#2 overall. That's the softball team's seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament:
Ann Arbor Regional – May 20-22 at Ann Arbor, Michigan
Notre Dame (41-11) vs. Miami (OH) (34-21)
Valparaiso (18-32) vs. No. 2 seed Michigan* (46-5)
Notre Dame should present the toughest test for Michigan. The two teams didn't play this year and there's very little in the way of common opponents; ND is ranked around 20th in the national polls and is thus a considerably tougher second-round opponent than you'd generally expect—it's the equivalent of a one-seed in the basketball tournament drawing a six-or seven-seed in round two.
MGoUser South Bend Wolverine has written excellent previews the past couple years and we pinged him; we hope to front-page it later this week.
Exit Rawak. Chrissi Rawak is leaving Michigan to become Delaware's AD. Rawak is a name those of you who have read Endzone probably remember. Rawak, Dave Brandon's second-in-command, features prominently both as a symbol of the change Brandon wrought and as a crutch increasingly forced to take on roles that she's not comfortable in. The book makes it clear that she was rather divisive, especially amongst the old hands forced out because of a lack of personal loyalty to Brandon.
I'm skeptical anyone Brandon could rely on so comprehensively was a good fit with my ideal Michigan athletic department, so the move is a win-win. Rawak gets an AD job with winged helmets to ease her transition, and a prominent Brandon apparatchik is no longer wondering what's wrong with a giant noodle ad in the Big House.
Ever aft… uh. Speaking of the Before Times, infamous Dave Brandon mansion "Ever After" is up for sale for a cool seven million dollars.
Not pictured is the other plaque by the gate, for obviou's reasons:
May its next resident be better at apostrophes and email.
I still can't get over the spectacular hubris of naming your home the thing that fairy tales say after the princess gets rescued by the dashing prince. If there was ever a better example of "be about it, don't talk about it" I can't think of one. The same hubris that caused "Ever After" is the one that caused "find a new team" and eventually resulted in the thing being put up for sale. It's nice to know that cosmic justice does strike, at least occasionally.
Relevant to our interests. Ian Boyd writes on how 4-3 defenses—that would be us—are adapting to the "smashmouth spread"—that would be OSU. MSU's defense features prominently, as they've increasingly found their safeties matched up one-on-one with receivers they cannot hang with. You may remember a number of Jake Rudock passes in last year's game that would have been touchdowns had they been accurate; Baylor and Oregon have also made a habit out of bombing it deep to slot types.
Michigan's changed so much over the past few years that it's hard to draw any conclusions from what they're doing. (Other than "don't do that against OSU again.") MSU's adapted, as teams constantly do; Boyd says that to cope with smashmouth spreads that run a lot of RPO these are the key components:
To make this style of man/zone combination work a defense has to have a few particular components. The first is a lockdown corner to play man coverage on the weakside. If the opposing team has an ace WR in that spot and love to throw him the ball on standard downs then this scheme is DOA without a corner that can match him.
The second is a pair of DEs that are fundamentally sound and good at responding to different blocks. If that DE can't consistently contain the ball inside on the weakside this scheme can get into trouble fast.
Finally, the strong safety should be a player worth featuring as a free hitter against the run game.
Michigan appears to check all these boxes, pending the resolution of the WDE spot, and looks set to be a 4-3 over team this fall.
The other thing you haven't considered. Steve Politi keeps banging the War On Rutgers drum because all of a sudden his articles are clicked when he does this. I keep banging on the War On Rutgers drum because it is deeply hilarious to me. Anyway, this episode:
Now that we have the seeds of a Rutgers-Michigan feud planted,
now that we have the New Jersey high school coaches lining up behind their state university in an eye-popping show of solidarity,
against Paramus Catholic with Rutgers as a proxy
now that we have a reason for the national college football media to pay attention to our state in early June,
we should probably point this out:
Satellite camps are a farce.
yes, but not for the reasons you think.
The rest of the article is the usual reiteration of Politi's worldview that Harbaugh is a Machiavellian manipulator of the media and "fake," whatever that means. Anyone who's laid eyes on Harbaugh knows that his personality is on full display, and at maximum volume, at all times. This insistence that the guy is anything other than genuine is the least convincing rival smack talk I have come across. Crazy, sure. Phony, no. That's the equivalent of accusing David Shaw of being excessively emotional.
