TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
big ten expansion
Eating Babies PK Sweeping Michigan State
I'm on a streak of "complicated solution to thing that may not be a problem" posts, but here's another one: the Big Ten is moving to a division-less basketball system in which you play four teams once and seven teams twice. This will prompt complaints about schedule balance similar to those launched when the Big Ten played only 16 conference games*. That setup saw four "one-plays" and six home-and-home teams and often saw one team competing for a league title have an obviously smoother road than their competitors; this is almost as bad. Now that Michigan basketball competing for a Big Ten title no longer seems completely laughable, this is IMPORTANT.
Let's not make these one-plays random. Let's divide the Big Ten into four groups based on record, like so:
#1: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue
#2: Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State
#3: Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern
#4: Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana
Now pick one team from each group you're not in. Those are three of your four one-offs. The fourth is a bit trickier: pair up two teams in each group; those are one-plays and done. The leftovers from 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 are also one-plays.
Basketball teams vary from year to year but there's a strong correlation from one year to the next when it comes to record; this system would significantly mitigate situations where one title contender has a big edge in schedule over another.
As a bonus, you could try to protect certain rivalries without having them explicitly guaranteed—pair Purdue with Iowa, not Indiana, and Michigan with Illinois, not Michigan State. I'm with everyone else who thinks not having protected rivalries is dumb. Here's a way to have almost-protected rivalries without doing too much to unbalance schedules.
*[Going to 18 and dumping two guarantee games was widely supposed to be an effort to get the BTN more and better content, and now they're breaking the deadlock in western hockey conferences and getting Michigan out of their chintzy we-can't-host-here-and-we-employ-Mark-Wilkins situation. As a bonus, the extraordinarily annoying Minnesota fans on USCHO are livid. Go BTN.]
College Cup! Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which upset #2 seed Maryland 3-2 with their second golden goal of the NCAA tournament to advance to their first-ever College Cup. That's amazingly-named freshman Fabio Pereira Villas Boas about to slot home the winner above. He is from Brazil. Of course he his. Michigan survived a 33-18 shot deficit, surging from 1-0 down to 2-1 ahead before conceding a late equalizer and setting up the above moment. I wish I could have seen it.
Television beckons, albeit at odd hours: Michigan takes on Akron at 11 PM Friday*. The other semi is #1 Louisville vs #4 North Carolina and is at 8:30. All the information you could possibly need about watching or attending has been compiled by I Blue Myself.
It will be tough for Michigan. They're the only lower-seeded team to make the final four in a chalky tournament and are taking on the team that destroyed them 7-1 earlier this year. I'm not sure if these guys are still around but last year the US took a youth international team to the Milk Cup and literally every Akron starting defender made the team and I think three of them started. The Zips survived penalty kicks to advance against Cal in a 3-3 game but have lost just once this year and are 20-1-2.
We will deploy a liveblog Friday night to track the game. BONUS: Photos and game story from the Daily.
*(This is the correct day this time. I did not check my email and found out the soccer game was Saturday literally as I sat down at Crisler.)
Jimmy Johnson approves, and if you get this reference you watch too much television at odd hours and have no excuse about not watching the soccer game. Amongst the many events of the weekend was the Attack Of The Futile Contract Extensions at Stanford and—for some reason this keeps getting brought up on Michigan boards—San Diego State. SDSU's Brady Hoke signed a five year extension after turning the Aztecs into an okay Mountain West program. Jim Harbaugh has had the moon and stars put on a plate by the Stanford AD.
These are for show, conveniently timed so that no one can FOIA the contracts and find out the buyout provisions that really establish how much of a commitment is being made both ways. Stanford's a private institution and isn't vulnerable to the FOIA either but still, if Harbaugh sticks around it's not going to be because of anything the Stanford AD can offer but chooses not to. FWIW, the Stanford AD said this:
Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has made a pre-emptive offer to sweeten Jim Harbaugh's contract before the coach even gets offered other jobs.
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future."
It is Harbaugh or bust for people hoping to replace Rodriguez this offseason—Michigan's playing the other hot coaching name of the offseason in the bowl game, and past Dan Mullen the pickings are slim as long as the guys at mid-major powers are hanging onto their jobs with a death grip.
Speaking of the bit about being at Crisler. Aside from the ten minute stretch where Michigan literally did not score for two commercial breaks and watched Harvard go on a 17-3 run, that was fun. Unfortunately, ten minutes is a quarter of a basketball game. Various small items:
- Michigan spent the entire game in man to man and never offered help to the guy checking Harvard's elbow-happy but extremely effective center, even when that guy was Evan Smotrycz. He blew up. I was a little peeved by the lack of adjustment there. I may have to take back my thing about how Morgan is a really good defender. He got worked multiple times; now I'm guessing that Clemson's big guys aren't very good and Morgan will have a more conventional baptism by fire as a freshman. McLimans did have a sweet block.
- Stu! UMHoops points out he's now at 48% on the season from three.
- Vogrich makes me cringe every time he puts the ball on the floor but at least he nailed both of his wide open looks.
- The offense stood in contrast to the post defense, as they struggled mightily through the first half and then found a barrage of backdoor cuts and sweet assists in the second half. It seemed like Beilein knew what Harvard was doing and how to attack it but couldn't get the team to respond until he had 15 minutes to explain it to his young team. Michigan responded with an eFG of 69% in the second half and that could have been better if Michigan hadn't missed about four layups.
- The short/homely referees are always the bad ones. They got into refereeing because the quickest way to get revenge on the universe is to annoy thousands of people packed in one place. It's always the ugly guys.
- The game did not set a record for most missed wide open corner threes, but it sure seemed headed that way after ten minutes.
- I do not miss Manny Harris at all. He was great and all that but watching him play was frustrating. His junior year reminded me of Al Montoya's. Both were supremely talented but checked out mentally because they wanted to play for dollars and made a mistake by returning. Montoya was a mess; Harris got suspended for something or other in practice and never met a lazy three pointer he didn't like en route to another year with impressive numbers as long as you don't look at the eFG%.
This team is probably going to be as good as last year's—let that sink in.
Also, let me express my special frustration at Tommy Amaker, who waited until he left Michigan to become a controversial but effective recruiter (for the Ivy League, anyway) and tactical wizard. Beilein:
“Tommy (Amaker) just took us out of everything,” Beilein said. “We had to put in a lot of specials. I watched the film, painfully, from three years ago when we played them and they had a similar attack defensively. So we had to do some different things.
“Not that all of it worked.”
Rest assured that if Rodriguez does get let go he'll go to Clemson and wreck fools.
UMHoops also has a new post type featuring key plays. Here's one that demonstrates the difference between Morris 2009 and Morris 2010:
As he continues to develop he should start asserting more authority over the offense. With Amaker's tactical wizardry stalling out the offense for big chunks of the first half he should have taken more control.
Icon. Charles Woodson's Big Ten Icons bit:
Continued in part two.
Higher than him on the list are Some Person You've Never Heard Of and various Penn State Players Who Never Played In The Big Ten, but whatever.
It makes sense. The Big Ten announced it is not going to put together a silly 14 or 16 team super conference and is set at 12. Hurray. For one last bout of madness: a theory. The WAC and Mountain West should be one conference with two divisions that uses promotion and relegation in the hopes the top conference can get a BCS bid.
Etc.: You can cease your theories about January first being a magic day that saves the U a million and a half hypothetical Rodriguez buyout dollars. Michigan has to provide "30 days written notice" if they make a move. I'm with MVictors anyway: that's chump change in the scheme of things. Michigan learned the hard way last time that doing the usual legal settlement dance causes local columnists to freak out unless John Beilein is involved.
Men down. Two major injuries in the Big Ten just came down the pipe:
- Badger linebacker Chris Borland, last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, is out for the season with a shoulder injury. It sounds like he will be replaced by sophomore Mike Taylor, who just returned from an offseason full of injury himself.
