[Left and right: Patrick Barron; middle: Eric Upchurch]
Nik Stauskas, with his ability to make almost any shot a good one, made the game look easy. Trey Burke, with his varied and lethal methods for creating offense, made the game look easy, not to mention beautiful.
Nothing about this season's iteration of Michigan basketball felt easy. It's shown in the pictures, in which seemingly every layup attempt required a Herculean feat of strength and body control just to get the ball on the backboard. It's shown in the statistics; according to KenPom, 10.3% of Michigan's two-point attempts were blocked, a mark worse than all but 13 major-conference programs. It's shown in the despairing comments as the offense ground to a halt against Notre Dame before VJ Beachem delivered the coup de grâce to 2015-16 Michigan.
And that's on the good side of the court. Stopping the opponent has never seemed simple under John Beilein, especially the last few years. The flaws on defense have only been magnified as the offense has gone from historically great to merely good. Every flailing layup attempt swatted into photographers' row didn't just serve as a painful reminder of the team's scoring limitations, but also what they lacked on the other end.
[Hit THE JUMP for feelingsball.]
[Ed (Seth) note: Brian's off today. but Jane Coaston (twitter: @cjane87) has finally written something for this site. Jane is an incredible writer (and an entertaining follow) who spends most of her day making the world better, and probably would have saved it by now if she wasn't so obsessed with college sports]:
He looked so small.
I was looking at Trey Burke in a Utah Jazz uniform at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and all I could think is, “He looks so damn small.”
When you leave college, you find that the world is big. The world is bigger than Ann Arbor or Michigan or the Big Ten or sports could ever be. It is bigger than Crisler, or this school, or that school, or any school. When you leave college, you have left the biggest little place you will ever be.
You will find that the world is full of a thousand stupid paper cuts. It is full of unspeakable evils, yes, but it is also full of HR managers and disappointing movies and nonexistent reminders for the things you were supposed to do two days ago. You are in debt to someone, probably. You should have cleaned out the back of your fridge in June. Your boss visibly loathes you. And your parents are suddenly old and you don’t remember how that happened. They weren’t old, and now they are, and they will now never not be old again.
Your sophomore year roommate who yelled at you once when you got drunk and threw up in a trash can will get married. The kid who you were convinced would never exist outside of the Brown Jug is now an investment banker in New York; he’s engaged now, too. Much of these changes seem to take place in spurts of activity on Facebook, but sometimes you run into someone you used to know and they’re still them, but a different them. Sometimes they’re so different that you don’t quite know what to say.
Charles Woodson is different now. Tom Brady is different now. Every Michigan player you have ever loved or hated or some bizarre yet totally understandable combination of the two is completely different from the way they were when they played in maize and blue. Trey Burke is different now. He’s playing in the Summer League before his second year in the NBA. He’s 21. He makes $2.4 million dollars a year. And he was roughly 25 feet away from me, playing in front of 13,911 fans on a Wednesday night.
“Are y’all here for Trey Burke? I see all this Michigan stuff and I’m trying to put it together.”
The guy in front of us - who turned out to be a West Virginia grad and friends with Patrick Beilein - turned around to ask us why we were wearing Michigan sweatshirts at a Wizards game. So did the two men next to us, who told us that Michigan-Louisville was the best title game they’d ever seen, and that the upcoming tournament should be a good one. “Good to see y’all representing your university,” one of the men said.
And we weren’t alone. When Trey Burke’s name was announced during warm-ups, at least six people in the area immediately yelled out, “Go Blue!” There were Michigan shirts in every section, Michigan sweatshirts, Michigan basketball jerseys. We had somehow turned an NBA regular season game into the Trey Burke and some other guys and Gortat! Show. This same Wizards team would later go on a mildly improbable playoff run, but on that night in March, we were there for Trey.
