this may be of some local interest
Other basketball takes. Grantland* oddly dispatched a guy to cover the Michigan-Northwestern game. He comes back with an impression of Ann Arbor clearly derived from the rims clanging so loud it sounds like a Gary, Indiana, steel mill before it closed in 1979, but once he gets past the grim midwesternness of it all it's a good piece:
. In the post, Smotrycz and Novak get rough with Shurna, putting their bodies into him, bumping him off the ball, and generally making him fight for every inch. Shurna hates this physicality, hates it viscerally and philosophically and every other way you can hate something. More often than not, he casts a look at the referee, hoping for a foul call, before retreating to the perimeter. He'll finish the game with 21 points, but after his second jumper of the half, with 19 long minutes remaining, he's scored all but four of that total. The rest of the game is a vanishing act.
I still think whenever Beilein ends up with an open scholarship late he should scour Northwestern's commitments for whoever their totally rad guy is going to be. That seems preferable to snatching Colton Christian away from low majors.
Holdin' the Rope credits Denard in the headline and provides a link to the Novak dunk that brought down the house during Michigan's 10-0 second half run:
Re: Denard, A half-dozen Michigan football players including Roy Roundree and Denard held court in the student section after they were honored for winning the Sugar Bowl. One thing you can say about Michigan football: they are not too cool for school.
HTR also dubs freshman NU PG Dave Sobolewski "Sobocop" in an attempt to insult him for prompting the Morgan tech. This will certainly backfire and cause Northwestern fans to admiringly dub him that for the rest of his career. Sippin' On Purple, make this happen.
*[Grantland pays Brian Phillips and Chris Brown money to write about sports. I'm not hearing criticism of it even if it runs some dumb stuff. That's easy enough to ignore; the good bits are very good. VIVA LOS SIMMONS.]
Donnal update. Even Jordan Morgan is impressed by this stat:
Perhaps no one on the team has bought in to the new approach more than Mark Donnal, the 6-9 junior who is already committed to the University of Michigan. The league's top post player is averaging a team-high 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds after averaging 15 points and seven boards last season.
Donnal, who probably receives more double-teams near the basket than any other player in the NLL, is sinking 79 percent of his shots from the field, as well as from the foul line.
Big guys in high school usually tower over opponents and can just oaf their way to easy buckets, but if you've seen any video of Donnal you know he's unusually skilled for a 6'9" post type. He's Pittsnogalian.
That sounds like an adjective from a lost chapter of Gulliver's Travels featuring a race of lovable, enormous tattooed weirdos. It's a keeper, that is.
CSB midterms. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau has released their midseason rankings, which are the first to put a number on prospects rather than a vague letter. Voila:
#9 Jacob Trouba
#28 Phil Di Giuseppe (freshman)
#31 Boo Nieves
#82 Alex Kile (2013)
#157 Connor Carrick
#175 Justin Selman
Incoming goalie Jared Rutledge is the #36 goalie, which would mean he's not getting drafted. Daniel Milne and future Rutledge backup Steve Racine are the only draft-eligible recruits not listed.
Trouba is the top-ranked American. A CSB scout on him:
“Jacob has offensive skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he’s a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He’s going to be someone people are going to talk about; we’ve known about him for a couple years and he’s not disappointing this year.”
Remember that these are North American skater rankings only; Europeans and goalies will push these folks down. Those are mid-second-round ratings for PDG and Nieves, not late first.
WCH calls out Connor Carrick as notably under-ranked; if that's true Michigan will definitely have five draftees with Selman a potential sixth. Kile is a surprise. One: I didn't know he was draft eligible this year. Two: he's got 7-8-15 in 29 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, which is a far cry from the 38, 35, 30, 29 you see at the top of their scoring charts. He's kind of big at 6-foot, 195, but not the kind of big that gets you drafted above your skill level by the NHL.
Meanwhile in the odious machinations of junior hockey magnates. Nieves's rights were traded in the deadline flurry. This is never good, but Nieves has reconfirmed that he has no interest in the OHL:
Nieves was traded to Saginaw, which isn't any closer to home than Michigan or notorious for shelling out under the table payments. Also if he was going to leave he had an opportunity before signing up for another year of prep hockey with Matt Herr. Usually when a player committed to college changes his mind it's the year before he's scheduled to arrive. Only the specter of competing against Shawn Hunwick is sufficient motivation to ditch when college is around the corner.
Meanwhile in things you'd do for a dollar. Rumor is the Winter Classic is headed to Michigan in the near future, and not just the state:
Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that the NHL is in advanced discussions with the University of Michigan about holding the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
One source, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wasn't initially sold on the idea of the NHL hosting an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. But over a matter of a couple of weeks, the source said "something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will."
No doubt long deliberations with a man dressed in a curly fries outfit eventually led to the breakthrough. Would Dave Brandon threaten to break Michigan's own attendance record and hopelessly conflict a ton of people when Michigan inevitably plays a bowl game on the same day? Yes. The curly fries are very convincing, and there is at least one dollar in it.
Guh. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan unless I need to give Tony Gibson minus even more of the points:
The previous CB coach, Gibson, who I believe also is joining the Arizona staff, wasn't big on technique, at least not when he was a WVU. Players have stated that he would tell them, "just get to the spot." Lockwood came in and changed that, and with that change came nice strides of improvement in the cornerbacks.
Unfortunately, the spot was ten yards away from the receiver.
Etc.: The university's policy of exorbitant FOIA fees is an embarrassment. Roundtree's looking for a bigger role next year. BC Interruption is feeling the MGoPlayoff. Horford may be able to return this year. Silver lining if he can't: the ensuing redshirt will give some separation between Michigan's bigs, three of whom may leave in the same year if McGary is two-and-out. UMHoops picture pages a bunch of out of bounds plays.
Not entirely related, but this needs to be the intro (via MGoVideo):
DON'T LET ANYBODY COME IN YOUR HOUSE, PLAY HARDER THAN YOU PLAY, AND BEAT YOU. When Cazzie Russell says such things in "The House That Cazzie Built" (or is that now "The Center That Cazzie Built"?) you listen. Michigan listened.
The Wolverines narrowly defeated Northwestern at home last night in an ugly, ugly game, but on Sunday they put on perhaps their finest performance of the season in crushing Wisconsin, 59-41, to end a 10-game losing skid against the Badgers. I'm still not sure how often I can do these while still providing the proper amount of recruiting coverage, but I did UFR the game, and not only that, but this time I actually covered both offense and defense.
So, today is the debut of the basketball defensive UFR. It it likely fraught with errors and oversights, so as always I encourage the basketball coaches/junkies to please tell me what I'm doing wrong in the comments. The setup is much the same as the offensive UFR in that it tracks shot creation, but this time it's all about preventing good looks instead of creating them. Rebounding is mostly tracked in more traditional stats, so that is mostly ignored unless a player makes a particularly strong effort to haul in a rebound and prevent what would otherwise be an easy putback opportunity.
I made little effort to try and figure out what Wisconsin was trying to run on each offensive set, as doing so would've put the ETA on this post at sometime around the 32nd of Neverary. Instead, possessions are broken down as either half-court (HC) or fast break (FB). Defensive set is charted as usual, noting whether Michigan is in man, 1-3-1, or defending the fast break (the Wolverines did not break out any 2-3 this game, something they rarely do anyway). Without further ado, here's chart the first, broken into sections whenever Michigan makes a lineup change:
|Lineup: Burke, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|After running the shot clock down to 10 seconds (this is Wisconsin, remember), point guard Jordan Taylor runs a high screen with center Jared Berggren. Burke (+0.5) and Morgan both hedge hard, forcing Taylor to pass off to Berggren in the corner. Berggren gives back to Taylor, who tries to hit Mike Bruesewitz under the basket, but Morgan has fallen back into the lane—at first he's not looking for the entry pass, but recovers in time to deflect the pass (+1.5), and Novak collects the loose ball, but...|
|...Novak can't hold onto the ball cleanly, and it's stolen. Ryan Evans gets a pass with an open lane to the hoop, goes up for the dunk, and is fouled from behind by Morgan, preventing the basket (+0.5, dunk/layup, late contest, foul). Evans misses both free throws.|
|Wisconsin dumps the ball into Berggren, guarded by Morgan, on the left block. Berggren fakes to the middle of the key and spins to the baseline, beating Morgan (-1), who can only put his hands up and force him further baseline. Smotrycz (+2) slides over from the other side of the key for a well-timed double-team, then gets a great contest when Berggren tries a Dream Shake—he can't connect on a short, but tricky, hook shot (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Ryan Evans ends up with the ball on the right wing, and he's clearly looking to get the ball to Berggren on the block. Morgan (+1) does a great job of fronting him and denying any chance at an entry pass. Evans doesn't even try, instead doing a quick ball fake that creates some space against Smotrycz (-0.5). Evans misses a long two as Smotrycz recovers to get a late contest (2-pt, late contest, miss).|
