national champs baby
new year's day
Tents fingers. The initial returns on Michigan's 2013 basketball recruiting class's AAU season continue to be positive—very positive to some. ESPN's just revamped its class rankings and 2013 looks a lot like 2012:
- PG Derrick Walton, a "true point guard" who has "an excellent feel for the game" and a "tight handle" rises to the #39 player in the class.
- SF Zak Irvin checks in at #61. "Has really good length and a great D-I basketball body," he can also shoot. Lots.
- C Mark Donnal also rises significantly and is now the #65 player to ESPN. He's "ever-improving."
Target Reggie Cameron, a 6'7" stretch four reportedly shooting over 50% from three so far this summer, is #67.
So over two classes Michigan's only non-four-star sorts are the point guard acquired as part of the Trey Burke panic and late riser Caris LeVert. The other six guys (and counting): hyped. I think we can put the last shovelful of dirt on concerns about Beilein's recruiting.
EVERYONE DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. Two things about the rapidly-morphing future of college football. One: I may owe Patrick Vint an apology after I scoffed at the idea that Jim Delany had a master plan behind his long, uncomfortable hug with the Rose Bowl. Now that the Big 12 and SEC have partnered up to provide a slow-cooked-pork version of the Rose, guess who's coming to dinner?
"I'd say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday's a game-changer," Scott said. "We're pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it's possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction."
The Sydney Poiter of playoff options: dignified, old-fashioned, and scary to Spencer Tracy. If they do go to the true plus one system, Vint is basically right and the two champs vs champs games are almost de facto semifinals.
Would this qualify as a diabolical master plan deployed by Jim Delany? I guess you're playing the Pac-12 champ for a spot most years but I'm not sure a steady diet of USC/Oregon/someone else every once in a while is much better than a true four team playoff. After all, the Big Ten's record in the Rose Bowl is horrible. Locking ourselves into it doesn't do much for the conference's title hopes. Sort of locking the Big East and ACC out is not a huge benefit.
If I had to bet I'd still put my chips on a true four-team playoff but I clearly have no idea what the thought processes these guys are using are like.
The second thing. The Big 12-SEC announcement threw college football into yet another realignment tizzy, this one focused on the Big 12 raiding the ACC for most of its prominent football programs. Florida State, Miami, and Clemson are most frequently mentioned. FSU started it, Texas scoffed at it, Virginia Tech denies everything, but now everybody's talking about it and the inevitable Death Star conferences that will emerge.
I still don't know how a 16-team conference even works. The SEC's gone to 14 and this has been enough for Steve Spurrier to invent (and Les Miles to back) the idea cross-division games shouldn't count in the standings. That takes the metaphorical "two conferences with a scheduling agreement" line I've dropped whenever this comes up and makes it literal. The Big Ten equivalent would see the Michigan-Ohio State game have no bearing on the Big Ten title. It's a nonconference game, an exhibition. It's either that or realign the two into the same division. There just aren't enough games to make 16 teams work without doing away (or all but doing away) with nonconference games entirely.
If that was the endgame, I'd be for it. Or if people got creative and implemented either dynamic scheduling—which may be the origin of this blog's "I come up with an incredibly complicated solution to something that may not be a problem" tag—or a relegation system*. The endgame that the current college football people can think up… not so much.
*[The linked post is for 14 teams and is really complicated and (BONUS) mathematically impossible. So don't take it too seriously. A 16 team relegation system could look like a bunch of things, but most likely is groups of eight playing a full round-robin with the eighth conference game either eliminated or given over to a play-in/play-out system.
I do still like the dynamic scheduling a lot, FWIW, but not knowing two thirds of your conference schedule before the season is tough.]
In other expansion news no one cares about. Luke Winn breaks out the graphs to show the relative strength of the new world of basketball conferences. The Big Ten is untouched but a couple conferences get hammered:
Even in this hypothetical world where Pitt and Syracuse are in the ACC, the Big Ten is still the #1 conference by some distance the past couple years.
Ohhhhhh. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
“To have imagined that the event would be this spectacular, particularly when you’re there, to imagine that we would own New Year’s Day, which used to be for college football, nobody could have imagined it.”
There was no college football on NYD last year because it was a Sunday, but… is he wrong? Yeah, probably. But the very idea of having another very popular sporting event on New Year's Day would have been inconceivable ten years ago. Now it's not that hard to compete with Northwestern-Vandy, or whatever.
Etc.: Buy Smart Football's book. They'll serve beer at the hockey game not featuring Michigan at Michigan Stadium. Softball lost last night; will try to stay alive at 4:30 on ESPNU. I'm disappointed Bob Gassoff isn't in this picture.
WR ALERT. Devin Gardner's facebook:
Stop everything you're doing for the next three months and talk about this. Certain packages are likely to include the redzone and third down stuff when Michigan has four WRs on the field. 20-30 catches maybe? Unless an enraged Al Borges refuses to field a leaker?
UPDATE: Michigan says that's not actually Devin Gardner's facebook page. Woo!
Wow. Of all the quotes to put on Joe Paterno's grave, this is the best one:
No idea if that was planned previously and now takes on a vastly sadder meaning in the aftermath or someone in the family calling a ballsy audible. But, yeah.
When Irish legs are drunkenly crane-kicking you. Tommy Rees was at a party in South Bend that was broken up because it's South Bend. City motto: Where Fun Goes to Die. He got some tickets and stuff, but then the crushing weight of life in rural Indiana finally got to him and he went "wwrrroaaaaaAAHHHH" at a cop:
Officers saw five people jumping a fence to run away and they chased them down, catching Rees and Calabrese.