Trey Burke is different now, but he’s still Trey Burke. He still got the Steal. He still hit the Shot. The sands of time will turn to glass and the mountains will be made low and Trey Burke will still have put a Michigan team that had barely sniffed the Sweet Sixteen (or hell, the NCAA tournament) for over a decade into the championship game on a run that made me glad I chose to go to devote much of my sanity to the University of Michigan athletics department. I didn’t go to a Wizards game. I went to go see Trey Burke, Michigan player.
Desmond Howard hasn’t worn the winged helmet in 22 years but he will always be diving in the end zone on fourth down for a touchdown. Charles Woodson will be running back a punt on a cold day in November and beating Ohio State with a rose between his teeth for the rest of his life. Denard Robinson will always throw a floating pass to Roy Roundtree, who will fight through pass interference to catch it, and it will always be a touchdown, and we will always win. Maybe it’s strange to hold onto the projections of people like that, but we do it anyway.
Things change, and it’s terrifying. Our offensive line is literally one giant question mark. Michigan’s athletic department makes decisions that make me uncomfortable. I am not doing what I want to be doing with my life and I spend a lot of time trying to not think about that.
But Trey still beat Kansas.
2013 may have ended on a sour note (or several), but that doesn't mean it's not worth looking back at some of the highlights of the calendar year—especially, say, a few choice moments from March and April. While I've almost certainly omitted several worthy candidates, here are my picks for the 20 best (unedited) MGoGIFs of 2013.
If you'd like to peruse all of this year's GIFs, here are links to my Flickr sets for the 2012-13 basketball season, 2013 football season, and 2013-14 basketball season. Since Flickr is pretty cumbersome, you must click on each still frame, then right-click on the still frame and hit "view original" to see the actual animation. Alternatively, you can journey through the "one frame at a time" tag on this here blog.
Since it was difficult enough just to narrow this down to a list of 20, these GIFs are presented in chronological order, and you can vote for your favorite at the end of the post.
DANCIN' DENNIS NORFLEET (January 1st)
Because no MGoAnything is complete without some Norfleet.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the GIFs]
Send Joe Dumars to space, part XVII. Trey Burke's line from last night's Magic-Jazz game: 30 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds.
actual highlights start at about a minute in
Burke's shooting percentage is pretty low right now since he's taking a lot of those tough runners you remember from a variety of NO NO NO NO YES moments last year and getting fewer easy looks around the basket what with NBA players being very tall and athletic, but in his last ten games He's averaging 6.4 assists against 1.3 turnovers in that window. His TO rate of 6.8 is insanely low. It's looking like a three-way race for Rookie of the Year between Burke and old foes Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams.
Meanwhile, Detroit drafted a shooting guard currently hitting 37% from the floor and traded for Brandon Jennings, who is a fourth year player about as good as Burke is as a rookie. I shake my fist!
Is this getting old? Am I going to be describing various things that should be done to Joe Dumars for passing on Trey Burke when Burke is 55? Yes. I apologize for what will be history's longest conniption fit.
Prepare your butts. Devin Gardner's status for the bowl game is still up in the air but looking grimmer and grimmer as each day passes without his return to the practice field. We mentioned it on the front page a couple days ago after Hoke's presser, and everyone followed up with assessments about how grim it's sounding. And in retrospect… when has a sprain of a ligament in your big toe ever required crutches?
Meanwhile, Sam Webb was asking people if you play Gardner at 75% in this upcoming bowl game, and the answer to that seems to be a clear no since there's not much at stake. And was Gardner 75% by midseason? At best. Now that he's limping around on crutches, it's at least 50/50 Shane Morris fans will get to see him against K-State.
It is possible that Jason Whitlock doesn't know what he's talking about. Taylor Lewan took a lot of heat this year for Michigan's offensive line… for some reason. I watched him closely and he still looked like the incredibly good player that he was as a junior, but when things are bad they must be a Failure of Leadership if you are the kind of person who has no basis for saying anything but is paid to say things.
The NFL will weigh in in April; current returns are that Jason Whitlock is talking out of his butt. I know you are shocked. Todd McShay projects Taylor Lewan as the ninth pick of the NFL draft:
Lewan isn't an exceptional athlete but he has enough quickness to get by when coupled with his physicality and mean streak. I've written a few times this season that even though Lewan doesn't always look like a prototype left tackle, he is very effective in run blocking and pass protection. Safety might be seen as a bigger need for Buffalo, but typically if you have a chance to take an offensive tackle over a safety in the first round, you do it.
