Site note: Be here for the Liveblog tonight. Mods to your stations at 6:45; we'll get started at 7.
I'll make this one quick.
Things to know about basketball
1. The defense has maybe taken a small step forward, and other observations about how basketball is like pro wrestling, from who else?
2. Michigan's offensive deviation isn't very large says LSA; they generally manage to keep their pace and score with relatively stable frequency. Score one against "defense wins championships because it's more consistent."
4. Purdue and Rutgers are not going to be good at it next year. Padog has begun a preview series for next year's conference teams, starting from the bottom. Northwestern is probably next followed by Penn State, but I'm looking forward to an Indiana preview sooner rather than later.
Best of the Board
QB BATTLE: THIS IS KNOWN
For those not still hitting snooze on football right now, BlueMooner went to the private dinner last week with Nussmeier and came back with generalities that amount to Gardner/Morris/Speight are who we thought they were. Also this:
Audience members posed questions about the comparison of recruiting in the SEC versus the B1G; Coach Saban compared to Hoke; and his intent to stay at UM over the long haul. He adroitly dodged those with a splendid sense of humor. The crowd was really enthusiastic about Coach Nussmeier in control of our offense.
You are welcome to read this as "Nussmeier wants to be a head coach someday" and "the SEC cheats more in recruiting." This too is known.
ATTENTION WAL-MART SHOPPERS
There are 394 items on walmart.com licensed from Michigan Wolverines and 369 for Michigan State Spartans. This should be a thing.
This is more of a link but Bacon addressed "Walmart Wolverines" on his blog this week. If you are an alumnus who has a problem with non-alumni rooting for your alma mater then you should read it.
My sense is that is next to none of you, and "Walverines" is a thing mostly generated by Sparties who don't like how people who didn't get into MSU bring up Michigan's marginal academic superiority. So Bacon is addressing the wrong crowd; on the other hand I'm not sure I want to advocate speaking sense to Spartans, because that totally works.
THE END OF COLLEGE SPORTS AND EVERYTHING
The CAPA decision touched off heated debate on the board, so heated that a second thread was warranted to exclude the money part that the Northwestern players aren't talking about. The debate came down to "better helmets and covering medical expenses down the road for athletes is good" versus "but schools that pretend to be D-I won't be able to live that way."
Congrats are due to Justin Dickens, the guy who granted Heiko that interview with Borges and oversaw a dramatic shift in how bloggers are treated relative to other football media. He's not only an MGoBlog reader; he's now Director of Football Operations. This site's had a lot of criticism for Fort Schembechler but I have zero for Justin, who was given the impossible job of keeping both Dave Brandon and Brian Cook happy, and who despite that always made protecting the players his highest priority. I expect he'll succeed; I'm more anxious about who will succeed him.
Your Moment of Zen:
jonvalk's Wallpaperpalooza (1/4)
Things in the Past. There were some great diaries that would have been required reading if this was yesterday. Paps previewed Wofford (this you saw on the front page), Erik_in_Dayton tackled the history of 15 seeds upsetting two seeds; it's happened seven times since 1991. That may be more fun to visit now that the danger is passed, if only to relive 2012 Duke.
The game was played only 55 miles from Duke’s campus, but it was also the site of the first round game for UNC. Tar Heel fans gladly joined in rooting for the Mountain Hawks.
Oh man, Duke. That was two years ago. Is it still acceptable to laugh about it?
It is considered acceptable to still laugh about this game.
Speaking of way-back, remember the Big Ten Tournament? LSA has stats on that.
Meanwhile MGoBlueline put a ton of effort into reintroducing the hockey team for the Big Ten Tourney and then who-knows in the plinko playoff system. But those guys lost to Penn State in double-OT (finishing 2-3 on the year against the hockey equivalent of our lacrosse team) and will need to be lucky to earn a tourney bid. There were plenty of things to go wrong, including really bad turnovers and the now-requisite game-winner that almost went in but didn't.
The hockey guys (Brian, Center Ice and Blueline) will cover the most unsurprising upset ever in more detail, but there was one thing that infuriated me all game, and that was Penn State's defensemen were pinching despite being rather bad backwards skaters, and only a few times did Michigan challenge this by speeding through the neutral zone. When they did move up-ice with any kind of urgency in the 3rd period, DeBlois and Nieves split defenders and got off great scoring opportunities.