|Fantastic defense from Burke here. Taylor spends the entire possession trying to post him up, but Burke holds strong, eventually forcing Taylor to receive the pass near the baseline 15 feet away from the basket. Taylor backs him down, but Burke forces Taylor to try a fadeaway from just inside the FT line and gets a hand right in his face—the shot doesn't even draw iron (Burke +2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Bruesewitz, whose name really sucks to have to spell out multiple times, gets matched up with Novak and posts him up. Novak (+1) does a great job forcing him away from the basket, and he catches the pass just a couple feet inside the 3-pt arc. Bruesewitz starts to back towards the basket, and Hardaway (+0.5) comes over for solid double-team. Bruesewitz travels trying to get a pass off.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Michigan breaks out the 1-3-1 for the first time, and initially all Wisconsin can do is swing the ball around the perimeter. They flood the middle of the zone with two players, however, and Smotrycz (-1) strays too far from the middle. Bruesewitz finds Evans open with space in the middle of the lane, and he takes it over Novak—who has the backside and is caught between Evans in the key and Taylor up top—for a short runner (2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Great team defense here as Wisconsin simply can't find an opening. Eventually, Taylor gets a screen up top with 8 seconds on the clock, Burke fights past it as Hardaway (+0.5) also shows before falling back to his man. Taylor drives left and pulls up just inside the arc, missing the long two as Burke gets a hand right in his face (Burke +1.5, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Wisconsin again works the ball around the arc for about 20 seconds, then Josh Gasser drives into the lane against Hardaway (-0.5), who's initally beaten, but Novak (+1) steps up and stops the penetration. Douglass (-1), guarding Ben Brust at the top of the key, takes a peek into the lane, and Brust cuts behind him into the lane, drawing three defenders and passing off to an open Berggren. Smotrycz recovers to get a late contest, but Berggren should've hit the relatively open look from 12 feet (2-pt, late contest, miss).|
|Taylor takes a pick on the elbow that draws both Burke and Novak. He dishes off to Rob Wilson in the corner as Hardaway (+0.5) rotates over nicely—Novak (+0.5) falls back and picks up Hardaway's man in the opposite corner. Wilson drops it off to Berggren on the block. He tries backing down Smotrycz (+2), can't get any closer, and bricks a baby hook with Smotrycz right in his face (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Great on-ball defense from Smotrycz there, and M doing a fantastic job of showing on picks and not giving Taylor any room to maneuver.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|Lots of confusion here. Wisconsin runs a high pick and roll and Smotrycz hedges hard, as he's clearly been coached to do on Taylor in this game. Smotrycz (-1) then slides back into the post, but Morgan is already there. Morgan is now confused about who to guard and is way late getting out to Josh Gasser, who is all alone behind the arc. Wisconsin swings it to Gasser, who fakes baseline, gets Morgan to bite, and takes it strong to the hoop, finishing with the left before help can arrive (Morgan -1, dunk/layup, late contest, make). I could be wrong, but I think Smotrycz wasn't supposed to drop back into the post since he's now the 4, but Morgan also has to do a better job staying between his man and the basket.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Smotrycz, McLimans|
|Wisconsin again runs the high P&R, but McLimans (+1) does a solid job of getting out on Taylor and then recovering to his man. Wisconsin ends up dumping it down to Ryan Evans, who's posting up McLimans on the right block. McLimans stymies Evans, who pivots around looking for somewhere to dump the ball to. Smotrycz (-2) comes over to double, but he's way late and has to scramble back out when Evans gives to his man, Gasser, who fakes the shot and easily gets the lane. The defense has to collapse down, and Gasser finds Bruesewitz in the corner for an open three (3-pt, late contest, make).|
|11:45||10-7||HC||Man||McLimans||3-pt Miss/OReb/Layup Miss/OReb/3-pt Make|
|Bruesewitz gets the ball on the block against McLimans (-1) in great position—McLimans lets him establish his spot way too deep in the lane. Vogrich collapses down to help and Douglass swings over to Vogrich's man, who gets the pass from Bruesewitz and swings it around the perimeter. Michigan is scrambling, Burke (-2) rotates down low to Evans, who McLimans has covered, and Taylor ends up with an open look from three, but he misses (3-pt, late contest, miss). Smotrycz (-1) doesn't block out Bruesewitz, who grabs the board, misses a very tough putback (dunk/layup, heavy contest, miss), gets his own rebound, and passes out to Ben Brust, who is all alone up top for a three (3-pt, no contest, make). Douglass gets a -1 for being the fifth(!) M defender in the lane on the second putback attempt, leaving the perimeter entirely unguarded.|
|Nothing Burke can do here as Taylor is out in front after stealing a Smotrycz pass near halfcourt. Taylor breezes in for a layup, and Burke smartly doesn't try to contest—he's too far back to do anything but give up an and-1 (dunk/layup, no contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Vogrich, Novak, McLimans|
|Let's follow Novak here. First he hedges nicely on a P&R up top, then drops back to Bruesewitz, his original man. Wisconsin swings it to Gasser on the elbow as Bruesewitz tries to establish post position on Novak, but Novak drives him nearly out to the 3-pt line. He bails on posting up, takes a handoff, and passes back out to the top of the key. Bruesewitz, with Novak still on him, ends up with the ball at the opposite elbow, gives to Taylor in the corner, then sets a pick with 8 seconds on the play clock. Novak (+3) hedges hard on Taylor as Burke fights through the screen, and Taylor's pass goes through Bruesewitz's hands and out of bounds. GRIT.|
|Taylor runs another high P&R that Burke initially is caught up in, but McLimans (+1) does a great job of getting out on Taylor and forcing him into the corner, where Burke gets over to recover as McLimans settles back into the post. Wisconsin works it around the arc while putting Burke (+2) through a series of off-ball screens, which he does a great job of fighting through and staying with Taylor. Taylor ends up with the ball up top and the clock winding down, drives left with Burke right in his pocket, and hits a tough pull-up jumper with Burke's hand nearly on the ball (2-pt, heavy contest, make). Unless he's two inches taller, there's no way Burke can play this any better.|
|Burke (-1) is way late getting back after missing an ill-advised layup attempt on the other end. Taylor takes advantage of having an extra man by driving hard into the middle at McLimans, which draws Vogrich and also, unnecessarily, Douglass (-1), who leaves Gasser open for three. He misses (3-pt, late contest, miss). Novak (+0.5), being Novak, gets a good blockout and then dives for the loose rebound, but he's tied up on the floor and Wisconsin maintains possession.|
|Lineup: Brundidge, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Brundidge with an early cameo, and he acquits himself well, fighting through several off-ball screens and sticking right with his man. Evans ends up taking on Hardaway one-on-one, and Hardaway trips over Evans's foot (no minus for that unlucky break). Evans can't hit the now-wide-open long two (2-pt, no contest, miss), and Brundidge (+1.5) hauls down a really tough board between three guys. One point for the rebound and a half-point for strong off-ball defense.|
|Evans posts up Douglass on the left block and backs him into the middle of the lane, but Douglass (+1) doesn't give up any ground to the bigger player. Evans tries to put up a turnaround jumper anyway, and it rims out (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Taylor pushes the pace (no, seriously) after a Michigan miss and attempts to drive on Douglass, but Stu (+1) stays right in front of him and Taylor has to back out. Taylor passes to Berggren on the block, who tries to back down Novak (+1), but Novak holds strong and Berggren misses a contested turnaround fadeaway (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Smotrycz (+0.5) gets up for a tough rebound in a crowd.|
|Brundidge (-0.5) gets called for a reach-in foul, and we go to a timeout.|
|Lineup: Burke, Akunne, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Evans gets the ball on the block and is closely guarded by Novak. Brust cuts to his side of the court, losing Smotrycz (-1), gets the ball, and drives to the paint, where it looks like he has space as Smotrycz overcommits at the arc. Novak (+1) smartly steps up and cuts off the drive, however, and Brust tosses a pass out of bounds. Nice play by Novak, but Akunne (-1) left Gasser wide open 10 feet from the basket—if the pass is on target, this is probably an easy bucket.|
|5:56||19-14||HC||Man||Smotrycz||3-pt Miss/OReb/2-pt Make|
|Wisconsin sets a double screen for Taylor at the top of the key, and though Burke (+0.5) stays right with Taylor, Smotrycz (-2.5) drops back into the lane despite the fact that his man, Berggren, has popped out to the 3-pt line. Akunne (+0.5) hauls ass to close out but can't get there to really contest, but Berggren misses (3-pt, late contest, miss). Smotrycz can't even haul in the rebound as Gasser beats him to the spot. Wisconsin resets, Gasser cuts to the top of the key and loses Akunne (-1), then drives to the free throw line and hits a runner (2-pt, late contest, make).|
|Wisconsin again sets that double screen for Taylor, and this time he drives, but Burke (+1) stays right with him and forces a tough pullup J as Smotrycz (+1) also comes over to contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Berggren brings in the rebound after it bounces out of the lane. Berggren eventually gets it in the post, where Smotrycz has him covered, then he throws it out of bounds when Taylor zigs and he expects a zag.|
|Wisconsin works it over to Rob Wilson, who tries to back down Novak (+1) into the lane but can't make any progress. Wilson tries to slip a pass to a cutting Taylor but Burke (+2) is right there and pokes the ball away. Hardaway dives for the loose ball and is called for a questionable foul when he collides with Taylor, who was also diving for it. Let them play, IMO. TV timeout.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Taylor drives to the baseline and has a half-step on Burke (-0.5), but Novak (+1) is there to cut off the drive. Evans, Novak's man, pops out towards the arc and gets the pass from Taylor, but Smotrycz (+1) slides over to contest, and he misses a long two (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Taylor ends up with the ball on the wing, tries to drive into the lane, and is stymied by Burke, forcing Taylor to pass back out top as the shot clock approaches 10. Taylor gets the ball right back and tries to get up a quick three over Burke (+2), but Burke blocks it (not credited in the box score, but Taylor doesn't airball by 3 feet if it isn't) (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Ball to Michigan, which draws some legitimate protests from the Badgers.|
|2:26||23-16||HC||Man||Smotrycz||2-pt Make + Foul (1/1)|
|After Smotrycz and Burke (+0.5) stymie a high P&R for Taylor, Berggren ends up posting up Smotrycz on the left side of the lane. Smotrycz (-1) lets him get into the middle of the lane just outside the charge circle, and Berggren makes a righty baby hook as Smot fouls him on the other arm (2-pt, heavy contest, make + foul). Novak (-0.5) is late coming over to help, btw.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, McLimans|
