to play football, not to play trumpet
you, go away
Given the general distaste we Michigan fans have had with the way in which SEC coaches like Les Miles and others oversign and then cut in order to make scholarship numbers work, how can we not be similarly enraged when it looks like we are now engaging in a similar practice? Is the answer HARBAUGH?
Michigan is not yet at the point where they have to tell a freshman who's been on campus for weeks to GTFO. Should they reach that point, or one anywhere near it, then I'll be grousing as well.
They aren't near it. To date they have lost some commits before Signing Day. If those are Michigan's choice that is a recruiting misdemeanor compared to the felony of getting a guy's LOI and putting yourself in a position where someone's gotta go, deserved or not. And in some cases they are not Michigan's choice—reports after Vic Viramontes decommitted were that Michigan was blindsided and disappointed. (The MGoSlack chat was certainly mournful.)
I do think Michigan put themselves in a bad spot by offering a few guys before it was clear whether they had the academics and/or talent to play at Michigan. In the former case, those guys should know the score without anyone having to walk their way through it—if you're not taking officials you have to know you're a long way away.
In the latter case, once that disappointing senior film comes in you can either try to make it work even if you don't believe the player is Michigan-caliber anymore or you can consciously uncouple. I can see how moving on before Signing Day instead of two years into a career nowhere near the field could be better for everyone. Michigan told Matt Falcon they didn't think he could play but had a medical scholarship. That sucked for Falcon but better to find out before you've spent eligibility. The error has been made either way.
Meanwhile, Michigan has limited control of the narrative that gets put out there because they cannot say anything about ongoing recruitments. Reports that Michigan isn't contacting certain players much are probably frustrating to the staff because the reason for that is that they've already told people the deal, as they did with Falcon, but "Michigan commit" looks good on a resume when you're looking for another spot to land. Recruiting sites waited months for Dele Harding to say something about his recruitment and finally just took him off commit lists. That doesn't mean Harding didn't know his status. If you read between the lines you know who isn't likely to be in the class. If you know, they know.
Meanwhile I know that they have told certain players not to commit whereupon those players commit anyway; Michigan shrugs its shoulders at crootin' and keeps going. Carr used to go out of his way to make things clear when such things happened to him (LB [something] Justice and some OL out of Tennessee who I can't remember spring to mind); Harbaugh seems to (accurately) regard the whole edifice as a farce and plays his part with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
We'll see what happens on and after Signing Day. I don't think we'll see any more untoward than playing time transfers and guys not being offered fifth years.
[After the JUMP: where to put guys, where to spend scholarships, and the best hockey forwards of the past 15 years.]
As many assumed when John Baxter went back to USC, Chris Partridge has been tabbed to fill the spot:
University of Michigan J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Jim Harbaughannounced Thursday (Jan. 14) that Chris Partridge has been permanently added to the coaching staff and will serve as the team's linebackers and special teams coach.
"Chris has a proven track record as a successful coach," said Harbaugh. "He has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to his work as our director of player personnel. I know that same passion will be exhibited in his work with our student-athletes."
Sort of, anyway. Michigan is evidently moving away from a special-teams-only coach and Partridge will get some help, or Partridge will chip in—the picture and the article have conflicting information—or whatever. They'll figure it out.
Keeping Partridge was a major priority for Harbaugh after DJ Durkin departed; Michigan's success recruiting New Jersey this year speaks for itself.
Let's have an overview
It's a three-week sprint to the finish line now. Michigan has 24 commits and is likely to go to 27 or 28. Steve Lorenz was pretty positive that it's 27 but that was before Willie Henry's departure. Sam Webb reported today that Michigan's max number was now 30(!), about which more later.
There are a number of commits on the fence. MD CB Sir Patrick Scott decommitted yesterday; I believe maybe three more decommits are on he way. In addition one commit is a grayshirt offer hoping for the Clark/Pallante bump. (And he knew this from the drop.) Given that, my guess is that Michigan has four current commits who don't sign for various reasons and will take approximately eight additional players.
They are done at QB and RB.
The situation at the other positions:
- OL: Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson, a center, is the top priority. If he goes elsewhere Michigan looks set to pursue MD OL Stephen Spannelis, a UVA commit. They will poke at Jean Delance to make sure he's sure.
- WR: Michigan is still recruiting NJ WR Donald Stewart and FL WR Pie Young. They are in good shape for both. Before the number 30 got batted around I assumed they could not take both, but maybe they would now.
- TE: MO TE Chase Allen is expected to commit on his official. Michigan will get an official from CA TE Devin Asiasi on the 22nd. Asiasi appears to be very open at this juncture. FL TE Jacob Mathis is also on the board.
- DL: NJ DE Rashan Gary is kind of a big deal, M still seems like a strong leader despite recent Ole Miss talk. AZ DE Connor Murphy comes in the 22nd. TX DE Levi Onwuzurike is still an option but seems unlikely ATM. Asiasi's teammate and CA DT Boss Tagaloa will visit Michigan at the same time. Michigan is also looking for additional options here.
- LB: FL LB Jonathan Jones is an M/ND battle and signing day decision. FL LB/DE Joshua Uche has been treated as a DL by many but he's 6'1", 210, he's a LB. He visits, wide open. TX LB Dontavious Jackson is on the board but mysterious.
- DB: CA DB David Long is giving Washington a chance to change his mind this weekend; if they don't he's in the boat. MI CB Lavert Hill is taking three officials and isn't the lock he was but M still seems to lead. NJ CB/S Jordan Fuller is down to the four big Midwestern programs and will visit OSU, M, and PSU. OSU may lead but it's fluid. PA ATH Khaleke Hudson probably fits most neatly at S.
- K: MI K Quinn Nordin is the only name on M's board and seems likely to flip from PSU.
Before Henry left I'd been expecting Michigan takes eight additional recruits after they lose those decommits; now it could be nine or even up to eleven.
Wait, 30? That's unpossible.
It's never been personally relevant so I've never looked up the specifics of what the NCAA and Big Ten rules actually are and how they intersect. A thorough Googling has clarified things.
There is an NCAA limit of 25 signees a year, but you can back-date midyear enrollees. Michigan can backdate all 7 early enrollees since their class last year was 16. They could hypothetically go up to 32 signees. Transfers do not count against that cap.
The Big Ten has a different limit that is essentially a "good faith" estimate of all the scholarships you have available plus three. The 28 number that gets kicked around is a misconception.
I still don't see where all the space is going to come from
Michigan is at 19 now so, yes, there is going to be some turnover. Given that Lorenz had a solid number of 27 for a couple months prior to recent events it seems clear that Michigan is already aware that several players will leave the program, likely those that have no road to playing time.
Meanwhile, remember those reports that last spring certain graduates were essentially trying out for their fifth year? Michigan is going to do that again, which is why only Terry Richardson has announced a departure amongst those players. Guys like Bars and Gant and Strobel will stay with the team through spring and possibly beyond if Michigan has room.
This means it will look like Michigan is oversigning when they're actually not. They will be over 85 because they are keeping their options open with fifth-year players in case there is unanticipated attrition. They will not be asking guys without degrees to leave.
Michigan is not dealing with Allen and Glasgow as scholarship players right now. There's a 99% chance they will get scholarships as slots always open up between spring practice and game #1, but those two slots are open for recruits.
- 19 spots
- high probability of a Derrick Green transfer
- ~3 fifth year guys who will be kept through spring but are not likely to be on the 2016 roster
- ~2 walk-ons who are year to year
Michigan really has 25 spots now and clearly anticipates a few playing time transfers.
Anyway, on to events…
Visitors this weekend
The following uncommitted recruits will take visits:
- PA ATH Khaleke Hudson. Hudson talked to Rivals, giving generally positive and unrevealing takes on his four finalists. Seems like a Michigan-Penn State battle.
- MO TE Chase Allen. It would be a surprise if Allen didn't commit on the visit.
- Texas grad transfer OL Jake Raulerson. It sounds like Raulerson is likely to commit; UCLA appears to be the main competition.
