...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Okay, since my departure the following things went down with the basketball team:
- They clubbed Penn State by 20 at Crisler.
- They lost solidly but played pretty well against UConn.
- They were clubbed by Michigan State in an ugly game.
- They squeezed by Northwestern in overtime.
Michigan now stands at 16-10 and 6-7 in conference. The vast and wide assumption has been that a .500 Big Ten record gets them in, so to be assured of a spot in the tournament Michigan must go 3-2 against this schedule:
- @ Iowa
- @ Wisconsin
- @ Minnesota
Is this doable? Eh… it'll be difficult. Iowa is crappy and Michigan should be able to handle them on the road—if they don't it's pretty much over, anyway. Minnesota and Wisconsin aren't exactly tearing up the Big Ten, either, as both of them are just one game ahead of Michigan in the conference standings, but Wisconsin clubbed Michigan earlier in the year. Purdue is 9-4 in conference, 20-6 overall, and seems like a good bet to beat Michigan even on the road.
It's ugly at Kenpom, which has Michigan favored in exactly one game—tonight's matchup against Minnesota—and foresees 8-10. Which, credit to Kenpom, has been its stalwart prediction since the Big Ten season opened.
Could Michigan get in at 8-10? Eh… maybe, what with those dual UCLA/Duke wins from earlier in the season, but they'd almost have to win twice in the Big Ten tournament, which would require a second-round neutral court victory over Purdue or Michigan State, most likely: tough sledding.
That makes tonight's game huge. Michigan's best bet appears to be winning tonight and taking out Iowa on the road, which would give them three cracks at that ninth Big Ten win. Even if none of those cracks is particularly likely, the odds would be in their favor then. Now, not so much.
I wish I could provide some more detailed analysis, but I haven't seen anything in two weeks and just have the vaguest outlines of what's gone down: LLP imploded, Grady benched, Harris erratic but keeping the team afloat in some games, everyone tiny still, etc.
UMHoops has a more detailed preview. Minnesota's strengths include defense, forcing turnovers, and offensive rebounds; their weaknesses include turnovers of their own and shooting. If this seems a dire harbinger you're not alone:
This is a battle of two teams who are really struggling on the offensive end lately and it might be ugly, for our sake let’s hope its not as ugly as Penn State’s 38-33 win last night over Illinois.
|Detroit, Michigan – 5'10" 199
|Scout||2*, #115 S|
|Rivals||3*, not ranked|
|ESPN||77, #77 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State|
|Er… I didn't actually do a commit post. Bad me.|
|Notes||Nicknamed "Prison Abs" by Rodriguez.
Detroit Cass Tech (Campbell, Jones, Cissoko)
Image found at Next Generation Sports.
You'll note that in the above picture Gordon is holding the ball as if to throw, which is not a common thing for safeties to do. This is because Gordon was Cass Tech's quarterback for the duration of his time in the starting lineup with the Technicians. Gordon had a trick up his sleeve, though:
Wilcher, the football coach at Detroit Cass Tech, was trying to persuade me to list Thomas Gordon among the state's top 25 football players in our preseason preview. He assured me Gordon was heading to a big-time Division I school as a safety even if the college coaches didn't know it yet. There was only one little thing standing between Gordon and a scholarship to a BCS school: He hadn't played a down of defense since he entered high school.
Gordon switched over to safety his senior year after he visited Michigan's camp, performed well there, and was told he was very likely to get an offer if he started playing defense. He did, and he did.
In doing so Gordon became Michigan's lowest-rated non-kicker commit in the class with the possible exception of Deerfield Beach tag-along Adrian Witty. Since recruiting rankings do matter this bodes slightly unwell for his future, but they don't matter so much that Gordon can be written off before he even gets to campus.
ESPN, probably the most positive scouting service, says he's got potential($):
Very raw in technique as DB at this point but is a good athlete with smooth movement skills and quality physical tools for a program to mold at the next level. Reaches top-speed quickly as running quarterback and is a very decisive cutter; should bring good recovery burst and sharp pursuit angles to the ball as a safety (although we did not always see it on film). … he needs to refine his pedal and diagnosing skills. Tends to free lance a bit. Pursuit angles are not consistently direct. … That said, Gordon brings good range, athleticism, ball skills and deceptive physicality to the table as a prospect.
As you might imagine, a guy who played all of one year at safety is something of a project. This goes double because Gordon's defensive playing time was limited late in the season because of a hamstring injury. It didn't prevent him from tearing things up on the ground in Cass Tech's playoff win over Cody, though:
Thomas Gordon, Cass Tech- Gordon could have also been MVP with his 146 rushing yards and two TDs. His play at safety was limited to long passing downs but you can't fault the coaching staff because Gordon is still favoring a hamstring injury and you can afford to lose your QB.
