Color me frustrated with the Bracketology World this morning.
Catching up with the mock brackets last night, I expected Michigan to surge a little bit. I had convinced myself they might find their way into enough fields to build a consensus spot in the Bracket Matrix. If not that far, they would be no worse than on the cusp of the field.
Yeah, um, about that, ah, well funny thing, it seems my analysis was a wee bit off.
Ironically, Michigan, despite a great road win and plenty of fellow bubble teams falling around them, actually lost ground in the last comprehensive Matrix update. Before the weekend, Michigan was third to last out of the field, according to the full view of the Matrix, which tracks upwards of 55 mock brackets. Monday night, however, they had been downgraded to sixth to last out.
Looking deeper into the Matrix eased only some fears. Only 28 brackets were updated today to include games played through the weekend. So, not all the "votes" are in. But, still, Michigan was only in five of those 28 brackets. I expected that number to be at least twice as much.
Michigan does not appear to have separated themselves at all from the group of teams just left out of the field. Michigan is one of the final eight teams on the outside looking in, according to the Bracket Matrix.
Of those teams, Michigan, at least, passed Kansas State as they're in one more bracket than KSU of those 28 fields updated yesterday. Rather surprisingly, Michigan only received the same amount of invites as Penn State and Providence. Georgetown, Creighton and USC, meanwhile, remain in more of these 28 fields than the Wolverines.
Spinning some of these numbers positively, you do notice that seven of the eight final teams out, Michigan included, basically have been given equal accord. They're all scattered in just enough brackets across the entire 55-bracket spectrum to make a dent in the Matrix and be included in the final group out. It is within Michigan's grasp to out perform all of those teams from here on out.
Southern Cal, the team in this first eight out group with the most bids, has not paid in full for their loss late Sunday night. The Trojans are in 28 fields (compared to the average number of fields from the other seven in this group ,9.5, with UM in 9 fields), however more than half of those bids came from brackets that have yet to be updated to include the weekend's results. The Trojans should lose support as more mocks come in. Who will get those bids?
Michigan's losing record in league play right now might be the one thing that’s keeping UM from sweeping onto one of the final bracket lines.
Michigan has a decade's worth of mediocrity to overcome as far as perception goes. Coming to the table with a losing league mark is something you only want to do if you're a tournament regular and folks are already conditioned to giving you the benefit of the doubt. Michigan is not in either category. Despite improved play from the Big 10, Bracketologists dont seem inclined to include a team from the league that’s below .500. And, most appear to be having a hard time talking themselves into granting seven bids to the league.
Not all Bracketologists feel this way. One, The Bracketeer, whose mock field is affiliated with, of all things, a Creighton Blog, sneaks the Wolverines in the field. He explains that in each of the last two seasons a team with a losing record from a BCS league netted an invite. As of now, he feels Michigan will benefit from that gift. Mr. Bracketeer, the Mgoblog Community salutes you for going to extra historical research mile on behalf of the Maize and Blue.
Michigan needs to force everyone else's hand this week with a pair of conference wins. It will push UM to 8-7 in the Big 10. In the updates one week from today, I would be more than interested in hearing arguments for keeping UM out of the field, considering they would have a winning league mark, big time OOC scalps in Duke and UCLA and as many wins against the RPI top 100 as anyone else on the bubble.
What surprised me when looking into the fields that updated yesterday was the fact that for every field that had Michigan just missing the cut, there was a field where Michigan didn't seem to be in contention and left off of whatever 'final group left out' list thrown out there. There is a fairly wide range of opinion on the Wolverines. And, the more prominent brackets out there are among those driving the inconsistent judgment on the Maize and Blue.
Michigan is on the up tick according the Matrix administrators. In their own field at the Bracket Project, Michigan remains excluded from the field. They don’t list who their final teams out are, but in the mock NIT Field, Michigan is a top seed, moving up from a 3 seed last week. Moving up on the NIT Bracket lines is progress, right?
