also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
So... a week or so ago EDSBS and I paged through the Rivals archives and extracted per-class scholarship averages for each BCS school and conference in the country. Quickie conclusions: the SEC is a bit sketchier than the Big Ten, as asserted by Jim Delaney, but not nearly as much as this year's enormous seven-to-eight scholarship disparity implies. Still, an attempt to provide some ethical and statistical context follows.
How big is this gap? Over the last six years, the Big Ten has handed out 22 scholarships a year and the SEC 25. This doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it depends on your perspective. In hockey, there doesn't seem to be much of a gap between a player with an 88% save percentage and a 92% save percentage, but rephrased it as "player A lets in 50% more goals than player B" and the gap is brought into relief. Similarly, 25 and 22 seem close enough but flip it around: if we ballpark the number of redshirts at 50%, a team retaining 100% of its players uses 19 scholarships a year. Every year the average SEC team experiences double the attrition of the average Big Ten team.
Is this scholarship gap necessarily a sign of poor moral fiber? Not necessarily. There are two different arguments getting conflated into one here:
- SEC classes are overrated on Signing Day and during the media blitz that follows because their increased attrition rate -- something the numbers show is indisputable -- allows them to sign a bunch more players who will never make an on-field contribution.
- The SEC doesn't care about football people. [/Kanye]
Argument #1, as noted, can be accepted as a given. Argument #2 is murkier and requires us to consider...
What exactly are the ethical obligations schools have here? The conventional wisdom from rabble-rousing sportswriters and tut-tutting moral arbiters is that College Sports Is Corrupt And Evil for even thinking about permitting players who are either dumb or heinously underserved by their schools to breach the local ivy-covered educational edifice. And there is a point in there somewhere: bluntly, most football players are not good at school and very few of them would be in college at all if they weren't huge and fast.
But it's hard to see how anyone's life is improved by strenuously demanding Stanford-level academics of 340-pound maulers from rural Mississippi. Stakeholder by stakeholder:
- 340-pound maulers. What's the alternative for these guys? Most of them will never sniff the NFL but it's a shame to take away their shot at it for an irrelevancy. Even if their education is remedial, that's likely better than they'd have otherwise.
- Normies. A few extra kids in big lectures dragging the curve down doesn't negatively affect the rest of the student body except in the smallest and most incremental way, and even that is offset by the contribution a healthy athletic department makes to the overall life of a collegiate campus.
- The University Ideal. Athletes' altered admissions standards don't necessarily compromise the university's academic purity. There already exist certain segments of the student population for whom the ability to put together a five-page essay or solve a differential equation is irrelevant: music and art students are admitted primarily on their talents in their field of choice, not arbitrary standards for performance on a standardized test. Essentially vocational programs already exist: a journalism major's classes are of secondary importance to his work on the school paper; an art student's GPA is secondary to his portfolio.
Besides, the idea of a cloistered, ivy-covered thing where you learn all about like Kant and Hegel and Thoreau in intimate seminars went away a long time ago in favor of enormous diploma mills. Large state universities -- where virtually every sporting program big enough to be corrupt lives -- are more expensive vocational schools these days for the vast majority of students. (Private schools, being private, can do whatever the eff they please.)
Where the ethical dodginess comes in is when the 340-pound mauler's education is less remedial and more nonexistent. The latest Sports Illustrated has an article on Greg Oden that details his courseload: a five-credit Sociology 101 course, a five-credit History of Rock And Roll course, and two credits for being a basketball player. It's hard to work up any outrage about next year's top pick in the NBA draft getting shorted in his education, but how many players with far more uncertain futures are getting educations in avoiding education at schools around the country?* The general feeling is lots.
This is because the system has a disconnect. It rewards teams for keeping players eligible, not for educating them. It encourages Harrick-like "how many points for a three-pointer?" classes, academic... er... tutors, and History of Greg Oden majors because the only people judging how educated our mauler is have a deep conflict of interest. The scary idea is not how many kids flunk out but how many "graduate."
It is an article of faith around these parts that the SEC is the worst offender in this department. Anecdotes filter up: former running back Max Martin got in the doghouse because he didn't go to class. When someone in the department asked him why, he replied that he didn't know he had to, since all of his buddies down south didn't. (Later, Martin transferred to Alabama; the coaches at the time reportedly asked if he had been arrested for any felonies, then hung up, thorough background check completed. He lasted a semester.) Varsity athletes in non-revenue sports relate similar tales on recruiting trips. Anecdotes prove nothing, though, proving nothing, and schools all over the place have issues. (Clem Haskins at Minnesota sticks out.)
All we have right now are some numbers that take a look from 10,000 feet up that reveal something indistinct. Even if we drilled further down into these numbers, they would only tell us the lesser half of the story, and the questions about "what about the guys who remain eligible?" would remain unanswered.
