With the bigs and wings already covered, that leaves just the point guards to preview. Michigan has two very good options here, plus a third (Caris LeVert) that can be used situationally. Will their powers combined equal that of Trey Burke? Well, no, that's simply unreasonable. Will they still be pretty darn good? This blog says yes.
The 2013 Michigan Gatorate Player of the Year winner and Mr. Basketball finalist officially took up the now-hallowed mantle of Michigan Starting Point Guard this week, when John Beilein gave Walton the nod over Spike Albrecht in the exhibition finale against Wayne State. The freshman ranked as high as #30 overall (and no lower than #67) depending on your recruiting site of preference. There were a few common threads in the various scouting reports on him:
First and foremost, he's a pass-first point guard that keeps everyone involved. Scout hailed him as a "true point guard" whose court vision makes his teammates better. ESPN called him a "true point guard [that] can control the game" in their evaluation. Rivals didn't quite get the memo, calling him "one of 2013's top pure point men," after an AAU tournament last May ($). Whether true or pure, guard or man, Walton is certainly a natural fit at the one, and he'll look to distribute more than his predecessor.
Walton can score, especially at the perimeter. Scout's report lists three-point range as a positive. ESPN also discusses his outside shooting in a good light and adds that he's got a solid mid-range game. The Rivals article cited above notes his ability to score from the outside or around the basket. When he decides it's time to score, Walton is capable, though it's unfair to compare him to Trey Burke in this regard. (That goes for just about everything, actually.) Early returns here are positive: Walton hit 3 of 7 three-pont attempts in the two exhibition games and looked very confident in his shot; yes, I'll acknowledge that's a tiny sample size.
At the very least, Walton is going to give plenty of effort on defense, and while Scout lists his size and defensive ability in the "areas for improvement" section, that sentiment isn't echoed elsewhere. ESPN loves his toughness and competitive drive on both ends of the floor. Rivals cites his on-ball defense as a major factor in his lofty ranking. In the two exhibition games, Walton has two Burke-esque halfcourt steals and looks like he's well ahead of where Burke was defensively at this early stage.
There's also his leadership; while most AAU squads are disjointed at best, Walton's Michigan Mustangs won a major tournament in Las Vegas thanks to taking on the identity of their point guard, per Rivals's Eric Bossi ($):
It's only fitting that the Michigan Mustangs took home the 17 and under crown at the Adidas Super 64. ... Taking their cue from tough-as-nails floor general and tournament MVP Derrick Walton, the entire Mustangs team played with toughness, togetherness and a unified purpose. Frankly, there weren't enough teams in Las Vegas -- or any of our other stops between April and July -- that played with the same purpose as the Mustangs so it's good to see their efforts result in a big tournament victory.
Bossi's evaluation of Walton's play in that tournament was glowing, to say the least ($):
Setting the tone for the Mustangs was four-star point guard Derrick Walton. The Michigan bound guard was an absolute stud on both ends of the floor. He went right at defenders' chests on drives, dimed up his teammates with pinpoint passes, defended at a high level and generally played with a level of confidence that allowed him to do whatever he wanted to do.
One strength of Walton's that's become immediately apparent is his ability to push the pace and control the tempo of the game; he's always looking to run when he gets an outlet pass (or a defensive rebound—he had seven combined in the two exhibitions) and that resulted in a lot of easy transition buckets for Michigan. When McGary—and his Unseldian outlets—returns to the court, the fast break could become one of Michigan's primary offensive weapons.
And I'm gonna be the one behind just to keep you on your toes
I be your extra eyes and hold you down around your foes
I be your extra gun you need me let me know
For my dogs I be the first to cock it back and let it go
Walton isn't going to be the first option on this team; he's going to let his teammates know he's got their back, however—whether that comes in the form of assists, timely buckets, or giving his all on defense.
The Bottom Line: Walton is a freshman point guard, and that means he's going to make the occasional mistake on both ends of the court. The difference between Walton and other point guards of recent vintage is that there are other options—not only is Spike Albrecht a viable starter on a solid team, Caris LeVert is quickly emerging as a serious drive-and-kick threat playing the point in bigger lineups. Walton is the starter and should be for the duration; on this team, that means he's going to be pretty good, even if he's the fourth or fifth option on the court whose primary job is to distribute—think Yogi Ferrell on last year's Indiana team, except hopefully with a more consistent outside shot.
Life advice, or just Lloyd Carr musing darkly on a life he perceives as a slate-gray expanse of clouds? Does Lloyd Carr show up at orientation, pick a bright-eyed pre-med student, and tell them "this doesn't make you an adult"? I hope so. It would be very Michigan if one of their former coaches became the Dark Oracle Of Ann Arbor.
Nine minutes of game winning field goals. Right here:
Glenn Robinson III throwing various things down. Also right here:
Piling on Emmert. Mark Emmert is getting hammered from all sides these days, with the latest hits a unified front from the Big 5 conferences against the NCAA status quo and an extensive OTL article detailing the chaos inside the organization:
One source said that at least one major conference has gone so far as to send a directive to its representative on the NCAA Executive Committee -- which, among other duties, hires and fires the association's president -- to make it "crystal clear that they were not at all happy with the direction of the entire enterprise under Emmert."
He picked up the dread vote of confidence a while ago.
Emmert said he expects significant changes to how the NCAA operates to be adopted within the next year.
At issue is the ability of the richest athletic programs --- which attract the massive television rights fees --- to set policy without the smaller D-I programs stopping them because of financial concerns.
“There’s one thing that virtually everybody in Division I has in common right now, and that is they don’t like the governance model,” Emmert said. “Now, there’s not agreement on what the new model should be. But there’s very little support for continuing things in the governing process the way they are today.”
Emmert actually may have been at the forefront of this, but don't tell anyone that. He may gone about everything in the most ham-handed way possible, but given what he's been trying to do he's likely on board with Division Zero or whatever.
I am too, of course. The gap between programs that are net spenders and those that have to figure out what to do with their buckets of money is untenable, and the players should get some more of the money coming in. If this is the way to do it, great:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday he wants lifetime scholarships for athletes to finish their educations and a non-athletic year for “at-risk” students followed by four years of eligibility.
“There’s no one talking about this being some incremental change,” Emmert said. “I think there’s an interest in some pretty fundamental change in the way decisions are made, both to accomodate those (financial) differences but also to deal with concerns people have about representation ... in the policy debates.”
Etc.: Ace points out that OSU has the best record against the spread in conference games over the past ten years, nationally. Michigan is barely below .500. Baseball brings in 16 kids, including the co-Mr. Baseballs in the state. They are 11 guys over their roster limit, though. That's just how baseball works, I guess?
The National Championship game was a bitter-sweet affair, but there was one part of the game that was sweetamazing un-flipping-believable: Spike Motherf***ing Albrecht. the guy came in averaging 2.2 points per game, and he scored 17 points in an 11-minute stretch in the title game. I mean…
Spike Albrecht was on the front page of CNN. Spike Albrecht was trending on Twitter. Spike Albrecht made thousands of curly fries, and those curly fries each went on to shoot lights-out from the outside.
Now, imagine for a second that you are this guy. The world has been awed by your meteoric rise. Today you are a god, but you know that, like Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake, your run can end at any moment. What do you do? Yeah, you’d probably do this:
This, as Adam Jacobi pointed out, has all the hallmarks of a “heat check.” And while some of you probably think Kate might be out of his range, he’s shown this week that his range is a lot broader than you might have expected.
Moral High Ground: Crumbly, But Extant
As we discussed on an earlier installment, a Michigan Man is gracious in victory and stoic in defeat. Unlike our younger brethren in East Lansing, we can deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with an unflinching gaze. So despite the glorious nature of the win on Saturday and the heartbreaking nature of loss on Monday, we know that these fine Michigan Men would not resort to the kind of childish tomfoolery as those Neanderthals in green and white.
Well, balls. Reports differ, but what is known that several fires were spotted on Michigan’s campus after both the Syracuse game and the Louisville game. Most of these fires involved couches. This induced groans from Michigan fans and glee from Michigan State fans. As a result of this dumb-ass display, I received two types of comments from the many Sparty fans I interact with on a regular basis.*
1) “LOL, looks like scUM isn’t as morally superior as they think. Get off your high horse, scUM”
I hate to say it, but I think they’re right. For as much crap as we talk every time Michigan State burns a couch, we torched them sons-o'-b*tches at the first chance we got… and then after the VERY NEXT chance we got two days later. It’ll take some serious myopia to be all “hurr, go burn some more couches, couch-burners” after this. This was an immature, brah-tastic display by Michigan students. Anyone who thinks this is a Sparty-specific thing is wrong, and anyone who supports this kind of thing makes us all look bad. And is someone who sucks. If we're gonna claim to be above this sort of thing, we have to either be above this sort of thing or we should STFU.
2) “LOL, looks like that ‘Michigan State riots and burns couches’ meme is gonna have to die now!”
Whoooooa there, fella. Not so fast.
First, sure, Michigan burned a few couches, but if we’re gonna call this a riot, then Michigan sucks so very much at rioting. Let’s compare the videos:
One of these is a riot. One of these is a s'more roast gone bad. I'll let you decide which is which.
Second, it isn’t like this is some little thing that Michigan fans conjured up out of nothing. The good people at The Google will back us up on this:
(h/t @Bry_Mac) (Hey… dat’s a me!)
When the Internet thinks of riots and burning couches, it thinks East Lansing. When it thinks East Lansing, it thinks of riots. QED. Besides, since when do rivalry memes live and die with “facts”? A couple of years ago polling data came out that completely destroyed the entire factual basis for the “Walmart Wolverine” meme. Have you noticed a decline in “Walvie” references? No? Okay, then go back you your couch-burning, you couch-burners.
[*Full Disclosure: I am the son of two Spartans. I married a Spartan. My sister was a double-Spartan. I’ve lived in the Lansing area for almost six years of my life. I speak fluent Brah. I am not one of them, but I am of them.]
Mark May is Terrible at Everything
What if your entire life was about the dumbest things you ever bothered to write down? Well… you’d be Mark May.
May is not good at not being wrong. He also has a running battle with Ohio State dating back to the Tatgate thing. It is not unlike the Michigan/Mike Rosenberg relationship. They hate this dude, and he seems to dislike them just about as much.
Fortunately, Ramzy (@ramzy) at Eleven Warriors has a handy database of other wise calls May has made over the years:
The terrible thing about the Internet is that nothing is ever forgotten. The fabulous thing about the Internet is that nothing stupid ever said by annoying professional trolls is ever forgotten. I suggest keeping an eye on Ramzy’s feed for future troll trolling.
(Also, I’m not sure if your aware, but May also dislikes spelling and grammar. But that is neither hear nor their.
[UPDATE: Oh, Internet. You never let me down. Looks like overnight @mgoblog, @AceAnbender, @BrianMFloyd, @edsbs, and others jumped on the "look at the amazing things Mark May has said" bandwagon. And it is glorious. I recommend taking 10 minutes of your day to soak in the wisdom.]
[DEFINITIVE UPDATE: Jason Kirk summarizes the Tao of Mark May. All the points]
What Have You Done For Me Lately? Yeah? DON’T CARE YOU STILL SUCK
Losses bring out the trolls in the best of us. In defeat, people freak out and blame the blameless things. They say heat-of-the-moment crap that they know at the time to be stupid, but they can’t help themselves. “Trey Burke is terrible.” “Denard doesn’t seem to care.” “Navarre AAAAAAAHHH NAVARRE.” That is why I largely discount the stupid stuff that happens after losses. The 504 errors on the MGoBoard after a particularly bad loss are usually a blessing in disguise.
But after Saturday’s win (again, I emphasize after Michigan’s FINAL FOUR VICTORY), Ace engaged in this conversation, and it made my jaw drop, melt, and re-form as a giant cartoon mallet that bashed me into the ground like a tent peg:
Substantively, he is almost certainly wrong. The problem down the stretch against Syracuse was free throw shooting, and while Beilein is admittedly a poor free throw shooter, I don’t know if we can blame him for those misses. And as Ace pointed out, the epic return of Jordan Morgan was 100% JB. He used his subs. It was crazy.
Beyond that, the object lesson here is that some people will never, ever be happy. Your team just won a gigantic game. They’re going to the freeking National Championship. Your impulse should be “OMG THIS COUCH MUST DIE,” [Note: resist the impulse. Save the couches] not “I HAZ CONCERNS”. It saddens me that there are Michigan fans who couldn’t enjoy the run Michigan just made, because dollars to donuts you will never have a run that is more fun than this one. And at the highest point of that run, there were people honestly and legitimately complaining about various stuff. And it wasn’t just this guy; after I read this, I poked around to see if other people were seriously upset after the game. And there were. But I stopped reading them because I had some g*ddamn celebrating to do.
After a poor showing last week, Jose is back in fine form.
And I am happy… but then…
We have a complicated relationship, my bash brother.
I haven't had the chance to go through the full tape yet, but here are a few of the more memorable moments (from a Michigan standpoint) from Monday's title game. Above, obviously, is Spike Albrecht Bonanza. Hit the jump for a couple of high-flying Wolverines and some great shots from the CBS intro.
Hi. You may be experiencing a tide of listlessness as the adrenaline pumping of the last few weeks subsides and takes its toll. We are there with you, glassily staring into nothing for minutes at a time. Absentmindedly putting mango habanero salsa on potato pancakes. Sweeping the same spot on the floor for a half hour. That kind of stuff. You're probably trying to add the word "butt" to a column of numbers in Excel. That's what I'd be doing if I had to have Excel open, anyway.
Instead I'm staring out at the rain, because I don't have to have Excel open, and typing this fairly poor excuse for things for people to read. Here are some things that MGoVideo thinks you may be interested in from Monday's game. The best is the Albrechtining:
No, just look. In the image above, there is no whistle. There is just Trey Burke, consensus national player of the year, making another magnificent, awe-inspiring play—and in a season when he's done that time and again, I don't recall #3 blocking a shot quite like that. Stripped of the context of the game, it's simply 60 more frames of Burke's greatness.
We all witnessed a basketball classic last night, no "college" qualifier necessary. Michigan and Louisville put on a showcase of everything that is great about the sport—no two other teams in the country could've combined, on that stage, to showcase such a sublime combination of talent, skill, coaching, and the free-flowing style that makes for the most entertaining of games.
The exception was the officiating, and it's not like the Wolverines bore the brunt of that incompetence alone. Louisville's run to close out the first half could've swung the game even more had the refs not whistled phantom fouls on, if memory serves, both Peyton Siva and Russ Smith as they were in the midst of picking Wolverines clean and heading the other way for a layup. Look closely enough and you'll never fail to find points left on the table.
I watched the game last night at my apartment, with my brother and roommate, just as I had the first five games of the tourney—same people, same seats. After the final buzzer, we sat in silence for a few moments, collecting our scattered feelings. My roommate, normally the one who lets his emotions get the best of him, was the first to break the silence. Let's have a drink, go outside, get some air.
We stood on the back patio, and over a backdrop of hovering helicopters and wailing sirens we talked about the game, this team, the tourney run. The specifics of the conversation are lost to a long night and a few beverages, but I remember the smiles that crept over all of our faces as we recounted our favorite moments from an unforgettable season. Back inside, we flipped on a rerun of Arrested Development on the DVR, laughing with the Bluths like it was any other April night.
Today, I woke up a little late, and yes, with a little bit of a headache. This was what I saw when I turned on my laptop:
Michigan may have lost, but Spike Albrecht is still doing his thing, and I'm not one to count him out these days. After all, he was the Most Eligible Bachelor even before he had one of the most unlikely performances in championship history.
It's always disappointing when your team comes up just short, not because you're disappointed in them, but for them; there's no coach more deserving of a title than John Beilein, no player who's earned a crowning achievement more than Burke, and for a moment after the game I ached for them. But someone always has to ache, and who's to say who's more deserving? You know Kevin Ware; now read about Luke Hancock having the game of his life while his ailing father watched from the stands, or the incredible story of a 13-year-old Peyton Siva talking his father out of suicide, and there's no anger to be felt as Louisville celebrates. They have lives and stories just like our guys, we're just not as familiar with them.
And today, Spike Albrecht—Spike Albrecht!—is the talk of the nation, as is Burke's incredible block and that game, man, that game. Regardless of departures, and there will be departures, this program is in better shape than it was 24 hours ago. The whole country knows what we've known this whole year about Michigan basketball: they've arrived, they aren't going anywhere, and they're damn fun to watch. For 14 minutes, Spike Albrecht made everyone forget about Trey Burke, and we're not even sure he's going to start next year.
Look at it, one more time. It's still beautiful, and forever will be.
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 Evan 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.
When the season began, Stauskas and Robinson managed to make an immediate impact. McGary, however, was simultaneously playing his way into shape and learning how to play his game without bashing into everyone and everything (including, very nearly, the Governor). Albrecht was largely a non-factor all the way through Big Ten season, called upon to keep the ship afloat—and no more than that—when the National Player of the Year needed a quick breather. LeVert appeared at least a year away from being a major contributor, showing flashes of sky-high potential but shooting under 30% on the season.
Heading into the tournament, Michigan was regarded, well, maybe not as a one-man show, but to keep it in-state let's say they were the White Stripes and Trey Burke was Jack White—take him away and you're left with a bunch of unmelodious noise that often strays off-beat. When Burke scored six points on 2/12 shooting in the opening game against South Dakota State, it was a clear case of fortunate timing, the only remaining game in which he could perform below his standard and see the Wolverines advance. That opinion did not change when Burke posted 18 and 7 against the vaunted VCU press, and was cemented during the final minutes of the Kansas game—despite his scoreless first half, and McGary's inspired play keeping the Wolverines within striking distance.
Then came the Florida game. McGary continued his transformation into Evolutionary Tim Duncan, posting 11 points, nine rebounds, and five(!) steals in just 21 minutes. Robinson, who'd struggled all season defensively, held Patric Young to eight points and a lone offensive board. Albrecht scored seven off the bench, broke a press with an absurd baseball pass to Jon Horford, and his three steals included this playground special. And Stauskas, of course, bombed the Gators out of the building with a perfect six-for-six performance from beyond the arc. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 8-for-29. The Wolverines won by 20.
Last night, it was McGary—not Burke—facilitating Michigan's most effective offensive possessions, dishing out six assists (including a no-looker to GRIII) and devastating Syracuse's 2-3 zone from the high post. For the second time in the tournament, Robinson recorded five offensive rebounds. Albrecht only played four minutes, but hit two huge threes—including a Burke-esque 30-footer—and helped handle the rock late when Syracuse turned up the pressure. With a migraine-limited Stauskas unable to score, LeVert stepped onto the big stage and immediately connected on a pair of game-changing triples—he played his usual solid defense and recorded four rebounds for good measure. Burke scored seven points, just one more than Albrecht*. Hardaway was 4/16 from the field. Despite a late Syracuse push, Michigan won with relative comfort.
Above all else, this has been the revelation of the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to understate the importance of Trey Burke, and how his masterpiece of a season got Michigan here. The contributions of Hardaway, Jon Horford, and the Jordan Morgan Redemption Tour have been invaluable all year, including the postseason. The emergence of the Fresh Five—all of them—however, is the biggest reason the Wolverines are playing for a national title on Monday.
John Beilein deserves much of the credit here, of course—not just for an exquisite eye for recruiting talent (usually before anyone else), but for masterfully managing their roles, minutes, and psyche. Before the tournament, there was no doubt that Michigan could pull themselves together and contend for a title if they played up to their potential. At this point, though, they're not just in position for this year—they're set up to reach the same heights on a regular basis. This is from the same article I wrote before the season:
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).
On Monday, we'll watch this team play together for the last time. We know this. They know this. Despite a rotation lacking a single senior, a large part of the team's core won't be back next year, and for damn good reason.
That no longer concerns me. John Beilein will find a way, replacing his bright youth with brighter youth, just as he has during his entire Michigan tenure.
*Though, for anyone who thinks Burke had an awful game, please refer to Michael Carter-Williams' final stat line.
he doesn't actually have to do anything the game is ova the queensbury thing to do is to slow up and I don't know take a foul or something or probably just wait around until the buzzer goes off
srsly are you insane
--Brian Cook's brain, 4/6/2013
That happened pretty quickly there as the brain assembled Syracuse's pregame dismissiveness of Michigan with who had the ball: Jordan Morgan. Morgan, who had just rescued Michigan's bacon by taking a charge on trash-talking Brandon Triche. Morgan, who went from a three-year starter to afterthought as Mitch McGary blew up. One technical for hanging on the rim is requested. Oh god no actually nevermind.
Morgan may not have had a bone sticking out of him a week ago but his emotional state has to be even more roiled than Kevin Ware. Ware just has to watch everything pensively and not pick his nose during the 15 minutes of gametime he is on screen. Morgan has to go out there and do things. When these things start with Morgan fumbling a sure layup out of bounds, he knows the exact tenor of the moans in the crowd, how even if only 5% of them are actually saying something nasty the rest are thinking it.
Kevin Ware's just a fan for the moment. For long stretches of this last month I've wondered if sometimes Morgan wished he could be. And the living envied the dead.
This was a zombie apocalypse of a game. Most of it was spent with Michigan players peering between the trees, trying to figure out anything approximating a path to the basket. They were not forthcoming. Almost half of Michigan's attempts were from three, many of those the sort of desperation heaves that Syracuse thrives on inducing. Michigan's main accomplishment on many possessions was to not turn the ball over.
Basically every number in the box score that isn't McGary and Robinson throwing down putbacks is ugly. Stauskas: 0-5. Hardaway: 1/6 from two, 3/10 from three. Burke: 1/8. Michigan put together a strong first half on the back of some shots from outside the dome and then collapsed, scoring a miserable 0.74 PPP in the second half. And won.
Syracuse meanwhile shot 21% from 3 and only approached 50% from two because CJ Fair was knocking down sixteen-footer after sixteen-footer. Michigan's approach on offense was Lloydball not just for the harrowing final few minutes but the whole game, shutting down Syracuse's transition offense (just two fast break points) at the expense of even bothering to use Trey Burke, for the most part. There were a couple of possessions in which Burke dribbled himself to a profitable spot, and it seemed strange and frustrating on all those other possessions where he just passed it around the perimeter.
It was Big Ten grind. Thoughts turned to similar games this year when fortune and malice conspired to screw Michigan. Kansas? Don't talk to me about Kansas when Spike Albrecht misses the front end of a one-and-one. I can only think about Indiana, about that time when refs decide they Will Not Decide The Game—clean block at right via Dustin Johnston—and missed front ends and the moment Morgan fell off a cliff like the basketball he left on the rim for weeks until it decided to go the wrong way.
Morgan went away then. The next game was a 2/6 struggle against Penn State in which Morgan was quickly shuffled to the bench after a bobbling start; Mitch McGary came on, racked up a double-double, and that was pretty much that. The nail in the coffin was the next night. Morgan started against Wisconsin, racking up 3 TOs and no shots in 8 minutes. He evaporated straight off the court, opacity dropping to zero percent in front of thousands.
McGary then turned into Wes Unseld—if you haven't heard, ask Jeff Withey. It was Wally Pipping so fierce they might rename the thing, or at least provide a corollary. To get Jordan Morganed is to have your brain damaged by an on-court experience and then watch your backup eat your job in two seconds.
Unless McGary adds 40% three-point shooting to his ever-expanding repertoire—actually, I give that 50/50 at this point—Jordan Morgan's probably never going to start at Michigan again. That's rough for a player who's had confidence issues forever. Probably the first thing Michigan fans heard about the guy was MSU fans making fun of Michigan recruiting someone who infamously broke down in tears at some camp or something. Derrick Nix may have been involved. I don't remember the exact details. I do remember the implication.
Soft. Jordan Morgan was supposed to be soft. May actually be "soft," whatever that means. It's impossible to watch the ups and downs of his career and not think that he lacks the icy veins of a Trey Burke, that he probably experiences sports as oceans of terror punctuated by islands of relief. I know that feel, bro. It's an entirely different kind of courage there. To barely outrun fear is different than simply not having it.
"I think I was in for like two possessions, and got two stops… I mean, that's what I do."
Jordan Morgan may fumble balls out of bounds, but in the most harrowing moments of… well, probably his life, his brain worked. He knew Elijah Johnson was going too fast, too far away from the basket to get a shot. He knew he could get to the spot against Brandon Triche. He got stops. Michigan continues on.
I was torn, so deputized! By all rights Mitch McGary deserves one of these things and I haven't actually written one. The secret weapon is Ace, who I badgered into typing something up about Enormous Doom Puppy. I felt this was a bench game, though, so I wanted to focus on a bench player. Also that charge made me carefully extract one of the carefully hoarded swear words from the vault and deploy it. So… yeah.
Speaking of the bench…
This is why you burn Caris LeVert's redshirt. This is why you bring in Spike Albrecht. When they did the former I muttered a number of things about how if you think Caris can give you a few possessions of anything in a tournament game, you have to play him because this is a year in which all of the eggs go in the basket. Meanwhile, everyone in the world cocked an eyebrow at bringing in this little post-grad point guard.
All bow to John Beilein. Albrecht and Levert were collectively the only things saving Michigan from a disastrous three-point shooting night and tourney exit, going 4/5 as the rest of the team was 4/19. Levert added a couple of assists and fine defense in 21 minutes, which is a career high in games when Michigan has full complement of players*. I believe he was mostly checking James Southerland. Since Southerland is not named CJ Fair he had a crappy night.
Meanwhile I must have had a lot of company when my brain started going SPIKE WHERE IS SPIKE when Syracuse deployed their press at the end. That's quite a move, when people are moaning in all caps to themselves about your absence.
*[He had more in the CMU game, which Hardaway missed, and the MSU game at Crisler when Nik Stauskas got his face exploded by Branden Dawson's elbow.]
Also, Mitch. It says something that McGary is still making my jaw drop five games into this run. Six assists increased his career total by a third and tripled his game high, plus he shot okay (4/8) in a game where shooting "okay" is fantastic and ripped down 12 boards. What can you say? There is no comparable. If someone does this in the future, or even looks like doing this over a couple games, they will namecheck him. Because there is no one else.
The free throws, yeah. Louisville might try to exploit that with backup big Stephen Van Treese, who was instantly attacked whenever he hit the floor by Wichita. Might cost Michigan some points.
McGary part 2: boards. Michigan won the board war 36%-29%, and while that Michigan OREB number isn't too surprising against a zone, Syracuse was a crushing OREB machine all year and Michigan held them below the D-I average. Remember earlier in the year when Michigan's outstanding rebounding was the shaky tent pole propping up their entire defense? And how when that went away late in Big Ten play, it collapsed? Opponent OREB numbers in the tourney:
32% is average. The top major-conference team, Arizona, held opponents to 27%. One of Louisville's main assets is their OREB.
Wha happen? How did Syracuse almost halve Michigan's PPP in the second half? This is a thing that I'd need to watch the film closely to figure out but I have some outlines in my head: two possessions into the second half I thought Michigan should call timeout because 'Cuse had changed what they were doing in the zone and Michigan seemed confused.
One, they extended it. Two, they brought up the wing player on the left up, presenting something that looked closer to a 3-2 zone—which as far as I know does not exist—when the ball was at the top of the key. It felt like pushing out this far should have left gaps for GRIII running the baseline for lobs and whatnot but Michigan never found that play. The zone adaptation made Michigan's three-pointers seem even less like good ideas, and hampered the McGary high post game that was so effective in the first half. Michigan never really adjusted.
Trey at least took MCW with him. Burke had a pretty terrible night. It was nowhere near as terrible a the one he induced Michael Carter-Williams into. Syracuse came out trying to post MCW on Burke, which lasted one possession without an entry pass. They probably should have gone back to it, since for the rest of the game Carter-Williams got nothing. He was 1/6 from the floor, didn't get to the line, had just two assists to his five turnovers, and fouled out. ORTG: 28. Burke was a 90 despite the crappy shooting because of his 4:1 A:TO ratio.
Okay guy. Syracuse was in a lot of trouble at the end what with both of the starting guards having fouled out, but that Cooney guy tried to go to the basket down three with under ten seconds left. And then took a tough, contested shot. From two. Okay guy.
I'm just glad I wasn't wearing an awesome hat that caused people to take pictures of me at whatever this juncture was.
Watching basketball in a dome. We were in the 200 level in a corner, and this was surprisingly fine. It was a bit far away but I saw the Morgan charge and immediately thought "charge"; ie, I felt I had a good idea of what was going on almost all of the time.
I thought the novelty of a Final Four would be a one-time thing and I would not return if Michigan were to make one in the future. After last night I've flipped on that. If you can stay out of the upper deck it's worth it.
So… this happened. I'm not sure whether to spank or kiss these children.
Is the addition of he Webber pictures gratuitous or necessary shock therapy? Were these moppets close enough to the sideline that Michigan's players could see them? Did everyone in the arena immediately think about this when Michigan burned its last TO with over two minutes left? Don't know, better have been, yes.
Is there an entire article about timeouts? You betcha.
The best thing about Denard Robinson. He was there, in much better seats than I had, and there was chatter about this in my section. With three minutes left they put him on the video board and he looked exactly how I felt. In my experience this never happens* because athletes are understandably cool about the whole cheering for athletes thing. Denard Robinson looked sick with three minutes left and I was I KNOW THAT FEEL BRO and and some point during our eons-long departure from the Georgia Dome we realized he was walking 50 feet behind us and wondered if we could just, like, give him money now that his eligibility had expired. We chickened out; I think to do that at that moment would have been somehow insulting.
But anyway, I get annoyed at everything and they put Denard on the board at the Final Four and he looked like he'd eaten a sea urchin and I felt better. Denard!
While the Wolverines are keeping themselves humbled and hungry, Alexander has to think of a motivational tool for when Michigan faces Syracuse in one of Saturday’s national semifinal games.
The choice seems obvious to him — orange juice.
“You know that did happen two years ago when we played Syracuse, (a 53-50 loss), out in Atlantic City, and Evan Smotrycz, who was on our roster at the time, was quite upset that I soiled his jersey,” Alexander said. “I hope Evan forgives me. Evan, if you’re out there watching, I’m sorry.”
ATLANTA -- Zack Novak sat in the stands, after being granted a few days off from his professional team in the Netherlands, watching his former coach and teammates advance to the national championship game.
"We wish you were still playing," one Michigan fan said to Novak, who graduated a year ago.
"No, you don't," he replied. "Because now you're seeing what happens when that man has talent."
Step 6: Be down by a ton of points in the second half. Trust me.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all about the element of surprise. PSU was down 66-51 with around ten minutes to go and came back to win by six. This is probably the only way to beat Michigan, and since your team is a heck of a lot better than Penn State, you could probably get away with a 30-35 point deficit late in the game. At worst, your team loses all hope, doesn't make a comeback and is super motivated for next year. A win/win, really.
So good luck, coach. Just know that should you fail to heed my advice and fall to Michigan, we'll have transitive bragging rights over you for quite some time.
Beilein wanted to thank the fans for their support, for waiting in the cold, for acknowledging again that Michigan wasn't just a football school.
He also wanted to acknowledge the team, though, rattling off the players' names, class by class. And when he got to his fabulous freshmen, he started with the one name he knew would get the biggest cheer.
"How about this?" Beilein yelled, as his face broke into a big grin. "The most eligible bachelor on campus right now: Spike Albrecht!"
Yes, John Beilein did the "Harlem Shake," sort of. This is Michigan's first Final Four dance in 20 years and Beilein's first, and to appreciate how the Wolverines ended up here, you have to appreciate how the mild-mannered 60-year-old coach connected with one of the youngest teams in the country.
This is a tale that only happens in college, where players are talented enough to pull off great things, but raw enough to recognize the need for guidance. Beilein is meticulous, nearly to a fault, he admits. But this season, and especially during this NCAA Tournament run, the strangest thing happened. Just when the Wolverines could have tightened up, their coach loosened up, and this is how they ride.
"This has been crazy," Burke's father, Benji described. "People tweeting, Facebooking and talking about him -- Jalen Rose, Charles Barkley, Bob Knight, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony.
Wait, what? Lil Wayne?
"It's been like 'wow,' " Benji added with a laugh. "He's known all over."
Scouting Michigan. Eamonn Brennan talks to an OSU assistant about how to deal with Michigan's offense. This is what I am saying about horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line jumpers:
[Hardaway] is excellent on catch-and-shoots (1.227 PPP), but his efficiency drops precipitously once he is forced to put the ball on the floor. Once Hardaway takes a dribble, his points per trip drop to just 0.711. Fly by on closeouts if that's what it takes, but make Hardaway do more than stand with his finger in the wind on the perimeter -- especially in the open floor.
(You guys who use Synergy numbers need to learn about significant digits man. 1.2 and 0.7.) Boals goes on to talk threes and Michigan's defense and the like; highly recommended even if he thinks it's "weird" Michigan emphasizes limiting opponent transition opportunities, which I think the entire universe does.
The Orange weren't exactly the fastest team in the country this season -- they ranked No. 244 in Pomeroy's adjusted tempo -- but you really do not want to see them on the break. According to Synergy scouting data, Syracuse averaged 1.12 points per trip in transition this season, disproportionately more than in the half court.
I like the idea of transition-dependent offenses against Michigan.
So here it came, just as Alexander was wrapping up. A can of Pringles? Morgan guessed it immediately — "I knew exactly what he was doing," he said — but most of his teammates were stumped. Alexander said he'd put on the glove "just for effect." ("You know, 'What is he about to do? Is he about to smack somebody?' " he joked.) As for the chips, he'd spotted one of the team managers eating them earlier in the day, "and I just had an 'A-ha!' moment."
Ask Alexander about Mitch McGary's breakfast habits and he'll tell you he "has benefited from his enthusiasm and his consistency and really his unwavering pursuit of excellence."