Unverified Voracity Spawns Baby Courtside

Unverified Voracity Spawns Baby Courtside

Submitted by Brian on February 8th, 2013 at 12:15 PM

The chaos! Illinois finally came through on its promise to be an agent of chaos in the Big Ten title race by going on a 13-2 run to beat Indiana; the final bucket was a wide-open layup off an out of bounds play that went down when Cody Zeller lost Tyler Griffey. Court-rush: approved.

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Here is John Groce screaming at a shirtless child I hope is not his.

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I hope it popped out of a woman at courtside who was not even pregnant.

The implications are large for Michigan. Indiana has now dropped two league games and has visits to OSU, MSU, Minnesota, and Michigan on tap along with a home outing against the Buckeyes. Michigan's tough games left are @ Wisconsin, @ MSU, MSU, and Indiana. Advantage M. While OSU and MSU are proving they are going to have a say in this, the most likely outcome of the season is that the M-IU conference finale will see one team playing for an outright title, the other for a share. Last night's stunner—I think Gasaway will let me get away with that—shifts the outright half of that to Michigan. Viva Illinois chaos machine. Don't make me take this back after your visit to Crisler, kthx.

Meanwhile for, you know, the Illini: their quest to be an at-large team with an under .500 conference record is looking pretty good right now. Adding Indiana to their pile of skulls gives them the good wins of a top four seed and they've got a few more shots at adding to that pile. I think even 7-11 might get them in now. Beilein's bubble resumes with 20-12-ish teams were considerably worse since the Big Ten wasn't nearly as good and they didn't have a pair of nonconference wins on par with Gonzaga/Butler, and on Selection Sunday they were easily in.

I mean:

  • MICHIGAN 2011: 19-12 regular season, 9-9 Big Ten, best wins over 10-seed Penn State, Dayton-bound Clemson, 9-seed Illinois, 10 seed MSU (2x).
  • HYPOTHETICAL 7-11 ILLINI 2013: 20-12 regular season, 7-11 Big Ten, best wins over (CTD projection) 3-seed Gonzaga, 2-seed Indiana, 4-seed Butler, 4-seed OSU.

That Michigan outfit ended up nowhere near the bubble, finding themselves in that 8-9 game against Tennessee. Bubble teams are weak yo.

So… who wants to play a John Groce team that consists of a bunch of shot-jackers who can burn your tourney to the ground if you catch them on the wrong day? That's nobody, especially not me. This time Michigan won't see them, though.

Oops. Will Sheehey got a technical late in the first half.

This is either the best thing ever or Bob Knight yelling at librarians, which is also the best thing ever. From Midnight Maize's erroneously named "Crap You Wouldn't Buy On EBay" series:

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Someone purchase this and send it to Wolverine Historian.

Also:

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Words are very unnecessary here.

OSU highlights. A comprehensive reel from MGoVideo:

That sequence of Sam Thompson block to Burke three to Deshaun Thomas missed three to deflected Stauskas pass to Deshaun Thomas three was all sickening lurches back and forth.

Also in OSU video bits, Five Key Plays.

OSU takes from Grantland. Mark Titus's power rankings  spend a lot of time talking about how Ohio State should be about as giddy as you can be about a loss, lending credence to our "man OSU played well" meme. As for Michigan:

As giddy as I am over Ohio State's performance in Ann Arbor, a small part of me can't help but acknowledge the obvious — the Buckeyes played their best game of the season and Michigan still won. Similarly, Michigan didn't play very well at all at Indiana over the weekend, yet the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines by only eight. This is terrifying. Michigan is taking the best shots of some of the best teams in the country while not playing anywhere close to their best, and they're still tough to beat. They just have too many weapons, especially now that Mitch McGary is coming around. Very few guys in America can contain Trey Burke one-on-one, but if you decide to help too much to stop him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, or Nik Stauskas will make you pay. The only hope in beating Michigan is to hope several of their players have off nights (like they did at Indiana). I guess you could also try to beat them at their own game and get into a shootout, but unless you're Indiana or Florida, good luck with that.

He cites Michigan's recent three binge as a source of concern. If they have to keep knocking down threes at a 50%+ rate to win games that will indeed be a worry. I tend to chalk that up to randomness and Tim Hardaway going nuts.

Also, all those makes obscured the fact that only 40% of Michigan's looks were from deep. That's only a little high. D-I takes 'em at a 33% clip and Michigan is at 36%. If Michigan had shot a D-I average number of threes against OSU we're talking about four shots migrating inside the arc. I'm not sure that's anything to get exercised about, especially after Michigan was right on the average against Indiana.

I do think he's got a point about Michigan getting deep-jumper happy at times. Like, say, the end of a tie game.

Also on Grantland, Shane Ryan puts up ten things about the game. I disagree that the Burke block was even close to a foul, as he asserts. The last one probably was, sure, but Michigan didn't win this game in regulation by five so whateva. Ryan does slam the heroball bit.

Revise your self-reality-checking. Michigan has gone from 5-1 against to 7-2 against in Vegas. They're now co-favorites with Florida. Also, add this great shot from John T Grelick to both Tim Hardaway's photo pantheon and the rapidly growing Stauskas pantheon:

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inner gus johnson goes uhn

And you could stand to update you wardrobe, too. Your media meme of the moment is something about Urban Meyer SECizing the Big Ten. The sole piece of evidence cited is increased recruiting budgets at a lot of schools. This is not much evidence. Michigan, the one school to keep pace with OSU's recruiting, actually saw its budget fall this year. Ohio State's is up marginally… and 9th out of the ten schools that responded. Meanwhile the schools that saw massive increases are Nebraska, which is an outlier since they just changed conferences and have gone national in an attempt to replace lost clout in Texas, and teams coming up to the Big Boy average without positive effect on their recruiting.

Nevertheless, the meme is on high today after Meyer said something about learning up his peers on the whole recruiting shazaam:

"Our whole conversation [at the Big Ten coaches meeting] needs to be about 'How do we recruit?'" he told the radio station. "When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25 that’s something that we need to continue to work on and improve."

He called the recruiting discussion "essential," and he'll spearhead it Monday.

Urban Meyer's perception of this meeting:

What everyone else hears:

This is what they hear all the time anyway.

Fitz! Running! A nasty dual break of Toussaint's lower leg results in running ten weeks after:

"Saw him running around -- I was shocked," Jackson said Wednesday. "The kid had a broken leg. Ten years ago, that probably wouldn't have been the case. But he was running around the other day and I don't know if they had him cut, but to me, that's tremendous progress."

As previously noted, the average recovery time of soccer players who suffered the same injury would see Fitz available for the season opener. While everyone's hyped about Derrick Green, it's nice to have multiple options—especially ones versed in Michigan's blitz pickup schemes. And putting a redshirt on DeVeon Smith might be nice.

File under extreme writer envy. Charles P. Pierce, writing on the Ed O'Bannon suit, summarizes one of the running themes appearing in this space for years in a paragraph:

By and large, the people charged with running our various sports conglomerates have proven through history to be as incapable of taking the long view of their own survival as the average brachiosaurus was. They blunder around, eating whatever comes under their noses, trampling the scenery and hooting loudly into the wind. They never see the meteor coming.

Writer jealousy: engaged.

Hugh Freeze going all Lance on us. Ah, youth:

I'm so irritated right now, so forgive me," the Ole Miss football coach said. "I've taken it about up to here with all the media and the Twitters and everybody."

Up next: 7 SEC championships, denials, dating Cheryl Crow, more denials, epic wristbands, tearful Oprah confession.

