Expectations Unlocked

Submitted by Brian on March 19th, 2012 at 11:36 AM

3/16/2012 – Michigan 60, OHIO(!!!) 65 – 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten, end of season


I'm about to paint with the kind of broad brush that had a couple people call me kinda racist after I asserted that Illinois DT Corey Liuget and I probably didn't have a lot of common life experiences, but here goes anyway.

A guy on the internet asserted that there seemed to be a big gap between serious Michigan hockey fans and the rest of the Michigan fanbase in their reactions to Michigan's frustrating loss to OHIO(!!!) on Friday, and man do I see that. I did the usual kick-the-cat, drink-the-whiskey thing in the immediate aftermath, but then it was just… fine. It sucks for the guys, especially Zack and Stu, but they don't put up banners for getting to the Sweet 16. They do for winning the league, and Michigan did that.

The disappointment from the tournament is real, and I feel what Dylan evidently did after taking that punch in person…

In the present, the retrospection and drooling about the future can wait. This one hurts and there’s no sugarcoating it.

…it's just not viscerally there for me. The guys leaving brought Michigan from a program that hadn't been to the tournament since my dad was wearing his preposterous multicolor neon ski jacket to one that had been there three of four years, from a program that hadn't won the league since Joe Paterno was only kind of old to a sleeping giant with the alarm blaring in its ear. Their story is not Brandon Graham's. Their story isn't even Mike Martin's or Ryan Van Bergen's. It's better.

So, yeah, it's a downer. But if you've been trained in the fu of an April gut punch as well as Michigan hockey fans have, it ranks below… almost everything. Certainly the Nickelback goals and the Air Force horror and the black, burnt grass of an OT loss in the championship game. The hockey team is rarely facing a wall of doom in the bracket that promises to end things well short of the ultimate goal.

The loss doesn't erase the previous 34 games, or the previous hundred and change that saw Douglass set a record for the most games played in a career and Novak near it. The story of the outgoing guys is one of construction and triumph in the face of doubt. DJ Cooper going ham doesn't change that. Novak and Douglass have the luxury of exceeding all expectations, still and always.


As for the game itself, Michigan was never a team that could go into an opening-round game with the outright expectation of victory. Kenpom had 'em by five and then the Bobcats and Michigan combined to do this:

The statistical outliers are what truly decide any game. DJ Cooper, a 31% three point shooter, hitting three-of-six NBA range triples. Or TJ Hall, a 27% three point shooter, knocking down a critical second half three, his only shot of the game. Add in Michigan, the ninth best two point shooting team in the country, missing nearly a dozen layups and Ohio, a 68% free throw shooting team, hitting 15-of-17 freebies.

Don't forget Ivo Baltic canning two or three fadeaway 15-footers with Novak's hand in his face. Yeesh. There is your ten-point swing.

There are teams featuring very long forwards and centers who can rely on their arms to dissuade opponents from that ability, teams that get second chances on a ton of missed shots, teams that are just so much of one thing or the other that an OHIO(!!!) can't hang with them unless the probabilities swing two or three standard deviations against them. Michigan was never that team.

They were the best mid-major in the country, per Mark Titus, and when the other team was chuckin' it real good there was always the chance this happened. It did, and if we're executing Real Talk neither Michigan getting hammered by OSU in the Big Ten tourney nor the early NCAA exit was unpredictable given the nature of the season. Evan Smotrycz was the second-most-credible post player on the team for the entire Big Ten season. Tim Hardaway Jr. took more threes than anyone else on the team by a good margin and hit 28% of them. I mean, come on.

I tried to warn us. We didn't listen!

None of that changes the narratives of the seniors or the trajectory of the program. Michigan just graduated two universally-beloved program builders and going-pro-in-something-other-than-sports icons who will get a banner sometime next fall. They welcome three top recruits and get a couple of guys off redshirts; collectively they should transform the program from scrappy overachieving underdogs to a full-on Big Ten power program.

After the cat was kicked and the whiskey consumed, it's hard to find something to brood on. If Beilein wasn't about to give his team an extreme talent makeover, we could complain about an artificially low ceiling. If Michigan hadn't broken its Big Ten title drought we could complain about our beloved program builders leaving without anything to mark their passage.

Neither of these things are true, so it seems the thing to do is salute the departed and look to the very near future. Godspeed, men taken from Valpo and Harvard. The last word goes to Novak:

"…coming in, personally, I was the fat kid from Indiana.

"And (we were) able to make three NCAA Tournaments, win the Big Ten in a year when it was the best conference in the country and win a lot of games. You have to keep things in perspective."


The downer bit. I did find it very frustrating that Michigan never switched to a zone for extended periods of time. Michigan's initial forays into zone did give up open looks from three, but given Michigan's crap defense all night it seemed like it couldn't be worse than the man to man. Whereas most of Michigan's shortcomings seemed to be necessary adaptations to their limitations, the man-to-man insistence was one of those things that makes you wonder long-term.

Only slightly, though. Beilein has dumped his 1-3-1 already and adopted a bunch of ball screen sets. He's not exactly a stick in the mud. It was just a little surprising to see Michigan get cut up like that without a response.

It is possible that the coaches thought they were fine if they would just rotate better. Novak got caught in the paint time and again when he was one pass from the ballhandler and seemed to be a major reason OHIO(!!!) found itself with open looks from three.

Other downer. Michigan was down three late for about three straight possessions and the offensive devolved into… actually, this may be my memory playing tricks on me. The late-clock offense did feature Burke twice pulling up from three when a big switched onto him, but it also got Novak a corner three and Smotrycz yet another layup Michigan somehow did not convert

Burke finished the year shooting 35% from three and those were pretty easy to get. That might be the play given that you're down three.

Final numbers. A shooting profile of Michigan's returning contributors:

  • Burke: 75% from the line, 49% from 2, 35% from three.
  • Hardaway: 72%, 54%, 28%
  • Smotrycz: 78%, 53%, 44%
  • Morgan: 51%, 62%, N/A

Novak was the most efficient guy on the team, hitting 86/56/41 and having the lowest turnover rate but he and Douglass were also in the "limited roles" category on Kenpom. Michigan isn't replacing guys who did the heavy lifting on offense. To maintain their offensive efficiency they'll only have to get few extra shots generated by Burke, Stauskas, Hardaway, et al.

Returns. Speaking of "returning contributors," Burke and Hardaway said they'd be back in the aftermath:

"No, I'm coming back next year," the [Hardaway] said after Michigan's 65-60 NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Ohio on Friday. "I'm coming back."

Burke, who earned the co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year award this season and finished the year as the team's leading scorer, was right in step with his teammate.

"I'm definitely coming back," he said. "I'm just going to learn from this loss and get ready for next season."

Those are emotional postgame sentiments that may or may not hold up over time. Still, Hardaway is not much of a threat to leave after struggling with his shot most of the season and Burke probably has to be an All-American sort to get a lock first-round grade at his height. It doesn't seem likely either will change his mind, especially with the lockout backlog clearing up.

IT'S NOT MAGIC IT'S CHANCEArglebargle argle:

Late-game magic escapes when it matters most

Glarb glarb glarb.

Are we really talking about this? Yeah, Smotrycz turned the ball over when Michigan put him in a crappy situation with seven seconds left. He'd also put up 15 points on seven shots before that. We really need Daily article and message board threads defending the kid because e-loons are on his jock? Sometimes I hate people. Sometimes is almost all the time.

Butthurt. One thing this has really driven home is how amazingly butthurt OSU fans are about Brady Hoke calling them Ohio. It drives them nuts. Their reaction to this whole upset was as if it was some kind of vindication.

And yet they use "TSUN" constantly without recognizing the irony. Even operating under the assumption that many OSU fans are only technically human, that's surprisingly dumb.

Suddenly next year


Stauskas, Robinson III, McGary

As this season wraps up, eyes turn towards next year. Michigan loses Stu Douglass and Zack Novak; they bring in freshmen Mitch McGary, Nick Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III. They also get bigs Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford off of redshirts.

