Friday, December 30, 2005

Adam Morrison

This kid is certainly one of the most exciting players to watch in the country this year. What strikes me, though, is how one dimensional his game is. Is it just me, or do 95% of the points he scores come from within 5 feet of where he catches the ball? He is just a hell of a shooter and he can get a shot off against anybody. But does he do anything else? Not much of a passer. Only a passable rebounder. And he's simply putrid and disinterested on defense. Did I mention that he is no threat to break you down off the dribble? But hot damn, when the ball is in his hands it is in immediate danger of being put in the hole.

Does this remind you of anybody else?

Here are his current stats as a junior:
38.3 mpg, 28.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.1 to/g, 52.4% fgs, 40.7% 3s, 73.5% fts

How about this former 6'7" collegiate star in the making (as a junior)?
38.3 mpg, 25.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.4 to/g, 55.6% fgs, 43.9% 3s, 88.2% fts

Pretty similar, huh? Morrison puts in a few more points and a few more boards, but with a worse asst/to ratio and worse shooting percentages. But all in all, I'd say it's a damn good comparison.

So who is this mystery player? Well, I only make this comparison because of the idiotic comparisons to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and any other number of NBA all time greats I've heard Morrison compared to. In fact, this is none other then Reggie Miller at UCLA. Another outstanding 1 trick pony who carried his 1 trick over to the NBA quite well where he was a great shooter for years to come. Never was much with the D and certainly didn't make others around him better, but fun to watch nonetheless. I should note that Miller's 3 pt percentage is actually from his senior season because the 3 pt line wasn't instituted until he was a senior. Safe to say he probably would've shot a similar percentage as a junior.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


What am I supposed to say? We all watched the game last night. We all saw what happened. I don't think the officiating even merits me commenting on it. There is nothing I can add to what everybody saw with their own eyes. Hell, I've never seen announcers call out the refs so frequently and vociferously during a game.

But whatever. The good news is that Michigan's season finishes totally in the tank which is as close to a wake up call as this program will ever have. Changes need to be made and this will hopefully prompt a good deal of them.

The other good news is that Michigan's youngsters really looked good last night. Chad Henne and Mike Hart were both playing pretty well. Steve Breaston finally looked healthy again. Antonio Bass will be a major force next year, as will Mario Manningham. LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch and Tim Jamison are going to be a dominant DL next year. Brandon Harrison wasn't so hot, but then again he is only a true freshman.

Biggest area of improvement we need is the interior OL. They stunk all year and again last night. The good news is that is where Michigan's OL recruiting has been the best the last year or two so help is on the way. And yes, they were banged up as all hell this year, but they still were not good. Time to get back to a big nasty group of road graders paving the way for a monster campaign for Mike Hart next year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Remember the Alamo! After a crappy finish to a disappointing football season, a nice pounding of the Huskers would be a welcome sight on Wednesday.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sink or Swim

Michigan gets a crack at #14 UCLA in Crisler today, and along with it a chance to catapult themselves into the top 25 for the first time since 1998. Yep, it's been a while. But UCLA has a damn good team right now. Michigan has perhaps been getting a bit too much hype this past week, but that's only because they weren't even on the national radar at the beginning of the year. Apparently bball pundits didn't pay attention to the fact that our entire team was injured last year (or so it seemed).

Win this game today and Michigan is likely 11-0 and a top 15 team heading into conference play. Lose, and all the naysayers will be raining down with talk about a weak schedule.

But you know what? In the grand scheme of the season, this game doesn't mean that much. Might make a 1 seed difference come March, but that's about it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Big Ten Hoops: how they stack up thus far

We're now getting into the final stretch of non-conference hoops before the real action starts in January and things are starting to shape up a bit in the Big Ten. Here's how I see the teams stacking up so far.

#1 MSU
#2/3: Indiana and Illinois
#4/5: Michigan and Wisconsin
#6/7/8: Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota
#9/10/11 (aka who cares): Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern

Michigan State (7-2): yep, they've looked fairly pedestrian at times. Their rebounding (8th in conference in rebounding margin) and D (dead last in pts allowed) are flat out ugly thus far. And in tempo-free-stats courtesy of Big Ten Wonk they aren't any prettier at dead last in PPP allowed and 10th in def. rebound % and 8th in off. rebound %. But they've still got Paul Davis and Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager. And they can score a lot of points (81.7 ppg is good for #2 in the conference, 1.13 PPP is good for #4 in the conference). Here's guessing they continue to round into form as conference play approaches, though they better shore up the glass if they want to win the conference title.

