alternate headline: man does job
tim hardaway jr
Quality looks. Photos via Dustin Johnson and UMHoops.
(Stats via Kenpom($).)
With a 90-80 win against Oakland on Saturday, Michigan has completed the competitive section of their nonconference schedule with the exception of their annual inexplicable nonconference opponent stashed in the heart of the Big Ten schedule. This year's: @ Arkansas on January 21st. Why does Michigan do it? I have no idea. It's a persistent mystery.
Anyway, we won't learn much of anything about the team we don't already know as they take on Arkansas Pine Bluff, Alabama A&M, and Bradley. The former two are ranked 300+ by Kenpom; Bradley is 209 and has a loss to Wofford on their resume. We have 95% of the data we'll have by the time Penn State rolls into down on the 29th. So what have we learned?
The Big Ten is insane. Michigan checks in at #39 in the Kenpom ratings, which is good enough for a projected conference record of… 8-10. Glurp. That's because there are five teams in the league currently ranked in the top 15: #1 Wisconsin, #3 OSU, #12 Michigan State, #13 Indiana, and #14 Purdue. Michigan is currently leading a second tier from 39 to 52 with Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Nebraska's by itself in the 70s; Penn State and Iowa are horrible.
The Big Ten has a monster lead on the #2 Big Twelve for the title of best tempo-free conference in the country. It is a brutal league. Without a hugely disappointing tourney, it will be a runaway winner in the KenPom rankings for the second straight year.
Michigan is not in the top tier because of their defense. Their offense is 21st nationally (about which more later); their defense is 80th. The league has four defenses allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions*; Wisconsin and OSU are 1-2 nationally at 81 and 83.5. Michigan's giving up 95, which is good for ninth. They beat out only Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State.
That's a disappointing backslide for a team that you'd expect to be better on D. Darius Morris was the only loss and Michigan went from one of the youngest teams in the country to middle of the pack, but Michigan was 34th last year. Small sample size caveats apply; IIRC last year at this time Michigan's defense was just as shaky and they pulled it together in the Big Ten.
*[adjusted for schedule strength]
They are #1 in the country at something. Go ahead, guess. You'll never get it. No, none of those things: Michigan is #1 nationally in making two pointers. I should have told you to sit down. I cannot be held responsible for people falling over at this news.
Now that you've recovered, it makes some sense, doesn't it? I mean, Jordan Morgan missed a bunny against Oakland and Greg Kelser joked about how that will cripple his 77% shooting, and you were like "whoah." There is one guy on the team with enough minutes to register in the stats who's shooting under 55% percent, that Jon Horford at a horrendous awful terrible 53%. Michigan's four highest-volume two point shooters are at 76% (Morgan), 58% (Smotrycz), 56% (Hardaway) and 55% (Burke).
This is partially an effect of the schedule. The defenses they've gone up against have not generally been high quality. It was somewhat ugly against Virginia, possessor of the one elite defense they've faced so far. Michigan went 12 of 28 from two and only stayed in the game with blistering three point shooting—they actually shot better from 3 in that game than 2, 46%-42%.
That's an abnormally good defense, sure, but half of Michigan's Big Ten games are going to be against Virginia-quality Ds. This is a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust conference. That second half against Duke, when they tore up ALL OF THE PLUMLEES, is encouraging. They're #1 for some reason, it's not all schedule.
The rest of their offensive stats are basically in line with expectations. They shoot a ton of threes (20th), are only decent at making them (86th), rarely turn the ball over, rarely grab offensive rebounds, and rarely get to the line. POT, now and forever.
That's not a revelation. That's just how Beilein plays the game. We should be looking at these items in relation to last year. The four factors:
- SHOOTING. Massively improved thanks to the aforementioned two-point fiesta. Third nationally.
- TURNOVERS. Poor relative to last year. There is no easy finger to point: everyone's TO rates are up. Burke does have an alarmingly high 22.6; raise your hand if "freshman PG's most obvious flaw is an excessive quantity of turnovers" surprises you. Right, that's Josh Pastner and no one else.
- OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING. Less putrescent than usual! Last year they were the Maryland-Baltimore County of offensive rebounding. This year they're Marist. This gives you no context at all. They're up three percent, good for a significant leap.
- FREE THROW RATE. Also less putrescent than usual; they've gone from the Towson of free throw rate to… well, not good but also not terrible.
Smotrycz needs to stay on the floor. Smotrycz has improved massively in just about any category you care to name save one: fouls per 40 minutes. He's at 5.9 this year and was at 6.4 before staying out of foul trouble against Oakland. Minutes that do not go to Smotrycz go to Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich, statistically inferior players in almost literally all possible ways. And those stats don't even account for the defensive problems Michigan has when Smotrycz is on the bench. Michigan will get significantly better if Smotrycz can get his minutes percentage from the 50s into the 70-75 range.
