Three of the game's marquee players, Blake Griffin, Hashem Thabeet and Jody Meeks, gave college hoops fans enthralling performances for Valentine's Day. Take a bow, gents. Their performances yesterday were the college equivalent of the Kobe-Lebron Madison Square Garden games a couple of weeks ago. I could not take my eyes off them yesterday, they were fascinating efforts. Consider that Meeks, following up his unreal buzzer beater against the Gators, dropped 45 points carrying his depleted team to a key SEC road victory. And, yet, it wasn't even the best performance of the day. Or even the second best. Toss in the scramble for information on the Stephon Curry injury and a strong buzz of college hoops hovered in the news morning. Bubble talk has ramped up. The regular season is drawing to a close. Selection Sunday is four weeks from today. The scent of March is in the air.
Its with this backdrop that Michigan faces an immeasurably crucial day of hoops, beginning with their game at Northestern (Line, NW -4.5) in a few hours. I wont say its the most important game of the season, because haven't we already said that twice this month? We all know the storyline. Michigan needs to start winning some games or risk falling off the tournament rader. You get the feeling the Wolverines are a loss from kissing away any hopes for an at large bid. I dont think those feelings are all that innaccurate.
However, somewhat paradoxically, Michigan also finds itself perhaps a win away from convincing a majority of bracketologists that they're worthy of being in their fields. Yesterday's out of town scoreboard broke positively for Michigan. The Wolverines are in position today, with a road win against a team in the RPI top 100, to pull close, or even pass, many teams allegedly ahead of them in the chase for bids.
Kansas State and Georgetown are two of the teams among the final four out. Both lost heartbreakers yesterday. BYU doesn't play this weekend. Michigan, with a win, takes a big step forward from this mini pack. While Creighton, St. Mary's and Penn State, from the next pack of four out, all won games, Michigan arguably would stay ahead of that trio with a win today.
How about the teams in the field according to the Matrix? Cincinnati, a 12-seed and pretty much the last team in most people's field, got waxed by Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech, a 10-seed, lost to Maryland and enters a nasty gauntlet of ACC foes from here on out. Kentucky and South Carolina won on the road, the Gamecocks at the buzzer, but Michigan's win today would be mathematically stronger than those. A win today and Michigan gains ground on all those teams. They probably outright pass Cincinnati.
I realize that's not a ton of carnage for Michigan to take advantage of, but remember I labelled this a crucial day for the hoops program, not just a crucial game. Consider the rest of the schedule this afternoon. Three teams, just ahead of Michigan and in the field, face long odds this afternoon. Boston College, USC and Miami--all double digit Matrix seeds--play top-15 teams and each are decided underdogs in games later today. Duke at Boston College (Duke -7.5), UNC at Miami (UNC -8) and USC at Arizona St (ASU -7) are all lined up in convenient triple header fashion (Woot! Fox Sports Net) beginning a few minutes after the final buzzer in Evanston today.
Obviously, Michigan winning its game first is the most important piece of today's puzzle. But, if they manage to get by the Cats, it could be a red letter day of scoreboard watching. Heck, you could make a case that if Michigan losses, the scoreboard watching becomes even more important today as then a win by any of those other teams could make the gap for an bid between them and UM too wide for the Wolverines to overcome in the regular season.
Screw that, though, we're tyring to think positive here. None of this win or lose BS, lets just win and then bring down the hate with a fury onto the Eagles, Trojans and Canes. Lets get our voodoo dolls out, unleash the WLA attack dogs and embark a full scale, whistle stop, skull cracking tour. I know its just hoops, but you're capable of hate against the Trojans and the U, right? Perfect. I knew you'd understand.
So, you're saying Michigan might a team in the field when the day's over
I'm not saying that for sure, but there's a strong possibility that Michigan would still get one of the 34 at large bids if the season ended.
Really? C'mon you're joking. Is that a runner's high you have going or did you wake and bake and forget to go the church this morning?
Hey, thats a low blow man. You know I'm injured and cant run right now. And smoking pot is illegal. All I am doing is coldly breaking down mock brackets and truth reporting.
Anyway, lets go right on and get ahead of ourselves and project the landscape if Hoops Karma deals Michigan blackjack, meaning a win and a sweep by the favorites later on. That would mean two 10's, two 11's and one 12 in the Bracket Matrix with at large bids will have lost over the weekend. Michigan, meanhile, would be the only team in the Matrix final four out that won. Putting it in those perspectives, there's a heavy stack on the table today. The Wolverines will take a big step either towards or away from the tournament field this afternoon.