Indiana (5-2): What can I say? They gave Duke a game and blew Kentucky out of the water. For now I'm willing to chalk that little Indiana State loss up to a fluke. Just wait til DJ White gets back and they will be a force. He was their best player last year and figured to be their most important player this year. At least that was until Killingsworth turned into an All American candidate.

Illinois (10-0): Call me crazy. I was way wrong about Illinois at the start of the year. I figured they lost too much talent to be a player in the conference title race. Well, Bruce Weber has a pretty good thing going in Illinois so who am I to doubt him. He's now 73-9 at Illinois and 47-2 since the start of last season. Not bad, huh? The Fighting Illini currently have the best efficiency margin in the conference (1.13 points per possession and 0.88 points per possession allowed which are both good for #3 individually). The win at UNC is looking pretty good since Carolina decided to bounce back from massive NBA losses just like the Illini.

Michigan (7-0): #1 in scoring defense, #2 in points per possession allowed, #1 in defensive rebound percentage, #1 in rebounding margin, etc. Did I mention that the Wolverines can hit the glass and play some D? Yeah, the competition has been marginal thus far but cue up the #14 UCLA Bruins on Saturday for a real gauge of the Wolverines. Dion Harris and Daniel Horton have suddenly become quite stingy with the turnovers ranking #1 and #3 respectively in the conference in the all important Assist/TO ratio. Now if only the rest of the team could join in the fun and they would be a legit top 15 squad. Win over UCLA and this team should be sitting 11-0 and sky high heading into conference play. Lose? Doubts will linger but they'll still be riding high.

Wisconsin (8-1): is there anything Bo Ryan can't do? He has lost his best player every single year it seems like without missing a beat. Kirk Penney? No problem, we got Devin Harris. Devin's gone? How about Mike Wilkinson. No more Wilk = the Alando Tucker show. Or perhaps I should call it the Kam Taylor/Chris Rock show after his great start. All the Badgers do is win games. And they are a pretty young team so expect them to continue to improve.

Ohio State (5-0): Nice win at St. Joe's, but 5 games make it difficult to judge this squad.

Iowa (7-3): In what seems to be a theme for Steve Alford, the Hawks got off to a dynamite start with some big time performances at the start of the year. And then they fall on their faces. Will this year be different when Horner gets back? I'm not sure.

Minnesota (5-2): Now that Vincent Grier is back, they've got a fighting chance against anybody in the conference. And they do have a legit shot at the NCAA tournament. So that's 8 teams in the conference I'm pegging as NCAA hopefuls.

As for the rest (Purdue, PSU, NW): they suck.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Former Michigan HS basketball players around the country

Here's a few former Michigan HS basketball players that ended up playing college ball in another state and are off to a nice start to the season. Well, some have higher expectations than others but they are all producing.

Kirk Walters (6'10" sophomore, Arizona): 7.0 pts, 3.6 rbs, 2.0 blocks
Jabari Currie (6'4" freshman, DePaul): 7.3 pts, 2.1 rbs, 1.9 assists
Wilson Chandler (6'8" freshman, DePaul): 7.4 pts, 7.4 rbs, 1.9 blocks
Al Horford (6'8" sophomore, Florida): 12.8 pts, 6.7 rbs, 2.2 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.4 steals
Jerel Allen (6'4" junior, Florida State): 6.3 pts, 2.0 rbs, 50% fgs, 46% 3s
Jay Youngblood (6'5" senior, Kent): 15.5 pts, 4.4 rbs, 50.5% fgs
Joe Crawford (6'4" sophomore, Kentucky): 6.8 pts, 3.8 rbs
Brandon Jenkins (6'3" senior, Louisville): 11.0 pts, 3.8 assists, 3.4 rbs, 1.4 steals
William Hatcher (6'2" senior, Miami-OH): 11.4 pts, 4.8 assists, 4.0 rbs, 1.8 steals
Malik Hairston (6'5" sophomore, Oregon): 15.3 pts, 5.0 rbs, 1.0 steals
James Holmes (6'2" senior, South Florida): 20.6 pts, 3.0 rbs, 2.4 steals
Eric Devendorf (6'4" freshman, Syracuse): 8.7 pts, 2.1 rbs, 1.9 assists, 46% 3s
Justin Ingram (6'3" junior, Toledo): 15.5 pts, 2.7 rbs, 2.5 assists, 46.4% fgs, 44.1% 3s
Kyle Visser (6'11" junior, Wake Forest): 10.5 pts, 8.1 rbs, 2.1 blocks

Throw in some instate kids like Paul Davis, Mo Ager, Drew Neitzel, Lester Abram, Dion Harris, Graham Brown, Brandon Cotton, Giordan Watson, and who would your all former Michigan HS college player team by this year?

Here's my first and second team:

Paul Davis
Al Horford
Malik Hairston
Mo Ager
Brandon Cotton

Kyle Visser
Wilson Chandler
Lester Abram
James Holmes
Brandon Jenkins

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The rebirth of Daniel Horton and Courtney Sims?

Who are those masked men leading Michigan to a 6-0 start on the season? None other than 2 of the most maligned players in the Big Ten heading into this season.

Let's recap some (valid) criticisms of Horton's and Sims' games heading into this season (courtesy of Big Ten Wonk, Hawkeye Hoops, and MGoBlog):

  • "a streaky shooter who will take bad shots outside of the context of the offense"
  • "not much of a ball distributor and will turn the ball over more than a starting point guard should"
  • "not an all-Big Ten type player"
  • "He has never shot better than 39% from the field. He has never had an assist-to-turnover ratio above 1.2. This is unlikely to change."
  • "If he defers to his teammates, there's potential for a very nice offense to emerge"
  • "It becomes very difficult to have a good team offense when a fourth of your possessions go to a player as inefficient as Horton."
  • "Unless his shot selection significantly improves, it's hard to see Horton as a net positive for this team."
  • "is OK on the boards but not better than anyone of note"
  • "turns the ball over a lot"
  • "is inconsistent"
  • "has shown little fire or competitiveness in his first two years at Michigan, often getting dominated by players with half his physical gifts but twice his determination"
  • "The disturbing number for Sims was his shot attempts: 200, only eight more than his freshman year"

So those were the criticisms. I shared many of them. But how have they done so far on the season?

Horton - 34 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.7 rpg, 51.7% fgs, 43.5% 3s, 87.0% fts, 2.6 asst/to ratio
Sims - 28 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 67.7% fgs, 64.3% fts

Horton has simply elevated his game to a level it has not seen during his 3 years in Ann Arbor. Looks like he did a lot of growing up during his suspension (and later death of his son) last year. He is playing like a man on a mission right now and there simply is not a better PG in the Big Ten right now. His D has always been excellent, but he is now shooting a high percentage and has a great asst/to ratio. Exactly what Michigan needs out of him for the team to do well this year.

As for Courtney, he did put on a show last night with 33 and 13, but he was off to a nice start before that. He has hit double figures in 5 of 6 games and has 6+ rebounds in every game. He's also gone over 20 three times thus far. He shows brief stretches of dominance, but he is becoming a much more consistent threat which is great news for the team. Points will be tougher to come by in conference play, but 13 points and 8 boards a night out of him would be very nice.

As for the team? Yep, they are 6-0. And don't let the "Michigan" name fool you. The Wolverines built a rep from the days of the Fab Five through Ellerbe as having very skilled offensive players that just weren't tough. Well, Amaker's boys win with toughness and heart despite their relative lack of offensive execution. They've been beating people up with defense and rebounding and look to continue to do so.

Michigan has outrebounded their opponents by a 36.3-26.3 so far. That means Michigan has pulled down roughly 58% of the rebounds in their games compared to 42% for their opponents. You don't need a math major to figure out that gives them a lot of extra possessions each game. It has also helped them limit their opponents to 58.2 ppg on 39.6% fgs and 30.3% 3s. Those defensive numbers will win a lot of games, but alas the competition will heat up significantly later on this year as well. And how about assist/to ratio? Still nothing to write home about at 94/89 for the team, but that is a hell of a lot better than the 74/95 ratio they had through 6 games last year. I guess progress comes in stages.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Big Ten Basketball Primer

A little glimpse into my thoughts on the state of the conference after having watched most of the Big Ten/ACC challenge and seeing how each team has started the year. First off, a general rank of the tiers I see teams falling into right now:

Tier 1 - MSU, Iowa, Indiana
Tier 2 - Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State
Tier 3 - Minnesota
Tier 4 - Northwestern
Tier 5 - Penn State, Purdue

And some thoughts on each of the teams...

Michigan State (4-2) - What to make of the Spartans? Their best performance to date was a loss to Gonzaga. Their least awe inspiring games were a loss to Hawaii and a narrow win against IUPU-FW. Best win was a good OT win against Arizona. Didn't look so hot against a young Georgia Tech team at home last night in the challenge. On paper, they are the best team in the Big Ten. Paul Davis is a very good post player and Brown and Ager are a dynamite pair of wings. But why the struggles? Perhaps they lack a bit in depth but I was expecting a better start to the season. I still look for them to turn it on come conference play.

Iowa (5-1) - They've got the best resume so far of any team in the conference. Wins over Kentucky and NCSU and a narrow loss to Texas. They've got an experienced rotation and will likely be in the top 25 all year.

Indiana (4-1) - They rolled 4 patsies before losing to Duke in the challenge. Still playing without DJ White who was their best player until Marco Killingsworth turned into a beast. I'd take them as the best pair of post players in the country right now once White is healthy. Still not sold on their backcourt which could hold them back in conference play when they start facing much tougher defense in the post. Very good looking team, though.

Michigan (4-0) - The good news is that they are playing excellent defense, rebounding with a passion, and Daniel Horton is playing the best and most efficient basketball of his career. The bad news is they haven't played that difficult of a schedule. Road win at Boston U and an easy home W over Miami are their 2 best performances to date. We'll find out a lot about how serious a threat in the Big Ten they are when they play at Notre Dame and home against UCLA in the next 2 weeks. Win both and they'll likely be undefeated and top 20 heading into conference play.

Illinois (6-0) - Yep, they're still undefeated. The bad news is they really haven't played anybody. Winning at North Carolina sounds impressive, but this year it isn't. Games at Xavier, Oregon, and Missouri will let us know how well they've adjusted to life after Williams, Head, and Powell.

Wisconsin (4-1) - Managed to beat 4 patsies and lose a nailbiter in Winston-Salem against a good Wake Forest team. They will be a solid club this year, but probably not good enough to challenge for the Big Ten title. Good enough to beat anybody in Madison, though. Look for their team to blossom next year with young guys like Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma, Joe Krabbenhoft, and Marcus Landry all getting valuable experience.

Ohio State (3-0) - Haven't played much of anybody yet (and all at home), but they could challenge for a tourney berth. Terrence Dials is a very good player in the post and he is surrounded with guys that can make plays. JJ Sullinger is really underappreciated. So while everybody is waiting for Greg Oden and co.'s arrival next year, don't write off the Buckeyes this year.

Minnesota (2-2) - They've got a bad loss to Gardner Webb and a road loss to Maryland under their belts already. So yeah, it's safe to say they miss Vincent Grier. He's a great defender and a dynamic threat on offense. He's also the most valuable player in the conference this side of Carl Landry. When he returns, they'll be similar to Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio State. Until then, no way.

Northwestern (3-3) - Yep, they suck. Vedran Vukusic has a nice offensive game, but they still suck. Only reason they aren't lower is because Purdue and Penn State REALLY suck.

Purdue (2-2) - Worst loss in the history of the challenge, to Florida State?!?!?!?!?!?! I feel bad for Carl Landry. He's borderline All America in talent with his efficient scoring and rebounding, but nobody will ever notice this year. (Side note: how about the post talent in the Big Ten with Paul Davis, Marco Killingsworth, DJ White, James Augustine, Terrance Dials, Carl Landry, Courtney Sims,...?)

Penn State (3-1) - Lost by 8 at home to Clemson in the challenge and beat 3 pansies. Still not inspiring any confidence. They joined the Big Ten with the hopes of dominating in football and using the Big Ten's power in basketball (and a new arena) to help power their basketball team to respectability. We all now how the football thing has worked out, but they've been bottom dwelling in basketball for most of the last decade and they are not going anywhere fast.

The Big Ten looks very deep this year and I'd be surprised if we didn't send 6 or 7 teams to the dance.