"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
I was watching pre-game coverage when a bout of inspiration hit me. I ignored all else so I could get this down before I forgot it. I hope you enjoy this. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear there’s a pretty big game on right now.
The devil Pitino went down to Georgia, he was looking for a title to steal.
He was in a bind, his team was way behind because Burke was making steals.
He had run into some young men raining down threes and making some blocks.
the devil Pitino jumped up onto the hardcourt and said “Boys, let me tell you what:
“I bet you didn’t know it, but my team’s pretty damn good too
“And if you care to take a dare I’ll make a bet with you.
“Now you’ve playing good basketball, but give my Cardinals their due:
“I bet the national title against your game ‘cause I think we’re better than you.”
The boys said: “Well we’re the Fresh Five and this may not be wise,
“But we’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret, cause we’re the best since the Fab Five.”
Wolverines take your practice shots and get ready to play hard.
‘Cause Louisville’s in Georgia and
the devil Pitino deals the cards.
And if you win you gain respect from M fans young and old.
But if you lose, it just might crush my soul.
The devil Pitino chalked up many plays and said: “We’ll start this show.”
And threes rained from beyond the arc and put backs went down low.
And the Cardinals were the darlings, making Wolverine fans hiss.
Then the Cardinal sang a song to their glory and it sounded something like this:
When the Cardinals finished, the Fresh Five said: “Well you’re pretty good ‘ol chaps.
“But sit down on that bench, right there.” And Burke gave the court a slap.
Stauskas nailing three balls, one by one.
Burke showing all why we’re number one.
Robinson and Hardaway alley-oops, WHOA!
“Beilein does Big Puppy bite?”
Go, Mitch, go.”
The devil Pitino and the Cardinals sank low once they were beat.
And they laid the national title on the court at the Fresh Five’s feet.
Burke said: “
Devil Pitino just come on back but I warn you that’s not wise.
“’Cause we told you once, you sorry old man, we’re the best since the Fab Five.”
And they sang “Stauskas nailed three balls, one by one.
“Burke showed all why we’re number one.
“Robinson and Hardaway alley-ooped, WHOA!
“And Mitch got a double-double.
“Go, Blue, Go!”
Remaining Games Chart:
Since the last time I've modified the chart a bit so instead of a non-sensical number average, "Difficulty" is now on a log scale of 1 to 10 of the KenPom/RPI average weighted by site of game.
|23||#South Dakota St.||5||103||75||71-56|
Well, Here We Are
Not surprisingly, the most difficult game by the numbers comes last. Michigan displaced the previous #1 KenPom team convincingly and is rewarded by playing the new #1 for the championship.
The good news is that these rankings and statistics are a formality at this point. The game is a one-off, winner-take-all, who is hot on the right night, who gets the 50/50 call, who can make the shots. Michigan has been in every single game this season except for one and the circumstances leading up to that game are not what we have here tonight.
NCAA Tourney Run vs B1G Gauntlet
If you laid out Michigan’s tournament games from the Sweet 16 to the Championship you would see before you, at least according to KenPom, an unrivaled task of difficulty – four consecutive top 10 opponents, with lots of travel and not much time to prepare.
Michigan, incredibly, has already run an equally challenging gauntlet earlier this year. There are no advanced statistics that can measure what kind of benefit of experience a team takes away from playing the top four teams consecutively (three on the road) in a nine day span; but it is safe to say that these are the kinds of things that either make you or break you. Regardless of outcome Monday night the answer is already clear.
February 2nd – 12th
March 29th – April 8th
As painful as it was to watch, can you draw up a tougher cluster of regular season games with which to teach and prepare this extremely young Michigan team?
- Without Burke, could Michigan have rallied vs Kansas?
- Without Hardaway pouring in 21 points on 5 of 7 three point shooting in a fifteen point victory, does Michigan have what it takes to beat South Dakota St?
- Without Stauskas firebombing Florida, do the Gators keep it close and have a shot to win?
- Without Robinson III's offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding does Michigan sputter in any of its tournament matchups, particularly Syracuse or SDSt?
- Without McGary becoming a world beater, doesn't Michigan suffer an inevitable "Wisconsin"-style loss to Syracuse or get blown out by Kansas or get upset by VCU?
- Without Albrecht becoming the most eligible bachelor and putting together a tournament highlight reel all his own, does Burke get worn down to the point Michigan exits early?
- Without LeVert making two critical three pointers and playing a terrific defensive game, does Michigan have what it takes to outlast Syracuse?
- Without Jordan Morgan "getting stops", does Michigan make it to the Championship game?
