THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: It’s Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management. We’re going to act like kids in this article but first some seriousness: I had a big health scare recently and I’m talking to Nick now because we were not ready for things to go pear-shaped, and also I have two kids and if everything goes just fine I really wasn’t preparing correctly for their futures.
Anytime you’ve got a financial question, let Nick know. And when you’re ready to figure out how you’re going to plan your retirement and pay for your kids’ college when you just got done paying for your own, don’t wait to do something about that.
Legal disclosure in tiny font: Calling Nick our official financial planner is not intended as financial advice; Nick is an advertiser who financially supports MGoBlog. MGoBlog is not responsible for any advice or other communication provided to an investor by any financial advisor, and makes no representations or warranties as to the suitability of any particular financial advisor and/or investment for a specific investor.
An exercise shameless stolen from someone who shamelessly stole it from someone else:
You're playing NBA Jam and have to pick 3 #badgers from the Bo Ryan era. Who ya got?
You get to pick three Beilein-era players for your NBA Jam team (two starters, one sub). As a bonus, you get to pick an unlockable player from the pre-Beilein era. For those unfamiliar with NBA Jam, this video should give you an idea of what we’re looking for here—there’s a strong emphasis on athleticism, dunking, outside shooting, blocking, and shoving other players to steal the ball.
Seth: My favorite part about this topic is that there is a non-zero chance one of our readers can actually reprogram an NBA Jam rom for us.
Alex: There are eight stat categories: speed, 3pt, dunk, pass, power, steal, block, clutch.
Ace: I’m taking Caris/Stauskas/McGary/Rice, fwiw.
[ED: We’ve been programming secret auto-replies into our group IM system. If we trip a keyword, slackbot will interject itself. –seth]
David: Wait...is this a thing? I was at lunch.
BiSB: /WAITING FOR PLAYER DAVE. HIT 'A' TO START.
David: Let me plug in my Game Genie first.
Brian: This should be a draft.
Seth: Our readers do love it when we draft fantasy teams.
Ace: …he said, after I got halfway through my writeup.
Brian: Ok never mind.
Alex: I think a draft would be sensible as well.
Sorry, sorry I'm tryi--
Brian: Ace can go first because he's upset.
David: How many ppl are involved?
Ace: I’m always the bad guy.
David: OH MAN
Seth: I'm sure that has nothing to do with how you sit in your lair and giggle all the time.
Ace: I actually am working in the basement right now.
Alex: I don't really know where I would put this in the post, but would like to mention it: Stella's in Grand Rapids—a whiskey bar with probably the best burgers in the city—has an arcade section with the OG NBA Jam game. It's as great as it sounds. Shout-out to Stella's.
@adam Catch me at Stella's sometime to get that work from the Stockton-Malone Jazz.
Seth: Our house rule was you couldn't take the Jazz.
Alex: That was just the first team that came to mind - I was going to be courteous and let him use the Pistons. I guess I'll go with the Hardaway-Mullin Warriors. I DON'T PLAY WITH THE STACKED TEAMS IN 2K I SWEAR!
Seth: Draft order:
Seth: I really didn't want to go first damn my eyes.
RULES: It's a snake draft, 3 rounds of Beilein players only, and a fourth round for a secret unlockable character.
BiSB: Then the 4 unlockable players are all in the 4th round Deal?
Looking at last week’s data was an exercise in finding where the minute differences were; this week’s data is an exercise in finding where there aren’t massive ones. Michigan gave up a long, low play-count drive to begin the game and then shut down the Oregon State offense. It shows in the number of plays run (M: 76, OSU: 55) and in yards per play and scoring opportunities and so on, all the way up to the final score. Michigan turned into 2007 Ohio State in the second half and experienced a strikingly similar result.
Michigan’s domination of Oregon State did have a few bumps along the way. The first drive was as bad as it looked. Oregon State averaged 7.9 yards per play and had three explosive plays (two rushes and one pass) in a seven-play drive. The drive was anything but methodical; their success rate was just 42.9%, but the two long runs and one long pass counteracted their inability to stay in favorable down-and-distance situations. Michigan wasn’t bled to death, but was definitely bludgeoned. A low success rate proved to be foreshadowing Oregon State’s undoing as their explosiveness fizzled after the first drive, and that alone was enough to take them out of the game.
