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A Thought No “Michigan Man” Wants To Contemplate Today

SO MUCH has been invested in the narrative that Jim Harbaugh is inevitably going to take Michigan to the football promised land, where Big Ten titles and playoff appearances are common place. Included as part of that narrative is the expectation that he’ll bring Michigan to at least parity with Ohio State and that MSU will be reduced to an afterthought.

What if it doesn’t happen, though? What if after all the investment of energy and hope and want-to, Michigan can’t get over the hump? There’s a school of thought that this is somehow the end for Michigan State, that this past weekend was the last time they’ll ever go into a game against a Harbaugh led Michigan team with a talent advantage. Based on the facts, though, why should anyone believe that some massive sea change is coming? Michigan State continues to recruit at its highest level in decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Mark Dantonio’s not going anywhere and it would seem to be unlikely that he suddenly loses his ability to both identify and develop talent. With Ohio State, you’re talking about a virtual guarantee of highly talented rosters and another head coach who’s shown an unquestioned ability to develop that talent over time.

Can Michigan get better? Of course, and I think they will. Thing is, that doesn’t mean the end result necessarily changes as a bottom line, even if the games are more competitive. What if Harbaugh’s Michigan is just a good program which only occasionally proves capable of winning a division, never mind all the rest? What if, God forbid, he can’t even pull THAT off? What then for the psyche of the Worst Fanbase In America?

Nothing’s guaranteed in life. This is particularly so when the competition is fierce and the other guys can match you on every level that matters. What happens to Michigan Man then, when his messiah proves false? Can Michigan Man keep on living? Does he have to give up watching sport entirely, as so many of them wailed on Saturday night? I don’t think those folks want to think very deeply about questions like these but they should.

The Change in the Game

Today’s game, which, dominated by rules changes, requires, according to statistical analysis (e.g., analytics), to optimize three-point gains. Now, there are two ways to do so: drive the basket or shoot the three, or both.

In the title game, Duke drove and scored from the free throw line. Wisky could not drive much, so they, unsuccessfully, resorted to threes. Their threes were often not the result of a collapsing defense, and the nation’s best offense became mediocre.

After the game, Coach K said he credited Grayson Allen for his drives. He then said “We just ran high screens for Tyus Jones and let him do his stuff.”  After the MSU game, Coach Izzo said they cannot play defense anymore the way they used to, so he was going to find some players who can just drive the ball. Both of these coaches are “abandoning” their old styles.

The premier analytic optimizing team in the pros is Houston. Golden State deserves mentions. Both are built for a new offense (and Golden State has optimized defensive strategies to counter analytics: bigs to clog and block). I think as follows:

  1. Houston: The NBA’s version of isolation and drive/kick still working. I’m not saying this can’t work, but it is really only effective if you have a MVP level candidate like James Harden. Of course, someone that talented could operate in any kind of offense. I’m not Triangle expert, but Phil Jackson made a career out of spacing everyone out (according to his principles) and isolating the best offensive talent in the game. First with Jordan; then with Kobe. It was a natural mismatch every time that forced the D to adjust.

Again, if you have a top 3 talented guard, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. It’s not the way the game is going. That’s always been an option if you have the talent.

It doesn’t make it optimal, either. See the Knicks, Charlotte, Indy last year when Stephenson was the lead guard in some rotations, and a half-dozen other flailing teams still running isolation stuff.

