I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Actually. I may be excessively paranoid about Michigan's chances to make the tournament. Joe Sheehan of Basketball Prospects may be a whinging prat about the Big Ten, but I like his ordering of the bubble:
San Diego State
Temple …(and so on and so forth)
Leaving aside the idea that it's preposterous to put Auburn, which has done nothing in the nonconference except lose to Mercer and plays in an almost literally unbelievably bad SEC, ahead of Minnesota and its neutral court win over Louisville: Michigan in front of all those teams bodes well. That is lock-even-with-Iowa-loss right there.
But we have to return to the whinging. This is an incredibly stupid argument:
The middle of this conference is larded with mediocrity, not parity, with records inflated by the 1-17 team at the bottom (of the muddled middle, only Michigan was denied two free wins over the marginally Division I team)
…when combined with this argument:
I can't put excessive weight on the head-to-head matchup because of the lack of a return game. Hey, Big 11, here's an idea: instead of everyone playing two Horizon/MAC teams, play a full round-robin.
Every conference has a bottom feeder or three and the Big Ten's records aren't "inflated" any more than the Pac-10 records are by teams in Oregon or Big East records are by St Johns and Depaul and so forth and so on. Also, how can you bitch about the Big Ten's lack of a full round robin every power conference save the Pac-10 lacks one? The SEC and Big 12 don't even play 18 games! If you want to argue against the conference, fine, but please bring at least one non-idiotic reason. So suffice it to say I'm not putting a huge amount of stock into that ordering.
File under "duh": Cornell, ETSU, UNI, Radford, Morehead St., Siena, VCU, UT-Chattanooga, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida St., Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma St., Michigan St., Illinois, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona St., UConn, Pitt, Louisville, 'Nova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, LSU, Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton, Memphis, Gonzaga, Butler, Utah, BYU.
That's 46 teams. A couple of these teams could conceivably miss (the Ohio St./Wisconsin loser, Michigan, maaaaaaaybe Dayton) but regardless I don't see any way Auburn "passes" any of them.
So that's good. Also, Western Kentucky did secure the Sun Belt autobid and remove their remote at-large hopes from relevance. Bad: Cleveland State took out Butler last night and secured themselves what appears to be a 13 seed. The bubble has shrunk by one team; from the sounds of it right now that's St Mary's spot. The spot of St Mary's. Attempting to turn a possessive into a possessive argh.
On the (slightly relieving) side of things, both Cincinnati and Georgetown saw their tourney aspirations die with thudding losses against Big East doormats. Notre Dame scraped by Rutgers, keeping their remote hopes alive.
Tonight's games of relevance, with your new favorite team bolded:
- DePaul vs Providence, noon. DePaul sucks and went 0-18 in the league this year, but they took out Cinci yesterday and would put a stake through the heart of any Providence at-large hopes if they could pull another upset.
- Baylor vs Nebraska, 12:30 PM. Epke Udoh will enjoy a view from the bench of a 5-11 Big 12 team; M would like Nebraska's faint at-large hopes to flatline.
- West Virginia vs Notre Dame, 7 PM ESPN. The Nonconference Teams Who Hate Michigan Bowl tips at 7; Notre Dame's tourney hopes would go from flatline to vaguely-possible-with-one-more if they pull the upset.
- Iowa State vs Oklahoma State, 7 PM. Eh… Oklahoma State is likely in but if they blow it here they could be in trouble.
Most of your mojo thoughts should be dedicated to a Notre Dame loss. I guess Providence imploding versus DePaul would be the most helpful, but your weird juju rituals are more likely* to swing the result of the ND game.
Tomorrow all this becomes almost totally irrelevant or very, very relevant indeed; if it stays relevant 1) want a blankie and possibly a gun and 2) there are a ton of relevant games.
*(and by this I mean, of course, "not more likely," or at least I did until Sri Lanka happened. Now I believe in everything. Aaargh! What's that! I don't know, but I'm terrified of it!)
Presserizing. Michigan's about to start spring practice and there have been a few injuries and roster adjustments:
Rodriguez confirmed the injuries reported recently — Jonas Mouton (shoulder) and Michael Shaw (sports hernia) — will miss the spring. Offensive lineman Ricky Barnum will play through a wrist problem. … Rodriguez said tight end Steve Watson is switching to defensive end.
No offense to Watson, but that sounds like the death knell for his future as a potential contributor. He's a longshot to ever see meaningful playing time, a la Quintin Patilla, fullback.
Rodriguez said he’s thinking about trying to break the national attendance record for a spring game. Alabama reportedly had about 92,000 two years ago.
That would require… I don't know what. An actual game, for one. And good weather. And pretty much a 180 degree flip from the way the Spring Game was promoted and marketed under Carr, and by "promoted and marketed" I mean "detested and ignored."
Other news from the press conference concerned medical redshirts: Junior Hemingway has his, which we knew, and they applied for redshirts for Kenny Demens and Adam Patterson but haven't heard back yet. Those things are mostly a formality, AFAIK; that would make Demens a freshman and Patterson a junior. There have been rumors Patterson will move inside given the lack of depth at DT, but there's a similar lack of depth at DE. Also:
Vince Helmuth could move from DT to DE if he gets in shape — playing DT gave him “the free reign to eat,” and he “went overboard.”
Also, there is a "noticeable difference" in the size and strength of the guys on the OL according to Barwis. Eeee. Liveblogging at the Daily for more details.
Bubblin'. Both results last night went Michigan's way, with Gonzaga stomping St Mary's and Siena beating Niagara; St Mary's is now a bubble compatriot of Michigan's and the MAAC is a one-bid league. Diverse alarums. Lundardi, for one, has the Gaels as the second team out—Creighton is first. Did I dismiss their chances too quickly? Eh… even with an M loss to Iowa Creighton can make up no ground and you'd think would get slotted in after M. Probably. Who knows?
Back to St Mary's. Bracketology 101 on the Gaels:
We are sticking with the Gaels for at least one more day. We still like their OOC wins against fellow bubble teams Providence and San Diego State and their Bracketbuster win over Utah State. We also think there's a slight chance the committee takes a flier on them based on how they played early in the year before Mills got hurt and, potentially, based on how Mills looks against Eastern Washington on Friday. We bumped the Gaels down to a 13 seed in today's bracket, which means they are very, very thin ice. If there are any other mid-major bid stealers (Cleveland State tonight?) or if there are any other upsets in the big conference tournies, St. Mary's will be the first team to go.
Is Michigan ahead of St Mary's with an Iowa loss? Eh… probably, but the Mills thing makes them hugely variable.
As for today's viewing schedule, ESPN is so down on the Big East trio that it lists no relevant games even though Georgetown, ND and Cincinnati are in action. Aaaand Cinci just lost to Depaul, so maybe they're right to be skeptical.
There is one game with obviously huge implications: Butler and Cleveland State face off in the Horizon* League final at 9:00 PM. Butler is in either way and Cleveland State is looking to steal a second bid for the Horizon; you're very heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. Oakland also takes on North Dakota State with a Summit League bid on the line, if you want to get your granfalloon action on.
*Note! Not only does the "MidCon" conference not even exist anymore, Butler was never in it and is currently in the Horizon League. Mea culpa to the two annoyed emailers.
In the long annals of sports opinion, this might be the worst idea ever recorded:
If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.
That's Jay Bilas, and let's just leave aside all the Manny Harris elbow stuff and Tommy Amaker stuff as we attempt to wrap our heads around this fantastic idea: get rid of automatic bids. Bilas spends 1151 words on this idea, beginning with the premise that "more good teams play in Division I than ever before"—what does that even mean?—and arriving at the conclusion that the problem with Creighton or Penn State is the SWAC.
No, a thousand times no. One: the goal is not to have the "very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament." If that was really the goal the tournament would be about eight teams and would have a round-robin format, or something. The NCAA tournament is a chaotic single-elimination mess and an obviously unfair system for determining a champion. But it is so damn fun that people reasonably overlook its flaws.
More than that, the autobids help lessen the flaws. A national championship tournament that includes this many teams is kind of a dumb idea. It will be apparent from the moment that the bracket is selected that 40 or 50 teams in it are obviously not the best teams in the country. A number of no- or little- hope bids actually makes it less of a dumb idea. One way to make a singe elimination tournament less unfair and stupid is to bias it in favor of the teams who did very well during the regular season. Including a bunch of conference champions who would otherwise not be in the field otherwise provides greater motivation to get a protected seed.
I mean, never ever has a 1 gone down to a 16, and a 15 over a 2 is really rare. But once you get into the 3, 4, 5 range you know some of those teams are getting lead pipes to the head. In the Bilas system you'd be replacing those no-hopers at the end of the field with, like, Penn State, and significantly reducing the reward for having a kickin' regular season.
So even if you are a heartless lawyer robot like Bilas—who says the argument against his position is a "sentimental one," which is another way of saying "I hate puppies and fun and sunshine"—the straggling autobids at the end of the field help make the bracket less of a mockery of the regular season and should be kept even if, you know…
…you'd watch Bucknell versus Kansas and think to yourself "goddammit why isn't a below .500 major conference team in this game?"
Bilas does frame his post by arguing that dumping autobids would get the best mid-majors in more—St Mary's and Creighton wouldn't be biting their fingernails to the nub if there were no autobids—but really, that's not the point. Really, really not the point.
Everything you ever didn't want to know about the pairwise. Western College Hockey has an overview of college hockey's rigid and kind of crappy selection system, and I winced when I read this sentence:
Proponents of this system argue there is no cliff because the system is designed to only be looked at once, at the end of the season, and thus, there are no fluctuations, but regardless, teams still gain a disproportionate benefit if a team they beat ends up 25th rather than 26th.
Only one person argues something that stupid: a poster on USCHO named "ScoobyDoo" who has some five-digit-and-rising post count and who descends on any thread about how the pairwise is deeply flawed—which it is—and expounds dumbly like that.
By the way: Michigan returns to action this weekend against Western Michigan. Outside of that series you are rooting against Notre Dame and Alaska. Here's the TUC cliff in action: Alaska is currently the 25th and last team to be counted as a TUC. If Alaska loses its series against Ohio State, they're extremely likely to drop out of consideration; with them will go ND's 2-0 and M's 1-1 record against the Nanooks. Both of those are very good for Michigan, as if that happens ND will be vulnerable at the Joe.
Moved OH DE Jibreel Black to offered.
Added PA DT Sharif Floyd, MD LB Josh Furman, FL CB Spencer Boyd, OH WR DJ Williamson, MD RB Zach Zwinak, MD OL Robbie Havenstein.
Editorial Opinion: Hey, kids. First Tuesday Recruitin' of the 2010 year. A primer on Michigan's 2010 recruiting class was deployed a couple weeks ago and is still basically accurate. There hasn't been a huge amount of movement since except for a steady stream of offers going out. However, a couple new names you might want to keep an eye on:
TX LB Caleb Lavey. You might have noticed the "TX" next to his name and have decided to ignore this paragraph since even if he commits he'll just decommit or transfer after a year, but Lavey is the son of one of Bo's equipment managers($)… his family is kind of pro-Michigan. A little. Lavey has an impressive array of Big 12 offers highlighted by Oklahoma and has just gotten a Michigan offer. He's a middle linebacker all the way—a spot at which Michigan took no recruits last year—and this looks like an excellent match.
OH WR DJ Williamson. Yes, another receiver. Williamson is from Warren Harding in Ohio, the school that sent Mario Manningham, Carl Diggs, and Prescott Burgess to Michigan, and Scout's got a headline asking if M is on the verge of a fourth commitment that namechecks Harding: Williamson is the most prominent player there in 2010, and MGoHeuristic #2 states that "questions asked in premium post titles are always answered 'yes' in the article."
This uncommonly useful Buckeye Planet thread has a ton of posts from Worm02, a frequent poster there and elsewhere whenever Harding comes up—he's got some connection with the program. As of about a year ago, one of the Bucknuts guys ranked him the #10 player in the state; if accurate, that definitely lands him a fourth star.
What are they going to do with all these receivers? Well, defy the conventional wisdom that Michigan would never be able to reel in top-level wideouts, for one. And for two, probably move at least one to defensive back.
Various Other People You Do Not Need To Get To Know So Well Yet
Offers out to a bunch of guys who are just names so far: OH DE Jibreel Black, MD LB Josh Furman and awesomely named RB Zach Zwinak, PA DT Sharif Floyd, FL DE Delvin Jones, CA S Sean Parker, FL CB Spencer Boyd, FL LB Christian Jones, PA LB Aramide Olayanian (one of two guys with the last name Olayanian that Michigan's after), PA QB Anthony Gonzalez, and so forth and so on.
Furman sounds like a good possibility:
At close to 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 186 pounds, Furman has a very long muscular frame that hints of great physical upside, so it's more likely that this running back will play outside linebacker (or a hybrid safety position) in college. On film, he plays faster than his 40-yard dash time (4.7 seconds), making plays from sideline to sideline and flashing good range and equally impressive chase speed from the backside.
The Maryland native told us that it doesn't matter where he'll end up playing at the next level. He has received offers from Maryland, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Pitt, Duke, UNC and Michigan. Furman posted a top-three SPARQ rating led by a striking vertical jump of 38 inches and displayed his great explosiveness. He told us the Michigan offer "was really big," and he hopes for others from similar prominent programs.
"I'm looking for a big, prestigious school and a nice college atmosphere," he said.
Tentative leader at least until some other prominent programs get involved? Sounds like it.
GA RB Mack Brown is a big, pounding sort who's going to be a national recruit. Michigan has his interest:
“They want me to come up there to the spring game in April,” said Brown, who said former Michigan star Mike Hart is one of his favorite running backs of all-time. “I like them a lot, but I also really like Georgia and Florida [both have offered].”
Keep an eye peeled on him, and the other Brandon Minor-esque backs Michigan is pursuing this year. There are some mighty-mites mixed in but the bulk of the offers have gone out to men who run like angry moose, men who scatter the local villagers every time they get up to full rumble. He wants #33, which Michigan can give him since the guy currently in possession of it, Boubacar Cissoko, plays defense.
“I was pretty excited and had no clue they were going to offer,” Clay remarked. “There are plenty of other running backs out there with great caliber, I was just fortunate to be among the people they pulled the trigger for. … Bar none, Michigan is high and they'll always be in the top (group)," Clay said. "I know this year they were kind of down, but I have faith in them and feel they'll be back on the map next year."
When in doubt go with the statement to a neutral third party; I'm still skeptical on Michigan's chances until Clay says something specific other than "Michigan is in fifth." They'll get an opportunity to move up: Clay plans on getting up for the spring game.
PA CB Cullen Christian, who Michigan leads for, did well at a combine:
One of the top names heading into the event was Penn Hills cornerback Cullen Christian, who is already approaching 10 scholarship offers and did nothing to diminish his rising star Saturday. He posted outstanding marks of 39.3 inches in the vertical jump and 4.25 seconds in the shuttle on the way to a 102.57 SPARQ rating.
Hooray 102.57 SPARQ rating!
…is Friday, Michigan's "night of champions" wherein the various groups of players come together and compete in various citizenship/grades/amount of vomit Barwis collected from you contests. I think there's an egg-eating thing, too. Anyway, many local players will be up. Various big names in attendance:
Among the in-state prospects who've stated they plan to attend are Detroit Southeastern defensive end William Gholston, Detroit Cass Tech cornerback Dior Mathis, Inkster quarterback Devin Gardner, Warren Fitzgerald linebacker Austin Gray, Charlevoix offensive lineman Bill Ivan and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s quarterback Robert Bolden. …
Spartanburg, S.C., quarterback Cornelius Jones (6-2, 197 pounds) is one of those who is trying to work out a trip to Ann Arbor for the event. He was offered by U-M in January. Flower Mound (Tex.) Marcus running back Stephen Hopkins (6-0, 220) has also said he wants to visit Michigan that weekend. Hopkins was just offered a scholarship last week by the Wolverines.
Sounds like DJ Williamson will likely commit at the event; sometimes you'll get a two or three dropping as Michigan takes the opportunity to offer a number of kids.
The situation, as it stands: Michigan is 9-9 in the Big Ten and is looking like a likely NCAA tournament entry. They have impressive nonconference wins and a decent record against a top-ten schedule. They are seeded seventh in the Big Ten tourney and have drawn Iowa in the first round.
So what, exactly, are Michigan's chances? Let's go off Basketball Prospectus' expansive 45-member list of bubble participants and filter them into categories.
How Many Spots?
There are 31 autobids and 29 locks on the BP list, so the minimum number of spots on the bubble is five. There are 11 autobids in conferences with tourney locks: the maximum number is sixteen. Realistically, it will be going to hard for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, and Pac 10 to dump a bid on someone not already going to the tourney, so we're really between 10 and 16 spots.
We've got these conferences which could dump extra bids out:
- WCC: St Mary's is in the final against Gonzaga tonight; if St Mary's wins that's two bids for sure for the WCC. If they lose no one knows what will happen with the Gaels.
- A-10: if Xavier or Dayton doesn't win the tourney, an extra bid goes out.
- MidCon: Butler is a lock, but only Butler.
- CUSA: Memphis is a one seed and the rest of the conference is poo.
- Mountain West: BYU and Utah are in; three conference members are kind of sort of on the bubble.
- SEC: only LSU and Tennessee are assured and they're definitely capable of blowing it.
It's hard to see anyone in CUSA beating Memphis, but if you're not expecting some crazy stuff to go down in the SEC you're fooling yourself. You'll probably see two or three wack autobids, leaving our count at 13-ish.
Dayton, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Boston College, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Arizona State are locks in all but world-shaking disaster scenarios. Any scenario in which Michigan gets in ahead of one of these teams is one in which Michigan has become a stone-cold lock; we can disregard those scenarios, then. We're concerned with what happens if M goes 1-1 or 0-1 at the BTT.
We've just given away eight spots and are down to two to eight, but probably five.
PRETTY DEFINITIVELY BELOW MICHIGAN
Some of the teams below may squeeze their way into the tournament but it's hard to imagine a scenario that includes any of them as an at-large participant that does not also include Michigan. (Remember that this list came out Friday, so it's a bit outdated (Davidson) and it's also extremely, extremely generous (Northwestern, for one).)
- Davidson: one nonconference win of note, an RPI of 68, the #173 schedule, and too many losses. They're done; they didn't even make their conference tourney final.
- Kentucky: four-game losing streak to end season, RPI of 79, horrible conference: dead.
- Auburn: checking in with the resident Auburn blog reveals no thought to an at-large bid.
- Georgetown, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame: all Big East teams that have suffered spectacular flameouts to end the season. Bid scenarios all involve runs to the BE tourney final, which obviously can't happen for all of them.
- Northwestern, Nebraska, USC, Mississippi State and Washington State: all major conference teams with extremely remote aspirations. (Seriously: Mississippi State?)
- Niagara, VCU, George Mason, UAB, Western Kentucky, and Tulsa: all mid-major teams that are listed as a courtesy, or something, because even in the Bracket Matrix there are no at-large bids below the assumed autobids of VCU and WKU. At this point Michigan is already ahead of these teams and if they're going to be relevant in this conversation they have to lose in their conference tournaments, likely to a team in the same universe as Iowa. Adding a few more mid-major scalps to the wall isn't going to shoot them past Michigan. (UAB is 2-10 against the RPI top 100. There is no way they are getting an at large.)
- Creighton: also a mid-major with a shaky resume and they have the added benefit of being done for the season, losing by 24 in their conference tournament; if they get in it won't be over Michigan.
HUGE MASSIVE UPSET-FILLED TOURNEY RUN OR DIE
- Rhode Island's loss to 12-17 UMass is widely held to be the final nail in their at-large hopes.
- Temple is 19-11 in the A-10, 1-5 against top 25 RPI teams and 0-0 against 26-50. Though their RPI is pretty good, they'll need a deep run in the A-10 tournament.
- VT and Miami, meanwhile, are both 7-9 in conference and have RPIs in the 50s. They play each other in the first round of the ACC tournament; loser is done, and then winner is done unless there's a Christmas miracle against UNC.
- Maryland suffered a crippling loss to Virginia in its final game of the regular season and now needs to beat #2 seed Wake Forest if they're going to get any at-large consideration.
- Kansas State is the Penn State of the Big 12: two games above .500 in conference, garbage teams outside of it. The Big 12 is not as strong as the Big 10 this year, not by a longshot, and they're well back.
- I'd have lumped Providence in the above category but for this weird fascination with them: #71 RPI, 18-12, #48 SOS, 2-5 top 25 and 0-3 next 25. They're 6-12 against the top 100. Somehow before the weekend this was a team listed on three more brackets than M was at the Bracket Matrix. They will have to take out DePaul or Cincinnati and then win against Louisville in the third round of the Big East tournament to get in ahead of M, I think.
Now, THE BUBBLE PROPER:
SOUTH CAROLINA and FLORIDA
Florida just slipped back into the top 50 in RPI, which sadly raises their record against same top 50 from 0-5 to 1-5. #48 RPI, #91 SOS… maybe they can slip by but there aren't many opportunities to make hay in the SEC.
Florida is the exact same team as South Carolina: #49 RPI, #91 SOS, 2-6 against the top 50. Realistically, both need two wins in the SEC tourney to get in. This being the SEC, though, they're not up against Wake Forest or UNC or Louisville in their quest to get there. Michigan is probably ahead of both of these teams unless they win two more conference tourney games than M.
SIENA and UTAH STATE
You are a fan of both these teams, because they have very high RPIs and could threaten to snag an at-large if they don't win their conference tourneys. The general feeling is that both are autobid or bust, but even though it's been carefully explained to me that the committee doesn't actually look directly at RPI I'm a little leery of the #24 and #27 teams sitting out there as potential at-large selections.
St. Mary's is a weird case because their star point guard broke his hand and the Gaels proceeded to lose some games without him. He returned for the WCC semifinal against Portland. He didn't play well (3 of 12) but St. Mary's set up the showdown everyone expected. If Gonzaga wins and Patrick Mills looks healthy the committee will have an interesting decision to make. They have included teams in the past based on that expectation. They're a wildcard.
(You're rooting for the Zags tonight at nine, BTW, as they're in either way. I strongly suspect St Mary's will make it either way.)
Michigan has an equivalent RPI, an equivalent conference record, and a basically equivalent big nonconference win on a neutral floor (UCLA for M, Louisville for Minnesota). Michigan then tacks on the Duke win and a season sweep of the Gophers. If Minnesota does two games better than M in the Big Ten Tourney they get priority. One and it's interesting. Michigan has to lead now.
This was discussed last week in detail: at this juncture Penn State has no case for a bid over Michigan. They get a first round bye and probably need to win twice in the BTT to even get in the conversation again, and they probably have to make the final to get in over M.
Very close to Michigan minus a tiny bit of SOS or two: 19-12, #52 RPI, #29 SOS, 2-1 against the top 25 and 3-7 against the next 25. Big nonconference wins over Kansas and Gonzaga. Their resume is basically Michigan's resume.
NEW MEXICO, SAN DIEGO STATE, and UNLV
I lump in this trio of Mountain West teams because realistically they'll have to cut each other's throats in the conference tourney to have a case. San Diego State, home of old friend Steve Fisher, is the best positioned right now. One of these teams could claw in over Michigan if M loses to Iowa.
We lose to Iowa… then what?
How good do you feel about those teams we're going up against? If there are two available bids, you are feeling terrible. If there are eight, you are feeling great. Arizona probably shoots past us, and then Minnesota if they do better in the Big Ten tourney and maybe one of the WAC teams and one of the SEC teams and maybe one of the "huge tourney run or bust" teams and then we're probably fifth in anything approximating the center of a Gaussian distribution. Which is also the center of the Gaussian distribution for "who is the last team in the tournament?" And the center of the Gaussian distribution for "who is the first team out of the tournament?"
Gack it up against Iowa and we are on pins and needles and just praying that the committee looks at Michigan's schedule and its big wins and gives us the That Year Georgia Got An At Large bid. It's basically 50-50. Who wants to go into Selection Sunday 50-50? No one whatsoever.
Beat Iowa and?
We'd have to suffer a huge number of autobid shenanigans and otherwise perfectly negative results to get the boot. Michigan can hold serve and be very confident; going 1-1 in the BTT is holding serve.
Rooting Guide For Tonight?
Two conference championship games come off at 9PM: St Mary's vs Gonzaga on ESPN and Niagara vs Siena on ESPN2. You're rooting for Gonzaga, somewhat halfheartedly as I think the Gaels will get in either way, and Siena, lots.
3/7/2009 – Michigan 67, Minnesota 64 – 19-12, 9-9 Big Ten
One of the bizarre things I love is soccer, and one of the bizarre things about soccer I love is the weird British permutations of American sports lingo that get deployed during the course of same and the bizarre permutation I love most is the phrase "get in!"
"Get in!" appears to be the stuffy British equivalent of "GOLAZO," deployed for goals of such spectacular mind-bending quality that a mere "goal" or "gol" is totally insufficient, the existence of such things being another major reason I love soccer. The thing that's bizarre about "get in" is this: it's invariably shouted after the ball has, in fact, gotten in. The ball will get in, and then the suddenly very electric and not at all somnambulant announcer will exclaim "GET IN!"
I think this is because some things you dare not hope for, especially in a game in which goals come so rarely and have this potential to rearrange the universe. Sometimes the situation develops in such a way that the arc of the ball is so improbable and so important and the whole thing is so unlikely that you dare not express hope lest it be wrenched cruelly from you. You can see the curve of the future; you cannot let it enter your heart until the net ripples and the impossible is before you, horned mermaid nuclear spaceship captains and all.
There's three minutes left and Michigan leads Minnesota by two. Manny Harris, a meh at best three-point shooter, takes a pass in the corner and unwisely decides to rise and fire—again. The ball arcs. Someone in the bar has just shouted "C'mon FRESH." If time ever stopped, surely it would do so now.
It's a terrible shot. I mean, just terrible. There are more than twenty seconds on the shot clock and Harris has the ball. He gives a jab step, I guess, but there's a guy in his face and Harris is a 31% three-point shooter and in this game he's two of seven on his way to two of eight and in all ways this is a slow motion 'nooooooooo' situation. Someone hit the abort button. This ship will self destruct in ten seconds.
I am a Michigan fan, so I know how this story goes: long rebound, fast break the other way, transition and-one layup that puts Minnesota ahead for good. Maybe there's a missed wide open dunk for Michigan, or Manny Harris is attacked with a machete and given a technical for spraying blood on the great and powerful Hightower, but those are just details. I know what happens next.
It's just that arc, you know. It looks pretty good. It looks true.
The thing with "get in" is that what has gone down is so good you have to retroactively hope for it, to rearrange yourself into a person so wildly stupid that they would actually believe such a thing is possible.
Last year Michigan was 10-22, more dire than any product put out by Tommy Amaker. Amaker, in fact, kicked the crap out of them in his new job at Harvard. It was one of their eight wins. This year Michigan has two walk-ons splitting most of the point guard minutes, no seniors outside of them seeing any time at all, and a 6'5" freshman guard playing power forward. I mean:
This is a team on the cusp of the NCAA tournament, and they were down twelve halfway through the second half of a road game against a probable NCAA tourney participant.
Beat Iowa and it's over. Get in.
- Every once in a while there's a moment that immeasurably improved by your presence in a sports bar when it happens, and that Minnesota prayer from near halfcourt that went right in moments after Tubby had called timeout was one. The entire bar went "ohhhhhhhh!" in this perfect way. Then there was a brief "Tubb-y, Tubb-y" chant.
- Wow: 100% wrong about Sims in the preview, eh? I've been trying to figure out which totally average NBA bench player Sims reminds me of and it's a tight race between Joe Smith and post-knee-ravaging Antonio McDyess. He's got an NBA shot but I don't know if he's big enough or active enough to be worth having on the roster.
- 100% right about those turnovers, though. It's not often you get a win when the opponent shoots 55% and rebounds half their misses. You kind of have to get 17 turnovers in a 56-possession game.
- Much more detail on this later, but I spent a large chunk of the weekend pondering the bubble and 1) we're obviously in good shape now but 2) we really, really don't want to lose to Iowa, who we just lost to without two of their best players. We might still get in but it's going to be tooth and nail.
Mylan Hicks could be an important prospect for Michigan’s future. Mylan is a 2010 cornerback prospect out of Detroit Renaissance. Not only could Hicks fill a need at corner, but could help Michigan break up a pipeline that MSU seems to be building with his school. Take a look at his highlight film, and the conversation we had.
TOM: How is recruiting going for you so far, do you like the process?
MYLAN: It’s just a process you have to be patient with. I’m not in a big rush. I’m just going to sit back and wait for the offers to come in.
TOM: Have your teammates been helping you, or trying to persuade you?
MYLAN: Ishmael Thomas and Jared Hunter are in my class. Lawrence Thomas is in the 2011 class. We decided that every camp we go to, we’ll go together. I’m not sure if we’ll be a package deal, I don’t think any of us really know where we want to go. MSU is trying to build a pipeline from Renaissance.
TOM: Who are the leaders right now? Who are you hoping to hear from?
MYLAN: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Toledo. I don’t really have an order. I definitely want to stay in the Midwest, but distance isn’t a factor. It would just be good to stay in state. I’m going to check out Vanderbilt on the 21st, and I’ve already been to Toledo. If anyone asks to see me, I’ll go.
TOM: You play RB, CB, and you also run track. What are you primarily getting recruited for in college?
MYLAN: Primarily a corner. Some schools have said I could be an athlete. I want to play corner though, and if I could return punts I’d like that too. I like to have the ball.
TOM: How has track helped you with football?
MYLAN: It gets you in shape to be ready for the whole season. It helps for me because I play both ways, and you do a lot of running at corner. I rarely came off the field, so it has kept me in the right shape to make plays.
TOM: What camps and combines are you going to this summer?
MYLAN: A camp in Columbus, the Badger camp. The Nike camp, the Michigan and MSU camps.
TOM: What kind of time table do you have as far as a decision?
MYLAN: After my senior season. I’m not in a rush.
TOM: What factors will play into who you choose?
MYLAN: I’m not really leaning anywhere; I’m equal with everyone right now. It depends on the relationship with the coaching staff, and whether or not I have a chance to play.
TOM: Being from Michigan, how do you think U of M and MSU compare as far as recruiting in state players?
MYLAN: I would say that both programs want kids to stay in state, obviously. I know for a fact that MSU is making an honest attempt to keep them in state. I’ve seen a lot of kids go to Michigan too though. I visited Michigan 2 weeks ago, and met Coach Rod. They’re all real cool guys, and they’re trying to keep everyone. I don’t think either school is doing a better job than the other.
TOM: What’s the perception of Michigan and MSU from your point of view? Did last season affect you, for either school?
MYLAN: Michigan has the winning history, the bowls, and championships. MSU is on the upcoming, and I think winning is in their future. Michigan just went through a transition, and so last season definitely didn’t affect me at all.
Well, how about that? Bernie Mac is back, and given all the crazy stuff on the bubble of late you have to think Michigan is in no matter what now. In. In.
And you can't have one without the other…
Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, but Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Minnesota|
|WHERE||Williams Arena, Minneapolis MN|
|WHEN||Noon, March 7th 2009|
|THE LINE||Ask Jamiemac|
|KENPOM||Minnesota 66, M 61 (28% chance)|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on ESPN|
Sims is in tough. By this point we know a few things about DeShawn Sims, and one of them is that he gets swallowed up by actual big and tough shot-blocky types. Ideally he'd be playing with an actual center next to him who would occupy that player, but he's not so hypothetical center isn't.
Minnesota has a number of big and tough shot-blocky types, and though they're young they're ridiculously blocky: Minnesota is #1 nationwide in block percentage, sending back an astounding 19.2% of opponents' shots. That seems like a preposterous typo, but it's not. (The national average is 8.8%.)
So it's not a huge surprise that Sims was not a huge factor in the first game. He had twelve points, but was just 3 of 11 inside the arc. I don't think we're going to get much inside.
Threes should be open, though. Michigan won handily against the Gophers by chucking it from deep, going 13-28 on threes. Grady was 3 of 3, Novak 6 of 10, Sims 2 of 5, Douglass 2 of 6. Lee and Harris both took two and missed both.
This was not totally anomalous. Though Minnesota opponents only make a slightly above-average number of threes, the Gophers do yield almost 37% of their FGs from long range, 284th nationally. Given all the shotblocking inside, there is a huge gap between the average return of a three (1.04 points) and a two (.86). This matches up well with Michigan's shoot-first-cross-halfcourt-later style,
Defensively, we are going to have to force turnovers. Minnesota coughs up a ton of them and though they don't shoot particularly well, be it from two or three, they crash the boards like a mother—63rd in offensive rebounding—even against teams not featuring 6'5" 'power forward' and a point guard rotation of Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy.
Michigan doesn't force a ton of turnovers yet—they're still too small for that zone to be really bothersome—but they get their share. Minnesota is 311th in steals allowed; each one of those allows Michigan to run the floor and avoid the aforementioned blocky guys. In a game that figures to be tight, the difference between two steal+layups and four is likely the difference between victory and defeat.
Uh… Kelvin Grady maybe? Grady's ability to push the ball upcourt lightning-quick could help here, right? I've seen so many threes launched over a helpless David Merritt that I can't think Grady's actually worse defensively.
Bizarre outlier! Minnesota, despite being huge and blocky and so forth and so on, is a below average defensive rebounding team. Ah, check that: I remember Brent Petway. These things are probably related. When four guys are skying to swat a ball anything that gets past their outstretched limbs is probably landing in the opponent's hands.
This disadvantage does not play particularly well into our hands, since we hardly ever crash the boards. It'll be interesting to see if Beilein changes his usual strategy here in search of an easy putback or two. Same with the Grady thing.
And, of course, the eternal question: How badly will Manny Harris's entire family be sodomized at courtside in front of everyone by every Gopher, roving bands of Minnesota students, Jim Delany, the ghost of Hubert H. Humphery, and the fabric of the land itself before one of the refs calling the game notices and calls a theatric technical on a Michigan assistant coach?
Eh, survey says probably pretty bad. Harris had an ugly game against Minnesota last time, going 2 of 8 and getting to the line just twice. Minnesota's slightly above average in FTA/FGA this year.
And I suppose I have to venture a prediction. I don't think we win. Relying on deep chucks on the road is a recipe for trouble, and that seems to go double for weird arenas like Williams, where the elevated floor puts weird juju into shooters or something. Michigan usually goes as Sims and Harris go—the last Minnesota game was a rare exception afforded by the scorching three-point shooting—and this doesn't look like a good situation for either.
But basketball is weird and all that. And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.
I was just reading your early recruiting analysis on 2010, and I was curious how we are allowed to offer so many scholarships. You noted that we had 17-20 to give, yet we have offered 46 by my rough count on your board.
Are there rules by the NCAA or conferences on how many scholarships a school can offer over their limit? If we receive our 17-20 commits and we do not have any more available scholarships, do we simply have to say, "No thank you" to anyone else who is considering their previously offered scholarship? (As opposed to Alabama's method)
Scholarship offers have no legal or NCAA standing until a school faxes a letter of intent to the player on signing day. Until that time, they're just fancy letters indicating a school would like you to play for them… if they don't change their mind by the time you make up yours, and you don't throw a cherry bomb at a six-year-old, and you don't flunk out.
Usually offer letters have some language indicating this. The relevant paragraph from Michigan's offer to Tate Forcier:
This award is contingent upon the satisfactory conclusion of your junior and senior years, both academically and athletically. NCAA minimum academic standards must be satisfied and internal admissions requirements must be met. This letter remains viable until such time as NCAA rule 15.5.5 regarding squad limits (85 total) would appear to be compromised. Therefore, as a necessary consequence, grants may only be awarded based on availability.
Basically: don't flunk out and don't wait for someone else to take your spot… oh, and don't suck at sports. Until a letter of intent is signed, the school has zero obligation to the player. Which, yes, can suck for the player.
Offers get pulled all the time, and when this happens to an uncommitted prospect for whatever reason it's always uncontroversial, as it should be. The player in question hasn't promised you anything and hasn't accepted your promise. Sometimes players try to commit only to be told they can't, and sometimes this causes bad feelings. Legendary Michigan cases involve Tennessee OL Brent Trott, who never had a Michigan offer, and a Florida linebacker named Justice whose first name escapes me who tried to commit and was told the inn was full. Both of those players had time to go elsewhere, and did, but were noisily displeased for a brief time.
Where it gets touchy sometimes is when players who have issued a verbal commitment are told they no longer have an offer. Sometimes this is due to academics or extra-curricular issues: in 2008 Ohio State pulled Devoe Torrence's offer when he got in some nasty legal trouble and this year OSU safety commit Bradley McDougald was told to head elsewhere after he was caught with weed. (He ended up at Kansas.) That's legit. But sometimes kids just get their offer pulled through no fault of their own. This happened at South Carolina last year and caused a minor stink.
In those cases there are no official repercussions but the PR hit is usually enough to keep schools in line. For one, South Carolina is never getting a kid from that high school again.
As to Michigan: if three quarterback recruits decide they want to commit tomorrow… well, Michigan will take them. Bad example. But if hypothetical eager QB #4 rings up Rich Rodriguez, Rodriguez is going to have to say "sorry." A commitment is a mutual thing, albeit one with no legal standing whatsoever.
I'm originally from Minnesota, and I still listen to the MN local radio. One morning show is a big fan of Denard Span, an up an coming player for the Twins. They created this bit, which also seems appropriate for the Michigan faithful who are excited for Denard Robinson. Enjoy!
Download, if you are so inclined (right click and "save as")
1) I predict that song makes an appearance during football liveblogging at some point this year.
2) When that song went to to the Betty Ford Center and came out the other end "Let's Get It Started" and was deployed as the theme song of the NBA Playoffs, was it the most impressive/ridiculous corporate rehab ever? I, being of sound mind and distance from preteens, had never heard the original ("Let's Get Retarded," an ode to pot*/alcohol) and it seemed like a perfect prefab song from a major label crapband. Then I find it's about basically the opposite of starting anything, it's about killing your brain. The mind boggles.
2a) Who would have thought that three or so years later that song would stand out as clearly the best and most appropriate NBA Playoffs theme song yet? Tom Petty? What?
*(Windows Live Writer has an auto-substitute list you can set up. IE: whenever I type recruiting board it points at the recruiting board automatically, or Varsity Blue or MVictors or, uh, Threetsheridammit chart. So that's why that. I would have deleted it but for the lulz.)
And how about an update on the last mailbag:
The Shegoses are from Flint. Matt and Duke ( I think) are the referees, I can't remember if Duke is the nickname for Mark Shegos or if Mark is a separate 3rd Shegos. For what it's worth, my uncle knows them and they are all very nice. They've been involved with hockey for time out of mind, although in my humble opinion, nice though they may be, they've never been the best officials. I think I heard the Shegos chant for the first time in the early 90's- anyway, it is definitely tongue in cheek. We did NOT actually want Shegos. Here's some fun Shegos opinions from a Sparty blog a few years back, where they also assert that "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."
The North Dakota playoff game at Yost in 1998 saw two Michigan goals waved off (I think both in the second period), inciting the crowd to a state of near-riotousness. They were not as bad as the ones which happened this year because at least they were judgment calls, but they did bring the crowd into a frenzied state. By the way, I was sitting right behind the Michigan penalty box for that game and Bobby Hayes used words I did not know when describing the officials- and I was living in South Quad at the time, I knew LOTS of fun words.
For people who don't mind being adventurous about Frozen Four tickets, I was one of those who bought way too many a few years back when all those WCHA teams played in Columbus. Ok, I get it, WCHA in Columbus, but demand was none. At least for that event, I can confirm that they were much less than face value. I stood outside trying to sell the tickets for like 3 hours and eventually was trying to give them away and couldn't. I think those willing to be patient can get tickets for a few dollars each, especially if your game is the late game.
On the Frozen Four thing, which I promise is advice for the entire universe and not an implication that Michigan will make it to DC, or, for that matter, not sack the program tomorrow: an excellent strategy if you're the late game is to camp outside the building after the early game ends; disgusted fans of the losing team will be exiting and selling at cheapo prices. Problem: last year there was no opportunity to do this because the semifinals were one ticket.
As to the Shegos brothers, the response received about them was totally outstanding. Some, like Jack, thought it was a sarcastic Shegos-oriented insult. Some thought there was one Shegos who was definitively better than the other Shegos and he was the one being chanted for at all times. And some thought it was an actual desire for a referee who wasn't Mark Wilkins (or, more cynically, attended Michigan, which at least one Shegos did). All of which adds up to a cheer that thousands of people are doing over a decade with completely different ideas of why they're chanting it.
|Pahokee, Florida - 6'0" 181
|Scout||3*, #33 WLB|
|Rivals||3*, #35 OLB|
|ESPN||78, #39 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, WVU, USF, Louisville|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Pahokee (Odoms, Smith). Florida small schools defender of year. Also: shirtless.|
Brandin Hawthorne is the one linebacker recruit in the class who actually played, you know, linebacker in high school and is scheduled to do so in college. Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones were safeties; high school linebacker Cameron Gordon is going to play wide receiver, at least for a while.
Irony enters the party now: Hawthorne is smaller than all of those guys. Generously listed at 6-foot-nothing, Hawthorne is safety- or even corner-sized. He was used mostly as a lightning-quick wrecking ball at Pahokee; check his eyepopping TFL stats:
Hawthorne finished last year [his junior season] with 80 tackles, and 31 of those were for losses. He forced two fumbles and recovered two more last season.
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings. When you have to make statements like this…
“Don’t let size fool you,” Hawthorne said. “There’s a grown man inside me.”
…you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. Also, you have something in common with Charlie Weis.
However, there are other reasons, reasons he got offers from Michigan and a wide variety of other schools:
On the college scene, Hawthorne's ''stock is exploding,'' according to Blue Devils coach Blaze Thompson. Hawthorne is ranked No. 17 on recruiting analyst Larry Blustein's Palm Beach list. He also has received plenty of offers, but has ''only five that I'm really concerned about'' -- Michigan, South Florida, Louisville, Tennessee and West Virginia.
His teammates certainly aren't surprised at the attention.
''Brandin's a monster,'' [Pahokee corner Willie] Hickman said. ``He goes 100 percent -- the whole play, the whole game -- he's just a monster. It's good to have him on your team. You don't have to sit around and wait for somebody else to make the play, because he's going to make the play.''
ESPN, oddly, had few concerns about size($), at least in the long term:
Hawthorne possesses all the physical tools for a college program to mold into a disruptive perimeter player at the next level if they are patient with his development. He can run, close, and hit and has incredible upside. Tall, rangy frame with a very long wingspan; should play at close to 225-pounds at next level while retaining his good play speed and athleticism.
They did say he needed "major bulk and size" before he was college-ready, but was "greatly underrated and is a definite late bloomer with a ton of natural gifts to develop at the next level." They then rated him the #39 OLB, which is about where everyone else rated him. So go figure.
Teammate and recruiting kerfuffle origin Nu'Keese Richardson echoes the "monster" diagnosis:
"I've never seen anyone hit like Hawthorne, even Janoris," Richardson said. "Brandin Hawthorne will make you think twice about coming his way."
So does his coach:
Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.
And so does he (link ibid):
"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."
I'm a get you. Those four words come from a kid in Pahokee, Florida, where the only industry just got bought by the government and linebackers get murdered for being in the wrong part of the muck and kids chase rabbits for something to do, and represent the vast gulf in culture between the old guard and the new better than anything I've run across so far. Hawthorne's home life… probably a bit different from your average Massey or Boren. The fact that Hawthorne and Smith fit in so well with the coaches recruiting them they would commit to Michigan sight unseen (and, unlike DeQuinta Jones, stick to that commitment) indicates a shift in philosophy. It's not seismic if you've got Forcier and LaLota and Roh and Turner and Gordon and etc etc etc, but it's real.
I've brought this up before in these profiles: Michigan is recruiting kids with an eye towards the future of offense, and this is most obvious at linebacker, where corner-sized Hawthorne is the only high school linebacker arriving. They are also recruiting kids who don't have much other than football, for whom buy-in is not an option to think about if they don't want to go plow driveways for dad.
I like Hawthorne's attitude and ability to turn opponents into random high-velocity subatomic particles; I like the fact Michigan jumped on him with an early offer and pursued him without reservation. I like the fact he has a place he'd like to visit but not live. I wish he had more than one big offer (Tennessee) outside of Michigan, and wish he wasn't so small. Hawthorne seems rated about right to me, and is a guy who is about 50-50 between starting and fading into Bolivian.
Why Ian Gold? It's not a very good comparison, since Gold was moved from running back, but Gold was an undersized but quick WLB, good in coverage and a dangerous blitzer.
Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be overlooked.
General Excitement Level: I have hard time getting over how small he is. On the other hand, Hawthorne seems likely to make the most out of his physical attributes, and if ESPN thinks he's got the frame that's a good sign. Here's a passage that sums all that up:
When Cardinal Newman hosted Pahokee this year, Crusaders kicker and punter Brendan Gibbons was rumored to be headed to Michigan. Blue Devils linebacker Brandin Hawthorne, one of this area's meanest hitters, already had made an oral commitment to the Wolverines.
So when Hawthorne had a chance to drill Gibbons after a punt - which he did at least once the previous season - he let up. "I'm not going to knock you out this time since you're going to Michigan," Hawthorne said after the play.
Gibbons was grateful, although at 6-foot-0, 212 pounds he is roughly Hawthorne's size.
I dunno, evil, vicious, bullet… kicker-sized linebacker. Moderate, I guess. Anyone you're expecting to put 40 pounds on may come out the other end of that incapable of moving his neck and stuff.
Projection: Very, very probable redshirt, and then I think he'll have to wait for Mouton to graduate. Redshirt sophomore before he's got a real shot at the field; may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D.