national champs baby
The BCS is now talking about a four team playoff and even Jim Delany is in. This is sort of about declining attendance (but not really), sort of about declining viewership (indirectly) and 1000% about this graph from a Neilsen "State of the Media" report on sports.
And then football:
Both the big basketball increase and big football decrease can be explained by external events. CBS finally realized it was the 18th century and split first-round games across four channels instead of forcing you to watch Local State U beat up on a 15 seed when Kansas (always Kansas) is suffering an incredible upset across the country. The BCS moved off broadcast to cable. But when paired with declining interest, the cavern between postseason formats screams "grit your teeth and do something literally everyone else wants."
BONUS: Nielsen lists the five most-watched games of the year:
1 vs 2 games, the Rose Bowl, the 3 vs 4 Fiesta, and random Michigan games not featuring awesome teams.
[HT: a message board!]
The weekend. Via MGoVideo:
The Axe effect. Remember these guys?
Since they executed the above, Michigan is 18-7 in the Big Ten. Thanks Axe guys! Thanks, Tony Gerdeman! (Attention Tony: please don't do that again in the next couple weeks. Ace's blood will be on your hands.)
A brief digression into faulty math. By the way, Gerdeman, your numbers are horsecrap since they include a bunch of players who list offers from Michigan who Michigan had ceased recruiting. No one buys your head fake about Tommy Schutt when you include a guy (Pittman) who tried to commit to M and was rebuffed plus a bunch of OL Michigan had moved on from by the time Meyer was hired. 2012 head to head Meyer wins: Armani Reeves. End of list.
Of course, the head to head thing is beside the point. Ohio State is always going to win most of its recruting battles with Michigan because most of them will be for Ohio kids. This has not prevented Michigan from being good at football.
And this will be the future. Via WH, the future of the M-MSU rivalry if recruiting keeps going like this:
Look at the mauling on the line. Also cough cough infinite Desmond Howard bubble screens.
The bracket of storyline. Lunardi's latest has Michigan on the three line playing the Drexel Dragons in the first round. After that, the bracket is all storylines:
- If high seeds win the second round opponent would be Notre Dame
- Hypothetical Sweet 16 matchups would be against Duke (played earlier, semi-rival), San Diego State (Steve Fisher), or Alabama (footbaw matchup).
He's got us in Nashville right now; Marquette is the protected seed in the other Columbus pod. I'd hope we land either there or Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Northwestern fans are pointing at tomorrow's game as perhaps their make-or-break moment for a first-ever NCAA bid. Bill Carmody is scoffing at the idea this is the biggest game in program history. Welsh-Ryan will be hyped.
Five star bump. Glenn Robinson is getting one. He's #1 on a recent Rivals list of the top ten players likely to move up when Rivals releases its final 2012 basketball rankings:
1. Glenn Robinson III
School: St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
The Buzz: The 6-foot-7 wing was knocking on the door of five-star status coming out of the summer. This winter, he appears to be well on his way to busting that door down. He has size, a complete game and high level athleticism that all translates at a high level. His impact at Michigan should be immediate and sizable.
Someone learned their lesson about John Beilein's talent evaluation skills after dropping Burke in their final rankings last year.
Brief position paper on "chink in the armor." ESPN fired the staffer who wrote the headline and suspended the anchor that spoke it aloud, causing some folks to question the inconsistency. I think it's the right call: a headline is something that is written down and considered. More importantly, it is also a place where double meanings and puns are crammed in as often as possible. A headline invites you to read it in all ways possible. If the staffer is too dumb to know this, he should be fired. If he's not, he should be fired.
The anchor probably should have gotten off with nothing other than a clarification that he was using the "chink in the armor" idiom in a way that is completely natural. They're talking about a big hole (turnovers) in Jeremy Lin's game. The idiom fits that conversation like a glove. These days a lot of folk use "unfortunate" to mean "awful" but in this case it is appropriate: the anchor's choice of words was unfortunate but not offensive.