Michigan was the last team out of Lunardi's field at ESPN. He also pointed out in an interview on the WWL that the Wolverines could easily play themselves into a bid. The Wolverines were also the biggest mover of the week in the Bracket Junkie's field, going from 7th to last Out to 3rd to last In. Those two are annually considered among the most accurate Bracketologists. Those are good signs.
You know who else gets acclaim for their accuracy and brilliant mock brackets? Bracketology 101 and College Hoops Net, both of whom continued to downgrade Michigan. In B101, Michigan's fall mirrored their overall decline in the Matrix with UM going from third to last out to sixth to last. Siegel at CBH had been a long holdout for UM's chances, but in his bracket Monday, he doesn't even have the Wolverines listed among the final eight teams left out. I dont feel comfortable about Michigan's standings if both of these guys have Michigan falling farther out of range for bid.
Bottom line, it's up to Michigan to gain people's support. If they have a winning record in their final regular season games, they will notch at least two more wins against teams currently in the field. They will also notch at least one road win. With more bubble carnage also expected between now and then, its still safe to assume that three more wins, enough to clinch a .500 league mark, will be enough for Michigan to earn an at large bid.
Looking elsehere along the Bracket Matrix, here a couple of other observations:
Bracketologists gave Cincinnati a mulligan for their road loss to Pitt over the weekend. That's fair enough considering the Panthers might be the best team in the nation. Of the 28 brackets updated Monday, CU remained in 18 of them. The Bearcats recent run up the Big East standings gave them enough capital to absorb a loss to an elite team. Can they afford two? Most of the brackets have them clinging to a 12 seed. The Bearcats next play Saturday afternoon at home against Louisville. I dont think they get a second mulligan with another loss.
The Miami Hurricanes are in jeopardy of being swept out of most fields. There were more new brackets Monday, by a 15-13 count, that had Miami out of the field. By that metric, the Canes are the team most in danger of falling out the Matrix. They travel to Florida St Wednesday night and host Boston College Saturday afternoon. Those are two games that might be as important as any other games along the way for Michigan's eventual chances. The Wolverines are decidedly anti-Da U from here on out.
The Mountain West Conference continues to receive four bids. I promise to no longer get worked up about this though. In the Matrix, BYU, SDSS and UNLV remain in a vast majority of fields, but all three are on the 11 line. I dont think any of those teams can afford losses at that projection and not fall by the wayside if other bubble teams perform well. After spending the last couple of weeks collecting wins against the bottom half of the league, we finally see a run of head to head matchups that might end up being elimination games relating to next Monday's brackets. New Mexico at BYU, BYU at UNLV, SDSU at NM, UNLV at Utah, BYU at SDSU are all on the schedule from now until the end of the month. The league could cannabolize its at-large bids between now and the end of the month. It will be hard to keep the losers of those games in mock brackets as we get closer to March, especially if other bubble teams perform well.
Beware Creighton. The Bluejays suddenly are in more updated fields than Michigan. The Missouri Valley Conference had been on a six-year run of receiving multiple bids into the dance. That ended last year. But Creighton and league cohort Northern Iowa are trying to start a new streak. What's intriguing about the Jays position is that, unlike most mid majors this time of year, they can really improve their resume in their final four regular season games. They play MVC fourth place team Evansville tonight. On Saturday, they have a marquee Bracket Buster game against well known George Mason, where a win will impress. After a road game against last place Missouri State, the Jays close the season on ESPN playing third place Illinois St. If they win those games, they will be in the tournament as long as they dont flame out early in the MVC tournament. How many losses will it take to implode their at large hopes. One? Two? This is a storyline to watch between now and the end of the month.
Did Texas A/M just breathe new life into their season? They have a poor man's Michigan resume with a pair of OOC wins over LSU and Arizona sparkling their profile. But, they are three games below .500 in conference play in a league regarded to be below the Big 10. Yet, getting lost in the Bracket Matrix for some time reveals the Aggies in a surprising amount of final groups left out of the field. And that was before last night's resume win over Texas. They have one of the easiest slates of all the bubble teams from here on out, although they do have three league road games to play. Still, the Aggies have to be considered a threat again.