  1. Golden State: They are the best example of Iso – sets vs. San Antonio-style modified motion-principals stuff in the NBA today. Switching from Mark Jackson’s slower iso half court offense to Kerr’s faster and more dynamic offense has transformed them from a middling offensive team into a great one. They’re still excellent at defense. They’ve done that by giving players proper roles and creating better shots for their best shooters. Their points at the rim are up, too. Their passes per possession are waaaayy up. They still ball-screen. Curry is too good not, too. If the defense shifts to stop him, they get a lot of action by dumping the ball and then reversing for a shot. They get a lot of secondary action with off-the ball screening.
  2. San Antonio and Atlanta. Lots of ball screens for Parker/Teague to shift the defense and then move the ball around to guys who are spaced well. Also, lots of off the ball screening to get a shooter (Korver, specifically) open or let a big slip when the D over-commits.
  3. Memphis. Proving that match-ups can win games. In an era when a lot of teams are going smaller, they are making teams pay with two punishing low post players and solid defense. They don’t shoot 3’s particularly well. Again, take Harden, Westbrook, Lebron…run whatever offense you want. It will have some measure of success. How do you get more offense with less talented players should be the question? Shifting to college…
  4. Colleges don’t run the more complicated stuff above, because the players aren’t talented enough. The high ball screen is used in college to often by poor teams only to free some space for so the guard can create for himself. It’s beyond ugly. There is a dearth in talent in  today’s college game. There’s also a lack of coaching talent. That is why scores are down. It’s probably not much coincidence that last night’s title game featured the two best offensive bigs in the game.
  5. Coach K has altered his style of play. He’s dumbed it down (Bilas used “simplified”, but you get the gist..). He’s done so he can get more talent and get more out of them as freshman. The one-and-done era has shifted college ball. If you want to get talented freshman on the floor for the athletic advantage, you have to simplify. I love Coach K, partly because he is always adapting–unlike his mentor.
  6. So for IU… should they run a simple, iso-oriented drive and kick? Yes, if you believe they can out recruit the Dukes, UK’s and UNC’s of the collegiate world. I believe IU’s competitive advantages are elsewhere. IU has a natural advantage in picking enough talent to compete with the elite, but IU will never win the talent aggregation race. IU must continue to recruit talented and smart players who are likely to stick around for a 2+ years (Zeller, Yogi, Blackmon, etc..). Then IU must out execute the other team, both offensively and defensively.

If you want to run a system that begins with a high ball screen, that is fine. But it can’t consist of the guard either driving or shooting a 3. It has to go beyond that. The other players must serve a role. If the big setting the screen can’t shoot or pass, then that style of offense isn’t real effective. Today’s lackluster college game should make that pretty apparent. So, what should the next level of college coach do?

In the title game, Josh Gasser, a key player for Wisconsin, only took, and missed, one shot. Scoring is suffering. Between 1990 and 1999, the winning team in the championship game scored 75 or more points 10 times. Next decade? 8 times. This decade? So far, once. So goes basketball. Drive the ball, so first set up high screens. It has become a game of sets rather than five-player offense. Even Bo Ryan this year abandoned much flex principles for setting up match-ups with a form of a clear out. And while the sets and match-ups are being “assembled,” the game ticks away. NCAA basketball has become a slow game: players posting on the interior and on the three and waiting. Team movement doesn’t pay in points the way drives and 3’s do.

What is the reaction to this trend?

Coaching carousel, per ESPN

It’s a Plus article so I won’t paste or link here, but some interesting discussion on a few jobs…

– Arizona and LSU are interesting situations to watch, because both head coaches are expected to be subpoenaed to testify in April. If they do, what will come of that and what impact will it have on job security and/or the schools avoiding NCAA sanction? Neither school has motivation to fire Miller or Wade at this point…Miller is having a down year (not a big surprise) but has the #1 recruiting class coming in next season, and Wade has had a banner year in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers are set to win the SEC. So, both of those schools would really have to be almost forced to fire these guys…but it’s a big unknown as to how either resolves itself.

– Kansas. Apparently growing speculation that Self may indeed look to finally jump to the NBA. I’m not sure who’s looking to hire him and this is a drum certain writers at ESPN have been banging for awhile but I guess you can’t rule it out. It’s been a tough year for him in Lawrence and with a lot of FBI/NCAA suspicion still hanging around the program, it wouldn’t be a total shocker to see him leave. If he did, KU obviously becomes a massive opening. Would they go with Gregg Marshall, even in a down year at Wichita? Somebody else?

– UCLA of course remains open and would likely remain as the biggest opening unless Self were to leave KU. The story goes that Tony Bennett has been at the top of their wish list for months now, but I can’t see that happening (and most seem to concur with that assessment). The story claims that Fred Hoiberg has had contact with UCLA and “remains a candidate.” If he were to decide to return to college (a big “If,” according to a lot of people who claim he vastly prefers the NBA), UCLA could make some sense because recruiting to it isn’t the grind it can be at most places. Beyond that, a lot of names mentioned, not all of which strike me as likely or realistic…Rick Barnes (why would he make that kind of move now?), Mick Cronin, Mike Hopkins and even Matt Painter. Painter is an interesting one…remember that years ago he came this close to leaving for Missouri over money and perceived slights by the Purdue AD. I have the sense that some of that has been addressed but with him possibly winning his second Big Ten title in three years, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see him looking for some improvement in salary or otherwise.

Some Big Ten specifics…

– Feeling is that Tim Miles is definitely a goner in Lincoln, which makes sense. It was going to be a rebuilding year next season no matter what and with them once again failing to make the Tournament, it seems obvious that he’s going to go. Interesting mix of names being mentioned…Tyrone Lue as an alum is one coming up, but will he want to get back into the NBA (some thought that he might be the next Lakers coach if Luke Walton gets shown the door)? Hoiberg gets mentioned but I can’t see that…tougher gig than Iowa State was in some (not all) ways. Some mid major guys like Nate Oats mentioned but the interesting name is Dana Altman. Supposedly he’d be willing to listen…he’s from Nebraska and coached at Creighton forever. Seems unlikely that you’d leave Oregon for Nebraska but I don’t know…maybe Oregon isn’t willing to fight to keep him?

– I think the consensus is that Richard Pitino saved his job with that win over Purdue, because it means the Gophers are likely Tournament bound. It hasn’t been a smooth or easy path for him but this would make Tournament bids in 2 of the last 3 years, and that’s a (barely) acceptable rate in that job, I think.

– The really interesting one is in State College. Penn State’s late season run (they’ve won 6 of their last 9) seems to have people thinking Pat Chambers will be back for one more year. If he can get Stevens and Watkins to hang around, I could actually see that team pushing for a Tournament bid next year, so it’s not a horrible idea. It just seemed he was dead and buried a month ago, but credit to him for keeping that team together and not allowing the season to swirl down the drain.






Coaching carousel begins early, UCLA and other possibilities

With Alford getting fired, one of the biggest names if not necessarily best jobs (more on that) is now open in Los Angeles.

First, re: Alford…he was never a great fit there. I don’t think it’s because he’s a Midwest guy, because he did a fantastic job at New Mexico. I just mean that he’s yet to get close to getting the job done at two high major stops (UCLA and Iowa), whereas he’s been super at mid-majors (SW Missouri and New Mexico). That’s just how it is for some guys. In his case, I don’t think recruiting was a problem, per se, because he had plenty of talent during his time at UCLA…maybe more about being able to construct a team when he has access to more high end players. Other than the Ball team, ironically enough, I thought they rarely looked like a cohesive group during his tenure. Obviously, the big problem in a basketball sense was a chronic inability of his teams to defend. That was also an issue for him at Iowa. I have little doubt he’ll get a shot somewhere and soon, if he wants it. The big question will be at what level. Would a third high major take a flyer on him now? I suspect it’s more likely to be someone like a New Mexico…a Mountain West/A-10/CUSA type program.

The UCLA job is obviously huge from a name recognition perspective and it’s still the biggest deal in that part of the country, even with Arizona’s rise over the past 30 years. The thing is, I’m not sure the job itself is on the level many might assume. UCLA historically does not pay at the rate you’d think. Alford as of the most recent numbers I could find (this past summer) was 23rd in salary nationally and 3rd in his own conference. They finally got a practice facility up and running last year and redid Pauley recently, but any new coach would fairly wonder how well the school will keep up in the arms race that is big time collegiate athletics. Then you have the ghost of John Wooden hanging over everything. I don’t think the UCLA job has the pressure associated with it that you see at places like Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana or Kansas (or even some lesser places you might not think of, like a Maryland or NC State) but there *is* pressure and an impossible standard to live up to which no coach can easily escape.

So where does UCLA turn? One obvious name to be floated is Fred Hoiberg. Interestingly, Adam Zagoria tweeted today that someone close to Hoiberg told him he’d prefer to wait and see what NBA jobs might come available. That tracks with the “he hates recruiting” angle on things. I certainly wouldn’t rule him out at UCLA, but that info did catch my attention.

Eric Musselman of Nevada is the other obvious name right now. He’s done an unbelievable job in Reno and has two NBA head coaching jobs on his resume as well, so you can’t knock him on that basis. I would think that Nevada is not the end point of his coaching ambition, so one would imagine the UCLA job would have appeal for him. The thing is, like Hoiberg, his collegiate success is built largely around transfers. That’s not really the “UCLA way,” though I’m also not sure it’s a deal breaker at this point. I also wonder if perhaps he might, like Hoiberg, be looking for a way back to the NBA. Regardless, he will be one of the top names you hear associated with this job, no question. One question you see about him is his reputation for over the top intensity. Maybe that’s an issue and maybe not.