How they do it. This Sporting News article on a mock bracket selection various members of the media went through is a fascinating insight into how the sausage gets made:
They stressed, time and time again, that there must be a way to organize the data — a true, valid point — and the RPI is just the way they chose. The relationship with the RPI dates back to 1981, when it was first used to provide “supplemental data” for the evaluation of potential at-large teams. As individuals, committee members have access to whatever ratings are available — including but not limited to the Pomeroy ratings, the Sagarin ratings and the LRMC results. But, the fact of the matter is everything dealing with ratings that was provided to the media members in the mock exercise was filtered through the RPI. The team sheets showed records vs. RPI top-50 teams, vs. teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI and so on. The RPI isn’t the gold standard and it might not even necessarily be the preferred ranking, but it’s the way the NCAA chooses to organize the information, so it’s definitely the most front-and-center data.
I think the committee generally does a good job at picking out serious RPI outliers; at points where they disagree with Kenpom seriously I tend to side with the committee. That Wisconsin bank shot last year was devastating because the committee mostly considers wins and losses. If it was just an infinitesimal hit to Michigan's defensive rating a lot of the drama gets sucked out of the season. Kenpom is designed to be predictive, which is not necessarily the best model for making a bracket that makes the sport entertaining.
Kovacs! Jordan Kovacs headlines Andy Staples's all-two-star (and under) team:
S Jordan Kovacs, Sr., Michigan (Zero stars in Class of 2008): Kovacs, another walk-on who came out of nowhere, joins Whaley as a co-captain. I first wrote about Kovacs in 2009 after he filled in admirably during the Wolverines' win against Notre Dame. Since then, Kovacs has developed into one of the Big Ten's best safeties. The kid who made the team from a student-body tryout has started 33 games, and he still has one more season to play.
Patrick Omameh and Nathan Brink also feature. Get your fill of this stuff now, because Michigan is about to be a rumor to this annual exercise.
Also let's keep the RR walk-on program going strong, yes? Even in a year where Michigan has a lot of guys on the line a Heininger would have ended up being a useful rotation piece. Kovacs starts on damn near every Michigan D in the past 20 years.
In your head. Michigan's weekend got not one but two coaching-type guys on the OSU staff to indirectly reference it. First someone who seems like their Singletary equivalent:
Slow and steady wins the race
Old coach told me one time... Don't trust false enthusiasm. Don't worry, I'm not. I trust
Again with the "these guys don't really mean to commit to Michigan." I'm sure it's an accident, yes. Don't forget "long way to signing day."
Program culture. Beilein on his seniors and the baseline they've established:
"I think in recruiting, people don’t understand the part about those four years, how much better they’ll get if they have really good work habits. Their work habits have not only made them better, it’s made the rest of our team better. Trey Burke comes into the gym and he sees Stu or Zack working extra before or working extra afterwards, he then realizes well, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and he’s always done that. But if he came in and saw two seniors that were late for practice or complaining about practice or didn’t work in the off-season, he may go more toward that way. They’ve helped us create a culture here that I hope is everlasting."
I cut the evaluators a break there because that's impossible to judge. Also it's not like a bunch of colleges were banging down Douglass's and Novak's doors. In any case, the point about the work ethic of the program is one that looms large in the aftermath of the Lee/Merritt departures blowing up the program. I think Burke will be a guy who helps keep that around this time. Morgan, too.
Etc.: SI declares the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball. DGDestroys has a miraculously-still-relevant recruiting post from before the weekend about the WR recruiting landscape. Surprise: Gordon Gee says something dumb.
Joe Paterno's death was a hugely misreported fiasco of the sort that is inevitable given the speed of information in the internet age. This post is an attempt to provide a framework for existing in a world of uncertain information.
This is what happened: Onward State, a blog/online newspaper run by PSU students, reported Paterno's death based on an email sent to Penn State players that turned out to be a hoax. This was good enough for a local radio station and StateCollege.com. It hit twitter and was then picked up without attribution by CBS Sports. It took off from there once the imprimatur of a major news agency was on it. Black Shoe Diaries has a detailed chronology of the mass screwup if you're interested in details. Shirtless Mark Twain isn't sure if he approves of this whole business or not, but would like you to know that rumors of his rippling pecs have been sorely undersold.
It's a story about the internet screwing up in very understandable ways. Onward State had what seemed like reliable information, and it passed their threshold for reporting. It is not a good threshold, but not everyone has one these days. CBS's Adam Jacobi did something unwise and sloppy. Pagewhoring Huffington Post saw an opportunity for views and cares about nothing else.
We've seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via "sources." In this instance, CBS's screwup was compounded because they didn't even provide a link to the primary source; Huffington Post did the same thing, but that's just their MO. Jacobi is a BHGP founder and should have known better.
I've screwed these things up myself. Earlier this year I erroneously reported that Kaleb Ringer had been booted from his high school team based on information that seemed solid but obvious was not. By contrast, a couple years ago I had the sense not to run anything about the serious car accident that Jon Bills and Mark Moundros were in despite having a ton of solid sources telling me about it. That seemed like a place to let journalists be journalists.
As I go along here that realm has steadily expanded. I probably won't report something like the Ringer thing again for a lot of reasons. Michigan playing Alabama is one thing to be wrong about; a high school kid's problems or lack thereof is another. This leaves windows open for crass opportunists like Ace Williams, but it's the internet. There's always going to be a bottom of the barrel.
Anyway, these things evolve naturally. As this site expands it has more at risk and becomes more cautious. People just starting out have little to lose and have not experienced the backlash from being wrong—or the frightening period between your post and official confirmation of it. Also some of them are total idiots.
From the user's perspective, the thing to do is maintain a Bayesian approach. Phil Birnbaum explains what that is:
Generally, Bayesian is a process by which you refine your probability estimate. You start out with whatever evidence you have which leads you to a "prior" estimate for how things are. Then, you get more evidence. You add that to the pile, and refine your estimate by combining the evidence. That gives you a new, "posterior" estimate for how things are.
You're a juror at a trial. At the beginning of the trial, you have no idea whether the guy is guilty or not. You might think it's 50/50 -- not necessarily explicitly, but just intuitively. Then, a witness comes up that says he saw the crime happen, and he's "pretty sure" this is the guy. Combining that with the 50/50, you might now think it's 80/20.
Then, the defense calls the guy's boss, who said he was at work when the crime happened. Hmmm, you say, that sounds like he couldn't have done it. But there's still the eyewitness. Maybe, then, it's now 40/60.
And so on, as the other evidence unfolds.
That's how Bayesian works. You start out with your "prior" estimate, based on all the evidence to date: 50/50. Then, you see some new evidence: there's an eyewitness, but the boss provides an alibi. You combine that new evidence with the prior, and you adjust your estimate accordingly. So your new best estimate, your "posterior," is now 40/60.
So if some guy with 50 followers claims Armani Reeves is headed to Michigan because Urban was late for his in-home visit, you might increment your 50% to 51%. If Mike Farrell says its 52-48 you might bump it to 52%, but if Farrell said he thought Reeves was definitely headed to Michigan you could push it up further. You base your confidence in the opinion on previous accuracy, with a list like this…
- TomVH/Sam Webb
- Established message board posters
- National analysts
- Random message board posters
- Raving lunatics
- People who don't know what football is
- Fictional races from another galaxy
- Hyperintelligent tacos
- Regular tacos
- Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
- Ace Williams
…and change your baseline confidence based on the information and your confidence level in it. This is something people do naturally, but too often the weight they put on the information is either 0 or 1 when it should be somewhere in between.
For purveyors of information, it's time to put an explicit confidence level on what you're relaying. My mistake with the Ringer thing, other than mentioning it at all, was saying something was the case when I should have said something less certain. When I got tips about the Michigan-Alabama game I erred by saying with certainty a contract would be signed on a certain date when the people involved with the thing probably didn't know that.
I try to follow a policy of revealing as much as I can about the nature any information I pass along without exposing a source, and that added transparency is necessary in an age when information—valid information—can come from anywhere or anyone. I still make mistakes. That's inevitable. I'm trying, though.
However, not even linking to the original report is a mortal sin. If you are going to run something based on someone else's reporting it is vital that you explicitly tell readers that. Otherwise one report from a little-known online news source turns into multiple reports, some of them from organizations with people paid to do reporting, and the echo chamber starts going exponential. If you do not link, you are telling people that you are reporting it, and when it turns out to be wrong you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself.
UFR will go up tomorrow. FYI.
It's raining wallpaper. As per usual. This one is from jonvalk:
This week in bowl parasitism. Bowl games are parasites on college football designed to bleed as much money from the system as they can get away with. Thanks to the interest levels provided by the teams—not the stadiums or locations—some of them do actually pump money into the system (although far less money than an NCAA controlled playoff would). The latest example of this:
The Fiesta Bowl has a deal with the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau that pays the bowl hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year in return for requiring participating teams to stay in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley resorts.
The bowl says the agreement is strictly legal and good business for all parties involved.
But it may increase the cost for schools playing in the Fiesta Bowl and BCS Championship Game, because they are required to stay a certain number of nights at high-end hotels.
The bowl, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic, received $491,340 from the Scottsdale CVB this past college-bowl season when the Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn football programs stayed in Scottsdale-area resorts for the Fiesta Bowl and Bowl Championship Series title game, respectively.
Legal or not, that's a half-million dollars of overhead from the payment alone and however much more from the monopoly lock in the payment provides. We can ballpark how much this is from UConn's trip to the Fiesta last year:
UConn also has a hotel obligation — a total of 550 rooms at three different hotels ranging in price from $125-225 a night, not including tax, with blocks reserved for either three or seven nights.
Without the lock-in teams could put the band in six rooms at the Super Eight and save themselves a bucket of money. The Sugar does this as well. Their defense is "this is legal," which is true but beside the point.
If bowls are going to exist they should be worthwhile businesses without heaping unnecessary expenses on the participating teams. This is a relatively piddly expense relative to ticket guarantees that erase payouts and leave cash-strapped programs with a net deficit, but it just shows how much of a racket bowls are. Not that you needed to be told that when the Michigan-OSU game featured Rose Bowl reps when the combined chance of either team making it to Pasadena was zero percent.
Crose enough*! Andy Staples has an article about the Big 12's sudden, unsurprising opinion flip in re: an expanded playoff field. It promises change:
Monday, Big 12 athletic directors voted in a straw poll to get behind the idea of a plus-one format that would allow four teams to compete for the national title. Such a format would have allowed USC to play for the national title in 2003, Auburn to play for it in 2004, Texas to play for it in 2008 and Oklahoma State -- which finished behind No. 2 Alabama by the slimmest of margins in the BCS standings -- to play for the title this season. If the league's presidents choose to agree with their athletic directors, the Big 12's support would be a huge step forward. The Big 12 was one of several leagues that blocked SEC commissioner Mike Slive's 2008 proposal for a four-team, seeded tournament. The ACC was the only conference that supported the plan.
With Larry Scott now creating the future in earnest in the Pac-12, the major remaining obstacle to a playoff is one of these two men.
Left: Lando Mollari. Right: Jim Delany
Jim Delany still hates the Narn with all his heart.
“Our view is we’d like to stay where we are,” Delany told the Tribune. “We do believe in the slippery slope theory.”
You should have thought of that before you joined the BCS, dude. As soon as the dumbest playoff in history was instituted, outrage started piling up. As soon as the sanctity of the Rose Bowl was undermined, erosion got busy. The levees are about to break.
If conference leaders are smart, they'll design a plan that allows for the two semifinal games to be played on the home fields of the No. 1- and No. 2-seeded teams. If they wanted to appease the must-win-your-league crowd, they could require that a team must win its conference to host a semifinal. Home-site semifinals would eliminate concerns about fan bases traveling twice -- a non-starter -- and would help reinforce the importance of the regular season. Teams would go into the final week fighting for a home game in a sport where home-field advantage means a lot. Just imagine an LSU-Stanford semifinal at Tiger Stadium or an Alabama-Oklahoma State semifinal in Stillwater (using the must-win-conference rule). Also, to remove the negative consequences of a semifinal loss, the two losing teams would be placed into premium bowls, where they could take a well-deserved victory lap for a great season. This would appease bowl executives, who for some unknown reason strike fear into the hearts of the people who run the sport.
