Well, I've been busy. I had plans to write this but spring break and a deep NCAA Tournament run by my favorite team got in the way. So after the Final Four (and a week of depression) I decided I better write this again. Well it turns out I find watching 10 hours of Masters coverage every day more entertaining than, well, anything. Then it was back to school, and two weeks later, I still hadn't written anything. So after several hours of procrastination, here I sit, finally writing that ever elusive diary. But it's great to be back.
You may be thinking "Ugh, he's going to skip over all of that great stuff that happened", and to that, as Lee Corso would say, I give a "Not so fast my friend" in your general direction. Because even though I might have been gone, I might have been down, but I was not out. No, not even close. You see, I have been observing. Very closely in fact. These are my observations. Maybe a tad late, yes, but these can only get better with age. Fittingly, they will be called "Observations on The Game". I feel like David Hartley right now, writing a philosophical narrative about one man's cunning observations. Except these aren't exactly cunning, nor are they going to change philosophy forever. This is a stream of consciousness. About a game. And it just might be one of the best we will ever see.
Observations on The Game:
I sat in my seat and prepared myself for the game of a lifetime.
Michigan vs Louisville for the national championship. It did not get any better than this. I expected great things, but little did I know that the spectacle that was about to appear in front of me would be one of the greatest games in the modern era of basketball. The fans were great. The atmosphere was electric.
The game started, and it was an epic, back and forth affair. Then a small kid that can shoot the lights out decided to get hot. Michigan's back up point guard Spike Albrecht made 4/4 threes in the first half, finishing with 17 points at the break in relief of star point guard Trey Burke, who had to sit with 2 fouls. Spike's performance was inspiring, and raised a chorus of "Who the heck is this kid?" from the Louisville fans in my section.
Louisville tried everything they could to stop Spike. But he's an Indiana kid. "Hoosiers" is probably his favorite movie. He was unheralded He was unappreciated He was just a freshman. But on the big stage in the big dance everyone is equal. And Spike proved he belonged there.
Louisville was out of sorts. They were getting beaten in every way possible. Their coach Rick Pitino called a timeout with about 3:40 left in the half. Whatever he said in that huddle must have worked. Because Louisville's Luke Hancock looked at what Spike just did, and said to himself "I can do that". He did just that, and with Louisville down 12, with 3:00 to go in the first half made a three.
And then on the next possession, made another. And on the next trip down made another.
Michigan called a timeout, came out of it, and missed a shot. Louisville took it down, gave it to Hancock, who just wildly heaved it up from about 28 feet out. It was an off balance, one footed, going away from his dominant side, shoulder heave. From where I stood, I had a perfect line on this shot. My mouth slowly fell open in awe as the ball arched on a perfect trajectory towards the hoop, going through with a perfect swoosh. That's a 12 point lead eliminated by one player in four possessions in less than 2 minutes on 4 shots. Utter. Pandemonium.
Michigan managed to take a one point halftime lead. It didn't feel like a lead thought. The look on the faces of Michigan fans were that of fans whose team was down 20. But it felt like that. Everyone in that building knew that there was a storm coming in the second half. But there was an air of anticipation Because that was the greatest first half of basketball I had ever seen, and I couldn't even begin to fathom what the second half had in store.
This epic back and forth battle between these two heavyweights continued into the second half. This was Ali vs Foreman. This was The Rumble in Downtown Atlanta. These teams were trading blows, and it was only a matter of time before one of them would become the knockout punch. Michigan took an early lead, and then Louisville, and then Michigan, and then Louisville again. This was the type of game you never wanted to end. Just two teams of athletes at their physical and mental best giving everything they had and then some at the pursuit of a National Championship. That's what it was, and everyone in that building that night knew it.
This was the most beautiful thing until just over 5 minutes left in the second half. Michigan had just cut Louisville's lead down to three, and there was a buzz in the building. Was the momentum going to switch back Michigan's way? Could Michigan, the youngest team in the tournament, pull this win off? All they needed was a spark. Both teams had some momentum when Spike Albrecht missed a layup and Louisville forward Chase Behanan grabbed the rebound. He looked and found Louisville guard Peyton Siva streaking alone in the open court. The pass was perfect and Siva started to glide in for a layup. Michigan guard Trey Burke was the only one in the vicinity, he slowed a bit to time his leap.
With 5 minutes to go in a national title game, you don't concede uncontested layups. Burke and Siva both leaped at the same time, Burke on the inside, closest to the basket. This all seemed to happen in slow motion to me. Burke extended his left hand as far as he could, grabbed the ball, and pressed it against the glass. What. A. Play!
Almost the moment he did this, a short, shrill noise erupted from near the sideline.
The whistle of a referee. At the same time, a Michigan player grabbed the rebound, and looked to start a fast break going in the other direction, because according to him, and most of the stadium, this was the spark that Michigan needed. This game was theirs for the taking. Except for that whistle.
Trey Burke had just made the best play of his incredible career. And this is what it looked like in the play by play:
Foul on Trey Burke
5: 09 Foul on Trey Burke. Foul on Trey Burke. Foul.
Trey Burke couldn't believe it. His reaction is exactly that of someone that knows he has been robbed of possibly the most athletic and greatest play of his career.
I knew it. The Michigan bench knew it. Their coach John Beilein knew it. The crowd knew it, and immediately erupted into boos.
Peyton Siva silenced those boos with two free throws, pushing the Louisville lead to 5, a lead that they would not relinquish. Another Luke Hancock three made it a 10 point game, but like they did all year, and all tournament long, Michigan fought back, pulling it to 4 points with 1:20 remaining. But they were unable to get that clutch bucket to turn it into a real nail-biter, and a key turnover sealed the deal for Louisville, who after some free throws won 82-76.
Walking off the court while confetti that could have been for you rains down and another team celebrates a victory has to be one of the worst feelings in the world.
The way the teams celebrated were total opposites, as one would expect. For Michigan, it was a solemn handshake between coach John Beilein and freshman forward Mitch McGary.
For the players it was a simple hug. No words are needed.
For Louisville, it was a time for celebration, for rejoicing, for joy. It was time to cut down the nets. The hoop was lowered so that Kevin Ware, a sophomore guard who broke his leg in Louisville's Elite Eight game could cut down the final strand.
They truly won that game for Kevin Ware. They stood for endless pictures, posing with various signs, and of course, the National Championship Trophy.
When Louisville coach Rick Pitino finally made his way off the court to go celebrate with his players and conduct all of the necessary interviews, he flashed one last sign of victory to the remaining crowd. He formed his hand into a "L" and held it there for a minute before finally succumbing to a wash of security, fans, and reporters who were all pushing him towards the exit.
This was truly a game for the ages.
Something about this game's finish was melancholy for me when it ended. As I sat there, surrounded by some fans who had tears of joy in their eyes, others had tears of sadness. In front of me, as confetti streamed down from the rafters, I came to a stark realization. This is the only time I would ever see something like this ever again. If this epic of a game had happened in the NBA, both teams would simply resign everyone to a contract, and there was a good chance that this same matchup would happen again next year. But this is college basketball. This will never happen again. I'd seen Trey Burke's last game in college. I'm am very confident that he will have a long and extremely successful NBA career, but there was something magical about that night. This is what makes college basketball so painful, but so beautiful. The rosters are always changing, the game is always evolving. This is what makes it great, but for once, I wish I could have a time machine, so I could go back and see them play this game again. Not because I didn't like the result the first time, but because it was such a beautiful battle between two teams who left everything they had on the court. That was a game that even Hollywood couldn't have scripted. But we must move on from the past. Michigan is losing 7 players from that roster, Louisville only 1 (they have a TON of juniors). But for about 3 hours in downtown Atlanta, time seemed to stand still. There was nothing going on in the world except a duel to the death between two opponents on a basketball court. It was beautiful. It was a work of art.
Football commentators regularly talk up the value of the bye week or a big early season game for the opportunity to add extra preparation from a coach staff. This week I dug into the data to see how much of an effect bye weeks and openers had on team performance and which coaches are the best and worst at using the bonus time to their advantage.
As usual, I looked at all FBS games from 2003-2012. If a team played an FCS opponent as an opener or after a bye week it wasn’t included but it wasn’t treated as a bye for the next week’s game, either. I compared how each teams EV+ (points better/worse than an average team would have done, opponent adjusted) was in openers and post-bye versus how they did overall for that season. I then assigned those numbers to the head coach and looked at how head coaches have done, under the assumption that any strengths or weaknesses under these conditions would be more coach than program. So Brady Hoke is evaluated from Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.
Over nearly 1500 post bye week games evaluated, a small benefit did emerge. The average team performs 1 point better post bye week than in regular weeks. 53% of teams performed better than their expected based on full season performance. The data closely matches a normally distributed outcome with an average benefit of 1 point and a standard deviation of 11.5 points.
Distribution of points versus average for post bye week games
Openers were about a wash. The typical team performs about 0.2 points worse than expected in openers. Openers feature a lot more variables than just extra preparation time. The standard deviation for opening games is the highest of any week during the regular season (but lower than bowl games). That variance is pretty low however. Teams have the most deviation from their season average in week one (11.9 points) but the low point has a deviation within 1 point (11.0) that occurs during week one. So teams are most likely to have an outlier game in week one or for their bowl but overall, most weeks have a pretty similar level of deviation.
To see how current Big Ten coaches have done, I looked at their track records for both openers and after a bye week to see who has done the most and least in each situation. The bubbles are color coded based on the team and all of the reds are team coded because there are too many red teams in the Big Ten.
Positive numbers are good and bubble size indicates sample size
Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz have both been able to start the year off strong with strong opening performances. New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen along with small sample size guys Bill O’Brien and
Curtis Kyle Flood both have the best results after a bye week. Coach Hoke’s openers have been mildly below average but his bye weeks have been the most productive of any coach with a larger number of games. Urban Meyer has seen his results after bye weeks on the other end with his squads playing 3.6 points per game worse than they do in a normal week.
Other Notable Coaches
Openers on the x-axis and post bye week on the y-axis
Charlie Weis has seen his career reflect his seasons at Notre Dame. A first season/game that was significantly better than what happens afterwards. I guess his decided schematic advantage expires after one week. Barry Alvarez is apparently the king of the bye week as his teams turned 3 bye weeks under him into a +21 advantage, even after accounting for opponent and team strength. Joe Paterno was the opposite case. His Penn St teams played over two touchdowns worse after a bye week. Mack Brown and Jim Tressel also had teams that have found bye weeks to be counter-productive. The only entry several points worse on both standards was GERG Robinson during his tenure at Syracuse. LLoyd Carr’s openers were never great, even when The Horror is excluded but his teams where some of the best coming off of a bye week.
As always, let me know about any request for off-season material you would like to see.
I thought I might share some background on my first experiences with deep dives into MGoCulture, if you will.
It began in the early 1980s on an unassuming street in Northville, and it began with a 1977 Ford Econoline and its owner –both pictured on this page for the University Of Michigan Club Of Greater Northville (LINK). I spent many hours, when I was a wee lad, sitting in this van as it sat in a driveway wondering what it would be like to be at a Michigan game before I actually went to my first one in 1985.
Lou was our next door neighbor, and his daughters babysat me and my sisters quite often, so we spent an awful lot of time at their house. Actually, we even spent mornings before school there once in a while, waiting for the bus, whenever my parents had to go into work especially early. I was in elementary school, and like so many kids in southeast Michigan, I was a Michigan fan, but I suppose at the time that I didn’t know what this meant precisely. Lou knew in meticulous detail, and it still impacts my life to this day.
Most of their house was similar to the colonials around it (including ours). At the time, most of us on the street had not graduated from 1970s décor, so browns and burnt sienna were not uncommon, and linoleum floors ruled the day along with the odd shag carpet. There was one room in that house next door that was an aberration, but a beautiful aberration – the office.
I still remember first stepping into that office and being awestruck – if it had a block “M” on it, or Bo’s likeness (even Bump’s likeness, as Lou went to school mostly during Elliott’s tenure) or if it was simply Michigan-related, it was in there. There was a board on one wall with dollar bills signed by names as diverse as Dan Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, Don Canham and even Bennie Oosterbaan. It was just dollar bills, but also signed photos, a few game balls from different decades, pennants and so on. Even though he likely had better things to do than explain all of these things to me, that is precisely what Lou did – the beginnings of my knowledge of MGoHistory and MGoCulture begin in that office just off the kitchen of the house next door.
