it's a major award
As has been advertised pretty much everywhere within a 40 mile radius of the borders of Michigan (and we're a peninsula so that's pissing a whooooooole lotta people off), UofM had seven players representing the Wolverines in the Super Bowl.
Those seven include:
Pittsburgh's linebackers Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley and, from the Arizona Cardinals, defensive tackles Alan Branch and Gabe Watson, wide receiver and punt returner Steve Breaston, linebacker Victor Hobson and tight end Jerame Tuman.
Several different message boards have seen the disclaimer "Why bring them up? None of them won a NC or BCS bowl!" First off: shut up. Second of all: your mom just yelled down the steps, your Hot Pockets are ready. Tuman was on the '97 team and is, according to the UM haters, still looking for a Nebraska player to merge his NC ring with so that he, in fact, will not have a .5 Championship.
Michigan's seven players topped all other football programs represented in the Super Bowl. Other programs with three or more players included:
Florida State (5), Texas (4), Alabama (4), Illinois (4), UCLA (3!), BYU (3), Arizona State (3), USC (3), Virginia (3), PSU (3), LSU (3), N Carolina (3), Minnesota (3), Miami (3),
Ohio State had 1. Supposedly he did something important, I dunno. I missed it because I was too busy going upstairs to get my Hot Pockets.
The first Michigan basketball game I ever watched was the 1998 NCAA second round game against UCLA. Suffice to say, my Michigan basketball fandom has not seen as much success as my football fandom. To me, hearing older basketball fans proclaim, "Damn it, we should be competing for national championships!" is like hearing a 90 year old Minnesota football fan proclaiming the same thing.
I did not cry when Michigan lost the epic 1 vs 2 battle against OSU in 2006. Yet, for some reason I cried on selection Sunday in 2006 when I found out the Michigan basketball team, led by Senior Daniel Horton, did not make the tournament. I think it's because at that moment I felt like the Greek mythology character Sisyphus, rolling the Michigan basketball boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down, and finally realizing that it is my fate to repeat this task for eternity.
For me, Michigan basketball has always been a prime example of Murphy's Law. It's as if the Greek gods still existed, choosing me as the pitiful human to torture for fun. Whether it's Jamal Crawford leaving early, an NCAA ban, Daniel Horton choking his girlfriend, a chokejob against Minnesota, a whiffed dunk against Ohio State, or an Ekpe Udoh transfer, it's always been "something" that prevents Michigan from making the tourney. Whatever can go wrong has. I have screamed out in agony, "Why does this keep happening!" I just want Michigan basketball to be "back", whatever that's supposed to mean.
Going to Crisler this season has reminded me of one of those underdog sports movies like Hoosiers. An empty gym vs Michigan Tech, followed by more and more people and culminating with a court rushing vs Duke, the best sporting event I have ever attended. Then the inevitable crash back to earth happened. Missed 3 pointers, 6 foot 3 Freshman playing PF, a whole bunch of losses, and the dread of knowing the Angry Michigan hating basketball God is at it once again. I will not believe Michigan is in the NCAA tourney until it is a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes.
Then with on swift elbow to the nose early in the 2nd half yesterday, I realized that this season really is going to be one of those sports movie type seasons. It's now us vs the world. So over the next 2 months I will scream at every missed 3, go exstatic at every made 3, laugh my ass off at all Zach Gibson dunks, and most importantly, I will believe. Cause I guess what I am trying to say is that if I can still be on the Michigan basketball bandwagon and believe after these last 10 years then certainly you cranks old fucks who had the privelege to witness the Fab Five and the 1989 team play can still believe too. The stone will make it to the top of the hill.
The 18th ranked Michigan wrestling team faced off against the #19 Northwestern Wildcats last night at Cliff Keen Arena and came away with a 17-17 tie. The Wildcats dominated the lighter weight categories but gave way starting at 141 pounds.
Possibly due to the big hockey game against ND at Yost the crowd at Cliff Keen was minimal (549), but they were boisterous once the Wolverines got rolling. In fact, a few times they sounded like the hockey crowd, especially when chants of “Stalling” blew out from the stands when Tyrel Todd thoroughly dominated Northwestern’s Erich Smith.
Joe McFarland’s team started out miserably. 15th Ranked Michael Watts was nearly blown off the mat by third ranked Brandon Percin in the first match at 125. Things didn’t improve much until Kellen Russel at 141 slipped past Eric Metzler for a win (4-2).
Though the meet ended in a tie the action was fast and furious in several matches including one Northwestern wrestler being put into the Northwestern bench (chairs) and another being flung into the scorers' table.
The Michigan wrestling team is benefiting from the addition of Barwis who brought assistant Jesse Miller with him. Miller works with the team to improve core body strength and earned the confidence of the team quickly. Quotes taken from team members reflect those given by the football team. They are getting stronger, more explosive and are being pushed beyond expectations. I think Jesse curses a little, too. But wrestlers, who are gluttons for punishment by nature, don’t seem to mind as much as Boren did. Former Michigan wrestlers Andy Hrovat and Ryan Churella have come back to UM to work with Miller as they continue their grappling careers.
Michigan faces off against Indiana today at 2:00 pm at Cliff Keen.
As expected, Michigan lost today on the road to one of the best teams in the Big 10. The Harris ejection was a huge stomach punch to the team, which was too bad because Michigan, without really playing above their head, had gone neck and neck with Purdue the first half. It looked like they could play with Purdue. I am more encouraged about Michigan's chances when they rematch four weeks from now at Crisler Arena than I was this morning. Hopefully Manny will drop a career high on them in retribution for today's early shower.
The obvious sad news is that Michigan, hanging by a thread in most mock brackets when the week began, will disappear from most boards after an 0-2 week. No worries. There are plenty of big ticket scalps out there coming to Crisler Arena in February. Michigan still controls its own fate in regards to an NCAA tournament bid despite their expected absence from the next round of projections.
Scoreboard watching, plenty of good news did come in for Michigan's bubble hopes. Lets take a look at how the afternoon went for Lunardi's projections at espn.com Notre Dame (#10) extended its losing streak to five and is headed for a triple digit RPI. Oklahoma State, a team among the final 4 into the field along with Michigan, also completed an 0-2 week. Two teams from the final eight cut, Mississippi State and Providence, lost with the Bulldogs failures against Ole Miss especially damning, falling spot on in the 'bad loss' department. BC and USC from that group face toss up games this evening. I cant think of one team out there thats not from this group that will automatically leap over them in the current pecking order. With no bubble team making a decisive statement this week, its at least good timing for Michigan to throw up an 0-2 week on the board. Another consideration favoring Michigan as it relates to ESPN's projections. Among the dozen teams that include their final four in and final eight out of the field, three (Utah, BYU and SDSU) are from the Mountain West Conference. Along with UNLV, that league is probably only going to get two bids, so those bubble contenders in that time zone will pick each other off.
In between commercial breaks of tonight's big hockey game with ND, here's what to look for on the out of town scoreboard that will impact the bubble as the final day of January comes to a close.
Baylor at Missouri, 6 pm ESPN Full Cout. Line, Missou -7.5
I'm watching these teams run up and down the court against each other as we speak. Missouri up 35-32 late in the first half. Each team will continue to trade impressive scoring runs.
Conference positioning on the bracket lines is on the line as well. This is a #7 vs a #10 seed in ESPN's current field and its a #8 vs #9 in Rivals. Both teams look solid in this field right now and sport a combined 32-8 record.
I like both of these teams. Missouri is a proud hoops school and the college game can only be at its peak when good teams are rolling out of Columbia. I want to see Anderson create a winner and love the fact he's trying to replicate the Old Razerback 40 minutes of Hell style. Baylor speaks for itself. How can you not cheer for Drew's impressive turnaround and this beleaguered fan base.
I wonder, though, in watching the Bears get totally outclassed by OU and Texas in recent games if this reclamation project hasn't hit a ceiling. They can compete for a tourney bid, but they still look an influix of talent away from being legit conference title challengers. Baylor fans will take that progression as pursuing the first ever consective tourney berths is exciting enough. Defesively, the team has issues and a loss tonight drops them below .500 in the league.