|Wisconsin can't do anything on this possession, thanks to great off-ball D by McLimans (+1) and Douglass (+0.5), who both fight off screens and blow up whatever play the Badgers planned on running. Taylor has to create himself with 10 seconds left on the clock. He gets a screen from Berggren and both Burke and McLimans hedge hard again. Burke (+1.5) stays right with Taylor and McLimans falls back, Taylor drives to the free-throw line and has to settle for a tough pull-up with Burke's hand in his face (2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|Taylor and Berggren run that high P&R, and with McLimans (+0.5) hedging on Taylor and stopping the drive as he's supposed to, Novak has to fall back off his man Evans briefly to stop any potential pass into the lane. Douglass (-0.5) rotates over onto Evans but drops back to his man, who's positioned himself for an open corner three, just as Taylor gives to Evans all alone up top. McLimans has recovered to his man, but Novak (-1) is way late getting back out on Evans, who luckily bricks the open two (2-pt, late contest, miss). This could be more on Douglass. Basketball people, let me know in the comments. Also, Burke (+0.5) impressively comes flying in for the rebound after it's tipped off the backboard by a sea of hands.|
|Lineup: Burke, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|This play looks to be designed to get Evans the ball in the post, but Novak (+1) does a great job of fronting and denying the ball. Taylor instead gives to Gasser, who gets separation from Smotrycz (-0.5) with a simple ball-fake and move to the baseline. Smotrycz recovers to get a late contest of the long two, which misses (2-pt, late contest, miss). Smot is not quick, and this play really exposes his slow feet even though no points come as a result.|
|Nice job by Hardaway here. Evans gets the ball in the post against Smotrycz, and Hardaway comes over to double on the baseline, then gets all the way back up top by the time Wisconsin can swing it around to Gasser, his original man. Gasser tries to drive left, but Hardaway doesn't charge out too hard and is able to stay with him step-for-step, forcing Gasser to pivot and try a fadeaway that Hardaway contests (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). To top it off, Hardaway (+2.5) then jumps over everyone to pull down the rebound.|
|Taylor gives it up initially, goes through a screen in the middle of the lane that Burke fights through, and ends up getting the ball in the left corner as Wisconsin clears out for him. Taylor doesn't attempt to drive and instead just shoots a long two, and Burke (+1) has his hand right there to contest (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Not a great shot from Taylor, but Burke has been all over him all game. Unfortunately, Morgan (-1) grabs the rebound but doesn't keep the ball high and has it slapped off his leg and out of bounds.|
|Evans tries to post up Smotrycz, but Smotrycz (+1.5) pushes him out near the perimeter and slaps the entry pass out of bounds. After the inbounds, Hardaway (+1) does a great job denying on a designed backdoor cut, Wisconsin is forced to reset, and Smotrycz stays right with Evans as he drives, pulls up, and misses from the FT line (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). This time Morgan securely hauls in the rebound.|
|Taylor gets a pick up top and is hounded by both Burke (+1) and Morgan (+1), drives to the baseline and has to stop there and pick up his dribble. Taylor passes inside to Berggren, where Morgan has recovered to pick him up, and Berggren gives back out to Taylor, who jacks up a contested three (3-pt, heavy contest, miss). Novak (-1) loses Evans under the basket and doesn't box out, then Smotrycz (-0.5) picks up a foul pushing Evans in the back to prevent an offensive rebound. Smotrycz was put in a very tough position, but that's also his critical third foul early in the second half. Now he has to come out.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Taylor curl-cuts off a screen on the left elbow, but Burke (+1.5) hangs right with him while going over the top of the pick. Wilson passes to Taylor, and Hardaway, who's guarding Wilson at the top of the key, cheats in to try to steal and then collapses down on Taylor. With Burke in good position, I don't think this is the right move, as Burke has the drive covered and Hardaway (-2) leaves Wilson wide open. Taylor kicks it out and Wilson bricks the uncontested three (3-pt, no contest, miss). Again, great D by Burke, but THJ gets a little greedy.|
|Michigan initially stymies the Wisconsin offense, forcing Taylor to desperately drive with the clock under 10. As he gets near the lane, Burke (+1) completely cuts him off with help from Novak (+0.5), but Morgan (-1.5) is also looking in and loses track of Evans, his man. Douglass (+0.5) has to switch and guard Evans, who's cutting to the basket, and this leaves Brust wide open for three. Brust has nobody near him when he gets the pass from Taylor, but his shot comes up short and draws front iron (3-pt, no contest, miss). Evans pulls in the rebound over Morgan and gets it back out top. Wisconsin eventually gets it in to Berggren in the post, and Novak (+2) sneaks over and rips the ball away from him.|
|Douglass (+1) fights through multiple off-ball screens, seamlessly executes a switch with Novak (+0.5), and gets out to cover Evans on a skip pass, forcing Wisconsin to reset. Taylor comes off a pick and passes to Bruesewitz, who hits a three with Hardaway (+0.5) right in his face (3-pt, heavy contest, make).|
|Novak pulls a seamless switch with Douglass (+0.5) on an off-ball screen, ending up on Traevon Jackson on the wing. Jackson drives baseline and tries to get a shot over Novak, but Novak slaps the ball away on the way up (not credited as a block in the box score, so no shot chart, but Jackson was clearly trying to shoot). The ball goes off the side of the backboard and back to Jackson, who goes back up with it and can't bank in a tough 10-footer over Novak (+2, 2-pt, heavy contest, miss).|
|13:44||32-22||HC||Man||Hardaway||2-pt Miss/OReb/Foul (1/2)|
|Taylor runs a high P&R, Burke (+0.5) and Morgan hedge well again, and Taylor is forced to throw a skip pass to Wilson in the opposite corner. Hardaway (+1), who had come down into the paint to help out on Morgan's man, gets back out and almost gets a hand on the ball as Wilson chucks a long two at the end of the shot clock. It misses (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Wisconsin's Kaminsky grabs the board as he gets position on Morgan (-0.5, getting a half-point credit for his D on the P&R). Wilson ends up with the ball on the wing, drives against Novak, and picks up a really ticky-tack foul as he shoots while flying out of bounds (2-pt, late contest, foul).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, McLimans|
|Wilson gets the ball up top as Wisconsin can't do anything with the first 20 seconds of the shot clock. He hesitates, then drives, getting a half-step on Douglass, but Stu recovers and with help from Novak (+0.5) contests Wilson's runner (2-pt, heavy contest, miss). Hardaway (-1) forgets to block out, Bruesewitz grabs the rebound, and Douglass (+2.5) bails him out by stealing the ball clean as Bruesewitz comes down with it.|
|Jackson has the ball up top and gives to Bruesewitz, who drives by McLimans (-1) into the paint as Jackson sets a screen on Hardaway, who switches with Douglass, on the opposite side of the court. Douglass (-1) is caught in no-man's land because of the penetration, but doesn't make a move to Bruesewitz or back outside to Jackson. He pays for his indecision as Jackson gets the ball and drains a three right over him (3-pt, late contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Morgan|
|Jackson gets the ball on the wing and looks to dump it into Bruesewitz in the post, but Novak (+0.5) fronts well and denies. Jackson then drives to the middle against Hardaway (-0.5) and gets a step, but Douglass (+1) rotates over quickly. Jackson panics when he sees Douglass and zips a hurried pass into the Wisconsin bench. Bo Ryan is not amused.|
|Berggren posts up Morgan near the baseline, about five feet outside the lane, and Wisconsin clears out for him. Berggren backs down to the edge of the paint, where Novak (+0.5) comes over to cut him off, but Hardaway (-1) cheats down and loses Bruesewitz, who's all alone for three up top. He misses (3-pt, late contest, miss), but Berggren gets the board over Douglass after Morgan (-1) doesn't block him out. HOWEVA, Douglass (+2) bats the ball away from Berggren and Burke collects the loose ball, starting a break the other way.|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Smotrycz, Morgan|
|Taylor gets the ball up top and unexpectedly pulls up for three, hitting it just over Burke, who contested well (Burke +0.5, 3-pt, heavy contest, make). Nothing you can do about that.|
|Bruesewitz has the ball up top while Taylor sets a screen of sorts (he more just gets in the way) on Morgan away from the ball. Morgan (-1) is very slow to recognize this and has to switch with Burke, who's now stuck on the much-bigger Evans. Evans sees this and goes right at Burke (-1), who flails at the ball instead of getting between Evans and the basket, and Evans hit a layup before help can arrive (dunk/layup, late contest, make).|
|Lineup: Burke, Douglass, Hardaway, Novak, Smotrycz|
|Michigan does a great job sticking with their men and not giving any openings, especially Burke (+0.5) on Brust, who went through a couple off-ball screens. Wisconsin has to run the clock down to 12, not ideal in this situation, when Evans gets the ball on the wing and puts up an 18-footer over Smotrycz. He hits it (2-pt, heavy contest, make), but Michigan will absolutely take that possession in this situation.|
|When people say Stu Douglass is M's best perimeter defender, this is what they're talking about. He starts man-up on Taylor up top, comes over a screen, the smartly rotates over to Bruesewitz as Novak picks up Taylor. Bruesewitz gets the pass as Douglass is running over and tries to cut back the opposite way, but Douglass (+3) knocks the ball away with his left hand. Douglass and Bruesewitz dive for it, so of course Zack Novak (+1) also hits the floor and grabs the loose ball. He'll get more points for this on the offensive UFR, as he then flips the ball to Burke for a breakaway layup.|
|Taylor gets the ball off a sideline inbounds after a bizarre review of the previous play. Wisco is now in desperation mode, so Taylor just runs up the court, pulls up at the FT line, and buries a jumper over Douglass (2-pt, heavy contest, make). That's just a great shot.|
|Taylor dribbles upcourt and launches a three from well beyond the arc as soon as he gets up the floor, missing all but the backboard (3-pt, no contest, miss). Morgan (+1) boxes out Evans perfectly to grab a tough rebound.|
|Douglass (+2) picks Taylor's pocket as he comes across halfcourt, then is fouled by Taylor as he tries to reel the ball in. It's a parade to the free-throw line for Michigan from here on out, so charting ceases.|
Well, that was fairly dominant.
Indeed it was. Wisconsin couldn't get anything going, mostly thanks to fantastic perimeter defense from Michigan, especially against Jordan Taylor and the high pick-and-roll. The Badgers tried to free up Taylor on most of their plays, and he just never found any space. Take a bow, Trey Burke.
You might want to mention Novak and Douglass as well.
I might go into a GRIT-spasm in doing so, but sure thing. Novak is so incredibly sound on defense that I think his contributions on that end might actually be underrated. He's remarkably good at denying the ball against the post-up despite being all of 6'4". He doesn't get lost on switches, sticks to his man like glue off the ball, and is strong on the ball, as well. He is all of the grit, and that's why we love him.
As for Douglass, he's not the quickest guy out there, but like Novak he's usually in the right spot. He looked just fine when he ended up on Jordan Taylor, and was just as effective when playing against bigger guards. Then he comes up with five steals, and those aren't by accident—he knows just the right time to reach in and poke the ball out, and often does so when he sneaks up for a quick double that the ballhandler doesn't see coming. He picks his spots well. When you wonder why coaches love having seniors on the squad, it's not just because they provide leadership—the on-court benefits of experience are very apparent when watching Novak and Douglass play.
What about the bigs?
The scores for the big men aren't nearly as high as the guards, but I didn't think they were bad, at least not Morgan. Morgan had to hedge hard on a lot of high screens, and he did a very good job with it, as evidenced by Taylor's lack of production and inability to get off a decent pass despite Michigan constantly bringing two players out on him after picks. He did get out of position at times in the post, but for the most part I thought he was solid. The lack of a ton of positive points, I think, comes from him not making a lot of big plays (read: blocks) and me not factoring rebounding in heavily.
Smotrycz, well, is a work-in-progress. He looks lost out there more than any other player, and he's not athletic enough to make up for being out of position. The fouling is also a big issue—he goes for the ball a lot, but doesn't pick his spots well like Douglass, so he gets hit with a lot of reach-ins and the like when they're entirely unnecessary. When he's defending the ball in the post, however, he's actually pretty decent. That extra size he added this year is beneficial.
Enough talk. Let's go to the...
|Defensive Shot Prevention|
|Burke||20||4.5||15.5||Did a fantastic job on Taylor, holding him to a stat line of 12 points on 5-15 shooting and just one assist to three turnovers. His quickness makes up for a lot of his freshman mistakes on the defensive end, and he's surprisingly strong for his size, though he's still caught out of position at times.|
|Hardaway||6.5||5||1.5||Not an outstanding game from Hardaway defensively. Guards can take advantage of his lack of a quick first step, and THJ often gets burned when he tries to make a big play on defense instead of staying positionally sound.|
|Novak||18.5||2.5||16||Almost never in the wrong place, and at this point in his career he's entirely comfortable playing against bigger guys in the post. Simply GRIT-tastic.|
|Smotrycz||8||11||-3||To be blunt, Smotrycz's lack of athleticism really hurts him on this end of the floor, and it doesn't help that he seems to get confused fairly often about where he's supposed to be. I was actually impressed by his ability to hold up in the post, but his off-ball defense needs work.|
|Morgan||5||7||-2||I didn't really think Morgan had a bad game, but Wisconsin mostly stayed away from posting him up, instead choosing to go at Novak and Smotrycz. Spent most of his day hedging on picks, which he did pretty well.|
|Douglass||15||4.5||10.5||I see Douglass catching a lot of flak, but the talk of him being a very good perimeter defender isn't BS. Like Novak, he's rarely out of position, and he's learned to use his length to stay in front of quicker guards. Also has quick hands and knows when to go for the steal, and, just as importantly, when not to.|
|Akunne||.5||2||-1.5||Is Eso Akunne.|
|Christian||-||-||-||Got in for one minute after charting ceased.|
|Vogrich||-||-||-||Played very little during the meat of the game and didn't have a major impact either way.|
|McLimans||3.5||2||1.5||Not too shabby for being the third-string center. Did quite well defending the pick-and-roll, but still isn't strong enough to hold up well in the post.|
|Team||-||-||-||The team metric has been eliminated, since it was pretty much a cop-out for when I couldn't figure out where to give individual credit. This will be gone next time.|
|TOTAL||77||38.5||38.5||The exact 2:1 ratio was not intentional, but pretty cool, right? A strong positive number makes sense given that Michigan held the Badgers to just .76 points per possession and a 38.2 eFg% while forcing turnovers on 22.2% of their possessions.|
As you can see, the big standouts were Burke, Novak, and Douglass. Novak's tiny negative total came on a handful of -0.5s, while Douglass was a little more prone to making bigger mistakes that lead to baskets (same deal for Burke). Smotrycz obviously needs to improve on the defensive end, but it's really hard to criticize much about the defense after you look at the...
Jeez, I hear you, self. Shot chart.
|Man||-||2/2||0/1||0/1||1/5 (1F)||4/19 (1F)||1/4||2/5||2/4||1/5||5/12 (1F)||6/24 (1F)||12/41 (2F)|
|Fast Break||1/1||(1F)||-||-||-||-||-||0/1||-||1/1||0/1 (1F)||1/2 (1F)|
|TOTAL||1/1||2/2 (1F)||0/1||0/1||2/6 (1F)||4/19 (1F)||1/4||2/6||2/4||2/6||6/14 (2F)||6/24 (1F)||14/44 (3F)|
More like SHOT CHART OF DOOM.
Seriously, this is ridiculous. Well over half of Wisconsin's shots were heavily contested, and most of those came inside the arc but not close enough for a layup. The Badgers shot just four layups—plus a foul—all game (at least out of what was charted, which was the whole part that actually mattered). Yes, Wisconsin plays a brutally slow pace, but they still managed to chuck up 19 heavily contested two-pointers. I just... wow. I really didn't fudge this. That's just a fantastic defensive performance. The official box score shows Wisconsin—who shot a lot after charting stopped—finishing 16-51 from the field, a paltry 31.4%. They attempted all of five three throws. There was just nothing open.
NOTHING, I TELL YOU!
Nothing. Let's post some videos.
Trey Burke, yo:
Wisconsin tried everything with Jordan Taylor, and that included posting him up early against the smaller Burke. As you can see, that didn't work so well. Burke held up and Taylor couldn't get good position, then when Taylor finally got the ball, Burke was all up in his grill. If Burke was two inches taller, I think he ends up with three or four blocks.
Then there was Novak. Watch him through the entirety of this play, and you'll begin to understand what he brings to the defense:
That's tireless work against a much bigger player, fighting through screens and keeping up the pressure all while having an acute awareness of where he is relative to the ball. With the shot clock winding down, he executes a hard hedge on Taylor perfectly, and the other senior, Douglass, is in great position with his rotation in case the pass doesn't go out of bounds.
Just show that really awesome play already.
Really awesome play:
It speaks volumes that I'm a big fan Uncle Verne Lundquist despite the fact that he contributes to CBS's shameless shilling of the SEC (go away, Gary Danielson), and it's because he loses his mind at just the right moments. That was one of them. Also, check out Douglass's effort throughout the play. Just fantastic.
Burke, Novak, and Douglass, in case you just skipped to the very end and haven't read a word I wrote above.
Smotrycz? I guess? When your team chokes the life out of Wisconsin and six players get the vast majority of the minutes, there really are no goats.
1/11/2011 – Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT) – 14-3, 4-1 Big Ten
I blame the Sugar Bowl trophy. Clearly, this edition has fey powers. Those powers are 1) making everything around it uglier so that it seems pretty in comparison and 2) driving Michigan towards improbable victories it does not seem to deserve.
Because of the trophy's presence we got an extensive dose of the exasperated wail basketball has a near-monopoly on*. Scoring is so frequent that extended droughts are rare, rarer still when the team in question is getting of a wide variety of high-quality shots. When that happens and the home team is still missing, still missing, still—argh that one was halfway down—missing, each subsequent missed opportunity comes with a rising crescendo of despair. Normally calm old men start throwing their hands hither and thither. People lose their minds the fifth time "all right, two points" turns into "how did you miss that?"
By my calculations, all minds in Crisler last night were lost 2.4 times in the first half. Michigan limped to the locker room trailing by seven after shooting 25% on their twos. One three that bounced in and around the rim before popping out caused a guy in front of me to undergo this sort of arms-raised twitchy anger dance. I felt ill.
It didn't seem like the team was playing poorly—at least not on offense—but rather that it had been cosmically ordained from above that Michigan was to lose this game. If it had been a video game, 15 minutes in would have been controller-throwing, reset-hitting, pout-and-watch-TNG time.
But they won, didn't they? They won by brutalizing Northwestern on the boards and in turnover margin, by somewhat limiting Wildcat threes (27% opposed to their usual 33%) and refusing to foul unless someone was launching a wild three with less than a second on the clock. It was ugly and terrible; it was the game that you point to at the end of the season as One Of Those Games. It was the inexplicable loss you suck up and overcome… and they won.
So okay. Damage escaped, Iowa next, let's keep on inching.
Bullets that could use a GPS or something
The hedge. Northwestern fiercely hedged all ball screens with Burke and got away with every single one. Burke tried to split one late and was fortunate to get a tenuous kicked ball call; all other saw him take the long way and not end up punishing the hedge.
This is a spot in which Morris had a major advantage because he was a half-foot taller and lanky. Hedge like that and the ball is going to the big slipping the screen for a 70% chance at a Jordan Morgan basket, or Morris will peel around the big guy with a good chance at catching him out of position and using his height to get a solid look. Burke… well, we need some work there.
Hypothesis 1: he should try to use his quickness by accelerating into the hedger before he can get set and get those Chauncey Billups calls. Hypothesis 2: we should run more pick and roll with Hardaway, who can pass over the shorter guy or drive to the basket against a guy who will probably not be blocking his shot. Hardaway has such height and elevation that little pull up jumpers are a high percentage business.
