Oh, UCLA, Michigan cant seem to quit you. Just when you're off the schedule, you reappear as an opponent in this pre-conference tournament. Luckily, the Bruins survived a spirited effort out of Miami Ohio last week to advance to tonight's semifinal game against Michigan.
Previously, the teams had played for six straight seasons, but that series ended last year. The first couple of years of this head to head worked out well for Michigan as they notched wins over the Bruins. Of course, those were the final two years of the Stevie Lavin era. Since BEN Howland took over, things have bee much different in this series. The Bruins won and covered each of the final four meetings, at times dominating the Michigan squad. Remarkably, as recently as 2005, Michigan was favered by seven points to win in this matchup. Since then, UCLA has played in three Final Fours. Michigan, meanwhile, uh, has not. Tonight, the Bruins are favored by 12 points.
Michigan advanced to this game with a pair of smooth wins over Michigan Tech and Northeastern. The Wolverines played good D, shot the ball reasonably well and Manny Harris showed All-American potential in those games. That was nice. Step forward and take a bow. Now, forget about it. The next two nights, the competition takes a major step up with the Bruins tonight and either Duke or Southern Illinois tomorrow.
It begs the question of not only how will Michigan perform, but what should Michigan fans' expectations be for their squad during the rest of this tournament?
A third place finish--meaning a win tomorrow night--would set the bar a little bit higher for UM this season. If they can get out of this foursome with one win, considering the other three squads are perennial tournament teams and each season rank among the best defensively in the country, it would signal a tougher Michigan squad than what they've shown in recent years. It could set them up for a run at the upper half of a pretty watered down Big 10.
Its hard to see Michigan getting by UCLA tonight. I would be happy just to see Michigan compete, give the Bruins a run for their money and cover the spread.
You have to wonder how Michigan is going to score against UCLA tonight. In the last three matchups with the Bruins, Michigan has averaged just 56.6 ppg and shot a combined 38.9% from the field. While the operation looked smooth last week, no secondary scorer emerged after Harris. The Bruins specialize in taking out the other team's best guy and making others beat them. Dont expect that scorer to emerge tonight against the stingy Bruins who have been ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring D each year during their Final Four run. Can Harris overcome the Bruin D? Can he score 30 tonight? More importanly perhaps, is can he score the ball tonight with efficiency and help set up his teammates?
The Bruins counter with Darren Collison at point guard. Its unclear how much Harris and Collison will match up head to head, but you have two of the best guards in the country tonight. That alone will make this quality viewing. If Collison stands out over Harris, this will be a blowout. If Harris has the upper hand, then Michigan might be in the ball game the whole way through.
Overall, the jury is out on this year's UCLA team. They are not as talented and fine tuned as other Howland squads. Other than Collison and Josh Shipp, they are relying on a lot of freshmen. And, while its a great freshmen class, they looked out of sorts in their game with Miami last week. Miami is a tough team to play. They play in your shorts D and have a goofy, half court style of O, that always seems to surprise the big name out of conference foes. Collison and Shipp starred against Miami, but they needed every bit they got out of them to advance. The rest of the club, however, shot less than 40 percent against Miami. If Michigan can keep the ball out of Collison's hands, the Wolverines can probably thwart the young Bruins with their 1-3-1 defense. Of course, keeping the ball out of Collison's hands is a lot easier said than done.
Beyond the win-loss expectation, I think there is an intangible element of success or failure that hangs in the air the next two nights for the Michigan basketball program. Can they come out of these two games with their confidence intact? Even if they go 0-2, do they do it in close affairs, or, under the pressure of some of the best D they'll face all year, do they wilt and get blown out?
Lets assume they go to the consolation game and play SIU tomorrow. The Salukis are a great program coming off a down season. Despite that, Chris Lowery's crew was right up there with UCLA in most defensive categories last year. If you can score 60 or more against the Egyptian Dogs, then you are doing better than most. In a span of 24 hours, Michigan will be playing a pair of teams that have the best defensive systems in the country. For a team that has no consistent secondary scoring, it could get ugly.
Aesthetics may be as important as the actual scoreboard results for Michigan the next two nights. Last year, the team came out looking OK, but then struggled mightily against some cupcakes. The team never recovered their confidence until late February. By that point, any possible postseason berth was off the table. UCLA and then Duke/SIU can destroy this team's confidence. Would anybody be totally shocked if Michigan failed to score a combined 100 points the next two nights? Disappointed, yes. But, totally out of left field shocked? No.
The next two nights are not as much about wins and losses for Michigan. Its about can they stand up and play against some of the winningest programs of the decade? Its about can their offensive system manage enough efficiency against some of the best defenses they will face all year? Its about role players like David Merrit, who was a surprisingly steady force in the opening games last week, not being so overwhelmed by the step up in competition that his confidence does not get so shattered. If the team goes 1-1 or loses a pair of competitive games, then feel free to raise your expectations a little. If the team loses its dignity and the coaches have to spend time rebuilding their spirits, then keep your expectations down until further notice.
Enough of what I think. What about you guys? Are you interested at all in these games? What do you expect out of UM in these games? In your mind,what would be a succesful weekend for the hoops team?
- That didn't score a TD in 3 games this year(2 games @ home)
- Including Purdue @ home....c'mon seriously???
- Trailed after 3 quarters to Ohio U @ home
- Only led Troy by 4 points after 3 quarters @ home
- Starts a freshmen QB who fumbled away the Penn St game @home
- Passed for 70 yards against Minnesota @ home
- Rushed for only 61 yards against Penn St. @ home
Many columnists, tv personalities, and even people on this blog are eager to point out UM's deficiencies but no one is talking about the fact that OSU also has some issues. Ahhhh how they're all are so quick to gloss over those above points when considering what will happen this Saturday.
Everyone speculates about the manner in which UM is going to lose instead of what UM can do to win. I'm not naive enough to think UM will win by 20 points but I don't think OSU will either. Why is it so hard to believe that UM might actually have a chance to keep this game close and win?
If you take the averages against the 7 common opponents UM & OSU have played the #'s aren't as lopsided as you might think. (Yes I understand there are many variables before you comment). Wouldn't most of you assume that OSU would have a larger advantage over UM in these categories against common opponents?
UM averages 24 points per game, 164 rush yds, 145 pass yds which amounts to 309 yds per game and just over 2 TO per game
OSU averages 28 points per game, 203 rush yds, 128 pass yds which amounts to 331 yds per game and only 1 TO per game
As the season comes to a close this Saturday I thought about the last three months and started thinking of some questions.
I thought about how it may have turned out differently if one, two or an untold number of things would have fallen into place or turned out in a different way.
Of course, this serves no practical application other than the pure sport of conjecture and debate, but still, if you're bored at work or just desperate for something else to comment on, have at it.
1. What happens if Terrelle Pryor signs with Michigan? He obviously starts, but how much better does Michigan do?
2. If Lloyd Carr had not retired, what would our record be this year? Would Michigan be better or, given the departures last year, about the same?
3. If Michigan played Utah again at this point in the season, would we win or has Utah progressed that much more throughout the season?
4. If Threet starts from the opener and stays healthy throughout the season, does it get us another win or two?
5. What happens next year?
So, yea, just some things to think about.
This post is, by no means, a declaration of anger about what has transpired this season. I just like to think about how things may have worked out under different circumstances.
I live in California, and have been an avid Michigan fan for about the past 2 years...especially now since my brother is a Grad student (he was also an undergrad, but I had yet to see the true value of being a Michigan Fan :).
Out here most people live and breath Cal or USC football, and wearing my Michigan jersey will bring shouts of "Michigan Sucks" even from those fabulous 49ers fans...yes the same team whose record closely resembles our beloved Wolverines.
Needless to say, hearing all the anti-RR banter, and reading the absolute garbage that comes from the media and many bloggers has made me resent many of those who call themselves "fans" of the Maize and Blue. Every Saturday I wake up to watch our boys take the field, and in fact the Minnesota game will forever hold a small place in my heart, as later that same day I married the love of my life...it couldn't have been a more perfect day.
I am excited to have RichRod as our coach...just as excited as I was last year on the day I found out we had him and one of my close friends, an MSU grad, just moaned. While she got her wish this year with a win from her "little brother"...she knew, deep down inside, she knew...Michigan will be a force in the coming years under RichRod.
This post was not designed to elicit responses...and if you see fit to poke fun or rip on what I am saying, so be it, you are not a true fan, and your words are wasted, as I really don't care what you write. BUT, if you feel like responding and it's positive, please write it, so others can see, we are not alone...we are Michigan.
Don't get me wrong, you are allowed to be frustrated, in fact if you aren't frustrated, I would question your devotion to this program...but please don't attack me, this is not my fault, only my opinion.
But before you comment, please read the following quote from Teddy Roosevelt, as I feel it encompasses many of the things we, and RichRod, are going through this year.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
Keep your chins up, this week we take the field as part of the greatest rivalry in all of college football, and we are alive to see it. Maybe you feel that it isn't the same as years past but GOD DAMMIT THIS IS MICHIGAN FOOTBALL, cheer for our boys, cheer for Rich Rod, cheer for all of those who have participated in this wonderful event, and most importantly cheer for Michigan, we are only as strong as our weakest fan...GO BLUE!!!!
The media has decided to crucify Rodriguez because they think he doesn't understand why Michigan football is the life of us fanatics and why his very salary depends on it. What I think RichRod doesn't understand is why we fanatics have to live our Michigan football lives like irrational blithering idiots who make despicable comments about his family and his players (possibly one in the same) on a regular basis and expect him to take every last inch of the criticism in stride. I too don't understand this, so let's compare Michigan football life to actual life, or rather identify this one over-arching similarity: neither can be explained. From the very start humans have been pondering the meaning of life itself. There are endless ways to pose this question, and people have been doing it for thousands of years, but there has not yet been an answer, and there most likely never will be. There is no explanation for life-consuming fanaticism either. We are just fans, we bleed Maize and Blue, and live and die with this team. We just do. We were put on this Earth for some inexplicable reason, and we were made fans for some inexplicable reason, but that is where the lack of rationality ends, because we humans are rational beings. We often treat each other in despicable ways, do atrocious things to each other, but we also possess the capacity for great thinking, great accomplishment, and great good. We love our family and our friends, and detest our enemies, and the best of us atleast have respect for those hated ones. We fight with those we love too. We have disagreements. But we often make up because we have the brain power and rationality to consider our actions in the grand scheme of things and do what we believe is right. All of the things I just mentioned are broad ideas that I think we can all agree happen in real human life. So lets apply them to the part of our lives consumed by Michigan football. Lets act like rational men and women. Leaving cowardly and disgusting slurs of RichRod's family and team on messageboards is a sign that our Michigan football lives have descended into chaos. If this is the case, we need to do what Rodriguez would merely like to suggest: to get a life, or rather to restore some common sense and dignity to our fandom lives that have fallen into the depths of hateful insanity. Just because we can't rationally explain why we are fans doesn't mean we have to act irrationally as fans. It means we have to except that we are fans because we are, that Rich Rodriguez is paid a lot of money to coach the team we (him included) love and is doing everything in his power and then some to satisfy our (his included) expectations, and that we are human beings and experience adversity every day, every week, and every year, some more than others. It is how we respond to adversity that defines our lives, and some of us fans have not responded admirably and have proven their weakness and insanity by saying simply nasty, unfounded things. I expect RichRod to also respond a little better to criticism, but I am willing to forgive him, and our fanbase, because we are humans, and we have the capacity to make mistakes, learn, and move forward.
I will now get off my pulpit. Sorry if I have sounded vague and preachy and condescending, I just had to get that off my chest. Go Blue. I will see you all in Columbus.
I've pretty much already posted this once, but not nearly enough people responded to it, so here goes again. Also, this was going to be forum, but as usual, it got long, so go diary!
It seems to always come up, and I just don't know why:
"RR is no Lloyd Carr when it comes to integrity."
Listen, I sometimes miss Carr and his literature-referencing ways, but RR really has not done anything to indicate he is some sort of two timing backstabber.
This article has already been posted, but everyone really needs to read what they are writing about RR in Columbus.
Lloyd Carr always seemed to be a nice guy who represented Michigan with dignity, HOWEVA
>> LC used to love ot punish players by taking away their status as a starter if it was a non-MAC game (he might bench 'em for a MAC game). You'd see MM/AA on the field literally a few plays into the first drive after their various run ins with the law.
>> RR benched Stonum, Butler, and Grady for major minutes due to various problems.
>> I keep reading that Babb got kicked off, for violating rules, more than quit.
>> Remember Carty's article about MM's lack of responsibility when he got drafted? It was a little high horsin' for me, but I think the point that MM is still a kid who knows nothing about responsibility is semi-valid.
>> RR kept ADAM FRICKIN PACMAN FRICKIN JONES in line for his entire college career!
>> Brandon Harrison seems to think RR did the dignified thing, and even the Columbus dispatch described their bond as the kind "only Michigan men can feel" for one another.
Every time I get upset (each Saturday, that is) I feel like RR comes out and directly addresses every worry of mine in his PC. Sure, he speaks like a West Virginian. But man, he speaks like a West Virginian, you know? On some level, don't you appreciate the way he speaks to us? I guess I can't pretend to know him as a man from his press conferences, but let's look at some evidence:
>> Desmond Howard and many other alumni have mentioned how personable he is, and to me that seems apparent in his PCs.
>> His program is run as tight as a ship can be run. Curfews, strict punishments, etc. The men might hate him, but they will love him when they look back (most not all, of course). I really believe the way he seems to be running his program is the best way to prepare these kids for post college responsibilities.
>> The buyout/lawsuit business appears to be as much a financial decision of th University as anything. I highly doubt RR had any input, since it was largely not his money anyway.
>> RR is like any other competitor. He wants to win, and wants the resources to put him in a position to win. Michigan offered unlimited opportnity, West Virginia offered him nothing, and had plenty of chanes to keep him in the fold.
>> The Carson Butler case study is interesting as well. He was in and out of Lloyd's doghouse his whole career. He gets in trouble by RR, gets benched, and now has fought his way back to playing time through the defense. Carson Butler had nothing to play for. His starting spot had been given to some freshman, yet "Mr. Bad Attitude" decides to suck it up, try harder, and learn something new. RR seems to be able to motivate someone who we previously thought "unmotivate-able" to claw his way into the lineup through a position change. I believe this is the sign of a great teacher/motivator/coach.
Anyway, give the guy some slack, I believe he will be a tremendous (that was for you, Lloyd) winner at UM, but I also believe he will just as likely go down as a "typical, classy, Michigan man" in the end.
Sorry, I put the over/under on "tl;dr" comments at 5.