So I found myself in Evanston with a ticket to the game and some time to spare. Some random thoughts from what turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon:
- There is a place to watch Big Ten basketball that is worse than
Chrysler Crisler Arena. Welsh-Ryan is basically something between a high-school gym and a steam bath. Seriously, it was hot in there. It starts out hot when you go in, and then you climb and climb (we had seats in ZZ, which, sadly for some others, was not the highest row) and it gets hotter and hotter. We soon were in our t-shirts and sad that less clothing would have been offensive if not illegal. The bad news for Welsh and Ryan - your family names have been tarnished. I suggest a rename: Unnamed Basketball Arena - Catch the Wildcats in Action!
- Our offense consists of two plays. Play 1: run around and pass crisply until someone is open for a three. Then, chuck up the three, pretty much regardless of who you are. Play 2: Manny, do something awesome. Because Beilein is a genius (according to many), I have concluded that most other coaches only have one play in their systems. Beilein, because he thinks outside the box, has two. Strangely, both plays are somewhat effective. We won, however, because we ran Play 2 a lot, especially in the second half.
- Much like the Maize Rage, the students at Northwestern were all trying to get some serious, same-colored T-shirt spirit going, with some kind of Wildcat striped purple and white apparel. Unfortunately, because of the fine intermixing of white and purple, these shirts look (from a distance) just like light purple t-shirts. It's as if they don't the school color is dark purple and all have the wrong color on. It is not working.
- The Northwestern band was there. At the beginning, they played the Northwestern fight song, and I realized I had never heard it in my life. Perhaps this was a remnant of my childhood, where Michigan would routinely beat Northwestern 63-0 regardless of the sport. You have to score to play the song, you know.
- Saw Beilein up close. He looked old. I asked him how to spell his name, and he swore at me. OK, only part of this entry is true.
- Manny better not go on a crazy year-ending, 30-point scoring, Glen Rice reminiscing, getting us into the tourney spree. Because if he does, he may just be gone. And then next year will be mediocre too.
- There are way too many Michigan fans at Northwestern events. The result is that you feel bad. Here we are, in their house, doing the full "Go!" on one side, "Blue!" on the other. I overheard some guys talking about how they could sneak some extra words in there to take over the chant. Like a quick "Don't" before the go (that was their best idea). Worse ideas included (1) starting their own similar chant "N!" "U!" (that's short for Northwestern University) or (2) just punching someone wearing blue/maize. Yes, they were drunk.
- More seriously, not enough people at the game were drunk. I thought Michigan fans were a dry bunch, but this Northwestern group was pretty far out there too; very yuppy and professional and all that. You could sense they were going to take out their frustration from a loss by going home and plundering the financial markets even further.
- The food options at all Big Ten sporting events are the same, more or less. However, they did have Hecky's BBQ, which actually looked like real food. Why can't stadiums/arenas serve food that is (a) somewhat authentic and (b) tastes good? Oh yeah, because of (c) cost.
- I think I saw Steven Threet at the game. He was wearing one of those light purple T-shirts, and talking with the Football coach. He looked happy, and I wished him well.
- OK, I made that up too. But I will miss Threet, he seemed like a good guy.
That's all for now. Goodnight!
While we're exhaling after that nail biting Michigan win, dont forget there are other hoops going on tonight that will impact Michigan's spot on the bubble.
Boston College, Miami and USC are just ahead of UM, grabbing some of the last few at large spots ahead of Michigan in most mock brackets. All three have games today against big time opponents. Its a triple header on FSN with Duke at BC, UNC at Miami and USC at ASU. They all are significant underdogs.
Here's why these games are important to UM:
*Right now, UM has the second best result of the weekend of all teams that are just in the field, or just out of the field. I put Arizona's throttling of UCLA as the best result, by far. Still that allows Michigan a chance to move up and get on more bracket lines. The perception of the win can alter drastically if one of these bubble teams pull a huge scalp tonight. In resume head bumping, for example, do we want Michigan to go up against a BC team with wins over UNC and Duke? Um, no. We'll probably lose that argument.
*What if chalk holds form? According to the Bracket Matrix that would be mean that two consensus 10-seeds, two 11-seeds and one 12-seed will all have gone down this weekend. Michigan is the only 'Final Four Out' team to notch a win, a road win vs an RPI top 100 no less. Michigan is currently in nine fields in the matrix, but only one that's been updated since the MSU loss. If chalk sweeps tonight, expect both of those numbers to increase.
*Lets look at the bubble dilemma bracketologists will have in reshaping their latest mocks. We're going to use the Bracket Junkie's mock bracket, last updated Friday, as a barometer. Its a pretty good read and offers up a different commentary from the usual suspects we see in the traditional media. Its obvious he knows his hoops and the selection process.
Notice his last 10 in the field. Three of the last seven in--Va Tech, Cincy and KSU--have already lost. Three more--BC, Miami and USC--are expected to lose tonight.
Among the large group he includes that just missed the cut, plenty others along with Michigan won. However, the Wolverines win was the best of that bunch. Michigan winning at Northwestern is beter than Providence beating Rutgers and the MWC hopefuls UNLV and SDSU smothering of second division teams. Its even better than Creighton thumping SIU on the road.
I'm throwing this bracket out here to illustrate how big of a move Michigan may yet make in this week mock brackets. This is one that's a regular read of mine where Michigan has a chance to go from seventh to last out of the field to being on a bracket line when it updates Monday.
So, Michigan still has a lot to gain today. If you're inside watching sports and NASCAR is not your thing, find your local FSN. You have a rooting interest in all three games: Duke over BC, UNC over Miami and ASU over USC.
Duke up 31-20 with 5 to go in the first half.
So any thoughts on Michigan's game today, the rest of the season and its tourney hopes? Any takes on the national landscape?
Thanks, and I will hang up and listen.
So last night, after Michigan's big 31-6 blow out of Penn State, me and another poster were having an IM conversation about Michigan Wrestling in the future. It got me to thinking about how awesome this team could be in 2 years. Here's a breakdown of a potential lineup for next year. Note the lack of seniors. This is why I think 2 years from now could be SPECIAL:
125: Sean Boyle (Blair Academy, NJ): Boyle is currently ranked 4th in the nation at 119 pounds in all classes. Blair is the premier wrestling program in American and is the same school that produced Michigan's current 141 pounder, Kellen Russell. With Michael Watts graduating and no immediate high profile pickups waiting in the wings, Boyle could start as a true freshman.
133: Eric Grajales (Brandon, FL): Grajales is also currently a highly rated HS recruit. He's #1 in the nation across all classes at 135 pounds. He will almost certainly start as a true freshman. Other options here include moving him up to 149 and keeping Zac Stevens in at 133 for another year, or moving him to 141 and bumping Russell to 149. For now, let's just say he goes 133.
141: Kellen Russell (Blair Academy, NJ): Russell is currently a sophomore and one of Michigan's most talented wrestlers. He finished with a 32-7 record and was Big Ten Champion at 141 pounds as a true freshman last year. He's currently ranked 5th in the country according to InterMat.com. He most certainly will start again, either here, or as previously stated, at 149 pounds.
149: Assuming my prediction is correct and Grajales and Russell cover 133/141, there are two options here. Mark Beaudry (Pueblo South, CO) is the current starter. However, Mark Weber (Goodrich, MI) was a 4x MHSAA champion and was 2nd in the nation at 135 as a senior last year. Weber is currently in his true freshman year and is not using his redshirt. He could use his redshirt next year, or become the starter.
157: Aaron Hynes (Flint Kearsley, MI): Before becoming a starter this year, Hynes had a 45-13 record in open tournaments. The sophomore is beginning to adjust nicely to the starting lineup. The 2x state champion should start the next two years beyond this one.
165: Justin Zeerip (Hesperia, MI): Just a redshirt freshman, Zeerip has struggled for much of this season. However, in his redshirt year, Zeerip went 23-6 in opens last season. He was a 4x undefeated state champ (260-0) in HS and took 3rd in the nation as a senior. He was a high profile recruit and should have a bright future. Perhaps a glimpse of that future was seen just last night when he defeated a Penn State wrestler who took 3rd at the NCAA's last year.
174: With Steve Luke graduating and nobody listed as a 174 pounder, Michigan might have to scratch to fill this spot next year. If anybody has an idea for 174, I'd love to hear it.
184: Hunter Collins (Gilroy, CA): Collins was one of the top recruits in last years class. He's currently taking his redshirt, but likely has a bright future as a 4 year starter. This year, he's lost in the numbers game amongst the veteran upper weights. He was a 4x California all-state wrestler. (California HS's compete in only ONE division, so this is a big deal). He was a Reno Champ in high school, and took 2nd in the nation at 171 pounds as a senior, losing to 3x Michigan champ and current CMU wrestler Ben Bennett in the finals.
197: Anthony Biondo (Chippewa Valley, MI): Currently ranked 13th in the nation at 184 pounds, Biondo will be entering his junior year next year. He was a 3x Michigan champ and an all-american as a senior. He could also remain at 184 with Collins coming up next year. However, this might be the better option with Biondo, the older wrestler, taking the higher weight. Keep in mind, Biondo was Michgian's starter here before switching weights with current senior Ty Todd this year.
285: Eddie Phillips (Lakewood, MI): Phillips is a sophomore and is a very athletic heavy. He was Michigan's 189 champ as a senior at Lakewood. He struggles at times, but has become a serviceable starter. Maybe he breaks out as a junior next year? He'll be pushed by Romeo's Chad Bleske for this spot.
Incoming recruits: Currently, I know of 4 recruits coming in next year. Dan Boyle and Eric Grajales were both mentioned as possible starters in the light weights. Michigan is also bring in Brandon Zeerip. Zeerip is the younger brother of current starter Justin. The younger Zeerip is the 10th ranked 152 pound wrestler in the country. Michigan also brings in a more unheralded national level recruit in Dundee's Pete Rendina. It is unclear at this time what type of future Rendina would have at Michigan, but he is a top senior in Michigan this year. His pull could also help with current HS sophomore Joey Rendina. Joey may be a top 5 in-state recruit as a senior.
Any more thoughts, I'd love to hear them.
Three of the game's marquee players, Blake Griffin, Hashem Thabeet and Jody Meeks, gave college hoops fans enthralling performances for Valentine's Day. Take a bow, gents. Their performances yesterday were the college equivalent of the Kobe-Lebron Madison Square Garden games a couple of weeks ago. I could not take my eyes off them yesterday, they were fascinating efforts. Consider that Meeks, following up his unreal buzzer beater against the Gators, dropped 45 points carrying his depleted team to a key SEC road victory. And, yet, it wasn't even the best performance of the day. Or even the second best. Toss in the scramble for information on the Stephon Curry injury and a strong buzz of college hoops hovered in the news morning. Bubble talk has ramped up. The regular season is drawing to a close. Selection Sunday is four weeks from today. The scent of March is in the air.
Its with this backdrop that Michigan faces an immeasurably crucial day of hoops, beginning with their game at Northestern (Line, NW -4.5) in a few hours. I wont say its the most important game of the season, because haven't we already said that twice this month? We all know the storyline. Michigan needs to start winning some games or risk falling off the tournament rader. You get the feeling the Wolverines are a loss from kissing away any hopes for an at large bid. I dont think those feelings are all that innaccurate.
However, somewhat paradoxically, Michigan also finds itself perhaps a win away from convincing a majority of bracketologists that they're worthy of being in their fields. Yesterday's out of town scoreboard broke positively for Michigan. The Wolverines are in position today, with a road win against a team in the RPI top 100, to pull close, or even pass, many teams allegedly ahead of them in the chase for bids.
