I don't actually have many memories of the Fab Five on the court. I remember being utterly heartsick when Webber called that timeout. That moment is undoubtedly the genesis of my obsession with rules that suck and should be changed*. I remember hating that technical when the ref could have just ignored it and left Webber to figure it out himself.
I also remember a black t-shirt I had commemorating the '92 Final Four, but incompletely. I know Cincinnati was on the shirt. I had to look up the other two teams, look up that Michigan beat the Bearcats in the semi before losing to Duke, look up the fact that Michigan was just a six seed. I remember the shirt being embroidered, because that's what happened in 1992 when you wanted something fancy. It was scratchy. I loved it.
I've got the heartsick and the shirt; everything else has melted away. When Wolverine Historian posted one of their games against Illinois I watched it and was stunned by… well, everything. A stone-cold packed Crisler full of people losing their minds. The helter-skelter nature of the game on both ends. Michigan—Michigan!—having a bunch of defiant, ruckus-raising black guys Jim Nantz remains terrified of to this day.
That is not the equilibrium state of Michigan basketball. That does not come from Earth. It comes from a planet with a green sun and marshmallow donkeys.
Later I remember loathing Chris Webber. Years and years had passed and Webber was on a very good Sacramento Kings team playing the Lakers in the conference finals. Sacramento had just gotten legendarily boned in game six. I remember watching game seven smugly, thinking Webber was born to fail in the moment of truth as he clanged threes and the Kings evaporated.
Anyone with a soul roots against the Lakers for the same reason they root against the Yankees. Sacramento had just suffered through a game that Tim Donaughy could point to years later as an example of a fix only to have obsessives like Bill Simmons say "tell me something I don't know." My loathing for Webber overcame all.
Some years later Webber was a trade-deadline acquisition for the Pistons during the period when the Billups/Prince/Hamilton/McDyess core still had my full attention. I was unhappy with it but dealt. I watched Chris Webber play basketball again. By that point he had suffered a variety of injuries that left him barely able to jump. He was useless defensively, an old man devoid of the thunderous athleticism that I assumed must have been part and parcel of why he was so good in college, the #1 pick in the draft, etc. By all rights he should have been out of the league already. Like Shawn Kemp, basically.
The reason he wasn't was his passing. Someone who paid more attention to the NBA than I did or wasn't 14 the last time he saw Webber play much already knew this. I didn't. I knew Chris Webber, though. I knew he was a liar and a choker and not very smart and just a general all-around jerk who wouldn't even apologize. I knew the Fab Five was just a bunch of guys who played schoolyard basketball because they were so outrageously better than everyone they could get away with it.
I knew Chris Webber until I watched him play. He dropped passes in spaces that didn't exist until he saw them. He hit cutters that didn't know they were open until the ball was in their hands. He was brilliant despite having the athleticism of Artie Lang. He was incredible fun. Despite myself I really liked watching Chris Webber play basketball, and now I don't think I know one thing about him.
To say Michigan has done a 180 in re: the cultural alignment of their basketball team understates things despite that being axiomatically impossible. The old ringleader just called black guys at Duke "Uncle Toms"; the new one is from Chesterton, Indiana, and once knew 62 digits of pi. After Michigan completed its season sweep of MSU the most desperate, laughable assertion I came across from some guy on an MSU message board was that Michigan had "thugs" on its team, an accusation that would have been uncomfortable during the Fab Five era and literally true when Ellerbe was running things into the ground.
Webber's been banned and feels repudiated and people feel free to demand an apology from him before he even thinks about setting foot in Crisler again, so I get why he doesn't feel like he owes anyone anything. If he wouldn't talk to Jalen Rose for his documentary, it's hard to believe he'll actually "tell his side soon" as he hoped on twitter.
This is immensely disappointing to me. I don't hate him any more and don't care about apologies, don't care about the crater he is often blamed for no matter how little input he had on hiring Ellerbe**. I'd just like to know every last detail of what happened.
Because I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.
Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.
It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions. I want Chris Webber to gently untie this Gordian knot in an hour-long interview on national television. When he's done the pieces will assemble themselves into a butterfly with big ears and a huge assist rate. This is the least he can do for 13-year-old me and my embroidered Final Four t-shirt. Thanks in advance.
- Timeouts in basketball. There should be one, period, like in hockey.
- The NHL rule where flipping the puck into the stands from your own zone is a penalty. It should be handled like icing, which is what the NCAA does.
- Hockey offsides is brutal. Widen the line to reduce whistles.
**[Tom Goss, not Ed Martin, is the man who killed Michigan basketball.]
3/11/2011 – Michigan 5, Bowling Green 1 – 24-9-4
3/12/2011 – Michigan 4, Bowling Green 1 – 25-9-4, CCHA semifinalists
Michigan did what would have been extremely hard for them not to do by dispatching Bowling Green easily. It's business time. Let's jump right to the bullets that aren't:
MFan in Ohio's usual breakdown awaits. Miami's sweep of a better opponent and some other jostling sees the Redhawks move up into a tie for Michigan's fourth spot. Usually one-on-one ties are broken with the comparison and Michigan holds that despite getting swept by the Redhawks earlier this year, so Michigan is still nominally in possession of that last one seed.
- Union was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Colgate and won't be a threat; their RPI went from fourth to eighth and they've got no more games.
- Denver swept Mankato and remains a threat but now they're in the meat of the WCHA playoffs. They get Bemidji State or UMD followed by probably North Dakota—you want UND to win that hypothetical matchup big time. By sweeping the Screaming Eagles Denver obliterated their own TUC record and now can't pass Michigan unless M loses.
- UNO was swept by Bemidji State and went from threatening to take Michigan's comparison to hanging on to the last three seed. They're not a threat.
- Notre Dame beat LSSU in three games, which hurts them to the point where they can't pass Michigan even with a head to head win.
It's pretty simple now. Michigan gets a one seed if they win the CCHA or if they split at the Joe and two other things happen: Not Denver wins the WCHA and Not Miami wins the CCHA. Root for anyone against Denver and you really want Notre Dame to take the first semifinal on Friday; if it's a Michigan-ND CCHA final and Denver's knocked out by whoever in the WCHA playoffs the one seed could be locked up before the final.
Dirty. Thanks to reader Peter Saul you can relive Scooter's toe drag goal from Friday in gorgeous HD:
Just BG caveats apply but quick name Michigan's best forward not named Hagelin now that Wohlberg's out. Scooter, right?
Speaking of gurrrrgh. Losing David Wohlberg for the season is a heavy blow. With Llewellyn and Fallon gone—in Fallon's case temporarily—and Wohlberg and Caporusso out, Kevin Clare was the only healthy scratch on Saturday. Caporusso is supposed to be back this weekend but his health is going to be a big question. Michigan's going to need him to be his usual moderately effective self.
Break your nose six times next week and it will be a perfect comparison. Chris Brown's recent scoring run has taken him to nine goals, tied with Treais—on a run of his own—and Caporusso for fourth on the team behind Hagelin, Wohlberg, and Scooter Dominance. He's done this mostly by being a the big ugly net presence that he was supposed to be when he got drafted in the second round, and he's developing quite a knack for deflections* a la Ryan Smyth. He coolly directed a Merrill point shot into the net this weekend, for one. Of late it's usually Brown who is the source of "ohhhhh" moments when a defenseman's shot goes close after changing direction.
*[deflections FOR GLORY!]
Which one of you should be a forward next year? Mac Bennett or Lee Moffie: fight. Moffie now has six goals in 26 games. If he'd played as much as Caporusso he'd have eight, one fewer than Louie. His first on Saturday was a shorthanded bomb that caught the iron as it went in; his second was another lethal shot from distance. Meanwhile Bennett continues to lead any rush he can.
With Michigan bringing in a couple of guys who can fill in the sixth defenseman spot, if they don't lose anyone early it might be time to Scooterize one or the other. As far as the rest of this year goes, the reason Michigan is competing for the last one seed without seeming to be that good at scoring is that the defensemen are just insane. Merrill has seven goals, Moffie six, Burlon five, and the other three guys combine for seven. I'm not sure how that ranks nationally but I've scanned almost every CCHA team's roster for preview posts at this point and I can tell you that Michigan has probably doubled up the second-best D in the league in points.
I'm going to name a caffeinated alcoholic drink after you. Just Bowling Green caveats apply, but Lindsay Sparks, yo. Two goals and an assist on the weekend, one of them a display of impressive speed on the breakaway. Even if the big leap in competition level this weekend will make it hard to replicate that performance I'm still pretty excited to see Sparks-Treais-Moffatt hit the ice. They've been effective against third and fourth lines and since Michigan gets last change all weekend Michigan can shelter them from guys like Andy Miele.
Please bury me with it. With Michigan's depth already stretched to the breaking point it's time to adopt the same strategy deployed in the tourney last year: stop rolling the fourth line. Michigan should retrieve Lynch from it, put Winnett back down there, and put that fourth line out there once or twice a period with Winnett giving occasional people a rest when they need it.
I'd put Scooter on Hagelin's wing and reform the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line as Rust-Lynch-Glendening, give them the job of shutting down top lines, and get Vaughn some of Hagelin's playmaking ability to better further his utter dominance of opponents. I don't think Red will break up combinations that seem to be working well but Vaughn is Michigan's second-best forward right now and it seems like a bit of a waste to have him out there with people other than Hagelin.
I confess that I'm mystified by how much run Winnett has gotten over the course of his career. He spent three ineffective season on the point on the power play, including plenty of time this year, despite never getting off a checking line. This year literally every defenseman on the roster has more points than him except Kevin Clare and his 0-1-1 in 12 games. I'm sure he's a dutiful checker and good defensive player but at least Lynch has shown something other than that in his career thus far.
Go time. Is now. Don't expect much out of me on Friday. With the clear relevance of the other semi and Michigan's tourney game I'm probably going to head down to Detroit to catch the Michigan game, then head over to the Joe for the double-header.
This past weekend saw a few visitors on campus including LB Vince Biegel, DT Sheldon Day, and TE Devin Funchess. Visit reactions were minimal as they usually are this early in the process. This was the start of many, many visit weekends for Michigan though, so here's a look at some reactions, future visits, and other notes.
6'3", 210 lbs.
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Biegel and his father got a chance to take in Ann Arbor for the first time this weekend and it made a impression on the two.
We got there Friday, got to see the facilities and meet Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison. It was a good visit. We went over schemes with Coach Mattison, and he was showing us Ravens film. He showed me where I would fit in and where he thought I could play at linebacker.
Vince has a top three of Wisconsin, Michigan, and BYU. This visit helped Michigan's case... to a certain extent.
Wisconsin is probably still ahead of Michigan, but I will say that Michigan is definitely in my top three. I really liked Michigan and one thing that stood out was Coach Hoke. He's just a really good guy and a down to earth guy. I'm not really a big facility guy either but I was pretty impressed with Michigan's facilities.
He and his father both said they enjoyed the visit and had fun catching up with Coach Mattison, who recruited the elder Biegel out of high school as well. Vince's plan now is to visit BYU and take in a few spring practices. He said he will likely make it to a Michigan practice and then make his decision. I do think it will be hard to take over Wisconsin's spot at the top.
6'1", 182 lbs
The Michigan legacy was on campus on Thursday hoping to get an offer, but unfortunately came away empty handed. Gant wasn't offered but the coaches did tell him how they feel.
We basically talked about coming back up there for a junior day, so I'll be back up there on [March] 26th. I'm most likely going to their camp too. They were just telling me that they're really interested and that they see me playing at safety for them.
Gant took in the visit with his father, Tony, who played under Bo Schembechler in 1982.
[My dad] enjoyed himself and he thinks Michigan will be back the way it used to be. We got to talk to Coach Mallory, Mattison, and Hoke about everything. I feel a lot more comfortable now that I got to sit down and talk with all of them.
The Wolverines are making ground with Gant but still want to see him perform in person before extending the offer. He'll likely have to wait until his camp performance to hear anything new.
6'3", 290 lbs
Lee's Summit, Missouri
Boehm received an offer from Michigan this past week, which was followed shortly by offers from Auburn and Stanford. The offensive lineman-slash-wrestler was excited about all the new attention.
I just won a state wrestling championship and I was offered by Michigan, Auburn, and Stanford on Sunday so things are going well. I definitely want to get up to Ann Arbor for a visit, I've heard it's beautiful. I just need to talk to my dad about when we can take it.
Boehm's dad also happens to be his football coach which is probably the cause of some of Evan's success. No timeline or top list has been set yet and Boehm plans on taking some time to make his decision.
March 19th Visitors:
Here's the names that I have confirmed so far that will be in Ann Arbor this coming weekend.
Ohio OL Kyle Dodson (6'6", 315 lbs): Michigan is making up lots of ground with Dodson. He says that the history and the coaches have him excited.
Mass LB Camren Williams (6'2", 215 lbs): Making his decision in June so this visit will be big for Michigan.
Mass ATH Armani Reeves (5'11", 185 lbs): Teammate of Camren Williams, very excited about the visit.
Michigan LB Royce Jenkins-Stone (6'2", 215 lbs): This is good for Michigan to get Royce back on campus. He's seen his recruitment take off offer-wise and Michigan needs to solidify their position.
Ohio DE Pharaoh Brown (6'6", 220 lbs): It will be good to get Brown on campus this early. He could end up being a key prospect down the road.
Maybe Ohio TE AJ Williams (6'6", 260 lbs): Williams was trying to make it in this past weekend but couldn't. He's now trying to reschedule for the 19th, but doesn't have anything set in stone yet.
- Illinois OL Dan Voltz will be making his final decision tomorrow [Tuesday]. Since he didn't end up visiting, I'm sure you can draw your own conclusion from there.
in case you missed it, or in case you didn't
Assorted items off the top of the head.
Kenpom or conspiracy. The Big Ten got a wet sloppy kiss from the committee this year. While they scored the expected Sweet Sixteen seeds, where eyebrows cocked was about the other four teams. Michigan got an eight, Illinois a nine, Penn State and Michigan State tens. For all the bubble talk over the last month when it came down to it no Big Ten team was one of the last seven(!) in, and Michigan wasn't even on the bubble.
Talk radio in Boulder, Colorado will center around the fact that OSU's AD was the head of the committee, but I wonder if people in the room actually paid attention to how well the Big Ten represented in Kenpom and other computer rankings. They definitely didn't do this on a team level—Kenpom #17 Utah State got rewarded with a 12 seed, #19 Belmont a 13—so maybe it's just a coincidence and the conspiracy theorists are closer to right.
As far as Michigan specifically, I also wonder if Michigan's narrow losses to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin were an influence. At first blush they look way overseeded. Narrow losses and a blazing finish might explain the difference between Michigan's resume and its seed.
The opponent. It's "hey, look at this coach who should definitely be fired" week on MGoBlog as Michigan draws dead man walking Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee probably-not-Volunteers.
Q: how many tournament appearances do you have left
A: plenty, ask Tim Floyd
Q: AT TENNESSEE SMART GUY
Despite seeming to be overseeded, Michigan caught an opponent that's equally, if not more, uninspiring on paper. Tennessee was 8-8 in the crappy SEC and had a violently mixed nonconference schedule that features wins over Pitt, Villanova, VCU, and Belmont (twice, albeit the second time by just one) and losses against Oakland, Charleston, and Charlotte. In the SEC tournament they beat Arkansas before losing to Florida.
Kenpom has them 55th. Michigan's up to 40th after splitting their pair at the BTT, so Michigan will be about a 60% favorite according to the system. Tennessee's most outlying statistical points are great offensive rebounding (12th nationally at almost 38%) and terrible three point shooting (30%, 315th). They're vaguely in the middle of the pack in everything else, above average at most things except getting their shots blocked.
crap, he can drive past white guys
The stars. Tennessee's offense revolves around SF Scotty Hopson and and PF Tobias Harris to about the same extent Michigan's revolves around Harris and Hardaway, except for the fact that Hopson and Harris actually get some time on the bench. They're kind of meh as far as efficiency goes; Hopson is a good three point shooter (38%) but no one else on the team is much of a threat.
The guy you're going to be screaming "AAAARGH REBOUND" at is Brian Williams (not that Bison Dele), who's ninth nationally in OREB%. He's a foul machine averaging 5.5 per 40 minutes and only gets about 20 per game but his backup is just a slightly worse version of him: John Fields is a foul machine averaging 7.2 per 40 who vacuums up offensive rebounds at only a slightly less monstrous rate.
The best team ever, for a given definition. Yes: right now this team is better than the Sims/Harris '09 team that slid into the tournament for the first time in forever by both Kenpom and tourney seeding metrics. This has been a remarkable job by Beilein; if he can build on it the next couple years Michigan will have an actual program again.
The big reveal:
8. Michigan vs
Hypothetical second round opponent: #1 Duke.
Eight seed is way high, no?
Not exactly Kansas in terms of blase but you don't have to act like you've been there when you haven't. At least not much.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ohio State|
KenPom: OSU -11 (89% win)
Once more for good measure? Once more for good measure:
Ahem. Now that we have that out of the way, on to the game. The Wolverines lost the season series to the Buckeyes in a pair of close games (OK, that's a bit of a stretch for the second one, but the Wolverines led at half and were within 7 with a minute left on the road). I'm not sure if there's data to support the "can't beat a team three times in one season" meme, but I sure hope it's true.
As you're well-aware, the Buckeyes host two of the top three candidates for B1G freshman of the year in Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, and they're surrounded by a host of senior contributors in sharpshooter Jon Diebler, prematurely bald guy Dallas Lauderdale, and Brooks Bollinger Memorial 8th-year Senior Award recipient David Lighty.
Let's get right into the...
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Ohio State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Ohio (YTO) Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OSU Def eFG%||46||139||M|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OSU eFG%||156||3||OO|
|Mich TO% v. OSU Def TO%||16||22||-|
|Mich Def TO% v. OSU TO%||252||8||OOO|
|Mich OReb% v. OSU DReb%||327||24||OOOO|
|Mich DReb% v. OSU OReb%||66||64||-|
|Mich FTR v. OSU Opp FTR||336||1||OOOO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OSU FTR||28||173||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OSU AdjD||45||11||O|
|Mich AdjD v. OSU AdjO||50||1||O|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
I've made this joke a hundred times already this year, but: Hide ya kids, hide ya wife. Ohio State is the best team in the country, and I don't care what Kansas, Duke, and Pitt have to say about it. In personal e-pinion (and e-pinion of one Ken Pomeroy), it's not really close.
So, what is the underdog strategy in college basketball? No easy baskets for the opposition (which also means don't allow offensive boards), make your shots when they're open, and don't turn over the ball. Getting the opponent's best players into foul trouble - while not getting into the same predicament yourself - certainly doesn't hurt. Easy, right?
Taking a look at the chart, the Wolverines should be able to get off some good shots against an Ohio State team that's not as good as Illinois in forcing opponent misses. They should also at least be able to stalemate in turnovers - though Darius Morris had more giveaways than assist last time against the Buckeyes. They should even have an OK chance to keep the Buckeyes from getting second-chance points.
It's the fouling that becomes an issue. Aside from the free-throw rates (in which Ohio State has an advantage still), Michigan's bigs have been known to get themselves into foul trouble early in games. Against Jared Sullinger, keeping Jordan Morgan in the game is going to be of the utmost importance. Northwestern learned in overtime yesterday that having a second or third option on Sullinger is going to spell your doom.
Dylan previews the game on UMHoops. Along the Olentangy previews the game and doesn't understand offensive rebounding, and Eleven Warriors doesn't so much preview the game as run down player stats from the last two games and yesterday's OSU/Northwestern contest.
I don't know where to go with this prediction. Ohio State has looked vulnerable, and Michigan (in fits and starts) has been playing some of their best ball all year of late. Still "looking vulnerable" is not the same thing as "losing basketball games," and the Buckeyes have only done the latter on the home court of some really good basketball teams.
Kenpom and Vegas aren't keen on Michigan's chances... and there's a reason for that. I think Michigan is capable of beating Ohio State, but I'll believe it actually happens as soon as the clock hits all zeroes. Ohio State wins a closer-than-expected battle, and the Buckeyes emerge with a 69-67 victory.