12/1/2018 – Michigan 76, Purdue 57 – 8-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Bigs are the college basketball equivalent of offensive linemen. They're hard to project. They take a significant amount of time to refine into their final product. Also they are big.
Once you get outside the rarefied air of the kids who go to basketball factories so fake they can't even bother to come up with a real name—there is now a place called "Spire Academy" which naturally now houses LaMelo Ball—when centers arrive on campus they've mostly spent their time raining fire on 6'3" guys who keep asking the ref if they can use pitchforks against it. Also, they are big, so they've been slotted into basketball teams whether or not they really care to be. The bigger the person, the more foreordained it is that they will play center despite a total lack of basketball-related skills. There's a 7'6" dude from Dakar named Tacko Fall who plays for UCF and shoots 27% on free throws. QED.
So when you hear the new big who looks like a newborn deer during the brief moments he's permitted on the court is nicknamed "The Big Sleep," well… this is our concern. Not even the guy with literal narcolepsy got called The Big Sleep.
Two years later, Purdue has switched Carsen Edwards onto The Big Sleep. This is a thing Purdue just does on instinct at this point. Does the tall man's jersey read "Michigan"? Okay, switch a firefly onto him because the one thing Michigan never does is post up. This gambit has waned in its effectiveness over time but usually because the Boilermaker on the guard is a great lumbering thing or, now, a Frenchman on a dilapidated bicycle. Michigan still doesn't post up, basically ever.
This time Jon Teske puts Edwards on his back, receives an entry pass, and dunks. Edwards shrugs afterwards. His face says "what I am supposed to do with that?" He knows the answer is nothing.
This is Teske now, with the rough edges sanded down. He puts up 17 points on 8 shot equivalents. He spearheads the #1 defense in college basketball. There are a lot of reasons that opponents are hitting 36% of their twos, but the foremost among them is Teske. When he's on the court teams are hitting 31 percent. 31! When he goes to the bench opponents get 13 percentage points worth of relief. Teske got switched onto Nassir Little in the last game and matched Little's drive to the basket. That ball ended up in the stands.
Teske roared afterward, much like he does in the photo that leads this post. That came when he put poor Grady Eifert on a poster:
At the top, Simpson is doing his Big Mood walk despite having no involvement in the play. And that's right too. Teske deserves to roar; he deserves all the chest-bumps and weird awkward arm-lock thingies Michigan is doing this year.
He still looks like the nice boy down the street after you increased his pixel count by 50%, and that's why he'll always be Big Sleep to me. Saddi Washington attempted to rebrand Teske as "Big Nasty" last year, but let's keep The Big Sleep around. Big Nasty is taken by Corliss Williamson and generic anyway. Ain't nobody named Big Sleep.
We just have to look at it a different way. The Big Sleep isn't about what Jon Teske is. It's about what he does to your offense, and sometimes your defense. The Big Sleep is a noir movie. The Big Sleep is a wrestling finisher. The Big Sleep is what happens when you tell Cement Ricky you'll have his money in two weeks and don't.
The Big Sleep is what happens when you manage to get past the forest of poking arms around Michigan's perimeter: a giant man in a trenchcoat throws you over his head into the water.
[After THE JUMP: cat and mouse between Beilein and Painter]