Basketbullets: Assistant Coach Search, DJ and the Revolution, Commit Watch

Basketbullets: Assistant Coach Search, DJ and the Revolution, Commit Watch

Submitted by Ace on June 28th, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Exit: Billy Donlon

Courtside seating now available. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Northwestern made the hiring of Michigan assistant coach Billy Donlon official on Tuesday, pulling M's defensive guru away from the program after one season in which his impact became increasingly apparent. While the relatively late timing of Donlon's exit is unfortunate, a product of the domino effect caused by Thad Matta's firing at Ohio State, this all went down on the up-and-up.

MLive's Brendan Quinn reports Northwestern coach Chris Collins contacted John Beilein for permission to speak to Donlon and things progressed quickly from that point. There were simply too many connections for Donlon to turn down the gig. Collins and Donlon have been close since high school; their high school coach, who's now—you guessed it—an assistant at Northwestern, says they're like brothers. Then there's the family aspect:

As for Donlon, back home in Chicago, he plans to share a house with his father. The two lived together in Dayton when Donlon coached at Wright State and Billy Donlon Sr. served as his directory of basketball operations. The two leaned on each other. Billy Donlon's ex-wife and daughter live in North Carolina, while Maryann Donlon -- Billy Sr.'s wife and Billy Jr.'s mother -- died in September 2010 after a nine-year battle with cancer. A father-son relationship, along with basketball, has seen the two through some hard times.

Some things are bigger than basketball, or work, or both. Donlon told Quinn he wouldn't have left for any other program. Under these circumstances, it's easy to see why.

[Hit THE JUMP for replacement candidates and more.]

Report: Billy Donlon To Northwestern

Report: Billy Donlon To Northwestern

Submitted by Ace on June 25th, 2017 at 1:49 PM

Number of coaches in this picture still at Michigan: zero. [Bryan Fuller]

Michigan will now have to replace two assistant basketball coaches this offseason. Scout's Brian Snow reports that Billy Donlon, the de facto defensive coordinator, is departing Ann Arbor after one season with the Wolverines to be an assistant at Northwestern, where he has several long-running connections:

According to's Brian Snow, assistant Billy Donlon has accepted the position of assistant coach at Big Ten foe Northwestern.

"For me, I think it comes down to, from what I've heard, is that Billy has obviously known Chris Collins for a long time," Snow told The Michigan Insider. "Both grew up in the Chicago area and I don't necessarily know how far back their friendship goes, but they've known each other for a long time. They're very comfortable with each other, [Donlon] is comfortable with Chris, he's comfortable with the area so it's kind of a homecoming for him. He's looking for someone who he has a longstanding relationship with."

Donlon has deep ties to the Chicago area, Wildcats head coach Chris Collins and the Northwestern program. Donlon's father, Billy Donlon Sr., was a longtime assistant for the Wildcats from 1987-94.

Losing Donlon is a serious hit to a team that has some major question marks on defense after DJ Wilson entered the draft early. While Donlon's impact didn't immediately show up in the stats last year, it became apparent as the season wore on and the defense improved dramatically. The most obvious stylistic shift was in Michigan's ability to prevent three-point attempts. They ranked ninth nationally in 3PA/FGA after never finishing higher than 109th under John Beilein, and even that was a bit of an outlier.

We'll see what names emerge as replacement candidates; things have been quiet on that front even after Jeff Meyer took an assistant job under LaVall Jordan at Butler, and now there's another seat to fill. Here's hoping some of Donlon's teaching sticks regardless, as Michigan's best chance of being a decent defensive team next year is to continue creating a three-point gap.

Michigan's Three-Point Shooting: Mind The Gap

Michigan's Three-Point Shooting: Mind The Gap

Submitted by Ace on March 7th, 2017 at 3:52 PM

I prefer the shot on the left. So does Beilein. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

After the Nebraska evisceration, I wanted to take a closer look at something we discussed on this week's podcast. Michigan generated 12 more three-point attempts than the Huskers, which added to the growing pile of statistical evidence that the Wolverines have undergone a fundamental shift—not on offense, but on defense. John Beilein gave the money quote on it after the Purdue game:

We’ve made a conscious decision to defend the three-point line, knowing that a tough two is much better to give up than an open three, which we were giving up like crazy in our earlier struggles.

The key number to look at is 3PA/FGA: the percentage of each team's field goal attempts that come from beyond the arc. The offense is shooting threes at the usual Beilein offense rate: 45.3%, 16th nationally. Before this year, Beilein's Michigan defenses haven't been good at preventing opponent three-point looks; his best finish in 3PA/FGA was 108th in 2014, and most of his M teams have been in the 200 range.

This season, Michigan opponents are attempting just 29.0% of their field goals from beyond the arc. That puts the Wolverines tenth in the country.

The shift in defensive philosophy, likely a product of adding Billy Donlon to the staff, has created a massive gap in points generated from the three-point line between Michigan and their opponents. Critically, the Wolverines aren't forcing shots to make it happen. I put together a video of Michigan's three-point attempts (two garbage-time attempts excised) against Nebraska with freeze-frames just before the point of release; there are only a couple questionable shots among the 25:

I did the same for Nebraska's shots. While they had a few wide open looks, Michigan did a much better job of closing out on Husker shooters than vice versa, and that's not even the most telling part of this video—that would be the length of the video itself. What's not in there is the number of times Michigan defenders ran potential shooters off the line, forcing them to take those tough twos instead.

Even if Nebraska had hit their open looks, they had little hope of keeping up with Michigan's offense. Their second three-point attempt of the game came with under five minutes left in the first half; by that point, M had opened up a 20-point lead while shooting 8-for-12 on triples.

As conference champion Purdue found out, it's hard to close the three-point gap on Michigan with two-pointers, even when they're going in at a relatively high rate. It helps, of course, that Beilein's offense also generates great looks inside the arc; Michigan is 12th nationally in two-point percentage. This leaves opponents in a bind. Do they try to match Michigan three-for-three, even though the Wolverines have superior shooters to almost any team they face? Or do they run their normal offense and hope to either hit twos at a remarkable rate or get an off game from Michigan's shooters?

I'm not sure there's a good answer.

[Hit THE JUMP to see the numbers behind the three-point gap.]

Notes On A Hamblasting

Notes On A Hamblasting

Submitted by Brian on March 6th, 2017 at 12:04 PM

3/5/2017 – Michigan 93, Nebraska 57 – 20-11, 10-8

This is not a game column.


[Bryan Fuller]

God DAMN, Derrick Walton. There was a point last night where Derrick Walton took a terrible shot with verve and élan and it went in and I was neither mad at the shot nor surprised at the outcome. The rest of his night was on that level: 18 points, 16 assists (a program record), 5 steals, and... sigh... one rebound. Walton missing a triple-double because of insufficient rebounds is a killer.

Also killer: Derrick Walton. He is now taking those Chauncey Billups transition pull-up threes and I love them even when they do not go down. He is efficient inside the arc for the first time since he was a freshman, and he's doing Trey Burke things, and he's making himself a verb. If I say a senior has "gone Walton" you know what I mean. Not that anyone is likely to have such a transformation again.

I have gotten in the occasional twitter fight with Minnesota fans who are arguing that Nate Mason should be first-team All Big Ten, and I would just like to state for the record that any such assertions are insane homerism. The only thing Mason has on Walton is volume, and that volume is underwhelming: he's shot 268 twos at a 38% clip this year.

Well then. Michigan's 36-point road annihilation of Nebraska ends their regular season and confirms Michigan as one of the weirdest teams in the country. It also conjures a hypothetical: would you rather be a nine seed that plays like a six or a six seed that plays like a nine? The former team wins a lot of blowouts and drops close games; the latter wins a disproportionate share of close games.

Being a six seed that isn't quite as good would feel better. Michigan is the nine because of their record in games decided by five or less: 3-6. Last year's team was 6-1 and still slid into Dayton. Also last year's team finished the year losing six of their last nine. Michigan's inverted that, albeit in a much worse Big Ten.

So either nearly the same crew of players went from super clutch to not clutch or this is a much better team that doesn't look like one record-wise because their point distribution across games was suboptimal.

An illustration. Nobody really doubts Michigan's sea change on defense anymore. Nonetheless, Nebraska provided an easy before-and-after photo for Beilein: the game at Crisler in January was in the immediate aftermath of the Maverick Morgan White Collar Incident; Michigan won a barn-burner 91-85. Nebraska shot 59% from two and 50% from 3, with Tai Webster torching Michigan for 37.

Yesterday, Webster was held to 8 points; Nebraska shot 53% from 3 and was just 2/15 from three. Ace and Alex have mentioned this before and it bears re-emphasizing after a game where Michigan gave up just 15 attempts from behind the arc: a big part of three point defense is keeping them from being launched in the first place, and Michigan is suddenly very good at that.

