in town for free camps
|What:||Softball in Game 1 of the Championship (best of 3) Series|
|When:||Tonight, 8 ET|
|Where to watch:||ESPN2 or WatchESPN|
|Line:||There are two, one down each foul line. What?|
Preview: Florida is good at softball. They won the national championship last year, beat Michigan 2-1 at the start of this season when Michigan was mercy-ing everyone else, and rolled through the rest. They were the #1 seed with gusto, and beat Tennessee and LSU by a combined 11-2 before having some difficulty dispatching rival-like-thing Auburn 3-2 in extra innings. Like Michigan they are mentally tough as nails.
Lauren Haeger is their pitcher and if you put her on any team they might be where Florida is. She beat out the greatest player in Michigan softball history for the player of the year award and might have deserved to. If Sierra Romero is Miguel Cabrera: softball edition, Haeger is Babe Ruth if Ruth pitched every day. She had a .678 slugging and a 1.24 ERA, averaging a strikeout per inning. I don't have to show you a photo; if you tune in your lizard instincts will immediately recognize the threat.
Ringing the Bell
We also say adieu to baseball. I have two fandoms that predate memory: Tigers and Michigan football. I got on the Red Wings bandwagon about the time Cheveldae was the hot backup we all wanted to start, and Michigan basketball with the '89 run, trading that in for hockey when I got to college because 1998-2002 duh. Pistons were and remain a team I'm into when they're good—other than that I keep myself conversant on Steph Curry etc. because America cares. I keep a peripheral knowledge of other things in case something beeps.
Last month Michigan Baseball beeped.
An average team in a suddenly average league this year, Michigan was out of the bubble unless it could sweep its way into an auto-bid through the Big Ten tourney. This they did, taking out then #4 Illinois in the third of a four-game tournament.
If the alarm made an intelligible sound it was "Carmen Benedetti", Michigan's own Ruth-like object, though he only pitched 14 innings (and tallied 23 strikeouts in them). Benedetti hit .352 and led the team in power numbers from 1st base.
I'd like it if someone else wrote the epitaph on this team because I missed most of the fun; this week I watched the two Louisville games and missed the two against Bradley. L'ville was the host team so I got to see Michigan lose while getting boo'ed. They looked likely to steal the first one until the last inning when right fielder Johnny Slater dove to catch a foul ball with less than two outs and the game-winer ready to tag from 3rd. The second game was a blowout.
Bakich has them headed in the right direction and this year was certainly a step that way. It may have been the tourney taste that basketball got when they surprised Clemson then ran at Blake Griffin until Blake Griffin was like "you are Zak Novak!" If you look at the Wikipedia entry for Beilein's first team it's short and mentions Manny Harris. If you look at the second one there are individual game recaps and memes like "Queme los Barcos!" This team felt like that team.
Softball recap: You were alive for this.
I didn't get into Michigan softball until it was nearly too late—the summer after graduation while I was still hanging around Ann Arbor and umpiring the IM level of it. That was the Marissa Young team, with a young Jessica Merchant and Nicole Motycka on it. Young was the draw; you knew when watching her that you were seeing one of the greats. She'd do things like pitch a no-hitter in the first frame of a double-header, then hit two home runs in the second game.
It was so much fun. Unless you were around for the 19-teens or shortly thereafter (i.e you are Craig Ross) you have no idea how much of a blast it is to go to a ballpark and defy every somber convention baseball's built up since. They would sing at bat music for each other. They would hurl insults at the other bench. They had pepper cheers and everyone came out to greet home runs. Nobody knew what the limit could be so everyone showed up for the Big Ten championship game with MSU; they lost it.
Two years ago they adopted a kid. Not legal-adopted—they just had a little girl they adored so they put her on the team. That was the team with Wagner and Driesenga, and the more raw versions of this team's stars. It wasn't like they went away in the interim—Michigan softball has been an elite program for longer than I've followed it; Hutchins was an heir apparent assistant here when Harbaugh was the quarterback. But again you got that otherworldly talent vibe, especially from Wagner. Megan Betsa's commitment was a huge deal.
The Year of the Pizza
Like before, this team has been building over years and picked up fans in its swell. It has the pizza theme and Sierra Romero (and she has another year!) already puts Denard out of the conversation for greatest Michigan athlete of the decade. It marches to the beat, literally—she starts a beat and they all dance to it—of Lauren Sweet, the most catcher catcher in the history of the tools of ignorance.
I dunno do you really need to know how they beat up on UCLA (the Duke of the sport) and a bunch of SEC powerhouses, how this 'Ship series was ordained movie-style when Michigan opened the season against all-business, defending champion Florida and got thoroughly beat despite the closeness of the score? Do you really need a narrative, or unbelievable statistics, or any of the other accoutrements we pump into sports to keep them lively when they're not? Here's the softball update: they play incredible softball with incredible irreverence. Enjoy the game.
Let's get ready to softball. Michigan's part in the Women's College World Series kicks off tonight at 7, as they take on six-seed Alabama. Michigan swept Alabama 8-2 and 4-1 earlier this year, but that was before the Tide turned to freshman Alexis Osorio to do most of their pitching. The game is on ESPN2.
Meanwhile in Louisville. Baseball takes on Bradley tomorrow in the UL regional. Michael Baumann has an excellent and concise preview at D1Baseball. On Michigan's first-round opponent:
Bradley has become the poster child for the RPI robbing traditional power conferences of spots in the tournament, as the Braves’ No. 19 RPI — which peaked at 10 — never quite felt right. Going 10-11 in the MVC — which is a good conference, but not that good — is a bad look, and along with an 11-12 record against the RPI top 100, always gave off the impression that the Braves were a paper tiger.
Bradley will need a win out of No. 1 starter Elliot Ashbeck (11-4, 3.11) in the opener against Michigan, and from there, they can try to cobble together something that gets them from the start of the game to closer Matt Dennis (3-0, 1.59, 12 saves) until it’s time to start Ashbeck again.
That sounds as enticing as possible for a 2-vs-3 matchup in which you are the lower seed.
Should Michigan get past the Braves, Louisville (presumably) presents a formidable challenge in the next round. Michigan figures to draw a pitching matchup featuring a projected first-round pick against their #2 starter, who is… not going to be a first round pick.
MLive also has a Bradley preview.
Today in things we are glad no longer warrant a post. Remember the books and the birds?
Those were deployed in annual posts poring over the worrisome state of Michigan's APR after the Carr-Rodriguez transition year saw a huge crater that threatened to drag Michigan under the red line for penalties. Those posts have officially been retired.
Michigan football recorded a perfect single-year APR score (1,000) in 2013-14 for the first time since the NCAA began monitoring the metric in 2004-05. The program's four-year rolling APR average now sits at 990, third in the Big Ten. The NCAA released the updated figures Wednesday.
Well done, Hoke and academic staff.
Meanwhile I'm growing more and more skeptical of the validity of the APR. As a number of commenters pointed out in the post on freshman ineligibility, any metric that gives Crean-era Indiana basketball a perfect score is not particularly rigorous. But it's better to be at the top of a not particularly rigorous metric than towards the bottom.
Summer camp, 1992. I wish I could bottle old Michigan replay music and have it follow me around, en-jivening my day to day.
It's about that time. Michigan basketball refrains from offering recruits until June 1st of their junior year. June first is just a few days away… and nobody seems to know who is on the list. Or if there is even a list.
Michigan has just two certain spots in the class of 2017—those from the departures of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. They are aiming for a point guard in 2016. Assuming they get one that would fill their scholarship slots and push center commit Austin Davis to 2017 minus any attrition. That means they'd have one slot at most with almost no idea where they should use it.
For the first time in a while it seems like June 1st will pass without a solid definition of Michigan's top targets in a recruiting class. It is possible some offers will go out, and more possible still that Michigan finds some gentlemen at their annual summer camp, which is scheduled for June 6th. Here is a 2017 top 100 guy planning to attend from a long way way:
Having already landed its biggest 2016 recruit, Tyus Battle, Michigan is now setting up its wish list for 2017.
One name currently included is Greg Floyd Jr., a 6-foot-8 forward from Las Vegas.
On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Knicks, Floyd's AAU team, announced via Twitter that Floyd will visit Ann Arbor for Michigan's College Practice Camp on June 6.
Michigan may also offer NY combo guard Kevin Heurter, who is currently scheduled to be a member of the class of 2016 but has a 2017 offer from Syracuse and is very young for his class.
It's a kind of legacy. The SEC has added neutral observers to the press box to determine whether or not a player cannot continue because he has been hit very hard in the head. Get The Picture dubs this the…
The Brady Hoke Rule
Woof. On the other hand, APR?
I wonder how Dantonio will get mad about this. This is clearly not trolling. It is the opposite of trolling.
"We know we're not the biggest guy on the block (right now)," Harbaugh said, per a live video stream recorded by The Wolverine. "Michigan State's the biggest guy on the block."
Harbaugh's comment was then met with a clap from someone in the back of the room. He acknowledged that clap, and followed it up by heaping praise on what Mark Dantonio and the Spartans have accomplished.
It is directed at Michigan State and Mark Dantonio, the man who's super power is generating offense from anything and everything. It is master trolling.
I heard you like team in your team in your team. There is a Michigan hype video narrated by the wonderfully scratchy Xzibit. Unfortunately it is not embeddable, which rather defeats the purpose of putting it on youtube. But at least it's on youtube instead of Michigan's terrible proprietary player?
(Woof on the writing, though. Lou Avery's generic organizational slogans of the week. You probably paid someone to do that. I will do this for free, Michigan. It is already my job.)
More like Steve Albrecht. Someone asked Steve Nash about Spike and comparisons made between the two during a reddit AMA:
"He's a good young player — flattered."
That's dang right.
Etc.: Journalism! Science! Maybe he just likes peeing in condoms. Hooray money, I guess. SEC complaining is the sweetest complaining. Matt Hinton is relevant to your interests: how to build an offensive line. Jabrill Peppers probably not staying five years. Quinn on Battle. Quinn on… Battle.
Hey: tournaments. Softball making the postseason is a given, and even the CWS is kind of expected when they're having a good year. Baseball not so much, but they played themselves in off the bubble. So here we are with an unusually busy late May sports weekend.
Softball's opener is against Alabama on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Alabama's 47-13, the #6 overall seed, and one of five(!) SEC teams to make it. All eight national seeds made it to the CWS because softball is way more predictable than baseball. if they win that they will play on Friday at 10:30; if they lose they'll be in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30.
Baseball kicks off its regional against two-seed Bradley at 2 on Friday. That game is only available on ESPN3; Louisville is the top seed and host. Let's find out about Bradley!
"We don't know anything about Bradley, so we are going in with a blindfold on," Cronenworth said.
Let's have a DB transfer key party. Just days after the Moncrief kerfuffle, Blake Countess announces he'll spend his final year at Auburn. Excellent pickup if you're going to play a lot of zone, but this is the important part.
Auburn will have a Duke, Prince, Queen, King, President and a Countess on the roster in 2015. http://t.co/aiTFaHhPn0
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 26, 2015
So they've got that going for them.
The Big Ten floated the “year of readiness” plan mostly as a ploy to get people focused on discussing more academic and student-welfare issues, or what Glass called “less controversial and more doable” reforms.
Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.
Unfortunately, Jim Delany isn't accountable to anyone. Jim Delany could walk around pooping big scarlet Rs on Big Ten fans and it wouldn't impact his job security. He could jump on the hood of a car and fire 17 scarlet Rs at unarmed passengers and get acquitted. Nationwide bro got future endeavored.
“Matt accomplished a great deal during his time at Nationwide and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.
No such luck for the Big Ten's partisans.
Camp Sanderson yoke up of the year. Can't be summer on a Michigan blog without a picture of a basketball player who has put on an impressive amount of muscle. Memorial Day has just passed, so:
— D.J. Wilson (@Lanky_Smoove) May 21, 2015
That is a big leap, one that should help him a lot as he gets drafted into playing some center this year.
“Once you start your senior year of high school, you should be able to sign at any time,” Johnson said. “The schools have their 85 scholarships, and you can sign no more than 25 in a year. When you sign your limit, you’re through. If you sign a kid and he doesn’t qualify, you lose it for that year. We put the onus back on the kids with better grades and better students, and we stop all the craziness of the hat shows, soft commits, decommits and all that.”
You can't stop a hat show, but he's right on about that. My blue sky version of that goes slightly farther:
- players can sign a non-binding LOI whenever they want
- this LOI commits the school to offering a slot in their class
- the kid can withdraw it at any time until Signing Day
- he can only visit the school he committed to, he has unlimited contact with that school, and other coaches can't call him
It's a bad idea to lock people into commitments before the coaching carousel stops moving in mid-January, but that system gives both schools and players incentives to be up front with each other. Johnson:
“If a kid said he was committed, you hand him the papers. If he didn’t sign, you knew he wasn’t committed. The same thing on the schools. If the kid went in, and they said, ‘You’ve got an offer,’ and the kid wants to sign, (he’d) call their bluff as well."
As GTP says, hard to argue with that logic.
A bit on Hibbitts. I wonder if Michigan went with preferred walk-on Brent Hibbitts over Max Bielfeldt with their last scholarship this year. Once they missed on Jaylen Brown it seemed like they had a spot to keep a guy who is drawing interest from Nebraska and Indiana. Bielfeldt told reporters he would like to stay but that wasn't happening. Illogical, captain.
