College basketball starts in earnest this week with a series of early-season holiday tournaments, where some Big Ten teams will face their staunchest tests so far this season. The destinations – Maui, NYC, Cancun, the Bahamas, Vegas – add an element of quirkiness that is singular to college basketball; fanbases from various corners of the country get to watch their teams play a few games in a unique environment over the span of a few days. It serves multiple purposes: teams get to go on vacation, often add quality opponents to their non-conference schedule, and practice quick turnarounds that they’ll later see in conference tournaments (and possibly the NCAA Tournament).
This week’s ten:
- First-round opponents
- Projecting second- and third-round opponents
- Five possible games I’d love to see
- James Blackmon, Jr. to the rescue
- Indiana wins a battle of extremes against SMU
- Tough opponents and expected losses
- Somebody rushes the court against Nebraska
- Penn State (barely) goes 2-1 in Charleston
- Chucker Watch
- Saluting Shannon Scott
* * *
1. First-round opponents
In an (admittedly arbitrary) order from most- to least-intriguing games. Rankings are via kenpom.com from late Sunday night.
- 17. Michigan vs. 30. Oregon (11-24, 9:30, ESPN3)
- 26. Maryland vs. 68. Arizona St. (11-24, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 38. Purdue vs. 55. Kansas St. (11-24, 2:30, ESPN2)
- 34. Minnesota vs. 47. St. John’s (11-26, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 40. Illinois vs. 144. Indiana St. (11-28, 5:00, FS1)
- 128. Rutgers vs. 86 Vanderbilt (11-28, 7:00, NBCSN)
- 101. Northwestern vs. 248 Miami (OH) (11-25, 9:30, CBSSN)
- 4. Wisconsin vs. 203. UAB (11-26, 7:00, AXS.tv)
- 14. Michigan St. vs. 198. Rider (11-28, 6:30, ESPN2)
Monday features some of the best early matchups, as Michigan, Maryland, and Purdue each face their first real tests of the season. The Boilermakers face former Illinois coach, Bruce Weber, and Kansas State to kick off the Maui invitational: the Wildcats are coming off of an upset loss at Long Beach State. Maryland draws Arizona St.; neither team has been seriously tested by weak schedules thus far and both teams are featuring plenty of new faces all over the court. Michigan plays the late game against Oregon – a team that’s replacing nearly everyone from last season.
2. Projecting second- and third-round opponents
By using Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean value for each of the teams in a log5 simulation, I found the probability that a given team would face a certain opponent in the second and third rounds of their tournaments.
3. Five possible games I’d love to see
- Michigan St. vs. Kansas – Even though this matchup would likely require both teams to win their first two games, there’s still a very good chance due to the overall weakness of the rest of the field (outside of perhaps Tennessee). Both teams lost in the Champions Classic this past week – MSU fell to Duke and Kansas was obliterated by Kentucky – and could use an early-season win over a blue-blood as a morale boost.
- Wisconsin vs. Florida – Wisconsin will almost certainly beat UAB, so a favored Florida team needs to beat Georgetown. This would be the third meeting in the past three years between the Badgers and the Gators: in the 2012 season, Florida ran Wisconsin out of the gym in Gainesville and Wisconsin replied with the boa-constrictor treatment on the return trip. This would be Wisconsin’s first big challenge of the young season.
- Michigan vs. Villanova – Regardless of the first-round outcomes in the Legends Classic, Michigan will find itself facing a formidable opponent the night after a contest with Oregon. Villanova gets the slight nod as a preferable opponent here because Michigan recently faced VCU (and the superb 2012 team dominated) and because Villanova lost just four games last year – two of which came in the form of blowouts at the hands of Creighton, a three-point happy team like Michigan.
- Illinois vs. Baylor – I’m high on the Illini and a matchup between backcourt transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby against Baylor’s diminutive guard tandem would be fun. Illinois would need to prove that its presumably resurgent three-point shooting can hold up against Baylor’s bizarre sort of matchup zone that only makes sense to Scott Drew. Illinois would get open looks, and we’d see if they can hit them. Plus we get a rematch of this game.
- Purdue vs. Arizona – If nothing else, this would be an excellent measuring stick for A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas; Purdue’s big men – particularly the frustrating and inconsistent Hammons – could have a great chance to prove themselves against one of the nastiest frontcourts in college basketball. A loss here would be expected (and not at all harmful), while a win would be the type of resume-builder that could propel the Boilermakers into the tournament come March.
[AFTER THE JUMP: running down the week that was in the Big Ten]
11/22/2014 – Michigan 16, Maryland 23 – 5-6, 3-4 Big Ten
A version of this game happened in 2008, when a Michigan team headed for 3-9 had a dismal, rainy home finale against a bad team. That was Northwestern; Michigan blocked a punt for a touchdown but lost anyway. I spent halftime attempting to warm my hands on a pretzel heater.
It was tolerable because of its novelty. That team provided an opportunity for Michigan fans to demonstrate the vast depths they would go to in order to support their team. It wasn't fun, exactly, but it felt like a transitory period, a cost gladly borne for the promise of ass-kicking modern football to come. Merit badges were awarded to the hardy souls who stuck it out.