Since we're now left watching tourneys and hoping the unworthy don't steal autobids, here's a handy graphic of the tournaments.
Things in the Future or Never. Interesting, quickly consumed diary by saveferris looks at the history of 1-4 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Survey says:
I just stole his lede here, so I'll tell you that there's a Burke gif at the top if you take the link. My guess is the closer seeds are to each other the more this will look like 50-50, i.e. the reason two-seeds won just 4 of 12 Finals games since 1985 is only 12 two-seeds have made the Finals.
|The other Sierra (soph. OF Sierra Lawrence) has a .462 OBP going into Big Ten play.|
And Softball. I could probably say this about the softball team most years, but I really really mean it this year: pay attention because they're on a new level of awesome fun awesome. They've carried a 19-6 record so far through an epic brutal schedule. South Bend Wolverine provided the update as the team is (finally) going into Big Ten play.
Thing to Know 1: Pitching is huge in softball; one great one will put a team in the Top 25. Michigan has three(!) such towers. I'll stop comparing junior Haylie Wagner to Verlander because her 0.93 ERA/13-0 record is more like Walter Johnson. Freshman sensation Megan Betsa has 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. Something's been off with junior Sara Driesenga, who was All-Big Ten both previous seasons, and picked up the slack last year when Wagner was out. If Sara returns to form the pitching is just going to be unfair.
Thing to Know 2: Star shortstop Sierra Romero's looks like Miguel Cabrera at the bat and in the field; in the comments Hail to the Blue points out her glove is fine but her arm's been erratic.
[Jump for Best of the Board]
Bah di-dah di-dah, bah di-dah di-dah, bah di-dah di-dah dah!
Bah di-dah di-dah, bah di-dah di-dah, dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah [sax]
Michiganman14: It's time to unleash Stauskas.
B-Nut-GoBlue: It's time to seed B1G right.
:It's time for photoshopping and Tom Crean memes tonight!
Jonvalk: Imagine life with Horford, if Morgan chose to go?
Bah di-dah di-dah, bah di-dah di-dah, bah di-dah di-dah dah!
L'Carpetron Dookmariot: It's time lacrosse got started.
MGoBlueline: When will hockey get started?
[Jump: a board full of grouchy old hecklers]
I'm going to skip the user-generated content column, since there wasn't very much of it this week, and talk about the position swaps. The top two diaries at right are new this week.
Something completely different. Brady Hoke attended the Detroit alumni association's annual event yesterday and went on WTKA this morning, leaking out some position changes and player updates, as well as explaining the thinking behind the defensive position coach shakeup. News via nickbob:
Jake Ryan moving to MIKE
Chris Bryant to take medical
Magnuson will miss "most" of spring, will do some individual stuff, surgery went well
Tuley-Tillman had hand surgery
Drake Johnson and Darboh are limited and working their way back
Some other odds and ends related to the D coaching moves
Also Taco Charlton will be moving from WDE to SDE. Let's discuss.
|More Ryan is a good thing. [Fuller]|
Moving Ryan. This, like the coaching changes, is a response to college football going mostly spread. Hoke said that Ohio State effectively neutralized Ryan against the run by spreading out, thus moving him out of the box. Here's your matchups for strongside linebackers on Michigan's 2014 schedule:
- Vs tight end/manball: MSU, Minnesota, PSU*
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-run: App State, Utah, Ohio State
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-pass: ND, Miami(NTM), Maryland, Indiana, NW'ern
The * for PSU is because Franklin's offense is a bit of a hybrid; when adapted to Penn State's current roster I'm guessing it ends up a zone-blocked, tight-end-heavy passing offense that moves at warp speed. Northwestern will be a lot more passy with Trevor Siemian instead of Colter. Only two games will heavily feature a SAM taking on tight end blocks.
Upside: anyone who's watched Te'o or Bullough against us in recent years can attest how much of a difference a great middle linebacker can make. The downgrade from Demens to last year's linebackers in deep zone coverage was probably the defense's biggest liability, and Ryan to date has been a plus zone defender.
Downsides: SAM just went from Michigan's strongest position on defense to a huge question mark, since Cam Gordon graduated and Beyer was moved to SDE, leaving just unheralded Spur (i.e. safety)-like object Allen Gant and neophytes.
The obvious thing would be for Beyer to switch back, though Hoke told Sam Webb that isn't happening. Rather James Ross may swap to SAM, and Morgan/Bolden/Gedeon will compete/rotate at WILL and backup MIKE. Weight Watch 2014 just became how big will James Ross be watch. If Ross seizes the position this spring I think things will work out fine, though this has to be a comedown from our hype going into last year. McCray or one of the freshmen could factor in.
The other downside is the most consistent generator of pass rush is no longer on the pass rush.
[Jump: moving Taco, OL damage, coach position switches]
Via Hail to the Blue in the comments, "The softball team is in action today, tomorrow, and Sunday in Lafayette, LA at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational. Follow @umichsoftball on Twitter for live updates. Couple of tough games against UL-Lafayette today and tomorrow down here."
Pitchers and Catchers! There used to be a day sometime in the late summer every year when I start to get really excited about football. This tingling would progress to a low hum when practices started up, and would be a spinal vibration by the time I'm racing into the stadium for whatever MACrifice we're starting against. I miss that. Last year we were doing the basketball book so August was just a bleary eyed gauntlet, and the year before the season started in Jerryworld. This year I already know that excitement will be damped down by a month's worth of reliving The Horror.
Pitchers and catchers reporting isn't so much an event, or even a day on the calendar, as it is a metaphor: It is the day that winter's back begins to break; a promise that day follows night.
|9||W All Track Combined||$141,452|
You can't dampen pitchers and catchers day, not when Omar Infante is the rookie you're praying will lead the offense, not you're seeing his back plus Prince Fielder's and your 4th best pitcher's because the expense of being so awesome has passed what awesome can net.
Sorry, this is supposed to be about Michigan not the Tigers. Ah but it is, for it's a lead-in to Raoul's comprehensive preview of Michigan's baseball team. It's still tough for a northern team to be more than a good mid-major in this sport, but Bakich seems to have Michigan heading in that direction.
When baseball is really good (e.g. their 2006 run) they're the fourth sport in these parts. Are they Michigan's true #4 sport? There was a interesting thread this week where the question of that sport's identity was posed by Wolverine Devotee. To that discussion I added the list at right from Michigan's Title IX reporting. Some of those teams (like lacrosse) are benefiting more from ticket sales/TV revenue generated by opponents' fans. I tried to compare where each stands among other universities, but many schools lie their asses off in those reports regarding women's sports revenues, for example West Virginia says their W Track & Field team takes in what Michigan's hockey team does. My guess is this gets them around a Title IX provision but I don't know which. Either way it makes the stats useless.
As for Michigan's fourth sport, I still think it's softball.
My bloody valentine. Sunday there will be a whole bunch of recruits who don't have drivers licenses yet watching the Wisconsin game at Crisler. Next week there will be a large and star-heavy group of those who can drive, and who can also say things like "I'm committing to Michigan," say, for example, if they were suddenly taken by a wave of euphoria that might accompany an effective conference title clinch over a rival. This is not crazy; it has happened before. Go make our football team good, basketball.
FWIW HopeInHoke's diary shows winning the conference from here is possible, but nowhere near a certainty. MSU's only road loss in-conference is to Wisconsin; remember when that was a thing we used to just chalk up to "happens to everyone"? LSA's weekly stats report shows Michigan's superior to an average of remaining opponents in everything but rebounding.
[After the jump: things Marcus Ray et al. say about Michigan's 2014 secondary]
Soady two-holer > Sochi two-holer
One of the mods already put this in a thread but a front page reminder can't hurt: don't post scores or spoilers of Olympic events on delayed telecasts. This goes especially for the results of hockey games that will be broadcast in primetime. Laughing at the myriad (mostly toilet-related) follies of bored and pampered journalists with nothing else to talk about for four days is fine.
The NHL kindly added the hockey games to its schedule, and I Bleed Maize N Blue put up a list of Michigan folk. Your Wolverines are hockey players Carl Hagelin (Sweden), Brian Lebler (Austria), and Max Pacioretty (USA), and U.S. figure skaters Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Maia & Alex Shibutani, and Evan Bates.
|Fri 2/7||Opening Ceremony||7:30 PM||NBC||All|
|Sat 2/8||Ice Dancing||9:30 AM||NBC||Davis & White|
|Wed 2/12||Hky: Czech-Sweden||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Finland-Austria||3:00 AM||NBCSN||Lebler|
|Thu 2/13||Hky: Slovakia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Sweden-Switzerland||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Hagelin|
|Fri 2/14||Hky: Canada-Austria||12:00 PM||USA||Brian Lebler|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: USA-Russia||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
|Sat 2/15||Hky: Sweden-Latvia||12:00 PM||USA||Hagelin|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Austria-Norway||3:00 AM||USA||Lebler|
|Sun 2/16||Hky: Slovenia-USA||7:30 AM||NBCSN||Pacioretty|
Makes M's Happy
Sara Driesenga pitched 263 innings with an ERA of 1.89 last year [Terra Molengraff/Daily]
Softball is my chosen sport for following without obsessing. Carol Hutchins is one of the best coaches the sport's ever had, and the team still exudes a spirit that's so so enjoyable. Just don't think too hard about the competitive aspects, or how large a role a pitcher plays in the outcome versus the rest of the team.
If you'd like to know how this team looks, the answer is "very good" again. Like the Tigers, they return ridiculous pitching—Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga are both aces, and they're joined this year by highly touted freshman Megan Betsa—and one of the game's best hitting infielders (shortstop Sierra Romero), but lost their cleanup hitter. Also like the Tigers they're not a very good defensive team.
Etc. Survey results for RunTheFootball's expectations thing says Michigan's not living up to those. Your weekly goal by goal analysis covers the tallies vs. Wisconsin last weekend. Michigan is still shooting the lights out in conference play except against Indiana, not updated with Nebraska game yet. Lacrosse. Softball.
Best of the Board
NATIONAL SIGNING EVE WAS LONG AND FULL OF TERRORS
The night before signing day I got an email from a source who's been spot-on before that Peppers was thinking about holding off signing his LOI the next day—nobody else had that info so I didn't publish it, but it appears he was correct and that Peppers's coach talked him down off the ledge. Since this source has been right about everything so far, I'll share the reason he gave for the wavering: another program's coach, claiming knowledge from an NCAA source, was in Peppers's ear about "possible major sanctions at Michigan," presumably for the Gibbons thing. Crutin, man.
Clarification Update: He didn't say which coach, and guesses are just that since virtually every coach goes around flingin' B.S. on signing eve. Playing defense keeps other coaches from going on the offensive against your class. It's just Crutin' man.
TIDBITS FROM THE SIGNING DAY PRESSER
- Clarity on LB recruit positions: Winovich is a Jake Ryan-style SAM, Ferns is a MIKE, Furbush is a MIKE or WILL, Wangler is a WILL or Stevie Brown-style SAM.
- Dymonte Thomas will just be a safety, no more nickel and diming
- Canteen is a slot guy
- Furbush cut his own cast off using a hedge trimmer.
Thanks to Every Roh Has Its Thorn for collating these.
PUNTING: NOW FAME-WORTHY
Monte Robbins [source] / Zoltan Mesko [Scout] / Adam Finley [Desimone]
Now that the stat-heads have shown the punt is the least important play in football, the NFL Hall of Fame, which is the second-least meaningful of all Hall of Fames (they're heavy on skill players and big names, light on understanding the game; the college football one is worse), has finally decided to let in the Guy (ha!) they named the punting award for.
This got me wondering if there's a punter in Michigan history who could surpass those I can personally recall. Punting stats have been kept only since 2000 by the NCAA, and Bentley only goes a few years further back. They're very wonky stats when they're good, and very badly curated, and the most accessible ones are more suggestive of a terrible offense than a great leg. Zoltan is the obvious if-memory-serves candidate for best Michigan punter ever. I remember thinking Adam Finley was underrated because he could pow it very high or place it out of bounds, and that Hayden Epstein was overrated because all he did was thwack it.
Great Grandpa Alfonse used ta say if you're lookin' back at the tings you missed you won't know what hit ya.
As for how Wile did I can pull 2013 conference data from cfbstats if you like:
|Player||Team||Atts||Net YPA||% Ret|
|Cameron Johnston||Ohio State||49||41.7||16%|
|Mike Sadler||Michigan State||76||41.0||25%|
|Alex Butterworth||Penn State||51||38.5||22%|
That 46% of punts returned (ie didn't end with a fair catch, downed, out of bounds, or touchback) is the dinosaur punting. This is enough about punting for today.
CRASH TESTING HELMETS
UM Engineers are getting into the helmet-improvement game to understand the biomechanics of football hits.
Your Moment of Zen: