Dan: What’s up, everyone? We’re here with another Mailing it in with Dan and Von. There’s a tiny bit of football news, but as we head into the spring, basketball will be the focus. To get it out of the way though, Von: 2018’s coaching staff seems to have taken shape, and I’d be surprised if there are any major shake ups. The biggest story for me is Harbaugh managing to retain Chris Partridge.
Von: Keeping Partridge around is huge for several reasons. Partridge is by far the best recruiter Michigan has, and he has played a big part in landing a lot of Michigan’s best young players. I also think that whenever Don Brown retires, Partridge would be the top candidate to take over as the defensive coordinator. He has done a tremendous job in his few years at Michigan, so keeping him here is incredibly important.
Dan: Everything you just said is true, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to speculate that some sort of “in-waiting” off-record agreement was main to keep him in Ann Arbor. As you’ve said, he’s an elite recruiter, but I want to also add that his position groups have been spectacular the last two years. Linebackers have have to rebuild both years, and Partridge has gotten them to play at a high level. I can’t wait to see what he does with Bush and Hudson in Year 3. Anything else from the grid iron you want to touch on?
Von: No, not really. It’s the slow part of the year for college football, so let’s move on to the hoops team. Michigan took it to MSU last weekend, and then defeated Maryland a couple days later in dramatic fashion. If it weren’t for the one-point Purdue loss last week, Michigan would be on a 10-game winning streak. These guys are gritty and tough, and are having fun doing it, too. But now they go on the road again to take on Nebraska. This team has played a lot of basketball over the past week, so are you concerned at all with the wear and tear this could possibly have on them?
Dan: I’m not, honestly. As we touched on a couple weeks ago, Beilein has done a wizardly job at shifting the weight and strain of this team around from game to game. After a couple weeks of the supporting cast carrying the weight, you’ve seen Baby Dirk do what super stars are supposed to do against State and Maryland - picking up two solid wins on short rest. Matthews and Simpson need to pull their free throw shooting up to provide some second level consistency though.
I’ll actually use this to pivot to the games themselves. Purdue and Maryland were two sides of the same coin. Against the Boilermakers, Michigan lost a game it shouldn’t have because of a late implosion while they rebounded to beat the Terps because of clutch free throw shooting, overcoming what was an overall crap game. The free throw shooting and late game play of this team can be such a roller coaster.
Von: I agree. Michigan cannot have its starting point guard shoot just a shade above 50 percent from the free-throw line. That is just unacceptable. It baffles me how these players can shoot lights out from beyond the arc, but when it comes time to shoot some free throws, no one other than Duncan Robinson and MAAR are able to make them! I feel at some point this will all come to bite them in the butt and they will drop a game they normally wouldn’t.
Dan: We’ll finish by dancing on the Spartans’ graves, but you bring up a really good point there: Nebraska and Rutgers line the schedule before a rematch against the Boilermakers on the road. Any chance for a slip up?
Von: I think there is a chance for a slip up. Like I said earlier, this team has been playing a TON of basketball, so it would not shock me at all if they dropped one against either Nebraska or Rutgers. I don’t think they will end up losing either of those games, but don’t be surprised if they drop one.
Dan: The good news is that they’re spaced out a bit better than the last couple weeks. Here’s to hoping that the Maryland game will act as a wake up. I think we can both agree though that this team has exceeded expectations. They sit at 16-4 at the 2/3 mark of the season and have a decent list of impressive wins. They’ll have chances to avenge both conferences losses (Ohio State and Purdue). Beilein teams notoriously improve their play in tournament games; I’m start getting to get excited about basketball’s ceiling in 2018
Von: Oh, this team has absolutely exceeded expectations. Who thought they’d be where they are at after losing Walton, Irvin and Wilson from a year ago? Whooping Michigan State’s “best team ever” was something I definitely did not think would happen. The sky is the limit for this team, honestly. I’m beginning to think they may have a legitimate shot to defend their Big Ten conference tournament title in a couple months.
Dan: Okay, let’s do it. Let’s dance on the Spartans because, well. I’m just going to lay this right here.
If we’re going to let them occupy so much space in our brains because of blocked punts and monsoons, I think we should get to celebrate a bit when things go right. This was one of the more pleasing basketball games I can remember when the refs weren’t intent on turning it into their own personal grandstand
Von: I’m right there with you. These wins have been glorious. Beilein has out-coached Izzo over the last few meetings, which is just beautiful considering Spartans look up to Izzo as if he is there god.
Dan: I think it’s somewhat amusing how flipped the basketball and football coaches are at these two schools. Izzo and Harbaugh get all kinds of headlines despite maybe not living up to the hype of late; meanwhile, Beilein and D’Antonio continue to produce good, sometimes great teams without as much talent. All four are incredible coaches but I find the parallel funny. Keeping it short this week, I’ll wrap my thoughts before tossing it over to you with this: Mo Wagner has awoken and is going to be a problem for teams come tourney time.
Von: Imagine Wagner fully healthy, too. He’s still dealing with that ankle injury he suffered about a month ago or so, so once he’s 100 percent healthy he is truly going to cause some havoc. Wagner putting on a show against MSU with that injury is so awesome, so it’ll be great to see him at full health again. And you are right, Dan. When it comes time for the conference tourney and the NCAA tourney, Wagner is going to be the centerpiece for this team, and the successes this team has will be based around his performances and contributions.