Kansas State and Georgetown are two of the teams among the final four out. Both lost heartbreakers yesterday. BYU doesn't play this weekend. Michigan, with a win, takes a big step forward from this mini pack. While Creighton, St. Mary's and Penn State, from the next pack of four out, all won games, Michigan arguably would stay ahead of that trio with a win today.
How about the teams in the field according to the Matrix? Cincinnati, a 12-seed and pretty much the last team in most people's field, got waxed by Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech, a 10-seed, lost to Maryland and enters a nasty gauntlet of ACC foes from here on out. Kentucky and South Carolina won on the road, the Gamecocks at the buzzer, but Michigan's win today would be mathematically stronger than those. A win today and Michigan gains ground on all those teams. They probably outright pass Cincinnati.
I realize that's not a ton of carnage for Michigan to take advantage of, but remember I labelled this a crucial day for the hoops program, not just a crucial game. Consider the rest of the schedule this afternoon. Three teams, just ahead of Michigan and in the field, face long odds this afternoon. Boston College, USC and Miami--all double digit Matrix seeds--play top-15 teams and each are decided underdogs in games later today. Duke at Boston College (Duke -7.5), UNC at Miami (UNC -8) and USC at Arizona St (ASU -7) are all lined up in convenient triple header fashion (Woot! Fox Sports Net) beginning a few minutes after the final buzzer in Evanston today.
Obviously, Michigan winning its game first is the most important piece of today's puzzle. But, if they manage to get by the Cats, it could be a red letter day of scoreboard watching. Heck, you could make a case that if Michigan losses, the scoreboard watching becomes even more important today as then a win by any of those other teams could make the gap for an bid between them and UM too wide for the Wolverines to overcome in the regular season.
Screw that, though, we're tyring to think positive here. None of this win or lose BS, lets just win and then bring down the hate with a fury onto the Eagles, Trojans and Canes. Lets get our voodoo dolls out, unleash the WLA attack dogs and embark a full scale, whistle stop, skull cracking tour. I know its just hoops, but you're capable of hate against the Trojans and the U, right? Perfect. I knew you'd understand.
So, you're saying Michigan might a team in the field when the day's over
I'm not saying that for sure, but there's a strong possibility that Michigan would still get one of the 34 at large bids if the season ended.
Really? C'mon you're joking. Is that a runner's high you have going or did you wake and bake and forget to go the church this morning?
Hey, thats a low blow man. You know I'm injured and cant run right now. And smoking pot is illegal. All I am doing is coldly breaking down mock brackets and truth reporting.
Anyway, lets go right on and get ahead of ourselves and project the landscape if Hoops Karma deals Michigan blackjack, meaning a win and a sweep by the favorites later on. That would mean two 10's, two 11's and one 12 in the Bracket Matrix with at large bids will have lost over the weekend. Michigan, meanhile, would be the only team in the Matrix final four out that won. Putting it in those perspectives, there's a heavy stack on the table today. The Wolverines will take a big step either towards or away from the tournament field this afternoon.
Are we focusing too much on the Saturday sample size? Perhaps. But, more than half of the Matrix updated as the weekend began. Those brackets alone will be vulnerable to the immediate results of this weekend.
My bet is that Creighton finds its way into many new brackets. But, their inclusion could be a straight up swap with one of the hangers-on from the Mountain West. I am more than fine with that result. St Mary's, now that it proved it could win a big game without start Patty Mills, might also reappear in most brackets after a one week excile.
Those results would only take in partial account of the full bubble shakedown if results break the right way for Michigan. Remarkably, they could find themselves in the field tomorrow afternoon. If it all breaks for Michigan, I actually expect that to happen. At worst, I would expect Michigan to be in more fields during the next rounds of updates than they are in today.
Scoff all you want about fretting Michigan's place in a fake bracket projection. The top end ones worth tracking regularily nail the entire field or, at most, miss just one entry. The competition they have between themselves has more to do with picking a teams correct seed, not whether or not they're actually in the field. Where a team stands in relation to these brackets has served as a much better indicator of where a team sits on the bubble than any poll.
As for the making the real tournament, whether or not that happens, we'll likely be looking back to the results of today as a day of bellweather results.