Do you think Beilein would be amenable to answering questions like that?
Small ball. I'm not sure if Northwestern's small lineup killed Michigan or not, what with the massive offensive rebounding numbers Michigan put up and Carmody's decision to go with Mirkovic for most of the stretch. If Michigan's shooting anywhere near a reasonable percentage given their shot quality the offensive benefits of the small lineup are outweighed by their terrible D numbers.
Michigan ended up going small in response, spending much of the second half switching Smotrycz and Morgan O for D; Stu Douglass ended up playing 38 of 45 minutes.
Insane devotion to foul orthodoxy. I can see yanking Smotrycz after his second since Michigan had a reason to go small and Smotrycz is the kind of guy who will foul out if you don't keep an eye on him. But Novak? UMHoops mentioned this gently; I'll restate: guy averages 2.8 fouls per 40 minutes. The risk of bringing him back in for the last five minutes of the first half is not high.
Stu! Douglass has quietly been an effective, important player in the last three games. His shooting helped a lot against Indiana and Wisconsin and his perimeter defense is the best on the team by a wide margin. He had five steals against Wisconsin and two in this game.
Even more importantly, switching Douglass onto Crawford slowed him considerably. In the second half and OT, Crawford had one dunk he was given after Michigan played great defense to deny three-point opportunities as NU wound the clock from 22 seconds to 8 and went 5/6 on free throws from Morgan and Burke fouls. The Douglass matchup:
- 1 steal
- 2 TO
- 1/5 from 2
- 0/1 from 3
IIRC Hardaway had Crawford for most of the first half when he went 6 of 9 with a made three.
Douglass couldn't throw it into Gordon Gee's mouth in this game but since no one other than Hardaway could that's a criticism to save for another time. Even so he was Michigan's second most efficient scorer in this game with 10 points on 10 shots; Hardaway and Burke bested him but Burke only did so thanks to his end-of-game free throw spree.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ice cold, young man, especially after playing the entire game.
Hardaway launch pad. He took a couple of wince-inducing threes but they went down in this outing. One was a heat check that is not statistically more likely to go in but is impossible to prevent even the meekest low usage guy from taking, so okay.
Two for one. Beilein went for one at the end of the game; it did not work out because the pass to Hardaway was a little off and the resulting Novak three left only a six-second difference between shot and game clock, and then the insane Hardaway foul erased that. Good idea, though.
Speaking of. Ohmygawd what was that at the end of the game? If Northwestern had been in the bonus I think my head would have come off. They are letting almost everything slide and then they call a nothing foul with ten seconds left. Face, meet palm.
And then Douglass hacks the hell out of Crawford because Michigan has fouls to give and the refs ignore that. Quite a sequence there. Don't get me started on Novak trying to take charges.
Timeouts. Argh. All basketball games would be improved by cutting two timeouts. This one would have been immensely so.
*[Hockey has a version of it when one team is throwing chance after chance at a hot goalie and his even hotter goalposts in a close game—call it the Ryan Miller Experience. Baseball has nothing like it and the tenor of a frustrated football crowd is different; the anger is usually more directed. This frustration is a cosmic one.]
This week's Thursday Recruitin' recaps the All-American games are takes a look at what could be a big visit weekend for the Wolverines. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
Big Visit Weekend: Will Wright Make It?
The recruitment of four-star cornerback Yuri Wright took some bizarre twists and turns this week, as there remains disparate view between recruiting sites on whether or not he'll even be on campus this weekend for his previously-scheduled official visit. Sam Webb suggested on WTKA that, in essence, the staff has cooled on Wright and he's no longer among the list of visitors. Over at The Wolverine, Tim Sullivan talked with Wright and his coach and both were still under the impression that the visit was still on ($). I'm not sure what the situation is, though Wright looked very raw at corner during the Army All-America Game and the buzz is that he could project better as a free safety—the coaches want a true corner, so it's quite possible the staff have turned their attention to Armani Reeves.
Speaking of Reeves, the current Penn State commit, he will be in Ann Arbor for an official visit this weekend ($). He had played the waiting game while Penn State looked (and looked, and looked) for a new coach, and now that New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is in the fold there, Reeves was able to make his schedule. Since O'Brian is coaching in the NFL playoffs this weekend, Reeves will be at Michigan, and he'll visit Penn State with his last official. Ohio State has also emerged with some new-found interest, and it's likely Reeves will take a trip to Columbus next week.
In other DB recruiting news, four-star corner Kenny Crawley decommitted from Tennessee, and Michigan could be in the picture for him:
Crawley, a shutdown corner who notched 43 tackles and five interceptions last season, will take an official visit to Kansas next week with teammate John Walker, a senior defensive back, Johnson said.
Crawley is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut. He is also going to re-consider Michigan, Johnson said. His remaining official visits will likely be to three of those five schools.
“We’re sitting down and considering [official visits] today,” Johnson said. “I think Georgia is playing a key role in there. Colorado is real high on his list. He liked the school and liked what they got.”
Considering the lack of any word on Crawley and Michigan since last Friday, when the above article was posted, and the lack of clarity on whether or not the coaching staff is even pursuing him, consider this a longshot prospect for now. It looks pretty clear that the staff is putting most of their efforts into trying to flip Reeves to Michigan, then be done with defensive back recruiting for the class.
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has narrowed his list to a final five, though it's not set in stone:
"I've got five but things could change," Diamond said. "With coaching staff changes going on, I'm definitely going to wait it out."
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas are the final five listed by the Maxpreps number seven offensive tackle in the class of 2012. He has officially visited all but the Wolverines so far and is looking for each program to match the criteria he's laid out.
Diamond will visit Michigan this weekend, Arkansas next weekend, and he's tentatively scheduled to head to Wisconsin the week after that ($).
Another prospect who has just been confirmed by Scout to be visiting on an unofficial this weekend ($) is tight end Sam Grant—teammate of Kyle Kalis—who has maintained since December that he would like to wrap up his recruitment in the near future. He reportedly had a great visit at Oklahoma last weekend, and they will be a major threat, but if Michigan can make a big impression this weekend we could be on commitment watch.
Happy trails to Monty Madaris, whose finalists are Cincinnati, Michigan State, and Kentucky (and Ohio State, if they offer), and David Perkins, who was considered by the Wolverines as a running back prospect but now has a final five of Mizzou, Ohio State, Oregon, Illinois, and Cal after things never really got off the ground with his Michigan recruitment ($).
Ondre Pipkins: Video Gold
First of all, if you somehow missed Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression, just click here right now. DO IT. Now you can watch his highlights from the Army Game, where he recorded two tackles and a forced fumble—take special note of his annihilation of a poor, unsuspecting QB at the 2:05 mark and him somehow chasing down Stefon Diggs and knocking the ball loose at 2:35:
The big man has some surprising wheels, looked fantastic in the game, and he drew a lot of praise for his work all week. He won Rivals.com's Mike Farrell's award for the prospect who improved his stock the most ($), and was named by Brian Perroni as the #6 performer overall for the West squad ($), taking both practices and the game into account:
The huge 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle moves much, much better than a player his size should. Pipkins proved to be a tough matchup for a very good offensive line all week in practice. In addition to his strength he has a motor that is nonstop. He had one of the most impressive plays of the game where he chased the opposing quarterback all the way to the sideline and made a huge hit that left the crowd in awe.
On top of that, Farrell cited Pipkins as the "War Room Favorite" for the player who hit it off the best with the reporters, and he did the Hoke walk after nailing Hoke's introductory press conference speech. Quite a week, that.
Also drawing major praise from the Army game was Kyle Kalis, who earned the #5 spot among the East's top performers on Rivals ($):
The 6-5, 305-pound Kalis was moved between tackle and guard most of the week in bowl practices and showed he could be effective against college-bound defensive linemen in either role. When game time rolled around Kalis was used exclusively at right guard and was solid in that role, despite spending his entire senior season at tackle. Throughout the week, Kalis proved to be the most consistent offensive line prospect on the East squad. He does not have the upside of a D.J. Humphries, but he has the size, strength and technique to step on the field early in his career.
Kalis actually matched up several times against Pipkins in the game, and they both won their fair share of battles—they'll likely reprise that matchup many more times in future Michigan practices, as Kalis certainly looked at home at guard.
For more from the Army Game, make sure to check out highlight videos of all the Michigan commits plus Yuri Wright over at MGoVideo.
In the Under Armour Game, early enrollee Joe Bolden was one of the top standouts of the week from any position group, tallying seven tackles during the game (highlights courtesy of MaizeNBlueJ):
24/7's J.C. Shurburtt was duly impressed by Bolden in this free article, which also covers his thoughts on Terry Richardson:
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
Shurburtt noted that Richardson is not physically ready for the college game, which does not come as a surprise, but was very impressed with his athleticism. Bolden, meanwhile, was also named the week's Best Tackler by Rivals.com's Chris Nee ($). Sam Webb has a complete rundown on Bolden, Richardson, and Josh Garnett, plus early practice impressions of the Michigan commits in the Army Game, in his column last week in the Detroit News.
Not to be forgotten is Mario Ojemudia, who participated in last Tuesday's inaugural Semper Fidelis All-American Game. Though an ankle injury kept Ojemudia out of the second half of the game, Scout's Josh Newkirk still came away with a favorable impression ($):
Ojemudia only played the first half because of an ankle injury he sustained right before half time. It was nothing serious, but he sat out the second half for safety precaution. That said, in the time that Ojemudia did play, his presence was felt. He made two tackle on the afternoon and held contain pretty well. He did get caught up with bigger bodies at times, confirming his admitted need to add bulk to his frame. Other times he showed why even at his current weight he can be a handful and why he’ll be even scarier when he is heavier.
