"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."
MGoBlue and Coach Maloney released this upcoming season's baseball captains this week in senior catcher Chris Berset and senior first baseman Mike Dufek. The two have big shoes to fill, stepping up to fill the void of last year's captains Chris Fetter, Tim Kalczynski, and Kevin Cislo, but I'm sure they'll be up to the task.
Berset is in his fourth (split time with Doug Pickens in '07, but started more games) year as the starting catcher for the Wolverines, having already 91 starts in 110 games played. Chris has managed our pitching staff very well over the years, including the wildly successful campaigns of alumni Chris Fetter, Zach Putnam, Mike Powers, and current players such as Tyler Burgoon, Eric Katzman, and Alan Oaks.
There is a difference in the play of our team with him behind the plate. Pitchers feel confident in throwing that hard breaking slider in the dirt with runners on base and being aggressive because they know that Berset will block the ball.
On offense, Berset had a solid rebound to his sophomore slump of a season in 2007. From MGoBlue:
Berset, a three-year letterwinner, posted a career high in doubles (7) and runs batted in (21) despite missing 24 games due to injury last season. The switch-hitting catcher had a breakout sophomore campaign in 2008, appearing in 42 games with 37 starts behind the dish. Michigan was 27-10 in games Berset caught as he helped lead the team to its third straight Big Ten title and NCAA Regional in Ann Arbor.
Chris also honed his leadership skills with a trip to this year's World Baseball Cup, playing for the Great Britain team. While the GB team didn't make it past the 2nd round, Berset did well, hitting .387 with a key home run against Croatia.
Mike Dufek will be making his second straight season as the starter at first base, his third season to be at least a semi-regular starter. In his sophomore season, Dufek commonly came in to play first base when All American Nate Recknagel shifted to catcher or designated hitter.
Dufek is the big hitter in the lineup, registering 17 home runs last season and a .647 slugging percentage. Dufek is also a solid closer for Michigan, with a 95+ mph fastball that leaves opposing hitters whiffing at nothing.
Dufek earned first team All-Big Ten honors as a first baseman last season after starting all 55 games and leading all Big Ten first basemen with 17 home runs. He tied for third place on the U-M single-season homer list while finishing with a team-best 19 doubles. Dufek also appeared on the mound 11 times, posting a 1-1 record with three saves and a 2.70 ERA.
"What I look for in a captain are players who are committed to the team," Maloney continued. "Captains should look at things bigger than themselves, and I think Chris and Mike have demonstrated that quality throughout their careers. It's not about them; they want to win for Michigan."
Congratulations to Chris and Mike on your honor.
Images from mgoblue.com
The #13 seed Michigan defeated #4 seed Stanford tonight in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Volleyball tournament. Michigan won in 4 sets by scores 25-18, 23-25, 25-22, and 25-11. Michigan came out with their highest focus level all season and it showed.
In set one, Michigan's big players, Alex Hunt, Juliana Paz, Veronica Rood, and Lexi Zimmerman all came out on fire. Michigan registered only one hitting error with a hitting percentage of almost .535. Hitting percentages are like batting averages in baseball. A .333 percentage is very good. .535 is unreal. We did it.
We had balance on offense. Hunt was surgical on the outside. She cut blocks right and left. Paz was powerful, blowing through blocks for kills. Veronica Rood got the attention from Lexi that she should, providing a distraction for the Stanford blockers, opening up the outside. Lexi was perfect on the set, but she was also a force on the block. The first set was only close because Michigan was pushing hard on the serve, leading to 4 extra Stanford points.
In the second set, Michigan jumped out to an early lead of 5-2, but Stanford came back to tie the game at 8. Stanford got their block going, especially on Hunt, but Michigan managed to slowly cut the lead down and even tie the game at 23. Down 23-24, Michigan let a serve by that looked to be out. It was ruled to have landed on the line and Michigan lost the set. The call was close, and that play ended up being the difference.
Set three saw Michigan return to dominating. Michigan had two different 7 point leads in the set, mainly thanks to a couple of runs by Rood and Hunt. Stanford managed to bring the game back to a one point Michigan lead at 20-19, but when Rood rotated back into the front, it was set over. Michigan pulled away and won.
Set four was all Michigan. Stanford's wheels began to fall off as they had back to back serve receive errors against both Paz and Donhoff. They never really got "in system", meaning they never were able to get into a normal bump-set-spike rhythm. Michigan steam rolled over the Cardinal to open the set 16-3. From that point, Michigan traded off points to the final 25-11 score.
- Lexi Zimmerman was great all night. Her sets were crisp and clean. Her blocks were timely and huge (I think she had more than the 2 assist listed in the gametracker). She did a great job of mixing the sets. She incorporated everyone in the game plan and didn't force too many 2's (quick hits by the setter instead of actually setting the ball to another player). Lexi has forced a lot of 2's lately, and today she definitely let Rood/Bower be the change of pace attacks.
