I GET IT
So there was a new Bacon book this year. We need to review this book. I'm going to do this with the expectation that you have either read it already or are going to. You should. It is a Bacon book. You are reading MGoBlog; either you are a person who appreciates Bacon or else a visiting Sparty looking for more trolling fodder, in which case help yourself to the board where I promise you there's plenty. Or better yet, read some Bacon—you're in the Big Ten; this concerns you too. And he says the Red Cedar is nice.
This is not a negative review, even though I have a tendency to focus on the "needs work" aspects—I'm the guy who walked out of The Return of the King after five years of unmitigated Peter Jackson man-crushing and complained that there were too many endings. So apologies to John U., who's higher in my esteem than Mr. Jackson and just about everyone whose quotes aren't emblazoned on a wall somewhere, for the plurality of minuses below.
More Bacon. Ever since Bo's Lasting Lessons, the chance to devour a new Bacon book has been somewhat of an event around these parts. As a Michigan fan it would be tough to follow the unparalleled access and insight into the Rich Rod program accomplished with Three and Out, specifically because that unvarnished snapshot was so starkly antithetical to Dave Brandon's meticulous staging of his Michigan show: You knew at the time that no true journalist would be allowed to see behind the bunting again, so it should only come as a mild disappointment that there is little about the Michigan program in this book that you didn't already know.
Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football is four unequal looks at four 2012 Big Ten programs, or four and a half if you count a mini-treatment that Michigan State and Mark Hollis receive as host of an Ohio State road game. In order of detail:
- Penn State from the point of view of its players, former players, coaches, and equipment managers as they find themselves taking the brunt of the Penn State Awful Thing, and the NCAA's and PSU brass's callow responses to it.
- Michigan from Bacon's own point of view of its fans, as those fans interact with Brandon's corporate-itude.
- Ohio State from the P.O.V. of Urban Meyer as he goes from win to win trying to get Zach Boren to like him, and
- Northwestern as the paragon of virtue.
Bacon set out, as is evident from the title and made clear throughout the book, to examine these four schools from different points of view (players, AD, head coach, and president, respectively), and use the findings to determine if any of the Big Ten's current models for college football are sustainable for college football in general. In it he consistently finds players and fans who "get it" while the people in control seek new and better ways to milk it.
But he could only use what he got from each school. With Ohio State the access was mostly restricted to Urban on game days. He brushes against tatgate but doesn't get into the cars or any other "everybody knows, nobody can prove" things—you have to appreciate that Bacon will never accuse somebody without proof (especially considering he's an avowed Michigan fan talking about Ohio State) but it's really hard to talk about college sports and the competitive problems therein without admitting there are relative bad guys. The Gee quote—"I hope he doesn't fire me!"—is in there in reference to the bloated role of college football head coach in America. The closest he comes to pointing out OSU's exceptionalism in this regard is when addressing the carrying off of Tressel after last year's Game:
"The Buckeyes do not run a renegade program, but they once again demonstrated they don't seem to care if their actions make others think they do."
This isn't a complaint; Bacon handled a sticky situation about as well as he could. With Northwestern he got some key interviews, particularly with Pat Fitzgerald, but no warts (this could be because they don't have any).
With Michigan Bacon was outside looking in, so he used some of the Bacon-usual suspects—Carty, the dueling barbershops, the public comments of James Duderstadt and Don Canham, Brian Cook of MGoBlog, etc. There's also an inside look at the Mud Bowl, and most interestingly, a candid interview with Michigan's band director about Send-the-Band-to-Dallas-gate. I was more intrigued by the comments made by Bill Martin on the corporatization of NCAA football, which I'll come back to. The whole Notre Dame saga is covered. Except for the band's comments most of this is old news to you.
The result is a book that's 52% about Penn State trying to survive 2012, with a bunch of stuff thrown in about some other schools and corporations to underscore a point made clear without leaving Happy Valley.
[After the jump: it's just, like, my opinion man.]
I forgot I promised Brian to do a post about this before I went ahead and launched it in Guess the Score. Anyway, meet my favorite shirt we've ever made except maybe the Space Emperor ones. Zoom? Zoom:
To relive the excuses hit the jump. To order the shirt hit the link. We're going to preorder a bunch of these for people who'd like them in time for the game.
Important. Notre Dame is good at football.
"Sign that apparatus up to play football," says Football Coach. "Okay," says assistant football coach. "Now I am a player," says apparatus.
There is no waiting list. Michigan has finally burned out the fanbase to the point that you can get tickets just by ponying up the five hundred bucks it takes to get on the "interest list":
Michigan officials say that everyone on "interest list" who paid $500 got season tickets. No pay, not on list.
And that's a year with Ohio State, Nebraska, and a Notre Dame night game on the schedule! I wonder what will happen next year, when 1) the schedule sucks and 2) it starts off with a slap in the face I don't even want to go to.
"This game is as hot, if not hotter, than two years ago," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Detroit News. "There's enormous demand. Hopefully, that's because the fans who saw the first night game want to come back for more, and also because it's the last Michigan-Notre Dame game at Michigan Stadium for a long, long time makes it really special."
Congrats on your short-term achievement.
At least they're willing to show penalties and such now?
CTK. Schofield's up. Do not stand between him and ham:
Forgotten man? What? He's a three-year starter!
There is also Courtney Avery, who plans on going to law school. No mention of the safety move that he's apparently flirting with right now, which is no surprise. The "no mention" thing, not the hypothetical safety move. I chalk that up to experimentation, FWIW.
Here is a long thing. Here's the 1992 Michigan-Notre Dame game, all of it:
Should I not spoil it? Is that an insane thing to do for a 21-year-old game? I guess I'm not going to say anything about the outcome. (Except it involves a berserk alpaca and ten tons of rubber cement.)
Fourth And Long. We'll have a Michigan-relevant excerpt from the book on the site on the 23rd that will be of local interest, but the most compelling parts of Fourth And Long—John Bacon's new book—are easily the Penn State stuff:
Privately, the staff joked that the less the 84-year-old Paterno got involved, the better things usually went. When Paterno did weigh in, he often confused the situation, got players' names wrong or just yelled at them by their numbers.
Still, his assistants clung to certain symbols of the Paterno Way. "Shave your face, cut your hair," Mauti said, recalling the mantra. "If we weren't shaved for a practice, we would have to work out on Saturdays in the off-season. It got almost to the point where that's all that mattered."
Few programs in college football at the time could have claimed a richer tradition than Penn State's. It looked like Camelot—but only from the outside. Almost every Penn State senior I talked to last season repeated some version of the following: "We felt like we were protecting an image. And only we knew it."
Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich are never going to buy drinks in State College again. BONUS: There's a great story about Jay Paterno almost being eaten by the defensive line that I hope makes it out in the wild that's worth the price of admission by itself.
Oh, for Flansburgh's sake. It is 2013 and are we STILL having Lloyd Carr on lists like these?
Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching force-outs ...
LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)
Lloyd Carr retired by his own choice. The athletic director was surprised by this. That he was surprised was completely insane because everyone around the program new Carr was going to hang it up quite soon. I just… Lloyd Carr was not forced out. Repeat this one thousand times, Adam Rittenberg, and feel bad about yourself briefly.
Previewing basketball. ESPN does it for the conference at large:
Best case: The Wolverines were a dominant Louisville second half from winning the national title in 2012-13, and, while losing the national player of the year is never easy, the combination of Beilein's returning studs and his incoming talent could put Michigan right back where it was in April.
Worst case: There are questions, though. Can McGary produce over a whole season without Burke on the ball? Can Robinson evolve into a more perimeter-oriented, versatile scorer? Can Nik Stauskas be a multifaceted threat? Can Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin keep all these gears in motion? Most of all -- can the Wolverines defend?
Not really, yes, yes, maybe? Meanwhile, Seth Greenberg puts Michigan and State 1-2 in his conference power rankings.
It remains to be seen whether Robinson can be as effective at the small forward position as he was last season at power forward, playing off Burke's penetration. If Robinson concentrates on being a basketball player as opposed to a position player, it will be in the best interest of the Wolverines.
He drops Indiana down to sixth(!), behind Iowa(!). Related: this will be the 65th straight season where I say "watch out for Iowa basketball, they look good" in November only for the Hawkeyes to top out as an NIT team.
I want this to happen just so I can see Jeff Meyer's face the next time he meets Tom Crean. Indiana decommit James Blackmon Jr. is planning a visit to Michigan, whereupon he'll presumably be offered. Why this is delicious:
Blackmon has been to Ann Arbor before, he was sitting next to Austin Hatch this March when Indiana played at Michigan. Blackmon was committed to Indiana at the time and the visit was thought to be at least part of the reason for the rift between Tom Crean and Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer after the game.
Blackmon is a Kentucky legacy with a Kentucky offer, so file under extreme long shot. He would fill the SG slot Michigan currently would like Devin Booker to fill, FWIW.
The worst case scenario. Actually this is Iowa we're talking about, so this should rightly be renamed "thing we expect to happen":
GAME 6, MICHIGAN STATE
Spartan coach Mark Dantonio refuses to bring his team to Iowa City, saying "I'm competitive, but I'm not insane." Offensive coordinator Greg Davis calls out Dantonio in a press conference, saying "Mark ... just ... looking out for ... players. Doesn't want our boys ... to hurt 'em ... too bad. Let's ... give him ... a hand."
The government has turned Minneapolis into a quarantine zone. Chicago residents have erected hasty barricades to separate themselves from the outer suburbs. IOWA WINS BY FORFEIT
Needs more alligators.
Also in worst case scenarios, the NCAA's in the Ed O'Bannon case is "severely damages Iowa State and no one else."
Etc.: ND game is at eight on ESPN, because ABC has NASCAR. What is wrong with you ABC? Christian Hackenberg pulls even with another first-year guy (a JUCO transfer) in the Penn State QB race. Gardner Heisman hype. DOES ADAM JACOBI THINK ANYTHING SHOULD PLAY FOOTBALL?
Illinois assistant gets a two-game ban for tryna murder him some officials after the end of the Miami-Illinois tourney game last year. Guy had a case, though. SI ranks M 18th, hates on their special teams without explanation.
I meant to have a diary up on this already but SAVE THE DATE: FRIDAY, SEPT 6 at 7:00 P.M. we will be gathering with Marlin Jackson and an assortment of his friends at the MGOPATIO across the street from the stadium. Details still being hammered out but it will at the very least include a Q&A session with Brian and Marlin and other luminaries. It'll be free to attend with a suggested donation to Marlin's Fight for Life Foundation, and an optional contribution to the food and beer.
Also reminder to New Yorkers that Brian and TomVH will be visiting you next Thursday, Aug. 15 at Professor Thom's between NYU and Stuyvesant Town.
It’s been a few weeks since I had cause to plop one of these on you; hopefully with the “There Are” posts now into backfield numbers that’ll be changing.
In the quiet time LSAClassof2000 has kept up with his charting, this time getting into 3rd and 4th down conversion success rate. The first look was pretty pedestrian, except when charting he added a percent of plays that were 1st down stat to them. I don’t think I’ve seen that stat used before, but come to think of it that’s a neat way to track offensive success, yes/no? Let’s try that:
PERCENT OF PLAYS on X DOWN:
Clickit to make it biggit.
My data are a little different than what you can pull from cfbstats or something because I left in things like plays that resulted in defensive pass interference or offsides (offensive penalties that caused a play to be wiped were removed). Anyway Michigan was sneaky good at avoiding 4th downs last year because of the high 3rd down conversion rate. The most efficient offenses in the conference were better at avoiding 3rd downs too; those were also the spread offenses.
LSA also took a second swing at the conversion stats but went the other way, tracking the differential between offensive and defensive 3rd down conversion rates, and how that tracks with win percentage and points per game. The Michigan difference:
Win your 3rd downs, win more games. My suggestion is to track this game-by-game against the opponents' average points for and against—smaller sample sizes but I bet you those swings make a huge difference in performance vs. expectation.
Bronxblue had a long "best and worst" diary to kind of preview this year's storylines. Things we'll be talking about:
- Football (as opposed to Johnny Manziel)
- Effect of non-Denardiness on offense
- Running back stable no longer smurf variants
- Less spread.
- Where's the pass rush?