But then Michigan gets a 6'8" stretch four with mid-major offers. If Michigan thinks they could develop Hibbitts into a player given some time—and their track record is impressive in that department—and they need a carrot, guaranteeing him a scholarship for his first year isn't a bad one.
Etc.: John Calipari has goals man. Harbaugh regret in San Francisco. There are more quarterbacks now. Excellent outside zone primer from James Light. Highly recommend the first comment. Stauskas comes back for the summer. Dawkins and Donnal evaluated.
Michigan baseball wins a tense Big Ten championship game against Maryland 4-3 and punches their ticket for the NCAA tournament.
..and you can't have one without the other…
Congrats to the team, who went 4-0 in the tourney to go from the bubble to in. College baseball should not be played at MLB parks.
you asked for it
"Soon he will start appearing in historically significant photos and no one will remember that he was not, in fact, present."
Harbaugh put his Jim Harbaugh on the Declaration of Independence, and war was avoided. The British decided to do anything else at all; Harbaugh was forced to invent the game of baseball so he could play it with himself.
Shot clock effect on upsets.
Given that lowering the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds had little to no effect in the NIT, and that we can expect the same for a full season, I wonder if a side effect of the change might be fewer upsets. While efficiency might not change, the number of possessions will. I would think that with more possessions the better team is likely to win, because more possessions mean less randomness and greater reversion to the mean overall.
Give EMU 50 possessions against Michigan vs. 100 possessions against Michigan, and I would think that they would have a better chance to win with 50 possessions than 100. Could the 30 second shot clock actually make March Madness less maddening by reducing upsets? Thoughts?
-A slightly amused reader who still hopes for upsets
I think that's correct. I still remember that game back in the Amaker era when Illinois was at their apex and Michigan was rolling out Dion Harris and walk-ons named Dani. Michigan's strategy was to run the clock down without running offense and have Harris take a contested shot—the most Amaker strategy ever—and it worked for a while.
Anything that increases the number of trials without making those trials significantly less reliable indicators of talent should reduce upsets. It should be a real effect, but it might be so small as to not be reliably measurable. Maybe Kenpom will address it once he's got a big ol' bag of data.
I have gotten a lot of questions/assertions about the 30 second shot clock—far more than I think the change warrants. The differences are going to be minor. The median NCAA team saw only 10.7% of its shots go up in the period of time just erased. Some of that time can be reclaimed by being more urgent about getting the ball up the floor. (For example, the NBA's back court violation is an eight second call, not a ten second call.) The net impact is likely to be less wasted time and approximately equal efficiency. That's a good change for the game.
More on shot clock
I don’t believe this will affect the quality of shots as much as it will affect substitutions…
On a number of occasions I watched several teams, Wisconsin and Michigan included, essentially ‘waste’ at least 5 seconds tossing the ball back and forth outside the 3 point arc without any other movement. Case could be made this was simply being used to offer the players a short rest on offense, meaning that the top players likely play longer before substitution.
This may mean that teams with deep and talented benches gain an advantage…so the question may become whether it is the team with the best starters or the team with the best top 9 that wins.
-Howard [ed: a basketball referee]
There's another effect: if teams do decide to make those five seconds up by being quicker that's going to result in more pressure to get up and down the floor and more tired legs late in games. That'll be something to watch next year: does the percentage of bench minutes go up as a result?
Again: probably marginal impact but one that I would argue is unambiguously good.
[After the JUMP: another theory of baseball competitiveness, sea cucumbers.]
The most interesting man in the world, part XXXVI. Since Harbaugh's tweeting about the organic bananas Miguel grew today this seems like a good time to note that there's a 50-minute-long documentary on Harbaugh conquering South America on vimeo. I can't embed it, but, like
I hope to name something they do this fall "peruball."
Yet more complaints from the NFL. The spread is such a good offensive system that a collection of French six year olds could probably go 6-6 with it, according to Seahawks assistant Tom Cable:
“Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players — other than a receiver — that come out of these spread systems,” Cable continued. “The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”
Nobody is taught anything. You show up in college and they're just all like "put that hat on, the one with the bars on it, I think the bars go in front, hooray we just had practice."
There is nothing funnier than NFL coaches having little stomp fits that their QBs can't take a three step drop when they are making the same transition college is, just slightly slower. As of 2011, 38% of NFL snaps were from the gun. That shot up to 58%(!) by 2014. The NFL is going to hit the theoretical maximum by the time Tom Cable gets done talking.
Harbaugh angle on the above. It'll be interesting to see what Harbaugh does given the above environment. It's a stretch to call his Stanford offense "pro style" for a lot of reasons. It was both far more spread-friendly and far more caveman than that term implies. Andrew Luck ran his share of zone read and the Cardinal had an affection for shotgun runs on third and not quite short (IE, 3 or 4). Meanwhile they'd happily roll out a goal line formation on first and ten from their own 30.
Harbaugh was similarly extreme in both directions as an NFL coach. His first two years in San Francisco his team used fewer wide receivers per play than any other team in the league. At the same time they were introducing Colin Kaepernick as a college-ish run threat.
So the spread is dominant because people who have never seen a football can run it. At the same time you can't poke an NFL coach without that guy giving the public perception of your weird-ass offense a recruiting boost. Harbs gonna Harbs without thinking about what other people will say, of course, but I wonder if the shape of what he does is going to look significantly different than it did at Stanford.
On baseball. We had a mailbag Q that asked how Big Ten had gotten rathergood at baseball that I couldn't answer particularly well, but our former baseball writer Formerly Anonymous had an excellent comment that tackles that topic:
RPI has changed drastically to emphasize road wins. It's helped the northern teams quite a bit. As an example, the Missouri Valley conference is one of the strongest conferences in RPI this year by playing tough teams in the non-conference on the road. The top 25 in RPI includes Dallas Baptist (who I've seen and know are good), Missouri State, Radford, and Bradley. What the hell is a Radford or a Bradley?
Add that Nebraska and Maryland were two very solid adds in the last few years. The B1G has had several big wins over big name programs this year.
- Illinois has wins over Coastal Carolina, and series wins over Oklahoma State and South Florida.
- Ohio State has a signature victory over ACC leader Louisville in the midweek.
- Indiana took 2/3 from Stanford, split 2 with College of Charleston, swept Cal State Fullerton, and beat Louisville in the midweek.
- Nebraska split with Fullerton as well and swept Florida Gulf Coast.
All of those are pretty damn impressive wins.
The big kicker though is how down the Big12 is. They are looking at only having 2 tourney teams this year. Texas is way down leaving just TCU and Oklahoma State in the running. Tech has an outside shot, but its borderline. Part of that is losing Texas A&M and Mizzou (granted they added TCU after that loss). Baylor is down, Oklahoma is down. They just aren't up there at the moment.
There's some structural disadvantages yes, but the amount of money put into programs like Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, or anyone else in the B1G the last few years, the B1G is definitely showing some major improvements. We've been a 2-3 bid league for a while, we're taking advantage of a down Big12 to grab another, and our recent success in facilities/adding good teams has lead to some better recruiting.
For more in depth coverage, I suggest d1baseball.com. They've amassed every major college baseball writer I have read over the last 15 years into one site. Aaron Fitt (formerly of Baseball America), Eric Sorenson (ESPN/CBS), Kendall Rogers (Yahoo!), Mark Ethridge (SEBaseball), and Michael Baumann (Grantland) are just a few . "O.M.G., it's amazing" is probably the best way to describe it. They do regular features of different areas of the country along with national storylines.
For B1G fans, I'd suggest starting right here for a take from that site. There's also a season update from about a month ago and an early season/preseason article about how B1G has spent big on baseball.
Michigan can help out the league and their cause this weekend in an odd home series with #13 Oklahoma State that closes their season. Yesterday's game was a 12-2 hammering by the Cowboys, so Michigan probably has to win both tonight and tomorrow to give themselves even a faint chance of an at-large bid. The very idea a 14-10 Big Ten outfit would be on the fringe of the fringe of the bubble is a ton of progress.
Softballin'. Angelique Chengelis profiles Michigan catcher Lauren Sweet. The Wolverine softballists kick off their NCAA tournament tonight at 6 PM at Alumni Field. It's on ESPNU as well.
Etc.: In news that is, in retrospect, not surprising, Iowa and Tennessee drank every drop of liquor at their bowl game. Brendan Quinn joins the ranks of people who just don't want to hear about the Fab Five anymore. Bielfeldt to Nebrasketball? AFC Ann Arbor in the Daily. Haven't had a bread photoshop in a while. Point guard acquisition matrix. Against a 30-second shot clock.
Of local interest: there's a Barry Sanders charity raffle going on. You could play golf with him and discuss whether abruptly retiring from the Lions was a good idea or the best idea.