...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
After watching a December basketball game paint Brooklyn Maize, I was inspired to pass along a thank you.
It’s well known that Michigan has the largest living alumni base of any university. There are many of us who are proud alums and who never have to “justify” our fanhood. Being a Michigan fan came easy to me. The son of two alums (and native Michiganders) I was almost pre-destined to head to Ann Arbor after I graduated high school, despite having grown up outside Chicago. I was lucky and worked hard and managed to go to Michigan and graduate in 2009. There are many who aren’t as lucky as I was. To those of you who are fans of Michigan despite not having a degree: Thank you. You may have been questioned, demeaned even for supporting College Football’s most winning program.
Some may call you “Walmart Wolverine” in a derogatory manner because you choose to support Michigan. But guess what – Michigan doesn’t succeed without the support of everyone: Students, Alumni, Faculty, and (as Fielding Yost called them) “Friends of the University”. It’s true. Michigan Stadium doesn’t get built without non-alumni fans.
From page 190 of Soderstrom’s The Big House* “No one: no student, no alumnus, and no friend of the university would be “giving" anything to the athletic department. Rather, the athletic department would sell a bond at a given amount of interest and pay back all the money over time… it had always been a Michigan athletic tradition that no attempt would be made to secure funds from the state, like the school in East Lansing had done for its new stadium.” Yost needed investors to build the Big House, and it turns out that the first bond letter had provided a “disappointing alumni response” (Page 318)
After bonds were extended to anyone who wished to buy them, not just alumni, “by early 1927, the whole initial issue, 2000 bonds, was sold.” Yost actually angered some alumni (and students, who felt that their seats were terrible even then) by making sure that there were new seating blocks in Michigan Stadium that were specifically NOT for alumni. Yost’s appeal was as such: “’This is a State University – not a privately endowed institution. Ownership of this institution is vested not in our students, faculty, and alumni – but in the people whose taxes make it possible’ Yost would never tire of making this point” (Page 194). I’ll take Yost's point one step further – It’s not just the taxes or the tuition, but ANY support of Michigan makes you a “real” fan. Maybe you can’t afford tuition and thus aren’t an alum. Maybe you don’t live in Michigan and don’t pay Michigan state taxes. Maybe you can’t afford season tickets (which are no longer $2.50 per game like they were in the 1920s), maybe all you do is own some apparel and visit MGoBlog – both of which provide support to Michigan no matter how small. The next time someone asks you if you went to Michigan, just remember that it was fans like you (not just alums!) who gave us the greatest football stadium in the world. And remember that there can be a little inferiority complex around East Lansing, after all they needed money from the state to build their stadium.
*As an aside if you need a stocking stuffer or just a great read on Michigan’s history, I couldn’t recommend Soderstrom’s book more. Click through the MGoLink to Amazon and order it!
(8-2, 0-0 Pac-12)
Key Bench Players
Basically none, very starter oriented. BUT:
When I first saw Stanford on the schedule, I assumed this was going to be an easy win and look decent as far as quality wins go because they are in a power conference. Well, I was only half right. These teams numbers are very similar and Stanford has that quality win that Michigan is lacking. One thing that will really pop out to you is that their starting five is all upperclassmen. There is no doubt we are the more talented team, but they have the experience on their side.
Michigan had a much needed week off to prepare for this game and get healthy. Stanford is coming off a huge road win for them, but won't have as many days to prepare for Michigan.
Michigan 72 - Stanford 64
Back a few years ago, Seth put together a really neat FEI-based analysis of the bowl games. He not only picked winners in the games, he also created a "watchability index," which looked at how "good" the games would be in terms of quality and evenly matched the teams were. This allowed him to make the most of his limited CFB watching time over the holidays, an objective I shared. So, I stole his idea last year and put together a similar but much less sophisticated analysis, and got 69% of the picks correct while not having any one too mad at me for wanting to watch a select set of games.
I did a similar analysis this year, while adding FEI * in to the mix (full analysis here). In essence, I compared all the teams in terms of Sagarin and FEI, and using the difference between them picked the winners and the confidence in the picks. That is, a huge difference in the ratings of the teams suggests a lock, a difference of zero is a push.
