the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
Sometime tomorrow evening and into the next several days we will be discussing what happened in the Final Four game against Syracuse - one way or another. Before that happens I thought I would reflect once more on the past 20 years of Michigan Basketball since we were last watching our Wolverines take the court in the FInal Four.
First, some quick context. I attended Michigan from 1993-1997 and as a member of the Basketball Band for most of that time I sat right on the floor starting the year after Jalen and Juwan left....exactly the start of the 20 years of futility. I stayed a huge fan through the dark days and couldn't be more happy with where the program stands today. Like many of you I rooted for a lot of bad teams and mediocre players in the past 20 years, hoping for a magical run. But enough about me.....
As you'd expect with the relative lack of success these past twenty years, the program has produced very few stars that we could watch beyond their days at Michigan. There were many players that were fun to watch, easy to root for, or played their hearts out, but can you name anyone who made an impact in the NBA?
The Past - NBA Version
Over the past 20 years since the Fab Five left town, almost no Michigan players have gone on to any NBA success. In fact, just THREE have had an NBA career last more than 5 years:
- Maurice Taylor - 9 years, 4 teams
- Robert Traylor - 6 years, 4 teams
- Jamal Crawford - 12 years, 6 teams
Those guys aren't exactly the alumni you're proud to root for either, with Taylor and Traylor both being part of the Ed Martin scandal and seemingly falling short of their potential in college and Crawford playing a total of 13 games before the NCAA decided they didn't like his back story.
Sure, many other players have hung around the end of an NBA bench for a couple of years, but none made any lasting impression. Yet prior to the 20-year-drought we had a whopping EIGHT players have long NBA careers (Webber, Rose, Howard, Vaught, Mills, Rice, Grant, Robinson). Not only did our on-court success cease with the Fab Five, but our pipeline to the NBA did as well. Here's the full list of Michigan players who've ever played in the NBA if you're interested:
Yet this year we are treated to a starting lineup that might send all five players to the NBA. Will any of them be stars at the next level? Probably not, though I can't wait to see what Burke can do. But we now have NBA talent on the roster again. Having NBA blood lines also helps. With a little luck there's a chance we'll see Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary in the NBA (hopefully not too soon) and both Irvin and Walton come with the pedigree to continue that pipeline.
But the real point of this post, is about the other players who came and went in those 20 years. Where are the likes of Daniel Horton, LaVell Blanchard, and Josh Asselin? While there were certainly some bad apples (thanks again Brian Ellerbe!) there were also a lot of good players that never quite put us over the top.
The Past - Euro Version
Inspired by a post at The Only Colors a while back, I dug into the foreign professional league rosters and was pretty surprised at what I found. A total of 13 former players are still active in leagues around the world with two more playing in the past two seasons. Below is a table of names you may remember and what they're doing today. I included a link to their player page for more information on their background. I didn't have time to research the various leagues to determine their quality (as much as I love Novak, I'm guessing his league isn't that prolific if he's averaging 19 per game), but I encourage others to do some digging too.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team||PPG||FG% (2p/3p/FT)||Previous Countries Played In|
|Maceo Baston||1995-1998||Bnei Hasharon (Israel) -- 2011||3.1||63/0/50||Spain, Ukraine|
Asefa Estudian (Spain)
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Spain, Ukraine, Dom Rep|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||9 de Julio (Argentina)||9.0||48/42/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Bernard Robinson||2001-2004||Basquete Cearense (Brazil)||7.4||46/25/77||Dom Rep, Argentina, Brazil|
|Daniel Horton||2003-2006||Kataja-Korihait (Finland) -- 2012||11.3||41/37/87||Australia, France, Cyprus|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||60/0/52||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brett Petway||2004-2007||AGOR (Greece)||11.6||66/31/69||Harlem Globetrotters, France, Greece|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Akita NH (Japan)||12.8||46/31/66||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria, Poland|
|Courney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||11.3||67/0/73||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||CSM Bucuresti (Romania)||19.2||58/39/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Sagesse (Lebanon)||21.4||54/32/62||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Manny Harris||2008-2010||Azovmash (Ukraine)||14.0||46/31/53||n/a|
|Zack Novak||2009-2012||Zwolle (Holland)||18.6||50/35/87||n/a|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Planasa NV (Spain)||9.1||42/40/90||n/a|
Data obtained from http://www.eurobasket.com/
(Note - I may have missed some guys in my search, feel free to add in the comments.)
When you look at that list of players, so many memories (good and bad) jump to mind...not to mention some of the interesting facts contained in that chart. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Who would have thougt there's competitive basketball in so many countries? How do you go about finding these jobs all around the world? Just look at the wide range of teams Dion Harris has played for!
