Would be the game they get hot
Hot damn, Charles Matthews
Fine, some bullets:
But for real, of all the games for three-point luck to even out. Michigan went a scorching 15-for-28 from beyond the arc. Chaminade canned a couple fluky ones and still only made 5-of-22.
Anyway, Charles Matthews! Even against D-II competition, this is a quite a stat line for a guy who also had a huge game last night: 22 points on perfect 8-for-8 shooting, ten rebounds, four assists, two turnovers, three blocks, and two steals in 29 minutes. Matthews played with every bit of effort and skill that stat line suggests.
Duncan Robinson found his shot. 14 points, 4-for-9 from beyond the arc, unfair in transition. A nice bounceback after a rough go against LSU.
Eli Brooks got his first start. Brooks had a nice start with a catch-and-shoot three and a slick pick-and-roll assist, but his effectiveness didn't last; he went 1-for-4 with one assist and a turnover the rest of the way. Jaaron Simmons, the next point guard to get in, nearly put up an 11-minute trillion. Zavier Simpson was the best PG tonight but didn't exactly stand out.
Jordan Poole got a longer look. Poole looked good in his first extended action, doing what he's supposed to do: get buckets. He needed only nine minutes to score ten points, drilling two of his three shots from downtown. While he's got a long way to go on defense, he should cut into Ibi Watson's minutes if he keeps hitting jumpers.
Rahk, sharing. For the fourth straight game, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored double-digit points with at least four assists. He's turned the ball over just once in that four-game span, an especially remarkable feat considering how often he drives into traffic. That's a big development with the point guards struggling to produce.
Rebounding: not great. Outside of Matthews, the team didn't rebound well. Michigan had only three offensive boards (Jon Teske grabbed the third) before Austin Davis had three on his lonesome in the late going. Chaminade, meanwhile, pulled down 16 of their 39 missed shots (41%). After doing well on the boards early on, this didn't look like nearly as good an effort from Moe Wagner on first viewing.
Tomorrow's game. Michigan faces VCU, 83-69 winners over Cal, at 5 pm EST on ESPN 2. KenPom has the good guys as five-point favorites.
The second part of the three-part position previews comes one day before Michigan opens the season, which means I'm way behind. While the season preview will continue into next week, I should probably post the first game info, right?
Oh, dammit, they scheduled it while the football game is almost certainly going to be in the fourth quarter, and you'll have to pay for a stream if you're not there.
WHAT: Michigan vs. North Florida WHERE: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 pm EST TV: BTN Plus ($, online stream only)
Uh, don't expect an instant recap, but I'll get some notes posted on this game once I get a chance to actually watch it.
Anyway, the wings. Michigan loses two starters, DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin. Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews, a similarly sized player with a similarly broad set of skills, is the clear replacement for Irvin. As for Wilson, well, can we interest you in some three-point shooting? Ask about the rest later.
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.]
Michigan put up a surprisingly strong fight in the post. [Patrick Barron]
I don't think I was alone in thinking Wisconsin, boasting two strong post scorers in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, would crush Michigan in the paint on Tuesday night. Instead, Michigan limited the Happ/Hayes duo to shooting a combined 8-for-20 on two-pointers with six assists and four turnovers; they were the two least-efficient players among Badgers to play at least 12 minutes.
I went back through the game and pulled clips of every Wisconsin possession that went through the post. While Happ missed a couple makeable shots, Michigan generally played strong post defense, with both DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner standing out for the good:
Given how Michigan has played defense this year, the first thing that jumps out is their effort; they scrapped for post position, didn't give up on plays, and hit the deck for rebounds.
Wilson gave up an easy bucket to Hayes early when he got caught napping on a cut (0:29 mark) and couldn't recover in time to deny prime post position. He otherwise did quite well; he blocked Happ twice and forced a Hayes miss shortly after the aforementioned bucket by establishing good position and forcing him to spin for a tough left-handed attempt.
While Wagner wasn't quite as strong in the post, which allowed Happ to get good position on him multiple times, he used his hands quite well to disrupt Happ on the way up and pulled off the subtle "step in and bump the guy with your chest" thing that often throws off shots and rarely draws a whistle (0:39, 2:23). A couple paint baskets weren't on the bigs, either; I didn't include Vitto Brown getting isolated on Duncan Robinson, which ended in a layup (surprise!), and on the final clip Robinson rotates over to the open big way too late.
The notable exception to M's strong interior defense: Mark Donnal, who gave up an and-one and fouled Happ on the floor just before he could give up another on his two post defense possessions before getting yanked.
