It's was sunny and lovely out yesterday in Michigan. Sunday night's storm swept the humidity aside and deposited rain where it belongs: on my lawn. So why did it feel like that sun was a little darker, that sky a little hazier, this July a little less nice than the June that preceded it? Oh, right.
It's official: our moms are forcing us to play with Scott Malkinson.
Why is this happening again? Well they're joining for the money: both schools have had relatively bad athletic departments who over-leveraged themselves in the big sport facility and coaching arms races, Rutgers less so than Maryland, but then Rutgers was about to wind up trapped in the sinking ship of the Big East/American. Maryland has massive debt from its building projects and the ACC ain't gonna pay them, so they were ready to whore themselves out to whichever conference came along, even if it meant an end to their relationship with Duke.
(No, Penn State fans don't care about either as rivals.)
The real question is why in the heck we'd want them. It's cable TV. Starting with the Big Ten, the big conferences have been getting in on the great scam of cable bundling. Cable providers have monopolies in their markets, and are second only to the military-industrial complex in political spending, all so they can force subscribers into all-or-nothing tiers of hundreds of channels to get one they want (and try to charge people extra to not get their internet slowed).
Big Ten's Expansion Plan: rip off the cable companies after they rip off America. [Image credit: HuffPo]
This works out very well for the cable giants but leaves them a particular vulnerability to any network with a sports license. Fiercely loyal college football fans will scream at their cable providers if they can't watch the game, and advertisers lust after sports because they're the last of the DVR-proof live events, so cable providers pay out the nose for the network with the game. Then they place that network on a relatively accessible tier that everybody in that market must pay for, and raise prices accordingly.
In this way, if there are just enough A&M fans in Dallas, every cable subscriber in Dallas will pay an extra $5/month to the SEC and its partner (ESPN). If there are just enough Missouri fans in St. Louis, if there just enough Maryland fans in D.C. metro area, if there are just enough Rutgers fans in New York City, etc. The Big Ten schools are gambling on there being enough Rutgers fans to scam $5/month from everyone in New York. So far they've already got New Jersey and Maryland.
The gamble for the schools is they think they'll sell out the stadiums no matter who's visiting, so who gives a damn if it's Maryland visiting instead of Wisconsin. The fans aren't going to see a dime of the Comcast deal (at least not at Michigan—most schools are a little less adversarial to their fans) and just have to decide to put up with the new faces, or not.
In the list of downsides, there are worse things that can happen than having Wisconsin disappear forever, or the invention of more derived, ugly trophies. So long as it ends with Ohio State and MSU is in there, it's a Michigan season, while any Notre Dame or Minnesota you can sprinkle in is appreciated. To put the loss in context I thought I'd look through Michigan's history with the conference with respect to the frequency we've faced various conference rivals.
A History of Western/Big Ten Conference Scheduling
Early years (1892-1906): Prior to the invention of the conference, Michigan already played some of its future rivals. They played Chicago twice in 1893 (both on the road), and even after joining the conference Michigan had an extra (non-conference) game against Chicago's med students.
There were seven teams in the original 1896 conference—Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Chicago—with Indiana and Iowa joining in 1899. Teams customarily only played games in October and November, and Michigan played anywhere from two to five conference opponents a year. The 1906 team (the last before leaving the conference for a time) played just one conference game (Illinois) among five games plus an alumni exhibition.
If there was any pattern to this, it's that Michigan and Chicago would play every year except 1899 and 1906. There were a few stretches of other rivals lasting not more than four years. The newcomers (Indiana 1900-'03, Iowa 1900-'02) apparently were guaranteed some starter games with Michigan. Wisconsin (1899, 1902-'05) was the next-most regular. Northwestern and Michigan only played twice before M left. Once we did, we played Minnesota twice but nobody else.
That episode where Mr. Burns had to go work for Smithers. I'm sure there is one.
The Big Ten Championship Game and bowl selection gives us an opportunity to zoom out a little.
Who's on the up, how do next year's divisions stack up against each other for the short and long term, and what's the long term outlook for the Big Ten on a national scale (and do you care?)
Mathlete: With Michigan State's title and several preceding years of quality, they have moved into that 1B tier. Ohio State is the only team right now I would consider in the top tier. They have both the recruiting and the on field to be clearly at the top.
I wonder what Coach Dantonio thinks about "1B" status. He probably has a measured, mature response that acknowledges his schedule was kind of easy and his recruiting is lacking. [Fuller]
Joining the Spartans in 1B I would put Wisconsin. Behind them you have the good but definitely behind the top teams group. Unfortunately right now that includes Michigan along with Nebraska, Iowa. In the third group you have the chaos teams. Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota (how did that happen), Penn State and probably Maryland are teams that had a pretty decent year last year despite another rash of injuries. That leaves Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers at the bottom tier.
So if you look at the divisions you have the East with 2 first tiers and 1 second tier team. The West would have 1 first tier and 2 second tier teams. The caveat is that the East's second tier team, Michigan, has been recruiting like a first tier and will finally have a large amount of acclaimed talent in the upper classes. If Michigan can move up to tier one, then the East is considerably more challenging.
On a national scale it's hard to see the Big Ten join the top as a group. The two paths up are recruiting and coaching and right now there is a pretty big gap between the Big Ten and the best in both. If Michigan can start playing like it's recruiting, and 1-2 teams of Michigan St/Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa can play at the top level each year, then that should help the profile of the conference. Three+ really good teams means you move out of ACC territory and get to where a conference champ would be in a position for 2 high quality wins. Ultimately, that's the blueprint for the Big Ten at the top as a conference, 3 high quality teams, 2 high quality wins. Without a foundational shift, the full depth isn't going to match up. But if the top 3 can, the conversation should die down.
Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But the light only touches Ann Arbor.