(Cass would get clunked by Southeastern and Will Gholston the next week.)
The potential he showed his senior year was enough to get offers from Michigan, who had seen him at their summer camp, and Michigan State, which jumped in with his first BCS offer in an attempt to pirate him away. Gordon warn't having that:
You'll note that in that interview Gordon says Michigan will give him a chance on the offensive side of the ball "if safety doesn't work out." So: safety, then maybe slot or quarterback or whatever if he can't adjust to the defensive side of the ball. Given Michigan's depth chart at safety—thin—and Gordon's apparently limited potential at quarterback, a switch back to offense is a last resort.
You can get an extensive taste of Gordon on offense and defense in this Max Preps video (set to wicked dramatic Jerry Bruckheimer music) of Cass Tech's 17-0 win over Detroit King; Campbell and Jones also feature prominently.
Why Brandent Englemon? Englemon was a lightly-recruited safety about Gordon's size with around the same ratings. Englemon was also a high school quarterback who projected to the secondary.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Gordon was well known as a three-year starter at one of the state's most heavily scouted programs, but no one really knows how he'll do at safety.
General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.
Last year I attempted to coin a clever nickname for the Feagin-Threet quarterback pairing: "Dual Threet." Dual is now a slot receiver and Threet is moseying on out of town, possibly to North Dakota State if you believe random guys on a message board. (Do not believe random guys on a message board. Believe specific guys on a message board.) So it goes for Michigan in the past couple years.
I've been a stalwart supporter of Rich Rodriguez since his arrival. I didn't think Ryan Mallett's departure was his fault, nor did he have much of an opportunity to land a dual-threat guy in the month or so he had to finish off Michigan's 2008 recruiting class. The one guy it seemed he did have a chance with, BJ Daniels, ended up at South Florida amidst a flurry of payoff rumors that even The Wolverine—normally a place that shies away from incendiary allegations like that—lent credence to. The hand he was dealt was an exceptionally poor one. I can find no better way to sum it up than this: how many walk-on quarterbacks can you remember at power (or even decent) programs, and how did they do?
I've got exactly two:
- Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired.
- UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson, AKA The Only Reason Notre Dame Beat A BCS Opponent In 2007.
There's almost no precedent for a quarterback situation like the one Michigan faced in 2008, and almost no way to claw yourself out of a hole that vast at the most important position on the field. Once that hand was dealt, Rodriguez was dead meat.
So the reasonable criticism of Rodriguez are mostly confined to his role in setting up his hand: "running off" Mallett, the Boren defection, the fruitless chase of Pryor, and so on and so forth. I didn't find any of these arguments compelling, since I knew Mallett had a foot and a half out the door even when Carr was running the team and that the Borens had major daddy issues and the options outside of Pryor were about nil. The decision to hire Shafer was a poor one, and that seemed like it should be held against Rodriguez. Other than that, it was Angry Michigan Whatever Hating God all the way.
You can tell there's a but coming, so: but. But the Threet transfer bothers me. Even with the recruitment of Forcier and Robinson, Threet is the most experienced quarterback on the roster by two years and has some decent starting experience. He will find no better situation wherever he transfers unless it's to some podunk I-AA school. The transfer makes little sense for him personally or professionally unless there's something behind the scenes we don't know about.
Meanwhile, Michigan now finds itself down to two true freshmen before they have to drag out another walkon, be it Nick Sheridan or Nader Furrha or whoever. Even if Threet was mostly poor a year ago, he was obviously far superior to the alternative, and at worst he would be the backup next year. With Denard Robinson something of a project, every one of Michigan's egg is now in Tate Forcier's basket. Threet leaving the program is an obvious negative.
So it doesn't make sense on anyone's part. Why did it happen? I go back to a quote from Calvin Magee in the aftermath of the Michigan State game. Dan Feldman's Daily article on the transfer highlights it:
By staying and giving Michigan another feasible option besides Sheridan, Threet opened himself to public criticism from the Wolverines’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee described Threet’s three-interception performance against Michigan State on Oct. 25 as “inconsistent, like it always is.”
Man, that's pretty rough. Behind-the-scenes reports from insiders always said Threet had major confidence issues and didn't respond well to this staff's high pressure style. Maybe they tried to adapt. That evidently didn't last, so Threet decided he'd be better off elsewhere.