- Maybe MI CB Lavert Hill. Hill cancelled his USC official and there is chatter he may take his umpteenth unofficial to Ann Arbor instead. There is a surge in MSU chatter from everywhere except the kid himself. He has an official scheduled there next weekend, and then a Clemson visit that is probably 50/50 to get canceled.
Webb reports that FL LB Joel Dublanko's visit has been moved to next weekend, which is the big one for Michigan. Dublanko doesn't have an offer yet.
Meanwhile the opposition will take swings at a number of Michigan targets:
- CA CB David Long visits Washington. Harbaugh has an in-home immediately after on Monday. A commit could come at that in-home or shortly after; vibe there still excellent but crootin. In Long's case he's already been to UW a couple times so the chance they show him something that changes his mind seems low.
- CA TE Devin Asiasi and CA DT Boss Tagaloa also visit Washington. The Washington 24/7 mods will fight you if you assert either is going to Michigan.
- TN WR commit Nate Johnson visits Miami. While that quote I highlighted recently convinced many that he was not likely to stick, he told Rivals that Miami would have to "show [him] a lot to be right up there with Michigan." I think it's 80/20 they keep him.
- FL WR Pie Young also visits Miami. He tells Rivals that it will be "hard" for Miami to catch Michigan but "it's not a big gap, anything can happen." Uh. I think the former sentiment is closer to accurate since recruits rarely downplay a host's chances like that.
- NJ WR Donald Stewart visits Stanford. Conflicting info on how his recruitment will go, with Scout's Brian Dohn projecting Stanford and 247's Steve Wiltfong on Michigan.
- TX S Chris Brown and TX LB Dontavious Jackson visit Florida. Your guess is as good as mine with those guys.
- AZ DE Connor Murphy visits USC. USC just lost their recruiting coordinator so that's not good timing. They have a new DC Murphy will meet. Murphy named a final five of M, Bama, USC, Oregon, and ASU.
- NJ CB Jordan Fuller visits Ohio State. OSU is thought to lead but Fuller is hard to read.
- FL LB Joshua Uche visits Auburn. Uche is a Don Brown kind of guy but his recruitment has a distinct southern flavor. The Auburn 247 site thinks Florida is the favorite.
More on Raulerson
Jake Raulerson has two years to play two and is essentially a JUCO who Michigan can take because he's a high-academic kid who got a degree in three years. If he gets admitted to Ross he's likely to come:
“It’s the position I played at Texas the whole time and like to play,” he said. “I want to get my MBA, so that’s a big deal, and I’m trying to make sure I have the maximum opportunity to do that but also play in a great program, win some games. I know both Michigan and UCLA will be good next year, offenses and defenses, so what’s the best opportunity?"
As a transfer he can wait as long as he likes before making a decision. Michigan has clearly prioritized him.
Unpleasant Lavert Hill rumbles evaluated
MSU fans started getting excited about getting MI CB Lavert Hill in the aftermath of teammate Donnie Corley's commitment, to the point where their 247 site is saying things like this:
The key here is for the Michigan State staff to get Hill's mother on campus for his official visit to MSU. If Hill's mother gives him the green light, look for him to pull the trigger on the Spartans.
No quotes from the kid, just second-hand stuff including vague tweets from MSU commits who know Hill that could mean anything.
Cause for concern? Clearly some, yes. I'd still peg Michigan a heavy favorite. Wiltfong says he "hasn't heard anything that makes [him] believe he won't be a Wolverine" and that he "damn near enrolled early" at M, FWIW. Flipping mom is going to be a tough task after a million visits to campus, and if Hill's worried about the depth chart one conversation with someone who isn't trying to sell him on MSU should clarify—Michigan loses both Jourdan Lewis and Jeremy Clark next year.
Handicapping Donald Stewart
NJ WR Donald Stewart is surging back up crootin radars after Wiltfong ballz'd him to Michigan. The Stanford Rivals site catches up with him to provide some more context. Stewart has been admitted to Stanford, which is always a hurdle. On the other hand, he twice says he "absolutely loves" Michigan. One of these:
"I'm still not sure right now," Stewart said. "I'm just going to visit these next two schools. These are my top two. Like, I absolutely love Michigan."
