no, YOU'RE off topic
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.
…the big boys and their ESPN propagandists got the results they needed from the land of mid-majors this weekend. Neither Siena nor Utah St. could handle their road trips to angry league rivals who have probably had the date circled on their proverbial calendars for weeks. Creighton didn't get the help they needed from Evansville to declare an outright title in the MoVal. Butler sealed up homecourt throughout the Horizon tourney, making it more likely the HL will stay a one-bid league. More than ever, it looks like it really is the "down year" for mid-major at-larges we've been hearing about since December.
Tentative woo. While it's the rare major-conference result that definitively reduces the number of bids a league will get—thanks, Notre Dame—every failed attempt at a mid-major at-large increases the pool of available slots for Michigan.
They're still not getting in without a win over Minnesota on Saturday, but there was always a chance that an unpleasant assemblage of results outside of Michigan's control could see the "9-9 w/ first round BTT win" scenario fail to yield a bid. That chance is slimming.
Skatin'. Defenseman and member of Michigan's sick 2010 hockey recruiting class Mac Bennett was recently profiled by his local news:
So, good news and bad news in there. Good news: Bennett seems like the kind of kid who will go high-ish in this year's NHL draft—he was rated a third-round pick (-ish) by the CSB. Bad news: his quotes on Michigan don't indicate the sort of kid who's likely to stick around all four years. Eh, that's life as a Michigan hockey fan.
Berenson back. We may be nearing the end of Red Berenson's tenure as Michigan's coach, but it's not quite over. Berenson just agreed to a one-year extension of his contract.
Berenson gives a typically blunt quote about the situation:
"I know that my time is coming," Berenson said. "...I just didn't want to make a five-year commitment and say, 'Geez, I'm gonna be here until I'm 75 or something.' I don't think that's fair to the team, to the program. And recruits might come in and say, '... this guy is gonna be our coach?'
"Right now I'm fine, and I'm good for a year. So we'll go from there."
Oh, no reason. (via Black Heart, Gold Pants)
Berenson did state he wasn't planning on retiring this year even if Michigan wins the national title. As for what happens when Berenson steps down: the chance of an internal promotion is very high. Billy Powers and Mel Pearson already do all of the recruiting and plenty of the coaching; Michigan will promote one and hope to hang on to the other.
Bashin'. An erratic weekend for Michigan baseball saw them lose to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a game featuring 30 runs, split a doubleheader with Jacksonville by the improbable scores of 21-3 (W) and 10-2 (L), and finally pull another late-innings rabbit out of their hat against Akron. Formerly Anonymous has your recap. Michigan stands at 7-2 on the year and is looking a little wobbly.
A three-game series against Siena is up next, followed by the annual Mets exhibition and then then what's probably the most critical series of the year if Michigan's going to get any at-large consideration at the end of the year: three games at Arizona.
Sign there is something deeply wrong with me #4,540. So I read the epically long Wright Thompson thing about Ole Miss's 1962 integration riots and so on and so forth. As I was doing this, I kept thinking about Derek Pegues and Dennis Thames and Josh Boyd: how the hell can it be hard to get kids out of Mississippi? Argh!
Also, a there is a Michigan tangent. The week after James Meredith enrolls and Oxford turns into Beruit, Ole Miss plays Houston:
Vaught almost never gives pregame speeches, thinks they are silly. But this ... well, he needs to say something. Vaught feels like the entire university is riding on the backs of his team. Vanity? Sure. True? Probably. He needs them to understand, these young guys. He needs them to see. "It is very important that we play this game, boys," Vaught says, "and we have to win it."
The team roars in response and rushes out of the locker room onto the field. Vaught gets chills watching them. The Rebels dominate undefeated Houston 40-7, with Griffing throwing three touchdown passes to Guy. But the most emotional two ovations of the day have nothing to do with the game.
One comes at the beginning, when Barnett enters his box. The other comes when the public address man announces other scores from around the country. Michigan, he tells them, has beaten Army, hated invader of Ole Miss 17-0.
This is so tangential that I don't have anything to say about it other than "funny old world," so: funny old world.
2/27/2009 – Michigan 6, Ferris State 1 – 25-10, 19-8 CCHA
2/28/2009 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 0 – 26-10, 20-8 CCHA
Everyone held serve this weekend, with Michigan and Notre Dame both sweeping inferior opponents. The critical comparison remains as grim as it was last week (PWR rankings from Sioux Sports, as usual):
I could break every category down in detail, or I could just give you the upshot: Notre Dame basically has a two-game lead on Michigan. If they bomb out of the CCHA playoffs in the second round Michigan can pass them. That's unlikely. The best team they could face in the second round is UNO, which has a –14 goal differential compared to ND's +43. The other option is for ND to lose twice at the Joe while Michigan wins the CCHA, which is more plausible but still a slim window.
So it's best to just accept the fact that Michigan is either a 2-seed or getting shipped.
Compounding the bad vibes is Denver's flight up into a tie with Michigan despite 1) being way back in RPI and 2) splitting this weekend. DU got a lot of fortunate results around the TUC cliff and now owns that point along with common opponents, which overrules the, you know, season. So they win that comparison with Michigan and are currently the #3 overall seed with Michigan slipping to #4. With nine relevant games sitting in the last four RPI slots, this comparison is going to be hugely unstable until the end of the season.
Slipping to the last #1 seed doesn't really matter, as any spot behind ND results in getting shipped and PWR's just going to throw up some random stuff at the end when it comes to the brackets.
The Whole Situation
Michigan's PWR status by category (some "lock win" teams may not be TUCs at the end of the season but Michigan will win the comparison with whoever replaces them):
- Lock Wins: Air Force, Alaska, BC, Cornell, Lowell, CC, Minnesota, UMD, Mankato, UNH, North Dakota, OSU, Princeton, RIT, SCSU, St Lawrence, Wisconsin, Yale
- Lean Michigan: Miami, Northeastern, Vermont
- Tossup: Denver
- Lean Opponent: ND
- Lock Losses: BU
Okay, that's a pretty good situation. Michigan is guaranteed to be at least a #2 seed and it'll take some doing to not be a #1:
- Miami has basically lost the M comparison if Michigan sweeps its first-round playoff opponent; even a head-to-head victory wouldn't be enough to move things since H2H games don't count in either of the other categories. This is a near-lock.
- Vermont has COP but is well back in TUC and about a game and a half back in RPI.
- Northeastern loses COP and it would take some fortunate playoff matchups for any chance of that changing; they'd have to sweep BC to take TUC and that would remain precarious depending on the results of conference tourneys.
The upshot: unless Michigan fails to make or gets swept at the Joe, the only thing that can prevent M from being a one-seed is sustained hot streaks from Northeastern and Denver coupled with unfavorable results near the TUC cliff. They have a one-game lead, basically, with few opportunities to lose it.
Things That Aren't Math
It's worth noting that since Michigan finished trundling to a 9-7 start, they've caught fire. They're 17-3 since, and two of the losses were one goal games featuring not one but two obviously incorrect decisions on goals. Michigan dominated those games, outshooting ND 38-22 and Ohio State 37-25. The only game that Michigan has just straight-up lost since November was, bizarrely, a home game against last-place Bowling Green.
And they did all that without Mark Mitera, the captain and last year's INCH defenseman of the year. Mitera returned to the ice this weekend and put up two points. Even if he was rusty—and though I didn't see the game @ Ferris most commenters at USCHO said he was to blame for the lone Bulldog goal of the weekend—he's got three weeks to round into shape before the NCAA tournament arrives.
So… yeah. It appears this team is in position almost as good as last year's team to make the Frozen Four and, hopefully, break the painful streak of semifinal exits. Though they don't have the elite All-American sorts on the top line they did last year, they're fast and tough defensively and almost unbelievably deep on the blueline. My excitement levels are getting dangerously high. I worry about what happens if Michigan goes down a goal without a Hensick sort on the team, but 17-3 with an asterisk is 17-3 with an asterisk. One team in twenty has outplayed Michigan. One.
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: