I did not make this headline up
Aussie Aussie Aussie! I think the most momentous thing that happened when I was gone was this bizarre thing you've probably already seen:
GAZING up at a huge locker-room poster of John Sattler, Lloyd Carr shakes his head as he's told the story of a 1972 grand final so fierce the bloody Souths captain was chaired off with a ripped Rabbitohs badge and a broken jaw.
You are probably wondering what the hell language this is. Well, it's Australian. Now you are probably wondering what the hell Lloyd Carr is doing in Australia. Well:
But this week Carr has done just that [envision the pad-free violence of Aussie Rules], after spending seven days with Souths at the invitation of co-owner Russell Crowe.
And now you're probably just wondering "what the hell?"
The man who brought you "Fightin' Round The World"...
... and Lloyd Carr are so happy together, Turtles style. No doubt this stems from Carr's deployment of Cinderella Man as a motivational tactic last year but... still. Weird.
And when even I have to get a small chuckle out of their gushing description of Carr...
Most Australians have probably never heard of Lloyd Carr. Not unless you are a fan of American college football.
There, in the wildly popular arena of US college sports, Carr is nothing short of a living legend.
As head coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines since 1995, Carr is the "winningest" college football coach in the States and as big a name as they come.
Think Wayne Bennett in Brisbane. Then multiply by 20.
...certain other fanbases must have fallen out of their chairs. We're bigger than Wayne Bennett in Brisbane, bitches!
The Ann Arbor News has a take, as well.
Masbach. A little while ago this space had a brief blurb on the strange existence of former Michigan quarterback Scott Driesbach, who is now 30 and playing QB and LB(!) for Columbus in the Arena League. Now the Dispatch has an (unnecessarily hectoring at times) article on the star-crossed Michigan alum.
Also, the Boston Globe has an article on another player struck down by Mildly Peeved Dispenser of Extreme Fates to Michigan Quarterbacks God: Matt Gutierrez, now in possession of a two-year, 655k contract from the Patroits. Inevitable Tom Brady comparisons... go!
Recruiting aside: I removed PA LB Andrew Sweat from the board when he dropped Michigan out of his top five. It turns out we're not quite dead:
"I really like Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame. And also Penn State and maybe LSU or Florida."
But we pretty much are:
Sweat went on to say that when he narrows the schools down to three, Ohio State will be a finalist, "Ohio State will be one of them. Ohio State and Notre Dame are one and two-equal right now. Then most likely I'll pick either Michigan or Penn State." From our sources, it will surprising if Jim Tressel and Ohio State don't land Sweat.
I'm not putting him back on the board, but be advised. Also of note from that post is this unsubstantiated nugget on totally shirtless PA LB Shayne Hale:
The other top linebacker prospect in the WPIAL is Shayne Hale from Gateway. PSI believes that he's a Michigan lean right now.
Hale hasn't given any indication he's leaning either way strongly elsewhere and I have no idea how much credence to give this blog, so take that FWIW.
Co-sign. Neal Pollack eviscerates ABC's NBA coverage and God almighty I agree. Everything from the consistently foo-foo theme music, which has gone from the Black Eyed Peas, Robb Thomas, Tom Petty, Pussycat Dolls -- can you find another collection of four "bands" in which the Black Eyed Peas are clearly in possession of the most street cred? -- to the awful announcing tandems to the standard ESPN-ization of the studio guys (before game five of Pistons-Bulls, Jon Barry, a man who is not SAS, said that Utah had "no chance" to take a 3-1 lead against Golden State and repeated it again with all the terrified conviction of a man reading a prepared statement provided by an Iranian mullah; you could almost see the black-hooded producer standing off camera and holding a gun to his child's head, Jack Bauer-style) to the infuriating -- INFURIATING -- tracking camera that makes it impossible to see a third of the floor, professional basketball on ABC is the worst production in all of sports. There is nothing positive about it. It actively detracts from the game in a way that single-camera indoor soccer or minor league hockey produced by Comcast Local do not have the resources to match. Whereas I'll watch just about any playoff game on TNT, unless the Pistons are involved anything on ABC is out of the question.
