As a Chicago-based Michigan fan, this was my first chance to see Manny & company in person. A couple things jumped out at me:
- We need to get Grady back in the mix, or some other ball-handler. Maybe even LLP could handle this. It's clear, however, that Lee cannot be trusted in late game situations under pressure. We also had a ton of turnovers in traffic in the paint in the first half. A legit ball-handler who can deliver a pass in traffic would do wonders for this offense. When Northwestern collapsed on defense, we couldn't make them pay because we kept losing the ball. Even when we managed to pass the ball out of congestion, the pass was often off-target. Their defense had the extra half-second it needed to recover, and our shooters couldn't catch and shoot in rhythm. I think poor passing to open shooters is a big reason why our 3PT% is so low this season. If anyone has highlights of the Duke/UCLA wins, I would be curious to see the quality of the passes that led to our made 3-pointers.
- We could use a Graham Brown. I know that this system prioritizes shooters, but we could really use a bruiser to rebound and set some tough screens. Is there anyone on our recruiting radar that weighs more than 220 pounds soaking wet? We had seats a few rows behind the Michigan bench, and Beilein was constantly screaming at the team to box out. Northwestern was a tall team, but they didn't have any gifted rebounders. Getting 15-20 minutes from one human wrecking ball with some infectiously physical play would have been helpful. Gibson didn't really get it done.
- The Maize Rage is traveling well. Keep up the good work.
- I didn't see a lot of the 1-3-1. I remember we went to it for one play (early in the second half?), got burned by a lob over the defense to Northwestern's lackluster, lifeless, gigantic center, and immediately abandoned it. Have we just totally given up on this defense, or was I not playing close enough attention?
- The officiating looked horrific in person. We didn't have the benefit of replay on a jumbrotron (because Northwestern's facilities are about the same quality as a 1970s-era health club), but a lot of the whistles on the perimiter seemed arbitrary and unnecessary. That changed towards the end of the game, when there were a handful of questionable no-calls that were totally inconsistent with how the game had been officiated to that point. Did the officiating look as erratic with the benefit of replays, multiple angles, and DVR?
- Finally: good God, please make Manny stay. Please. He could use another year in the weight room, and we could use another year of the give-it-to-Manny safety wheels on offense.
I find it amazing how the value of Threet is being overstated almost as a badge of wisdom amongst the Michigan writing elite (whoever that is...people like Rivals folks and established bloggers; I know Brian is composing something along these lines at this very moment). It is an obligatory, painful thing to watch. I think it's horseshit. If it's a sign of respect for Threet, then whatever. I am not inclined to go out of my way to be hushed and respectful to people who don't honor their commitments. I won't slam the kid, but I am not going to mute my opinion of his worth as he heads out.
He was not a good QB. Any potential he had was, like sandpaper on skin, painful and at the expense of how RR wanted to conduct football here at Michigan. He was a living, breathing, walking, snapping, throwing example of a square peg. The upside for the square peg fitting into the round hole is never high.
There are many, many, many, many, many reasons why the prospects of these incoming freshman are vastly higher than with Threet.
1. Threet = square peg; Forcier and DRob = roung peg
2. One more year for the other 100 players in RR's system
3. The OLine will be vastly improved. The read option handoff, which was usually into Molk's butt, will likely be viable
4. RB is more settled and the weapons are many
5. More electrons
6. Easier schedule
7. Better defense expected, although this puppy has yet to be fleshed out. One would assume that cohesion on the defensive system and the emergence of some LB talent would make the D better. Can they get worse?
All in all, I'd rather have Threet. Not starting, mind you, just around. I would have been much more concerned if Mouton transferred or Ryan Van Bergen.
So I found myself in Evanston with a ticket to the game and some time to spare. Some random thoughts from what turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon:
- There is a place to watch Big Ten basketball that is worse than
Chrysler Crisler Arena. Welsh-Ryan is basically something between a high-school gym and a steam bath. Seriously, it was hot in there. It starts out hot when you go in, and then you climb and climb (we had seats in ZZ, which, sadly for some others, was not the highest row) and it gets hotter and hotter. We soon were in our t-shirts and sad that less clothing would have been offensive if not illegal. The bad news for Welsh and Ryan - your family names have been tarnished. I suggest a rename: Unnamed Basketball Arena - Catch the Wildcats in Action!
- Our offense consists of two plays. Play 1: run around and pass crisply until someone is open for a three. Then, chuck up the three, pretty much regardless of who you are. Play 2: Manny, do something awesome. Because Beilein is a genius (according to many), I have concluded that most other coaches only have one play in their systems. Beilein, because he thinks outside the box, has two. Strangely, both plays are somewhat effective. We won, however, because we ran Play 2 a lot, especially in the second half.
- Much like the Maize Rage, the students at Northwestern were all trying to get some serious, same-colored T-shirt spirit going, with some kind of Wildcat striped purple and white apparel. Unfortunately, because of the fine intermixing of white and purple, these shirts look (from a distance) just like light purple t-shirts. It's as if they don't the school color is dark purple and all have the wrong color on. It is not working.
- The Northwestern band was there. At the beginning, they played the Northwestern fight song, and I realized I had never heard it in my life. Perhaps this was a remnant of my childhood, where Michigan would routinely beat Northwestern 63-0 regardless of the sport. You have to score to play the song, you know.
- Saw Beilein up close. He looked old. I asked him how to spell his name, and he swore at me. OK, only part of this entry is true.
- Manny better not go on a crazy year-ending, 30-point scoring, Glen Rice reminiscing, getting us into the tourney spree. Because if he does, he may just be gone. And then next year will be mediocre too.
- There are way too many Michigan fans at Northwestern events. The result is that you feel bad. Here we are, in their house, doing the full "Go!" on one side, "Blue!" on the other. I overheard some guys talking about how they could sneak some extra words in there to take over the chant. Like a quick "Don't" before the go (that was their best idea). Worse ideas included (1) starting their own similar chant "N!" "U!" (that's short for Northwestern University) or (2) just punching someone wearing blue/maize. Yes, they were drunk.
- More seriously, not enough people at the game were drunk. I thought Michigan fans were a dry bunch, but this Northwestern group was pretty far out there too; very yuppy and professional and all that. You could sense they were going to take out their frustration from a loss by going home and plundering the financial markets even further.
- The food options at all Big Ten sporting events are the same, more or less. However, they did have Hecky's BBQ, which actually looked like real food. Why can't stadiums/arenas serve food that is (a) somewhat authentic and (b) tastes good? Oh yeah, because of (c) cost.
- I think I saw Steven Threet at the game. He was wearing one of those light purple T-shirts, and talking with the Football coach. He looked happy, and I wished him well.
- OK, I made that up too. But I will miss Threet, he seemed like a good guy.
That's all for now. Goodnight!
While we're exhaling after that nail biting Michigan win, dont forget there are other hoops going on tonight that will impact Michigan's spot on the bubble.
Boston College, Miami and USC are just ahead of UM, grabbing some of the last few at large spots ahead of Michigan in most mock brackets. All three have games today against big time opponents. Its a triple header on FSN with Duke at BC, UNC at Miami and USC at ASU. They all are significant underdogs.
Here's why these games are important to UM:
*Right now, UM has the second best result of the weekend of all teams that are just in the field, or just out of the field. I put Arizona's throttling of UCLA as the best result, by far. Still that allows Michigan a chance to move up and get on more bracket lines. The perception of the win can alter drastically if one of these bubble teams pull a huge scalp tonight. In resume head bumping, for example, do we want Michigan to go up against a BC team with wins over UNC and Duke? Um, no. We'll probably lose that argument.
*What if chalk holds form? According to the Bracket Matrix that would be mean that two consensus 10-seeds, two 11-seeds and one 12-seed will all have gone down this weekend. Michigan is the only 'Final Four Out' team to notch a win, a road win vs an RPI top 100 no less. Michigan is currently in nine fields in the matrix, but only one that's been updated since the MSU loss. If chalk sweeps tonight, expect both of those numbers to increase.
*Lets look at the bubble dilemma bracketologists will have in reshaping their latest mocks. We're going to use the Bracket Junkie's mock bracket, last updated Friday, as a barometer. Its a pretty good read and offers up a different commentary from the usual suspects we see in the traditional media. Its obvious he knows his hoops and the selection process.
Notice his last 10 in the field. Three of the last seven in--Va Tech, Cincy and KSU--have already lost. Three more--BC, Miami and USC--are expected to lose tonight.
Among the large group he includes that just missed the cut, plenty others along with Michigan won. However, the Wolverines win was the best of that bunch. Michigan winning at Northwestern is beter than Providence beating Rutgers and the MWC hopefuls UNLV and SDSU smothering of second division teams. Its even better than Creighton thumping SIU on the road.
I'm throwing this bracket out here to illustrate how big of a move Michigan may yet make in this week mock brackets. This is one that's a regular read of mine where Michigan has a chance to go from seventh to last out of the field to being on a bracket line when it updates Monday.
So, Michigan still has a lot to gain today. If you're inside watching sports and NASCAR is not your thing, find your local FSN. You have a rooting interest in all three games: Duke over BC, UNC over Miami and ASU over USC.