*(Referencing Ohio State here is sure to cock an eyebrow or two since I am an avowed Michigan fan. The intent is not to single out OSU as an exemplar of bad behavior; the SI article provided a rare concrete look at the courseload of a star athlete.)
Combine times. MLive article on the Michigan players at the combine. Leon Hall and David Harris did very well and Burgess very poorly. Opinions on Branch are thoroughly mixed -- there are some silly quotes being thrown about -- and Woodley didn't test.
Don't believe the 4.3. The US Army Combine results have been posted in PDF format. Other than an impressive performance from MI RB Jonas Gray I couldn't pick out much of interest -- Boubacar Cissoko didn't run -- other than the universally crappy 40 times. A lot of potential high-major recruits ran poorly. Of particular interest to Michigan are Detroit Southeastern's Charles Burrell, a WR/S, who ran a 4.93, and hyped-up CA CB Robert Golden, a guy with a Michigan offer, who ran a 4.9. The upshot is to take the grain of salt you should take NFL combine times with and up it by a couple orders of magnitude when considering 40s for high school kids who aren't done developing, haven't had the same sort of specialty training NFL prospects now get, and don't run on the same track under the same conditions.
Ouch. USC basketball recruit Brandon Jennings is a teammate of Michigan recruit Alex Legion at Oak Hill Academy. Recent quote in an interview at SI.com:
Armstrong: Do you ever joke around with Duke-bound Nolan Smith or Michigan-bound Alex Legion about their school choices?
Jennings: Oh, all the time. You can't really mess with Duke, but Alex, we're like, do you know how many NITs they have gone to? Are you sure you want to play your college ball there, Alex? They come after me, too, but USC is up and coming.
Safe to say that Michigan's Fab Five honeymoon has expired with high school recruits, who were in diapers when that whole scene went down.
Scoop vs. Whitlock/Simmons/Everyone. Simmons writes about crazy stuff going down at All Star Weekend in Vegas. Whitlock does the same but gets all up in the black community's face in a fashion that's either irritatingly preachy or refreshingly honest depending on your preconceived notions and so forth and suchlike. Everyone generally agrees that what went down on the Strip a couple weeks ago was scary as hell and probably not a good thing. Scoop Jackson calls out the aforementioned with the exact phrases they dropped ("Hip Hop Woodstock" for Simmons, "Black KKK" for Whitlock) and declares everything racist -- a safe assumption is when you tease dropping "the R word" multiple times but coyly avoid it you have for all intents and purposes dropped it -- because he's Scoop Jackson.
Cleveland journalist Brian Windhorst responds. This concludes your Scoop-Whitlock beef update.
Speaking of Simmons, he's got an interesting column on his recent two-game fling as an ESPNU color commentator. Since no one gets ESPNU I wasn't able to see the grand experiment, but Simmons reports it went well and hits on an interesting point:
Every No. 1 announcing "team" is more like a corporate merger: Al Michaels is a big name, John Madden is a big name, so of course they're combined into MaddenMichaels. Meanwhile, the best 2006 NFL broadcast was the one ESPN threw together for a Raiders-Chargers game with a one-time crew that included Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil, two old friends. We felt like we were sitting on the sofa with them for three hours. I loved it. Why not hire more friends to announce together?
(Simmons did his games with MLS announcerguy Rob Stone, evidently an old college buddy.) Did anyone happen to hear either of these obscure college basketball games?
Etc.: Apparently I'm the 18th most influential person in the universe. So that's nice.
No one lies so boldly as the man who is indignant.
Fish in a barrel! (Nietzche Family Circus @ right randomly and serendipitously generated.)
I've had this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about Troy Smith's falling draft stock open in my browser window the last couple days in case I bothered to do a Fanhouse post about it. I won't now -- dated -- but it's given us all so much more, as Stewart Mandel saw it and immediately rushed off to pen an epically stupid column that gets the Fire Joe Morgan treatment below.
Let's hit it.
Classic combine confusion
Scouts foolish to ignore QB Smith's college success
I suppose there might be an argument in here, albeit one whose primary adherent appears to be Matt Millen.
For all that Troy Smith accomplished the past two-plus years at Ohio State, I don't think I've ever been more impressed with him than I am right now. After I read the various reports out of last weekend's NFL combine in Indianapolis, it's become apparent that Smith managed to win a Heisman Trophy, rack up ridiculous passing stats and lead his team to 20 straight victories in spite of the fact he's a crappy quarterback.
Note: no one has ever claimed Troy Smith is a crappy quarterback. Crappy quarterbacks do not get taken in the NFL draft, let alone in the third or fourth round. Many, many good to great collegiate quarterbacks have done worse than that, including the man who knocked up the woman you aspire to be.
