Mike Lantry, 1972
Correction. The recruiting profile of Richard Ash brought up Jason Kates because he's the canonical recent example of a guy whose weight problems prevented him from becoming a player. In that post, I mentioned that Rivals had 'won' that evaluation since they issued two stars to Scout's four. I got that backwards. It was Scout that was skeptical and thus won.
The underbelly of disaster(!). Tim is taking in the official media bit of the tour (lunch!) and is tweeting brooding photos of empty stuff. Full post coming up later today; for those who can't wait UM Tailgate got in way early and already has the first of what will be dozens of galleries posted today. Swanky:
Meanwhile, Michigan has released this year's box-engorged seating capacity: 109,901, which puts it back in its rightful place as the largest in the country. Wikipedia was updated in nanoseconds:
Michigan Stadium's capacity will drop next year when the seats and aisles are widened but should still check in #1.
Beam me up. I can't control when I get the weird photoshops of recently graduated players, but here's this:
His people are Patriots. Thanks to Corey Ray.
Also in graphic stuff, TRSaunders expands his library of MS Paint crazy photo stuff with Cam Gordon.
Raid your own stadium. Tickets for the Big Chill are all but officially sold out as Michigan holds back the last few blocks for incoming freshmen. Unless you head to Michigan State's ticket department, that is. Buy away. Plot in the message board thread.
In graphic form. A poster named BlueMonster threw this chart up on Rivals. It speaks for itself:
Steele can be wobbly on certain things but not wobbly enough to get Michigan out of the overall cellar when they're so far behind the nearest competitor, especially since Steele's evaluation of Michigan's starters is significantly more veteran than the actual lineup will be.
Interesting to note that UConn, which had a rep as a very veteran outfit, comes in towards the bottom of the list. Penn State, meanwhile, checked in next to Michigan at just below average on the Steele experience ranking but is well up the rankings here. Everything else looks to be about what you'd expect, with that Notre Dame game looming large as an opportunity to start off in a non-flailing fashion.
Expansion of the other variety. Everyone else has an opinion, so I should too: the NCAA has announced that the four play-in games will be contested in two groups: everyone who used to be a 16 seed plays for two spots and the last four at-large teams will play for the other two. So everyone gets slid down one more notch and the three teams that are added have to play for a spot with the team that would have been the last at-large in a 65-team tournament.
I was against any sort of expansion from the start and still think 68 is goofy, but if they're going to do it this is the best way. The 16 seeds are invariably weak opponents and bidding another one goodbye is not going to make anyone shed a tear. While the occasional interesting team finds itself a 15 seed, usually the worst 15 seed is no threat against the best 2. Meanwhile, having the last few at-large bids face off against each other will reduce the "what about X" complaining every year because X will have an opportunity to play Y, settling the argument on the court. More of those third place Mountain West or A-10 teams will get the opportunity to prove themselves better than Clemson or Minnesota.
The Artist Formerly Known As Big Ten Wonk dislikes this, calling it "dumb":
I realize many pundits are fine with this today, but wait until they see it in action with actual team names inserted into these brackets. Inevitably a five-seed will lose to a 12 that emerged from a play-in game and we’ll hear all the usual talk about the “advantage” and “momentum” the 12 had from playing already. And as for talk of 10-seeds being in play-in games, mark me down as absolutely terrified. I’m already on the record as thinking that tournament seeding has far too little to do with reality. (And note that today’s decision only raises the stakes that will be riding on a team’s seed.)
Now, if you’re talking about a team seeded as high as a 10, there’s a good chance that said team is way better than the selection committee could have realized. To require a team that good to win an extra game while every year the 64th-best team in the field is guaranteed a comparatively easy six-win path is antithetical to what’s made the NCAA tournament the best postseason spectacle in major American team sports. We’ve trusted the tournament’s outcomes precisely to the extent that the courts have been neutral, the brackets have been balanced, and the opportunities have been equal.
