I'm preparing the 2010 recruiting board for a debut (hopefully) next week and along the way have assembled relevant information for you perusal as to what Michigan needs and looks likely to acquire in the near future.
Twelve seniors graduate and there are currently four(-ish) open scholarships with three unused from the 2009 class and the transfer of Steven Threet. Redshirted seniors pursuing a fifth year will be David Cone, Perry Dorrestein, Steve Schilling, John Ferrara, Bryan Wright, Greg Banks, and Jonas Mouton. Cone and Wright are obvious candidates for a firm handshake and well wishes, but everyone else figures to be of use.
So peg the initial number at 18. Normal attrition should see that get to 22 or so and another year in which 25 scholarships come open is possible.
Quarterback: Very high. There are only two scholarship QBs on the roster. Michigan has already offered six QBs and will be looking to take at least two and maybe more if some of them can be moved elsewhere.
Running back: Moderate. Three players graduate and Michigan lost two running backs to transfer in the offseason but Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, and the three freshman remain. Michigan will probably take two, hopefully one of extremely high caliber.
Outside receiver: High, but with three four-star-plus commitments already there's not much to worry about except decommits.
Slot receiver: Moderate. If Jeremy Gallon makes it in Michigan will have three underclass guys at the spot and should be okay to forgo a slot if they want, but they'll probably take one. Rich Rodriguez is really into slot receiver pokemon.
Tight end: Low. Michigan threw an offer out to OH TE Alex Smith, who committed to Cincinnati already, so they're not entirely out of the market but the starter is a sophomore and he's got a redshirt freshman behind him. If they find a guy they like they might take him but they're not going to kill themselves about it.
Offensive line: Moderate, but only because offensive line never goes below "moderate." With nine recruits in the last three classes and a hidden gem or two amongst a wide array of four-star sorts Michigan doesn't need a huge influx of players. You always want three guys at OL, though.
Defensive tackle: Very high. Michigan's inability to hold on to defensive tackle recruits not named Will Campbell leaves Michigan with nothing past the two-deep. Even though no one graduates this year, DT is probably the thinnest spot on the team outside of quarterback.
Defensive end: High. Michigan picked up two desperately-needed prospects in Craig Roh and Anthony Lalota but the position remains very thin. Adam Patterson and Brandon Graham graduate; at least two here.
Linebacker: High in the middle, as Michigan didn't take one last year, and low-ish on the outside, where they took three or four depending on the final disposition of MI WR Cameron Gordon.
Cornerback: High. I'm on the paranoid side when it comes to cornerbacks: I want a thousand, I want a thousand every year, and this is a year so I want a thousand. Last year Michigan picked up one near-five star in OH CB Justin Turner and one complete flier who may be a safety in FL CB Adrian Witty. This year there are no seniors but depth is somewhat lacking and Donovan Warren may be an NFL draft flight risk, so I'd like to see at least two and, since I'm paranoid, three would be better.
Safety: High. Two prospects join up this year and Michigan has but one senior, the much-maligned Stevie Brown. I'd like to see two or even three players here, too. Paranoia.
In table format, with names of note:
|QB||Very high||2||MI QB Devin Gardner||SC QB Cornelius Jones||FL QB Jeffrey Godfrey|
|RB||Moderate||2||MI RB Austin White||MI RB Nick Hill||FL RB Corvin Lamb|
|WR||Met||3||FL WR Ricardo Miller||MI WR Jeremy Jackson||OH WR Jerald Robinson|
|Slot||Moderate||1||FL WR Kenny Shaw||MI WR Dior Mathis||FL WR De'Joshua Johnson|
|OL||Moderate||3||NC OL Robert Crisp||FL OL Chaz Green||OH OL Andrew Donnal|
|DE||High||2||OH DE Derrick Bryant||MI DE Will Gholston||MI DE CJ Olayanin|
|DT||High||2||MI DT Jonathan Hankins|
|LB||Low||2||MI LB Austin Gray||OH LB Antonio Kinard||MI LB Daniel Easterly|
|CB||High||2||FL CB Lo Wood||PA CB Cullen Christian|
|S||High||2||FL S Marvin Robinson||PA S Brandon Ifill||OH S LaTwan Anderson|
That adds up to 21 plus a punter.
Even though it's early there are still a number of players out there with offers who name Michigan their leader or in a reduced leading group. In order of most confidence to least:
FL (or MI) WR Ricardo Miller. Miller's one of the top ten prospects in Florida and widely regarded to be a top 50 overall player. He's also moving to Ann Arbor this summer to play at Huron, so, yeah, not going to decommit.
MI WR Jeremy Jackson. Fred Jackson's kid and a future Ricardo Miller teammate (at two different locations), Jackson's supposed to be a mid- or even low-four star prospect. This belies some truly impressive reported offers: Texas, LSU, Florida.
OH WR Jerald Robinson. Robinson committed about two seconds after picking up his Michigan offer; he's currently rated a borderline four-star, as near as I can tell.
Persons I Expect Will Be Part Of The Class
FL CB Lo Wood. Wood has repeatedly claimed Michigan his leader and holds an offer. He's from Apopka, Jeremy Gallon's school, and there's a lot of scuttlebutt that indicates he's Michigan bound.
FL WR Kenny Shaw. Shaw is a 5'11" slot guy who is the soon to be former teammate of Ricardo Miller, who's moving to Ann Arbor this summer, and he's named Michigan his clear leader a couple times recently.
PA CB Cullen Christian. Christian has also named Michigan his leader repeatedly. Early reports have he and his teammate Brandon Ifill #9 and #10 in PA, which would make them solid four-stars in a good year in-state and borderline ones in an average one.
PA S Brandon Ifill. Christian's teammate, he's named Michigan part of a leading group of two in two separate articles recently; in one article the other contender was Maryland and in the other it was Pitt. Ifill's also a wide receiver; Michigan is obviously focusing on defense with him.
OH DE Derrick Bryant. Bryant named Michigan his leader and even went so far as to suggest he'd be an early commit. Though he's backed off the latter part of that stance, Michigan remains in good shape for Bryant. Bryant's a Rivals 250 to watch guy who has a shot at the top 100.
MI RB Nick Hill. Hill doesn't have an offer yet; if he did he'd probably be just below Wood, as everyone has assured the Michigan fanbase that Hill is a longtime Michigan fan who won't wait long if/when he gets his offer.
Persons Who Are Fairly Likely To Be Part Of The Class
FL S Marvin Robinson. After being proclaimed a Michigan lock for years Robinson has opened up his recruiting a little bit. There's been an undercurrent supporting UNC; his high school coach is an Ohio State fan; etc etc. Still, there are many positive vibes on Robinson that remain current.
SC QB Cornelius Jones. For whatever reason Michigan chucked an unofficial offer at Jones before he'd even stepped foot on a football field, and reconfirmed that offer after he had an impressive junior season. Michigan leads and it'll be hard for the likes of Duke and Wake Forest to pick him off.
FL QB Jeffery Godfrey. Godfrey has a clear #1 according to Michigan's Rivals site, so you know who that #1 is from that article's provenance. The main issue with Godfrey and Jones may be the looming presence of instate QB Devin Gardner, a guy Michigan wants badly. Michigan may forestall taking an early commit from a quarterback as they wait for the big fish, or Michigan could add a guy later in the recruiting season that might spur an already-committed player to reconsider.
MI CB/WR Dior Mathis. Mathis is this year's big Cass Tech prospect, a pint-sized corner/slot receiver who's slighter but faster than close analogue Boubacar Cissoko. Mathis was infatuated with Miami (That Miami) growing up and was initially planning on an early commit, but the flood of Michigan folks at Cass managed to forestall that. Now presumed to be a Michigan-Miami battle.
Persons Of General Interest
MI QB Devin Gardner. Gardner's played it close to the vest so far, but has totally dropped Ohio State from consideration after they were slow to offer. He's got offers from everywhere else and is by no means a lock, but Michigan offers an attractive depth chart close to home and has been pursuing him hard.
MI DE Will Gholston. Gholston is 1) a 6'7" wrecking machine at linebacker and 2) supposedly a heavy Michigan State lean. (He goes to Southeastern, which is coached by an MSU equivalent of Tom Wilcher, and rumor has it he even lives with one of their Sparty, no(!) coaches.) Michigan is pursuing, though it may be futile.
MI RB Austin White. White and Hill are the top two backs in the state; Michigan is pursuing both, but White already has two brothers at State and will clearly be an uphill battle.
Michigan probably won't get everyone in the "I expect they'll commit" category, but they'll probably pick up all but one or two. Since all of those folks seem like solid four-star sorts except maybe Hill, that would be an excellent eight- or nine- four star start with very little in the way of low-rated downers. Add in Robinson and a quarterback or two and that's most of the top half of a top-ten class, minus the one or two five stars. The initial returns are promising.
Disclaimer: a lot of this information, especially about how high-ranked these kids are going to be, is extremely speculative.
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.
In a word: ugh. You probably know the story: Michigan led by four with a minute left, then Iowa got back to back trips to the line, one of which was a 50-50 play on a drive, the other a loose ball foul on Sims after Manny Harris didn't get the exact same call Iowa just got. The number of calls Manny Harris doesn't get continually astounds me. My favorite in this game was the charging call he got when some Iowa guy planted himself under the basket.
Then Michigan's attempt at a buzzer-beater degenerates into Harris launching an off-balance three from four feet behind the line, Harris is benched for the entirety of overtime, Iowa hits a wide array of circus shots, and Michigan's bid is on serious life support. I blame myself for hosting a liveblog.
Beilein in the aftermath:
"I didn't think (Harris) was really playing well. He didn't look fresh, he wasn't himself, and so we decided to go in another direction," Beilein said. "We really thought it would help us, but (Iowa) went on a run just like they did at the beginning of the game when he was in there.
"I wouldn't be too concerned about (Harris not playing in overtime). We needed to score some points and Manny wasn't in a good rhythm at that time."
That might make sense if the guy you stuck in the lineup in Harris' stead wasn't David Merritt, with whom I am developing the exact same relationship I had with Pat Massey: though he must be a tremendous individual I want his eligibility to expire immediately so the coach can't keep throwing him out there and causing me psychic distress. (I will never understand this year's rotation, specifically the inability of Jevohn Shepherd to get minutes over the two tiny walkons despite playing pretty well when he gets on the floor. Lord knows if he was closing out three-point shooters in the corner that Iowa guy named Bullwinkle would have had more difficulties.)
But setting aside the choice of replacement, was Beilein 100% wrong? I don't think so. Harris takes terrible shots in every game when he gets frustrated or complacent or feels he won't get a call (which he won't, but eh) and has moments of defensive laxness and is just generally a really frustrating player. Having Harris out there wouldn't have helped that much, anyway. Iowa couldn't miss in overtime, and Harris was not going to bring Michigan's offensive efficiency up to a level at which it could compete.
Beilein's obviously not 100% right, either. If he thought Michigan had a better chance to win with David Merritt on the floor, he's nuts. More likely he had about reached his limit and sat him in what appears to be a fit of pique. I get that: Harris at the moment is a basketball doppelganger of Braylon Edwards in his afro phase, when he was benched because he and Carr weren't "on the same page" despite his clear superiority to Michigan's other receiving options. Edwards wised up and blew up. Harris? We'll see.
I would have preferred the teachable moment had not come in overtime of a crucial road game, though. You know.
Okay. What now? The prevailing assumption was that Michigan had to split its final four games and then not die against Indiana or, uh, Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament to assure itself a bid. That still holds, but winning two of Purdue, @ Wisconsin, and @ Minnesota is a vastly tougher proposition than winning one. Kenpom has us at 32% against Purdue, 18% against Wisconsin, and 25% against Minnesota. 8-10 isn't going to do it without an improbable Big Ten Tourney run, especially because the committee has been de-emphasizing conference tourneys in recent years.
In short: we're screwed.
First and foremost, Big Ten officiating is a joke. As someone mentioned, all those moving screens called on us, but when Merritt is running the baseline in the 1-3-1 and the Iowa post player is in the middle of turning his back and knocks Merritt completely off his route to the shooter, there’s no call. The last foul that they called on Sims to put Gatens to the line was just flat terrible. And Manny still isn’t getting calls in the lane. The charge they called on him early was pretty bad; he was already in the air by the time the Iowa player slid over and got set.
So I have three options:
- Spend another 1000 words complaining that college hockey/basketball referees have it in for me, personally, even though I didn't do anything to them.
- Ignore the fact we got hosed and write a bunch of words about something else.
- Do an uber-bullets with a little of 1 but mostly 2.
Since I've already done #1 and #2 we'll do #3, keep the bitching a little muted, and coldly evaluate where things stand.
Somehow it didn't hurt us much. Michigan is still tied for second in the PWR rankings , but this time they're tied with Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame has the comparison, they would win the tiebreaker and get to go to Grand Rapids. There's still a long way to go and a lot of bits to flip, obviously, but Michigan didn't shoot down into the two-seeds like I feared.
…on the surface. Where the two hose-jobs from the CCHA really hurt is in the details. Michigan's comparison with ND:
Even if Michigan picks up an extra point when ND gets enough TUC games for that factor to count, the Common Opponents factor is gone and Michigan would have to pass ND in RPI to take the comparison. That's going to be very tough, since ND has about a two game lead. ND is playing Michigan State this weekend, unfortunately, and will be hard pressed to leave any points on the ice.
Getting hosed has basically cost us the ND comparison and with it just about any chance Michigan ends up in Grand Rapids. Without the four (FOUR! FOUR! FOUR! FOUR!) preposterously allowed/disallowed goals Michigan has endured over the last month Michigan is up 3-1 in this comparison and just about impregnable.
So our best hope is for something weird in ND's comparisons. The reason Notre Dame is tied with Michigan, not ahead of them, is their comparison with Vermont, which they lose despite a massive RPI advantage:
This is a PWR specialty: ignoring a huge gap in one category that takes every game into account—RPI—in favor of two narrow gaps in categories featuring far fewer games. Notre Dame has some vulnerable comparisons:
- Miami swept ND, so that comparison is tied at two. There is no TUC comparison because ND is only 6-3 for that comparison (H2H wins are removed from TUC, for some reason). Miami has two against OSU; sweep there and find an ND TUC loss or two somewhere and Miami can take it.
- ND also lost to Denver earlier in the year; that COP comparison is tied and the TUC opponents are borderline.
- Minnesota is tied w/ Notre Dame on Common Opponents and both finish their season with teams the other has played, so there's some wiggle. Minnesota is currently .500 against TUC and has an opportunity to better themselves.
- NoDak has a TUC edge and is tied on COP, but ND plays MSU this weekend and getting more than a split would give it to ND.
- Northeastern wins COP and is slightly behind in TUC.
None of these comparisons is particularly close to flipping—and the Vermont one is basically a coin toss—but if ND ends up losing any two of these and Michigan holds on to its current spot GR is possible. It's not likely, but it's possible. You're rooting for the six teams listed above and Michigan State.
And about the stuff on the ice.
It's nice that the grinders are scoring and so forth and so on, but Palushaj and Caporusso haven't been scoring of late and that has to give you some pause. The thing this Michigan team lacks is that one top-end forward that you desperately want on the ice when you're trailing late. See: Hensick, Porter, Kolarik, Cammalleri, Comrie, et al. This year I know I'd like to see Caporusso and Palushaj and Sidekick, I guess, but more because I know they have a lot of points and must obviously be pretty good at getting them. They lack that je ne sais quoi.
Yes, this may be a dumb criticism to level at two guys tied for sixth nationally in scoring.
We suck so bad on two on ones. Speaking of: the Hensick years totally spoiled me as far as two-on-ones go. Hensick had the magical ability to maneuver himself in such a way that the defender couldn't block the pass nor could the goalie poke it and then it was just on the other guy's stick and all the other guy had to do was shovel it into an open net. They had a ridiculous conversion rate on those. This year I can't remember a single goal from a two-on-one. I'm not even totally excited about them anymore.
Okay, the goalie debate is not so much a debate. Hogan played very well on the weekend, though I'd prefer it if he stopped letting pucks leak through his body and ponderously wander towards the net where they can be illegally kicked in. Assuming that's a fluke, though, whatever questions there were in the goalie situation after Hogan gave up 3 goals on 11 shots against UNO and got pulled were resolved when 1) it was clear Hogan was ill last week and 2) he had a couple of impressive games against OSU. Even if the two were playing at exactly the same level, you go with the guy who hasn't imploded in the last two NCAA tournaments.
Brandon Naurato? It's not quite the same as benching Manny Harris for overtime, but the inexplicable reinsertion of Brandon Naurato into the lineup was, well, inexplicable. Even if Lebler is injured or something, I'd go with Ciraulo, who's done something other than take bad penalties in the past six months.
Bumped to the front page for those of you wondering who to cheer for/against this weekend.
Events broke perfectly for Michigan throughout the week in the college basketball world. In addition to a pair of good wins since last Sunday, the Wolverines found an ally in the out of town scoreboard. Every night has brought carnage to the bubble. Many of Michigan's bubble brethern fell, some twice, and lost key swing games.
The upshot? For that answer, we'll break out the latest Bracket Matrix chart. A total of 19 brackets, nearly one-third of the now 60 brackets tracked, have been updated since the close of day Thursday and Michigan's resounding win over Minnesota. Of those, 15 pushed the Wolverines up the chart and into the field of 65.
The overall numbers still dont look to great, but consider Michigan's surge just in the last 48 hours. When the week began, Michigan was only in nine total fields. The Wolverines saw their support dwindle throughout the week until only six mock brackets had placed Michigan. The Wolverines had fallen to eighth from last out of the comprehensive matrix. When Michigan tipped off Thursday night against the Gophers, the Temple Owls were in more fields than Michigan. Temple? Really? I didn't realize a fourth place team in the Atlantic 10 was that impressive. Were Pepe Sanchez and Mark Macon granted more eligibility and nobody told me?
All bracketologists needed to see was a big Michigan win, and the Maize and Blue delivered resoundingly Thursday night. It was cool to see Michigan elevated into Lunardi's ESPN field, where he has the Wolverines a 13-seed. This guy annually nails the field on the spot, so as long as we stay in his bracket, Michigan fans ought to feel confident on Selection Sunday. The Bracket Project has steadily moved Michigan up its NIT bracket lines and finally leapt the Wolverines into the field, where they check in as an 11-seed. The Bracket Junkie still has UM as an 11-seed, but Michigan saw themselves promoted up four spots to seventh from last team in the field. RPI's Jerry Palm, who is trying to predict what the field will look like on Selection Day, as opposed to giving us a snapshot of what the bracket would look like today, has Michigan in the field for the first time this season since he started doing his projections. Even in updated fields leaving Michigan out, there is good news to report. College Hoops Net did not list UM as even one of their final eight teams out earlier in the week. But, today, Michigan sits on the cusp as the last team cut from his Friday afternoon update.
The surge in support pushed Michigan up to second from last in the Matrix complete look. But, 41 brackets, many of which do not have Michigan in yet, have not updated since the win and won't update until after this weekend is in the books. A win tomorrow with some strategic losses across the country today and Michigan will likey see enough comprehensive support to get into the Matrix field. In case you think thats too many minds to change, consider of the 15 brackets that have UM in the field post Minnesota victory, only two had them in their field prior to that game. And, they now have more than twice as many bids as Temple, helpfully shielding readers here from a hateful Temple rant.
All this transpires on the eve of one of the more compelling weekends of the season for teams sitting on the bubble. Games between bubble mates litter the schedule today. If Michigan can take care of business tomorrow, one reason to assume an even greater movement in the Matrix is the fact that with so many head to heads, plenty of teams elbowing for room will fall by the wayside. By Monday morning, we may have our clearest bubble picture yet in this goofy season. We know the outcome of Michigan's game will go a long way in painting that picture. Here are some other games to keep a rooting interest today.
Notre Dame at Providence. Noon, ESPN Full Court. Line, Prov -2
It ought to be fun watching these schools attempt to play defense. There are 5 games in the NBA tonight. I set the total at 2.5 for number of those games this matchup between the Irish and Friars will outscore. Any takers? Sign on up!Michigan is farther ahead of Notre Dame than Providence in the pecking order, so I actually think Michigan fans should pull for the Irish, even if it opens the door for their rise up the bubble.
Boston College at Miami. Noon, no tv. Line, Miami -7
According to the Matrix, this is a consensus 9-seed (BC) versus the consensus fourth team out (Miami). Time is running out on the Hurricanes. Without a win today, you have to wonder if the Canes can do enough from here on out to merit consideration outside of a deep run in the ACC Tournament. This has to be considered a must win.
Tennesseee at Kentucky. 1pm, CBS. Line, UK -3
Again using the Matrix as a barometer, this is a #8 vs a #11. Kentucky is the lesser seed here and in desperation mode. They've lost four of six and are in real danger of being kicked out of a majority of brackets if they dont stop the bleeding. Michigan in the NCAA field, but not Kentucky? Yeah, right. That's a joke. What's next, the Cats on a longer bowl streak in football than Michigan? Oh. Wait. Nevermind.
Baylor at Oklahoma State. 1:30pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, OSU -4.5
Without really doing anything all that impressive, the Cowboys are making a move up the bubble. They've lost all their key games it seems in both league and OOC play. But, if they keep winning, they could sneak in there. This team is young, and probably more talented right now than Michigan. But, their defense is suspect, so they are vulnerable today to Baylor's similar up the floor tempo. The Bears are a disappointment this year, but if they can conjure up a winning streak, they could be a strong bubble team by the time league tournaments roll around. In the end, this game could give the Providence/ND game a run for their money as far as total points goes.
Louisville at Cincinnati, 2pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, L'Ville -5
The Bearcats surprising run to a bid faces a make or break game this afternoon. Seeded 12 in the latest Matrix, CU is the shakiest of at-large teams. A home win against top-10 Louisville legitimizes them and they will leap a couple of seed lines. A loss pushes them out of the field, with a limited road map for re-entry at their disposal the rest of the way.
Marquette at Georgetown. 2pm, ESPN. Line, G'Town -3.5
The Hoyas are the sixth to last team cut from the Matrix field. But, they have played a tough schedule and have enough quality wins where they wont need a good looking record to sneak into the field. But, they have to start stringing together some wins. A win over Marquette today cures a lot of the ills plaguing the Hoyas. It will put them on the right track and in line for a bid as long they can a get a couple more wins down the stretch. A loss forces them to sweep their next two games against Louisville and Syracuse, or else get ready for an NIT home game.
Vanderbilt at Florida. 3pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Florida -8.5
Florida is a near unanimous selection across the bracketologist spectrum, landing as a Matrix 10 seed. They already have 20 wins. But, they're trending a bit downward and have lost three of five. With five games left, if they repeat the number the Gators might find that a lot of teams are passing them. The slate is rough. After this game, they play each of the four other likely SEC bid candidates. Does a Gator loss today open the door for a collapse?
SDSU at New Mexico. 3pm, no tv. Line, NM -5
Nothing has been able to displace Steve Fisher's club from their mock invite. Now, they face a tough test against the Lobos this afternoon. I dont think the Aztecs can afford too many more losses and still get consensus support in mock brackts. They're an 11 in the Matrix and a loss, despite on the road to a decent league foe, might turn a lot of double digit seed projections into NIT invites.
UNC at Maryland. 3:30pm. ABC. Line, UNC -12.5
Good news Terps fans, if you can win one or two of your final three homes games, then the squad could be a road sweep of two bottom feeders away from getting a bid. The bad news, those home games are against UNC, Duke and Wake. Good luck. That trek begins today against the Heels. I know from a SOS standpoint, UM could spin a Terrapin win positively. But, then again, does Michigan want to be on the bubble with a team that has such high end, recent scalps, not to mention a head to head win over them? I say no. I'm pulling for the Heels here.
Kansas State at Iowa State. 6pm, no tv. Line KSU- 3.5
Kansas State has been yo-yoing in and out of the field for about a month now. Right now, they're on the wrong side looking in, placing third from last out of the field, right behind Michigan, in the Matrix. At one time, Hilton Magic ruled, and Ames was an impossible place to get a win for road teams. However, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Fizer and Fred Hoiberg are not walking through that door. Its sad to see Iowa State irrelevant, but hopefully for one night they can conjure up the ghost of Johnny Orr and Hilton Magic can rule again. A loss here cripples KSU the way a possible loss tomorrow to Iowa would to Michigan.
Texas AM at Texas Tech. 6pm, no tv. Line, TAMU -1
Just once, I wish the folks on Game Day would ask Bobby Knight how he feels about his son turning Tech into a high scoring, no defense outfit. It would make good TV, seeing him take a swing at, I dont know, how about Jay Bilas? Are we into that? Sweet! What we're not into is a resurgent Aggie squad. Their easy win the other night against Texas puts them back on the map. The Aggies are cruising towards something like 22 wins and with OOC victories over LSU and Arizona, they can make a compelling case for a bid. With a handful of winnable games down the stretch, they can easily take care of the sub par league record marring their resume. A loss to a second division Red Raider team, though, might derail their surge enough to neutralize it entirely.
Washington at USC. 7pm, no tv. Line, USC -2
With 23 bids, the Trojans are the only team left out of the Matrix with more mock invites than the Wolverines. USC has not played in a week since being swept on their Arizona tour. Only the bubble chaos around them kept them in as many fields this week as they're in. They wont survive any of the next cutdowns if they lose again, even to a quality foe like UW. At the least, a USC loss and UM win tomorrow will enable Michigan to surpass the Trojans.
Florida St at Virginia Tech. 8pm, no tv. Line VT -3
According to the Matrix, this is a 6 (FSU) vs 11 (VT). On the surface, these clubs are trending in opposite directions. The Noles have been climbing, but the Hokies thanks to consecutive losses to Maryland and UVA are hanging on by a thread. Both of these clubs face treacherous schedules over the final two weeks. Wins for either might be hard to come by after today, so the loser faces the real possibility of a losing run that will extend into March. That's not a good thing. I think a road win by FSU would benefit Michigan more. Remember, we've been tracking 5 ACC bubble teams and hoping that three would fall by the wayside. Maryland and Miami are already out. Tech is almost out. If all three lose today, we'll have been granted one of bubble wishes as the final weeks begin.
Oklahoma at Texas. 9pm, ESPN. Line, Texas -1
The marquee ESPN game of the night. In one corner a title contender with one of game's best players. In the other corner, Texas, a team spiraling in the wrong direction. In the Sooners they have the wrong opponent to try and get out of this funk. The Horns have lost four of their last six, a la Kentucky. A loss tonight drops them to .500 in league play. They appear to be a solid 8-seed according to the Matrix, but for how long if they keep losing?
BYU at UNLV. 11pm, no tv. Line, UNLV -2
This late night game in the desert is between a #10 (BYU) and #11 UNLV) according to the Matrix. How does the loser stay in anybody's fields come Monday morning? At worst the loser will fall behind Michigan, provided the Wolverines can take care of business tomorrow.
2/19/2009 – Michigan 74, Minnesota 62 – 17-10, 7-7 Big Ten
Last year's Minnesota game, an uncompetitive loss in a lost season and a game in which the bulk of the noise came from a bizarre collection of Minnesota students adrift in the upper deck, was so completely dire that in the aftermath I scolded Michigan for reminding Cazzie Russell that he Built This House:
So he stood with his bearing, and listened to his accomplishments -- which are many -- and was then told he stood in the House Cazzie Built and that seemed like kind of a cruel thing to tell a nice old man who never did you any harm. The House Cazzie Built is half-empty, overrun by bums from half a continent away, and home to a team likely to set records for futility.
I titled that monument to self pity "It's only dark in your hearts," though I did have the self-awareness to tag that post "emo," at least. It was pretty bad. You might have been there, in which case you know.
Here is where the flash forward goes: this time when they played Minnesota, Michigan was up twenty with ten minutes left instead of down that many, and instead of leaving before the atmospheric pressure caved my skull in I was… uh… enjoying… the… basket-ball(?). It remains a bizarre concept even months after UCLA and Duke and the generalized creeping respectability. Michigan has completed step one of their three-part plan towards a long-overdue return to the NCAA tournament.
It's nice to be able to care again. That opinion is liable to reverse itself on a dime, especially if something equally inexplicable and foreboding and ridiculous as an uncontested Courtney Sims dunk goes awry and Michigan flails its way into the NIT one more time, but for the moment I'll take relevance in late February. If we are being honest with ourselves this was an NIT team that shot well in two critical games and twice managed to avoid season-killing awful losses by dint of grit and luck and many, many inadvisable three pointers.
Here they stand ahead of all reasonable projections, needing to split the next four and lift that ever-heavier burden on the program, thanks to a backdoor pass from Jevohn Shepherd and a rain of Zach Novak threes and a Laval Lucas-Perry three that caught the front rim and feathered its way home. Things could be much worse.
- Beilein should find some way to platoon CJ Lee and Kelvin Grady with Lee playing all the defense and Grady all the offense. I heard tell the Northwestern game featured some absolutely comical attempts to break a press that resulted in turnovers. Against Minnesota Grady just shredded it. But he couldn't stay in front of his guy on D again, giving up some easy buckets.
- The thing that really, really bothers me about basketball officiating is how demonstrative the refs are. This can best be seen on charges and continuations, when 90% of refs take the opportunity to let their inner Siegfried or Roy loose with hopping, pointing, slithering dance moves. No. You are supposed to be a robot. If you show more emotion than the Terminator you are failing at your job.
- The world makes much more sense when the three-pointers are falling, doesn't it?
- I hesitate to get ahead of myself here because for every ridiculous game Novak or Douglass turns in there's a clunker or three—see Novak's 21.5% on threes the last five games—but after a game like last night it's hard not to get excited about the program's future. Unless there's attrition Michigan will be replacing a few role players with Morris, Vogrich, McLimans, Morgan, and Cronin next year, and if you want to throw in Eso Akunne as a walk-on replacement go ahead. Even if the bigs are projects they should help immensely on the defensive end; Morris fills a big hole at point guard, and Vogrich will put heat on Douglass and Novak for playing time.
Guess it didn't go good. You might recall the stunningly annoying/developmentally disabled Notre Dame fan/future player standing behind yrs truly at the ND-M game at Yost; if so, know that I and a few others have concluded that that fan must have been Cam Fowler simply because he was too tall to be any of the other USNTDP kids committed to ND for next year. At one point Fowler jawed that if his grades went "good" he'd be playing for ND next year.
2010 NHL draft stud Cam Fowler of the U.S. under-18 squad has de-committed from Notre Dame. This is the first step toward an official announcement of his signing with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires.
Algebra and geography and, you know, like, stuff did not go good, I guess. That's a major blow to ND; Fowler may have trouble spelling his name but is widely regarded a top-ten NHL draft pick.
Ha. I love this verdict to tiny little bits:
A Washtenaw County jury today found former Wolverine Marlin Jackson was defamed by a fellow student who falsely accused him of assault with a bottle at an off-campus party in 2003. The six-member panel also awarded Jackson, a defensive back with the Indianapolis Colts, $225,000 in damages --roughly the equivalent of a draft slot in the NFL, said his attorney, Ellis Freatman.
One Shahin Farokhrany—who certainly looks like an eminently punchable douchebag—sued Jackson for ten million dollars after accusing him of striking him with a bottle. Evidently this did not occur, and now EPD Farokhrany is on the hook for a cool two hundred grand plus attorney's costs. Score one for Jackson.
Croosh the Illini. I haven't embedded a Wolverine Historian video in a while, so here's ten minutes of Michigan beating Illinois 38-14 in 1995:
Speaking of. The JCCW says a prayer for beatwriters:
It's flattering, but the ironic truth is that I leach (not unfairly, but still) off the work of Auburn's beat writers 10,000 times more than I'm sure they leach from me. The number of times Messrs. Woodbery, Goldberg, Tate, Bitter, and Brietzke have felt the need to link to me can still be counted on one hand. … Without those guys, the JCCW doesn't have any news to report, no breaking stories to react to, no quotes to parse. At that point it's all Rumor and Speculation, and while there's always ways to dig through the topsoil of Rumor and Speculation to get to the truth buried underneath, it's not an easy or particularly fun process. Beat writers, in my view, are an essential set of cogs in this great big machine we call Being an Auburn Fan.
Which is why it always makes my skin crawl a bit when I see bloggers celebrating the death of the newspaper.
While newspapers are imploding in spectacular fashion you're not going to see them disappear of the map entirely.
Given the current vectors a couple of these guys will end up locked behind paywalls, but there's always going to be at least one free beatwriter sort; failing that you're going to see athletic departments get involved with the dissemination of information. How many articles about Steven Threet's transfer do you need? Before the internet the answer was "as many as there are newspapers"; now the answer is "one." Not one two three four five six and probably more that I can't be bothered to turn up right now. Unless said writer has some sort of special inside relationship with the program or coaches, as Angelique Chengelis did with Lloyd Carr, their work is completely redundant with everyone else out there, with limited exceptions. And since in Michigan's case those exceptions seem to be limited to the student newspaper unearthing more actual information than the professionals, let's not get too worked up over the imminent departure of some random guy writing the same exact stories as some other random guy at another news organization.
A beatwriter is important, and the one or two or three folks best qualified will see it through. The rest of them have a future in PR; their departure will be felt by no one. Kids, if you're angling to write about sports for a living don't make the vast bulk of your writing a commodity replicable by anyone with an editor. Pretend you're going to be asked to justify your existence, Onion-style, every week.
Do we have expectations? The good doctor has been wondering about Michigan with frequency of late, and his latest runs down the list of true freshman quarterbacks deployed at power programs with an eye towards the Forcier/Robinson pairing that will, ready or not, be thrust into the Michigan QB job come fall. The results are predictably grim, with no team on the list finishing with fewer than three losses and several cratering spectacularly:
A quick check of the successful teams reveals things like Beanie Wells and Braylon Edwards and Darren McFadden and Knowshown Moreno, and while Michigan isn't as bereft of talent as Baylor they aren't exactly sprouting obvious top ten draft picks from every available orifice.
DocSat ends on a grim note:
In the wake of last year's Chernobyl-like meltdown, .500 and a middling bowl game with a true freshman starter who eventually solidifies himself as a long-term answer might suit Michigan just fine. If you compare the Wolverines to the handiest available precedent, Notre Dame's rebound campaign last year, that's as far as the Irish bounced off their 3-9 disaster, and that was with a sophomore with a full season under his belt and the world at his feet as a recruit. Forcier is very, very reminiscent of a less-hyped, more athletic Jimmy Clausen, another relatively polished California kid preceded by in the big-time college ranks by his older brother. Unlike Charlie Weis, though, who was coming off a pair of BCS bowl bids in his first two seasons in South Bend, Rich Rodriguez can't really afford another mulligan.
I was basically with him up until the final sentence, which suggests that expectations for Charlie Weis' fourth year were softer than they will be for Rodriguez's second, something which might be true if Rodriguez had the same sort of head coaching resume Weis did: none. The BCS bowl bids Weis picked up his first two years may have bought him some time; shouldn't the BCS bowl bids Rodriguez acquired at West Virginia afford him the same sort of leniency?
Walkin' on. The Big House Blog has been rounding up various kids who have accepted preferred walk-on spots. There are a couple of linemen unlikely to ever see the field, but fullback Calvin Smith seems pretty relevant given Mark Moundros and Owen Schmitt and so on and so forth:
Smith, who played his senior year of high school at Joliet Catholic Academy after three years at Providence Catholic, has accepted an invitation to attend the University of Michigan as a preferred walk-on.
Michigan's coach, Rich Rodriguez, was at West Virginia through the 2007 season. He brought Schmitt on board as a walkon. Schmitt, now a rugged 6-foot-2, 247 pounder, earned a scholarship and, eventually, the opportunity to hear his name called on draft day.
So why not the 6-2, 235 Smith?
Michigan is going to need a fullback after Moundros graduates this year, and with Vince Helmuth currently trying to scratch out a living as a defensive tackle Smith looks to have the inside track. More walk-ons will join him, but Rodriguez isn't going to recruit anyone to be the heir apparent:
"There's only true fullback at Michigan now," Smith said. "Coach Rodriguez said all his fullbacks start out as walkons. But he has had 30 walkons total in five years who eventually were on scholarship.
Etc.: Ticket prices decline slightly; a diarist interviews TX DT Jay Guy but cannot forestall him from committing to Cal, unfortunately. Deadspin, which jumped the shark about six seconds after Leitch left, is now taking body blows from the internet for being wantonly retarded.
Okay, since my departure the following things went down with the basketball team:
- They clubbed Penn State by 20 at Crisler.
- They lost solidly but played pretty well against UConn.
- They were clubbed by Michigan State in an ugly game.
- They squeezed by Northwestern in overtime.
Michigan now stands at 16-10 and 6-7 in conference. The vast and wide assumption has been that a .500 Big Ten record gets them in, so to be assured of a spot in the tournament Michigan must go 3-2 against this schedule:
- @ Iowa
- @ Wisconsin
- @ Minnesota
Is this doable? Eh… it'll be difficult. Iowa is crappy and Michigan should be able to handle them on the road—if they don't it's pretty much over, anyway. Minnesota and Wisconsin aren't exactly tearing up the Big Ten, either, as both of them are just one game ahead of Michigan in the conference standings, but Wisconsin clubbed Michigan earlier in the year. Purdue is 9-4 in conference, 20-6 overall, and seems like a good bet to beat Michigan even on the road.
It's ugly at Kenpom, which has Michigan favored in exactly one game—tonight's matchup against Minnesota—and foresees 8-10. Which, credit to Kenpom, has been its stalwart prediction since the Big Ten season opened.
Could Michigan get in at 8-10? Eh… maybe, what with those dual UCLA/Duke wins from earlier in the season, but they'd almost have to win twice in the Big Ten tournament, which would require a second-round neutral court victory over Purdue or Michigan State, most likely: tough sledding.
That makes tonight's game huge. Michigan's best bet appears to be winning tonight and taking out Iowa on the road, which would give them three cracks at that ninth Big Ten win. Even if none of those cracks is particularly likely, the odds would be in their favor then. Now, not so much.
I wish I could provide some more detailed analysis, but I haven't seen anything in two weeks and just have the vaguest outlines of what's gone down: LLP imploded, Grady benched, Harris erratic but keeping the team afloat in some games, everyone tiny still, etc.
UMHoops has a more detailed preview. Minnesota's strengths include defense, forcing turnovers, and offensive rebounds; their weaknesses include turnovers of their own and shooting. If this seems a dire harbinger you're not alone:
This is a battle of two teams who are really struggling on the offensive end lately and it might be ugly, for our sake let’s hope its not as ugly as Penn State’s 38-33 win last night over Illinois.