"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
So with recent wins by Northwestern and Minnesota, there is the possibility that FIVE teams in the Big Ten will finish 9-9 in the conference. Each of these five teams has one game left in regular conference play. This will happen if:
- Michigan beats Minnesota
- Northwestern beats OSU
- Indiana beats Wisconsin
Obviously, the last one (Indiana over Wisconsin) is really unlikely to happen. But still, we could easily have Michigan, Minnesota, OSU and Northwestern all at 9-9. I know this affects seedings for the Big Ten Tournament, but can anyone hazard a guess at what the implications are for the NCAA tourney?
The good thing is that, if this scenario (four teams at 9-9) occurs, Michigan will have a head-to-head advantage over Northwestern and Minnesota (but not OSU). The bad thing is that, even if this happens, Michigan will still place 7th in the conference, not counting the Big Ten Tournament of course.
So I found myself in Evanston with a ticket to the game and some time to spare. Some random thoughts from what turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon:
- There is a place to watch Big Ten basketball that is worse than
Chrysler Crisler Arena. Welsh-Ryan is basically something between a high-school gym and a steam bath. Seriously, it was hot in there. It starts out hot when you go in, and then you climb and climb (we had seats in ZZ, which, sadly for some others, was not the highest row) and it gets hotter and hotter. We soon were in our t-shirts and sad that less clothing would have been offensive if not illegal. The bad news for Welsh and Ryan - your family names have been tarnished. I suggest a rename: Unnamed Basketball Arena - Catch the Wildcats in Action!
- Our offense consists of two plays. Play 1: run around and pass crisply until someone is open for a three. Then, chuck up the three, pretty much regardless of who you are. Play 2: Manny, do something awesome. Because Beilein is a genius (according to many), I have concluded that most other coaches only have one play in their systems. Beilein, because he thinks outside the box, has two. Strangely, both plays are somewhat effective. We won, however, because we ran Play 2 a lot, especially in the second half.
- Much like the Maize Rage, the students at Northwestern were all trying to get some serious, same-colored T-shirt spirit going, with some kind of Wildcat striped purple and white apparel. Unfortunately, because of the fine intermixing of white and purple, these shirts look (from a distance) just like light purple t-shirts. It's as if they don't the school color is dark purple and all have the wrong color on. It is not working.
- The Northwestern band was there. At the beginning, they played the Northwestern fight song, and I realized I had never heard it in my life. Perhaps this was a remnant of my childhood, where Michigan would routinely beat Northwestern 63-0 regardless of the sport. You have to score to play the song, you know.
- Saw Beilein up close. He looked old. I asked him how to spell his name, and he swore at me. OK, only part of this entry is true.
- Manny better not go on a crazy year-ending, 30-point scoring, Glen Rice reminiscing, getting us into the tourney spree. Because if he does, he may just be gone. And then next year will be mediocre too.
- There are way too many Michigan fans at Northwestern events. The result is that you feel bad. Here we are, in their house, doing the full "Go!" on one side, "Blue!" on the other. I overheard some guys talking about how they could sneak some extra words in there to take over the chant. Like a quick "Don't" before the go (that was their best idea). Worse ideas included (1) starting their own similar chant "N!" "U!" (that's short for Northwestern University) or (2) just punching someone wearing blue/maize. Yes, they were drunk.
- More seriously, not enough people at the game were drunk. I thought Michigan fans were a dry bunch, but this Northwestern group was pretty far out there too; very yuppy and professional and all that. You could sense they were going to take out their frustration from a loss by going home and plundering the financial markets even further.
- The food options at all Big Ten sporting events are the same, more or less. However, they did have Hecky's BBQ, which actually looked like real food. Why can't stadiums/arenas serve food that is (a) somewhat authentic and (b) tastes good? Oh yeah, because of (c) cost.
- I think I saw Steven Threet at the game. He was wearing one of those light purple T-shirts, and talking with the Football coach. He looked happy, and I wished him well.
- OK, I made that up too. But I will miss Threet, he seemed like a good guy.
That's all for now. Goodnight!
Hosted by Varsity Blue. We'll get started shortly before the game.
Walkons? Walkons.The always-awesome Jim Stefani has sleuthed out a number of preferred walkons for Michigan's class of 2009, and he has anointed New York Offensive lineman Tom Lindley the catch of the bunch. Lindley may have been deserving of a full ride elsewhere:
“Though he would have merited a ride somewhere else, lineman Tom Lindley of William Floyd will attend Michigan as a preferred walk-on next fall and try to earn a scholarship down the road.”
but will join Michigan's football team with the benefit of academic scholarship money, and will try to play for a scholarship in the future. Lindley was unranked by Rivals and Scout, while ESPN named him the nation's #131 offensive guard prospect and gave him a grade of 74.
Rodriguez, a former walkon himself (as I'm sure most Michigan fans are already well aware) has long championed having a robust walkon program at Michigan (again, most Michigan fans already know this). Lindley and AA Pioneer's Nader Furrha are the notable walkons for 2009, and the program will undoubtedly continue to grow in the future. As I've said before on Varsity Blue, I would love it if Michigan's program became renowned like that of Nebraska pre-Callahan, and prospect were turning down offers from the likes of Michigan State to try their hand in Ann Arbor.
Because mock press conferences haven't gotten old yet, I say! Presented without further comment:
Numbers. An unnecessarily high amount of fan attention and angst seems to go into which numbers the incoming freshman will sport in the fall. In MGoBlue's Wolverine Welcome series, the already-enrolled freshmen give a little insight as to (a phrase which here means "reveal") which numbers they'll sport come September.
Will Campbell - #73.
Vladimir Emilien - #5.
Tate Forcier - #5.
Mike Jones (obligatory "WHO?") - #27.
Brandin Hawthorne - #7.
Anthony Lalota - #90.
Vincent Smith - Hasn't been Wolverine Welcomed yet. Informative update when the information is available.
Basket-ed Ball. The Wolverines travel to Evanston on Sunday to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats may be a bit vulnerable, as they chocked away their tournament dreams, for all reasonable scenarios, with their EPIC FAIL against Illinois last night. They led by 14 in the second half, and by 6 with under a minute to go(!) before falling to the Illini. A Michigan win would go a long way towards ramping up toward a tournament push.
SMQ on M. Rivals' Dr. Saturday takes on the Michigan issue. Synopsis: Expect better next year, but certainly not a Flowers for Algernon-like leap.
The author's work can usually be found on his site, Varsity Blue.