"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
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.
Who are your favorite/least favorite MGoBlog Posters/Commentators?
WolvinLA: Makes me LOL most consistently. Always seems to have a good line up his sleeve.
Chitown Blue: Does a really good job dissecting weak, or just plain retarded arguments. Has a lot of good points. I disagreed with the way he went after Johnny of RBUAS this year, but hey, can't agree on everything.
Huss: Can be at his best when fired up. His Magnus-inspired tirade alone, makes him worth a mention. (Link to said tirade: http://www.mgoblog.com/diaries/omg-we-lost-our-3rd-string-qb?page=1 )
Barking Sphyncter: I don't know if this guy died, got banned, or what... but he has/had talent. Coming directly out of left field, B. Sphyncter came up with some of the most hysterical rants i've seen on the e-bays. (Example:http://www.mgoblog.com/content/unverified-voracity-has-new-favorite-stanford-player )
Magnus: Has the miraculous ability to annoy me every other time he posts. I don't think he's all bad though. I'll always give him props for sticking up for Lloyd, when everyone wanted to take a dump on the man.
Didn't include Brian, Tom VH or JamieMac on here. I feel like they're the main event (for all their good work, research and efforts), while the rest of us are more color commentators or studio correspondents (for lack of a better metaphor).
Over the last year, there have been various conversations about how the game of football has changed, and left Carr in the dust. Some of the posters have said, more or less in the words of Al Davis and the Raiders, "Just win, baby." Now, I myself want to see Michigan win, but is there some point at which it's not worth it? I'm thinking of that old movie, "Indecent Proposal," and the line, "Some things aren't for sale."
I'd like to see Brian put up a poll or two, finding out how important it is to mgoblog readers HOW Michigan wins. It should be obvious that every Michigan fan wants Michigan to win. But we each have a different point where it's not worth it.
What got me thinking down this track was the profile on Brandon Hawthorne. Brian wrote, " 'I'm a get you.' Those four words . . . represent the vast gulf in culture between the old guard and the new better than anything I've run across so far. . . The fact that Hawthorne and Smith fit in so well with the coaches recruiting them they would commit to Michigan sight unseen . . . indicates a shift in philosophy. It's not seismic . . . but it's real."
Now, I can live with the shift in philosophy. I'm fine with Hawthorne coming to Michigan. After all, iirc, Anthony Carter wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Bo was sure happy to have him on campus. It's obvious Michigan had to get with the program, in the shift from Carr & crew to RR.
Having said that, I don't want criminals on campus. I don't want Michigan to be just another semi-pro team, just another ticket to the NFL, with no loyalty, no "Michigan Men," no academic or ethical standards. I think we all know there is a huge double standard in terms of the academic expectations of the general student body compared to Michigan athletes. But I'm wondering if there is some point where the disparity becomes so vast it creates problems. As an example, it is my perception that Miami football players are thugs, and are purely hired guns. I don't want that for Michigan.
Back to the original question: how much would you "pay" to have the mythical national championship? If corruption and cheating was well enough hidden, would you want it, because it meant we would win? Or would you rather see UofM contend for the occasional NC, say every five or ten years, but doing it the "right" way, the "Michigan" way? What are you willing to compromise, and what is important to do the right way?
Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic. Maybe Michigan under Bo & Carr has been just as corrupt and slimy as any other successful team out there. Maybe, but my strong impression of Carr and Bo was that they cared a lot about the process, about how things were done. I have always felt that Carr was a man of integrity, who cared about a lot more than wins. Again, we had to move forward. Carr was part of the problem. It was time for him to move on. But it is critical to me that we have moved on the "right" way.
Brian has been (I think) hinting at this kind of thing with the oversigning at Alabama and North Carolina. The implication is that for Brian, even if oversigning slightly improved the level of recruits at UofM, it wouldn't be worth it to him. This is one of his "lines in the sand." What are your lines in the sand? What is it worth to you to win?
Obviously, it would be a big boost to Michigan to wind up as the top seed in the Grand Rapids regional. Besides the kind-of-home-ice advantage, there would be a decent chance that the first-round game would be against a team like Air Force or Bemidji State if U-M can pick up a top-two seed.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem: Notre Dame. We have to finish ahead of the Irish in the Pairwise rankings to get that spot. Thanks to some interesting officiating a few weeks ago, we are far behind the Domers in the Pairwise, and have really no hope of passing them in a head-to-head comparison.
So how do we pass them? Well, we let a few "friends" do it for us: Vermont and Denver. Right now, we win 21 out of 24 comparisons among the top 25, while ND wins 22. We don't need to win 2 more as long as the Irish lose 2 more.
The key is in Notre Dame's TUC record -- that's Teams Under Consideration for those not steeped in Pairwise nerdness. The Irish are 6-5-0 against teams in the top 25 in the RPI; a hair better than Vermont's 7-7-3. Currently, Vermont loses the RPI and TUC comparisons, and wins against common opponents. A swing in the TUC lifts the Catamounts over Notre Dame. Vermont has two home games this weekend against UNH, followed by the Hockey East tournament. If they get a sweep this weekend and get to the finals of the Hockey East tourney and lose, they will have a record of, at worst, 10-8-3 against TUC for a percentage of 0.548. If ND gets to the Joe and splits either way, their record will be 7-6-0,for a percentage of 0.538. Vermont wins the comparison without even winning their conference tournament.
That gets us into a tie with ND, but we need one more. Denver has a head-to-head win over ND, but that doesn't count in the TUC. They are currently tied against common opponents, and ND wins the RPI. Denver is 13-9-3 in TUC compared to 6-4-0 for ND. Denver has a home game left against Colorado College, followed by the WCHA tourney. Let's say they beat CC, then lose in the finals of the WCHA. That boosts their TUC record to 15-10-3, for a percentage of 0.589. If ND again gets to the Joe and splits, they fall to 7-5-0, or 0.583. Denver wins the comparison.
The only fly in this hypothetical ointment is the Common Opponent comparison. Denver and Notre Dame have common opponents in Ohio State and Minnesota-Duluth. If Notre Dame beats OSU in the CCHA tournament (very possible), or Denver loses to Minn.-Duluth (very unlikely), that gives common opponents to ND, and they tie the comparison. With ND ahead in RPI, they get the win, and the Grand Rapids Regional.
So here's what we root for:
Michigan wins the CCHA tournament, or at least splits at the Joe. You were probably rooting for that before anyway.
Vermont and Denver win this weekend and at least make their conference tournament finals.
Important: Ohio State loses without getting to the Joe.
And, oddly enough, Notre Dame gets to the Joe and loses. I don't think getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, as unlikely as it is anyway, drops their RPI low enough that they get passed.
If all of this happens, we are looking at a probable 3rd overall seed, possibly second overall, at Grand Rapids. Winning the CCHA would probably give us 2nd.
As Brian pointed out in today’s UV, last night was a crazy night on the NCAA Bubble. Bubble teams from heavy favorite Kentucky to the heavy underdog Virginia Tech lost last night. The upshot for Michigan being a whole heck of a lot of elbow room being created in what had been one of the most crowded bubble pictures in recent seasons.
Does it change the tournament math for Michigan? No, not especially. But, it pretty much ensures that the oft-quoted formula of ‘.500 in the Big 10, plus one league tourney win’ will get the Wolverines in the final Field of 65.
How crazy was last night’s action? Without playing, the Wolverines may have been the biggest winners of the night as they saw two teams ahead of them in the Bracket Matrix final cut list lose, not to mention a Matrix 12-seed (UK) and Matrix 11-seed (Florida) as well.
How crazy was last night’s action? The most impressive win of the night by a team already on the bubble was a road win by Texas A/M at Colorado. The Buffaloes are in dead last place in the Big 12 with a 1-14 record.