Michigan does not play today, but that does not mean their position on the bubble wont be altered over the course of the next several hours. Games all day and all night will continue to reshape the bubble position of the Wolverines. Since Michigan's loss Tuesday night to MSU, a total of 25 bracketologists have remade their fields. Only one, still has the Wolverines in their field. However, they remain firm in the 'final four out' category when taking a look at the entire Bracket Matrix, the comprehensive bracketology list tracked by the Bracket Project. With a win tomorrow at Northwestern, Michigan probably wont be worse than that during the next round of comprehensive updates. In the meantime, there's plenty to cheer for, or more appropriately root against, today that will enhance Michigan's position going into their game tomorrow in Evanston. Michigan fans need to bring the hate to several teams across the country as the action unfolds. That might not sound nice considering its Valentine's Day, but we're trying to break a decade long NCAA Tournament drought, so who gives a rip. Without further adieu, here is my compiled list of Enemies of the State:
Georgetown at Syracuse, noon, ESPN. Line, S'cuse -5
Georgeton versus Syracuse screams of classic college basketball, doesn't it? This nooner is a nice way to tip off a long day of hoops. Big stakes are the line today for the Hoyas. Their at large hopes are slowly vanishing under the weight of a young team and a difficult Big East slate. They're just 3-8 since the start of January and sit in 11th place in the conference, three games below .500 in league play. They're running out of time to turn the ship around before March. As it stands now, Georgetown is only in 12 of those 25 brackets updated since Tuesday, 8 of which have them as an 11 or 12 seed. They may be one loss away from being completey excommunicated by the entire bracketology crowd. Are you sure you hate the Hoyas enough going into this one? Take this test and find out.
UCLA at Arizona, 1pn, CBS. Line, UCLA -4
As January closed, the Wildcats were dead in the water and looking NIT bound. One five-game winning streak later, Arizona has rescusitated its season and NCAA hopes. Suddenly only three of the 25 brackets that have been updated to include all of this past week's action dont have Arizona on a bracket line. That's quite an impressive turnaround. However, a loss today to the Bruins may begin to put all that back in jeopardy. The Bruins have dominated this series, winning eight in a row. Bruins Nation breaks down how likely another win over Arizona is. The Wildcats are a double digit seed virtually across the board and the next couple of weeks will be arguably its toughest stretch in league play of the season. Three straight road games follow today at Arizona St, UW and Wassau. A win obviously solidifes the Cats posiition in the bracketologists' eyes. A loss, however, could begin a spiral towards the wrong side of the bubble by the time March rolls around.
Nebraska at Missouri, 1:30pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Missou -11.5
Looking for a tournament darkhorse to impress even the most nerdy college hoops junkie? Try the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They have one the most efficient offenses in the Big 12 and with other teams falling around them, Big Red is peaking at the right time. Just two lonely bracketologists among the entire Bracket Matrix have Nebraska in the field, so they still need to open a few eyes. A win at Missouri today would do that. A loss keeps them invisible. The Big 12 still has a chance at fielding six teams, but only Nebraska is stepping up right now to be that possible sixth team. But, they have to pull in some big wins away from Lincoln from here on out to pull the trick. I'd just assume see them lose today so we dont have to worry about them come Selection Sunday.
Minnesota at Penn St, 130, BTN. Line, PSU -3
I'm still not sure who Michigan fans should root against in this one. On one hand, Penn State is in a funk. Fans have been urged to pull back their NCAA expectations. They've lost three in a row and stud scorer Talor Battle only has a combined 19 points during this streak. If Penn State losses again, the Lions will completely vanish from any at large discussion. They sit in a worse position than Michigan right now and a loss actually puts them in scramble mode from here on out just to notch an NIT bid. On the other hand, Minnesota's spot in the Big 10 pecking order, I think at least, is up for grabs. A loss here gives them losses in three of four games, with the only win being against lowly Indiana. With the Gophers coming to Ann Arbor on Thursday, its conceivable that by this time next week Michigan will have pulled even with them in the tangible standings and ahead of them in the intangible pecking order. Minnesota fans might know who to spread the love to today, but I don't. I'm torn. No worries, thoughh. I am well trained by the WLA propaganda arm, so I'll be able to spin either result as good news for the Maize and Blue.
