at least it's not just us?
Is this inane or brilliant? Like all the best newspaper headlines, I can't tell if this News editor is serious or making a terribly sly joke:
New names add flair to Big Ten for next season
Flair you say?
The awful periwinkle logo does look like it belongs on a button that says "my other car is the incorrect belief I have a sense of humor."
Oddly, multiple readers have emailed to inform that the agency who put together this debacle is "highly respected." I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around a marketing firm named "Pentagram," which seems deliberately mom-terrifying and reminds me of Dan Akroyd in goat leggings and generally seems like a thing you should avoid if you don't want to give off the wrong impression.
Meanwhile, the public loves it:
According to an unscientific poll on ChicagoTribune.com, 6 percent believe Legends and Leaders "represent what the Big Ten is all about," and 94 percent say, "You have to be kidding … is this the best they can do?"
Similarly, 93 percent of those responding to a midwestsportsfans.com poll voted for either "terrible" or "it makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon." Others opted for "awesome" (2 percent) or "indifferent" (5 percent).
94%! You can't get 94% of people to condemn murdering six year olds these days. In two weeks all FAIL pictures on the internet will have been mysteriously replaced by images of Jim Delany.
The count. They announced 113,411 at the Big Chill by adding up every single person who was there and counting Red Berenson as six because obviously, but when Guinness sits down to actually put a number in the book it will be considerably smaller than that because they take a more restrictive view on what counts as a spectator:
The school counts players, media and others at the game to work. Guinness doesn’t count any of those people.
"It's a combination of scans with the barcodes on tickets," Janela said, explaining how Guinness reaches its number. "It's not for tickets sold but for people who actually show up. People who weren’t ticketed, marching band for instance, or people who were given special passes."
Media and players, he said, do not count in the numbers because they are not actually spectators of the game.
UPDATE: Wow. Guinness says the actual count was 85,451, which seems low.
Also from that article, a ref skated over to the Michigan bench after the Wohlberg extra-point celebration and said any more funny business would result in a penalty and Rick Comley said it was "uncalled for." The NFL infects all.
Speaking of. A reader emails that the XP is not lost to history:
I also broke a cardinal rule of game columns by not checking my feed before posting, so I missed an extensive WH highlight package:
Casteel Watch. Jeff Casteel remains the most plausible defensive coordinator candidate out there, having established a level of performance with the 3-3-5 that's become as impressive as Rodriguez's WVU offenses were. That level is "really impressive… for the Big East." Even with that BE caveat, WVU's defense is #1 in FEI this year and equally impressive in conventional metrics. The three years before this they were 33rd, 28th, and 8th. I'd be willing to roll with Rodriguez again if the band got back together.
Unfortunately, after two swings and misses the chances of that are miniscule unless Bill Stewart whittles on down that road. Fortunately, there are machinations afoot in Morgantown, with Oklahoma State OC Dana Holgorsen heavily rumored to be taking the job after Stewart coaches the bowl game*. Though a Smoking Musket rumor that Stewart was out was refuted on the twitters by multiple players, actual newspapers are saying that may be a matter of timing:
Sources confirmed today that a high-ranking official from West Virginia's athletic department has been in contact with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen about the head coaching position at West Virginia, even as there is no vacancy. …
A source confirmed it is probable Stewart will be fired if West Virginia does not win that bowl game, and could happen regardless of the outcome. A win in the bowl game would give the Mountaineers a 10-win season.
It's possible Holgorsen would look at the defensive side of the ball and decide that he shouldn't fix what isn't broken but the chances of landing Casteel go from zero to non-zero if Stewart gets the boot. Let's hope NC State wins 3-0.
UDPATE: Newspaper type folk are reporting that Holgorsen is in as OC/coach in waiting and will replace Stewart after next year without touching the defensive coaching staff. Dangit.
*(Is it just me or are there an inordinate number of coaches in limbo this year? Usually it's fire and forget immediately after the regular season, but this year the coaching carousel has a number of schools half in, half out.)
Darius as mini-Denard part two. Way back on Friday Michigan dismantled Utah in an 11-point game that wasn't really as close as that, and people are beginning to pick up on Darius Morris's leap forward. Someone was asking about surprise teams on the most recent Big Ten conference call and both Tom Crean and Matt Painter cited Michigan, with Painter specficially mentioning Morris as the reason. Big Ten Geeks:
Darius Morris led the way with 19 points to go with 10 assists, and it’s hard to ignore his play so far this season. A role player last year, Morris has become much more assertive in running the offense. This is actually somewhat of an exception--role players don’t suddenly start consuming possessions over an offseason in general--but one should keep in mind that with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims monopolizing the offense last season, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Morris. It’s been a different story in his sophomore season, as Morris is quickly becoming one of the Big Ten’s best floor generals. He’s shooting an amazing (for a 6-4 guard) 61 percent from 2-point range, along with one of the best assist rates in the country.
