Rumormongering: Burke Departure, Gardner WR Prospects

Rumormongering: Burke Departure, Gardner WR Prospects

Submitted by Brian on March 23rd, 2012 at 12:15 PM

A couple of good sources have passed along information about Michigan's hot topics du jour.

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On Trey Burke. This should not be a scenario like Harris or Morris where the player leaves for dim draft prospects. In Harris's case he wanted out no matter what; Morris had people in his inner circle pushing him into the draft.

Burke is not either of those guys. If the NBA does not tell him he is a first round lock, he'll be back. Since that doesn't seem in the cards—name the last one-and-done under six feet tall—Michigan should avoid the terrifying prospect of entering next year with no point guard at all.

On Devin Gardner. Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands." The one complication for Gardner-to-WR is the situation at quarterback, where he's still the clear #2 option. Gardner is still taking all the second team QB reps.

/end inside info, begin speculation

A lot of people have been mentioning Woodson when talking about this when trying to guess how much playing time is reasonable for a guy who's still full time at a second position. He got 10-15 snaps a game on offense back in '97. Gardner may start at that level, but if it's crunch time and he's 6'5" with a city block catching radius…

Burke Announcement Timetable Update

Burke Announcement Timetable Update

Submitted by Brian on March 22nd, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Michigan guard Trey Burke calls out to teammates on the court. Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com

PROBLEM?

In the immediate aftermath of yesterday's Trey Burke PANIC I said that Michigan wouldn't have to wait too long to know whether Burke will make us all emo. A correction: the NBA early entry deadline is the 29th. The deadline to withdraw is the 10th. IE, there is no deadline to withdraw anymore.

Burke will get his evaluation back from the NBA on the sixth, so a day or two after that would be a potential announcement timeframe. If it doesn't happen then Burke is on the fence and a final announcement probably won't come until the deadline nears. So… yeah, try not to think about it for the next month. I'll have kittens/muppets on standby.

Burke Departure: Possible

Burke Departure: Possible

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2012 at 6:05 PM

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Trey Burke may have said he'd be back next year in the immediate aftermath of Michigan's ouster from the NCAA tourney, but those things are always subject to change once the emotion of a tough loss wears off.

It has, and now Burke's dad is saying stuff like this:

"We figured we had to at least see what's going on," Benji said. "That's where we're at. We're wanting to see where we're at and go from there.

"Trey just got to Ann Arbor. We just got here, and now we're talking about him leaving. It's just tough, it's a tough decision but hopefully we'll be back in Crisler this year. ... As of now, we're coming back. But anything can change. We're open."

That AnnArbor.com article is headlined "Burke to look into NBA draft stock, still leaning towards staying." The analogous article at the Free Press is of course titled "Trey Burke strongly considering leaving Michigan for NBA draft," because obviously. Pick your probability from amongst options.

Burke's dad says he's had reports that Trey could go anywhere from 18-24th overall. That is greatly divergent from draft boards maintained by Chad Ford (where he ranks 72nd) and Draft Express (not in the top 100, last pick of the first round in their 2013 mock) and could be agents trying to get a kid to sign; that's why they have advisory boards.

I don't think Burke's in a situation like Darius Morris, who left with full knowledge he probably wouldn't be a first-rounder, but at this point any Michigan fan who's assuming is doing the understandable thing.

If Burke does end up declaring Michigan is of course totally boned. At this point the #2 PG is either a walk-on or a 6'6" shooting guard who isn't even on campus yet. They'd probably get a transfer or late commit or something given the obvious opportunity but Trey Burkes don't grow on trees. With the NCAA moving up the withdrawal date over and over again at least we won't have to wait long to know: Burke is in or out by April 10th.

Mailbag: 2013 Basketball Class Skepticism, More Colors, Late Game Gritty Clutch Anecdote Battle

Mailbag: 2013 Basketball Class Skepticism, More Colors, Late Game Gritty Clutch Anecdote Battle

Submitted by Brian on March 14th, 2012 at 12:14 PM

robinson3[1]hardawayjr[1]03c5159d9e125e06e80e6a7067001aff[1]

Hi Brian,

Do you think Coach Beilein wasn't selective enough in the 2013 class, seeing that none of the recruits are in the top 50, and one of them is outside the top 100?

Thanks!

Troy
Cleveland, OH

At this point Beilein has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to jumping on recruits early. When he grabbed Glenn Robinson III he was an unranked three-star; he is going to finish his high school career with five stars on Rivals and won't be far off on Scout. Nick Stauskas has broken into the top 100 on all sites as well; I think he'll be a fantastic two-guard for Michigan. Last year Beilein won a recruiting battle with Cincinnati for PSU decommit Trey Burke. The year before he grabbed Smotrycz before his profile blew up and was higher on Tim Hardaway Jr than anyone else. Beilein's evaluation skills are clearly a notch above the field.

So there's that. Beilein's taken a lot of lightly-regarded three stars who happen to blow up either before or after they hit Ann Arbor. Michigan's 2013 class may be in the process of doing that. Derrick Walton just went for 47 in a playoff game; Zak Irvin has had a strong high school season. I'm guessing those guys are more likely to move up than down, though Scout's Brian Snow doesn't seem like he's going to budge on Irvin just yet.

Even if those guys aren't in line for some of the meteoric rises we've seen Michigan recruits have, they don't have to get bumped much to be on par with 2012. Irvin's on the edge of the top 50 on Rivals and Walton is 87. They're starting out with more rep than Robinson or Stauskas, more rep than three of MSU's four 2012 commits.

As for Donnal, I don't care as much what the ratings say about him because it's at that five spot that Michigan is so divergent from a conventional team. Donnal has an extremely high skill level that makes him a great fit for Michigan. Hypothetical athletic limitations—which may or may not be a big deal for a post who just finished his junior year of high school—make him the #124 player in a nationwide ranking; in Beilein's eyes you can bet he's a lot higher.

When Carlton Brundidge, a guy who still has a lot of time to turn into a useful player, is the best case for a Beilein recruiting miss* attempting to criticize his 2013 class is like shooting a guy wearing six bulletproof vests.

*[I don't think anyone expected post-signing-day pickup Colton Christian to be anything other than what he is; jury is out on Bielfeldt. Beilein is making a lot of encouraging noises about him. #pleasebelikedraymondgreen

Also, a large number of Beilein recruits that went elsewhere have gone on to agonizingly good careers elsewhere: Kyle Kuric, Kevin Pangos, Klay Thompson, etc. Hell, Green was supposedly about to commit to Michigan before Izzo swooped in on him.]

Color follow-up.

A follow-up from the Michigan Today story featuring the "athletic colors" and the "official colors" that were so divergent:

Brian -

After reading about university colors on MGoBlog, I thought you find find some additional information of interest.

An Ann Arbor News article from November 29, 1998, "Hue-ing the line: True blue, maize ways" follows up on the Fall 1996 Michigan Today story "Which Maize? Which Blue?" The 1912 official color color samples (housed at the Bentley Historical Library) were tested in 1997 with spectrophotometers by X-Rite (a company in Grandville, Michigan founded by Rufus Teesdale a Michigan graduate).

According to the Ann Arbor News article, the spectrophotometer readings were converted to printing instructions noting that the numbers "were tweaked a bit to account for some fading of the ribbons since 1912."

The spectrophotometer readings of the 1912 official color samples were:

MAIZE: 9 cyan, 28 magenta, 59 yellow, 0 black

BLUE:  93 cyan, 76 magenta, 24 yellow, 2 black

The 1912 report on the official colors reads a lot like current complaints about color, "In short, the blue color, which is the one longest associated with the University, starting with a shade almost as dark as "navy blue" has gradually weakened until it has the hint known as "baby blue." the maize, likewise, has faded to correspond, and is now an expressionless pale yellow. So delicate have the colors become, that they have not only lost their original character, but are ineffective in decorations, and useless to the Athletic association, which has been forced to employ colors entirely different from those which recent graduates regard as University colors. It is only necessary to see the diversity of the banners which are displayed in the store windows to realize the confusion which exists."
- Brian

Every time I bring this up I'm pleasantly surprised by how seriously people take this. Again, I've heard that the athletic department would like to move away from the kind of yellow that gets us mentioned in the same breath with the Sounders and Oregon when SI writers are bagging on these babies:

BaylorNewUnis[1]

I hope they come with sirens, ladders, and hoses

Let there come a day when Roy Roundtree is wearing sunglasses in Crisler just to look cool instead of prevent retina damage.

On Michigan's late game success.

Brian,

You mentioned that you don't buy into the "grit" factor as a possible explanation into their 13-5 record given the difference in efficiency margin.  I agree that Eckstein-adjectives don't rationalize the difference but I was curious if there is any game experience stats out there that could help. 