This Week In We Are Not Iowa. Michigan is trying to assemble a stripeout for… the Penn State game. In basketball. I don't think this will work. Next time go for the Brownian-Motion-Out, you guys.They're wearing 1968 throwbacks, which are actually 1968 throwbacks if the items they're selling on the MDen's site are accurate. As such, they are uniforms, no Z. I actually like them better than the current outfits.

Etc.: ESPN comprehensive photo gallery from OSU. You know what bugs me about the Magic thing? Magic averaged over eight assists per game. 17 and 7 is impressive; 17 and 8 is like whoah. Also whenever it gets brought up my feed fills up with Spartan fans contemplating a raid on Bristol. Kansas lost to TCU! Hoke doesn't like recruiting deregulation. Also, don't freak out about the video: that is not Chantel Jennings looking freakily like Samantha Ponder, it is Samantha Ponder.

The annual Detnews Blue Chips player interviews are a bit less interesting than usual. Reschke slams Urban Meyer, guys not recruited by Michigan are a little bitter, etc.

Basketbullets: Eastern Michigan

Basketbullets: Eastern Michigan

Submitted by Brian on December 21st, 2012 at 12:34 PM

12/20/2012 – Michigan 93, Eastern Michigan 54 – 12-0

Sometimes games just happen, and then we skip right to the bullets. Actually, here is some video

And here is Bryan Fuller's photoset:

The set features this guy calmly departing for his home planet:

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your efficient three point shooting has finally recharged my ionic crystals and I can return to my home planet thank you hooman. thank you hooman.

McGary, not so calm.

A rote domination. For comparison's sake, Syracuse took Eastern Michigan to a similar—but not quite as impressive—woodshed, winning 84-48. Therefore we are better than Syracuse. #math

No fly, zone. Eastern is a horrible offensive team, but defensively they present some challenges with their zone and Da'Shonte Riley's shotblocking, so this was a game in two phases

  1. hurry up already and get this defensive possession that tells us nothing over
  2. alright let's see if Michigan can figure out a zone with major conference size

The Kenpom numbers are stark: EMU is one of the worst offensive teams in the country (#322) and an average defensive team (#161) overall. They'd still be 12th in the Big Ten if Delany were to snap them up tomorrow (time's running out, Jim!), in front of only Penn State, but Michigan had struggled against zone so far this year. Having a 40-minute class on how to deal with it effectively against a decent D was useful.

In the first few minutes, Michigan continued to struggle, but the nice thing about Beilein teams is you know they'll adjust, which Michigan did in three steps:

  1. adding ball screens to disrupt the zone's balance and get the guy in the high post open
  2. getting that high post guy to dump it down to the big once Riley showed to contest
  3. teaching the bigs to finish against a shotblocker.

McGary and Morgan were 1-6 in the first half with swats accounting for half the misses. In the second half they were 7-7. Riley got in foul trouble, which helped, but more efficient ball movement got McGary some uncontested dunks and Morgan opened the second half with a couple of finishes against Riley.

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Fuller

This kind of thing happens regularly with Beilein; you can see the kids get something down in the middle of a game. I give that a thumbs up.

Wisconsonian. With just one game to go before conference play starts, Michigan's defense is looking like vintage Bo Ryan. Wisconsin teams rebound and try to get their chest into you when you rise for a shot but virtually never go for the ball. The result is a lot of contested jumpers at a poor percentage, no free throws, no offensive rebounds, no turnovers, no blocks, and no steals.

For example, last year the Badgers did this in conference (offense on the left, defense on the right):

image

Kenpom

The rebounding was a little weak and the blocks a little stronger than usual. Other than that, there is the platonic ideal of a Wisconsin defense. It has been effective despite the Badgers consistently lacking the sort of athletes that alter shots—they were third on D in a tough Big Ten last year.

Michigan is…

  • 89th (of 347) in eFG% D and about there from both 2 and 3.
  • 228nd in TO%, and that number will drop as teams like Eastern sag off the schedule
  • 7th in defensive rebounding
  • 1st(!) at not putting opponents on the line
  • 252nd and 273rd at blocks and steals, respectively.

The big thing Wisconsin does that Michigan has not been able to match so far is keeping guys from shooting threes: the Badgers were second nationally in fewest threes allowed last year, a stat that Kenpom has been hammering as more important than the actual percentage you allow from deep for a bit now. Michigan is below-average there, though they are giving up a low percentage… so far. If that trend continues into Big Ten play I don't think opponents are going to keep hitting 31%.

Another consistent aspect of Wisconsin's defense is not giving up assists—we are talking not huge margins here but the Badgers have not been lower than about 20th in a long time in that department. In general, assisted shots are high quality ones, so A/FGM is a decent proxy for shot quality. There too, Michigan cannot quite match Ryan's team. They are slightly above average; they're not elite.

The upshot: this is a model for defense that works in the Big Ten; Michigan is good at it but not as good as the Badgers, and they'll probably hold steady at around 4th or 5th on D in conference play.

Big Puppy. Michigan needs to get Mitch McGary's minutes up to 16+ a game so he'll rank on Kenpom leaderboards, because his rebound rates remain outlandish. If he'd played a couple minutes more per game he'd hit the 40% threshold and rank second in OREB and 31st in DREB; in this game he had a double-double in 18 minutes. 

McGary still looks a little heavy on the floor, so he's not blocking many shots and picks up too many fouls, etc., but he's a major asset. If he can undergo the same transformation Morgan did over the offseason, look out.

Bonus McGary thing: two assists to one turnover in this one including the announcer-must-reference-Wes-Unseld soccer-throw-in outlet pass to Hardaway for a slam dunk.

STAUSKAS SWAG ALERT. I don't care that the behind the back pass didn't work. SWAG.

(okay maybe he should calm down a little)

Also on Stauskas. Does anybody else have this sense of panic whenever Stauskas misses from deep, like he's going to suddenly revert to Disappointing Shooter Of Christmas Past and this nonconference napalming is going to be a faint, low-sample-size memory? I do. The airball from the corner was death despite it being a late-clock, heavy-contest instachuck.

So then the guy goes 5-7 the rest of the way with another couple of instachucks going in… and exhale. Our sample size in which Stausaks is a 56% three point shooter has risen to 61, praise everything. As a team, Michigan's long distance shooting dropped a half-point in Big Ten play last year, so the tougher defenses shouldn't actually impact that number much. As the attempts go up, so does our confidence.

What separates Stauskas from the rest of the universe is that instachuck shot. If he's got time to set up and fire, he's deadly; he also has a mode where he gets his shot off so quickly that he can make a heavily contested three not that contested. That is a skill that will see him linger in the NBA until you're like "Nik Stauskas is still in the league? I knew Nik Stauskas Jr and Nik Stauskas III were, but the original is still playing for the Triton Methane Atmospheres?"

Trey Burke turnover == shock. Eight assists to one TO in this game, which I think brings his total over the last seven games to seven, for a guy who plays 36+ minutes in most games and dominates the ball. The TOs are so rare that you can remember the most recent one: Burke tried to chuck an an OOB restart between two guys, who deflected it and eventually recovered, and you were like "dang" and then you were like "oh right if I get mad at that I do not understand math or life or anything."

Applicants to Hardaway face pantheon.

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Fuller

I feel like these should be called "the discovery of fire" or something.