At times in the Utah game the problem with the offense seemed to be Morris's lack of assertiveness—most of Michigan's worst possessions saw him with limited time on the ball.
If Morris is shooting 61% from two he's probably not shooting enough, which is an interesting problem to have. Last year Manny Harris was sucking up 30% of Michigan's possessions while shooting 48% inside the three-point line. The rest of the team shot at a higher clip, and while that was because Harris drew so much attention I often felt like the team would have been better if the shots were more evenly distributed.
This year Morris is killing people; the rest of the team is doing well but can't keep up. Major SOS caveats apply, but I think I'd like to see Morris try to get a few more shots off per game. A complicating factor is Morris's assist rate, which is fifth nationally—a major reason he's not getting off more shots is he's turning Jordan Morgan into a 61% shooter, too.
Speaking of Morgan, he bounced back from a couple of rough outings with solid, annoying post defense against Utah's bigs, who are very big indeed. UMHoops grabbed a sequence in which he took a couple offensive fouls:
I wish they'd also clipped the possession before that, in which Morgan went to war with Foster for the duration of the possession and eventually got an elbow to the head for his troubles. The ref let that go but was looking for any funny stuff on the next trip and got it when a pissed-off Foster barged into him. Foster's not any good offensively—his usage rate is an amazing 8.9%—but he also did a good job on Washburn, and this year I think all we're looking for out of Morgan is holding his own against the mediocre and beating the bad.
Morgan drew a third charge with help defense later, but since he was 1) moving and 2) directly underneath the basket in the pretend no-charge circle the NCAA instituted last year that was positive reinforcement of a negative play Michigan got lucky on.
OH SO TINGLY. I may not be a fan of Michigan Stadium hosting dancing curly fries but some of the things Dave Brandon is plotting are major compensations:
Q: You also have talked about new scoreboards for Michigan Stadium. Your vision is not Cowboys Stadium huge, but pretty huge?
A: Pretty huge. If you picture the size of those (current) scoreboards and maybe something that's 30 percent larger, 40 percent larger, but then the entire surface or at least the vast majority of the surface would be video screen. I think those scoreboards look wimpy now with this structure and then the fact the HD video portion is only about a third of the surface. We can't do what our fans want us to do in terms of showing them really high-resolution replays, game action and even a lot of the marketing stuff we're doing with videos and pre-game and halftime shows — these screens are just not acceptable. This is very old technology, and they don't look very good, either. Think 30 or 40 percent larger and think big-image area for high-definition resolution screens. I think our fans will love it.
If you have never been to a stadium with video boards that size, it's a massive difference. It is Brandon's "hope" they are in for 2011. Brandon also re-iterates that advertising for the Big Chill does not presage advertising during football games. That's part of an extensive interview with Angelique Chengelis, BTW, that you should check out.
Time to go. The Only Colors takes an unprecedented step for them and calls for the replacement of Rick Comley as Michigan State's head coach. Despite how much I've been enjoying this stretch in MSU hockey, I'm with them. This is the third straight year they'll miss the tourney and the second time in three years they're virtually indistinguishable from Bowling Green, a school that's considering dropping their program. This year is like Rich Rodriguez having another 3-9 year two years after his first, and while Comley does have a fluke national title that sort of thing shouldn't be survivable at a program like MSU.
Etc.: Doc Sat points out how weird it is that awards lists are featuring Denard Robinson as something other than a quarterback when they were fine with Eric Crouch, et al, as QBs. Robinson completed 60% of his passes… what more do you need? Basketball takes on North Carolina Central at 7 this evening.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Utah|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
6:30 PM EST
December 10th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan -8*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
These two teams squared off last year in Salt Lake City, with the Utes emerging victorious in an ugly 68-52 contest. Both of these teams have changed a lot in the year (exactly!) since that game, however. If it were to be played again with only current players' scores counting, the final score would be 16-15 in favor of the Wolverines. Yay! WE WON!
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were Michigan's only double-digit scorers in that game with 25 points and 10 points, respectively, and neither suits up in maize and blue anymore. Zack Gibson, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Anthony Wright all played at least 10 minutes in that contest, and aren't in Ann Arbor anymore. Even Eric Puls and Ben Cronin(!) got playing time in that game, and are no longer playing basketball. On the positive side of the ledger, Zack Novak had the flu and didn't travel. Darius Morris, Stu Douglass, Eso Akunne, and Matt Vogrich are the only players still on the team from that game.