Kansas at Kansas St, 330pn, ABC. Line, KU -1
This is the one game I am looking most forward to of all the action today. The Wildcats are the Little Brother of the state. And, they have a lot of hate for the rival Jawhawks. It drives some to vandalism. But, in basketball this has been more fued than rivalry as the Jayhawks have all but owned the series. They've only lost once in KSU's own building. The spice for today's game is the hot Wildcats, winners of six in a row. They look no worse than the Big 12's fourth team. Despite the streak, its taken them awhile to impress the bracketologists. Georgetown, for example, is in more of the most recently updated mocks than KSU. Why are people not sold on the Cats yet? Perhaps its an OOC slate whose best win is against Cleveland State. Or, those awful losses to Oregon and Iowa, programs in the team photo for worst team from a BCS league. Or the fact that less than a month ago they were still winless in league play. A lot of that perception could change today with a resounding win over the defending National Champions.
Virginia Tech at Maryland, 4pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Maryland -3
It does not matter if they're playing Gardner-Webb or Clemson, the Hokies play close games. Almost half their games this season of been decided by five points or less, including near-miss, bad losses turned victories this week over NC State and Georgia Tech. Today's road game against Maryland just drips with bubble implications for the Hokies. While they are in near unanimous selection status across the Bracket Matrix, a loss today could start the ball rolling in the complete opposite direction. In their closing run of at Virginia, Florida State, at Clemson, UNC, Duke and at Florida State, they're not going to be favored to win too many of those games. Can you see the Hokies losing five games from here until the end of the regular season? I can and thats a lot of losses in the season's final four weeks for a team on the bubble. A loss today begins to poke a few holes into the Hokies resume and with so many landmines up ahead their bid into the field, despite what the brackets say today, is far from secure.
Florida St at Wake Forest, 4pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Wake -8.5
Of all the teams to root against today, the Seminoles appear to be the most certain to make the field. But, like the Virginia Tech situation outlined above, this team has a brutal slate down the stretch. A series of losses, beginning today possibly at Wake Forest, could well loom. That does not bode well for a program that has not been into the Dance in a decade and in recent seasons have seen bids evaporate under the heat of late season collapses. This team might look like its a long way from the bubble, but a loss today shoves them in that direction.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 4pm, ESPN. Line, Pitt -15.5
The Bearcats are the anti-Georgetown of the Big East hopefuls. They've won seven of nine games, including a sweep of the Hoyas and a win over Notre Dame. At 7-5 in the tough Big East, the Bearcats are in position to earn a bid. They're in more than 75 percent of the most recently updated mocks (just 6 folks have left them out), but their consensus 12-seed in the Bracket Matrix proves their margin of error is slim. The Bearcats have an interesting resume. Their OOC plays includes losses to Memphis, Xavier, Florida State and wins against UNLV, UAB and Mississippi St. That's decent. Their Big East mark, however, may be a bit fraudulent. Half their wins have come against league dormants like Depaul, Rutgers and St. John's. They dont have a win against anybody thats .500 or better in the conference. We'll see if this team is ready to wear as they enter the make or break portion of the slate. After today, their next three games are versus Louisville, West Virginia and at Syracuse. We'll find out just how worthy this team is over the next couple of weeks. The always astute local media thinks today's game is a possible pitfall for the Bearcats. You dont say, do you? Considering they're one of the biggest underdogs on the board today, thats not exactly breaking news.
Creighton at Southern Illinois, 5pm. ESPN2. Line, Creighton -3
Talk about charging hard from the rail. The Bluejays have won five in a row and eight of their last 11. They sit alone in second place in the underrated Missouri Valley Confernece. Dont make the mistake of thinking a MVC team wont get an at large bid. While the league only earned one bid last season, it had sent multiple teams into the Big Dance for six straight seasons before then. Across the entire Bracket Matrix spectrum, the Jays are only in nine fields, but more than half who have placed them on the board have done so since mid week updates. We'll see how they fare on the road in Carbondale this afternoon. CU-SIU used to be the game of the year in the MVC, but the Salukis have fallen on hard times in recent seasons. But, they still play in-your-shorts defense and have a great home court edge. The Jays only won by a point when the teams played earlier this season in Omaha, so a tight one is in the offing. All it might take is another regular season loss or two to extinguish Creighton's flame.
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 9pm, ESPN. Line, Wisco -5.5
I dont think it really matters if Wisconsin loses or not tonight against Ohio State. I'm pulling for them to do so, only because it muddles up the Big 10 pecking order and at least opens the door for Michigan to perhaps slide ahead of them. Regardless, unless the Badgers only two wins from here on out are against Indiana (of all years for Michigan not to play the Hoosiers twice.....thank you Big 10 schedule makers!), I think they'll easily make the field. Those games are home contests against OSU and Michigan and road trips to MSU and Minnesota. I suppose losses in all four are not out of the realm of possibility, so we might as well try to push down the first domino tonight.
Portland (Not The Trailblazers) at St. Mary's, 10pm, no TV. Line, St. Mary -8.5
All season it looked like the West Coast Conference would get two teams in the field with Gonzaga and St. Mary's earning bids. Recent weeks have been cruel to the Gaels, however. They've lost four of five and, worse, their best player Patty Mills is out indefinetly with a broken hand. The Gaels don't look they can win without him. A loss today drops them to 6-5 in WCC play. The Bracket Matrix reveals that St. Mary is in worse position than Michigan right now, albeit only slightly. They're only in one field thats been updated this week. If another loss gets tacked on their resume tonight, you have to wonder what exactly this team can do--if anything--to get back in everyone's good graces when, and if, Mills does return.
SEC BUBBLE: UK, TENN, USC, FLORIDA, LSU
Kentucky at Arkansas, 1pm, CBS. Line, UK -4.5
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Vols -10
South Carolina at Alabama, 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, SC -2
Florida at Georgia, 330pm, ABC. Line, Florida -10
Ole Miss at LSU, 7pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, LSU -11.5
I could not pinpoint one SEC in particular to root against today, so we all might as well pull for the entire conference's NCAA hopefuls to loss. You dont have a problem rooting against the SEC, do you? No? Excellent. The league is in an interesting spot. I never bought into the January brackets that only gave bids to three SEC teams. However, I'm not sure I buy the February brackets that seem unanimous in placing five teams. I wonder if at least one of them will prove to be too average down the stretch to earn a bid. That would be good news for Michigan and everyone elese on the bubble as it would logicially free up a bid. Florida, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky are all seeded somewhere between 7 and 11 according to the Bracket Matrix. All five are favored today, so here's hoping there is at least one live puppy out there to spring an upset today to muck up the waters. And, here's double hoping that it becomes a trend from here on out to close the SEC season and make the league no better than a 4-bid conference.
MOUNTAIN WEST BUBBLE: UTAH, SDSU, UNLV
Air Force at Utah, 4pm, no TV. Line, Utah -20
Wyoming at San Diego State, 10pm, no TV. Line, SDSU -16.5
Colorado State at UNLV, 10pm, no TV. Line, UNLV -17
Clearly, I am obsessed with the Mountain West Conference. Which is weird because I love mid majors and typically would go to bat for them. But, until I begin to see more sanity across the bracketology world and the consensus only field two, and not four, MWC teams, this league will continue to irk and worry me as a fan of a program on the bubble. Maybe we're finally beginning to see some movement on this front. The Bracket Matric has UNLV out of the field, even though 17 of the 25 brackets updated since Tuesday still have the Rebels in the field. SDSU and BYU are treading water as 10 and 11 seeds. Utah seems secure, for now, as a 9. BYU does not play this weekend, but the other three are all favored tonight against league lightweights. Any upsets in the MWC tonight would go a long way to making my anti MWC crusade a success. UNLV and SDSU would be booted out of all legitimate mock brackets if either lose tonight, and I dont think either have enough on their slate from here on out that will allow them to do enough to get back inside the field.
One of the most lamentable aspects of being a college football fan as far as I'm concerned has long been the lack of quality stat keeping, as well as analysis. Matt Hinton (currently Dr. Saturday) and Chris at Smart Football are great, and if CFB Stats didn't exist, this post wouldn't exist, but it ain't no Fangraphs and those fellas ain't quite Tom Tango, who literally wrote The Book on baseball. Not that it's a fair comparison.
I bring Tango up because his stat wOBA inspired this post. wOBA (weighted On Base Average) is basically on base percentage gone plaid. Instead of dividing times on base (1B+2B+3B+HR+BB+HBP+ROE) by plate appearances, you decide how valuable in terms of runs each of those individual events are and then proceed (hence weighted). OBP is transformed into runs per plate appearance. Multiply times total PAs and you have the runs that batter was responsible for in that season. And scoring (or preventing) runs are the bottom line in baseball. In sum: bases get you runs get you wins. In football, it looks like this:
Yards - Turnovers = Points
This isn't exactly groundbreaking. It's a fundamental assumption behind Dr. Saturday's Life on the Margins, iirc, and I'm pretty sure this is what I'm going to find in Pete Palmer's Hidden Game of Football if and when it eventually ships to a2. And it's sorta-kinda what David Romer did, though not nearly exhaustive. The theory is good. The actual arithmetic is kind of annoying and is summarized in the following paragraph. Feel free to skip to the part where we find out just how crippling the impact of Nick Sheridan was and how much worse it could have been.
The key to being able to do this yourself is to figure out yards and turnovers in terms of points. I ripped the drive logs of every Big Ten conference game in 2008 from Yahoo. That'll give you yards/point, which came out to about 15. Then I plotted, in buckets of 10 yards, the percent of drives that resulted in a TD or FG based on the drive starting field position, except the last 30 yards which I averaged at the opponent's 15 due to relatively few samples.* This gives you average expected points based on field position. That plus average field position equals the average value of a possession, which is what you lose in a turnover. Not only that, but you give expected points to your opposition. According to my math, an INT was worth about -4 points. Thus points per throw is (Yds/15 + INTs*4)/attempts.
Feel free to comment
I Am Not An Expert. If my math is off, then suggest different constants/methods. They pass the sniff test to me; I ran assorted regressions on excel to test assumptions and it looked right. I'd be glad to share the drive chart database. Onward...
The Part Where We Find Out Just How Crippling The Impact Of Nick Sheridan Was
It's sorted by pts/attempt, the relevant measure. Average was .33. Mr. Sheridan was dead last with those over 50 attempts with .15 points per attempt. An all around average team wins 4 games. The results indicate that an all around average team that replaced its average quarterback with Nick Sheridan would win 2 (converting to wins over average is easy enough). But it would also have tremendous team chemistry and at least one valedictorian. Wins aren't everything.
Also, check out Terrelle Pryor's numbers. Remember, this is just per throw. Rushing and sack yards are not included, nor is it defense adjusted. Having rewatched the Texas and Michigan games in HD (being able to see the d-backs helps), I was impressed. Tressel used the threat of Wells inside and Pryor's skills when bootlegged on the edge to great effect. The playbook seemed cut down, but his athleticism made it work. The sack numbers (scroll right in the g-doc) and somewhat inconsistent mechanics are the most glaring issues, but they were exaggerated by a bad pass blocking unit in front of him. In conclusion: barring injury, Pryor is going to be a terror. Surprise! Rivals #1 overall prospect in 2008 is projected to dominate. At least he'll probably be gone after his junior year.
*It's a shortcut and it probably understates how valuable possessions that start inside the 15 are. I actually think inside the 15 the function is probably no longer linear. I'm also sorry that this is isn't the most thorough or transparent presentation. It's a start though.