Yep. You read that right. The NFL cognoscenti have spoken. After eyeballing Smith in shorts and watching him throw 18 practice passes against no defense, the connoisseurs with the clipboards and the stop watches have decreed that the former Ohio State quarterback, to put it simply, stinks. Once considered a late-first or early second-round pick, Smith will now be fortunate to land in the third or fourth round based on the buzz in Indy.
The next paragraph will make it clear that Mandel's getting all of this from the aforementioned Journal-Sentinel article, so it might be useful to bring in the thing he's cribbing from:
Two days before Smith won the Heisman Trophy by landslide in early December, two executives in personnel for NFL teams projected him as a second-round draft choice. Another personnel director went so far as to label him a mid- to late first-round selection.
Do you know what two major events happened between the projections Mandel holds dear to his heart and the combine? The MNC game and the Senior Bowl. Smith's combined numbers across those two games: 9 for 29 for 87 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and one back-breaking fumble. At the Senior Bowl, Smith practiced and played in front of NFL scouts from every team in the league for a full week. None were particularly impressed. Both of these things had a much greater impact on his draft stock than a few balls thrown at the combine, but let's not let actual facts get in the way here.
Also: "stinks" again, when clearly they're going to draft him somewhere.
As one AFC personnel director told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "He's six feet tall, he's not a super fast guy and he's not super athletic. ... I don't think he's horrible. He's just a guy."
These are all reasonable criticisms.
See what I'm saying? How can you not admire a guy who's short, slow and unathletic yet managed to win the most prestigious award in college football?
It's like someone who can't act winning an Oscar.
Or someone who can't sing winning American Idol.
We already knew about everything Smith overcame in his childhood and early OSU years to achieve gridiron glory, but the fact that he managed to do all that despite being "just a guy?" Wow. I can't even begin to imagine what his stats would have been if he was actually a stud.
"Just a guy" in NFL does not equal "just a guy" in college. For an example, pick just about any player ever. I know the idea that the NFL is harder to play in than college must have filtered into your skull at some point.
Before I continue, let me just make the disclaimer that I have never considered Smith to be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I realize he has his limitations. For months, however, I've maintained that, if given the opportunity, Smith would establish himself as a solid NFL starter. How did I reach this conclusion? Umm ... by watching him play?
And of course none of the NFL scouts who are paid to do this -- and are much, much smarter than you when the topic is football instead of, say, "looking like a fatter version of Subway Jared" -- bothered to watch his games. Or those Senior Bowl practices. And they have no idea what players are likely to fit into the systems employed at a higher level of play.
But now it seems that Smith is being lumped in with the Gino Torretta/Chris Weinke/Eric Crouch/Jason White class of Heisman-winning quarterbacks, destined to flame out at the next level. Here's the thing. Torretta was barely a top-20 passer his senior year. Weinke was 87 years old. Crouch ran the option. White had no functioning knees. About the only thing Smith has in common with those guys is the trophy they won.
The same trophy which was the linchpin of your argument mere paragraphs ago. Perhaps the fact that all these quarterbacks are supremely unsuited to sit in the pocket and rifle balls over the outstretched hands of defenders but managed to win the award is an indication that the Heisman trophy is more of a joke than the idea that an attractive 23-year-old will sleep with you at said trophy's ceremony because "You're Stewart Mandel... THE Stewart Mandel"*.
*(This actually happened according to a friend of mine who was part of the media for the event.)
Well, and one other thing: The national-championship game flop. Smith's nightmare performance against Florida is when all this backlash started.
I wonder why?
Because he's "just a guy," Smith was unable to escape oncoming Gator pass-rushers/freight trains Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey as they routinely plowed through Smith's blockers like they were made of cellophane. As we all know, JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn would have spun free of those defenders and completed 70-yard passes.
With such considerable evidence against Smith's worth as a quarterback, I figure there's only one possible explanation for how he won all those games in college: He's an illusionist. Yep. A full-on David Copperfield/David Blaine-caliber performer. All those times you thought you were watching Smith pick apart Texas or throw the game-winning touchdown against Michigan? He was actually throwing incompletions at his receivers' feet. He fooled you.
This is just awful. I don't know where to begin. First: more arrogant assumption he knows more than NFL talent evaluators because he sat on his couch cramming donuts into his face and went "wow... Troy Smith" this fall. This sort of hard-hitting analysis you can get from literally anyone with a TV. Second: a third attempt to convince you that a quarterback who is an ill fit for the NFL game who will be drafted in the third or fourth round has been retroactively declared a crappy college player. Third: none of this is funny in the slightest.
These NFL scouting guys, however, they don't fall for that stuff. They're too smart. These guys get paid the big bucks precisely because of their ability to spot the previously undetected imperfections of college players that we la
y people miss.
