"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
So, I saw something ridiculous tonight and was in a sharing mood (i.e., looking for a way to avoid being productive). Hence this post. First of all, I want to say that I can't stand the over-the-top, cheesy NBA-style game introductions with the smoke machines, overly-dramatic videos, and either techno music or ACDC style rock. We're here to watch a friggin athletic competition. This isn't professional wrestling.
Anyway, because I'm in Boston and don't have BTN, I was unable to witness our routine pounding by the hands of OSU, and instead opted for Duke vs Wake Forest. By the way, I've always hated Duke - not quite sure why - they seem like a lot of good kids playing out there - but recently I've kind of been pulling for them ever since we beat them. But I digress.
The whole point of my post that I'm meandering to is to talk about Wake Forest's pregame ritual. It starts off like the typical cheesy intro - the flashing lights, Guns 'N Roses, etc. But then a really great moment occurs. The Demon Deacon mascot revs up a motorcycle and takes it onto the court. However, he apparently is not allowed to actually "ride" the motorcycle on the court. Instead, he has to waddle about, pushing the motorcycle with his feet on the ground. Perhaps my description doesn't do it justice, but you have to imagine - the roaring crowd, Guns N Roses, the motorcycle engine revving - and then this awkward-looking mascot having to push his way around like an adult on a kid's bike where his legs are too long to reach the pedals. It's really high comedy. This is supposed to scare Duke? This is supposed to get people excited?
So, I don't know whether that's funny or not, but I've already written it, so I might as well post it. I would apologize for wasting your time, but if you're reading Diaries on Mgoblog, you're probably looking to kill some time anyway. See ya on the flip side.
The good news continued to pour in last night vis a vis Michigan’s stature on the Bubble in the chase for an elusive NCAA Tournament bid. Wisconsin and Maryland continued their recent losing ways while those fun Northeastern Huskies throttled VCU in a CAA showdown for first place. That November win over the Huskies keeps getting better and better for Michigan each passing day.
The biggest bubble news of tonight will be brought to us directly by the guys wearing the Maize and Blue as Michigan treks down south to play the hated Buckeyes. Big 10 positioning in the standings and in mock NCAA projections will be on the line. The Buckeyes currently are favored by 5 points.
Both teams are in ESPN’s and in Rivals projected fields this morning, although Rivals is a bit more bullish on the Wolverines than the WWL. The loser tonight might find their spot in those fields in jeopardy, especially Michigan since the Wolverines travel to West Lafayette to play the surging Boilermakers Saturday afternoon. Expect the Wolverines to be at least double digit underdogs in that contest.
As for tonight, I could drone on and on with what I feel about the game, but Dylan over at UM Hoops has an excellent breakdown of the game tonight and Michigan’s spot on the bubble in a pair of posts over at his site.
I will add some words regarding where Michigan stands right now. I realize some fan enthusiasm has waned and the Wolverines appear to be slipping out of the mock projections. However, only the home loss to OSU earlier this month is the only result that was out of line with how I saw this team’s arc progressing this winter. I factored them to be 6-5 in the Big 10 when they host MSU on 2/10. If they don’t snare a road win this week, they’ll be one game off that pace. They can overcome that and still win a bid based on their regular season play.
Let’s play this forward. Assume road losses at OSU, Purdue and UConn with a home win over Penn St between now and the MSU game. That puts UM at 15-9, 5-6. While they won’t be in any mock brackets at that point, they’ll have plenty of chances to raise their profile over the final month.
That home game with the Spartans will be a must win. The Wolverines also host Purdue and Minnesota in February and those must be wins as well. They also have to find a way to get at least one road win at Northwestern or Iowa. Let’s assume a sweep of those home games, a split in those roadies and road losses at Minnesota and Wisconsin. That puts UM at 19-12, 9-9, but with wins over Duke, UCLA, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota, the Wolverines might have the best top 6 wins of any of the bubble teams. I think they’ll earn a bit at that point, so long as they don’t totally suck in the Big 10 Tournament and lose to IU or Iowa in a 6 vs.11 or 7 vs. 10 first round game.
