As expected, the Big Ten was all like "yoink," announcing it will begin play in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new arena. I laid out the reasons I think this is a good move for college hockey as a whole (as long as measures to prevent smaller CCHA teams from folding are taken) in an earlier post, but there are still a ton of variables to work out.
Western college hockey schools will probably look like this in 2013:
- North Dakota
- St. Cloud
- Bemidji State
- Colorado College
- Michigan Tech
With three of college hockey's premiere schools and another three or four regular tourney contenders the WCHA will be fine. The two Big Ten schools finished fifth and seventh this year and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. As far as the product on the ice goes, they'll be fine.
- Notre Dame
- Western Michigan
- Ferris State
- Lake Superior State
- Northern Michigan
As long as ND and Miami stick around it's a viable conference with at least two bids every year and possibly a third when WMU/Ferris/Northern are having a good year. Finances might be tighter but I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make—it's not like anyone in the CCHA was getting more than peanuts from FSD.
Bowling Green, FWIW, seems to be past the bit where they threaten their lone national championship program:
"Our member schools have a commitment to hockey, so we'll figure this out."
Christopher was quick to reiterate that the news does not shake Bowling Green's commitment to its hockey program.
"When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we put our stake in the ground that we were going to sponsor a strong hockey program," he said. "I'm not concerned about this news affecting the future of hockey at Bowling Green.
With eight teams everyone in the league can play four against each other and still maintain 28-game conference schedules, or they can cut it back a bit.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The Big Ten has announced teams will play four games against the other five opponents, leaving 14-16 nonconference games available depending on whether or not the Big Ten takes advantage of exemptions for travelling to Alaska.
Despite small school fans wailing about how they're doomed, Michigan is the only(!) Big Ten school to make the tournament the last two years. The year before that Ohio State was the only addition, squeezing into the last at large slot and getting clunked by BU. You have to go back to 2008 to find more than two Big Ten teams in the tourney*.
*[Michigan was a 1 and made the Frozen Four; Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin were all threes. Minnesota went out right away, and the other two made it to the second round.]
Conference tourney: how does it do?
WCHA teams currently play in St. Paul. CCHA teams currently play in Detroit. Big Ten teams would probably do neither. They could alternate between the X, the Joe, and… uh… Pittsburgh I guess. Or they could put it in Chicago, a location that's as close to central as you can get and features throngs of Big Ten grads.
Or… you know… the thing is… right now the CCHA tourney is a three week affair. With six teams you could play three best two-of-three series on home ice. That provides 10-15 probably-sold-out games. A four-team tourney after a first round provides 8-10 games, four of which are going to be at a neutral-ish site hosting doubleheaders. It seems like abandoning the neutral ice would provide more money and a better championship structure.
College hockey is addicted to hypothetically neutral ice, but will it be enough to overcome doubling your playoff revenue?
TV: Yes, please
Hockey loves HD and I'm betting most Michigan hockey fans used to cameras from the 70s that make everything look underwater almost gasped the first time they saw a BTN hockey production. I remember it myself—a road game against OSU with a picture so sharp it could skate. The main asset from the fan's perspective is the prospect of ten road games on BTN.
Getting to ten road games is kind of a hike, though. Basketball teams rarely play on Friday, so you can televise a Friday game of the week, but what happens on Saturday at 8:00? What do you do when two teams are playing simultaneously? There are three options:
- Many games are not televised on BTN.
- BTN deploys its bonus feeds.
- Games move for TV.
#2 seems ideal but probably costs more money than it brings in. #1 could make the TV situation worse than it is right now.
#3 would be weird but I think it's manageable. They can probably massage the schedule such that there are rarely three conference series on the same weekend. Unfortunately, getting two games on Friday would require one starting at 7:30 Eastern, and the other at 9 Central. That's going to hurt attendance.
We might start seeing a fair number of series that go Saturday-Sunday—a quick look at the basketball schedule doesn't show anything pressing most Sundays and even most Saturdays could hypothetically squeeze two hockey games in. If you have at least two teams playing nonconference series every week you could hypothetically broadcast every conference game if the only overlap is on Saturday.
The conferences above seem viable to me, but they might not be done shuffling. I'm not sure how much credence to put in rumors that the WCHA will seek to poach Miami and ND since those teams are very far away from the WCHA core (Miami's shortest road trip would be 681 miles to Michigan Tech, longer than Miami's longest current conference trip) and travel costs would seem to eat up more money than either team would get from increased attendance at their nice, new, very small arenas.
I don't think the CCHA is going to take another look at Huntsville since the same ruthless cost-benefit equation that saw UAH denied when UNO left still applies, but when Niagara left the CHA they wanted to get into the CCHA and only grudgingly accepted entrance into Atlantic Hockey. AH has a cap on the number of scholarships you can award significantly below the NCAA's max of 18, and as a result a Niagara program good enough to twice get NCAA at-large consideration has fallen off the national radar. Niagara would bolt for the CCHA in a hot second if the conference would take them. If the CCHA wanted another team, Robert Morris would be the most likely candidate. They're located in Pittsburgh.
The most likely outcome seems to be the status quo above, but I'd watch those AH schools.
If we don't get that AH move, college hockey finally has some spots for new teams to come in. I'm not sure any Big Ten teams would add hockey without a crazy rich guy donation similar to Penn State's but there's been a steady stream of smaller schools that start up, find that there's nowhere to go, and then evaporate. Now you might see a Wayne State stick in the CCHA.
Let's play for stuff
The FA Cup
One of the most exciting aspects for Michigan hockey is the prospect of getting 14-16 nonconference games, allowing Michigan to play BC, BU, North Dakota, and other teams they have a history with on the regular. On the other hand, I've played too much Football Manager to not look on that massive schedule gap as an opportunity to add silverware to college hockey. This seems like a fantastic opportunity to add a cup competition for Michigan-ish schools.
Unfortunately, NCAA scheduling regulations mean that everyone always tries to play the maximum number of games and that makes structuring a competition between seven teams awkward, as does the geography, as does the presumably very large CCHA conference schedule. We can either add BGSU or Notre Dame, or both and boot Tech since Tech has the GLI and is always terrible.
Assuming the latter:
1. Create groups of four by splitting the Big Ten teams and the UP teams and dividing the other four up randomly. Example group: Michigan, Lake Superior, Ferris State, BGSU.
2. Michigan and MSU play home and home series against the non-UP teams early in the season and alternate home and away with whichever UP team is in their bracket yearly.
3. The CCHA teams set up their scheduling such that teams in the same group play an early conference series. In the example above, LSSU-FSU, LSSU-BG, and FSU-BG would all take place before Christmas.
4. At the end of this process you have four teams having played each other round-robin twice. Pick the top two teams World Cup-style. These teams move on to the Joe to play a traditional college hockey tournament that probably replaces the GLI. (Issue: what about teams not selected? They wouldn't want to leave two games on the table but the only teams that would have an opening are the other teams in the tourney, most of which are other teams in their conference. Maybe you could get the NCAA to exempt the finals? This would lead to more of these tourneys, which would be cool.)
- Assuming no more GLI, Michigan and MSU spend six nonconference games playing old conference foes.
- Noncon-restricted CCHA teams spend two games each against MSU and UM, which helps mitigate losing those old rivalries.
- The GLI gets way more interesting.
- You're creating a banner that means something.
I know Tech started the GLI in the 50s and they think it's really important but they've been so, so terrible for so long that the tournament's way less than it should be.
3/20/2011 – Michigan 71, Duke 73 – 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten, season over
This is the point where the author is obliged to disclaim any belief in moral victories, whatever that means.
Wikipedia's article on the concept is a poorly-written stub that goes right to the sports definition before making a couple of flaccid thrusts in the direction of applicability outside of sportswriting disclaimers. Those thrusts are getting crushed to death by rocks but keeping the land in the family, dying at the Alamo, or dying at Thermopylae and seem to indicate the anonymous author has never heard of a Pyrrhic victory. That last link goes to a much, much better article that indirectly confirms that "moral victory" has no currency amongst the sort of people—scientists, historians, television fans—that make for good wikipedia articles. Moral victories, and disclaiming them, appear to be the exclusive domain of people who have just watched their sport-ball team exceed expectations just enough to suffer an agonizing loss.
After disclaiming the moral victory, the author then explains why he feels better about the sport-ball team in question than he did before the sport-ball match in which his team was defeated agonizingly, which kind of seems like exactly what a moral victory is. This makes the disclaimer the equivalent of "I'm not a racist, but…": a lie meant to deflect criticism.
I hate the concept of moral victories and denounce anyone who accepts them. Truly, the only thing worth striving for is numerical superiority, and claiming mitigating factors when you have not achieved numerical superiority is indicative of a diseased mind and probably communism. Love it or leave it.
That said, we totally just beat Duke.
Not, like, you know, when it comes to numbers or anything, but definitely when it comes to not embodying class privilege and being able to parse sentences about Grant Hill's family. Also almost in the numbers. In fact, if Evan Smotrycz was allowed to exist within three feet of a Duke player on a basketball court, we totally won. I will see you all in the Moral Sweet Sixteen, where we will play Butler despite the fact they're in the actual Sweet Sixteen—that's how crazy that Butler game was.
John Beilein had Michigan sing the Victors after the Duke game. I renounce my renouncing of moral victories. We are moral national champs.
I think that last bit might actually be true: in an "exceeded expectations" tournament Michigan is a one-seed. A quick glance at the Sweet Sixteen reveals chalk, the occasional mid-major expected to be good in-conference that pulled out a couple wins at the right time, the eleventh Big East qualifier, Florida State, and a couple of powers bouncing off down years. The only competition comes from the two MWC teams, San Diego State and BYU, and Ohio State, and none of those teams were responding to a victory over a hated rival by saying "too bad this isn't likely to help score an NIT bid."
I've been searching for a Michigan equivalent and in my memory can only come up with the '97 national title team. Unless there was a basketball team that outdid this year's—unlikely—I think you have to go back to 1969 to pull another team that so wildly exceeded what was expected of them*.
So no one's mad. No one's thinking about the other places in which the sun shines and the band plays and men laugh, because though Michigan's Casey struck out on a last-ditch floater no one expected to get anything out of this season other than yet another test of how much grim tolerance you can squeeze out of your pores.
We got much more than that: wins over Michigan State, a tourney bid, a grisly human sacrifice in the first round, and something that was most definitely not a moral victory in the second. We got an Aneurysm Of Leadership, a triple double, Drunken Sailor Assault Basketball, epic Smotrycz wallpaper, a genocidal campaign against backboards, Zack Novak alternate universe posterization, "Get off my court," Tim Hardaway mouthpiece thousand words, Hardaway fighting Harris for efficiency supremacy in context (and eventually winning!), Hardaway engaging killswitch, Matt Vogrich elevating himself into a photoshoppable entity (right), Zack Novak fouling out on five attempts to take a charge, and possibly more muppets than the last three football seasons combined.
We got a season, even if numerical superiority was not acquired against Duke. Next year they threaten to create a program here. If people are naturally leery of an '09 repeat, remember this time around slackers will be bled on by Zack Novak.
*[There was probably a point at which a hockey observer went "whoah," but they were so few and far between then that I'm not even sure that counts. The other main candidate is the '06 football team but in the end they were just another Rose Bowl losing team, so I think that puts them in a second tier.]
The engoodening. How does it do? That question is worthy of a post, or a series of posts, but here's a paragraph or two off the cuff anyway.
Engoodening #1: getting Smotrycz most of his minutes at the four. This would be a combination of development from Smotrycz and Horford. This year the only thing worse than having 6'4" Zack Novak guarding enormous leaping machines like Trevor Mbakwe was having Smotrycz do it, so he ended up at the four and Michigan's defense had a hard cap on how good it could be. Michigan was above average in rebounding nationally but click that conference-only box on Kenpom and Michigan turns red and ends up eighth. They're worse (ninth) at defending two-pointers. Getting Horford significant minutes seems like it will improve both numbers since he's easily Michigan's most athletic big. Insert tallest midget joke here.
Engoodening #2: vicious competition at the guard spots. Adding Burke and Brundidge and getting another year of development from floppy-haired assassin Matt Vogrich will put Douglass's minutes under threat and give Michigan an option other than panic when Morris is on the bench. Though I'm not as down on Douglass as the rest of the internet—he consistently draws the other team's top perimeter scorer, though Michigan's propensity to switch screens makes this not quite as impressive as it would be on other teams—he's an obvious target for opposing teams playing pressure defense and very rarely does anything good happen when he attempts to create a shot. Either he'll get better or someone will take his minutes.
Other bits: Jordan Morgan becomes less of a foul machine, Hardaway shoots like he did over the latter half of the season, Darius Morris develops a corner three a-la Richard Hamilton, leaning a bit more on the bench—for perspective, Michigan is actually more starter-dependent(337th in bench minutes*) than they are young(335th)—makes the starters more effective.
*[This is impressively low in a pool of 345 but isn't good for last in the league. It's not even good for second-to-last: OSU and PSU are both lower. If Sullinger and Buford leave OSU could be in for an ugly year; Penn State is going to be atrocious.]
A rocket to Kenpom. If you're wondering what a 30-point bludgeoning and a two point loss at a "semi-away" venue against the #2 team in the country does to your computer rankings, it makes for an implausibly huge leap. Michigan is now #23 on Kenpom, up from 44th before the tournament IIRC. Tennessee lost ten spots in a single game-type substance.
That's still only good for fifth in the league (Purdue, Wisconsin, and OSU are all top ten and Illinois is 17th) but everyone in front of them is getting smashed by graduation and possibly early draft entry. It's still amazing that if you take every possession Michigan played this year, and adjust it for the strength of schedule only 22 teams would expect to do better.
His Old Kentucky Home. I hope this is the last thing I have to say about people who obviously didn't bother watching the Fab Five documentary, but I bet you a dollar Jim Nantz has done this at some point:
It must be awkward for Clark Kellogg to sit next to Nantz as he goes on his righteous crusade without having even the vaguest grasp of the facts. Nantz managed to indict four people who didn't do anything wrong in the eyes of the NCAA and repeat the canard that Rose said anything at all negative about Grant Hill's family, something Grant Hill, Michael Wilbon ("Calvin and Janet Hill were left hanging out there, depicted as anything other than the model parents that they are"), and now Nantz have asserted.
This is literally everything Rose said about Hill's family:
"I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL and was a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know. I resented that moreso than I resented him."
In the end this just confirms everything Jalen Rose thought as an 18-year-old—Hill is still the person the world accepts, and asshats like Jim Nantz can't see through the red mist to see that literally the only things Rose said about Hill's family were they were "great," mom went to college, and dad was "well-spoken and successful."
The charitable interpretation is that Nantz is too stupid to parse the above quote, but I don't think that's true.
Morris return reiteration. Just in case:
“Yep,” Morris said when he was asked if he was definitely returning next season.
This echoes what Morris said a week ago, when he said “yeah, I’m here man. I’m not going anywhere.”
Chantel Jennings in the Daily. Matt Vogrich had his car covered in post-its. He cleared off enough to see and left the rest there. Surprise! No one who was zero years old in 1993 wants to talk about the Fab Five. Stu Douglass epic throwdown vs Tennessee. Also more evidence that taking a picture of Tim Hardaway, Jr., is always a good idea:
This past weekend had a few visitors to take in the first spring practice. Moving forward, this coming weekend will be even bigger as Michigan is expecting double digit visitors. Here's a look at how those visits went and who's planning on making it in next weekend. As always you can follow me on Twitter for more updates @TomVH, and email me with any tips or questions at [email protected].
6'6", 220 lbs.
This was Brown's first time up to Ann Arbor so this was a big visit for him to get to know the coaches and environment.
We got up there and went straight to the academic center, we watched practice, and then we got to see the facilities and the Big House. I watched some film and talked about how I would fit in to the defense.
Outside of the facilities, meeting the coaches is usually the biggest part of a first visit and that was the case for Pharaoh.
Coach Mattison was talking about the Ravens and the scheme. He said I would be a rush defensive end, or I could be rushing and dropping back some too. Coach Hoke talked more about academics and the overview of the whole thing. He and my uncle were talking about college life and how to help people transition. I think they're pretty good guys, I feel comfortable with all of them now seeing them in person.
It's still early in the process but this visit did a lot to help Michigan with their recruitment of Brown.
I think I could fit in perfectly with what they were telling me, it was good. I'll probably make my decision in the middle of my season and I might take a few official visits. This visit moved them up on my list though; my interest level went up tremendously. They are at the top of my list for now.
Pharaoh might make it back up to Michigan for the spring game or a game during the season. His top list may end up changing, but this helped move Michigan forward with Brown.
6'6", 315 lbs.
[ed: epic shirt.]
This was also the first time seeing the Michigan facilities up close for Kyle Dodson. Michigan has been making up ground with Kyle for some time, and he was excited to make this trip.
I saw the football facilities and the Big House. We talked with basically all the coaches, and we really got a feel for the place and the surroundings. Coach Funk talked to me about how I would fit in and that they only really have one left tackle right now. They were saying there's a good chance I could play early depending on my work ethic.
Dodson also got a chance to talk to Coach Hoke, but the Big House was what stuck out most to the big lineman.
Coach Hoke is a really nice guy. He talked to me about the tradition and about all the players he coached. But the Big House was the most impressive. I walked in there and it was just amazing. I stood on the M and was thinking I could definitely see myself playing there. When I walked out onto the field I had some hype music that I was singing in my head and it felt good, it was magical.
A lot of what Kyle is looking for comes with comfortability and feeling like he fits in.
This visit really made me know that all those coaches are there for my well being, and they're definitely going to be on my side through my time there. I know for a fact that they all care for me. I kind of want to decide before my season so it won't be a distraction. I'll probably come out with my top list soon, but Michigan is definitely in heavy consideration. They definitely moved up in my mind.
Dodson also said that he will only consider schools that have offered him, and doesn't want to wait for schools to come through past a certain point. Michigan is in really good position with Kyle and he's an outstanding prospect for Michigan's needs.
6'2", 215 lbs
This wasn't the first trip for Royce Jenkins-Stone, but it was an important one. He came up with his friends LB James Ross and DB Terry Richardson. All three were hoping to see more from the new coaches and saw just that.
This visit helped me see how they coach and how the environment changes. I talked to some of the players and asked them what these coaches were like. They said that there's not much yelling and they really treat you like their sons. They help you with your personal stuff more than just football. I think I feel comfortable with them, and I know my mom likes it a lot. She thinks it's a great place for me.
Royce has seen his offer list blow up and has become a national recruit. He plans on taking his time with everything, but this visit definitely helped Michigan.
Yeah, this visit helped Michigan a lot. I didn't think it was that family centered up there. Everyone felt like they were at home, and I know for a fact that none of those coaches are leaving. If I go there none of them are leaving for the three or four years I'm there. I know Terry [Richardson] and James [Ross] felt the same way. I don't know where they're at with everything, but I know they liked it.
Those three recruits, Jenkins-Stone, Ross, and Richardson have seemed to become an area of focus for these coaches and they expressed that on this visit.
Coach Mattison went over film with us and what positions we would be playing. He said they see Biggs [James Ross] as a WILL and they see me at MIKE. They said we're the dream team, me, Terry, and James, and that they really want us.
Like I said Royce has offers from almost everywhere and he plans on checking those schools out. He'll most likely use official visits for the schools that aren't within driving distance and unofficials for the closer schools. He plans on coming out with a top ten before the season, a top five mid season, and then a top three before he decides towards the end of the season. He was also nominated for the US Army All American game, so he may decide then if he gets chosen.
March 24-26th Visitors
These are the names that I have confirmed so far. This list will change as the date gets closer and I confirm more people.
- Kentucky QB Zeke Pike (6'5", 220 lbs): Pike told me he's visiting Michigan this week and will probably be up on Thursday. It's not set in stone yet.
- OL Sid Anvoots (6'4", 285 lbs) Indiana: Visiting this weekend
- OL Chase Deback (6'8", 308 lbs) Michigan: Hoping for an offer from Michigan.
- LB Joe Bolden (6'2", 225 lbs) Ohio: Recently offered by Michigan
- OL Jonah Pirsig (6'9", 300 lbs) Minnesota: Also has a Michigan offer
- TE Pierre Aka (6'4", 250 lbs) Indiana: If Michigan offers he might make his decision on the spot. He's very high on Michigan.
- WR Aloyis Gray (6'3", 165 lbs) Indiana: Teammates with Pierre Aka, he's hoping to get an offer.
- OL DeAndre Herron (6'6", 300 lbs) Indiana: Has offers from Louisville and Toledo, will probably have more soon.
- OL Daron Brown (6'5", 312 lbs) Michigan: Has been up to Michigan before, and is hoping for an offer.
- DB Wayne Morgan (5'11", 188 lbs) New York: Rutgers leads because he's familiar with their program. This visit could be big for Michigan.
- DB Allen Gant (6'1", 182 lbs) Ohio: Recently took a trip up to Ann Arbor and plans on camping this summer.
- DE Mario Ojemudia (6'3", 215 lbs) Michigan: Plans on taking his time with his recruitment, has a Michigan offer.
- TE Devin Funchess (6'5", 205 lbs) MIchigan: Teammates with Ojemudia.
- TE Ron Thompson (6'4", 210 lbs) MIchigan: Very high on Michigan, plans on waiting a little while longer to make his decision.
- TE AJ Williams (6'6", 260 lbs) Ohio: He'll be up either Tuesday or Friday, he isn't sure of the date yet.
- LB Royce Jenkins-Stone (6'2", 215 lbs) Michigan: Said he wants to get back up to see them practice in pads.
- DE Alex Pace (6'2", 255 lbs) Glenville
- MAYBE DT Greg Kuhar (6'3", 265 lbs) Ohio: Talking to his parents about making the trip.
- MAYBE ATH David Perkins (6'2", 209 lbs) Indiana: Not 100% sure if he's coming, but he's leaning towards it.
- MAYBE LB Vin Ascolese (6'2", 205 lbs) New Jersey: Not sure if he'll make it.
- MAYBE RB Auctavius Bennett (5'7", 180 lbs) Maryland
- MAYBE WR Monty Madaris (6'2", 175 lbs) Ohio: Not sure of his ride situation, but is trying to make it up.
Massachusetts LB Camren Williams and Armani Reeves both took in Michigan this weekend. Williams had excellent things to say about the trip.
Ohio OL Caleb Stacey was offered while visiting Michigan. Stacey thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and it probably vaulted Michigan to the top. We'll see if he decides to make a decision soon.
This is not a muppets post. I'm not even sure what this is since I don't think Michigan's had a team like this most recent edition of basketball since the blog's existed, and probably not since the 1997 football team went from "M stands for mediocre" to a national championship.
Expectations this year were on the floor, like "I hope they win ten games" on the floor, and they end it watching a runner to tie the defending national champions clang off the back rim. They swept Michigan State for the first time since 1997, breached Tennessee's reactor core, reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, and didn't bother to have a senior day. A friend kept saying he just wanted to keep seeing them play basketball, and that's about right, and when's the last time you could say that about Michigan anything?
The team is hereby awarded the above image of slightly silly looking Vikings charging headlong to glory. Denouement Monday.
I know you're all busy sticking needles into your Coach K voodoo dolls—for safety's sake make sure your doll is not actually Coach K before inserting—but about an hour ago Michigan's hockey fate was determined. Drumroll, please:
1. Boston College
4. Colorado College
Michigan plays at 5:30 on Friday on ESPN3, with ESPNU replaying the game at 11:30.
Yeah, so to get to a hypothetical final Michigan probably has to beat Boston College and North Dakota, but that's why you show up on Friday against Western Michigan instead of whatever that was. Michigan split with UNO at Yost earlier this year, losing 4-2 on Friday and winning 6-1 the next night. Shots were 35-25 Michigan on Friday and about even Saturday.
Let me take this opportunity to urge anyone considering going: don't. You'll notice that the CCHA is the only conference not to have a region, you know, within hundreds of miles of it. A couple years ago there were regionals in Wisconsin and Colorado. The CCHA is the only conference to get so regularly screwed. I don't think the committee actually cares—if they did we'd have home regionals for top seeds—but on the off chance a St. Louis regional featuring 50 people in an NHL building is the hockey equivalent of Houston Nutt signing 37 kids you should save your money.
You may resume poking K right in the eye.
So I'm back from my honeymoon in Greece, and rollin' a 101 degree fever (much appreciated Delta passenger in Seat 12A). Getting the bed sentence for an American male this week basically means lots of college basketball that you can't really follow because you keep drifting off then waking up to either a.) Charles Barkley talking, b.) a guy who looks like your ex-girlfriend's father screaming at you to buy $1,000 TVs, or c.) a radically different score.
At one point Friday afternoon, after a close half where Michigan's best two players ate bench for early foul trouble, I drifted off again and had a fever dream in which Beilein went to his backups and found only ghosts. These apparitions, though by rights having no call to be influencing the corporeal plane, floated onto the court and proceeded to shut down Tobias Harris (who in my dream is 8 feet tall and can't spell "cat") and nail 3-pointers; Michigan won by 30.
Somewhere on my DVR remains a record of what really happened but I'm a man in a room full of used kleenex and the last time I looked on the internet it said hockey lost to Western Michigan 5-2, so until someone tells me different I'm going with the fever dream.
If the dream were true Michigan faces Duke this afternoon at 2:30. You'll get a full preview (update: scroll down to Tim's preview below), but the gist is that Michigan is baby Duke. The Devils' point differential scares the living hell out of me. Then again, I literally need to get some living hell out of me so let's ball.
Diaries: Hoops Edition
It was late January and a 10-2 non-conference schedule against nobodies became a brutal 1-7 mark against the league's toughest conference. The turning point came against little brother, who in basketball has spent the bulk of two decades as a national power. That team which aneurism-ed in Breslin wasn't the same that dominated a first-round 8-9 game in the NCAA Tournament. The squad in January was but an upset special, something that might pull off a miracle using guts and bloody white guys. When Michigan faced that same MSU team again – in Ann Arbor – it had become the Tim Hardaway show, and a ho-hum victory for the better team. The Wolverines finished fourth in the Big Ten, behind only the consensus No. 1 team in the nation and two popular Final Four picks.
How did we come so far? Leave it to bronxblue to tell it as it only can be told, with basketball movie posters:
This was still a dangerously-shallow crew, but it played like a team and bought into Beilein’s system in a way no other team had. And nobody grew more as a player than Hardaway, who scored in double figures in every game and was the catalyst for wins over Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota, playing and being absolutely unconscious at times from beyond the arc.
In a confluence of events that has left dozens of columnists misusing the word "ironic," ESPN aired its Fab Five documentary just as Michigan was sealing its most astounding in-season turnaround in memory. The documentary led to long threads hashing over Michigan basketball's gilded age, but also this fan perspective from Coach Schiano of the '93 Finals run.
The team didn't seem to have their legs that infamous Monday night against UNC. I think Kentucky took a lot out of them. Watching UNC breeze by a lousy Kansas team on Saturday, I was convinced we had the tougher road, and during the last game it showed.
As for the man whose star-birth turned Michigan from plucky guys who might beat the worst MSU team in recent memory to potential bracket busters, Blazefire does a comparison of Tim Hardaway Jr.'s freshman season against his father's four years at UTEP. The younger Hardaway isn't quite the shooter or setup man but otherwise stacks up well against his dad…as a junior.
I also bumped lfj75's Historical Performance of NCAA Seeds to a diary – it basically says 8-seeds don't often win NCAA tourneys. Then again 8-seeds don't usually blow out 9-seeds using spectral bench players.
And though it's now moot, credit jamiemac (of Just Cover Blog) for his Feb 28 bracket matrix, which did a better job explaining which chalk to trust in seeding (and in building a bracket) than about anywhere on the internet.
Diaries: Football Edition
It's official spring tomorrow but it's been football spring for a few weeks. With two other big money sports to hold blue attentions the football information flow has slowed to a trickle. However, lurking user FlyRy4 managed to get us some inside dope from Mattison while attending the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic, and DamnYankee performed a great service by reposting as a diary. FlyRy has received an admin points bump so he can bring things like this to us again. Bullets:
- 4-3 under defense that will look like a 5-2 to some – similar to what they ran in Baltimore.
- Mike Martin supposedly will get single-teams and chances to disrupt.
- Big Will is is winning the group competitions at 3-tech (over Q-Wash, Talbott, Ash et al.)
- Cam Gordon's an SLB, not a safety.
- "Inability of players to watch film correctly." Don't quite know what this means, but I'm all for proper video watching.
There's more in there from Mattison, so click.
The Rivals 250 is out, and Bodogblog broke them down by regions. Unsurprisingly there's a lot more talent in the SEC footprint than anywhere else. I'd like to see somebody do a comparison by year of Rivals 250 versus who gets drafted by the NFL; I have a feeling you'd find suggestive evidence that players in the South are more likely to get a 4-star.
And that maniacal laughter you hear in the background is THE_KNOWLEDGE, who points out the Tressel thing is something even the trolliest troll wouldn't dare dream up.
Diaries: Hockey Edition
As I'm writing this (11:30 a.m. Sunday) I'm watching the tournament announcement show, but if there's few surprises it's thanks to the excellent work of mfan_in_ohio, who has been keeping us updated with the pairwisii. You can go back to the March 13 and March 6 updates to feel out the whole process. Denver lost a nailbiter last night to North Dakota and ended up the 2 seed in that bracket, but mfan says Miami (NTM)'s CCHA championship will give them the last 1-seed, putting Mich in St. Louis with BC, CC and Nebraska-Omaha. And lo and behold, he's right. Michigan will play Nebraska-Omaha then face the winner of Boston College and Colorado College in St. Louis.
For his tireless effort and The_Knowledge-like prognosticative powers, this is your Diarist of the Week.
Diaries: Wrestling Edition
Enfin, I just wanted to share a little love for the all the Greco-Michigan fans I met. Yes, I can be the kind of tourist douche who wears Michigan gear when in Europe, but apparently there are a lot of Greeks who know the block M. Greek Michigan fans, we salute you, and not just because you built the Parthenon just to rub in a victory over Spartans.