Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
HOW IS CAN DO I MAKE NAMES SWEDISHES
After months and months of leaks to the effect that the Big Ten would use the opportunity presented by their (nonsensical) expansion to ditch the current divisions and go with a straight East-West breakdown, the Big Ten… actually, wait.
"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.
A source? Didn't we just do this last month? ESPN?
ESPN.com reported last month that the divisions debate was down to whether Purdue or Indiana would go to the West. Purdue's campus is located west of Indiana's.
Yes. We did. Every Big Ten blog has a post on this today. The news: Purdue and Indiana have been situated. This came out in the middle of a surreal terrorist manhunt, and we still care. News is weird, but let's get swept away in the tide of history.
cowboys ride for free… wait, seriously, Kansas?
Anyone with a keyboard to tap at is making a Big Ten West == Big 12 North comparison, and… yeah, down to the school that'll probably be making the conference's last stand against the dual hegemony in the other division. The best team out of Iowa/Illinois*/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Purdue/Northwestern will probably be pretty good. They'll be a dog in most every championship game, but this is what happens when you expand with absolutely nothing other than the rapidly-fading cable television model in mind. More like NONsense and NONsensibility and zombies, amirite?
Meanwhile, the other division is Michigan, Ohio State, and Also Ran until such time as Penn State gets off the deck from their NCAA sanctions. Michigan State's trying to puff their chest out, but it's over for them. State's recent run of quasi-relevancy (still no BCS bowls… ever) coincided with a three-year period in which
- Michigan was busy punching itself during the brief Rodriguez era
- Ohio State was off the schedule (2009 and 2010) or having their one-year tatgate implosion.
MSU has one win over a good OSU team since 1974, and four total. While they've been a little less futile against Michigan, before the Rodriguez run their record the previous 20 years was 5-15. With Michigan and Ohio State poised for decade-plus long runs of coaching stability and recruiting dominance, there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to pick off easy wins against teams struggling to .500 records or worse. It's over.
More interesting is Rutgers. New Jersey is fertile recruiting ground. With Penn State down, eastern Pennsylvania should be easier to get into. They've been recruiting on a level commensurate with a middling Big Ten team despite being stuck in the Big East. If the financial and prestige boost from their move bumps them up a notch, they could become the most annoying ankle-biter in the division.
Penn State has to dig out, obviously, and then who knows what they're like without Joe Paterno? Early returns are good, as they managed to acquire some serious talent despite the sanctions. Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman signed up for a team with three more bowl ban years upcoming—that says something about PSU's enduring pull with Pennsylvania recruits.
They still have no chance to keep pace. They have to be down to 65 players this year and are currently on track to have a recruiting class of eight guys this year even with some attrition that's 10 to 12 players. Doom awaits. By the time they're good the Big Ten will probably be at 84 teams. Short term thinking, that's our motto.
Indiana and Maryland enjoy basketball.
*[Yeah, Illinois. Every ten years they have a good team and then implode.]
Should we be thinking long term?
The ACC is trumpeting a very long "grant of rights" deal that hypothetically locks the TV revenue from the 15 member teams—ND included minus football—to the conference they're currently in until 2027. This will save the conference unless something totally improbable happens. That thing: lawyers!
Unless a league member decides to go to litigation to escape this down the road, the ACC believes a Grant of Rights will protect it from conference realignment poachers.
Because lawyers never get involved in these things. While the GOR provides an extra hurdle, it's a deterrent designed to look super scary. Just how effective it'll be in the event of a departure is unknown. See: Maryland, currently involved in that litigation stuff over a $50 million exit fee the ACC voted in just before they left. Maryland will likely pay something less than that in a settlement.
People in charge of things are just in charge of them
Goodbye, Successories Conference.
leadership is more about not being clueless than eyebrows
Let us pour out some gasoline for our dead homie division names, and light them on fire. Burning is the most terrible way to die, but as the wisps arise from the charred notions that were "Legends" and "Leaders" it seems far too kind. If that debacle doesn't prove to you once and for all that our tendency to worship any bushy-eyebrowed dim bulb who manages to ascend to the talky bit of any enterprise is destructive, I don't know what to tell you.
