to play football, not to play trumpet
Update 4/14: Linked to articles on MI CB Mylan Hicks, MI DE CJ Olaniyan, MN OL Seantrel Henderson, GA RB Mack Brown($), OH WR commit DJ Williamson, CA RB Dietrich Riley, SC RB Marcus Lattimore. Video of OH OL Andrew Donnal, MI QB Devin Gardner. Moved FL S Marvin Robinson to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. FL S Marvin Robinson's commitment came to fruition, but really can we maybe go back to last week? That was a foregone conclusion and two unpleasant developments weren't: Caleb Lavey's commitment to Oklahoma State and Lo Wood coming back from his Notre Dame trip proclaiming M and ND to be tied. On with the show. But first, video fluff about M recruiting Florida:
So the week's big negative was the unexpected commitment of Lavey to Oklahoma State. Lavey's dad was an equipment manager under Bo, of course, and Lavey himself had visited Michigan recently, coming back with nice things to say. One Oklahoma State visit later he ends up committed there, and there goes what seemed like Michigan's best shot at a high-rated MLB. (Of course, that may have been projection based on Oklahoma/M offers, since he's not that highly rated at the moment.) They must have shown him the T. Boone Pickens Explosive Barbecue Circus Fountain.
- Klein Oak—home of Terrance Robinson—LB Luke Muncie committed to LSU as soon as he got an offer; he was just a name on the board.
- IN DE Blake Lueders doesn't have Michigan in his top six.
- No actual event behind this, but there hasn't been any mention of Michigan in the recruitment of PA RB Corey Brown for a while, and the premium sites aren't even tracking him. I've dropped him before he can officially drop us. Let's all storm off in a huff together.
Nothing out there that's free but you can infer from the title and header of this Rivals article ("Big Battle Brewing For Wood?") that I should probably drop the blue smiley from his profile after his Notre Dame visit. Wood maintains M and ND are equal at this point. I still think Michigan is in good shape here, because 1) usually a recruit is most enthusiastic about a school immediately after he visits and there's a fade afterwards, and 2) Miller and Robinson and Gallon and so forth should help push him to the good side.
But, still: before the weekend Wood was in the same category as Robinson; now he's not. Not a good development.
Highlight videos are rarely all that useful, but this latest on Devin Gardner is more interesting than most because all of the clips are from a single game:
That delivery is still funky, but results are results.
Maybe Yes Maybe No
Strange midweek internecine fight over the commitment status of DC LB Javarie Johnson, new to the board this week after he visited Michigan and picked up an offer($). Over the weekend Pitt-area scout guru Bob Lichtenfels was at some camp or combine or another and reported Johnson was a commit($) after talking to his coaches. Problem: Johnson denied it($), and continues denying it($), and will continue denying it until such time as it becomes unnecessary to.
So, what was this? Sometimes kids want to keep commitments under wraps for whatever reason; sometimes recruiting gurus screw up. I don't know 100% but I lean towards the latter in this case. Johnson is likely to have Michigan on his short list whenever he gets around to making one, but I wouldn't consider him a virtual commit a la Marvin Robinson.
Running Back Restack
Michigan has two committed and is looking for a third. It's not likely to be SC RB Marcus Lattimore even if he tentatively planned an official to Michigan. Lattimore came back from his Auburn visit with a glassy look in his eyes and a tendency to say "War Eagle" in response to any external stimulus, which latter I can tell you from personal experience is the true mark of an Auburn fan:
"This whole experience, I just felt it. You can't really explain it. My mom loves it, my stepdad loves it. You really just can't explain the feeling. I really didn't expect this much. I was just coming in to see the offense. They showed me that, and I met all these great people."
I was always skeptical that official visit would come off and am now more skeptical. However, Lattimore wants to announce on signing day or possibly at an All American game, I forget which, so he might remain uncommitted long enough to make it up during the fall. As mentioned: I am dubious.
Okay, probably shift your hopes. To who? Maybe CA RB Dietrich Riley:
Athlete Dietrich Riley (La Canada, Calif./Saint Francis) holds scholarship offers from Southern California, UCLA, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Arizona State, Arizona, Washington and others.
The Wolverines could emerge as a major factor, though.
"I am looking forward to getting up there this summer and seeing what they are all about," Riley said. "It is a great program and a place I could see myself playing."
Riley also mentioned that he would like a shot on offense in college. Most programs want him as a defensive player. He worked out as a running back on Sunday.
AFAIK, Michigan regards him as a Minor-like running back. The talent us obviously there with those offers. Riley has been (and is probably still) regarded a USC lean, FWIW, but that's a positive development. Tom did an interview with Riley a couple months back if you'd like to revisit it.
And this is speculative, but to reiterate MGoBlog recruiting heuristic #3: message boards are always excessively positive about their chances with recruits, so a negative take—especially when it goes against the conventional wisdom—means something. So a board full of State fans who think MI RB Austin White, brother of two current Spartans and the son of alums, is headed somewhere other than State [edit: thread disappeared, unfortunately, but I swear it was there!] is worth noting.
Update: This doesn't have the breadth of the earlier thread, but here are a couple pessimistic grumbles about White from Spartan fans.
Things Are Awesome
Here's OH OL Andrew Donnal, who seems like a nice kid, saying various things are awesome:
CJ Olaniyan Is ENTHUSED
Not really. MI DE CJ Olaniyan on his spring game visit:
"It was pretty nice. I was kind of impressed with the freshman quarterback (Tate Forcier). There wasn't too much new, but the team looked better than they did last year."
Of course, he could just be a Michigan fan because you could ask anyone who attended the Spring Game their thoughts; 90% of them would paraphrase Olaniyan and the Wolverine Liberation Army would drunkenly slur something about unicorn bear propaganda.
"Nothing is a given out here on the field," he continued. "A perfect case is the Antonio Bass situation. Here is a kid that physically had everything. They are still ranting and raving about him at the Michigan complex. Unfortunately with no contact, this guy messed his knee up and caused some nerve damage. Well, it's over with. But you know what? I love that kid. I've known him for about five years, and what a standup kid. He dealt with the situation and he has continued to go on. He's going to graduate on time with a great degree from the University of Michigan. What character. What character! Those are the things that I stress with Seantrel, my son, or anybody. "
It's the hard offseason now, with nothing happening outside of recruiting until August. So it's meta time. Apologies to anyone who couldn't care less about this.
A couple weeks ago I was on John Bacon's show talking about the demise of the Ann Arbor News and its effect on me. I think I surprised Bacon and co-host Richard Deitsch (of SI!) by not dancing on its grave. To paraphrase myself, I said that one of my roles on this blog is as an aggregator of content and things that reduced the content I could aggregate were negatives. I am not in competition with the Ann Arbor News.
It's an odd situation. I'm not really in competition with anyone. I very rarely feel threatened by the presence of anyone else's content. Sometimes I feel guilty because I'm not covering basketball like UMHoops or Varsity Blue is pumping out bi-weekly recruiting updates instead of weekly ones. But when Evan Smotrycz commits and I've got to put together a googlestalk and UMHoops already has one up it's just time I can spend on other content. I'm just a guy.
I have the feeling that other people are in competition with me, and with Dylan and Tim (x2) and Paul and various others, that they resent the thriving Michigan blogosphere as a thing that reduces the need for their services. But I don't feel like I'm in competition with them. It's a strangely unbalanced situation. Their content helps me. Their lack of content helps me. Whatever happens, traffic goes up and my mom becomes incrementally less petrified at the career path I've chosen.
So I'm not put out, especially because—at least when it comes to sports—I still think the coming demise of the Ann Arbor News is considerably overplayed. The overlords of the new thing that's not a newspaper, except twice a week when it is, have stated they intend to cover Michigan football and basketball much like the News did, and they're thinking about hockey. Other sports will have to fend for themselves, I guess, but it's not like their existing coverage was extensive. The net change might be a couple fewer people at press conferences and slightly fewer links on mgolicious; it won't be the end of history.
Others disagree. Maize 'n' Brew took the opportunity to pen a dissertation-length post on the chaotic period we're entering. It's really long and thus hard to summarize in a pithy blockquote but let's try:
The current information distribution system (for college football at least) is set up in three tiers: The University (school, coaches and players) possess the information; the credentialed press gets the first crack at it; and the rest of us are left to sort through what reaches us. That credentialed access let the News into the room, to observe first person what was going on. They had the right to pepper Rodriguez, Beilein, Amaker and Carr with questions and receive answers, where bloggers do not. The system is still set up to allow nearly unfettered access to the print media. And in return it bears the responsibility of using that access to relay the information we all crave.
Certainly any person with a notepad or microphone can record the players' and coach's quotes and stick them up on a piece of paper. But the Ann Arbor News didn't do that. They didn't give us the canned quotes we see on the University's websites. They weren't under the employ of the University to give us a happy picture. They gave us perspective on what was said and how questions were answered. They asked tough questions on decisions and results. They could observe the reactions from coaches, gage responses first hand, and had the ability to ask the questions where we do not.
This isn't going to be much of a surprise, but I largely disagree with the above, and with much in the MnB post. A few paragraphs on Dave asserts that you can't find stories along the lines of "Player X was horrid or Coach Y blew his cool at an inopportune time" on Rivals or Scout, but when has a newspaper ever published an honest assessment of a player's performance? I'm not talking single-sentence 600 word columns written by provocateurs here, I'm talking something along the lines of UFR, if less obsessed: Left Guard X struggled in pass protection. Coach Y should have gone for it, here are the numbers that justify it. It's single sentence paragraph time:
This has never happened.
Maybe Scout and Rivals are incrementally more dependent on being in the good graces of the athletic department, but the differences in practice are small. The Ann Arbor News' academics investigation, if you want to consider that a positive and a thing the internet can't do, is a vast outlier in a sea of game recaps and press conference rephrasing. And it's hard to say that sort of thing will go away when the only other entity around that's doing much in the way of investigative work is Yahoo.
The information PLANTS CRAVE either comes directly from press conferences or random people on the internet these days. The press conferences will still exist, and coaches will still be asked about injuries and other tangible things and then blather away minutes of our lives with "We have held practices this spring." And every once in a while someone will provide an unwise snippet of an answer that will blow up into a media firestorm because everyone's gotten so damn boring there's nothing else to talk about.
Heck, Jim Carty's blog is taglined this:
Fulfillment of a legal dream or an overdue realization you can't spend your life asking football players the same questions indefinitely? Definitely a bit of both ...
99% of sports journalism as practiced by newspapers is repetitive, inefficient grunt work. Sports stories come in three flavors, as far as I can tell:
- This game happened in this way.
- This was said at a press conference.
- Player X is a nice young man.
There's a reason everyone wants a column, right?
As for "tough questions," they have little value. This isn't 1930 anymore and you can't hop on a bus with the baseball stars of the day and get unfettered access to their lives. You get packaging. You get this:
BHGP is running a contest to see if anyone can condense these 81 seconds into something more concise than "We have held practices this spring, and players have competed for positions in the offense." Just showing up at a press conference and asking about the head coaches' nepotism doesn't do anything constructive, especially when your tough question is coming from a position of ignorance relative to the person you're asking. Tough questions always boil down to "why did you lose?"
So what are we losing when the Ann Arbor News goes away? I don't think it will be much. Even in the extreme version of newspaper implosion where the Detroit News goes away and the Free Press is piloted by a skeleton crew you're still going to have people at these press conferences from Scout and Rivals and the Daily and at least one Detroit newspaper and AnnArbor.com asking the standard set of questions.
The demand for information about sports isn't going to disappear. If there's a void it'll get filled, possibly by this site if it continues to grow. In that case the only difference is going to be more questions about that damn formation where the slot receiver is covered up.
It's come down to this.
Mingo versus Macadangdang. Barkevious versus Iris. A man who spurned Michigan for LSU versus an actual recent alum. EDSBS vs MGoBlog. For the 2009 Name of the Year. I can't rightly tell you to vote one way or the other, because both are awesome. There are no real losers here, except Orson Swindle if Mingo loses. In that case he has to shave off all his chest hair and send me a parka made from it. (What will he do with the leftovers? Feed Africa.)
Vote. Vote well, and don't vote 7,000 times because that's not cool.
Weapon of choice. Ace Anbender assembled a highlight video of Tate Forcier's spring game exploits:
Needs more Christopher Walken; otherwise excellent work. Most impressive to me was Forcier's little sling to Moundros in the flat. He's got a guy in his face and needs to put the ball on the money for Moundros to get anything out of it; he puts it right where it needs to be and Moundros can rumble for eight or so yards. That sort of short-range precision will help the offense immensely; too many times last year simple short passes turned into disaster. See: backwards lateral against Notre Dame, etc etc etc.
(Headline reference for the sadly deprived.)
The evidence lies in piles all around us. One has merely to pick it up and provide a cursory examination. I'm calling fair use on this because it is awesome and unbelievable. Ohio State's scrimmaging and the offense has just driven for a score that brings them within one. And then($):
Then, on the final series of the scrimmage, Pryor was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while jawing with defensive lineman Cameron Heyward with the offense poised to tie the game pending a point-after attempt. The penalty knocked the kick back to the 25-yard line, and Aaron Pettrey’s attempt sailed wide right to hand the defense a 56-55 victory.
So far in the brief, eventful career of Terrelle Pryor he's gotten in postgame near-riots after two high school basketball games, pioneered the drama-queen recruiting extension game, trash-talked Illinois fans, cried on the bench after blowing the Penn State game, and now he's taking unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for jawing at his own teammates in a scrimmage. Wheee!
Someone should start a Terrelle Pryor AK-47/Lint Roller Rampage Threat Level. You know, just in case.
DUDE: And you know Pryor has emotional problems!
WALTER: You mean, other than being a Buckeye?
DUDE: He's fragile, man! He's very fragile!
Lax bloggin'. It appears that Michigan swimming blog MGoSwim is no more; the registrations lapsed and domain tasters have replaced it with an ad-laced landing page featuring hotttt chicks…
…but there is another niche sport blog out there named in the classic "take MGoBlue and change it slightly" style: M Flow Blue, a blog dedicated to the very successful club lacrosse team. They're just getting ramped up; if you're interested in throwing little balls at high speeds I suggest you check them out.
Who is Jack Kennedy? One of the more mysterious mysteries of the spring game was the guy wearing 18 and playing quarterback. Despite being in a live-fire cannon fodder jersey, Jack Kennedy looked significantly better than nominal scholarship quarterback (and possessor of mad flow) David Cone. Surely this man must have a background? Eh… not so much.
Kennedy is apparently a 6 foot, 170 lb. freshman walk-on from Walled Lake Central H.S.. Kennedy is not listed on the spring roster on the team's website nor was a bio included in the Spring Football Media Guide.
Is it bad that our walk-on with no past is bigger than our anointed savior? Eh… maybe.
This story is some sort of weird karma on a thousand different levels:
Illinois basketball player Alex Legion was arrested Monday night for driving on a suspended license.
An Illinois Department of Intercollegiate Athletics official said Legion’s license was suspended because of an unpaid moving violation ticket in Michigan. Legion is a native of Detroit.
You're probably well aware that Legion was Tommy Amaker's on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again final recruit, directed by God to go to Kentucky for a single semester and now a conscience-free midrange jumper specialist with the Illini.
But do you remember what happened a few years back after Illinois coach Bruce Weber was taking heat for the existence of Jamar Smith, Illini basketball player? Smith had nearly killed a teammate in a drunk-driving accident but remained on the Illinois team, prompting reporters to ask about it and Weber to act like a fool:
Weber also pointed out that “a kid in a program got arrested a couple weeks ago and he played in the next game.” Without naming him, Weber was referring to Michigan’s Lester Abram, who was stopped for speeding, then arrested for an outstanding warrant. That happened two days before Abram played for the Wolverines at Illinois.
“I don’t know if anything was talked about with him,” Weber said, his voice rising. “I don’t think so because I get a lot of feedback. You’re going to hold us to high standards but that kid got arrested and he played.”
Jamar Smith was the guy who drove his car into a tree, injuring teammate Brian Carlwell, who was a passenger. Oh, and Smith was drunk. Oh, and Smith believed that Carlwell was dead (he had a severe concussion), yet drove the car ... with Carlwell in it ... back home. Oh, and Smith went into his apartment, leaving Carlwell unconscious in his car.
Bound by infallible Logic, Weber has no choice but to do to Legion what he did to Smith: suspend him for the year and ship him to a directional Illinois school. Fret not, Alex Legion. God, unlike the Battlestar Galatica writers, has a plan. It involves the Missouri Valley Conference.
At long last, FL S Marvin Robinson has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: That's right, kids: omg shirtless.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #14 S, #147 overall||4*, #99 overall||150 watch list|
Marvin Robinson has been on Michigan fans' radar so long that people were worried the transition from Carr to Rodriguez would hurt Michigan's standing in his recruitment. His name first popped up after his freshman year of high school, when he attended Michigan's summer camp and was so ridiculously impressive he picked up an offer. Robinson was equally impressed with Michigan, naming M his leader early and late before finally announcing what he'd told the coaches at least as early as the Michigan State game last year: he's committed.
Michigan fans were ready to proclaim Robinson their big five-star catch whenever Robinson's commitment became official, but as you can see above… eh… not so much. Robinson's rankings were the most disappointing amongst a wide array of disappointments when they were announced. It's hard to see how he can go from this…
On defense, there's no question after seeing Marvin Robinson of Eagle Lake (Fla.) Lake Region on Saturday and Sunday that he's going to be one of the best in the 2010 class. He made big play after big play in drills and then in one-on-one battles. He was the one guy who was consistently able to hang with both the physical and speedy backs in the camp.
…to this from another camp where he was a rising junior competing against seniors…
"Marvin Robinson has a lot of upside to him as far as his strength and motor," said defensive backs coach Eugene Jackson. "He was the best out there and he's very coachable."
Lining up at safety, Robinson asserted himself in one-on-ones and was one of the more physically imposing defensive backs.
…to the #5 rising junior in Florida to the offers you'll see in the next section to "eh, bottom of the top 100." About the only thing I can find that would point to a drop is the 4.6 40 time listed on his Scout profile and at ESPN.
One thing to watch is a potential move to linebacker. Another evaluation from that same camp from Rivals' Barry Every:
6-2, 205, OLB Eagle Lake (FL) Lake Region 2010
Assets: Has a tremendous burst and excellent ball skills.
What was most impressive at camp: For a guy who is making the change from safety to linebacker, he sure looked a natural.
Areas for improvement: He just needs to get reps at his new position because all the tools are there.
On the Hoof: Has good height, long arms and wide shoulders. Robinson's frame will fill out and enable him to play all three linebacker positions.
Robinson could be ticketed for this LB/SS hybrid spot. ESPN's strangely muted scouting report—I'm used to them saying things like "Isaiah Bell melts iron with his mind!"—mentions position versatility:
Robinson is a valuable athlete that rarely comes off the field. He is one of those athletes that may not be great at any one thing but is good at everything. He has good size both in terms of height and weight. Plays multiple positions and is a very talented skilled athlete. As a safety plays the fee safety poison well and doesn't get fooled on play action passes. Intelligent center fielder that recognizes combination routes and reacts accordingly.
Maybe he's great at being awesome, huh, ESPN? Did you ever think of that?
This article was published in June, ten months ago, before Robinson's junior year:
Robinson, who has been the top-safety prospect at two camps this summer, received his first offer from Michigan, then Ohio State offered and at the end of the May evaluation period, USC and Florida offered him a scholarship.
Tennessee had also thrown their hat in the ring by then. So: offers from Michigan, Ohio State, USC, and Florida before his junior year of high school. When he was 15! Damn.
If it matters, further offers came from BC, UCLA, Purdue, Nebraska, UNC, Clemson, and so forth and so on.
Robinson's junior season was fruitful, and multiplied:
Marvin Robinson, the 6-foot-1, 204 pound four-star safety from Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake, Fla., finished his junior season with 98 tackles, four interceptions, four blocked punts and two fumbles caused. He also had five touchdowns on offense with three rushing scores and two receiving.
FAKE 40 TIME
As mentioned above, Robinson's 40 times are in the realistic for humans range and this may explain his unexpectedly low rankings.
The tubes… they have nothing!
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Robinson is good and should show up college-ready after four years of starting and all those early offers. He'll be physically ready and about as mentally prepped as you can be as a true freshman; he, I believe, is also planning on an early enrollment. If he's going to step directly into the starting lineup, though, it's probably not going to be in the secondary, where Michigan currently has no seniors. People seem to want to move him to linebacker, and Michigan's got this new LB/SS hybrid thing Robinson might be good at. The tentative projection here is that he moves to that spot and is in a battle for the starting job immediately, pending Michigan picking up a couple of quality safety recruits to go with him.
As for his ratings: it'll be interesting to see what happens with them. It's possible he was just an early bloomer who got college ready super fast and has a lower ceiling than true five star sorts. It's also possible the recruiting sites are overrating a couple of 40 times to their detriment. I assume he'll end up at an all star game or two; the results will be interesting.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It doesn't really matter whether Robinson is a safety or a linebacker because Michigan would take either yes please thanks much. Given the depth in the secondary, where a true freshman starts at safety next to a converted cornerback and a redshirt freshman walk-on is on the two-deep at corner until the instant Justin Turner enrolls, this will slow Michigan's pursuit of other defensive backs in no way whatsoever.
There are at least three slots left for defensive backs and if they took five more I'd be okay with it. The good news is they've got a lot of excellent options heavily favoring them. Michigan is the public, heavy leader for PA CB Cullen Christian and FL CB Lo Wood, either of whom could drop at any time. MI CB Dior Mathis hasn't been as explicit but is also widely expected to end up at M, and then there's an array of other targets like FL CB Spencer Boyd and PA CB Brandon Ifill, Christian's teammate. Robinson's commit looks to be the first in a parade of four-star secondary commits over the next couple months.
OTHER GUY NAMED MARVIN ROBINSON
His list of clubs, including a spell at Walsall, reads like a gazetteer of English soccer and he has suffered two broken legs and damaged his lungs.
Now, ten years on from that memorable Highbury debut, Big Marv has replaced the Premiership with the more mundane surroundings of the Blue Square North and home is now Redditch United’s Valley Stadium.
Congrats, Walsall: for some reason you're the club picked out to highlight Robinson's hard-luck life. Random biographical note that may sully your opinion of me but isn't as bad as Magic: The Gathering: I took Redditch to Champions League glory in Football Manager a couple years back.
Nihilism factor EXTREME operative principle engage embed engage emb—
Oh my God. Make it stop. The Greg Paulus story has blossomed into the largest, most annoying complete non-story I've ever had the privilege to follow on the internet. I intended to fire and forget the post on his possible transfer with maybe an update along the lines of "hey, we might not have to play Nick Sheridan at any point this year, but then again he's actually played football sometime in the last four years so maybe he'll still be in front of Paulus."
No such luck. My feed reader over the past few days has been updated with a million breathless updates about The Man Who Will Compete With Sheridan. It's been heavily featured on Sportscenter, PTI, and every other show where people yammer about sports. And for what?
Again: we are talking about a person who is not obviously better than Sheridan and hasn't played football seriously in the last four years. People are digging up breathless scouting reports about what a freakin' incredible quarterback he is, but this isn't like LeBron James suddenly had an epiphany and decided he'd play football. Paulus is a 6'2" pocket passer who hasn't read a defense in four years. He doesn't fit the offense. He has no long term future. He will be at least six months behind Tate Forcier when he steps on campus.
Barring injury, what are the chances Paulus ever sees a meaningful snap at Michigan? There are none. What is the downside of allowing Paulus to walk-on and play at quarterback? There is none. You cannot bar injury, after all.
When Nick Sheridan went down with an injury, I'm sure Tate Forcier took on the mentality of a starting quarterback and began to take command of the huddle and build trust with the first team offense almost immediately. Now he has to look over and see a guy with a huge reputation and the immediate support of the Wolverine nation (as Mike said, they're already selling "Paulus for Heisman" shirts).
You too, gibbering Matt Hayes:
The guy who played point guard for Duke the past four seasons, who hadn't picked up a football in four years before, you know, getting his arm loose recently, could be the starting quarterback at Michigan this fall.
Maybe it's not really a red flag.
Maybe it's time to panic.
Hayes later name checks "walk-on" David Cone. Argh. Someone stop this man from having opinions. Offering Greg Paulus a walk-on spot is a perfectly sensible thing to do when you have three scholarship quarterbacks on campus and one of them is the Coner. It means nothing.
So why are we talking about this? Because Paulus was an annoying, bad point guard at Duke. This has no relevance to his football career except insofar as it's barred him from having one. But it's engaged the dread gears of the sports pundit noise machine because it's weird and everyone kind of hates Paulus for being a privileged white kid at Duke. And then people start talking about the noise itself and everything builds and I become very, very cross, and it all gets very meta and even dumber.
GREG PAULUS HAS WHAT PLANTS CRAVE. GREG PAULUS MAKES YOU WIN AT YELLING. GREIFNEFISSHSFIGHSING ISNEGH ISFIVN IWEWJNFIWN!!!
In the aftermath of Michigan's first tourney bid in forever and the looming (as in 2010) departures of the two guys who were the engine behind that bid there's been a lot of discussion about what we can expect in the future when Beilein doesn't have the services of two stars who wanted to play for someone else. There was a mailbag. There has been talking in comments and on blogs and on message boards. A winding response to various opinions follows.
It Can Work
Excellent diary from Bronxblue on the Beilein thing and potential ceilings it may have:
[Beilein's] system was designed to compensate for the lack of the "big time" star. The heavy reliance on three pointers that is a hallmark of his offense is designed to compensate for the lack of a post threat and/or a dynamic finisher around the basket. Similarly, the 1-3-1 was designed to create turnovers as a way to compensate for little interior defense from a dominant inside presence. …
Unfortunately … this type of system has a finite level of potential success - something I'll refer to as the Mid-Major Ceiling (MMC). Look at teams like Gonzaga (though their recruiting has gotten better over the years), Xavier, Creighton, and throw WVU into that mix (though they come from a major conference, they would never have succeeded in the Big East simply trying to out-recruit other teams). While they all are/were consistent NCAA teams, none ever made it past the Elite 8 (except George Mason, which was the flukiest of fluky runs), and even getting past the Sweet 16 was a crapshoot. The reason for this, at least in my opinion, was due to the fact that they inevitably ran into a team whose talent was great enough to expose the deficiencies each of those systems was designed to hide.
I don't think that necessarily has to be the case. John Hollinger put out an article earlier this year noting that the percentage of three-pointers attempted in the NBA is rising relentlessly, and the teams that are playing better than expected are doing it with the longball. Check it:
In fact, few stats correlate better with winning than 3-point attempts. If you tell me only how many 3-pointers a team has chucked up this season and provide no other information, I can tell you whether it is a winning team and be right eight times out of 10.
Check this out: The teams in the top 10 in 3-point attempts per field goal attempt have a combined winning percentage of .593 … and those in the bottom 10 have a combined winning percentage of .400.
That's no accident. Three-point attempts have correlated highly with winning for the past several years.
Now, the NBA is a completely different animal where just about everyone can shoot and everyone has legitimate post players, but that's just attempts, not actually making them.
You can see the power of the three-pointer in Michigan's numbers this year, which are at right: though Michigan was well above average at making their twos and well below average at making their threes, the eFG numbers are almost identical. If Michigan was even a little less unbalanced, the torrent of threes they jacked up would be a net benefit even though the stats would say they're better at twos.
Okay, yes, this sort of analysis misses a ton of factors: drawing fouls (advantage twos), turning the ball over (advantage threes), offensive rebounds(?). Also you just can't shoot all threes. Some percentage of Michigan's threes are really good looks, and those have the best percentage. Some percentage of them are okay looks, and those have an okay percentage. And some of them are "Manny… no!" or "Stu… no!" shots that have a poor percentage. Threes Michigan didn't shoot were bad shots indeed.
But the raw data from a place where the talent is much more evenly distributed is that if you can put together a team that takes a ton of threes you will be pretty good. Jackin' it up doesn't concede defeat.
As to the 1-3-1, we have not yet seen the full annoying extent of its power, not with 5'9" point guards and 6'4" power forwards and so on and so forth. When there's one guy shorter than 6'6" on the court and they've all got long arms it becomes much more of an issue. And I disagree with Bronxblue's characterization of it. The 1-3-1 doesn't seem like a necessary response to deficient talent, it seems like a way for Beilein to run his perimeter-heavy, three-mad offense without getting crushed on the defensive end. Beilein didn't have a talent disadvantage at Cansisus or Richmond, at least not an insurmountable one, and that's where his system was developed.
Take Evan Smotrycz. He's 6'9" but a stick. He's a super tall small forward and will remain that way if Beilein has anything to do with it. If asked to check a post player in man-to-man he won't do well. He'll do better than Zach Novak, but not well. If stuck on the wing in the 1-3-1 he'll make the skip passes that are its achilles heel long, looping, fruitless things, and then Beilein gets to use a 6'9" three-point shooting small forward on the offensive end.
The 1-3-1 and the Beilein offense have synergy, which is a horrible corporate word that happens to be useful. I don't think they're responses to a lack of talent, I think they're a single way of having an unusual system that happens to be unusually efficient at basketball.
Put it this way: if Evan Smotrcyz turns out to be Dirk Nowitzki and Matt Vogrich turns out to be Kyle Korver Beilein's system isn't going to hold them back on their Final Four run.
Okay, Then, Why Did You Say This?
Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.
Because of Bob Huggins, basically. The year after Beilein left West Virginia, Huggins landed five-star Devin Ebanks, who originally committed to Indiana, seriously considered Memphis, and then ended up with Huggins. That's Kelvin Sampson, John Calipari, and a guy who had a 0.0% graduation rate at Cincinnati. He's a microcosm of why this blog has a tag called "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich."
Yes, it is possible to have a legit powerhouse without sketchy recruiting stuff going on but it takes time and tradition; Michigan isn't starting from square one on the latter but it's not far off after ten years of crap and scandal before that. Fair or not, the last thing anyone outside the Michigan fan community remembers as a positive for the program happened in 1989, which is 1) 20 years ago and 2) before anyone we're recruiting was born. So the only way to go from zero to powerhouse was to cut corners and hire a John Calipari. We did not do this.
I've read a lot of criticisms of this position that I'd like to address, and the best way is probably through a rare-but-deadly double reverse fisk. The WLA quibbled. Now comes the thunder:
-The question appears to be “can Beilein recruit like Izzo/Matta/whoever,” and the answer is very probably not.
Frankly, if this is the case, someone better inform Beilein. Brian waves off the 2010 targets Trey Zeigler, Casey Prather, and Will Regan, but, like, why? Prather, Ray McCallum, and Zeigler are respectively the #30, #56, and #75 recruits in the nation. Brian is appropriately skeptical of Michigan’s chances with Prather, but, as shown by Beilein’s near-steal of Nate Lubick from Duke, things can happen. Regardless, given Beilein’s snag of Darius Morris from across the country, the landing of highly-praised Matt Vogrich, and Michigan’s current lead for Zeigler - arguably the state’s best player - the evidence that Beilein can’t recruit on this level just doesn’t exist, unless you care to assume that Beilein’s recruiting won’t improve from Morgantown to Ann Arbor - a theory he’s already disproven.
Okay: I know we're all excited about Beilein's highest-rated recruits ever, but Morris is #77 on Rivals, #100 on ESPN, and an unranked three-star on Scout. Vogrich is #100 on Scout, #137 on Rivals, and unranked on ESPN. Those are the crown jewels of the class.
According to Rivals, the following Big Ten teams have two players rated higher than Michigan's two best in the 2009 class (ie: one higher than Morris, one higher than Vogrich): Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. At best Michigan has the fifth ranked class in the conference, with Wisconsin and Purdue not far off.
I didn't say Beilein can't "recruit on this level"; I said he can recruit like Izzo or Matta or anyone else who can expect to regularly assemble top 25 classes. Michigan's 2009 class does not dispel this idea. By the numbers Michigan will be operating at a talent deficit relative to the conference.
He is a guy who will bring guaranteed respectability, likeable teams, and a host of tourney bids with some fun runs to the Sweet 16 or whatever. Michigan basically abdicated on being a powerhouse when they hired Beilein.”
Look - a horrible Wisconsin team made the final four in the unwatchable Dick Bennett days. George Mason made it. Eighth-seeded Villanona and NC State won championships. Flukes? Definitely.
Again the talking is orthogonal to what I am saying. Sure, Michigan can get hot in a tourney and Pittsnogle their way to a final four at some point. It can happen. It nearly did for Beilein at West Virginia. But that doesn't mean it's likely to. "Not a powerhouse" does not mean "never makes Final Four." It means "is not likely to make Final Four."
Even if we move Brian’s argument out of the Tournament and into the realm of general regular-season success, the point seems to fizzle. As mentioned ad nauseum - Beilien started a walk-on point guard and two freshmen who would have been coming of Valparaiso’s bench barring Beilein’s desperation to bring in a few players upon his arrival in Ann Arbor. This Michigan team possibly had four players that had the talent to justify significant minutes in a major conference - Harris, Sims, Grady, and Lucas-Perry, and they still garnered a #10 seed and earned a second-round game in which they gave Oklahoma a tougher game than #3 seed Syracuse. With Michigan’s best recruiting class in years on the way and the probability of at least one additional top-100 player arriving the following year, is a #2 or #3 tournament seed that far out of the question?
You're just going to have to trust me on this: yes, it is that far out of the question. Michigan vastly exceeded expectations this year but on a possession-to-possession basis they finished 50th in the Kenpom rankings, which was sixth in the conference. They were three-point jacks away from losing to three different horrible teams and missing the tourney. One Big Ten team got a 2 or 3 seed and it was Michigan State, #8 in Kenpom. There is a huge gap between Michigan's team this year and the sort of seed expectation you just threw out, and more experience plus the 2009 recruiting class only gets you halfway there.
Why Am I Bothering With All This?
It really bothers me to see evidence of people going from "I hope we make the tourney before I die" to "Now we're Duke!" This WLA sentence is why this 2000 word post exists:
Comrades, now is a time for optimism.
How did we get to a spot where making the tourney most years with a few runs to the Sweet 16 (or beyond!) isn't optimistic? Am I crazy? If Beilein does nothing more than he did at West Virginia—mid-conference finishes with consistent tourney bids, no high seeds, lots of fun in the tourney—he'll be an absolute roaring success. If there's a time to complain about Morgan instead of Appling or a stunning lack of Final Fours, it's fifteen years from now, when someone else is the coach.
Columbus has landed the 2009 APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition, which bills itself "the best show in public works" and is possibly the hottest conference for civil-engineering-type people anywhere. Maybe. I have no idea if their claims are true. But, thanks to a reader, I am sure Columbus wasn't their first choice:
(Offer not valid if you're wearing blue, or thinking about wearing blue, or asphyxiating, in which case banner should read "COLUMBUS – IT'S MORE HAZARDOUS THAN YOU THINK!")