he grew a beard
I went ahead to the morning of March 5th and returned with this nugget for you all:
March 5th, Ann Arbor, MI –
There is no such thing as a play-in game in conference basketball, though there is a first time for everything. As Michigan prepares to host MSU tonight at Crisler arena, both teams know what’s at stake and both will be playing, essentially, for their tournament lives.
The Michigan wolverines, sitting at 19-11, 9-8 conference, have really taken control of their season, winning six of their last seven, dropping only a home game against conference No. 2, Wisconsin. They have put themselves squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament.
The MSU Spartans, meanwhile, have also found a bit of themselves over the past few weeks, finishing the homestretch 4-2, leaving them at 17-12, also with a 9-8 conference record, but with a tougher NC schedule and a better national perspective. This also places them squarely on the NCAA bubble.
Now, the problem. The Big Ten has OSU, Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois ticketed for the dance already. The conference almost certainly will not get seven berths. And so, with also-rans Northwestern and Penn State on the outside looking in, the picture becomes clear. One of these teams, but not both, is going dancing. Tonight for our viewing pleasure, right here in Ann Arbor, these young men are going to play their guts out to find out which one.
- The Season So Far:
Michigan: For a team that was supposed to be too young to accomplish much, early season non-conference success brought whispers of an NCAA Tourney bid in the making. Then, close losses to No. 2 Kansas and No. 1 OSU in back-to-back games seemed to take it out of the wolverines, and they followed up with clunkers and aimless fluttering through several ugly Big Ten losses. It was not until this young team rallied to beat MSU at the Breslin center, something that had not happened in better than a decade, that they really began to figure out what they were.
Led by veterans Zack Novak and Darius Morris and supported by a talented freshman class including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan, this team has found a method and a special type of leadership to rise above their youth. Expect a lot of threes from Novak if he can get open, some solid passing from Morris, and some interesting sets devised by head coach John Beilein.
MSU: Michigan State basketball is a program all but synonymous with top flight talent and perpetuated success. Though not lacking in the first, the second has been hard to come by this season. Early season losses were brushed aside as MSU faced some of the best teams in the nation. However, entering conference play, things got no easier for the Spartans. A lack of chemistry has left head coach Tom Izzo scratching his head, and meant the dismissal of one Korie Lucious and a bevy of tough losses.
Still, all that talent has come through when dearly needed, and has given MSU a chance to continue their impressive tournament streak. With no clear leader, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Spartans on any given night, but it’s likely that Tom Izzo will have some clever schemes to continue the minor winning streak that has rescued MSU from utter failure to the least chance of earning a berth.
One of these teams will make the tournament. For the other, it’ll be Big Ten tourney champions or bust. There is enough talent and skill to send the game either way. All that’s left is to play one of the most important games ever in this series. In Ann Arbor, you can cut the tension with a knife.
You know how I know? Because Brady Hoke is rubbing off on John Beilein:
"We've played so many of those good teams so far, that I don't know if (it matters if) you're playing a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5," U-M coach John Beilein said. "It depends on the kids. I know I don't look at it any differently. I know they're a tremendous team. The rankings are the perception of their team. They certainly are worthy of a No. 1 ranking."
GO BLUE! BEAT OSU!
Alright, legitimate post time.
Brian's post on the front page regarding the progress of the basketball team since the essential reformatting of the squad, namely the axing of the entire coaching staff by Beilien and the willingness to let two experienced guys walk has gotten me thinking. The basketball team has clearly benefited via addition through subtraction. They are playing better with less experience, and, one could argue, no substantial addition in talent. (Yes, we've got some exellent young guys, but the guys that are gone weren't too shabby).
So the question becomes, was it the changeover in staff that has created the bulk of the positive change this season? Is it Bacari Alexander and the rest that are to be most credited with this solid success?
If so, I want to know what you all think that means for the football team. We've already tried changing D-Coordinators. Didn't work. However, there is some consensus that the initial change was simply because fans, alumni and everyone else needed a sacrificial lamb after that attrocious 2008 season. I'm not sure if we can count the inditial D-Coordinator change when we try to decide if replacing more staff will help the team this time.
The other factor to consider is that, as opposed to the Basketball team, we're not looking at a fresh bevy of talented but inexperienced faces for next season. For the first time in a while, we're going to finally return an experienced, established squad that is familiar with their position coaches and scheme and so on.
Keep in mind that this is not just defensive either. Though the offense was clearly killer this past season, it also had its share of problems. Most notably, turnovers (fumbles) and, in the later season, substantial red zone issues (kicking game withstanding, because I don't even want to get into that).
Obviously, some changes in the coaching staff need to be made. I guess at the heart of the matter is this question:
In light of the basketball team's early season success after a wholesale staff changeover, assuming Rodriguez remains as coach for the 2011 season, and considering both the returning experience of the team AND the problems that plagued a variety of position groups this past season, exactly how much of the staff do you think Rodriguez should replace? Is D-Coordinator enough? Should he gut the defensive side of the ball and bring up position coaches from all over? Do any offensive guys get it?
I don't care so much WHO you want to see brought in as who you think, ideally, needs to be replaced to see the squad perform at a much higher level next season.
Looks like we shouldn't read too much into Oakland's near upset of MSU: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/recap?gid=201012140580
They're legit. Played Illinois and Purdue tough, near upset of MSU, and successfully knocked off UTenn. I exxpect them to be a tough opponent for us on the 18th.
Edit: never mind, already posted and missed it