...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Indiana could have used Creek (#1, left) or Abell (right)
Michigan's next Big Ten opponent is Indiana, an outfit that's 3-5 in conference, 13-8 overall, headed for an NIT bid at best. While Indiana lost buckets of talent to graduation, they didn't have to be this bad. Tom Crean screwed himself.
I give Tom Izzo a lot of crap around these parts for his constant histrionics, but 90% of that is pure rivalry spiciness. I hate Tom Izzo, because he is extraordinarily easy to hate. But I simultaneously treasure Tom Izzo because he is easy to hate in that way. When not indulging in rivalry business, I don't actually mind the guy. He is clean. Full stop. I don't want to hear anything about Appling and Payne; we've got our own issues in that department. I hate the fact that he gets away with being on the court and his kids can grab without the Big Ten reacting, but that's just basketball stuff.
I hate two Big Ten coaches more than Izzo. One is obvious: Bo Ryan, promulgator of murderously slow swampball and headman of a program that just accidentally happens to put more feet under jumpshooters' ankles than anyone else in the country. But y'all know that because you've read one thing I've said about Wisconsin basketball.
The second is Tom Crean, who brought SEC-style oversigning to the Big Ten. Last year he shuffled off a recruit who met NCAA regulations but ended up at a prep school and is now at Syracuse. This year he needed to dump another guy and ended up ejecting two, Remy Abell and Maurice Creek. But unlike Calipari or Saban, Tom Crean is so inept that his callous disregard of the whole college thing is actually hurting his team.
You see, Rudy, Indiana can't shoot worth two damns. They're 223rd in three point percentage; they are 308th in 3PA/FGA. They're only being kept that high because Yogi Ferrell made an unexpected and impressive burst from a 30% shooter to a 41% shooter. Nobody else on their team can shoot. The only guy who even bothers to try is Will Sheehey, the mediocre senior-to-be who didn't get cut.
The rest of the team occasionally chucks one up in an unsuccessful attempt to keep 'em honest, with results much like the ones Michigan saw against Purdue, their most recent opponent and the other team in the state of Indiana that couldn't hit the broad side of that dude named Pork Chop in eight tries. This is the main reason Indiana is adrift. Teams pack it in against them with impunity.
You did it to yourself
The help Indiana needs was sitting on Indiana's bench last year.
Abell's currently sitting out a year before getting on the court for Xavier, a 15-5 Big East team currrently ranked about 40 spots above Indiana on Kenpom. Abell hit 16 of 33 three-pointers as a 12-minute-per-game sophomore last year; he had a healthy FT rate and an ORTG of 116. This would be a close second to Ferrell this year in terms of IU ORTG, and if Abell's three point shooting was anywhere near what it seemed like it might be he would be a 30 minute per game staple just to spread the floor.
Meanwhile, Maurice Creek was as a fifth-year grad student and therefore immediately eligible at George Washington. Last year the Colonials were below .500 and out of the KP100; this year they are 17-3, in the top 40, and a clear Bracket Matrix at-large. Maurice Creek starts. He takes more shots than anyone on the team, hits threes at a nearly 40% rate, and is nationally ranked in eFG%. He is exactly what Clappy needs on his team of tall athletic guys who seem to be encountering a basketball for the first time every night.
Creek could have been a sentimental legend at Indiana, the guy who came back from injury after injury to spearhead the team as a fifth year senior and preserve their tourney streak. Instead, he's a vastly improved GW's go-to guy as Tom Crean's inept Hoosiers founder.
There isn't really a point here except maybe you should run around in circles and go "eeee" a bit because sometimes the universe does poke the right people in the eye. Clap on, Clappy, as Mo Creek plays in a tournament you won't get invited to.
Indeed. Plaque up at Crisler.
Michigan's started preseason practice, looking less skinny or more skinny as appropriate. Stauskas in particular looks a lot more likely to power through contact this year:
YOU ARE DOING A BAD JOB AT DEFENSE, FOREGROUND
Unfortunately, Mitch McGary's got a lower back thing that's limiting him. A big guy getting a nagging old person injury is a thing that turns out to be chronic unfortunately often, but the noises from Beilein about it are encouraging:
"It's been day-to-day, pretty much all fall, and we're moving forward from there," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I'm very hopeful it'll be gone before too long.
"He's done some on-and-off things this fall."
McGary blew up various skills camps this summer, so whatever it is it's a recent thing.
