at least it's not just us?
Merry Christmas. We get presents this year. I'm an American so my productivity collapses like everyone else's during these couple days—content will be a bit light. Expect Tennessee/CCHA finals previews at least. A game column immediately afterwards is up in the air since I might be in Detroit rooting for Notre Dame. We'll play it by ear.
He's so articulate*. Man… I suggested the Grant Hill NYT op-ed would just confirm the Fab Five's 20-year-old opinions but I had no idea he'd actually drop Latin into it and call Duke a "special family," then tweet that his interminable diploma-waving had been edited for length and that you could find the whole thing on his website. I can't believe we actually hired one of these dips to coach our basketball team, and by "can't believe" I mean "can totally believe."
WLA truth bombs!
“was”. “hated”. “hated”. “felt”. “hated”. “was”. “came”. “went”. “played”. “was”. “had to”. “was”. “resented”. “looked”.
These are the verbs that the four members of the Fab Five use during their description of their feelings towards Duke. What do all these verbs have in common? They are in the past tense. This is an elementary fact of grammar of which you would expect one who mentions his place in the “special” brotherhood of Duke graduates to be aware. Apparently, he is not.
Rose has since clarified to foreigners, people with learning disabilities that prevent them from understanding verb conjugations, and Duke graduates that when he used verbs in the past tense he was talking about the past.
No one thought Grant Hill was a bitch, even the guys who said they thought he was when they were 19, until he wrote his response. Now everyone thinks he's a bitch. Can we get a Grant Hill Effect wikipedia page?
*[514 hits for "grant hill articulate" in the last 24 hours by people who don't know what articulate means but do know he's black. Hill's clunky constructions are reminiscent of a high school term paper even after going through a battery of NYT editors. Look at this:
It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me.
Too many commas. Pointless use of "interesting"—95% of the time a filler word. Awful finger-wagging intro. Too many goddamn commas. This sentence could have been half as long and communicated the same thing**. If this is articulate to you, you need to read more.]
**[That thing, of course: "The Fab Five was right."]
Dead coach walking. Bruce Pearl's athletic director said his status was undecided yesterday and it took all of two hours for this to morph into a "he's fired" news-type substance propagated by local radio. This is a perfect opportunity for hindpsychology no matter what happens tomorrow: if Tennessee loses, they have been distracted. If they win, they were motivated to protect their embattled coach.
Since Pearl's job status isn't likely to affect Hopson's jumper his wavering status is more interesting as a window into Tatgate. Tennessee is trying to hang on to Pearl, something that hardly any team facing a serious ethical violation has done before. If they can't do that it could bode poorly for Tressel, who'll get the same charge on his docket of major violations. The NCAA typically levies show-cause penalties when you break bylaw 10.1 ("don't be a liar, coach"), and those are basically a death-knell.
Bolden wavering. Robert Bolden is in at Penn State… for now:
"Nothing is official," he said [Wednesday]. "I'm just here for the spring. I decided to come back. I'm just here. I'm going to work hard and we'll see what happens from there."
That's a sticky spot for PSU. If he sticks around because he "won" the job in spring—for whatever that's worth—his threat to transfer hangs over that decision and a fall benching for McGloin or redshirt freshman Paul Jones seems likely to cause instant hissyfit + transfer. If he doesn't win the job he's out, leaving PSU with walk-on Favre and a guy who wasn't as good as Bolden last year.
Not far enough. Gasaway's annual rule-fixing column is up, and as per usual he is mincingly weak on the tyranny of basketball timeouts:
3. Reduce the number of timeouts. Here's a tip. If the coaches in your sport can call timeout, send their players into action, see what defense the opponent is using, and then call another timeout before anything has even happened, your sport gives its coaches too many timeouts. Let's make a start here by taking away one timeout per game from each team. The earth will continue to spin, I promise, and TV networks fretting about lost commercial time can be accommodated via slightly extended breaks in the action during the remaining timeouts.
Take away one timeout per team? Teams should only have one timeout. Make it count, yo, like they do in hockey, and stop turning the last two minutes of a basketball game into the Odyssey.
Big Ten hockey en route. Rumor has it a Big Ten Hockey conference, already a fait accompli—SUCK ON THAT GRANT HILL—could be announced as early as Monday. Big Ten play would start in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new building. They'd spend a year getting their feet as an independent.
Small schools will complain but Big Ten Hockey is great for the sport. Reasons:
- It opens up spots for expansion that don't exist right now. A variety of schools have come and gone over the past ten years, unable to stick because their only conference option was the constantly shifting, constantly almost evaporating CHA. Creating a Big Ten creates 12 slots in stable conferences for new programs, although half of those would have to be Big Ten schools.
- Twelve schools is too much for a hockey conference anyway. Nonconference schedules are preposterously small when 28 of your 34 games are ticketed for your conference. Getting the Western conferences down to 6, 8, and 10 teams greatly increases available nonconference games, making schedules more varied and ranking systems more reliable.
- Big Ten hockey will increase the profile of college hockey as a whole, helping it as it battles with the OHL for players.
A lot of small school fans are horrified at the prospect but it's not like North Dakota, Denver, and CC are going away. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota would be hard pressed to recruit any better even with the promise of gorgeous Big Ten Network HD. Big Ten hockey will help the sports profile but not so much that it turns everyone else into mid-majors.
Fears that some of the smaller CCHA programs could be threatened by loss of revenue are more worrying. BG considered dropping its program a couple years back and hockey is an expensive sport. Ferris and Lake State and other places where it's the flagship are probably going to suck it up, but that's not the case everywhere. I certainly hope the Big Ten schools create scheduling agreements that see them regularly visit former conference opponents, and hate the idea of Miami and Notre Dame moving to the WCHA. That would see two perfectly viable conferences turn into one very good conference and CHA 2.0, and we know how CHA 1.0 ended.
Losing schools is bad for everyone since college is in a perpetual war against major junior; college hockey needs to work together to make this transition one that everyone can live with.
Etc.: Michigan has an 0.9 percent chance to make the Final Four. Zack Novak is short. Wojo column on Beilein. Hardaway fluff comes with another spectacularrrrrr Emotions of Tim Hardaway photo. Hockey fluff. Caporusso returns this weekend to the place where he scores.
John Beilein says "forks up" to his NCAA tourney bid
Pensive Dave Ablauf is not so sure
Trends. Tennessee is coming at this 8-9 game from a totally different place than Michigan: once entrenched in the top ten in the polls, Tennessee's season started off a cliff after a home loss to Oakland and never really recovered. Where Michigan has won 9 of 13 and was only beaten solidly by national #1 seed Ohio State during that stretch, Tennessee enters the tournament having lost 7 of 11 with two of those wins against terrible South Carolina. (To be fair, two of the losses were by one point, one against two seed Florida.)
That win against Pitt seems like a decade ago.
Defenses. Dylan points out that national commentators still hung up on the idea that Beilein is primarily running a 1-3-1—something that hasn't been true for two years—could have backed their way into some correct analysis.
What's the thing Michigan is guaranteed to give up when they switch to the 1-3-1? An open corner three. What's a shot you're comfortable with Tennessee taking? An open corner three not from Scotty Hopson. No Vol other than Hopson is shooting better than 32%. They've got a guy (Cameron Tatum) with 119 attempts who's shooting 28%—imagine what your reaction would be if half of Darius Morris's shots were threes.
So okay fine. Then add in the main benefit of the 1-3-1: turnovers generated. Tennessee has a tough defense and brutally effective offensive rebounders. Getting turnovers helps mitigate both advantages, and if they're settling for threes long rebounds are at least less likely to result in immediate putbacks.
OTOH, Tennessee's much bigger than Michigan and the 1-3-1 really prefers long guys who can make skip passes arc enough for the defense to recover so they don't give up open corner threes. Also the primary weakness of the defense is allowing (drumroll) tons of offensive rebounds. There's a chance it could backfire spectacularly.
I bet Beilein gives it a whirl at some point just in case it turns UT into a gibbering mess. Judging from the internet, Vols fans aren't impressed with their team's basketball IQ. And if you're not judging from the internet, you're on the wrong internet.
Sign those scrubs up. I'm not sure if this is real or just motivational but I'm hoping it's the former:
In Monday's practice, the Vols' scout team enjoyed eye-popping success against the starters while running Beilein's offense. Reserves Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge buried numerous open 3-pointers off passes from guards Tyler Summitt and Michael Hubert.
"Just putting it in today on our scout team, those guys were successful running that offense against us,'' UT senior center Brian Williams said. "That offense is tough to check.''
I checked the comments and sure enough there's a wag suggesting that if either of the scrubs can hit threes they should replace Tatum.
If this is a real thing Tennessee has trouble with in the game, it will be up to Novak to take advantage. Woolridge was playing the perimeter four and "messed [them] up good." I'm a little concerned about this since Novak's also got the toughest defensive assignment as he attempts to check 6'8" Tobias Harris. Novak's shooting slump earlier coincided with a lot of tough defensive work against guys bigger than him. I'll take open threes, though.
Tobias. The aforementioned matchup is high on Tennessee's radar:
“We’re ready for Tobias to have a big night in there, ya feel me?” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “Obviously we want to expose that, because Tobias is obviously one of the best players on our team. We’re looking forward to getting the ball inside more and taking advantage of (Michigan’s) lack of posts.”
Harris is a freshman with approximately Hardaway-level usage shooting 49% from two and 31% from 3. He's got a Morris-like distribution between the two. (IE: he takes a ton of twos and the occasional three.) Zack Novak is short. On the other hand, Michigan can double off anyone not named Hopson and what's Tennessee going to do, have Tatum shoot a three?
Michigan's gotten a lot of experience dealing with a post guy matched up with one shooter—three games against OSU's Sullinger-Diebler combo—and has frequently doubled from the baseline to force long skip passes. That burned Michigan against OSU's better-than-competent non-Diebler shooters (Lighty, Buford, and Craft are all around 40(!) percent from three). Maybe not so much against the Vols.
Etc.: Beilein gettin' forky with it comes from his personal site's "behind the scenes" post on Selection Sunday. Dylan and I used a bunch of the same links but he's got some extra at UMHoops. Tennessee fans say Michigan reminds them of a Pearl team, which… um… thanks? Oriental Andrew collects links too. The Fab Five's '93 matchup against GW.
in case you missed it, or in case you didn't
Assorted items off the top of the head.
Kenpom or conspiracy. The Big Ten got a wet sloppy kiss from the committee this year. While they scored the expected Sweet Sixteen seeds, where eyebrows cocked was about the other four teams. Michigan got an eight, Illinois a nine, Penn State and Michigan State tens. For all the bubble talk over the last month when it came down to it no Big Ten team was one of the last seven(!) in, and Michigan wasn't even on the bubble.
Talk radio in Boulder, Colorado will center around the fact that OSU's AD was the head of the committee, but I wonder if people in the room actually paid attention to how well the Big Ten represented in Kenpom and other computer rankings. They definitely didn't do this on a team level—Kenpom #17 Utah State got rewarded with a 12 seed, #19 Belmont a 13—so maybe it's just a coincidence and the conspiracy theorists are closer to right.
As far as Michigan specifically, I also wonder if Michigan's narrow losses to Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin were an influence. At first blush they look way overseeded. Narrow losses and a blazing finish might explain the difference between Michigan's resume and its seed.
The opponent. It's "hey, look at this coach who should definitely be fired" week on MGoBlog as Michigan draws dead man walking Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee probably-not-Volunteers.
Q: how many tournament appearances do you have left
A: plenty, ask Tim Floyd
Q: AT TENNESSEE SMART GUY
Despite seeming to be overseeded, Michigan caught an opponent that's equally, if not more, uninspiring on paper. Tennessee was 8-8 in the crappy SEC and had a violently mixed nonconference schedule that features wins over Pitt, Villanova, VCU, and Belmont (twice, albeit the second time by just one) and losses against Oakland, Charleston, and Charlotte. In the SEC tournament they beat Arkansas before losing to Florida.
Kenpom has them 55th. Michigan's up to 40th after splitting their pair at the BTT, so Michigan will be about a 60% favorite according to the system. Tennessee's most outlying statistical points are great offensive rebounding (12th nationally at almost 38%) and terrible three point shooting (30%, 315th). They're vaguely in the middle of the pack in everything else, above average at most things except getting their shots blocked.
crap, he can drive past white guys
The stars. Tennessee's offense revolves around SF Scotty Hopson and and PF Tobias Harris to about the same extent Michigan's revolves around Harris and Hardaway, except for the fact that Hopson and Harris actually get some time on the bench. They're kind of meh as far as efficiency goes; Hopson is a good three point shooter (38%) but no one else on the team is much of a threat.
The guy you're going to be screaming "AAAARGH REBOUND" at is Brian Williams (not that Bison Dele), who's ninth nationally in OREB%. He's a foul machine averaging 5.5 per 40 minutes and only gets about 20 per game but his backup is just a slightly worse version of him: John Fields is a foul machine averaging 7.2 per 40 who vacuums up offensive rebounds at only a slightly less monstrous rate.
The best team ever, for a given definition. Yes: right now this team is better than the Sims/Harris '09 team that slid into the tournament for the first time in forever by both Kenpom and tourney seeding metrics. This has been a remarkable job by Beilein; if he can build on it the next couple years Michigan will have an actual program again.