...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
(EDIT update: UM 66 NW 64 final; OT) Michigan looks to continue its success defending home court. A win tonight would move Michigan into a tie with Illinois for second place in the conference. Of course no game is guaranteed for the favored team (e.g. OSU losing again last night). Game starts at 630 EST. Current standings:
Yesterday the hoops team outclassed a very athletic Memphis squad -- a win due in no small part to John Beilein's superior coaching and preparation. Meanwhile, the football team has put together two solid November wins for the first time in forever, including a thrashing of Nebraska. Going into The Game, this is the best we've felt about our chances to beat the damn Buckeyes in five years.
Which leads me to ask: When was the last time we felt this good about the current and future state of both revenue sports programs at U-M?
I was a Rich Rodriguez fan; I believed he was the breath of fresh air U-M football needed after The Horror and the general decline of the late-Carr era. It didn't work out -- no reason to rehash all that here. But after seeing:
- the way the football team has grown this year;
- the great incoming recruiting class;
- the unbelievable job Hoke and Mattison have done w/the defense; and
- the overall performance against Nebraska
I think few would deny U-M football is on the right path again.
Meanwhile, Beilein has just landed arguably the biggest U-M basketball recruit since Webber in Mitch McGary (plus GRobIII and Nick Stauskas -- not a bad way to round out a recruiting class!). He's answered the one question people had about him coming from W. Virginia -- whether he could recruit on an elite level. And if the current team performs up to expectations, Beilein will have gotten Michigan to the Big Dance in 3 of the past 4 seasons.
Best of all, neither Hoke nor Beilein is a flight risk the way, say, Harbaugh would've been.
I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so good about both the present and future of both programs at the same time. My only thought is fall of 2006, when Carr was having his last great season and the hoops team seemed to be heading at least vaguely in the right direction. (But by that point it was clear Amaker could not put together a coherent offense; meanwhile, Carr was certain to retire soon and the identity of his successor was unclear.)
But as of November 22, 2011, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine -- and looks to be so well into the future!
p.s. - a sad aside -- I just read the news about Leon Hall tearing his Achilles last week. Damn. He might never be the same player again. But as Ross Tucker at ESPN writes, Hall's decision to sign his big contract extension before the season (rather than risk waiting to cash in after becoming a free agent) was a hell of a smart move in hindsight.
Press release posted at mgoblue.com:
Coach Beilein Issues Letter to U-M Fans, Supporters Regarding Hatch Family
June 28, 2011
To All Fans and Supporters of Michigan Athletics,
Our basketball program and the Michigan community were saddened to hear about the tragedy that affected the Hatch family late Friday evening. Austin needs as much support right now as possible and he continues to be in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
We are grateful that the NCAA has relaxed some of the contact restrictions currently in place to accommodate this unique set of circumstances for our coaches. We appreciate that they and Big Ten office are working with us throughout this situation. Both groups have been in communication with our compliance office and continue to provide valuable insight on a daily basis.
The outpouring of support from our Michigan faithful, coaches, administrators and fans across the country has been overwhelming. We are thankful for all the support that has been offered to the Hatch family. We appreciate that the NCAA will continue to work with us and act in the best interest of everyone involved.
Thanks for your continued prayers for Austin and the Hatch family.
For those who would like to send a note of support, the family has requested all well-wishers use the website -- http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/AustinHatch
Thanks to MGoUser JMCWannaB for sharing these videos from the UofM Alumni Event in Washington DC. Here's the Q&A, here's the initial speeches from Brady Hoke, Red Berenson, and John Beilein.
John Beilein Appreciation game! We should still honor all the senior cheerleaders, managers, etc. But this game should be directed toward John Beilein and the good things he has done for this program. He has made some good teams with class and dignity. This season was supposed to be bornderline NIT at best, and here we are with a chance to make the tournament.
I say the marketing department makes a little video montage of him getting animated and some of his greatest moments. The students who usually wear the army jackets should don a blue shirt and yellow tie. He should get a standing ovation. I think it would really fire up the team to see their coach getting honored like that.
I love John Beilein, and despite some of his critics, I know a lot of you love him too. Let's show him. I've met him in person, and there was no better choice to lead our hoops program.
I've recently been seeing criticism on mgoblog of Coach B's offense generally and of Darius Moriss specifically. In consideration of this criticism, I've taken data from the most recent game to give a glimpse into the inadequacy of this criticism.
Here's a link to umhoops.com and its "5 Key Plays" in the win against sparty at the Breslin Center (first win since 1997). 4 of the key plays show Michigan winning the battle with one of them showing the opposite. Play 1: Novak's 4 point play early in the game; Play 2: C. Christian beats the shot clock for 2 pts.; Play 3: Draymond Green scores 3 pt. play in transition for sparty; Play 4: Novak for a long 3 pt. shot; Play 5 (2 plays actually): Stu Douglas hits 2 pt. shot late in the game and Douglass hits 3 pt. shot even later in the game. Here it is for viewing (note Stapleton's statement):
"Please let us know in the comments if you think we missed one. It seems weird that Darius isn’t explicitly featured in any of these."
I can think of one commenter in this mgoblog community who feels it necessary to criticize DMo w/o any real support for that criticism--something about ball-hogging or not passing or not being a team player. I can think of many users who criticize the offense/defense Coach B uses or the talent he recruits. My responses:
1) Of the four--really five since Stu gets two plays in his one video clip--plays resulting in Michigan's favor, DMo assists on the play or does more. Play 1: DMo draws a double team and makes a skip (no look which freezes the defense) pass to Novak in corner who's open b/c his man dropped down to help on the open post guy b/c of the double team on DMo; Play 2: DMo drives--and draws an extra defender sufficiently away from Christian --and assists on the made shot by Christian; Play 4: DMo gets the rebound (offensive rebound!) off someone else's shot and then assists on a 3 pt. shot to Novak; Play 5: DMo assists on Stu's 2pt shot (admittedly Stu created that shot, but DMo still had to recognize Stu's comfort at that place on the floor in that situation to make the pass) and DMo draws a second defender again to hit Stu for the open 3 pt. look to clinch the game.
Yes, DMo also made the turnover in Play 3 that led to Green's score and 1. But that only leads me to my next point (made ad naseum by many against the trolls and ignorant critics of the bball team): YOUTH. DMo is a sophomore starting full-time for the first time. He will make mistakes, but he does--at least on this night in front of an Izzone and meatheads wearing numbers crying insecurity--make more positive plays than negative ones. He will--if he hasn't already--have struggles with ego/maturity and a learning curve.
What about the five freshman who rotate in regularly with 3 of them starting?
2) Coach Beilein has a young but talented team. As a group, the team will play down to competition (hopefully not Iowa today, but I wouldn't be surprised). But we've seen it play up to competition all season long too. The latter is not a given with just any team full of two juniors and the rest underclassmen. Coach B should get praise for this part, for which he seemingly does not. With maturity (and patience from us), Coach Beilein will show the fruits of his progress. And please remember this tidbit from the detnews today:
In 2009, his second season at U-M, Beilein guided the Wolverines to a 21-14 record and back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons, with a first-round win over Clemson. Michigan's 11-win turnaround tied a school record for the largest single-season turnaround.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110129/OPINION03/101290383/Victory-takes-some-of-the-pressure-off-Michigan’s-John-Beilein#ixzz1CXQiapcD