It's obvious neither side had much faith in the other. That's not unexpected given the rickety nature of the pairing, but I can't help but think that Bo or Lloyd would have found a way to finesse it better. I don't know. Maybe I've been talking to John U. Bacon too much.
- Pretty sure Matt Hayes has no idea that Nick Sheridan is a walk-on. Asked "what does the Threet transfer mean for M" he responded "It means Nick Sheridan, who shared time with Threet last fall, is next out the door." This is unlikely unless Sheridan wants to go to UM-Dearborn or something.
- Maize 'n' Brew blows up a pretty dumb Blade article on the transfer. HT to them for the NDSU link, too.
- The Ann Arbor News thinks there's "no heir apparent," which, could not be more wrong since there is one obvious guy who is obviously the starter now.
- But, hey, Forcier seems slightly more confident than Threet (link ibid): "In this offense, there's always somebody open. You should never throw an incompletion.'' Forcier's cockiness should serve him well.
- Chengelis says you shouldn't anoint either freshman your lord and savior yet.
- DocSat has a take as well.
Mitera not ready. Mark Mitera has returned to full practices with the team but Berenson says he won't play this weekend against Ohio State:
He’s (been) a partial practice player. Now, we need to get him into the whole mix and see him fall down, get hit and realize he’s fine. He needs confidence so he can be himself. If he can’t be himself, then he’s not going to help the team.
Berenson seemed to think a return against Ferris State was probable, though:
“We’re going to day-to-day, week-to-week with him,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said, mentioning in passing that Mitera would probably be back by the end of the season.
That Daily post also contains a quote downplaying Chris Summers' potential return to forward. Which, like, good, because scratching a fourth-liner instead of Pateryn or Llewellyn doesn't seem worth the uncertainty of moving your best defender to a third-line forward spot.
About this time of year I start seriously breaking down the various possibilities in the PWR rankings that choose and seed the tournament field; this will be coming up later in the week. To whet your math-dork appetite, however, the Hoover Street Rag talks about the various components of the PWR and how very unstable they are. (One clarification: Miami's TUC record is actually 6-4-2, but head to head games are excluded from that category in each individual comparison, leaving Miami at 4-2-2 for the purposes of its Michigan comparison. Michigan has a slim edge that doesn't count until Miami takes on Ohio State in the final week of the regular season.)
The upshot: Michigan's put itself in a good spot but has in no way separated itself from a pack of chasing teams. A season-ending stumble and Michigan will probably find itself a two seed. Also, next weekend you're pulling for Ohio State.
(Trivial side note: Michigan is one of only two teams in the NCAA without a tie. The other is Princeton, an Ivy school that plays a restricted schedule.)
Bad decision delayed. The NCAA's potentially disastrous implementation of a "regionalization" scheme that would see teams funneled into the nearest available regional with little regard to seeding has been delayed at least a year:
The Championships/Sports Management Cabinet is voting this week on whether to make regionalization of brackets something that is mandated across most NCAA sports. If they do, Cady said it wouldn't take hold until next year.
But even then, because of the cooperation the committee received on delaying it until next year, Cady is optimistic that the more drastic regionalization proposals will not be passed, and instead hockey will be allowed its compromise proposal.
"I feel very good they did listen to us," Cady said. "I think we can make significant improvements to cut costs, and still keep the integrity alive with such a small bracket."
The NCAA's "compromise" is to seed the field as they've done before but move teams around based on their geographical location as long as they don't cause first-round intra-conference matchups. How bad is this? It depends heavily on how geographically diverse the seeding bands are. If every 2-seed is in the West it doesn't matter. Here's a look at what that proposal would do to this week's pairwise. Here's a comparison of brackets. The left one is under the current rules; the right one is under the revised ones.
|4||15||Air Force*||4||15||Air Force*|
|3||12||North Dakota||3||12||North Dakota|
|1||4||Notre Dame||1||4||Notre Dame|
Well, that's an anti-climax. As you can see, in this bracket there are no changes. However, this is a hugely restricted bracket since three hosts are in and most of the potential moves butt up against intra-conference matchup problems. For instance, Vermont would normally be swapped into Bridgeport or Manchester under the new rules but can't be sent because UNH is hosting as a three seed in Manchester—intra-conference matchup—and Yale is hosting as a three in Bridgeport. North Dakota can't move to either of the West regionals because that would cause an intra-conference ECAC matchup. Similarly, it works out such that neither of the top two seeds, who have earned the right to face the weak auto-bid teams, gets robbed of that opportunity.
But if Minnesota moves up to a three seed you could easily see Air Force shipped to Minneapolis to play the #4 overall seed. If the hosting restrictions weren't so, uh, restrictive, you could see a lot of swapping going on and a segregation akin to that one tournament they had a few years ago where all the eastern teams played in the East regionals and all the western ones played in the West regionals, which was terrible.
This is an NCAA-wide cost savings mechanism, but the hockey tournament is one of the few that actually makes money, and it should be left alone. If the NCAA is really going to push it they should abolish that idiotic St. Louis regional coming up, which is going to be abandoned, and should really consider awarding the #1 seeds home regionals, which would make more money and provide greater protection to top seeds.
(HT: 60 Minutes.)
I'm just going to pretend his name has an I in it. Michigan's got a few open scholarships they might hand out if the right player gets the right test score, and one of those is SC ATH Larry Raper. We should know about Raper today:
Michigan coaches told Larry Raper that they will have a decision tomorrow. They are deciding whether or not to offer him. He told me, as well as others, that he will commit if offered.
Raper was a Clemson commitment until the Bowden firing, at which point the Tigers decided they didn't want him. He looked unlikely to qualify until his most recent test score, which explains why he's still out there and why his offers are currently Toledo and South Carolina State. Raper quote:
“Some in-state people swung and missed again,'' he said.
The most intriguing current situation for Raper is Michigan, which reportedly still has some scholarships available for next season.
“The thing with Michigan has been going on now for about two weeks,'' Norman said. “We've had conversations as late as last Thursday. To my knowledge, they have not tendered an offer. But they told me they do have scholarship money left.''
Michigan's looking at Raper as a cornerback.
Just one question this time, because I figure it's a pretty specialized one most will care not at all about.
Brian,So we've been following the successful and mildly popular club hockey team at Penn State for some time now. Well the boosters have been relentless and the optimism surrounding a jump to D1 increased significantly with the announcement of a 'study' commissioned for a new rink.So the question, if things do in fact pan out, is where Penn State might belong. Hockey has it's own set of traditions and powerhouses, not to mention recent realignment. With the current shake up, is there even room in the current system for a new major program?And regardless of that answer, do you think the Big Ten schools would be willing to give up their current rivals and history for a Big Ten hockey conference, similar to a move the Big East recently made in lacrosse? Right off the bat there is the possibility for a six team league, perhaps small enough to allow for a large set of traditional non-BT games to be played. It might also help spur Illinois to make the jump, as they are currently in a similar situation to Penn State.I'll hang up and listen. Thanks.
Black Shoe Diaries
Kevin's stumbled onto one of the most controversial topics in college hockey: a Big Ten hockey conference, and more generally realignment. With the dissolution of the always-unstable CHA and the flight of its members to safe havens—Robert Morris and Niagara will bring Atlantic Hockey to 12 members, Bemijdi State looks like it will squeeze into the WCHA, and Alabama-Huntsville is trying to get into the CCHA—college hockey finds itself hopelessly gridlocked. Any school looking to start a new program has no place to go, as every conference save Hockey East is full, and Hockey East doesn't seem inclined to expand.
Any program willing to take up the daunting task of starting an expensive sport and balancing the Title IX implications out would face a near-pointless life as an independent. Much cost, no benefit, no expansion.
The obvious solution is to carve up the two western conferences into three eight-team entities, and the most obvious way to do that is to yank the Big Ten teams out with a couple tag-alongs and create a Big Ten hockey conference. However, the problems with that are numerous and severe:
- Only five Big Ten schools currently field hockey teams; the minimum is six. Adding Penn State would solve that issue that but even a six-team conference is pretty slim. And I'm not sure about this but I don't think you could actually add non-Big Ten schools to the conference and still call it the Big Ten.
- Removing Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State from the CCHA would gut that league, hurting the bottom line of the various small Michigan schools in it. That could lead to programs folding. The recent rise of Miami and Notre Dame may make this less of an issue.
- Wisconsin and Minnesota have longstanding rivalries with North Dakota, Colorado College, and Denver they would be loathe to give up. Minnesota also serves in a similar capacity as M and MSU do to the wide variety of Minnesota schools that populate the WCHA.
- Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all traditional powerhouses. The gap between those four and the remainder of the league would likely be severe. Penn State and any other ambitious Big Ten school, far from traditional recruiting grounds and bereft of D-I history, would likely be signing up to play doormat.
- I think this would be offset by the increased interest and revenue, but travel costs would go up significantly.
I'd love to see it happen. Four games against each opponent would leave the departed powers with plenty of nonconference opportunities (14) to visit schools left in the cold by the move. The WCHA would be just fine anchored by North Dakota, CC, and DU—all extremely strong, established programs. The CCHA could do okay, too, as long as Jeff Jackson and Enrico Blasi stay put.
However, it would be a cataclysmic change and seems highly unlikely. The best hope for college hockey expansion appears to be the far-off idea that a cluster of Canadian universities will join the NCAA a few years down the road and ramp up D-I hockey programs, possibly taking the Alaska teams with them and opening up a couple slots for new programs.
The other option for Penn State is for it to form the basis of a new conference. Niagara and Robert Morris would probably leap at the opportunity, as Atlantic Hockey has restrictions on scholarship numbers below that of the NCAA. Huntsville would sign up, too, but then you've got to find two more schools from somewhere. That was the problem the CHA had: teams would come and go and come and go and the league's future was never assured. A Penn State-anchored league wouldn't have that problem, if only because teams in it would have no other options.
The bottom line is this: the current landscape in college hockey is exceptionally unfriendly to expansion and Penn State is probably going to find it unfeasible unless it can find another major state school (Illinois? Syracuse?) willing to start up a program at the same time and be the co-anchor of a new conference. Unless someone very weird and very rich and very into college hockey expansion dies, I don't see that happening.
Previously: Vlad Emilien.
|Orlando, Florida - 6'2" 200
|Scout||3*, #49 S|
|Rivals||3*, #25 S|
|ESPN||77, #55 S|
|Other Suitors||Auburn, Kentucky, ND
(no offer), UNC, Wake, USF
|Mike Jones Commits To Michigan|
Early enrollee. Orlando Edgewater (Greg Mathews).
Ah, Mike Jones, he of the accursed Google-proof name that is not Frobozz Tamoshanter.
Though Jones is listed as a safety by everyone, everyone also expects he'll move down to linebacker immediately. He's already 200+ pounds and 6'2"; in a year or two he'll be 215 or 220 and decidedly ponderous for a safety: it's OLB for him, a la Jonas Mouton. Jones' opinion of himself points the same way:
"I'm a hitter," Jones said. "I hit real hard and I've got good speed. I react to the ball real quick and have great instincts."
He admits he wants to improve on his covering skills. "I'd like to work on my footwork and steps."
Rivals.com analyst Michael Langston:
"Mike's just a great player,” Langston said. “He's listed as a safety, but he pretty much plays a rover linebacker at Edgewater. He's a really hard hitter, but also a really good cover guy. He's not going to cover like a corner, but he can cover for his size. They can use him that way if they need someone to fill that void."
He is a defensive back who could easily grow into an outside linebacker. He is every bit of 6’3, 205 lbs. He is a very rangy kid who could end up at 235-240 lbs. He can run well and loves to make contact, and his best attribute is that he loves to hit.
So: not a safety. A linebacker. Probably. Coach again (link ibid):
I believe they are going to stick him at strong safety first and see how he adapts to that position, which I believe will fit their style. We run the same type of defense that Coach Rodriguez ran at West Virginia (3-3-5) so he has been one of those outside linebacker / safeties for four years, and I believe he could play either position at the college level.
This is a theme with Michigan's linebacker recruiting this year: hybrid cover guys you can run out there in the spread. These guys are basically the opposite of Johnny Thompson, and the one guy who isn't a high school safety (Hawthorne) is actually the smallest of the bunch.
As far as how good he is, he received fairly early offers from Auburn and North Carolina along with a number of other teams not as imposing on the recruiting trail, plus heavy interest from Notre Dame that did not actually materialize into an offer. Or may have. There was some confusion about that, and though newspaper comment sections are pretty much the worst places on the internet this actually sounds very plausible as to what went down
The guru ratings above are all pretty meh, but he does have a mitigating circumstance: his junior year was cut short by a shoulder injury. In the five games he played he had 56(!) tackles, eight(!) sacks, and four forced fumbles.
Random biographical note: Jones' father was a first-round NFL draft pick who played for the Steelers, Patriots, and Dolphins over the course of a nine-year career.
Why Larry Foote? ESPN spends most of its evaluation talking about what a terrifying blitzer Jones is; Foote was a terrifying blitzer who was about the same size and weight as Jones' potential down the road. Foote was also a moderately hyped recruit making a shift from safety to linebacker. (IIRC, that was a long time ago.)
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Jones is at a big Florida school and is probably pretty well scouted, but the junior year injury and his decision to avoid camps put some wobble in his ranking.
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
Projection: A redshirt or special teams duty in year one followed by a year behind Mouton; in 2010 will go to war for the starting job.