One strikeout. A couple times this space has wondered why Michigan State was telling people they expected three sixth-year players back when none of them seemed to have any case. Here's the resolution to one of those cases:
Veteran defensive tackle Damon Knox will not play for the Spartans in 2016 and has decided instead to pursue a career in law enforcement, the school announced on Friday afternoon.
MSU didn't even submit paperwork for him; as of a few weeks ago they hadn't done so for either of the other two guys, LB Ed Davis and OL Brandon Clemons. This is a really weird situation: it seems like the relevant persons at MSU are unaware that a sixth year is much harder to get than a fifth year.
The spin here rankles a little. Knox didn't get a sixth year because he never had a case for one. It's not because he has a passion for The Law. but the aforementioned oddity means outlets who haven't been paying much attention write articles like this:
There’s something you don’t see every day.
Friday, Michigan State announced that defensive tackle Damon Knox will not be returning to the Spartans for a sixth season. The reason? The lineman has decided to pursue a career in the field of law enforcement.
Uh… no. That's not CFT's fault They're just aggregating a story. It is the fault of the universally credulous Spartan beat, which will get around to investigating Max Bullough's suspension any day now.
Etc.: Rutgers fans remind each other to thank Jim Delany for "the biggest gift the school had received since Colonel Rutgers donated the money to revive the college back in the 1820s," which is accurate.
People attempting to purchase Budweiser-taunting "Murica" beer disappointed to discover it doesn't exist. Hey man take a cue from InBev and just put the same beer in a different package. Just one incoming hockey recruit, Will Lockwood, mentioned amongst the top 100 prospects for the upcoming NHL draft in an extensive article. BU is cleaning up.
Again, I would like to apologize to dogs for my insensitive comments about their intelligence.
We have reached the Elite Eight of the first annual Jim Harbaugh GIF Tournament. The decisions, as you'd expect, are only getting more difficult.
Which insane Harbaugh grin do you like more? Is the genesis of the term "rage stripping" more worthy of advancing than perhaps the most purely Harbaugh moment of the year? Are we finally going to see a one-seed go down? Those questions and more will be answered in this here post by you, beloved readers. Godspeed.
THE GOOD TIMES
The Sweet Sixteen results:
#1 Harbaugh As Grinch: 1,542 (81%)
#4 Harbuagh/Drevno Awkward Celebration: 369 (19%)
#2 Spring Game Grin: 1,269 (70%)
#3 "You're Really Good": 550 (30%)
We have ourselves a grin-off.
(1) Harbaugh As Grinch vs. (2) Spring Game Grin
Do you prefer nefarious Harbaugh?
Or content Harbaugh?
(These may be essentially the same thing.)
THE BAD TIMES
The Sweet Sixteen results:
#1 Rage Stripping: 1,326 (77%)
#4 Rage On The Run: 404 (23%)
#2 Slow-Motion Meltdown: 759 (44%)
#3 WELL OKAY: 971 (56%)
The toughest region features a minor upset to set up another near-impossible choice in the regional final.
(1) Rage Stripping vs. (3) WELL OKAY
Do you prefer Harbaugh in full "come at me, bro" form?
Or Harbaugh in, well...
After a Florida defender committed an obvious facemask on Amara Darboh, Harbaugh sprinted down the sideline screaming for a call, gesticulating the whole way.
You may note a brave player—by the arm sleeve, I believe it's Jabrill Peppers—tried to get Harbaugh's attention when he reached the offical. Harbaugh, too deep into rage mode to notice, proceeded to scream "HEY, THEN CALL IT. YOU CALLED IT? YOU CALLED IT? WELL, OKAY."
...full Harbaugh form?
HARBAUGH IN ACTION
The Sweet Sixteen results:
#1 Dr. Harbaugh: 1,009 (62%)
#5 Hype-Up Beating: 628 (38%)
#2 Punt Demo: 1,049 (65%)
#3 Harbaugh's Huddle: 566 (35%)
(1) Dr. Harbaugh vs. (2) Punt Demo
Do you prefer sophomoric physical humor?
Or other sophomoric physical humor?
The Sweet Sixteen results:
#1 Good Shit, Jedd: 848 (55%)
#4 Head Scratcher: 704 (45%)
#2 Snow Crabs?: 684 (42%)
#3 Pffffffhahahaha: 928 (58%)
"Good Shit, Jedd" continues to be on the shakiest ground of any one-seed because of the story vs. action dichotomy. Is this the round it goes down?
(1) Good Shit, Jedd vs. (3) Pffffffhahahaha
Do you prefer a great story?
Or a great face?
Voting will remain open until Tuesday, when we'll narrow this down to the Final Four.
I'M NOT THROWING HAIL MARYS, I'M POSTIN' EM
If by now you haven't clicked on the thread that says "Jim Harbaugh starred in a 1990's video game commercial" I don't know what to say to you. There's a thread on our board that promises a video game commercial from the '90s starring Jim Harbaugh. Presumably it links to a video of said commercial. Presumably this video is the source of those eyeglow memes you've come across. Presumably you have already clicked and I'm talking into space. Except Harbaugh's already blown that up:
DEFINITELY WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP
8:30 a.m. Coats on hangers, children at desks
8:45 a.m. Attendance
9:00 a.m. Career Day intro
9:05 a.m. Desmond Howard
Career Day at my sons' school yesterday. They said I won. pic.twitter.com/ag36qs2syj
— Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) May 12, 2016
Tough break for Victoria Gonzalez. https://t.co/hgfXz3x1fZ
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) May 12, 2016
9:35 a.m. Classroom revolts when Desmond is interrupted in the middle of his Green Bay career to introduce nutritionist.
Bringing the Heisman made sure he'd be memorable, but the Emmy too? That's just cold, man.
THE LOCKERS HAVE NUMBERS
The big reveal is Kekoa (Dylan) Crawford will wear #1 but the rest of the freshmen have also been tweeting their numbers. Many of them do not have numbers but have lockers with temporary 1s or 2s (or 9) on yellow sticky notes.
|"We're gonna need a bigger 3." –Hotel Putingrad|
New ones I was able to turn up from that thread plus a run through the Twitters:
- #1: Kekoa Crawford
- #3: Rashan Gary
- #7: Khaleke Hudson
- #10: Nate Johnson
- #22 David Long
Loving the Nate Johnson-Jeremy Gallon comparison. For the record, the yellow sticky notes were Eubanks (1), Mbem-Bosse (1), Asiasi (2), Lavert Hill (2), and Devin Gil (9). The other thing I noticed is the freshmen all have lockers separate from the rest of the team again. I believe Harbaugh reinstituted this last year to let the class form a bond.
As for #1, I'm glad someone will be wearing it again. It was cool that Lloyd made Braylon earn it but AC, McMurtry, Alexander, Butterfield, and Terrell all got to put it on as freshmen. And don't you dare say he's too small for it or I'll whip you with 40 gifs of Anthony Carter.
Of course none of them will ever be as great as the first receiver to wear #1 at Michigan, Tall Paul Goebel. If someone else doesn't beat me to it I'm going to write an HTTV special on him next year and calling it Number One. For now read his Wikipedia page.
DELAWARE IN THE C COLUMN
— The Review (@udreview) May 13, 2016
Rawak got mixed reviews in Bacon's book. She came to Michigan on a swimming scholarship in 1988 and stayed after graduation as an assistant for six years, covering 10 of a 12-year Big Ten title run. She then came back in 2004 to run HR, and was a rising star in Martin's administration.
Under Brandon Chrissi' staff increased from five to 60, and her responsibilities expanded to just about everywhere, including notably, PR director—without any training—just in time for the Shane Morris Incident.
On one hand the masses can't feel too bad about losing Dave Brandon's top lieutenant/hatchet man. On the other, Bacon clearly had sympathy for this competent, Michigan-loving person who was constantly being put in positions to fail by a boss she felt loyalty to. This seems like a departure both sides win.
Etc. This month in MGoBlog History Brian mostly disparaged over the Pistons losing to the Heat. Lacrosse tournament preview. Keep your eyes peeled for a softball preview; I'll bump that when it comes. This article by Ian Boyd is relevant to your interests. This PFF article is also relevant to your interests.
Your Moment of Zen:
Michigan announced its non-conference schedule today, and while there are certainly better home games than last season they may not do much to bolster Michigan's tournament resume when March rolls around.
Michigan's two marquee matchups are two-game home series against Michigan Tech, which finished 15th in RPI, near the end of October and Boston University, which finished ninth in RPI, in early November. BU is a young team that returns three of their top five scorers and managed to finish as high as they did in RPI despite a rash of injuries. Meanwhile, what Mel Pearson's done in Houghton has been nothing short of remarkable:
A one-off November road tilt against Arizona State, which finished 59th in RPI (out of 60), and a two-game home series against Lake Superior State are the real anchors of the non-conference schedule. It's nice to keep some of the old CCHA connections, but two games against a team that finished 44th in RPI makes that a series that Michigan has to sweep; if they do they stay put in RPI/PairWise, and if they lose a game or two they're in trouble.
