shocked gambling establishment etc
12/11/2009 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 1 – 9-8, 5-6 CCHA
12/13/2009 – Michigan 0, Notre Dame 2 – 9-9, 5-7 CCHA
It's a sign of the raging apathy I've got going over here that the first I heard about Notre Dame's struggles to date—they, like Michigan, are a hugely disappointing .500—was in a game preview on Friday. I haven't looked at the CCHA standings all year. It turns out that Ferris State is really good (13-3-2) this year and Michigan is in 10th place. Hurrah. (They do have two games in hand, but those games in hand are against Ferris.)
Even so, it was a surprise to see the team totally dominate the Irish en route to a 4-1 victory that was probably their best game of the year. And then it was not a surprise when Michigan fell limply on Sunday, losing 2-0 despite outshooting the opponent 38-20.
Sunday was the seventh game this season in which Michigan has had close to a 2-1 advantage in shots but lost anyway because they can't put the puck in the net:
- Michigan outshot Alaska 23-13 in the opener and lost 2-0.
- They outshot BU 35-22, losing because Hogan wandered out of his net and gave the other team an Osgood-type goal.
- They outshot Miami 28-13 in one of the most frustrating games I've ever seen at Yost, losing 3-1.
- They outshot Michigan State 31-19 in a 2-0 loss at Munn.
- They outshot Bowling Green 31-21 in a 4-2 loss.
- And most spectacularly, Michigan lost to OSU 5-3 despite putting 45 shots on Cal Heeter and facing just 19.
That's seven of their nine losses. They only trailed in shots in the second game against Miami and the first against Michigan State. The Daily says Michigan was "unlucky" on Sunday, but it's hard to look at that pattern and not find something systemic.
If the games had gone according to script, this would be a freakin' awesome team. It's not, obviously, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. Some guesses:
There is an obvious deficiency in top-tier offensive talent. Caporusso occasionally does something reminiscent of Michigan's traditional magic midgets, but he's a far cry from Comrie or Camalleri or Tambellini or Hensick or Cogliano. Mostly he just ends up giving the puck away because he's trying to go 1-on-3. And the rest of the team is not there. Wohlberg's regressed (two goals), Czarnik left, Langlais and Burlon and Kampfer haven't provided the offensive pop they were expected to, and there's no one on the team who is a lock for a long NHL career despite not being able to go on all the rides at Cedar Point.
This was the case last year to some extent, too, but Wohlberg and Caporusso were scoring like mad. The two combined for 39 goals last year without much help from Aaron Palushaj, who spent almost the entire year playing on other lines. This year they have seven between them. They're on pace to score well less than half of last season's output, which is a drop in production you can't weather when your freshmen are anything less than epic.
The defense has been sloppy. The thing about some of those games, primarily that Miami game, is that even though Hogan didn't face a whole lot of shots I don't know if there was anything he could have done to stop the goals he let in, which resulted from massive defensive breakdowns that left Miami players totally uncovered in dangerous scoring areas.
It's not that they've been bad, necessarily, it's that they don't do a good job covering high-value areas of the ice and too often leave guys wide open in bad spots.
Hogan: meh. Bryan Hogan's save percentage is .905, which is 44th nationally. It's not far away from 30th, and given the weird tendency of Michigan to give up small numbers of high-quality shots it's harsh on him. But it's about right, right? Hogan has been basically average. He hasn't given up many (any?) really soft goals, but he's given up some questionable ones and rarely makes a "wow" save.
Results? Another weird item from the year's first foray into accumulated statistics: AJ Treais has only three points. Treais certainly looks like he's doing stuff right out there. His dangles are increasingly dirty as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable trying stuff against college competition. He certainly seems like a more effective offensive player than Luke Glendening or Brian Lebler, but the numbers aren't there for him. And he's playing on a line with Caporusso, so it's not like they've put him there to die with the grinders. He didn't have much in the way of points with the national team, either. Hopefully this is just a slow burn to effectiveness like an Andrew Ebbett or John Shouneyia.
Next time just punch the ref, please. Berenson did end up yanking senior defenseman Tristin Llewellyn for a couple games after his now-usual assortment of stupid roughing penalties and irresponsible defensive play, but he returned for the Notre Dame series, where he proved he'd learned his lesson by taking the world's dumbest crosschecking call on Friday.
I mean, I get that he's not that fast and sometimes he's going to get spectacularly walked by Drew Palmisano. That's life sometimes. It's the incessant penalties that get me. Llewellyn has five more than anyone on the team despite missing two games and most of them are boarding, slashing, roughing, that sort of thing. The penalties aren't from excessive defensive zeal, they're unnecessary, potentially dangerous plays that don't do anything except put Michigan a man down. This is not a new trend: Llewellyn lead the team in penalties last year with 25, five more than Travis Turnbull.
With Lee Moffie playing very well, I'd scratch Llewellyn again.
Tourney. Unlikely at this point unless Michigan goes on a rampage. Michigan did have the good fortune to do well in the nonconference portion of the schedule (4-1 against teams outside the CCHA, with a nonconference loss to Alaska), which will be disproportionately helpful at the end of the year, but they are currently 28th in RPI—not even a team under consideration—and going 12-6 the rest of the way only gets them to around 20th.
They'll have to win something like 13-15 of their final 18 games to be on the bubble when the conference tourney rolls around. That's probably not going to happen.
Michigan 75, Detroit 64. Michigan 5-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
At halftime, this game was looking like it might be just the latest in a series of disappointments in this young basketball season. Detroit led the Wolverines 36-33, and Michigan couldn't make a defensive stop to save their lives. If you had told me that it would be Michigan's defense that would carry the second half, I would have laughed in your face. The team put in a great defensive effort in the second half though, and the Wolverines were able to capitalize and get the 11-point victory.
Zack Novak, despite a poor day offensively, came away with a huge block on a transition play for the Titans. Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims carried the offensive torch for Michigan, and it was the first game in a while that they were both able to really get going at once. Manny finished with 27 points, and was a single rebound away from the double-double.
The outside shooting is still not where it should be, but 33% from behind the arc was a definite improvement over the past few weeks. If the defensive intensity can continue over the rest of the season, Michigan may have turned an important corner today. When opponents don't score, Michigan can keep games close and the shooting will come around eventually.
- Deshawn Sims was spectacular today. He scored 23 points on just 12 shots. Defensively, he was a little weak in the first half, but he was one of the guys who really turned it on after halftime.
- Rough day for freshmen. Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich both get very little run. Vogrich was in for just a minute, and still managed to commit a turnover. Eso Akunne was the best freshman on the court.
- The rotation was really small today. 5 players played 30 minutes or more, and only two other guys (Morris and Zack Gibson) had double-digit minutes.
- As mentioned above, the shooting was much better than it has been lately, but there's still some room for improvement. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are just going to tear up the nets at some point.
- Michigan outrebounded the opponent(!) but didn't force too many turnovers (7). Bizarre day, given the style that the Wolverines usually play.
- How in the world did Detroit land two transfers from Indiana? That should be a pretty good team in the near future.
"He knows we need him. That's something we talked about, and he just picked it up." Manny Harris, on Deshawn Sims's defensive effort in the second half.
"I think we're just a step slow right now... We've gotta be a little bit quicker." Zack Novak, on the team's defensive struggles this season.
"I just timed it up. You didn't know I could do that, I bet." Zack Novak, on his shot block in the second half.
"We've kinda been trying to play out of what we're capable of. Just stay solid. Stay solid on defense, don't gamble, run the offense. Just do what we've been practicing for the last 2 months." Stu Douglass, on how the team can improve its play.
"I just don't wanna be part of the losing side of that conversation." Deshawn Sims, on playing in-state opponents.
"Down three at the half, I think the guys felt a sense of urgency." John Beilein, on the defensive renaissance in the second half.
"Usually the last thing that comes to young players is defense, not just individually, but also off the ball." John Beilein, on giving freshmen onl limited playing time.
The Wolverines have this week off to take their exams, and then have a date with Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are the consensus #1 team in the nation, and Michigan will need a small miracle to come home from Lawrence with a win.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Detroit|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -13.5*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
We're all-too-familiar with the Wolverines' deficiencies by now: They can't shoot and can't rebound. That has led to a lot of trouble, mostly against teams with very athletic guards (Marquette) or good size inside (Boston College, Utah).
Can the team finally snap out of the shooting slump at home against Detroit? They'd better hope so, because the problems have to be worked out in a hurry for the team to even have a chance to keep it respectable against the Jayhawks of Kansas next weekend.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Detroit: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Detroit Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Detroit Def eFG%||269||128||DD|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Detroit eFG%||241||146||D|
|Mich TO% v. Detroit Def TO%||2||62||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. Detroit TO%||12||248||MMM|
|Mich OReb% v. Detroit DReb%||259||152||DD|
|Mich DReb% v. Detroit OReb%||324||135||DDD|
|Mich FTR v. Detroit Opp FTR||292||214||DD|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Detroit FTR||3||14||M|
|Mich AdjO v. Detroit AdjD||207||167||D|
|Mich AdjD v. Detroit AdjO||116||188||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This is what it has come to? Michigan appears to be at a definite statistical disadvantage to... University of Detroit? The only areas in which Michigan appears to be better are holding onto the ball and getting opponents to give it away. HOWEVA, there's something to be said for strength of schedule (Detroit's has been crap so far, outside of a game at Cal). Michigan hasn't put away any teams that are remotely as talented, or those that have looked nearly as good statistically, but Detroit's rankings are something of a scam so far.
The Titans are far better at rebounding, which is something Michigan fans have gotten used to and have no reason to believe will change ever this year. They also draw a good number of fouls, which is a product of playing teams that have no chance of stacking up in the paint. Michigan should be (a little) more able to do that without fouling.
It's hard to tell exactly how good the Titans are, due to their schedule, but it skews toward quite bad, with a loss to Kenpom's #280 team, Tennessee State. Michigan hasn't convinced anyone that they're actually good this year, but being not bad should be enough to put away Detroit i the second half.
Well, damn. BREAKING NEWS(!!!): Brian Kelly is indeed the guy at Notre Dame. Notre Dame fans of the insane variety are hilariously opposed to the move on the grounds that Kelly isn't Bob Stoops, Bill Belichick, or one of the ND Nation moderators; everyone else is terrified that Notre Dame has now acquired a coach with a track record of doing anything at all.
This is probably going to go poorly. Kelly is the most competent coach Notre Dame has hired since Holtz and at the very least should turn Weis's excellent recruiting classes into a genuinely good team in short order. Smart Football says so.
Next year might be meh since his one option at quarterback is going to miss spring practice and large chunks of summer conditioning with an ACL tear, but expecting an implosion similar to the Michigan one is foolhardy: for one he'll have a five-star quarterback throwing to Michael Floyd and plenty of talent on defense if he can get a defensive coordinator to manage it. Something thematically similar to Michigan's 2004 Rose Bowl season might go down. Michigan had to get clutch drives from a freshman quarterback and an onside kick to get to 9-4 that year. A Gator Bowl or something with incredible expectations in 2011 seems the most likely outcome.
This makes the next two years against Notre Dame pivotal for Rich Rodriguez. If Michigan loses to Notre Dame next year against Kelly when he's finally got a quarterback experience edge over someone, anyone, it'll look like a rough year and possibly the end of everything.
There are some minor plusses in the hire: I assume Kelly won't keep Corwin Brown around, which should help Michigan recruit against ND. Also for whatever reason Weis just killed Michigan head-to-head and Kelly can't possibly do better. I've heard conflicting things about what high school coaches in the state think about him, FWIW. I imagine that's something you could say about any coach.
We are so terrible. The basketball… it is not good anymore. I don't really know why, but holy crap:
- Michigan’s defensive rebounding percentage of 60.7% ranks last among all Division 1 major conference teams.
- Michigan’s three point percentage of 28.3% is better than only two major conference teams (Oregon St. and UCLA) yet only two major conference teams (Iowa and Northwestern) shoot more threes than Michigan (3FGA/FGA).
- Michigan is allowing opponents to shoot 52.2% on 2 point field goal attempts, the worst percentage allowed by any major conference program.
Dylan has a few more numbers that look more like Indiana last year than a team with any tourney aspirations. They add up to "ugh."
This season is even worse than what went down in football. Everyone knew this wasn't the #15 team in the country but it shouldn't be a team that will be lucky to make the NIT. (No, seriously. You have to get to .500 and Michigan is going to come out of the nonconference 6-6 unless they beat UConn or Kansas, so then they have to go 9-9 in the Big Ten despite showing no ability to hang with mediocre teams from mid-major-ish conferences.) This is stunning underachievement. And what happens next year when Manny is gone and the only big guys on the roster are Ben Cronin, who may or may not still be broken, Blake McLimans, and Jordan Morgan? Morgan and McLimans are redshirting; Cronin almost literally can't jump.
I know I shouldn't be surprised about anything nasty happening to Michigan sports these days, but seriously… what the hell. There can be no place underachieving expectations across the board like Michigan is these days.
PREWB! Also BREAKING(!!!) is that nine MSU players got tagged with multiple misdemeanor charges based on the video evidence of the frat beat-down. Three more kids ended up suspended, including the other Chris Rucker on the team. Don't recruit guys named Chris Rucker no matter what their middle initial is.
I only mention was seems like a formality because the crack MSU reporters at the Free Press immediately came out with an article arguing that most of the charges would get dropped as various members of the team agree to testify against the ex-members of the team.
Meanwhile, the News gets clarification from Winston's initial victim on what, exactly, happened…
Montgomery, a student at Schoolcraft College, was hanging with friends near the Michigan State campus on Oct. 19, 2008, when Winston approached him and MSU hockey player A.J. Sturges and dropped them both, each with one punch, police said. Montgomery's fractured jaw was wired for six weeks, and Sturges' skull was fractured. …
"I was attacked for no reason. I was not in a fight. I was with a friend, and Glenn Winston came and hit me for no reason at all."
…in a story that has the fantastic lead "Ian Montgomery has an intimate familiarity with Glenn Winston's fist." They also reveal that Jenrette's mysterious redshirt was because of a robbery that happened August 1st of 2008, literally days before Jenrette arrived on Michigan State's campus. Jenrette was already sporting a 2005 offense. Michael Rosenberg's column awaits him.
Again, this is not really about Dantonio, whose public image has taken a hit but will recover in time as long as these things don't keep happening, but the rampant bias at the Free Press that would be funnier every day if it wasn't having a material impact on the local/national perception of Michigan.
Etc.: WVU fans, prompted by bubble pipe professor Matt Zemek's assertion that he'd rather have "integrity and humanity" in the form of Bill Stewart instead of whatever Rodriguez is, debate whether they'd rather have their current coach or our current coach. Opinion is split. CATS 4 GOLD. Sun-Times asserts that Harbaugh actually met with ND officials; tomorrow they announce that Bob Stoops is back in the picture!
The is a sports blog version of the Heisman again, which I'm participating in because goddammit Ndamukong Suh needs something.
3. CJ Spiller, Clemson
I followed Spiller's recruitment as Michigan was briefly involved because Spiller's apparently one and only criteria for choosing a school was immediate playing time. This eventually sent him to Clemson in a shock upset over local favorite Florida State.
Spiller immediately proved that his criteria were silly. Here is a list of schools at which CJ Spiller would not have found immediate playing time:
The end. Clemson over the last few years has been intermittent top-ten brilliance from Spiller interspersed with the overwhelming Clemson-ness of the whole thing. Why Spiller instead of Ingram or Gerhart? Spiller was also a special teams destroyer—a preposterous five return touchdowns on the year—and threat in the passing game. Those guys are both close; I tend to value guys who regularly turn in huge plays over those who grind out gains by running over opponents.
2. Brandon Graham, Michigan
Okay, okay, since this is the only vote I'm sure Graham will receive this is by definition a homer vote, but I did watch every snap of his year about four times and have done so with NFL beast Lamarr Woodley, too, and Graham graded out better than Woodley despite being the only player on the defense more intimidating than a six-year-old girl.
He hits harder than Glen Winston:
He did this a lot:
On that last one he turned Brian Bulaga, projected first rounder, into horsemeat.
He's the most impressive defensive lineman I've seen since…
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Last weekend. This award shouldn't be about stats, it should be about the most ridiculously good player to play college football in any given year. But if it is about stats, uh… 82 tackles (leading the team), 25 TFLs, 12 sacks, and ten(!!!) PBUs from a defensive tackle. I had this crazy idea to promote Brandon Graham for the Heisman that I dropped about a quarter into the Big 12 championship game. Tim's got a whole diary on this, though he's way harsh on Rittenberg IME. I'm going to be so pissed when Suh comes in second because 10% of the voters turned in their ballots before the games were over.
Michigan 4-4 (0-0 Big Ten)
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game against Utah is that the team looked, at times, as competent as it's been all year. The rest of the game though, not so much. The shooting woes continued, with the team shooting a collective 34% from the field and a horrendous 55% from the free throw line.
Zack Novak didn't play against the Utes, missing the game with the flu. It's impossible to know whether he would have been the difference in the game, especially since a 6-5 power forward is probably unlikely to see tons of success guarding guys a half-foot taller than him.
The depth is so bad that Ben Cronin actually got first-half minutes, as did walk-on Eso Akunne... and the team might have played better with them in the game than it did without. This whole post is turning out to be really bullet-y, and the heart's not in it, so I might as well get right to the...
- This might sound like a pretty mean-spirited thing to say, but at one point Paul said to me "Why didn't Anthony Wright go on paternity leave or something?" I totally agree. I fail to see why he continues getting minutes, when he's such a liability on both ends of the court. I'm sure he's a great guy, but he's not producing for this team.
- Manny and Deshawn both got going in this game, though they were the only two Wolverines in double digits. Sims only scored 10, but that's not too bad against such a tall lineup. You'd like to see him get enough to keep the defense afraid and open up the outside for the shooters, but...
- AAARGH SHOOTING. It has to get better sometime, right?
- I don't intend to accuse the referees of bias, because I would even guess that Michigan got the better end of more calls last night. Still, holy crap is the officiating in NCAA basketball horrible. Seriously, make me the head of officiating and it will get better in a snap.
- Hats off to Eso Akunne. Dude's a freshman walk-on and he played his ass off.
- I kept waiting for Gibby to break out and do a couple awesome things, but he never did. I guess more playing time wasn't what he needed, one-game sample against a very tall team noted.
- Michigan actually seemed to be forcing a good number of turnovers, both from man and the zone. Unfortunately, they were pretty generous with the ball themselves, and didn't come down with many rebounds.
Detroit comes to Crisler Arena at Noon ET on Sunday. The game will be available on the Big Ten Network. After that, the Wolverines will sacrifice themselves to Kansas the following Saturday.
It is a grim, cold morning in December of 2009, and Michigan's basketball team has essentially closed the door on its tournament chances by losing to a 4-4 WAC team consisting entirely of guys who got to the game via beanstalk. The hockey team languishes at .500 and escaped the basement of the CCHA by squeezing by a bad Ohio State team last weekend; they're not out of things entirely but it's looking grim for them as well. And the football team's promising start spun into a 1-7 Big Ten tailspin that had half a state reaching for whiskey, a gun, or both.
We are low. My main thought this morning was "how far back to you have to go to find Michigan fans as miserable as we are?" 1984 was the only plausible candidate that popped into my mind: the football team limped to 6-6 and the hockey team was still struggling through the first few years of the Red era. This was my guess on WTKA this morning, but Craig Ross emailed to remind/inform us that in '84-'85 the basketball team was 26-4 and Bill Frieder was the national coach of the year. That football team was also hamstrung by one obvious deficiency caused by injury, and it made a bowl. So that's out.
It was pointless to even look at other years in the Bo/Mo/Llo era, so it was back to the 60s we went, and after a couple of false positives (1967 featured a hockey team that was pretty good and made the tournament) I found it. The last year of equal misery. (Requirements: no tournaments for hockey and basketball and football goes under .500.)
Ladies and gentlemen, 1962-63:
|Choose the game you want to display|
|1||Ball State||December 1, 1962||Yost Field House||W-68-58||3,800|
|2||Creighton||December 3, 1962||Yost Field House||W-81-62||3,700|
|3||Butler||December 7, 1962||Yost Field House||L-69-70||5,500|
|4||TCU||December 13, 1962||Yost Field House||W-82-60||3,600|
|5||at Evansville||December 15, 1962||W-73-64||8,419|
|6||San Jose State||December 19, 1962||W-66-52||0|
|7||Houston||December 21, 1962||W-90-88||4,600|
|8||at Texas A&M||December 22, 1962||W-82-79||4,000|
|9||Yale||December 29, 1962||Yost Field House||W-82-71||2,600|
|10||Northwestern||January 5, 1963||Yost Field House||W-78-75||6,600|
|11||Iowa||January 7, 1963||W-88-67||7,500|
|12||at Ohio State||January 12, 1963||L-66-68||13,497|
|13||Minnesota||January 14, 1963||Yost Field House||L-63-66||6,700|
|14||at Detroit||January 30, 1963||Detroit, Michigan||L-70-83||7,134|
|15||at Michigan State||February 2, 1963||East Lansing, Michigan||W-72-71||10,577|
|16||Wisconsin||February 4, 1963||Yost Field House||L-78-81||9,100|
|17||Indiana||February 9, 1963||Yost Field House||W-90-86||8,600|
|18||Ohio State||February 16, 1963||Yost Field House||L-68-75||9,775|
|19||at Northwestern||February 18, 1963||L-62-63||4,000|
|20||at Purdue||February 23, 1963||Lafayette, Indiana||W-71-53||7,841|
|21||Iowa||February 25, 1963||Yost Field House||W-78-70||4,600|
|22||Illinois||March 2, 1963||Yost Field House||W-84-81||9,450|
|23||at Indiana||March 4, 1963||L-96-104||5,351|
|24||at Wisconsin||March 9, 1963||W-82-80||7,835|
Record 16-8 (8-6)
That's not terrible but it wasn't enough to make the 25(!) member NCAA field.
|10/13||@||*Michigan State (5-4)||L||0||28|
|11/24||@||*Ohio State (6-3)||L||0||28|
So there you go: anyone under about 57 has never experienced anything like what it looks like is going to go down this year. The last time this happened Don Draper's wife loved him.
For what it's worth, hockey won the national title the next year, basketball would make the Final Four with Cazzie Russell at the helm, and football would… uh… go 3-4-2. Two out of three ain't bad.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Utah|
|WHERE||Salt Lake City, UT|
December 9th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan –1*|
|TELEVISION||CBS College Sports|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Despite coming away with a victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Michigan's shooting woes continued on Saturday. Coach Beilein joked at the beginning of his Monday press conference "Believe it or not, we're trying to get some extra shooting in." Beilein noted that the shooting problems have not been consistent from game-to-game, and even in practices. There could be mental or physical reasons, or simply a lack of good practice reps (the Wolverines' travel schedule to Orlando prevented them from getting adequate practice prior to the BC game).
Teams have slumped shooting like this before and recovered under Beilein. Michigan struggled midway through last season, and the 2005 West Virginia team lost to Villanova by 38 points to open the conference season - then still managed to make the Elite 8. While Michigan's slump is definitely frustrating, it's a salvageable situation.
Manny's hamstring issue is still ongoing. "He's gonna be limited a little bit," said Beilein. Harris has had trouble with his offensive explosion, and getting a little rest might help. Ben Cronin is still suffering through his injuries, and his lateral motion is still not where it should be to play at this level. Beilein didn't rule out a medical waiver for a 6th-year for Ben.
To acclimate to altitude (Salt Lake City is more than 4,000 feet above sea level), the Wolverines headed out West on Tuesday to get a full practice under their belts instead of than their usual shootaround in the arena. "It's a long way to go, and I just wanted to practice there one time," said Beilein.
Utah is typically a very tall team, and this year is no exception. "It's just what you always expect from Utah: they're huge," said Beilein. 7-footers Jason Washburn and David Foster have played nearly every minute between the two of them, and Kim Tillie isn't much shorter at 6-11. The rest of the Utes are pretty big as well, with starting guards Carlon Brown and Luka Drca—not a typo—standing 6-5. Point guard Marshall Henderson is the runt of the bunch at 6-2. This should be a tough matchup for the Wolverines height-wise, though Utah doesn't rebound very well, despite their size. Michigan has to decide whether to match their height, or play small. "You can mismatch them and hope for the best, or you can match them and hope for the best," said Beilein.
The Utes have struggled so far this year, dropping home games to Idaho and Seattle. They've also fallen to Oklahoma State and Weber State away from home. Seemingly the lone bright spot on their resume so far is a 2-point tournament win over Illinois (disregard that the Illini fell to Bradley the very next day, of course). A win over Michigan would be big for the Utes in righting the ship. Of course, the same could be said for Michigan.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Utah: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Pine Bluff Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Utah Def eFG%||251||111||UU|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Utah eFG%||211||171||U|
|Mich TO% v. Utah Def TO%||2||311||MMMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. Utah TO%||19||33||M|
|Mich OReb% v. Utah DReb%||264||194||U|
|Mich DReb% v. Utah OReb%||300||238||U|
|Mich FTR v. Utah Opp FTR||304||175||UU|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Utah FTR||8||116||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. Utah AdjD||176||156||U|
|Mich AdjD v. Utah AdjO||81||143||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This Utah team, despite dropping a few winnable contests, is not truly bad in any way except for forcing turnovers. Fortunately, that gives Michigan a huge advantage in holding onto the rock. Other than that, the game is fairly even.
The only categories in which one team has an advantage of more than 100 places in the national rankings are Michigan's shooting against Utah's defense, and each team's ability to keep the opponent off the free throw line. The Wolverines' shooting woes, however, seem to be defense-independent, and merely a product of a shooting slump for Michigan snipers like Zack Novak and Stu Douglass.
Getting to the line is something that Utah doesn't excel at, surprising given their size. Michigan, for all their troubles defending in the paint, hasn't sent opponents to the stripe a lot. With a team the size of Utah, the Wolverines might have to foul a lot more to keep them from getting easy points. It's tough to know though, given that the Utes haven't forced fouls from much smaller teams. Michigan hasn't gotten to the line much this year themselves, and a big team like Utah should be able to defend without fouling.
This is a very close matchup, and it could swing one way or the other on any number of seemingly small factors. Unfortunately, it's the first true road game for the Wolverines, and it's unlikely that the shooting slump comes to an end in the Hunstman Center. This looks like a game that the Utes pull out, as the lead widens in the final minutes to make the game look more one-sided that it truly was.
So… yeah: someone in Michigan's compliance department got the idea that there had been a rule change and that Michigan would not be able to cram more than the NCAA-mandated maximum of 25 players into this recruiting class, and from this person the idea spread to Sam Webb and Rivals and Tom VanHaaren, all of whom talked to similar folk in compliance and got the same answer: rule change, 25 is a hard maximum, no funny stuff with the early enrollers.
This made no sense when combined with recent events. Michigan offered sleeper safety Ray Vinopal and instate NT Jonathan Hankins and got back involved with a half-dozen other prospects, including Pahokee DT Richard Ash and a bunch of Californians. The numbers weren't going to add up.
Further probing has finally revealed the hypothetical rule change to be inaccurate. Probably. An email from the Big Ten's director of compliance indicates there has been no rule change. A small snippet of a longer reply from this official posted on the Rivals premium board:
Nothing has changed, although you’ve never been able to “backdate” and count a student-athlete (SA) in a year in which they weren’t in attendance. What I suspect you’re thinking of is the fact that mid-year enrollees (except SAs receiving aid under the “mid-year replacement” rule?described below) count against the overall limit of 85, but may count against the initial limit of 25 in either the year of initial enrollment (if there’s room) or in the year immediately following.
I guess there's some chance that this is not definitive, but it is this guy's job to know these things and he has explicitly shot down the idea that anything has changed. And it was always very strange that this fairly important change to recruiting rules would go without a single mention in a newspaper, or get brought up by any other fanbase. I'm guessing a few people got confused in compliance for some reason and started this whole thing. It's the simplest explanation.
Anyway: since the Big Ten is not imposing a 25-per-class limit—Penn State enrolled 27 freshmen last year—Michigan should be able to go to 28. This makes Michigan's recruiting binge of late seem much saner from the outside. With Donovan Warren probably off to the NFL and Brandon Smith probably off to some other school, Michigan is obviously planning to take a full 28.
Take the current commits, add in expected commits from MD LB Josh Furman, FL CB Tony Grimes, and FL DE Clarence Murphy, and plan for an inevitable decommit or guy who doesn't look like he'll qualify and finds his offer withdrawn*, and you're looking at two or three more guys in this class. If Michigan can go to 28, that works out just fine. If they can't, Michigan's already at –1 slots and is steaming full speed ahead into an uncomfortable first couple months of 2009. Occam's Razor says it's 28, and Michigan intends to get there.
*(Which, BTW, seems okay by me. If a player isn't eligible by the time his first-semester senior grades are in I think a school is within its rights to say "sorry, but we can't take the chance." I'd rather not see Michigan in a spot where they took a marginal guy with marginal grades, but offers are contingent on grades.)
All updates can be seen on the 2010 Michigan Recruiting board.
Ray Vinopal Goes Blue
For a defensive back commit, most Michigan fans weren't too excited about it (ironic, since many were complaining about the mental deficiencies of Michigan's DBs this year), but OH S Ray Vinopal has pledged his word to become a Michigan Wolverine. The 1st-Team All-Ohio selection and State Champion doesn't worry about the haters, though, as he told mgoblog's Tom Van Haaren:
Ray Vinopal - "I read what people say about me, I'm going to work my a** off to prove everyone of them wrong. I'm not scared."
Ray Vinopal - "I've been an all state sprinter in Ohio, so I'm not slow. I know what I can do, and we're going to turn it around."
Vinopal has combine-reported 5-10 height and 4.56 speed, for those who were questioning the accuracy of those numbers. He also comes from a traditionally-power football program that pumps out a number of D-1 prospects every year. Hopefully, Ray has success at Michigan, and helps open a pipeline into Cardinal Mooney.
MD LB/S Josh Furman still plans to announce his final college decision at the Maryland Crab Bowl on December 19th. He has narrowed his choices down to Michigan and Virginia Tech, and has already informed both schoolswhat his final decision will be. The recent rumblings from all parties say that Michigan is the likely choice. If Michigan is the choice, the fact that he nearly threw out his Michigan offer without even opening the envelope will be quite ironic indeed:
After his junior season, Maryland and West Virginia had extended scholarship offers. Then, last February, Dunlap was leafing through a pile of recruiting mail for Furman and tossed aside several form letters from schools that are typically sent to jog a recruit's attention. One of them was from Michigan, but Dunlap had a second thought and picked it out of the garbage.
"Then I read it," Dunlap said, "and when I got to the part where it said, 'full athletic scholarship,' I ran down the hall to tell him about it."
Furman's first major offer from a school outside of the region set off a frenzy.
Furman has been a highly-productive running back this year, though he left the State Championship game (which his team ultimately won) with a knee injury early in the contest. Video of that game can be seen here. As far as the injury goes, "smileyworm" on Scout is Furman's coach and he reports that there's nothing to worry about:
He is 100% ok. Heard something pop during a run and it felt funny afterwards. Was held out as a precaution. The knee didn't even swell. Will still play in the crab bowl on the 19th.
Will Carvin Waver?
I brought this up in yesterday's Friday Night Lights post, but it's worth examining in depth: LA S commit Carvin Johnson may be starting to pick up from interest from the hometown LSU Tigers.
Former Tennessee running backs coach Frank Wilson was offered a position on the LSU coaching staff last week, which he accepted yesterday, since just about every Tennessee assistant except Monte Kiffin is looking to get the hell out of Knoxville. The interesting part comes from the first article, however:
Having seen Wilson Thursday, he played coy and smiled. When I asked him about LSU and suggested the possible move to LSU to him, he simply said, “you think?” and “we’ll see.” Wilson was wearing a Tennessee pullover. Frank was in town at Archbishop Rummel High School, taking a hard look at Carvin Johnson, who has verbally committed to Michigan. He likes the 6’1, 190 pound senior safety and may recruit him wherever he coaches next year.
One thing Wilson did comment on was the fact that there are so many good players in Louisiana and that’s why he, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and other SEC powers spend so much time in the state. He also opined that while LSU has gotten most of those outstanding home-grown players, they have either missed on or not recruited others, including the likes of Rummel’s Johnson.
No. We found him first. You didn't want him. OURS OURS OURS.
LSU's recruitment of Johnson means two main things:
1) Michigan found a sleeper before any other big schools got on him, and now other teams see what the Wolverines unearthed first. LSU doesn't exactly suffer from a lack of DB talent, so if they want him, you know this kid's a player. There are seemingly two factions warring it out in the Michigan interwebs, one of which says to trust Rodriguez's recruiting strategy. and the other of which says "omg that guy wasn't even rated." Score one for group the former.
2) The Wolverines might just have a battle on their hands to keep Carvin Johnson in the class. It's always hard to turn down the hometown team. When said hometown team is 3 years removed from a national title, and Michigan is struggling through a rebuilding process, that's just all the more incentive to reconsider (except that Michigan can offer mountains of playing time).
Keep an eye on this situation, and hopefully the coaches will be able to keep Carvin blue.
PA CB commit Cullen Christian was added to the Army All-American Bowl roster last week, bringing the total number of Michigan commits to... 2. Christian joins WI P commit Will Hagerup on the East roster.
"I'm going to represent Michigan down there just like I'm going to represent Penn Hills," he said. "I'm going to go all out and try to make my team look good."
OH S Latwan Anderson and PA DT Sharrif Floyd are longshots for Michigan on the East roster.
CA S Tony Jefferson, MI CB Dior Mathis, and CA S Sean Parker are longshots for Michigan on the West roster.
In the other big All-Star contest, MI QB commit Devin Gardner is the only Wolverine selected to the ESPNU Under Armour game. No other prospects selected to that game are strongly considering Michigan at this time.
OH OL Christian Pace will enroll early, as will OH WR Jerald Robinson and MI RB Austin White (all links $, info in header). MI WR Jeremy Jackson is participating in the Hawaii-Mainland All-Star game, then enrolling early at Michigan.
CA S Sean Parker enjoyed his Michigan visit, and CA RB Lucky Radley may be considering the Wolverines. Happy trails, CA S Dietrich Riley. FL OL Torrian Wilson may be back on the table for Michigan ($, info in header). CA S Tony Jefferson and CA WR Kenny Stills will both announce on December 18. Neither is expected to pick Michigan. Latwan Anderson might be considering Michigan again.