...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Charity is good. Football is fun. Meeting former players is cool. One day before the Spring Game may be really cold, but that's not going to stop us from joining a heap of former Michigan players in a day of flag football and fun-having at Pioneer for charity. Wanna come?
The things of the goings on. The event will be a series of flag football games from 4-9 pm on Friday, April 4, between local kids' teams and two adult teams, each coached by a former Michigan player. Confirmed guys: Marlin Jackson (it's his event), Jason Avant, Jerome Jackson, Donovan Warren, Chris Perry, Cato June, Tim Massaquoi, Marcus Ray, Jeremy Gallon, Roy Manning, Brandon Williams, Jamar Adams, and Andy Mignery.
The adult game will be at halftime, after you've had some time to get coached up (and Heiko's had time to prepare his super-secret passing play for Gallon that he's been diagramming incessantly).
|If you find yourself with any of these guys there's a 66.7% you can talk about stuff you read on MGoBlog.|
After the games there will be an after-party for those who gave donations to hang out with the former players and collectively reminisce about Jason's catch against Iowa, or Jerome's 19-yard TD against Iowa, or Donovan's 3 PBU/1 INT performance against Iowa, etc.
The charity of the receiving. Marlin Jackson's Fight for Life Foundation is taking the same programming he's implemented so well in Indianapolis and launching it for Ann Arbor and environs. The programs give underprivileged kids access to critical educational opportunities. One's an SEL program for helping kids get and stay on track for their grade level in learning, reading, and communication skills. One's a program to give them access to artistic and self-actualization education (arts and music classes, basically). And one's a series of football camps so they can have access to things you get from team sports. Why we care.
The involvement of the you-like people. Want to be part of this? There are five sponsorship levels:
- Heisman ($5,000) – Great for a business looking to be a lead sponsor.
- All-American ($2,500) – Also great for a local business looking to be very visibly associated with this.
- All-Big Ten ($1,000) – Stepped down version of above.
Ha, Python joke. Or typo. Or maybe there's two more for those who want to play in the adult game:
- $250 – Gets you a roster spot
- $1500 – Gets you and five friends roster spots; you can all fight over the signed jersey.
Damien Harris: Not Gone, Gone, Gone, Woooooaaaahhhh
Sam Webb caught up with Damien Harris's mother in the wake of the former commit's visit last weekend; she had very positive things to say about Doug Nussmeier, and it sounds like her son still has Michigan on top ($):
“It was the same comfort,” Ms. Harris reported. “I know for me it was. I really haven’t gotten a chance to sit down with Damien and discuss it (at length) because he has been in school and practice since we got home. I did ask him (Monday) night, ‘did the feelings come back that you had initially with Michigan?’ He was like, ‘the feeling never left. I never loss [sic] any of the feeling that I had for Michigan.’
In fact, Ms. Harris went on to say that she believes her son's recruitment is a Michigan-OSU battle and the good guys have the edge. There are several visits yet to come—Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, and Wisconsin all got mentions—and a long way to go until Signing Day, when Harris now plans to announce his decision. Still, this is a very positive sign, and per 247's Steve Lorenz, Harris may be back on campus in the near future ($):
"I haven't talked to Damien about it yet, but I believe we will be back up in the spring, and possibly the summer too," [Ms. Harris] said. "There are other schools he's looking to visit right now, and if we're not able to make it during the off-season, we will be up for at least one game."
All indications since Harris's decommitment have been that Michigan is still his favorite school and he just wants to utilize the entire recruiting process to check out other schools and ensure he makes a well-informed decision. In my opinion, nothing has changed there; if anything, Harris developing a relationship with Nussmeier has only strengthened Michigan's position.
Speaking of top 2015 targets, in-state four-star ATH Brian Cole also visited over the weekend, he told Tim Sullivan what he's looking for in his recruitment ($):
"I'm just trying to find the truth," he said. "That's basically it, just trying to find the truth, see who's real and not real. I don't know how I'll figure it out.
"Everybody's even. Everybody's No. 1 right now."
Michigan State and Michigan have been his presumed leaders for a while, with the Spartans seemingly holding the edge. Cole had to cancel a planned trip to Wisconsin recently that he plans to reschedule; he's also fielding increased interest from Alabama and could visit there, too.
[Updates on Michigan's 2015 defensive back commits, a look at U-M's options at linebacker, and more after THE JUMP.]
2/26/2014 – Michigan 77, Purdue 76 (OT) – 20-7, 12-3 Big Ten
If you're wondering where I was last night on twitter, I was studiously avoiding it because I was in Auburn Hills watching Lydia Loveless refuse to stop playing music when the rest of you were watching Michigan play Purdue. Lydia Loveless is a machine built to play country music some people are now describing as "cowpunk."
There was no encore, just the increasing irritation of her band as the set went on and on and on. She gave them a break to play a couple songs by herself, and then eventually it became clear the show was over about three songs after she had clarified they had time for just one more. Then after the end of the set she asked the guy behind the bar if being out of time meant they had to stop. To his immense credit, the guy made a combo shrug/thumbs-up motion. Lydia Loveless donned a jacket and drafted her pedal steel guitar bandmate to cover
- Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."
- An Eagles song that I don't recall lyrics from but sounded enjoyable despite it being the Eagles.
- One Direction's "They Don't Know About Us."
These were all transformatively great. It was insane, worrying—I asked the MGoWife if someone would have to tackle Lydia Loveless off the stage for the show to end—and ultimately awesome.
So I watched the Purdue game despite not watching the Purdue game, and then I watched it again. The second time only moved the swearing from the entertainment to the viewer, and concluded more strangely.
It did not start strangely. It started like it always starts, with Michigan falling in a well. They have something like a 98% chance to hang a banner at the end of the year and they have ended up in double-digit first half holes in five games running. This has to be some sort of record. Someone sic a sports bureau on the combination of conference championships and consecutive games with double-digit deficits.
I'll be over here deciding not to throw a glass of whiskey either at the cat, or the TV, or going outside and throwing it as far as I can manage in the hopes it will turn into a CERTIFICATE OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS that will self-replicate 12 times and flit away into the hands of the Michigan basketball team. Perhaps then, assured that their grit and determination in the face of adversity has been demonstrated to the point of official, gilt recognition, they will f---ing stop it.
I don't know about you, but when the basketball team you are hoping wins gets down that much, the ensuing trudge back (if there is one) is an exercise in irrational hatred of everything. The OSU and MSU games were fine, as ten-point hole was ephemeral. Michigan quickly achieved near-parity and went from there. This one was an extended exercise in rolling around with a straight jacket on. I don't need them to play better or win more. I just need the points to be more evenly distributed across the 40 minutes of play. (I need them to play better and win more. More, always more.)
But hey, they won. On the backs of Glenn Robinson, Jordan Morgan, and Spike Albrecht, just like everyone expected.
Robinson in particular played a complete game the likes of which he has not put together in a long time: 17 points on 13 shot equivalents, eight rebounds, three assists, and one turnover. He generated a good number of his shots himself, against a defense that was amped up and aggressive on the perimeter.
I've made no secret of my frustration at Robinson's game this year. He hasn't seemed to add anything; meanwhile LeVert and Stauskas are entirely different players. His rebound rates are pedestrian at best. (He's currently tied with Derrick Walton in DREB rate.) I am still suspicious of his awareness on defense—his dude, Rapheal Davis, had five offensive rebounds one game after multiple MSU baskets were directly attributable to Robinson not getting back in transition.
And then sometimes, Lottery GRIII appears. Sometimes he elevates for a jumper that cannot be contested because getting your hand in his face would require cutting it off and throwing it at him. Sometimes there's a lob in the direction of the basket and he continues ascending after he makes the catch. Sometimes, though. Just sometimes.
At Michigan's time of need they knew Purdue would overplay Stauskas and that they should try to hit something over the top, because they needed one measly point and they had 2.9 seconds to get it. They drew up a lob pass with Spike screening GRIII's guy, and executed—barely.
The pass was a rainbow that managed to get over an outstretched hand but took its target a step too far outside, a step too far towards the baseline. Robinson took a power dribble as he landed from the catch to reset his feet; he did not gain the requisite distance as Spike's defender came in to harass him. It looked grim.
But there are people who can make a One Direction song sound poignant, and there are people who can catch alley-oops and hang there, untethered. Some people can leap from behind the backboard outside the paint and still be in the air five feet later, just where they need to be as the clock strikes zero.
Gotta shore up that free throw defense. If you screamed "MISS ONE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE" sometime in the second half with a Boiler at the line, you are not alone. The worst FT shooting team in the Big Ten hit 17 straight to open before the final, fateful miss; Michigan was a couple of shots behind their season average at 17/25. When all was said and done that was the difference between an extremely annoying but eventually comfortable win and TERROR IN CENTRAL INDIANA.
That business is just luck, pure and simple. At one point Stephen Bardo chalked it up to Purdue's "focus." Stephen Bardo could show up at a casino and praise the little old lady at the slots for her mental toughness when she hits a jackpot.
The hand of fate. A lot of these early holes seem like a series of completely random misses and makes. Michigan fell down against MSU early because Denzel Valentine hit a 30-footer and a running transition 3 while Michigan's generally excellent three point shooting put up a bunch of bricks; here Purdue gave up a half-dozen quality looks from three early and Michigan started 1/7 behind the line.
Meanwhile, Terone "Ann Arbor's All-American" Johnson hits his first four. Purdue isn't quite the crew of bricklayers they were last year but they're still 9th in conference at making threes and 11th at taking them, and at one point Michigan was 1/7 from three while Purdue was 5/10. Things returned to normal for the Boilers by the end; Michigan, not so much.
A very distributed night. If it was hard to pick out anything in particular anyone was doing right, that's because Michigan spread everything out. Six players grabbed offensive rebounds; five had at least three assists; six guys had at least eight points. Robinson and Morgan were your best players in terms of efficiency, but everyone was setting up everyone for shots so it was a team effort to get to 1.12 PPP despite shooting 6/23 from three.
Call it, for pant's sake. Heard today from someone who talked to a MAC assistant. Refereeing came up and he said that refs have a really tough job because they do all kinds of games for all kinds of conferences and they're told to call games differently based on what conference they're in. It will not surprise you that the Big Ten tells people to let things go way more than others.
This is cold comfort to Nik Stauskas today, I'm assuming. By the end of the game he was plunging into the lane and missing layups badly because he wasn't getting hammered on them. The standard of refereeing shifted dramatically from Sunday, when Bill Raftery deployed "nickel-dimer" a half dozen times in the first half, to Wednesday, when you had to ride over a guy's foot with a lawnmower to get a call. Unless it's Jordan Morgan, who will be told to stop bleeding all over the court and get up.
Just one of those nights. I had almost no problem with the shot selection aside from a couple of possessions where LeVert dribbled around for 15 seconds and hoisted one; Robinson also had a couple of nononoYES long twos. The 23 attempts from behind the arc were almost entirely great looks, because Purdue gives up great looks from three quite a bit. They're dead last in conference by some distance at permitting three point looks.
The crappy shooting got in Michigan's head. There was one transition opportunity on which Caris passed up an open corner three from the run-away-I-know-it's-good spot, whereupon Michigan turned the ball over. I exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL"; the TV informed me that John Beilein had just exclaimed "SHOOT THE BALL" and I felt better.
Spike! Kept Walton stapled to the bench despite the terrifying prospect of a Spike-vs-pick-a-Johnson defensive matchup, and it paid off. He grabbed a rare two-point bucket, stole the ball twice, set up Morgan for two of his OT flushes, and had one bad ass alley-oop to Robinson.
Walton didn't do much other than shoot some threes against the persnickety perimeter defense of the Johnsons; Spike was better able to find shots for his teammates. "Luxury" doesn't begin to cover Albrecht's status on the roster.
RPI Effect Only Teams
RPI is dumb. It is overly simplistic, dumb, unhinged from reality, and stupid. But because the Committee looks at RPI, and this section is called “RPI Effect Only Teams,” We may as well look at RPI. Ugh.
Two teams are as bad in the RPI as they are in the bouncy shooty areas. Out of 351 teams, Houston Baptist (6-22) is #344, and South Carolina State (9-17) is #334. These are terrible teams in hindsight, and they were terrible when they were scheduled. UMass-Lowell (9-18) at #286 and Coppin State (9-18) at #254 are mildly ahead of their KenPom rankings, but is also remain very very bad. On the other hand, Long Beach State (12-14) at #150 is behind their KenPom ranking (110). Charlotte (14-12) is at #163, which you’ll probably see several times in the coming weeks because DAMN YOU, PUERTO RICOOOOOOOO.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (22-5, 10-5 Big 12)
This week: Won @ TCU (71-60), Beat West Virginia (83-66)
Michigan and Iowa State continue their bracketology pas de deux, duking it out for one of the final 3-seeds. Iowa State is still projected to lose two more games (trips to Kansas State and Baylor).
Florida State (16-11, 7-8 ACC)
This week: Won @ Pitt (71-66)
The Seminoles are going to be a bubble team right to the end here. A win over Pitt puts them back in the picture, but they probably need at least four more wins. They have Georgia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse, and the ACC tournament left, so the clock is not their friend.
#6 Dook (23-6, 12-4 ACC)
This week: Beat Virginia Tech (66-48)
We ran into a serious glitch in the Matrix this week, when someone dared to pick against KenPom:
Like Norlander has a feeling about Bradley, I have a feeling about Virginia Tech tonight. Sorry, Dukies. #UpsetAlert
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 25, 2014
I feared this would be one of those space-time continuum things, but just like in Back to the Future, those rules apparently don’t apply. Then again, I’m not sure there was much, even a KenPom-initiated KenPom jinx, that could have affected the outcome of a game between Duke (who is good at basketball) and Virginia Tech (who is okay at football). The lowest win probability Duke had all night was 97.5% when VaTech closed the gap to 3-2 about 90 seconds into the game.
#3 Arizona (26-2, 13-2 PAC 12)
This week: Won @ Colorado (88-61), Beat Cal (87-59)
Okay, so maybe I was a little quick on the "Arizona is dead" trigger. They plowed a couple of decent (like Minnesota/Nebraska-level) teams in Colorado and Cal. It appears they finally found a tactical solution to the absence of Brandon Ashley, and that solution is "have Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon and let them do things."
Stanford (18-9, 9-6 PAC 12)
This week: Beat UCLA (83-74) [EDIT: and lost to Arizona State in the middle of the night, (76-64)]
Bracket folks seem to have Stanford around an 8-seed right now, which probably means they’re going dancing barring an epic collapse.
[AFTER THE JUMP: The Big Ten picture becomes clearer]
UNBELIEVABLE. LET'S NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN.