(Diarist note: This is the beginning of my Bubble News post today at the JCB. This part deals directly with the Big 10, so I thought it was relevant. I should have a picks post with the day's card at the JCB within the hour)
Let's be totally cheesy and use Joey Brackets from ESPN whose field they just posted on TV. Illinois, Rhode Island and Washington are among the final five in. Minnesota and Mississippi State are among the final five cut out. Even folks not interested in priming the pump of their own TV broadcasts seem to agree with this order. BaselineStats has URI, Illinoi and UW as their final three in with Minnesota and Mississippi State lurking among his last cuts. All play today among the dozen games on tap today among the multi-bid leagues. It seems to be the consensus that on the eve of selection day, there are only enough bids available to count on one hand and these five teams all have a chance that nobody else has today to stake a claim. You can make a case that there's room in the field still for all five. Who the heck knows which way the debate for the final at large bids will turn if all five lose today. I wont lie, there is part of me that would like to see that happen because I think we'll get some crazy selections from the committee that will come out of nowhere. Billy Packer might just interupt one of the first round games Shooter-style from Hoosiers in protest. That could be exciting. This will prove to be one last pinata swing at the bubble that will determine what pecking order will fall out. Beware of Bid Thieves in Conference USA and the ACC this afternoon that could derail some of the process. If I were a fan of Florida, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Dayton and even Wake Forest, I would be looking for VooDoo dolls of those teams to drive sabres through.
If things go right the Big 10 could be the big winner of the weekend. Before the weekend, the Big 10 looked like a 4-bid league. That's a disapointment from preseason expectations after seven bids a year ago and performing very well in NCAAs. But now they look like a decent bet to bump up to as many six bids. Anytime you can increase your conference's bid total by 50-percent during the final weekend of play, you've put your mark on March Madness as a league. Illinois impressive effort against Wisconsin and Minnesota exorcising demons over Michign State have set both clubs up for at-large bids that didnt have in their hands heading into the Big 10 sectionals. Are you kidding me with this Minnesota run? No, we're not, and buckle in your March may get a lot more interesting. The Dagger already claims six bids for the Big 10, saying Minnesota can move to lock status with a win. The ESPN Gameday talking heads all just preached the Gohper Gospel during their last segment saying Minnesota was a tournament team. Hubert Davis said they passed the eye test and Jay Bilas said they deserve to be in the field. Why are the pimping Minnesota? Dont they know their game is on CBS today? I thought ESPN hated the Big 10? Dont tell me Internet Tin Foil Hat Wearers have led my astray. Shocker.
Anyway in the Big 10 semifinals today it sure does seem the Big 10 can put a lockdown on six NCAA bids. Illinois win over the Badgers have finally moved them back into the Bracket Matrix. They're a Matrix 12-seed, but with 47 votes, they have the fewest amount of votes of any at-large team in that consensus field. Eight of the nine mocks that updated this morning do have them in, so they're support is rolling fast in the right way. No way they get turned away at the Ball if they beat Ohio State today. The Buckeyes really overmatched Illinois twice this year. But if the Illini can pull a 180 on the Bucks the way they did to Wisconsin five days after the Badgers embarrassed them at home, then they can easily win this game today. They're seven-point dogs. That intrigues me. Have you noticed how strong the puppies have been barking during this Big 10 sectional? The Underdog is 5-2 ATS. Yesterday, they swept the board and on the first half, second half, final score trifecta, if you will, they were 10-2 ATS. I think that shows that while the league's cream rose to the top and became elite and the middle class fell short of expectations, there wasnt that big of a gap between those teams when you really break it down. This league was marked by its top four squeaking out wins against the middle of the pack all season long.
Minnesota dropping games in the final minute they had dead to rights against Michigan State and Purdue come to mind. Tuck those games away and not go 1-3 against Indiana and Michigan and the Gohpers are easily in the field right now. In fact, they would have been part of the regular season title chase. But it's two down in the big 10 finals, but how manhy more to go for the Gophers? Is one enough? Two will give them the automatic bid anyway. Minnesota exacted a measure of revenge for that first heartbreak and have got themselves back into at-large discussion. If they can exact a second dose today, they will jump into most people's mock brackets. Bracketville and Bracketology 101 already have them in their field among the mock bracket crowd. These folks have had them in all along and have moved ahead of their final four in group.