"Not a prototype left tackle" is a weird criticism to level at a prototype left tackle. Putting it in the pile with that guy who thought Mike Martin was supposed to be some journeyman plugger after he 'struggled' as a senior.
This man must be educated on his own dime. That one Cal assistant who got a ton of recruits to commit to Cal and then jumped to Washington, bringing those recruits with him, is under investigation. For terrible things.
Mike Davis, a throwing coach who helped Basham win a state shot put title in track and field, told the Times that [Tosh] Lupoi gave him $3,000 for private tutoring for Basham and $1,500 to reimburse Basham's father for online classes.
The kid ended up not qualifying anyway. I guess you can't be giving money to people no matter what it's for, but I bet the NCAA prefers it when they come down on people for hiring strippers instead of tutors. Lupoi should start making donations to charities in recruits' names, just to see what happens.
Steve Sarkisian could eat a suspension for this after the NCAA made head coaches responsible for their assistants' misdeeds, something that would undoubtedly increment Lane Kiffin's smug look the one tenth of one percent it can be upgraded from its resting state.
OH GOOD THANKS 2013. JT Compher won't play at the WJC because he broke his foot, which will probably put him out for a month. This is at least the right time to do it, as Michigan doesn't return to the ice in a game Compher was going to be available for until January 10th, and then Michigan has a bye week before a Joe-and-road series against MSU that he may be available for.
This does make an important series at Wisconsin tougher, but at least Michigan has a lot of center depth.
SERIOUSLY 2013, I MEAN, SERIOUSLY? Beilien on WTKA:
During a Thursday morning interview on “The Michigan Insider” show on WTKA-AM (1050), Michigan coach John Beilein said he sophomore forward is being held back by a "variety" of nagging injuries.
"Right now, Mitch cannot go 100 percent," Beilein said. "He can't do what he can do."
You go straight to hell, 2013.
I SAID STRAIGHT TO HELL. PA DB Monate Nicholson, who was going to commit to M before the coaching staff basically told him not to visit, is now an MSU commit.
Still looking. Michigan signed their four hockey recruits for the upcoming year, though there are a couple of things yet to be determined.
One is the status of Hayden Lavigne, who's had a rough start in the USHL (.887 in five games) and is still a really young guy, especially for a goalie. It seems to make more sense for everyone to delay his entry until 2015, and even then he'll have to compete with a senior Racine and junior Nagelvoort. As we've seen in the recent past, goalies staring down a tough road to playing time are often defection candidates. Lavigne will be of interest. We'll see how committed he is to the college route; he was at least committed enough to sign his LOI.
The other thing is who replaces Jared Walsh, who committed and then defected to the OHL. Michigan graduates two defensemen (Bennett and Clare) and brings back something between six and eight depending on your opinion of the viability of the guys on the back end. (They are Serville, Lohan, Downing, De Jong, Chiasson, Sinelli, Szuma, and Hyman.) They've got a guy named Cutler Martin who is the hard nosed stay at home type his name foretold from birth, and they'd probably like to add another in that mold with Serville, Downing, and De Jong all puck moving types. May their search here be as successful as their search for a goalie last year was.
Okay.gif. Borges on Michigan's success against Ohio State:
"We executed," Borges said firmly. "It's that simple. We executed.
I really hope that's just balderdash for the reporters. The BTN commercials don't say FOOTBALL IS SIMPLE, man.
Etc.: McKeen's ranks incoming hockey center Dylan Larkin 20th in their latest NHL draft projection. That means he'll probably end up in the second round, like fringe first rounders before him JT Compher and Jon Merrill. Ricky Doyle highlights. He's killing it to the tune of 30 a game. UNC basketballer John Henson's shirt has an opinion. Hyping up the redshirting DTs.
also Panic Kornheiser Google Image Search
Dammit, dammit, dammit. You have probably heard that Amara Darboh has blown up something in his foot and is out for the year. This calls for the little panic guy.
