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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?

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.

Today in College Basketball/DOJ/FBI Madness

Per Jeff Borzello

Brian Bowen Sr. testified today that he…

• Received $1,300 from then-Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson
• Received $8,000 from then-La Lumiere coach Shane Heirman
• Received $5,000 from Mean Streets director Tai Streets
• Received $1,500 from then-Mean Streets coach Tim Anderson

• Was asked if Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield gave him $3,000 on an unofficial visit: “I don’t recall that.”
• Was asked if he was ever conveyed an offer from UCLA: “I don’t recall that.”
• Acknowledged monetary offers from OK State, Creighton

Just so the players are kept straight…

Kenny Johnson was formerly on Tom Crean’s staff at IU. Crean is not implicated in anything here and to my knowledge has always been viewed as being clean as a whistle.

Shane Heirman was La Lu’s head coach when Bowen, Jaren Jackson, Tyger Campbell, etc. won the Dick’s Sporting Goods mythical national championship. He is currently an assistant at DePaul…well, at least as of today, he is.

Tai Streets runs the Mean Streets AAU program, for which Bowen played his last year and for whom Romeo Weems played much (not all) of last season. He is a former University of Michigan WR. Again, no suggestion that Michigan has any involvement in this mess and to my knowledge, I don’t believe they’ve ever signed a Mean Streets kid (neither has MSU, I don’t think). Does he meet NCAA standards in being a Michigan “booster?” Believe it or not, he probably does. Should that create a problem for Michigan? Not in a sane world but, you know…

Tim Anderson is the world beating, bestest trainer in the world according to a few people who probably ought to know better. He is the former coach of Mean Streets and is currently an assistant at DePaul…again, as of today he is. He is also the man credited with reeling in Romeo Weems.

For anyone thinking MSU might have gotten in the muck re: Bowen

Per Adam Zagoria

Interesting quote from Steve Haney, attorney for Christian Dawkins: ‘Michigan State was one of the only schools that was NOT GOING to pay Brian Bowen to go there’ Haney listed MSU, Arizona, Oregon, Texas and Creighton as his final 5 before he picked Louisville in June 2017.

Now I’ll tell you that the worst way to analyze a court case is by relying upon tweets from sports reporters…but with that caveat out of the way, the sense I’m getting as to the essence of the defense’s case (in terms of Dawkins ) is this:

– Lots of Nike schools (Oregon, Arizona, etc…but NOT MSU) were willing to pay to get Bowen.

– He was set to go to Arizona…you know, because they were among those who were going to PAY.

– Louisville lost Donovan Mitchell to the draft and Rawle Alkins elected to return to Arizona. This opened the door for the Ville, an Adidas school. Bowen’s family made a “basketball” decision. I can see this argument re: why Ville and not Zona, based on the above. If everyone’s paying the same money, that’s the difference, right?

– The defendants acted in the best interest of Adidas, Adidas schools and the kid himself. Thus, no intent to defraud the Adidas schools. That is a fundamental element of the DOJ case and what they claim takes this beyond a simple NCAA violation and into the realm of being a federal crime.

I’ll also offer up this thought, one I know myself during and after the recruitment of Tugs…the idea of paying $100K for that kid is mind blowing to me. Good player, but not remotely worth that kind of action even if you are willing to break the rules and pay it, based on my understanding of the market. Anthony Davis reportedly went for $250K to Kentucky and he won them a title.

Tugs wasn’t winning anybody any national championships. Not even close.

Music bands selling out, late and early

In watching a few commercials over the weekend, two music background drops jumped out at me.

First of all, I think I heard a Rolling Stones song in a commercial for the first time, ever. It was a cover version of “Sympathy for the Devil” for what I think was a car commercial. (A heavy cover version of the song. Sounded pretty good, actually).

Made me think, “Well, I guess the Stones don’t have enough hundreds of millions of dollars individually, so might as well sell portions of their catalog for another few million.” 


There used to be a loss of street cred for artists who “sold out” and allowed their music to be used in commercials. But I don’t think it carries the same stigma that it used to. And it’s become an effective way for bands to get their music heard by the masses (google search interviews with John Mellencamp about this topic. After selling a song for a car commercial, he said, “it turns out that General Motors is a better record company than Columbia or MCA.”)

[He simply said he wanted people to be aware that he had a new song out, a new album, and he had no faith in the record company promoting his work, and no faith that his new songs would get airplay. He lamented that Tom Petty had released what John thought was a great album one year earlier, but no one knew anything about the album because old acts weren’t getting any airplay.]

So the Stones, 50-plus years into their career, have “sold out.” Some would say they’ve been selling out, in more ways than one, for more than 40 years. Dabbling in disco probably disappointed their fanbase in the late ’70s. 

I don’t think “cred” is anything Mick Jagger and the guys are worried about at this point. And I guess I don’t care one way or another. 


On the other side of the coin, I’m sure some of you have heard of a new blues/hard rock band from Frankenmuth called Greta Van Fleet. They are young guys, early 20s, and they sound like early Led Zeppelin. Almost exactly like Led Zeppelin. 

This sound has given them an instant following with older rock fans who have precious, precious few new bands to listen to, because that genre of music has become an endangered species. So Greta Van Fleet is a wonderful breath of fresh air for tons of older fans, and I’m assuming that at least a few younger fans are appreciating them to.

So this past weekend, I noticed a commercial for sports apparel, and in the background is Greta Van Fleet’s song, “Highway tune.” 


So it struck me that here’s one band, the Rolling Stones, 50-plus years into their career, one of the top two most famous bands ever, and they are just now “selling out.” 

And here is the apparent torch bearer of blues/rock, brand new Greta Van Fleet, “selling out” with basically their first or second song. 

I thought it was interesting and ironic. 

Feel free to disagree or challenge anything that I posted, because I’m by no means an expert on music. I just call ’em as I see ’em.


I’m not one to take a ton from early indicators but…the annual individual photos of the players in their uniforms are starting to trickle out. So one thing you can see is physical development from their final year in HS.

It won’t ever be a huge factor for Loyer but he does look as if he’s gotten a little bigger (not taller). He’ll be fine.

Henry is ready to go. I think he’ll be physically capable from Day One in terms of what MSU asks of him. Not that he likely won’t go through some learning curve but he should be capable of handling the Big Ten grind from a physical perspective and it looks to me as if he’s tightened things up a little bit. Not surprising at all.

Kithier…I don’t think anything physical will hold him back. It’s more about shaking rust off. Also looks like he’s tightened it up a bit to my eyes, though not getting to see him in anything except street clothes on the Clarkston bench last year makes it tough to know for certain.

Brown and Bingham are/were the big ones, though, because both guys have high ceilings but needed serious physical development. To my eyes, Gabe’s made a little more progress than Marcus thus far. Neither has gone through the Jaren Jackson Jr. Miracle Grow offseason, but there’s positive development. Gabe’s also got a little easier row to hoe in a sense, because he’ll be playing on the perimeter.

Bingham has NBA potential, no question about it. However, I’m going to put it out there now that he’ll play less than many are probably hoping for, due in large part to the remaining work he has to do physically. It’s not an easy or automatic thing for guys to gain good weight. I can recall even a great player like Steve Smith and a good one like David Thomas struggling to do it while at MSU. I think he’ll likely have a rotation role this season due to his length, athletic ability and his shot but I don’t see anything close to Deyonta or Jaren type minutes. I look at the photos and imagine him trying to deal with Juwan Morgan or Tyler Cook on the blocks and…yeah, it’s going to take a minute.

If you told me now MSU could get 12-15 good minutes a night from Marcus I’d take it and run.

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