the season has truly begun now
big ten expansion
Baraka Obama-a. Remember Kelly Baraka? Unless you're an old-school M recruitnik probably not. If you don't: he was supposed to be a total ninja RB before a number of high school pot arrests saw him lose his shot at an M scholarship. He never made it anywhere else and has regularly featured in "where are they now?" features end up with the Kalamazoo Xplosion, a minor league football team. Not that you needed me to tell you that with a name like "Xplosion."
Yeah… anyway. About that ninja bit:
LeGarrette Blount ain't got nothing on Kelly Baraka.
Video revamp. Inside Michigan Football sans browser-crippling software:
Schilling's beard is a confidence-building one.
Slings and arrows. The Mathlete takes a look at luck over the past two years in the Big Ten and nationally, re-running last season based on performance-adjusted PPG metrics and slicing out some of the huge swings from random plays like fumbles (he leaves in interceptions). Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been on the kind end of things:
I had some questions about whether this "luck" factor was really luck, but there doesn't appear to be any correlation between excellent teams and good fortune. OSU and Penn State average out to be basically even. Iowa nets out around –2. Michigan State's 9-3 2008 team was the second most-fortunate in the country that year, something that checks out in the statistics. It passes a cursory sanity check.
So, then: Northwestern is your official Big Ten lucksack with Minnesota a distant second. If I'm reading the graph right, the Wildcats have been the luckiest team in the country two years running. The negative outlier for 2009—that dot sitting right at –3.0 on the y axis—is Oklahoma, by the way. Not that you needed to be told that a seven-win Stoops outfit suffered its share of outrageous fortune even beyond the Bradford injury.
One stop scouting. The NTDP moved to the USHL this year, which the NHL scouting community loves. Previously, the development team had puttered along in the NAHL, in which draftable prospects are few and far between. Now they're in the USA's premiere junior league and scouts are going "eeee":
"The whole design of the program has given us the selfish benefactor of comparing the Under-18 team on one weekend against the University of Michigan and older players, and then watching them against their group peers the following weekend. But because this is such a select team, an elite team, we think that the elite 18-year-olds should be able to compete against the 21- and 22-year-olds who were not selected in the draft. Those players are older and more savvy but for some reason were passed over."
This should help the NTDP hold on to some of the elite Americans they've lost in recent years. (Example: Stefan Matteau, son of longtime NHLer Stephane Matteau, has accepted a slot according to Michigan Hockey Net.) The 2011 NTDP is a relatively motley bunch. Michigan hasn't recruited anyone from it, a rarity these days. That will change for 2012, as Michigan will have at least two on next years U17s. Boo Nieves is a holy lock for the team and Heisenberg says Connor Carrick has already accepted an invite.
More Brandon panting. David Brandon loves America:
“Expanding the tournament, I believe is a bad idea … there are certain things that if they are not broke, don’t try to fix ‘em. If there is a better, more outstanding platform out there than the NCAA Final Four and basketball tournament, you have to tell me what that is.”
Not that this matters as the 96-team tournament becomes a foregone conclusion. I can't wait for that 9-24 matchup that will determine who has the right to face at eight seed. Guh.
While I'm on Brandon, contrast Michigan's hiring process with the fiasco that went down in Eugene after Mike Bellotti was presented a $2.3 million going-away present after accepting a job with ESPN:
[Oregon president Richard] Lariviere made two things clear: that he initiated the change in leadership and that university officials made missteps in dealing with Bellotti’s contract that no longer will be tolerated.
“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past,” Lariviere said. “That will not be repeated by my administration.”
Makes the hundred grand or whatever Michigan spent vetting candidates seem like the chump change it is.
Lariviere fired Bellotti because of an "increasing need for strong financial and business management"; the ESPN job was a late development that seemed to allow all parties to save face. (Then it blew up in their face, but it was a nice try.) The trend in athletic directors is clear: CEO types.
Walk it back. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick has read enough livid emails about Notre Dame's national cachet and the potential damage to Catholicism that would result from Our Lady joining up with those secular hooligans and is now changing tack on Notre Dame's role in Big Ten expansion:
That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big Ten or any other league.
"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it's not three divisions in college; it's four. It's the big change.
"I don't see that happening."