I think that's an anticipation about talking heads doing the thing where they have a fierce disagreement over a petty issue because of Stephen A Smith and not an actual argument that this will be a factor, but even so I must dissent from Gasaway's dissent. A case where the second to last at large spot is actually a 10 seed will be exceedingly rare. The equivalent would be the last at large in the current tourney being a 10, which I'm pretty sure has never happened. Meanwhile, the 64th-best team has earned something (the auto-bid) the last teams in have not. It's not entirely fair but if it keeps a bunch of small teams from getting shuffled to "TruTV" in favor of major conference mediocrities, I'm in favor of it. Seeds are mostly guesses and a small conference team that won its championship and avoided the play-in has proven itself better than a subset of college basketball; major conference teams that finish seventh have not done this.
The committee did the best possible job given they had to assemble a 68-team tournament and include a cable channel no one's even heard of.
Leader for real. Now that the World Cup is over it can be said: ESPN has shed its Mark Shapiro skin and has returned to something that people can both love and hate instead of just the latter. Not once during the 2010 tournament did I pine for the Univision that I had in HD in 2006 but not 2010, and this is despite the fact that Univision is such terrific fun that I would occasionally flip on replays of games I'd already watched just to hear someone's head explode because of Diego Forlan. Also, 30 for 30 is an unqualified success, the sort of original programming that ESPN always should have done instead of "I'd Do Anything" or literally everything else Shapiro ever came up with. (His latest trick: running Six Flags into the ground.)
Everything from the play by play to the studio crew was fantastic—even Alexi Lalas was genuinely fun when he ribbed the English. My only complaint was the time spent showing replays when action was going on, and that wasn't even ESPN's fault since FIFA controls the feed. There has never been a greater turnaround between consecutive broadcasts of a single event. Last year we were stuck with Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.
Why can't they do this for other sports? Well, if you took ESPN's top four college football announce teams (PBP: Musberger, McDonough, Franklin, ?) they would probably come close to the four excellent teams put together for the World Cup. When you get to #8 it's Pam Ward, and by #12 it's that awful Rod Gilmore/Trevor Matich color pairing that had a combined IQ approximately the equal of tapioca pudding that went 12-20 in 15 years as as boxer. Plus ESPN had the pick of any English announcers they wanted. If you could put together an All-Star roster of college football from ESPN, CBS, Fox, and, uh, NBC… well… you'd get Verne Lundquist. Never mind.
Initial NCAA impressions. If you're like me and have gotten tired of EA's consistently lame NCAA franchise, I suggest you check out GameShark folks Bill Abner and Todd Brakke's "Nut and Feisty Weasel," where they'll be posting their annual stream of consciousness reviews of the latest edition. These are always unvarnished and far more useful than any review ever is.
The first impression, as always, is promising. This is something that I don't know if an NCAA game has ever managed before:
John Clay had 88 yards on 20 carries. He was hard as hell to tackle. Michigan? I shut that team down with impunity. I had a chance late to get the ball back against Wisky and they marched 30 yards to nail the coffin shut.
Against UM my DE Cam Heyward was UNBLOCKABLE. He was KILLING whoever the Michigan RT is. 3 sacks, multiple pressures, etc. In years past this would raise a quick red flag. This is a potential pattern that could really kill the game because before--something like this simply meant...the AI blocking sucks.
Against Wisky? Heyward was as non factor. And believe me...I tried.
Abner is an OSU fan, unfortunately. Let's hope the game's projection for Mark Huyge is pessimistic.
Etc.: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get the 2013 and 2014 Frozen Fours. Fine by me; at least Pittsburgh is drivable. Boston fans are complaining about the FF's long absence from their neck of the woods—by 2014 it will be a decade—and I would have some sympathy if the Detroit FF was the first time in forever that the perpetually-screwed CCHA had gotten to host one. Rivals ranks Michigan a job-saving #41.
He emerged from a local ten-year-old's He-Man rerun last Wednesday and is in the midst of a series of hilarious foibles in which he adapts to the modern world. He will master his strength, get the girl, and go to college. There will be a short-lived spinoff show at Purdue, Louisville, Tennessee, or another place that looks kindly on men wielding swords longer than themselves.
No, Michigan is not involved, but who cares? Carvajal's hair should be in the running for Name of the Year.
Good work there. You know that vandalism that took place in Michigan Stadium? Yeah…
It's not exactly earth-shattering. The turf should be fixed for the spring game, at which point it's getting replaced anyway. It did give Orson a chance to continue his campaign against the area media, at least.
Guh. 96 team NCAA tournament reaches DEFCON 2:
"I said from Day 1 that I would support the decision that came out of the (NCAA's) Board of Directors, which ostensibly is linked back to the presidents (in) the conferences," Delany said. "And if that's where it ends up, I support that."
Asked how he expects the expansion issue to play out, he said, "It's probable."
Won't someone think about the children? Is anyone going to care about any first round game at this point? What is the point of folding the NIT into the NCAA tournament? What is the NCAA's problem with a reasonable playoff field in either basketball or football? Is this the most roundly-despised inevitable idea in history?
The latest from spring. Inside Michigan Football translated into a non-browser-crippling format by anonymous heroes of the internet:
Maybe? No. But you keep waving your gums around. Jack Swarbrick had to open his mouth about conference affiliation. Hubbub ensued, and I pretty much dismissed it. But he keeps talking about it and every time he drops something it seems slightly more plausible than before. The latest tiny step towards plausibility comes from a KC Star article in which the Notre Dame AD elaborates on his previous comments:
“The traditional model, where a conference had a fixed fee media rights deal, if you added somebody you sliced the pie a little thinner,” Swarbrick said. “When you’re dealing with equity in a network ... it’s a situation we haven’t had before.”
At this rate he will elaborate ND right into the Big Ten by the 23rd century. He also said stuff about the Big East being an "extraordinary" partner and so forth and so on. I peg the chances of ND joining the Big Ten in the near future at 1.5%, up from 1%. Points to Mike Dearmond, the author, for deploying "tizzy" in his article.
The worst Final Four ever… and Butler. I guess it would have been more frustrating if Ekpe Udoh and Baylor had made it, but Michigan State, West Virginia, and Duke suck pretty hard because they are Michigan's primary rival, the school that Michigan yoinked its current coach from, and Duke.
Here's where I point out that Udoh's coach hired John Wall's AAU coach in the hopes of landing him and falls on the Calipari end of the dirtiness scale.
Etc.: UMHoops scouts Cody Zeller and Yogi Farrell. Georgia president Michael Adams is the guy who attempted to kill the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" nickname and appears to be spectacularly corrupt to boot. Naturally, the NCAA is considering him in their search to find Myles Brand's replacement.
SOMEONE HIRED TIM FLOYD. IT MAKES A GREGG DOYEL COLUMN LOOK SANE. RUN.
In Beilein's best season at WVU they played themselves into the tourney going 7-3 to close reg season then made BE final. Just sayin'...
The insinuation, of course, is that it may be possible for this Michigan team to make a similar run to sneak into the NCAA tournament themselves. Although Dylan himself isn't exactly sold on that idea, let's look at what this Michigan team has in common with those Mountaineers.
West Virginia 2005
The Mountaineers, led by Mike Gansey, Tyrone Sally, and Kevin Pittsnogle (pictured at right), finished the regular season with an 18-9 record, 8-8 in the Big East. They won 7 of their final 10 regular season games. In the Big East Tournament, they were the #8 seed, and ran through #9 Providence, #1 Boston College, and #4 Villanova before falling to Syracuse in the tournament final. They were 21-10 going into the NCAA tournament. They were awarded a #7 seed in the West Regional, and managed to make the Elite Eight, where they lost to Louisville in overtime.
For the sake of prediction we'll go with Ken Pomeroy's projections over the final five games. Kenpom gives Michigan wins over Penn State, Illinois, and Minnesota at home and road losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.
In that scenario, the Wolverines would finish the regular season with a 16-14 record, 9-9 in the Big Ten. They would have won 6 of their final 10 regular season games. They would be about the #7 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, facing off against #10 Iowa (the same 7/10 matchup as in last season's Big Ten Tournament). To reach the tournament final, they would have to beat Iowa, then the #2 seed (still up in the air at this point, but Ohio State if the season ended today), and the #3 or #6 seed (Purdue or Northwestern, respectively, if the season ended today). Falling in the tournament final, they would finish with a 19-15 record going into tournament selection.
Though both teams would end their season on a run of sorts, the "Last 10" metric for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is not available this season. Michigan's theoretical 6-4 mark over the final 10 regular season games (plus a 3-1 record in the Big Ten Tournament) probably wouldn't be the most impressive mark, anyway.
A key difference between the teams is their respective overall records. Though both would finish with a .500 mark in conference, the Mountaineers only dropped one game to a non-big East team, though it was a terrible Marshall squad. Michigan, on the other hand, struggled mightily outside the league. They've lost to Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, Utah, and Kansas.
jamiemac of Just Cover and the MGoPodcast points out that a strong close to the regular season would give the Wolverines a similar resume to the 2000 Wisconsin Badgers, who finished the season 16-12, but nabbed an 8-seed based on a strong run to end the year, and ended up making the Final Four. Of course, this Michigan team is almost certainly not Final Four material, but getting into the tournament is possible.
Can it be Done?
Michigan would need to finish the year much stronger than West Virginia did if they want to get into the NCAA Tournament. Like I've been saying for quite some time, the NIT is a much more realistic goal at this point. However, it's actually not impossible for the Wolverines to make the Big Dance. It's just a tall, tall task, especially for a team that has struggled with consistency through the entire year and doesn't seem to be making a final push. Edging by Iowa in overtime does not inspire confidence.
The most obvious way for Michigan to make the NCAA tournament is to win the Big Ten Tournament and get the conference's automatic bid. That requires a hot streak, of course, but the rest of the regular season won't play as big a role (of course, the better the record in the regular season, the higher the seed in the B10 Tourney, and the easier the path to a tournament championship). 3-point shooting teams always have a chance in single-elimination format, as long as they get hot from the field.
Without crunching any numbers, Michigan's only other likely chance to get into the NCAA tournament is to lose only one of the road games left (though a road win over Ohio State or Michigan State is highly unlikely), and make it to the tournament final. That would give them a winning record in the conference, with a 17-13 regular season mark. Adding the 3 victories from the Big Ten tournament would give a 20-14 record, with a number of quality wins at the end of the year. Sweeping the regular season games and making it to the tournament final would make the Wolverines a near-lock for the tournament, at 21-13 and an 11-7 mark in the Big Ten.
HOWEVA, all of these scenarios are pipe dreams. The realistic best-case scenario for the Wolverines is to go 3-2 to close out the regular season, take a victory or two in the Big Ten Tournament, and finish their year with a strong run in the NIT.
Whoah… Texas. I'm on druuuugs.
Overtures!!! Everybody PANIC:
A source with ties to the Big Ten said that while most people’s attention has been trained on the conference stealing Missouri, the Big Ten has engaged in “preliminary exchanges” with a much bigger fish from the Big 12.
“There have been preliminary exchanges between the Big Ten and Texas,” the source told the Journal-World on Wednesday. “People will deny that, but it’s accurate.”
Accurate though it may be, "preliminary exchanges" are just folks in suits keeping doors open in case of disaster. Texas to the Big Ten will never ever happen. Reasons:
- The Texas legislature would have the mother of all hissy fits and threaten UT's state funding.
- Texas would go from its usual diet of nummy goo-goo bears plus the occasional big game to a nonconference schedule with mandatory games against A&M and Oklahoma, and that's if Texas isn't forced to play more in-state teams as part of an agreement with the legislature.
- Texas's baseball team, currently a national power, would be playing in the college baseball equivalent of Conference USA.
- Texas has the mojo to have it own damn channel if it wants and won't have to share jack with the other Big Ten teams.
Note that travel costs are omitted, because putting the Big Ten Network on Texas channels means even the crew teams can fly first class. It would be ridiculous. Jim Delany would buy a monocle.
That goes for this Pac-10 expansion, too. I don't buy that adding Colorado and Utah does anything for anyone except bust up the one conference that makes total sense.
Plot against America update. So I toss a link to a USA Today article arguing that adding another 31 teams to the NCAA tournament wouldn't even make much money on mgolicious and the artist formely known as Wonk duly shreds it:
The larger issue here centers on what constitutes “loose change” for the NCAA. Let’s accept that the difference between what a network will pay for a 96-team field and what they’ll lay out for a traditional 65-team version wouldn’t be all that much in percentage terms. Hiestand’s right: The new games would be the least attractive ones and, anyway, they’d represent just 17 percent of the programming “tonnage.” But if you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you’re intimately familiar with the paradox at work here. You negotiate a price and give a few thousand here or take a few thousand there. Then you step away and think: Sweet mother of Ben Bernanke, that right there’s the equivalent of a new car or three years of daycare for your kid, or 50 HDTV’s, etc.
So maybe it's some money up front that's meaningful. Meaningful spread over 340-some D-I teams? Eh… probably not. Meaningful to one organization in Indianapolis? Maybe.
Not that the idea is any less terrible today than it was a few days ago. The proposed expansion would, for all intents and purposes, absorb the entire NIT into the NCAA tournament. Last year's editions of Northwestern, Penn State, Notre Dame (18-14), Nebraska (18-12), Virginia Tech (18-14), and Washington State (17-15) would all have weaseled their way in. That's nine of the Big Ten's eleven teams in the tourney plus an ugly assortment of teams who beat no one and have no chance of winning the tournament. At some point you have to say no.
John Beilein's on the side of justice, FWIW:
"I don't understand right now," he said during his Big Ten teleconference. "The 64 (teams) – I could see adding a couple more 'play-in' games if you have to. But going to 96 may be a hard thing to do. I think it's pretty good right now."
Unsurprisingly, Bo Ryan likes evil and preposterous generalizations:
“To me, it’s foolish for those people who are saying it’s perfect the way it is,” Ryan said Monday. “Obviously, they’ve lived a very shallow life when it comes to looking at change and what change can do and how it can affect things. The history of expansion with the NCAA has been very successful."
Yeah, well, you now, that's just, like, your opinion, man. We have lived a shallow life in which we have never considered how change can affect things.
Yet another way in which college football is like figure skating. Remember some time back when the coaches threw a hissy that people were paying attention to their votes and threatened to take the final coaches' poll private? This was roundly condemned and eventually dropped, but the scars still linger.
If they try it again, opponents should point to what went down when figure skating attempted to beat the corruption out of their judges by making their scores anonymous*:
[Dartmouth economist Eric Zitzewitz] finds that the home-country bias gets even worse when anonymous judges can hide from a scrutinizing press and public, despite the barriers that anonymity may create for effective backroom deal-making. The home-judge advantage under the new system is about 20 percent higher than in the days of full disclosure.
College football coaches already display serious biases when their votes are subject to scrutiny. It would only get worse if they weren't.
*(This seems insane but there is a plausible reason it might be a good idea: it prevents collusion amongst judges. Before there could be backroom deals where a couple countries conspire to rate each other's skaters higher. Now those deals can't be enforced.)
That is more like it. Fred Jackson gives us all hope that Fitzgerald Toussaint is in possession of all his limbs:
"He's as talented as anyone who walked in the door," said Jackson, who has coached Michigan career leading rusher Michael Hart, Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas and Tyrone Wheatley, to name a few.
Jackson said he had never before heard of a player breaking his shoulder blade. But before the injury, Jackson saw budding talent.
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
Fitzgerald Toussaint is like a Doak Walker winner who was a first round draft pick… except fast.
Etc.: Basketball recruiting remains dirtier than a dirt sandwich. What's with Ann Arbor as the epicenter of ice dancing? Russians. Obviously. What is the point of this new rule about head coaches in waiting? Manny Harris has never been that efficient in the Big Ten.
I'm sure we all agree on a few things around here. To wit: USA #1. Love it or leave it. What makes America great, though? I think we'll all agree on this too: America derives 90% of its strength the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It's a fact. I read it on Bleacher Report. (The other ten percent comes from engineers on H1B visas.)
I was having a conversation with War Blog Eagle proprietor and NCAA tournament fanatic Jerry Hinnen yesterday in which we discussed the various and sundry ways in which expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams was an Al Qaeda plot to ruin America. In this conversation, Jerry expressed a hope that the "done deal" post Sports By Brooks threw up was a diabolical trial balloon to gauge reaction. It is then the patriotic duty of everyone with a platform via which to react to react.