The same assertion goes for Morgan but at least he has a positional analogue on the roster. Michigan's backup 4 is 6'4" Zack Novak.
Defensive issues. The main one: too many quality three-point looks from opponents. They have not been burned by it yet but Oakland missed an array of wincingly wide-open three pointers, as did Virginia. Duke… did not miss, nor did they shoot a lot of quality threes. But the overall point is this: Michigan is facing almost as many threes as they jack themselves. If they're still near 300th in threes faced at the end of the season opponents will have made it rain and Michigan will be staring at a disappointing tourney seed.
The other stuff is the usual: they're mediocre at defending twos, rarely get turnovers, and foul too much. They're kind of short, kind of young, and not that athletic, so none of these things are surprises, but, like, Wisconsin. Michigan can be better defensively—they were better last year—and getting that leap from mediocre to quality will be the difference between a season spent idling near the bubble and waiting for Stauskas/GRIII/McGary and a decent shot at a Sweet 16.
Novak usage. Zack Novak's shooting 64% from two, 44% from three, and has a TO rate under ten. His offensive rating is off the charts… and his usage is in the "limited roles" range. While you can't really run an offense through him, if Michigan could focus a little more on getting him shots it seems like he would reward that effort. That pump-and-step-in jumper he's developed is money.
Some Oakland-specific things? Sure.
Trey Burke! That is all.
Trey Burke! No it's not. How crazy would it be if he was backing Morris and eating up half of the minutes currently being forked over to Douglass and Vogrich? Ah, hell. That crossover-in-a-phone-booth that led to a wide open Hardaway three was fantastic, as were many other things. He just needs to get an increment better here (TO rate) and there (three point shooting) to be a bonafide collegiate superstar.
NBA: you hate 5'11" point guards. Leave him to us for now.
Laval Lucas-Perry. The festival of charges and other ill-advised decisions combined with defensive lapses to paint a picture of why LLP and Beilein had a falling out that led to his transfer. I was going to point out that he would still be welcome on a team with zero bench but I looked him up and he's shooting 26% from three and 48% from two. Michigan's getting that out of Douglas.
He does get to the line a lot, FWIW.
Tim Hardaway, come out and play. In the second half it seems like Michigan tries to run its offense through Hardaway for three or four possessions in a row, which is because he has two shots and two points in the first 20 minutes. He refuses to force the issue, which is why his turnover rate remains abnormally low for a guy with high usage. I'd still like to see Michigan force Hardaway into the game earlier; once he starts shooting regularly other opportunities open up.
Brundidge: there is no Brundidge. They have already burned Brundidge's redshirt unless they're going to Devin Gardner him an injury, so insert usual concern about Eso Akunne getting the backup point minutes, such as they are. Akunne looks about as comfortable at the point as I would and the offense gets extraordinarily ponderous when he's in the game.
He hasn't missed a shot yet, though. Let's give him time at the two. I'm not sure if I'm serious here. Vogrich is one for a billion from three, so Akunne may actually provide more value at the moment.
left: no. right: no.
It was the kind of game that leaves you writing a rage list a la Artur Boruc. Here's the Iowa version of this:
THINGS THAT DON’T WORK, FRAN MCCAFFERY
- Having your entire defense collapse on a player charging into the low post area. THIS LEAVES AROUND 3-4 GUYS WIDE OPEN TO SHOOT A 3-POINTER. WHEN EVERY TEAM HAS AN “UNUSUAL” AMOUNT OF SUCCESS BEHIND THE LINE IT ISN’T BECAUSE THEY’RE “JUST HAVING AN ON NIGHT.”
- Having your power forward take countless jumpshots. UNLESS YOUR POWER FORWARD IS TIM DUNCAN, HE SHOULDN’T BE SHOOTING 15 FOOTERS.
Etc., etc. I felt a lot like the above during the game last night as Michigan ran a zillion ball screens on which Virginia showed harrrrrrd, resulting in Stu Douglass dribbling the ball 30 feet from the basket with ten seconds on the shot clock. Apparently our offense only works when the opponent is drunk on coconut milk. /shakes fist
/continues shaking fist
/gets tired, shakes other fist
/realizes he is doing dance moves now
Tony Bennett is a war crime. That was hard to watch. Anything involving a Bennett coaching basketball is. I guess it works. I get that Memphis and UCLA are stupid teams with terrible defenses ripe for Michigan to pick apart and that Virginia is not, but what I don't get is how Michigan tore Duke apart in the second half of that game in Maui.
Guess: Duke doesn't really have a PG and put either Curry or Rivers on Burke, which led to a ton of quality penetration and nine Burke assists. In this game Burke had a tough time with Virginia's similarly lightning-quick PG and the offense was reduced to chucking it around the perimeter a la Amaker.
