to play football, not to play trumpet
In a word: ugh. You probably know the story: Michigan led by four with a minute left, then Iowa got back to back trips to the line, one of which was a 50-50 play on a drive, the other a loose ball foul on Sims after Manny Harris didn't get the exact same call Iowa just got. The number of calls Manny Harris doesn't get continually astounds me. My favorite in this game was the charging call he got when some Iowa guy planted himself under the basket.
Then Michigan's attempt at a buzzer-beater degenerates into Harris launching an off-balance three from four feet behind the line, Harris is benched for the entirety of overtime, Iowa hits a wide array of circus shots, and Michigan's bid is on serious life support. I blame myself for hosting a liveblog.
Beilein in the aftermath:
"I didn't think (Harris) was really playing well. He didn't look fresh, he wasn't himself, and so we decided to go in another direction," Beilein said. "We really thought it would help us, but (Iowa) went on a run just like they did at the beginning of the game when he was in there.
"I wouldn't be too concerned about (Harris not playing in overtime). We needed to score some points and Manny wasn't in a good rhythm at that time."
That might make sense if the guy you stuck in the lineup in Harris' stead wasn't David Merritt, with whom I am developing the exact same relationship I had with Pat Massey: though he must be a tremendous individual I want his eligibility to expire immediately so the coach can't keep throwing him out there and causing me psychic distress. (I will never understand this year's rotation, specifically the inability of Jevohn Shepherd to get minutes over the two tiny walkons despite playing pretty well when he gets on the floor. Lord knows if he was closing out three-point shooters in the corner that Iowa guy named Bullwinkle would have had more difficulties.)
But setting aside the choice of replacement, was Beilein 100% wrong? I don't think so. Harris takes terrible shots in every game when he gets frustrated or complacent or feels he won't get a call (which he won't, but eh) and has moments of defensive laxness and is just generally a really frustrating player. Having Harris out there wouldn't have helped that much, anyway. Iowa couldn't miss in overtime, and Harris was not going to bring Michigan's offensive efficiency up to a level at which it could compete.
Beilein's obviously not 100% right, either. If he thought Michigan had a better chance to win with David Merritt on the floor, he's nuts. More likely he had about reached his limit and sat him in what appears to be a fit of pique. I get that: Harris at the moment is a basketball doppelganger of Braylon Edwards in his afro phase, when he was benched because he and Carr weren't "on the same page" despite his clear superiority to Michigan's other receiving options. Edwards wised up and blew up. Harris? We'll see.
I would have preferred the teachable moment had not come in overtime of a crucial road game, though. You know.
Okay. What now? The prevailing assumption was that Michigan had to split its final four games and then not die against Indiana or, uh, Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament to assure itself a bid. That still holds, but winning two of Purdue, @ Wisconsin, and @ Minnesota is a vastly tougher proposition than winning one. Kenpom has us at 32% against Purdue, 18% against Wisconsin, and 25% against Minnesota. 8-10 isn't going to do it without an improbable Big Ten Tourney run, especially because the committee has been de-emphasizing conference tourneys in recent years.
In short: we're screwed.
First and foremost, Big Ten officiating is a joke. As someone mentioned, all those moving screens called on us, but when Merritt is running the baseline in the 1-3-1 and the Iowa post player is in the middle of turning his back and knocks Merritt completely off his route to the shooter, there’s no call. The last foul that they called on Sims to put Gatens to the line was just flat terrible. And Manny still isn’t getting calls in the lane. The charge they called on him early was pretty bad; he was already in the air by the time the Iowa player slid over and got set.
So I have three options:
- Spend another 1000 words complaining that college hockey/basketball referees have it in for me, personally, even though I didn't do anything to them.
- Ignore the fact we got hosed and write a bunch of words about something else.
- Do an uber-bullets with a little of 1 but mostly 2.
Since I've already done #1 and #2 we'll do #3, keep the bitching a little muted, and coldly evaluate where things stand.
Somehow it didn't hurt us much. Michigan is still tied for second in the PWR rankings , but this time they're tied with Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame has the comparison, they would win the tiebreaker and get to go to Grand Rapids. There's still a long way to go and a lot of bits to flip, obviously, but Michigan didn't shoot down into the two-seeds like I feared.
…on the surface. Where the two hose-jobs from the CCHA really hurt is in the details. Michigan's comparison with ND:
Even if Michigan picks up an extra point when ND gets enough TUC games for that factor to count, the Common Opponents factor is gone and Michigan would have to pass ND in RPI to take the comparison. That's going to be very tough, since ND has about a two game lead. ND is playing Michigan State this weekend, unfortunately, and will be hard pressed to leave any points on the ice.
Getting hosed has basically cost us the ND comparison and with it just about any chance Michigan ends up in Grand Rapids. Without the four (FOUR! FOUR! FOUR! FOUR!) preposterously allowed/disallowed goals Michigan has endured over the last month Michigan is up 3-1 in this comparison and just about impregnable.
So our best hope is for something weird in ND's comparisons. The reason Notre Dame is tied with Michigan, not ahead of them, is their comparison with Vermont, which they lose despite a massive RPI advantage:
This is a PWR specialty: ignoring a huge gap in one category that takes every game into account—RPI—in favor of two narrow gaps in categories featuring far fewer games. Notre Dame has some vulnerable comparisons:
- Miami swept ND, so that comparison is tied at two. There is no TUC comparison because ND is only 6-3 for that comparison (H2H wins are removed from TUC, for some reason). Miami has two against OSU; sweep there and find an ND TUC loss or two somewhere and Miami can take it.
- ND also lost to Denver earlier in the year; that COP comparison is tied and the TUC opponents are borderline.
- Minnesota is tied w/ Notre Dame on Common Opponents and both finish their season with teams the other has played, so there's some wiggle. Minnesota is currently .500 against TUC and has an opportunity to better themselves.
- NoDak has a TUC edge and is tied on COP, but ND plays MSU this weekend and getting more than a split would give it to ND.
- Northeastern wins COP and is slightly behind in TUC.
None of these comparisons is particularly close to flipping—and the Vermont one is basically a coin toss—but if ND ends up losing any two of these and Michigan holds on to its current spot GR is possible. It's not likely, but it's possible. You're rooting for the six teams listed above and Michigan State.
And about the stuff on the ice.
It's nice that the grinders are scoring and so forth and so on, but Palushaj and Caporusso haven't been scoring of late and that has to give you some pause. The thing this Michigan team lacks is that one top-end forward that you desperately want on the ice when you're trailing late. See: Hensick, Porter, Kolarik, Cammalleri, Comrie, et al. This year I know I'd like to see Caporusso and Palushaj and Sidekick, I guess, but more because I know they have a lot of points and must obviously be pretty good at getting them. They lack that je ne sais quoi.
Yes, this may be a dumb criticism to level at two guys tied for sixth nationally in scoring.
We suck so bad on two on ones. Speaking of: the Hensick years totally spoiled me as far as two-on-ones go. Hensick had the magical ability to maneuver himself in such a way that the defender couldn't block the pass nor could the goalie poke it and then it was just on the other guy's stick and all the other guy had to do was shovel it into an open net. They had a ridiculous conversion rate on those. This year I can't remember a single goal from a two-on-one. I'm not even totally excited about them anymore.
Okay, the goalie debate is not so much a debate. Hogan played very well on the weekend, though I'd prefer it if he stopped letting pucks leak through his body and ponderously wander towards the net where they can be illegally kicked in. Assuming that's a fluke, though, whatever questions there were in the goalie situation after Hogan gave up 3 goals on 11 shots against UNO and got pulled were resolved when 1) it was clear Hogan was ill last week and 2) he had a couple of impressive games against OSU. Even if the two were playing at exactly the same level, you go with the guy who hasn't imploded in the last two NCAA tournaments.
Brandon Naurato? It's not quite the same as benching Manny Harris for overtime, but the inexplicable reinsertion of Brandon Naurato into the lineup was, well, inexplicable. Even if Lebler is injured or something, I'd go with Ciraulo, who's done something other than take bad penalties in the past six months.
Bumped to the front page for those of you wondering who to cheer for/against this weekend.
Events broke perfectly for Michigan throughout the week in the college basketball world. In addition to a pair of good wins since last Sunday, the Wolverines found an ally in the out of town scoreboard. Every night has brought carnage to the bubble. Many of Michigan's bubble brethern fell, some twice, and lost key swing games.
The upshot? For that answer, we'll break out the latest Bracket Matrix chart. A total of 19 brackets, nearly one-third of the now 60 brackets tracked, have been updated since the close of day Thursday and Michigan's resounding win over Minnesota. Of those, 15 pushed the Wolverines up the chart and into the field of 65.
The overall numbers still dont look to great, but consider Michigan's surge just in the last 48 hours. When the week began, Michigan was only in nine total fields. The Wolverines saw their support dwindle throughout the week until only six mock brackets had placed Michigan. The Wolverines had fallen to eighth from last out of the comprehensive matrix. When Michigan tipped off Thursday night against the Gophers, the Temple Owls were in more fields than Michigan. Temple? Really? I didn't realize a fourth place team in the Atlantic 10 was that impressive. Were Pepe Sanchez and Mark Macon granted more eligibility and nobody told me?
All bracketologists needed to see was a big Michigan win, and the Maize and Blue delivered resoundingly Thursday night. It was cool to see Michigan elevated into Lunardi's ESPN field, where he has the Wolverines a 13-seed. This guy annually nails the field on the spot, so as long as we stay in his bracket, Michigan fans ought to feel confident on Selection Sunday. The Bracket Project has steadily moved Michigan up its NIT bracket lines and finally leapt the Wolverines into the field, where they check in as an 11-seed. The Bracket Junkie still has UM as an 11-seed, but Michigan saw themselves promoted up four spots to seventh from last team in the field. RPI's Jerry Palm, who is trying to predict what the field will look like on Selection Day, as opposed to giving us a snapshot of what the bracket would look like today, has Michigan in the field for the first time this season since he started doing his projections. Even in updated fields leaving Michigan out, there is good news to report. College Hoops Net did not list UM as even one of their final eight teams out earlier in the week. But, today, Michigan sits on the cusp as the last team cut from his Friday afternoon update.
The surge in support pushed Michigan up to second from last in the Matrix complete look. But, 41 brackets, many of which do not have Michigan in yet, have not updated since the win and won't update until after this weekend is in the books. A win tomorrow with some strategic losses across the country today and Michigan will likey see enough comprehensive support to get into the Matrix field. In case you think thats too many minds to change, consider of the 15 brackets that have UM in the field post Minnesota victory, only two had them in their field prior to that game. And, they now have more than twice as many bids as Temple, helpfully shielding readers here from a hateful Temple rant.
All this transpires on the eve of one of the more compelling weekends of the season for teams sitting on the bubble. Games between bubble mates litter the schedule today. If Michigan can take care of business tomorrow, one reason to assume an even greater movement in the Matrix is the fact that with so many head to heads, plenty of teams elbowing for room will fall by the wayside. By Monday morning, we may have our clearest bubble picture yet in this goofy season. We know the outcome of Michigan's game will go a long way in painting that picture. Here are some other games to keep a rooting interest today.
Notre Dame at Providence. Noon, ESPN Full Court. Line, Prov -2
It ought to be fun watching these schools attempt to play defense. There are 5 games in the NBA tonight. I set the total at 2.5 for number of those games this matchup between the Irish and Friars will outscore. Any takers? Sign on up!Michigan is farther ahead of Notre Dame than Providence in the pecking order, so I actually think Michigan fans should pull for the Irish, even if it opens the door for their rise up the bubble.
Boston College at Miami. Noon, no tv. Line, Miami -7
According to the Matrix, this is a consensus 9-seed (BC) versus the consensus fourth team out (Miami). Time is running out on the Hurricanes. Without a win today, you have to wonder if the Canes can do enough from here on out to merit consideration outside of a deep run in the ACC Tournament. This has to be considered a must win.
Tennesseee at Kentucky. 1pm, CBS. Line, UK -3
Again using the Matrix as a barometer, this is a #8 vs a #11. Kentucky is the lesser seed here and in desperation mode. They've lost four of six and are in real danger of being kicked out of a majority of brackets if they dont stop the bleeding. Michigan in the NCAA field, but not Kentucky? Yeah, right. That's a joke. What's next, the Cats on a longer bowl streak in football than Michigan? Oh. Wait. Nevermind.
Baylor at Oklahoma State. 1:30pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, OSU -4.5
Without really doing anything all that impressive, the Cowboys are making a move up the bubble. They've lost all their key games it seems in both league and OOC play. But, if they keep winning, they could sneak in there. This team is young, and probably more talented right now than Michigan. But, their defense is suspect, so they are vulnerable today to Baylor's similar up the floor tempo. The Bears are a disappointment this year, but if they can conjure up a winning streak, they could be a strong bubble team by the time league tournaments roll around. In the end, this game could give the Providence/ND game a run for their money as far as total points goes.
Louisville at Cincinnati, 2pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, L'Ville -5
The Bearcats surprising run to a bid faces a make or break game this afternoon. Seeded 12 in the latest Matrix, CU is the shakiest of at-large teams. A home win against top-10 Louisville legitimizes them and they will leap a couple of seed lines. A loss pushes them out of the field, with a limited road map for re-entry at their disposal the rest of the way.
Marquette at Georgetown. 2pm, ESPN. Line, G'Town -3.5
The Hoyas are the sixth to last team cut from the Matrix field. But, they have played a tough schedule and have enough quality wins where they wont need a good looking record to sneak into the field. But, they have to start stringing together some wins. A win over Marquette today cures a lot of the ills plaguing the Hoyas. It will put them on the right track and in line for a bid as long they can a get a couple more wins down the stretch. A loss forces them to sweep their next two games against Louisville and Syracuse, or else get ready for an NIT home game.
Vanderbilt at Florida. 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Florida -8.5
Florida is a near unanimous selection across the bracketologist spectrum, landing as a Matrix 10 seed. They already have 20 wins. But, they're trending a bit downward and have lost three of five. With five games left, if they repeat the number the Gators might find that a lot of teams are passing them. The slate is rough. After this game, they play each of the four other likely SEC bid candidates. Does a Gator loss today open the door for a collapse?
SDSU at New Mexico. 3pm, no tv. Line, NM -5
Nothing has been able to displace Steve Fisher's club from their mock invite. Now, they face a tough test against the Lobos this afternoon. I dont think the Aztecs can afford too many more losses and still get consensus support in mock brackts. They're an 11 in the Matrix and a loss, despite on the road to a decent league foe, might turn a lot of double digit seed projections into NIT invites.
UNC at Maryland. 3:30pm. ABC. Line, UNC -12.5
Good news Terps fans, if you can win one or two of your final three homes games, then the squad could be a road sweep of two bottom feeders away from getting a bid. The bad news, those home games are against UNC, Duke and Wake. Good luck. That trek begins today against the Heels. I know from a SOS standpoint, UM could spin a Terrapin win positively. But, then again, does Michigan want to be on the bubble with a team that has such high end, recent scalps, not to mention a head to head win over them? I say no. I'm pulling for the Heels here.
Kansas State at Iowa State. 6pm, no tv. Line KSU- 3.5
Kansas State has been yo-yoing in and out of the field for about a month now. Right now, they're on the wrong side looking in, placing third from last out of the field, right behind Michigan, in the Matrix. At one time, Hilton Magic ruled, and Ames was an impossible place to get a win for road teams. However, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Fizer and Fred Hoiberg are not walking through that door. Its sad to see Iowa State irrelevant, but hopefully for one night they can conjure up the ghost of Johnny Orr and Hilton Magic can rule again. A loss here cripples KSU the way a possible loss tomorrow to Iowa would to Michigan.
Texas AM at Texas Tech. 6pm, no tv. Line, TAMU -1
Just once, I wish the folks on Game Day would ask Bobby Knight how he feels about his son turning Tech into a high scoring, no defense outfit. It would make good TV, seeing him take a swing at, I dont know, how about Jay Bilas? Are we into that? Sweet! What we're not into is a resurgent Aggie squad. Their easy win the other night against Texas puts them back on the map. The Aggies are cruising towards something like 22 wins and with OOC victories over LSU and Arizona, they can make a compelling case for a bid. With a handful of winnable games down the stretch, they can easily take care of the sub par league record marring their resume. A loss to a second division Red Raider team, though, might derail their surge enough to neutralize it entirely.
Washington at USC. 7pm, no tv. Line, USC -2
With 23 bids, the Trojans are the only team left out of the Matrix with more mock invites than the Wolverines. USC has not played in a week since being swept on their Arizona tour. Only the bubble chaos around them kept them in as many fields this week as they're in. They wont survive any of the next cutdowns if they lose again, even to a quality foe like UW. At the least, a USC loss and UM win tomorrow will enable Michigan to surpass the Trojans.
