Michigan 79, NC State 72

Michigan 79, NC State 72

Submitted by Ace on November 27th, 2012 at 10:46 PM


Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Nik Stauskas says he never followed hockey. When asked about Alanis Morissette, he looks downright befuddled.

"I don't even know who that is."

Yes, Stauskas isn't your typical Canadian. That's because he spent his youth in the backyard—not on a frozen pond, but an asphalt court—hoisting three-pointer after three-pointer.

"I've probably taken a million shots in my life. That's pretty much all I'd do when I was a kid, just go outside and shoot. It's something I'm very confident doing," he said, after leading Michigan with 20 points on 6-10 shooting (4-7 3PT) in a 79-72 victory over NC State.

Thanks in large part to the shooting of Stauskas, Michigan was able to cruise for much of the game against a talented Wolfpack squad, weathering a late 10-0 run by the visitors to give the Big Ten its first win in this year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

It's a testament to the balance and depth of this year's squad that Trey Burke went scoreless in the first half; taking what the defense gave him, Burke doled out nine first-half assists as the Wolverines built a 43-36 lead. Burke went into attack mode in the second half, notching his first-career double-double with 18 points and 11 assists—he also had zero turnovers, as the team tallied just six total.

The four factors tell much of the story:

Factor Michigan N.C. State
eFG% 58.3 58.9
Turnover % 9.8 20.4
O. Reb % 24.1 33.3
FTA/FGA 37.0 16.1

Michigan had a lights-out offensive performance with stellar shooting, great ball control, and frequent trips to the free-throw line. Glenn Robinson III had a quiet 11 points on 3-5 shooting to go with seven rebounds, while Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary combined for 14 points while going 6-9 from the field, largely coming on open looks set up by Burke.

The Wolverines struggled to put away an athletic Wolfpack squad, however, as they couldn't protect the defensive glass in the second half—NC State scored ten points off of seven offensive boards in the final stanza. The frontcourt of C.J. Leslie, T.J. Warren, and Richard Howell poured in 46 combined points, taking advantage of the inexperience of Robinson and McGary to create several open looks.

Though the end got a little hairy, this was a game that Michigan largely dominated. Early foul trouble for Howell—who would eventually foul out—and Leslie forced NC State to go to a zone defense, which the Wolverines picked apart with ease. While Tim Hardaway Jr. had an off night from beyond the arc (1-9 3PT), he and Burke both took advantage by getting to the paint for pull-up jumpers—Hardaway finished with 16 points, shooting 6-9 from two-point range.

When Michigan most needed a bucket, leading by just five with 1:38 to play, it was Hardaway who put the game away, finding a lane and banking a shot home from just outside the paint. On a night when Burke went scoreless for nearly 23 minutes and Hardaway shot 7-18—against a top-25 ACC opponent, no less—the Wolverines had a comfortable lead for most of the game and survived a late scare.

For that, they can thank Stauskas—for growing up obsessed with his jump shot, not his wrist shot, even in Ontario.

One Frame At A Time: IUPUI

One Frame At A Time: IUPUI

Submitted by Ace on November 13th, 2012 at 4:24 PM

If last night's blowout of IUPUI was any indication, this is going to be a very gif-friendly team. Today's lead image, however, is not a posterizing dunk, thunderous block, ankle-breaking crossover, clutch three-pointer, or pinpoint pass. It doesn't even contain a basketball player. How does that happen? Complete and utter dedication to Gangnam Style, that's how:

Incredulous girl in the background is almost as good as the dancer himself. Almost.

[Heyyyyyyyy sexy ladies (and gentlemen, sure) hit THE JUMP for the rest of the gifs.]

Unverified Voracity Throws It Down

Unverified Voracity Throws It Down

Submitted by Brian on November 13th, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Iowa: not very good. BHGP on the Hawkeye depth chart at guard and RB:

IOWA FOOTBALL TAKES ON MICHIGAN SATURDAY (/GROAN).Here's the two-deeps. Conor Boffeli is your left guard this week. Jordan Walsh, Austin Blythe, Nolan MacMillan and Boffeli have all had a turn playing turnstile there since Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal left the Penn State game due to injury. Neither Mark Weisman nor Brad Rogers are listed at running back or fullback.

Last week, Damon Bullock got to play an Iowan version of Poor Damn Toussaint, rushing for 1.9 yards a carry against Purdue, the #85 rushing D in the country. Iowa is not good. FWIW, the game was off the board yesterday but has now been set at Michigan –20. Iowa is not good.

8181332615_81f0fb7ec0_z[1]8181328107_48e533fcb2_z[1]

YAHHHHHHHHHH / Bryan Fuller

Basketball: possibly very good. I took in my first non-tiny-stream version of Michigan basketball last night*, and this happened:

"I probably should've dunked it," the Michigan freshman forward joked. "I missed a little tip-in, I was kind of upset about that."

It was awful. I'm so depressed.

The Wolverines' freshman forward showed off every facet of his game, and his potential, scoring 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting. He went 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point line, he finished off alley-oop dunks and even grabbed six rebounds.

