It’s Moe Wagner’s Time to Shine

It’s Moe Wagner’s Time to Shine

Submitted by Alex Cook on June 28th, 2017 at 2:56 PM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon – MGoBlog]

By the end of last season, John Beilein whittled his rotation down to six core guys; three – including Derrick Walton, the heart of the team and its best player by far – left, and two who return (Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson) are veteran role players seemingly without much further upside. Had Moe Wagner elected to follow DJ Wilson into the NBA Draft as another early entry, the Wolverines would be putting the weight of even more expectations and responsibility on transfers Jaaron Simmons and Charles Matthews.

While those two will still be critically important following the graduation of Walton and Zak Irvin, the return of Wagner gives Michigan a proven commodity to build around. Wagner isn’t without his flaws – particularly on the defensive side of the floor – but his breakout season offered a glimpse of his tantalizing skill-set playing as the five. Most importantly, he has plenty of room to grow: he’s younger than average for his class, he’s had to adjust to life halfway around the world from where he grew up, and he’s still transitioning from being a wing-like player to a true Big Ten big man.

As an offensive whiz and indifferent-at-best defender, Wagner embodies many of the best and worst stereotypes about Beilein basketball. Most obvious is that he’s a lethal pick-and-pop threat who unlocks lineups with near-perfect floor spacing; few big men can hit 39.5% from behind the arc on three 3-point attempts per game. Fewer big men can score from the low block, mid-post, and on face-up drives from the perimeter with the array of moves Moe has at his disposal. Somehow he managed to make an absurd 66.1% of his twos, typically a number that would indicate that he’s a “only catch the ball on pick and rolls and dunk it or lay it in” kind of player (he’s not). His true shooting percentage (which weighs 2P%, 3P%, and FT%) was the best in the Big Ten last season.

Wagner’s scoring ability makes him a key asset regardless of all other factors, but his role as Michigan’s de facto defensive anchor (by virtue of simply playing the five position) is problematic, to say the least. His pick-and-roll coverage has improved, but it’s apparent that he’s still inexperienced and has lack of comfort in those situations. He doesn’t contest shots inside the restricted area as a primary or help defender. He struggles against teams that play at a quicker tempo. He gets bodied too easily on the glass (UM’s team defensive rebounding rate fell from 47th nationally in 2015-16 to 212th last season – surely a mix of several factors contributed to that, Wagner’s increased playing time chief among them). Worst of all, he still picks up frustrating fouls that tend to limit his playing time.

Defensive technique and awareness don’t come easily to him, and that’s probably the biggest reason why he’s returning to Ann Arbor instead of starting his professional career. Development on that end will be crucial to Michigan’s success, but at the very least, Wagner’s likely to be the linchpin of another flamethrower offense and a matchup nightmare for most opposing centers. As a freshman, he was a little-used reserve who played fewer minutes than Ricky Doyle; as a sophomore, he was an above-average Big Ten starter. As a junior, he could be a star.

[More on Moe after the JUMP]

Life After DJ: The Post-Wilson Squad and Potential Additions

Life After DJ: The Post-Wilson Squad and Potential Additions

Submitted by Ace on May 25th, 2017 at 4:16 PM


It's your show now. [Bryan Fuller]

Yesterday's NBA Draft withdrawal deadline brought good news and bad news for Michigan. Moe Wagner will be back for his junior year; DJ Wilson is staying in the draft, reportedly after getting a first-round guarantee from Utah, which owns the #24 and #30 picks.

Wagner's return is of paramount importance. He took the highest share of shots of any Wolverine last year, and he'll be leaned on even more after the departures of the next two players on that list, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. With grad transfer Jaaron Simmons, a strong pick-and-roll ballhandler, stepping into Walton's role, Michigan's offense should once again revolve around the 1-5 high screen.

Losing Wilson, however, has a significant impact on how this team can play. Let's start with a look at the current roster, keeping in mind that positional designations can be fluid, especially between SG-SF-PF:

PG SG SF PF C
J. Simmons MAAR C. Matthews D. Robinson M. Wagner
X. Simpson J. Poole I. Watson I. Livers J. Teske
E. Brooks       A. Davis

The area of concern is the position Wilson just vacated: power forward, where Duncan Robinson is poised to play huge minutes. Wilson's absence eliminates a lot of Michigan's lineup versatility. They're going to be small at the four, because Wagner isn't quick enough to stick with the vast majority of college fours, eliminating the potential to slide him down a position when Jon Teske or Austin Davis steps in at center—that lineup only looks viable against the rare team like last year's Purdue squad that occasionally plays two traditional bigs.

So how does Wilson's departure impact the team? How does John Beilein adjust? Let's take a look.

[Hit THE JUMP.]

Moritz Wagner To Return For Junior Year

Moritz Wagner To Return For Junior Year

Submitted by Brian on May 24th, 2017 at 11:04 AM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Official site:

"I said, 'Coach Beilein, I already made up my mind. You don't have to tell me why I should stay here. I'm staying here.' There was some awkward silence as we sat there in his office. But he looked me in my eye, and said, 'Oh, OK, that's great news!' He shook my hand and hugged me."

Michigan is still waiting on DJ Wilson's decision, and it is slightly ominous that there's been one announcement and not the other. Wilson has until midnight to withdraw.

Meanwhile getting Wagner back is a very big deal. Wagner shot 73/66/40 on 24% usage last year and created a ton of shots himself. He needs to improve his defense, obviously. He's still likely to be a high-usage, high-efficiency star who keeps Michigan towards the top end of the Big Ten.

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.

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

i (2)

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.

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.