A selection of team D stats from last year to this year, with major shifts bolded:

2016 2017
Adj Efficiency 95 85
EFG 248 234
Turnover Rate 188 90
OREB 47 173
FTA/FGA 17 40
3PT% 173 311
2PT% 264 205
FT% 315 64
Block% 308 237
Steal% 198 150
3PA/FGA 218 10
A/FGM 193 32

Michigan's now slightly better than they were a year ago because they've offset big declines in rebounding and three-point percentage allowed with more turnovers forced, better free throw D (high five!), and a severe restriction on opponent threes. Even last year's team, which was dead last in the league in 2PT% D and right on the NCAA average for 3PT% D, gave up more points per three attempted than per two.

Obviously this is not a complete picture of the value of two-pointers since you're much more likely to draw free throws inside the line, but in case you've missed the last 20 years of basketball it remains the case that three is more than two even in extreme environments. Michigan's closeout competency surge is the biggest effect of hiring Billy Donlon: Michigan has never (never!) been in the top 100 in that stat under Beilein, and now they're in elite company.



Why Michigan's rebounding has declined is a bit of a mystery. It's mostly the same crew playing with the exceptions of DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner. Those two guys are replacing either wing types or Michigan's 2016 centers, who were Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle. Both of those guys had DREB rates barely over 10%. IE: they were not good rebounders. I maintained last year that Doyle was good at boxing out while letting others grab the ball; Ace theorized that Michigan's stronger closeout game has taken guys away from the basket.

Dunno. Area for improvement next year.

The volume of shift. Ace didn't want to round this and I don't either. Michigan's defense post-Nebraska-torching: 0.998 points per possession. That's a 12 game sample against much better competition* than the bad old days and would have been fourth in the league.

Perspective: Michigan's D improved just as much as Derrick Walton did after Maverick Morgan.

*[That ugly five game stretch to start the conference season is even uglier when you consider that it came against five opponents who were #3, #8, #11, #12, and #13 in offensive efficiency.]

Don't look at it. Use your peripheral vision. Zak Irvin's miserable stretch ended after the Indiana game. Since then he's been middling, hitting 53%/35% from the field on third-banana usage and helping Michigan's team-wide defensive renaissance. With Walton emerging as the team's alpha dog and Wagner either running things inside or throwing entire defensive systems into disarray ("Let's switch bigs on to Walton" –Tim Miles), third-banana, doesn't-dribble-out-half-a-shot-clock, zero-hero-ball Zak Irvin has re-emerged into an asset. Even if there's like one or two hero-balls in there.

Also in post-Maverick surges. MAAR is quietly the sixth-most efficient player in conference play. There was a point midseason where everyone seemed pretty mad at him, including Beilein. That seems like a long time ago, what with MAAR shooting 56/49 in Big Ten play, with many of those two-pointers difficult late-clock takes to the bucket when Michigan can't get anything else going.

One of the key questions on next year's offense is "how does MAAR maintain his efficiency at much higher usage?" He's at 17% now and will probably tack on 5% next year—that's a big leap. Pretty well if he just up that assist rate, I think. MAAR's done something pretty difficult for a guard: his career shooting percentage inside the arc is higher in conference play than it is over the course of the season, for three straight years. The kind of shots he gets are good ones.

Graham Couch time! It's been a minute since we checked in with the only beat writer on the planet who thinks Martin Luther King Day is for lazy people. It takes time to regather yourself after such a take and find the next thing you're going to be spectacularly, inanely wrong about. Couch rises to the occasion:

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – If Michigan State is left out of the NCAA tournament this month, MSU’s non-conference schedule next season should be a who’s who of the SWAC and MEAC, with a couple mid-level MAC and Missouri Valley Conference teams sprinkled in to give the illusion that competition matters.

MSU is in line for a bid mostly because they successfully gamed the RPI by losing to good teams. That's how they're one spot behind Michigan in that metric despite a 25-spot gap in Kenpom, two fewer wins, and the same conference record. MSU beat one nonconference team of consequence, Wichita State; Michigan beat Marquette and SMU. MSU also lost to Northeastern. The only reason to project those teams at or near the same seedline is because the NCAA is still relying on the archaic RPI, and the RPI has rewarded MSU for losing to good teams.

What would the SWAC-and-MEAC schedule do to Michigan State's RPI? Annihilate it. The worst thing you can do as a college basketball team looking to game the system is play teams ranked 300+. Graham Couch's argument is "if the NCAA puts MSU in the NIT, MSU should throw a fit... and put themselves in it." I can't let this zinger languish on Slack:


By and for juggaloes.

Unverified Voracity Gives Self C-

Unverified Voracity Gives Self C-

Submitted by Brian on October 19th, 2016 at 5:16 PM

site note: UFR tomorrow AM and PM. Sorry about the delay.


Breakout star Ben Gedeon [Bryan Fuller]

Oh, man, please do not excite me. PFF breaks down the Michigan-Ohio State matchup as only they can, and Michigan comes out ahead on most counts, including all three defensive units. Ben Gedeon is a surprise standout:

This was without question the biggest area of concern for the Wolverines heading into the season, but both Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray have played well thus far. Gedeon’s 89.1 run defense grade is second-best in the country behind only the Ohio Bobcats’ Blair Brown, and McCray has graded well in all three phases while posting 10 pressures (three sacks) and a QB rating against of 42.1 in coverage.

That's a huge boost to a defense that didn't really need one.

Ohio State's biggest advantage is quarterback, unsurprisingly. JT Barrett and Wilton Speight are grading out similarly as passers; meanwhile there is a slight Barrett advantage on the ground. The overall tone of the article is... uh... far too encouraging for me to be comfortable with.

But the level of dominance the Michigan defensive line has achieved to date can only be challenged by Alabama, as six players have run defense grades of at least 80.0 (by comparison, Alabama has two) and five have pass-rush grades higher than 75.0 (Alabama has six). DTs Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst and DEs Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton are all likely top 100 picks (should they all choose to enter the draft this year), and last year’s No. 1 recruit DE Rashan Gary has been as good as advertised.

Michigan is now slightly favored in the Game by S&P+ and it sounds like PFF would pick Michigan as well. This terrifies me.

Lewis on Lewis. Rather frank self-scout right here:

"There's still a few things I can clean up," Lewis said this week. "I've let a few guys behind me a little bit and have just relied on my quickness and makeup speed. But I've got to stop cheating (with my eyes) and use my technique more."

Not as harsh a self-assessment as Peppers giving himself a C-, but that is accurate. Three or four times the ball has gone in the air with Lewis in seemingly bad position; he's made a play each time. Ideally he'll be able to wipe out that moment of nervousness when the ball is in the air.


The Peppers factor [Patrick Barron]

Fancystat fight. Football Outsiders has two advanced CFB metrics: S&P+ and FEI. FEI, a drive-based metric, doesn't release until this week, and so we haven't been able to compare the two yet. In general FEI is less impressed. Michigan is third, not first, and their defense is fourth instead of an absurd runaway #1. OTOH, FEI has Michigan's offense third in the country, which seems optimistic.

The thing that really leaps out is special teams, though: S&P+ has Michigan 107th. FEI has Michigan 1st.

The FEI drilldown is how you'd expect. Michigan's been horrible at field goals (119th), meh at punting and returning kickoffs, and very good at their own kickoffs and returning punts. That shouldn't add up to the #1 team in the country but FEI also includes metrics for starting field possession on offense (#1) and defense (#13) that must factor in? Those numbers are only slightly about special teams.

S&P+ relies on "success rate" for kickoffs and punts, which has always seemed odd to me since there's no first down to shoot for. A yard is a yard on special teams. In any case, Michigan's terrible S&P+ rating is due to a heavy weight for FG kicking, which fair enough, and a poor punting success rate.

FWIW, the Mathlete's numbers that convert everything to points lost and gained have Michigan 16th.

My take: FEI is overrating the special teams because the defense is so dominant that it's moving field position outside the bounds of normal, and S&P+ isn't weighting the explosive Peppers returns enough. I asked Bill Connelly, the S&P+ purveyor, about this, and he said much the same thing. He's got good reasons to go with success rate but a guy like Peppers blows assumptions inherent in that choice out of the water.

Glasgow getting it done. Graham, that is. He got his first start this weekend and a newpaper breaks down film(!!!), where he impressed:

First and foremost, we have to highlight the performance of rookie Graham Glasgow, making his first start. Playing left guard, no Lions lineman drew Donald more often, matching up against the All-Pro 16 times, including 11 snaps in pass protection. Surprisingly, Glasgow rarely was given the assistance of a double-team, getting help from a teammate three of those snaps.


Glasgow was terrific throughout the first half. He didn't give up any pressure, until losing his block on Donald during Detroit's final offensive play. Stafford managed to escape that pressure, bailing from the pocket and finding Andre Roberts for a short touchdown on fourth down.

Is this an opportunity to say I foresaw all of this as early as Glasgow's first few games? Maybe. Probably. Yes.

The revamp is for real. John Beilein already had one major revamp of his program that ended in a Final Four run. Revamp #2 is on now, and it's seriously serious:

This is going to be a fascinating year.

Etc.: This midseason All Big Ten team is incorrect because the defense is not Michigan's starting 11, but it does have Ryan Glasgow on it so I give it ten points. Big Ten Geeks previews basketball. What went wrong with Notre Dame. People are so mad about this arm-grab thing from Richard Sherman that just looks like good crafty D to me. Early Big Ten hockey impressions. Brady Hoke could recruit some.

A toast to Yost. The cookie monsters.

Hoops Preview 2016-17: Point Guards

Hoops Preview 2016-17: Point Guards

Submitted by Ace on October 18th, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Previously: John Beilein media day transcript, Billy Donlon media day quotes, MGoPodcast 8.7, Alex's team preview

Derrick Walton did most of his offensive damage from beyond the arc.

Michigan learned a difficult lesson about the importance of the point guard position in John Beilein's system two years ago. Unfortunately, they learned the same lesson again last year. From the 2015-16 season preview:

As Michigan learned the hard way in 2014-15, it all starts with the point guard in John Beilein's system. Derrick Walton is healthy again after a foot injury derailed and then prematurely ended his sophomore season; now he's poised for the patented LaVall Jordan second-year leap a year later than expected. Spike Albrecht is recovering from surgery on his hips but should be a full go early in the season, giving the Wolverines a starter-quality backup.

Despite returning to full health, Derrick Walton had many of the same issues that were initially blamed on his foot injury—most glaringly, he remained woefully inefficient as a scorer inside the arc. Walton's support vanished when Spike Albrecht, not fully recovered from his hip surgeries, was shut down after nine games. For the second straight year, John Beilein was compelled to pull a redshirt off Andrew Dakich to provide spot minutes.

Walton has one final go-round to break into that elite tier of point guards. While Spike is off to Purdue, there's still good reason to hope point guard depth (finally) won't be an issue this year, as Ohio's Mr. Basketball, Xavier Simpson, joins the squad.

[Hit THE JUMP for in-depth player previews.]

Billy Donlon Media Day Quotes

Billy Donlon Media Day Quotes

Submitted by Ace on October 13th, 2016 at 1:18 PM

Billy Donlon protects the rim against Xavier Simpson. [Isaiah Hole/247]

I planned to spend the assistant coaches portion of media day splitting time evenly between the three assistants. After wanding into Billy Donlon's scrum, however, I never made it out. Michigan's new de facto defensive coordinator, even if he's reluctant to use that term, gave a lot of insight into how he approaches coaching defense and guard play. I tried to pick and choose the highlights from the half-hour or so of audio I have from him; I still ended up transcribing nearly 4000 words.


  • Donlon coaches a man-to-man defense with what he calls a gap philosophy, which is similar to the pack-line defense.
  • Expect to see Michigan stop fast breaks more often by fouling—Donlon mentions this tactic as a significant breakthrough in transition defense brought over by European coaches/players.
  • Toughness is a skill that can be taught.
  • Saddi Washington is a "grand slam" hire.
  • He's "in awe" of how John Beilein does his job.
  • "When you’re an assistant you make suggestions. When you’re a head coach you make decisions."

On what he may have seen on film from Michigan last year that is correctable:

I think you just try to look at some things from film from last year that maybe we could work on or address or understand the rules, and for me just trying to familiarize just the Big Ten in general. That was what I tried to do with some of the free time, when you’re not recruiting, when you’re not with the guys. You’re always trying to get it better. We’ll continue to work really hard at trying to get it better.

On his defensive philosophy:

We’re a gap team. The gap is really similar to the pack-line. The pack-line is a little lower. In the gap you’re a little closer in terms of you’re up the line a little bit more, you’re one step off the line of the ball and your man versus maybe two steps in the pack-line. In the pack-line, that means it’s more contained. [In] the gap, the closeout isn’t as hard. There’s good and bad in everything that you choose to do. The great thing about both of those is you can easily go from the gap to pack-line and then back, because they’re similar. That’s been how I’ve grown up playing in it and also coaching it, and it’s similar to what they’ve done here, to be honest.


John Beilein Media Day Presser Transcript

John Beilein Media Day Presser Transcript

Submitted by Ace on October 12th, 2016 at 3:56 PM

I'm finally getting around to this now that football is taking a breather. This is from last Monday, and I'll also have a transcript of Billy Donlon's illuminating media day press scrum tomorrow before digging into the meat of the season preview.


  • This was after only a couple practices, so it's light on specifics about how the team is looking right now, though there was still plenty to cover from the offseason.
  • The team spent a lot more time this offseason on individual defense.
  • Billy Donlon is, yes, a pseudo-defensive coordinator, and he's been very vocal in practice. Beilein notes that Donlon's defenses have been better than Michigan's, so he's listening closely to Donlon's input.
  • Beilein may be rethinking autobench. (!!!)
  • Xavier Simpson and Derrick Walton will play at the same time, perhaps with more frequency than we expect.
  • I nearly forgot my question after Beilein said he likes my tweets.

[Joined just after the start of the opening statement.]

Excited to get back to practice again, my 42nd season, my tenth season at Michigan. It’s wonderful to coach this group of young men we have right now. The transition with our staff thus far has been terrific. Really, really love the new information, the excitement, the great parallels between Saddi [Washington] and Bill Donlon, and Val Jordan and Bacari Alexander. It’s been a really good transition thus far.

We’ve had two practices, I can’t tell you a whole lot. I think that we spent a great, probably 500% more, in the summer, on just individual defense as opposed to evaluating players, so I don’t have a lot of evaluation for you today. We haven’t scrimmaged yet. I would say we’ve probably scrimmaged for 60 minutes the entire summer, so I can’t give you much information for what I feel, who’s where, other than what I do know. We’re trying to get in a stance, we’re trying to guard people, we’re trying to do a much better job that what we did last year. I hope you’ll see a little bit, it’s going to be a very boring practice for you, it’s going to be an hour of some stretching, and there will be some shooting, and there will be a little bit more. There won’t be a dunk contest and there won’t be any type of scrimmage in there at all, but you’ll get a little idea for who the players are, what numbers they are, and that’ll be just about it.

As I said, I feel recharged and reenergized by so many things that have occurred with this class of really five new players coming, with the four freshmen and Charles Matthews. Last year we just had Moe Wagner, that was it. Reteaching things, retooling things has been really energizing for us. Listening to Saddi and to Bill has been great. You go back six years ago and having Bacari and Val walk in, and Jeff Meyer, and it’s like that time all over again where I can say, okay, this is what’s gone on the last six years, this is where the game has changed, have I changed enough, and then we just go from there. A lot of trial and error still in practice in these six weeks, and then I know we won’t have it perfect by the time of the first game. We just want to be really good by the time we get to that Big Ten schedule.

I hope you’re all excited about our football team right now being 5-0. It’s a great start. I was following the game the other day, for you Catholics out there I don’t know if I’m in trouble, but I was looking at my phone during a wedding Mass on Saturday. That probably didn’t give me absolution for that, but I was following the game on the phone. I probably shouldn’t have told the bride and the groom that just now, either, but I just did.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the transcript.]

Unverified Voracity Got To Mars In Six Days

Unverified Voracity Got To Mars In Six Days

Submitted by Brian on May 11th, 2016 at 2:53 PM


Team Gardens in Flint. If you're in the area and available this Saturday, the Alumni Association is working with Vincent Smith's Team Gardens to make a thing:

Each year, on Michigan Alumni Community Service Day, alumni clubs from all over the country give back to their local communities in a variety of ways. This year, our club is pleased to partner with Team Gardens #EATING Project to assist with the creation of a community garden at Potter Elementary School in Flint. Be sure to register for this event soon; attendance is limited to 35 volunteers and families are very welcome.

Plants! Plant them in planters, the plants. And the ground.

Go big or go bigger, home is just a distant memory. Michigan has now announced 28(!) satellite camps, including faintly ludicrous stops in Australia, Hawaii, and American Samoa—and Michigan will be at the latter two twice. I have a preview of Jay Harbaugh's future right here:

I have also traveled to and fro in time to acquire a piece of Jay's diary.

JULY 15TH—unnamed village 50 miles north-northwest of Almaty, Kazakhstan. The stink of refuse in the streets and the uncomprehending looks from the villagers wear on us daily. We say "football" ever slower only for the children to grab the balls and kick them about. The oblong shape does not bother them. They have never seen a soccer ball, either. I begin to wonder if they've ever seen a man-made toy.

Everything else is goats. Goat cheese. Goat moccasins. Goat yurts. Furtive in the streets, one day I think I see a goat wife. All is goats. We offer a class of 2019 wide receiver who does not know what a post route is, or his own name. We call him Goatley. He is probably a goat.

Tomorrow we're going to see the cosmodrome, for some reason.

JULY 21ST—Mons Olympus, Mars. There are no people here. We have been directed to form them from the dusty Martian soil. Every day I trudge up the ancient shield volcano to see if the crumbling forms have been imbued with a spark of life. They never are. I feel the radiation sleeting through space and Mars's thin atmosphere, into my bones. The nights are dark beyond belief.

In more ludicrous satellite camp news. The War On Rutgers continues. Our current situation: Michigan is ignoring Rutgers for the 150th consecutive year. Rutgers is offended that Michigan asked them to their Paramus camp because they didn't want to play second fiddle in their home state, so they announced a camp with Urban Meyer at the same time as Michigan's. I have a dank meme for this, you guys, that will prove I am hip with the snapchat youth.


Noted rappist DJ Khaled will ensure I remain relevant for decades

Only the dankest of memes will appear in this space.

Anyway, by flipping the bird to Michigan, Rutgers and OSU have annoyed a bunch of local recruits who now have to choose which set of coaches to get exposure with. New Milford assistant and outstanding name Preston Lawyer:

It appears this has hit a vein of internal New Jersey high school politics, and that a number of NJ high school coaches are nuts. A article quotes a number of coaches supporting the Rutgers camp with language that says more about the person speaking than the event they're commenting on:

"Obviously, Michigan wants to conspire with Paramus Catholic to do whatever they want to do,'' Campanile said. "So I don't think they're making friends from that standpoint with a lot of these schools. I really don't know what to say about it. But it is what it is. They're obviously aligned with those guys, and if that's what they want to do, it's their business."

I'm sorry if some of you experienced painful eye-rolling at that quote. There's plenty more in there if you're inclined. This guys sounds like a major piece of work. His brother in an assistant at BC, who will work the Paramus camp:

"I love my brother more than anything in the world. I just don't want anything to do with my kids going to a camp at Paramus Catholic.''

The good news is that per 247 this dude doesn't have a single recruitable player in either of the next two classes. The two other coaches in that article are from Don Bosco and St Peter's Prep, though, and that's going to be interesting: three of the top five guys in the 2018 class are at those schools and Michigan is thought to lead for the Ademilola twins and is up there for Tyler Friday. A dollar says at least one of these guys is hired by Rutgers in the near future.

This already happened. To you. As recently as it's possible for this to happen. Elsewhere in incorrect braggadocio:

"I may get myself in trouble for this: For people that want to come to Alabama and have a camp, I think it's great, because they're helping the quality of football in the state of Alabama," Horton told the Ledger-Enquirer. "(But) no one is coming to this state and getting a player from Auburn or Alabama. That's not going to happen. So hey, I'm for, if they want to come to our state and have it, that's going to help the quality of high school football."

Not quite Alabama, but Elysee Mbem-Bosse went to high school less than two hours away from Auburn, was widely expected to go to Auburn, and then Harbaugh went "yoink." Michigan's recruiting efforts are not going to have a material impact on any out-of-region school; pretending that Harbaugh can't go pick off kids you want is sticking your fingers in your ears and going "la la la."

Pack line is music to the ears. Quinn profiles Billy Donlon in a long piece. They key bit for people blanching at triple-digit Kenpom D efficiencies:

At Wright State, Donlon primarily played a true pack line defense (a variation of man-to-man), while showing some 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones over the years. His team ranked in the top three in defensive efficiency in five of six years in the Horizon.

Over the last three seasons, Michigan has ranked 9th, 11th and 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency.

"He has a great basketball mind in general, but the way he coaches defenses -- that's kind of his thing," said AJ Pacher, a Wright State center during Donlon's first four seasons. "He did a lot of film, and a lot scouting, and he'd implement a lot of against specific teams in specific games."

The foul tension will be fascinating to see unfold next year. Here's hoping Michigan is a lot more annoying, a lot more effective, and autobench is at least somewhat warranted.

As a side note:

As Tuesday afternoon wrapped up, Donlon declined to answer if he'll serve as a sort of pseudo-defensive coordinator at Michigan.

Dank meme questions bros.

An easy way to get fired. Like a lot of coaches, Charlie Strong has a twitter hashtag he uses to announce commits, albeit anonymously. Would you believe the Texas guy for Scout has trademarked this hashtag and is now selling merch featuring it? You would not. But it happened anyway:

Texas officials were surprised Monday after learning that a reporter who covers Longhorns recruiting had trademarked Strong’s phrase in March 2015 and recently started selling #Letsride T-shirts.

Jason Higdon, the lead recruiting analyst for Horns Digest, filed two federal trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year to use the phrase on various sports apparel and wristbands.

If this guy had any connect with the coaching staff he doesn't have it any longer, and if the reaction to this news is any indication he might not have a job much longer. There is now a run by one of the Barking Carnival guys, because the internet is like that.

Etc.: Mount Hot Take has been discovered. Excellent summary of the A&M twitter disaster. Ditto the Tunsil situation. Basketball has a home and home scheduled with UCLA. SMSB director appreciates Harbaugh's advocacy.

Baumgardner profiles David Long. Please have all future profile posted before the 2016 recruiting profile for that player, pls thx. Also profiled: Jourdan Lewis. Bama is comin' to our citayyyy. Don't hire the son of a famous coach before he's done something to prove he's not a total buffoon. See also: Derek Dooley.

Michigan Hires Billy Donlon, Saddi Washington

Michigan Hires Billy Donlon, Saddi Washington

Submitted by Brian on May 4th, 2016 at 4:14 PM


These names had been rumored for a couple days and now they are official:

University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Wednesday, May 4) the hiring of Billy Donlon and Saddi Washington as assistant coaches for the Wolverines.

Donlon was just fired from Wright State after a six-year tenure. His axing was controversial, to say the least, after Donlon saw his charges to 22-13 season and 13-5 conference mark, and the conference tournament final. I mean, this is a hell of a resume to fire for a low major*:

Three years after he was named the Horizon League coach of the year and three days after he led his Wright State team to its third 20-plus wins season in four years, a tie for the most league wins by a WSU team and the third appearance in four years in the title game of the league tournament, Donlon was fired as the Raiders’ basketball coach.

Donlon and Wright State had a rough 2015 but the years surrounding it were all 20-win seasons featuring excellent defense considering WSU's place in the basketball firmament. Here are some key stats from his tenure:

Year Adj D Eff Rk 2PT % RK BLK % RK TO% RK REB RK FTR RK
2016 58 136 311 42 22 341
2015 173 267 275 124 154 257
2014 39 154 192 6 83 272
2013 30 165 300 15 68 314
2012 92 335 300 4 90 321
2011 107 335 342 12 111 276

Donlon's teams played a high-foul, high-TO style that made them somewhere between respectable and just about as good as a low major can rank—with the exception of 2015. He's never had any shot blocking because of the nature of coaching at Wright State, but three of the last four years he's outperformed a ton of teams. (FWIW, His offenses were universally horrible. That doesn't matter because Beilein.) Donlon looks like the "defensive coordinator" I was advocating once LaVall Jordan left. Beilein:

"I have known Billy for almost two decades, and I love his passion and IQ for the game. He has tremendous experience as a player, assistant and head coach at the Division I level. Improving our defense is a huge goal for us, and defense is one of Billy's specialties."

If he can get Wright State into the top 60 three times in the last four years he's probably pretty good in that role.

The obvious catch is that free throw rate. That is emphatically not how Michigan plays right now, and it's an open question just how much rope Donlon will have to deploy his style of D. Beilein is notoriously persnickety about fouls. Insert hours-long autobench complaint here.

Meanwhile, Washington has been at Oakland for a decade, helping the Golden Grizzlies have disproportionate success in the Horizon League. He almost got a job in Ann Arbor during the last staff shakeup. I don't know much about him other than the fact that Sam Webb believes he'll be an excellent recruiter; unlike Donlon he doesn't have a helpful Kenpom page since he was an assistant.

*[Article states that Wright State pays its assistants less than the rest of the Horizon and doesn't have a full time strength coach; they are mid-major only if that's your term for literally every non-big-time CBB program.]