- % less RichRodiness
- All those four/five star kids emerging into favorites
[Jump: best of the board, moment of zen]
Tomorrow is the Spring Game, though we've been completely distracting you from all the football going down this week. If you'll be in town for the game, stop by R.U.B. (on State & Packard) afterwards for a live Q&A with Marlin and some high-contrast bloggers. If you won't, the Q&A part will be liveblogged. Bring questions to save us from Chris Farley'ing. Hey remember when you shut down Reggie Williams in the 2002 opener? That was awesome.
That Was Awesome. Hey remember when we had a basketball team in the championship game? The staff here got a bit lethargic afterwards, and we were saved by the work of bronxblue, Diarist o' da Week, who kept a running diary of the entire tournament run. The good: THAT, likeable players, Beilein stories, Burke-Spike-McGary. Bad/Ugly: Refs, injuries, awful announcers, Adidas. Best-worst: expectations:
At the same time, though, the feelings of these past 4 weeks will probably never be there again, or if they are they’ll be tinged with a dread you can’t quite shake. The cloud over UM basketball has finally lifted; it may just be replaced with a far less oppressive one.
The "it's been awhile" sentiment was repeated in the other DotW by Tom From AA, which recounted a decade of would-be ascensions from Bernard Robinson to the walk-on-led B1G champs. Excerpt from the Not Just a Shooter™ prototype:
Stu Douglass – in addition to sporting a Spock-like haircut as a freshmen – was a prototypical example of what a player can be under John Beilein. Initially only an outside shooter (and a streaky one at times), Douglass turned into one of the teams most reliable ball handlers and its best off-ball defender by the end of his senior season – a compliment to both Douglass’ hard work and Beilein’s staff’s ability to develop players. Stu Douglass is the all-time leader in games played at the University of Michigan, beating out his partner in crime by two games. Douglass ranks fifth in career 3-pt field goals made and ninth in minutes played.
I learned this with the 2006 Tigers: the team that takes you up the mountain is the one that will always stick with you; every run afterwards the excitement ebbs into fear of falling short. In this the randomness of single-elimination is your friend. Given the nature of March Madness, I have zero fear of not being able to appreciate any future run to the Elite 8 or beyond.
This 20-year rundown of M players with NBA and/or Euro careers by AC1997 is a quick read in the same vein of we've been through that, appreciate this. Speaking of guys who terminate their college careers just to end up playing in some foreign country…
Trouba No! Jacob did the awful thing, leaving a huge hole on Big Blue's blue line so he could play for a team in Manitoba or Saskatchewan or Nunavut or Prince Edward Island or YES I CAN NAME ALL OF YOUR PROVINCES TAKE THAT CANADIAN STEREOTYPES! If you're wondering what comes after the defections of Merrill and Trouba, read. You can tell MGoBlueline is gonna end up on that Mt. Blogmore image one day because he's already getting his bolded subconscious on.
Other Jumps. I bumped from the boards this Drbogue post where he did some of the early legwork for what could be an important study on whether a player should go pro or not. The evidence suggests young players are so likely to burn through that first year's earnings so fast they ruin this advantage for themselves. Just in case here's a look by 1484 of which NBA teams might have interest in early entry Wolverines. Burke to Pistons yes I am biased.
In a comparison of non-random groups of Sparts and Bucks encountered by mgrowold the in-staters were the bigger jerks. Spartanfreude board threads throughout the week (usually of RCMB melting down with envy) attested to the instability of the green psyche, but the smart ones were with us. I watched every round but the last with my Little-Brother little brother, who after MSU went out added all of his vim to my might and main. His reasoning: if M played themselves into four lottery picks they might all go do that, leaving a smoother path for…
More in perspective. Remember when we hired Beilein? The final version of this-used-to-be-Games Remaining by mistersuits has a final ranking of 2012-'13 games by difficulty according to Kenpom; the last was the toughest. And lunchboxthegoat penned a personal diary of his one-year MGo-Exile, self-imposed after he reamed out Burke for what we thought was a decision to play the 2012-'13 season with the Heat or whatever. Take notes future trolls of America: this is how you redeem yourself.