Other names you’ll hear and who I don’t think they can get…

Rick Pitino – Does UCLA have the balls to hire Pitino? There’s no question he’d take that job, at least not IMO, and there’s also little question he’d have them turned around on the court in short order…I’d expect them to be in the Pac 12 title mix by year two at the latest, maybe his first year if he kept enough guys from the Alford era around and taught them to defend. The spectre of NCAA violations looms so large, though. UCLA has never had a problem with cutting corners…they did it under Wooden, Larry Brown and Jim Harrick…but this is *probably* a bridge too far. I expect there will be media cheerleaders (VItale, probably) clamoring for Rick to get a shot but right now, I’d bet against it.

Chris Holtmann – This is the classic “it ain’t what it used to be” move. Maybe a generation ago, UCLA might have had the clout to lure a guy like Holtmann away from Columbus but now? Holtmann is incredibly well paid, he’s already at a job where he can think realistically about contending for national titles, and he’s on home turf, more or less. I can’t think of a single factor leading me to believe he’d take the UCLA job but I bet you’ll hear his name floated by people who don’t know better.

Tony Bennett – Ditto re: Bennett. There’s no way he leaves UVa for Los Angeles. He’s got a perfect job for him, he’s well compensated, he can contend for everything where he’s at, and on top of all of that, I have a hard time seeing the fit for him in LA culturally. Yeah, Alford was a Midwest guy too but Flex always had some “look at me” in him. Not Bennett.

Jay Wright – Ditto.

Mike Brey – HIs name is already being floated but I’ve also already seen indications that he’s not interested.

Realistic names they might be able to land…

Chris Beard – He’s done a fabulous job at Texas Tech so far. Thing is, he has a connection to that school, having served as an assistant there prior to taking the head coaching job. Is that enough to keep him? I suspect he’d have to have some interest in UCLA and if his team can stay roughly around the top 10 all year, it might be enough to get that fanbase to support his hire as well. TT would be one job where everything UCLA has is superior, unlike some of these other situations.

Gregg Marshall – Is it finally time for him to leave Wichita State? His team is 7-5 right now and not expected to contend in a deeper American than we’ve previously seen. Not that he’s in any jeopardy but this season might be the one to convince him that he needs to step up in class if he wants to consistently have a shot at doing big things. Marshall is paid insanely well with Koch Bros. money making him the 13th highest paid coach in the nation. So at a minimum, UCLA is going to have to spend to get him if he’s their guy, in a way they historically haven’t. Many believe Marshall is waiting on Bill Self to retire or grab an NBA job, but we’ll see…I would think the UCLA job would be tempting for Marshall.

Jamie Dixon – He’s gotten things back on track in his career, after the tail end of his Pitt run was pretty middling. TCU is home for him, his alma mater, so would he leave at this point? I think UCLA might be tempting enough for him. He certainly looks the part for LA with his Riley-esque hairdo, and his approach to the game was very successful when his mentor Ben Howland was racking up three straight Final Fours in Westwood, before things went sour. Another realistic name to watch.

Earl Watson – Former Bruin point guard who has NBA head coaching experience with Phoenix and is currently not working. I question this one, despite the alum status, because I don’t think he’s done enough to get that fanbase on board, but a name worth keeping in mind.

Buzz Williams – He’s won at both Marquette and Virginia Tech. Neither is exactly an easy place to get the job done. I would think he’d listen.

Bobby Hurley – Steal a coach from a fellow Pac 12 school? I have little doubt UCLA would be just fine with that. Hurley’s made ASU relevant in a way they rarely (ever?) have been in pretty short order. UCLA would give him the presence to go head to head with anybody on the West Coast in terms of recruiting, something he doesn’t have in his corner currently.

Other high major jobs I think might open up, based on what we’ve seen already this year.

Maryland – Yep. A lot of Big Ten fans may not know this but Mark Turgeon was seen as being on the ropes when they started in this league. He had that great first year and has done just enough in recruiting since then to keep the job. This is a big, big conference season coming for him , though. They’re 1-1 currently and 10-3 overall. Maryland has a lot of talent but with the league as deep as it is this season, it doesn’t look like a lock that they’ll be dancing in March. If they don’t make the field for the second straight year, I think it’s heavy odds in favor of Turgeon getting fired. That would be a quietly big time opening and a lot of the names I’ve listed above with UCLA would be in that mix as well, along with possibly some mid major guys (Nate Oats?). Maryland is a basketball school squarely in the middle of one of the great talent producing areas in the nation. You have facilities, tradition, fan support, etc. behind you.