This has been everyone's reaction. I haven't seen or heard one person, even in the depths of the contrarian internet or the murky fog of sports talk radio—where one guy suggested that Brandon Graham was a "second or third rounder" yesterday—who thinks the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament is anything other than evil. (I just found some on the Google now, which only goes to show that the Murray Chass was right about everything.) Some guy tweeted that the mere consideration of 96 teams is a harsh blow to this site's pet playoff proposal because it suggests the people in charge of things are soulless mercenaries who care about nothing but short-term dollars. It's hard to disagree.
Where are the crotchety old men? Rose Bowl curmudgeons, where are you in our hour of need? Oh. USA Today. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, formerly the WTA commissioner:
"In professional tennis," he says, "the temptation to increase playing opportunities and go for the short-term economic value in adding tournaments led to significant dilution of value long term and other problematic side effects for the sport. One day, you wake up and realize that, while each expansion decision sounded good at the time, you have lost what was once so special. Once you go down that route, it's exceedingly difficult to put the genie back in the bottle."
Big Ten commissioner and college football playoff bete noire Jim Delany:
"I think nobody would disagree that the 65-team, three-week event … has worked," says Delany, a former chairman of the NCAA committee that runs the men's tournament. "You have David vs. Goliath. You have all sorts of internal story lines year in and year out. It's compelling. It's one of the great sports properties in the world.
"I have no problem with looking at expansion, whether it's small or big. I only say that issue is one that must be managed openly and transparently, (and) I have concerns that it's not." …
"We know, in the first round, you have a lot of David and Goliath (matchups)," Delany says. "What happens when it becomes largely David vs. David?"
What say you now, Orson, that it's Jim Delany taking up cape and shield to defend the nation from enemies within?
Finally, the Onion:
America #1. Love it or leave it. That means get out, men pushing for 96 team tournament. Get out.
So: Oklahoma, possessor of the most terrifying quasi-ginger manbeast* in college basketball lo these many years, comes up against Michigan, possessor of exactly two guys over 6'5", only one of whom plays at a time. Yipes.
Though Kenpom's taking a beating in this year's tournament, it's worth noting that Oklahoma, at 15, is a weak 2-seed in according to the numbers. This is more like a 4-13 matchup than a 2-10. Which I have no idea whether that's better or worse. Given what happens with 4-13 games, we have around a 25% shot, which is about what Kenpom says anyway. FWIW, Oklahoma was only the third-best team in the Big 12 in terms of efficiency margin, finishing behind Kansas and Missouri.
*(I couldn't find a picture that showed it well. I am of the opinion that Griffin is pigmented oddly in a way that I can't put a finger on but is definitely ginger-esque.)
Michigan Offense vs Oklahoma Defense
Two pointers. Oklahoma's extremely good at defending them, 17th nationally at 42.3%, and extremely good at avoiding opponent trips to the line. Continuing a theme, the Sooners get a lot of blocks: 11.4%, 51st nationally.
Three pointers. Oklahoma gives up an average percentage but allows slightly more threes than the average bear.
Possession advantage. The one glaring deficiency on the Oklahoma resume is turnover percentage, at which they languish in the 300s. Opponents just don't turn the ball over, probably because Oklahoma's defense is considerably less in-your-face than that of Clemson or whoever. That makes sense. They can just funnel drivers to Griffin and rely on their outstanding two-point FG defense and rebounding to do the work without getting in foul trouble. This explains the FTA/FGA, too. Don't expect a whole lot of ball denial on the outside.
That defensive rebounding, by the way, is good but not outstanding. They're 119th, which is above average, but for a power conference team that plays a significant portion of its schedule against weaker schools it's probably just average when adjusted for opponent difficulty.
Well? Given Michigan's profile we should expect few turnovers, a ton of threes attempted, very few trips to the line, and the occasional offensive rebound. Sounds like any other Michigan game, actually. Key matchup is Sims versus Griffin; Michigan's going to need more than what Sims provided against Clemson, and it'll be interesting to see what happens if the Sooners try to play man to man and Sims drags Griffin out of the paint. The outside shooting threat Sims provides could seriously limit Griffin's effectiveness on the defensive end.
Oklahoma Offense vs Michigan Defense
Oh, lordy. While Michigan's offense has a decent chance of working just fine, the offensive numbers are intimidating.