Virginia Tech at Boston College, 8 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, BC -4
How are the Hokies going to respond to letting such a big lead disappear en route to losing to Clemson the last time out? Probably by playing a close game, that's how. Nine games this season have been decided by five or less points. After Thursday's vomit job, the Hokies are now 4-5 in those contests. They're an 8 and 9 seed in the Rivals and ESPN fields, so an 0-2 week would crimp their stature. Home games this week against NC State and Georgia Tech will give them a chance to steady their ship this week, but this team will be living on the edge every time out.
Tonight, they'll be looking to earn a key series sweep of a fellow ACC bubble team. To do so, the Hokies will look to continue their mastery of the quick ACC turnaround travel schedule.
Boston College has been on a big yo-yo this whole month. After their upset over UNC, they were everyone's darling and promptly made an appearance in the national polls. Their next time out they fell to Harvard (Yay, Tommy A!) to start a four game losing streak. Now, they've won three in a row taking advantage of the bottom third of the league standings. They're among ESPN's bottom half of the final eight cuts in their projection. Their RPI is 57, two spots behind Michigan, as of this morning. Their next six games is a brutal stretch that includes games with Clemson, Wake and Duke. They have a big recruit in the house tonight as well. They could use this victory.
This game will go a long way in determining the ACC pecking order.
Miami at Maryland, 8 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, pick 'em
The Terps have been the best soap opera story of the season. They've lost three in a row. The were embarrased in one of the worst losses in school history. Bookending that ineptitude were a pair of games where they lost double digit halftime leads. And surrounding all this a very open fued between the coach and the athletic department over recruiting. Despite their struggles consider this plea by the Testudo Times that he's still the man. Nevertheless, on the verge of missing the tournament for the fourth time in five years, the drama coming out of College Park has got an O.K. Corral feel to it. Adding to the drama of another gamenight is the fact the nation's top recruit will be courtside.
Maryland can still turn it around and string enough wins together. But, they're going to have to do it against an murderous slate with half their remaining games against Duke, UNC, Wake or Clemson. Its doubtful the Terps have the chops to get many wins against those big boys, or if they can sweep the collection of other games on the schedule. They're not on anyone's radar as a tourney team. They're likely not going to do better than break even the rest of the way. You can figure out their fate from there.
But, for strength of schedule sake, Michigan fans ought to be pulling for the Terrapins to at least make a nice run at it over the season's final weeks. Commentators Zone Read Left and jmblue took me to task for rooting against Maryland as it hurts Michigan's overall profile. I'd have to agree with that. In retrospect, I think i was narrowly focusing on the head to head aspect of the UM-Maryland dynamic when in reality it would take an extraordinary amount of circumstance to get to the point where the last bid would be between these teams. Anything that helps keep Michigan's resume and RPI afloat and competitive during this downturn is a welcome result.
A Terp win tonight could also start the downfall of a team that currently sits on the 7-line in both the ESPN and Rival projections. Miami looks to be in good shape in the projections. But, their next three games are against Duke, Wake and UNC. If they lose tonight, they're staring at 3-7 in ACC play if they dont spring a major upset. They come in tonight having lost two in a row. Lose tonight and the makings a losing streak well into February could take root. Fans of every bubble team should be pulling for that to happen.
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 8 pm BTN. Line, NW -1
Whats the longest the losing streak a team has ever had and still received an at large bid into the field? I dont know the answer to that. But if you set the bar at 6-game losing streaks, I'd take the 'under' on whatever you threw up on the board on the number of teams who rebounded to earn an at large invite. The Badgers look to avoid their sixth straight defeat tonight in Evanston. Hanging around as a double digit seed in every mock bracket, the Badgers will likely find themselves, along with Michigan, out of most of the mocks next update.
Also of intrigue: Will any physical play from the Badgers result in an ejection, a la in the Michigan game today, in the wake of the Krabbenhoff knockdown?
Meanwhile, what's up with Northwestern? Are they the darkhorse nobody is talking about? Is Michigan about the become the longest ncaa drought in the conference? Vegas is impressed. I cant get over the fact Northwestern is favored. A month ago you'd be ignored as a heretic in Midwestern basketball circles had you suggested the Cats would be expected to win over the Badgers, even at home.
Jerry Palm's projections at cbssportsline.com really has me perplexed about the Wildcats. He claims he's trying to project how the field will look come Selection Sunday, whereas everyone else is telling you what the field would look like today. Ok, that's fine. Yet, he has the Wildcats in the field. He's predicting the 11-7, 3-5 Wildcats to rip off a lot of wins. We'll see if that run starts tonight.
The Wildcat voices out there dont seem all that convinced. They're coping with the flaws and anxities a close win over dormant Indiana brings. Ah, yes.Remember that Michigan fans? Just three weeks ago. Good times.
Florida at Tennessee, 9 pm ESPN. Line, Tenn -4
If the Vols lose tonight at home, they'll fall to no better than fifth in line in the SEC pecking order. In a league, where taking the 'over' at 4.5 for number of bids received is a bad bet, that is not an enviable position to be in. Despite their slump, Vol Nation is advised to stay calm as the 2007 Sweet 16 team followed a similar bumpy trek. Yet, the same blog predicts another loss tonight I dont know, there's an edge missing to this year's Volunteers. One thing is clear, their home court advantage has been crushed. They had been 50-2 under Pearl at home--including a 34-game win streak--but Tennessee has already lost four games this month in Knoxville. And, now tonight they welcome one the league's highest scoring teams. There are warrants out for the Florida Gators and here's the rundown of wrongdoings. On the Florida side, this game will define the team's mettle and whether or not its as good as it guady record would suggest.
Cal at USC, 10:30 FSN. Line, USC -5
For the first time during this California set of the Pac 10 round robin, Michigan's allegiances lay squarely with the Northern California team. Despite a loss last time out to UCLA that exposed flaws, I've put the Bears in the sure thing department because of their nice looking 16-5 record combined with a favorable schedule: Five of their next seven are at home with the road trip being the cushy Oregon Swing. Its hard not to see this team coming into the clubhouse with more than 20 wins and less than 10 losses. That's a tournament resume coming out of a BCS league.
USC is a different story. Lunardi's ESPN projections have USC in the final eight out; Rivals as close as the final four out. They're in the middle of this beauty pagaent, but dont stand out from the crowd. A loss could be crippling because their next three games are at UCLA, at AU and at ASU. If indeed a losing streak is in the offing for USC, then Michigan can stay ahead of them in this chase by defending their home turf in upcoming games. Tim Floyd's crew could use some bench production as they march through this important stretch.
Diarist note: If interested, use the comment thread to discuss the national hoops landscape, in lieu of the open threads in the forum section from the last two Saturdays. Also, I'll update to discuss the night games and post it later today. Enjoy the hoops!
It's the final day of January. Selection Sunday is 44 days away. The second half of conference season begins as teams enter their final 10 games of the schedule, a stretch that many pundits claim is given more accordance when the selection committee meets.
Taking a look at the conference standings this morning, I factor 19 at large bids are already assured to teams that appear a lock to make the field. A mixer of 35 teams enter today as the top candidates to fill the remaing at large card. The problem is there are only 15 bids remaining, meaning less than half of this group will make it to the Big Dance. Teams better start winning and adding to their resumes fast or they'll be left playing road games in the NIT come March.
The Bubble is officially taking form. It will be fascinating watching the ebb and flow of these final six weeks. Which teams will emerge from the bubble to become locks. Will any of today's sure things crash and burn in February,landing on the dangerous bubble? Which, if any, midmajors (and I include Conference USA, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley as part of this group) will step forward and demand a spot? And, of course, counference tournament week could upset the entire apple cart and redefine the final field of 65. On Super Bowl Eve, here are some key story lines to keep an eye on today:
Fading Big East Powers
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, noon ESPN. Line, Pitt -11.5
Georgetown at Marquette, 2pm ESPN Full Court. Line, Marq -6
Notre Dame and Georgetown were expected to contend for the Big East title, but instead end January in serious jeopardy of making the tournament. Each faces a tough road game today as they attempt to redirect their winter slide.
According to mock brackets, the Irish need to be the more concerned team as they're a #10, 12 and 12 seed in the ESPN, Rivals and CBS mock brackers respectively. The latter two projections came after their loss to Marquette earlier in the week and those fields have the Irish among the last four teams placed in the field. Today, the Irish sit in 80th in the latest RPI numbers. Translation: With a loss today, the Irish wont find their name on too many mocks during the next update cycle.