Despite the who-you-talk-to factor the article is encouraging for Michigan's chances. Stewart doesn't say anything about a timeline except it'll come after his officials the next two weekends to his finalists.
Names that probably won't come to much but here they are
Lorenz reports that Michigan might get a visit from IL DE Daniel Joseph, a four-star Penn State commit. Interestingly, he notes that this intel is coming from Joseph's end, not Michigan. That might mean Joseph is seriously thinking about a move after PSU DC Bob Shoop's departure.
Also, KS S Isaiah Simmons reports that Greg Jackson just left his school. Simmons is an uncommitted four-star.
One final round of All Star evals
Brandon Huffman reports on the West team; David Long "has great ball skills and closing speed" while Dylan Crawford is a "polished route runner."
Allen Trieu has an extensive article covering all of the Michigan commits and targets. His take on MI OL Michael Onwenu:
Whenever he has had top competition in front of him at camps and other events, Big Mike has stepped it up big and he again impressed this week. He's tough to move and anyone who tried to bull rush him, even All-Americans, quickly got stone-walled. He's powerful, but can really bend for a kid his size and that extends his leverage advantage. He can be as good as he wants to be and he had a very good week.
Can't wait to see Onwenu develop into a sui generis player.
And while this isn't an Army eval, Steve Lorenz likes IN WR Chris Evans quite a bit:
Surveying Michigan's current commitment list in 2016, Evans is one player I feel is a safer bet to outplay his ranking than a lot of the players on the board. He has versatility and speed that can't be coached, and is one of those players that simply makes plays when the ball is in his hand.
Michigan's feelings are equally strong after fending off Ohio State for his signature.
2017 things or "items" or what-have-you
I've mentioned FL CB CJ Cotman a couple times already; Brandon Brown interviews him for Rivals:
“I paid really close attention,” Cotman said. “I think I watched every game that they played this year. I think I can fit into that offense. I would also like playing both ways and they used Jabrill Peppers for that.”
And Lorenz for 247:
I want to play on both offense and defense in college and the fact that Coach Harbaugh will give players an opportunity to do that makes me like them a lot. I know he is one of the best coaches in college football too, and that's something my family has talked about.
Not sure just yet if Cotman is really really interested in Michigan or if he's a kid who is equally excited about several different schools, but he's done a lot of talking to Michigan sites early and should be a guy high on your radar going in to next year.
He declared FSU his leader in August. That was before a bunch of other teams including M offered, however, and Cotman told both Lorenz and Brown he's looking to go out of state. We have put in an admittedly speculative crystal ball for Cotman. Who you talk to is important; Cotman has now given interviews to the three major Michigan sites in short order.
- CA CB Jaylon Redd says he's "very interested" after fielding a Michigan offer. He's a four-star on Scout.
- FL OL Robert Hainsey is at IMG and is originally from Pittsburgh. He visited for the OSU game, is coming back to the Midwest for college, no leaders.
- FL DE Guy Thomas picked up an offer, friend.
- NJ RB Bo Melton, a teammate of Ahmir Mitchell, also got an offer.
There are plenty of visits and offers but it's hard to tell who's a major target this early. With 2016 still coming together we'll wait a couple weeks to put together the picture for 2017.
Welp, Willie Henry is headed to the draft, and has set a record for longest screenshot of the Notes app in recorded history.
— Willie Henry (@WE_69) January 14, 2016
Henry was an under the radar recruit out of Cleveland Glenville who Brady Hoke picked up on late; his raw power wasn't matched by his technique until this year, when he put together a breakout year along with the rest of the defensive line. In honor of his tendency to hurl people away from him entertainingly he's got a "willie henry throws humans" tag; he played at an All Conference level and probably won't last past the third round. With remaining upside I wouldn't be surprised if someone grabbed him sooner. Any concerns that Michigan's NFL draft streak might end can cease, at least?
In Henry's absence Michigan is likely to move Maurice Hurst into the starting three-tech role; they still go 6-7 deep on the line with quality players. Henry's departure does hurt Michigan's chances of fielding a full-on Alabama-style line. It also opens up a scholarship; Michigan now has 19 spots available and counting.