Oregon State followed up their big first drive with a two-play drive that ended in a turnover and a three and out that gave Michigan the ball at their 32 yard line, which is a pretty favorable place to start. OSU pulled things together momentarily, however, and had three eight-play drives through the rest of the first half. The problem with those three drives is that only one of them ended in Michigan territory, and that resulted in a turnover on downs after moving the ball 50 yards (6.25 YPP). The other two drives went 31 yards (3.87 YPP) and –17 yards (-2.125 YPP), with the negative yardage drive the result of the snap so high above the punter’s head that it almost hit the hanging camera.
[After THE JUMP: There’s a field position section so of course I used the crazy sky snap gif]
Welcome to College Football Blood Bowl. Warhammer 40k is generally too dorky even for me, but if you're vaguely familiar with their science fiction orc-dwarf-elf-demon football spinoff "Blood Bowl"* something is probably nagging you about those CoFoPoff** logos. This is why:
Spikes coming out of a ball.
BONUS: is it bad that I wasn't sure which logo Seth was talking about when he said one of them looked like, er, the other end zone, if you know what I mean?
*[Yeah, seriously. 40K is what happens when you put all science fiction and fantasy races/tropes into a blender. As I said: too dorky even for me.]
**[I can't call something "College Football Playoff" you guys.]
Surveyin'. Michael Rothstein annually polls the outgoing seniors about things both important and not so much*. Getting unvarnished opinions on breakout players and the like is always interesting. Your predicted breakout player is Gardner, with Gallon trailing some ways back. It sounds like they're doing everything possible to extend that insane 1300-yard pace($) Gallon was on with Gardner as his QB:
"I got two. Devin and Jeremy Gallon, by far. The way they came in during the offseason, they do things people probably wouldn't expect. The way Devin is throwing the ball now. I told Gallon, if you look at the stats, he [Gallon] had 100 [receiving yards] against Alabama, a hundred-something against South Carolina. Nobody in the Big Ten can stop you two next year."
"Jeremy Gallon and Devin Gardner. They are both hard workers. When we were sleeping during the summer on Saturdays, they were up, throwing the ball. They are a great combination together and both competitive and both smart players."
Meanwhile, Willie Henry is the surprise pick as your best redshirted freshmen, albeit more narrowly. Braden, Chesson, and Jeremy Clark follow. Henry also got a breakout player vote.
On Henry "This is going just off observation, but Willie Henry. He's a guy I went up against every day in practice, didn't get to play this year but a really, really talented kid. I'd venture to say as talented as some of the guys I played against this year. There is huge potential there and I feel he can have a great career at Michigan."
He's called "strong an ox" and "an animal." Motor is brought up as an issue. Henry certainly looked the part at the spring game, albeit mostly on the sidelines.
"He's extremely thorough and he watches a play and throughout that play, he can see what all five offensive linemen did. It's crazy and I don't know how he can do it but just watching a play live, he understands and has the vision to see what happened the entire play. I don't know if he would be the best coach to manage all the bureaucratic stuff that comes with being a head coach, but he knows football as well as anybody."
*[The annual bitching about the liberals in Ann Arbor is hilarious. You can probably figure out which offensive linemen are the ones carrying that grudge.]
Bad pun. No, this isn't about Moe Ways, it's about Adreian Payne, who is still on the fence about his NBA decision two days before the deadline. I think he should go if only because I'm sick of always thinking I've misspelled his name and being correct about that 75% of the time. Also, without Payne MSU's frontcourt next year looks like this: Alex Guana, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello. His departure would be kind of a big deal.
The word from every source close to Payne is that it's "50-50" he returns to Michigan State.
MSU is amongst the favorites with him and in a second-tier pack without. I don't know, I look at a 6'10" guy who can jump as high as GRIII and has just found three point range and I'm taking him in the 20s. I mean, if Robinson was going to be #15 or whatever with an efficient 13% usage rate, Payne's at 20%, shoots 84/58/38 and boards extensively. Oh and he's four inches taller. GTFO! It's for your own good!
What do the coaches have you working on this summer?