So, they Big 10 has a chance to leave its mark on the final bid invites. But, there are plenty of other contenders. There are 13 games today between teams from possible multi-bid leagues. Five games will have direct impact of the bubble, three involve the bid thieves we talked about in an earlier post and the remaining four are, well, frankly, like quality college football bowl games like UK vs Tennessee in the SEC Semifinals or the Big East and Big 12 Championship games. And, there are six championship games, all televised in a row on ESPN2, from one bid leagues. Whoa. Lots of good hoops. Hunker down. Make a sandwich. Crack open some brewdoggers. And, enjoy while, as we always do, let's take a look at the bubble games away from the Big 10 today. We'll have a full on picks post at the JCB in a little bit. We're on Vols +5, Temple -2 and Illini +7.5 early one.
The rest of the bubble news post can be read here.
Here's who I've talked to so far. I'm still waiting to hear back from a lot of them, fee free to add any names that you have heard.
- WR Deandre Scott, from Maryland will be there. He's bringing one of his teammates, who's only a freshman, with him to check it out. Scott has an offer from CMU, but is hearing from a lot of schools right now.
- Damiere Byrd will NOT be there. He plans on coming up to Michigan on June 5th, instead.
- LB Percy Johnson will NOT be there. He didn't know there was anything going on, which is probably not a good sign. This could change, since I just told him about it, but he's not coming, as of now.
- WR Justin Olack will NOT be there. He didn't know about the event either. He's also talking to his coach about trying to get up there. Might happen, might not. He doesn't have an offer either way.
- Glenville QB Cardale Jones will be there......he's from Glenville.
- Instate DE Brennen Beyer will be there.
- Detroit Crockett ATH Ashton Gaines said he isn't coming for now, unless he can get a ride.
- PA DB Kyshoen Jarrett said he won't be able to make it, unless his family can go. Looks like he won't be there.
- Dulles RB Jarrell Oliver will be there. Same school as Stonum, Woolfolk, and Brandon Herron.
- West Virginia RB Allan Wasonga hasn't decided if he's going to make it up. He'll be a last minute decision as well.
- DE Brad Carrico is thinking about coming up with his best friend, also a Michigan recruit, DE Chris Rock. Both are from Ohio, both really like Michigan. They went to school together until their sophomore year.
- Inkster RB Da'Shawn Bell will be there.
**I Will keep updating the list, as I hear back from more**
- DT Kevin Williams WILL be there on Saturday. It's good news that he's going to be on campus again.
- Ohio DE Bryan Baird will be there. He doesn't have an offer yet, but is hoping to get one soon. He's 6'4 230 lbs.
- TE Ray Hamilton won't be there, as of now. He's taken his visit, and knows the coaching staff well, so that's not a surprise.
- DE Charles Burks will be at Michigan this weekend. Burks is from Huntington Beach, so it's a big trip for him to make on his own dime.
- Inkster LB Dwight Trammer will be there.
- Commit Delonte Hollowell will NOT be there. He's in Boston for track Nationals with teammate Kishon Wilcher.
- Commit Greg Brown will be there.
- OL Chris Carter will NOT be there. He couldn't find a ride, either.
- OL Matt Skura from Ohio will be there.
- Instate OL Anthony Zettel will NOT be there.
First, lets take a look at 2009.
Difference of 10 gets a 1 letter advantage
Difference of 50 gets a 2 letter advantage
Difference of 90 gets a 3 letter advantage
Final Sagarin Rankings:
UM: 81 (EEK!)
Now on to 2010!
Departing Contributors Offense:
HB Andre Dixon: 2nd leading rusher on team. Start still in place.
WR Brad Canuch: 3rd leading receiver on team. Top 2 receivers still in place.
LT Dan Ryan: Followed by a RS Sophomore
RT Mike Hicks: Followed by a RS Junior
Top QB, 3 WR's, and HB all return
HB Brandon Minor: Leading rusher on team. Most likely replaced by a sophomore.
