this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Super Schedule. Michigan takes on Oregon State in Corvalis this weekend. Times and channels of interest:
Saturday, 3 PM: ESPNU.
Sunday, 4 PM: ESPN.
Monday, 7 PM: ESPN (or ESPN2).
I do not get ESPNU, like everyone else in the universe, and will be taking in the game at the Arena. So, like, if your stalking is just so lame on the internet: 3 PM Saturday at the Arena.
Highlights. Reader Evan Sipple put together a double-montage of ESPN highlights from Michigan's Vandy victory:
The opponent. ... can be found in blog glory over at Building The Dam, which takes baseball seriously. I'm trying to set up a conversation to get the scoop on the (heh) Beavers.
The talkin'. Articles in the News...
"We don't have the luxury of getting more polished, experienced players from the South or out West. We get the in-state kids who play multiple sports. They're talented kids, but we have to groom and develop them," Maloney said.
"It's a much harder challenge to be a coach in the North because you can't make many mistakes (when recruiting) and be in the position we're in. We've had a lot of things fall in place and the kids really believe in the program."
...News, Ann Arbor variety...
"I told them they needed to enjoy it," coach Rich Maloney said. "That's something special they'll never forget. They'll be talking about it in 20, 30 years at alumni outings. You have to enjoy it now. They accomplished something special."
...and the Port Huron Times-Herald.
Also. There is a super-strong baby in Roosevelt Park. He's on the draft of the 2016 recruiting board.
Eh.The Capital Times asserts that Big Ten recruiting is down, though Lemming's phrasing is kind of weird:
on the whole, Lemming doesn't anticipate many state players attracting offers, at least not from BCS schools. And Wisconsin isn't alone. "The state of Iowa is down again,'' Lemming said. "Minnesota has been down, too. But there are some good players and a great player in Michael Floyd (Cretin-Derham High in St. Paul). Michigan is OK. It's a slightly above-average year for Ohio, not great. Chicago is much better after being horrible the past two years. And Indiana is OK for Indiana.''
Michigan is actually quite a bit better than OK with three Rivals 100 guys and four more in their top 250; other than last year's bumper crop (for universities other than Michigan) this is the best year for talent in the state since I've been paying attention. And how much talent is there in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on a yearly basis? Very little that shows up on Michigan's radar. Sounds like it's more a problem for the mid-level schools than M -- already with more four-stars than they had a year ago -- and OSU, which is really cleaning up.
Um. I was cajoled into participating in Ladies Dot Dot Dot's, um, "hot blogger bracket." I know. I know. This can only end badly. And, probably, start badly. Also the middle is likely to be pretty bad as well. I am a nine-seed here (versus a 14 seed in this cracked-out 22-dudes-in-a-bracket system the Ladies have set up, go fig). Do what you will, and let us never speak of this again.
Etc.: Keith Jackson:
Remember when Cartman accused ginger kids of being soulless monsters capable of nothing but evil? Yeah... this appears to be the prevailing opinion in the UK.
5/31/2006 - Pistons 107-109 Cavaliers - Down 3-2, ECF
We've been here before. Last year, when Dwyane Wade was suffered to run free:
I only just resisted titling this post "Is Flip Saunders An Idiot?" because it seems clear that a man who is paid more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes can't be all 'tard, but... there's a strong chance Flip Saunders is an idiot in some sense. If you did a Family Feud-style survey with the question "Who Is Going To Defend Dwyane Wade in the conference finals?" survey would say:
- What are you talking about? You want a mango? I am from France. (37)
- Um... I don't know his name, but probably the guy who looks like a heavily abused Stretch Armstrong doll? (34)
- Tayshaun Prince, you idiot. (31)
The third opinion would be given to you by anyone with even a smattering of NBA knowledge all the way up to, say, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, players of Wade's bionic shooting guard ilk who have run up against Stretch and who -- if not exactly stopped -- have been decently contained. Tayshaun is popularly regarded as the Kobe-Lebron-McGrady-Wade stopper, one of the few players in the league with both the size and the quickness to stop the NBA's unstoppable. Only an idiot or an expert would do anything other than stick Tayshaun on Wade and forget about it.
As you can see, I did not escape titling this post with something raw, possibly unfair, but JESUS CHRIST SO VERY TRUE IN ALL WAYS EVERY WAY ALL WAYS FOREVER AAAAAARGH.
The world is Lebron agog this day and not without reason, but can we get some condemnation up in here? Flip Saunders displayed the same sort of miraculous ignorance football coaches do when they screw up game-ending clock situations during nearly the entirety of Lebronfest. He was complicit in Birth of a Superstar, inexplicably refusing to double for much of the fourth quarter and overtimes. When he did bring a double, Lebron would pass out of it and the Cavs, being the non-Bron Cavs, would turn the ball over. There are mice that can figure out that when there are two buttons, one of which dispenses a shock and the other a tasty treat, you press the treat button. If there was any justice, Saunders' incompetence would be just as legendary as Lebron's performance.
Consider this: on the last Cleveland possession, Ilgauskas, Gooden, and Daniel Gibson had fouled out. Larry Hughes' foot had held him out the entire second half. On the floor with Lebron were Donyell Marshall, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow (or Damon Jones? I forget, does it matter?). Saunders' brilliant idea: put a point guard on the guy who had scored the last 23 points and give him no help whatsoever. This was also his brilliant idea -- except it was Tayshaun Prince left alone -- on the final two Cavs possessions of regulation, both of which ended in thunderous Lebron dunks.
I mean... what can you say? I decided to repress the sputtering rage by sleeping on it and then writing about the game, but here it is. Sputtering Rage says "hi, honey, I'm home," takes off its hat, talks about what a hard day he had -- lot of work in Detroit today, lot of work -- and settles in for a nice long rest that is 75-80% likely to start in the next few days and last for the summer. It's back, and I can only delete so many sentences that contain elaborate punishments for Saunders and his Charlie Weis-like ability to get far too clever for his own good. A sampler:
- Forced to eat own organs.
- Locked into party chit-chat with tools who came up with Heineken ad campaign that runs incessantly all hours of the night and day on TNT.
- Elaborate scenario staged wherein he is drugged, and carefully made up to look and sound like Bill Walton -- sort of "The Hot Chick" except "The Worst Person On The Planet" -- until on the verge of self-immolation, say, 10-15 minutes
- Forced to watch his favorite basketball team coached by Flip Saunders.
It is inexplicable how this guy and his lip-chewing inability to do anything right in the playoffs is a respected NBA coach. Don't even get me started on Rasheed's substitution pattern.
Dammit, too late: what the #&$! was with Rasheed's substitution pattern? During the first eight minutes of the game he had played great defense and was 3/4 from the floor. He was in rhythm, on a roll. Chris Webber picks up a second foul with eight minutes gone, Saunders yanks both starters and leaves Rasheed on the bench until there are four minutes left in the half. He rested his best post player, a guy who was in rhythm, for an entire quarter when his second best post player had been ejected at the end of the first. Then the Pistons start going well and Rasheed gets yanked six minutes into the second half. Inexplicable. After the first removal, Rasheed would hit one shot the rest of the night. There isn't a basketball fan on the planet who would do something that stupid.
So, yeah, Lebron was pretty freakin' impressive. Yes. He's kind of good at the basketball. But even Lebron has trouble dealing with traps and doubles and can be dealt with unless you are too busy chewing your lip to think.
Last year, when it finally clattered to a halt:
Riley watched the tape, devised a plan, and obliterated the Piston offense. There was not much of a riposte from Saunders other than to look on grimly.
The Heat were a soft team when they struggled through the opening portion of the season, but Pat Riley is a hard man. The Pistons were a hard team under Carlisle and Brown, but Flip Saunders is a soft man. And thus goes a series.
Since I can only burble aggravated nonsense this morning, I guess that has to stand.
FLABMOJAN! GRUNDLEFLOX THE AXERAOJ. ZING ZING ZING!
Yeah, the post headers are broken in Firefox. Dunno why. Looking into it.
Everything about the Big Ten Network is productive. They have conversations which produce things. Not, like, agreements with major cable providers, sure, but expensive lunches, fan anger, and inexplicable fawning from Free Press employees. Mark Snyder's latest is... um... weird. I'd gotten used to Snyder as a news-guy who brings information and does not offer opinion, and now we have evidence as to why. His latest "blog" -- sorry about the scare quotes, but the Free Press doesn't even make any pretense, they just throw up a story and label it a blog -- is a stunningly Pollyanna thing that seems like it came directly from the mighty PR bowels of the Big Ten office.
Now is the time on Sprockets when we fisk.
The upcoming Big Ten Network is an outstanding idea.
From the moment it was announced last summer, it seemed ideal, filling a void that has existed since the explosion of cable televised sports in the past decade.
Wait... what void? Virtually every Big Ten game of import is televised nationally on ABC or basic cable. Basketball fans can catch any game that's not against Maryland-Baltimore County or equivalents on local syndication. Anyone out-of-market can buy ESPN's Gameplan for a reasonable price and get every game his team plays. The 95% of Big Ten fans who don't care about hockey should have absolutely no quarrel with the current state of coverage.
The next few months will be rocky if the large cable deals aren't signed. Fans will start to worry about missing college football games and likely blame the network.
...yes, they will. Because it will be the network's fault. This is the ideal blame situation, when you can blame the thing that is at blame.
But that will be a temporary blip and Silverman knows it, that's why his patience is impressive.
Justification for this is... what? His "patience" is impressive? This sound exactly like "we are not going to be on cable this fall" spun 180 degrees. Bill Martin wants to end the ND series! Patience is a virtue when it comes to getting on basic cable, because Lord knows we don't want to rush into something like having people watch our channel. I have patience, too. It expires the first time Michigan is shoehorned onto the Big Ten Network and I have to scramble to find it.
The network's long-term future should withstand any early frustrations because, unlike CSTV and ESPNU, the Big Ten will have significant content from the start.
Guaranteeing at least two appearances by every conference football team was perfect. That way they're not debuting with only second-tier events and appear legitimate. Much like the NFL Network's securing late-season football telecasts, fans will chase their teams wherever they are -- as long as they don't have to pay extra for the privilege.
This is terrifying to me. In the latest chat on the Big Ten Network's official site:
Question: If we have already contacted our local cable provider and they have told us that they have no plans to carry the Big Ten Network this fall, what are we as fans to do at this point? Comcast is telling inquiring customers that they have no plans to carry the network.
Posted By: Tom from East Lansing, MI
5/24/2007 12:49:01 PM
And wait... perfect? Much like the NFL Network's brilliant plan to force cable operators to carry them by getting exclusive rights to a few NFL games? That worked so brilliantly that the NFL Network got on basic cable... nowhere. And they're charging 70 cents instead of the preposterous $1.10 the Big Ten Network has been demanding.
His track record includes launching the ESPN Zone restaurant chain -- an unqualified success -- so he has a feel for the people's wishes. That's why he plans to be available with online chats at www.bigtennetwork.com, including the first one this Thursday at 1 p.m.
Online chats! This is definitely on the right track!
What the network realizes, and is lost on CSTV and ESPNU, is that college sports rarely have national appeal during their seasons. Only at the very end -- with college football being the lone exception -- do fans care about more than their conference and their team.
What does that even mean? CSTV and ESPNU are low-cost, no-access channels with no compelling programming, granted. Given that "patience" is now being espoused, it appears that the BTN will be a high-cost, no-access channel with compelling programming like Michigan-Appalachian State. Both situations suck, but only one is suffused in the gasoline of hubris, ready to be lit aflame in fall when football fans can't get the games they would have if this channel did not exist. I thought the whole point of the Big Ten Network was to increase access to Big Ten sports to fans; the way this is going there will be a net decrease. Fewer games will be shown nationally. Each team will have two games relegated to a regional cable ghetto.
Snyder makes no sense here. The big draw he has just espoused is football. He praises the Big Ten for "understanding" the provincial nature of college sports and their lack of widespread appeal mere paragraphs after praising the Big Ten for creating "compelling" programming by... locking away football games.
The Big Ten Network brass already understands the challenge of stability is for a long-term deal, not simply a rush to line it up for Sept. 1. That's why they'll wait until they can reach the widest audience possible.
We are screwed. The Big Ten Network understands that they can force cable providers into a deal they don't want to accept because they're obviously more important than the NFL.
Silverman and his staff will hear your complaints. They just may not deserve it.
Yeah... wow. An embarrassing shill job.
About this chat thing. It's totally awesomely useful:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF YOUR NEGOTIATIONS WITH DISH NETWORK?
negotiations are moving along very well with all satellite and cable providers.
You say you have reached an agreement with 40 cable companies. Which companies are these.
these agreements will be announced as the contracts are signed over the next few weeks
We have heard that the Big Ten Network will be a good thing because it gives fans more access to Big Ten programming. However lets say you are unsuccesful with distribution and only people with DirectTV can see it. What are your plans in this case so millions of loyal fans in the region don't miss games.
we are working hard to make sure all big ten fans can see their teams play. It is very early in the distribution process and we are making great progress with distributors.
And this... is just... I don't know what it is:
Question: Will you show video's of boys climbing ropes. I used to really like that about gym class and would love to relive the moments. I mean there's nothing like a good old time rope climb to lighten the spirits. I do say I'd really enjoy a show about boys climbing rope
Posted By: Billy from Cicero, IL
5/24/2007 12:18:55 PM
Mark Silverman - Big Ten Network President's Response: we will have 35+ HD football games, well over 100 HD basketball games, not to mention olympic sports and women's sports.
BOYS! CLIMBING ROPES!
Question: I am pessimistic about your negotiations with Comcast considering their history w
ith sports networks, i.e. a long delay to add FSN Detroit HD, moving ESPN Classic to digital, moving NFLN to the sports tier, not including ESPNU and CSTV in the sports tier, etc. Why should I be optimistic?
Posted By: James from Detroit, MI
5/24/2007 12:22:15 PM
Mark Silverman - Big Ten Network President's Response: we think the big ten network has a unique appeal that doesn't compare with other networks. we have over 40 cable deals agreed to on terms that we think are fair and reasonable and we believe we will continue striking agreements as we continue.
What is the possibility Time Warner Cable will carry The BTN? We have not had much success getting them to carry NFL Network, so I have concerns they won't carry the BTN either.
we have had very productive conversations with time warner and all cable/satellite providers.
Myself and a lot of friends have Dish Network. We are die hard Illinois Fans and we want to be able to see all the games. how close is Dish Network to signing the Big Ten Network?
we have had productive conversations with dish network.
Well, all my concerns have been assuaged.
This has disaster written all over it. When the Big Ten Network was announced, I thought it was a great idea given the following assumptions:
- The existing ESPN-ABC setup, which is very kind to the Big Ten, would remain untouched.
- Football on the network would restricted to Michigan State-Indiana, Illinois-Northwestern, and the like, giving those mediocre games a place to go other than ESPN+ syndication.
- The network would, like, you know, be available.
In an outburst of stunning hubris, the Big Ten has horned in on the ESPN distribution, in some weeks grabbing the second-best game available, guaranteed that every team is exiled to purgatory at least twice, and made demands not even the NFL could pull off. Even basketball coverage will get hurt if they maintain their exclusivity and don't get on basic cable, as ESPN+ syndication that got those games on locally will evaporate.
There's still time for the BTN to find itself on cable providers. And as long as I get it, even on a digital tier, I'm fine with that. But if it is relegated to the CSTV/ESPNU land of satellite-only access, there will be a conniption fit here and across the Big Ten region, and it will be deserved. Silverman's vague claims of productivity and "40 cable providers" seem intentionally misleading, which makes me think that things are going poorly. Snyder's breathless praise of Silverman's "patience" -- not a virtue in this situation -- makes me think things have reached an impasse and that the public rhetoric is changing in preparation for an August controversy.
It's times like these I wish we were all Arkansas fans, because nobody screws with Arkansas fans without some sweet pig justice coming the other way. Heck, you can get to the SEC championship game and still receive sweet pig justice. They're itching to dispense it. If we were Arkansas fans, Jim Delaney would be hiding out in an Afghani cave and Mark Silverman would be a quivering hobo trying to trade sneaky rhetoric for booze. Also we would be really into fishing, if my one brief visit to a Natural State gas station/restaurant/fishing supply store is any indication. But wouldn't have to deal with this.
Big Ten fretwork. A helpful commenter pointed out an interesting thread on the Big Ten Network taking place at USCHO. There are conflicting accounts about how well channel availability is going. One guy claims to be an insider...
Had a meeting with Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman last night.
...and says things are going swimmingly...
You'll be surprised as to how widespread the network is going to be. Their affiliate sales are going really well, and MANY cable systems are picking up the channel. With over 4 million Big Ten alumni in the country, there is an actual demand for this channel.
though they're on the down low at the moment:
And to answer your questions...
1. None have announced, MANY have agreed. (Thank Fox for pre-existing distribution channels and relationships)
2. Most likely digital for the time being, with a possibility of Big Ten markets having it on basic. (for example, digital in New York City and basic in Lafayette, Indiana)
Unfortunately, someone called up the Big Ten Network and got cold water thrown on them:
I had a long talk with a person at the BTN yesterday. She even went as far as to get some more information and call me back.
None of what I heard was very good. I can't have a dish where I live -- her answer was go to a sports bar when you want to watch something! I have over $5000 invested in my TV system and I am supposed to go to a smoky sports bar
I have been told by TW of SC that they have no interest in putting the BTN on its service.
She told me that a non league football game might be on ESPN Game Plan, but it would have to be an away game for the BT team. She said that ABC will still do splint regional broadcasts and the BT game SHOULD be on ESPN or the Duce. However the Big 12 just got an agreement with ESPN to show football on Saturday nights. Same deal for basketball as it pertains to Full court.
... She inferred to me that TW really has no interest in the BTN unless it is in the BT "footprint"
TW = Time Warner. SC = ??? Southern California? South Carolina?
The initial thought in my head is that the guy who's meeting with the network president gets told a lot of cheerful things to keep morale up that may or may not be true. Given the struggles ESPNU, CSTV, and the NFL Network have had I can't imagine a regional sports network with little in the way of compelling programming (wooo Indiana-Minnesota!) demanding 50% more than the freakin' NFL is going to get anywhere. The only question is how viciously the network plays hardball and how badly out of market fans get jacked up. Michigan is unlikely to be affected since even their games against conference dregs usually end up somewhere on the ABC sports hydra; State, on the other hand...
Public opinion, if the internet is any indication, is quickly turning against the BTN. When it was announced I had a chat with Orson about it; in said chat Orson put on his Oliver Stone hat and envisioned the Big Ten cutting off national access to Big Ten sports in favor of a regional ghetto high in the 200s no one gets or watches. I haughtily dismissed his concerns as far fetched. No one would be that stupid, right? Well, we are talking about a conference whose commissioner thought it a good idea to call SEC teams unscrupulous puppy killers in public after his two premiere teams had just been waxed unmercifully. So, yeah. The Big Ten might be that stupid. All I know is that if I am wandering into a sports bar this year to watch anything other than hockey, the conference has gotten too big for its britches and Jim Delaney should be shot into the sun.
Three three three. Beilein must have had a press conference or something, because a week after the proposed change in the three point line became public knowledge the Ann Arbor News, Free Press, Detroit News, and Daily all have articles on it. The News breaks out a useful graphic:
I've been in favor of moving the line back for a long time. See this post from last February:
A quick glance at Big Ten Wonk's statistics reveals that over a third (34.3%) of all shots launched in the Big Ten are (high-variance, probably ill-chosen) threes. By comparison, fewer than 20% of shots in the NBA are three-pointers. No doubt there are a multitude of reasons for this--lack of dudes like Lebron or Kobe who can drive with impunity, the tendency of college teams to pack the lane--but foremost among them is the three point line, which is almost close enough to make any two-point shot a bad one. Let's leave the kiddie line in high schools and obsolete the term "NBA three." Please.
So I'm happy about the change, though I'm less happy than I would be if we hadn't just hired a coach who loves to shoot the three. Beilein was tacitly against the change when asked:
"I'm an if it's not broken, don't fix it type of guy," Beilein said. "But most of my contemporaries felt this was a good move, and it wasn't a battle that I needed to win. ... We can adapt -- there is no question about it."
Many of Beilein's drills already involve shooting from a variety of distances, so the likely change may not be a major disruption. He also insisted Wednesday that the perception that his team relies primarily on the three-pointer is overblown.
"Absolutely," he said. "We've had games where we didn't shoot that many threes and we drove the ball and back-doored and scored most of our baskets inside -- far more baskets inside the arc.
"We mix it up pretty much. We try and do what the best way to win would be."
Though I am so totally in love with him, this is spin. It's clear the college three-point line was broken. When over a third of your shots are threes, something's wrong. Also, though Beilein attempts to downplay the importance of the three in his offense, Kenpom calls him a liar. (Perhaps this is not fair to Kenpom. Fine: reality calls him a liar.)
The last two years approximately half of West Virginia's field goal attempts have been threes. Michigan will be hurt more than most other teams by the change; Beilein will either have to adapt his styl
e to take fewer or live with lower percentages. I think there's evidence he's willing to do the former. In discussions of the 1-3-1 zone he's implied strongly that he's not married to any one particular style of play. As a guy who's dragged himself up through the coaching ranks he's had to be flexible and innovative; one way to do this was to attack a failing in the rules by jacking up all sorts of threes. If that's less broken he'll exploit it less.
To be fair, Beilein does have a point about the sorts of threes his team takes: many aren't exactly toes on the line. He has his kids practice from the NBA line and in the game many of the shots from the outside are from the outside, a foot or three behind the existing line. The Daily:
Beilein said he didn't think the new line would make much of a difference anyway, even when first implemented. He said many players already shoot from the new distance, and some even shoot better from farther out because they have a better follow through on those shots.
Beilein already uses the NBA 3-point line in practices to help ensure his players don't get locked into shooting from only a few spots. And he said he would gradually adjust to using the new distance, but won't worry about it until after next season.
Bottom line: expect a negative effect but I don't think it will be pronounced.