Oh right that part well you guys just aren't demanding enough excellence. It is only by doing so on the internet that excellence can be achieved.

But seriously folks. !!!

Let us take a brief moment to consider Jordan Morgan, who continues to lose weight and get more athletic. He uses this additional athleticism to be incredibly annoying. Here is a screen in your face. Here is a hedge of your screen that puts you in the corner six feet from the three point line. Also it comes with free batting at the ball. He is going to rotate back now and not block your shot but just make it so that when you jump you're bouncing off him a little. And then he will run the floor.

Morgan's still undersized and may still be foul-prone against better competition, but this year Michigan can turn to Mitch McGary and Jon Horford when that happens instead of a badly miscast Evan Smotrycz, so I don't even care that much except Morgan does seem a step or two better than those guys because of the aforementioned embodiment of the most annoying noise in the world.

Big guys have a tendency to make that senior step up—Chris Young, Pete Vignier, Graham Brown—that makes them loveable lunch-bucket little-coaching-squee machines, and Morgan is in that year even if he's a junior thanks to the redshirt. There's a reason he's starting.

He'll probably see his minutes reduced against teams that can put out a post guy who can simply outhuge him; other than that it's going to be hard to get him off the floor.

Other things:

  • Vogrich > Stauskas at the moment because of defense, Stauskas > anyone in terms of three point shooting ever. Totally not getting ahead of myself based on three games.
  • The defense started off a little ugly, but after it was 26-25 ten minutes in the Jags scored only 29 more points in the final 30 minutes. It doesn't seem like it will be a strength, though. That's the tangible thing Michigan will miss without Novak/Douglass.
  • Jon Horford thunderdunk + Tim Hardaway thunderdunk + GRIII alley-oop festival == John Beilein looking at his team, thinking about the dudes he coached at Cansisius and wondering if it's even the same sport.
  • Not a huge fan of the two post setup. If you're going to do that one of them has to be able to operate out of the high post or shoot—not necessarily threes, but midrange jumpers—and I'm not sure Michigan's posts are prepared to do that yet. McGary might be a high post guy in time. They'll probably run it 10 minutes a game or so.
  • McGary's blown layup thing definitely looked like a guy used to having more up than he currently has. Looks like he'll have time to round into shape.
  • Fact: Spike Albrecht is better than half of the guys Amaker recruited.
  • Hardaway took no threes. In fact, there were exactly two shots all game that irritated me, one a long contested heat check Burke three, the other a long Hardaway two with 20 seconds on the shot clock. Two is kind of an amazing low number.

*[Defensive defense of self: It's hard for me to carve out the time to go to Crisler early in the week because I am working so hard for you, reader, and hockey versus MSU against BBball versus Slippery Rock is no contest.]

The vexer is now the vexee! Or maybe vice-versa. I'm vexed.

Will Campbell wrapping up vexing career by playing his best football

Commence the Rodriguez rabbling!

"It's been bumpy, it's been up and down," Campbell said. "I wish I was under this coaching staff all four years, but I wasn't, so the opportunities they gave me I just tried to capitalize on.

"I'm not saying that (the previous staff held me back). I was just lazy and young, and didn't realize the opportunities in front of me."

You could have had a stuffed animal rubbed on your face, man. That was the opportunity you missed in favor of eating cheeseburgers and playing video games. Verdict: good call.

Format set, mostly. The people who made the playoff thing got together to hammer out some playoff details. They are:

  • A 12-year contract featuring a bucket of money delivered by ESPN.
  • The Rose, Sugar, and Orange Bowl all have set lineups, with the Orange featuring the ACC champ versus the highest ranked SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame entity that did not make the playoff or the Rose/Sugar.
  • The highest ranked team from a minor conference—Big East now included—gets an auto bid to an "access" bowl. In years when the Rose/Sugar/Orange are all out of the semifinal business that means there is essentially one slot up for grabs.
  • It's unclear what happens when the Rose hosts a semi and the Fiesta/Cotton/Peach bowls are acquiring teams. When the Rose/Sugar are hosting semis they will not allow the Big Ten or SEC champ to be in the Orange Bowl to make the Fiesta/Cotton/Peach setups more attractive in a long term TV contract.
  • There is another bucket of money coming for the title game.

More documents, more facepalming for the NCAA. Get The Picture has been all over every document released as part of the Ed O'Bannon case's discovery process, and here's the latest palm-to-forehead moment:

Davis then writes: "Here's my concern -- Eil [sic] is a current player on the Ole Miss team. Is using his actual number and attributes (height, race, etc.) too close to reality thereby using Eli's likeness (if not his name) and causing an eligibility issue?"

Another NCAA staffer, Melissa Caito, wrote in response: "Pls be cautious as you move through this -- any more 'watering down' of the video games will likely move the manufacturers to cease operations with us."

I'm not a lawyer, but that seems bad.

BONUS:

Another document made public Monday by the plaintiffs lawyers showed the results of an NCAA commercialism and licensing survey in which 12 of 150 responding Division I schools said they "engage in the sale of licensed products bearing a current student-athlete's individual likeness."

This was 2004 to 2006. I wonder what constitutes "likeness" here—it's possible some schools admit that putting 16 on a jersey and selling it is enough, while others are like "16, never heard of him, who's named 16 lol nobody."

Etc.: MGoUser hops on reddit to ask if people actually show up at other schools. Burke is now 20, also scoring and assisting. Billy Taylor documentary is FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY. Even the most reasonable minds have to wonder about whether there is some conspiracy at Penn State. Oh… against Penn State? Oh. Safety blitzin'.

Michigan 91, IUPUI 54

Michigan 91, IUPUI 54

Submitted by Ace on November 12th, 2012 at 11:32 PM


Carlos Osorio/AP

Forget the five-star freshman for a moment. You know, the one that scored 21 points on nine shots. Forget the star point guard; yeah, the one with 22 points and nine assists. Forget, even, about the shooting guard, the NBA progeny that turned in another efficient all-around effort.

Jordan Morgan—yes, that Jordan Morgan—stole a pass, dribbled the length of the court, and soared for a one-handed slam. That same Jordan Morgan also split two defenders with a quick hop-step and deftly finished with a layup. He also threw an alley-oop and even crossed a guy over. The coaches had raved in the offseason about Morgan losing weight and gaining some athleticism, but they said nothing about him turning into young Charles Barkley.

That's hyperbole, of course. But man, after that game, it's tough not to be hyperbolic. A sluggish start quickly gave way to a Michigan highlight-fest, with Morgan and Glenn Robinson III and Trey Burke competing for top gif-able honors until Jon Horford came in and blew them away with a savage throwdown in traffic. It's safe to say Michigan hasn't had a team this athletic since the Fab Five days.


Osorio

What's really scary, though, is that they're skilled to boot. Robinson connected on his first eight shots, including three from distance. Burke overcame some sloppy play and hit four-of-seven threes of his own while getting into the lane at will, finishing when there was space and finding the open man when the defense collapsed. Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to show off his all-around improvement, pulling down seven defensive boards in addition to scoring ten on just five shots. Nik Stauskas missed his first three-pointer, then hit his next three, finishing with ten points.

This team isn't perfect, of course. The defense left too many shooters open, especially in the early going, missing a few switches and getting beat off the dribble—Stauskas and Mitch McGary both had moments of confusion that led to buckets. The Wolverines turned the ball over on 19% of their possessions, with Burke and Robinson each coughing up the pill three times and Stauskas looking shaky putting the ball on the floor. McGary biffed an open layup off a beautiful feed from Burke and generally appears to need some refining on both ends of the floor. And yes, they played IUPUI, which isn't exactly Duke.

When watching a Michigan team that now practices alley-oops, though, and Jordan Morgan going coast-to-coast, it's tough not to get very excited for this season. The Wolverines played a Division-I team with a pulse, had an ugly first ten minutes, and absolutely crushed them in the way that precociously-talented, well-coached teams are wont to do. That's not what Michigan basketball has been, but it sure feels like that's what it's going to be.

Michigan 83, Northern Michigan 47

Michigan 83, Northern Michigan 47

Submitted by Ace on November 1st, 2012 at 10:10 PM


File photo, obviously. You'll be happy to know those shoes/socks did not make an appearance.

Spike Albrecht spotted up in the corner and launched a three. Swish.

Albrecht split a double-team, then kicked it out to Glenn Robinson III at the top of the key. Swish.

Albrecht split two defenders again, banked in a layup, and got the foul. His free throw, naturally, swished.

After two more threes—from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Robinson—and a Matt Vogrich layup, Michigan held a 17-0 lead less than four minutes into the 2012-13 season. Though the shooters would cool off a bit, the team never looked back, cruising to an 83-47 exhibition victory over an overmatched Northern Michigan squad.

With a suspended Trey Burke watching in street clothes, it was the freshman point guard, Spike Albrecht, stepping to the forefront to lead the way to victory. The diminutive Indiana native finished with 16 points on 4-7 shooting (3-6 3-pt) with six assists to just two turnovers, knocking down open jumpers, moving the ball with confidence, and showing that unlike last year, Michigan has a backup point guard.

If tonight's game was any indication—and in an exhibition against Northern Michigan, grains of salt are of course recommended—this Wolverine team will spread the ball around with a variety of players putting the ball in the basket. Freshman Nik Stauskas led all scorers with 17 points (5-8 FG, 4-6 3-pt), coming off the bench and netting his first career points on a corner three off an inbounds pass mere seconds after entering for the first time. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III each chipped in 13, with Robinson providing some high-flying acrobatics and Hardaway stuffing the box score with eight boards—all defensive—and five assists.

To the delight of the crowd, John Beilein inserted all five true freshmen—Albrecht, Stauskas, Robinson, Mitch McGary, and Caris LeVert—into the game in the first half; he'd admit post-game that was unintentional, and actually the first time he'd played all five together (though they did team up in a well-publicized offseason scrimmage). In a hopeful sign of things to come, Albrecht was the heady floor general, Stauskas the dead-eye shooter, Robinson the all-around offensive force, and McGary the energetic madman (5 points, 6 off. rebounds, 2 blocks, multiple floor burns). Only LeVert failed to hit full stride in his debut, hitting just one of five shots in ten minutes, though he still managed to connect on a three-pointer as the freshmen combined for 54 of the team's 83 points.

The story of the game will undoubtedly center around Albrecht admirably filling in for Burke; it could just as easily be about a total team effort—the Wolverines had 17 assists on 27 made baskets, swinging the ball around the perimeter in dizzying fashion until a shooter found an opening. Even when Burke returns on Monday, it's clear this team will be far more balanced than they were last season, less reliant on Burke and Hardaway to lead the way night in and night out.

BULLETS

  • It's obvious that Hardaway worked hard in the offseason to turn himself into a more well-rounded player. Even though he only shot 3-of-9 from the field, he distributed the ball well—Beilein said he actually had to tell him to play more selfishly—and attacked the basket (7 free throw attempts, of which he hit 5) in addition to playing solid defense and really cleaning up the glass.
  • The defensive effort all around, even given the opponent, was encouraging given the team's youth. Robinson executed a switch on a pick-and-roll on the first NMU possession, then stuck with his man before Jordan Morgan came away with a block. NMU shot just 19-for-59 from the field, rebounded just 10 of their 40 missed shots (a few of those coming late with the main rotation players pulled), and only got to the free-throw line for four attempts.
  • Morgan and McGary didn't see the floor together, but if they do Michigan could be very difficult to keep off the offensive glass—in addition to McGary's six offensive boards, Morgan hauled in five (of his 12 total) on that end. Beilein noted after the game that Morgan has slimmed down since last season, and he appears to have a little more explosiveness off the floor.
  • One area McGary will need to work on: free-throw shooting, as he went just 1-for-5 from the charity stripe. While it's nice that he was able to grab offensive rebounds after two of those misses, he can't be a liability in that regard or opponents will know the formula for stopping him, and Beilein will be limited with his late-game lineups in close contests. Beilein mentioned that he's still working into shape, as well, after an offseason foot injury hampered his conditioning; it wasn't a surprise, then, that Matt Vogrich earned the starting nod tonight with Robinson playing the four.
  • Given the distribution of minutes tonight, as well as individual performances, expect a lineup of Burke-Hardaway-Vogrich-Robinson-Morgan on Monday, with Stauskas and McGary getting big minutes off the bench. Albrecht should see a fair amount of time spelling Burke, and Beilein mentioned the potential for playing both in the same lineup, but LeVert could have a tough time finding minutes when the season comes around—he's got skill, but he's clearly pretty raw and had some trouble with defense and rebounding due to his very thin frame.
  • Overall, with opponent caveats acknowledged, this went about as well as one could hope for the team's first exhibition game. There's clearly more talent on this squad than Beilein has had at Michigan, and quite possibly at any point in his coaching career, and for a freshman-heavy team they really played well together—I'm sure it helps that McGary, Robinson, and Albrecht played AAU ball with each other. If Stauskas can continue to knock down just about every open jumper, this team also has a lights-out shooter that they haven't quite had yet under Beilein, which could really make this offense lethal. It's early yet, of course, but the potential is apparent.

Hoops Preview 2012-13: Bright Youth

Hoops Preview 2012-13: Bright Youth

Submitted by Ace on November 1st, 2012 at 2:21 PM

Previously: Early Outlook, The Rotation Part I, The Rotation Part II, Big Ten Outlook

"Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought." — Theognis

There is no "next year."

Not in today's college basketball, where Kentucky wins a national championship starting three freshmen and two sophomores, the NBA draft age limit creates a one-year holding pen for the sport's brightest young stars, and no graduating senior was selected in this year's lottery. It's not a new reality—as Michigan, home of the Fab Five, should well know—but one that's reaching its apex in the Age of Calipari.

This year's Michigan squad is no exception. The star of the show is sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who nearly exited for the pro ranks in April and, if all goes well, won't be back the next time around. A pair of precocious freshmen, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, will start and hopefully star—three more newcomers should play prominent roles. The grizzled veteran of the team's core, junior swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., is still unable to legally imbibe.

John Beilein is building for the future, and a bright future it is. After sharing a Big Ten title last season, however, and then pulling in Michigan's finest recruiting class since the Ed Martin era, the Wolverines carry a top-five preseason ranking and expectations to win now. While the hype may be slightly overblown, anything less than the program's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994 would be considered a disappointment.

How the team reaches that point is still very much in question. Hardaway, plagued by a balky jumper, ceded the role of lead dog to Burke as the season wore on in 2011-12; if he regains his stroke, he could emerge as the top scoring option. The presence of Jordan Morgan, McGary, and a healthy Jon Horford up front gives Beilein new-found depth and versatility with his lineup—Beilein spoke at media day of an offseason spent studying NBA film to see how the pros utilize two post players, a luxury he hasn't been afforded during his time in Ann Arbor. For their part, McGary and Robinson must live up to sky-high recruiting hype if this team hopes to deliver on their potential.

The extent to which the Wolverines miss Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Even Smotrycz depends largely on another freshman, Nik Stauskas, and his ability to connect from the outside. Yet another freshman, Spike Albrecht, will be called upon to replace "timeout" as Burke's backup. One more first-year guard, Caris LeVert, has earned rave reviews in practice and could provide scoring punch off the bench.

Despite the inexperience and uncertainty, this team represents Beilein's surest bet to take this program to the next level, and could very well be his best shot for a long time. That may sound rash, but the Wolverines have been close to the leap before, only to fall back: the Amaker tenure crumbled despite early promise, the 2009-10 squad faltered despite making the tournament with the same nucleus the year before, and even last year's team tripped up against 13-seed Ohio in the Big Dance. Trey Burke probably isn't walking through that door next year. There's no guarantee Tim Hardaway Jr. will, either. For that matter, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III have one-and-done potential if all goes well (too well, perhaps).

As the season tips off tonight in a refurbished Crisler Center, there's a distinct sense of urgency—not just to prove that this program is going places, but that they've already arrived. If the season goes according to plan, there won't be need for talk of next year, and that will truly signal the new age of Michigan basketball.

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part II

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part II

Submitted by Ace on October 23rd, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Previously: Early Outlook, The Rotation Part I


AnnArbor.com

Basketball season starts in nine days, which is wonderful news until I realize how far behind I am in the basketball preview (I'm beginning to understand how Brian feels in August, just on a far smaller scale). So far, we've covered the guards/wings; today, it's time to look at the bigs, plus freshman Glenn Robinson III, who will likely play both the three and the four.

Fans of Michigan basketball may be shocked to hear this after the last, oh, decade-plus, but the Wolverines have a little something called 'depth' in the frontcourt this year. While the loss of Zack Novak leaves a hole in the leadership/grit/shooting department and the transfer of Evan Smotrycz hurts depth and shooting, the two highest-touted of Michigan's highly-touted freshman class can replace those minutes at the four. Jordan Morgan returns in the middle. Jon Horford is back from a foot injury that kept him out for most of last season. That's a legitimate four-man rotation up front, and guys like Blake McLimans and even Matt Vogrich—as the Zack Novak Memorial Hilariously Undersized Power Forward—could get minutes up front as well.

Without further ado, your returners, departures, and newcomers:

Returners: PF/C Jordan Morgan, PF/C Jon Horford, PF Blake McLimans, PF Max Bielfeldt
Departures: PF(!) Zack Novak (graduation), PF Evan Smotrycz (transfer)
Newcomers: PF/C Mitch McGary, SF/PF Glenn Robinson III

[Hit THE JUMP for the full breakdown]

Early Outlook: 2012-13 Michigan Basketball

Early Outlook: 2012-13 Michigan Basketball

Submitted by Ace on April 11th, 2012 at 12:21 PM


Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking

Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Trey Burke Tim Hardaway Jr. Glenn Robinson III Mitch McGary Jordan Morgan
Spike Albrecht Nick Stauskas Matt Vogrich Max Bielfeldt Jon Horford
Eso Akunne  -   -   -  Blake McLimans

Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.

At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.

The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.

I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.

The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.

Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.

So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.

The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.

Basketball Season Review: Bigs

Basketball Season Review: Bigs

Submitted by Ace on March 30th, 2012 at 5:14 PM


From our very own Zack Novak photoshop thread.

This is part two of the hoops season recap; part one, covering the guards, can be found here.

It should not come as a surprise to those who have followed John Beilein's Michigan squads that a post covering the team's "bigs" would feature a photo of 6'4" Zack Novak at the top of the post. Michigan entered the season relatively thin in the frontcourt, and things only got worse when backup center Jon Horford suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in December, an injury that would ultimately sideline him for the remainder of the season. When Evan Smotrycz suffered through a brutal slump to start conference play, Novak found himself starting at power forward, reprising his role from years past instead of playing his natural two-guard position.

While Michigan got solid seasons out of Novak and Jordan Morgan, along with some inspired efforts from Smotrycz, the lack of size up front was the team's greatest weakness. This was exposed each time Michigan played Ohio State or Michigan State, especially away from Crisler, and even when all of the bigs got in foul trouble at Northwestern and Colton Christian played important minutes at center. This shouldn't be as much of an issue next season with the addition of Mitch McGary and the return of Horford, but Smotrycz's departure hurts. Let's look back on each player's individual contributions:

Jordan Morgan

Preseason Expectations: Morgan entered the season as the returning starter after a surprising redshirt freshman season, but he still had to hold off Jon Horford to keep the job. The hope was that he'd develop his post game while continuing to play solid defense, rebound, and hit his fair share of high-percentage shots.