Though Novak was regarded as more integral to the team his absence is going to be easier to cope with. His minutes at the 3 and 4 will be fiercely contested by four or five players. Douglass's role as the go-to perimeter defender and secondary ballhandler… um. Michigan's best bets are Stauskas's nasty crossover immediately translating to the college level or a leap forward from Carlton Brundidge. Both are possible. Neither seems especially likely. If Michigan ends up with an unexpected scholarship dollars to donuts they scour for a backup at the one, whether it's the Italian kid with the 'fro or a grad-year transfer. If it's a grad-year guy, Beilein might sidle up to Max "My Name Is On Several Buildings At Illinois" Bielfeldt and delicately broach the idea he could pay tuition next year.

If that doesn't happen, one man's minute breakdown next year:

  • Point guard: Burke 35, Brundidge 5.
  • Shooting guard: Stauskas 25, Vogrich 15
  • Small forward: Hardaway 30, GRIII 10
  • Power forward: Smotrycz 20, GRIII 15, Bielfeldt 5
  • Center: McGary 15, Morgan 15, Horford 10

Center is up in the air. McGary could come in and establish himself as a 30 minute guy, in which case I'd bet that sucks up most of Horford's minutes. Christian and McLimans probably won't see the light of day.

That's an 8-9 man rotation with spot minutes from a couple other guys—Michigan's bench minutes should reach the middle of the pack.


Michigan is suddenly huge. If Michigan actually sees the playing-time breakdown above, Michigan's average minute will go to a guy just under 6'6". (Assumptions: Stauskas and GRIII are listed at 6'6", McGary 6'10".) That's a five and a half-inch(!) difference from this year's roster, and that could be a conservative estimate. McGary and Smotrycz may see more time than estimated but probably not less; rosters do things like list Douglass at 6'3" and Burke at 6'1". With that conversion rate, guesses at 6'10" for McGary and 6'6" for GRIII may be an inch or so short.

That will take Michigan's effective height from –1.1 inches, good for a mid-major-ish 250th, to +4.4, which should be top ten nationally. That is whiplash-inducing. It's also pretty good company. Three of the four one seeds (all but MSU) are in the top 12 along with a two (Duke), a couple of threes (Baylor, FSU) and a four (Indiana). And… uh… Illinois.

Even if it's not a guarantee, height is strongly correlated with both offensive and defensive efficiency. This year's Michigan was about the third-best team you could put together with two guys over 6'5". That ceiling—one so harshly experienced by fellow first round upset victim Missouri—is about to lift.

Michigan's suddenly deep at places that aren't point guard. Assuming one of Robinson or Hardaway can handle some minutes at the two, they'll have two reasonable bench options for every spot on the floor except point guard. When Hardaway is broken, Michigan can put him on the bench. When he's hot they can ride him. They can effectively threaten playing time in a way that they could not last year.

Someone's going to lose out at center. The above minute breakdown at the 5 may be realistic over the course of the season, but when it comes down to crunch time they'll probably go with two guys unless severe foul trouble intervenes. That guess seems like the weakest above.


Can anyone spot Burke? Everyone on the roster has a reasonable backup or two except Burke, whose only support is a seldom-used guy who came in as a shooting guard who can't really shoot. It was a very bad sign for Brundidge when Eso Akunne was drafted to take over point guard opportunities early this year.

I know there's a lot of time for the guy to develop but I'm not seeing it. Maybe there's a system in which a 6-foot guy who could get to the basket in high school but doesn't seem to have the handle to do it in college could be effective, but it's not this one. Add in a scary asthma incident that kept him out of a few practices and prevented him from traveling to Michigan State and his prospects of serious playing time get slimmer still.

Should we play a ton more zone? Length is commonly associated with being good at playing zone. Michigan will have lots of it next year.

Also, a quick survey of the backcourt options reveals nothing even resembling a shut-down on-ball defender unless we want to hand that job to Burke. Since Burke is going to be heavily relied on to run the offense, I'd rather not do that. Other options are Stauskas, Vogrich, and Hardaway. None of them figure to be even above-average, let alone shut-down. While Michigan figures to have a lot more shotblocking next year to cover up for that deficiency, consistently allowing penetration is a recipe for open shots and bad defense.

So… zone, whether it's a 2-3 or a resurgence of the 1-3-1, seems like something Michigan might look at. The argument against it is that you should focus on your existing system and get better at it; the football team has amply demonstrated that changing your D every year is not a recipie for great success.

