I can't offer much of a coherent preview for tonight's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Miami since I haven't seen the team yet, but that will change tonight with an Exciting Liveblog(!) of the game. This has been done in the past, most notably when Jennie Ritter's MacGuyver fetish turned into my MacGuyver fetish and the power of Richard Dean Anderson's ghost drove Michigan to a national championship in softball. Tonight promises to be a less excited version of same. The fun starts at around 9:30; you can follow the bouncing ball yourself on ESPN2.
See what my writing is like when I don't even bother to read it before publishing it! Yes it's different than this!
I tingle in anticipation. When the Columbia Bureau says that a Michigan-South Carolina Outback Bowl is "not a done deal," it's news to me that it's enough of a deal that you would say said deal is not done. Er. Anyway:
A number of published and broadcast reports in the last week have the Gamecocks (7-4) playing 20th-ranked Michigan (7-4) in the Outback Bowl, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and is televised by ESPN.
But McVay insisted that was premature, saying he didn't "want to get everybody pointing in a direction that has no support or substance at this point. We've still got a lot of conversations to go."
I don't get it. Isn't the Outback the #3 SEC bowl and wouldn't Florida, the Georgia/LSU loser, and Auburn all have preemptive dibs? Examining the SEC site reveals that the Outback is behind the former Citrus Bowl in a group that picks "third through fifth" with the Cotton and Peach Bowls. The Cotton Bowl has somehow already selected Alabama. Can wanderers from the land of the Waffle House enlighten us on the process here?
My initial reaction is "thank God it isn't Georgia." No offense to Darth Visor, but the idea of going up against Shockley, Pope, and that defense does not appeal in any way whatsoever. South Carolina seems much more managable. By the way, if this comes to pass rest assured that we will lock Orson and Stranko in a room, feeding them only Ron Zook's hair, until they produce a mighty tract on Spurrier fit for your consumption.
Also: this would extend Michigan's streak of "January 1st" bowl appearances to something like 500 years, and what a fradulent streak that is when you can finish fourth in the conference and still extend it.
At least you don't cause my head to ache. Marlin Jackson's NFL success does not cause my brain problems--unlike Cato June's--, so it's safe to pass along this article on his perfomance as a rookie. Jackson remains true blue:
"As a Michigan guy, it was nice to get a big interception like that against a team from Ohio," the former All-Big Ten cornerback joked last week. "Especially since Ohio State won [over Michigan] the day before. So it was nice to be able to come up with a play like that in a game that went right down to the end like it did."
Consolation? In no way whatsoever. But yay Marlin anyway.
Good god, y'all know my position on ESPN (we need to take it out behind the barn, Old Yeller-style, and tearfully put down the ravenous monster who used to be our best friend), but EDSBS just ejected more spittle at the Worldwide Leader In Suck than Lou Holtz does on an average halftime show. They wrote 52 things that suck about ESPN but didn't get to Scoop Jackson, Skip Bayless, and Michael "Mmmmm, Crack" Irvin.
Think about that. Yeah.
It's the pen-penultimate poll, and with a lot of teams finishing up their seasons already the amount of movement from week to week will plummet, but that doesn't mean the snark gets any less snarky.
Drop your ballot links here, pollsters.
I awoke from a tryptophan-induced haze to find this space un-updated for four damn days. Who's running this thing and how do I cancel my subscription?
Midway through the third quarter a missed shot
caused God to start the rapture.
So what happened? Well, basketball beat Butler 79-74, though a report from someone who attended the game held that they played like "crap." This description probably does not extend to the suddenly-efficient Daniel Horton, who saved Michigan's bacon early, late, and in-between with 28 points on just 13 shots. Horton was 9-13 from the field and 9-9 from the line. Take that, know-nothing bloggers Big Ten Wonk and Hawkeye Hoops! Er. Cough.
Someone turned on the Sims machine, too, as he shot 10 of14 and finished with 21 points. Lester Abram was quietly 6 of 9, hurray Lester!
(Did that paragraph seem useless and bad to you? Perhaps; I don't think CSS handles floated pictures and blockquote backgrounds very well so I have to prattle on and on about something whenever I post a sizeable picture so that I can push whatever quotes I have past it to avoid severe ugliness. So whenever you read a paragraph that seems even more fatuous than usual, check for a picture followed neatly by a quote.)
And I think this word does not mean what MGoBlue.com thinks it means:
All of Sims' 21 points were detrimental to the Michigan cause as he scored 18 of the Wolverines' 37 points in the first half.