In his lone opportunity, Jon Teske gave up a second-chance bucket when he lost contact with Happ after an offensive rebound. I'd still like to see more of him out there; Donnal was physically overwhelmed on defense and once again a non-factor on offense, so Beilein might as well let his behomoth freshman big man work through his mistakes—Teske is much more likely to display significant in-season improvement than a guy in his fourth year in the program.
Michigan still had their fair share of defensive breakdowns, which I'll get to momentarily. That said, this was an encouraging performance on that end of the floor, especially in the paint. If the Wolverines can replicate that level of effort on defense while getting offensive outputs like they have in their non-Wisconsin Big Ten games, they can make a late tourney push. It's a huge if, of course, but it's hard not to feel better about this team after Tuesday night despite the loss.
[Hit THE JUMP for the aforementioned breakdowns, highlights of a couple 2017 commits, and more.]
"When there was an away game, we'd just gather around the radio and listen to it. Roll around, jump around on the furniture," Harbaugh recalled Monday during his radio show. "And I had a record, too. I had a Bob Ufer record, a vinyl record. John, my brother, had a stereo and I would listen to that almost every night before I went to bed.
Jourdan Lewis owns the top PFF cornerback grade at +15.9. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a quarterback rating of 36.1 when targeting Lewis. In addition, Lewis has allowed only 18 receptions on 51 targets and leads the nation in passes defensed with twelve (the second place CB has eight). Lewis passed a major test in this last week’s epic game against Connor Cook (+26.1) and the CFF fifth ranked passing offense, Michigan State Spartans (+47.5). Lewis was also just named as a finalist for the 2015 Jim Thorpe award which goes to the top defensive back in the county.
They also have a list of the best-performing wide receivers on their college home page; Lewis's foe in the epic one-on-one battle last Saturday is at the top of the list. MSU is an interesting combination of very good players and very bad ones.
Minnesota incoming. Jerry Kill was just forced to retire, of course, and now Gopher fans are like… uh… what now?
The good news: Tracy Claeys, the new interim head coach, and the coaching staff have been through this before -- sort of. Back in 2013 when Kill stepped aside midseason to deal with his health, Claeys took over as interim head coach and led the Gophers to four straight Big Ten wins. This situation is a bit different, as Claeys is no longer keeping the ship afloat until Kill returns -- Kill is not coming back. So the good news is that I don't expect Claeys to be in over his head. This staff has been together too long to fall apart now, and they're well versed in how to handle adversity.
The bad news: This final stretch of games is brutal. Injuries have ravaged the depth chart. You've got a roster of players who've now lost their head coach. The future of the coaching staff is uncertain. The cloud of a Title IX investigation and the search for an athletic director hang over the university. In what has been a disappointing season, this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. It is possible that the Gophers will play inspired football the rest of the season to honor their former head coach and pull off enough wins to become bowl eligible. But it is also possible that the Gophers' misfortunes continue with a streak of five more losses to end the season.
Unless Minnesota seriously outperforms expectations they will be facing a choice between promoting an interim on a team that didn't do so hot and trying to find a coach in one of the most competitive hiring markets in the history of college football without an athletic director. Hopefully they've got a Jim Hackett hanging around; more likely what that means is that Claeys is going to get the job even if that doesn't end up seeming like the best idea.
One stat a number of coaches have railed against for years is time of possession. Some still point to it, but many don’t anymore. With the rise in tempos, it becomes irrelevant.
“The biggest waste of time is time of possession,” Leach said. “What’s interesting to me is that was the national obsession for decades. Now, it’s viewed more of a waste of time. It probably took 50 years for that to happen.”
It's not quite dead yet. Leach also rails against the NCAA applying sacks against rushing attempts. Preach, Mike Leach. Preach and beat Stanford this weekend to throw the Pac-12 into complete chaos.
The new guy. The news has started using Tony Paul as their everything beat writer—equestrian is coming right up—and part of his gig led him to track down people who know recent 2017 basketball commit Jordan Poole:
“Yeah! If you have a coach who is just like, ‘If you’re open, shoot it,’ why not?” Poole said. “If the coach is telling me to shoot, he does not have to tell me twice.
“That’s what really caught my attention as a player.”
It's a fit.
Here is an 80 yard punt by Blake O'Neill. I clipped this for UFR and then forgot about it and frankly I'm just putting it here so that for next year's season preview when I go all rapture mode on John Baxter I can find it:
This has been "Brian puts something on the internet so he can Google it later." You're welcome.
Michigan's first offer recipient for 2017 became their first commitment in the class this evening when four-star Milwaukee (WI) Rufus King shooting guard Jordan Poole picked Michigan in a ceremony at his school.
4*, #19 SG,
4*, 87, #16 PG
4*, 92, #16 SG,
4*, #21 SG,
Poole is generally regarded as a top-100 prospect; he's just a couple spots outside ESPN's early top 60 and otherwise makes all the services' top x lists. There's some disparity on his size; Rivals and 247 list him at 6'4" and 180-185 pounds; Scout at 6'3", 175; and ESPN is the outlier at 6'1", 160, which seems quite outdated.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Poole was a big riser during the latest evaluation period, resulting in a number of big-time offers, including Illinois, Indiana, Marquette, and Michigan. As a sharpshooting combo guard who's developing as a ballhandler, he earned a very intriguing comparison from Scout's Derek Piper ($):
Poole was at his best at the NY2LA Summer Jam in Mequon, Wis. a few weeks ago. He showcased his loaded arsenal at the offensive end, which includes a pure outside stroke, effortless handles and superb court vision. Even playing up at the 17U level, Poole put opposing defenses to the test with everything he brings to the floor.
There’s a reason he has earned the nicknames of “Splash” and “Baby Steph”. Poole operates with a natural smoothness to his game, and his range extends far beyond the three-point line. Poole can splash NBA-range triples with ease and his overall skill set continues to grow. Even taking the role as a facilitator at times, Poole was extremely impressive.
Poole is a rangy 2-guard prospect that can knock in jump shots out to 23-feet. He has a smooth effortless release and he understands how to square himself up for the shot. His shot is deadly off the catch and he oozes confidence. His ball skills are coming around and his step-back dribble and crossover are getting tighter. In addition, he is a quality passer and understands angles while feeding the post. He has a decent 1st step and has the ability to utilize the "step through dribble" while tossing in the occasional runner.
Poole is wiry and he'll need to get considerably stronger to withstand physical defenders. He needs to improve his triple threat game, especially his 1st step. In addition, he needs to get more explosive and stronger while trying to finish through contact. His ball handling is solid, but that is another area that needs polishing.
Poole has a ways to go before he fills out, but his skill set reminds us of a high school version of Steph Curry.
Now that we all need a cold shower at the thought of a Steph Curry in a John Beilein offense, it's worth noting Curry made huge strides in his shot release, ballhandling, and defense when he got to the NBA. But still. This would be very nice.
247's Andrew Slater has a very detailed, free scouting report from Poole's performance at June's Nike Elite 100 camp (I added paragraph breaks for readability and bolded a few things for emphaiss):
Poole is an excellent three-point shooter, both off of the catch and dribble, but is slightly better off of the catch and from the right-hand side of the arc. The Milwaukee native has a very release, excellent form, and deep range on his shot. While he can penetrate, he seems to prefer to pull up. Although he doesn't have a mature body, at this venue, Poole was able to withstand contact on penetration. He will need to add muscle.
Even though the strength of his game is as a deep knock-down shooter with a good crossover, the right-hander also demonstrated good court vision in transition and off of penetration. The Wisconsin Playground guard needs to be able to finish better with his left hand. While he often created his own shot off of the dribble, he will need to strengthen this area of his game. Poole seems to be a better off-the-ball defender who uses his relatively high basketball IQ to generate steals off of errant or well-telegraphed passes.
At 6'2", Poole, who has average athleticism, has good size for a combo, but will be slightly undersized for a high-major two guard, but doesn't look like he's done growing. While he showed an ability to hit the mid-range shots in drills, he almost exclusively either pulled up from deep beyond the arc or opted to attempt to attack the rim. Poole seemed to demonstrate relatively good leadership ability.
Jordan Poole was definitely one of the breakout players at the camp. The Milwaukee native absolutely lit up the nets from deep with his jumper. When given time and space he was one of the most consistent shooters all weekend, and then he also showed some aptitude for being able to play the point. Running a team is still a work in progress, but he has decent floor vision and can really stretch the court, especially off of ball screens.
Depending on how he hones his ability to run an offense and defend quicker guards, Poole could end up at the one or the two at Michigan; for now, it looks like he'll be a floor-stretching shooting guard who can slide over and play the one in a pinch.
Poole holds offers from Auburn, Bradley, Drake, UW-Green Bay, Illinois, Indiana, Marquette, Memphis, UW-Milwaukee, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech, among a few others. All of the high-major offers came in after the most recent evaluation period.
