this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
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.
Orson's first foray into adapting lolcats to CFB was met with 1337 commenter derision...
i like how, for some reason, sports fans are always the last to pick up on internet memes.
Comment by bup bup bup â€” May 10, 2007 @ 8:35 am
...but we soldier on anyway. And, like, there were some seriously exploitable pictures from the last year once the idea was placed in the head. So, yeah. Here goes.
No like seriously, do not want.
You can build your own lolwhatever here. Painful Troy Smith captioned pictures in 3... 2... 1...
I have no indication that there's mutual interest here, but LSU recruit DJ Wright has just been released from his LOI:
Wright, a 6-foot-7 perimeter player from Sault St. Marie in Ontario, Canada, reconsidered his choice when LSU assistant coach Nikita Johnson left LSU for the associate head coaching job at Louisiana Tech. Johnson developed a close relationship with Wright while recruiting him. ...
Wright, who was part of a six-player LSU class rated No. 4 in the nation by Hoopscoop Online, averaged 29 points and 12 rebounds last season at Toronto Academy Prep School. He would have brought outside scoring potential to LSU, which lacked in that area last season.
He seems an excellent fit for Beilein's system, since he is long at 6'7" (a good fit for his hands-up zones) and a killer 3-point shooter. Improbable excerpt from a Rivals article($) when he committed:
Wright who is of Jamaican and native American descent averaged close to 23 points per game last season along with 12.5 rebounds, four blocked shots and four steals per game. His shooting percentage from three-point range was an outstanding 65-percent. [!!!!!! -ed]
"He is a small forward and combo forward. He can play the three, play some spot minutes at the four, because he is only 6-7, 225," Russell said. "He is one the best mid-range jump-shooters in the country but he can also really shoot the three."
65 percent from 3? What? Must be the exchange rate or a really small sample size. Rivals rated him the #137 player in the '07 class, so he's no star, and the whole Canada thing conjures forth images of the unproductive Jevohn Shepherd, but he's local and the sort of player Beilein fills his teams with. Might be worth keeping an eye on.
So, yeah, should probably address this bad publicity from Jim Harbaugh:
"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."
As you might expect, this has sent the sort of Notre Dame fans who are always looking to dump on Michigan into a veritable tizzy. Also in a tizzy: various insulted Michigan fans who declare that this forever bars Harbaugh from the sainted halls of Fort Schembechler. He's sold us out! Tizzy tizzy tizzy! (This is probably an overreaction to the reaction, but "tizzy" is a fun word.)
There are many vectors of personal opinion here that don't lend themselves well to one flowing column thing, so let's do some section headers:
Harbaugh basically speaks the truth. Michigan does get anyone who meets NCAA minimums admitted and has a tendency to funnel them into easy classes and majors. (His assertion they can't get jobs after they graduate is unsupportable, though.) I don't have a problem with this. It seems odd to expect people who are in the top percentile in one field to also be competent in another. Hey, concert-level violinist! Do this calculus! This goes double and triple when the persons in question are usually black and, more to the point, poor and thus blessed with largely dysfunctional school systems. Most of these kids have already been hard done by educationally and now they are expected to join a major university, swing a full-time job on the side, and be students that require no shepherding? While we're having a fantasy, I would like Scarlett Johannson to ride in on a unicorn wearing nothing but lingerie made of bacon. Mmmmm. Scarlett Johannson bacon lingerie.
It's not the fault of the university that by in large the average football player is not a very good student. All they can do is help their players along as best they can. There's an enormous gray area here; the APR numbers and the anecdotal things I hear lead me to believe that Michigan is doing its best in an imperfect world. And I'm fine with that. Michigan doesn't have to be the last beacon of integrity in a world gone mad (they let kids move out of the dorms!) because I didn't go to a cult masquerading as a university.
Harbaugh is still the same guy who guaranteed victory over Ohio State. Maybe if this was an isolated outburst it would feel more insulting, but not two months ago Harbaugh got in a media slapfight with Pete Carroll when Harbaugh asserted Carroll would be in the NFL next year. When Carroll fired back, Harbaugh didn't back down. This marks the second controversial thing he's said in the past few months, and given his history we can expect more uncensored, potentially unconsidered comments from him in the future.