Ojemudia matched up once against Jordan Diamond and used his quickness to beat Diamond with an inside swim move. He really needs to put on weight—as I noted last week, he was often stonewalled at the line of scrimmage—but he's a heck of a pass-rush threat even at around 215 pounds.
Quickly: Chantel Jennings profiles early enrollee Kaleb Ringer, whose dad hit it off so well with Hoke that Michigan's coach almost forgot to extend Ringer an offer when he was on his official visit ($).
Two blue-chip juniors will be on campus for visits this weekend: Joliet (IL) Catholic RB Ty Isaac will be in Ann Arbor on Saturday ($, info in header), and Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton LB E.J. Levenberry will also visit on Saturday ($, info in header). It's great to get two highly-touted prospects on campus this early, as both players project to be near the top of their position groups nationally in the 2013 class.
Michigan offered several prospects in the last week, highlighted by five-star receiver Robert Foster ($, info in header). Foster wasn't the only receiver to pull in an offer, as Michigan also extended one to Uriah LeMay, who I interviewed this week, and Wylie (TX) receiver Marcell Ateman ($). Louisville (KY) Trinity DE Jason Hatcher—whose teammate, junior receiver James Quick, was recently offered—also picked up an offer ($, info in header).
New blog on the scene Tremendous scored a chat with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who named a top five, in order, of Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State, and South Carolina. Arkansas and SC were both recent offerrees, and Tuley-Tillman plans to attend Alabama's junior day, though he has yet to receive an offer from them—the newly-crowned national champs could be a major player in his recruitment.
Quickly: My interviews with PA TE Adam Breneman and IL OL Colin Goebel; 24/7 breaks down Michigan's current offer list for both offense ($) and defense ($); Shane Morris commits to playing in the 2013 Under Armour AA Game ($, info in header); and Michigan shows interest in Canton (OH) McKinley OT Xzavier McAllister ($, info in header), adding to the fantastic list of names on the 2013 recruiting board.
PROLOGUE. I kind of feel like I have to preview football games because if I didn't what's to stop this blog from evolving into a version of Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat with a focus on obscure old videogames instead of European history. Which wouldn't be awful, per se, but wouldn't be a job either.
This existential necessity does not exist for basketball games and previous attempts at regular previews have mostly not said anything super interesting because what is there to say? We shoot the three and then we burn.
But… but… like… there we go with the existential necessity. So. I'm not making any promises, but here is a preview-type substance previewing tonight's game against Northwestern in the hoopythrowsport.
Shurna also has a recurring role on the Simpsons
Northwestern remains the maddening province of Bill Carmody and his one inexplicably good player per year surrounded by insane shootists. Sometimes the shootists are insanely good; sometimes they are lunatic foreigners who have never made a three but will not be dissuaded from trying.
This year's inexplicably good player is John Shurna. Shurna:
- plays nearly 90% of Northwestern's minutes
- shoots nearly 30% of Northwestern's shots
- hits 42% from 3 and 47% from 2
- is extremely responsible with the ball
- kind of looks like an albatross with a broken arm when he shoots.
He's a 6-9 Beilein power forward who Evan Smotrycz will likely guard. Michigan should run at him hooting like maniacs to force him off the three point line.
This year Northwestern has another excellent player: 6'5" wing Drew Crawford. He is at 43% on 67 attempts from 3 and is shooting 56% from inside the arc. He never ever turns the ball over, maintains a usage not quite as huge as Shurna's but still dang impressive, and also is on the floor for 35+ minutes a night.
Their shootists are a trio of no-usage short stuffs who never take twos and collectively average around 37%. Their uniforms read Sobolewski, Hearn, and Marcotullio. The lunatic foreigner is Luka Mirkovic, who's 0 for 9 from three this year and is a typical Northwestern big, which means NU sucks at rebounding.
Note that unlike Beilein, Carmody has stuck with the 1-3-1; expect to see it for big chunks of the game.
THE TEMPO FREE
Northwestern is a version of Michigan in many respects:
|Effective FG%:||53.0 51||48.8 178|
|Turnover %:||15.5 5||21.3 150|
|Off. Reb. %:||25.5 329||34.1 234|
|FTA/FGA:||32.0 265||30.2 55|
They shoot well, rarely turn it over, suck on the boards, don't get to the line, and play mediocre defense. Michigan's versions of these numbers are very similar with one exception: rebounding. Michigan sucks way less at it, to the point where they're actually very good (25th!) defensively. They're a bit below average offensively. Michigan turns it over quite a bit more and shoots it better; they're a more aggressive, more athletic version of the Wildcats.
They're 65th in Kenpom. Michigan is currently 26th. Kenpom projects a nine-point M victory.
NU played four Kenpom top 100 nonconference opponents and went 2-2, beating LSU and Seton Hall while losing to Baylor (by 28!) and Creighton. They also beat GT, the Penn State of the ACC, by 16. In the Big Ten they were annihilated at OSU, easily beat turrible Penn State at home, and lost a nailbiter to Illinois at home. They had a couple close shaves against poor teams, but Michigan is in no place to criticize that particular flaw.
Evan Smotrycz: your help defense is not required. I will go "ooooooh" like Yosemite Sam if Shurna gets an open three because Smotrycz is sagging off of him. If Shurna beats M, let it be from two-point range.
Going small may be to your benefit. Against the 1-3-1 having another ballhandler will help pick it apart, and it's not like Mirkovich is going to go off for 20 or whatever.
Tim Hardaway's inner Trey Burke. Hardaway is not a very good defensive player and will get a challenge from Crawford. Hopefully he can step up like Burke did against Jordan Taylor.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by nine.
Etc.: Rothstein on the Shurna/Smotrycz comparisons.
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
Van Bergen and Martin, Heininger
- NT Mike Martin. Penetrating, active nose tackle a major factor in Michigan's massive improvement in run defense; forced a pitch on a speed option; late-season run was absolute dominance; backed up by air, hope, and freshmen.
- SDE Ryan Van Bergen. Crafty veteran and iron man was less explosive than Martin but not by much; turned in huge OSU game; consistent production in UFR even if the actual numbers aren't that amazing; backed up by walk-on.
- DT Will Heininger. Walk-on evolved from liability against MAC teams to solid, maybe even better than that, Big Ten DT; made a play or two every game after the nonconference schedule; replacement will be Will Campbell and the hope he can finally play some football.
CB/S Troy Woolfolk. Bounced from CB to S throughout career; basically a NEVER FORGET poster all to himself after series of injuries robbed him of all or much of his senior year twice; marginalized by injury and burned by Posey; did not start Sugar Bowl.
- JB Fitzgerald. Touted recruit never managed to see the field except on occasional snaps spotting Demens or playing DE under GERG.
- Brandon Herron. Scored two touchdowns against WMU and was never heard from again.
- Jared Van Slyke. Saw some snaps due to injury over the course of his career.
Kovacs, Ryan, Roh
- SS Jordan Kovacs. Never going to be a great deep half guy but the best damn tiny linebacker there's ever been; great tackling in space; great angles; huge part of Michigan's lack of big plays given up; best safety since at least Marcus Ray and probably further back.
- SLB Jake Ryan. Explosive edge athlete with a burst opponents are unprepared for; did get confused sometimes as a freshman; outstanding flow; nickel DE.
- WDE Craig Roh. Solid, but did not provide the explosive edge rush Michigan was hoping for. May end up moving to SDE, but his size and body type seemingly disqualifies him from that.
- CB Blake Countess. Touted recruit stepped into the starting lineup when Woolfolk was struck down and played very well; crappy edge tackling needs work; had tough close to the season against OSU and VT.
- CB JT Floyd. Resurrected his career and even turned in a big play or three along the way; jumped a route against Illinois to salt that game away; best technique amongst cover guys; still not that fast; also crappy edge tackling.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Ate a lot of blocks after move to new system; hopefully will get more decisive in year two; highly underrated cover guy; not much of a blitzer; may seem a lot better if the NT in front of him is a space eater instead of a penetrator.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Also a big part of Michigan's excellent big play prevention; largely exempted from secondary criticism after OSU game because he was not on the field for the worst of it; sweet-ass interception against EMU; probably a better fit at SS.
WLB Desmond Morgan. Wrested the job away from a couple veterans once he got healthy, whereupon he was okay for a freshman; problems in coverage; problems with misdirection; a big chunk of Michigan's outside vulnerability; will either improve or see someone yoink his job.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- WDE Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- DT Will Campbell. Alternates tossing his man into the quarterback with passive acceptance of blocks. Conditioning and effort an issue.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Tiny safety-sized LB a man without a position after Michigan ditched the 3-3-5.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
please don't be our DT.
Most of the DL. YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYY. The best unit on the team is strip-mined by eligibility expiration, leaving the next generation to… oh, right, the next generation doesn't exist. Fantastic.
Michigan's options at SDE are redshirt junior walk-on Nate Brink, who saw occasional snaps this year and was blown up on 80% of them, guys no one has seen or heard from like Jordan Paskorz, or true freshmen. At defensive tackle they've got two spots to fill and two guys who have seen meaningful snaps, Quinton Washington and Will Campbell. Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash exist, Chris Rock will be coming off a redshirt, and there are some freshmen arriving. The most prominent is 330-pound tank/battleship/Hoke impersonator Ondre Pipkins.
I'll wait for you to finish retching.
All right! We retched it real good! Anyway. Massive dropoff is all but inevitable here. I'm betting Brink, Pipkins, and Campbell are your opening-day starters with Washington a guy who rotates in on the interior; Godin, Strobel, and Wormley will all play immediately due to necessity, leaping past Wilkins and Ash. Rock may also get some PT.
Nothing else. So we've got that going for us. Except…
Maybe WLB. Desmond Morgan is far from invulnerable at WLB, especially with Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer enrolling early. James Ross is extensively praised for his play identification ability and should be a candidate for early playing time. Teeny-tiny Antonio Poole is coming off a redshirt and is presumably less teeny-tiny.
