At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
MI TE Devin Funchess was on campus, and he has a sister who attends Michigan.
MI OL Ben Braden was on campus Sunday, and received a Michigan offer.
IN DT Sheldon Day grew up a Michigan fan ($, info in header), and was on campus over the weekend. Day's highlight video:
WI LB Vince Biegel spoke with Tom about his Michigan visit last weekend:
He's going out to BYU in a few weeks and then he'll probably make his decision after taking in a few spring practices. After this visit Wisconsin is still the leader, but he said that he will definitely be back in Ann Arbor for a spring practice to see how the coaches coach.
Tom gets the feeling Wisconsin still leads, but the more times he hits campus, the better the Wolverines' chance to shake him free.
OH S Allen Gant didn't receive a Michigan offer when he was on campus last week. He plans to make it back to campus March 26th, but likely won't receive an offer until summer camp.
OH OL Caleb Stacey will visit Ann Arbor tomorrow.
- OH TE AJ Williams (not yet set in stone).
- OH OL Kyle Dodson. He grew up a Buckeye fan, but is warming up to the Wolverines ($, info in header).
- OH DE Pharoah Brown.
- MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone.
Tom will post an updated visitors list as the weekend grows nearer. For his part, Williams is interested in academics - particularly kinesiology - which is a huge boost to Michigan's chances. He wants to decide by June.
MI WR/TE Ron Thompson will visit Michigan this spring ($, info in header).
OH QB Austin Appleby talked to Tom last week:
"In a perfect world, [I will decide] by the end of June or early July. I am planning on attending a few camps and I don't know what doors may open. I know it will be by August 1st for sure."
Appleby will visit Michigan April 2nd.
IL DT Tommy Schutt will visit Michigan this spring.
MI OL Chase DeBack has been invited to Michigan's March 26th Junior Day. With a name like that, why oh why isn't he a defensive end or linebacker.
Michigan has offered TN RB I'Tavius Mathers.
IA WR Amara Darboh has been on fire lately, picking up offers from the likes of Michigan. Michigan State, and Florida.
MN OL Jonah Pirsig has picked up a Michigan offer.
MO OL Evan Boehm has a Michigan offer.
UT DE Troy Hinds has picked up a Michigan offer.
MD OL Mike Madaras, one of the Good Counsel contingent, has committed to Maryland. And he was willing to talk Michigan as recently as last week ($, info in header). We hardly knew ye. No word on whether that will affect the recruitments of Stefon Diggs (a newly-anointed five-star), Wes Brown, et al.
IL OL Dan Voltz committed to Wisconsin last night. He had been planning to visit Michigan this weekend, so that's a downer for the Wolverines.
TX DE Mario Edwards is a top national prospect who had some Michigan interest, but he has committed to Florida State.
CO QB Cyler Miles is getting interest (but no offer yet) from Michigan. If the Wolverines want a shot at the kid, they may have to offer pretty soon, because he plans to decide over the summer ($, info in header). If he doesn't get a couple of the offers he wants by then, he might extend the process longer.
Michigan is showing the most interest in MI TE Matt Doneth:
Doneth also admitted that he lives in a firmly "Spartan household" but with Michigan showing him the most love recently, he would be willing to "Go Blue" if they offer.
The article mentions that he's most interested in Ivy League schools, so a scholarship offer from the next best thing might be hard to resist.
Michigan is in the top four for IN TE Pierre Aka ($, info in header).
FL OL Avery Young has been invited to the US Army All-American Game.
IL DT Vincent Valentine holds a Michigan offer, and will take his time with the recruiting process:
He wants to take some unofficial visits this spring and summer to get a feel for some of the schools he hasn't yet seen. "I'll probably take my officials after my football season so I can stayed focused on the season for us," he said. "I think I'll get my decision in by January or December."
There's still a long way to go in his recruitment, but he talks about his game as well:
"[coaches] were just saying they liked my tenacity, they liked my aggressiveness, they liked the way I get to the ball and my hustle," Valentine said....
"I just love to hit people, most of all," he said. "I love hustling to the ball, getting there and making plays for my team. If you're on the O-line, you don't really get that much shine. I love getting the shine by playing defensive tackle."
He's a likely 5-star player, but there's plenty of competition: Iowa signed his teammate, RB Rodney Coe, last month.
MI DT/DE Matt Godin might make a decision "any day" - or could extend the process ($, info in header).
PA DE Noah Spence is very interested in Michigan, but won't make a decision any time soon. He plans to visit Ann Arbor with his dad this summer.
Michigan is in the top 7 for GA DE Jarontay Jones, along with Florida, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Per the linked message board post, Florida and Auburn are the top two.
IL LB Antonio Morrison is interested in Michigan.
Last week's Sam Webb column breaks down the top talent in the state, March Madness-style. MI LB James Ross has a USC offer. Rivals fluff on WA OL Zach Banner. NC OL Brock Stadnik will participate in the 2012 Under Armour Game. CA S Shaquille Thompson decommitted from Cal ($, info in header), so Michigan may get another shot at him before his Army Game announcement. NJ LB Kaiwan Lewis may be getting a Michigan offer soon.
John Beilein says "forks up" to his NCAA tourney bid
Pensive Dave Ablauf is not so sure
Trends. Tennessee is coming at this 8-9 game from a totally different place than Michigan: once entrenched in the top ten in the polls, Tennessee's season started off a cliff after a home loss to Oakland and never really recovered. Where Michigan has won 9 of 13 and was only beaten solidly by national #1 seed Ohio State during that stretch, Tennessee enters the tournament having lost 7 of 11 with two of those wins against terrible South Carolina. (To be fair, two of the losses were by one point, one against two seed Florida.)
That win against Pitt seems like a decade ago.
Defenses. Dylan points out that national commentators still hung up on the idea that Beilein is primarily running a 1-3-1—something that hasn't been true for two years—could have backed their way into some correct analysis.
What's the thing Michigan is guaranteed to give up when they switch to the 1-3-1? An open corner three. What's a shot you're comfortable with Tennessee taking? An open corner three not from Scotty Hopson. No Vol other than Hopson is shooting better than 32%. They've got a guy (Cameron Tatum) with 119 attempts who's shooting 28%—imagine what your reaction would be if half of Darius Morris's shots were threes.
So okay fine. Then add in the main benefit of the 1-3-1: turnovers generated. Tennessee has a tough defense and brutally effective offensive rebounders. Getting turnovers helps mitigate both advantages, and if they're settling for threes long rebounds are at least less likely to result in immediate putbacks.
OTOH, Tennessee's much bigger than Michigan and the 1-3-1 really prefers long guys who can make skip passes arc enough for the defense to recover so they don't give up open corner threes. Also the primary weakness of the defense is allowing (drumroll) tons of offensive rebounds. There's a chance it could backfire spectacularly.
I bet Beilein gives it a whirl at some point just in case it turns UT into a gibbering mess. Judging from the internet, Vols fans aren't impressed with their team's basketball IQ. And if you're not judging from the internet, you're on the wrong internet.
Sign those scrubs up. I'm not sure if this is real or just motivational but I'm hoping it's the former:
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
I checked the comments and sure enough there's a wag suggesting that if either of the scrubs can hit threes they should replace Tatum.
If this is a real thing Tennessee has trouble with in the game, it will be up to Novak to take advantage. Woolridge was playing the perimeter four and "messed [them] up good." I'm a little concerned about this since Novak's also got the toughest defensive assignment as he attempts to check 6'8" Tobias Harris. Novak's shooting slump earlier coincided with a lot of tough defensive work against guys bigger than him. I'll take open threes, though.
Tobias. The aforementioned matchup is high on Tennessee's radar:
“We’re ready for Tobias to have a big night in there, ya feel me?” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “Obviously we want to expose that, because Tobias is obviously one of the best players on our team. We’re looking forward to getting the ball inside more and taking advantage of (Michigan’s) lack of posts.”
Harris is a freshman with approximately Hardaway-level usage shooting 49% from two and 31% from 3. He's got a Morris-like distribution between the two. (IE: he takes a ton of twos and the occasional three.) Zack Novak is short. On the other hand, Michigan can double off anyone not named Hopson and what's Tennessee going to do, have Tatum shoot a three?
Michigan's gotten a lot of experience dealing with a post guy matched up with one shooter—three games against OSU's Sullinger-Diebler combo—and has frequently doubled from the baseline to force long skip passes. That burned Michigan against OSU's better-than-competent non-Diebler shooters (Lighty, Buford, and Craft are all around 40(!) percent from three). Maybe not so much against the Vols.
Etc.: Beilein gettin' forky with it comes from his personal site's "behind the scenes" post on Selection Sunday. Dylan and I used a bunch of the same links but he's got some extra at UMHoops. Tennessee fans say Michigan reminds them of a Pearl team, which… um… thanks? Oriental Andrew collects links too. The Fab Five's '93 matchup against GW.
Notes from Brady Hoke's meeting with the press today.
- "Floyd won't play as much this spring because he's coming off surgery."
- "Woolfolk is getting better, but at the same time it wouldn't be very intelligent of us to have him doing a whole lot out there."
- "Kenny Demens will be a little bit limited because of the shoulder surgery he had."
- "Teric Jones is out for sure. Mike Shaw broke his hand the other day, falling on the turf and trying to catch himself. So he'll be limited on Saturday for sure," but will play with a cast after that. Teric Jones's injury is a "significant" one to his knee. It's too early to say whether he'll be out or limited in the fall.
Position changes: Will Campbell will play 3-tech. He's bounced back and forth, but has done a good job with conditioning this spring. "It would be too early for us to make any [other] changes, because we don't know what they can do anyway, to be honest with you."
There will be no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status until his fourth year. (So stop asking about it).
MSU and OSU countdown clocks: "Those are pretty important games. And we want to think about those important games every day." Some outside his office, some down by the locker room "That's it for now, I think."
Scholarship numbers: "We should be at 84, I believe."
General Spring Notes
Spring game - "Wait until we get there and see. We'd like to play a true, competitive 'seniors draft the teams' Spring Game." Not sure if there's enough depth to do that.
Spring success: "It won't ever be a success," because here's always something that they can do better. Need to improve on field, in classroom, in community. Installation of offense, etc.
There will be a few practices open to the media this spring, but none have been determined yet.
Excited to get started. Only seen guys in conditioning and the weight room so far. Still won't see them with pads until after Monday - that's when they'll know what they have. 3 non-padded practices, including first 2 and the day of the coaches' clinic.
"We're gonna hit a lot. And then we'll see where we're at as a team." Have to get a look at the team, and at the players. If guys prove themselves, they might not hit as much to avoid injury.
"Spring is always important because I think it gives you an ability to have competition. The one thing you'll find out is this is competition on a daily basis." Even the guys who have already played need to continue to compete because other guys will step up.
First things to evaluate: attitude, effort, toughness, accountability. Everything starts with mentality and toughness. A lot of unknowns "Try and create an environment that's going to have toughness with it and effort with it and a mentality of how you play." Need to develop guys from a fundamental and technique standpoint.
Will go back to what he's done at last two stops when coming in. "It all starts there. And it's worked." Players need to learn how the practice runs, etc.
Strength and conditioning is not only to develop physically, but also develop an attitude: "No one's going to beat us. And it's an earned attitude."
The Team (The Team, The Team)
Hasn't watched a lot of film on past performances. Doesn't want preconceived notions of how guys play. You don't know how they've been coached, so you don't want a bad impression in case the coaching wasn't up to par.
Denard - "He's a kid who loves to play the game, he's hungry to play the game. There's some things at that position, because of the offense, he's going to have to get comfortable in." Mostly under center, not exclusively. Both QBs have done a good job learning the intricacies of the new O, but they still have a lot to learn. "Taking a snap from center, I know they've worked on that little bit out their on their own." Borges has enough experience to properly manage what the QBs do.
RBs - "I think right now, we've gotta see who can run the power play. Get downhill and do the things we want them to do as an offensive player." Haven't used TEs and fullbacks as much, need to develop them as well.
OL - Molk has played a lot of football, is a good player. He'll start on the first play of the spring, along with most of the guys who have played a lot. If they don't play with toughness and effort "they can always move down." Funk will find top 7-8 guys.
Some positions have guys who have played a lot of football, such as Mike Martin at DT. Need to continue improving his game even though he's played.
Hoke will coach a lot of special teams with Coach Ferrigno. Will also coach the Sam 'backer during some parts of practice. Wants to be hands-on, and can also offer something there.
Woolfolk position - "I can't answer that position question] for sure. Until we get to really watch him run around and what he can do." Right now, likely stays at corner. "Safeties, we're not bad. Corners, not as good" depth-wise.
FG kicking - "Part of it is a confidence level that guys have or don't have." Getting more reps with the expectation of doing it perfectly will help.
Chris Barnett's relationship with Baron Flenory - "I'm not going to get into a kid's personal life. If he wants to talk about it, he can talk about it." He was mature about how he visited and went through the recruiting process.
Future recruiting: "We're making progress. We've had quite a few kids on unofficials, and will continue through the spring."
Helmet stickers - hasn't given it any further thought.
Not worried about finalizing his contract.
Relationships with players - "I think it's always evolving." It's been positive, and he has very good communication with them.
Oversigning: "I think the Big Ten's policy is probably one that everyone should be able to live with." Can't speak for other coaches, or claim they mislead kids.
The current scoreboards will be fully taken down within the next week or so, and the Athletic Department will announce around that time which company has been awarded the contract for the new scoreboards. Once they make that announcement, artist's renderings will be available. The scoreboards will be completed in August.
Movin' on up. Prepare to be annoyed:
Michigan has increased ticket prices for the 2011 football season.
Individual game tickets will be $70 for games against Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State, Minnesota and Purdue. The night game against Notre Dame, and the Nebraska and Ohio State games are considered "premium" games and will cost $85.
Michigan hasn't raised prices in seven years, so some increase was overdue but tickets went up slightly less than twenty dollars on average. I'm not sure how much more the market will bear, and neither is the U—they're offering partial season ticket packages now. Clearly they've eaten through most, if not all, of the waitlist and are now in a situation where they're going to have to get creative to fill the stadium.
Insert the usual muttering about short-term corporate thinking here.
This. Chunkums has been deployed:
Speaking of. I was extremely glad to see a post from Doctor Saturday titled "The worst thing about Jim Tressel" that coldly lays out why tatgate should be met with a much stronger response from the NCAA than OSU's two-game wrist tickling. I'm a partisan so the thought that my reaction to the affair is loony is always present. This helps mitigate that:
…not only did Tressel maintain his silence to the NCAA. Not only did he lie to reporters. Not only did he not cut his losses and take his medicine, like a humbled man who had already gotten away with something. Instead, he actively pushed the envelope to keep the ineligible players — now officially ruled ineligible by the NCAA — on the field. Like an inside man in a robbery watching his accomplices being led away in handcuffs, bailing them out of jail and coming back for the rest of the money anyway. (And then publicly lecturing them about their crime.) Ohio State treated winning the Sugar Bowl like an end to itself, a big score, and risked everything — or at least the first half of the 2011 season — to get it.
And it worked.
Hinton later says the NCAA "almost can't go far enough" after Ohio State hoodwinked them into allowing those guys to play in the Sugar Bowl. He's a Southern Miss alum who is the "shades of gray" guy he claims at the beginning of the piece and is invulnerable to the HATERZ response*, so… yeah. This is a big deal.
*[Except he's not because people who say HATERZ cannot be dissuaded from saying HATERZ.]
We're going to kill you for your attempted help. If you thought it would be bad news for the lawyer who tipped Tressel off, you're right:
Cicero, a walk-on player at Ohio State in the early 1980s, said he has received a few death threats this week. Tressel became an assistant coach at Ohio State during Cicero's senior year in 1983.
"I'm not the Judas in this situation, you know. I feel like Peter, but I'm not the Judas," Cicero said.
This isn't LOLOHIO. After watching the Fab Five documentary I'm sure there are Michigan fans scribbling out racist letters to Jalen Rose who would be happy to forward along a death threat to any Michigan equivalent of Cicero. I mention it just because everyone saw this coming despite Cicero's obvious affection for the program. Actually, wait—I just remembered Ryan Hamby got death threats for dropping a pass. Scratch that. Resume LOLOHIO.
Cicero has some harsher words, too, for the guy who turned his effort to help into a major scandadl.
Playoff one, playoff two, playoff three. Doc Sat has also provided his official playoff proposal, one that hews fairly close to the one I keep pushing. (Also there's a long post aimed at a playoff skeptic if anyone's interested in the philosophical reasons.) Mine is built around a restricted field of six teams, no autobids, byes, and home games. His is built around a slightly less restricted field of ten teams, autobids, byes, and home games.
I like mine better—which is why it's mine—because I'd rather live in a world where this year's UConn team isn't a lamb to be slaughtered when a small field is necessarily going to leave some teams with a vague chance of winning the whole thing out. DocSat's still grasps the three-point tao of a college football playoff:
- Reward in-season success more heavily than most playoffs do by having byes and allow teams to play at home.
- Restrict the size of the field so 9-3 teams are told to GTFO.
- Create a system that guarantees the last team standing also has the best resume.
The more I think about that last one the more I think it would be hard to create a playoff that didn't do this as long as you kept the field relatively small, but the byes and home games aid greatly.
The gun. Every time I start talking about what Michigan's offense is going to look like under Al Borges it comes back to one simple question: they can't really put Denard under center, can they? They can, it seems, but they won't all the time:
Q: How do you tweak the offense to suit Denard Robinson’s strengths?
A: We’re a pro-style offense. We’re not going to be shotgun every play. But we’ll probably favor a little more gun now than we did last year at State, and we ran quite a bit of shotgun last year.
But because of him, and some of the things you can do in the gun with him, we’ll be in a little more gun than we have in the past. But to say we’re going to be a gun team? No, we’re going to line up under center and come downhill on our runs.
Operating from behind center with Denard limits his running to Incredibly Surprising QB Draws, Incredibly Surprising Bootleg Passes, and scrambles Denard almost refused to take last year. It's hard to see how Michigan gets Robinson the thousand yards rushing Borges said they'd like from him unless they use the gun plenty, and it's good to see something explicit saying they will.
I bet people don't like going under center and in crunch time it's an offense that looks quite a bit like last year's—remember the read option was not a huge feature.
Elsewhere in that Q&A from the luncheon, Borges repeats the thing about getting Robinson prepared for the NFL that we've heard since the new guys arrived. This I don't like so much. I don't care if Robinson impresses NFL scouts with his footwork on a seven-step drop for many reasons. It doesn't win football games, for one. For two, NFL scouts won't care how impressive his footwork is because he'll be a wide receiver on draft boards. He's 5'11" tops. He's not playing quarterback in the NFL unless he turns into Lightspeed Drew Brees, and while I love Denard in a way Leviticus (PAYNE) would disapprove of that's highly unlikely.
Boo. Bruins Draft watch scouts 2012 hockey commit Boo Nieves:
…excellent NHL prospect given his natural size, skating and offensive skills. At 6-3, 185 has the frame to be an attractive option in the pros when he fills out. Outstanding skater who accelerates quickly and is extremely agile and elusive. Explosive burst and separation gear; can turn defenders easily as he attacks with speed to the outside and isn't afraid to go into traffic. Excellent stickhandler; confident with the puck and wants it on his stick. Highly creative and just seems to have a knack for making plays all over the offensive zone.
There's a couple paragraphs more at the link; the upshot is that Nieves is a potential first rounder if he continues playing the way he is even if he sticks around prep school for another year instead of heading to the USHL or (guh) OHL. Michigan wouldn't mind that since Matt Herr is his coach.
I don't actually have many memories of the Fab Five on the court. I remember being utterly heartsick when Webber called that timeout. That moment is undoubtedly the genesis of my obsession with rules that suck and should be changed*. I remember hating that technical when the ref could have just ignored it and left Webber to figure it out himself.
I also remember a black t-shirt I had commemorating the '92 Final Four, but incompletely. I know Cincinnati was on the shirt. I had to look up the other two teams, look up that Michigan beat the Bearcats in the semi before losing to Duke, look up the fact that Michigan was just a six seed. I remember the shirt being embroidered, because that's what happened in 1992 when you wanted something fancy. It was scratchy. I loved it.
I've got the heartsick and the shirt; everything else has melted away. When Wolverine Historian posted one of their games against Illinois I watched it and was stunned by… well, everything. A stone-cold packed Crisler full of people losing their minds. The helter-skelter nature of the game on both ends. Michigan—Michigan!—having a bunch of defiant, ruckus-raising black guys Jim Nantz remains terrified of to this day.
That is not the equilibrium state of Michigan basketball. That does not come from Earth. It comes from a planet with a green sun and marshmallow donkeys.
Later I remember loathing Chris Webber. Years and years had passed and Webber was on a very good Sacramento Kings team playing the Lakers in the conference finals. Sacramento had just gotten legendarily boned in game six. I remember watching game seven smugly, thinking Webber was born to fail in the moment of truth as he clanged threes and the Kings evaporated.
Anyone with a soul roots against the Lakers for the same reason they root against the Yankees. Sacramento had just suffered through a game that Tim Donaughy could point to years later as an example of a fix only to have obsessives like Bill Simmons say "tell me something I don't know." My loathing for Webber overcame all.
Some years later Webber was a trade-deadline acquisition for the Pistons during the period when the Billups/Prince/Hamilton/McDyess core still had my full attention. I was unhappy with it but dealt. I watched Chris Webber play basketball again. By that point he had suffered a variety of injuries that left him barely able to jump. He was useless defensively, an old man devoid of the thunderous athleticism that I assumed must have been part and parcel of why he was so good in college, the #1 pick in the draft, etc. By all rights he should have been out of the league already. Like Shawn Kemp, basically.
The reason he wasn't was his passing. Someone who paid more attention to the NBA than I did or wasn't 14 the last time he saw Webber play much already knew this. I didn't. I knew Chris Webber, though. I knew he was a liar and a choker and not very smart and just a general all-around jerk who wouldn't even apologize. I knew the Fab Five was just a bunch of guys who played schoolyard basketball because they were so outrageously better than everyone they could get away with it.
I knew Chris Webber until I watched him play. He dropped passes in spaces that didn't exist until he saw them. He hit cutters that didn't know they were open until the ball was in their hands. He was brilliant despite having the athleticism of Artie Lang. He was incredible fun. Despite myself I really liked watching Chris Webber play basketball, and now I don't think I know one thing about him.
To say Michigan has done a 180 in re: the cultural alignment of their basketball team understates things despite that being axiomatically impossible. The old ringleader just called black guys at Duke "Uncle Toms"; the new one is from Chesterton, Indiana, and once knew 62 digits of pi. After Michigan completed its season sweep of MSU the most desperate, laughable assertion I came across from some guy on an MSU message board was that Michigan had "thugs" on its team, an accusation that would have been uncomfortable during the Fab Five era and literally true when Ellerbe was running things into the ground.
Webber's been banned and feels repudiated and people feel free to demand an apology from him before he even thinks about setting foot in Crisler again, so I get why he doesn't feel like he owes anyone anything. If he wouldn't talk to Jalen Rose for his documentary, it's hard to believe he'll actually "tell his side soon" as he hoped on twitter.
This is immensely disappointing to me. I don't hate him any more and don't care about apologies, don't care about the crater he is often blamed for no matter how little input he had on hiring Ellerbe**. I'd just like to know every last detail of what happened.
Because I don't understand Jalen Rose, don't understand Webber, don't understand the lady in the gas station on the South Side of Chicago I asked directions of who responded "I don't know about any damn directions." I do understand the visceral thrill of those bald heads and black socks, but only vicariously, like a kid from Troy buying an NWA cassette. I can't say why I thought Jim Nantz's obviously racist distaste for the Fab Five was obviously racist, but I had a Nantz-like reaction to that lady in Chicago. I understand why my fiancée continually mishears Duke's mascot as the "white devils" and simultaneously have less than zero sympathy for Robert Traylor and would want to punch him in the face if I ever met him and he was tied to a rock and he had no idea who I was and I could definitely run away before he got loose.
Webber's redemption never happened with him or Taylor or Bullock, and while Bullock was from some suburb in Maryland and cannot be redeemed—seriously, he can die in a fire for all I care—maybe if Chris Webber said something brutally honest it would help me be less confused and sad about Michigan basketball in the 90s, and maybe a bunch of other things of greater significance.
It bothers me that Michigan's response to the NCAA scandal was to go from culturally black enough to have Ice Cube in your documentary to Duke Lite, but goddammit I also wanted some directions. I want Chris Webber to gently untie this Gordian knot in an hour-long interview on national television. When he's done the pieces will assemble themselves into a butterfly with big ears and a huge assist rate. This is the least he can do for 13-year-old me and my embroidered Final Four t-shirt. Thanks in advance.
- Timeouts in basketball. There should be one, period, like in hockey.
- The NHL rule where flipping the puck into the stands from your own zone is a penalty. It should be handled like icing, which is what the NCAA does.
- Hockey offsides is brutal. Widen the line to reduce whistles.
**[Tom Goss, not Ed Martin, is the man who killed Michigan basketball.]
3/11/2011 – Michigan 5, Bowling Green 1 – 24-9-4
3/12/2011 – Michigan 4, Bowling Green 1 – 25-9-4, CCHA semifinalists
Michigan did what would have been extremely hard for them not to do by dispatching Bowling Green easily. It's business time. Let's jump right to the bullets that aren't:
MFan in Ohio's usual breakdown awaits. Miami's sweep of a better opponent and some other jostling sees the Redhawks move up into a tie for Michigan's fourth spot. Usually one-on-one ties are broken with the comparison and Michigan holds that despite getting swept by the Redhawks earlier this year, so Michigan is still nominally in possession of that last one seed.
- Union was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Colgate and won't be a threat; their RPI went from fourth to eighth and they've got no more games.
- Denver swept Mankato and remains a threat but now they're in the meat of the WCHA playoffs. They get Bemidji State or UMD followed by probably North Dakota—you want UND to win that hypothetical matchup big time. By sweeping the Screaming Eagles Denver obliterated their own TUC record and now can't pass Michigan unless M loses.
- UNO was swept by Bemidji State and went from threatening to take Michigan's comparison to hanging on to the last three seed. They're not a threat.
- Notre Dame beat LSSU in three games, which hurts them to the point where they can't pass Michigan even with a head to head win.
It's pretty simple now. Michigan gets a one seed if they win the CCHA or if they split at the Joe and two other things happen: Not Denver wins the WCHA and Not Miami wins the CCHA. Root for anyone against Denver and you really want Notre Dame to take the first semifinal on Friday; if it's a Michigan-ND CCHA final and Denver's knocked out by whoever in the WCHA playoffs the one seed could be locked up before the final.
Dirty. Thanks to reader Peter Saul you can relive Scooter's toe drag goal from Friday in gorgeous HD:
Just BG caveats apply but quick name Michigan's best forward not named Hagelin now that Wohlberg's out. Scooter, right?
Speaking of gurrrrgh. Losing David Wohlberg for the season is a heavy blow. With Llewellyn and Fallon gone—in Fallon's case temporarily—and Wohlberg and Caporusso out, Kevin Clare was the only healthy scratch on Saturday. Caporusso is supposed to be back this weekend but his health is going to be a big question. Michigan's going to need him to be his usual moderately effective self.
Break your nose six times next week and it will be a perfect comparison. Chris Brown's recent scoring run has taken him to nine goals, tied with Treais—on a run of his own—and Caporusso for fourth on the team behind Hagelin, Wohlberg, and Scooter Dominance. He's done this mostly by being a the big ugly net presence that he was supposed to be when he got drafted in the second round, and he's developing quite a knack for deflections* a la Ryan Smyth. He coolly directed a Merrill point shot into the net this weekend, for one. Of late it's usually Brown who is the source of "ohhhhh" moments when a defenseman's shot goes close after changing direction.
*[deflections FOR GLORY!]
Which one of you should be a forward next year? Mac Bennett or Lee Moffie: fight. Moffie now has six goals in 26 games. If he'd played as much as Caporusso he'd have eight, one fewer than Louie. His first on Saturday was a shorthanded bomb that caught the iron as it went in; his second was another lethal shot from distance. Meanwhile Bennett continues to lead any rush he can.
With Michigan bringing in a couple of guys who can fill in the sixth defenseman spot, if they don't lose anyone early it might be time to Scooterize one or the other. As far as the rest of this year goes, the reason Michigan is competing for the last one seed without seeming to be that good at scoring is that the defensemen are just insane. Merrill has seven goals, Moffie six, Burlon five, and the other three guys combine for seven. I'm not sure how that ranks nationally but I've scanned almost every CCHA team's roster for preview posts at this point and I can tell you that Michigan has probably doubled up the second-best D in the league in points.
I'm going to name a caffeinated alcoholic drink after you. Just Bowling Green caveats apply, but Lindsay Sparks, yo. Two goals and an assist on the weekend, one of them a display of impressive speed on the breakaway. Even if the big leap in competition level this weekend will make it hard to replicate that performance I'm still pretty excited to see Sparks-Treais-Moffatt hit the ice. They've been effective against third and fourth lines and since Michigan gets last change all weekend Michigan can shelter them from guys like Andy Miele.
Please bury me with it. With Michigan's depth already stretched to the breaking point it's time to adopt the same strategy deployed in the tourney last year: stop rolling the fourth line. Michigan should retrieve Lynch from it, put Winnett back down there, and put that fourth line out there once or twice a period with Winnett giving occasional people a rest when they need it.
I'd put Scooter on Hagelin's wing and reform the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line as Rust-Lynch-Glendening, give them the job of shutting down top lines, and get Vaughn some of Hagelin's playmaking ability to better further his utter dominance of opponents. I don't think Red will break up combinations that seem to be working well but Vaughn is Michigan's second-best forward right now and it seems like a bit of a waste to have him out there with people other than Hagelin.
I confess that I'm mystified by how much run Winnett has gotten over the course of his career. He spent three ineffective season on the point on the power play, including plenty of time this year, despite never getting off a checking line. This year literally every defenseman on the roster has more points than him except Kevin Clare and his 0-1-1 in 12 games. I'm sure he's a dutiful checker and good defensive player but at least Lynch has shown something other than that in his career thus far.
Go time. Is now. Don't expect much out of me on Friday. With the clear relevance of the other semi and Michigan's tourney game I'm probably going to head down to Detroit to catch the Michigan game, then head over to the Joe for the double-header.