This Week's Obsession: Wagner or Wilson?

This Week's Obsession: Wagner or Wilson?

Submitted by Ace on May 19th, 2017 at 3:04 PM


Pick one. Not so easy, right? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

If you can only choose one, which player would you rather have back next year: Moe Wagner or DJ Wilson?

Ace: The genesis of this question was a lengthy twitter thread that had some good points on both sides. While it’s close, I lean just barely to the side of Wagner, who I think is a better college player than pro prospect; Wilson is the opposite. While you’re certainly sacrificing some defense to keep Wagner, the consistently efficient offensive outputs are tough to pass up, especially since he showed last year he can create for himself, something the team sorely needs sans Walton (especially) and Irvin.

Wilson is a bit too much of a wild card; he can put it all together and make this conversation look stupid, or he can essentially be the guy he was last year—he’d need to dramatically change his approach to be the lead guy we’d want him to be.

BiSB: I agree that Wagner is a better college player. But at the same time, I think Wilson leaving would leave a bigger hole in the lineup. Teske and Davis are largely untested, but at least they are extant. Unless Wagner is going to play minutes in a two-big sort of lineup, you're looking at Duncan Robinson playing a ton of minutes at the four. And while his defense has gotten somewhat better, and you can get away with it against certain types of teams, that's still a glaring hole in the defense.

Brian: This question depends heavily on how much those guys improve from last year, when they were way behind Mark Donnal. To be honest, I'd expect a Wilson-no-Wagner team to have DJ at the 5 for 20 minutes a game. Late last season that was almost already the case and small ball is all the rage at every level of basketball.

Ace: The defensive impact is what keep this close for me. Wilson is more versatile positionally, quicker, and a better rim protector. But I’m also not sold on Teske or Davis being a better option than more Robinson; I’m not sure either packs enough offensive oomph to make that a desirable swap. There are lineups than can run Robinson off the court, but there are also lineups that can probably run Teske, who’s rather ponderous, off the court as well.

BiSB: Perhaps my assumption that John Beilein could turn five confused baby ducklings into a top-25 KenPom offense is too strong.

But I do feel like DJ is what gives Michigan flexibility at both ends of the court.

[Hit THE JUMP as the debate continues, now with Synergy numbers.]

Basketbullets: Bamba To Texas, Simmons Withdraws, Wilson On Fringe

Basketbullets: Bamba To Texas, Simmons Withdraws, Wilson On Fringe

Submitted by Ace on May 18th, 2017 at 11:43 AM


Pondering. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The pipe dream is dead. Five-star center Mo Bamba committed to Texas via a post on The Players' Tribune:

Everybody’s recruiting process is unique in some way, and mine was no different. Watching my family grow and solidify its bond was by far my favorite part of the experience. The world is bigger than 94 by 50 feet, and we all agreed that Texas offers me an exceptional opportunity to blaze my own trail on the basketball front with the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens, I’ve got an unrivaled support network to lean on for whenever the ball stops bouncing.

Happy trails. /wipes away single tear

Simmons withdraws. The NBA combine and draft lottery are complete, so we have a new wave of mock drafts to look over. First, MLive's Brendan Quinn broke a bit of news last night that was probably a formaility but is a relief nonetheless: Ohio grad transfar Jaaron Simmons, who'll likely start at point guard, will withdraw his name from the draft and join the Wolverines.

Now, Simmons says, he's ready to come to Michigan.

"I'm gonna pull my name out of the draft," Simmons told MLive on Wednesday. "I haven't officially done it yet, but that's definitely the way I'm going."

Quinn reports Simmons is "in the process" of getting his name withdrawn. A strong player in both pick-and-roll and isolation situations, he fills a significant need and takes considerable pressure off of Xavier Simpson. More on Simmons and his fit on the roster here and here.

Mock draft updates. While we have more clarity after the combine, the status of DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner is still up in the air as we near the May 24th withdrawal deadline. Both players have said they won't stay in the draft unless they're first-round picks. That looks unlikely for Wagner; Wilson's situation is murkier.

Wilson sat out the combine with a nagging quad injury, and while missing the five-on-five portion of the combine may have been beneficial to his draft stock—he didn't have to bang bodies in the post with guys like Jordan Bell—the same cannot be said for missing the athletic testing portion, as his biggest draw right now is his size/athleticism combo. If Wilson's quad isn't healed up enough to fully participate in individual team workouts this week, he'll be in a tough spot, operating with far less feedback than he'd hoped to get when he began the process.

Wagner's combine performance showed it's probably in his best interest to come back to school, as the five-on-five portion mostly highlighted his shortcomings as a defender and rebounder:

Center Moritz Wagner was arguably the worst player in the five-on-five portion this week. In his first game, he posted 13 points, but his team was much better when he was off the floor as he posted a minus-25 plus/minus while struggling against big men like Omer Yurtseven. Then, in the second game, he went 3 of 15 from the field as he posted a 1 for 8 mark from 3 over the two games. Every time he left the floor, his team went on a run. He also didn’t measure well, and none of his athletic testing stood out. Sometimes kids just want to be done with school, and I respect that. But if Wagner was to enter the draft, he would run the risk of going undrafted given the obvious defensive and athletic limitations he showcased not just here, but also during the entire college basketball season.

Wagner is mostly absent from updated mock drafts, even the full two-round mocks. If those same projections hold, Wilson is going to have a difficult decision. Here's a rundown:

SBNation (one round): Wilson #17
Fox Sports
(one round): Wilson #24
The Ringer
* (two rounds): Wilson #25, Wagner #60
SI (one round + top five out): Wilson #28
DraftExpress (two rounds): Wilson #30 // (Wagner #59 for 2018)
ESPN (one round): Wagner #30, no Wilson
Bleacher Report (two rounds): Wilson #38
NBADraftNet (two rounds): none // (Wilson #21, Matthews #29, Wagner #38 for 2018)
HoopsHype (one round): none
Sporting News (one round): none
CBS Sports (one round): none

Save the rather odd suggestion from ESPN's Chad Ford that Utah could draft Wagner with the final pick of the first round and stash him in Germany, a route Wagner hasn't even hinted at considering, all indications are Wagner will either go in the mid-to-late second round or not at all. He's working out today for Milwaukee, which owns the #17 pick in the first round—far earlier than even the rosiest projections have Wagner going.

Wilson, meanwhile, is right on the borderline for his decision. Of the eleven mocks listed above, five have him going in the first round. With Bamba off to Texas, Wilson's decision will have a huge impact on the outlook of next year's rotation:

Perhaps Michigan could get in late on a grad-transfer wing if Wilson declares, but options are limited at this point.

Wilson told Quinn that his quad injury is going to impact his individual team workouts, though one team has stood out as a potential landing spot:

Wilson said the Spurs have requested that he reschedule a new workout and that he also plans to visit with the Orlando Magic. He added that there are "a few teams in the mix."

How many of those he'll be able to perform in front of remains to be seen. Wilson noted: "My window is going to be shorter."

That said, one team that will likely remain interested is Utah.

"They thought I was a pretty decent athlete for my size and I shot the ball well there, so that was something they were impressed by," Wilson said.

Those teams all hold selections in Wilson's projected range: Utah at #24 and #30, Orlando at #25, San Antonio at #29. If Wilson can get a guarantee from one of those teams, he's probably gone. If he doesn't, he may be uncomfortable enough with the uncertainty to head back to school for another year.