Soldier on. Michigan does not change its depth chart on the OL. That probably means nothing; FWIW.
Bo's phone call. Mason relates what happened after the 38-35 Buffalo Stampede game in which Minnesota ran rampant on Michigan:
“We ended up basically being able to run the ball against anybody,” Mason said. “When we blew that game against Michigan in ’03, after we had a 21-point lead, my secretary took a call on Monday and said, ‘[Former Michigan coach] Bo Schembechler’s on the phone.’
“I picked up and Bo said, ‘Mason, I never thought I’d see the day when Notre Dame or Ohio State rushed for 424 yards against Michigan, much less Minnesota,’ and then he hung up.”
Bo probably threw in some other words that Mason left out.
Also, Glen Mason's take on what Minnesota's doing is relevant to our current interests:
“There are less moving parts with the read option"
Brace for impact. Michigan is currently a whopping 21 point favorite over Minnesota after opening at 16.5. It is unclear whether that projects turnover margin or final score.
Minnesota did look completely terrible against Iowa, losing 23-7 and barely getting across the line of scrimmage on its 27 rushing attempts. For the game they had 27 yards rushing, 135 passing, and threw two picks. The jury's still out on Iowa's defense, which seems improved but ceded 30 to NIU and 21 to Iowa State; Minnesota looks like a product of its schedule.
Yes, even more so than Michigan does, sheesh. Thus the line cited above.
Meanwhile, across the triangle of hate Iowa fans are feeling rather chipper after matching last year's win total in week 5. Highlights:
Iowa's athletic department has figured out how to use the "upload" button on YouTube
Rudock has some decent wheels; Mike Patrick can be boring about a 74-yard touchdown; Michigan's nose tackles watched this game and said "FINALLY WE WILL BE ON THE FIELD" to themselves.
Jacobi points out that Iowa is actually a slight favorite(!) for this weekend's matchup against Michigan State. Projected final score: 1.
You kickstarted this. Martavious Odoms's thing bears fruit (HA!):
We have brought you low. Michigan instrumental in midseason firing of Paul Pasqualoni. Yes. That is the ticket. Ignore the 41-12 loss to Buffalo behind the curtain. Also in expectation-dampening sad things: Akron loses by lots, Notre Dame loses by lots, Central Michigan loses by lots. I liked this season better three weeks ago.
Why fire Pasqualoni now?
It's all happening.
60 minutes of unnecessarily rough pass interference somewhere else. Actually, various folks are chattering about Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi taking the UConn job:
Spoke w some coaches re: UConn. Strong feeling among group I spoke w that Pat Narduzzi will get good look.
This tweet gets a hilarious set of responses that are exactly what you'd expect: MSU fans painting the UConn program as a deathtrap and saying things like…
Unless he gets offered a place like Texas I honestly don't see it happening. His kids love it hear and he is very close
The opposite of Indiana. In a not good way. Via Chantel Jennings, the dichotomy of Michigan State in stark relief:
Indiana | Oct. 19
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 1
Total defense: No. 11
Michigan State | Nov. 2
Big Ten rank:
Total offense: No. 11
Total defense: No. 1
Who is State ahead of? Purdue, obviously. Obviously Purdue. Indiana is ahead of Nebraska. Think about that when you consider the depths to which Bo Pelini's defense has sunk. #Kiffin4Nebraska
Etc.: Details of the Harmon exhibit at the Bentley. Boy, do I not care about Michigan's spot in the polls right now. Illinois pounds Miami (Not That Miami). I don't understand this thing about a dog named Jake Butt. The history of Michigan decals.
Kickstarter, eh! After many requests we have added a couple of kickstarter tiers for international folks: 20 bucks for one mag, 40 for both, and we'll eat the extra costs for anyone who goes for the 50+ tiers.
Reminder: we have made our base goal and are now shooting for the 50k stretch goal, whereupon the basketball/hockey preview mag is a real thing on paper.
Meanwhile if you're in the giving mood check out Marlin Jackson's Fight For Life charity. Very good cause. Seth posted extensively on what they do this morning.
Our linemen are a wonderful freak show. They're all having huge lumberjack beards and looking like Freddie Mercury and, uh, this:
That's walk-on Dan Gibbs's twitter avatar. We probably should have started him against Jesse Williams, who Gibbs is seen riding. Equal to the task is Gibbs's twitter avatar: DJBunyan.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Elliott Mealer has shaved the beard.
as if millions of follicles suddenly cried out in terror
We will always remember you, ZZ Top beard.