That is a lot of guys vying for a single starting spot, many of them more athletic than Morgan at a spot that puts a premium on athleticism. Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is backed up by Mike Jones and more freshmen. Like Omameh, displacing him from the starting lineup provides an ancillary benefit by creating a quality backup where there is none already.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Sanity. O Mattison, without whom we are naught, yea, verily doth we bring these burnt offerings to your lustrous feet. May they keep your pecs jiggling as they command our forces to do something wondrous.
Experience. Michigan has it with eight starters back. For the first time since Carr's final season Michigan will go into the year running the same thing they did the year before. Run and tell that.
Depth at linebacker and quasi-linebacker. Michigan may have to pirate one of the three valid options at WDE to help out on the other side of the line but right now you can have decent confidence in any of Roh, Black, and Clark. At SLB, Ryan is a bust-out star, Brennen Beyer is coming off a freshman season with some promise and a role in short yardage, and Cam Gordon's still hanging around. In the middle, a flood of touted freshmen arrive to back up returning starters; Poole is also around.
Bending but not breaking. Kovacs and Gordon gave up vanishingly few big plays over the course of the season; both return.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
The line, obviously. There's some talent there but if Michigan doesn't experience a massive backslide it's time to assume that Michigan's DL will be great as long as Hoke and Mattison and Montgomery are around.
okay, but what about, like, teams other than Western Michigan?
Getting to the quarterback. Roh did not blow up as we hoped and most of the options to replace other guys are ponderous. Campbell and Washington and Pipkins are going to be the sorts of guys who shove a couple dudes at the LOS on passing plays. Michigan got away with a lack of pass rush from the outside last year because a couple of their inside guys were great penetrators; next year Michigan needs their outside LB types (WDE and SLB) to MAKE PLAYS or opposing quarterbacks will be able to grow small businesses in the pocket.
Secondary athleticism. I love Kovacs with all of the hearts and think whatever athleticism he lacks is more than made up for by his smarts. At this point I'm not sure athleticism is even an issue. I can't remember the last time it came up in a game.
The rest of the secondary… we don't know about. Sometimes you're going to get burned over the top. When you have great recovery speed you can live. When you don't you die, which happened to Michigan time and again against Devier Posey. JT Floyd is much better but isn't likely to get a sniff from the NFL; Countess and Avery are faster but little buggers ill-suited to take on the Michael Floyds of the world. Thomas Gordon has decent to good speed; he still got burned over the top big time by Nebraska.
There are no blazers and the big guy in the secondary is almost kind of maybe outright slow. Yeah. So… could be an issue.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Can these coaches salvage the line? Tell me lies, baby.
How ready to play are some of these freshmen? If Bolden comes in and rips Morgan's job away from him that's probably good, but we're really talking about Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Matt Godin here. Pipkins all but has to start from day one and two of the other three will be frequently-used depth guys.
Are the cornerbacks for real? They seemed fantastic over the first 11 games but the results against OSU and VT are alarming.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I'm torn. There is a case for a backslide despite returning eight starters. For one, the fumbles will not be as plentiful. For two, a lot of Michigan's weakness was covered up by Mike Martin being essentially unblockable the back half of the season and Van Bergen being so reliable. I'm worried that without those two, Michigan is going to have issues. In the best case scenario the new guys prevent OL from getting to the second level, making a lot of plays available for the linebackers that the linebackers might not make. I also don't see where the heat comes from.
But they do return eight starters and go from year one to year two in the same system. They seem pretty injury-resilient at spots that aren't Jordan Kovacs and bring in a lot of talented freshmen. They will be much older at just about every spot.
It's mandatory, though, so… yeah, they'll be worse. The lack of consistent pressure will be a year-long problem that exposes some of the issues in the secondary and the linebackers are not at the level they need to be to benefit from planetoid DL.
Sacks backslide into the bottom half of D-I after finishing 29th, total defense slides into the 30s, and the scoring defense does not repeat its top ten performance from a year ago.
people who like the BCS: no people
Would be this: A dull blowout that invalidates the regular season and proclaims a second-place finisher in their own division a national champion when other one-loss teams are shut out because of… stuff. And things. Afterwards, a system designed to protect the sanctity of the regular season above all causes the winners of that blowout to print up shirts declaring "we won the one that counted."
This makes people upset. A foaming Dan Wetzel is still being chased by a helicopter containing men with tranquilizer guns:
Miles even made the case postgame that LSU should be in consideration for the AP title based on its season-long body of work, including the previous triumph over Alabama.
“That’s for the voters to figure,” Miles said.
When the coach of a team that was shut out in the championship game is arguing that he should win the championship anyway, the system is an unqualified disaster.
The sport’s power brokers will meet here Tuesday to discuss the future, and many have predicted significant changes. If there is one positive from this tractor pull, it’s that it should help continue the groundswell toward a playoff, even if it’s just four teams to start.
BCS ratings are collapsing along with attendance in an era when football is thriving. Average bowl attendance hit a 30-year low, and that's based on increasingly fictional announced numbers. Clemson and West Virginia played the least-watched BCS game ever. Moving to ESPN has caused ratings to shrink 21% from two years ago. The BCS has finally pissed off too many people to be permitted to live. So says just about everybody.
Except Jim Delany, obviously.
“There’s a real concern about a slippery slope and what a playoff means to college football,” Delany said.
If he said it again, I'll say it again: you should have thought about that in 1998. It doesn't matter. Now that college football postseason's horrendous structure is hitting the big guys in the wallet, change is coming.
The NYT says "change to the current structure of college football's post season [is] imminent" based on interviews with everyone, with a four-team playoff the most likely outcome. Matt Hayes quotes the usual high-ranking official saying simply "It gets done."
The logistics are uncertain since there are apparently "50 to 60" ways you can structure a four team playoff, and by God these bowl games fleecing us yearly are valued partners. The way to do it is to cut them out of the picture and maximize the piles of revenue by assuring sellouts: home games. On New Year's day, if you like, with Pasadena waiting a week or so later, on an actual Saturday maybe.
That won't happen because the Fiesta Bowl will throw a hissy fit, but whatever half-ass change to the BCS college football's power brokers come up with to prevent the torches and pitchforks from reaching their door will actually, finally be a meaningful expansion of opportunity for the two to three schools that get screwed every year there isn't a USC-Texas matchup, which is 90% of years. It will be maybe three quarters of an ass.
As long as they start detaching themselves from their parasites, this is a major step towards sanity. If the boring regional wank-fest that was the national championship game had been preceded by LSU and Alabama wins over Oklahoma State and Oregon or Stanford, oh well. They earned it. Instead they were handed it. That's a bridge too far for a sport already under siege for being fraudulent.
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
Molk, Huyge, Koger
- C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
- RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
- TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.
[serious worry stops here]
- WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
- WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
- TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.
[slight worry stops here]
- RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
- WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
- FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
- WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
- RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.
Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald
- QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
- LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
- RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
- WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
- WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
- OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
- OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
- RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
- FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.
The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:
- Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
- Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
- True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
- Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
- Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.
Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.
Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.
Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.
Stonum being indie
Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.
If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.
Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.
The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.
Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012
Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.
With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.
This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.
Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.
It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.
Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:
|Formation||Pass YPA||Run YPA||Total YPA|
The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.
When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.
So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…
[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]
…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.
How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.
Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.
*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]
**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]
YES. You may have already seen this, but if you have you are probably eager to see it again. It is DT commit Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression.
The guy has memorized the "THIS IS MICHIGAN" press conference. I give him six stars and a moon. Rivals may be giving him five soon, FWIW. Your one sentence All Star wrap up is: expect Bolden and Pipkins to move up significantly; Magnuson may drop a little.
The silver lining of last night. You know, that thing you had on in the background on mute because whenever you looked up Jordan Jefferson was being attacked by 300 pound piranhas. There are actually two silver linings:
- Alabama winning has the potential to push anyone on the fence about an early NFL draft entry into the "go" category. Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Donta Hightower are probably not going to Jerryworld unless the Cowboys draft them.
- ND Nation is once again suggesting the Irish should go after Nick Saban.
It is only on the nation that something like this can be said with a straight face:
However, I actually believe that Saban might listen and that the sales pitch would be very simple and fairly effective: "Nick, you've done everything you can accomplish in college football. You've won three NC's, including two at Alabama. There's only one thing left: Dare to bring Notre Dame back to the top of the heap. Take on the challenge, including the supposed limitations that have scared off lesser coaches, men who consider themselves your rivals. Even one crown at Notre Dame would cement you as a legend who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Rockne and Bryant." Etc.
The nation suggests Saban should leave Alabama so he can be regarded as a college football legend on the same level as Bear Bryant. Increment your personal odds as to whether ND Nation is a brilliant, long-running piece of performance art as you will.
Top ten! Sort of, anyway. Michigan slides in front of MSU and Wisconsin in the coaches' poll and finishes ninth. The AP puts M behind both the Badgers and Spartans and has them 12th (USC's presence in the AP accounts for the other spot).
THE VENGANCE OF DOYLE WILL BE ABRUPT AND HAVE A SILLY NICKNAME. John Beilein just made himself a terrible enemy:
"A note to you guys, I got a chance to see (2012 signee) Glenn Robinson III play in Milwaukee this past weekend, and holy cow is that kid good," Doyle said on the program. "And I've got a prediction next year: I think Michigan is a Final Four team next year."
"What happy hour are you at right now?" he said in jest.
I like that the newspaper clarified that Beilein was joking. Better safe than sorry.
Speaking of Robinson III, he faced off with UNC commit and secret Mortal Kombat character JP Tokoto in a touted matchup; Robinson got the better of it on the scoreboard with 33 to Tokoto's 28 and posterized some dude:
Rivals was impressed:
Already a four-star prospect who ranks #34 nationally in the class of 2012, Robinson continues to take his game to new heights. With near 6-foot-7 size, a great frame, deep range and plenty of athleticism, Robinson is one of the most efficient wings in the country.