*Highly recommended for the scouting reports

Good Unverified Voracity For People Who Like Bad Unverified Voracity

Good Unverified Voracity For People Who Like Bad Unverified Voracity

Submitted by Brian on May 16th, 2017 at 1:11 PM

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[Patrick Barron]

All position switches are good news and bad news. Drake Harris is now a cornerback:

I'm dubious that this will work out, but Sam Webb asserts that Harris was not flat out told to move—he was in fact told that if he stays at WR he would be a contributor. The uncertainty at corner is greater and a guy with Harris's frame has a super high upside if it works out. Yes, Richard Sherman was inevitably brought up.

Moving your most experienced WR to CB after spring practice says something about the guys who are still there: DPJ and Tarik Black must have shown plenty for Michigan to move forward with those two guys and Kekoa Crawford as their main outside threats. It obviously says less than great things about cornerback, but I wouldn't get too despondent. Flipping guys around just to check is a Harbaugh trademark; sometimes it's paid off handsomely.

It is not a great sign for Harris's playing time since it directly states that he got passed by the two early-enrolled freshmen as soon as they showed up. Richard Sherman, yeah, but for every Sherman there are 20 shots in the dark that fail to salvage careers. There's a 10% chance he's a starting corner, a 20% chance he's on the two deep, and the rest of it is fading into Bolivia.

A combine weekend is good and bad. It's bad for the NBA prospects of Michigan's two potential early entrants, and that's good for Michigan. DJ Wilson had an injury that prevented him not only from playing 5 on 5 but also testing, which he would have been real good at. Wagner had a Wagner-versus-Oregon weekend, not a Wagner-versus-Louisville weekend. Both landed on Chad Ford's Go Back To School team. Both have also more or less directly stated that they are not going to stay in unless they're in the first round. Wagner:

“If I have that feeling that a team believes in me that much to draft me in the first round, I’d have to seriously consider that.

“As long as I don’t have that feeling, I won’t risk losing two years of eligibility at the University of Michigan.”

Wilson:

"If it's anything second round, then I don't really think that I'll be staying in the draft, I'll probably come back to school," Wilson said. "That's the good spot that I'm in -- I don't have a bad choice either way."

Wagner seems to be solidly in the second round and we can expect him back. Wilson is in a tricky spot; various mock drafts have him at the tail end of the first, including SBN and DX. I don't think he's going to have clarity either way unless a team gives him a guarantee.

In other combine news, any Michigan fan could have told you this:

Standing vertical leap (no steps) high scores: Donovan Mitchell (36.5 inches), Derrick Walton Jr. (36), Frank Jackson (35.5), Devin Robinson (35.5) and Derrick White (35.5)

Secretly 6'8" Derrick Walton and his rebounding chops.

WHY. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS

This week in amateurism. Jim Delany gets a 20 million dollar bonus; the Big Ten is blindsided by complaints about Friday night games. Jim Delany is still getting a 20 million dollar bonus; this year's basketball schedule is so borked because of someone's bright idea to play the conference championship a week early so it can be at Madison Square Garden that Michigan might only play 30 games. And this is on the table:

“Do you end up playing a nonconference game during that week that’s after the conference [tournament] finishes up in New York?” Phillips pondered. “That’s a possibility. But who do you get who’s available? Do you play another conference game, and it’s a ‘nonconference’ game, but you play another conference opponent during that week? And I think you’ve got to be creative … how long a layoff is too long, where it really starts to have an adverse effect when you go into the postseason, whether it’s the NCAA or the NIT?”

If it maximizes revenue like a duck, pays only lip service to everything else like a duck, and compensates executives like a duck, can we finally pay the players?

Can't even scrape right. I wouldn't pay much attention to that NCAA report about the number of staffers across college football:

The Irish have a combined 45 on-field coaches, strength coaches, graduate assistants and support staff, according to the survey distributed to the NCAA Council last month. Notre Dame is followed closely in the top five by Texas (44), Georgia (42), Auburn (41) and Michigan (40).

However, the NCAA told CBS Sports the methodology to measure the staff sizes of 127 FBS schools in 2016 came from mere website research.

That research is also wrong. The report was for internal use and was obtained by CBS, thus putting a not ready for prime-time document on display. The numbers in it are not worth your time.

More worthy, perhaps, is this thought process:

The number of those added support staff is not capped. In fact, some argue that the NCAA should limit staff size even as they try to determine whether such a restriction can be legally instituted.

"You got it," said Phillips, also Northwestern's athletic director. "Maybe you can't limit [it], but the idea is that's how we've structured ourselves in the past. That's why we don't have seven assistant basketball coaches."

The money has to go somewhere. Now a lot of it is going to low level staffers. If it can't go to low level staffers it will go to midlevel staffers. Or it will buy Jim Delany yet another Ford Fiesta. You know he's just got a hangar full of 'em.

Etc.: Notre Dame is done paying Charlie Weis. xoxo miss you, Big Guy. M-OSU on Fox appears all but official. Hockey commit Antonio Stranges gets an "A+" rating from SBN College Hockey. Money has to go somewhere.

Justin Meram is doing work in MLS this year. I wonder if he regrets closing the door on the USMNT by playing for Iraq. I certainly regret it. Haven't had a winger in a minute.

DJ Wilson Not Participating In 5v5 At Combine

DJ Wilson Not Participating In 5v5 At Combine

Submitted by Brian on May 11th, 2017 at 12:49 PM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

This could be interpreted as a bad sign for Michigan's shot at getting DJ Wilson back:

Someone who thought he needed to change something to land in the first round would likely be playing. Brendan Quinn points out that Wilson might have a minor injury or other malady and he might be protecting his draft stock by not offering scouts less than the full DJ, but it is MGo-consensus that this is not a great sign.

Quinn also has an article on the increasingly late decisions that top-end players are making that is relevant to your interests:

This means that until recently, roughly one-third of the top 2017 recruits in the country were still available for the 2017-18 season. ... The trend is unmistakable. Top prep basketball players are using their leverage to wait out coaching changes and roster attrition before choosing their schools in the 11th hour. Given the power structure of college athletics, it's difficult to blame them. By waiting as long as possible, these players assure themselves an alliance of convenience before matriculating.

The current state of the NBA draft is a major driver of this trend. Since the drop dead date has moved so far back it has correspondingly moved back decisions.

A potential silver lining here: Mo Bamba is one of the players still waiting, as you no doubt know. Now that Texas's Jarrett Allen has signed with an agent, Michigan is the only one of Bamba's four finalists still waiting on a decision from a big. (Duke PG Frank Jackson and Texas PG Andrew Jones are still on the fence; all other UK/Duke/Texas early entrants are in for good.) If Michigan wasn't a potential landing spot he could pull the trigger. Hopefully a Wilson entry would make Michigan attractive enough to get Bamba. That's the ticket.

UPDATE: Consider the source, but:

Team-based reporters are often more optimistic in these situations than national types, and the timing here is suggestive.

UPDATE II: This on the other hand is specific and from non-affiliated writer.

Unverified Voracity Wants Stanford To Go Away

Unverified Voracity Wants Stanford To Go Away

Submitted by Brian on May 10th, 2017 at 1:15 PM

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GO AWAY

Early signing react: meh? I'm generally opposed to moving up the football signing period because it does little other than accelerate decisions that could use some more time, but adding a 3-day window in late December is a nothingburger. Almost all firings happen immediately after the regular season, so the chance players get locked into the wrong coaching staff is minimal. (Assistants can leave, of course, but they do that in the immediate aftermath of the February signing day now and will continue to do so.)

There is some clarity for soft commits and guys who are about to be processed: even Erik Swenson would probably get the hint if Michigan did not send him a LOI in December. That's a minor positive.

More important for Michigan is an ancillary change:

Northern teams could benefit, since in conjunction with the new date, the NCAA includes a rule that prospects will be allowed to take official visits (paid for by the school, and accompanied by a parent or high school coach) in April through June. This allows schools in cold climates to show a different, warmer side to top recruits.

I don't think the weather is the biggest thing for Northern teams. Kids from the South do understand that summer exists, I imagine. The biggest thing is just getting kids on campus. Talent is concentrated in the south, and many kids try to get decisions out of the way before their senior years. That change makes taking a trip to Ann Arbor much easier financially.

Also in slight boosts, Stanford might be hurt by the change:

For Stanford, an early signing period could indeed be catastrophic. It would face a situation in which talented, smart players want to sign early and take advantage of strong academics and be a part of the burgeoning football program, but could not allow them to sign because they are still far from clearing admissions. Those players, not willing to wait around, would lock up spots at other schools and Stanford's recruiting would take a hit.

These days virtually every player Stanford takes is a guy who would otherwise be a strong candidate to end up in Michigan's class. I keep waiting for them to implode, but nah.

There's also another NCAA proposal in the works that would slightly tighten up oversigning restrictions:

The legislation would limit to 25 the number of prospects whose aid is initially offered in the fall term of an academic year. Current rules limit to 25 the number of prospects allowed to sign from Dec. 1 through May 31.

A prospect whose scholarship paperwork specifies that he’ll be offered aid in the second or third term of an academic year may count toward the current academic year or the next year.

Transfers and walk-ons count. That ends "blueshirting", wherein a player does not sign but is promised a scholarship immediately on arrival. Blueshirting is a way to dodge these signing limits. This would make the 25 cap have more teeth, though early enrollment makes it a soft cap.

Michigan took advantage of that softness the past two years, taking 26 and 30 kids. They backdated six kids from the 2016 class and five from the 2017 class so that their initial counters in both years were exactly 25. They're now out of room to do that so 25 should be a hard cap for them this year—not that they're expected to get there.

Withdraw! Withdraw! ESPN had a draft conference call yesterday to plug the fact that they're televising the NBA combine—wonders never cease—and both guys on it were pretty blunt about what Michigan's two potential early entries should do:

Goodman: “The NBA guys I talked to said, ‘Moe Wagner, come back.’ It’s great that he played well at the end of the year, but it was a small sample size and they said, ‘He’s got good upside, but come back and become a better rebounder, become a better defender.'”

Fraschilla: “Neither (Wilson nor Wagner) is physically ready for the NBA. … DJ is really interesting because he’s the quintessential ‘3 and D’ big guy right now. He shoots threes and he’s got great length to defend. But even he got bullied inside. DJ could get drafted in the first round, late, but he ain’t playing in an important NBA game for at least a couple of years.”

We had an animated Slack conversation about this yesterday: Wilson would start his clock earlier if he entered this year, and some second round picks are getting guaranteed contracts these days. But if Fraschilla's right and he's going to spend a couple years not even playing that gives him a relatively narrow window to establish himself before he'd be a free agent. If the financial argument is relatively close, Wilson may want to spend a year playing for a Big Ten title and NCAA tournament run than hanging with the Fort Wayne Mad Antz or watching from the bench.

While we're on basketball rostering stuff, Rivals' Corey Evans talks to OH SF Jerome Hunter:

Michigan: “Me and coach Saddi Washington, we are real close, too. I talk to him pretty much every day about life. I like Michigan. They have good facilities and good academics."

He said nearly identical things (minus the academics) about OSU, Xavier, and Pitt; Evans says it's "anyone's guess" where he lands but most of the chatter at Spiece was about Michigan.

OH PF Pete Nance draws some lofty comparisons in this Andrew Kahn article. Michigan has a guy in their corner in his recruitment: Pete Hassinger, Jon Teske's former coach and a guy who has coached Nance on the AAU circuit:

Hassinger has gotten to know Beilein well over the past few years and admits he is biased towards the Wolverines. “It’s a great basketball program and great university. You come out of there with an unbelievable degree; it’s so prestigious.”

Nance "doesn't want to post up 50 times a game," sooooo... yeah. /waves

Five out. Kevin O'Connor writes about the evolution of the NBA 5, and it looks very familiar. Al Horford, a center and career 35% 3-point shooter, is the focus:

“[Al Horford’s] value to this team — you can’t describe it. It’s bigger than the stat sheet.” This was Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, speaking after his 53-point performance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington last week. Thomas got all the glory. Statistically, Horford was ordinary, scoring just 15 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and handing out three assists. But Horford was anything but a big-money bystander: The center’s play beyond the box score was an example of the immense impact stretch 5s can make across the league, even when they aren’t posting lofty numbers.

In previous eras, contenders relied on big men as a consistent source of offense. But in the new league, the most important thing someone like Horford can do for his team is to space the floor and make plays when he needs to. Young bigs across the league could learn a lot by watching Boston’s big man.

It is not a coincidence that Derrick Walton, who was terrible inside the arc as a sophomore and junior, had a huge uptick in his ability to get to the basket with the advent of Michigan's all stretch five lineups. Any center Michigan put on the floor, whether it was Wagner, Wilson, or Donnal, was not a person you should leave open from three. Pick and pop became a bigger facet of the offense than it had been under Beilein and the lane became a cavern.

Hopefully Nance (and Mo Bamba) are perusing this article as we speak.

Wayne Lyons 2.0? Michigan is looking for a grad transfer or two, and they've apparently settled on a target:

Wiggins started as a nickelback in 2014, missed 2015 with an ACL tear, and was sparingly used a year ago. Michigan is apparently set at the various spots Wiggins might fit in at but they have nothing but true freshmen behind the projected starters and could use a dime back a la Tyree Kinnel a year ago.

I'm still a little puzzled they didn't go after one of the tackles on the market. Must not have liked their film at all.

Yes please. I can't actually read this article because I don't subscribe to "Columbus Business First" but apparently OSU is considering a 4k seat rink for its hockey programs. This would be a massive improvement over the current situation where OSU plays in their basketball arena, which is almost as empty as your average NCAA regional game is.

Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all sporting new coaches who should be an improvement over the previous regime's performance during the Big Ten era; OSU appears to be fixing the biggest problem with their program; Notre Dame joins next year. Big Ten Hockey is set to go from a joke to a powerhouse. And they even fixed the playoff system (for the most part)!

The problem. Think of all the stuff ESPN televises. Surely no one live event is a significant part of the whole, right?

On the flip side, ESPN’s costs for content have skyrocketed to well over $7 billion a year, more than any competitor, according to projections from Boston Consulting Group and SNL Kagan. That compares to $5 billion by Netflix and $4.3 billion by NBC. Rights to “Monday Night Football” alone cost ESPN $1.9 billion a year, not to mention hefty deals with the NCAA and NBA.

More than a quarter of ESPN's rights fees are for one game a week, for one third of the year. And those games are chosen before the season! That is nuts. [HT: Get The Picture.]

Etc.: Spread offenses make more cornerbacks appear. Channing Stribling on Michigan's fractured locker room and repairing it.

Wagner, Wilson To Enter Draft, Not Hire Agents

Wagner, Wilson To Enter Draft, Not Hire Agents

Submitted by Ace on April 10th, 2017 at 3:19 PM


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson announced he will enter the NBA Draft without hiring an agent.

Mere moments later, sophomore forward Moe Wagner did the same.

By not hiring agents, both players have left the window open for a return to Michigan. They can participate in the combine and work out for individual teams. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 24th. Wilson has been projected in the mid-to-late first round in some mocks; Wagner's projections have been mostly in the latter half draft. It's quite possible, as occurs quite often with the new rule, that one or both ends up returning.

Michigan currently has one open scholarship for the 2017-18 season; departures from Wagner and Wilson could bring that number to three. They are in continued pursuit of five-star C Mo Bamba, who'd be the ideal replacement but also has Duke, Kentucky, and Texas in hot pursuit. The coaches are also looking into grad transfer options; they're in contact with Wright State guard Mark Alstork, Howard guard James Daniel, and Pitt forward Cameron Johnson.

Unverified Voracity Is Good After All

Unverified Voracity Is Good After All

Submitted by Brian on April 6th, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Sponsor note. This here blog is an S Corp, because of this aspect of US tax law as related by wikipedia:

As is the case for any other corporation, the FICA tax is imposed only with respect to employee wages and not on distributive shares of shareholders. Although FICA tax is not owed on distributive shares, the IRS and equivalent state revenue agencies may recategorize distributions paid to shareholder-employees as wages if shareholder-employees are not paid a reasonable wage for the services they perform in their positions within the company.

This saves me a few thousand dollars a year in taxes, and is a Good Idea for anyone with a small business. There are many things like this, because there are many laws and more loopholes, and boy howdy it would be nice to have someone point them out for you. You are sensing that a logo is coming.

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Maybe he's good. Show this to your local Ohio State or Michigan State fan the next time they foam at the mouth about Jabrill Peppers:

More importantly for your purposes this video offers some clear explanations of how Michigan's defense is structured. Editor Brett Kollman makes an assumptions about why Don Brown put Peppers where he is that are incorrect—it's not because Ben Gedeon is slow, it's because that's how he's run his defense forever—but otherwise it's a definitive assessment of Peppers. Spoiler: he's good at football.

I got dibs on the swooping motions. Basketball is looking to fill its 13th scholarship spot with somebody, whether it's Mo Bamba or a transfer or an out-of-nowhere late recruit. Transfer options keep popping up, with former Wright State PG Mark Alstork currently the hot name. Alstork's going somewhere, whether it's the NBA or a grad transfer. He says he's mostly focused on the NBA...

“I’m really taking it as I’m going to the NBA draft and NBA team workouts and potentially get signed or get drafted that’s what I’m going to do,” he told the Free Press Tuesday. “But if not, I just want to have my options open and that’s why I got my release papers.”

...but he's evidently keeping college options open, as a guy with a sub 100 ORTG should. Michigan is one of them.

Michigan is an option because Billy Donlon was Alstork's head coach a year ago. Here's a surprisingly comprehensive and informative highlight reel for a guy from Wright State:

Not bad, and the ORTG is easily explained away: Alstork shouldered huge usage this year. His 34.7% usage rate was seventh nationally, so there's a lot of Dion Harris "oh shit, there's no more shotclock and my teammates are bad" shots in there. This is why he has a post-like 23 TO rate and shot just 41% inside the arc this year. Those numbers were 13 and 48 the previous year when Alstork had a still-heavy but not absurd 25% usage rate.

Upsides seem considerable: he's 6'5" and should be plug and play in Donlon's defense. He shot 84% from the line and 38% from three, so he's clearly got Beilein-level shooting chops. He had a Waltonesque DREB rate, and got to the line a bunch. I'd take him in a second.

Another name that recently popped up for Michigan's 13th slot is Shakwon Barrett, a 6'3" point guard out of Canada who will be on campus this weekend.

Barrett is a MAAR-style late riser currently with just one D-I offer in hand, that from Tulane. Beilein's done well with guys like that recently, but with Simpson and Eli Brooks already young PG sorts it seems like a grad transfer is a better fit than a freshman. Barrett spent a couple years at Findlay Prep, one of those basketball factories, before a grad-year transfer to Montverde Academy, another one of those basketball factories, so he's no doubt been scouted up and down and passed over by everyone. That's not great; by contrast MAAR just hung out at his high school getting ignored.

That's good, but that's uh what? ESPN puts Michigan in their early top 25 at #22. That's good. The thing I've seen people mutter about on the internet after they read this article is not:

Forward D.J. Wilson's game flourished down the stretch to the point that the NBA seems like a foregone conclusion, and that's a heavy blow, at least relative to the opportunity cost of a fully realized Wilson back on a college floor for one more season.

FWIW, I don't think that's any inside information of Eamonn Brennan has, but rather an assumption—"seems like a foregone conclusion."  I haven't heard anything's changed. The status quo is that Michigan expects both Wilson and Wagner back but they'll submit their names to the NBA, as one does.

One mitigating factor. This is a quibble in a Jourdan Lewis scouting report I otherwise almost entirely agree with, but cumong man:

Struggles with bigger receivers. Gave up 109 yards on seven catches to Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge in 2015.

On 19 targets. Struggling is a bit much. It is true that NFL QBs are going to be able to hit the windows Lewis's lack of size provides more frequently and he'll probably be best as a nickel guy. I just have to defend the man's honor for that game.

Slims down to... 360. If you immediately thought "Michael Onwenu," sorry we're talking about your mom:

The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Cass Tech High School amazed Michigan's staff with how quick his feet were and how well Onwenu was able to use his weight and power without grinding to a halt. Jim Harbaugh and company were focused on letting Onwenu adjust to the college game, get his feet wet, learn the ropes. The weight, surprisingly, wasn't a concern.

It's still not, really. But that didn't stop Onwenu from dropping 15 pounds this offseason -- down to around 360 -- to help him polish up some of that footwork. He moved extremely well for a 375-pounder. Imagine what he might be able to do at 360 -- or less?

"I think I want to get lower, just for my health. I don't really have a target, but just want to get lower," Onwenu said last week. "I move better."

Good news, though: your mom is probably the starting RG.

Don't do this, also don't have a roofing business. Kentucky fans did not like the refereeing in their loss to UNC, so they harassed one of the refs at his place of business:

Business at Weatherguard Inc., has become somewhat more normal since phone calls with a Kentucky area code were blocked. Little business got done last week after around 25,000 contacts were made through social media after Higgins officiated the Kentucky-North Carolina game, which the Wildcats lost by two points.

He’s still dealing with the fallout from those thousands of negative emails and phone calls and the reviews on Weatherguard’s Facebook page that dropped its rating from 4.8 to 1.2. It’s back up to 3.0, but that’s still not good when weighed against the competition, Higgins said.

He’s also got the unseen victims to take care of — his wife and family, some of whom wanted him to stop officiating after 28 years, and his employees. They were nervous and a little shaky, Higgins said, driving around the Omaha area in company trucks after everything they’d heard.

False reports were even filed with the Better Business Bureau, using names such as Adolph Rupp, the legendary former Kentucky coach, and Calipari John, a reversal of the current Kentucky coach’s name.

1) It's a miracle this has not happened to TV Teddy. 2) It was always going to be Kentucky fans. 3) Why does a ref who worked the Final Four have to have a side hustle? Or, rather, why is refereeing a side hustle for a guy working a billion-dollar tournament? 

Since said refs destroyed the final game of said tournament I think this is relevant.

Etc.: Incoming C Josh Norris lands at #21 on ISS's latest rankings. Doris Burke is moving to men's basketball exclusively. Indiana G James Blackmon puts name in draft sans agent. I don't know how I feel about this basketball change. Partridge on recruiting.

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

Hoops Mailbag: Next Year

Submitted by Ace on March 28th, 2017 at 9:59 AM


It's their team now. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I'm not ready yet. A memorable season and the collegiate careers of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are over; the postmortem will come when I've had a little more time to collect my scattered thoughts. In the interim, a six-part mailbag question about next season has sat in my mailbox for the last few weeks, and while I'm not quite prepared to look back, I'm ready to look ahead.

I'll get this caveat out of the way now: Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson haven't made decisions about their potential NBA futures. This post makes the not-entirely-safe assumption both will be back. DraftExpress' latest 2017 mock doesn't feature either player; in fact, only Wilson makes their 2018 projection. In Chad Ford's latest update, Wagner is a "stock down" after Oregon while Wilson held steady as a late first/early second projection who "most [scouts] think needs another year of school." There's a decent chance both stay. If not, there will be plenty in this space on the ramifications for 2017-18.

Now that we've addressed the elephant, here are one reader's most pressing questions heading into next season and my attempts to answer them.


Can X make the leap? [Bryan Fuller]

Will we have the necessary performance from a Lead Guard to succeed?
We can gush all we want about the big guys and the allure of Charles Mathews, but Michigan's offense has only reached its potential when there was a lead guard at the controls -- Burke, Stauskas, Morris (to a lesser extent), and the 2017 version of Walton.  Can Michigan reach that potential with Simpson/MAAR having the ball in their hands most of the time?

Xavier Simpson came along at the perfect time. He got a year to learn from Derrick Walton, get his feet wet, and process the intricacies of John Beilein's offense. As a drive-first, shoot-second player, he'll step into the ideal lineup to fit his skill set. Simpson's iffy outside shot would normally put a ceiling on the offense; the Darius Morris squads topped out at 38th in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Those teams couldn't play five-out, however. With Wagner and Wilson, this team can and will.

That should leave ample room for Simpson to operate off the dribble. While we only saw flashes of his scoring ability as a freshman, it's worth remembering he was capable of scoring 65 points in a high school playoff game. As he got more comfortable within Beilein's offense, he began to display his playmaking ability, especially off the high screen. He showed no fear of the nation's leading shot-blocker in the BTT semifinal:

In the conference title game, he displayed a Morris-like ability to both see and make a pass from a difficult angle:

Simpson isn't going to be a dead-eye shooter like Walton; hopefully he can use the leadup to next season to refine his outside shot enough where he's at least not treated like Tum Tum Nairn. Regardless, I expect he'll be a relatively efficient offensive player because of his quickness, court vision, and the surrounding talent; he won't need to be the number one or possibly even nos. 2-4 scoring option. As long as he keeps his fouling under control he should be an upgrade over Walton as an on-ball defender.

I'm not entirely sold on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as a primary ballhander; he still seems to decide before he drives whether he's going to shoot or pass. He'll take on more late-clock possessions because of his ability to create decent looks for himself outside of the offense. Unless he has a major breakthrough as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, which isn't entirely out of the question, he'll still be better-suited as an off-guard. As I'll discuss later in this mailbag, however, I believe Eli Brooks is going to have a role on this team.

[Hit THE JUMP for Ultimate X Factor and much more.]

Unverified Voracity Pleads Not Guilty To NBA Potato Mailing

Unverified Voracity Pleads Not Guilty To NBA Potato Mailing

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2017 at 12:41 PM

This is not me. I wish it was.

It turns out to be a wildly successful marketing stunt for a company that will send you image or message-emblazoned potatoes. This company is inexplicably not based in Ohio. The best thing to come out of this is the Wall Street Journal giving the headshot treatment to Dirk's tuber:

HC-GV055_Potato_G_20170319181518

Twitter did not find this nearly as amazing as I did, but rest assured this is incredibly entertaining.

Oregon: good matchup? The WaPo's Neil Greenberg seems to think so. He's using extremely small sample sizes, but given Chris Boucher's absence that's less unfortunate than it usually is. Transition is a major Oregon focus and Michigan's stepped up their stinginess:

In transition, Michigan has allowed opponents to score 39.1 percent of the time in the tournament, an improvement over their regular-season performance (46.3 percent) and a potential stumbling block for Oregon, who has scored almost two-thirds of the time in transition (63.6 percent) against their first two opponents. No other remaining tournament team has had better results on the break. Take that element away from Oregon, and it’s a big blow.

This item won't surprise you but will shock your January self:

The Ducks also won’t get as many open looks as they have through the first two rounds. Oregon has taken 24 of 32 (75 percent) catch-and-shoot opportunities unguarded, per Synergy Sports, scoring 1.08 points per shot. Michigan, however, has allowed just six of 22 (27 percent) catch-and-shoot attempts without a defender close by.

Oregon is was already a bit three-heavy with Boucher in the lineup and figure to be more so without him even if that hasn't shown up in the three games since his departure, and Michigan is very good at preventing threes from being launched.

They're 5'9" with big hair and one of them doesn't have a work visa. Welp, they've been found. Both DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner are major risers on Chad Ford's NBA draft board:

Moritz Wagner, F/C, So., Michigan

No one did more to help his draft stock over the weekend than Wagner. His career-best performance against Louisville -- 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting -- showed why he was been quickly moving up our Top 100 over the past month. Wagner is a fluid athlete at 6-foot-11 who can score off the bounce and on the block. He also has 3-point range.

When he's engaged and not in foul trouble, he can take over a game. The fact that he did it against a bunch of NBA-caliber athletes on Louisville impressed scouts. He sat at No. 40 on our Top 100 before the tournament and moves up to No. 21 in our latest rankings. That's a huge leap for any player, but if you watched his draft stock all month, it isn't just based on one game. It's just scouts getting more and more comfortable with the idea that he has all the skills he needs to be a good NBA player someday.

D.J. Wilson, F, Jr., Michigan

Wilson showed off all the strengths of his game against both Oklahoma State and Louisville. He's a terrific and versatile athlete who can stretch the floor, finish at the rim and block shots. He can even handle the ball and bring it up the floor.

However, his lack of toughness continues to bother some scouts who want to see him initiate and handle contact better. He grabbed only two boards against Louisville and at times seemed bothered by the physicality. Still, athletic 6-foot-10 guys who can shoot 3s and protect the rim don't come along every day and Wilson has made a strong case to be a first-round pick after hovering in the 30s in our Top 100 all season.

FWIW, I was talking to Sam Webb a month or two ago and at the time his impression was that the NBA was interested in both guys but that they were both likely a year away. Let's hope that's still the case, because I'm guessing Teske and Davis are going to need another year of grooming before they're ready. Also I really want to see weaponized versions of Wilson and Wagner.

If one or both does end up going this will be another situation where Beilein's astounding player development—despite almost no access to one-and-done types Michigan was 12th in NBA players produced entering the season—outpaces his recruiting. Nobody was expecting Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas to be two-and-out, and I don't think anyone thought Wilson or Wagner would have any chance of going to the league this year after the pair averaged two points a game in 2015-16.

Remember when Bernard Robinson sticking at the end of a roster for a year or two was notable to Michigan basketball fans? Slightly different situation these days.

Part of that development. Congrats to friend-of-blog Andrew Kahn for landing a WSJ byline. It's a look into some player development tools Michigan (and others) are using. Wagner has a bad day against Ohio State and Beilein set to work on his shot:

...Beilein set out to fix Wagner’s problems using one of basketball’s hottest new diagnostic tools: a machine that measures the arc of a shot as it reaches the hoop. ... [tool vendor] Noah’s data says the ideal shot comes in at about 45 degrees.

Wagner’s practice session showed that he was shooting the ball far too high, coming in at around 53 degrees. Beilein knew they had no chance of going in and pressed Wagner to adjust by flattening his shot.

“By the time we were done, he was draining threes all over the place at 45 (degrees), 46, 47,” Beilein said. Wagner, a 41 percent three-point shooter for the season, shook his slump and nailed 8 of 17 (47%) from deep the next four games.

Beilein is still adapting and taking advantage of new tools being created even though he's "no spring chicken," which not every coaching in his 60s does. You can safely assume that Michigan is on the cutting edge with this stuff. The results are proof enough.

Two points. The Big Ten did pretty well in the first weekend of the tournament, sending three teams to the Sweet 16 and Shutting Up All The Haters, except not really. Mark Titus:

As soon as the buzzer sounded on no. 7 seed Michigan’s 73–69 victory over no. 2 seed Louisville on Sunday afternoon, the talk of the internet became whether the Big Ten, which was complete trash from November through early March, had been underrated all season. ... [The Big Ten got three S16 teams and the ACC was bad.] ... Clearly this had to mean something, right?

Of course not. You know what Michigan beating Louisville and Wisconsin beating Villanova proved? That Michigan outplayed Louisville and that Wisconsin outplayed Villanova. How come everyone who gets so wrapped up in conference-pride bullshit always seems to move the goalposts with these arguments?

Neither side of any conference superiority argument generally marshals anything resembling a coherent argument. It is talk-radio fodder.

While a few tournament games don't establish that the Big Ten was at the level it was a few years ago, neither was it "trash." They entered the NCAA tourney fifth out of six power conferences on Kenpom, all of two points behind the second-place ACC. That's roughly the difference between #20 Michigan and #24 Butler, or #37 Northwestern and #44 Illinois State—ie, barely any difference at all. The first two rounds should at least be sufficient to demonstrate that the Big Ten is in the same range as any other power conference (with the possible exception of the Big 12).

This weekend did matter in the computer rankings, sliding the Big Ten up to fourth, and it should influence our perception of the league this year. The real answer, though, is that the Big Ten was just slightly down. Titus seems to be projecting his feelings about Ohio State, which was so trash that many Michigan fans gave up on their season after losing to the Buckeyes*, to the wider league.

*[guilty]

Nice. 2017 PF Isaiah Livers won Mr. Basketball. He's a 6'8" stretch four with game and hair fairly reminiscent of DJ Wilson.

Wilson has a couple of inches of both height and hair on Livers, but hopefully he's able to step into the rotation next year.

Star-crossed Ricky Doyle. Remember how he was ill or injured seemingly perpetually? This has not abated, at all.

Ricky Doyle, a Bishop Verot Catholic High School alum, was forced to sit out this season after transferring from the University of Michigan due to NCAA rules, as well as a tumor.

“I just kept having these stomach pains for a long time and I just kind of pushed them off,” he said. “One day, I just had to go to the hospital and it turns out that my appendix has been burst for two months…they found a tumor about the size of a softball and they had to cut 6 inches of my colon out.”

The tumor was non cancerous, Doyle said, and his body formed it naturally around the burst appendix to prevent poison from seeping out and killing him.

Doctors believe the medicine Doyle is on for his sleep apnea dulled the pain to the point where he didn’t realize how severe the tumor was.

Poor kid.

Writing on the wall. There's a ton of football stuff that we'll get to in a week or two as part of a spring preview, but one roster note: Sam Webb replies to people asking about a lack of Shelton Johnson coverage that "he is not a part of [Scout's] defensive line preview." I would not expect him on the roster this spring.

Etc.: A lot of people say the tournament saps the importance of the college season. I don't buy that, because I like Big Ten championship banners. For an example of a season that truly doesn't matter, I give you the NBA.

Every Michigan 3 against Oklahoma State. Holdin' The Rope on the Louisville game. Five key plays from said game. We are #3 in Will Leitch's rootability rankings, because of "cattywampus." Leitch on the Brad Underwood hire. TTB talks to Kevin Koger. Jim Harbaugh promotes colon awareness.

How Michigan acquired Wagner. Salaries for newly hired staffers. Nigel Hayes vs the NCAA.

The Fire And The Flutter

The Fire And The Flutter

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2017 at 12:51 PM

3/17/2017 – Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91 – 25-11, NCAA second round
3/19/2017 – Michigan 73, Louisville 69 – 26-11, Sweet 16

Michigan's NCAA tournament weekend was a lot like what I imagine it's like to enter Earth orbit.

Stage One

32652373354_473c36f9be_z

[Bryan Fuller]

You are strapped to a rocket. In the English language, "rocket" is shorthand for "tube that barely contains fuel." When lit, that fuel explodes; the rocket shunts the exploding bits out its rear to create the kind of incredible, bowel-threatening acceleration that allows one to escape the surly bonds of earth.

I'll be damned if there's a better metaphor for playing Jawun Evans and Oklahoma State. To watch this Oklahoma State team is to be continually surprised that Evans does not literally have flames coming out of his ass, propelling him inevitably towards death or glory at the rim.

At first, there was a lot of noise but not much action. This is also in keeping with rockets, which have various moments early in the enterprise when it is unclear whether the thing will go up or tip over, explosively.

After ten minutes when the game threatened to teeter over into a dud, the acceleration took, and did not stop until all observers were weak kneed and gripped with pallor, as if the blood had been forced from their heads.

Rockets do not have men in grimy outfits and train engineer hats frantically heaping fuel into a furnace to keep the thing from sputtering out and allowing gravity to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Our metaphorical rocket does. The men in hats are flinging three pointers, desperately attempting to stay ahead of gravity's brutal math. Evans and company are providing a constant drag of 1.58 points a possession. Walton and Irvin and Robinson must pump at least that much into the ever-hungry, blazing heart of the engine.

Amazingly, they do so. At first it seems easy. Walton drifts to one corner and then the other to work screens and grab passes for wide open looks. Robinson comes off a screen and rises up from a comfortable spot. A couple of transition opportunities find guys open in the corners. Things are going well—very well—but so far you can chalk it up to a bunch of open looks and good fortune against the nation's #133 defense.

33339667032_900ee1c783_z

[Fuller]

Two things happen nearly back-to-back that take it into the realm of the spooky. Zak Irvin comes off a screen, takes a dribble, and fires an objectively bad shot, a heavily contested jack that draws the NO NO NO YES reaction not just from all Michigan fans but also the announcers. Almost immediately after this, Walton passes to Robinson, who's two or three feet from the line and getting more than a token contest. Walton yells at Robinson to shoot. He probably shouldn't shoot. Robinson shoots. It goes down, because of course it does. A bit later, Walton ignores DJ Wilson posting up a 5'11" guy to take this:

32652205414_f56e56d8e3_z

[Fuller]

This goes down. Because of course it does.

As all this is happening, Evans is taking his rocket ass into the lane to claw two points back, like gravity does. Gravity draws you back at a constant 9.8 m/s^2, and you either beat it or you don't. Michigan beat it, in the way movies portray the first stage of rocket liftoff. There is a tremendous amount of noise. The camera shakes impressively. One of the cast members says "ohhhhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiit." There is a moment of unbearable tension as the G forces ramp up to the maximum humans can tolerate.

Then everything stops. There's a clunk as the first stage departs. You have won! You are alive. You are very high in the air on a fatal trajectory.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Interplanetary_Superhighway

Stage Two

You've dropped your first-stage booster and watched it burn up in the atmosphere. (Underwood's stunning, immediate departure for Illinois will do nicely in our analogy.) Now you are up up up very far and have entered the realm of orbital mechanics. I've read just enough science fiction to not understand orbital mechanics at all.

The gist seems to be that certain things are all but impossible despite seeming easy, while other things are damn near free because of... reasons. The image above is something called the "interplanetary transport network," which allows you to visit any point of interest in the solar system—eventually, very eventually—by hopscotching through Lagrange points where all the competing gravities of the system average out to zero. This is virtually free in terms of energy.

These are tiny pinholes in a vast expanse of quicksand. Reaction mass is limited and space is very big.

33536026525_a1c509a813_z (1)33494863766_729fcbf6ed_z

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Louisville basketball has four centers and plays two of them at a time, and if you want to get a shot up it's time to hunt for Lagrange points.

----------------------------------------------------------

Mo Wagner changed the way most teams defend Michigan with his white-hot first half against Purdue. After halftime the desperate Boilermakers decided they were going to switch every screen no matter what kind of ludicrous matchups resulted. Michigan was initially confused, and then Wagner was forced to the bench with foul trouble for nine minutes of the second half. By the time he returned there were only a few possessions before Michigan's Lloydball clock-drain offense made the switching moot. Painter's move exited the game more or less untested.

That did not prevent it from quickly being replicated, to middling-at-best effect. The constant switching did dull the effectiveness of Michigan's pick and roll. It dared Michigan to post up, which they simply do not do. It's pretty easy to holler about exploiting a post mismatch when you are a fan looking at a 5'11" guy on DJ Wilson. It's evidently much tougher when you are part of a Beilein basketball organism that forcibly expelled post-ups from its DNA back when it was using flagella to florp around in its Canisius days.

So the switching mostly resulted in a lot of isolation with Walton or whoever against a big. It took Michigan's silky, flowing offense and battered it down to the heroball stuff you see at Kansas or Kentucky, except without the infinite alley oops. Since Walton stepback threes are Very Good Offense, somehow, the switching didn't really slow Michigan down much. All it did was cause me to goggle at Michigan bigs guarded by oompa-loompas and be like all "AARGH THROW IT TO THAT GUY."

There was that particularly brutal possession pictured above on which DJ Wilson was trying to post up a 5'11" dude and Walton decided to jack up a 35-foot three pointer. This went in because of course it did; whether or not Michigan could do anything with this tactic in the event that Walton jacks stopped being Very Good Offense remained an open question. No longer.

In the aftermath of Sunday it is possible to interpret Michigan's somewhat frustrating inability to take advantage of said oompa-loompas as a devastating long con.  Louisville entered the game with a plan: no threes. They would switch everything to remove the rotation, because Michigan will get you eventually if you rotate. They would refuse to help in the post, because that results in rotation. They would make Michigan execute a thing they simply do not do. In an advantageous situation, sure. But they wanted to make the fish ride the bicycle.

33536018935_1cce339b24_z

[Campredon]

The fish rode the bicycle.

image

min/ortg/usage/pts/2pt/3pt/FT

It popped wheelies.

Louisville's tactic backfired spectacularly in the second half. The tiny windows their giant posts leave drivers became caverns as 6'7" Adel Deng was repeatedly tasked with checking a guy much taller and more skilled than him. The posts stuck to their shooters, and Michigan lived and died by the two for a change.

Pitino did not relent. If he was going to lose this game it was two points at a time. Thus Michigan calmly and gradually reeled Louisville back in after the disastrous last minute of the first half. Screen and screen until you get your matchup, dump it down, score. Repeat. Regular, controlled thrust, easing Michigan through.

"It was some scheme things," Beilein said of his halftime talk, "but it was more: 'Alright, hit singles. Do not come out of here trying to win in the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Win it by two points. Win every segment and you'll win the game.'"

Too bad that doesn't fit on a whiteboard.

--------------

So here we are. Orbit. It's nice. Very pretty. Can see Phoenix from here. Or Glendale. Whatever. Just two more harrowing white-knuckle terrordomes to go.

33407319211_15e0e1df12_z

[Campredon]

The most explosive team in the country is in the rear view. So too is a nation of angry ents. Confidence is through the roof, relative to your average white-knuckle terrordome experience. Let's go.

Bullets

image

SAY 'WHAT' AGAIN, uh, SIR (via @the_mikeyb1246)

"Since Maverick" update. Michigan is up to #6 nationally in adjusted efficiency margin:

eff

Amongst teams still in the tournament they're #3 behind Gonzaga and Florida. You'll note they're a nose ahead of Kansas.

First-round victim Oklahoma State shows up at #12. (They have a lot of losses, yes. In this time period they were all against tourney teams: two against Kansas, two against ISU, one to Baylor, one to KSU, one to Michigan. Most of those were 3-5 point games.) When I tweeted this out after the game I meant it:

That felt like a #2 going up against a #3. This is not a seeding complaint, or at least it's not much of one. Oklahoma State, like Michigan, was a team that got a ton better about halfway through January and was 1) more or less fairly seeded while 2) being a terrible draw for whoever got them. Michigan did, and barely survived despite scorching the nets.

Finally, the road doesn't get any easier in the Sweet 16 as Michigan draws #10 Oregon. That hurdle is significantly lower with Duck post Chris Boucher out for the season. Oregon's given up significantly more than 1 PPP in the three games since Boucher's injury, against offenses ranging from "somewhat worse" to a "a lot worse" than Michigan.

DJ Wilson, sometimes center, is a thing. Wagner finished the Okie State game on the bench just like he finished the B10 championship game, and this was fine because DJ Wilson was functional at center. The opposition didn't have the ability to blow him away with guys who are both very burly and very athletic. Ethan Happ is burly but not that athletic and Wilson's length bothered him. Mitchell Solomon is pretty much the same minus the post-up skills.

Michigan's ability to go small against a light-speed team and then run Wagner and Wilson at the same time against Louisville provided them the flexibility to get past two crazy outlier teams with just one day of prep. That's a major asset.

Expect more of that going forward: Oregon is minus a 6'10" center they played 20 minutes a game and is now a small-ball outfit that runs out one player taller than 6'7" at a time*. Kansas is along the same lines, with wing Josh Jackson playing the 4 for them most of the time. DJ can play center against both, and likely will.

*[To be specific, 6'9" Jordan Bell is their 5 and they'll give 6'11" Kavell Bigby-Williams 10-15 minutes a game spelling him. Dillon Brooks is the only other Oregon player seeing meaningful minutes who's taller than 6'4".]

Donnal survived against Louisville. Credit to the most maligned current Wolverine: Mark Donnal hit a three and blocked a shot in nine minutes, which went a good way towards offsetting the facemashing he's naturally going to receive when he finds himself trying to check UL's infinite conveyor belt of giant dudes.

I wasn't even irritated at Donnal's foul, which was an enthusiastic boxout of lanky 7-footer Anas Mahmoud. He got whistled for a foul that seemed impossible, because I've spent all season watching Michigan bigs take the same contact and get blasted off their spot. Donnal flipped the script and got a foul for his troubles. Better that than weak post D.

Walton didn't score much against Louisville, but... naturally he led the team in rebounds with seven and had six assists to zero turnovers. Also he was instrumental in harassing Quinn Snider into an 0/9 shooting performance. Also:

Shot parity: close enough! Against UL Michigan lost the offensive rebound battle by six; they won turnovers by five. That'll do when you're the most efficient shooting team around. Against Oklahoma State it was dodgier, with Michigan –10 in OREBs while only ending up +6 in turnovers. Still, if you told me Michigan was going into a game with a top ten OREB offense and came out only –4 in shot margin I'd take that.

There is an alternate universe of Wagner foul bitchin'. One man's comically inept refereeing is another man's comically inept refereeing multiplied by –1, and I have to relate to you, dear reader, that it is the opinion of many Louisville fans that Mo Wagner commits offensive fouls every time he touches the ball.

This is not the most convincing ref incompetence highlight reel I've seen.

I imagine this stems from one of the first times Michigan went after the Deng Adel-Wagner mismatch in the first half. Adel flopped at the same time Wagner appeared to go for the ol' chicken wing on his path to the basket. The refs did not bite on the flop and the wing met air; Wagner went for an easy bucket. After that everything Wagner did seemed to set off cascades of complaints on UL game threads.

Big Ten seeding complaints on point. After the bracket came out there was consternation about the ordering of various Big Ten teams, and it was proven correct. 5 seed Minnesota was a Vegas dog against 12 MTSU and duly lost. Maryland was hammered by 11 seed Xavier. Meanwhile Wisconsin beat Villanova and Michigan beat Louisville to reach the Sweet 16.

The sample sizes are necessarily tiny here, but since there was plenty of evidence before the games were even played they serve to reinforce the fact that the tourney was badly mis-seeded.

Also worth noting that MSU was the only 8-9 not to give its opponent a competitive game. Wisconsin won, Northwestern battled valiantly before losing by 6 thanks in part to that missed goaltend, Arkansas led in the last four minutes. Hell, you can rope in the two seeds here as well: Michigan and South Carolina won while St Mary's and Wichita State battled valiantly to the final whistle. Only Michigan State was blown out, as you would expect them to be.

Wooooof. There was a plague of refereeing blunders this weekend that should but almost certainly won't be the cause for some soul-searching at the NCAA. The most egregious miss—Northwestern's comeback-stalling missed goaltend—saw the NCAA's head of officials show up on one of the studio shows to lamely defend the refs working the game because he, a 70-year-old man watching on TV, didn't catch it. I expect slightly more from a man literally standing under the basket.

Anyway, there were some doozies in Michigan's game, none worse than the two calls late in the first half against Louisville. The first was a phantom call on Walton that turned a turnover into two free throws for UL; the second was the Wagner open-court steal that again turned into two free throws. With Michigan likely to get a fast-break bucket if the second call isn't made that was a six-point swing just after Michigan had finally managed to claw its way back into a tie.

At that moment I could only think of the Trey Burke block and a couple other calls in the title game that prevented that one from truly going down to the wire, as it deserved to, and I resolved to never watch basketball again. I resolve this several times a season, and sometimes multiple times in one game.

And the worst bit about all this. Yahoo has an accurate summation of the worst five calls of the weekend:

  1. Gonzaga goaltend
  2. North Carolina's travel/charge/travel/charge
  3. Arizona's Lauri Markannen blasting a St Mary's player out of bounds, for which the St Mary's player got call
  4. The Plessy v Ferguson flagrant in Seton Hall vs Arkansas
  5. A horrendous charge call EC Mathews picked up in Oregon-Rhode Island.

Every single one of these made a tight game less tight, and every one of them favored the higher seed. (Seton Hall-Arkansas was an 8-9; the rest were serious upset bits.) A lot of the drama of March Madness was sapped by referee errors.

Other Stuff

Best And Worst:

John Beilein’s defining characteristics (at least publicly) are being incredibly nice/genuine and being a bit, how do you say, hokey.  In 2013, he celebrated going to the Sweet 16 with crazy subs, and this year has taken to ambushing players with water guns after big wins.  It’s notable when he freaks out on the sidelines about the officiating because (a) it almost always means he’s getting a technical, and (b) he’s almost always right, and has held his tongue for untold transgressions up to that point.  Maverick Morgan called Michigan “white collar” this year as a pejorative about their toughness, and more than a few fans felt the Wolverines reflected Beilein’s temperament.  Both Louisville and Okie St. outrebounded Michigan this weekend, and a common refrain was that the team didn’t play tough enough on the glass.

But behind that gentile veneer is the heart of a killer.  Okay, maybe not “killer”, but as Ace noted, quite evil.  He knows what his offense can do to other teams.  Matt Painter was exasperated trying to explain the difficulties defending Michigan, the harsh realization that your center has to defend a guy who shoots over 40% from three and can also shake-and-bake you behind his back on the way to the hoop.  That even when the outside shot isn’t falling, Beilein will tax your team the entire time they are in the half-court offense, probing for breakdowns.  And when they are firing from outside at a good clip, ooohhh.  Oklahoma State scored 91 points and didn’t hold a lead after the 10-minute mark of the second half because Michigan shot 11-15 from 3 in the second half, a performance so scarring that OSU’s head coachg Brad Underwood left the Cowboys…for Illinois.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Matt Norlander on the narrative. John Beilein on ESPN:

Brendan Quinn:

D.J. Wilson, another of the day's stars, sank four free throws in the final 17 seconds.

That pragmatism? It was on full display. Wilson, a sophomore, made each free throw like he was in the driveway. Asked about the pressure of the moment later, Wilson sat stone-faced and said: "I don't feel any really."

Five key plays from Oklahoma State.

Etc. Rodger Sherman on Wagner. Pat Forde thinks Beilein is famously serious. Must not know about subs. Michigan is a one point favorite over Oregon. Hang on to your butts. Hoo boy does the Underwood departure suck for Okie State. Illinois fans are happy, as they should be. Oklahoma State fans shouldn't be.