One day people will wake up and realize that doofs in yellow jackets getting paid is not in the best interests of the sport. Think Of The Children.
As Witherspoon jumps out to hedge, Trey Burke puts on the brakes and changes direction with a between the legs dribble. All within a split of a second. This makes the play right here. The change of direction gives him another screen but also has his defender back up and lose attachment.
All Trey has to do now is get to the outside of Barton’s left leg and he will get in the lane.
It's Picture Pages for basketball. All we've got now is a superior use of the crop tool.
So exactly right. There was a point a few years ago when I railed almost weekly against the relentless stenography that mainstream coverage had degenerated into. It was the bubble screen of 2007. I dropped six months after that hobby-horse expired, but when an ESPN vet like Tim Keown lays into the modern press conference I cannot resist a very long blockquote:
The death of the interview has spawned a generation raised on generalities and clichés. Caution is a lesson [Titans QB Matt] Hasselbeck has learned many times, most recently after the Titans beat the Colts on Oct. 30, when he was asked -- or told, he can't remember the phrasing -- to compare current teammate Chris Johnson with former Seahawks teammate Shaun Alexander. In Hasselbeck's view, it was a question with "a negative vibe" -- his pet peeve.
What followed was an instructive look into the void left in the interview's wake. Hasselbeck, attempting to answer the question honestly, said he did see similarities: two great running backs who followed MVP-caliber seasons with "normal" years. He was attempting to make the point that both players were victims of unfair expectations, because nobody can be expected to perform at an MVP level every season. "It's hard to be elite every year," he said.
Predictably, he was seen as "ripping" Johnson and "throwing him under the bus." … The question was legitimate. Johnson, a former offensive player of the year and recent signee of a huge contract, had been booed at home in much the same way former MVP Alexander was when his production dropped off after he signed a huge contract. The answer, as far as it went, was legitimate as well. What was missing was context, and before Hasselbeck could massage his message, he was hit with a new question and the group conversation -- such as it was -- moved on.
"If I were Chris Johnson, I would have wondered, 'Why is my quarterback saying this about me?'" Hasselbeck says. "Everyone knows how the Shaun Alexander story ended in Seattle, so it looked like I was ripping Chris Johnson." The subsequent coverage centered on Hasselbeck's "unflattering" comparison between the two running backs. "I was asked a negative question, and instead of being a jerk I gave an honest answer," he says.
His solution? Be boring. "It's a headline-driven world, and what I said provided a headline," he says. "That's why I'm guarded, cautious. I don't want to accidentally give bulletin-board material. If someone asks me about a player, I say, 'He's a great player.' If they ask me about a coach, I say, 'He's a great coach.' "
The problem is finding which section to blockquote since all of it is deadly accurate. It starts "BEHOLD THE DECOMPOSED REMAINS of the sports interview" and is probably 3000 words long. It's worth the read.
The local spin comes in two parts. Part one: boy is it nice to have a coach with his banalities down pat. Rich Rodriguez may have gotten unfairly pilloried for his "get a life" statement, which was ripped out of context like Hasselbeck's statement was, but he was a magnet for that kind of stuff. Hoke hasn't had a misstep yet; he's settled into a comfort zone where the media is his lapdog, and that won't change. If things start going poorly the media will be defending Hoke and scorning fans until it's over.
Part two: Michigan's suddenly better about this than most schools with their coordinator pressers and the relatively straight answers given in there, especially from Mattison.
Etc.: Gobbler Country profiles Michigan, which is us. More on this later, but Chris Brown's long-ago profile of the Hokie D is remarkably useful since it's about how they've adapted to the spread. UMHoops talks Oakland with a Summit League blogger.