Whenever someone cocks their eyebrow at you and condescendingly says that you don't have the vast amounts of information and knowledge they do about complicated geopolitical processes like conference realignment, just remember that those guys are the ones who made the conference a national laughingstock for years. They did this by doing something that was such a bad idea from the start that they promised they'd reconsider after literally every person who heard it laughed in their face.
Therefore their projections that media markets are still going to matter in 10 years…
At least there's that. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games each. It looks like there's an easy way around the unbalanced schedule issue: have all the teams in one division have four one year, five the other.
I'd rather play more Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa than any nonconference opponent you care to name save Notre Dame—RIP, ND series—so I look on this as no downside. With Michigan buying home games from the Oregon States and Cincinnatis of the world, they can have their seventh home game with a nonconference schedule that consists of one cupcake, one interesting guarantee game against a midlevel foe, and one marquee matchup. Well, most of the time. The 2016 nonconference schedule is now locked in: Hawaii, Ball State, and Colorado. Er.
Complicated solution to problem time
Time to re-iterated my desired solution for the basketball situation: everyone plays round-robin, and then the conference is split into a top seven and bottom seven, whereupon another round-robin commences. 19 total games, best overall record wins. Pros:
- Conference championship is almost entirely fair. Home-road is unbalanced in the first half, but none of this "you didn't play team X" business. The regular season championship is a really big deal right now; this would make it bigger.
- No divisions. Divisions kill the importance of the regular season title.
- The last six games for the top half are a must-see all-out war. Dude, take this year's league and do this to it and imagine a stretch run where IU-OSU-M-MSU-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota OR Illinois OR Maryland only play each other. That would be nuts.
- Doesn't require you to expand the conference schedule too much to get coverage. No 20, 22 game conference schedules but you don't get all that discussion about how team X doesn't play team Y.
Cons are obvious and large: potentially problematic ticket sales since you don't know who you're playing or when, a potential for teams near the bubble to get blasted off it (if you're #7 in the top half) or have little opportunity to climb out of it (for #8 stuck with the little people). I stole the RR-split-RR system from Scottish soccer, which has a compelling narrative at the bottom as teams try to avoid relegation that doesn't exist in college sports.
In any case, they could at least try it and see if the upside outweighs the downside.
Kickstarter, eh! After many requests we have added a couple of kickstarter tiers for international folks: 20 bucks for one mag, 40 for both, and we'll eat the extra costs for anyone who goes for the 50+ tiers.
Reminder: we have made our base goal and are now shooting for the 50k stretch goal, whereupon the basketball/hockey preview mag is a real thing on paper.
Meanwhile if you're in the giving mood check out Marlin Jackson's Fight For Life charity. Very good cause. Seth posted extensively on what they do this morning.
Our linemen are a wonderful freak show. They're all having huge lumberjack beards and looking like Freddie Mercury and, uh, this:
That's walk-on Dan Gibbs's twitter avatar. We probably should have started him against Jesse Williams, who Gibbs is seen riding. Equal to the task is Gibbs's twitter avatar: DJBunyan.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Elliott Mealer has shaved the beard.
as if millions of follicles suddenly cried out in terror
We will always remember you, ZZ Top beard.
This year's OL has a lot to live up to. They are off to a good start, at least.
Michigan has a five star basketball recruit for the second straight year. (isportsweb)
It's too bad he can't compete with the big boys. Rivals has given Zak Irvin the GRIII bump, moving up ten spots after his Mr. Basketball season in Indiana. This nets him the coveted fifth star. Walton is #37—also a ten-spot bump—while Mark Donnal is #111, one of the last four-stars. IIRC Donnal was just inside the top 100 last time. He got one of those "you stay the same and we find twelve guys we like a lot" downgrades.
Indiana's six-person oversigning extravaganza is the best class in the Big Ten according to the sites. Michigan is second, #13 nationally at ESPN. Illinois and Wisconsin are next, but it's always hard to figure out how to rank basketball classes because they're so divergent in terms of numbers.
Speaking of Tom Crean…
You're Nick Saban, dude. A year after Indiana signee Ron Patterson was told he couldn't enroll at Indiana in August—ie, the Les Miles—Tom Crean signs six players and is oversigned by one going into the late signing period. Out you go, Remy Abell. Indiana currently has 13 players. They've just offered Jaren Sina, the former Northwestern commit who opened up his recruitment when Bill Carmody was fired.
Now is the time on Sprockets when brows are furrowed about young men and how it's disappointing they've left the program and etc. etc. etc. It's not disappointing, it is mathematically required by Coach Schrute's recruiting. Someone was going to leave, full stop. There's no difference between what's going down at Indiana and Nick Saban's annual purge. In this, OSU and Michigan fans are united.
The thing is: Crean's just flat out saying they're oversigning, which is at least more honest than Saban's approach.
Again, this was not unexpected, and IU coach Tom Crean admitted as much when he spoke with assembled media in Bloomington, Ind., Thursday afternoon. He knew he might have two guys leaving early, in addition to three seniors (Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston) which is, Crean told the Indianapolis Star, "one of the reasons we oversigned."
Wait ... what?
Yes, the Hoosiers enter the second straight summer with more players signed than scholarships to give out — this time 14 for 13. (Last season, IU's 15 signed players ended with senior guard Matt Roth's seemingly confused, thensuddenly uber-positive, departure, and a fortuitous turn in freshman Ron Patterson's academic ineligibility.)
Even without further departures Michigan will go into next year with an open scholarship. Purdue's down to ten. Schrute is looking for more guys to run off. Hard to have the moral high ground as a conference when you… uh… don't have it.
Godspeed, Tom Hammond. The Great and Powerful Hammond is being replaced by some guy named Hicks on Notre Dame broadcasts. A tip of the cap to a man who overcame his fear of cameras to be on television, like, all the time. We'll always have the picture and the tie.
See you around the rhythmic gymnastics odeon. /brohug
Baseball making it happen. Rich Maloney's ouster last year was sudden and controversial. So far it looks to have been the right move as the previously moribund base-to-ball team is currently 7-2 in the Big Ten behind freshman starting pitcher Evan Hill's dominating 1.89 ERA. Baseball America takes note:
The future looks bright for Michigan, which has a strong freshman core leading its resurgence this spring. Michigan’s best starter has been freshman lefthander Evan Hill (6-1, 1.89), whose projectable 6-foot-5 frame helped him rank No. 165 on the BA 500 heading into last year’s draft. Hill still is just scratching the surface of his potential, but he is maturing quickly and has settled nicely into the Saturday starter role.
“He still is a projection guy—his best years are ahead of him,” Bakich said. “But he’s very talented, he works extremely hard. The mental game has been critical for him, because he’s learned how to breathe and focus on executing the next pitch, that’s been a big part of his development mentally. But he’s still a long, lean, tall, thin guy who has a good fastball, and he’s got good offspeed pitches. He just doesn’t always have the command that he’s going to have in the future of his secondary stuff. But a lot of his success has come from pitching off his fastball. He throws a cutter and a curveball, and when those are on, he usually does pretty well.”
Two other freshmen have earned starting jobs on the left side of the infield and in the top half of the batting order. Travis Maezes (.308/.396/.421) has shown good athleticism, instincts and arm strength at shortstop while hitting in the No. 2 hole. And third baseman Jacob Cronenworth (.339/.397/.460 with two homers and a team-leading 26 RBIs) has been very steady in the cleanup spot. He has a balanced, line-drive approach from the left side of the plate to go along with good speed. Cronenworth also has a strong arm at the hot corner, and he can run his fastball up to 92 mph off the mound, where he has emerged as Michigan’s closer, posting a 1.06 ERA, six saves and a 16-3 strikeout-walk mark in 17 innings.
That's a hell of a freshman class.
Michigan's coming off consecutive sweeps of MSU and Penn State; they take on ND today at 4, with Eastern coming in tomorrow at 6. If you're in Chicago, Michigan plays Northwestern at Wrigley Saturday.
It was a bet with Zak Irvin. A picture of a displeased Gary Harris wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt made the rounds on twitter recently, and I was all like "dude lost a bet with Zak Irvin?"
M&GB: Can you tell us about that picture of Gary Harris that surfaced on twitter of him wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt?
Irvin: (Laughs) As a matter of fact I was just talking with him about that a couple hours ago but that was from last year. When Michigan played Michigan State we had a bet that whichever team won, the loser had to wear that team’s shirt to school the next day, and Michigan won so Gary had to wear a Michigan t-shirt all the next day.
Just not a recent one.
Not playing coy about Dymonte Thomas. Courtney Avery's job is officially in serious danger given the way Michigan usually talks about freshmen. No one's bothering to say Dymonte Thomas is a long way off or whatever:
"He’s a very conscientious young man. For a guy that comes that should have been at his prom to be here the whole time, and for him to pick it up like he did ... Dymonte Thomas had a very, very good spring for a freshman.”
So there's that. He's playing. Starting? We'll see.
Cumong, NCAA man. Oregon and the NCAA agree that Oregon paid Willie Lyles 25k to help recruit players. Also this:
There is no information," according to the NCAA, "in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon. That said, Lyles did provide a meaningful recruiting advantage by orally providing background information about prospects to the coaching staff and also by serving as a conduit to facilitate communication with prospective student-athletes."
I hate you, NCAA enforcement. Oregon has proposed two years of probation and one lost scholarship for a few years. Seriously. Sic 'em, Get The Picture.
Etc.: A tribute to Trey Burke. His finest moments. Oh yes "Roger Federer as a Religious Experience" reference in regards to Trey Burke, oh yes. HSR on the end of basketball season.
UMHoops talks to 2015 SG recruit Luke Kennard. MSU is selling spots in the press box for their spring game. How much? Next question. The definition of amateurism is "whatever the NCAA says it is," and changes constantly. Four(!) Michigan players make John Gasaway's final top 25 freshmen($), with Spike Albrecht making the tail end of the list at 25. That's for show, man. David Allen Grier gets Trey Burke to smile. It is possible. Drake Harris "commitment" scarequotes are unbecoming.
Say this for the man: he dances when you tell him to dance. (AnnArbor.com)
Thanks for the service. One of the secret joys of being a Michigan fan has been the excellent service provided by John Wilkins and the alumni band when the students aren't available. Wilkins always brought an entertaining flair to the job he created 21 years ago. He has just retired, and he'll be tough to replace:
Deciding to retire from the pep band was not easy for Wilkins. “I will miss the Alumni Pep Band very much,” he said. “The opportunity given to me to conduct a Michigan band at Michigan games, to play this great Michigan music, was a dream that I had since a little boy, a dream come true. Over the years I have developed incredible friendships with the players and will miss working with them on a regular basis. I'm glad that I have been invited to come back every year to conduct the entire Alumni Band at the football game in October on homecoming weekend.”
Also I have that tie.
It's kind of like the Heisman I guess. Denard will be on the cover of EA's most recent slight rehash of NCAA Football 2003. Smile incoming:
He joins Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The game will pay tribute by having linebackers jump impossibly high to snag interceptions off everybody.
There were vote shenanigans that threatened to propel Texas A&M's Ryan Swope over the top, but EA promised they would eliminate fake votes, and by "eliminate fake votes" they meant "put Denard on the cover even if he finished last because this is EA, and EA gets dollars son even if it means turning a single player game into an always-online fiasco because we are mad at pirates."
He probably doesn't realize he's twisting the knife. After three straight weekends in Ann Arbor, Drake Harris finally gave the "it's not you… it's me" speech to Michigan State, decommiting. Except he said it was actually you, Michigan State:
"Since I'm just playing football now,” Harris told reporters after his regional basketball game Monday in Grand Rapids, “I want to play at a bigger school, win a national championship."
Analysts are saying don't count your 6'4" elite wide receivers before they hatch, but it looks like the field is catching up to Michigan now. They'll have an opportunity:
“I don’t have a frontrunner, I don’t even have a top list right now. I’m supposed to go down to Florida on March 22, and then Ohio State sometime in April and Notre Dame sometime in April. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the summer. I’ll probably go out and visit some schools out West.”
Harris says he'll enroll early and plans to commit in October. Long way to go.
[Ace, you can just C&P this section into Friday Recruitin'. Sorry.]
Well, yeah. Trey Burke is a first-team All American to the Sporting News and the Big Ten's player of the year, the first time in 24 years a Michigan player has brought that award in. The last guy was Glen Rice, which also yeah. Burke said "I feel honored" in response to being honored. Tautological point guard is tautological.
It really came down to Oladipo versus Burke, and while I love Burke with a Denard-crush intensity you really can make a case for Oladipo, who shot 66% from two(!), was the #5 guy in true shooting percentage, has a near-top-100 OREB rate—something Michigan felt the lash of on Sunday—and is a defensive superstar. It's that versus Burke's huge usage and incredible assist rate and turnover avoidance. It's Woodson versus Manning for the Heisman, except Indiana fans probably won't be bringing it up 20 years later.
Well… uh. Tim Hardaway also made first-team All Big Ten on one of the two ballots. This I am not so sure about. Aaron Craft got the nod on the media ballots—a weird situation where the better defensive player gets the hype and the coaches go for offense—and to me that's a lot more justifiable than going strictly by scoring average. That's how you pick Hardaway over, say, Gary Harris, who shot 74/52/42 on FT/2s/3s versus Hardaway's 69/50/38 on virtually identical usage. Hardaway did rebound a lot better, but what rebounds exactly was Gary Harris supposed to acquire as a the two-guard in a lineup with Payne, Nix, and Dawson?
I haven't watched Harris that closely but I doubt Hardaway brings much defensive value he doesn't. Eh. Awards are pointless, see…
The CCHA's continuing inability to do anything right. This is far less egregious than the various Hunwick-related snubs last year (Hunwick was a top-three Hobey finalist and not the CCHA goalie of the year), but Boo Nieves was honorable mention All Rookie this year despite having the second-most points of any freshman in league play. Alaska's Tyler Morley's 8-7-15 was better than Nieves's 8-14-22.
In other news, highlights of Michigan's 3-2 win over Northern on Friday contain one Michigan goal and two by NMU.
Where was this all year? Hockey resoundingly swept Northern Michigan over the weekend in two games I did not see because I assumed Michigan would not have a home series last week, because when has Michigan ever finished between 6th and 8th in the CCHA? LOL that idea.
In any case, Michigan's Saturday demolition of Northern was so comprehensive it makes you a little mad. Michigan outshot Northern 23-6 in the first period and 16-3 in the second, whereupon it was 4-1 and all over but the shouting. If you can do that now…
Anyway, Saturday's game was a weird one with two penalty shots:
Copp converted the second once the goalie went for a poke and missed it, leaving his five-hole exposed. He also scored a grinder earlier.
A few guys are really standing out on a weekly basis, Copp, Racine, Nieves, Merrill, Guptill, they just are playing on a level that no one else is coming close too. I vividly remember our series against Western earlier in the year because every stoppage of play a Bronco went to a Wolverine, chirped at him and gave him a shove. No one did anything about it. Today I thoroughly enjoyed seeing any Wildcat who went near Racine get a push and shove, most of the the time it was Andrew Copp doing it. Little things that make a big difference.
The Guptill-Copp-Deblois line sees Guptill on a seven-game point streak; Nieves was sick last weekend but played through it.
Vincent Smith AMA. #2 popped up on Reddit yesterday to do an AMA promoting his Pahokee kickstarter, and the first question is… not about Clowney. It's about what kind of sub he ate. Well done, zparts. The second question mentions Clowney, but also finger guns. There was also the inevitable MGoBlog question that got the inevitable "I don't really read it" answer.
There is another. Derrick Walton senior highlights:
He won't be Trey, but if Hardaway and Robinson are back he won't have to be. If he can be a better version of Yogi Ferrell (18% usage, 26 Arate, 43%/32%) Michigan shouldn't have too much of a dropoff on offense what with everyone else back.
One of the great things about this here blog is the user-generated content. After the Michigan State game the board came though with a photoshop thread inspired by Melanie Maxwell's great shot of Trey Burke's steal. This, in turn, has inspired a new regular feature—"Shop Class"—where we'll highlight the best work from these threads (and I'll throw my hat into the ring, as well).
Let's start with one of the many variations of that Maxwell shot, this one posted by hail2thevict0r, who maximized the Appling shadenfreude:
In a similar vein, BlueBarron was reminded of a meme of yore—though I'd imagine the Spartans were quite impressed, actually:
Brian's front-page commentary led to my own effort:
If you're all welped out, I made an alternate version with just Burke's laughter.
[Hit THE JUMP for the, er, inspired(?) work of resident gif wizard chunkums and more.]
Source needed, but too good to pass up. This image is awesome.
Message board random who posted this only linked to imgur, so it could come from anywhere. UPDATE: Melanie Maxwell of MLive is the photographer.
Burke is of course going WHEEEEEE, and then the Michigan State folk from L to R are going "welp," "welp," "welp," "I am terrified of all things," and "welp."
All the better to rip your heart out. Burke called his shot with McGary earlier in the game:
Michigan forward Mitch McGary said Appling used a spin move earlier in the game, which Michigan won 58-57, and Burke told him exactly how he was going to swipe the ball.
"He told me whenever (Appling) spins, he puts it in his right hand and it's an easy steal," McGary said. "Tim and I were just hoping he didn't hang on the rim."
Note that if it didn't work Appling would have had a choice between pressing the opportunity presented and giving Michigan a last shot of their own or holding for the final shot—it was an excellent time to go for broke.
Champions are made in the hot tub eating pizza. Greg unearths this great shot of Michigan kicker Bob Bergeron eating pizza in a hot tub that made SI:
He got to keep the pizza. Wild west back then.
CIVILIZATION. This is the end of it. There is nowhere to go but down from this.
Gritalanche. It was a gritclone on Saturday. A toughdome.
Michigan's Mitch McGary provides much-needed energy, toughness off bench against Michigan State
It was a tickertocker.
Michigan shows its heart in critical win over MSU
It was a toughygritintestinalblockage.
Michigan finally shows grit, toughness, desperation in gutty win over rival Michigan State
It was a basketforge.
Trey Burke, Michigan show mettle in win over Michigan State
To be fair, John Beilein started it:
“We’ve had some real pretty wins here, where we did everything right and the ball went in and we just played lights-out,” Beilein explained after the win. “Today, it was all about grit.”
Michigan allowed Michigan State to rebound half of their misses. Congratulations to Mike Rothstein, who did not play along.
Burke steals a signature win for Michigan
Or at least his headline writer. You never know who does those things these days.
Make sure you use the right block M, as long as it's some shade of blinding yellow. Via Kyle Meinke, Michigan's persnicketiness about the block M:
I'm fine with this. Persnicketiness is good with the whole branding thing. but don't try to tell me that that color maize represents the colors Michigan is using on their uniforms these days. Y'all need to get your persnick on more.
BONUS: Hey, #FFCC000 is what I settled on when I was eyeballing what maize was way back in the blogspot days. I was off on the blue, using #000022. This portion of the post brought to you by things no one cares about but me.
Tiebreaker scenarios. The events of last week have caused an enormous hairball in the Big Ten standings below Indiana. Michigan actually has a not-infinitesimal shot at the title since Indiana finishes with Ohio State and Michigan. These teams are still in the hunt:
- Indiana: share clinched. Win outright by winning at home versus OSU or @ Michigan.
- OSU: win out (@ IU, Illinois), Michigan beats IU
- Michigan: win out (@ Purdue, IU), OSU beats IU
- Wisconsin/MSU: IU loses out, win UW/MSU game, don't blow last game against low-level opponent.
The chances are not good, but they're not zero. You may shake your fist at the Wisconsin and Penn State games now. In the event that a bunch of teams tie at the same record, Michigan is hurt by going 0-1 against Wisconsin (grrr) and often loses the tiebreaker and gets stuck without a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, playing (grr) Penn State. If Michigan finishes 12-6 in the Big Ten that is at least a 50/50 proposition.
Lolizzo. Classic "my players destroyed the universe, but it's my fault" line:
"We were looking to get Gary a shot at the top of the key or to Keith and we didn't run it right," Izzo said. "We had a couple of freshmen in there that struggled with it. That was my fault."
Izzo : "my fault" :: humans : "just sayin'"
MINUTES FROM FRESHMEN, M/MSU, 3/3/2013
- Michigan: 93
- Michigan State: 72
3/3/2013 – Michigan 58, Michigan State 57 – 24-5, 11-5 Big Ten
left via @detnewsRodBeard / right Eric Upchurch
Sports are hard, and even great players usually succumb to their hardness. When the hockey team had TJ Hensick, when they were tied or trailing late I spent all moments with Hensick on the bench pining for his next shift, and mostly was disappointed when nothing happened. I mean… Denard Robinson. That guy was so great that he ran through two Ohio State defenders and teleported to the endzone, and yet that first sentence is a large chunk of his Michigan career epitaph.
There's a reason Wikipedia describes Casey at the Bat like so:
For a relatively short poem apparently dashed off quickly (and denied by its author for years), "Casey at the Bat" had a profound effect on American popular culture. It has been recited, re-enacted, adapted, dissected, parodied and subjected to just about every other treatment one could imagine.
Probability is an implacable thing. When we turn our lonely eyes to hero du jour in our time of need, the odds are stacked against us. If you're great you move that needle only slightly. Your brain is all like
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
They'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
Your brain is kind of dumb, and Casey at the Bat is great at telling you that. Your brain listens but does not hear.
My dumb brain was contemplating a blown ten-point lead against Michigan State on the heels of a blown 15-point lead to Penn State and had decided basketball was a pudding and the universe a fake. Michigan State had the ball, the game was tied, and the shot clock was no longer relevant. Earlier in the year Michigan had lost when a no-hoper went in, and my dumb brain was assuming that would always happen forever.
Burke did this.
The thing about this is that Burke developed that move midway through the season and now deploys it a few times a game. He really ramped it up after his first game against Aaron Craft, seemingly because Craft just pissed him off. A few times a game Burke will muster his energy, hike up his shorts, and go looking for trouble on defense. That's part of his ever-expanding game.
That breakway layup off the from-behind steal is a thing I can see him gearing up for now, and I saw it then, and because my brain is dumb it'll burn that into my memory and not the other times when Casey struck out.
It'll go there next to Braylonfest and Mario Manningham and Ernest Shazor killing that guy and Phil Brabbs and that one time I turned on a basketball game with Michigan down 15 to Wisconsin with six minutes left and saw Daniel Horton eat that deficit into nothingness. It'll probably be the first thing anyone involved with this rivalry thinks about when Trey Burke is brought up. It was the kind of thing that's the first thing on the highlight reel when they put your number in the rafters.
That he followed it up by robbing Michigan State of a chance to respond is icing on the cake. After Ben Brust, any shot in the air with a chance to beat Michigan is going to be two seconds of awful anticipation no matter how likely it is to go in. Trey Burke is both awesome at basketball and extremely protective of my emotions. He curls his lip and tilts his head and probably says "damn" and takes basketballs away from people who should not have them after 38 minutes of carrying twelve teammates and 12-thousand-some people in Crisler on his back.
Dawgs. This program has had a couple of nasty dudes at point guard the past few years. I hope Derrick Walton can inherit that.
Your excuses are lame. Both Izzo and Appling claimed that there was some sort of confusion about timeouts before Burke picked Appling's pocket, which is a pretty weak explanation since Appling has clearly decided no TO is coming when he spins and moves to the center of the court. Y'all got robbed straight up.
Life is strange. Michigan loses to Penn State, then beats Michigan State despite going 0/12 from three. I quiver at the thought of playing Purdue. Everyone will turn into crows and play crowhockey, or something.
Obligatory video review complaint. Nik Stauskas got busted open by a wild Branden Dawson elbow, required 12 stitches and was not able to return—probably because he was concussed—and no foul was assessed after an interminable break. It looked like this:
If that's the way you're going to call it, fine. It was inadvertent. But then stop with the interminable reviews. Apparently nothing is a flagrant foul, so stop looking for them.
It's strange how different sports legislate themselves. If hockey was reffed under basketball rules, every post-whistle scrum would come with two ejections, but in basketball you can crush a guy's face and as long as you weren't looking at him it's cool. That's some sort of penalty in the other two sports where elbows get involved, hockey and soccer, and probably a red card/major. In basketball, nope… but only one sport stops the game incessantly to look at these sorts of incidents. I don't get it man.
Morgan defense watch. After Dan Dakich pointed out that Nix always-always goes over his right shoulder when making post moves it's been something that's stood out to me as I watch MSU play, and in this one it was obvious. In that tendency you could see where Morgan is a superior on-ball defender to McGary.
Against Morgan, Nix put up a bunch of contested shots on which Morgan positioned himself such that Nix would take a bump as he tried to go up. In scattered matchups against McGary it was clear McGary had not absorbed the scouting report; Nix got him for a bucket by threatening to go to the middle of the lane and then spinning over his right shoulder like he always does. Morgan, on the floor at the same time, was visibly irritated at McGary—he probably said something along the lines of "he ALWAYS turns over his right shoulder" or "RTFSR*."
Despite that make the difference in Nix's efficacy was dramatic. Morgan played nine minutes in the first game; Nix went 6 of 9 from the floor and had 3 assists to no turnovers. Morgan had 24 in this one; Nix went 2 of 9 with 2 assists and six turnovers, with one of those makes the aforementioned bucket against McGary. Morgan's absence in the first game was definitely a contributing factor to the ugliness therein.
*["Read the frondling scouting report."]
Mocking floor slap for the win. State did the team floor slap thing in the previous game, and did it in this one, and Big Tough Mr. Men got an alley-oop on their face this time, whereupon Michigan responded with sports sarcasm:
Sports sarcasm is the best. You can tell it is mocking because 1) everyone knows MSU's about to call a TO, and Trey does it twice. I enjoyed that.
McGary FTs. Having Mitch McGary receive the inbounds pass at the end was clearly not the best idea, but Michigan put themselves in a situation where that was possible by using up all their timeouts early. When MSU tripled Burke it was a scramble off the make and the other options were Horford and a covered LeVert.
1) Dump basketball timeouts. End game situations are more chaotic and fun without them.
2) Don't call all of them, especially when you're just setting up a play instead of preserving a possession.
McGary other game. A mixed bag. Like the rest of the bigs he shares in the issues rebounding. One DREB in 21 minutes is Nnanna Egwu level output. He was efficient offensively, going 4/6 from the floor and hitting 3/5 FTs, and he generated a few of those shots himself with two-bounce drives and a nice short corner turnaround. He's showing things that should lead to an increased offensive role as he develops.
Paging Caris Levert. (Upchurch @ right) With Stauskas knocked out four minutes in, Caris LeVert got starters minutes. He did okay with them, scoring eight points on 4/8 shooting from two, missing three attempts from deep, and getting a couple steals. He was mostly guarding Gary Harris; Harris had an eh day with 16 points on 16 shot equivalents.
As long as Stauskas isn't suffering ill effects from the concussion I don't think he'll see his playing time cut much if at all… as long as he's not doing the things that caused Beilein to explode at him in the Penn State game. Competition for that spot will improve it, and if Caris is reliable enough to get him 16 minutes instead of eight Michigan can rest Tim Hardaway a bit more.
Statistical extremes. Take your pick as to which was more of an anomaly: Michigan going 0-fer from three or MSU coughing up 18 turnovers to Michigan's 7. I'll take the former since Michigan is a notoriously low-turnover team and MSU has had their share of issues. Also in the anomaly bucket: MSU rebounded half their misses. While not entirely unexpected, that is extreme.
Speaking of the rebounding. Hammered. Michigan went with the dual-big lineup for nine minutes; it didn't help much. As mentioned, McGary just had 1 DREB. Morgan had four, Horford none in four minutes. If the ball wasn't bouncing to a guard chances are Michigan did not get it.
Michigan's rebounding is reverting after another nonconference season in which they found themselves top-ten. After entering Big Ten play #2 in DREB they're down to 45th. They're fifth in Big Ten play, still a major step up from last year's ninth but not an earth-shaking paradigm change.
Burke fall down make fast break. Michigan State exploited a couple of things to get some early fast break opportunities off of makes: 1) Burke falls down a lot after he tries layups and 2) he never gets a call on this even if someone has bashed him to the ground. You'd like to see him keep his feet, but it's hard to see how in a lot of these situations.
Drinkin' your milkshake part 2. Drake Harris visited last weekend. This weekend…
Devin Gardner changes his twitter handle like every two weeks.
I hear tell he's supposed to be back next weekend, too? Dios mio, man.