Whether this is a positive or negative is a matter of personal taste. Bay-Area media are probably high-fiving each other. Stanford's program is happy whenever anyone is reminded of their existence. And certain Michigan fans would treasure the "swagger" the rootin'-est, tootin'-est coach on either side of the Pecos River would bring. Personally, I prefer a coach more inclined to Spurrier-esque zingers than incendiary comments but either is preferable to Carr's style of mostly boredom.
This affects Harbaugh's chances for the job in no way. The presumption Carr is retiring after the season is universal and Harbaugh just can't be a candidate after one year at Stanford. Anything multiplied by zero is zero.
He's #1? Jake Long is the #1 overall prospect for the '08 draft at NFL Draft Countdown.
Meanwhile, ESPN's initial list($) has Jake Long the #4 overall prospect and Chad Henne #9. Mike Hart is the #3 RB, Adam Kraus the #4 OG, and Jamar Adams the #3 safety. (Only seniors are listed.) Next year is going to be a weird one for the team: they should have a tremendous amount of experience but over half of the nine scholarship seniors they lose are rated amongst the best at their position in college.
The Houston Chronicle also has a list out, one that features Mike Hart as a first round pick. This is something I've seen a few different places, but as much as I love Mike Hart (lots), I don't think there's any way he goes higher than the second or third round. Dude just isn't fast enough.
Help possibly not coming? Given incoming goalie recruit Bryan Hogan's weak year in the USHL I don't know if anyone is looking at him as a surefire Sauer replacement, but Chris Heisenberg notes that, weirdly, he went relatively early in the OHL draft:
One other point of interest is Erie's selection of Lincoln USHL goalie Bryan Hogan in the fifth round. What makes it interesting is that he is an '88 in a '90 and '91 draft. Those picks mean the team has a special reason for taking the unique pick. Last year Matt Martello was a similar pick, and while he stuck out his commitment to LSSU, there was smoke, and later he ended up in Kitchener.
That is early to take a flyer on a player you can only have for a year or two, especially when he wasn't exactly tearing up the OHL. But would it make any sense for a marginal NHL prospect like Hogan to pass up the opportunity to start at Michigan for a brief (one year, I believe, since 20 is the age limit) OHL term followed by... um... what exactly do they do with old OHL players? Is there a furnace somewhere?
Yerk. I am not sure if this news is newsy enough to mention given the hideous pun in the headline, but former Penn State head coach Jerry Dunn has accepted an offer to be Beilein's lead assistant. Dunn held the position under Beilein at West Virginia. Mark Synder at the Free Press chooses to report this like so: "Beilein's staff nearly 'Dunn'." Aaaaargh, my brain.
This completes Beilein's staff. Mike Jackson was rehired shortly after Beilein took the job; WVU director of basketball operations John Mahoney moves over to fill the third spot.
Nate Fenno has an interview with Beilein.
Nein nacht. The Free Press also notes that Michigan is increasingly left out of night game mania. They've never played one at home and with a road schedule featuring NW, Illinois, and Michigan State there are few appealing options for road games. (Michigan's contest in November against Wisconsin looks like an appealing option, but let's review: Wisconsin. November. No thank you.) This causes grumbles from TV execs and may hamper Michigan's PR efforts. So... why not have a night game every once in a while? I understand the desire to maintain Michigan's midday tradition, but when night has fallen on Michigan Stadium in recent years the results have been spectacular: Michigan's 27-24 win over Penn State in their first OT game ever, the epic Braylonfest against Michigan State, and Mario Manningham's literally last second touchdown that provided the only bright spot during the Year of Infinite Pain. All of these events have been enhanced by the unusual spectacle of the lights and the dusk.
So, a proposal: play Penn State and only Penn State at night when they visit. TV executives are happier. The Penn State game acquires a bit of extra shine. And I think fans would enjoy the occasional change of pace. Yesno?
Etc.: Eric Lacy provides more on Trapani; sounds like the visit went well. (Someone tell him not to cut and paste articles from Word if he wants to get rid of the weird characters.) WCH on the CHL versus NCAA (yes, it's that time of year again).