According to MaxPreps, Poole averaged 14.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists against 1.7 turnovers, and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore while posting impressive 50/40/80 (2P%/3P%/FT%) shooting splits.
Shorter sophomore highlights:
Poole's breakout performance at the NY2LA Summer Jam:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Poole looks like an ideal fit at the two in John Beilein's system due to his shooting ability and range. He also has a relatively quick path to playing time; when he arrives in 2017, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will be the only combo guard type on the roster, and Rahk will be a senior that season. By 2018-19, Poole should be starting alongside 2016 point guard Xavier Simpson.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is technically full on scholarships for 2017-18, but there will inevitably be attrition between now and then. Four-star IN F Jaren Jackson is the other offer recipient so far in the 2017 class and should get a great deal of attention from the coaching staff.
Michigan waited longer than most programs to hand out offers to 2017 basketball prospects, but their selectiveness may help them land a commitment—and very soon, at that. Four-star WI SG Jordan Poole picked up his offer when he first visited campus for the BYU game; at the time he told The Wolverine's Chris Balas that the distinction of being M's first offer recipient in the class wasn't lost on him ($):
"I thought it was great," he said. "I really didn't know they hadn't offered anyone else until I got there. It shows they look for certain people and qualities as far as basketball and personality.
"For me to be the first …. Coach Beilein doesn't just give out offers. Some schools give out offer after offer. Coach Beilein really takes the time thinking about the right fit, if a kid really likes school and is thinking about going there. Being the first in the 2017 class is amazing."
Poole visited campus again last weekend; he told Scout's Brian Snow it was a "great" trip ($). Yesterday, he set his announcement:
Home Shutouts Of Ranked Teams: Good For Recruiting
Well, that was a pretty good weekend to host the nation's top-ranked prospect for an official visit. While five-star NJ DT Rashan Gary hasn't spoken with reporters yet, 247's Steve Lorenz is hearing some very positive news emerging from a source in the know ($):
Heard from what I'd call a solid source that the two schools Gary has been highest on throughout the process are the two schools that most have connected him with: Michigan and Auburn. We were also told today that those around him would prefer that he go to Michigan. That's not necessarily including Mom, who we're told legitimately wants him to make his own decision.
We'll see what he says on the record; it looks like Michigan has positioned themselves about as well as they could heading into Gary's next four officials. If you tune in to MGoRadio this evening (5-7 pm, 1050 WTKA), Steve will be on to talk about Gary's visit and more on recruiting.
And, just as I'm about to hit publish, 247's Steve Wiltfong publishes an article in which he caught with Gary's mother, who accompanied him on the visit ($):
“I think he came out of it with a great experience,” Coney said. “When we got back to the airport in Detroit everyone had on Michigan gear, and even when we landed in Newark, he saw all the people wearing Michigan gear, and everyone knew Rashan and he was a big deal in the airport and big deal on the plane, and I think he saw a Michigan degree does travel and it is substantial.”
A topic that'll surely come up is last weekend's other uncommitted official visitor, four-star CO DE/OLB Carlo Kemp, whose quotes to 247's Steve Wiltfong were to say the least quite promising ($):
“Yeah honestly [Michigan's lead has grown],” he said. “I’ve fallen in love with anything Michigan and Maize and Blue. Just like I did when I was up there the first time I had another good experience.”
The hold up on a possible commitment?
“I just want to make sure I’m ready,” Kemp said. “I really want to go out and see Notre Dame again. I’m going out there in two weeks. After I see that I think I’ll have a better understanding of where I belong the next four years.”
Kemp would fill a huge need at the BUCK position, which Mario Ojemudia currently occupies; he'd have a good shot at seeing the field right away with only Lawrence Marshall set to return at the position in 2016.
Speaking of potential commitments, The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan caught up with 2017 GA RB Kurt Taylor, who compared last weekend's unofficial visit favorably with the Georgia-South Carolina game he took in the previous week—"The Michigan game was just... 'more.' It was more exciting, more fans, the atmosphere was better at Michigan, it was just 'more.'"—and hinted strongly that he'll be in the fold before too long ($):
"I'll make my decision after this year, after my junior year," he said. "I will definitely know where I want to go by then. After yesterday, I think I know already. It was a lot to like there."
That could be music to the ears of Michigan fans.
Finally, 2017 IN WR Mac Hippenhammer told TMI's Brice Marich his visit was "great" and noted Amara Darboh's catch was "nasty," which, agreed ($).