national champs baby
This went in:
And thus Michigan advances in double OT and proves that the basketball team does indeed have the worst sense of timing since Hitler decided to invade Russia in winter. It also proves -- and you're going to have to permit a healthy dose of solipsism here -- that the team exists to spite me and my viewing habits, since I didn't watch the game. Bad me. Hey, I'm not alone.
I refer you, instead, to the Michigan Sports Center and Schembechler Hall, who did watch it. I'd like to think that the kids at Blue-Gray Sky are stewing in agony this morning, but... uh... probably not. Nothing yet on their hoops sister blog.
I didn't want to say anything like this earlier on the assumption that predictions in this space will immediately be proven wrong and thus sink my bracket, but I had no Big Ten teams in the Sweet Sixteen, mostly because I had seen all of them in action against Michigan. How good can you possibly be if you don't kill Michigan? (Iowa excepted. Rather: how good can you be with a bald white dude starting?) I also had the aid of the always perspicacious Wonk, who sounded a note of warning before the tournament got underway:
So while the Big Ten can be said to have had a better year this year than last (best conference RPI and six teams in the tournament), it's also true that no Big Ten team this year appears to be the equal of Michigan State last year-- much less Illinois last year. (I am still amazed at the grief last year's Spartans took right up until late March--a team, after all, that went 13-3 in the conference.)
Now, might last year's numbers for the best teams have been inflated a smidge by last year's weaker Big Ten opponents? Of course. Still, the fact remains that the conference's top teams this year look decidedly more mortal on paper than they did last year.
Aye. When your top seed is a team that back-assed its way into a Big Ten title by shooting stupid threes -- even though those threes weren't falling for the last six or so games -- you've got trouble. Even so, I was still excessively optimistic about the conference's performance. I had Iowa squeaking by Northwestern State, mostly because I've looked at maps and stuff: "Northwestern" is not a state. (Also not a state: Arkansas.)
However, somone tell Wonk that
- if he's going to cover a mid-19th century presidential election it should be the 1844 election featuring James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump, and
- there are still two Big Ten basketball teams in action: Minnesota and Michigan.
Sure, it's the NIT, but even if this particular smack is low-grade stuff cut with sugar it's the last precious hit Wonk will get until distant October. C'mon, Wonk! We need your best Ewan-McGregor-in-Trainspotting impression... though preferably with intelligible dialogue.
In hockey the CCHA may go the way of the Big Ten this year: many teams, few wins. Four CCHA teams made the tournament (PDF), but it looks doubtful any of the four will break the league's streak of Frozen Fours sans representation. Michigan State (hey, welcome back... but not really) has reverted back to its old days of Abomination Hockey where double-digit shots for either side are an accomplishment; Michigan has the draw of doom; UNO and Miami have drawn BU and BC in Worcester.
Michigan State has the best shot, as their bracket is WCHA-free and their regionals site is not within 50 miles of their opponent's home arena. The WCHA has been both the nation's strongest conference over the past few years and Spartan kryptonite, but all MSU has to face is a wonky UNH team and the winner of Maine-Harvard. Still, they haven't scored a goal in the tournament since calculus was invented, and God willing they won't this year either -- State tried to deny their destiny but have reverted back to the days where they tried to win -1 to -2. Such hockey must be punished.
OUTRAGE!!! Probably. You know this year isn't going well when we're getting screwed in sports that I don't even understand entirely. To wit: many people are pissed off that Michigan wrestler Ryan Churella was not awarded a pin and thus a national championship towards the end of the second round of his match against Oklahoma State's Johny Hendricks. Here's the video:
I have no idea what constitutes a pin, but hell, even Iowa fans are pissed off. And so are wrestling fans (<-- w/ pictures of the critical moment), though there's some disagreement as to the validity of the pin. However, everyone is in agreement that the series of takedowns awarded to Churella's opponent later were somewhere between questionable and criminal. I won't make any bold proclamations because I'm no more qualifed to comment on amateur wrestling than Bill Walton is on the NBA (zing!), but it kind of figures, doesn't it? Stupid year. Churella's distinguished career (three Big Ten championships and runs to the semi-final in three consecutive years) comes to a close on a sour note; as helpful emailer Matthew Stout put it, the refereeing in Churella's match
made the officials in the Alamo Bowl look like a bunch of geniuses.
Ouch. Condolences to Churella and congratulations on a great career.
Spring practice is here.
Sure, I get to be right about this.
Grand Forks, North Dakota
#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Holy Cross
#2 North Dakota vs. #3 Michigan
No, I'm not looking up flights to Milwaukee.
The circle of football begins anew each spring with spring practice... and spring practice press conferences.
You can find a full transcript here. I excerpt the highlights below:
Most seriously, Antonio Bass has messed up a knee and will likely miss the '06 season. Obviously this is Not Good, but if you had to pick one position on the team to take the brunt of Angry Michigan-Blank-Hating God's wrath, wide receiver was the obvious choice. Adrian Arrington's 2005 injury redshirt pushed his class status back, leaving Michigan with a massive heap of four wideouts with sophomore eligibility. Bass's presumed redshirt will put him in a class that only has Laterryal Savoy (and perhaps Greg Mathews if he's pressed into service), spreading out that eligibility knot.
Jerome Jackson is out -- and, no, not because of the rap song. He's "rehabilitating his injury." Also hampered for spring: WR Doug Dutch (knee scope), S Brandent Englemon (shoulder) and OG Justin Schifano (shoulder).
On the good side of the ledger, Ryan Mundy is cleared to play, Adrian Arrington is fine, and Eugene Germany is mentioned, and not as "that guy with the dumb cellphone incident."
Also... God, I will sacrifice most of the population of Laos if this remains true for the duration of the season:
On Mike Hart's health:
"I think Mike is ready to go."
Unless you like Laos or whatever. But if you did, you probably would have made it less like Laos.
The OL has undergone a few changes. According to Carr, the plan is to try Mark Bihl at center (again), have Kraus and Riley the guards and Kolodziej and Long at tackle... with Long on the left side of the line. What exactly that says other than "Long is better than Kolodziej" I don't know. (To wit:
The left tackle position, the reason it is the most critical is that's the backside of the quarterback if he's right handed. The quarterback needs to feel secure that he's not going to get hit from the backside. When you really get down to it, that's the difference, as opposed to ... if he's a right handed quarterback he can look to his right, step up, move, scramble, get rid of the ball, and he can't do that to the left.
Read: "Long will not get our quarterback's head crushed in six places.")
The Brian Thompson Experience has moved to the "U-back" position, which is described as
essentially a tight end who is off the ball, who motions.
Also, early-enrolling freshman Carlos Brown is working at both running back and defensive back, which implies that someone is damn well being moved to corner.
New Coaching Dude
We have reorganized our staff with Mike DeBord moving into the offensive coordinator position. I promoted Brad Labadie as Director of Football Operations. And I've hired Chris Singletary, who played here on our national championship team in 1997, to come back as the recruiting coordinator. He will work in terms of the organization of our recruiting process on campus.
Singletary's previous job appeared to be antagonizing NFL draft hopefuls:
"This is a ritual," says Weinke, the 2000 Heisman Trophy winner, his blue eyes fixed on the computer screen. Chris Singletary, an affable member of IMG's football division and an indispensable resource for the 10 NFL draft hopefuls -- all clients of IMG bigwig Tom Condon -- training at the compound, is at the controls, surfing through various football websites. His cybertravels have one purpose: to get Weinke so agitated that the quarterback will push himself in the ensuing workout.
"This one says you're slow," Singletary, who played defensive end for Michigan's 1997 co-national champions, says with a cackle. "You're going to run a 5.3 (40-yard dash)." Weinke is not happy. "We'll see," he hisses. Singletary moves on. Another site, another criticism. "You throw off your back foot too much," he says. "You're rated behind Quincy Carter and Jesse Palmer. You're like Larry Holmes, all flabby and sick."
He's probably citing this website to Pat Massey as we speak. "He says you're too tall! He says you couldn't hold up against a six-year-old! He thinks your haircut is unflattering!" Etc. He can also identify Dick Cheney, which seems a lot more important in recent weeks. This seems like a great hire for the position: Singletary has all the relevant experience, NFL contacts up the proverbial wazoo, and is affable enough to badger NFL prospects about how they suck without getting punched.
Probably Meaningless Praise
Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were:
I think Kevin Grady has made great strides. He is right now 218 pounds. When I look at him today compared to what he was a year ago ... he has really committed himself to the conditioning part of it. I think obviously he has learned a lot because he did have a lot of experience.[? -ed]
Tim McAvoy and David Moosman, two freshmen, will also work at that position. ... Mark Ortmann is a young player we want to look at, I mentioned Moosman ... Alex Mitchell is another guy who will get an opportunity this spring."
"One guy that sticks in my mind...and he's not exactly where he needs to be, weight-wise, but he's much further along than he was when he walked in here last summer...is Terrance Taylor. When you see him, you're going to see a different guy. ... Will Johnson is finally healthy for the first time since he's been here. He had undergone surgery his last year in high school and was not very healthy as a freshman. He even struggled some last year. And Marques Walton has made some strides. ... Tim Jamison is a guy who really came on late in the year. He did some great things in the bowl game ... Eugene Germany has made tremendous strides in his strength since he got here. He's a very, very talented guy. We'll just have to see what he does with his opportunity this spring. All of our linebackers are back, so we have a chance to have a very good front seven."
Carr was only asked about the defensive front seven, offensive line, and running backs, so I wouldn't panic about your favorite whoever not getting a mention if he's not at one of those positions.
Carr on Bass:
Our plans were to play him at quarterback this spring. We'll have to see how that goes. ... The idea was that he would work at both positions this spring, much as he did last fall. He spent a significant amount of time at the quarterback position. So that's a huge disappointment for us."
With Michigan in the Not Interesting (To Blog About) Tournament and the long sports desert that is the summer rapidly approaching, it seems like a good idea to make up for the shameful lack of attention I've paid the hockey team in recent weeks.
So: with their sweep of Ferris State in the second round of the CCHA playoffs, Michigan is in the tournament and hoping to get shipped east. The worst result I can get after excessive futzing with USCHO's Pairwise Predictor tool is Michigan in a three-way tie for 12th, but Michigan wins the tiebreakers by taking the comparisons against UNH and UNO. The top 16 teams in the pairwise rankings get in minus whatever number of non-qualifying autobids there are -- usually two or three. It would take two Michigan losses and an unprecedented string of upsets for Michigan to be knocked out at this point.
Michigan's locked into a two or three seed; the only things left to determine are the where and who. For your edification, a trip through the NCAA seeding process...
...in which all higher-seeded teams win.
(Bold == Autobid)
|3||Boston University (BU)||27||.5695|
|5||Michigan State (MS)||25||.5643|
|6t||North Dakota (ND)||23||.5523|
|11t||Colorado College (CC)||18||.5435|
|11t||New Hampshire (NH)||18||.5391|
|11t||Holy Cross (HC)||18||.5353*|
|27||Bemidji State (BS)||3||.4943|
Three of the four hosts this year -- guaranteed to play at 'home' -- made the tourney: North Dakota, Wisconsin, and BU. So UW and BU are at home. Clearly the logical places for Minnesota and Miami are Grand Forks and Albany, respectively.
#1 Minnesota vs. #16 Bemidji State
#8 Harvard vs. #9 Michigan
#2 Wisconsin vs. #15 Dartmouth
#7 Cornell vs. #10 Maine
#3 BU vs. #14 Holy Cross
#6 North Dakota vs. #11 CC
#4 Miami vs. #13 UNO
#5 MSU vs. #12 UNH
Problems in bold: two intraconference first round matchups and North Dakota is not at home. Fixing the latter is fairly simple: the logical thing to do is to swap Harvard and North Dakota, officially giving Michigan a Bracket Of Death in which they face North Dakota at home followed by overall #1 seed Minnesota should they survive the first trial by ordeal. Swapping UNO out is a bit murkier, as I'd figure they'd leave Holy Cross as close to Boston as possible... they'd probably swap with Dartmouth. Final bracket, with seeds massaged down to the 1-4 scale the NCAA uses:
#1 Minnesota vs. #4 Bemidji State
#2 North Dakota vs. #3 Michigan
#1 Wisconsin vs. #4 UNO
#2 Cornell vs. #3 Maine
#1 BU vs. #4 Holy Cross
#2 Harvard vs. #3 CC
#1 Miami vs. #4 Dartmouth
#2 MSU vs. #3 UNH
Obviously, that's the worst possible bracket Michigan can find themselves in. I'll spare you the tedious details, but suffice it to say that the following bracket, which Michigan reaches under the same parameters as "chalk" but with an improbable run through MSU and Miami to win the CCHA tournament, is much preferable:
#1 UW vs. #4 UNO
#2 Michigan vs. #3 Maine
Still not exactly a field of frickin' poppies, but at least the defacto home game comes in the second round against a team that Michigan played fairly straight up earlier in the year (and thumped in the tournament a year ago).
- the chances of chalk occurring are vanishingly small and
- given the volatile nature of your stupid, stupid
mindspairwise the slightest deviation from said chalk will cause totally unpredictable swings,
so this has likely been an exercise in futility. But my futility needs to get off the couch anyway. The grim reality of the situation is that unless Michigan manages to snag a #2 seed -- which would require winning the CCHA tournament and having a selection of other games fall in the right way -- it will be hard to get away from the NoDak/Minnesota enjoy-your-lovely-parting-gifts combination.
But, hey, at least they made it.
And there's always next year. Packer487 has compiled stats for the dizzying array of recruits Michigan has committed over the next three years.
One thing you can say for the Michigan blogosphere: BALLS TO THE WALL NIT COVERAGE!!! And by "Michigan blogosphere" I mean "just Maize 'n' Brew, at least until the nice men in the white jackets show up." Dave of the aforementioned blog has busted out comprehensive predictions of every game. In two parts!
Meanwhile, Wonk commented on the Michigan situation before turning his attention back to the tourney-bound Big Ten teams:
If I'm a Michigan fan, my lament isn't only that my team hasn't been to the tournament for eight years and counting. (Though that's the elephant in the room.) No, my beef is precisely with the program that Martin says Amaker is building: my beef is with the way this team doesn't get to the tournament.
There's a significant bit more that is, as always, worth your time.
What future Amaker has rests largely in the hands of an uncommitted high school guard named Patrick Beverly, who has been discussed in this space before. The Victors poster MHoops1 caught Beverly over the weekend and has graciously permitted a reprinting of his scouting report post from the board:
He reminds me of Ben Gordon, in the good ways and the bad ones.
Positives are as follows: Very quick and athletic, hands like a wideout, gets in the lane effortlessly via crossover, spins or blow-bys, and can elevate on a dime. Lots of shooting range and can light it up in a hurry. Very good free throw shooter, ballhandler, and can drive and dish when he's playing that role. Quick hands on defense. Seems very coachable, and has good court demeanor. Tough.
Negatives are: Tends to force the action offensively and put up some tough shots, even when he's shooting badly. Not a set-up PG, as he looks for his own shot too much, though he has the skills for it. Team plays no man to man defensively, so he lacks defensive fundamentals. Needs to move better without the ball.
Bottom line: Will be inconsistent early, but, to quote Hubie Brown, has terrific upside. Needs coaching, but will likely accept same--from talking to people and watching body language, he's a leader and the other kids like him. I really, really want him to go to UM. At this time, it's UM and Arkansas in front of others, and we feel good about our chances, though it's not a done deal by any means. They like him enough that they're holding off the combo from Florida (Martavious Kee), whom they think they'd have if they offered (some pretty good offers already--FSU and Clemson to name two--but he really wants to get a Michigan offer) pending Beverley.
He plays Friday at 8:15 on TV for Chicago area Victards who want to tape or watch the game.
Michigan is competing against Arkansas, Wake Forest, UVA, and a few other schools for Beverly's services.
This isn't a major surprise, though it may be of minor importance to most: Michigan's three 2008(!) hockey recruits have all been invited to the USNTDP tryout camp. Clear evidence of "The CCHA Strikes Back" as regards the OHL: every one of the Midwestern kids is already committed to college --
- Michigan: Wohlberg, Czarnik, Jenks
- Ohio State: Steve West
- Northern Michigan: Justin Florek
- Michigan State:Justin Tibbett
- Miami-Ohio: Max Cook
-- except defenseman Ian Ruel, who's from Ann Arbor. These players are all two years away from college and some were closer to three when they committed. Imagine if the best football players in the country were all committed midway through their sophomore years. The Detroit Honeybaked AAA club has six players already committed to college(!).
I'll have more on the hockey team tomorrow. Due to a couple of weekend trips inconveniently placed during home games I haven't seen them in a while and have thus shorted the coverage shamefully... I'll try to make up for it over the last few weeks of the season.