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part I

Hoops Preview 2012-13: The Rotation, Part I

Submitted by Ace on October 12th, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Previously: Early Outlook

It may be the middle of football season, but it's already time to gear up for basketball; Michigan tips off the 2012-13 season against Northern Michigan on November 1st, a scant three weeks from yesterday. Leading up to the opener I'll be doing a comprehensive preview, starting with a look at the rotation—guards/wings today, bigs next week—and then moving on to the schedule, a look at the Big Ten competition, and important questions facing the team this season.

Let's take a look at the guards/wings, shall we?

Returners: PG Trey Burke, SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr., PG Eso Akunne, SG/SF Matt Vogrich, SG Josh Bartlestein, SG Corey Person
Departures: SG Stu Douglass
Newcomers: PG Spike Albrecht, SG Nik Stauskas, SG Caris Levert

Note: Freshman Glenn Robinson III could easily—and probably should be—included in this post with the wings, but since he's expected to see time at the four and there are more guards/wings than bigs on the roster, he'll be featured in next week's post.

POINT GUARDS

#3 TREY BURKE (Soph.)

Ht./Wt.: 6'0", 190 lbs.
2011-12 Key Stats: 34 GP (33 GS), 14.8 points/game, 4.6 assists/game, 49.0 2P%, 34.8 3P%, 28.7% assist rate, 1.7 FC/40

Michigan received a huge scare over the offseason when it appeared that Burke would declare for the NBA Draft, but he's returned for at least one more season in the Maize and Blue after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors from the media in 2011-12. Despite the presence of Tim Hardaway Jr., it was Burke who became the team's go-to guy down the stretch as the season wore on, notably hitting an improbable floater over Jared Sullinger to seal a win over Ohio State and exploding for 30 points against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

Despite being much smaller than his point guard predecessor, Darius Morris, Burke showed the ability last season to score in a variety of ways, including getting to the basket off the pick-and-roll. While his outside shooting stroke lacked consistency, he still managed to hit nearly 35% of his threes, and Slam Magazine declared that area of his game "improved" after June's Nike Skills Camp. Given his adept passing, if Burke is able to become a ~40% three-point shooter he'll be as lethal a point guard as there is in the country.

If there's one area to improve upon offensively, it's Burke's ability to handle the hard hedge on the pick-and-roll; he struggled with turnovers when teams doubled hard with a big off the screen. That's an area that will improve with experience, though Burke's lack of size means that will still be the way to most effectively limit him.

Defensively, Burke impressed for a freshman; he very rarely fouls (just 1.7 committed per 40 minutes) and is quick enough to stay in front of just about anyone. He hounded Wisconsin standout Jordan Taylor into a 12-point outing on just 5-15 shooting in a victory last January, impressively shutting down the bigger Taylor on multiple post-up attempts; his size belies his strength, and he'll only get stronger after adding ten pounds in the offseason.

Burke is in line to compete for first-team All-America honors this season; he's the proverbial straw that stirs the drink in Beilein's pick-and-roll-heavy offense, and he's no slouch defensively, either.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the guards and wings, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and a trio of talented freshmen.]

Just In Time For The Showcase Showdown

Just In Time For The Showcase Showdown

Submitted by Brian on March 2nd, 2012 at 11:48 AM

3/1/2012 – Michigan 72, Illinois 61 – 22-8, 12-5 Big Ten

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UMHoops/Dustin Johnston

If you were in a really, really good mood in June and thought of Tim Hardaway Jr's sophomore season, you probably envisioned him tossing in three-pointers like he's casually skipping stones across Lake Michigan, rebounding like he's a bouncy Zack Novak, and maybe developing enough of a handle to attack the rim when people close him out hard.

Instead you got… not that. Instead you got every preview of every Michigan game having a section on Hardaway that is the verbal equivalent of:

You got not that until yesterday, when Hardaway flung in 25 points on 7 shots and secured an array of bouncy, mansome rebounds en route to holding Illinois to six offensive rebounds in 31 opportunities. Oh, and Michigan won a road game by double digits. This is what you envisioned last summer when you closed your eyes long enough for Denard Robison-related daydreaming to pass.

That didn't happen so much but Trey Burke showed up on a mission to discredit scouting services and picked up most of the slack there, so that was okay. Michigan muddled through to its best record in a long, long time. Hardaway lingered, though, a hovering sad inexplicable what-if and source of indigestion whenever he rose up for a three-pointer that had a 26% chance of going in.

We spent the season waiting, mostly winning but mostly frustrated. Every flash of effectiveness was dissected for repeatability; every clanged shot was a re-descent into depression. The last time this team played Illinois, Hardaway had an efficient game that fluttered hopes:

When Tim Hardaway Jr. got an open-ish look from three early, he passed it up. He faked, got past the closeout, and took an open look from the elbow. He missed. He got another midrange jumper a minute later, which he missed. A minute after that he got an open look from three, and the building kind of moaned.

It was a complex moan. It acknowledged the fact that this was a very good shot and that if you are Tim Hardaway Jr. and you're not going to take this shot you probably shouldn't be on the floor at all and while there may be some basketball teams who could afford to bench Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is emphatically not one of them. It also loathed everything about the preceding sentence because none of it meant Hardaway was at all likely to make it. It was a richly subtextual moan. Given enough time and processing power, Ken Pomeroy could calculate Hardaway's shooting percentage from it. He would find it is not high at all.

Hardaway made it anyway. The building thought maybe basketball would bring it flowers.

He then proceeded to… well, defy easy classification. Tim Hardaway Jr, this is a five game stretch in your sophomore year:

Opponent Min 2PM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB ASSIST TO PTS
Illinois 30 3/6 2/3 3/5 1 3 3 2 15
OSU 38 2/3 2/2 3/5 0 3 0 4 13
@ Northwestern 38 2/3 2/9 4/10 2 5 1 1 14
Purdue 34 5/7 0/6 0/0 1 6 1 4 10
@ Illinois 38 2/3 4/4 9/10 0 11 1 3 25
AVERAGES 35.6 55% 42% 66%         15.4

There's some frustrating wobble in there what with the 0-fer from three against Purdue and the Ben Wallace free throw shooting against Northwestern. There is also the 25-points-on-7 shots outing last night, two other extremely efficient games, an obvious uptick in turnovers, Hardaway's second double-double of the year, and the same 42% shooting from deep that carried Michigan to a shock tourney bid last year.

This chart reminds me of the NCAA hockey tournament. IE: it terrifies. If Hardaway is off, Michigan is capable of losing to anyone in the tourney, literally. The Ben Wallace FT game saw them go to overtime with Northwestern, currently the last team in on many brackets. If he is on, daggers rain from the sky and Michigan can take down just about anyone.

Michigan has no choice but to deal with this. They have one and a half backups and the fourth-shortest bench in the country. If Hardaway isn't producing, there's nowhere to turn. We've got little to go on either way. As Hardaway bounces up from a pretty horrendous year he settles back into a funk for back to back games, then surges.

Riding him is being at sea in a storm. When he rises up for his first-three pointer in Columbus or Pittsburgh or Nashville against an autobid from a small conference, every Michigan fan from the eight-year-old who thinks Trey Burke is the greatest point guard in history to John Beilein himself will watch the flight of the ball, thinking please, please, please.

Bullets

Burke + Hardaway == um. This will not be an original thought, but finally finally finally Michigan got good, efficient performances from Burke and Hardaway at the same time. No one else did much offensively but it did not matter because the top guys had an 80% eFG% and were 10 of 10 from the line even before Illinois started fouling tactically late.

That is going to be tough to beat; that is far from guaranteed. Who would have thought Anthony Wright would be the guy holding Michigan in against Blake Griffin a few years back?

Just Burke. Very, very smooth last night, pushing the ball when it needed to be pushed and ruthlessly punishing high-screen switches with easy step-up three-pointers. Long term that's his future—he won't get better than last night but will have more nights like that. Exception: as he learns the intricacies of the Beilein offense he'll increase his assist rate and maybe edge up his two-point shooting because fewer of his attempts will be heaves late in the shot clock.

Smotrycz. He managed to foul out in 14 minutes and has a lot of people down on his potential contributions next year. Two things:

  • Big men develop slowly and unpredictably.
  • Smotrycz is badly miscast as a center and will benefit more than anyone else on the roster from the additions of McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt to the lineup… unless Bielfeldt turns into a Draymond Green-style four, in which case he's screwed. Chances of that next year are low.

Next year he should be able to take Novak's role in the offense and on defense, something he's better suited for. He may be a bad matchup in certain situations and get lifted, but—holy pants—next year Michigan will be able to do that by inserting GRIII, McGary, or Bielfeldt at the four. He will not have to take on Adreian Payne, Jared Sullinger or Meyers Leonard next year, and thank God for that.

Jalen Rose is one divisive guy. I was not a fan of his color commentary last night and tweeted something out about it. In the next ten minutes that tweet received an avalanche of support, criticism, and hur hur jokes about racism. Say what you want about Rose, but he moves the needle.

Of course, the thing I say about Rose is that he moves my needle in the wrong direction. The contrast between Rose and Bardo was obvious: Bardo was a pro; Rose sounded like he'd won a fan contest to call a game.

It wasn't all bad. Rose consistently made an excellent point about players trying too hard to take charges or block shots when they should just be annoying presences to contest shots, and he backed it up every time he should have. I bet he's a lot better when he's not covering a Michigan game.

Injuries. Smotrycz and Morgan were both dinged but it doesn't sound like anything serious:

"I hope they're all right," Beilein said. "Both of them had little stingers, (Morgan) in the shoulder and (Smotrycz) to his hip.

Losing either one would obviously be a disaster sans Horford.

Elsewhere

Photos from UMHoops and AA.com. UMHoops recap. Baumgardner recap. Burke just set the Michigan freshman record for assists. Daily on Hardaway doing work:

“Having a winter break right now, Tim has used every bit of it,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He's been in the gym like crazy. Just looking at his shot, we've been watching the video tape, seeing any different type of quirks that maybe he could work out. He's such a student of the game, so he's really worked at it.”

Holdin' the Rope:

I'm not sure what it is about playing Illinois, but it has for whatever reason brought out the very best in THJ this season. He was just about as efficient as you can possibly be, and his shot was crisp, clean, and confident. Bacari Alexander will now be given the task of using whatever psychological tropes he can muster to convince THJ that they are playing Illinois before every game from here on out. John Gasaway says:

It's hard to disagree. This Michigan team has, by varying combinations of Trey Burke, Beilein sorcery, TRUE GRIT, and Bacari Alexander motivational ploys, manufactured a 22-8 record with THJ struggling for long, bleak stretches of conference play. Imagine, oh imagine, what this team can accomplish with a THJ circa the end of last season added to the fold.

A Lion Eye is depressed; A Lion Eye is always depressed. A Lion Eye reminds me of me two years ago.

Hardaway is interviewed at Grantland:

Your dad was an NBA All-Star. Did you grow up playing against him? At what age could you beat him?

Yeah, when I was a kid we played a seven-game series every Saturday. I used to go to open gym to play with my friends and teammates, and I'd get there 30 to 45 minutes early so I could play one-on-one against my dad. When I reached ninth grade, I was finally able to beat him. He'd win the seven-game series, mostly, but I knew if I got two or three wins I could tell everybody that I'd beat my dad one-on-one. That's when I knew he was done.

But even when I started beating him regularly, he wasn't mad at all. He'd still teach me things I could get better at. To this day, I go up to him and ask him for advice about what I need to work on, and he always does a great job helping me out. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of trash talking when we played one-on-one.

What kind of trash talk, specifically?

I can't say. I can't say!

Asked whether this is his last year at Michigan, he says "I'm not sure" and "I can tell you I don't plan on leaving." I'm guessing he's around for at least another year since he's probably not a first-rounder after this business.

The NYT has an interesting article up on the variations between basketballs making life difficult on road teams. Bo Ryan is specified as a guy who uses a weird ball that causes problems for visitors; this made me think of a recent Daily article on Michigan's odd choice of ball:

“I just have a long association with The Rock,” he said. “I used it way back to LeMoyne and also at the Division-I level. I’ve used The Rock, I think, all the time. They have a good product.”

Though many teams choose to stick with their school’s sponsor for their choice of ball, Michigan passed over Adidas in favor of The Rock — a brand from Anaconda Sports.

“It feels very much like the Wilson, which we use in the NCAA Tournament,” Beilein said. “That’s why I like it.”

In fact, the NYT article seems like an rehash of the Daily article what with its frequent referencing of Wisconsin's unusual deployment of Sterling basketballs and focus on the home/road effects. Zinger not contained by NYT for obvious reasons incoming:

But if Michigan fans are worried about the Wolverines’ play without The Rock in the postseason, there is good news. On Dec. 10, Michigan put up a season-high 90 points in a victory over Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills.

The ball? Wilson. The same brand used for March Madness.

Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway.

Or is that "Hawafty"?

image

Paywall ho!

Jared Sullinger And Tim Hardaway Jr Screaming At Each Other

Jared Sullinger And Tim Hardaway Jr Screaming At Each Other

Submitted by Brian on January 27th, 2012 at 1:24 PM

LAST WEEK ON "JARED SULLINGER AND TIM HARDAWAY JR SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER"

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ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRR

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AAAAAAAHHHRHHRRRRRRRRRAAA

AND NOW… OUR THRILLING CONCLUSION!

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YAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH YA YA YA YA YA

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH!

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YAAAHHHHHH!!!!! YAH!

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RARARARARARRRRRRRR! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

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YARRR!!!!!

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ORK?

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Nerk.

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FIN

Unverified Voracity Deploys The Napkin

Unverified Voracity Deploys The Napkin

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2012 at 5:30 PM

[Tardy thanks to MRI, about which more later, and Stonum going poof. Please excuse any datedness that may appear.]

Some progress. Over the summer the SEC further clamped down on oversigning by reducing a Houston Nutt-induced cap of 28 signees in any particular year—a fig leaf—to an actually impactful 25. You only have to look at Michigan's projected 2012 class of 27 or 28 to know there's at least some teeth in the SEC's latest cap, but if you want more direct evidence, Georgia running back Justin Taylor provides it:

One of Georgia’s top running backs said that was told by Alabama’s Nick Saban this weekend that he will have to wait until next year to sign with the Crimson Tide. …

Coach Saban just said I’m the 26th commitment. I would be the 26th signee. I guess he went and picked up somebody else. He said I make 26 and they only get 25. They talked about bringing me in next January.” [Note: Alabama has 27 commitments]

That somebody else was Auburn decommit and five-star TJ Yeldon. Taylor, a generic three star who lost his senior year to a knee injury, is now adrift two weeks before signing day after spending almost a year committed to the Tide.

In a hilarious effort to create a binding commitment between a party with no power and College Football Stalin, Saban proposed they deploy a +5 Napkin of Ultimate Bonding:

"He said he was going to sign me with the next class. But he also said he would sign a piece of paper to show that they are keeping their word – they are going to sign it and they want me to sign it to make sure I know I still have my scholarship"

You have to hand it to Saban. That is weaselry worthy of Magnetar. The HSR suggests a T-shirt:

Alabama Napkin[1]

So Saban is still a disingenuous weasel. Here he does exactly what Sevon Pittman did to MSU, except he's a millionaire adult instead of an addled 18-year old with two dollars to his name. He is still committed but looking at options, which means he's trying to find a landing place as fast as possible.

At least Taylor found that out before he signed a document that committed him to Alabama but not vice-versa. This is still not ideal since 25 x 4 = 100 and it seems like a reasonable number to average on a yearly basis is 22, but it does forcibly hack the worst oversigning offenders' practices in half.

To repeat the brilliant suggestion of an Oversigning.com commenter, the best way to fix the problem is to do away with an 85 player limit entirely in favor of a yearly limit on letters of intent somewhere between 22 and 26. This removes any incentive to take kids off the team. Unfortunately, Title IX probably makes this impossible.

Indiana State could not be reached for comment.

Decline and fall. Virginia Tech's special teams looked surprisingly weak in the metrics tracked by the NCAA, but that fails to account for blocks and whatnot that were a large portion of the "Beamerball" free touchdowns. I wondered if that had evaporated recently. Survey says:

beamer-ball-blocked-kicks[1]

One blocked kick with major upside per year each of the last three,  with a couple of blocked PATs thrown in there. Foster's defense is keeping them afloat these days. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just thought it was interesting.

We're really mad now, you guys. The NCAA is going to get serious… just in time for Ohio State to get off mad easy. I'll believe this when I see it:

"We were damn mad and not going to take it anymore," Ed Ray, Oregon State president and chair of the Enforcement Working Group, said.

Given Miami AD Paul Dee's comeuppance after the "high profile compliance" shot against Reggie Bush, expect Oregon State to be swallowed whole within the year. The working group has created a penalty matrix that provides two different violation levels with a total of eight tiers between them. No one seems to know what goes in those categories but hoo boy, getting hit with a Significant Level I violation would net you a 2-3 year postseason ban and a loss of 38-50% of your scholarships. Dang.

Apparently even Michigan's piddling violations would have netted a four-scholarship loss "per year"—not sure how many years we're talking about here—which is more than OSU's massive year long head-coach-lying carnivale got them. Again, believe it when I see some athletic department burned to the ground.

At least they didn't take dumb action. The totally outrageous proposal to hack down scholarship numbers in an era when TV networks can't throw enough money at schools was voted down. Also it sounds like the 2,000 stipend may return in some other form and the board of the directors is going to make schools who want to override the multi-year scholarship proposal get a 5/8ths majority to vote it down.

So okay. The Indiana States of the world can stew.

Guh. A portion of a paywalled interview with Brandon on playoffs brings up an old canard that's annoying when bloggers deploy it and doubly so when it's your athletic director($):

"This whole notion of a playoff is ridiculous because I don't care what you come up with, it's not going to be a fair playoff. You've got a bunch of teams that don't play one another and play different competition and in different time zones in different conferences in different stadiums in front of different crowds and different weather and suddenly at some point in the year you are trying to arbitrarily decide which one is better and which one deserves to be in a four-team playoff or a six-team playoff."

This is a downside of a playoff that the current system doesn't have? Except infinitely worse because you can literally win all your games and still get passed over? Are these even questions? No?

Rothstein challenges Brandon on his arguments, to his credit, but you'll have to have Insider to see the result. Spoiler: it's the usual pastiche of academics and wear and tear that apparently only applies to I-A, with an added bonus of "kids love bowl games." CBS surveyed players on the four teams in the Fiesta Bowl and SEC West Division Championship Game. They found 19% favored a bowl game and 43% a playoff with 38% abstaining.

The thing that bothers is not the opposition to a playoff, which is a somewhat tenable position as someone who believes the current system benefits his schools. It's that the arguments put forth are all logically inconsistent.

BONUS: Weird that he went from four teams to six instead of eight, eh? MGoPlayoff's tentacles extend.

Winter Classic: official? Not officially official but someone is now saying it is a done deal instead of something discussed in nonbinding chats over tea:

The NHL, the Detroit Red Wings and the University of Michigan have finalized a deal to hold next season’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, a source told MLive.com.

They're going to build a rink at Not Tiger Stadium as well to "appease Mike Ilitch." Maybe the GLI will be there. Or something. I don't know. It's weird.

Michigan may now lose its own record for hockey attendance and force a bunch of people to choose between that and the inevitable New Year's Day bowl Michigan will find itself in unless it manages the same at-large BCS trick it did this year or makes the MNC game. But, hey: incremental revenue.

Star turn. CBS's Jeff Goodman was in the house yesterday; he profiles Trey Burke:

"I knew pretty quick in the summer," Novak said. "Trey was doing things right away that it had taken me four years to pick up. He has such a high skill level -- and you can tell he wasn't fazed by anything."

Speaking of things it took Novak four years to pick up, how about the shots he's generating off the dribble now? Needs more usage.

Head: removed. Entertaining board thread on Hardaway's emotive pictures notices that… uh… he has opted out this time.

Michigan-State-at-Michigan-12-400x600[1]Michigan-State-at-Michigan-8-400x600[1]

Photos via UMHoops

I don't like the socks either, trueblueintexas.

If you'd like to revisit the old bad thing, BHGP has put up their Fran Graphs on the Michigan-Iowa game.

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Recommended. It was interesting hearing Beilein talk about the five games in thirteen days thing as a major factor… but in retrospect Michigan has shot like total crap from the outside lately. Hopefully they can get their legs before facing down the all-press all-the-time Arkansas runs (even when it's just giving Anthony Davis dunks).

Personal note that may affect you at some point. If you follow the mgotwitter account you may know that Michigan is bad at scheduling MRIs. This is because I had one. I had one because ten months ago a guy put his spikes into my knee when I was playing indoor soccer. I went to the doctor; the doctor said "walk it off," basically. I tried that but the knee was obviously unstable even after the swelling and whatnot had gone away.

Since I was getting married, going on a honeymoon, and not missing football games there wasn't much point in finding out until now. I'm in the process as we speak. In all probability I'm going to find out my ACL is no longer extant and get the surgery, which means there is going to be a period of time I'll be taking an involuntary vacation.

Yes, the "Michigan Difference" commercials are currently making me peevish. BONUS: I am passionately arguing for red cards whenever I watch anything, especially NASCAR.

Etc.: New soccer coach Chaka Daley on WTKA. Michigan lax is taking on Detroit-Mercy in Warren if you're from around there. Van Bergen's Sugar Bowl foot injury was a lisfranc sprain. I would bet on Van Bergen in a fight with a bear.

Iowa State Items

Iowa State Items

Submitted by Brian on December 5th, 2011 at 2:24 PM

When UV bullets keep expanding you must post them as posts.

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Upchurch

I hit up Crisler for the first time this season to take in Michigan's 76-66 win over Iowa State; it wasn't that close. Michigan led by 20 for a good chunk of the second half before getting sloppy and letting ISU whittle the lead down to 8 or so; I got frustrated. KenPom is always watching.

Anyway, items. First, Eric Upchurch's photoset. (Thanks to the Ann Arbor Observer.)

Photos are Creative Commons licensed.

If you want it large, there is a link that takes you there.

THJ Face Pantheon addition. This is an all-timer.

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Upchurch

McLimans is pretty good, too.