- Iowa's Jewel Hampton was struck down by Angry Iowa Running-Back-Hating God, tearing his ACL. AIRHAG, as BHGP has taken to calling him, also saw fit to concuss Paki O'Meara, leaving Adam Robinson and "anybody else who wants to volunteer," according to Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa also lost second-string LB Bruce Davis for the season.
Iowa's looking like a potential swing game after the Arizona loss, and getting down to their equivalent of JT Floyd at tailback might mean Michigan's linebackers can actually get an angle on outside runs; I'll still believe M beats Wisconsin when the clock reads zero and I'm all like "woo New Year's Day," which isn't happening so don't get your hopes up.
Man down less sympathetically. The reason Dion Sims isn't playing for Michigan State is he has "allegedly been involved in a Detroit Public Schools computer theft ring involving 988 stolen laptops valued at around $800,000." This will presumably knock him out of the Michigan game unless Michigan State manages to swing a work-release program for him. (How does MSU manage to get all of this stuff done during the season? They could be making headway towards a third straight Fulmer Cup, but nooooo they only get in massive trouble from September to January.) QUICK EVERYONE LOOK AT THE JAW.
Speaking of hopes up. Michigan did not get punished by sportsbooks for the events of last weekend. They're now a 4.5 point favorite against MSU (up one), one point favorites against Iowa (up one) and Wisconsin (even), and 3 and 14 point dogs to PSU and OSU, respectively. IE: the most reliable predictive device available projects something slightly better than a 2-2 split against the meat of the Big Ten schedule. If Michigan takes care of business against BG, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois they would be 9-3 if that comes true; even if they biff one of those four they'd be 8-4.
This makes me terribly nervous.
Troof. Orson's graphs are back and yeah:
Our other stuff looks like Run DMC, though, so we've got that going for us.
The other football. The Daily was there and so was I, and we both thought the same thing: whoah. 3,500 people packed out the officially 2,200 seat soccer stadium to see a 0-0 tie against Notre Dame, and the Daily is overrun with people who want to write the other football:
…at the latest mass meetings, the majority of students said they were interested in a different kind of football — the one with a “u” and an “o” and a significantly different ball. And each time, I did a double-take. This is the University of Michigan, after all, and all of you just want to cover soccer?
My friends and I tried to sit in the grandstand, which was full, and then migrated to the student side of the field, which was shockingly lively. The "Ultras," as they're calling themselves, badly need to work on their chants* but do an outstanding job of existing, especially since the soccer complex is way off campus.
There are games tomorrow and Saturday at 7 PM, with the latter against Ohio State.
*(A large number of them were classic tunes that saw a couple words replaced, with the weakest being "When The Saints Go Marching In" sung except they say "blue" instead of "saints." You've got two guys named "Saad" on the team! What do you think some working-class London hooligans would do with that? This is a layup.
Also, soccer and hockey have the same aims; many of Yost's cheers could be appropriated. Apparently some have, but I saw a 0-0 draw without any goal chants.)
Expansion: over? OSU AD Gene Smith says so:
"We're finished (with expansion)," Smith said. "The only thing that would cause us to look at it further is if someone contacted us. …The reason most of us say it's not done is because we think there are some schools that are going to try to talk to some conferences. But we're not actively out looking at expansion. After our October meetings, that's going to be the last we talk about it."
Fine by me. 14 or 16 team conferences are dumb.
Smith also says the schedule has not been finalized past '11 and '12 and that Michigan-OSU at the end of the year is not a given. Though he'll 'push for it," he doesn't know what "Barry Alvarez might bring in the room," to which I say if it's not bratwurst tell him to go back and get some.
Etc.: At least everyone's special teams suck. More on Kiffin's bizarre two-point hijinks. Full RR presser transcript. The Daily's story on the Shirtpocalypse is ironically paired with a big animated ad exhorting you to purchase their picture of Denard doing the Heisman on that Te'o. Must… not… smash… faceintodesk SPOCK.
Got your torch? Pitchfork? Great:
A person familiar with the discussions says the Big Ten plans to announce Wednesday night how it will break up into two divisions.