Two pointers. Oklahoma makes 56% of its twos, fourth nationally, thanks to Griffin. He's hitting 64% of his twos(!). Oklahoma also has a huge FTA/FGA ratio that is also fourth nationally—they take a bunch of free throws. This is also thanks to Griffin, who is #1 nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. This is probably not news, but: Blake Griffin is good.
Three pointers. Oklahoma's slightly above average at hitting 'em and slightly above average at taking 'em, likely symptomatic of opponents collapsing down on that Griffin guy and leaving open shots for the guys on the perimeter.
Possession advantage. IE: turnovers plus offensive rebounds plus free throw percentage. This is where it gets dicey. Oklahoma's slightly above average at taking care of the ball and pretty good but not obliteratingly good on the offensive boards: they rebound 36.5 of their misses, good for 52nd.
The somewhat good news is that all those free throws taken aren't hugely efficient. Unlike Manny Harris, Michigan's main source of FTs, Griffin has an encouragingly crappy time of it at the free throw line, shooting just 59%. Yes, this means that Griffin averages 1.28 points on an average shot and 1.18 points on an average trip to the line and sort of implies that Eric Puls should see the floor and foul out as quickly as possible, but that's before taking turnovers and stuff into account. It's probably close, though.
What do you do with this stuff? It doesn't appear that Oklahoma crushes the boards quite as much as Clemson did against Michigan. Aside from Griffin, who's an absolute vacuum defensively and very good offensively, they've got one other guy who plays much and hits the boards, and he's 6'7".
As far as Griffin goes, I guess you have to front him, double him constantly, prevent him from getting the ball, and possibly give him a ninja suplex to stop him. Any Michigan player with spare fouls should use them liberally should Griffin find himself in an advantageous position. Michigan's status as a team that uses a few different zones should help limit the damage Griffin can do, as they can switch between a few different defenses and confuse entry passes and the like from Oklahoma's young and not that great guards.
Slidin', again. Michigan may be fortunate to have run across a team that, like Clemson, is sliding a bit as the season comes to an end. Oklahoma finished its year by losing four of six, including an opening-game loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney. I wouldn't get too excited, though: all of those losses game to quality tournament teams and only the Kansas game was at home. This is not analogous to Clemson's situation, which saw the Tigers drop games against the likes of Georgia Tech.
Coachin'. The Beilein-as-tourney-mastermind meme continues with another upset for his hall of heads, albeit against the active coach with the worst PASE score in all the land. Jeff Capel doesn't have much of a record, but it's better than Oliver Purnell's:
- 2004: Capel gets VCU in as a 13 seed, where they lose to #4 Wake Forest by a single point.
- 2008: Oklahoma makes the field as a 6, handily beating St Joseph's in the first round before getting clubbed by Louisville 78-48.
Capel went to Duke, for whatever that's worth. Anger about someone else getting a good coach from Duke? General anger about the white Devils? I don't know.
Common Opponent. There was just one: Oklahoma beat Purdue 87-82.
The General Feeling Of Foreboding
Yeah, I've got it too. Or, rather, I've got it as much as anyone can have it when you're dealing with this Michigan basketball team that has exceeded expectations so massively.
Michigan finds itself facing a team poised to exploit their greatest weakness. I mean…
For being a scout team player that saw all of 20 minutes of floor time this season, Eric Puls got plenty of attention Friday afternoon.
The 6-foot-10-inch University of Michigan redshirt freshman played the role of Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin during Friday's practice session at the Sprint Center as the Wolverines prepared for tonight's NCAA Tournament South Regional test against the No. 2-seeded Sooners.
…greatest weakness, man. I am racking my brain for things Eric Puls has in common with Blake Griffin and can come up with two: being 6'10" and having a cardiovascular system.
Playing man to man against Griffin is a recipe for points on your face and Michigan is going to have to do that after misses and turnovers, though thankfully there probably won't be much in the way of turnovers. They don't even have the post depth to foul freely.
I can see Michigan staying in the game for a while, but I can also see that one deadly Oklahoma run that pushes a close game to an eight or ten point gap all too clearly. This is probably it, but hey: okay.