I know that UM is still young in terms of overall team experience but there's no question in my mind that Novak and Douglas' four years of relevant playing time contributes to that record despite the efficiency.  I would also think that having Morgan and Hardaway being second year starters adds to that explanation given the relative short time periods that excellent teams have their players for before they leave for the draft.

I don't know how you would measure it but is there anything that quantifies the experience of the players actually playing minutes in the game.  Having two starters that have played significant time over four years has to be somewhat rare in the Big 10's upper tier.

Thanks,
Keegan

Kenpom does have an experience measure that adjusts for minutes played. Michigan is 209th of 345 with an average of 1.54 years of experience. This is a massive improvement on last year when they were 335th*.

As for Michigan's super-experienced dudes, Michigan's two is better than OSU's one (Buford) and MSU's one (Green; Thornton has not seen a lot of time in his career), but Green has a usage of 28%, Buford 23%. Stu and Zack are around 15% each. Their involvement in the offense summed about equals Green's.

Meanwhile when I think clutch late-game performances, I think Trey Burke putting it as high off the glass as possible against OSU and hitting free throw after free throw. This blog has a tag about Burke's clutch play even though it tries not to believe in clutch. That's a freshman.

So I cannot agree with your police work here when poor Northwestern is so much more experienced (89th), relies two massive-usage upperclassmen, and endured maximum epic pain in all late game situations this year. BOOM REVERSE ANECDOTE'D.

In the face of the post-Merrit/Lee implosion I'm a convert to the gritty winning winners bit, but I think that's equally useful at all times during a game, in practice, etc., not especially at the end of a game.

*[BONUS KENPOM STATISTICAL OUTLIER: Michigan gets 17% of their minutes from its bench. That is 343rd(!) nationally. The only teams more reliant on their starters are Siena, a 14-17 MAAC team, and Youngstown State, a 16-15 Horizon League team.

Oddly enough, having few bench minutes is much less of a problem than having a ton. Alabama is the most bench-heavy team in the tournament at #45 and they are up there involuntarily after two starters were suspended midseason. #60 Kansas State is the first team on the list that seems to have voluntarily played its bench a lot. Life's better at the bottom: 14 teams in the 300s in this category (ie, a third of them) made the tourney, including S16 seeds Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Michigan.]

Unverified Voracity Scoffs At Vikings

Unverified Voracity Scoffs At Vikings

Submitted by Brian on March 12th, 2012 at 4:22 PM

Brief Big Ten Tournament note. No column on it; I wasn't feeling massively invested because I had to miss the second half of the Minnesota game to go to Yost and watched it after I knew the outcome, then Ohio State came out and was all like "today we will play like a team with two lottery picks on it." Once that happened and Burke got annihilated by Craft it was clear this was going to be an ugly old-style loss, which fine. Michigan is not on the level of national contender… yet.

If anything the tourney just reinforced my feeling that this team did fantastically to pick up a Big Ten title split and now that there's a banner in hand the rest of this is house money. After beating OHIO*, that is. Losing to a 13 seed would leave a sour taste. Everything else is gravy-coated candy.

I'll leave the garment rending about how we're not competing for a one-seed for the next couple years.

Side note: now do we believe that Craft is a totally awesome defender? Yes? Okay.

*[SBN MAC blog Hustle Belt refers to the Bobcats as "OHIO" for reasons that are unknown but very probably related to their stunning upset of Georgetown as a 14 seed two years ago.

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Since giving them the all-caps treatment is a term of respect that doubles as diss of plain ol' Ohio, this blog will refer to the Bobcats as OHIO from now on.]

Dave Brandon approves. Michigan-ND 1978 was like Michigan-MSU 2012 in two ways: one team looked totally ridiculous and lost 28-14.

The two games were different because one team didn't look ridiculous and Ufer was going ape in '78.

This game also provides ammunition for both sides of the maize/yellow debate. It's clear that UM's maize is much lighter than the yellow ND is wearing; it's also unattractively blinding.

Also ridiculous. I wish I'd found this before I posted on hockey's tourney streak today, as it really hammers home how remarkable it is:

Let me put that in perspective- of ALL of the teams that have won a National Championship in Hockey the last 21 seasons, here's the tournament appearances:

Michigan- 21
Boston U- 15
Minnesota- 15
North Dakota- 14
Michigan State- 14
Maine- 13
Wisconsin- 13
Boston College- 13
Denver- 10
Lake State- 6
Northern Michigan- 5
UM-Duluth- 4

Inside that, the longest streak is 9, shared by Maine, Michigan State, and North Dakota, but North Dakota will extend that to 10 this year. At least should.

Unless there's a power lurking outside this list—and I don't think there is—every other team has missed the NCAAs at least six times during the streak.

Help next year. Hockey's got blue chips on the blue line and at forward in their next recruiting class. Boo Nieves is the forward, and he sounds a little like Carl Hagelin:

Matt Herr thought he had seen it all after taking over as coach at the Kent School in Connecticut following a productive collegiate and professional playing career.

That's before he was introduced to 6-foot-3, 184-pound center Cristoval "Boo" Nieves last season.

"I don't know how he skates so freaking fast for his size," Herr told NHL.com. "He's one of the best skaters I've seen this year. I think he can jump into the American Hockey League and play right now and you wouldn't even blink." …

"He just explodes off the mark and has agility, balance and quickness to break loose from traffic," Eggleston said. "He also has the physical strength to plow through checks along the wall and bring the puck with him. He sees the ice very well, is a very smart and creative playmaker and captains the team ... he's a very good team player."

Herr then compares him to Joe Thornton, which… like… probably not. Here's hoping, though. If Michigan doesn't suffer any departures at forward I'm guessing that AJ Treais slides up to the top line next year between Brown and Guptill; Nieves should center the second line with PDG and… Moffatt? That sounds pretty good to me.

If they can keep defections on defense down to one they'd be skating something like Trouba-Merrill/Bennett, Moffie-Chiasson, Clare/Serville-Carrick. Depth is a bit scary there but kids develop; Serville especially seems like an offseason in a weight program will do him good.

Help the Mathlete. He needs some crowd-sourcing to fill in holes in his recruiting database. Your reward is good feelings and some interesting posts.

That's the ticket. Kyle Meinke tries to make us all feel better about going up against that Alabama defense:

"There ain't no one who can learn that defense in under a year," outgoing free safety Mark Barron said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "We played in a very difficult defense, first of all. We did a lot of different schemes.

"I really don’t believe anyone can learn that defense in under a year."

Score! Please score.

Trey Burke is childhood friends with everyone on an Ohio D-I roster. OHIO backup PG and lightning bolt Stevie Taylor has played with and against Trey Burke for big chunks of his career. UMHoops has the story and the requisite adorable picture:

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Um… check with the basketball team. Michigan's hockey team has adopted a mantra that should be familiar to anyone who followed Michigan basketball's NCAA drought-breaking team of a few years back:

The No. 4 Michigan hockey team emerged from its locker room before Saturday’s game against Notre Dame wearing shirts with the team motto, “Burn the Boats,” prominently displayed.

Hey! I remember that! Isn't that…

“(Sophomore forward Luke) Moffatt brought it up this year,” said sophomore forward Derek DeBlois last month. “It has to do with the Vikings. When they would go to fight, they would burn their boats. No retreat, you just kind of lay all your chips on the table and fight until you win.”

…NOT ABOUT VIKINGS AT ALL. It's actually a famous event in the Spanish conquest of everything when they were discovering the new world, which is why the basketball team's version of the slogan was in Spanish. [Ed-S: actually...] Come on. Vikings. I've never heard about anything so ridicul—

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SHOULDN'T HAVE TALKED ISH ABOUT VIKIIIIINGS AIEEEE—

 

Etc: James Rogers interviewed. Michigan Tech goalie coach and former Michigan goalie Steve Shields profiled. MEL PEARSON UPDATE: Tech reaches the Final Five for the first time in five years. Tech is two games away from .500 on the year. Carty on Draymond Green and Zack Novak. Ohio's PG in a bikini.

Unverified Voracity Asks For A Shovel

Unverified Voracity Asks For A Shovel

Submitted by Brian on March 2nd, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Fab Five. Wolverine Historian continues to feature Fab Five games that officially may not exist anymore:

The inside scoop. Seth Davis did one of those ask-coaches-off-the-record articles that always feature a mix of insight and bitchiness and make for quality reading. The take on Michigan (emphasis mine):

Michigan: The Wolverines are dangerous because they shoot the ball so well and stay within their sets, but they can also lay an egg because they rely so much on threes. You almost have to play small with them because they force you to. If you have a big man, it's hard to guard them because everybody will step out and score. I don't think Tim Hardaway Jr. is a tough kid. He just wants to shoot jumpers. If you have a dominant person inside, you can go right at them because they're not real big. Hardaway has not had the kind of year we were all expecting, but he has an uncanny ability to make threes late even when he's not shooting well. Trey Burke is the best guard in our league, and Jordan Morgan is much better offensively than he was last year. They don't scare you defensively. They'll get after you and compete, but you can run your stuff and score on them.

The section on Ohio State also mentions that they're "probably kicking themselves a little for not taking Trey Burke," and the Wisconsin bit is all about how terrible and awful and disrespectful they are.

Maybe this whole standards thing isn't a huge deal. Remember when some guy said that unconfirmed thing about Brandon saying that Michigan wasn't going to compete with the SEC for things and stuff and would have standard like things and everyone was all like boo boo boo we want to recruit Manninghams even if they like smoking pot, like, forever and ever?

Yeah, that was in the long long ago when Michigan was striking out late in the 2012 class and hadn't secured a top five 2013 class like two weeks into that recruiting cycle. But, like, you know who we lost out to for a couple important guys? Stanford. This Stanford:

Haskins points out that just because a guy plays football doesn't necessarily mean he's physically tough. From a mental side, Shaw maintains the Cardinal's rigorous academic requirements forces the program to get determined people. "To be honest, it's built in for us," he says. "We can look [at] the physical toughness when you watch a kid play, but we're also finding out about that stick-to-it-iveness when we're asking them to re-take tests, take AP courses and make tough decisions to try and get admitted here. That shows dedication, toughness and perseverance."

That's from a long Bruce Feldman piece on Stanford's ridiculous-not-just-for-Stanford recruiting. The Cardinal is proving that you can avoid the flakes and still bring in monster classes. Michigan seems to be doing the same, and as long as Notre Dame isn't swooping in on the guys they want they seem like they'll be able to maintain that over the long haul.

First one, then the other. I've been pining for Urban Meyer's shovel option for a while now. You know, this thing:

It seems like a natural fit for Michigan for multiple reasons: it's just power blocking, which Hoke loves. It forces the defensive end to either cheat down on the pitch or potentially let Denard outside. If Denard makes a bad decision the potential for disaster is low—either he is running around for a small loss (or gain!) because he kept or he's throwing an incomplete pass. The main issue is finding a tight end who can run it, but if Michigan's throwing Hopkins on the field as an H-back sort he's got the chops to make that a viable option.

Once you've got that in the book, you could add bells and whistles like a quick cover-two beater on the edge to give that corner a problem he can't fix:

shovel-sprint[1]

Michigan did run some run-plus-short-pass concepts like this last year…

…so this might be something to keep an eye on as Borges tries to get the most use out of Denard's legs in year two. Borges loves to add new stuff on the regular; it's 50-50 we see something like the above in 2012.

Speaking of Borges. He talks with Howard Griffith:

Money quote: "I don't want to have an offense with a name" because then people start running clinics on how to defend it.

Unintended consequences. The NCAA's recent adjustment of kickoff rules smacks of a public relations effort to assure people concerned about concussions that football is also concerned. The net impact of slightly changing 2% of a football game is going to be statistically zero when it comes to long term health outcomes, but it says to the world that the NCAA is Doing Something, so it passes.

It won't do much. It might not do anything since the NCAA made a change that seems counterproductive to its goals: it's changed kickoff touchbacks to the 25. This is supposed to encourage returners to take a knee. Instead it may encourage kicking teams to not put it in the endzone.

Florida State has one of the best kickoff specialists in the country, Dustin Hopkins. Last year his 29 touchbacks were a victory. This year some back of the envelope calculations by Tomahawk Nation suggest the Seminoles' optimal strategy on kickoffs from the 35 will be this:

LET'S RECAP - If FSU does indeed ask Hopkins to kick it just a little higher and a little shorter, we can realistically expect him to average the ball around the 2-3 yard line with a hangtime of around 4.6 seconds. This is enough time that the majority of the coverage team will be inside the 25 yard line, with the faster players being somewhere around the 20. One can expect first contact to be made somewhere inside the 15 yard line on average. If the return man dances or does not immediately run full speed after the catch, it could be even worse. It may be a common occurrence for many returns to fail to exceed the 10 yard line. That is epic.

85% of TN readers think that's the way to go. The NCAA probably just made kicking for a touchback a mistake. There's a good chance these new rules go the way of the Hated Clock Rules from about five years back.

Two options: idiot or fabulist. Good lord, Phil Birnbaum points out that the Berri study-type substance on NFL quarterback draft positions…

  1. Uses a regression to determine "expected" draft position instead of using, you know, draft position.
  2. Their regression on expected performance does show a correlation between draft position and performance, but it's not statistically significant, so they use that to say "there is no relationship between draft position and performance."
  3. Tom Brady alone accounts for 14% of the plays from quarterbacks drafted from 150-250.

David Berri is the worst statistician on the planet.

BONUS OHIO STATE SCHOLARSHIP SIGN UPDATE! With Jordan Whiting's transfer to Louisville the only scholarship business major on the team is a kicker.

Etc.: Another rat is poised to jump off Dooley's sinking ship. He's their recruiting coordinator and would be the seventh assistant to leave this offseason if he takes an equivalent position at Nebraska. Michigan NFL combine recap. Molk says things, people take offense, Molk seethes, repeat.

Just In Time For The Showcase Showdown

Just In Time For The Showcase Showdown

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

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

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UMHoops/Dustin Johnston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing either one would obviously be a disaster sans Horford.

Elsewhere

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

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

Holdin' the Rope:

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

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

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

Hardaway is interviewed at Grantland:

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

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

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

What kind of trash talk, specifically?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway Hardaway.

Or is that "Hawafty"?

image

Paywall ho!

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.

Vicious Electronic Questioning: Ohio State

Vicious Electronic Questioning: Ohio State

Submitted by Ace on February 16th, 2012 at 1:22 PM

LOUD NOISES

In preparation for Michigan's College Gameday-featured extravaganza against Ohio State on Saturday, I asked Sarah Hardy of Eleven Warriors a handful of questions about the Buckeye hoops squad. For a Buckeye, she provided some very insightful answers, which you can find below. I did a similar Q&A over at 11W; you can check that out here. Thank you to Sarah—who you can follow on Twitter @sarbucks—for taking the time to provide the OSU perspective on the game.

Other than free throw percentage (9th in the Big Ten), the Buckeyes don't appear to have a weakness. OSU's record supports this. Am I missing something?

Jon Diebler. Or, I should say, Ohio State is missing Jon Diebler. With him, this team could easily be undefeated. Instead, there’s no reliable outside shooter, and without that threat, it allows the defense to focus most of their efforts on Sullinger and, to a lesser extent, Buford. By forcing the opponent to account for him at all times, Diebler’s mere presence opened up the floor for his teammates.

Now, Ohio State’s most accurate three-point “specialists” are Sullinger (11/23) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (19/47), neither of whom attempts enough treys to make a significant impact. That really levels the playing field against a team with less talent but one that can score from behind the arc with regularity.

I'd ask about the Michigan State loss, but the Spartans are about as different a team as possible from the Wolverines. Illinois and Indiana did manage to beat Ohio State. What did they do to make that happen?

The Illinois game was one of those situations that OSU falls victim to at least once a season: an opposing player (Brandon Paul in this case) turns into an evil sorcerer for the night, and no matter how closely he is guarded, his black magic will not allow him to miss. 

Still, it was a close match throughout and it ultimately came down to Ohio State’s Achilles’ Heel: three-pointers. They hit just 5/15 from downtown while the Illini were 11/18 (the Dark Lord alone was 8/10). At the end of the game, Paul came through with key shots and no one for the Buckeyes stepped up to do the same.

Against Indiana, they again couldn’t close it out, but the circumstances leading up to those final minutes were different than in the loss to Illinois. Visiting Assembly Hall, where refs must have PTSD from the days of Bobby Knight, Ohio State was getting called for ticky tack fouls that ended up dictating the game. Sullinger and Craft were both in foul trouble early, and in the second half, everyone was too scared to play defense, so they gave up an unusual amount of easy baskets.

Also, the Bucks were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, especially Craft with a career-high six turnovers.

In the first matchup, Michigan effectively limited Jared Sullinger by playing a lot of zone, which is unusual for the Wolverines. Have other teams deployed this strategy with any effectiveness, or do you see that as a one-time occurrence? Do you think Sullinger bounces back in this game?

Against Minnesota on Tuesday night, Tubby Smith switched to the zone after the Buckeyes went on an early 20-0 run. After that, Ohio State finished the first half with 8 points on 2/10 shooting. I checked with one of our lead basketball writers at 11W, Chris Lauderback, and we agreed that the main reason they struggle against the zone is because they start jacking up 3s, often unsuccessfully.

In January when these teams met, the zone helped limit Sullinger to 13 points and 5 rebounds. He was also in foul trouble early, so I have to believe Beilein will employ it again. It’s Michigan’s best bet to counter against someone who presents the kind of matchup problems that Sully does.  

However, if the Minnesota game was any indication, he will play better this time around against the Wolverines. On Tuesday, he notched 23 points and 8 rebounds and even when Andre Hollins tossed an inbounds pass off his crotch, he wasn’t as visibly frustrated as he was versus the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.

I think most Wolverine fans are aware of Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford as being the main stars for OSU. Who else should Michigan watch out for on Saturday?

Lenzelle Smith Jr. came up huge the first time these two teams met (17 points, 12 rebounds). He has that jack-of-all-trades quality that made David Lighty such an invaluable member of the Buckeyes for all his 20 seasons. Like everyone except Sullinger and Craft, Smith is not always consistent, but he will the ability to emerge when his teams needs him.

While Deshaun Thomas is still a gunner, his shot selection is better this season than last, when his sometimes poor decision-making cost him playing time. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, and he’s erratic from behind the arc, but he’s proficient around the basket, grabbing boards and putting back missed shots.

Although Matta has gone with a deeper rotation than in years past, there’s usually not a lot of production from the bench unless the game is a blowout. Lately, freshman Sam Thompson has been the first one off the bench. Similar to almost every other player on the roster, he needs to work on his jump shot, but he’s extremely athletic and can block shots, hit the glass, and throw down glorious dunks. Even other teams’ fans seem to enjoy his gravity-defying moments.

How do you expect the Buckeyes will try to neutralize Michigan's offense, which is mostly predicated on getting to the hoop with screen-and-rolls and creating open three-pointers?

Last week, Mark Titus wrote a Grantland article that discussed how Ohio State’s defensive weakness is defending ball screens. Depending on the opponent, Matta uses a variety of strategies, which sometimes leads to information overload. Then, the defenders become out of sync with one another. In that case, they’re most susceptible to allowing open 3s or easy layups.

Still, Ken Pomeroy ranks them #1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Matta will probably stick with the same strategy he used the first time against UM, when they only put up 49 points. He’s a simple Midwestern man, so for him, if It ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I'll ask the same potentially-blasphemous question you asked me: If you could add one Wolverine to the Buckeye roster, who would it be?

I want to say Trey Burke, just so Michigan wouldn’t have him on the roster for another three years, but I don’t know where he’d play. While Aaron Craft does not have the same offensive production as Burke, I wouldn’t trade him for any other PG in the country. His inimitable defense means that Matta trusts him more than anyone else, so he doesn’t come off the floor much.

Really, what Ohio State needs is someone who is experienced and can make shots from long range. As difficult as this is to admit, and I may be ostracized from the OSU community for doing so, I guess I’d have to go with Zack Novak. He’s a senior utility man connecting on 43.3% of his three-pointers, and he’s stout on the defensive end, too.

Piggybacking off that last answer, do you think Thad Matta made a huge error by not recruiting Trey Burke? Note: Michigan fans will believe this regardless of your answer.

Again, I’d love it if Burke were wearing Scarlet and Gray, if only to keep him away from the Wolverines, but I don’t think Matta had much of a choice in the matter. There are only so many spots on the roster, and Craft, just a sophomore, is a four-year player. Shannon Scott pledged to become a Buckeye early on, and it wasn’t until after when Burke really started making a name for himself.

At this point, it’s hard to compare Scott and Burke because Michigan has asked the latter to do much more, and to his credit, he’s responded. In the offseason, Scott needs to work on his offensive game, and then maybe we’ll see him on the court with Craft more next year.

Even though he decided to play for The Team Up North, an epithet I guess we have readopted, I harbor no ill will toward Burke. He’s a hometown kid who probably would have played for Ohio State in a heartbeat. There was just no room for him.  

Is there really any way you see Ohio State losing this game? What's your prediction, and how do you expect the game to play out?

Especially on the road, Ohio State is hardly infallible. Michigan absolutely has a chance of winning, particularly if they’re hitting their 3s because most likely, Ohio State won’t be able to counter from distance.

At Minnesota, Buford and Sullinger each came up huge, and while I’m not predicting 20+ points from them, I think both will score more than they did last time against the Wolverines. As for UM, I imagine they’ll also be more effective on the offensive side. Someone, probably Hardaway or Novak, will decide to shoot lights out.

Given that Michigan has a perfect home record this season and has played Ohio State tough in recent years in Ann Arbor, I’ll call a close game. A loss is certainly possible, but I already said something complimentary about Novak and I’d have to turn in my Buckeye card if I picked the Wolverines, too: Ohio State 66, Michigan 62

Hoops Picture Pages: Running the Break

Hoops Picture Pages: Running the Break

Submitted by Ace on February 15th, 2012 at 5:19 PM

In his recap of the Illinois game, Brian left a bit of a hint about what I should take a look at when watching film this week:

Michigan got a ton of fast break and secondary transition points; in the second half when Illinois was crashing the boards hard anything that didn't end up getting rebounded by the trees fell to a shorter faster Michigan player and the resulting transition opportunity was often an odd-man break. I'd be interested to see a breakdown of Illinios points off of offensive rebounds versus points in transition when Michigan actually got the board. I'd guess it would be a small advantage to Illinois, but not one that outweighs the benefits of going small to Michigan's halfcourt offense.

You know Brian; he puts the 'b' in subtle. Somehow managing to pick up on this, I took a look through the film at each of Illinois's missed shots, recording the result of the miss (offensive or defensive rebound), points scored off those misses, and how often a Wolverine rebound resulted in a fast or secondary break. Brian's assessment was pretty darn accurate.

Illinois second-chance points: 9
Michigan transition points directly following a defensive rebound: 9

The Illini, like Brian stated, went all-out on the offensive glass, coming up with 14 offensive boards (although two of those were "team rebounds" when Michigan knocked the ball out of bounds). I counted 18 defensive rebounds for the Wolverines—the box score shows one more; I think that came in the waning seconds—and had this breakdown of what they did with them:

Fast break: 4 opportunities, 4 points.
Secondary break: 5 opportunities, 5 points.

Michigan slowed pace and went into their half-court offense on the other nine rebounds; as you can see, half the time they were running after a miss. Here's a closer look at how Michigan pushed the pace off a miss. In this first frame, you see Illinois putting up an outside shot while the Wolverine have four players in good position to get a rebound:

vlcsnap-232100

Illinois ends up with three players either inside or directly next to the paint as Evan Smotrycz grabs the board. Before Smotrycz even hits the ground, everyone but Burke is charging up the court. Burke starts to flash to the middle of the floor in case Smotrycz needs an outlet:

vlcsnap-232306

Smotrycz turns and takes one dribble. This snapshot is taken right before he passes to Novak, whose feet you can see at the very top of the screen. Hardaway is already well down the floor, and Michigan has the numbers to run:

vlcsnap-232476

Novak gets the pass on the wing and heads to the middle of the floor, drawing in the Illini defense. Douglass trails and is wide open as Illinois is late to figure out matchups and making sure that Hardaway—who's behind the defense—is accounted for:

vlcsnap-232667

Douglass gets a wide-open look for three, though his shot draws iron. Still, Michigan is able to create a great look from distance by recognizing Illinois's aggressiveness on the offensive glass and countering. Full video of the play:

Douglass actually ended up with a second open look on the secondary break later in the half. On this particular play Michigan is really able to go full-bore as it's Burke who comes down with the rebound, enabling the other four players to head up the floor without worrying about who's going to handle the ball in the backcourt. Burke drives hard into the paint, catching Illinois off-guard and freeing up Douglass for a shot from the exact same spot as earlier. Unfortunately, he misses again, but it's still a nice play by Burke to create the shot:

In case you're feeling the need to complain about Stu—unwarranted, in my opinion, as he hit two of his other three shots while playing phenomenal defense on Brandon Paul (7 TOs)—here he is taking it coast-to-coast for a layup when he sees an opening in the Illini D:

While Michigan once again was dominated on the glass in their own end, they largely negated this advantage for Illinois by making them pay for crashing the boards. With Ohio State—a team that thoroughly destroyed the Wolverines in the rebounding category in their first matchup—next up on the schedule, Michigan will need to continue exploiting these openings created when the Buckeyes get too aggressive offensively.