I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Now that the regular season has ended for football we can spend the next couple of weeks reflecting on the various decisions and outcomes. I’m sure smarter people than I will analyze coaching and schematic decisions. Instead, I’ll address another topic that comes up often on the blog: the subject of red-shirting players. This post will look at the freshman class in the context of which ones were able to redshirt and which ones weren’t. Then we can debate these outcomes with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
What makes this season so unusual was the significant number of close games. I suspect that after the first two wins over WMU and Notre Dame that the coaches were planning to give some young players some garbage time minutes against Akron and UConn to see if they would be viable rotation players later in the season. We all know how that turned out – with no other “blowout” wins the rest of the season except for Minnesota (how did that happen again?) and thus limited snaps for players who had seen garbage time minutes at the beginning of the season. You have to wonder how some players would have developed (Dymonte Thomas for example) had they been able to play more significant minutes early in the season.
Before we begin, let’s discuss the philosophy we’ll use when analyzing these players. You have no doubt heard Brian talk about the need to redshirt any player who isn’t an active member of the two deep. A classic example would be his man-crush – Dennis Norfleet. Instead of playing him a handful of snaps his entire freshman year, why not redshirt him and gain the benefit of a fifth season? In general I would agree with Brian’s philosophy – a healthy program redshirts as many players as possible, especially in the trenches. Wisconsin and Michigan State are good examples of this right now. However, I will cut the coaches some slack because I think Michigan is trying to build a program and dealing with limited upper classmen in the depth chart. If someone can help on special teams or with more practice time in the two-deep, we need them to play to make sure this coaching staff is in place when they are seniors (especially considering the recruiting success thus far under Hoke – more good players are on the way). Likewise, there are some recruits that may have a limited ceiling and may help the program the most in a limited role – picture Royce Jenkins-Stone – and getting them on the field for four years rather than five likely has a limited effect overall.
Now on to the 2013 freshman. I think we need a CHART. What you’ll see here is a list of the redshirts* and my assessment as to whether the correct decision was made by the coaches. Obviously the coaches know best and this is just one man's opinion of the redshirt status, but it should generate some interesting discussion in the comments.
|QB||Shane Morris||No||Necessary||Given that he played only one useless series against MSU and a single play when Gardner lost his helmet after the WMU game, it is tempting to say he should have redshirted. Unfortunately, the Bellamy injury made it necessary to develop him and he probably should have seen the field more to give Gardner a rest – we just couldn’t open up the lead enough. Tough call – he probably had to play.|
|RB||Derrick Green||No||Good||He got a fair number of carries and considering the struggles of the running game he probably should have gotten more.|
|RB||DeVeon Smith||No||Good||Given the promise he showed in limited carries and the struggles of the offense you can’t argue burning his redshirt, but you can argue they should have used him more. Prior to the Northwestern game I was advocating for him to have a mysterious back injury like Devin Gardner to reclaim his redshirt since he went weeks without seeing a carry. But in hindsight, he should have been given more carries, not a redshirt.|
|FB||Wyatt Shallman||Yes||Good||Given the depth at the position and his previous injuries, it was the right decision.|
|TE||Jake Butt||No||Good||Excellent decision as he was the only useful TE on the roster this year and should be a major contributor next season.|
|TE||Khalid Hill||Yes||Good||Considering how poorly the TE’s played for much of the season, it is tempting to have thrown him out there and see what you have. But remember that blocking was their issue and undersized freshmen are not going to be good at blocking…unless they come from Pahokee, FL.|
|WR||Da'Mario Jones||No||Poor||When your only notable play from the season is accidentally touching a muffed punt, a redshirt was probably warranted. If the coaches weren’t going to play him on offense but like his future, why not redshirt him?|
|WR||Jaron Dukes||Yes||Good||Hardly any young WR got significant snaps, wise to redshirt.|
|WR||Csont'e York||No||Questionable||Given that on paper neither Dukes or York project to be significant contributors with more heralded recruits at their position on the way, why not put one of them on special teams instead of Jones?|
|OL||Kyle Bosch||No||Questionable||When a guy starts multiple games you figure it was the correct decision to burn his redshirt. On top of that, this OL class had a full six members to it so splitting up their eligibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But given Bosch’s struggles and the fact that he ended up losing his job, you have to wonder if someone else (Kalis, Bryant, Miller, Braden, Bars) could have performed just as well.|
|Yes||Good||Had Kugler been healthy you have to wonder if he would have been the next man up in the revolving door that was the OL this season, but it was the right decision to keep all of these redshirts and hope for the best next season.|
|DL||Taco Charlton||No||Good||He made little impact, but he did end up a part of the rotation late in the season so it is hard to fault his playing time. Next season he should compete at WDE and SDE so the experience should help.|
|Yes||Good||Interior defensive linemen rarely contribute as freshman and you should try to keep their redshirts if at all possible (*cough* Will Campbell *cough*). Both could be in the rotation at positions of need next season and emulate the emergence of Willie Henry.|
|LB||Ben Gedeon||No||Good||When you have three viable LB in the rotation along with another playing significant snaps on special teams you would hope to redshirt a guy like Gedeon. But he was forced to play due to injury and actually did reasonably well.|
|LB||Mike McCray||Yes||Good||As a “tweener” linebacker with a lot of depth in front of him it was good to keep his redshirt.|
|No||Good||They had their struggles at times and you have to wonder if Hollowell could have emulated their performance, but you didn’t need to redshirt all of the freshmen. Their snaps were actually pretty high and they shared the “first DB off the bench” title this season. The two of them will compete for the nickel, safety, and dime positions next season.|
|Yes||Good||We had a glut of unheralded corners on the team this year so it was good to redshirt at least a couple of them.|
|DB||Dymonte Thomas||No||Good||He represents the biggest difference between expectation and performance of anyone in the class. That probably isn’t fair to him since our expectations were likely inflated, but it is a reality. The five star recruit was expected to be a major part of the rotation and instead barely played. He had an amazing blocked punt to start the season and then vanished until late when he struggled in a cameo at nickel back. His development next season will be very interesting as we desperately need help at safety, yet two of his classmates have passed him at nickel back and Peppers joins the squad in a similar capacity. Having his athleticism patrolling at free safety sounds intriguing, but he has a long way to go and lots of other DBs ahead of him on the depth chart.|
|DB||Delano Hill||No||Good||He was a constant presence on special teams and looks more like a linebacker than a safety out there…impressive for a freshman. Considering we need to find a starting safety for next season, getting game experience for a physically mature freshman isn’t a bad thing.|
|LS||Scott Sypniewski||Yes||Good||He’s a long snapper….|
If you look at the overall results, only D’Mario Jones jumps out as a major miss by the coaches. I would count Bosch, Morris, and York as questionable. Bosch and Morris were almost forced by the depth chart and injuries. York probably should have kept his redshirt, but his fifth year likely has limited value considering the incoming talent and depth at the position. That is a better result than I expected when I started this so I guess I have to applaud the coaches for their overall success in this area.
I wanted to end with my two-cents on Shane Morris. We can shake our fists at a variety of circumstances that prevented his redshirt this season, but let’s talk about next year. I’ve seen several comments on the board about trying to redshirt him next season. This is an interesting idea and has its upside. Certainly if Gardner plays 95% of the snaps next season you’d want to redshirt him and use Bellamy for emergency situations. But I don’t agree with that strategy. I think you need to take the opposite approach – Morris should play as much as the situation allows. Just to be clear, in no way am I advocating benching Gardner. What I’m actually suggesting is that the coaches should be trying to get Gardner out of the game more often to keep him healthy and get Morris snaps. We will need a starting quarterback in 2015 and getting real snaps can only help. Obviously we need to be able to get ahead to afford us the opportunity to pull Gardner, but I think they should also be more comfortable giving Gardner a series or two off so he can pick rib cartilage from his jersey.
Assuming Morris plays next season, he’ll have two years as a starter after Gardner leaves with Bellamy and Speight behind him. When Morris graduates you’ll have Speight as a junior ready to take over the spot and 2-3 more new recruits from 2015 and 2016 filling out the depth chart. The only scenario where I think redshirting Morris next season makes sense is if you think Bellamy is your second best QB and he is a legitimate contender to start in 2015. Otherwise I want Morris ready to step in right away if Gardner gets hurt or when he graduates.
* Note – There are a couple of players that I was a little unsure of so if you have conflicting information, post in the comments and I’ll update the chart.
(Note: I was just about to post this prior to Brian's post about the "fickle" fans. I actually think this relates very closely to that discussion and doesn't even bring the obvious financial impact into the debate.)
It probably won’t surprise any readers of this site when I say that I’ve had many a debate with fellow fans recently about the way this season has unfolded. One such recent debate with my brother centered around why everyone seems so frustrated and is writing off the OSU game entirely. His argument was that we never used to feel that way under Lloyd Carr – even though Carr had more seasons with 3 or more losses than he did with fewer than 3. The initial theories we debated for why we are so more negative this season were:
- In the information age it is easier to be an arm-chair coach with the advanced metrics, easy to obtain video, sites like MGoBlog, etc.
- We’re headed into year 7 of frustration and are just less patient than we were under Carr.
- Brian Cook is like the pied piper of negativity for his readership and we should all stare at videos of cats and feel better about ourselves instead of letting Brian corrupt our minds.
- Perhaps Carr wasn’t very good and “This Is Michigan” really means “We’re likely to have 3-4 losses and shouldn’t be surprised like we are right now."
That last point got me to thinking – why can’t I remember heading into an OSU game prior to Rich Rodriguez being hired where I felt there was zero chance of winning or that the season was a failure like I have so many times since then? John Cooper obviously helped that perception, but that wasn’t all of it. Why are we so bitter now but weren’t even in Carr years with 3 losses?
Prior to doing the research my hypothesis was that we stayed optimistic as fans because we ALWAYS played close games when Carr was coaching. No matter who we were playing, we had a chance. Our frustration with Carr at times was that he was so conservative that we played down to lesser opponents and that resulted in narrow victories or the occasional surprising upset. But no matter who we were playing, we felt we had a chance.
So I created a chart of Carr’s final decade of coaching. I only went back to 1997 since MGoBlue’s records only go back that far and this is the portion of his career where his reputation was built and what earned him a lifetime contract:
|1998||8-2||7-0||8-3||@ND (36-20), Syr (38-28), @OSU (31-16)||2|
|1999||8-2||5-2||9-2||@MSU (34-31), ILL (35-29)||0|
|2000||7-3||5-2||9-2||@UCLA (23-20), @Purdue (32-31), @NU (54-51)||0|
|2001||8-2||6-1||8-3||@Wash (23-18), @MSU (26-24), OSU (26-20)||0|
|2002||9-2||6-1||9-3||@ND (25-23), Iowa (34-9), @OSU (14-9)||1|
|2003||9-2||6-1||10-2||@ORE (31-27), @Iowa (30-27)||0|
|2004||9-1||7-0||9-2||@ND (28-20), @OSU (37-21)||1|
|2005||7-3||5-2||7-4||ND (17-10), @WI (23-20), MN (23-20), OSU (25-21)||0|
|2007||8-3||6-1||8-4||APSt (34-32), ORE (39-7), @WI (37-21), OSU (14-3)||3|
First, a comment on the chart: I admittedly ignored bowl games in this analysis. I did this because I’m measuring whether fans were still interested, happy, and optimistic leading up to the end of the regular season. Bowl games are a black mark on Carr’s resume, but that’s a separate discussion.
I think I’ve proven the hypothesis to be true. In the span of a decade Carr had only SEVEN games where we lost by more than 10 points. If you throw out his swan-song season of 2007 that number drops to an amazing FOUR. Think about that - in a full ten years we were blown out just four times! This includes trips to Oregon, UCLA, Washington, OSU, MSU, and Notre Dame just to name a few. In Brady Hoke’s three seasons we’ve had as many blowout losses as we had over a ten-year span during Carr’s career.
With Carr we may have had a couple of frustrating losses in a season, but we never entered a game knowing we had no realistic chance to win. THAT is what we’re longing for as fans and why this season feels so different when we look at the OSU game.
But there’s more!
While looking over that chart something else dawned on me that added to the conclusion. Look at the conference record heading into the OSU game. Not once did we enter the OSU game with more than two conference losses. Never!
If you go back to the previous statement that from 1997-2006 we had just four blowout losses you’ll see that two of those were following the national championship season. Yet immediately following those two losses we went on an 8-game winning streak and entered the game against OSU with a 7-0 conference record and chance for a title. So the one season in that period where we looked vulnerable still resulted in the OSU game having immense meaning and hope.
Not only did we compete in every game we played in, we almost always were still in contention for that conference title that Hoke talks about.
When Brady Hoke or any member of the fan base talk about getting back to what defined Michigan, this is what they mean. We were never the national juggernaut that Alabama has become – so dreams of undefeated regular seasons are probably misguided. But what we were for nearly Carr’s entire career (and that of Moeller and Bo before him) was a team that would compete in ANY GAME. We were a team that would get to the end of the season with something on the line more often than not and knew we could compete with OSU every year.
The reason we’re so frustrated and bitter this season is not just because we can’t win the conference title or are still bitter about RichRod – it is because we know we have no realistic chance of competing with OSU. Making matters even worse, we’ve already proven we have no realistic chance of beating our other main rival and get to watch MSU play for a title against OSU.
While I agree with Brian 100% on the financial aspect of the red jerseys we'll see in the stands Saturday, I also believe that if our team was capable of upsetting our undefeated rival the stands would be full of blue jerseys. Just as they were for all of those Carr seasons, despite knowing we weren't headed to the national championship game.
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.