In an attempt to get away, Trent says Rees kneed an officer in the stomach.
Rees got pepper-sprayed—internet, where is the Tommy Rees getting it from Pepper Spray Cop image?—and arrested on various charges including a felony that has a zero point zero percent chance of sticking.
This is par for the Tommy Rees decision-making course. Confronted by police, the options he considered included:
- calmly taking the ticket and going home
- licking Manti Te'o's face just to see what would happen
- detaching his arm, insisting that it was actually Tommy Rees and he was Steve Miller of Steve Miller band
- transferring to any school coached by a non-mauve person
ANSWER KEY: #5: 10 points. #1: 5 points. #2: one point. #4: zero points. #5: you have been eaten by a grue'o.
So he could have done worse. Irish fans are hoping this disqualifies him from starting this fall. Opponents are hoping for his safe, addled return.
BONUS: Carlo Calabrese is as connected as you would expect a guy named "Carlo Calabrese" to be:
At 1 point, (Carlo) Calabrese allegedly told officers, "my people will get you," per police reports.
DOUBLE DRAGON BONUS: Jacobi uses the Furman suspension to troll Notre Dame about their lack of character. Well done. (BR link!)
Give us back our New Year's Day, and do so by taking it away. Remember when New Year's Day was reserved for teams that had won, like, eight games? Yeah, man, back then you really had to eke out a mediocre season to play on January first. No longer:
At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.
In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.
Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.
You can't even blame TV since the Big Ten's desire to cram every game they're in onto New Year's Day means four games I'd watch if given the option are on at the same time. As long as we're banning 6-6 teams from the postseason, let's ban teams with more than three losses from New Year's Day.
The erosion of NYD is a fine example of the stuff that drives me nuts the increasingly short-term thinking plaguing of college athletics: you have an institution that is loved, so you milk it for dollars until you've destroyed the meaning of that institution. Get The Picture:
The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum. It wasn’t an accident. It’s what TV wanted. And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in. Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline. But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch? Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?
On the national level this results in Gator Bowls between 7-5 teams on NYD; on the local level it results in the reseating of Crisler with absolutely no consideration given to the guys who have had tickets for the last crappy decade.
Alienating your most loyal fans is rarely a winner unless you're winding down an industry. (See: profitable but debt-laden newspapers slashing content willy-nilly.)
How to do it. I may expand this into a larger post later, but amongst an avalanche of head-nods and "you go girl" exclamations while I read Dan Wetzel's latest article on how to construct playoffs I found myself having a serious disagreement. It's here:
There is no good way to choose the field. None. There has to be a subjective decision made, and no one likes subjective decisions.
The best of a bad situation is to have that subjectivity hashed out in a cool, calm and studied environment and then make the selection process as transparent as possible.
As such, the sport would be best served if it created a single computer formula. People could decide how important strength of schedule (preferably giving extra credence to tough nonconference scheduling) or margin of victory or home-field/road-game criteria should be. They could program the formula accordingly and then test and tweak the next two seasons.
Most importantly, they could offer it up to everyone so that teams can plan ahead, know what they are up against and track the progress as the season goes along.
I'm a math guy, but that's not going to work. There is just not enough data in a 12-game season with very little meaningful overlap between conferences. Adding MOV helps, but not enough. Even computer models that try to take every drive or play into account spit out weird results like Virginia Tech #3 overall in 2009. While any selection mechanism would fall on the descriptive side of the descriptive/predictive rankings divide*, I just don't see a computer ranking ever getting fine enough that it will be right as much as a dedicated selection committee.
You need the committee to override groupthink like "Oregon has more losses than Stanford because it played LSU, so Stanford makes it."
In other playoff ideas, I do like the idea that a conference champ ranked 5 or 6 gets in over someone who didn't win the conference. Without that limitation you get some squirrelly fields. That one seems good to me since it solves that Oregon issue.
*[IE: rankings either describe what you've done—evaluate who's had the best season—or attempt to predict the future by ignoring noisy wins and losses for a more robust underlying model.]
Stop, collaborate, and listen. Joe Stapleton talked with Zak Irvin's AAU coach and came back with some tantalizing tidbits. He's his loaded AAU team's go-to scorer and we also get some additional indication he could be BRJ 3000:
“Defensively, he’s our stopper,” Green said. “We put him on the other team’s best player. So sometimes you’ve got the best offensive guy, he’s going to work, but then he’s got to turn around and play defense against the other team’s best player. He’s capable of doing both.”
When the All-Stars were in zone, Irvin played at the top and was disruptive. His 6-foot-6 frame and long arms made it nearly impossible for smaller guards to get a lob pass over him, and his quickness allowed him to hound the ball without getting taken advantage of.
When the All-Stars were in man-to-man, Irvin guarded the opposing team’s best player and gave them plenty of trouble. Irvin’s combination of size and quickness allowed him to guard post players and wing players equally effectively.
“His best attribute right now is being a lockdown defender,” Green said. “Defensively, he’s always been a lockdown defender and that’s never going to change.”
I love players who can add value without using possessions, whether they're Aaron Craft or Ben Wallace. Irvin is going to use possessions, possibly at a Hardaway rate—in AAU the dude is an aggressive shooter. Add in a lot more value than Hardaway has at the other end of the floor, where he's an indifferent defender, and an inch or two of height and Irvin sounds like a top 50 player easy.
Etc.: Various coaches on playoffs. Considerable speculation that Alabama's projected starting tailback may not be ready for the Jerryworld game. They would plug in a five-star freshman in his stead. You are annihilating the EDSBS fundraiser. Good luck, St. Louis group trying to get a Big 10-SEC bowl game there. Seriously, good luck.