The NCAA volleyball selection show happened on ESPN News today, and Michigan managed to snag an opportunity to host the first and second round of games within their pod. As of right now, Cliff Keen Arena will host the Wolverines and 3 other teams from December 4th and 5th, with Michigan being the top seed. The opening matchups (NCAA Bracket):
#13 Michigan (24-9) vs Niagara (23-8, MAAC Champions)
Ohio (26-6) vs Notre Dame (21-6)
As I said, the games will most likely be played at Cliff Keen instead of Crisler where the volleyball team has hosted regional games in the past. With the basketball game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it sounds like they aren't going to try and get both sports in the same arena, as much as it might help with attendance.
Speaking of attendance, with the games in Cliff Keen, tickets are going to sell out quickly. Get your tickets now for this weekend, as they probably won't be available by the weekend, if they even last until tomorrow.
Game times aren't finalized, but I'll have that updated as I find out.
The Purple Eagles haven't played much in the way of solid competition this year, and so don't let their 23-8 record be too much of an intimidator. Niagara's RPI was only 162, and I don't see anyone even comparable to Michigan on their schedule.
The good news about the Purple Eagles is that they are one of the worst teams on the block Michigan will face this year. They rank 287 out of 317 total ranked teams in Division one at just 1.42 blocks per set.
The rest of their stats, including aces/set, digs/set, and kills/set all hover around the top 50-60 in the country. Their hitting percentage on the season is .225, which is fairly low, but earns them #85.
I think Michigan should handle Niagara fairly easily. If we're going to have a weak showing, this is the one game I think Michigan may be able to get away with it. Michigan will need to control Niagara's two outside hitters in Hanna Hedrick and Kari Honomichl. The middle blocker Bibler is their third scorer, but at a much lower pace than the two outsides. Bibler is only 6', so she won't cause any height problems for Michigan.
The biggest obstacle in getting past the Ann Arbor regional will be the Irish. ND comes in at #14 in the end of season RPI, and one very impressive resume. ND won all 14 BigEast Conference games before falling in their conference tournament to Louisville on the Cardinals' home court. The Irish are 8-1 on the road this season, with the lone loss coming at Florida State.
Michigan did face ND on a neutral court during the Xavier tournament in early September. In that game, Michigan swept by scores of 25-19, 31-29, and 25-20. Via mgoblue:
After U-M cruised to the game-one victory, 25-19, behind a .424 attack percentage, set two was a battle throughout with neither team holding more than a four-point advantage. Notre Dame held its largest lead at 16-12 only to see the Wolverines roar back as Hunt and Zimmerman registered four of the next five points to put U-M within one, 17-16. The Fighting Irish pushed the lead up to three again before another Zimmerman kill capped a second Michigan comeback, forcing a 23-23 tie. Paz had the hot hand down the stretch, contributing timely kills, while Donhoff capped the match with a service ace to give Michigan the marathon 31-29 victory.
The Wolverines dominated the third set, jumping out to a 9-5 lead and then using four straight points -- three off the right hand of Paz -- to go up 17-12 and cruise to a 25-20 win. Michigan outhit Notre Dame .447 to .179 in the final frame and .390 to .239 for the match.
Michigan basically had one hell of a game with Paz notching 20 kills and Hunt 14. With the more balanced attack Michigan has been trying to use by adding Rood to the mix, I think Michigan has a chance to win again, but it'll be tough to match that sweep. ND has really played hot this season while Michigan has been up and down the last few weeks.
The Irish are a pretty solid blocking team with an average of 2.47 per set, good for #42 in the country. Their hitting percentage has been phenomenal at .264, #20 in the nation, with 14.0 kills per set. Setter Jamel Nicholas is one of the top setters in the nation, and Serinity Phillips is very good outside hitter.
ND's has four major scorers in Phillips, Kristen Dealy, Christina Kaelin, and middle Kellie Sciacca. The Irish media doesn't list any as the right side hitter, but I want to say that was Kaelin. Phillips and Sciacca are their major blocking threats with 7 solo/91 assists and 22 solos/68 assist on the season. That's about 2 per set by themselves, which is pretty crazy.
There is no way Michigan wins if they play like they did this last weekend on the road at Ohio State and Penn State, being swept by both. If we make it to this game, they will need all the support they can get from the home crowd. ND travels really well, even in volleyball. They'll buy up every ticket they can get their hands on, so those around campus, don't let another The Game-style crowd hurt our team's chances.
Bobcats RAWRCATZ come in winners of the MAC with an impressive 26-5 record and a #24 RPI. Ohio went 15-1 in the MAC regular season, and fell to Dayton in the conference championship game of their conference tournament.
Against BigTen teams, Ohio went 1-2, with wins at Wisconsin (something Michigan hasn't done since 1992) and losses to Illinois and Purdue (both at Purdue). That's a mixed bag as they should lose to both Illinois and Wisconsin, but they probably should have competed or beat Purdue.
Bobcats RAWRCATZ are lead by Ellen Herman who leads the team with 512 kills and 4.69 kills/set, good for #9 individually in Division 1. On the defensive side, Meghan Simons is the top blocker with 1.3 per game, #28 in the nation. She's 6'3" and will have a height advantage to nearly every Wolverine that takes the court.
Ohio is an exceptional blocking and hitting team overall. The team averages 2.79 blocks/set (#11 nationally) and hits .282 (#9 nationally). One of their key weaknesses is on the dig. They rank 279 with 12.69 digs/set (probably drops quite a bit because of the high number of blocks).
Apologies for the tardiness of this post - I meant to post this when the blogpoll came out, but I missed that, then it was the weekend. And there's not much change at the top.
I'll post this week's results after the blogpoll comes out.
Here's the top 20 from last week (through games of 2009.11.22):
|Team||Pvs||+/-||Rank||KRACH||RRWP||Record Rank||W||L||T||Win %||SOS Rank||SOS|
Who said Thanksgiving is a football weekend? Not anymore. It's all about the hoops, babby.
Screw the Lions. Screw the Cowboys. Screw the NFL and them shoving crappy games down our throat on a weekly basis. This is no longer their weekend. Maybe there are folks out there who dont know better, but the true sporting wonks know that for the last several years, this weekend has morphed from a football one into a college hoops weekend. Frankly, there is way more intriguing action on the hardwood today than on the gridiron.
And your Michigan Wolverines will be in the thick of it. In fact, I wont even turn the LOLions game on. Especially since John Beilein's boys will be in action at same time playing their first legit foe of the season.
We all know the deal. Old Spice Classic. Orlando. Florida. State of. We all have high hopes that the Wolverine cagers will take the next step and be a Sweet 16 caliber team. Personally, I feel the, uh, ceiling can be much higher. However, hoops is a tricky game come March, and we've seen plenty of legit Final Four teams bow out before the first weekend of the tournament is even over. I am looking right at you, Wake Forest.
Translation: Let's not get too far ahead ourselves. March is a long way away. Let's buckle in and enjoy the ride. The team is good. They will be there at the end of the season. But, March Madness is not much different than the hockey tournament that MGoBrian complains is as finicky as a random number generator. The Michigan basketball program still needs to put consistent and achieving regular seasons together. Remember, this a program that has not won a Big 10 Title in 24 years and has not been in position to win one in 15 years. Beilein's task is not as much to turn Michigan into a Final Four team, but turn it into a Big 10 contender. If the latter gets accomplished, the former becomes easier just from a seeding standpoint alone.
If its not obvious from the ramblings of these opening graphs, I've been chugging rum in south Florida since Monday afternoon. So, before I get too wordy, let's just simply relish the start of the season and I'll briefly break down this field the only way I know how to: looking at odds, checking out preseason brackets and going by my world famous gut that has been tried and tested to work 51.9457 percent of the time.
Michigan enters this tournament as the betting favorite. Their odds to win are 3/1. Technically, they're the co-favorites. Possible second round foe Xavier shares the chalk role with 3/1 odds. I think both are solid bets. I have a hard time picturing a final without one of these teams coming out of this half of the bracket. And, you cant win a future bet without a team in the finals.
After those squads, you have Florida State and Alabama at 4/1 odds. Both are on the other side of the bracket than Michigan. The Crimson Tide is a sucker bet. I dont know how strong they are. I dont think they beat Baylor in the opener. Yes, that is an official lean as to who I like in that game (Bama is favored by a single point). I would have thought FSU would be a solid play, but man, they looked awful the other night against the Gators. They had nothing going on offense. So far, uber-recruit Marcus Snear does not look ready to pick up any of the scoring slack left in the wake of Toney Douglass' departure. Snear had just five points against Florida and right now good defensive teams--which includes all four teams FSU might see should they even get to the finals--ought to be able to render the Noles impotent.
So, if you want to play a future bet, lay a little out there on either Michigan or Xavier. One of them will be in the finals. And, at 3/1 odds, there is some wiggle room to hedge that bet once Sunday rolls around.
But, the betting odds are for fun. The serious business is what kind of ramifcations will three days in late November have come mid-March and Selection Sunday? Looking back one year ago, you can say a lot.
In this very tournament last year, Oklahoma State and Siena battled for last place. And, yet, thanks to the RPI boost from playing three games against tough foes, neither were ever too far off the at-large bid radar. You can make a case that the Cowboys didnt really do anything from a quality win standpoint all season, yet they never fell out of too many mock brackets during the winter. Their 7th place finish, 1-2 record and win over Siena in this tourney last year kept inflating their resume. They parlayed that into a first round win over Tennessee in a 8/9 game in the NCAAs. The Saints, meanwhile, went 0-3 in last season's OSC. While we'll never know if they would have merited an at large--they made the point moot by winning the MAAC finals--they still got a generous seed compared to previous MAAC standards and in a 8/9 game beat Ohio State. Siena beat Ohio State. There is something poetic about those four words, n'est pas? But, I digress.
Conventional wisdon says this year's field is not as strong as last year's. I would not feel too good about a 7th place finish. But, its still pretty strong at the top. A team like Creighton, who plays Michigan in today's opener, would all but write their own at large ticket with a couple of wins today and tomorrow. Barring a MVC collapse, they will be on the board come March if they can get to Sunday's final. It may be too early to make these considerations, but tomorrow's nooner between the Jays and the Wolverines could end up being on the more important out of conference games of the season.
Did I really say it was too early to consider the possible bracket? Because that is hogwash. Before signing off, lets take a quick tour of the smattering of mock brackets that have already been put out there as part of people's preseason coverage and how it relates to this field.
According to ESPN's Joe Lunardi, only two teams in this field are early projections into the NCAA field. Michigan,a #4, and Xavier, a #8. Marquette is one of his final four teams out and Florida State is among the second final four left out of the field. Creighton is nowhere to be found and the only MVC team in his field in Northern Iowa, a #12, but the Jays are widely tabbed as one of the MVC favorites.
CollegeHoops.net actually places three teams fron this field: Michigan, #4; Xavier, #7 and Creighton, #11. Are you suddenly sweating today's game, MIchigan fans? Florida State makes the grade as one of their final four teams cut from the field.
The Sporting News published a bracket look-ahead in their preseason rag on newstands. Michigan, #6, Florida State, #7 and Xavier, #8 make thier field. They did not list the teams who just missed the cut. They did pick Creighton to finish in second place in the MVC. So, they Jays come highly regarded by their writers. Interesting stat from their preview article on CU, btw: Only Creighton, Florida, Duke, Gonzaga, Syracuse and Kansas have at least 11 consecutive winning seasons. The Jays are going for their 13th straight season of 20 or more wins. Yo.
Bracketology 101 lists Michigan as a #4, Xavier as a #10, FSU a final four out and Creighton as one of their next four teams out of the field.
The Bracket Matrix is already in gear with plenty of other way too early mocks to absorb. While some may find bracket crunching in November silly, I feel these mocks are way more tellin and engaging to look through than the polls. Those are, by and large, irrelevant in the college hoops world.
Obvioulsy, these snapshots are so early, they're not worth anything. But, you can see just how important tomorrow's game might be for Creighton. A win over Michigan and a good overall showing this week would put them on a lot of people's bracket lines and it would take a lot to budge them off. This game, in some ways, is a lot like that Boise/Oregon football game to start the season. It's much more important to the mid major. And, that makes tomorrow's noon tip way more exciting than anything the NFL is giving us during the day.
A year ago, Michigan was in the dumps with one of the longest tournament droughts within the BCS conference ranks. They were coming off an awful season. There was not much on the roster screaming big improvement.
Now, the Wolverines are ranked in the preseason polls, the betting favorite to win a Feast Week Tournament and considered a #4 seed via the consensus of preseason bracketologists. I am thankful for John Beilein.
Here's hoping the Wolverines can live up to the hype and not fall under the weight of the program's first bigtime expectations in over a decade.
(Diarist Note: I dont know how many of these hoop diaries I will do this season. This site was lacking last winter on hoops coverage, mostly because of Brian's sojourn abroad, but I never got the impression he was all that into it. Tim has set a pretty high bar so far for MGo hoops coverage. I dont want to be repititive. If anyone has ideas or hoop news they would like to see to supplement their coverage, feel free to drop me an idea.)
"The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man, and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity", James Madison, Federalist #10.
When Madison wrote about the dangers of faction, he was concerned that competing interests would destroy the nascent American government. If we turn to Michigan football and its current coach, one might think that there are only two factions: the pro-Rodriguez and the anti-Rodriguez. But these are not monolithic factions. Members of the anti-Rodriguez group have all sorts of motivations: some overlapping, some singular. Some are personal, directed at Rodriguez. Some have nothing to do with Rodriguez himself and everything to do with his job.
