A man who knew how to live.
RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.
Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.
I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:
There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.
Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.
This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.
Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.
If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.
YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.
Leach + Ufer. Via Dr. Sap:
Enter the 30 second shot clock. The NIT is experimenting with that and an NBA-size restricted circle, both of which are changes I can get behind as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL CRISIS skeptic. Kenpom notes that the Vegas over/unders for opening-round NIT games differ from his numbers by…
Predicted total score of Tuesday’s NIT gamesMe Market Ala/Ill 126 136 GW/Pitt 125 136 NCC/Miami 117 129 UTEP/Murray 144 151 Mont/TAMU 125 134 UCD/Stan 140 148 Iona/URI 144 152
The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.
…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.
If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.
Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.
I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.
But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:
Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.
Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.
If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.
Harbaugh is hands on. Knuckle placement.
Hearing about it is one thing.
But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?
Well, things get real at that point.
"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.
"So, I enjoyed it."
"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."
More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.
Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:
It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.
Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)
On long practices. Joe Bolden:
“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”
This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.
— cuppycup (@cuppycup) March 17, 2015
Etc.: Engineering your bracket. MGoGirl basketball post mortem. Jordan Morgan has a foundation now. John Harbaugh talking to the team. Enter another Glasgow. A comprehensive look at when to foul late in basketball games.
With the regular signing period for the 2015 class less than a month away, it's time for one of our every-so-often basketball recruiting roundups. Headlining this edition is a visit from one of the best players in the country.
Jaylen Brown Sets Official
2015 GA SF Jaylen Brown, the #2 overall prospect in the country, has twice had to cancel planned official visits to Michigan due to scheduling conflicts. The third time should be the charm, as Sam Webb reports he's set to visit later this week:
Scout's #1 player in 2015, Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler SF Jaylen Brown is slated to visit #Michigan Thursday and Friday of this week
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 16, 2015
A potential commitment from Brown would have a significant impact on the outlook for next season, but Michigan faces daunting competition: Brown has also visited Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UCLA, in addition to the in-state pairing of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Everyone's favorite one-and-done factory currently leads his 247 Crystal Ball picks.
Brown is one of two 2015 prospects left on Michigan's radar with one scholarship available, making the not-so-safe assumption that Caris LeVert stays and Max Bielfeldt doesn't return. The other, far more likely option is German forward Moritz Wagner, who added a scholarship offer during his official visit for the Rutgers game.
[Several class of 2016 updates after THE JUMP.]
Kenpom. The all-knowing. This year's best team not invited was #45 Florida. The worst team in is #250 Hampton. I had to know, so I looked up the worst team in the history of Kenpom (since 2002) to be invited to the Dance. It's Mississippi Valley State, the 298th team in 2008.
In fact there's a pretty enormous drop-off from most of the 16 seeds and the MEAC and SWAC entrants, who had an average Pyth of 0.296 (i.e. they'd win less than 30% of their games vs. an average opponent). For reference, the worst Big Ten teams in that span (2003-2005 Penn State) were .361, .334, and .341 respectively. In fact I only found six power conference teams—2013 TCU, 2008 Oregon State, 2012 Utah, 2013 Mississippi State, 2012 BC and 2011 Wake Forest—who've ever been worse than the average MEAC or SWAC champion. I get the part about giving the top seeds basically a bye, but the tournament can find more deserving small schools than whoever won a conference tournament whose competition level is below that of many high school leagues.
For what it's worth, Kentucky this year is the best team in the history of Kenpom. The only two in sniffing distance were 2008 Kansas and 2013 Louisville.
Seth's Annual Matchup Maker. This lets you set a chaos factor and match any two opponents, immediately seeing where the game will be played and any relevant injuries. You just input the teams and the round. Front page looks thus:
The Power Rank. Listeners to Brian's weekly roundtable on WTKA know Ed Feng. Ed creates this:
(right is zoomed)
…interactive chart using his win probabilities so you can see how stupid your picks are relative to each other. Run around the circle to make sure you haven't picked a dead in the water first round upset, but I think he's best at end game. This year you can see Kentucky is in a league of its own, then Zona, Duke, Nova, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and Virginia are a clear second tier.
Bracket Science Bracketmaster. Peter Tiernan is getting better at monetizing his comprehensive bracket database, which is unfortunate because I really liked to use the Bracketmaster for patterns, like what kind of team does Wisconsin usually lose to in the tourney, has this coach been to the Dance before, and things that super hardcore NCAA basketball fans know and I don't know offhand because I was off the wagon for a time. If you don't mind paying (there are far worse people you can give money to than Tiernan) you can get all the goodies, but the free stuff is great for narratives, for example if you want to track how Big Ten teams have fared since 2005 vs other Power Confs:
WSJ's Blind Comparison. The Wall Street Journal's blindfold bracket is your bias check, though this year they didn't do, opting instead for a slider-based bracket generator using things like "defense wins championships!"
Disclaimer: You will be wrong.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG
Please publish this anonymously because my fiancé didn't even want me to take this picture.
We're getting married at the Union this summer. Harbaugh is crazy, but not crazy enough to show up, right? Do we need to worry about a hora with enthusiasm unknown to mankind?
Thanks, and love the blog,
First: that's what we did when we got married. Did you get the Pendleton Room for the reception? It has a painting of Yost in it. That's what sold me (that and the fact it was the only appropriately-sized room in town).
Anyway. To your question.
You have committed a grave mistake. Harbaugh has just asked a 2016 recruit to prom, and they are still slightly disorganized after coming in from the NFL and scrambling to fill their 2015 class. The chances are high that they assume you are a recruit, or somehow connected to an important recruit, and show up in force at your wedding. There they will demand your brand new wife run 40s in heels. Your mother will be badgered into voluntary summer workouts. Both will leave arm-in-arm with JayBaugh.
Your only consolation is that the younger Harbaugh will not have an arm to cradle the Lombardi Trophy that he carries with him everywhere, but can you confide in the Lombardi Trophy? Can you snuggle next to it for warmth on cold nights? Will it make you breakfast? No, no, and no. Your future is a bleak one, sitting across from a cold metallic unfeeling brick, trying to make small talk over endless breadsticks and salad. The Lombardi Trophy's only reaction will be to reflect a hideously distorted version of yourself back to your eyes.
Sounds like hell, anonymous. A hell you willingly signed up for when you taunted fate. We will remember you alongside our most foolish archetypes.
Brian- I realize I'm probably not the only one to think this but if Rudock does come and Speight seems serviceable as a backup will they try and redshirt Morris if they think he's a viable option down the road?
I know there's gentry, Malzone and O'Korn as well but possibly this would give them another QB option.
It is possible. Mid-career redshirts are rare but there's no rule against it, and if Speight is as good or better there's no reason to not give yourself the option.
That might be in Morris's best interest either way. He enrolled early, so it wouldn't be too hard for him to get a degree after this year a la Gardner, and then he'd have two to play somewhere if it didn't work out here. And if a guy a class behind you beats you out for the #2 spot, it's probably not going to work out.
I was wondering if you could explain or if you even knew about any future BIG hockey expansion? I've started following BIG hockey and just wondered why Nebraska, Rutgers, and other schools do not have hockey programs if the BIG dishes our tens of millions of dollars each year. I am a hockey NOOB and just thought the BIG could be a legitimate conference if more teams (and even OSU) put any effort into making hockey decent. Thanks.
814 East U
The Big Ten shouldn't have to have more teams putting in effort to make hockey decent. Michigan and Minnesota are two of the sport's glamour programs, constantly stocked with NHL talent and near-perennial NCAA tournament participants. The have 15 national titles between them. Wisconsin has been more up and down recently but has six titles to their name. Michigan State was a national power until they hired Rick Comley and Tom Anastos back-to-back.
That's four of the six teams in the league clearly capable of being powers. Minnesota and Wisconsin are annually towards the top of the attendance leaderboard, and Michigan still more or less sells out Yost every year. Then you have Penn State, which is new but has an attractive rink and sold-out experience to offer kids. It's really only Ohio State—which plays in their inappropriately cavernous basketball arena to indifferent, sparse fans—that has an uphill battle towards respectability.
In fact, the second-most prominent complaint about the Big Ten's formation* was that it would spell the end of college hockey's charming mix of big time and small time competitors. Instead the Big Ten is in the same spot Atlantic Hockey is: vaguely hoping for a second bid one day. This is not how it was supposed to be.
But anyway that's not your question. There are two main hurdles to adding a hockey program: the arena and Title IX.
With limited exceptions, the correct size for a hockey arena is mid-four digits. Trying to shoehorn hockey into a basketball arena results in a tepid crowd and is a major drag on your program; also many arenas weren't built with a conversion like that in mind. Penn State's program was kickstarted by a 100 million dollar donation from Terry Pegula, the new Sabers owner. Similar seed money is just about required to boost any extant club hockey team to the varsity level.
Title IX adds a big hunk of expenses to your program. Hockey is popular enough that it can turn a small profit in the right situation. Penn State was 150k in the black in just its second year of existence; Michigan's program is also a net positive. If that was the end of it, all you'd have to do is pony up for the right arena and be done with it, but Title IX mandates you add a women's team of some variety. That team will have a revenue of approximately zero. It will not have zero expenses. With the BTN influx most schools could probably afford that expense, but it is something to consider.
One man's ranking of B10 schools by likelihood they would add hockey at some point:
- Iowa. Iowa is the epicenter of the USHL, the NCAA's primary feeder league. Iowa is financially stable and their fans have a demonstrated passion. Wrestling may be a small issue since it competes for attention.
- Nebraska. Iowa, except further west. Lincoln in fact already has a USHL team that plays in an arena of about 4k that has had good attendance. Nebraska's new basketball arena does have the capacity to put down ice, which has gone through a test drive. There has been sporadic chatter about adding a program that the AD has thus far shut down.
- Northwestern. Would need a large gift to create an arena. If that does happen it then makes a lot of sense, as there is a lot of local talent and high academic schools have proven their competitiveness over the years.
- Illinois. In the middle of nowhere, which is good for attendance. A basketball school, though, which raises questions about whether hockey will get requisite attention. One of the reasons Penn State has been so successful is that their fans are desperate for something other than pain after football season ceases. MSU has struggled with attention and attendance even when they were very good because basketball takes up so much headspace.
- Purdue. Neither Indiana team seems particularly likely to add hockey what with the state obsession with basketball.
- Indiana. See Purdue.
- Maryland. Financial basket case that slashed a ton of sports and only joined the Big Ten to mitigate the damage they'd done themselves.
- Rutgers. See Maryland, minus a fanbase.
You could see Iowa and Nebraska in the next ten years; anything after Illinois is highly unlikely.
*[#1 was the disruption of the Minnesota-centric WCHA and Michigan-centric CCHA, losses that are keenly felt by many long-time college hockey fans. I myself miss the old days more than I thought I would.]
Tom Osborne is watching your punting
I went to the Sloan Sports Analytics conference last month and the college football panel was by far the most memorable. About six minutes in, Rachel Nichols asked a member of the playoff selection committee (Oliver Luck) what metrics were most important in helping to separate the top four teams from the rest. Here is the brunt of his answer transcribed:
“It’s difficult to say that there were any bits of data that everybody on the committee shared and agreed [upon] because that was really left up to [each of] us. I can tell you [that] Tom Osborne: great football coach, nobody is going to question Tom Osborne’s integrity, or his intelligence, or his football knowledge [and] he loved the kicking game . . . [H]e would spend a lot of time looking at all the data on the kicking game for all these teams in question. Others would look at other data."
My friend and I (almost) had to leave the room we started laughing so hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that adopting the spread punt is overblown. THAT'S HOW THEY CHOOSE BETWEEN PLAYOFF TEAMS.
P.S.—Here is the link to the video (question starts at 06:40). You can watch it by starting a free trial and then cancel right after. I was hoping they’d upload it to the conference page by now but I couldn't wait any longer to share. Also, not nearly as worried about Penn State after listening to James Franklin spout nonsense for an hour.
I'm not entirely sure, Travis. "Go look at punting stats" sounds like a quintessential "go away" job.
The committee has Tom Osborne. Osborne spends most of his time rattling on about the Spanish-American War and declares every team after 1960 ineligible for the playoff. The committee says "Tom, you are a legend and we respect you immensely, and as you've said a thousand times in the last hour, punting is the most important part of the game. So have we got a project for you." Tom goes off and collates punting stats; committee swiftly chooses teams that don't punt.
This was titled "mailbag question" despite not being one.
I hate Wisconsin basketball.
I feel that sincerity, Erik.
the nice bit of the tourney [Patrick Barron]
A three phase season, with the beginning promising, the middle terribly disappointing, and the end promising again, but for next year. The Irvin surge. Freshman bigs: bad. Doyle: thus promising.
Minutes distribution. Hello: Moritz Wagner? X factor overuse. Deep, deep team next year. LeVert? Yes please sir.
"Across 110th Street"
"Intermission," Monty Python
"Dark Days," PUP
"Anti-Summersong," The Decemberists
THE USUAL LINKS
Friday, March 13, 2015
Michigan State 3, Michigan 5
MSU 0 UM 1 EV 03:54 Dancs (3) from Compher (12) and Nieves (18)
Michael Downing starts the break with a nice outlet pass through the defensive zone and into the neutral zone that ends up on Boo Nieves’ stick. Nieves taps it ahead to Dexter Dancs, who dumps the puck behind the net.
JT Compher, in the middle of the ice in the above screen cap, skates to the goaltenders left to get the puck. He turns sharply as a defenseman closes on him. Meanwhile, Dancs has cut across the ice and is now in the net-front area. Compher backhands a pass to him.
You can see from the above screen cap that MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand has eliminated the success of a wraparound by locking down both posts. The downside to this, from his perspective, is that the top of the net is exposed over both shoulders. This is a low-stakes gamble unless the puck comes out from behind the net quicker than he can react to, which is what happens. Dancs has to lift his shot and he does, placing it over Hildbrand’s shoulder on the far side.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]