HB Carlos Brown: 2nd leading rusher on team. Most likely replaced by a sophomore.
WR Greg Matthews: 2nd leading receiver on team. Top receiver still in place.
OL Mark Ortmann: Replaced by ?
C David Mooseman (he played it most of the year): Replaced by original starter
Departing Contributors, Defense:
DE Lindsey Whitten: Replaced by a redshirt senior.
CB Robert McClain: Replaced by a redshirt sophomore.
CB Jasper Howard (deceased): Replaced by a redshirt sophomore
FS Robert Vaught: Replaced by a true sophomore.
DE Brandom Graham: Replaced by redshirt junior (RVB)
LB Stevie Brown: Replaced by true freshman (?)
CB Donovan Warren: Replaced by reshirt or true freshman
How was UConn last year?
Last year, UConn finished 8-5 after in a rather odd season. That record may not, however, be indicative of their talent level, as following the death of starting CB Jasper Howard, they went on a three game slide. During two of these games, the Huskies thoroughly outgained the opposing teams. The third, however, was a three point loss to top 5 Cincinnati after being statistically dominated. Like Michigan, the Huskies barely edged out Notre Dame, and munched on delicious cuppy cakes for many of their victories. Unlike Michigan, however, Uconn went bowling and beat the South Carolina Gamecocks in a strange and ugly game.
How will UConn be this year?
UConn is a team very similar to Michigan this year when it comes to personnel. They will be returning nearly all of their offensive firepower from a team which had a solid rushing attack and an OK passing attack in Big East play. Look for them to take a step up offensively this year, as UConn seems to be a program on the rise based on previous years. The similarities between Michigan and UConn don't stop on the offensive side of the ball. Like Michigan, much of the Connecticut secondary will be untested and young. Where Michigan lost players to the draft and team ejection, Connecticut lost theirs due to graduation and unfortunately, murder.
Prediction Based on ridiculously early evidence?
Michigan wins in a shootout. Many people are writing off this game as an almost certain win, but it very well could be one of the scariest games on the schedule. UConn will be a good team if their defensive players develop and the offense lives up to its potential. Still, I just don't see the Big East offensive linemen creating any holes against Martin and the boys for their pro-style offense. With our Freshman quarterback no longer being a Freshman, and our two best receivers finally being on the field at the same time, I see UM's offense improving more than Uconn's. Plus, Richrod owns Randy Edsall.
2004: WVU 27-6
2005: WVU 45- 13
2006: WVU 37-11
2007: WVU 66-21
First of all, only of Big Ten fans and Notre Dame (and others who want to join the Big Ten) would be upset about Rutgers joining the Big Ten. Big Ten fans would obviously be upset (with the possible exception of Indiana football fans) because Rutgers would be a perennial doormat in football and basketball. Notre Dame would also be upset because the generally open door that the Big Ten has left for Notre Dame to join would likely close. Now, Notre Dame has made it clear that they have no desire to join the Big Ten and prefer their independent status in football. However, the open door that the Big Ten has provided for Notre Dame has given them a powerful tool when negotiating with the Big East.
This brings me to the heart of the matter. Should Rutgers join the Big Ten, the Big East could actually benefit. Rutgers has given the Big East very little. Through St. John's, the Big East already owns the New York basketball market. Meanwhile, Rutgers football has generally been unable to deliver any ratings in New York, due to their being generally terrible through the years, and thus the Big East hasn't really benefitted from them. However, if Rutgers were to leave for the Big Ten, the Big East would get a huge opportunity. Because the Big Ten would have been eliminated as an option for Notre Dame, the Big East would likely have a conversation like this with Notre Dame:
Big East: Since Rutgers has gone, we're looking for a new football team to join the conference and we think you would be a great addition.
Notre Dame: Well thanks for the offer, but we're quite happy with our independent status and we don't think that such an arrangement would benefit us financially or athletically.
Big East: Don't be so sure. You would get five non-conference games every year, so you could keep up your rivalries. And let's face it, our conference is weak enough that you'll be able to get to a BCS bowl at least 2 out of every 3 years, so long as your coaching hires work out.
Notre Dame: Still, we would prefer independence. Joining the Big East would restrict our schedule a lot and our alumni would be very unhappy. Furthermore, we could still easily lose football revenue.
Big East: That's a shame, because if you can't join us for football, we'll have to kick you out for basketball.
Notre Dame: [mouths a few profanities] That would be unfortunate, but we can always join Conference USA or the Atlantic 10.
Big East: Well, that's an option for you, I suppose, but you should know that we'll probably be raiding those conferences for replacement teams for you and Rutgers [evil grin].
Anyway, should Rutgers join the Big Ten, they can easily get a replacement like Memphis or someone, and they would also gain a huge amount of leverage when negotiating with Notre Dame. And that situation, I feel, is likely the reason that Notre Dame is saying that they may be forced to join a conference. Also, I really hope that leaking the idea that Rutgers is perhaps the preferred candidate is just a method of putting pressure on Notre Dame to join the Big Ten, because if Rutgers actually came to the Big Ten, it would really suck.
I have a friend who is as Nats-obssessed as I am, and he sent me an email that I was going to write a long reply to. I have a policy of posting sports stuff, whatever it is, so I thought I'd do it here.
So I've been mulling various solutions to the Bornstein Problem. The most obvious one is just to move Bocanegra left--he's back to spending 90 minutes a game at left back for Rennes, and even scored the game-winner over the weekend--but if Gooch isn't healthy, what then? I was thinking that Edu's got enough experience at CB that I'd much rather see Boca-Edu-Demerit-Spector than Bornstein-Demerit-Boca-Spector. That would mean taking Edu out of midfield--where I think he has to be the de facto starter after his performance Wednesday and Clark's injury--but Clark can at least deputize there if he has to.
Another possible solution would be to switch Spector to left back, where he played for West Ham, and start Cherundolo. It'd be a lot easier of Cherundolo wasn't ALSO injured, but at least he's got a shoulder injury instead of a leg injury and should be back any day now. Anything's got to be better than Bornstein.
Onyewu should be healthy. His injury prognosis never lasted into the World Cup and he is back in training now, in three months he should be ready to go. He will be rusty as hell and probably won't have any games for AC Milan whatsoever, but the US isn't in a position where they can think about not starting him. So the easy solution of sliding Bocanegra over is likely to be what happens.
Cherundolo is in a spot similar to Onyewu. He will be rusty as hell but the USA is going to bring him and since it's just a shoulder he should be ready to go. Given the positional flexibility the US's backline has I assume he's the first guy in the starting lineup no matter where a hypothetical injury or suspension occurs. If it's center back, Spector flips to left and Bocanegra is in the middle. If it's left back, Spector flips to left. If Edu is in at CB at any point, the US is down at least two first-choice players and probably more.
I'm not that concerned about health in the back. I'm more concerned with rust and possession. Jay Demerit is a fantastic defender but the reason he topped out as a very good Championship level CB is what happens when he gets the ball. He looks like me out there. He's a hoofer. Any pressure, or any thing he imagines could be pressure, and he boots it upfield. That makes it even more difficult to get possession against a team like Holland. If there was anything at left back I'd rather see him on the bench. There isn't, so the hoofing is far the lesser of the evils.
Loney brought up a good point in his recap: if there's no Davies, should Donovan just play forward? I think it's obvious either Dempsey or Donovan is going to have to start up top if Davies can't go, probably Dempsey, but Donovan might mesh better with Altidore. That would leave a midfield of Dempsey-Bradley-Clark-???. Seriously, god DAMN Holden's injury; I think Holden after a good couple of months with Bolton could make that midfield good enough to get service to the forwards. Now? Eh. I guess you could also go Dempsey-Bradley-Clark-Beasley, but I think the Beas is probably a sub at best at this point, good as he looked the other night.
Everyone who reads this is going to instantly discount my opinion but here goes: I am tentatively in favor of Brian Ching. I know Ching does not score, and that this is generally believed to be the point of a striker. But if you can point me to any US forward, including Altidore, that can actually score consistently at a World Cup level, I will give you a nickel. None of them can score.
So if they can't score, Ching's dogged work ethic, set piece usefulness, and ability to hold the ball seem attractive options. But most importantly: Ching works spectacularly well with Donovan. He is a passing forward who has time an again picked Donovan out on his frequent killer runs. I think a major reason Donovan was so invisible against Holland was Robbie Findley and, it must be said, Jozy totally failing to get him involved when the ball came to them. Ching is basically equivalent to the rest of the USA forwards when it comes to putting the ball in the net, but probably better in all the other things.
And then, um, is it crazy to think it might be worth giving Brian McBride a callup? He's internationally retired but wouldn't he come back for the WC & runup? He's still producing for Chicago, with 12 goals in 33 games. He just frickin' scored against Chivas (That Chivas) in a Friendly. All of his bones and joints are currently operational. He is probably the best forward in Nats history. He's 37, sure, but beggars can't be choosers.
I do agree that Holden's injury makes it very difficult to put Dempsey at forward unless Beasley goes nuts at Rangers the rest of the year and does not shatter any of his many atom-thick bones.
Edu also has the atom-thick bone issue and is far from proven, but at least he doesn't have a record of insane red cards, deserved or not, like Clark does. Rangers have basically won the Scottish League already so I hope they'll do DMB and Edu a solid and give them a lot of run over the last dozen or so games.
I looked it up--of the 13 field players the U.S. put on the field at the Azteca last summer, 8 of them have suffered some form of major injury since then. The only ones that haven't are Donovan, Bradley, Altidore, Bocanegra, and Spector. I know soccer's got a high injury rate and you can't expect to have your very first-choice 11-and-3-subs, but still--that's ridiculous.
Timmah agrees with you:
But we're hoping that Charlie [Davies] makes it, hoping that Jermaine Jones makes it. Gooch [Onyewu] should make it. So should Clint [Dempsey]. Stu should be OK, barring any setbacks. But it's been really weird. As long as I've been on the team, going back eight years, we haven't had injuries like that. Maybe one guy hurts his knee and comes back around, but not this close to a big major tournament.
So it sounds like everyone should be healthy except possibly Davies, though what kind of shape they're in we'll never know. Jones is the ultimate wild card at this point. It's easy to forget this guy is Schalke's captain and widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Bundesliga.
Hey, at least we're not fretting that Chris Armas isn't available.
OTHER THINGS. After the Holland game, in which the US played the standard 4-4-2 with an actual attacking midfielder in Torres, I have come around on the boring USA game of double defensive midfielders. Torres doesn't fit well with the rest of the team if Demerit is hoofing it from the back and no one has enough bite to get the ball back. His touch and ball retention were useless against Holland. Maybe the US can take a more aggressive tack against an Algeria or a Slovenia, but until such point as they can actually pass it through the midfield, a double destroyer setup is the way to compete with the best in the world. Suck 'em in, bite 'em, and counter. Too bad Findley was such a git.
If you put a gun to my head I'd peg my starting 11 against England like so:
FORWARD: Altidore, Ching
WINGER: Donovan, Dempsey
CENTRAL MID: Bradley, Edu
DEFENSE: Bocanegra, Demerit, Onyewu, Spector
MAN WE LOCK TO A TIM HORTON'S IN SASKATCHEWAN: Bornstein
I admit that I don't really have 200 words to meet the diary limit. I'm relying on this note from Brian at the bottom of the requirements section:
Something that requires effort you would like to keep around for posterity's sake should be a diary.
Trust me, I put plenty of work into this. I can't take any more of the emo posts about Beilein and RichRod and the NCAA investigation and "How many games does RR need to win to keep his job" and so on and so forth. We need something more WOO FOOTBALL and less WHY DOES LIFE HATE US?!?
With spring practice ready to start, hopefully this gives everybody a few warm fuzzies and gets you excited again about what we can be. I present to you "Sometimes When You're On: 2010" (and yes, this is the only appropriate song at this point for a Michigan football highlight video):
The resolution option isn't showing up for me yet, but it should be available in HD. Enjoy. Be happy. Go Blue.
To steal a fellow Mgoblogger's signature (sorry, I can't remember whose it is):
"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing!" - Bo Schembechler.