What happened today: I was fingered by Blogger's spambots and had to wait it out for someone to stop by, note that spammers are unlikely to have "suck my balls, blogger" prominently displayed at the top of the blog, and give me the go-ahead to post again. They have done so. A now-dated MSU post is directly below this one.
By way of apology, a Sam McGuffie highlight reel that's wicked sweet (music NSFW):
That hurdle thing was less a brilliant improvisation than a regular part of the McGuffie arsenal.
2/27/2006 - Michigan 67-56 Michigan State - 20-10, 8-7
I will admit that this basketball grinch's heart grew three sizes when Brent Petway threw down a half-court alley-oop from Jerrett Smith midway through the second half yesterday. Even my ambivalence about the possibility of another NCAA near-miss leading to an extension of the Amaker era eroded with every shot of a white-clad slackjaw cheering for Michigan State and every non-turnover possession. It's no fun thinking big picture in the throes of actual sporting competition, and I hereby suspend any and all conflicted musings until the season ends.
- Credit where it's due to Amaker: the switch to Smith as the starting point guard seems to be working. Though his final numbers weren't stunning -- 8 point, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover -- they were efficient. His defense on the Spartan guards was surprisingly competent.
- Second positive adjustment: bringing Jevohn Shepard off the bench to play BRJ/Tayshaun Prince on Drew Neitzel. It's hard to tell how much Neitzel's illness affected his play since he could hardly get a shot off unless it was an awful and infuriatingly accurate three-pointer. Shepard's still an offensive nothing, but unfortunately neither Lester Abram or Ron Coleman has much on him at this point.
- Michigan's persistent inability to finish at the rim was going to be the thing I harped on -- turnovers being shockingly absent -- should Michigan have blown the game. Most flagrant was Brent Petway's decision to spin into the lane and throw up a missed hook when if he had gone baseline he would have had a thunderous dunk. YOU'RE BRENT PETWAY! You jump over things. That's your thing. No with the skill. Yes with the ARRRRRGH DUNK.
- The second half pick-and-roll perfectly executed by Jerrett Smith, Brent Petway, and Courtney Sims: most shocking basket of the Amaker era?
- We are still a major longshot to make the tournament. A win over OSU is required and improbable, and then we can't screw it up in the Big Ten tournament.
- The disappearance of Lester Abram is on a par with Amelia Earhart.
- I really hate that Bill Simmons beat me to "Drew Neitzel is dead ringer for a leukemia patient."
Given the fate of Michigan basketball under the watchful eye of an MGo-liveblog, we're going to skip it. But there might be an open thread or something. We're very likely to lose, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
Troy Woolfolk is fast. The incoming cornerback just got done owning the 100 meters at a Texas meet:
100 â€” 1, Troy Woolfolk, Dulles 10.28; 2, Alvin Johnson, Lamar 10.65; 3, Cordell Riggings, Humble 10.7.
There is probably some wind-based/hand-timed mitigating factor in that number, otherwise that's a staggering time. In any case, he gap between Woolfolk and second place is giant. Hopefully he can change directions. Also of note is the 200:
200 â€” 1, Damien Clestine, Beaumont Ozen 21.18; 2, Darryl Stonum, Dulles 21.38; 3, John Durand, Ball 22.25.
Stonum is a wide receiver for Dulles; we lead for his services.
Oh snap. Friday's post about the CHL and USHL getting ready to throw down? Yeah...
Both NCAA schools and CHL teams claim that they can provide a university degree while chasing the dream of the NHL. The numbers state otherwise.
On a typical NCAA roster of 28, .5 players make it to the NHL, 23.5 graduate from university, and 4 do not graduate from university.
On a typical CHL roster of 25, 1 player makes it to the NHL, 4 obtain a university degree and 20 do not obtain a university degree.
In the contest to graduate players from university the NCAA wins 23.5 to CHL 4.
The question then becomes why does the CHL graduate only 16% of its player base from university while the NCAA's number is at 84%?
...says the USHL's official website(!), which then proceeds to enumerate the reasons why the CHL's much-lauded education packages hardly ever get used. I'm willing to be there's some data massaging going on there, but you can't bridge a gap that wide -- or even approach it -- just by rearranging the data. Junior advocates make an effort in the comments of this post, if you're interested in the other side.
Wonk on Michigan, noting the eerie consistency of the Wolverines under Amaker:
The Michigan theory of chaotic status quo. All Michigan events and decisions sum to zero and perpetuate the status quo in Ann Arbor. Even seemingly diametrically opposed actions work in concert to reproduce the past. (How Hegelian!)
Disagreement: the Udoh-Sims switch is posited as a defensive substitution that gets a couple shot-blockers in the game at the same time, but does Udoh's advantage in block percentage (6.4% for Sims, a staggering 11.2% for Udoh) sufficient to offset his deficit in defensive rebounding (20% for Sims, 13% for Udoh)? Udoh, like many a jumping-jack freshman (or a jumping-jack senior coughpetwaycough), tries to block everything. The corresponding void on the block leads to offensive rebounds and contributes to Michigan's crappy defensive rebounding.
Sims' removal from the starting lineup has to be explained in some other way.
About tonight. Michigan has an opportunity over the next two games to play themselves into the tournament... maybe. Drew Neitzel -- the entirety of Michigan State's offense -- has come down with the flu. He'll play tonight, but how effective he is remains to be seen. It might not mean much: this is glacially-paced college basketball, after all. Then the 14-1 but hideously-overrated Buckeyes come to Crisler. While Michigan's chances in that game aren't good, Ohio State is also not the juggernaut their record implies.
That UCLA garnered a few first place votes is not surprising but what's unexpected is the plethora, the absolute glut of talk today castigating Ohio State's win. Even the Big Ten Wonk calls us the "ugliest 14-1 team". What gives?
This type of criticism would be tolerable if vanity had any place in college basketball. Or college football? We know that well do we not after our 2002 National Championship? So, I'm still struggling why it matters that a team doesn't win pretty enough. Naturally, I'm struggling because there really isn't any answer other than it doesn't matter.
This is inaccurate. As John Hollinger pointed out in his latest ESPN blog entry, in which he defends his power ratings' placement of the Spurs, not the Mavs or Suns, #1:
...as I've been trying to beat into people's heads over and over again, point differential is a better indicator of future success than won-loss record. In other words, if you were trying to pick a game between the Mavs and Spurs tomorrow, you'd be better off ignoring the standings and looking just at point differential.
Ohio State's point differential is the best in the Big Ten (or at least their efficiency margin is, and that's a more accurate stat anyway), but it doesn't compare to Illinois 04-05, the last Big Ten team to be #1 at this late date in the season, especially since this year's edition of the Big Ten isn't good. Ohio State is an ugly team that gets in a lot of ugly games and once they're past the sacrificial #16 seed they could go out the window at any time.
Obvious disclaimer: Thad Matta could outrecruit Tommy Amaker in a KKK uniform, and his coaching is at least all right. I would swap basketball programs in a second. Etc.)
Anyway: Michigan could sneak its way into the tournament with a sweep in its final two games. I'm conflicted about this. It would obviously be nice to make the tournament, but managing to win a couple games like this wouldn't sufficiently improve my opinion of Amaker to make his inevitable retention palatable. I have seen six years of confused "motion" offenses, four years of Brent Petway waiting to throw the ball to some guard who is always cutting away from the basket and always well guarded. I have seen Amaker's often bizarre recruiting. I have seen too many turtlenecks. And I say the chances Amaker can turn the Michigan program into a consistent top 25 team are very, very low no matter the outcome of these next two games.
Etc.: Amani Toomer's divorce may well end up history's ugliest; SI does their Road Trip feature on Michigan; David Harris article; Steve Kampfer article. SMQB demolishes Dennis Dodd for taking up the cause of poor, blackballed Gary Barnett.
Update 2/26: Added NJ S Brandon Smith, TN WR Rodriguez Wilks, IL OL Graham Pocic, CA OL Vaugn Dotsy, and FL LB Nigel Bradham. Linked to Mike Zordich interview. Fixed "illcit" typo that had been there for two years. Added VA LB Marcus Dowtin, GA DT Omar Hunter, and MI CB Troy Tidwell, MN WR Michael Floyd, OH WR Nate Wilburn-Ogletree. Linked to Jon Major interview. Added KY DE Dexter Heyman, KY DT Brandon Newman, CT DT Massengo Kabongo.
Downgraded NC S Robert Blanton from green to yellow.
Editorial Opinion: Ah, the days when recruiting is a constantly expanding set of possibilities. A ton of guys go on the board and none come off. Three Southern defensive linemen are of particular note:
GA DT Omar Hunter is likely to be one of the top three prospects in the state. He's been inspiring paeans since his sophomore year. He's had high-profile SEC offers for six months. The kicker:
Omar Hunter: Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Maryland, South Carolina, Duke and Ole Miss have offered. Attended UF Junior Day. He is from NJ and favors Michigan. If offered he said he would likely commit. Auburn is likely second.
No doubt the Michigan coaches are scrambling for tape as we speak. [A note on that site: it's a blog (dodgy), but one of a few Florida ones officially hosted at their Scout site (less dodgy). Given the explosion of Hunter chatter on Michigan message boards, the bolded assertion is not taken from the ether.]