Speaking of the Bird. McLimans and Akunne put up ten points in the midst of a game-opening run that took Michigan from down two to a comfortable lead and we were all like "WTF." Via UMHoop's five key plays:

McLimans came in with a rep as a big who could shoot threes but has struggled to do so; with no other discernible skills that means bench. Akunne spells Burke at "point guard," though when he's in the offense doesn't run through him. Doesn't really run through anyone. They're making shots, though, especially Akunne.

The downside of Akunne's time is that it means someone else is struggling. That would be Vogrich, who's started the year off one of ten from three. When shooters can't shoot they can't play.

Novak's addition. Novak's added a pump fake and step-in midrange jumper to his arsenal this year that he's knocking down with excellent consistency. He has some awesome shooting numbers thus far: 12 of 19 from two, 13 of 28 from three.

Not to be outdone. Jordan Morgan is 20 of 25 on the season. Hit up the Five Key Plays to see his 12 points in the second half and note that only one bucket was the undefended throwdowns that seemed to be most of his points last year. He hit a jumper from the elbow, had a couple of baby hooks in the lane, and seems like a guy who can maybe generate some of his own offense from the post.

We'll have to see if he can continue this against quality competition. I mentioned this before but he seems to be tracking like DeShawn Sims, where he can blow up crappy defensive teams (with a lot of help from the pick and roll) but doesn't have the height or athleticism to deal with guys like those at UVA. This is maybe not good news against MSU later this year—Adreian Payne is approaching the top 100 in block rate. OTOH, he did have an efficient 12 against Duke's diverse Plumlees.

Burke and Morris. Holdin' The Rope on the divergent point guards:

I miss Morris's ability to get into the lane at will using his size but Burke's outside shooting and distribution is getting to be just as fun to watch. He will surely hit a rough patch or two at some point this season, but he seems to have the perfect demeanor to weather those storms. While Morris thrived on a sort of expletive-based verve, Burke is a cool customer. Both work, but the latter is particularly surprising for a freshman. The minutes he has been logging thus far is somewhat worrisome, however. I guess I'd have to go back and see what kinds of minutes Morris was getting last year (I'd imagine they were similar if not higher), but you'd imagine that Morris's body would be more capable of handling a long season, including a TOUGH Big Ten schedule. I actually didn't realize this until looking at the box score just now but apparently he went 3/11 from three, which: a) is not good and b) only in a Beilein offense can you shoot 11 threes and be okay.

Burke was 3 of 4 at one point before finishing on an 0-for-7 skid, which does lend some credence to the idea that he might be losing his legs. Nick Baumgardner:

Entering Saturday's home game against Iowa State (noon, BTN), Burke is averaging 31.6 minutes per game, third-most on the team. However, in Michigan's last six games, its freshman point guard is averaging nearly 34 minutes.

The problem Beilein is faced with is simple: Outside of Burke, who is averaging 11 points and 4.1 assists this season, the Wolverines have no other true viable point guard option. …

"If we had a true other point guard, we wouldn't be concerned," Beilein said. "When he's on the floor, he's one of our best guys to just run our offense. But he does need to get two to three minutes of rest every half. At least that's our plan."

Or it might mean nothing. We're early enough in the season that sample sizes are laughable. Burke went from a 42% three point shooter to 31% in those seven shots. Ask again later.

Q: where does the backup point come from? Next year's recruiting class is a post and a couple of 6'6" guys. Akunne is never going to get penetration; Michigan really needs Carlton Brundidge to develop into a viable option over the next year or so.

The truly important thing. Our long local annoyance is over: no longer does Crisler have "souvenir" and "large" options for soft drinks in which "large" is the smaller size. "Large" is now "regular" and I don't have to tell the teenager behind the counter that when I say large I want the large one, not the small one, who's on first. VICTORY

Half of the new Crisler. It is a massive improvement and I'm happy to report that rumors the seats were reminiscent of flying coach turns out not to be true. Room was sufficient. The place looks a lot better, which is step one. Step two is not being able to look around and think "the empty seats do look a lot better."

This week in terrible fan-spurning ideas. Crisler is going to be re-seated next year based on priority points. Are you really going to tell the guy in the third row who's been buying tickets for a decade that because he hasn't coughed up enough dough he gets booted to crappier seats?

This is man who has endured. He deserves our respect and admiration. Instead Dave Brandon puts his hand out. His drive to undermine fan loyalty is relentless.

Why always the terrible teams? I'm looking at the schedule. Michigan's small conference opponents by Kenpom rank: #117 Oakland, #217 Bradley, #289 WIU, #316 Arkansas Pine Bluff, #327 Alabama A&M, #331 Towson.

I know they're going to fill their schedule with some creampuffs but I wonder what the impact of having so many awful opponents has on the RPI. Towson is 0-7 and projected to go 3-27. Alabama A&M just lost to South Alabama but 23; they're in the SWAC and should go 9-9 in conference because the best team in the league is ranked #292. I'd rather see more Bradleys and Oaklands on the schedule, for both entertainment and RPI-jiggering purposes.

Michigan Basketball Season Preview

Michigan Basketball Season Preview

Submitted by Ace on November 11th, 2011 at 3:05 PM

L to R: Greatest photo evar(!), Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz

Brian has decided to activate the "ninja" half of my job description and deploy me as MGoBlog's go-to basketball guy this season, a role which will only increase as football season comes to a close. Michigan's basketball season officially kicks tips off tonight against D-II opponent Ferris State in a game that would be far more interesting if it took place at Yost instead of Crisler, but that's non-conference basketball scheduling for you. That means I should probably post a season preview.

Last year saw an extremely youthful Michigan squad overcome the losses of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and a six-game midseason losing streak to make a shocking run to the NCAA tournament—highlighted by a season sweep of Michigan State—where they bombarded Tennessee in the first round before falling just short against top-seeded Duke. The Wolverines were poised to bring back every major (and minor, really) contributor from the 2010-11 squad until Darius Morris—the team's leading scorer and only true point guard—decided to leave for the NBA, turning Michigan from a potential Big Ten dark horse into, well, a darker horse, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Still, the Wolverines return everybody except Morris, add a pair of high-profile freshmen in point guard Trey Burke and combo guard Carlton Brundidge (as well as forward Max Bielfeldt), and have an obvious go-to guy in place in sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who is poised to take over the reigns from Morris as the focal point of the offense. This is enough to earn them a preseason #22 rating from Ken Pomeroy, good for fourth in the B1G behind Ohio State (#2), Wisconsin (#10), and Purdue (#19), and just ahead of the Spartans (#24). How will the team fare? Let's start by breaking it down by somewhat-vague position groups:

The Rotation

Point Guard

Yes, point guard gets a section to itself, and this will be the most scrutinized spot on the floor for the Wolverines. As expected, John Beilein has named freshman Trey Burke, a four-star recruit and last year's Mr. Basketball in Ohio, as the starter, and he's under an extraordinary amount of pressure to come in and adequately replace Darius Morris. Their styles couldn't be much more different—Morris is a 6'4", physical creator who used his size to create interior shots (both for himself and others) but struggled with his outside shot, while the 5'11" Burke relies on his quickness and shooting ability to create his own offense. Burke actually fits better into Beilein's offense, but the looming question is whether or not Burke will be able to set up his teammates like Morris (6.7 assists per game last year) while not making too many freshman mistakes with the basketball.