I mean, obviously. We never get the A-level names. Whither Leviticus Payne?
MD CB Sir Patrick Scott has decommitted:
I'd like to announce an update on my recruitment. pic.twitter.com/QyFiLnENmD
— DontThrowAt35_ (@___almightysir) January 13, 2016
Scott's departure leaves Michigan's class at 23 currently with a few more yet-to-be-announced departures expected for various reasons.
FL CB Antwaine Richardson and FL S Josh Metellus are the remaining defensive backs in the class; Michigan is pursuing CA CB David Long, MI CB Lavert Hill, NJ CB Jordan Fuller, and PA S Khaleke Hudson, and would take two or three depending on how other things shake out.
[Left: Bryan Fuller | Right: Joseph Dressler]
Brian brought up Derrick Walton's unusual statistical profile in his Maryland column today. It's not the first time we've noted Walton is far from a traditional point guard. He rebounds like a center, snipes spot-up three-pointers, lets his teammates handle much of the distribution, and generally makes himself impossible to compare to other players his size.
As we discussed Walton's lack of comparable players in the MGoSlack chat, our own Alex Cook decided to harness the power of Excel to find other recent Big Ten players with Walton's combination of rebounding and outside shooting acumen. The results are of the "holy $#^%" variety:
Parameters: >30% min, >15% usage, >20% 3PA/FGA
Walton is the only player to post even a 10% defensive rebound rate while making over half his three-point attempts—and he's at 21.6%. The other players in similar rebounding/shooting territory:
- 6'9", 232-pound Christian Watford, the stretch four on Indiana's outstanding 2013 squad.
- 6'10", 245-pound Goran Suton, the center on MSU's 2009 Final Four squad. Walton has already attempted more threes than Suton did that season.
- 7'0", 242-pound Frank Kaminsky, center of last year's Wisconsin team that knocked off then-undefeated Kentucky.
- 6'7", 230-pound Draymond Green, the KenPom Player of the Year that season who's now helping revolutionize the game for Golden State due to his versatility and ability to play bigger than his size.
Derrick Walton, it should be noted, is 6'1", 190. He's not a normal point guard, and that sometimes hurts Michigan, but he's quite literally a unique talent, and Michigan has been able to surround him with players who mitigate his lack of point-guardness, if you'll allow me to make up a word. While it would be nice to see him finish more at the rim, Walton's shooting is taking pressure off the wings, and his rebounding is a huge help to the bigs; there's not another player in the country like him.
1/12/2016 – Michigan 70, Maryland 67 – 13-4, 3-1 Big Ten
those people didn't even know us [Bryan Fuller]
This was always going to happen at some point. A marquee win was going to stroll onto the court and get bombed back into the Stone Age by Duncan Robinson and the Enola Gays. Even as the team was getting hammered by various opponents featuring large angry people, I had this faith. (Probably. Shut up.)
They just had to, you know, do it. They had to take the three point shooting and shape it into a win with the other bent and misshapen tools at their disposal. The math had to add up. It had not done that so much this year. But basketball's math is changing.
John Beilein hasn't changed much in the 86 years he's been a college head coach. He will play four, preferably five, people who can shoot three-pointers and try to get away with everything that implies. The 1-3-1 has come and gone but the core has always been the Beilein Long Range Strategic Bombing Initiative.
It's worked. Beilein scrapped his way up the ranks by overachieving everywhere he's ever been. But there was always thought to be a ceiling past which this kind of basketball could not go. Early skeptics noted that Beilein's attention-grabbing tourney runs at West Virginia were paired with mediocre regular seasons. He'd never sniffed a conference title in a major league. Players who could shoot from deep were limited role players. They were Just A Shooters.
The game of basketball has changed, gradually and now radically. With Steph Curry currently redefining what NBA efficiency means as statheads in the background furrow their brows over any shot between the arc and the rim, the zeitgeist has finally come around to the idea that three is more than two.
