Mike Lantry, 1972
…the big boys and their ESPN propagandists got the results they needed from the land of mid-majors this weekend. Neither Siena nor Utah St. could handle their road trips to angry league rivals who have probably had the date circled on their proverbial calendars for weeks. Creighton didn't get the help they needed from Evansville to declare an outright title in the MoVal. Butler sealed up homecourt throughout the Horizon tourney, making it more likely the HL will stay a one-bid league. More than ever, it looks like it really is the "down year" for mid-major at-larges we've been hearing about since December.
Tentative woo. While it's the rare major-conference result that definitively reduces the number of bids a league will get—thanks, Notre Dame—every failed attempt at a mid-major at-large increases the pool of available slots for Michigan.
They're still not getting in without a win over Minnesota on Saturday, but there was always a chance that an unpleasant assemblage of results outside of Michigan's control could see the "9-9 w/ first round BTT win" scenario fail to yield a bid. That chance is slimming.
Skatin'. Defenseman and member of Michigan's sick 2010 hockey recruiting class Mac Bennett was recently profiled by his local news:
So, good news and bad news in there. Good news: Bennett seems like the kind of kid who will go high-ish in this year's NHL draft—he was rated a third-round pick (-ish) by the CSB. Bad news: his quotes on Michigan don't indicate the sort of kid who's likely to stick around all four years. Eh, that's life as a Michigan hockey fan.
Berenson back. We may be nearing the end of Red Berenson's tenure as Michigan's coach, but it's not quite over. Berenson just agreed to a one-year extension of his contract.
Berenson gives a typically blunt quote about the situation:
"I know that my time is coming," Berenson said. "...I just didn't want to make a five-year commitment and say, 'Geez, I'm gonna be here until I'm 75 or something.' I don't think that's fair to the team, to the program. And recruits might come in and say, '... this guy is gonna be our coach?'
"Right now I'm fine, and I'm good for a year. So we'll go from there."
Oh, no reason. (via Black Heart, Gold Pants)
Berenson did state he wasn't planning on retiring this year even if Michigan wins the national title. As for what happens when Berenson steps down: the chance of an internal promotion is very high. Billy Powers and Mel Pearson already do all of the recruiting and plenty of the coaching; Michigan will promote one and hope to hang on to the other.
Bashin'. An erratic weekend for Michigan baseball saw them lose to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a game featuring 30 runs, split a doubleheader with Jacksonville by the improbable scores of 21-3 (W) and 10-2 (L), and finally pull another late-innings rabbit out of their hat against Akron. Formerly Anonymous has your recap. Michigan stands at 7-2 on the year and is looking a little wobbly.
A three-game series against Siena is up next, followed by the annual Mets exhibition and then then what's probably the most critical series of the year if Michigan's going to get any at-large consideration at the end of the year: three games at Arizona.
Sign there is something deeply wrong with me #4,540. So I read the epically long Wright Thompson thing about Ole Miss's 1962 integration riots and so on and so forth. As I was doing this, I kept thinking about Derek Pegues and Dennis Thames and Josh Boyd: how the hell can it be hard to get kids out of Mississippi? Argh!
Also, a there is a Michigan tangent. The week after James Meredith enrolls and Oxford turns into Beruit, Ole Miss plays Houston:
Vaught almost never gives pregame speeches, thinks they are silly. But this ... well, he needs to say something. Vaught feels like the entire university is riding on the backs of his team. Vanity? Sure. True? Probably. He needs them to understand, these young guys. He needs them to see. "It is very important that we play this game, boys," Vaught says, "and we have to win it."
The team roars in response and rushes out of the locker room onto the field. Vaught gets chills watching them. The Rebels dominate undefeated Houston 40-7, with Griffing throwing three touchdown passes to Guy. But the most emotional two ovations of the day have nothing to do with the game.
One comes at the beginning, when Barnett enters his box. The other comes when the public address man announces other scores from around the country. Michigan, he tells them, has beaten Army, hated invader of Ole Miss 17-0.
This is so tangential that I don't have anything to say about it other than "funny old world," so: funny old world.
1/31/2009 – Michigan 49, Purdue 67 – 14-8, 4-6 Big Ten
1/31/2009 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 3 – 19-9, 13-7 CCHA
One of the eternal mysteries of sport to me is why no player has ever lost his mind and gone Tropp on one of the referees. I put myself in their position, having worked so hard my entire life for this one goal only to see some gym teacher ruin it all, and just can't imagine the white-hot blinding rage I'd feel in their situation. You'd think self-control would fail at some point, and there would be An Incident. But, no, apparently not.
The closest thing in my memory is Rasheed Wallace threatening a ref on a loading dock behind some NBA reason or another, but that doesn't quite fit. This is Rasheed Wallace we're talking about here. 'Sheed is one spaced out cat, and it's one thing to clock a guy in a fit of pique during an event and something entirely different to calmly wait for the game to end, shower, get dressed, and then scare the ever-living hell out of some guy with your Cheshire Cat grin and weird bald spot you take everywhere with you because it is attached to your head. (Is there anyone on the planet you would less like to be threatened by on a loading dock? This is a 6'10" man nicknamed "Roscoe" who looks slightly deranged even when he's happy.)
I digress. Saturday was a bad day to be a Michigan fan. It's one thing to lose. It's another thing to lose partially, largely, or entirely because of the incompetence of a referee. And in two separate, critical games refereeing incompetence ruled the day, costing Michigan dearly.
This is a foul and was adjudged one until such point as Scrappy Heady IQ Head For The Scrappy Eckstein started gushing blood out of his nose and the Purdue crowd cried out, at which point it was cause to boot Manny Harris. From there Michigan imploded. Given the results of the past few weeks, they were probably going to implode anyway. But good God.
Incident two has not found its way to the internet, but incident three has. Collectively were even more damaging. One was a Notre Dame goal obviously kicked in that not one of the four people employed to observe these things noticed. The second was a puck lying in plain view of one of the four people employed to observe these things that was blown dead the instant before it was stuffed into the net. By a guy at the blueline. Who then reviewed the play and told Berenson the reason the goal was no good was because the net had been dislodged. A quick calculation reveals that 2 + 1 is larger than 3 – 1.
Red Berenson came as close as he ever does to losing his cool:
"I'm not here to discuss the officiating, but this was a big series, and obviously you want top officials here, but they were two great college hockey games."
Which, you will note, is not very close at all. The Wolverine has some elaboration:
"That's the part as coaches – you can't question the officials but there was definitely a question about the goal that went in off the player's skate," head coach Red Berenson said. "It wasn't under the review camera so they couldn't see it and we had to go by the referee's judgment and that's not always as accurate as it might be. It's disappointing because it was a close game and came down to one goal.
"[On the disallowed goal] that's a tough call because the puck was loose."
Meanwhile, Michael Spath—normally very professional—declared the ruling "ridiculous" in that article.
Both of these games, then, were vexing. Extremely vexing. The fact that one followed right after the other and a spectacularly irritating Notre Dame fan was seated directly behind me at the hockey game combined to make Saturday night one spent searching for a local farm with an emu to punch. Or, you know, basically any sort of flightless, eminently punchable bird. I would have taken a chicken or an ostrich or, I don't know, a cow with big ears. No luck. I was just vexed.
It's not like this stuff is ever going to get better. Someone's got to do these games and if all you've got are Aaron and Hall and Wilkins and Hightower and Bova, you're just going to get hosed periodically. And that's all you're ever going to get because these guys have full-time jobs at which I hope they are considerably better than their weekend ones. (Otherwise there are a lot of crappily organized floor hockey teams around, let me tell you.) But even if regular vexing at the hands of college referees is a given that doesn't make it any less frustrating when it happens.
- UMHoops is one of many to go to the rulebook in an attempt to figure out what it says about ejecting some dude. See also: Varsity Blue. Meanwhile, the Ace of Sports is just pissed.
- Yost Built channels Chevy Chase.
BULLETS OF AAAAAARGGHGHGHGHGHGH
- Jevohn Shepherd's lack of playing time is even more totally inexplicable now. Maybe he can't shoot, but no one can so let's play the 6'5" guy who's scoring pretty efficiently, eh?
- Manny Harris was like 1 for 6 and had five turnovers by the time he was booted. I don't think that's a major reason Michigan lost; they were always likely to regress to their mean and get run out of the gym. Harris is going backwards in a major way. There can no longer be any serious debate about it.
- That spectacularly irritating ND fan was a punk high school kid and, I'm 99% sure, one of the three NTDP players playing for ND next year. At one point he attempted to respond to someone heckling him by saying "if my grades go good [sic] you'll see me on the ice next year." Also, there were a couple other kids with him who were just obviously hockey players. Everything from their 100% Hollister wardrobe to their lingo made it obvious. Also obvious: punk high school kid was attempting to memorize the details of his fake ID.
- Aside from the vexing hose job, the hockey weekend was a productive and encouraging one. They won on the road solidly. They outshot and outchanced Notre Dame at home. Michigan is now tied for fifth in the Pairwise and still has a shot at a top seed if they maintain their level of play over the homestretch of the season. Plus, Mitera should be returning in two or three weeks.
- Okay, the last time we saw Scooter Vaughn he was taking a major for delivering the year's dumbest hit, and the time before that he was responsible for two Michigan State goals in the 5-3 game at Munn, but surely Tristin Llewellyn could use some time on the bench to reflect on the dumb roughing penalty he takes every game, no? Llewellyn's getting walked on a regular basis and doesn't seem to bring much other than the occasional hit.
- There is zero reason to limit review to the goal cam when there are other options available. The concern about "inconsistent enforcement" is a weird one: surely a system that gets as many calls correct as it can is more consistent than one that ignores plain evidence a goal was kicked in because Lake Superior State's game isn't being televised this weekend. More correct calls = good.