Penn State – I think this is it for Pat Chambers unless he can pull PSU out of a nosedive in short order. He’s had a lot of years to get the job done and hasn’t pulled off a Tourney appearance yet, something that Jerry Dunn and Ed DeChellis were able to do. Unlike Maryland, this is a really tough gig. You need the right kind of guy and that guy will not be easy to find. I think Oats would be an obvious candidate but I question whether he’d take this job. This might be one where they have to go the high level assistant route.

Not a lot of other obvious ones at the moment, though it would be surprising if there weren’t more by April.

Buffalo is really, really for real

Best MAC team in a long, long time. Maybe back to the Majerus-era Ball State teams? The MAC used to turn out a team every 2-3 years in the 80s and 90s which would make a tournament run to the Sweet Sixteen but this is different. Buffalo should be *expected* to get to that level. So much experience…they have shooters, though they haven’t shot it well this season until tonight against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. They rebound. They defend. They have tough hombres. Big win on the road tonight and they also beat WVa in Morgantown earlier this year.

At Marquette on Friday and if they win that one, I would think they’ve got a real shot at a 3 or even a 2 seed come March, because I expect they’re going to roll through their league. They were at #12 in NET before tonight’s road win over a high major. Nate Oats is going to have some legit options in the spring.

One more thought…when some folks get to the litany of guys MSU recruited or didn’t recruit and list them out for us, how come Nick Perkins never gets mentioned? Izzo would love him and he was right down the road in Milan, winning a state championship with Latin Davis.

With two weeks left in the non-conference, Big Ten teams have done some work

For as poor a job as the conference did a season ago at putting teams in position to earn a tournament bid, no one can say the Big Ten as a collective unit hasn’t done really nice work in the non conference. At this point, we’re mostly past the “big games” prior to conference play starting back up. Thought it would be a good time to take a look at the league team by team and evaluate where things stand by grouping them into categories.


Michigan – Can’t argue with 11-0 and 2-0 in the conference for the Wolverines. They’re #2 in the NET behind only Virginia nationally (and for those who are behind, this is the only metric which really matters for selection/seeding purposes). 2-0 in true road games, 2-0 on neutral courts, 3-0 vs NET Top 40s and 1 more (Northwestern) just outside of that group at #44 as of yesterday. Really, the only minor negative is that they haven’t been able to shake any of their last three opponents, beating NW by 2, South Carolina by 11 and WMU by 8, but that is a REALLY minor deal.

Michigan State – #9 in NET prior to tonight’s win (I don’t think they’ll move up tomorrow). 9-2 overall, 2-0 in the league. The losses came to NET #5 (KU) and #19 (Louisville). They have wins over one Top 40 (Iowa) and three in the 41-58 range (Florida, Texas and UCLA). 2-1 on the road and 2-1 in neutral site games. Honestly, if they’d made one more play at Louisville, we’d be talking about this as an incredible non conference performance. As it stands, it’s still really, really good. At Michigan State, all you ask for in the non conference is to be in position to earn a greatseed/favorable sites if you take care of business in the league and MSU is absolutely in that position.

Wisconsin – I expected Wiscy to bounce back and be a Tournament level team this year after their long bid streak ended in last season’s injury ravaged campaign. So far, they’re making that call look good, though many are probably surprised by their #9 NET ranking. The Badgers are, like MSU, 9-2 overall, 2-0 in the league, 2-1 in road games and 2-1 at neutral sites. Their losses have come to #1 NET UVa and #22 Marquette (the latter on the road), while they have wins over #38 NET Iowa (on the road, no less), #18 NET Oklahoma and #17 NC State (as well as Xavier, an uncharacteristically low #64 right now, but it came at X). Most casual fans and maybe even some less casual ones likely don’t realize how impressive the Iowa, OU and NC State wins are by the metric which matters, and that the two losses don’t do them much damage either. On the merits, it’s hard to argue that they are anything but a contender for the Big Ten title right now, it would appear.


Nebraska – #15 in NET, 9-2 overall , 1-1 in the league loss at #56 Minnesota and on a neutral court to #4 NET Texas Tech. Wins over #60 Creighton, #62 Oklahoma State, at #69 Clemson and #84 Seton Hall (not top 40 wins but top 100 wins will matter as well). Nebraska certainly isn’t a tourney lock just yet but as opposed to last year, where a miserable non conference meant even a stellar Big Ten campaign wasn’t enough to get them to the bubble, this time around the Huskers sit in a very good position. Hard to believe that even an 11-9 Big Ten mark won’t be enough this time around to get a bid.

Indiana – #21 in NET, 9-2 overall, 2-0 in Big Ten, 1 road win over PSU. The loss to #57 Arkansas isn’t a great one but it did come on the road (as did the loss to Duke, which isn’t a problem). On the other side of the ledger, they have wins over #19 Louisville, #22 Marquette, #44 Northwestern and #42 Butler. IU is still dealing with injuries and when I watch them play, I’m never knocked out…they look like a team still struggling to find itself. However, there is still a lot of upside left with this group and the resume to date is damned good.

Ohio State – #24 in NET, 9-1 overall, 2-0 in the league. A home court loss to #61 Syracuse wasn’t good but road wins over #28 Cincy and #60 Creighton mitigate some of that. I’m still expecting the Bucks to be a second division team in Big Ten play but they’ve certainly positioned themselves in such a way that a winning Big Ten record probably gets them in.


Maryland – #40 NET. 9-2 overall 1-1 in the league. Losses at #1 UVa and #38 Purdue. The problem is they only have one Top 100 win, over PSU. I like the talent on this team and I think they’re going to have a strong league campaign but there is work to do here, as the Terps really haven’t built up the resume many of their fellow conference teams have to this point.

Purdue – #37 NET, 6-5 overall and 1-1 in the league. You look at that overall record and might think that they’re buried, but the NET shows that’s not the case. The win over #40 Maryland is the only good one they have but the 5 losses are all against quality teams (#2 Michigan on the road, #33 FSU on the road, #23 VaTech, at #58 Texas and a neutral court loss to #51 Notre Dame). Yes, the lack of big wins hurts but the fact remains that, using the NET as a guide, Purdue is still in position to be a Tournament team if they take care of business in the league. I think that’s an “if” right now, but they certainly have the potential to win enough games to get there. They have a tricky home game left with #38 Belmont…a win there would help the Boiler cause.

Iowa – #38 in NET, 8-2/0-2. Losses at Michigan State and at home against Wisconsin (both top 10) don’t hurt them much. Wins over #31 Iowa State, #49 Oregon and #96 Pitt help the cause. They’ve done enough to get in if they can finish Big Ten play with a winning record. Whether that happens or not is an open question, but the opportunity is there.


Northwestern – #44 in NET 7-3 overall 0-2 in the league. Two heartbreaking losses in the Big Ten, at home to #2 M and on the road at #21 IU. They also took a loss to Fresno, but the Bulldogs are currently at #70 in NET, so not as bad as might have first appeared. Wins over #80 DePaul, #66 GaTech and #156 Utah. The losses aren’t terrible but they don’t have a strong win yet…the league will give them an opportunity to get some. I think they’re in a difficult spot to do that, without a real PG playing significant minutes, but they do have some veteran talent.

Minnesota – #56 in NET, 9-2 overall 1-1 in the league. A loss at #116 Boston College did some damage but it was on the road and the road loss to Ohio State doesn’t hurt much. The win at home over Nebraska is the big one right now…high major victories over Utah, Texas A&M (#106) and Washington (#55) aren’t quite as impressive as they might normally be, but the overall picture is decent here for the Gophers. There’s talent on this roster but they (like Northwestern) are having point guard issues. The difference is that Minnesota might have better potential to find an answer in Isaiah Washington.

Those are the 11 teams I think can seriously think about building a Tournament resume at this point. The rest aren’t in such good shape.

PSU is #86 in NET. 5-5 overall, 0-2 in the league. The Maryland, IU and NC State losses aren’t disasters but losses to DePaul and Bradley don’t help. The one thing they’ve got on their resume is a win over #23 VaTech but that’s not going to be enough without a great conference performance. I think PSU would really need to pick it up dramatically to have a shot. The league schedule will present them with opportunities for big wins but I just can’t see it coming together.

Illinois and Rutgers are #104 and #123 respectively in NET. They’re both 0-2 in the league and it’s just about impossible to imagine enough happening to get either into the conversation.