Sure, that’s easier said than done, but a road map to an at large bid still exists even if Michigan drops three of their next four games.
I’m not discounting their chances tonight either. I’ve said it many times this season, but OSU struggles to score the basketball. They will go through one protracted drought tonight. Michigan can take advantage of that. If Simms can outplay Mullens and, more importantly, convert on his scoring chances, I think Michigan takes down the Buckeyes. Either way, it should be an intriguing game, and I look forward to rapping with all of you wherever the CIL is being hosted tonight.
Beyond the showdown in Columbus, the schedule is full of action across the country that will likely impact the latest and greatest field projections. Here’s a quick rundown on some of those games so you can properly scoreboard watch in between Manny Harris baskets.
Duke at Wake Forest, 7pm, ESPN. Line, Duke -1
It’s one of the prime showdowns of the season. With the scalp of Duke hanging on the wall, Michigan fans probably should be rooting for the Blue Devils tonight. Since this would be a road win for Duke, I think the good old RPI might be boosted so much that Michigan might somehow manage to also score points with the BCS computers.
For those who still don’t know who these upstart Demon Deacons are, here is a primer from the eye of their enemy tonight.
I don’t think I’ve seen a team better than Duke all season at forcing teams to start their offense out of their own comfort zone and disrupting the passing lanes. It will be a huge test for the patience of Wake Forest. I love them on their home court, but Duke’s defense looks so legit I hate to go against them. For Wake to win, they need a monster outing from their superstar Jeff Teague.
I have that Gambler’s Itch to play tonight’s game, being a huge showdown and all. I’ve actually gone against Duke three times this month: pushing against Georgetown, winning against Davidson and losing against Maryland. I feel lucky to have gone 1-1-1. Betting against Duke is as comfortable as driving on ice. I’ll think I’ll just pop a beer, sit back and enjoy this one. It should one the best games of the season.
Pittsburgh at Villanova, 7pm, ESPN2. Line, Pitt -3.5
In the only other game of the night between ranked foes the Panthers and Wildcats hook up to help determine feline supremacy. Both teams need not worry about an invite to the field, but this game could go a long way when eventually sorting out seeds. As long as the Panthers stay in the top-5, they will be given strong consideration for their first ever #1 seed come March.
LSU at Tennessee, 8pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Tennessee -7.5
Only three SEC teams are in ESPN’s projections right now. In their field, the Vols are 7-seed, while LSU is among the final teams left out. Rivals, which also has the Vols as a #7 seed, has placed LSU in their field as the fourth SEC club with a #11 seed.
The Bengals could get their first impressive win of the season tonight. They might be the most talented team in the SEC West, but winning the division won’t necessarily guarantee them anything when the season is done. New coach Trent Johnson has re-established some defense identity with the program. The results have netted a sporty 15-4 record, but there is not an impressive win in the bunch. The Tigers need to put up a serious conference record to make the field. While they're off to a nice 3-1 start, they need to notch this winnable road game against a quality foe to even think of closing in on any mock bracket bids.
Meanwhile the Vols continued presence on the Bubble will give us plenty of time to debate the merits of a team that played a very challenging schedule, but did not win many of those games. Perhaps this slate was too ambitious for a program replacing two players now earning NBA paychecks. Because of the transition in personnel, the Vols have scraped their full court, high scoring pace and continue to tweak their attack. Coach Bruce Pearl has thrown down the gauntlet calling this the most important week of the season. Here’s a Volunteer perspective on the first game of this critical week.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7pm, no TV. Line, South Carolina -6.5
If the Vols have the most important week of any team in the SEC, then South Carolina may have the second. With a win tonight against Vanderbilt, South Carolina will have its first three game SEC winning streak in almost three years and only the fifth league hat trick in the last ten seasons. Everyone has taken notice of the Gamecocks since this win over Florida. They've made it onto Lunardi's radar, albeit as one of final teams cut from the field. It could just be a blip on the radar, however, if they drop tonight’s home game against the Commodores. On Saturday, a date with an angry Kentucky team in Lexington awaits.