Here's what I came up with for picks. The the two pick columns are who Sagarin and FEI predict will win the games, and the confidence ranks represent the picks about which each metric is "most confident," i.e. the biggest difference between the two teams, with higher numbers indicating more confidence. I then added the two confidence rankings up, which provides the following results. There were a few games where Sagarin and FEI's predictions did not line up - those should be some of the more closely contested games. Good luck in your bowl pools and happy holidays.
|Pinstripe||12/28/2013||Notre Dame||35||Notre Dame||35||70||0|
|Holiday||12/30/2013||Arizona State||33||Arizona State||33||66||0|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||12/23/2013||East Carolina||28||East Carolina||34||62||0|
|GoDaddy||1/5/2014||Ball State||27||Ball State||31||58||0|
|Las Vegas||12/21/2013||Southern California||26||Southern California||26||52||0|
|Heart of Dallas||1/1/2014||North Texas||16||North Texas||30||46||0|
|BCS Championship||1/6/2014||Florida State||34||Florida State||12||46||0|
|New Mexico||12/21/2013||Washington State||32||Washington State||9||41||0|
|Little Caesars||12/26/2013||Bowling Green||17||Bowling Green||16||33||0|
|Chick-fil-A||12/31/2013||Texas A&M||20||Texas A&M||13||33||0|
|Orange||1/3/2014||Ohio State||5||Ohio State||23||28||0|
|Liberty||12/31/2013||Mississippi State||15||Mississippi State||10||25||0|
|Belk||12/28/2013||North Carolina||11||North Carolina||4||15||0|
|Capital One||1/1/2014||Wisconsin||8||South Carolina||5||13||1|
|Hawaii||12/24/2013||Oregon State||10||Boise State||3||13||1|
|Music City||12/30/2013||Georgia Tech||2||Mississippi||8||10||1|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||12/28/2013||Kansas State||9||PUSH||1||10||1|
|Poinsettia||12/26/2013||Utah State||3||Utah State||6||9||0|
* I will admit that I am not 100% confident in the interpretation of FEI here. I have not yet been able to find a good explanation of what this represents beyond the standard explanation that Brian Fremeau provides on his website, "...the baseline possession efficiency expectations against which each team is measured." If you have a statistical-minded explanation, I'd be very interested to hear it.
[ed: bump for epicness. contains swearing, obviously. Wait. What? Oh are you f-ing kidding me about JT Compher breaking his foot. I HATE ALL THINGS.]
THE STATE OF OUR OPEN THREADS: A SEASON IN PROFANITY
We’ve entered December and the relative lull between the end of the regular season for football, bowl games and conference basketball. We have undoubtedly looked back on 2013 and said our peace and expressed our frustrations with how things went this year.
As you know, of course, your frustrations were measured here and compiled into a series of short summaries which began to appear midseason, and this was called “The State Of Our Threads”. I was the originator of the idea, but I actually was not the first to post it because I was a little leery of how people might react to the self-effacing blog humor that it was meant to be. I have CooperLily21 to thank for introducing this initially.
Well, now that the season is over and our thoughts have collected, it is time to look at how we got mad, what made us mad and how often we were mad.
For the same of simplicity, I tracked seven words or types of references. One of them, specifically “put in Morris”, was more for something which will appear in another part of this work. It was a very productive year with 4,843 occurrences of these tracked words and references. All of them as well as their relative frequency of use are in the table and chart below.
|TOTAL||AVERAGE||STD. DEV.||% oF TOTAL|
|"put in Morris"||187||15.58||16.81||3.86%|
There were some other interesting statistics to report as well.
The average number of instances of the tracked words for a home game, for example, was 256 and for away games, it was 611. In other words, we swore at an average rate 2.38 times greater during our away games than our home games. I am fairly certain our performance in some of those games has a hand in that number.
The average thread size (or combined posting volume in both threads, if there were two) for a home game was 1,283 posts, but for an away game, it was 1,929. As noted above, this is probably due to performance in some of these games which led to some of us having much to say, and per this study, not much of it was kind.
Most interesting of all to me, 70.06% of all tracked swearing was done during away games, compared to only 29.94% for home games. This is sort of given to you in the average per-game comparison above, but the percentages here really paint the picture, I think. In our collective perception, we were not good on the road and here is further evidence of that perception.
One other question you might have is which games contributed most to the total. You probably would not be shocked if I told you that, by themselves, Penn State, Northwestern and Iowa contributed to 55.40% of all instances of the tracked words. Even though one of those was a win, these three games left us the most perturbed.
THE MOOD CHART
What did the MGoMood look like on a plot? See the Mood Chart below:
Using the normalized values of each major component – thread size and swearing frequency (I used the average of the tracked words), we get a decent handle on the board’s general mood throughout the course of the football season. As you can see, we spent much of it rather upset, although there were noted exceptions. One thing we can hypothesize here is that the people who threatened to check out and said they would be done with this team probably came to say something anyway, because although Nebraska may have left us feeling the most numb per the graph, we still definitely felt something.
[AFTER THE JUMP: WHAT MADE US MAD, other than everything, and the most MGoBlog stat of all time: swearing efficiency.]
One of the most common blog posts during the football season is to document the performance of former Michigan players in the NFL. You see this on Touch The Banner, Maize n Brew, and it is has been a prominent component in The Wolverine publication for years. I thought I’d try to do the same for basketball now that we actually have a couple of recent players featured in the league.
Now that Juwan Howard has moved on to coaching, there are only three former Michigan players in the NBA. Here are their profiles:
- Trey Burke (Jazz) – As Brian pointed out, he’s been a significant help to the Jazz who were woeful without him. He’s averaging 29 minutes per game with a slash line of 90/37/34. The 2-point percentage isn’t great, but when matched with his 4.9 APG he’s having a good start to his rookie year.
- Tim Hardaway (Knicks) – Hardaway is off to a solid start considering the number of wing players he’s competing with on the Knicks. He’s averaging 7.9 points and 1.1 rebounds with a slash line of 84/46/41 – pretty impressive outside shooting.
- Jamal Crawford (Clippers) – He’s been in the league for a long time now and really only played about a dozen games at Michigan, but we can still claim him as ours – right? His solid career continues with his 16ppg average and percentages of 81/43/36.
There actually is a fourth former player in the NBA that has often been forgotten as Beilein has built his program into a national power….Epke Udoh. It would have been interesting to see him stick it out here at Michigan instead of transferring to Baylor.
- Epke Udoh (Bucks) – Udoh has primarily been a role player but a solid one. He averages 26 minutes per game and contributes 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds on average.
I’ll even use that Udoh mention as a segway to another feature I’ll steal from. Over at TTB there is another favorite post of mine where Magnus highlights the performance of former Michigan players or recruits who ended up at other schools for one reason or another. There have been three recent transfers that still maintain college eligibility.
- Evan Smotrycz (Maryland) – He seems to have found a home on the future member of the conference, averaging a solid 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. In a loss to OSU earlier this season he had 15 points and 7 boards. He’s a solid player that fits Beilein’s offense really well – it is unfortunate that it didn’t work out for him at Michigan.
- Carlton Brundidge (Detroit) – Brundidge was always a bit of an enigma since he was not a true point guard but was somewhat stuck in a point guard’s body. He barely played at Michigan before being kicked off the team. At Detroit this season he’s averaging 25 minutes a game and contributing 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
- Colton Christian (Florida International?) – He supposedly transferred to FIU, but I can’t find any record of him ever showing up there.
At this point I’m not going to bother researching all of the former recruits who didn’t sign with Michigan. If you’re interested in that information, I suggest you browse the recruiting page over at UMHoops as there is a lot of interesting information there.
However, I will take a moment to highlight one recruit I really wish Beilein would have signed – Larry Nance Jr. He was being recruited by Michigan for the same roster spot that ended up going to Max Beilfeldt. Recruiting is a funny thing so it is hard to know what happened during the process, but I’ve often thought that he is perhaps the player I most wish had signed with this team. I like Max and think he’s a great guy to have on the end of your bench, but it sure seems like Nance would have been an ideal fit. Michigan has lacked a true power-forward for the past few years and that’s the position Nance plays at Wyoming. Having the ability to use him two years ago when Horford got hurt and only Morgan and Smotrycz existed over 6’6” tall would have been nice. Having him last year when Robinson was the only viable power forward would have been nice. He’s currently averaging 13 points and 9 boards as an athletic power forward. In case you suspect that has a lot to do with playing for Wyoming, I’ll mention his stat line from a game against Ohio (yes, THAT Ohio): 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks. I also have an irrational fondness of signing the sons of former NBA players as it often brings more mature talent and positive media attention. Building on the legacy program established with Hardaway, Robinson, Horford, and even Dumars seems like a good thing – doesn’t it?
Finally, I decided to expand this piece into another area. Last season I stumbled across a post at The Only Colors that discussed the performance of former MSU players who were playing in professional leagues overseas. (Sorry, can't find the link.) Since there are a surprising number of them still playing, I’ll wrap this up by using a chart instead of long-winded bullet points.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team (country)||PPG||FG% (2/3/FT)||Previous Countries|
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia (Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Ukraine, Dominican Republic|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||Liga Sudamericana (Ecuador)||18.3||52/29/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||49/0/67||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brent Petway||2004-2007||Olympiacos (Greece)||7.6||72/50/63||France, Greece, Harlem Globetrotters|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Piratas (Columbia)||16.4||42/41/79||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria|
|Courtney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||7.9||62/0/81||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||Omenga (Italy)||21.0||58/35/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||12.0||38/27/71||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||8.2||62/24/84||Spain|
There were several other former players I found in the database that have played recently, but none of them seem to be currently playing. They are Maceo Baston (last played 2010-2011), Louis Bullock (2011-12), Daniel Horton (2011-12), Bernard Robinson (2012-13), Manny Harris (2012-13), and Zack Novak (2012-13).
You have to wonder how comfortable of a living these players make - clearly some of them have made it work for a long time. The name that jumps out from that table is Jevohn Shepherd. He struggled to contribute at Michigan and now averages over 20 points per game in a solid Italian league.
If you have other information about former players, share in the comments. I'd also suggest anyone with an interest do this same type of piece for Hockey or Baseball.
2013 will be remembered as "The Season of Infinite Pain" for me, and for many others, I suspect. High expectations have a way of making even good seasons frustrating; 2013 has been well-below "good." Not only did we fail to compete for a B1G Championship, we had our expectations boosted after a magical performance against Notre Dame, only to be crushed by consecutive weeks of struggling to beat two of the worst programs in college football.
I was going to wait until after the bowl game to write this diary, but this lull is killing me and let's face it--the BWW Bowl isn't going to change much.
This series is something of a follow-up to my diary re-ranking players based on Rivals ratings. Reading the beginning of that diary will help explain the player's rankings (as well as the Rivals ranking system). Additionally, I've added letter grades, which are explained more thoroughly at the end of the post, so that we can get down to business with the first position group in the series:
Season Grade: C+ Overall, it was a less-than-stellar year on the defensive front. My pre-season predictions said the fate of our season rested on the offensive and defensive lines, and I believe that turned out to be the case. The D-Line produced just 13.5 sacks, and only one player on the line had more than 2.5. The "right to rush four" was never earned, and the season suffered because of it.
That said, there were some positive signs. Frank Clark showed marked improvement, and Willie Henry emerged as a viable option to replace either QWash or Black in 2014. Wormley started to emerge in limited snaps, and other young guns like Ojemudia and Charlton showed flashes.
Big things were expected of Frank Clark in 2013
Season Grade: B+ To say Frank Clark made a big jump this year would be an understatement: he had 17 more tackles, 3.5 more TFLs, and 3.0 more sacks than in 2012. More importantly, he played much more consistently and held down his job as the WDE all season. He led the team in TFLs by a whopping 5.0, and many of those came against some strong opposition (2.5 vs. Iowa, 2.5 vs. MSU).
That said, the off-season hype and reports of him besting Taylor Lewan in practice pushed expectations to a probably unreasonable level, and he did not come through. I predicted that we would need at least eight sacks from Frank Clark if our defense was going to get the requisite amount of pressure on opposing passers to make 2013 a successful (B1G Champs) season. Not only did he fall far short of that number, his five sacks all came in three games: UConn, Penn State, and Indiana. In hindsight, we sure needed those sacks against UConn and PSU, but they weren't enough to win the game. His pass-rushing was pretty quiet--even though he deserved a few more QBH's, he only finished the season with seven (which led the team), and had just three in B1G play.
2014 outlook: It says here (again) that without significant production from Frank Clark (or a surprise at WDE), the whole 2014 team's ceiling is limited. It is vital for every 4-3 team to be able to produce consistent pressure from their front four, and the WDE is the guy with the best opportunities in our system. If Clark can't get to eight sacks in '14, we'll once again find ourselves in the middle-of-the-pack (#67 nationally in 2013 with 23.0 total) in sacks. That is not a good place to be.
Jibreel Black will be missed
Season Grade: B Jibreel Black is the kind of player you like more every time you see him play. I believe he was our most consistent performer on the line this year, even plugging-in at NT despite his 278 lb. frame. Black, by far, produced the most pressure from the interior of the line, and probably produced the most consistent pass-rush of anyone on the team.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough. He was tied for second (Cam Gordon) on the team with 7.5 TFLs and third (Chris Wormley) with 2.5 sacks. On the defensive line, only Clark and Willie Henry had more tackles. Yes, he was a productive player, but this needs to be the baseline for DTs if we are going to achieve our potential as an elite program. For Jibreel Black, I see a guy who maxed his potential and deserves to be remembered for his worthy contribution. But I also see a guy who stood out more than he should have because of pretty poor production by the D-Line as a unit.
NFL draft outlook: Black is a fringe prospect, IMO, with a minimal chance of being a FA pick-up.
Quinton Washington's 2013 was a bit of a mystery
Season Grade: C+ I call shenanigans. QWash finished the 2012 season strong--he had ten tackles in our last three games and a sack in the Outback Bowl--and appeared poised to be one of the team's most important pieces in 2013. While no confirmed injuries were reported that I am aware of, I believe there were some physcial issues that held him back this year. But that's just speculation.
What is certain is that his season was just mediocre. We needed him to eat blocks and make a few plays each game; he didn't do enough of either, registered zero TFLs on the season and just five solo stops. Expectations probably hovered around 35 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, and 3.0 sacks; he was far short of all of those marks. Sure, part of it was that we frequently had smaller DL packages out there, but if QWash had been playing up to his potential, I don't think Mattison would have kept him on the sideline. He was serviceable while he was in, but that's about the best I can say.
NFL draft outlook: Not happening. He appeared poised to be a late-round pick after last year, but a completely lackluster senior season seems to have erased that possibility.
It's remarkable that we never established a starter at SDE. Keith Heitzman was the presumed and nominal guy, but only started seven times and didn't even play in one of our games. Brennen Beyer is currently listed as the starter at SDE, and he spent most of the season playing SLB with his 250 lb. frame. It is not good that he is our best option at that position. Chris Wormely showed signs that he can play up to his lofty potential, but did not produce consistently. Matt Godin was sometimes on the field.
Willie Henry figures to start at either DT or NT in 2014. Despite playing in only nine games (and missing stat-boosters CMU and Akron) and starting just five, Henry racked-up 28 tackles and 2.5 TFLs. 13 of those tackles came in the final three games. QWash's 2013 fade gives me pause, but I will go ahead and predict a big 2014 for Henry anyway, in the 40 tackle range with about 10 TFLs. Tom Strobel (whom I wrongly predicted would have a breakout 2013) will also figure into the rotation here, and perhaps Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst.
Beyer is the presumed starter at SDE, and, as Brian says, will likely fulfill his Roh 2.0 destiny. He will add 20-30 lbs. in the off-seasn and be solid but not spectacular, just as he has been this year. He will be reviewed again in the LB wrap-up.
Ondre Pipkins will probably be our starting NT if he can get healthy; that is a big "if" for a 300-plus pounder who's had trouble staying in shape when his legs worked properly. If it's not him, please feel free to panic as Richard Ash is currently listed as the #2 option at NT. After that? Ryan Glasgow is the only other guy with the requisite size (and the aforementioned Henry, which requires plugging someone else in at DT) to play the position. Perhaps Hurst will become a NT; Bryan Mone will be a true freshman and is likely to get some snaps.
Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton represent what I believe to be the most talented group of back-ups on the roster, and I expect both to contribute. Charlton may very well be big enough to play SDE and even DT on passing downs, and I hope we find a combination of players that can get pressure on third down without blitzing, which may put Ojemudia at the SDE.
The line will lose its interior starters in Qwash and Black, but both are replaceable. Henry is likely to be an upgrade at either position, and in the other spot...well, we may miss Jibreel Black if someone doesn't step-up. At SDE, I expect Beyer to be an upgrade over the platoon this year. Even if he's not, I'd expect Wormley to be an upgrade.
To be an elite defensive front, we need our line to produce around 20 sacks. That's 50% more than this year's group could manage. While I believe Clark will take another step forward, Beyer will be solid, and I am excited about the future for Henry and Wormley, 2015 is when Hoke's recruiting will have the D-Line up to snuff. I expect a "B/B-" season in 2014...quite a bit better than this year, but not yet elite.
- A+ Consensus All-American. One of the best players in the country regardless of position.
- A Likely Second-tem All-American/First-team All-B1G. A hugely impactful player that affects every snap for which he is on the field and is one of the better players at his position in the country.
- A- Likely All-B1G selection. A play-maker that forces other teams to adjust their gameplan.
- B+ An impact player who is a big factor in the team's success.
- B "The expectation for the position." At Michigan, this means you are doing your job well enough to get us to at least 10 wins and to challege for the B1G title.
- B- Not quite up to par. A player who may start, but an upgrade would be helpful.
- C+ Significant snaps for a C+ player will hold the team back from achieving its goals: 10 wins and a B1G championship.
- C An average college football player on an average team. Picture an average starter at Washington State.
- C- A player that is consistently unproductive and should only be on the field in an emergency situation or for garbage time.
- D+ A player whose performance hurts the team.
- D A player that should not be on the field for any reason at Michigan.
- F Pure disaster.
Please note that these grades are NOT representative of what I believe to be a player's future potential. I am not assuming anyone with a low grade will turn out to be an unproductive player at Michigan.