- What is life like for these guys playing on obscure teams in obscure countries? How much do they earn? How hard is it for the guys that had a cup of coffee in the NBA to adjust to playing in places like Syria?
- Maceo Baston has been the Juwan Howard of Euro basketball, hanging on for a long time playing purely a post game (0% from 3pt).
- If you had to pick the highest scorers from this list of names, how many would you have guessed until you got to Jevohn Shepherd?? He averaged 2.5ppg in his four year career at Michigan. Who is playing in this Romanian league with him where he can score 19ppg?
It would have been fun to see John Beilein coach the 2004 team with the following players on it:
- PG - Daniel Horton
- SG - Dion Harris
- SF - Bernard Robinson
- PF - LaVell Blanchard
- C - Graham Brown
- BN - Petway (PF), Sims (C), Lester Abram (SG/SF), Chris Hunter (PF/C)
- Josh Asselin has made a nice career for himself and is actually shooting better from distance than Manny, Zack, Dion, Daniel, and Stu!
- I wonder how many dunk contests Petway has won in Greece.
I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, even if there were some painful scars remembered (damn you Louis Bullock!). I hope most of these guys are watching this weekend as Michigan finally reaches the top of the mountain that eluded everyone on this list for so long.
Since it was a slow (but happy) National Signing Day for Michigan fans, I thought I'd take on a related topic today regarding recruiting and our friends in SEC land.
As Brian briefly touched on during his NSD piece, Bill Simmons’ latest column dealt with the subject of steroids and how the media avoids speculation about who might be juicing. It is a really good piece that you should read. The message is this – we all have a mental list of players who we want to see pee in a cup to prove their innocence…..why not openly talk about those lists?
Many of us feel like NCAA corruption is a similar topic – taboo to the main stream media. Much like how the baseball writers looked the other way when McGwire and Sosa were “saving the sport” we see college media look the other way as Saban hands out medical redshirts like candy, Reggie Bush lives in free housing, Oregon pays a pseudo agent, or OSU lets players trade equipment for benefits around town. Why has there never been a “deep throat source” willing to blow up recruiting violations? John Bacon even touches on the subject in “Three And Out” when interviewing the quarterbacks, but doesn’t dig deeper.
In 2013 the obvious “pee in the cup” list for recruiting corruption starts with Ole Miss. This is a team with a mediocre recent past if we’re being generous. They haven’t won the SEC since the 1960’s and haven’t been relevant nationally except for their #20 finish in 2009. Yet this season they bring in a consensus top ten recruiting class and some of the nation’s best players. What gives?
It is easy to speculate about potential corruption but aside from a picture on LaQuan Treadwell’s twitter account of him holding several hundred dollars, there’s no way for us to have any evidence. So we could sit here and rant about it while sounding like Skip Bayliss debating the wonders of Tim Tebow, but then the message is lost. Can we find statistical evidence that something is deviating from the norm with Ole Miss?
I contend that there are several ways we can do this, and I’m going to start such a conversation. However, I have neither the time nor the skill to finish this scavenger hunt so I wanted to post this primer and then let the power of the Michigan blog sphere potentially dig further if there’s interest.
Below is a table summarizing Mississippi’s recruiting classes from the past several years along with their final record and rank:
Total # of
(# from MS)
(# from MS)
|n/a||7||27||3 (0)||9 (5)||7|
|2012||7-6||40||19||0 (-)||2 (1)||1|
|2011||2-10||19||27||1 (1)||5 (5)||0|
|2010||4-8||18||25||0 (-)||7 (6)||1|
|2009||9-4||18||37||1 (0)||8 (2)||7|
|2008||9-4||29||31||1 (0)||2 (0)||3|
|2007||3-9||27||22||0 (-)||6 (1)||5|
|2006||4-8||15||30||2 (0)||7 (4)||5|
|2005||3-8||30||28||1 (1)||2 (0)||2|
|2004||4-7||45||25||0 (-)||3 (3)||0|
|2003||10-3||38||21||0 (-)||2 (1)||1|
|2002||7-6||33||18||1 (1)||8 (7)||1|
Without running any data through statistical analysis, here are some observations:
- There were several good recruits in the state of Mississippi this season and historically players from that state stay home to play football. The Rebels deserve credit for signing those guys and that helps to tone down suspicion perhaps.
- Coach Hugh Freeze was hired before last season and did enact somewhat of a turn-around with a 7-6 record that included a bowl win. New coaches can sometimes lead to a bump in recruiting prowess. However, prior to this season he had a total of ONE YEAR of college head coaching experience…..at Arkansas State.
But there’s still something out of the ordinary going on here:
- Ole Miss has never had a class ranked higher than 15th….but this year they are 7th. It would also seem that their higher ranked classes from past years were based as much on quantity (37 recruits in 2009???) as quality.
- In the four previous seasons Ole Miss got a TOTAL of eight players ranked 4-star or higher to commit from out of state. In 2013 they have seven.
- Only one five-star recruit in four seasons has attended from out of state….three are coming this year.
- From 2010-2012 the Rebels had a record of 13-24 and pulled in a total of one 5-star and fourteen 4-star recruits, all but one of whom were from the state of Mississippi. This season they have signed twelve top recruits and just five are from the state.
It is very possible that Hugh Freeze is a great recruiter and has found a new method that is within the rules to attract this talent. It is also possible that this recruiting class had somewhat of a snowball effect and talent attracted talent. But there’s enough circumstantial evidence here for further investigation. This is where I turn it over to the talent on this blog. Here are some ideas for further analysis:
- Have other teams out-performed their historical trends by this much in the recent past?
- Based on the presumed correlation between record and recruiting success (probably 2-year record) has any other team out-performed their on-field success this abnormally before?
- Can we quantify the typical recruiting improvement a coach sees after his first year and compare it to what Freeze is doing?
- Has anyone on the blog been recruited and witnessed corruption first hand?
- Are there any theories on why this seemingly obvious corruption hasn't come out in the open at any school despite the large number of people involved and the fact that many of these people are teenage kids not being recruited for their ACT scores?
Maybe I'm alone in my frustration on this topic, but when you hear ESPN go on and on about the SEC and even Ole Miss specifically on signing day I'd like to hear someone at least ask the question - how are they doing this?
UPDATE - Since the team got a huge makeover within hours of me posting it, I thought I'd make some update in the wake of the three transfers. I've updated the table with thoughts on the transfers and what it means for the other players. At the very end I have some thoughts on recruiting needs. As for Burke, if he leaves for the NBA (an unwise decision in my mind) then you can burn this piece and ask Illinois fans how it feels to miss the NIT because that's where we'd be headed without a single ball-handler.
Brian stole a lot of my thunder with his comprehensive game recap before I could get this posted, but I think there’s enough to discuss here that the post is still worth doing.
I considered breaking this long post up into in a series of smaller posts, but I suspect that there will soon be a flood of “looking toward next year” content in the Michigan blogsphere so I might as well get it all in now to launch that discussion.
I think there are three parts to any premature basketball preview and I’ll cover two of them here – player summaries and biggest off-season questions. The third, conference outlook, has to wait until the dust settles on the NCAA Tournament and the NBA draft deadline passes. Without further ado, let’s get started - which means….
Oh boy – not another alter ego voice.
Yep, that’s right – much like Temptation without War Chant you can’t have a long diary on MGoBlog without an alter ego chiming in.
Does that also mean we need a…..
…..Chart? Yes, yes we do. Below is a chart full of player summaries that touches on two critical aspects of the 2012-2013 season: what should the player be working on over the summer and what is a realistic outlook for their role next year?
|Player||He should spend all summer.....||Next year he will.....|
|Trey Burke||Breaking a hard hedge. Ask students on campus to run a hard hedge against him while he's walking to class. Learn how other teams defeat it while it cripples Michigan at times.||
Play 90% of the time and be a contender for conference player of the year.
UPDATE - ....realize what a great decision it was to stay at Michigan.
|Tim Hardaway||Dribbling!! His shooting should stabilize and he played well down the stretch. More rebounding would be nice, but he needs to be a reliable ball handler next year to take pressure off Burke and reach his star potential.||
Be the team's leading scorer and show more consistency with his outside shot, but will still have a couple plays per game that drive fans and coaches nuts.
UPDATE: ....searching for a mid-major out east where he'll be happy. Apparently he was unhappy and struggled with the rigors of a big time program and academic institution....though this is a big loss for Michigan and a shocking one to me. He would have been the starting PF and the third best player on the team.
UPDATE: ...take a redshirt season and wonder if he made the right choice leaving an offense that was perfect for him and a team poised to make another title run.
|Jordan Morgan||Doing layups and having Mike Barwis teach him to jump from flat footed.||Get the chance to be the starter but will get a quick hook if he's struggling with McGary and Horford breathing down his neck.|
|Matt Vogrich||Dribbling with Hardaway. Someone has to be an alternate ball handler and Vogrich has one last chance to be more than a role player if he can show the ability to handle the ball.||
Reprise his role as jump shooter off the bench. He may get a chance to start early in the year but is best suited to his 7th man role where he can park in the corner and hit 3s.