Please reduce your ND-to-B10 DEFCON to 85. Swarbrick adds:
"I really do believe strongly that we're sort of uniquely positioned to continue to chart our own course."
Sort of uniquely positioned? DEFCON back to 84!
In other Big Ten expansion news, Barnhardt writes about a 16 team Big Ten, spurring another round of PANIC duly shot down by DocSat, resurrected by the St Louis Post-Dispatch and OSU athletic director Gene Smith:
"I believe that if we expand, you probably ought to look at more than (just adding a 12th school)," Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said.
Stressing that was his opinion and may not be shared by some colleagues, Smith added that he believed the impact "would be pretty massive."
A sixteen team Big Ten is stupid. I complained earlier that an expansion to 14 would see Michigan play Penn State 29% of the time; going to 16 would drop that to 12% (eight conference games) or 25% (nine). That's not a conference any more. The only way it could work would be to adopt promotion and relegation. Whenever I bring this up people point out that the radical swings in team quality characteristic of college football could doom very good teams to irrelevance, and they're right. But it makes more sense than pretending to be in a conference with a team you play once every eight years.
If you're going to expand like that, I think 15 is the number. My completely bats proposal for a 14-team Big Ten is mathematically unworkable, but if you add a 15th team you can break the conference into three divisions of five that play each other and two (or possibly three) opponents in each of the other divisions, and then you can have relegation/promotion crazytimes at the end of the season. This will never, ever happen.
I'm hoping this is all a game of chicken to convince Notre Dame to sign on the dotted line. Expansion of the Big Ten past twelve teams is an idea on par with a 96 team NCAA tournament.
Reviews of a mixed variety. Local scouting service "Best of the Best" returns from the MSHAA playoffs with impressions of a number of players, three of them relevant to your interests. Isaiah Sykes:
He doesn't have a jump shot to save his life, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better finisher and slasher in the 2010 class statewide. Also drop dimes like a 5'9 PG. Terrific rebounder, and is great at getting the defensive board and starting the fast break and making something positive happen with the basketball. High majors are recruiting him, and it's warranted, would be a good late pick up for any up-tempo college team.
He's already committed to Michigan, but I don't know if he'll be successful in that system. In order to succeed at the highest level, picking the right system will be a absolute necessity for him. At the end of the day, he's a SG, and that's the bottom line. He produces and gets the job done, at that's what every team needs. He's a very good finisher for his size at the high school level and he can score in bunches when he gets rolling. All in all, his upside is limited in my opinion.
Decidedly negative, that. Hopefully he can develop a jumper over the next year and a half. Finally, Amir Williams:
A defensive phenom no matter the game because of his length, size, and timing, his effect on the game will be felt no matter what. He is also a hungry rebounder, who attacks the glass. Those are two big positives that you'd like every big man to have in their game, once the offensive part of his game becomes more consistent, we could be looking at another McDonald's All American out of the Country Day program.
Programming note. Since the basketball team has definitively disproven the idea that a liveblog around these parts is some kind of curse—the curse obviously exists, mind you, but goes wider than just this here blog—we're going to do one for the Iowa game today. Why? I don't really know.
Weekend note. Michigan State is desperately trying to sell CCHA playoff tickets:
To purchase tickets for groups of 15 or more, click here to receive discount pricing!
Let's help them out!
Deford and the Dream of Horses. Frank Deford sits down to briefly address this Ed O'Bannon thing before dozing off and dreaming of horses…
…and the headline goes for the gusto: "lawsuit threatens NCAA amateurism." That seems akin to those headlines about a 16-team Big Ten with outposts in Nagasaki and Atlantis, but Deford does a pretty good job of justifying it, all things considered:
So here's the nub for the NCAA: Explain the exemption that absolves the organization from compensating players for their labor.
So far, the NCAA, whose office is in Indianapolis, has spent a great deal of pretrial energy trying desperately to get the case shifted from San Francisco to its home court in Indiana. However, its effort did not pay off, as Federal Judge Claudia Wilken denied the request. Now, the discovery phase begins.
The outlook is bleak. The 2009 decision to award retired NFL players compensation for the use of their likeness in video games must surely hang over the NCAA's head. If old pros should be paid for the appropriation of their personages, why shouldn't old collegians?
I'm coming up empty even when I approach the problem from the perspective of a slick-haired guy in a suit attempting to argue an obviously untenable position because that's how daddy gets a luxury car. I'm all for the collegiate spirit, but I'm also all for the vague semblance of fairness.
Remember how I used to rail about the ridiculous increase in head coaches' salaries? Good times. Also outdated times:
The trend of rapidly accelerating pay for major-college head football coaches is being replicated — and then some — for their top assistants.
With many contracts being negotiated or finalized, nearly a dozen schools in the NCAA's 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision have made deals under which they will be spending at least 38% more on their offensive or defensive coordinator in 2010 than they did in 2009.
This, like everything else in college football, is Lane Kiffin's fault.
Even so, every time a coordinator breaks a million dollars it's another blow to the idea that big time college sports programs can't afford to provide something to their players. If a BCS university's athletic department isn't profitable, it's because the university doesn't want it to be profitable. Period. You could hire a high school coach and fly coach and laugh as your terrible team gets a million billion dollars in TV revenue. You could drop the crew teams. You could become Donald Sterling, and laugh all the way to the bank. There is an unbelievable amount of money that could go to the players.
I can understand the point of view that you'd rather give someone else a scholarship and have another team or draw less from the general fund than offer something resembling fair compensation to football and basketball players, but that's not where the extra money goes, does it?
Conference du Gump. The Big Ten, as always, is slowwwww. John Gasaway gets a brief window to promulgate tempo-free whatnot in the Wall Street Journal and supplies a chart (chart):
The Tempo Index
Here are the fastest and slowest major-conference teams, based on their number of possessions per 40 minutes of conference play.
THE TORTOISES THE HARES 1 Wisconsin (57.6) 1 Providence (72.8) 2 Michigan (59.7) 2 Arkansas (72.3) 3 Iowa (61) 3 Texas Tech (72) 4 Penn State (61.3) 4 Villanova (71.6) 5 Northwestern (61.8) 5 Washington (71.4) 6 Pittsburgh (62) 6 Texas (71.4) 7 USC (62.1) 7 Kansas State (71.3)
Holy cold potatoes: Big Ten teams comprise the bottom five and Michigan is second only to Wisconsin.
Gasaway, by the way, confirmed for me that my previous instinct about Michigan's conference defense vis a vis its offense was correct. Tempo-free aerials are usually centered on 1.00 point per trip, and Michigan both averaged and provided just about one point per trip during conference play. Average at everything? Not so much. This was a twitter message, in case you're wondering about the terseness:
Assumption confirmed. In-conf defense 0.31 standard deviations better than Big Ten avg. Offense half an sd (.49) worse than avg. Zowie.
That latter won't surprise anyone given the Taj Mahal Michigan shooters have assembled over the past few months. The former, though, is one of the enduring mysteries of the Big Ten season. It may be one of the enduring mysteries of John Beilein's career: Michigan is currently 47th in the adjusted efficiency ratings at Kenpom. Barring John Lickliter going 12/12 from three in a couple hours, this will be the best defense Beilein has ever had according to Kenpom.
How in the hell is a team with basically one player over 6'5" (Sims and Gibson hardly ever play together) actually good at defense? Kenpom says it's a lot of forced turnovers and a Wisconsin-like aversion to giving up free throws making up for bleah eFG% defense and rebounding. That turnovers without fouling thing is a neat trick.
The thing is: that fingerprint is characteristic of the 1-3-1 zone Beilein is known for… and Michigan had to abandon midway through the nonconference schedule because mediocrities like Boston College and Alabama were treating it like a layup line. By the Big Ten portion of the schedule, Michigan had morphed into an almost exclusively man-to-man team.
This isn't like football where a terrible offense can sometimes make that team's defense look better than it is as opponents get their three point lead and play keep-away. The opponent's offense, or lack thereof, is of no relevance once you suck tempo out of the equation. So this appears to be a real positive that could last into next year. If anyone on the team can throw a ball into Lake Michigan, it could be relevant.
Default Big Ten expansion bits. Notre Dame rumbled a couple days ago, spawning panic across the Subway alums. I was doubtful that the "easy to construct" scenario in which Notre Dame is forced into a conference comes to pass—had a hard time constructing one at all—and this makes it even more doubtful:
A source within the Big Ten told the Tribune last month that given what transpired in 2003, when Notre Dame all but accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten before pulling back, "the only way they will be offered is if they first accept. The Big Ten went down that road and got burned. Fool me once, fool me twice."
On the flipside of that, Rutgers fans were almost nonchalant (which, certainly owed much to how frequently the topic has been debated to death on our side in recent years) and completely self-assured about it. ”Of course Rutgers was the most desirable option. How could anyone possibly think otherwise?”
Er… well, you see… it's just… nah. Never mind.
I said another piece on this in a Sporting Blog article yesterday and remain skeptical that Rutgers moves the needle enough in New York for the local cable companies to shell out for the BTN, but on WTKA today Ira made a good point: with a zillion Big Ten alums in the city, their combined might could be Captain Planet to Pollutin' Time Warner. Rutgers gets to be the fey South American kid whose special power is "heart".
Etc.: Jim Mandich has cancer, but it is apparently treatable. TOC puts together Big Ten efficiency graphs that show two things: holy God is the offense bad against teams not named Minnesota, and holy crap are they inconsistent.
HA HA HA! I AM A GENIUS YOU! PROBABLY DON'T GET IT
Let me provide some excessively late opinion on the recent flurry of Big Ten expansion articles. Article one indicates that a very expensive consultant has given the thing a thumbs-up with five schools mentioned as primary targets:
A source inside the league told the Tribune that the report, prepared by the Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Company, analyzed whether five different schools would add enough revenue to justify expanding the league beyond 11 teams.
"The point was: We can all get richer if we bring in the right team or teams," the source said.
The five analyzed were Missouri, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. The source, though, called those five "the obvious suspects" and cautioned that other universities could earn consideration.
Someone got paid for this. I bet they yoinked the Grid of Judgment.
Anyway, that article comes with a big photo of the Rutgers mascot. Wha? Well, Teddy Greenstein—who I am suspicious of in this matter since he's the guy throwing those blind quotes about a 14 or 16 team Big Ten around—then claims Rutgers as the most likely school according to "consensus among Big Ten sources, officials from other conferences, and TV executives." I've also gotten some emails from a guy plugged into what's going on at Rutgers who says there have already been serious talks.
I don't get it. You look at this list of criteria proposed by Greenstein and try to find a way in which Rutgers makes the most sense:
- Revenue. "Having a large and full football stadium is key. A basketball arena, too." Fail, fail. "But a bigger factor might be the television market." Maybe. More about this later.
- Geography. Rutgers is adjacent to Pennsylvania, I guess, but it's ten hours from Ann Arbor. The closest school is Penn State, which is four hours from Rutgers. It is a better fit than Texas, but not by much. Ten conference members are flying to Rutgers every time.
- Academics. Meh? Rutgers is not in the AAU. [Update: Oops. They are.]
- Recruiting. I don't think recruiting matters at all since adding a new team to the Big Ten isn't going to significantly change conference perception unless it's Texas or maybe Notre dame. But it's hard to see what Rutgers brings to the table there other than the occasional New Jersey football recruit. It might actually become harder to recruit in Jersey if Rutgers becomes more attractive as a Big Ten member.
Literally the only thing Rutgers brings to the table is the New Jersey/New York media market, and it's unclear how much pull RU actually has there. The Big Ten had to fight tooth and nail to get the BTN on in places where the college kids are the biggest game in town. Rutgers is at best the tenth banana in the NYC/NJ pecking order. They are behind the Jets, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Yankees, Mets, Devils, Nets. Maybe they're more important than the Nets.
An area cable company could risk ignoring the BTN. Then what do you have? A school whose grandest bowl victory was probably a Texas Bowl demolition of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the basketball team hasn't made the tournament since 1991. I'm all for laughing maniacally as the Big Ten methodically steals a dollar a month from 18 million New Yorkers who don't even know what the BTN is, but I doubt Rutgers has that kind of cachet. Greenstein tries to prove that they do by citing that one game against Louisville which drew an 8.1. Sure, "when Rutgers wins" they are popular. They have been popular once since 1869.
Greenstein's other reasons are meaningless: they have an airport. They played a football game in 1869. Delany is from New Jersey. And they would leave the Big East. They've got some tenuous ability to bring TV markets. In literally every other way they are inferior to Missouri.
There is also a fawning profile in a Chicago business magazine that Orson should definitely not read unless he wants blood to run out of his eyes:
Colleagues describe Mr. Delany as restless and fearless. Those traits were apparent in 2007, when he formed the Big Ten Network, the nation's first conference-owned cable channel.
Anyway, that article has some quotes in direct opposition to Greenstein's "this is definitely happening" stance. Penn State president Graham Spanier:
"The folks in the media have gone a little bit crazy with this," he says. "There's a very good chance we won't expand at all. This is just a question we ask ourselves every few years. We don't feel we're under any pressure to expand."
"A little bit crazy" indicates that Spanier hasn't delved into the real speculation where Texas joins the Big Ten, brings half of the Big 12 along with it, and invades Mars.
Training day. AnnArbor.com talks with Brandon Graham about his prep for the NFL combine. Includes interview segments with Graham and a look inside what Barwis's program is like. Graham also makes a huge array of pained faces:
Graham's running 4.58 40s and doing linebacker drills. I feel a RBUAS piece referencing this video in the future.
In other NFL draft news, Zoltan Mesko is interviewed by the Boston Herald and references a name from the past you might be surprised is hanging around the program again:
“I thought he [Pats special teams coach Scott O'Brien] was very knowledgeable in the special teams game,” Mesko continued. “I know we have our own Michigan guy that takes special teams really seriously, Pierre Woods, and basically, I never knew… When Pierre came back this past month, he’s training up at Michigan again to stay in shape, the amount of knowledge he’s picked up from the special teams coach there is unbelievable. You can really make or break yourself as a linebacker… you’re going to play special teams at that level.”
Woods got in some trouble after a breakout sophomore year and barely hung on with the program after that; many people believe that's where Michigan's rift with the Glenville program that pumps out players year after year started.
Hunwick! After last night's hockey game I bet my friend a dollar that Shawn Hunwick would get the first star despite not facing much in the way of scoring chances, or even shots, from Notre Dame. Lo, it was so. That capped what was probably the best game at Yost all year, a 4-0 win over Notre Dame that saw loveable tiny walk-on get (split) a shutout and two of the four seniors score. Carl Hagelin even added the sort of pretty goals that have been sorely lacking all year when he danced around an ND defenseman and set up Matt Rust for a slam-dunk on a two on one.
Hogan, who has made 41 straight starts in net, is listed as doubtful for Saturday's regular-season finale at Notre Dame.
I know I've been pretty down on Hogan of late—so has Red—but Hunwick's a 5'7" walk-on. That's a major blow.
Michigan is now sixth in the league. Four and five are done with conference play and Michigan can pass them with a win Saturday. If Northern gets five points or more out of their weekend (ie: win both nights and win one in regulation) against Lake State, they'll pass Michigan. Anything less and M will sneak into the fourth spot and grab the first-round bye that comes with it.
Will it matter? Eh… probably not. Unless MSU or Ferris State is upset, Michigan would reach the Joe as the lowest remaining seed and have to take out #1 Miami, a team that's lost all of two conference games this year. Doing that full strength is difficult enough, and now with Hogan questionable it's even more doubtful.
Side note: excellent work by whoever slid this game to Thursday night. I assume it was to make sure the students were present for senior day, something that's been exceedingly rare for a long time. Usually the students are on break and senior night is a flat affair.
Recruiting cavalcade. This didn't get mentioned in Thursday Recruitin'—which we promise will return to Wednesday when things are less insane—but this weekend Michigan is hosting a massive "Showcase" for high school recruits at Oosterbaan and Newsterbaan. They're not officially involved because they can't be, but having what seems like half of the Midwest's big recruits take an unofficial visit to Michigan's shiny new practice facility can't hurt.
Scout has a couple lists of all the folk coming in. Prepare for the begats. Notable names include MI RB Justice Hayes, MI WR DeAnthony Arnett, commit Shawn Conway, OH WR AJ Jordan, MI LB Lawrence Thomas, OH LB Antonio Poole, 2012 MI LB James Ross, commit Greg Brown, commit Delonte Hollowell, MI WR Valdez Showers, MI OL Anthony Zettel, OH OL Chris Carter, OH OL Aundrey Walker, IL OL Chris Bryant, and many others. It's like a super-massive junior day on Michigan's campus, the equivalent of getting a NIKE camp. The difference: NIKE camps are rare appearances and this is going to happen every year.
I'll be most interested to see how the current Michigan commits do. Zettel's already torn up a lineman camp and seems like he'll be an easy four-star, but Hollowell, Brown, and Conway haven't been to a senior camp yet IIRC and this will be a first read on where they'll end up in the rankings.
Expansion dampening? Yes, another Big Ten expansion article. This one has a couple of interesting quotes about the issue of buying into the Big Ten Network. New members are probably going to have to operate at a lower revenue level to start:
"You just don't jump into the league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time," Alvarez said. "I think someone has to buy their way into the league." …
"We've created such an asset in the Big Ten channel," Outgoing Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said, echoing Alvarez. "I cannot see our 11 institutions simply saying we're going to divide our pie up into more pieces from Day 1."
That will dampen enthusiasm from potential additions, but it might not matter. This is the first time I've seen these numbers for the BTN's second year and holy crap:
But according to tax forms the nonprofit conference is required to make public, it generated $217.7 million and paid each school about $18.8 million in 2007, the most recent year for which tax forms are available.
The next year, according to the Sports Business Journal, the new TV network added another $66 million to the pot. That pushed the per-team payout to about $22 million each, a figure officials from several Big Ten schools confirm remains accurate.
The next most prosperous conference, the SEC, paid its member schools about $11 million each in 2007, according to tax documents.
I'm pretty sure that latter distribution is way up since the SEC's blockbuster ESPN contract kicked in, FWIW, but I also think the SEC is going to have a static amount of money for the next 15 years; the Big Ten is half-owner of its network and will see increasing revenue shares over the course of that time.
(HT: Get The Picture.)
Yes that again. The WLA has a piece similar to the one I just posted, but when I said "I cannot emphasize enough" I was not kidding. Money grafs:
They certainly didn’t know their statements were true either. Is strongly asserting something you know could theoretically be true but might also be false a lie? If you don’t offer up any qualifications to your assertions (I didn’t see any), then I say yes, especially in the case of Rosenberg.
I suppose the best we could say about Snyder is he was totally ignorant of the subject on which he was writing and he didn’t know he was uttering falsehoods. So yay for being a dumbass, Mr. Snyder. But with Rosenberg, we know from his opinion column that he disapproves of the job Rodriguez is doing. For him to write falsehoods that also denigrate someone he disapproves of is just a bit too much of a coincidence for me to believe. Rosenberg knew what he was doing, IMO.
They lied. In the days and months to come regarding the story about “Michigan Players Practice A Lot,” let us not forget the fact that Rosenberg and Snyder lied to their readers.
To aid you in your stalking. People tend to like the occasional mentions of my personal life, so they'll love this: my fiancée's food blog. In it you will find out what I have been eating, what food-related conventional wisdom has recently been enraging in my presence, and various other bizarre things that don't have anything to do with me.
Etc.: Delany has our back, I guess.
1,000 words on the basketball season. The Daily's Ariel Bond obviates the need for further comment:
For this service we thank her.
On Conway. There has been a huge e-gument in the aftermath of MI WR Shawn Conway's commitment. I'm kind of annoyed. I really hate it when a kid commits out of nowhere in February and people go nuts, pro or con. I think they go excessively negative in response to the school of mindless boosterism that regards every commitment as a victory, but often the end result is like the fights I had with my brother as a kid: I would hit him first, but not that hard. Then he would hit me back harder than was justified, so I would hit him as hard as he hit me. From there it would escalate until we were rolling around on the ground trying to bite each other's eye sockets.
In Conway's specific case, he is an in-state kid who they have seen extensively at their 7-on-7. He's 6'4" and has enormous hands. He won't turn 17 until June. His speed may be questionable—or his highlight tape might not be sped up like many are. There's a good reason he's under the radar: he didn't play until last year because of transfers and when he did get on the field it was for a poor team with a poor quarterback. This doesn't seem too similar to a Drew Dileo or Antonio Kinard because the things that held those guys back in the rankings were physical limitations. Conway has more upward mobility from a rankings perspective. Even cranky local fixture Magnus, an actual football coach, likes him.
And also: it's not like Dileo or Kinard has proven himself either way yet. Rodriguez built a good program with guys like them. At the very least it's clear they trust their own evaluations. That's a better state of affairs than this one:
"I used to go in the coaches' offices, and sometimes they would literally have Rivals.com up on their screen," said Matt Shodell, who covers UM and its recruiting for CaneSport.com. "I won't name the coaches, but they would be writing names down on pieces of paper. I don't know how much film they were looking at."
That was Miami under Coker.
This argument is a lot like people complaining in November that the class was going to have two defensive players in it.
No research necessary. Texas is apparently excluded from the short list of 15 schools the Big Ten is doing research on. Barry Alvarez:
"They basically broke down what they would bring to the table," Alvarez said at a meeting of the UW athletic board. "They talked about academics. They talked about size. They talked about size of their arenas. They talked about attendance. They talked about the populace in that specific area."
According to Alvarez that process will continue, and Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany could make a recommendation to the university presidents this summer.
"I think it could be one (school), or I think it could be multiple." …
"In our initial study, there wasn't anything on Texas," Alvarez said.
Scale back your world domination plans where a 36-team Big Ten fights Mecha-Godzilla every January first, it seems. Alvarez also asserted that Notre Dame is not likely, though he didn't specifically mention their absence from the list of 15 teams.
On the other hand, researching Texas's suitability is a waste of time. Here is a million-dollar consultant's report on whether Texas joining the Big Ten would be a net benefit for the conference: hell yes.
Goalie acquisition. A few days ago I mentioned a potential Jack Campbell replacement, one Jeff Teglia of the USHL. Here's another kid down to Michigan and Minnesota. He is lanky Joel Vienneau of the OPJHL:
"[Michigan's] Mel Pearson saw me last weekend and he thought I played really well," the 6-3, 185-pound netminder said. "He likes my size. They haven't offered [officially] yet but they are very interested in me because they lost Jack Campbell to major juniors and have a big need."
Like Teglia, he's putting up excellent numbers. Unlike Teglia, he's playing in a league that provides questionable competition. Even so, a quick googling of both gives the impression Vienneau is the better prospect. There's the Minnesota offer, for one, and then there's a number of people on Hockey's Future insisting that the latest CSB rankings for Vienneau—29th NA goalie—are preposterous and the kid is an easy top ten prospect. While HF folk are easily mockable, there is some truth in the hive mind. The Hockey News featured him as a prospect to watch and guaranteed he'd be picked in the upcoming draft. The same guy called him out as a potential mid-round pick in an interview. A leap in the final CSBs seems assured.
Yost Built surfaced an earlier article in which Vienneau declared he was "95-99 percent likely" to end up a Gopher, but that was before Jack Campbell changed his mind and Michigan started looking around. Michigan has a big depth chart advantage. While Minnesota also has a junior starter with a questionable save percentage, Michigan's backups are walk-ons who are not threats to play. Minnesota has a sophomore who went in the fourth round of the NHL draft. Vienneau plans a visit to Michigan after his season ends and will decide then.
Elsewhere in hockey recruiting, the Cedar Rapids Gazette has a fluff piece on Roughriders teammates and Michigan commits Derek DeBlois and Mac Bennett, who have known each other since they were "tiny." They also surf. On the East Coast. So there you go. I'm curious as to whether DeBlois, currently slated for 2011, will move his enrollment up a year. There's a spot with the departure of Robbie Czarnik, and Michigan needs forwards who can put the puck in the net.
Star system… comes to hockey. College Hockey 24/7 has release a top 50 list that features a ton of incoming Michigan folk:
4. Jon Merrill
13. Mac Bennett
31. Kevin Clare
35. Luke Moffatt
37. Jacob Fallon
Michigan has the third-most names on the list with five. Minnesota has six, Notre Dame seven. Oddly, Miami is shut out and Michigan State has only one guy—goalie Willie Yanakeff is #50. Both schools are bringing in fairly hefty classes, too.
It appears that uncommitted recruits were not included, because Teglia and Vienneau are absent and it seems hard to justify Yanakeff over Teglia when Yanakeff has an .887 save percentage and Teglia has a .918 in the same league.
Etc.: UMHoops scouts Carlton Brundidge and Cody Zeller. Baseball won two against a good OVC team, lost two to Texas Tech, and lost Ryan Lamarre for "an extended period of time." I hate you so much, 2009-10. The final ice dancing competition goes down tonight; Davis and White are in second. Victor's Rally speeches from the Youtubes.
Captain Renault. So let's say you're an unemployed Cleveland man who spends two months constructing an igloo instead of, you know, attempting to find a job. What would be totally bitchin' for the wall of your igloo?
Score one for baseless internet speculation. According to Greg Banks, the internet-wide speculation about a Ryan Van Bergen position move is on the nose:
Banks is one of a half dozen or so Wolverines who’ll play an expanded and slightly different role on Michigan’s defensive front this fall.
He said he expects Ryan Van Bergen to take over Graham’s pass-rushing defensive end spot - “I think that’s the plan,” he said - while he plays both end and tackle.
Birkett follows that up with an assertion that Mike Martin "could see time outside" if Will Campbell progresses. I assume that means three-tech DT, not defensive end, because that latter would be plain nuts. To reiterate: the move is the best bet for Michigan to have an excellent defensive line next year. RVB isn't going to be Brandon Graham but he's far better than the alternatives and moving Mike Martin to three-tech will get him one-on-one with guards he's faster than, potentially paving the way for a ton of TFLs. He'll be more effective there, and NT should be decent with the Sagesse/Campbell platoon.
For his part, Banks is up to 278 pounds, 15 or so up from last year. LaLota also comes in for some praise, but I'm betting serious playing time for him is another year off.
Vincent Smith, meanwhile, is already jogging and should have no problems returning in time for fall practice.
And then they do nothing. Internet speculation has gone from "maybe the Big Ten will add Pitt" to "in ten years only four conferences will exist and football will be played by sexy robots." I'm not sure whether this Barking Carnival post positing a 14-team Big Ten, here previously deemed completely infeasible and then met with a crazy semi-relegation proposal*, is genius or mad. Or possibly both. Check the rationale here:
Powers knows that the Big 10 universities compete individually and as a region for its fair share of the federal R&D pie and that, despite the greatness of its member universities, the Big 10 region has not faired nearly as well as the coasts. Compared to numerous universities in California and Massachusetts, several of which don’t give a second thought about college football (MIT, Cal-Davis, Cal Tech, U of San Francisco, etc), there is a rather dramatic concentration of academic R&D that is not favorable to the Midwest or Southwest. Point being, there is room for growth here, and adding two powerful Senators from Texas to the sixteen Senators representing Big 10 states is not an insignificant addition. Without Texas, the CIC universities represent the best of the rust belt. With Texas, the CIC represents the best of the middle of the country.
Wha? I'm not sure how much I buy the idea that heartland universities will have a bigger lobbying block if they're all in the same conference. The CIC happens to have all Big Ten schools and Chicago, but is it really necessary to bring along Texas's athletic programs—not like that would exactly be a downside, though—to invite them to join the CIC? It's not like the Big 12 has any leverage over the Longhorns.
Elsewhere, 14 teams i the new 11 teams. and people are coalescing around a 16-team uber conference that comes with NCAA secession. Andy Staples's version may or may not be sarcastic, but I've seen plenty of other speculation to that effect. Most of it is Bleacher Report quality and not worth linking or anything, but it's out there.
To reiterate my previously expressed stance: a college football "conference" that has more than 12 teams isn't really a conference unless it adds promotion and relegation. Static divisions are separate conferences with a weird scheduling agreement and a wildly unbalanced schedule. It would be logistically terrible.
At this point it would be fantastic if no one did anything. Too bad Tradesports imploded.
BONUS. I don't remember where I saw this, but I believe it was some random message board: if the Big Ten comes down from on high with an end result that seriously damages the Big East, isn't the Big East's best move booting Notre Dame in an attempt to force the Irish into the Big Ten? If ND was cut loose by the Big East all their other sports (save hockey) would be adrift with basically nowhere to go. At that point ND might have to swallow hard and join up.
*(Which a commenter pointed out is mathematically impossible for the same reason you can't play nine conference games in an eleven-team conference. Shame.)
Etc.: Help this pickle get more fans than Nickelback. The second half of the recruiting podcast in which I do my best Mel Kiper. Michigan's putting on a camp thing on the 28th at Newsterbaan, plugging the presence of Rivals and Scout. Seems like a clever move to get an early camp experience, maybe unearth an instate prospect or three.