It’s still so, so early, but one of the things which helps the Big Ten is the depth…6 top 25 NET teams right now, 9 in the top 40 and 10 in the top 50, with Minnesota lurking at #56. NET is a different system with different inputs than RPI but as I see it, the basic truths are still the same, namely that strength is established in the non conference. Once you’re beating up on each other, if everyone is highly rated (as is the case with the Big Ten), you’re not going to see teams dropping much if at all even with losses. That’s what gives teams like Purdue, NW and Minnesota legitimate hope right now. Another thing helping the cause is that a fellow high major league, the Pac 12 has just one team in the top 25 (#25 ASU) and only 4 in the top 50 (three teams in the 40s). That’s a league which seems unlikely to earn more than 4 bids and I could even see 3 under the right circumstances. Also factor in the Big East being down (1 team, Marquette in the top 25, 3 in the top 40 and 4 in the top 50) and there should be more bids to be had by Big Ten schools than in most other years. Yes, mid majors probably will benefit as well but I think right now you’d have to assume the Big Ten has a great shot to get at least 8 bids.





Had my first chance to see M this year

M made a big run over the first half to push the lead out to double digits over Providence.

M defense is of course legit. They’re giving up little penetration and doing a great job of contesting shots at the same time. One thing I’d note…there are a couple of weak(er) links on that roster with Iggy and Poole. On one occasion, Providence matched up Diallo against Iggy and he torched him. I think as the year goes along and definitely once we get to conference play, you’re going to see opponents work to get those guys isolated and see what they can get done.

The other thing M does very well defensively is balance the floor. Providence got zero in transition and really never had a chance. That’s long been a Beilein staple, even when they were horrendous on the defensive end, so not surprising but they are really disciplined with it.

On offense, at least for now, it’s about one thing and one thing only…put your head down and go to the rim. They took 29 shots in the first half and only 5 were 3s. That’s almost impossible to believe from a Beilein team but that’s the deal with this group and with good reason, because they just don’t have a great group of jump shooters. Job One against them has to be finding a way to limit their penetration, which could be easier said than done, but that’s what you’ve got to emphasize. I think you live with letting them shoot 20 footers. When they’re unable to penetrate, the half court offense looks ugly…there’s no post up game to default to and again, the 3s just aren’t featured with this team. One M staple which helps is that they don’t give it away…4 TOs in the half.

To me, it looks a lot like last year’s M team right now, save for the lack of a weapon like Wagner. Iggy is a productive offensive player but he’s totally different than Wagner…doesn’t give you the inside/outside threat Wagner provided. As I noted above, I’m going to be interested to see if Big Ten scouting can find the weak links I think might be there with their defense and exploit them enough to force Beilein to make some PT decisions. If I’m wrong, that defense is going to keep them in the title hunt (Big Ten variety) all year.

Blake Griffin with one of the best individual games I’ve ever seen from a Piston

50 points
14 boards
6 assists
5 triples
20-35 from the floor, 5-10 from the line. Only weakness was 5-11 from the line (missed his first 6) but he hit the biggest, after converting an And One with 1.8 seconds left in OT to tie it, and then the FT won the game.

He’s healthy and he is a major problem. He’s played extremely well in all three games (all wins) so far but tonight was off the charts. I can’t recall a better individual performance in a long, long time from a Detroit player, especially against a good opponent like Philly.

GLeague to offer a “professional path” starting summer 2019…-prospects-not-wanting-go-one-done-route-ncaa

If you’re paying attention to the DOJ college basketball case, you’ll note that the $125K is in line with the numbers being tossed around as having been paid to players via shoe companies. In some cases more, in some cases less than what players allegedly received but in the ballpark.

I think this won’t be the easy decision some are already claiming it is, though. Yes, you get paid without any hassle and you get access to “NBA infrastructure, as well as a bevy of off-court development programsgeared towards facilitating and accelerating their transition to the pro game.” However, there are some questions…

1. Brand. The reality is that no serious number ofpeople are going to watch the GLeague, with or without elite HS players coming straight into it. That’s just reality. Might it shift over time? Sure, but that will take a LONNNNNNGGGG time. The calculation for manywill be that the year of playing at a high profile school for a year will more than offset $125K. For everybody? Nope, but I believe absolutely so for some. So if you want name recognition, I’m not sure the GLeague is the best way to go about it.

2. More importantly, there’s the issue of the draft. Keep in mind, when someone takes this offer, they’re notsigning a two way or playing in the NBA at all that year. The entry rule for the Draft remains unchanged. So they’re going to be earning their draft position by playing against men 5-6 years older than they are (in most instances) who are desperately trying to earn a look from the NBA, same as they are…except they’ll be more physically and mentally mature in most cases. Again, in the long run, are you better off going this route and possibly being exposed or just simply shown to be not ready for grown man levels of play, or are you helped more by playing in college for a year? I think that’s going to be a calculation with multiple answers, depending upon the situation.