“I’ve been working on pick-and-pop. That’s one of the things they said me and Derrick would probably be doing — a lot of pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop sets like that. I’ve just been working on my mid-range jumpshot, my post moves, my hook shots both right and left. Those are the main things I’ve been working on.”
Donnal has some nice post skills and can shoot out to three point range. Athleticism is the main concern with him. Most people, including me, have been projecting a redshirt just because Michigan is pretty stocked at the 4 and 5 this season. Donnal is the sort of guy who probably won't be high on NBA radars no matter how good he is in college, so the idea of a fifth year there is appealing. But as we saw this year, if you've got a guy who can give you minutes as you go deep into the tournament you've got to play him.
Hello/goodbye Rutledge? Mike Spath reported that Jared Rutledge would take a year in the USHL for extra seasoning; Rutledge told the Daily he was sticking around; Spath said that was not the case. Yost Built has more details on an odd situation.
One guy who's not coming in for sure: Bryson Cianfrone. Spath reports($) he'll reclassify to 2014. Smart move for a guy who has talent but struggled with the level of competition in the USHL this year. Michigan has plenty of depth at forward this year, too.
“[The] counting of phone calls and text messages and emails … is frankly crazy,” Emmert told a group of bowl executives. “Literally, you have to hire someone to count your cell phone calls and to look at your phone records.”
… At least 75 Division I members had to weigh in by March 20 to force an override vote of the legislation. Emmert blamed football coaches for the pushback saying, “it's insane.”
It's just that maybe a guy invariably described as "embattled" should maybe seem a little less unhinged, is all. More hinges. Less waving around.
Depending on what hour you are reading this, Brian is somewhere on the Kübler-Ross chain between coming up with 20-team divisions sans Purdue, and emulating an otter. Since this thing is happening despite the sentiment expressed in our totally scientific internet poll, I thought maybe being, like, informative…?
Tell 'em what they've won, Jim:
+'s: Lacrosse power, soccer power, unique mascot, fits academic profile, unlikely to upset anyone's national title hopes.
-'s: Not a power in anything but sports nobody cares about. Almost Indiana in football. Were on their way to mid-majordom.
The School: Founded in 1856. Those who know their Morrill Act history could guess one sentence before you did that it's a land-grant school (Michigan State, Penn State). Original name: Maryland Agricultural College, later Maryland State College. They're AAU members, and about the same size as Michigan or Purdue. Academically they're solidly in the Purdue/Ohio State midpoint of the conference, although they only got super serious about being a research institution since the '60s so their endowment—$791 million—is easily last among the current conference, and only a tenth of Michigan's. They're also a system school—sharing a degree with UMD-Baltimore and an affiliation with a bunch of other in-state schools—so I don't know if the CIC plans on sharing dollars with just the flagship campus, College Park and Baltimore, or the whole system.
Important alumni: Jim Henson and Larry David. Sugar daddy: Kevin Plank of Under Amour.
Colors: Red and white or yellow and black are good enough color schemes for most corn-fed Midwesterners, but marshaling of arms in English heraldry has no concept of clashing, thus the Terps are liable to favor any of those from George Calvert in any combination. They've been known to take the field looking like an unholy abomination of leftover Iowa running back parts and Rex Burkhead, or in maroon and chrome, or lattice bodices and cloaks of animal skins.
Mascot: A terrapin, or "terp" for short. It means turtle.
Athletics: Here's a guy answering my query on their SBNation blog:
Basketball school (right now like 80-20, but when we rebound in fball it’s more like 60-40). We hate Duke as much as you hate anything in your life. If something big happens we riot. A great deal of our fanbase already hates PSU, so yea, we can hate them for ya.
Really good at Msoccer (good womens), great at lax and field hockey. Womens basketball too We don’t dress funny, you just dress like some 80 year old man with a hideous fashion sense and call it tradition.
Our college Bball atmosphere is way better than fball, but we do have Stefon Diggs who is likely god himself
Emphasis on the hating Duke. In re lacrosse: the ACC's deal was similar to the Big East's, where they belonged to other conferences but the few schools who had programs played each other [EDIT: they had a conference, but didn't send a champion]. They're immediately the best lacrosse school in the conference. Women's lacrosse is probably the best in the country.