Meanwhile, a two-game home series against Union and one-off road game at Ferris State are roughly comparable to games against Ohio State. An east coast road trip in late October has Michigan take on Vermont, which finished three spots below OSU in RPI at 35th, and Dartmouth, whose 22nd-place finish in RPI puts them one spot below Penn State. In other words, the only possible RPI boost in that portion of the schedule would come from Darmouth moving up two spots in RPI in 2016-17, and that's not likely to happen considering they lose three of their top six scorers and their top two goaltenders.
The Great Lakes Invitational features a guaranteed game against Michigan Tech and then a game against either Michigan State or Western Michigan; both finished in the mid-forties in RPI and are uninspiring second-round opponents.
Last season, Michigan overcame the loss of a pretty-close-to-All-American level player (in addition to a good sixth man) and barely made it into the NCAA Tournament with a conference efficiency margin of about zero. Fortunately the Wolverines found themselves on the right side of the bubble, but it took a Big Ten Tournament upset over Indiana, the conference champ, in a de facto road environment to sneak into the dance. That win – that shot – was definitely the highlight of the season. Michigan acquitted themselves decently enough in the NCAA Tournament, but familiar defensive woes doomed them in the second half against Notre Dame – a team that made the Elite Eight without facing anything higher than a seven-seed.
On the whole, it was a largely disappointing season. Michigan finished ranked 58th nationally in Kenpom – and the preseason projection for them was 17th. While injuries doubtlessly played a big role in underachieving, the Wolverines didn’t play well, even early in the season at full strength. The season divides into two distinct periods: with Caris LeVert, and without him. Even with him, U-M only split two games in the Bahamas against tournament teams and were clobbered by Xavier (at home) and SMU. Caris looked bigger, stronger, quicker, and more aggressive, but even a herculean effort against Xavier couldn’t keep Michigan in the game. LeVert couldn’t mitigate the team’s glaring weakness inside, though he usually did have Michigan’s offense running pretty smoothly.
Without him, Michigan made it to 9-8 (so, in addition to the first win over Illinois, Michigan was 10-8) in the Big Ten without suffering any would-be devastating upsets at the hands of the lesser half of the conference. Routs at the hands of Indiana and Michigan State at home within the span of a week were two more no-shows against top-tier competition. Wins over two physically imposing squads in Maryland and Purdue were the bright spots in conference play. Outside of those, the best thing you could say is that the Wolverines avoided losing games they really shouldn’t have lost and while that’s a good thing to be able to say, it’s not that great when that’s one of your top bullet points on the positive side of the resume.
Still, Michigan made the tournament, if just barely. Extenuating circumstances – Spike’s hips and Caris’s foot, namely – thinned the backcourt rotation and limited the team’s true potential, but at least they were playing better ball in March. The Indiana upset (truly a joy to watch in person at the Big Ten Tournament) got U-M in: clinging to a spot on the bubble felt like a deserving outcome. It was good experience for a team that was still pretty young – and has plenty of room to grow together.
While it was certainly a better season than 2015 (though similarly star-crossed), it was the second rough campaign in a row after the Big Ten Title / Elite Eight year. Shaking up the program felt necessary, and Michigan will have two new assistants, four outgoing transfers, and four new freshmen, two of whom need to play early. We’ll see if John Beilein – soon to be coaching his tenth(!) season in Ann Arbor – can make a jump after changing assistants like he did in 2011.
[some #tepid #Beilein #takes after the JUMP]
An Unexpected Twist
When an out-of-region prospect cancels a visit, it's usually a death knell for a program's chances of landing him. So, when top-100 AL WR Nico Collins didn't make it to the spring game, I assumed Michigan was out of the picture.
I was wrong. Collins got to campus last week, and he told 247's Georgia outlet he has a new leader in the aftermath:
"Right now, Michigan has caught my eye," Collins said. "I fell in love with them on my visit. They might be my leader - with Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson pushing them. There is just something more with Michigan - they have a plan for you after college - plus their football program is pretty nice."
We'll see if that holds once the post-visit afterglow has faded. Even if the pack catches up, Michigan is in excellent position; Collins noted two important factors are his relationship with the coaches and the quarterback situation at each program—M should fare well on both counts.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]