The Utes have experienced similar turnover, though maybe not to such an alarming degree. Marshall Henderson (22) Carlon Brown (12), Luka Drca (12), and David Foster (10) were the leading scorers in that game, and only David Foster "my name distinctly lacks a Wallace" returns as a defensive specialist. Among other departures for Utah are Kim Tillie and Jordan Cyphers.
The players to watch for Utah are junior forward Will Clyburn, a Detroit native who's the team's leader in shooting and 3-point attempts, junior guard Josh Watkins and his older brother, senior forward Jay, and sophomore center Jason Washburn, a 7-footer who leads the team in blocks and is one of the top rebounders.
With a few games under each team's respective belts [Ed-M: ours is the one without the obnoxious buckle], it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Utah Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UU Def eFG%||145||68||U|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UU eFG%||23||228||MMM|
|Mich TO% v. UU Def TO%||114||191||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. UU TO%||247||118||UU|
|Mich OReb% v. UU DReb%||144||167||M|
|Mich DReb% v. UU OReb%||17||241||MMM|
|Mich FTR v. UU Opp FTR||316||268||U|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UU FTR||10||8||-|
|Mich AdjO v. UU AdjD||119||78||U|
|Mich AdjD v. UU AdjO||39||162||MM|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The Wolverines, with their personnel turnover, are a very different team than we saw last year. They've displayed some competency shooting the ball(!!!!), and have gone from a very bad rebounding team to a solidly above-average one. In the meantime, the Utes have gone in the opposite direction in each of those metrics, and have also gotten much worse in opponents' shooting.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, though. The Utes are yet again one of the tallest teams in the country, with an average height just over 6-6. Teams with size gave Michigan a host of troubles last year, but now... well, the maize-and-blue has a bit of height of their own. Adding a 6-6 small forward, a pair of centers with legit size, and a couple power forwards that aren't (very) generously listed at 6-5 can work wonders.
The one thing the 2010-11 Utes truly do well is get to the free-throw line, which is unsurprising given their size. However, they've played a motley crew of tiny opponents (and an oddly well-sized but horrible Pepperdine team), and Michigan should have the best combination of size and skill they've seen.
The factors that have the greatest effect on their efficiencies are shooting on offense (which is a huge advantage for Michigan) and offensive turnover percentage (a big advantage for the Utes).
Utah hasn't played a team with both the size and skill of Michigan, which should give them trouble. However, Jordan Morgan struggled against Concordia (which, you may note, is an NAIA school that started a 6-5 center), so expect Utah to get some production on the interior, and frustrate Morgan at times.
However, I think Michigan's letdown game against the Cardinals will serve as a serious wakeup call that they can't sleepwalk through any game, so they'll have a renewed focus against the Utes. That means a snap back to form for Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz, with Darius Morris continuing his run of strong play.
Chances to look stupid:
Tim Hardaway Jr. or Jordan Morgan becomes the first Wolverine to foul out this season. Darius Morris records his third double-double of the year. Zack Novak puts together a solid game statisticaly to make up for missing last year's contest. Both teams trade some blows, but at the end of the day, I see a 70-58 game in favor of the Wolverines.
College Cup! Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which upset #2 seed Maryland 3-2 with their second golden goal of the NCAA tournament to advance to their first-ever College Cup. That's amazingly-named freshman Fabio Pereira Villas Boas about to slot home the winner above. He is from Brazil. Of course he his. Michigan survived a 33-18 shot deficit, surging from 1-0 down to 2-1 ahead before conceding a late equalizer and setting up the above moment. I wish I could have seen it.
Television beckons, albeit at odd hours: Michigan takes on Akron at 11 PM Friday*. The other semi is #1 Louisville vs #4 North Carolina and is at 8:30. All the information you could possibly need about watching or attending has been compiled by I Blue Myself.
It will be tough for Michigan. They're the only lower-seeded team to make the final four in a chalky tournament and are taking on the team that destroyed them 7-1 earlier this year. I'm not sure if these guys are still around but last year the US took a youth international team to the Milk Cup and literally every Akron starting defender made the team and I think three of them started. The Zips survived penalty kicks to advance against Cal in a 3-3 game but have lost just once this year and are 20-1-2.
We will deploy a liveblog Friday night to track the game. BONUS: Photos and game story from the Daily.
*(This is the correct day this time. I did not check my email and found out the soccer game was Saturday literally as I sat down at Crisler.)
Jimmy Johnson approves, and if you get this reference you watch too much television at odd hours and have no excuse about not watching the soccer game. Amongst the many events of the weekend was the Attack Of The Futile Contract Extensions at Stanford and—for some reason this keeps getting brought up on Michigan boards—San Diego State. SDSU's Brady Hoke signed a five year extension after turning the Aztecs into an okay Mountain West program. Jim Harbaugh has had the moon and stars put on a plate by the Stanford AD.
These are for show, conveniently timed so that no one can FOIA the contracts and find out the buyout provisions that really establish how much of a commitment is being made both ways. Stanford's a private institution and isn't vulnerable to the FOIA either but still, if Harbaugh sticks around it's not going to be because of anything the Stanford AD can offer but chooses not to. FWIW, the Stanford AD said this:
Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has made a pre-emptive offer to sweeten Jim Harbaugh's contract before the coach even gets offered other jobs.
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future."
It is Harbaugh or bust for people hoping to replace Rodriguez this offseason—Michigan's playing the other hot coaching name of the offseason in the bowl game, and past Dan Mullen the pickings are slim as long as the guys at mid-major powers are hanging onto their jobs with a death grip.
Speaking of the bit about being at Crisler. Aside from the ten minute stretch where Michigan literally did not score for two commercial breaks and watched Harvard go on a 17-3 run, that was fun. Unfortunately, ten minutes is a quarter of a basketball game. Various small items:
- Michigan spent the entire game in man to man and never offered help to the guy checking Harvard's elbow-happy but extremely effective center, even when that guy was Evan Smotrycz. He blew up. I was a little peeved by the lack of adjustment there. I may have to take back my thing about how Morgan is a really good defender. He got worked multiple times; now I'm guessing that Clemson's big guys aren't very good and Morgan will have a more conventional baptism by fire as a freshman. McLimans did have a sweet block.
- Stu! UMHoops points out he's now at 48% on the season from three.
- Vogrich makes me cringe every time he puts the ball on the floor but at least he nailed both of his wide open looks.
- The offense stood in contrast to the post defense, as they struggled mightily through the first half and then found a barrage of backdoor cuts and sweet assists in the second half. It seemed like Beilein knew what Harvard was doing and how to attack it but couldn't get the team to respond until he had 15 minutes to explain it to his young team. Michigan responded with an eFG of 69% in the second half and that could have been better if Michigan hadn't missed about four layups.
- The short/homely referees are always the bad ones. They got into refereeing because the quickest way to get revenge on the universe is to annoy thousands of people packed in one place. It's always the ugly guys.
- The game did not set a record for most missed wide open corner threes, but it sure seemed headed that way after ten minutes.
- I do not miss Manny Harris at all. He was great and all that but watching him play was frustrating. His junior year reminded me of Al Montoya's. Both were supremely talented but checked out mentally because they wanted to play for dollars and made a mistake by returning. Montoya was a mess; Harris got suspended for something or other in practice and never met a lazy three pointer he didn't like en route to another year with impressive numbers as long as you don't look at the eFG%.
This team is probably going to be as good as last year's—let that sink in.
Also, let me express my special frustration at Tommy Amaker, who waited until he left Michigan to become a controversial but effective recruiter (for the Ivy League, anyway) and tactical wizard. Beilein:
“Tommy (Amaker) just took us out of everything,” Beilein said. “We had to put in a lot of specials. I watched the film, painfully, from three years ago when we played them and they had a similar attack defensively. So we had to do some different things.
“Not that all of it worked.”
Rest assured that if Rodriguez does get let go he'll go to Clemson and wreck fools.
UMHoops also has a new post type featuring key plays. Here's one that demonstrates the difference between Morris 2009 and Morris 2010:
As he continues to develop he should start asserting more authority over the offense. With Amaker's tactical wizardry stalling out the offense for big chunks of the first half he should have taken more control.
Icon. Charles Woodson's Big Ten Icons bit:
Continued in part two.
Higher than him on the list are Some Person You've Never Heard Of and various Penn State Players Who Never Played In The Big Ten, but whatever.
It makes sense. The Big Ten announced it is not going to put together a silly 14 or 16 team super conference and is set at 12. Hurray. For one last bout of madness: a theory. The WAC and Mountain West should be one conference with two divisions that uses promotion and relegation in the hopes the top conference can get a BCS bid.
Etc.: You can cease your theories about January first being a magic day that saves the U a million and a half hypothetical Rodriguez buyout dollars. Michigan has to provide "30 days written notice" if they make a move. I'm with MVictors anyway: that's chump change in the scheme of things. Michigan learned the hard way last time that doing the usual legal settlement dance causes local columnists to freak out unless John Beilein is involved.