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.]

Basketball Media Day Wrap

Basketball Media Day Wrap

Submitted by Ace on October 10th, 2012 at 6:30 PM


The freshmen, new uniforms, and oh my god what in the hell

Today's basketball media day was perfectly described by another reporter as "not a newsmaking event*," which seems a tad ironic but that's Michigan athletics these days. You can tell the freshmen have already been coached not to say anything interesting, and I'm not even going to bother transcribing the player roundtables as a result. Just imagine the football pressers and replace "football" with "basketball" and you have a good idea of what you missed.

I will, however, post some highlights from John Beilein's press conference.

Bullets ahoy:

  • The team has had 16 hours of summer workouts in addition to the usual weight training, plus 12 hours of recent skill training. Starting Friday they practice 20 hours a week.
  • The William Davidson Player Development Center is almost complete. It's a "sensational venue" to practice in while Crisler is being redone.
  • Beilein's had one look at Crisler about a month ago, and says "it looks like a brand new building, like we built a $200 million building." Calls it a tremendous asset for recruiting and very fan-friendly.
  • Mitch McGary is helping replace the energy void left by Zack Novak, who he says was "really instrumental in everyone's life."
  • It's too early to name a starting five. During the first two weeks of practice he'll put two or three freshmen on one team, two or three on the other, and watch how they adjust. The last few weeks were much more for skill development than team development. Probably won't name a lineup in the next 2-3 weeks.
  • Trey Burke is up to 190 pounds, and it's a good 190. Praises strength coach Jon Sanderson for his work with the whole team (I can say from seeing him up close that Tim Hardaway Jr. looks very impressive physically right now, definitely bigger than last year).
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. has "taken a little bit of Novak," in that you can hear his presence on the court.
  • "This is a good rebounding team." Has more of an inside presence than past Beilein squads, McGary and Jordan Morgan in particular. The offense may be more predicated around offensive rebounding as a result.
  • The freshmen are very coachable, and have been getting help from both the coaching staff and their fellow players. He says the team is as intelligent as any he's had. Cited Glenn Robinson III specifically as a player who's picked up new information and put it to use on the court ten minutes later. At the end of a recent practice, Josh Bartlestein, Corey Person, and Eso Akunne each had pulled freshmen aside to teach them something.
  • When he got here, the question in the Big Ten was who was going to be the sixth or seventh team into the NCAA tournament. Now the fight may be over who will be the eighth or ninth team in.
  • When asked about how he'll handle high expectations and preseason rankings: "I think John Beilein is always going to have a chip on his shoulder."
  • As for if he thinks they're a top five team: "I don't pay any attention to that." Says he doesn't watch other teams practice, so how could he know? [Good point, coach.]
  • There's four, five, maybe even six players who could see time at the four or the five. Loves having the versatility, notes the importance of the four—Kevin Durant and LeBron James were playing the four in the NBA playoffs last year. Last year he didn't feel he had a choice at the four after Jon Horford got hurt.
  • The goal is to win the Big Ten title. [Of course it is. Fergodsakes.]
  • Nik Stauskas has "a natural ability to find the bottom of the basket," but what makes him a difficult guard is that he can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim. Also showing the ability to keep his head up and find the open man, and he's putting in effort on defense because he knows that's how he'll see the floor.
  • Last year there wasn't a player who felt comfortable spelling Trey Burke as the primary ballhandler. There's a lot more confidence in Spike Albrecht being able to come in and run the point to give Burke a rest. Stauskas and Caris Levert can also put the ball on the floor.
  • Beilein used most of the 16 hours of summer workouts on offense. The staff watched the NBA much closer than ever before and cut more NBA film than in the past to see how they utilize two post players.
  • The team hasn't spoken about the loss to OHIO in the NCAA tournament. They're very proud of the Big Ten championship and will talk about the tourney loss if they get back there this year.
  • The only injury is a "foot stress issue" for Corey Person. Otherwise there are a few nagging issues but nothing major.
  • No captains have been named yet.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. will split time between the two and the three. Lots of options on the roster, so they'll wait and see how things shake out during practice.

That about covers it. Here's a shoe:

----------------
*said unnamed reporter even preceded that with "as expected"; we're not bitter!

Unverified Voracity Stops At Resistance

Unverified Voracity Stops At Resistance

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Scheduling note. I sat down to start UFRing last night and found that I'd actually re-converted the UMass game and hadn't downloaded ND at all. My subconscious is protecting me as best it can, but I now have the thing. UFR will be a day late, which it traditionally is during a bye week anyway.

Denard's night went better than at least one person's. Mmmm Northern Indiana style:

The man on the ground had severe facial and upper body wounds. According to police, both men said they were hit by a car, but police have not confirmed that. Investigators say it's possible that is a story to cover-up a fight.

While police were talking to the men, a woman approached officers and said she'd been hit in the face with a case of Natural Light Beer. The woman had very visible wounds, most profound, her entire bottom row of teeth were missing.

This was at 9 PM, so I assume all of this arose from an argument about whether Borges or Denard was the worst.

The pants! They are motion pants. That's not a Sufjan Stevens song title yet, but I bet it's on his next album. No, it's a reference to some digging done by UMHoops that unearths a piece of basketball's uniforms for next year:

52-89213-F[1]52-89213-1-F[1]

THEY'RE TUBES FOR YOUR LEGS!

The way this works is you put one leg in one tube and the other leg in the other tube and then pull up until you feel resistance. Once you feel resistance, STOP. You will now be wearing your legtubes. You will kind of look like a 12-year-old from 1993. If you did not stop when you felt resistance you will also be in severe pain, but that's your problem. That's what you get for not following instructions.

Nobody at commenting at UMHoops likes these, but they do like Glenn Robinson III.

Uniforms are supposed to be, you know, what's that word… the same. Adidas is still not executing this task, apparently:

8015478800_18ba3c7d75_c[1]

Piping: it's just all over the place man. Also, Washington's missing his block M. If you sent this to me, thanks, but I forget who did.

Bye week activity. WTKA is replaying Ufer's call of the 1979 Michigan State game at noon on Saturday. 1050 on your dial, or on the internets. Here's Keith Jackson doing the same:

Band noise solution? They amplified the band a couple years back to mixed reviews. If you couldn't hear them before it's great. If you could, it sounds horrible as the slightly delayed noise coming out of the speakers conflicts with the band itself. I'm in an area where it sounds horrible.

I thought about this on Saturday at some point in the third quarter when I noticed I could hear the ND band loud and clear despite being about as far away from them as possible, but couldn't hear the Michigan band that was just below our section. I was going to mention this in the game column as depressing commentary on how quiet the MMB, but MVictors pointed out the speaker setup they had on the sideline:

speakers_thumb[1]

Audio people: does this make a difference, having the speakers in the same place the band is? Or am I grasping at straws?

Idiots in charge of stuff. Replacement refs screw up Monday Night Football and the NFL burns its credibility all for a pathetically tiny slice of their enormous revenue pool. In the NHL, Edmonton's ownership laughably threatens to move the Oilers to Seattle; the NHL is bunkered down for another strike less than a decade after an entire season failed to happen.

At some point, it has to be about something other than the pursuit of as much money as you can get right damn now, doesn't it? Maybe, maybe not. They'll have to start to see some erosion before they act, just like college football teams are starting to now that the terrible scheduling practices of the last 20 years are finally resulting in empty seats.

In other news, someone is paying bowtied twit Gordon Gee an exorbitant amount of money and allowing the guy to spend 7.7 million in expenses(!), including $64,000 on bowties(!!!). How's that going?

At the University of Michigan, President Mary Sue Coleman’s travel and entertainment expenses from 2007 through 2010 totaled $410,235. Upkeep and utilities at the university-owned house runs an additional $100,000 a year and if Coleman takes someone to lunch or dinner, she pays the tab out of her own pocket, according to University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

Coleman’s compensation package is $860,782 a year and includes housing and a car. Her employment contract does not call for first class airline tickets or private jets, as Gee’s does. In Michigan’s last endowment campaign she helped raise $3.2 billion — the most ever by a public university at that time.

There are signs that OSU isn’t keeping pace nationally on the size of its endowment. OSU slipped from 27th in the four years preceding Gee’s return to Columbus to 31st in 2010-11, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute. The Big 10 universities Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan all ranked above Ohio State for the size of their endowment.

Jim Tressel, fire this man.

Come on Tim. Baumgardner on Tim Hardaway entering his junior year:

"I've watched and probably had more interaction with Tim this summer (than ever before)," Beilein said recently. "With him just coming in, sitting in my office, hanging out and feeling very comfortable as a Michigan man.

"Him being more comfortable with everything has allowed him to have a lot of confidence in the intangible area (off the court). And there's a strong correlation between that and how he'll perform on the court."

I hope that's true. Hardaway's three point shooting should bounce back just because 27% is incredibly low, but if Michigan is going to live up to some extremely hefty preseason expectations he'll have to either be more effective creating his own shots or go from terrible to elite from behind the line.

wat. Mac Bennett on the twitter:

The @BeatsPointZero "Deblois is a Bag of Milk" EP will be out later today. Excited about it

I don't know. I've notified Jon Bois about this, though.

A fast one. The Michigan-ND series opened up in South Bend, and if it's ending semi-permanently in 2014, it'll end in South Bend. Not a smooth move to not build an even number of home/away games into the contract, Michigan. This is probably Bill Martin's fault, FWIW.

Chalk. Via Jamie, Michigan's… performance type thing against Notre Dame has finally provided a leader in Big Ten betting whatnot:

MSU now "clear" betting chalk to win Big 10: MSU +220, Braska +250, Wisco +300, UM +400, PU +700. Odds lot less muddled than a week ago

Purdue's down from 20-1 recently. I TOLD YOU JAMIE /ignores Wisconsin

Also, Michigan lines are frightening. Michigan's favored by less than a field goal at Purdue and about a touchdown at Nebraska and Ohio State. This is all an overreaction to something that won't happen again, right guys? Right?

I'm a little surprised things are shaking out like this after last weekend. I mean, MSU-EMU couldn't have moved the needle in favor of the Spartans, could it?

Here's your statistical nutshell. Michigan State snapped the ball 72 times on Saturday with the intention of advancing the ball.

On 46 of those plays, the ball ended up, or was targeted to end up, in the hands of Le'Veon Bell or Dion Sims. The average gain on those plays was 7.8 yards.

On the remaining the 26 plays, the ball was intended to end up in someone else's hands. The average gain on those plays was 2.8 yards.

Yipes.

Etc.: Hockey starts off ranked third. Seems high. Bois fake mailbag about those refs with mini-Packers TWIS. This is not Ace holding his head, but both Ace and I had to check. Kirk Ferentz is unfireable. Which person is Borges and which is me in this XKCD?

Unverified Voracity Coins A Nickname

Unverified Voracity Coins A Nickname

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2012 at 1:39 PM

PATERNO 3 0102 JRH

in his Rat Pack phase

In other Paterno chiseling. I've read more than my fair share of outraged reactions to the Freeh Report and recommend those of Dan Wetzel, Scipio Tex, and Paul Campos. Wetzel has a passage at the end about the Grand Experiment that captures how ridiculous the very idea was from the start:

Paterno did help his football players. Those men, however, were heavily recruited, talented and often highly motivated people. If they hadn't gone to Penn State they would've gone to Michigan or Virginia or Notre Dame.

For decades he found a way to take top-line kids and maximize what they could do, usually by motivating them to excel at a sport they already loved. They were subject to mass adulation and had the potential to become millionaires at the professional level.

He wasn't taking illiterate Third World children and getting them to Harvard. Almost every person Paterno positively impacted through football would have fared similarly had Penn State not even fielded a team. They just would have played elsewhere. Bo Schembechler or Lou Holtz or Bobby Bowden would've coached them up in football and life, just like Paterno did.

That's always bugged me about the sanctimony of a certain section of the ND fanbase. Congratulations: you took kids from Catholic schools with solid families and didn't turn them into the Joker. Well done.

Campos touches on the refrigerator thing without having to cross the Atlantic for a metaphor:

A man who breaks some rules in order to win a few more football games is likely to understand himself to be nothing more exalted than a hustler on the make. By contrast, a man who talks himself into believing that he is running a uniquely virtuous Grand Experiment, rather than just another successful college football program that mostly avoids the most egregious forms of cheating, is far more likely to develop the delusion that he’s some sort of role model for his peers, or even a quasi-spiritual leader of our youth.

And Scipio Tex bombs the one moment of regret Paterno expressed:

Before his death, Joe Paterno remarked that "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

The measured banality of that phraseology, the suggestion that hindsight is the necessary ingredient when confronted with the most simple matters of immediate moral action, reveals his own disconnection and concern for reputation right up until his last moments.

Let's be clear: Those boys wish you'd done anything at all, Joe.

That closes the door on Brian's opinion of Joe Paterno story time. Wait, one more: Grantland's Michael Weinreb, a State College native with Penn State ties that run as deep as they can, declares the experiment "failed." 

NCAA matters. The Paterno debate closes as another one re-opens: should the NCAA step in and hammer Penn State for the above? I'm on the "no" side. The NCAA has an enforcement mechanism to maintain its own set of rules for things that the legal system has nothing to say about. Here, the perpetrators are going to jail. That is an appropriate punishment and effective deterrent. The NCAA stepping in is redundant, and the hammer would fall on a completely unrelated set of people. The legal system has a laser-aimed bazooka; the NCAA would be deploying a wonky BB gun with a misaligned sight. Meanwhile, the Department of Education could look into Penn State essentially ignoring the Clery act and PSU is about to be flooded with civil lawsuits that insurance probably won't cover. Deterrence: check.

That said, if the NCAA were to vacate Paterno's victories after the 2001 incident* and instate Bobby Bowden as the all-time victories leader I would clap like a seal. (Or Les Miles.) Paterno's maniacal pursuit of that goal long after he'd ceased to be capable of anything other than muttering in the press box seems like a symptom of the broader disease.

*[Ideally they'd deploy some sort of double standard so the Big Ten wouldn't have to go back and pretend that a decade of games didn't happen. Just nix them from Paterno's record, not the program's.]

306951_384016854980757_1562011004_n1_thumb[1]

rejected nicknames included "the super seven," "excellent thirty-six," and "adjective-free e to the x"

A rain of thunder from the FABULOUS FIVE. I just came up with that nickname for Michigan's incoming basketball recruiting class. You see, there are five of them, and they seem very good at basketball collectively. Thus I have decided to call them the FABULOUS FIVE. I may decide have a few of those letters lower-cased in the future. It's a work in progress.

No? You're saying something about how that's ridiculous, fraught with historical significance, and derivative. Well, you are a hater.

Anyway, the FABULOu5 FIvE are on campus and taking it to the veterans!

"They got us two out of three games. I don't think they got the better of us, but they looked really good. They came in and they're willing to learn and that's a good sign for freshmen. We should be really good with their help this year," sophomore Trey Burke said. "I remember there were a couple times they beat us … that doesn't surprise me because that's the type of players they are.

"They're really good, they have size and they know their roles — they can play."

Said Tim Hardaway Jr.: "The first two or three games, they destroyed us. I think they were very excited. (In) games to 11, they're beating us 11-6, 11-7."

Caveats:

"(Jordan Morgan) and I looked at each other and said we have to show them what Big Ten basketball is about and we beat them 11-1, 11-2, so they got their time, but it won't happen again."

Also, Burke and Hardaway are revealed to be on separate teams when this is going on, meaning 1) walk-ons are filling out the veteran five-man rosters, and 2) Burke and Hardaway are not playing together. You may have not needed the second bullet point there.

Anyway, I predict Mitch Albom thinks none of these guys are taking 600k from a Detroit numbers runner. This time, he will be correct. Also the basketball team will be good at basketball.

BONUS: Caris Levert is "built like small Kevin Durant," which means he can be used as a kite should the situation call for it.

Nevermind the good nonconference scheduling business. The Pac-12/Big Ten scheduling pact that was like conference expansion except brillianter, that was a historic way to something something with synergy, the thing that promised Wisconsin would finally have to play an opponent with zero confused Albanians in the secondary… it's dead.

The two leagues announced Friday that their pact, which initially called for 12 football games per year, has been called off. The reason: at least four Pac-12 schools were unwilling to agree to mandatory scheduling, ESPN.com has learned. A key sticking point is that Pac-12 teams play nine conference games, while Big Ten teams play only eight. Adding in traditional non-league series like USC-Notre Dame, Stanford-Notre Dame and Utah-BYU, and it makes the scheduling situation tougher for those in the Pac-12.

So much for that. The silver lining is that the Big Ten will look at going to a nine-game conference schedule in 2017, like they had announced they were going to do before the stars aligned with the Pac-12. I preferred a nine-game conference schedule anyway. From Michigan's perspective anything that helps balance the crossover-rival playing field is beneficial, and I hate going four years without playing Wisconsin, etc.

Libel lawsuit business. Prediction: Kitchener's lawsuit will have no effect on the Daily. As Tyler Dellow points out, the US passed an act that prohibits libel tourism and what they're accused of—paying an employee—is only debatably defamatory. Meanwhile, OHL restrictions on compensation may not be legal since the players have not collectively bargained for their contracts. Given the state of the law the play for the Daily may be to ignore the lawsuit:

In any event, it seems to me that one consequence of the SPEECH Act is that, if your assets are in America and you’ve received advice that a foreign defamation action against you could not succeed in America, you’d never bother to defend it. Let the plaintiff have his default judgment and then who cares. This is, of course, more true of corporations then it is of individuals – a judgment against him personally would kind of limit the career opportunities of Matt Slovin, the reporter in question, because the judgment could be enforced against him if he ever moved to Canada and acquired some assets.

The fact of the individual journalist apparently being named in the litigation is the one thing that might make it sensible to fight the thing here. Here’s hoping the case goes all the way to trial – a trip through the sausage factory of junior hockey could be a considerable amount of fun.

The Daily is standing by its story. Kitchener's playing a game of chicken here—it seems like their business model is based on not having anyone look too closely at why their players aren't employees.

Pressed for time. Michael of Braves and Birds also writes for the Atlanta SBN site and has a post on ESPN's suddenly great coverage of international soccer and how they could improve their coverage of college football:

Whereas ESPN starts off Euro matches in the studio with a discussion of the lineup choices made by the managers, they start off college football games with Mark May and Lou Holtz getting into contrived fights or Jesse Palmer looking pretty. Whereas ESPN includes the pre-match pomp and circumstance when covering Euro matches, they ignore it almost entirely in college football. Instead, the approach is for the play-by-play and color guys to drum through the story lines for the game - story lines that they will stick to regardless of how the game actually plays out - and then maybe the viewer gets a five-second shot of Michigan players touching the banner or Clemson players rubbing Howard's Rock. Whereas ESPN shows the starting lineups for both teams in formation at the outset of each Euro match, they cannot be bothered to even list the starting lineups for college football teams anymore, instead showing only the "Impact Players," as if every word coming out of Matt Millen's mouth is so critical that he does not have time to list 44 starters.

In short, ESPN feeds both the mind and the heart in the first 15 minutes of covering a Euro match, while it does neither in the first 15 minutes of covering a college football game. If ESPN started Georgia-South Carolina by covering the entire rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra* and then discussed the teams' starting lineups and how they would match up against one another, both in terms of styles and in terms of individual matchups, then I would be a very happy camper and I suspect that most college football fans would be, as well.

The asterisk notes that yes, that's ESPN coverage, but if you watch that youtube clip it is remarkable because Mike Patrick just gets out of the way and lets you have your moment with the fans. I'd love it if every word spoken by Mark May was replaced by the PBP announcer pointedly not saying anything as the pageantry of the pregame played out.

Newspapers still struggling. An extensive Nieman Lab article on the situation of the Detroit papers is full of doom, gloom, and happy faces put on crappy situations by Paul Anger:

“Very soon, sooner than most people expect, we’ll only publish on Sunday,” Elrick, the Pulitzer winner, told me. “We’re still losing money. I think they were smart to do a lot of research. I think they were smart to communicate to people what they were doing and why. But there’s no question that they did this because there was no better alternative. To my mind, this was cutting off your arm so you can get out from under the boulder. This was not, ‘I’ll be so much faster and lighter with one arm.’ Anybody who’s telling you that is full of baloney.”

Anger insists that the delivery change has been “extremely successful,” but that doesn’t mean things are bright. Weekday circulation continues to drop — nearly 6 percent between March 2011 and March 2012.

Even the director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship is dismissing papers out of hand:

Charles Eisendrath, director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, puts it bluntly: “They do not matter,” he told me. “They’ve been fading for a long time. The decision to get rid of half of your [delivery] schedule accelerated the rate by two. What advertisers think is, ‘This isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t carry any influence.’ What readers think is, ‘There’s nothing in this.’”

The Free Press just announced they would "sizably reduce" its newsroom again. Section 1 opens up a bottle of champagne.

Etc.: Lloyd Carr thinks the playoff will expand. He seems to like it all the same. Behind the Call Me Maybe holdouts. Denard gets you a plaque. The Detroit metro has the third highest effective income in the country. We can probably stop bemoaning the implosion of the state. Rothstein on Michigan's influx of SYF Players.

Off Tackle Empire's quest to determine the worst Big Ten team of "all-time" goes back to 1996. GopherQuest scorns you.

Unverified Voracity Drafts, Offers, Squints

Unverified Voracity Drafts, Offers, Squints

Submitted by Brian on June 27th, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Hi. I returned, sorry about the unannounced vacation time. I was in NYC, I thought I would be able to proceed as normal, I was correct only on Thursday and Friday. Back now.

Falk talks Bo. Self-recommending.

Draftings and goings(?). Michigan folk came off the board frequently at the recently-completed NHL draft. Jacob Trouba went 9th, Phil DiGuiseppe and Boo Nieves were second-rounders, and Connor Carrick went in the fifth. That was almost exactly what everyone expected—Carrick may have gone a little higher than his rankings suggested. So hurray, sounds like Michigan has Komisarek 2.0

9. Winnipeg Jets: D Jacob Trouba. Trouba is a tremendous skater — likely the best of the whole bunch — who loves to dish out punishment along the walls and easily separates his opponent from the puck. He's a rugged force in the defensive end who scores off the charts in both his character and compete levels.

…and will see him on the ice this fall since Trouba took opportunity after opportunity to restate that, barring a meteor strike, he'd be in Ann Arbor in the fall and even the meteor would have to do some explaining.

The sad fugee face news comes from Mike Spath, who brings a screeching halt to optimism in re: Phil Di Guiseppe's return. Yes, the PDG who said this after his selection by the Hurricanes:

“It’s great hockey,” Di Giuseppe said of the Michigan experience. “That’s why I went to school there and played there. I’m happy with my decision and I’m happy to go back next year.”

But Spath is hearing otherwise:

However, we heard chatter even before the season concluded that Di Giuseppe had one eye on the OHL and with the right situation could leave U-M early. After the Hurricanes picked him, that talk has only intensified, to the point that we put his chances at returning to Michigan at 50 percent, and would not be surprised in the least if he is playing in the OHL next season.

Getting picked by Carolina is not so good because Peter Karmanos owns both the Hurricanes and the Plymouth Whalers. Even if every public utterance from PDG has been strongly pro-college (Spath even references the one PDG gave him in the article), Spath is plugged in on this stuff.

Meanwhile in Lansing, four incoming Spartans were drafted, the first two coming off the board back-to-back in the third round. That's their best showing in the draft since… 2006. Rick Comley was a disaster and Tom Anastos may have been a better idea than he seemed at first.

BONUS: apparently NHL Network analyst Craig Button compared the kid who went seventh to Charles Woodson? I don't even know, man.

Come on, be as good of an idea as Anastos? Scott Stricklin got bombarded with the usual things about leaving Kent State after his Zips Golden Flashes bowed out of the CWS and responded a typically Ohioan fashion:

“I know some of you have been speculating that the coaching staff might be moving on after our historic season. A certain school up North came calling and we decided that Kent State and what we have built here was too good to leave."

Moving on, then, to… Chris Sabo? According to the twitter feed user Raoul has latched onto as the only plausible source of college baseball coaching scuttlebutt, yes:

Hearing reports Chris Sabo will be named new HC at #Michigan. Several reports today on this story. Something's up.Stay posted.

— Skippers Dugout (@SkippersDugout) June 23, 2012

According to other people, not so much:

Michigan asst. baseball coach Wayne Welton told me earlier today that Twitter is the only place he has heard Chris Sabo will be new HC.

— Matt Slovin (@MattSlovin) June 24, 2012

And our twitter feed started backtracking in the way people do in these situations when people get mad at him. But you are on twitter! I trusted you!

Sabo is a famous program alum and rec-specs aficionado, so he's got that going for him. He does not have any of that coaching stuff to recommend him, unfortunately. I'm guessing the guy who does get hired is not Sabo, nor is it someone who we've been talking about at all.

[UPDATE: and as I'm drafting this a report from College Baseball Daily says Michigan has hired Erik Bakich of Maryland. That would be underwhelming:

Erik Bakich's Maryland record

2010 — 5-25 ACC, 17-39 overall
2011 — 5-25 ACC, 21-35 overall
2012 — 10-20 ACC, 32-24 overall

On the bright side, his most recent effort is the second-winningest season in Maryland history.]

2014 offers of the basketball variety. Michigan's firing out 2014 football offers left and right already, and meanwhile John Beilein's has put the finishing touches on another handcrafted piece of calligraphy, this one directed at Indiana wing Trevon Bluiett. He's the third 2014 kid to pick one up after MS SG Devin Booker and IL SF Keita Bates-Diop. Michigan will have to battle Indiana and others (but mostly Indiana) for the kid. They are… not last:

How does the Michigan visit compare with other visits you’ve taken this summer?
It would definitely be near the top of other visits, you know? Like I said, not too many coaching staff jokes with you so once you find a coaching staff that jokes around, it makes you more comfortable. Being around campus, that made me comfortable. So it definitely beat some of the other schools.”

Tom Crean has been locking his targets down of late so this one seems like a longer shot than Booker or Bates-Diop. That's just speculation, of course.

Even farther down the road, the courtship between Michigan and 2015 OH SG Luke Kennard took another step forward as Kennard knocked down three after three at Michigan's team camp. He was "by far the most impressive player at the camp"—one that included Derrick Walton and Mark Donnal—as he drove his team to the semifinals, and has this to say about the coaching staff:

“They are absolutely amazing. I love each and every one of them and they make me feel right at home, which I love about them,” Luke said. “They tell me I fit in with how they play, and I think I do, too. Like I said, I look forward to going to see them because that’s how much I like seeing them. It was good to see them.”

That goes above and beyond the usual palaver, it seems. May want to pencil him in to the 2015 class, if you're the kind of person with a spreadsheet column entitled "Michigan 2015 basketball roster." Surely there are a few of you.

Men actually on the basketball team.

Burke on the skills camp, via Beth Long at Scout.

Tim Hardaway Jr and Trey Burke have been hitting up the college-oriented skills camps that are popping up these days, and both have been performing well. SLAM magazine returned with an alphabetical list of the top 20 players he saw at a couple of the Chicago camps Burke and Hardaway were at:

Trey Burke, 6-0, Sophomore, Michigan

Burke was one of the nation’s top freshmen last season and after flirting with declaring for the Draft, looks poised to build on his debut campaign, as he showcased an improved outside stroke, which should help a loaded Wolverines squad attempt to get back to the program’s glory days.

Tim Hardaway Jr, 6-5, Junior, Michigan

A wing sniper with length and athleticism, Hardaway attacked defenders off the dribble for pull-up jumpers or dynamic forays to the rim, while showing an all-around game, as he made a strong effort on the boards and defensive end.

MOTS from Burke. If Michigan gets dynamic forays to the rim, rebounding, and defense from Hardaway they are going to be awesome next year… and won't need to worry about where those 2013 scholarships are coming from.

Burke also came in for praise from ESPN's Reggie Rankin, who included him on a select list of four impressive campers:

"He has a great command of the ball and is a terrific open court passer," ESPN.com analyst Reggie Rankin wrote of Burke at this weekend's Deron Williams' Skills Academy in Chicago. "He can also knock down open jumpers on the break or when reading the defense as he comes off ball screens, can nail ball-reversal spot up 3s and make a play when the offense breaks down.

"Burke has worked to become a complete point guard and his improvement is easy to see, along with his improved strength."

UMHoops has a further roundup.

Men coaching people actually on the basketball team. Michigan's dynamic recruiting and teaching assistant corps picked up new contracts:

The new contracts will pay the three coaches a total of $470,000 in base pay for the 2012-13 campaign. Each assistant received a $10,000 base pay raise from a year ago, when the total pool -- per Michigan records -- sat at $440,000. …

Meyer and Alexander both signed four-year pacts, and will make base salaries of $160,000 and $155,000, respectively, in 2012-13. Jordan, meanwhile, inked a three-year contract and will also receive $155,000 in base pay next season.

They've got an interesting bonus system for sticking around, where there's a pool of 20k for each if all three are still around in three years, 20k for Alexander and Jordan if they're still around, and 20k in individual bonuses. I don't think Beilein's going to revamp his staff in the near future unless forced to. Head coaching gigs for Alexander and Jordan—Meyer is 58 and probably not destined for a head job—are the most likely way Michigan's basketball coaching staff will change.

Erp? Sounds like a number of Pac-12 teams are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of loading up on Big Ten teams in their nonconference schedules:

Multiple league sources have told the Hotline in recent weeks that several Pac-12 schools are … how should we say it? …  less than enthusiastic about the partnership, set to take effect in 2017.

However, the schools are reserving final judgment until they see whether a strength-of-schedule component is  included in the formula that determines which teams participate in the four-team playoff.

If SOS is given serious weight … if it’s a tangible part of the formula … then Pac-12 schools may be willing to consider a partnership in which the top programs draw B1G heavyweights every few years, sources said.

But if SOS is not included in the formula, then a full-blown Pac-12/B1G partnership — and I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute — could be in jeopardy.

This would seem to affect the top end of the league more than the bottom, and would prevent the sort of titanic cross-sectional matchups that were envisioned when this thing was announced. If it looks more like Michigan's 2014-2016 schedule than "here's USC, Stanford, and Oregon" I'm even more of favor of adding that ninth conference game. Hopefully a committee is better able to take things like "you played LSU and Stanford did not" into account.

London Wolverines. Geena Gall will run the 800M. Peter Vanderkaay is headed to a third Olympics. AnnArbor.com has the ridiculously long list of Ann Arbor-area outboard motors competing in the (still-ongoing) Olympic Trials. Meinke profiles Michigan swim coach Mike Bottom.

Etc.: Mark Hollis is going to out attention-whore Dave Brandon if he has to put a basketball game in a volcano. Freshman basketball class hits campus. Kirk Ferentz owns a piece of Americana.

Early Outlook: 2012-13 Michigan Basketball

Early Outlook: 2012-13 Michigan Basketball

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


Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basketball Season Review: Guards

Basketball Season Review: Guards

Submitted by Ace on March 29th, 2012 at 10:41 AM


Photo by Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Now that the disappointment stemming from an early NCAA tournament exit has largely melted away—replaced instead by a crippling fear that Trey Burke will go pro in similarly too-soon fashion—it's time to take a look back on the 2011-12 basketball season. Heading into the season, expectations weren't particularly high after the early departure of Darius Morris, and the burden was largely placed on Burke to get Michigan back to the tournament. From my season preview:

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.

Michigan spent most of the season not on the tournament bubble, but firmly in the top 25, thanks to a fantastic freshman campaign from Burke. A late-season push, coupled with a little help from Ohio State, brought the team a share of its first Big Ten title in my lifetime. The team stumbled in the postseason, getting demolished by the Buckeyes in the conference tourney before bowing out to OHIO in the NCAAs, but there's no arguing that the season was a rousing success.

Today's review covers the guards—before you ask, Zack Novak gets lumped in with the forwards—and looks at their highlights, lowlights, and expectations for next year:

Trey Burke

Preseason Expectations: Burke headed into the season as the big question mark on the team. We knew the freshman was talented, likely beyond what his recruiting profile would suggest, but would he pick up the offense quickly enough to carry the burden of being the team's lone true point guard?

Postseason Reality: Burke not only grasped John Beilein's complicated offense quickly, but proved to be a dymanic scorer with an on-court maturity well beyond that of the average freshman. He scored in double figures in all but four games and played 30+ minutes in every game after the season opener, including three 45-minute efforts. Burke's quickness and finishing ability made him tough to handle on the pick-and-roll, which became the staple of Michigan's offense, and he was also adept leading the fast break. He also held up well defensively, posting the lowest foul rate on the team despite playing in a conference chock-full of talented point guards. Burke had his freshman moments, struggling a bit against larger guards and aggressive hedging, but he was the clear-cut best player on the team. The only question now is if Burke was a little too good, at least when it comes to the prospects of next year's squad.

Highlight: For a single play, Burke's improbable floater off the high glass to seal the Ohio State victory stands out above the rest, doubly so because he made the shot over childhood friend and future lottery pick Jared Sullinger. For a game, however, I'm going with his 30-point outburst against Minnesota in the first round of the BTT, as the freshman carried the offense in what was otherwise an ugly slog—Burke shot 11-14 from the field, the rest of his teammates a combined 13-35. Burke played every minute of the game, and Michigan needed all of his production in a three-point overtime victory.

Lowlight: The next day wasn't as kind, as Burke—gassed from playing 45 minutes the night before and matched up against B1G DPOY Aaron Craft—was just 1-11 from the field with eight turnovers in a 22-point loss to Ohio State. The larger Buckeyes exploited Michigan's lack of size across the board, giving Burke little room to operate, and the game got out of hand in a hurry.

Key Numbers: 28.7% assist rate, 49.0 2pt%, 34.8 3pt%, 1.7 fouls committed/40 minutes.

Next Year: PLEASE COME BACK. If Burke returns, he'll once again carry the load at the point, as Michigan is hoping to land either a grad-year transfer or true freshman to provide some backup help. Most of Burke's improvement should come from a full year in a college strength program and a greater understanding of Beilein's offense—remember the second-year leap of Morris—which should help him learn how to deal with big, aggressive defenses. There are little things, like leaving his feet on the baseline without knowing where he's going with the ball, that Burke needs to work on. That's picking nits, however, and if he returns he should contend for All-America honors.

Stu Douglass

Preseason Expectations: Knock down some threes, play the usual solid perimeter defense, spell Burke at the point on occasion, and provide critical senior leadership.

Postseason Reality: The numbers don't jump off the page, but that was never the expectation from a willing role player. Douglass not only was the team's top perimeter defender and an outside shooting threat—he developed into a reliable second ball-handler and had a knack for getting to the rim, an aspect of his game that was entirely nonexistent until this season. Douglass knew how to avoid mistakes on both ends of the floor, posting a very solid 14.4% turnover rate and committing just 2.2 fouls per 40 minutes. Though he never developed into a lights-out shooter, Douglass helped the team in so many ways—especially on defense—that the numbers probably don't do his contribution justice. He stepped into the starting lineup when Evan Smotrycz struggled in Big Ten play, gave Burke the space to run the team, and matched up against the opposing team's best scorer on most nights—nobody will ever accuse Stu of not being a team player.

Highlight: Douglass's best game came on the road at Northwestern, as he helped push the team to an overtime victory with 12 points (4-7 from three) and five assists while shutting down a red-hot Drew Crawford in the second half and OT.

Lowlight: Douglass struggled down the stretch, shooting a combined 6-18 and dishing out just four assists over the team's last three games.

Key Numbers: 15.0% assist rate, 14.4% TO rate, 83.9 FT%

Next Year: Farewell, Stu. Douglass has graduated and will likely pursue a pro career overseas.

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Preseason Expectations: After an outstanding freshman season, Hardaway was expected—perhaps unfairly, given his greater first-year production—to make a Morris-like leap to superstardom as a sophomore. Leading the team in scoring was a given, even if it meant a slight dropoff in efficiency, as was contention for postseason honors.

Postseason Reality: While Hardaway's per-game numbers weren't bad at all—14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists—his long-range shooting was inconsistent at best. THJ finished the season shooting 53.5% from two on 235 attempts, a solid improvement over his first season, but just 28.3% from three on 187 attempts, a big dropoff. Tasked with creating his own shot more often, Hardaway struggled with his shot selection, often launching unnecessary long twos or contested threes early in the shot clock. Though he showed flashes of All-American potential, getting hot from the outside or finally using his superior athleticism to get to the basket, he never appeared fully comfortable with his shot, even battling a late-season swoon at the free-throw line. Issues with ballhandling—despite posting a low 14.4% turnover rate—and defensive effort also appeared at times during the season. It wasn't all bad—Hardaway finished the season strong and had several great games throughout—it just wasn't the year everyone, including Hardaway, was expecting.

Highlight: Michigan traveled to Illinois for a critical late-season contest in the midst of Hardaway's funk, and he snapped out of it to the tune of 25 points on 6-7 shooting (9-10 from the line) and 11 rebounds. THJ also scored 20 on 8-13 shooting and dished out four assists in the win over UCLA and poured in a season-high 26 against Penn State.

Lowlight: The dream of sweeping Michigan State twice in as many years met a rude reality in the Breslin Center, as Hardaway managed a season-low 4 points while connecting on just 1-10 shots from the field.