On one hand, the Irish have lost four in a row. But on the other hand, the quality of competition (Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Marquette) have been top shelf. Maybe the Irish really aren't that bad. In ND circles, their predicament is being compared to a fellow Big East team from last year that went from horrific losing streak to Sweet Sixteen in a matter of weeks.
I can only buy the ND '09 as Villanova '08 comparision at a cheap price at this point. The Wildcats exited their tailspin last season with a 13-8 record. They went 6-3 to close the season, including resume wins over West Virginia and Uconn, and then routed Syracuse in a virtual play in game during the Big East Quarterfinals. After their losing streak, the Cats had some winnable games that they got healthy on.
Notre Dame is 12-8 right now and there are no signs this losing streak will end not only because how 'meh' they're playing, but how murderous the schedule is for the next fortnight. After today's game at Pitt, the Irish line up at Cincy, at UCLA and home against Louisville. They might not be favored in any of those contests. If they drop 3 of 4, they'll be 13-11 and no better than three games below .500 in league play.
I think Notre Dame's slide will continue. The losing streak might reach eight before its all said and done. Other than Luke Harangody, this team struggles to score. Kyle McAlarney is in a major shoointg funk and they get a lot of floor time out of guys that dont have much of an offensive game like Tory Jackson and Zach Hillestand. And, they've always had problems on the defensive end. They cant guard anybody's front court. That's a huge problem today going up against Pitt and rugged forwards DeJuan Blair and Sam Young.
If any team looks closer to the Villanova situation from last season, its the Hoyas. While their losing ways may continue this afternoon, their slate eases up with home games next week against Rutgers and Cincy. Nab those winnable home games and their fall from grace will be a thing of the past. Besides, most mocks still have the Hoyas lingering around 6-seed area, although most have yet to take in account their loss three days ago in Cincinnati.
Georgetown just is not playing well right now. According to Hoya Saxa, they whiffed on 10 layups in their loss to the Bearcats. Four of their five starters are in prolongues shooting slumps and as a team, they're hitting only 21 percent of their three point attempts the last four games. You know what's not good for a team struggling on the offensive end? A road matchup against one the best defensive outfits in the country. Plus, Marquette is out for revenge after a gut wrenching loss to the Hoyas that killed their Big East title hopes last season.
There's one other early Big East start today worth keeping an eye on when West Virginia travles to play Louisville (noon, ESPN Full Court, Line L'ville -6.5) in an underrated rivalry game. The Cards are surging and may find themselves in contention for a #1 seed. The Mountaineers right now are in the sure thing categy as far as an at large bid. But, a battle between Big East upper division teams is worth a look and I had to mention it just so I could link this Cardinal fan's ode to Huggy Bear.
Let's Go Hockey! Let's Go Hockey!
Michigan at Purdue, 1pm CBS. Line, Purdue -12.5
Attention Michigan Fans! Attention Michigan Fans! Do not pay attention to this game. Do not pay attention to this game. I repeat, do not pay attention to this game.
I'm kidding. Sorta. Just try and not get too involved in the outcome of this afternoon's game at Mackey Arena against Purdue. Save your emotional investment for tonight's hockey grudge match against ND at Yost.
I'm not saying this because it would be a waste of time to throw yourself into a game that Pomeroy gives the team only a 9-percent liklihood to win (Wait, so your saying there's a chance), but rather this game represents a mulligan for the Maize and Blue.
If they win, then the bandwagon is back up and running with national accolades. But, if they lose? Well, everyone expects them to lose. Bubble observers wont punish them too much. Yes, they may fall out of mock brackets, but they'll still be right on the fringe. There are many teams out there that are marring the resume worse than Michigan. As I detailed earlier in the week, the Wolverines bid will come down to defending home turf the month of February. You can make a case that Wednesdays's home game against Penn State is more important than losing this game to a Purdue team that has climbed its way back to being a favorite to win the regular season crown.
Its always hard to figure out if the good Michigan team will come out to play or the the bad Michigan team. While local fans are having a hard time defining this squad, so too are Purdue followers. I hope Michigan plays so well today that they pull us all into believing they can win it. But, lets not freak out too much in the CIL if they dont.
Uprising in the Desert
Washington State at Arizona, 1pm CBS. Line, AU -5
I would not consider either of these in the hunt for a tourney bid. However, each pulled off big time upsets Thursday night (Wassau over ASU; the Cats over UW) and the winner today is but a February hot streak away from pullling themselve into the final field. I did include both clubs in the mix of 35 mentioned at the top.
Did the Chase Budinger head stomp galvanize this Arizona club? How he matches up with WSU's uber freshmen Klay Thompson could go a long way in determining this one. Any defense would be nice to see out of Arizona which has allowed 90 and 97 points in the last two games.
Has Wassau figured out how to play with their new lineup? If Wassau packs the defense it brought to the ASU game, the Cougars ill notch the road win.
If the Cougars win, they'll complete a winning record in the first half of league play. Duplicate that over the second half and they could be in business for a bid. If the Cats win, they'll still be just 4-5 in conference, but with the easiest road trip on the schedule (the Oregon Swing) looming a nice looking winning streak could be in the offing. Nobody is looking at these schools right now, and its not a good development for Michigan if either of these clubs add to the crowded bubble
Big 12 Bubble
Oklahoma St at Texas A/M, 2pm ESPN. Line, A/M -2.5
Both these teams are in the same purgatory Michigan is in right now. Somewhere between the final teams included and left out of the field while struggling to find their game.
I've said before I like this Cowboy team. Not so much because I think they're the real deal, but at least coach Travis Ford has them playing an up tempo style thats just more fun to watch than the half court, turn the game ugly style of play implemented under the Sutton family. Of course, maybe that style was in vogue for so long in Stillwater because it got the job done. The Cowboys have lost three league games this season despite scoring 81, 92 and 95 points in those contests. A loss today will give them defeats in four of five games and drop their league record to 2-4. With no outstanding OOC wins to lean on, the Cowboys cant afford to not finish better than .500 in league play and expect any chance at a bid.
The Aggies may end up with a guady looking 21 or 22 wins when the season is over. Like the Cowboys, they have nothing victorious of note on their OOC slate, but, unlike the Cowboys, they played a tissue paper soft non conference schedule that will cost them in the eyes of the selection committee. Can a 22-win team from a BCS league be denied a bid? The committee will be weighing that question when the Aggies are discussed. Just to get into the discussion though is this must win today to avoid being swept by Oklahoma St.
SEC West, uh, Showdowns?!?!?
Mississippi at Mississippi St, 1 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, MSU -9
Arkansas at LSU, 5pm, ESPN Full Court. Line LSU -10.5
The Egg Bowl on hardwood is not really the most compelling game. Despite the upset of Kentucky, the Rebels remain a team hovering around .500 and not anywhere near the tournament discussion.
The Bulldogs are a different story. Along with LSU, they're the only team with legit at large hopes right now from the SEC West. I dont think the runner up in that division will snare a bid, so they need to stay at the top of the standings with the Tigers. Losing a home game to a second division team would be bad news for a team that today, at best, is among the field's final cuts.
In Baton Rouge, the Tigers look to hold serve against Arkansas. LSU might be the most talented team in the SEC. If they can win consistenly from here on out, they ought to win the SEC West and sneak into the field. But, like Mississippi St, LSU can ill afford a home loss to a second division team. The SEC is the worst of the BCS leagues and home losses to bottom dwellers will sink both of these teams resumes even if they bring a shiny overall record to the table. On a night celebrating 100 years of LSU hoops, the Tigers ought to demolish Arkansas.
The Hogs buried themselves with an 0-4 SEC start. A win gives them a nice step in the right direction of a recovery. A loss returns them to four games below .500. Either way, its a long road for Arkansas just to get back to the bubble
South Carolina, a basketball school?
Five years into the Steve Spurrier regime, South Carolina has turned into a basketball school. Ok, thats probably not what the Old Ball Coach had in mind. Nobody in Columbia is paying undivided attention to the upcoming football signing day because these plucky Gamecocks have injected itself into the race for the league crown, not to mention an NCAA bid.
They're moving up in the blogosphere's SEC Power Poll. But, they need to keep winning because this league may only get three bids come March. I dont expect them to win in Lexington today, but I am eager to see how they compete. Statistically, there's a lot to like. They have four double digit scorers, shoot the ball as well as anyone in the league and have a great turnover ratio. That's a recipe for winning basketball. UK Blog Sea of Blue worries the Gamecocks strengths align directly with the Wildcats weaknesses.
An upset today probably puts them in the rankings and in everyone's mock brackets come next week. Even with a loss, the Gamecocks have positioned themselves as well as anybody for an at large bid.
NoCal vs SoCal
Stanford at UCLA, 3:30pm, ABC. Line, UCLA -10
Today's game in Pauley Pavillion could net a bounty for Michigan. A UCLA win continues to prop up one of Michigan's marquee wins on the season. A Stanford loss continues to push the Cardinal back, putting a Sweet 16 team from a year ago and one of the nation's last teams to lose a game this season in a horrible bubble position. They would fall to 3-6 in the Pac 10 and their best OOC win is over Northwestern. They would need a major February run to get back in range. However, a win would give Stanford a better win over UCLA, not to mention more recent, than Michigan's win over the Bruins.
The Bruins leaned on the basics of Ben Ball in thumping Cal the other night. They're back on the winning track and with upsets of ASU and UW that same night, the Bruins are back in control of their own fate to win a fourth straight Pac 10 crown.
Friars own Huskies
Providence at Uconn, 4 pm ESPN Full Court. Line, Uconn -12.5
The Providence Friars ought to scare the pants off any team sitting the bubble. They didn't have any impressive wins until the beat Syracuse the other night. Yet, they parlayed a soft early Big East slate where they played all the bottom dwellers, to a 6-2 conference mark.
They're talking as many as 10 teams from this league going to the dance and there's no way a school with 11 league wins is being left out of the field. The Friars get to that mark just by breaking even the rest of the way. Bubble teams need to order up a Providence losing streak, stat!
Surprisingly, it may not begin today against the #2 ranked Huskies. Providence swept Uconn last year. They've won four in row on the road in this series and won five of their last seven overall agains the Huskies. I'd like this team a lot more if they showed the slightest bit of interest in playing defense. Still, they're a blast to watch and thier 100-96 track meet win over the Orange the other night was as great an offensive showcase in college hoops as you'll see this season. It outscored half of the NBA games on the schedule that same night. Despite their recent dominance in this series, the Friars task today will be tougher than their contest against the Orange earlier in the week as the Huskies come in at full strenghth whereas Syracuse was a banged up squad that lacked enough firepower to win such a high scoring game.
Those are among the compelling games to watch today. I'll either update this or throw another diary out there outlining the half dozen or so games this evening worth a look....you know, in between commercial breaks of the UM/ND hockey game of course.
Also, I've done Open Thread in the forums the last two Saturday afternoon to chat about hoops before the UM game that night. With Michigan playing within the hour, I wont be doing that, but please by all means, if you so desire, use the comments in this Diary as a de facto open thread about the day's hoops actions.
Yes, I know this isn't Michigan hockey per se, but it's CCHA action, and I know there's enough hockey fans out there to make this worthwhile -- and I'm sure there's even more of you who love to see tOSU taken down a peg regardless of the sport.
Anyways, Friday night's Ohio State/UAF hockey game here in Fairbanks wasn't even close. The Nanooks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, tacked on another goal in the first half of the second period, and broke things open in the third by scoring two goals. Ohio State managed a single goal in the third period to avoid the crushing shutout.
What makes this so shocking (for those of you unfamiliar with UAF this year) is that the Nooks' offense has been atrocious and near the bottom of the CCHA. Their defense, on the other hand, is No. 2 in the country. Basically, what Virginia Tech is to football, UAF is to hockey right now.
But Ohio State did have an excuse -- the legendary Alaska home-ice advantage. I'm not talking about the great fans we have here, though that is important -- I'm talking about the distance and time required to travel here. Ohio State was delayed 11 hours on the trip out here. Instead of arriving on Thursday, being able to sleep all night, practice early Friday, then play tonight, they arrived early Friday and reportedly had to go directly to practice.
In short, they were miserably tired and played like it. We saw a similar situation when Michigan traveled here earlier in the year -- the Wolverines came out tired and lost the first game of their set. In the Saturday game, Michigan was adjusted, rested, and won. It remains to be seen if this even-tireder Buckeyes team can do the same.