According to like everybody, college presidents and conference executives are at it again, carving up the BCS landscape before they themselves get carved like a particularly bloody game of Europa Universalis. [ed: this has to be the only sports blog in the universe with not one but two references to EU.] So long as the Big Ten doesn't end up in the NHL's slot among four pro leagues, I don't care that much.
Playing Devil's advocate, I think I understand why people do care. The going meme is we're headed for 16-team conferences because they get bigger TV deals, and if you don't get your Mizzous now while the gettin' is good, the Big Ten will eventually find itself holding a press conference to extoll the virtues of Iowa State wrestling. I don't see Iowa State's value as an umpteenth member being worth an umpteenth share of BTN. That's hardly stopping ADs and conferences from playing war games.
Even if the ACC, PacX and SEC expand to 16 teams, they only match the star power at the top of the Big Ten. Michigan-Ohio State-Nebraska-Penn State and friends (in football) is still a bigger deal than FSU-Miami-Notre Dame and friends, still a bigger deal than Texas-USC-Oklahoma and friends, and holds up against Bama and the Holy Southern Empire except for that one century when Bama's friends are all like AUSTRRIIAAAAAAA!!!!!
Most recently it's the ACC invading Syracuse and Pitt to shore up defenses in case of an SEC attack, while SEC armies jump around out east trying to balance Texas A&M. West Virginia's doing the thing where the girl tells her friend to tell UConn to tell Dooley that the SEC kinda sorta maybe already asked her out. Missouri's all like hey, I invented that gambit!
That's not 16-team leagues, the mega-conference endpoint doomsday scenario. It's closer to it than we were when the ACC broke the pax conferenca to grab VT, Miami, and BC.
What was way more more nerve-wracking was the Pac 12 looking for a casus belli to annex Texas and Oklahoma (plus respective vassals Okie State and Texas Tech). But late last night the Pac 12 looked at a world where they've annexed Texas, and decided to remain 12—crisis averted.
Today there are zero 16-team conferences. The SEC and ACC may get to 14 soon, unless the latter is grabbing territories to make up for one it expects to lose. Remnants of the Big East and Big XII may meet to form something out of their remaining members that's not quite a BCS conference, but that will only happen if Texas and Oklahoma leave, and would end up around 10 or 11.
I disagree with those who say it's going to ruin college football; college football is awesome and will continue being such until they don't put wings on helmets anymore. But it can make college football suck significantly more by redefining conferences as massive corporations with stock options. Eight to 10 teams is a group of similar schools that expand their students' networks, share research, and organize sporting events. By Twelve it's more of a leauge than a conference. At fourteen it becomes stupid -- you are now in a "conference" with teams you don't play most years.
I don't even know how to balance a schedule with 6 division opponents, 7 cross-divisional opponents, and 9 conference games. Teams will undoubtedly have six-year intervals without playing each other at all. If they started in 2012, Pitt could see FSU at home six times between now and 2043. This is about how often Michigan plays UCLA.
Now would be a great time for the NCAA to grow a pair and replace its current president with a Caesar-like lifetime commissioner, for other reasons too (get compliance in order), but because that's the only way the not-quite-finished realignment cycle will be finished with other goals than a pressing TV deal in mind.
If you choose to click through past the jump, I've put together a pair of concepts for a workable NCAA league just in case this stuff all blows up like they're saying. Only go if you're into that sort of thing.
META Note: This space was meant to be a study on Mattison's rush tendencies versus GERG last year and their effectiveness. However the EMU game offered next to no data on the pass rush and present info from 3/4 of a Western game and a balls-out ND game are nowhere near enough to talk yet.
Michigan nearly tripled everyone except Auburn. Ohio State chipped in 232.67, Michigan State 126.81, Penn State 48.14. Yes, the Nittany Lions were beat out by Georgetown, Case Western, and NYU on a college football blog—it's the Zack Mills era again. As your reward Orson will produce fawning Michigan content, but thanks to the parsimony of the rest of the league we came up only halfway to the 50k tattoo level. Orson has a special message for everyone, as well:
Dear MGoBlog commentariat.
I would like to thank you, the Michigan fanbase, alums, and assorted daywalking saints of the Great Mitten State, for both your generosity and enthusiasm in taking part in the EDSBS Charity Drive and for helping us raise $25,000 for the cause of refugee resettlement. We at EDSBS are fond of harumphing in the direction of your Michigan Man-ness in the name of gentle mockery, but this one is from the heart to Michigan Men and Women who make the concept so much more than a hollow saying. HARUMPH! from the bottom of our gin-soaked heart, MGoBlog.
We love you, and we thank you. Now that we're all awkwardly emotional, um [XKCD CARTOON OR MUPPETS GO HERE. ]
Orson asked what I'd like to see as he temporarily re-skins EDSBS and I was like "Tim Biakabutuka but we should ask the internet," so throw your ideas for anything below this post.
This Week In "I Forgot About This Draft." I threw a bunch of links in a post with the intent of getting to them later and totally forgot about them, thus robbing you of my opinion on Brady Hoke's contract*, some memories of Vada Murray, one with an embarrassing URL, and Chad Ford saying "a number of NBA scouts($)" believe Darius Morris needs to return to school. Also this, the most Michigan sign ever:
The Michigan Difference is saving refugees while making wikipedia jokes.
*[Why is Hoke's buyout double Rodriguez's? What's the benefit of locking yourself in like that when your man would "walk to Ann Arbor"? Like… in the unlikely event Hoke wins three games the next three years wouldn't you want to move on to the next guy?]
Yes, sir, anything you want me to convert to sir. Buried towards the end of a lengthy profile of 6'6", 330 pound weightlifting champ and OL walk-on Gary Yerden is this biographical tidbit:
Yerden is a Jehovah's Witness….
…one who gets results, no doubt.
Sundry basketball recruiting bits.UMHoops hit up last weekend's Pitt AAU tournament and came back with scouting reports and seven minutes of Glen Robinson III video. (Nick Stauskas was supposed to attend but got sick, leaving Robinson the featured attraction.) The scouting video reveals many, many dunks but not a whole lot of play in a structured halfcourt offense—such is the nature of AAU.
It's apparent that Robinson will instantly be Michigan's best athlete when he arrives. Dude can get up. His shooting is more of a question. He's got a nice-looking stroke but started that tournament with some bricks worthy of Brent Petway. He did warm up late.
As for the class of 2011, Max Preps has put out their final top 100. It features Burke and Brundidge in their usual slots between 60 and 80 (in this edition Brundidge is 62, Burke 80—the usual, one most Michigan fans with an opinion believe is backwards), and then here's a surprise:
That would make Bielfeldt about as big of a prospect as Matt Vogrich, who showed up 100th on Scout's list because he was "the best shooter in the country" but didn't make any other. The Maxpreps list says it is a "composite" based both on high school production and college potential, the former of which helped the ultra-productive Bielfeldt.
So… I'll take a Vogrich-level 6'9" PF. Michigan didn't have a ton of irons in the fire for 2012 anyway and if Morris jets before he's a senior they'll still have an open scholarship for SIM BHULLAR(!).
Notre Dame series not so permanent. Remember when Michigan and Notre Dame agreed to play for 30 straight years? Not so much. We know they're taking a break in 2018 and 2019 and now David Brandon is creating the future in a way that might not include the Irish:
"I have to have seven home games a year. If you think about a nine-game Big Ten schedule, there will be one year I have four home games and one year I have five. In the year that I have four, I have to play every one of my non-conference games at home, so I can't be in a world where I have four Big Ten home games and I'm supposed to play Notre Dame (in South Bend). I can't live in that world. Those are the kinds of issues I have to deal with."
Let's ignore David Brandon speaking like he's the Queen of England for a second: a nine game conference schedule means the ND/OSU/Nebraska home-home-home thing might come to a head. It's possible that Michigan gets their way and won't have to change their ND schedule—the conference has a motivation to protect a rivalry game TV apparently loves because for insane reasons they get 11/12ths of the revenue—but if they do it's doubtful the series continues unless ND is willing to have UM and USC be home or away at the same time. They might since they tend to have another marquee opponent regularly and the Michigan game is important for their TV contract (which they don't have to share).
Ramgod shamgod. Add "mascot" to the list of things associated with OH OL Kyle Dodson that are epic:
I feel molested just looking at that thing. It's a Tom of Finland Thundercat, and it wants to sexy wrestle me.
Etc.:Kenpom adds coaching resumes. Now I don't have to thumb through each page to confirm last year's Michigan D was the best Beilein has fielded in a BCS conference. Zach Travis's spring game post is bullish on caveats before getting into opinions. Forward Thinking on Kaleb Ringer.
Live streaming goes just far enough. There is a live stream of IL PF Max Bielfeldt's announcement, which is going to happen in about ten minutes here. Michigan and Illinois are the contenders with most signs pointing to Michigan despite Bielfeldt's last name being on more than one building in Champaign. Bielfeldt compares himself to Luke Harangody and put up monster numbers as a senior, but recruiting sites say he's an "average at best" athlete. Think Graham Brown, I guess, except apparently he's got a decent shooting stroke that extends to the three point line.
If Bielfeldt goes blue there will undoubtedly be all the info you could want on UMHoops shortly after. Meanwhile, I've got a hockey game to panic about. [UPDATE: Bielfeldt has committed.]
I hope this is one game. Trey Burke highlight reel ahoy:
Probably one game, right? I bet they cut out a couple misses but probably one game.
Even in the unlikely event this is a season's worth of highlights, that's still pretty encouraging. Burke shows a three-point stroke, crossovers, spin moves, a nice pull-up jumper, and a floater in the lane. The diversity of his offensive game is impressive, and if these stats are right…
Burke is averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals. He is shooting 58.7 percent from the field, 46.6 percent from three-point range (54 of 116) and 73.3 percent at the free-throw line (88 of 120).
…dang, we may have just ganked* the next Talor Battle away from Penn State. (I only doubt because a separate article has even more ludicrous shooting percentages, FWIW. I believe the very slightly more pessimistic version but there's some wobble that makes me think they may have overlooked some attempts.)
48% from three plus that highlight video plus winning Mr. Basketball over a bunch of other D-I commits including a guy headed to Michigan State equals one extremely underrated recruit—Burke is a three star on Rivals. ESPN does have him a bit higher as a four star ranked #85, and boy were they right about Tim Hardaway Jr. Let's hope their streak continues.
In other basketball recruiting news, Carlton Brundidge just saw his high school career end in painful fashion. He tied Southfield's state semifinal against Kalamazoo Central with a 17-foot pull up, missed a backdoor layup on the ensuing possession, made both halves of a 1-and-1 to re-tie the game, then saw Central get a putback off an airball for the win. Burke plays his semifinal tonight at 8:30.
*["Ganked" should have made the transition from thing you say in sixth grade to critical part of the language by now.]
Frank Beckmann thinks this is racist
The tipping point. I've read Ramzy Nasrallah's stuff on and off for a very long time now and while some of his opinions make me roll my eyes I'm sure that's mutual. It's a natural consequence of being on opposite sides of the rivalry. That said, he's always been worth reading even when we disagree, and when he posts something titled The Case For Regicide that signals a huge shift in the portion of the Ohio State fanbase that doesn't have neckbeards. That shift is from "this shall pass" to "this seems too dumb to tolerate; we're screwed, at least insofar as a football program with OSU's natural advantages can be, which isn't that much."
I've been pretty strident in my opinion that Tressel should be fired and now it seems fairly likely he will. He's already been tried, compared to Nixon, and executed in the media. In that event the big questions lie in the eventual results of what seems like it will be a labyrinthine NCAA investigation and whether or not Tressel will axe Gordon Gee on his way out. I'm guessing "disappointing" and "yes."
More pads. More pads:
At the 35 second mark Denard runs a zone read for many yards, and then a power play gets destroyed. I'm just sayin'…
Seriously though, seeing a zone read makes me happy even if they hardly ran it last year. Tough talk and an open-minded offensive coordinator are where it's at.
Fort? No fort. Last year Michigan had an open practice in Michigan Stadium that you could buy your way into by shelling out for the big baller seats or donating to Mott at the Spring Game. Rodriguez hated it and I had to wait until the rest of the internet had responded to round up third-party impressions because I'd been asked not to relate anything I saw myself. So that was a one-off, right? Hoke's back and so is The Fort and that'll never happen again:
Fans attending the game will be asked to make any donation the hospital. Donations at the following levels will come with a correlating gift:
• $5: A 5”x7” Fathead Trading Card of either Charles Woodson or Desmond Howard. • $20: A Fathead Teammate Block M (roughly 12”x7”). • $100: A Fathead Junior Big House Mural (17”x30”). • $250: Four passes to a pre-season scrimmage • $500: Two pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to one of the following four games: Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State or Minnesota. • $750: Two pre-game sideline passes (does not include game tickets) to the Nebraska game.
Except apparently it will. Never underestimate the power of club seating. I went last year with Greg of MVictors and FOB Craig Ross. It was rainy and strange but I thought it was worth it because I'm insane.
This doesn't happen so much anymore, but back in the day there was a point in the lifetime of any Windows installation at which the operating system was so loaded with cruft that the only thing to do was take it out back, shoot it in the head, and reinstall. During this process there was always a moment when the computer reminded you in all caps that you were about to shoot it in the head.
The moment when you hit "Y" was always slightly* thrilling. At that time you had to beat your head against extended memory to get Master of Magic to play—there was always a chance your brilliant reinstall plot would end with you banging your head against the case screaming vile things about Bill Gates's parentage. But if things worked out you'd be able to open your word processor without it automatically typing "I hate you and you are stupid."**
Watching this year's basketball team is like sitting in front of a blue screen that asks you if you'd like to format C:. Last offseason John Beilein saw that prompt and hit "Y," and how. This was not entirely voluntary, since DeShawn Sims had run out of eligibility and Manny Harris tolerance for college, but Beilein also lost Anthony Wright and Laval Lucas-Perry to smaller schools in the area—seemingly by his choice, not theirs—and fired his entire coaching staff.
As a result Michigan entered the year without five of the nine players Kenpom had individual stats for last year. Only one—seldom-used freshman Matt Vogrich—used enough possessions to escape the "limited roles" dungeon. Here's what the very bottom of Kenpom's "height and other stuff" shows when you order by average experience:
Anyone who had coached the straggling returners and a couple of redshirt freshmen was out the door as well. An entirely new coaching staff started burning up twitter with exclamation points, installing a man-to-man defense, and trying to get three pointers to fall. The Big Ten was projected to be brutal, with Michigan a speed bump. This was to be a year of banging the head upon the case without even much hope that it would amount to anything.
Eleven games in, Michigan has essentially completed the nonconference schedule. A game against 1-9 Bryant remains and Michigan bizarrely takes on Kansas in early January, but we've gotten all the information we're going to get before Michigan's brutal Welcome To The Big Ten And Kansas stretch (all numbers Kenpom):
Dec 28: #11 Purdue
Jan 2: #74 Penn State
Jan 5: #9 @ Wisconsin
Jan 9: #2 Kansas
Jan 12: #3 Ohio State
That still looks like pain, but after three bludgeonings of okay teams and one stirring comeback against Tommy Amaker's Ivy League favorites the chance Michigan swipes one of those uphill battles is something less than infinitesimal. They'll be worth watching, at least. The stretch after that is littered with teams from 15 to 81, with just two forays back into the top ten after, and with Kenpom wavering between 7-11 and 8-10 for the league record both math and your lying eyes suggest this is an NIT team.
So that's weird. Weirder still is how this is being accomplished: with fierce man to man defense. After shutting down Keith Benson Michigan is now 16th in defense, and we're getting to the point where you can't wave away the results as small sample size against poor competition. UMHoops:
Michigan’s defense held Oakland – a team that has already faced West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, and Tennessee – to their worst offensive output of the season. I’ve been hesitant to believe that Michigan’s defense is the real deal, because making bad teams look terrible only goes so far, but right now there’s no denying that Michigan is playing great defense.
On one particular possession on Saturday, Michigan did so well over 35 seconds that the crowd rose to its feet like the hockey team had just killed off a 5-on-3 power play. With the offense still bombing away from 3 (sixteenth nationally) despite not making any of them (253rd), the primary difference between this year and last year is a switch-mad man-to-man that is totally unlike anything Beilein's ever put on the court before.
That, the complete lack of seniors, and the expectation the team's best player returns. We're about to hit the stretch in the format process where the drive makes horrible noises and bad sectors pop up, but the path from here to the point where our word processor loves us again is far clearer than it was two months ago. This, too, is slightly thrilling.
*(very, very slightly)
**(Things like this actually used to happen. They were called macro viruses and I managed to get one back in the day when I shared a spreadsheet with a lab partner. I don't remember exactly what the cryptic message was, but whenever I opened Word it would type a bunch of stuff, delete it, and then type something else that might have been "ferret" but is probably just me misremembering things.)
The All-Seeing Eye. You know it's a good game when the thing that makes you wince in the second half is when the other team goes on a run to cut the lead from 20 to 10 because the all-seeing Eye of Kenpom will disapprove. Fouling and whatnot pushed Michigan's final margin out to 18, and the Great Eye is pleased—Michigan has run itself from triple digits after the UTEP game to 52nd. They've cleared Penn State and Iowa and are in a virtual dead heat with #50 Northwestern, #51 Minnesota, and #54 Indiana for the title of Sixth Best Team In The Big Ten According To Ken Pomeroy.
As far as tourney resumes go, Michigan is clearly behind Minnesota and their wins over UNC and WVU but well ahead of Northwestern (one decent win against GT and that's all) and Indiana (best win over Wright State). If the Big Ten is destined for seven bids, the last one seems up for grabs with Michigan in the conversation. I don't think the BT is going to get seven mostly because none of the three teams after Minnesota has a nonconference win that would cause the committee to sit up and notice, but Michigan could be vaguely on the bubble late this year.
Put this in your pocket. Illinois suffered a demoralizing loss to their version of Oakland, barfing up a 57-54 stinker against Illinois-Chicago. The difference is UIC isn't secretly pretty good—they're 5-7 and have already lost to Akron, Illinois State, Central Michigan, and other less than awesome teams. Here's a reason why:
When UIC took the 1-3-1 zone against us, we looked lost, and since we were unable to shoot ourselves out of it, we were flailing.
Well, then. Michigan plays the Illini only once and that's in the middle of February, so maybe this won't have a huge impact. But if Michigan pulls the 1-3-1 out against Illinois remember this post.
(Side note: Central Michigan is completely awful despite having what must be the most talented player in the MAC. Trey Zeigler and company are 2-8 and just got obliterated by Detroit. This is depressing but from the Zeiglers' perspective the only thing keeping dad around is the presence of his son so the decision makes sense.)
Doubling down. Michigan doubled Benson the instant he got the ball, which was new. They hadn't helped out their center all year even when Harvard's counterpart was tearing Morgan up; in this game they forced turnovers and kickouts from Benson all day. Morgan held up pretty well with the help.
Infectious coaching. Beilein must have gotten a tiny thrill after Jon Horford gave up an and-one to Benson in the first half when both Zack Novak and Darius Morris went over to him to demonstrate what he did wrong on the play. Novak even provided helpful "arms straight up" versus "whatever you were doing, freshman" pantomimes.
I know how you feel. The UMHoops game preview said "expect a lot more zone" and I thought "that's a really good thing to put in the preview because it's probably going to be true" and then the only zone we saw was a single possession of 1-3-1 at the end of the first half.
How Darius Morris makes the defense go. Thanks to their huge point guard, Michigan's perimeter rotation of Morris, Novak, Douglass, Hardaway, and Vogrich is all about the same size, which allows them to switch relentlessly on all screens, which goes a long way towards making up for a lack of quickness from the pastier guys in the rotation, which means teams get few opportunities to drive the lane because there's always a dude right in front of them.
Michigan's defense is now Wisconsin's: built on never fouling you, never blocking your shots, never stealing the ball, but forcing you into a wide array of not-very-good shots. Michigan is 10th in three point D, 57th in two point D, 11th in FTA/FGA, 14th in eFG%, and well down the list when it comes to forcing turnovers and getting blocks. Instead of leaving their feet they get in spots to take charges and get their hands in the air.
It's the exact opposite of the 1-3-1, which might make the 1-3-1 pretty effective if they 1) figure out how to use it, and 2) deploy it as a change up.