I love Steven Threet for his heart, his moxie and his willingness to try and fit into an offensive scheme that probably wasn't the best fit for him as a QB. But at some point, you have to look in the mirror and decide what is best for you the rest of your life. If that's playing football for 2 yrs at po-dunk state, fine, but if its getting one of the best educations in these United States of America, you have to look at the big picture. And this is where your parents set you straight. You may be a good athlete, but there may be several athletes that are better than you at your given sport. Time to face the facts and live with it.
When I worked with the football team back in the 80's, there was this kid named Rich Hewlett. He was a pretty good football player and he was smart as hell. He started the M vs OSU game as a freshman for god's sake, but he didn't play much at QB much after that game. Bo wanted to mix it up and as we all know, he would do anything, ANYTHING to try and beat Ohio State. It didn't work out that day and Rich ended up as a safety for the rest of his career. He wasn't the best QB, he wasn't the best safety, but godammit, he was a f'ing fighter that would never give up to help his team win championships.
Guess what happened to that guy that wasn't good enough to beat out the likes of Steve Smith and then Jim Harbaugh? He was a pretty good contributor as a safety on the team. He wasn't all conference or all american, but he was a teammate for the MEEECHIGAN Wolverines! He studied his *ss off and did okay on the field and got his degree. Then he went on to get his JD degree and is now a very successful lawyer, an awesome father and great husband. Hugo is a close friend of one of my best friend's family from Michigan. I know him in passing. But he is the epitome of what a Michigan Man is.....unfortunately, Steven Threet is getting advice that tells him he will be a star at XyZ University. This is simply not the case and he could either help his team to championships in the future, help his successors learn faster or move on. He has chosen to move on, versus taking on this unenviable task of helping create champions on his team. This is where he is missing one of life's valuable lessons. Its a shame, that's all i can say.
I had to chance for a soccer scholarship in college at Adrian College, but my life long dream was attending the University of Michigan, even though they only had a club soccer team at the time. I had to work through college and was fortunate enough to be a trainer for the football, basketball and hockey teams (when Red started and they were horrible..) for 4 years. It was never going to be my profession as I knew i needed to work right after college and could never afford to go to grad school for physical therapy, but I knew that it would help pay for college and also let me participate in a team environment. I accepted my fate and played IM sports and club soccer for 4 years.
And i have never looked back. I got the coveted M diploma, i made a family very proud of me and now I am running sales for my current employer in Europe, exposing my children to life experiences I could never imagine growing up.
Be careful what you wish for, don't always let everyone tell you that you are getting "screwed" when you have a full ride to a great university that 99% of the world's population would love to attend. Learn to be a leader for the rest of your life, not only for a couple seasons at xyz college because you are QB1.
Those Who Stay WILL be Champions! Rich Hewlett was and so would Steve Threet if he would have stayed for his entire career.
As a Chicago-based Michigan fan, this was my first chance to see Manny & company in person. A couple things jumped out at me:
- We need to get Grady back in the mix, or some other ball-handler. Maybe even LLP could handle this. It's clear, however, that Lee cannot be trusted in late game situations under pressure. We also had a ton of turnovers in traffic in the paint in the first half. A legit ball-handler who can deliver a pass in traffic would do wonders for this offense. When Northwestern collapsed on defense, we couldn't make them pay because we kept losing the ball. Even when we managed to pass the ball out of congestion, the pass was often off-target. Their defense had the extra half-second it needed to recover, and our shooters couldn't catch and shoot in rhythm. I think poor passing to open shooters is a big reason why our 3PT% is so low this season. If anyone has highlights of the Duke/UCLA wins, I would be curious to see the quality of the passes that led to our made 3-pointers.
- We could use a Graham Brown. I know that this system prioritizes shooters, but we could really use a bruiser to rebound and set some tough screens. Is there anyone on our recruiting radar that weighs more than 220 pounds soaking wet? We had seats a few rows behind the Michigan bench, and Beilein was constantly screaming at the team to box out. Northwestern was a tall team, but they didn't have any gifted rebounders. Getting 15-20 minutes from one human wrecking ball with some infectiously physical play would have been helpful. Gibson didn't really get it done.
- The Maize Rage is traveling well. Keep up the good work.
- I didn't see a lot of the 1-3-1. I remember we went to it for one play (early in the second half?), got burned by a lob over the defense to Northwestern's lackluster, lifeless, gigantic center, and immediately abandoned it. Have we just totally given up on this defense, or was I not playing close enough attention?
- The officiating looked horrific in person. We didn't have the benefit of replay on a jumbrotron (because Northwestern's facilities are about the same quality as a 1970s-era health club), but a lot of the whistles on the perimiter seemed arbitrary and unnecessary. That changed towards the end of the game, when there were a handful of questionable no-calls that were totally inconsistent with how the game had been officiated to that point. Did the officiating look as erratic with the benefit of replays, multiple angles, and DVR?
- Finally: good God, please make Manny stay. Please. He could use another year in the weight room, and we could use another year of the give-it-to-Manny safety wheels on offense.
I find it amazing how the value of Threet is being overstated almost as a badge of wisdom amongst the Michigan writing elite (whoever that is...people like Rivals folks and established bloggers; I know Brian is composing something along these lines at this very moment). It is an obligatory, painful thing to watch. I think it's horseshit. If it's a sign of respect for Threet, then whatever. I am not inclined to go out of my way to be hushed and respectful to people who don't honor their commitments. I won't slam the kid, but I am not going to mute my opinion of his worth as he heads out.
He was not a good QB. Any potential he had was, like sandpaper on skin, painful and at the expense of how RR wanted to conduct football here at Michigan. He was a living, breathing, walking, snapping, throwing example of a square peg. The upside for the square peg fitting into the round hole is never high.
There are many, many, many, many, many reasons why the prospects of these incoming freshman are vastly higher than with Threet.
1. Threet = square peg; Forcier and DRob = roung peg
2. One more year for the other 100 players in RR's system
3. The OLine will be vastly improved. The read option handoff, which was usually into Molk's butt, will likely be viable
4. RB is more settled and the weapons are many
5. More electrons
6. Easier schedule
7. Better defense expected, although this puppy has yet to be fleshed out. One would assume that cohesion on the defensive system and the emergence of some LB talent would make the D better. Can they get worse?
All in all, I'd rather have Threet. Not starting, mind you, just around. I would have been much more concerned if Mouton transferred or Ryan Van Bergen.
So I found myself in Evanston with a ticket to the game and some time to spare. Some random thoughts from what turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon:
- There is a place to watch Big Ten basketball that is worse than
Chrysler Crisler Arena. Welsh-Ryan is basically something between a high-school gym and a steam bath. Seriously, it was hot in there. It starts out hot when you go in, and then you climb and climb (we had seats in ZZ, which, sadly for some others, was not the highest row) and it gets hotter and hotter. We soon were in our t-shirts and sad that less clothing would have been offensive if not illegal. The bad news for Welsh and Ryan - your family names have been tarnished. I suggest a rename: Unnamed Basketball Arena - Catch the Wildcats in Action!
- Our offense consists of two plays. Play 1: run around and pass crisply until someone is open for a three. Then, chuck up the three, pretty much regardless of who you are. Play 2: Manny, do something awesome. Because Beilein is a genius (according to many), I have concluded that most other coaches only have one play in their systems. Beilein, because he thinks outside the box, has two. Strangely, both plays are somewhat effective. We won, however, because we ran Play 2 a lot, especially in the second half.
- Much like the Maize Rage, the students at Northwestern were all trying to get some serious, same-colored T-shirt spirit going, with some kind of Wildcat striped purple and white apparel. Unfortunately, because of the fine intermixing of white and purple, these shirts look (from a distance) just like light purple t-shirts. It's as if they don't the school color is dark purple and all have the wrong color on. It is not working.
- The Northwestern band was there. At the beginning, they played the Northwestern fight song, and I realized I had never heard it in my life. Perhaps this was a remnant of my childhood, where Michigan would routinely beat Northwestern 63-0 regardless of the sport. You have to score to play the song, you know.
- Saw Beilein up close. He looked old. I asked him how to spell his name, and he swore at me. OK, only part of this entry is true.
- Manny better not go on a crazy year-ending, 30-point scoring, Glen Rice reminiscing, getting us into the tourney spree. Because if he does, he may just be gone. And then next year will be mediocre too.
- There are way too many Michigan fans at Northwestern events. The result is that you feel bad. Here we are, in their house, doing the full "Go!" on one side, "Blue!" on the other. I overheard some guys talking about how they could sneak some extra words in there to take over the chant. Like a quick "Don't" before the go (that was their best idea). Worse ideas included (1) starting their own similar chant "N!" "U!" (that's short for Northwestern University) or (2) just punching someone wearing blue/maize. Yes, they were drunk.
- More seriously, not enough people at the game were drunk. I thought Michigan fans were a dry bunch, but this Northwestern group was pretty far out there too; very yuppy and professional and all that. You could sense they were going to take out their frustration from a loss by going home and plundering the financial markets even further.
- The food options at all Big Ten sporting events are the same, more or less. However, they did have Hecky's BBQ, which actually looked like real food. Why can't stadiums/arenas serve food that is (a) somewhat authentic and (b) tastes good? Oh yeah, because of (c) cost.
- I think I saw Steven Threet at the game. He was wearing one of those light purple T-shirts, and talking with the Football coach. He looked happy, and I wished him well.
- OK, I made that up too. But I will miss Threet, he seemed like a good guy.
That's all for now. Goodnight!
While we're exhaling after that nail biting Michigan win, dont forget there are other hoops going on tonight that will impact Michigan's spot on the bubble.
Boston College, Miami and USC are just ahead of UM, grabbing some of the last few at large spots ahead of Michigan in most mock brackets. All three have games today against big time opponents. Its a triple header on FSN with Duke at BC, UNC at Miami and USC at ASU. They all are significant underdogs.
Here's why these games are important to UM:
*Right now, UM has the second best result of the weekend of all teams that are just in the field, or just out of the field. I put Arizona's throttling of UCLA as the best result, by far. Still that allows Michigan a chance to move up and get on more bracket lines. The perception of the win can alter drastically if one of these bubble teams pull a huge scalp tonight. In resume head bumping, for example, do we want Michigan to go up against a BC team with wins over UNC and Duke? Um, no. We'll probably lose that argument.
*What if chalk holds form? According to the Bracket Matrix that would be mean that two consensus 10-seeds, two 11-seeds and one 12-seed will all have gone down this weekend. Michigan is the only 'Final Four Out' team to notch a win, a road win vs an RPI top 100 no less. Michigan is currently in nine fields in the matrix, but only one that's been updated since the MSU loss. If chalk sweeps tonight, expect both of those numbers to increase.
*Lets look at the bubble dilemma bracketologists will have in reshaping their latest mocks. We're going to use the Bracket Junkie's mock bracket, last updated Friday, as a barometer. Its a pretty good read and offers up a different commentary from the usual suspects we see in the traditional media. Its obvious he knows his hoops and the selection process.
Notice his last 10 in the field. Three of the last seven in--Va Tech, Cincy and KSU--have already lost. Three more--BC, Miami and USC--are expected to lose tonight.
Among the large group he includes that just missed the cut, plenty others along with Michigan won. However, the Wolverines win was the best of that bunch. Michigan winning at Northwestern is beter than Providence beating Rutgers and the MWC hopefuls UNLV and SDSU smothering of second division teams. Its even better than Creighton thumping SIU on the road.
I'm throwing this bracket out here to illustrate how big of a move Michigan may yet make in this week mock brackets. This is one that's a regular read of mine where Michigan has a chance to go from seventh to last out of the field to being on a bracket line when it updates Monday.
So, Michigan still has a lot to gain today. If you're inside watching sports and NASCAR is not your thing, find your local FSN. You have a rooting interest in all three games: Duke over BC, UNC over Miami and ASU over USC.
Duke up 31-20 with 5 to go in the first half.
So any thoughts on Michigan's game today, the rest of the season and its tourney hopes? Any takes on the national landscape?
Thanks, and I will hang up and listen.