Programming note. Since the basketball team has definitively disproven the idea that a liveblog around these parts is some kind of curse—the curse obviously exists, mind you, but goes wider than just this here blog—we're going to do one for the Iowa game today. Why? I don't really know.
Weekend note. Michigan State is desperately trying to sell CCHA playoff tickets:
To purchase tickets for groups of 15 or more, click here to receive discount pricing!
Let's help them out!
Deford and the Dream of Horses. Frank Deford sits down to briefly address this Ed O'Bannon thing before dozing off and dreaming of horses…
…and the headline goes for the gusto: "lawsuit threatens NCAA amateurism." That seems akin to those headlines about a 16-team Big Ten with outposts in Nagasaki and Atlantis, but Deford does a pretty good job of justifying it, all things considered:
So here's the nub for the NCAA: Explain the exemption that absolves the organization from compensating players for their labor.
So far, the NCAA, whose office is in Indianapolis, has spent a great deal of pretrial energy trying desperately to get the case shifted from San Francisco to its home court in Indiana. However, its effort did not pay off, as Federal Judge Claudia Wilken denied the request. Now, the discovery phase begins.
The outlook is bleak. The 2009 decision to award retired NFL players compensation for the use of their likeness in video games must surely hang over the NCAA's head. If old pros should be paid for the appropriation of their personages, why shouldn't old collegians?
I'm coming up empty even when I approach the problem from the perspective of a slick-haired guy in a suit attempting to argue an obviously untenable position because that's how daddy gets a luxury car. I'm all for the collegiate spirit, but I'm also all for the vague semblance of fairness.
Remember how I used to rail about the ridiculous increase in head coaches' salaries? Good times. Also outdated times:
The trend of rapidly accelerating pay for major-college head football coaches is being replicated — and then some — for their top assistants.
With many contracts being negotiated or finalized, nearly a dozen schools in the NCAA's 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision have made deals under which they will be spending at least 38% more on their offensive or defensive coordinator in 2010 than they did in 2009.
This, like everything else in college football, is Lane Kiffin's fault.
Even so, every time a coordinator breaks a million dollars it's another blow to the idea that big time college sports programs can't afford to provide something to their players. If a BCS university's athletic department isn't profitable, it's because the university doesn't want it to be profitable. Period. You could hire a high school coach and fly coach and laugh as your terrible team gets a million billion dollars in TV revenue. You could drop the crew teams. You could become Donald Sterling, and laugh all the way to the bank. There is an unbelievable amount of money that could go to the players.
I can understand the point of view that you'd rather give someone else a scholarship and have another team or draw less from the general fund than offer something resembling fair compensation to football and basketball players, but that's not where the extra money goes, does it?
Conference du Gump. The Big Ten, as always, is slowwwww. John Gasaway gets a brief window to promulgate tempo-free whatnot in the Wall Street Journal and supplies a chart (chart):
The Tempo Index
Here are the fastest and slowest major-conference teams, based on their number of possessions per 40 minutes of conference play.
THE TORTOISES THE HARES 1 Wisconsin (57.6) 1 Providence (72.8) 2 Michigan (59.7) 2 Arkansas (72.3) 3 Iowa (61) 3 Texas Tech (72) 4 Penn State (61.3) 4 Villanova (71.6) 5 Northwestern (61.8) 5 Washington (71.4) 6 Pittsburgh (62) 6 Texas (71.4) 7 USC (62.1) 7 Kansas State (71.3)
Holy cold potatoes: Big Ten teams comprise the bottom five and Michigan is second only to Wisconsin.
Gasaway, by the way, confirmed for me that my previous instinct about Michigan's conference defense vis a vis its offense was correct. Tempo-free aerials are usually centered on 1.00 point per trip, and Michigan both averaged and provided just about one point per trip during conference play. Average at everything? Not so much. This was a twitter message, in case you're wondering about the terseness:
Assumption confirmed. In-conf defense 0.31 standard deviations better than Big Ten avg. Offense half an sd (.49) worse than avg. Zowie.
That latter won't surprise anyone given the Taj Mahal Michigan shooters have assembled over the past few months. The former, though, is one of the enduring mysteries of the Big Ten season. It may be one of the enduring mysteries of John Beilein's career: Michigan is currently 47th in the adjusted efficiency ratings at Kenpom. Barring John Lickliter going 12/12 from three in a couple hours, this will be the best defense Beilein has ever had according to Kenpom.
How in the hell is a team with basically one player over 6'5" (Sims and Gibson hardly ever play together) actually good at defense? Kenpom says it's a lot of forced turnovers and a Wisconsin-like aversion to giving up free throws making up for bleah eFG% defense and rebounding. That turnovers without fouling thing is a neat trick.
The thing is: that fingerprint is characteristic of the 1-3-1 zone Beilein is known for… and Michigan had to abandon midway through the nonconference schedule because mediocrities like Boston College and Alabama were treating it like a layup line. By the Big Ten portion of the schedule, Michigan had morphed into an almost exclusively man-to-man team.
This isn't like football where a terrible offense can sometimes make that team's defense look better than it is as opponents get their three point lead and play keep-away. The opponent's offense, or lack thereof, is of no relevance once you suck tempo out of the equation. So this appears to be a real positive that could last into next year. If anyone on the team can throw a ball into Lake Michigan, it could be relevant.
Default Big Ten expansion bits. Notre Dame rumbled a couple days ago, spawning panic across the Subway alums. I was doubtful that the "easy to construct" scenario in which Notre Dame is forced into a conference comes to pass—had a hard time constructing one at all—and this makes it even more doubtful:
A source within the Big Ten told the Tribune last month that given what transpired in 2003, when Notre Dame all but accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten before pulling back, "the only way they will be offered is if they first accept. The Big Ten went down that road and got burned. Fool me once, fool me twice."
On the flipside of that, Rutgers fans were almost nonchalant (which, certainly owed much to how frequently the topic has been debated to death on our side in recent years) and completely self-assured about it. ”Of course Rutgers was the most desirable option. How could anyone possibly think otherwise?”
Er… well, you see… it's just… nah. Never mind.
I said another piece on this in a Sporting Blog article yesterday and remain skeptical that Rutgers moves the needle enough in New York for the local cable companies to shell out for the BTN, but on WTKA today Ira made a good point: with a zillion Big Ten alums in the city, their combined might could be Captain Planet to Pollutin' Time Warner. Rutgers gets to be the fey South American kid whose special power is "heart".
Etc.: Jim Mandich has cancer, but it is apparently treatable. TOC puts together Big Ten efficiency graphs that show two things: holy God is the offense bad against teams not named Minnesota, and holy crap are they inconsistent.