This year's OL has a lot to live up to. They are off to a good start, at least.
Michigan has a five star basketball recruit for the second straight year. (isportsweb)
It's too bad he can't compete with the big boys. Rivals has given Zak Irvin the GRIII bump, moving up ten spots after his Mr. Basketball season in Indiana. This nets him the coveted fifth star. Walton is #37—also a ten-spot bump—while Mark Donnal is #111, one of the last four-stars. IIRC Donnal was just inside the top 100 last time. He got one of those "you stay the same and we find twelve guys we like a lot" downgrades.
Indiana's six-person oversigning extravaganza is the best class in the Big Ten according to the sites. Michigan is second, #13 nationally at ESPN. Illinois and Wisconsin are next, but it's always hard to figure out how to rank basketball classes because they're so divergent in terms of numbers.
Speaking of Tom Crean…
You're Nick Saban, dude. A year after Indiana signee Ron Patterson was told he couldn't enroll at Indiana in August—ie, the Les Miles—Tom Crean signs six players and is oversigned by one going into the late signing period. Out you go, Remy Abell. Indiana currently has 13 players. They've just offered Jaren Sina, the former Northwestern commit who opened up his recruitment when Bill Carmody was fired.
Now is the time on Sprockets when brows are furrowed about young men and how it's disappointing they've left the program and etc. etc. etc. It's not disappointing, it is mathematically required by Coach Schrute's recruiting. Someone was going to leave, full stop. There's no difference between what's going down at Indiana and Nick Saban's annual purge. In this, OSU and Michigan fans are united.
The thing is: Crean's just flat out saying they're oversigning, which is at least more honest than Saban's approach.
Again, this was not unexpected, and IU coach Tom Crean admitted as much when he spoke with assembled media in Bloomington, Ind., Thursday afternoon. He knew he might have two guys leaving early, in addition to three seniors (Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston) which is, Crean told the Indianapolis Star, "one of the reasons we oversigned."
Wait ... what?
Yes, the Hoosiers enter the second straight summer with more players signed than scholarships to give out — this time 14 for 13. (Last season, IU's 15 signed players ended with senior guard Matt Roth's seemingly confused, thensuddenly uber-positive, departure, and a fortuitous turn in freshman Ron Patterson's academic ineligibility.)
Even without further departures Michigan will go into next year with an open scholarship. Purdue's down to ten. Schrute is looking for more guys to run off. Hard to have the moral high ground as a conference when you… uh… don't have it.
Godspeed, Tom Hammond. The Great and Powerful Hammond is being replaced by some guy named Hicks on Notre Dame broadcasts. A tip of the cap to a man who overcame his fear of cameras to be on television, like, all the time. We'll always have the picture and the tie.
See you around the rhythmic gymnastics odeon. /brohug
Baseball making it happen. Rich Maloney's ouster last year was sudden and controversial. So far it looks to have been the right move as the previously moribund base-to-ball team is currently 7-2 in the Big Ten behind freshman starting pitcher Evan Hill's dominating 1.89 ERA. Baseball America takes note:
The future looks bright for Michigan, which has a strong freshman core leading its resurgence this spring. Michigan’s best starter has been freshman lefthander Evan Hill (6-1, 1.89), whose projectable 6-foot-5 frame helped him rank No. 165 on the BA 500 heading into last year’s draft. Hill still is just scratching the surface of his potential, but he is maturing quickly and has settled nicely into the Saturday starter role.
“He still is a projection guy—his best years are ahead of him,” Bakich said. “But he’s very talented, he works extremely hard. The mental game has been critical for him, because he’s learned how to breathe and focus on executing the next pitch, that’s been a big part of his development mentally. But he’s still a long, lean, tall, thin guy who has a good fastball, and he’s got good offspeed pitches. He just doesn’t always have the command that he’s going to have in the future of his secondary stuff. But a lot of his success has come from pitching off his fastball. He throws a cutter and a curveball, and when those are on, he usually does pretty well.”
Two other freshmen have earned starting jobs on the left side of the infield and in the top half of the batting order. Travis Maezes (.308/.396/.421) has shown good athleticism, instincts and arm strength at shortstop while hitting in the No. 2 hole. And third baseman Jacob Cronenworth (.339/.397/.460 with two homers and a team-leading 26 RBIs) has been very steady in the cleanup spot. He has a balanced, line-drive approach from the left side of the plate to go along with good speed. Cronenworth also has a strong arm at the hot corner, and he can run his fastball up to 92 mph off the mound, where he has emerged as Michigan’s closer, posting a 1.06 ERA, six saves and a 16-3 strikeout-walk mark in 17 innings.
That's a hell of a freshman class.
Michigan's coming off consecutive sweeps of MSU and Penn State; they take on ND today at 4, with Eastern coming in tomorrow at 6. If you're in Chicago, Michigan plays Northwestern at Wrigley Saturday.
It was a bet with Zak Irvin. A picture of a displeased Gary Harris wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt made the rounds on twitter recently, and I was all like "dude lost a bet with Zak Irvin?"
M&GB: Can you tell us about that picture of Gary Harris that surfaced on twitter of him wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt?
Irvin: (Laughs) As a matter of fact I was just talking with him about that a couple hours ago but that was from last year. When Michigan played Michigan State we had a bet that whichever team won, the loser had to wear that team’s shirt to school the next day, and Michigan won so Gary had to wear a Michigan t-shirt all the next day.
Just not a recent one.
Not playing coy about Dymonte Thomas. Courtney Avery's job is officially in serious danger given the way Michigan usually talks about freshmen. No one's bothering to say Dymonte Thomas is a long way off or whatever:
"He’s a very conscientious young man. For a guy that comes that should have been at his prom to be here the whole time, and for him to pick it up like he did ... Dymonte Thomas had a very, very good spring for a freshman.”
So there's that. He's playing. Starting? We'll see.
Cumong, NCAA man. Oregon and the NCAA agree that Oregon paid Willie Lyles 25k to help recruit players. Also this:
There is no information," according to the NCAA, "in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon. That said, Lyles did provide a meaningful recruiting advantage by orally providing background information about prospects to the coaching staff and also by serving as a conduit to facilitate communication with prospective student-athletes."
I hate you, NCAA enforcement. Oregon has proposed two years of probation and one lost scholarship for a few years. Seriously. Sic 'em, Get The Picture.
Etc.: A tribute to Trey Burke. His finest moments. Oh yes "Roger Federer as a Religious Experience" reference in regards to Trey Burke, oh yes. HSR on the end of basketball season.
UMHoops talks to 2015 SG recruit Luke Kennard. MSU is selling spots in the press box for their spring game. How much? Next question. The definition of amateurism is "whatever the NCAA says it is," and changes constantly. Four(!) Michigan players make John Gasaway's final top 25 freshmen($), with Spike Albrecht making the tail end of the list at 25. That's for show, man. David Allen Grier gets Trey Burke to smile. It is possible. Drake Harris "commitment" scarequotes are unbecoming.
The main reason Michigan lost a heartbreaker to Indiana on Sunday—yes, even more than their late-game free throw misses—was their inability to keep the Hoosiers off the offensive glass. Indiana rebounded 24 of their 40 missed shots; once second in the country in defensive rebounding, the Wolverines are now eighth in their own conference.
What's odd about this at first glance is that Michigan boasts a trio of centers who are all proficient rebounders. Jordan Morgan (#9) and Mitch McGary (#5) both rank among the top Big Ten players in defensive rebounding percentage, and Jon Horford would rank just ahead of Morgan if he played enough minutes to qualify.
After looking at the film, it's apparent that Michigan's bigs lack the support they need to defend the boards; the team's overall inexperience and poor perimeter defense are most apparent in this area. One play in particular from the Indiana game bears this out:
Let's look at this frame-by-frame, starting with the defensive lapse that begins the sequence—Tim Hardaway Jr. falling asleep in the corner and allowing Victor Oladipo to beat him on a backdoor cut:
Zeller has no problem getting the ball to Oladipo in great position for a shot. With Zeller and Jeremy Hollowell (#33, on the other side of the FT line from Zeller) at the top of the key—drawing Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III way from the basket—Hardaway must fend for himself:
Here's where Michigan's rebounding issues begin in earnest. This is the point where Oladipo releases his shot. Note that Zeller, Morgan's man, has stayed on the perimeter, while Hollowell is crashing the paint behind Robinson. Hardaway is accounting for Oladipo and Robinson should be responsible for Hollowell; both are in decent position right here, while Nik Stauskas has been beaten to a good rebounding spot by Will Sheehy:
At the moment before Oladipo secures his own rebound, however, it's clear that Michigan's perimeter players haven't done their job. Hardaway first goes for the block and then reaches for the ball instead of putting a body on Oladipo, who will easily step by him and get the board. Robinson has watched the ball the entire time and allowed Hollowell a free pass to the basket. Stauskas is lucky not to give up a putback after letting Sheehy get right under the basket. Morgan is in solid position but the ball doesn't bounce his way. This is not good:
Oladipo kicks the ball out to Jordan Hulls, who gets a wide-open look from three after Trey Burke drifted away from the play. At the moment Hulls releases his shot, most of Michigan's players have at least partially recovered—Burke is attempting to close out, Morgan is on Zeller, and Hardaway and Stauskas have found their men. Robinson, however, is still watching the ball, unaware that Hollowell is on the complete opposite side of the lane:
As the shot comes off the rim, you can see three Wolverines—including Robinson—trying to box out two Hoosiers on the left side of the lane, while Morgan is left with the unenviable task of being one guy having to guard two guys:
This, predictably, does not go well. Zeller taps the rebound to Hollowell, who's able to gather the ball and go up for a layup despite Morgan's best efforts to be two Jordan Morgans.
