things go poorly
Programming note/briefly. No Friday Recruitin' today since Ace is in Chicago covering Big Ten media days. Here's an abbreviated version:
Ohio State dropped VA RB Derrick Green, who is either the top back in his class (Rivals) or like #5 or so and a guy you can line up in the I-form—mixed feelings ho—and pound away with. So he's changed his plans to spend more time at Michigan instead of hitting up OSU's Friday Night Lights camp. With Clemson also out of the picture since they filled up at running back, Green is now looking like far more of a possibility than he was just a couple weeks ago.
IL WR LaQuon Treadwell: still visiting Oklahoma State. Still probably thinking about officials. Trieu: "I still think Michigan is very much in the lead with him."
FL S Leon McQuay's dad clarified that the younger McQuay had not dropped Michigan but confirmed that Florida State had replaced M in his top three.
No one else exists.
Bo talks Joe. WH posts the Big Ten Ticket segment from before the '98 PSU game:
Hey, kids! Get on my lawn! Jump up and down and smoke the pot! Have a woodstock! Northwestern just debuted new uniforms that are unique and awesome:
These aren't alternates, either, they're the thing they're going to wear all the time now. I'm not sure about the brickwork frippery on the numbers when you get real close but if you can't see it at all in the above shots it's probably not too bad.
Why do I like these when Michigan's parade of changes are annoying at best and horrifying at worst?
This is a new overall identity for Northwestern, one in which the "Northwestern stripe" is being reclaimed for all their sports. It is not a one-off flibbertyjibber that only confuses things.
It is a One Big Idea jersey minus the fooferrah that made Remember Bo's parody of the direction Michigan is headed in the thing I front-paged hardest last year. I front-paged that so hard. Michigan keeps adding block Ms all over the place and patches and numbers and all this stuff when they have already acquired the One Big Idea—the winged helmet.
They are unique across college football and give you the start of a tradition. I feel like I should have a ridiculous carnival noun in here.
Anyway. Steve Spurrier needs to be involved with this.
mgotrivia: named primary Rock Band band "OBC and the Click Clacks"
BONUS: Man, Under Armor likes misters.
Meanwhile, more detail on our bit. The Alabama jerseys in a 30 second video:
Those gloves will come in handy if any of those guys ever have a test on what the lyrics to the fight song are.
I know you're literally coming off the worst scandal in the history of college athletics, but doesn't this seem extreme? Penn State is considering something drastic:
An issue that generated just as much buzz Thursday was the possibility that coach Bill O'Brien plans to change Penn State's traditional, basic blue and white uniforms. The coach mentioned that possibility during a conference call with players' parents Wednesday night, according to the Reading Eagle.
O'Brien has had discussions with Nike about changing the uniforms, which he has said repeatedly that he would not do since taking the PSU job in January.
"I reserve the right to change my mind," O'Brien said Thursday when asked what led to his decision.
Neither O'Brien nor the Penn State players would give any indication as to what the uniform changes might include, but there has been widespread speculation that it would be names on the jerseys.
The fans are already lying on the ground after a thorough kicking so I guess now's the time to do this. I suggest taking everyone's mind off the terrible things that happened by changing the school's mascot to a rainbow unicorn.
Try to be sad now! Pretty hard, right?
Also in lack of sadness. PSU adds an unrated 2012 LB named Brennan Franklin who had been ticketed for Eastern Arizona Junior College. Had "interest" from Toledo. Franklin on his commitment: "If I went to New Mexico or New Mexico State or Indiana, they wouldn’t be going to a bowl game anyway."
Oy. I'm not happy about this at all. I can only imagine what it's like to be a Penn State fan. What's the Michigan equivalent of this? Bo helped plan 9/11 and the Rodriguez era lasts 15 years. I would not wish the equivalent on my worst enemy*.
*[False. I would wish it on many people, but only bad ones. Like the people who came up with the Buffalo Wild Wings commercials.]
Boooooooooo. Boooooooo. Booooooooo. PEOPLE ARE JERKS AND STUFF:
Don't expect to see a nine-game Big Ten schedule any time soon.
Commissioner Jim Delany said at Big Ten media days Thursday that league schools are "of a unanimous mind to stay at eight games" in the conference schedule.
Guh. The Pac-12 is already there, the Big 12 and ACC are going to nine, and it's only the teams with the sappiest saps sticking with four nonconference games: the Big Ten and the SEC. And maybe the Big East, but no one bothers mentioning them any more.
This is especially bad for Michigan since its primary foes for the division title play Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue on an annual basis while Michigan gets Ohio State. Anything that softened that disparity helps. Hopefully it won't matter much if Hoke keeps the recruiting train going like he is, but the least the league could have done was make the conference record of your crossover opponents the first tiebreaker. If two teams finish tied at 7-1 and one of them took on OSU and UW while the other didn't, head to head can get bent.