Er... instrumental? Yeah.
What to make of another narrow win over a seemingly meh mid-major? This one seems much better than the ugly BU game. Michigan shot 54%, had 16 assists to only 9 turnovers, and acquired 75% of the available defensive rebounds. Butler, despite being only 2-3 so far, has a long history of being one of the midwest's more major mids (say that five times fast) and took Ohio State to overtime on Tuesday. They return all five starters from a year ago, too. They're probably going to be quite good down the road.
On the downside, Michigan allowed the Bulldogs to shoot over 50% and though Dion Harris played 31 minutes he continued to show signs that he is hampered by his foot injury, going 3 for 9.
Meanwhile, the hockey team blew OMG chunks, getting swept in the College Hockey Showcase for the third straight year and severely damaging their chances for a #1 seed come tournament time... again. The following is a complete list of players who done did good:
- Brandon Naurato
- Andrew Ebbett
- Maybe TJ Hensick.
And that's it. Michigan ceded 5 power play goals to the Gophers on Friday and then Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick--who are, like, the best players on the team--got shamefully split by some guy named Adam Burish with two minutes left in a 2-2 tie. That tie was broken moments later by that Burish guy and his unimpeded romp to the net.
So that's no good. In retrospect it seems all very predictable. Michigan had managed to streak out to a 9-1-1 record and the #1 ranking, but no one who saw them play really believed they were the top team in the country. Far too many goals giftwrapped by defensive zone turnovers (including an unassisted Robbie Earl goal against Wisconsin that David Rohlfs provided with a pretty bow), not enough firepower, and a goalie situation that isn't settled. Given the team's extreme difficulty breaking out of the zone against teams slower and less skilled than they, it was a given that the blackly comic sight of Tim Cook throwing the puck back behind his own net for the third time in a shift was going to come back to bite us hard against the Minnesotas of the world. We match up against the Gophers in this way: not at all.
The Wisconsin loss is harder to swallow. The final Burish goal was a devastating summary of the weekend: the #3 pick in the latest NHL draft and NHL-bound-sooner-than-later Matt Hunwick parted like the Red Sea. What can you do? Weep softly into your pillow and kick a
baby dog, that's what.
Oh, yeah, that team from South Bend blew a six point lead in the final two minutes of the game but because they did it quickly they got the ball back with almost two minutes left needing only a field goal. They got the kind of field goal you get when you put the ball in the endzone and won and stuff. They did not feature a tight end hurtling across the field with 10 seconds left in the game. I'm just sayin'. (So is Johnny.)
And I should note a particularly disorienting instance of this phenomenon cited by SMQ:
This is entirely his own fault, but SMQ is always disoriented by scrolling scores at the onset of basketball season. "Wait, Iowa's scored 45, and it's only the second quarter? I didn't even know they were playing!"
So yes, on Saturday the score "Temple 66, Miami 62" flashed across my consciousness, causing me to scour my apartment for the wormhole that would lead me back into the universe I call home. I must have found one after several hours in the various closets of my apartment, because when I emerged somebody had beaten the hell out of the Lions.
(Temporal discontinuity? Blame the wormholes! Quick, end this post before they catch o--
I am out for the Thanksgiving weekend. Stirring victories in the Showcase may rouse me from my hibernation on Sunday, but expect the next post around these parts to be on Monday. Don't tell the Viagra spammers, okay?
A dollar to anyone who gets the title reference, BTW.
Needs: Michigan picked up four top-100 defensive linemen last year but one, Marques Slocum, did not qualify and will enter this year after going to prep school and another, Eugene Germany, was just tackled from behind by cops--that bodes unwell for his future playing time in more than one way. Still, with four defensive linemen going into their second year of eligibility and another two or three redshirted freshmen (depending on Germany's status and exactly where edge-rusher/OLB Chris McLaurin ends up), Michigan can afford to go light here this year.
Commitments: NY DE John Ferrara and PA DT Marques Slocum. Slocum has not wavered on his Michigan commitment despite being released from his LOI after failing to qualify. He was a near five-star a year ago who dominated the Army All-American game. He's reminiscent of Alan Branch, a huge dude with impressive athleticism for his size who could play DE if the situation called for it. He's probably destined to be a penetrating DT.
Ferrara is a three-star on the upswing. He was trying to keep his grades up this fall... so he could get into Stanford. Smart is good and he had offers from Penn State and Michigan State, but he's probably closer to Rondell Biggs than Lamarr Woodley. No offense intended to anyone.
Prospects: Michigan and Ohio State are battling for Indiana DT Dexter Larimore, who also happens to be the nation's #1 rated heavyweight wrestler--shades of current freshman Terrance Taylor's dual exploits in high school--and previously considered accepting a wrestling scholarship. Indiana is nominally the third finalist, but the next football player to pick Indiana over Michigan and Ohio State will be the first. Michigan is also in on Micah Johnson, though he seems like a solid bet to stay in the south at this point.
Completely Useless Opinion: This isn't the OMG TOP 100(!) defensive line class that 2004's was but it seems on track to be a good compliment to it, depending on which class, exactly, you count Slocum in. Michigan is in a position where they can take a player they like without worrying too much about future holes if he doesn't pan out.
Needs: Significant. Michigan brought in only one last year and this would have been the year that it lost its entire set of starters had fate and crappy play not intervened. As it is, Lawrence Reid was forced into retirement, Pierre Woods moved to defensive end, and Scott McClintock was exiled to the bench. Even though Michigan returns all three starters for '06, they have almost no depth past them. Redshirt freshman John Thompson backs up Harris and true freshman Brandon Logan backs up Brandon Graham. After that there are no scholarship players. Michigan's looking for three or even four players.
Commitments: Detroit Crocket MLB Brandon Graham, Colerain OH MLB Cobrani Mixon, and Flint Carman-Ainsworth OLB Quintin Patilla. Graham is the number one prospect in Michigan, a five star by both services, and one of the top three linebackers in the country according to everyone. Mixon is a thumper in the middle from the high powered Cincinatti Colerain program Mister Simpson and BJ Askew came from, a prototypical mike linebacker. Think Sam Sword. Patilla was initially thought to be a wide receiver recruit but Michigan offered him as an outside linebacker. He needs to add bulk to play in the Big Ten. If he can do that he should be a contributor--camp offers seem to work out well.
The possibility of batting Graham to defensive end is out there--he is already 250 pounds--which may explain Michigan's continued pursuit of linebackers even with three already in the fold. Mixon and Patilla aren't moving anywhere.
Prospects: Instate sleeper Obi Ezeh has received an offer and seems to be on the verge of committing. He should do so sooner or later, as his only other options are MAC schools and Indiana. Michigan is also pursuing Ohio's Thaddeus Gibson--always good to have a guy who knows his way around a cotton gin--and Michael Morgan of Texas, both four stars. Gibson is reputed to have grade issues but does hold an offer. Michigan may take him knowing he may not qualify since they have some flexibility with the three commits--losing him wouldn't create a major hole. Gibson also appears suited for strongside linebacker unlike any of Michigan's commitments to date.
Completely Useless Opinion: A strike and a necessary one. Graham is one of the nation's top recruits. Mixon was pursued by LSU, Michigan, and Ohio State early despite limping through a large portion of his senior year on a partially torn ACL. Patilla is less heralded but Michigan liked him enough to offer him at camp when they were still in the running for a number of higher profile recruits.
Needs: Morgan Trent's emergence as a steady nickel corner and prospective starter in '06 plus the unexpectedly strong play of all four safeties, including true freshman Brandon Harrison, has reduced the panic level significantly. Michigan is still on the lookout for a player or three. It seems doubtful that sophomore-to-be Charles Stewart is going to see the field in a meaningful fashion, as Michigan avoided using him at all costs this year. That leaves redshirt freshmen Chris Richards and Johnny Sears as the only backups to presumptive starters Leon Hall and Morgan Trent. A lot is riding on the two California sleepers unless Michigan backs them up with someone this year or, failing that, '07.
Commitments: Indiana safety Steve Brown, who was busy doing everything for his Columbus (Indiana) high school team before he broke his ankle. Brown's projected to play free safety but is a possibility at corner.
Prospects: Bleah. Michigan has no serious cornerback targets at the moment other than Louisiana's Jai Eugene, who is unlikely to stray far from home. Michigan may pick up a sleeper late, but after last year's wing-and-prayer job there's reason for concern. Michigan does have a good shot at California safety Jonas Mouton, a top-100 guy to both services. Mouton is down to USC, LSU, Michigan, and Nebraska, but USC already has a couple of high profile safties.
Completely Useless Opinion: Michigan's post-Marlin Jackson big time corner drought is going to continue. There are three high-profile defensive backs that Michigan is thought to have an edge with in the '07 class. Instead of taking a marginal prospect who probably won't see the field Michigan will probably use the opportunity to pitch an appealing depth chart to Muskegon's Ronald Johnson and OLSM's Dionte Allen. Brown is an excellent pick up, but one defensive back in the class is not enough.
Again, average given Michigan's needs. They'll go into '07 really needing to lock down at least two top corners, but the linebackers look very good and given the defensive line situation Michigan isn't really pressing. C so far.
Yeah, Michigan got off the BU schneid yesterday, but good god, man:
TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS
## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
25 Brown, Graham....... f 1-3 0-0 3-4 1 2 3 4 5 0 4 0 1 17
32 Abram, Lester....... f 4-7 1-3 1-2 0 4 4 3 10 0 2 0 0 32
44 Sims, Courtney...... c 1-2 0-0 3-6 2 6 8 2 5 1 2 1 1 26
04 Horton, Daniel...... g 6-10 2-3 7-8 0 1 1 1 21 1 2 0 4 38
05 Harris, Dion........ g 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 7
01 Smith, Jerret....... 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 3 2 0 0 21
15 Shepherd, Jevohn.... 2-7 0-0 1-1 3 2 5 1 5 1 0 1 1 20
24 Coleman, Ron........ 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 0 2 0 2 0 2 14
31 Hunter, Chris....... 1-5 1-2 0-4 1 3 4 3 3 1 3 1 3 18
50 Ba, Amadou.......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 7
TEAM................ 1 3 4 1
Totals.............. 16-39 4-10 15-25 9 24 33 16 51 7 19 3 12 200
Mmm, that's an ugly meatball. Note the further appearance of the Incredible Disappearing Courtney Sims, who launched all of five shots against an America East team featuring no one taller than 6'8". Ryan didn't buy my theory that Sims got sent to the bench for being useless against decent defenders, but this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Michigan's defensive rebounding also dipped ominously to 66%. Michigan escaped with a win only because the Terriers couldn't throw a Jew into all the money they stole from Michael Jackson (OMG j/k!) as BU went 18 for 52.
Another grim note: Harris' extended absence was due to a foot injury that sounds ready to linger painfully all season:
The right foot injury that has bothered Dion Harris since the summer flared up in practice this week and forced the University of Michigan junior to miss most of Tuesday night's game.
That sounds like it could be something like plantar fasciitis, which would likely ruin his entire season.
The good news? Michigan did force 18 turnovers of their own with what sounded like hounding defense and Daniel Horton saved Michigan's bacon with efficient scoring. Ironically, Michigan probably would have been better off had he jacked up a three every time down the court instead of attempting to get his frontcourt involved in the game.
I couldn't watch the game, being DirectTV-free, but "Cheapo" on the Wolverine did. I highlight some concerning statements:
...I believe that TA was frustrated with the some of the players' lack of energy and focus. There were a few minutes in each half where the UM starters (Abram aside) seemed to go listlessly through the motions. By the way, in the second half there were a couple of doozy UM defensive breakdowns--e.g., one half-court layup with ABSOLUTELY NO ONE stopping the guard.
Fourth, I agree with the poster who said that Ba was inserted partly as a lesson that those with hustle and effort play. FWIW, Ba looked a lot better than I expected. He's all thumbs when he receives a pass (his confusion/fall after receiving a pass near the court's out-of-bounds line looked pretty funny). But then, most of the UM bigs were bobbling passes under the bucket. More importantly, Ba tried to box out, whereas our other bigs seemed to not want to focus on that aspect of the game (I can't believe the number of offense rebounds BU snagged!).
Urgh. That's the kind of stuff that bothers me about Amaker. Two seniors and a junior in the starting lineup and the scrubbiest scholarship player on the roster gets to play because he understands the idea of standing between his man and the rebound.
I mean, if Tom Izzo was a cartoon, this is probably what he'd look like:
AAAAAH! REFEREE I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL!
This is how I envision Amaker:
"Fundamentals make my tummy ouch."
Let me quote myself:
What is Amaker doing during practice? I hope it's more than "let's play really good this weekend, guys!" followed by Abram raising his hand and saying "let's play well, Coach," followed by Amaker saying "Yeah! That's the ticket!"
I dunno, I like my student-athletes to be scared #$%*less by their coach. I mean, not Bobby Knight scared, but Red Berenson scared. I could see Amaker in a Care Bears episode as Friendly Mr. Coachy.