- Alex Hunt's hitting from the left side won the match for Michigan. In the first and third sets, she was splitting blocks, pinpointing her hits to go off the block, and just smashing the ball. Her 18 kills lead the team
- Juliana Paz had a great night with 15 kills, 3 service aces, and a solo block. Despite these numbers, Paz really wasn't a huge part of the game. Her .250 hitting percentage was lowest of the major contributors, and might have overshadowed just how good she played. The two service errors also looked pretty bad, but those happen.
- Veronica Rood needs to be cloned. With middle blockers, you almost always have two of them in your rotation at any time. This way, you have one in the front at all times (the other is usually subbed out by the libero). When Rood is in the game, Michigan can't be stopped offensively. Rood's blocking on the season isn't quite as impressive as most other middle blockers in the BigTen, but her offense is top of the line. Her quick hits (zero sets) and her slide/cutting hits when she moves to her right then hits are money every time.
- Megan Bower, like Paz, had a quiet set of kills as well. Bower totaled 9 on 17 attempts for a .471, but her bigger contribution was a change of pace in set 3. After Stanford really started to key in on Hunt and Paz, and with Rood subbed out on the back row, Bower had a strong kill from the opposite side that helped get Rood back into the front row quicker. That was a big swing in the game.
- Karlee Bruck really struggled in this game. She had 3 kills and 3 hitting errors in 15 attempts for a .000 percentage. She seemed a bit slow to the block (but registered 2 block assists) and was also off on her attacks. She did do really well on a couple of one-on-one plays at the net where the ball came down up for grabs.
- Sloane Donhoff and Maggie Busch both played excellent defense today and contributed quite a bit at the line. Donhoff had 4 service aces (2 errors) and Busch had an ace (1 error) from the serving line.
With the win, Michigan advances to the Elite Eight and will play the Hawaii Wahine tomorrow night (11:30pm ET) in Palo Alto. Earlier today, the Wahine defeated an Illinois team that finished ahead of Michigan in the BigTen. Illinois looked flat, but Hawaii did what they were supposed to do and didn't make errors.
Hawaii appears to be a team very much like Michigan in that they are aggressive, focus on their serving game, and rely on a pair of hitters. This should be a really good, really tight game. Hawaii is a power program in the WAC, comparable to Boise State in football, but with a much longer track record of success in the NCAA tournament.
I'll update this with media information as I get it. I think the game will be streamed again, but I'm not sure.
Go Blue, Beat the Wahine.
I love that there was already a "Stanford Sucks" tag.
A quick preliminary note: If the Big Ten becomes a twelve team conference, it should no longer be called the Big Ten. The Big North would be more appropriate, as would the better, yet redundant, Awesome Northern Conference of Awesomeness and Death (the ANCAD).
And now on to the important stuff:
I do not think that Notre Dame is likely to join the Big Ten. It is what the Big Ten wants the most, but because of Notre Dame's current financial situation, it is unlikely that they will be willing to make the move in the near future.
Instead, I think the most likely candidate is Pitt. They have geographic proximity, acceptable academics, competitive athletics, and a natural rival in Penn State. Now if Pitt were to join the
|From Big Ten + Pitt|
Geographically, there are two ways to separate the schools into divisions. The first is an East-West division and the second is a North-South division. Let's look at a straight East-West division first:
This system would be terrible. Like the Big 12, there is no competitive balance, with Michigan, OSU, and PSU in the same division. So instead, let's look at a North-South division:
This system is much better, with very good competitive balance in football and basketball, and rivalries are preserved. Allowing for one permanent inter-division game* per team, every major rivalry (and most minor rivalries) would be preserved. Michigan and Minnesota fans can rejoice at the Brown Jug becoming a yearly rivalry, while OSU and Illinois (well, OSU) can enjoy fighting over the Illibuck. In fact, out of the 14 rivalry games in the Big Ten, 12 would be played every year (with MSU-Indiana and Minnesota-Penn State being played only 4 years out of every 10, but honestly, who cares). Currently, only 10 are annual games. Additionally, Penn State benefits by getting Pitt every year.
The only real detriment here is that the Michigan-OSU game would have to be moved from the final week of the season, in order to avoid a potential (and often likely) rematch in the conference championship. A possible solution here would be to have Michigan and OSU open up conference play every year one week earlier than other teams. To elaborate, I would have all teams play three non-conference games to start off the year, then have Michigan play OSU while the rest of the teams either take a bye or play another non-conference game (obviously, there's room to maneuver here). Michigan would then close out with MSU (which would make MSU happy) and OSU would close out with Penn State (Pitt would still close with WVU in a non-conference game, so there's no real issue here). I think that opening conference play with OSU could easily keep the game in the national spotlight.
I know that this model isn't exactly ideal, but I think it's a pretty good one considering the realities of the situation. Any thoughts?
*Permanent Inter-Division Games
Michigan State-Penn State
Note: I matched the last three games on the competitiveness of the teams more than anything else.
Quick refresher on how this works-everything here is listed in terms of points versus average performance. For more info you can go here.
Wanted to do an overview of the leading Heisman candidates, look at a few of the interesting fringe candidates, and throw in a few controversial candidates (one especially around these parts).
The defensive candidatesI have struggled with how best to evaluate defensive players. My numbers give every play a value based on the success of the play relative to competition, down and distance and field position. For offensive players its pretty easy to assign value to RB's on running plays and QBs and WRs on passing plays. Sure there is a substantial effort put in by the blockers and fakes and the like, but overall, this works pretty well for offense. For defense, it's a little trickier. The 11 players on defense have a much fuzzier role in the outcome of any given play. A tackle is a tackle in normal stats, whether its after a 20 yard gain or for no gain. What I ultimately decided on was that players should be rewarded for making a play that has a negative value change for the offense. Sure a touchdown saving tackle could be a huge play even if its after a 20 yard gain, but for the most part a play that puts the offense in a worst position should be credited to the defensive player or players who made the tackle/forced the fumble/made the pick. All of this is limited by the quality of the play by play information available to me.
Players are awarded points in two categories, quantity and quality. A big fumble or interception can be worth up 10 points depending on the length of the return and the field position of the offense. That play has huge value, but is somewhat of a fluky hard to repeat type of play. By looking at both the quantity and quality, you are evaluating defensive players based on their ability to consistently make plays (quantity) and their ability to make really big plays (quality).
Obviously the scorching hot candidate this year, currently leading 1st place vote getter.
The rankings tend to favor linebackers, but that didn't stop Mr. Suh from tearing up the numbers. For the season, he was good for 72 negative plays (2nd nationally) and nearly 43 points of lost value on those plays (6th). Overall his total of 115 points (not sure if this is the right way to combine them, welcome to any thoughts) puts him 2nd overall. An absolutely outstanding year for a member of the #2 rated overall defense, worth 12 points a game as a total unit.
The Beast of Mgoblog has obviously not gotten any national attention, but let's look at how his numbers compare nationally.
Graham made 53 negative plays on the season, a respectable 23rd nationally and those plays took away 41 points in value from opposing offenses. 94 points overall ranks him 9th overall.
What becomes debatable is whether this 9th overall rating is more impressive considering Michigan's total defense was ranked 70th in the country or less impressive.
No matter what your take on the team defense issue, it is clear that whether you are looking UFR or By The Numbers, Graham was truly a beast and its a shame that the team's lack of success has limited his exposure.
Wide ReceiversNo Receivers are getting much attention this year, but the ones that are getting a bit of pub seem to be getting it deservedly so.
Danario Alexander, Freddie Barnes and Golden Tate hold the top three spots in my rankings and are 3 of the 4 receivers noted to be receiving votes. The fourth is the scorned Mardy Gilyard who comes in at 28th overall, but is also the key return man on the nation's #2 kick return unit.
Running BacksMy numbers value quarterbacks much higher than they do running backs. The top QBs are directly worth 10-12 points per game above average while the top RBs are "only" worth 4-5 points per game.
With that said, there is a clearcut leader in my tightly backed running back rankings, and it's not the guy who is going to win tomorrow. Toby Gerhart of Stanford is the only running back that has rated out +5 or better on the season.
Mark Ingram comes in at a respectable 7th and is 5th of players from the Big 6 conferences. However, the 2 point per game gap between Ingram and Gerhart is the same as the difference between Ingram and the 75th rated running back in the country. And this is after you account for competition. If you look at the unadjusted numbers, Gerhart comes in second to Donald Buckram of UTEP at nearly +7 while Ingram stays around +3. The gap between them is now as big as the gap between Ingram and the 150th rated RB in the country. If you are going to pick a running back this year, Ingram is a good choice, but Gerhart is clearly the best choice.
For those interested, CJ Spiller only checks in at #25 and stays just outside of the top 5 if you add in his prowess as a kick returner.
QuarterbacksSo I tell you the QBs are where all the action is at but then I put up what feels like a Simmons-esque length before even talking about a single one.
Both finalists are obviously big name quarterbacks for name schools. They had good years, but neither had individual seasons that I would deem Heisman worthy.
Colt McCoy finished the regular season at +9 which is good for 9th nationally. Tim Tebow was good for +7 (19) on the season and that is factoring in his top 10 quarterback rushing rank.
So who does that leave left?
I think if Tony Pike from Cincinnati didn't get hurt midseason, this award would be all his. The combined QB play from the Bearcats was worth 10 points a game and would have ranked 5th overall if it would have come from a single player. Case Keenum from Houston (+12, 1st) and Max Hall from BYU (+10, 4th) had outstanding years for quality mid-major programs but they couldn't get the defensive help they needed to get the wins required to garner the national interest. Kellen Moore of Boise (+7, 16th) had a highly efficient season but his competition was too weak to keep his numbers high enough. Jimmy Clausen (+9, 5th) did all he could to give us more Weis but quarterbacks don't win the Heisman going 6-6. But there was one name that really surprised me that was at the top of the rankings all year long. Ryan Mallett. Before adjusting for competition, he had a very respectable +8 and 12th overall rating. But when you factor in the SEC defenses he did it against, his rating leaps to +12, a sliver below Case Keenum. The Michigan transfer put up one of the least talked about great seasons in recent memory. In SEC play, he played 7 of the top 35 pass defenses in the country and still he managed one of the top seasons by either traditional or modern statistics. Ryan Mallet posted a nearly 150 quarterback rating facing the number defensive strength of schedule in the country.
My Ballot(s)If I had a ballot here is how I would rank the 5 finalists.
If I had a ballot (and balls) this is what it would look like:
Ann Arbor, Mich. – The University of Michigan Men’s Lacrosse team will take the field next Thursday, December 10, when they participate in their annual East-West intra-squad scrimmage at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse in Ann Arbor. Action will kick off at 7:00pm EST as the split squads will battle for bragging rights for their respective regions. Assistant Coaches Ken Broschart and AT Bulus will guide the East team, while fellow assistants Mark Greaney and Ryan Demorest will lead the West squad. The game will mirror a regular-season contest with a complete officiating crew as the Wolverines take the field in their last organized on-field activity before the start of the New Year.
The Wolverines will then have the remainder of the semester to focus on their studies before returning to practice in early January in preparation for the defense of their back-to-back MCLA National Championships. The Maize and Blue will open their season with a pair of scrimmages before heading west for a tough, three-game road swing vs. Arizona State, Arizona, and Brigham Young.
For all your Michigan Men’s Lacrosse info before the start of the ‘10 campaign, please visit mgobluelacrosse.com.
The release isn't clear whether the ticket prices will be the same as regular season games, but the worst-case scenario is $6 for general admission, $3 for students with an ID. This is a great chance to catch a game for one of the most successful programs on campus, even though they're a club varsity team. Should be an interesting opportunity for the West squad to show that good lacrosse players don't just come from the East Coast.
First we have to remember that this is a good year to be in the Big Ten as it is an extremely deep and talented conference, and would be considered a power conference this year. This makes it possible to make the NCAA Tourney with 19 wins and a Big Ten tourny win, but 20 or 21 and add a BTT win would lock up a birth for them.
Secondly, their out of conference schedule this year is on par with last years. Last year they played UCLA, Duke (2), UCONN, and Maryland. This year they have played Creighton, Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and Utah (4 of them away from home), and still play UCONN and Kansas. That is 7 quality opponents, now granted they are currently 1-4 in those games, but win 1 against either UCONN or Kansas and all of a sudden you have a 2nd quality OOC win. This would be the same as (corrected! sorry apparently counting to 2 was tougher today that I thought) last year. The tough schedule will help them with their RPI, and as dumb as the RPI is, it matters to the selection committee.
Last year after the Big Ten Tournament Michigan was 20-13 and drew a 9 seed.
So what would they have to do to make the tournament. Here is a scenario for you. # of wins in ( )
- First you must win the two cupcake games left: Detroit (5), Coppin St. (6)
- Beat UCONN (7) at home: They could have won on the road last year
- Take care of business against the Big Ten basement dwellers: Indiana (8&9), Iowa (10&11), Northwestern (12&13)
- Go 5-5 against Penn State (14) Michigan State (15), Wisconsin (16), Ohio State (17), and Minnesota (18)
- Beat either Purdue or Illinois (19)
- Win 1 BTT game (20)
Is 11 Big Ten wins tough? Sure. They could have accomplished it last year though had they beat Penn State and Iowa on the road. The toughest, and probably most important, thing to do is to sweep Indiana, Iowa and Northwestern. Every game you lose to those teams is another you have to win against the powers of the conference.
So when will we know if they have realistic tournament hopes? The 6 games between January 14th and January 30th. Home games against Indiana and Iowa bookend games vs. UCONN, at Wisky, at Purdue, and vs. MSU. They go 4-2 or 5-1 they could be on their way. Less than that and they could have a lot of work left to do come Big Ten Tournament time.