Rebranded. Fan day is now Youth Day, for whatever reason. It's August 12th at 2. Anyone over 19 trying to enter the stadium will be chased through a cornfield by a giant red-eyed monster and eaten.
Yes. Michael Weinreb should take over PR for the Paterno family, because he's able to express the tricky concepts about moving forward as a Penn State fan in a way that sounds right:
There is no way to make up for what has been lost. All we can do is start over again. If it takes Penn State fielding a team full of walk-ons and castaways in the years to come, if it takes losses to Temple and to the dregs of the Mid-American Conference to reinforce the horror of what took place, then I will accept that. What I want now is for my alma mater to become what we’d always imagined it to be, an agent of change in a sport that desperately seeks it. If failure equals success, the punishment will be justified.
I don't know about you, but next year's game in Happy Valley has become a must-attend for me. Not to gloat, just to see what it's like and maybe stare at a place a statue used to stand and think about what is or is not pretty much the same band of RV-possessing friendly people I experienced in 2006.
And so it came to pass that Wisconsin fans bought all the tickets. The Big Ten has added this "TeamTix" system in which you gamble ten bucks on your team making the title game and then can buy a face value ticket if your team gets there. Which may be a hideously overpriced one if it's, say, Michigan State-Wisconsin. Events with Michigan in them may be another matter but I'd probably want to see how the secondary market shapes up this year. You might be able to get a suite for ten bucks.
Can you talk about the progression in his game, especially within the last few months?
“He’s gotten tremendously better. He works hard every day, getting his shots up, working on his step back, working on how to finish in the mid-range because he knows that he’s going to run into 7-footers, and 6-foot-9 and so forth, so we try to make sure he’s got a little floater coming and a higher arching jump shot. So he knows what’s to come.”
Taken by the will of the wisp. Will Campbell gets probation, has to pay fines and court costs and restitution, etc. The judge gets it, man:
Judge Chris Easthope said he believed Campbell didn’t have any kind of malicious intent and was rather “caught up in the moment.”
Chris Easthope has been there, man. On the hood of a car at two AM.
Etc.: Brian Phillips on rhythmic gymnastics. Anthony Zettel stays put. Jordan Morgan expectations. Gasaway on the Emmert penalty shotgun. He's in favor. Suspended Wolverines' are called team cancers by teammates. Alabama's NT benches 600 pounds. Yay.
CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the contenders I overlooked Wisconsin's George Marshall, who redshirted last year. He's a point guard. Given the redshirt it seems unlikely he gets thrust into the starting lineup, but he's another option for the Badgers there. In any case, Big Ten Geeks pointed out that the last time Wisconsin didn't have a point guard they won thirty games. Point guard: optional at Wisconsin.
Out: Bruce Weber, C Meyers Leonard, PG Sam Maniscalco, maybe SG Brandon Paul
In: PG Michael Orris (3*)
Status: On January 19th, A 15-3 Illinois team coming off that game against Ohio State where Brandon Paul turned into Michael Jordan visited Penn State, then 1-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois lost.
They'd win only twice more. Meyers Leonard would collapse into tears on the bench, Illinois bombed itself out of the tournament, and Weber would be fired because obviously. After whiffing on at least Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois settled on Wolverine-slayer John Groce as their coach. It seems no one is happy about this except Big Ten opponents other than Michigan.
Leonard just declared for the draft and Illinois's recruiting class consists of one three-star point guard and a preferred walk-on. Things are going to get worse for Illinois before they get better. Well… maybe not worse. But the prospects for an instant turnaround are not good when the rest of the league is reloading with NBA players and you've lost one of your two players at that level without bringing in a decent replacement.
That said, until further notice Brandon Paul does still play for the Illini. And DJ Richardson can shoot a little bit. And Tyler Griffey had a good game against Michigan and… no, it's not likely anyone can piece that into a team that makes the tournament.
Question that needs resolving: Was it really all Bruce Weber's fault?
If you look at this roster it's filled with guys who should have better stats than they do. Paul shot 44% from 2 and 33% from three because he got Dion Harris'd playing with a 7'1" lottery pick. At some point that has to be on the guy in the suit jumping up and down like a lunatic.
According to Kenpom, Groce did better on offense with his Ohio squad. Illinois's best bet is that Bruce Weber was a Greg Robinson-style anchor on the offense and that an unfettered Paul shows Izzo that it was a good idea to fire him.
Minnesota: still history's greatest monsters
Out: PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, C Davide Curletti
In: C Alex Olah (3*), SG Sanjay Lumpkin(3*), SF Kale Abrahmson(3*), Nikola Cerina (TCU transfer)
The Wildcats graduate the leading scorer in program history plus the other two guys taller than 6'5" who played; they bring in a leafy, bitter vegetable and some other dudes with outlandish names. If you're worried that the post at Northwestern will not feature a guy who sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, don't be: the likely starter at center next year is TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a Serbian who went to "Nikola Telsa SS" high school.
The Wildcats still have some quality pieces, most prominently rising senior Drew Crawford and rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski. Crawford would start on the wing for just about any Big Ten team. He's a 41% three point shooter who's also efficient inside the line and provides decent ancillary stats. Sobolewski had an impressive freshman year and will take on big chunks of the scoring load left by Shurna. A fully healthy JerShon Cobb will help defensively.
But if this outfit plus John Shurna couldn't give away Northwestern's tourney virginity it's hard to see them on the bubble without him. The defense will remain substandard and it's going to be impossible to replace Shurna's efficiency (44% from three! A top 25 TO rate despite launching over 30% of Northwestern's shots! 92% of NU's minutes!). Minnesota: you bastards.
Question that needs resolving: God, it's me, Margaret. Why do you feel the need to troll Northwestern basketball so hard? Are you an Iowa fan? If so, why do you keep exploding all their tailbacks' ACLs?
Penn State basketball.
Out: SF Cammeron Woodyard, C Billy Oliver, SG Matt Glover, PG Trey Lewis, another Carefrontation subject or two who didn't play meaningful minutes.
In: PF Brandon Taylor (3*), SG Akosa Maduegbunam (3*), SG DJ Newbill (USM transfer).
Status: Penn State basketball is what would happen if Tim Frazier went through the tunnel in Being Tim Frazier: Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier.
Next year they will also be this, but maybe a little more so after Pat Chambers rubbed sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis the wrong way. Both of those guys have exited the program, leaving even less behind Frazier than Penn State had this year when he played 93% of their minutes and used a third of PSU possessions. Frazier almost literally can't do more.
So… who will? PSU fans are banking on DJ Newbill picking up some of the slack. Newbill transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year and is eligible in the fall. He was an efficient scorer at the CUSA level (54% from two, lots of free throws, no range) but a low usage guy who still managed to commit a bunch of turnovers. He's not going to be a program-changer.
In the frontcourt Penn State got a solid freshman year from Ross Travis and some decent minutes from other underclassmen. Frazier and the departing Woodyard were the only upperclassmen to play major roles, so Penn State should expect to improve quite a bit. They can do so and still be miles away from the tourney after finishing 12-20 last year.
Question that needs resolving: Can anyone else score?
Tim Frazier can only do so much, and at the rate he's doing it now Penn State is all but doomed to EFGs in the 300s. Actually, "can anyone else do anything?" might be a better question. Not only is Frazier far and away Penn State's best scorer but his assist rate of 45.3 was second nationally. Penn State has taken the concept of relying on one really good six-foot guy as far as it will go: not far. Newbill doesn't seem like the answer.
Out: Everyone, including Doc Sadler.
In: Some JUCOs and stuff plus new coach Tim Miles.
Status: Nebraska was 4-14 in the Big Ten last year and graduated four starters. Everyone behind the starters was a junior and is not likely to improve much. Their recruiting class consists of low-rated JUCOs and a 5'8" PG.
Question that needs resolving: None. Nebraska will be the worst team in the league.
Brief vacation note. I'll be limited Friday and Monday as I visit some friends. I don't think it'll be that noticeable Friday but it's likely there aren't going to be any major columns Monday or Tuesday. I won't be able to catch the hockey game since they're not on TV, but I will write something up on the Purdue game whenever I get a chance.
Northwestern. Via mgovideo:
Podcast. I guested on The Solid Verbal. They asked me if I could think of anything wrong with Brady Hoke and I came up empty. It's been a good 13 months.
Beilein recruiting vs. development. I'm not entirely clear on whether Dan Hanner's recruiting and coaching rankings have methodology gaps that would particularly affect John Beilien but the general idea is to evaluate a coach's recruiting on the ORtg of his freshmen and his development of players on the movement of that ORtg as the players age. Survey says:
|Thad Matta||Ohio St.||8||10||3rd||12th||2nd|
There are some obvious holes in the evaluations here since they only take offense into account, they assume a guy like Burke's performance is all recruiting and no development when he's had on average a half-year of development by the end of his freshman year, etc. But they do make the case that Beilein's recruiting at Michigan has been horrendously underrated, especially since the defense is more than holding its own in this year's Big Ten. Throw it on the pile of evidence indicating Beilein has a great eye for players.
See also: Trey Burke, nation's #3 freshman according to CBS.
It might behoove us to move to a less three-mad offense. Emphasis on "might"—obviously there is something going on with Beilein's offense that works. But in Ken Pomeroy's ongoing quest to discredit defensive three point efficiency, he's doing collateral damage to offensive three point efficiency:
Oh dear. The defensive plot is just a random scattering of data, as has been discussed previously, but the offensive version isn’t much better. If you shot 45% in the first half of the 2011 conference season, you’d be expected to shoot about 35% in the second half. If you shot 25% in the first half, you’d be expected to shoot 33% in the second half. A difference you couldn’t notice with your eyes. I don’t know exactly what implications this has on strategy, but when evenly-matched teams get together, action happening beyond the 3-point line is like a lottery. You take a shot and a third of the time you have success.
In contrast, two-point shooting correlates well. Pomeroy admits he doesn't know what the impact on strategy is, and neither do I. This could be an argument for Michigan to move its game inside the line, but it's not hard to see Michigan's #6 two-point shooting as a number that benefits greatly from Michigan's long-range bombing. As long as Michigan is going four-out, one-in they're going to have to take a lot of threes to stretch opponents into giving them decent opportunities from two.
Thirty-eight is way too many, though. Right now the Wildcats are obviously right with Michigan; in the future when McGary, Horford, Glenn Robinson, and Stauskas give M a huge size and athleticism advantage bombing it from the outside is asking to get upset. I wonder if we see Michigan cut back on the bombs in their new era of talent superiority.
Meet the new GERG? Iowa's new offensive coordinator:
If you were hoping that the Greg Davis rumors were nothing but smoke and disinformation, well, today is not your day. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, a gentleman who is about as well-connected to the Texas football program as Mack Brown himself, reported today that Greg Davis had accepted the Iowa offensive coordinator position.
Davis was run out of Texas on a rail after Colt McCoy graduated and the offense collapsed. Before that he'd told Vince Young to run around out there to good effect and transitioned to a pretty good McCoy-led passing spread, so this is not exactly hiring a guy whose only success in the past ten years was a one-year blip (Greg Robinson).
Still, a 61-year-old retread who cratered that much talent has Iowa fans shrugging. The consensus at BHGP is "decent"; if things go south this fall they'll turn quickly. Looks like Jacobi had to rewrite his headline after his initial take:
Also on the url of the above Prevail and Ride cartoon as uploaded to SBN:
Mattison is probably not quaking at the hire.
Elsewhere in Iowa blogging. The High Porch Picnic evaluates Michigan's recent recruiting from an Iowa POV and is a bit bothered that Hoke and Ferentz seem to have a lot more overlap than the Hawkeyes did with the previous Michigan regime. If I was Iowa I'd be more concerned with Michigan's sudden relevance in Illinois, a place they've struggled in for the past five years.
This reminds me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing on the Solid Verbal: the current configuration of offenses in the Big Ten footprint is advantage Michigan recruiting. The two schools who do the best job of competing on the trail, Notre Dame and Ohio State, are now spread offenses. The second tier run pro-styles. Michigan looks like it's in a phase where it's rarely going to lose a battle against the second tier; meanwhile they should have an advantage with certain recruits in hostile territory simply because their opponents won't have a good place to put them.
Michigan's in a good position to starve Michigan State and, to a lesser extent, Iowa of offensive talent while bolstering their class with a guy like Jake Butt who Ohio State might have been pursuing hotly if they were still running a Tressel offense.
Side note: the impressive thing about Hoke's progress in Illinois is beating out ND. Remember when going up against Notre Dame was totally pointless, especially in Illinois? Yeah. We'll see what happens with Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell; if Michigan lands them that will be a huge statement.
List o' jerkos. CBS's Eye on College Football lists the 30 BCS schools who voted to override the multi-year scholarship legislation and points out that their real desire is to avoid giving out multi-year scholarships themselves:
The motivation in Austin, Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Norman isn't that they can't hand out four-year scholarships, it's that they simply don't want to.
Of course, the legislation doesn't mean any school -- BCS, mid-major, or otherwise -- is required to offer multiple-year scholarships. But since that might put the schools that don't at a recruiting disadvantage against schools that do, the Texases (and USCs, and Alabamas) have tried to prevent anyone from offering them.
In short: because these schools don't want to promise their athletes a full four-year college education, they've decided the athletes at other schools shouldn't have the benefit of that promise, either.
But whatever, they failed. Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school to ask for an override. Their football team signed up with most of the rest of the conference in offering four-year rides, though, so why is unknown. IIRC, their hockey team has a bit of reputation for cutting kids loose. That might be it.
Now the Free Press won't exist for anyone else, either. Gannett hastens its own decline:
“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, [Gannett] president of community publishing. The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.
The Free Press is a Gannett paper, so to get your Drew Sharp fix you'll have to start kicking in subscription dollars. I'm sure the line will be lengthy: Gannett projects they'll increase subscription revenues by 25%—$100 million per year. Think of all the press conference rehashes, trolling, and Mitch Albom columns about angels you'll be missing out on.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not going to steal Ace's recruiting roundup thunder entirely but just… holy hopping ham sandwiches:
The Levenberry family is looking for a paternal figure to guide son E.J.'s career. It's found him in Ann Arbor.
E.J. Levenberry Jr. said this week that Michigan is the lead school for his services. The ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker prospect from Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton referenced Wolverines coach Brady Hoke as one of the primary reasons why.
"He kind of reminds me of my dad, the way he carries himself," Levenberry said.
Add Levenberry, Isaac, Treadwell, and O'Daniel—all players who Michigan reputedly leads for now—and that's nine Rivals 100 recruits, three guys who would be consensus five-stars if rankings hold, and a class that will compete for the best in the country. They'll probably lose at least one of those guys and rankings do not hold*; even so… good God.
*[Because there's not many places to go but down and as the year goes along recruiting analysts will turn up top flight talent they missed the first time around. See: Ondre Pipkins. Even if Rivals's opinion of Jake Butt doesn't change at all he's likely to slide 20-30 spots by Signing Day.]
Briefly. Ohio State fans are now the ones annoyed by the "spread can't work in B10 lol" meme propagated by hobos, people who think wrestling is real, and newspaper columnists—all the same people. They get bonus annoyance because Rich Rodriguez just "proved" this by having a quarterback run for 1700 yards. As I said: people who think wrestling is real.
So they're trying to dispel the Rodriguez stink:
Rodriguez largely failed to evolve his offense past the spread's origins. Chris Brown, for instance, prophetically predicated at the beginning of Rodriguez's Michigan tenure that Rodriguez's passing game lacked the conceptual nature necessary to succeed as teams adapted to the spread's basic tenets. Nor did Rodriguez (for the most part) diversiify his offense in the way an Oregon has to counteract things such as scrape exchanges. Michigan never embraced plays such as the midline option, inverted veer, power or counter trey like others. The upshot is that, while Michigan's offense was largely succesful once Denard Robinson was in place, it never hummed in the way Oregon's offense did (particularly against better teams) to overcome Michigan's defense or special team liabilities.
That's not really true. Rodriguez adapted his system to use Lloyd's collection of tight ends, burned many defenses with plays specifically designed to blow up scrape exchanges, and eventually shelved large sections of the old playbook in favor of having Denard Robinson run QB isos and stretches, pairing those with "aigh he's open" moments when a Robinson run turned out to be a pass. The reason 31 points against Penn State and 28 with a missed chip shot field goal against Wisconsin were bad performances didn't have much to do with the offense.
Rodriguez's offense never reached the high-pitched hum of Oregon's because he never had a returning starter at quarterback and the only non-freshman was a breathtakingly green Denard Robinson. Also his tailbacks were pretty bad. If OSU fans are looking for narratives to combat hobos, "we'll have an assload of talent relative to Rodriguez" is your best bet.
Etc.: Tremendous has an even more detailed breakdown of Hoke's appearance at the Glazier Clinic. Rodger Sherman narrowly survived the Michigan-Northwestern game but the prognosis is grim. Michigan's off to a healthy lead in the name-based recruiting class derby but there's a "Zanquanarious Washington" out there—they will not win. Blue wall! You've already seen Luke Winn's decision to put us in SI's "magic eight" teams from which a national champion will come. That seems like a bad bet to me, but whatever. TTB interviews Jehu Chesson, who I will probably call "Jehuu Caulcrick" at some point during his career.
2/21/2012 – Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT) – 21-7, 11-4 Big Ten
LEFT: A fateful moment in which our brave comrade fouled the opponent's forearm in the eyes of corrupt capitalist lackeys. RIGHT: The imperialists were forced into illegal measures in their failed attempts to deal with Comrade Morgan.
Let the reign of Beilein be long and glorious. He is our sun and star and moons. He has brought basketball back to Ann Arbor long after we had ceded our land to the imperialists of East Lansing and set about hoping we would not be Northwestern forever. The bubble is banished and all loyal Wolverines are required to have Mao-style paintings of not one but two Dear Leaders. This is right and just.
But we have to talk about something, Oh Great Back Cut of Heaven. That thing is what to do when Michigan's glorious but thin frontcourt, sabotaged by foreigners who broke Comrade Horford's foot—we have executed the traitors or at least given people who probably know the traitors harsh looks—is brought low by the machinations of imperialist pig-dogs with whistles.
Oh Thousand Shining Arcs From Behind The Line, your response in the Northwestern game was to bench Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz in favor of Comrades McLimans and Christian. They are a good loyalists who contribute all they can to the cause. Unfortunately for the Glorious Revolution, that is zero shot attempts and zero rebounds in fourteen minutes. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" suggests that Comrades McLimans and Christian are most needed in the towel-waving collectives of Ukraine, where they can fan our team to greatness.
When they are placed on the court, starvation ensues. Michigan led 11-3 when McLimans entered the game; Northwestern led 31-24 by halftime, when Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned to the floor. In that span of time, Northwestern had six offensive rebounds in eight opportunities*. In the other 31 minutes they had five in 24. Northwestern scored more points in the fourteen minutes without Morgan and Smotrycz (28) than they did in the other thirty-one(27).
Upon their return Morgan and Smotrycz promptly led a glorious charge into a lead foreordained by your divinity, Great Leveler. Unfortunately, rebel conspiracy sabotaged the bridge between Tim Hardaway Jr. and free throw makes, forcing the revolution into overtime. The people rose up and slew their purple oppressors with a thousand swords, as you decreed would always be the case.
Some of our less faithful comrades may have momentarily lost confidence, however. While the will of the people can never be defeated, it should be pointed out that basketball teams can and putting in comrades who are not very good at basketball could lead to a (temporary, meaningless) setback in Michigan's five-year plan.
When comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned it took 12 minutes for one of them to pick up a third foul. If they were allowed to continue playing in the first half it is true they would be in danger of fouling out early. But what would the consequences be in that situation? In the worst vaguely plausible scenario, both Morgan and Smotrycz foul out five or six minutes into the second half, forcing the Striped Orange Sun to… play McLimans and Christian for 14 minutes. The wisdom of the Shining Beacon of Halftime Adjustments is unquestioned, but in this one situation it seems like it is not infinite.
Earlier in the year, a similar substitution pattern saw Comrade Burke confined to the bench for a long stretch against Iowa. Burke left with Michigan down four and returned with them down twelve. Nefarious play by oppressors made Michigan play poorly throughout, so this did not make an impact on the outcome, but it didn't help matters much.
I submit that with Burke averaging 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes at the time of his transgression and six additional calls available to a two-headed center playing a team without any size, it would benefit Michigan greatly to roll the dice on players in foul trouble instead of willingly accepting the worst-case scenario of doing so. Oh sun and moon and stars.
*[It was actually 7 of 9 but one was a OREB credited to Northwestern's team after McLimans blocked a shot out of bounds. I don't think that shows up on the box score I'm using.]
Highlights from BTN and mgovideo:
Bullets that get dust on them
Defense! Zounds. UMHoops says Michigan had Morgan and/or Smotrycz for 40 possessions. On those possessions Northwestern scored 27 points, or 0.68 points per possession. That's outstanding. Northwestern has the country's 15th-best offense and the league's fourth-best; when Michigan wasn't going to the deep bench because of the aforementioned rigidity they annihilated the Wildcats.
The primary way they did this was by switching everything. IIRC there was a single breakdown for an open layup in the first half, then nothing the rest of the game. Everything else was contested. John Shurna was 2 of 5 from three and 4 of 11 from two with a couple of those twos ridiculous circus things; after the game Bill Carmody kind of called out his leading scorer for passivity:
"It just seemed the whole game that he was reluctant to do anything," Carmody said. "He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing. It was a game he had to take over."
Northwestern never tried to punish Michigan for switching players as small as Trey Burke onto Shurna. That's either blind luck or great scouting.
Threes? Michigan hit 37% on 38 threes for 1.1 points per attempt. Are we happy with that? I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of those were wide open when opponents sagged off Burke or left a corner three open in the 1-3-1. On the other hand, 38 threes. I'm guessing we would have had a much different opinion than confusion if Burke and Hardaway didn't put down back-to-back triples after Michigan found itself down four late. Those makes opened the door for the rat-tat-tat at the beginning of overtime. Before that the numbers were ugly.
1.1 points is not great. It sounds good as a shooting percentage but you have to take into account that way more twos than threes end up getting erased in favor of free throws. On the other hand, being willing to launch from deep really cut down on Michigan's turnovers (six to an uncharacteristic 14 for Northwestern) and would have led to some additional possessions via Morgan offensive rebounds if the refs hadn't gone from suck to blow in the second half. In the end, it worked. Worked authoritatively when Morgan/Smotrycz were in.
1-3-1 response. When Michigan's 1-3-1 was getting shredded early in the disappointing Harris/Sims post-tourney year it seemed like opponents were attacking it diagonally and getting to the basket. Michigan was hesitant to put the ball on the floor at all and ended up shooting over it on a large majority of possessions. When they did dump it in low, Morgan had a couple opportunities but didn't go up strong, as they say, and we got the obligatory missed bunny or two*. I wonder if Northwestern just runs the 1-3-1 a lot better than Michigan ever has in the Beilein era.
*[This should be less of a problem with McGary. When people are asking Morgan to go up strong they believe he can dunk a ball from a standing start under the basket, which I don't think he can. This should be no problem for McGary as long as he can catch cleanly—always an issue with big men.]
Hardaway. Yerg. Back to the salt mines: 2 of 9 from three, 4 of 10 from the line. Two of three from two… against a team that has no shot blocking. I don't think those distributions are going to get fixed this year; we can only hope the shots go down when Michigan really needs them to.
Rodger Sherman is not dead:
How. in the HELL. do we lose two games to the same ranked team in overtime? HOW? Why does this happen? THIS IS JUST THE WORST.
Northwestern has now played about 8000 close games this season and lost all of them. Here are my questions, and I am furious about each and every one.
You get the ball witha bout 50 seconds and a full shot clock. Instead of opting to go two-for-one and take the last shot, which ANYBODY WITH ANY SORT OF BASKETBALL SENSE IN THE WORLD would have done, Northwestern held for 35 seconds and had a possession end with a JerShon Cobb three, a shot which is about as efficient as repeatedly stabbing yourself in the face. YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES AGAINST A RANKED TEAM WITH ALL THE MOMENTUM. YOU WANT TO END THE GAME IN REGULATION. YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEATING A BETTER TEAM IN THREE POSSESSIONS (TWO OF WHICH ARE YOURS) THAN FIVE MORE MINUTES. This is inexplicable.
We will root for Northwestern from here on out. We have hurt them more than they deserve. AnnArbor.com on Vogrich:
"He's been a big part of this little surge we're having right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Vogrich. "You've seen all year long that we've struggled with our bench play.
"And we need that. He's done a good job."
During Michigan's current four-game winning streak, Vogrich has gone 9-for-13 from 3-point range, providing a spark off the bench that hasn't been there for most of the season.
Known as a 3-point specialist, Vogrich entered the Nebraska game on Feb. 8 shooting just 21.2 percent from behind the arc. But thanks to his recent hot streak, he's jumped up to a more respectable 33.3 percent on the year.
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
|LINE||M –1 (Kenpom)|
Remember when Michigan hadn't been to the tourney in ten years? Multiply that by infinity, give them a shot, and that is this game. Sippin' on Purple:
Hey, Northwestern's playing tonight! And it's not important at all! BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG) Hahahahahahahaha basketball is fun! (DIES)
So, Northwestern fans experiencing the team's first true bubble run don't really know how to feel. It turns out I've mastered the correct feeling, and here's how you do it: AFJKLSDSA;KLFJDL;ASJKADLS;KJFDAS WHAT WHAT IS HAPPENING AHHHHHH AHHHH EVERY SINGLE BASKETBALL GAME WE PLAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER TO HAPPEN EVER AND I'M NOT EVEN JOKING. There. Just be like that.
One of these pictures is of John Shurna, but which one? Okay, fine, you got it. It's the beak. Dead giveaway.
Penn State is terrible, Purdue is at home, and by the time Michigan plays Illinois Champaign will be in the throes of civil war. Thus tonight's game against Northwestern is Michigan's most daunting hurdle left. Kenpom says @ Illinois is more difficult but Kenpom cannot take the breakdown of civil society there into account.
Meanwhile, the stakes. Oh, the stakes. If Michigan wins they'll probably double their chances of getting a share of their first Big Ten title since 1986. If Northwestern wins they probably double their chances of getting their first tourney bid since the Big Bang. If Northwestern gets to 9-9 in conference they are in, and they have games against Iowa and Penn State left. Road game, sure, but their path to the a bid is clear if they defend home court tonight. Expect Welsh-Ryan to be bats. What's that, Stu Douglass?
"That gym's pretty small and it doesn't get too loud"
Expect Welsh-Ryan to be double bats.
The Wildcats got the preview treatment already. The main change since then has been due to injury: Luka Mirkovic has been out with an ankle sprain that must be of the dreaded "high" variety for him to miss so much time. In his absence, secret albatross John Shurna has played a lot of center—Northwestern's primary lineup these days is basically Michigan's lineup with Smotrycz on the floor and Morgan on the bench. Mirkovich did not play against Minnesota on Saturday and it doesn't seem like he'll return today.
Northwestern will go to a bigger lineup with post-type guy Davide Curletti, who got twenty minutes against the Gophers. Curletti is a lot like Mirkovich statistically but has significantly lower usage and turns the ball over a bit more. This may be due to Curletti playing more against Big Ten competition. Curletti's not much of a concern from the floor (low usage, 44%) or line (57%) and might see his time against Michigan reduced since the rebounding imperative will be lower than it was against Ralph Sampson III and company.
Northwestern also has guard JerShon Cobb back after a long injury absence. His numbers this year are too thin to draw much from; last year he was an inefficient offensive player (45% from 2, 30% from 3, few free throws but few turnovers). He has a reputation as a defensive stopper, however, and may be placed on Burke in an effort to slow him down. The Minnesota game was his first significant playing time since the Illinois game before the first Michigan-NU matchup of the year; he went 0-3 from the floor (all threes) in 24 minutes but had five steals.
Those are the relative newcomers. The team's engine is still John Shurna and Drew Crawford, who you know about. Shurna has massive usage, plays 92% of the time, never turns the ball over, and shoots 43% from 3. Crawford's got Hardaway-level usage, never turns the ball over, and shoots 40% from 3. Both are around 52-53% from inside the arc. They're quality.
The third banana is coming on like gangbusters as the season draw to a close. That's freshman point guard Dave "Sobocop" Sobolewski (right), who is averaging 14.8 points per game over the past six. He's got 22 assists to 8 turnovers in that span and is hitting 56% of his threes. He's only had one stinker in there (three points against Indiana) and if he can keep that up Northwestern's going to be hard to beat on their home floor.
Though Sobolewski was just okay against Michigan the first time out he impressed with his ability to get to the basket. Again: Michigan should closely monitor all Northwestern recruiting classes for opportunities to violate gentleman's agreements.
Aside from the three bolded fellows and the guys who need no introduction there aren't many other players to mention. Only two bench players got more than a minute against the Gophers: Curletti and Alex Marcotullio. He and Reggie Hearn are generic Northwestern low-usage guards with a lot of threes and not much else. Hearn does get off a decent number of two pointers.
It's been a while since Michigan eked out a two-point OT win over the Wildcats in Crisler. Since that game Northwestern has gone 5-5 in the league. They beat Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan and then took care of some of the league's poorer teams at home; they also helped initiate the Illinois death spiral by beating them 74-70 at Assembly Hall, Champaign Edition.
On the less-happy side of the ledger they suffered double-digit road losses against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Purdue, a five-point road loss against Indiana, and a two-point home loss against Purdue.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||54.4 1||52.9 10||49|
|Turnover %:||17.1 4||18.4 7||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||24.6 12||36.3 12||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||40.2 4||38.7 2||36.5|
Northwestern is Michigan only moreso. They are getting hammered on the boards in the post-Mirkovich era, and while they make up for that with excellent shooting on the offensive end—as a team they are hitting almost 40% of their threes in the Big Ten—they can't make up for the crappy defensive rebounding with good FG defense like Michigan does. As a result they're the second-worst D in the league, in front of only Iowa.
As you might expect, Northwestern launches a huge quantity of threes (44%, 7th nationally) and gets a ton of assists (65% of made field goals are assisted, 6th nationally); they also give up a lot of threes at a high rate of success and a low plenty of assists themselves.
Run 'em off the line. In a marked contrast with every other team in the league, Michigan should not have to double when the ball goes in the post—if the ball goes in the post—and can stick with their shooters. If Curletti is going to put it up, fine. If Shurna's willing to work for a two, fine. If a team that's hitting 40% from three gets a bunch of them, not so much.
The key thing to watch here is Sobolewski and Crawford penetrating. Without a post presence, Northwestern generates its open threes with a lot of penetrate-and-kick. Sobolewksi was effective at this in the first game. Trey Burke is going to have to D up a lot more than he did against the passive Aaron Craft. Stu Douglass will likely draw Crawford, and that will be okay unless he starts sinking a bunch of contested jumpers. Which could happen.
Anyway: reducing the numbers of threes taken is a priority. Michigan did a good job of this in the first game, holding the Wildcats to just 13 threes. That and a ton of offensive rebounding (17 on 44 opportunities) eventually gave them the win despite shooting 7 of 30 behind the arc themselves.
Morg-ownage: possible? Shurna at the five has been a problem for a lot of Big Ten defenses. Michigan would seem in better shape than most with Jordan Morgan, a relatively quick center who has the stamina to chase Shurna around the court. If Morgan can cope defensively, Michigan should have an advantage on the other end of the court when it comes to offensive rebounding. Yes, they're more than rumors.
Is that likely? Well… Shurna had 21 points on 15 shots in the first matchup. So maybe not. Morgan may be able to outrun most centers in the league but guarding Shurna on the perimeter has been an issue. So then you've got Smotrycz, whose defense is… inconsistent.
Morgan needs to dominate the boards here to make up for what will be an awkward matchup with Shurna.
Make some threes. Northwestern gives up a ton of quality three point opportunities and allows opponents to shoot 50% from two. There aren't a whole lot of bad shots when you play the Wildcats.
Michigan just has to hit them. That 7 of 30 thing is going to be tough to overcome on the road. Michigan's been judicious and effective from deep in the past couple games. Let's hope it continues. If Michigan can hit 35% instead of 23% they will win comfortably.
Yes, this bullet is basically "score points!"
Bench help. Matt Vogrich can be useful in this game; Evan Smotrycz will have a relatively even matchup when he's in at the five.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by one. Sippin' On Purple's Rodger Sherman literally dies. The second part is not a part of the Kenpom prediction, at least not yet.
"If we play the way we play against everyone else, it opens things up for things they want to do offensively, such as back-door plays and cuts," Jordan said. "We have to figure out how to make a new habit in two days (of practice)."
But for Jordan, his task is daunting because he doesn't want to miss a single detail or not be prepared when the game plan is presented in practice to the players and coach John Beilein.
"The goal is to eliminate surprises. You want to try to crack the code," he said. "You want to give some sense of what maybe to expect, but a lot of it is personnel-driven."
That Sippin' on Purple item is also a game preview.