Are we focusing too much on the Saturday sample size? Perhaps. But, more than half of the Matrix updated as the weekend began. Those brackets alone will be vulnerable to the immediate results of this weekend.
My bet is that Creighton finds its way into many new brackets. But, their inclusion could be a straight up swap with one of the hangers-on from the Mountain West. I am more than fine with that result. St Mary's, now that it proved it could win a big game without start Patty Mills, might also reappear in most brackets after a one week excile.
Those results would only take in partial account of the full bubble shakedown if results break the right way for Michigan. Remarkably, they could find themselves in the field tomorrow afternoon. If it all breaks for Michigan, I actually expect that to happen. At worst, I would expect Michigan to be in more fields during the next rounds of updates than they are in today.
Scoff all you want about fretting Michigan's place in a fake bracket projection. The top end ones worth tracking regularily nail the entire field or, at most, miss just one entry. The competition they have between themselves has more to do with picking a teams correct seed, not whether or not they're actually in the field. Where a team stands in relation to these brackets has served as a much better indicator of where a team sits on the bubble than any poll.
As for the making the real tournament, whether or not that happens, we'll likely be looking back to the results of today as a day of bellweather results.
Michigan does not play today, but that does not mean their position on the bubble wont be altered over the course of the next several hours. Games all day and all night will continue to reshape the bubble position of the Wolverines. Since Michigan's loss Tuesday night to MSU, a total of 25 bracketologists have remade their fields. Only one, still has the Wolverines in their field. However, they remain firm in the 'final four out' category when taking a look at the entire Bracket Matrix, the comprehensive bracketology list tracked by the Bracket Project. With a win tomorrow at Northwestern, Michigan probably wont be worse than that during the next round of comprehensive updates. In the meantime, there's plenty to cheer for, or more appropriately root against, today that will enhance Michigan's position going into their game tomorrow in Evanston. Michigan fans need to bring the hate to several teams across the country as the action unfolds. That might not sound nice considering its Valentine's Day, but we're trying to break a decade long NCAA Tournament drought, so who gives a rip. Without further adieu, here is my compiled list of Enemies of the State:
Georgetown at Syracuse, noon, ESPN. Line, S'cuse -5
Georgeton versus Syracuse screams of classic college basketball, doesn't it? This nooner is a nice way to tip off a long day of hoops. Big stakes are the line today for the Hoyas. Their at large hopes are slowly vanishing under the weight of a young team and a difficult Big East slate. They're just 3-8 since the start of January and sit in 11th place in the conference, three games below .500 in league play. They're running out of time to turn the ship around before March. As it stands now, Georgetown is only in 12 of those 25 brackets updated since Tuesday, 8 of which have them as an 11 or 12 seed. They may be one loss away from being completey excommunicated by the entire bracketology crowd. Are you sure you hate the Hoyas enough going into this one? Take this test and find out.
UCLA at Arizona, 1pn, CBS. Line, UCLA -4
As January closed, the Wildcats were dead in the water and looking NIT bound. One five-game winning streak later, Arizona has rescusitated its season and NCAA hopes. Suddenly only three of the 25 brackets that have been updated to include all of this past week's action dont have Arizona on a bracket line. That's quite an impressive turnaround. However, a loss today to the Bruins may begin to put all that back in jeopardy. The Bruins have dominated this series, winning eight in a row. Bruins Nation breaks down how likely another win over Arizona is. The Wildcats are a double digit seed virtually across the board and the next couple of weeks will be arguably its toughest stretch in league play of the season. Three straight road games follow today at Arizona St, UW and Wassau. A win obviously solidifes the Cats posiition in the bracketologists' eyes. A loss, however, could begin a spiral towards the wrong side of the bubble by the time March rolls around.
Nebraska at Missouri, 1:30pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Missou -11.5
Looking for a tournament darkhorse to impress even the most nerdy college hoops junkie? Try the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They have one the most efficient offenses in the Big 12 and with other teams falling around them, Big Red is peaking at the right time. Just two lonely bracketologists among the entire Bracket Matrix have Nebraska in the field, so they still need to open a few eyes. A win at Missouri today would do that. A loss keeps them invisible. The Big 12 still has a chance at fielding six teams, but only Nebraska is stepping up right now to be that possible sixth team. But, they have to pull in some big wins away from Lincoln from here on out to pull the trick. I'd just assume see them lose today so we dont have to worry about them come Selection Sunday.
Minnesota at Penn St, 130, BTN. Line, PSU -3
I'm still not sure who Michigan fans should root against in this one. On one hand, Penn State is in a funk. Fans have been urged to pull back their NCAA expectations. They've lost three in a row and stud scorer Talor Battle only has a combined 19 points during this streak. If Penn State losses again, the Lions will completely vanish from any at large discussion. They sit in a worse position than Michigan right now and a loss actually puts them in scramble mode from here on out just to notch an NIT bid. On the other hand, Minnesota's spot in the Big 10 pecking order, I think at least, is up for grabs. A loss here gives them losses in three of four games, with the only win being against lowly Indiana. With the Gophers coming to Ann Arbor on Thursday, its conceivable that by this time next week Michigan will have pulled even with them in the tangible standings and ahead of them in the intangible pecking order. Minnesota fans might know who to spread the love to today, but I don't. I'm torn. No worries, thoughh. I am well trained by the WLA propaganda arm, so I'll be able to spin either result as good news for the Maize and Blue.
Kansas at Kansas St, 330pn, ABC. Line, KU -1
This is the one game I am looking most forward to of all the action today. The Wildcats are the Little Brother of the state. And, they have a lot of hate for the rival Jawhawks. It drives some to vandalism. But, in basketball this has been more fued than rivalry as the Jayhawks have all but owned the series. They've only lost once in KSU's own building. The spice for today's game is the hot Wildcats, winners of six in a row. They look no worse than the Big 12's fourth team. Despite the streak, its taken them awhile to impress the bracketologists. Georgetown, for example, is in more of the most recently updated mocks than KSU. Why are people not sold on the Cats yet? Perhaps its an OOC slate whose best win is against Cleveland State. Or, those awful losses to Oregon and Iowa, programs in the team photo for worst team from a BCS league. Or the fact that less than a month ago they were still winless in league play. A lot of that perception could change today with a resounding win over the defending National Champions.
Virginia Tech at Maryland, 4pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Maryland -3
It does not matter if they're playing Gardner-Webb or Clemson, the Hokies play close games. Almost half their games this season of been decided by five points or less, including near-miss, bad losses turned victories this week over NC State and Georgia Tech. Today's road game against Maryland just drips with bubble implications for the Hokies. While they are in near unanimous selection status across the Bracket Matrix, a loss today could start the ball rolling in the complete opposite direction. In their closing run of at Virginia, Florida State, at Clemson, UNC, Duke and at Florida State, they're not going to be favored to win too many of those games. Can you see the Hokies losing five games from here until the end of the regular season? I can and thats a lot of losses in the season's final four weeks for a team on the bubble. A loss today begins to poke a few holes into the Hokies resume and with so many landmines up ahead their bid into the field, despite what the brackets say today, is far from secure.
Florida St at Wake Forest, 4pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Wake -8.5
Of all the teams to root against today, the Seminoles appear to be the most certain to make the field. But, like the Virginia Tech situation outlined above, this team has a brutal slate down the stretch. A series of losses, beginning today possibly at Wake Forest, could well loom. That does not bode well for a program that has not been into the Dance in a decade and in recent seasons have seen bids evaporate under the heat of late season collapses. This team might look like its a long way from the bubble, but a loss today shoves them in that direction.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 4pm, ESPN. Line, Pitt -15.5
The Bearcats are the anti-Georgetown of the Big East hopefuls. They've won seven of nine games, including a sweep of the Hoyas and a win over Notre Dame. At 7-5 in the tough Big East, the Bearcats are in position to earn a bid. They're in more than 75 percent of the most recently updated mocks (just 6 folks have left them out), but their consensus 12-seed in the Bracket Matrix proves their margin of error is slim. The Bearcats have an interesting resume. Their OOC plays includes losses to Memphis, Xavier, Florida State and wins against UNLV, UAB and Mississippi St. That's decent. Their Big East mark, however, may be a bit fraudulent. Half their wins have come against league dormants like Depaul, Rutgers and St. John's. They dont have a win against anybody thats .500 or better in the conference. We'll see if this team is ready to wear as they enter the make or break portion of the slate. After today, their next three games are versus Louisville, West Virginia and at Syracuse. We'll find out just how worthy this team is over the next couple of weeks. The always astute local media thinks today's game is a possible pitfall for the Bearcats. You dont say, do you? Considering they're one of the biggest underdogs on the board today, thats not exactly breaking news.