Duke up 31-20 with 5 to go in the first half.
So any thoughts on Michigan's game today, the rest of the season and its tourney hopes? Any takes on the national landscape?
Thanks, and I will hang up and listen.
So last night, after Michigan's big 31-6 blow out of Penn State, me and another poster were having an IM conversation about Michigan Wrestling in the future. It got me to thinking about how awesome this team could be in 2 years. Here's a breakdown of a potential lineup for next year. Note the lack of seniors. This is why I think 2 years from now could be SPECIAL:
125: Sean Boyle (Blair Academy, NJ): Boyle is currently ranked 4th in the nation at 119 pounds in all classes. Blair is the premier wrestling program in American and is the same school that produced Michigan's current 141 pounder, Kellen Russell. With Michael Watts graduating and no immediate high profile pickups waiting in the wings, Boyle could start as a true freshman.
133: Eric Grajales (Brandon, FL): Grajales is also currently a highly rated HS recruit. He's #1 in the nation across all classes at 135 pounds. He will almost certainly start as a true freshman. Other options here include moving him up to 149 and keeping Zac Stevens in at 133 for another year, or moving him to 141 and bumping Russell to 149. For now, let's just say he goes 133.
141: Kellen Russell (Blair Academy, NJ): Russell is currently a sophomore and one of Michigan's most talented wrestlers. He finished with a 32-7 record and was Big Ten Champion at 141 pounds as a true freshman last year. He's currently ranked 5th in the country according to InterMat.com. He most certainly will start again, either here, or as previously stated, at 149 pounds.
149: Assuming my prediction is correct and Grajales and Russell cover 133/141, there are two options here. Mark Beaudry (Pueblo South, CO) is the current starter. However, Mark Weber (Goodrich, MI) was a 4x MHSAA champion and was 2nd in the nation at 135 as a senior last year. Weber is currently in his true freshman year and is not using his redshirt. He could use his redshirt next year, or become the starter.
157: Aaron Hynes (Flint Kearsley, MI): Before becoming a starter this year, Hynes had a 45-13 record in open tournaments. The sophomore is beginning to adjust nicely to the starting lineup. The 2x state champion should start the next two years beyond this one.
165: Justin Zeerip (Hesperia, MI): Just a redshirt freshman, Zeerip has struggled for much of this season. However, in his redshirt year, Zeerip went 23-6 in opens last season. He was a 4x undefeated state champ (260-0) in HS and took 3rd in the nation as a senior. He was a high profile recruit and should have a bright future. Perhaps a glimpse of that future was seen just last night when he defeated a Penn State wrestler who took 3rd at the NCAA's last year.
174: With Steve Luke graduating and nobody listed as a 174 pounder, Michigan might have to scratch to fill this spot next year. If anybody has an idea for 174, I'd love to hear it.
184: Hunter Collins (Gilroy, CA): Collins was one of the top recruits in last years class. He's currently taking his redshirt, but likely has a bright future as a 4 year starter. This year, he's lost in the numbers game amongst the veteran upper weights. He was a 4x California all-state wrestler. (California HS's compete in only ONE division, so this is a big deal). He was a Reno Champ in high school, and took 2nd in the nation at 171 pounds as a senior, losing to 3x Michigan champ and current CMU wrestler Ben Bennett in the finals.
197: Anthony Biondo (Chippewa Valley, MI): Currently ranked 13th in the nation at 184 pounds, Biondo will be entering his junior year next year. He was a 3x Michigan champ and an all-american as a senior. He could also remain at 184 with Collins coming up next year. However, this might be the better option with Biondo, the older wrestler, taking the higher weight. Keep in mind, Biondo was Michgian's starter here before switching weights with current senior Ty Todd this year.
285: Eddie Phillips (Lakewood, MI): Phillips is a sophomore and is a very athletic heavy. He was Michigan's 189 champ as a senior at Lakewood. He struggles at times, but has become a serviceable starter. Maybe he breaks out as a junior next year? He'll be pushed by Romeo's Chad Bleske for this spot.
Incoming recruits: Currently, I know of 4 recruits coming in next year. Dan Boyle and Eric Grajales were both mentioned as possible starters in the light weights. Michigan is also bring in Brandon Zeerip. Zeerip is the younger brother of current starter Justin. The younger Zeerip is the 10th ranked 152 pound wrestler in the country. Michigan also brings in a more unheralded national level recruit in Dundee's Pete Rendina. It is unclear at this time what type of future Rendina would have at Michigan, but he is a top senior in Michigan this year. His pull could also help with current HS sophomore Joey Rendina. Joey may be a top 5 in-state recruit as a senior.
Any more thoughts, I'd love to hear them.
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.