Dated tourney blogs you still ought to read: fuzzy247 rewrote Casey at the Bat for Burke, and UMAmaizinBlue did Devil Went Down to Georgia for Pitino. Stopthewnba quantified the Big Eastness of the refs for the Final Four—Louisville was familiar with them, though I can't imagine that translated to Pitino telling his players not to worry about Trey Burke because they're gonna make up a million fouls on him. Official ref venting thread. Save this for when you go to Atlanta. Some jonvalk wallpapers for the Final Four and Final Final. Where wast thee in '93? How to crush oranges. Non-dated shots from the tourney: LSAClassof2000's statistical review. Being a Michigan dad (bonus: when your kid gets a photo with Novak)
[LET'S JUMP TO THE BOARD.]
3/14/2013 – Michigan 83, Penn State 66 – 26-6, entry to second round of BTT
Bleary-eyed and maybe a little puffy after having a good cry about the last two minutes of the Indiana game, Michigan staggered into the United Center wondering why everything was so bright and loud and wondering if a hot dog would make them feel better or worse. A few minutes later, they were down 14-3 and every Michigan fan had a personal reckoning with their panic tolerance.
Did you run around screaming "everything is over?" Did you stuff 35 multivitamins down your esophagus in a cry for help? No, don't tell us. Down 11 a few minutes into a tournament game against Penn State a man finds himself in a place he never thought he'd be. What happens down there is something we should hit with a shovel and bury deep. If you were more animal than man at 2:45 PM yesterday, well… so be it. Character is about recovering from your impulse.
The team did this. Michigan spent the first couple of breaks smacking themselves and screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT," and thanks to the utterly unflappable Trey Burke and Mitch McGary—a man who seems to be productively deficient in human emotions like doubt or restraint—they did. In these moments I like to go check out the Kenpom prediction (which is almost always the Vegas line, give or take a point) and think about how points are worth the same whether you score them early or late. It was 16 in this one; Michigan beat it by a point.
It's strange how frustrating it is to pull away late or recover like Michigan did against Purdue. Or, rather, it's not strange at all. You have to try as hard as you can to say the order in which the points came is not a reason to run around, ripping chunks of hair from your head and shouting "my basketball team ate this."
No rest for the weary; on to demon Wisconsin. Death to backboards, half court, and everywhere in-between.
Zone? Hi. If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me, um, ranting about Michigan's refusal to even try out a zone defense despite a team that shoots 30% from three gutting the interior of Michigan's defense to the tune of 11/17 shooting from two by Sasa "Pretty Much Shaq" Borovnjak and DJ Newbill in the first half. In the second half we then suffered through five to eight minutes of Penn State keeping pace with Michigan's blistering offensive pace.
For the game, Penn State put up 1.1 PPP. Defense remains a huge issue. At least there's some sort of upper bound on how bad it can be, right? That's the ticket.
Grrr aarrgh. Jordan Morgan came out with the weight of a barely-missed Big Ten championship not so much weighing on his shoulders as burying him neck-deep in misery. Trey Burke's abnormally low assist output—three—was almost entirely on Morgan's four missed bunnies. Morgan was also out of sync defensively as Michigan's pick and roll D was gutted by Sasa "Basically Pau Gasol" Borovnjak. Morgan was the guy who Borovnjak drove from almost the three-point line on.
Enter Mitch McGary, in full on Big Puppy mode. He ripped down boards, he went 5/6 from the floor, he had a steal, block, two assists, and escaped the wrath of the scorer on a turnover that was obviously his fault but seemed to escape the box score entirely. After one hardman board, he let out a simian bellow—an entirely justified one.
When Morgan struggled at the start of the first half, he got a quick hook and his minutes were given to Jon Horford. A strange phenomenon ensued: Gus Johnson started talking about how incredibly impressive Horford had been in the first half, an opinion with no basis in reality. Horford then demonstrated that Gus Johnson is aging backwards through time or something. Horford chucked in 11 points in 10 minutes, blocked a couple shots, grabbed various rebounds, and went 3/3 from the line(!).
John Beilein won't say if he'll leave struggling Jordan Morgan in Michigan's starting lineup
Yow. That says volumes. Also this:
"It's up in the air if I decide it's up in the air," Beilein said. "Right now it's too soon to make that (decision).
"I'll watch some film, we'll talk, we'll look at matchups and decide what we're going to do."
I'd guess Morgan still starts, but Beilein will have a quick trigger a la the second half. Michigan won't be able to crawl out of 14-3 holes with as much ease the rest of the year.
blouses (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)
Not just a shooter. Stauskas had 15 points on nine shot equivalents plus two assists and zero TOs. Sometimes I think Michigan would be better off moving some of Hardaway's usage to Stauskas. He's got a better handle and seems to create shots a bit better. This may not be the best time to argue that when Hardaway had five assists.
Stauskas also did a much better job on Jermaine Marshall this time around. He torched Michigan behind the line in the last game; in this one he scored 8 points on 14 shot attempts—basically the only PSU player to have a bad day.
Trey statistical weirdness day. Burke assists: 3. Burke blocked shots: 3. Boggle.
Hardaway check. After the Wisconsin game on February 9th, Tim Hardaway was shooting 54% from three in 11 Big Ten games. Since he is 9 of 45, 20%. Michigan's offense has survived admirably in that absence; it would be nice if he was to start hitting some dang shots. I am not sure what to say about this other than "make your threes," but I can say it very loudly if that is required.
A thing that leaps off Hardaway's season box score at Kenpom: his FTAs have evaporated. Up until the Minnesota game Hardaway had gone to the line in every game and had at least six FTAs in 8 games. Since he has been shut out entirely 7 times. Three games in which he was not were against the hackmasters in Happy Valley; other than those games the only times he's been to the line: 3/5 against OSU, 4/5 against Illinois, 1/1 against Purdue, 0/2 against Indiana.
I will repeat my grand desire to see Hardaway commit between one to three charges every game.
GRIII check. If Morgan wasn't struggling so badly I bet we would have seen some dual post action; as it was I was surprised that Bielfeldt didn't get some run early when Penn State was grabbing a bunch of offensive rebounds and Ross Travis found himself having a nice day offensively. Travis shoots 39% from the floor. He was 5/9 in this one.
I'm not sure where Big Ten Geeks grabbed this stat, but I retweeted it since it was in line with my eye test:
McGary has grabbed 11 of the 14 chances he's had for a rebound. GR3 is 2 of 10.
McGary went through a stretch in which he couldn't grab a rebound to save his life, like the rest of the team. Robinson has been pretty weak on the boards since the start of Big Ten play. Against the top four teams in the league, Robinson's rebounding has looked like this:
- @ OSU: 38 minutes, 0 OREB, 1 DREB
- @ Indiana, 40 minutes, 2 OREB, 2 DREB
- OSU: 41 minutes, 33 minutes, 3 OREB, 1 DREB
- @ Wisconsin: 1 OREB, 2 DREB
- @ MSU: 21 minutes, 2 OREB, 0 DREB
- MSU: 31 minutes, 2 OREB, 1 DREB
- Indiana: 37 minutes, 1 OREB, 4 DREB
In one(!) of those seven games GRIII has acquired more than two defensive rebounds despite playing huge minutes at the four in all of them. He's done a bit better against the rest of the league; when the going gets tough he's been found wanting. Ace looked at in detail and found that Robinson was frequently a culprit. I'm getting progressively more frustrated with him as Michigan's defensive rebounding continues its glide path down to last year's numbers. In this one Michigan won the board war but still allowed Penn State to grab 34% of their misses, with Ross Travis grabbing 4 OREBs. Borovnjak was 0 (OREB) and 2 (DREB) going up against the fives.
The bad thing about the way that went down. Michigan is facing down four games in four days if they are fortunate enough to get that far. Because of the slow start starters not named Morgan played 34, 35, 35, and 33 minutes. I generally downplay the idea that a few minutes extra is going to kill an 18-20 year old who spends his entire existence in a gym, but once the games come rapid-fire—and you're going up against teams who had today off—that's a situation in which wilting legs seems like a real issue.
I guess the good bit is Michigan is playing Wisconsin's tortoiseball today. If there's a team less well-positioned to take advantage of their opponent's heavy legs, I don't want to perceive their existence. I don't want to perceive Wisconsin's, man.