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24 (W)
Recap: Had the Michigan game gone just a liiiiiittle differently, this would have been a frustrating result. Nebraska would have been Michigan's biggest remaining hurdle to a LeadersVictors Legends Bo (NNTB) Division crown, and pulling one out of their ass like this would have been rather disappointing. Instead, the world just sucks and everything is terrible, so what the hell, FAT GUY HAIL MARY.
Nebraska outgained Northwestern 472-326, but turned the ball over four times and found themselves down 3 when the above hilarity happened. They actually faced a 4th and 15 at their own 24 with under a minute left, and Ameer Abdullah took a dump-off and broke about 4 tackles to gain 16 yards.
Despite the victory, Nebraska’s quarterback situation is a bit of a crap shoot. Taylor Martinez has a strained everything, and didn’t play in this one. Excluding the Fat Guy Hail Mary, Tommy Anderson Jr. and Ron Kellogg III combined for 21/41 for 228 yards (5.6 YPA), one touchdown, and four INTs. Armstrong is more mobile (he gained 69 yards on 17 carries), but his arm was rather Acme Rocket-like; among his three turnovers, he threw one of the worst picks you’ll ever see with about two and a half minutes left deep in its own territory with the game tied.
All things considered, the offense was still very productive, but it’s hard to say if the turnovers can be extricated from that productivity given the quarterback situation. Martinez is reportedly out for the Michigan game, though, which is a significant advantage for Michigan; Nebraska is going to have to tip its hand based on which QB is under center. If Armstrong is out there, I think you’ll see Jake Ryan out there on the assumption that Nebraska will be going run-heavy, whereas if Kellogg is out there Michigan will almost certainly be in a nickel.
This team is as frightening as: Oh hell everything is frightening now, even if it isn’t objectively frightening. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Ameer Abdullah. He’s is already over 1100 yards on the season (or about negative-23 Michigan/MSU games worth), and is averaging 7.1 yards per tote. He's a home run threat who can also be an effective every-down back. With Martinez out last week, Abdullah got 27 touches, and there’s no reason to believe that number will decrease this week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nebraska’s Defensive FEI is 50th in the country… which is actually two spots BETTER than their Offensive FEI. They’ve put up some video game stats, but mostly against terrible defenses. They have played three defenses that are currently ranked in the top 93 in Defensive FEI (#23 UCLA, #30 Northwestern and #46 Minnesota), and have only averaged under 24 points per game in those three matchups. By comparison, they averaged 47 ppg against the #94, #95, #103, and #106 defenses and an FCS opponent. Michigan is statistically the best defense Nebraska will have faced this year.
When they play Michigan: Hurray for home games. Home games are good games. Home games don’t make me throw things.
To make things a little simpler, here's a (chart?) chart of each team's crossover games:
at Iowa, Purdue
Iowa, at Wisconsin
Minnesota, at Northwestern
Nebraska, at Purdue
Illinois, at Minnesota
Northwestern, at Illinois
at Nebraska, Wisconsin
at Ohio State, Penn State
Indiana, at Maryland
at Michigan, Ohio State
at Michigan State, Rutgers
at Penn State, Michigan
Michigan State, at Indiana
Maryland, at Rutgers
Fans of the Little Brown Jug will be happy to see Minnesota as one of Michigan's crossovers; an ever-improving Northwestern squad should be a tough test. Ohio State, meanwhile, gets to feast on the conference's two worst programs—unless you want to make the case for Iowa, which... go right ahead, actually—and woe be upon the Gophers for drawing the Big Two.
Home games in ALL CAPS:
at Notre Dame
at Michigan State
at Ohio State
Yeah, the home schedule suuuuuuucks. This is in part because...
THINGS OF NOTE
The Michigan State series has flipped, so the Wolverines now travel to East Lansing in both 2013 and 2014. Michigan playing in East Lansing in back-to-back years is unprecedented, and the last time they faced both MSU and OSU on the road was in 1966.
With the Notre Dame game in South Bend in 2014, that leaves Penn State—a team with 65 scholarship players—as the marquee home game. Utah isn't very good anymore, so the next-best game at the Big House is probably... Maryland? Ugh.
In related news, it's very possible that Michigan will face their four toughest opponents on the road. That is less than ideal, though at least it sets up for 2015 to have a favorable schedule—especially sans Notre Dame—just as Hoke's juggernaut-laden recruiting classes really begin to take hold.
It really can't be stressed enough how much Minnesota got screwed. Also getting unusually difficult crossover games: Illinois (at OSU, PSU) and Northwestern (at PSU, Michigan). The Illini will probably be bad no matter what, but that's an especially tough break for the Wildcats, which have a legitimate chance to contend in the West.
The biggest takeaways for me are the home schedule, which is the worst in the history of ever, and the unfortunate year-to-year imbalance created by playing MSU on the road for the second straight year. These are related, obviously—since the late '60s, Michigan fans could look forward to a home game against either MSU or OSU every year. Now there's a serious vested interest in Penn State's program somehow remaining strong through the sanctions, if only for the hopes of one interesting home game in even-numbered years.
All in all, things could be far worse for Michigan—the crossover games are reasonable, at least, and odd-numbered years are now set up for some great home slates and generous schedules overall. I can't help but look at that home schedule and feel deeply disappointed, however. Tougher non-conference scheduling can't kick in soon enough.
In retrospect, I bet this is false. But if it's not... A tweet claiming that the six Big Ten hockey programs will receive a two million dollar bonus from the BTN made the rounds, spurring many questions—including mine—about whether this would make a Nebraska or Iowa jump on the sport. Corn Nation has a take from Lincoln assuming that's true, but it also includes a couple facts that make me think the initial tweet is bollocks:
If this number is to be believed, it's a game changer for the rest of the schools in the Big Ten as well as the rest of college hockey. In 2010, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the top three schools in revenue generated by hockey with numbers ranging from $4.1 million for Michigan to $6.6 million for Minnesota. In comparison, Nebraska-Omaha ranked eighth with $2.8 million in total revenue.
Minnesota has a relatively lucrative deal with Fox Sports in which all their games are televised and is at the maximum end of college hockey TV revenues, and they're still at 6.6 total revenue. It doesn't seem realistic that the BTN is going to fork over that much to the hockey schools. That tweet has gone unconfirmed by anyone else, meanwhile.
The best argument in favor of it is that it's a sop to the pissed-off Gophers, but Minnesota's been a net drain in football for 50 years. What are they going to do, leave?
If it is true, that does help expansion quite a bit. According to Kristi Dosh, Michigan State spent 1.7 million on their hockey program in 2009-2010. If anyone's significantly above that it's probably not by much. Title IX means a hockey program has to come with an equivalent womens' sport, so a hypothetical BTN stipend doesn't quite make hockey break-even annually, but add in a reasonable amount of other revenue and it might. Startup costs are still an issue, but if that's a one-time hump to get over I could see certain athletic directors go for it.
#onlyincompetentgermans. Adidas is in hot water with various colleges for an Indonesian labor dispute that has already caused various universities to terminate their (much smaller, likely nonexclusive, not athletic apparel) contracts with the place Germans stash their dim bulbs. Mary Sue Coleman comes in to rattle a saber or two:
Not all of these schools have their athletics apparel contract with adidas. Some only have licensing agreements for merchandise sold in campus bookstores and through other retailers. However, a growing number of universities who have exclusive all-sport contracts with adidas, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, began to give ultimatums and threaten contract termination over the past month.
Not coincidentally, that’s when things took a turn for the better for the former PT Kizone workers. Last week, just days after adidas participated in a conference call with Michigan and neared the end of Michigan’s 45-day cure period, adidas announced a settlement. The agreement is confidential, but a press release from the former PT Kizone workers states, “the former workers will receive a substantial sum from adidas.”
All of this is over a little over two million dollars in severance pay, so this is both possibly unethical (Adidas claims they were clear of this factory six months before it shut) and bogglingly dumb. When Michigan's contract expires, things will be fascinating.
The straight face test. Dave Brandon was against a playoff and then he was okay with the playoff because he didn't consider it a playoff—the naming of the thing must have been a dark day on 1000SSS—and now he's making his paleo arguments again. He's hanging out with BFF Follow Ur Heart Hollis again:
"(Hollis is) right, we’re not going to end any controversy (with the new playoff format), we’re going to create more.
"It’s not going to settle anything (more) about who’s the national champion. There’s going to be a lot of judgment involved with four teams involved."
This is straight false. Taking thing to their logical extreme, the number of people who talk about NCAA tourney snubs the day after the brackets are announced is zero. That won't be the case here because of the restricted field, but abominations like giving an undefeated SEC champ no shot at a title are a thing of the past. When CRex took an extensive look at this last January, in the 14-year BCS sample he came up with "2" as the right number four time. The vast majority of the time the BCS is arbitrarily picking between equal-ish teams we have no data on. Four teams puts another layer of games between random guessing and the title, and cannot be more controversial.
Brandon does have some points about how he doesn't believe four will stick—though it will for at least a decade—and that asking college players to play more and more football is not so ethical. I've got a solution for that, mmm.
The straight face test part 2. Gerry DiNardo is putting on his tinfoil hat, and saying not smart things. I know, different day, same stuff.
"The other thing that concerns me is how much of the Ohio State-Michigan game motivated this, so they could continue to play at the end of the year, and (so) they have to be in the same division,'' DiNardo said. "Because it's possible, by way of example, this year, you'd have to say both of those are two of the favorites in their respective divisions, which means they could play back-to-back weeks (regular season, and Big Ten championship game), which isn't good for the Big Ten or college football.''
DiNardo had suggestions for other ways the Big Ten could have worked around the issues.
"You could see yourself dividing it North and South, still have a geographical boundary, and separate Ohio State and Michigan and play that game early in the year,'' DiNardo said. "As I often say, when I say play Ohio State and Michigan, I think divisional games should be played in the second or third week, when I say that, I run the risk of losing my job. There's other possibilities."
DiNardo is actively campaigning for the Big Ten to make the same mistake the ACC did with Miami and FSU, and his "solution" doesn't even work. Go ahead, divide this North-South:
Assuming M, MSU, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are in the North and that Iowa goes with the triangle of hate, your options are splitting Nebraska from its natural hate partners and putting them in a division with Rutgers, Maryland, and Penn State half a continent away, or making the "South" OSU, PSU, and hot garbage. When the team that is the biggest threat to OSU is under crippling NCAA sanctions for the next decade, your divisional alignment sucks.
I'm arguing with a guy who failed spectacularly despite being surrounded by piles of talent and is arguing against the greatest rivalry in college sports. Next up, I talk to a rock about why it shouldn't bother with gravity.
Michigan State: Placing the Spartans in the East kept the Big Ten from needing a protected crossover for their annual game with Michigan, but it also greatly increases the number of obstacles between Michigan State and the Rose Bowl. The Spartans now have to deal with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in their own division every year, whereas the West would have presented a clearer path to Indianapolis and kept a budding rivalry with Wisconsin going.
Mwahaha. Also a candidate were the Jug and Illibuck trophies. Yes, the Jug is cool, but the series between those two teams is so lopsided losing that as annual event is no big deal. Meanwhile that is the worst road trip in the Big Ten for local M fans: either drive around the lake or suck up the exorbitant flight between Delta hubs. Rutgers is farther away as the crow flies but flights to New York are always dirt cheap. I'll take fewer games with Minnesota.
After months and months of leaks to the effect that the Big Ten would use the opportunity presented by their (nonsensical) expansion to ditch the current divisions and go with a straight East-West breakdown, the Big Ten… actually, wait.
"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.
A source? Didn't we just do this last month? ESPN?
ESPN.com reported last month that the divisions debate was down to whether Purdue or Indiana would go to the West. Purdue's campus is located west of Indiana's.
Yes. We did. Every Big Ten blog has a post on this today. The news: Purdue and Indiana have been situated. This came out in the middle of a surreal terrorist manhunt, and we still care. News is weird, but let's get swept away in the tide of history.
Anyone with a keyboard to tap at is making a Big Ten West == Big 12 North comparison, and… yeah, down to the school that'll probably be making the conference's last stand against the dual hegemony in the other division. The best team out of Iowa/Illinois*/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Purdue/Northwestern will probably be pretty good. They'll be a dog in most every championship game, but this is what happens when you expand with absolutely nothing other than the rapidly-fading cable television model in mind. More like NONsense and NONsensibility and zombies, amirite?
Meanwhile, the other division is Michigan, Ohio State, and Also Ran until such time as Penn State gets off the deck from their NCAA sanctions. Michigan State's trying to puff their chest out, but it's over for them. State's recent run of quasi-relevancy (still no BCS bowls… ever) coincided with a three-year period in which
Michigan was busy punching itself during the brief Rodriguez era
Ohio State was off the schedule (2009 and 2010) or having their one-year tatgate implosion.
MSU has one win over a good OSU team since 1974, and four total. While they've been a little less futile against Michigan, before the Rodriguez run their record the previous 20 years was 5-15. With Michigan and Ohio State poised for decade-plus long runs of coaching stability and recruiting dominance, there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to pick off easy wins against teams struggling to .500 records or worse. It's over.
More interesting is Rutgers. New Jersey is fertile recruiting ground. With Penn State down, eastern Pennsylvania should be easier to get into. They've been recruiting on a level commensurate with a middling Big Ten team despite being stuck in the Big East. If the financial and prestige boost from their move bumps them up a notch, they could become the most annoying ankle-biter in the division.
Penn State has to dig out, obviously, and then who knows what they're like without Joe Paterno? Early returns are good, as they managed to acquire some serious talent despite the sanctions. Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman signed up for a team with three more bowl ban years upcoming—that says something about PSU's enduring pull with Pennsylvania recruits.
They still have no chance to keep pace. They have to be down to 65 players this year and are currently on track to have a recruiting class of eight guys this year even with some attrition that's 10 to 12 players. Doom awaits. By the time they're good the Big Ten will probably be at 84 teams. Short term thinking, that's our motto.
Indiana and Maryland enjoy basketball.
*[Yeah, Illinois. Every ten years they have a good team and then implode.]
Should we be thinking long term?
The ACC is trumpeting a very long "grant of rights" deal that hypothetically locks the TV revenue from the 15 member teams—ND included minus football—to the conference they're currently in until 2027. This will save the conference unless something totally improbable happens. That thing: lawyers!
Unless a league member decides to go to litigation to escape this down the road, the ACC believes a Grant of Rights will protect it from conference realignment poachers.
Because lawyers never get involved in these things. While the GOR provides an extra hurdle, it's a deterrent designed to look super scary. Just how effective it'll be in the event of a departure is unknown. See: Maryland, currently involved in that litigation stuff over a $50 million exit fee the ACC voted in just before they left. Maryland will likely pay something less than that in a settlement.
People in charge of things are just in charge of them
leadership is more about not being clueless than eyebrows
Let us pour out some gasoline for our dead homie division names, and light them on fire. Burning is the most terrible way to die, but as the wisps arise from the charred notions that were "Legends" and "Leaders" it seems far too kind. If that debacle doesn't prove to you once and for all that our tendency to worship any bushy-eyebrowed dim bulb who manages to ascend to the talky bit of any enterprise is destructive, I don't know what to tell you.
Whenever someone cocks their eyebrow at you and condescendingly says that you don't have the vast amounts of information and knowledge they do about complicated geopolitical processes like conference realignment, just remember that those guys are the ones who made the conference a national laughingstock for years. They did this by doing something that was such a bad idea from the start that they promised they'd reconsider after literally every person who heard it laughed in their face.
Therefore their projections that media markets are still going to matter in 10 years…
At least there's that. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games each. It looks like there's an easy way around the unbalanced schedule issue: have all the teams in one division have four one year, five the other.
I'd rather play more Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa than any nonconference opponent you care to name save Notre Dame—RIP, ND series—so I look on this as no downside. With Michigan buying home games from the Oregon States and Cincinnatis of the world, they can have their seventh home game with a nonconference schedule that consists of one cupcake, one interesting guarantee game against a midlevel foe, and one marquee matchup. Well, most of the time. The 2016 nonconference schedule is now locked in: Hawaii, Ball State, and Colorado. Er.
Complicated solution to problem time
Time to re-iterated my desired solution for the basketball situation: everyone plays round-robin, and then the conference is split into a top seven and bottom seven, whereupon another round-robin commences. 19 total games, best overall record wins. Pros:
Conference championship is almost entirely fair. Home-road is unbalanced in the first half, but none of this "you didn't play team X" business. The regular season championship is a really big deal right now; this would make it bigger.
No divisions. Divisions kill the importance of the regular season title.
The last six games for the top half are a must-see all-out war. Dude, take this year's league and do this to it and imagine a stretch run where IU-OSU-M-MSU-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota OR Illinois OR Maryland only play each other. That would be nuts.
Doesn't require you to expand the conference schedule too much to get coverage. No 20, 22 game conference schedules but you don't get all that discussion about how team X doesn't play team Y.
Cons are obvious and large: potentially problematic ticket sales since you don't know who you're playing or when, a potential for teams near the bubble to get blasted off it (if you're #7 in the top half) or have little opportunity to climb out of it (for #8 stuck with the little people). I stole the RR-split-RR system from Scottish soccer, which has a compelling narrative at the bottom as teams try to avoid relegation that doesn't exist in college sports.
In any case, they could at least try it and see if the upside outweighs the downside.
I'm pretty sure this is Delvon Roe. Yeah, this guy has been doing this for years.
This person has 375 youtube videos in which he wears an Optimus Prime mask and Gorilla costume while extolling Michigan State things. Delvon Roe was an acting major or something and now spends 90% of his time trashing Denard Robnson on twitter. QED.
Our brief regional nightmare nears an end. After chatter chatter chatter for months about what the new and devolved Big Ten will look like, Adam Rittenberg reports that this whole "geography" thing is going to get a spin and the last decision to make is which Indiana team to put in each division. The future of your football, at least until Florida (Gulf Coast) gets added:
Purdue or Indiana
Michigan State was apparently not able to weasel its way into the West division and force Michigan into a protected crossover, so there's that. The Indiana teams will get a protected crossover, and that'll be the only one.
A nine-game conference schedule is on the docket for 2016, which will allow Michigan to play teams in the other division slightly less than half the time. The goal is "for every pair of teams to play at least once every four years." Conference expansion, y'all.
For balance purposes the East should get Indiana, which has not had a recent run of success like that of Purdue under Joe Tiller. Rittenberg concurs, or rather I'm agreeing with him since he wrote his thing first. Whatever.
Goodbye, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Brown Jug game. Hello… you. At least I don't have to figure out if I should root for Ohio State anymore.
What is doubt? Baby don't hurt me, no more. I no longer have any reference for what is reasonable doubt of Michigan and what is flat-out hatin'. Still, my vibe from the various NCAA talking-head shows was that all things were extrapolated from Michigan's lack of tourney pedigree and flameout last year. Michigan was a popular upset pick in the first round, and even if that was avoided most discussions centered on how awesome VCU was and how they would cut through the tourney like a hot knife through butter.
I said this back before, but if I was VCU, Michigan is the last team I would want to see as a second-round matchup. You thrive on turnovers. Here is a John Beilein team piloted by Trey Burke. Sad Panda. Meanwhile, this Wolters kid at SDSU is pretty good… and his team has two guys taller than 6'6" and a defensive rating in the 200s. Also John Beilein has a pretty decent tourney record himself despite last year.
In any case, there are a couple people reacting to the televised Michigan-trashing. Luke Winn is one despite being the guy calling BS on Michigan as a national title contender because of their defense a few months ago:
Upset I Don't Like: No. 13 South Dakota State over No. 4 Michigan. Nate Wolters is a cult hero -- I wrote an ode to his brilliance in November -- and Wolters vs. Trey Burke should be quite the show. But Burke was shut down last year by a defensive-minded mid-major star (Ohio's D.J. Cooper), and Wolters is far from a lockdown guy. Nor is his team. The Jackrabbits have the fourth-worst defense in the entire bracket, which doesn't bode well for their ability to hold the Wolverines' high-powered offense in check. A fun game to watch, no doubt, but it won't be an upset.
While he adds Michigan to his "why I'm hesitant about five teams you might like" section he also adds the #1 and #2s from this bracket in there and predicts Michigan to the Elite Eight against Florida. I would take that.
BONUS: Winn's random upset pick is Valpo over Michigan State. Oh, Luke Winn, you cad. I'm not that… yes I am. Yes, yes I am.
THE VERY UNBONUSEST: Damn near everyone is calling an Ohio State-Wisconsin regional final. Having no compulsion at all about rooting for Ohio State to win a 38-33 game is the worst.
I think Meinke gave that short shrift. There's quite a bit of player-coach interaction in there. That was interesting to me. Hoke exhorts, Hoke orders a rep, Hoke says minimal progress has been made and seems slightly mollified. I enjoy anything that shows you the way these guys interact with the players, enjoy the detail Hoke and Mattison and Funk get down to in these things.
As long as it doesn't play "not to lose," everything should be fine, the Wolverines say.
"We missed layups, we played not to lose (against Ohio) and (now), we're going to try to do everything we can to go in there and play to win," Michigan coach John Beilein said Sunday night.
This entire article made me sad for the people who have to say things to the media, and the media that has to write them down. Their mutual existence leads to statements like this:
"We just focus on this game, this is a different team," Morgan said. "This Michigan team is a different team.
"And I'm not saying that in a bad way, I'm just saying (the Ohio loss) doesn't necessarily haunt us."
The most innocuous comment possible is followed up by a disclaimer. This is our lot, we readers and talkers and writers.
We're what? The Big Ten is paying Maryland 20 to 30 million extra in travel subsidy? We needed the Terrapins to turn our league into bloated chaos that we're giving them extra money to not be sad with? Gahhhhhhh. HERE IS YOUR MONEY YOU WILL FIND THAT YOUR SADNESS IS INHERENT TO YOUR EXISTENCE AND YOU MUST WORK ON YOUR INNER PEACE TO FIND HAPPINESS. RESIGN YOUR BODY TO ITS DESTRUCTION AND FREE YOUR MIND, MARYLAND.
Totem animal qualities. I thought this was an interesting shot from the extensive ESPN galleries put up in and around the OSU/Indiana games. It's a switch board; each player has an abstract quality they would like to embody they are supposed to dwell on:
Yes, it bothers me that some of these things are qualities one can possess—toughness, perspective, pose—and others are not. You cannot have "smart"; You can be smart. One can have determination; you cannot be determination.
Given the WE ON shirts, we can put grammar next to drawing free throw attempts as Michigan's main weaknesses.
Trice nyet. Travis Trice will miss The Big Game tonight. That leaves MSU with little on their perimeter bench other than Denzel Valentine, a slick-passing wing type with a whopping 31 in the TOrate department. So maybe not as slick passing as you'd hope if you're Tom Izzo. MSU also has Russell Byrd, who's like Stauskas if Stauskas was hitting 18% of his threes.
Expect both backcourts to get scant rest, then. Projected MSU minutes without at least one of Appling/Harris: 0. Impact won't be large except in the unlikely event that Harris or Appling gets in foul trouble.
In the negative column, it doesn't seem like Jordan Morgan will be available, either, after Michigan "shut him down."
Foul: nyet? The foul-or-defend up three late discussion has been raging for years, to the point where Ken Pomeroy's effort starts its title with "Yet another. " Most studies show there's little difference; further most give the slight edge to playing D. Kenpom's results:
W L OT Win% Cases
Foul 122 5 10 92.7 137
Defend 598 2 77 94.0 677
That gap is narrow enough that the gap could be chance, but you can say that there's no evidence fouling is better in practice. Note that Michigan's recent misfortune does not make these statistics since this data only covers possessions that start with between 5 and 12 seconds on the clock, which will no doubt give our local Bo Ryans the wiggle room to say this does not apply. While I'm still on Team Foul, the margins here are so narrow that it doesn't seem that important. Certainly less important than the pending invasion of the planet.
I mean, NBA types are two of 64 on similar shots since 1996. Debating whether or not that late game strategy is correct is like debating whether the windows are ready for a hurricane when you live in Michigan.
More games: da. We've heard it before only to have it go poof, but yet another round of stories endorsing a nine or ten game conference schedule has burst onto the internet, leaving a legendary trail of leadership viscera behind:
After spending Monday in meetings with coaches and athletic directors at conference headquarters in Park Ridge, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the Tribune the status quo of eight conference games “is not even on the table right now.”
It will be nine or 10, with the decision to be made this spring.
Insert the usual AD assertions that without seven home games they will have to dress all of their teams in sackcloth and ashes, but it looks like at least nine games are on the way.
Also on the table: November night games, early conference games, and the usual chatter about having an East-West split. The bizarre bit in there:
Central time zone schools Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern could be joined by Indiana, Purdue, Michigan or Michigan State. Delany said the conference would try to “figure out a way” to maintain rivalries between in-state schools.
Michigan State keeps getting lumped in with the schools that could be put in the other division… and Michigan is actually in here as well. No further words need to be spent on how dumb it is to have Michigan and Ohio State in opposite divisions; assuming that's not the case, hopefully MSU isn't allowed to nonsensically flee the division Michigan is in and expect to maintain an annual rivalry with them.
Although the Big Ten presented the athletic directors -- and several university presidents who came to the league office Sunday -- with several models for divisions, don't be surprised if the league decides to keep things simple with an East-West alignment following the additions of both Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The simplest solution -- one the athletic directors are discussing -- is to assign teams based on their time zone (Eastern or Central).
The lone caveat: there will be eight Big Ten teams in the Eastern time zone -- Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue -- and only six in the Central time zone (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois). So one team from the Eastern time zone would need to move.
That article from Rittenberg also plays up the possibility that Michigan State will end up in the other division. This would either stick Michigan with a protected crossover—thus trading games against interesting teams in the other division for constant Purdue/Indiana games—or bust up the in-state rivalry. Neither is appealing. Let us condemn Michigan State's Rose Bowl hopes to death and keep them in the East.
The current system works. We don't need to get into bidding wars where one school offers a $75% for 2 years and the other school then offers 85% for 3, etc., etc. This puts the kid into a situation where they almost need an agent/advisor just to determine the best "deal." Again, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. [Indiana State]
We are specifically concerned with the following three proposals and ask that they be tabled along with Proposal 13-2:
Proposal 11-2: Athletics Personnel - Limitations on the Number and Duties of Coaches - Elimination of Recruiting Coordination Functions
Proposal 13-3: Recruiting - Deregulation of Modes and Numerical Limitations on Communication
Proposal 13-5-A: Recruiting - Elimination of Printed Recruiting Materials and Video/Audio Legislation
We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches. We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.
There's nothing in the first and last proposals that has material impact on prospects or their associated hangers-on, and the horrors of communications deregulation seem eminently preventable. "Hello, Coach X. Please limit your contacts with me to X in timeframe Y, or I will not consider your school." Or, like, turn your phone off when you don't want to use it.
The assertions about "adverse effects" on people in the athletic department who now have to hire "u r gud art fertbar"-texting interns and print glossy media guides are more credible, but shortsighted. If you want to play on level ground on the big stuff you have to let the NCAA dump big sections of meaningless secondary violations.
"It's going to be so weird, I've only been to one Michigan basketball game in my life watching it, it's going to be odd," Novak said by phone Monday. "But I know this would be a big win for them, and I know they'll be ready to go.
"I know it's disheartening to lose a game the way they did at Wisconsin, but it's a great opportunity for them to go in and get a win on the road at Michigan State. That would totally bring the team's psyche right back to where it needs to be. It'd get their swagger back, and that's big."
72,000 was announced, which seems high for the end of the Bump era.
Not bad. A Lion Eye is considering the wreckage in Champaign by adding up football and basketball conference records over the past two years. Results:
Michigan State 28-12
Ohio State 27-12
Penn State 16-24
He admits it's a dumb way to put together a statistic. I like it anyway.
In which Gene Smith, who bumbled his way to a bowl ban for a 12-0 team, is more sensible than Michigan's athletic director.Kind of, anyway:
"I kind of lean toward having us in the same division," he said. "But I'm open to keeping it as it is, based on what my colleagues might share."
In an email to ESPN.com, Brandon said, "I would certainly not be opposed to being in the same division as OSU if it was in the best interest of our conference. I look forward to the discussion with my colleagues and our conference leadership."
"If it was in the best interest of our conference" should not even come into consideration. The conference doesn't pay the bills. Hopefully this is just PR; I miss the days when someone in charge of something had a greater-than-zero percent chance of saying something that he thought.
"We had a s****y season, to be honest with you," Hoke said at the MHSFA's Winner’s Circle Clinic. "Bad year, to be honest. Proud of the kids, how they kept moving forward, but it wasn't the year Michigan deserves."
The comparison is left to the reader.
Lol Adidas. I keep comparing the alternate hockey jerseys to replicas you'd get off the rack at Wal-Mart, but apparently the basketball jerseys are literally that:
Four of Michigan’s blue road jerseys ripped in the Wolverines’ 83-75 win over Minnesota Wednesday.
Impossible is nothing, right, Adidas?
Trey Burke’s No. 3 was the first to rip, so he played most of the game wearing No. 12, which was also ripped later in the game. So after Jordan Morgan used Michigan’s second and only other extra jersey — the redshirt junior played the second half wearing No. 30 — Burke and, later, Caris LeVert were forced to play with holes in their uniforms.
I can’t remember the last time the Wolverines beat a top-10 opponent on the road after four of its jerseys were ripped since no official statistics are kept on road games won with ripped jerseys. I can assure you, though, that no Michigan team has won a road game over a top-10 team since the Wolverines beat No. 10 Duke, 62-61, on Dec. 8, 1996 until Wednesday. That was more than 16 years ago.
I did not think it was possible for an apparel company to fail so spectacularly as Adidas has and still exist. The level of incompetence they've shown over the last couple years is incompatible with a still-extant huge company. At some point they should have had a company-wide party during which everyone put on their new GasolineTech line and then lit a bonfire.
I have never taken any economics courses but I'm pretty sure this is ignorant of basic economics. Something called the "Delta Cost Project" at something called "American Institutes for Research" released a study about how much colleges spend on athletes. Surprise: it is a lot relative to students that don't have skills that cause hundreds of thousands of people to want to watch them do things.
I wasn't going to mention this because it is blatantly dishonest to not even casually mention that the big time schools with all of these expenditures are raking in piles of money, but Deadspin flogged it.
The obvious takeaway: the SEC is insane. SEC schools spend more than 12 times as much on each athlete as they do on their regular, non-revenue-generating students. They spend 40 percent more than Big Ten schools, and 60 percent more than Pac-10 (now PAC-12) schools. The SEC's nearly $164,000 median cost per athlete is almost twice as much as the FBS average, and four-and-a-half times as much as the median FCS program. Becoming the country's undisputed college football elite conference doesn't come free, and it doesn't come cheap.
And remember, these figures are per athlete, not just per football player. Considering the costs of running a girls volleyball program, feel free to slide the football expenditures upward.
The imbalance isn't just an SEC problem, though. The average D-1 football school is spending 6.7 times more money on each athlete than on each regular student. The question then becomes: where is that money going? Those athletes sure as hell aren't getting paid.
I hear you about the getting paid thing; when the biggest individual hunk of the athletic spending is on compensation for coaches and ever-growing numbers of athletic department staffers it grates. But the reason there is spending is that there is revenue. Find me a chemical engineer making revenue for the school on the order of the quarterback, and then get him to file patents for you, and then come to me and say "look at this chemical engineer."
It is in fact the lowest schools on the totem pole who are setting money on fire to do this:
The top ~60 schools that approximately comprise BCS conferences are in those first two quartiles, and spend relatively little money from students and the institution. Get below that and it's fees and tuition. We could have a discussion about whether this is a good idea. I don't want to bother talking with these people since they are framing the "problem" of college sports spending without noting that colleges don't have shareholders to provide dividends to and that at the top schools money in is therefore destined to equal money out, and there is a lot of money in.
BONUS: The one interesting thing about this is a glimpse into how the Big Ten's supposed money advantage evaporates in the face of the SEC's laser focus on football. That per-athlete number is 50k more than the Big Ten despite revenues being close to equal because SEC schools carry many fewer sports than the Big Ten does. Call it the Six Million Dollar Rower gap.
I find you guilty of the passing blasphemy. Lloyd Carr is now on the Committee on Infractions. In related news, teams that do anything that seems tricky will be ejected into space.
Random dude says implausible thing about Big Ten expansion. Given what happened last time, the dumber and less credible the rumor, the more we have to pay attention to it. First, this comes from a guy whose bio reads like so:
Chris usually writes using the pseudonym "Honus Sneed" is known as the "Dude of WV". He's sometimes controversial and sometimes funny but his love of the Mountaineers is always apparent. He is married to smartest, most bad-ass, derby girl who is as beautiful as she is tough. They share their life with the iirrepressible Fozzie Bear of Chaos who denies he is related in any way to Bo Obama.
So take it for what it's worth. He says the Big Ten is aiming for Virginia and would like to add UNC or Georgia Tech. I put no credence in it, but it's clear the Big Ten isn't done and has adopted a strategy of stealthily making stupid moves because their previous approach—doing intelligent things publicly—was totally square.
As previously stated, at this point I am in favor of the Big Ten adding six more teams and putting all of them in the other division so we can pretend none of this ever happened. So whatever. Add away, deranged fang-beasts with MBAs. You already blew it all up.
Slice. A fairly large deregulation package just passed one level or another of the NCAA's governance structure. I think this is the stage at which the thing gets passed by a small group and then Indiana State tries to override it because it's not fair they're Indiana State, so some of these proposals could meet the same fate as the cost-of-living increase did down the road.
Several of the 25 changes adopted Saturday are small and fairly obvious. Schools, for instance, can now provide "reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice," which means the old joke that athletes could be provided bagels but not cream cheese – yes, that was an actual NCAA rule – no longer applies. And a new rule that will allow athletes to receive "$300 more than actual and necessary expenses" as long as they don't come from an agent or booster will save a ton of paperwork and compliance headaches for things that used to be considered secondary (or minor) violations.
But there are also some significant ways in which recruiting has now been deregulated, ways that could favor the bigger schools with bigger budgets.
Coaches can now make an unlimited number of contacts with recruits via text messages or social media. Printed recruiting materials sent through the mail are now completely deregulated in terms of frequency or expense. And schools will now have the ability to hire a recruiting coordinator who isn't a head coach or full-time assistant coach, which is a particularly big deal for football.
Think of all the paperwork that will no longer be done. You should be in favor of anything that 1) moves the focus away from nothing secondary violations onto big issues *cough*OLEMISS*cough* and 2) allows Michigan to use its money firehose to either distance themselves from schools with less or close the gap on schools operating outside of the framework, cough OLE MISS cough.
This was the easy bit. Emmert's got a bigger reform package on the table that won't be as easy to shove through since it deals with big, big things like transfer rules and agents and, uh… "meals." What exactly they'd like to do isn't something I could google up. Hopefully it includes some accommodation with the realities of agents these days and maybe some movement towards allowing some money to flow to the players.
"There are universities that made investments 100 years ago that, by historical accident in some instances, have set as their role, scope and mission, things that give them competitive advantages in their ability to fund and support ahtletics," NCAA president Mark Emmert said Saturday. "Michigan has been Michigan for a long time.
Reading between the lines not particularly necessary. After largely quieting Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl, Taylor Lewan has got to be out the door. Everyone expects it; latest bit to read into:
"I haven't addressed the team yet," Lewan said. "I'll address the team, then we'll do whatever (sports information director) Justin Dickens, Coach (Brady) Hoke wants to do and how he wants to let that out to the public.
"It's not fair to my team to tell y'all, then not tell them."
Why hold off for a formal announcement if he actually intended to stay for his senior season?
"Next question," Lewan said.
Hope for sanity. I'm still holding out for the Eye of Sauron but I'll take anything that gets Michigan and Ohio State in the same division. It sounds like that may in fact happen. Rittenberg:
Delany has said geography would be a bigger factor in the new division alignment than the first one, so expect several teams to be on the move. Several items to watch:
Will Ohio State and Michigan be placed in the same division? It would eliminate the possibility of a rematch in the Big Ten championship, but it might balance out the power between the two divisions.
Will Wisconsin move back to the "West" side of the league? The Badgers would like to play Iowa every year, and their rivalry against Nebraska packs plenty of potential.
I'm holding out a vague hope they'll add a ninth conference game.
Gallon checkup. The Mathlete was kind enough to run the numbers on my Gallon yards per target speculation from yesterday and came up with this:
Don't have bowl games in yet, but Gallon is 22nd in Yds/Target for players with 50+ targets. At 11.0 YPT, its the third best UM season, behind Hemingway last year (12.0) and Manningham in 2006 (11.1)
That is impressive. The bowl game may push Gallon above Manningham as long as Gardner didn't miss him too much, and Manningham was kind of good. I bet Gallon's final five games are even better. Bodes well for 2013, especially since Minnesota/Northwestern/Iowa/OSU/South Carolina is a pretty tough stretch relative to a full schedule with cupcakes and whatnot.
Of note: Gallon's 2011 was 10.8 on 42 targets, so you can tack that on to your sample size to increase your confidence he can play, and that Borges is a notch above previous offensive coordinators who did not desire to unleash the dragon as much.
"It's about the things I can do, and the other things in my life I have to take care of,'' Gholston said. "But I know I can graduate on time. I may have a year and a semester left (to get a degree).''
FWIW. Their defense should be fine without Gholston, but losing Bell would be rough. MSU has very little on their roster—just Nick Hill and a few not-so-touted freshmen. Unless they strike gold twice in a row that looks like a major dropoff.
Meanwhile, Northwestern's Reggie Hearn—their leading scorer—is out. The Wildcats are unlikely to pose a challenge even on the road that shorthanded.
Bonus loladidas moment. I forgot this one. Michigan wore alternate jerseys for the GLI, and on about half of them they screwed up the nameplates.
Here's hoping they're branding themselves "the apparel company for colorblind people."
Statement of slight annoyance. The kPOY suffers from Rebound Overrating Syndrome, as many basketball statistical measures do. Mason Plumlee is getting a lot of rebounds on both ends, but how important is that really when as a team the Blue Devils are sitting right on the national average on defense? And are poor on offense? If Plumlee's rebounding was truly a major asset Duke would probably be, you know, good at it. They are not, so he's probably just grabbing rebounds from teammates.
QED bit of this is that when Ben Wallace—who I love don't get me wrong—left the Pistons their rebounding changed in no way whatsoever. Rebounds just happen. They're important, but just because you get a lot doesn't mean someone else couldn't do as good a job if they were in your role. Meanwhile, on a team level the correlation between defensive rebounding and efficiency seems extremely weak. Exactly one of the top ten teams in DREB has a defense that ranks better than 77th in efficiency: Michigan, 39th. Three of the ten check in better than 100th. Hauling down monster boards is less important than any of the other four factors*, but it is the one defensive thing we have a stat for, so…
Trey Burke, obviously, is being robbed, and don't get me started on Russ Smith, whose main asset is huge usage on a team with the #1 D in the country. FIGHT ROS.
*[In the top ten in eFG%D you find one defense outside the top 100 and five top ten outfits. TOs have four outside the top 100 but also feature the top two defenses in the country, Louisville and Syracuse. FTrate also has four outside the top 100, but none very far outside and has six teams better than the 77th that DREB brings. Rebounding is the least important factor.]