mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
For the last three years, I have wondered how in the heck did Michigan fritter away that Indiana game at Crisler Arena to close the 2006 regular season. I'll carry the same puzzlement for a while in the wake of yesterday's game. From a Wolverine perspective, its good to be on the other side of that equation this go around. Michigan's karma is now even steven, at least in that regard.
It helps when you have one of the best coaches in the college game.
Laval-Lucas Perry, this next round is on me.
Name dropping alert; Name dropping alert. When the Gophers played at Crisler Arena a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting with WLA Goons Dex and MRG. Among the talking points, was a whole lot of chuckles at Tubby Smith's timeout pattern. He let Michigan rip off a scoring run to close the first half without even trying to stop momentum. Yet, he called a TO with 3 seconds in the half to diagram a play. It didn't work. He continued to react slowly the whole second half, but at least still had a TO in his pocket to use in the final five seconds with his team hopelessly behind double digits.
His TO yesterday took place well before Westbrook even began his shooting motion, so its probably not as big a gaffe as its being made out. But, how typical of Smith. Your guy is loose in open court, nobody has picked him up. Just trust your players. Quit over coaching! One of your money shooters is going towards the rim and is free enough to measure up his shot, and your first instint is to take the ball out of his hands? Thank you, Orlando Smith.
Check out Yinka Double Dare's Diary for all the seeding possibilies in the Big 10 Tournament that will be impacted by the final three league games played today. I know Iowa would be a tougher out, but I am spinning bad mojo on ice in my head at the prospects of playing Indiana in the 6/11 game. As many of you know, yours truly is an Indiana University Grad, circa none of your business. Anyway, as much as I have loved and admired the effort of the kids this season, it would not give me any satisfaction to see them spring an upset and advance in this field on the backs of Michigan. While I am not superstitious enough to believe in live blog curses, I am deathly afraid for Michigan because of my own bad karma. I've gone into Crisler to cheer for Indiana over Michigan before. At some point the sports gods will want some blood in return.
Make no mistake, regardless who the Hoosiers play in that 6/11 game, Conseco Fieldhouse will be filled at the tip with Cream and Crimson clad fans. Hoosier faithful knew the score heading into the season and they've still showed up in droves to root for their team. They had the best fans out in Maui. And, they serenaded the lone outgoing senior as the final seconds of the Assembly Hall season ticked off the clock. Let's admit it: how many of us would have been willingly to do the same to the Michigan seniors this past football season? It will be close to a road game for the opponent on Thursday. I'm comforted by the fact that if its Michigan, there will be several thousands Wolverine fans, so the players will at least have a lot more support than a true road game.
If Northwestern does win later today against Ohio State, it would create an intriguing lineup of games to open the tournament Thursday afternoon. Ohio State and Minnesota would start in the 8/9 game in what could be an elimination game. Northwestern/ Iowa would play in the 7/10 game with the Wildcats probably still needing a win to clinch their first ever tournament bid. We've seen what Iowa can do in recent games. That game could go either way. And, then Michigan-Indiana to cap the day with Michigan also trying to clinch a long awaited bid. I dont think there's been a first round of this tournament that's had as much possible stack on the line. Now, I just need a plan to get out of work.
My foray into handicapping small school championship games ended unsuccesfully yesterday, logging a 1-2 mark in three showdowns. I went with my heart for the second straight game with the Loyola Marymount reincarnate VMI Keydets in the Big South. This time, it burned me as Radford sprinted right by the Keydets in a game that outscored five of the 11 NBA games played last night.
Pick that should keep its job: East Tennessee State dominating Jacksonville. That wager was never in doubt. Anytime I think of the Buccaneers, I think of tiny guard Keith Mr. Jennings who nearly led ETSU to a 1/16 upset over Clemson in the 1990 tournament and lost in the second round in the 1992 tournament to a team that played a lot of freshmen. You may have heard of them.
For most of the Ohio Valley Finals, it looked like I would coax out a winning record in these games. Austin Peay controlled the whole game and seemed to play the whole second half up somehwere between 6 to 10 points. The final six minutes rivalled the UM game, however. as APSU stopped converting and Morehead State began making shots. The bid to the field was finally decided in double overtime on a near buzzer beater. Morehead has not advanced into the tournament in a quarter century and three years ago they won just 4 games. From a March Madness perspective, it was exactly what I love about this month. My bank account, however, is not as pleased.
I lost the gambling battle in those games, but won the overall war yesterday. My picks from yesterday's column ended 7-4. I'll take a record like that any day.
Valley Title to be Decided; Unease in Omaha
Needless to say, the folks in Omaha will be anxious all week. Creighton's resume will be among the most scrutinized as we bat around bracketology topics this week. Expect it to be one of the most common arguments of the week. I'm not sure the Blue Jays are in any better position than Illinois State was last season when the Redbirds guady record, and a second bid for the MVC, was denied in the wake of a bowing out of this sectional with a blowout loss. That loss was in the title game, though.
Creighton's eliminated, but their two games in Arch Madness left an impression. First, the amazing sequence of events and eventual win at the buzzer over Witchita State. Then, in the final minutes of yesterday's embarrassing loss being dually serenaded by Redbird fans yelling 'ISU, ISU' and by a nice sized contigent of WSU fans who stuck around chanting 'NIT, NIT.' Classic.
In that same courtside CIL, it was reported that a straw poll of on-site media had the Blue Jays out of the NCAA field. FWIW.
Moving to this afternoon's title game between Northern Iowa and Illinois, i am undaunted by the failures in picking the title games right yesterday. I have a strong feeling ISU takes this game today. I know the Panthers have beat them twice already, but both those games went down to the wire and could have gone either way. After being snubbed last year, ISU is on a mission to get into the tournament and have been waiting to peak during Arch Madness to ensure their ticket gets snapped.
NIU has a large 7-foot presence in the middle with Jordan Egleseder. But, he's a bit of a pylon. He's called Floor Jordan for a reason. Illinois State's size and athleticsm of their own front line will be a tough matchup for him. Overall, I think ISU has matchup advantages with Osiris Eldridge and Champ Oguchi, and I really like they play of rugged forward Dinma Odiakosa who can impact the game without having to score a point.
I think Illinois State has the better team, and this weekend they've been playing better. I like the roll they're on right now.
Quick Bubble Hitters
With teams like Maryland and UNLV losing yesterday and the overall bubble carnage of the week, Virginia Tech is in position today to really make a move up the charts in advance of the ACC Tournament. The problem is they have to go on the road against Florida State to do it. Tech's chore today is similar to Michigan's yesterday where a road win against a good league foe will clinch a .500 league record. If they win, their road map to a bid will also rival Michigan. Just dont go one-and-done in the ACCs. If they do win, they would play NC State in a 7/10 game Thursday.
Tennessee is losing at home by 10 right now to Alabama. Are they playing themselves out of a bid? Or, just down the seed line? Discuss.
Northwestern plays its most important game in program history today in Columbus. There's no reason for me to add anything else.
More Mid Major Drama
The real excitement for me today is the conintuation of the mid major tournaments. Almost 100 teams have been eliminated since Thursday thanks to these fields. Only 213 remain standing by my rather unofficial, possibly off by a team or to, Sunday morning count. Regardless, we'll see more teams fall throughout the day with semifinals of the Colonial, MAAC, WCC, Southern, American East, NEC and quarterfinals in the Sun Belt and Summit.
The Colonial, MAAC, Southern and WCC semis are on ESPN2 or ESPN Full Court. I'll be keeping my eye on all those games.
It's March, his team is facing elimination and he drops 44 points. All in a day's work for Stephon Curry. Can the train live another day today against College of Charleston?
A Cinderella run is taking place in the CAA where the 11-seed Towson plays perennial power George Mason in the second semifinal today. Towson, led by former Depaul and Florida State coach Pat Kennedy, has upset Drexel and Northeastern the last two nights. That latter result takes a small bite out of Michigan's SOS. This is the farthest an 11 seed has ever advanced in the CAA sectional.
The first semi between ODU and VCU (3 pm) can go either way and ought to go down to the wire. The Rams must play on a higher level than they did yesterday, or Old Dominion will knock them out. Other than Towson, I think the other three teams are more than capable of winning a game in the NCAA Tournament.
In the MAAC, its all about seeing if the two heavyweights, Siena and Niagara, both big favorites, can advance into a showdown tomorrow night.
The game with the biggest bubble impact will take place in the nightcap between St. Mary's and Portland. Gonzaga might get pushed by Santa Clara in the opener, but eventually will tuck away the Broncos. Then, all eyes will be on the Gaels, to see if they can get make a statement. This team was cruising to an at large bid until their best player Patty Mills went down with an injury. Predictably, they began losing. The ship has steadied in recent weeks, including a big win in the Bracket Buster event over Utah State. Will the selection process cut the Gaels any slack due to the Mills injury. There is some precedent to do so, but the Gaels need to take advantage of the next two days and make own last on-court statement of their own. A loss tonight to the third place Portland squad probably would do them in. A win, and a nice showing over Gonzaga tomorrow night, might put them in the final bracket.
As you can see, there's a fun day of hoops still ahead. To think, I rambled on about my excitement about today's games with nary a mention the fact that Clemson is playing Wake Forest and, more importanrtly, Duke and UNC face off. Tar Heels versus Blue Devils. Shares of the ACC Crown on the line. National Spotlight on CBS. No Dick Vitale or Billy Packer on the call. Oh yeah, today will be a blast.
Predictions to feed to the addict, er, I mean the instinct
We're 13-7-2 on our handicapping this March season, If you're going at 100 a pop, thats a +490 profit.
***As I outlined above, I like Illinois State to win over NIU. They're a slight favorite today, and I will play them on the -150 moneyline.
***Yep, that's me on the Purple Bandwagon. They might win this straight up, but I'll take the Wildcats +6 over Ohio State. Game starts at 5:30 on the BTN
***Virgina Tech +6 over Florida State. Yes, I have been on the Noles a lot lately. But, usually when they're catching points. Both of these teams are underdogs I like to play. So, I'll buy in with the Hokies who always play close games and 7-4 ATS this season as an underdog with road covers at Boston College, Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson to go along with a neutral court cover against Xavier. This game starts at 2pm and is on ESPN Full Court.
****Give me VCU -4 in the first CAA semifinal today. The Rams lost a tight one on the road to the Monarchs, but blew them out at home. Yes, ODU is the hottest team in the league right now, but the Rams have won six of eight, so its not like they're lukewarm. The Rams are 8-3 ATS in this tournament if favored by single digits. In Eric Maynor I Trust.
***** As much as I hate betting against Stephon Curry, I'll grab the 10 points with College of Charleston over Davidson. These clubs played arguably the two best games of the SoCon season with each winning close games on the other's home court. I dont buy any chance of Davidison blowing out the Cougars today. While Davidson remains the team to beat in the league, we've seen they're not rolling through the conference the way they did last year. Davidson is just 9-14-2 ATS as a favorite this season, 3-7-2 the last dozen times out. Meanwhile, the Cougars are 15-8 ATS the last two seasons as an underdog. I expect Davidson to win, but they'll need every point they can get out of Steph.
**** I also think Portland will stick with St. Mary's tonight. I'll take the Pilots +8.5. The Gaels at large bid wont come easy. These teams handled each other pretty well when armed with home court advantage. That tells me these are even teams. Expect this one to play out close to the final buzzer.
And, I am sure to have a call or two on some of the other mid major tournaments. That action does not begin until later. I have only seen the lines for the first time a few minutes ago. I am going to chew on them for a few more minutes and update my predictions section at the half of the MVC game coming up here after the MSU game.
The 45-37 win over Michigan State was amazing for the play on
the field, but maybe even more so because of the atmosphere
surrounding the game — an environment that was directly
related to the amount of light in the sky. When the sun set over the Big House, the atmosphere drastically improved.
And that is why Michigan needs to add a night home game to its
schedule each year.
This thought first crossed my mind even before the game ended.
As I walked from the press box, down the aisle between section 23 and 24 to get on the field, I looked around me and decided: that we need to have a night game each year, to recreate this
You think anyone would be opposed to actually waking up at a
reasonable hour following a Friday night out on the town and still having all day to tailgate?
How could they not love it? Think back to how great the
atmosphere was at the end of Saturday’s game.
Instead of equal levels of brightness all around the stadium,
when the sun set, you could barely see the crowd, and fans were able to focus solely on the well-lit 120-yards of turf in front of
The scoreboard was much brighter and vibrant in the surrounding darkness, and flashes went off throughout the sea of 111,000-plus fans.
The closest thing I got to a negative answer about a potential
night game was when Matt Lentz suggested that playing one in
November might be too cold — a problem that some good
scheduling could easily solve.
Not surprisingly, this night game idea tested through the roof
with all the players I talked to after Saturday’s win.
-Daniel Bremmer, Michigan Daily
“I wish we had a night game here at Michigan
Stadium,” senior safety Ernest Shazor told me after
“I think the fans get into it a little bit more under the
lights,” tight end Tim Massaquoi said. “I felt the
crowd. The crowd got rowdy.”
"Anyone think night games would be cool at Michigan Stadium? And I think if the team wore those maize jerseys and blue pants as an alternate once a year, and the game was a maizeout, it could get crazy! As crazy as Penn State's whiteouts!" Thats an excerpt from my last diary...
Maybe we're getting soft because we're spoiled with success. Well, last season should fix that. And hell yes on a night game. HELL YES!
only in my dreams will we ever have a night game where we have as much a home advantage as we do at yost. imagine how awesome that would be
I am imagining it man! It would be so kick-ass! I don't know why they won't do it? Are they afraid too many people will get drunk? C'mon its Michigan. Not like people are gonna riot like Ohio State fans do after the game...
If you think the athletic department should schedule some night games in the future, go to my petition and sign it! It will only take a few seconds of your life and it will be totally worth it if it actually happens! Michigan could actually have a night game with as much advantage as games at yost!
What is wrong with you people? Don't you remember the first OT game in the Big House? Penn St. in 2002? That was pretty electric, but they don't compare to Braylon Edward's grab in 2004 and Super Mario's catch in 2005. These were some of the best games I have ever watched, and they all have something in common. What could it be? O YA, THEY WERE UNDER THE LIGHTS!
1 game a year or every 2 years against Penn St, Michigan State, or Iowa! Thats all I ask!
GO BLUE 2009
With Penn State's double OT loss at Iowa (and PSU needed a comeback from 9 down with under 2:30 left to get it to OT), the picture clears up a tiny bit, but not much. Only three conference games remain: Purdue @ MSU, Northwestern @ Ohio State, and Indiana @ Wisconsin. I'm going to try to break down the scenarios.
The tiebreakers are here: http://bigtennetwork.com/Championships/Big-Ten-Basketball-Tiebreaker.asp
Michigan State has clinched the outright conference title and the 1 seed. Iowa is the 10 seed, and Indiana is the 11 seed. These seeds are set. Seeds 2-9 are still not set.
Purdue controls who is the 2 seed and who is the 3. If Purdue beats MSU, then Purdue is the 2 seed. If Purdue loses to MSU, then Illinois is the 2 seed by virtue of its season sweep over Purdue.
Wisconsin is the 4 seed if they win against IU regardless of the other games, as they swept PSU and won their only game against OSU. If they lose, see below.
Ohio State is the 4 seed if they win and Wisconsin loses. They are the 5 seed if they win and Wisconsin wins. If they lose, well, see below -- they can fall as low as the 8/9 game.
Penn State is the 4 seed if both Wisconsin and OSU lose. They are the 5 seed if either of those teams lose. They are the 6 seed if both of those teams win.
And now for the fun part involving the fates of Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, and potentially Ohio State and/or Wisconsin should either or both of those teams lose.
IF OHIO STATE AND WISCONSIN BOTH WIN:
Fairly straight forward. Northwestern is the 9. Michigan is the 7 by virtue of a sweep over Minny. Minnesota is the 8.
IF WISCONSIN WINS AND OHIO STATE LOSES TO NORTHWESTERN:
We have a 4 way tie. The records against the group are:
That makes Michigan the 6 seed. Minnesota is the 9 seed. Because the other two teams are tied, we next move to best record against MSU. This makes Northwestern the 7 seed due to their victory at the Breslin Center while OSU did not, thus leaving Ohio State as the 8 seed.
IF WISCONSIN LOSES AND OSU WINS:
Northwestern is the 9 seed. In the round robin of Wisco, Michigan and Minny, each of the teams swept one and got swept by the other. None of them beat MSU, and Michigan becomes the 6 seed by virtue of a win over Purdue while the others did not (Purdue losing to MSU won't matter because all 3 teams split with Ill.). Wisconsin takes the 7 spot having swept Penn State and Ohio State (the next teams in the standings, which are tied in this scenario), leaving Minnesota in the 8 spot.
IF WISCONSIN AND OHIO STATE BOTH LOSE:
Nightmare scenario. As best as I can tell, only Wisconsin (4-3) and Ohio State (3-4) do not have a .500 record against the resulting 5-way tie group. Wisconsin becomes the 5 seed on that basis and Ohio State becomes the 9. Of the three .500 teams, Northwestern gets the 6 seed because of their MSU win. Michigan would be the 7 because of a win over Purdue (both Minn and Mich split with Ill, so even if Purdue loses to MSU, Michigan is still 7), and Minnesota would get the 8.
Hopefully I got all this right. The tiebreakers are a real doozy.
This is how I feel
and to fill the 200 word requirement i will cut and paste the following:
Fighter of the Night man
Champion of the sun
You’re a master of karate and friendship…for everyone
Fighter of the Night man
Champion of the sun
Master of karate and friendship…for everyone
Fighter of the Night man
Champion of the sun
Thank you John Beilein. I love you. DeShawn Sims... you're a beautiful man.
Just... for the love of god, can we not play in Boise? Please? K Thx.
PS - I swear to God as my witness I will buy a book on Computer Hacking from Barnes and Noble and hack into the internets headquarters and shut everything down if a Cover It Live happens ever again.
John Beilein (pronounced bee-line; born February 5, 1953 in Burt, Niagara County, New York) is the men's basketball head coach at the University of Michigan. He is the 16th head coach of the Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team. The 2008-09 season is the second year of a six year contract. Beilein has won 486 career games (including games that were not at the Division I level)
Beilein is the only active collegiate coach to achieved 20-win seasons at four different levels — junior college, NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division I. Beilein has been recognized as coach of the year numerous times (Erie Community College (1981), LeMoyne (1988), Canisius (1994), and Richmond (1998)).
edit: how could i forget this? ugh.
Diarist Note: Added some predictions at the bottom of the post. UM down 3 at half, here's hoping they have a big second half in them. Thanks for reading. Go Blue!
Thanks to all the Bubble Carnage this week, the last five days might have been one of the best stretches for Michigan basketball in recent years. Ironically, the Wolverines never took the floor. Maybe that's appropriate given the state of hoops in Ann Arbor the last 10 years or so. Teams on the bubble went down in flames all around Michigan this week. The Wolverines were like the golfer in the clubhouse whose score shockingly puts him in the lead as the original leaders keep bogeying holes on the back nine.
Hours before Michigan tips its most important and anticipated game in years, lets take stock in the impact the crazy last week of hoops had on Michigan's place on the bubble.
Before most of this week's action began, Michigan was only in 11 of the 62 total brackets tracked by the Bracket Matrix. This morning, they've found their support doubled to 22 and sit as the second-to-last team out of the comprehensive Matrix.
Granted, that does sound like much. Taking a deeper look, however, reveals just how much the Wolverines surged this week without even playing a game. More than half of the brackets, a total of 34, have been updated since Thursday morning. Of those, Michigan is in 17, exactly half. Of the 28 updated since Friday morning, Michigan is also in half. I'm sensing a trend.
Michigan's support clearly is more solid in the most recent straw polls. That's good news. With so many bubble teams slitting their own throats this week, half of those Bracketologists have elevated Michigan to help fill the void. What's the deal with the other half? It's obvious, they're waiting for Michigan to uphold their end of the bargain and get a win.
Therein lies the rub. Despite all the help the out-of-town scoreboard gave the Wolverines this week, they still need to take care of businss. On the road. In Minnesota. At the goofy, raucous Barn. Against a team just as desperate to stay in the field and off of the bubble. The Gophers are a 9-seed in the latest Matrix and every bracket thats been updated since their Wisconsin win this week has the Gophers in with a solid seed. But, they cant go the rest of the season without a win and expect a bid to be handed to them.
While I sense a strong anticipation for this afternoon's game, I dont sense a whole lot of confidence among the fanbase. Maybe I've been to caught up in all the Bubble Tracking, but I have a quiet surety the Wolverines are going to get it done today. We've been here before, needing a win to all but clinch an at large berth, only to see the team fall short. Law of averages, says, Michigan has got to win one of these games sometime, right?
Beyond intangible 'they're due' theories, the real reason for my hope rests with the man on the sideline, John Beilein. He was brought here for this purpose. To win a game like today, a game his predecessors could either not win or even get the team in position where it would even matter.
Michigan's March woes have been documented. They've lost six straight regular season games in March. However, they have one of the best March coaches in recent times now leading them. Beilein is 33-23 in the month of March the last 10 years. He's 35-19-2 against the spread. His teams turn profits in the month of March from West Virginia to Richmond to Canisius. Now, its time for Michigan.
Beilein has a week to prepare. His team has a week of rest to hone its game. Minnesota, meanwhile, may have an early funk. Dont forget, this team just beat its biggest rivalry in dramatic fashion three days ago. Michigan might have the early intangible edge. They must take advantage of that and get off to a godd start. If Michigan can play in the first segment of the first and second halves better than they did at Wisconsin a week ago, Michigan may just set the pace the whole way. Even if it does not play out like that, I expect this team to have a chance in the final possessions like they did in Madison six days ago.
Maybe it wont be enough in the end, and I am full of you-know-what. But, I love Beilein's history in these spots. I think he has them ready to play their best. At the very least, I am confident enough going to the window to buy a Michigan +5 ticket.
Another benefit of all the bubble teams losing this week is providing a Michigan a shorter road map to a bid, should they fail to deliver this afternoon in Minneapolis. It otherwise would seem unlikely that an 8-10 league mark would merit the bill, but it happens often enough where all hope should not be cast asidee if they lose today. Michigan would need 2 wins in next week's Big 10 Tournament, perhaps even three, but they wont be in a position where they have to win the title. If the bubble massacre continues, then Michigan's bar for entry might be closer to two wins in Indy rather than three. So, with that in mind, here are other games, in chronological order, to keep an eye on:
Georgia Tech at Boston College, noon, ESPN Full Court. Line, BC -8.5
The Eagles have not locked up a bid on their own accord, although the bubble blood from this week may have done so for them. They can clinch a bid with one more win. However, should they lose a home game to the last place Yellow Jackets they will be putting a lot of pressure on themselves in the ACC Tournament. In the event of a loss today, the most likely matchup is Virginia in a 6/11 first round game. Lose today and lose that one, and the Eagles will be on a three game losing streak against the bottom third of the ACC. A Matrix 9-seed this morning, they could be out of the field if they go winless the rest of the season.
NC State at Miami, noon, ESPN Full Court. Line, Miami -8.5
The Canes loss to Georgia Tech sapped nearly all their bracketology support and they've fallen from on the verge of the field to seventh-to-last out of the Matrix. Virtually all their support remains from brackets not updated since the loss. Of the 34 brackets updated since then, the Canes are only in 3 fields. They wont garner much more support with a win today. But, it may set up a scenario where a couple of wins next win might sneak them back in, pending other results. The winner of this game will be the ACC 9 seed, the loser its 10 seed when the league field meets next week.
Seton Hall at Cincinnati, noon, ESPN 360. Line, Cincy -6.5
By most accounts, we can stop scoreboard tracking the Bearcats in the wake of their dismal showing against South Florida. Only one of the 34 brackets updated since Wednesday include the Bearcats. It's a computer generated formula on that site, so you might want to tinker with the numbers a bit. Althought it had Michigan as an 8-seed, so maybe the formula works just right. I think if they win tonight and somehow win two or three games next week and advance into the Big East semifinals, they might find themselves on a bracket line. Could their 8/9 game versus Providence be an elimination game for the loser? The league's top seed would await either team in the quarterfinals.
Colorado at Kansas State, 2pm, ESPN 360. Line, KSU -17
Unlike most of the bubble teams that lost last week, KSU went down to a good team in Oklahoma State. But, its not helping them get any more support. Like the Bearcats above, KSU gets a single bracket nod among the updates since they last played. The Wildcats wont add any more points by beating last place Colorado today. They need to win today and win at least a couple of games in the Big 12 Tournament to get back into the mix. Some more bubble carnage might be needed as well.
Kentucky at Florida, 2pm, CBS. Line, Florida -5.5
A week ago, this looked like a classic play-in game. Now, after both spit the bit against league lightweights, the dynamics have totally changed. This is an elimination game. The loser will have no more at large chances. The winner still would need to win a game--maybe even two--to feel safe about an at large bid next Sunday. Kentucky has fallen in the Matrix to third-to-last out, one spot behind Michigan in the projected pecking order. Only one bracket since Wednesday has included Billy Clyde's club. Florida clings to an 11-seed in the Matrix, but only nine of 34 fields updated since their loss Wednesday have the Gators on a seed line. Michigan has almost twice as much support from those Bracketologists as the Gators do. Yeah, I'd say this game is pretty big in Gainesville this afternoon.
South Carolina at Georgia, 2pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, USC -5
MGoBlog already owes Georgia a beer. You might want to upgrade to a keg should the Bulldogs pull another road shocker. Watching these SEC team wilt to lesser teams with bids on the line reminds me of how Tampa Bay lost their spot in the NFL playoffs this past season. Win at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders, are you're in. No problem. Whoops. Anyway, South Carolina has been a solid tournament invite for about a month, but consecutive blowout losses in the last week has put it all in jeopardy. Even with a win today, this team cant afford to be one-and-done in Tampa next week when the SEC field convenes. The Gamecocks are on stronger footing than their fellow league brethern that choked this week, with 25 invites from the 34 brackets updates since mid week. Those could all disappear if the Cocks 2-game losing streak increases to three and then four games.
Missouri at Texas A/M, 2pm, ESPN2. Line, Missou -2
The Aggies have a poor man's Michigan resume. Instead of more glossy wins over Duke and UCLA, the Aggies have scalps of LSU and Arizona. Texas A/M also shows us the value of playing the season out. Three weeks ago, they were 3-7 in league play. Today, they're a home win away against one the Big 12 top dogs from locking down a bid. The Aggies look secure for now and are garnering more than 80-percent support across the Bracket Matrix spectrum. Should they lose today, however, the Aggies will be under a lot of pressure to win at least one game in their league tournament.
UMass at Rhode Island, 2pm, no TV. Line, URI -10
I would like to say I saw this coming. But, I cant. I had no idea a URI charge up the charts was in the works. They've won six in row and 10 of 11. They are fourth-to-last out in the Matrix and find themselves in 18 total brackets, including notables like B101, the Bracket Board and Bracket Junkie. Considering they host a 11-win Umass team, they'll only cement that support today. So what else is there to say? How about I share a quick story on what first comes to mind when I hear the words Rhode Island and NCAA Tournament.
Flashback to the 1998 Regional Finals with Standford playing URI. I'm in Vegas with a bunch of buddies. We spent the weekend getting our clocks cleaned betting the Regional Weekend of games. But, there's one day left and we're all convinced that Stanford will roll upstart URI, who was lead by, among others, Lamar Odom. We're all sitting on Stanford -4 tickets. And for the first half, URI smokes the Cardinal.
The rout continued in the second half, and some of us left our seats in disgust to stand in line for deli sandwiches. We can only make out the action from a small TV about 30 yards away, but it sure as hell looks like Stanford is coming back. They are! We get back to our seats as Michael Madsen steals an inbounds, makes a layup and gets fouled. He does a stupid dance, but we're there at Treasure Island doing the same thing.
The Cardinal is now, inexplicably, winning. URI cant buy a bucket. Stanford can salt the game and the cover away at the free throw line. The CBS graphic shows that the Stanford shooter Arthur Lee has made 33 free throws in a row. We wince, expecting that to be a jinx. It's not! He swishes them! Stanford is covering, up 5, and our own bankroll comeback is underway. 3-2-1 and its over..........only the Rams Cuttino Mobley launches a meaningless 65-footer that banks home at the buzzer. I still can see my friend Sean throw down his Maize UM Hockey hat before he collapses on the floor. Talk about a dagger. It remains in the team photo of worst beats ever.
And, you know what? It was not even our most infamous gambling moment that afternoon at the Sports Book. I'll save that story the next time I feel like going on a Bill Simmons-esque trip down gambling memory lane. We got our butts handed to us all weekend, and I still have not returned to Vegas for March Madness.
Penn State at Iowa, 2pm, BTN. Line, Iowa -2.5
The Nittany Lions thrilling win over Illinois sure did cement their support among the Bracketology crowd. Penn State finds itself in two-thirds of the total brackets, but only two of the 34 fields updated since mid week exclude Penn State. They appear pretty safe, although I would not recomend losing today and going one-and-done in the Big 10 Tournament. Speaking of which, this game carries huge seeding implication for the Big 10 field. With a win and a Purdue loss to MSU tomorrow, the Lions would climb as high as the #2 seed. Should they lose, they could be part of a traffic jam of tied teams and fall as far as 6th or 7th.
Maryland at Virginia, 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN Full Court. Line, Maryland -1.5
Like MIchigan, the Terrapins go on the road today in an attempt to notch a .500 league mark that might open the door for a tournament bid. Unlike Michigan, the Terps play a lousy Virginia team mired in 11th place. Maybe this is not as easy as it sounds for Maryland, however. They were in this exact some position last year, and went into Charlottesville and got trounced 91-76 by the Cavaliers, sending them to the NIT. If that history repeats itself, expect the Terrapins to tumble down the Matrix in the lead-up into the ACC Tournament. Maryland is a 12-seed in the Matrix and of the 34 fields updated since midweek, the Terps are in 19 fields, two more than Michigan.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 3:30pm, ABC.ESPN Full Court. Line, OU -10
The Cowboys were among the biggest winners of the week because they were one of the few bubble teams to, well, win a game. And since they did so against a fellow bubble team, the Cowboys saw their support gain a lot of ground on the field. They've moved to a 10 seed on the Matrix and have an invite from 59 of the 62 brackets tracked. That means they surely can absord a loss today to a Sooner team that wants to end their home season in style. The Pokes probably could survive a one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament next week, although it would be an anxious lead up to Selection Sunday if it plays out like that.
New Mexico at Wyoming, 3:30, no TV. Line, NM -4.5
These damn Mountain West Conference teams wont go away. Just when one gets pushed farther down the Matrix, another threat pops up to charge up the charts. It's like Whack-A-Mole. Here's hoping Wyoming--a team fired up to earn an NIT bid today--plays a mean game of Whack-A-Lobo later today. New Mexico can wrap up a share of the league title with a win. The problem for New Mexico is they're not getting a ton of Bracketology support as only nine of the 34 recent updates include them. A loss might extinguish any at large bid hopes they have unless a deep run in MWC Tournament ensues.
LSU at Auburn, 4pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, AU -1.5
War Eagle, brother!! Could the Auburn Tigers really be the second best team in the SEC? I think you might be able to make a compelling case. If they hold serve at home today against LSU, the league's regular season champ, that argument becomes stronger. As of now, the Tigers (Auburn, that is) has next to no support. One Bracketologist since the midweek updates includes Auburn. In that field, the Tigers are the last team in, while Michigan is the last team out. Things might get uneasy in the blog alliance between MGoBlog and the Joe Cribbs Car Wash if something like that actually happens. Silliness aside, Auburn has worked themselves in position to get a marquee win today and a good showing next week in the SEC Tournament to get a most unlikey at large bid.
Stanford at Arizona, 7:30om, CBS (West Coast Only). Line, Arizona -6
You never want to be on a losing streak in the month of March. That's exactly the position the Arizona WIldcats find themselves in today. The Cats have dropped four in a row. Yet, the remain in the relative good graces of the Bracketology crowd, in large part due to all the other bubble teams taking the gas pipe this week. Looking deeper into the Matrix reveals the trouble the Cats are in. A total of 28 brackets have been updated since their Thursday night loss to Cal. Half of them have excluded the Cats. Michigan is in the same amount of brackets within that range as Arizona. Their grip on their 11-seed is loosening and a loss to the Cardinal today will be a stomach punch to their at large hopes. It's not a vintage year for Standord, but they just beat ASU, so they're more than capable of spring the upset. Even if the Cats get the win, they better not go one-and-done next week in the Pac 10 Tournament. They're staring at the possible first game against either Cal or ASU, so a lot more needs to be done before we can pencil the Cats in or out of the field.
Duquense at Dayton, 8pm, no TV. Line, Dayton -6
The Flyers have a guady record, but they better not go the rest of the year without a win. They sit on the Matrix 9-line and have unanimous Matrix support. But, that support could whither if they lose tonight and their opener in the A-10 Tournament. A loss today puts them on a slippery slope. Can both Dayton and Rhode Island get bids coming out of the A-10? I think that's 50/50 at best. If the Flyers enter the league tournament on a losing streak, it might be a simple beauty contest between those schools with the team that goes deepest in the A-10 the one earning the bid. Duquense wont be an easy out and they're trying to scrape their way into the NIT, which would be a rare post season bid for the school.
UNLV at San Diego State, 10pm, no TV. Line, SDSU -4
The Aztecs have played themselves out of the tournament in recent weeks. This morning, they sit as the eighth-to-last out of the Matrix field with only six total mock invites. They can make up some ground with a win tonight against UNLV, a Matrix 11-seed. This looks like the first of two games between these clubs as they appear headed to a likely 4/5 quarterfinal against each other in the Mountain West Tournament. I'm trying to think what combination of results will keep both out of the field. A Rebel win today, followed by an Aztec win Thursday? An Aztec sweep? The Rebels host the league tournament, so I dont think they can afford an early exit from that field.
Mid Major Elimination Games: Colonial, Southern, MAAC, Oh My!
If these intangible bubble outcomes dont float your fancy, check out the countless Mid Major action that's going on today. Quarterfinal action in the Colonial, Southern and MAAC and semifinal action in the Missouri Valley and Horizon will eliminate 16 teams. More exciting, how about Championship Games in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley? The winners get auto bids into the Dance. The loser sees their season end. Is that enough high stakes for you?
Here's a link giving you all the relevant brackets. Seriously, if you're not checking this site multiple times a day, you're not trying hard enough in March Madness.
Those three title games are being shown as a tripleheaders on ESPN2 beginning at 4pm. The Colonial and MAAC quarterfinals are all being shown on ESPN Full Court. The Horizon semifinals will be on ESPN U tonight. For coverage of the rest of the games, check out the leagues' websites where not only links to live streams are being offered, but CILs are being moderated to track the action.
Most of these games are important to the teams playing. They're elimination games. Lose, and hit the driving range. Or, join the baseball team.
Did you see what happened to Creighton last night? Being touted as a possible at large bid should they dont win the MVC, the Bluejays needed an amazing buzzer beater to survive Witchita State and keep their tournament hopes alive. A loss last night would have eliminated them, but they survived and advanced. You can bet there will be a couple more moments like that today as these league fields play out.
My sense is Michigan and the rest of the bubble benefits if Creighton goes on now to win this Sectional. Although, if one of Creighton or Northern Iowa lose today, it might ensure that this league only gets one bid.
Davidson and Stephon Curry take the March Madness stage today at 2pm in the Southern quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Eric Maynor and VCU get the Colonial quarters underway at noon. These have been two of my favorite players to watch for three seasons now. Both will see tournament dreams end today if they can't win. Davidson is a heavy favorite to win their tournament, but VCU will be a in dogfight as the CAA final 8 include four 20-game winners, five teams with at least 11 league wins and 7 teams with a winning record. Need a rooting interest? How about Northeastern, a team Michigan beat four months ago. The longer the Huskies stay in the field, the better Michigan's numbers will look. I'll be tuning in.
Alright, my March Madness Jones is in full swing. My record is 6-3-2 in my March columns, but today we're spreading the action everywhere. And, I already have UM +5. What could go wrong?
****Our first championship games tip off. Of course, I have calls on each of them. I'll take VMI +3 over home team Radford in the Big South; ETSU in a pick 'em over Jacksonville (not the Jaguars) in the Altantic Sun; and Austin Peay -1 over Morehead State in the Ohio Valley. These games will be an ESPN2 triple header beginning at 4pm. Yeah, I'll be tuned in.
*****In the Missouri Valley Semifinals, Creighton was given new life and they will beat Illinois State this afternoon. I'll play the -150 moneyline. That's the second game of day. Northern Iowa will win and cover the small -1 in the first game over Bradley.
****Give me Cleveland State in a pick 'em over UW-Green Bay in the first Horizon semifinal tonight on ESPN U.
**** In the Colonial, I'll take Hofstra +6.5 over Old Dominion and George Mason -4 over James Madison.
**** Auburn takes down LSU.
**** Missouri goes on the road and beats Texas A/M
That ought to keep me busy for awhile
I decided to upgrade this to a diary. Still not sure why I spent 45 min. typing this but I was thinking about it. Let me know your thoughts regarding next years starting lineup and anything else you feel compelled to comment on. Go Blue!
I was just thinking about how frustrating it was the past three nights watching the teams I was rooting for in the Big Ten lose in barn burners (Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois). I was also thinking of how frustrating it is to watch Michigan play. They show moments of greatness beating UCLA, Duke, Illinois, Purdue and sticking w/ a #1 ranked UConn team only to look like a terrible for long stretches against Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin (2x), Michigan State, O$U (2x). I do not understand Beilein's rotation as it has seemed to change drastically for some players from the first half of the season to the conference season. So these are my brief thoughts/frustrations of the role players on this team as we move towards the end of the season and look towards next season:
CJ Lee/David Merritt: I love the story of these two guys earning a scholarship and both of them currently attending Graduate School at U of M but in reality I look forward to having more D-1 scholarship type players on the team w/ their departure. I feel like there is room for one on the team b/c it is a great story and really speaks to what college athletics should be about.
On the court I do think anyone hustles as much as CJ Lee. I love seeing him hit the occasional 3-pointer and grabbing a monster rebound against guys taller than him. He is scrappy, a great leader and always plays hard. I can't help but get nervous when he is running the game in pressure situations but that is mostly b/c I watched him turn the ball over twice in the waning moments of regulation against NW. David Merritt seems to be very sound w/ controlling the ball and has solid defense. He seems to be a bit less of a scoring threat than Lee but is a nice surprise every once in awhile on the offensive end.
Jevohn Shepherd: I loved seeing this guy play early this season. He seemed to have settled into some sort of role finally coming off of the bench just to have that role disappear come Big Ten season. If it were up to me, Shepherd would always play before Gibson. I love his athletic ability. He seems comfortable handling the ball on the perimeter and seems to love to try to take it to the hole when he gets a slower big guy out on him. His athletic ability seems to make up some of the height disparity between Gibson and him but I think his inside outside threat makes him more valuable, but again what do I know I was cut from my Varsity team.
Zack Gibson: Jevohn Shepherd is a great transition to Gibson b/c this guy frustrates me to no end. I spent the first half of the season defending him to my gf but now he just bugs me. He finally got a haircut so he doesn't look so stupid out there but he is still our token tall white goon except he is not as good as our ones from the past (Graham Brown, Chris Young). He does not seem comfortable at all handling the ball unless he is 5 ft. from the hoop. But even then he is not sure if he is going to dunk it, lay it in or go for a reverse layup (he did this against Wisconsin when he had an easy layup, but he made it). I do not know what he does in practice but I'm not sure his occasional free throw or layup make up for his moving screens or turnovers. I guess he gives us the much needed height but I hope to God that Ben Cronin can help relegate Gibson to the bench next year.
DeShawn Sims: I can't say enough about this guy and what he does for our team. He is not flashy or demanding of attention but lets his playing speak for itself and that is probably what I love most about him (except his missed 3-pointer at the end of the Wisconsin game). I think every game we need to try to work the ball to him first. He is like Basketball's equivalent of having a running game. You run to open up the pass. We need to go down low to Sims to open up our 3-point game. Right now we seem to do one or the other and only see glimpses of both but next year I think we will be wildly successful if we can do this consistently. Sims plays like he is a few inches taller than he really is. I wish Amaker would have played him more as a freshman but maybe that slowed his development enough where he will stay for his senior year and really become the heart and soul of this team.
Manny Harris: No doubt he is a great talent and is why we are any good at all this year. I think if he goes pro it is a big mistake on his part. I think at least another year will help round his game out and hopefully put some meat on his skinny frame. I do not know if it is something that Manny does when going to the hole but it kills me he rarely gets calls when he goes to the hoop. I think this is the best part of his game and the refs don't help him out and actually give him one or two charges a game. This seems to get to him and he sometimes falls victim to the game getting to his head and throwing him off. On the offensive end he has such an off-balanced looking 3-point shot it is hard to say he is great from there but he hits enough to where it is safe to say he is pretty good. He doesn't look like a Glen Rice or a Louis Bullock but they go in. I wish he could develop that 10-20 ft. range where if he can't drive all the way to the hole he can pull up and make you pay. So I think Manny needs at least another year to refine his game and get us back to the tourney.
Kelvin Grady: He has definitely fallen out of the rotation. Not sure why or how I feel about it. I feel as good w/ him handling the ball as I do w/ Lee or Merritt but I think he is still searching for an identity. His quickness is one of his strongest attributes and works out well in the 1-3-1 zone defenses. Sometimes he finds his range from downtown but that is a bit less consistent than I would like. I think he needs to work on shooting consistency and will always be a role player for us.
Anthony Wright: Not too sure what to make of Wright. He is victim to the strange rotations under Beilein and has hardly been heard from all season until lately. Last year he had a few games (I think OSU) where he rained threes but that hasn't seemed to grow or move forward in any particular way. I like him on the roster in case we run into injury issues like a few years back or to just have someone to come off the bench and add a spark.
Laval Lucas-Perry: I think we were all excited about this guy and he turned in some good games early but his shot seemed to lose him for awhile. I love that he has freshman eligibility and I think we all forget that and were expecting him to come in and be great. That hasn't happened but you can see that he has great potential. I think he has the physical attributes to be very good. He seems strong and comfortable in his body. I have heard he is automatic from 3-point land in practice but he somehow needs to translate that into the game which I think he will. What bothers me most about Laval is when he drives to the hoop he does not seem to know what he is going to do w/ it. He is quick and very good at getting the step on the defenders but does not know if his #1 goal is go to the rim or kick out. It usually ends up w/ a strong miss off the glass when he had the shot and didn't expect to be so open. I think if he finds his shot and becomes comfortable in games shooting it and also learns to drive to the rim and expect to score he will grow into the player we expect him to be.
Stu Douglass/Zack Novak: They are a bit interchangeable in my mind. Novak seems to be more of the scorer but only b/c he takes more shots from 3-point land. Douglass seems to have the body to grow into an even more solid player defensively and offensively. They seem to be on track to be solid contributors and probably frequent starters for the next 3 years at Michigan. As Brian said, they will be the kind of players that would be great players at Butler or some other good mid-major.
Eric Puls: Last and probably least, Puls. I no nothing about this kid other than the mop up minutes he has gotten and even those have been scarce as we have rarely run opponents out of the gym. Probably a career on the bench if he can't get time while being 6'10" on a very undersized team.
We lose only Shepherd, Lee and Merritt so we are in good shape next year w/ a solid freshman class coming in. So it should be very much the same team. I think the Big Ten will be as good next year as most teams seem to have young talent on them. So hopefully our young guys have more of an upside (mostly Cronin) than an OSU who is also returning most everyone. I would think the starting lineup next year would be something like: C Cronin, F Sims, F Harris, G Lucas-Perry, and G Grady eventually being Darius Morris. Sprinkle in some starts for Novak and Douglass and hopefully it will be a great year.