Can Bielfeldt play? The plan at the beginning of the year was to redshirt and Michigan stuck with that even when Horford went down. This would be ominous except Bielfeldt had some tendinitis issues that sounded relatively severe. Also, big men develop slowly and unpredictably and getting a fifth year out of them is often a much better idea than flinging spare minutes at them when they're an overwhelmed freshman.

Bielfeldt is a wide guy with a good jumper who Beilein says is a "tremendous" rebounder and good in short spaces. This is him:

“Long and bouncy, Max is not,’’ Mathews said. “But in the right program, he could be ultra productive. Because good big men are hard to come by.

“He’s a throwback. He’s gonna bang. He’s gonna be physical. He’s gonna draw contact. He’s gonna set a hard pick. He’s gonna pop and hit an open jumper. He’s gonna be able to guard their 4, their big who is posting up back to the basket. He can get in there and guard that guy. Sometimes, 6-10, long and bouncy doesn’t guard those big, husky bodies inside.

“But Max can do that.’’

I'm not exactly sure where he fits. He's probably not big enough to play as a 5 in college and if he doesn't have a three-pointer it's going to be tough for him to contribute enough on offense to supplant Smotrycz or Robinson.

Hardaway: the usual? Please bounce back please bounce back please bounce back.

Is Nick Stauskas finally the ludicrous 45% three point shooter Beilein has been craving forever? Would it be nice, yes? I speak like Russian contemplating this. Da.


UMHoops recap. M&GB says things. More Key Plays from UMHoopsBaumgardner:

Almost 10 minutes after their final games in a Michigan basketball uniform, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass emerged from the Wolverine locker room one last time — and neither one of them quite knew what to do.

Douglass, eyes puffy and red from the tears that welled inside them moments earlier, and Novak, wearing an emblematic bruise on his cheek and bump across the bridge of his nose, walked a lonely hallway inside the bowels of Bridgestone Arena to meet with the media one final time.

"I don't know," Douglass said in a somber tone. "I just didn't think this would happen today."

With that, Novak and Douglass were gone.

John Niyo:

It was the end of an era of low expectations for the Wolverines. And that's the kind of ending so many Michigan fans have been anxiously waiting for, isn't it?

Five years after John Beilein arrived to begin another tedious rebuilding effort in Ann Arbor, it's safe to say, as departing senior Zack Novak did following Friday's loss, "The foundation is set in place."

From the new-and-improved basketball facilities on campus to the stable coaching situation to a more-energized fan base, that's hard to argue now, even in a cramped postgame locker room choked with disappointment.


Postgame transcript.


Bando Calrissian

March 19th, 2012 at 12:09 PM ^

Brian, you hit it right on the head as for where I was at with all of this.  About 5 minutes after the game ended, I was sitting on the couch next to a stack of empty bottles, and I realized this wasn't that big of a deal.  A big deal is watching Billy Sauer get spooked by a press conference in Denver, then give up like 7 goals the next day.  A big deal is Al Montoya blowing a 3-goal 3rd period lead.  

My formative years as a Michigan hockey fan were the golden era of 94-97, watching some ridiculous teams both taste greatness, and get dongpunched.  I like to think this really helps keep it in perspective.  Because a loss to an Ohio team that couldn't miss, well, that's nothing like watching a young Marty Turco come tantilizingly close to gutting a team to a double-OT win in the Frozen Four against Maine.

As for basketball, this is a program for which I'm still conditioning myself to think big.  As a proud alum of Brian Ellerbe basketball camp (twice!), and a 5-year student season ticket holder with zero NCAA tournament appearances to show for it, I'm just happy they're in the bracket.  What happens thereafter, well, is gravy.  They're building, there's clear progress being made, and I'm just glad to be along for the ride.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:07 PM ^

I'm feeling the same way. Movie scripts and reality are very different things, but dying because of a weakness that's the last thing to get fixed kind of feels like that failure after the montage that sets up the more rewarding crescendo.

I'm still so happy to be past the dark point and the montage that a fall in action is just the calm before the storm. Not that this has prevented all the Spartans from trying to troll for 1st round upset schadenfreude by texting that pic of Sparty getting blown by a girl with our 'M' badly photoshopped on her back.

I'm serene; Sparties gonna Spart. I just wish I had a better comeback to this than homophobic/roid-suggestive remarks about their mascot.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

We got a hint that the NCAA tourney was going to be tough when a motivated Minnesota team pretty much blanked Novak and Douglass.  Those guys overachieved during the regular season.  They hit big shots against MSU/OSU at home.  Without them there is no Big10 cochampionship.  However, when you get to a one and done and everyone is bringing their A game, they were outmatched atheltically.  I was really shocked when the Big Men on a MAC team were physcially quicker than them.  The author of this article and others has done a nice job pointing out how because of Novak and Douglass this team achieved far more then we could ever expect.  The foundation has been set for bigger things.  Without Novak and Douglass it might not have happened.  We should remember them if a couple years from now UM is making a final four run.

MI Expat NY

March 19th, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

I think you're too rigid in your position breakdown for next year's minutes. My predictions: Burke is the only one with a dedicated position.  I imagine Hardaway, Stauskas, and Robinson will get almost all of the minutes at 2 and 3.  Vogrich will get some run if/when we suffer foul trouble.  McGary, Morgan, Smot and Horford will provide a 4-man rotation at 4 and 5.  

The keys for next season are, in descending order, Smot improving physically giving us a big that can shoot effectively; Stauskas being a legit SG immediately; and Brundidge becoming a reasonable back-up at PG.  

I also think that we go with a bigger line-up and play a lot more zone next year.  We don't have great defenders at any position and now we have the length to make teams uncomfortable by playing zone.  

Finally, if we do see some smaller line-ups next year, I wouldn't be shocked to see Morgan as the one losing out on minutes.  I would think we'd see a smaller line-up only if the coaching staff thinks that Smot is the only big that gives us what we need at 4, bumping either Hardaway or Robinson (likely Robinson) to the 4 when Smot needs a breather or is in foul trouble.  I think Morgan may have plateaued as a player and doesn't bring as much to the table, potentially, as a highly skilled McGary or an improving Horford.  

MI Expat NY

March 19th, 2012 at 1:01 PM ^

I'm not taking anything away from him.  He's been our best big man for two seasons, and he would have been even if Horford was healthy.  He'll always have that and it's worth somethign.  But, he also is a limited player.  While he's a fairly solid post defender, he's not an intimidating presence as a shot blocker, nor is he an outstanding rebounder.  Offensively he is great at setting the ball screen and rolling to the basket.  But, that is less effective with Burke than Morris, and Morgan lacks the ability to vary the approach by setting up a mid-range jumper.  He also has a very limited collection of post moves.  

I see him only losing minutes if Horford and McGary live up to potential, and even if they do, I still think there is a roll for Morgan.  Like I said, I see a four man rotation for the 4 and the 5.  The other three guys are going to be guys who have either proven to be very foul prone or a freshman.  He's going to play.  All I'm saying is that if there is one guy in that group who eventually sees a diminished role next season, it wouldn't shock me to see it be Morgan.

MI Expat NY

March 19th, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^

I don't think that lineup is possible.  Smot doesn't have the footspeed to guard opposing small forwards/wings, nor does he have the strength and post moves to take advantage of his size advantage on the offensive end.  I hope and expect him to improve both areas, but not enough to play the 3.  


March 19th, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

Position-rigidity is a distracting non-issue, far too prevelant both basketball and football discussions.

Robinson to the 2/3 is a good call, as he should have the requisite athleticism defensively to handle guards.  I don't think he'll play much 4.  Although he could, he'll be needed too much at 2/3.

Stauskas will probably be Burke's primary backup if he transitions reasonably well to college - he should.

Vogrich, despite his limitations, should play a bigger role next year. This team will be a little thin on shooters and Bielien values floor-spacers even more than most coaches.  He'll be out there frequently when Hardaway or Smotrycz are out.   But in general, expect more alley-oops of screens than open-3s off screens, compared to the past.

As for the front-court - I think Morgan/Smotrycz are a good pairing, along with Robinson, as starters.  Robinson can make up for some of Smotrycz's defensive liabilities (as Novak did).  McGary and Horford can come off the bench and play together, as long as the guys around them can shoot (i.e. Vogrich).  Furthermore, both those guys have the potential to be decent mid-range jump shooters.

My guess:

  • PG: Burke 35, Stauskas 5
  • Wing Player A: Hardaway 30, Stauskas 10
  • Wing Player B: GRIII 25, Vogrich 15 
  • PF: Smotrycz 20, McGary 20
  • C:  Morgan 20, McGary 5, Horford 15

I'd be surprised if Bundridge, Biefeldt, Mclimans, Christian played significant roles, though Bundridge will be given every chance.




March 19th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

I don't think Robinson can be a secondary ball-handler. I think Hardaway will have to adapt to do more of it w/o Douglass around.  I'm not optimistic about Brundidge having the skill-level (like Brian said).  Stauskas' ability to handle that role is undetermined, though many are quite optimistic.

While some teams will pressure Burke hard, others will play straight man.  If/when teams trap Burke then maybe Robinson/Vogrich get marginalized in favor of Stauskas/Brundidge, but until then - I think Bielien will try to let the most talented players play. 

I think your point about ball-handling is legit, but overstated given the situation.  There simply aren't many options here - it's an incoming freshman shooting guard or ... something very non-optimal.  Furthermore, while Stu did handle the ball a good bit this year, he vastly improved his ball handling from last year, when Morris shouldered even more responsibility than Burke did this year.  We'll survive, just as we did then, as long as the PG is healthy.  Turnovers may be up as people like Hardaway, Robinson, Smotrycz, and Vogrich try to create, but they're not toally incompetant either.

I suspect that Bielien is going to sacrifice some offensive efficiencies for defense this season - particularly with a ball-dominating talent like Burke and a scorer like Hardaway playing most of the game. 



MI Expat NY

March 19th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

If it makes you feel better, continue to think of him as a SF.  But he's 6-5/6-6 with athleticism and every highlight reel/scouting video I've seen of him shows a guy who's more comfortable on the perimeter.  Add a consistent outside shot, something he hopefully develops, and that's your prototypical big time wing player.  

He's more of a slasher than a shooter, and yes, he probably won't handle too much secondary ball-handling, but really that just makes him a different type of wing, not necessarily someone that's locked into being a small forward.    


March 19th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

I have mixed feelings.  Certainly, a year ago (after Morris went pro) my expectations weren't high.  Even in midseason this year I thought we were a year away.  I never seriously thought we could win a share of the league title (even when I posted about possible scenarios that would give us a share, I didn't expect it to happen).  So that was an incredible bonus and the thought that a 2012 banner is going up is awesome.  This year will always be positively remembered for that.

At the same time, I feel bad for the seniors, that they made the tourney three times but never tasted the second weekend.  I realize that this is still infinitely better than how Horton et al. went out (not to mention Blanchard and the other Ellerbe-era recruits), but after we came so close to the Sweet 16 last year it's tough to go out in the first round now.   If Morris had stayed, or even if Horford had just stayed healthy, maybe our tourney performance would have been better.  Oh well.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

I suppose "Ohio" and "TSUN" can be grandfathered in, but the rest of the silly nicknames can just go (scUM, O$U, and yes, even Akron State Bobcats).

And also this...

"Clever nicknames will be kept to a minimum. I'll use something sporadically but I will not go into full TMQ mode. Cute nicknames just get annoying after a while. "

Section 1

March 19th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

Good thoughts, there, Blue Zoo.

Grandfathering in "TSUN" is easily understandable; it was one of the more endearing features of Coach Hayes.

And Reader71, who probably doesn't care much for me, suggests (with some credibility, I am quite certain), that "Ohio" is wordplay that goes back, perhaps a bit unconsciously, to Bo Schembechler and his fellow OSU coaching alums.

There is a story here, I suspect, and it is one that once again our local media has simply butchered.  The common meme is that "Ohio" is a creation of Brady Hoke, that it is his own littel fetish, like not wearing red or something like that.  Hoke, for reasons I might not understand, seems to be letting that media meme drift along.

Is there another, better story?  Is it simply a naming convention that Bo and Gary Moeller used, merely because a lot of Ohio State guys of their vintage had long referred to the school and the football program in Columbus as "Ohio"?  Not as trashtalk, but quite to the contrary because they did so when they were playing and coaching there? 