UPDATE: Needs to play more with Hardaway since GR3 will spend more time at the PF spot.
|Jon Horford||Rehabbing his foot and practicing a mid-range jumper. Of the three centers in the rotation he's the most likely to have the skills to play PF in this offense.||Compete with McGary to be the back-up center, sometimes getting 20 minutes per game and sometimes playing the McLimans 5-10 minutes for rebounding and shot blocking.|
|Mitch McGary||Learning the nuances of the offense from Jordan Morgan. McGary will step on campus with significantly more skill and talent than Morgan but needs to match his ability with the pick-and-roll in order to earn significant minutes.||
Start the season as energy off the bench and will have the opportunity to get significant minutes. Some fans will be disappointed at a pedestrian freshman season, but the outlook will be bright.
UPDATE: I still see him purely as a center, but maybe JB will break out a twin towers offense without Smotrycz.
|Glenn Robinson III||Learning from Zach Novak how to be Zach Novak. GR3 has a chance to be the spark off the bench at either forward spot and will have far more athleticism than Novak, but he could use a lesson in grit to help fill the void left by the captain.||
Be a significant factor in how far the team goes. Needs to spell Smotrycz at the 4 or play the 3 at times,
UPDATE: He's now slated to start at PF unless Jon Horford has a huge off-season or Bielfeldt surprises.
|Nik Stauskas||Learning from Stu Douglas how to play the second guard spot in this offense. Much like the other freshmen, Nik will be more talented than Stu, but has to fill his role to be truly effective early in his career.||The favorite to start at the SG spot and be the second ball-handler the team needs. Could play more minutes than anyone other than Burke and Hardaway if he shows he's ready for that role….and Michigan probably needs him to be.|
UPDATE: Follow McCallum around the Detroit campus instead? The skepticism about his role in this offense was apparently warranted - hopefully he can find a better fit.
UPDATE: Enjoy his redshirt season at a smaller school.
Shooting mid-range jumpers. There's an opportunity for minutes at the PF spot for someone who can hit a midrange jumper and mix it up inside a little.
UPDATE: Needs to enter the season trying to prove he could be the starter at PF.
UPDATE: Best case he will have a Morgan-like leap as a RS-Freshman and grab the starting spot. Worst case he needs to be good enough to play 10-12 minutes per game competently.
|Blake McLimans||Learn to run the pick-and-roll. He played some critical minutes with Horford out but the offense bogged down with him on the floor. His best chance at staying relevant would be to play PF and show he can run the offense.||
Learn to enjoy the view from the bench because unless Ted Valentine and Ed Hightower ref the same game it is unlikely that we'll need a 4th string center next year.
UPDATE: May see a few minutes per game at PFsince he can shoot and knows the offense.
Learning how to swing a rally towel or working with the genetics department to reconfigure himself into a back-up point guard.
UPDATE: I guess we didn't need the genetics department to turn him into a PG, his transfer should allow us to sign one to take his spot.
UPDATE: Enjoy Division-2 basketball?
Wow – that was a lot of reading and a lot to digest. Let’s break it down into some critical team areas now.
What is the biggest reason for optimism heading into the off-season?
Simply put – Trey Burke. He will be a contender for conference player of the year and would likely be on his way to the NBA lottery if he were a measly 3 inches taller. He should fill the leadership role vacated by Douglas and Novak well and gives us a chance to win every game we play.
UPDATE: Try not to think about him leaving....it will just make you cry.
Having depth and recruiting talent will make the season interesting, but Burke will ultimately determine how far this team goes. He had an amazing freshman year, but there is still a lot of room for growth on both ends of the court. Solving the various high-screen defenses he saw will allow him to be more dominant and open up more opportunities for his teammates.
What is the biggest reason for concern?
This is a more complex thing to address, but allow me to answer in the form of a question – who is the second ball handler on the team next year?
Wait – I ask get to answer a question for a change? Okay – I’ll say…..uh….hmm….that freshman with the funny name?
Nik Stauskas is the one you’re thinking of, and he’s a popular choice. But he’s a freshman and is also 6’6” tall. When was the last time you saw a good ball handler taller than 6’4” at Michigan? Jalen Rose 20 years ago?
In my opinion, finding someone to handle the ball besides Burke is the biggest concern going into next year. Douglas (and to a much lesser extent Novak) filled that role perfectly and Michigan doesn’t have a back-up point guard stashed on its bench. Maybe Stauskas will be the answer we’re all hoping for, or maybe Hardaway and Vogrich will improve their handles well enough to fill this role, or maybe Brundidge makes a huge leap forward – hopefully someone does. Otherwise opponents will just press full court and double Burke until someone else shows they can handle the ball.
UPDATE: Did I mention that thinking about Burke leaving would make you cry?
Who is the most important player next year (besides Burke)?