Key Numbers: 4.7 fouls drawn/40 minutes, 53.5 2pt%, 28.3 3pt%

Next Year: It's all but assured that Hardaway will return next season, and with Michigan losing Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass, and Zack Novak, he'll have to improve his shot selection from beyond the arc and bring that 3pt% at least close to where it was his freshman year (37%). Whether Burke stays or goes, Hardaway should also work on his handle, as too many times he simply lost the ball while driving into the paint. Mainly, however, Hardaway's 2012-'13 outlook depends on his mental approach; if he's willing to take the ball to the basket more often and play within the offense, his numbers will improve and so should the team. If that happens, we'll see the Hardaway many were afraid would be making the leap to the NBA by now.

Matt Vogrich

Preseason Expectations: A few quality minutes off the bench while displaying the shooting prowess that made him one of the country's top long-range gunners in high school.

Postseason Reality: Vogrich didn't get a lot of burn, playing 26.5% of available minutes, in large part because his 30.2 3pt% mark fell short of expectations. However, Vogrich showed improvement on defense as well as a Novakian ability to come away with a surprising number of offensive rebounds. He also finished better at the rim this season, hitting 13 of his 23 two-point attempts. The long-range shooting, however, is what he's here for, and the significant dropoff from his freshman and sophomore years was worrisome.

Highlight: As Michigan once again needed overtime to put away Northwestern in Evanston, Vogrich hit 3-6 from deep and even chipped in two assists and a block. His nine points were a season high outside of his 11 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Lowlight: A 4-16 slump over a 10-game span in December and January really hampered Vogrich's overall numbers, and unfortunately also coincided with shooting woes from Hardaway and Smotrycz.

Key Numbers: 3.6 OR%, 56.5 2pt%, 30.2 3pt%

Next Year: Vogrich will have a role, but how large of one will depend on his shot with two-guard Nik Stauskas coming to campus as a highly-regarded shooter. If Vogrich can continue to hit the boards, he should get minutes in a thin backcourt, but in the end it all comes down to whether or not he connects from three. I'm guessing he bounces back, as he shot much better in his first two seasons than he did this year.

Eso Akunne

Preseason Expectations: Provide emergency minutes if Trey Burke needs oxygen.

Postseason Reality: Akunne played just 48 minutes all year, and only 10 in Big Ten play, mostly at the point. He did hit 4-5 of his three-point attempts, but also had four turnovers to a lone assist while looking a bit uncomfortable as a primary ballhandler when faced with pressure.

Highlight: Played 12 minutes against Iowa State and was 2-2 from the field (1-1 from three) for a career-high 5 points.

Lowlight: Coughed the ball up twice in two minutes against Oakland.

Next Year: With so little depth at the point, Akunne might be called upon to play a few minutes. Making sure he's comfortable taking the ball upcourt against a press or trap would be helpful.

Carlton Brundidge

Preseason Expectations: Brundidge, despite the four-star recruiting profile, wasn't expected to have the impact of Burke. The big question was how the 6'1" slasher's game would translate to the college level.

Postseason Reality: Brundidge played four fewer minutes than Akunne and shot a combined 1-8 from the field. He never played more than four minutes in a conference game, had a scary midseason bout with asthma, and never looked like he'd settled into Beilein's offense or the pace of the college game in general.

Highlight: The freshman's lone made field goal came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, when he played a season-high 12 minutes.

Lowlight: His post-season transfer.

Next Year: Brundidge was one of three players to transfer after the season, so here's hoping he lands on his feet and carves out a role for himself at another program.

Banner Day

Banner Day

Submitted by Brian on March 5th, 2012 at 12:25 PM

3/3/2012 – Michigan 71, Penn State 65 – 23-8, 13-5 Big Ten
3/3/2012 – Michigan State 70, Ohio State 72 – both teams finish 13-5 in conference

image

image

A few days ago Jalen Rose did color for the Illinois game. Before he did so he took the opportunity to say "I bleed maize and blue" and that he wants the Fab Five's banners back up in 2013, when the NCAA-mandated dissociation with that era ends. I get why. From his perspective, those banners symbolize a fun time he had when he was young and some baggy pants and black socks took the nation by storm.

I don't want those banners back up. Even if you believe that Michigan got screwed over by the NCAA, that Ed Martin had tickets a bunch of different places, etc., the banners still mean not only that Michigan won some games in March 20 years ago but that they didn't win any for a long time after that. Those banners are not only about the four unsullied members of the Fab Five and the enigma that is Chris Webber but Taylor and Traylor and Bullock and what those teams represented.

Not to pick on a guy with obvious problems, but this is the quickest way to get that across:

dommanic-ingerson-naked

Dom Ingerson coming out of a lake naked, about to be arrested. That's where the Fab Five era ended.

Even if it's thanks largely to things out of their control, that's a fact. Steve Fisher had tenuous control over the Fab Five. He was see-no-evil about Ed Martin, and that attitude eventually turned malignant. This had obvious off-court effects, but even worse than the flesh wound issued by the NCAA years after the fact was the way Fisher's abdication showed up on the court. Even as they were playing, I hated them. They invented being Terrelle Pryor. When we talk about how easy it is to root for Michigan's teams these days, the unstated subtext is always thank God they're nothing like Maurice Taylor.

Yes yes: socioeconomic something something, The Wire, Bomani Jones and Jason Whitlock, etc. Doesn't change the fact that Denard Robinson is a joy and Taylor sulked around the court putting in just enough effort to get a B- while taking a bunch of money from a guy he'd been told to stay away from, then rolled his SUV with Mateen Cleaves in it.

While I feel bad for Jalen Rose in the limited way a civilian can feel bad for a famous multimillionaire former NBA star, those banners are the seed of a poisonous tree. I'd rather leave it in the past. I'd rather never think about Maurice Taylor again.

------------------------------------

I don't think we have to worry about this one coming down. John Beilein heads the ethics committee; when he's taped giving a pregame speech he invariably comes off like a high school chemistry teacher who got lost on his way to work and would rather be talking about pipettes but is making a go of this whole basketball-coaching business.

image

You may remember me from such characters as Bryan Cranston in the Breaking Bad pilot

Michigan's players run the gamut from lightly recruited to literally un-recruited. Zack Novak once knew 62 digits of pi. Michigan yoinked its starters away from Harvard, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Xavier, and nobody.* If someone has done something outside of the NCAA guidelines to assemble this team they have chosen poorly and are aging into dust as we speak.

When I wrote the Webber piece linked above I noted that it was a little stomach-churning that Michigan's reaction to the Martin scandal was to go from a basketball team Ice Cube thought was cool to Opie In The Sky With Diamonds:

I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.

Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.

It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions.

This remains true but is of limited application outside of moody pieces about things better left buried.

What yesterday did is bury that, permanently. I doubt I'm ever going to grapple with what the Fab Five means to Michigan's program again. It's not a looming anchor or propellant or injustice or cautionary tale anymore. It's not really anything. It's not relevant, finally finally finally. It took 20 years, a Big Ten championship, and Michigan's best recruiting class since the Fab Five to do it but now it's in the past.

This program has been arriving for just over a year now. For months I've had to tamp down the "what about next year!" urge many of us feel when surveying the roster and recruiting class. The great thing is: it arrived before Novak and Douglass aged out. Instead of trying to keep themselves together on the radio like David Merritt or not having to but not being out there like CJ Lee, Novak and Douglass will come back next year for a banner-raising ceremony. They'll watch a really good basketball team play afterwards, and they'll know that whenever anyone looks up in the Crisler rafters they'll be there even if their name isn't.

This program is not going away, and the culture is set. This one is not going to end up with a naked guy coming out of a lake. With all due respect to Jalen Rose, that's where the focus should be. This is Michigan: pi-memorizing, expectation-exceeding, Opie-headed, three-bombing, AP-chemistry-teacher basketball. Oh, and champions.

Champions.

*[Respectively: Douglass, Burke, Hardaway, Morgan, Novak.]

Media

The official site put together a react video that is up there amongst the best items in their brief history doing this*:

I think Vogrich is exclaiming "that's what I'd doooooooo" as Buford hits his ridiculous game winner. Zack Novak's slo-mo abs are for you, ladies. ESPN highlights:

*["Louie Caporusso: Love Expert" is still #1 in my book.]

Bullets

Oh, right, the game. It was mostly notable for a couple of frustrating Penn State surges after Michigan pushed out to near-20 point leads. The first one was just one of those things, the second a frustrating combination of pity refereeing (a real phenomenon) and Michigan getting lax.

If there's any concern to be pulled from the game it's the unexpected softness of Michigan's generally quality D against a team that is terrible offensively. Penn State got to the basket far too often for a team of their stature. Some of that is Smotrycz, who is still uncomfortable as a 5. Some of that was Morgan not playing up to his usual standard. It's likely those issues get worked out before the Big Ten Tourney.

Shooting shootists alert. Dakich brought this up every time Smotrycz or Hardaway hit a shot, and he's right: if Smotrycz and Hardaway are hitting shots, look out. The two combined to hit 6 of 10 from three. If that's happening and Burke is nailing those mid-range shots off the hedge, Michigan will cruise by anyone they can D up.

Unfortunately, a couple games can't erase the a conference-schedule long slump. Hardaway's stretch of efficient play is now six games long, though. At some point it will cross over into expectation. (Until he misses a couple to start the game.)

Meanwhile, Douglass. Douglass had nine points on five shots, six assists, just one turnover, and zero fouls despite having a plurality of the Tim Frazier duty. He's almost a second point guard on the floor.

I've said this before but Douglass's improvement this year is a lot like Will Heininger's: it gives you a ton of faith in Michigan's player development. If Lavall Jordan can just tighten up Hardaway's handle a little bit…

The tournament. Michigan plays the Iowa-Northwestern winner at 6:30 Friday; if they win they'll draw either Purdue, Nebraska, or Ohio State in the semis. Full bracket from Inside The Hall:

bigten030412[1]

U MAD, BRAH? Derrick Nix:

"It's tough, even though we're the Big Ten champs. It really means nothing because we had to share it with two other teams."

The worst part about sharing?

"We had to share it with our little nephews, and that sucks. So now they're happy because we lost. We got to just try to win this Big Ten tournament."

The top teams went 1-1 against each other and Michigan's one-plays were Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

Adventures in poor timing. This is the saddest banner unfurling ever:

image

Even if they lost they're completely crushed they shared the title with Michigan. Sparty gonna Spart.

Elsewhere

This RCMB thread posts the M celebration video; OP says he "wants to punch the nearest SCummer" but is named "Dong Forest," which is a dead giveaway. Troll on, troller. Sparty in a nutshell: "I'd rather o$u win the title outright than um get to share it."

HSR suggests a banner design:

B1G Champs[1]

I already have my request in for bleeding, but if that doesn't take I'd actually like to see the sign have a listing of  the seniors on the team with it.

Quotes and whatnot from UMHoops. Burke got in a good Yogi Berra-ism:

On watching the final seconds of the game: “It’s indescribable. As soon as he shot it, the ball was in the air. It was silent the whole time the ball was in the air. Before he inbounded the ball, they had showed Buford, and he had a look in his eye, and it just looked like he was going to take this last shot and he was going to hit it. Once he got the ball, went left and shot it, Appling played great D. Once it went in, everybody just flooded the hallway, jumping up and down. My biggest fear was that they were going to hit a half court shot or something, but once they missed that, it was great.”

Beilein:

On the emotion of winning a Big Ten title: “The most rewarding part of what just happened is watching our young men’s faces. When you’ve coached this long, and our staff knows this, it’s not about the W’s. It’s about the journey. And while it’s not the end of the journey, it’s certainly a highlight in this year’s journey, and for some guys a four-year journey.”Latest bracketology still has M on the three-line in Nashville… with Vandy a potential second round matchup. Protected seeds, Lunardi?

He continued, "now if you'll open your textbooks to chapter eight we can start talking about covalent bonds."

The Daily datelines its piece "BUFFALO WILD WINGS." NYT:

“I never could have imagined this when I came here,” the senior guard Zack Novak said. “It’s like Christmas every day, having a great place to practice and play, all the fan support, and we’re working hard and getting the wins.

“We’ve all had our hearts broken here, so we really appreciate things we’re getting and how they’re coming to us. It’s setting us up for even bigger successes now and in the future.”

Baumgardner is all like "a banner is a banner is a banner." Agreed.

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

Michigan-at-Illinois-3_thumb[1]

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!

A Face Of Granite, A Heart Of Wood, And A Chance

A Face Of Granite, A Heart Of Wood, And A Chance

Submitted by Brian on February 20th, 2012 at 11:48 AM

2/19/2012 – Michigan 56, Ohio State 51 – 20-7, 10-4 Big Ten

6902910677_465c343a1b_b[1]

Eric Upchurch

There will never be a "Trey Burke photo spectacularrr" tag on this blog, and that's the way Michigan likes it. There are under ten seconds on the shot clock against the top defense in the country, and Trey Burke is wearing an expression of nonchalant determination.

If he smiles at points they are normal-person smiles, not the arm-flailing, mouthpiece-threatening HRRAAAAAAHHHHs of Tim Hardaway Jr or Jared Sullinger. If you're not exactly calm, the sight of Burke bringing the ball up at least dampens your anxiety—whether you're fan, coach or teammate. He is the fastest and slowest player on the court.

As a group, basketball players cluster on the hysteric end of a continuum of public displays of emotion. Burke is a rare data point on the stoic side of things. He'll never have an Aneurysm of Leadership. He may clap his hands a bit, if he's feeling strongly. At some point someone will make one of those images showing the hilariously unchanging moods of an impassive individual featuring Trey Burke.

Trey Burke eating ice cream: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke taking a calculus exam: nonchalant determination. Trey Burke roaring at the basket with a three-point lead in the final minute of a game against the #1 defense in the country with a foot-taller-than-you opponent who knows your darkest childhood secrets leaping at you…

trey-burke-lofted-winner

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

…nonchalant determination with a touch of premature aging.

Not shown on the jpeg will be the sweet kiss off the high glass and the ball arcing in for the game-sealing bucket, or the previous possession's not-quite-but-pretty-much-sealing blow-by and layup. They will only be implied.

---------------------

Burke is of course one of many Michigan players who should be in over their heads. Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, and Stu Douglass are the kind of guys who end up at Penn State and valiantly try to make an NIT. Even Hardaway did not have the recruiting profile you'd think—one and only one recruiting service (ESPN) stashed him at the end of their top 100. Burke himself was once a Penn State commit; after he reopened his recruitment his other finalist was Cincinnati.

stu-stepbackMichigan is not valiantly trying to make an NIT. As of February 18th, 2012, Michigan is contending for a Big Ten title. Douglass and Novak are busting out their Kobe impersonations on step-back jumpers it's unbelievable they're even attempting, let alone making. Morgan is outplaying Jared Sullinger, if only for one game.

As I've sampled Big Ten message boards and blog comment sections over the course of the season, one theme continually re-emerges: I don't know how they're winning with these players. We're closer observers and can piece together a story about grit and surprising defense and making up for bad rebounding with transition points, but even that comes to a stuttering, unconvincing conclusion when the subject of Hardaway's three-point shooting comes up. And how is this lineup the fourth-best defense in the league anyway? Michigan has one post player!

Not even we can explain it. It just is.

If you're in the mood for some advice, here's mine: savor this. If this is Michigan's year of re-establishing itself—Michigan's This Is Michigan year—the things that come afterwards will feature a lot of wins and exciting times and fun. They'll also be burdened with expectations that aren't currently encumbering Michigan's motley crew of players rescued from the mid-major humane shelters of America. You know what it's like to have expectations. You're a Michigan football fan.

Here there is a rare opportunity to play with house money for big stakes. It will be the farthest thing from a disappointment if Michigan doesn't quite break their drought this year; if they do, that banner we know we can't give to Novak (and Douglass) despite wanting to will read "Big Ten Champions 2011-2012."

I'll be twitching uncontrollably as Michigan attempts this over the next two weeks. Trey Burke will eat ice cream and fly by in slow motion.

Media

Our own Eric Upchurch's gallery:

Also: AnnArbor.com photo gallery. UMHoops photos. AnnArbor.com also got Gameday-related shots.

Highlights:

Bullets

And then I was like…

maize-rage-anyeursm

AnnArbor.com

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL DUDE

Titlewatch(!). The chance Michigan ends its 25 year Big Ten title drought is still slim but after Saturday it is extant. Unfortunately, Purdue blew a five point halftime lead against MSU by coming out for the second half and throwing up thirteen straight bricks, so MSU has a one-game edge on OSU and M for the conference lead. Wisconsin is another game back.

Closing stretches:

  • MSU: @ Minnesota, Nebraska, @ Indiana, OSU
  • OSU: Illinois, Wisconsin, @ NU, @ MSU
  • M: @ NU, Purdue, @ Illinois, @ Penn State
  • UW: @ Iowa, @ OSU, Minnesota, Illinois
    Despite the home-road split, Michigan has a considerably easier road than anyone else. They'll probably get at least a share if they win out, which Kenpom thinks has a 15% chance of happening. Winning 13(!) is the most likely scenario, though, and that would require MSU dropping two and OSU one of their last four to get a three-way tie. That's a tall order.

"The pride of Columbus, Ohio." I've never been a fan of the Crisler PA guy ("WHO WANTS FREE PIZZZAAAAA") but I have to give it up: dubbing Trey Burke the Pride of Columbus was A+ trash talk. Sixty-five points awarded.

 

Matta WTF. I've had to shut up about my theory that Matta is as dumb as a rock as his team has annihilated everyone on defense, but Saturday provided a great flashback to the days when OSU was only pretty good and Matta seemed like a major impediment to them being better.

The situation: Michigan is up three with 42 seconds left on the clock as they inbound the ball. Matta doesn't foul, betting on a stop and OSU hitting a three after getting the ball back with seven seconds left. WTF?

You got Morg-owned. Jordan Morgan outplayed Jared Sullinger head to head. Full stop. This is a big component of how:

morgan-skying-2Michigan-56-Ohio-State-51-12-399x600[1]

AnnArbor.com; Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

On two tightly-spaced second half possessions he ran the floor well ahead of Sullinger and threw down explosive dunks as Sullinger looked on in disgust.

Morgan may not be very tall or an explosive leaper but he has no equal in the league when it comes to running the floor as a center. He may have missed his true calling as a tight end.

[INTERMISSION: let's take this opportunity to Homer-drool over the prospect of a 6'8" tight end who can run like Morgan.]

Anyway, Morgan: 11 points on 5/8 shooting, 11 rebounds (2 offensive), 0 TOs. Sullinger: 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 TOs. Michigan has to react to Sullinger a lot more than vice versa, granted, but Morgan was efficient offensively and stellar defensively. Sullinger cannot say the same.

Also, damn that's a pass right there. Also also, if Morgan keeps missing absolute bunnies one of these days I'm going to pass out. He and Douglass had groaners in the first half I dwelled on.

Please, please please let Hardaway get what he wants this time. 13 points on 5 shots, 2 of 2 from three. Four turnovers and zeros most everywhere else on the stat sheet are less appealing but I'll take that efficiency.

Step-back step-ups. I wasn't quite right that Michigan needed to shoot significantly better from three than Ohio State to win—Michigan had a narrow edge with three makes on 13 shots; OSU needed 16 attempts to match—but that's because most of Michigan's long-range makes came from just within the three-point line. Hardaway had a couple of "no no no… YES" long twos with a bunch of time on the shot clock early; late Michigan got critical buckets from Douglass and Novak on NBA-style step-backs.

It's been said before but it's worth repeating: Lavall Jordan has worked miracles with both Novak and Douglass. Those guys now have the ability to get their own shot off the bounce when they have to or they sense an opportunity. Neither produced shot one last year. The development of the two seniors is akin to Michigan's defensive coaches turning Will Heininger into a pretty good player over the course of a single year—evidence that Michigan's player development is top notch. Combine that with the waves of talent in both major sports and you're cooking.

Offensive board obliteration measuration. Not incredibly horrible: OSU rebounded a third of their misses. That's only slightly above the national average of 32.2%. Also it seemed like a lot of them came on a couple of possessions where OSU got three or four putback attempts; patterns like that bother me less because I'd rather have the opponent have one possession with a very, very high rate of success than four with a less-but-still-very-good rate. Also at some point there are just a ton of dudes around the basket and they're all taller than you.

Obligatory reffing section. After trolling OSU message boards for some schadenfreude and discovering the reaction of the Michigan internet to Jay Bilas, I'll abort my planned ref-railin'. Not necessarily because I'm wrong but because I'm obviously so partisan that I can't be trusted in these matters.

Also, I was waiting for the whistle on this late Craft layup attempt and one never came:

Michigan-56-Ohio-State-51-27-597x398[1]

Dustin Johnston/UMHoops

Whether or not this event was actually quality D, it's one on which whistles are all but certain. I do question a bunch of calls but whatever.

Okay, it's just a conceit above. It's a pretty good conceit but this AnnArbor.com photo exposes its limitations:

hardaway-burke-hug

ALL CAN BE FORGIVEN. I'll never say a bad word about Dave Brandon again if

1) Michigan wins at least a share of the Big Ten title and
2) the resulting banner bleeds like this:

zack-novak-blood

Just the trickle down the side.

(Also, that's an excellent demonstration of the differences between Maize and our current yellow.)

Elsewhere

UMHoops recap and Five Key Plays, featuring all of the charges:

Eleven Warriors recap. Andy Reid on Morgan's game. MANBALL? MANBALL:

"He played like a beast," Tim Hardaway, Jr. said. "He played like a man against the best big man in the country. And he took that to heart all week. All he heard was, 'Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger, Jared Sullinger,' and he wanted to come out here and show he could compete. He did a great job of that and took care of business."

Baumgardner on Morgan and other matters.

Wojo:

This morning, the state of Michigan must be rubbing its collective eyes, because look at the Big Ten standings now. Michigan State, which hammered Ohio State on the road earlier, is at the top with a 10-3 mark (21-5 overall) and could create space with a win at Purdue on Sunday, or create a three-way tie with a loss. Michigan (20-7, 10-4) and Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) are just behind, and who would have dreamed up this scenario?

With two weeks left, Michigan and Michigan State are grappling for a title, and go back to the preseason and try to envision that. While you're at it, go back five years when John Beilein arrived and imagine the Wolverines being here.

"To walk into that arena (before the game) was a bit moving," Beilein said. "I felt it wasn't just a rivalry game. It was a team playing for contention for a Big Ten championship, and I thought it was special. When you're rebuilding a program, there's a lot of little moments, a lot of small victories. This was one of them."

Meinke on Burke. Daily on Morgan. Beard on the hyped-up atmosphere at Crisler. Daily on Novak. Daily on GREATEST FEBRUARY 18TH EVER. Does The White Tiger have a giant head of himself? He's in the right area. Holdin' The Rope not at Holdin' the Rope.

Burke won his fifth Big Ten freshman of the week. I think Cody Zeller is out of moves here. McGary scouting from UMHoops.