Wheat, wheat, chaff. The last couple days have been very good for Michigan's tourney chances:
South Florida 70, Cinci 59
St. John's 59, Georgetown 56
Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63
North Carolina 86, Va Tech 78
Georgia 90, Kentucky 85
Mississippi State 80, Florida 71
Georgia Tech 78, Miami 68
The only bubble results to have gone against Michigan were in their own conference, with Ohio State narrowly escaping a late barrage of Iowa three attempts, Northwestern getting back on the bubble by winning at Purdue, and Minnesota possibly solidifying a bid by taking down Wisconsin. (New Mexico beating Utah is also Not Good, I guess.)
Some of those losses are horrible and those teams have basically eliminated themselves. Kentucky now has the #78 RPI and the #68 SOS; Miami is 6-9 in the ACC and 17-11 overall. This probably doesn't change the do-or-die nature of the Minnesota game, but it does significantly smooth the rails should Michigan pull off the mild upset.
Pendulum reverse. I don't know what's with Jay Bilas. Maybe he's been bludgeoned into saying nice things about Michigan by ESPN higher-ups. Maybe he values a win over Duke more than everyone else in the universe. Or maybe he's on a manic swing right now, because now whenever you get him on TV talking about the bubble he brings up Michigan as obviously in no matter what happens against Minnesota.
The only problem with this: it is almost certainly wrong.
Allow myself to introduce myself. Leon Hall, now of the Cincinnati Bengals, got a painting commissioned. Naturally, it's dedicated to how awesome Leon Hall is. The painter put up a time-lapse video of its construction and decided to set it to the least appropriate music ever (it's SFW, just all about how awesome Ohio is*):
Whilst fast forwarding I couldn't help but think of Bill Simmons' column on NBA finances and how broke-ass all these NBA stars are. Leon, my man, couldn't you think of more socially productive uses for that money?
Um, well, okay. Varsity Blue's odd new series profiling each of the Michigan commits who didn't end up signing provides a jumping-off point for a final review of how Michigan's class was impacted.
|Kevin Newsome||Tate Forcier|
|Shavodrick Beaver||Denard Robinson|
|Bryce McNeal||Je'Ron Stokes|
|DeWayne Peace||Adrian Witty?|
|Will Campbell||Will Campbell|
|Anthony Fera||Brendan Gibbons|
The dastardly defectors are at right. There is one obvious push: Will Campbell's quasi-defection. McNeal and Stokes are also about equal in the eyes of the recruiting services. At quarterback, Newsome, Beaver, Forcier, and Robinson all exist outside of top 100 lists but in that 100-250 range; pick your preferences there. Some people don't think Robinson is a quarterback, but that goes for Newsome, too. That's basically a push.
Then you have the strange cases of DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes. Neither is anything more than a replacement-level recruit for Michigan, so the loss there is not so much in the talent of the player lost but the scholarship that will go to waste this year. That's a small cost, but one that it appeared Michigan was willing to take when it dropped out of contact with Barnes, who eventually ended up at Oklahoma State, and told Peace they wanted him to play corner—something Peace had told the coaches he didn't want to do. That VB article highlights one of the blunter quotes I've heard from a coach on signing day: "sometimes a kid does you a favor when he decommits." Barnes and Peace would fit into that category.
Kicker Anthony Fera was replaced by Brendan Gibbons, and that's likely to be a small downgrade. Fera was rated higher by the recruiting services and was Michigan's first choice. Gibbons is a few slots lower. Given how erratic kicker rankings are—which says more about kickers than the rankings—it's not a big deal.
So we've dismissed or replaced everyone on the list until we get to the last two: defensive tackles DeQuinta Jones and Pearlie Graves, signing-day decommits Michigan did not have time to replace. Signing just one defensive tackle this year is a major bummer, and there had been rumors swirling around the two for months before they finally pulled the trigger. Michigan was caught with its pants down there. (Larry Harrison jokes in the comments will be downgraded for low SOS.)
Hockey at the Big House: Michigan State is in; the Wings are out.
Etc.: Mike Valenti could be joining Rob Parker in the soup kitchen line soon. He should have MADE PLAYS instead of RUNNING HIS MOUTH IN HURRICANE KATRINA. The Big House Blog recaps and rates Michigan's nine announced preferred walk-ons.
Stipulated: Michigan has no case for the NCAA tournament unless it wins at Minnesota on Saturday. The rest of this post assumes a Michigan win to get to 9-9 in the Big Ten, because if it does not it is pointless. Let this not be a jinx.
Why is Penn State in brackets ahead of Michigan? Look: they're currently in Lunardi's Bracketology and several others in the Bracket Matrix. 33 brackets have PSU in; just 11 have Michigan in. Hypothetical Michigan is 9-9 in conference and 19-12 overall pending the Big Ten tourney. Hypothetical Penn State (@ Iowa, Illinois) is probably 22-11 and 10-8 in conference. Right now they're 9-7.
Penn State has an advantage in conference, then. However, out of conference:
|Games Against Kenpom Top 100||Duke(5), UCLA (9), Duke(5), UConn(3), Maryland(58), Northeastern(96)||Temple (52), Rhode Island(66)|
|Wins against same||Duke, UCLA, Northeastern||None|
Penn State's best nonconference win is against #104 Georgia Tech, which is headed for a one-win season in the ACC. Hell, Michigan's win over #113 Oakland is about as impressive as that. You can wipe away the Temple/Maryland losses as equal and call Michigan's win over #96 Northeastern equal to PSU's loss to #66 Rhode Island—very generous—and then you've got two wins in four games against top-ten opposition by Michigan versus Penn State's absolutely nothing. Surely that's a more impressive record even if Penn State is 1.5 games ahead in the conference standings, especially in a year when Michigan is missing the surest conference win of all: home against Indiana.
I make this point because I've heard a lot about Michigan's lack of a killer road win this season, which is something that makes little sense to me especially in relation to conference opponents. Penn State and Michigan play virtually the same schedule in conference, but you get the impression that a team that goes out and loses all its home games and wins all its road games is in much better shape than a team that does the opposite. This is clearly bats, as both teams have the exact same SOS, but the hoo-hah about road wins is the most ominous thing we hear about Michigan, and if they get bumped off the bubble it will obviously be the #1 thing cited. No matter that Michigan actually played a nonconference schedule, unlike PSU.
I don't know where Michigan stands in relation to teams in the Big East or Pac 10 or SEC, as there are just too many variables. But if 9-9 Michigan gets left out of the field and 10-8 Penn State gets in, there will be a fit around these parts. Road wins are a stupid metric. And even if they're a good metric it's because it showcases the team's ability to play at a very high level and do a very difficult thing, which Michigan has already demonstrated by beating UCLA on a neutral court and Duke at home.
Update: forgot about the UConn game.
Update II: some protest in the comments. Let's look at it like this: in the hypothetical situation where M beats Minnesota and PSU splits its last two, Michigan and Penn State will have identical records across the 16 conference games they shared. Consider the conference games the teams didn't share as nonconference games and this is what you're looking at:
|Games Against Kenpom Top 100||N-Duke(5), N-UCLA (9), Duke(5), UConn(3), OSU (46), @ Maryland(58), @ Northwestern(68) Northeastern(96)||@ MSU(14), Temple (52), N-Rhode Island(66)|
|Wins against same||Duke, N-UCLA, @ Northwestern, Northeastern||@ MSU|
Then you are basically holding Penn State's one win at MSU against 2 losses to meh teams equivalent to Michigan going 4-4 against the schedule you see above including two wins over top ten foes. Does not compute.
Again, if Michigan loses to the Gophers this is moot, and if Penn State wins its last two it's also moot. I just don't understand how you can look at the above resumes and give Penn State the edge.
I decided against throwing the 2010 recruiting board on the front page because it is long and since it's a dateless page it may just stay there forever, like a bloated, unwelcome guest.
Oh, no reason.
But it does exist and can be found at the link above and in the "useful stuff" dropdown on the masthead. The MGo version of the recruiting board is a bit less promiscuous than Varsity Blue's equivalent, as a bunch of kids say they're getting letters from Michigan and nothing more ever comes of it. I don't want to waste your time with kids who end up at Central, and I don't want to waste my time with annoying table row C&Ps. If you want the full monty, Varsity Blue's board is your thing.
Next up: getting the depth chart by class up to date. I'm probably going to wiki-fy the thing in short order, FWIW.
The University of Michigan is seeking to stage an outdoor hockey game at Michigan Stadium months after the venue's massive $226 million renovation is completed, executive associate athletic director Mike Stevenson said Tuesday evening.
The opponent is as of yet unknown, but if they're trying to fill 108,000 seats the logical choice is Michigan State. Some guy in the comments suggested a doubleheader featuring the Wings, which is a pretty cool idea in its own right.
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.
Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team on its way to play in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
At least six policemen escorting the team bus were killed, along with a driver. Seven cricketers and an assistant coach were injured.
Pakistani officials said about 12 gunmen were involved and grenades and rocket launchers have been recovered.
You win, 69% of voters who want no Minnesota liveblog. You win.
|Youngstown, Ohio - 6'0" 209
|Scout||3*, #46 S|
|Rivals||3*, #26 OLB|
|ESPN||81, #11 S, #95 overall|
|Others||#94 to Takkle.|
|Other Suitors||WVU, Cinci|
|Hello: Isaiah Bell|
|Notes||Teammate of Toussaint. UA game participant.|
Isaiah Bell's March commitment was one of Michigan's first of 2009. Bell was one of the few Midwestern recruits Rich Rodriguez had a pre-existing relationship with, and that relationship paid off:
"West Virginia was always one of my top choices, but then I found out coach Rod was leaving for Michigan, and that's what made them move up to No. 1 on my list," Bell said. "I remember it was real late at night and me and my family were up discussing which school was best for me and I said 'I'm going to sleep on it and when I wake up whatever college is on my mind, that's the school I'm going to commit to.' When I woke up, Michigan was there."
Offers as early as Bell's early usually indicate kids of significant talent, but he was just a random three-star safety/linebacker (and wide receiver and kick returner and punt returner) who happened to be the teammate of more exciting RB Fitzgerald Toussaint until ESPN saw fit to slather heaps of ridiculous praise on him:
I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. … Rules the secondary as a free safety. Has great instincts and plays outstanding zone coverage especially in the three deep. … A real competitor who can break a game wide open. … A magnificent kickoff return specialist … Can change direction without loss of speed or balance. Bell will be a big time player at a big time college. Just a little fundamental work is needed.
Emphasis mine: the laws of physics do not apply to Isaiah Bell! Get that weak shit out of here, physics!
Elsewhere in "ESPN loves Isaiah Bell":
- Looked "good on the hoof" at his NIKE camp: "It's hard not to see a potential 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame in two or three years."
- In ESPN's category rankings of safeties they declared it "astonishing" how someone Bell's size can play three-deep coverage; anyone who recalls the way the 2008 defense played underneath routes will be relieved to read this: "Besides quickness out of his break, he displays catch-up speed in running down receivers in the open field … he should be an excellent hook and curl defender."
ESPN would run a contentious chat later in the year that had a lot of questions like "Will Campbell and Justin Turner WTF?" from Michigan fans. Bell's name came up:
As far as Bell goes -- we feel this is a kid with tremendous upside and a great blend of size, speed and ball skills at the safety position. He has a really long, rangy frame that has a ton of physical development left while retaining his good speed and athleticism.
- In an article on ESPN 150 sleepers, he came in for major praise:
Impressive now, but the No. 91-ranked player has a ton of upside projected to the next level, both physically and athletically. … His biggest recruiting dilemma, and perhaps the major root of his national obscurity, may be trying to figure out what position to play him. He rules the secondary as a free safety but is built more like an outside linebacker. His continued physical development should dictate eventual position and success. His great instincts and competitive nature will make him a valuable football player at the college level, regardless of position.
After all that, ESPN slotted Bell in their top 100 and gave him an invite to their All-Star game. Because obviously they had to.
Unfortunately, no one else thought much of him except "TAKKLE," which is associated with SI and rated him about where ESPN did. Takkle's been around for a few years now but I don't know how much credence to lend those rankings. I do tend to favor Scout and Rivals assessments, and as you can see above both were pretty meh on Bell.
Part of that may be position uncertainty, but Bell projects as an outside linebacker in college and impressed in that role during the UnderArmor game:
With the employment of a lot of Cover 3, this week's practice has showcased several safeties playing down in the box over slots -- and looking impressive. Black's Isaiah Bell (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) came into this game with a reputation for his great run-stopping skills, but he has surprised me with his ability to open his hips and turn and run with faster slots. On a few plays, Bell even mirrored a quicker Andre Debose (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) tightly out of his breaks and made plays on the ball.
Rivals also named him one of the best players on his team:
8) S ISAIAH BELL6-1/209, Youngstown (Ohio) Liberty
After struggling through the first practice and temporarily moving to linebacker, Bell found his rhythm starting on Day Two. A big safety, he was able to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run as well as cover the inside receivers. Though he could add some bulk and be a very good outside linebacker at Michigan, he has the instincts of a safety in the passing game. Sunday's game proved that as he finished second on the team with five tackles and also added a pass breakup. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
He slotted in just ahead of five-star all-everything QB Russell Shepard(!). Strangely, this impressive performance had zero impact on his ratings. He checks in as the #27 player in Ohio at Rivals, one slot below a guy going to Akron. He's not even close to getting a fourth star. So… top ten player at an All-Star game or not quite good enough to beat out a MAC prospect? I don't know.
Oh, hell, let's add one more log to the fire of confusion:
Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.
He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. …
Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody’s business.
But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.
That's from Duane Long, an Ohio recruiting scout, in a blurb about the #29 player in the state. WTF.
So… yeah. Here's some video, you may as well make up your own mind. No one else is saying anything that makes sense.
As for yrs truly's opinion: I'm more excited about Bell than his ratings might indicate. In the new era of spread-mad football it's critical to have guys who can cover like Bell apparently can and not like, say, Johnny Thompson does. Or, more to the point, doesn't. No offense to Thompson; it's just he was born 20 years too late to be a linebacker. A guy with Bell's versatility could be a major asset if he pans out. Everything I've read on Bell is extremely positive, and there are more opinions out there than just that of sometimes-wack ESPN. I don't get the three-star ratings from Scout and Rivals given what even their analysts have said, and think Bell is one of the most underrated guys in the class.
Why Prescott Burgess? Bell isn't ranked anywhere near as high as Burgess, a consensus five-star recruit, was, but Burgess turned out to be somewhat overrated. In any case, both are Ohio safeties who are destined for OLB; Burgess was also pretty good in coverage. They're about the same size, too.
Guru Reliability: Low despite an All-Star appearance. There are two warring camps and no internal consistency with his ratings.
General Excitement Level: I think he's better than the three stars he's been awarded by the major sites outside of ESPN but he is definitely a project; I'd say high.
Projection: Redshirt, ,and then think he's the most likely of the OLB recruits to win a job early. High ceiling.