For MSU fans, this isn’t great news, admittedly. Guys like Carey and Stewart would for sure be targeted by the GLeague and would be eligible to sign this contract for next season. No idea how receptive or interested they are in the idea…I’m sure we’ll begin to find out answers to that question soon enough. Not sure anyone else MSU is recruiting would be on that list…keep in mind that this is supposedly going to be offered only to “elite” players, so even someone like Brooks might not qualify for the $125K.

To me, it boils down to this…does the $125K “move the needle,” given the downsides (worse conditions for training/playing in most instances compared to elite college programs, risk of exposure against older,stronger competition which negatively impacts draftstatus, etc.)? I’m not sure it does but we’ll begin to find out soon enough.

It’s been totally lost in the shadow of the DOJ/FBI case but interesting show cause ruling out of CA

Essentially, a state court in California ruled that the NCAA’s “show cause” penalty for a USC assistant football coach is an “unlawful restraint” on his pursuing a lawful profession and thus struck the penalty down. I won’t be surprised to see the NCAA pursue this further, because at the moment it removes one of its go-to moves in penalizing individuals associated with NCAA violations. A couple of quick points on this…

1. Not surprising at all that this happened in California. For any of my attorney readers who do any type of employment/contractor related work which touches that state, I’m sure you’re familiar that state law there is construed against employers and any restrictions (non-competes, non-disclosures, etc.) in the mostextreme fashion of any state in the nation. So, under that theory, not surprising to me that a judge there found that penalty to be an unlawful restraint. I question whether we’ll see that anywhere else but we’ll see.

2. It is of at least tangential interest in regard to the current college basketball case, in that at least one of the assistants under indictment was also a USC coach. Prior to this, I would have expected that individual to have received a show cause at the bare minimum, with more penalties to the program also possible. Now? Well, we’ll see.



MSU #1 in Big Ten media poll, Cash 1st Team All Big Ten

This is conducted now by The Athletic and the Columbus Dispatch (used to just be the latter, IIRC). 28 media members from around the conference coverage area participated.

Order of Finish
1. Michigan State

2. Michigan

3. Indiana

4. Nebraska

5. Purdue

6. Wisconsin

7. Maryland

8. Ohio State

9. Minnesota

10. Iowa

11. Penn State

12. Northwestern

13. Illinois

14. Rutgers

That’s relatively close to my own. The top 3 are inexactly the same order. I have Purdue 4th, Wisconsin 5th but it’s close. They’ve got Minnesota a shade higher than I do but if everything breaks right and they stay healthy, that kind of finish is certainly possible. They’ve also got OSU much higher than I do…we’ll see if Holtmann makes me look bad two years running. I just think they go from a very experienced core to one where they’re relying on a lot of youth and I think it’s going to show up.

MSU was 1st on 22 of 28 ballots and 2nd on the remaining 6. That’s a pretty definitive #1 according to the media guys. Personally, while I expected MSU to be the consensus favorite (and they are), I also think the league has less at the top than it had a year ago, so it doesn’t feel much like last year’s preseason, even though the view in terms of order of finish is pretty similar.

The bigger surprise to me was seeing Cash as 1st Team All Big Ten. Not that I don’t think he can end up there but I thought there might be a little more support for Cowan from Maryland. Haven’t seen a vote total so maybe it was close. Good for him getting that kind of recognition and I absolutely think he could make good on it.

Proposed Grad transfer rule change…r-rule-is-as-unfair-as-it-is-unnecessary.html

Good article, and if I’m reading this correctly, what it means is that if a grad transfer doesn’t complete his grad school requirements in Year One, that scholarship slot will count against the school in Year Two, even if he’s out of playing eligibility.

They frame this, as the article suggests, as enforcement against the schools and as pro student-athlete, that it eliminates “sham” grad transfers where the player takes just a few courses and then bails well short of a graduate degree. I don’t read it that way. How is ANY additional education, especially of a graduate nature, a bad thing? Why would we want to discourage it at all? If this gets passed, that’s what will likely happen, as schools wouldn’t want to run the risk of having a scholarship tied up as an empty slot for a year in almost every case.

The NCAA got some pro student athlete enlightenment in regard to non grad transfers, as the article notes.Strange that they are seemingly cutting back the other direction in this case.

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