It’s important to know who you’re dealing with. So when you encounter a card-carrying anti-Rodriguez person in the wild, please refer to the guide below. Your combatant may have one, some, or many of these motivations. Disarming them is nearly impossible; it’s best to walk away.
The Just Win, Baby
This is the most legitimate type of Rodriguez basher. They point to his 8-16 record, his 3-13 Big 10 record, the end of the bowl streak, the end of the winning season streak, etc. They just want the team to keep winning like it always has and can’t understand why it’s losing now. For this group, any losing record is unforgiveable, and two in a row is a death sentence. Almost every Michigan fan is a member of this group to some degree; the difference is between those who see progress out of a deep hole vs. those who think a good thing was driven into the ditch.
The Devout Nostalgic
Somewhat similar to The Just Win, Baby but less pragmatic and more unrealistic in expectations. Believes Michigan has a divine right to have a winning program, and anyone to divert Michigan from that divine right must be Satan himself.
Maybe more realistic than the Devout Nostalgic, yet still upset about any change to the football program. This includes the spread offense, piped in music, the handling of the #1 jersey, the lack of season-starting permanent team captains, etc. For this type, Rodriguez is not a ‘Michigan Man’ and never will be.
This group has problems with Rodriguez because he can seem like a glib gladhander. They are put off by the way he left his alma mater, the lawsuit (whether it was encouraged by U-M or not), the golly-gee press conferences, the failed real estate deal, the GPA claim, the Lion King quotes, etc. They don’t fully trust Rodriguez and likely never will. They also know that this feeling is somewhat irrational. [Full disclosure: I'm an occasional member of this group]
The Football Hater
This person hates football. They hate big-time sports. They may have tolerated Lloyd Carr because of his emphasis on character and academics and charitable work, but now that Carr’s gone this group is out in full force.
Rodriguez swears. Therefore, he’s a bad coach. Anything that any member of the program does is wrong and further proof of Rodriguez’s evil core - regardless of similar things happening under previous Michigan football coaches or at other programs. For this person, a minor NCAA violation would be the equivalent of a double homicide.
The Media Elite
Perhaps after years of getting dressed down by Lloyd Carr, the media elite is exacting his revenge on the Michigan program. While Carr intimidated the press, Rodriguez does not. And rather than repay his humanity, they take advantage of it.
'I Wanted a Different Coach'
These are legion. For whatever reason, they wanted another coach (Miles, Ferentz, Kelly, Harbaugh, English, Hoke), and since Rodriguez is not that coach, they want him out.
The Vengeful West Virginia Hillbilly
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE! West Virginia is a beautiful state and West Virginians can be beautiful people. BUT THEY DO NOT GIVE A SHIT. They have elected a crotchety former KKK member to the Senate for 50 years. West Virginia is also the state that gave us the Hatfields and McCoys; long-running feuds are nothing new to these folks. They feel betrayed by native son Rodriguez, and they want nothing less than the nuclear annihilation of Rodriguez and anything associated with him – including the Michigan football program. They would think nothing of sowing discontent wherever possible. So, every word you read, every voice you hear, everything you see, you must ask yourself - is a pissed off West Virginian behind it all? Maybe yes, maybe no.
I hope this helps. Remember, Madison said that the causes of faction cannot be controlled, only the effects. So do your best, and please feel free to add to the taxonomy in the comments.
Recapping last week, nothing particularly egregious happened in the MAC. Toledo pounded Eastern 47-21, Bowling Green beat Akron 36-20 to become bowl-eligible (I guess), and Buffalo beat Miami(NTM) 42-17 early in an anagram-score of the Toledo / Eastern game. Coincidence? Almost certainly.
Elsewhere, Purdue dutifully beat Indiana 38-21, New Mexico squeaked out there first win against CSU 29-27 on a last minute field goal, Rice came back from a 29-17 deficit to win 30-29, and Irresistible Force (North Texas) lost to Immovable Object (Army) 17-13. So, rock beats scissors.
This week continues the rivalries that may get ugly. Washington v Washington State has to be considered. 4 wins, including 2 conference wins, between them. We're also treated to a double-feature of the "Too Bad This Isn't Basketball" bowl, #5 Cincinnati plays Illinois and Syracuse (plays UConn, featuring the "Former Michigan Coaches/Future Michigan Opponents" trophy.
There are the usual suspects around in the MAC, Sun Belt, C-USA, etc., but I think the real "winner" this week is the perennial favorite: Lions versus whoever, in this case Green Bay. Nothing like being a 9 point home dog. I guess that's what happens when your starting QB is questionable, and #1 receiver has bad hands and knees. Those are important parts. Remember while watching, those are highly-paid, professional athletes out there.
All numbers are points per game vs an average team. They are adjusted for strength of opponent. No 1AA games or stats are included. For more detailed questions on how the numbers come about, click here.
Expected PointsMichigan got exactly what it wanted here. The pace was theirs. For the game, Michigan had a season high 15 drives and a season high 29 expected points. Contrast that to Ohio State who had 13 drives (made possible by the defensive TD) and only 21 expected points. That is a huge gap in expected points for Michigan. Ohio State's defense definitely deserves a lot of credit, but Michigan had the opportunities to get some points, even if 28+ was a bit unrealistic.
Rush OffensePredicted: +0, 35 carries, 130 yards 1TD
Actual: -5, 29 carries, 94 yards 0 TD
For the second straight game, the Michigan running couldn't find it's footing against an elite rush defense.
For the second straight game, Vincent Smith continues to stake a solid claim to next year's starting spot. Smith posted his second straight +4 (adjusted for competition and includes receptions) and was Michigan's most productive back both on the ground and through the air.
Pass OffensePredicted: -6, 18/30 175 yards 2 TD 1 INT
Actual: -12, 24/43 224 yards 1 TD 4 INT
Michigan has only lost 21 points to interceptions thrown this year, which is best in the Big 10. And interceptions are where OSU has made their living this year, racking up a +54 on picks for the season. If Michigan can keep away from bad interceptions, and a pick up a lucky bounce or two, could be a ball game.About that...
Not quite HOLD ONTO THE BALL level jinxing going on there, but still, pretty disheartening to go back and reread it. The amazing thing is that the bounces generally went OSU's way and it was still a ball game. Good sign.
If you remove the INTs (wait, you can't do that?) the passing offense comes in at +0, not spectacular but still very good against this OSU pass defense.
The best news of Saturday might have been the continued emergence of Roy Roundtree as the much needed go to receiver for Michigan. Roundtree posted his fourth straight outstanding game with a +10. In the four games that Roundtree has seen the time and the balls come his way (Ill, Purdue, Wisconsin, OSU) he has averaged +7.7, which if held (understandably big if) would be the top mark in the Big 10 this year and 7th nationally.
Rush DefenseProjected: -3, 45 carries 210 yards 3 TD
Actual: +0, 48 carries 264 yards 1 TD
The yards ended up higher than projected, but in terms of the value, Michigan got a number of big stops against the Buckeye ground game to warrant a very solid break even performance.
Pass DefenseProjected: -1, 15/24 160 yards 1 TD 0 INT
Actual: -8, 11/19 54 yards 1 TD 1 INT
When the Buckeyes have thrown the ball less than 20 times, they average +2.2 and have had their two best passing games of the year. When they have thrown the ball more than 20 times, they have averaged -1.1 and had their 3 worst games of the year. You have to think that the gameplan is going to be to keep the ball on the ground.Ohio State got the low volume passing game that they wanted, although it didn't quite go as expected. Michigan's pass defense took the conservative Buckeye game plan and did quite well against it. Even without the pick (+3), the pass defense did quite well, picking up nearly 3 points of value on a pair of sacks. Even removing the sacks and the pack, the defense still posted an above average performance, an outstanding day for a much maligned group.
The Rest of the PictureSpecial teams ended in a near wash. The missed chippy was a definite negative for Michigan, but it was offset by great play from both the punt and kickoff teams.
On the turnover front, the net of Forcier's 5 turnovers and Pryor's single miscue netted a 13 point swing for Ohio State. A neutral result on turnovers could have very well been enough for the Wolverines on Saturday that I thought they needed to 2 swing play advantage to have a shot.
PredictionsMichigan 21 - OSU 31
Almost nailed the spread, just a few less points scored than I thought.
Same story for Minnesota Iowa where my 27-14 pick was within a point of the spread but high on the total.
I nailed Wisconsin but underestimate Northwestern as my 31-17 pick missed the mark.
Also missed out on Purdue/Indiana. I had it a tight one at 28-27 and missed on an easy Purdue victory.
Another one that was not as close I expected was Penn State/MSU as PSU brought the posse and beat up on the Spartans. Still had the Nittany Lions covering, but didn't see a 4 TD win in my 28-24 pick.
Lost out on the Irish as well this week, picking them to cover against UConn, 35-28.
Overall - 3-3 ATS.