this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Jamiemac has beaten me to it, so the 1,000-foot summary:
The Wolverines probably had the most neutral week of any of the bubble contenders, evening out a great win over Purdue with a good-looking loss to Wisconsin. They did not surge like Providence, nor did they crater a la Kentucky and Florida.
A total of 36 brackets on the Bracket Matrix have been updated since Michigan’s win last Thursday night over Purdue. The good news: Half of those brackets include Michigan. The bad news: Most have not updated yet to include yesterday’s loss at Wisconsin. In fact, only five brackets have been updated since last night and the Wisconsin loss. None of those include the Wolverines.
All of the updated ones have Michigan on the cusp of the field; you have to think that a road win over a Minnesota team that either is in the tourney or will barely miss it would move Michigan up enough to grab a bid. It looks like the conventional wisdom that solidified at the beginning of the conference season—.500 will do it—should hold as long as 1) Michigan doesn't gack a first-round Big Ten tourney game and 2) there are not extensive hijinks in conference tourneys. With vanishingly few mid-majors looking like candidates for at-large bids scenario 2 doesn't have a high probability of coming to fruition. Still, you're in favor of Butler, Gonzaga, Siena, and the two leading A-10 schools until the moment they're knocked out of their conference tournaments, at which point they become FRAUDS(!).
As for the Wisconsin game: Periods of zero defense at the beginning of the first half and zero offense at the beginning of the second doomed them. They got crushed on the boards. Manny was very, very good but could have been a tiny bit more efficient. I let out a frustrated f-bomb when Sims missed an open, potentially tying three, and that was that.
I'm not upset or anything, just frustrated. Everything pointed to the team Michigan's had the entire year, one that intersperses moments of brilliance with things like that Amaker-like possession with around two minutes left. Michigan aimlessly chucked it around the perimeter for 25 seconds and ended up airballing a three as the shot clock expire. That reminded me of the good old days, and by "good old days" I mean "I am poking my eyes out with a stick." OTOH, Sims was making NBA-style turnaround jumpers and Manny was rebounding like a rebounding champion and they clawed themselves out of a hole that seemed surely fatal to actually lead at the half. I am remarkably serene about the team's fate and the program's future; that seems to directly correlate with walk-ons at the point and the only scholarship senior getting stapled to the bench.
I still don't get the rotation. Anthony Wright was dusted off and inserted for periods in both halves and did nothing in particular; Jevohn Shepherd couldn't get off the bench, etc etc etc. I've made this observation/complaint before. It probably doesn't matter nearly as much as I talk about it. It's just odd, is all.
Insert complaint about inconsistency of refereeing here. CJ Lee getting a foul for obstructing some Wisconsin guy's path when Wisconsin guys have been doing that all game immediately followed by a Manny Harris drive on which he is pawed at twice without a call is this game's shining WTF moment.
Many people are unfamiliar with the rules of causality. …But who am I to defy many people? I have been urged by multiple folks to forgo a Minnesota liveblog because of The Liveblog Curse. This is a transparently silly thing to believe in and a transparently silly thing to accede to, but the chorus of complaints is strong and I'm not in the business of intentionally pissing off readers. So the best thing to do is to wash my hands of the decision and leave it up to the readership at large.
Determine our fate, O Reader:
Torn between some stunning evidence and a desire not to annoy people planning their Sunday around this—of which there are probably thousands—we forge ahead. With something that is most certainly not a Wisconsin liveblog. In fact, it is the precise opposite of a Wisconsin liveblog. We are going to talk about 1950s-era Sri Lankan newspapers, and any other discussion is specifically against my wishes.
Step two to world domination. The hockey team is in action tonight at Ferris State. For a preview, Yost Built interviews a Ferris fan about the direction the program's taken this year (I'm having some trouble with the individual post pages, but the homepage is working).
Mark Mitera will play:
"He's as ready as he's going to be from practice so we're going to get him in a game and get him back in the saddle," Berenson said. "Unless there is a reason not to play him Saturday I'm expecting him to go both nights.
"I'm expecting that he'll come in and play solid. Obviously as he gets feeling confident we'll put him into bigger roles. He shouldn't play 20 minutes unless there's no risk, no cost of him hurting the team. But if we're planning on playing him back-to-back I just want to get him into the game, get him some shifts. If he can play 12-18 minutes that might be good."
Much of Yost will probably be watching every second of every Mitera shift, hoping to see Michigan's captain and best defender looking smooth. With a month yet before the NCAA tournament, chances he gets up to speed seem good.
Unfortunately, there's no TV for a game Michigan needs if it's going to stay in contention for a berth in Grand Rapids. However, the Michigan State-Notre Dame game is on CBS College Sports if you get that. Yes, you are pulling for Michigan State. No, it probably won't matter.
Also of interest is the NTDP joining the USHL. In addition to their usual slate of international tournaments and college exhibitions, the NTDP will now play a full 60-game USHL schedule and participate in the playoffs. This should boost the NTDP's level of competition and may lure a few more recruits to the program, and having kids already in Ann Arbor never hurts recruiting. It also might make for a couple of highly scoutable games next year when Michigan's whopping five U17 recruits (Moffatt, Fallon, Clare, Merrill, and Campbell) take on USHL teams featuring M recruits. Uh… of which there currently are none, but the Hotchkiss guys have mentioned possible moves and Michigan might add a recruit or two depending on how NHL defection season goes.
Update: oh, yeah, forgot about the nearly-official announcement that Michigan and Wisconsin will play at Camp Randall next year.
2/26/2009 – Michigan 87, Purdue 78 – 17-10, 8-8 Big Ten
Beat UCLA, nearly lose to Savannah State. Beat Duke, nearly lose to Indiana. Beat Illinois, nearly lose to Northwestern. Actually gack it up against Iowa with Manny Harris on the bench for pissing off the coach, finally killing all hope of making the tourney and…
|DeShawn Sims, F||34||13-16||1-2||2-3||2||5||2||1||2||0||1||29|
|Zack Novak, G||34||1-2||0-1||2-4||1||4||3||0||0||3||3||4|
|Stu Douglass, G||31||2-4||2-3||1-3||0||1||4||3||0||0||2||7|
|C.J. Lee, G||14||2-2||1-1||1-4||0||2||0||1||0||0||3||6|
|Manny Harris, G||35||8-15||3-5||8-11||1||8||4||1||0||4||2||27|
Holy hopscotching hell. Even if the numbers say Michigan is middle of the pack when it comes to inconsistency, it certainly feels like they drank a mysterious serum of their own concoction in November and have since been oscillating wildly between the states of "fresh" and "chuck."
This game was a microcosm. It went from tight but promising at the half—that's what she said—to a ten point lead, at which point the teams traded seven point runs. Purdue went first and the lead careened sickeningly down to three points before Michigan pushed it back out and eventually turned into a laugher. Several minutes of OH GOD MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS later I felt as ill as you can possibly feel with a six point lead and under a minute remaining, but the bleeding stopped: we're back, baby! For now!
The way they did it didn't help my feelings of disorientation. Harris and Sims put on an absolute clinic—with an assist from Stu Douglass, who you'll note above had four assists, no turnovers, and seven points on four shots—against the #5 defensive team in the country. And they did it by hoisting just 16 threes against 30 twos. And when Manny was fouled on drives there were whistles. And Crisler was nominally sold out.
If I'm a little bit inconsistent with my opinion of the team, so is the team.
Here we are again. The freshmen from Indiana are less floppy-haired but the kids from Detroit are still inexplicably faithful and sometimes brilliant. Michigan has an opportunity here, has two cracks at ending its decade wandering in the desert. At some point last night when Michigan led big I remembered that Raftery and company were doing the game and thoughts wandered to what it would be like to hear CBS' fey but iconic "this is college basketball" music and see Michigan and its double-digit seed show up and hear Raftery and Gus Johnson say something along the lines of "this is Michigan's first tourney appearance in ten years."
I have concluded this would feel good no matter what follows, and wish for Michigan to win one of their next two. Come on, kids.
- I don't actually believe that MGoLiveblogs of Michigan basketball games are causing crushing losses, no matter how much evidence piles up, and since these last two games are pretty important we'll brave fate and deploy CILs for both. God help me if they lose both.
- Wooooo assistant technical foul! Did it help? I sort of seemed like it. I don't go in for theories that badgering the referees like you're thinking about killing them helps you with the calls, but Michigan got a lot of calls they don't normally get after Mahoney got T-ed up.
- Do you think the spate of early calls against Michigan—all on obvious fouls—actually helped in the long run? It certainly seemed like that game was called way tighter than most of these Big Ten slugfests are, which undoubtedly had something to do with Michigan's increased presence inside the three point line, and Manny's continued, successful attempts at driving. There was none of that getting lazy or fearful and jacking up poor jumpers. (Ok, there was some of that but the proportion was appropriate.)
- Crisler did not like the Manny Harris charge + assistant coach technical combo. I haven't seen the arena that totally pissed about a call in a long time. And with good reason. I actually thought the Zach Novak blocking foul late where Hummel plowed him after getting his own rebound was way worse, but I didn't have the benefit of replay.
- OTOH, Chris Kramer got absolutely jacked up a few times and could not get a call. LLP (I think) gave him a flying hack as he attempted to dunk that looked like an intentional foul to stop an easy two, but there was no call. There was at least one other instance where he was obviously hacked and didn't get the call, and a couple borderline incidents.
However, I did enjoy Manny Harris driving, dishing, and then clobbering Kramer—who had set up literally under the basket—without getting a whistle. Not because I bear any ill will towards Kramer specifically, just because I hate that crap.
- Did anyone else have a twinge of regret about Grady choosing basketball when he flew back down court and helped slow up a Purdue fastbreak late?
Thank you for not posting a live blog for tonight's game. Good night.
And you can't have one without the other…
One more, kids, come on, one more.
Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.
I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.
One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).
Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.
It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.
Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:
Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?
In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.
But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.
My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.
Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.
Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.
Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.
What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.
[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]