That went just the way I wanted it to: without suspense. I have delved deep into these things the past couple weeks and I can tell you Michigan is in. There will be a selection show worth watching on Sunday.
It's been a long time in the desert. I remember this Thursday a few years ago, when Michigan had to beat Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament to get in, probably, after blowing it in the regular season. Then the sort of person who can't watch 2:30 PM basketball game, I listened to it on the radio. Things were going okay until a seemingly infinite series of consecutive turnovers and the resultant fast-break buckets, and I remember sitting in my chair, disgusted, thinking that Michigan would never atone for Traylor and Taylor and Bullock and all those grim-faced mercenaries that worked their way through the program without loyalty or joy.
The day of atonement is at hand. I added a tag.
Michigan received a verbal commitment from Inkster junior quarterback Devin Gardner late Wednesday. Gardner is 6-foot-3 and weighs 185 pounds. He was named to The Detroit News all-state first team after leading Inkster to the Division 3 final.
"I was surprised," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "I thought it would be a last-minute thing. He told me he wanted his mom (Marlene McClellan) to be a part of his football experience. He knows what a Michigan education can do for him in this area when he's done playing. That's the type of conversation I had with Cam (Cameron Gordon)."
Fireworks and all that. Informative update coming, but it's going to take a bit what with a basketball game to watch. Get all the jokes about Tulsa out of your system, I guess.
Bubblin'. Last night wasn't of huge import on the bubble. Events of note:
- Nebraska and Notre Dame died.
- Providence flirted with disaster before pulling it out against DePaul.
- Texas A&M gacked it up against Texas Tech.
- Oklahoma State did not against Iowa State.
A&M was only vaguely on the bubble before and isn't in trouble; Bracketology 101 has them a ten seed, and Lunardi has them a nine. So don't get your hopes up there. Oklahoma State has also clinched a bid now.
Today, there is one vastly important game—Michigan versus Iowa—that will either render all of the who-wins-who-loses a sideshow or make it life and death. That's at 2:30 on ESPN2.
Then there is a horde of other stuff as all the big conferences swing into action. Your new favorite team in bold:
- Providence takes on Louisville at noon (ESPN). Providence needs a win over UL or they're done.
- Northwestern vs Minnesota, noon (BTN). Northwestern's at-large hopes are very, very faint and a Minnesota loss would stick them behind Michigan permanently.
- Xavier vs St Louis, noon. The A-10 is in serious danger of coughing up an autobid to a team that wouldn't otherwise be in the field, so you're rooting for Dayton and Xavier whenever they play.
- Arizona State vs Arizona, 3PM (FSN). Arizona's resume is almost identical to Michigan's; if they lose they're probably behind M no matter what.
- Texas vs Kansas State, 3PM (ESPN360). Kansas State has vague at-large hopes that must be put to the sword.
- Indiana vs Penn State, 5PM (ESPN2). Penn State's chances for a bid would evaporate if Indiana managed to beat them.
- Utah State vs Fresno State, 5:30 PM. Utah State might have an at-large case if they don't pick up the WAC autobid.
- Duquense vs Rhode Island, 6:30 PM. Rhode Island needs to get to the A-10 final for an at-large, probably.
- NC State vs Maryland, 7PM (ESPN2). Maryland has fringe hopes with a run in the ACC tourney.
- Virginia vs Boston College, 9PM (ESPN360). BC would put itself in danger with a loss to the awful Cavs.
Miami and Virginia Tech square off, too, but the outcome of that game doesn't matter, you just want whoever wins to lose to UNC in the next round. San Diego State and UNLV also play; I can't figure out which one is preferable. There are a variety of other games like Memphis-Tulane and Utah-TCU where you want tourney locks to win.
As to Iowa. Michigan, of course, blew a four-point last-minute lead thanks to a couple of questionable calls. In overtime Manny Harris sat and Iowa was unconscious and that was that. And they were missing their point guard. And most of their big post guy.
Since then Iowa hung in but lost to MSU, lost to Northwestern, came up two points short of killing Ohio State's tourney bid and mortally wounded Penn State's with a 75-67 victory in double overtime. They finished the conference season 5-13 with three of those wins in overtime. This is not a good opponent we're going up against, but that didn't help much last time.
This time around Michigan has one big advantage: it's on a neutral court. Cyrus Tate, who missed both of Michigan's games against Iowa this year*, is back; starting point guard Jeff Petersen "might get some floor time" but is doubtful. With the way Jake Kelly has been playing of late Petersen's absence doesn't seem that important.
*(Tate did play a few minutes at the end of the game in Iowa City.)
I doubt this is applicable generally since newspapers generally do some investigative journalism in the news department as opposed to the virtually none that happens in sports*, but, man, are web-based properties murdering, burying, and putting up "do not disturb" signs when it comes to the in-depth stuff. Yahoo's latest is a fantastic story on the intersection of agents, AAU coaches, and Kevin Love that has a ton of interesting quotes from both sides of the aisle—former Duke PG and spectacular motorcycle crash victim Jay Williams features, as does love—none of which top this blunt assessment from Love:
“If I was going with an agent,” said Kevin Love, “why would I ever go with a guy who, no offense, but he crashed a motorcycle into a tree. I’m not going to go with a guy that’s reckless.”
Oh, snap. The rest of the article his highly recommended, with Love and Williams calling out Love's AAU coach and the cool quarter-million he banked for his "nonprofit" by setting up a meeting.
*(Except, of course, for the Ann Arbor News and their academics investigation. Of all the programs to get raked over the coals by their local paper, eh? Not, like, you know, Memphis or USC. Michigan. I would freakin' love for every program in the country to have their books gone over so minutely.)
BGSU goodbye? BGSU is facing a massive university-wide budget shortfall of between 6 to 10 million dollars, about $750,000 of which is the athletic department's fault. As a result, BGSU hockey has an uncertain future. The school president already killed Kent State's program at her last job and hockey is an expensive thing to run.
But the hockey team is BGSU's most prominent sport, and the only one in which they can claim a national title. Killing it because it's marginally more expensive would be a shame even if it was responsible for spawning Ron Mason's boring death hockey. It would also eliminate the easiest road trip in the CCHA for Michigan fans, and losing a school with a national title would be terribly embarrassing for the sport in general. About the only entity that might be happy with BGSU's demise is Alabama-Huntsville.
To the chase: three solid sources, one of them Buckeye Planet's unionfutura, indicate that MI QB Devin Gardner has moved up his announcement date to Monday. He plans on attending the Michigan junior day festivities this Friday; you can draw your own conclusions from that. Also, both sources indicate it's looking very, very good for M. BP has already labeled him a Michigan verbal. Party hats are likely.
Gardner would be a big pickup. Today's weird Rivals 100—which does not include Gardner or Ricardo Miller—aside, Gardner is widely regarded as one of two players vying to be the state's top prospect. (Southeastern LB/DE Will Gholston is the other.) Gardner was Michigan's top QB priority this year and has offers on the table from Notre Dame, LSU, Michigan State, and others.
Here's a TomVH interview with Gardner from last year for more detail, and some camp highlights:
He is a fantastic prospect athletically and looks great on the hoof. Is the ideal fit for the spread offense and a short controlled passing game that plays off his threat as a runner. He is a gifted player with his legs and can improvise and create positive plays when things break down. Initial quickness and ability to take off out of the pocket is excellent.… However, for all his athleticism and arm strength, Gardner's mechanics need a lot of work. Fortunately he is blessed with height because he has a very low release point and is a side-arm passer that cradles the ball and tends to push it in his delivery. … Like Vince Young there is probably only so much you can do with his throwing mechanics, but lots that can be done with his feet to help him become more consistent. He is green, but talented.
Actually. I may be excessively paranoid about Michigan's chances to make the tournament. Joe Sheehan of Basketball Prospects may be a whinging prat about the Big Ten, but I like his ordering of the bubble:
San Diego State
Temple …(and so on and so forth)
Leaving aside the idea that it's preposterous to put Auburn, which has done nothing in the nonconference except lose to Mercer and plays in an almost literally unbelievably bad SEC, ahead of Minnesota and its neutral court win over Louisville: Michigan in front of all those teams bodes well. That is lock-even-with-Iowa-loss right there.
But we have to return to the whinging. This is an incredibly stupid argument:
The middle of this conference is larded with mediocrity, not parity, with records inflated by the 1-17 team at the bottom (of the muddled middle, only Michigan was denied two free wins over the marginally Division I team)
…when combined with this argument:
I can't put excessive weight on the head-to-head matchup because of the lack of a return game. Hey, Big 11, here's an idea: instead of everyone playing two Horizon/MAC teams, play a full round-robin.
Every conference has a bottom feeder or three and the Big Ten's records aren't "inflated" any more than the Pac-10 records are by teams in Oregon or Big East records are by St Johns and Depaul and so forth and so on. Also, how can you bitch about the Big Ten's lack of a full round robin every power conference save the Pac-10 lacks one? The SEC and Big 12 don't even play 18 games! If you want to argue against the conference, fine, but please bring at least one non-idiotic reason. So suffice it to say I'm not putting a huge amount of stock into that ordering.