Capable of operating as a jump shooter, Robinson also has a high post game, scores at the rim and finishes on the break. While he doesn’t rely on his athleticism, he has the ability to attack and put people in the rim when he needs to just like his father used to do.
Sounds like the second coming of Hardaway with an extra inch or two. I bet he sees some time at the 4 when Michigan goes small; take whatever minutes Novak gets down there and hand them to Robinson. Or maybe McGary if he has the quicks to guard other fours.
Rivals is not super reliable—remember that they moved Burke down after his senior year in HS—but GRIII (and McGary, and now Stauskas) has consensus.
Q: could we see the return of the 1-3-1 at times next year? Length is a key if you're going to run it and Michigan has not had much of that in Beilein's tenure at M. When the 2012 class hits the floor that will change. Many lineups will have just one player—Burke or Brundidge—shorter than 6'5". Right now it's a once-in-a-while way to give up an open three and not get an offensive rebound; with that length it could be the turnover machine it needs to be if it's going to be effective.
Bill O'Brien upshot. It may have some positive impact for Michigan:
…if reports are true, O'Brien won't be on Penn State's campus immediately -- and the wait could potentially extend past a very important deadline. According to Boston Herald Patriots beat reporter Ian Rapoport, O'Brien will remain the Patriots' offensive coordinator throughout the playoffs. And while the NFL playoffs start this weekend, the Patriots' season won't be ending so soon. New England is the top seed in the AFC, meaning the Patriots have a bye week this week, and are the favorite to make it to Super Bowl XLVI.
That would take O'Brien's tenure as Pats OC out past signing day. O'Brien has less than a month to assemble a staff and get those guy out on the recruiting trail, and he'll be trying to do that while also watching Tom Brady call all his own plays on the field. This version of The Process is sure to shake some additional recruits free.
Michigan would dearly like it if one of them was MA CB Armani Reeves. Reeves just saw his recruiting contact axed, which has Ohio State fans yo-ho-hoing about pirating Camren Williams and Reeves. If Williams shakes free that would remove a big point in PSU's favor… and move it wherever he goes. Like maybe Ohio State. Hurrah.
Reeves is planning on a visit to Michigan this weekend, though.
Yes, you absolutely are. LIES from ESPN executive Burke Magnus:
"I sense that people who run college football and run the conferences obviously are not tone-deaf, and Mike's comments I think were reflective of where this group is," Magnus said. "They intend to give thoughtful consideration and discussion to every possible format consideration that there is. That's encouraging."
Legends and leaders. QED. Burke Magnus was grown in a vat, by the way. An executive vat. I'm disappointed the interviewer here didn't take the opportunity to ask if ESPN was comfortable forcing colleges to lose money on bowl games they own.
This is is unalloyed good news, though:
"We like the concept of a meaningful New Year's Day, not that it's not meaningful now," Magnus said.
Anything that breaks up the parade of Big Ten mediocrity on NYD is welcome. For one, I'd watch those games if they weren't on at the same time. For two, it destroys the concept of New Year's Day as a thing to aspire for when 6-6 teams regularly wander in from their mandated eight-day Cristal turbo-massages to poop all over tradition. In their Quest For Marketing programs have taken formerly meaningful metrics (bowl game, NYD bowl game) and bastardized them so they say "went .500" and "finished in the top six Big Ten teams." Any pushback on that is welcome.
Truth beyond parody. The Onion attempts to satirize punting, instead creates alternate reality:
In a league-wide poll, head coaches from all 32 teams were asked if they enjoyed punting, and to describe how much enjoyment it made them feel. All 32 answered "no" to the first question, and either "none at all" or "very little" to the second.
Only two respondents answered "very little" instead of "none at all": Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who admitted he may have been confused by the question, and Denver coach John Fox, who said he took some comfort in the fact that punting meant he was voluntarily relinquishing possession of the ball and that his quarterback, Tim Tebow, hadn't done anything stupid with it.
There are 10-15 NFL coaches who would have answered "love it more than my children."
Etc.: Auburn running back Michael Dyer bizarrely transfers to Arkansas State to follow Gus Mahlzahn, who bizarrely took the Arkansas State job for a massive paycut. Should we check for a supervillian mind control ray in the vicinity of wherever the hell Arkansas State is?
Other burning questions: is it official Daily policy to follow the initials CCHA with "gongshow" at every opportunity? How is Michigan going to sort out their linebackers next year? Is this bracketologist intentionally pairing five-seed Michigan with potential second round opponent West Virginia for storyline appeal or is it just coincidence? What is with Jon Horford's foot?
1/7/2011 – Michigan 4, LSSU 2 – 12-8-3
1/8/2011 – Michigan 2, LSSU 2 (LSSU wins SO) – 12-8-4
via the Daily
I'll take it. If you'd told me Michigan would only get 2 periods out of Shawn Hunwick, lose Alex Guptill halfway through Saturday night's game, and end up benching Brennan Serville again, I'd be thinking split or worse. Instead Michigan scrapes out a win and a tie in the NCAA's eyes and continues their trudge up the RPI and PWR charts in their effort to not be the team that breaks the streak.
Having Merrill back is an enormous relief, isn't it? After a half-season of watching various defensemen panic and suffer at the hands of forechecking, the gloriously smooth Merrill is a revelation. The puck is on his stick: breakout. It's like he never left… except for my scars.
Unfortunately, Merrill is not a panacea for all of Michigan's ills. They still sent Derek Deblois out in a shootout; their power play is still a debacle; they're still in the CCHA's usual massive pack of .500 teams. Mike Spath notes that in 21 shootout attempts this year Michigan has scored twice. There you go, Michigan's lack of dirty dangles in lights. I miss the days when Comrie and Cammalleri and Hensick provided a regular stream of top shelf highlights.
Whither the magic midget, I ask? Are we limited to one at a time and ours happens to play goalie? Probably.
Bullets that go over the net
Janecyk. That could have gone much, much worse. That was exactly like watching Hunwick play for the first time, in which it seemed impossible that the puck was staying out of the net and then it didn't. LSSU is a shoot-on-sight sort of team so his save percentage may have been a little inflated; even so two goals on 30+ shots is a quality outing.
Per Red, Hunwick will be back this weekend. Hopefully we don't have to test this Janecyk-is-also-Hunwick theory any further, no offense to a star of the game from Saturday.
Top line: extant. There is a top line now: Brown, Guptill, and Wohlberg. They're big and fast and generally hard to deal with around the net; what they lack in puckhandling skill they make up for with good shooting and crease mucking. Guptill will be back this weekend as well; if I had to guess I'd say both he and Hunwick had minor concussion symptoms.
I'm still not sure what they're doing with the other lines. Moffatt and Hyman with Sinelli is odd since that implies a fourth line when Moffatt, at least, seems to be one of the team's better offensive players. Pairing PDG with Glendening and Treais seems… suboptimal. Glendending should be the heart of a checking line and PDG should get Moffatt or Sparks to see if they can, you know, score some goals. Glendening has three points in his last 20. At this point he should not be on a scoring line.
Serville: yeesh. On the ice in front of the net for the tying LSSU goal on Saturday and then exiled to the bench for the rest of the game, marking the second outing in which he's found himself benched for most of a period. Before that he'd gotten walked through for two excellent LSSU chances. I'm shocked at his issues with the transition; can't remember an NHL draft pick who seemed so unready.
But what about Chiasson? There have been no injuries reports on Mike Chiasson, who missed Saturday's game. No one has even mentioned it. Is he healthy? Did he really get voluntarily scratched on Saturday? How is that possible? THEORY: accidentally wore a Lindsay Sparks jersey to practice.
Seriously, though… if Chiasson was a healthy scratch on Saturday I'm baffled. There's not a lot of time between Friday and Saturday night to have a team rules violation. Leaving him out by choice seems insane.
Massive pack of .500 teams, and some others. I'm not kidding. Six of the league's 11 teams are within a game of .500 with four exactly even. OSU is currently running away with the league on points, winning percentage, and goal differential after dumping the vast bulk of their team in the offseason. (I wonder what the OSU oversigning hawks think of that.)
Michigan is 11 points adrift, which is why I couldn't care less about shootouts. If Michigan's not winning the league I don't care where they finish unless they're unable to finish in the top eight and I have to either figure out how to get my playoff ticket money back or give an involuntary donation to the AD. Failing that, whatever.
Pretty much useless PWR update. Michigan slides up to a tie for ninth; lake state temporarily drops out only to be replaced by Ferris, WMU, and Miami. Hypothetical season-ends-today tournament features a hypothetical seven(!!!) CCHA teams with those three, Michigan, #6 NMU, #3 ND, and #1 OSU. I imagine cannibalism will knock that down to five by the end of the year.
Michigan improved its RPI a bit over the weekend and now stands a tenuous tenth. This upcoming OSU series is huge. They've been very good so far this year but are coming off consecutive ties against cellar-dweller BGSU, 1-11-2 against the rest of the league.
This is a weird year in college hockey. Not only is Michigan struggling to maintain its streak but 11-8-3 Denver and 11-8-2 North Dakota are currently on the outside looking in at 18th and 20th, respectively. Wisconsin is barely a TUC and Mass-Lowell and Merrimack are currently in. Strangest of all: Minnesota might make the tournament.
Power play: argh. It's time to take whatever Michigan's doing on the power play and throw it away and get a specialist consultant or something.
Against Lake Superior State this weekend, the Michigan hockey team went a combined 0-for-4 on the power play. The Wolverines averaged less than a shot per man-advantage.
It's ugly to watch. Throwing Treais out there on the point is the latest oddity; Michigan immediately gave up a scoring chance due to his inexperience playing on the point on Friday and abandoned it. With Merrill back they should just throw the top four defenders out there and try to scrabble together some forwards—it's not like they're overflowing with good options there, either.