Meanwhile Beilein has been a whisker away from a national title, a whisker away from another Final Four, and won three Big Ten championships. It's been a little rough so far this year since the post play has been… uh… well…
is there any way to say this diplomatically
if I am not diplomatic will I be arrested
I seem to have been given a choice between being massively dishonest and being banned from speech forever
Also Michigan's recent propensity for injury has bit hard as Spike exited for good and Zak Irvin scuffled through a big chunk of the season during which the fact he was about to miss a three was more obvious than the plot of The Force Awakens. Oh, and Caris Levert has missed three games and counting.
But as ways to play basketball go it seems like people are just now catching up to Beilein. The team is catching up to expectations. Now if we can just get some additional Mitch types in here.
Yesterday they did it. Set aside the bigs going 0/5; they are not members of the backing band here. Robinson and company went 12/24. That's 50%. That is good. That is enough to overcome a lot of things. It's enough to overcome Diamond Stone using 40%(!) of Maryland possessions efficiently, for one.
And it's not a fluke. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit his lone three against Maryland and has joined the club: Michigan has five players hitting 40%+ from three. That does not count Irvin, who seems to be recovered from the back-injury-induced early season funk and is hitting 44% over his last five. They have two players, Walton and Robinson, above 50%.
This deep into the season thoughts that Michigan might reclaim their Burke/Stauskas form have been shelved. But if they can poke their nose inside the line enough to avoid the kind of drought they suffered midway through the second half, they can be a fatally flawed team that goes down in a technicolor blaze of glory.
BULLETS FROM ABOVE
Goddamn, Duncan Robinson. Here are the top ten three point shooters in the country.
Robinson has 42 more attempts than the next-closest guy. The only player I found with significantly more, Oakland's Max Hooper, has 133 and is shooting at a 45% clip.
And is it just me or has he improved defensively? I have not been frustrated by a bunch of blow-bys of late. He seems to be able to stay in front of PF types and is even bothering the occasional person with his length. He's by no means good, but the opposition has stopped targeting him over and over again as the clear weak spot.
Robinson is developing—or probably just displaying—the ability to Not Just Shoot as well. The drive and pretty reverse layup late in the second half was an eye-opener; he's putting up shot fakes and then repositioning as well. He was the alpha dog on Williams two years ago with a diverse all-around game; he should be able to grow into that as he gets more comfortable on a D-I court.
weird face sometimes too [Bryan Fuller]
Derrick Walton is a weird player. Walton is rebounding like a 6'11" guy. His 21.7 DREB rate is almost top 100 nationally. Many of those are of the mansome variety where he launches off both feet and secures a ball a 6'1" guy definitely should not secure. Meanwhile He's hitting 33% of his two-pointers and 53% of his threes.
I am desperately disappointed that Kenpom stopped showing you similar players based on stats*, because what does that spit out for a guy with that DREB rate, assist rate, and shooting profile? Jan Jagla, but good?
*[I assume Pomeroy dumped it because it didn't work, but in this situation that only makes it better. Other possibility: Pomeroy saw Walton's sophomore year and pulled the plug in case his junior year caused his computer to emit smoke and shut down, moaning "why Ken whyyyyyy" as it did.]
Walton is a weird defender. I was very frustrated with him in the Purdue game. He started well and then kept getting beat off the dribble by drives that didn't look like anything other than a meh Purdue guard putting his head down. So of course he comes out against Melo Trimble and crushes him.
didn't go well, could have gone worse [Fuller]
Donnal as the "Evolution of Man" poster. I dunno, man. I assume every Michigan fan had written off Mark Donnal for good. There was certainly a lot of grousing about wasting minutes on him during the cupcake games in December, grousing that I agreed with. And then he got a ton of layups and is… well, he's not good but he is middling with frightening outburst of Mutumbo.
I never thought I would say this but the defensive downgrade when DJ Wilson came in was obvious. Wilson got wreckt on a couple of pick and rolls where he let the PG around him; Donnal got over and cut off penetration. He of course had that sequence towards the end of the first half where he had two spectacular blocks* and looked as surprised as anyone that he had just had two spectacular blocks.
While Diamond Stone more or less had his way with Donnal for much of the day the progress there is undeniable.
*[The first of which caused Tiricio and—ugh—Vitale to rant about how Donnal had committed a foul. Not that I expect Vitale to pay attention to the rules of the game or even the things happening in front of his face, but Donnal "getting [opponent] with the body" was Donnal leaping vertically as opponent rammed into him. That is a major emphasis with the refs this year.]
DJ Wilson is still baking. Clearly very bad in this game, as his brief chunk of playing time in the second half resulted in a 10-2 run for Maryland that he was almost singlehandedly responsible for. Also he floats to the perimeter to shoot threes way too much. But you can see flashes of an effective player in there; he has super-long arms and length, so he gets his hands on a lot of balls and has a future as a shot blocker.
The redshirt was clearly the best idea. He's got a long way to go; he has a very high ceiling.
Speaking of Max Hooper. Hooper has 133 three point attempts that he's hitting at a 45% rate. Pretty good, Max Hooper! How are you doing inside the line?
Wow. Hooper is a junior; in his career he has attempted 11 two-point shots and 344 three.
This has been "Brian and Ace find a freakish basketball player on Kenpom of no interest to you and tell you about it anyway."
I'm trying and failing to process this game in the immediate aftermath.
Despite playing at home, Michigan seemingly had no business hanging with the third-ranked team in the country, not with their best player wearing sweats on the bench. Even the most cock-eyed optimist had to feel the other shoe looming overhead as Maryland whittled into what once stood as a 13-point Michigan lead. That feeling held as Mark Donnal missed the back end of a one-and-one, giving Rasheed Sulaimon an opportunity to send the game to overtime in a most devastating fashion.
Sulaimon weaved back and forth at the top of the arc, but Donnal shadowed him step for step, and while Sulaimon's heave cleared Donnal's fingertips, it didn't hit home. With that, Michigan had a signature win in hand.
Recounting how the two teams reached that point requires a play-by-play worthy of a boxing match. Donnal hit the first significant blow at the end of the first half, blocking consecutive Maryland shots before tipping in a Zak Irvin miss at the buzzer to give the Wolverines an eight-point halftime margin.
Michigan extended that lead behind jumpers from Duncan Robinson, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton—in Walton's case, a four-point play after holding his form with center Diamond Stone barrelling through him—but the combination of Stone and Jake Layman countered in a big way. Stone bullied Maryland back into striking distance; Layman tied it up with a smooth midrange stroke; Stone gave the Terps a one-point lead at the 6:33 mark with an and-one.
On the ropes, Michigan fought back, retaking the lead with an and-one of their own from Donnal. Robinson hit a spectacular lefty reverse. Walton drilled a step-back from the elbow. Irvin connected from long range. The lead stood at eight with three minutes remaining.
Sulaimon, who'd been off all night, knocked consecutive three-pointers through, leading to a furious finish as Michigan couldn't put the Terps away at the line. When Sulaimon's final attempt bounced to the corner and the clock hit zero, the Crisler Center crowd unleashed 40 minutes of pent-up nerves.
Irvin finished with 22 points on 17 shot equivalents, Robinson made 5/9 three-pointers on his way to 17, and Walton posted a 12-10-4 line while contributing to a season-worst performance from star Terps guard Melo Trimble, who mustered only two points. Donnal cemented himself as the team's top center with eight points, nine boards, and two blocks; his rebound of a Walton miss with 17 seconds left gained Michigan a critical point while burning a few seconds off the clock.
After little went right against Purdue, everything came together for a Michigan squad missing Caris LeVert, and the schedule eases up considerably after Sunday's trip to Iowa. This may well be the victory that pushes Michigan to the right side of the tourney bubble when all is said and done; it took a true team effort to obtain it.
1000 South State Street • Ann Arbor, MI • 48109 • [email protected]
OBJECTIVE: Tournament bid.
EDUCATION: Beilein University, Beyond the Arc, MI
AND YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER:
And great shooting by Robinson and Irvin pic.twitter.com/koLqudpxBW
— Bryan Fuller (@FullOfTwitt) January 13, 2016