Obviously Burke comes first because we’ve established that there is no other option to run the offense and he’s so sensational. It may also be obvious now that Stauskas, despite being the lowest rated incoming recruit, may be the next most important player on the team. He needs to fill the 2-guard role on both ends of the floor well enough to play major minutes given the other options. If Stauskas struggles to earn minutes, there will be a large void at the guard spot – a big problem in a guard oriented offense.
Hardaway is critical for the team to succeed, but there are other players to help when he goes into his funks. Smotrycz needs to show that he can be a consistent threat playing his natural position and be the third scoring option for the team, but he’s already shown that to some extent and there are other options if he struggles. McGary isn’t as important given the depth and experience at center. Stauskas is the one player who fits nicely into the offense as the second guard and has the biggest shoes to fill.
How excited should we be for McGary? Is this going to be like the Fisher era with Vaught, Mills, Webber, Howard, Taylor, and Traylor? (on the court, not off)
Well, I’ve personally lowered my expectations for him and I think most fans would be wise to do the same. From the videos I’ve seen he’ll be a great addition to the team with his size, athleticism, rebounding, and hustle…..but not an all-conference contender anytime soon. He looks like a bigger, better version of Jordan Morgan – which is great, but not the next Webber. I suspect he’ll be a solid contributor and play a lot of minutes but won’t stuff the stat sheet until his sophomore year.
Wait a minute – he’s Michigan’s best recruit in a really long time and you’re bashing him?
No, I think he’ll turn out to be a great college player if he stays for2-3 years but will not make the immediate impact some are expecting. There are several reasons:
- Big men take longer to adjust to the college game, even though he’s old for his class.
- He doesn’t yet have a jump shot that will make him versatile, making him purely a center in Beilein’s offense and not a power forward. But Michigan’s offense doesn’t feed the post players like MSU or an NBA team would. He’ll have to get his points like Morgan does – which is fine but limits his upside.
- He’s stepping into a crowded center competition with two guys that know the system and have contributed in the past.
I actually think McGary may have the smallest impact on next year’s of all the recruits given that both Stauskas and GR3 are better fits at replacing the void left by the seniors. McGary will contribute and be fun to watch, but lower your expectations to fully enjoy it rather than wondering why he isn’t dominant.
Speaking of McGary, how is the center depth chart going to play out?
This is going to be fascinating since Beilein only historically plays one true post player and now has three players worthy of ample playing time. Even Tom Izzo with his deep bench only plays two true centers. I think Morgan will remain the starter for a lot of next year but I like Brian’s 15-15-10 prediction for minutes with McGary splitting equal time. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride – we’ll never have to worry about foul trouble, teams with a lot of height, or seeing McLimans or Smotrycz play critical minutes at center.
What do you think the rotation will be?
I thought about predicting minutes per game, but Brian did an admirable job of that already. Instead I’ll talk in generalities. Here’s the rotation as I see it:
- Morgan (on a short leash)
GR3 (energy off the bench at the 3 or 4, replacing Stauskas or Smotrycz)
- McGary (essentially getting starters minutes)
- Vogrich (basically the same as this year, maybe a few more minutes at best)
- Horford (the 3rdstring center still averaged 8 minutes per game this year)
Brundidge (a few minutes spelling Burke)
Christian(suddenly one of these two needs to play a fair amount of minutes at PF)
Wow – that rotation sounds like something to be excited about!
That’s a true 9-man rotation, dwarfing the deepest rotation Beilein has ever had at Michigan, and a few spare parts that are still viable options.
UPDATE: Until another recruit joins the incoming class (more below) that's still possibly a 9-man rotation if Bielfeldt steps up or McLimans plays more at PF.
Next year is going to be a unique experience for this program with the depth, talent, leadership turnover, height, and relative youth. The B1G will be as tough as always, but Michigan should be a contender once again, even if there are some growing pains early in the season.
UPDATE: So we suddenly have scholarships to offer...what should we do with them?
Obviously we should take one or maybe two guards and whoever the coaches feel is deserving of a scholarship. There has been plenty of speculation at MGoBlog or UMHoops about players who may be available, so I won't spend too much time on specific names since no one really knows and no one has an official offer.
What I will say is this - I want a true point guard in this class....and I don't care what their star rating is, how big they are, whether they have pro potential, or any of that stuff. I think every team needs a back-up PG who can play 10-15 minutes per game where he runs the offense, doesn't turn the ball over, plays good defense, and hits the occassional open shot. The kind of guy who will play four years, possibly all of them as a back-up, work his tail off, be thrilled to play for Michigan, and be a great insurance policy if the starter can't play. Everyone needs one of these types of players and we're sorely lacking one. Even if Burke stays another year, we still will only have one PG the following year and that person would be a true freshman.
I can think of two perfect examples of this - Travis Trice at MSU and Stilman White at UNC. Both were undersized 3-star recruits surrounded by higher ranked players and lacking any other major offers. Both players stepped up with a few minutes per game when their teams needed it. Both will be around for three more years being solid system guys. We need one of those.
Of all the names mentioned so far, Spike Albrectch seems like the closest fit to this role. He's a true PG who has lead both his AAU and Prep teams to a lot of success playing a ton of minutes. He's played with many of our two best incoming recruits. He can hit a three pointer if left alone. And he's essentially the same size as those two examples listed above. Maybe there are better choices out there and if so I hope the coaches can sign them. If not, I'd gladly welcome Spike to fill that role.
Note: My plan was to post this yesterday when it was a little more timely, but life and computer problems got in the way. Sorry for the delay.
I thought we could use a break from disappointing recruiting news and the loss to Ohio State in basketball (I guess we were right to be worried about free throw margin)*. and take a step back to look at the basketball season overall. During the football season Heiko added a feature called Opponent Watch that focused on the performance of Michigan’s opponents. I thought I would adapt that idea to the basketball season since the strength of schedule matters so much during tournament selection. UMHoops has a feature that looks at the conference teams on a weekly basis, but they don’t recap the non-conference season.
So let's look at the basketball season as a whole in terms of our opponents and their current standing with the two most relevant rankings systems - Kenpom and RPI. But if we want to look at this information, we're going to need....a chart? Yes - a chart! (rankings updated for Sunday games)
There’s a lot of interesting information there, so let’s try to break it down....
BEST WIN: Michigan State
In this case our best emotional win is also our best resume win. Michigan State is ranked in the top five by both KenPom and RPI. With another chance to beat them and three-in-a-row under our belt there’s another chance this weekend to boost our resume with a win.
GOOD WINS: Memphis, Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue
Memphis wasn’t the marquee win we expected at the time when they were ranked #8, but they’ve pulled things together enough to move to top-30 in both rankings. Iowa State after their upset of Kansas this past weekend has moved to a top-50 team in both rankings, including all the way to top-35 with KenPom. Minnesota and Wisconsin have both been up and down in conference play, but both are trending upward. The Gophers have cracked the top-50 in both rankings and we are aware of KenPom’s love affair with the Badgers. Purdue is on the fringe of the top-50 and ekes their way into this category.
GOOD LOSSES: Duke, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio
There is no such thing as a “good loss”, but in the eyes of the committee some are better than others. Duke and Ohio are top-tier teams and losing to them doesn’t hurt the resume. Despite already having five losses in conference Indiana remains a darling in the eyes of the rankings thanks in no small part to their own marquee wins. The surprising entrant on this list is Virginia, who is ranked very high in KenPom and top-40 in RPI.
BAD LOSSES: Iowa
This one still stings as the Hawkeyes are out of the top-100 rankings, even though road games are tough in the Big Ten. That lackluster performance, Burke’s foul trouble, and Beilein keeping him on the bench for 13 minutes resulted in this game being the worst loss of the season by far. On the bright side, this is the only game in this category.
LOOKING AHEAD: Upcoming schedule & rooting interests
There are no nights off in the Big Ten and there are some tough games ahead. MSU and Ohio are as tough as any game on the schedule all season. There are four other games against top-50 teams also on the schedule. In theory there are three winnable games against teams with lower rankings, but all three of them (Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State) are on the road – making them a far bigger challenge than the rankings would indicate.
As far as rooting interests, the season is a lost cost for some of the non-conference teams on the schedule with lousy rankings, but there are plenty of teams we can root for the rest of the way. Duke and Ohio should take care of business and remain final four contenders. You should be rooting for Memphis, Iowa State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin whenever possible since those are Michigan’s best wins. Having Virginia continue to play well to make that loss look good to the committee would also be helpful. Perhaps more importantly would be to have UCLA and Arkansas go on a run and crack the top-75, which would be a boost to the resume.
CONCLUSION: Michigan's resume so far.
As UMHoops points out in their first bracket watch post, Michigan has a very solid resume and finds itself with solid rankings in both services. The schedule doesn't get any easier, but holding serve probably means an above average seed to the tournament.
* A couple of quick Ohio State thoughts while I have your attention. If you don't care to rehash that game, feel free to stop reading here and surf over to Touchthebanner to see if he's posted any interesting recruiting information....or another one of his famous pictures.
First the good news – looking ahead to the 2013 match-up. I concur with Brian when he says it felt like they threw a continuous stream of 6’7” athletes on the floor and due to foul trouble and Horford’s injury we were forced to play McLimans extended minutes and Colton Christian more meaningful minutes than he’s played in months as the 9thman in the rotation. But next year that won’t be the case. We replace Stu (6’2”) and Novak (6’4”) with a healthy Horford (6’10”), Stauskas (6’6”), Robinson (6’7”), McGary (6’10”), and Beilfeldt (6’8”). If Christian plays in the game next year it will be as the 12thor 13thman and we’ll be winning by 20 points…..let’s look forward to that!