How crazy was last night’s action? Northwestern, of all teams, thanks to their wonderful upset at Purdue, have stepped strongly into the void left behind from the other bubble failures to stake a legitimate and strong claim for an at large bid.
How crazy was last night’s action? Thanks to both Kentucky and Florida taking the gas pipe last night, their game against each other on Saturday has gone from being a play-in game to a game that will only determine who can survive another day on the bubble. The winner still will be on the outside looking in when the regular season ends. Do you think my buddy Billy Clyde Gillespie is feeling some heat today on the Bluegrass airwaves and blogs?
How crazy was last night’s action? I went 3-0 on my predictions. Ok, that’s not crazy, just pure awesome.
As for tonight, it’s a light overall on the schedule, but the games that are on the docket carry huge import:
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7pm, ESPN. Line USC 02
The SEC East Division Title is on the line tonight. At the same time, the loser might find itself in need a couple more wins to get into the Tournament. According to the Matrix, this is an 8-seed (UT) versus a 9-seed (USC). Based on that, both teams appear secure. The loser tonight, however, can’t afford to lose this weekend and feel safe about any at large bid. The slate works in both of their favor as the Vols host Alabama and the Gamecocks travel to Georgia on Saturday, but after last night, nothing in the SEC can be taken for granted.
Providence at Villanova, 7pm, ESPN2. Line, Nova -11
Michigan fans have found an ally in the Villanova Wildcats, haven’t we? That’s great because they owe us for that tank job Michigan gave them in the 1985 second round. I’m still shaking my head about that game. Did the Wolverine players just want to party with Dwayne McClain and his stash? Were they just trying to get in his good graces? Who knows? Anyway, for the third time in less than a week, the Wildcats will attempt to put a serious dent in the resume of one of the bubble teams battling Michigan for one of the final spots in the tournament. They could not get the job done against Georgetown on Saturday, but they delivered a death blow to Notre Dame on Monday. Tonight, we’ll find out if there’s any sharpness left in their dagger when Villanova hosts Providence. The Friars sit as the last team cut from the Bracket Matrix field. As of last night’s update, they are on a bracket line in about one-third of the total fields compiled by the Matrix. Even with a loss, Providence will still end with a nice looking 10-8 Big East record. However, they played a weak conference slate and have next to nothing on their OOC resume. A .500 team from a power league with nice OOC wins would surely merit more consideration that Providence when it’s all said and done. Are we familiar with any teams that fit that bill?
Dayton at Xavier, 9pm, ESPN2. LIne, XU -10
Xavier is playing for an outright A10 crown and for a better seed in the Big Dance. The Flyers are trying to cement an at large bid. They will do that with a win tonight as it will give them a season sweep over the Musketeers. Dayton looks to be in good shape for a bid. They receive unanimous support in the Bracket Matrix and currently sit on their 9-line. But, like a lot of teams in their position, the Flyers can’t afford to go the rest of the way without at least one more win. After tonight’s tough test at XU, Dayton closes the season Saturday night hosting a better-than-it-looks Duquesne squad. The Flyers have been masters at surviving close calls all season. If that skill dries up this week, the Flyers might need to win at least one game in the A10 Tournament to avoid a snub.
Illinois at Penn St, 9pm, ESPN. Line, PSU -1
Ah, yes. After the 38-33 treat they gave us a few weeks ago, I can’t wait to watch this one. What’s the O/U on number of years this game will set back basketball? Brian dissected the PSU situation yesterday. I don’t really have much more to add. Clearly, Michigan fans would like to see a PSU collapse down the stretch. They close at Iowa Sunday afternoon. That won’t be a picnic. If the Lions lose tonight, they will face a must win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
California at Arizona, 10:30pm, FSN. Line, AU -4.5
Perhaps the biggest game of the night takes place in the dessert tonight between the Golden Bears and Wildcats. The Cats have been a roller coaster. They were dead in the water in late January. In February, they picked themselves off the mat, played some brilliant hoops and injected themselves back in the NCAA hunt. As the first week of March closes, however, Arizona is sliding again, having lost three games in a row. They’re only 8-8 in the Pac 10 right now and sit as a 10-seed in the latest Bracket Matrix. It’s not hard to sketch the trouble they could be in should the losing streak hit four games. They do have a winnable home game against Stanford over the weekend, but I don’t think a 9-9 Pac 10 mark will be enough. If they don’t sweep the Bay Area teams at home this week, the Cats will have a lot of pressure on them heading into the Pac 10 Tournament. At 9-9, they would likely face Cal again or Arizona State in their first game. Their bid will be on shaky footing if they lose tonight. So, with the league's fifth bid still up in that air, why are Pac 10 bloggers debating a sixth bid?
Jeff Fryar Haunts My Dreams
You remember Loyola Marymount, don’t you? Don’t worry; you can come out from under the table. Jeff Fryar, the Human Bruise, is not in the building pulling up for break-away three pointers. Nor, is Bo Kimble around pumping through left-handed free throws. The Ghost of Hank Gathers is not in the building. Nobody will score 149 points on the Wolverines tonight. Of course, if any of those moments cause a small of vomit in your mouth, then you recall the absolute tail whipping the Lions put on Michigan in the 1990 Second Round. I’d rather not go into any more detail.
Anyway, if you want to see their modern incarnation, tune into the Big South semifinals tonight, beginning at 6pm on ESPNU. You’ll see their style of play in the VMI Keydets. No shot clock is needed with the Keydets. Games played in the 80s are slow affairs. They match up tonight against Liberty, a team led by freshman sensation Seth Curry. Yes, he’s the little brother of Stephen. Hopefully, we’ll get a few Cougar shots of his mother in the stands tonight.
In the second game, top seed and host Radford will play UNC Ashville. Don’t expect Radford to roll through this field by virtue of home court. They lost at home to both Liberty and VMI this year. The JCCW has a more in-depth preview on this tournament, so check the link out for a better primer on tonight’s games.
I expect these games to be dogfights, or in the case of the VMI/Liberty game a serious track meet. These four schools rarely sniff the NCAA Tournament, so the next couple of days (the finals are Saturday on ESPN2) will be an exciting time for the players, students, and towns involved.
I know there is a contingent of folks out there who do not like the fact clubs like these are included in the Field of 65. That’s flat hogwash, IMO. The essence of March Madness will be laid out on the court in this tournament and the other mid major ones taking place throughout this weekend. Do they have any chance at cutting the nets down next month in Detroit? No. But the players on one of these Big South teams will likely go down as some of the best in school history if they can pull out two more wins. To me, the beauty of March Madness is the ability to define different levels of success and achievement. Sure, only one big dog will be left standing, but along the way there are going to magical moments that will make the players feel like champions, even if they’re not on the roster of the eventual national champion.
Some of those moments may happen tonight. And, while none of the Big South action tonight will impact Michigan’s place on the bubble, I will be as glued to those games as any other this evening.
Predictions to make me look like a genius or an idiot tomorrow morning
Hey, we’re 5-2-2 this month. Let’s keep it rolling.
South Carolina -2 over Tennessee. While the SEC is weak this season, I’ve really come to enjoy watching a couple of their teams play, notably LSU and this Gamecock squad. They will complete an undefeated SEC home season in style tonight.
Penn State -1 over Illinois. I know we want the Illini to win this, but my brain says PSU will get it done. This may sound strange, given the 38-33 score these two labored too earlier in the year, but I think the Nittany Lions will have too much scoring tonight for an Illini team that may be running out of gas.
VMI beats Liberty in the Big South Semis tonight. Strangely, I am having a hard time finding a line on this one. But, as any real gambler knows how to do, I found a way to find action. I have a bar tab bet going with Jerry at the JCCW, who is flat convinced Liberty not only gets it done tonight, but wins the whole Big South Sectional. He has all sorts of fancy, KenPom anecdotal evidence in his favor. I have my heart as I really want to see the VMI show continue. Brains versus Heart, eh? I don’t see what can go wrong.