The camera is what really gets to me. I've spent 20 years watching basketball from the center court camera and I have never, ever thought "boy, I wish this camera was mounted on some sort of trolley and placed too close to the floor for anyone to see what was going on in the opposite corner." Everyone hates this thing. I do. Neal Pollack does. Bill Simmons (and Eric from Michigan) do:
â€¢ From Eric in Michigan: "Why did the NBA hire the director of 'The Blair Witch Project' to shoot the playoffs? It's nauseating to have the camera in constant motion."
Couldn't agree more. Trying to follow the action in Saturday's Spurs-Suns game made me feel like I had just dropped peyote with Tony Soprano. Did I miss the meeting where everyone decided, "Hey, the midcourt camera for NBA games just isn't cutting it anymore, our fans like it and they're used to it ... instead, let's use a really weird camera angle that makes them sick!"
Lord knows Salon sports guy King Kaufman has railed against it from the start. And as far as I know, no one has ever expressed any thing other than hate for the thing, real impassioned violent hate. I know whoever directs these things would like to be Roman Polanski or whatever, but know your role and show us the damn game. Practice your Coen Brothers shots on your own time.
2008 Syracuse-area center Ben Cronin is deciding tomorrow between Michigan, Syracuse, and... Buffalo(!):
I just spoke with Henninger High School coach Erik Saroney, who told me that 7-foot junior Ben Cronin will announce his college choice on Wednesday. ... Last year, he averaged 12 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks per game for the Black Knights.
Eight blocks? These are the things that are possible when you are seven feet tall and playing in upstate New York. OrangeFan iterates...
Seven-foot Henniger center Ben Cronin, off a visit to Michigan, reports holding an offer from Syracuse. Cronin is Class of 2008, and there is not a space available unless and until Southerland reclassifies to the class of 2009. I don't think it will matter in the end, though, as I suspect Cronin is going to Michigan. John Bielein has been on him hard at both West Virginia and now Michigan, and I think he is in the lead.
Mike Waters posts on his blog that Ben Cronin will make his announcement tomorrow. I'm betting it will be Michigan.
So that's good if it comes off and, given the alternatives are a Syracuse program that was hesitant to offer and Buffalo, it seems likely.
Update: Syracuse.com reports:
A source with knowledge of the decision told the Post-Standard today that Cronin will pick Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over Syracuse and Buffalo. Cronin visited the Michigan campus last week.
What can we expect from Cronin? The circumstantial evidence -- Beilein's been recruiting him for over a year -- conjures up the image of Jamie Smalligan for anyone who took in a WVU game this year. This is not the hypothetical new generation of recruits that Beilein has access to at Michigan that he didn't at West Virginia; he's not in the Rivals 150. The bad bit of Beilein having recruited this kid for a long time.
The good bit: Cronin should be a fit for the system. He's tll, a skilled passer, an improving shooter working on his three point range, a hard worker, unselfish, and... uh... plodding. Given that Beilein's working from behind the eight ball with much of the class of 2008, many of whom are already committed, it's a good pickup for a team that needs some post depth. Some may be concerned about Cronin's low profile, but I don't think Beilein's recruiting is going to pick up until the conference and the state get to see Michigan in action. Cronin should find himself somewhere in the range between contributor and starter after a couple years.
Update 5/14: Consistent and repeated pessimism at BP re: OH TE Kevin Koger has caused me to bump him up to blue. (There is also a poster who has to be a high school classmate of IL OL/DT Garrett Goebel ranting about woo OSU in that recruitment; don't know how seriously to take it.) Also downgraded PA OL Lucas Nix to red; seems the Pitt lean is for real. Moved Christian Wilson from LB to RB; he's been offered as a FB/H-back. Linked to articles on OH OL Zebrie Sanders, IL OL Graham Pocic, KS LB Arthur Brown, AZ OL Zach Schlink, GA DT Omar Hunter. Added AR WR Joe Adams.
Much rejiggering of DTs, much of it based on one of those GBW summary articles: MI DT Mike Martin has an offer and is widely presumed to be a lock; he's upgraded to blue. NV DT Lawrence Guy now has an offer and has Michigan in his top three; green. MS DT Cameron Wagner is downgraded to gray with the new offers out. KY DT Brandon Newman goes down to red; there has been much talk of him and Notre Dame.