The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the conference hasn't released the information, says the process of putting six teams in each division was completed on Wednesday.
Random internet people at Frank The Tank's Slant, the unofficial home of expansion speculation are saying this is the breakdown:
IS THE DUMBEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE DIVISION
I'm not vouching for that at all, but I haven't seen anything suggesting people have come to their damn senses and put M and OSU in the same division.
HAI GUYS WHAT'S—
No, just kidding. We're back to normal service except for the occasional outburst of spine-threatening sobs and pauses to shake the MGoFist at the sky.
So how screwed are we? Oh… I'd imagine pretty screwed. We've had to consolidate the "can Teric Jones/Michael Shaw/Denard Robinson/Will Campbell play corner?" threads in one big annoying glob of Kubler-Ross bargaining. But at least we've gotten some excellent paint action out of it:
From the Shredder, naturally.
Also there's this from Antidaily:
Even the house organs, who were busy dismissing the importance of Justin Turner's departure last week, admit this is a "devastating blow" to what was already a ramshackle Burmese lean-to of a secondary. Rittenberg says Woolfolk's name would have been "right at the top" of players Michigan could not afford to lose and asks if Pac-Man Jones or Charles Woodson have any eligibility left (answer compliance should absolutely not double-check: HELL YES). Orson breaks out Crazy Old Testament God; Burgeoning Wolverine Star goes with that damn owl again for some reason.
And UMGoBlog gets all scientific by ripping Dorsey, Turner, and Woolfolk off Michigan's roster in NCAA 2011 and seeing what happens:
|PASS YPG||PASS TDS||PPG||RECORD||RODRIGUEZ|
|Before||200||19||24.1||7-5||"I feel happy!"|
That last column is my addition. Obviously.
Io-wha? Yeah, you see what I did there. Black Heart Gold Pants got all huffy about the idea Iowa might be overrated. While I was wrong about how many defensive starters Iowa lost (it's three, not five) and this somewhat mitigates their situation, when you deploy the Mathlete luck graph in an attempt to argue you weren't that lucky last year, well, Braves and Birds treats you like it usually treats Stewart Mandel:
You know your argument sucks when you're fighting the notion that your team was lucky in 2009 and you cite a chart that shows your team to have been the second luckiest team in the conference. …
As a result of Iowa's inability to demonstrate its superiority over Arkansas State and Northern Iowa, every ranking system that accounts for data beyond record and strength of schedule pegged Iowa in the lower part of the top 20. The Sagarin Predictor had Iowa 17th. Sports Reference's SRS measure had Iowa 19th, as did Football Outsiders. In short, you can accept what reams of research tells us about football, which is that points, yards, and drive outcomes are a better indication of a team's merit and contain less noise than the final record itself. Or, you can reject all of that, put on a dumb hat, and wait to be punked by Fire Joe Morgan.
The chart thing's even better since it shows Iowa was seriously unlucky the year before, puncturing any argument that Ferentz has a knack for making chicken salad out of Stanziballs. Why is it that when I make a bleedingly obvious comment like "Penn State's quarterback situation sucks" or "Iowa was lucky last year and I am skeptical of them this year" people get all mad? Go ahead, predict Michigan's secondary will be a black hole of despair. I won't stop you.
Hockey guy but sort of the wrong year. Michigan's finally picked up another hockey commit, with 2012 forward Justin Selman picking Michigan a couple days ago. Selman joins Boo Nieves and Connor Carrick in that class; Michigan is still way, way short for 2011, with one guy currently scheduled to replace Michigan's extensive senior class.
As per usual with hockey recruits more than a year out from the draft, information on Selman is sparse. USHR has a positive note as one of a dozen or so "A" players from the '08 Select 15 festival:
-- 5’10”, 165 lb. Justin Selman. A smooth skating late ’93 from Upper Saddle River, NJ and the NJ Avalanche. He can make plays. Strong hockey sense. (White)
Selman- Great at faceoffs. Had a growth spurt and is suprisingly strong. Solid skater with the drive to score. doubt he goes to the O.
Justin Selman- 5 10 160- A great skater and an absolute wizard on face offs. He is physical and has grown a lot in the past two years. A young 93 and still is one of hte best in a strong 93 Atlantic district age group.
Selman is not really a pro prospect I guess but he is still a very good player who could receive consideration for 2012.
Fiutakin' it. Since this guy exists…
…and so does walk-on kicker and varsity soccer star Justin Meram, this Free Press typo (print) goes from pedestrian to "Evan Metrics" competitor:
It is always dangerous to taunt the embarrassing typo Gods—a couple of months ago I called PSU's Tom Bradley "Steve" or something—but, man, that was posted yesterday and passed around to great laughter and still hasn't been updated as of this post.
Expansion detail trickle. A couple more items from Delany:
- A ninth game likely wont happen until 2015 at the earliest, and…
- Straight geography is not happening when it comes to Big Ten divisions: “We didn't think there's any way we could achieve principle one [competitiveness] and two [rivalry preservation] if we were rigid about geographic contiguity. We are aware of geography, but we're not going to be driven by it.”
There's a rumor out there that Michigan and Ohio State will be split into separate divisions, which I find abhorrent because it necessitates protected cross-division games, which are dumb, and guarantees that Michigan will be elaborately screwed by that cross-division game being Ohio State, guaranteeing them a brutal schedule year-in, year-out as Ohio State and Penn State go play with Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, and Illinois.
Remember when… wingless helmets were the thing we were panicking about?
It was a simpler, more annoying time because everyone hysteria was unjustified. Here's to annoyance.
Etc.: Hoover Street Rag breaks down Michigan logos past. Seth Wickersham's ESPN the Magazine article($) is insider, it is also the second MSM article in the past couple weeks to break down the Michigan document dump months after Heads Should Roll. It's probably worth your time, though. I don't buy the idea that compliance couldn't dare escalate from their perpetual Labadie pings; that was a screwup on their part, though most of the problem lies with the bungling underlings and the system that allowed the bungling to continue so long.
Falk never stops. Falk.
I'd look suspicious, too, kid. Via the SI vault, Desmond Howard dealing with the world's least enthusiastic autograph-seeker:
"Why don't you get out of that bucket of ice," I says, and he says "because you're wearing a Bulls jersey, a Phillies hat, and asking me to sign a Jaguars pennant. Also because I'm in crippling pain."
Score-o. Thanks to the largess of some guy who sold his company to Shell for just under five billion-with-a-b dollars, Penn State's perennial powerhouse club hockey team appears on the verge of moving on up to the big time:
Rumors and speculation have existed for more than a decade, but it finally appears Penn State is on the verge of building a new ice hockey arena near the Bryce Jordan Center and adding Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs.
“We’re close,” a source close to the situation told the Mirror on Thursday. “It won’t be long before we’ll be able to potentially make some kind of announcement. But it’s not a done deal yet.”
Close means within two months. Score. Penn State adding hockey would be the biggest positive development in college hockey since… uh… the shuttering of Division II gave D-I enough teams to expand the tournament to sixteen teams? I guess. If you even see that as a positive.
The existence of the Nittany Lions would bring Big Ten hockey into play—you need six teams to have an official Big Ten league—but extracting Minnesota and Wisconsin from their rich history in the WCHA is problematic. (No offense to the teams in the CCHA but I assume M, MSU, and OSU would leave in a hot second.)
There is the possibility that ripping flagship teams out of the CCHA and WCHA would see several weaker schools in those leagues fold, but it doesn't seem like a strong one. A WCHA anchored by North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College is still a powerhouse full of good games. A few CCHA schools might be on shakier ground but the emergence of Notre Dame and Miami as powers with shiny new rinks would give the smaller conference a couple of anchors. Also, even if Big Ten teams play each other four times each they'll still have 12-14 nonconference dates to fill and will be able to keep up local rivalries.
Negotiating all that will take time; as it stands Penn State will be a member of the CCHA as soon as it fields a team. I'm betting the powers that be in the league had been informed that Penn State was laying groundwork when they rejected Huntsville's application.
(HT: Slow States. If you miss BSD's content from Kevin HD and RUTS, that's where they've relocated.)
Except with more Coastal Carolina. Slow States—which I don't think I'll be abbreviating, thanks, why don't you just name your blog Not Another Zimmerman Impersonator*—also looks at what a Penn State schedule might look like after the Big Ten goes to nine conference games by pretending ND is part of the Big Ten and looking at Michigan's schedules during the 12-game era. BCS opponents are bolded:
2002 – Washington (return trip), W. Michigan, ND, Utah
2003 – C. Michigan, Houston, ND, @Oregon (H-H)
2004 – Miami OH, ND, SDSU (11 games)
2005 – N. Ill, ND, E. Michigan (11 games)
2006 – Vandy, C. Michigan, ND, Ball State
2007 – [The Horror], Oregon (H-H), ND, E. Michigan
2008 – Utah, Miami OH, ND, Toledo
2009 – W. Michigan, ND, E. Michigan, Delaware State
2010 – UConn (H-H), ND, UMass, Bowling Green
Vandy isn't much but a couple of games against Utah were against vaguely(2002) to extremely(2008) BCS-caliber opposition
The assumption is that the best looking out of conference game gets the bump and Penn State's OOC schedule is going to look pretty sad. Thoughts related to this:
- Penn State's OOC schedule is already pretty sad.
- Michigan won't be able to dump ND and replace it with a tomato can without sparking a riot, so at least in their case they'll be upping the minimum number of BCS games they play over a span like this by four or five. Similarly, MSU and Purdue can't get away with three tomato cans, Ohio State is going to play at least one legit OOC opponent yearly, Illinois will likely continue its series with Missouri, and Minnesota will cast about looking for ways to fill Not The Metrodome. Indiana won't be able to replicate this year's mockery of college football.
- The net result will be more competitive games…
- …and probably fewer competitive games between conferences…
- …which is worth it if I don't have to sit through three MAC/I-AA games a year…
- …but Penn State fans will.
Solution: man up. Or have the legislature threaten terrible things unless you play Pitt every year like you goddamn well should.
*(Which is actually a great blog name for a technically-inclined fellow. Except for the acronym.)
Optimism is a disease. The readership of this here blog has predicted an 8-4 regular season according to the recent survey conducted by MGoUser "tpilews", with 84% predicting a win over UConn, 71% predicting one over Notre Dame, and so forth and so on. Despite being a home game, Wisconsin was declared the most terrifying opponent at 14%; other hypothetical losses come against Ohio State (31%), Iowa (35%), and Penn State (49%—a margin one vote VOTE OR DIE). As these things always are, it's too optimistic but that's life in August.
Divisions. None of this means anything, but:
- Joe Schad says the Big Ten will split into divisions with PSU and OSU on one side and Michigan and Nebraska on the other with a guaranteed M-OSU game, which is absolutely the worst-case scenario for M assuming the rest of that division is the Iowa/Minnesota/Wisconsin triumvirate of hate and Michigan State: Michigan is the only team in the league with guaranteed games against four of the six powers. Woo.
- Teddy Greenstein, who I'll remind you works for a newspaper in Chicago and is therefore about as accurate as the Bleacher Report (the latest crack reporting is random anonymous sourcing that Kentucky's top recruit took 200k), suggests they'll go straight geography.
Dorsey difficulty. Premium article, but the bit that's relevant($) is small:
If Louisville is having a hard time getting him through, all conspiracy theories about admissions doing anything other than what they had do can go out the window. RR should never have gone after Dorsey; hopefully Michigan's pursuit of him didn't cost them Tony Grimes or Sean Parker.
Etc.: Via the MB, UConn has lost linebacker/DE Greg Lloyd for the season. Lloyd was UConn's second-leading tackler last year and possibly their best defensive player. If you don't know this already, the Big Ten Championship Game will be played in Indianapolis, as was ordained by geography.