I don't have to tell you how that worked out.
I know I've referenced that game many times before as we've struggled to deal with Michigan's broken offense over the past couple years, but the similarities to the Maryland game are striking enough to bring it up again. While the weather wasn't nearly as bad, the slate-gray sky was highly familiar. So too the mutual Keystone Kops antics, what with receivers deciding it was that year EA's NCAA Football series decided that the way to balance their broken game was to have WRs drop half the passes they got their hands on.
So you naturally think about that game before and compare your mental state then and mental state now. The only thing I've got at the moment is relief I don't have to do that again. Humorous exclamations about how "we do this for fun!" are so 2008.
Michigan had built up piles of fan goodwill over their 40 year bowl streak; after Schembechler's arrival there were years Michigan wasn't great, but none in which they were actively bad unless their starting quarterback's leg broke. They started tapping that in earnest in 2007, and now it's all gone. I didn't want to go to the Maryland game even a little, but I did. I have a personal streak at stake here. And they fired Dave Brandon.
But there was no silver lining. The depths of my fandom have been tested; there's a bottom there. I'm fed up with ticket prices and the cookie-cutter inanity imposed on a Michigan Stadium experience that used to be unique.
CAKE [Bryan Fuller]
There are bits and scraps of it left. I got bizarrely misty when they did the Blues Brothers cake, because it was a thing that was ours and still existed as what it had been since my youth. I was at Yost for the final game of whatever hockey season it was when the "Can't Turn You Loose" dancing extended from the most humorously overweight guy in the section to everybody. It was a thing that some people decided to do and they keep doing it.
Then that student section sat near-silent for the rest of the game because every space that wasn't filled with actual football was crammed with noise. It was especially jarring since the most interesting football on in the noon window was Manchester United-Arsenal, full of everything but Pitbull being piped in at deafening levels.
That's where we are right now, fighting a losing battle against the spreadsheet people. Jim Hackett may be a nice guy and vast improvement on Brandon, sure. Not much has happened to indicate that he's anything but another spreadsheet person making the columns add up and importing what passes for creativity at other places.
I don't know what's about to happen. I mean, I do: Ohio State is going to punch Michigan's delicates in and Brady Hoke's going to get fired. I don't know what happens after that.
During the last coaching search I used logic and common sense to declare that Michigan would not hire Brady Hoke because he was so transparently unqualified, so I can't do that again. Even if I was so inclined the fact that an interim AD is going to make the most important hire in the department would prevent me. Michigan is determined to do it weird in the ways they shouldn't and do it conventional in all the ways they shouldn't.
But whatever. It's over, and it ended in the way it probably had to: a sodden mess of football about as interesting as a pile of dirty laundry. Hopefully there's something to care about next year.
There is not going to be a UFR. I'll go back and get the relevant parts over the offseason but I am going to have a real Thanksgiving instead of one where I spend the first half of it in a bedroom putting up a post; it was just going to say the same stuff you already know anyway.
This fourth down was on Gardner [Upchurch]
I don't know what I expected dot gif. The same pattern of ludicrous errors part XVIII. Roughing the kicker, a block in the back on a punt return touchdown, dropped passes, penalties, throws nowhere near the target, an inability to deal with tempo or mobile quarterbacks—none of it was surprising. It's not even infuriating anymore. It's just the way it is.
Cripes, Funchess. His lack of GAF has been clear for big chunks of the year—I still go back to that bubble screen that was a likely touchdown if he blocks his guy at all—and it's getting more prominent as we near the end of the year. The dropped passes are epidemic, and they don't even try to use him as a blocker anymore.
It'll be interesting to see if any of this impacts his draft stock. I bet 1) it does and 2) not nearly enough to induce him to return for his senior year. This feels like a situation similar what went down with GRIII, where it might be a good idea for the guy to come back to establish himself an elite talent but the guy is clearly done with college.
The offensive line is kind of okay now. There was a period in the second half where Michigan was blowing the Maryland DTs off the ball on every single play; occasionally Maryland would get Michigan in the backfield with a blitz allowed by the fact that M really didn't want to throw but anything that ended up neutral on the RPS scale was a nice gain for Michigan. Even excluding the fake punt, Michigan went for 5.5 YPC.
That's not unusual for a putrid Maryland D, but Michigan bested MSU, OSU, and pre-Diamont Indiana. They didn't hit Wisconsin numbers or a rampant Syracuse(?), but they looked quite functional. Darrell Funk is going to get run out of town on a rail like the rest of the coaching staff but the improvement this year is real. With literally everybody back next year they could be good-ish.
Mad about carry distribution. I've seen a lot of ANGAR about the carry distribution since Johnson was picking up big chunks. That's one of the few things that I'm not
incensed bitchy and eye-rolling about in the aftermath. Hayes picked up 6 YPC on his six carries and while Smith only had 2.8, he was the short yardage/goal-line guy and played much better than Johnson against Northwestern. Overall the run game was highly effective, and only the usual slate of derp and the broken Devin Gardner prevented actual offense from occurring.
this was not tempting apparently [Upchurch]
I will be
mad snarky about this. I know Funchess was dropping balls left and right but how on earth do you go an entire game with a 6'5" WR against "5-7" Will Likely and not, like, try to use that fact? Everyone got peeved at one goal line play, and I'm with you. I would like to extend that peevishness past that specific series and apply it to every damn time this inept offense didn't punt the ball to Funchess 40 yards downfield.
When is the last time they tried a plain old bomb down the sideline at Funchess? I know it can't actually be the Notre Dame game but it feels like the Notre Dame game.
Seriously though. How do you rush for 240 yards on 44 carries, plus a 52-yard fake punt, and score 16 points?
Defense. The usual: pretty good against the run, though CJ Brown's QB stuff was highly effective because Michigan still regards that as cheating (or maybe it tends to be effective), highly iffy against the pass especially in the middle of the field, late collapse.
Brown's 6.9 YPA on 24 attempts isn't great, but you have to take the fact that Maryland was down two of its top options at WR and replacement slot Jacquille Veii dropped at least four passes. If Maryland WRs actually caught the ball this could have been significantly uglier.
It's clear that opponents have IDed the slot and TEs running against M LB/S types as a major weakness and targeted it.
The demise. Grimly appropriate that Maryland should get its key play on their go-ahead drive thanks to a fake bubble screen that went over the top. The end came thanks to a concept that's been around since Rodriguez's first year that Michigan could not deal with, nor successfully replicate except once against Miami(NTM). When they tried to imitate successful offenses they did it poorly because they were bad at coaching, and then blamed the concepts.
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.
Yes, there have been meager signs (mostly on defense, but also with the offensive line) that this program was playing better, especially given the fact that Indiana has since nearly upset PSU and held tough against OSU on the road, while Northwestern upset Notre Dame and then demolished Purdue to, improbably, set up for next week’s intra-state battle with the Illini as a battle of two teams playing for their bowl-game lives. They weren’t dominating wins, but if you squinted you could see something faintly resembling progress and improvement, and maybe with a new QB and some healthy running backs next year Michigan might be on its way “back”.
But all along, this team kept displaying the same numerous flaws that absolutely, positively shouldn’t be happening 50 games into a coach’s tenure. The offense remains painfully predictable, to the point that pointing this out is equally reflexive. The defense, while certainly the stronger unit during Hoke’s tenure, continues to play at a B+ level, seemingly never figuring out how to handle anything approaching tempo or a mobile QB. Barring a Biakabutuka-esque performance against OSU, Michigan won’t have a running back break 600 yards total on the season, and for the second year in a row won’t have one even sniff 1,000 yards total. Hell, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman are going to significantly outrush this team as a whole, and that’s after dropping 292 yards rushing on Maryland in this game. Devin Gardner went from pre-season All Big-10-ish player to a guy who’ll probably not throw for 10 TDs on the season, and one of the best runs of the year was a 52-yard run by a FB on a fake punt. Timeouts continue to be called or saved without any regard for reality, and the team long ago ran out of feet to shoot with dumb penalties, incorrect number of players on the field, and turnovers. Oh my gawd the turnovers, King.
Sap's Decals nails Gardner:
DEVIN GARDNER – To me, New 98 is the LaVell Blanchard of the Michigan Football Team. Great kid. Smart kid. Face of the program for the past few years. Much like Blanchard, Gardner has been caught in the middle of a coaching change during his career. Caught in the middle of a program trying to find its way. Caught in the middle of a university trying to figure out what kind of identity they want their football team to have. Much like we do when looking back on the career of Blanchard, I’m sure we will say much the same for Gardner: “Oh, the Gardner years! Tough kid. Never quit. Never gave up. Sad that his record wasn’t better.”
So, things happened yesterday. A few of them good, some of them meh, and most of them bad. For Michigan, it was yet another in a long line of games everyone would just rather forget.
Brady Hoke knows what's coming. You can just tell. Nothing will happen before the Ohio State game, but its over. This is the end for Hoke at Michigan.
You know it's bad when newspaper folk don't edit out your uhs and ums:
A self-inflicted mess, toward the tail end of a self-inflicted disaster of a season that can't end soon enough, with a head coach who has only gotten worse every year he's been in charge.
Another game that made little sense, and more talk afterward that made even less.
"We just didn't, uh, execute at times when we had opportunities, and, uh, at times we did," Hoke said Saturday night. "We had some mistakes in the kicking game that, uh, obviously hurt us as a football team. Some of those were very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and aggression. At the same point, we've got to be a little smarter.
"If that's the right word for it."
[Ed. note (Adam): A huge thank you to Greg Garno of The Michigan Daily for the audio. The following transcript is from the portion of the press conference in which video cameras weren’t allowed. The first part of the presser can be found here: http://www.mgoblue.com/collegesportslive/?media=476826]
Just a little finer-point follow up on the questions about recruiting. Other ADs have spoken to recruits to assure them one way or another. Will you have any direct contact with people that are being recruited in football?
"I haven't thought about that. I would tell you this, that the role that I'm playing as Athletic Director, as interim Athletic Director is supporting these coaches. The coaches own the point of view of their programs. This is how I led the businesses I have in my history, and so I'm there to help them. Of course I'm evaluating them. I'm trying to build resources and structures to help them be more effective, to help train them, to help develop them, to help motivate them so if there's anything I can help them do in the broadest sense I'm going to be there for them."
You mentioned your criteria for evaluating the football program. What are your criteria for evaluating a potential new Athletic Director?
“Well, because that sits with President Schlissel I’m going to let him hold the answer to that, and what I probably owe him is I can say as someone who used the seat of Athletic Director [that] I can give him some input, but it’s probably premature to do that right now. I’ve been 25 days or something on the job.”
In that input though, in your 25 days what do you think is the most important thing that you would say to President Schlissel is a key attribute of this new leader?
“What I’d be answering is how I feel about what I think we need in leadership. I walked in here with this notion and nothing’s changed my mind, and it begins with we stand in service of others. The job of a leader is to help people who want to achieve more, to be there for them, to support them. I’m a big believer in very thoughtful approaches to problems plus a mix of doing them, so it’s not only about getting things done but it’s about being really thoughtful. You heard more than an inference that I believe you’ve got to align yourself around the most competitive set in the world. We compete in our product with other kinds of institutions around the world- around the country, sorry, and to have the highest sense of acuity of what does it takes to compete, to make our fans so delighted, to make our alums so proud, to make the student-athletes believe that this is the best place in the world and on and on is really important. To have that acuity and help rationalize that is the part of leadership.”
[More after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items
Delano Hill served a one-game suspension against Maryland and will return against OSU
The vulnerability to a fake punt was something the coaches spotted on film, and Joe Kerridge had the ability to call it off if necessary
The problems with the passing game are “multiple”
Hoke used one timeout in the third quarter to avoid having 12 men on the field and another to try and slow the game down for the defense
"Obviously we're really, really disappointed and disappointed in the – cuz our seniors, the 12 guys we're graduating, the 12 guys who played their last game [at Michigan Stadium]. We always talk about playing for them and coaching for them and we just couldn't execute at times [when] we had opportunities and at times we did [execute]. I also think that we had some mistakes in the kicking game that obviously hurt us as a football team, and some of those are very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and that kind of aggression but at the same point we've got to be a little smarter, if that's the right word for it. The one thing is in our locker room there's a lot of disappointment and there's also a lot of pride that these guys have in how they've practiced and how they've done things all year and obviously we've got the greatest rivalry game in college football, in my opinion, coming up and that's what we're going to focus on."
You alluded to it but this hasn't been a very penalized team this year. Can you talk about the punt return and the play on the field goal with the field-goal kicker?
"Yeah, some of this is all subjective and what do you think it is and not. Not seeing the whole thing from the angles that you all get I'll have to look and see, especially on the block in the back. On the field goal, the guy was trying to make a play and he was a guy who was supposed to be coming hard off the edge and I guess he hit him hard enough for a 15-yard personal foul."
Can you take us through the time out and the decision to go for it on fourth down instead of just kick?
"Yeah, on fourth and seven?"
"Number one, it was going to be a long field goal and I believe there was some wind coming out of the south. Matt… could have kicked the opportunity. Punting it, thought pooch it there. Little worried about Will getting too much on it. Thought our defense was playing very well at that time. Was playing very well. Believed in the call, believed in what the kids could do. Still."
Did you take the timeout to make the decision?
"Yeah, in my mind I wanted to be sure. I wanted to make sure I talked to Doug also and how he felt about it also and having the right play, and I felt very good about it."
A big punt [fake] to start the game, a couple fourth downs; did you call this game a little more aggressively?
"You know, I don't know if it was more aggressively. We had seen on film that we could take advantage of the fake. We were- we go for it on fourth-and-one and we had the penalty, so that knocks it back. When you look at different punt teams and you look at different zone of the field, what they like to do, or punt return teams and what they like to do and what they like to be in and we got exactly what we wanted. Joe has the ability, Joe Kerridge, to call it off. He's a really intelligent guy football-wise and so it was there and we went with it."
The difficulty stopping the run in the third and fourth quarters; what did you see there?
"I think they got a little bit up-tempo. I think we lost some of our discipline a little bit in some of those things. I thought we missed a couple tackles in there that we needed to- I think we tackle better than that. I think that as much as anything hurt us a little bit. And I'll give them credit too. I want to give- CJ Brown I think he's one of those quarterbacks who's a little but of a gunslinger and does a nice job with running that football team and he's a good athlete."
[After THE JUMP: more words that are strung together into mostly complete sentences]
Which remarkably apropos moment to use here?
Should it be the innovative "running two-minute drill" that miraculously netted an end-of-half field goal?
How about when the Michigan Marching Band recreated the extinction of the dinosaurs at halftime?
Perhaps Dennis Norfleet's incredible punt return touchdown getting called back?
Could I see the argument for Mike Weber announcing his decommitment the precise moment Maryland's Wes Brown ran in the go-ahead score? Of course.
All of them, I guess.
As far as I know, Brady Hoke hasn't been informed he's fired, but he knows. We all do. With bowl eligibility on the line—unless you're holding out hope for a miracle in Columbus—Hoke's squad couldn't get out of its own way.
Even considering a few impressive Devin Gardner scrambles, including Michigan's lone touchdown of the game, the team's best offensive play came on a 52-yard fake punt run by fullback Joe Kerridge; Kerridge couldn't quite get to the goal line, and after Gardner's third-and-goal pass bounced off Freddy Canteen's chest, Matt Wile kicked a field goal.
The game played out in similarly bumbling fashion for most of the duration, with both teams seemingly unable to catch the football. Maryland had three drops in the first half; Gardner recorded a pick when a throw well behind Bo Dever bounced off his hands and into those of Maryland corner Will Likely.
The special teams were a mess. The flag on the punt return, however questionable, cost Michigan a touchdown. Jourdan Lewis roughed Maryland kicker Brad Craddock, leading on the very next play to a CJ Brown touchdown run; there's another four points. Matt Wile missed a 39-yard field goal that would've given M a 19-16 fourth-quarter lead.
It was a Brady Hoke loss, through and through.
It's sad, of course. Devin Gardner mustered 82 yards on the ground, scrambled for a vintage DG touchdown run (above), and put most of his passes on target, only to see several go right through the hands of his intended receivers. He went down fighting in his last home game, and it sucks to see his efforts go unrewarded. Same goes for all the other seniors out there.
For the sake of Michigan football, though, this may have been for the best. There's little, if any, doubt now that Hoke won't be retained, and a loss in The Game—meaning no bowl game—is all but guaranteed. Unless the athletic department royally screws up the coaching search, the next team will have more competence at the top, a better opportunity to succeed. The bowl practices will be missed, but expediting the much-needed rehauling of this program may make up for it—and then some, when recruiting is taken into account.
We'll see how it all unfolds. For now, though, this felt like an all-too-fitting finish for Brady Hoke; whether he's present on the sideline for Ohio State—which I expect he will be—is almost besides the point.
By Heiko "4 AD" Yang
Today will be the last time Michigan’s seniors will be playing a football game in the Big House.
Just like the team’s record, the excitement and emotion surrounding senior day has waned over the past few years. We all remember senior day 2011: Molk, Martin, Koger, Van Bergen, et al. were regaled as heroes for pulling Michigan out of the most tumultuous stretch in program history (or so we thought), and then they cemented their legacy by beating Ohio State. Senior day 2012 was a sad farewell to Denard and Kovacs, but happily it was also the debut of Denard Robinson, Offensive Weapon. Last year’s senior day was an inevitable disappointment. Still, there were moments of – I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but when Jeremy Gallon took the first play 70-some yards to the goal line, you just felt like he deserved better, and you knew you were going to miss him.
This year, struggling for bowl eligibility against a crappy Maryland team on a cold and crappy November afternoon is a crappy but fitting way to go out. At the end of a disappointing season you should at least be able use senior day as a way to recognize the guys that did something significant to mitigate the disaster – guys who held the team together maybe made enough of a difference that the rest of the team can build on, if not for the current season, maybe the next one. Did anyone do that this year? I don’t know, man. Maybe it was Hoke’s fault for not naming captains, or it was the previous year’s captains’ fault for making it seem like leadership was a dangerously overrated thing. Either way, screaming at your teammates on the sidelines that you really want to beat Penn State isn’t that impressive.
There’s not much of a legacy to be left here. Sure, we’ll remember individual guys like Jake Ryan as being great players, but #Team135 will never be toasted at reunions or enshrined in a display case in Schembechler Hall, which is crazy when you consider that some of these guys own school records (remember Gardner’s 2013 Indiana game?). It’s hard to even credit these guys as a critical transition class, which is ironic because a lot of them were recruited during the transition between Rich Rod and Hoke. But just as they weren’t really critical to the brief renaissance in 2011, they haven’t been setting up for the future success of Michigan football either.
I’m sorry for being such a downer (just wait until you read Counterpunt), but that’s how I feel about the fact that it’s senior day and how aware but not fully aware I was about it until now. I still think this team has a pretty good shot at beating Maryland and becoming bowl eligible, especially with Maryland’s top receivers out. Not having Frank Clark is going to hurt the defense, but with the second bye week, I’m optimistic that the offense has addressed some of the brain farting to pick up some of the slack.
Yes, it’s cold and rainy, but you know what? I have a feeling this turns out to be a fun, albeit ridiculous, game. That, if anything, would be a fitting end to this senior class’s career at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan 23, Maryland 22
By Nick RoUMel
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on, and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself in Jäger and skip out for beer during commercials.
Because the devolution will not be televised.
The devolution will not be brought to you by Coke, or Kraft macaroni and cheese. It will not feature Jim Harbaugh blowing a bugle and leading a charge, cutting down Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio from their high horses.
The devolution will not be led by the triumvirate of Jeff Long, Brad Bates, and Warde Manuel followed by an army of Michigan Men. Because the devolution will not be televised.
There will be no instant replay of Desmond Howard making the Catch or striking the Pose. There will be no slow-motion montage of Tom Brady or Charles Woodson highlights. Because the devolution will not be televised.
You will no longer hear the speech about The Team, The Team, The Team. You will no longer hear '70's rock songs about South Detroit, or other places that don't exist. You will not drink! drink! drink! with Neil Diamond or Sweet Caroline.
You will hear pundits speak In low, funereal voices about Michigan football. Jim Brandstatter will say "tough game, Coach." Fans will murmur, helplessly, leaving the stadium.
Because the devolution will not be televised. The devolution will be live.
MARYLAND 20, MICHIGAN 16
* with apologies to the late, great Gil Scott Heron.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Maryland|
Ann Arbor, Michigan
November 21st, 2014
|THE LINE||M -5|
|TICKETS||Starting at nine(!) dollars|
|WEATHER||cloudy, 60% chance of rain, temps in mid-30s with a 10-15 mph wind. could have freezing rain in the AM.|
Prepare yourselves. The weather report indicates the dreaded "wintry mix" will fall upon Ann Arbor tomorrow morning before turning into scattered showers as the game temperature hangs around 40 with a windchill of freezing. Fandom Endurance badges may be required.
It's also Senior Day. Michigan will bid farewell to 12 players. One is Devin Gardner, and if he doesn't receive a thunderous ovation...
The guy's played for three different offensive coordinators, two head coaches and he's been asked to line up at two separate positions. Yet, through it all, he's never stopped giving everything he has.
Not to his team, and not to his community.
"I'm becoming a man here, and I thank God for this adversity," Gardner said earlier this season. "I'm becoming a better man."
...I'll lose quite a bit of faith in humanity.
It's a great time to familiarize yourself with the remarkable stories off the guys who don't see their names in print all that often, too. For example, Alex Mitropolous-Rundus, who'll get the Senior Day treatment despite spending his high school years on the drumline, not the football team.
Also being honored tomorrow: Brennen Beyer, Joey Burzynski, Anthony Capatina, Will Hagerup, Delonte Hollowell, Jonathan Keizer, Jake Ryan, Alex Swieca, Raymon Taylor, and Matt Wile.
The opponent is Maryland, a mediocre squad that's played to form this season, beating the teams they should while dropping games against West Virginia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Michigan, of course, needs another win for bowl eligibility, and this is their best shot at it.
Run Offense vs Maryland
Andre Monroe is a disruptive 3-4 DE
Maryland's rush defense grades out as mediocre on the advanced metrics, and that passes the sanity test for a squad that's limited the lesser running games they've faced (WVU, Penn State, USF, Iowa) and given up big yardage to the good ones (Indiana, OSU, MSU, Wisconsin ... and, er, Syracuse).
The Terps are very experienced in the front seven of their 3-4 defense; every starter is a senior save OLB Yannick Ngakoue, a talented sophomore who splits time with senior Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil. (Yes, seriously, two Yannicks at one position.) Nose tackle Darius Kilgo is an NFL prospect because he can do more than just take on a double-team; he has seven TFLs this season. Andre Monroe doesn't fit the prototype of anything at 5'11", 282 pounds, but he manages to be very disruptive from his DE spot, albeit more against the pass than the run.
The inside linebackers, Cole Farrand and LA Goree, both play at a stout 245 pounds and are very active between the tackles. Maryland gets a boost with the return of OLB Matt Robinson, who was excellent against the run in 2013 but has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury; he got through last week's game against MSU and should be good to go tomorrow.
Injuries have removed the team's top tackler from his natural spot. Due to significant losses in the secondary (more on that later), strong safety Sean Davis has moved to cornerback, and while he'll be an excellent run support corner, Maryland won't have him flying into the box from the back line. This worked out fine a couple weeks ago against Penn State, a team with no offense to speak of, but MSU managed to tally 242 yards on 47 carries (5.2 YPC) last weekend.
On Michigan's end, Derrick Green has been ruled out this weekend, so De'Veon Smith should get the bulk of the carries after he had his best game of the year against Northwestern.
Key Matchup: The tackles vs. Maryland's attacking OLBs. Robinson has been very limited this season but had 10 TFLs—only 0.5 of which came on a sack—in 2013. On the other side, Ngakoue's had a breakout year with 12.5 TFLs. Ben Braden, especially, has had some trouble against quicker defenders, and these two are both quite disruptive off the edge.
[Hit THE JUMP for the REST of the PREVIEW]
11/20/2014 - Michigan 71, Detroit 62 - 3-0
Blow-by. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Apparently necessary perspective. Hoo boy, I guess making the point that having three players account for over three-quarters of the team's points may not be ideal in the long run equated to PANIC for many. It's admittedly difficult to make a nuanced point in a gamer written moments after the final buzzer, so allow me to flesh this out a little more.
It's November. The team has five scholarship non-freshmen. Of course there are going to be growing pains, areas of concern, and the like at this juncture. That's far from saying those issues won't be resolved, or at least mitigated, as the season progresses; on the flip side, that doesn't mean those areas aren't worth pointing out. Michigan is too reliant on their three starting guards right now. The freshmen centers and Kameron Chatman do have to step up, or there will be too many ways to exploit this team, especially when they face larger opponents.
John Beilein still coaches this team, though. In-season improvement isn't just the hope, it's the established expectation, and one only has to think back to the Charlotte game last season for perspective; every basketball team is going to have their share of ugly outings, and Michigan just beat a team with a pulse by nine in such a game.
Another helpful tack. Take a look at the recent scores of the upcoming marquee opponents on Michigan's schedule.
- Oregon, Michigan's opponent next Monday, went into halftime tied at home against this same Detroit team four days ago. They pulled away and won by 17; if the Titans had decided to start fouling at a reasonable time last night, Michigan's final margin might've been very similar.
- Villanova, the most likely opponent if Michigan advances to the final of the Legends Classic (it'll be 'Nova or VCU), nearly lost to Bucknell—the squad M whomped by 24 points—at home last night, needing a late run to win by a misleading seven points after the Bison took a 65-63 lead with 1:51 remaining. 'Nova also had a six-point second-half deficit against #237 Lehigh in their season opener before pulling away.
- VCU, for their part, had a lot of trouble at home against #113 Toledo on Tuesday. The Rockets held a four-point lead midway through the second half and were as close as one point back with three minutes to play before VCU's press forced a few critical turnovers to close it out.
- Syracuse played Cal in Madison Square Garden last night, a neutral-site game that essentially functioned as a home game. The Bears entered the evening as KenPom's #63-ranked squad. Cal won by 14.
- SMU is now 1-2 thanks to a tough schedule and some ugly play; after losing by 16 at Gonzaga on Monday, they committed 19 turnovers on their way to losing by six at Indiana last night, coughing up a 12-point first-half lead in the process.
So let's not freak out just yet.
Derrick Walton! I think this is something that often comes through better in person than on TV, but Walton's court vision in transition is something to behold. It's tough to run a 3-on-2 break better than this:
The move to initiate the break is slick, but the real moment of excellence here is the little dive into the lane just before the pass; even though Max Bielfeldt's spacing here isn't ideal, Walton forces the two Detroit defenders to collapse into the paint, and in doing so he also shortens the pass to Irvin. Walton could've easily stayed wide to the left and tried a cross-court pass to Irvin, but that would've given the far-side defender time to get out and contest the shot. Instead, he hits Irvin in rhythm, and Detroit can only contest the shot late, which is doom against Irvin.
Walton and Caris LeVert are both rebounding very well—both, in fact, have top-200 defensive rebound rates at this very early juncture—and that's allowing Michigan to get out in transition, where they're absolutely lethal.
A quiet 21-9-3. LeVert's final stat line looked darn impressive despite a very uneven performance. I'd still like to see him finish more of his drives at the rim instead of settling for pull-up jumpers, but he managed to knock down a couple of those shots last night, and at some point you just shrug and let the NBA prospect take NBA shots; LeVert's 46% shooting mark inside the arc matches his percentage from last season, and that's while shouldering a bigger offensive load without Nik Stauskas around to stretch defenses thin.
Meanwhile, LeVert's got a 25.6% assist rate against just a 11.1% turnover rate, his defensive rebound rate ranks 83rd(!) nationally, and he's been very active on defense. When his outside shot starts falling, and it will, he's going to post some absurd stat lines.
The go-to lineup. This is where those lingering concerns come to the forefront. Michigan's best lineup for the past couple games has been Albrecht-Walton-LeVert-Irvin-Bielfeldt, and I don't think that's going to hold up in the long run—the lineup has its considerable upsides but also some major shortcomings.
The positives: Spike Albrecht has been fantastic thus far this year at generating offense for others, and he found his shot last night, too. With him out there, Walton can crash the defensive boards a little more—and subsequently get M out on the break in a hurry—and spot up for those killer corner threes on the other end. This is also Michigan's most experienced lineup, so their halfcourt offense runs smoothly; these guys know where to be, which isn't the case at the moment with the freshmen.
The negatives: Michigan hasn't faced a big, strong-rebounding team yet, and I'm skeptical of how well this lineup will hold up in that regard once they do. That would be a huge problem, as this lineup would have to continue rebounding at a phenomenal rate to make up for the fact that there's zero rim protection with Bielfeldt at the five and Irvin at the four. Detroit had a few disturbingly easy layups against this group when they were able to get past a perimeter defender; once that happened, they didn't face any resistance.
I think this is a stopgap while the freshmen figure it out, and nothing more than a situational lineup against better teams. Detroit didn't have the size or post skill to attack them at their weakest point; that won't be the case in a week, and definitely not in Big Ten season.
Beilein has been visibly frustrated with his freshmen. [Fuller]
Withholding judgment. Kameron Chatman is struggling out there. DJ Wilson has no clue where he's supposed to be on the court. Mark Donnal blew a layup last night. Ricky Doyle put up a two trillion. John Beilein is unhappy with their development, and it's not hard to see why.
Here's where I scream IT'S THREE GAMES INTO THEIR FRESHMAN SEASONS. Chatman has played the most out of any of these guys, a whole 60 minutes across three games. There are people drawing big-picture conclusions about him and the others from seeing them play basketball for an hour or less. One. Hour. These guys get more burn in a single practice than they have so far this season.
TOTALLY RANDOM ASIDE: In Trey Burke's first official game, against Ferris State, he shot 1/7 from the field with a 0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Chatman's offensive woes have been disconcerting, sure, but he's also missing shots that are going to start falling; he's 1/5 at the rim this season. His field goal misses from the free-throw area have often come off awkward drives; when he had the chance to catch-and-shoot last night, he stroked an 18-footer from the right elbow, a shot that very much looks repeatable. He's shown flashes of being a very good passer. His rebounding rates are passable and should only improve.
Chatman has a ways to go on defense, but he's already advanced in his ability to disrupt passing lanes. Looking at what guys like D'Angelo Russell and James Blackmon Jr. are doing as true freshmen—in less complicated offenses, with entirely different roles—isn't fair to the kid, and a slow start doesn't mean he won't flourish as early as this season.
The bigs have barely played enough to even have a half-baked opinion, let alone a fully-formed one. Just because Beilein finally has the luxury to put a senior, however limited in terms of size and athleticism, out there to show them how it's done doesn't mean Donnal/Doyle/Wilson won't be critical parts of the rotation going forward.
— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) November 21, 2014
It's gonna be okay, everyone.
Derrick Walton led M's late charge with great transition play. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
They should've known.
Detroit hung with Michigan for most of a rather ugly game, thanks to the hot hand of Juwan Howard Jr. (24 points) and the cold first-half shooting of Michigan. With just 5:38 to play, the upset watch remained in effect with the game tied at 52.
Then Detroit slapped the floor.
Michigan put the game away with an 11-0 run.
If you're confused about the correlation, ask a State fan.
The Wolverines couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, going 10/29 from the field, including an uncharacteristic 3/12 mark from beyond the arc. Neither team looked very good, nor did the officials, who couldn't decide whether to call the game tight or let everything go. The Titans scored on the half's final possession to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room.
The second half didn't begin so well, either, as Detroit extended their lead to four points during a rough stretch for Michigan freshman Kameron Chatman. John Beilein wasted little time going to what would be his best lineup of the night, lifting Chatman for Spike Albrecht and inserting Max Bielfeldt at center. Both provided the support Michigan's three backcourt stars needed; Albrecht dished out four assists, knocked down two threes, and added a steal, while Bielfeldt hauled in five boards and even dished out a couple assists himself.
That allowed the big three to flourish. After a rough first half, Caris LeVert went on a tear in the second stanza, scoring 17 of his team-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes; he also pulled down nine rebounds to nearly tally a double-double. Zak Irvin became the main beneficiary of Walton's fast break exploits, knocking down a couple second-half transition threes on his way to 18 points. Walton finished with 16 points of his own, grabbed three rebounds, and handed out three assists.
Outside of Howard, who needed 24 shot equivalents to score his 24 points, and an usually efficient Brandon Kearney (14 points on 5/6 FG), nobody on Detroit could get much going offensively; Michigan kept the Titans almost entirely off the offensive glass and forced most of their shots to originate from the perimeter, and eventually the Titans flat-lined, going through long stretches of the second half without being able to score.
Michigan managed to weather a bad shooting night to eventually come away with the win, but concerns are mounting as the three stars have been forced to bear what could be an impossible load to carry long-term. The Irvin/LeVert/Walton troika scored over 77% of the team's points tonight, and the freshmen expected to fill major roles either looked lost on the court (Chatman, DJ Wilson) or were disturbingly absent from the rotation as the game wore on (Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle).
That's to be expected, in part, on such a young team with such obvious go-to players, but when the competition steps up significantly on Monday—when Michigan faces an Oregon team in Brooklyn that beat these same Titans by 18 earlier this week—the lack of secondary options is going to become a serious problem.
For now, Michigan's survived unscathed, and there are encouraging signs—one of those, somewhat surprisingly, on defense, where they've owned the boards. Sometime soon, though, this team is going to need one or two of their freshmen to grow up in a hurry.
I unwittingly glutened myself this week, so between that, basketball season getting underway, recruiting staying in a holding pattern, and the football team remaining rather uninspiring, there's no full recruiting roundup or FFFF today. Instead, I'm mashing the two together before I head into town for the Detroit game.
Michigan will receive an official visit this weekend from a highly touted prospect not committed to the Wolverines. Yes, this is probably a surprise to you. This may even be a surprise to the coaches. It's probably not going to amount to a whole lot. But, hey, it's happening, and that's nice.
The recruit in question is four-star receiver Auden Tate, currently a Florida State commit, who's following through on his long-held plan to officially visit Ann Arbor after he got a Michigan offer way back in April. Tate grew up a fan of the program and he's kept in touch with QB commit Alex Malzone throughout the recruiting process. It'd be a surprise if Tate flipped his commitment, but heck, it's a surprise he's taking this trip in the first place.
Three-star Oak Park ATH John Kelly will also be in attendance as an unofficial visitor. The other 2015 recruits set to be at the game are current commits: Malzone and Grant Newsome, both of whom have remained steadfast in their pledges throughout this tumultuous season. Malzone may be joined by his Brother Rice teammate and primary target, 2015 WR Grant Perry, though Perry may choose to visit Northwestern instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for commit updates, Iman Marshall's very interesting visit plans, a couple more recruiting nuggets, and Seth's lineup diagrams for the Maryland game.]