Linked to articles on AZ RB Covaughn Deboskie (visit coming up), NJ S Will Hill (he speaks!), another on IL OL Graham Pocic, PA WR Jonathan Baldwin (amongst other PA recruits). Also here is another combine article. Removed OH LB Mike Zordich.
Linked to Jim Stefani's early Michigan top 25.
Editorial Opinion: Dios mio, man. There is much to get to.
Combines. Various scouting combines happened over the weekend, including a NIKE camp at Penn State. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has an article of interest on the camp. Items follow.
PA WR recruit Jonathan Baldwin may be a five star, which is much higher than I thought he'd be rated:
Aliquippa tight end Jonathan Baldwin, Jeannette quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Hale, all considered five-star recruits, according to Rivals.com, did not attend. ... "This is a rare year in Western Pa.," Farrell said. "The (top players) obviously are out there, then it's completely loaded. Arguably, you have the top quarterback (Pryor) in the country. Arguably you have the top linebacker in the country in Hale and, arguably, the top tight end in the country in Baldwin. From one area, it's really rare."
(Though the article and Farrell continually refer to Baldwin as a tight end, Michigan is recruiting him at wide receiver.)
Return specialist Cameron Saddler is going to try to drag the aforementioned Hale along wherever he goes:
Gateway running back Cameron Saddler had a busy offseason, after picking up 12 offers and looking for more. The speedy Saddler, who said he and Hale are a guaranteed package deal, worked out with the wide receivers because he is being recruited as a receiver/return specialist.
Saddler, who was one of eight Gateway players to showcase their skills for college coaches from around the country, said he's not affected by the attention.
"No, no, no, pressure don't do nothing but bust pipes," Saddler said. "There's no need to stress over pressure because it isn't going to do anything. It's about how you perform when you step on the field."
Those never work out, but it can't hurt that Michigan has offers out to both and a pretty glaring need at kick returner.
Defensive tackles. Though the position doesn't seem like a huge priority going into the year, Michigan didn't pick up any last year and will probably be looking for a couple. A good bet to be one of them is instater Mike Martin, who just received an offer. Short, fast, and immensely powerful, Martin seems like a replica of Terrance Taylor, albeit one who will end up less highly ranked when things are all said and done. Also, Michigan has an offer out to Nevadan Lawrence Guy and features in his top three. GA DT Omar Hunter broke his leg, unfortunately, and may see his senior year threatened.
"The best football is played in the South, and I want to check it out,'' Pocic said. ''I've heard the mentality of the fans in the SEC is different from the Big Ten and other conferences. I want to see for myself.''
In another article he drops this quote:
"I grew up watching Notre Dame," he said. "I loved watching them on TV because they were always on and they have great tradition. But just because they are a school that I used to watch doesn't mean that I'm going to go there. That's not going to affect my decision at all."
The Michigan positives:
Pocic's former teammate, (offensive center) Dave Molk, signed with Michigan in February. "He's going there and is really excited about them," he said. "I love their o-line tradition and the Big House is one of the biggest stadiums in the Big Ten."
Color me skeptical when a player we're recruiting says Michigan Stadium is "one of" the largest stadiums in the freakin' conference. Pocic gets a Nefarious Eduardo.
Will Hill is, according to some, the top prospect in the country and he's been extremely hard for recruiting sites to get ahold of. The local newspaper managed to track him down after a meeting with Reggie Bush. (Note for NCAA violation spelunkers:
"He didn't talk to me about USC," Hill said. "He just told me to go to the place that I feel the best. He wasn't going to sell me and I respected that."
) The article gives the first indication that the internet rumors of genuine Michigan interest are legit:
"I have to see if I like the school," Hill said. "I have to talk to other players at the school."
While Florida and Michigan remain high on Hill's list, he is also fielding offers from Florida State, USC, Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia, where former teammates Mike Brown (the 2005 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year) and
Rashawn Jackson are.
"It would be great to play with those two guys again and I have a lot of relatives in Virginia," Hill said.
That's vague but likely to be all we'll get for a bit on Hill.
Deboskie! Personal interest in getting this Deboskie kid is rising given the schools in hot pursuit, his combine performances, and his kickass name. There's another copious Scout article on him that has a bunch of rehashed material. Of note to Michigan fans is an upcoming visit for him:
"I am going to Stanford for their junior day on Saturday," said Covaughn. "I am going to Michigan in June. In July my father and I are going to fly to Georgia Tech. From there we are going to visit Clemson and South Carolina. After that we are going to Florida for their Friday Night Lights camp."