Syracuse at Providence, 7pm, ESPN Full Court Line, Providence -2
Nobody claims the Friars a contender to make the field. They do, however, sit in fifth place in the Big East with a 5-2 record. They've feasted on the dregs of the league, but wins are wins. If they have the chops to break even the rest of the way, there's no way the committee leaves out a team with 11 Big East wins. Tonight begins a four game stretch that will determine if the Friars belong in this discussion or not. After hosting Syracuse, PC plays at UConn, vs Villanova and at West Virginia. We'll revisit the Friars chances if they manage to break even in those games. They'll try to get this stretch off to a good start against a banged and bruised Orangemen squad.
Georgetown at Cincinnati, 7:30pm, ESPN 360. Line, Georgetown -6
The Hoyas resemble Notre Dame's position, detailed here yesterday. Losers of three in a row and five of seven games this month, Georgetown can’t afford losses to teams like the Bearcats, especially after losing to Seton Hall on Sunday. These squads are tied for ninth in the conference and CU actually has a better overall record. If they spring the upset tonight, perhaps it’s the Bearcats, instead of the Hoyas, who may find themselves on the bubble. Georgetown travels to Marquette on Saturday, so a loss tonight means they're staring at a 0-2 week. That’s not great news for a team seeded #10 in the latest mock bracket.
Illinois State at Northern Iowa, 8pm, no TV. Line, UNI -2.5
The Missouri Valley Conference is accustomed to getting multiple bids into the tournament. Last year, however, broke a long streak of receiving multiple bids as only one team was invited into the field. I don’t care what the mock brackets say today (indeed, they agree as only UNI as a #13 are in ESPN’s field right now), I feel the MVC is going to receive just one bid again. Then again, it is the #8 ranked in the latest RPI projections, so perhaps I am underselling the Valley. Observers of the league, however, are not and the league’s mediocre play might net it just a lone bid again come March
These are the top two teams in the league as the second half of their conference season begins. Despite that, their RPI projections are not that great with the visiting Redbirds checking in at #59 while the Panthers are #73/ I don’t see anything on the Redbirds or the Panthers resume that stands out. We'll see how February plays out, who knows maybe these clubs combine to close out 16-2 or something. Then, we'll talk. But, first place is on the line tonight in Cedar Rapids and they play good hoops on the MVC. It should be a fun game, too bad there's no television coverage.
North Carolina at Florida State, 9pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, UNC -11.5
Without gaining much notoriety, the Seminoles have done enough little things to merit a mock invite. They won a holiday tournament by beating Cincy and Cal. They beat rival Florida. They're off to winning record in the ACC. The have a winning record on the road in conference play. The worst part of their resume is losing at Northwestern. But, at this point isn't that better than losing at Maryland? The Seminoles appear to have a bid to lose. Not everyone is impressed. After tonight, they stil have four games left with the ACC's Big Four and an intriguing home and home with Virginia Tech during the season's final two weeks. I guess I'm not sold on them either. Yet. I'm not sure I'll like them anymore after tonight when the 305th worst turnover team (who is their point guard, fer gawd's sake? Nick Sheridan?!?!) hits the court against the premium Tar Heels.
In light of the weekend hockey events, I have decided to chime in and beat a dead horse. With a different perspective of course.
Because this is a "diary" I will take you back to 1992. It is a warm atumn evening and the lawn needs to be mowed. I am 13 years old and hate that lawn. In fact at this point, I hate life. Parents are dumb, and people are annoying in general. As I mow back and forth about 12 times, it is then time to dump the bag.(yes, I knew at level 3 it took 12 swipes to fill that @#$%&*! bag)
As I go to the dump pile, which seemed about 8 miles away, I see something come from nowhere out of the corner of my eye. The bag of grass goes flying with the clippings all over the freshly mowed grass. I was busy minding my business doing my stupid chores; the right way and some DOUCHE messes with me. It is on! I proceed to chase this freak around the yard and run his ass into a corner on the deck. His only option is to grab the 3 wood that is resting in the corner. Next thing I know I am staring up at the gray skies. That MF'er knocked me cold with the 3 wood.(he threw it and it connected...he knew he could not get in close enough to swing it at me) Who would do such a thing?
You guessed it, that MF'er was my LITTLE brother. Par for the course. I wondered why the events at Yost on Saturday felt so familiar after watching the replays.....
OL Next Year
So what do we have? I compiled a list of players that appear to be back for next year? Who Starts?
According to Rivals
Ricky Barnum- RS Freshman (4 star)
Zak Cuillo- Junior/Soph ?
Perry Dorrenstein- Senior/Junior (3 star)
John Ferrera- Senior/Junior (3 Star at Dl)
Mark Hugye- Junior/Soph (3 Star)
Rocko Khoury- RS Freshman (3 Star)
Tim McAvoy- 5th year Sr (3 Star)
Elliot Mealer- RS Freshman (4 Star)
Dave Molk- Junior/Soph (3 Star)
Dave Moosman- 5th year Sr (4 Star)
Brent Nowicki- Sr/Jr ?
Greg Morales- RS Freshman (NR)
Patrick Omameh- RS Freshman (2 Star DE)
Dann O'Neill- RS Freshman (4 star)
Mark Ortmann- 5th year (3 Star)
Steve Schilling- Sr/Jr (5 Star)
Kert Wermers- RS Freshman (3 stars)
Kory Zirbel- 5th year Sr (4 stars)
I think we have a lot of depth with a lot of these players seeing playing time last year due to injuries and inconsistency on the line.
Schilling is a give at RT and should be all big ten
Molk appears to be solid at C
I would assume Zirbel will have a Guard spot
Some virutally unknowns with the Freshman redshirt class we had including Barnum, Oneill, and Omemmah. Could we see one of those guys starting?
Not to mention some players that are eligable for 5th year.
Recruiting for 2010
I noticed some holes at LB while skimming through our roster and wondered who we were targeting for 2010? I appears Mingo is a long shot in this years class, causing us to not bring in a true highly rated LB. The Witherspoon and Hill not qualifying/transfering looks to have hurt us in the short term.
I made a list of MSU players who went on to the NHL in order to analyze a comment by one fellow poster in the wake of this weekend's gooning.
These are the players I saw in college (sorry, the only green I ever saw Bob Essensa in was those ridiculous 99-00 Phoenix 3rd jerseys)
Justin Abdelkader: Young, big guy called up to help with Red Wings' cup run at end of the season. A future checking liner or perhaps Holmstrom role player once he learns to make better use of his size, since his speed and skills aren't on par with Detroit's loaded front six.
David Booth: Speedy scorer who is coming alive this year on Florida's top line. Big, physical forward does a lot of one-on-one. Not a great team player.
Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour: A great player, one of the best defensive centers in the NHL during his prime. Big workoutaholic who played smart hockey and was used on big, bruising scoring lines (replacing Lindros in Philly during his many concussings, and the famous BBC line), but the Big Bod was never much of a checker.
Anson Carter: At his height, thought to be a perfect checking wing for a 2nd scoring line. Journeyman whose game was based on size and checking
Steve Guolla: No single part of his game really stood out.
Adam Hall: Disappointing power forward who hasn't reached his tremendous upside -- Nashville fans say it's cause he was afraid of the front of the net.
Shawn Horcoff: Strong positional player, hard-working, good skater, decently sized, but not enough vision to become elite and shies away from contact.
Duncan Keith Good skater for a defenseman with Top Four potential. Great offensive instincts. Playes a finesse game and gets pushed around.
John-Michael Liles: Young, small offensive defenseman for Colorado who doesn't shy away from the rough stuff. Only limited by his size, and his speed isn't top-notch either. Basically Jason Woolley Part II.
Kip Miller Hobey Baker winner now in AHL. Solid game, hard-worker, but played much smaller than his frame.
Ryan Miller Unflappable goalie and rising star for Buffalo. Dominates some games. Great work ethic.
Rem Murray Big (for his time) forward who was a checking liner pulled into scoring line duties on bad teams because he was more defensively responsible.
Jim Slater Young gunner who plays with a lot of grit. Average size but plays bigger (sometimes out of control). Could bloom late, and speed makes him viable on a scoring line.
