1/20/2009 – Michigan 58, Penn State 73 – 13-6, 3-4 Big Ten
How's this for some trenchant analysis you can't get anywhere else: that was brutal. Let us never discuss it again.
Moving forward, the last two games have blown whatever margin of error Michigan had in their effort to make the tournament. Even if you assume wins home and away against Northwestern and away against Iowa—potentially dodgy but absolutely necessary to make the tourney—you have to find three wins in these games to get Michigan to .500 in conference:
Home: Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue
Away: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota
Is that doable? I don't know anymore. Maybe they can split with Minnesota and beat Penn State and home. Then it's a matter of getting really hot in one other game and stealing it. It won't happen when the team shoots 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half. Would that get Michigan in? If they beat UConn, obviously. If they don't that leaves them at 19-12 and fifth or sixth in the #2 league in the country, so yeah.
I guess the question is: will the team shoot as horribly as they have in the future? There's no chance they all grow three inches by Tuesday, and even if they did that would probably throw off their coordination significantly. You're going to see Michigan continue to get crushed defensively. Against Illinois (and, I guess, Ohio State) Michigan was overwhelmed by height that took away their inside game—Sims, their inside game, was 7 for 27. Against Penn State they weren't overwhelmed by height and still got crushed in the paint and on the offensive glass. This is the Beilein system taken to extremes, and that's understandable given the composition of the team. This was expected to be an NIT team for a reason.
I've been beating this drum since the Indiana game: it's been clear for a while now that the Duke and UCLA wins raised the profile of and expectations for the team disproportionately. Struggles against a wide array of very bad teams and near-implosions against Indiana and Savannah State didn't have the same impact because "a win is a win"* and all that, leading to a lot of irrational exuberance.
Welcome to the crash.
- UMHoops: "The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA). At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot."
- Beilein: “We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”
- Don't really have much other than "yeeaaargh" on this one.
- I would like to point out that everyone would take this if magically given the option at the start of the year. I was hoping for slightly above .500 and an NIT bid, and that was before it became clear the Big Ten is way, way better than it was last year.
- I want Manny Harris to commit a charge per half the rest of the season.
*(For the past, yes. For the future, no: past performance is a better predictor of future performance than past results.)
Game at nine, show slightly earlier, let's get ready to rumble. The Wolverine Liberation Army hosts.
Two reliable sources are reporting that Greg Robinson is indeed the guy at defensive coordinator; unless there's an unexpected derailment an official confirmation should come sometime soon. (Bonus, ethically dubious confirmation can be found at Maize 'n' Brew, which relays some goings-on at the premium sites.)
I've said my piece on Robinson already—in a word: yikes—and am pretty skeptical of the hire. However, I am not a football coach or even that familiar with Robinson's work except in a macro "holy God what happened to Syracuse?" sense. Rich Rodriguez is, and he's basically gambled his career on his future performance. All hail Gamblor!
Also: Michigan might not be done searching for coaches. LBs coach Jay Hopson is apparently searching for a job closer to home, further proving that nothing escapes Mississippi's inexplicable gravitational pull.
Yes, this would make it a seriously uphill battle to retain the services of either non-enrolled DT commit.
Update 1/19: Linked articles on FL QB Denard Robinson, SC DE Sam Montgomery (another, another), OH OL Marcus Hall, LA DT Dequinta Jones (another), LA WR Travante Stallworth, SC OL Quinton Washington, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes.
Removed LA WR Kenny Bell (once again solid to LSU), FL DE Alex Williams (we out), FL CB Jayron Hosley(dropped by M), NC OL Travis Bond (UNC), AL LB Tana Patrick (dropped us), MS S Dennis Thames (MSST), FL LB Mike Marry (not visiting). Added LA QB Brandon Mitchell, then immediately removed him because he committed to Arkansas. Thanks for nothing, buddy! (omg jk)
2010 stuff: FL CB Lo Wood has an offer, as reported by TomVH, and looks like a good bet to commit on an upcoming unofficial.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Many, many guys go off the board this week and a few of them hurt:
- MS S Dennis Thames failed to escape the mighty gravitational pull of the Black Hole of Starkville.