And we're in pine for next year mode. My inner monologue never gets more AAAARGGGGGH than when Beilein fields a lineup mid-majors would laugh at, like late in the first half when Christian, McLimans, Douglass, and Akunne were out there. Like… together. I know. Novak was the other guy on the floor.
It's times like that when the talent on the team still seems desperately deficient. Next year that lineup reads McGary-Robinson-Stauskas-something-something, which seems more likely to score on large athletic people. Or anyone.
Tim Hardaway Jr. fouled out five minutes into the second half. That is the effect of sitting a guy with two fouls for the final 15 minutes of the first half. All coaches do this, so this is not a Beilein-specific complaint, but good lord. Hardaway averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year and Virginia had a couple of shooters on the floor… is Joe Harris really going to draw a ton of fouls on Hardaway?
By sitting your best player the entire first half you're enacting the worst case scenario of leaving him in. Hardaway picked up one foul in the 20 minutes he was allowed to play.
Novak. Nails. Can't guard actual scoring power forwards.
Morgan and Horford. Keep repeating "bigs take time to develop" to yourself. They were in a tough spot against guys taller, older, and more athletic than them. Anyone with that kind of front line is going to shut off Michigan's frontcourt scoring, not that there really is any frontcourt scoring that isn't set up by the guards.
The 1-3-1. Equals six offensive rebounds. The best play against it when you've got seven-footers is to avoid the risk of a turnover by throwing up a brick and crashing the boards. I have no proof of this but it seemed a lot less effective than straight man to man. (We hope to get some proof of this in the future.)
My wildly bipolar relationship with Evan Smotrycz. I was at an Interpol concert a few years back when I ran across this couple. He: a slightly nebbishy lawyer sort in a button down and flat-front pants. She: dyed red hair on the edge of punky, little zebra-striped dress, pouty, vacillating wildly between emotional states. The terms of the relationship were instantly clear. She did whatever the hell she wanted and he put up with it because, goddamn, that dress. I present a metaphor for my feelings about sophomore Evan Smotrycz that seems a lot creepier than I thought it was going to be when I started it.
I loathed Smotrycz for much of Maui and expected to hop on the internet to find that others were ranting about his lack of development only to find the opposite ; in this game he was 4/4, 2/2 from three, and… fouled out in 22 minutes. One, a bailout of their 88% FT-shooting power forward with four seconds left on the shot clock, saw expletives arc gracefully across my living room. All basketball players look incredulous when called for a foul but Smotrycz takes it to another level, especially when he's just done something 1) obvious even to me and 2) really, really dumb.
He is putting on the floor a lot more these days to good effect and he's still the floor-spreading four Beilein wants. It's just that sometimes I want to strangle him. That's all I'm saying.
8 assists. Glarg glarg glarg glarg. When is the last time Michigan had more turnovers (11) than assists under Beilein? Half of those came from Burke, BTW. The rest of the team generated basically nothing.
Open threes. They has them. We don't. Very frustrating. Burke had his moments but isn't at the point Morris was last year. Morris created an absolute ton of shots. Not only was he third in assist rate last year but he launched a quarter of Michigan's shots when he was on the floor.
Burke was never going to fill that void himself, so who else steps up? It looks like the answer is "nobody." Maybe Hardaway, but Hardaway has kept up his freshman tendency of disappearing for long stretches. He doesn't have the handle to create shots in an isolation situation so he has to get things from the framework of the offense. Maybe that means good defenses can shut him down? (See also: his coach leaving him on the bench for 15 minutes in the first half.)
Site note! OH MY GOD UFR UFR UFR OSU OSU OSU. Yeah, happening. I am going to take it a bit slower because, like, I can. Half this week, half next week.
The season's end usually means a slowdown in December since football is over, basketball is often wading through thickets of uninspiring nonconference opponents, and hockey is off for big chunks (this year they're also super depressing!). Also, the batteries. They need recharging.
Bid. The big prize in the School of Kinesiology's auction goes off the board in just over a day:
That is signed by:
Anthony Carter (Signed on the #1), Charles Woodson, Jake Long, Chad Henne, Elvis Grbac, Zoltan Mesko, Anthony "A-Train" Thomas, Larry Foote, Brandon Graham, Jamie Morris, Rick Leach, Jarrett Irons, Jim Brandstatter, Adrian Arrington, Reggie McKenzie, James Hall, Bob Chappuis, Vada Murray, Morgan Trent, Tim Jamison, Will Johnson, Butch Woolfolk, John Wangler, Bennie Joppru,Stevie Brown, Chris Floyd, Glen Steele, Mark Campbell, Clint Copenhaver, Aaron Shea, Scott Dresibach, Jarrod Bunch, Victor Hobson, Mark Messner, Stan Edwards, Derek Walker, Greg McMurtry, Billy Taylor, Harlan Huckleby, Don Dufek Sr., Don Dufek Jr., Bill Dufek, Ron Simpkins, Phil Brabbs, Chuck Winters, Andre Weathers, Jim Betts, Carl Diggs, Eric Mayes, Rondell Biggs, Greg Mathews, Doug Skene, David Moosman, Ron Bellamy and Adam Kraus.
Zoltan, yo. You will have to be a big baller to pick it up, but most of the emails I get come from law firms, so… yeah.
Hayden Fry on Bo. This is pretty much awesome:
Michigan's long-running semi-rivalry with Iowa has always seemed to me like the most mutually respectful one M has, what with Bump and Fry and Carr pulling for Ferentz and whatnot. It's good to have them in the division.
Sacrifice Virginia. Basketball hits the court again tonight (7PM, ESPN2) in their second consecutive road game in the Big Ten-ACC challenge. They've got Virginia. If you're thinking that sounds like a pushover, no, not so much. Kenpom has the 5-1 Cavaliers 37th and gives them a decent edge (61%) on their home court. Michigan probably has a better chance than wobbly early-season numbers suggest since they're still heavily counting Michigan's pre-Maui struggles.
While Michigan's playing its first true road game of the season, Virginia hasn't played a major conference team yet. They've annihilated a couple of bad teams, lost a squeaker to TCU, and cruised by Drexel, Drake, and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Defense is their calling card—they're currently 8th.
The Freshman Point Guard is Just Fine
Trey Burke hasn’t been perfect. He’s turned the ball over on 21% of his possessions, is shooting 60% on free throws, made one of eight threes in Maui and has the tendency to commit silly fouls. Despite those freshman mistakes, Burke has proven that he’s ready to play at this level. His quickness, playmaking ability and competitiveness have already proven vastly important through Michigan’s first six games.
Burke handed out more assists during the Maui Invitational than any player from any of the eight participating schools. He averaged 35 minutes per game in Maui, tied for the U-M lead, which serves as a ringing endorsement of John Beilein’s trust. The turnovers will decrease and he will find his three point shooting stroke (1-8 3pt in Maui) because he’s just too talented of a shooter not to. Burke is also the sort of player that can get a basket out of nothing – give him the ball in an isolation when the offense is struggling and he’ll make something happen.
“He’s got good size for his position, he’s athletic, he can shoot the basketball, and he can put the ball on the floor, get to the basket,” Ford said. “He’s got a lot of the tools that you sort of look for in a wing. If he was a better ball-handler — and it’s ironic, because his dad was amazing — that’s probably his biggest weakness. I think he (also) needs to get a little more consistent from 3-point range. “But I think he’s a pro.”
“He won’t need the money, and a lot of times that’s a big issue for players,” Ford said. “He’s got his dad, (so) he’s going to have access to more NBA guys giving him their opinions, which means he probably won’t get bad info. I probably say he stays, but I’m always surprised.”
Ford's plugging him in the same range Darius Morris was projected in as last season developed. As he mentions, money's not an issue, and this time around the NBA lockout helps. Last year the lockout pushed a marginal first-rounder like Morris into this years draft because a lot of blue-chips sat it out; this year those blue-chips will flood into the draft and push the Morris-Hardaway range back to school. I guess Burke fits in that range now, too. (Rivals basketball recruiting: you suck.) Sounds like Mitch McGary had a tough tournament over the last week, one that seems the draft consensus on him also in that fringe first-round range.
I'm still getting a handle on this edition of Michigan basketball, but it seems to me like Hardaway's increased ability to get his shot inside the arc is the non-Burke key. Memphis and Duke tried to shut off Michigan's threes only to get beat up on those overplays. Dylan notes Michigan's red-hot two-point shooting in Maui; Hardaway led the way at 27 of 44—a better than 60% clip.
Hardaway seems to have added a mid-range pull-up game that will be unstoppable since he's a 6'6" leaper. Just has to hit those shots. I expect the team's three-point shooting will come around to where it was last year. At this point Vogrich/Douglass/Novak is established as a floppy-haired Cerberus that will shoot between 36 and 38 percent collectively. Hardaway and Burke are the wildcards there. Is Hardaway the elite guy from the Big Ten season or also in that okay-to-good range? And how good of a shooter is Burke?
BONUS: Drexel's head coach is named "Bruiser Flint." Serious.
This is going to go well. They put Big Ten offensive lineman of the year David Molk in front of a camera and Tim Doyle asked him goofy questions.
Call me butterfly. I dare you.
Barely concealed contempt FTW.
Obligatory section on Meyer. He'll be some level of good. It's vastly more important for Michigan to have its house in order, which they seem to. Insert your preferred baseless assumption about Meyer's flakiness/health issues/lack of recruiting acumen here to make you feel better. At least we won't be one-upped in this department:
Rittenberg writes that if there's anyone who knows Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's system, it's Meyer. The two worked along side one another when Meyer was the head coach of Florida.
If Mattison stays at Michigan, perhaps Meyer could give the Buckeyes the advantage come next season, as OSU tries to avenge their first loss to UM in eight years.
PROTIP: if your assertion can be flipped 180 degrees and retain equal plausibility, find another assertion.
The one thing hiring Meyer does do is make OSU fans' assertions that they really gave themselves a tough punishment by firing/retiring Jim Tressel even more obviously crap than when they were originally peddled. The NCAA's reaction to a head coach lying to keep his most important players eligible, then lying again to get them eligible for a bowl game, is going to be pathetically weak even with the tattoos and cars and "charity" events on top of everything.
Countdown to resumption of normal activities in 3… 2… 1…
The neck, it sticks out. This year's most interesting recruit ranking kerfuffle is located in the general vicinity of Toledo, where Chris Wormley is the Ohio Division 1 defensive player of the year over Se'Von Pittman, Tom Strobel, Joe Bolden, and De'Van Bogard. Those four are all top 100 types. Wormley had M and OSU offers on top of that but still sees this massive rankings spread:
- 247: #59 overall, #3 SDE, #3 OH
- ESPN: 4*, #16 DE, #7 OH
- Scout: 4*, #161 overall, #22 DE
- Rivals: durf. 3*, #22 strongside defensive end (IE: approx #44 DE)
That's a powerful outlier there. Hopefully it's wrong.
Why the Big Ten is not so good, Part XXVII. The massive connections that come from a brief tenure at Cincinnati may land Pat Narduzzi the Illinois job:
As Illinois' search for Ron Zook's replacement begins, a source said the program is looking at candidates that include Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano and Toledo head coach Tim Beckman.
Narduzzi's Big Ten affiliation and ties to Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas make him a likely target.
He served as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati from 2004-06, overlapping with Thomas' tenure with the Bearcats that began in 2005. He was reportedly a candidate for the Cincinnati job that eventually went to Brian Kelly, who now coaches at Notre Dame.
Yes, this would be another disappointing mid-level Big Ten hire with names like Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin, and anyone who's proven they are actually in charge of the thing they're supposed to be in charge of out there. Narduzzi is a defensive coordinator working under a former DC. That always makes me leery because you don't know how much of the team's success in their chosen field is because of the guy you're hiring.
Beckman would probably be a better hire: he's turned around Toledo, has a ton of recruiting connections in Ohio, and did establish himself as a BCS level coordinator at Oklahoma State. Schiano is not realistic. He has security at Rutgers and Illinois is a death trap.
If Illinois does go with Narduzzi that is both of Dantonio's coordinators out the door in a two year period. Not sure how much Narduzzi would hurt for the reasons given above, but it certainly can't help. It would be strange if Dantonio had more of a coaching tree in year five at MSU than Carr did, like, ever.
More Buckeye butthurt. Meinke collects the various lolrus OSU player twitter posts after the game. You've read the Boren ones; the others:
Added Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman: "Karma is gonna be a (expletive) for that little 'celebration' at the end."
Players said the controversial celebration -- you can catch a piece of it at the 34-minute mark of this YouTube video -- is something they have done after each Friday practice this year. Coach Brady Hoke said he was fine with his team celebrating their win that way.
"I don’t have any problem (with it) because it wasn’t disrespectful to anybody," Hoke said. "It’s something they do every Friday.
"No. It wasn’t disrespectful to anybody. It’s something those kids have done for 12 weeks.”
Ohio State, though, clearly was offended with the episode, which occurred in front of several players at midfield.
It led to Ohio State cornerback Brad Roby tweeting: "I will never lose to those scrubs again."
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan-ND is Pat Forde's game of the year. Dreaded Judgment OSU game column. Dymonte Thomas badgers Bri'onte Dunn on the twitters. Dunn says he doesn't want to play in a spread. (Shhh.) Kyle Kalis is solid.
Sponsor thanks. It's The Game week, when tailgates are packed with people you haven't seen all year and space is tight. If you plan with our local sponsor Park n Party you get peace of mind and a total lack of implied eyebrow cocking at your lack of support. Visit their Ohio State reservations page. Or I'll lift that bad boy.
NOM. So this was weird.
"This program's been starving for a while," Robinson said Monday. "It's time for us to make something happen.
"We've been starving. It's time for us to eat."
BONUS THING YOU CAN HEAR IN YOUR HEAD LIKE FARNSWORTH:
Michigan hasn't beaten the Buckeyes since 2003, when Robinson still was in the seventh grade at Deerfield Beach Middle School.
"Oh man, that's crazy!" Robinson said.
Kablam. Memphis: you officially suck worse than Western Illinois. Sorry.
The constant referencing of five-star Joe Jackson makes the lines to read between less than cryptic. Good thing Rivals dumped him lower after his Ohio Mr. Basketball high school season. Credibility: shot. ESPN is currently the worldwide leader in Michigan-basketball-related recuiting cred.
Anyway. Big win against a team whose flaws won't be exposed much against a Conference USA schedule and should end up a nice neutral-site feather in the cap when it comes tourney time. Most impressive aspect of it: defensive rebounding. Even with Morgan out big chunks of the game and Michigan playing with Smotrycz at the 5 a for a not-inconsiderable period of time, Michigan rebounded something like 80% of Memphis misses. That should mitigate your otherwise understandable Smotrycz frustration.
Chad Ford checked the game out and reported back on a couple of players the NBA finds notable. On Burke:
What stood out most was Burke's poise in the face of an athletic and aggressive defense from Memphis. A number of NBA scouts are keeping a close eye on Burke. While he's not an elite draft prospect yet, the potential -- thanks to a great NBA body, quickness and poise -- is there.
- On Hardaway:
Hardaway grew an inch to 6-foot-6 this summer, but where he's really grown is in his shot selection. Last season, Hardaway shot 42 percent from the field. He's now at 49 percent for the season and is playing under control more and more. While scouts saw him as a marginal pro prospect coming into the season, they are warming to him. Several told me after Michigan's practice on Saturday that they were impressed by his maturity and leadership. If he keeps playing like this all week, he could be a potential late first-round pick.
I've heard that the Hardaway plan is three and out, which makes sense in that context. Establishing yourself as maybe a late first rounder is usually not a reason to leave unless you're jumping into the weakest NBA draft in a long time, like Morris.
Ford also pointed out the various massively ranked Memphis players who struggled against Michigan, particularly post Tarik Black, who "should have dominated the Michigan bigs." He made one field goal.
Beilein owned Josh Pastner, which makes sense. Pastner is a glorified agent. Seriously:
"We're not a big zone team," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, whose team went 19-for-57 from the floor. "(Michigan is) very good at what they do."
That is not about Memphis playing zone. It's about them playing against it. Josh Pastner: agent.
Seniors. The Daily on Michigan's seniors:
“There were rumors that Denard (Robinson) was going to transfer,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. “There was going to be people going all over the place. Everybody was going to jump ship.”
“We’ve seen it before — we saw it when coach (Lloyd) Carr left and Rich Rodriguez came in — where everyone who was on that swing fence, where they could either leave or stay, they left,” added fifth-year senior center David Molk. “And we kind of disbanded as a team. And it wasn’t good for our team in a lot of ways.”
In early January, Van Bergen and Molk called a team meeting to make sure everyone bought in — not to a coach, but to themselves.
“We didn’t really have (a coach),” Van Bergen said. “There was speculation it was going to be the coach from Stanford or LSU. And we’re just like, ‘We need to stick together. Whatever happens, we’ve got a good thing going that people don’t necessarily see.’
“We wanted to see this thing through.”
One more win.
We be having the moneys. Random bit of an enormous XKCD chart on money:
Injury whine. I try not to use the word whine, but Nebraska complaining about Michigan simulating injuries in Saturday's game is a straight-up no-evidence whine about getting annihilated. Michigan had all of two defensive injuries on Saturday. Jordan Kovacs went out. Kovacs:
- is one of Michigan's best players
- did not return for the rest of the drive
- was clearly getting attended to on the sideline
- had been on the field for like twenty plays all game because of Nebraska's offensive incompetence
Sure, that's definitely an injury Michigan faked. The other one was Brennen Beyer; I watched that happen from the stands and knew he was hurt as soon as it happened. This is not MSU falling over and winking about it in the postgame.
Why you should not be mad at Borges for Illinois. Is anyone? Probably not. In case you are, this bit from A Lion Eye in a post containing various items on their impending coach search emphasizes the wind conditions in Champaign:
Wind. It plays a role in 60% of the games played in Memorial Stadium. There are no hills in east central Illinois, and because of that, the wind rolls in off the plains unabated. And the design of the stadium doesn’t help – the balconies concentrate the wind towards the center of the field.
As head football coach, I will make that wind my obsession. The wind is there for nearly every October and November game, so when those games arrive, my team will have an advantage.
I will have had my quarterbacks work on giving it a little extra and taking a little off. I will train my punters to read the flags and set their angle accordingly. And my returners – yes, I will pull my returners out to practice on a windy day, put them on the turf inside the stadium, and have each and every one of them learn how far a ball will drift (or die) because of the wind. My kickoff returners will be ready at the 20 instead of the 8, my punt returners will never let a ball sail over their heads, and my field goal units will be well-versed in the wind swirl that sometimes happens at the south endzone.
Michigan played Illinois on a particular windy day even for that section of the country; after the MSU game and the way the defense set up against the Illini offense any complaints about play selection are complaining for complaining's sake.
Penn State bowl apocalypse scenario. I wondered why Jerry Palm had Penn State in the Hawaii bowl when they're going to be 9-3 at worst; Ryan Terpstra pointed out an article on CBS sports suggesting bowls will look at the Nittany Lions like poison.
I thought that was silly because this is not 'Nam. There are rules. Rules that I thought would preclude the Big Ten bowls from selecting a 7-5 team over a 9-3 team. There is a rule, but not one strong enough to help Penn State out:
CITRUS BOWL — Can select any eligible team after the BCS except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible team.
OUTBACK BOWL — Can select any eligible team after the Capital One Bowl except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible team. BUT if a second Big Ten team moves up to the BCS, the two-win/loss differential no longer applies.
There are no rules past those two bowls. Penn State is boned since Nebraska and the title game loser will be more attractive candidates.
Even so, I'll believe someone takes Purdue over Penn State when I see it and if I was Delany I'd be leaning on the Fiesta Jr. or Gator to take the Nittany Lions. Dropping them out of the bowl selection order will hurt the league's bowl slate and probably their record.
Worst cheer ever. You know that thing Akron State does when they sing about how they don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan? Yeah, somewhat dumb. One percent as dumb as this in the aftermath of Tennessee's OT win over Vandy:
The team goes on to sing, "Don't give a damn for the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt. Don't give a damn about the whole school of Vanderbilt, we're from Tennessee." Catchy, right?
Tennessee would like you to know that their pathological hatred for Vanderbilt extends to the entirety of… Vanderbilt.
The game, understood. Ramzy on the weekend:
The reality is that like Notre Dame, Michigan has long been everyone's rival, and that's fine for everyone. But Michigan - not the recent odorous, incompetent Michigan, but the traditional pain-in-the-ass Michigan - cannot reciprocate. It can have big national games, it can even have a state championship, but it can only have one arch-rival.
Hoke understood that, and he's given each opponent the appropriate focus and esteem. This isn't great news for Ohio State, who had made this rivalry one-sided in part because Tressel also understood the philosophy that Hoke has clearly embraced.
He is now at the brink of a ten-win season in what had been scheduled to be a year of cleaning up the wreckage of the last three years. Neutralize Ohio State to end his first run and the tone for the Hoke era is established. It would be the ultimate validation of his stewardship and confirmation of his methods.
Should Michigan lose - as an 8.5-point favorite at home to an Ohio State team that is as listless as it is lacking any cohesion - then not only is Hoke's eventual legend weakened, but the success of the 2011 season will be questioned.
This game is ripe for Michigan to take, and convincingly. Failing to do so would lacerate healing wounds. Schembechler won his first Ohio State game. So did Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Rodriguez did not, annually losing in a disastrous manner so abysmal it practically had style points.
Whole thing recommended.
Tagged. OSU's Mirror Lake, where people will jump in stuff on Friday:
Via a reader. SWAT teams are been deployed to erase this as we speak.
Etc.: Alumni Association interview with Desmond Howard. Dave Brandon talks economics and stuff, but the Daily's four page transcript gives you access denied after page one. WSJ bombs Paterno with an interview with a "former chief disciplinarian" who Paterno got fired for wanting to, like, discipline people and stuff. Rich Rodriguez hired at Arizona.
L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz
Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially
kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.
Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:
Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.
It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.
Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.
Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.
Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.
The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.
(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)
The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.
At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.
Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.
There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.
I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.
This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.
Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.
All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.
Thursday, five PM: muppets? If Michigan actually nails down Mitch McGary I think I might deploy the first-ever recruiting muppets. This is when and how that might happen:
The 6-foot-10 McGary will announce Thursday for either Michigan, Duke or Florida, and his father confirmed Mitch will announce on ESPN.
“Yes he will,” Tim McGary said by text.
ESPNU has a “Recruiting Nation” show slated for 5 p.m. EST Thursday.
Both ESPN and Scout are already calling McGary to Michigan.
After a brief period of worry about Duke, everyone who's offered an opinion says it's M. Duke is on the verge of locking down another PF ranked in the top 25—must be nice—and Florida hasn't gotten a visit in a long time.
If and when McGary picks Michigan, the muppets will be warranted. That recruiting class will be McGary, Glen Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas: a top 10, top 50, and top 100 recruit to go with Burke/Brundidge/Hardaway/Horford/Morgan and followed by the Irvin/Walton/Donnal 2013 class. It will be the cherry on top of a basketball program that is all the way back to national relevance and the capper to the surge that began in East Lansing last January.
PDC, yeah you know me. It is here. It has iPads:
Brundidge, Novak, McLimans, and Burke:
"Tap it again to make the white one poop out a bomb"
It may be a ridiculous outlay of funds on something of debatable social value, but hey, man, it comes with touchscreens. Don't be a downer.
The usual. Epic Daily profile makes you wonder how long various students will outperform the local paid media? Epic Daily profile makes you wonder how long various students will outperform the local paid media. This one is on Tim Hardaway Jr:
The doors on the all-white BMW 645Ci slammed shut, beginning the short journey home that would feel like an eternity.
The father, who had all the glory any man could hope for, was in the driver’s seat, casually turning the wheel in rhythm with the Miami streets. The son, a 16-year-old child trying to forge his own story in the shadow of his very name, leaned against the door of the passenger’s seat, with nothing to say.
It was like after any other of the
son’s high school basketball games. He won or he lost, and he and his father climbed into the luxury car without saying a word, draped in an oppressive silence.
I didn't even have time to link up the previous Molk piece before this one hit.
A monster draft beckons. NHL.com had three fellows deploy mock drafts and they are littered with Michigan players. One is expected—Jacob Trouba is widely regarded a top-ten lock. We've been hearing stuff about Boo Nieves as a second-rounder or a late first, and then there's a guy already on the team making an appearance. Their projections:
- Trouba: 5th, 8th, 10th
- Nieves: 19th, 26th, 28th
- Phil Di Giuseppe: 11th(!), 28th, NR
That's a bit higher than expected for Nieves and hello Mr. Di Giuseppe. Michigan hockey followers have been buzzing about Di Guiseppe since he started pumping goals in and it appears a couple of the guys in suits who hang around Yost have also taken notice. The guy Michigan picked up in the aftermath of Lucas Lessio's defection looks like he'll go higher than Lessio did (56th). This isn't ironic but it's the kind of thing people identify as ironic.
I actually missed Di Giuseppe on both mocks he features on because I wasn't even looking for his name. What a find. If Rutledge plays well Michigan will be a contender next year.
As for this year, Michigan continues the longest home winning streak in its history and takes on WMU this weekend in a game that suddenly looks like a huge one in the conference race. The undefeated (5-0-3, paging user Undefeated Dream Season of 1992) Broncos were the second consecutive team to sweep Miami and are currently the only team without a conference loss. They're the league's stingiest defense with only 13 goals allowed; Michigan is ten goals clear of those same Broncos in scoring, all of which came in a single game against St. Lawrence.
Groping a bit. Not like that. A couple things in Michigan Monday this week irked me. Irk #1: asserting that Denard's interception was a lock-on before the snap. It was a second read, something that Belotti pointed out on the replay by circling the first read on the other side of the field. He got beat by the eight-man drop but he at least went through a progression. Irk #2:
As an aside, a 41-yard carry for a non-fast quarterback makes you wonder what's going to happen over the next month when they face Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller, no?
That run came with the score at 36-7 in the fourth quarter. Various starters had been pulled, including the WDE. True freshman Frank Clark blew the contain on the QB. So… yeah. Not relevant.
What I am saying about the thing I was saying. Braves & Birds has a profile of two anonymous teams:
|Team A||Team B|
|Pts Per Game||21.4||26.0|
|Pts Allowed Per Game||12.4||19.5|
|Yards Per Play Gained||5.1||5.6|
|Yards Per Play Allowed||4.2||4.5|
|Yards Per Play Margin||+0.9||+1.1|
They're basically identical except one is in the Big Ten and has one loss and the other is… not. Michigan's schedule has been even softer than Team A, which okay I'll tell you is Penn State.
This is my concern, dude. Everyone regards PSU as a fraud, and we're kind of the same team except our loss was more competitive and our conference wins against even weaker competition.
A second chance. A couple years ago the BTN debuted internet streaming of untelevised games. This didn't go well. When I hit it up to watch a hockey game @ OSU the lag was such that I ragequit after one period in which the screen froze twice and came back to OSU celebrating a goal.
Maybe it's better? You can stream Michigan's basketball exhibition for free with the coupon code "BTDN3FR33"—good opportunity to find out if the product has improved.
Etc.: Bacon chat at the Detroit News tomorrow. Get your tickets for the outdoor hockey game in Cleveland. More MST3K Michigan defense parody. The Blue Ribbon preview of Michigan is a freebie. Michigan Hockey Net rounds up Michigan's commitments and how they're performing. Remember when we all would have killed for Jeff Tedford?