At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
1/14/2009 – Michigan 51, Illinois 66 – 13-4, 3-2 Big Ten
Illinois' gumpy 7-foot center can ball, man. I was worried what he'd do to Michigan on both ends of the floor before Michigan's first game against the Illini only for Weber to take him off the floor much of the night because he was worried about Tisdale's defense. That was a mistake he didn't repeat.
Meanwhile, DeShawn Sims fell prey to some rim-outs, was bothered by Tisdale's length, and couldn't finish at the rim a couple times and ended up 3-14. That's the ballgame right there. If Sims isn't a major threat to produce inside and there's a 7-foot shotblocker lingering near the hoop no one is going to get an open three or a backcut and the team's going to shoot around 32.2%, give or take a tenth. This I retroactively predict.
Walkons and white guys featured for about four minutes in the first half and a couple in the second, and that seemed like a bad idea. Sims, Harris, and LLP all on the bench? Urgh. I guess it worked out, sort of.
Stu Douglass put in better minutes in this game than he had in other recent contests, coming up with a couple of good passes and a corner three, but he also took another inadvisable NBA-range three.
I was pretty frustrated by the lack of productive offense. I don't know nearly enough about basketball to tell you why Michigan couldn't get good looks, but there seemed like there was way too much one-on-one stuff, either because the ballhandler wasn't looking for teammates or those teammates weren't cutting to spots on the floor where they'd be useful. Team is still very young and all that, but the offense seemed more, you know, offense-y early in the season.
It wasn't bad luck that Michigan shot 27% from 3; the only really good looks I remember were Stu's aforementioned corner three and one LLP three in transition that didn't go down.
Okay, we've got a couple bonus moderators to reduce the wear and tear on everyone's ability to actually watch the game, and we'll have a special guest: Joe from Paint the Town Orange. Let's not skin and eat him until the second half, okay?
Launch at around 8:15.
To forestall 60 questions: game is streaming at justin.tv.
Site note: A UMHoops/MGoBlog joint CIL is tentatively on for tonight's Illinois game. Tip is at 8:30, game is on BTN, CIL gets going about 15-30 minutes before.
Correction: Dennis Franklin wore #9, not #6 as claimed yesterday, in case you were looking for him in the afro-tastic team picture.
- Mobile MGoBlog was the big winner in the "new feature" category and will be implemented ASAP. Better integration with MGoVideo was also popular. A unified ticket search came in third.
- About 50% are registered (FYI: even if you aren't interested in posting, logged in users can customize how they see the blog. You can turn some blocks on and off, change the way comments appear, etc.)
- About 10% of people who tried to register never get a response. (If this happens to you, email me.)
- Most people read the board and diaries, with about half participating on the message board and a small number posting diaries, which is about right, IMO.
- Page speed was mostly "good."
- People seem to think the level of self-policing in the comments is about right, but they'd like to see better organization of the user-produced content.
- Advertising is at a tolerable level.
Sorry if you got locked out; I dislike Wufoo's pricing schemes. (I don't want to sign up for something monthly and have to cancel, but I'd pay ten bucks to have a single unlimited survey.)
Clone wars. UMHoops digs out some Kenpom stats and compares this year's basketball team to the 2005 West Virginia team that introduced the world to Gansey and Pittsnogle, et al. The key chart:
The offenses are eerily similar and can quickly be compared: Michigan doesn't shoot as well—though they're not bad—but values the ball more than anyone else in the country; they don't get offensive rebounds or free throws, as they are an extreme POT, which you can see by the percentage of three pointers chucked skyward.
Defensively it's a bit tougher. Michigan looks superior in just about every number up there except turnover percentage, but WVU's defense went up against a lot of good offenses. Michigan not so much.
One thing I did find interesting: Michigan isn't actually that bad on the defensive boards: 33.8 is just about the national average. That's still not good, as an average power conference team with 60+% of its schedule to date against mid- and low-majors should have above-average rebounding. I feel like that sentence was very confusing, but am at a loss to fix it. Rephrase: Michigan's probably a poor defensive rebounding team but not a disastrous one.
A side note: there's been some discussion of Kenpom's grim forecast for Michigan—8-10 in conference and 18-13 overall before the Iowa game, now up to 9-9 and 19-12—and what this says and etc. While I think the Kenpom ratings are worth looking at, keep in mind that they can't account for the absence of Laval Lucas-Perry—currently the team's most efficient offensive player—for about 60% of the season. That's probably worth a game or two (or three!) in Kenpom's projections.
Dylan has an array of interesting observations as well; check his post out.
Elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal takes note of the Big Ten's basketball revival, and does so with heavy deployment of tempo-free statistics.
Is it just me or have mainstream basketball writers taken to advanced stats much more quickly than writers covering any other sport? Baseball writers often take pride in their ignorance. Football broadcasts still propose that 3=7 whenever they mention redzone efficiency. Advanced hockey stats aren't yet important enough to sneer at. Basketball guys, on the other hand, took one look at Kenpom and said "hey, that makes sense." Wonder why that is.
Etc.: Rick Reilly declares beer pong the "next great American pastime," causing reader Jeremy Hekhuis to ask "if reilly is calling something the next great pastime, hasn't its time come and gone?" and causing me to respond "yes."
picture via Philly.com
This past weekend was huge for the final push in Michigan recruiting class. The next couple weekends could be equally big for the Wolverines. One of the big names taking a visit is PA WR Je'ron Stokes. Stokes is committed to Tennessee but looking around in the wake of the Vols coaching change. I spoke with Je'Ron Stokes about the upcoming visit, here's what he had to say...
TOM: What are the main reasons that made you decide to start taking visits?
JE’RON: My main reason was that I just wanted to be sure about the decision I make. I’ve been committed for so long, and so early. I’ve only gotten to see one place. Things changed, and this is a business decision. The quarterback situation, I thought was wrong, but the coach has a lot on his plate, and he wants to do what he feels is best for the team. It was kind of a 50/50 thing, after awhile it didn’t bother me how he handled it.
TOM: What is your official status with Tennessee?
JE’RON: I really don’t know. I’m still committed, I just want to take some visits and make sure I’m making the best decision.
TOM: Has Lane Kiffin done anything to try and keep you at Tennessee?
JE’RON: Oh yea, he’s spoken with my family. He’s making some good efforts; I’ve met a few of his staff and everything. It’s kind of like starting a new relationship
TOM: You’re visiting Michigan this weekend, what are you looking to get out of the visit? What other schools do you plan on visiting?
JE’RON: Everybody’s going to have good academics; this is the highest level of college football you could play in. So I’m looking for relationships with the people, players, and coaches. The town, just how the overall atmosphere. I’m going to visit Illinois, Penn State, and maybe Georgia. I probably will take a visit to Penn State; I’m not 100% on that yet.
TOM: Is there anything specifically that you’re excited to see, or that you want the coaches to focus on?
JE’RON: Not really, just want to see everything. Just kind of see the whole package.
TOM: Are there any other recruits that you’ve developed a friendship with recently?
JE’RON: I met some people at the All American Game, Jeremy Jackson, and a lot of people. Too many to name. Will Campbell too, he’s a funny guy.
TOM: Since you were concerned about Tennessee’s lack of a quarterback, have you spoken to any of the QB’s from the schools you’re visiting? Have you talked to Tate Forcier at all?
JE’RON: I haven’t. I know the new quarterback at Penn State, Kevin Newsome, but other than that no. We worked together a few times. I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks at the visit, and get a feel for them just as players and people.
TOM: The schools that are left rank them in order of who excites you the most, or who you are most curious about.
JE’RON: Honestly I don’t even know, I’m curious about all of them. I really can’t do that right now.
TOM: When do you think you’ll make your decision?
JE’RON: Most likely not until signing day.
TOM: If any of these visits blow you away, do you think you’ll commit on the spot?
JE’RON: No, I’m going to take my time. I’ll talk to my family about everything, and make sure it’s right.
TOM: With your recruiting, are you kind of blazing the trail for your brother Malik? Do you think he’ll follow, or do his own thing?
JE’RON: Where ever God leads him. He’s going to make the best decision for him, where ever he wants to go. We played together in high school so it’d be nice, but I want him to do what’s right for him.
The novelty of the national championship game in 3-D drew in a couple bloggers whose opinions I respect, and their reviews were pretty much the same: the 3-D effect is cool but most prominent when you're on a sideline shot, which is a crappy angle to watch a game from. Both Dr. Saturday and Bill Harris of Dubious Quality seemed disappointed with the direction, which is to be expected when you're testing out a system FROM THE FUTURE.
But what struck me was the way in which the spare production values seemed a benefit, not a drawback. Dr. Saturday:
I don't know that the "feel" had as much to do with the 3-D, though, as it did with the shockingly spare production. The broadcast usually lingered on the field during TV timeouts, stealing shots of players huddling on the sideline, cheerleaders (who look great, although they kept showing the Florida cheerleaders in much longer takes than necessary, and never made it around to Oklahoma's squad) and the crowd. Sometimes they caught coaches arguing with the refs or doing something interesting. You can see 3-D Tim Tebow hovering at the edge of the offensive huddle, waiting until the last possible second to take his headset off. There were no wooshing graphics or promos to fill empty space, only the announcers, Kenny Albert and Tim Ryan, who were often silent for long stretches during these timeouts. The feeling was exactly what you'd experience during a TV timeout if you were actually in the stadium, which may not sound like much fun. But compared to the usual cacophony of commercials, I really appreciated the broadcast remaining almost entirely on the scene without the usual bells and whistles.
(Also, that post's comments have one of the best descriptions of a blog I've ever seen: EDSBS is "college football smashed through a Decemberists song.")
And Bill Harris:
The biggest difference, and this is what surprised me most, was in the presentation. No scoreboard overlay. Almost no statistical overlays. In other words, we didn't see a bunch of useless crap and network pimping on the screen. No American Idol overlays. No website whoring. No stupid-ass, giant arrows on the field telling us down and distance, just like the scoreboard overlay is already telling us. All we saw was football.
That was absolutely great.
Harris sums up pithily: "there is zero respect for content these days."
Maybe the revolutionary aspect of this 3D experience isn't Captain EO in helmets but an alternative broadcast that diehards can access in exchange for money. If you were a Florida or Oklahoma fan, how much would you have paid to exchange the Fox broadcast with something pitched at your interests instead of people who watch college football once a year?
I've mentioned this before: the problem with sports broadcasting is that people who already care have to watch. They have no alternative. So broadcasters are free to wholly ignore their wishes and cater their coverage to people who don't care, with a heavy slice of corporate whoredom. QED: Monday Night Football's weekly 15-minute interview with a celebrity totally unrelated to football.
But we're entering an age where virtually anyone can broadcast in real time over the internet, when television bandwidth and sophistication can easily provide for alternative views on the game. How long will it take before someone creates an alternative broadcast a little more sophisticated than "Orson and Peter get drunk during a bowl game"? (Which is great but probably not something you can monetize.)
I hope the answer to this is "not long." Someone, anyone, create a pilot program, a PPV version of a game available for free except with, like, Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman and no ads and no Tebotheosis and no impulse for me to put the TV on mute. This equals cash money for you.
Tom Deinhart is hanging out at the coaching convention and says:
Michigan's search for a defensive coordinator continues. Two names making the rounds: former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann, who coached linebackers for the New York Jets this season, and Florida safeties coach Chuck Heater.
Of course, everyone's first reaction to Jim Herrmann is "aigh!" Then everyone thinks about the 2005 season and doubles down on "aigh!" And then, no doubt, this will all be put behind us shortly. Herrmann makes no sense in a number of ways. After Rodriguez took a gamble on Scott Shafer that ended in dissention and disaster, he's repeatedly stressed fit and comfort as primary criteria in the DC search. AFAIK, he's never interacted with Herrmann. Also, Michigan fans were ready to run Herrmann out of town on a rail in 2005. A return would be awkward, to say the least.
Heater, on the other hand, is an interesting guy. He's an alum, the starting wingback on the 1974 team (he's sitting next to Dennis Franklin in the front row wearing #28 in this afro-tastic team photo). Since graduation he's been an assistant at a thousand different schools: Northern Arizona, Toledo, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Colorado State, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Florida. Aside from a couple brief stints as a RB coach and one year as a DC at Toledo he's been a secondary coach for the entirety of his career; he's also held the title "recruiting coordinator" for the past ten years, a span that covers jobs at four different schools. Much has been made of the close relationship between Meyer and Rodriguez and their respective staffs; chances are Rodriguez knows Heater pretty well.
The pro column: Heater's a career college assistant and alum who's been a key part of the Meyer recruiting machine for the past five years. He'll help out Michigan's Florida recruiting significantly, and he's been a part of what's normally a vicious Florida defense.
The con column: no DC experience, obviously, and it's questionable how much impact he's had on a coaching staff with Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison and so forth and so on.