Yea, and God did say unto his people, “hot damn, I’m glad it’s basketball season, for verily, football season sucked.”
~ First Letter of St. Paul to the Annarborites
With the dong-punching albatross of 2013 behind us, we can move fully into winter sports season with vigor and aplomb. But without Mitch McGary. Worst. Trip. Around. The. Sun. EVER.
Every week we’ll keep tabs on Michigan’s non-conference opponents, the state of the Big Ten, the potential NCAA Tournament draw, and the suggested viewing /rooting guide for the upcoming week.
RPI Effect Only Teams:
It’s becoming clear that Michigan’s non-conference schedule was assembled by people who either don’t know how RPI works,* don’t know how math works, or aren’t sold on this whole “Arabic numerals are the wave of the future” thing. Three of Michigan’s opponents, UMass-Lowell (1-11), South Carolina State (4-8) and Houston Baptist (3-9) are below the 300 mark to KenPom, and Coppin State (4-9) fails to crack the super-elite group in the Top 270. Ben Folds Five wrote a song about these teams. Hint: it is not “The Luckiest.”
RPI: drowning slowly.
Outside of these masonry-like objects, Michigan played three of the ideal good-enough-to-not-kill-your-RPI-numbers-but-not-good-enough-to-beat-you-unless-LeVert,-Stauskas,-and-McGary-all-miss-significant-time type teams. Long Beach State (4-9) has won three in a row, including wins over Nevada and USC, and gave VCU and NC State some real competition. Holy Cross (6-6) hasn’t really beaten anyone, but they have beaten six non-anyones, so that’s something. Charlotte (8-4) has wins over Michigan and Kansas State, presumably because they were mad about not being invited to the BWW Bowl.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (12-0)
Significant Wins: Michigan, Iowa, @ BYU, Boise St.
Losses: [404 file not found]
The Cyclones weren’t ranked when Michigan played them, but they definitely are now. Forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang are both shooting around 50% from the field, with Ejim nearly averaging a double-double (18.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg). One caveat is that they have only played one game away from
Iowa City Des Moines Corn Rapids Ames, that being a 2 point win over BYU.
Florida State (9-3)
Significant Wins: VCU, UMass
Losses: Michigan (waives tiny flag), @ Florida, @ Minnesota
How important does that crazy-ass Michigan comeback in Puerto Rico feel now? At the time it was an amusing, “oh that’s a nifty little win,” but in hindsight it is a “THANK YOU BASED GOD” non-conference salvager.
Florida State could easily be 10-1 right now. They blew a 16 point lead against Michigan (including an 8 point lead and possession with 3 minutes left), and lost to Florida by 1 on a last-second offensive rebound despite outshooting and generally outplaying the Gators. Still, they look to be in that second tier of the ACC behind Pitt, Syracuse, and Duke, and MAYBE UNC. They are far from the most skilled team in the country, but will pose some significant matchup problems for a number of teams, given their overall largeness/tallness and tendency to be freeking huge. As Michigan’s best NonCon win, you will want to cheer hard for the Seminoles.
Significant Wins: Michigan, UCLA
Losses: Kansas, Arizona
From the makers of Jadeveon Clowney comes: Jabari Parker!!! Now with kung-fu crossover and Dick Vitale utility belt!!! Duke’s true freshman guard/wing/forward/goalie/ambassador/imperial wizard has been exactly as advertised, looking like the most college-ready of the mega-frosh. He’s averaging 22 and 8, and has scored 19+ points in every game but one this season. Guess which one.*
Duke is really missing the Yellow Plumlee
The weird thing is, we really don’t know that much about Duke. They lost to the two elite teams they played, beat Michigan (at home) and UCLA (at MSG), and beyond that have dispatched a large pile of unconvincing opponents by occasionally unconvincing margins. They beat Vermont by 1 point, ECU by 9, and Alabama by 10. Maybe it’s the fact that they are down to three Plumlees on the roster, which isn’t enough to form up the Megazord. They have played great offense and middling defense, and are probably among the favorites in the ACC once Parker settles in (/shudder).
*to those who accused GRIII of not being “into” that game, I suggest you try to stand between a bull mastiff and a squirrel for 40 minutes and tell me how it goes for you.
Significant Wins: San Diego St, Duke, @ Michigan
Losses: [Should have lost to Michigan but KenPom lied to all of us]
They’re okay, I guess. Arizona is deservingly number one in the polls, based on how the polls work, and are definitely among the elite teams, but… eh? Purported super-frosh Aaron Gordon has had a whelming start; according to people who watch last night basketball regularly, he's playing great defense and flashing hilarious athleticism, but isn’t consistent or diverse on the offensive end of the court. Arizona continues to look to Nick Johnson as their primary scoring option, and he’s dropping about 16 ppg. They’re clearly the class of a middle-heavy PAC 12.
Significant Wins: @ UConn
Losses: BYU, Pitt, Michigan (/blasts Katy Perry, waives crap out of tiny flag)
Stanford isn’t all that good. But they are okay. And Michigan beat them. So we will continue to treat them as if they are good. We call this the Akron Delusion.
Pay no attention to the fact that Stanford’s only remotely impressive win was a grinding, brick-laden slugfest over a UConn team that decided to play the entire second half in the style of breakdance-fighting. Seriously: Stanford was down by 10 at the half, scored 25 points in the second half, and won. That’s a crime against ManBearPig.
[After the jump: objects ahead, and the return of THING THEY ARE LIKE]
In Which I Rank the B1G Based on KenPom’s Rankings
1) Ohio State (14-0)
Thus Far: Beat Marquette 52-35 (!), Notre Dame 64-61, Maryland 76-60; should have lost to Notre Dame but the Irish were too chicken to hold a 10 point lead very very late.
Thing: Ohio State is really only playing one end of the court. They are the #1 team in the country defensively, but they have only scored 80 points three times (against Morgan State, North Florida, and Bryant), and only broken 90 points once. Aaron Craft has a billion steals and has yet to commit a foul, aided by the fact that he amputated his hands in the off-season because the NCAA never said anything about “stump-checking.” Gritty, that one.
Yep, this is the form of the guy who should be taking more shots. Sports.
Other Thing: LaQuinton Ross has sucked up the most offensive possessions at 27.8%, but only has an eFG% of 50.7. Lenzelle Smith and Amir Williams have been much more efficient, with Smith as OSU’s leading scorer.
Other Other Thing: Whoever brings me a picture of Thad Matta eating pizza on a golf cart after OSU loses its first game this year will be rewarded with ALL the MGoPoints.
Thing They Are Like: Aaron Craft. Really good defensively, mediocre offensively, and really makes you feel like throwing an elbow.
2) Wisconsin (13-0)
Thus Far: Beat Florida (59-53), St. Louis (63-57), West Virginia (70-63), Virginia (48-38), Marquette (70-64)
Thing: This particular horror franchise has gotten really old. Wisconsin is once again in the bottom 20 in tempo, top 20 in adjusted defense, and is grinding out win after win. I’d call it a zombie movie, but Bo Ryan looks more like a vampire, so I dunno.
Other Thing: The difference over some prior years is that Wisconsin has been really good offensively. Frank Kaminsky has very efficient inside, and Sam Dekker has been extremely active on the offensive boards.
Thing They Are Like: Nickelback. Long after everyone agreed they are terrible and the mechanism of their success (payola) has supposedly been eradicated, they persist.
3) Iowa (12-2)
Thus Far: Beat Xavier (77-74 OT), Notre Dame (98-93); Lost to Villanova (88-83 OT), Iowa St. (85-82)
Thing: Iowa is… wait, Iowa? As in IOWA Iowa? And they’re ahead of Michigan State? Welp, I think that qualifies as a Thing in and of itself.
Other Thing: I’m still not over the first Thing. Give me a minute.
Okay. Let’s roll. Iowa has used a really deep rotation, with no one averaging more than 26 minutes. They have three guys playing significant minutes with an eFG% over 60%: Jarrod Uthoff (62.2%), Anthony Clemmons (66.7%), and Aaron White (68.9%). Roy-Devyn Marble (aka Roy Devyn-Marble, RoyDevinMarble, or RDevMarbs) hasn’t been efficient, but he’s scoring 15.3 ppg and has a 2.7 Assist/TO ratio, so Iowa can deal with that.
Other Other Thing: Josh Oglesby has an 120% eFG from the field while playing 20 minutes per game. He’s only played one game, but still. That’s flashy.
Other Other Other Thing: See: first Thing
Thing They Are Like:
Giant Noodle A functional basketball team. Go figure.
4) Michigan State (12-1)
Thus Far: Beat Kentucky (78-74), Oklahoma (87-76), Texas (92-78); Lost to UNC (79-65)
Kenny Kaminski violated team rules
Thing: Michigan State is beat to hell. Adreian Payne has plantar fasciitis, Gary Harris has a leg/ankle thing that has lingered since fall, Matt Costello has mono, Travis Trice has some sort of weird blister thing happening (and apparently almost died last year of the thing that we presume creates zombies), and Branden Dawson was turned into a newt (though he has recovered nicely). Throw in a suspension to Kenny Kaminski, and you’ve got yourself a situation. Until they get healthy, we probably won’t know whether we’ll see the MSU that beat Kentucky handily or the MSU that nearly lost to Columbia and Oakland.
Thing They Are Like: Mr. Burns’ team of softball ringers. Keith Appling is Darryl Strawberry.
5) Michigan (8-4)
Thus Far: Beat Florida St. (82-80 OT), Stanford (68-65); Lost to 2013 (“All the points”-“Remember Trey Burke”)
Thing: You can make an argument that Michigan should be behind Minnesota based on the recent news about Mitch McGary, but they beat Stanford and beat their KenPom number against Holy Cross, so it seems like they’re properly slotted for now.
Thing They Are Like: A THING THAT THE UNIVERSE TOTALLY OWES A SOLID, THANKS.
6) Minnesota (11-2)
Thus Far: Beat Richmond (74-59), Florida State (71-61); Lost to Syracuse (75-67), Arkansas (87-73)
Thing: The Richard Pitino Era has begun, and it featured a lack of the Tubby Smith Random Minutes Generator-based rotation pattern. I’m pretty disappointed about that. The bench has seemingly been shortened from 17 to 8.
Other Thing: if you see someone take a shot, there’s a pretty good chance a Hollins is taking it. Andre and Austin are combining for 22.5 shots per game despite not making terribly many of them. Austin does have a 2.8 Assist/TO ratio, and is pulling down an impressive number of rebounds for a guard.
Thing They Are Like: Like most years, they are Mike McDermott. Hanging around. Hanging around.
7) Indiana (10-4)
Thus far: Beat… uh… Stony Brook (90-74); Lost to UConn (59-58), Syracuse (69-52), Notre Dame (79-72), Illinois (83-80 OT)
Thing: Yes, Stony Brook is the highest rated team Indiana has defeated. Turns out, losing your four leading scorers (including two to the lottery) does not portend great things. Yogi “Kevin” Ferrell has taken some strides, but Noah Vonleh and the other freshmen haven’t picked up the slack from Zeller, Oladipo, Watford, and Hulls. This MIGHT be a tournament team? Maybe?
Other Thing: Luke Fischer doesn't think so. He's tranferring.
Thing They Are Like: Watching Space Jam in reverse, where the Monstars have all the talent but then they send that talent to the NBA and are therefore no longer good at basketball.
8) Illinois (12-2)
Thus Far: Beat UNLV (61-59), Missouri (65-64); Lost to Georgia Tech (67-64), Oregon (71-64)
Thing: I can’t disagree with KenPom… but if I could, I’d probably think that Illinois is better than Indiana right now. Even setting aside the head-to-head win on New Year’s Eve, they just look like a better team. Junior point guard (and transferee from Drake) Rayvonte Rice has won two B1G Player of the Week awards, and is averaging 18.2 points with an eFG% hovering around 60%.
I used to be over by the top of the conference and I could see the squirrels…
Other Thing: Illinois is very young and not very deep. They only have ten scholarship players eligible to play this year, so their rotation isn’t really an option. They may be susceptible to foul trouble in the front court, as they really only have Nnanna Egwu and Maverick Morgan who can play the 5, but they haven’t shown much in the way of foul trouble thus far, and they really have cool names.
Thing They Are Like: Milton Waddams. They were supposed to be let go, but through some kind of glitch in the payroll they keep getting a check. Chances are, at some point someone will fix the glitch.
HENRI LINE OF ENNUI
9) Penn State (9-5)
Thus Far: Beat St. Johns (89-82 OT): Lost to Bucknell, Ole Miss, Pitt, Princeton, Michigan St.
Thing: Once again, Penn State is really guard-centric. No, scratch that. They are very starting guard centric. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill basically never come out of the game; they are averaging 35.6 and 35.8 minutes per game, respectively. How long they can stay towards the top of Group Ennui depends on how long those two can stay upright and sucking oxygen into their lungs in quantities sufficient to sustain consciousness. Frazier seems to have come back strong from his Achilles injury last year, averaging 18.2 points and 7.5 assists.
Thing They Are Like: The Celestial Spheres, with two guys playing the role of Atlas.
10) Purdue (10-4)
Thus Far: Beat West Virginia (73-70); Lost to Oklahoma St (97-87), Washington St (69-54), Butler (76-70), Ohio State (78-69)
Thing: Purdue is playing a little Dread Pirate Wesley this year. They’re only MOSTLY dead. Led by the backcourt of Terone and Ronnie Johnson (relation), Purdue beat one top-50-ish team in West Virginia, and actually played Oklahoma State pretty close all the way to the wire. They won’t compete for an NCAA bid, but knocking off one or two of the big boys might be feasible.
Other Thing: They’re taking the plot of The Waterboy one step further, converting team butler Basil Smotherman into a regular part of the rotation. Indeed. Indubitably. Rather.
Thing They Are Like:
11) Nebraska (8-5)
Thus Far: Beat Miami (YTM) (60-49); Lost to UMass, UAB, Creighton, Cincinnati, Iowa.
Thing: I like Tim Miles.
Thing They Are Like: That ESPN commercial where famous athletes play the wrong sports. Basketball just doesn’t look like your ‘thing,’ Nebraska.
12) Northwestern (7-6)
Thus Far: Beat Western Michigan (51-35); Lost to Stanford, Illinois St, Missouri, UCLA, NC State, DePaul
Thing: The good news is that Northwestern won’t suffer through another nailbiting, heartbreaking late-season NCAA tournament miss again this year. The bad news is that’s because they’ll be eliminated from consideration by MLK Day.
Thing They Are Like: Generic thing that isn’t really good at basketball
If Today Was Late March:
Ohio State (#1), Wisconsin (#2), Michigan State (#2), Iowa (#5)
Illinois (#11), Minnesota (#12), Indiana (#12 but they wouldn’t deserve it)
Northwestern Memorial Wrong Side of the Bubble Award
Rutgers Memorial What's a Bubble Award
Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, Northwestern
You don’t really have many rooting interests yet, other than the obvious. Hurray little guys. Boo big guys.
MICHIGAN @ Minnesota, 7:00, BTN
Wisconsin @ Northwestern, 7:00, ESPN2
Nebraska @ Ohio State, 12:00, BTN
Michigan State @ Indiana, 2:00, CBS
Penn State @ Illinois, 2:15, BTN
Northwestern @ MICHIGAN, 12:00, BTN
Purdue @ Minnesota, 2:30, BTN
Iowa @ Wisconsin, 8:00, BTN
Ohio State @ Michigan State, 9:00, ESPN
Minnesota @ Penn State, 7:00, BTN
Illinois @ Wisconsin, 9:00, BTN