Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss Jim Harbaugh’s open letter to the football community.
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The University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week, when all NCAA sports were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They didn’t get to play in the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, so their final record is the same as their regular season record: 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten), 9th place in the Big Ten.
The 2019-2020 season was a rollercoaster for Michigan. The ride to the top of the biggest hill started with wins over three “cupcakes”, along with an impressive win over a team that finished the season ranked #7 (Creighton), for a 4-0 start. The top of the biggest hill was the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Michigan wasn’t picked to do much in the tournament, but they won three games in three days, beating a good Iowa State team and two Top-10 teams [(#6) North Carolina and (#8) Gonzaga], winning the championship, and moving to 7-0 and a #4 ranking in the AP poll. The championship game was on 11/29/2019, and that was the top of the hill, the high water mark, the best moment of the whole season. It didn’t last long. From that point on, Michigan was a 0.500 team: 12-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten).
The very next game was four days later, at (#1) Louisville, and it didn’t go well. In fact, Michigan lost three of the next four games after the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament: the loss to Louisville, a home win over Iowa, a loss at Illinois, and a home loss to (#10) Oregon. None of these losses were particularly surprising, but none of these teams were any better than Creighton, North Carolina, or Gonzaga.
Michigan finished up their non-conference schedule with a couple more “cupcakes”, then they resumed Big Ten play, and it was a disaster: a lopsided loss at (#14) Michigan State, a home win over Purdue, an embarrassing loss at Minnesota, a so-so loss at Iowa, a home loss to Penn State, and a home loss to (#21) Illinois. That’s a 1-5 stretch, and it knocked Michigan out of any chance of contending for the Big Ten title. This was the bottom of the biggest hill, the lowest point, the worst moment of the season. A closer look at the season at this point will show a couple disturbing trends:
Michigan finally won a true road game in their next game, at Nebraska, and they followed it up with a very impressive win on a (not so) neutral court (Madison Square Garden) over (#25) Rutgers. They were robbed by the officials in the next game, another home loss, this time to Ohio State, but they bounced back with five wins in a row: home vs. (#16) Michigan State, at Northwestern, home vs. Indiana, at Rutgers, and at Purdue. Things were looking better, but this was just the top of another hill on the rollercoaster.
The last four games of the season were another disaster. Michigan lost badly at home vs. Wisconsin, lost badly at (#23) Ohio State, beat lowly Nebraska at home for Senior Night, and lost badly at (#9) Maryland. This was the bottom of the final hill on the rollercoaster, and that’s where we get off.
Looking back on the season, there were some high points and some low points:
I handed out mid-term grades in early January, after the last non-conference game, when Michigan had a record of 10-3 (1-1 in the Big Ten), and were still in the AP Top 25. Those grades, listed first for each player, are mostly better than the final grades.
Cole Bajema (Inc./Inc.) – Cole only played in 10 games, and scored 26 points. He led the team in overall shooting percentage (10-for-13 = 76.9%), 3-point shooting percentage (4-for-7 = 57.1%), and free throw percentage (2-for-2 = 100.0%). He just didn’t play much, mostly in “garbage time”. He could be a valuable player next season.
Jaron Faulds (Inc./Inc.) – Jaron only played in 5 games, and scored 4 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only played in “garbage time”.
Franz Wagner (B/B) – Franz missed the first 4 games of the season with a broken wrist, but he played pretty well the rest of the season. He had some very impressive games, and several games where he was no help at all. He was the #1 option for firing up a 3-pointer, and he shot a mediocre percentage (41-for-132 = 31.1%). If he can get his 3-point shooting straightened out, he’ll be the most valuable player on the team next season.
Colin Castleton (B/C) – Colin got his chances this season, and he rarely took advantage of them. He had too many games where he just drifted around aimlessly out there. He showed that he has the tools to contribute, he just didn’t have the mental aspect worked out.
David DeJulius (B+/B-) – David had a strong first half of the season, but he cooled off in the second half. He was a pure scorer in high school, and he showed flashes of that at times this season. He just needs to be more consistent.
Brandon Johns, Jr. (B/B) – Brandon filled in nicely for Livers when he was injured, but he still had too many games where he didn’t contribute much. He is very good at offensive rebounding.
Adrien Nuñez (C-/D) – Adrien just isn’t working out. He’s gotten his chances, and he hasn’t delivered. He played in 22 games this season, and started in 4 games when Wagner was injured, but only scored 44 points. He was brought in as a “sniper”, but his 3-point shooting has been anemic: 11-for-43 (25.6%).
C.J. Baird (Inc./Inc.) – C.J. only played in 7 games, and scored 8 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.
Eli Brooks (A-/A-) – Eli is a great candidate for “most improved player”. He did a good job at shooting guard, and even played some point guard when needed. He led the team in 3-point attempts and makes, and shot a nice percentage (52-for-143 = 36.4%). He was a distant 2nd on the team in assists (59).
Austin Davis (C+/B+) – Austin is another candidate for “most improved player”, especially during the second half of the season. It took 2.5 seasons, but he finally started playing with smoothness and confidence. He shot a nice percentage (52-for-75 = 69.3%), and he cut way down on his silly fouls.
Isaiah Livers (A/A-) – Isaiah is the most versatile player on the team, and arguably the most valuable. Before he went out with a groin injury near the end of the non-conference season, he was leading the team in scoring (13.6 points/game) and 3-point shooting percentage (29-for-58 = 50.0%). When he came back, he was good-but-not-great.
Rico Ozuna-Harrison (Inc./Inc.) – Rico only played in 4 games, and scored 2 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.
Luke Wilson (Inc./Inc.) – Luke only played in 6 games, and scored 3 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in “garbage time”.
Zavier Simpson (A/A) – Zavier was the undisputed leader of this team, and he did a good job at it. He led the team in scoring and assists, and finished 3rd in the nation in total assists and assists per game. He even shot a decent percentage from 3-point range (31-for-86 = 36.0%).
Jon Teske (A/B) – Jon was a beast for the first half of the season, then he all but disappeared. He had a few good games in the second half, but nothing compared to the games he had in the first half. Opponents figured out how to neutralize him offensively, and he let several opposing big men run wild, especially Luka Garza of Iowa.
Here’s where things get tricky: who will be on the team next year? Here are all the moving parts as of now:
The two seniors (Simpson and Teske) are graduating. They’re gone.
Two players with eligibility remaining could possibly leave early for the NBA (Livers and Wagner). Who knows what they’ll decide to do. Livers missed 10 games due to injuries, and Wagner was really up-and-down. I don’t think the NBA will be too excited about either of them.
Brandon Wade (6’2”, 185 pounds, G) transferred from Duquesne to Michigan after playing for one year there (2018-2019). He had to sit out this season (2019-2020), but he’ll be eligible to play with sophomore eligibility next season. He’s a “preferred walk-on”, and he’ll mostly be a practice squad player.
great unknowns are the incoming freshmen.
one recruit (Zeb Jackson) has signed a Letter Of Intent, but four other
recruits are considered “hard commits”: Hunter Dickinson, Jace Howard, Isaiah
Todd, and Terrance Williams. If all five
of these players actually show up on the team next season, Michigan will be a
legitimate contender for the National Championship. They’re that good.
However, I would be surprised if Todd actually plays college basketball. He and his father have given vague hints that he might play for a year overseas, then enter the NBA Draft. If that happens, Michigan will still be a contender for the Big Ten title, but not the National Championship. Todd is the key.
Regardless, here’s a quick look at all five of them:
Besides those five commits, there are at least five more players interested in Michigan:
So, where is Coach Howard going to put all those players? I have no idea. There is a real logjam in the scholarship count. Will any of the returning scholarship players transfer? I haven’t heard anything concrete, but Castleton and Nuñez are good candidates. It will be very interesting to see who actually shows up next fall. Until then, it’s hard to make any worthwhile predictions.
Michigan’s season is over. Wait ‘til next year.
Check back in mid-October for another exciting season of Nothing But ‘Net.
The University of Michigan men’s basketball team was supposed to play one or more games in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis (IN), but it didn’t work out that way. Just 11 minutes before they were supposed to tipoff against Rutgers on Thursday (03/12/2020), the Big Ten canceled the remainder of the tournament, so Michigan didn’t get to play. Later that afternoon, the NCAA canceled the NCAA Tournament, so Michigan’s season is over. They finished with a final regular season record of 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten), in 9th place in the Big Ten.
Wow! This is the biggest sports news in my lifetime. What happened? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what happened: the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it’s been in the news for a couple months now, most people didn’t expect it to completely cancel all sports the way it did. CBS Sports has a very informative timeline of COVID-19-related sports announcements:
12:42 pm ET – 2020 CBI tournament canceled
1:50 pm – Columbus Blue Jackets close games to fans
1:55 pm – Tulsa football players quarantined
2:10 pm – Golden State Warriors close home games to fans following city ban on 1,000+ crowds
2:35 pm – XFL’s Seattle Dragons announce they’ll host Los Angeles Wildcats without fans in attendance
3:00 pm – Ivy League cancels all spring sporting events
4:15 pm – NCAA advises events to be held without fans
4:30 pm – NCAA says NCAA Tournament will be held without fans
5:24 pm – Michigan cancels spring football game
6:00 pm – Juventus’ Daniele Rugani tests positive for COVID-19
6:33 pm – Sharks announce they’ve closed home games to fans
6:38 pm – Big Ten tournament closes along with all spring sports
6:40 pm – Big 12 limits 125 fans per team, cheerleaders and teams at basketball tournament
7:58 pm – ACC Tournament closes games to fans
8:40 pm – Jazz vs. Thunder postponed
8:49 pm – AAC closes tournament to fans
8:50 pm – Ohio State cancels spring football game
8:53 pm – Pac-12 closes tournament to fans
9:11 pm – SEC closes tournament games to fans
9:27 pm – Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus
9:31 pm – NBA suspends remainder of season indefinitely
9:52 pm – Conference USA closes tournament to fans
10:40 pm – Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg taken to hospital
10:44 pm – Big East announces Madison Square Garden will be closed to fans for tournament
10:48 pm – Baylor suspends spring football and recruiting
12:34 am – NBA G-League suspended
12:43 am – Nebraska says Fred Hoiberg has influenza A, not coronavirus
9:35 am – ACC commissioner John Swofford says ACC games are still on
10:00 am – America East says no fans at men’s or women’s basketball title games
10:30 am – Patriot League cancels all spring practices and competitions
10:49 am – Reports that Donovan Mitchell has coronavirus surface
11:15 am – Sun Belt conference says no fans will be at the conference tournament
11:42 am – MLS suspends season for 30 days
11:47 am – SEC cancels basketball tournament
11:48 am – AAC cancels basketball tournament
11:49 am – Big Ten cancels basketball tournament
11:57 am – Atlantic 10 cancels basketball tournament
12:00 pm – WAC, CUSA cancel their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:03 pm – Notre Dame suspends recruiting and spring football practice
12:09 pm – MAC cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:16 pm – CAA cancels women’s basketball tournament and all spring sports contests are suspended
12:16 pm – ACC cancels men’s basketball tournament
12:17 pm – Pac-12 cancels basketball tournament and suspends sports competitions
12:27 pm – USL suspends 2020 season for 30 days
12:28 pm – Southland cancels conference tournament
12:32 pm – SEC suspends all on-campus sports
12:34 pm – Sun Belt cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:40 pm – Big 12 cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:44 pm – Big Sky cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:46 pm – America East cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments
12:53 pm – WAC suspends spring sports
12:57 pm – Big East cancels tournament at halftime of St. John’s vs. Creighton
12:58 pm – Conference USA cancels spring sports competitions
1:15 pm – Jeff Passan reports that MLB will suspend all operations
1:33 pm – NASCAR announces their Atlanta and Miami races will be held without fans
1:35 pm – NHL puts the remainder of its regular season on pause
1:35 pm – Atlantic 10 tournament canceled
1:41 pm – USC postpones spring football practices
1:49 pm – Duke suspends all athletic activities
1:54 pm – Kansas suspends all athletic activities and cancels all athletic travel
1:59 pm – Arizona State cancels all sports competitions
2:01 pm – MWC suspends all spring sports
2:17 pm – MAAC cancels basketball tournament
2:29 pm – West Virginia suspends athletic activities
2:29 pm – Southland Conference cancels all athletic events through March 30
3:00 pm – ACC suspends all athletics activities
3:09 pm – MLB’s 2020 Opening Day delayed two weeks, spring training games canceled and WBC qualifier postponed indefinitely
3:31 pm – Women’s Tennis Association announces Miami Open and Volvo Car Open are “not being held at this time”
3:51 pm – Minor League Baseball announces it will delay the start of the 2020 season
4:16 pm – NCAA Tournament canceled
6:28 pm – Arsenal has closed its London training center after head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19
Michigan’s season is over. Wait ‘til next year.
Check back next week for the season wrap-up and final grades.
The (#25) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week, and they won one and lost the other. On Thursday (03/05/2020), they beat Nebraska 82-58 in Crisler Arena, then on Sunday (03/08/2020), they lost at (#9) Maryland 83-70. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final regular season record of 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten). Michigan finished in 9th place in the Big Ten.
The Nebraska game was Senior Night for Michigan, and the Maryland game was Senior Day for them. In both cases, the home crowd was happy. Michigan has two players with senior eligibility (Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske), and they were both honored before the Nebraska game. They both played well in that game, and were given standing ovations when they came out in the final minutes.