KY DT Brandon Newman and KY DE Dexter Heyman both enter the board with nice green smileys. Both are saying nice things about Michigan at the moment, albeit things of the sort that are clearly less argh-offer-now than Hunter's seeming eagerness to drop. Heyman's quote: "if I had a leader, it would be Michigan." So there you go. Heyman's a top-100-ish defensive end and should be getting an offer at some point. Newman is probably a 3.5 star type who may not get an offer right away if Michigan feels good about Hunter and a couple other guys. With a small class and a lot of young DTs Michigan will probably go light at the position this year.
The rest of the new guys are just names at this point. Dotsy, probably one of the best guard prospects in the 2008 class, goes to St. Bonaventure with Michael Williams and 2008's #1 RB, Darrell Scott.
Hockey down the road. The USHL profiles a couple of '91 recruits. One is future NTDPer David Valek, who is either a Czech dual citizen...
David came to Detroit Honeybaked this year via the Czech Republic, where he has played the past few seasons. The last two years he has played in a town called Tinec, and in both years he played for two teams - a younger development team and the older main team in his town.
...or didn't get the memo that Prague is so 1995. Valek's currently at Detroit Honeybaked and has Michigan season tickets. As a '91, he would come in with the 2009 class. But that's only of provincial interest.
The larger issue is raised by the other recruit profiled. He doesn't have any particular Michigan connections; he does have an interesting opinion or two on the OHL-NCAA tug of war:
Lowry has a bit of knowledge of college hockey, and feels that living in the major junior hockey hotbed of Kitchener/Waterloo that college hockey falls short in promoting their game to kids in Ontario, Canada. "I think I have gotten one thing from a college and it was a survey," Lowry said. "I have gotten 5 or 6 cover letters from OHL teams and OHL Central Scouting. As well, my team had a seminar with the OHL." With that said, he is well aware of the opportunity to play in the NCAA. When asked about his knowledge of college hockey, Lowry stated, "at Prospects a few years ago I went to a great seminar about NCAA hockey. They explained it to us, and I know it is good hockey for sure." When asked what college hockey needs to do to get the word out more, Lowry said, "I think they need to open up the rules a bit, let college coaches contact kids earlier."
Lowry's proposed rule change is on the table according to this Waterloo, Ontario newspaper article on the OHL's push towards ever-younger contact with youth hockey players:
This April, the NCAA will consider changing its rules to allow schools to contact players in their Grade 10 years once a month.
The only reason for this rule change is the NCAA's ongoing war with the CHL; the primary reason for this OHL initiative is the ascension of the USHL, which attained "Tier I" status from USA Hockey in 2002 by increasing its financial commitments to its players. The ensuing rush of talented players planning on playing in college gutted the NAHL, its domestic college-feeder competitor, and created a league nearly on a par with anything the CHL can offer. Current Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, who left LSSU for the OHL years back:
Notre Dame's Jackson, who also coached in the Ontario Hockey League, believes the USHL's top teams would be competitive if they moved to the OHL.
That implies that the league as a whole is still a step or two behind the CHL but the difference is neglible enough for the OHL to start a series of "Elite U-16" camps that seem an obvious attempt to win mindshare. You can check the OHL's breathless press release or the above-mentioned Waterloo article, which features a couple of partisans going "did too/did not" for its length. The series of events (USHL gets big, USHL starts raking in recruits who might otherwise be CHL all the way, OHL starts reaching out to younger kids, filling their heads with
LIES LIES LIES their opinion about the college game) and Occam's razor suggests that "did too" is the right answer.
A world-class junior league that maintains players' collegiate eligibility removes a major selling point the OHL had over college hockey by providing elite players a place to go for the last couple years before they hit campus. USA Today had an extensive article on the league a couple weeks ago with quotes from Tristin Llewellyn:
Clearly, the USHL players have pride in their league. "Actually I think this league is just as good, if not better, than most (Canadian) Major Junior," Tri-City player Tristin Llewellyn says.
Llewellyn says the USHL "has to be the fastest league in North America." He says when he trains with OHL players or in Calgary with Western Hockey League players, what those players see as "their fastest speed seems average to me."
Llewellyn will be suiting up at Yost this fall.
1) Sometime last year I got a cease & desist from the Collegiate Licensing Corporation claiming an exclusive trademark on "Notre Dame." As a result, the "Notre Dame: returning to glory since 1993" shirts got pulled. They are now collectors items worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Anyway, here's a new version that expresses my disdain for the state of North Dakota:
Damn North Dakotans and their clovers!
2) We're going to Wisconsin this year for what should be a huge Big Ten game. Wisconsin returns a ton of starters and is coming off a 12-1 year. But we're Michigan. Let 'em know: