Bad news first: we aren't going to Grand Rapids. Thanks, CCHA!
Now, the good news: Duluth won last night and Minnesota's chances of making the tournament are extremely slim. Even better, the two last teams in the tourney in some scenarios are Miami and Ohio State. Unless the committee does something unprecedented like seed-switching or scheduling intraconference first-round games, they'd be forced to hand Michigan a first-round matchup against a small-conference autobid. Even even better, the two-seed in Michigan's bracket in virtually all scenarios is Yale. Yale's had a great year but ECAC teams rarely reach the Frozen Four.
This seems to be what we're looking at if all favorites win:
1. Michigan (#4 overall)
4. Air Force (#15 overall)
2. Yale (#5 overall)
3. Minnesota Duluth (#12 overall)
No offense to any of those teams, but that's a great draw.
Now… there are some nasty combinations, like Duluth winning the WCHA and Cornell the ECAC and the consolation games going right, that slide Minnesota into the tournament. If Air Force wins the CHA, these have the Gophers the #15 team with Air Force in front of them, at which point the committee has a difficult decision between listening to the silly pairwise and giving ND a game at Minnesota or flipping the seeds and shipping Michigan. Which they'd probably do.
I'm sorry to report that Michigan has virtually no control over its fate at this point. Unless there's some wack combination out there I haven't come across Michigan is going to be the last #1 seed no matter what happens against Notre Dame. And it appears that Yale is locked in at #5. There will be considerable jitter in the three and four seeds in Michigan's regional, though.
- Michigan is almost definitely the last #1.
- Yale is almost definitely their #2.
- Grand Rapids is gone.
- Wack stuff can happen at 3 and 4.
Programming note: I'm jammed up, as I'm headed to the hockey game tonight and that will take up a big hunk of time. I plan on getting another numbers-centric preview up for the Oklahoma game tomorrow, hopefully by 2-ish.
via the Fairbanks News-Miner
Also the other team. The hockey team—which is very, very good—takes on Alaska tonight at 8 in the CCHA semifinals. Yost Built has your ten things; this one gives the best picture of what Michigan is up against tonight:
Weird team. They've shut out their opponent on eight occasions this year. They've been shut out ten times. You want to know why Ocho Cinco [Alaska goalie Chad Johnson -ed] won CCHA Player of the Year? They scored 54 goals in CCHA play and still finished fourth. That's 1.93 goals per game. The only team that scored fewer was FYS with 43 (43??!!!). The saving grace for them was that they only gave up 51, tying them with Michigan for the fictional "Jennings Trophy" of the conference, and finishing one ahead of Notre Dame.
First goal will be very important because there don't figure to be many of them. FWIW, KRACH says Michigan has a 73% chance of victory; Michigan and Alaska split in Fairbanks with Alaska winning 4-1 Friday and Michigan taking the Saturday game 3-2.
The latest from practice has Robbie Czarnik definitely available and Ben Winnett questionable; Scooter Vaughn is also practicing as a fourth-line forward.
Northern and Notre Dame are in the other semi; you are rooting for Northern, but without any real hope it will matter.
Good news from elsewhere: Minnesota ended its regular season last night with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Five. The Gophers are currently the last team in the tournament at #14, but most of the possible results from the weekend knock them out. They're in if all favorites win, but all it takes is one more Duluth win or one unexpected autobid and they're at home. Patman's latest tourney update has the Gophers with only a 23% shot at making it in.
Minnesota missing the tourney makes a potential Michigan game in Minneapolis far less likely to be a defacto road game. Duluth can still make it, but 1) Duluth is far away and their fanbase is considerably smaller, and 2) Duluth can get shipped; Minnesota, as a host, cannot.
And hardware. Michigan took home a couple awards at the CCHA banquet: Tim Miller was the best defensive forward and David Wohlberg was rookie of the year. Alaska's Johnson was the POY, as you might expect.
Also, Louie Caporusso is a Hobey finalist. This is a really weak year for the award, so it's not out of the question he wins. However, he's a sophomore without a commanding resume and Kevin Porter just won last year, so it's not likely.
Cooper, a Saline High School graduate, and Burkhardt, a Pioneer grad who runs his own Michigan basketball blog, enjoyed every minute of it smack-dab in the middle of Section 117, where most of the 2,000 or so Michigan fans were gathered.
No link provided, obviously. Eyerolling goes here.
Uh? Far be it from me to harp on typos excessively, as they get through here on a daily basis. But… uh… MLive article on the dynamite Rust-Hagelin-Palushaj line, excerpt of which is sic:
Matt Rust couldn't recall the game and Aaron Palushaj wasn't sure about details, butthere is no comma here Carl Hagelin got the memories going.
Well, copy editor guy, if you're going 100% by the book there isn't, but commas are often a stylistic device used to make a sentence flow differently. Some are optional. Also optional: leaving your corrections in the finished copy.
3/19/2009 – Michigan 62, Clemson 59 – 21-13, 9-9 Big Ten
burning boat via falling sky @ flickr
"Ships, shoes, basketballs, whatever," Lucas-Perry said. "We're burning ours first, because we're coming to take theirs. We want it bad."
The most famous possibly-effective, possibly-useless motivational ploy in recent Michigan history remains Lloyd Carr's distribution of climbing picks and Into Thin Air to members of the soon-to-be 1997 national championship team, but "Queme los Barcos"—"burn the boats"—is rapidly gaining.
Motivation is a weird thing, and the popular conception of it is weirder. In the popular imagination these things act as functions or enzymes that take ordinary men and transform them in to something greater. Out the other end of these motivational processes come a national championship and Michigan's first NCAA tournament win since 1998.
But what strange items to function as motivation. Here we have 1) a book about people taking an insane risk and dying in the process of it and 2) an apocryphal motivational tactic by one of history's greatest bastards. Judged on the merits, these stories say "don't climb Mount Everest" and "don't get in a boat with one of history's greatest bastards." (Which latter might seem obvious.) Together they kind of say adventure—risk—is stupid, unless you like frostbite or malaria and definitely death.
So go get 'em, kids!
On the other hand we have a bunch of kids who love basketball—as walk-on lionizing story after walk-on lionizing story demonstrate—and are living through one of the most nerve-wracking times of their lives. Chances are they're plenty motivated.
They're also at risk. During the American-Villanova game, the camera lingered on Kermit Washington for a while. I had no idea Kermit Washington went to American, but I sure as hell knew he cold-cocked Rudy Tomjanovich in 1977. Even Washington's wikipedia page says "he's best remembered for" that incident. When it's on your wikipedia page your public image is well and truly screwed.
Meanwhile, Terrence Oglesby was 1 of 8 from the floor with a half-dozen stupid turnovers and fouls when he clocked Stu Douglass and got ejected. During Clemson's brief excursion into last year's NCAA tourney he was 1 of 11.
You can be nice and say he's a young kid with plenty of chances to make up for it and will have a fine life and etc etc etc, but he's got at most two chances to unbrand himself a choker in the hearts of Clemson fans, to turn future bar conversations from uncomfortable things like…
Oglesby: I used to play a little ball.
Random Albanian: Yeah, I was trying not to bring that up.
…into uncomfortable things where you probably won't get asked to sign a body part or a child. The latter seem preferable.
If you're being honest with yourself, Michigan fan, who is Todd Howard to you? Billy Sauer? Brian Ellerbe? Hell, Shawn Crable and Chris Webber? Pretty much everyone feels the same way about these guys, modulated by how much kindness and perspective they possess. The scale ranges from disgust to pity, which isn't much of a scale at all.
The popular conception is backwards: the actions of a select group of kids who accomplish something immortalize whatever story is behind it. Manny Harris' terrifying decision to punish Clemson for their press and the resultant and-one bucket that would force Clemson into fouling the game away work to heighten the fame of "Queme los Barcos." Flaming boats don't help shots go down.
And the popular conception is backwards: these stories aren't motivational. Motivation is not necessary. They're calming. They're stories about people who found themselves in positions they did not expect with more at stake than they had imagined, and dealt with it.
The boats have been burned. The mountain has been summited. The deranged hearts of people who clamor for risk by proxy have been engaged. Lives hang in the balance, and the only way to go is forward.
- Harris was obviously the MVP even if a large number of those threes caused me to cringe as they arced towards the basket, but a couple of supporting cast members deserve a shout out:
- Zack Gibson(!) was outstanding defensively, altering shots and causing a number of easy buckets to miss.
- Stu Douglass had 12 points on eight shots, and even had a drive to the hoop.
- Man, if Michigan managed to blow that the Grady debate would have been a permanent feature of offseason conversation. I have to say that with a lead and the clock running down the biggest risk is that you won't get to blow 35 seconds off the clock and whatever difference there was between Grady and Lee or Merritt in other aspects could not have made up for Grady's ability to get the ball across halfcourt without chucking it out of bounds.
- While I'm complaining: ohmygod foul when you're up three and there's like eight seconds left. Instead Michigan played outstanding D and Clemson had to chuck an airball prayer, but oh the horrible trajectory.
- Was anyone else hoping Oglesby wouldn't get ejected? I couldn't have been the only one.
- Given what Clemson did to us on the boards—they rebounded almost half of their misses—Blake Griffin is going to eat us alive unless Todd Bozeman comes out with his heel tag team and gives him a flying elbow drop.
- Seriously: everyone saw the Griffin suplex, but with about eight seconds left and Oklahoma in transition another Morgan State player set up like he was going to try to take a charge, then gave the Oklahoma guy a flying body block. Todd Bozeman, keep it classy.
- Day's biggest disappointment was American blowing a 14-point lead against Villanova, as that robbed everyone of the chance to chant "U-S-A! U-S-A!" some more.
- Second biggest: VCU not getting a real shot off in the dying seconds against UCLA.
WOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! MUPPET
BRAIN OFF WOOO ZACH GIBSON WOO MANY HARRIS WOOO
ONE… OTHER! WOOO
Perhaps the greatest legacy the Pistons have given to the metro Detroit area is an area-wide affection for the greatest hair metal hype-up song in the history of ever. The run-up to an important basketball game is incomplete without it:
It obviously hasn't sunk in yet, as I'm not nervous. Northridge and Memphis are tied at 13, the NCAA tournament is underway, and Michigan plays tonight and I don't even have the normal level of jitters you might have before a Michigan-Northwestern football game or a random midseason hockey game.
The only explanation is that the idea Michigan will participate in this excessively large, bombastic, chaotic, sort-of-merit-based-but-also-kind-of-not American institution has been proposed to the brain and been rejected. Rejected like Andy Katzenmoyer's NFL career. Like the Michigan State student body's collective application to Michigan. Like sanity as it applies to Ekpe Udoh's decision as to where he should spend his college career. You get the idea.
This will evaporate a nanosecond after Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims share a split screen and "7 Clemson Tigers vs 10 Michigan Wolverines" is superimposed over the wide shot of the arena, and then I'll be terrified and angry for two solid hours. Woo sports! Looking forward to it.
Some items of interest to complete your tourney prep:
Next up: a monkey, one glove, and pedophilia accusations. Reader Fred Simmons points out something… unusual about the SI cover with Manny Harris lost in a sea of players*:
Hello tinting! If (when) Michigan makes it next year, Michigan's representative on the SI cover:
*(Anyone notice that of late SI has gone away from SI-curse triggering covers? Part of it is regionalization and so forth, but now they don't even pick a national champion for football, they just put six different teams on six different covers. What a cop out. I blame that "Arizona is No. 1" debacle.)
- Wojo on where the instate programs find themselves:
Michigan opens its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years in the land of barbecue, hoping to lick its chops and stick its long shots. If you saw the giddy reaction when the players learned they were in, facing favored Clemson tonight, you know this is one excited team taking its important first step.
- Excellent diary breaks down Michigan's performance against top-100 opponents with variable amounts of rest. Correlation is not causation, but it's not exactly bad news to find out that Michigan on 4+ days of rest is ridiculously better than Michigan on three or fewer. (Until we get to the second round (hypothetically).)
- Dylan is in the house; he posts a final preview, and has had excellent content all week.
- Maize 'n' Brew interviews Clemson blog Block C about goings-on.
- There is plenty of Clemson-centric content at The OP.
- Rosenberg recaps the drought.
Early returns say: screw Kenpom, yo. Cal State is now leading tempo-free #1 Memphis; BYU is getting housed, and LSU is edging Butler. Let the defiance of nerd expectations last all day.
Tom's having computer problems so he forwarded this along to me. Don't be fooled by the name on it: it's his interview, as per usual.
Some background on Riley: he's got a wide array of impressive offers to play… somewhere. Michigan seems to like him best as a RB but he could play WR or DB or maybe LB in college. Conventional wisdom has USC the current leader.
Photo from the LA Times.
DIETRICH: I’m a team player. I’m not worried about the individual stats, and I don’t want the attention all on me. I want to compete and make my teammates better. I attack life every day. I go 110% on the field, and in whatever I do in life. I’ve got these scholarship offers, but it’s important to stay humble. Football wise, I can read plays on the field, and I can go both ways. Really my speed and size are my biggest assets.