The best part of this run has been every rotation player has made plays crucial to the success of the whole team. As much as I thought the team's success would be utterly reliant on Trey Burke's performance, as went he so would the team's fate. Now vs Kansas this was true. But against South Dakota St and Syracuse in particular this was very much not the case. As a whole, the team has exceeded wildest expectations.
The Path To 32:
At Christmas I had seen this team play three games out in New York, I knew they were special. Now to climb to the top of the mountain we can throw out all the numbers, forget all the statistics, take our own time-out and appreciate how awesome this team is. The most difficult game of the season is the last. There is no tomorrow, but there is no fear.
(Photo from UMHoops)
As Michigan gets ready to take on Syracuse in a national hoops semifinal this evening, undoubtedly many of us will want to enjoy the game with a tasty citrus beverage—with or without alcoholic accompaniment. And on a night like tonight, nothing will be more satisfying to the Wolverine faithful than crushing the juice out of those oranges ourselves. If you’re accustomed to procuring your O.J. from the Tropicanas or Florida’s Naturals of the world, however, you might be a little unsure how to go about the fresh-squeeze. Luckily, the YouTubes are chock-full of helpful how-tos, and EGD has sorted through them so you don’t have to.
In this short & sweet production, natural food chef Kristina Jackson drops three oranges into an opaque food processor, and lets the camera zoom in on the orange trickle coming out the bottom while she runs down the nutritional specs. It’s effective, but not very satisfying.
Okay, here we have a hipsterish Canadian man demonstrating how to make O.J. in a fancy centrifugal dejuicer—while wearing only boxer shorts. His girlfriend (who, unfortunately, is not as extensively unattired) winds up doing most of the work while Pierre yammers on about bioflavonoids. Sure, why not.
From the “people will put anything on the internet” category, now here we have a :12 clip of a hand brutalizing a pair of orange wedges by repeatedly smashing them against a porcelain sink top. Not very useful and lacks the kind of sophistication that one associates with the University of Michigan, but hey—the EGD don’t judge.
In this video, a disembodied hand transforms 28 orange wedges into about 6 oz. of juice using a Ninja blender and a wire mesh strainer. Evidently that wasn’t as much juice as the hand expected, as you’ll see at the end. Sometimes unintentional humor is the best (same goes for the persistent use of all caps, and the amazingly lame acoustic guitar music that continues unabated throughout).
This one features a young headless girl prying the seeds out of halved oranges with a knife that’s longer than her forearm, then cranking them around a hand-dejuicer for an epic 15:00 running time. Admittedly I only watched the first 2:19, but that segment includes plenty of girl-on-orange violence and even a brief argument between our main protagonist and her off-camera mommy. This one’s a winner. And if 15 minutes isn’t enough orange killing for y’all, check out “How to Make Orange Juice! Pt. 2” for another 14 minutes of heart-stopping O.J. action.
Alright. Well, that’s probably enough orange juice videos for one day. But before I go, here’s a recipe for a delicious cocktail that you can make with your fresh-squeezed product:
Crying Orange Martini
· 3 oz. bourbon
· 1.5 oz. triple sec
· 1.5 oz. fresh orange tears
· 2 muddled Mandarin slices
Directions: mix bourbon, triple sec, and orange tears in cocktail shaker. Strain into glass. Garnish with Mandarin slices.
Sometime tomorrow evening and into the next several days we will be discussing what happened in the Final Four game against Syracuse - one way or another. Before that happens I thought I would reflect once more on the past 20 years of Michigan Basketball since we were last watching our Wolverines take the court in the FInal Four.
First, some quick context. I attended Michigan from 1993-1997 and as a member of the Basketball Band for most of that time I sat right on the floor starting the year after Jalen and Juwan left....exactly the start of the 20 years of futility. I stayed a huge fan through the dark days and couldn't be more happy with where the program stands today. Like many of you I rooted for a lot of bad teams and mediocre players in the past 20 years, hoping for a magical run. But enough about me.....
As you'd expect with the relative lack of success these past twenty years, the program has produced very few stars that we could watch beyond their days at Michigan. There were many players that were fun to watch, easy to root for, or played their hearts out, but can you name anyone who made an impact in the NBA?
The Past - NBA Version
Over the past 20 years since the Fab Five left town, almost no Michigan players have gone on to any NBA success. In fact, just THREE have had an NBA career last more than 5 years:
- Maurice Taylor - 9 years, 4 teams
- Robert Traylor - 6 years, 4 teams
- Jamal Crawford - 12 years, 6 teams
Those guys aren't exactly the alumni you're proud to root for either, with Taylor and Traylor both being part of the Ed Martin scandal and seemingly falling short of their potential in college and Crawford playing a total of 13 games before the NCAA decided they didn't like his back story.
Sure, many other players have hung around the end of an NBA bench for a couple of years, but none made any lasting impression. Yet prior to the 20-year-drought we had a whopping EIGHT players have long NBA careers (Webber, Rose, Howard, Vaught, Mills, Rice, Grant, Robinson). Not only did our on-court success cease with the Fab Five, but our pipeline to the NBA did as well. Here's the full list of Michigan players who've ever played in the NBA if you're interested:
Yet this year we are treated to a starting lineup that might send all five players to the NBA. Will any of them be stars at the next level? Probably not, though I can't wait to see what Burke can do. But we now have NBA talent on the roster again. Having NBA blood lines also helps. With a little luck there's a chance we'll see Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary in the NBA (hopefully not too soon) and both Irvin and Walton come with the pedigree to continue that pipeline.
But the real point of this post, is about the other players who came and went in those 20 years. Where are the likes of Daniel Horton, LaVell Blanchard, and Josh Asselin? While there were certainly some bad apples (thanks again Brian Ellerbe!) there were also a lot of good players that never quite put us over the top.
The Past - Euro Version
Inspired by a post at The Only Colors a while back, I dug into the foreign professional league rosters and was pretty surprised at what I found. A total of 13 former players are still active in leagues around the world with two more playing in the past two seasons. Below is a table of names you may remember and what they're doing today. I included a link to their player page for more information on their background. I didn't have time to research the various leagues to determine their quality (as much as I love Novak, I'm guessing his league isn't that prolific if he's averaging 19 per game), but I encourage others to do some digging too.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team||PPG||FG% (2p/3p/FT)||Previous Countries Played In|
|Maceo Baston||1995-1998||Bnei Hasharon (Israel) -- 2011||3.1||63/0/50||Spain, Ukraine|
Asefa Estudian (Spain)
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Spain, Ukraine, Dom Rep|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||9 de Julio (Argentina)||9.0||48/42/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Bernard Robinson||2001-2004||Basquete Cearense (Brazil)||7.4||46/25/77||Dom Rep, Argentina, Brazil|
|Daniel Horton||2003-2006||Kataja-Korihait (Finland) -- 2012||11.3||41/37/87||Australia, France, Cyprus|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||60/0/52||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brett Petway||2004-2007||AGOR (Greece)||11.6||66/31/69||Harlem Globetrotters, France, Greece|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Akita NH (Japan)||12.8||46/31/66||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria, Poland|
|Courney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||11.3||67/0/73||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||CSM Bucuresti (Romania)||19.2||58/39/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Sagesse (Lebanon)||21.4||54/32/62||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Manny Harris||2008-2010||Azovmash (Ukraine)||14.0||46/31/53||n/a|
|Zack Novak||2009-2012||Zwolle (Holland)||18.6||50/35/87||n/a|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Planasa NV (Spain)||9.1||42/40/90||n/a|
Data obtained from http://www.eurobasket.com/
(Note - I may have missed some guys in my search, feel free to add in the comments.)
When you look at that list of players, so many memories (good and bad) jump to mind...not to mention some of the interesting facts contained in that chart. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Who would have thougt there's competitive basketball in so many countries? How do you go about finding these jobs all around the world? Just look at the wide range of teams Dion Harris has played for!
- What is life like for these guys playing on obscure teams in obscure countries? How much do they earn? How hard is it for the guys that had a cup of coffee in the NBA to adjust to playing in places like Syria?
- Maceo Baston has been the Juwan Howard of Euro basketball, hanging on for a long time playing purely a post game (0% from 3pt).
- If you had to pick the highest scorers from this list of names, how many would you have guessed until you got to Jevohn Shepherd?? He averaged 2.5ppg in his four year career at Michigan. Who is playing in this Romanian league with him where he can score 19ppg?
It would have been fun to see John Beilein coach the 2004 team with the following players on it:
- PG - Daniel Horton
- SG - Dion Harris
- SF - Bernard Robinson
- PF - LaVell Blanchard
- C - Graham Brown
- BN - Petway (PF), Sims (C), Lester Abram (SG/SF), Chris Hunter (PF/C)
- Josh Asselin has made a nice career for himself and is actually shooting better from distance than Manny, Zack, Dion, Daniel, and Stu!
- I wonder how many dunk contests Petway has won in Greece.
I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane, even if there were some painful scars remembered (damn you Louis Bullock!). I hope most of these guys are watching this weekend as Michigan finally reaches the top of the mountain that eluded everyone on this list for so long.