Florida St at Virginia Tech. 8pm, no tv. Line VT -3
According to the Matrix, this is a 6 (FSU) vs 11 (VT). On the surface, these clubs are trending in opposite directions. The Noles have been climbing, but the Hokies thanks to consecutive losses to Maryland and UVA are hanging on by a thread. Both of these clubs face treacherous schedules over the final two weeks. Wins for either might be hard to come by after today, so the loser faces the real possibility of a losing run that will extend into March. That's not a good thing. I think a road win by FSU would benefit Michigan more. Remember, we've been tracking 5 ACC bubble teams and hoping that three would fall by the wayside. Maryland and Miami are already out. Tech is almost out. If all three lose today, we'll have been granted one of bubble wishes as the final weeks begin.
Oklahoma at Texas. 9pm, ESPN. Line, Texas -1
The marquee ESPN game of the night. In one corner a title contender with one of game's best players. In the other corner, Texas, a team spiraling in the wrong direction. In the Sooners they have the wrong opponent to try and get out of this funk. The Horns have lost four of their last six, a la Kentucky. A loss tonight drops them to .500 in league play. They appear to be a solid 8-seed according to the Matrix, but for how long if they keep losing?
BYU at UNLV. 11pm, no tv. Line, UNLV -2
This late night game in the desert is between a #10 (BYU) and #11 UNLV) according to the Matrix. How does the loser stay in anybody's fields come Monday morning? At worst the loser will fall behind Michigan, provided the Wolverines can take care of business tomorrow.
2/19/2009 – Michigan 74, Minnesota 62 – 17-10, 7-7 Big Ten
Last year's Minnesota game, an uncompetitive loss in a lost season and a game in which the bulk of the noise came from a bizarre collection of Minnesota students adrift in the upper deck, was so completely dire that in the aftermath I scolded Michigan for reminding Cazzie Russell that he Built This House:
So he stood with his bearing, and listened to his accomplishments -- which are many -- and was then told he stood in the House Cazzie Built and that seemed like kind of a cruel thing to tell a nice old man who never did you any harm. The House Cazzie Built is half-empty, overrun by bums from half a continent away, and home to a team likely to set records for futility.
I titled that monument to self pity "It's only dark in your hearts," though I did have the self-awareness to tag that post "emo," at least. It was pretty bad. You might have been there, in which case you know.
Here is where the flash forward goes: this time when they played Minnesota, Michigan was up twenty with ten minutes left instead of down that many, and instead of leaving before the atmospheric pressure caved my skull in I was… uh… enjoying… the… basket-ball(?). It remains a bizarre concept even months after UCLA and Duke and the generalized creeping respectability. Michigan has completed step one of their three-part plan towards a long-overdue return to the NCAA tournament.
It's nice to be able to care again. That opinion is liable to reverse itself on a dime, especially if something equally inexplicable and foreboding and ridiculous as an uncontested Courtney Sims dunk goes awry and Michigan flails its way into the NIT one more time, but for the moment I'll take relevance in late February. If we are being honest with ourselves this was an NIT team that shot well in two critical games and twice managed to avoid season-killing awful losses by dint of grit and luck and many, many inadvisable three pointers.
Here they stand ahead of all reasonable projections, needing to split the next four and lift that ever-heavier burden on the program, thanks to a backdoor pass from Jevohn Shepherd and a rain of Zach Novak threes and a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front rim and feathered its way home. Things could be much worse.
- Beilein should find some way to platoon CJ Lee and Kelvin Grady with Lee playing all the defense and Grady all the offense. I heard tell the Northwestern game featured some absolutely comical attempts to break a press that resulted in turnovers. Against Minnesota Grady just shredded it. But he couldn't stay in front of his guy on D again, giving up some easy buckets.
- The thing that really, really bothers me about basketball officiating is how demonstrative the refs are. This can best be seen on charges and continuations, when 90% of refs take the opportunity to let their inner Siegfried or Roy loose with hopping, pointing, slithering dance moves. No. You are supposed to be a robot. If you show more emotion than the Terminator you are failing at your job.
- The world makes much more sense when the three-pointers are falling, doesn't it?
- I hesitate to get ahead of myself here because for every ridiculous game Novak or Douglass turns in there's a clunker or three—see Novak's 21.5% on threes the last five games—but after a game like last night it's hard not to get excited about the program's future. Unless there's attrition Michigan will be replacing a few role players with Morris, Vogrich, McLimans, Morgan, and Cronin next year, and if you want to throw in Eso Akunne as a walk-on replacement go ahead. Even if the bigs are projects they should help immensely on the defensive end; Morris fills a big hole at point guard, and Vogrich will put heat on Douglass and Novak for playing time.