- NC OL Travis Bond decided to cram into North Carolina's phone booth.
- FL CB Jayron Hosley, well…
Okay, on Hosley. He visits USF, says he's basically going to USF, and now isn't even visiting. The reason is odd:
It appears Michigan and Ohio State have told Hosley they are full at cornerback, and no longer have room for him in their respective classes.
That could be cover. Michigan might not want to bother paying for a visit for a guy who's all but stated he's going to South Florida. But OH CB Mike Williams of Glenville apparently doesn't have a M offer, either. What? Michigan's got one excellent corner in each of the last three classes but these days you need four or five competent corners to deal with four- and five-wide offenses. Corner is definitely not full, but M is acting like it.
If they've got silent commits from FL CB Adrian Witty and FL QB/ATH/CB Denard Robinson, okay, they're full. But, uh… AFAIK most think Robinson is still ticketed for Florida. I don't get this.
Rivals has put out their final rankings for the year, and with them comes the usual celebration and rage. A summary:
Campbell and Lewan were basically static; Schofield, Forcier, Gordon, and Toussaint all fell about ten spots because they didn't participate in all-star games. (They didn't necessarily get downgraded, but several players were impressive and flew up the board, necessitating small drops for those who would otherwise remain in place.
Those changes are basically in line with expectations, if a little less enthusiastic than Michigan fans might like. Turner's leap up the board is the most impressive move, as that's rarefied air he's approaching. He's two spots away from five stars.
Slightly disappointing: OH LB Isaiah Bell didn't get that fourth star we thought he might after showing well at the UA game.
It's hard to call either LA DT DeQuinta Jones or OK DT Pearlie Graves commitments anymore given what they've been doing lately: taking visits and talking up other schools. Jones stopped in at Auburn last weekend and now lists Arkansas, Auburn, and Oklahoma along with Michigan. Jones visits Michigan on the last recruiting weekend, so they've got a chance to re-sell him. But, uh:
"It [the trip to Arkansas] exceeded my expectations," said Jones, 6-4, 302, 4.9, who orally committed to Michigan last summer. "The weight room was 110 yards long; it was fantastic. I liked the stadium and the academic center. I loved everything."
"I might wait until signing day and surprise a lot of people." Jones said.
This is not much of a commitment.
Also Wavering, But Wavering For Justice!
Michigan is no stranger to the recruit piracy game, of course, and they're taking shots at a number of receivers who are technically committed elsewhere. One is LA WR Travante Stallworth, the military kid who's still committed to Auburn but open to a couple other schools. He took a visit to M two weeks ago and last week it was South Carolina's turn:
"My trip to South Carolina went well," Stallworth said. "I spent a lot of time with Coach (Steve) Spurrier and his son, who is the offensive coordinator. They want me to come in and replace Kenny McKinley, who was their all-time leading receiver there. They told me I could play the slot and get the ball on screens and use my speed."
Compare that to his quote on Michigan from the same article…
"At Michigan, it was different than any other college campus I've ever been to," he continued. "They have outstanding facilities and the academics are top of the line. Coach (Rich) Rodriguez wants me to come in as a slot receiver and even said I could try quarterback. If it didn't work out, I could switch to receiver. They just want to get the ball in my hands in the open field."
…and it sounds like South Carolina isn't the choice. Auburn is a more significant hurdle than they were before, though, with the hiring of Gus Malzahn, and will get a shot at convincing him to stick next weekend. That's his last visit.
Another is PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, a nominal Tennessee commit also considering Michigan, Illinois, and maybe Penn State. He visited Michigan this weekend. Quote:
"It went good," Stokes said. "It was definitely a fun trip. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been to Ann Arbor or Michigan. I got all my questions answered."
Then parse this one closely:
"After Tennessee I don't know who would be next," Stokes said when asked who his second choice is. "It is between Illinois, Michigan, Penn State and Georgia. I'll announce on signing day at my school. I want to do it around noon."
Given Stokes' earlier comments about Tennessee I think that's more a "…but I'm still committed" statement than a real claim that UT is most likely to sign him.
FL WR Willie Haulstead is committed to Florida State but took a Michigan visit and may end up signing with Michigan; Helmholdt says Michigan is still "very much in contention," continuing a recent trend of vague optimism in his recruitment.
Haulstead's commitment may not be honored by Florida State for an unpleasant reason (at least for Seminole fans): increased scholarship reduction stemming from the department-wide cheating scandal that engulfed Florida State before their bowl game last year. Tomahawk Nation and Scott Carter theorize thusly:
AC would not be surprised to see the scholarship losses double from 5 over 2 years to 10 or so over 3 years.
We told you about this last week. Carter and I probably share similar sources on this, though I can't be sure. As previously reported, Carter and I agree on the certainty of increased scholarship reductions.
(IMO, Florida State would be within their rights here to pull an offer from Haulstead since his "commitment" is obviously not that strong and he took a visit elsewhere; this would be something different than South Carolina yanking an offer from an already-committed player.)
Florida State's already got two other wide receiver commits in the class, and before Willie Downs lit up the Army game as a cornerback most also considered him a wideout. WR would be an obvious place from which to cut.
Okay, so Bond is gone and two major targets remain on the line.
OH OL Marcus Hall of Glenville made quite a ruckus when he visited Michigan after months of waffling and then named M his leader. I'm still not quite sure how to take it, but I think this from longtime Ohio State insider-type guy Unionfutura is about right:
The biggest problem is he already took his visit to OSU, to me all this means when Marcus hits the south on his recruiting swing those teams will trash Michigan more. I still think he'll end up a buckeye. We'll know more after the Miami trip. If Michigan's still his leader after Miami then we're in trouble.
Co-sign from the opposite perpsective.
SC OL Quinton Washington also visited South Carolina this weekend. The resulting quote:
Washington has been strong on USC for several months.
“I can’t say they’re No. 1, but they will be in my top group when I finish my visits,” Washington said. “I really do like it. It’s just a great place to be.”
South Carolina is presumed to be the top competition for the quiet Washington; I don't think that provides any illumination either way.
SC DE Sam Montgomery visited North Carolina—still inexplicably not full—this weekend. His mom provides a quote:
"We're still taking visits and he has not make a commitment,' Mrs. Montgomery said. "We were very impressed with the Carolina business school and facilities. We enjoyed spending time with coach Davis and coach Blake. Everybody was friendly and very enjoyable. The accomodations were first rate."
That's not "two steps ahead of everyone else" but it's also not the loquacious Montgomery. The quote from mama Montgomery does highlight one tough thing to overcome for Michigan: she did not come on the trip to Ann Arbor. Montgomery has a busy week ahead, with LSU on the weekend, a midweek trip to Oregon, and a final visit to Tennessee.
Etc.: LA LB Barkevious Mingo visits LSU, doesn't say much, still presumed to be Tiger lock.
With cornerback as a big concern, and only a few weeks left in this class, the Wolverines start to look to the juniors for help. Lo Wood was just offered by Michigan, and we will hear from him soon. Another name that we will start to hear from is Penn Hills Cullen Christian. He's 6'1 180 pounds, and already has an offer from U of M. Christian is teammates with LB Dan Mason from this years class, and junior WR Brandon Ifill, who is also a Michigan prospect. Here's one of his highlight videos, and what he had to say about his recruitment.
TOM: You were just at the Junior Combine, how did that go?
CULLEN: It was good, a good experience. I did pretty good. The goal was just to do the best I could do in the 1 on 1’s, since it’s the wide receivers advantage. My name was on the list for good performers, so I feel like I did well.
TOM: Did you meet any other recruits that you’ll keep in touch with?
CULLEN: I met so many people, too many to name. It was good to meet a lot of the other recruits.
TOM: You’re teammates with Brandon Ifill and Dan Mason, has Dan’s recruitment helped you guys at all?
CULLEN: Yea he definitely showed us a couple things. There’s a lot of coaches that talk to Dan, and he has put in good words for us.
TOM: What schools do you think Dan Mason likes right now?
CULLEN: Top schools are WVU, Penn State, BC, and Pitt.
TOM: Will you and Brandon be a package deal, or are you looking at different schools?
CULLEN: We’re not going out of our way to go to same, but if something happens it happens. Most of the schools are looking at both of us.
TOM: Do you have any favorites to start, I know they usually change, but who sticks out right now?
CULLEN: Michigan, Pitt, Maryland. I was just offered by Maryland, so those are all my offers too.
TOM: Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit? Or any schools you know you’ll definitely visit for a game?
CULLEN: There’s not really a school I’ve always wanted to visit; growing up I always liked Michigan. I was supposed to go on the 15th, but there’s a track meet so I’m going to reschedule. I really like them.
TOM: What camps do you plan on going to, or have you been to?
CULLEN: Scouts camp, Penn State, Adidas. I’m not sure about team camps yet.
TOM: How do you see your recruitment going? A lot of guys commit real quick, and some take their time, what will you do?
CULLEN: I’m going to take my time; I’m going to take all 5 visits. I don’t want to go through any decommits or anything, when I commit there will be no second guessing.
TOM: What are you looking for in a school? Do you look at early playing time, coaches, tradition?
CULLEN: I want early playing time, a school that has good tradition, the academics. That’s basically what I want to go to college for. The most important are playing time and academics. I don’t want to have to wait all the way to senior year.
TOM: Describe what kind of player you are, and what you bring to a college team.
CULLEN: I’m a real physical corner, I can watch bigger receivers, I won’t get out jumped, and I won’t get out ran. I can run with the quick ones and tackle the big ones. Especially if I went to Michigan, you need to know how to tackle in the Big Ten.
On ignorance. Due to a personal obligation or two I missed most of this weekend's action, and since the only thing I did catch was the Friday night hockey game wherein Michigan was Bowling Green first CCHA win in seven attempts I rather wish I had missed the whole thing.
So I can't offer much other than a "WTF?" about said hockey game, which was just horrible to watch. No matter what happens the rest of the way out, Michigan is going to look back at this game and that 2-1 loss against Western ruefully. Yost Built has a recap of the Saturday game.
Meanwhile, the basketball team had a two point lead when I checked in with the internet and then proceeded to score once more before the game was totally out of hand, dropping M to 3-3 in the league and reviving panicked talk about the NIT. The Ace of Sports and UMHoops have a glimpse at what went down.
Also, I'm about to be in a car for an extended period of time so this and the TomVH interview I'll frontpage shortly are the sum of the day's content. On and popping, as the kids say, tomorrow, with Tuesday Recruitin' and all that jazz.
Return of the mack. The advent of the season had many, many deleterious effects on morale around these parts. One of the more underrated ones the discontinuation of articles about Mike Barwis making you vomit and then turning you into Teen Wolf. I guess the media decided to focus on things like "humiliating losses" and "the second worst season in eighty years" instead, because they hate Michigan.
It's now the offseason, though. What better time for a reprise?
One thing they’re not used to … Barwis Beach, a new sand pit in Oosterbaan Field House. They like it now, said Barwis, adding they won’t when they find out throwing up in sand is just as unpleasant as vomiting on a hard surface.
“It’s utilized for speed and explosive training,” said Barwis. “Forces dissipate more on sand than they do on a hard surface, a rigorous surface, so by doing explosive drills in there with extension we can make sure we really get triple extension from the ankle to the knee and hip to allow for the body to be its most effective running position. Doing acceleration drills in sand will allow them to do more things they can’t do on hard surfaces.”
Vomit, Teen Wolf, extremely reassuring mumbo-jumbo about explosive triple extension acceleration: it's good to have you back, Barwis Porn. I missed you.
Tangentially related. Rodriguez was invited to speak at the high school coaching convention and spent a lot of time attempting to explain that he's not Satan McRecruitsOnlyFlorida. The Battle Creek Enquirer has a brief story on and some video of the event—no embed possible, sorry—if you're interested.
This is the tangent: at the end of it, Rodriguez has finished his speech and is answering a couple questions from a reporter as someone else speaks to the coaches in the background. Someone very loud. Someone very distracting. Someone who sounds like he's gargling gravel. So I'm listening to this and getting sort of annoyed that it's hard to hear Rodriguez when I have an epiphany: holy pants, that's Barwis.