TOM: You were just in Vegas for the 7 on 7 there. How did you and your team do?
DIETRICH: Our team had some great talent, and it was fun being on the field with those guys. We had Brennan Clay, DJ Morgan, Shaq Richardson, and a few other big name guys on our team. We lost in the first round to another California team. It was a bad call by the ref. They called pass interference on me when I intercepted a ball. It was more about having fun, learning, and getting to know each other though.
TOM: You’ve already got a number of big time scholarship offers. Which one were you most excited about?
DIETRICH: I got another one on Monday from Nebraska, so I’m at 10. Of course USC is up there, but Oklahoma and Tennessee was exciting. Competing in bowl games, championships, and the tradition those schools have is great. That just surprised me more than anything. It just shows the hard work is paying off. Not necessarily interest wise, but I was excited.
TOM: Which one were you most surprised by?
DIETRICH: Michigan. It’s the Big Ten. I wasn’t expecting that. They were sending me letters and everything. They told me about their players currently in the NFL. I was like wow; I can’t believe they offered me. Washington is also really catching my attention. The new staff up there is nice, and the graduation rate is 86%. That’s most important, my education.
TOM: What kind of offense does your team run now?
DIETRICH: We mix it around. Pro and spread, but it’s pretty balanced. Coach gave me some new plays to get me the ball this year. It’s going to be a whole different story. I’m bigger stronger and faster, and I’m just ready to go.
TOM: Would you like to find an offense similar to that, or will you adapt?
DIETRICH: I’ll adapt wherever I go. I like a mixed offense, with a little play action, and spread. Not too many teams in the NFL run the spread, so I like an offense that will prepare me. I do think Michigan’s offense would prepare me for the NFL. When looking at Pat White, he’s getting attention. My coach puts me in position to make things happen, and when I’m not, I make sure I pass block. I’m not selfish, and I want to do what’s best for the team.
TOM: What relationships have you built so far with coaches?
DIETRICH: The strongest relationship is with the USC coaches, we email every day or so. Second is Coach Morgan from Washington. He watched me grow up, and it’s a blessing to have him recruiting me. Coach Neuheisel from UCLA too. He was my coach’s quarterback coach when he played at UCLA.
TOM: Michigan recently offered you. What are they saying as far as where they want you to play, and how you fit in?
DIETRICH: They want me primarily as a running back, but also split me wide. They don’t have that complete back that can break the long run. I can either get out in space, or bust through and make room.
TOM: Being from California, what do you know about Michigan?
DIETRICH: I know that they’re on TV a lot, which is good. I’d be on TV all the time. They have a history of sending guys to the next level, getting guys their degree, great athletics, and the stadium is expanding. That’s pretty amazing. The weather, it’s cold, but I’ll get used to it. I’m going to have to someday.
TOM: You’re a bigger back already; do you plan on getting even bigger for college? Is that part of how you run?
DIETRICH: Coach Rodriguez told me they’re looking for the back with size and speed. I’m 6’ 1” and 195 pounds. I might be losing some of that weight. I don’t want to lose my speed and bulk up too much. I would like to stay around 205, no higher. I’m not really concerned about size though, just my playing ability, and keeping my lateral quickness.
TOM: Who are your leaders so far? Who are you still hoping to hear from?
DIETRICH: The schools I still want to hear from are Florida, Texas, LSU, and Alabama. I don’t really have a top list. All the schools that have offered so far I really like, and I’m honestly interested in. Once I take visits I’ll know more.
TOM: What camps and junior days will you be going to?
DIETRICH: Notre Dame’s in April. I've been saying I’ll go there for awhile. Oregon state, because my brother Kevin Walker goes there. The camps are definitely USC Rising star and FBU. I got invited to a 7 on 7 Academy at the Disney facilities, which is pretty cool. I’ve been talking with Markeith Ambles, and we’re going to try to set up some visits together. We’re friends, so it would make it easier to go through that together.
TOM: When are you planning on making your decision?
DIETRICH: National signing day. Depending on how many offers are on the table, maybe march. There’s going to be a lot of pressure, but I’m not worried about it. I’m already prepared for it. There’s going to be a lot of people in my ear about where to go, so I’ve got to develop a way to filter that out, and make my own decision.