It's likely that Stu Douglass will reprise his role as sixth man and primary backup at both guard positions. Douglass isn't an ideal creator at point guard—last year, he had a higher turnover rate (17.0%) than assist rate (10.9%)—but he's a streak shooter who can occasionally catch fire from deep and as a senior he's well-versed in the offense. Now that he's got a year of experience at point guard—a position he had never played until last season—under his belt, he should be an adequate backup for Burke. Douglass is the team's best perimeter defender, as well, but he must develop more consistency in his shot (48.9% from two, 35.8% from three LY) to become a real threat on offense.

Wing

Michigan's only other scholarship senior is the King of the Gritty White Guy Platitudes himself, Zack Novak, a 6'4" shooter/rebounder/unlikely-dunk-contest-winner/sideline-freakout-artist who has spent much of his Wolverine career playing wildly out of position at power forward. Now that Michigan finally has some depth up front, Novak can play the two or the three, and this should help open up his offense—other than seldom-used Matt Vogrich, Novak had the best three-point percentage on the team last year at 38.5%, but he often seemed to get gassed and disappear offensively due to having to guard players half-a-foot taller than him. Unfortunately, he's not a threat inside the arc, posting a paltry 38.0% shooting mark on two-pointers, but his remarkable ability to get rebounds amidst the trees makes him a valuable player on both ends of the floor. I expect Novak will average double-digits in scoring while grabbing 5-7 rebounds per game and providing valuable defense.

Your other starter on the wing is Tim Hardaway Jr., who greatly exceeded expectations as a freshman—averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds per game—and will now become the team's go-to scorer. Hardaway spent much of last season as a spot-up shooter, and connected on a decent 36.7% of his threes, but this year he'll be asked to do much more creating with the ball in his hands. This was an area he improved upon as the season wore on last year, but he'll still have to get much better now that Morris isn't there to take away a lot of the defensive pressure. Still, Hardaway is the clear best player on the team—he's on both the Naismith and Wooden award preseason watch lists—and he should average at least 15 points a game. The big question here will be his shot selection, as he displayed a propensity for "what was that?"-type jumpers at times last year and could feel more pressure to jack up ill-advised shots as the team's main scorer.

Douglass, again, should be the primary backup at guard, but don't be surprised if 6'4" junior Matt Vogrich sees a greatly increased role this season. Vogrich was a dead-eye shooter from distance last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes, and was much-improved defensively after looking lost as a freshman two years ago. He's still limited in terms of his skill set, but in Beilein's system his sharp shooting will be a big asset off the bench.

The wild card here is four-star freshman Carlton Brundidge, who stands at only 6'1" but is a strong slasher who is at his best when attacking the basket, something you can't say about anyone else on the roster. Brundidge barely played in Michigan's exhibition game against Wayne State last week, but I think his role will increase as the season moves forward—he's one of the more talented players on the roster and could see a lot of time next to Douglass when the senior shifts over to the point, as their respective size and skill-sets make for a solid backcourt pairing.

Bigs

(I'm throwing the nominal power forwards in here too, just in case there's some confusion when I call, say, the 6'6" Colton Christian a backup big.)

The starter at the four is 6'9" sophomore Evan Smotrycz, a very solid outside shooter (38.1% from three) who many have tabbed as the X-factor for this year's team. Smotrycz reportedly gained 30 much-needed pounds in the offseason, which should help his post defense greatly, but there are still major questions about his athleticism and ability to create shots on offense. Smotrycz doesn't have much in the way of a post game and hasn't displayed the quickness to face up and drive past a player with regularity, and we'll have to see if he's improved in those areas over the offseason. While I still don't think he'll be a major threat in the post, his size and shooting ability are very intriguing, and I think Smotrycz could emerge as the team's second option on offense. Defensively, he should be fine as long as he's not asked to take on quick small forwards or hulking centers, and Beilein now has enough flexibility with his lineups where that shouldn't be a huge issue.

At center, it's a battle between redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan and true sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al) for the starting spot. Morgan was the man there last year, and was extremely efficient shooting the basketball (62.7%), but most of his opportunities were either created by the now-departed Morris or the result of offensive rebounds. While he was decent in his on-ball defense, Morgan was extremely foul-prone and did not provide much of a shot-blocking threat. If tabbed as the eventual starter, Morgan should be solid, but he's got his limitations and could really feel the absence of Morris more than anyone else on the roster.

Though it came as a bit of a surprise, it was Horford who started against Wayne State, and he'll take the opening tip once again against Ferris State tonight. An extremely raw prospect out of high school, Horford showed occasional flashes of rebounding and shot-blocking brilliance last year, but often looked awkward with the ball in his hands and frequently settled for outside shots, which he rarely made. Like Morgan, he was very foul-prone, so we'll likely see both big men get major minutes this season, but Horford seems to have the higher upside—he's more athletic than Morgan and has a better shooting touch while providing a much-needed shot-blocking presence on the interior of the defense.

There are two bench players who should see occasional minutes this year: 6'6" sophomore power forward Colton Christian and 6'10" center Blake McLimans. Christian doesn't provide any real threat offensively, but he's a capable rebounder and defender who could turn into an interesting role player if he shows the ability—and willingness—to hit any sort of shot. McLimans is big, which is always nice, but he was supposed to possess a good outside shot and ended up going 1-for-19 for three last year. Since he only shot the ball 41 times total (making 13), this is a bit of an issue, and defensively he's not as strong as either Morgan or Horford. We'll see if Beilein trusts him enough to put him in the rotation, or if he decides to go small and occasionally move Smotrycz to the five, something we saw a fair amount last year.

Outlook

I hate to kind of punt on this one, but man, who knows? The 2008-09 team was supposed to be mediocre at best, then made a surprise run to the tournament and even knocked off Clemson once they got there. The 2009-10 team brought back pretty much everyone, had a lot of preseason hype, and fell flat to the tune of a 15-17 record. With Harris and Sims gone last season and pretty much the entire team either freshman or sophomores, the 2010-11 squad looked to be terrible, so of course they reeled off 21 wins and once again advanced to the second round of the NCAAs.

This year's team appears poised for a potential top-25 season and another tournament run, but much of those expectations rely on a smooth transition from a star in Morris to a true freshman in Burke while other players—most notably Hardaway and Smotrycz—pick up the scoring slack and keep the offense running smoothly. With a difficult non-conference slate that includes a brutal draw in the Maui Invitational, plus playing in a Big Ten conference ranked by KenPom as the nation's toughest, this looks to me like a team that will spend much of the season squarely on the tournament bubble.

Exceeding those expectations means that we either see vast improvement from key role players, a huge breakout from Tim Hardaway, or a fantastic freshman year out of Burke—none of those are out of the question, but none are certainties, either. If Michigan suddenly finds that they can't create inside scoring chances without Morris's penetration, or Hardaway spends the season trying to carry the offense by chucking up less-than-ideal shots, Michigan could fall short of their goals as the fanbase begins to look ahead to the arrival of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas in 2012-13.

All I can say for certain is this will be an interesting year, and lucky for us, this is a group that is extremely likable and fun to support. The future is very bright, almost regardless of what happens this year, but we'll just have to see if the Wolverines continue to make a push towards the top of the Big Ten or stay in a holding pattern until blue-chip reinforcements arrive.

Unverified Voracity Obeys Senator

Unverified Voracity Obeys Senator

Submitted by Brian on March 31st, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Epic fark. There is a Jim Tressel Signing Things fark thread at TigerDroppings featuring frequent contributions from LSUFreek. There's an excessive quantity of lolbewbs but there are also gems like this:

tresselsigning_theylive

Try to get that out of your head within the next decade.

Refinements. Frequent diarist the_white_tiger has started up his blog, Maize Colored Glasses, and one of his first posts is a refinement of the polynomial graphs purveyed on The Only Colors that show performance trends over the conference season. TWT increased the polynomial count—this allows more "turns" in the graph—and normalized for opponent performance.

Michigan's result won't surprise you but the way they got there might:

michigan polynomial

There might have been a very slight uptick in the offense; the defense got massively better. The really really high yellow spot on the graph was that Indiana blowout. Horrible team given many points == ugly. From there the turnaround was gradual improvement. I linked one of John Gasaway's "Tuesday Truths" column around the middle of the conference season to point out that Michigan was dead last in defense; the year-end numbers TWT is using show them squarely middle of the road (sixth).

My favorite other graph is Minnesota's:

minnesota polynomial

There should be a vertical line at game seven labeled "Al Nolen explodes, season goes with it."

Burlon status. Brandon Burlon is tentatively expected to play at next weekend's Frozen Four:

After not being able to eat solid foods last week, losing close to 20 pounds and as a result having to sit out during the regional round of the playoffs. Brandon Burlon skated at Monday and Tuesday’s practices. He said he’s regaining the weight steadily.

Burlon said he expects to play next weekend, but a final determination has not been made.

Twenty pounds seems a little sensational. In any case, getting Burlon back would be huge as Michigan goes up against a Sioux team featuring the best—or, from Michigan's perspective, worst—aspects of the UNO and CC teams they beat to reach St. Paul. Like CC, they have a lights out top line. Hobey lock Matt Frattin is coring at a nearly goal-per-game pace. Like UNO, they have scoring depth. Six forwards have at least 13 goals, a couple more have eight, and two defensemen are putting up Moffie-like numbers. Getting Burlon back gives Michigan the defensive depth to match UND's forward depth.

Hypothetically, anyway. I've been looking at their stats for the past five minutes and feeling deeply unhappy.

Stunning omission. I have beef with The Wolverine Blog's Faces of Tim Hardaway top ten. It omits the face that launched the meme in the immediate aftermath of DEATH TO BACKBOARDS:

That's clearly #3 behind Douglass throwing Tennessee in a volcano and the f-yeah shot from MSU. This concludes my beef.

The only lawyer in America. Someone on the board linked to an article about a lawyer discussing what's going down at Ohio State and if they can expect more than the wrist slap they've given themselves, and I just knew in my bones we were about to get a quote from…

“If I was representing a coach in that similar situation, I would advise my client to expect not only a show-cause order assessed against him or her, but also significant individual penalties that may cause their employer, which is the university, to either terminate their employment or some other significant employment action,” said Michael L. Buckner, of Pompano Beach, Fla., whose law firm specializes in representing schools and individuals before the NCAA. “I’d tell them they should be prepared for that.“

I like him so much more when he's producing alarmist soundbites about other teams.

Buckner-issued proclamations about Michigan's NCAA foofaraw turned out to be just that but media framing had a lot to do with that—see this article titled "Avoiding show-cause order a must for Michigan, Rodriguez" from Dave Birkett that has Buckner explaining that show-cause is bad, mmmkay, despite the fact that no one thought it was even vaguely plausible once the hype about the initial article was replaced by a general sense that it was crap. In that article Buckner has this to say:

“Michigan would have to make sure that Coach Rodriguez follows the show-cause order,” Buckner said. “If he’s found to have committed the failure to monitor, issued a show-cause order, and then he goes to West Virginia … and if he’s found to have failed to monitor in that case, than a show-cause order can be enhanced significantly."

Buckner said Michigan must “provide as much evidence as (it) can to defend Coach Rodriguez so that (it) can eliminate that failure to monitor allegation.”

“Whether or not you can actually do that” remains to be seen, he said.

There's a big gap between "if, if, if" in the latter article—it did turn out Michigan had enough to eliminate the failure to monitor allegation, for all the good that did for Rodriguez's employment prospects—and "expect not only a show cause but significant individual penalties."

FWIW, that's a Bruce Hooley article. Hooley's the guy who went ape on the radio about this whole thing and is apparently going whole hog in an effort to become a guy who makes money by being hated. He's not exactly unbiased.

BONUS: Eleven Warriors is totally right that Stanley McClover claiming he got cash from OSU and MSU isn't going to amount to anything, but I loved to imagine an Ohio State fan who was one of the legion saying "I remember when he decommitted, not surprised there was some funny business going on there" watching the HBO special and going from smug to outraged in the space of an anecdote.

BONUS BONUS: Tressel situation "totally unacceptable," OSU president says!

Oregon State president Ed Ray was executive vice president and provost at Ohio State in 2001, and had input into the hiring of Tressel. He’s now chairman of the NCAA executive committee, and told Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian that “this whole episode to me is beyond the pale. It’s totally unacceptable. I’m pretty disappointed and startled by it all.”

Goddammit, Sporting News headline writers. I hate you so much.

BONUS BONUS BONUS: Is it possible to see Rich Rodriguez these days and not think he's constantly fighting the urge to kill everyone in the room?

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Three years ago I was a broken thumb away from a national championship game. I was a hero. I invented the spread offense.

Now everyone in two states hates me and thinks I'm retarded. A month ago I interviewed my replacement—who walked into Denard Robinson and Jim Tressel making my fake NCAA violations look like the Nobel Peace Prize—on television. Right this instant I'm staring at Jason Whitlock, surrounded by men in suits. Jason Whitlock. Suits. Whitlocksuits. whssiiisisfi

FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU /goes Falling Down on universe

"It is not often that you have to stare the death of your basketball program in the face". Matt Painter's flirtation with Missouri was an earth-shaking event for Purdue fans. For confirmation a quick check of the first two pages at Hammer and Rails will suffice. Open letter: check. Open thread soaring well past a thousand comments: check. Bolded quote: check. Wholesale demolition of your entire athletic department:

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Check. The answer is pretty much "yes"; contained within the link is a more comprehensive explosion of an athletic department than you'll find anywhere. IU fans should bookmark it for future e-peen wars. It incidentally makes you go "whoah" halfway through:

Total Number of Big Ten Championships as of spring 2009:

Michigan             347

Illinois                 228

Ohio State          185

Wisconsin           180

Indiana                 162

Minnesota          154

Iowa                      104

Michigan State 81

Northwestern   69

Purdue                 67

Penn State          50

Nebraska             0 (obviously)

Michigan has a lot of sports and has been around a lot of years but holy crap, man. That doesn't even include hockey.

And now for a completely different tangent on Painter. I've been annoyed at Braves & Birds' theory that the Big Ten has been disappointing in football because it hires losers like Ron Zook and nuts like Tim Brewster over actual football coaches. Lately I'm just annoyed it's right. It's hard to dispute after the latest round of hires from the Richest Conference In The Universe is MAC and Mountain West guys with iffy records. None of these guys are Bobby Petrino.

Painter has been wildly successful. Missouri is locked into an abusive relationship with Texas and would have punched a swan to get into the Big Ten this summer. Their TV contract sucks. They have little cachet outside their home state. They do not have a network that drops by every once in a while to drop off a new diamond boat. If Purdue had been too cheap to keep him that would have been a stunning indictment of Purdue, and I think that would have bled over into the entire mentality of a conference that really expects people to call its conferences "Legends and Leaders."

As it is the fact that it was even close is a mild indictment.

Etc.: Gasaway on his lack of moral outrage at NCAA amateurism. Incoming goalie John Gibson interviewed.