Creighton at Southern Illinois, 5pm. ESPN2. Line, Creighton -3
Talk about charging hard from the rail. The Bluejays have won five in a row and eight of their last 11. They sit alone in second place in the underrated Missouri Valley Confernece. Dont make the mistake of thinking a MVC team wont get an at large bid. While the league only earned one bid last season, it had sent multiple teams into the Big Dance for six straight seasons before then. Across the entire Bracket Matrix spectrum, the Jays are only in nine fields, but more than half who have placed them on the board have done so since mid week updates. We'll see how they fare on the road in Carbondale this afternoon. CU-SIU used to be the game of the year in the MVC, but the Salukis have fallen on hard times in recent seasons. But, they still play in-your-shorts defense and have a great home court edge. The Jays only won by a point when the teams played earlier this season in Omaha, so a tight one is in the offing. All it might take is another regular season loss or two to extinguish Creighton's flame.
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 9pm, ESPN. Line, Wisco -5.5
I dont think it really matters if Wisconsin loses or not tonight against Ohio State. I'm pulling for them to do so, only because it muddles up the Big 10 pecking order and at least opens the door for Michigan to perhaps slide ahead of them. Regardless, unless the Badgers only two wins from here on out are against Indiana (of all years for Michigan not to play the Hoosiers twice.....thank you Big 10 schedule makers!), I think they'll easily make the field. Those games are home contests against OSU and Michigan and road trips to MSU and Minnesota. I suppose losses in all four are not out of the realm of possibility, so we might as well try to push down the first domino tonight.
Portland (Not The Trailblazers) at St. Mary's, 10pm, no TV. Line, St. Mary -8.5
All season it looked like the West Coast Conference would get two teams in the field with Gonzaga and St. Mary's earning bids. Recent weeks have been cruel to the Gaels, however. They've lost four of five and, worse, their best player Patty Mills is out indefinetly with a broken hand. The Gaels don't look they can win without him. A loss today drops them to 6-5 in WCC play. The Bracket Matrix reveals that St. Mary is in worse position than Michigan right now, albeit only slightly. They're only in one field thats been updated this week. If another loss gets tacked on their resume tonight, you have to wonder what exactly this team can do--if anything--to get back in everyone's good graces when, and if, Mills does return.
SEC BUBBLE: UK, TENN, USC, FLORIDA, LSU
Kentucky at Arkansas, 1pm, CBS. Line, UK -4.5
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Vols -10
South Carolina at Alabama, 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, SC -2
Florida at Georgia, 330pm, ABC. Line, Florida -10
Ole Miss at LSU, 7pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, LSU -11.5
I could not pinpoint one SEC in particular to root against today, so we all might as well pull for the entire conference's NCAA hopefuls to loss. You dont have a problem rooting against the SEC, do you? No? Excellent. The league is in an interesting spot. I never bought into the January brackets that only gave bids to three SEC teams. However, I'm not sure I buy the February brackets that seem unanimous in placing five teams. I wonder if at least one of them will prove to be too average down the stretch to earn a bid. That would be good news for Michigan and everyone elese on the bubble as it would logicially free up a bid. Florida, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky are all seeded somewhere between 7 and 11 according to the Bracket Matrix. All five are favored today, so here's hoping there is at least one live puppy out there to spring an upset today to muck up the waters. And, here's double hoping that it becomes a trend from here on out to close the SEC season and make the league no better than a 4-bid conference.
MOUNTAIN WEST BUBBLE: UTAH, SDSU, UNLV
Air Force at Utah, 4pm, no TV. Line, Utah -20
Wyoming at San Diego State, 10pm, no TV. Line, SDSU -16.5
Colorado State at UNLV, 10pm, no TV. Line, UNLV -17
Clearly, I am obsessed with the Mountain West Conference. Which is weird because I love mid majors and typically would go to bat for them. But, until I begin to see more sanity across the bracketology world and the consensus only field two, and not four, MWC teams, this league will continue to irk and worry me as a fan of a program on the bubble. Maybe we're finally beginning to see some movement on this front. The Bracket Matric has UNLV out of the field, even though 17 of the 25 brackets updated since Tuesday still have the Rebels in the field. SDSU and BYU are treading water as 10 and 11 seeds. Utah seems secure, for now, as a 9. BYU does not play this weekend, but the other three are all favored tonight against league lightweights. Any upsets in the MWC tonight would go a long way to making my anti MWC crusade a success. UNLV and SDSU would be booted out of all legitimate mock brackets if either lose tonight, and I dont think either have enough on their slate from here on out that will allow them to do enough to get back inside the field.
One of the most lamentable aspects of being a college football fan as far as I'm concerned has long been the lack of quality stat keeping, as well as analysis. Matt Hinton (currently Dr. Saturday) and Chris at Smart Football are great, and if CFB Stats didn't exist, this post wouldn't exist, but it ain't no Fangraphs and those fellas ain't quite Tom Tango, who literally wrote The Book on baseball. Not that it's a fair comparison.
I bring Tango up because his stat wOBA inspired this post. wOBA (weighted On Base Average) is basically on base percentage gone plaid. Instead of dividing times on base (1B+2B+3B+HR+BB+HBP+ROE) by plate appearances, you decide how valuable in terms of runs each of those individual events are and then proceed (hence weighted). OBP is transformed into runs per plate appearance. Multiply times total PAs and you have the runs that batter was responsible for in that season. And scoring (or preventing) runs are the bottom line in baseball. In sum: bases get you runs get you wins. In football, it looks like this:
Yards - Turnovers = Points
This isn't exactly groundbreaking. It's a fundamental assumption behind Dr. Saturday's Life on the Margins, iirc, and I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to find in Pete Palmer's Hidden Game of Football if and when it eventually ships to a2. And it's sorta-kinda what David Romer did, though not nearly exhaustive. The theory is good. The actual arithmetic is kind of annoying and is summarized in the following paragraph. Feel free to skip to the part where we find out just how crippling the impact of Nick Sheridan was and how much worse it could have been.
The key to being able to do this yourself is to figure out yards and turnovers in terms of points. I ripped the drive logs of every Big Ten conference game in 2008 from Yahoo. That'll give you yards/point, which came out to about 15. Then I plotted, in buckets of 10 yards, the percent of drives that resulted in a TD or FG based on the drive starting field position, except the last 30 yards which I averaged at the opponent's 15 due to relatively few samples.* This gives you average expected points based on field position. That plus average field position equals the average value of a possession, which is what you lose in a turnover. Not only that, but you give expected points to your opposition. According to my math, an INT was worth about -4 points. Thus points per throw is (Yds/15 + INTs*4)/attempts.
Feel free to comment
I Am Not An Expert. If my math is off, then suggest different constants/methods. They pass the sniff test to me; I ran assorted regressions on excel to test assumptions and it looked right. I'd be glad to share the drive chart database. Onward...
The Part Where We Find Out Just How Crippling The Impact Of Nick Sheridan Was
It's sorted by pts/attempt, the relevant measure. Average was .33. Mr. Sheridan was dead last with those over 50 attempts with .15 points per attempt. An all around average team wins 4 games. The results indicate that an all around average team that replaced its average quarterback with Nick Sheridan would win 2 (converting to wins over average is easy enough). But it would also have tremendous team chemistry and at least one valedictorian. Wins aren't everything.
Also, check out Terrelle Pryor's numbers. Remember, this is just per throw. Rushing and sack yards are not included, nor is it defense adjusted. Having rewatched the Texas and Michigan games in HD (being able to see the d-backs helps), I was impressed. Tressel used the threat of Wells inside and Pryor's skills when bootlegged on the edge to great effect. The playbook seemed cut down, but his athleticism made it work. The sack numbers (scroll right in the g-doc) and somewhat inconsistent mechanics are the most glaring issues, but they were exaggerated by a bad pass blocking unit in front of him. In conclusion: barring injury, Pryor is going to be a terror. Surprise! Rivals #1 overall prospect in 2008 is projected to dominate. At least he'll probably be gone after his junior year.
*It's a shortcut and it probably understates how valuable possessions that start inside the 15 are. I actually think inside the 15 the function is probably no longer linear. I'm also sorry that this is isn't the most thorough or transparent presentation. It's a start though.
With both teams being ranked in the Top 25, it should be an exciting meet at Cliff Keen. PSU will most likely be without the number 2 ranked 149 pounder in the country as Bubba Jenkins injured himself a couple weeks ago. That will definately help the Wolverines.
125: Watts (UM) vs Pataky (PSU). Pataky comes in the higher rank but both wrestlers are pretty evenly matched. If UM wins this match it's a good sign of things to come the rest of the meet. However, Pataky is tough on his feet and can scramble real well. I ll go with Pataky in a close one UM 0 PSU 3
133: Stevens (UM) vs Strayer (PSU). Strayer is a tough kid and more experienced than Stevens. Been a tough year for Stevens but keeping this match close will go a long way for the Wolverines. UM 0 PSU 7
141: Russell (UM) vs Molnaso (PSU). Russell needs to work for extra points here, he is obviously more talented. UM 4 PSU 7
149: Beaudrey (UM) vs Pisani (PSU). With Bubba Jenkins out last meet, it appears Pisani will step in. Jenkins hurt his ankle a few weeks back and would be a great blow to the Nitney Lions if he cannot go. Either way PSU still gets at least 3 here. UM 4 PSU 10
157: Hynes (UM) vs Darling (PSU). Hynes should pull out a victory here, coming off a big win against Rex Kendle of MSU last weekend. UM 7 PSU 10
165: Zeerip (UM) vs Vallimont (PSU). Zeerip is improving but Vallimont will be too much for him here. Zeerip should keep to only a regular decision UM 7 PSU 13
174: Luke (UM) vs Wright (PSU). Wright is only a freshman but has been wrestling tough all year to earn the 17th ranking in the country. However, Luke is just too good. Luke isn't a great pinner, but should be able to score a major decision here. UM 11 PSU 13
184- Biondo (UM) vs Decker (PSU). Biondo should win this match fairly easily and should be looking for bonus points. A major decision here would solidify a UM win. UM 15 PSU 13
197- Todd (UM) vs Brown (PSU). Todd needs to secure a wolverine victory by working for extra points against an inferior opponent and take the pressure off Phillips at Heavyweight. Look for at least a major to seal the victory. UM 19 PSU 13
Hvy; Phillips vs Wade (PSU). This match is a real toss up. Both wrestlers are a little small for heavyweights but Phillips is a little more athletic. I ll give it to Phillips in a close one UM 22 PSU 13
Big Wrestling Meet Tomorrow at Cliff Keen with #17 UofM against #6 Ohio State at 7 PM. On Saturday the Wolverines will square off against #24 Penn State at the same time and venue. Michigan is undefeated in the Big Ten and is coming off a blowout win against MSU. The team is really starting to click now it seems.
UofM ranked wrestlers (According to intermat)
125 Pounds: Michael Watts (SR) 17th
141 Pounds: Kellen Russell (So) 5th
174 Pounds: Steve Luke (SR) 1st
184 Pounds: Anthony Biondo (So) 13th
197 Pounds: Tyrell Todd (SR) 6th
133 Pounds: Reece Humphrey (JR) 2nd
141 Pounds: J Jaeggers (SR) 11th
149 Pounds: Lance Palmer (JR) 4th
157 Pounds: Jason Johnstone (SR) 17th
165 Pounds: Colt Sponseller (So) 2nd
184 POunds: Mike Pucillo (Jr) 2nd
125 Pounds: Brad Pataky (SO) 13th
133 Pounds: Jake Strayer (Sr) 9th
149 Pounds: Bubba Jenkins (Jr) 2nd
165 Pounds: Dan Vallimont (Jr) 20th
174 Pounds: Quentin Wright (Fr) 17th
Heres My Predictions
125- Watts (UM) vs Triggas (OSU). This is a big match for Michigan. Watts needs to try and get some extra points. Most likely a UofM win but only 3 team points (3-0 UM)
133- Stevens (UM) vs Humphrey (OSU). Humphrey is a stud and Stevens is a true freshman. Stevens needs to do the best he can to not get pinned. Stevens did an excellent job against Franklin Gomez of MSU (5th ranked)only getting majored. I ll give Stevens the benefit of the doubt (UM-3 OSU-5)
141- Russell (UM) vs Jaggers (OSU). Wow, this is gonna be a great match. Russell is a true Sophomore and made alot of noise last year, being Michigans big time recruit from Blair Academy. Russell beat Jaggers in a close match last year and will do the same this year. (UM-6 OSU-5)
149- Beaudrey (UM) vs Palmer (OSU). It's gonna be tough for Beaudry to stay off his back against Palmer. Beaudrey is new to the UM lineup and Palmer is a stud. UM-6 OSU-11
157- Hynes (UM) vs Nemac (OSU). This is a match UM has to have. Nemac is a true freshman but was one of the top recruits of the nation this year. Hynes is a senior and needs to step up. UM-9 OSU 11
165- Zeerip (UM) vs Sponseller (OSU). Zeerip is a 4 time state champ out of Michigan and had never lost a match in high school. However, he is a redshirt freshman and learning the ropes of college wrestling. Sponseller is a tested veteran. Zeerip needs to try and keep close, however it will be hard. UM-9 OSU 15
174- Luke (UM) vs Rella (OSU). This is where Michigans big boys come up. Luke is the top rated 174 for a reason, he is tough. Should be looking for a pin here. UM-15 OSU 15
184- Biondo (UM) vs Pucillo (OSU). Biondo has shown great improvement. I can't believe he used to wrestled 103 in high school! But Pucillo is very good, should be a decent match but Pucillo should pull out a close one UM 15 OSU 18
197- Todd (UM) vs Gardner (OSU). Todd is a captain and needs to work for extra points here. If he can get the pin, it would be huge. I ll give it to him here. UM 21 OSU 18
HVY- Phillips (UM) vs Morrison (OSU). The winner of the meet will be decided at hvy. Phillips is undersized for a heavyweight but is all muscle. Morrison is a little more of a true heavyweight. A Michigan loss here and they tie, a Phillips win and the team wins....I ll give it to Phillips UM 24 OSU 18. Granted I think a Tie is very possible and there is no tiebreaker in college wrestling.
Despite not playing a game, Michigan’s hopes for a NCAA tournament bid took a hit as a result of last night’s action on the hardwood. Left to scoreboard watching in the wake of the Wolverine’s loss to the Spartans Tuesday, I was hoping to see some fellow bubble teams crash and burn. Sadly the opposite happened and several teams that were even or slightly ahead of UM in the bubble pecking order notched key wins. Here’s a quick wrap of some of the bad news:
The Kansas State Wildcats routed Texas Tech, notching their sixth straight victory. The win puts KSU in the driver’s seat for fourth place in the Big 12 and a first-round bye in the league’s postseason tournament. It also helped further legitimize their quest for a surprise bid in the post Beasley/Walker era. A win Saturday at home against the hated Jayhawks could put KSU in near lock status.
Continuing their strong mid winter push, the Cincy Bearcats clinched their first winning season under new coach Mark Cronin by slipping by dormant St. Johns. The Bearcats aren’t celebrating that feat as they have bigger fish to fry: A possible NCAA tourney bid and a date with powerful Pittsburgh over the weekend.
LSU notched its biggest win in years (even bigger than during the Final Four run in 2006? Really?), and have solidified its place atop the SEC West standings and, perhaps, more importantly in the NCAA field.
Elsewhere in the SEC, the Tennessee Vols kept pace in the SEC East. They beat up on a team they should beat in last place Georgia, so the win is not impressive by any stretch. Still, after losing at weak Auburn over the weekend, the Vols needed a bounce back win. With their SOS, it will be tough to keep the Vols out of the field, but every game from here on out will be important.
Here’s a shocker: the Virginia Tech Hokies played another close game. Always living on the edge, Virginia Tech has avoided disaster all week. Sunday, they used a miracle second half comeback to stave off an upset bid from NC State. Last night, a workmanlike performance was needed to ease by Georgia Tech. The Hokies are in great position for a bid, but they’re heading into the meatiest part of their slate. They close out with 2 games against FSU and a game each against Maryland, UVA, UNC, Duke and Clemson, so they have a long way to go before they can feel easy about being guaranteed a spot.
The Wisconsin Badgers are back in contention for a bid after winning their third game in a row after topping Iowa last night. Wisco looked dead only days ago, but one winning streak later they’re probably no worse than sixth in the Big 10 pecking order heading into the weekend.
It’s time to drink the Dayton Flyer Koolaid. After dropping a game over the weekend to UNC Charlotte, Dayton responded by getting its biggest resume win of the season, thumping state rival Xavier. If the Flyers showed any signs of weakness, I got the impression bracketologists were more than willing to dump them from their fields. However, after such a marquee win, the Flyers looks as secure in the field as any other bubble team right now.
Out west, Utah buzzed San Diego State to take over sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference. We all know how I feel about the MWC and their projected four bids into the tournament. Last night's results probably did not impact that number for today, but I actually think the Utes win spins somewhat positively for the Maize and Blue. Among the quartet of teams (Utah, SDSU, BYU and UNLV), the Utes appeared to be the most firm in most mock fields. BYU and UNLV are just hanging on by a thread. The Aztecs are somewhere in between. The loss to Utah should push them closer to the bubble's edge. I dont think the Aztecs get an at large bid unless they win the regular season crown. Last night's loss will make that feat harder to achieve.
All those teams notching wins last night are officially ahead of Michigan in the pecking order. Not only do the Wolverines need to turn their own season around, but they could use a hiccup or two out of those programs as well.
It was not all bad news for the Maize and Blue tournament hopes last night. Some positive results did come across the finish line.
Penn State continued to see its shine dull. The Lions have now dropped three in a row and have to be behind Michigan now in the Big 10’s pecking order. PSU stud Talor Battle was shut down last night and eventually outclassed by a plucky Purdue walk-on, dubbed Bobby Buckets.
The Baylor Bears continued its freefall. They were a team I would have pegged in preseason as a tournament team. However, they started the week in worse position than Michigan, and they missed another chance to snare a big win when Oklahoma drubbed them on their home floor.
Boston College, a team in most fields right now as a double digit seed, lost a halftime lead and dropped a home game to Clemson. The Eagles bid is out there for the taking if they continue to play average ball.
It does not sound like much, but at least those results helped Michigan’s cause.
Focusing on the Bracket Project, of the final dozen teams fielded via at large bids, six notched wins this week, two lost and four either haven’t played this week or don’t take the floor again until this weekend. Of the first eight teams left out of the field, Wisconsin, Creighton, and Kansas State won; Michigan, Penn St and Oklahoma St lost; St Mary’s plays tonight; and Georgetown is off until Saturday.
What does any of that mean? Nothing, really, as these are only faux brackets and there are a ton of hoops left to be played. However, a pecking order is being determined. As of now, nobody looks like they’re falling out of the field. That’s not good for Michigan. Worse, it looks like they’re falling to the bottom of the list of the group of wannabees that currently sit on the outside looking in.
A lot can change with a full weekend of hoops ahead of us. And, there are some games going on tonight that might help shakedown the bubble. Here’s what’s on tap:
USC at Arizona, 10:30, FSN. Line, AU -2
Far and away, this game between the Trojans and Wildcats is the biggest bubble matchup of the night. In the Bracket Project, both of these clubs are among the final dozen at large teams, with USC coming in as an 11-seed and Arizona just squeezing in as a 12. The Cats are hot right now, riding a five game winning streak. Tonight, they face a plucky USC team that is 30-13 ATS as an underdog in the Tim Floyd era. They’ve also covered 17 of their last 24 on the road. Hmmm, intriguing. Regardless, the loser tonight finds their tenous spot in the field on even shakier ground. Michigan fans need to root for the loser tonight to go in a tailspin.
Gonzaga at St. Mary’s, 11, ESPN 2. Line, Zags -4.5
The Gaels may prove an interesting case study for the committee. They seemed a sure thing until a few weeks ago when star Patty Mills went down with a broken hand. They’ve lost three of four since. According to the Bracket Project, the Gaels are a consensus ‘final four teams out’ team, although Lunardi, for one, at ESPN still places them along the 11-line. The committee has been known to give teams dealing with injuries a break, provided they're healthy and playing well come Selection Sunday. With a win tonight over the Zags, the Gaels may not need the charity. With a loss, however, the club is on thin ice.
The Zags, meanwhile, were worked over ptetty good on their home floor by Memphis their last time out. Despite being undeafeted in league play, the loss is creating some introspection among the Kennel Klub patrons.
Louisville at Notre Dame. 7 pm ESPN. Line, L’Ville -2
Dear Louisville: Please stick a dagger in the heart (if they still have one….zing!!) of the Irish tonight. Once a top-10 team, the Irish aren’t even on anybody’s radar right now as far as an at large bid is concerned. That’s what a 7-game losing streak will do to you. Irish fans appear to have given up the ship. Rather than hammering more discussion on a one-man offense and a defense that cant stop the other team's best forward, Irish bloggers have gone back to the drawing board in hopes of discovering the keys to creating a perennial power.
The slate eases up slightly down the stretch for Notre Dame, so if the Irish can nab a big scalp tonight against the Cardinals they might be able to claw their way back into everyone’s good graces. Let’s hope it does not happen.
Illinois at Northwestern, 9pm, ESPN 2. Line, Illini -2
The Illini are a lock to make the field. The Wildcats are a long shot. This is not a huge bubble game, but it’s the only Big 10 game of the night. Michigan plays the Wildcats next, so tune in for some advance scouting.
UCLA at Arizona St, 9pm ESPM. Line, UCLA -1
First place is on the line tonight in the desert. Ben Ball was stifled in these team's first game. Can UCLA exact a measure of revenge?
Meanwhile, despite a team battling for first place and a projected Sweet 16 team, it appears that nobody in Tempe is paying attention. Of course, when the primary blog covering ASU is plastered with football recruiting news on the day of the biggest hoops game of the season, can you blame anyone for not being that sky high?
Considering UM’s SOS took a hit last night with the losses by Duke and Northeastern, it would be nice to see UCLA win this game. Michigan will be on the bubble come Selection Sunday and their win over the Bruins needs to look as impressive as possible. A win over the Pac 10 champs would be a nice feather in the Wolverines’ cap.