were playing other positions that season, and he himself was on crutches. Cernak was the nominal backup to Harbaugh but he'd looked pretty overwhelmed at the end of '84. One guy not on WD's list was Mike Gillette, who was listed as "QB/P" on the official roster.
Etc. Hockey was in line to win the Big Ten and perhaps an at-large bid with a good tournament showing but bombed at Penn State: thanks Oops I Crapped My Pants. Dallas radio gave us a shoutout, got our numbers right. Passing game video. SEC recruiting isn't all dollars and sense.
Your Moment of Zen:
(by me. original image via Angelique)
The Bielfeldt shot is more representative of today's game. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
The first two games between Michigan and Illinois this season featured a pair of improbable comeback victories, one by each team.
It looked to be heading in that direction again in the first half of today's Big Ten Tournament matchup; Michigan had an early 12-0 run erased by a subsequent 13-0 charge by the Illini. Even after the Wolverines closed the half with a 23-4 run, carrying a 17-point lead into the break, you'd be excused if you were waiting for the other shoe to drop—Michigan had, after all, blown an 18-point second-half lead against Illinois exactly four weeks ago.
Instead, Michigan pushed the lead higher, and the Illini might as well have absconded for the locker room when Spike Albrecht made his bid for an And1 Mixtape appearance:
Aside from an all-too-familiar scoring drought in the first half, Michigan couldn't have played much better. The team moved the ball beautifully, tallying assists on nine of their 15 first-half buckets. Albrecht had five on the game, playing as Spike does—moving the ball around and hitting a couple deep bombs.
More eye-opening was the all-around effort from Zak Irvin, who posted a 14-6-6 line, working within—and driving—the offense better than ever. Irvin's anticipation on a first-half lob to Aubrey Dawkins, cutting in from the corner, was only the most highlight-worthy sign of his progress. Today made it clear that he's broken through to another level, especially in creating offense off the high screen.
Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman both put their season-long progress on display, as well. Dawkins continued his hot shooting, hitting 9/12 from the field on his way to a team-high 18 points. Rahk hit his lone three-point attempt and had several successful forays to the hoop to net his 15 points, and he also posted a career-high eight rebounds. Max Bielfeldt, starting for the second straight game, became the fourth Wolverine to hit double-figures with ten points.
Whether in zone or man, Michigan proved more than up to the task of shutting down the Illini's three main scoring threats. Malcolm Hill, Rayvonte Rice, and Kendrick Nunn combined to shoot 11/37 from the field; those three accounted for well over half of the team's shot attempts. Secondary scoring was limited to backup forward Leron Black's ten points, but Black also turned the ball over four times—he compounded an obvious first-half charge with a subsequent technical, which Albrecht turned into a five-point trip that extended Michigan's lead to 13.
With the win, Michigan's NIT hopes are now very much alive, though they won't feel secure in locking down a bid unless they upend top-seeded Wisconsin tomorrow at noon. Michigan pushed the Badgers to overtime in their lone regular-season matchup. Given how the Wolverines looked today, they look ready to give the Big Ten's best another fight tomorrow.
Disappointing lack of calves on the jersey plaque. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Max Bielfeldt recorded his first career double-double. Aubrey Dawkins nearly tied the single-game school record for three-pointers. Michigan's game-ending lineup featured Austin Hatch, two walk-ons, and two student managers turned practice players.
Needless to say, the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Save for a 19-0 Rutgers run to close a contest that had long been decided, Michigan maintained a death grip from start to... well, almost-finish.
On his Senior Day, Bielfeldt opened the proceedings with a hook shot before going on to score 14 points (6/10 FG), pull down 11 boards, and even hand out three assists. Bielfeldt earned a couple ovations on the day, including a "double double" chant when he grabbed his tenth rebound.
While it was Bieldfeld's day, Aubrey Dawkins stole much of the spotlight. Setting a career high in points for the second consecutive game, Dawkins rained in eight of his 11 three-point attempts—finishing one make short of Garde Thompson's school record—on his way to a game-high 31. He also provided the highlight of the afternoon with a forceful two-handed finish of a Spike Albrecht lob.
Albrecht generated much of Michigan's offense despite scoring just seven points on eight shots. He repeatedly found open shooters after lulling Rutgers to sleep with his patented forays along the baseline, ultimately dishing out nine assists, tying a career high.
As a result, the Wolverines literally shot until the lights went out. After Dawkins knocked down his first four three-pointers, Kameron Chatman added one of his own to give Michigan an early ten-point lead; the lights in Crisler Center promply shut off, causing a brief delay in the action. It didn't seem to affect Michigan, which continued its assault right up to the halftime buzzer, when Chatman drilled another triple from the corner to boost the lead to 19.
Chatman would finish with 13 points on 4/5 shooting. Zak Irvin had an off day, knocking down just 5/15 shots on his way to 12 points, but it was barely noticable with all the offensive fireworks going off around him.
The second half mostly featured both teams playing out the string—or canning more threes, in Dawkins' case—until the late Rutgers run. While the final few minutes provided John Beilein with some teachable moments, it didn't threaten to change the final outcome. Bielfeldt gave himself a proper sendoff, while Dawkins continued a hot streak that should have Michigan fans very excited about his future.
Michigan is now locked in to the #9 seed in next weekend's Big Ten Tournament. Their opponent will be either a reeling Indiana squad or, if they lose to Purdue this afternoon, Illinois. Either way, the Wolverines managed to build a little momentum for themselves after a heartbreaker earlier this week at Northwestern.
This season hasn't inspired much in the way of GIFs posts. Sunday rectified that.
Different rival, different scenario, but man, does that look deliciously familiar nonetheless.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Ohio State game in GIFs.]
Note: family stuff has me in a car most of today and may prevent me from doing a lot until Thursday.
2/22/2015 – Michigan 64, Ohio State 57 – 14-13, 7-8 Big Ten
Basketball from the perspective of an Andre Drummond or a Shaq is a simple thing. You come into possession of the ball. You hold it between two fingers, bellow something designed to induce a flight or fight response, survey the various and sundry "flight" responses, and dunk explosively on anyone who chose… poorly. If someone tries to do the same when you are on defense, you fling him into the nearest body of water.
Later, you have a snack.
Basketball from the perspective of Spike Albrecht is a multi-dimensional differential equation in which almost all answers are emphatically wrong ones. To avoid being postmarked to Lake Michigan, Albrecht has to swoop through the lane several times to induce dizziness in the opposition and then find the one local minima that will result in a shot instead of an Ent-shaped man flexing.
He does this regularly.
When he's really dialed in the result has a Globetrotter feel. A few games ago there was a brief referee discussion after Albrecht was fouled and the refs tried to determine whether it was on the floor or not. The thing is: they were probably right it was a pass. It looked like a pass. It felt like a pass.
It felt like a pass that was off by a little bit so instead of just hitting the backboard it grazed the rim. It felt like this for two diametrically opposed reasons. One, whatever it was that Albrecht was doing did not in any was resemble a shot, at least as far as shooting has been understood since World War II. Two, when Albrecht flings balls at the basket like that they're usually a lot closer to going in.
I found out Kenpom's added an "MVP" feature in their box scores because Albrecht locked it down against Ohio State. And, well, yeah: Albrecht out-dueled future top five pick D'Angelo Russell:
- Albrecht: 16 points on 12 shot equivalents, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 TO
- Russell: 16 points on 17 shot equivalents, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 5 TO
Choosing your favorite Spiketrotters play from this game is difficult: the swooping layup past Amir Williams? The assist he wrapped around after faking the swooping layup so convincingly he momentarily fooled himself? The pinpoint, Brady-worthy fade pass to Bielfeldt off the pick and roll? Slipping in for one of his trademarked Very Sneaky Steals to seal the game?
I dunno man, I like 'em both, and I also like both the others. Watching that kind of performance from Albrecht is like a virtuoso slot receiver performance or a hat trick from one of the 5'8" puck wizards Michigan used to collect like pogs back in the day. It's disproportionately fun.
Movies pack their sportsbits with various people overcoming handicaps for a reason. People watch sports instead of those movies for a reason: it's so much better when a script is nowhere near the proceedings. Not that you could script items like we saw yesterday.
P: "So the little guy, he does what?"
W: "He swoops by a seven-foot dude and flings it up underhand from the baseline! And he makes it! A lot!"
P: "The littlest guy on the court. Shooting one-handed grandma free throws on the run against guys a foot taller than him."
P: "I can't decide whether to fire you or shoot you."
We're all pretty eh on this season, willing to give a guy with eight NCAA tourney wins in two seasons a mulligan when his best two players end up on the shelf after a massive pile of unexpected NBA attrition, but not particularly eager to watch Michigan lose a bunch of games. There's no storming the barricades like football, just a desire to fast-forward to next year.
Albrecht paused that thinking a few minutes in yesterday, giving us something to grab on to now, instead of next year. That thing is man versus space bear, with man improbably winning.
This was a game to maximize Spike's utility. He drew Shannon Scott on defense, and Scott barely tried to do anything about the fact he was a half foot taller than his guy. Scott had just four FGAs inside the arc, only one of which he hit. He missed a couple threes and had three assists against two turnovers.
Michigan's had some rough defensive outings of late, but this was a good one. Other than the spate of offensive rebounds early in the second half OSU didn't take advantage of Michigan's size deficiencies.
Hey! Chatman! The moment when everything was truly coming up Milhouse was Kam Chatman tip-toeing the sideline to chase down a loose ball and then finishing a transition layup in traffic, spurring an OSU timeout. Before that he'd finished a truly difficult bucket, spinning to the basket against solid defense and looking for a moment like the top 50 prospect he was in high school. It's more baby step than steps. I'll take it all the same.
Ditto Irvin. Aided by the still-baffling Amir Williams's post-defense-type-substance, Irvin was also a major step up from where he's been lately. He was generating shots for people other than himself—four assists—and driving. He still has a bad habit of always going up with his right hand on any layup, though.
Rough day for the freshmen guards. Lost in the actual offensive efficiency was MAAR and Dawkins combining for just seven points on 12 shots with 4 TOs. MAAR did have four assists.
Even in this year. Michigan's now 7-8 in the league with games against Northwestern and Rutgers on the docket. 9-9 is a thing that could happen even with this roster. That's quite a bottom compared to all the other bottoms Michigan basketball has experienced. Flip a couple of those OT results and they'd have faint tourney hopes, even.
Oh, the faces you'll show. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's last-second attempt to tie from the corner summed up this Michigan team of late. Indiana looked like they'd win comfortably for most of the game, at times threatening to break the game wide open, but the Wolverines clawed back into it late, overcoming their porous defense with timely buckets.
The final possession played out similarly. Zak Irvin, whose hot hand brought M within striking distance, was clearly the first option, but IU wouldn't allow him a decent look. As the clock wound perilously close to zero, Michigan swung the ball around the arc, and suddenly there was MAAR, standing alone in the corner.
His try caught only iron, and we're once again left to commending Michigan's effort in a narrow loss against a better team.
This team, in its current form, just isn't talented enough to overcome too many mistakes. The first half featured Indiana jumping out to a lead in part due to too many Wolverine turnovers. The second half featured a couple critical missed layups—including MAAR blowing a breakaway that would've pulled M within two—and too many offensive boards for IU.
Michigan struggled throughout on defense, failing to keep Yogi Ferrell (18 points, six assists) out of the lane whether in man or zone; Ferrell did most of his damage in the paint, either swooping in for layups or creating open looks when the defense collapsed. Troy Williams posted 20 and 8 in an impressive performance highlighted by a couple thunderous dunks.
The failings on the other end meant Zak Irvin's 23-point output (9/16 FG) went in vain. Ditto Michigan's most productive performance from a big man in a long time, Ricky Doyle's 15 points on 5/5 FGs and 5/6 FTs. While the offense clicked in the second half, the hole dug in the first proved too deep to escape.
Facing their most difficult stretch of the season ahead, Michigan has a lot of positives to take from the last couple weeks. To actually start recording some signature wins, however, they must start shoring up the mistakes.