Meetings of doom(!). The NCAA's having one of their many annual meetings in which various ways to shorten football games without enraging the public are discussed. Other topics of interest this year include academics:
Two committees are looking into potentially startling remedies — a fifth year of playing eligibility, a non-playing "year of readiness" for junior college transfers and others with academic deficiencies, scheduling constraints in basketball — and will brief the Division I board of directors during the four-day gathering that ends Saturday.
Another, more radical measure being weighed by the football academic enhancement panel headed by Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione: earmarking a portion of revenues from non-conference "guarantee games" to cover summer school costs, add academic staff or provide other academic support. "We're certainly not trying to make institutional decisions," Castiglione says. "But we think people have to move away from the excuse of not having the necessary academic resources.
…and what to do with the coaches poll, including this horrible idea:
As for possibly going back to having every vote anonymous, Teaff said professional pollsters have told the AFCA there will be a more honest vote if the balloting is done without being attached to a name, as the final December vote is that helps determine the teams who play in the BCS title game. He said coaches might feel pressure to cover themselves with their conference teams.
The only thing worse than having a group of people suffused with naked self-interest vote on who should be in the national championship game is having that group of people do so anonymously. The coaches poll shouldn't be allowed to participate in the selection process unless it's willing to publicize their ballots, period. If that causes coaches to cover themselves with conference mates, the issue is not the open ballot, it's having vast conflicts of interest in your pollsters.
If Mack Brown or any other coach is serious about killing the BCS as quickly as possible he'll take the opportunity provided by the final ballot of the year and, for example, vote Texas #1 and not vote for Oklahoma at all. Coaches poll = dead. BCS = some wack computer rankings and a bunch of ancient men who don't even watch football.
As for the academic stuff: the fifth year of eligibility is academic reform? We have a situation now where a lot of schools are shuffling marginal players onto medical scholarships or encouraging them to transfer or outright cutting them (in Ray Ray McElrathbey's case) so they can cram more guys aboard the SS Sketchy; adding a fifth year of eligibility will only exacerbate this trend.
If you want real academic reform, remove the motivation to ever have a kid leave the program: once a player is signed or enrolled, his scholarship counts against your total for four years even if he fails out or transfers or shoots up a Dairy Queen or is lost to injury. Naturally, you'll have to increase the number of scholarships available to account for average attrition. This will never happen, obviously, but I'd encourage any portion of it: a two or three year commitment from a school for signing a LOI would be a step in the right direction, too.
Missed one. I mentioned the midterm Central Scouting rankings from the NHL last week, hitting on the whole of the 2009 class but missing one of Michigan's 2010 recruits: Mac Bennett. Bennett is a defenseman from Rhode Island ranked #63—third or fourth round—by Central Scouting. Also his hockey coach might have literary ambitions:
"I first saw Mac as an eighth grader competing in a bantam tournament at the Berkshire School and you could tell right away that he was the smartest player on the ice," White told NHL.com. "He had terrific vision, could pass the puck very well and made very good decisions. He's a tough kid in the sense that he never shies away. He's not afraid to go into the corner with anybody; he's comfortable in dark places."
That's part of an extensive article on Bennett from NHL.com. Michigan beat out Boston College for Bennett's services and he should be a fixture on the blueline upon arrival.
Cowherd: still stupid. Not that anyone needed confirmation of this, but to set the record straight on the Great Cowherd Douchebaggery of 2007:
Earlier this week Colin Cowherd was talking about the necessary separation of communication between fans and folks like owners and the media. The ESPN radio host discussed his own experience and loosely mentions the incident years back between he and the now defunct M Zone. He tells his listeners, “that guy, at the M Zone, is the reason you guys can send me emails all day and I can’t send them back.”
This is a warped version of reality. When you are an ESPN "personality" and you respond to a curt but basically correct email with this:
WE WERE SENT IT....WE HAD NO IDEA..BUT THE INCESSANT WHINING...MEANS I WON'T GIVE YOU CREDIT NOW..GET OVER IT
The reason you can't send emails to your readers is because you're a douchebag.
Etc.: This Bill James essay is 20 years old but remarkably prescient about "insiders" and "outsiders." MVictors has an interview with Pete Tiernan of bracketscience.com. Rumeal Robinson is not a fan of Steve Fisher. College hockey realignment seems to be coming, but UNO won't be a part of it.