Now the negative part. Unlike Brian, I felt that the way the game was officiated had a direct impact on the outcome. I had no delusions that the fouls would be even given the styles of play, the home court advantage, and Ted “TV” Valentine calling the game, but I think it was still excessively skewed toward OSU. The refs allowed them to play a very physical style of defense without calling any fouls and yet many of Michigan’s fouls had little impact on the shooters’ ability to get the ball off. Having Morgan, Novak, and Smotrycz all on the bench with foul trouble is among the biggest reasons Michigan lost (along with OR% and missed shots at the rim). I knew we were doomed during a sequence in the first half – Burke drove baseline and used his forearm to clear space and then draw contact…..he was called for an offensive foul. On the NEXT POSSESSION Jared Sullinger got the ball at the high post, put his forearm into Smotrycz’s chest, shoved him out of the way, crashed into him to draw contact, and got both the basket AND the foul. I wasn’t shocked by either call taken individually…..but the fact that they both went in OSU’s favor is an indication of how they let the game play out – and the resulting 18-4 free throw attempts coincide nicely with the margin of victory. Let's hope for some friendlier whistles in the rematch.
Last night Team 132 finished one of the more memorable, rewarding, and unexpected seasons in recent memory. Brian and much of the blogsphere have valiantly focused on what this team accomplished, what they overcame, and how well they have represented the university not just this season, but through their entire careers. But there has been consistent talk among some fans and media types about how "Michigan is back".
With the help of my brother I set out to understand if this 11-2 season with a BCS bowl victory matched some vague definition of Michigan past and thus validates the claim of the program being back. I looked at all seasons in the "Bo era" of UM football to see when the team finished the season with a good record and BCS bowl appearance.
But in order to do that, we need a chart.
Chart you say?
Wait - there is an alter ego in this post too?
Yes - So let's see the chart then!
**UPDATE** In the comments user "Vasav" made a suggestion that we could create a metric that took into account beating OSU, winning the conference, and final ranking to get a "score" for that season. I updated the table below with that metric, though I changed his values somewhat.
- Versus MSU: Win = 0.5, Tie = 0.2, Loss = 0.0
- Versus OSU: Win = 1.0, Tie = 0.5, Loss = 0.0
- Big Ten Finish: 1st = 1.0, Tied for 1st = 0.5, Other = 0.0
- Bowl Outcome: Win = 1.0, Loss = 0.0
- Final AP Rank: 1-5 = 1.0, 6-10 = 0.5, Other = 0.0
There are obvious flaws in this such as the difference between being ranked 5 and 6 costing a significant amount toward the final score or the fact that you can't have "ties" for the conference title like you used to before this season. But it is a starting point and helps sort these seasons, so the table has been updated. (Read below for other updates.)
What did we learn from that?
Well, you can find just about anything on the Bentley LIbrary site.
Besides the shameless plug, what else did we learn?
There are several things that were interesting in this research. Here are a few.
- Carr (2-3) and Bo (3-10) did a lot to promote the belief that the Big Ten can't win big games.
- But they also got to these big games at a very high rate with Carr going to 5 BCS games in 13 years and Bo going to 13 in 21 years. This may be where the "Michigan is back" meme comes from since the five year drought we just lived through had only happened one other time in the past 40 years.
Carr, Mo, and Bo all had several historically great seasons with Carr's 1997, Bo's 1985, and Bo's 1988 standing out perhaps as the best.
- **UPDATE** When applying the "Vasav score" you see these seasons change slightly. Obviously 1997 and 1988 still stack up, but 1985 is lower on the list than 1980 and 1992.
- Damn.....Bo was a great coach. Over time I had sort of felt like his memory was greater than his actual resume, but you can't help being amazed at his tenure. The Rose Bowls, top ten rankings, and conference titles are more than impressive.
- What was it like to be a die-hard fan from 1970 to 1974? In five seasons Bo went 50-4-1, won or tied for the conference title 4 times, finished in the top ten each season and only went to ONE bowl game. Imagine the server damage that would have been done if MGoBlog existed then.
- **UPDATE** Look at how 2006 scores out despite being perhaps Carr's second best team. I think this is a good test of the Vasav score because that great season left such a bitter taste in our mouths for having lost to OSU and then USC when we were perhaps so close to a championship.
Well, those are some nice bullets, but does that mean the people saying "Michigan's Back!" are right?
Can't we just focus on this great season and the heart shown by the members of the team who have put everything they had into this program despite the chaos over the past several years?
No - I need an answer. Is Michigan back? Does this season stack up against the rest?
The answer is "not quite". Finishing with an 11-2 record and BCS win (regardless of how ugly) is amazing and stacks up with some of the best seasons ever. Considering the past 4 years that is a great accomplishment and shows that the program is on the right track and about as "back" as could be dreamed of before this season started.
But there are a couple of things that put it a notch below most of the seasons on the list. First is the fact that Michigan finished as the third best team in the conference behind MSU and Wisconsin, despite the deserved BCS appearance. Classic Michigan teams expected to win the conference and did more often than not. That's the goal and motivation for next year. Another difference is that Michigan will likely finish ranked outside the top ten this year while all but two of the teams on the list finished with a better final ranking.
Hoke has exceeded expectations and has Michigan poised to compete for BCS bowls going forward, even if this season is a slight notch below the great ones of the past 40 years. Bring on Alabama and 2012! Go Blue!
**UPDATE** Response to comments
It is always dangerous to respond to comments, so I'll keep this brief. Obviously I, and most readers of this site, agree with Brady Hoke when he says that Michigan isn't "back" because it never went anywhere. No matter what the record on the field, the men wearing the winged helmets have represented the university with integrity and worked their tails off both on and off the field. The "Michigan is back" meme is used in this post as a backdrop to putting the 2011 season in historical context. Anyone reading this blog has lived and died emotionally with this team no matter their record or coach and can attest to Michigan not needing to be "back."
Likewise, there is no arguing that 2011 was a spectacular season by any measure or metric. The fact that we are even comparing it to the other 24 on this list states that. But this post was a way to both celebrate the past, celebrate 2011, and look forward to areas where we can still improve.
Finally, I intentionally avoided any discussion of late-era Carr or Rodriguez because that isn't relevant. Whatever ill-will or praise you have for either coach does not factor into the on-field significance of their past seasons so I hope we can avoid turning another series of comments into an argument about either coach.
After winning today against Minnesota we hold on to our NCAA Tournament hopes (despite what ESPN might think). As we’ve known for a while, beating MSU is a must for this discussion to matter. If that happens, we need to win 1-2 games in the conference tournament to get into serious tournament conversations.
There’s already a thread about whether we could get in with just one win in the BTT, but that thread is lacking a critical piece of information – WHO would we play? I started to investigate this and it revealed a very interesting scenario.
Right now we know who the top three teams are (OSU, Purdue, Wisconsin). We also know who the bottom four teams are (Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana). At this point those seven spots aren’t really likely to change barring some upsets in the final week. But the middle four spots are totally up for grabs among Michigan, MSU, Illinois, and Penn State.
Here’s the remaining schedules and a prediction to go with them for the four bubble teams:
Michigan State (16-11, 8-7)
- Purdue (Loss)
- Iowa (Win)
- @ Michigan (Loss)
- FINAL RECORD = 17-13, 9-9
Penn State (15-12, 8-8)
- OSU (Loss)
- @ Minnesota (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 16-13, 9-9
Illinois (18-11, 8-8)
- @ Purdue (Loss)
- Indiana (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 19-12, 9-9
Michigan (18-12, 8-9)
- MSU (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 19-12, 9-9
Those results, with all favored teams winning, conclude in a 4-way tie for fourth place. Now let’s examine what this would mean for the tournament seeding, since the top five teams get a bye.
According to the tournament’s website, in the event of a multi-team tie you have to look at the teams’ records against the other teams that are tied. So let’s look at that list again, with the head-to-head record of the four teams:
- MSU: 2-4
- PSU: 2-4
- Illinois: 3-2
- Michigan: 4-1
This would mean that Michigan and Illinois would get the byes while MSU and PSU would have to play on the first day. This is a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand it gives Michigan a better chance to make a run with one fewer game to play. It also gives Michigan the chance to play a better team in their first game to improve their resume, in this case Illinois.
On the other hand, Michigan doesn’t get to play one of the bottom feeders in the opening round to get their 20thwin. In some ways I think I would prefer to end up in the #6-7 spot to get another game against Iowa or Indiana. I’m curious what everyone thinks about this.
In the end what matters is beating MSU and winning at least the first game in the tournament, likely against Illinois. In the scenario described here that would put us in the semi-finals with 20 wins, a 9-9 fourth place conference finish, a 5-1 record against the other conference bubble teams, and a top-ten strength of schedule. Even with just that one BTT win it would be pretty hard to keep us out of the tournament with that resume.
Go Blue – Beat MSU!
I'm not an expert on bracketology, but I think we should be rooting against Illinois and Penn State in every game while we actually (*gulp*) root for MSU to win both of their other games. They would end up ahead of us in the standings, but we'd get a bigger resume boost for beating them.