Postseason Reality: Morgan still hasn't displayed much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, and he missed a maddeningly large amount of layups. The latter point was a source of great frustration, along with his propensity for early foul trouble, but overall Morgan was quite solid in the middle. His defense improved—including a sharp decline in foul rate—his rebounding was solid, and he shot just a hair under 62% from the field. Trey Burke didn't look to Morgan as much as Darius Morris did last year, and there was a clear adjustment period while he got used to playing with a different style of point guard. While there wasn't a big leap forward in Morgan's offensive game, as many had hoped, he did not regress, either. Meanwhile, he was in better shape, running the floor well and consistently posting strong defensive performances. Morgan probably isn't ever going to be an offensive force, nor a intimidating shot-blocker—the touch and explosive athleticism just aren't there—but he's a solid presence who should end up as a four-year starter.

Highlight: The Ohio State win was the most memorable of the season, and it was also the best game of Morgan's career, as he posted his first double-double—11 points (5-8 from the field) and 11 rebounds—while limiting Jared Sullinger to 14 points on 6-14 shooting. Morgan also beat Sullinger down the court for a pair of thunderous dunks in transition.

Lowlight: When Michigan matched up against Ohio State in the conference tournament, things didn't go so well. The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines inside, and Morgan could only muster three points (1-5 shooting) and four rebounds while turning the ball over three times.

Key Numbers: 61.9 2pt%, 17.8 DR%, 3.9 fouls committed/40 minutes

Next year: Morgan should start at center once again, and it would be nice to see him break out a go-to post move. Mostly, however, Michigan will need him as a rebounder/defender/screen-setter, which falls right into his comfort zone. Also, make layups, please.

Zack Novak

Preseason Expectations: Novak was expected to make a grand return to shooting guard, where the hope was that is offensive production would rise now that he no longer had to guard players a half-foot taller while shouldering a large part of the rebounding load.

Postseason Reality: Novak, of course, had to slide back to power forward when Smotrycz was benched early in Big Ten play, and for the fourth straight year his play improved despite not being the focal point of the team. He shot very well from the field—56% on twos, 41% on threes—and posted the team's best ORtg—his 123.3 mark was 39th in the country. Then, of course, you get Novak's trademark grit, as he still marveled with his ability to rebound among the trees while providing solid defense against players who theoretically should be dunking all over him (sometimes they did, but that happens when you're a 6'4" post player). Novak finished his career as the consummate role player, knocking down threes, hitting big shots when called upon, and otherwise doing everything to raise the level of play from his teammates. Michigan fans may not miss having a natural shooting guard at power forward when the 2012 reinforcements arrive, but they'll sure miss Zack Novak.

Highlight: Novak absolutely tore up UCLA back in November, scoring 22 points on eight shots from the field and chipping in three rebounds.

Lowlight: The final game in Novak's Wolverine career was sadly forgettable, as he could only muster a season-low two points on 1-5 shooting and didn't record a defensive rebound in Michigan's tourney loss to Ohio.

Next Year: Novak will take his grit to Europe. Godspeed, captain.

Evan Smotrycz

Preseason Expectations: Smotrycz was pinned as the X-factor for Michigan, a player who could put the team over the top as a sharp-shooting starter at power forward. After a solid but inconsistent showing as a freshman, he looked due for a breakout season.

Postseason Reality: It was a rollercoaster season for Smotrycz, who struggled early, caught fire at the end of nonconference play, then went into a prolonged slump that saw him lose his starting job for the rest of the season. The surprising post-season transfer fits that narrative all too well. The overall numbers are solid: Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points per game with a 58.9 eFG%, and he was also the team's most effective defensive rebounder, bringing in 21.4% of opponent misses when he was on the floor. However, Smotrycz never quite found his game again after losing his shooting stroke in Big Ten play, and his overall defense left much to be desired; he finished with a sky-high 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes as he played defense with his hands instead of his feet far too often. Smotrycz on average was an effective offensive weapon, but the inconsistency and defensive shortcomings proved too great to justify giving him starter's minutes.

Highlight: Prospects looked good when Smotrycz scored 20 points on eight shots (4-5 from three) and grabbed nine rebounds against Oakland. It's also worth noting that Smotrycz's 15 points on 6-7 shooting was really the only thing keeping Michigan close against Ohio in the last game of the season.

Lowlight: Smotrycz's final start was the debacle at Iowa, and he failed to score in 22 minutes of play while also committing two turnovers. That was the final straw, as Beilein inserted Stu Douglass into the starting lineup against State.

Key Numbers: 58.9 eFG%, 21.4 DR%, 5.8 FC/40

Next Year: Smotrycz won't be here, which really sucks. Best of luck to him.

Jon Horford

Preseason Expectations: Fight for the starting center job with Morgan, provide at least 15 quality minutes per game.

Postseason Reality: Horford's balky foot robbed Michigan of any depth at center and prematurely ended what was at times a promising sophomore campaign. He showed up much bigger than he was as a freshman, looking the part of a Big Ten center, and he was very active on the glass and as a shot-blocker. Horford doesn't have a polished offensive game, but he brings a lot of energy and is a more athletic option than Morgan, at least when it comes to quick-twitch explosiveness. Much is still unknown, however, as Horford only appeared in nine games.

Highlight: Horford hit all five of his shots from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots against UCLA, by far the best performance of his young career.

Lowlight: The stress fracture that erased the season's last 25 games.

Next Year: Horford probably won't surpass Morgan at this point, but he should be a valuable backup who won't be much of a dropoff defensively or on the glass. I really like Horford's athleticism and potential, and we'll see how he develops once he gets through rehab and can go full-steam again.

Blake McLimans

Preseason Expectations: McLimans came to the team with the reputation of being the type of sharpshooting big man that Beilein loves, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn as a freshman. Expectations were rather low, with the hope being that he wouldn't really need to see the court behind a big man rotation of Morgan, Horford, and Smotrycz.

Postseason Reality: McLimans still isn't much of an inside presence, especially defensively, but he did manage to knock down a decent portion of his jumpers, going 5-12 from beyond the arc and 10-21 overall this season. McLimans only played more than eight minutes in a game once during conference play—the aforementioned Northwestern game—and only was used when both Morgan and Smotrycz got into early foul trouble.

Next Year: McLimans may see his role further decrease when Horford returns and Mitch McGary hits campus. He could see some time as a situational shooter, but he's going to need to really improve on defense if he wants to carve out a larger role.

Colton Christian

Preseason Expectations: Provide the occasional boost of energy off the bench.

Postseason Reality: Christian played a total of 51 minutes on the year, grabbing six rebounds and hitting a few very unexpected shots. Still didn't display much of an offensive game, and was mostly content to hit the class and save his energy for defense.

Next Year: He won't be here, having also put in his name for a transfer. It's highly unlikely he would have seen the floor.

A Gentle Suggestion For The Benefit Of The Revolution

A Gentle Suggestion For The Benefit Of The Revolution

Submitted by Brian on February 22nd, 2012 at 12:33 PM

2/21/2012 – Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT) – 21-7, 11-4 Big Ten

Michigan-67-Northwestern-55-5-597x398[1]jordan-morgan-northwestern

LEFT: A fateful moment in which our brave comrade fouled the opponent's forearm in the eyes of corrupt capitalist lackeys. RIGHT: The imperialists were forced into illegal measures in their failed attempts to deal with Comrade Morgan.

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops; AnnArbor.com

Let the reign of Beilein be long and glorious. He is our sun and star and moons. He has brought basketball back to Ann Arbor long after we had ceded our land to the imperialists of East Lansing and set about hoping we would not be Northwestern forever. The bubble is banished and all loyal Wolverines are required to have Mao-style paintings of not one but two Dear Leaders. This is right and just.

But we have to talk about something, Oh Great Back Cut of Heaven. That thing is what to do when Michigan's glorious but thin frontcourt, sabotaged by foreigners who broke Comrade Horford's foot—we have executed the traitors or at least given people who probably know the traitors harsh looks—is brought low by the machinations of imperialist pig-dogs with whistles.

Oh Thousand Shining Arcs From Behind The Line, your response in the Northwestern game was to bench Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz in favor of Comrades McLimans and Christian. They are a good loyalists who contribute all they can to the cause. Unfortunately for the Glorious Revolution, that is zero shot attempts and zero rebounds in fourteen minutes. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" suggests that Comrades McLimans and Christian are most needed in the towel-waving collectives of Ukraine, where they can fan our team to greatness.

When they are placed on the court, starvation ensues. Michigan led 11-3 when McLimans entered the game; Northwestern led 31-24 by halftime, when Comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned to the floor. In that span of time, Northwestern had six offensive rebounds in eight opportunities*. In the other 31 minutes they had five in 24. Northwestern scored more points in the fourteen minutes without Morgan and Smotrycz (28) than they did in the other thirty-one(27).

Upon their return Morgan and Smotrycz promptly led a glorious charge into a lead foreordained by your divinity, Great Leveler. Unfortunately, rebel conspiracy sabotaged the bridge between Tim Hardaway Jr. and free throw makes, forcing the revolution into overtime. The people rose up and slew their purple oppressors with a thousand swords, as you decreed would always be the case.

Some of our less faithful comrades may have momentarily lost confidence, however. While the will of the people can never be defeated, it should be pointed out that basketball teams can and putting in comrades who are not very good at basketball could lead to a (temporary, meaningless) setback in Michigan's five-year plan.

When comrades Morgan and Smotrycz returned it took 12 minutes for one of them to pick up a third foul. If they were allowed to continue playing in the first half it is true they would be in danger of fouling out early. But what would the consequences be in that situation? In the worst vaguely plausible scenario, both Morgan and Smotrycz foul out five or six minutes into the second half, forcing the Striped Orange Sun to… play McLimans and Christian for 14 minutes. The wisdom of the Shining Beacon of Halftime Adjustments is unquestioned, but in this one situation it seems like it is not infinite.

Earlier in the year, a similar substitution pattern saw Comrade Burke confined to the bench for a long stretch against Iowa. Burke left with Michigan down four and returned with them down twelve. Nefarious play by oppressors made Michigan play poorly throughout, so this did not make an impact on the outcome, but it didn't help matters much.

I submit that with Burke averaging 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes at the time of his transgression and six additional calls available to a two-headed center playing a team without any size, it would benefit Michigan greatly to roll the dice on players in foul trouble instead of willingly accepting the worst-case scenario of doing so. Oh sun and moon and stars.

*[It was actually 7 of 9 but one was a OREB credited to Northwestern's team after McLimans blocked a shot out of bounds. I don't think that shows up on the box score I'm using.]

Media

Photos from AnnArbor.com and UMHoops. This one demonstrates Burke's powers of telekinesis:

Michigan-67-Northwestern-55-6-400x600[1]

Dustin Johnston

Highlights from BTN and mgovideo:

Bullets that get dust on them

Defense! Zounds. UMHoops says Michigan had Morgan and/or Smotrycz for 40 possessions. On those possessions Northwestern scored 27 points, or 0.68 points per possession. That's outstanding. Northwestern has the country's 15th-best offense and the league's fourth-best; when Michigan wasn't going to the deep bench because of the aforementioned rigidity they annihilated the Wildcats.

The primary way they did this was by switching everything. IIRC there was a single breakdown for an open layup in the first half, then nothing the rest of the game. Everything else was contested. John Shurna was 2 of 5 from three and 4 of 11 from two with a couple of those twos ridiculous circus things; after the game Bill Carmody kind of called out his leading scorer for passivity:

"It just seemed the whole game that he was reluctant to do anything," Carmody said. "He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing. It was a game he had to take over."

Northwestern never tried to punish Michigan for switching players as small as Trey Burke onto Shurna. That's either blind luck or great scouting.

Threes? Michigan hit 37% on 38 threes for 1.1 points per attempt. Are we happy with that? I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of those were wide open when opponents sagged off Burke or left a corner three open in the 1-3-1. On the other hand, 38 threes. I'm guessing we would have had a much different opinion than confusion if Burke and Hardaway didn't put down back-to-back triples after Michigan found itself down four late. Those makes opened the door for the rat-tat-tat at the beginning of overtime. Before that the numbers were ugly.

1.1 points is not great. It sounds good as a shooting percentage but you have to take into account that way more twos than threes end up getting erased in favor of free throws. On the other hand, being willing to launch from deep really cut down on Michigan's turnovers (six to an uncharacteristic 14 for Northwestern) and would have led to some additional possessions via Morgan offensive rebounds if the refs hadn't gone from suck to blow in the second half. In the end, it worked. Worked authoritatively when Morgan/Smotrycz were in.

1-3-1 response. When Michigan's 1-3-1 was getting shredded early in the disappointing Harris/Sims post-tourney year it seemed like opponents were attacking it diagonally and getting to the basket. Michigan was hesitant to put the ball on the floor at all and ended up shooting over it on a large majority of possessions. When they did dump it in low, Morgan had a couple opportunities but didn't go up strong, as they say, and we got the obligatory missed bunny or two*. I wonder if Northwestern just runs the 1-3-1 a lot better than Michigan ever has in the Beilein era.

*[This should be less of a problem with McGary. When people are asking Morgan to go up strong they believe he can dunk a ball from a standing start under the basket, which I don't think he can. This should be no problem for McGary as long as he can catch cleanly—always an issue with big men.]

Hardaway. Yerg. Back to the salt mines: 2 of 9 from three, 4 of 10 from the line. Two of three from two… against a team that has no shot blocking. I don't think those distributions are going to get fixed this year; we can only hope the shots go down when Michigan really needs them to.

Elsewhere

Rodger Sherman is not dead:

How. in the HELL. do we lose two games to the same ranked team in overtime? HOW? Why does this happen? THIS IS JUST THE WORST.

Northwestern has now played about 8000 close games this season and lost all of them. Here are my questions, and I am furious about each and every one.

You get the ball witha bout 50 seconds and a full shot clock. Instead of opting to go two-for-one and take the last shot, which ANYBODY WITH ANY SORT OF BASKETBALL SENSE IN THE WORLD would have done, Northwestern held for 35 seconds and had a possession end with a JerShon Cobb three, a shot which is about as efficient as repeatedly stabbing yourself in the face. YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES AGAINST A RANKED TEAM WITH ALL THE MOMENTUM. YOU WANT TO END THE GAME IN REGULATION. YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF BEATING A BETTER TEAM IN THREE POSSESSIONS (TWO OF WHICH ARE YOURS) THAN FIVE MORE MINUTES. This is inexplicable.

We will root for Northwestern from here on out. We have hurt them more than they deserve. AnnArbor.com on Vogrich:

"He's been a big part of this little surge we're having right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Vogrich. "You've seen all year long that we've struggled with our bench play.

"And we need that. He's done a good job."

During Michigan's current four-game winning streak, Vogrich has gone 9-for-13 from 3-point range, providing a spark off the bench that hasn't been there for most of the season.

Known as a 3-point specialist, Vogrich entered the Nebraska game on Feb. 8 shooting just 21.2 percent from behind the arc. But thanks to his recent hot streak, he's jumped up to a more respectable 33.3 percent on the year.

UMHoops recap.