File under "duh": Cornell, ETSU, UNI, Radford, Morehead St., Siena, VCU, UT-Chattanooga, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida St., Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma St., Michigan St., Illinois, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona St., UConn, Pitt, Louisville, 'Nova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, LSU, Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton, Memphis, Gonzaga, Butler, Utah, BYU.
That's 46 teams. A couple of these teams could conceivably miss (the Ohio St./Wisconsin loser, Michigan, maaaaaaaybe Dayton) but regardless I don't see any way Auburn "passes" any of them.
So that's good. Also, Western Kentucky did secure the Sun Belt autobid and remove their remote at-large hopes from relevance. Bad: Cleveland State took out Butler last night and secured themselves what appears to be a 13 seed. The bubble has shrunk by one team; from the sounds of it right now that's St Mary's spot. The spot of St Mary's. Attempting to turn a possessive into a possessive argh.
On the (slightly relieving) side of things, both Cincinnati and Georgetown saw their tourney aspirations die with thudding losses against Big East doormats. Notre Dame scraped by Rutgers, keeping their remote hopes alive.
Tonight's games of relevance, with your new favorite team bolded:
- DePaul vs Providence, noon. DePaul sucks and went 0-18 in the league this year, but they took out Cinci yesterday and would put a stake through the heart of any Providence at-large hopes if they could pull another upset.
- Baylor vs Nebraska, 12:30 PM. Epke Udoh will enjoy a view from the bench of a 5-11 Big 12 team; M would like Nebraska's faint at-large hopes to flatline.
- West Virginia vs Notre Dame, 7 PM ESPN. The Nonconference Teams Who Hate Michigan Bowl tips at 7; Notre Dame's tourney hopes would go from flatline to vaguely-possible-with-one-more if they pull the upset.
- Iowa State vs Oklahoma State, 7 PM. Eh… Oklahoma State is likely in but if they blow it here they could be in trouble.
Most of your mojo thoughts should be dedicated to a Notre Dame loss. I guess Providence imploding versus DePaul would be the most helpful, but your weird juju rituals are more likely* to swing the result of the ND game.
Tomorrow all this becomes almost totally irrelevant or very, very relevant indeed; if it stays relevant 1) want a blankie and possibly a gun and 2) there are a ton of relevant games.
*(and by this I mean, of course, "not more likely," or at least I did until Sri Lanka happened. Now I believe in everything. Aaargh! What's that! I don't know, but I'm terrified of it!)
Presserizing. Michigan's about to start spring practice and there have been a few injuries and roster adjustments:
Rodriguez confirmed the injuries reported recently — Jonas Mouton (shoulder) and Michael Shaw (sports hernia) — will miss the spring. Offensive lineman Ricky Barnum will play through a wrist problem. … Rodriguez said tight end Steve Watson is switching to defensive end.
No offense to Watson, but that sounds like the death knell for his future as a potential contributor. He's a longshot to ever see meaningful playing time, a la Quintin Patilla, fullback.
Rodriguez said he’s thinking about trying to break the national attendance record for a spring game. Alabama reportedly had about 92,000 two years ago.
That would require… I don't know what. An actual game, for one. And good weather. And pretty much a 180 degree flip from the way the Spring Game was promoted and marketed under Carr, and by "promoted and marketed" I mean "detested and ignored."
Other news from the press conference concerned medical redshirts: Junior Hemingway has his, which we knew, and they applied for redshirts for Kenny Demens and Adam Patterson but haven't heard back yet. Those things are mostly a formality, AFAIK; that would make Demens a freshman and Patterson a junior. There have been rumors Patterson will move inside given the lack of depth at DT, but there's a similar lack of depth at DE. Also:
Vince Helmuth could move from DT to DE if he gets in shape — playing DT gave him “the free reign to eat,” and he “went overboard.”
Also, there is a "noticeable difference" in the size and strength of the guys on the OL according to Barwis. Eeee. Liveblogging at the Daily for more details.
Bubblin'. Both results last night went Michigan's way, with Gonzaga stomping St Mary's and Siena beating Niagara; St Mary's is now a bubble compatriot of Michigan's and the MAAC is a one-bid league. Diverse alarums. Lundardi, for one, has the Gaels as the second team out—Creighton is first. Did I dismiss their chances too quickly? Eh… even with an M loss to Iowa Creighton can make up no ground and you'd think would get slotted in after M. Probably. Who knows?
Back to St Mary's. Bracketology 101 on the Gaels:
We are sticking with the Gaels for at least one more day. We still like their OOC wins against fellow bubble teams Providence and San Diego State and their Bracketbuster win over Utah State. We also think there's a slight chance the committee takes a flier on them based on how they played early in the year before Mills got hurt and, potentially, based on how Mills looks against Eastern Washington on Friday. We bumped the Gaels down to a 13 seed in today's bracket, which means they are very, very thin ice. If there are any other mid-major bid stealers (Cleveland State tonight?) or if there are any other upsets in the big conference tournies, St. Mary's will be the first team to go.
Is Michigan ahead of St Mary's with an Iowa loss? Eh… probably, but the Mills thing makes them hugely variable.
As for today's viewing schedule, ESPN is so down on the Big East trio that it lists no relevant games even though Georgetown, ND and Cincinnati are in action. Aaaand Cinci just lost to Depaul, so maybe they're right to be skeptical.
There is one game with obviously huge implications: Butler and Cleveland State face off in the Horizon* League final at 9:00 PM. Butler is in either way and Cleveland State is looking to steal a second bid for the Horizon; you're very heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. Oakland also takes on North Dakota State with a Summit League bid on the line, if you want to get your granfalloon action on.
*Note! Not only does the "MidCon" conference not even exist anymore, Butler was never in it and is currently in the Horizon League. Mea culpa to the two annoyed emailers.
In the long annals of sports opinion, this might be the worst idea ever recorded:
If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.
That's Jay Bilas, and let's just leave aside all the Manny Harris elbow stuff and Tommy Amaker stuff as we attempt to wrap our heads around this fantastic idea: get rid of automatic bids. Bilas spends 1151 words on this idea, beginning with the premise that "more good teams play in Division I than ever before"—what does that even mean?—and arriving at the conclusion that the problem with Creighton or Penn State is the SWAC.
No, a thousand times no. One: the goal is not to have the "very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament." If that was really the goal the tournament would be about eight teams and would have a round-robin format, or something. The NCAA tournament is a chaotic single-elimination mess and an obviously unfair system for determining a champion. But it is so damn fun that people reasonably overlook its flaws.
More than that, the autobids help lessen the flaws. A national championship tournament that includes this many teams is kind of a dumb idea. It will be apparent from the moment that the bracket is selected that 40 or 50 teams in it are obviously not the best teams in the country. A number of no- or little- hope bids actually makes it less of a dumb idea. One way to make a singe elimination tournament less unfair and stupid is to bias it in favor of the teams who did very well during the regular season. Including a bunch of conference champions who would otherwise not be in the field otherwise provides greater motivation to get a protected seed.
I mean, never ever has a 1 gone down to a 16, and a 15 over a 2 is really rare. But once you get into the 3, 4, 5 range you know some of those teams are getting lead pipes to the head. In the Bilas system you'd be replacing those no-hopers at the end of the field with, like, Penn State, and significantly reducing the reward for having a kickin' regular season.
So even if you are a heartless lawyer robot like Bilas—who says the argument against his position is a "sentimental one," which is another way of saying "I hate puppies and fun and sunshine"—the straggling autobids at the end of the field help make the bracket less of a mockery of the regular season and should be kept even if, you know…
…you'd watch Bucknell versus Kansas and think to yourself "goddammit why isn't a below .500 major conference team in this game?"
Bilas does frame his post by arguing that dumping autobids would get the best mid-majors in more—St Mary's and Creighton wouldn't be biting their fingernails to the nub if there were no autobids—but really, that's not the point. Really, really not the point.
Everything you ever didn't want to know about the pairwise. Western College Hockey has an overview of college hockey's rigid and kind of crappy selection system, and I winced when I read this sentence:
Proponents of this system argue there is no cliff because the system is designed to only be looked at once, at the end of the season, and thus, there are no fluctuations, but regardless, teams still gain a disproportionate benefit if a team they beat ends up 25th rather than 26th.
Only one person argues something that stupid: a poster on USCHO named "ScoobyDoo" who has some five-digit-and-rising post count and who descends on any thread about how the pairwise is deeply flawed—which it is—and expounds dumbly like that.
By the way: Michigan returns to action this weekend against Western Michigan. Outside of that series you are rooting against Notre Dame and Alaska. Here's the TUC cliff in action: Alaska is currently the 25th and last team to be counted as a TUC. If Alaska loses its series against Ohio State, they're extremely likely to drop out of consideration; with them will go ND's 2-0 and M's 1-1 record against the Nanooks. Both of those are very good for Michigan, as if that happens ND will be vulnerable at the Joe.