Lou taught me “The Victors”, and not just the chorus. He even taught us “The Yellow And The Blue” and even let us attempt to play these songs on the organ in his living room. Actually, when we came over to the house sometimes, we would be quizzed on our MGoKnowledge. He took his self-imposed role as the neighborhood purveyor of all things Michigan quite seriously, and I know he still does even now. When I find myself buying MGoGear and supplying MGoTrivia to my niece and nephew, as well as my kids and my meighbors, I know exactly who I am channeling.
The Michigan flag flew proudly on the flagpole in Lou’s front garden. When the pole was ripped from the ground and thrown into the street by a June 1983 storm, it was actually the first thing that was replaced. Not even nature would prevent Michigan from reigning supreme over Morgan Circle. I watched as he installed the new pole, saying not a word, and at the end of that back-breaking day, in a ceremony to which we were all invited, the new Michigan flag (the old one was never found after the storm) went up with a “Go Blue!” and then some grilled delights on his back porch. He was dedicated to his university, and I think I picked that up as well, for the first thing that goes up every game day is the flag.
I don’t think I ever told him, and maybe I should this season as I walk past Edgewood and Snyder, where he tailgates more often than not, but I credit him primarily with starting me down the path that made me not just a knowledgeable Michigan fan, but a proud alum and MGoFanatic. Indeed, there are times on MGoBlog when, in the middle of a post, I stop to ask myself how Lou would respond.
Like many on this board, I come from a family that has Michigan ties from within as well, but when I think about who inspired this level of fandom and who inspired me to want to be part of that culture, I think of that house next door to ours in Northville and its resident Wolverine.
At long last, ESPN released their 2014 rankings, which means I no longer have an excuse to not put this together. With a new recruiting cycle comes some changes to the rankings:
- Between the addition of two teams (Rutgers and Maryland) to these rankings in the past year, the Irish falling off the schedule after 2014, and reading the same damn comment every week, it's settled... to hell with Notre Dame.
- Gone is the rudimentary points system. In its place, I'm using the 247 Composite Rankings, which combines data from all four recruiting services into, well, composite rankings. This not only gives an unbiased and comprehensive overview of each team's standing in the conference, but by adding the national ranking we get an idea of where the teams stand in the bigger picture and where the largest gaps are between teams in the conference.
- Using the 247 Composite Rankings again, I've added columns in the top table for the number of five-, four-, and three-star prospects in each team's class.
If you've got any suggestions, please leave a comment or send me an email. Without further ado...
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|247 Comp. Rank (Ovr)||School||# Commits||5*||4*||3*||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
|2 (9)||Ohio State||7||0||5||2||3.43||3.71||3.86||3.43||3.61|
|4 (19)||Penn State||6||0||2||4||3.17||3.33||3.33||3.33||3.29|
|5 (20)||Michigan State||6||0||0||6||3.17||3.33||3.50||3.00||3.25|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
I thought it would be interesting to see how the B1G teams fared against each other with number of players drafted and what rounds they went in. Overall, it was not a good year for the B1G with only 22 players selected and just one making into the first round. I created a table that shows the number of players drafted from each team, then assigned points based on the round drafted to come up with a point total for each B1G team. I used the following numbers: first rounders were given 7 points, second rounders 6 points, and so on. Obviously the point totals are open to debate. Is a first rounder really worth the same as as 7 seventh rounders? Who's to know? Anyway, with this metric I devised, Michigan ended up with a total of 5 points based on Denard's fifth round selection (3 points) and Will's sixth round selection (2 points). Obviously, had Taylor Lewan entered the draft, Michigan's score would have been much higher. As Lewan would have almost surely gone in the first round, that would have made Michigan's point total 12, good enough for fourth place, just ahead of Ohio.
I went ahead and threw in Rutgers and Maryland at the end of the chart just out of curiosity. If Rutgers were in the B1G this year, they would have topped the conference both with number of players drafted as well as point total.
2013 NFL Draft: B1G Edition
Edit: Corrected based on FlintB16's post
TIE YOUR LACES
(Click the Image to See Full Size Version)
Four years. Not all of them great, mind you-- but every one of them had their share of magic. I think I already said "Okay, this is the last strip about Shoelace" or something to that effect about three times now-- but I couldn't help myself. One last hurrah, before Denard Xavier Robinson puts on the cap of another football team, and closes a chapter in his life and another in ours.
Tomorrow's Friday Fun will be a drawing that has something to do with Michigan.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.