no, YOU'RE off topic
Cease and desist, spreaders of unwarranted glee! Okay, yes, Michigan basketball is 7-0 with a nice road win over Notre Dame and a couple of victories over decent to good mid-majors. This does not warrant what can only be called "big heapum story," to use patently offensive faux-Native American lingo in an attempt to get banned from the Alamo Bowl.
Don't Look Now...
but Tommy Amaker has the Michigan Wolverines at 7-0, including wins over Miami and Notre Dame.
Up next? UCLA. (I love this game).
And whoomp: FOXSports CNNSI ESPN ESPN(2)($) ESPN(3)($). Okay, three are just mentions of Michigan in "these teams started well" columns and the estimable Grant Wahl's CNNSI version places UM squarely in the "???" category where they belong, but goddamn that's a lot of mention for a team that hasn't done anything since Charles Woodson was still bumping the winged helmet. So...
There it is indeed.
Sweet sassy molassey.
[/Typical Hack Sportswriter]
Anyway, other than one of the Insider articles (written by Ken Pomeroy... ESPN Insider has already assimilated Kyle Whelliston; how long before Wonk gets picked up?) on Horton's radically improved efficiency, most of them are reduced to handwaving about BU after mentioning the ND and Miami games:
It started with the second game of the season. That's when Michigan played at Boston U. ...The 51-46 victory wasn't easy and it wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was Michigan showing some toughness and grit. And it was a start.
Let's be clear: Michigan's start is mostly smoke and crap opponents (not to devalue the ND win but it was one game, and one that easily could have turned into a loss). But the media loves a redemption story, especially when you have Horton's tragic soap opera taking center stage and the cachet of the big block M looming in the background. Thus storydammerung. I say bah humbug, at least temporarily.
If, and this is a major if, Michigan beats UCLA on Saturday, yes, they are headed for the unprecedented heights of a meaningful March... hell, a meaningful February, and then you should unleash the floodgates of OMG YAY. Until then, please poke Michigan's 7-0 start with a stick and a cautiously cocked eyebrow--it could still bite.
Holy crap UPDATE: Big Ten Wonk's first All Wonk Team of 05-06 has not one but two Wolverines on it, plus Graham Brown and his Rebound Machine waiting in the wings. Please consider this definitive proof that I'm totally right about this:
Is this all just a smidge too much love for a team that beat Boston U. by five? Dunno. Tune in Saturday.
Aye... 'Tis. Aye, t'will. Hyyyarrr!
Speaking of tortured segues... er... bite. Andrew Cogliano is impressing at Team Canada's WJC camp, scoring two goals in their latest scrimmage. He is a lock to make the team and will likely be featured on one of Canada's top lines. Yay for Cogs, grim for GLI. Also: Guy Flaming has an extensive, quality article up at Hockey's Future on the man the shirtless cocaine addict who sits behind me at Yost calls "Drew Cogs!!!"
Update 12/12: Linked to Mike Morgan article where he names three leaders, none of whom are Michigan. Removed LB Toryan Smith(ND), moved LB/FB Obi Ezeh to commited. Added NY TE Andrew Quarless (highlights and bumpin' rap at AndrewQuarless.com; profile indicates he is visiting this weekend). Noted that WR commit Greg Mathews moved into the Rivals 100 at #91 after their last update... no, I haven't updated everyone else's rankings. Cone also got a bonus star.
Yes, removed OMG SHIRTLESS TIM TEBOW(UF).
Editorial Opinion: As expected, Ezeh committed on his visit. He's being brought in as an "athlete," which will translate to either fullback or linebacker according to Ezeh himself:
"He said they could use me as an athletic fullback to give the ball to or I could get involved in the passing game at tight end, or defensively, they might want me at linebacker," Ezeh said. "One of the main reasons I wanted to go there was that I did not have to play the first year, then when I do get on the field, I will be fully prepared. I know they will put me in a position to succeed."
So he's redshirting. Another reason he wanted to come to Michigan: his other Big Ten offer was Indiana. Ezeh's a sleeper, but Michigan has a good track record when it comes to cherry-picking in-state guys they like and getting them to contribute.
Greg Mathews' rise into the Rivals 100 is totally unexpected. Scout--the more promiscuous of the two services--still has him at three stars, but apparently the jumpy and the lots of catchy impressed Rivals enough to throw him in at #91 despite his reported 40 times of either 4.72 or (gasp) 4.9. Given the general tendency to understate 40 times, especially for wide recievers and double especially for players from Florida, converting those listed times to reality implied that his mobility is somewhere between Gabe Watson and the Indian subcontinent (plate tectonics joke what!). Apparently he can move just fine.
Rivals also threw out a freebie with a bunch of vague-but-interesting information. Points of interest:
[Re: QBs] The Wolverines have also gotten a serious early jump on one of the nation's top juniors.
That would be Texas' Ryan Mallet, from all indications, who attended the entirety of Michigan's summer camp. Mallet will probably reach OMG SHIRTLESS status next year; he's 6'6" and has your proverbial cannon where his arm should go.
Merillville (Ind.) defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, though, is very high on OSU, and just received an in-home visit from OSU head coach Jim Tressel and his staff. ... OSU was rumored to have gotten a leg up before Carr's visit, but the Wolverines seem to have made up some ground. Whether it will be enough is yet to be determined.
Doesn't take very much reading between the lines here: OSU's probably going to get him.
The Wolverines are looking much better for others in the class of 2006, including Denver (Colo.) Montbello defensive end Greg Banks (see Josh Helmholdt's story on him here: Banks nearing a decision). Euclid (Ohio) outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson enjoyed a recent visit to Tennessee, but Michigan could be tough to beat for Rivals.com's No. 8 outside 'backer, too.
As discussed earlier, Banks' coach is talking like Michigan is the place. Gibson would be an interesting recruit, since Michigan has either 3 or 4 linebackers committed (depending on whether Obi Ezeh is a FB or a LB), though none seem to be SAM types. Caveat: BuckeyePlanet is overflowing with polite speculation that Gibson is unlikely to qualify, and they're usually right.
...there are at least some analysts who believe U-M leads for Richmond (Va.) Varina fullback Brandon Minor (read his latest story here: Minor visits Michigan and Venice (Calif.) safety Jonas Mouton (Rivals.com's No. 43 overall prospect), though there have been conflicting reports on him.
More fullbacks! Minor's listed at the #1 FB in the country, but with Ezeh on board and Andre Criswell's last-minute addition to the 2005 class it would seem that we're either switching to a wing-T or recruting Minor as a tailback.
This is as close as the Internet provides:
Now stop being creepy.
Your Loyal Webmaster
Since the last edition of this particular column Michigan was swept in the Showcase and on the road against CCHA leader Miami before turning it around with 4-2 and 7-3 victories over Nebraska-Omaha. Michigan now stands 11-5-1 on the season at the Christmas break. Their record is a realistic reflection of how they've played.
Argh! Pending; somehow I got two copies of the Friday game on my DVR, and I forgot the magic incantation that makes Conversion Step 2 go. Will update this space and notify on the front page when they become available.
- I think Michigan's problems in the defensive zone have more to do with Eric Werner's departure than anyone could have logically anticipated. Werner tended to gamble when posted at the point, but in his own zone he was at least adequate and when the puck got on his stick and his smooth skating and clean outlet passes were the kind of thing you don't miss until they're gone. Right now Michigan has two, maybe two-and-a-half guys who can come close to replicating that ability: Hunwick, Johnson, and possibly Dest, though he's no Werner. UNO's first goal came after Dest flubbed an easy clearance attempt.
- I'd like to reiterate my seconding of Yost Built's "split Hunwick and Johnson" campaign. I think they'd work better paired with less rambunctious partners, and splitting their ability to do that Werner thing over two pairings would probably help Michigan's breakout issues.
- Andrew Ebbett has been the best player on the team in recent weeks, living up to the C on his chest. Dest's shorthanded goal on Friday was set up by Ebbett's effort and clever passing; Kal's powerplay goal was off an intelligently soft shot that was intended to be deflected on its way in; he kills penalties and gives effort every shift.
- Good to see Kal blast one past the poor, shelled UNO goalie on Saturday. Kal's rumored to have Steve McNair-level nagging injuries, but he was very good this weekend.
- If the video had gone to plan you could have seen Cogliano's shortie on Saturday, which was straight freak nasty: one on one with a defender, Cogs manuevers into position to get a shot off using him as a screen, then rifles top corner against the flow of the goaltender's motion. Ridiculous.
- Yost Built has his own notes for both Friday and Saturday.
Note: now that there's somewhat meaningful data for the numbers, any and all references to polls will be dropped in this space. They're irrelevant since the NCAA hockey tournament's selection and seeding is a strictly mathematical affair. In their stead come KRACH, which is really fleebing complicated, PWR, which is mildly fleebing complicated, and RPI, which isn't complicated at all. PWR is the money rating, the one the NCAA uses for the tourney.
Surprisingly, Michigan stands third in each ranking system, probably because KRACH rates the Michigan schedule #2 in the nation at the moment. Michigan's losses to Wisconsin and Miami don't matter much because no one has been able to beat either team (they stand #1 and #2, respectively)--outside of those ignominious events Michigan features a loss to Minnesota, a loss to UAF, a tie against MSU, and 11 wins.
There are four number one seeds given out by the NCAA each year. Obviously, if the season were to end today Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin would get three. Guess who would be number four? You get nine chances. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
Lake State(!). Apparently unyoking the Lakers from Crazy Frank Anazalone had a liberating effect not unlike that experienced by the post-Larry Brown Pistons. LSSU is 9-5-4 against a decent-to-good schedule. In other news, Rutgers is in a bowl... they are? Goddammit. In other news, the basketball team is undefeat... okay, okay. In other news, something extremely unlikely but unspecified happened!
Michigan's sweep of UNO draws them four points closer to the league-leading Miami Redhawks. Michigan now trails by six points with a game in hand. Four teams trail Michigan by two or three points in the CCHA's traditional "we almost made the tournament yay" middle. Everyone's chasing Miami, essentially.
More important is the following earthquake-inducing statement: nine CCHA teams have above .500 nonconference records. Seriously:
- LSSU: 4-0-2, including three-point weekends against Bemjidi State(9-4-1) and Colgate(10-2-3)
- Miami: 2-1-1, loss to Nodak, win over 10-5-1 Clarkson
- OSU: 3-2-1, split with CC on the road, but dropped 3 of 4 to Alabama-Huntsville.
- Ferris: 4-2 with a win over Bemjidi
- MSU: 3-2 with a win over Nodak and a split against 8-3-1 Cornell
- UNO: 4-1 with a win over UNH.
- NMU: 3-1
- UAF: 2-1-1 with a win and a tie at Minnesota.
An impressive list of scalps that is night and day from the conference's recent ECAC West impression.
The upshot of all this is great for the CCHA and Michigan in particular. There's a smattering of very good wins, but more important is the regular smacking around of teams like Bemjidi, the ECAC contenders, and Mercyhurst: all those teams have good records against weak competition. The RPI takes both your opponents' record and your opponents' opponents' record into account. Michigan gets bonus credit for playing a team like LSSU because they beat a team with a good record; they do not get the RPI drag the Lakers do for Colgate's trashy schedule. For the first time in years Michigan will be propped up by the relative strength of the league, not dragged down to a #3 seed by it. Now there's the matter of beating 'em with that wonky backline.
The Nonconference Opponents
Uh, yeah... Qunnipiac's quick start (an eight-game winstreak following a season opening sweep at the hands of Michigan) came to a screeching halt. Since that time the Bobcats have lost 7 of 8, the bastards. Play better!
Boston College, on the other hand, is still Boston College. They're 9-4-1 and one of the HE favorites. That win will help us all year. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are very good teams; our losses to them won't hurt us much against the rest of the world as long as they continue to win. It would be nice if Minnesota's RPI remained securely below ours. That combined with the divergent UAF results will probably keep us in front of them despite our H2H loss.
- In case you were wondering if the SE Michigan sporting zeitgeist extends to Ann Arbor, yes, there were "Fire Millen" chants at both Friday and Saturday games.
The Next Weekend
Michigan is off until the GLI, at which point whoever's left will wave helplessly at Colorado College forwards. Expect Matt Hunwick and Jason Dest to get run into the ground and Michigan to shift one forward or another back to defense, maybe Ebbett or Fardig. Without five regulars, it'll be an uphill battle all the way.
Ok, ok. You may have noticed a distinct slowdown in content of late. There is a very good reason for this that will hopefully have a very cool end result. (Granted, this is only for a certain uncool value of "cool," one that does not involve helicopters or babes or luxurious mustaches.) This involves grabbing the data available on the NCAA statistics page, cramming it into my own database, and then, um, unleashing it and stuff. With authorita.
No doubt this would be a simple process, right? Take some regularly-formatted text, extract the appropriate data, and repeat for thousands of plays over hundreds of games: viola, totally awesome weapon of mass statistics at my disposal. This, eh... has not so much happened. If I had only one word to describe the state of this data it would be "I hate you, NCAA person who either designed or did not design this thing, more likely the latter, you useless git, though you probably don't exist."
What the hell am I talking about?
Okay, this is a fairly normal play sequence from the Central Michigan-Akron contest:
- (1st and 10) SNEED, Ontario rush for 10 yards to the CMU41, 1ST DOWN CMU (PACE, Chevin).
- (1st and 10) PENALTY CMU false start 5 yards to the CMU36.
- (1st and 15) SMITH, Kent pass incomplete to HARPER, Justin.
After much blithering about, this works. Here's a fumble. Notice that the yardage is totally omitted?
- (1st and 10) BIGGS, Brett rush to the AKRON41, fumble forced by WILLIAMS, T., fumble by BIGGS, Brett recovered by AKRON SCHEPP, Mike at AKRON43.
Now I have to tease out that piece of data from the yard lines provided. This is what's colloquially referred to in the coding business as a "giant pain in the ass." With sprinkles. Here's a play from the Akron-Kent State tussle:
- (1st and 10) MACHEN pass complete to PRUDEN for 4 yards to the KSU5 (CORNER, Reggie).
- (2nd and 6) JENKINS rush for loss of 4 yards to the KSU1 (REID, Jermaine).
- (3rd and 10) MACHEN pass incomplete to HILL.
That's right, everyone on Kent State has decided to go with just the one name. Maybe they're all Brazilian. Or models. I dunno. What I do know is that my hacked up parsing code vomited on this, causing me to revisit it. More hours down the drain. Oh, and then there's this spectacular sequence:
|2||1||Akron||FUMB||13:36||opp 16||TD||13:36||opp 16||0||0||0:00|
Maybe this is just indication that the MAC blows something fierce and can't be bothered to submit correct reports. They don't even list punts! There's not a goddamned punt in any of the MAC games! I mean, I saw that UW-BGSU game but that's an abberation, right? Meanwhile, the overzealous SEC does this...
- (2nd and 6) [SHOT], Rafael Little rush for 3 yards to the UT42 (Ryan Karl).
- (3rd and 3) Timeout Kentucky, clock 01:04.
- (3rd and 3) [SHOT], Curtis Pulley rush for 1 yard to the UT41 (Roshaun Fellows;Justin Harrell).
Medic! And then there's this, from extra-overzealous Alabama, of course:
- (2nd and 8) Brodie Croyle sideline pass complete to Keith Brown for 26 yards to the LSU30, 1ST DOWN ALABAMA, out-of-bounds (Chevis Jackson).
- (1st and 10) Kenneth Darby rush over left end for 1 yard to the LSU29 (Ronnie Prude;Kyle Williams).
- (2nd and 9) Brodie Croyle RF pass incomplete to Le'Ron McClain, QB hurry by Kyle Williams.
- (3rd and 9) Brodie Croyle crossing pass incomplete to Ezekial Knight, dropped pass.
... which is potentially cool--it would be fascinating to see the statistical breakdowns of the different routes--but mostly just makes my mind, which is futilely attempting to reconcile all these different data presentations in one hunk of code that does not make any goddamn sense to anyone, including me, bleed. So, yeah, the NCAA spent all that time spanking naughty mascots when they could have been normalizing their play-by-play submission process. Before I didn't care. Now I'm wicked pissed.
I'm pretty sure this post--being a discussion of how hard it is to parse football play by play data--is the most boring in the history of this blog, but this is by way of explaining any (extra) crotchety-old-man-ness you may see in this space over the next few days. Don't blame me. Blame the NCAA.
First... FYI: full-fledged hockey blowout coming tomorrow, con video both good and bad. Also: someone convinced me a basketball UFR would be a good idea, so I will do one for the upcoming UCLA game. Watch me stumble my way in a sport I know even less about(!).
Speaking of the basketball team, trust me when I say that you can take very little away from their blowout win over USF. The Bulls started Functional Dani Wohl at point guard--a development Michigan was well prepared for after starting Actual Dani Wohl at times last year--and appear headed to the Big East basement, express-style. Michigan played to rapidly developing stereotype by pounding the boards, suffocating their opponents on defense, shooting well, and turning the ball over with alarming regularity.
Joey is tentatively happy but has logical reservations:
I don't want to take anything away from Michigan because its start has been admirable, but I can't shake the feeling that UM is going to look a lot worse when it plays teams with some, like, talent. The UM big men have pretty bad hands; Courtney Sims is not going to be effective against better "bigs"; and Dion Harris has lost his mid-range game.
I'm also holding back from declaring this team to be a Big Ten contender, but I was pleasantly surprised at Courtney's performance against ND's Torin Francis and the Miami posts. The 'Canes were fairly crappy, granted, but they were definitely big mofos. Michigan is making a concerted effort to go to Sims when he's fronted--too many times last year the guards would just give up when someone got in front of him. Now they're trying to go over the top, which is risky but required.
(Mostly) non-partisan observer Big Ten Wonk plays Devil's Advocate against himself:
Reasons to finally believe. Two words: Graham Brown. This was his line Saturday: two points on 1-of-3 shooting, two assists, one turnover, 25 minutes--and 10 boards. He exists only to rebound and, assuming a night of reality-based board work for Ohio State's J.J. Sullinger tonight against Norfolk State, Brown will likely wake up tomorrow morning atop Wonk's list of the Big Ten's best rebounders.
Reasons to again disbelieve. Right now the Wolverine offense is a high-turnover, kinda-low offensive rebound production being carried by OK shooting (and overshadowed by outstanding defense). History suggests the "high-turnover" part of the equation is likely to continue--the shooting and defense will need to stay strong.
Obligatory "but Brent Petway's out" in 3... 2... 1... but, Wonk, Brent Petway's out! If you ask me, the outstanding defense (tops in the league in defensive rebounding, second in opponent eFG percentage) will be the key. Is it a mirage based on playing the Delaware States and USFs of the world, or is it actually quite good? As Wonk says, defense "tends to be a more loyal companion than that fickle mistress called outside shooting." Michigan will sink or swim based on it.
The college hockey world resumed spinning on its axis as Michigan swept UNO 4-2 and 7-3, though the Saturday night game featured the weakest fighting major I've yet seen. Since all fighting majors in college hockey are accompanied by a minimum one-game suspension, David Rohlfs, the recipient of said weak call, will miss the opening game of the GLI against... yep, CC and the Wonder Scoring Midgets. That's three defensemen gone for that game with Johnson and Mitera off at the WJC. Left are Hunwick, Dest, Cook, and, um, nobody. Yeah. Kevin Porter and (almost assuredly) Andrew Cogliano will also be gone. I would strongly suggest watching the GLI on TV. With the TV off.
In less frustrating news, tbarr scouted 2008 hockey recruit AJ Jenks at his latest game for Honeybaked Midget and was kind enough to provide a detailed scouting report. Also, Yost Built has a set of bullets on the 4-2 win on Friday with an interesting idea that I endorse:
-I think they need to split up Johnson and Hunwick. Yeah they're probably our two best dmen, but they're also our two best offensive dmen, and there's not a ton of production out there from the other guys. One of them would look great with Mitera because he's always in position on defense. Put the other with Dest or Rohlfs.
Seconded. Prior to this year I had regarded Hunwick as a steady, conservative defenseman well suited to any situation, but he appears to be absorbing Johnson's hyper-aggressivity via osmosis. At times it looks like there are two giant, mean Eric Werners out there, which is certainly... uh... exciting, but maybe one giant, mean Eric Werner is enough per pairing and the non-Werner could, you know, prevent the D from getting split towards the end of close games.
Glass! Glass! Rasheed Wallace was in full insane blossom against Andres Nocioni and the Bulls a week or so ago, causing this particular blogger to use the "rewind live TV" function of his DVR for the first time ever. Graphics-intensive Pistons blog Need 4 Sheed assembled a highlight video of said whipping, if you're interested. And you are.
Delegation. Sweet. NKOTB Winged Helmets took some weight off my shoulders by adding up the defensive +/- from this year's Upon Further Review archive and posting a colorful chart. I'm struck by a few things:
- The +/- numbers are biased towards +. This is something I was well aware of. Most plays that ended up with a net 0 were either screwups by the offensive team, 2-4 yard runs, or downfield completions that were difficult to blame on any one player. When Michigan gets a stop there will invariably be some plusses along the way, but it's possible no one to be cited for a long touchdown drive with a series of plays that yield large chunks of yardage.
- The numbers for the defensive backs are muted because it's only infrequently that the video provides enough data to make an assessment of the coverage. The prevelance of zone also had something to do with it. Who is at fault when four guys are three yards from the receiver?
- A comparison of Burgess' and Graham's numbers is interesting. Neither exactly covered themselves in glory (Burgess was +1, Graham -5), but what stands out to me is the sheer quantity of points on Burgess' chart, both good and bad. Graham did little all year; Burgess did a ton, half good, half ugh. I think that implies that Burgess has the potentia
l to improve greatly but Graham not so much.
- Overall the chart seems accurate in its assessment of the best players on the Michigan defense. There are three very good players (Branch, Woodley, Harris), a bunch of okay to good ones, and then a couple of gaping holes.
Things that should be linked. BC&RS describes the Best. Call. Ever. Postmodernists will be happy since it is, in fact, no call at all. SMQ busts out the stat wonkery in not one but two places; petulant complaining about linkage lack begone! (PS: that huge picture used for the "rap sheet" is very, very large in my RSS reader! Make it small, I beg.)