Michigan is not going to replace Darboh's combination of size and blocking and receiver expectations should be downgraded a notch. Judging from scrimmage highlights and practice buzz, Jehu Chesson or Joe Reynolds is the next man in. Hopefully it's Chesson, who has excellent upside; realistically both guys are going to split Darboh snaps.
Michigan may also turn to more plays on which Devin Funchess splits out. While Funchess doesn't have the same speed Darboh does he can duplicate some of the leapy-catchy Hemingway business Michigan just lost.
At least Darboh gets a redshirt.
Elsewhere in PANIC. Bad sign:
Hoke says Jarrod Wilson has to have more production to become a starter at safety.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 20, 2013
"More production" in this case probably means "fewer blown tackles/coverages." That's bad. What's more, the seemingly odd move of Courtney Avery back there signals that Michigan is scrambling at that spot. If it was a safety coming through another safety, fine. A 175-pound corner whose health is constantly in question triggers my alarm bells.
That's a death knell for Josh Furman, for one. While it's less of a negative sign for Jeremy Clark since he's just a year into the program, it would have been nice if he was able to play once Wilson faltered.
Feel better? George
Campbell Whitfield, broom-wielding quarterback guru, on Devin Gardner:
“I was shocked,” Whitfield said. “I had only seen him in a couple cameos at Michigan. I was shocked at all the talent, how strong he was, how athletic, how fast.
“We worked on a lot of footwork ... weight transition, the ability to drop, put your foot in the ground, stop and work back into a play. That’s not always easy. ... We spent quite a bit of time on chaos training — what happens if two linemen got beat, halfway through drop, and I don’t have to pull rip cord or I’m getting chased to left sideline, I’m a right-handed quarterback, how do I make this throw?”
Gardner's main issue is accuracy—too many times last year he missed on simple throws because of erratic mechanics. Hopefully an offseason of ownership sees him make serious progress there.
[after THE JUMP: pudding pops, Bartlestein on the shot, and advice for freshmen.]
Unrelated note: Brian is off until Wednesday, so you're stuck with me until then. Given the back-to-back-to-back commitment posts I'm pushing the recruiting roundup back to tomorrow. I'd also like to put together a mailbag tomorrow; anyone with questions about recruiting, football, or basketball can ask away on Twitter (hashtag #mgomailbag if you will) or via email.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. saw their NBA dreams turn to reality in last Thursday's NBA Draft, and I've been remiss in my duties to not do some sort of writeup about it. This is probably because I was temporarily devastated by Detroit's decision to pass on Burke at #8 and am just now beginning to get over it; I should probably stop tying any part of my emotions to the fate of the Pistons for sanity's sake.
Anyway, Burke dropped to the #9 spot, where he was selected by Minnesota and quickly traded to the Utah Jazz for the 14th and 21st picks (Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, as it turned out). While Burke couldn't hide his disappointment in falling further than expected — and being passed on by Joe Dumars, whom he has a close relationship with — he landed in an ideal situation.
Last season Utah's point guards finished dead last in the NBA when measured by net PER*, according to 82games.com, producing poorly on both ends of the floor. While the Jazz aren't guaranteeing a starting role for Burke, they might as well — at the moment, he's the only point guard on the roster, and none of last year's lead guards (Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, and Mo Williams, all currently free agents) are NBA-starter quality. As a result, ESPN's Jeff Goodman lists Burke among five players he expects to have an early impact ($):
Utah dealt its No. 14 and 21 selections to move up to No. 9 and grab Burke. It's a logical move, and the ideal marriage for both sides: The Jazz get a heady, high-character floor leader whose game translates to the next level. Sure, he's not a super athlete -- but Utah coach Tyrone Corbin likely will rely on him to come right in and start. Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley are all free agents. This will be Burke's show from the outset.
Burke should become the 22nd player in the last 15 years (16, when this year is included) to be under 6'3" and play 2,000 minutes as a rookie; that stat comes from Utah's SBNation site, and the full list of players is pretty strong — all but a few are at least decent rotation guys. As one would expect from a group that gets plenty of playing time, they tend to put up pretty decent raw numbers:
What are your expectations for Burke's rookie year? The average for that group of 21 point guards is playing in 80 games (starting 62 of them, for 77%), and getting averages of 13.1 ppg, 5.2 apg, and 1.2 spg in 31.3 mpg.
What about the talent around Burke, then? The Jazz finished one spot out of the playoffs last year but are in a rebuilding mode of sorts; power forwards Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the team's two leading scorers and rebounders last year, are also free agents. Utah does boast plenty of young talent up front, though. Center Enes Kanter (2011) and power forward Derrick Favors (2010) were #3 overall picks in consecutive drafts, and their emergence last year as quality backups has allowed Utah to let go of Jefferson, who's looking for a big payday.
Kanter and Favors are both capable of running the high screen, finishing around the basket, and hitting the offensive glass. With Gordon Hayward available as a sharp-shooting perimeter option and former #2 overall pick Marvin Williams providing some scoring punch at the three, Burke may not have elite talent surrounding him but there's enough to allow him to be productive. With the Jazz looking to build around him and their two bigs, Burke is in a pretty ideal situation for a rookie point guard, and he should compete for Rookie of the Year honors.
Hardaway's situation is a little hazier. Drafted with the 24th pick by New York, Hardaway could see the floor as a role player, but his minutes will largely be determined by whether the Knicks retain free agent swingman J.R. Smith. Even if Smith is gone, Hardaway has competition, and in the same article from above Jeff Goodman listed him as one of the rookies in a tough situation:
The Knicks took the son of the former NBA star late in the first round (24), and, although it seems there is room for him with the departure of J.R. Smith, he'll have to beat out Iman Shumpert for playing time. Hardaway is a streaky, streaky shooter who doesn't do much else.
Posting and Toasting, SBNation's Knicks outlet, has a more optimistic view of how Hardaway could fit into the team, especially if Smith isn't retained:
Hardaway is a solid fit for the roster. His presence provides the Knicks some insurance against the possible departure of talented guard J.R. Smith. His ability to stretch the floor and hit perimeter jumpers fits right in with the offensive philosophy of last season, as does his low turnover rate. THJ possesses all the characteristics associated with the best shooters using screens: He gets good elevation, has great hands, keeps his feet under him, and has good shooting form. While he will likely see much of his offense in pure spot-up situations, THJ gives the Knicks a player who can score off of down screens and attack the paint off of close-outs. He isn't a great ball-handler, but there is some potential for him to work in the pick-and-roll a little given his unselfish nature and feel. Should the Knicks retain Smith, they would find themselves with a somewhat crowded backcourt, but having too much talent isn't the worst problem to experience. It would be more ideal if THJ could guard both wing positions, but that seems unlikely. He does not provide any answers to NYK's current situation in the frontcourt, but he's a skilled guard who can get the ball moving in transition and hit the three.
Hardaway's effectiveness in transition and his spot-up shooting ability are his tickets to success in the NBA, especially on a Knicks team that has Carmelo Anthony dominating the ball. I'm not sure how much time he'll see this year regardless of Smith's situation unless his defense improves markedly — not something that you usually see right away while making the leap to the NBA — or he becomes a more consistent shooter (a possibility, as he'll be asked to do a lot less shooting off the dribble, which wasn't his strongsuit).
Burke appears to have landed in the better situation, and as the more NBA-ready player we expected to see a lot more of him than Hardaway next season anyway. Both could see significant time if the Knicks don't bring back Smith — with New York trading a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani yesterday, though, it's clear they're gearing up for a title run (however ill-fated) this year, and a developing Hardaway may not fit into those plans. At the very least, however, Michigan fans should be able to see plenty of Burke come this winter.
*Player Efficiency Rating, a stat created by former ESPN basketball writer and current Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger. Explanation can be found here.