Monday, April 29, 2013

The 2013 NFL Draft and how it played out for Michigan & Michigan State

The NFL Draft was completed over the weekend and five players from Michigan and Michigan State were selected during the three-day event. Here are my thoughts on each of the players that got their name called.

Le’Veon Bell, 2nd Round Pick (48) to Pittsburgh Steelers – This seems like a perfect fit for Bell, who is known more for being a physical back than a finesse player. The Steelers have question marks at running back, which opens the door for Bell to earn carries right away. Bell should earn the respect of the fan base, as the Steeler fans like their workhorse players.

Dion Sims, 4th Round Pick (106) to Miami Dolphins – Sims went a little quicker than I expected, but Miami has really put a focus on getting faster as a team and is trying to reshape its offense. Sims will need to improve on his blocking ability, but he provides Miami with a tight end that is already physically ready for the NFL and has good hands and feet for a man of his size.

William Gholston, 4th Round Pick (126) to Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gholston is a player that could be a fourth-round gem, or he could amount to nothing. It all depends on what Gholston’s motivation and work ethic is. Gholston has the physical tools to be a great player, but he has been known to back down from a challenge. He will be challenged every day in practice and every Sunday in games. He is going to have to be physically and mentally better than his opponent instead of just rely on his natural talent.

Denard Robinson, 5th Round Pick (135) to Jacksonville Jaguars – Robinson was one of the picks that everyone around the country was paying attention to. I personally thought he could be a good fit in Detroit, but the Jaguars scooped him up in the fifth round a few picks prior to the Lions being on the clock. Jacksonville is in need of playmakers to help quarterback Blaine Gabbert come along. Last year the team added Justin Blackmon and this year it should have a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew back in the mix. With Robinson, the offense has some options as he can take some carries out of the backfield or on a reverse, he can catch some passes and he can sometimes throw the ball. There is a history of success for former college quarterbacks at the receiver position and Robinson has the talent to have a good NFL career. His biggest challenge will be staying healthy when his small frame takes the big hits from NFL defenders.

Will Campbell, 6th Round Pick (178) to New York Jets – This was a surprising pick for a few reasons. Campbell wasn’t really on the draft radar, and when he was picked, he was picked to play the offensive line instead of defensive tackle. Campbell has experience on the offensive line during the 2010 season at Michigan, but it was a bit of a shocker to see him drafted by the Jets to play guard. At 6-5, 318 pounds, Campbell has good size to compete for a spot on the line, but there will be some bumps in the road as he transitions to the other side of the ball.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Who should have the better 2013-14 season, Michigan or Michigan State?

It appears as if most of the dust has settled when it comes to which Michigan and Michigan State players are entering the NBA Draft.
Though Adreian Payne has yet to make his decision official, most signs point to Payne returning to the Spartans for his senior season.
If that is indeed the case, we can now start to take a look at how the Spartans and Wolverines are shaping up for the 2013-14 season.
The Spartans are largely the same team coming back from this past season, with the exception of the loss of Derrick Nix. Despite the loss of Nix, you can probably expect some development from the likes of Matt Costello and Branden Dawson.
Costello showed some signs of being a capable player once he shook the freshman nerves. Dawson has always been a great athlete, but he struggled this year with his touch on offense. Part of that could have been from coming off the knee injury. With a healthy offseason to improve his shot and work on his touch around the basket, I think Dawson should become a much better player.
The Spartans should also get some improvement out of the likes of Gary Harris, Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine. It is unclear if Keith Appling has hit his peak, but he certainly has shown the ability to be one of the best players in the Big Ten at times.
When it comes to Michigan, the Wolverines have a strong foundation returning with the trio of freshmen starters coming back. Nik Stuaskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary will each need to step up in terms of offensive production with the loss of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
I was surprised that Hardaway Jr. decided to go pro, just because I think he would have benefited from a year of being “the guy” for Michigan.
Along with the starters, Michigan will have Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan back to help contribute. I think Morgan struggled all year due to his injuries, so a healthy Morgan could have a much greater impact.
The Wolverines will have to rely more on their incoming freshmen class than MSU. Part of that is because the Spartans don’t have much of a class and the other part is that the Wolverines will need help at point guard from Derrick Walton. Zak Irvin could also make an immediate impact at small forward.
Of the two teams, I think the bigger question marks come from Michigan. Will the loss of Burke be too great to overcome? Not only did he handle the ball and do the most scoring, he also did a good job of getting open looks for his teammates. McGary’s strong tournament run was aided by Burke, so it will be interesting to see if McGary can still be an offensive force if he has to create his own shots.
Both teams seem to be set for a good 2013-14 season, but it is unclear just how successful they will be.
Who do you think is primed to have the better 2013-14 season if the teams are built the way they currently are?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trey Burke to go down as one of Michigan's all-time greats

Nobody is really surprised that Trey Burke is entering the NBA Draft.
It’s almost been a foregone conclusion since midseason.
Burke made his decision to leave Michigan for the NBA Draft official on Sunday afternoon and the country is now deprived of a great player with two years of eligibility left.
Burke, though he played for just two years, will go down as one of the all-time greats to wear a Michigan uniform.
Stats aside, Burke cemented his legacy at Michigan by helping the Wolverines get to the national championship game. There is no question that he didn’t always play his best during the tournament run, but his efforts in the comeback against Kansas were legendary in their own right.
While Burke came up short in getting Michigan the national championship, he does leave the program with a Big Ten title and a Final Four to his credit.
He may not go down as the greatest Wolverine in history, but he has to be close. Burke’s impact has a little more of a greater impact because he was the one to lead Michigan back to a national level of success the program hadn’t had since the Fab Five days.
Michigan is a lot better off as a program with Burke leaving than it was when he arrived. If Michigan is ever able to get back to a national title game, or even win the championship, Burke will deserve some credit for building the foundation of success.
I am not sure what awaits him in the NBA, or how his game will translate to the next level, but I enjoyed watching him compete this past season. You could tell he really left it all on the floor when the game was over.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Drake Harris commits to Michigan, making plenty of enemies at MSU

It’s not like Michigan State fans needed more reasons to hate Michigan, but the last month probably hasn’t helped matters.
First the Wolverines make a run to the national championship game in basketball. Now the Spartans watched Drake Harris, one of their former verbal commitments for the 2014 season, make a new commitment to Michigan on Sunday.
The junior receiver from Grand Rapids Christian is currently rated as a 4-star recruit by and has the potential to move up to being a 5-star recruit by the time his senior season is over.
Harris was already a highly-touted recruit when he committed to Michigan State prior to the start of the 2012 season. He grabbed national attention for his performance in the Division 3 state football championship game when he caught eight passes for 243 yards and a touchdown, leading Grand Rapids Christian past Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 40-37.
It was after that game that the heat really picked up on Harris’ recruiting, despite his commitment to MSU. Talk of Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and many others courting Harris seemed to be a reality, and in early March, Harris decided to walk away from the Spartans.
Harris originally committed to MSU when he was planning on playing both football and basketball for the Spartans. With his focus turning to just playing football, he decided to decommit and cited his desire to play for a national title contender.
It didn’t take Harris too long, just over a month, to commit to Michigan. He did so on Sunday, a day after the Wolverines’ spring game.
Harris’ commitment has certainly sparked a lot of back-and-forth between the fan bases and it is clear that Harris has made himself one of the biggest enemies in the eyes of the Spartans.
There are really three things to acknowledge with this whole situation.
First, Harris is allowed to do what he wishes. I can’t blame a kid for wanting to make the best decision for his future. The big problem with recruiting is that there is not an early signing period for football players to help keep the flip-flopping from happening. It’s tough for a teenager not to be tempted to break a commitment with all these other coaches and programs coming after him. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing had I been in Harris’ situation (in terms of breaking the commitment to Michigan State).
Second, when I look at Drake Harris and his abilities, I can’t blame him for wanting to play for a national title contender. No offense to Michigan State, but the Spartans aren’t at that level. If Harris is truly as good as he is rated, he has the chance to play anywhere in the country. Michigan State doesn’t register as one of those five programs that a recruit of his caliber should be targeting if they really want to contend for a national title and have the chance to be a top draft pick in the NFL. Sorry Spartans fans, but it’s the truth.
With that said, Harris himself stated that he wanted to contend for national titles. If that is truly the case, I have to question his decision to commit to Michigan (the third issue). I know this will upset some Wolverine fans, but you can’t argue that Michigan is close to winning a national title right now. The only programs that can say they have consistently been in the title picture recently are Alabama, LSU and Oregon. You can probably throw Ohio State in that mix with last year’s unbeaten season and Urban Meyer’s coaching accomplishments.
I think Brady Hoke is doing a good job in recruiting and there is potential there for Michigan to get into the national title picture down the road, but last season’s opener with Alabama proved that the Wolverines aren’t ready for that discussion yet.
If Harris didn’t want to go to Michigan State and preferred to go to Michigan, that’s fine. He has the right to make that decision. But, if he is looking to win a national title, he may not have made the right choice. Either way, he certainly painted a big target on his back when he heads to East Lansing while sporting the maize and blue.
Then again, who knows if Harris will stand by this commitment either.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How hard will Michigan be hit by the 2013 NBA Draft?

It was a great run for Michigan.
I for one didn’t see the Wolverines coming within six points of a national championship at the end of the regular season, but Michigan really played its best basketball at the right time.
There are plenty of ways you can analyze Monday’s game. You can be critical of the coaches or players or the refs, but I am just going to let that all go.
Michigan had a great season and accomplished something big for its program by reaching the national championship game. I didn’t think John Beilein was a coach capable of taking Michigan to that next level, but he proved me wrong and he deserves credit for that. I think he has secured his spot as head coach of the Wolverines for a long time to come.
This season had the makings of being a disappointing one after Michigan failed to win a Big Ten title of any kind, but the Final Four and national championship game appearances made up for all that.
This last month can do a lot for the Michigan program going forward. It should do a lot for recruiting, which is already going well for the Wolverines (three ESPN Top 100 recruits joining the team next season).
Next season will certainly be interesting for Michigan, but the big question heading into the offseason is who will be back for the Wolverines?
Four of Michigan’s starting five all have the potential to leave for the NBA.
It is more than expected that Trey Burke is leaving. The sophomore point guard nearly left after his freshman year, but decided to stay. Now he is the National Player of the Year and doesn’t have any reason to come back outside of wanting to win a national title. I’d be shocked if Burke returned. He is a guaranteed lottery pick.
Junior Tim Hardaway Jr. also seems set to leave. I personally think he could benefit from coming back and being the focal point of the Michigan offense. Hardaway disappeared at times throughout the season and another year to develop his shot would be beneficial in my opinion. His family pedigree helps his draft status, but I am not sure he’s ready.
Glenn Robinson III also has the family background to go pro, but I really think he needs a second year of college. The freshman has good length, at 6-6, but I think he could use another year in a strength and conditioning program to bulk up a little bit. He was frequently out-muscled when playing defense this year and became somewhat of a defensive liability for Michigan. With his athleticism, Robinson III can be a great pro player if he develops his shot. He was just a 32 percent shooting from 3-point land and 67 percent shooter at the free-throw line.
Mitch McGary wasn’t really on the NBA radar entering the tournament, but he certainly is now. I don’t expect him to leave, but his stocker has never been better. He already has pretty good size at 6-10, 250 pounds, and his outside shooting has noticeably improved. McGary also runs the floor well and has great court awareness. I still think it would be wise for him to return to Michigan and work on his post moves and try to develop his scoring inside with both hands. I think McGary could really dominate if he continues to develop. He would be a featured player for Michigan and I think he could be a Player of the Year Candidate with another year of progress.
So, of the four, how many do you think will return. Right now, I think Burke and Hardaway Jr. are leaving. I am on the fence about Robinson III. He may not feel comfortable coming back with the others leaving, or he could embrace the challenge of having to be a featured player. I think McGary will be back for sure, which will help Michigan a great deal.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Michigan vs. Louisville National Championship Game Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Louisville
Time: 9:20PM ET
Venue: Georgia Dome
Records: Michigan 31-7; Louisville 34-5
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.5 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (6.3 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.8 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Louisville stat leaders: Points – Russ Smith (18.9 ppg); Rebounds – Gorgui Dieng (9.4 rpg); Assists – Peyton Siva (5.7 apg); Steals – Siva (2.2 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W5, Louisville W15
Point Spread: Louisville -4
Prediction: Well, it all comes down to this. On paper, this should be an outstanding game. Both teams like to push the pace on offense and get in transition. Louisville has an aggressive defense, but could be exposed by a team like Michigan that handles the ball well. Michigan’s defense will have its hands full, but the Wolverines should be able to pose some problems for Louisville’s top scorer, Russ Smith. Smith stands just 6-1, which means 6-6 Tim Hardaway Jr. should be able to contest his shots. Smith has scored at least 21 points in all five tournament games. If Michigan can slow him down, it severely hurts Louisville’s chances to win. The Louisville defense has the luxury of having 6-11 center Gorgui Dieng patrolling the paint. Similar to Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Dieng has racked up a lot of blocks this season and he alters a lot of shots with his length. Michigan will have a hard time scoring with dribble penetration when Dieng is on the floor, but that could also setup Mitch McGary to get some easy points if Trey Burke can draw Dieng away from him. Michigan is fully capable of winning this game, but the Wolverines will need a solid 40 minutes to do so. Michigan can’t struggle down the stretch like it did against Syracuse. Louisville will do a better job of capitalizing on Michigan’s mistakes. The Cardinals have also faced plenty of deficits toward the end of the season and still rallied to win. No matter what Michigan does on Monday, Louisville won’t give up. The Cardinals have the better coach in Rick Pitino (in my opinion) and I think that will play a big role in this game. Though Michigan is playing a high level, I picked Louisville to win it all when the field was announced, so I am not backing away from that pick now. Louisville 72, Michigan 69

Friday, April 5, 2013

Michigan vs. Syracuse Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Time: 8:50PM ET
Venue: Georgia Dome
Records: Michigan 30-7; Syracuse 30-9
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.8 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (6.2 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.8 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Syracuse stat leaders: Points – C.J. Fair (14.3 ppg); Rebounds – Fair (7.0 rpg); Assists – Michael Carter-Williams (7.4 apg); Steals – Carter-Williams (2.8 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W4, Syracuse W4
Point Spread: Michigan -1.5
Prediction: Similar to the game with VCU, this game is being hyped up as the Michigan offense vs. the Syracuse defense. Instead of “havoc” the Orange will look to slow down Michigan with its 2-3 zone defense. Thus far in the tournament the zone defense has been very impressive for the Orange, holding Indiana to 50 points and Marquette to 39. However, Michigan seems to be clicking on offense and the Wolverines have the ability to beat the zone with its 3-point shooting. However, the key to that is for Michigan to actually hit the shots. The Wolverines can’t expect Nik Stauskas to go 6-for-6 from the 3-point line again, but Tim Hardaway Jr. could heat up and Trey Burke is always a threat to hit from deep. Michigan will also need to continue to get points in the paint from Mitch McGary, who has done a good job of finishing inside in the tournament. The true key to this game could be how Michigan defends Syracuse. The Orange have plenty of athletes and plenty of length. Michigan will have a hard time matching up on defense, so rebounding will again be a key on that end. If Syracuse is able to get multiple chances on the offensive end, it will be able to beat Michigan. We have seen Syracuse go in plenty of offensive funks in games throughout the season, and I think the Orange will fall into a funk at some point in this game. Michigan may not shoot the lights out, but I don’t think it will need to. The Wolverines seem to have it all working right now and I think John Beilein will have the right approach to attacking the zone and Michigan will move on to the national championship. Michigan 66, Syracuse 60

Monday, April 1, 2013

Future uncertain for Michigan State after "disappointing" 2012-13 season

This was an interesting season for the Michigan State basketball team.
There were times where it looked like the Spartans weren’t going to amount to much, then there were times where it looked like MSU might be a national contender.
By standards of most programs, Michigan State had a good season, maybe even a successful one. The Spartans finished second in the most difficult conference, the Big Ten, and reached its fifth Sweet 16 in six years.
But, those aren’t accomplishments worth applauding thanks to the standards of Tom Izzo.
The Spartans didn’t claim any championship this year and didn’t reach a Final Four. Those are the standards Izzo has created for the program through the years.
Michigan State was capable of beating Duke in the Sweet 16, but it didn’t get the job done.
Adding to the sting of the end of the season for Spartan fans is seeing Michigan reach the Final Four for the first time since 1993.
Like it or not, Michigan has made a lot of progress in the in-state rivalry the past few years and the Wolverines have a potential to win the national title, which would give John Beilein as many titles as Izzo.
That’s not to say Beilein is a better coach, but there has to be some concern within the MSU program about where things are heading.
The Spartans could be very good next year if the team stays intact. However, it is not certain that that will be the case.
Derrick Nix is the lone senior and his departure will be felt. He provided strength in the paint and had developed into a nice offensive option this season with his scoring and passing.
The Spartans may get more athletic in the paint next season, but I don’t know that they will have the interior passing presence like they had in Nix this season and Draymond Green prior to that.
ESPN’s NBA Draft guru, Chad Ford, has two Spartans listed as potential first round picks if they elect to leave early.
Freshman guard Gary Harris is currently listed as the 10th best prospect in this year’s draft. Ford believes Harris is a lock to be a lottery pick if he elects to leave MSU.
Junior forward Adreian Payne is listed as the 40th-best prospect for the draft by Ford. Payne’s athleticism and size, along with his ability to shoot from the outside, make him an interesting option for NBA teams. Though unpolished, Payne has plenty of upside.
Due to a recruiting class for 2013 that currently features just one player, three-star center Gavin Schilling, Michigan State can’t really afford to see Harris or Payne leave. Harris will likely develop into MSU’s top scoring option for next season and Payne is crucial to keep on the roster with Nix already gone.
If MSU can keep Payne and Harris around, we might be talking about another Final Four run for the Spartans at this time next year. If not, there may be more disappointment to come.