Bryan Smolinkski Great faceoff guy, was at one point a big playmaker. Versatile but goes on long droughts and never made good use of his size.
Mike Weaver Physical defenseman, mostly a backup because he isn't very positionally sound.
Peter White Just remember he got in a fight with teammates. Don't know where he is now. Another big guy, though not really tall, who didn't use his size (sensing a trend here).
Jason Woolley Good sized generally offensive defenseman who at his best was Buffalo's powerplay quarterback. Had good speed and size when he was younger, but played a finesse, passing game.
Mike York Superfast small playmaker who plays bigger than he is, good two-way player, but gets worn down and goes on long scoring droughts at the end of seasons.
What did I see?
1. How many ways can hockey scouts call guys soft? This is by no means true for all of them, but it seems the MSU guys in the NHL are a Who's Who of relatively big guys with a strong work ethic who are afraid to use their bodies. The typical State forward is Adam Hall, a high-drafted power forward who falls short of his expectations, but works his ass off in the weight room and has great natural ability. This seems to be the opposite of the players from Red Berenson's squads who are now lighting up the NHL: relatively small, mediocre speed guys who can pass the puck like nobody's business.
2. MSU hasn't produced an NHL enforcer since Mike Cummins (and he was never a top goon). This doesn't say State isn't about enforcers; their goons just didn't go to the NHL. However, I think it does show that State's program looks for size and speed first. Now, if you're going to pick a style of play for those bodies, you wouldn't be the Red Wings. You'd want to be the late-'90s Flyers. They, too, got a rep for being bruisers. But if we're going to make that comparison, I think both teams are more "bangers," i.e. they play a game that emphasizes crashing the boards and crashing the net -- a power forward's game. This is a totally legitimate hockey strategy that has been tried and true in North America since the first "Oh, shit, this stuff's slippery, eh?" I would posit that these two classless turds represent an anomaly.
Perhaps (thankfully Kampfer is okay so we can joke about this) it was nothing more than Little Brother rage. I mean, it must totally suck to get beaten again and again by the guy for whom your entire sense of self-worth is tied to beating.
What it wasn't, at least in my opinion, was a program-wide commitment to goonism a la Bad Boys on Ice.
Before moving on to some of tonight’s action, a few words need to be said about what transpired last night as it impacts the hunt for NCAA Tournament bids.
Oklahoma went into Stillwater and topped the Cowboys, 89-81. I predicted a 20/20 for Blake Griffin, but he fell short by scoring 26 points and “only” grabbing 19 boards. Meanwhile for the Pokes, this is the third game in league play that OSU has lost despite scoring more than 80 points. Expect their defense to continue to fail them as they try to establish their resume. Oklahoma State was in the same boat as Michigan in ESPN’s latest field projection—a 12 seed and among the last few put in the field—so a loss and missing out on a chance for a good looking resume win is good news for Michigan fans.
Perhaps, more compelling, though is the news coming out of South Bend.
After winning 45 straight at home, the Irish lost last night to Marquette for their second home loss in a span of 48 hours. Folks, the Irish are in trouble. They’ve lost four games in a row, and five of their last seven. They’re in 11th place in the Big East with a 3-5 record. Their RPI is all the way down at 73, and that’s before last night’s loss is factored in. To compare, Michigan is 44th in the latest RPI. The Irish have a worse RPI rating than teams like Providence, St. Joe’s, Buffalo, Stephen F. Austin and Penn State. None of those teams are getting any consideration for an at large bid right now, so why should the Irish?
What helps is they play in the uber tough Big East. I heard the hoops guru on Rivals Radio this afternoon claim that a Big East team could go 8-10 and still make the field. Perhaps, but the downturn by the Irish bears continued watching. Check out ND’s next stretch of games: at Pitt, at Cincy, at UCLA, Louisville, USF, at WVA and at Providence. They also still have a road date at Uconn. With three straight road games beginning Saturday, if the Irish’s losing streak continues through that road trip (and it will if Kyle Mcalrney doesn’t break out of his shooting slump), they will be 12-10 overall, 3-7 in the Big East. The league is bucking for a record amount of bids, but you have to wonder if a 17-13 team with a losing league mark would net an invite. Before last night's loss, the latest projections had the Irish as a #10 seed. Here’s hoping the Irish keep losing.
So, Oklahoma St may have played itself out of the field, while Notre Dame has devolved and played itself onto the Bubble. What will tonight’s action bring?
Purdue at Wisconsin. Line Wisco -1
The Boilers have rebounded from an 0-2 start in league play. If they can nab another road win tonight, they could find themselves in the driver's seat for league honors. The Badgers, not so much. Losers of four in a row, Wisconsin needs this win. One Badger observed has called it the most important game in years for the program. While I won’t go that far, one has to wonder about the Badgers future resume if they don’t right the ship. As of now, road wins against Virginia Tech and Michigan are the best they have to offer. If the Badgers can't put together a winning record in conference play, that resume won’t do the trick. Heading into the night, Wisconsin is just an 11-seed in the latest ESPN projections.
This is a swing game with Big 10 title and NCAA bubble implications. I will go as far as saying it’s the most important game for Wisconsin this season to date. Odds makers have installed the Badgers as an unranked favorite over a ranked team. I find that system hard to pass up, so I might put a little coin on the Badgers.
Boston College at Maryland. Line, Maryland -4
Neither team has an NCAA tournament resume despite the fact that each have nabbed an impressive win against a team currently in the top-10. Those wins have been washed away by bad losses.
Doesn't the loser tonight get pushed so far back in the line that it would take a major run over the final month of the season just to be a legit bubble team? I think so.
How in the world are the Terps going to respond after that curb stomping at the hands of Duke on Saturday? Fans are now expecting Maryland to miss the Big Dance for the fourth time in five seasons. The local press is looking fondly at 'could-have-been' Terps who are playing for other schools. Things dont look so good for Gary Williams right now and a home loss tonight will only ratchet up the pressure.
Northeastern at VCU. Line, VCU -6.5
This is worth tuning in just to watch VCU's little guy Eric Maynor in action. What? You dont remember him? Maybe this will jog your memory. The kid has been one of my favorite players to watch for a couple of years. The game tonight is on EPSNU at 9 pm.
More notably, first place in the Colonial is on the line as both teams come in sporting 8-1 records. The CAA had been a three team race, but both the Rams and Huskies have beaten George Mason in recent days, leaving these two tied for first. Its a classic case of VCU's offense vs Norhteastrn's defense.
Michigan fans may remember Northeastern. The Wolverines clubbed them by 20 points in the second game of the season. Nobody put much thought in to it then, but that game is slowly, but surely, turning into a quality win for UM.
Northeastern sits at #60 in the latest RPI projections. Much is made of a team's record vs the RPI's top 50, so a win tonight might push NE into that range. There's always talk af the CAA netting two bifds into the field, but a head to head win over NE could come in handy if there's debate about UM come Selection Sunday. A run to the CAA title for Northeastern will only boost UM's resume. Best case scenario for UM boosters would be a stirring and dominant run on behalf of Northeastern en route to the CAA regular season title. We all should be pulling for them tonight.
Utah at BYU. Line, BYU -3
The Mountain West is an interesting league as it could get anywhere from 1 to 3 bids into the field. BYU and Utah are two clubs who hope to be in that mix. In Lunardi's latest field projections, BYU is a #12 seed and among the final four teams included. Utah, meanwhile, is among the first four teams cut from the field. The implications for the next round of mock brackets is pretty clear.
For Utah, its not too early to call this a must win game.
Color me skeptical about the Utes chances this evening. Utah was outclassed in road losses at SDSU and UNLV, and I expect the same to happen tonight. BYU is a short 3-point favorite and I'll roll with the Mormon Cagers tonight.
Its a small slate of games tonight, but as you can see, there's plenty going on as it relates to the Bubble that Michigan will be sitting on all winter long. We'll be enjoying the games, but also likely wagering on Wisconsin, BYU and Baylor -1 over Texas.....like the Badger game, that one too is an unranked favorite over a ranked team.