This attempted sarcasm is absolutely correct.
And boy do they earn every penny, whether by determining Mario Williams to be a better pro prospect than Reggie Bush,
...or that Mario Williams was easier to sign and played a position that the Texans had greater need of...
that Vince Young won't be able to make the transition to the NFL,
...the NFL was so sure Vince Young couldn't make the transition to the NFL that he fell all the way to the THIRD PICK IN THE DRAFT...
that Ernie Sims would be more valuable to the Lions than Matt Leinart
...Matt Millen may actually be stupider than you...
or that Drew Brees was only worthy of a second-round pick.
...Brees was the first pick of the second round and the second quarterback selected behind Michael Vick. This is not exactly a strident condemnation.
I mention Brees, the former Purdue quarterback-turned-New Orleans Saints Pro Bowler, because he happens to suffer from the same, career-jeopardizing affliction as Troy Smith: Being 6-feet tall. This, according to the scouts, is the single biggest reason Smith might not succeed in the pros. "That's the only negative on the guy," Chiefs president Carl Peterson told the Journal Sentinel. "And [defenders] get bigger every year. It gets more and more difficult to look over guys."
I mention the thousands of thousands of failed six-foot quarterbacks because there's such a thing as a "heuristic" that does very well for drafters of all sorts.
You see, this is why I could never hack it as an NFL personnel guy.
No, the reason you couldn't hack it as an NFL personnel guy is that you are incapable of understanding logic, probability, statistics, history, or football.
Here I was, thinking that most men reach their adult height by the time they're 17 or 18, meaning that if Smith could throw over, say, 6-4 Texas defensive end Tim Crowder in the Buckeyes' game against the Longhorns last September, it stands to reason he would be able to do the same thing when the two face each other in the NFL next season. But according to Peterson, NFL defenders just keep getting bigger. Presumably, in a few years, Crowder will be 7-2, and by then Smith simply won't stand a chance.
As noted, the Buckeye offense revolved around outside routes, rollouts, and the shotgun in an effort to take advantage of Smith's particular skills and de-emphasize his height disadvantage. (I thought you "ummmm... watched him play"?) NFL teams don't run that sort of offense because long experience has taught them it doesn't do very well for whatever reason. A team is forced to do one of two things: attempt to fit Smith into its offense or completely revamp it for a rookie who isn't a walking pile of impossible like Vince Young. Note the above "just a guy" mention.
"You [reporters] make it seem like being 6 feet is a disease or something," Smith said at the combine. "I stand before you now wanting to talk about some of the positive things that are going on, but yet still we keep on talking about the negatives. I don't understand."
What's not to understand, Troy? The experts have spoken. You're short. You can't throw. And your entire college career was a lie. Enjoy wearing that baseball cap on the sideline next season while charting plays for some undrafted free agent your employer just loves because they don't have to pay him anything and because he's got "tremendous upside."
A second mindboggling contradiction: the NFL hates the undrafted free agent more than Troy Smith. That's why the undrafted free agent was undrafted and not picked in the third or fourth round like Smith. But all of a sudden the NFL team "just loves" him even though they decided not to expend even a seventh-rounder on him.
Don't feel too bad, though. You'll always have that Heisman Trophy. Maybe one day, when your playing career is over, you can let us in on the secret of how you managed to win that thing despite a lack of any discernible talent. Boy -- you sure got us good.
God. Fat Jared, I hate you. This whole thing is suffused with sarcasm you have no right to wield against people who know way, way more about football than you. (To be fair, this is a vast array of people from Bill Polian to John Madden to Tony Blair to Richard Nixon's corpse all the way down to Matt Millen; chances are whenever you attempt to be sarcastic you are talking to someone who knows more about football than you.) NFL people do think that Troy Smith is an exceptionally talented quarterback for a six-foot guy who operated mostly out of the shotgun and had an offense built around dealing with his shortcomings, pun not intended. That's why they're willing to draft him in the third or fourth round. But make no mistake, his physical stature will be something teams have to work around and he'll be very lucky to be Drew Brees instead of the myriad other short quarterbacks who have failed.
But this isn't really about Troy Smith. He'll get drafted around where he deserves to be drafted. This is about you and your inability to use sarcasm well. Here are some tips:
- Try to have an actual point to make. Sarcasm is much more effective when you're trying to establish something like "Stewart Mandel writes dumb things" than "Troy Smith should be drafted higher" because the former has a wealth of evidence more detailed than "ummm... I watched him play."
- Don't go after people who are smarter than you. You'll just look clueless. See our previous contrast.
- Hire some joke writers or something. Seriously.
- Start eating one six-inch veggie sub for lunch and dinner every day.
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.