Consistent with what Reader71 suggested, I have a vague recollection of casual comments by Bo referring to "Ohio."  Casually, not as a pointed, repetitive, intended figure of speech.  I've had casual conversations with Gary Moeller (not Bo) who has referred to "Ohio" in that context; conversations which predated Brady Hoke's arrival as head football coach.  Assuredly, both Bo and Gary Moeller also referred to "Ohio State" without obsessing about any naming games.

So really, it may be that Brady Hoke is getting too much blame and/or too much credit for "Ohio."  It would not surprise me if it wasn't really Hoke's idea, but that his usage of the term dates back to Bo and the rest of the guys who were used to looking up at the scoreboards in Ohio Stadium and seeing "OHIO."  And pretty naturally referred to OSU as "Ohio," without any intended slight.  Just a bit of an inside joke, that has been turned in the internet age into a cause celebre.

This one is worth looking into a bit more.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

I suspect Stauskas or Robinson will backup Burke. From the film I've seen, they will immediately be our 2nd and 3rd best ballhandlers. That will be OK for 5-8 minutes a game, but if Burke gets injured, we're in big trouble.

Sons of Louis Elbel

March 19th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

Well put. Now when the hockey team loses on some ridiculous call, or b/c we have to play the late game on Friday or whatever, that'll hurt.

But I look forward to seeing Stu and Novak in the MGoHOF, where they will of course tower over Hunwick.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

When you go from steaming pile of hot garbage to a NCAA tourney team 3 out of 4 years, expectations rise.  Some might even call it being spoiled.  But I admit to being angry with some of our player's effort Friday. 

All year long we were outsized and out manned, but rarely out-fought.  It's my contention that we "shot our wad" after claiming a share of the title.  The title was the team's goal all season long.  And finally, after 10 years of living in the long shadows of CWebb, Traylor, and the rest of Ed Martin's posse, we rose to the pinnacle of the conference.  A lot of energy went into achieving that goal and I believe it drained our tank.

Despite that, I don't think it's a legitimate excuse for what I perceived to be some pretty crappy effort on defense Friday.  IMO, offense is mostly talent but DEFENSE is mostly desire and heart.  I felt we lacked that in the BTT and on Friday.  A player can be productive on O yet still be a liablility on the floor.  There are two ends of the court, with defense being the most critical.  As I tell the kids I coach, "if they don't score, they CAN'T win.  Shut 'em down"



March 19th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

...or we may be talking past each other.  I thought in the first half that they looked really uncomfortable.  Throughout the game they didn't know what to do with Cooper, who was unlike any player they'd played all year in terms of his combination of quickness and height...Anyway, I saw it has a mindset problem and not an effort problem.


March 19th, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

that it wasn't a matter of being tight or nervous, but that they were just keeping their cool while Ohio came out really jacked. For the first 12 or so minutes of the game, it felt to me like one of those games where an overmatched team comes out, fights crazy hard, and is able to hang around for a bit, but the more talented team just keeps its cool and weathers the storm, and eventually wins. Maybe I'm just projecting my own feelings on the team, but it seemed to me like they expected Ohio to come out fired up, and that they were trying to stay calm and ride it out. Somewhere around the 12 minute mark, it became apparent that keeping their cool was a bad idea. And I think this is something that probably doesn't work as well in basketball as it does in football, because in hoops, shooters get hot, and once they get hot, all the defense in the world isn't going to stop that crazy off-balance heave from going in. I feel like that was what happened against Ohio: while our guys were keeping their cool and weathering Ohio's initial run, Ohio got hot, and didn't start cooling down again until there were 5 minutes left in the game, at which point it was too late.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

I'm actually surprised by Brian's reaction and some of yours. But I don't think it has anything to do with being a M hockey fan. For me, this years mbb team overachieved, but losing in the first round still hurt quite a bit. I thought after a first round win everything else was icing on the cake. I didn't expect a loss. And the program has come far enough to expect a win there. I knew the game would be close because the team was not dominant by any means and won several close games. But it still sucks pretty bad to lose in the first round after such a promising season.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

I don't think anyone expected a loss. But it's been pretty clear all season that this was a flawed team that overachieved, so it wasn't exactly shocking when all of those flaws were exposed on the big stage. It also helped to see other teams with even higher expectations get truly shocked on the same day, and that the team had already overachieved to a totally unexpected banner this season. It sucks, but the season was still very successful in spite of it.