Nebraska isn’t very good, and after an early 2-2 tie, Michigan led for the entire game. UM let Nebraska hang around for most of the 1st half, leading by only 4 points (32-28) at halftime, but they started the 2nd half strong, opened up a 16-18 point lead, and kept it there the rest of the way. The only suspense was whether Simpson would get a double-double; he did, with 11 points and 10 assists.
Maryland was playing for a tie for 1st place in the final Big Ten standings, and they outplayed Michigan. The game was close for the first 5 minutes, and Michigan actually led briefly, but once Maryland got ahead (8-7, with 15:11 to go), they never trailed again. They pushed the lead up to 10-12 points in the 1st half, and led by 13 (41-28) at halftime. Michigan cut into the lead in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half, and got within 3 points (56-53) with 10:21 left, but that was as close as they could get. Maryland eventually pushed the lead back into double digits and kept it there.
The stats for the Nebraska game are decent, but nothing special. Michigan shot fairly well overall (32-for-70 = 45.7%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (8-for-27 = 29.6%), and they shot free throws pretty well (10-for-14 = 71.4%). They lost the rebounding battle (40-38), but they won the turnover battle handily (11-22). Those 9 extra possessions helped Michigan win the game.
The stats for the Maryland game are about the same as the Nebraska game. Michigan shot fairly well overall (24-for-50 = 48.0%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (6-for-20 = 30.0%), and they shot free throws well (16-for-20 = 80.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (29-22) and the turnover battle (9-8). Those 8 extra possessions helped Maryland win the game.
Who Looked Good?
Simpson hit double figures in both games (11 and 13 points), and had 10 assists in the Nebraska game, for a double-double. He also had 5 turnovers in the Nebraska game, most of them when he tried to do too much and got too fancy. Fortunately, Nebraska isn’t very good, so it didn’t hurt Michigan.
Wagner was the only other Michigan player to hit double figures in both games, with 11 and 15 points. After a few weeks of decent 3-point shooting, he fell off this week: 0-for-4 vs. Nebraska and 2-for-5 vs. Maryland.
Livers had an uneven week. He was the leading scorer (18 points) vs. Nebraska, but he had a lousy game vs. Maryland: 6 points on 2-for-8 shooting (0-for-5 from deep).
Teske had a pretty good week, with 12 points on Senior Night vs. Nebraska, and 8 points vs. Maryland.
Brooks had a decent week, with 8 and 6 points, but he just doesn’t look very comfortable out there with the mask on over his broken nose.
Brandon Johns, Jr. had an uneven week, with 10 points in the Nebraska game and 0 points vs. Maryland.
David DeJulius had a VERY uneven week, with 1 point vs. Nebraska and a game-high (and career-high) 20 points vs. Maryland.
Austin Davis was yet another player to have an uneven week, with a strong 7 points vs. Nebraska, and a mediocre 2 points vs. Maryland.
Who Looked Not-So-Good?
Look at all those “uneven” weeks above: most of the “bad” games were vs. Maryland (except DeJulius). So, I guess you could list Livers, Johns, and Davis in the “not-so-good” category as well.
Who Else Played?
Who Didn’t Play?
What Does It Mean?
Well, the regular season is over, and it was a mixed bag. On 11/29/2019, Michigan was 7-0, and about to go from unranked to #4 in the next AP poll. Since that time, UM has played exactly 0.500 ball: 12-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten). They probably already have a good enough resume to get into the NCAA Tournament with a medium seed (8 or 9), but they could sure help their case with a couple wins in the Big Ten Tournament.
This week, Michigan plays in the Big Ten Tournament, in Indianapolis (IN). Michigan is the #9 seed, and they start play on Thursday (03/12/2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT, BTN) vs. the #8 seed, Rutgers. If they win that game, they will play again on Friday (03/13/2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT, BTN) vs. the #1 seed, Wisconsin. If they survive that, the next game would be on Saturday (03/14/2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT, CBS) vs. one of several teams. The championship game is on Sunday (03/15/2020, 3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS).
Michigan has played, and beaten, Rutgers twice already this season. They certainly stand a good chance against them in the 3rd meeting. On the other hand, Wisconsin beat Michigan in Crisler Arena in their only matchup this season. Michigan can certainly beat them, but they have to play pretty well to do it. The other top seeds (#2 Michigan State, #3 Maryland, and #4 Illinois) have all beaten Michigan this season, but Michigan did split with MSU.
Michigan doesn’t need to win the Big Ten Tournament championship to get into the Big Dance, but if they can win 2-3 games, it will sure help get them a more favorable seeding in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think Michigan has the mental strength to win 4 games in 4 days in Indianapolis, but they might be able to string together a couple wins. We’ll talk about how well they’ll do in the Big Dance next week.
Check back next week to see how Michigan did.