To sum up, on this play we've got:
- Hardaway falling asleep on a backdoor cut
- Stauskas getting beat along the baseline
- Hardaway not boxing out Oladipo
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell
- Robinson not boxing out Hollowell again, nor even being in the same general area
Watch Robinson throughout the play, here in handy gif form:
He never leaves an area covering about 15 square feet until it's far too late. You know how coaches say the key to a freshman succeeding is having the game slow down for him? On defense, at least, the game is going about 200 mph for Robinson, who's trying to defend with his eyes instead of his feet—while he's watching the ball, he's losing his man.
One play doesn't make a trend, of course, but there were several other instances of Michigan's non-centers being the culprit for an offensive rebound.
[For more rebounding pain and suffering, hit THE JUMP.]
"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise."
~ Winston Churchill
Trey Burke works the ball up the court, and crosses mid-court with just under nine seconds left. Jordan Morgan sets a high screen on Oladipo, and in an instant the much ballyhooed pre-game narrative is wiped out of the picture. This will no longer be a symbolic battle for the Big Ten Player of the Year. Indiana's best defender is a bystander. Instead it is Cody Zeller on Burke 30 feet from the basket.
History may be written by the winners, but in sports the winners rarely read the history they write. For the victor, the simple fact of the victory can obscure whatever came before. The foibles and missteps were merely a part of the rich tapestry that was their inevitable triumph. It is the character-building fire that forges their mettle. It is for the loser, rather, to lament the components of their fate. Almost exactly a week before Jordan Morgan set his screen, Keith Appling was dribbling the ball up that same court, in a tie game, with the shot clock off, when Trey Burke stole the ball and turned the tables on all the percentages. And when a second Burke steal sealed the game, no one cared that Michigan had frittered away a ten point lead in the last four minutes, or that they had missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Michigan State one last chance. It was Sparty, rather, who spoke with the bitter tinge of "what if" of their blown opportunity to win on what should have been a final possession.
Burke gains the corner on Zeller, but only by a bit. Yogi Ferrell starts to sag off of Stauskas, but thinks better of it. Ferrell knows full well that Burke is taking this one to the rack, but Stauskas is not to be left. Christian Watford is under no such restriction on the far side against Glenn Robinson III, and he helps down. Burke isn't going to leave this one in the hands of a jump shot from a freshman, no matter how talented that freshman may be. Zeller extends an impossibly long arm over Burke, who responds in kind with a fully extended flip of the ball. Jordan Morgan has reached the free throw line.
If you are anything like me, dear Michigan fan, then there is a part of you that is relieved that it got this far. The recent history of Michigan basketball is one of repeated crashes to reality. A first NCAA berth in a decade is followed by a 15-17 season. A first Big Ten title in centuries and a four-seed leads to an early exit against Ohio (YTO). So when Michigan came out of the gates this year as an unstoppable hell-beast, there remained a little voice in your head that urged caution. Like the slave used by Julius Caesar to ride on his chariot to remind him of his mortality, the little voice kept whispering in your ear, "they are not Gods. They are merely human." When Ben Brust hit a half-court heave and Michigan was run out of the Breslin Center and utterly collapsed in Happy Valley, those whispers became screams that could not be ignored. And when Michigan went down 10-3 early, there was a part of you that said, "please not this again."
[After the jump, not this again]