March 19th, 2012 at 2:33 PM ^

It sounds like Brian detects a divide depending upon what teams you've been wounded following. I'm a long-time hockey fan and I pretty much see eye-to-eye with Brian. The feeling I had watching Ohio eke the game out over USF was not at all the same as watching Minnesota dismember UNH in the title game in Buffalo in '03 and thinking, over and over, "That should have been us."


March 19th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

...by Alabama, but he proposes something that seems closely similar in his own article...


'If it's a grad-year guy, Beilein might sidle up to Max "My Name Is On Several Buildings At Illinois" Bielfeldt and delicately broach the idea he could pay tuition next year.'

...Hypocrite? I think so


March 19th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

The season is a gauntlet.  The tournament is a roulette wheel to some extent.  Michigan couldn't hit on a number to save their lives on Friday, but they made it through the regular season gauntlet by taking blow after blow and staying up.  This team was never going to win the national championship, but it hurt like hell to lose to Ohio (man did that suck).  None-the-less, this team and these seniors have so much to be proud of.  This team will always belong in a special place among Michigan teams, IMO.  A Big Ten regular season championship says a lot more about you then getting hot or cold for a few games in March does...end of rant-ish-type thing. 

On a totally different note:  I wouldn't write off Colton Christian.  Michigan is going to badly need defense next year, I think, and he can come in and give somebody some trouble for a few minutes. 

Hardware Sushi

March 19th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

Great writeup.

I'm 26; I was born in 85. I've never followed the NBA and really never followed Michigan basketball until I was a freshman. I remember showing up to Crisler 15 minutes before a game and getting a front row seat in the "Maize Rage" (it deserved quotes back then) right behind the visiting bench. Being on the receiving end of a tournament upset hadn't crossed my mind until late in this season. Frankly, I didn't know how I should feel.

What I've distilled over the past few days is Meh. I was pissed for about 5 minutes. How do we lose to a 13 seed? That can't happen to MY 4 seed. I had to take shit from the MSU fan sitting across the bar while I wear my maize and blue shirt/hat like a dickhead.

But Missouri lost before we did; then Duke lost like 45 minutes later. That took away some of the sting. Then my friend reminds me about how we're still Big Ten champs. And we have a great recruiting class. And next year is supposed to be The Beginning.

So yeah - it sucks - but I don't think this is the time for breaking things and being upset. Good season, disappointing ending, get 'em next year, thanks and good luck to Novak and Douglass. That's my synopsis.


March 19th, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

Great teams get upset in the tournament every year. We weren't a great team; I'm incredibly proud of this team regardless. My proudest moment as an athlete was a championship loss to prevent my squad from going to nationals. We lost two demoralizing games in a row but that team had no business being in a position to over-achieve. Those kids [Novak, Stu, et al] killed themselves for each other and represented Michigan with class and dignity. I don't think you can ask for anything more.


March 19th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

Brian you could not have been any more spot on with the Michigan Hockey fans comment. And the thing is, I didn't even realize it until you brought it up.

From the Billy Sauer meltdown to the NoDak beatdowns to the Air Force goalie going ham to sitting 3rd row in Xcel last year and watching Louie and Carl with a 2-on-1 in the waning minutes of the game only to lose in OT in the national championship...ugh.

Nothing has hurt me like hockey does.

And so when the dust settled after the basketball game on Friday, I simply threw my hands in the air and accepted the fact that in sinlge elimination tournaments sometimes shit happens. Sure it sucks, but like you said it does nothing to diminish the regular season and what these guys did.

I would under no circumstances trade our Big Ten title for wins over Ohio and USF. Maybe not even over beating UNC, although I doubt that ever could have happened. Making a tourney run is great and at the end of the day it is what college basketball is all about.

But for this team and these seniors, a conference title has to mean so much. And our time to run the show in the tournament is still to come.