So there you go. With Deboskie intending to enroll early and get his decision over by summer's end, that list plus UCLA would appear to comprise the list of serious contenders.
In-state rankings. I'm not exactly sure how much credence to lend Jim Stefani's rankings, but they do seem to correspond pretty well to those given out by the big recruiting sites so his Michigan Top 25 is an interesting first look at the instate talent. Relevant section for Michigan fans:
1 Boubacar Cissoko [commit]
2 Dan O'Neill [commit]
3 Jonas Gray
4 Fred Smith
5 Nick Perry
6 Michael Martin
7 Tyler Hoover
8 Corey Johnson
9 Charles Burrell [MSU]
10 Kenny Demens
For those scoring at home, Michigan has commits from the top two, is bizarrely holding off offering #3 but should have a good shot if it decides to send one, and is the presumed leader for the next four, all of whom have offers. Last year's instate fiasco appears to be a one-year aberration.
So I had already crossed a national border before it occurred to me that the explanatory post never got put up. So here it is: I was in Canada enjoying some R&R, cut off from the internets, and thus the posting has not occurred. I'm back in full effect tomorrow. Now if you'll excuse me, there's an internet to catch up on.
ESPN just named Michigan the most underachieving basketball program of the past ten years. Say it with me: duh. ESPN's take:
it's unfathomable that a program with the overall brand of Michigan -- one that won the national title in 1989 and made return trips to the championship game in 1992 and '93 -- could have flatlined like this. Injuries definitely hurt the program in recent years, as did player indiscretions off the court, but given that BCS schools get around 25-26 at-large bids each season (in addition to six auto bids), all Michigan (or any BCA team) needs to do is finish in the top 40-45 percent of all BCS teams to get in.
The list was compiled by averaging out the ballots of five ESPN basketball experts. Four voted Michigan #1. Jay Bilas' ballot:
1. Arizona State
2. Oregon State
3. St. John's
4. Florida State
9. Kansas State
UCLA! UCLA! A team coming off back-to-back final fours and a title game apperance a year ago! A team that went to the Sweet 16 four other times and was in the tournament eight of the last ten years! Jay Bilas thinks that this team is more underachieving than Tommy Amaker's Michigan teams! Help! Think head brokelike!
(via Braves & Birds)
Big Ten fretwork. A helpful commenter pointed out an interesting thread on the Big Ten Network taking place at USCHO. There are conflicting accounts about how well channel availability is going. One guy claims to be an insider...
Had a meeting with Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman last night.
...and says things are going swimmingly...
You'll be surprised as to how widespread the network is going to be. Their affiliate sales are going really well, and MANY cable systems are picking up the channel. With over 4 million Big Ten alumni in the country, there is an actual demand for this channel.
though they're on the down low at the moment:
And to answer your questions...
1. None have announced, MANY have agreed. (Thank Fox for pre-existing distribution channels and relationships)
2. Most likely digital for the time being, with a possibility of Big Ten markets having it on basic. (for example, digital in New York City and basic in Lafayette, Indiana)
Unfortunately, someone called up the Big Ten Network and got cold water thrown on them:
I had a long talk with a person at the BTN yesterday. She even went as far as to get some more information and call me back.
None of what I heard was very good. I can't have a dish where I live -- her answer was go to a sports bar when you want to watch something! I have over $5000 invested in my TV system and I am supposed to go to a smoky sports bar
I have been told by TW of SC that they have no interest in putting the BTN on its service.
She told me that a non league football game might be on ESPN Game Plan, but it would have to be an away game for the BT team. She said that ABC will still do splint regional broadcasts and the BT game SHOULD be on ESPN or the Duce. However the Big 12 just got an agreement with ESPN to show football on Saturday nights. Same deal for basketball as it pertains to Full court.
... She inferred to me that TW really has no interest in the BTN unless it is in the BT "footprint"
TW = Time Warner. SC = ??? Southern California? South Carolina?
The initial thought in my head is that the guy who's meeting with the network president gets told a lot of cheerful things to keep morale up that may or may not be true. Given the struggles ESPNU, CSTV, and the NFL Network have had I can't imagine a regional sports network with little in the way of compelling programming (wooo Indiana-Minnesota!) demanding 50% more than the freakin' NFL is going to get anywhere. The only question is how viciously the network plays hardball and how badly out of market fans get jacked up. Michigan is unlikely to be affected since even their games against conference dregs usually end up somewhere on the ABC sports hydra; State, on the other hand...
Public opinion, if the internet is any indication, is quickly turning against the BTN. When it was announced I had a chat with Orson about it; in said chat Orson put on his Oliver Stone hat and envisioned the Big Ten cutting off national access to Big Ten sports in favor of a regional ghetto high in the 200s no one gets or watches. I haughtily dismissed his concerns as far fetched. No one would be that stupid, right? Well, we are talking about a conference whose commissioner thought it a good idea to call SEC teams unscrupulous puppy killers in public after his two premiere teams had just been waxed unmercifully. So, yeah. The Big Ten might be that stupid. All I know is that if I am wandering into a sports bar this year to watch anything other than hockey, the conference has gotten too big for its britches and Jim Delaney should be shot into the sun.
Three three three. Beilein must have had a press conference or something, because a week after the proposed change in the three point line became public knowledge the Ann Arbor News, Free Press, Detroit News, and Daily all have articles on it. The News breaks out a useful graphic:
I've been in favor of moving the line back for a long time. See this post from last February:
A quick glance at Big Ten Wonk's statistics reveals that over a third (34.3%) of all shots launched in the Big Ten are (high-variance, probably ill-chosen) threes. By comparison, fewer than 20% of shots in the NBA are three-pointers. No doubt there are a multitude of reasons for this--lack of dudes like Lebron or Kobe who can drive with impunity, the tendency of college teams to pack the lane--but foremost among them is the three point line, which is almost close enough to make any two-point shot a bad one. Let's leave the kiddie line in high schools and obsolete the term "NBA three." Please.
So I'm happy about the change, though I'm less happy than I would be if we hadn't just hired a coach who loves to shoot the three. Beilein was tacitly against the change when asked:
"I'm an if it's not broken, don't fix it type of guy," Beilein said. "But most of my contemporaries felt this was a good move, and it wasn't a battle that I needed to win. ... We can adapt -- there is no question about it."
Many of Beilein's drills already involve shooting from a variety of distances, so the likely change may not be a major disruption. He also insisted Wednesday that the perception that his team relies primarily on the three-pointer is overblown.
"Absolutely," he said. "We've had games where we didn't shoot that many threes and we drove the ball and back-doored and scored most of our baskets inside -- far more baskets inside the arc.
"We mix it up pretty much. We try and do what the best way to win would be."
Though I am so totally in love with him, this is spin. It's clear the college three-point line was broken. When over a third of your shots are threes, something's wrong. Also, though Beilein attempts to downplay the importance of the three in his offense, Kenpom calls him a liar. (Perhaps this is not fair to Kenpom. Fine: reality calls him a liar.)
The last two years approximately half of West Virginia's field goal attempts have been threes. Michigan will be hurt more than most other teams by the change; Beilein will either have to adapt his styl
e to take fewer or live with lower percentages. I think there's evidence he's willing to do the former. In discussions of the 1-3-1 zone he's implied strongly that he's not married to any one particular style of play. As a guy who's dragged himself up through the coaching ranks he's had to be flexible and innovative; one way to do this was to attack a failing in the rules by jacking up all sorts of threes. If that's less broken he'll exploit it less.
To be fair, Beilein does have a point about the sorts of threes his team takes: many aren't exactly toes on the line. He has his kids practice from the NBA line and in the game many of the shots from the outside are from the outside, a foot or three behind the existing line. The Daily:
Beilein said he didn't think the new line would make much of a difference anyway, even when first implemented. He said many players already shoot from the new distance, and some even shoot better from farther out because they have a better follow through on those shots.
Beilein already uses the NBA 3-point line in practices to help ensure his players don't get locked into shooting from only a few spots. And he said he would gradually adjust to using the new distance, but won't worry about it until after next season.
Bottom line: expect a negative effect but I don't think it will be pronounced.